Mon Apr 22, 2024
April 22, 2024

The War in Russia As of the End of January

By International Workers League in Russia

  1. The War
    We repeat, as before, that Russia is in a state of war.

The fundamental situation in the country today is one of military actions, victories, and defeats.

The fighting on the front has not stopped, and the war has not gone anywhere. The Russian army is currently storming Ukrainian fortified areas. Apparently, it will finally take Avdeevka after months of active onslaught. Of course, it is no longer a suburb of Donetsk, but a ruin. However, the Ukrainian army is also active. First, it continues to successfully defend itself, even in conditions of semi-encirclement in parts of the front, and despite the ice and the mud. Secondly, Russia is firing missiles at Ukrainian cities, but compared to last year, the Ukrainian air defense is intercepting a greater number of strikes. Unfortunately, there is still significant damage and casualties due to the immense number of missiles and drones. The good news is that at least we’re no longer hearing about Russia’s ability to knock out vital Ukrainian infrastructure, such as its power grid. But on New Year’s Eve, rockets were fired at Belgorod, Russia, right in the middle of the town. It turned out that the air defense system didn’t work well, and the bomb shelters in the city were partially padlocked. As a result, a missile attack (not drones!) on a Russian regional center with sirens and destruction made an impression and shook the image of an impregnable and protected country. Third, Ukrainian drone attacks on fuel storage facilities continue. Drones are already flying almost as far as St. Petersburg, even though it is more than 1,000 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. And of course, an important event was the shooting down of Russian EMP planes and other materiel off the coast of Crimea. These are important and expensive airplanes. There are few of them in the country’s arsenal. Ukraine is successfully launching painful strikes against Russia. These blows are painful both politically and militarily. Russia can’t seem to boast of such a thing. In short, the war continues. It has been going on for almost two years. And instead of stabilizing the regime in Russia, as occurred following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the military operation has frozen everything, strengthening only the state’s repressive apparatus. There is no end to the war in sight. Russia’s victory in this war is extremely elusive. Putin has nothing to brag about before the next election.

  1. The Economy

Despite the forecasts made by bourgeois anti-Putin economists at the beginning of the “special military operation,” Russia has yet to collapse. This once again confirms the low level of political understanding that most bourgeois opposition leaders have and proves exactly how much we can trust those who make loud predictions and statements. But this does not mean that the war has not affected the economy. Let’s note a few phenomena. Huge amounts of money are being spent on the military – a third of this year’s budget. And this is not counting secret budget items, the size of which we do not know, but most likely they are also military expenditures or expenditures to support the dictatorship inside the country. Military factories are working at full capacity, and are swamped with military government orders. A huge amount of money goes to pay contractors (amounts vary from 1,500 to several thousand dollars for a month of contract service). Salaries at military factories are paid on-time and workers receive high salary (about 1,500 dollars, which is about one and a half to two times more than before the war, taking into account inflation). However, such sharp injections of state funds into the military economy have lead to the devaluation of money and inflation, with prices rising very sharply for some products. For example, chicken (a cheap meat staple) has risen by tens of percentage points; eggs (a key source of protein for those who cannot afford chicken) have nearly doubled. Egg prices were even the topic of Putin’s speech at a press conference late last year, and then another speech earlier this year. Putin apologized, blamed it on the government (traditionally, it’s all the officials’ fault) and promised to fix everything within a month. He lied. Prices have not fallen. They remained at the level of 130-150 rubles (about one and a half dollars). Since the beginning of the year and up to now there have been major disasters in apartment buildings. This has been a sudden but natural uptick of accidents in the Moscow region, in Novosibirsk and throughout the country. Let’s add that Moscow has clearly changed this winter – it used to be that it was always well-cleaned and well-prepared for winter, boasting excellent infrastructure equal to any of the best megacities of the world. Colossal snow piles have built up, reaching two stories high in some places. Paths are forged by the residents themselves in snowdrifts, in the thaw – muddy puddles line the roads and sidewalks. As a result, it is impossible to move normally in a city of many millions. The reason is a shortage of janitors. Why? According to one janitor, it became more profitable for them, mostly guest workers, to work as couriers, and especially following the threat of fines, they quit en masse and became couriers. Others have said that guest workers have begun to prefer to go to Hungary and Germany to work than to stay in Russia to face low wages (due to the fall of the ruble), repression against migrants by government agencies (for example, the Federal Migration Service together with the police constantly organizes mass checks of documents and then opens administrative cases, deports, fines, and of course threatens to send them to war). Moscow remains filthy for the third month. There are numerous, almost daily, accidents and breakdowns on airplanes and trains due to a lack of spare parts because of sanctions.

  1. The Level of Consciousness of the Masses and Political Movements

Even according to official polls, the majority wants peace. But they do not specify what kind of peace. And at the same time, according to the same polls, the majority does not want defeat. However, these polls are unspecified and under the conditions of dictatorship. And they should be analyzed critically. But we don’t see bellicose moods and actions on the part of the masses. Even the collections of aid to the front have somehow shrunk, although we have no statistics. Probably no one does. War is now the horrid white noise in the background to which we have become accustomed. More unpleasant, delusional, and painful than the war in Chechnya, for example. Nevertheless, it is a background. Under these conditions, the regime decided to hold another “presidential election” in March. Election campaigning in a dictatorship in the midst of an unsuccessful war has put the war on center stage. Therefore, it was clear that the regime would hold the elections according to its own rules, clear that Putin would “win,” but still, timid anti-war initiatives appeared. The first was Duntsova, a deputy from a small town in the provinces, completely unknown to the country. She found support, her telegram channel gained more than 300,000 subscribers in a matter of days, and opposition resources were eager to interview her. But the electoral commission did not register her, using the far-fetched excuse of improper paperwork. Now another anti-war candidate has appeared – the relatively well-known right-wing liberal Nadezhdin. Of course, he is not among the first line of the opposition. It is clear that he is a man of the regime (it is important that he is an acquaintance of Kirienko, and Kirienko is a liberal of the late 1990s and early 2000s, former prime minister under Yeltsin, former director of Rosatom in the 2010s, and today the second man in the presidential administration). Many opposition figures decided to support Nadezhdin’s nomination, seeing this action as an opportunity to display anti-war views in a dictatorship. Even supporters of Navalny have done so. It is emphasized that this is not an endorsement of Nadezhdin, because he is, after all, a man of the system, while he does offer his anti-war position. In the second half of January, Nadezhdin’s team across the country managed to collect twice as many signatures as needed to register as a presidential candidate (100,000). Hundreds of people gave their passport data to register.

The old bourgeois opposition-democrat Yavlinsky has criticized this approach. He believes that it is not worth going to the elections and participating in them, because the anti-war candidate will get very few votes, and this will give Putin the opportunity to justify the continuation of his policy and war. The low number of votes for the anti-war candidate will show that the people are in favor of Putin’s approaches to solving issues, and in favor of war. Importantly, Nadezhdin promises to work with and support female relatives of mobilized men who want to bring their men home. This movement is small and subject to pressure from the authorities. But its protests have been constant and ongoing. For the third or fourth Saturday they are holding a flower-laying action at the tomb of the unknown soldier (an important place for popular memory and also an altar for a regime with an ideology based on victory in World War II (the Great Patriotic War), and they do it wearing white scarves, pointing out that this is how they soldiers’ wives protested during the Argentine dictatorship (we don’t know why they took this symbol)). This has created a permanent point of potential attraction for anti-war protest under the conditions of dictatorship.

The third phenomenon that needs to be mentioned and monitored are the events in Bashkortostan, where there have been mass rallies in support of Fail Alsynov, a local environmental activist against a gold mining company. This activist is also one of the nationalist leaders of the Bashkirs (Nationalist Organization for the Independence of Bashkortostan). He was convicted for allegedly inciting national hatred against guest workers and given a harsh sentence. Thousands of people in the remote and small town took to the streets in front of the court in support of him. The protest turned into clashes with police. Activists have been arrested. One of the activists issued an appeal to the military that it was time to return home to Bashkortostan, to protect the Bashkirs. This is a large and visible protest with national and ecological demands with a democratic character, although it is also true that it is not clear how anti-war they are, save for the one appeal to the military. A few days later, the news published stories about anti-migrant demonstrations in Yakutia following a criminal offense committed by a newcomer. It reported there were hundreds of protesters in the streets. And let’s not forget that the regime also sentenced its own servant, FSB officer, Strelkov-Girkin, who was the “Defense Minister of the DPR” and actively launched the war in Donbass in 2014, to four years in prison. Of course, the sentence was not for crimes in Ukraine, but for criticizing the organization of Russia’s military campaign in 2022-2023.

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