Monthly Archives: August 2010

Call for International Days of Action in Support of Gaskarov and Solopov

A Call for International Days of Action in Support of Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov

September 17—20, 2010

On July 28, 2010, more than two hundred young antifascists and anarchists carried out a spontaneous demonstration outside the town administration building in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. They demonstrated in defense of the Khimki Forest, which was at that time in the process of beings cutting down for the needs of big business. The demonstration, during which several windows were broken, received a great deal of public attention. The authorities responded with a wave of repressions. The day after the demonstration, two well-known social activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, were arrested. They are now threatened with up to seven years in prison for disorderly conduct, although there is no evidence of their complicity in illegal activities. Meanwhile, the police continue to hunt down and harass other activists, especially those involved in the antifascist movement.

The campaign to save the Khimki Forest has been going on for the past three years. The authorities had decided to build a segment of a planned Moscow—Saint Petersburg toll highway, the first of its kind in Russia, through the forest. This would lead to the deterioration of environmental conditions in the region, and local residents and Muscovites would be deprived of yet another recreation zone. Despite the availability of alternative routes that would not require clear-cutting the forest and vigorous protests by environmentalists and ordinary citizens against the planned route, the authorities f0r a long time ignored the voice of society and on several occasions took measures to suppress their critics.

Khimki authorities and the highway project contractor have used violence and other tactics against Khimki Forest defenders. They refused to give permission for protest demonstrations, recruited nationalist thugs to break up a peaceful protest camp organized by environmentalists and local residents, and illegally arrested and beat up journalists covering the story. Nearly two years ago, Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda and a critic of the local administration, was severely beaten by persons unknown; the attack left Beketov permanently disabled. Sergei Protozanov, the layout designer of another local opposition paper, was murdered in similar circumstances six months later.

After the July 28 demonstration, the Russian police and secret services unleashed an unprecedented dragnet against antifascists. People who had even just once come to the attention of the Center for Extremism Prevention and FSB for their involvement with the antifascist movement have been forcibly taken in for questioning. In several cases they  have been subjected to harsh physical coercion in order to compel them to give the testimony required by investigators. In addition, illegal searches have been carried out in their apartments. All these actions on the part of law enforcement authorities are violations of Russian and international law.

Frightened by the numerous and growing protests against the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest, the authorities have finally made concessions by agreeing to review the advisability of the planned route for the toll highway. But this does not mean victory. Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov are still in police custody for no reason at all. They are hostages of the authorities.

In late September, the next hearing in their case will take place. The judge will decide whether to keep them in police custody pending completion of the investigation and trial. Everyone who cares about the fate of these two young men must do everything in their power to see that they are set free. The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages calls on people around the world to organize days of action on September 17, 18, 19, and 20 to pressure the Russian authorities to release Alexei and Maxim.

We ask you to hold protests outside of Russian Federation embassies, consulates, trade missions, and cultural centers, as well as at public events and concerts connected to Russia. We also ask you to send faxes, e-mails, and protest letters to the court, the prosecutor’s office, and the country’s political leadership. In the very near future we will inform you of addresses where you can send these protests as well as more details about the ongoing repressions in Russia. Look for this information on our website http://khimkibattle.org in English, German, Russian, and French.

Join our campaign!

Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages

+7 (915) 053-5912 • info@khimkibattle.org •  http://khimkibattle.org

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Chto Delat: The Urgent Need to Struggle (ICA, London)

ICA London
Chto delat? (What is to be done?)
The Urgent Need to Struggle
9-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29 September
3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24 October 2010

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH
United Kingdom

www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat

This autumn, the ICA presents the first major project in the UK by Russian collective Chto delat? (What is to be done?). Formed in 2003 and made up of artists, critics, philosophers and writers, the collective sees its diverse activities as a merging of political theory, art and activism. The group’s ideas are rooted in its members’ active participation in, and research into, current social and political situations in Russia, as well as principles of self-organisation and collective doings. Their work uses a variety of means to advance a leftist position on economic, social and cultural agendas; they publish a regular newspaper, produce artwork in the form of videos, installations, public actions, and radio programmes, and contribute regularly to conferences and publications.

For the ICA Chto delat? has formulated a wide ranging project that extends its identity as ‘a self-organising platform for cultural workers’, presenting artwork and ideas produced by multiple individual and collaborative practices, as well as a new issue of the Chto delat? newspaper. For the exhibition, the group aims to create a didactic installation that reclaims the educational value of art focused on basic activities, such as watching, reading, listening and discussing.

The ICA gallery is structured around a series of display modules which are actualizations of Russian Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko’s designs for the interior of a workers’ club. A three-tiered cinema space serves as a viewing area for Tower Songspiel (2010), the most recent work in a trilogy of narrative films that sit at the centre of the collective’s visual practice; these ‘songspiels’ take on a mode of musical theatre developed by playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill in the early twentieth century, presenting political and social concerns through the accessible and often humorous form of song. The symbolism withinTower Songspiel is echoed in an installation along the ICA’s concourse, enlarged red veins conjuring up notions of power and pervasive control.

Leading the visitor through the gallery space is a unique audio guide devised by Chto delat? for the exhibition. The guide is a wry response to the conventions inherent in the institutional presentation of contemporary art. On display in the Reading Room is a program of video works produced by artists from Chto delat? in collaboration with other individuals and groups. These pieces articulate various manifestations of collective artistic and educational practice. For a full list of participants visit www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat.

Chto delat? (founded in 2003 in St Petersburg, Russia) has exhibited and presented its work in many recent projects including The Idea of Communism, Volksbühne, Berlin (2010); The Beauty of Distance, 17th Sydney Biennale (2010); The Potosí Principle, Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid (2010); Morality, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2010); A History of Irritated Material, Raven Row, London (2010); Plug In, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2009); Istanbul Biennial (2009); 4th Biennial of Moving Image, Contour Mechelen, Belgium (2009).

The ICA project is realised by: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova); Nikolay Oleynikov, Gluklya (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya), Nina Gasteva, Vladan Jeremić/Rena Rädle and Dmitry Vilensky.

Events

Expanding on this gallery presentation, Chto delat?’s collective working practice becomes a platform for a number of events occurring throughout September and October, including a 48-hour ‘communal living’ seminar occurring across the theatre and galleries and leading to the public staging of a participatory Learning Play, an open-microphone ‘Night of Angry Statements’, and a weekly screening event addressing political filmmaking. For further information regarding these events visit www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat.

Publication

Chto delat? (What is to be done?) The Urgent Need to Struggle will be accompanied by ROLAND, the magazine of the ICA’s programme.

Press information

For press information please contact Jennifer Byrne
(E: jenniferb@ica.org.uk / T: +44 20 7766 1407).

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a registered charity in England, No: 263848

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Putin: Beat Them with Truncheons

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1605 (66), Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Putin Gives Warning to Demonstrators
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

While a criminal case about the police excesses during the July 31 demo in defense of the right to assembly was opened in St. Petersburg last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made news Monday by speaking approvingly of police beatings in an interview with Kommersant.

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Noize MC, “10 Days (Stalingrad)”: An audiovisual tribute to Putin’s police state

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“You have to get a permit from the local authorities,” Putin was quoted as saying.

“You got it? Then go and rally. If not, you don’t have the right. If you go out without having the right, you’ll get a bash on the head with a truncheon.”

Putin also said that demonstrators consciously provoke the police into administering beatings and pour red paint over themselves to imitate blood.

Putin’s words were published a day before rallies due in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities across Russia on Tuesday, as part of the Strategy 31 campaign in defense of the right of assembly guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian constitution. The events are held on the 31st day of months that have 31 days.

The authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg have not authorized the campaign’s events since it began on July 31, 2009, in Moscow. Opposition politicians took Putin’s words as a threat.

Author and oppositional politician Eduard Limonov, one of the leaders of Strategy 31, reacted by describing Putin as a “man of violence.”

“The chair of the Russian government V.V. Putin’s interview is outrageous in its tone and insulting to the citizens of Russia,” Limonov wrote in his blog on Monday.

“It contains elements of intimidation with the threat of violence […]. Incitement of law enforcement agencies to violence is evident. Thus, the phrase ‘get a bash on the head with a truncheon’ is repeated three times.”

Despite the interview, the Aug. 31 events will go ahead as planned, organizers said Monday. Moscow demonstrators will assemble on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, while St. Petersburg protesters will assemble by the Gostiny Dvor metro station on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street, on Tuesday. The events start at 6 p.m.

Aug. 31 events are also scheduled in around 40 Russian cities. Demos in support of Strategy 31 are also due to take place near Russian embassies and Russian government representative offices in London, New York, Tel Aviv, Prague and Helsinki.

“For us, nothing has changed, as a matter of fact; we’ll go to Gostiny Dvor, as always,” said Andrei Dmitriyev, a local Strategy 31 leader, on Monday.

“It’s a mixture of Putin’s typical yobbishness — posing as a tough guy — and sheer bluff, because if one analyzes in detail what he said, it has nothing to do with Russian law and common sense,” he said.

“He either doesn’t know Russian laws or simply couldn’t care less about them.”

In Dmitriyev’s view, the law on public events says nothing about getting permits from the local authorities, instead requiring merely that the authorities be informed of planned events.

“Our authorities have chosen several ‘ghettoes,’ where they send the opposition to rally,” said Dmitriyev, adding that earlier this month City Hall offered the organizers the chance to hold the rally in the remote 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution Park on the city’s northeastern outskirts, but refused to authorize the rally near Gostiny Dvor.

“This practice of sending the demonstrators to ‘ghettoes’ is also illegal in its essence,” he said.

The St. Petersburg authorities have refused to authorize Strategy 31 rallies on the grounds that the site was close to a metro and thus the subject of “special security regulations” starting from the first local event on Jan. 31, but failed to produce these regulations to the organizers.

The most recent Strategy 31 rally, which was held on July 31, was thwarted with particular brutality, with several people being badly beaten. The St. Petersburg Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD) started an investigation on the police’s actions during the demo, which is due to be finished on Sept. 2, according to a GUVD spokesman.

A criminal case was opened by the Investigative Committee of the Russian prosecutor’s office last week. According to its statement, the investigation has established that a police officer hit an “unidentified” man on the head with a rubber truncheon at least once “without having sufficient grounds.”

http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=32328

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Bono: The Russian Police State’s Silent Partner?

It’s a moving moment when the Declaration of Human Rights spools across the  screens during MLK and when the Amnesty International lanterns spotlight the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma. ‘From Burma Action and Amnesty International, let’s hold her up. Let’s tell the powers that be that they can’t touch her, she belongs to us.’
from an account of U2’s August 25th concert in Moscow, posted on the band’s official website

The St. Petersburg Times
Friday, August 27, 2010
Chernov’s Choice

Bono, U2’s outspoken frontman, was strangely closemouthed after the Russian police arrested five Amnesty International volunteers and shut down the stands of Amnesty International, Greenpeace and U2’s own anti-AIDS organization, ONE, before the band’s high-profile concert in Moscow on Wednesday.

The police and plainclothes agents qualified stands, posters and leaflets as an “unsanctioned” rally and ordered them to stop their “illegal” activities. The activists, who say their presence and activities were authorized by the concert’s promoters and were part of the concert agreement with U2 itself, were even ordered to take off their T-shirts.

In the late 1980s, St. Petersburg rock band Akvarium refused to perform when a musician in the audience was arrested, and was fully supported by the public, who kicked up a storm of noise until the police were forced to release the man.

In today’s Russia, the world-famous band U2 swallowed the sanctions, and duly played a full set to the audience of 55,000 without even mentioning the incident from the stage. No mention was made of Sunday’s banned concert in defense of the Khimki forest, which is being destroyed to make way for the construction of a Vladimir Putin-backed highway, despite the fact that the band had met activists and musicians who opened Bono’s eyes to the issue earlier on Wednesday.

Words were found for President Dmitry Medvedev, however. “President Medvedev could not have been more gracious to me,” he told the audience.

The arrested activists were taken to the police station and released several hours later, when the concert was over.

“A spokeswoman for U2 said the band did not yet have the details of the detentions and could not immediately comment,” Reuters reported later. No mention of the incident was to be seen on U2’s web site Thursday, when the situation was widely reported by news agencies and the media.

Defending harassed activists is not, perhaps, quite so much of an ego-massage as drinking tea with Medvedev in his Sochi residence, discussing musical tastes and global issues, without daring to touch such sensitive topics as the human rights situation or ecology in Russia itself.

To be fair, Bono did manage to do one good thing. He invited Yury Shevchuk to sing a song with him. DDT frontman Shevchuk is a well-known opponent of the Kremlin and defender of the Khimki forest who had to sing without a microphone at Sunday’s protest concert because the police had impounded a truck carrying the PR system. Handing a microphone to Shevchuk was a great symbolic act, even if the song was the safe “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

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“Corruption as a means to ending poverty”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67N4DM20100824

The two men also shared jokes about their tastes in music, with Bono declaring: “I come here to cross the great divide between me, a Led Zeppelin fan, and you, the Deep Purple fan.”

Medvedev, who has made much fuss of his devotion to the veteran British hard rock group, chuckled but replied in English that he also counted Led Zeppelin amongst his favorites.

Bono later said in a statement that he and the Kremlin chief had also discussed corruption as a means to ending poverty.

UPDATE. Bono’s lovely tea by the seaside with the Deep Purple fan club president seems to have had no effect on the shabby juggernaut known as the Russian police state. Here is what happened at his musical ensemble’s concert in Moscow yesterday:

http://www.atu2.com/news/police-incident-before-u2s-moscow-concert.html

We’re seeing reports via Twitter that police shut down booths/tables belonging to some of U2’s favorite humanitarian groups before tonight’s concert in Moscow, and that one volunteer may have been arrested.

This Greenpeace Russia blog post seems to be saying that information tents belonging to Greenpeace, the ONE Campaign, and Amnesty International were closed by police, who said that volunteers “staged a picket” unlawfully (via Google Translate) outside the concert. The post says that Bono has been informed and that U2 is “perplexed” over what happened.

There were articles in Russian media this week saying that 2,100 police officers and Interior Ministry troops would be handling security and, indeed, many of the fan photos being posted from inside the stadium (like the one above right from @kardanik) show security almost everywhere you look.

Update: This story from Gazeta.ru says “several” Amnesty International activists who were holding up signs with humanitarian slogans were detained.

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Sarkozy, Pay Back France’s Debt to Haiti!

http://links.org.au/node/1845

CRIME activists fool the media with a fake announcement that France would finally pay its 17 billion euro historic debt.

By Derrick O’Keefe

August 16, 2010 — rabble.caA Bastille Day hoax on the French government helped to expose the long history of extortion, betrayal and structural injustice that left Haiti so impoverished and vulnerable to devastation by the earthquake that claimed over a quarter of a million lives earlier this year.

Yes Men-inspired activists calling themselves the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (CRIME) pulled off a fake announcement indicating that France would finally pay its historic debt. France was forced to deny that it was doing any such thing and threatened legal action against the activists. The action brought media attention, reminding journalists and the public of the historical context behind Haiti’s immiseration.

On August 16, Libération published an open letter from social activists, politicians and academics from around the world making the point that the demand for France to pay restitution to Haiti is “unassailable”. I hope this letter will circulate widely, keeping this story in the news and raising awareness of the real causes of Haiti’s plight.

An open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy

The French government has indicated that it is pursuing possible legal action against the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (CRIME) over a Yes Men-inspired announcement last Bastille Day pledging that France would pay Haiti restitution.

We believe the ideals of equality, fraternity and liberty would be far better served if, instead of pouring public resources into the prosecution of these pranksters, France were to start paying Haiti back for the 90 million gold francs that were extorted following Haitian independence.

This “independence debt,” which is today valued at well over the 17 billion euros pledged in the fake announcement last July 14, illegitimately forced a people who had won their independence in a successful slave revolt, to pay again for their freedom. Imposed under threat of military invasion and the restoration of slavery by French King Charles X, to compensate former colonial slave-owners for lost “property” (including the slaves who had won their freedom and independence when they defeated Napoleon’s armies), this indemnity burdened generations of Haitians with an illegitimate debt, which they were still paying right up until 1947.

France is not the only country that owes a debt to Haiti. After 1947, Haiti incurred debt to commercial banks and international financial institutions under the Duvalier dictatorships, who stole billions from the public treasury. The basic needs and development aspirations of generations of Haitians were sacrificed to pay back these debts. Granting Haiti the status of Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and canceling part of the current debt only begins to reverse the financial damage done by these recent debts. More recently, in 2000, Inter-American Development Bank loans of $150 million for basic infrastructure were illegally blocked by the US government as a means of political pressure. This also did measurable economic and human damage. Each of these institutions and governments should be responsible for the harm they did to Haiti’s society and economy.

In 2003, when the Haitian government demanded repayment of the money France had extorted from Haiti, the French government responded by helping to overthrow that government. Today, the French government responds to the same demand by CRIME by threatening legal action. These are inappropriate responses to a demand that is morally, economically, and legally unassailable. In light of the urgent financial need in the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, we urge you to pay Haiti, the world’s first black republic, the restitution it is due.

Signatories

Tariq Ali, author
Gilbert Achcar, author
Pierre Alferi, author
Jean-Claude Amara, spokesperson, Droits devant!! (Rights First)
Kevin B Anderson, University of California at Santa Barbara
Roger Annis, Haiti Solidarity B.C.
Anthony Arnove, author and editor, Haymarket Books
Alain Badiou, Professor, European Graduate School
Étienne Balibar, emeritus professor of philosophy, Paris-Nanterre
Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth–Nigeria
Rosalyn Baxandall, Prof Emeritus, Distinguished Teaching Prof. SUNY Old Westbury. adjunct CUNY Labor School
Pierre Beaudet, founder,  Alternatives
Dan Beeton, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Walden Bello, member of the Philippine House of Representatives
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonnano, the “Yes Men”
Serge Bouchereau, Résistance Haïtienne au Québec (Haitian Resistance in Quebec)
Myriam Bourgy, CADTM International (Comité pour l’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde)
Houria Bouteldja, Indigènes de la République (the Republic’s Natives)
José Bové, member of the Europeen parliament, Europe Ecologie
Leslie Cagan, co-founder, United for Peace and Justice
Aldrin Calixte, Friends of the Earth–Haïti
Ellen Cantarow, journalist
Camille Chalmers, State University of Haiti & PAPDA (Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development)
CEDETIM (Center for international solidarity research and initiatives)
Noam Chomsky, Massachussets Institute of Technology
Jeff Cohen, author & media critic
Jim Cohen, Dept. of Political Science, Paris VIII
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, member of European Parliament, Europe Ecology, co-president of the Greens-Europe Free Alliance
Brian Concannon, Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
Raphaël Confiant, author
Mike Davis, author & scholar, University of California Riverside
Warren Davis, Solidarity Co-Chair, Philadelphia Jobs with Justice
Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign UK
Rokhaya Diallo, activist, Les indivisibles (the Indivisible)
Christine Delphy, sociology professor
Rea Dol, director of the Port-au-Prince school SOPUDEP
Ariel Dorfman, Duke University
Stephen Duncombe, New York University
Berthony Dupont, Haïti Liberté
Ben Ehrenreich, author
Joe Emersberger, MediaLens
Yves Engler, author
Eric Fassin, sociologist, Ecole Normale Supérieure
Dianne Feeley, editor, Against the Current
John Feffer, co-director, Foreign Policy In Focus
Anthony Fenton, journalist and researcher
Bill Fletcher, Jr., BlackCommentator.com
Eduardo Galeano, author
Grazia Ietto-Gillies, UNCTAD & London South Bank University
Greg Grandin, history professor, New York University
Arun Gupta, editor, The Indypendent
Peter Hallward, philosophy professor, Kingston University
Hamé, rapper, La Rumeur
Stuart Hammond, Canada Haiti Action Network
Thomas Harrison, co-director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Helene Hazera, producer with France Culture radio
John Hilary, executive director, War on Want
HK, musician, Hk & les saltimbanks
Kim Ives, Haïti Liberté
Olatunde Johnson, director, Friends of the Earth–Sierra Leone
Eva Joly, member of European parliament, president of the European parliament’s Development Commission
Mario Joseph, BAI (Office of International Lawyers, Port-au-Prince)
Mathieu Kassovitz, film director
Robin D. G. Kelley, author and scholar, University of Southern California
Richard Kim, editor, The Nation
Amir Khadir, Québec Solidaire, representative in the National Assembly of Québec
Sadri Khiari, mouvement des Indigènes de la République (MIR)
Naomi Klein, author & journalist
Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action
Fanfan Latour, Haiti Liberté
Charles Laurence, journalist and author
Reed Lindsay, journalist
Pauline Londeix, ACT UP-Paris
Isabel Macdonald, journalist and media critic
Christian Mahieux, national secretary of the Union Syndicaliste Solidaires (the Solidarity Syndicalist Union)
Henri Maler, scholar
Noël Mamère, representative in the French national assembly
Jerome Martin, ACT-UP Paris
John G. Mason, William Paterson University of NJ
Gustave Massiah, founding member of AITEC-IPAM (International association of Technicians, Experts and Researchers—Initiatives for Another World)
Georgina Murray, sociology professor, Griffith University
Cyril Mychalejko, Upside Down World
Robert Naiman, analyst, Just Foreign Policy
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, University of California at Santa Barbara
Bernard Noël, poet
Derrick O’Keefe, writer and co-chair Canadian Peace Alliance
Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth-U.S.
Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Hunter College & the Graduate Center, City University of New York
Wadner Pierre, Inter Press Service
Kevin Pina, Haiti Information Project
Justin Podur, environmental studies professor, York University
Serge Quadruppani, author
Adam Ramsay, No Shock Doctrine for Haiti
Jacques Rancière, philosophy professor, Paris VIII
Judy Rebick, author and founder of Rabble.ca
William I. Robinson, University of California Santa Barbara
Pierre Rousset, ESSF (Europe Solidarity Without Borders)
Bobbi Siegelbaum, Health Educator
Steve Siegelbaum, Founder The Computer School, NYC
Fanny Simon, Aitec-IPAM (International association of Technicians, Experts and Researchers—Initiatives for Another World)
Eyal Sivan, film director
Ashley Smith, writer and Haiti solidarity activist
Jeb Sprague, University of California Santa Barbara
Louis-Georges Tin, CRAN (Conseil Representatif des Associations NoirsJerome Jerome Thorel, Big Brother Awards France
Louis-Georges Tin, CRAN (Conseil Representatif des Associations Noirs
Steve Weissman, journalist
Cornel West, Princeton University
Howard Winant, sociologist and race theorist, University of California-Santa Barbara
Cécile Winter, doctor, Collectif Politique Sida en Afrique
Lawrence Wittner, State University of New York Albany
Marie Yared, Advocacy Manager, World-Vision France

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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Capitalism

Andrea Peters, at the World Socialist Web Site, writing on “The political and social roots of Russia‘s wildfire disaster”:

The profoundly anti-democratic character of the Russian political system no doubt contributed to the wildfire disaster and the suffering of the population. However, this alone cannot explain why villages burnt to the ground for want of firefighting equipment or the peat bogs in surrounding Moscow were left unmonitored for fire danger.

The collapse of public services in Russia and the semi-privatization of the country’s forests are part and parcel of the restoration of capitalism, which the liberal opposition hails as a great historic achievement. The 2007 forest code passed by the Kremlin is not simply a product of Putin’s corrupt relationship with powerful logging and paper manufacturing interests in Russia. It is entirely in keeping with the political principles dictated by Russia’s market economy, in which the profit motive, not social needs, determines how resources will be utilized.

Read the rest of the article here.

Thanks to the ever-alert Louis Proyect for bringing this to our attention.

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