By Irina Glushchenko
MOSCOW — A significant breach has been opened in the liberal-bureaucratic monopoly of the Russian press. While the main daily newspapers still trumpet the virtues of the "free market" with a brazenness that would make Rupert Murdoch blush, several smaller, less frequent publications are now revealing some of the uncomfortable truths about the "savage capitalism" to which the Yeltsin regime has fastened Russia's destiny.
Two of these publications are youth papers. While the Communist Youth League, the Komsomol, has been dissolved, Novaya Gazeta ("New Newspaper") in St Petersburg, and Stupeni ("Footsteps") in Moscow carry on under socialist-oriented editors.
Since a revolution earlier this year in the leadership of the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions (MFP), Novaya Gazeta and Stupeni have been joined by the MFP's fortnightly paper Solidarnost. This is now edited by Andrei Isayev, one of the leaders of the Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists.
Finally, in October, the Socialist Party of Russia launched the first issue of its own journal, Obozrevatel ("The Observer"), in a print run of 15,000.
At the beginning of 1991 Russian socialists had no journal in which they could present their views regularly and without editorial censorship. They now have four, with a combined print run of about 200,000 copies.
Within this developing "stable" of left publications, Obozrevatel is intended to play a particular, carefully defined role. The new journal has been modelled in some ways on the US Nation — small in format, with readable, well-written articles on serious topics.
Obozrevatel represents the first instance — at least in recent decades — in which Russian socialists have produced a paper relying exclusively on their own money and resources.
The independence this allows them has not come cheaply. Prices for paper and typographical services have exploded in recent months. The Socialist Party also faces a major challenge in distributing its organ, since Russian newsagencies form a tight monopoly that demands extortionate percentages from publishers.
Nevertheless, Obozrevatel has clear potential for making an important impact in the circles at which it is aimed. The first issue contains an interview with one of the leaders of the Socialist party, Moscow Soviet deputy Vladimir Kondratov, on the August coup in Moscow. Here Kondratov explains the poor fit between the known facts about the coup and the official version of the "heroic defence of the White House". Other articles are by the well-known socialist writers Boris Kagarlitsky and Anatoly Baranov.
In future issues Obozrevatel will carry articles by a wide range of left-wing writers not associated with the Socialist Party. These are to include such people as Andrei Kolganov, Boris Slavin and Vladimir Vyunitsky.
The Socialist Party has now officially decided to throw itself into the process of forming a Party of Labour along with other left and labour movement groups. Within this process, Obozrevatel is likely to play a valuable role as a forum for ideas and as a source of accurate information. n