Putin: a murderous authoritarian beloved of the far-right (and some on the “left”)

January 28, 2016 at 5:52 pm (apologists and collaborators, grovelling, Guardian, homophobia, Human rights, imperialism, murder, populism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, thuggery, Ukraine)

seumas milne at rally

Seumas Milne: Putin apologist (Image: Copyright 2014 Mark Kerrison)

Opposition to Putin and his ultra-reactionary regime ought to be second nature for self-proclaimed leftists. Unfortunately, it isn’t: the Morning Star and former Guardian columnist (now a senior adviser to Corbyn) Seumas Milne, for instance, have a long record of defending and justifying Putin, especially (but not only) with regard to Russian imperialism in Ukraine.

So it was a welcome development when Guardian columnist Owen Jones recently admonished certain (unnamed) sections of the left for remaining silent about the reactionary nature of Putin’s regime. Even so, Jones’s piece was hedged about with embarrassed apologetics designed to appease the pro-Putin “left” and to excuse in advance his own half-hearted apostasy:

“Yes, there is something rather absurd about the baiting of the anti-war left for not protesting against, say, Putin or North Korea. The baiters are always free to organise their own demonstration (I would be happy to join), and protest movements can only realistically aspire to put pressure on governments at home, whether it be on domestic policies or alliances with human rights abusers abroad (whether that be, say, the head-chopping Saudi exporters of extremism, or Israel’s occupation of Palestine). In democracies, protests that echo the official line of governments are rare. If the west was actively cheering Putin on and arming him to the teeth, we might expect more vociferous opposition.”

Anne Field, writing in the present issue of Solidarity, is more straightforward:

Putin: a model of reactionary politics

The report of Britain’s official Owen Inquiry into the 2006 murder of former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko was published on 21 January. It attributed responsibility for the murder to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Putin ruled Russia as its President from 2000 to 2008. Barred by the constitution from seeking a third successive term of office, Putin was nominally Prime Minister between 2008 and 2012. In reality, he remained the ultimate source of authority in Russia. Amid widespread allegations of ballot-rigging, Putin was re-elected President for six years in 2012. (The presidential term of office had been increased from four to six years while Putin was Prime Minister). He is already on record as saying that he will seek re-election in 2018.

From the outset Putin’s rule has been based on “siloviki” (strongmen): former KGB agents and serving agents of the police and the FSB (the Russian successor to the KGB), and former and serving military commanders. According to a survey carried out by Olga Kryshtanovskaya in 2004, “siloviki” constituted around 25% of Russia’s political elite, and over 50% of Putin’s inner circle. Their influence has continued to grow since then. Putin himself is a former KGB agent. But, as Kryshtanovskaya wrote: “Putin brought ‘siloviki’ with him. But that’s not enough to understand the situation. The whole political class wished them to come. There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country.”

One of Putin’s first acts was to incorporate Russia’s 89 regions into seven new federal districts. The districts are run by appointees personally selected by Putin as his representatives. They have control over the armed forces, the budgets and activities of the regional governors in their districts.

Five of the first seven appointees were “siloviki”. At the same time Putin weakened the powers of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament with representation from the country’s different regions. Putin also scrapped the election of regional governors (they too were to be personally appointed by Putin) and empowered local legislatures (dominated in practice by Putin’s supporters) to sack popularly elected mayors. Over the past decade and a half potential sources of opposition to Putin’s rule in civil society have been attacked, one after another. The media empires run by the oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky were both effectively taken over by Putin and their owners forced to flee Russia. Dissident journalists have been sacked, programmes critical of Putin have been taken off the air, and attempts to create independent television channels blocked by the government. The only surviving independent channel is now run from an apartment in Moscow.

Under a law signed off by Putin in 2014, international organisations, foreigners and Russians with dual citizenship will be banned from owning mass media outlets by the end of 2016. Its main target is Vedomosti, jointly published by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. The internet in Russia is controlled by the government agency Roskomnadzor, created in 2012. Russian bloggers with 3,000 or more visitors a day have to register with Roskomnadzor, reveal their identities, and verify the accuracy of their blogs. Roskomnadzor can also block websites which “refuse to follow Russian laws”, which carry “extremist” political content, or which “encourage illegal activities and participation in public events held in violation of the established order.” Foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), described by Putin as “jackals” and “Judases”, have been singled out for repressive legislation. They are required to register as “foreign agents”, submit quarterly reports on their funds and resources, and submit six-monthly reports on their personnel and activities. They are also subject to mandatory audits and can be fined for publishing anything not described as having been published by “a foreign agent”.

In the spring of 2013 alone, 2,000 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were raided by government authorities. After a wave of protests at Putin’s decision to seek re-election as President in 2012, he increased fines for taking part in unauthorised protests to 300,000 rubles, and fines for organising such protests to a million rubles. In 2014 Putin ramped up the penalties yet again. Repeated participation in unauthorised protests now attracts a penalty of up to a million rubles and up to five years of forced labour or prison. A law passed in 2013 banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors”. Breaches of the law could result in fines or imprisonment. The following year another law banned all swearwords in films, on television and in theatre performances. And last year new rules for licencing the showing of films were introduced, banning films which “defile the national culture, pose a threat to national unity, and undermine the foundations of the constitutional order.”

Other laws have obstructed the registration of “non-indigenous religions” and prevented them from acquiring land and building permits. This has benefited the religious monopoly enjoyed by the Russian Orthodox Church, described by Putin as one of the two “pillars” of national and state security. The other “pillar” is nuclear deterrence. Reflecting Putin’s own views on Stalin (“his legacy cannot be judged in black and white”), Russia adopted Stalin’s national anthem (with different lyrics) in 2000, and Russian textbooks now explain that while the Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR was not a democracy, it was “an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.” Putin has also regularly contrasted his authoritarian conservatism with western “decadence”, denouncing the west as “genderless and infertile” and guilty of “the destruction of traditional values from the top.”

This has provided a basis for political alliances between Putin and parties of the European far right: the French National Front, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in Germany. Putin’s endorsement of Donald Trump for US president last month was only a logical development of his support for political reaction at an international level. Putin’s record since 2000 has not been one of a failed attempt to establish a functioning democracy after the chaos and corruption of the 1990s. It is a record of success in establishing an authoritarian regime which has promoted itself as a model for far-right movements and regimes round the world. And it is a record regularly punctuated by the physical elimination of Putin’s critics and opponents: the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the anti-corruption campaigner Sergei Magnitsky, and the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, as well as Litvinenko.


  1. Steven Johnston said,

    Odd how they all whined when the USSR collapsed but now they are cheerleaders for Russian capitalism, but then, they always were, just back in the “good old days” it was state capitalism. Russian boots it seems are made for licking!

  2. alex ross said,

    Have been attempting to debate the ever charming John Wight on this issue…think I’ve lost my ability to despise what he stands for – more a case of calling for the men in white coats!!


    • dagmar said,

      Nice website that ex-model John Wight writes for. Clever name, “American Herald Tribune”, abbreviated to “AHTribune”; people might think it’s the “International Herald-Tribune”, often abbreviated to “IHTribune”, which recently changed its name to the “International New York Times”.

      Shame there’s no information whatsoever about who, or where publishes the “AHTribune”. “About us” says very little:

      American Herald Tribune is a genuinely independent online media outlet. AHTribune is dedicated to strengthening and supporting independent journalism, and to improving the public’s access to independent information sources. AHTribune aim is to inspire action and advocacy on the human rights, social justice, media, spirituality and religion, contemporary history, youth issues and more. Funding for AHTribune comes from site advertising, individual donors, and private foundations.

      and the contact page is a e-mail form.

      Hm, I *wonder* who could be involved in this. Especially when I read (on an LGBT group endorsing Hillary Clinton)
      “Men pretending to be women support a Gorgon pretending to be human for president. Nor does the syzygy end there: group and Gorgon also share a set of initials.”;

      or on “the Zionisation of Kurdistan: Iraqi Kurdistan in particular has been steadily reaping the benefits of Israeli political regional policy as one of their own. ”

      and – ah, hm, the news “Plans advancing for a Moscow Museum of the North American Holocaust – A counterpoint to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC”.

      • alex ross said,

        Oh dear – also seems to have a large volume of professional pro-Kremlin trolls (who you can identify pretty easily by Russified-English and a very standardised response set to any anti-Putin criticism). But I think that is increasingly true of many “left-leaning” websites. They are quite fun to bait if you have a hangover and are in a particularly foul mood!!

      • dagmar said,

        And those headlines aren’t unrepresentative – there are so few articles on the site they are very representative indeed. If I had nothing better to do I’d google the supposed contributors and see who else they write for/who they are. But we don’t really need to, do we?

      • dagmar said,

        Yes, the Russified-English and strange punctuation and syntax in some of the articles (“by IHT Staff”) suggests the site is certainly not based in America.

      • John R said,

        One AHTribune political contributor, Anthony James Hallis, is a member of the “9/11 Truth Commission”.

        ‘Nuff said.



      • Makhno said,

        From that article:

        “For anyone blissfully ignorant of PC acronyms, “LGBT” translates as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.” What, no pedophiles or enthusiasts of bestiality? Seems a tad hypocritical that perverts who sue us for “discriminating” when we exclude them nonetheless exclude their fellow pervs.”

        Yes, well done John WIght, keeping good company as usual.

  3. ZINR said,

    As a pro-Corbyn blog, I wonder whether you could clarify Our Jeremy’s position regarding this fascist demagogue, please? It’s just that, well, to the casual observer, it looks as if he might be pretty friendly towards him, regardless of the lunatic Milne’s propaganda…but I’m sure I must be wrong about that.

    • Antonio said,

      As a Tory Harry’s place cunt maybe you should clarify pig fucker’s position on arming the fascist- islamist Saudi tyranny to the teeth?

      • ZINR said,

        Ah, so no defence of the Putin-worshipping catastrophe that is Mr Corbyn, just laughably inaccurate assumptions about my politics, hilariously irrelevant whataboutery and puerile name-calling.

        Well that’s me told!

      • John R said,

        Tsk, tsk, Antonio. What would Comrade Trotsky say?

        “Abusive language and swearing are a legacy of slavery, humiliation, and disrespect for human dignity—one’s own and that of other people.”

      • alex ross said,

        Can you walk and chew gum?

      • m_jelly (@monsieur_jelly) said,

    • Antonio said,

      Idiot who makes unfounded accusations of ‘Putin worship’ and calls others ‘lunatics’ gets on high horse about ‘purile name calling’. You’re down in the gutter with the rest of ZINR, and you are also a cunt. Now fuck off back to the Harry’s place shithole where you belong.

      • ZINR said,

        Well there is that side to it too I suppose. Off I jolly well fuck!

      • John R said,


        “Winning friends begins with friendliness.”

        ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

        And for everyone else, another quote from the wonderful Dale,

        “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

    • Makhno said,

      Ignoring the crazed, sweary lunatic, I think it remains to be seen whether Corbyn is “friendly” towards Putin. McDonnell certainly isn’t, however, having hosted the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign in parliament.

      We do know for certain, however, that the Dear Leader of the Labour right, Tony Blair, was and continues to be friendly towards him (as pointed out by Owen Jones), and dear old Mandelson was always more than happy to attend the parties of pro-Putin oligarchs.

      So it seems we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one, although domestically the coice between a relatively left wing alternative and a party leadership which aspires to be a pale shade of the Conservatives would appear to be a no-brainer.

      Corbyn’s foreign policy approach potentially leaves a lot to be desired, but so do any of the current alternatives, just in different ways. You may recall that the current government wasn’t particularly keen to extend sanctions to certain oligarchs, and had their hands somewhat forced by international pressure and Putin’s continued belligerent idiocy.

      The one thing that can be said for Corbyn’s foreign policy, however, is that he isn’t overly keen to indulge in pointless gesture-bombing, unlike the Conservatives and the Labour right.

      • Squad Goals said,

        Good points Makhno. The idea that the labour right/tory/harry’s place scum feel themselves in a position to judge anybody else on issues of foreign policy is beyond chutzpah.

      • ZINR said,

        Mr Squad Goals et al – it’s idiotic to assume that anyone who dislikes (or even despises) Corbyn is either a) a Tory, b) a Blairite or c) someone from Harry’s Place (which must be a terribly important and influential blog as there seem to be a few who come here merely to attack it, which is odd, you’ve got to admit).

        The uncomfortable truth you’ll eventually have to face is that there are an awful lot of people who consider themselves to be on the Left of the Labour Party but still find Corbyn’s hard-Left Soviet-nostalgia ridiculous, his support for Putin highly distasteful and his anti-Semitic/pro-Islamofascist associations way beyond the pale (as this blog used to before it decided that anti-Semitism and support for murderous fascists wasn’t that bad after all, as long as it comes from the leader of the Labour Party).

        Still, keep avoiding the problems with your boy Corbyn and call anyone who dreads the idea of him as PM “Tory scum”. I’m sure that’ll convince enough potential voters to get you the terrorist-excusing, Putin-supporting, Jew-hating PM that you’ve always wanted.

  4. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    As Owen mentioned ‘I would attend’ if there was a demonstration against the Kremlin then he was called on it – because there is one. (He said he’d try and come).

    February 7, 2pm outside Russian Embassy. It is to protest Russia’s criminalisation of any protest. See https://www.facebook.com/events/917166065044645/918282731599645/
    (There are protests also happening in other cities.)

    For more on what is happening in Russia see http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1449495941 and on the absence of support from fellow lefties for Russian lefties http://paulocanning.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/putin-is-persecuting-russian-anarchists.html

  5. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) said,

    John etal. My comment seems to have disappeared in Spam folder :/

    • Jim Denham said,

      I’ve just “released” it, Paul. Please, always let me know when a comment doesn’t appear. It’s usually because the comment includes links.

  6. The demonization of the most popular Russian leader (Vladimir Putin) of all time: More Confusionisme. John Wight, Socialist Unity. | Tendance Coatesy said,

    […] the comments on an excellent article on Shiraz Socialist about just how reactionary Putin is, and how he has garnered supporters ranging from the European […]

  7. Mark K said,

    Somebody please contact me re the licensing of this image. Thanks.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      What image and why should you be contacted?

      • Steven Johnston said,

        Because he is Mark Kerrison and holds the copyright on this image?

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Steven, Does the image have a say?

  8. Steven Johnston said,

    Not if he holds the copyright.

    • Jim Denham said,

      I have sorted this out with Mark K.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Steven, I do like the protruding neck vains. The voice of an angry man that wants to shape the world in his own image.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        The sort of chappie that would consider it an honour to have interviewed Jihadi John?

  9. Jim Denham said,

  10. mark taha said,

    The old BNP leader John Tyndall was pro-Putin-and indeed seemed to see the old Stalinist leaders as essentially Russian nationalists who he basically approved of in many ways.

  11. Steven Johnston said,

    ZINR, your hatred of Corbyn is so extreme, sir do you write for the Daily Mail in your spare time!
    Not only do you think if elected PM he will destroy this country but Israel too! Mind you, even the Mail doesn’t go that far…

  12. Antonio said,

    “terrorist-excusing, Putin-supporting, Jew-hating” pro-tip for ZINR: IG you don’t want to be compared to a Harry’s Place cunt then stop writing like a Harry’s Place cunt.

    • Antonio said,

      Although in fairness you have ratcheted down from ‘Putin worshiping’ to now merely ‘Putin supporting’ so you are gradually de-harrysplacing your cuntish online persona. Its a long and slow path comrade, there is hope for you yet.

      • ZINR said,

        If you don’t want your candidate written about in such a manner, perhaps persuade him that Jews have a right to live in the middle east, that Putin is not a noble defeater of Ukranian fascists and that the Islamic take on Nazism isn’t a viable ideology for a democratic country to accommodate?

        As for cuntish personas…well…

  13. Antonio said,

    Okay ZINR, lets have sources and direct quotes that show that Corbyn believes that (a) Jews have no right to live in the middle east (b) Putin is a noble defeater of Ukrainian fascists and (c) that he thinks that the Islamic take on Nazism is a viable ideology for a democratic country.

    If you can do that, hell if you can show one of things to be true even, then I will happily retract my description of you as a bullshitting Harry’s place cunt who sounds like hes just regurgitating crude Tory propaganda from the daily express.

    Ball’s in your court comrade.

    • ZINR said,

      a) Corbyn’s long term association with (and involvement in) the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, well documented (on this blog as well as many others) as being a campaign to abolish Israel and turn the whole thing into an Islamic state run by the Hamas…also his support for, and long term involvement with, DYR (an “abolish Israel” campaign led by prominent Holocaust revisionists Paul Eisen and Israel Shamir.

      b) See Mr Denham’s coments below. If you want to see Corbyn speak in defence of Putin RE the Ukraine, just google for it, I’m not doing it for you. Also see his long term involvement in the openly pro-Putin StWC campaign.

      c) He described Hezbollah and Hamas as “friends” and went as far to call Hamas “committed to peace and social justice”. He calls for dialogue and negotiation with ISIS. He called Islamofascist hate preacher Raed Salah “an honoured citizen” and invited him for tea. These are a mattering of examples from a wide repertoire.

      What would be the point in giving you links to any of this? They aren’t stories published on left wing blogs so you’ll say they are discredited due to their sources. And anyway, you all know damn well about this stuff already, you’re simply turning a blind eye to it as you’ll stick to any pretence as long as you have a chance of electing a left Labour candidate for PM (I can understand that as I’d prefer one too – I’m just not prepared to throw Jews under the bus or accommodate Islamic fascists in order to achieve it, that’s all).

      • Antonio said,

        Absolutely none of the quotes you provide or the weak guilt-by-association claims you make even remotely support your lurid claims. All par for the course for a HP cunt I’m afraid.

  14. Jim Denham said,

    I don’t agree with ZINR, but he/she has a point about Corbyn’s past statements, defending Putin and blaming the west over Ukraine: McDonnell, on the other hand, has taken a much better position and hosted a Ukraine Solidarity meeting in the House of Commons.

  15. Steven Johnston said,

    So who should Corbyn suck up to? Moscow, Washington or Brussels?

    • mark taha said,

      He should say what he thinks without sucking up to anybody.He may not be sure what to think -I’m certainly not.

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