An American Babushka in Moscow:  The Brave Hearts of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Edward Snowden


Perhaps the first signs of his bravery were the fights he fought against bigger, tougher boys in the courtyard of the St. Petersburg building where he grew up.  He fought not only for himself, but also to protect other boys; one could say that even back then, he fought for justice.  Then there was the incident at Dresden when an angry crowd threatened to pillage the Embassy.  He went out alone to confront them, armed with a pistol and speaking fluently.  As the legend goes he told them “This is Soviet Territory and you are standing on our border”   A witness relates that Mr. Putin addressed them with his hallmark assurance.


Then there is the legendary tale of when he went into the bowels of the Chechen war to inspire his troops to victory.  I have always thought one of his finest moments was when he spoke truth to power in Munich in 2007.  Pointing his finger directly at the United States and its aspiration to maintain a “unipolar” world order he said: “It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”  (

But to my mind, his bravest moment on the world stage was when he put the protective arm of Russia around Edward Snowden.   When every other country sooner or later capitulated to the master of the “unipolar world order” Putin alone did not and knew when he did so that some price at some point in time would be extracted.  I don’t know when he did this if he quite understood exactly who and what Snowden was, which is the archetype for the revolutionaries of modern day capitalism. In any case, Putin’s embrace of Snowden was one brave man’s embrace of another brave man.

What is the broader theoretical implication of such an embrace? Well, from the Marxist perspective it is quite revolutionary.

There is so to speak an internal contradiction in Marxist’s theory:  on the one hand workers must become conscious of themselves as a class to make revolution, on the other hand, the efficacy of Capitalist ideology precludes this.  With the development of mass media and its ownership by the ruling class, the control over the hearts and minds of the people became ever stronger and more complete.  However, in keeping with the law of the dialectic, at a given point in time a change in quantity produces a change in quality such that a sudden and revolutionary “phase transition occurs.”  And this is what has happened in modern society, as the technology of media, has transitioned from control by the few who own, to also become the possession of the masses.  This is the double edged sword of computer technology today.

Having said that, let me return to Marxist theory again.  Marx’s understanding of “mode of production” encompasses four things:  the first and most primary is man’s internal relatedness to nature as regards the fulfillment of his needs.  The second is man’s relationship to man in class societies (relations of production).  The third is the relationship of those classes to the means, methods, and forces of production.   This is two fold: one owns and  the other operates these forces  and means of production.  However, the locus for all relations is not the relationship between man and man, between capitalist and proletariat, nor even between man and nature (appropriation), but the means and forces of production, which revolutionize society. As they do so, they transform the mode of production in its entirety. The revolutionary nature of the forces of production are the fourth often disregarded element of Marx’s understanding of the capitalist mode of production.

These forces of production have in our own time moved beyond simple production of commodities.  They have themselves assumed somewhat of a human intelligence, and are used not only for the production of commodities, but to oversee and control that production.

Moreover, they simultaneously serve both an ideological and productive function.  These intelligent machines which have come to dominate both the productive and ideological forces of production are computers.  Those who know how to control and operate these forces and do so for a wage, comprise the “revolutionary” segment of the working class.  As Edward Snowdon proves, it is they who possess the capacity to make revolution and challenge the powers that be.

So it is quite appropriate, that in the land that gave birth to the world’s first “workers state”, the state that Vladimir Putin grew up in and served, that Edward Snowden, hero of the progressive segment of the working class, has come to rest.   One brave man living in the homeland of another.

Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.




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