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The recent protests in Russia were more about the failed economic policies of Putin than support for Navalny, whose program may be even worse than Putin's. The West loves Navalny because they think he will open Russia to U.S. finance capital. From Moscow, Prof. Alexander Buzgalin joins theAnalysis.news with Paul Jay.
Transcript edited for clarity
Hi, I'm Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news, and please don't forget the donate button at the top of the webpage.
According to Sunday's New York Times, "tens of thousands of protesters across Russia took to the streets on Sunday for a second consecutive week to rally for the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. And they were met by one of the most imposing shows of police force seen in the country's recent history. In Moscow, the police shut down subway stations and paralyzed much of the city center as they scrambled to prevent protesters from gathering in one place. It was a show of force and Kremlin anxiety unseen in recent years that disrupted the core of a metropolis of 13 million people."
Well, is the New York Times report accurate? Is Navalny the real reason people are protesting and what to make of Putin? Is he the demonic dictator the West makes him out to be? Or is he the state representative of the Russian oligarchy, much like the U.S. government represents the American oligarchy? Now joining us from Moscow is Aleksandr Buzgalin.
He's a professor and director of the Center of Modern Marxist Studies at Lomonosov - you're going to have to correct me when we get there - Moscow State University. Chief editor of the left Marxist journal Alternatives Russia, an academic journal dealing with problems in political economy. He's also vice president of the World Political Economy Association and one of the organizers of the Russian Social Forum.
So, please, welcome Aleksandr.Aleksandr Buzgalin
Thank you very much. I'm very glad to participate in this dialogue with you, Paul. Of course, New York Times put not a good picture of the reality. Well, first of all, it was really big demonstration. Big number of people, but maximum 10,000 people in Moscow; I think much less. And, it was also protest actions in many cities and towns of Russia, but mainly in big cities and with much less number of participants, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Of course, this is big and very important fact in our history. But we have much more strong demonstrations and opposition activities. It was a big number of rallies against the growth, against pension reform, when we, not we, our government increased ages from 60 to 65. It was also many thousands of people in all over the Russia. We had similar demonstrations in 2012, and it was much bigger demonstrations last time. In any case, this is not so important.
The most important question is: What was the main slogan of people who came to the streets? Navalny was just formal prerequisite. Majority doesn't support him. When he made attempt to be candidate for one or another elections, he had a few percent, 2%, 3% of support, nothing more. And there are reasons. He is representative of right-wing liberal circles. He started as nationalistic leader with some even fiercer slogans in, it was seven, eight years ago. Then he was together with United Russia. This is the ruling party; let's say, Putin's party in Russia. After that, he became leader of liberal opposition. Also in his movies, he's using a lot of photos, videos, which can be made only with assistance of secret service. In Russia, it's impossible to use such, I don't know, planes or helicopters or anything to make photos of palaces. Very often this is not true. So he is a representative of one of the wings of our establishment.
They have more conservative wing and we have more liberal wing. And Navalny is symbolic person. He's not even the leader. He is a symbolic person of one of the wings of our officials.Paul Jay
Now, when you say liberal, what does that mean in the Russian context?Aleksandr Buzgalin
It's very important to explain. In Russia, liberal doesn't mean the same as in United States. It's not Democratic semi-left opposition, and so on. Liberals in Russia are supporters of neoliberal social and economic policy; no progressive income tax. For example. Even Trump, with 35% income tax for billionaires, will be communist in Russia, because in Russia, only leaders of the Communist Party can propose 30% income tax for rich. President Putin, equal for everybody, 13%.
By the way, Navalny's the same. We don't have real strong industrial policy. We have semifeudal regulation. And what he'll do, Navalny, or his leaders, his supporters, if they have power, will be the same like in Russia in 1990s, when we had 50% decline of production and more than 30% decline of income - for majority even 50%.
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