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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
Eoin Higgins
Did OJ Simpson Suffer Brain Trauma from Football?
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
Russell Mokhiber
Save the Patients, Cut Off the Dick!
Steven M. Druker
The Deceptions of the GE Food Venture
Elliot Sperber
Clean, Green, Class War: Bill McKibben’s Shortsighted ‘War on Climate Change’
Binoy Kampmark
Claims of Exoneration: The Case of Slobodan Milošević
Walter Brasch
The Contradictions of Donald Trump
Michael Donnelly
Body Shaming Trump: Statue of Limitations
Weekend Edition
August 19, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Hillary and the War Party
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Prime Time Green
Andrew Levine
Hillary Goes With the Flow
Dave Lindorff
New York Times Shames Itself by Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange
Gary Leupp
Could a Russian-Led Coalition Defeat Hillary’s War Plans?
Conn Hallinan
Dangerous Seas: China and the USA
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail