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(en) Rusia, Avtonom on events in Ukraine: "Not a liberal democracy, but a harmonic society of free individuals"

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 22 Dec 2004 19:52:01 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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In Avtonom, we decided to publish fragments of interview of Kiev activist
Sergey by Vlad T. published in Indymedia:
with the following editorial note and answer by member of the editorial collective.
Although of course reading an answer to a text which has not (yet?) been translated
may be bit lame, at least you may get some idea which kinds of discussions are going
on in the former Soviet space which has been profoundly shaken due to events in Ukraine.
Avtonom is journal of libertarian communist Autonomous Action federation.
Contacts of the journal are P.O. Box 13 109028 Moscow Russia (no any name to envelope!)
http://www.avtonom.org/papers/avtonom-paper.html avtonom (na) avtonom.org
A note from editorial collective

Criticizing is seldom a noble thing to do. And least noble it is to
criticize comrades, who have spent last couple of weeks, attempting - with
very modest resources - to give dwellers of their city at least a slightest
possible idea of self-organization, not sparing efforts, and risking
suffering from both batons of coppers, as well as aggression of their "
allies". No what can we do here - our favorite Moscow sectarians yet had not
time to write anything and new issue of Avtonom is already getting to print,
so we have to try to defend dogmas and principles of anarchism with the
modest intellectual resources of our editorial collective - although yet we
have just a feeble idea what is this "anarchism" in the first place. We wish
reactions from anybody who has something to say about events in Ukraine, we
wish to write most interesting reactions in the next issue.

Editorial collective of Avtonom
Not a liberal democracy, but a harmonic society of free individuals

In comments of Sergey, one feels exhaustion, hope and unusual for anarchists
urge to live today, not in the past or in tomorrow. But first of all, one
gets a bitter feeling of treason and disappointment. Reading interview, one
may feel that THEN in Ukraine EVERYTHING was possible. But as a matter of
fact, it was not. And in this case, how may one speak about "deception of
the people". By definition, deception requires hiding some information. But
was anything more than reallocation of powers between political leaders
promised in Ukraine? No it was not. And what matters even more, nobody was
even DEMANDING anything more (with exception of a handful of anarchists of
course). One may change person on the top once every half years, but that
does not make a lot of sense as long as the system remains the same.

Sergey criticizes, that in the ranks of leaders of the oppositional movement
there were no "boldness", nor "strategic thinking". I will not argument
about "boldness, but hat is a characteristic which is seldom of use for a
politician. But what comes to "strategic thinking", score sheet of the
events is a proof about the contrary. Everything what was asked, was won -
what other arguments one may ask? Skills of Yushenko and his spin doctors
are revealed in the very same slogan, which Sergey considered as the
emptiest one: "We have a nation!". In case you have a "nation", what is the
use of self-governance? Such phenomena as "nation" and "people" are an
absolute necessity for a liberal, parliamentarian democracy. It is not a
coincidence, that nationalism and parliamentarian democracy developed hand
in hand since year 1848. From that very year, "irrational masses" and
"reactionary communities" of "traditional society" gradually became history,
and were replaced by monolithic "national cultures" and "peoples united",
which give legitimacy to liberal-democratic powers. "Unity" protects power
from both internal ("artificial class divisions") and external ("alien
cultures and values") enemies. Without idea about "unity of the nation", any
liberal democracy disintegrates in a moment to chaos of countless warring

It is the very word "narod" (means "people", but is also close to meaning of
"nation") is repeated 28 times in the full variant of interview of Sergey in
various of its forms and meanings, but there is not a single word about
"working class". This is little surprising: during 20th century project of
the emancipation of the working class suffered a series of serious defeats.
So, more and more often we will see conflicts between "people" and "power",
and more and more seldom between working and ruling classes. And again
little surprising: although at first sight "people" seems to mean all
inhabitants of a country, no matter their class, really the concept is
elastic at least, and when necessary may include a significantly less people
than that. For Sergey for example, those 40 or some percents, who according
to exit polls of Yuschenko himself voted Yanukovich in the second tour, do
not belong to "the people" (he talks, that "Kuchma and Yanukovich the
pseudo-president were completely denounced by the people") And some other
participators of the "orange revolution" also exclude Russians and Jews from
"the people".

Sergey tells, that first of all NGO workers, municipal workers and
middle-scale business - "people, who are concerned about the society, its
future and democracy" came to Kiev. Perhaps this is the reason of peaceful
character of the "orange revolution"? How could powers shoot middle class,
on support of which liberal democracy is founded? This is one reason, why
supporters of GKChP putsch in 1991 killed only three persons, but where two
years later Yeltsin shoot one and half thousands in the center of Moscow. If
movement backing Yuschenko was founded on defending interests of other
segments, and it was first of all marginal elements, pensioners and working
class from the periphery gathering in the Kiev (as at Moscow White House in
1993), everything might have finished in a much more ugly manner.

If bourgeois only ate each other.

Vlad, who did the interview, was excepting from Sergey critique of the
opposition for lack of the radicalism. So we have a question, how much it is
in the interests of the anarchists to "radicalize" conflicts between
"people" and "non-people"? Or exactly speaking, between various groups of
the ruling class?

Once upon a time there lived one anarchist, his name was Gavrilo Princip.
Perhaps not the most correct anarchist around, but certainly not a simple
Serbian nationalist, as he is put by majority of the historians (which is
not necessarily a big problem, since perhaps he is not the best possible
advertisement for the cause of anarchism). What were his motivations, we do
not know, but one may guess that idea of provoking a
national-bourgeois-democratic revolution (as first step towards anarchism
and general emancipation of the humanity) was not completely alien for him.
And he reached his goal, true, only post mortem, thanks to development of
many historical processes - and what is a lesson for us, with a horrible
price. So everyone who wishes to "radicalize" conflicts between elites,
should consider how far they are ready to go. Perhaps, in Moscow in 1993 it
was already "radical" enough, and many enough (mistaken, but human) people

All the complexity of freedom

Everybody is up for the freedom, but even for anarchists, who take it more
seriously than anybody else, it is often difficult to understand what it is
about. Marxists, who want to explain everything scientifically, also could
not figure out what it is an eventually they abandoned it altogether,
fighting against exploitation only. For them, "freedom" is just hare-brained
hot air of anarchists.

As a matter of fact, liberal freedoms (freedom of speech, printing,
gathering and so on) are just a very small, and for many - insignificant
part of everything what freedom covers. And as we see, for many these
freedoms almost do not make difference, as they prefer some completely
different freedoms. For example, freedom of the movement. Liberal
registration regime for Ukrainians in Russia was present of Putin to
Yanukovich, and perhaps a good enough reason for many to give their vote to
a bandit. West, in contrary, is pushing for closure of the Eastern border of
the Ukraine, and you play the songs of those who order the music. No matter
how much Kiev licks Brussels arse, until at least 2015 European Union will
have enough Polish and Romanian cheap labor to exploit, there will not be
any demand for Ukrainian guest workers.

With one exception - only major group of guest workers which has the
privilege to taste "democratic freedoms of the West" are trafficked
Ukrainian women and girls, who will be on demand in the West a long time
still. Also in Switzerland, a country which for Sergey seems to be something
like an ideal of the anarchism. A country, which became richest in the world
by inviting treasuries of all the bloody dictators of the planet, in which
most functioning system of apartheid (where one million guest workers work
for remaining 5 million) is installed, and where people are so fallen in
love with themselves and their system, that even many of the "radicals" do
not really want to change anything.

For some reason it is often difficult for anarchists to understand reasoning
of non-anarchists. It seems like for Kiev comrades, it is equally difficult
to understand both supporters of Yuschenko and supporters of Yanukovich. But
if you look this conflict not from point of view of anarchists, to whom
existing of a third opportunity is not a question, everything becomes
clearer. As we said, freedom may mean many things in the practice: for
example, for a male student double citizenship with Russia, promised by
Yanukovich means not freedom, but a chance to be sent to Chechnya. But for
an unskilled worker, who is more than 30 years old, that would make getting
to Moscow construction sites more easy - a small slice from the huge cake of
the current oil boom. Only for anarchists freedom of one may never conflict
freedom of others, which is why anarchists are always dreamers, and always
demand things "impossible" from the first sight - for example, both
abolition of conscription and every state border. But if you do not believe
in a dream, you must choice the lesser evil.

Lesser evil is the one which lives further

Apparently, majority of voting Ukrainians preferred masters in Brussels or
Washington than masters in Moscow. Following the same logics, during cold
war elites of Mozambique, Syria and Cuba preferred masters in Moscow to ones
in Cape Town, Jerusalem or Washington. If everything is that simple, one may
ask what sense does anarchism make in the first place, as the world may be
as well harmonically split to camps, and everyone may be happy with those
masters whom they preferred? Well, if one day one of the countless
components in this shaky card house of "balanced world" collapses, whole
humanity may just go up in a smoke in one big nuclear blast. So no matter
how disgusting are the powers in Kremlin, one should not preach the West but
try to stand on ones own feet.

Why do miners hate Yushenko? Very simply: he proposes reforms, which would
take away their steady works and turn them to hourly-paid workers. And
Yuschenko has guts to claim, that this "would significantly raise their
standard of living". While Yuschenko was a premier, he was not getting that
well along with the IMF, but judging from the visit to Washington in 2003
and meetings with Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Zbigniev Brzezinski and
Madeleine Albright, he already find a common language with the "Washington
consensus". Reforming and selling mines to transnational corporations is
without doubt an important component of the strategy of the IMF in Ukraine.
Besides Freedom House, NGO-industry founded for "development of democracy"
receives grants from national Democratic Institute, International Republican
Institute, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, British Westminster Fund for
Democracy and others.

Which of the bandits is better?

Many characterize mass protests in Ukraine as an uprising "against
criminals", Sergey also accuses Yanukovich for "total corruption". But he
does not remind us that Yulia Timoshenko is such a bandit as well (or at
least an embezzler). Of course, there are more and less sympathetic bandits,
something anarchists often forget. And banditism and corruption do not
really contradict liberal democracy - for example, mafia ruled Italy under
cover of the party of Christian Democrats most of another half of the 20th
century. In beginning of the 90's, mafia shortly lost its influence in
politics, but soon criminals made a solemn return in a person of Berlusconi.
In France, 85% of the voters considered embezzler Chirac as a lesser evil in
comparison to fascist Le Pen. And France and Italy are by far not the
poorest countries in the Europe by capitalist measures.

And also from point of view of our movement, Italy is by far not the worst
place: various more or less anti-authoritarian movements (operaists,
autonomists, anarcho-syndicalists and squatters) are about as many as in the
rest of the world altogether. In another hand, sometimes they have some
trouble, such as getting thrown out from windows - obviously bandit version
of capitalism has also its minuses from our point of view.

"Sympathetic bandit" is often not the lesser evil. For example, Richard
Nixon won 1968 elections in USA with a program, which was a militant
offensive against "generation of flowers" and defense of endangered
conservative values. With exception of the small segment of the protest
movement which had not illusions about election system and thus did not
voted, all opponents of the war in Vietnam were shocked. They understood
that "people" are against them. But protests did not disappeared from the
street. Nixon tried to have it in a bad way - some students were shot by
National guard in Kent State and other universities, most of the leaders of
the Black Panther Party were exterminated, but even that did not gave
results. In the end, Nixon had to commit concessions unforeseen in US
history - legalization of abortions (Nixon was militantly pro-life),
creation of the social state, and withdrawal of the troops from Vietnam.
Fascist Nixon was forced to become the most left-wing president in the
history of USA - and all these reforms were for sure "anti-people" and
"anti-democratic", because they were in a direct controversy with
aspirations of his voters. Bush jr. was in a similar difficult position,
since he was considered as an illegitimate president by many - until 11th of
September 2001.

>From point of view of anarchists, good president is a dead one. But in the
second place, it is for sure the one which is weak, a president hated by his
people. And in this sense, Yanukovich perhaps was not the worst case -
especially if you compare with the possible scenario of Kuchma becoming a
premier minister, not limited in terms unlike president, under recently
approved new constitution which grants expanded powers to premier
diminishing powers of the president.

Unbearable lightness being an anarchist

Analysis of the events by Kiev anarchists noticeably differ from more
skeptical opinions of Sumy and Dnepropetrovsk comrades. So, we have a
certain split in the movement, and only through further discussion we may
find out how deep it is. Our movement already has a certain experience of
splits in the lines of political conflicts between elites, always a grievous
one. In 1914 minority, but among them many very authoritative anarchists,
jumped to camp of the "defencists". Due to this, whole movement was
discredited and Bolsheviks got the main dividends from a consistent
resistance to war. In beginning of the 1990's some Yugoslavian anarchists
also jumped to the train of "national-bourgeois revolution", some Croatian
anarchists in emigration in Paris openly rallied around newly formed
Ustashas. Later on, some groups of French anarchists subscribed a
declaration which demanded lifting international arms embargo from Bosnian
side of the conflict. All that remarkably deepened crisis of anarchist
movement in Yugoslavia.

Manipulation and conspiracy?

In the interview, Sergey is dreaming about bringing self-organization "from
maidan to local homes, to apartment blocs". But also, during the whole
interview he is talking about "zombification", treason and manipulation. So
what was it all about in the end?

Students and many Kiev inhabitants had as many reasons to actively support
Yuschenko as Donbass miners had reasons to vote for Yanukovich - it is no
doubt that for middle class liberal freedoms matter more than fortune of the
mining industry. Far too often anarchists underestimate capacity of "regular
people" to figure out what is happening around them. Television and
primitive spin doctor technologies alone do not do the job, they are far
from enough to maintain the status-quo. Main reason of the events in Ukraine
is very simple: majority of the voting population of Ukraine found liberal,
legal democracy and Western orientation, symbolized by Yuschenko to be in
their current interest. And main reason why nothing MORE happened, is that
there were too few, or almost no those who believed that something more can
be reached than power a bit less criminal than the current one.

Unfortunately, any mass movement, even the most anti-authoritarian one has
elements of manipulation. But in an equal manner, self-organization will
also always manifest itself, in a way or another - even most totalitarian
movements may not survive without it. One of the biggest manipulators of the
history, V.I. Lenin understood this perfectly: "Socialism is a dictatorship
of the proletariat, and living creativity of masses".

So it is not only about the question if a person is voluntarily peeling
potatoes or for money, the real question is to which extent movement has
embedded urge towards general liberation of mankind, and how much its
rank-and-file members are participating to definition of the final goals.
Strategy of the Ukrainian movement (which was successfully executed twice
before, in Yugoslavia and Georgia, and which ended up in a fiasco in
Belarus) was prepared a long time before, grants were appealed and received.
For sure, everything began in a chaotic manner, but soon everything went
according to plans. Final result was not unavoidable, but by no means any
surprise. So it is a question if participators of the movement were anything
more than small screws in a huge apparatus?

American money and good preparation of cadres according to Yugoslavian and
Georgian models had a role. But money was far from enough to buy such a
number of people, so at least two conclusions have to be made:

-At first, vast majority of the people do not consider all politicians
equal. Usual anarchist argument that they all are "bandits and liars" is
only bought by those, who already believe in existence of other alternatives
except liberal democracy and totalitarianism. As long as our alternatives
will not reach wider support in the society, anarchist movement will keep
loosing people who one day discover, that Yuschenko, Kerry or whoever else
is in the end a little bit better. I am not proposing participation to
elections. But we should keep consistently insisting for our position, only
counting to our movement and our class, never participating to quarrels
between those in power.

-At second, liberal democracy has still a huge legitimacy. It goes from a
victory to another. The fact that from 15 candidates in Afghanistan, 14 took
away their candidature in favor of Karzai was just another victory. Just as
vote in Kosovo, to which Serbs could not and did not wanted to participate.
Nobody is asking uncomfortable questions here. And it is no doubt that
liberal democracy is victorious even in Iraq, every day. People of Iraq
already paid dearly for faith of others to victory of democracy in Grenada,
Panama, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, and will pay for a long time to come. I
would recommend to everybody worried about their liberal-democratic freedoms
first to go there, and see themselves how much CIA and Pentagon are in pract
ice better than KGB and Lyubyanka.

We are too early celebrating decrease of the share of voting people.
Disappointment to system as a whole seems yet to be the least important
factor influencing to percentage of the voting people. That does not mean,
that we should give up our fight against liberal democracy. In contrary, we
should understand it as the most dangerous, serious enemy, as a necessary
ally of both capitalism and nationalism, which is more legitimate as both of
these two and thus the ultimate cover of them. It is so legitimate, that
even many anarchists may one day decide that in ranks of the candidates,
there is a "lesser evil", and afraid that democracy once so hated by them is
in a danger, may hurry to save it.

What to do, when it begins (once again)?

>From huge legitimacy of liberal democracy all around the world one may
conclude, that sooner or later it will go to offensive in Russia as well. It
may be 2008, 2012 or 2016 (years of next presidential election), but sooner
or later that will happen. This offensive may take form of a cabinet
intrigue, but it is also possible that Freedom House and CIA find their
partners here as well, and conflict goes to streets. Most likely these
partners will not include any of the current liberals, no Yavlinski nor
Hakamada - more likely just some fraction of the current KGB nomenclature
will suddenly announce its surprising overnight transformation to
avant-garde of the "democratic freedoms". Siloviki (power ministries) have
currently completely excluded liberal middle-class intelligentsia of the big
cities from politics of the federal level - in Moscow this is 40% of the
population, in Saint Petersburg even more. That may not go on forever.

That means, a new 1991 may be again in front of us. And again, we have a
chance to discredit ourselves by standing by yet another Yeltsin, until new
1993 and new Chechnya. This way we may again send our movement to dump of
ideologies for a couple of decades. Kiev anarchists hope to get some
experience, so that next time when people get to streets with more sensible
demands they would already know how to behave themselves. But in Russia 13
years ago everything went the contrary way: from defeat of the democratic
movement, from its discreditation and treason, society got so deeply
depressed that it could not be cured still, and opposition is still totally

It even does not help, that the brightest anarchist minds understood already
in 1991 what a shame was going on. Because rank-and-file members of the
infamous Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists were more radical democrats
than anarchists, and because destiny of the anarchist movement was so much
interconnected with the destiny of the dissident movement, which was to be
sorry, even those who understood what was going on could not stop the
process of demoralization and destruction from which we still have not been
able to recover. And in general only few are left to whom that all is
interesting, only few think that we may learn something from our own
history. So the question remains: are we capable of learning from our own
mistakes or not?

Kolya (member of the editorial collective)

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