Monthly Archives: May 2012

Moscow’s May and its historical antecedents (Paris May 1968 or Italy’s Hot Autumn of 1969).

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Whether or how history will judge Moscow in 2012 and the month of May in particular is, of course, too early to tell. Whether it will be seen as a turning point in Russia’s history or not will depend on how events develop. The birth of a new hope or the last strangled cries of a city whose destiny has become untoggled from that of the country as a whole, or something akin to the beginnings of a transformation in Russian society which European societies experienced in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It seems that, on a good day, the spectre of May 1968 appears to be haunting Moscow and, as the video in the post below attests to, the words Paris May 1968 are on the lips of many of the commentators. Yes, these gatherings and demonstrations are rather minor – but then how massive was 1968 in France and the US? How broad were they at the beginning? Was there not something of a similar dislocation between demonstrators and whole swathes of society? What about the gaullist revanche after the May events: does not this, too, point to similar processes in the two societies?  Andrei Velikanov in his talk spoke of the fact that, although this movement is doomed to political failure, its victory will be a cultural one transforming the intellectual life of a country if not its political reality. An earlier talk by Sergei Kuznetsov also suggested how the mores of countries like the US and France were only slowly transformed by the 1968 events.

However, for all these growing references to the experience of 1968 a number of factors have still gone unrecognised (but perhaps some are factors which were recognised in the speeches cited although only marginally). Firstly. there is the international context which is entirely different. While Russia and European societies do seem to be out of step in their historical cycles (and the observations of Pirim Sorokin are of interest here) nonetheless the international context can not be altogether hidden from the picture. Maxim Kantor in a recent comment wondered about what the effect of a new war in the Middle East would have on political events in Russia and he concluded his reasonings in quite apocalyptic tones. Secondly, few societies have such a wide discrepancy between capital and provinces as does Russia and the relative silence of the provinces so far shouldn’t blind people into believing the idea that transformations will be limited to a cultural sphere. Thirdly while there may be reasons why France and Russia should be compared (their common revolutionary tradition leading to two of the most wide-ranging revolutionary transformations in the modern world in recent centuries) there may be examples elsewhere which could be of relevance to what is or is about to happen in Russia in 2012 and beyond. Situationism (of a sort) and French philosophy may be of great relevance to the creative class in Moscow but 1968 spurred other movements and reactions thus far relatively ignored by many in Russia.

One of these, I would argue, is the Italian experience of the late 1960s. Its 1968 may have been similar to that of France in some ways but it was followed by a very different 1969 and a further decade of extraordinary struggles which brought forth another, more political model, of transformation (although ultimately a  heavily defeated one). The hot autumn of 1969 was that very missing link which has been absent in the discourses around May 1968. The revolt of other classes – and not just the creative classes- and especially of the immigrants from Southern Italy who manned the production lines in the factories of the industrial north and then moving deep through many layers of Italian society. A hot autumn in Russia is, perhaps, the unsaid fear of many in Moscow – and not just of the bureaucratic elite but equally of many of those who have sided with Moscow’s revolt. The Pinochet-adoring Latynina’s and the Sobchaks would surely soon change their mood music about a democratisation of society if the Pikalyovo’s and the Kuzbasses were to rise in revolt. Whether this is likely to happen only time will tell but maybe it is at least time for some acknowledgment of the relevance of Negri and the novelist and poet Nanni Balestrini alongside that of Foucault and Deleuze and a Russian distribution of Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Bifo or even Mario Tronti may have its historical relevance for an understanding of a wider and deeper revolt.

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Stas Markelov’s ‘Patriotism as Diagnosis’ (a translation)

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Stas Markelov

PATRIOTISM AS DIAGNOSIS:  STAS MARKELOV

The country has got hooked on patriotism like some kind of drug.  Any politician before uttering his lies will swear by his patriotism. Any toady before wheedling money from the authorities will spill his guts boasting his love for the state. Any thief licking his lips at the sight of his stolen goods will describe how he loves his motherland and how much more he would steal for the sake of his love.

Today in Russia it is impossible to occupy a senior position unless, bowing and scraping, you declare your patriotism. It’s impossible to become a politician (whether of government or the opposition) until you have licked the arse of the two-headed eagle and sworn your love to the other Imperial symbols.

Patriotism has become the criterion of acceptability of a citizen for his government. If you are not a patriot then you’re a pariah and the states repressive apparatus will soon do everything to choke the life out of you. Nowadays, no one gives it a second thought; yet to ostentatiously display your feelings is rather shabby as is declaring your love to the whole country – almost like parading your underwear with the traces of your last solitary passion. No-one gives it a second thought that, to all intents and purposes,

PATRIOTISM IS STUPIDITY

Personal emotions are fine when they remain private feelings. If we love the native soil of our ancestors, and our traditions that’s admirable, but what fool would force people to flaunt their private emotions? Actually this love can be sincere precisely when it is personal and doesn’t lapse into the category of public-patriotic onanism.

Imagine declaring love for one’s parents as a national idea. People would take you for a complete fool. Why should we see this attempt to thrust patriotism down our throats in any other way? There’s no need to creep into our minds to check how much we love our motherland. People themselves will work out who and how they should love.

Indeed, public adoration is never sincere. Unctuous love towards household gods will soon arouse adverse feelings of revulsion and will give birth to a generation hating this love of the fatherland that has been rammed down our throats. Just like how Soviet power gave birth to a hatred of everything Soviet, constantly stuffing us as they did with their cretinous slogans. But nowadays they don’t even promise us communism- we are simply told that we must blindly love our Motherland oblivious to everything else and then everything will be fine. Fine for the authorities, for the oligarchs and the mafias. Because

PATRIOTISM IS COWARDICE!

Rather than explaining who lined one’s pockets during the general poverty and state of lawlessness, who grabbed all public property in the lawless 90’s, who should answer for the privatization of our futures, for the overnight plunder of all the goods built up by the hellish labour of many generations, they suggest instead that we should love power unrequitedly. Societal patriotism is not love for one’s Motherland, instead it is love of the state. It is advantageous for the ruling circles that we,mouths open wide in amazement and agog with joy before our latest governmental rag, even if the Vlasov traitors fought under it against their own people or the Black Hundreds organized pogroms. According to the patriots we should express joy at the successes of the regime and we should lay down our future to the oligarchs or other fat cats munching on that which was stripped from us and our parents.

What do you call love of the motherland? Any motherland would soon perish from such love and the more we sink into such an abyss of patriotism the more insolent the power of the rich will become.

He who doesn’t see this has consciously gone blind.

He who sees this but continues to shout out their patriotism is a coward sheltering under an imposed state cliché. Everyday we get it rammed down our throats through the media that we must become patriots. It’s true nothing is left off the state but its demand that we be patriots, otherwise we would insist that it account for all its actions. Because the people and the authorities were never together, the latter always grew fat through the powerlessness and the poverty of the former. So nowadays too:

PATRIOTISM IS TREACHERY!

The more we shout about patriotism and the great empire, the fewer friends our country will have. We even managed to quarrel with the last republic with whom we were on good terms, Belarussia, due to our gas wars. Because the oligarchs couldn’t care less about any idea, they have their profits and laugh over the fact of how they managed to dupe society fobbing them off with patriotic pills.

Like utter fools we will fall into the same trap that other countries have experienced for themselves. As soon as the Serbs stopped talking of Yugoslavia and raised the cry of a Great Serbia, everyone turned their backs on them. Even their constant ally Montenegro hastened to escape from the Serb nationalists. As soon as patriotism arose in Russia we began to break up into a pile of national enclaves and became amazed as to why other nationalities to respond in the same way and expel Russians from where they were living.

Patriotism has released the demon of nationalism from its confinement and continuously provokes new national conflicts. Russia only grows weaker from this, but its bourgeoisie rejoices lining its own pockets from the wars and international conflicts.  Our country has always been multinational and now we are constrained to scuttle into our national corners hating our neighbours. The greater the patriotism, the weaker the people. There is no need to make a distinction between patriotism and nationalism. The summons of a great power from its high tribunes soon turn into national pogroms on the streets, and when yesterday’s atheist communists stand with candles on church porches it only leads to reactionary obscurantism and a return to medieval practices.

There is no reason to believe that this is simply the idiocy of power. People whose futures have been stolen from them have become rancorous with all around them and are ready to spit out their rage at any moment. It is advantageous for power that this hatred is directed against the poor gastarbeiters and not at the stuffed New Russian thieves driving their Mercedes. Our establishment fear burning Mercedes that they travel in more easier for than any recent national pogrom. So they prod and nudge, and stir up discontent and grievances against the gastarbeiters.

They are timeservers, their task is to line their own pockets and not let go of their power.

They are happy to make a sacrifice of the people as though they were small change, feeding them patriotic drugs in exchange for their own wellbeing and safety. Nowadays for us

PATRIOTISM IS DEATH!

This is no exaggeration. In place of the achievements of our people, the best traditions and our real history we are forced to love power. Even power’s historical idols are chosen so as to justify their irresponsibility and cruelty.

Alexander Nevsky, personally suppressing in blood an anti-Tartar uprising, many times travelling to prostrate himself before the Horde, burning Russian cities, Peraslavl’-Zalessky and his native Vladimir and buried outside of Vladimir Cathedral because of his crimes, suddenly becomes one of the most respected saints. Is this  simply because he fought off a single armed assault on the Neva which took place nearly every year and was victorious in only one battle on Lake Ladoga while for the rest of the time suppressed the uprisings of small nations in league with the Crusaders.

Peter the First built a city on marshland on the bones of peasants, forcibly destroying (at the point of a sword) all those Russian traditions and Old Faith which patriots today advocate so strongly.

Bloody Nicholas, who began his tsardom with the monstrous crush on the Khodynke, executed his loyal subjects during the January 9th demonstration, and was defeated in two wars leading the country to two revolutions. Fine heroes they regale us with as though there were no genuine fighters for truth and freedom.

Patriotism is a legend, a sweet given to a people to console them. Anything may be changed by way of patriotic delirium, history may be rewritten, reality embellished, one can call white black and black white. Only drug addicts don´t live for a long time and a society plagued by patriotic disorder is doomed to suffer terrifying withdrawal symptoms and extinction due to this patriotic frenzy.

There is only one item/subject of national pride for the New Russians- their abnormal profits from raw materials remaining in the depths of the earth and the slave labour working in enterprises. This is the only national treasure of any significance.

All the rest that is fobbed off to the people is no more than pretty wrapping. Why should we swallow these empty patriotic sweets while simultaneously all the possessions of the country are siphoned off by a band of nouveau riches lining their pockets? Behind the attractive patriotic film hides a fear to look truth in the face and demand that those who from the period of liberal economic horrors of the 1990s cast their people into a state of powerlessness and poverty should answer for their deeds.  Because

PATRIOTISM IS FEAR!

It is far easier to hide one’s powerlessness behind a noisy jabbering about your love for the Motherland than try to fight to regain your own rights. To admit (even if only to yourself) that in the 1990s instead of democracy we were humiliated and robbed and today they(the power elite)  are doing just the same not even sharing the crumbs off their tables.

Patriotism is the mask of our powerlessness. It’s the mask behind which we hide our own cowardice. Patriotism is useful for the powerful, it separates peoples as it palms off to each people itself, in the guise of reverence to one’s own thieves and rulers.  Patriotism forces people to think that they are better than everyone else and they don’t even notice their own tattered backsides and the holes of their cleaned-out budgets. According to the patriots, we ought to be proud of a country which reduce its old people to a state of poverty, wiped one’s feet on those who lived by their own labour and left its youth without any future. We should be proud of a society inflexibly divided into a golden elite and all the rest who, like slaves, must provide for the prosperity of this elite.

The New Russians will guzzle our national wealth in Courchevel while it is suggested that we acclaim their power with patriotic cries of joy. In Russia power and society has always been two distinct and irreconcilable notions. Power has never been for the people- it has been either completely unacceptable or just about tolerable. With the aid of patriotism they are trying to constrain us to love not the Motherland but power. Yet they are eating away the Motherland in plush resorts and guzzling up it in fashionable restaurants.

Many ask: why today then have the authorities started to prosecute the nationalists? All is very simple:

PATRIOTISM IS AN ILLNESS!

Thos who have seriously taken it into their heads to contract this disease have turned into out-and-out Nazis and pogromists. Between a patriot and a Nazi there is practically no difference. The former simply deceives himself and others and the latter attempts to bring these crazy ideas to life. Power has no use for volunteers who attempt to implement in actual fact all this propagandistic nonsense which they cram in to our heads from their high podiums and from the drain pipes of the news media.  He who rushes headlong in front of the state engine will surely fall under its own wheels.

Power herself gave birth to its Nazis, trying to channel any social protest into its own needed course of national hatred or rather, more accurately, national butchery.  When the nationalist thugs get out of control they proved to be of no use and, even, dangerous. Suddenly they might begin to tell of how they were kept as greyhound puppies at their feet.  Sent to the sidelines, the Nazis went wild and there was nothing left for the authorities to do than begin to hunt them down.

The nationalists bawl exactly the same slogans as the authorities do. However due to their natural stupidity they really believe in them and attempt to bring them to life. Some pretend, sick with official patriotism, do it for the sake of profit, greed and their careers. Others really catch this illness. It is a fatal illness: if nationalists don’t finally lose their minds on their own, then the authorities will help them do so in the prisons.  One can imagine how the oligarchs deride these flawed nationalists on their revelries, these very nationalists which they brought to life.  After all

PATRIOTISM CAN’T BE SERIOUS!

A patriotic mood is real only when the country is exposed to an external occupation but nowadays we celebrate the day of independence from ourselves. No-one occupied us, in the 1990s it was our mafia and our oligarchs who grabbed power. Gangsters are completely indifferent as to what nationality they have- the most significant thing for them is their criminal businesses. They serenely share the country out amongst themselves leaving us with patriotism as some kind of consolation prize.

The transnational companies are absolutely indifferent as to who is of what nationality, they share out our country once again flinging patriotism to us in the form of consolatory bones.  And we should for some reason show pride and rejoice that we are perfect patriots and worship the country where we’ve been made powerless and poor. To struggle with the oligarchs, nouveau riches and mafias scuttling to our national quarters is impossible. Those who are profiting from us are united and yet we are forced to grow estranged and fight with each other.

Patriotism revolves around “hot spots” (trouble spots, flashpoints), international clashes and mutual hatred. As if it were fine to live in a society of refugees suffering form national hatred and humiliation. If from such a complete phantom like patriotism so many people must suffer then why is it necessary at all?

Why do countries, which are the most respected in the world such as the states of Western Europe, avoid stirring amongst their citizens a sense of national exclusivity and force fed patriotism? Why is America hated throughout the world? Maybe that there too each citizen is also constrained to be given a shot of patriotism? Yet America in the guise of the world policeman and universal thief can allow himself to be insolent and patriotic? But why should we foster an idiotic patriotism in ourselves? In order to be the object of general hatred and ridicule?

PATRIOTISM DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

If someone wishes to show his crazy love for something let him shut himself up in the bathroom and demonstrate it. To publicly make love is exhibitionism, immoral and amoral. Public love for the leader, for Power is no less amoral.

One’s  idea of the Motherland is not defined by state boundaries, territories or even the settlement of one’s blood relatives. It is a personal idea and one which you can’t force on others. Personal things are not the object of parades and passionate declarations. It’s like hanging up one’s underwear as a kind of flag.

He who really loves his Motherland won’t shout out about this in every street corner and swear by their patriotism. Moreover he won’t force others to do so or make of patriotism a state doctrine. If in the guise of a national idea we are palmed off with phony patriotism it means that this is useful for someone, someone who is trying to hide their profit- a profit, to put it mildly, not entirely honest or legal.

The question isn’t only about whether we agreed to swallow this bait, not entirely about whether have been softened by this patriotic gabble, whether we wish to pig out on the national lie and be ready to gobble any shit so long as it is served with a patriotic sauce? The choice is left: are you healthy or has the epidemic of patriotic insanity managed to eat into your minds so you no longer digest anything but the sickly ambrosial gushing from the television and the cries of the thieves about how they love their Motherland.

An honest man can’t be a patriot because honesty is irreconcilable with patriotic swank. A wise man will never become a patriot because to actually assimilate patriotic slogans is the fate of imbeciles ready to deceive themselves.  Self-respecting people aren’t taken in by the patriotic deception. They have their own opinions and they don’t need them to be substituted with intrusive propaganda.

 

 

This is a text which I attempted to translate over a year ago – it never got very polished but to me it was one of these texts that deserve to be remembered and treasured. In years to come Stas Markelov’s name will surely be linked to the names of the victims of fascism like Matteoti and Gramsci. This text and other writings by Markelov will live on and his relevance can only become greater in the future.