First published: June 1997
Since the beginning of March this year the middle ground has been smashed out of Russian politics. On one side, at the beginning of March President Yeltsin re-organised his government around the neo-liberal politicians closest to the United States – notably the architect of the corrupt privatisation program, Anatoly Chubais, and the governor of Nizhny Novgorod Boris Nemtsov. The new government immediately announced plans for a second wave of economic shock therapy – to remove state subsidies on housing, heating, electricity and transport while simultaneously acceding to US demands to attack the power of Russia’s remaining giant monopolies.
On the other side, all of the classical signs of a rising mass radicalisation of the population are apparent. Millions participated in the trade union day of action against non-payment of wages on 27 March. Given their limited economic muscle, workers are resorting to more and more desperate tactics ranging from hunger strikes to seizing local officials and buildings, blocking roads and railways and in parts of Siberia setting up local ‘salvation committees’ – embryonic soviets.