Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

From February to October

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In his Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, President Putin placed special emphasis on the anniversaries of the February Revolution and the October Revolution:

This is a good moment for looking back on the causes and nature of these revolutions in Russia. Not just historians and scholars should do this; Russian society in general needs an objective, honest, and deep-reaching analysis of these events.

Indeed, history is a great teacher giving us a variety of cases and making us draw numerous lessons. However, we need to learn from our experience and apply our knowledge to specific circumstances and particular landscape for these lessons to be more than just a tribute to the memory of the events. We must learn from our historical, political, and social errors and contribute to the state’s development. The available data shows clear evidence that the February Revolution and the October Revolution had roots in a complex mix of internal and external factors. We should particularly emphasise that problems leading to a coup or a revolution aren’t exclusively domestic ones. Still, A M Gorchakov, an outstanding diplomat and Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire, who studied the French revolutions that broke out in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, quite rightly noted:

Unless the government has made an error, a revolution won’t break out; the government is to blame for every revolution.

Therefore, let’s consider the contemporary internal political situation in the Russian Empire. 1917 became a turning point in the period of Russian history that started with the 1861 Emancipation Reform abolishing serfdom. Although it was the most important of the “Great Reforms”, however, it laid a foundation for future social upheavals. In fact, the emancipation of the serfs impoverished them. The reform took 20 percent of land away from serfs, and the size of land allotment almost halved, shrinking by 43 to 50 percent (5.24 hectares per person earlier against 2.84 after the reform). Meanwhile, those people had trouble assimilating into urban life, so numerous serfs were on the edge of survival. In retrospect, one can justifiably state that the events of 1917 were the direct continuation of the events of 1905 and completed earlier processes.

Secondly, the integration of largely agrarian Russia into the world capitalist system, which started in the 1850s, adversely affected most of the population. The country experienced two opposite trends. On the one hand, foreign investment allowed introducing new technologies and constructing plants, factories, and roads, with foreigners owning 90 percent of Russian mines, 50 percent of chemical enterprises, 40 percent of metallurgical and machine-building plants, and 30 percent of textile mills. On the other hand, the rising export of resources, including capital, needed to support economic development, stood in the way of the emerging Russian bourgeoisie. To put it differently, foreign capital was both an engine and a brake on domestic savings, and the country gradually gave up its financial and resource independence. As a result, industrialisation was in its initial stages up until World War I. Industry earned 6 billion roubles, whilst agriculture remained the major source of national wealth, earning 24 billion roubles, accounting for 75-80 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the population worked in agriculture, and the rural population constituted 87 percent of the total.

Thirdly, the state’s growing dependence on foreign loans provoked revolutionary upheavals. Russia accounted for 1.998 billion USD, or 31.2%, of the total external debt accumulated by all countries, and amounted to 6.317 billion USD by early 1914. However, the state remained the largest landowner, factory-owner, wholesale merchant, creditor, and so on. Naturally, capital-owners strongly opposed the situation, which fuelled tension between wealthy capitalists and the state. The big bourgeoisie mainly aimed to reduce the role of the state in the economy and limit it as much as possible; their idea was to transform capital into power. The fourth reason translating into large-scale demonstrations across the country was a logical extension of the above-mentioned causes. On the one hand, the difficult socioeconomic situation aggravated by the war provoked political disgruntlement. On the other hand, wealthy capitalists actively backing workers’ councils and establishing an extensive network of organisations fuelled popular resentment. Since 1916, prices rose four- or fivefold, and Russia saw a four-time increase in cash, with gold, in fact, withdrawn from circulation. Strike movements, unrest in villages, and rebellions on the periphery were exhausting and destabilising the state.

Weak government enjoying little popular support constituted a fifth, and perhaps most important, cause of the February Revolution, with the enrichment of the few accompanied by the impoverishment of the many. Specifically, Carl Fabergé received an unprecedentedly high number of orders in the crisis year of 1916. Thus, the paralysis of the state, mostly of the national security agencies, gripped the country. Already at war, Russia had a systemic crisis, resulting in the élite’s inability to perform its basic functions, infrastructure disruptions, and ultimately overt sabotage. As such, the revolution didn’t break out until the Tsar’s abdication, specifically until Nikolai II left his people and army to their own devices. Until then, one could see events as a plot or a rebellion, quite reversible phenomena. However, the Emperor’s abdication unleashed irreversible, and at the same time, most radical, processes, with the February Revolution followed by the October Revolution.

Finally, one should again point up that the internal factors of the February Revolution emerged full blown in the context of the world political game. The February Revolution came to be of crucial importance in the struggle for European and global primacy waged by Great Britain and its allies. Specifically, the fight aimed at erasing Russia from the geopolitical map and reducing it to a resource source, which was impossible to accomplish without the deposition of Nikolai II. At the Tsar’s abdication, Lloyd George actually said in Parliament:

[Through this], Britain achieved one of its major war aims.

Finally, yet importantly, the February events have a special meaning amid more frequent coups, more broadly known as “colour revolutions”. Current seizures of power fit into the structural pattern of the 1917 February Revolution, as they tend to capitalise on popular discontent to cause political destabilisation and breed opposition groups. Globalisation-shaped technological innovations also affect this. Whilst anti-monarchy propaganda circulated via newspapers and leaflets, today’s new mass media network takes the place of the press, revolutionary clubs, and strike committees. At the same time, the “Februarists” and contemporary “revolutionaries” share similar tasks and objectives, namely the overthrow of the state. Moreover, the February events and putsches have another important aspect in common, particularly their essential requirement to neutralise, even liquidate, the political leader. His or her deposition (or assassination) presages chaos, civil wars, and economic and political devastation, rather than the triumph of freedom and law.

8 April 2017

Yelena Ponomareva

Professor MGIMO

Rethinking Russia

http://rethinkingrussia.ru/en/2017/04/from-february-to-october/

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Czech President Miloš Zeman: “American Beer is Just Filthy Water”

01 beer and wurst

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Czech President Miloš Zeman eulogised his country’s trademark beverage, insulting American beer as “filthy water” during a presidential business summit in Kazakhstan. Asked which beer is the best in the world by long-time Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Zeman didn’t hesitate. He said, “We’ve built several breweries here already. We might make good planes, cars, or other products, but most importantly, never forget… Czech beer is the best in the world. No American company that offers filthy water instead of beer can compete with us”.

Zeman just concluded 450 million USD (20.28 billion Roubles. 2.76 billion Renminbi. 27.9 billion INR. 508 million CAD. 524 million AUD. 363 million Euros. 287 million UK Pounds) worth of business deals between Kazakhstan and Prague during a two-day business forum that finishes on Tuesday. Zeman’s unsolicited sentiments might offend American brewers, but this is far from the most controversial statement the politician, elected last year, made in the past few weeks. Earlier this month, the Russian-speaking President gave a profane interview on Czech radio, calling the Russian protest group Pussy Riot, “fucked up” and “bitches”, translating their name into Czech as “cunts”. After claiming that police tactics used to put down pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989 weren’t a massacre, a crowd holding red cards in Prague pelted Zeman with eggs during last week’s 25th anniversary of the beginning of the fall of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia. Zeman roared at the crowd, “I’m not afraid of you!” In reply, the crowd shouted that Zeman mustn’t come near a monument commemorating Communist oppression.

All the while, he continued to insist that Russia didn’t initiate the conflict in the eastern Ukraine, insisting that the West must lift sanctions on Moscow, and recognise the Crimea as part of Russia. Prague pollster Median said that Zeman’s inflammatory statements caused his popularity to slump from 58 to 37 percent in the space of a month. In addition, last week’s poll numbers show that 71 percent of Czechs believe that Zeman’s behaviour and public statements harm the image of the country abroad.

24 November 2014

RT

http://rt.com/news/208459-zeman-beer-czech-filth/

Editor: 

The Czech crowd seems in the style of arranged American provocations (“colour revolutions”)… it’s much too similar to recent “protest” actions in Budapest and Kiev. The Anglo Americans aren’t very bright… they use the same stereotyped script in all instances. This means that the USA is desperate, but lacking in new ideas… their deluded opium dream of being the “sole superpower” is falling apart around their ears… they didn’t attend to the lessons of their defeat in the American-fomented aggression in South Ossetia in 2008. Russia did attend to the shortcomings in their forces that the South Ossetia campaign uncovered. There was much in the Russian media on it… Red Star had a great deal on it. Reflect on this… the Russians captured American computers in Gori full of intel… the Anglos deny it. What does that tell you about Anglo veracity and intelligence (in the sense of “street smarts”, IQ, and worldview)? It doesn’t speak well of it, does it?

BMD

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

VVP Sez West Abuses Human Rights Rhetoric

Не вижу (He doesn’t see). Не слышу (He doesn’t hear). Mолчу (He keeps quiet (when he’s paid enough)).

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Whenever you hear fulminations in the Western media about Russia, remember this picture. The Western media isn’t objective; it follows the orders of its Corporate paymasters. That is, they’re they’re unprincipled and unrepentant whores… they’re for sale, and they’re not coy about it at all.

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at the USA and other Western countries for selectively using human rights rhetoric as a pressure tool on other countries, including Russia. On Monday, in a lengthy campaign article on foreign policy published by Moskovskiye Novosti, he said, “The United States and other Western countries strive to usurp human rights files, to politicise it completely, and use it as a pressure tool”. In the article, Putin repeatedly referred to so-called “soft power” exercised by the West on other countries and criticised American attempts to influence domestic politics in Russia with it. He said, “Regular political engineering efforts by the United States in regions traditionally important for us and in Russia during the election campaign don’t help to strengthen mutual understanding”.

Accusations that the West attempts to undermine Russia’s influence over former Soviet republics and to destabilise the situation in Russia during national elections have become a hallmark of Putin’s foreign policy rhetoric since the early 2000’s. This has been the case since the West backed popular peaceful uprisings, branded “colour revolutions” and led complaints of massive violations in presidential votes that changed régimes in Georgia and the Ukraine. Putin and other senior Russian officials have routinely labelled foreign-funded NGOs, including so-called “human rights watchdogs” as agents of foreign influence on domestic politics.

Next month, most observers expect Putin to win the presidential election, for his third (non-consecutive) term. At the parliamentary elections in December, his United Russia Party retained a majority in the RF Gosduma, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling the vote unfair and manipulated. Putin accused her of encouraging massive street protests that followed the vote, saying, “Russia feels the prejudice, unfairness, and antagonism of the negative criticism directed against it, which often goes beyond imaginable limits. When they criticise us with unfounded allegations, constantly and unrelentingly, you can see that they’re not only trying to influence the attitude of their own citizens toward us in an orchestrated manner, they’re also trying to influence the domestic political situation in Russia. Then, you understand that high moral and democratic principles aren’t the basis of it at all”. Putin said that, unlike the Western powers, Russia, China, India, and Brazil never sponsor or use local NGOs in other countries to advance their interests.

27 February 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120227/171544909.html

Editor’s Note:

Let’s keep it simple. The West hates Russia for returning to Social Democracy and being to the Left of the Corporate West. Most Western media pundits have incomes above the median level, ergo, most support Neoliberal excess and greed (especially as their own bread is buttered rather generously… as one sees in the case of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, amongst others). You see, if there’s a successful Social Democracy, then, it undermines all their propaganda for the Neoliberal Libertarian Paradise (which has as much reality as the old Soviet Communist Paradise did). Always ask, “Cui bono?” (“Who benefits?”) Then, bear in mind that the Western media (especially the rightwing variety, but the limousine liberals are just as bad) is a pack of amoral and opportunistic prostitutes with the motto, “Pecunia non olet” (“Money doesn’t stink”… that is, “Get it any way that you can”). Anyone with a six-figure income is above the median, and that’s that. None dare call it class bias…

BMD

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