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(en) Baltic sea region: Impressions from the Baltic Anarchist Meeting 2012

Date Thu, 19 Jul 2012 12:45:41 +0300


Almost two months have passed since the Baltic Anarchist Meeting http://www.bam2012.org/ was organised in Tallinn of Estonia 25th-27th of May, but only now I had time to write some impressions. I haven't come across any other reports yet, but I hope they would show at some point up as I missed many of the discussions. ---- All countries in Northern part of the Baltic sea have active anarchist movement, but for unclear reasons, connections are not very good. This was first ever meeting, which attempted to increase links between movements in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Sweden. Tallinn was a logical place for such a meeting, as it is accessible from all directions - only drawback is the visa requirement for Russians, due to which Russian participation was eventually rather small (less people than from other countries in the region), and no workshops were organised by Russians guests besides my talk on anarchism in Russia.

Anarchist movement in Estonia is rather small. It revolves around
Punamust (Red and Black) Movement http://www.punamust.org/forum/,
infoshop of Tartu (http://www.araamat.org) and Social center Ülase12 in
Tallinn http://www.ylase12.org/index.php. Eventually there were more
Finnish in the meeting than Estonians, during discussions it sometimes
had to be pointed out to the Finnish that they were slipping to internal
topics of the Finnish scene, not so interesting for the rest of the
participators. Apparently Estonian politics is still characterised by
bitterness towards Russia and Soviet regime, and it is hard to advance
anything anti-capitalist in Estonia. BAM was organised during meeting of
NATO Parliamentarian Assembly in Tallinn. Although Estonia has taken
relatively heavy casualities in Afghanistan (9 killed from a population
of 1340000), there is not much of any visible opposition against the
war. NATO is considered as the guarantee of Estonian independece against
the Russian threat.

However, good side of the small size of the movement is that it is not
being considered as a threat, and thus meeting could proceed with much
less police harrassment than it would have been in Russia, or even
Sweden and Finland. There are not much any other open threats either, as
Estonian fascists are not interested to attack anarchist events. There
was some unease, as biker club which has a space next to social center
Ülase12 which was used as a night place was having a party at the yard,
and some Nazis were expected to show up in the party, which made some
guests quite nervous. But eventually there were no any problems.

My presentation opened the event in Friday evening. It was proceeded
with presentation of different anarchist initiatives in Finland. Last
lecture of Friday evening was Daniel Kuhn's "What is Anarchism: a
movement, a lifestyle, an ethic?".

Hopefully I am not making too much violence by attempting to summarize
Daniel's point, but basically he was juxtaposing "anarchism as a
movement" against "anarchism as a philosophy/lifestyle/ethic". In his
opinion, first position was promoted in book "Black Flame: the
revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism" by Lucien van
der Walt and Michael Schmidt, which did not took into account tendencies
such as ancient Daoism, middle-age heretics or indigenous peoples
lifestyles. Apparently this juxtaposition dates back to this David
Graebers 2002 work
http://newleftreview.org/II/13/david-graeber-the-new-anarchists ,
perhaps via this article of Wayne Price:
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wayne-price-the-two-main-trends-i....
However, as with all such attempts to categorize anarchists, it is quite
relevant question how many anarchists in the end identify themselves
with any of the two categories proposed by Graeber, Price or Kuhn.

Saturday was launched by an energetic demo against the parliamentarian
assembly of NATO (some photos here:
https://avtonom.org/news/estoniya-v-tallinne-anarkhisty-proveli-demonstr...).
Authorities had banned march through the old city of Tallinn, however,
we went there anyway and they did not cared at all. Only in the very end
of the demonstration few plain clothes police, or secret service
operatives, came to take photos. After march, there was a demonstration
at Tammsaare park in the very center of the city - but this was attended
only by BAM participators, and some guy from a one-person sect with
mixed trotskist and stalinist politics. I saw one of their poster in the
city center against NATO assembly, but only in Russian language -
although the guy himself was Estonian, apparently he had not any hopes
to convince Estonian majority.

It was a bit unclear to me, why many of the local anarchists wanted to
stick to black bloc style, although no property destruction was intended
or desirable, and as there are at most 5 anarchist activists around in
Tallinn, authorities know them very well anyway. There is not much of
anything "left" in Estonia besides few anarchists, war in Afghanistan is
only one of the many raised by them alone, so they could easily skip all
fetishist barrage and try to be as accessible as possible to local
people. Guests of the conference were for sure even more clueless,
afraid of TV cameras for reasons beyond my comprehension etc. Maybe due
to lack of briefing, but in my opinion it is pointless to waste hours to
brief people before an action without any ambitious goal to disturb
anything.

What followed were discussion on anarchism in Lithuania and Anarchism
in Sweden, but these I missed. To last panel discussion on popularising
anarchist ideas in the Baltic region, I joined in the very end when it
was already approaching midnight, and most of the people except slow
Finnish folks had already phased out. A local anarchist hang-around
considered discussion to be mostly bullshit, so he demonstratively
poured a bottle of beer to his head. He was politely asked to mop up the
floor, which he did - a cultural shock of Russians, who expected him to
be beaten up.

All discussions were conducted in English only, without translations.
This could have limited Russian participation, as unlike other countries
in the region, quality of English teaching in Russian schools is rather
bad.

Last day, Sunday 27th began with presentation "Soccer vs. The State" by
Gabrial Kuhn, on grassroot struggle against control and
commersalization, which is as long as the sport itself. He recently
published a book with the same name, where you may read more on detail
of the topic. This was followed by "How to be and remain a feminist
activist" by Dagmar Kase. I did not knew that Tallinn, although a
relatively small city of 416000, has such thriving feminist and queer
communities, including a local Ladyfest (in Finland there has not been a
Ladyfest since 2009).

Following discussions on fighting Fascism in Baltic region (by
Lithuanians) and non-verbal communication I missed, I only came around
for the party, at which point many had left already.

It is a good question, how much you may get from such events, more than
just socialising. All languages of the region are mutually
unintelligible and with exception of Russian, relevant only locally, so
there may not be much of any cooperation in field of political work
which in conditions of such a modest scale of the movement is mostly
revolving around publishing and propaganda only.

I liked the gathering overall, schedule was well-though and not too
much late, good balance between different types of events and food was
excellent. I excpecially appreciated, that although many of the local
anarchists came from subcultural background, no any gig was organised -
in Russia and expecially in Finland, often 80-90% of the organising
effort are put on the concerts which do not interest me anyway. It was
few enough participators (maximum one hundred) to have a cosy
atmosphere, where everyone could participate to everything and make some
personal contacts as well. In bigger events, one often ends up hanging
with only people you knew before.

(from here: https://avtonom.org/node/18024)
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