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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

A bad peace vs. a good war

Duma in Session
"The main question of the elections has been resolved!" ­ said the headlines after the United Russia congress. At last! For months they have been feeding us hints and ambiguities, now Vladimir Putin was nominated for president. These events have brought to a close a long period of "cold war" within Russia's ruling class and their plans now have a clear outline ­ which means that the working class has more to worry about. Russia's elite is made up of two unequal components: those bourgeois who rely on the exploitation of natural resources and those who don't. Usually, the last group loses out in any struggle.

The raw material sector is seen as conservative ­ they have control of such a big slice of the cake that they have no interest in developing democracy. Their opponents are seen as "modernizers" ­ pushing for more privatization and selling the remainder of enterprises to foreign investors, which is where their pro-Western orientation originates from. They want more democracy and decentralization, but this mainly has to do with the fact that political monopoly prevents them from getting full representation.

During years of growth, the power vertical divided up profits. This allowed the two factions to exist in relative peace. Now, when there is nothing left to buy loyalty with, real competition begins.

The "modernizers" demand a place in the sun. Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, was their ideal representative. His program for introducing the 60-hour work week and cutting back workers' rights reflected the desperation of big business.

When Prokhorov was put in charge of the Right Cause party, it originally suited everyone. United Russia appeared moderately conservative next to Right Cause, while Medvedev got a modernization platform that presented ideas which he could not directly express. In the last few months, the natural resource crew amassed behind their All Russian People's Front, while their opponents lined up behind Prokhorov with the tacit support of Medvedev. Investors, meanwhile, complained of political uncertainty. Capital fled the country. The ruling class was unable to decide its fate.

But Prokhorov began to transform into a real political force. Speaking against corruption, he attracted leaders of small and midrange businesses. He introduced populist and social slogans into his program, and gained the support of singer Alla Pugachyova and popular activist Evgeny Roizman. The Right Cause doubled its ratings.

At the same time, the growing debt crisis in Europe, the budget crisis in the U.S. and the housing bubble in China raised the threat of a second wave of recession. To resolve the crisis, capitalism can only resort to the destruction of lossmaking industrial capacity leading to a sharp reduction in workers' living standards. The Americans have given the world an example of how two ruling parties are able to find common ground to act against the interests of ordinary people ­ and the same is happening in Russia.

The bourgeois have preferred a bad peace to a good war and proposed a candidate to unify them all. Prokhorov has been sidelined by political mastermind and Putin loyalist Vladislav Surkov, while the astonished public was told that there are no differences within the Putin- Medvedev tandem. The conflicts between the different sectors of the elite have not disappeared, but have been swept under the carpet.

Yet the working classes of North America and Europe have not forgotten their traditions of struggle and are already beginning to place in question the rule of the bankers. They question the right of the capitalist system to exist.

Following the elections, when a new round of budget cuts takes place, the apparently silent working class in Russia will stay silent no longer. The only question is how organized it will be when it starts resisting. While the elites are reorganizing their power verticals, workers, students and pensioners need to strike out on their own ­ and learn from the example of progressive movements abroad.

Russia, Government, Politics - Russian News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

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