Tag Archives: fascism

The Cutesy Pie Vocabulary of 21st-Century Fascism: “Dvushechka” and “Jam Day”

CHERNOV’S CHOICE
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Russian language is believed to be rich and highly nuanced.

This made foreign journalists think hard about how to translate the word dvushechka, used by President Vladimir Putin in reference to the two-year sentences the imprisoned women of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot were given in August for an anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral.

“The whole case ended up in court and the judge slipped them a dvushechka,” Putin said when interviewed for his 60th birthday television special, which aired Sunday.

Dvushechka is a vulgar diminutive of “two,” and so news agency Agence France-Presse translated it as “a little two,” while the Associated Press news agency chose to avoid the subtleties and translated the word as a plain “two years.”

This is a pity because the Russian word says a lot about the person who uses it. It sounds loutish, somewhat tender and almost lustful, giving the idea that a man who has it in his vocabulary has a certain amount of power, finds nearly sexual pleasure in imposing it on those who cannot defend themselves and does not care what others think about it.

In classic Russian literature, diminutives are frequently used by the most repulsive characters.

Using the word about prison terms for anybody — even if they were not young women, two of whom have young children — suggests a sinister background and evil frame of mind.

After dropping his dvushechka, Putin, however, was quick to remark, “I have nothing to do with it.”

According to Putin, Pussy Riot’s performance was not political, but pure hooliganism, for which they “got what they asked for.”

If anybody had any doubts about his direct involvement, now they should not.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were arrested March 3, while Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was arrested March 16. The three have been held in a Moscow detention center since then.

Their crime consisted of entering the church when there was no service being held and trying to videotape a music performance, which was stopped by the church’s guards after less than 60 seconds.

Like Pussy Riot’s other performances, it was directed against Putin and was called “Holy Mother of God, Drive Putin Away.”

Putin expressed his satisfaction about the verdict three days before a postponed appeal hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10. The women’s defense team said it sees his remarks as applying pressure on the court.

But quite frankly, an official of such stature has many other, more discreet ways to give orders to the court than via television.

A number of protests are planned around the world Wednesday, but not in St. Petersburg, where a rally was held Oct. 1. Check Pussy Riot’s support websites for times and locations.

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Meanwhile, in a videotaped birthday card that resembles a deliberate and total inversion of Pussy Riot’s brief performance in the Moscow cathedral and their entire short career prior to that, the “women’s movement” Otlichnitsy (“Teacher’s Pets”) invoked a frequent and irritatingly cutesy-pie play on words whereby den’ rozhdeniia (“birthday”) is turned into den vareniia (“jam day”) and presented the so-called Russian president with several jars of jam, including orange jam (by the woman on the right in the back row) “so that our country is never shaken by orange revolutions and there is more vitamin C in our politics.” (Thanks to Comrade Olga for the heads-up.)

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Norway: Terror in the Eye of the Beholder? (Left Flank)

Editor’s note. We couldn’t have said it any better than “Dr_Tad,” writing at the Australian blog Left Flank.

Terror in the eye of the beholder? Norway, the far Right & the state-media complex

This weekend was a salutary lesson in how terrorism is treated by the media and political establishment. The lesson may surprise you, because there are two narratives constructed:

Firstly, with outrage, linking of associations on the basis of zero evidence, calls for continued military action and tightening of domestic security (read: curtailing civil liberties) to fight the terrorists, and defence of the liberal freedoms that make “them” hate “us”.

Secondly, with sober reportage, calls for reflection rather than “politicised” reaction, with careful examination of the terrorist’s motives, sensible collateral information from family members and experts, and even sympathy for his grievances.

These two approaches just hours apart. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

The first approach is simply the set response to Islamist terrorism, especially since the events of 9/11, almost exactly 10 years ago now. And it was on display in the hours after the atrocities in Oslo and the island of Utoya. Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun, as if his editor didn’t realise how much trouble he was having currently, immediately seized on the attacks as a Jihadist plot with this front page:

Neo-con opinion makers in the US, like the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, immediately jumped on the same bandwagon, quoting security “experts” on the Islamist nature of the attacks and using the opportunity to demand a freeze on any cuts to defence spending, reminding Americans that this would mean “curbing our ability to defend the United States and our allies in a very dangerous world”.

As Think Progress points out, Murdoch’s flagship Wall Street Journal was equally brazen:

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, rushed up an editorial Friday, blaming “jihadists” for the attacks and exclaiming, “Norway is targeted for being true to Western norms”:

… in jihadist eyes, [Norway] will always remain guilty of being what it is: a liberal nation committed to freedom of speech and conscience, equality between the sexes, representative democracy, and every other freedom that defines the West. For being true to those ideals, Norwegians have now been asked to pay a terrible price.

As more information came out about the attacks and the attacker, the WSJ rewrote the online version of the editorial, albeit by removing any trace of the above paragraph. Instead, it mentioned that it had falsely attributed the attacks to jihadists and called the attacker an al Qaeda “copycat.” [Emphasis added]

The same logic was at play locally in Andrew Bolt’s blog: “Once the identity of the attackers becomes known, the consequences for Norway’s immigration policies could be profound.” It’s now been edited in retrospect including this justification:

(UPDATE: i’ve removed here an excerpt from the first report I linked to spelling out the earlier Islamic threats and attacks that led many, including the Guardian and New York Times, to initially suspect an Islamic attack. I had left it up so as to explain the context of my original reaction, and so not to seem I was trying to cover up my original suspicions. Now I find that leaving it up is being interpreted as my insisting on a gratuitous point instead.)

The focus on Islamist terrorism has always been part of the general climate of Islamophobia whipped up in the “War on Terror” than any facts on the ground. As Juan Cole has pointed out, Europol has repeatedly recorded that Islamists are a tiny part of the mix of terrorist threats and actions across the continent.

Sympathy with the oppressors

Now the facts are in, the media is suddenly hard at work downplaying the hysteria. So we’re treated to carefully reconstructed accounts of the killer’s childhood and political views. His motives in attacking the youth wing of a Left of centre political party are detailed as part of a “calculated” (if horrific) plan.

Andrew Bolt now claims Breivik is not a real Christian because of what he’s done, in a complete reversal of his repeated linking of Islam with violence. We should “look not as his creed but his wounds”, descending into pop psychology about his traumatic upbringing. Bolt reminds us, “[E]xtremes of the Right and Left are indistinguishable,” just in case you thought we were talking about a right-wing terrorist here.

The Guardian can see fit to reprint commentary by a former member of Sweden’s far-right New Democrats, which minimises its racist policies while suggesting the real problem was that too many hate-filled people were allowed to run riot in its ranks — as if the two are so easily disconnected.

There are two things we learned on Friday afternoon. One: extremists are found in all groups, and all are at least as dangerous. Two: hatred breeds hate. Never help to spread it unless you are ready to take the consequences.

More insidiously, the coverage has expressed some agreement with the motivations that drove Breivik to his crimes. The New York Times, in its detailed dissection of the rise of far Right sentiment across Europe, writes:

A combination of increased migration from abroad and largely unrestricted movement of people within an enlarged European Union, such as the persecuted Roma minority, helped lay the groundwork for a nationalist, at times starkly chauvinist, revival.

Such an analysis could easily have come from Breivik’s own mouth. It is the ultimate in sympathy with the oppressor, justifying anti-immigrant racism on the basis of the immigrants themselves. Recall the hysteria when people pointed to the grievances that drove Islamist terrorists — Western military occupation of Muslim countries, support for brutal dictatorships — we were told that this was outrageous and that it was all about “them” hating “us” for our way of life. Yet those grievances had a basis in reality rather than febrile racist ideology, even if the terrorists’ methods were a disaster for the struggle against oppression.

A little more anger, please

One response to the media’s astounding ability to jump to conclusions and whip up prejudice has been an understandable desire to see this is a chance to more soberly assess and reflect on what has happened, to understand political violence rather than engage with a left-wing mirror image of the Right’s hysteria. This was the position put by Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo yesterday, and while I am sympathetic to the argument I think it doesn’t deal with the reality of how this is playing out.

I’m not advocating that we get all Chicken Little about this, but the problem the Left now faces is precisely the cold, measured approach the media and political establishment are taking to the issue of far Right extremism. Because, in its own way, that is just as seductive a narrative as the exaggerations, lies and racialist paranoia driven around Islamist terrorism. Its function is to settle fears, to isolate “extremists” as “lone gunmen” divorced from wider political developments, to paint a picture of a healthy society whose only internal threats are aberrations.

It is vital for the media, the political class and the state to create a particular narrative here because to shine the spotlight on liberal democratic societies that could produce such reactions would be a bridge too far. Yet if one thing has been true of modern societies it is that when profound social polarisation occurs, so the fringe voices of the extreme Right can gain a hearing. Those voices articulate not a class solution to the social problems that sharpen in periods of crisis, but a national one built on scapegoating and authoritarianism.

That ideological framework doesn’t simply arise spontaneously at the fringes; it is conditioned by the reality of how states operate to manage social divisions within national boundaries (see here for Left Flank on nationalism in the era of neoliberalism). My prediction is that it will not be long before mainstream politicians seek to assuage the “rising tide” of racism in Europe by pandering to it, talking of “understandable” grievances and the need to “manage” multiculturalism more closely. The far Right is a small but very serious danger in a Europe increasingly racked by economic turmoil. But it is the official discourse, frequently peppered with pronouncements about the “failure” of multiculturalism, which is a key part of the problem. What’s more, states have the power (which they frequently exercise) to actually repress, control and expel migrants.

If his writings are to be believed, Breivik seized upon a common point of anger expressed by right-wing extremists: The failure of governments to act against “Islamicisation” and multiculturalism. This is a signal feature of fascism, the need to act outside the state when it won’t go far enough in the national interest. Indeed, in language similar to Nazism’s rantings against the ever-present menace of “Bolshevism”, Breivik railed against the “cultural Marxism” of the very mainstream Norwegian Labour Party. That the language is not so different to repeated accusations by leading Australian right-wingers of Julia Gillard’s “socialism” or the Greens’ “environmental Marxism” should give pause for thought about the forces they may be legitimating.

It is therefore important to not accept that the media’s softly-softly approach here as a sign of a new maturity. It is precisely because the media is so deeply implicated in the last decade of state-sanctioned Islamophobia and diminution of civil liberties that it is rushing to frame a story that perpetuates a lack of comprehension about the links between the extreme Right and how governments have managed social polarisation with the media’s collusion. Indeed, they will do so alongside a continuation of the very anti-immigrant tropes that fostered the current climate.

If they were being truly reflective, they would be angrily going after the “mainstream” political system (of which they are a key part) that encourages extremists’ paranoia, hatred and violence. I’m not holding my breath.

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In support of Left Flank’s argument, we couldn’t help notice that even after Norwegian police had Breivik in custody, the formidable Voice of Russia continued to toe the anti-Muslim line:

The head of the Centre of Northern Europe of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yuri Deryabin, shared his opinion of possible motives for the double terrorist act in Oslo with The Voice of Russia.

“This is undoubtedly a terrorist act but not against a certain politician. It was meant to intimidate the public and to prove that al-Qaeda is alive even after Bin Laden has died. Why Norway? Because it is taking an active part in the NATO operation in Afghanistan. As for the incident at the youth camp outside Oslo, the reasons are not so obvious. The suspect has been arrested and is answering police questions. I do not rule out that he has links with an international terrorist organization like al-Qaeda. Not all Islamists are Muslim nationals.  The second version is that the suspect who is an ethnic Norwegian is a mentally unbalanced person. In any case this is a terrible tragedy which proves that the world community should close its ranks in the face of the terrorist threat”.

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The Jet Set Junta

Buzz, buzz, go the brass electrodes as the flesh begins to peel…

OpenSpace.Ru
May 5, 2011
The Putin Style
Gleb Napreenko

Once, as I was walking along the Arbat after a discussion of Lacan’s ideas on the inevitable splitting of the human subject, I looked up and saw an enormous banner. In counterpoint to my own thoughts, the characters represented on the banner were marked by a perfect wholeness — and an equally perfect deadness.

A young man and young woman, both of them blond and beautiful, stand against a backdrop of neoclassical architecture. The girl is a figure skater, the boy, a snowboarder, and behind each of them is a snow-white sculpture of the appropriate sex, engaged in the corresponding sport. These statues as it were complete the mission of transforming man into cold, sterile perfection. Snow-capped mountain peaks are visible on the horizon.

There are many of these banners in Moscow now. They are part of the advertising campaign for Gorki Gorod, a resort town under construction in Krasnaya Polyana for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The project is a public-private partnership: Sberbank has a 25% stake in the project, and its partners include the cities of Krasnodar and Sochi.  The advertisement was executed by Doping-Pong, a Petersburg “art group” (this is how they identify themselves). Doping-Pong is primarily a group of designers who work on commission, but they see themselves as major artists and adherents of Petersburg neoacademism. As Dmitry Mishenin, the group’s leader, told me, “Doping-Pong are in fact neoclassicists, the genuine heirs of beauty in Russian art.” Neoacademism’s fatal seriousness almost reaches the level of the grotesque in this conceit. However, as Mishenin himself admits, Timur Novikov, the leader of neoacademism, “cursed [him, Mishenin] before his death [in 2002].”

As everyone knows, the entourage of the president and prime minister are from Petersburg. Judging by new construction in Strelna [a suburb of Petersburg whose pompously restored Constantine Palace was the site of the 2006 G8 Summit] and other projects, we can surmise that this adherence to the “traditions of beauty” (to pluck an expression from the arsenal of the neoacademists) is to the liking of these folks who hail from the capital of Russian classicism. Like the design of its advertisements, the architectural commission for Gorki Gorod has been entrusted to two Petersburgers who are likewise neoclassicists — Mikhail Filippov and Maxim Atayants. Gorki Gorod is, at present, the largest of Filippov’s projects that will, apparently, be implemented.

However, beauty comes in different shapes, and even neoclassical beauty can have various ideological shades. Exactly what kind of beauty do the designers of the advertisement imagine themselves to be heirs of? Doping-Pong’s current creations are reminiscent of Nazi posters for the 1936 Olympics, official painting in the Third Reich, the sculptures of Arno Breker, and scenes from Leni Riefensthal’s films: the upward-turned gaze detached from the lower world, the Aryan statuesque beauty, the warrior-like bearing. Perhaps it is no accident that the project’s architects have themselves equated Krasnaya Polyana with an Alpine village.

However, in terms of architecture, Gorki Gorod is more likely to trigger memories of Stalinist ensembles in the minds of Russians, and in the video clip for the project we seen an enormous reproduction of an Alexander Deyneka painting placed on one of the walls of the town. But these are Stalinist ensembles that simultaneously imitate an old European mountain town: here, [faux-]historical stratifications are even reproduced in the juxtapositions of the buildings. All of this generates the scenery for a kind of averaged totalitarian style. The ubiquitous classical orders, the symmetrical plazas, and the axial street plan (one of whose compositional centers is an Orthodox church) reinforce the notion of a normalized beautiful life. The architecture only hints at all this, whereas the advertisement is maximally frank: it shows that preference has been given to the style of German (and, partly, Italian) fascism as something more European, more modernistically pure and attractive in comparison with the Asiatic, clumsily outdated, native Stalinist style.

All this might seem like conjecture were it not for the revelations made by the designers and architects. Here is a quotation from an interview with Atayants: “If everything works out, then in ten or fifteen years, when the trees grow a little, you’ll find old-timers who will say that this town has always been here. They’ll say that Krasnaya Polyana sprang up right here, and that Stalin visited the place. Such people will turn up, and that will be highest compliment for me and for all of us.” In a questionnaire published on the Italian web site Pigmag.com, when asked the question, “Who is Stalin?” Mishenin replied, with obvious sympathy, “The Fuehrer and Russian Il Duce.” Among other things, Doping-Pong’s web site is adorned with images of swastikas, and one of the group’s latest project is a series of erotic photographs in which the heroine, Fa (a young woman wearing a swastika-emblazoned t-shirt) wrestles with Antifa (another young woman) in a boxing ring (they’re naked, of course). In the end, Fa wins the bout and wraps herself in the Nazi flag. Another person who collaborates with the web site is commercial illustrator Katya Zashtopik — a pretty young thing who, from the looks of it, has publicly confessed her love for Hitler and Nazism, and whom the national-socialist community awarded a swastika-emblazoned ring for “propaganda of Nazi ideas.”

The designers of Doping-Pong assert on their web site that they “have been working for a long time, [work] very expensively, and are always right because they are the best.” This means that they are confident that the Nazi style sells well. Moreover, the patina of the totalitarian style makes a product more sellable. On the banner in question, there are two statues depicted in the background, but they are different: whereas the young woman on skates is a direct quotation from the world of Stalinist aesthetics, the snowboarder is a reference from a completely different context — contemporary mass media and advertising photos (such statues don’t exist in reality). But thanks to the marble (albeit illustrated marble), this advertising for winter sports is ennobled and raised to the level of high culture. And prices rise along with it.

This appeal to purchase real estate is primarily addressed to the younger generation, the children of the current elite. The choice of European fascism over Russian Stalinism thus has a purely commercial significance: the former is more attractive to the target audience. The associations with the Alps are likewise obligatory: they make the old Sochi-area resort capable of competing with Switzerland.

But there is also a more complex line of thinking behind all this: Stalinist (“Caucasian”) totalitarianism must become genuinely colonialist, colonialist in the western (and not Soviet) sense. In the quasi-historic development that Filippov has designed for the site and in Atayants’s dream of “old-timers” who perceive its architecture as native, dreams of reformatting history and re-educating the population with architecture shine through. Although Atayants does mention Stalin, the approach here is not at all Stalinist (that is, “national in form, socialist in content” — OpenSpace), and the advertisement is, once again, much more frank about this: the fact that this is being built in the Caucasus — not in some abstract mountains, and not in the Alps — is ignored. In the illustrations and video clips for the project we see the white-skinned proprietors of this world, the colonizers; we do not see any Circassian girls with vases on their heads dancing on command, as in Stalinist friezes. In its standardized classicism, the architecture also reminds us of a city of colonizers. It is worth noting that, in another interview, Atayants says, “Petersburg is a purely colonial European city on Russian soil.” He goes on to complain that its population has the same attitude to architecture as the inhabitants of Algeria and Libya have displayed since the countries were liberated from colonialism: they do not understand the virtues of the French- or Mussolini-era buildings and ruin them with their own utilitarian modifications. Atayants also quotes [Moscow architecture critic] Grigory Revzin, who said that “the Russian powers that be are always engaged in colonizing their own territory.” Atayants apparently believes that they should continue this colonization.

I was being ironic, of course, when I titled this article “The Putin Style”: the powers that be do not have the moxie to produce a major style that would be analogous to what Boris Groys has dubbed “the Stalin style.” The Stalinist period was utterly theatricalized: it was presented as a spectacle in which the entire nation were participants. Nowadays, such a synthesis is also taking shape, but on a minor stage. This stage is not secured by political power and certainly not by the myth of complicity in a great cause, but rather by money and the pleasure it brings. Gorki Gorod is a project for the elites, and as if in affirmation of its elitism, the project has been situated amidst mountain tops. The name itself, Gorki, also refers to the president’s official suburban residence and the [eponymous] village on the Rublevskoye Highway [outside of Moscow].

The choice of an elite stage, as opposed to Stalin’s nationwide stage, is manifested in its banishment of the theme of labor, which was central for the Stalinist age. In the world of Gorki Gorod, there is no such thing as exertion. Labor goes on somewhere in the lower world: here there is only the delectation of idleness. Hence, as Atayants puts it, there is something “facile and even amusing” in the development’s architecture. And as the ad campaign demonstrates, the town’s new inhabitants and new athletes do not strain themselves: for them, sports are a pleasant pastime. None of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century treated this subject so hedonistically. The Putin regime has here hit upon its own proper note.

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The new, improved “popular front,” Putin-style:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed creating a “broad popular front” ahead of Russia’s parliamentary election, in an apparent attempt to counter growing public discontent with his political party and solidify support.


Putin’s United Russia has a majority in Russia’s parliament and is the dominant party in regional legislatures and governor’s offices across the country. Polls, however, show its support declining as Russians increasingly associate the party with a corrupt bureaucracy.

Russia holds a parliamentary election in December that will set the scene for a presidential vote three months later in 2012. Putin, who stepped down as president in 2008 after serving two terms, has not said whether he will run, but his actions increasingly signal that he intends to reclaim the presidency.

Speaking Friday before hundreds of party members in the southern city of Volgograd, Putin said the new front should include not only United Russia but also other political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, youth groups and veterans’ associations.

“It is important that everyone should have the possibility and the right not only to formulate their ideas and proposals for how best to develop Russia, but should be able to suggest their candidates, who would be able remain as independents but would be able to enter parliament on the United Russia ticket,” he said in the televised address. Party members responded with raucous applause.

The ultimate goal, as his spokesman later made clear, is to solidify support for Putin across all segments of the Russian population.

The popular front will be formed “not on the basis of the party but more likely around Putin, the author of this idea,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters traveling with the prime minister.

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BASTA! Special Issue: Foma, “Who Makes the Nazis?”

This is the second 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.

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In the centerfold of this newspaper you will find a map of catastrophe and terror. Buildings razed or made to collapse in the name of progress; parks and squares surrendered to “developers”; human beings maimed or destroyed in the attempt to purify one of the capitals of “Russian civilization.” Continue reading

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