First, an important announcement:
Dmitry Vilensky & Alexei Penzin from Chto Delat/What Is to Be Done?
Lecture: Tuesday, December 1st at 6.00 pm
Small Hall / Cinema (to the side of Loafers)
Richard Hoggart Building
Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London SE14 6NW
Organised by Marxism in Culture and the Micropolitics Research Group, Goldsmiths, and supported by the Open University.
Second, to give Londoners a taste of what they might be hearing at the December 1 lecture, we are reprinting here Alexei Penzin’s essay “Under Suspicion,” from a recent issue of our newspaper entitled Another Commons: Living/Knowledge/Action. Sadly, what Alexei wrote this past summer has only gained in relevance and timeliness since then.
Alexei Penzin: Under Suspicion
When we peruse the timeline of the “merry month of May” 2009 in Russia—a laconic chronicle of arrests, detentions of activists, intellectuals and artists, but also of protests against these actions of the authorities—many difficult questions arise. Of course, the fragmentary and brief comments given below do not claim to be a definitive diagnosis. The incomplete and sketchy quality of these comments is rather a part of the problem itself. A fuller analysis will be possible when there is a systematic understanding of the post-Soviet political experience, which for now is a thing of the future.
1. In medias res
It is very difficult to understand what is going on in medias res, from the inside: these are events that are in the process of development, that affect us personally and assail us from all sides without allowing us to assume the stance of a dispassionate observer. These events affect many of us, sometimes in the literal, physical sense. The command “Hands against the wall!” A stunning blow to the head in a bus filled with people nabbed at a demonstration. Or, for example, the indescribably grotesque intrusion of a detachment of armed, shouting men during the showing of a Godard film at a peaceful leftist seminar. For about a year now the solidarity networks have been constantly delivering reports of new arrests, unlawful summonses for “discussions,” and beatings of activists. It is possible, however, that we should not be so focused on ourselves. The bad news concerns not only the minority of activists and intellectuals. The news also comes from those who are not involved in politics, education or research—from “average citizens.” The very texture of post-Soviet society in recent years has been steeped in anonymous, free-floating violence committed by the “forces of law and order.” Violence against civilians has become a kind of collateral damage, an excess of the existing system of political management. Sometimes this anonymous violence takes on personal and transgressive features. For example, in the person of a police officer who shoots at customers in a supermarket with the cold-bloodedness of a character in a computer game. Continue reading