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Navalny and the contradictions of Putin’s robber capitalist regime

THE mainstream media — to give the official organs of the rich and powerful their polite name — is assiduously reporting what are fairly widespread demonstrations in Russia’s larger cities organised by supporters of the opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

This Navalny has recalibrated his appeal away from the highly contested spectrum of right-wing ultra-nationalist sentiment — inflected as it is in Russia with anti-semitism and Islamophobia — to give voice to complaints about the poverty, housing crises and general decay that inevitably accompanied Russia’s transition to capitalism.

Where Navalny projected himself — at least to his Western sponsors — as a human rights defender, a posture that is undoubtedly given substance by the maladroit manoeuvres of President Vladimir Putin’s police, today he aims to widen his tiny electoral base.

This is reckoned to be under 2 per cent and so far almost exclusively based around a stratum of upwardly mobile professionals and entrepreneurs who have emerged as winners in Russia’s post-socialist poverty lottery. 

The political strategy of Putin’s regime is to capture much of public opinion in a nationalist narrative of his own devising and use state power, patronage and full spectrum media dominance to marginalise opposition.

Such are the contradictions that capitalist restoration has created in this new Russia, that the insurgent forces always appear to be on the brink of breaking out of the system politics which keep electoral opposition at bay.

If such a “colour revolution” does take place under Navalny’s malign guidance, we can be sure it will threaten Russia’s existing capitalist relations of production only to open up its immense resources to foreign exploitation and to weaken Russia’s challenge to US power.

US President Joe Biden has met Putin and both sides have agreed to extend the remaining nuclear weapons deal. 

This is an unalloyed benefit and, as the Kremlin statement put it: “The normalisation of relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both countries and — taking into account their special responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the world — of the entire international community.”

Much of the US Democrats’ misplaced election rhetoric has centred on allegations that Russia meddled in US elections and, if only for the sake of continuity, the US presentation of this first encounter between the two presidents has foregrounded this allegation.

Attach what significance you may to CIA intelligence reports that Russia deliberately interfered with the November election in order to get Donald Trump elected. 

They might have more force if any conclusive evidence was made available. And they might be taken more seriously by a global audience if, setting aside its long history of invasion and military coups, the US was not credited with interfering in more than 80 elections since the second world war.

If true, then Putin must have a tray of medals to hand out. But in fact the system politics which has kept US foreign policy broadly bipartisan for decades is in deep trouble. As is the US economy. 

All the evidence suggests that it was Trump’s ham-fisted handling of the Covid-19 pandemic which did for his re-election bid and without this his 77.3 million voter base might have been enough to win again.

Biden treads on dangerous ground. Three years ago the National Security Archive at George Washington University revealed 30 declassified documents detailing assurances given to the Soviets. 

The then US secretary of state James Baker promised the hapless Mikhail Gorbachov that Nato would expand “not one inch eastward.”

Currently Nato troops, including British forces, are deployed along Russia’s eastern borders. Better they should be brought home and further nuclear arms reductions take place.

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