Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Class War on Leninsky Prospekt

by BORIS KAGARLITSKY

Who could ever have imagined that it would take a fatal car accident to express the depth and scale of the anti-corporate mood in Russia? On February 25, on Leninsky Prospekt in Moscow, two women died – Olga Aleksandrina and Vera Sidelnikova. Both of them were well-known gynecologists, reason enough for the publicity given to the fatal crash. But what really shook the public was the fact that the two women’s Citroën had been in a head-on collision with a Mercedes belonging to corporation LUKoil, and that in this armored vehicle was the vice president of the company, Anatoliy Barkov.

The police immediately began hiding details of the  crash, explaining that there was no evidence of guilt by the Mercedes driver in the accident. According to the police version, it appeared that two women in the Citroën had violated all the rules and raced along the oncoming  lane. No one bought this. A few days later, the Internet was already full of exposes of the official version. Rapper Noize MC wrote a song “Mercedes S666,” which – under the title “Restore Justice” – was distributed in a variety of homemade videoclips. The Automobile Federation of Russia, which had previously participated in various mass protests against government policies, began to search for eyewitnesses to the accident. Several people immediately responded, saying that they could confirm the guilt of the Mercedes driver. Meanwhile, motorists are urged to boycott LUKoil gas stations, and many motorists have already followed this call.

A swelling wave of indignation – visible in indignant outcries on the Internet – could be seen as just one more  manifestation of a critical attitude toward authority that is widespread on the web, if not for one circumstance that carried the affair beyond ordinary and familiar scandals: the alleged perpetrator of the accident was not a government official but a representative of a private corporation. Not surprisingly, therefore, the opposition liberal press, usually eager to seize on every scandal, this time did not display the same uniform reaction. The well-known music critic Artem Troitsky was banned from the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow because he wanted to play the song “Mercedes S666” in his talkshow “Special Opinion.” For his part, Troitsky sarcastically remarked that the protest song by Noize MC is much more important “than the demonstration and arrests on Triumpal Square,” clearly hinting on the small-scale protests organized by the Liberals.

If the posture of the liberal radio speaks for itself, no less significant has been the behavior of the police, protecting an influential representative of a private enterprise which has no close ties to government. The collision of the Mercedes with the Citroën demonstrates to society at large that, in Russia, class differences have, long since, carried more weight than mere heft in political connections.

For liberal commentators, the unraveling of the scandal with the Mercedes clearly turned out to be not to their liking. The left radical groups, for their part, have shown scant interest. After all, the dead women were doctors, not stokers or carpenters. And, judging by the brand of their car, they belonged to the middle class. Had the Mercedes rammed a crowd of workers on strike, marching down the road with red flags, then, of course, that would be a topic demanding keen attention. Provided, of course, that the red flags would have been of a correct tint, giving no grounds for suspicion of reformism.

Clearly, the two women in their  Citroën did not conform to the ideologically correct – from the point of view of revolutionaries – image of victims of capitalism. And, so the campaign of protest began to unfold quite spontaneously, without any participation by the Left. It’s precisely this fact that gives us more grounds to consider this protest as truly significant. The spontaneous anti-corporate mood, expressed by rapper Noize MC, has much greater significance in the public sphere than the rote propaganda of radical groups, which provokes melancholy and boredom, first and foremost in the representatives of the working class to whom it is being addressed.

The scandal around Citroën’s crash proved to be, in equal measure, inconvenient to all who attempt to form public opinion, thus demonstrating that public opinion is not controlled by them but formed spontaneously, despite the manipulation of propagandists – liberal, governmental or “red.”

In today’s Russia, where politics is no more than the effusions of complacent gentlefolk on abstract themes, and where the opposition differs from the government only by the fact that it is going to protect the interests of LUKoil and of similar corporations even more zealously, the protest caused by the collision of the Mercedes with Citroën might be much more significant event than seems at first glance. The desire “to restore justice” in society is formed not by abstract propaganda but by life experience. And the tragedy on Leninsky Prospekt was perceived by thousands of people precisely thus.

Translated by Alevtina Rea.
Copyright  CounterPunch.

BORIS KAGARLITSKY is director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements (IGSO) in Moscow and editor in chief of the Levaya Politika (Left Politics) quarterly. He is also coordinator of the Transnational Institute Global Crisis project. He has written many books, including most recently Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System (2008).

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

Boris Kagarlitsky PhD is a historian and sociologist who lives in Moscow. He is a prolific author of books on the history and current politics of the Soviet Union and Russia and of books on the rise of globalized capitalism. Fourteen of his books have been translated into English. The most recent book in English is ‘From Empires to Imperialism: The State and the Rise of Bourgeois Civilisation’ (Routledge, 2014). Kagarlitsky is chief editor of the Russian-language online journal Rabkor.ru (The Worker). He is the director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, located in Moscow.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]