Chtodelat News doesn’t endorse vandalism. However, it is remarkable how much attention has been paid to the fact that, during the antifa march in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in Moscow this past Tuesday, some of the marchers smashed a few shop windows along their route and some lampshades on the escalator as they escaped from police into the underground. If you read accounts of the march on LiveJournal, such as Vlad Tupikin’s, you will be struck by the debate raging there, in the comments, about the advisability of this sort of behavior.
What you won’t find much of, either there or in the society at large, is a debate raging over the essential questions. Why are so many (opposition) social and political activists beaten and killed in Russia? Why are so many migrant workers, foreign students, antifa activists, and members of ethnic minorities beaten or killed? Why are the police so keen to send in the tanks (so to speak—so far, that is) at the slightest threat of a demonstration numbering more than a few people (and even then)? Why such a reaction? Why is there so little reaction to all these things on the part of the authorities, on the part of ordinary folks?
Actually, the answer to all these questions is pretty clear. Russia has descended into political reaction, and violence against dissenters and the defenseless is one instrument of that reaction. Russia is not unique in this respect, neither now nor historically. But the velocity with which this reaction is progressing is hard not to notice, just as it is hard not to notice the centripetal effect this has on the space of politics. When an active public political or social stance is, often as not, rewarded with a bullet to the back of the head or a beating that leaves its victim in a coma, then it is clear that the less bold will think twice before signing a petition, going to a demonstration, making an elementary show of solidarity.
That is why we are pleased to publish the following translation of one Moscow marcher’s reaction to this reaction. The author asks all the right questions and gives all the right answers.
The boldfacing and italics of the original have been preserved. The Russian original can be found here. Along with the mind-numbing “debate” in the comments.
These Shards Are Our Tears
Today I was asked severely, “Why did they smash shop windows?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. Usually, I really don’t smash windows or lamps in the metro; I don’t even disturb trash urns. Then, for fifteen minutes, I listened to two adults anxiously discuss various aspects of street violence and civil society—all because of our shop windows. Honestly, I could not get my head around why they were so obsessed with those windows and bits of plastic, which at most are worth one thousandth of a commercial bank’s daily profits, when two very good people had been murdered and these people weren’t even strangers to the marchers.
Then, in the blogosphere, I read the opinions of ironic liberals and professional bullshitters. The general idea was that this is not how the dead are remembered. A pogrom is ugly; it doesn’t reflect the tragedy of the situation. We should stay at home, drink memorial shots of vodka, and meekly weep for the innocent martyrs. And then, apparently, we should once again dry our tears and head off to our Moscow burrows and offices. We should earn our little rubles and curse the authorities in our kitchens and on the way to the metro. In our “free country” it is also permitted to submit “petitions.” And, if their majesties the powers that be “approve” our “petitions,” we can crowd (after being searched) into a fenced-off kennel in order to tell each other the very same things that we’d long ago talked to death in our kitchens and on our blogs—only a bit louder than usual and in the great outdoors.
Over the past twenty-four hours [since the murders of Markelov and Baburova] we had drunk and kept silent and brought flowers to Prechistenka. But what use was this to those who knew the victims and were deeply, personally affected by their deaths?! But we also made a “date” downtown and found someone who could quickly make a banner. One thing we didn’t do was worry about what political spin doctors and other scum “would think” since we hate all those riffraff for being sell-outs and cynics. We were gripped by another thought: how to go on living in a country like this?
Two OMON trucks turned up at our meeting point. Then we moved to the second meeting site, next to the Duma, but the “cosmonauts” almost immediately showed up there as well. Apparently, they were expecting political actions near government buildings that evening. Men in camouflage surrounded fifteen people and put them on the pavement; everyone else successfully pretended they were passersby. At the Okhotny Ryad metro station, there were more arrests: they snatched people because of the way they looked. While there were still only a small number of OMON troops on the scene, we even managed to grab a few of our people from their clutches. We activated “Plan No. 3” and headed for Novokuznetskaya metro station.
Let me make it perfectly clear. The object of our hatred was and remains the authorities—“thanks” to whom there are so many fascists in our country (say thanks to “patriotic education” and discrimination against migrants, which is already taken as a given); “thanks” to whom the people who order political murders are never found; “thanks” to whom the individual is relegated to the role of a mindless extra. It is because of them, finally, that Stas and Nastya perished. Just like tens of thousands of other people—in the Chechen War, in the explosions of the apartment buildings, in destitute hospitals, in dilapidated mines, at the hands of the cops and the bandits they run protection for.
This hatred is also already implanted in the heads of the sixteen-year-olds. For now, what matters most to them is that an action be “fun.” They don’t know the “right words,” but they have an excellent sense of all the humiliation a person endures when he collides with “the system.” What alt-culture type hasn’t at least once been nabbed and messed with by the cops—just like that, for fun or to pad the statistics? Some people dust themselves off and forget about it. Others ask themselves a question: why?
The unfortunate shop windows are really beside the point. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Things happen this way, too. Our actions didn’t threaten the health and safety of “civilians” one iota. Unlike the actions of your average OMON officer, who without a second’s thought will start going at them with his fists and billy club.
If we could have found the killer, we would have strangled him without jury or trial. This man killed cold-bloodedly and consciously, and here there’s nothing more to discuss. But he didn’t come out of “nowhere”: there were reasons that brought him to the vicinity of Kropotinskaya metro station, and there were people who taught him how to kill. The certainty in his mind that he had the right to do this came from somewhere, and the root of this certainty was a sense of his own supremacy. This same source feeds the ideology of the Nazis and the authorities. By their own admission, the Nazis do “the dirty work,” and this is so convenient for the authorities. For there is nothing more convenient for governance than a society that lives in constant fear.
But we cannot find the murderer and take revenge on him. We can only scream: People, look around! What use do you have for all this if the best and the brightest are murdered on the streets because they dare to speak their minds? Stas and Nastya were the most honest and smartest of us all. These shards are the tears that we shed for them. The tears of our rage. Tears with sharp edges, tears that will never dry.
This short march that no one understood is our desperate cry. I could care less what what other people will think about us. A cry of desperation isn’t pleasant. You can plug your ears for comfort, but then be prepared for the fact that your own cry for help won’t be heard.
I know that Nastya and Stas will continue to live—at those moments when we march in this “inappropriate,” “senseless,” confrontational way. Because that is what they were like themselves: inappropriate from the viewpoint of philistines, unwilling to submit, disinclined to fit the mold.
Many times I wanted to say, “Stas, why aren’t you afraid?” I said it only once. He shrugged. I think he had long ago made up his mind.
Sleep peacefully, Stas and Nastyas, friends and comrades. We won’t forget you.