Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 26, 2017

Other Russias

Filed under: Russia — louisproyect @ 10:22 pm


Largely through connections made through Russian Reader blogger Thomas Campbell, I have learned about important developments involving the Russian left that defy the stereotype of Russian opposition to Vladimir Putin as neoliberal snakes. To be sure, such snakes exist but the Western left has an obligation to keep abreast of our comrades there, who are opposed to capitalism just as much as us. In addition to Thomas Campbell’s blog, another important asset is the journal n+1 that largely because of the presence of co-founder Russian émigré and Marxist Keith Gessen (Masha’s brother) on the editorial board has a pipeline to the Russian revolutionary movement that makes it indispensable to our ongoing political enlightenment.

It was through an introduction to Keith Gessen made by Thomas Campbell that I learned of a tour by Kiril Medvedev, the revolutionary socialist poet, journalist, activist and–most distinctively–translator of Charles Bukowski. n+1 published Medvedev’s “It’s No Good“, a book whose $16 price tag goes against capitalist rationality, just as does every word in his Molotov Cocktail of Russian literature.

The good news is that n+1 has now published another voice of the Russian left: Victoria Lomasko, the author of Other Russias, which was translated by the good Thomas Campbell. Vika is an artist and activist whose work reminds me both artistically and politically of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”. Satrapi’s work was a comic book after the fashion of Harvey Pekar but Lomasko’s is much more text with powerful illustrations to make key points such as the ones shown below that come from the chapter on Pussy Riot.

Like Medvedev and Pussy Riot, Lomasko is “one of us”. In one of her chapters, she describes Russian protests marked by a large antifa contingent that was countering a phalanx of Russian nationalists who can only be described as Richard Spencer with a Russian accent. Far be it from me to try to penetrate the thick skulls of the Putinite left in the USA and England, but with Trump clearly trying to emulate Putin’s authoritarian ways it is high time to familiarize ourselves with the thinking of the Russian left that has been dealing with this crap for the longest time.

Vika is coming to New York the day after tomorrow and her tour begins with her speaking at Columbia University on February 28th, NYU (3:30 PM, Jordan Center, 19 University Place, 2nd Floor) on March 2nd, and at the n+1 offices on March 3rd (7:30pm, 68 Jay Street #405, Brooklyn). She will also be having an art opening at Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn on March 4th.

Information on other stops on Vika’s American tour can be found here. It includes engagements in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Portland.



  1. It’s really too bad, Louis, that you unfriended me on Facebook. If you hadn’t, you would have heard about the serious problems I’ve been having with n+1 and this book. Of course, the book itself is worth people’s time and money, but I’ve been so badly mistreated by n+1, in quite specific contractual terms and more generally, that I’m considering taking legal action against them. You might have noticed that I’m not identified on the cover. Now look at the cover of KM’s book and notice that they managed to squeeze the names of all four translators onto the cover. As translator, I also had the final say on the text per our written and signed agreement. But now I’ve discovered, after looking through a .pdf preprint of the finished book, that n+1’s editors kept on editing the book after I’d submitted my final edit, making substantial changes to the text. Finally, they supposedly have already sold the UK rights to Random House Penguin UK for a song. If the deal, as it has been described to me, goes through, I’ll make a whopping 500 pounds to go with the stunning $1,000 flat free I finally got from n+1 the other day. Finally, I had to cancel my participation in the promo tour after the author essentially shanghaied me into signing off on the highway robbery pact with Penguin UK. She said everything bad about me she could think of, but that mattered less than her strange conviction, quite common among certain Russians and certain leftists, that translating isn’t real work, but some kind of queer hobby, and we had no business negotiating with Penguin UK for a fairer deal, which was all I had asked her to do. So again, while I would not discourage anyone from buying and reading this book, I would also encourage them to ask n+1’s people, if they are present at any of the events, to explain why they have had to go out of their way to treat the book’s translator in such a manifestly unfair way, and how their abusive labor practices jibe with their allegedly leftist convictions. Yours, Tom Campbell

    Comment by hecksinductionhour — February 27, 2017 @ 7:36 pm

  2. If there’s a shred of truth to Tom’s story then good grief, how disgusting.

    Comment by D. Barnes — March 9, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

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