BASTA! Special Issue: An Open Letter to Alain Badiou

This is the sixth in a series of translations of the articles in BASTA!, a special Russian-only issue of Chto Delat that addresses such pressing issues as the fight against racism and facism, the new Russian labor movement, the resistance to runaway “development” in Petersburg, the prospects for student self-governance and revolt, the potential for critical practice amongst sociologists and contemporary artists, the attack on The European University in St. Petersburg, and Alain Badiou’s aborted visit to Moscow.

The entire issue may be downloaded as a .pdf file here. Selected texts may be accessed here.

* * * * *

An Open Letter to Alain Badiou
& His Rejection of Gleb Pavlovsky’s Invitation

From: Chto delat <info@chtodelat.org>
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 2008 12:50:32
To: <abadiou….>
Subject: Lettre des activistes russes concernant votre prochaine visite
en Russie

Dear Comrade Badiou!

We are Russian activists and leftist intellectuals. We know and value you as a philosopher and intellectual who has not surrendered in the face of the current neo-capitalist reaction. In your public statements, you have on many occasions expressed your allegiance to the great contemporary liberation movement, of which we also consider ourselves to be a part. In particular, we have greatly appreciated your latest book, De quoi Sarkozy est-il le nom?, which deals with the reactionary movement in the contemporary world. Your philosophical and political program is attractive to many local activists and groups who are otherwise locked in a constant polemic with one another. At the same time, it has come to our attention that Gleb Pavlovsky’s foundation (The Russian Institute is a branch of this foundation) has invited you to visit Moscow this coming April. This news dumfounded those of us here who know and appreciate your work and your political stance. We have long dreamed that you would visit us in Russia. But a visit under these circumstances would be worse than no visit at all. It would compromise you and us, your readers and supporters.What is at issue is the person of Mr. Pavlovsky, who is not only one of the principal ideologues of the Putin group, but is also a cynical “political technologist” who several times switched his political orientation during the nineties. He has now settled on an ultra-rightist version of nationalist and imperialist conservatism, and is busy erecting the Putin personality cult. You might wonder why he decided to invite you of all people. The answer, however, is obvious: the Russian regime has decided, on the ideological level, to develop a new strain of anti-westernism based on Russian nationalism. This is motivated, in part, by the real imperialist pressure exerted on Russia by the EU and the US; in part, by the discomfort that liberal demands to observe human rights and legality in general creates for the regime. Therefore, Putin and his ideologues have an objective interest in recruiting western oppositionist intellectuals to an international front that would support them. At the same time, it must be understood that Putin is no Chavez. As opposed to the latter, Putin and his ideologues systematically anchor their appeal in rightist values: nation, order, the fear of revolution, Russian Orthodoxy, cultural anti-modernism, etc.

[. . .]

Gleb Pavlovsky is one of a number of notable intellectuals who chose the career of “political technologist” in the nineties. During the crisis in the universities and the intellectual vacuum that formed after the discrediting of Marxism, many members of the intelligentsia chose to engage in paid PR work, motivating their choice via a combination of watered-down postmodernism and social constructivism. As they would put it, all meanings are artificially produced.

In 1996, Pavlovsky—who was a dissident in Soviet times and an active liberal during perestroika—became the principal beneficiary of the Kremlin’s ideological commissions. In the early years of the new millennium, he became even more powerful when his foundation, The Foundation for Effective Politics, engaged in the propaganda and informational support of the Putin administration. It is this foundation that developed the fundamental ideologemes of the regime: “stability,” “the Putin majority,” etc. Whereas in the nineties Pavlovsky justified himself in the postmodernist spirit, as we have mentioned, in the new decade he has become a frank collaborationist and a businessman trading in propaganda, exploiting the impoverished social and economic status of Russian intellectuals and thus turning them into cynical servants of power. At present, Pavlovsky hosts the television program Real Politics, on which he propagandizes extreme anti-westernism and the Putin personality cult. He also manages the Evropa publishing imprint, which among other thing has issued a series of books exposing the idea and phenomenon of revolution. Recently, Pavlovsky organized a roundtable entitled “Putin’s Enemies”—a farce that made open reference to the Stalinist show trials.

Dear Comrade Badiou! We have no doubt that your visit will be used by Pavlovsky to legitimize the Kremlin, which aspires, mostly unsuccessfully, to intellectual hegemony. In the spring of 2007, Pavlovsky’s foundation invited Slavoj Žižek to Moscow. It is conceivable that this leftist thinker didn’t know beforehand the context in which he would be speaking. In the event, however, he participated in a seminar entitled “The Limits of Democracy” and sat at the same table with court “political scientist” Sergei Markov, who as a television commentator praises the wisdom of Putin’s decisions, and with Pavlovsky himself, who doesn’t himself believe a single word he utters. Pavlovsky and Markov spoke about the need to “limit” democracy, in the sense of Putin’s “managed democracy.” It all resembled a bad comedy and forever discredited Žižek in the eyes of Russian (leftist or liberal) intellectuals. If you do visit Russia, this context will hinder any attempt on your part to polemicize and discuss the views of those who have invited you.

We do not mean to say that Russia is lost for good, or that it is of no interest. Russian society is still lively, anarchic, critical, highly educated, and intellectual hungry. It possesses the will to transformation and a consciousness of the need for struggle. At the present moment there is a growing network of organizations and groups that, we hope, will consolidate into a new anti-liberal, communist movement. For this to happen we also need international cooperation. In particular, we take as a guide your ideas, whose universalism impresses us, dwellers of the semi-periphery. We would like to engage you in conversation. But your visit to Pavlovsky would disenchant many activists. We ask you, therefore, to weigh your decision again.

This is all the more important in that it would not be difficult to find the means to invite you to Petersburg and, from there, to Moscow, using other, more ordinary channels (official institutions whose reputation is not in question), and to organize serious, interesting discussions of philosophy and politics.

You can be sure of our admiration and respect for you.

Chto Delat/What Is To Be Done Platform
Forward Socialist Movement
Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement
Carine Clément (Institute for Collective Action)

* * * * *

From: <abadiou…>
Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2008 16:42:47 +0100
To: Chto delat <info@chtodelat.org>
Subject: Re: Lettre des activistes russes concernant votre prochaine visite
en Russie

Dear Comrades,

I thank you for your serious and well-argued warning. I have just returned from Greece and I will have to examine your arguments in more detail. They already seem quite strong to me. I will notify you of my decision in the coming days. If you believe that there is a real possibility of my coming to Leningrad, then we can go this route. I thank you again for your vigilance. And be assured that I have no wish to serve Putin’s interests!

Fraternal greetings,

Alain Badiou
4 February 2008

* * * * *
In his last letter, dated 17 February 2008, Alain Badiou informed us that he had turned down Pavlovsky’s invitation to visit Moscow and that he planned to come to Russia in the spring of 2009.

1 Comment

Filed under critical thought, open letters, manifestos, appeals, Russian society

One response to “BASTA! Special Issue: An Open Letter to Alain Badiou

  1. Pingback: “Worse than Nothing”: On the Discussion of the Letter by Russian Leftists to Alain Badiou « chtodelat news

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