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(en) Russia, 7th of November actions and Black Petrograd festival

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 17 Nov 2004 10:15:58 +0100 (CET)


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7th of November is day of remembrance of the October
"revolution". After collapse of the Soviet Union, official
name of the date was changed to contentless "Day of
pacification and agreement", since cancelling a general
holiday would have angered people. In a wave of Putins
reforms this year, a proposition has been put forward to cancel
holiday, and to replace it "day of national unification"
4th of November, but currently this idea is frozen due
to outrage from rank of the "communists" in Duma.

In many cities Bolsheviks organise mass meetings, 7th of November
is their third most important celebration after the first of May,
and victory day 9th of May. 7th of November is the
most politically controversial among these 3, it has a specific
"Bolshevik", not a popular character.
For vast majority of supporters of authoritarian communists these three
celebrations are only reasons to get to streets.

Anarchist for sure have controversial feelings in regards to October putsch.

In many cities anarchists go to queue, or at least leaflet in red
actions - not necessarily due to similarity of goals and means with them,
but because in many cities anarchists are not strong enough to have their
own actions and because in ranks of the authoritarian communists
there are many people discontent with the regime who should
be reached out. Alternative jubilee for anarchists is birthday
of Nestor Makhno, who was most likely born in 26th of October 1888,
according to Julian calendar of tsarist Russia, this
date corresponds with 7th of November of Gregorian calendar used in Western
countries and their former colonies.

Anarchists organised actions connected to 7th of November
at least in Irkutsk, Rostov-na-Donu, Ufa and Yaroslavl - from
many cities, such as Petrozhavodsk, Moscow, Nizhnekamsk,
Tyumen and Perm, anarchists travelled to St. Petersburg to a common
3 day Black Petrograd festival.

Irkutsk

Irkutsk anarchists from Autonomous Action got an early start already 4th of
November, when they protested
against raising a statue for bloody white admiral Kolchak. Anarchists raised
banner "Kolchak - Siberian hangman, and distributed leaflets "Today
Kolchak - tomorrow Hitler?".
There were no arrests, since authoritarian "communists" were also protesting
and most likely police should have arrested them as well in case they

wanted to go naughty. Everything went peacefully, statue was raised and is
waiting some paint from enterprising
citizens of the Siberian city. A quote from anarchist leaflet:

"...this is an insult for the memory of 200 000 Siberians, who died during
13 months of the rule of the bloody admiral. We are told, that this statue
should become a symbol of agreement and peace between reds and whites. For
us this means agreement with dictatorship and making peace with the
repression."

7th of November Irkutsk anarchists joined red meeting outside sport palace.
They raised black and red diagonal flags, and placates "Revolution - now!"
and "Kolchak - Siberian hangman" made for action 3 days before. Police
became harassing almost immediately, but soon they left - until somebody
from city administration (from office of religion!) came and demanded
anarchists to be arrested - eventually five of them were arrested.

Anarchists managed to keep one flag, and marched with the colon from Sport
Palace to eternal fire. There anarchists got surrounded by cops, but flag
was raised higher and went on marching around the eternal fire. When
leaving, 3 more persons were arrested. Arrested were freed 4:30 PM, and
courts are pending.

Translated and edited from report of Autonomous Action of Irkutsk

Rostov-na-Donu

6 members and supporters of FAK-FRAN joined the
demonstration in Theatre square in the
centre of the city. Since anarchists were few, they
decided not to bring banners and flags, but only
distribute some papers. They gave a small interview
to local journalists. There were pretty much people,
several thousands, mostly elderly members of KPRF,
various schizoid elements - for example supporters of
poser Kapkanov attempting to become mayors and dude with
table "down with the matriarchat". Youth was mostly NBP,
there was a huge number of cops and security service agents,
even more than usual.

Translated and edited from report of D. S.

Ufa

This year, anarchists of Ufa from Ufa Federation of Anarchists and
Autonomous Action decided to join common demonstration to show that
they exist, that they have their point of view and that they commemorate
what happened 87 years ago. Banners were prepared, supporting youth was
invited.

On the spot, anarchists run to two problems - cops and KPRF. Cops brought
a bus for arrests already until a single banner was raised. None of the cops
wanted to show documents or to explain reasons for their behaviour, except
a commentary that "right now they are conducting an anti-terrorist
operation".
Anarchists decided to give up flags and banners without a fight, since
some of their supporters were pretty young and Bashkirian coppers are known
for tricks such as targeting kidneys without much hesitation. Eventually
anarchists were not arrested because they got some support, and cops were badly
co-ordinated.

Nice celebration, elder generation sells youth to organs of bourgeois
society. But there were also some positive things, many rank and file
members of KPRF were shocked for actions of their leadership, and
especially elderly women selling seeds announced their solidarity. A
number of comrades had their first experience from
modern democracy, and have now taking struggle with capital and state more
seriously.

Capitalism Delenda est! There will be revolution!

Translated and edited from report of Ender

Yaroslavl

Regional organisation of KPRF organised the usual annual demonstration by
Svoboda street. Anarchists joined to colons, and distributed their press
(Trotyle equivalent and Black star), and
leaflets, both publications were pretty popular. Anarchists scanned
"Freedom, anarchism, communism!", "No saviour for the country than class
war!", "Rise the black flag higher - state is the main enemy!" and others.

March went to Sovetski square, where agitation was continued. Member of authoritarian
communist YaO NDPR distributed provocative leaflets against anarchists, where anarchists
were described as alcoholic bomb maniacs, it also included some misinformation about
N.I. Makhno. In the end, anarchists were not hanging too long time in the
meeting since they had their own actions to do.

First small group of anarchists went to walls of Spasso-Preobrazhensky monastery,
which is located in the centre of Yaroslavl, and hanged there a puppet of
Putin, filled with domestic waste, and left a banner "Freedom! Anarchy!
Communism!".

Then anarchist marched with black flags and banner "Class hate" in a non-legalised march
by Volga embankment, shouting revolutionary slogans. Cops did not attempted
to interfere.

Translated and edited from report of Council of Revolutionary Anarchist
Groups (SRGA) of Yaroslavl

***

Black Petrograd 2004 festival in St. Petersburg

Idea to organise a festival in St. Petersburg around 3 day weekend of 7th of
November popped up in summer. Right now due to modest development
of anarchist movement during last 4 years there are 4 national organisations
of anarchists (Association of Anarchist Movements, Rainbow Keepers,
Autonomous Action and Federation of Revolutionary Anarchists)
who have their own conferences, but common anarchist events are few in
national scale. Where all of these organisations grow slowly, growth of
unorganised anarchists is faster - although organisations in Russia are
still much more popular than in many Western countries (half of the
maybe 500 anarchists aligned to some organisation, compared to less
than 5% in the US), this is a trend one should not ignore whether you
like it or not. Black Petrograd was organised as an event for all anarchists
to meet each other and to create co-operation in a framework wider than
organisations.

Concept was borrowed from Finnish Black and Green days, festival organised
5 times 1998-2002. This consisted of 3 elements - discussions, street
actions and evening concerts. Whereas cultural program and actions would
attract people in the outskirts of the movement, discussions would give
opportunity to acquaintance to current hot issues in the movement. Festival
was called by St. Petersburg Anarchist League and Moscow group of
Autonomous Actions, for sure plenty of other people and groups also
contributed, most importantly Punk Revival of St. Petersburg anarchist
punks, but they were too chaotic to take care about formal signing the call...

Promotion of the festival was lousy, apparently it was none besides
announcements in russia.indymedia.org, avtonom.org and Noviy Svet-newspaper.
About the same could be said about the preparations as well, concert place
and date were not yet clear even in Friday 5th, and for example discussion
of Sunday could be only organised by entering to premises of human rights
centre Memorial without their approval.

In the context of organisational efforts almost lacking, festival may be
actually described as a total success.

This disinterest to organisation work is a bit unclear to me, perhaps local
people wanted to escape all expenses, and also had distrust to Moscow group
of Autonomous Action which had promised some finances due to inter-organisational
frictions. One critical moment was also the squat Klizma, although due to
security concerns no events were to be organised there, it was crucial for housing
arrangements of the festival. As only squat in Russia, its existence in St.
Petersburg was also main reason why festival was to be organised there in the first
place. Since pressure against squat raised all the way since June, many people were in
disbelief about chances of holding it, and thus did not believed that
festival would take place in the first hand.

Squat had to be emptied during few weeks in prior to festival, but no matter
all the rumours, people could take it back and stay there without police
harassment during all the time of the festival. Trouble came from an unexpected side -
from the nazis. Some time in prior to festival, a corpse of a nazi had been
found floating in one of the many canals of the city, and for some reasons
nazis suspected anti-fascists for doing the job. 20th of October, an African
student was hospitalised in a serious condition in St. Petersburg after a
fascist attack, 14th of October in a Moscow suburb nazi youth stabbed
an Uzbek gastarbaiter to death, the same day an immigrant from China
was killed by nazis in Chita. Since reported cases are only tip of the iceberg,
many different groups have a reason to be unhappy with nazis and
thus they are probably giving too much credit for anti-fascists in
what comes to setting the records straight with them.

Whatever, nazis attacked squat in night between 7th and 8th of November,
nazis managed to break into 3rd floor (security has considerably worsened
since cops broke iron grating in the corridoor), and they were thrown bottles,
bricks, boiling water and a molotiv cocktail. Nazis also threw stones and
bottles, two squatters were wounded, one got a shrapnel to his face and had to be
stitched later on. Eventually squatters called firemen to scare nazis away, since cops
would mean even more problems and paramedics would not come sooner than in 30
minutes (03 is a joke). Nazis withdrew, and firemen extinguished small fire which had
started from a cocktail.

There was a better try in night between 9th and 10th of November, after
festival there were only 6 persons there. They heard somebody attempting to
break through barricade,
and when they ran to window they saw a local police chief there. Door was
set on fire, and 4
squatters ran to most distant room and closed their mouth with wet rags.Some
other people had saw
nazis and gopniks running around the squat the same time, so people suppose
that they had some deal with police
who set the squat on fire. Two others were in the roof of the squat.

All the time it was more and more smoke in the squat, and after one and half
hours firemen and police managed to break in. Police chief went on kicking
and beating squatters, demanding documents. Two juvenile squatters were sent
to children's hospital number 5, rest to another hospital. Fortunately,
nobody had serious wounds. Doctors were
threatening young squatters with cops, prison (infamous Krest of St.
Petersburg) and
mental hospital. Eventually juvenile squatters managed to escape from
hospital.

Police took documents of all adult squatters. One of them wrote a complaint
about police having kicked him. Cops refused to give back documents, until
he has taken his complaint back. Ok, this was what happened afterwards...
so let us tell about the festival itself.

Saturday 6th of November

The festival itself began in the morning of 6th of October with a
lecture on history of the Makhnovist movement. At this
point guests from Finland, Germany, Romania and Sweden had already
arrived to St. Petersburg. Lecturer was Pyotr Raush, veteran of local
anarchist movement. I am sure lecture gave good general perspective
to movement, no matter the time constraints, it managed to refer
whole biography of Makhno and all most important events connected
with the insurrection. And it was not just uncritical praise, shortcomings
of the movement were presented as well. Perhaps too much time
was sacrificed for listing of sources, since there is much both fiction and
non-fiction about Makhno in Russian language (as for Soviet history, it is
difficult to make difference between the two), and few of the young audience
were historians with interest to make their own investigations.
Perhaps war history was also over-represented in comparison
with the social experiments conducted in the area under
control of the movement.

Next in the program was meeting "Against regime of terror", it was organised
in co-operation with St. Petersburg anti-war committee, but
really more than 50 of the 60 participators of the meeting were
anarchists guests of the festival. But since there is a serious lack
of good speakers in the anarchist movement, most of the time hardly working
megaphone was held by non-anarchists, such as Deni Said Teps who is

chairman of the world congress of Chechnyans. Most of the banners were from
Moscow, they included "Death to state and capital" and "No war between nations,
no peace between classes". St. Petersburg anarchists had a less classist
banner "Freedom to people, death to empires". General mood
in the meeting was that of apathy and passivity, only in the end
people got to mood of shouting "rubber bullets and tear gas,
present of president to working mass!".

Last part of the Saturday's program was video screening. First in the
program was video from some actions of anarchists in St. Petersburg, this
included Mayday demonstration and various meetings on anti-war and social
issues, often in co-operation with other oppositional groups. Perhaps
montage could have been used more, since in some of these actions there
was not too much happening.

With film by Moscow Indyvideo, it was the contrary - some actions were
covered only a couple of seconds, MTV-stylish. In the end, a French film
about Genoa protests was shown with an excellent simultaneous translation. Altogether,
video screening was for sure one of the most successful parts of the
festival.

Demonstration in 7th of November

St. Petersburg is one of the few cities in Russia where anarchists have
numbers big enough to organise their own actions, and thus no any
necessity whatsoever for mixing with red fascists. Actually during last year
actions of St. Petersburg anarchists have been biggest in Russia, regularly
gathering more than 100 persons, almost twice as much as in Moscow. However,
veterans of movement in St. Petersburg prefer going to queue with
authoritarian commies, apparently they have been brutalised by police a
couple of times too often to have interest to non-legalised actions. This
time turnout in St. Petersburg was 100 people, which is not very good taking
into account that about 30 of them were from other cities. Reason of
small numbers was probably lack of promotion of the anarchist bloc.

The fact that you have an agreement with organisers does not however
necessarily mean that cops are going to agree with you. When anarchists were
about to take their place in the queue, they were surrounded by OMON and
forced to sidewalk. OMON managed to persuade people to put down flags
and banners, promising to let them go "soon", but when all the blocs
passed by it soon become apparent that there won't be place for anarchists
in the queue this year. Since police is under a direct federal governance,
even a person from city administration could not convince police to let
anarchists to demonstration.

First anarchists were shouting "Antifa" and "Fascism won't trespass" to
nazbols passing by, then everybody put their hands over heads, marching
around in police ring, shouting "long live police state!". I was expecting it to
continue a couple of hours like this until everyone was recorded, however since
we were not in a country with a protestant working ethics such as Sweden,
eventually police opened siege after some 30 minutes - they were just
too lazy to track everybody.

So anarchist marched a couple of blocks to side in a chaotic mass, after
which an illegal demo could be started. At this point, some 4 persons
were arrested and some others stopped, but this could not stop the march
from going. Anarchists too course towards palace square, where reds were
going to have their meeting after the march, but anarchists were
avoiding Nevsky prospekt due to cop convergence there, but marched along
the parallel small roads such as Nekrasova and Belinskogo.

In all the hurry to escape OMON, only one big banner "Lust for freedom
is stronger than all prisons" was opened, together with diagonal red and
black and diagonal red and green flags, during march anarchists
scanned among others "Get to streets - reclaim the city!", "Fascism won't
trespass", "Main enemy is in your country, main enemy sits in Kremlin!",
"Rubber bullets and tear gas, present of president to working mass!",
"Antifa!", "Down with FSB", "United Russia - fascist country", "FSB blows us
up!",
"Raise the black flag higher - state is the main enemy!" and criminal
underworld
classic "Do not believe, do not be afraid, do not ask - fuck the state!".

Anarchists marched all the way to palace square without police harassment,
3 attempts to enter square were made from different directions but
OMON presence was so heavy and there were riot fences all around so
there was no way. Eventually anarchists dispersed to meet in Gorky park
and to organise legal support for arrested, who were eventually released
in the same day without any charges.

So many mistakes were conducted during the action, that some lessons
should be drawn. At first, people were pretty passive all the way - if
few want to shout or to hold banners, how may people around make
a difference between a demonstration and a wandering band of freaks?

At second, when it is obvious that plan of police is to surround the
demonstration, and they are extremely slow and lazy in fulfilling the
plan, how come people let them do that! We outnumbered OMON
4 to 1, so it would not have been a problem to spread widely enough
to keep one way open, and even to start illegal demonstration to
other direction right away.

At third, when police arrests people, what is the point to gawk this
"spectacle"? You should either liberate the comrades, or continue your
way - standing by staring is not much of help. Only by much yelling
a couple of people could convince people to go marching.

At fourth, when we are 100 and cops are 5, what is the point to stop
when one copper says "Stop!". Outnumbered cops should not be
paid attention before they pull their guns. Do not take eye contact,
and they will not do anything.

At fifth, leg it when it is about time. Do not overestimate organisational

capacities of cops, but do not underestimate their brutality. One fucked up
OMON is enough to launch all-out havoc with batons no matter their orders, and
since these guys have fun by watching home videos they recorded during Chechen
duty where suspected fighters are given electricity and get castrated,
you won't find healthy ones among them.

These are basic principles of disobedience, they all are applicable
even when we are not yet ready to have a violent confrontation with the
police.

At sixth, it was a crude mistakes that some people decided to desert
encircled anarchist bloc, and go to the palace square with the main
demonstration. For sure leafleting elderly reds is important, but
it could have been done after finishing our own action. Now there
was no any leaflets in our demonstration.

When we have a non-legalised demonstration in Moscow, there
are number of necessary preparations. At first, a route is planned,
and only 3-5 people know it beforehand. These people take groups of
10-20 people from preliminary meeting point to starting point
separately, all arrive to starting point simultaneously and demonstration
starts right a way. At second, everybody is given a leaflet with
some basic legal stuff, basic behaviour guidelines, contact number in a case
of arrest and information about a separate convergence point after march
disperses, where it could be checked if somebody was arrested and
what has to be done with them. At third, preparationary group
chooses "a tactical leadership" of 1-2 persons, who make extempore
decision about alternative routing if necessary, and also give a sign
to disperse when it is time to disperse.

"Tactical leadership" is no way any hierarchy. It is of everybody's
common interest, that people disappear simultaneously when goal
of the march has been reaching and OMON or coppers are approaching.
You may ignore a call to disperse, but do this only by taking into
account security of the others. There are two to phenomena called "mass
inertia" (more people, more slowly they change moving trajectory) and "crowd
gravity" (where people do as others around them, not thinking on their own), so in
case you just hang around without going nowhere,
people around you tend to hang around as well, so all of you will be
vulnerable in case of a police attack.

Of course, none of these preparations were done in St. Petersburg,
nobody even imagined that we could be refused from entering the
common demonstration. Reasons why we do not organise legal demonstrations
in Moscow lately are as much pragmatical as principal - in
case we get refused from a permission the last moment, all these
plans must be made from the scratch, and sometimes it just
does not work out, since even preliminary gathering point
has to be changed.

In St. Petersburg, we had no info leaflets, no route, no place
to converge afterwards and no tactical leadership. Everything
had to be improvised, for a long time I could not find a single
localwise person to agree to lead march to somewhere. A number
of people were shouting "orders" contradictionary to each other,
some were followed, others not. At one point we had to make
a 180 degree turn in order not end up to Nevsky prospekt crowded
by cops. Dispersing at the Winter palace was also a total pain, people just
could not figure out for a long time that we could just march away in
small groups when police where waiting for enforcements to conduct
arrests and perhaps beatings, although police was ordering us
to stay.

I was too exhausted to participate to discussion in Sunday evening,
but I heard that veterans of St. Petersburg movement still
argued for sneaking into common march, but in a separate groups,
and forming a common bloc only when it is on the road. But
this just can't work in practice, and it would be dangerous as well.
If few black flags just did not shamefully disappeared to
ranks of reds which would be most likely scenario, but were able
to form their common bloc, it still could be stopped. And since
this year it was not exactly plan of OMON to let us to sneak away
and to have our own illegal action, next time they could as well give
a lesson in a form of a good beating. I think there is NO WAY to
attempt a legal anarchist demonstration in St. Petersburg anymore.
Any attempts could end up pretty ugly.

Meanwhile, local anarchists and anarchist in Russia in general
are vastly overestimating capacities of police to interfere illegal actions.
As most authoritarian structure
possible, Russian police is extremely inflexible, since any orders
must come from the very top of the command hierarchy. There is simply no
way Russian police may topple resistance in Chechnya or urban
rioting, they are not even able to stop few dozen anarchists marching
around with a flag. Only way to let them stop an illegal demonstration would
be to announce a route beforehand.

In the long run, we should abolish organisational model of "tactical
leadership" and people should adopt western affinity group model
of organisation. This because "tactical leadership" is vulnerable since
it could be singled out and targeted by police, and
may not lead demonstrations much more than 100 people. Affinity group
is you and your friends, perhaps 3-10 people, you trust each other
and are making tactical decisions on your own. It is no way to
have a general, democratic meeting in midst of a demo, but
in small groups you may quickly find a common language and take
a responsibility. If one of you gets arrested, others will liberate him.

Human beings are social animals, this is from where "mass inertia"
and "crowd gravity" phenomena come from. It is nothing bad in being
social, but from mindless mass waiting for orders, we should develop
into effective cells able to operate on their own. This far, no better
method has been developed to reach this than affinity groups.

Monday 8th of November

Monday morning it was time for discussion about
"perspectives and strategy of the anarchist movement". Of course 2 hours
for such universal theme is a kind of joke, but at least I hope that some of
the many young people who had recently joined the movement could grasp
some basics about the usual discussions in the movement, such as on issues
"how violent the revolution will be?", "how important it is to create
seeds of the new society, such as communes, here and now?", and "should
anarchists be organised in formal organisations or in networks of friends?".
After discussion, Finnish and Romanian guests made a seriously truncated
presentation of their local movements.

Since concert was to began already 6 PM in another side of the city,
excursion to locations of anarchist history in the city had to be done in
a serious hurry as well. Most of the places were connected to recent
history, a number of squats and meeting places from turn of the 90's were
shown, also routes of demonstrations and police stations where they tended to
end up. One spot of more distant past was Pazheskiy corpus where Kropotkin
once studied. Excursion ended to Marinskiy palace, protected from sides of
Hertzen and Vosnesenskiy

streets by two barricades anarchists built 1991 to defend city from
Stalinist coup.

In concert, local groups Kronshteyn, Potom Budet Pozdno, 8 Herz and B.P.V.
played,

with 777 Bakunina from Moscow and Pet Nihil from Minsk. Last one is among
most important Belarussian DIY punk bands, although accused of being sell-outs by some
most purist elements. There were 100 paid people in this completely
unpromoted concert while another hardcore concert with foreign bands was
going on in another part of the city, so it can be said that after a long break there
is again a scene in Russia which could be described as anarchist punk.

Action for access to drugs for HIV infested

As an offshoot of the festival, there was an action 9th of November for
rights of HIV-infested in St. Petersburg. Formally this was organised by
Front AIDS, but without bunch of anarchists (some of whom HIV
infested) helping to organise St. Petersburg action it maybe would not
had taken place. St. Petersburg is one of the Russian areas
where situation with HIV-infested is totally intolerable, probably to
ease its WTO access Russia has made a deal with some giants of
pharmaceutical industry to issue licensed drugs only. Annual cost of the
cocktail is more than
10 000 dollars/person, so in many cities the policy is that in prior of
city subsidizing the care, a doctor will make a totally unconstitutional
decision about "social usefulness" of the client. Most infected, such a drug addicts,
are considered as "lacking social perspective" and thus denied care and will
die in few years.

Altogether there are 30 000 HIV infested in St. Petersburg, and more than
one million in Russia. In St. Petersburg, only 150 persons are given drugs,
and due to lack of supply even they have breaks in the care, which makes
taking drugs basically pointless since they should be taken continuously.
In 9th of November, activists were lying in the ground
in form of a Red Ribbon in front of Smolna (city administration),

there were also coffins to symbolise the death. A banner "Our death is your
shame" was hanged from Smolna.
One person was arrested. Some pictures of the action are available
in site http://www.drugpolicy.ru/?page=actions


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