I wanna live back in the USSR,
I vote for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
And let the buggers send me to the bughouse again –
There they give you downers—and free of charge, that’s the best of all!
— Russian shitkicker radical commie underground poetry.
It’s a quiet night here, by Shchukinskaya metro station. If you look out the window, you can see the twin towers of the swanky Aliye Parusa apartment complex, painted a really eerie shade of turquoise, looming in the distance. In fact, they look so uncannily like a downsized copy of the Twin Towers of 9/11 fame that one wonders why the Chechen guerrillas don’t hijack some kukuruznik (a pathetic-looking little plane used for spraying fertilizer and pesticides on fields) somewhere in the wilds of Ichkeria and reenact here in Moscow the valorous deed of their co-religionists in NYC. Would look very hip and postmodern—plus, with any luck, the wreck and ruin caused by such an explosion would stop just short of the borders of the neighborhood I live in, taking away the worthless lives of the rich scum who can afford an apartment in Aliye Parusa and leaving righteous cheapo revolutionaries like myself—and the proletarians and oppressed masses living in my filthy ghettolike neighborhood—unscathed and rejoicing.
I’m quite comfy here, by the computer. A cup of hot coffee is steaming before me, I have just popped three tranquilizers to allay the nasty combined effects of my ongoing depression and the hell of a hangover I’m having and Gerry Mulligan’s sax is harmoniously blending with Art Farmer’s trumpet on My Funny Valentine in my headphones. I’m getting older and tamer, hence the preference for jazz. No more avantgarde Belarus punk bands with lyrics like “I’m walking sober, like a Hitler monument” or Kazakhstani Moslem ones with entire songs composed of the phrase “I love pork! I dig pork!! Eating pork gives me a motherfucking kick!!!” for me. Or pseudo-proletarian anthems like the one quoted above. Jazz, sobriety, conjugal fidelity and my old ragged and worn snot-green sweater to keep out the cold.
The guy spotted by the militia on Ustyinsky Bridge in Moscow on Tuesday night, February 4, must have felt very differently from me, in my present idyllic circumstances. Shivering from the bitter cold in his threadbare coat. Fidgety, nervous and on the verge of hysteria. And, as likely as not, intoxicated with counterfeit vodka or some nauseating chemically-synthesized alcoholic drink from a plastic bottle. Concealed under the threadbare coat of the 22-year-old chemistry student Igor Fedorovich (nicknamed “the Sapper”)—who made the headlines in the Russian media that week and riveted the nation’s attention to the political group he belonged to, the Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM)—was no less an object than a homemade time bomb. His alleged target was the Moscow City Public Transportation Administration (Mosgortrans) building on Raushskaya Quay, which he allegedly intended to bomb in a protest against the recent raise in gas prices and the corresponding raise in public transportation fares. The FSB and militia are reported to have been aware all along of the bombing plot brewing in AKM milieus, allegedly keeping surveillance of the group’s activities for several weeks, so a cop ambush was waiting for the Sapper by the bridge. He installed his bomb and set the timer ticking. When the cops emerged from hiding and demanded that he defuse the device, he said it was impossible to stop the timer once it had been launched and then asked to send for his mother. She was duly brought to the scene and, after a short talk with her, Igor gingerly carried the ticking bomb to the quay’s parapet, where it exploded, causing no other harm than a few damaged stones. Igor Fedorovich, under psychiatric care and recently discharged after a course of treatment in a mental hospital, is also supposed to be implicated in some other bombing activities, particularly the September 11, 2002, explosion of the plastic toilet down which Putin’s Hitlerjugend, the Idushchiye Vmeste (one possible translation could be “Coming Together”), used to symbolically flush the books of avant-garde writers.
That’s the official story, culled from various news agencies. How much of it is true, I don’t know and I don’t care to know. Throwing bombs or hurling jet planes at symbols of authority sucks as a method of overthrowing the Shitstem, only making it nastier and more virulent—but, then again, there is the righteous wrath of the oppressed and the downtrodden and the plain damn losers and no Marxist wiseacres like me or my friends can do shit to hold it back. Working out your existential neuroses (I’ve heard of a lady terrorist who was initially drawn into the Struggle by—I’m not kidding—her ignorance of the joys of masturbation) by posing as the new Charlie-Manson-cum-Red-Brigades is pathetic—but it’s surely better and worthier of a human being than the mindless routine of a pseudo-Westernized cog in the wheel of the Society of the Spectacle, who earns just as little below the salary of a garbageman in LA as to be able to look down upon 99.999 per cent of his compatriots and whose only joys in life are waking up Saturday mornings with a condom on his cock and a strange body in his bed plus his masochistic hatred of the Chechen Terrorists. And, for all I know, there might have been no bomb, no terrorist plot, no nothing. Our charming powers that be are more than capable of framing whomever they like for whatever they’ve got a mind to. You, gentle reader, may one day find yourself accused of being an operative of the CIA or, say, the security services of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The girl that you pick up at the Hungry Duck or wherever you filthy foreigners flush with ill-gotten bucks seduce our naïve and trusting girls, leaving no chance to us cheapo Russians, and that you wake up together with the next morning with a condom on your cock, may, if she is a physics or engineering major, be accused of industrial espionage for Western intelligence agencies. And if she reads Chomsky or Marx, she may be framed for a bombing case like the one described above. It’s all a fucking lottery. But more of that later.
Another thing I’d like my readers to understand. For all the irony and grisly sexual detail, this article is about friends. They are comrades—erring comrades, alcohol-soaked comrades, no-brain comrades—but comrades anyway, fellow dissidents in the same boat with us, walking, like us, under the imminent danger of being impaled on the “vertical power structure” or trodden under the heel of the “dictatorship of the law.”
And now for the irony and the grisly sexual detail.
Five years ago, a stocky youth with a wild look on his face and unwashed long blond hair lumbered into my obshchaga (hostel) room in my hometown of Obninsk, Kaluga Region. Hung over as hell, I was printing out a draft of my dissertation on my antediluvian dot-matrix printer that was going “Tsk-tsk-tsk-HRRR!” in an especially irritating brand of industrial psychedelic ambient trance music and, to cap it all, my cat Anaxagoras had just shitted on a freshly printed-out and especially important part of the dissertation. The guy turned out to be a young physics graduate called Denis (a.k.a. Den, Dennis and the Deng Who Is Not Xiaoping) who’d found out I was into Leftist politics and sort of wanted to join forces with me. Understandably, I was somewhat gruff in my replies at first, but soon we found out we agreed on every political issue under the sun. When Den touched upon an especially abstruse issue (I forget whether it was the dialectic of productive forces and production relations or the Althusserian theory of overdetermination) that I didn’t have a ready answer to, I said, using a familiar Russian metaphor: “You know, Den, this is a tough one. It can’t be solved without a half a liter [of vodka].” “Half a liter? Just half a liter? Oh, I’ll be back in a sec,” said the literal-minded Den, vanished and returned five minutes later with a bottle of Smirnov. This smoothed our political discussion a lot, so Den fetched another and then another.
Much later in the evening, at party with some friends, Dennis stopped dead in the middle of an argument, exclaimed: “Communism is not Communism!”, puked into my plate and passed out.
We’ve been good friends and inseparable political partners ever since.
For the last two years and a half we’ve been running an outfit called the Russian Maoist Party (RMP). Being composed of orientalists, physicists, mathematicians, economists and other true sons of the sod and representatives of the oppressed toiling masses, our chief function is to act as jackals of our Russian commie movement, preying on the anti-Semites, Brezhnevites, lovers and connoisseurs of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy and plain damn nuts that infest that movement and, to tell the truth, compose the quasi-totality of it. Everybody hates our guts, but everybody reads us, including such backwoods and asshole-of-the-fucking-universe places as Yakutia, the Far East, Serbia and New York City.
We are a quiet, bookish, Web-oriented sect of Maoist dogmaticists. I, for one, almost never leave my Shchukino pad at all, making junior Party members run errands for me: fetch cigarettes, coffee, vodka, take my son from school and so on. So it is a wee bit hard to understand why the FSB wanted to frame us for two terrorist attacks in the course of half ayear, including the famous 2000 underground passage bombing in Pushkin Square—on the latter occasion arresting Den and me and taking us to headquarters handcuffed together, as if we were Mafia killers or something. Thanks to some of our foreign connections, we have also been written up by News of the World and (if I remember correctly) The Guardian, using the epithets “fanatic,” “madcap” and “known terrorists.” So here is a recipe for you if you want to acquire the kind of sexy reputation we have: sit on your butt, publish a sedate and academic Marxist-Leninist paper and post in Internet forums using such sexy and racy words as “the right of nations to self-determination” or “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The rest is assured. Tells a lot, if you ask me, about the politico-cultural climate in today’s world in general and in our long-suffering Russia under the heel of the fascist motherfucker Putin dictatorship in particular. Has some bearing, too, on the immediate subject of my ramblings here, which is
Needless to say, the AKM is neither a vanguard (to be a vanguard you have at least to be headed somewhere, a virtue these guys most conspicuously lack) nor red (pink, light brown, mauve or burgundy might be more descriptive of the group’s political coloration), though it does indeed contain some youth. “Wackos,” “nutters,” “counterfeit-vodka-soaked degenerates, “hypersexual no-mind FSB dupes” and other endearing terms often used of them in the Left tusovka may be more accurate, but they are not terribly effective as an explanation—not much more helpful than the “Stalinist fanatics” and “implacable supercommunist intransigents” of the mainstream media. So let me try to explain.
Neither the AKM nor its parent organization, the Trudovaya Rossiya (“Labor Russia”), popularly known as the “Anpilov babushkas,” are really about Communism. Nor are they about fascism, anarchism, antiglobalism or Soviet patriotism, though each of these ideologies does play a part. What these two groups are really all about is a totally nonthinking and visceral reaction of bewildered people to a hostile environment. In the microbiological world, if you drip some acid into a test tube filled with a solution with amoebas and infusoria in it, the critters will naturally drift to the section least affected by the acid. In the animal kingdom, you have the familiar Russian aphorism: “Flip the horse on the nose, it will wag its tail.” In the Russian political world, you have the Trudovaya Rossiya and the AKM.
The hostile environment is, of course, what a pedestrian Marxist-Leninist like me would define as Russian capitalism, period. A fascist-influenced aesthete like the eXile’s own Dr. Limonov (may he breathe the air of freedom as soon as possible!) might say the colonialistic plutocratic Elders-of-Zion globalist occupation. And some Berezovsky-funded libertarian democratic Russophobe human rights junkie will call it the totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship of the murderous KGB colonel Putin. But they’re all different names for the same thing. And this environment is hostile to anything that lives and thinks. The TR and AKM are certainly alive (and kicking, in a convulsive sort of way)—but their top priority seems to be to avoid thinking and acting intelligently at all costs.
The nonthinking and visceral reaction of the “adult” (not to say superannuated) Trudovaya Rossiya is trash culture. Its fuehrer, the notorious Victor Anpilov, is no yahoo. Far from it. He’s got a degree in journalism from a really good Moscow school, speaks Spanish like Che Guevara and has served as a reporter for various Soviet media in several Latin American countries. But I defy anyone who has seen or heard him todetect the faintest traces of any of this. He acts the part of the paradigmatic Dumb Guy from the Sticks, the Ultimate Greaser, to perfection.
With Anpilov personally, this may be a matter of personal preferences. An old army buddy of his told me that, when in the ranks, the young Victor used to drink aftershave lotion—not out of any innate perversity or because of a lack of more conventional alcohol where they were stationed, but in order to, you see, improve the smell of his breath.
But it’s really in the format of his movement. Despite its name, “Labor Russia” doesn’t contain a lot of workers and has very feeble links with the labor movement. Whom it does contain is losers. Losers from all walks of life, no matter what social or personal circumstances have made them losers, gravitate naturally towards the TR and there embrace trash culture and start thinking and acting like yahoos. And I’m not just talking foul-smelling loud-mouthed short-tempered babushkas or Cossacks in faux-historical costumes here. An ultra-sophisticated scholar of dead Oriental languages, if he finds himself out of sync with his academic milieu and gravitates towards the Anpilovites, will, after a short stint with them, begin to proudly call himself a “lumpen,” painstakingly dress like one and spout all kinds of nonsense about “kikes” and the evils of oral sex. I’ve seen this happen.
The nonthinking and visceral reaction of the youthful and sprightly AKM is existentialism. In fact, that’s about the only feature the members of that movement have in common.
In Internet discussions following the bombing episode on the bridge, I’ve seen the AKM’s social base characterized both as “bespectacled geeks erroneously believing they will make more girls if they pretend to be Communists” and “pimply-faced vocational-school students from the working-class slums.” And, from personal experience, both statements are true—there are many guys and girls of both types in the group. There are also some wayward adolescents (practically children), a lot of glue-sniffin’, counterfeit-vodka-swillin’ punks, some more or less serious college students and young professionals plus a large proportion of nondescript girls who believe (quite correctly) that they will make more boys if they pretend to be Communists and … hang around a lot with a lot of boys. In fact, there was this girl one summer night, with whom I got drunk on Baltica No. 9 … but no, who the hell knows those weirdo AKMers, she may turn out to be able to read English after all. Well, ahem, yes … a common social base for the movement is hard to determine.
Ideologically… Well, there is in Moscow this Trotskyite madhouse called the Revolutionary Workers’ Party, famous for the size of the cockroaches infesting the pad of its leader and the coal-black hue of the once pink bed sheets they give visitors. They are also dedicated working-class activists and generally nice guys. So those Trotskyites decided to do this very Trotskyist thing called entryism, when you enter some totally alien organization and start subtly perverting its members to the Trotskyite orthodoxy. And they chose AKM, as AKM, despite all its vices, is, I believe, the largest Leftist youth organization in today’s Russia. And the Trots would come to every AKM meeting, have long talks with members and, sipping counterfeit vodka, they would start preaching their subtle and hidden message: “Workers’ democracy … permanent revolution … deformed workers’ state…” And the AKMers would nod and, sipping counterfeit vodka, comment: “Wow, man, that’s deep! Workers’ democracy! And a deformed workers’ state. Yep, that’s what it must have been: a deformed workers state! Gee, that’s cool!” The Trots, staggering from the effects of the counterfeit vodka, would go home very happy.
Then, one warm summer night, I came to the AKM lair and, though we Maoists disclaim the evil and revisionist Trotskyite practice of entryism, I just wanted to have a good talk with some members and, what the hell, try and convert some of them to Maoism. So, after the meeting was over, we installed ourselves comfortably on a bench, opened a bottle of counterfeit vodka and I began: “The revisionist Trotskyite theory of permanent revolution is a load of wank. On the other hand, Chairman Mao’s theory of continuous revolution is a glorious contribution… And this wasn’t no friggin’ deformed workers’ state: a social-imperialist state-capitalist superpower, that’s what it was. Now, concerning the Three Worlds Theory…” And they began nodding as wisely as a treeful of owls and commenting: “Wow, man, that’s deep! This … whaddayacallit … state-imperialist social-capitalist superpower! And the Three Worlds Theory! Gee, that’s cool!” The guy nodding especially wisely and agreeing with everything I was saying was a passing-by member of Dr. Limonov’s National-Bolshevik Party and, by his own admission, a nazi.
Organizationally… The acronym AKM is deciphered as the “Vanguard of Red Youth” (Avangard Krasnoi Molodyozhi), but it coincides with another Russian acronym: “Modified Kalashnikov Submachine Gun” (Avtomat Kalashnikova Modifitsirovanniy). The AKM’s rhetoric is full of such militaristic overtones: they’re all regimented into “platoons,” “companies” and the like, they have not chapter secretaries, but “platoon commanders”, etc. It doesn’t go beyond the rhetoric, though. A Ukrainian Leftist friend of mine once ran into my apartment steaming with rage. “I mean, just what do those FSB stooges, the AKM, think they are? Such an unashamed secret services provocation!” “Hey, man, hold on a sec,” I said, “What makes you think they are FSB?” “Why, their stickers in the metro, announcing the exact date of their meetings, giving the full address of the headquarters and all. It’s tantamount to saying ‘You are most welcome to come see us on Lubyanka!’” And though this ultra-cautious foreigner has yet to learn a lot about our local free-an-easy Leftist ways, in a sense he was right. Anyone is free to walk into their headquarters and take part in the debates. There is very little accountability. The movement must be infiltrated to its ears. And they couldn’t care less. They aren’t existentialists for nothing.
I don’t mean existentialist as in Jean-Paul Sartre. I mean existentialist as in “Do It!”, “Ona Move!”, “Too Drunk To Fuck” and so on. These are the real guiding principles of the movement and not any fancy frills written in their program like “the dictatorship of the proletariat” or even “Soviet patriotism.” If their elder comrades find consolation in being uncouth trashy greasers and in their Tolkienesque nostalgia for the Blessed Realm of the Soviet Union, then the AKMers get their kicks by being spontaneous and acting on the spur of the moment. Hence the high percentage of punks, hence the counterfeit vodka, hence the anonymous Baltica-No.-9-stained sexual relationships, hence the style of their political work. Take this guy Alexander Shalimov who was walking to (or from—I forget the details) the AKM headquarters after some rally in the fall of 2001 and spotted a Church of Scientology building on the way. “Fuck the bastards, this L. Ron Hubbard guy was a really mediocre sci-fi writer plus the Scientologists are a friggin’ zombie cult and all that…” These or similar thoughts must have raced though his head as he hurled a bottle of Molotov cocktail into the window. He was convicted of hooliganism and is now serving a two-year sentence. His trial was a farce, he is undoubtedly a political prisoner and we demand his immediate release, and, come to think of it, the Church of Scientology is a friggin’ zombie cult. But you get the picture. The AKM were also one of the most militant sections at the “Anticapitalism-2002” rally last fall. Nine members of the movement were arrested by OMON and two of them, including the recent bombing hero, Igor Fedorovich, were given a savage beating.
Russian punk icon Egor Letov was for a long time a close associate of the AKM and gave many concerts under the group’s auspices (however, I don’t believe he is or has ever been an actual member). It is easy to see why. Though Letov has a degree of sophistication that most AKM members can never hope to attain, the basic “Do It!“ ethos, the basic existentialism is the same. When Letov was a budding anti-Communist (what else do you expect? “I’ll always be against” is a programmatic line from one of his songs) punk singer in the late eighties, the evil Sovok authorities locked him up in a bughouse. This was in a cold windswept Siberian town. Opposite the mental hospital there was an apartment house under construction. And the only dream in Egor’s life at that period was to escape from the asylum. He didn’t hope so survive for long in the bitter frost in the thin hospital clothes—and the first militiaman would have stopped him. What he wanted was to run as quick as he could to the top of the house opposite and jump down from it, thus ending his misery. That’s a story any true-blue AKMer will have no difficulty in relating to.
The AKM has also nourished an interesting rock singer in its own bosom, somewhat in the Egor Letov vein, only more naïve. His name is Ivan Baranov and his stomach-twirling ultra-romantic anthems are about red stars and hammers and sickles flaming in the sky, the grass swept by the wind in the boundless steppes, about how the red sun of Revolution will rise for all of us… When drunk, I’m literally moved to tears.
If I go on for much longer (and if the long-suffering eXile editors decide to publish my piece), I’m afraid I’ll exhaust the paper’s none-too-plentiful royalties fund with these endless thousands upon thousands of words. So let’s wind up with some conclusions and the aftermath of the events.
The whole story sucks. I mean, absolutely. It’s a shame and a sin that the largest Leftist youth group in the country should be so disoriented and fuzzy (as in “fuzzy from too much counterfeit vodka” and as in “fuzzy logic”). It’s a shame and a sin that a guy under psychiatric care should have been allowed to run round unsupervised within a self-proclaimed revolutionary organization and that he should even now be widely regarded by the AKMers as a hero. It’s a shame and a sin that the number of political prisoners in Russia should be rapidly growing each year, the absolute majority of them being Leftist political prisoners. It’s a shame and a sin that we’ve got such a proto-fascist police state here in Russia that the idea of the whole thing having been cooked up (or stage-managed) by the secret services comes most naturally to one’s mind. It’s a shame and a sin, the kind of evidence Igor Fedorovich the Sapper is now giving to his interrogators.
Whether it is his mental illness (as suggested by some observers) or the beatings he’s being subjected to in detention (as suggested by others), but the picture painted by the Sapper is truly grandiose. He speaks of a mammoth terrorist plot in which he was just “a pawn.” He says that ideologically the terrorist network is a “Trotskyite—Stalinist bloc” headed by Victor Anpilov and the above-mentioned Trotskyite leader, Sergei, the one with the cockroaches and the weird-colored bed linen. The latter, Fedorovich alleges, recruited him last summer “under threat of brutal physical punishment” and had allegedly promised him $1,000 for the Mosgortrans bombing. Hey, bleeding-heart human rights junkies and connoisseurs of the 1937 show trials, rings any bells?
These allegations have resulted in numerous searches and interrogations in Leftist milieus in Moscow. Sergei, who, bar the cockroaches and his Trot dogmaticism, is a serious, progressive and valuable comrade, had his apartment searched on Feb 11. Confiscated from him were prescription drugs, fertilizer for his window plants, papers and diskettes, not to mention the hard disk of his computer. He himself was detained as a suspect and taken for interrogation to the Moscow City CID.
“This whole affair smells of shit,” he told reporters afterwards.
You’re right, Comrade Sergei, it does. As does the entire framework of the Russian Federation. It stinks of shit and blood and filthy lucre and injustice and the sweat of workers treated as subhumans—all sorts of intolerable smells.
High time to deodorize the place.