28/08/2012 08:31 BST | Updated 26/10/2012 06:12 BST

Too Early to Tell

In 1972 it was either Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon who asked the Chinese Foreign Minster Chou en Lai what he thought were the main effects of the French Revolution in 1789.

And Chou en Lai said, "It's still too early to tell."

In 1943 Woody Guthrie, the big daddy of all protest singers, wrote a slogan on his guitar: "This Machine Kills Fascists."

He got that slogan from the Republican airforce in the Spanish Civil War, who used to write it on the side of their planes. Admittedly that probably only lasted six weeks before they were shot down by the better equipped Fascist forces. But it's the thought that counts.

Talking of which, 1938 Bert Brecht wrote in a poem - "however thick the armour, every tank has the same weak point; the mind of the driver."

Where's this going? It's still too early to tell.

At the Battle of Cable Street in London in 1936, when Moseley's Blackshirts were stopped from marching through the Jewish East End by a mass turn out of anti-fascists, the anti-fascists were chanting a slogan they also took from the Spanish Civil War -

"No Pasaran" - "They shall not pass."

And that was the slogan on Natasha Tolokonnikova's t shirt on when she and the other members of Pussy Riot got a two year sentence for saying Vladimir Putin is an autocrat who doesn't allow free speech. Putin said it wasn't true, and to prove it, he banged them up for saying so.

I say he jailed them; he has people to it for him. (That's one of the perks of being an autocrat.) In this case it was the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Church say God himself was upset with Pussy Riot because they protested in a Cathedral. How do the priests know this? Because God told one of them personally in a vision.

Not doubting the truth of that, of course; but given most of the senior hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church is ex-KGB, they probably got God to talk by suspending him by his testicles in a Siberian prison camp. It also suggests God wasn't really paying attention when his son was down here last time, or he might have noticed Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. Which incidentally, was a far less peaceful protest than Pussy Riot's.

I'm not here to pour scorn on religious institutions. But I will just mention this:

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kiril, is a billionaire ex-KGB man who made his money by controlling a bank, selling oil and importing vodka and tobacco and cornering the market because his company didn't pay tax because it was a religious charity, before moving into the stock market and developing a huge property portfolio.

If you don't believe me, google him.

It's as if James Bond became Archbishop Canterbury and ran a chain of off-licences in his spare time. "It's going to be a short sermon this morning dearly beloved. I've got to supervise stocktaking in the Wembley mega-warehouse and then get a jet-ski to Bermuda to shoot somone in the head. Then this evening I've got to get back to London, pick up the Queen and drop her out of a helicopter over the Olympic stadium. So call me a cab now and get the choir on early. It's also my day for the school run."

So. What are the effects of the Pussy Riot trial? It's still too early to tell.

But my guess is, some people might come to find a church run by billionaire tobacco-dealing ex-secret policemen oil-trader bankers marginally more offensive to God than three women singing about freedom in a church; I also reckon when you see demonstrators holding banners saying "Blessed are the merciful" being beaten up by secret police on the steps of a Cathedral, it's going to change a few minds in the long run.

Something is already clear though - battle lines are being drawn; on one side - the ex-KGB President, the handful of his friends who own the country, and two million secret policemen, being terrified into a massive overreaction by their enemy - three young women with guitars and colourful balaclavas. And now, the whole world's watching.

Couldn't see a slogan on Pussy Riot's guitars; know for certain what it said.