“Populist Stalinism”? Final Episode of In Search of Putin’s Russia

In Search of Putin’s Russian – Part 4 The State of the Arts

Al Jazeera (20150

Film Review

In this final episode, journalist and filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov interviews the director of a film about the 1939 non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler; the manager of a fringe theater group that puts on pro-gay, pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin plays; visitors to the last remaining Stalin gulag; attendees at a recent pro-Stalin conference; a Russian ultranationalist who advocates the prosecution of pro-homosexuality, pro-Ukraine, pro-multiculturalism, pro-tolerance, pro-liberal and pro-abortion Russians; and a wealthy Moscow “liberal” who believes that wealthy oligarchs, rather than Putin, are the real power behind the Russian government.

  • 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact – the fact that Stalin and Hitler initially collaborated tends to be suppressed in Russian schools and history books. Yet despite a filmmaker’s refusal to make recommended script changes, the film received full funding from the Russian Cinema Fund.
  • Fringe theater – the theater group specializing in pro-gay, pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin plays talks about a police raid and arbitrary eviction from their premises.
  • Stalin Gulag – the Russian government has destroyed all but one of Stalin’s former Gulags. They have also ended regular festivals that formerly occurred at the one that remains.
  • “Populist Stalinism” – Nekrasov explores a bizarre movement within the Orthodox Church to have Stalin proclaimed a saint.
  • Russian ultranationalism – the Duma, as well as Putin’s ruling United Russia Party, are full of ultranationallist conservatives. The rich liberal Nekrasov interviews regards Putin’s embrace of conservative values as opportunism and pandering to Russia’s unwashed masses.

 

 

In Search of Putin’s Russia Reclaiming the Empire – Part 3

In Search of Putin’s Russia – Part 3 Reclaiming the Empire

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

In Part 3,  Andrei Nekrasov explores what Russian liberal intellectuals feel are the two major external threats currently facing Russia: 1) a US-sponsored coup in Ukraine that threatens to place NATO troops on Russia’s western border and 2) so-called “radical” Islam. He begins this episode by reminding us that the current Russian Federation is quite a bit smaller than pre-revolutionary Russia.

Ukraine

Nekrasov interviews a Russian Special Forces officer who served as a volunteer trainer for Russian volunteers who fought to defend the newly declared Donetsk Peoples Republic (in eastern Ukraine); a volunteer who fought in this capacity and an recent ethnic Russian immigrant from Ukraine. By 2015, when this documentary was made, over one million ethnic Russians had fled Ukraine into Russia.

The Special Forces officer complains bitterly about the government’s refusal to fund either his efforts or those of volunteer troops – although Moscow does supply tanks to Russian combatants in eastern Ukraine. Only about 20-30% of pro-independence fighters in Donbass are Russian volunteers. At least 70% are Donbass natives.

The Donbass refugee speaks quite poignantly about bombing campaigns by the Ukrainian government that deliberately target civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Dagastan

By deliberately circumventing a government checkpoint that bars entry to journalists, Nekrasov pays a visit to Dagastan, a north Caucasus region under episodic attack by Islamic separatists. He interviews a number of Muslim civilians who complain of being brutalized by Russian forces stationed there. In some cases, troops have arbitrarily sacked civilian homes and permanently destroyed power, water and sewer connections. Some women complain of male family members being “disappeared.”

Officially Putin portrays Islam as essential to the fabric of Russian society, while labeling violent extremism as inconsistent with an essentially peaceful religion.

At the same time Islamophobia is rife among the Russian population and media, which the Russian government does little to discourage.

 

Putin and the Current Russian Economy

In Search of Putin’s Russia – Part 2 Arising from the Ruble

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

In the second episode of In Search of Putin’s Russia, Russian journalist filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov examines Russia’s 2014 economic crisis, which he blames on falling oil prices and US and EU sanctions.

Overall he feels the sanctions (and more importantly Russian counter sanctions) have helped strengthen Russia’s domestic food and industrial production. At the same time the sanctions have hurt many ordinary Russians, in part due to really low salaries. For example, the average Russian teacher earns $300 a month.

The drop in the value of the ruble has led to many home foreclosures. Ever since the Soviet collapse, Russian banks only issue mortgages in foreign currencies. Because Russians are paid in rubles, they could no longer keep up with payments when the value of the ruble dropped 40% in 2014.

Access to health care is also a major issue owing to the collapse of the state-run Soviet health care system. This is especially true in rural areas where people are too poor to pay privately for care.

Most health care funding seems to come from charities, which also raise funds to keep children out of orphanages when their parents are too poor to provide for them. Russia’s current economic crisis has placed a growing number of families in this predicament.

 

 

Al Jazeera Investigates Putin: Power Mad Dictator or Popular Hero?

In Search of Putin’s Russia – Part 1 Kremlin Rules

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

This is the first in a 4-part Al Jazeera series narrated by liberal Russian journalist and filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov. It tries to offer a “balanced” examination of the extent to which civil and political liberties are tolerated and/or suppressed under Putin. The filmmakers avoid drawing firm conclusions, leaving viewers to decide whether Putin is a power mad  dictator as the Western media portrays him. The impression I came away with is that 1) Russian oligarchs, rather than Putin himself, control the levers of power and 2) Russian society is steadily moving towards “populist authoritarianism.” In both respects, it’s remarkably similar to the US.

In Part 1 Nekarsov looks at  the anti-Putin opposition parties and the extent to which the Russian government tolerates their activities. Nekarsov interviews a producer at independent self-supporting Dozhd TV, as well as members of small opposition parties the Social Democratic Party and the PARNAS (People’s Freedom) Party.

The Dozhd TV producer maintains the Russian government allows them totally free expression.

Obviously opposition parties have more limited access to state-run media at election time. Although the government regularly grants them permits to protest, they are limited to areas outside of central Moscow. Surprisingly several anti-Putin members of PARNAS support his policies in Ukraine.

Nekarsov also attends a 2015 appeal hearing by prominent Putin opponent Alexei Navalnya. The latter, along with his brother, was convicted for corruption in 2013. Alexei’s sentence was suspended while his brother remains in jail. Nemtzov learns that the Russian government helps pay the legal cost of individuals in political dispute with state authorities.*

The journalist/filmmaker also participates in an anti-Putin protest following the February 2015 assassination of Duma member and prominent Putin opponent Morris Nemtzov. Views of fellow demonstrators vary on the extent of Putin’s responsibility for Nemtzov’s death. Some carry signs accusing Putin of murder. Others believe he has lost control of his government officials and that powerful oligarchs staged the assassination to embarrass him. Still others blame the Russian government and media for deliberately promoting intolerance.

In 2017, five Chechen separatists were convicted of Nemtzov’s murder. Investigation continues into the person or persons who ordered the murder. See  New York Times


*During Putin’s first two terms as president, he introduced or oversaw the implementation of the rights of habeas corpus and trial by jury, increased rights to exculpatory evidence and other important legal reforms. See Rule of Law Under Putin

 

 

MK-Ultra, LSD and the CIA War on Musicians and Activists

Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA War on Musicians and Activists

https://www.drugsasweaponsmovie.com/

Film Review

On January 29, John Potash will release his film Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA War on Musicians and Activists – based on his 2015 book Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists. A virtual encyclopedia of illegal government drug trafficking, the film begins with the involvement of the JP Morgan, Russell and other first families with the British East India Company and the opium wars that forced China to allow their opium trade.

Potash crams a massive amount of detail in his two-hour film, tracing how these and other powerful Wall Street families were instrumental in launching he CIA to protect their financial and political interests and how illegal drug trafficking (initially heroin trafficking from Southeast Asia) was essential to the CIA’s MO from its very inception in 1947.

He goes on to explore how the CIA/FBI assisted 9,000 Nazi war criminals to secretly settle in South America after World War II – where they helped establish paramilitary death squads to assassinate labor and human rights leaders who threatened US-installed dictators. Under the leadership of Klaus Barbie, they would also link up with local cocaine barons in establishing CIA-supported networks to smuggle the to the US.

Potash next details the probable role of the CIA/FBI in a host of suspicious OD’s, suicides and “lone nut” assassinations of activist rock stars and political figures who posed a threat to Wall Street interests. The list (as the book’s title suggests) includes John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Janis Joplin, Jim Hendrix, Tupac Shakur and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, among others.

For me the most fascinating part of the 2015 book concerns the extensive distribution of the hallucinogen LSD via the CIA’s MK-Ultra program in the sixties and seventies. Potash documents how CIA drug agents deliberately sought out targeted civil rights and anti-war activists and activist rock stars (eg John Lennon, George Harrison and Mick Jagger) in the hope of “neutralizing” any threat they might pose to corporate interests.

Although a two-hour film can’t possibly offer the same level of documentation as a 440-page book, the evidence this documentary presents paints a cogent and credible picture of the CIA as an immoral criminal enterprise dedicated to serving the interests of a tiny US financial elite.

About the Filmmaker

John Potash first came across evidence of the CIA role in disseminating LSD to activists and rock musicians in FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in the Media) co-founder Martin Lee’s book Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion (Grove Press 1985). The book details a high level Italian investigation of US intelligence officer Ronald Stark, who oversaw the trafficking of tens-to-hundreds of million of acid hits world wide. This led Potash to Operation Julie (W.H. Allen 1978), a book by high level British detective Dick Lee. Lee also investigated Stark’s operation and its network of intelligence links. Later Potash, a drug and alcohol counselor, would deal with clients who obtained LSD from the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a Stark-linked operation in the US.

Potash is also the author of the FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders (Progressive Left Press 2008) and has made a prior documentary (by the same title) based on the book.

Full interview with John Potash at Drugs as Weapons Against Us – Interview with John Potash

 

Drugs As Weapons Against Us – Interview with John Potash

Full Interview with John Potash About His New Film

1. What was your motivation for writing your 2015 book Drugs as Weapons Against – and for making a film based on the book?

I had a number of motivations for writing the book, Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists. For one, I wanted to break the media censorship regarding the hidden history of some great activists, along with some great musicians who aspired to do more activist work. That is one of the reasons for the long subtitles. It helps get the word out on these issues.

Personally, I grew up with socialist grandparents and somewhat activist parents as my father organized fellow doctors against the Vietnam War and mother ran NOW lectures.  got into anti-war and anti-racism activism, and found out about U.S. intelligence operations, such as the CIA’s Project MK-Ultra that used LSD to undermine anti-racist and anti-war activists. I further read about the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, which targeted leftist activists in general, but was particularly murderous against black activists such as The Black Panthers.

I eventually found much evidence of how the CIA and MK-Ultra worked with the FBI in such targeting, and used many drugs, particularly LSD, heroin, and cocaine against anti-war and anti-racism activists. Later evidence supported the use of other drugs in this way, particularly MDMA/Ecstasy. My book got the information to a certain percentage of people with a certain amount of trust. My film will hopefully get it to more people, and depicts the actual sources of the information, such as CIA whistleblowers, saying some of the things I quote in the book.

I eventually found much evidence of how the CIA and MK-Ultra worked with the FBI in such targeting, and used many drugs, particularly LSD, heroin, and cocaine against anti-war and anti-racism activists. Later evidence supported the use of other drugs in this way, particularly MDMA/Ecstasy. My book got the information to a certain percentage of people with a certain amount of trust. My film will hopefully get it to more people, and depicts the actual sources of the information, such as CIA whistleblowers, saying some of the things I quote in the book.

2. For me the most eye opening aspect of both the book and the film was learning the CIA had deliberately disseminated massive amounts of LSD to anti-war protestors and activist pop stars in a deliberate effort to undermine their political and creative effectiveness. How did you come across this information?

After college, I got back into activism and saw Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) co-founder Martin Lee speak. I later got his book, Acid Dreams, loosely subtitled, The CIA, LSD and the Sixties. It documented the CIA dissemination of acid.

That book got some decent publicity and attention, even from some mainstream newspapers such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Village Voice. It included the details of an Italian judge ruling over a case of a U.S. intelligence agent, Ronald Stark, heading the trafficking of tens-to-hundreds of millions of hits of acid worldwide. 

Amongst other sources, I found a book by high level British police detective Dick Lee, who was the lead investigator of Operation Julie, and the author of a book by the same name. Lee detailed how his team’s investigation uncovered Stark’s operation and its network of intelligence connections, before higher authorities tried to cover it all up again.

I also confirmed aspects of U.S. intelligence’s continuance of their operations. For example, about four years ago I surprised an acid dealer I counseled by asking him if he was getting his acid from The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. He fearfully confirmed that The Brotherhood, a Stark-aided and U.S. intelligence-linked operation, was his supplier in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I further found whistleblowers confirming the continuance of intelligence operations under different names.

3. How did you finance your film?

I never left my day job and still do counseling for a living, with a particular expertise in addictions and trauma work. My first book continues to sell well. I poured the profits from that book, my first film, and my second book, into this film. Still, none of my projects could ever come close to paying my bills with the mainstream media censorship in the U.S. I see these more as activist projects.

4. How do you plan to distribute it and what’s the best way for people to see it?

My first film was lower budget and more low-key. I mostly sell that on my website and through Amazon. For my second film, I thought I’d try to get a distributor. I didn’t know how it all worked and so I took one of my first offers for distribution, Gravitas Ventures. I signed a North American distribution deal with them and they are officially releasing it on 1/29/19. I’m still looking for a distributor of the film for the UK, Europe, Australia and your New Zealand area.

In America and Canada, the best ways to see the film are renting it on Itunes, Vimeo, Vudu, Google Play/Youtube, and Microsoft Xbox. It’s also available for purchase on Amazon, and at Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.

I highly recommend people buy the film because the purchased film will have an extra 16 minutes of deleted scenes. These scenes include eyewitness evidence of Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones’s murder, just after he was gaining agreements from his friends Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon to form a super-group in 1969. It further includes the apparent CIA hypnotist in charge of aiding RFK’s assassination talking about everything he could get people to do through drugs and hypnosis. It finally includes more on Occupy Wall Street and Bob Marley.

https://www.drugsasweaponsmovie.com/

Industrial Agriculture: The Truth About Where Your Meat Comes From

Land of Hope and Glory UK Earthlings Documentary

Surge (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the brutal conditions under which factory farmed animals are raised in the UK, Australia and the US. This type of footage is extremely rare because Food Inc makes every effort to conceal the disgusting conditions under which our meat is produced.

Factory farmed pigs and chickens seem to fare the worst. Even though pigs are as intelligent and emotionally complex as dogs, they are raised in extremely confining cages and forced to lie in their own feces, as well as being routinely tortured and beaten by their keepers. Pigs, like most other factory farmed animals, are fed massive doses of antibiotics (contributing to antibody resistance and the rise of “superbugs”) while continual exposure to feces makes factory farmed meat a major source of food borne illness.

Chickens and more than 90% of ducks and turkeys are also crowded into pens. In chickens raised for meat, 45% suffer painful fractures because their specially bred bodies are too heavy for their skeleton.

What seems most consistent among all factory farmed animals (besides their continual exposure to feces) are the inhumane conditions under which they are killed. Although most jurisdictions require them to be asphyxiated or electrically stunned prior to slaughter, abattoir personnel are rushed and poorly trained. As the film clearly shows, many animals are still alive when they’re butchered.