Russia’s Many Futures

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

Russia will have many futures because it has had many pasts. Three aspects in particular stand out in any discussion of Russia’s future. The first is what Marxists used to call the “present political conjuncture.” In other words, the fate of Russia is inextricably linked with the broader developments in global political practices. It is within this framework that one needs to consider the “post-revolutionary” character of Russia. Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika (restructuring) began in 1985 soon after his accession to the Soviet leadership, but the great ebb tide of emancipatory socialism had begun long before. The post-war Keynesian and welfare state consensus had already begun to unravel with the end of the long post-war economic boom in 1970 and the move to flexible exchange rates in August 1971 as Richard Nixon moved away from the Bretton Woods system of pegging the dollar to gold. The 1970s saw the first moves toward financial liberalization, and Margaret Thatcher’s election in May 1979 signaled, as Eric Hobsbawm put it in September 1978 in a famous article in Marxism Today, that the “Forward March of Labour” was halted. The election of Ronald Reagan in November 1980 further indicated the beginning of an offensive against the ideology and geopolitics of revolutionary socialism. In its place the gathering wave of the neoliberal transformation of capitalism transformed the relationship of state to society, the character of work, and the understanding of citizenship in advanced capitalist societies.

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Rouhani and Attacks on the Iranian Left: O Brother Where Art Thou?

“I believe we have committed heinous and horrific crimes. We were involved with espionage, treason, and disobedience. Our crimes are too grave, so much so that the Islamic Republic of Iran should mete out the severest and heaviest punishment upon us who are responsible for all these transgressions.” This quote is taken from the televised confession of Dr. Noureddin Kianouri in 1981. Kianouri was the General Secretary of the Toudeh party, Iran’s communist party, from 1979 to 1984. While he appeared ragged, fragile, devastated, and impatient, and could hardly compose complete sentences in Farsi, clearly due to tough and cruel torture, he was displayed on national television in order to tarnish his record and the image of the Toudeh party at large. The once prominent politician was shattered by this forced interview in which he, next to other leaders of Toudeh, was forced into reciting and restating whatever their interrogators and torturers put in front of them.

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