Black flag

Report from Al Jazeera on clashes that "marred" May Day celebrations. Isn't that just a proper May Day celebration?

On a better note, the image above: protesters in Moscow calling for a return to Communism. For all of us searching for a visual rallying cry toward thinking political alternatives, etc, I think our flag has been found. Something of the austerity and translucent ghostliness of the sun shining gray through the flags and the black stamp of the hammer and sickle against the blue sky. Especially when it flaps and flies above two toddlers in red jackets hand in hand alongside the column of marchers.


BRYAN said...

A minor problem: it's the flag of the Russian National Bolshevik Party (NBP):

It's a neo-fascist party that uses Communist iconography.

BRYAN said...

(In other words... Socialism AND Barbarism!)

Giovanni said...

Black flags? What are these people, communist pirates? And what's with the military discipline? I don't like seeing protesters advancing in such neat columns, no sir. Not at all. And how is it that the only people dressed for the occasion are the toddlers?

Also, those fists? A bit higher, please, you don't want them at a 35 degree angle. That's far too close to a nazi salute. Christ.

Giovanni said...

Ah, there you go, asked and answered in advance of my posting. Thank you Bryan.

socialism and/or barbarism said...

Yes, thanks Bryan. I had a sneaking suspicion of their shadiness. All the more reason for us to steal that inflected iconography away from them.

That said, there is the serious question of the gap between militant aesthetics (which now are seemingly always coded as either totalitarian, outmoded, or bellicist) and the aesthetics of a contemporary radical left, still haunted by sea turtle costumes. When I was at the kettling at the G20 in London, I couldn't help but feel bile at the sight of pseudo-crustpunks dancing to breakbeat on the top of a Tube station. I've been meaning to write something proper about these intersections of theatricality and protest, in part because I have a somewhat natural draw, perhaps unhealthy, toward aesthetics that some call Fascistic, though perhaps that has closer affinities to some Sorelian syndicalist lineage. What, then, to make of these gaps between our politics and our political aesthetics? I'll take a stab at it in a couple days, but I'd love thoughts from any of you.

BRYAN said...

I am 100% for militarism.

John said...

Isn't National Bocialism the platform that Mr. Hilter and Ron Viventrap were running on in the Minehead by-election? Oh, you said National Bolshevism. How does something like that even exist?

avvakum said...

I don't want to disagree entirely with Bryan's first comment, but since the exit of NBP co-founder Alexander Dugin (a real fascist) and his supporters from the party many years ago, the "new" NBP, with writer Eduard Limonov as its sole prominent leader, has shifted more to the left. It has been in a strange, uneasy alliance with liberals (Garry Kasparov and the Other Russia coalition). It has been banned by the state (unlike many other more demonstrably neo-fascist groups, including the Kremlin's own Young Guards); and many members have been given harsh prison sentences for entirely nonviolent protest actions.

And it is this sense of its being in real opposition to the wretched gangster/oligarchic Russian police state that has made it attractive to the rather decent, smart kids who now fill its ranks (as opposed to the actual fascist thugs of Dugin's ilk, who have mostly vanished), at least in Petersburg.

Also, in my experience (having been in several protest marches where they also participated) I can say that the NBP folks are almost the only Russian oppositionists who know how to act during public protests (that is, loud and like they mean it). And no, I have never seen them do any fascist salutes of the kind depicted in the photograph.

This is not meant as a defense of NBP. It's just that any knowledge of the party and its strange history suggests that it's facile to dismiss them as "mere" neo-fascists. Which is also not to say that we should embrace them.

Since it keeps popping up on various leftist blogs and mailing lists (including here0, I would like to correct one bit of information in al-Jazeera's wrap-up of May Day events around the world. They report:

"Far-right protests also took place in Russia, with police arresting members of anti-immigration groups in St Petersburg."

This is only partly true. Some far-righters were arrested before the various marches (four or five in all) left the central launching point near Uprising Square. But at most only about 20 fascists were arrested; the rest were allowed to march quite freely. In all their real neo-fascist, racist, anti-Semitic glory.

What should have been reported (but hasn't been, so far that I've seen) is that around a hundred anarchists and antifascists were arrested before the marches begin, despite the fact that they had a permit to hold their march, which was themed a "pirate street party," in solidarity with the Pirate Bay group and in general defense of the free distribution of information. The riot police just barged into their column and started dragging people off to buses, for no apparent reason and (again) despite the fact that the organizers had copies of their march permit with them.

What is worse, there were out-of-town minors among the group of arrestees. Like their older and/or local comrades, they have been charged with jaywalking. (An absurdity because they, like all the marchers from all the various groups, right, left, and center, as well as the police themselves, were at the moment of the arrests standing in the middle of Ligovsky Prospect, which had been blocked off precisely for that purpose.)

That would have been "okay" (by Russia's miserable standards), except for the fact that, allegedly because of their non-local, minor status, the courts sentenced them to THIRTY DAYS in the juvenile detention center unless their parents come to Petersburg to bail them out. When local civil rights activists tried to offer themselves as temporary guardians or just find out from the kids the telephone numbers of their parents, police and court officials actively prevented them from doing this.

What is the moral of this story? All opposition forces here (including teenage fans of Pirate Bay) are taking such a beating from the police state thugs that it is practically inevitable that some young people radicalize in the direction of Limonov and the NBP. Unfortunately, things are such right now that, to my mind, that is a slightly better choice than slipping into total infantile apathy, which is the non-choice made by 95% of young people here.

By the way, in Petersburg, the NBP marched with the "leftist" (i.e. CPRF) column. Their local leader, Andrei Dmitriev, was even allowed to address the rally on St Isaac's Square. When his fellow natsboly (as they're called) tried to unfurl their flags, the police (who had the entire rally surrounded with a whole battalion of Interior Ministry troops) tried to nab them. They were beaten back by a group of old women.

Life is complicated, comrades.