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Cole writes: "The prosecution of the band members on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and in the name of protecting the reputation of the increasingly authoritarian president underlines the reactionary roots of Russia's contrarianism."

Juan Cole; blogger, essayist and professor of history. (photo: Informed Comment)
Juan Cole; blogger, essayist and professor of history. (photo: Informed Comment)



Putin, Pussy Riot, Hooliganism and the Syrian Bloodbath

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

19 August 12

 

he sentencing of members of the Russian punk rock band, Pussy Riot, to two years in prison for a protest song they sang in an Eastern Orthodox cathedral against Vladimir Putin, now president of the Russian Federation, has blackened the name of the second Russian republic abroad in a way its support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad ought to have done.

The lack of public support in Russia for the band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, mirrors the Russian public's lack of support for revolutionaries in Libya and Syria. Outsiders, especially on the British and American fringe left, have sometimes suggested that Russia fears that religious fundamentalism in the Middle East will overthrow secular, modernizing regimes like those of Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad.

But the prosecution of the band members on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and in the name of protecting the reputation of the increasingly authoritarian president underline the reactionary roots of Russia's contrarianism. This stance is not that of a progressive afraid of religious obscurantism, but rather of an almost nineteenth-century conservatism. That is, Bashar al-Assad is playing Tolstoy's Hadji Murad, and Putin reveals himself terrified of the passions that might be unleashed by a punk version of the Kreutzer Sonata.

Repression at home and repression abroad, however incommensurate they may be, involve a fight against "hooliganism."

"Hooligan" is a relatively recent coinage, appearing first in a British newspaper in the summer of 1898. It likely was a corruption of the Irish name Houlihan, and perhaps a reference to a character in a comedic music hall song.

Communists, who rather liked rowdiness when capitalists were in power but disdained it once they had captured the offices of state, adopted the term into Russian as khuligan, referring to people insufficiently respectful of the law and of social discipline.

The Baath Party in Syria is sufficiently influenced by Soviet Marxism that it translated the phrase 'hooliganism' into Arabic, and uses it routinely to refer to the Syrian rebels.

Hooliganism deserves to have its murky etymology, since it is a term of inherently bad faith. Vandalism is rightly categorized as a crime, but it is a crime clearly visible to all.

Hooliganism, in contrast, is virtually undefined and might well simply be regime code word for 'having a bad attitude."

Many of the first revolutionaries in Syria, in spring-summer 2011, actually bore some resemblance to Pussy Riot. Fadwa Sulaiman, an Alawite film star, launched a hunger strike to protest the imprisonment of dissidents.

Or there is the "Freedom Generation" band in Homs, one of whose members explained its goal as:

"to make the world see, and make the regime's leaders realize, that we are not ignorant and we know what we want. They try to portray us as ignorant, but all we lack as Syrians is freedom and dignity."

Only when the protesting youth and artists were viciously repressed and tank turrets turned on them did elements of the population turn to violence and create the Free Syrian army.

The Russian Federation should have been a gift to a globalizing world in the early 21st century. A highly educated population, a sophisticated scientific establishment, a population grateful to have escaped the clutches of totalitarianism but clear-eyed about the predatory character of much of late capitalism, should have contributed a new, progressive vision.

Instead, Russia's Vladimir Putin seems intent on making his country a dreary reactionary state, authoritarian, supportive of a national church (much of the 'hooliganism' attributed to Pussy Riot was a protest performance in a cathedral; they may as well have been convicted of blasphemy). And putting it that way makes it clear how Putin is unwittingly drawing close to the reactionary governments of the old Middle East as a social and political model– hydrocarbon cartel state and conventional social repression.

The verdict, in other words, is a Salafi verdict, a verdict of the sort Putin says he is afraid will become common in Syria if the rebels win. He is a hypocrite.

That the Pussy Riot members and the Syrian revolutionaries are both being described with a Soviet term of opprobrium drawn from British anti-Irish racist stereotypes points to the staid, conventional banality of evil that lurks in Vladimir Putin's notion of order.

Here's a video of Pussy Riot's piece of hooliganism:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grEBLskpDWQ

 

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+1 # Mohanraj 2012-08-19 10:39
The writer seems to have missed the point. Are these "pussies" justified in singing a political song inside the church where the faithful have come to pray and have some peace of mind? Had such a thing happened in the US, would the government have praised or supported the singers? In our eagerness to find fault with Putin, I think we should not try to justify what may be deemed blatantly blasphemous and condemnable by believers. Frankly speaking, I am an atheist and have no religion although I was born a Hindu. Yet, I respect all religions and the right of others to espouse a religion as much as I would like them to respect my right to deny the existence of god.
V.M.Mohanraj
 
 
+3 # Activista 2012-08-19 10:57
www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/08/20128158358503493.html
"Far right extremists like Wade Michael Page, responsible for the deaths at Oak Creek, like the Norwegian militant Anders Behring Breivik,the self-described anti-Islamic militant who admitted killing 77 people, are not simply crazies or lone gunmen. They are the product of extremist ideologies and movements from white supremacists, politicians, media pundits, religious preachers and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim websites and blogs that have received more than $42 million over a 10-year period, according to the recent Centre for American Progress study"
and all is Kosher in USA and GB .... taking Syria metaphor (first Syrian demonstration were NOT peaceful - shots were fired from the crowd and and government buildings were burnt).
 
 
0 # Activista 2012-08-19 15:49
Just imagine EXACTLY opposite scenario - Page or Breivik being Islamic militants and ..
The "Western" media protecting our money "civilization" would not stop ... but there seems ONLY Iran left to bomb ...
 
 
+1 # Buddha 2012-08-19 15:16
"an almost nineteenth-cent ury conservatism"

And what the GOP is peddling today in American is really any different than 19th Century laissez-faire Gilded Age conservatism?
 

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