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The Nation phones home

28 Jun
Join The Nation’s inaugural excursion to Moscow and St. Petersburg, from September 4th — 14th. Calling on our network of contacts and connections in Russia, we’ve designed a distinctive and exclusive program that promises to offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a country at the very center of geopolitics for many decades.
 Book now! After we fly into St. Petersburg, we’ll check in to the 19th-century five-star Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. We’ll then spend five days touring the renowned sights of this historic city and its surroundings, from the Hermitage and the Nevsky Prospekt to the Grand Palace and gardens of Peterhof, followed by private meetings with distinguished historians, cultural leaders, and curators. Next, we’ll board a canal boat to explore the city’s 42 islands.
After taking a high-speed train to Moscow, we’ll travel to the city of Sergiyev Posad and the Trinity Lava of St. Sergius, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This destination brings medieval Russia to life with its stimulating mixture of the country’s most celebrated architecture, iconic paintings, and unique cultural activities.
In Moscow, we’ll stay at the InterContinental Tverskaya Hotel, a modern, five-star hotel within walking distance of Red Square. We’ll take a private escorted tour of the Kremlin, and meet with Pavel Palazhchenko (Mikhail Gorbachev’s longtime interpreter and colleague) and Sergei Kapkov, Moscow’s former culture minister, as well as other media and cultural figures. We’ll also visit the Pushkin Museum, Gorky Park, and the famed Novodevichy Cemetary.
Click here for a detailed itinerary.
Throughout the trip, you’ll be accompanied by Teresa Stack, The Nation’s president from 1998 to 2016 and a founder of our travel program, including our annual seminar cruise (now in its 19th year) and the host of multiple Nation educational trips to Cuba. Also joining us will be Natasha Makarova, a Russian native who graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University in 2004 with a MA in linguistics and intercultural communication. Natasha has led group-education tours in Russia for many years.
For our travelers flying to St. Petersburg from New York City, the journey will begin with a special event as editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel—along with renowned scholar of Soviet and Russian history and politics, longtime Nationcontributor, and former Nation columnist Stephen F. Cohen—hosts an intimate conversation at The Nation’s Manhattan office (Katrina and Stephen will not be accompanying us to Russia). Katrina and Stephen have been visiting Russia for more than three decades, and they have relationships with many of the country’s media, cultural, and political leaders.
  Book now! The cost of this tour is $6,485/$7,365 per person (double/single occupancy) and includes nine nights at luxurious hotels in St. Petersburg and Moscow, most of your meals, all ground transportation (including high-speed rail, a private air-conditioned bus for all sightseeing and excursions, and private canal boat tour), a bilingual local guide/tour manager, gratuities, lectures, guided visits to Russia’s preeminent museums and historical sites, and many other captivating and exclusive activities and events.

Space is extremely limited—so please register without delay!
Proceeds from this trip support The Nation’s journalism.


Is America a Stalinist country? Are townhalls and forums Potemkin Villages?

24 Sep
Charges against Maryland resident Robert Small, father of two children who attend the public schools about which he is asking questions, have been dropped.

 How many parents, voters, citizens, or taxpayers will ask questions when the State attempts to humiliate them, physically harm them, and subject them to arrest and charges of 10 years in prison, unless it deigns in its mercy to drop the charges?

This is one of the best arguments against gun prohibition.  With government agents breaking into people’s homes, killing their pets, and physically assaulting them at town halls, they need to be worrying that we are all armed.

The claim was that he had not submitted a question in advance, as was required.  One can easily see how that protocol is used by the educrats to protect themselves from accountability.  How many questions submitted in advance that they did not like did they simply lose? (Remember the exposes of teacher cheating in Freakonomics.)

This “officer” and the educrat panelists should all face justice.

Update:  Since this event occurred, Anne Arundel County in Maryland has passed a law prohibiting having “large” or distracting items at a public forum (like balloons or signs).  Besides the predictable selective enforcement of this against speech they don’t like, one suspects that IPads and other recording devices will be defined as “distracting.”

What do Stalinist aristocrats in England think about rebelling colonists, you ask?

5 Jul

Egypt, Brazil, Turkey: without politics, protest is at the mercy of the elites

From Egypt to Brazil, street action is driving change, but organisation is essential if it’s not to be hijacked or disarmed
1848 paris

A barricade on the Rue Royale in Paris during the 1848 revolution. ‘The European revolutions of 1848, which were led by middle class reformers and offered the promise of a democratic spring, had as good as collapsed within a year.’ Photograph: Roger-Viollet / Rex Features
Two years after the Arab uprisings fuelled a wave of protests and occupations across the world, mass demonstrations have returned to their crucible in Egypt. Just as millions braved brutal repression in 2011 to topple the western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, millions have now taken to the streets of Egyptian cities to demand the ousting of the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
As in 2011, the opposition is a middle-class-dominated alliance of left and right. But this time the Islamists are on the other side while supporters of the Mubarak regime are in the thick of it. The police, who beat and killed protesters two years ago, this week stood aside as demonstrators torched Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood offices. And the army, which backed the dictatorship until the last moment before forming a junta in 2011, has now thrown its weight behind the opposition.
Whether its ultimatum to the president turns into a full-blown coup or a managed change of government, the army – lavishly funded and trained by the US government and in control of extensive commercial interests – is back in the saddle. And many self-proclaimed revolutionaries who previously denounced Morsi for kowtowing to the military are now cheering it on. On past experience, they’ll come to regret it.
The protesters have no shortage of grievances against Morsi’s year-old government, of course: from the dire state of the economy, constitutional Islamisation and institutional power grabs to its failure to break with Mubarak’s neoliberal policies and appeasement of US and Israeli power.
But the reality is, however incompetent Morsi’s administration, many key levers of power – from the judiciary and police to the military and media – are effectively still in the hands of the old regime elites. They openly regard the Muslim Brotherhood as illegitimate interlopers, whose leaders should be returned to prison as soon as possible.
Yet these are the people now in alliance with opposition forces who genuinely want to see Egypt’s revolution brought at least to a democratic conclusion. If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are forced from office, it’s hard to see such people breaking with neoliberal orthodoxy or asserting national independence, as most Egyptians want. Instead, the likelihood is that the Islamists, also with mass support, will resist being denied their democratic mandate, plunging Egypt into deeper conflict.
Egypt’s latest eruption has immediately followed mass protests in Turkey and Brazil (as well as smaller upheavals in Bulgaria and Indonesia). None has mirrored the all-out struggle for power in Egypt, even if some demonstrators in Turkey called for the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to go. But there are significant echoes that highlight both the power and weakness of such flash demonstrations of popular anger.
In the case of Turkey, what began as a protest against the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park mushroomed into mass demonstrations against Erdoğan, ‘s increasingly assertive Islamist administration, bringing together Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, liberals and leftists, socialists and free-marketeers. The breadth was a strength, but the disparate nature of the protesters’ demands is likely to weaken its political impact.
In Brazil, mass demonstrations against bus and train fare increases turned into wider protests about poor public services and the exorbitant cost of next year’s World Cup. As in Turkey and Egypt, middle-class and politically footloose youth were at the forefront, and political parties were discouraged from taking part, while rightwing groups and media tried tosteer the agenda from inequality to tax cuts and corruption.
Brazil’s centre-left government has lifted millions out of poverty, and the protests have been driven by rising expectations. But unlike elsewhere in Latin America, the Lula government never broke with neoliberal orthodoxy or attacked the interests of the rich elite. His successor, Dilma Rousseff – who responded to the protests by pledging huge investments in transport, health and education and a referendum on political reform – now has the chance to change that.
Despite their differences, all three movements have striking common features. They combine widely divergent political groups and contradictory demands, along with the depoliticised, and lack a coherent organisational base. That can be an advantage for single-issue campaigns, but can lead to short-lived shallowness if the aims are more ambitious – which has arguably been the fate of the Occupy movement.
All of them have, of course, been heavily influenced and shaped by social media and the spontaneous networks they foster. But there are plenty of historical precedents for such people power protests – and important lessons about why they are often derailed or lead to very different outcomes from those their protagonists hoped for.
The most obvious are the European revolutions of 1848, which were also led by middle-class reformers and offered the promise of a democratic spring, but had as good as collapsed within a year. The tumultuous Paris upheaval of May 1968 was followed by the electoral victory of the French right. Those who marched for democratic socialism in east Berlin in 1989 ended up with mass privatisation and unemployment. The western-sponsored colour revolutions of the last decade used protesters as a stage army for the transfer of power to favoured oligarchs and elites. The indignados movement against austerity in Spain was powerless to prevent the return of the right and a plunge into even deeper austerity.
In the era of neoliberalism, when the ruling elite has hollowed out democracy and ensured that whoever you vote for you get the same, politically inchoate protest movements are bound to flourish. They have crucial strengths: they can change moods, ditch policies and topple governments. But without socially rooted organisation and clear political agendas, they can flare and fizzle, or be vulnerable to hijacking or diversion by more entrenched and powerful forces.
That also goes for revolutions – and is what appears to be happening in Egypt. Many activists regard traditional political parties and movements as redundant in the internet age. But that’s an argument for new forms of political and social organisation. Without it, the elites will keep control – however spectacular the protests.
• Twitter: @SeumasMilne