Pyotr Pavlensky is Not an Artist

Pyotr Pavlensky lit a Parisian bank on fire this week in a stunt that mirrored his previous action in Moscow, when he set fire to the door of the FSB (formerly KGB) headquarters in 2015.

3500.jpg

Moscow 2015

He’s been both vilified and lionized in Russia and throughout the West for his actions. Hailed as a dissident, provocateur, and artist/actionist, Pavlensky is famous for stunts like nailing his scrotum to the Red Square or sewing his mouth shut in defense of Pussy Riot. He’s also been attacked in Russia as a traitor or an agent of the West.

Some have said that his art isn’t really “art”.

I won’t be making such a claim – I’m in no position to start handing out certificates of authenticity for what is or isn’t art.

For me, what is striking is that we still allow Pavlensky to self-identify as an artist, rather than insisting that he receive the proper label: rapist.

Whether it comes to his violent sexual assault of the actress Anastasia Slonina last December or the important history of his violence towards women (either physically) psychologically) and acting as a defender of that violence, Pavlensky’s “art” must be seen in the context of his surrounding life. For example, no one ought to forget when his wife, Oksana Shalygina, cut off her finger in some bizarre act of loyalty.

One thing is clear: misogyny surrounds his life.

Consider Pavlensky’s court “art” in Moscow during the trial in 2016. Pavlensky paid sex workers to take the stand and say that the arson of the FSB headquarters was not an art piece.

His point in all this? Pavlensky was trying to say that the legal system is full of “whores”, so they should have to deal with “whores”.

Notably, it was during this period that Pavlensky publicly attacked feminists, continuing a long tradition of “leftist” men attacking feminists.

Putting this all into perspective, Pavlensky should not be called a “Radical Protest Artist”.

He’s a man who has brought about tons of violence into the lives of women. Pavlensky can no longer be called an “artist” in the same way that we no longer refer to Bill Cosby as a “comedian” or Harvey Weinstein as a “producer”. They have now one identity – that of rapist.

APTOPIX_France_Russia_Dissident_Artist_53065.jpg-58326

Paris 2017

After he was accused of rape, he and his family fled to Paris, where they were granted asylum earlier this year. Why would France take an accused rapist in? This is the same country that has experienced a huge right-wing backlash due to the presence of refugees from the Third World.

But any enemy of Putin is a friend of mine, right!?

(as long as they have white skin!)

Actually, based on the reports this week, I agree pretty strongly with Pavlensky’s comparison between the FSB headquarters in Russia and the Central Bank in France. They both function as brutal institutions of neoliberal capitalism and imperialism, albeit in different ways.

A lot of his former allies have been decrying that the Russian FSB is much worse – which therefore invalidates this new action. I disagree with those segments of the Left in Russia.

I’m more focused on the circumstances surrounding the act.

“Artist” functions as an identifying marker.

We can say, perhaps, that Pavlensky “does art”. However, by allowing him to self-identify as an artist, we are missing the important point. Pavlensky is, first and foremost, a rapist.

While awaiting the death penalty, John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer of adolescent boys in Chicago, took up painting. He also “did art”, but we don’t refer to him as an artist.

There’s another insidious problem here, however. If this is considered a political action, then we need to reanalyze what we accept and embrace as “political”.

Has the Left become so enamored with defeatism and so convinced of failure that the most we can hope for is that some idiot sets a bank alight?

Is this really fighting capitalism?

We’re coming up on the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution – one of the greatest events in human history – and our contribution to the anti-capitalist struggle is this?

What we saw this week was not the work of a political artist or dissident.

It was a rapist setting a bank on fire.

Advertisements

Who’s Responsible for the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933?

Yesterday, on the badhistory subreddit, a post entitled “Stalin paid the clouds not to rain!” – On Holodomor Denial sprang up to intervene in the Reddit Left-o-sphere’s analysis of the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933. The author, not to be outdone, decides to engage in some of their own bad history. In this text, the author attempts to disprove two claims:

  1. “There was a famine in Ukraine and other areas of the USSR, but it was the result of weather, and not man-made.
  2. The claim it was orchestrated deliberately was invented by the Nazis and popularized by them to justify a war with the USSR. This claim has been extended to including the concept of the Holodomor as a tenet of fascism.”

Unfortunately, the author fails to “debunk these claims”, as they intend, but rather display a broad (and probably willful) ignorance of the facts surrounding the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933. The following is an analysis of the author’s treatment of the first claim as well as a clarification of the circumstances of the Holodomor and the wider famine.

“… while it’s agreed that the Holodomor is a democide, it’s heavily debated that it was a genocide. Most scholars have adopted the position that it was not a genocide if genocide is defined at attempting to exterminate an ethnic group. While Ukrainians suffered disproportionately, Kazakhs and south Russians suffered as well, and there is little evidence that it was intended as “punishment” for Ukraine.”

“Democide” is a highly ambiguous term and not generally used in scholarly writing about the Holodomor. I’m not entirely sure where the author got this term (it’s been popularized more recently be some anti-communists in the United States), however, I’m not going to nitpick too much on that. For an interesting article that discusses and frames the Holodomor, check out Stanislav Kul’chits’kii’s article here (in Ukrainian).

The author says that “[m]ost scholars have adopted the position that it was not a genocide…” Actually, many of the scholars that the author cites here (Snyder, Davies, Service, Kiernan) argue that the Holodomor was, in fact, a genocide and a human-engineered famine. Considering the author’s Reddit Flair as “Trostkyist | CWI”, which indicates the ideological skew, it’s no surprise that all of the sources cited are either rabid anti-communists (like Kotkin and Snyder) or Trotskyists (like Cliff). Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note that the author clearly constructs the narrative of a genocide and then refrains from using that term. In typical Trotskyist fashion, the author wishes to have their cake and eat it too.

“Most scholars have adopted the view that it was a deliberate over-requisitioning of grain to export to fund industrialization, and attempts to circumvent the resultant food shortage in Ukraine led to harsher measures by Stalin which did aim to punish. The second debate is over the number of casualties. Many people try to cite that it was over 10 million killed, partly in order to deflect their own culpability in the holocaust and/or try to portray the USSR as worse. The consensus is around 4 million killed.”

I assume the number “around 4 million” is drawn from the number claimed by the Appellate Court in Kiev in 2010 – which is 3,941,000 deaths due to the famine and an additional 6,122,000 in birth deficit. It’s not clear why the author decides to call this a “consensus”, because it certainly is not. However, it is the number present on the Wikipedia page, where, it seems, the author derives the bulk of their argument.

I’d also like to point out here that 100% of the cited sources are in English, indicating that the author didn’t go through the Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish historiography on the Holodomor (where there are equally lively and challenging debates.) Even this BBC article (although in Russian) shows that historians are still arguing about the death tolls of the famine, because reliable data just doesn’t exist.

“In regards to claim one, the only scholar who seriously holds this position is Mark Tauger. Who has been dismissed as completely wrong by every other scholar in the field. Put simply, there is no real evidence for the effect of weather on the harvest. While there were dry periods in 1932, it was nothing that abnormal. This is pretty evident from the fact that no where else in Eastern Europe was there a significant food shortage, despite them sharing the exact same climate. Areas of depopulation of 15-20% run right up to the Polish border at that time and then mysteriously stop. In fact, not even Tauger argues that rain was the cause – because Tauger argues that the famine was the result of plant diseases. Of course this falls prey to the same problem as the drought hypothesis, namely, why does the famine stop at the Polish border?”

First, Tauger is not the only scholar who seriously holds this position. J. Arch Getty very famously took Robert Conquest to task in the pages of The London Review of Books in 1987 for claiming that the Holodomor was an intentional famine. Stephan Merl (article in German) also criticizes the dominant narrative of the Holodomor. As does Sheila Fitzpatrick, which makes it especially interesting that the author included her book on the Russian Revolution in the sources – a book, that, I might add, has nothing to do with the Holodomor. There’s also this thorough article by Viktor Kondrashin (in Russian).

Second, Tauger very clearly argues that it was a combination of drought and agricultural pests. Not a single scholar denies that weather had some effect on the harvests in the relevant years (with the exception of Robert Conquest). Even Wheatcroft and Davies (cited by the author) demonstrate that grain yield in 1931 and 1932 was significantly lower than previous and subsequent years. It’s surprising to me that the author does not even properly cite the English-language sources, which are obviously the only sources they are able to read. Perhaps it is a case of deliberately ignoring the facts or perhaps it is a case of simply being ignorant of them.

Third, the author apparently doesn’t understand how food production and distribution works. First of all, the Soviet Union was reliant upon one area (modern-day eastern Ukraine and the Kuban region of Russia) as the major grain-supplier for the entire country, referred to as the “Breadbasket” of the USSR. The author also says that all of Eastern Europe “shar[e] the exact same climate”, which is demonstrably false, as is evidenced by the presence of the Carpathian Mountains in modern-day Northwest Ukraine. Second of all, however, although the scale of the famine was substantially larger in the Soviet Union, crop yields decreased all over Eastern Europe (not just magically ending at the Polish border at the time, which, it should be noted, goes through modern-day Ukraine). This is why people were dying of starvation all over the Soviet Union (not just in Ukraine). After all, the Holodomor is just a piece of the greater Soviet Famine of 1932-1933.

“In any case, even assuming that there was a natural component, their explanation still doesn’t prevent Stalin from being responsible. Since around 1800, there has been a high enough rate of agricultural production worldwide that any famine since then has effectively been man-made, even assuming an agricultural component.”

Every famine has been effectively human-engineered since 1800? According to whom?

The author zig-zags between saying that the Soviet Famine was used as a measure by Stalin to punish any recalcitrant peasants and at the same time denying that it was a genocide. I will say it unequivocally, if Soviet government intentionally caused the famine of 1932-1933, then it was a genocide. However, none of the evidence leads to that unproblematic conclusion.

The lack of sources, except just the sloppy copy and paste job at the end shows the amateurish pseudo-scholarship by the author. First of all, the author includes sources that do not comment on the Soviet Famine or the Holodomor at all. Second of all, the author fails to include any sources that disagree with the argument put forth. Predictably, the author also omits sources that complicate the narrative.

The glaring omission from the text is the fact that there isn’t a single shred of evidence that the famine was human-engineered. Not a memo, a letter, or a decree from anyone within the Soviet government calling for the initiation or continuation of a famine in the Soviet Union (or in Soviet Ukraine). How is it that for all the archives that have been scoured and for all the official documents people have found from the Stalinist era, no one has been able to find anything that indicates an intentional extermination of the Ukrainian people?

Ultimately, the author creates an easy, uncomplicated history where Stalin, the evil dictator, wanted to starve out the peasant population. This isn’t convincing. Anyone who has studied the circumstances surrounding the Holodomor must at least take pause when such claims are made based entirely on English-language literature. The use of Famine Politics in order to establish a lazy anti-Stalin paradigm helps no one in reaching a realistic conclusion based on facts and evidence. A thoughtful approach to the subject may not lead one to say that Stalin “paid the clouds not to rain”, but it certainly doesn’t lead to the author’s conclusion either.

Analyzing Clinton’s Nonsense on the Late Show

When we talk about “what happened” regarding the 2016 elections, we should always start with the clear point that in the bourgeois political extravaganza, no one is willing to take responsibility. And, obviously, the masters of not taking responsibility are the Clintons.

In the video, Colbert and Clinton spend the first two minutes on general fluff and wound-licking. Following that, Clinton says the point of her book is to figure out what happened, “so that it doesn’t happen again”. Of course, she receives raucous applause for this line. After all, she is on Colbert’s show.

What is “it” exactly? Bourgeois elections? The Democrats losing elections? I suppose she means the government of the Russian Federation “interfering” in the elections, but we’ll cover that a bit later.

She says at around the 3:40 mark, that she’s being as candid as she could be about “the mistakes [she] made, … but also, … everything from sexism and misogyny to voter suppression to the unusual behavior of the former director of the FBI and the Russians, and the Russians and you have been sounding the alarm about this, because I believe so strongly that they think they succeeded in messing with our democracy…”

We can unpack this more as the interview goes on, but you’ll notice how quickly she pivots from talking about her own actions to blaming everyone else. Throughout the rest of the interview, she fails to mention anything else about what she could have done to change the outcome of the election.

That’s not to say the other things aren’t important, but rather that in her perspective, she is not responsible for her own loss. Well, what the fuck? For someone who apparently extolls the virtues of the Amerikkkan political process, why is she complaining about it so much? I don’t remember any (literally, not one) of the other losers in my lifetime doing anything remotely like this.

BLM Clinton

“Russia made me say racist things in the 90s!”

Back to the video…

Around 4:30, she says that the “Russians” definitely were “influencing voters and, therefore, influencing opinion…”

Let’s assume, for a moment, this is true. What does that mean? The government of the Russian Federation supposedly bought ads on Facebook and published news articles that were particularly aimed at Clinton and her campaign, placing her in a bad light.

What’s the issue here?

Last time I checked, that’s perfectly legal and acceptable. In fact, that’s what you do in an election! You attempt to influence voters and opinion in order to help you achieve your personal desirable outcome.

Now, dear reader, you might protest that the problem is that Russia is a foreign government. However, I don’t hear anyone complaining about how Clinton received money and blessings from Saudi Arabia and Israel (along with countless other states).

So what’s the deal? Russia bought Facebook ads? And by doing so, influenced the election?

Good for them. They played the game and beat out other countries. It seems like if we accept the narrative that Clinton and Colbert are pushing, the whole process was merely a power-play between different countries. And in that power-play, Russia beat Saudi Arabia.

clinton saudi

Around 5:07, she claims that she’s “a bit of a Paula Revere.”

Can’t you hear it now? The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

This is fear-mongering and highfalutin bullshit at its finest.

So now we get to hear Clinton’s breakdown of Vladimir Putin’s strategy. Fasten your seatbelt, dear reader, because you’re about to get thrown through a whirlwind of garbage.

At 5:12, she begins:

“You know, you’ve gotta understand what Putin’s strategy is. He really doesn’t like democracy. He thinks its an inconvenient, messy process. And he doesn’t like us. And he wants to destabilize our country, sow doubt about our democracy. I mean, these latest revelations where you had Russians pretending to be Americans. You had fake Americans with fake news and fake stories and fake demonstrations. That wasn’t just because he’s bored and has nothing to do. He wants to undermine how we see each other, how we respect each other, how we support our institutions and our society. So, I think they believed they had a good outing in 2016 and I think they will be back in 2018 and 2020 unless we stop them.”

This analysis received applause. And it really shouldn’t have.

The hypocrisy here is so blatant and so shameless, I’m surprised it got past people at all.

Putin doesn’t like democracy? Putin is trying to sow doubt about “our democracy”?

Seriously?

What the hell is she talking about?

Who is the person who just wrote a book and is appearing on television to say that the most recent elections were illegitimate? Not Putin!

Who is the one saying that we had people faking citizenship and lying about facts in order to help their side? Not Putin!

Who likes democracy? Not Putin and certainly not Hillary Clinton!

Clinton Putin.jpg

“I hate democracy as much as you do.”

At 6:30, Clinton speculates as to why Putin wouldn’t like her. She concludes that it’s because she questioned the legitimacy of the elections in Russia in 2011. She goes on to say that Putin is still upset about the dismantling of the Soviet Union and that he wants to “undermine the European-American alliance.”

I think there are probably a few other pretty good reasons for Putin to cheer for anyone opposing Clinton. It’s true, she did question the legitimacy of the elections in 2011 – as did everyone else, because it was obviously rigged.

So, that’s probably not the primary reason.

Who ran on the platform of shooting down Russian planes flying over Syria?

Who was Secretary of State and oversaw the total destruction of Libya?

Who threatened to give more money to the Ukrainian government and started peddling revisionist narratives of the events of 2013-2014?

Clinton has a very proactive record of military aggression against sovereign countries and trying to corner Russia into very tight positions. As the regional power, the Russian government has seen these maneuvers (rightfully) as threatening and has opposed them.

Obviously, Dumbass Trump has been little better, but we can all rest assured that, through incompetence, Trump has been unable to get as much done as Clinton would have.

And that’s a good thing for Russia (and everyone else, btw)!

Starting around 7:35, Clinton starts telling a story about a time she met with Putin “in his dacha” in order to demonstrate that Putin is a terrible misogynist.

It, of course, doesn’t take a genius to realize that Putin is a patriarchal piece of shit. His whole image is that of ultra-masculinity. However, we should ask ourselves the question: what’s the function of this story?

It’s to make sure that everyone is on Clinton’s side against Putin (and, of course, we must hate Russia, because we hate Putin).

Why doesn’t Clinton focus on other avowed misogynists?

Like King Salman or Bibi Netanyahu?

Or how about Bill Clinton?

hillary-clinton-shush-1

I’d like to end this with a story, just so we have the entire context here.

There was a significant event in 1996 that ought to be retold – the second election ever in the Russian Federation. Boris Yeltsin was running for re-election under very bad circumstances. He had been wildly popular in the beginning and watched that popularity dwindle as he did things like literally bomb the parliament building in central Moscow in 1993. At the same time, the economy was failing and the Russians were bombing Grozny to hell in the separatist republic of Chechnya.

So things weren’t going very well.

At the same time, a lot of people were looking back on the Soviet Union and realizing that they had lost a lot – public finances going to social security, healthcare, and education. Worker’s protections were also important. In Russia today, people refer to the 90s as “the wild 90s” and almost no one I’ve ever talked to has had anything positive to say about that time.

At this point, Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the newly-formed Communist Party of the Russian Federation (replacing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) looked like a superstar, promising to fix the economy and put Russia back on track as it moved into the 21st century.

Bill Clinton, president of the U.$. at the time, was not about to let a communist win the Russian elections.

In the run-up to the election, the U.$. and the IMF funneled money to the Russian government. Yeltsin was also given logistical help from the Clinton administration. Pretty much everyone agrees, in the end, Zyuganov would have won the election, but the government committed wouldn’t allow free and fair elections.

Zyuganov.jpg

Essentially, the Clinton administration made important moves (up to and including direct election fraud) in order to ensure that Yeltsin won the 1996 elections.

Following this move, the Russian economy continued to spiral, the Russian government continued the War in Chechnya (and admitted defeat just a month after the election).

So, allow me to pose the question to you, dear reader: who in truth has a track record of interfering in foreign elections? Is Russia really the bogey-man that Clinton and her minions are trying to paint it as? Or is it the case that the Russian government simply refuses to be a vassal of the U.$.?

I Wish Trump Was a Russian Puppet

The Huffington Post, known for its great journalism (sarcasm), has been publishing total bullshit lately (not sarcasm) on Russia.

Let’s break this down though, because it’s mostly been just two journalists: Nick Robins-Early and David Wood.

They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but they’re certainly determined to make sure that everyone hears their ignorant opinions.

Nick Robins-Early wrote this piece, where he said that the photo is banned, which isn’t true, but rather the photo with the homophobic comment is banned. In this situation, I actually support the Russian government.

I’d like the Russian government to do more to ban homophobic language on the internet. I don’t think it does enough.

Then there’s this:

Which asks the important (sarcasm) question, why does Russia support the government of Syria? It fails to ask the important question, why doesn’t everybody? Why the fuck is Trump bombing Shayrat Airbase and groups fighting alongside the Syrian government?

 

Robins-Early also wrote this.

Which is all about poor Navalny (sarcasm) who was sentenced to jail for his bullshit. Navalny is considered to be an oppositionist in Russia, so he receives infinite support from the West. The thing that no one tells you is that Putin is to the left of Navalny, who was fond of describing Georgians as sub-human during the Russian-Georgian War in 2008.

And the Huffington Post saw fit to publish this little number by David Wood that argues that Russia is trying to start a war with the U.S. (and not the other way around)! What reality are these people living in where Russia is the aggressor when the U.S. is bombing an airbase that Russia uses? Can we imagine if the opposite had occurred?

Finally, after Tillerson’s meeting with Lavrov, Putin said that the relationship with the U.S. has deteriorated – is this not significant?

And the Huffington Post was there to report it (or at least steal it from Reuters).

This is insanity.

Meanwhile, this is the same outlet that was practically screaming that Trump was a Russian agent, personally placed (or blackmailed) into the position of president by Putin himself.

The current spat between the U$ media apparatus and the new regime demonstrates the silver lining in the ascendancy of Trump. The rupture between prototypical American institutions opens a space for exploitation. In other words, because Donald Trump is a huge idiot, he won’t be able to totally consolidate his power if he continues to attack corporate media. This means that here, for the first time, we may see the U$ population begin to genuinely question the functioning of the Amerikkkan state.

If this dumbass can be president, then clearly there’s a problem!

This is exactly what I wrote about on the day after Trump was announced the winner of the election. This is the silver lining. This is the benefit of Trump. If we use this as an opportunity to radicalize liberals and to use theory as a weapon, we can utterly transform the empire.

Trump’s open mocking of the apparently “timeless” values and mainstays of the U$ government have created a space in which everything is up for grabs. NATO, the border, and even liberal democracy itself are all under scrutiny by everyone on the political spectrum (finally) and if we take control of the narrative, we can present reality as it is.

Why do we have NATO? Why do we need a border? What is liberal democracy, anyway?

In other ways, it seems to me like Trump might be able to successfully delegitimize the whole system. My job is much easier in arguing that the state is racist, imperialist, and patriarchal with that 70-year-old walking lobotomy in charge of things. Capitalism in its most exploitative and destructive form is running around, unmasked.

Politicians are the best at making me want to punch old people.

If Trump refuses to go along with the general program, there’s also a chance that the media won’t immediately fall into line on all future policies.

In 2002, when Bush wanted to hype up for the invasion of Iraq, every media outlet in the U$ was unbelievably fast at falling in line. The same thing happened with Obama in Libya and Syria after that. When media conglomerates and the government play footsie, there’s no method to challenging the dominant narrative.

Back to Trump.

If Trump was a Russian puppet, we could at least guarantee a few things: there would be a de-escalation of war between the U$ and Russia, which would ease tensions between the U$ and Syria, the U$ and North Korea, the U$ and China…

Listen, I absolutely hate Vladimir Vladimirovich. He’s a terrible reactionary capitalist, but he’s certainly not pulling the strings.

If Trump was a Russian puppet, things would undoubtedly be better. This is particularly obvious when you consider the fact that Putin isn’t a total fucking moron.

Donald Trump can't read this, yet he's afraid of it

“Donald Trump can’t read this, but he’s still scared of it.”

 

Caveat: Any liberal criticism of Trump will dissipate in the event of a terrorist attack. Well, any terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims. If any terrorist attack by white people occurs, it’ll barely get coverage.

But if any Muslim even hurts a white person (the media doesn’t care about Chican@s and Black people), then the media, along with the other liberals, will immediately goose-step back into line and President Literal-Cartoon-Villain will have all the power in the world.

The Meaning of Dzerzhinsky

Felix Dzerzhinsky is a forgotten figure in the West. However, in the Post-Soviet space, his memory is alive and well.

dzerzhinskyDzerzhinsky was born in 1877 in present-day Belarus. He became a member of the Bolshevik Party in 1917, directly after being released from prison in Moscow.

He went on to become the leader of the Cheka (ЧК), the secret police for the burgeoning Soviet Union, and held various synonymous positions until his death in 1926.

So why is he important today?

For the past few years, the Russian government has been weighing its options in returning the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky to its former position in front of the Lubyanka building in Moscow. (Although, it should be noted that the most recent referendum was called off.) And a division of the Russian National Guards was renamed in 2014 and is now called the Dzerzhinsky Division (Дивизия имени Дзержинского), mirroring the name of an old Soviet division.

Dzerzhinsky was, first and foremost, a Bolshevik. He was one of the leading figures of the October Revolution and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. So it might be pertinent to ask why he is now being rehabilitated inside the Russian Federation.

After all, in 1991, as the USSR was being torn asunder by internal and external forces, Dzerzhinsky’s statue (lovingly nicknamed “Iron Felix”) was torn down.iron-felix-1991

Dzerzhinsky had become, in death, a symbol for all future Soviet state security forces. Under him, the Cheka became the GPU. After his death however, the GPU would become Stalin’s NKVD and the post-Stalin KGB.

The meaning of his name was inextricably tied to state violence and repression, regardless of whether he was associated with it or not.

The meaning of Dzerzhinsky almost immediately after his death took on a life of its own.

Today, in the Russian Federation, Dzerzhinsky is remembered with all sorts of Stalinist decorations. All of this in spite of the fact that Dzerzhinsky died right as Stalin was taking power.

Dzerzhinsky cared most about the unity of the communist party facing the capitalist/counterrevolutionary forces. That is why he made a two-hour-long speech against the United Opposition, after which he immediately died from a heart attack.

kalinin-trotsky-stalin-dzerzhinskys-funeral

Probably the only picture you’ll find of Trotsky and Stalin together – carrying Dzerzhinsky’s coffin.

What does it tell us that during this renewed period of lionizing Dzerzhinsky and re-accepting his Stalinized image into popular culture, the Russian government continues to repress Lenin?

How is it that Dzerzhinsky has become so totally de-Leninized? Dzerzhinsky no longer stands for revolution (or even revolutionary terror), but rather as some sort of acceptable stand-in for the later “stability” of the Stalin era.

Can we imagine Lenin without Dzerzhinsky? Can we imagine Dzerzhinsky beyond Lenin?

At the moment that talk emerges of re-erecting Iron Felix, the Russian press is also talking about removing Lenin from his mausoleum and burying him, insisting that the majority of Russians want him buried.

The rehabilitation of this specific representation of Dzerzhinsky is notable, because it defends the power of the state apparatus, whereas Lenin still represents state destruction, rather than state reconstitution. In other words, the meaning of Lenin retains its revolutionary edge.

dzerzhinsky-mugshot

It seems like Dzerzhinsky knew this would happen.

Lenin is that which Putin fears most.

Stalin, however, fits into the new official mythology particularly nicely. His appeals to Russian chauvinism, social conservatism, and nationalism are supported by the worst elements in society today – elements like the LDPR and the Orthodox Church.

Dzerzhinsky can only fit into this system through this Stalinization process.

Leninized Dzerzhinsky is equally feared, but a Stalinized Dzerzhinsky can be celebrated.

Even Stalin in 1937 criticized Dzerzhinsky as someone who “openly supported Trotsky against Lenin” and “wanted to use the GPU to protect Trotsky”.

Was Dzerzhinsky a Trotskyist or a Stalinist?

Was he revolutionary or counterrevolutionary?

Was he a defender of justice and the poor or simply a brutal mass-murderer?

Since his death, he has been all these things and more – occasionally simultaneously.

It seems to me that the best way to serve his memory and use this memory as a weapon is to re-Leninize him. The meaning of Dzerzhinsky ought to be inscribed with the life he lived.

Undoubtedly today in Russia, he is being heralded by those against whom he would passionately fight. Dzerzhinsky would never celebrate capitalism, especially not the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. Had he lived longer, he would have certainly been purged by Stalin, along with the rest of the old guard in the Bolshevik party. If he was alive today, he’d probably be rotting in a Russian prison cell, labeled a terrorist.

However, since the 1920s, everyone from Stalin to Putin has successfully twisted and turned his image to suit their own desires.

The man seems to have been lost in the tornado of history.