by Mick Collins, CM/P
12 January 2008

He who casts his vote has no power. He who counts the votes has all power.
—Maréchal Stalin on elections.

When I got the email inviting me to Moscow to observe the 2 December 2007 Duma elections, I was in the middle of reading, in the NY Times-online, about how the EU and OSCE had pulled their election monitors less than a week before the voting. It was weird on the face of it—why would these Europeans refuse to witness a celebration by their fellow Europeans of what, by all my readings, was nothing short of a miracle performed by the Putin administration over the last seven years? Even folks like the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, and the International Republican Institute, who are generally very critical of Moscow’s ways and means, had to agree that Russia currently leads the world in most measures of economic growth (at a rate of 7% over the last four years), improved standard of living, including life expectancy, and reductions in inflation, unemployment and Soviet-era foreign debt—in fact, while the West was pulverizing Mesopotamia, Russia recently cancelled Iraq’s $10 billion marker.

In a 10 October 2006 interview with The Suddeutsche Zeitung
Vladimir Putin wrapped up his administration’s achievements thus:

>The thing for us is to develop our economy. Over these last
years we have ensured a consistently high rate of economic
growth – around 7 percent annually over the last four years.
When I became President, our foreign currency and gold
reserves stood at $12 billion, and now they have increased by
$80 billion over the first half of this year [2006] alone and
currently come to a total of around $270 billion. Added to
this are the Government’s reserve funds, which come to $70
billion. Furthermore, we have paid off our debts in full.

We have now become a grain-exporting country, something
that was not the case not only in the 1990s, but also in the Soviet
period. Last year we sold 13 million tons of grain abroad, and
this year we will be able to export around 10 million tons.

But none of this has any sense if it does not bring change to
people’s lives. Over these last years, average incomes have been
rising by about 9 percent a year, and wages by a little over 10
percent a year. Pensions have been rising by around 8.5 percent
a year. These are all figures in real terms.<

His media critics were even forced to admit that President Putin enjoyed an overwhelming approval rating at home—something upward of 80% nationwide—and could probably get just about anything he wanted from the Russian people—including a third presidential mandate if he chose to drive over constitutional term limits. So these elections seemed more like a vote of confidence or an outpouring of appreciation for a job well done—a farewell embrace or a kind of ‘United Russia Love-In’ over 11 time zones—than any kind of Western-style steel cage death match: Like Humphrey-Nixon, Carter-Reagan, Bush-Clinton or Gore-Bush—or even Jospin-Chirac, Le Pen-Chirac, or Royale-Sarkozy, here in France—where you couldn’t differentiate the candidates’ positions with an electron microscope—elections so steaming with treachery and stinking of mendacity as to make participation in them seem about as wholesome as drinking out the toilet in a hepatitis ward.

But the outcome of these Russian elections, the global budget for which was just 4.2 billion rubles (about $172 million or just less than twice as much as Mme Clinton has raised privately for her personal campaign, and with the US elections more than a year away), seemed a foregone conclusion. So why were the EU and OSCE monitors bitching out and passing up this well-paid opportunity to clock another test-heat in the great post-Soviet Democracy Derby? Bailing on what my soon-to-be new friend, Vladimir Churov, the head of the Russian Election Commission, would call ‘electoral tourism’, another of those international doggles of the boon genre that has gotten a lot of otherwise unemployable ex-professors, ex-diplomats, ex-functionaries and non-specific ‘experts-for-hire’, fat and sassy, since ‘multi-party democracy’ became all the vogue with the ‘Fall of the Wall’? Who cares! Tant pis pour eux, just more for me, eh!

But there was still a growing creep factor. Like Sartre’s nausea, the edges of reality were starting to fray on me. I didn’t get much lead-time on this thing: ticket, visa, and hook ‘em up Paris-to-Moscow, all in three days—for a two-day stay. And it was Russia—in winter, after all. Right? Ask Napoleon and Hitler how they liked their snow trips out there.

Still and all, I was pretty jazzed about the prospect of going back to Moscow for the first time since being born there sixty-some years ago. I had always used my Soviet birth as a kind of cachet in the States. Figured it made me seem exotic, continental, Conrad Veidt-like (I know. Connie was German. But from out East, Potsdam, ok?). What it usually got me, however, and this might have been because of the sort of shit I willfully chose to get into (e.g., sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and draft dodging), was the kind of angry ostracism that ensues when your personal history is in direct conflict with the consensus (anti-communist) reality. When you point out something someone should know, but doesn’t: Like that the Berlin Wall, which surrounded the Western sector of that German capital, liberated by the Red Army while the Allies hung back on the safe side of the Elbe, was entirely in East Germany (known, ironically enough, as the German Democratic Republic); or that while it is indecent even to question the number of Jews who perished in WWII—or, for that matter, just how or by whom they were liquidated—it is likewise beyond serious historical contradiction that anywhere from two to ten times more Soviet citizens, of various nationalities, ethnicities and confessions, also lost their lives in active or passive resistance to European fascism; or if you suggest that the dialectic that drove the 20th Century, the tension between anti-Fascism (Communism) and anti-Communism (Fascism), allows for no Liberal (Existential) abstention through the conflation of these two polar opposites as two strains of the same longing for authoritariansim: such mention will probably lose you your interlocutor.

I guess it took my moving to Paris thirteen years ago and beginning to associate and work with some self-ordained ‘experts’ (you know, folks who claim to know a great deal about a very small subject) to really get a bead on just how anti-communism, and especially anti-Sovietism or Russo-phobia, (with the allure of 4000 years of accumulated surplus value), had degraded human thought.

There had been a few intimations of this return to my Russian origins since going to Krakow to do some theatre in the autumn of 2005. (‘The origin is the goal,’ that Karl Kraus line, kept working my nerves). And just about a year ago I got several furlongs closer to the Russian capital when I went back to Poland, to Lodz (pron: Woodge), near Warsaw, to do some theatre, yet again, with my old homeboy, John Steppling. This would be another of his dark, Keatsian (i.e., unconscious, ‘negatively capable’) strokes of stage genius, an emotionally charged ‘reconsideration’ of King Lear (called “Cut To The Brains”). I was playing Shakespeare’s greatest geezer, while shadowing the wonderful Polish actor Marian Opania in the same role. It was very Kott-ian, very Grotowski-esque, very, very cherry and extra clean. It was two Lears, in two languages, Opania in a strangely political Polish translation, and me in the original, far-from modern English—in fact, the play was played in three languages, because two of the daughters were taken by Norwegian youngsters, and the addition of that chilling Nordic tongue gave Goneril and Regan a very nice Waffen edge-edge. And it was straight theatre: no chintz curtains, no apologies, no explanations, no sub-titles.

All these théâ-tricks, of course, were being turned right in the heart of concentration camp country. A growing understanding of Nazi Germany’s social engineering experiment in using slave labor to overcome its under-capitalization, while disposing of superfluous populations and enemies of the state, and assuring the continuity of some very nervous industrial and financial cartels, in combination with a feudal-nostalgic and Fascoid-Catholic Poland’s history with Russia, was the chief source of the play’s emotional charge for me. Tangential to which, throughout rehearsals I was deep into a wonderful book on the prison camp system known as Jasenovac and The Holocaust in Yugoslavia[1]. At one point in medias rehearsal, I ‘mayonnaised’ out (you know, had one of those ‘senior moments’) and couldn’t find this book, which had become an essential part of my preparation for playing Lear. I fell into a profound funk—even by Polish standards—, and I searched everywhere, retracing my daily routine: the doughnut shop, the Internet café, the gym, the Film School, the theatre. No, it was lost and I was undone—I AM Fortune’s fucking Fool!

Then, after a desperate week or so, I looked in the back pocket of my computer bag, and there it was. How could I have thought I lost it when it was there with me all the time? But it WAS lost, because I couldn’t find it. And without this book, all considerations of the hideous fascist aggression against the Soviet Union (the primal war crime from which all other crimes against Humanity, including genocide, stem, according to the Judgment at Nuremburg), an assault ongoing since WWI, really; all the real effects of the August 23, 1939, Molotov/Ribbentrop treaty on Hitler’s murderous onslaught to the East, June 22, 1941’s Operation Barbarosa; all the continuing military encroachments on former Soviet territories as expressed by NATO’s replacement of the Warsaw Pact (with one of its most livid current examples being in Kosovo); and the validity of the ratio: USSR : Russia as Yugoslavia : Serbia: all these febrile reckonings had gone missing from the historical and anagogical development of my Lear.

But with the book’s return, I started asking what to me seemed a simple enough question, a matter of scholarship or methodology, really, about the Jasenovac book’s presentation of this concentration camp phenomenon that has come to be known as ‘The Holocaust’, and its particular expression in the Balkans. My question was not how the numbers of dead were determined (e.g., were x number of Serbs, y number of Jews, z number of Roma, etc., too high or too low?). But how were the victims sorted, separated and filed as to nationality, ethnicity and religion? That is, if, as is the subject of a popular exhibition here in Paris on The Holocaust in the Ukraine, 1.5 million Jews were shot dead even before the 1941 German invasion of that former-SSR, what is the significance, the motive for the murders of the rest of the 10 to 11 million Ukrainian victims counted up at war’s end? I tried to ask the editor of the Jasenovac book by what standards this morbid ‘triage’ was carried out, but he could only tell me that all I needed to know was ‘brilliantly explained’ in his ‘brilliant introduction’.

Then a review praising this book came out, and I began to understand what was up—or to misunderstand a little less, at any rate. In applauding the Jasenovac book’s depiction of the genocides of the Jews, Serbs and Roma of Yugoslavia, this reviewer cast blame for the carnage in Eastern Europe not as much on Hitler and the stylish Germans, as on the brutish proletarian dictator, Stalin, and his legions of Soviet, Slavic slaves. This vile, historically groundless fascist apologia, worthy of Lonesome Joe Goebbels, himself, and wildly popular among those posing as survivors of the Nazis’ criminal madness, like Elie Weisel, Jerzy Kozinski or Roman Polanski; this charging the Soviets with ‘a joint criminal enterprise’ in the organization and execution of the national defense of the USSR against unprovoked foreign aggression—as continues to be done with the Yugoslavs/Serbs (esp. the Bosnian Serbs) and the Central African majority Hutu, in regard to their struggles against Western-sponsored invasion and occupation—would, inexplicably, spew from a young Russian reporter for RFE/RL and the BBC I met on election night in Moscow, as well as from several of the ‘expert-types’ I would be brought together with in Paris, Poland, and Prednistrovia, with my involvement in the translation of a corpulent compendium of geopolitical essays called The Alternative Atlas.

However, the director of this Atlas and my small-college Balkans historian went some distance in explaining just how, in their line of work, it was more career-effective to preserve one’s seat at The Holocaust Industry board meetings, even if that seat happens to be butt up against those of admitted war criminals and other mass murderers, like Mr. & Mrs. Clinton, Al Gore, Richard Holbrooke, General Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright, or Roméo ‘the African Assassin’ Dallaire, than to stand on picayune moral and historical principles, mincing the hoary crotch-hairs of troop movements d’antan, and thereby toss all one’s good—even ‘brilliant’—works into the critical chorizo machine that has become Historical scholarship. Shakespeare might have described this academic tendency as the ‘Better Read than Red’ syndrome.

I speak to you tonight for the dignity of Man and the destiny of Democracy—
—LBJ, with Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles on drums,
‘The Killing Floor’,
The Electric Flag, an American Music Band

While Lear could not understand how he became so hated after giving his lands over to his married daughters, I could not understand how Russia had become so hated—and not just in Poland—after its immeasurable, heroic sacrifices to liberate Europe—and itself—from history’s deadliest plague, Fascism. How could the old graves of national Resistance heroes and Soviet Army martyrs, as well as those of noncombatant victims, have been desecrated by the new ‘West-leaning’ comprador governments so as to clear space for monuments to ancient clerico-Fascist exploiters and liquifactionists? How could experienced scholars and public thinkers continue to refer to the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan in December 1979 as an ‘invasion’ of that tragic country? This defensive deployment, on the invitation of its neighbor and ally, the thoroughly Western-infiltrated and destabilized communist PDPA government of murdered president Nur Taraki and his successor Hafizullah Amin, against the unprovoked foreign aggression (from bases in Pakistan and Iran) of the Western-armed, trained and directed mujahidin forces, those creations of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, and his sancho, Zbigniew Bryzinzki—how could ‘experts’ of every stripe continue to consider this ‘an invasion’, a strategic blunder that led to the military defeat of Russia and Soviet Communism, to the end of the Cold War—even to the End of History? Lear and I were both puzzled in Poland, totally lost like babes in (the) Lodz.

But this anti-Russian parochialism (perhaps that’s too kind a term—how about ‘philistinism’?) seemed to be bubbling up everywhere I looked. Not just with the false witnesses at the OSCE (and its subset, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights [ODIHR]), or with the Mossad agents who own and operate the trillion dollar a year criminal syndicates fronted by various First World governments, but especially among certain self-proclaimed ‘anti-imperialists’, Left Humanitarian Soldiers of Fortune, who never met a humanitarian disaster or travesty of Justice they couldn’t make bank on, a species of ‘expert’ that likes to soft-pedal any anti-Fascist (anti-Capitalist) undertones that might vibrate through their rigorously polite ‘anti-Imperialist’ critiques, so as not to offend the deans and deacons, the publishers and government administrators, who sign their paychecks. It is easier for these toilers on the soft side of the division of labor to luxuriate in their leather-bound, wing-backed chairs, in their Olympian skyboxes, and, with the bounteous bourgeois serenity and aesthetic recul at their disposal, to opine that Soviet and Chinese Communism(s) and German, Italian and Japanese Fascism(s), enfeebled as they were by psychologically-damaged leaders, fought to a graceless draw, or even completely erased one another from History, leaving only various shades of Liberalism, rather than submit to the moral-historical imperative that sides must be taken (since, unlike sex, History does not suffer disinterested spectators). Lear never really sorted out the mess he’d made of his life and just died—but, as an actor, to see myself playing that great man’s death in the glistening eyes of my wonderful Polish counterpart, who was, himself, dying the same death—was a life-changing experience. And as, at the end of each night, I bid Opania’s Król Lear, ‘Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir.’—according to Ian Holm, perhaps the only time Lear has ever said ‘thank you’ to anyone—each night I knew that my spirit was being released—not into the void, not into nothingness or pure forgetfulness, but toward a more finite and hopeful destination that might lie further east.

So now, though my role had changed, the same spirit continued toward its realization. The idea was to get to Moscow, play the role of an independent elections observer, not say anything so profoundly wack as to baffle the interpreters or offend the hosts, and get back to Paris in time for the inevitable Xmas depression.

I tried to take satisfaction in this huge new production, this new role I’d been cast in—25 years in LA, I’d played all kinds of characters: doctors, lawyers, and ambi-sexual hair transplant specialists, but never an international elections observer. In Hollywood, in The Industry, you learn early never to turn down a role because you might not be able to pull-off the gags. Somebody asks you, ‘You wanna go to Moscow, be an elections monitor?’ You gotta say, “Which way to wardrobe, tovarich?” But the Unknown here (especially the language and the real Russian character) had me nervouser than a newlywed at the clap clinic.

I was shopping the Internet for a cheap Paris-Moscow ticket, when one of my dearest Jewish friends sent me an article from David Horowitz’s Horowitz, if you’ll remember, is the apostate leftist who flipped when he found out how illiberally serious Huey (.45 stops all jive!) Newton and the Black Panthers really were—until Horowitz’s new super-heroes at COINTELPRO neutralized and liquidated them—and always blamed his life-long Communist parents for baby-sitting him while they were out organizing with Soviet-era cinema classics, instead of allowing him the Rock Hudson/Doris Day-fare the other kids were learning to get off on. Now he’s all about rooting out the tautology of Islamo-fascism, doing his bit in the war on Communist-inspired Arab terrorism, and generally blame-mouthing Russia while cashing dividend checks from his important Holocaust holdings. The lead was about how Putin had seen to the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Aleksandr Litvinenko, as well as to the ‘genocide of the Chechen people’. As with Bosnia, here were Zionists mourning the deaths of Islamic bandits and the murderers of innocent Slavs and Jews. I thought, dayam, this kind of ethical pirouette is way post-Haldol nutsoid: after having weighed-in heavily against the Islamo-fascists, to shift the blame for the murders of a heretofore unknown scribbler and an ex-FSB/MI6 double agent turned poisons trafficker (who was probably offed by contamination from his own product—even double-jimmying your package don’t make it safe to be keestering that radiation!), both of whom had crossed their Russian oligarch and Chechen mafia minders—onto the government of the very people who suffered the tragic effects of this ethnically-couched criminal venality (the horrible slaughters at the Beslan school and the Moscow theatre, and the bombing of the Moscow apartment blocks, spring to mind) is the sort of geekish moral contortionism one seldom sees outside Nightmare Ally or the Pentagon Situations Room—or the miserable meanderings of philosopher-clowns like BHL or Doc Kouchner.

But why? Why would Putin want to slip some Polonium 210 suppositories into Litvenenko’s party kit? Sure, Litvenenko was part of the Beresovsky/Chechen exile network in England that was always trying to trash the Kremlin—not to mention sponsoring and otherwise encouraging bloody terrorism against the CIS. But the principal source of heat on Russia was coming from Israeli friends of Litvenenko—besides his wife, nobody else seemed to give much of a shit about this guy. And why was Israel so defensive about these Russian oligarchs like Berezovsky and Khodorkovski? Because they were Jewish? Who knew, before they ripped off several billion in Russian assets, stashed the loot in Israeli banks, and, instead of toasters, shotguns or 32-piece Tupperware sets, were given Israeli citizenship for opening these accounts. Does this ‘arranged conversion’ make it ‘anti-Semitic’ for Russia to criticize and pursue these robbers, to jail them, if necessary, in order to recuperate its stolen property? And why were the Zionists now so down on Stalin and Soviet Russia, the country that gave World Jewry, in 1928, its first ‘homeland’, its first ‘Zion’, in Birobidjan? My work on the Milosevic dossier had already caught me one totally humbug anti-Semit beef; I certainly didn’t want this trip to Russia to cost me any more of my treasured Jewish friends.

Now that I had this none-too-cheap Aeroflot Paris-Moscow ticket, I had to sweat the visa, which was hanging in a very small time window—the Russian consulate says allow 10 days; I had a couple hours between classes. But having paid for the ticket cinched it—everything else HAD to happen.

So, I dug down and stepped up, and with rare balletic agility and feral cunning, I managed to drive through all the glitches and snafus that only a career narcissist like me can set up for himself. Get this visa: I was told by the consulate on the phone that it was a ‘diplomatic visa’ arranged by the Russian Election Commission, that I wouldn’t have to wait in line with the ordinary tourists. But I never had the heart to confirm that—maybe because I was also told it would be gratos, and I wound up having to kick down 120€ before they’d stamp it into my passport. I then managed to teach a last class at the French National Olympic Committee (found out how the traditionally Russo-phobic IOC, because of pressure from its sole energy sponsor, GE, is resisting Gazprom’s bid to back this aged Fascist rite, even after the Russian energy giant outright bought the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi—and notice how all the boycott talk this season is not aimed at the US and its imperialist henchmen for their own very real invasions currently ravaging Iraq and Afghanistan—as the 1980 boycott of the Russian Games was aimed at that nation’s ‘invasion’ in defense of the latter country—but at this year’s Chinese Olympics because China’s oil interests are said to have contributed to the designer genocide in DARFUR!); to get home; to get packed; to keep my dinner down; to sleep a couple fitful hours; to get the RER-B to the CDG-2; to check-in with an e-ticket (Aeroflot is hooked up with Air France so no problem); to check out these three impressively tall young women, two Swedish blondes and a Sistah, in designer sweats, talking all kinda game, probably going over to Russia to play some professional hoops; to clear security; to buy another bottle of water: and to do all this with plenty of time to spare.

Nothing to designer sweat about now—except for maybe how nice it would be to engage those three lanky hoop-dream-boats in a little 3-on-1 pick-up game, tighten up my ancient basketball jones—here’s where I started thinking, again, how unprepared I was for this serious a trip. I’d never get any play out these girls with only my Red Star Belgrade cap to represent with—I really wished I had my dear comrade Duci Simonovic, noted big-Play Sports philosopher, to go to in the high post.

Changes. Changes. Rearranging things to bring me down.
—Changes, Moby Grape

The noon Aeroflot to Moscow, flt SU250, was an hour and fifteen minutes late getting away from the Air France concourse at Roissy. And there was a gate change—which, because I didn’t notice it up there on the board for several minutes, created a bunch more anxiety about whether I was going to be able to pull this off. Actually, it was a little more than an hour fifteen late—more like an hour forty by the time they started to back the AirBus away from the gate. I tried to send an SMS to my contacts in Moscow, make sure they waited for me at the airport, but there was no way of telling if it got through. The old fears of abandonment started gnawing at my duodenum.

It was as unreasonable, but nowhere near as intense, a panic as I felt in February rushing to catch my Paris-Belgrade flight for the Serbian Radical Party’s Conference on ‘Hate Speech’—The Hague Tribunal’s rationale for the baseless charges being used to take Dr. Vojslav Seselj and the SRS he leads, as was done with President Milosevic and his SPS, out of Serbian politics. I’d checked in, again with an e-ticket—though this one had Me Jacques Vergès and Dr Patrick Barriot’s names alongside mine, so I really had nothing to worry about. But all I could see was a crowd of tourists impacted in the two security lanes feeding into four departing flights, the clock ticketing toward take-off time, and a lot of pushy French-types red-dogging the front of the lines. I figured, fuck it. I’ve lived in Paris for 12 years now; I can do this. So I got all Gordy Howe on this crowd, body-checking and blasting my way through security, speed-skating down the ramp, and right onto a . . . shuttle bus—totally empty, waiting to take the rest of those Belgrade passengers I’d just humiliated myself in front of across the tarmac to our plane. And my whips-and-jingle-bells had only gotten worse. When I finally got to my seat (First Class, Serb radicals know how!), there was Me Vergès, seated in A1, coolly reading Le Monde. He looks up at me—I’m in the early stages of a full-fucking grand mal seizure—and says, ‘Bonjour, monsieur. Comment allez-vous?’ (with a kind of ‘Who the fuck are you?’-look on him) and goes back to his paper without waiting for my response. But that’s Vergès—no matter how many deals we’ve collaborated on—and there have been a few just on the Milosevic case—he always greets me like a total stranger.

Finally, after we got to the Belgrade Hotel Intercontinental, Vergés had calmed me way down—he’s been around enough to know the politics of international justice like most America shysters know the vehicle code or the personal liability laws. It was the presence on this junket to NATO-occupied Serbia of the inscrutable Comarade Vergès (friend of Pol Pot, defender of Carlos the Jackal and Klaus Barbie, and soon to be a major star of two big-screen popular [?] films—my old friend Barbet [Barfly] Schroeder’s Terror’s Advocate and Kevin [Last King of Scotland] McDonald’s My Enemy’s Enemy), and some very sharp Russian lawyers, that allowed me to make what sense I did out of this my fourth trip to Yugoslavia in defense of its socialist democracy and national sovereignty.

The Russian’s have always had a much stronger handle on what’s up with their Slavic brothers and sisters. Sure, they’ve had to finesse their way around a lot of Western brutishness—just as they are doing with these Duma elections—but the Russians knew that President Milosevic would die in custody if he were not released to them for treatment, just as they knew that under international criminal law and conventions it is impossible to charge a nation, a state or a people with genocide—why the case over Serbia’s responsibility for the ‘genocide of 8,000 Muslim men and boys’ at Srebrenica in July 1995 was filed with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a civil court in The Hague—in a kind of expression of what I have come to call the OJ-to-Goldman-to-Goldman/Sachs strategy: when the rules of evidence and the burden of proof make criminal prosecution impossible, sue their asses off in civil court. The ICJ, as my learned Russian friends predicted, did not hold Serbia responsible for these (still unsubstantiated) killings falsely charged against the Bosnian Serbs in general, and General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic in particular. There was a certain decency in the Russians’ legal considerations that has long been absent from Western legal practice—like the young Russian lawyer who chided me for going souvenir shopping at Kalamegdon when I could have joined him on a visit to the grave of our mutual hero, Slobodan Milosevic, about a forty minute drive from our hotel.

Kosovo was an important concern at this Radical Party Conference—as I think it was in the OSCE’s pulling out of covering these Duma elections. This province of Serbia also weighs heavily on Russia’s reluctance formally to recognize another breakaway territory in its near-abroad, Prednistrovia (aka Transnistria, if you’re talking about it on the Moldavian/Rumanian side of the Neister river). It’s stunning to me just how reluctant the Serbs and the Russians are to impute any foul intentions, any bad faith to the West or its institutions—even after all the desperate resorting to barbaric militarism and congenital criminality that have characterized the tactics of modern waste Capitalism. Here’s a view from of the issue of Kosovo independence:

Kosovo has been part of Serbia for centuries. Kosovo is an
integral part of the Republic of Serbia, end point. Kosovo
doesn’t have anything to do with the European Union, with
Lisbon, Brussels or any one else except Belgrade. It’s up to
the Serbians and Serbia to decide what Kosovo’s status is. It
is not up to the EU, nor Portugal, nor Belgium, nor Albania.
If for decades Albanian women had gone there to produce their
offspring, it does not mean that Kosovo is theirs any more than
the southern states of the USA belong to Mexico.

There were, certainly, still unanswered questions here [like: What about the US {not to say NATO or UN} military presence there? or If there are so many ‘ethnic Albanians’ {90%?} in Kosovo who favor independence from Serbia, why have they never just held a plebiscite on this issue, and why was it necessary for the KLA {UCK} to assassinate 16 members of the late ‘pacifist’ president of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova’s democratic party?—forcing the Gandhi of South Serbia to flee to Belgrade and seek asylum in the offices of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic—the results of this Serbian charity, harboring thousands of Albanian refugees, being that Rugova died in bed, while Milosevic was murdered by his jailors in the old Nazi prison at Scheveningen.], but the Russians seemed a lot closer to getting the answers right on this one, too. So why was I still so jumpy about Russia, Russians and the Russian elections?

On this flight to Moscow, time was starting to goof me, because I couldn’t figure out whether the 17:45 arrival time was one, two or no hours ahead of Paris time. Right. This is not like playing spatial chess by mail—I was well on my way to losing what little reckoning remained in my possession. I recalled Poland was in the same time zone as Paris—but I usually traveled to Poland on a 25-hour bus trip and measure the time with the number of sandwiches I eat. I just couldn’t do the math here, couldn’t crunch the numbers on my Swatch—or even find the heart to break open the face plate of my space suit enough to ask the kid sitting next to me what the time was—because about an hour and a half out, I was totally alone in my terror zone: Going back to the place where it all began, to do some heavy political work, political theatre really, maybe touch base with some unknown family members, even better, maybe network with some Moscow impresarios, confab about a Russian production of ‘Cut to the Brains’. That’s the ticket! As long as I could still think H’wood (even HollyLodz), I wasn’t totally psycho—yet.

But it was impossible to mellow out. No movie, no music, no PacMan on my phone. Couldn’t find the concentration to read anything I’d brought along. The turbulence was frequent and heavy. Everybody was speaking Russian, which, like Polish, totally wigged me–I didn’t understand a word, and everything was sounding more and more sinister—like everybody was talking about what a pathetic dick I am.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, and germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!—
—King Lear, (Act 3, scene 2.)
William Shakespeare

Finally, after a horrible chicken-fried meal, we started to ease into our approach to Sheremetyevo. The AirBus went into a steep right bank and didn’t come out of it, didn’t stop circling for a full hour. Through the spotty cloud-cover, my first glimpses of Moscow appeared as a series of dying campfires, the embers scattered here and there by the inconsistent fog.

All the while there were announcements of ‘unintentional’ delays working through three languages, only two of which I could occasionally understand. I think they were saying there was a storm, a big snowstorm. These announcements only added to the anxiety of time running wild on me.

Then we were on the ground, and there was every reason to relax. I was here. And what had appeared from altitude to be water, rivers and ponds, turned out to be snow banks. Yeah, just chillax—indeed. And we sat on the runway, waiting for a stand, a place to park the AirBus, for the next three hours. After the first sixty minutes or so, when the plane began to move toward the terminal, the cabin broke into applause. But we only taxied about 50 yards before stopping for another two hours, and the imprisoned passengers never clapped again.

I was six hours late. And after another interminable wait at passport control, just to show off my pricey (diplomatic?) visa, I walked into the arrivals area to be met by a crowd of young people holding little white signs reading ‘HP’, ‘Cisco’, ‘Cubana’, ‘VW’ and even ‘Tupperware’. All the great merchandizing pyramids were there—kind of a Forbes Weekly-version of the Valley of the Kings—but not one of them was for me. I could find NO ONE to meet me! Just a crowd of strangers speaking a sinister language I couldn’t understand—and it was all the more sinister because I knew that this language, this Russian, was my ‘mother tongue’—the first language I heard at my mother’s breast—when I was first—and last—in Moscow as a new-born. But this ignorance, too, my ignorance of Russian was a product of anti-communist terror.

Well, this was, existentially speaking, pretty fucked up—it’s a good thing that the flight in had been such a bummer or this sense of being abandoned in a strange airport might really have been a buzz-kill. It was round midnight now, and I figured I would just have to call my contacts with the Election Commission, get somebody out here before it got too ridiculously late. But my phone, my trusty Moto, didn’t work. It had worked in the US, all over Europe, even in Poland and Ukraine and Prednistrovia. But not here—not in Moscow, not in the ‘New Russia’. See? It’s always darkest just before your emergency generator blows out.

And no one at the airport seemed to speak English—not any kind of English I could get across in, anyway. All the people I asked for help acted like they understood what I needed to know, but their instructions always came back in Russian. Some fellow travelers, Brits mostly, just gave me bunk about how you couldn’t get there from here, how my phone numbers were wrong so their cell phones wouldn’t help, and just generally shined me on as only pain-in-the-arse-teabags can do.

It was becoming indecently late. But, on the advice of the woman who sold them, I bought a phone card (360 rubles, about 15 € or $20), and tried to call my contacts on a pay-phone. The woman at the airport Post Office told me I had to put an ‘8’ for Moscow in place of the ‘7’ that indicated the country when calling from abroad—she told me in Russian, but grudgingly wrote it down because I kept giving her that droopy-eyed ‘duh?’ look. The pay-phone was a bit complicated, too—kinda pre-911 (or maybe pre-1911) with buttons you had to push to finally talk to the party you were trying to talk to—and when I finally got through, it wasn’t any good, anyhow—just some sleepy grumbling in Russian and another hang-up. I felt like my card might be getting thin, so I called my long-lost cousin, Misha, whose number I’d gotten from my sister in California—she’s our family historian and told me Misha spoke a bit of English. [All kinds of bizarre information about my family’s Russian past has come to light since my sister diligently FOIAed the transcript to my father’s 1952 foreign service security hearing, held during his last posting in Torréon, Mexico—the upshot of the proceedings was the trashing a long and full diplomatic career, beginning in 1930s China and passing through the fin-de-guerre USSR, where he committed the indiscretion of marrying an employee of the Russian news service, TASS, an obviously intelligent Russian woman—who, in the logic of good Midwestern alcoholics, was obviously working for Russian Intelligence.] Now, I know I must have sounded a bit desperate to be found and collected from this airport, but the best cousin Misha could come up with was ‘I have email address.’ Great, cuz. I promised I’d call and get his email if and when I ever got to a computer again. As yet I have not kept that promise, and that’s more gunge on my karma, I know.

The taxi drivers were like sharks: just cruising around the shallows of this arrivals hall and now and then striking with a whispered ‘You need taxi?’ Hey, brother, if I knew where I was going, I might just go there in one of your bandit cabs—as I didn’t see any Yellow cab dispatcher anywhere.

So, I started breaking it down like this here: It was too late to do anything about anything. My Aeroflot back to Paris was scheduled for 13.00 Monday 3 December—sixty hours from now. Could I step off sixty hours in this airport without ever finding my people? If I didn’t make contact with the Election Commission, I’d have to eat the costs of the ticket and the visa, along with the indignity, the total demoralization of returning to Paris without ever having set foot outside the Moscow airport. So to scotch that last one, I walked through the front doors into the icy midnight air—and right back inside again, to lie down on a metal bench and see if I could find the sort of sleep that might knit-up this raveled sleeve of care I was gnawing nervously on—because awake I just kept screwing the poodle.

I looked up on the wall, and it was 4.00 am. Only 58 hours to go. Then, I think, I fell asleep.

We were hungry when we got to Moscow—So-vi-et.
—Groucho Marx or George S. Kaufmann

6:30 am, Saturday, 1 December.

I guess I thought I was pretty cool, pretty important, when I left Paris. Like last January when I flew out to Hollywood to work on a friend’s film. When I told the Customs Officer I was on my way out to the coast to make a movie, he suddenly got all friendly, like he recognized me as an actor. But the reality of the experience—especially the ten-hour overnight layover at the Newark airport, again sleepless on a hard metal bench—just never meets up to the anticipation or the remembrance.

It was coming up on 24 hours I had been on this trip, a full day and night since I left my family—without even taking the time to walk my seven year-old son Max to school—and I’m still sitting in this shabby arrivals hall of a Moscow airport—and I DON’T KNOW WHAT the fuck TO DO!

My contact still doesn’t answer her phone—if the number I keep dialing is actually hers. One phone number she emailed me has about ten digits, and the other just seven. But like the time difference, I don’t know quite what to make of, or do with, these numbers. This whole deal was very loosely wrapped from the jump. But, god-dayam, this sucks. I need more sleep maybe.

8:35 am

Maybe that little extra bit of sleep helped clear my head. Or maybe it was the constant repetition over the airport PA system of the very funny-en-soi word ‘chicken’, bringing to mind images of a rubber hen in a Monkey Kirkland skit. I kept hearing someone say ‘chicken desk’, or ‘chicken time’. The absurdity of it—of the time it took me to realize they were saying ‘check-in’—re-engaged my sense of humor, my sense of the absurd—I don’t know—but I was laughing this time when I went to the Aeroflot counter to ask for help. They seemed more confused than I was. (‘So, you’d like us to put you in a hotel for two days?’—at least, with the day shift, the confusion was in English.) But they did tell me that my second contact number was wrong—it was missing a prefix. (I knew that, but . . . ) I tried adding the prefix from the first number, and whaddaya know! There they were: Alexis and Marina. And sounding really glad to hear I was there and ok—not at all pissed off at me for being so late and not calling sooner. And right away they got busy hooking me up with a ride to my hotel (one of the five Holiday Inns in Moscow). Then they said that a car wouldn’t be possible for another two hours. I said I’d take one of these shark taxis—and then my phone card died. A prowling driver must’ve smelt my joy sweat, and he hit me: ‘You want taxi?’ Ok, how much? There began SALT 4.

The cabbie, poor predator that he was—probably a fallen philosophy or economics professor (I surmised this from the profundity of his silence on all matters other than his fare)—after quoting me $50 for the nearly hour-long trip, had to settle for my very last 45€ (at least $60 at that day’s rate of exchange)—because when it comes to the art of the high-pressure deal, there are few bigger marks than I. But once I had gotten into my hotel room, watched a little of Christiane Amanpour’s highly-vaunted CNN reportage on ‘Czar Putin’ and the ‘new Dark Ages’ in Russia, where there is NO freedom of expression [except for CNN?], and where dauntless opposition leaders like Gary Kasparov [sic![2]] were regularly jailed, I felt myself climbing back up to sub-normal. It might have been the similarity of this CNN/Amanpour report to those from the front lawn of The Hague Tribunal in 2002, when Amanpour declared Milosevic’s ‘the Trial of the Century’, just before slinking off to hide among the Dutch dykes, when the President, in his opening remarks, invalidated one of key images in the NATO/EU anti-Serb iconography and the prosecution’s case (an emaciated Fikret Alic on the wrong side of a barbed-wire pen in which ITN’s Penny Marshall had set her cameras) by presenting a video of the counter-reportage of German journalist Thomas Deitchman. Or the irony of Christiane and Co., once again, seeming to furnish their own contradiction.

But I took a nice little nap, caught some MTV/Russia, a savory buffet dinner with some of my fellow delegates, and then hooked it up off to meet with the Election Commission and its chief, my soon-to-be good friend, Vladimir Churov.

So much for the overture—here comes the rhapsody.

The logic of facts is the strongest kind of logic.
—Maréchal Stalin on epistomology

Here are some of the facts about these elections gleaned from our delegation’s meeting Saturday night with the Election Commission and Chairman Churov.

There are about 4,500 candidates for the 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly.

Mr. Churov said there are more than 300 International Observers in attendance (other sources cite more than 400, with some 330 from the OSCE alone.)

The 95,000 polling stations over Russia’s 11 time zones are open from 8 am to 8 pm—so polls in Kamchatka close an hour after they open in Moscow.

In Russia, unlike in some US-styled democracies, they wait an hour after the polls close before announcing results or returns. Americans are in the habit of hearing running tallies, exit polls, and constant media projections (this usually runs along with the fairly transparent ruse of having the election computers ‘go down’ an hour or so after the polls open, so the media projections are all the voters have to go on, and, strangely enough [NOT], when the computers come back online, the election results are just about exactly as the media had called them). So, at 10 am on Monday 3 December, it’s all done, and the results are posted on the Internet and the GSM.

They seem to go to great lengths here—what might be considered extreme measures in the West—to get out the vote. Soldiers, who during Soviet times voted on their bases, vote in public polling places alongside other Russian citizens. I remember seeing platoons marching along the street toward a voting station and thinking, ‘Oops, the voting’s not going well for the Kremlin.’ But, no, it’s all just the People’s Army voting with the People. And then the Election Commission arranges for ballots to be delivered to invalids, shut-ins, the homeless have special polling places (though I didn’t see any homeless folks hanging around the Holiday Inn, or the McDonald’s next to it, I guess there are some citizens still trying to deal with all their new-found freedom from communism’s guarantees of the basic needs for a decent existence, like health care, education, housing and a job), and Russians residing in 141 foreign countries have places where they can go to vote. They even set up voting places in certain hospitals, asylums and—this one struck a certain chord with me—jails. As in the US, convicted felons don’t have the right to vote, but those prisoners who are awaiting trial do, and they are accommodated. The whole idea seemed to be to get as many people to vote as possible. I thought it might have been a lot easier for the government to do it the American way: vet the voter lists of all seemingly unfriendly types, then let the computers and the media do the heavy ballot-box stuffing electronically. But I guess when you’ve got at least 80% of the People pulling for your side, you don’t have to resort to ‘dirty democracy’.

And there is all kinds of ‘outreach’ and ways for the voters to ‘feed-back’ their complaints to the Election Commission. Rather than about how the elections are going, 2/3 of Hot-Line calls concern social issues—i.e., health care, pensions, streets and roads (you know, pot holes)—and, according to Churov, out of 6,000 calls, only 3 didn’t get their problems resolved.

[—I like my new friend Churov, who looks a little like Frederich Engles reincarnated as a Persian cat. He, like several others in the current administration, including United Russia’s recently-named candidate for the Presidency in next March’s elections, the current chairman of Gazprom and Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Medvedev, worked with Putin in St Petersburg in the administration of reformist mayor Anatoly Sobchak. In the early 1990s, Medvedev was a legal consultant to the city, and Putin served as its first deputy mayor. Why I like Churov is he takes time to think, to reflect on what he’s going to say—he even gets up from the table and searches his office for reference materials—that kind of ‘pausing’ is cool; I wish I could develop a little of his disciplined serenity.]

There were 15 parties eligible to participate in the elections. On 13 September 2007, the Patriots of Russia and the Party of Russia's Rebirth created a coalition, leaving only 14 parties to participate. All 14 parties presented their lists of candidates to the Central Election Commission. However, the Electoral Commission decided the Russian Ecological Party ("The Greens") would not be able to stand, due to a large number of allegedly faked signatures (17%, well-more than the 5% allowed) on their supporters' lists. The Nationalist People's Union decided to endorse the Communist Party. So, the final list of parties for this election included:

1 Agrarian Party of Russia
2 Citizens' Force
3 Democratic Party of Russia
4 Communist Party of the Russian Federation
5 Union of Right Forces
6 Russian Social Justice Party
7 Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
8 Fair Russia
9 Patriots of Russia–Party of Russia's Rebirth Coalition
10 United Russia
11 Yabloko

Before we wrapped, I asked my friend Churov just what was up with the OSCE’s refusing to come to his elections. He said he feared the OSCE had been mal-informed, and that a large part of the responsibility for that lay with him. Narcissism? I dunno—I don’t think so. The Russians, like the Serbs, are incredibly patient—much more patient that I could be, even on ‘loads’!—in their dealings with the diseased fascist jackals of the NATO/EU/UN/OSCE-ODIHR/G8 cabal that keep trying to break into the Russians’ ancient estate and devour everything they have created, including their very lives. And they almost achieved this with their criminal backing of the neo-liberal Gorbachev/Yeltsin putsch and sell-off of the late 80s, early 90s.

After all, this was the same OSCE that, after the Holbrooke/Milosevic talks of October 1998, infiltrated Serbia/Kosovo with its ‘Kosovo Verification Mission’ (KVM), which was made up mostly of ancient spooks and serial killers like William Walker, drawn from Western intelligence agencies whose job, from the outset of hostilities in the Balkans, had been to destabilize Serbia, especially Kosovo, demonize the Serbian/Yugoslav government, and prepare international sensibilities to accept the wanton murder of another Slavic people. This UN-backed ‘black op’ enabled the KLA (UCK) to take back most of the territory it had seized through force of arms after their invasion from Albania early in 1998, and then had lost back to the Yugoslav Army and Serbian Special Police during the summer of that year.

I, very presumptuously, told Chairman Churov that the OSCE were not friends of Russia—even if Russia was a founding member of the organization. I said he owed them nothing, and was certainly not responsible for their mal-information. But my friend Churov is obviously much wiser than I—he certainly knows much more about what I was talking about than I did—so I shut up. And here’s how he laid out the timeline of the OSCE snafu:

First, he made the important distinction between the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and its subset, the ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights). The no-shows were from the ODIHR. The OSCE’s Parliamentary Unit sent more than 300 observers without a hitch.

The OSCE/ODIHR was good to go from the beginning of negotiations on the 2 December Parliamentary elections in June 2007.

Gerald Mitchell, head of OSCE/ODIHR elections section, insisted on coming to Moscow to meet with Mr. Churov personally, but cancelled two meetings because of his wife’s death.

Then on 22 October—at the time of the Polish elections—there was a meeting in the OSCE/ODIHR office in Warsaw where all the problems of the observers’ mission were discussed.

This 3 1/2 hour meeting resulted in a deal wherein the OSCE/ODIHR observers would come to Russia right after all the parties had been registered.

The OSCE then met with President Putin in Mafra, Portugal, on 26 October 2007, and the Russian President accepted the presence of OSCE/ODIHR observers at the Russian Parliamentary elections in December—it should be recalled that it was Putin, himself, who initially promoted the idea of a Euro-Russian Institute for the promotion of Democracy and Human Rights. Same deal: The observers would come out when the parties were registered.

On 30 October, party registration was completed, and 372 documents were sent to OSCE/ODIHR. Chairman Churov showed us the invitation sent to the OSCE/ODIHR Director, Ambassador Christian Strohal, which was received on 31 October. With these documents were included lists of all the candidates from all the regions—this reminded me of the huge volume of documents Iraq sent to the UN to prove it had disarmed, and that were intercepted and vetted by the US—but the OSCE/ODIHR response was SILENCE.

OSCE Ambassador Boris Frlec (Slovenia) showed up at the Election Commission without any visa problems and met with Mr. Churov. Then on 16 November, Churov received three letters from Frlec to confirm the deal as discussed. An hour later a letter from Ambassador Strohal arrived queering the deal—citing difficulties in his experts’ getting visas to enter Russia. Yet the deal was cancelled AFTER Strohal was IN Moscow with his visa—and the other OSCE monitors didn’t start the paper work on their visas until 13 November.

There was some mention of a ‘coincidental’ meeting in Washington DC around this time between OSCE principals and Nick Burns, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Whether or not this meeting had anything to do with pulling the ODIHR election monitors or not, the reasons cited for their withdrawal, withholding entry visas for 70 Human Rights ‘experts’ while routinely admitting over 300 of their OSCE cohorts, just does not pass the Raçak smell-test.

And that’s where we left it Saturday night at the Election Commission. Sunday was Election Day, and we would spend a good part of it on the short-bus touring polling places. So that Holiday Inn bunk was looking very sweet, indeed—made me forget all about that metal bench at Sheremetyevo.

I never saw a moor
I never saw the sea
But I know how the heather looks
And what a wave must be

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in heaven
But certain am I of the spot
As if the charts were given
---Emily Dickinson

Another fact: I’d never been up this close to an election before. Watched a few on TV. Even wrote some about how crooked and technologically hijacked the spectacle of US elections has become since—well, certainly since the advent of Monday Night Football-style media attention and the loss of hard copy back-up with the increased (ab)use of touch-screen, paperless computer voting. One of the glib suggestions I made to the TV cameras in Moscow was that the next US election would be conducted through the ESP Channel, voters kicking back in the Barce lounges and thinking about whom they wanted to vote for, while Dionne Warwick and Uri Gellar called the returns from her tea cups and his crystal balls. But I’d come to think so little of electoral politics that I figured I’d just permanently boycott this kind of trick or treat fest. Now I was right dead-off in the middle of the Moscow mix, and democracy was starting to look familiar again.

Moscow has 10 administrative districts (like the 20 arrondissements in Paris). We short-bused it around the rather nicely turned out Southeast district to a few of its 423 polling places.

The first one we stopped off at was in an English language school (#1221). Representatives of Opposition parties are present at all voting stations, and we always ran into a couple of them wherever we went.

These polling places, like in every other country where folks vote, are set up in some sort of good-sized public building, like a school, library or rec center, and here it’s really done right: plenty of room for free circulation and visiting with friends, a goodly number of election workers to answer questions and keep thing moving along, and, my favorite, lots of savory-looking eatables, healthy snack foods on display—to recharge the old batteries after the rigors of exercising the franchise. None of the places we went to seemed crowded or pressured—even later in the day when the voters were arriving in greater numbers.

I am told that the young in Russia are very interested in this process, and that 27,000 of them will vote in just this one district.

How voting works:

First the voters present their (internal) passports (just a piece of identification everyone carries). They then get checked on a list and are given a big A3-size ballot (one page, one side only). Then they go into the booth armed only with a PEN.

The completed ballot is then folded and inserted by the voter into a box. Later the ballots are electronically scanned to see if they are correct and complete, and then they are counted. At nine o’clock, an hour after the polls close, the results are announced. And Moscow being so far west, by the time we got to the Election Commission—about 9:30 Sunday night—the results from nearly all of Russia were in. This is what they looked like:

Summary of the December 2, 2007 Russian Duma election results

[Parties and coalitions
Seats ]


United Russia
(Edinaya Rossiya)

44,714,241 votes


315 seats


Communist Party of the
Russian Federation
(Kommunistiãeskaya Partiya
Rossiyskoy Federacii)

8,046,886 votes


57 seats


Liberal Democratic Party
of Russia
Partiya Rossii)

5,660,823 votes


40 seats


Fair Russia
(Spravedlivaya Rossiya)

5,383,639 votes


38 seats


Agrarian Party of Russia
(Agrarnaya Partiya Rossii)

1,600,234 votes


No seats


Russian Democratic Party
(Rossiyskaya Demokratiãeskaya
Partiya "Yabloko")

1,108,985 votes


No seats


Civilian Power
(Grazhdanskaya Sila)

733,604 votes


No seats


Union of Right Forces
(Soyuz Pravych Sil)

669,444 votes


No seats


Patriots of Russia
(Patrioty Rossii)

615,417 votes


No seats


Russian Social Justice Party
(Rossiyskaya Partiya

154,083 votes


No seats


Democratic Party of Russia
Partiya Rossii)

89,780 votes


No seats


Valid ballots




Invalid ballots



Total votes cast (turnout 63.71%)



450 seats


Eligible voters


[Source: Russian Election Commission—and none of the other parties won enough votes to gain any seats.]

American Democracy is a form of government organized to serve the interests of American Business—Foreign democracies are governments organized to serve the interests of . . . American Business.
—My paraphrasing of something I remember Professor Chomsky saying,
maybe in that Canadian bio-doc, Manufacturing Consent.

The critics of Russian-style Democracy are in the habit of citing the 1999 elections when making their invalidating comparisons—stating, for example, that the Communists, the real opposition, with their 11.57% showing in 2007, did much worse this time than in 1999 (24%). True. But in the intervening 2003 elections, after Vladimir Putin had effectively begun to turn Russia around, the Communists saw their 1999 total cut nearly in half to barely 13%, and their nearly 12% showing in 2007, because of the enormity of the voter turnout and the overwhelming popularity of United Russia, actually reflected an increase in their share of the popular vote (ca 8 million) and the number of Duma seats they won. So what? Well, for one thing, this makes the Communists’ joining in the reactionary Western chorus of complaints about how ‘dirty’ these elections were seem even more CNN-petty bourgeois bitchy.

The bulk of the complaining seems to be not about how the election was run, but about the inordinate power that the government wielded in promoting its achievements and, thereby, further elevating the profile of its party, United Russia. On the face of it, this kind of criticism comes off as little more than sour grapes from losers who couldn’t make the relatively low 7% cut—or those like Kasparov, who have no dog in the fight at all. A real victory of style over content, where the will of the people is sublated by the rules of the ‘multi-party democratic game’. That a government or a political party uses the popularity its achievements have earned it to increase and consolidate its power is about as natural as politics get. That is to say, for power to act in any other way would be unnatural, irrational, even grotesque unto monstrous, and certainly absurd. In a word, it would be anti-democratic.

And ‘absurd’ is the best word to describe the sort of criticism that fell on these elections:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)—the corner for my boy Daniel’s hustle—reported that they considered the elections ‘a show election’. [Get it? Like a Stalinist ‘show trial’?] Well, Danny, if those numbers you showed me on election night were right (righter than your notion that the Molotov/Ribbentrop deal was cut in 1940), it certainly was an enormous ‘show’ of popular support for the Putin government.

The British newspaper The Independent wrote, "Critics condemned the election as an exercise in phantom democracy. Although voters had a choice of 11 parties, the only ones with a chance of making it into Russia's notoriously feckless Duma are either creations of the Kremlin, or loyal to it." and "Many Russians believe that the loss of freedom has been an acceptable price to pay for the stability.” —Unlike multi-party democracies like Britain or the US, where there are far fewer parties to choose from, where what two or three parties there are serve the same elite business interests, and where civil life under the US’s Patriot Acts (I & II) and Britain’s Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act makes one wonder just who is protecting you from whom? In the end, this kind of criticism is mere ‘Projection’, laying one’s own faults and weaknesses on the other, which is a most cowardly and dishonest form of ego defense.

Nikolai N. Petro's opinion article in the International Herald Tribune was less cravenly hypocritical, though just as patronizing: "Far from indicating a retreat from democracy, the Russian electorate's rejection of the current opposition may be a sign of the country's progress toward a mature democracy."

In Denmark's daily Politiken, it is noted that the Russian election "could be best described as a swindle." The paper argues that Western countries should not accept the results "lest they compromise their own democratic values and deprive Russians of hope in a democratic future for their country". —What ‘democratic values’ can the melancholy Danes be talking about? My best guess is they mean that these results are going to encourage Gazprom to continue protecting Russia’s wealth in energy resources from the predations of the Western Business [read Waste] culture, the real masters of all ‘democratic’ governments everywhere.

And if this kind of repressive sublimation needed any back-up, we have Britain's Financial Times observing that "Russia's relations with the West threatened to hit a new low . . . as Western leaders and institutions denounced parliamentary elections at the weekend as unfair and undemocratic. But independent observers suggested both sides could seek to contain the damage as Russia heads into a crucial and uncertain period." —Whose economy is in deeper shit? This seems like more cowardly projection from America’s office boys.

In Brussels, that great Russophile and Big George Robertson’s successor as NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said through his spokesman that he is concerned "about the conduct of the elections, in particular when it comes to freedom of expression and association," but there was no sign of any change of the alliance's policy towards Moscow. Van den Brande also said there was no prospect of Russia being thrown out of the Council of Europe. –Yeah, right, especially as long as Russia is furnishing nearly all of Europe’s natural gas. But NATO has always been known for its pragmatism (if not its decency) in dealings with its Eastern brethren—the 5-year terror-bombing of Yugoslavia on behalf of EU ‘financial and commercial security’, the militarization and political occupation of Russia’s near-abroad, the sponsorship of so-called Islamic freedom fighters in anti-Russian campaigns in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Caucasus—why let something as nebulous as these unsupported allegations of election fraud interfere with doing business?

As might have been expected, a much more reasonable analysis of these elections came from Russia’s neighbors in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). Observers from the SCO inspected 30 precinct election commissions in the electoral districts of the city of Moscow. Their judgment was that “the election of deputies to the State Duma, in the election districts observed by the Mission, was legitimate, free and open, and basically conformed to the requirements of the national legislation of the Russian Federation and its international obligations."

Not that it matters by now, but the SCO observations were pretty much my own—except that I know diddly about ‘the national legislation of the Russian Federation and its international obligations.’ While in Moscow, I was often asked about my impressions of these elections. All I could come up with was to say that my impression was that the election was very impressive. [Geez, I hope the interpreters fixed that in post!] But what really struck me about my whole Russian experience—what very pleasantly surprised me and gave me much needed new hope for the future (if not mine, at least for Max’s future)—was how really, deeply unimpressed the Russians are by the West.

You know, the Russians are a wise and decent people—like the Serbs, they’ve seen a lot and they’ve paid close attention to their history—and they seem to know that as long as they have their country—as long as they own their homeland and their history—they’ll be all right. And they will continue to rescue Humanity from its predators.

A very sage Russian general I met at the ‘Hate Speech’ conference in Belgrade last February, General Leonid Ivashov, describes perhaps the ultimate hope for the world that is offered by Russia and its fellow SCO member-nations, with a citation at the end of his superb article on GlobalResearch[3]:

In 1938, German philosopher W. Schubart wrote in his Europe
and the Soul of the East that it is not Europeans but Russians
who have the mindset by which humans can justify their eternal
predestination. Russians are guided by the absolute, by the
universal feeling, the Messianic soul... When it comes to the
main issues of life, Europeans should regard Russians as an
example, not vice versa. If Europeans seek to return to the
eternal goals of mankind, they should adopt the Russian-Eastern
perception of the world.

By and large, those who were doing the most complaining about these elections seemed to be desperate to convince the world of certain aged absurdities about Russia and its history—especially its Soviet history. The 20th Century was proof of just to what foul and wasting purposes these absurdities will be put. As another of my dope 18th century homeboys, Voltaire, put it,

>People who believe in absurdities will eventually commit atrocities.<

Mick Collins
12 January 2008

[1] Lituchy, Barry M., ed. Jasenovac and The Holocaust in Yugoslavia: Analyses and Survivors Testimonies. Jasenovac Research Institute, New York, 2006.

[2] According to my friend Vladimir Churov, Gary Kasparov represents no officially recognized political party in this election and is not considered the leader of anything—except, maybe, his chess club, and certainly leads no organized opposition movement—anywhere, but in the intoxicated imaginings of some CNN editors.

[3] Interactions between Civilizations and their Mutual Assistance
Heartland Expanding, or The Shanghai Cooperation Organization
by Gen. Leonid Ivashov, @