Russia under Putin

In my last post, I described how Western capital is planning to take over and control Ukraine’s resources and exploit its labour force to the maximum in order to boost the profitability of both Ukraine’s domestic capitalists (oligarchs) and foreign multi-nationals.

However, there is a problem for Western capital and Ukraine’s oligarchs: it’s Russia.  The war has already led to Russian forces gaining control of at least $12.4trn worth of Ukraine’s resources in energy (cola), metals and mineral deposits, apart from agricultural land.  If Putin’s forces succeed in annexing Ukrainian land seized during Russia’s invasion, Kyiv would permanently lose almost two-thirds of its deposits.  Moscow now controls 63% of Ukraine’s coal deposits, 11% of its oil, 20% of its natural gas, 42% of its metals, and 33% of its rare earths.

So any rebuilding effort funded by Western capital has a major obstacle.  “Not only will Ukraine have lost a lot of its territory and its resources, but it would be constantly vulnerable to another onslaught by Russia,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. “No one in their right mind, a private company, would invest in the rest of Ukraine if this were to become a frozen conflict.” Ukraine has suffered continual bombing and military attacks with thousands of civilians dying and millions having to flee their homes and even leave the country.  If Russia maintains its control of existing gains, the reconstruction of Ukraine as an independent state based funded by Western capital is put in jeopardy. 

And many Russian-speaking Ukrainians and others will remain under the control of Russia. Ukraine’s working people are having their trade union rights and working conditions degraded by the nationalist Zelensky government.  Under Putin’s Russia, it would even be worse.  For in Russia, going on strike, demonstrating against the regime and organizing politically is already fraught with danger and even death (although Ukraine is heading the same way).

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the elite in Russia, with the enthusiastic backing of US imperialism and Western economic advisers, moved quickly to dismantle the Soviet state sector.  There was no attempt to introduce even ‘liberal democracy’.  Much more important was to gain control of Russia’s resources and labour for private profit.  The pro-capitalist hero Yeltsin quickly launched what has become called a ‘shock therapy’ introduction of markets and private capital.  Prices were ‘liberalised’ and rapid privatisation began—all by presidential decree without any democratic mandate from the Russian people.  Yeltsin pushed through a constitution which enshrined a powerful president with strong decree and veto powers. 

When price controls were lifted, the prices for basic foodstuffs like bread and butter skyrocketed by as much as 500 percent in a matter of days. Large sections of the population sank into deep poverty almost overnight.  By 1994, about 70 percent of the Russian economy was privatised.  Yeltsin achieved this by selling off Russia’s assets for peanuts to a cabal of favoured people, now called ‘oligarchs’  

During the seven years of the Yeltsin regime, Russia’s GDP fell 40% and numerous bouts of hyperinflation wiped out the savings of many Russian citizens. Crime was rampant; mafia ran protection schemes on businesses and officials demanded bribes.  Life expectancy plummeted. Kleptocracy and extreme inequality were permanently embedded.

Alcoholic Yeltsin became extremely unpopular (his approval rating fell to just 10%).  But the new cabal of oligarchs made sure he was re-elected in 1996 through a plan drawn up by Western strategists at that year’s Davos World Economic Forum and delivered through a massive campaign in the controlled media and through the sidelining of any opposition campaign (then mainly the Communists).  However, the economy still struggled to recover and in 1998, the Russian government defaulted on $40 billion of short-term government bonds, devalued the ruble, and declared a moratorium on payments to foreign creditors.

This catastrophic default crippled the Yeltsin government and led to Yeltsin stepping down as president just over a year later. Yeltsin made way for his prime minister Vladimir Putin.  Putin, a former KGB officer, promised to establish stability and prosperity with reforms. He restored discipline and order to the government; made the State Duma—Russia’s parliament—subordinate to his will; ended elections of regional governors and turned them into appointed officials, centralising authority; seized control of the media; and cracked down on any resistant oligarchs, exiling or imprisoning many of them.

A new elite emerged that replaced many of the oligarchs of the Yeltsin years. These were individuals close to Putin dating back to his days in the KGB or when he served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Because of their close ties to Putin, they were able to gain control over important sectors of the Russian economy and became heads of state companies that grew following the nationalization of assets of many of the former Yeltsin-era oligarchs. Step-by-step Putin created a state of crony capitalism that was bolstered by the so-called siloviki—powerful figures from the security and military services—who were active participants in Putin’s increasingly corrupt system.

Putin was lucky.  During his first two terms as president (2000–2004, and 2004–2008), the Russian economy prospered and the people shared to some extent in this brief economic boom. Average annual real GDP growth reached 5.5%.  But this was only due to the commodity price boom that also helped many weaker capitalist economies like Chavez’s Venezuela or Lula’s Brazil. Oil prices surged from a low of $10 a barrel to a peak of $150 a barrel. 

But those relatively ‘golden years’ based on energy exports came sharply to an end with the Great Recession of 2008-9 and the subsequent Long Depression of the 2010s when the commodities boom dissipated.  Stagnation set in.  Real GDP growth in the next decade averaged only 2%.

Foreign investment declined precipitously and capital flight accelerated to nearly 4% of annual GDP as the oligarchs (including Putin) spirited their ill-gotten gains into offshore havens or property in the UK, with the help of Western investment and legal companies and government tax incentives. 

Productive investment growth was weak because the profitability of capital in Russia only slowly recovered from the ‘shock therapy’ years. This is graphically revealed by the trend in the profitability of Russian capital.  After the ‘shock therapy’ economic collapse, profitability had recovered during the ‘golden years’ of Putin’s first two terms.  But after 2007, profitability marked time; while economic growth crawled along. 

So in Putin’s third term (after 2012), the regime became even more nationalist and autocratic, cracking down on any credible opposition with intimidation, force and even assassination.  And 2014 saw a significant turning point.  Putin promoted the 2014 Winter Olympics, which cost more than $50 billion—the most expensive Olympic Games ever. Much of the funding came from Putin’s billionaire cronies.  So when the nationalist government in Ukraine launched its attacks on the Russian-speaking areas after the Maidan coup, Putin responded by annexing Crimea and providing active support for the separatists in the Donbas region. This boosted his popularity at home, turning attention away from the failure of the domestic economy, at least for a while, and his approval rating rocketed.

But the economy did not rocket.  The West then applied economic sanctions against Russian business figures and sectors.  Russia’s growth remained weak and below the growth rate in most developed countries. When adjusted for inflation, the average Russian was making less money in 2019 than in 2014.

Soon after he was first appointed president in 2000, Putin published an essay claiming that he wanted Russia to reach Portugal’s level of GDP per capita by the end of his two terms in office. Portugal was then the poorest EU member state. However, two decades later in 2021, Portugal’s GDP per capita in current dollars is twice as high as Russia’s.  Despite the damage suffered by Portugal during the 2010 euro debt crisis, Russia has actually fallen further behind the Portuguese economy.

Amid stagnation, inequality has accelerated.  According to joint research by the Higher School of Economics and the state-run VEB Bank, “the wealthiest 3 percent of Russians owned 89 percent of all financial assets in 2018.” The Moscow Times reports “the number of billionaires in Russia grew from 74 to 110 between mid-2018 and mid-2019, while the number of millionaires rose from 172,000 to 246,000.” According to Forbes’s rating, the total wealth possessed by Russia’s top 200 in 2019 was $15 billion higher than it had been in 2014.

In contrast, Rosstat reported last year that 14.3 percent of the population (21 million people) can be defined as poor. According to Yale economist Christopher Miller, Russians are getting poorer. The year “2018 marked the fifth straight year in which Russians’ inflation-adjusted disposable incomes fell.” Rosstat further reports that “almost two-thirds (63.5%) of Russian households only have enough money to buy food, clothes and other essential items.” The Russian Central Bank reported that 75 percent of the population is not able to save anything each month and almost one-third of those who manage to put some money into savings do so by skimping on food.

Just how badly Russia’s crony capitalist regime under Putin has performed for the average Russian is revealed in the UN’s human development index (HDI), which covers life expectancy, employment, incomes and other services. Russia’s HDI measure has grown the least of the major ‘emerging economies’ and is now way below the OECD average.

All this makes a joke of the arguments in the Western media that Putin’s regime is some sort of reversion to the Soviet state.  For a start, Putin has often attacked ‘Bolshevism’ and, in particular the views of Lenin that nations like Ukrainians had a right to self-determination.  Instead, Putin has turned to the feudal imperialism of Russia’s Peter the Great as his model for the invasion of Ukraine. Putin has eulogized Peter’s conquests in the Great Northern War and praised him for “returning” historically Russian lands. “It seems that it has fallen to us, too, to return (Russian lands),” Putin commented. For him, Ukraine is not a nation but part of Russia, which the nationalist in Kyev and Western powers are tryng to separate.

The irony is that Putin’s imperialist ambitions for control of the peripheral countries of the former Soviet Union are not backed up by a modern imperialist economy.  Russia is not in the imperialist league, as I have shown in previous posts.  Russia is no super power, economically or politically.  Its total wealth (including labour and natural resources) is way down the league compared to the US and the G7 (red bars).   And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.

The Russia economy remains a ‘one-trick pony’, depending on oil and gas that make up more than half its exports before the war started, with the rest being grain, chemicals and metals – no advanced technology exports.  That means that far from extracting surplus value through trade with other countries, instead, the more advanced capitalist economies and their multi-nationals get net transfers of surplus value from Russia. 

Putin may think Russia can be an imperialist power, but the economic reality is that Russia is just a large peripheral economy outside the US-led imperialist bloc like Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt etc – if with a larger military than most. Seriously opposing that bloc leads to conflict, as China now faces.

27 thoughts on “Russia under Putin

  1. Fair enough Michael, but in contrast to the US Hegemony a world block of anti-US hegemony is taking shape. No one is really claiming Putin isn’t anything other than a integralist or bonapartist. 70% of Russia’s GDP contribution is public sector, and it has probably grown in the last 6 months. Russia’s oligarchy is essentially powerless to protest their deteriorating access to Western capital, and if they do protest it simply means leverage for more government takeovers by Putin.

    Anti-Imperialism is not comparing an abstract ideological standard, but comparing something real and material to current events. This is why we follow Russia’s progress as an act of anti-imperialism, despite it’s flaws and contradictions.

    1. I agree. Moreover, your discourse of ‘crony capitalism’ and ‘autocracy’, Michael, lends credence to US hegemony’s ace false dichotomy of ‘democratic’ vs ‘authoritarian regimes’, when the reality is that democracy in the West is merely formal, its substance plutocracy presided over by ‘murderers, swindlers and villains’. What would you expect of a formerly command-statist ‘actually existing socialist’ society after the ‘shock therapy’ of neoliberalisation? At least most of Russia’s resources can’t be looted by the West pro tem.
      Putin is playing the long game strategically. Control over eastern and southern Ukraine and its Black Sea shoreline could greatly assist the birth of a new multipolar world order centered on an economically integrated Eurasia. Go the BRICS!

      1. PS. “And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.” I find this a bizarre comment given that 1) Russia is winning the war against an army armed to the hilt and trained by US/Nato over a period of 8 years; and 2) US/Nato has shown a marked unwillingness to mix it with Russia by getting involved directly.

      2. I think the Russians were expecting to win quickly but NATO backing and military support enabled the Ukrainians to hold out and now the war has become a long grinding one. I dont think Putin expected that. Even so, Ukraine is now partly dismembered.

  2. It’s difficult to predict where the Russian Federation will go from here: it is certainly in flux, and anything can happen.

    I think there are two premises we can take when analyzing it:

    1) it is certainly a failure in relation to the USSR; 30 years later, the numbers don’t lie: lower GDP growth, lower birth rate, lower labor productivity etc. The Bolsheviks – two brutal wars later, countless sabotage attempts and completely besieged economically since the very beginning with the exception of a small window post-1929 – managed to turn a failed State, the ruins of an empire, into a world superpower in just 29 years. The capitalist experiment of 1991-2022 are a complete, abject failure in comparison, and it’s clearly not going to work in the foreseeable future (just look at the official projections of the Russians themselves);

    2) Vladimir Putin, for better or for worse, is a transition leader. The Yeltsin years were a disastrous turmoil, and Putin is a direct continuation of Yeltsin in the sense that Russia is still trying to overcome the damage caused by that government.

    It’s important to highlight that the present Russian oligarchy are not the Soviet nomenklatura, but the middle management. You don’t see any Stalins, Krushchevs, Brezhnevs, Gorbachevs around; the new, capitalist elite the IMF produced in the 1990s came from the rough equivalent of the middle class in the USSR, the red directors, to be more specific. The story that the Soviet elite betrayed the people by selling the nation in the middle of the night to the Americans is not true: the USSR collapsed suddenly and surprisingly, and the IMF was in a hurry to consolidate capitalism there by whatever means and shape possible, hence the transformation of the red directors into the new capitalist class.

    Another factor we have to take into account is that the KGB survived intact the collapse of the USSR. In other words, not everything from the USSR collapsed: the Russian State operates the way it does for a reason, it’s not just “kleptocracy” and “oligarchy”. To say the oligarchs have a complete control of the State is not precise. It’s important to state that the USSR was never militarily defeated: it collapsed under its own terms.

    The Russians had a conspiracy theory that the rest of the Union was leeching the RSFSR, and that, once left alone, Russia (future Russian Federation) would grow instantly and exponentially. That turned out to be false. Apparently, Putin is trying to put Orthodox Christianity in the place of Marxism-Leninism to fill the ideological void, so as to keep the Russian people cohesive as the economic boom didn’t come. In my opinion, this quest will fail, because, ultimately, Christianity is anti-science, and Russia needs science to protect itself from Liberal aggression; as it develops, Christianity will naturally weaken.

    In the military sector, the Russian Federation managed to continue the Soviet progress, after almost giving it all up during Yeltsin. It is now impregnable.

    On the geopolitical front, we have that it has already won the war against the Ukraine (the outcome was decided in the first 1h22min of the war). Ukraine cannot and will not become an Afghanistan/Vietnam, for many reasons that are not in the scope of this blog to comment. The West cannot isolate it the way it isolated the USSR – not because of China per se, but because the power and prestige of the West has deteriorated quickly after 9/11 and the global financial meltdown of 2008.

    In my opinion, the Russian Federation should admit the abandonment of socialism was a mistake and do whatever it can to restore the Soviet Union (without the “union” part, as the other nations are gone forever). It should reverse the capitalist reforms of the 1990s and reinstall socialism a la China, that is, Market Socialism. This task would be easier in Russia than in other Third World countries because it still has the Soviet know-how of statecraft, and many remnants of the Soviet state system; in simpler words, it still has the “muscle memory” to install socialism. The rest is just a matter of asking the Chinese for adjustments to a market version.

  3. Russia has one eighth of the world’s landmass.

    Its landmass spans two oceans.

    It shares borders with a multitude of other countries.

    It has mineral and agricultural resources in abundance.

    It has a highly educated population.

    It has all it needs to be a great economic power and garner prosperity for all of its people.

    Yet, century after century, it dissipates its energy and resources on imperialistic expansion.


    1. I’m sure you have read Churchill…no doubt as a heroic defender of the British empire and England at war, and perhaps have not paid much attention (or, at least moral attention) to his strategy of containing Russian power, especially in his contributions in the political manipulation of France and Germany, particularly in prepartion for the genocidal invasion of Russia/USSR during the second half of the 30 Year World War (from 1914 to 1945). Churchill and apparently most English speaking people have a long standing contempt and imperial hatred of Russia and Russians…Here, you express this prejudice elegantly.

  4. “And even its supposed military might has been exposed as a paper tiger.” I’m afraid many independent military experts (including Americans) would find that statement patently false. For example, Col. McGregor, Scott Ritter, not to mention many academics have provided extensive analysis to indicate this is false. Russia has proven itself fully capable of defeating any Western opponent. NATO wouldn’t last a week against Russia in conventional warfare. The U.S. has no ability to project its power against a real opponent such as China or Russia. Libya, yes; Russia, no. I’m afraid those calling Russia a “paper tiger” have been reading too many Pentagon press releases or imbibing in the comical claims of Blinken and Austin. The remainder of this article is weakened by using GDP only. The GDP (PPP) puts Russia 6th in the world Yes, it’s controlled by a sector of political appointees and aligned oligarchs. But then, from my perch here in middle America, so is my country.

    1. I think that Russian forces would have crushed Ukrainian forces within a week and taken Kyiv. But NATO backing in previous years and inadequate planning by the Russians have turned the war into a long grinding one that Putin did not expect.

      1. I’m surprised at the gullibility of many accepting the NATO narrative; likewise, that everyone “knows” what Putin “expected”. I assume the CIA must have someone in Putin’s study telling us what he is thinking and expecting? Col. Wilkerson ( and most other retired top analysts know that Russia’s incursion into Kiev was (here I quote him) “a feint”, a shaping operation, not a failed assault. One doesn’t try to “take Kiev” with 20,000 Russian troops, nor do you “want” to occupy Kiev if you’re Putin. This was not a failure, but a probe and shaping operation while the east was erstwhile taken. Russia adjusted its strategy appropriately when it became clear only southern cities would surrender. But the city of Kherson surrendered and is still in Russian hands, and was it not also part of this so-called “failed strategy”? Inadequate planning? Russia has been planning for this at least since the coup in Ukraine in 2014. There is no lack of planning on their part, as the limitless supply of 20,000 missiles per day falling upon Ukrainian troops can attest. Like all wars, this war has been won (yes, past tense) through logistics, which Russia has planned for in spades for many years. And I agree that the Ukrainian military was (past tense) very well-trained and competent at the start of the war. They are now largely depleted of their trained officer corps. Heroics don’t win a grinding war. Logistics and strategy do.

      2. Sure, Russia is winning in the sense of holding all its gains and maybe getting more. But Putin cannot take the whole of Ukraine and bring down Zelensky and neither can Zelensky and NATO bring down Putin.

      3. Michael, I highly disagree w u on the war. Ukraine had the second largest military in Europe by 2021, second to Russia. Putin and the russian military apparatus would’ve known that. There’s just no way they or anyone else could have taken Kyiv in a week like the western media keep spewing. If you wanna take the capitol of the second largest military in europe you have to go in with bigger numbers than said military, and they just didn’t do this.
        You’re probably right that Putin didn’t expect NATO to back Ukraine’s resistance to this extent, but I guess he thought the west was smarter than that. Western backing has brought us closer to nuclear war and we see now what this is doing to the european economy. So yes, Putin probably didn’t think the west was this stupid. One could say he overestimated his foe.
        Lastly, Russia’s military is no paper tiger–they’re just not as barbarian as the american military. This upcoming winter onslaught will shock people back to reality. This is why we’ve been seeing pieces on how the US is “secretly” telling Zelensky to show it’s open to negotiation and the chair of the joint chiefs, General Mark Milley, favoring negotiation as well.

      1. I had a quick look at the data. According to the IMF world economic outlook database, in 2000, Portugal per cap GDP in constant PP was $30,421, while Russia’s was $14,530, or less than half. By 2008 after two Putin terms, Portugal was $32348 against Russia’s $24788, or 76% of Portugal. So not equal as Putin hoped, but much better. By 2019, however Portugal reached $34989 while Russia was $27341, or 78%. So progress in closing the gap stalled from about 2008 onwards. Indeed, the ratio of Russia’s GDP per cap to Portugal peaked in 2012 at 86% and has slipped back to 76% in 2019. So on this measure, Russia is going backwards.

  5. Michael, Russo-phobia is not a good starting point for analysis, it is so full of prejudices. You say Russian democracy has been whittled away which I agree with, but I bet you 100 Krypto’s the average Russian is more aware and better informed as to what is happening in the Ukraine than in the West – land of the free press. How they must be laughing at countless millions swallowing the line that the Russian troops who have occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near Enerhodar since March are bombing themselves for entertainment. The Western media with its repulsive lies and charades has been a gift to Putin.

    You say that Russia is a one pony trick, which is on par with the slur that it is a glorified gas station. You say that the Russian Military is a paper tiger. Tell that to the Ukrainians dying and being maimed in the trenches or more sensibly running away. Tell that to the Western arms manufacturers who have had their equipment annihilated by superior Russian weaponry. May I suggest you watch YouTube sites such as Southfront, weeb union, theti mapping, new atlas mapping, new world econ channel or the military tube to get a better understanding of what is actually happening in the Ukraine. You will find that far from failing the Russians and their allies are advancing steadily killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, fascists and foreign combatants. Their slow progress is only due to the tens of thousands of miles of trenches, bunkers and other fortifications the Ukraine has built up over 7 years in preparation for this inevitable war which makes the Vietcong tunnels look like mouseholes.

    You say that The irony is that Putin’s imperialist ambitions for control of the peripheral countries of the former Soviet Union are not backed up by a modern imperialist economy. With this statement you dissolve our understanding of imperialism, and you deny the whole history that led up to this conflict including Putin’s unwillingness even up to the eleventh hour to recognise the Donbass as being part of Russia despite the endless pogroms and shelling there, and despite the repeated appeals of terrified Russian speakers asking to become part of the Russian Federation. You call for Russia to withdraw, but that would lead to reprisals killing more than the 14,000 who have been already died at the hands of Ukrainian fascists in uniform before the invasion. If the Pentagon advised Pelosi no to go to Taiwan it is because Russia had thwarted their attempt to expose the Northern Flank of China, and consequently it is the Pentagon which has been outflanked in the Ukraine undermining its encirclement of China.

    Your position and that of Stop the War are a real political problem. The task at hand is to inform workers in the West suffering the economic consequences of the war, that the war was a deliberate and pre-meditated provocation by the USA in the guise of NATO which the Russians had to respond to. NATO and their local boss Zelensky had made Putin an offer he ultimately could not refuse. Imagine the anger that would erupt when workers recognise that is was their capitalist classes who caused this war and therefore it is their own bosses who are responsible for the energy and food crisis pauperising them. It gives new meaning to the “enemy within”. It shows that the few thousand Western globalist families, the entitled greedy, demonstrate the same disregard to their own workers as they do to the Ukrainians being chewed up as cannon fodder.

    So please I beg you to reconsider.

    1. I don’t beg but UCBP ought to reconsider his endorsement of one capitalist formation in its struggle with another capitalist formation.

      If the root of this conflict is in fact in the impairment, the breakdown in the networks of capital accumulation, leading to trade wars, and military conflict, then the resolution of the conflict depends on a program independent of, and opposed to the system of capitalism in all its facets, NATO/US and Russian.

      The issues aren’t who’s a “paper tiger,” or who’s bloc is the lesser or greater evil. The endorsement of Putin against the “US hegemony,” separating Russian capitalism from its function in the hostile brotherhood of capital, reminds me of the attempts to distinguish a “progressive” “national bourgeoisie” for “multinational foreign bourgeoisie: in places like Chile, Bolivia, Angola, Nicaragua. And exactly how has that worked out for capitalism? Hasn’t presented a vital threat, has it?

      “Anti-imperialism” that substitutes national blocs, for class revolution, reproduces the conflicts it seeks to resolve.

    2. ”Russian democracy has been whittled away which I agree with,” What Russian democracy? What democracy anywhere? I cannot comprehend on what grounds Marxists identify permission by the State for citizens to exercise the franchise with the exercise of power. Can anyone tell when ”democracy’ was introduced in England or Russia? Note the use of the passive voice that allows the elision of the agent of such introducing. Clearly it was the agents of such introducing with whom power resided or they could not have introduced it in the first place; the corollary of which is that such agents also have the power to abolish it i.e. when exercising a right to vote becomes inconvenient for the oligarchs with whom real power resides.

      1. “…when ‘democracy’ was introduced in England or Russia?” Scare quotes in original.

        Bourgeois democracy in England was introduced in stages. The rebellion against King John was an aristo version but the Magna Charta, like the ascent into heaven of the Egyptian pharaohs, was susceptible to re-interpretation as applying to the commoner as well. In practice, the English Reformation that dispossessed the Roman church lands fostered a stronger bourgeoisie, which coupled with the minority of Edward VI and the female occupants of the throne gravely weakened in practice the monarchy. Thus, the effort of the Stuarts to reestablish an absolutist regime on par with the model in France failed ignominiously, in the Puritan Revolution, aka English Civil War. Killing the king was a huge step towards bourgeois democracy. The Restoration solved nothing, and the movement towards bourgeois democracy was reaffirmed in the so-called “Glorious” Revolution of 1688. The tradition of the Puritan revolution never died out completely and the contagion was carried to the colonies. The American Revolution gave the bourgeois democratic movement new life. The career of John Wilkes, of “Wilkes and liberty!” fame is nicely exemplary. The mass resistance of the people eventually forced the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1887. Female suffrage was finally achieved in 1928.

        I suppose the the common people killed in Peterloo were contemptible by jlowrie’s enlightened standards of true democracy, swindled into sacrificing themselves for fools’ gold. And the Chartists who taught Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were equally so, if not downright villainous for their malignant influence. Bourgeois democracy also was advanced by foreign revolutions, such as France 1830, France and Germany in 1848, the US in its Civil War, the Paris Commune etc. And for that matter in Mexico, China and Turkey in the early twentieth century. The notion of bourgeois democracy as nothing but a swindle is profoundly contemptuous of those human struggles.

        Democracy in Russia of the bourgeois sort was introduced in 1991 with Yeltsin and continues today with Putin. If jlowrie has not notion of democracy that addresses class rather than legal forms I either missed it or don’t remember it.

        The opposition between a dream of real democracy and every real life struggle serves only as ideological justification for abstaining in the name of purity. This serves no one…but if it were universal it would preserve the status quo.

  6. Michael soy un seguidor de tus notas a las que considero entre las mejores que se publican sobre temas económicos. No soy un admirador de Putin pero he leido muchas de sus opiniones y discursos, y se que es un hombre inteligente y lúcido. En particular cuando lo comparamos con los lideres occidentales. Mucho de lo que afirmas lo tomas de los medios de occidentales, y donde vivo:Argentina, si te guías por ellos estas totalmente perdido. No se le puede creer ni el pronóstico del tiempo. En los últimos años se produjo una “ideologización” en ellos absolutamente vergonzante.
    Puedes comprobarlo en uno de los más importantes de tu patria y del mundo: BBC Mundo, te invito a que compares las notas anteriores sobre temas como Venezuela, Palestina, o la actitud crítica, incluso de denuncia frente al rol de imperialismo de EEUU, y los que aparecen a partir del 2008/2010 . Hoy la mayoría de los medios se han convertido en panfletos. En Argentina y en América Latina conocemos muy, pero muy bien el rol de los medios dominantes en su despliegue. Hay una mezcla de ignorancia y de mentiras. Cuando hablamos de libertad: ¿cuántos presos hay en cárceles norteamericana? ¿Y Assange?¿lo que hicieron en Iran, Argelia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Irak,Libia,Guatemala,Haití,Cuba,Panamá, etc? ¿ el papel de instituciones como el FMI y el Banco Mundial ? En Argentina las hemos sufrido mucho.El papel del Occidente atlántico ha sido mortífero para la mayoría nuestros pueblos. Franz Fanon en uno de sus libros dijo algo así (no la recuerdo textual), que lo que Europa no le perdonaba a Hitler era que les hubiera dado a ellos el trato que ellos le dieron a los pueblos colonizados durante 400 años. Y sobre eso agrego: los nazis no fueron solo alemanes. La división Wiking y la Azul de España lo demuestran. Europa entera fue filonazi. Al lado de la OTAN, Putin es “un angelito”. Lo cual no quiere decir que sea un liberador ni un revolucionario. Una cosa más: el uso del idioma.¿Porque no hablamos de oligarcas cuando nos referimos a los capitalistas de occidente? ¿la plata la hicieron trabajando, o no fue una apropiación o robo el “enclosure” y el tráfico de esclavos ? La cantidad de muertos por impoerialismo occidental no tiene parangón. Saludos

  7. It is probably best not to go into the politics of the Ukrainian state, as this is offensive to the general tenor of the site. But on a different issue, I can’t resist noting that “BRICS” are a team of horses facing different directions who therefore will go nowhere far and that little, more or less at random. But enough of being quarrelsome, I hope?

    But I do want to take up the issue of crony capitalism. What is this, a new mode of production? Or “merely” a new form of state? It’s not clear to me that this has any content whatsoever. It seems to perilously close to a pejorative serving in lieu of an argument. Given the number of military and intelligence personnel serving in the US Congress it’s not clear that even the siloviki are quite so unique to Russia. The mayor of “St. Petersburg” was Anatoly Sobchak who was very much a Yeltsinite reformer and prime candidate for political mentor of Putin. Putin was not a mushroom. Further, the ambiguous claim that “elites” from the USSR became the oligarchs so far as I know simply is not true, not in the Russian Federation. The real continuity between high ranking party bosses and the new order was in the newly independent states like Azerbaijan or even Ukraine, where Kuchman took over. The claim that Putin has stolen two hundred billion rubles remind me of the similar claim that Honecker had stolen fifty billion marks! Most of all, do the cronies who supposedly define some sort of singular formation genuinely dominate the Russian economy?

    I agree whole-heartedly that Russia is not imperialist in the way Sweden or Switzerland are, much less the US is and will not gild our host’s lily.

    I do not agree that national self-determination favors Ukraine. It was the Maidan regime that decided speaking Russian meant you are not Ukrainian. The Russian-speaking majority/plurality areas are thus not necessarily “Ukraine.” I especially do not agree that national sovereignty requires the sanctity of current borders (unless the US says different, as a practical rule.) The right of national self-determination requires redrawing national boundaries in most instances.

    Lastly, Putin is quite capable of making a rotten deal, if only the US were willing to negotiate. Putin didn’t have a problem with the Kyiv regime, despite the fact they killed thousands and thousands of Russian-speakers in the east. But the US target is Russia.

  8. That’s was an excellent analysis overall but I wish you didn’t fall for this: ‘ So when the nationalist government in Ukraine launched its attacks on the Russian-speaking areas after the Maidan coup, Putin responded by annexing Crimea and providing active support for the separatists in the Donbas region’. Just bizarre how so many Leftists label a popular rebellion a coup- all for some reason in agreement Kremlin propaganda. And for what?

  9. Hey, Dr Roberts, I think you ought to have calculated the HDI changes starting from 2000, not 1990, if you’re making a case about Russia “under Putin”. While hardly stellar, at 14.1%, it fares equal to the world (which is actually in Russia’s favour, since the world benefits from a low-base effect), better than the OCDE (7.7%) or Brazil (11.6%).

    For reference, going by the Inequality-adjusted HDI (only from 2010, as the adjustment was proposed for the first time in 2005), Russia improved 7.1% in the period, Brazil 7.7%, the world 9.5%. Brazil and the world benefit from a low-base effect, so it’s hard to say how badly Russia fared in a relative way, but just looking at the interactive chart at the UNDP site, I can see that countries that started at a similar IHDI in 2010 didn’t fare much better.

  10. I found an interview with economist Prabhat Patnaik, with Lynn Fries at GPE News Docs, that confirms my view that the IMF and the U.S. pushed Ukraine into this conflict; — this is a short excerpt:
    “PATNAIK: Ukraine has been having a relationship with the IMF for quite some time from the late 1990s.
    The loan that Ukraine and many other Eastern European countries took from the IMF was really quite unpayable. And even now the debt they have to the IMF and to others together is something which is quite unpayable. They cannot really pay back that kind of debt particularly when their productive apparatus is not really generating much.
    So that was going on. So, the IMF at one point therefore insisted that in order to continue with the debt Ukraine had to meet certain conditionalities. In these conditionalities, it wanted a reduction in the real wage. It wanted a curtailment in the government’s welfare expenditures, particularly on education and healthcare. It also wanted a cut back in subsidies.
    And that is when Yanukovych, who was the President of Ukraine at that time said that, no, this is something which is not possible. So, at that point therefore, IMF ended up deciding that if the conditions are not being met in that case, it’s not going to provide any more loans to Ukraine. That’s when Yanukovych started negotiating with Russia.
    —- the interview ends with:
    And when they [countries] are opened up, it is not just for capital to come in and set up industries or capital to come in and buy up industries. But capital must come in also to take control of the sources of raw materials. And in the case of Ukraine also take control over the land area. Capital would like to own the entire land of the planet.
    So the point is: that is a general objective which is promoted by the IMF on behalf of international finance capital all over the globe. That is what the IMF these days does everywhere. — end of interview.

  11. Lenin: “The highest stage of capitalism is imperialism.” In 1989 the Soviet Union regressed into an oligarchic/capitalist state. It is now in its imperialist stage.

  12. Why did Russia revenue increase?
    There is one more benefit that Putin is receiving from the “West” that no one has yet commented, but is immense and solves a series of his problems.
    According to information that came out in Russian internet channels, tax collection taxes on work in Russia increased with the war. Interestingly, half of the increase was due to oil and gas, and the other half was due to taxes on other products.
    It was so amazing and bizarre that neither Putin released, but this surrender is given that it was caused by the sanctions of the European community, simply by a secondary factor that no one thought, the reduction of fiscal dropout and the remittance of profits abroad.
    Simply the Europeans closed their money laundries for Russian capitalists, who now instead of buying football teams, luxury homes and yachts were forced to reinvest by buying European companies from Róssia.
    It is something that every government of a peripheral country wants, the escape of capital is zero, companies are sold to nationals at symbolic prices and the only thing left to the capitalists of bringing their money to European and American laundries, or even in of the tax havens in Caribbean islands that can easily be confiscated by the US government and England Luxembourg or other still open laundries will have to reinvest in their country.
    That is, another action of the brilliant “West” bureaucrats who instead of harming Putin increase their entry of resources.

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