Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Travel Notes 5 - Nov. 7 Evening Updated

Tovarishchi -  November 7 Evening

The 'manifestation' to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1917 Revolution in St. Petersburg was held around 5:30 PM in the Vyborg.  About 2,500-3,000 people attended.  Part of it started at the Lenin statue in Finland Station Park, then moved to "Finland Lane" where the Russian Communist Party (CPRF) was already in place.  This was an area where Finnish workers who built the railroad lived.  They were later deported in the 1950s. After about half an hour of singing and chanting by various groups, behind a van of the CPRF decorated with hammers and sickles, the column began to march.  The march led through the streets, over the Samsonieksviy bridge, to the Aurora battleship on the Petrograd side.  There a stage had been set up by the CPRF, along with a video screen.  The police escorted the march through traffic.  It was very impressive as it marched, filling about 4-5 American blocks with red flags and people as it came up to the Aurora.  The majority were supporters or members of the CPRF, and given that, the demonstration seemed somewhat small if this is any reflection of their base.  However, for the CPRF this was a sideshow, as their main demonstration was in Moscow.

Comrade of the CPRF at the Manifestation

The City Government had granted the permit at 5:30 PM after the sun went down and the cold came up, so as Sergei, one local Russian said, they city probably knew this would be a crimp in the 'manifestation.'

The march was full of various Left groups.  I have to tell you, on this somewhat momentous occasion, it was a bit like that Monty Python sketch.  You know, "Who are you?"  "We are the League to Free Galilee!"  "And you are,,,?"  "We are the Workers Association of the Dead Sea!"  "And who are you?"  "We are the Socialist Federation of the Sheep Herders!"

But in this case, Maoists from the ICOR, young Trotskyists from 2 Russian groups - the Russian Socialist Movement and the Revlutionary Workers Party, the mainline CPRF, which was the largest and another group, the United Workers Party of Russia.  Also cadre from the Swedish, German and other Communist Parties, people from the Australian Labor Party, leftists from China, one member of Socialist Action from the U.S., a supporter of Enver Hoxha, a few anarchists and some I missed or didn't run into.  Yeah, the U.S. left granted 2 people.  There were also plenty of ordinary Russians, who no longer believe in the promises of Russian capitalism.

What was interesting was that there seemed to be no attempt to coordinate chants, songs, movement or anything between organizations. The ICOR sang the Internationale, then the CP sound system kicked it out at a different time.  As if no one there actually knew the words in their many languages.  At the Lenin statute, a group of CPers walked by the ICOR and disappeared towards Finland Lane and it's pretty clear they did not invite anyone.  It was as if all these various Marxists and anti-capitalists were there by accident, busily ignoring each other.  It certainly shows the fatal organizational isolation of the Marxist left.  Does anyone really consider themselves the leader of an actual revolutionary movement, committed to overthrowing capital on a world scale?  Everyone there was a supporter or sympathizer of the Bolshevik revolution, but the leaders did not use that fact to build a larger more significant event, or even make an attempt to recruit by acting like it actually mattered. The CPRF certainly had bigger fish to fry, as their larger demonstration in Moscow was covered on Russian news.

Comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Party

So I felt like I was at an ordinary left demonstration, if more colorful and more architecturally appealing.  People selling or swapping their party papers, a stage on which the first 'act' was a group of youngsters singing a tepid song, and I'm sure not one speaker from anyone but the CPRF.  Typical organizationally protective behaviour, in which your own parties' calculations are paramount.  Yet there were people from all over the world in attendance.  The most impressive group was the Maoist electoral party from Nepal, who brought a large contingent.  They won the election there after years of guerilla warfare and the collapse of the royal family and royal rule.  Were they invited to the podium?  I doubt it.  I left because I know the answer.

The CPRF is the second largest party in Russia, but you'd never know it from the U.S. press coverage. It's aging bureaucratic / Stalin nostalgist leadership is being spurred by an influx of younger activists who want to take a harder line against Putin and issues like poverty and corruption.  The bourgeois press only highlights Navalny but it is the CPRF that is becoming a biggert threat at the moment.

I later went to the Hendrix blues bar to celebrate the day.  A Russian three-piece played stride, boogie-woogie, rockabilly and some blues.  The real world calls...

Red Frog
November 7, 2017

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