’удожественный журнал
digest 1993 Ц 2005

Toward the "Organic Intellectual"

Boris Kagarlitsky
"Nongovermental Control Comissions". "Barricade", action, Moscow: May 23 1998. Photo Dmitri Gutov
"Nongovermental Control Comissions". "Barricade", action, Moscow: May 23 1998. Photo Dmitri Gutov
Moscow Art Magazine: Many people believe that one of the last decade's characteristic features is the exhaustion of intelligentsia as a historical and social form of intellectual class. What are the prospects of the cultural community in the post-intellectual period? Which new social forms can it acquire?

Boris Kagarlitsky: If we try to define the intelligentsia in a purely sociological way, we'll have to admit that in Russia Ц both in the Petersburg-period and the Soviet epoch Ц it invariably carried out the function of an agent of modernization. From this point of view, the destiny of the intelligentsia was inseparable from the state, not only during Peter's period, but already in the reign of the first Romanovs and even earlier on. Modernization has always been the central theme of the Russian state, at least since the withdrawal from the Livonian war. By the way, in the beginning, it wasn't even an attempt to "catch up and overtake" (which it became somewhat later); instead, its objective was "to keep pace". Yet when Russia started falling behind, the objective changed: it now became important to catch up. Even so, the more they tried to catch up, the more they were left behind, which in turn gave the state new grounds for implementing a policy of modernization. This resulted in the aim of creating a class of educated people who would serve the objectives of modernization. Hence, the origin of Pushkin's famous words: "The government is the only European in Russia".

The problem, however, was that nobody knew how many intellectuals the country needed. There was no mechanism or criterion to calculate the demand. Moreover, the plans worked out by the bureaucracy were rarely carried out and if they were, they were usually fulfilled differently than initially planned, and this lead to an overproduction of intellectuals. This, in fact, is the origin of the situation so typical for Russia, where the number of intellectuals and the quality of their education was constantly exceeding the needs of the state.

MAM: Which period are you talking about? Do you mean the 19th century? The 20th century?

B.K: All of this already became evident as early as the 17th century! Only that during the 17th century, the contradiction had not yet been realized. Pushkin was the first to clarify it somewhat. Later, it was felt more acutely when the intelligentsia's social composition was democratized. You see, the educated Russian landowner still remained a landowner, while an educated white-collar (raznochinetz) was still absolutely marginal: if the state did not provide him with work, the only thing he could do was to translate German texts in order to educate the kind of marginal people as himself.

The point was not that intellectuals were unemployed; while they may well have been employed, they were often dissatisfied with their working conditions, with how their work was used. Here, he is, an intellectual, after all, and he finds himself rewriting papers! This leads to the emergence of a theme Ц first social, then existential Ц that was passed on from generation to generation. This also supplies the origin of the phenomenon of the Russian intelligentsia, where intellectuals play the role of critics. At the same time, the intelligentsia was not bourgeois, at the very least because it appeared earlier than the bourgeoisie. This is a specific Russian phenomenon: the intelligentsia here is older than bourgeoisie!

This forms the paradoxical nature of relationships between the intelligentsia and the state: it's incomprehensible who should be grateful to whom. On the one hand, it would seem that intelligentsia was a creation of the state and that it should be grateful to the state for its creation. But on the other hand, while the intelligentsia is willing to provide its potential to the state so that it might carry out its project of modernization, the state cannot utilize it properly and therefore cannot modernize the country. Since the state does not play the role of a collective intellectual, it deserves to be condemned.

This mass of contradictions lies at the root of the specific Russian intimacy of relations between the intelligentsia and the state, which leads to yet another unique Russian paradox. Disillusioned with the state, the intelligentsia begins to search for a new subject of modernization. At the same time, they cannot declare themselves as this subject: their thinking is too critical; they understand that if it happens they will become the state and therefore the subject of their own criticism. Thus, they find their ideal elsewhere, namely in the people! But the people cannot modernize itself: unlike the state, it does not possess knowledge. This is where the paradigm of enlightenment come into play, albeit in a strangely inverted form... On the one hand, there is the state which possesses knowledge, but does not want and is not able to distribute its knowledge correctly in order to modernize the country; on the other hand, there is the people, which is interested in modernizing itself, dreaming of modernization, a dream which, alas, it is unaware of. Consequently, it becomes necessary to address the people and to enlighten it. This gives rise the Russian culture of serving the people, a culture that allows all kinds of experiments carried out on the people for its own sake. If we take into account that the very fact of enlightenment is exclusively authoritarian, in Russia we are dealing with the paradigm of enlightenment, crystallized in its pure form. This results in the exclusive authoritarianism of Russia's democratic tradition, which is defined by the paradigm of enlightenment through and through.

MAM: What can you say about the Soviet intelligentsia?

B.K.: During the Soviet period, we encounter the phenomenon of the intelligentsia's overproduction yet again, with all resulting consequences. You can already see this continuity on the level of the state, which was able to accomplish another powerful breakthrough of modernization by turning to the mass-production of the intelligentsia. In considering the social statistics of Stalinism (which, by the way, are far more reliable indicators than its economic statistics), one will find that the intelligentsia is its fastest growing class. However, this direct analogy with the old Russia requires a certain correction.

Soviet intellectuals are the children of "promoted workers" (vydvizhentsy); therefore, there is no such thing as populism (narodnichestvo). The problem of the vydvizhentsy is rather interesting. On the cultural level, the Soviet intellectuals identified themselves with the victims of repressions from the 1960s onward, first with the victims of Stalinism, then with the victims of Bolshevism. But from a social and even a biological point of view, most of the intellectuals were offspring of the vydvizhensty, those who were promoted and reached the top because the repressions had cleared their way. This puts the entire cultural and political situation into new perspective. If the old intellectuals could be located in the triangle "intelligentsia Ц state Ц people", the Soviet intelligentsia (or, more precisely, the generation of the 1960s as its first and formative generation) is determined by the axis "intelligentsia Ц power".

MAM: What about the patriotic-nationalist journal Nash Sovremenik and the "village-writers" or derevenshiki ? Perhaps they don't count because they were the bearers of anti-modernist ideas?

B.K.: Exactly, this is the reason. Unlike the narodniki of the 19th century, they appealed to people as the bearer of traditions rather than as the creator of society. On the whole, the 1960s generation's mentality was conserved for a long period of time, from 1968 till 1988. It goes without saying that during all these years certain processes took place in the intellectual environment, though these processes found no reflection on the surface, but continued developing on a level that could be called "the ideological unconscious". However, whenever anything appeared, it was forced out of view into the underground. It's characteristic of those years that certain things were not only forced underground because they did not correspond to the standards of the Soviet state, but also because they did not correspond to the standards of this generation's culture as well. Or, to put it differently, the culture of the 1960s that was forced underground ran its standards to the extreme and began to feel that it was beyond the culture of the 1960s...

MAM: Who exactly are you talking about?

B.K.: Solzhenitsyn, for an example. He starts out together with Novy Mir and is clearly formed by the culture of Novy Mir, which becomes evident when you read "The Oak and the Calf". But the end-result of Solzhenitsyn's literary career is far beyond the bounds of the culture of the 1960s. But let us look beyond Solzhenitsyn. People became dissidents because they started to realize the impracticability of the paradigm that defined the culture of the 1960s, which was to enlighten the state. However, by the end of the 1980s, their intellectual project suddenly came true. What can we see during the entire period of the 1960s-1970s? Intellectuals may have criticized the state, but at the same time they appealed to it, striving to bring a mirror to the face of the state so that it would finally see the truth. And suddenly, the state saw itself in this mirror and was terrified. This sounds great, but by 1989, this ideological project of the intelligentsia had exhausted itself, bereft of any remaining ideological or cultural content. Since then, a new cultural layer, which wanted to perceive itself in a different manner, has begun to emerge. First and foremost, this new layer wanted to see itself in the role of the Western intellectual. Hoping to reach total adequacy, it also hoped that the state's demand for intellectuals and their actual quantity would correspond to one another. Another hope was that the intelligentsia would finally abandon its enlightening function, that it would, at last, be formed by experts, analysts, and not enlighteners. Art critics would now write about art as it is, no longer enlightening the people and state and telling them that socialist realism is bad while Western modernism is good; a theater critic would finally write about the performance itself rather than supporting the Sovremennik theater against the Gogol theater. This environment led to the emergence of the cult of the pure professional. At the same time, however, group interests also emerged, though these lacked any ideological motivation. For example, those who had supported the Sovremennik theater against the backward Moscow Art Theater, continued to stick together, feeling that they had much in common, even if they had already been deprived of their ideological objective. This led to the materialization of pressure-groups and clannish-interests.

However, measured against the Western standards that the intellectuals tend to spread, it seems paradoxical that their clannish group-interests form a resource of anti-modernization. You see, informal clan relationships, mutual cover-ups etc. restrain modernization. Thus, we face a strange cultural situation Ц both in the humanities and in politics Ц where social forms that contradict modernization by their very nature support the values of modernization. Objectively, people cannot introduce individualism of the Western type, since they themselves are not ready for it. But at the same time, they cannot introduce alternative forms and values since they are closely connected with the Western tradition on an ideological level. Slavophiles and pochvenniki cannot provide any alternative because they basically deny modernization. The thing is that the question of modernization hasn't been put by the Westernizers. It was asked historically, according to the situation at hand. Indeed, this is why everybody feels at a loss.

MAM: And what about our cultural community's hopes to gain an expert function in post-ideological society?

B.K.: To some extent, both the state and the elite have a real need for experts. But they do not all of them, nor do they need the best of all possible experts. The state does not make its choice according to the criteria of meritocracy! Even if the best expert has been chosen, he degrades at an astounding rate and becomes mired in bureaucratic games to such a degree that he no longer has time or intellectual resources for professional reflection and self-reflection. He cannot help playing this game; if he fails to do, he will find himself ineffective in the system. Thus, the intellectual's hopes that they might gain the function of experts has resulted in a disqualification of the expert community en masse. While people have lost the amateur touch always inherent to the Russian intellectual, they have not gained much professional competence. Neither corporate ethics nor a system of standards have emerged. Naturally, amateurism is not the best quality either, but semi-amateurism is something more interesting, as it may create unusual trains of thought and ideas.

MAM: Does it mean that the problem, in essence, is that neither group interests nor the search for individual success appear valuable to professional corporations? Isn't a corporation basically the guardian of an autonomous opinion and professional ethics?

B.K.: Of course. But I would like to look at this problem from another point of view. The old intelligentsia has one more distinctive feature, which has been lacking attention so far, namely socio-cultural homogeneity. Let us look at two opposites, a Moscow academician and a country teacher. During the Soviet period, they would have read the same books and watched the same films; both would have subscribed to the same Novy Mir magazine; both would even have opened the same issue of Novy Mir on the same day. Moreover, the stratification of property would not have been as strong as it is today: the disparity between the academician's and the teacher's salaries would not have played such important role; they would not have belonged to two different worlds. Nowadays, we can note a violent process of stratification Ц both horizontal and vertical -, which has broken out together with the notorious reform. This process is horizontal in terms of social dynamics and vertical in terms of status. Most representatives of the academician environment are thrown out of life, including the elite, meaning the intellectual elite, of course. Those that fit into the new order begin to lead a bourgeois life. Thus for the first time in history, Russian intellectuals are now trying to become bourgeois! Moreover, they are trying to master the bourgeois way of life as an idea.

MAM: Paraphrasing a famous historical aphorism, one could say that this is worse than immorality, it's absurdity. [Who are you quoting?]

B.K.: Yes, it really is absurd. When Jacques-Louis David tried to visualize the ideology of the bourgeois revolution, he did not depict shopkeepers but drew ancient Romans instead. We come across a similar phenomenon in all bourgeois cultures: the point is not to provide a shop-keeper with some heroic image, but lies in showing him examples of heroism from a different epoch or culture. In France, it was Rome; in Britain, it was the Bible. Each culture drew upon its own references in assisting the formation of its bourgeois myth. There is no direct poeticizing of a shopkeeper in the epoch of bourgeois culture's formation: a shopkeeper is not aesthetically beautiful. One can poetize a tyrant or consider violence attractive, praise power and order, but it's simply impossible to poetize a shopkeeper! Power, on the other hand, has an aesthetic dimension; without it, classicism, for an example, would have been impossible. Violence also has an aesthetic dimension, while trade lacks such it entirely.

MAM: A shopkeeper is really not aesthetically beautiful! But is there any sociological explanation to this aesthetic phenomenon?

B.K.: Culture has always been beyond the market. Moreover, historically, it is previous to the market. The first traits of the aesthetical appeared before than the first traits of the economic in its bourgeois meaning. But the economic in its bourgeois meaning emerges together with exchange. The thing is that exchange itself does not need to be aesthetically attractive. Aesthetical attractiveness adds nothing to its success, in contrast, for example, to power, to whose success it has always contributed. The same could be said of war, which needs invigorating marches, magnificent plumes, and colorful uniforms. In terms of aesthetics, even commonplace camouflage may gain a symbolic function. In the end, no society can live according to the laws of the market alone. There are certain relationships between people that are beyond the logic of barter. While bringing up our children, we cannot give them the sum they will have to provide us with when we are old in advance. Subordinating everything to the absolute logic of exchange will lead to catastrophe. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, the English revolution resulted in the discovery that purely bourgeois society is a failure, a war of all against all. That's why we need to create a system of counterweights; one of the most important of these, along with education, is culture.

Any bourgeois society is interested in culture exactly as much as in anti-bourgeois components, as a kind of stabilizer. By the way, we cannot understood such artistic and social phenomena as avant-garde art without knowing this. After all, avant-garde art permanently generates objects that do not blend with barter, that can only be absorbed by society in the course of time.

But as much as cultural institutions begin to live according to their own laws Ц I'm describing the developmental history of the Western intelligentsia -they commence to form their own ethics coinciding with the radical ideas afloat in the intellectual community. In this sense, culture simultaneously becomes both stabilizer and de-stabilizer. Then, the system faces a problem of keeping culture Ц anti-bourgeois by nature Ц in acceptable and non-destructive frameworks. Now if we return to our subject Ц the post-Soviet intellectual who poeticizes money Ц we'll see that the problem we face is not one of bad poetry, but of the intellectual who no longer serves as the stabilizing point for the market economy, which is exactly the function the market economy has allotted him with.

MAM: Then why didn't the system itself try to establish order during the developmental period of Russian capitalism, as did the English bourgeoisie?

B.K.: It couldn't do this because there is also no real bourgeoisie in Russia. In fact, the Russian bourgeoisie appears to be a class of functionaries who became bourgeois. It is so declassed that it cannot see and settle its bourgeois interests in definite terms. If it weren't so narrow-minded, it would be the first to cry out on behalf of the intelligentsia's market interests. After all, these market interests of the intelligentsia, which take the form of super-bourgeois, in fact are the demonstration of lumpen-bourgeois.

But on the other hand, the paradoxical figure of the new Russian intellectual so eager to serve money emerges because Russia does not need an intelligentsia at all. I do not mean the intellectual's attempt to earn a living, nor am I talking about his love of money: these are natural human desires and passions. I mean him serving money: he loves money as some super-value. Here, the intellectual faces severe problems: he does not know how to carry out this super-idea; what happens is that he cannot meet his target as an intellectual. That is why he changes himself from an intellectual into a media-technologist as one of the ways of solving this problem. The only sphere where intellectual abilities can be implemented and multiplied by the bourgeois is the sphere of propaganda, which is now called "media-technology". As intellectuals shift in this direction, cultural space on the whole moves towards media. But media are not culture and a technologist is an antipode to an intellectual. Media-technologists act in some media-space, where they spread ideas ordered by a sponsor or client. But unified media-space cannot exist without unified cultural space. The more the media-technologist occupies cultural space and replaces it by the world of media, the more he destroys his own space. He is a kind of socio-cultural sponger. It is as though he were consuming his own culture, in which only he can live.

The unified cultural space of the Soviet period, where Ц as I've already mentioned Ц a professor and a country teacher could have easily opened the new issue of Novy Mir on the same day, no longer exists. It has fallen into pieces, which the media-technologies are now trying to reconstruct, organizing focus-groups, of which they have a very phantasmagoric idea, because it's almost impossible to restore them. Following this logic, I would like to draw your attention to the highly symptomatic phenomenon of nostalgia, which is nothing but a spontaneous attempt to build a new unified cultural context. The past is the only thing connecting these particles. This is why nostalgia is a very positive process.

MAM: Does all you have said mean that the process of overproducing the intelligentsia stopped along with the end of Soviet modernization?

B.K.: Today, the situation in Russia is absolutely unique. On the one hand, it is much like the phenomenon of overproduction described above; on the other had, it is totally the opposite. I mean that formerly Ц in the Soviet and pre-Soviet periods Ц the phenomenon of intelligentsia overproduction resulted from an incredible acceleration undertaken by the state in its rush toward modernization, while now, it emerges against the background of modernization's roll-back. This is why intellectuals have very different feeling: if they one felt themselves to be "at the forefront of progress" and believed that everybody should be pulled up to their level, they are now at the rearguard of regression. Today, it seems that Russia is too developed, too cultured and too educated to be counted among the countries of peripheral capitalism. If I could afford a simple metaphor, I would compare us to passengers who were put onboard a huge airplane with the destination in Paris in 1989, but landed in Burkina Faso and have remained in the airport since. The authorities are afraid to confess to this mistake, which they are permanently announcing that we are still in the air. Hence the constant rhetoric of carrying on along the course of reform, continuing democratic transition etc. This is a lot like the joke from the Brezhnev-period, which tells of a train with closed curtains ("Just make believe we're going"). Then, the point was the government's fear of admitting that it was incapable of reform; now, it is the fear of confessing that the reforms have already taken place. After all, by 1994, the reforms had already been carried out, and now we're dealing with the results of these reforms.

MAM: But what gives us reason to think that we're still dealing with the continuing phenomenon of intelligentsia overproduction?

B.K.: The thing is that cultural structures have their own logic of inertia. Contrary to the fact that we are now in Burkina Faso, Katmandu or some other lovely place, our cultural systems continue reproducing the logic of progress. For example, the number of students per capita is higher far higher in contemporary Russia than it was during the Soviet period. Of course, many of the educational institutions to break into the market have not necessarily been accredited by the state, and the quality of education on the whole has declined, but not as much as it should have in the light of such a grave decrease in society's demand for educated people. The country no longer needs so much education, but the system continues to function! The situation has enormous destructive potential. After all, this mass of educated people is facing an alternative: it either finally needs to accept that it has no need for education, which it will then need to devalue morally, or they Ц and I mean young people with a heightened sense of their own value Ц will need to try to change society so that it might recognize how much it needs them.

MAM: In other words, a new 1968?!

B.K.: Yes. But even if the new generation is depoliticized, its explosive potential is colossal. Does all I have said mean that the intelligentsia no longer exists? Yes, this is something we can ascertain. But this does not mean that it cannot be revived. And there've been examples of such revivals. During the Soviet period Ц after the civil war and the Stalinist purges Ц there was good reason to write out the Russian intelligentsia's death certificate. But soon, the Soviet intelligentsia emerged. And if it really does return, the intelligentsia will probably be much like what Gramsci called the "organic intelligentsia". For him, this was a purely abstract construction, but in Russia it may be realized.

This idea is confirmed by the three circumstances, two of which I have already described Ц in the first place, a new unified context is forming spontaneously; second of all, educated people who may feel like intellectuals are becoming redundant. Finally, there is a third circumstance: great masses of educated class are spreading into other social groups which are alien to them, ranging from middle-sized business to suitcase traders; this leads to the construction of totally new sub-cultures, which can become the basis for the formation of organic intellectual.

MAM: Which cultural task will the new organic intellectual face?

B.K.: Along with 1968, there is another analogy to the processes we are seeing today. This is Latin America of the 1950s! All of the newer Latin American novels arose under similar circumstances. Here, society has been on the decline for a long time; while the utopia of modernization has failed, marginalization is growing constantly. The resulting explosion is not only socio-political, but socio-cultural as well. But this explosion should lead to demolition of all cultural stereotypes created by media-technologists. It was Viktor Pelevin who described these stereotypes, but he doesn't actually have any other cultural technologies at his disposal. The future will open up a broad field for the realization of new cultural objectives; a very interesting decade lies ahead.

It's very hard to foreknow these new cultural and political forms: if the beginning of the 20th century was, in many respects, based on the vectors that the 19th century already indicated, everything that we see today is nearly coming out of nowhere.

MAM: To which extent are the symptoms and perspectives described above local phenomena and to what extent do they have a global character?

B.K.: It's a complicated task to search for analogies and distinctions. Nevertheless, first and foremost, we need to admit that the crisis of the socialist project that we have experienced is a world-wide phenomenon. The "Soviet model of socialism" was widely criticized, not only by the right, but also by the left, which accused it of being inauthentic. But with the break-up of "Soviet socialism", the very possibility of any alternative construction of society fell prey to doubt. This is why Francis Fukuyama's diagnosis of "the end of history" is logically accurate, no matter how much scorn and derision it has drawn.

There is only one addition made by Robert Kurtz in his book "The Collapse of Modernization". Yes, we can indeed assert that history has ended, but this end of history is no happy ending. Since civilization has no alternative in its development, no new ideas and prospects, no new forms, the old forms will inevitably degenerate and fall apart. This process is fraught with society's disintegration and collapse into subsystems, each of which becomes more and more closed and less capable of a dialogue with other subsystems. We can see the symptoms of this process everywhere.

For example, the logic of capital flows takes into account the real processes of the economy less and less, though it influences them strongly. In short, I mean that there is a real crisis of civilization, leading to a new form of barbarism. We can see its symptoms in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

MAM: Isn't the notorious political correctness an attempt to create a new political and cultural context?

B.K.: Yes, but it is attempt to create a new context for power. External limitations and rules, which result in very specific sanctions, are the features of a deep moral crisis of the intellectual environment. After all, every normal person should fight against racism on the level of his inner self. The appearance of politically correct norms is a symptom of a personality loosing taboos that were once self-evident. Moreover, this methodology is totally ineffective: since the norms are superficial and formal, they will simply be avoided. We know this by the example of Jewish culture, which has worked out elaborate ways of evading divine prohibitions. And if mankind has learned to trick the Lord, it will also have little problem in ignoring the bans placed by humanity. It's also important to understand the image of contemporary society and the cultural context that political correctness sanctions (and therefore creates): society is divided into closed and relatively small subgroups, each of which demands respect and clashes with all the others. They demand respect from us, but the basis of this respect is mutual fear! Finally, political correctness is nothing but a form of preserving the old system of domination under new conditions. If a black-skinned American who has reached a middle-class status has to struggle for being called "Afro-American", it means that his self-appraisal is geared toward "what they call me". In a way, this is a form of dependant self-affirmation. While it criticizes the stereotypes of hierarchy, it also supposes the imperishability of the hierarchical principle at large.

MAM: So we're speaking about the symptoms of a moral crisis. Where can we find the reasons for this crisis?

B.K.: Lately, we have witnessed the decay of the Western culture of the 1960s. The problem is also that the ideological explosion that accompanied this epoch turned to be so powerful that its exhaustion was realized at too late a stage. This is why more recent intellectuals have, on the hand, pursued the goal of declaring their succession to the culture of the 1960s, a culture they were brought up on and owe everything to. But on the other hand, they had to get rid of this culture's most meaningful aspects. Political correctness is a particular case of such a strategy. They find some absolute evil, which mobilizes them for a great struggle in general but allows for a great deal of conformism in particular. This evil can be found in racism, or in the totalitarianism of the past (i.e. the Soviet epoch) or the present. From this point of view, if Milosevic had not existed, he would have been invented. The same can be said of the struggle for human rights, which are proclaimed as an absolute value, while simultaneously, human life is considered a relative value. All of this is little more than a search for self-justification as the culture of the 1960s decays.

MAM: How objective is the image of the world that the new generation of intellectuals has created, a world that is fragmented, a world that lacks integrity?

B.K.: The thing is that this image is not objective at all. It even contradicts the statistical data. The world has really become more multi-colored than it was in the 19th century, but its nuances and their relations do not always satisfy the constructions of post-modernism. They assure us that the pieces to which the world has fallen are separate and incompatible. Yes, the world has fallen to pieces. But first of all, these pieces transform to one another, and second of all, they provide the building blocks for more prominent structures. Moreover, we can find direct analogies to what is happening in Europe today, for an example, to the processes that took place during the 15th and 16th centuries, during the period of primary accumulation, that is, in yet another period of transitional society. At first, there is fragmentation, then unification, much like a kaleidoscope.

MAM: What are the symptoms of these new constellations? Where are they finding new ties?

B.K.: I can give you an example, provincial but revealing. Mexico. Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista army that he heads. From the military point of view, his campaigns can hardly be called successful, but from the point of view of collecting and assimilating aesthetic and communicative mechanisms, he is very successful. Among his purely aesthetic discoveries, there is a mask behind which he hides his face. Nobody knows what he looks like. Why does he need it? Because it depersonalizes his image and therefore makes it universal, for starters. From the pragmatic point of view, the mask is also important because nobody knows if he is white or Indian! Marcos is beyond race. Finally, the mask issue uses very effective codes of Indian, Spanish-American and European culture. It is a powerful mythological image. One more aspect of his activities: the Internet meets the jungle; modernism meets archaism. Or: armed operations as a demonstration of his irreconcilability towards the system on the one hand, and the refusal of authoritarian violence on the other. Marcos was able to bring together things that were different and sometimes even diametrically opposed to one another. Regis Debray asks himself who Marcos is, a revolutionary or a genius of public relations? Debray defines Marcos as activisme creative ("creative activism"). Marcos even raises the problem of self-identification for the established Parisian intellectual. It's hard to say whether Marcos is a political figure or culture: his political success is the result of discovered cultural and artistic technology. Thus Marcos symptomatically speculates on parliamentary democracy, saying that although Zapatistas do not accept it, this refusal is only because it is impossible for them to follow its way. They are ready to support those trying to reveal themselves through these political forms. In this way, Marcos declares that the means of achieving the goal are not important; the only important thing is movement in a common direction. Consequently, he has guessed at a leitmotif of the culture that is forming, a very pluralistic culture, which is always involved in some inner and outer dialogue. We can find more examples of new symbolic figures as symptomatic as Marcos, which will allow the consolidation and assembly of future social integrity. These figures will continue to appear in the future, becoming points of bifurcation. By the way, Russia has some priority in this regard: like Latin America, it has been living in the situation of cultural polyphony for longer than the West.

Boris Kagarlitsky
Born in 1958 in Moscow. Sociologist and politologist.
Published more than 10 books published in Russia and aboard.
Lives in Moscow.
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