With an immense sadness, Rébellion’s editorial team has just learned of Eduard Limonov’s death at the age of 77. A writer and combatant, he embodied for us the model of a trouble-maker in a world of tranquil fools. Farewell comrade!
Eduard Limonov did us the honor of according an interview to our magazine in April 2004. On Limonov’s demand, Sergei Fomchenkov, a member of the Central Committee of the National Bolshevik Party, presented the organization. The writer then mentions his first imprisonment and his political ideas.
Could you present to us the ideology and objectives of the National Bolshevik Party?
The National Bolshevik Party is a political organization with a ten year old history of struggle, which counts around 12,000 members, more than 50 regional sections in Russia. The party members are youth (15 to 30 years) for the most part. All social classes are represented, as well as different ethnicities and religions.
Our ideology is based on the writings of the theorists of National-Bolshevism like Ustryalov, Agursky, on Eduard Limonov’s works. We also borrow relevant ideas from Lenin, Mussolini, Mao, etc.
Our goal is the seizure of power in Russia by means of a National Revolution. We demand the establishment of national and social justice in Russia, the complete change of the ruling class, the adjustment of the power of public officials, of the old bureaucratic elite, the redistribution and nationalization of property. We also fight for the vital space of Russia, for the alteration of Russia’s borders by means of the annexation of traditionally Russian territories. The short term objectives, more vital, are the fight for civil rights and freedom in the Russian Federation, and the protection of the rights of Russian and Russophone populations in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent State, the Baltic countries, and Asia.
What tactic has the NBP chosen in Russia? What is the attitude of the authorities towards your activities?
Our tactic of combat is dictated by the political situation in Russia itself. The Russian Federation today is an aggressive police state with a hard repressive system. The Constitution (adopted in 1993) and the Criminal Code (1999), give the penal and judicial system practically limitless possibilities to combat the radical opposition forces. That’s why our methods are on the margins of the law. On one side of this margin, we have years of rotting in prisons and the reduction of the party to an illegal existence; on the other side of the margin a docile existence as respectable opposition. In the present stage of our struggle we employ acts of peaceful, non-violent, protest, like the occupations of the tower of the Marine Club of Sevastopol (Ukraine) under the slogan “Sevastopol is a Russian city!”, the Moscow – Kaliningrad train (a protest against the introduction of a visa regime), the rooftops of the Ministries of Justice in Moscow and other regions, and many others. A variety of these actions are called “velvet terrorism,” which was started by comrades Bahur and Gorchkov, who threw eggs at Nikita Mihalkov. This tactic could be called a “precision shot,” that is to say a strike at a weak point of the system. We chose a symbolic figure as a target and the action itself is a sort of political execution. Firstly, it’s a means of openly expressing the crimes committed by one or another person against the people, secondly it helps destroy the myth of invincibility and inviolability of people who are surrounded with a halo of power or popularity. They soon acquire concrete physical traits, showing their true face. Some start to turn on us in derision, responding to us with cowardly accusations, which doesn’t succeed without a text prepared in advance, for example, Zhirinovsky lowered himself with vulgar insults addressed to the executors of an action and orders to beat them up, which would suit a 19th century innkeeper. “Velvet terrorism” actions attract enormous attention on the part of mass media, stimulating interest in the Party, its work, its opinions on the present political situation. We receive sympathy and support from the part of society who are also discontented with situation within the state but who do not dare or who are not capable of radical actions.
Moreover, the organization of similar political actions is good entertainment for people.
We try to remain on the margins of legality (our actions could be qualified by the law as administrative infractions or minor delinquency), unlike the authorities who fight against us. It’s not for nothing that one of our slogans is “We’ll teach you to love the Constitution!”
The authorities’ attitude towards us is also demonstrated by the fact that in many regions, the regional departments for the fight against organized crime “concern themselves” with the NBP. The explosions in Moscow, the fight against Chechen and international terrorism announced by the president have also become a pretext for the reinforcement of the police regime.
They’ve refused our registration as a political party on Russian territory four times, the last time directly before Duma elections, on made up bureaucratic “red tape” grounds. Against the National Bolsheviks they use illegal detentions, during mass events and during arrests – severe blows, threats, blackmail, torture of the detained and accused – standard operating procedure of the organs of “law keeping.” In the apartments of NBP sectional leaders and activists everywhere in Russia they’ve proceeded with searches, illegal confiscations of literature and party material. The special services do not hesitate to use such methods as kidnapping (a recent example – the kidnapping of Central Committee member Dmitri Bahur, who was savagely beaten by FSB agents who tried to convince him to “collaborate”), trumped up by planting drugs or weapons for them to “discover” much later during the search and also … murders which will probably never be proved.
Presently the Party counts four political prisoners. Among them, the last victim of judicial and bureaucratic sloppiness is the 27 year old activist from Belgorod Anna Petrenko, a single mother, senior teacher at a local university, social science diploma holder. Anna was thrown behind bars (she was accused of having planted an alarm clock inside a cake box in front of the Belgorod regional administrative building, which the FSB and the Prosecutor deemed a “mock explosive device”), her child was transferred to a youth home.
All these ignoble methods of combat against our party demonstrate the attitude of the authorities towards us as a powerful political force that threatens the criminal Russian Federation, the bureaucracy and police. And these very methods discredit its power before the people, stimulating only contempt and distaste for it among them.
What are your relations with other political parties in Russia?
In ten years of existence, the NBP has called for cooperation with political organizations many times. We’ve always called people, whatever their particular ideology, nationality, religious affiliation, or anything else, to rally together in the struggle against our common enemy – the system. But if such alliances form, our allies soon betray us, like what happened with Anpilov’s Labour Russia for example. Political parties don’t want to cooperate with us, either because our radicalism frightens them while they want to provoke sympathy among voters through their moderation, or they’re afraid of disappearing in our wake from their outmodedness, their dogmatism, the inertia of their ideology and the inadequate modern political situation in the country and world. We could give these political forces a real active life, the result of our success. They could give us their support, for example as official registered sympathizer parties, who have a certain status in relation with and an influence in the eyes of the population and authorities, a material support.
Today, on the eve of presidential elections in the Russian Federation, we call once more for political organizations independent of their ideology and left-right orientation as well as all citizens of Russia to rally together to boycott this crime organized amidst the people.
We calmly accept the short duration of such alliances. We have our goal and there only remains the means to attain it. Those who understand the advantage of collaboration with us on the path of struggle with the authorities presently in place will come to us on their own, because nobody else really fights with them in Russia now.
Recently a split happened between Labour Russia and its youth movement, the Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM), created on the model of the NBP, under Udaltsov’s direction. At the moment, the AKM has asked us to collaborate and of course we’ll try to meet them.
Do you have contacts with other National Bolshevik organizations outside of Russia? Do you desire to develop your political links on the international scale in the future?
Yes, we have contacts with National Bolsheviks in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Venezuela, Belarus, Israel, Sweden. We are striving to develop political links on the international scale. Presently, we’re actively working on the Anglophone version of the principal internet site of the NBP and the translation of the program into other languages.
According to Western European opinion, Putin’s policies lack clarity. How do you evaluate his policies? Are they different from Yeltsin’s policies?
This Western European opinion is not surprising. Putin tries to maneuver between the West and the United States. Having spent a few years in Germany, Putin idealizes Europe, endeavoring to join the European Union, not understanding that even if that happened, Russia would be a sort of economic “black hole” for Europe. Putin tries to construct relationships with Germany and France but soon betrays their interests under the pressure of the United State.
There is probably no radical difference between Yeltsin’s policies and those of Putin. Yeltsin made all his decisions under the secret influence of the United States or other Western states. Putin however, under the pretext of the fight against international terrorism after September 11th has openly declared his pro-American position. Putin’s Russia calmly returns it’s spheres of influence to the Americans: American troops are based in the former republics of the Soviet Union – in Uzbekistan, Kirghistan, Tajikistan, they landed troops in Georgia and Kazakhstan and also started construction of radar detection systems for their anti-missile system in Azerbaijan according to the entente with the Kremlin and Baku. The Baltic countries have become NATO members. The Putin regime depends entirely on its principal patrons, it plays no autonomous role in the global arena.
The internal political situation of Putin’s Russia is characterized by the fact that power is concentrated in the hands of bureaucratic functionaries, former members of the Communist Party. Neo-liberals and oligarchs who received many liberties under Yeltsin are now completely sidelined from power and clearly losing in the competition with the bureaucrats.
Despite optimistic declarations on television, the facts don’t speak in favor of Putin at all. In four years the Russian population has decreased two million. On the map of the Russian Federation about nine hundred inhabited points have been crossed out, small towns in Siberia and the Far East where any prospect of life disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the Kaliningrad – Moscow route a visa regime was introduced, the situation of the Russophone population in the countries of the CIS and Baltics has worsened. On Putin’s account there’s the sunken submarine “Kursk”, the houses blown up in Russian cities, the interminable bloody butchery of the war in Chechnya, the collapse of the remains of the old Soviet army, the “Nord-Ost” theater hostage crisis in Moscow … and many other shameful and irreparable missed opportunities.
Presently, on the eve of presidential elections, our party is organizing the social movement “Russia without Putin” whose president is Eduard Limonov. The movement’s activities are directed towards preventing the reelection of Putin for a second term by means of boycotting the elections.
How do you evaluate the results of the last parliamentary elections in Russia?
I deem the elections that have taken place as well as their results an organized crime that was conducted against the citizens of the Russian Federation. The terms of the pre-electoral competition were unequal from the start. Gigantic administrative resources (that is to say means issued by the state for pre-electoral expenses) were at the disposal of the “United Russia” party that received the absolute majority of votes. Long before the official start of the pre-electoral campaign, “United Russia” positioned itself as the “ruling party” and insolently used its privileges. The key media platforms, practically monopolized by the state have become the loudspeaker of their obsessive propaganda. From independent observers of electoral precincts and simple citizens in many regions of the Russian Federation we’ve received information of the most glaring infractions during the elections, the violation of voters’ civil rights. For example, we know of employees being coerced by many companies, professors threatened with dismissal or non-payment to vote for “United Russia” in the presence of management. In the electoral precincts they throw supplementary ballots with votes for “United Russia” in the ballot boxes. Directly under the eyes of observers, who are forcibly thrown out if they try to stop the malfeasance, under the pretext, for example, of invalid identification papers. The same falsifications also occur during the counting of votes.
What attitude can we have regarding such elections?
Such elections are predictable but they surpassed even our expectations. The government has become so arrogant that it “massacred” the entire opposition – not only the Communist Party which has been politically dead for a long time, but also the miserable “Yabloko” and “The Union of Right Forces” that could have been put there as camouflage at least. The parties that displease the government, the NBP among others, were quite simply ignored: by refusing us registration the Ministry of Justice declared an active organization of thousands of people quite simply nonexistent. The others were neutralized by the 5% barrier, which only allows parties who surpass it to obtain seats in the Duma according to our laws.
What conclusion can we draw from the experience of the Soviet years?
We, the National Bolsheviks of Russia presently make the following conclusion: the revolution of 1917 was not as radical as various historians and the mass media present it. Under the influence of external factors and harmful Russian traditions the project named “revolution” fell. Since the end of Stalin’s rule, the decomposition of a passable project of a Russian state had already begun. The conclusion is quite pessimistic – there was never socialism in Russia, just as there’s not capitalism now (it’s described in Limonov’s book “The Other Russia” in more detail). And the positive conclusion is that Lenin evidently created the precedent for such a situation and we hope that it will be possible again in one or another form. That’s why we fight and rot in prisons.
The following questions are addressed to Eduard Limonov
Recently you were freed from prison. What caused your imprisonment?
Firstly they arrested me because of Karyagin’s testimony, accused under article 222 (illegal purchase, possession, and transport of weapons) (Dmitri Karyagin, arrested in March 2001, resident of the town of Balashov in the Saratov region – ed.). And then the FSB started weaving the spider web and it was only August 31st that they subjected me to charges under article 205 (terrorism) and 208 (creation of illegally armed organizations). In October they added article 280 too (calling to overthrow the constitutional order).
Everyone present at the trial can confirm it was a matter of literary texts. It was a matter of three documents named “NBP-info”, and some other articles, the prosecutor even asked to add a request to ban the “Limonka” newspaper to the case. The newspaper would be banned because of my articles, chapters of a book already written in prison. Only the third charge, article 222, has any relation with reality: real sub-machine guns, real weapons. They spoke of text, paragraphs, who was the author of this text, who was the author of another, etc. This links my trial with that of Chernyshevsky. It’s the same, as bizarre as it seems. I studied him a lot and I know that he was arrested on August 7th 1862 for a proclamation entitled “To the Lord’s Peasants”, this proclamation wasn’t even written by him. It was written by Mihailov. Then there was the provocateur Kostomarov who supposedly was going to print this proclamation via letterpress. There was a letter, seized at the border, by Herzen, addressed to Serno-Solovievich, in which Chernyshevsky was mentioned. It was about the publication of “Le Contemporain” in Geneva or elsewhere else in the West. We also have a letter intercepted at the border by the French citizen Morignac. It’s surprising and striking that 140 years later there’s practically the same precedent. After the Soviet government, after the Great October Revolution, 70 years of the dictatorship of the proletariat , we suddenly see our brave secret services turn towards 140 year old methods. In the Chernyshevsky affair there were 130 police reports about external surveillance. He had been tracked since autumn 1861. He was kept in the Petropavlovskaya fortress, where he wrote his famous “What Is to Be Done?” and then was sentenced to 20 years in a penal colony. The state practically destroyed him. Moreover he wasn’t just anyone, he was a revolutionary democrat as Lenin called him. He was one of the most brilliant men of his time. And so we discover 140 years later exactly identical methods.
I was confronted with the monstrous cruelty of the state, moreover with a cruelty so stupid and blind that it destroys everything completely. It’s surprising that during the course of the trial the prosecutor affirmed more than once that he agreed with our ideas. If he agreed, then what were we being judged for? For methods, as the prosecutor said. But we couldn’t have even applied our methods, we weren’t given this chance. And yet we’re judged for intentions, even if they cannot judge intention. Despite that, such is this monstrous cruelty.
What were the conditions of your detention in prison?
Prison is as difficult as camp. I went to three prisons and one camp. Of course it’s difficult, obviously. That is to say the idea of the Russian prisoner as martyr remains true because the traditions of executioners in Russian society have been preserved. You’re put in the hands of power – it presses you, it eats you up like a dog, and it’s satisfied. It chewed me up for two years and some of a third – they proved nothing and spit me out.
I can only compare the conditions in the SIZO [Translator’s note: detention center, следственный изолятор ] of Saratov with the Lefortovo prison, I suppose for Russian conditions, I was treated decently. Three people in a cell for 4 – around nine meters. My fellow detainees were there for robbery and banditry, from what I know. Coincidentally, they read some of my books. We were allowed to walk outside once a day, outside packages in a practically unlimited quantity. They gave me books from the library as I asked: the letters of Lenin, Herzen, and others. In the cell I had a television, sent by Viktor Alksnis. I suppose if I was an ordinary detainee the conditions would have been a bit worse.
As a writer, do you have relationships with cultural milieus in Russia?
Eduard Limonov maintains relationships with cultural milieus in Russia but very selectively, because even after they charged him with the most odious accusations, numerous personalities in Russian arts kept silent when he was in prison. Also, even before that, he maintained relationships and was friendly with people who were close to him in spirit, and those are few in number. We have numerous party members in cultural circles who are poets and musicians. Natalia Chernova, who attacked prime minister Kasyanov, is a poet and painter. Lukovnokova, who attacked the governor of St Petersburg, is a well known poet.
How do you evaluate the existing anti-globalist movement? Do its echoes reach Russia?
I would say right away that in Russia there is not and cannot be anti-globalists of the type that exists in Europe. It’s not relevant. Of course there are small groups under the leadership of the Communist Party. Habitually they only meet for a conversation around a cup of tea. With us, to survive as a political force it is necessary to have a party and not only a party but a living organism. People must be devoted to ideas, fanatics. Willing to sacrifice themselves if they must. And obviously, less words and debates on theory, but more action. As Eduard Limonov said one day: “There is no longer any left or right, there is the system, and the enemies of the system.” While we discuss who had more correct policies, Lenin or Stalin, Castro or Mao – the faceless anti-national system of global bureaucracy rules us, destroys us. Of course, compared with our struggle (we have around 10 dead and more than 50 people have spent time in prison) the demonstrations of many thousands of well fed anti-globalists makes us smirk. Because this quantity of people could easily organize a revolution and no police could stop them. Hope remains that the ideas of National-Bolshevism will be accepted by the turbulent youth of Europe and more serious and more malicious organizations will appear.
Do you believe that Russia will still play a role in Europe’s future?
Of course. If we happen to change the present course of Putin and the ruling class then Europe can also expect an outbreak of radical movements. It happened once in 1968 after Mao’s famous operation. The youth of France were lit up by ideas of a social revolution. Although the opposite reaction would also be possible because the mass media will necessarily blacken our movement. But if the policies of Putin and his gang continue (and he wants to lengthen the presidential term to seven years, this new tsar) then there is a possibility of Russia’s disintegration. With this option the consequences for Europe would be disagreeable.