The Russian state has come down hard on three members of Pussy Riot, sentencing them to 2 years in a labour camp. One of the reasons stated by the judge for the harsh sentence was that “The court does find a religious hatred motive in the actions of the defendants by way of them being feminists who consider men and women to be equal.” So not only is there now again an alliance in Russia between the Church and State in order to maintain their mutual power and authority, being a feminist is considered a form of “religious hatred,” presumably because the Church does not support women’s rights.
Anarchists have had a lot of experience in Russian jails, before and after the Russian Revolution. Previously I posted Kropotkin’s essay on “Prisons and Their Moral Influence on Prisoners,” together with Jean Grave’s comments on judges, which are worth repeating in relation to the sentencing of the three members of Pussy Riot:
So long as authority leaned upon its divine source, so long as justice passed for an emanation from God, we can understand that those invested with authority should have believed themselves peculiar beings, endowed by the divine will with a portion of its omnipotence and infallibility, and should have imagined themselves fit to distribute rewards and punishments to the herd of vulgar mortals. But in our century of science and free criticism, when it is recognized that all men are kneaded out of the same dough, subject to the same passions, the same caprices, the same mistakes, today when an agonizing divinity no longer comes to animate with its breath the ever fallible reason of mortals, we ask ourselves how it comes that there are men ignorant enough, or presumptuous enough, to dare to assume in cold blood and with deliberate intent the terrible responsibility of taking away another man’s life or any portion of his liberty. When in the most ordinary affairs of daily life we are most of the time unable to succeed in analyzing not only the causes which prompt our immediate neighbours to act but very often the true motives of our own acts, how can anybody have the self-sufficiency to believe himself capable of disentangling the truth in an affair of which he knows neither the beginning, nor the actors, nor the motives which prompted their actions, and which comes before the tribunal only after being magnified, commented upon, distorted by the misrepresentations of those who participated in it in any way whatsoever or, more frequently, have heard of it only through the repetitions of others?
You, who pose as severe and infallible judges of this man who has killed or robbed, do you know the motives which prompted him? Do you know the circumstances of environment, heredity, or even chance, which influenced his mind and led him to commit the act with which you reproach him? You, the implacable men that hurl your anathema against the accused whom public force has brought before your bar, have you ever asked yourselves whether, if placed in the same circumstances and surroundings under which this man acted, you would not have done worse? If, even, you were the impeccable, austere, and stainless men you are supposed to be, you, who with a word pitilessly cut off human life and liberty, you would not dare to utter your decisions if you had thoroughly reflected on human frailty; were you conscious of what you are doing, you would recoil appalled before your task! How could you help being troubled with nightmares! How could your dreams help being peopled with spectres of the victims which your pretended justice creates every day! Were it not for that official unconsciousness which stupidity and habit give, you would end by succumbing to the weight of remorse and the haunting of phantoms evoked by your judgments.