Yevgeniy Zhuravel interviews Kirill Medvedev (above), a Moscow-based poet, translator, and activist. He is the founder of the Arkady Kots band.
YZ: Can you tell a bit about yourself and how did you became a leftist? It seems that in Russia till recently it was not a common political choice.
KM: I became a self-conscious leftist at the beginning of the 2000s. There is a rather typical scenario for that generation of the Russian left, which emerged mostly from the Soviet intelligentsia of different levels of prosperity. Many of us were still able to spend our childhood under still rather comfortable conditions, so we were able to absorb the humanistic code of the Soviet intelligentsia, and then suddenly found ourselves in the historical hole of the 90s, when this code turned out to be not only redundant, but simply made survival difficult. Some of our parents had believed that shock therapy and total privatisation are the necessary stages on the way to democracy, others voted for the failed Communist Party, and some became quickly disappointed and depoliticised. The new left emerged from this trauma, but not out of a desire for revanche, but with the feeling that both nostalgia for Soviet times and jolly anti-Sovietism, which brought most of the intelligentsia to support Putin, are dead ends; that if one wants to be a citizen and a political subject, some hard work is required in order to build a new political culture and environment. Sometime during 2003-2004, I started getting an idea that maybe this thankless job—being part of the left—is not the worst way to spend the next decade or two.
YZ: The band that you are a part of is called Arkadiy Kots, after the Russian translator of “The Internationale”. Who are the people in the band, why this particular name was chosen and what musical and political traditions do you follow?
KM: The name seemed to be appropriate because Kots was simultaneously a poet, a translator, an activist and a sociologist; he wrote a study on the Belgian unions from the beginning of the 20th century. Such synthesis is interesting to us. Oleg Zhuravlev, with whom we founded the group, is a well-known young sociologist, member of the “Public Sociology Lab” collective, which does research on the recent protests in Russia and Ukraine. They just published a book in Russia, which will be released in Holland soon. Nikolay Oleynikov is a member of the renowned art-group “What has to be done?”(Chto Delat?). His work is related to antifascism and gender problems. In fact, in the Free Marxist Press, we published his collection “Sex of the Oppressed”, the discussions of sex and politics. If Oleg brings to the group the spirit of research, Nikolaj the spirit of militant queer carnival. Anya Petrovich and Misha Griboedov are more professionally connected to music: they are practically the musical directors of the group, fighting, for example, with my horrible unprofessionalism. Gosha Komarov, an activist of the Worker’s Platforms, which unites the most workerist (proletarian) part of the left radicals, is a multi-instrumentalist. This is the backbone of the group, we are all convinced communists, but, as it happens, we occasionally end up playing with people who do not share our views, which gives us some openness and a chance not to turn into a sect.
We translate a lot to Russian – from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to old Italian anarchist songs. We write songs based on poems of Russian poets and write our own: “Be Involved in Political Struggle”, “It is not shameful to be a worker” etc., which hide uneasy reflections about our own political subjectivity.
Overall we try to juxtapose maximised aesthetic openness with a clear political message, to get out of the boundaries of the radical left, subcultural milieu. Right now we are working on an album devoted to the history of the worker’s movements, from Luddites to Zhanaozen, with a support of Confederation of Labour of Russia, whose congress we recently opened with our Russian versions of songs “Bread and Roses” and “Power in a Union”, and gave a concert after the end of it.
YZ:You started the Free Marxist Press publishing house back in 2008. How did it evolve? What did you print recently and what are the plans?
KM: It all had started with samizdat (DIY?) books – “Why I am a Marxist?” by Ernest Mandel, Pasolini’s “Communist Party – to the Youth”, “Marxism and Feminism” by Marcuse etc. Later on we started making small press runs at print shops. Producing a book from A to Z—translation, formatting, cover design, printing, binding, distribution – for me personally was an important experience, though a little bit exotic, mixing the spirit of completely unalienated creative work a la William Morris, on the one hand, and the productionism of the 20s, on the other. Being engaged in the material production of a book one gets into a very special relationships with a text which it contains. Read the rest of this entry »
On the 29th anniversary of the Sebrenica massacre/genocide, we re-publish this important critique of the role of much the international left towards the Bosnian war at the time. First published by Workers Liberty, June 2011:
31 March 2003: Relatives of some of the 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre search rows of coffins next to freshly-dug graves for loved ones
Ratko Mladic, who commanded Serb forces during the Bosnian war of 1992-5, was arrested on 26 May in a Serbian village, and will now face a war-crimes tribunal in The Hague.
In July 1995, two of the areas which the United Nations declared “safe havens” in the midst of a fierce war were overrun by Serb forces under Mladic’s command. In Zepa, some 200 lives were killed, and the bulk of the population of 40,000 fled.
In Srebrenica, over 8,000 civilians were massacred. In classifying the massacre as an act of genocide the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia outlined what happened:
“They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.”
Srebrenica was only the most infamous of the atrocities by Serb forces in the Bosnian war. Like the wars conducted by the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic in Croatia in 1991-5 and in Kosova in 1999, that war was an imperialist war in the most straightforward sense: a war by a dominant power to gain control over other nations, conducted without regard to the wishes or the lives of the subject peoples.
By now Milosevic’s wars have few defenders. Although many people in Serbia mourned Mladic’s arrest, Serbia’s government is in no danger of being toppled by protest against it handing over Mladic to The Hague. In Britain, even the Morning Star has reported the arrest in a manner suggesting neutrality or approval.
At the time, though — and the scandal should be remembered, and learned from — large chunks of the left betrayed the left’s basic values of consistent democracy and freedom for oppressed nations. Some sided with Mladic and Milosevic explicitly. Others, including the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), gave them backhanded support by way of a form of pro-imperialism posing as “anti-imperialist”. They claimed there was nothing to choose between the forces in conflict within Yugoslavia. The only “imperialist” thing, to be opposed with vigour, was the police actions against Serbia which NATO took to contain the conflict, in 1995 and in 1999. Thus they presented the Serbian state as not imperialistic, but the fighter against imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »
Above: genocide denier Chomsky
Today’s Guardian carries an excellent piece by Natalie Nougayrede calling what happened at Srebenica twenty years ago a genocide and denouncing Putin for attempting to re-write history. In 2005 the same paper bowed the knee to genocide-denier Noam Chomsky, who like much of the so-called “left” was an apologist for the genocider Mladic and his boss Milosevik:
More guilty parties: from Micharl Deibert’s blog (2011)
Comrade Coatesy, over at his blog, writes:
French Communists Stand with Syriza; British Communists Snipe from Sidelines.
This morning the excellent l’Humanité (we shall never forget comrades your front line reports from the heroic defenders of Kobane, never!) leads with this headline:
La France doit défendre l’exigence de justice des Grecs !
Alors que le gouvernement renvoie la balle à Alexis Tsipras après un lourd silence de l’Élysée, de nombreuses voix à gauche exigent une intervention forte de la France.
France must defend the Greek demand for justice!
Whilst the government pushes back responsibility onto Alexis Tsiparis, after a deep silence from the Élysée, numerous voices on the left demand a strong intervention from France.
Ce nouvel acte de résistance à l’ordre libéral et à la guerre qui se perpétue sur notre continent, sous d’autres formes, doit amener à reposer les questions des objectifs de la zone euro, de la restructuration des dettes illégitimes et des orientations politiques.
This new act of resistance to the liberal economic order and to the virtual war which is is waging over our continent, must bring forth a response that questions the objectives of the Euro,the restructuring of illegitimate debts, and (the EU’s…) political goals.
In other words, reform the European Union….
By contrast (Hat-tip: Jim) the Morning Star, paper of the Communist Party of Britain carries this Editorial on Greece today:
Eurozone Cannot be Reformed.
Tsipras wants to persuade other member states to back his vision of the EU as a bloc based on solidarity and to accept a chunk of his country’s debts being written off and the rest rescheduled.
Why should countries with lower living standards then Greece agree to this?
Will Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, which have already writhed on the austerity rack, paying the price of ruthless loan conditions, support a softer approach for Greece?
It is ironic that, while eurozone states led by Berlin refuse to consider any debt write-off, the IMF is less rigid.
It often engineers creditors’ haircuts in return for new loans and conditions that involve revaluation of national currencies.
Eurozone members are denied this mechanism, with the value of the euro set to the advantage of the more developed states, especially Germany.
Germany’s huge overseas trade surplus, even with China, would normally push up the value of its currency, but eurozone membership precludes this.
When Merkel’s predecessor Helmut Kohl and French president Francois Mitterrand pushed through the single currency in 1992, many economists warned that economic union could only work properly in the context of political union.
This is exemplified by the reality of an undervalued euro favouring the richest members while the poorest are denied the benefit transfers and pooling of financial risk that exist in unified states.
Greece’s Syriza government seeks change, but the lacuna in its argument is that the most powerful member states benefit from current arrangements. Why should they change?
Syriza’s commitment to peddling illusions that the eurozone is reformable and could approve an alternative to austerity does not inspire confidence in Tsipras’s ability to win over his EU “partners.”
Whatever Greeks thought they were voting for, their government’s obsession with wearing the eurozone straitjacket makes attacks on living standards, including pensions, the likely price of Syriza’s negotiations.
We are aware that some members of the CPB are supportive of the views of the sectarian Greek Communist Party (KKE Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας, Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas).
The KKE actively abstained in the Sunday Referendum.
One sympathiser of the CPB has published their reaction, which we suspect lies behind the Morning Star’s comments (21st Century Manifesto),
The governmental majority of SYRIZA-ANEL rejected the proposal of the KKE for the government’s draft agreement to also be placed before the judgment of the Greek people in the referendum together with the issue of abolishing all the anti-people laws that have been passed in recent years and the issue of disengaging from the EU. At the same time, the coalition government explained that the NO in the referendum is interpreted by the government as approval for its own proposed agreement with the EU-IMF-ECB, which inside 47+8 pages also includes harsh antiworker-antipeople measures, worth about 8 billion euros.
In these conditions, the KKE called on the workers to turn their backs on the false dilemma which was being posed in the referendum, using all appropriate means. The forces of the KKE outside the election centres handed out its own ballot paper to the voters which said:
NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE EU-IMF-ECB
NO TO THE PROPOSAL OF THE GOVERNMENT
DISENGAGEMENT FROM THE EU, WITH THE PEOPLE IN POWER
Of course, it was understood that this ballot paper would be counted as a spoiled ballot, but together with the blank ballot papers and the abstention it constitutes a political current that disputes the choices of the SYRIZA-ANEL government and also of the imperialist organizations, with whom the government is negotiating for the needs of capital in Greece.
So there we have it: Greece should leave the EU – something many in Merkel’s party, not to mention other right-wingers, would welcome.
Update: British CPB to negotiate unity with Trotskyist World Socialist Web Site?
Since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on European Union (EU) austerity last Saturday, the entire enterprise has been exposed as a political fraud. It is designed to engineer a further capitulation to the EU’s demands, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Meanwhile, on the serious left: Paris demonstration in solidarity with Syriza a few days ago:
Well-respected Labour movement activist Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the UCU and currently secretary of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, has written this sharp letter to the Morning Star which was published in today’s edition:
I am in Greece, where the people are preparing, more or less on class lines, to vote in the referendum on EU austerity demands next Sunday.
I was appalled to read your editorial mirroring the position of the KKE which voted in parliament not to have a referendum.
After years of reporting which ignores the realities of the new social and political movements in Greece, with regret, I have decided to cancel my daily copy of the Star.
The facts are that the KKE got 5 per cent of the vote in the last election and that Syriza got 36 per cent.
Syriza was clear with the people, who were overwhelmingly pro-EU and pro-euro, that it would try initially to find a solution within the Eurozone, which has involved negotiations which have been transparent.
We have to stand with the Greek people.
As the Greece Solidarity Campaign slogan has it: “In or out of the Eurozone, Greeks will never fight alone.”
PAUL MACKNEY London N22
By Paul Canning
An anti-war protest has taken place in the heart of Donetsk. Unsurprisingly it was not reported on Russia Today or by the Stalinists.
There has been increased fighting in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in Eastern Ukraine. This has been most notable in the Ukrainian city of Pisky, a city five kilometers from Donetsk held by Russian forces. The OSCE has criticised the shelling in contravention of the Minsk Agreement which set a demarcation line where heavy weapons were to be withdrawn.
This escalation has provoked unrest inside the self-styled ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ where there has been very little public protest since early 2014.
On 15th June 500 residents of the Oktyabrskoe district of Donetsk took part in a stop the war protest. The anti-war protesters demanded that the Russian forces should stop shelling and using civilian buildings as cover. shouting: “Stop the war!”, “Give us back our houses, our homes are broken!”, “Get out of here!”
This was a concern raised on numerous occasions previously including by the independent miners unions as using buildings in this way was increasing civilian casualties when counter-fire was returned. The head of the regime in Donetsk – Zalarchenko came out and met the protesters insisting the fighting would continue.
One protester said: “People were lost when we voted for the rebels, but they screwed us, simply screwed us!”
A video with English translation is available here: Donetsk Residents Stage Rare Anti-War Protest
Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, working for Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s independent and opposition media, filmed the demonstration. A day after the anti-war rally, Kanygin was detained and beaten, and deported back to Russia. There has since been an increased military presence next to the government building where the protest took place.
Brian Denny of the nationalist No2EU campaign, claims (MS June 24) that “Cameron is already building an alliance for his strategy which stretches from the CBI to the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism”
I presume by “the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism” Mr Denny is referring to people like myself and the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who refuse to endorse his reactionary nationalist anti-EU stance. Would Mr Denny care to provide one single shred of evidence for his claim that we are in an “alliance” with Cameron? If he fails to do so (as he must) I shall expect an apology. And readers may care to consider who, in this debate, is in reality “unhinged”.
RMT and Morning Star – backed “Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine” link to anti-Semites
By Dale Street
Aleksei Mozgovoy – the recently assassinated commander of the Prizrak Batallion, which controls the town on Alchevsk in the so-called ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ – was killed as a Jewish blood sacrifice.
That’s the claim made by a post on a Facebook page created by the British ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ (SARU) campaign, much of which is given over to RMT member Eddie Dempsey reminiscing about his recent trip to Alchevsk (as he’s also done in the Morning Star):
The post on the SARU Facebook page links to piece on YouTube entitled “Mozgovoy – He Was Eliminated for the Day of the Torah (Shavuot)”, produced by the “Voluntarily United Union of Christian Liberation”.
According to the 45-minute recording on YouTube:
– The killing of Mozgovoy was a “ritual offering” (sic) for the Day of the Torah (which began in the evening of the day on which he was killed).
– Ukraine is run by two Jews (Poroshenko and Deputy Prime Minister Groysman).
– The Russian media are run by the Chabad (a Jewish religious organisation), which explains why they talk about Nazi fascism and Banderite fascism, but never about Jewish fascism.
– A helpline, set up by an organisation called Shalom, for Jews who are victims of anti-semitic acts in Ukraine, is really some kind of undercover organisation set up to ‘punish’ their opponents.
The YouTube recording also emphasises Mozgovoy’s adherence to the Russian Orthodox Church, and concludes with a lengthy reminder of the tenth-century wars between the Khazar Empire and the Christian rulers of Kievan Rus’.
(This is code for: The struggle between the Russian Orthodox Church and Jews is a timeless one.)
The YouTube piece is one of a series produced by Eduard Hodos, Ukraine’s answer to Gilad Atzmon. Hodos was once the head of the reformed Jewish community in Kharkhov, but subsequently converted to Russian Orthodoxy.
According to a favourable review of one of his books from about ten years ago:
“In this sensational series of books entitled The Jewish Syndrome, author Eduard Hodos, himself a Jew (he’s head of the reformed Jewish community in Kharkov, Ukraine), documents his decade-long battle with the “Judeo-Nazis” (in the author’s own words) of the fanatical hasidic sect, Chabad-Lubavitch.
According to Hodos, it’s become the factual “mastermind” of the Putin and Kuchma regimes. Chabad also aims to gain control of the US by installing their man Joseph Lieberman in the White House.
Hodos sees a Jewish hand in all the major catastrophic events of recent history, from the Chernobyl meltdown to the events of September 11, 2001, using excerpts from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to help explain and illustrate why.
Hodos has also developed a theory of the “Third Khazaria”, according to which extremist Jewish elements like Chabad are attempting to turn Russia into something like the Great Khazar Empire which existed on the Lower Volga from the 7th to the 10th Centuries.
Much of this may sound far-fetched, but as you read and the facts begin to accumulate, you begin to see that Hodos makes sense of what’s happening in Russia and the world perhaps better than anyone writing today.”
Yes, indeed – much of this does sound a trifle far-fetched.
So why has SARU not deleted the post from its Facebook page, even though it has been visible for all to see for the past three weeks, and new material has been added to the page by SARU since then?
Even if SARU were to claim that none of its members speak Russian – something of a shortcoming for such a campaign – this is no answer to the fact that the image in the Facebook post (and the Youtube clip at the top of this post) is a Torah scroll set against the Star of David.
Shouldn’t that have alerted someone? Or did SARU simply not care?
Above: Kate Hoey in characteristic pose
The Morning Star, supposedly the voice of Britain’s mainstream left and trade union movement, becomes ever more desperate in its adherence to the anti-EU position and its self-deluding pretence that this is somehow “left wing”.
In today’s Star, we’re told that “Labour MPs [are] poised for big anti-EU drive.”
It turns out that a tiny handful of eccentric, and mainly right-wing, Labour MPs have formed a group called ‘Labour for Britain’ which will campaign for a ‘No’ vote in Cameron’s EU referendum. They’re headed by Kate Hoey, the pro-hunting former Home Office MP, who said (in 2009) that she didn’t think a Tory victory would be “so devastating“: she is probably the most right-wing Labour MP in the Commons. And this is the person the Morning Star hails as the leader of the “exit left” campaign!
Other Labour anti-EU heroes of the Morning Star are Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), and Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), neither of whom can be considered in any way on the left, but are both part of the old-guard nationalist/protectionist trade union right-wing. Hopkins recently published a politically incoherent pamphlet ‘European Union – a View from the Left’ – a publication that combines pre-Marxist idealism with parliamentary cretinism in a uniquely politically illiterate combination.
And finally, as though you were not yet convinced of Labour for Britains’s left-wing credentials, we have John Mills, the boss of JML – John Mills Limited, the TV shopping and consumer products company with an annual turnover of £85m and pre-tax profits of £8.2m: Mr Mills is hailed by the Morning Star as “the national agent for the No campaign in the 1975 EEC referendum” and quoted (obviously approvingly) saying that ‘there was “an evident danger” the party could lose even more core voters to Ukip by fighting alongside the Tories to keep Britain in the EU.’
So there we have it: the CPB/Morning Star “left -wing” line-up of political dead-beats and illiterates, led by Labour’s most right-wing MP and financed by a capitalist: what a fucking shower!
Lindsey German, Andrew Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends
By Dale Street
In what is threatening to become an annual ritual, two conferences in solidarity with the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR) – one aimed at the far right, and one at the (Stalinist) ‘left’ – took place last month.
Last year two such conferences – one for the right, one for the ‘left’ – were staged by the same organisation (‘Novaya Rus’’) in the same hotel (Hotel Intourist) in the same place (Yalta) in a matter of weeks.
This left hapless organisations such as the British ‘Workers Power’ group trying to explain why they had teamed up with Russian chauvinists, Stalinists and homophobes in an event staged by an organisation which collaborated with fascists and the far right.
This year’s conferences were different. Although the rhetoric of the two conferences had much in common, they were not initiated by the same organisation.
The driving force behind the conference of the far right, held in Donetsk on 11th/12th May, was the French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. The conference had first been announced by Schaffhauser at a press conference held in March of this year.
Although never actually a member of the French National Front (FN), Schaffhauser has won local and Euro-elections as a candidate on FN slates.
He advocates lower business taxes, an anti-Muslim crackdown on multi-culturalism, workfare for the unemployed, and welfare benefits only for those who have lived in France “a long time” (code for: not immigrants).
Exploiting his longstanding links with Russian bankers and politicians, Schaffhauser played a central role in securing a loan for the FN from a Russian bank last September. Estimates of his commission on securing the loan – nearly 10 million euros – vary from 140,000 to 450,000 euros.
The three other speakers at Schaffhauser’s press conference – who also attended the Donetsk conference itself – were Manuel Ochsenreiter, Alessandro Musolino and Alain Fragny.
Ochsenreiter has a long record of involvement in German far-right politics. He is currently editor of the neo-Nazi magazine “Zuerst!”, which stands for “the preservation of German ethnic identity” and “the life and survival interests of the German people.”
The magazine attacks the legacy of denazification, carries interviews with the Russian fascist Alexander Dugin, and denounces “welfare immigrants” and “gypsy pickpockets”. Ochsenreiter also appears regularly on the pro-Putin “Russia Today” propaganda outlet.
Musolino is a prominent member of the right-wing Forza Italia party, originally founded by Silvio Berlusconi as a vehicle for his own personal political ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »