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(en) Russia, Avtonom: Change the world without seizing power? "Trends of Order and Chaos", episode 149 (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 8 Apr 2024 10:35:40 +0300

War is close ---- In recent days, and especially at the end of the week, interesting events have taken place on the border of Ukraine and the Belgorod region of Russia. For the residents of Ukraine, of course, the war is no longer "on the doorstep", but right in the house, and people there continue to die from bombings in cities. For example, in Odessa, 21 people died after a rocket attack on March 16, and there was a second attack aimed at the rescuers who were working there.
These crimes of the Russian army, as terrible as they are, have almost ceased to cause surprise - although we have no doubt that ultimately all those who gave the orders for these strikes will receive their retribution.

But that's not about that now. What's there in the Belgorod region? The main front of the war is not moving particularly anywhere after the capture of Avdeevka, but on the territory of the Belgorod region, "volunteer detachments" such as the RDK or the "Siberian Battalion" actually controlled by Ukraine have become more active again and are conducting small-scale offensive operations of a tactical scale. Belgorod itself is under attack by Grad missiles and drones. It is still difficult to understand what exactly is happening there, but it is easy to understand the reason for this activation.

So why did the Ukrainian military decide that right now it is important to show that the war also concerns the residents of Russia? Because this weekend there are so-called "elections" in Russia.

"Elections" like a circus with greenery
By the time this episode of "trends" airs, the strange event called "the election of the President of the Russian Federation" will already be over. All television channels will solemnly announce that for the next six years the country will again be ruled by Tsar Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. The dull nature of this event is not overshadowed even by occasional news about "observers were not allowed" or "a girl poured brilliant green into a trash can, and she was sent to a pre-trial detention center for this."

It's important to say this. For many years, anarchists have criticized representative democracy as such - for the fact that voters lack real control over the actions of those elected, for the fact that it reproduces hierarchical power dynamics, and so on. Instead, various variations of "participatory democracy" or "direct democracy" are proposed (at least in the future).

Even now, before Putin's electoral event, several articles have already appeared where the authors criticize the very idea of elections from libertarian positions: "What are elections?" , "Before choosing" .

And these are all correct theses; we really should strive for direct democracy, where ideally decisions are made by those who will be affected by the consequences of these decisions.

But it seems a little beside the point in this case. The event, taking place in Russia on March 15-17, 2024, is not an "election" in the traditional sense of the word. It has nothing in common with "elections" in bourgeois democracies such as the USA or European countries, except for the name and some external attributes. This is just a ritual of yet another extension of Putin's reign. So, criticizing these "elections" from the position that "representative electoral democracy is not real direct democracy" is the same as, when you see a fascist who got a job in the police, bursting out with detailed explanations of why the police are an authoritarian repressive institution . It is, of course, a repressive institution, but the immediate problem right now is the fascist, whether he works for the police or not for the police. It seems to me important to emphasize the differences between the political system of modern Russia and liberal democracies, even if we are quite critical of liberal democracies. Accordingly, it is necessary to distinguish between criticism of representative democracy (which is practically absent in Russia) and criticism of the authoritarian criminal-fascist regime (which is still present in Russia).

Returning back to the dull nature of these very "elections". We have already said in previous "Trends" that the actions of the liberal opposition associated with the "elections", such as "noon against Putin," most likely will do neither harm nor good. Now I look at numerous reports about how the Russian authorities are bending over backwards to bring as many people as possible to the polls - and I am inclined to think that there will be more harm in the long term. Firstly, because the Putin regime as a whole benefits from a picture of a high turnout at "elections" (and any numbers can be drawn; there is no control over "elections"). And secondly, and most importantly, because participation in itself in an "electoral event" leads to the fact that in people's heads the distinction between a more or less real democratic institution and its total imitation is blurred.

It is too convenient to agree to an invisible agreement like "the authorities pretend to hold elections, and we pretend to protest by voting for the non-Putin." And everyone is fine. But in the end, any radical changes become even more incredible because people get used to acting within the system of power, and according to the rules established by this system. This is the path to political passivity and stagnation, and nowhere else.

I really liked the thesis of one of the editors of the DOXA publication. In general, I advise you to read the entire article about "Putin's Message against the backdrop of Navalny's funeral," but here is one of the main conclusions:

"By the beginning of the third year of the war, I myself came to the conviction that the Russian government cannot be "outwitted" by integrating into the system. Contacts with the state and projects close to it must be kept to a minimum. And at the same time, create your own systems, perhaps secret ones; self-realization among friends ", perhaps sacrificing ambition; working against power, perhaps sacrificing standard of living."

It's called - how to say the words "underground work" without saying the word "underground work." I agree with Doxa: attempts to influence the Putin regime "from within", using its own mechanisms, are extremely ineffective, and rather even harmful, because they are easily co-opted and used by this very regime. Authoritarian dictatorships are not demolished by elections, because in authoritarian dictatorships there are no elections, there are imitative institutions.

What to do and the question of power
Of course, in response to words about the pointlessness of participating in "elections," many heard "well, what then, do nothing?!" This question is not new, and of course, even without resorting to the theory of anarchism, it is easy to see a huge range of possible activist and political actions against the Putin regime, which have at least some effect, and at the same time do not force you to become part of the system: from letters to political prisoners and donations to independent media to radical direct action.

But if we talk about a more strategic vision, that is, about goals, then the anarchists have given the answer to this question many times. Even more than 10 years ago, during the "white ribbon protests" in Russia, participants in "Autonomous Action" discussed "active non-participation." Then this concerned the issue of interaction with parliamentary parties, or parties that were striving to get into parliament. Then "active non-participation" meant the creation and development of a "non-party political organization", which in principle could grow out of "Autonomous Action".

It seems to me that this is still relevant today. If we want to turn Russia's vector of movement in the opposite direction from sliding into archaism, conservatism and fascism, then we must balance between two priorities. On the one hand, it is important to preserve and build anarchist political organizations with a clear project for an anti-authoritarian future. We need our own identity. On the other hand, it is also necessary to cooperate with a broad front of anti-war and anti-Putin movements, including liberals, and perhaps, in some places, moderate nationalists. Within the Russian Federation, such situational cooperation is understandably difficult, but for the diaspora abroad it is certainly possible. Collective efforts are always more effective than individual efforts.

But here we come to some more global contradiction. This contradiction is connected with the question of power and revolutionary changes.

The destruction of Putin's authoritarian system will inevitably be revolutionary to one degree or another, since this system does not contain mechanisms for any kind of "peaceful upgrade." How can this be done in reality? Naturally, I will not give out an entire political program now as part of the podcast; rather, I will raise questions.

As we know, anarchist politics is prefigurative: in general, this means that political ends and means must coincide. As the European anarchist, philosopher and football player Gabriel Kuhn wrote , "the construction of an egalitarian society, which provides the opportunity for free individual development, is carried out by political actors who directly implement the main values of this society - in the ways of their organization, struggle and the structure of everyday life. Self-government, mutual assistance, horizontal organizing and fighting all forms of oppression are the key principles of anarchism . "

Or the libertarian municipalism of Murray Bookchin is " to make politics moral in character and grassroots in organization ."

Therein lies the contradiction - is it possible to "change the world without seizing power", as in the book of the same name by John Halloway? Politics is often defined as the "struggle for power," but then is what we are doing "politics" at all, if in some sense we are going to destroy power as a phenomenon, "spreading" it as much as possible among all people? Sometimes this is defined as "anti-politics", but this line of thinking often leads to a lack of any activity at all, for fear of "turning into politicians."

Autonomous Action's strategy for most of its existence has actually been activism , especially street activism . Can this be called "politics" in the full sense of the word? I'm not sure. Activism in itself is not something bad, but if there is no political goal and at least an approximate understanding of how to achieve it, then you can paint graffiti, lay flowers at monuments and throw firecrackers at marginal street Nazis indefinitely - without any changes in society generally.

Now our reality is a criminal-fascist regime that is waging aggressive wars, and at the same time, with varying degrees of success, trying to appease its own population with cash handouts. It seems to me that anarchists need to think about how exactly, at least hypothetically, this regime can be overthrown, how a political or social revolution will take place, and what role anarchists themselves will play in it. The same Nestor Makhno did not engage in activism - he seized power, including through violent methods. It was only possible to hold her for a short time.

Frankly speaking, it's not that Russian-speaking anarchists are particularly bad. The global anarchist movement, in principle, does not have a detailed strategy for gaining power during revolutionary events, like, say, the Leninists. This is logical - it seems like we are not going to "seize power." For Leninists, of course, the problem is that it is possible to gain power, but somehow it turns out that it all always quickly slides into a dictatorship of the worst kind - precisely because the means contradict the goals. We don't want this, but this does not negate the need for strategy.

Is it possible to say that participatory democracy, "participatory democracy" is the "power" for which we are fighting? Or for us, "power" is the dominance of libertarian-communist values in the ideological field, much like liberal-bourgeois ideas dominate now? In a sense, the integration of anarchist ideas into mass consciousness is "power," power over minds. "An idea that captured the imagination of millions," as in Murray Bookchin. But if we only publish magazines and write on social networks, won't we inevitably become pawns in the game of other political forces who will not hesitate to use force to gain power, "power" as the ability to impose their will on others? We need to think about this.

You also need to think about which tasks are currently a priority and which are not. This is closely related to the issue of tactical and strategic actions. Tactical objectives may well be "reformist", such as "stop the war" or "overthrow Putin." On the other hand, the opposition of "strategy" and "tactics" itself is dynamic and depends on optics. Compared to raising money for an anti-war event, the collapse of Putin's dictatorship is a strategic task. But in comparison with the global goal of creating a worldwide "confederation of municipalities and neighborhoods of giant megacities, as well as cities and villages" (Bookchin again), the victory over the dictatorship of Putin's gang is just a tactical success.

Depending on what task we are focusing on at the moment, different forms of organization may be more or less effective. This is again a question of balance between a chaotic network of affinity groups as one extreme and rigid platformism with a single program and almost a hierarchy of subordination as the other extreme. Each nail has its own hammer.

And finally, the same Gabriel Kuhn, long before the war in Ukraine, wrote the following: "... if we really think seriously about revolution, we cannot turn the army and police into an eternal enemy. Almost all revolutions were based on what they involved in their ranks of the army and police. The military capabilities of guerrilla groups in a period of high-tech warfare are rapidly declining. This is a reality that we must deal with, no matter how inconvenient it may be."

The war in Ukraine showed that Kuhn was right: partisan resistance "against everyone" is really practically impossible there now; these partisans will simply be crushed into powder by the armies opposing each other. Therefore, many anarchists join the Armed Forces of Ukraine - also in the hope of exerting at least some ideological and practical influence on military structures.

Security abroad
The repressiveness of the Putin regime continues to increase, and after a short lull, attacks on his political opponents began again, including abroad, in seemingly safe countries. This is what our comrades from "Anarchist Irkutsk" write:

"Not long ago, news about an attack on Leonid Volkov spread across telegram channels. Most likely, the Russian state is behind this. Sometimes it is possible to get unwanted people even abroad. This is called transnational repression (TNR). This phenomenon did not appear yesterday. You can remember the murders of those who escaped from Kadyrov Chechen: ok, poisoning of the Skripals.

With the beginning of the war, it became clear that not only prominent oppositionists, but also any anti-war Russians, especially those trying to organize, could be subject to TNR. Russian security forces tried to put pressure on the organizers of anti-war protests in Berlin, threatened and spied on journalist Irina Dolinina, and poisoned journalists Elena Kostyuchenko and Irina Babloyan. Just recently, in February, a Russian pilot was killed after hijacking a helicopter to Ukraine."

On our own behalf, we will also add surveillance in Germany of journalists from the publication "Protocol", which wrote about the assembly of Russian military drones in Tatarstan.

In general, even if you are formally outside the control of the FSB, Center "E" and other unpleasant organizations, be careful. Be especially careful if you are doing something that brings at least some damage (material or moral) to the Kremlin. There is no need to get paranoid, but you shouldn't relax either.

Repression: Azat and Max
Inside Russia, of course, the state also has enough strength for repression. Let us remind you that in Yekaterinburg, another trial against Azat Miftakhov is nearing its end , for allegedly "justifying terrorism" right in the colony during his previous term. Azat is holding up well, we are sending him rays of support, and we encourage you to send him letters and donations to the support group.

And finally, a new column about the Ukrainian anarchist, journalist and human rights activist Maxim Butkevich has been published on the website avtonom.org. He fought as part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was captured by the occupiers and was sentenced to 13 years in prison on the absurd charge of "war crimes."

Let's end with the words of the column's author, which in many ways apply to other people:

"I heard from second hand that Max, even recently, considered himself an anarchist. I have no confidence in this, since he himself did not advertise it. And by and large, this did not play any role, since he lived exactly as he should live an anarchist ...
At work, he was involved in serious journalistic matters, including investigations about Ukrainian fascists, for which he received threats. But after work, like many activists, he began his second working day - protecting migrants. In one from the poorest countries in Europe, this is a completely thankless task. People don't understand - don't we have enough problems of our own? Who needs the rights of some incomprehensible "extremists" from Uzbekistan? These were the most vulnerable people in Ukraine, and Max needed them, many of them specifically saved lives, including many anti-fascists who fled Russia after fights with fascists or an attack on the city administration in Khimki.

There are several ways to be an anarchist. An anarchist can, for example, be an underground fighter and go into direct conflict with the authorities in any way. But an anarchist can also seek maximum opportunities to influence society through public means, but without trying to come to power. Many anarchists get into journalism or human rights advocacy this way. Max did both and excelled in both areas."

Indeed, "there are many ways to be an anarchist." Ultimately, anarchism is about individual freedom and collective action at the same time. This inevitably gives rise to fundamental contradictions. But these contradictions are the kind that do not slow down, but move forward both individual people and humanity as a whole. So the walls will collapse, and our victory is inevitable.

Well that's all for today! We remind you that in Trends in Order and Chaos, members of Autonomous Action and other authors give anarchist assessments of current events. Listen to us on YouTube , SoundCloud and other platforms, visit our website avtonom.org , subscribe to our e-mail newsletter!

Issue prepared by Mani

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