Gezi Spirit on Russian Streets?: The Emergence and Potential of Russia’s Contemporary Left




Berg, Albrecht

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Many considered the end of Soviet Communism as a sign that politics, and Left politics in particular, had been transcended in Russia and the world. Yet recent events, and this author’s own experience, contradict this vision. This paper will show that there is a radical, emancipatory, progressive Left emerging in Russia. However, this emerging politics remains unimaginable within the conventional ontology of Russian politics. This hegemonic ontology envisions an antagonism between “two Russias”: the conservative, lethargic, Eastern, rural masses and the energetic, progressive, Western, urban minority, which divides the political field among the existing actors. This paper will reject this vision and redraw the political landscape such that the contours of Russia’s emerging new Left can come to light. In this task, the author draws on the theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Their post-Marxism emphasizes the discursive nature of socio-political dynamics and rejects the positivism of canonical Marxism. This paper affirms their basic premise, but advances a “discursive materialist” reading that explicitly rejects idealism and post-political fantasies. Through this theoretical lens it is possible not only to account for the emergence of the new Russian Left as such, but to show how its emergence works to effect a general reconfiguration of the political field. An excursion to the Turkish Gezi Park protests of 2013 vividly demonstrates the potential of Russia’s emerging Left, namely, its capacity to articulate a progressive, emancipatory populism.



Russia (Federation), politics and government, Gezi Park