Russia

Officially Putin's right hand man, Medvedev, has won the Presidential elections with over 70% of the vote on a turnout of more than 70%. But no one seriously believes this. Many Russians have commented on the meaninglessness of the elections. Putin will remain the boss. However, for all the pomp that surrounds Putin there is a strong undercurrent of hatred against capitalism. The fact that the CPRF yet again showed that it is the only opposition to the Kremlin, confirms this.

As background the Presidential elections we publish an analysis of the December parliamentary elections. These reflected political consolidation following on from economic stabilization after the financial crisis of 1998. These new relations are now in turn leading to a reaction. The modest gains of the CPRF reveal both the potential for an organized opposition to Russian capitalism and the path that this opposition will take in the mass organizations.

We have received a very interesting interview with A. Etmanov, the leader of the trade union of Ford (Saint Petersburg). This reveals many things, not just about the Ford strike but about the state of the Russian workers' movement, the struggle of the trade unions and their attitude towards capitalism and the political parties.

Last year's strike at the Russian Ford plant marked an important turning point for the Russian labour movement. The Russian economy is growing and this has strengthened sections of the working class. With this growing strength comes a militant mood. At some point this will lead to a wider movement of the Russian working class and with it will come important political repercussions.

The strike at the Ford plant in St. Petersburg is extremely symptomatic. After the collapse of the Russian economy in the 1990s now we have an upturn. With it comes also a renewed confidence of the working class. The victory of the Russian Ford workers would strengthen enormously the whole of the Russian working class. They need your help.

50 years ago on 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite into space - Sputnik 1. The launch came as a complete surprise, even to the US intelligence community which was caught completely unawares. The launching of the satellite not only shocked the world, it completely changed it by ushering in a new age - the Space Age.

Yeltsin was a symbol for the capitalist system that emerged following the capitalist counter-revolution he headed. The fact that his death yesterday was met with indifference in Moscow shows just how weak support for capitalism is in the capital, a city where unlike in the provinces a layer of the population is better off than in Soviet times.

In the Russian political dictionary Kondopoga has emerged as a new negative concept. Over a short period we have already experienced a number of such events, and everywhere along the same lines. Mass disturbances under nationalist slogans, which stemmed from everyday conflicts, xenophobic pogroms, public calls “to clear off the blacks” – all this is Kondopoga.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not the end of Marxism. On the contrary it confirmed what the Marxists had stated long ago, that the bureaucracy was a threat to the very survival of the planned economy. But there was no Marxist party on the scene that could offer the workers an alternative. Thus the whole system imploded with devastating effects on industry and with it the working class, which was thrown back decades, divided and atomised. It became a passive force, which explains the impasse facing today’s Russian left. But now we can see the first signs of the working class beginning to come together again as a class.

The recent conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the price of gas brought to the surface the contradictions in the Ukraine, a country which is being pulled towards the western sphere of influence. That was what the so-called Orange Revolution was about. Now the Ukraine people are disillusioned as they watch an international conflict for control of resources that stretches right across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

A long standing dispute at the Saint Petersburg docks is escalating into what could be come an all-out strike. We have received a request for international solidarity. Please act now. Raise this in your union branch and send messages of solidarity.

Putin is still holding on to his popularity among wide layers of Russian society. But his party, United Russia, is not doing so well. In a series of local elections it has done rather badly. This reflects a crisis within the Russian ruling elite. The Communist Party (CPRF) has made some gains, in spite of the total inertia of its leadership. Misha Steklov in Moscow looks at the situation facing the country.

Misha Steklov in Moscow comments on last month’s victory of the Russian team, CSKA (The Central Sporting Club of the Army) over Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup final. “From the Taiga to the British seas, the red army is the strongest of all,” went the chorus of the fans. But only the words of the song reminded you of the club’s origins.