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.”  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html)

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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  1. goldenfig says:

    Some investigation is required to see the truth of this view.

  2. I don’t understand what you mean?
    Is your question regarding the actions of Putin? of Snowdon?
    Or the statement that the revolutionary element of the working class today are those who employ and thus control computers and other forms of advanced technology?

  3. David Kennedy says:

    I am always worried about any attempt to idolise, or extol the virtue of, any human being. Why? Because, taken to excess, such actions can adversely affect both the objects of such worship and the worshippers themselves. In the days of the USSR, the West ridiculed this “cult of personalities”. Ironically, it is now a ubiquitous part of Western culture in the ‘worship of celebrities’.
    I have been to Russia on a number of occasions, both before the fall of the USSR and since. Russia is NOT the USSR. It has been raped and dominated by capitalism and capitalists. This continues. History will be the best judge of Putin.
    Marx studied the societies in which he lived and made valuable insights concerning functional group behaviour. However, there are weaknesses in the human brain that are unlikely to be overcome before humans destroy themselves and the rest of life as well.
    Science and technology have developed to the point where humans now have knowledge, and power, of destroying ALL life as it has been known and understood to this point in history. They have power to manipulate the living genomes of all life, including that of humans. They have the power to destroy ALL life on planet earth with thermonuclear explosions and all that goes with it. They have the power to radically alter the earth’s environment and are doing so. They are obsessed with ‘excess’, either for greed or power or vanity, and it is this susceptibility of the human brain to addiction (in its widest sense) that destroys moderation and humility.

  4. To speak of Putin’s bravery….and his bravery is obvious to my mind….is not to hero worship him. When every other country in the world was down on its haunches peeing on the floor out of fear of what the United States might do to them if they gave Snowdon sanctuaty….He stood there and defied them.

    Moreover, I would remind you that it is neither “humans” nor “technology” which is destroying the world, but greed. Not generic greed….but quite specifically capitalist greed.

    As for capitalism developing in Russia….yes it is. As it has developed in China. The internal logic of capitalism mandates that it will become a world embracing mode of production. Once it has become that and perhaps once it has pushed humanity to the brink of destruction, perhaps the revolutionary segment of the working class will use technology to make the requisite revolution. I hope so.

    Remember, and I refer to Marxist theory because I am a Marxist, and I am a Marxist because I believe the dialectic to be the truth of the world not because Marx said something himself, that in order for there to be a truly humane and sane society, it must envolve from the full development of the forces of production. Only then can each be free to fulfill their needs, both physical and personal. When you socialize the cigar factories and banana boats you have Cuba. When yo9u socialized Russia in 1917, you had a country that lagged behind the world industrially, and so gave rise to Stalin and his five year plans.

    When you socialize an advanced capitalism, with fully developed forces of production you are able to truly liberate humanity from its shackles and problems.

    Humanity has the power to deal with the problems of the world, whatever they may be. We have just discovered a bacteria which will eat plastic. There will be a way to clean the environment. I just don’t share your pessimism about humanity.