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Putin’s Russia – a Police state?

7 May 2006

Dave Jackson

Socialist Forum is an open group set up by students at Queen's to debate educational and broader questions of importance for socialists and the left in open and non-dogmatic discussion.

The meeting on Russia, held on Thursday 27th of April in the Peter Froggit centre, is likely to be the last Socialist Forum meeting of the university year. Suggestions for subjects of future meetings in the new term are welcome and can be sent to me through the Socialist Democracy webmaster.

Jon Anderson introduced the discussion, which dealt with the present day situation in Russia under the premiership of Vladimir Putin. Jon talked about how many of the leading figures behind the scenes were the bureaucrats of the old regime now making up the Oligarchs who are the new force of power in the country now that capitalism has come to Russia. The only hope of resistance can be the organised power of workers. Unfortunately, from what I gather from John's talk this does not meaningfully exist in Russia at the moment as a national force.

In his opinion Russia is now experiencing, "virtual politics." There are no real alternatives to vote except for the existent system.  On the surface this has the appearance of western democracy, but in the background Putin uses the state to ensure absolute control and repression of dissent is everywhere. 

It was difficult to identify the character of the present day Russian state and if repression of the people will increase further so that it openly becomes a police state. What stage of economic development has Russia arrived at? Can we give it a name? Is Russia unique? What are Russia's imperial ambitions? These were some of the questions raised by people at the meeting. Overall politics in Russia was portrayed as attempting to use the ghosts and myths of both the Soviet and the imperial periods to attempt to get the masses on side. Russia is still a powerful country both militarily and in its reserves of raw materials. It has enormous economic potential and is becoming increasingly attractive to foreign investment.

Two women that attended the meeting were two Russian workers on a secondment programme to Northern Ireland. They gave first hand accounts of present day life in Moscow pointing out that ordinary life goes on as usual as in many other places in the world, but that everyone is aware of the absolute power of the state, of the network of spies, and of the danger of speaking out.

I found this meeting fascinating as it was a subject I knew very little about. It made me want to find out more. I'm glad the two Russian people came and it was gratifying that they could confirm Jon's analysis as not too wide of the mark.


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