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Kasparov on Putin at Oxford Literary Festival, April 2nd 2016

By Julia Gasper

Read full article at OxfordProspect.com

Chess fans were thrilled to get a chance to hear former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov speak at the Sheldonian as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. And he chose the most controversial possible topic: “Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped”.

Since retiring as a chess player, Kasparov has been very active in politics, and was a vocal leader of the Russian pro-democracy movement in 2008. He has written a book Winter is Coming, detailing how in his view Putin has put the clock back in Russia, dismantling the democratic structures set up in the wake of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. He asserts that Putin’s aim is nothing less than to return to old-style Stalinist dictatorship. If so, it was certainly a clumsy move of Yeltsin to choose Putin as his successor and make him PM in 1999. Kasparov is very critical of Tony Blair for “pandering” to Putin and paving his way as recognized successor.

To judge Kasparov’s warning properly, it is necessary to read his book in full. Without a doubt, he has a lot of evidence for Putin’s ruthless style of exercising power inside Russia and he has been disappointed by the outcome of “perestroika” and “glasnost”. Opposition to Putin’s rule can only be expressed by those who, like Kasparov, are too prominent to be bundled out of the way. It seems he wants a system rather like that of China, where private business is tolerated under state dictatorship, with no bothersome democracy. We buy almost everything from China these days, and our leaders do not treat it as a “threat to the free world”. As for Putin’s explanation of the invasion of Ukraine as being to defend Russian citizens there, Kasparov dismissed it with a wave of the hand.

On the whole Kasparov offered a fairly simplistic view of the political scene as divided into the “free world” of the capitalist West, and its enemies: a bit like a big chess board, with two opposite sides. He also made some very contentious assertions, such as saying that the Russian army went into Syria to bomb American installations, rather than to stop a barbaric terrorist takeover. He went on to claim that ISIS may be a creation of Russia and the Assad regime, because they need an enemy to justify dictatorship. On that point, Kasparov ought to have a public debate with all the Americans who are convinced that President Obama created ISIS and may still be supporting it. It would be a lively discussion!  It would also be interesting to hear him debate with some of the Russians I meet here in England and Europe who admire Putin and think he is doing a good job.

I have bought Mr Kasparov’s book and will be studying it with close interest. I think he is a brave man with convictions about human rights and freedom, and this was a very stimulating event.

Julia Gasper. 3rd April 2016.

Garry Kasparov. Winter is Coming; Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.(Public Affairs Group, subsidiary of Perseus Books, USA, 2015).

#Iran #Dictatorship #MiddleEast

Understanding history is a key to avoid repeating past mistakes, but this should not be confused with trying to pass on the blame for a current crisis for the sake of political expediency. The most obvious example today is the expanding chaos of Iraq and Syria and the international terror spawned by ISIS and others based in the region. Shouting over and over that “W Bush started it in 2003!” is entirely irrelevant to solving the existing crisis. (And I criticized W Bush quite a bit when he was president, it’s on the record.) You can’t put the pieces back where they were before 2003. There are lessons to be learned from it, yes, but those lessons are not how to deal with the regional civil wars, floods of refugees and global terrorist movement of 2016. Obama is the president now, not W Bush. Obama has 300 more days in office. If we look back, let’s look for useful lessons to apply today, not for blame game or a time machine.

Another historical item that has stirred interest in the comments and conversations below goes much further back. If you want to distract us from the brutal Iranian dictatorship and its sponsorship of terrorism, doing so by bringing up US intervention in 1953 is an unlikely method! I’m not defending that UK-US coup, but if you want to bring up US interference in Iran in that way, why not go back to 1946 when Harry Truman stood up for Iran vs Josef Stalin, who was trying to use post-WWII Soviet troops and Azerbaijani proxies to take Iranian oil fields. Had Truman not risked war with the USSR to protect Iran (a war that Stalin didn’t want, but Truman had no way to know that), Iran would have eventually received the typical Stalinist “cleansing” experience.

Lastly, comments from Iranians, mostly those abroad, of course, that they support Iranian “moderates” and “reformers” are giving me memories of the USSR. There was always talk about this faction in the Party or that group in the Politburo, liberals or reformers or whatever, but they all served the same system. All dictatorships work similarly, and don’t believe that change will be anything but superficial distraction until the regime starts to collapse. As long as the same person or people are really in charge, shuffling the names and faces on the ballots and in the news is all for show. Don’t fall for it.

Russian chess master Garry Kasparov’s harsh critiques of Bernie Sanders and socialism | Washington Post

Pleased to see our viral Facebook discussion about Sanders and socialism go from a little polemic (https://www.facebook.com/GKKasparov/posts/10154026469573307) to an article (http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/garry-kasparov-hey-bernie-do…) to a real discussion in the news in this Washington Post article. Interesting that the Sanders campaign has declined to discuss my articles, but not surprising. Not because they are wrong and I am right, but because discussing the soul of America and the long-term impact of government intervention is a lot harder than promising free stuff you can’t pay for.

From what I see from many of Bernie’s defenders in the comments here, they want to have it both ways. Whatever is bad either isn’t socialism at all or wasn’t socialist enough! This tradition does go back to the USSR, where our constant hardship was blamed on not being pure enough in following the teachings of Lenin, for example. Corrupt officials, inefficient bureaucracies, external enemies and internal saboteurs—there are always plenty of scapegoats for why socialist regimes impoverish and imprison their citizens. Socialism is such an attractive theory that it’s far too easy to ignore that it always fails in practice.Read More

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