[A-List] Moderator's note

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 27 11:06:19 MDT 2004

Macdonald Stainsby wrote:
> If you want to do some internet searching to get an idea or clue as to who
> sides with what, try searching the papers in North America the days after
> Beslan. While every person on the planet with an ounce of deceny or the
> ability to fake it condemned the massacre, it is not the slightest
> difficult to notice that all the editorials were loaded with condemnations
> of Putin's power grab, his hijacking of catastrophe, even Yeltsin and
> Gorbachev were put on the front pages as criticising "Pootie put" (when's
> the last time before that anyone asked Gorbachev about anything and gave a
> darn?

So, because Putin used Beslan to adopt stringent controls over the 
Russian media and state in the same way that Bush used 9/11, we should 
not be critical of him?

> The only thing that scares the US more than Soviet Russia would be
> successful capitalist imperialist Russia. This should be ABC, but because
> Putin leads a former socialist power confuses everybody.

Are we in the business of doing free PR work for an aspiring imperialist 
Russia? After WWI, Japan sought to catch up to the West and began 
colonizing Asia. When FDR started militarizing the Pacific and cutting 
off oil supplies from Japan, should the left had taken Japan's side? The 
problem with all this "pro-Russia" stuff is that it has zero class 
content. Working people have their own interests independent of Putin. 
He is obviously using Beslan to make it easier to screw working people, 
just as Bush used 9/11 to screw Americans.

Putin Feels Fallout Over Plan to Eliminate Soviet-Era Benefits
Cash Would Replace Social Safety Net
By Susan B. Glasser
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 3, 2004; Page A12

MOSCOW, Aug. 2 -- Russia is poised to dismantle the remnants of the 
Soviet-era social safety net for as many as 100 million of its poorest 
citizens, replacing many free services with cash payments in a 
controversial experiment that has sent President Vladimir Putin's 
approval rating down sharply.

Putin's initiative targets such benefits as free public transportation, 
free medication and cut-rate vacations for retirees, war veterans and 
people in myriad other categories deemed "socially vulnerable" by the 
Soviet Union. Both supporters and opponents say the bill represents the 
most far-reaching attack on Soviet-style social entitlements since the 
fall of communism in 1991, and it is expected to win final approval this 
week in the lower house of parliament.

But the proposal launched by Putin as the first major legislative 
initiative since his landslide reelection victory in March has generated 
unexpected controversy, even among the pro-Kremlin parliamentary 
majority and generally supportive governors. His support has fallen to 
less than 50 percent in one benchmark public opinion poll for the first 
time since he became president in 2000.

"Putin is losing his rating, but he is intentionally sacrificing it," 
said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a political consultant for the president's 
party, United Russia. "He considers himself popular enough" to push 
through an unpopular reform. "Giving up the socialist, the communist 
economy is an important part of the agenda," he said.

In recent weeks, thousands of protesters have gathered in Moscow to 
rally against the law that provides money in lieu of benefits, waving 
placards calling the measure, among other things, "social genocide." 
Opposition to the measure has united an unlikely political coalition of 
Communists, Western-oriented democrats, aging World War II veterans, 
victims of Stalinist repression and workers involved in the cleanup of 
the Chernobyl nuclear disaster who were exposed to radiation.

Ten regional governors, many of them supporters of United Russia, also 
protested in a joint letter to the Kremlin. Such protests have become 
increasingly rare as Putin has reconsolidated power during his 
presidency. The governors complained of the burden on the regions that 
the cash payments decreed by the Moscow authorities would impose. A 
recent survey by the Yuri Levada Analytical Center, a leading 
independent polling group here, found that 55 percent of Russians 
surveyed were against the measure, while 35 percent were in favor.

"The public believes the state will deceive us, it's cheating, they are 
going to rob us again," said Igor Bunin, who heads the Center for 
Political Technologies, a Moscow research group.

But he said the plunge in the president's ratings would not hinder 
Putin's ability to do as he likes after four years of working to 
eliminate meaningful political opposition. "This is all controlled by 
the Kremlin," Bunin said. "The government has political control over the 
entire system, no parties to oppose it, no real opposition in parliament."

Nikonov said the consequences might be more serious than Putin and his 
advisers anticipate if Russia's notoriously inefficient bureaucracy has 
problems implementing the complicated changes. "It depends on whether 
the reform will work in the way described by the government and whether 
people will really get the money. If there is a real disappointment, 
then Putin is in very big trouble, and in my mind there is a real risk 
of that."

Putin has said little about the controversy. In late June, he promised 
that the result of the reform would be to "improve the situation" of 
affected Russians and make the system "more socially fair."

The measure was scheduled to go to the floor of parliament Tuesday for 
the crucial second reading. Politicians in the United Russia party that 
controls the chamber argue that they have made significant changes to 
the proposal, such as adding a one-year phase-in period, after 
considering thousands of proposed amendments.

Some details in the 1,000-page bill won't be clear until final 
amendments are approved, but in outline, the plan still envisions 
replacing the eliminated benefits with cash payments ranging from 800 
rubles ($27) to 3,500 rubles ($120) a month. Not even the government can 
say for sure how many Russians would be affected; the Health and Social 
Development Ministry has estimated that 107 million people are entitled 
to some benefits, but some individuals may be counted in multiple 
categories -- as war veterans and Heroes of the Soviet Union, for example.

Supporters of the new law argue that the benefits are costly, 
inefficient relics of the Soviet state, often useless to many 
recipients, such as those in rural areas who are entitled to free public 
transportation and telephones but have access to neither. Critics, 
however, say the cash payments would be lower in value than the benefits 
and would be eaten up by inflation and higher prices. They also express 
doubt that regional governments would deliver the money in full and on 

Despite the public stir, many analysts said they expected an easy win 
for the measure in the legislature, where the Kremlin controls a 
two-thirds majority. Final approval of the bill in the lower house, the 
State Duma, could come by the end of the week. Then it heads to the 
upper chamber, the Federation Council, and to Putin for his signature.

"It's objectively necessary in the country, and it will without a doubt 
improve life in the country," said Valentina Ivanova, a United Russia 
member of parliament and deputy chairwoman of one of the key committees 
shaping the bill. In an interview, Ivanova said the Duma's budget 
committee had considered close to 4,000 amendments to the measure over 
the past week and had approved about 35 percent to 40 percent of them. 
But she conceded that Putin and United Russia had yet to fully explain 
what the legislation does and why it is needed. Before it takes effect 
on Jan. 1, she said, pro-Putin politicians must prove that the law was 
significantly altered in the Duma to address the public's concerns.

But the bill's opponents and many independent analysts argue that the 
massive number of amendments and changes made to the bill by United 
Russia amount to political posturing designed to present party members 
as moderates open to compromise.

"United Russia is deceiving us all. They are the ones who submitted 
this, it was theirs and they approved it, and now they are talking about 
these improvements. If it's a good bill, then how can we talk about 
3,000 amendments?" said Alevtina Aparina, a Communist member of 
parliament. "The bill was not ready, it was very poorly developed. But 
they decided to push it through anyway."

Critics have pointed out that the measure targeting Russia's most 
vulnerable citizens comes at the same time another Putin-supported 
measure is moving through parliament. That bill would guarantee social 
benefits for several million employees in the massive federal 
bureaucracy, entitling them to the same free transportation, medical 
care and low-cost vacations now being withdrawn from war veterans and 

"The social safety net will exist securely exclusively for the corrupted 
bureaucracy," said Sergei Mitrokhin, a leader of the Western-oriented 
Yabloko party that also is opposing the bill. "The impression is that 
bureaucrats are a special caste securing socialism for themselves while 
all others will be brought to live under conditions of wild capitalism."


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