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Russia ‘Conflicted’ on How to Mark 100 Years Since Revolutions

Moscow (AFP) – It was the year that ended centuries of royal rule, brought two revolutions, ushered in Soviet domination and changed the course of Russian history irrevocably.

A century later, the country seems unsure how to treat the tumultuous events of 1917 that saw it hurtle from the abdication of the last tsar Nicholas II to a Communist dictatorship in a matter of months.

During seven decades of Soviet rule the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was celebrated with pomp by the Kremlin and the tsarist regime was demonised.

But after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there was a u-turn that saw the royal family canonised and public opinion increasingly view the upheavals not as a triumph but as a tragedy that sparked generations of bloodshed and suffering in Russia.

Now, over a quarter of a century after the Communist empire founded by Vladimir Lenin vanished, current leader Vladimir Putin appears to be performing a balancing act.

Some 500 conferences, round tables, exhibitions and art festivals are planned to mark the centenary — but so far, at least, there are no signs that there will be any major fanfare.

“Russian society needs an objective, honest and profound analysis of these events,” Putin said in a speech last year.

“The lessons of history are needed primarily for reconciliation, to strengthen society,” he said, adding that it is “impermissible to let the splits, malice, resentment and bitterness of the past into our life today.”

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A former Soviet-era intelligence officer, Putin has turned himself into what many see as a kind of modern tsar and surrounded himself with a new super-wealthy elite.

A Soviet soldier buys a ticket for the performance of the Seventh Symphony in Leningrad in August 1942

A Soviet soldier buys a ticket for the performance of the Seventh Symphony in Leningrad in August 1942

His mantra has been restoring stability, strength and unity to the country after the upheaval that followed the end of the Soviet Union, and returning Russia to the conservative values of the past.

Following mass anti-Kremlin rallies in 2011-12 and the ouster of the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine by protesters in 2014, authorities have been increasingly wary of any popular revolt that could impact their grip on power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Socialism for the Uninformed 

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Why the destructive philosophy continues to attract followers.

sowell_squareThomas Sowell writes: Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

“Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.”

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and where there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

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“In 2015, the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they could have rigged it better than that.”

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous. But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or in other countries around the world that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

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“The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think that the cost of their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on ‘the rich.'”

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist “exploitation,” shouldn’t it?

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

But people who attribute income inequality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a standard of living for working people as there is in many capitalist countries. Read the rest of this entry »