Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

More reflections from Russia

In Moscow three of our friends from Nepal pose with Russian and American Veterans for Peace members.

Russian VFP chairman Alexander Pasechnik (left) spoke to our group in Moscow while Leonid Ilderkin translated.

In Moscow we visited a park full of monuments to each republic during the Soviet Union.  One of them featured various space rockets.

Another of the exhibits in the park of Soviet achievements in Moscow.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin at the Moscow park of Soviet achievements.

Outside the Moscow cosmos museum was this art work honoring the workers who built the Soviet space program - note the first dog in space under the rocket.

We met Irina in a park in Moscow. She is the tandem cycling champion in Russia. She sits in front and steers and brakes and a blind person peddles behind her. They also took 5th place in world championships.  Lovely young woman. Russians have been open and friendly and welcoming all along our journey.

This enormous symbol of space exploration was outside of the cosmos museum in Moscow.  I visited the museum last October when I went to Moscow to do advance work for this current study tour.

An aerial view of the Livadia Palace in Yalta, Crimea where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in 1945. Livadia Palace was a summer retreat of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, and his family.

Outside the Livadia Palace some of our folks posed in front of statues of the three leaders with VFP flag.

The guide at the 35th Battalion museum in Sevastopol, Crimea explained the Nazi invasion and occupation during WW II.  She told how 30,000 Soviet sailors and soldiers were killed by the fascists at this place as they tried to defend Crimea.  They are still discovering bodies in the area.  She told us not all of the Soviet military personnel were heroes, they were just simply human beings.  This was not a museum to glorify war but to remember the spirits of the dead

I'm just now having some time to catch up with a few photos from along the way during our Global Network Russia study tour.  There are many more yet to post but might have to wait til I get home on May 11.

Yesterday we took a professional St Petersburg city tour on a bus with a guide because there is so much to see.  Russian architecture is grand.  During the long reign of the tsars they out did each other building massive palaces and churches.  Following the revolution in 1917 the Communists turned many of the incredibly ornate churches into warehouses for food all across the nation.  Since the fall of the former Soviet Union many of these churches have been restored.

 The Soviet Union appeared to continue building grand spectacles but rather than honoring the tsars of course they built them to honor the workers who had constructed the nation but had suffered terribly under the long reign of monarchy.

I remarked to our guide yesterday that if the tsars had spent the wealth of the nation taking care of the people rather than building the palaces and churches then the 1917 revolution might have never happened.  He responded that the tsars were so isolated that they knew very little about how poor their 'subjects' actually were.  It's rather hard to imagine that is true but I guess we could say the same thing today in the US as the 1% live high-on-the-hog while poverty grows across our nation and the rich don't seem to notice or care.

The people in our study tour group are loving this experience.  They like the hotels we've been staying in, they love the food, and they all repeatedly remark how thoughtful and kind the people here are.

For example, yesterday VFP member John Schuchardt had a piece of a tooth fall out of his mouth.  One of the young people at the hotel desk escorted him to the dentist office (appointment made just the day before) and his total cost for the repair job was $35.  John told us that he, the dentist, and the dental assistant had a great conversation and when he left he was given hugs.  It's been like that all along.

Tomorrow a friend of our guide in Crimea will come to the hotel and take us to the 'Immortal Regiment peace parade' which every May 9 honors the memory of the more than 28 million Soviet citizens who died during the WW II invasion and occupation of the German Nazi Army.

We visited the Political History museum yesterday and learned that prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union a referendum was held asking the public their opinion on the future of the nation.  The vote was 60% wanted to keep the Soviet Union while 40% wanted to dissolve it.  The leaders at the time, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, ignored the voters and broke the nation up.  Today those two former presidents are despised by a vast majority of the Russian people.

We've repeatedly heard that Putin's favorable ratings are dropping from in the mid-80% to just over 50% because last year the government announced they were going to raise the retirement age.  Many protests were held across the nation and a compromise was reached - the retirement age, formerly 55 for women and 60 for men, was changed to age 60 and 65, respectively. People tell us they generally like Putin's foreign policy (which has emphasized Russia's sovereignty and independence from the west) but the public is not so happy about domestic politics which is still largely controlled by the wealthy oligarchs.

(By the way, for those neocons in Washington who want to force regime change in Moscow and take over Russia for western corporate interests it looks like they've already achieved some of that goal.  Everywhere one can find KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Subway, Wrangler and Lee Jeans, New Balance shoes and more.)

In the political history museum we noticed a bit of re-writing of the history of the Soviet period that largely ignores the enormous social strides that came as a result of the 1917 revolution and mostly took note of the many mistakes of that period.  Many in our group wondered if this was due to the current growing power and influence of the oligarchs.

We came to Russia to listen and learn in order to stand against the constant demonization of this nation by the western corporate dominated countries - especially the US.  It's really quite sad that most Americans (and westerners) actually know very little about Russian history or the current situation inside this remarkable nation.

Already there have been many requests that the Global Network organize another similar study tour.  We've been brainstorming another such visit but no decision can yet be made until we do more research and bring the question to the board of the organization.

It's been a real gift to be here for all of us.

Bruce

Photos by Will Griffin & Mary Beth Sullivan (except the aerial shot of the Livadia Palace).  Click on the photos for a better view.

4 Comments:

Blogger Elaine said...

Thank you in turn, dear Bruce, for sharing with us - and with photos as well (Thank you Mary Beth for this!) these reflections of your trip to Russia!
Elaine

5/8/19, 1:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Spirit if goodwill and peace shines through your words and pictures. Thank you for your vision and for sharing it with us. Liz Starr

5/8/19, 3:14 PM  
Blogger retroearthwares said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Peace comes with realizing we are all brothers and sisters. War is the breakdown of that recognition.

5/10/19, 7:24 AM  
Blogger Energy Flow said...

Great trip for all of you. I was there in 1968 at 21 as a student.fascinating, really liked it, for me there was no Russian enemy and still isn't.There is a section about it In my recently released book. USA loves enemies and opponents.

5/21/19, 9:56 AM  

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