Archive for the 'Putin protests' Category

Pussy Riot members beaten by Russian security officials with horsewhips in Sochi

From ABC News
(no author credited) 20 Feb. 2014

Members of Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot were attacked in Sochi by Cossack militia armed with horsewhips.

The scuffles came a day after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained by police in the Russian Black Sea resort for several hours in connection with a theft case.

The latest fracas over their stay in Sochi came as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned the women that it would be “wholly inappropriate” to stage actions outside Winter Olympic venues.

The clash took place as Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and one other Pussy Riot member sought to stage an action in the centre of Sochi, about 30 kilometres north of the main Olympic Park.

They donned the coloured balaclavas and tights that are their group’s trademark but were immediately surrounded by uniformed security personnel who appeared to be Cossacks.

The women were whipped repeatedly with horsewhips and roughly handled, video footage showed bruises on Maria Alyokhina.

At one point Tolokonnikova was thrown to the ground and her coat thrown on top of her.

Several uniformed Cossacks, acting as security guards in Sochi, pulled the women’s ski-masks off them, punched them repeatedly and whipped them.

Tolokonnikova herself wrote on her Twitter feed @tolokno that they had been attempting to stage a new performance entitled “Putin will teach you to love the motherland”.

Alyokhina posted pictures on her Twitter feed of her chest, showing severe bruising after the clashes.

“My back hurts from the beatings on my body there are bruises and marks from the whips,” Tolokonnikova said.

“Putin will teach you to love the motherland,” she added ironically.

The women went to Sochi hospitals for medical treatment and Alyokhina later posted a picture of Tolokonnikova in the hospital bed next to her.

Tolokonnikova said her husband Pyotr Verzilov has suffered in particular due to the use of an unidentified spray.

Alexander Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi, said the incident had to be investigated, even if the views of Pussy Riot do not reflect the majority.

“All the guilty in what took place should be punished,” Mr Tkachev said.

The IOC distanced itself from the controversy over the arrest on Tuesday (local time), which rights groups described as a public relations disaster that cast a new shadow over the Games.

Abolish Prisons?

Pussy Riot Disown Freed Bandmates in Open Letter

From

Six members of Russian punk rock activist group Pussy Riot have signed an open letter, published on their Livejournal page, insisting the recently released Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) are no longer members of the Pussy Riot collective.

The authors of the letter claim the two had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group” because “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons.” The letter was published just after Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were introduced onstage by Madonna at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group, and will no longer take part in radical actionism,” read the letter. “Now they are engaged in a new project, as institutionalised advocates of prisoners’ rights.”

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova started the non-governmental human rights group Zona Prava (Justice Zone) after being released from prison last year. According to the open letter the pair have repeatedly told the media that they no longer belong to Pussy Riot, but their statements have so far been ignored.

“In almost every interview they repeat that they have left the group,” said the letter. “However, headlines are still full of the group’s name, all their public appearances are declared as performances of Pussy Riot.”

“Thus ignoring the fact that, at the pulpit of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, there were not two but five women in balaclavas, and that the performance in Red Square had eight participants,” they continued referencing the staged performances that landed Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova in prison.

The statement, which also suggests that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are refusing to communicate with them, also expressed frustration with the way the pair were presented the Amnesty concert. They took particular offence with the event’s poster which showed a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar, under the name Pussy Riot, “while the organisers smartly called for people to buy expensive tickets,” they explained.

“The mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalised defenders of prisoners’ rights, is harmful for us as [a] collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on,” continued the letter.

The six members elected to stay anonymous, signing the letter as Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher. They wished their former bandmates luck for the future. “Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow members, but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.”

“We appreciate their choice and sincerely wish them well in their new career,” they insisted. Adding, “since Nadia and Masha have chosen not to be with us, please, respect their choice. Remember, we are no longer Nadia and Masha. They are no longer Pussy Riot.”
END

Debbie Kilroy

Seemingly an honourable if not amicable divorce over at Pussy Riot. Coincidentally, I have just read ‘Kilroy Was Here’ by Kris Olsson. (Bantam 2005) A story very similar to Masha and Nadia’s of ex-prisoners becoming prison reformers. They could do well to look at this biography and learn how Sisters Inside evolved and flourished under Kilroy’s strong leadership. Especially between the women inside the prison who she promised not to leave behind.

The Kilroy’s had fallen victim to Queensland’s Premier Bjelke Petersen’s ‘war on drugs’. Debbie had married the famous Aboriginal rugby player Joe Kilroy and both were targeted by Qld.Police in an entrapment sting linked to heroin trafficking. Both doing prison time in the 1980s, Debbie has since become renowned as a prison reformer, being awarded the OAM and working with people such as Aboriginal historian Jackie Huggins; Angela Davis; (Davis wrote the Foreword) and Rubin Hurricane Carter in their quest for justice and rehabilitation in prisons in Queensland and internationally.

Shortly after her incarceration, Kilroy was to witness the death of her best mate in a prison stabbing that saw Kilroy herself injured. Now Kilroy’s life was really on a knife edge as she rejoined the prison group with her attackers inside. Revenge hard on her tracks. Compassion prevailed and with a twist …or two along the way. I really recommend this story of forgiveness and redemption and political smarts.

Thoughts on Ukrainian nationalism, Feb. 2014

by Patrick Muldowney

Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?

Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.

By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.

The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!

They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights.  It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas.  On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory.  Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C.  What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism.  I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.

We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change.  Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.

The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.

Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.

Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.

Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.

Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia.  I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe.  If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!

As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.

As Arthur said re Egypt;

‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era.  So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
END

My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario.   I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines.  The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle.  Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.

It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.

Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’

Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!

Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s prison letters to Slavoj Žižek

pussyriotinclothes

Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is currently in a prison hospital in Siberia and is due to be released in March 2014.

Here Ms. Tolokonnikova and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek meet in an extraordinary exchange of letters.

Slavoj Žižek, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

The Guardian, Saturday 16 November 2013

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writing to Slavoj Žižek

‘We are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not ­recognising any authority’ … Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writing to Slavoj Žižek.

Dear Nadezhda,

I hope you have been able to organise your life in prison around small rituals that make it tolerable, and that you have time to read. Here are my thoughts on your predicament.

John Jay Chapman, an American political essayist, wrote this about radicals in 1900: “They are really always saying the same thing. They don’t change; everybody else changes. They are accused of the most incompatible crimes, of egoism and a mania for power, indifference to the fate of their cause, fanaticism, triviality, lack of humour, buffoonery and irreverence. But they sound a certain note. Hence the great practical power of persistent radicals. To all appearance, nobody follows them, yet everyone believes them. They hold a tuning-fork and sound A, and everybody knows it really is A, though the time-honoured pitch is G flat.” Isn’t this a good description of the effect of Pussy Riot performances? In spite of all accusations, you sound a certain note. It may appear that people do not follow you, but secretly, they believe you, they know you are telling the truth, or, even more, you are standing for truth.

But what is this truth? Why are the reactions to Pussy Riot performances so violent, not only in Russia? All hearts were beating for you as long as you were perceived as just another version of the liberal-democratic protest against the authoritarian state. The moment it became clear that you rejected global capitalism, reporting on Pussy Riot became much more ambiguous. What is so disturbing about Pussy Riot to the liberal gaze is that you make visible the hidden continuity between Stalinism and contemporary global capitalism.

[Žižek then explores what he sees as a global trend towards limiting democracy.] Since the 2008 crisis, this distrust of democracy, once limited to third-world or post-Communist developing economies, is gaining ground in western countries. But what if this distrust is justified? What if only experts can save us?

But the crisis provided proof that it is these experts who don’t know what they are doing, rather than the people. In western Europe, we are seeing that the ruling elite know less and less how to rule. Look at how Europe is dealing with Greece.

No wonder, then, that Pussy Riot make us all uneasy – you know very well what you don’t know, and you don’t pretend to have any quick or easy answers, but you are telling us that those in power don’t know either. Your message is that in Europe today the blind are leading the blind. This is why it is so important that you persist. In the same way that Hegel, after seeing Napoleon riding through Jena, wrote that it was as if he saw the World Spirit riding on a horse, you are nothing less than the critical awareness of us all, sitting in prison.

Comradely greetings, Slavoj
23 February 2013

Dear Slavoj,

Once, in the autumn of 2012, when I was still in the pre-trial prison in Moscow with other Pussy Riot activists, I visited you. In a dream, of course.

I see your argument about horses, the World Spirit, and about tomfoolery and disrespect, as well as why and how all these elements are so connected to each other.

Pussy Riot did turn out be a part of this force, the purpose of which is criticism, creativity and co-creation, experimentation and constantly provocative events. Borrowing Nietzsche’s definition, we are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not recognising any authority.

We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”

We are the rebels asking for the storm, and believing that truth is only to be found in an endless search. If the “World Spirit” touches you, do not expect that it will be painless.

Laurie Anderson sang: “Only an expert can deal with the problem.” It would have been nice if Laurie and I could cut these experts down to size and take care of our own problems. Because expert status by no means grants access to the kingdom of absolute truth.

Two years of prison for Pussy Riot is our tribute to a destiny that gave us sharp ears, allowing us to sound the note A when everyone else is used to hearing G flat.

At the right moment, there will always come a miracle in the lives of those who childishly believe in the triumph of truth over lies, of mutual assistance, of those who live according to the economics of the gift.

Nadia

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement cell at a penal colony in Partza on 25 September Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement cell at a penal colony in Partza on 25 September 2013. Photograph: Ilya Shablinsky/AFP/Getty Images
4 April 2013

Dear Nadezhda,

I was so pleasantly surprised when your letter arrived – the delay made me fear that the authorities would prevent our communication. I was deeply honoured, flattered even, by my appearance in your dream.

You are right to question the idea that the “experts” close to power are competent to make decisions. Experts are, by definition, servants of those in power: they don’t really think, they just apply their knowledge to the problems defined by those in power (how to bring back stability? how to squash protests?). So are today’s capitalists, the so-called financial wizards, really experts? Are they not just stupid babies playing with our money and our fate? I remember a cruel joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be. When asked about the German concentration camps in occupied Poland, the Nazi officer snaps back: “We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping.” Does the same not hold for the Enron bankruptcy in 2002? The thousands of employees who lost their jobs were certainly exposed to risk, but with no true choice – for them the risk was like blind fate. But those who did have insight into the risks, and the ability to intervene (the top managers), minimised their risks by cashing in their stocks before the bankruptcy. So it is true that we live in a society of risky choices, but some people (the managers) do the choosing, while others (the common people) do the risking.

For me, the true task of radical emancipatory movements is not just to shake things out of their complacent inertia, but to change the very co-ordinates of social reality so that, when things return to normal, there will be a new, more satisfying, “apollonian statics”. And, even more crucially, how does today’s global capitalism enter this scheme?

The Deleuzian philosopher Brian Massumi tells how capitalism has already overcome the logic of totalising normality and adopted the logic of erratic excess: “The more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normality starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening is part of capitalism’s dynamic.”

But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations? So please, if you can and want, do let me know about your situation in prison: about your daily rhythm, about the little private rituals that make it easier to survive, about how much time you have to read and write, about how other prisoners and guards treat you, about your contact with your child … true heroism resides in these seemingly small ways of organising one’s life in order to survive in crazy times without losing dignity.

With love, respect and admiration, my thoughts are with you!

Slavoj

Dear Slavoj,

Has modern capitalism really overtaken the logic of totalising norms? Or is it willing to make us believe that it has overpassed the logic of hierarchical structures and normalisation?

As a child I wanted to go into advertising. I had a love affair with the advertising industry. And this is why I am in a position to judge its merits. The anti-hierarchical structures and rhizomes of late capitalism are its successful ad campaign. Modern capitalism has to manifest itself as flexible and even eccentric. Everything is geared towards gripping the emotion of the consumer. Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.

You should not worry that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the “real hardship”. I value the strict limits, and the challenge. I am genuinely curious: how will I cope with this? And how can I turn this into a productive experience for me and my comrades? I find sources of inspiration; it contributes to my own development. Not because of, but in spite of the system. And in my struggle, your thoughts, ideas and stories are helpful to me.

I am happy to correspond with you. I await your reply and I wish you good luck in our common cause.

Nadia

Dear Nadezhda,

I felt deeply ashamed after reading your reply. You wrote: “You should not worry about the fact that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the ‘real hardship’.” This simple sentence made me aware that the final sentiment in my last letter was false: my expression of sympathy with your plight basically meant, “I have the privilege of doing real theory and teaching you about it while you are good for reporting on your experience of hardship …” Your last letter demonstrates that you are much more than that, that you are an equal partner in a theoretical dialogue. So my sincere apologies for this proof of how deeply entrenched is male chauvinism, especially when it is masked as sympathy for the other’s suffering, and let me go on with our dialogue.

It is the crazy dynamics of global capitalism that make effective resistance to it so difficult and frustrating. Recall the great wave of protests that spilled all over Europe in 2011, from Greece and Spain to London and Paris. Even if there was no consistent political platform mobilising the protesters, the protests functioned as part of a large-scale educational process: the protesters’ misery and discontent were transformed into a great collective act of mobilisation – hundreds of thousands gathered in public squares, proclaiming that they had enough, that things could not go on like that. However, what these protests add up to is a purely negative gesture of angry rejection and an equally abstract demand for justice, lacking the ability to translate this demand into a concrete political programme.

What can be done in such a situation, where demonstrations and protests are of no use, where democratic elections are of no use? Can we convince the tired and manipulated crowds that we are not only ready to undermine the existing order, to engage in provocative acts of resistance, but also to offer the prospect of a new order?

The Pussy Riot performances cannot be reduced just to subversive provocations. Beneath the dynamics of their acts, there is the inner stability of a firm ethico-political attitude. In some deeper sense, it is today’s society that is caught in a crazy capitalist dynamic with no inner sense and measure, and it is Pussy Riot that de facto provides a stable ethico-political point. The very existence of Pussy Riot tells thousands that opportunist cynicism is not the only option, that we are not totally disoriented, that there still is a common cause worth fighting for.

So I also wish you good luck in our common cause. To be faithful to our common cause means to be brave, especially now, and, as the old saying goes, luck is on the side of the brave!

Yours, Slavoj

Dear Slavoj,

In my last letter, written in haste as I worked in the sewing shop, I was not as clear as I should have been about the distinction between how “global capitalism” functions in Europe and the US on the one hand, and in Russia on the other. However, recent events in Russia – the trial of Alexei Navalny, the passing of unconstitutional, anti-freedom laws – have infuriated me. I feel compelled to speak about the specific political and economic practices of my country. The last time I felt this angry was in 2011 when Putin declared he was running for the presidency for a third time. My anger and resolve led to the birth of Pussy Riot. What will happen now? Time will tell.

Here in Russia I have a strong sense of the cynicism of so-called first-world countries towards poorer nations. In my humble opinion, “developed” countries display an exaggerated loyalty towards governments that oppress their citizens and violate their rights. The European and US governments freely collaborate with Russia as it imposes laws from the middle ages and throws opposition politicians in jail. They collaborate with China, where oppression is so bad that my hair stands on end just to think about it. What are the limits of tolerance? And when does tolerance become collaboration, conformism and complicity?

To think, cynically, “let them do what they want in their own country”, doesn’t work any longer, because Russia and China and countries like them are now part of the global capitalist system.

Russia under Putin, with its dependence on raw materials, would have been massively weakened if those nations that import Russian oil and gas had shown the courage of their convictions and stopped buying. Even if Europe were to take as modest a step as passing a “Magnitsky law” [the Magnitsky Act in the US allows it to place sanctions on Russian officials believed to have taken part in human-rights violations], morally it would speak volumes. A boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 would be another ethical gesture. But the continued trade in raw materials constitutes a tacit approval of the Russian regime – not through words, but through money. It betrays the desire to protect the political and economic status quo and the division of labour that lies at the heart of the world economic system.

You quote Marx: “A social system that seizes up and rusts … cannot survive.” But here I am, working out my prison sentence in a country where the 10 people who control the biggest sectors of the economy are Vladimir Putin’s oldest friends. He studied or played sports with some, and served in the KGB with others. Isn’t this a social system that has seized up? Isn’t this a feudal system?

I thank you sincerely, Slavoj, for our correspondence and can hardly wait for your reply.

Yours, Nadia

• The correspondence was organised by Philosophie magazine in cooperation with New Times. Longer versions can be found in German at philomag.de or in French at philomag.com. Tolokonnikova’s letters were translated from Russian by Galia Ackerman