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(en) Bulgaria: Revolutionary anarchist action [machine translation]

Date Tue, 20 Aug 2019 09:10:41 +0300

I got off the platform of a small train station in a side neighborhood of Istanbul. Renovations were in progress, construction materials were piled up everywhere, but workers had not yet arrived to fill the station with life and silence. One by one, my companions passed by me and sank into the depths of the huge city, each one on its way. Only I looked helpless, hoping to see a comrade's gaze. ---- And here, two bearded men stepped up to me and, without introductory words, began to hug me,... I almost managed to avoid kissing. It was the DAF comrades who came to meet me at the train station. ---- DAF is the acronym for which it is popular on the Internet group Devrimci anarsist faaliyet. In Bulgarian its name translates Revolutionary Anarchist Action, in short - RAD. This group appeared in Turkey some time ago and became popular with its activity, positions and news on various current topics. I had the good fortune to spend two days among them and see closely - albeit in part - how they lived, what they thought and what they called "revolutionary anarchist action."
Without understanding RAD, I am convinced that one cannot understand it without understanding Turkey. The country is much larger than Bulgaria, much stronger economically and militarily, a regional geopolitical factor. At the same time, the divisions within it are much larger: ethnic and religious contradictions are much more significant, the poor are poorer, and the rich - much richer than the local ones. Three times as many people live in Istanbul than all over Bulgaria, Syrian refugees are looking for bedding on the streets of downtown Syria, and billionaires fly by helicopters from residences to their offices. The authorities maintain the brutal exploitation of the population through a complex amalgam of secular modernization and integration with European markets, nostalgia during the Islamic empire stretching from Baghdad to Vienna and uncompromising repression, when they feel threatened. Resistance among the population, caused not only by economic but also by ethnic and ideological oppression, has never subsided.
In fact, destroyed together with the Ottoman Empire, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, anarchism began to regain popularity in Turkey - initially among various Marxist groups disappointed by the bitter fruits of Bolshevik rule, but today its bearers are young people who have grown up with these ideas.
RAD is just one of the anarchist groups with Turkey, but it seems to be the only one in some respects. It is essentially a federation of people who have dedicated their lives to anarchism. Revolutionary action does not prepare attacks, battle groups, or black ninjas. The revolution is that people have devoted their thoughts, their work, their leisure time, even the environment in which they live - themselves - to the social revolution.
Ten years ago, twenty young (and a few not so young) anarchists decided that they couldn't help the revolution if they had to work 8, 10 or more hours a day, spend time with their family, and only then, crushed by everyday life, gather to plan actions against the system. That the struggle for revolution cannot be a hobby, and if they want to win, it must determine their lives. Therefore, they have mobilized and done what they need to do to live a life that allows them to devote much more time to anarchist action. The beginning was difficult, perhaps more difficult than they expected. Today, however, almost everyone in the RAD works at the three cafes in Istanbul, which are collectively managed by the movement. They live in one of the common dwellings that RAD maintains. They work no more than two or three days a week,
There are many tasks. RAD publishes a monthly newspaper discussing any issues about Turkey and the world. He also publishes a magazine focused on environmental issues. High School Students Magazine. Journal of the History and Theory of Anarchism. Internet sites. Individual groups deal with labor struggles, women's issues, organize discussions and meetings, liaise with other organizations and movements in Turkey and around the world. RAD participates actively in street actions of all kinds - celebrations, protests, meetings, blockades and more. Power problems follow one after another, many are sentenced, some even go to prison. However, few are discouraged. Today, the RAD is about fifty people and probably the most notable anarchist organization in Turkey.
The meeting with the comrades was attended by several dozen people - most of them were probably members of the Rad, but there were also quite random people who just showed an interest in anarchism in Bulgaria. After talks about the past and the future, most left, but few stayed in the commune's apartment. I stayed in one room with five other men. Several women were sleeping in the next room. In the morning everyone got up and went to a joint breakfast at the café. The food was monotonous but prepared with care, skill and desire. The same people were having breakfast, working, having fun, discussing, having dinner and even sleeping together. I am sure that many people in Istanbul live richer than our comrades and I suspect that they live even poorer than them. However, there are hardly many people who live happier.
Alcohol in Turkey is very expensive and local currency is very cheap. So, after reading on the Web what people are giving for a gift in Turkey, I brought two bottles of brandy. I proudly announced that it was a special brandy because it was my own. They looked at me in surprise, even a little crooked. It took me quite a while to realize that they were concerned about the expression itself - there was simply no 'mine' and 'yours' between them. I explained that it was not a property issue, but that it was home-made and therefore nicer than the one in the shops. I hope they understand me.
The economy
To find out more about the economic practices behind Rad, we conducted a special interview on the subject with a movement member. As it will be clear, the economic reality in Turkey is different from the one here, and things that probably would not be successful in our country prove to be quite effective there.

Purely economically, do you live better than other people in Istanbul?
Of course. Not that we live more comfortably, but we can say that we have a better life because it is common. We share everything. For example, now the magazine has an article about homophobia, which is a phobia of being alone. We are not alone.
In a city as big as Istanbul, it's hard to live alone. On the one hand, it costs more money, but it is also quite risky in terms of security. Not just for politically active people. Anyone living in Istanbul would like to be in a safe place.
This is the case in the various capitalist cities of the world. Istanbul is the capitalist capital of Turkey - there is a lot of money here. Where there is a lot of money, there are the gangs of the state, but there are other gangs that aim to get to the money. We live not only in the conditions of capitalist exploitation, but also in constant war. So it is better to live together.
Third, Istanbul is also among the capitalist capitals of the world. 19 of the richest people in the world live here. At the same time, there are people who spend less than € 2 a day... if they are lucky. The gap between the richest and the poorest is huge.
When we decided to create a collective economy, we worked in different places. Some worked in hotels, others cleaned the houses of rich people, others worked in the clothing industry, others worked in bars and restaurants. 10 years ago, we got together, talked about what we wanted to do with our lives, and we started...

How many people are in your team? When I visited coffee last time, there were quite a few other people working there.
More than 50 people, most are young people. Every day different people work in the coffee. According to our system, you work for a maximum of two days, the rest of the time you participate in a team that is engaged in revolutionary work. We have 8 communes where people live together. We have 3 coffees. Basically, the proceeds from them support people, pay rents and other expenses. There are people working in each of them. Each team decides how to distribute their work. We have a system according to which we distribute people between teams and cafes according to their capabilities. For example, if you need to learn how to cook, you will work more in the kitchen instead of as a waiter.

How are these decisions made?
Once a week we come here to a general meeting. This is the main way to make decisions. Then we have decisions at the level of the various self-organizations - the newspaper, the cafes, the organizations dedicated to women and young people, all of whom make their decisions on their own issues, according to the basic decisions made at the general meeting.
When a self-organization decides on something, it is known beyond that. The communes where we live are a very suitable tool for this. For example, the three of us live in a commune and work in different teams. In the evening we get together, we spend time talking about the events of the day. This is quite informal. However, it is good to disseminate information about smaller decisions not taken at the general meeting.
Sometimes something that affects everyone but cannot be discussed via the internet needs to be urgently addressed. Other times, one team may have an urgent need to separate a person from another - this is discussed directly between them. In such cases, it is useful to share people between teams and communes.

How do you decide for the individual? For example, if you think I need to learn how to cook better, but I don't think so?
Only strategic guidelines are decided at the general meeting. The specific decisions are made by the people involved. For example, in the case of your question, if you want to cook, but those you eat do not like the result, you will probably need to work as a cook's assistant for a while. It is important that everyone agrees with the decision.

How does one become part of the organization?
First of all, it is both a political organization and a communist economy. It is very difficult to be part of one without being part of the other. Economy is the living part of what we are trying to do. If you want to be part of the organization, you just come to live with us.
Sometimes people do not want to become an integral part of the organization, but they want to be close to it. We have a model for this, but it is important that we want to create a revolutionary path. People dedicate their lives to the organization, not build their own individual futures.
If you choose to live on your own, fine, but if you choose to be revolutionary, you will work harder. Because it is yours, but mine, the future of all. It's not just about the organization, it's about the struggle. Capitalism does not give you that opportunity. It is not simply a choice to live alone or in a collective, but a choice between capitalism and struggle.
Joining is not easy. There is an acceptance period - sometimes it is short, but sometimes it is long. Not that we do any exams or anything, it's a process of getting to know each other. We get to know the person and he gets to know us. You can't become a part of us just by reading a brochure or by saying you like our actions - it doesn't work. This is about friendship. Friendship is based on trust. We need to trust each other. It's not about getting on and off, it's about relationships. We need to know man and he must know us - how we think, how we react, how we act. These are the important things.
After such a period, people become part of us. Not that a certain time passes and we say "You passed the exam, here's your document, you are already part of the RAD" - no, there is no such thing. It is only after a while that he and we begin to feel him a part of us and he begins to receive more and more responsibilities.

Let's get back to the question of economics! If we look at the time before joining the team - then did you have more money than you have now?
The important thing is that it has evolved over time. In the first year, probably, for example, if I had my own job, I would have earned more. In the early years we had only one cafe. We didn't have a political department, a newspaper department, a workshop, etc. We only had a collective café and we lived in it. After 9 in the evening we put on sleeping bags and sleep there.
However, this was only in the early years. Soon after, we opened a political department that had its own place - half lived there and half stayed in the cafe. A little later, we opened a new place specifically to live in it. So, over time, things change, but they move for the better.
Many new people are joining the organization, we are now more than 50 people. And we started with 15-20 people.

It is probably a matter of scale - the larger the scale, the easier it is economically.
It is difficult to judge whether we are living better than we would live in the capitalist system. Because ... how do we compare the two? If we count the expensive dinners in luxury restaurants - no, we live worse. However, the people in our organization are not looking for happiness in luxury restaurants. We said "we will cook our food together, we will eat together and so it is better". If you look at where we are now and compare with the people who live in the system, we live in better conditions than one and more difficult than others. It depends on whom we compare.
However, day after day, we are trying to expand the economy. In the first year and a half, we continued to discuss needs - what are the minimum needs of a person. This is an important discussion because we wanted to decide what we ourselves needed. After a year and a half, we reached an agreement. For example, a luxury Mercedes is not needed. However, a car may be needed. The great thing about the team is that we have a method of collectively addressing individual problems. For example, you may need a car to go somewhere, and I may need a car - then we can have it collectively. So it comes out cheaper and that's the communist way.
Another important thing about the collective budget is political motivation. Because the participants in our economy are prepared to face economic problems. In the first year and a half, we were in a very difficult economic situation. It's not easy living in coffee. It is not easy to bathe with the tea machine. These were difficult times, but difficult times created political motivation. We have been through difficult times together. This makes the camaraderie stronger. We were brutally beaten by the police together, we ate together, we slept together in chairs... We didn't know each other before, it's not like we were friends or family, but when we went through all these things together, our friendship got stronger.

Of those people who started the band at the beginning, did they go away a lot? For what reasons?
Only a few. Some had family problems. Some have decided to end the resistance. But only a few.

You were all young people, weren't you?
Most, but not all. There were people in their 30s and 40s. And they are still with us.
What is fundamental to the economy is that we do not do it with economic motivation. Not to live in better conditions. The main reason is political. We want to live in a communist collective.

When you do propaganda, however, it matters whether you say "There are some people in Istanbul who live together and it's easier for them to do so" or you say "There are some people in Istanbul who live together because they want to".
When we do propaganda, we say, "There is a political organization and the people in it do everything together." The most important is political motivation. Imagine a purely economic enterprise - me, you and he make money and make coffee shops just to make more money. But if this cafe does not make money, it will not last long. And we survived. For three years, we worked elsewhere to keep Team 26A alive. During the day we worked in the cafe and in the night - in other places. It was because of political motivation - it couldn't have happened if we had purely economic motivation. Of course, if we were integrated into the capitalist system, we would have made more money. However, what our political position calls into question is, would it really be better to make more money? Is it really better suited to the needs?
At this time, we discovered this question about human needs. We tried to find the answer ... so I want to explain that the motivation is political.
There are similar examples in different places around the world. People come together and make a collective factory. They make money and work is easy when the money is enough. But when they don't, they don't go.
In fact, it is also a form of anarchist propaganda. The purpose of our organization is a social revolution. When you think of a social revolution, you must also think of the economy. And you have to create an economy. We are not saying that we are setting an example for a communist economy in the capitalist system. Not so. But we are practically creating something different from the capitalist system. We call it the "collectivist model."
Yes, we make money from tea and coffee, but it's not that important - how we use that money is important.

You get income from three different cafes. Are you raising this money in a general fund or are you redistributing the general meetings?
I'll give you an example - the cafe next to Taksim. They have rental costs, supplies and more and then they are left with some money. If others need money, we want it. Another time we work collectively for some capitalist to make money. For example, to start the Maidan newspaper, ten of us worked as waiters for three months to raise money and start a newspaper - the money from the cafes at that time was not enough.
So, once a week we meet and decide these things. Sometimes we find other ways of financing. For example, we have not paid a pound for tea so far - there is enough food on the stands in hypermarkets. In fact, small shops are almost gone. When we need something, we just take it.

There are people among you who do not work in cafes but are also part of the economy. How does this work?
Some of them work elsewhere for a fixed time. For example, one companion is a guide. He works from March to August when he has tourists, gives money to the collective budget and receives everything he needs from the team. Another is a computer engineer, he works at a salary for various companies. Things change according to our decisions - when needed, some of us work outside, but generally people who do not work outside the collective work at least one or two days a week in cafes. Another part of our time is spent on the anarchist collectives we support.

How Many Women Are There in Collectives? How many of you are family?
I think about half of us are women. We have three families with children and several more couples among friends. When we can afford it, they live in separate places from the rest. I have a son and I live in a commune with my family and two other comrades. That is, my family lives in a separate room in a place we share with other comrades.
However, consider how the families of Syrian refugees live in Istanbul? They live in three families with many children in one house. We are talking about 25 people in one house. They live because they are forced by circumstances. So we choose to live together because it is cheaper and more useful for us and for the work we do, but naturally we take into account the different needs of different people living under different conditions.

Do you have cases where people leave the team because half of them do not want to live in it?
We have an Anarchist Women Organization. They are oriented towards the fight against the patriarchy, and patriarchy is a big problem here. In January alone, in Istanbul alone, more than 40 women were killed in their families - by brothers, fathers or spouses. Men's violence against women is a big problem here. Women face violence from men every day.
From day one, the living part, the economic and social part, was important to us. Our companions were meeting women who were facing male violence at home. And their companions were saying, "Don't live there, come and live with us." Not that other women are anarchists, they just offered them refuge. Our communes are open to this kind of cases. Some people need asylum - if we can, we accept them.
We had cases where the brothers or sisters of the comrades needed a place to live. Individual communes made decisions whether or not to accept them if people accepted the principles of communes.
However, what happens when someone contacts people outside the organization? For example, if I like a girl who doesn't want to live in the commune.
Leaving the commune is not an individual decision. If you say you want to leave, they will ask you "Why?" The answer always has many dimensions, that is, the reason is not purely economic. People who have gone through this, however, always show an understanding of the team - there are never serious conflicts. People can change, not be politically motivated anymore. Of course, they can leave. This does not mean that they stop participating in the commune. Even if they have lost political motives, they usually remain in the commune for some time.
The women among us are not here because of their husbands or friends. They have their own political motivation.
If I have to imagine a connection between a politically motivated and a non-motivated person, we have no recipe ready. The main question is whether the unmotivated would be willing to live in the commune. If not, we'll try to convince him. Still, we're talking about humans, not stubborn robots. So far, however, we have not had such a case.

How do you distribute personal belongings? For example, how do I buy my own clothes if I am part of you?
First, people who are in the organization do not have that attitude. They don't say "this is mine." If you need a T-shirt, there is one unused. If you need anything else, the team has a common commitment to provide it. If you have to buy something, you take cash from the cashier and buy or buy it from the store. If you can't, someone else takes you.
The bottom line is that people in the economy and in political organization are people who disapprove of capitalist property, capitalist individualism and the capitalist system. We prefer not to say "I", "me", "mine" ... We prefer to say "we". At the same time, the individual is important for anarchism. Everyone may have his or her own place as long as the conditions allow. In a powerless society, we would have both shared and personal spaces.
However, through our organization, we prove something for ourselves. People in capitalism live privately - in their rooms, in their clothes ... Capitalism convinces you "this is your own room", "this is your own life". Usually, when you join us, one goes through a difficult period of collectivizing one's life. Because the conditions are not easy and he is accustomed to living another way.
On the other hand, it is better to live collectively. If you need to eat, you do, but the food is not yours. If I'm hungry, you can't eat only - that's the principle. *

Trade unionism in RAD
A RAD comrade tells of the experience of movement in labor struggles:
Ever since we created RAD, workers' struggles are part of the main issues we want to work on - from hospital struggles to municipal and construction workers. Exploitation is particularly heavy in the service and construction sectors. The turnover is very high, the salaries are low and the casinos do not want to work there because they have no profit.
For example, cleanliness workers in Kadakyoy municipality tried to organize themselves, were fired. That was a few years ago. They struck a six-month strike in front of the municipality to return to work. They erected tents and handed out leaflets in which they told of their struggle. Therefore, they had problems with the municipal and state police, and with the mayor of the municipality. There were about 30 people, but day after day they got tired and after 6 months 20 people remained. We were with them - we stood with them in front of the municipality while it worked, from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening.
We engage in this type of struggle and fight with people. Then we developed their struggle with our proposals. We have organized large marches with other striking workers from other parts of Istanbul. We wrote leaflets and articles about them and distributed them in different places in Istanbul.
I'll give you another example. A group of workers who sewed luxury brand clothes - even Michelle Obama's - were fired. They began to strike in front of the factory every day. We were with them. Once we heard that the next day the chief of the company from Italy would come. We contacted comrades in Italy and the next day did three promotions - in Milan, Istanbul and Livorno. In front of the company's offices.
We made a big poster in Italian and while the supervisor was passing his special car, we blocked the street with this poster and made him see it. We were sure that if the big boss came, there would be subcontracting changes here. The poster said, "This is injustice, we want jobs." We seem to have touched his heart ... or rather his pocket, because after two days the workers returned to work.
In Turkey, subcontractors are employed. Bosses of subcontractors are self-confident - if they kick someone out and don't pay him, they think they won't have a problem. "This is capitalism, go ahead." However, one of our methods is, when a subcontractor does evil, to put the problem before the main contractor. For example, there was a problem with a subcontractor of the Koch billionaire family. We went to the offices and supermarkets that belong to Koch to talk to the people there.
Another thing we do is help with lawyers. The working people here have no idea what their legal rights are. We do not convince them that the law protects their rights, but we do use the laws in court. The system has changed for two years - if you have a problem with your employer, they will not let you file a lawsuit. They made a new institution, which is not a court, but practically a group of lawyers trying to get you to negotiate with the employer. Without going to court. Because if you go to court, you usually win.
When workers in these sectors - such as the restaurant sector - have problems, they are usually pressed by managers or other managers to sign that they are leaving. We say "Don't sign, don't leave!" In different parts of Istanbul, we have organized an information campaign about the legitimate possibilities of workers and leaving work. "If you have a problem, if you are in conflict, do not sign, contact the Young Workers Association!"
There was a big restaurant here near Kadukiyo. Forcing several young people to work more than 8 hours of hard work. They came to us, talked to them and started to strike. They were waiters, they went to work, but with T-shirts on strike. They were thrown away. Then we went and started talking to customers at the entrance of the restaurant. We stopped everyone coming in and told him, "This and this owner is being harassed by our friends who work at the restaurant. If you come in and eat, that means ... "and so on. Customers not only stopped visiting it, but also started writing about it on social networks. These are the things owners in this area are afraid of - losing customers.
We do similar things in construction. Three years ago, together with two socialist groups, we were part of the Construction Workers Union. Our method is this - if it works with direct action, if there is no hierarchy, if we can strike a good balance and not create bureaucrats, we have no problems working with them. At that time it was still working out.
Perhaps 70% of general workers and 50% of construction workers are Kurds. There was a big company that didn't pay 60 people and one pound. He promised for eight months until the contractor declared bankruptcy and said he had no money to pay. When we found out, we went to the office of a large company where only rich people with luxury cars pass by. We slept there. There were 60 people sleeping on the sidewalks outside the homes of the rich, who just wanted to pay them what they promised. This is the same method. *


Free Thought is a monthly publication and official printed organ of the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria (FAB), a continuer of the powerless press in Bulgaria, dating back to 1894. Founded on May 19, 1990 in Kazanlak, during the The FAB Reconstruction Conference, the first issue of Free Thought, was released on October 15, 1990. It is written off on a voluntary basis. It is distributed by Bulgarian Posts under catalog number 649.

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