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(en) News from East Europe <alter-ee> CIS NEwsletter 7

From "Eef Vermeij" <eve@iisg.nl>
Date Tue, 22 Feb 2000 15:19:45 -0500


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This is very interesting, i just received it. I now remember
a grey-haired guy at the meeting in Poznan! It's interesting, as
my description of that same meeting of FA in Poznan was quite
different.

Of course i'll tell him that there is an english-language
source for anarchist news from Poland.
Why would i be upset about putting Poland in CIS. The Slavs
are one big family, there can't be any serious quarrel between them.

Zaczek

CIS NEWSLETTER     No 7,
November 1999

As a rule I start my newsletters telling what Ive been doing since the
previous one. I forgot to do this in CIS Newsletter No 6 published in
September or, rather, saw it as kind of boasting what an adventurer I am,
whereas Im not an adventurer at all. I just follow some friendships trail.
As my travels and stays offer a background and explanation to the
materials I reproduce or are interesting for their own sake I go as yet back
to the end of April when I finished CIS Newsletter No 5.
I made a roundtrip through Russia that brought me to Moscow,
Voronezh, Omsk, Tomsk, Peterburg and Bochevo (a practically
abandoned village in the Leningradskaya oblast approximately 300 km
East of Peterburg). In Voronezh I saw, as usual, the unrepentable fighter
against militarism and authorities Dmitri Vorobyevski. He is one of those
anarcho-capitalists whose capital consists, as that of socialist anarchists,
mainly of their brains. In Moscow I saw Andrei Biryukov, secretary of
the committee concerned about P.A.Kropotkins intellectual heritage and
patient publisher of the proceedings of the 1992 Kropotkin conference
(sofar two volumes published out of four). Omsk is the centre of one of
the biggest (almost 3000 members last May) effective syndicalist  unions
worldwide. In No 6 I quoted the body of the report the executive
secretary wrote for the syndicalist conference held in San Francisco in
the beginning of June. Tomsk is my Eastern home town. Local comrades
are preparing a common house and I am to have a room there.
Surprisingly, I didnt see Piotr Raush with his black flag and Nowy
Swet amidst fascists and other Jews beaters on Newski Prospekt in
Peterburg but I saw several others of the group: the serious Sasha
Yermakov who could become a theoretician of the movement, and Lena
Dronchenko, organizer of the local campaign for the release of Maria
Randina and Larisa Shchiptsova. I also saw Pawel Talyerov, who is
not an anarchist but wrote his candidates dissertation on some aspect
of Piotr Alekseevic Kropotkin and always has some finds to show me in
the field of anarchism. This time he caused me a terrible pain showing me
a recent book on Nestor Ivanovic Makhno by anarchist historian
Aleksandr Shubin, which I had missed in Moscow. While until then I had
been quite happy with what I had dug up for the anarchist bookfairs in
London (October 16) and San Francisco (April 15) (I show in the first
place Russian publications there, so that people can see concrete
products of anarchist publishing efforts in that country) this spoilt all my
pleasure. To go back to Moscow was too much, also because I was
already quite loaded, as usual. Ive tried to write to Aleksandr Shubin
since then but have got no answer. In Bochevo I saw Nikolai Panteleev
in his kolkhoz Nowi Put. I hadnt heard from him since more than a year
in spite of several letters I wrote and of finding him information on the
LArche organization, where he had expected to find inspiration and
guidance for his idea to do something for people with learning
problems, as it is put sometimes. It turned out that he had had a bad
year: he had not had sufficient feed to get his small herd of sheep and
goats through the winter and had had to hand them over for three years
to a farm with better possibilities. Further there had been a change in
management in the home for abandoned girls with which he used to
collaborate (they allowed a few girls to spend a few months with him
from time to time, so that he could teach them some skills basic for a
housewive in the countryside): the new director felt that Nikolais help
wasnt needed, that the home was able to provide all the girls needed.
Until then, according to Nikolai, that kind of homes, of which there are
several around Peterburg, just kept the girls alive. He had not lost all
hope but he had been too depressed to answer my letters: those ideas
from the West are nice in the West - in the Russian countryside of the
late 1990s they are impracticable. On top of that the tax authorities had
started asking money fro him whereas his kolkhoz is based on free giving
and receiving. I wrote about Nikolai and his kolkhoz in earlier issues.
In the summer I spent again time in the US, mainly three weeks in Detroit,
a city interesting for the group working on the anarchist review Fifth
Estate, and three weeks with Karl Meyer in Nashville, the city in
Tennessee known for bible publishing and country music. Of these
aspects Ive seen nothing, although at about the time I was there the
Gideons, the people who bring bibles into hotel rooms,  are said to have
had a meeting there. Karl Meyer started a peace and permafrost centre in
Nashville in 1997 after a life of Catholic Workership and campaigning
against use, production and spreading of arms. The permafrost idea is
expressed in the model garden in the Nashville Greenlands which he
cofounded. The model character of the garden is not in the kind of
qualities that confers one the title of  Master Gardener but in the fact
that he grows some vegetables there instead of powermowing a well kept
lawn every week and buying all his vegetables in a supermarket. The
peace character of the place resides in the fact that it houses the local
secretariat of War Resisters International, a small library on peace and
related subjects, and offers a meeting and - ideally - a living place to
people who want to know or do something about peace-related matters.
One of the people I knew there worked in the city as a volunjteer in the
framework of Americorps - the equivalent of the American Peace Corps
but for social work inside the US - and on Sundays did a Food Not
Bombs free meal for street dwellers and whoever else was interested. I
had expected to work on a second Nashville Greenlands house but in the
Tennessee summer heat there was little I was asked to do except go
through the information materials available in the house and to do
something with them on my return to Europe. Thats how the American
Voices came about, of which No 2 is to appear at the same time as this
CIS Newsletter No 7. No 1 consisted mainly of quotations from a book by
former weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter and of articles written by
Karl Meyer with others about ways in which certain conflicts (those with
Slobodan Milosevic and Nazi Germany) might have been solved without
weapons.

                             			------------------------

Unfortunately, my own computer broke down and my constant traveling
prevented me from seeking information on current events in the CIS
countries. I have to leave it at a story about Poland and an article I wrote
last year about the Russian anarchomystic movement of the 1920s and
30s. Also the make-up of the newsletter won't be as good as when I had
more time.

POLAND
It may be overambitious of me to include Poland in my CIS Newsletter.
Polish people might also not be happy to see their country included in
the CIS. But Poland is connected with the CIS countries for me by the
fact that I pass always through Poland on my way to and from Russia
and Ukraine, the CIS countries where Ive been going sofar. As I like to
make stops in Poland some contacts have developed there. At the
moment my main contacts are in Wroclaw (pr. Vrotswav) in South West
Poland with Piotr Borrodulin-Nadzieja and friends and with the people of
Rejon 69, a squatlike cultural centre that does, i.a., a weekly Food Not
Bombs free meal for street dwellers and others. As long as nobody else
is reporting systematically on alternative Poland in a widely known
Western language I hope that not too many people will have difficulty
with my stories on Poland.
I saw those friends again in September, when I was during almost two
weeks a guest of the Rejon 69 people. No FNB table was held during that
time as the organisers use the summer for a break. What I witnessed in
Nashville gave me the impression that during the summer the interest for
such tables is low. One of the pictures I took there in July shows
Jonathan Edmonds standing lost in the summer heat before his food
pans and boxes on the steps of the City Hall after most of the few people
interested had gone.
Somebody from USA Boston - where the FNB idea originated some ten
years ago - has said that the Wroclaw FNB table is not a true FNB table
because the Wroclaw people buy the ingredients instead of trying to get
rejected but quite usable vegetables from sellers in markets as they do in
Boston, as did Jonathan Edmonds in Nashville and as probably most do
in the US. But if in a less wealthy country things are not so quickly
considered unsaleable and you cant get them for free, does it mean you
cant hold FNB tables there? This is really making something accidental
the core of the whole thing. What if buyers in Wroclaw make no fuss
about minor defects to the produce they buy so that the sellers have
little to reject? In Wroclaw and in Poznan - North of Wroclaw - they
organize benefit concerts and sell food and drinks to get to the money
necessary to buy ingredients. It seems that in Prague, Czechia, people
have plans to start an FNB table in accordance with the rules of that
comrade in Boston because there it is easier to find ingredients for free in
vegetable markets. In principle this must mean that the prices in those
markets are nearer to those in Boston with the result that more people
will be interested in FNB tables so that the world revolution is more likely
to start in Prague than in Wroclaw. Or is this economic thinking too
difficult for revolutionaries?
On September 18 and 19 I had the opportunity to attend the XXth
Congress of the Anarchist Federation of Poland held in Poznan, a few
hours by train North of Wroclaw, in the squat of the Rozbrat collective.
Approximately 45 people attended from the odd 25 sections (local
groups) of the federation. According to the criteria of those who ruined
the East-West meeting in Litovel in 1994 this congress was a failure from
the beginning as on the 45 people only 6 women were in attendance from
time to time. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was friendly and the odd 10
men and 2 women who spoke at the two sessions of the congress kept
up an uninterrupted stream of words with hardly any directing by the
person who felt responsible for everybody wishing so to be able to say
what s/he wanted. As is actually usual at anarchist meetings, there was
no numerus clausus for women but, perhaps, the problem is simply that
anarchism in itself or in its usual forms is attractive for only very few
women. Of course, of course, to be attractive and to be right are two very
different things. Nevertheless, a connection may not be excluded a priori.
Like christians anarchists dont consider science the ultimate criteria in
the search for truth but what other criteria is there in the last instance if
science is seen as systematic comparison of phenomena?
In spite of its youthfulness (the oldest few people are in their mid-
thirties) the FAP is little dogmatic, although that may be by ignorance: it
is in touch with the Swedish SAC, with which, since the XXth IWA
Congress in Madrid in 1996, members of that seasoned fighting
international are not allowed to have any contact at any level, even if an
SAC member is ones neighbour, at least not in its quality of SAC
member - it would be no problem if it were as gardener, as Trotskyist, as
simultaneous member of some other trade-union or of the youth
organisation quite a few SAC members adhere to. Next year FAP and
SAC will have talks on practical cooperation. The FAP - as the Russian
ADA - has also no problem with anarcho-capitalists in their ranks.
Unfortunately, the Polish anarcho-capitalists have left the federation of
their own initiative, which has certainly impoverished the discussions
waged there. Reading this please take into consideration that the Polish
and Russian anarcho-capitalists are different from the American, Belgian
and Dutch libertarians, although Ive seen (in the 70s-80s) leaflets of an
American libertarian student organisation, of which no social anarchist
would have had to feel ashamed.
The congress took the following decisions:
- the sections not represented at the congress without notice will not to
be excluded automatically but will first be asked to explain their absence;
- a new section was admitted:
- the federation will take part in the national campaign starting in
November against the deportation policy of the government against
what are called illegal immigrants:
- the federation will take part in the workers and farmers demonstration
in Warsaw on September 24 though not demanding more State
subventions and other State support but rather appealing to the workers
and farmers to take their interests into their own hands;
- no decision was taken about the start of a federal magazine (several
groups publish their own magazines already) but one person has taken
upon him to open a website for the federation with sub-sites for sections
interested.

At the congress was a literature table with, at least, twenty different
publications (magazines and pamphlets or brochures) all in Polish, almost
all original, not translations. I bought only a history of Polish anarchism
during the revolution of 1905-1907, when Poland was still divided
between Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. It gives also information
about important Polish theoreticians of anarchism such as Edward
Abramowski and Jan Waclaw Machaiski (pr. Makhaiski). Jan Machaiski
has a certain reputation in the West for his warnings against
intellectuals. The Rozbrat Collective, which hosted the Congress, has
some publications in English and is interested in exchanges and other
forms of contact. Address: Kolektyw Rozbrat, P.O.Box 5, 61-966 Poznan,
Poland. The brochure I bought is by Tomasz Szczepanski and published
by Janusz Krawczyk, Kedziora 2/8, 39-300 Mielec, Poland. Under the
style Inny Swiat Janusz Krawczyk also publishes other pamphlets and
brochures and a good and interesting looking magazine called Inny
Swiat, which at the time of the congress had been during 10 issues and
5 years at the service of punk and anarchism.

The Rozbrat collective is also the basis for FNB-Poznan, which is in fact
run by two women-members. Their free table is every Thursday at 4 pm
on Wolnosc square, except during the summer break. During the FAP
congress the women expressed fear that the Catholic Church will cause
them difficulties, as it seems to have done to the Hare Krishnas in
Wroclaw. These have been holding a daily free table with support from
the city government but this support was withdrawn for unclear reasons.
As the dominating prawoslav (orthodox) church in Russia the
dominating roman catholic church in Poland fears any competition, also
imaginary, and likes to baptize (one of ist specialties) independent
groups sects, which, as everybody knows who has read anything Soviet,
are very dangerous. Whether churches, religious or not, are not more
dangerous because they limit the free flowing of thoughts is beyond the
scope of this straying from the subject. Anyway, its unlikely that the
Catholic Church in countries where it feels strong enough like Poland
would engage in open discussions on such delicate matters. As insiders
know, even with serious Roman Catholic theologians developing new
ideas the official church is ruthless, as is exemplified in the cases of
people like Edward Schillebeeckx and Hans K|ng thereby following
Jesus Christs warning against putting new wine in old bags. So, what
can expect a few young Polish if dignitaries of the Roman Catholic
church of Poland sees competitors in them because they do some good?

THE RUSSIAN ANARCHO-MYSTIC MOVEMENT OF
THE 1920s AND 1930s

The movement wasn't really anarchist nor mystic but it had
connections with the anarchist movement meeting in the
Kropotkin Museum in Moscow and because P.A. Kropotkin's
widow was involved in it. In fact "anarchomystic" was only one
among several designations used for it. Other designations were
Paracletus Brotherhood, Order of the Spirit, Order of the Light,
Order of the Templars and possibly more.  A.A. Nikitin, who
doesn't seem to like anarchists, denies it all anarchism and
considers it a purely templar movement.
Finding some of the ideas held in the movement interesting I
translate parts between pages 305 and 334 of the book
"Kanatokhodec" [Rope Walker], the autobiography of  A.A.
Nalimov, who attended meetings of the anarchomystics in his
early 20s and died a few years ago, not long after the publication
of this book.
I found particularly interesting the idea that the anarchomystics,
and in particular one of the prominent among them, Apollon
Andreevic Karelin (1863-1926), communicated their ideas not
in the form of theories but of stories or legends. According to
A.A. Nalimov this was the way in which the gospels, later
considered holy scriptures more or less literally inspired by God
or the Holy Ghost and forming the first part of the New
Testament of christianity, came about: stories for the edification
and instruction of believers and possible proselytes. Everybody
could understand and use these stories as she/he felt fit and
invent new ones. The stories petrified and lost touch with
developments and became strange for other and changing
cultures when their texts were officially established as
untouchable holy scriptures.
For myself, who have always been skeptical about glorious
stories about workers' struggles and about events such as the
Makhno movement (1917-1921), the Kronstadt uprising (1921)
and LIP (Besancon, France, 1973), I have drawn the lesson
that, in some respect, it is not so important whether the stories
are exact: they may represent the ideal the narrator wants to
describe for her/his audience. On the other hand, I feel that
hiding the fact that certain famous struggles actually ended in
defeat can create illusions and kill opportunities to learn from
failures and to avoid repetition of mistakes..


Somewhat symplifying one could describe the anarcho-mystic
movement as a religious-philosophical brotherhood.
Membership was open to people possessing certain spiritual
qualities such as moral (preferably according to Pravoslav
understanding) steadiness, clear consciousness of one's dignity
and perceptivity for mystical contents or aspects of phenomena..
The spiritual qualities required made that there was no place for
members of the ruling party and for  dogmatically thinking
people.
Judging by fragmentary documents the anarcho-mystic
movement had a pretty wide following among the creative
intelligentsia - scholars, teachers at institutes of higher education,
artists, theatre workers - of various cities for a short while during
the 1920s. There were also contacts with some nonreligious
spiritual currents and some attempts to get into touch with youth
(scouts). Lectures in the basement of the Kropotkin Museum in
Moscow attracted from 70 to 100 people.
Almost spontaneously the question arises: why did mystical
anarchism receive such a wide echo precisely in Russia?
In my opinion this had much to do with the revolutionary
situation of its first years. The Russian intelligentsia had for many
years been preparing for a revolution discussing in great detail
how the revolution would develop. Their many disagreements
did not prevent them from being united in their belief in the
success and in the holiness of their ideals. They believed in the
people, in its creativity, in its sinlessness. They next to
worshipped it.
But their romantic expectations did not come true. Only the
Bolsheviks were able to bridle the senseless cruelty. Being too
intellectual the other parties including traditional anarchism
proved helpless. The Pravoslav Church (In conformity with
Russian use I use the wording "Pravoslav Church" instead of the
more usual "Orthodox Church". Mostly this will refer to the
"official" "Russian" church but sometimes to more or less all the
various churches belonging to the same strand of christianity as
the "official" "Russian" church.[Translator]) which had always
spoken of Holy Russia too. So that the thinking and concerned
intelligentsia saw itself again before the typical "Russian" question
"What to do?".
Many intellectuals saw the answer in anarchomysticism.
Christendom had to be deepened by a return to its sources
dropping decrepit dogmatic stands and intolerance towards
other religions and towards science and returning to the mystical
thinking the Church had abandoned.

IDEOLOGICAL BASIS

Anarchomysticism wasn't and couldn't be based on some
fundamental thesises since anarchist thinking has to remain free,
unfettered by dogma.
There were some basic data, however, in the form of old
legends passed on orally.A.A.Karelin seemed to know all the
legends (apparently over 100) by heart: after his death not a
single note was found. The texts of the legends were considered
esoterical materials not to be passed on to uninitiated. At the
same time it was said, however, that it did not really matter if
these materials fell into the hands of outsiders since the
understanding of the legends was a mystery possible only in a
certain spiritual atmosphere.
An important element was that everybody was free to
understand the legends in her/his own way: as myths, as fairy
tales or as entirely different stories offering elements for a new
way of viewing things. In this way everybody could create
her/his own text in accordance with the ideas and needs of the
day, as did the ancient gnostics.
The oral transmission of the legends conferred a certain
dynamics to the teachings. The person who told the legends was
free to change them in accordance with the changes in culture.
This doesn't mean that the spirit of the teachings changed, just
the sound changed. This was essential as the discussion of the
questions raised by the legends as they were told was
considered very important. Such discussions were possible only
in the language of the day.
An important question is also to what extent the legends
corresponded with the ideas preserved from christian
gnosticism. In my opinion the general spirit of the legends
corresponded with the thinking of the gnostics around the
beginning of the Christian Era enriched with new materials
produced by the development of knighthood and by the
crusades as a new encounter with the East, i.a. with its muslim
esotericism.
The general story of the gnostics was the same as in the Bible:
creation of the world, the fate of man, fall and resurrection, first
and last acts. But there were many more actors, the symbolism
was much more fantastic, the emotions much more extravagant.
In almost all events gods, angels or demons played a role, they
were dramas of precosmic beings in a supernatural world of
which the natural world was only a far echo (Jonas [1958], p.
xiii). [Jonas is a writer who will be listed in the bibliography to be
attached to the text in its final version.]

Two readers "Gnosis and mystics in the history of philosophy"
[Koslowski, 1988] and "Gnosis, the third component in the
European cultural tradition" [Quispel, 1988] [in fact in the Dutch
language] show the important place the gnosis has occupied in
philosophical thinking down to our days.




A FEW EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENCES WITH THE
PRAVOSLAV CHURCH

1) The problem of acts. For gnostic christendom acts should be
attempts to act justly in the sense of acting socially justly. The
Pravoslav Church prays, it prays for everybody. But is that
enough?
Unlike the Pravoslav Church gnostic christians [here
A.A.Nalimov indicates with this expression the Russian gnostic
christians of the 1920s-1930s, i.e. the anarchomystics,
translator] tried to take part in the struggles of the tragic days of
the Russian Revolution and started the new movement of
mystical anmarchism. Representatives of this current joined the
government VCIK, a group of observers in the highest power
bodies trying to exercize a humanizing influence on the policy of
the soviet authorities and to soften the terror. Why did none of
the leaders of the Pravoslav Church recognize the revolution as
an accomplished fact and join the VCIK, if only as observer, in
order to soften the terror?
2) The problem of the bases of beliefs. The Christian Churches
pass the essentially timeless (independent from cultures)
teachings of Christ on through the prism of an old culure. This
makes these teachings look  archaic, which puts many
intellectuals off, the more so since the Old Testament and the
Gospels often contradict each other.
Right from the beginning the gnostics tried to shed the limitations
created by the concept of separate nations and dropped the Old
Testament as a narrow interpretation of the history of a certain
people. Through the gnostic prism the christian teachings
became strongly cosmopolitic.
The gnostics  were also skeptical about the New Testament
because their points of departure were different. For them God
had nothing to do with this world. God was undestroyable,
nameless, undescribable, living beyond heaven, unshakable,
unknowable, non existent. The Saviour existed from the first
times onwards in various appearances: "I wandered through the
ages and the generations before I arrived at the gates of
Jerusalem" [Jonas, 1958, p.79]. Man was a stranger in the
worlds; earth was one of his refuges. A special - metaphysical -
significance was attributed to knowledge as a way of spiritual
progress.


Bas Moreel
Spuistraat 213
2987 TL Ridderkerk
Netherlands



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