GR: The name of your collective “Chto delat?” seems to derive from the title of that old Lenin text “What is to be done?” where Lenin tries to raise some “burning questions for our movement”.It is quite an early essay from the beginnings of what I tend to call the discourse “Lenin”. The name Lenin stands here for a discursive machine developing possible forms of radical politics, which emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. This machine was by no means unequivocally determined, not even in 1917, but drew instead from a multitude of positions, which by the way also explains the flexibility and versatility of Lenin’s own political position and his writings. In a broad field of social-democratic, socialist, communist, individual anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist positions, which continuously opened up new fields of reference, there seemed to be endless possibilities for inventing and recomposing revolutionary machines. Now if for example Slavoj Zizek’s book on Lenin, Revolution at the Gates, thus represents an attempt to “repeat Lenin”, specifically the Lenin that has vanished behind the proliferating dogmas of Marxism-Leninism, then I would more concisely claim to repeat the discourse “Lenin”: the discourse that arose especially in the years between the two revolutions in 1905 and 1917 in Europe, and certainly not only in Lenin’s own writings, but which instead articulates much in the debates relating to the Second International, social democracy and the unions, to the relationship between socialist and anarchist movements, to Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, to suitable forms of organization, to the avant-garde party and the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the relationship between spontaneous actions and cadre-like organization, to proletarian and political mass strikes, all of which would be worth “repeating” today – or at least purposely not repeating. I read the name of your group consciously repeating the old title of a Lenin text in this context.

DV: First I should say that it is quite a common misunderstanding in the West to link the question “Chto Delat?” directly and exclusively with Lenin. In Russia it is quite clear that apart from few revolutionary fanatics and ex-teachers of Marxism-Leninism very few remember this text, but everyone remembers the famous novel by Nikolay Chernishevsky from 1862 with the same title because it is still in the basic school reading program and it has influenced deeply the Russian culture and politics. And for us the reference to Chernishevsky is much more important because at a certain moment we found ourselves thrown back to the period of wild accumulation of capital and new forms of labour slavery. In this situation the development of left movements was in some paradoxical way comparable to the situation of the first Russian Marxist cells in mid-XIX century. And the novel of Chernishevsky actually was a brilliant attempt to write a sort of a manual how to construct emancipatory collectives and make them sustainable in a hostile society.

But you are right and we cannot simply skip the reference to Lenin and particular this text is rather important. I agree with Zizek in his evaluation of Lenin’s article in his text“Lenin’s Choice” from 2001 because it problematises the relations between spontaneity of the working class movement and necessity for organisation. That’s why it is constructed around the issues of education, and for us from the beginning it was clear that we have to carry on our activity as self-organised education process.

Also it is important to emphasize that “What is to be done?” is the most clear question that represents a leftist approach. It means that we admit that this or that historical situation must be changed but before we act we ask questions and develop a field for intellectual action. The right wing politics on the other hand normally starts with the issue “who is guilty?”… And the last important thing for us is that the name of the group was a definite mark of representing our fidelity to a certain tradition – to show exactly which side you are standing on. And it made your position (and still makes) in a Russian and international situation clear to certain degree that helps to establish the space of common that can be shared by anyone who still is interested in these debates and practices.

GR: Well, thank you for this bifurcation, or better: manifold diversification of the genealogies of Chto Delat? But let me add one more aspect: You know that ”What is to be done?” also became one of the main slogans of documenta 12 … I know that this is quite a big leap from political theory and political practice into the art field, but in a way I think these kinds of impossible leaps and links between politics and art are one of the specific qualities of your group. So what is your attitude towards the adaptation of “What’s to be done?” by documenta? Is it just another rapid and fashionable reappropriation of leftist concepts or would you find some positive components in the way they pushed the slogan even into reactionary feature pages?

DV: Right now we have many examples of hijacking the knowledge that is developed inside the broad historical and current movement for emancipation. I think that in some way curators of Documenta in the last moment clever understood the relation between this question and the issue of education. Unfortunately they never (as far as I know) gave any reference to another important text by Paulo Freire and Adriano Nogueira: “What is to be done – theory and practice in popular education”. So, this problematic was under discussion outside the institutional framework and established academia (Goldsmith fro example) but in some way I think that Documenta was misleading the concept of radical education of oppressed as it was carrying out by the predecessors- Chernishevsky-Lenin-Freire, for legitimising the very limited idea of educative character of aesthetic experience in itself thus separating it from any real political implementations. So the show, from my point of view, was, despite all good intention, “culinary as ever” as Brecht would say, and the integration of a cook as an artist somehow showed it in a very open way.

But we should also ask a bit different and more serious question, namely, why few cultural institutions of power today are constructing their legitimation through emancipatory and even revolutionary rethorics? We have no doubt that they clearly understand themselves as representative structures of a new bourgeoisie, but the most interesting thing is that these parts of the creative class started to understand themselves as a revolutionary class, as the subject of history that has enough power to transform society and culture. They are a perfect product of the so called “cultural turn” and they push the results of culturalisation of politics to another consistent step. How should we react and oppose this claim?

Here we can again return to Lenin’s text at the moment when he polemisized with Kautsky – let me quote Zizek here “…in Kautsky, there is no space for politics proper, just the combination of the social (working class and its struggle, from which intellectuals are implicitly EXCLUDED) and the pure neutral classless, asubjective, knowledge of these intellectuals. In Lenin, on the contrary, “intellectuals” themselves are caught in the conflict of IDEOLOGIES (i.e. the ideological class struggle) which is unsurpassable”.

So I think that it was not just the case of documenta but many others projects too when radicality of thinking and aesthetics is tamed to the “progressive” politics of the institutions of power…

And here we should remember a very important warning by Benjamin: “Progress as pictured in the minds of Social Democrats was, first of all, the progress of mankind itself (and not just advances in men’s ability and knowledge). Secondly, it was something boundless, in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. Thirdly, progress was regarded as irresistible, something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. Each of these predicates is controversial and open to criticism. However, when the chips are down, criticism must penetrate beyond these predicates and focus on something that they have in common. The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogenous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of progress itself”.

I think that the way how you, Gerald, relate the connections between revolutionary machines and art machines is very challenging because it is exactly about the possibilities of breaking this “straight or spiral course” of time. And introducing the revolutionary ideas of time based on ruptures.

And not to forget that Paul Klee’s painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ was also represented at the Documenta 12 at a central place. So what I really like about new “revolutionary” bourgeousy is that they are the last group in society that are quite open to the discussion and critique and the quarrel is happening at the same terrain and in the same language and in many ways resembles the issues discussed in polemics of Benjamin against Social Democrats or Lenin against Kautsky… The biggest problem of the left is that more than often the power pretends not to speak at all and escape from any discursive procedure, hidingbehind the pure mediation of the money. I think the biggest danger of neo-liberalism is that it implements the economisation of everything and establishes a space where nothing to talk about – like the hegemonic space of contemporary art where any words is just an ornament of the dealer’s contracts.

The only way to break this situation is to try to repeat the “politics of truth” – and to undermine the hegemonic knowledge that produced by power by opening up the origins of these knowledge in the culture of opressed. In this sense the experiences of Lenin’s politics are important to study again and again…

GR: Heroic words … To be honest, I think we both are not so much interested in this realm once called the art market, the creative class and so on, but much more in certain overlaps between artistic and (micro- and macro-) political practices. So speaking about them and maybe also about anti-hegemonial experiences:There are certain tendencies to affirm that current social movements like the anti-globalization movement exactly became possible in the historical situation after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, and that only then new ways of rethinking communism and rewriting Marxism became possible. How does this figure work in the Russian situation today where there is even more need on the one hand for social change, but also great need for not just forgetting or suppressing the Stalinist legacy, which also means that you cannot just smoothly connect our early 21th century with the discourse “Lenin” 100 years ago – or even a discourse “Chernishevsky” 150 years ago?

DV: I think that one cannot “smoothly connected to Lenin” whereever and whenever you are… The collapse of Soviet Union was made possible in many ways by the weakness of the Left around the world. Chto Delat? is collectively working right now on a big installation and few new films on Perestroyka as a missing event and we did already rather deep research that gives good insight into its history. What I have discovered and was shocked by is the amazing easiness how capital managed to establish its power in a situation where there was very limited popular support for the capitalist development and at the same time urgent need and broad movements for reconsidering the idea of socialism… How did it happen that in few years capitalism took over people’s dreams and political situation that they had not even protested the drastic decrease in their living conditions?

I would say that a historical analysis of what has happened in the late 1990ies should go back and recognise that despite incredible peoples’ uprisings for a new definition of democracy and socialism in the Eastern block the Western world was almost unable to participate in this process (can you imagine if Perestroyka would have started at the USSR around 1968? – that could have been a world revolution!) and the whole development of the situation was sold out to the most disgusting right wing politicians – Thatcher-Reagan-Kohl – who have transformed the process of “perestroyka” in a neoliberal globalist project. So it is not a matter who is guilty – the betrayal of eastern block intelligentsia (as Catherine David saw it) or the weakness of Western left – the matter is to recognise the material base of this situation and its history. The powerful appearance of the alter-globalisation movement has happened as an answer to the urgency of these issues.

I think that now after the strong growth of the anti-authoritarian left after 68 the process of de-stalinisation of the new left movement is over. And may be it is time now to stop this paranoia of power, of the discipline and of the organisation and think it anew?? Not in a form of a coordination paradigm of loosely organised affinity groups but as something that should have more concrete forms? I would say and do not know if you are agree with me or not, but today’s left movements are trapped into the logic of social struggle and fetishization of spontaneity of the movement and inability to conceive and build any sustainable and efficient revolutionary machine whose impact on society would be comparable with the old saturated models as party, trade union, people’s front and so on.. .

Look, even the word discipline today sounds absolutely impossible to use because it sounds so terrible for any new hedonist left. What? Discipline? Ascesis? What the fuck are you talking about? – and then one definitely blames me in being Leninist-Trotskist or whatever… But let’s look about the common misunderstanding of ascesis – most people are thinking that it is something that prevents you from joy of life, torture your body and so on… Funny to say that the main character of the novel Chto Delat? is the ascet Rachmetov, and looking at this type we can understand that ascesis is something different – it is about excess, abundance of force and joy when one permanently overcomes her borders and then we see that ascesis is a form of a discipline that helps one to realise one’s task – it is about the concentration and enjoying one’s strength and not about neither passivity nor resignation.

So I would say that it is not to contradict the discourse of desire but brings it to another, more radical and sophisticated level but very few people are ready to think about it…

And artists know these feelings very well because they are literally faced with the organic spontaneity of material (does not matter if it is blank paper, stone, canvas, video tape or whatever) and they are in the position of an external force that should make a form out of it…

So I absolutely agree with Badiou regarding the new left politics and movement when he said: The solution of the problem in the long term will be the invention of a new form of immanent discipline in the popular camp. That will be the end of the long weakness of the popular camp after the success — but also the failure — of the form of the party.

GR: There seem to be certain problems in this analogy between the artist as an external force and a new left politics…

DV: NO-no-no – I put the example of relations between artist and the material just to illustrate the notion of self-discipline… and it has nothing to do with politics –of course the relation between people involved into political struggle and looking for the new form of organisation is very different.

GR: But what puzzles me more, is that you are so fast in closing the phase of anti-autoritarianism and destalinisation to move on to another era of organisation. You do not have to think about the excess of violence in state socialism, but if you look at the ongoing forms of patriarchial macho- and closure-practices in “Western” leftist movements of the last forty years, it sometimes looks as there had never been something like “1968”, like the second feminist movement or like the huge mass of micropolitical practices of the 1970s. That means, on the one hand, I think you need both: new organization, new institution, monster institutions, the long breathe of instituting, but also a constant struggle against structuralization. On the other hand, I do not really see any exaggerated fetishization of spontaneity. But anyway, it is nice how through the backdoor you get your antiauthoritarian hedonism back using a concept of ascesis which reminds me very much of the late Foucault. But I think it is highly problematic to transfer this concept of ascesis to the collective level. Historically speaking there seems to be a repetition of the heroic where I especially tend to ask, if this repetition (e.g. in the writings of Badiou) are necessary and what is the necessary difference to historical modes of the heroic.

DV:But I can admit that you are right and of course the hierachical relations are still very present in different left movements and many efforts must be done to fight it…But as a discourse for me it is definitely saturated. It is nothing to talk about here.Your question on the repetion of historical modes of the heroic is somehow very importnant to the political practicies and it is a pity that there is a sort of taboo in discussing it and you are right the recent growing interest to Badiou helps perhaps to change these situation. I can speak only about my personal and very special relation to these issue. I do not agree that we should simply negate and consider any from of heroism as something obsolete or totalising behaviour. I think that outside the very sophisticated and advanced world of contemporary power there are many people who have nothing — no power, no representation, no money, people who are not just oppressed but repressed in a very old fashion and brutal way. And when they claim their strength it is already heroic act. How else can it be? Look at activists at Ungomhuset in Copenhagen before the final police raid, or Iranian students, or anti-putin activists in Russia and many others examples – what do we call it? Can we ignore these experiences today by saying that they are not interested to us any more because they choosed too old-fashoined mode of direct confrontation with power? But it was not simply their will – it was somehow predetermined by aggressiness of the power that left them no other choices for the flight. And it shows that even today in our very selfish and hedonist time some people still believe that there are some values more important that the life in miseryand they are fighting against it and risking their health and life…I think that it is very important to reflect and consider the new form of heroic outside of any modes of totalising archaic power. So I would say that new forms of heroism can be found in a tradition of generic human strenth (Stand up for your right – don’t give up the fight)and not in a power of archaic narratives such as family, nation or state .

I agree with you when you suggest to think both new institution with a constant struggle against structuralization, but I can hardly imagine how they can function simultaneously. The issue of self-critique and permanent becoming (like a permanent revolution) is important but I think that it could happen when this or that position is somehow temporary “fixed – structured” through the organisational procedure. But then the procedure that is based on a certain organisational principle should be somehow open for a new change, for a new rupture – may be something like this???

GR: Look, there you end up again with a linear idea of first having the macro-organisation and then turning to the micro-questions again. But maybe this problematic is also a good point to refer back to the video “Angry Sandwich People” where Chto Delat tries to repeat the “praise of dialectics” from Brecht’s Die Mutter. What does the repetition of Brecht’s hopeful phrase “It will not stay like it is” mean today, and where is the difference between the workers in Die Mutter and the “Angry Sandwich People” of seventy years later?

DV: This piece emerged from an inner group discussion on how it might be possible to make an artistic statement in memory of the centennial anniversary of the first Russian revolution of 1905. And just to remember that Brecht’s Die Mutter was sort of a re-writing of the most important novel by Maxim Gorky of the same name, a cult book in 1905.

So we decided to examine the potential for a new anti-bourgeois subjectivity, how this subjectivity might emerge, and which problems this emergence might involve.

Actually, we had already worked with the phenomenon of sandwich people in 2003. In Soviet propaganda, these walking advertisements, sandwiched in between two placards, had always served as a symbol of the utmost exploitation of a person’s living labor. It is ironic that in post-Soviet space, working as a sandwich man has become a preferred mode of unqualified, low wage employment. Anyway, we made an action in the winter of 2003 called “Stop the Machine!” and shot a video with interviews of sandwich people in which we tried to find out about some of the most important aspects of this “profession.” What amazed us most in these interviews was how passive people today really are: thrown into a struggle for bare survival, they are completely oblivious to any form of struggle or resistance against the system of exploitation that victimizes them in such a striking manner. In fact, you could say this about the majority of the artist in international cultural industry where the chances to survive is very limited but there is no meaningful form of mass protest whatsoever.

In this new piece, we decided to try to imagine protest in the form of a theatrical happening in an urban space. This action was carried out in close collaboration with two local activist groups ( with “Worker’s Democracy” and “The Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement.”) we defined the goal of the piece. The site of this visualization would be Stachek Square (stachka means “strike” in Russian), where the striking workers of 1905 were stopped by police during their march and massacared. We decided to bring Brecht’s poem out into this urban space line for line, carried by imagined “engaged” sandwich people.

Brecht’s body of work was an important point of reference because it contains such a broad variety of aesthetic methods and a clear understanding of how dialectical mechanisms are always at work in creativity, describing reality as a process of constant change that arises as a result of the conflicts and contradictions that makes the transformation of society possible.

In our piece, we tried to imagine how this dialectic might work in a film medium. Silently coagulating and reconfiguring their body-signs to the soundtrack of passing cars, these sandwich people demonstrate the potential of new representational constellations between protesting singularities from a broad variety of backgrounds and age groups – pensioners, activists, children – thrown into a dialectic of constant change. But at the end of our piece, we asked our participants to read Brecht’s poem out loud. The effect is very strange, and might be described with what Brecht called the Verfremdungseffekt (alienation effect): the silent motility of political potential erupts into decisive poetic speech, distancing the spectator from the action’s reconfigurative flow. Recited in a “Soviet” mode, the poem now resounds with the depleted pathos of the revolutionary past, a re-collection of the very language that new forms of protest aspire to negate. We hope that this allows the spectator to step back and to consider the range of problems that we were trying to address: the historical problem of failed revolution and the political potential that arises on its ruins, at the site of its origin, 100 years after its first defeat.

GR: But there is of course not only political potential in the old dialectical method. Against one of the shadow sides of this method, the fixation on taking over the state, philosophers like Deleuze, Virno and Negri attempt to propose new models of non-representationist politics in terms of exodus, desertion or flight lines. Concerning these new concepts of resistance, the aim is to thwart a dialectical idea of power and resistance, to conceptualize positive forms of dropping out, flights that are simultaneously productive – or I would call them “instituent” – practices. As Paolo Virno writes in A Grammar of the Multitude, the “exodus” transforms “the context within which a problem has arisen, rather than facing this problem by opting for one or the other of the provided alternatives.” Now the first action of Chto Delat in 2003 was the action “The new foundation of Saint-Petersburg”. I think you yourself interpreted it as a kind of exodus, a new foundation, an instituent practice that constitutes itself in an act of fleeing. Yes?

DV: You know that I find your concept of “instituent” practices very inspiring and I see our collective activity in art together with the activity of many other groups and activists as a sort of material prove of its theoretical validity. It has also very important relations to the tradition of the local interpretation of resistance that was developed under a totalitarian Soviet system when artist and intellectuals manage to build a sort of parallel reality that was to a certain degree uncontrollable by authorities.

And it is worth to remember that our group somehow started through organizing an action called “The Re-foundation of Petersburg.” It was one of collective protest action to the process that had happened in real political life – namely the celebration of the 300 Anniversary of the Petersburg. In the days of those official and pompous celebration, that actuallly I can say now opened the age of new repressive admistration of everyday in a new Putin’s Russia the small group of about 30 people decided to leave the center of the city by train from a main station where we organised a improvised demonstration, and then symbolically found a new center of the city on its outskirt. So it was a gesture of exodus and attempt to imagine the basis for cultural life anew.

But at the same time I feel also many problems with this inspiring concept of exodus. You clearly stated that it undermines the dialectical approach to reality and I frankly stay a materialist dialectician, and actually our film on Brecht was a clean example of a sort of visual choreography of dialectic.As most of the political movements the efficiency of such a practices is very much dependant on the critical mass of people who are taking part in it. That’s why what is lacking for me in the problematisation of exodus is that is not clear how the exodus is organised, who is that subject who determines the way to move and where and so on – rather traditional political questions. And in current political situation the practicies of exodus create so called “publicness without a public sphere”, as Virno clearly warned us and face impossibility for constructing a sustainable political communityor for establishing a new constitutional principle.

In Russia there is a popular anecdote about a cowboy: the indians are staying on the hill and see how the lonely cowboy is riding through the prairies… One of the indians asks the others “Who is this guy?” – The chief answers – Uncatchable Joe. But why is he so uncatchable? Because no one gives a fuck about him…

And many situations of new protest movements in some way remind me of the situation with this cowboy who can run like mad whereever as long as no one needs to catch him. And I think it is a misleading speculation that one can make a politics conciously escaping the conflict with the institution of power… There is a growing feeling of shrinking of empty space inside and outside where one could move – the “wild west” is gone and the same with “wild east”. We are doomed to fight for our place. Then the lines of flight are becoming productive when they are involved into conflict, when they attempt to challenge the existing order. I strongly disagree with John Holloway at this point.

It might be that my way of thinking is predetermined by my local Russian situation when any instituent gesture does not find neither welcoming support nor nice ignorance by the authorities but they bump into aggressive and repressive exclusion from any channel of public communication. But I am not sure if it is a productive state of doing something… The “Western” situation is very different from the situation at the periphery.

GR: OK, I understand that we have to situate the problem in a specific political space and time, so there might be very different ideas of instituent practices, but still I have to insist that the concept is not another naive anarchism pretending there is a world beyond organisation: it means instituting as creating, and at the same time struggling against institutionalization. This is a twofold way of organizing, and it does away with traditional forms. In your video Builders from 2005there are some clear statements about collective forms of organisation. My favourite ones are the laconic “I don’t like the word community” and the Deleuzian “revolutionary art calls for a new people”. I understand both of them as components in a struggle against communitarian forms of organisation as well as against the state form. Taking up a complex concept of Deleuze and Guattari I would call these conceptualizations and actualizations “abstract machines”, machines that carry the potentiality of a concatenation which is neither rigidly striating the singularities as in the state form nor totalizing them in a identitarian community. Now it is important to not define these machines beforehand. In “Civil War in France”, for instance, despite a precise analysis of the Paris Commune, Marx does not indicate exactly what happened or should have happened after the breakdown of state power. There is a good reason for this in that neither the Council of the Commune nor the workers councils nor the soviets are to be reified as a fixed model, but rather every battle engenders new forms of organization of its own. In contrast to this, however, in socialist reality the idea is frozen into a phrase, for instance in Lenin’s emphasis in “Electricity and Soviets”, similar to later, well intentioned interpretations of the historical revolutions, in which new forms of organization were merely postulated, but never concretely executed.

DV: I am not sure that we have unlimited numbers of the form of political organisation. If we look back into history we find many nuances how these forms found their realisation in this or that political situation but they are based on rather limited number of principles… It is hard to speculate what could happen after the collapse of state power. Also it is hard to believe that this collapse automatically leads us to a nice stateless society. “Not to be governed like these” – important point of departure but if we still are able to think the fundamental transformation of power I think that it would be irresponsible not to try to theorise the crisis of power that would happen in a wake of war, ecological disaster, financial crisis or any other forms that we can be challenged in the future and theorise the period that could establish the transition to socialism.

Interesting that today in a broad series of memoirs about 68 many participants and witnesses confirmed that the movement had very vague ideas what would be if they would win and how to carry on the struggle and very limited envision of even the near future – it was the triumph of tacticality over strategy.

So what we discuss is the role of different institutions in the transformation of society – it can be structures aimed at revolutionary transformation or ones that are concerned with more evolutionary agenda… Again I am rather disagree with you that we should stop to think these machines beforehand and rely on their appearance through the organic development of struggle.

GR: I do not think there is something like an “organic development of struggle”, maybe an orgiastic development, but definitely nothing “natural”, “organic”.

DV: Anyway, the spontaneity of class struggle is a fact with its incredible innovative potential but its actualisation can happen only through interrelations with the so called “external agent” – who in Zizek’s view is not the one who: “simply “understands us better than ourselves,” who can provide the true interpretation of what our acts and statements mean; but it rather stands for the FORM of our activity”. So I think that the danger of the development of the new left is their rejection of any possibility to problematise and search the new forms of that externality. Of course I doubt that it should have an already known form but it should be something …

Here again the famous quote from Lenin that “Communism is the power of Soviets and electrification of the whole country” could be considered as a rather universal formula that means that a new society is always based on profound technolgical modernisation of everyday but this modernisation means nothing if it does not come hand in hand and under control of people’s power. Then we are open for any sort of fruitful discussion – what does modernisation mean? And how is people’s power executed? And heaps of many other questions…

GR: Let’s follow the thread of councils and soviets right down into the art field. When you are talking about Art Soviets, don’t you think there is a problem? From the workers and soldiers soviets to the art soviets? It sounds a bit like narrowing down the concept of the soviets to a particular field. Though at some point you took up a concept I find absolutely helpful, the Guattarian concept of transversal activism, it seems that a narrowing down to art soviets would be the opposite of a transversal movement with the danger of striating the space of the soviets, with closing the idea into some bureaucratic practice in the art field. Or, to put it cynically: You translated Soviets into councils, what would you say if I translate the term “art soviet” into “art council”?

DV:The most important thing about a Soviet as political form of organisation is that they combine two types of power – legislative and executive in one body and constructed on the principle of the imperative mandate.Also they combine communitarian and syndicalist form of delegation. That’s why they are so extraordinary in the history of political forms and I think that still their political potential is to be discovered.

That’s why they are normally crisis organs of mobilisation and very efficient in the situation of the collapse of state power. How to maintain this sort of the permanent status of mobilisation is a big question. Perhaps it is impossible – like the person that cannot exist in a permanent becoming (everyone needs a rest) so the political organs need a form of institutionalisation but I believe that even in a “frozen”form they are much more challenging than any other form of parlamentiary democracy…

Introducing the idea of Art Soviets I meant that we – artists and cultural producers must determine what to do and how to work outside the framework of the institutions – and we should do it collectively through some political organs – in art it’s even more clear what means combining the legislative and executive power, don’t you think so??

And of course we must be careful because the model that I am talking about has nothing to do with British Arts Council or whatever corporate construction that are mimicking for something true democratic. There is a lot of confusion in terms but we should better look at deeds and analyse material structures of such bodies than we’ll see a difference.

Sure that we all know that when Bush is talking about democracy or we see another ad for a new “revolutionary product” that we operate with the same words but they have a very different meaning and i think that it would make more sense to reclaim and rethink the true meaning of revolution and democracy and soviet power than to invent a new vocabulary…

GR: From my point of view, these are two possible stratgies of discursive creation: to use old concepts, to shift their meanings and to invent new concepts, a creatio continua of multiple assemblages of terms. I think it became clear that I tend more to the second version, while you appreciate the first, like – to bring up one last example of your recent works – in the “Activist Club” you developed last year …

DV: I hope that I am not such a stubborn in these issues and actually in the idea of “Activist Club” I had to develop a new terminology far different from the original concept of “Workers Club” introduced in USSR in mid-20th and represented by famous piece made by Alexander Rodchenko. Created in 1925 for the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris it was never produced in the real life. So it was a sort of a model how such a places should be organised. The piece was introducing to the Western bourgeois audiences the completely different method of www cultural activities of the workers’ free time in the USSR (such as “Lenin’s Corner”, a space for gatherings, the performance of “Live Newspapers” etc.) For fullfilling these aims it was organised a totally new structures that should run parallel to the traditional museum. The task of “workers club” was not just simply orient the workers on the issues of the political struggle, but also to open to them a different type of aesthetic experience.It is crucially undermined the obsolete idea of idle consumer who through the experiencing of the art object in the museum could gain some pleasures and “emancipate” herself from shaby everyday. It was about a building a space based on educational methodologyand co-creation.

So, Rodchenko’s “workers club” is impossible to imagine without the whole post-revolutionary situation – it is deeply rooted in the context of its time. That’s why the idea of workers club is quite useless today. Also I would say that for me it is an important shift “from worker to activist”. Historically the worker has marked a political position, but I doubt it now. Todaypolitical subjectivity is shaped inside and outside labour relations and the position of the political subject can be only determined through her active stance…

But the idea of a transformation of the leisure time of the privileged art consumer into the learning time of the oppressed is still worth of actualising. And in this way I am very inspired by the situation that emerged recently in different social centers in Europe where activists are building their own environments for self-learning activities – centered around cinema, reading and discussion spaces. But I am often disappointed by the trashy imagination of space production that is normally realised in social centers, squats and protest camps. I personally feel good inside them and of course prefer them much more than the hype lounges that are so much adored by the new “creative class” – that are so disgusting for their cosy hedonism. So I think that spaces should be organised differently. And in this particular installation of the “Activist Club” that was realized in an art institution I am trying to demonstrate how it could be. And I hope that these artistic strategy of actualisation of missed chances in the history are important and I hope that is one of the possible way how art can be developed today.