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(en) Serbia, Some notes from Abolishing the Borders from Below* - meeting in Belgrade

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 30 Oct 2004 10:42:05 +0200 (CEST)


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Hi friends!
We, editors and correspondents of Abolishing the Borders from Below, met twice
during the Belgrade PGA conference to see each other first time and to discuss
about future of the project. We met on Saturday 23rd of July at noon, and
Tuesday 26th of July at half past five. These notes are mostly from second
discussion, since we decided to make notes only in the end of the Saturday's
discussions. I hope someone could add these notes what they remember themselves.
My opinions are over-presented expecially what comes to Saturday's discussions.
Good one third of the correspondents were around - M. from Skopje, A. from
Moscow, Z, from Sankt-Petersburg, L. and Z. from Warsaw and T. and M. from
Sofia. Only two of the editors could come from Berlin, and M. came from
Athens. J. from Zagreb only made it to the party;-)

Discussion was pretty informal, and original propositions made by Berlin
collective were not followed too rigorously. However most of the points
noted in Berlin proposal were discussed in one form or another.

Impact of publication to correspondents

First point proposed by Berlin editorial collective was discussion about
impact of the publication.
Everybody thought ABfB has an important role in their local scene, although
for example Russian correspondents noted that journal does not yet have
distribution it deserves in Russia. It was also noted that ABfB may be even
among most important English anarchist publications in the world, very
few publications have been able to maintain such a regular schedule for such
a long time (during last 2.5 years 6 times a year). As a rare publication
focused around news and struggles, most different kind of
anarchists, from most technocrat anarcho-syndicalists to primitivists, from
communists to individualists, from
riot romantics to pacifists, get excited because of it. ABfB has found
followers to make a bit similar publications in French and in German
language (in Austria), besides translations concept of the publication has
also spread geographically - a group in South Africa put up at least few
issues of a similar kind of publication attempting to network
anti-authoritarian initiatives in Africa, also few people related in PGA
Asia process have an idea to put up a similar kind of horizontal publication
between Asian grassroot initiatives.

Costs of the publication

In another hand, most current "fans" of the ABfB seem to come from outside
Eastern Europe, bit
surprisingly ABfB networks anarchists first of all from outside its area -
although one of the goals in the beginning was also to distribute
information about Eastern European struggles outside area. There are
objective reasons why distribution of ABfB in many Eastern European
countries is difficult, although new price
(1 euro in others except most poorest Eastern European countries where it
costs 50 eurocents)
was not seen as prohibitive by anybody. One person considered that ideal
should be distributing ABfB for free in at least most poorest East-European
countries, for example in Greece most of anarchist propaganda
is traditionally distributed for free. However how purposeful this might be
depends heavily on local tradition, in many places people would wipe their
asses with a sheet of paper if they got it for free.

Spectrum of receivers

There was no clear point of view what exactly should be the target group, it
was agreed that currently ABfB reaches first of all anarchist activists. L.
thought that in ideal occassion it could also network struggles and radical
workers in a wider sense, but for this one should propably made publication
in local languages as well. In Poland there was already discussion to make
Polish edition of the publication, but proposition was met with little
enthousiasm. Russian correspondent pointed out that since news published in
ABfB are read with a big interest, more of them should be translated for
Avtonom.

Form and contents

So it was agreed that concept of the publication is an unusual success
story. One person noted that
page number could be some 60 pages as well, in order to get deeper to some
issues - although gaining
popularity in "conscious" student circles is obviously the last thing we
want;-). Others noted that increasing publication frequency would make more
sense, or a separate theoretical publication. Only
few of the current correspondents were however interested to expand their
efforts to a theoretical journal, however discussions about a separate
journal continue by e-mail, most likely it will be printed from Warsaw but
distributed separately from ABfB (if some of you are interested, write to
A.). It was also noted that journal mostly look the way correspondents make
it, contribution of editors to content is minimal and
at least author of these notes does not remember case when materials he
contributed have been
discarded by editors. There was only one new substantial proposition for
contents of the journal - a section of letters was proposed.

Frequency

Increased publication frequency (to 12 issues/year) was discussed more than
once, nobody was strongly against it but Russian editor noted that when
surface mail to Russia takes up to 2 months from Berlin, journal would not
be much more fresh even with a higher frequency. There are big cultural
differences in this respect, whereas US distribution continuously complains
that news are outdated and due to this paper is not in demand, in Russia
nobody expects journals to appear faster - although there is plenty of
anarchist press in Russia, usually none of them comes out more often that 3
times a year. L. noted that reason for higher frequency would be to get news
about repression more urgently to readers, but it was noted that for this
one month will be too much anyway - emergency reaction networks should be
developed first of all by internet. And since currently there are no means
to raise publication frequency to monthly, it was agreed to discuss this
question next time in 2007.

Finances

ABfB faces constant financial difficulties, and there is never any
certainity about finances to publish next issue
after distribution of the previous one. This is not problem of the cost,
even previous price of 50 cents would have been enough if distributors
returned money orderly. Editors also suspected, that even rising prices for
readers from developed countries would be of little help. Current system,
where ABfB is distributed only by regional distributors was about as much
headache as the previous situation, where people sent money for
single issues by mail. There was also doubt about how much regional
distributors put effort to promote
journal locally, for example people from Brighton, which has a pretty active
anarchist scene, heard first time about ABfB just few months in prior to
Belgrade conference. So ABfB is in a constant need of more active
and orderly distributors. Distribution work is such a hell, that the person
responsable for task has changed most often in the collective, and usually
new person has entered the post in condition of deep chaos and has been
forced to build databases from the beginning. North America is also a
constant problem, since airmail
is very expensive. Currently there is a proposition to pass originals to
Boston in electric format, where a separate American printout could be made.

June 2004 issue (#16) had a good experience of sponsorship, Active
Distribution from London just donated
money for printing the issue. Editors had an idea to develop this model,
since it would save a huge effort of blackmailing money from distributors -
however such model of financing would also be very unsecure, since
there would never be any certainity that a sponsor is found for the next
issue. At least one person was principially against publishing DIY
advertisement in ABfB.

Another proposition for finances was to contact AK Press, where people could
subscribe journal by internet.
Actually it was revealed that this was done years ago, but for some usual
fuckups nothing came out from it - but it will be done again. This would
propably require opportunity to make an individual subscription of ABfB -
a new source of loads of shitwork to editorial collective. It was agreed
that this only makes sense if subscription price is substantially higher
than printing costs - subscription should be first of all used for
fundraising, since as means of distribution it demands very much shitwork.
L. also supposed, that in Poland there should be a chance to have ABfB
distributed through mainstream channels as Mpic - some others were
sceptical. At least in Bulgaria and Russia it is impossible. Widening
distribution in Russia would also require changing contents, since some of
the current coverage about Russia could compromise correspondents and groups
whose actions are covered.

Why it is printed in Berlin (to be added to FAQ)

Reasons to print paper in Berlin had to be explained a couple of times,
since no doubt that printing in some Eastern-European country would be
significantly more cheaper. However that would demand some quite trickly
logistical operation to transfer issues to Berlin for posting. Current
printhouse in Berlin is close to activist scene, and has always been very
friendly and flexible in case fuckups so common with such projects as ABfB.
So in order to change printhouse, there should be more stronger than purely
economical reasons. Currently a group of anarchists in Bosnia is investing
to have their own typography, and since printing costs in Bosnia are
cheapest in Europe, it is an option to print posters and brochures related
with the project - but not yet an option for printing journal.

Correspondents

There are only 6 countries remaining in Eastern Europe without regular ABfB
correspondents - Albania,
Moldavia, Hungary, Bosnia & Hertzegovina, Ukraina and Estonia. In Albania,
Hungary and Bosnia & Hertzegovina recent contacts have been made, which
hopefully bear some fruit. From Ukraine, a couple of correspondents were
recruited during PGA conference. Russian correspondent noted that maybe half
of East Europe is Russia, so it would be good to have more Russian
correspondents since during last couple of months so much has been happening
that it has been impossible to cover everything.

Alter-EE vs. ABfB

Z. noted, that main interest of the discussion for him was to develop
cooperation betwen Alter-EE mailing list, webpage and Abolishing the Borders
from Below. One correspondent noted that he hardly even identifies these as
separate projects, since everything he writes, he writes as much for
Alter-EE as for ABfB. Z. promised to develop ABfB webpage.

Cooperation between editorial-crew and correspondents

Many people noted that sometimes there are long periods in their areas when
no activity is happening, but in this case it could be a good idea to write
for example about general political or social situation. For example
Bulgaria has been covered in ABfB in average once a year, but there seems to
be lots of interesting stuff in fresh new Bulgarian indymedia. It was agreed
that requests by editors towards correspondents to cover some interesting
political developments in their areas are not too much as pushing around.
However ambitious proposition of "special issue on transition of Eastern
Europe during last 15 years", was supposed to be published for Belgrade, was
passed to distant near future. Among Balkan anarchists there is currently a
project to publish a brochure about similar theme in late 2004, so maybe
this project could be expanded to handle whole Eastern Europe, and to be
published as a separate brochure, not as a special edition of ABfB. Many
also considered that reminding about deadline is a good tradition as well,
although it has been about two months 15th day of every other month. Editors
also gathered phone numbers of correspondents, in case of some last-minute
consultation would be necessary in prior to printing. Editorial collective
promised to make all correspondents with amnesia a t-shirt with a number
"15" in it.

It was not so boring as one could guess from these notes, believe me!

Notes by Aleksei
===================================
* [Ed. Note: Abolishing the Borders from Below is antiauthoritarian
anticapitalist direct action social struggle network initiative.]


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