Monthly Archives: March 2008

European University: A Battle Won (A Letter from Artemy Magun)

Dear Colleagues,

As you might have heard, the European University was reopened last Friday! I want to thank you all, on my own behalf (the rector’s general thanks are at www.eu.spb.ru), for your support: many of you have signed letters for us and took other important, helpful steps. This small victory was the cumulative result of many channels of 
influence: hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures; street 
actions of students and teachers (including a regular “Street 
University” that we plan to continue on a new, extended basis); and elite negotiations. A very important step was an open letter from a group of Russian academicians published in the national newspaper Kommersant. Finally, 
one morning Saint Petersburg mayor Matvienko called the rector on the phone and told him that, to her knowledge, the firemen had already withdrawn their claims. And, sure enough, within two days a court held a hearing that decided the case in favor of the university, in less than 
three minutes. As a colleague of mine joked: “Long live the Russian Court, the most dependent court in the world!” The same day, an opposition politician arrested and imprisoned three weeks ago on the fake pretext 
of beating up three policemen was set free.
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BASTA! Special Issue: Towards a History of the Conflict in the MSU Sociology Department

This is the eighth 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.

 

*****

NB. The conflict at the Moscow State University sociology department, described below, continues. On March 11, three OD Group activists—Sveta Erpyleva, Katya Tarnovskaya, and Olya Bushneva—were expelled for “amoral conduct.” You can read about this latest disturbing turn of events here (in Russian).

Towards a History of the Conflict in the Moscow State University Sociology Department

Oleg Zhuravlyov & Danail Kondov

 

The knowledge generated by the social sciences cannot avoid being critical knowledge. First and foremost, this is because only the impenetrability of scholarly discourse to the strictures of common sense—that is, political strictures—can underwrite an objective description of the world. What makes this impenetrability possible? How can we avoid the substitution of political doxa for scientific rationality? What is needed are particular social conditions for the production of scholarly knowledge about society—an institution autonomous from the political conjuncture and the pressures of the market.

The OD Group, which united students from the sociology department at Moscow State University interested in improving the quality of their education with civil rights and political activists who criticized the department’s authoritarian regime, made manifest the “family resemblance” between its two factions. What the demands for “academic freedom,” the protection of the social rights of students (and teachers), the creation of an independent professional union, and the improvement of the quality of education have in common is that they move the educational institution in the direction of greater autonomy.

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Ranciere’s Ignorant Schoolmaster online

Jacques Ranciere’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, an important book in recent years, is now online. I promptly downloaded it onto the Chto Delat site. Grab a copy in the Library section here.

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New Issue Online: Critique and Truth


Chto Delat has published a new issue of its newspaper entitled Critique and Truth. It could be seen as a set of theoretical texts regarding Basta, and concerns the “critical class” and its conditions of production. In how far can this class and its criticality claim to produce the truth?

After a series of special issues, this issue returns to Chto Delat‘s discussion of the theories and practices of resistance in cultural production. Authors include Prelom kolektiv (Belgrade), Oxana Timofeeva, David Riff, Artemy Magun, Igor Chubarov, Keti Chukhrov, Alexander Bikbov, and Dmitry Vilensky.

You can find it here.

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For Worker Power!

On February 28, members of the Chto Delat e-mail platform received the following message from Comrade X, the editor of the broadsheet For Worker Power:

The printing plant refused to run off this issue of our newspaper because:

“There is campaign material in it. We need payment made in the form of a bank transfer from the campaign fund of one of the presidential candidates.”

(I wonder: which of the candidates would finance the publication of a newspaper calling on people not to vote in the elections?)

“Twenty minutes after you start distributing the newspaper, they’ll come and shut down the plant.”

“They come nearly every day to sort through the scrap bin to find out what we’re printing.”

It smacks of self-censorship.

By the way, does anyone have access to an underground press in such cases?

We printed the issue on a risograph.

On March 4, Comrade X sent us a follow-up message:

Yesterday morning I was at the printing plant. In the morning, they told me they’d be able to run off the newspaper (I wanted to distribute it at the Dissenters March), but then they called back in the evening and said I could pick up it only today. I don’t know whether this was connected to the Dissenters March or not, but they probably know about everything that’s going on. (The newspaper New Petersburg newspaper was printed at this plant, and its editor-in-chief was arrested right there.)

To express solidarity with our comrades at For Worker Power, we are pleased to present readers with a full English-language version of the trouble-beset issue of the newspaper. You can download it as a .pdf file here:

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Help German Anti-G8 Activist Martin Kramer!

Help German anti-G8 activist Martin Kramer, repressed in Russian Far East
(reprinted, with slight emendations, from the website Autonomous Action: A Libertarian Communist Organization)

On the 3rd of March, Martin Kramer was arrested by police in the city of Vanino, in the Khabarovsk region of the Russian Far East, and was beaten up by FSB agents. Martin is a German citizen, who is coordinating travel of activists to the counter-summit against the G8 in Japan in the summer of 2008. He was about to travel to Sakhalin Island by a boat. Martin was accused of carrying “extremist” and “secret” documents. Around 10 AM Martin and his acquaintance from Nakhodka bought tickets for the boat to Sakhalin. While they were waiting for the boat, they were approached by a policeman. He said that he was the police officer Aleksandr Petrovich Kravchuk, and he demanded that Martin and his acquaintance follow him to a police station. Their documents were checked and they were released.

But soon Martin was detained a second time, and again taken to a police station. This time he was interrogated by FSB agents. The lead agent presented a document bearing the name Yevgeni Malakhov. FSB agents illegally took Martin’s documents, notebook, and personal stuff; he was searched and then beaten up. According to Martin, he was beaten with fists and feet, then he was taken to the 4th floor of the police station and threatened that he would be thrown out the window, and that afterwards agents would fabricate that it was an accident. FSB agents refused to invite a consul, and they gave him a “lawyer,” a woman who did not present any documents but who acted like just another agent.
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“Worse than Nothing”: On the Discussion of the Letter by Russian Leftists to Alain Badiou

The following text was originally published (in Russian) on the website of the Forward Socialist Movement (ВПЕРЁД>>).

The story with the letter sent to Alain Badiou by a group of leftist intellectuals and activists provoked a whole slew of interpretations from the conspiracy theorists and political spinmeisters. As often happens at critical moments, many key antagonisms and oppositions were thrown into sharp relief during this incident, which touched many people to the quick personally and professionally. Who initiated the letter? Who paid off its authors? Whose pet project was it? Who was really in charge? Although they belong to warring ideological and intellectual factions, all the commentators had one thing in common—a stunning, catastrophic unwillingness to admit the possibility that this was an OPEN, TRANSPARENT, NON-HIERARCHICAL, DEMOCRATIC decision by a group of people who share a particular initiative.

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