Friday, December 29, 2017

CTU Resolution to Rename Columbus Day

CTU Passes Resolution to Rename Columbus Day
By Jim Vail

It's time we stop celebrating this war criminal!

The Chicago Teacher's Union passed a resolution at the December House of Delegates meeting entitled "Demand the Abolition of Christopher Columbus and Rename it Indigenous People's Day."

The resolution was introduced by Jim Vail, yours truly, that was submitted after my students had petitioned the school board, the Chicago Board of Education and the Little Village alderman about the need to stop celebrating a war criminal who enslaved and killed many Indian people when he arrived to America 500 years ago.

The delegates did not want to eliminate the official holiday which is a state holiday and gives teachers a day off. When I suggested that CPS should no longer have a day off for Columbus day like other suburban districts and replace it with another holiday or move it to the end of the year, a smattering of noo's went up. 

This resolution is just to rename the holiday and not eliminate the day off. 

Currently the state law according to the American Indian Center (AIC) is to celebrate both Columbus and American Indigenous People. However, AIC said they would like to abolish this new state law and rename it only Indigenous People's Day. However, that is a political fight, with the Italian groups wielding some political power (the Balbo statute in Grant Park is a gift of fascist Italian leader) and Columbus name connected to Chicago's history - a star on the city flag represents the World Columbus Fair 1893 and there is the Columbus Day Parade - where politicians march like puppets.

A small but vocal group of about seven or eight in the delegates meeting said no to the resolution. The rest overwhelmingly said yes.

The Resolution states in the Resolves:

Be it resolved, that the Columbus Day holiday be renamed the Indigenous People's Day the second Monday of October, and:

Be it resolved, that this shall be a day of solidarity and education among the Indigenous communities and people of Chicago, and:

Be it resolved, that the CTU shall promote this resolution in the schools and help encourage schools to develop a curriculum that focuses on the true history of our indigenous population, and;

Be it further resolved, that the CTU work with the American Culture Center to promote the cultural contributions the native people have made and continue to make in our society. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Support Labor Beat

Support Labor Beat, The Labor Television Series
Labor Beat co-producer/videographer Andrew Friend at Labor Day rally.

Labor Beat is the twice-monthly labor tv news series on cable-tv and the Internet. We are a small group of independent rank-and-file  volunteer videographers and editors. We continue looking, but we suspect we are unique in the U.S. for what we do. We are well known by Chicago-area unions and activists, having covered their stories on cable-tv since 1987. We need everybody's help now to keep us going in 2018, and to reach our operating expenses target of $6,000.
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Bus Drivers Get Assaulted, Then Fired; Poverty Wages No Joke At Second City Comedy Club; Graduate Students United Victory At University Of Chicago; CTA Rail Workers Signal Trouble Ahead; Save Puerto Rico, Free Puerto Rico; Betsy DeVos, Hiding From A Letter; Down With Chicago’s Fascist Monument; CTA, Take This Job And Stuff It;
 Auto Mechanics 701 City Wide Strike; UAW 551 To Host National Workers Conference; ATU 308 Preliminary Strike Vote; Union Of Noble Educators Public Meeting; Noble – No Neutrality Agreement; Winning Contracts – Chicago’s Unionized Charter Schools; Barrio Homecoming For Oscar Lopez Rivera; Teachers OK Strike At Passages Charter; March For Science Chicago; Let Sarah Teach; Resist Reimagine Rebuild Teach-In; Remembering Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam Speech; They Fired Me And ‘Made’ Me Into An Organizer; Transgender Lives Matter; International Women’s Day – CTA Workers Want A Contract; ASPIRA Charter Teachers Approve A Strike; Protesting Lewandowski At University Of Chicago; Bring Ms. Chambers Back To 8th Grade!; Women’s March In Chicago; CTA Workers Contract Rally MLK Day 2017; Joint Action In Tokyo And Seoul; We Move Chicago – Transit Workers Activate; Hands Off Roseland Clinic; O’Hare Airport Workers One Day Strike; Pushing Back CPS’s Attack On Special Education; Chicago Stands With Standing Rock.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

HOD Meeting

Chicago Teacher Delegates Vote in Charter Teachers
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teacher Union delegates voted unanimously last week to include the charter teachers in the CTU.

The CTU leadership had geared up for a fight after several delegates complained at the previous HOD meeting that it was wrong to include charter schools that are devastating the public schools into the union.

Just about every delegate came to the mike at the HOD meeting last Wed. Dec. 13 to say we need to join forces with the charter teachers.

Perhaps the statement that summarized it all came from one Greek delegate with a family of teacher delegates when she said that she supported the constitutional changes to include the charter teachers because she "trusts" the leadership, not because she understands entirely how this whole thing will work out.

"This will help to  to halt and maybe even stop the growth of charter schools in the city," CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson told the delegates.

I personally had questions about such a drastic move why charter teachers had to be included into the CTU. First, the charter teachers have their own union, charter schools are separate from public schools and are in fact the enemy of public schools and confusion over different contracts and how to strike. It wasn't clear how teaming up will make the union stronger.

On the other hand - the CTU fight against charter schools has been admirably. The previous union leadership under the UPC before CORE got elected in 2010 said charter schools are our friends and legislators told me why is the union now fighting charter schools. They modeled themselves on the reformist sell-outs at the top - the American Federation of Teachers under whom the CTU is a part of.

The CTU and Core has fought charter expansion and got a five-year school closing moratorium in the last contract that just ended now (and CPS jumped on the gun by quickly closing the last four public high schools in Englewood to clear out the low-income black students and put in a selective enrollment school for the bustling South Loop residents).

It sounds reasonable to trust the CTU in this case and join forces to help further unionize charter school teachers so they have better working conditions and compensation, thus eliminating the incentive to increase charter schools.

However, the fight is far from over. While this year only one charter school was approved, like Uber devastating the taxi industry, they do not have plans to stop or go away. The latest charter Distinctive Schools located in Hirsch High School continues the corruption associated with them with its ties to discredited once for-profit and now disgraced Edison Schools and SUPES Academy which brought down former CPS CEO Barbara Byrde Bennett who is now sitting in prison.

CTU President Karen Lewis was not in attendance because she is recovering from a stroke.

The Robeson High School delegate said they plan to fight their school's closure and hopes other teachers can join them. There will be a rally to save the National Teachers Academy in the South Loop on Martin Luther King holiday.

The CTU said to beware of schools hiring non-union vendors to replace unionized staff. One school eliminated its music teacher and offered karate classes taught by non-teacher. This is happening in many schools in the city thanks to the per-pupil budgeting the city implemented to punish schools for employing higher paid veteran teachers.

The CTU said the rabid pro-privatization newspaper Chicago Tribune published a hit-list for school closings that had 17 schools on the list that needed to be closed, including Kelvyn Park on the North side.

"We want to strengthen our forces, that's how you stop privatization," CTU VP Jesse Sharkey said at the HOD meeting.

The vote for the teachers on the constitutional changes and include the charter teachers in the CTU will be January 25.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Russian Chess & Education

In a recent speech the Russian Minister of Education enthusiastically supports chess

By Stephen Wilson

"I can beat everyone of your members in less than six moves," boasted a stranger who dropped into a chess club founded by Jim Vail in Englewood where the Chicago Public Schools want to close every public high school. The tall, dark stranger then calmly and collectively beat all his opponents. Jim was stunned. He had never seen anything quite like this. So Jim asked : " Where did you learn to play chess so well ? "I learnt in prison " answered the player. But if a roll of the dice of fate allowed him to be born and bred in Russia, he might have learnt it as a mandatory subject in some Russian schools. For as
any long term visitor to Russia may have noticed - Chess remains a popular game
in Russia. There are even some local parks in Moscow where I observed people
playing in the open air on specially reserved tables. Only a few weeks ago I
recall seeing the 6-year-old son of the artist Natalie Miroshnik on the way to
private lessons at a kindergarten. The child was learning to play chess from a
special teacher.

An advertisement in the local kindergarten, The Family Club which young Alex attends,
has a poster on the wall outlining the merits of chess as: developing a child's logical
and analytical abilities, their ability to concentrate and acutely observe things
better. According to the 15 year World champion Andrei Yesipenko : "Chess instructs
you how to concentrate and that is probably why I do well in school."

The Minister of Education Olga Vasilyva agrees. In a recent speech she even went
so far as to suggest it would not be a bad idea if it was made a compulsory subject
for many younger primary school students. She warmly declared: " I think that one
hour of chess a week must be made mandatory for all students from the first to the
fourth year. Furthermore, children can play in special clubs which the majority of
schools already provide. I recently visited a rural school in the Chuvashskoi
Republic which was full of chess players : children played chess during the break
and after lessons. 

"Chess consists of using analytical thought which develops your intellect with a
minimum amount of time. We have very strong ties with the Chess Federation which
has already developed a methodology which we can use in schools".

Perhaps the minister believes it could be a transferable skill which could assist
students in getting to grips with maths as well as learning to read and grasp
the logic of compositions in Russian. The minister laments that not only modern
Russian school students read less but communicate badly in Russia and are
often inarticulate. She suggests that Russian teachers put more stress in orally
reading out a text loudly as well as making sense of it.

Perhaps what is alluring and attractive about chess is its beautiful simplicity.
A chess set is relatively inexpensive, takes up little space and is easy to
teach. A Russian university student went into a children's home and taught
all the children how to play chess. It was more useful than simply showering
the children with presents.

But we should not overlook one more merit of chess. In this age of anxiety it can
help teachers cut stress. All too often teachers can not switch off. Chess would
allow them to stop worrying for at least a few hours. This is no small achievement.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Englewood School Closings

Chicago Public Schools: A New Round of School Closings

By Ed Hershey

Thursday, November 30th, Chicago Public Schools announced its intention to close all four neighborhood high schools in the Englewood Neighborhood: Harper, TEAM Englewood, Hope, and Robeson. Englewood is a poor, black, working class neighborhood on the city’s South Side.

As a “sweetener” on the deal, the Board promises to spend $85 million to build a new high school on Robeson’s grounds. But they do not plan to make it a neighborhood school – it will be a selective enrollment magnet, which will take only 35% of its students from the neighborhood. Moreover, the new school will only enroll 9th graders when it opens, while the current schools will close next year. That means the current students will be left out in the cold: they are being told to enroll at neighborhood schools that are two or more miles away. Many of these students attend their neighborhood school now because they have difficulty getting to a school further away. For these students, CPS’s “plan” amounts to denying them any education at all. The students themselves note, with bitterness, that the district is happy to spend $85 million to build a new building, but won’t put that money into the current schools. 

The school board says these schools are underenrolled – that is true. Each of these buildings now enrolls 200 or fewer students. And it is also true that population in the neighborhood is dropping. But the Board is responsible! From 2006 to 2018, the total number of high school students in the neighborhood dropped from 3800 to about 3000. But over those same years, 2,500 students from Englewood started attending the seven new charter schools that opened in the neighborhood. Instead of investing in schools that needed the support, CPS opened privately run charter schools to take money and students out of the neighborhood high schools, which were left with the students the charters refused to take.

Harper High school has been repeatedly attacked: it was “reconstituted” in 1999, then “turned-around” in 2008, where all the teaching and support staff were fired. Student enrollment dropped 25% the next year – no surprise there, many students did not feel comfortable around the unfamiliar new adults. Englewood High School was closed in 2007, then re-opened as a new “small” school.   

Hope College Prep and TEAM Englewood’s buildings are “co-locations”, that is, the buildings also house a charter school. Those privately run charters will now be able to take over the whole building. The school board is also proposing to allow a new charter school to “co-locate” inside Hirsch High School – a move that will clearly lead in to that public school being shut down as well. 

This plan shows CPS – and the Chicago ruling class’s priorities on education. They continue to attack and steal from the students who have the least and need the most. The plan will drive more families from the neighborhood.  Harper students staged a sit-in the day after CPS’s announcement. Students and others from the school communities spoke out at the Board meeting the following week.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Head, Don't be Fooled

CPS Announces Yet Another New Chief 
By Jim Vail

Yet another CPS chief goes down in flames, this one Forrest Claypool who lied and was embarrassed enough by the inspector general to resign from office.

Now we have Janice Jackson, a former teacher and principal who served as the education director at CPS.

Whoever heads the public schools doesn't mean a hill of beans. What matters is who runs the show from the top - the business titans who are hell bent on destroying the public schools and driving the poor - whatever color they may be - out of the city to make room for the wealthy class.

The mainstream media backs the decisions of the ruling class.

Just look at our so-called liberal media radio outlet NPR - WBEZ. They quoted Educators in Excellence in their article on Claypool's resignation, saying they are happy with the appointment of Jackson.

How is Educators in Excellence a representative of teachers? They're not - in fact they're merely a front group set up by the same money that brought us Stand for Children, set up to whack the Teachers Union and destroy our pensions and benefits.

WTTW-Channel 11 - another so-called liberal media outlet on TV can be equally nasty. They are reporting that the CTU's decision to merge charter school teachers into the Chicago Teachers Union means the CTU is no longer anti-charter school. We now love the very entity set out to destroy us.

Perhaps the film to watch this holiday season and put the perspective in the right place is Darkest Hour about British Prime Minister Churchill, who's passion and leadership helped lead the fight to stop Hitler and not surrender. It is possible to win, but you need to first fight.

Churchill did not make deals with the enemy - which the unions and all political reps do every day to sell out the people, just like some British politicians were willing to do with Hitler.

What Churchill said almost 70 years ago should be rallying call for defenders of the people here:

"If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground."

That's the choice we have to save public education. Make deals and soon we'll be giving the Nazi salute because we 'voted' them in.

Friday, December 1, 2017

By Stephen Wilson

Second City Teacher interviewed a Greek history teacher Photini Danon,
who has recently visited Moscow for the first time. I asked her about her
first impressions, on why she had yearned to visit Moscow , the dire plight
of both the Greeks and refugees as well as belief in God. What emerged
was a sharply vivid impression that the Greeks , like the Turks and Italians,
were taking the brunt of the refugee crisis just at the worst of times when
she herself has been afflicted by a deepening crisis.

This turned out to be a difficult interview to carry out. I got completely
lost and by some bizarre logic ended up boarding the wrong bus which
went in the wrong direction. The bus took me back to the destination I
had set out from. I had gone round in circles. After asking about 12
friendly and helpful locals , I found the address.
Second City Teacher
Have you been to Moscow before ?
No, this is my first time . I have always wanted to visit Russia because I 'm interested in
the revolution and wanted to see how the people in an ex-communist country were
getting on. I like the people. They are very friendly, kind and hospitable.
Second City Teacher
Will you come again ?
Yes, why not ? I did not have enough time to find out many things I wanted to know.
Anna a Russian English teacher interrupts
We will be waiting for you.
Second City Teacher
What is your main impression of Moscow ?
I'm impressed by how huge Moscow is . I never imagined it would be that big ! I was
also struck by how people think differently about politics than the Greeks. The Russians
try not to think and deal with many political issues. They are not interested in politics
and are not used to talking about it. My own people are very concerned about the
politics of Greece and will protest and go on demonstrations because Greece has
experienced such a deep crisis which has affected everyone. We have a different
perception of what communism entails . I met many people in Russia who told me
they were victims of communism and their families had been persecuted and
repressed by the communists . In Greece, it was the opposite . After losing the
civil war the communists were being persecuted. They were imprisoned , tortured and
shot. Many were forced to flee Greece to go to communist countries. For example,
during the civil war one of my grandfathers was imprisoned, tortured and then
executed. Another grandfather escaped from prison and was hidden by his fellow

So we can't say communism is the same for everyone.
Second City Teacher
How do present day Greeks deal with the tragedy of the Greek Civil war of 1946 -1949?
I heard that even before the Second world war ended that on December 3rd 1944 , the
British army which occupied Athens fired and killed 28 unarmed civilians who were
mostly young boys and girls peacefully demonstrating. They also released and used
Fascist collaborators to crush a Greek uprising that they themselves had provoked !
{editor's note. an estimated 100,000 Greeks were killed, 40,000 placed in concentration
camps, 5000 executed and 100,000 forced to flee the country. }
We call this period of history the White terror or in Greek 'Dekemuriana'. In this war many
Greeks were killed by ex-Nazis and collaborators supported by the British . Some people
say forget this as it will open up old wounds. The political party 'New Democracy' says:
'Let us not talk about this traumatic period. Don't do such research ? Leave it alone !
Don't bring up those issues. They don't want to talk about this.
Second City Teacher
What is your view on the current political situation in Greece ?
I will never vote for Syriza again. I have lost hope and don't see much in the future . For
the past 5 years it has been very difficult for Greece and I went on many demonstrations
because I had to express my desperation . The taxation system in Greece is unfair and
poor people are forced to pay for the bankers. Taxation does not benefit ordinary Greeks
but the banks. Both Greeks and Russians have problems with violent capitalism as the
rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In western European though Marxism has been
a liberating and progressive power which made capitalism more humane. The fear
of the Russian revolution spreading to Europe forced Western governments to introduce
reforms such as better medical care and education to help the poor .{Britain gave
women the vote shortly after the revolution and the welfare state was introduced in 1945}
In Russia, things did not work that way. In Russia they established social care without
personal freedom and freedom of speech. If I were Russian, I would try and keep the
good things about the revolution but attempt to find freedom of speech and human rights.
They should not repress gay people !
Second City Teacher
What do you think about the great refugee problem which has engulfed Europe?
Many Greeks have become hardened and cold to the suffering they see around
them. I mean they have seen dead babies washed up on the shore and refugees
are all around them. We are a country which is very poor and are now forced to
take up this. The European Union has not expressed solidarity in helping refugees
but when it comes to a common currency it is a different question.

I have already given away half my clothes and a lot of food to refugees and so
have many people, but it is not enough to help them because there are so many
refugees arriving every day. This has led to the growth of the Far right who don't
want to hep refugees . As far as they are concerned the refugees could drown
for all they care. I help a poor woman refugee from Afghanistan. I don't give her
money but food because I feel some men might be taking advantage of her. She
told me if she returns to Afghanistan the Taliban will kill her. And Pakistan does
not recognize refugees from Afghanistan and deports them back.
Second City Teacher
And how is the teaching ?
At the moment I'm teaching mainly history to school children. I still give lectures
at the university because they don't have many specialists in Elizabethan history
in England. I prefer to teach at university but have no choice but to teach all
kinds of history.
Second City Teacher
Do you believe in God?
Well, it is difficult to believe in a God which does not intervene to stop such
suffering we see around us when babies drown in the sea. Let us say that
I'm an agnostic rather than an atheist. If the Orthodox church opens
soup kitchens to help refugees it should not be for show but from the heart.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Russian Revolution

By Stephen Wilson

The 100th centenary of the Russian revolution has
neither been officially commemorated ,condoned
or condemned. Instead of red banned parades,
the emphasis has been put on the 76th
anniversary of the 1941 military parade on Red
square where Stalin gave a stirring speech to
soldiers sent off to the front to help win the Battle
of Moscow. Reenactment parades involving as
many as 5000 military men and women were
performed. In deed, a few billboards promoted
the event depicting a young child giving flowers to
an old war veteran. Being comparatively
uncontroversial , the events of the Great Patriotic
War have overshadowed and displaced the
events of the Russian revolution. Other more
widespread billboards show a letter of the last
tsar expressing his love to his wife. The letter is
attempt to defend the tsar's reputation against a
bizarre dispute surrounding the recent film
Matilda which dramatizes the tsar's affair with
a ballet dancer.
Memories of the Russian revolution still polarise
and divide Russia. What might astonish outsiders
is how much support the revolution still retains
despite overwhelming evidence from the archives
and endless eyewitness accounts of mass
atrocities. The proponents of the revolution claim
without the revolution Russia would not have
emerged as a great Industrial society, would
never have established a free medical and
educational system and attained massive
literacy. The Russian revolution put the first
man into space. Lenin was a great sponsor of
Russian rocket science.
However, many Russians I spoke to thought that
the Russian revolution was a disaster. An
estimated half a million were killed in 3 years
following the initial period of the Red terror and
9 million died in the civil war from a combination
of typhus , starvation, and drought. It is not
surprising that when a Dutch teacher on an
exchange visit to a Russian school stated
he wanted to discuss the revolution most Russian
teachers did not want to speak about those
events. They regarded it as a huge disaster !
It is worth citing a 2016 survey from the All
Russian study of Adult Opinions. When
respondents were asked : 'Do you agree that
the Russian revolution expressed the will of
people throughout the Russian empire : 45%
agreed , 43 % disagreed and 12% stated it
was difficult to say. This may indicate sharp
differences in the opinions of Russians.When
respondents were asked : "What were the main
causes which led to the Russian revolution ?"
45 % stated difficult conditions of the people,
20% a weak government and 12 % a conspiracy.
It is striking to note that a lot of Russians still
blame the west for causing the Russian revolution
and not themselves. A common belief is that the
Germans sponsored and aided Lenin's seizure of
It is often forgotten that even the Bolsheviks
themselves never referred to the events of
the takeover as a revolution but an uprising or
perevorot. I asked Alexei Aleshin , a chief editor
what he thought of this uprising. He stated :
'It was unavoidable. This is because the
monarchy had lost any power base within and
had no mechanism for exercising control. The
Bolsheviks took control because they were very
crafty and outwitted everyone else. But they were
also the most ruthless and in those times using
the strong rod proved the most effective. Many
Russians don't know much about those events
because they were brainwashed by state
propaganda. I would say that Russians who fled
abroad from the revolution are more aware of
what happened than local people. We are still
arguing about what actually happened ".
I asked an artist Natalia Miroshnik what she
thought about the revolution .She succinctly
declared : 'It was terrible ! I blame the
intelligentsia. They have all those impractical
ideas and to put them into practice. I think
that before the revolution things were better
because even though you had a hierarchy people
had more chance of earning a living or not being
starved. I painted the portrait of an old blind man
who told me that he was much better off before
the revolution. Everybody in his home town
were treated kindly by the baron . When the
baron was made homeless by the revolution
all the local people would secretly help him.
Lenin made a revolution because he could not
forgive the tsar for executing his older brother.
He wanted revenge !
It would be a grave mistake if people tried to
bury Lenin. It would provoke a civil war. I think
we should let sleeping dogs lie".
One of the legacies of the uprising is that events
have left most Russians with a distaste for
revolutions or in deed profound changes. A
survey found that 92% of Russians don't see
the need for a revolution while only 5% would
welcome one.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Russian Repression

By Stephen Wilson
Russians would rather forget the revolution
The weather was dismal. Relentlessly and remorse
-lessly raining for 3 days without end. No reprieve
was in sight and I noticed more students coughing
and teachers taking sick leave requiring me to act
as a substitute. "When will this rotten rain cease?"'
I asked myself. Halloween was imminent and the
engulfing and encircling impenetrable darkness
rendering everything vague seemed fitting . I was
asked about Halloween but my mind was more
focused on commemorating ; 'The Day of the
Victims of Repression ' held every 30th October.
On this very day I found myself rushing off
to another student through the old First World
War Memorial park within the vicinity of a church
next to the metro station of Sokol.
As I cut through the park I noticed a candle-lit
ceremony where Russians were all queuing up
to take turns in reading out the details of victims
of the repression. Each person would read out the
name, profession , age and last residence of the
victim and then say a prayer for them. It reminded
me of an Orthodox Litany for the Dead. Then it
dawned on me it actually was. I noticed one young
woman read out the details of her great
grandfather. She also read out : "Mutinv Vladimir
Ivanovich , aged 42 , Director of State Bolshoi
Theatre , shot on the 26th November 1937."

This ceremony, held in pitch darkness, sounded
more chilling than any ghosts or phantoms from
Halloween. I recall a Russian joking to me :
"Ghosts would be too scared to haunt Russia ! "
My curiosity caught the attention of a kindly
woman called Margarita who explained what was
going on. " We are hear to remember the victims
of the repression so that it does not happen again
and to teach people about how terrible this was."
I asked her : " Aren't you afraid that this can
happen again? " Margarita retorted : " No we are
not afraid of anyone and we will continue to try
and make people aware of this tragedy. A lot of
Russians are unaware of their own history so our
job is to teach and remind them". She handed me
a badge from her Orthodox Brotherhood and
insisted that I too , should join in the ceremony by
reading out the names of the victims of the
ceremony. While waiting in the queue I
encountered a young woman who informed me
her husband's great grandfather had been a victim
of the repression and : "He had great difficulty
getting access to the archives which explained his
fate." The group were handing out leaflets stating:
'Millions of our innocent citizens perished in the
years of Soviet terror. This tragedy touched every
family. We ask you to light a candle in memory of
the victims of the repressed '.

According to some sources , as many as 700,000
victims were shot over the two years 1936 -1937.
However, the years of repression can't be confined
to those years and began in 1918 . According to
one historian Lucia Lyagushkina as many as
250,000 people were arrested on charges of
espionage. The absurdity of those allegations
comes across when you examine the archives
claiming this cleaner or teacher was a Japanese
spy or a Russian English teacher was working for
the British. Lucy claims that as many as 12
million people were victims of the repression.

Although a new memorial was opened in Moscow
where President Putin made a speech condemning
the repression, the recently poisoned atmosphere
suggests a return to some form of increased
repression is no longer a remote or distant
perspective. For instance, why is Memorial been
labelled : 'A Foreign Agent '? Why have directors
of the theater been put under house arrest ? Why
are opposition leaders constantly demonized and
attacked by thugs ? Why is a historian still in prison
on trumped up charges ? If the state really felt
sorrow for the victims of repression they would
release Yuri Dmitriev who has done so much to
recover and give a proper burial to the victims of
repression. Yet he still languishes in prison a year
after his arrest ! There has been almost silence
in Russia over his case.

An indication of the rising paranoiac atmosphere
in Moscow was indicated by a neighbor who
accused me of "Being an American agent" just

for speaking over the phone in English.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Russia Expelling Protesting Students

By Stephen Wilson 

MOSCOW --  "The Headmaster asked me to voluntary leave the school. For me this was incomprehensible as I my academic performance was okay so I wondered why I was being kicked out. ... During the last term I got a two for Algebra but earlier my knowledge was sufficient to a take part in the Maths Olympiad competitions.For the whole year
I received a two. My transfer to another school had to be carried out by the 30-31st of August but I had no time to complete the documents, " declared 11th year school student Mikhail Samin , a former student of school number 1329. 

The student had attended a massive protest against corruption held on 26th March . The student, who was carrying a placard with the words : 'Dimon, we are waiting for an answer' , was arrested and charged with attending an 'unsanctioned rally. ' It turns out that the headmaster of his school was an active member of the establishment party 'United Russia '. He did not take kindly to Mikhail's political views . 

However, Mikhail Samin is not alone. There exist numerous examples of how school students who attended demonstrations have been unfairly penalized with low marks, expulsions and in some cases threatened with being sent into the army. The Russian government were taken aback by the huge number of school children who had been attending opposition demonstrations. Instead of asking the logic question ; 'Why do so many young people feel increasingly alienated ? ' they resorted to the old question : 'Who is to blame ? ' as if the very act of disagreeing with the government represents a crime and that children don't have a right to an opinion. Some ministers even went so far as to propose fining parents of the children.

The young people who attend those marches are treated in a condescending and patronizing way by officials who sneer at them not having minds of their own and being misled by the Piped piper Navalny. This is despite the fact that many of the children are critical of Navalny and don't always support him.

In another case , a student of Oil stone machine construction college Almaza Imamov was threatened with expulsion for going to a meeting on the 26th March . For 6 months after going on this demonstration the authorities met him 4 times to persuade him to give up his political opinions. This only incensed him and he stated : " We live in a country where the existing power don't allow us to express our views.In the past people were shot for this'.

He was told by the college authorities : " If you participate in such demonstrations it means you are against us. We don't need such students. "

A student of Kalingrad Baltic Federal University Kant , Oleg Alekseev , has already been expelled for attending a rally on the Day of Russia. He was informed that he had been expelled from the University for 'contempt of the Law and court'. Kant , the German philosopher whom the university is named after , would be turning in his grave. After all , Kant did appeal to students to : 'Dare to use your own reason'.

It is not difficult to see why many young students are going to protest rallies. One of the obvious reasons is that they want to see their own government observing rather than cynically violating the constitution. School students actually have to learn by heart some of the articles in the Russian constitution through a school subject called 'Social Knowledge'. Now some students might actually take this subject literally . After all the constitution states everyone has the right to freedom of expression and the right to attend protest demonstrations.

One school student who had been attending some Moscow demonstrations called Peter told me "I have been attending those protests because I'm sick of a situation where the government continues to steal, steal and steal . I intend to go into politics to change this situation" . A fellow student sitting next to him agrees with him but did not feel any urge to go on a rally.

What worries the government is that so many young people not only protest but their high competence in using new information technology can make them effective at quickly organizing such protests . The older generation of officials don't have such a grasp of technology. Another problem is that those people who are protesting don't just confine themselves to the issue of corruption but are fighting for the rights of workers, for a freer education system as well as more just legal system. Those people can't' be taken for granted.