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(en) Russia, 4th general meeting of Autonomous Action in Plyos, 20th-22nd of August 2004 (report) I. (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 16 Oct 2004 22:21:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Plyos is a village famous for its magnificient paysages around Volga river,
it has been an inspiration of many classical Russian painters. It was an
excellent place for 4th general meeting of the Autonomous Action, summer
meetings of the federation have traditionally been organised in outdoor tent
camps in order to save costs.
Many were interested to see state of the federation, since general meeting
of the last year in Rostov-na-Donu collapsed due to row on the intoxication
issue. In the aftermath, Rostov anarchists had left the federation, and soon
afterwards Krasnodar group practically collapsed due to repression which got
two of its most active members jailed. A number of disputes on tactics of
the federation could not been solved due to fiasco of the previous year, and
it was about time to make those decisions. Additional stress was about
reaction of Ivanovo region police and FSB, since organs of this seriously
impoverished region have had a zero tolerance towards any anarchist activity
during last years.

In regards to all these critical moments, meeting was a moderate success.
Alltogether more than 30 people participated, which is almost as much as
last year in Rostov. Delegates from groups of Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk, Ivanovo,
Moscow, Nizhni Novgorod and Ufa came, besides these, individual members were
present from Tyumen and Yaroslavl. Delegates from Kaliningrad, Kem, Ryazan,
Saratov , Yerevan and Lesosibirsk did not came, last group was excluded
since they did not replied to any questions on their authoritarian rules and
intention to participate to local elections last February. A group from Far
East (with members in Nahodka and Vladivostok) was accepted after a
discussion - after weird Lesosibirsk experience we will not anymore accept
groups without meeting their members in person or lenghty cooperation in
internet, with such distant locations we may make an exception. Individual
member applications accepted in absence were from Astrakhan, Kaluga,
Murmansk, Perm and Vsevolzh (later had applied to join as a group). A guest
from Kirov was accepted as an individual member, guests came also from
Yekaterinburg, Berezniki of Perm region, Perm, Berlin and a member of both
Belarus Anarchist Front (BAF) and Federation of Anarchists in Belarus (FAB)
from Minsk.

Almost all important decisions could be made in the meeting, two of them
were passed to a general referendum. Food supply and other logistics was
much better organised than last year in Rostov, with exception of meeting
materials - Ryazan group which had promised to distribute them did not
published internal bulletin of the federation for unclear reasons.
Discussing draft resolutions was pretty unconfortable with only one copy
available. Reaction of officials was also not as serious as it could be,
although people could not follow even most elementary rules of conspiracy in
regards to meeting location - it was asked from home telephone numbers of
Ivanovo comrades, although they have been tapped for a long time. One
delegate even asked location in pages of Russian indymedia! Cops were
content with just writing down passport information of participators in
Saturday and Sunday.

I came late in the first evening, so I missed most of the reports from the
regions, including Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk, Ivanovo, Moscow and Nizhni
Novgorod. Kirov reported that everything is pretty disorganised, but
fascists are disorganised as well. Yekaterinburg has plenty of fascists,
whereas activists in Berezniki have to fight mainly with gopniks.

Difference between Belarussian Anarchist Front and Federation of Anarchists
in Belarus is that first one is a formal organisation, whereas another one
networks about all anarchists in Belarus, having only annual meeting as an
organ. BAF has decimated to less than 5 persons in Minsk only. KDZ Razam,
sort of left-unity initiative with participation of some anarchists is also
not really functional anymore, last number of its journal came out in
February. Having its license to publish a paper revoked, Navinki has
practically losts influence it used to have in society at large. Some of the
old-generation anarchists have become rather passive after practical end of
the Navinki-project, others develop to opportunistic direction - an example
of the latter is Levaya Alternativa (Left Alternative) - paper, which covers
anything from anarchism through social democracy to stalinism. BAF attempts
to put out a paper at least once a year, and besides that to publish a
bulletin for students. Usually anarchists go to the streets only on Mayday
and 7th of November.

Most of the anarchism in Belarus is revolving around DIY punk scene,
activities of which are however not much more than organising concerts.
Cops, fascists and KGB (in Belarus chekists prefer the good ol' label) have
worked in a touching cooperation when closing open concerts. As for the
closed concerts, officials are aware of them but do not bother to interfere.

In last spring radical anti-fascism faced a wave of repression in Minsk,
when as many as 7 anti-fascists faced different charges. These problems have
now been solved, but propably number of active anti-fascists will now leave
underground activities, expecially when nazis managed to find their home

When asked about festival "No culture without counter-culture" to be
organised in November, delegate from Minsk answered that personally he will
not participate, because it is of ngoish flavour, main initiator of the
festival being a person who has a controversial reputation in Belarussian
scene. .

There was also a report about Sankt-Petersburg situation, since one of the
delegates had been hanging in the squat Klizma around there whole summer.
Anarchists co-organise an anti-war picket every week, mainly by efforts of
Sankt-Petersburg Anarchist League, which is most stable and active group of
Association of Anarchist Movements. Punk Revival, which is having its
headquarters in the squat has plenty of activists from 14 to 22 years old.
Their activities include radical anti-fascism, last attempt of which ended
up rather shameful manner when they had to retreat through a swamp from a
punk concert in Kuzmailovo suburb which happened to be crowded almost
exclusively by boneheads.

>From Krasnodar, no-one could come, but they sent greetings that besides
problems, struggle continues! Azov local group of Autonomous Action seem to
have ceased to exist after summer protest camp of 2003, there are still
protests against methanol terminal in Azov every two weeks but they are
organised by political parties, such as Rodina and KPRF. Many activists of
Autonomous Action had participated to Perm protest camp of this summer,
unfortunately there was no time to make a evaluation of the experience in
the meeting. In general, organisational side of the camp was much better
than in Azov, but there were some problems with non-anarchists and
"anarchists" attempting to push internal workings of the camp to
authoritarian direction.

A somewhat provocative letter prepared by 2nd general meeting of Federation
of Anarcho-Communists for 4th general meeting of Autonomous Action was read
aloud (see Appendix C). It was decided that there is no need to prepare a
reply to letter. Federation of Anarcho-Communists is active in
Rostov-na-Donu and neighbouring cities, it is a member section of Federation
of Revolutionary Anarchists (FRAN) they founded last summer, together with
Council of Revolutionary Anarchist Groups (SRGA) from Yaroslavl and some
members of Moscow section of Confederation of Revolutionary
Anarcho-Syndicalists, which is representative of IWA (International Workers'
Association) in area of former Soviet Union

Common projects of Autonomous Action

Meeting schedule was decided so that common projects would be discussed in
Saturday 21st, and resolutions on conflict questions on Sunday 22nd. Purpose
of this was to stress that priority of the organisation should be practical
work, not formalities, so first ones would be discussed when people are
least exhausted. Unavoidable problem of this approach was that eventually
decisions in conflicting tactical questions were done when many delegates
had left the meeting - tradition of the federation is that when quorum is
once reached, it will be in force until end of the meeting. In this meeting
quorum was reached only hardly, 6 of the 11 local groups being presented
(more than 50% being required). In winter conference half year before,
quorum was not reached at all, and all discussions were purely informal.

First of the practical projects to be discusses was the anti-repression
work. Many people heard great news about release of Aleksei Cherepanov only
on the spot in the meeting, and some actually came late due to hangover from
the wild victory party that took place in Moscow day in prior of the
meeting. It was not only celebrations however, Moscow group criticized
others due to their passivity in face of the repressions against Aleksei
Cherepanov in Krasnodar. And Moscow group itself was due to criticism as
well - it was pretty lame that most work was done by a person, who is not
member of Autonomous Action in the first place, when clear goal of Krasnodar
FSB was to fabricate a case where federation could be shown as a criminal
organisation trading arms and hard drugs!

It was argued that work against repression of our own should always be of
first priority, since lack of solidarity in such moments will completely
demoralise whole movement. A support action such as picket should not be
weighted by its immediate gains only, it is also a way to show that we care
about each other, and will not give up in front of superior enemies.
Although release of Cherepanov was for sure due to many other factors as
well than just our efforts, our work also beared some clear fruit. Methods
to react quickly to repression in the future were discussed, and website
(www.anarchistblackcross.org.ru) and e-mail list networking various
anarchist black cross initiatives around x-USSR was announced.

During its 2 and half years of existence, there has not been very many
projects in framework of the whole federation. It is a repeated question,
wether organisation really may fulfill its purpose of coordination between
local anarchist groups, or is it just a fetish solely for identity building.
Several different analyses of this situation were presented. One point of
view was that federation is too amorphous theoretically, without an attempt
to create a common analysis on current political situation. Manifesto should
be re-edited, and although in this meeting it could be impossible to accept
a program for the federation, a committee should be formed in order to
create one. Coordinatory council should be granted new functions in order to
be effective, besides this federation should have a theoretical nucleus
producing analysis.

Completely opposite point of view was that this approach would push
federation to endless introspection, alienation from practical struggles.
Although manifesto has clear deficiencies, it was the main effort during 5
different meetings 2000-2002, and re-edition would require just as much time
and efforts as was spent back then. Theoretical materials should not be
produced in the framework of the whole federation, but by individuals and
small collectives - to be published in our common publications, but without
necessary agreement between everybody. Resolutions were described as driest
possible genre of literature, since compromise will always be reached with
sacrification of the cutting edge. Real reason of our problems is not lack
of analysis or centralization, but lack of good ideas what inter-regional
projects could be. As an example, Black Petrograd - festival to be organised
in Sankt-Petersburg 6th-8th of November was mentioned, another possible
fields of coordination could be anti-fascist projects or struggles of
dwellers against urban densification. By proponent of the first point of
view, this was defined as "revolutionary cretinism".

In some sense, latter point of view was perhaps more dominant, and since
person who proposed re-editing manifesto had to leave before time allocated
for it, proposition was never discussed. Already before meeting he withdraw
his draft proposal for a program of the federation, since considered that
discussion to be too early. Eventually this person left the federation after
meeting due to resolution which was accepted against cooperation with
authoritarian organisations. However, many people agreed that intellectual
level of the federation should be raised. It was decided, that next year
there should be common summer camp of the organisation, this maybe
supplementarily to a protest camp. It was argued, that there should be more
inter-regional action days, and also inter-regional support for local

Publications of the organisation

Currently Autonomous Action has two federal publications - journal Avtonom,
mostly edited in Moscow, and paper Situatsiya (Situation), mostly edited in
Nizhni Novgorod. In unofficial conference last february, there was a furious
discussion on Situatsiya, and many subscribed a letter whid demanded
editorial collective to voluntarily give up label of the organisation. In
this meeting fury was gone, however a number of people judged Situatsiya
hopeless as a boring and controversial paper. Other people considered
Situatsiya to be developing to a positive direction. Publication of the 5th
issue was delayed until September due to introspection of the editorial
collective on question of concept of the publication.

When discussing about concepts, one mentioned for Avtonom was "revolutionary
version of Huligan", where latter is leading journal for youth in Russian.
This note was not met with enthousiasm by some, Avtonom was criticized for
developing to popsy, boulevard, middle-class direction, and old rough
riotous style of the journal was nostalgically missed. When ridiculized,
these critics denied that they are calling for terror-porn or chemistry
recipes. It was noted that lack of a concept is a certain problem with
Situatsiya, and genres which are currently lacking include regional
publications (Veter Peremen from Kemerovo was mentioned as an example) and
Class War-type populist tabloid, which could be in a big demand. It was
noted, that both publications lack more deeper approach and proposed
solutions to problems they cover. Some Moscow activists are currently
launching a theoretical paper to which people were welcomed, although it
might be this paper will not be published under label of Autonomous Action
in order to get thinkers critical with the organisation to contribute.

Critics were responded that they are talking a lot, but contributing a
little. Currently Avtonom has to put lots of efforts to search of people
with any writing skills from outside the organisation. Avtonom.org is an
excellent resource with daily updates, but all the workload relies on one
person only. Publications could have plenty of different rubrics as Avtonom
is having already, there is no any necessity to have more than 1 or 2
articles "interesting to everybody". For many, talk about official
registration of the publications in order to reach bigger distribution
networks is talk of a devil, but in reality this discussion is not actual
until distribution of both of the publications is several times wider. It
was proposed, that question about registration should be made by general
meeting only. It was commented that publications are necessary for outreach
and their should be of practical, down-to-earth content - websites reach
only FSB and people who are radical already. It was asked whether even
publications reach any more than our own circles - they do, it is no way
there are more than 500 anarchists in Russia, whereas distribution of
Avtonom is 3 times bigger.

There was some confusion in regards to decision mechanism of the
publications - one person did not yet known that avtonom.org, Situatsiya and
Avtonom all have editorial e-mail lists to which every interested member may
subscribe. Spamming all these mails to general list was proposed but for
obvious reasons rejected idea.

Coordinatory council and fund, next conference and general meeting,
membership referenda

After row in last years meeting, another half decided to disband
coordinatory council - now however most found contiuation of this organ
necessary. It was decided that each group should choose their delegate.
Notion to raise monthly membership payment to 25 roubles was rejected, but
it was decided that membership payment will be 10 roubles (30 cents) and
payments from federative dysfunctionality period after failed last meeting
will be gathered retroactively in full size. Treasury of the organisation
was moved from Moscow to Ufa after a heated discussion, Moscow treasurer was
categorically rejecting this task having done it last 2.5 years, but a
number of people considered Ufa candidate not experienced enough for this
task. This was one of the very few decisions which had to be voted in the
meeting. 3td conference, which was decided to be organised in winter in
Nizhni Novgorod (or Moscow if Nizhni Novgorod would not be possible) was
given mandate to decide about spending of up to 50% of the treasury then.
Next general meeting was decided to be organised next summer, place and more
exact time to be decided in the winter conference. General meeting set up 5
3-month periods for general membership referenda for 2004-2005, to be
organised if questions that have to be decided urgently raise.

Old topic which popped up during the discussion was meaningfulness of the
membership payments and coordinatory council in the first place. It was
pointed out, that these are one of the few factors which differentiate
Autonomous Action from other anarchists organisations such as Rainbow
Keepers and Association of Anarchist Movements, and without such differences
there would not be any sense for existence of Autonomous Action in the first
place. It was proposed that those who do not believe to concept of the
Autonomous Action, should join these other organisations since there is
nothing wrong with them. During last 2 years, coordinatory council has been
in practice dysfunctional - reasons for this include indifference of its
participators, indeficencies in organisational principles with regards to
functionality of this organ and failure of the last meeting to create
guidelines of action for the council during 2003-2004. It was hoped that
reviewing of the organisational principles in this meeting, and giving
council mandate to govern certain parts of the funds would revitalize this
organ. Coordinatory council was given mandate to use up to 50% of the fond
until 5th general meeting. One opinion was that money should not be put to
one abstract fund, but to several project funds with a concrete function.

Resolutions of the meeting

In Sunday, meeting was to make decision on some crucial tactical issues and
reviewing of the organisational principles. First resolution was about
cooperation with authoritarian groups. These discussions already date back
for almost two years, participators have protested against Moscow group
practice to organise anti-war actions with rightist liberals, whereas some
other groups have made occasional controversial connections with
authoritarian left. Two conflicting drafts were proposed - first one was
rather liberal, allowing cooperation whenever goal of the campaign was
directly electionary or other entrance to power structure. Eventually, more
stricter policy was accepted, with clarifications that Autonomous Action may
work in the same field with authoritarians, and that connections with
individual members of authoritarian groups are allowed.

Second resolution about political prisoners was accepted with one minor
addition. Model of this resolution was policy of Moscow Anarchist Black
Cross group. Third resolution on migration was also accept almost as it was
proposed, this resolution was provoked by a strange article in 4th number of
Situatsiya, where editorial collective voiced opinions which could hardly
been judged as libertarian. Proposed resolution stating that Autonomous
Action is not a "left-wing movement" was not accepted - meeting could not
reach agreement on definition of the "left".

Last draft resolution was on division of Autonomous Action to two parts,
federation and network. This decision would be a crucial for whole
organisation, and it could perhaps solve the current situation where there
are number of active groups (such as Kaliningrad, Kem and Yerevan) who want
to have Autonomous Action-label but who do not participate to decisionmaking
process of the organisation. It is not only constant problems with the
quorum, but also a reason of frustration for those who would like to see
more dynamical organisation with common tactics and a functioning fund.
Federation would form nucleus of the movement, where those groups preferring
network would not be abided by organisational principles and resolutions but
by manifesto only. Any group agreeing with the manifesto would call itself
Autonomous Action, and thus become part of the network. Although this
resolution was strongly supported by some, it was passed to general
referendum after a vote since there were no delegates present who would
actually prefer network to federation. Such division is pointless, if there
is no demand for it.

Organisational principles of Autonomous Action regulate the practical
functioning of the organisation, whereas manifesto is the core theory. A
number of sections of the organisational principles were re-edited, most of
these where to eliminate ambiguities. Most important additions were that
further on decisions will be made with a majority of 2/3, not with a simple
majority in case consensus could not be reached, and that non-participation
to business of the federation will be sanctioned.

There was discussion about symbols of the organisation. Autonomous Action
has still not any emblem, although sabocat has become widely associated with
the Avtonom-journal and thus with the whole organisation. It was decided
that general meeting will propose general referenda to accept two different
symbols - both sabocat and stylistical combination of letter "AD" and
encircled A. Additional emblem was proposed because sabocat is difficult to
spray with a free hand.

Last decision was a minor addition to rules of the e-mail list of the
organisation. It was decided that passing materials to non-subscribers of
the list would be sanctioned, except in the case where these non-subscribers
are members of the Autonomous Action.


For following appendixes, check out a separate mail

Appendix A: Manifesto of Autonomous Action

Appendix B: Some decisions of the meeting

Appendix C: Letter from 2nd general meeting of Federation of
Anarcho-Communists to participators of the 4th general meeting of the
Autonomous Action

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