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(en) Russia: Reclaiming the city - from Avtonom #25

Date Tue, 7 Mar 2006 12:13:15 +0100 (CET)

Revolutionary moments are carnivals in which the individual life
celebrates its unification with a regenerated society
Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life.
"Let's get the fuck out from here!"
I hear a shout next to me. Just a second before something is happening
behind us, some confusion, it is one of those moments when you may not
really figure out what is going on, but have this feeling that it is time
to run. Confusion is caused by FSO (Federal Security Service - trans.)
troopers, who rush out from an entrance to FSB (x-KGB - trans.) waiting
room, shouting "Everybody freeze!", but this shout does not make it to my
consciousness, I just understand that I am running just as everyone else
around me.
I talk to my self: "Stop!", I try to get over feeling of panic. To run
straight forward makes no sense: I am a slow runner and there is not
really any place to run into - only a big, naked square surrounded by FSB
buildings. It does not work out to mingle to the crowd, because there are
not a lot of passers by around. What to do? And I see a middle-aged woman
in a white coat in the sidewalk, she has raised her hands to her breast.
She seems to be very scared. I do not have time for considerations, I run
to her and instinctively put my hands together the same way as she does:

"May I go with you?"

I take her hand and we go. We go rearwards, by Kuznetskiy Most. In some
fractions of a second last comrades run passing us, and I see distorted
faces carrying assault rifles right to the spot where I am. This moment I
am fighting with the desire to run away from them, but in the end I am
just taking a more tight grip from elbow of my companion. A moment of
terror, when they run by us, and I feel woman is not less horrified than I
am, although certainly nothing is threatening her. And suddenly, I am
alone with her. In front of us, a crowd of cops, and we are moving towards
it. Unexpectedly my companion is speaking:

"So where do you want to go?! What do you want?"

"I want to get to Metro at least. Yes, I really want I really want to get
to metro."

And against my will I am heading to right, further from the place where
cops are converging and our people is laying down. faces in the street,
heads over their heads, I can only see backs and legs and I do not
recognize who was grabbed. I see how cop is spreading legs more wide and
sticking somebody 's back with an assault rifle. And rest of the cops are
standing around them, watching me, us, because we are just walking by all
that. And suddenly I realize that one of the cops is recognizing me,
because a malevolent smile is appearing in his face. and my companion is
pushing me to their direction, to the left, as if purposely. In the right
side, a busload of OMON is speeding after those who ran, but I do not see
this bus, I just see this one cop watching at me. And I feel that if I
keep watching him any more split of a second, they will grab me as well
and push my face to asphalt. And this moment my companion is speaking:

"Are they drunk or what?..."

With a disgust she is watching my comrades, who are spread-eagled by the
cops. My instinct of self-preservation demands me to pull face as well,
but this moment of sharp shame, stronger than I had ever felt before, is
carving my soul. It is unbearably shameful just to walk by, I have a
glimpse of thought of giving myself to them as well.

"Drunken for sure!"

Woman is getting more convinced of her idea.

"No, not drunken."

Is slipping out from me. She is tossing her eyes up to me with a surprise:

"Who are these guys?"


"So you are with them? I see."

A moment of silence

"What happened? Why did they . you . like that?"

A question pretty hard to answer shortly, so I just reckon and answer

"For an illegal demonstration."

"And why, for the sake of what you need this?"

This was a question, as they said, not to eyebrow but straight to my eye.
So just go for it and answer her for why! For the sake of what my
comrades, beaten up with truncheons, are now lying down, held at a
gunpoint at Kuznetskiy Most? What is the point of such protest actions?
Any reference to global revolution here sounds not much in place nor

Why all this, what are we obtaining? Why in the hell all they are getting
to the streets? - journalists are asking, passers by, everyone around.
When I go explaining something about libertarian society, the future
revolution, deep in my soul I feel some uneasiness. Words sound pathetic
and senseless, and I am suffering pains for my inability to pass the gist
with my own words. In this postmodern world all words and ideas have
become worthless, they wore themselves out. Everything here is unreal and
twisted, alienated and objectified. As a rule, all my attempts to explain
idea of street actions with some external motivation end up being some
flat and superficial "common places" in which I almost do not believe
myself. Indeed, how may world change when 40 people get to streets with
their banners? There are for sure also completely "sensible" actions out
there, which have some concrete, not too wide goals, for influencing
result of some court case, some law in a process of getting passed, to
save some park and so on. In these cases success of action is measured
with resonance it reaches in mainstream media, and in society in general.
And quite often such often succeed to influence to situation in general. I
did participated to such actions, which are in a strange way similar to
picture-taking, of one single, endless movie.

A tight ring of journalists, TV-operators and police surrounding the spot
of action, big and beautiful banners, participators of the action are
scanning slogans in unison to TV-cameras, somebody gives the same
interview to different cameras all and over again, every time representing
the same sincere emotions. A spectacle, played in front of journalists.
City in this case is just a decoration, which could have been set up in a
studio. All this deception arouses a deep disgust in any honest person.
But watching the evening news, it all seems to be natural and appropriate!
Why? Because it all goes well inside current order of things, according to
laws and in the framework of the existing realities.

For sure, there are also completely another kinds of actions - spontaneous
mass meetings and demonstrations, street blockades, occupations of
administrative buildings on a wave of social upheaval. These are often
cases of direct action in the very meaning of the word, and there can be
no doubt about sensibility of such actions.

But this is not a case of social upheaval, but of a strange, from point of
view of a neutral observer perhaps even awkward and pointless march of 40
persons with flags and a loudspeaker. Mayday - it is more an occasion for
a demonstration than a cause of it. When I participate to such actions, I
feel a difficulty in explaining to myself why I am doing it. But I
participate, because I feel the most barest necessity for it.

Every time when I walk alone in the city, past enormous and cold
storefronts, past splendid cars that slide on reflections of the street,
past indifferent models and people with empty eyes, I try to catch my own
surprised reflection that is flashing and disappearing among hundreds of
other reflections and noise of this dream city, and to me it also seems
that I am just a random reflections, dream among dreams. Whole reality of
this city is as if negating my existence, reality of my life. And only
pain which I feel from these emotions is a signal that after all, I do

This painful division between internal and external, impossibility of an
authentic, eventful life and self-realization in this unreal world, you
feel almost constantly. My "self" is locked up to a prison of loneliness,
and all shouts, that reach out from this prison, become twisted and
interpreted. Only my isolation exists, and television which gives a daily
portion of surrogate events. What talk there can be of a meaningfulness of
an action, when the life itself in this enchanted world of reflections
seems to be mindless and a misunderstanding. In reality of the
capitalistic system, is any thought that goes beyond its framework
possible anyway, a thought that goes beyond expediency in a sense of a
society of production and
consumption, official politics, discourse of the power? Here my life makes
sense just as much as I am an object to what was listed above. In this
kingdom of crooked mirrors any honest act seems to be absurd. I for sure
wish that future would be different, that in a libertarian society people
did not had to live through that anymore. And I try to do something for
realization of this future, after all our activity is not only
organization of demonstrations. But how could I be? I live and suffer from
division of existence in this very moment. I want to live here and now!
And today I may embody this desire only in a revolt.

For sure, revolt is not only about participation to illegal
demonstrations. It continuously breaks through mindless routine of daily
affairs, at work and at home, when you feel that you become an object, a
mere thing for people surrounding you, and when after realization of this
fact humiliation becomes unbearable. When you understand, that it is less
humiliating to be beaten up, thrown to jail and even to be killed than to
wander your whole life in odd darkness, doubting fact of your own
existence. So instead of just another time fulfilling orders of your boss,
you just tell him to back off. Yes, sir. No, sir. Fuck you, sir! And what
is the point in that? Almost always you have to find a new job then. But
there is a certain sense: that is preservation of yourself, your own
dignity. A true moral fulfillment. But this kind of revolt is a very
individual one. But when individual revolt is merging into a collective
protest, a kind of outburst is happening, in which a space of untwisted
mutual communication and understanding is born. This is something more
than a mere revolt. It is a new world that is already existing, although
just between of us.

We go, scanning slogans and waving flags, down on Stoleshnikov side
street. And suddenly we see, that square in front of us is partitioned off
by a bus full of OMON. Another bus is standing in side of it. Amazed OMON
is scrambling out, wearing helmets and body armors and armed with
truncheons. Everyone thinks "that's it! There is no way forward".
Loudspeaker falls silent, people going in front stop in square,
indecisive. And suddenly I hear a loud and audacious voice of S, "No to
the police state!!!". How can I say anything about expediency here? This
is how doomed people shout confidently in a scaffold. And others are
joining ever more loudly. And we pass by perplexed OMON. Is there any
sense in all this? Obviously, only the existential one. Will the world
change from it? I think yes, because it was us who changed. Raoul Vaneigem
wrote "People will be together only in a common wretchedness as long as
each isolated being refuses to understand that a gesture of liberation,
however weak and clumsy it may be, always bears an authentic
communication, an adequate personal message." When you hit the streets, no
matter how few you are, you are fulfilling a desire to expand your
subjectivity in a totalized reality of a world dominated by objects. And
this world, that seems to be unshakable, is forced to slow down, to scrape
breaks and to back off! Current order of things is disturbed, and you feel
how foundations of everyday reality are shaking. Then you feel, that you
are really alive, right here and right now. You do not live like you
always felt like, but like you have to live: like every moment was the
last one. And the city around you is transforming into genuine space of
your life. In this break-through of liberation you start to feel
solidarity and unity with other people involved. "I rebel - therefore we
exist" as Albert Camus said. And joy which it makes you to feel is
difficult to compare with anything else.

Standing aside, somebody says: "Just a typical animal instinct, to mess to
a heap of similars. What is so special in it?", To reclaim the city, to
gain authentic space and authentic experience of existence, to gain
oneself at last. To live a split second of freedom. It is not that much,
but not that little either. And main thing that gives me hope, is that one
day space of our life starts to expand constantly, not merely
occasionally. That my revolt, that expanded to a protest with solidarity,
sooner or later grows to a revolutionary resistance. And that day,
perhaps, whole world becomes arena of our genuine life.

Nataliya Dmitrieva (Avtonom #25)

Article was published in Avtonom #25. References to action are on Moscow
anarchist Mayday of 2005.


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