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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Fighting for a place in the pecking order

Russian intelligentsia’s hysterical shouts of protest
16 November, 2015 - 17:41

Ukrainians are interested to know what is happening in Russia, primarily the moods within Russian society. Regrettably, no good news there. Ukrainophobia is uniting all social strata and groups, although there aren’t many. There are two large groups of people in power, near those in power, and ordinary people. This is best described using the GULAG parlance: guards, hardened criminals working hand in glove with them, and the “muzhik” ordinary convicts. All those in power can live only at the expense of the muzhiks. This society is united by war and everything related to war (as after the annexation of Crimea and the war in the east of Ukraine). Hence the reaction of the international community to Russia’s aggression as an encroachment on the fundamental social principles.

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who set the FSB door on fire and then declared in court that it was his way to protest against the criminal prosecution against Savchenko and Sentsov, was supposed to be regarded as a hero. Many, however, regarded the whole affair as provocation, especially after his statement in the courtroom, like the burning of the Reichstag. One is reminded of Yevno Azef and Alexei Navalny after examining Pavlensky’s “Lubyanka’s Burning Door” action step by step. The action would have been impossible without FSB cooperation; he would have never been allowed to approach the FSB’s front entrance with a can of gasoline and a group of journalists carrying video cameras, douse the door, set it afire with a gas lighter, then pose for the cameras with the burning door in the background.

I’m not saying that Pavlensky was recruited by the FSB, but he was apparently allowed to act the way he did. The man has long been under close surveillance, what with his hammering a nail through his scrotum, sitting naked on Red Square, and other antics. Now, as in the good old Soviet times, if the secret police doesn’t want an individual to take part in any public event, they won’t let him out of his home or will grab him en route. Pavlensky’s intention, holding a can of gasoline, heading for Lubyanka with a media retinue, could not have been mistaken by FSB or any other law-enforcement agency.

Russian optimists say that, back in 1985, they couldn’t have visualized anticommunist rallies with millions of protesters in Moscow. They seem oblivious of the main thing, that in Russia, unlike other ex-Soviet republics, each rally has had to do with the regime and various political groups “upstairs.” The largest rallies in 1990-91, including the defense of the “White House,” cannot be regarded as a manifestation of public subjectivity, a public cause that has never come to be in the Russian land. All this was done either in support of “Czar” Gorbachev or “Czar” Yeltsin, or to help the good “boyars” as champions of the popular cause. In 1992, many of those protesters went out on the street to voice their protest against Czar Boris and for the new boyars who were now defending their interests.

Nothing has changed over the past 30 years. The rallies in 2012 and 2013 featured office plankton, all those who had put up with corporate fascism, office slavery when no one wants to be a dupe, a loser, and so he becomes a stoolie and sadist. University lecturers, associate professors delivered impassioned speeches while obediently complying with idiotic bureaucratic requirements, always knowing which students could be humiliated and which were best left well alone. What really upsets the Russian intelligentsia is not breaches of their rights but anything that hurts their status. And so they are fighting for that status, the way the inmates try to have a decent place in the jailbirds’ pecking order. That’s all there is to say about their public activities previously and nowadays. The last hopes vanished after Putin was re-elected as president. There was an outburst of activity at the time, but now – zilch.

As for Pavlensky, he is one hot potato. Now the progressive public of Russia may well stop holding rallies. What for? There he is, our hero who is doing all this for us. Now we can take care of small but necessary things. They are really small but praiseworthy, like slaves enlightening other slaves, telling them what should be done within the limits set by the slaveholders. Now enlightening the slaveholders would be a great cause, except that not all are allowed to do so while all want to do just that.

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, special to The Day