Solidarity? (The Case of the Penza and Petersburg Antifascists)

fil_0Viktor Filinkov, Petersburg antifascist, torture victim and political prisoner

Solidarity? No, They Haven’t Heard about It
The Security Services Are Using the Case of the Antifascists to Test Society: If We Keep Silent, the Torture and Arrests Will Continue
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
March 22, 2018

On Election Day, March 18, which was simultaneously Paris Commune Day and Political Prisoner Day, Theater.Doc in Moscow staged a performance entitled Torture 2018, a reading of the interrogation transcripts and diaries from the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case.

The case has disappeared amid the flood of political and election campaign news, so I should briefly summarize it.

In October 2017, a group of young antifascists was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Penza. They were accused of organizing a terrorist community code-named The Network. They were allegedly tortured. Nearly all of them confessed to the charges, telling the FSB what the FSB wanted them to say.

Recently, for the first time in history, FSB officers admitted they used electric shockers when interrogating Petersburg antifascist Viktor Filinkov. In their telling, however, it was not torture, but a necessity: the detainee allegedly tried to escape.

The arrestees are kindred souls of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, murdered by neo-Nazis in downtown Moscow in January 2009. A march to honor their memory has been held on the Boulevard Ring every year since then.

Less than ten years have passed since their deaths and we are confronted by a relapse, an attack on antifascists by the Russian state.

The harsh language of the interrogation protocol is more expressive than any op-ed column. Dmitry Pchenlintsev was tortured day after day: he was hung upside down and different parts of his body were shocked with electrical current. Vasily Kuksov was badly beaten: his face was a bloody pulp, his clothes torn and blood stained. Doctors in Petersburg discovered a fracture to the lower wall of Igor Shiskin’s eye socket, as well as multiple abrasions and bruises. They noted numerous injuries, including burns from an electric shocker. FSB officers took Ilya Kapustin to the woods, tortured him with an electric shocker, and threatened to break his legs.

We heard similar reports from Chechnya and Donbass, but this is the first time something like this has occurred in the middle of Russia and on such a scale.

The young arrestees in Penza, none of whom is over thirty (the oldest is twenty-nine) played airsoft, listened to independent music, and read anarchist books, like thousands of other young people. Now, given the will, any of them can be arrested on terrorism charges.

Alexei Polikhovich, who spent three years in prison as part of the Bolotnaya Square case, and produced the performance at Theater.Doc, did not have to make up anything, no monologues or dialogues. What has happened in reality is not something you would make up.

“I was panicking,” leftist activist and former political prisoner Alexei Sutuga says, reading Viktor Filinkov’s statement aloud. “I said I didn’t understand anything, and that is when they shocked me the first time. It was unbearably painful. I screamed and my body went straight as a board. The man in the mask ordered me to shut up and stop twitching. He alternated shocks to my leg with shocks to my handcuffs. Sometimes, he shocked me in the back or the nape of the neck. It felt as if I was being slapped upside the head. When I screamed, they would clamp my mouth shut or threaten to gag me. I didn’t want to be gagged, so I tried not to scream, which wasn’t always possible.”

“It’s probably the worst thing happening now in Russia,” Polikhovich told me after the performance. “But we have no means of putting pressure on them. Complaints filed against the FSB are redirected to the FSB, meaning they are supposed to keep tabs on themselves. Naturally, they are not about to do this. The only thing that can save the guys is public pressure.”

“But for several months there were no attempts to pressure the FSB. Why?” I asked.

“Location is vital in this case,” replied Polikhovich. “There are tried and tested support methods in Petersburg and Moscow. There are independent journalists and human rights activists. There is nothing of the sort in Penza. The environment also makes a difference. The Bolotnaya Square case, in which many leftists were sent to prison, meant something to the entire liberal democratic opposition. It was a story the average Moscow reporter could understand.”

“In this case, however,” Polikhovich continued, “the accused have been charged with very serious crimes. They are not liberals. They are not Moscow activists. We have to break through the prejudice towards them.”

While Moscow was silent, brushing the case aside by mentioning it in a few lines of column inches, the case, which originated in Penza, had spread to Petersburg, then to Chelyabinsk, and finally, in March, to the capital itself. Several people were detained after a protest action in support of the Penza antifascists. (OVD Info reports that nine people were detained.)

“They put a bag over my head. Then they shocked me, constantly increasing the intensity and duration of the electric charge, and demanding I make a confession,” Moscow anarchist Svyatoslav Rechkalov, released on his own recognizance, told Novaya Gazeta.

The protests against the FSB’s use of torture in this case have mainly followed ideological lines: anarchists and antifascists have been doing the protesting. Solidarity protests have been held in Copenhagen, Toronto, Berlin, and New York. Finnish anarchists and antifascists held a demo outside the Russian embassy in Helsinki. In Stockholm, the way from the subway to the Russian embassy was hung with Filinkov’s diary and posters bearing the hashtag #stopFSBtorture.

A concert in support of the arrested antifascists was held at a small bar in Petersburg. The organizers were able to collect 42,500 rubles in donations. By way of comparison, a year ago, at a similar concert in support of Ildar Dadin, who was tortured in a Karelian penal colony, organizers collected 29,000 rubles in donations. But there no incidents at that event, while there was an incident at the Petersburg concert. Ultra-rightwing thugs burst into the bar and started a brawl.

In Moscow, the riot police or the security services would have telephoned the club’s owner and insisted he cancel the event, as happened with the anti-war Deserter Fest. In Petersburg, however, the rightists showed up.

“The situation has come to resemble the mid-noughties,” said Maxim Dinkevich, editor of the music website Sadwave, “when every other punk rock show was attacked.”

Pickets in support of the antifascists have been held both in Moscow and Petersburg, and there will probably be more pickets to come. But this story has not yet made a big splash. The public is more interested in discussing the falling out between Sobchak and Navalny, while anarchists draw a blank.

This case is not about anarchism or antifascism, however. It is about the fact that tomorrow they could come for you for any reason. Electric shockers do not discriminate.

The regime has been testing us, probing the limits of what is possible and what is not. If we keep silent now, if we do not stand up for each other, it will mean they can continue in the same vein. It is clear already that the case of the antifascists will expand. The arrests will stop being local, becoming large scale. We have no methods for pressuring law enforcement agencies that torture people, no authorities that could slap them on the wrists. The only methods we have are maximum publicity and public pressure. They are the only ways to deter the security service from making more arrests and keeping up the torture.

There is a group page on Facebook entitled Project No. 117, named for the article in the Russian Criminal Code that outlaws the use of torture. It is a clearinghouse for news about the Penza case and other anti-antifascist cases. It also features six videtaped messages in support of the arrested men, as recorded by the well-known Russian cultural figures Dmitry Bykov, Andrei Makarevich, Dmitry Shagin, Kirill Medvedev, Artyom Loskutov, and Artemy Troitsky.

I would like to believe that, in the very near future, there will be six thousand such messages, not six. Otherwise, we will be crushed one by one.

Dmitry Bykov (writer)

“Absolutely Gulag-like scenes of strangulation, beating, and abduction. Stories like this have become frighteningly more frequent. The return to the practice of torture is a relapse into the roughest, darkest period of Russian history.”

Andrei Makarevich (musician)

“If the authorities are trying to pass young antifascists off as terrorists, it begs the question of who the authorities are themselves. Have you lost your minds, guys?”

Dmitry Shagin (artist)

“I experience this as torture myself. By torturing these young men, they are torturing all of us.”

Kirill Medvedev (poet, political activist, musician)

“The Russian authorities have been posing as the most antifascist regime in the world for several years now, and yet they are cracking down on antifascists. Is this not hypocrisy?”

Artyom Loskutov (artist, political activist)

“If you arrested me and tortured me with an electric shocker, I would confession to terrorism, satansim, and anything whatsoever. And if the FSB officers were tortured, they would also confess to anything. Antifascism is not a crime, nor is anarchism a crime. But torture is a crime, a very serious crime indeed.”

Artemy Troitsky (writer, music critic and promoter)

“Torture is a sure sign the case doesn’t hold water. If they have evidence, they wouldn’t torture the suspects.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Autonomous Action. Videos courtesy of Project No. 117 and Novaya Gazeta. If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you can read the following articles and spread the word to friends, comrades, and journalists.

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No Tulips and No Fear: International Women’s Day in Petersburg

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“March 8. I Choose Feminism.” Banner courtesy of the VK event page for the International Women’s Day rally in Petersburg

Russian Socialist Movement
Facebook
May 9, 2018

No Tulips and No Fear: March 8 in Petersburg
International Women’s Day in Petersburg. Unlike last year, this year’s rally was cleared with the authorities. It attracted several hundred women and men, and touched on all aspects of gender inequality, from discrimination in paying women’s labor, harassment, and domestic violence to attempts criminalize abortion. Female socialists from the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD) in Petersburg and other leftist organizations played an important role in organizing the event, assembling a coalition of women from various women’s pressure groups. Despite the fact that Russian women today are not in the mood for fun, those who attended the rally sang (the songs included the first performance of RSD activist Kirill Medvedev’s Russian translation of “L’hymne des femmes”), laughed, and chanted slogans. A samba band played, and there were many striking, creative slogans. After the rally, around two hundred people took part in an improvised stroll down Nevsky Prospect. The marchers sang protest ditties accompanied by an accordion, and unfurled scarves and plaid throws emblazoned with anti-sexist slogans.

Photos courtesy of Moi Rayon, LeftFem, and Marx Was Right.

#marcheighth #feminism #leftists

29026030_189873954952831_306116518347800576_n.jpg“Putin is no friend to women.”

28958936_189873331619560_3156760705831534592_n“Bread and Roses”

28796136_189874098286150_6047749999322726400_n

“A woman has two choices: either she’s a feminist or a masochist. — Gloria Steinem”

28870464_189875584952668_571633668624220160_nMarching down Nevsky Prospect

_________________

Hymne du MLF (“L’hymne des femmes”)
sur l’air du Chant des marais

Nous, qui sommes sans passé, les femmes,
Nous qui n’avons pas d’histoire,
Depuis la nuit des temps, les femmes,
Nous sommes le continent noir.

Refrain:
Debout femmes esclaves
Et brisons nos entraves
Debout! debout!

Asservies, humiliées, les femmes,
Achetées, vendues, violées,
Dans toutes les maisons, les femmes,
Hors du monde reléguées.

Refrain

Seule dans notre malheur, les femmes,
L’une de l’autre ignorée,
Ils nous ont divisées, les femmes,
Et de nos sœurs séparées.

Refrain

Reconnaissons-nous, les femmes,
Parlons-nous, regardons-nous,
Ensemble on nous opprime, les femmes,
Ensemble révoltons-nous.

Refrain

Le temps de la colère, les femmes,
Notre temps est arrivé,
Connaissons notre force, les femmes,
Découvrons-nous des milliers.

Russian Translation by Kirill Medvedev

Нет у нас прошлого, женщины.
Нет у нас истории, нет.
В темное время, женщины,
Мы как черный континент

Рабыни, восставайте
И цепи разбивайте.
Вперед, вперед

Куплены, проданы женщины.
Загнаны, изнасилованы,
Заперты дома женщины,
Прочь из мира изгнаны.

Рабыни, восставайте
И цепи разбивайте.
Вперед

В чем наше горе, женщины?
Каждая сама по себе.
Нас разделяют, женщины.
Не поможет сестра сестре.

Подруги, восставайте
И цепи разбивайте

Встанем же рядом, женщины.
Будем всем видны и слышны.
Вместе страдаем, женщины.
Вместе мы восстать должны

Работницы, вставайте
И цепи разбивайте

Время для гнева, женщины
Наконец наступил наш час
Чувствуем силу, женщины,
Много нас, миллионы нас.

Рабыни, восставайте
И цепи разбивайте.

The Closing of the Russian Mind: Four Snapshots

Here are four reasons why, despite my affection for Kirill Medvedev’s work, I found his recent appeal to the “intelligentsia,” the “youth,” and all other Russians of good will a little odd. He should be honest enough to know he is appealing to what is, increasingly, thin air. Fifteen years of Putinism have decimated “public discourse” and intellectual life in Russia, and now it seems the regime wants to finish the once-mighty Russian mind off once and for all.

Which is not to say that the pro-Putin “euphoria” described in the first two snapshots is not a stage-managed affair to a huge degree, as obliquely suggested by the fourth snapshot.

1.
According to a survey published this week by the respected independent pollster Levada Centre, 82% of Russians believe MH17 was brought down by either a Ukrainian army fighter plane or missile. Just 3% thought the insurgents were to blame. Given these kind of figures, the prospect of Putin facing a backlash of public anger over suspected weapons supplies to separatist gunmen is virtually zero. Ironically, Putin probably faces more danger from Russians disappointed by his failure to provide more assistance to the rebels. “Many people feel cheated by his refusal to use military force [in east Ukraine],” Alexander Dugin, an ultranationalist thinker whose ideas are reported to have influenced recent Kremlin policy, told me recently.

Western officials may be hoping economic sanctions will force Russians to rethink their support for Putin, but in reality such measures will achieve little more than an entrenchment of a growing fortress mentality. State media’s routine and increasingly vitriolic attacks on the west’s “decadent” morals mean Russians are likely to accept any economic and social hardships brought about by US and European sanctions. Tellingly, in another Levada Centre poll this week, 61% of Russians said they were unconcerned by the threat of sanctions, while 58% were similarly unfazed by the looming possibility of political isolation over the Kremlin’s stance on Ukraine.

These head-in-the-sand attitudes are bolstered by what the director of Levada Centre, Lev Gudkov, calls a “patriotic and chauvinistic euphoria”rooted in the almost bloodless annexation of Crimea in March, which was popular among Russians across the political spectrum. It’s alsoworth noting that many “ordinary” Russians are uninterested in politics and have only scant knowledge of the issues at hand.

source: The Guardian

2.
MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – Life satisfaction and social optimism indices in Russia skyrocketed, reaching all-time highs despite political challenges according to polls conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM).

“Within the last three months, indices of social well-being have shown unprecedented growth, stabilizing at extremely high levels. In June the satisfaction index reached its all-time high of 79 points and the indices of financial self-assessment and social optimism, now at 76 and 77 points respectively, have also risen and stabilized at new highs,” says the poll.

The economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU over the crisis in Ukraine seem to have little effect on Russians. According to the polls, Russians are now far less concerned with the future of their country than they were last year.

The number of Russians who have not ruled out the possibility of a war with neighboring countries is now 23 percent of the population, up from just 10 percent last year. However, the number of those concerned about a Western military threat has held steady at 13 percent for the past eight years.

The VCIOM opinion poll was conducted in 2014, interviewing 1,600 respondents in 130 communities in 42 regions of Russia. Data are weighted by gender, age, education, working status and type of settlement. The polls have margins of error of no more than 3.4%.

source: RIA Novosti

3.
It’s bad news for Russian bloggers, then, that starting today, anyone who attracts more than 3,000 daily readers to his blog is considered a de facto journalist and must register. (In a largely symbolic gesture, LiveJournal has already stopped reporting blog subscribers beyond the 2,500 mark.) Registration entails turning over your personal details to the government—including, of course, your name, meaning anonymous blogging is now illegal for many. (By the way, the law applies to any blog written in Russian for Russians; a post you write from a Brooklyn cafe could face censorship from Moscow.) Bloggers will also be held liable for any alleged misinformation they publish, even in comments written by somebody else. And, insult to injury, bloggers aren’t even allowed to use profanity; a single naughty word would put them in violation of the law. Failure to comply results in a $280 to $1,400 fine as well as a ban on your blog.

The new legislation represents a rather obvious attempt by the Russian government to shut down all criticism of the Kremlin, particularly from the left. The government has already granted itself the authority to shut down any website and used this power to crush popular left-leaning news sites. With this next step, the Kremlin clearly hopes to scare the smaller fish into complying with the official party line. And Russia’s insane Internet crackdown won’t stop with blogs: Starting in 2016, all websites that store data on Russian citizens will have to move their servers to Russian soil—a blatant attempt to assert control over social networks and search engines.

source: Slate.com

orthofascists

4.
The application of [the new law on compulsory registration of NGOs receiving foreign funding as “foreign agents”] against scientific institutions, in fact, constitutes a professional ban on sociologists. Sociology that does not affect public opinion (directly or indirectly) is nonsense. Sociology that does not raise sensitive issues or suggest original answers that run counter to public opinion is intellectually bankrupt. Sociology that does not affect management decisions is as defective as governance that does not use the opportunities of independent social research. Sociology that is deprived of critical analysis of different “policies” loses connections with social science and turns into political technology. Sociology that does not succeed in the competitiveinternational research grant market is devoid of incentives for growth and is doomed to extinction.

In the modern world, any science that exists in isolation from the global context loses its ability to develop. All attempts to control global processes of scientific exchange only lead to the bureaucratization of science, the flourishing of pseudoscientific theories, and talented and open-minded scholars leaving the country. The persecution of independent researchers and research organizations puts an end to the development of a full-fledged scientific community and leads to the degradation of the humanities in Russia, which will ultimately result in a deficit of ideas and strategies for the future of our country.

The law on “foreign agents” is not the only sign of the long-standing crisis of the Russian administrative and political system. It is embedded in a series of decisions that aim to expand state control over various aspects of society and their submission to the bureaucratic logic of the “vertical” power. We can see this in the introduction of censorship and persecution of disloyal media, financial and administrative pressure on public (and especially human rights) organizations, the sterilization of historical memory (pressure on the “Memorial” and ”Perm 36”), criminal and administrative persecution for political reasons and independent (not controlled by the state) activism, dismissal of leading high school teachers for being disloyal touniversity superiors and many other cases. Self-censorship is booming in this society, for which survival has become the main motivation for its members. Overt or non-obvious subjection of one’s own activity to the goals of the “vertical” power is turning into the most effective model of behavior.

It is obvious for us that an independent social science is crucial for a society whose interests are not limited to maintaining stability and “unity” at any costs. An authoritarian state does not need reflection that a professional independent research can provide. It is satisfied with VCIOM polls and various ratings that allow the maintenance of “vertical” tension and promotion of “patriotism”. Such a regime will inevitably degrade and become obsolete, but during its heyday it manages to destroy much of what came before it and exists in spite of it.

We believe that the lack of interest towards the professional opinion of independent sociological community, which often oppose bureaucratic perspectives, points to the incompetence of the Russian administration. The pressure exerted on NGOs and non-governmental scientific centers indicates that the political administration of our country no longer needs feedback and has no interest in the actual state of affairs in Russia. This means it condemns our country to the harsh effects of unreasoned political and economic decisions.

source: Centre for Independent Social Research

Kirill Medvedev: The Crisis of the Russian Intelligentsia

In distant Soviet times, I found Bertolt Brecht’s statement that “for art, not being a party member means belonging to the ruling party” the height of absurdity. Nowadays, this line has a different ring to it. It sounds okay. In any case, it makes you think.
Lev Rubinstein (in Grani.ru)

In order to talk about democracy (people power) we have to give the word “conviction” a new sense. It should mean: to convince people. Democracy is the power of arguments.
Bertolt Brecht, Me-Ti: The Book of Changes

The principal symptom of the cultural situation in today’s Russia is the crisis of the liberal-intelligentsia consciousness and its schism. For over fifty years the consciousness of this stratum consisted of two main components. The first component was the intelligentsia’s well-known anti-statism, its sense of empire (inherited from the revolutionary intelligentsia) as a repressive force. The second element, on the contrary, was inherited from the statist intelligentsia that had produced the famous Vekhi (“Landmarks”) almanac in 1909: the cult of private values and a hatred of everything “leftist,” everything that called the “bourgeois” into question; that is, a mindset that sanctified inequality and exploitation as the order of things. For the Vekhi crowd itself, this hatred was aggravated because they had dallied with Marxism in their youth. For the Soviet and post-Soviet intelligentsia, this hatred was stirred by their own genetic origins among those very same “socialists,” “destroyers,” and “lefties” who had planned and carried out the Revolution. While it was natural that it rejected Soviet (“imperial,” “collectivist”) reality, this type of consciousness became unbelievably hypertrophied. It was this stratum—a hodgepodge of dissidents, moderate frondeurs, crypto- or latent anti-Soviets—that captured the position of cultural hegemon in the nineties on the crest of a general anti-totalitarian wave and the collapse of the Soviet bureaucratic model. It was this stratum that rediscovered the culture that had been wholly or partly forbidden by the Soviet authorities. It was this stratum that set the tone in the press of those years. Using innocent slogans that seemed logical at the time, it was this stratum that threw its ideological weight behind the notorious reforms of the nineties. Continue reading “Kirill Medvedev: The Crisis of the Russian Intelligentsia”