08 November 2007

The Retired Revolution

After a day of reading field reports of Comintern activists trying to organize black workers in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, I left the archive on Wednesday to take a look at how Muscovites were celebrating the ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution. The first signs of activity were the lines of skinny teenage militiamen up and down the streets. Then as I crossed the underpass to get to Pushkin Square, I ran into a dozen discombobulated pensioners in old uniforms with red USSR flags arguing about which exit they should take to get to the parade. After they sorted things out, I sheepishly followed them, nibbling on my toasty beliash s miasom (tasty pastry treat) to help signify my "observer" role. Rising up to street level, we came upon the crowds.

I’ve always imagined Communist marches as orderly affairs, akin to the final scene of Tsirk, where everyone gets into their designated spots and carries their assigned banners, adoringly looks upon the leader, etc. Well, not so much in 2007. Instead, there were a few teenagers trying to hand out flimsy red plastic vests and flags, lots of pensioners who seemed a little confused as to where to go and a handful of street vendors hawking old memorabilia and books.* After watching nothing happen for about 15 minutes, I decided that I’d had enough and took the Metro home. Supposedly, later there was pot-banging, a brass band and a speech calling for the abandonment of "Plan Putin" for Plan Marx.

So National Unity Day and October’s Anniversary have come and gone, but don't think we're done with noteworthy days this week. Today (9 November) is International Day Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, chosen to remember the despicable violence of “Kristallnacht,” sixty-nine years ago. In Moscow, there will be a film festival including the US films American History X and The Laramie Project, in addition to some Russian documentary films that sound interesting. Schedule here.

*If anyone ever sees Senatorov’s biography of Sen Katayama or the Russian-language edition of Katayama’s memoirs, please buy it for me. There’s a cost-plus reward, I swear.


Now, to completely switch gears, Counterpunch is having a subscription push to try to scrape together enough money to stay afloat and keep up their website. While A. Cockburn can rub the wrong way, his book on the Reagan-Bush era (The Golden Age is in Us) was good enough that it would be hard for him to completely wiggle his way onto my bad side. And overall, Counterpunch is without a doubt a worthy enterprise. Two recent examples: Vijay Prashad on Bobby Jindal and David Price on the Army’s Counter-Insurgency Field Manual. Go buy yourself and/or a loved one a subscription.

p.s. Anyone who wants an update on the Angarsk pogrom and murder of Ilya Borodenko ought read McFly's recent comment on the WSJ coverage of the affair.