To the Barricades?

Vladimir Putin: A Man’s Man?

We have been enemies with Russia for a century now. What happens sometimes during these long sieges of enmity, we lose sight of who we are and who the Russians are. We have gone from the benign presidency of Obama to what looks to us like a would-be Tsar, the narcissistic Trumpf. Russia, in the meantime, traveled a much longer route: From Communism where there was some attempt to help the common people, to the kleptocracy under Yeltsin, to the quasi-dictatorship of Vladimir Putin, former KGB Chieftain. And this Putin had the nerve to try to influence our election!

There is no doubt that Russia under Putin is an amalgam of discipline and targeted cruelty. Enemies of Putin, such as  journalist Anna Politkovskaya, were ruthlessly murdered; and friends of Putin shared in the billionaires’ bounty of their leader. Do we want Russia to become a democracy like ours? Like ours under Trumpf?

According to Russian novelist Mikhail Shishkin:

To call people to the barricades in Russia is beautiful, but senseless…. We lived through all this already in the early ’90s. All revolutions take place in the same way—the best people rise up to fight for honor and dignity, and they die. On their corpses, thieves and bandits come to power, and everything comes full circle. The same thing happened during the Orange Revolution in Kiev. The same thing is happening right before our eyes in the Arab world. Apparently, in Russia a new generation has grown up who want to experience the barricades. All right. They will experience them. And they will be disappointed.

There is, to my mind, very little difference between Trumpf and Putin—except the difference in the two cultures. Trumpf would do the same things as Putin if he could. There still seem to be checks and balances in the United States, but for how long?

 

 

Will Petrograd Fall to the Whites?

Victor Serge

Victor Serge

“Never, perhaps, have I lived in such total serenity. There is great happiness in being detached from everything and understanding everything. The happiness I feel is immense, bitter, painful, and calm. Life appeared suddenly before me stripped of everything that encumbered it: habits, conventions, duties, worries, superfluous relations. We end up abandoning our souls almost entirely to these things. Do you remember that story by Kipling we read together at Vevey: ‘The Miracle of Purun Bhagat’? It’s the tale of an old Westernized Hindu who retires high up in the mountains in order to finish out his life there with the earth, plants, tame animals—eternal reality. I’m an occidental. I have no wish to remove myself from men or from action: these too belong to eternity. I wish only to overcome my own impotence and to finally understand the curve described in the sky by the hurricane which is carrying all of us along with it.

“All man’s miseries are reduced to naked simplicity here. We live the life of the poor. And I understand the poor, their direct vision of reality, their power to hate, their need to overturn the world. I have no hate, except, perhaps, in the end, for the things I love the most—I believe we are almost all of us without hate in this prison. I may be mistaken, for I don’t observe the others enough. I don’t have the time, would you believe it?

“They say the terror is going to end; I don’t think so. It is still a necessity. The storm must uproot the old trees, stir the ocean to its depths, wash clean the old stones, replenish the impoverished fields. The world will be new afterward.”—The Counterrevolutionary Professor Lytaev in Victor Serge’s Conquered City