Monday, March 31, 2014

Anarcha-Feminist Gathering in Kiev‏ - GNMP 2014

GNMP-2014
 
For the 24th to 28th of april 2014 the 3rd “good night macho pride”
anarcha-feminist gathering is announced to take place in kiev, ukraine.
At the gathering will be theoretical and practical discussions related
to anarchist and feminist topics such as relations and way of talking in
groups, how to deal with insultings, consciousness of sexist behaviour
and preventation against burnout. Beneath that it is a good option to
get in touch with other anarcha-feminist groups and activists.
One important point will be presentations about anarcha-feminism and
gender related topics in the anarchist movement in the former USSR.
Another is the exchange of experiences and strategies to overcome
patriarchy.
 
If you plan to participate, write to gnmp@riseup.net until the 1st of
April, so that activist@s can plan the event.
 
More details in Russian: http://svobodna.org.ua/afisha/gnmp-2014/
 
http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lgxp1agnQA1qbrntno1_500.jpg 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prague Anarchist Bookfair - program, video etc.

{More details on the previous announcement}

2. Prague Anarchist Bookfair – invitation, video and a call for participation

Prague second anarchist bookfair is taking place on April 19.-20th. The main topic for the bookfair is „how could anarchists contribute to current massive social revolts?“
2. anarchistický festival knihy v Praze / 2nd Prague Anarchist Bookfair from Anarchistický festival knihy on Vimeo.
Video invitation here: http://vimeo.com/89827221

There are many international guests from revolting countries coming to bookfair. Their lectures are taking place both days of the bookfair since 12 till 19 o´clock. List of lectures + annotations follows below. All lectures are in English.

On Saturday evening the party with a couple of bands - First World Problem (xfirstworldproblemx.bandcamp.com), Friend Crush (https://soundcloud.com/friend-crush) and Still Breathing (https://still-breathing.bandcamp.com/) and a Djs is taking place at the venue.

Throughout both days anarcho-folk interprets would perform right between the books. Couple of workshops is also taking place throughout the day.

Included in the program is also guided Prague anarchist history walk.

International distributions and publishers are welcome – get in touch beforehand at anarchistbookfaircz@riseup.net

Looking foward to see you in Prague! All info in English is being updated here: http://anarchistbookfair.cz/english/

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Peter Gelderloos (USA/Spain) – The struggle for the streets of Barcelona

In the last few years, Barcelona has experienced an explosion of self-organized activity in the streets, with general strikes, plaza occupations, assemblies, hospital occupations, transport and student strikes, eviction resistance, and riots. Anarchists have debated about the role they should play within these struggles, and employed different practices to encourage practices of self-organization and prevent the recuperation of these movements by political parties. A comrade from Barcelona will speak about some of the successes and failures in this process.


Anarchist from Ukraine – Ukraine uprasing in the eyes of anarchists

Group of anarchists from Kyiev would talk and discuss on the recent events at Ukraine, analyse pros and cons, discuss the role or Pravij Sector, Putin and Russia etc.


Adina (Bosnia) - Role of anarchism in Bosnian uprising

After 20 years of total silence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, flame of social uprising was ignited. In February began protests that last longer than a month and experiments with direct democracy. Till today nationally divided B&H society united in the class solidarity. Protest movement today is in critical stage - in one hand it's under police repression, charges of

terrorism which take protesters in police stations every week and media propaganda and in other hand is NGOisation of part of movement and internal conflicts between peaceful protesters and protesters who don't want to stay silent and ignore police violence.


CrimethInc (USA) – Anarchism and the New Global Revolts

From Brazil to Ukraine and Bosnia, rebellion is expanding in both exciting and frightening directions. What common threads connect the occupied squares and torched police cars? A rogue operative from the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers' Collective returns to Europe to offer reflections on anarchy in the new era of global revolt! This dynamic presentation will explore today's global uprisings in relation to policing, citizenship, and democracy. As economic crises necessitate ever wider policing, what new opportunities for revolt will arise? As conflicts over nationality and migration intensify, what alternatives can we present to liberal notions of citizenship? As trust in government erodes, what visions can anarchists offer beyond representative democracy? Our struggles must spread narratives and tactics that contest the legitimacy of these forces – and the future of freedom hangs in the balance.


Anarchist Black Cross Belaruss – Presentation on the book „Going to Magadan“

Anarchist prisoner Ihar Alinevich was kidnapped by plaincloth cops in Moscow and illegally extradited to Belarus, where he was imprisoned for 8 years with incrimination in group hooliganism and intentional destruction of property. In 2013 the book “On the Way to Magadan” compiled of essays from his prison letters was released. Magadan is the city on the far East of Russia which during Stalin times was a major transit point for political prisoners sent to labor camps. Uhar Alinevich is making some comparisons of the prison conditions and his own state between Belarus and Magadan.


International ABC collective – Global week of sildarity with political prisoners

Opening speech „Why to start and what to do?“ and discussion about a global week of solidarity with anarchist political prisoners, which is taking place on 23-30 August 2014


Support-group Solidarity Against Repression Vienna - Criminalization of refugee protests in the broader context

In Austria there is a trial going on against eight people accused of being part of a criminal organization of „human smuggling.“ Some of the accused were involved in the refugee-movement Vienna, they were arrested end of July 2013, after big protests against the deportation of several activists of the refugee-movement. Since then they have been imprisoned, in March 2014 the trial has started.

This trial is a criminalization, not only of a strong anti-racist movement, but of all undocumented border-crossings. The lecture will inform about this ongoing trial in Vienna and bring it to a broader context of repression against social movements, racism, criminalization of migration and the fight for freedom of movement.


Panel discussion on the main topic of the bookfair („how could anarchists contribute to current massive social revolts?“) with Peter Gelderloos, CrimethInc, Adina from Bosnia and anarchist from Ukraine


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Goodbye to the future

Goodbye to the future
An environmentalism that appeals to the future will come too late.
Everyone knows that the past is a foreign country, far fewer realise that the same is true of the future. The ability of humankind to engage with the future is, in fact, even more limited than their ability to engage with the past. This is not illogical, for whilst the past is concrete, real, the future is a tangled web of potentialities and causalities, with everything that does happens colliding with everything else that could happen. Quite simply, the future is a fucking mess.
Sadly it is upon this fucking mess that the environmental movement has chosen to construct its entire argument. “We must act today to save tomorrow” is the cry of the global greens. Great sacrifices must be made immediately for a reward launched far into the distant future. But such a reward it is! Yes, it may be far away now, but one day, dear friend, you may not be flooded! You may not starve! You might not even suffer more than you do already!
Such is the dismal promise of environmentalism. It is on this territory that it fought, and it is on this territory that it lost. There are many reasons, but most fundamental amongst them is this question of temporality. “We must act today to save tomorrow” is a slogan as catchy as it is cataclysmically wrong. Firstly, humans will not fight for the distant future. They might struggle for a better wage tomorrow, the protection of a local park or the preservation of their children’s school. The potent and popular struggle against fracking proves this point. Couched in the cold reality of a hulking rig in your backyard, anti-fracking has become the lifeblood of the European environmental movement. People will willingly put their livelihoods and even their lives on the line to prevent immediate material threats, but they will not do the same for the sake of the world in fifty years’ time.
But even if they did, even if humanity upped its cognitive sticks and redefined the territory of its groupthink, the exercise would be utterly pointless. Let us presume such a thing as a “green capitalism” is possible, that the relentless search for surplus is compatible with the preservation of the planet. Whatever this reformed system might look like, it is clear we are very far from it today. In order to leap into this brave new world, a transition of gargantuan proportions is necessary. Firstly we would need to see some of the largest energy companies on earth give up fossil fuels in favour of renewables. In 2012 Exxon Mobil had net profits of $44.88 billion, its total assets amounting to $333.795 billion.1 To bring these numbers into perspective, compare them with the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, who in 2010 reported net profits of €156 million and total assets of €7.066 billion.2 We mention assets in this context as it is worth thinking of the huge carbon stockpiles possessed by the big energy companies. Exxon Mobil's reserves were 72 billion oil-equivalent barrels at the end of 2007.3 In 2013, Mobil announced it was replacing these reserves at a rate of 115%.4 That Mobil would willingly leave these resources in the ground for a notional payment of 50% of their value, as some have proposed, seems hopelessly utopian.5 Secondly we would have to see a global commitment to sustainable resource extraction. Mining, forestry, fishing, the industrialised harvesting of Earth’s bounty would have to be greatly limited. Given the amount large companies have invested in the means by which these processes are carried out, it seems highly unlikely this will happen anytime soon.
Thus the crux of the matter is not “can you build a green capitalism” but “can you build a green capitalism in time”? This is not an abstract academic exercise, but a race in which there are definite deadlines. Primary amongst these is the 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature, which, under current projections, will need to be revised upwards within the next decade.6 This 2 degrees change signals the point at which "dangerous climate change” is unleashed. Given the amount of devastation that already surrounds us, it is sobering to think what “dangerous climate change” might actually look like. In addition to this we have the prospect of global collapse of integral ecosystems. As early as 2006, a third of the worlds fisheries had collapsed, by 2050 it is eminently possible that every single fishery on Earth will have followed suit.7
All the available evidence points to a simple conclusion; even if green capitalism is possible, it cannot be adopted in time to stave off increasingly severe collapses.
Unfortunately, the situation is actually even worse than this. In July 2011 the respected climate scientist Kevin Anderson made a speech in which he said that averting dangerous climate change is no longer possible.8 The potent effects previously associated of the 2 degree rise were actually based on a series of miscalculations.9 In reality it would only take a 1 degree rise in global temperatures to trigger “dangerous climate change”. 10 Up till now humanity has been cowering from a bullet we thought was speeding towards us. It turns out we’re in shock. The bullet isn’t in flight, its already hit us. The disaster we thought was in the future has actually already happened, now we have a matter of moments to save ourselves. Tomorrow is too late, for we will bleed out long before then. Everything must be done at a ferocious, frantic pace. No future, to survive we must act now.
As an utter necessity we must abandon the future, for we cannot win there. No future, for we will never convince the majority to fight for the sake of a time they cannot imagine. No future, for capital will always defeat any strategy based on a next-ness, for against airy notions of tomorrow’s world, they can posit the cold hard facts of today counted out in wages and jobs. No future, because, right now, there is literally no future, right now we are condemned to collapse.
But “no future” alone is a nihilistic thing to cry. To survive we must couple bleak reality with the utopian impulse. No Future, Utopia Now. Let us jettison the notion of gradual change. There is no time for a transition. Let us pledge ourselves unflinchingly to a utopia. Not a distant one, not an imaginary thrown out into the future, but one we can build right now. One in which work is all but abandoned, in which the liberation of every minority is a priority, in which collective well-being is the only ideology. In which the machines which previously worked against Earth and its inhabitants are turned into the mechanisms of their preservation and emancipation.
The new utopian movement will not be Eurocentric. It will incorporate that which is vibrant right now, the indigenous awakening which dwarfs the struggles in Europe. Idle No More in North America and the anti-dam struggles in the South, have shown a nascent potency which only blossoms when the government sends in cops or troops. Real hope is revealed in the light from burning cop cars outside Elsipogtog.11 The new movement cannot limit itself to that which is legal. As things stand, the destruction of Earth stands well within the law. Actions for its preservation, much less so.
The current system of production poses an existential threat, a threat against which collective action is our only hope. Thus we come to the Luddites - and not out of a primitivist desire for a return to a pre-industrial utopia. What is important about the Luddites was that they recognised that their own welfare existed in contradiction with the welfare of current industry.
“Around and around we all will stand
And eternally swear we will,
We'll break the shears and windows too
And set fire to the tazzling mill.”
How Gloomy And Dark. Luddite Song.
To propose a modern environmental movement based on frame-breaking may sound an absurd anachronism. However, on the day we began to write this piece, villagers in Baha, south-western China stormed a factory that had been polluting their land, smashing its offices and equipment. One of the villagers who participated in the attack is quoted as saying; "we have been living with the factory for 14 years, and we live in dust almost every day and can't sell our rice and other farm products… We need to live."12 Such a lucid conception of the incompatibility of this system of production with the wellbeing of those who live under it must be generalised. Despite this, it is worth remembering that the system is vulnerable in a thousand ways. Just as potent as an anti-industrial strategy would be an intelligent industrial one. When the capitalist class attempted to destroy the green spaces of Sydney in the 1970s, the city’s inhabitants turned to the syndicalist New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation (BLF). The BLF passed Green Bans upon the spaces at risk, agreeing that none of its members would work on the sites. The bans would eventually hold up as many as 40 developments worth over $5 billion.13
Despite the bleak reality, there is hope. There are those willing to give up their lives to destroy this collapsing dystopia and build anew amidst the ruins. What we need is a message which captures this willingness, and mechanisms by which it may be challenged to alternately destructive and constructive ends. More than any struggle before this, we need a variety of weapons and tools. We need to materialise solidarity with those still fighting the settlers on their land, and link their struggle with the global battle for survival. Paradoxically, this is a struggle we cannot win as long as we define it in terms of survival alone. We must promise the earth to all those willing to save it.
http://25.media.tumblr.com/65b382aa282b45a9c35af246e0be145f/tumblr_n1p2dpG6GS1rsrc49o1_400.jpg
[Footnotes and discussion here:  http://libcom.org/blog/goodbye-future-24022014  ]

Friday, March 14, 2014

Anarchists from Petrozavodsk, Russia kidnapped, injured by people in masks

Anarchists, organizers of demonstration "Against the war in Ukraine" in
Petrozavodsk, Russia were kidnapped and seriously injured by unknown
people in masks.
 
On 9th of March, along with the traditional Food Not Bombs action,
demonstration "Against the war in Ukraine" supposed to happen in
Petrozavodsk, for a peaceful solution of tense situation there and
prevention of bloodshed continuation.
 
On 8th of March evening, two organizers of the demo and one of their
friend were attacked. Two cars arrived and a dozen strong men in masks
immediately went to a fight. They were screaming "You f*cking want to
give away our Crimea to Bandera people?", "You will learn how to
demonstrate, ***" and so on. After a quick but technical execution
attackers got straight back into cars and drove away.
 
The next morning, half an our before the demo, while leaving the house
after cooking for Food Not Bombs four participants of the action and the
demo  were again attacked by unidentified masked men, beaten again and
pushed into two cars and driven away. As it became known later they were
taken to a forest, 40-45 km from the city. On the way they were told by
attackers that they are going to dig their graves, all the way they were
being beaten and abused. After arrival victims were taken out from the
car one by one in different places(each one was followed by 3-4 masked
people and after this car drove some distance), again beaten up and
abused. Police batons and wrapped in polyethylene chains were used.
Attackers were threatening to cripple or kill.
 
Meanwhile, some unknown people came to the demo with provocative signs,
irrelevant to the demonstration topic, made a photo and fled away, so
the breakdown of the demo was clearly planned. Participants of the
event, as well as other social activists, have very reason to fear for
the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
 
Please share this information
 
http://avtonom.org/en/news/anarchists-petrozavodsk-russia-were-kidnapped-and-seriously-injured-unknown-people-masks

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

War on War! Declaration of Internationalists in Connection with the Threat of War in Ukraine

War on war! Not a single drop of blood for ‘the nation’!
 The struggle for power among the oligarchic clans of Ukraine threatens to escalate into an international military conflict. Russian capitalism intends to take advantage of the redivision of Ukrainian state power in order to achieve its long-established imperial and expansionist ambitions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, where it has solid economic, financial, and political interests.
 On the threshold of the next phase of the economic crisis in Russia, the ruling regime is inciting Russian nationalism in an attempt to divert the attention of working people away from growing socioeconomic problems, their miserable wages and pensions, and the dismantling of affordable healthcare, education, and other social services. Amid the din of nationalist and bellicose rhetoric it is easier to complete the formation of a corporate authoritarian state based on reactionary values and repressive policies.
 In Ukraine an extremely acute economic and political crisis led to an intensification of the struggle between ‘old’ and ‘new’ oligarchic clans. The ‘old’ clans used various forces, including paramilitary ultra-rightist and ultra-nationalist formations, to carry out a coup d’état in Kiev. The political elite of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine do not intend to share their power and property with the latest rulers in Kiev and are seeking assistance from the Russian state. Both sides are resorting to unrestrained nationalist hysteria—Ukrainian and Russian, respectively. Armed clashes are taking place. Blood is being shed. The Western powers have their own interests and ambitions; their intervention in the conflict may lead to World War Three.
 As usual, the warring cliques of our masters force us—ordinary people, whether wage workers, unemployed, students or pensioners—to fight for their interests. Intoxicating us with the narcotic drug of nationalism, they set us against one another and make us forget our real needs and interests. Their ‘nations’ are no business of ours. We have much more vital and pressing problems to deal with—how to make ends meet under the system that they have established in order to enslave and exploit us.
 Don’t get carried away by the nationalist hysteria! To hell with their states and ‘nations’ with their flags and anthems! This is not our war, and we should not take part in it and pay with our blood for their palaces, bank accounts and state offices. And if our masters in Moscow, Kiev, Lvov, Kharkov, Donetsk and Simferopol start it, our duty is to resist by all available means!
 Down with war between peoples! Down with peace between classes!
 Signed by:
Russian Section of the International Workers’ Association
Internationalists of Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Israel, Lithuania, Romania and Poland
Federation of Anarchists of Moldova
Fraction of Revolutionary Socialism (Ukraine)
The declaration is open to new signatories.
{Translated by Stefan from Russian text at http://www.aitrus.info/node/3607}

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Ukrainian Example: The Makhnovists in the Liberated Regions

 [In these days when "experts' of every description and affiliation are coming out of the woodwork to tell us what the immanent events will be in the Ukraine, we are going to reveal to you that we don't have a clue. So in leaving the prognosticatory field to the academics and other bloviatii, we want to wish our comrades and the working people in the Ukraine our solidarity, and our best - which we will partly do by offering you, our readers, what is, in our opinion, one of their best, and hope that remembering it will inspire them, and remind us all what can be done. A better world is not merely possible. It is necessary. - a.]

The permanent armed struggle, the life of a “kingdom on wheels” which denied the population of the Makhnovist region any kind of stability, also denied them, inevitably, the possibility of extensive positive and constructive activity. Nevertheless, whenever it was possible, the movement gave evidence of great organic vitality and the working masses demonstrated a remarkable creative will and capacity.
Let us give a few examples. We have spoken, more than once, of the Makhnovist press. Despite the various obstacles and difficulties of the time, the Makhnovists, who remained in direct contact with the Anarchist “Nabat” Federation, continued to publish leaflets, newspapers, etc. They even found time to produce a sizeable booklet, under the title General Theses of the Revolutionary (Makhnovist) Insurgents Concerning the Free Soviets.
The newspaper Road to Freedom which sometimes appeared daily and sometimes weekly, was primarily devoted to the popular and concrete exposition of libertarian ideas. Nabat, concerned more with theory and doctrine, appeared every week. We should also mention The Makhnovist Voice, a newspaper which dealt primarily with the interests, problems and tasks of the Makhnovist movement and its army.
As for General Theses, this pamphlet summarised the Makhnovist’s views on the burning problems of the hour: the economic organisation of the region and the free Soviets; the social basis of the society that was to be built, the problem of defence, the exercise of justice, etc.
A question frequently asked is: How did the Makhnovists behave in the cities and towns that they took in the course of the struggle? In what way did they organise the civil population? In what way did they organise the life of the conquered cities, i.e. administration, production, trade, municipal services, etc.?
Since a great many myths and slanders have circulated on this subject, it is necessary to expose them and establish the truth. And since I was with the Makhnovist army at the very time when, after the battle of Peregonovka, they took several important cities, such as Alexandrovsk, Ekaterinoslav and others, I can give the reader a first-hand and accurate account.
The first concern of the Makhnovists, as soon as they entered some city as conquerors, was to remove the dangerous misunderstanding that they were a new power, a new political party, a kind of dictatorship. They immediately posted on the walls large notices in which they said approximately the following to the population:
“To all the workers of the city and its environs!
“Workers, your city is for the present occupied by the Revolutionary Insurrectionary (Makhnovist) Army. This army does not serve any political party, any power, any dictatorship. On the contrary, it seeks to free the region of all political power, of all dictatorship. It strives to protect the freedom of action, the free life of the workers, against all exploitation and domination.
“The Makhnovist Army does not therefore represent any authority. It will not subject anyone to any obligation whatsoever. Its role is confined to defending the freedom of the workers. The freedom of the peasants and the workers belongs to themselves, and should not suffer any restriction.
“It is up to the workers and peasants themselves to act, to organise themselves, to reach mutual understanding in all fields of their lives, in so far as they desire it, and in whatever way they may think right.
“They must, therefore, know right away, that the Makhnovist Army will not impose on them, will not dictate to them, will not order them to do anything. The Makhnovists can only help them, by giving them opinions or advice, by putting at their disposal the intellectual, military and other forces that they need. But they cannot, and, in any case, will not govern them or prescribe for them in any way.”[28]
Nearly always these notices ended with an invitation to the working population of the city and its environs to attend a big meeting where the Makhnovist comrades would set forth their views in a more detailed manner, and give, if necessary, some practical advice for beginning to organise the life of the region on a basis of freedom and economic equality, without authority and without the exploitation of man by man.
When, for some reason, such an invitation could not appear on the same notice, it was made a little later, by means of a small special notice.
Usually, although at first a little surprised by this absolutely new way of acting, the population quickly got used to the situation, and set about the task of free organisation with great enthusiasm and success.
It goes without saying that in the meantime, reassured about the attitude of the “military force”, the city’simply resumed its normal appearance and its usual way of life; the shops reopened, work started again where it was possible, the various administrations resumed their functions, the markets were held. Thus, in an atmosphere of peace and freedom, the workers prepared for positive activity to replace the old worn-out system in a methodical manner.
In each liberated region, the Makhnovists were the only organisation with enough forces to be able to impose their will on the enemy. But they never used these forces for the purpose of domination or even for any political influence. They never used them against their purely political or ideological opponents. The military opponents, the conspirators against the freedom of action of the workers, the police, the prisons, these were the elements against which the efforts of the Makhnovist army were directed.
As for free ideological activity, exchange of ideas, discussion, propaganda and the freedom of organisations and associations of a non-authoritarian nature, the Makhnovists guaranteed, everywhere and integrally, the revolutionary principles of freedom of speech, press, conscience, assembly, and political, ideological or other association. In all the cities and towns that were occupied, they began by lifting all the prohibitions and repealing all the restrictions imposed on the organs of the press and on political organisations by whatever power.
At Berdiansk, the prison was dynamited, in the presence of an enormous crowd, which took an active part in its destruction. At Alexandrovsk, Krivoi-Rog, Ekaterinoslav and elsewhere, the prisons were demolished or burned. Everywhere the workers cheered this act.
Complete freedom of speech, press, assembly and association of any kind and for everyone was immediately proclaimed. Here is the authentic text of the Declaration in which the Makhnovists made known this proposition in the localities they occupied.
“I. All Socialist[29] political parties, organisations and tendencies have the right to propagate their ideas, theories, views and opinions freely, both orally and in writing. No restriction of Socialist freedom of speech and press will be allowed, and no persecution may take place in this domain.
“Remark: — Military communiques may not be printed unless they are supplied by the management of the central organ of the revolutionary insurgents, the Road to Freedom.
“II. In allowing all political parties and organisations full and complete freedom to propagate their ideas, the Makhnovist Insurgent Army wishes to inform all the parties that any attempt to prepare, organise and impose a political authority on the working masses will not be permitted by the revolutionary insurgents, such an act having nothing in common with freedom of ideas and propaganda.
Ekaterinoslav, November 5th, 1919.
Revolutionary Military Council of the Makhnovist Insurgent Army.”
In the course of the whole Russian Revolution, the period of the Makhnovtchina in the Ukraine was the only one in which the true freedom of the working masses found full expression. While the region remained free, the workers of the cities and districts occupied by the Makhnovists could say and do, for the first time, anything they wanted and as they wanted. And furthermore, they at last had the opportunity to organise their life and work themselves, according to their own judgment, according to their own feelings of justice and truth.
During the few weeks that the Makhnovists spent at Ekater-inoslav, five or six newspapers of various political orientations appeared with full freedom — the Right Social-Revolutionary paper Narodovlastie (The People’s Power), the Left Social-Revolutionary Znamia Vostania (The Standard of Revolt), the Bolshevik Star, and others. To tell the truth, the Bolsheviks had less right to freedom of press and association, because they had destroyed, everywhere that they could, the freedom of press and association for the working class, and also because their organisation at Ekaterinoslav had taken a direct part in the criminal invasion of the Gulai-Polya region in June 1919 and it would have been only justice to inflict a severe punishment on them. But, in order not to injure the great principles of freedom of speech and assembly, they were not disturbed and could enjoy, along with all the other political tendencies, all the rights inscribed on the banner of the social revolution.
The only restriction that the Makhnovists considered necessary to impose on the Bolsheviks, the Social-Revolutionaries and other statists was the prohibition against the formation of those Jacobin “revolutionary committees” which sought to impose a dictatorship on the people. Several occurrences proved that this measure was not unjustified.
As soon as the Makhnovist troops took Alexandrovsk and Ekaterinoslav, the local Bolsheviks, coming out of their hiding places, hastened to organise this kind of committee (the “Rev-Coms”) seeking to establish their political power and govern the population. At Alexandrovsk, the members of such a committee went so far as to propose to Makhno a “division of spheres of action”, leaving him the military power and reserving for the committee full freedom of action and all political and civil authority. Makhno advised them to “go and take up some honest trade”, instead of seeking to impose their will on the labouring population. A similar incident occurred at Ekaterinoslav.
This attitude of the Makhnovists was just and logical. Precisely because they wanted to insure and defend full freedom of speech, press, organisation, etc., they could without any hesitation take any measure against those formations which sought to stifle this freedom, to suppress other organisations and impose their will and dictatorial authority on the working masses.
And the Makhnovists did not hesitate to do so. At Alexandrovsk, Makhno threatened to arrest and shoot all the members of the “Rev-Com” if they made the least attempt of this nature. He acted in the same way at Ekaterinoslav. And when, in November 1919, the commander of the 3rd Insurrectionary (Makhnovist) Regiment, Polonsky, who had Communist leanings, was convicted of having participated in this kind of action, he was executed along with his accomplices.
At the end of the month, the Makhnovists were forced to leave Ekaterinoslav. But they had time to demonstrate to the working masses that true freedom resided in the hands of the workers themselves, and that it began to radiate and develop as soon as the libertarian spirit and true equality of rights were established among them.
Alexandrovsk and the surrounding region were the first places in which the Makhnovists remained for a fairly long time. Immediately, they invited the working population to participate in a general conference of the workers of the city.
The conference began with a detailed report by the Makhnovists on the military situation in the district. Then it proposed that the workers organise the life of the liberated region themselves, that is to say reconstruct their organisation that had been destroyed by the reaction; get the factories and shops back into production as soon as possible, organise Consumers’ Co-operatives, get together right away with the peasants of the surrounding countryside and establish direct and regular relations between the workers’ and peasants’ organisations for the purpose of exchanging products, etc.
The workers enthusiastically acclaimed all these ideas. But, at first, they hesitated to carry them out, troubled by their novelty, and moreover, uncertain because of the nearness of the front. They feared the return of the Whites — or the Reds — in the near future. As always, the instability of the situation prevented positive work.
Nevertheless, matters did not rest there. A few days later, a second conference took place. The problems of organising life according to the principles of self-administration by the workers were examined and discussed with animation. Finally the conference reached the crucial point — the precise way to go about it, the first step to take.
The proposition was made to form a Commission of Initiative, composed of delegates of several active labour unions. The conference would give this Commission the task of working out a project for immediate action. Several members of the railway-men’s and the shoemakers’ unions declared that they were ready to organise immediately this Commission of Initiative which would proceed to create the indispensable workers’ organs, to reactivate, as quickly as possible, the economic and social life of the region. The Commission went energetically to work. Soon the railway workers got the trains running again, several factories reopened their doors, several unions were re-established, etc.
While waiting for more fundamental reforms, it was decided that the money in use — a kind of paper money of various issues — would continue to serve as a means of exchange. But this problem was of secondary importance, since for some time the population had been using other methods of exchange.
Shortly after the workers’ meetings, a big regional congress of workers was called at Alexandrovsk for October 20th, 1919. This congress deserves particular attention, since it was very exceptional in the way it was organised, in its procedures and in its accomplishments. I was an active participant and can give a detailed account
In taking the initiative of calling a regional workers’ congress, the Makhnovists had assumed a very delicate task. They hoped to give an important impetus to the activity of the population, which was necessary, praiseworthy and understandable. But on the other hand, they had to avoid imposing themselves on the congress and the population, they had to avoid the appearance of dictating.
It was important, above all, that this congress should be different from those called by the authorities of a political party (or a dominant caste), who would submit to the congress ready-made resolutions, destined to be adopted docilely, after a semblance of discussion, and imposed on the so-called delegates, under threat of the repression of all eventual opposition. Moreover, the Makhnovists had a number of questions concerning the Insurrectionary Army to submit to the congress. The fate of the army and the whole task it had undertaken depended on the way the congress answered these questions. But, even in this special field, the Makhnovists tried to avoid any kind of pressure on the delegates.
To avoid all pitfalls, the following was decided:
1. No “electoral campaign” would take place. The Makhnovists confined themselves to notifying the villages, organisations, etc. that they should elect and send a delegate or delegates, to a workers’ congress at Alexandrovsk on October 20th. Thus the population could designate and instruct their delegates in complete freedom. 2. At the opening of the congress, a representative of the Makhnovists would explain to the delegates that the congress had been called, this time by the Makhnovists themselves, since problems concerning the Insurrectionary Army as such were the main questions to be discussed; that, at the same time, the congress certainly had to settle problems concerning the life of the population; that in both cases, its deliberations and decisions would be absolutely free from all pressure, and the delegates would not be exposed to any danger, whatever their attitude might be; and, finally, that this congress should be considered an extraordinary one, and that the workers of the region should subsequently call, on their own initiative, their own congress, which they should carry on as they wished, to settle the problems of their lives. 3. Directly after the opening, the delegates should themselves elect the board of the congress, and modify to suit themselves the agenda which was proposed to them — and not imposed on them — by the Makhnovists.
Two or three days before the congress, I experienced a curious episode. One evening, a very young man presented himself to me. He identified himself as Comrade Lubim, a member of the local committee of the Left Social Revolutionary party. I immediately noticed his overwrought condition, and, in great excitement, he went to the point that had led him to come to me without any preliminaries.
“Comrade V.”, he cried, pacing up and down in the little hotel room in which we were, “Excuse my crudeness, but the danger is immense. You are certainly not aware of it. And there is not a minute to lose. Very well, you are Anarchists, therefore Utopians, and therefore naive. But you can’t carry your naivete to the point of stupidity. You haven’t even the right to do it, since it isn’t only a question of yourselves, but of other people and of a whole cause.”
I confessed that I did not understand a word of his tirade.
“Now then,” he continued, more and more excited, “you call a congress of peasants and workers. This congress will have enormous importance. But you are such babies! in your ineffable naivete, what do you do? You send out little slips of paper on which is scrawled that a congress will take place! That is all. It’s frightening, it’s crazy. No explanation, no propaganda, no electoral campaign, no list of candidates, nothing, nothing! I beg you, Comrade V., open your eyes a little! In your situation, you have to be a little realistic, after all! Do something, while there is still time. Send agitators, present candidates to the voters. Give us time to make a little campaign. For what would you say if the population — who are mainly peasants — send you reactionary delegates who demand the calling of the Constituent Assembly, or even the restoration of the monarchy? The people are seriously influenced by the counter-revolution. And what would you do if the majority of the delegates are counter-revolutionary and sabotage your congress. Act, therefore, before it is too late! Postpone the congress a little while and take some steps.”
I understood. As a member of a political party, Lubim saw things in that way.
“Listen, Lubim,” I said to him, “If, in the existing conditions, in the midst of a popular revolution, and after everything that has happened, the working masses send counter-revolutionaries and monarchists to their own congress, then the whole of my life’s work will have been a profound error, and I shall have only one thing to do — to blow out my brains with that revolver you see on my desk.”
“We must talk seriously.” he interrupted, “and not dramatise ...”
“I assure you, Comrade Lubim, that I am talking very seriously. We will change nothing in our procedure, and if the congress is counter-revolutionary, 1 will kill myself. I could not survive such a terrible disillusionment. And now, please take note of one basic fact. It is not / who am calling the congress, nor was it I who decided how to call it. All that is the work of a group of comrades. I have no power to alter anything.”
“Yes, I know, but you have great influence. You could propose a change. They would listen to you.”
“I have no desire to propose it, Lubim, since we are all in agreement.”
The conversation ended, and Lubim, unconsoled, left me.
On October 20th, 1919, more than two hundred delegates, peasants and workers, met in the congress hall. Beside the delegates, several places were reserved for representatives of the right-wing Socialist Parties — Social-Revolutionaries and Menshe-viks — and those of the Left-Social-Revolutionaries. They all attended the congress with a consultative voice. Among the Left-Social-Revolutionaries I saw Comrade Lubim.
What struck me especially on that first day of the congress was a coldness or rather a mistrust which nearly all the delegates seemed to manifest. We learned later that they expected a congress like so many others; they expected to see on the platform men with revolvers in their belts who would manoeuvre the delegates and make them vote for resolutions which had been prepared in advance. The meeting was frozen, and it took some time to thaw it.
I had the job of opening the congress, and I gave the delegates the agreed explanations and declared that they should first elect an executive committee and then consider the agenda proposed by the Makhnovists.
The members of the congress wished me to preside over their meetings. I consulted my comrades and then agreed. But I declared to the delegates that my role would be strictly limited to the technical conduct of the congress, that is, to following the agenda that was adopted, to recognising the speakers, giving them the floor, facilitating the order of business, etc., and that the delegates should deliberate and reach their decisions in complete freedom, without fearing any pressure or manoeuvring from me.
Immediately a right-wing Socialist asked for the floor. He delivered a violent attack on the organisers of the congress. “Comrade delegates,” he said, “we Socialists consider it our duty to warn you that a disgraceful comedy is being acted here. They are not imposing anything on you, they say! Yet already they have very adroitly imposed an Anarchist chairman on you, and you will continue to be manoeuvred by these people.”
Makhno, who had arrived a few minutes earlier to wish the congress good luck and excuse himself for having to leave for the front, took the floor and replied sharply to the Socialist speaker. He reminded the delegates of the complete freedom of their election, and, accusing the Socialists of being the faithful defenders of the bourgeoisie, he advised their representatives not to disturb the work of the congress by political interventions. “You are not delegates,” he ended, “Therefore, if the congress does not please you, you are free to leave.”
Nobody opposed this, and four or five Socialists demonstratively left the hall, protesting vehemently at such an “expulsion”. Nobody seemed to regret their departure. On the contrary, the meeting seemed satified and a little less frigid than before.
After this interruption, one of the delegates got up to speak. “Comrades,” he said, “before passing to the agenda, I would like to submit a preliminary question which, in my opinion, is of great importance. Just now, a word was mentioned here — the bourgeoisie. Clearly, the bourgeoisie is being attacked as if we knew perfectly what it is, and as if everyone were in agreement about it. But this seems to me a great error. The term bourgeoisie is not clear to everybody. And I am of the opinion that because of its importance it would be useful, before we set to work, to define it precisely and know what exactly we mean by it.”
Despite the orator’s skill (I felt that notwithstanding his simple peasant costume he was not a real peasant), the gist of his speech demonstrated clearly that we had among us a defender of the bourgeoisie and that his intention was to sound out the congress and if possible to undermine the spirit of the delegates. He certainly expected to be supported — consciously or ingenuously — by an appreciable number of delegates. If he had succeeded, the congress would have been in danger of falling into ridiculous confusion, and its work might have been seriously disturbed.
The moment was tense. I had, as I had just explained to the congress — no right to impose myself and eliminate by some simple device the delegate’s unfortunate proposal. It was up to the congress, to the other delegates, to decide the question in complete freedom. Their mentality was not yet evident. All of them were unknowns, and obviously very distrustful unknowns at that. Deciding to let the incident take its course, I asked myself what was going to happen. And Lubim’s apprehensions occurred to me.
As all these thoughts passed rapidly through my mind, the delegate finished his speech and sat down. For a moment, I saw distinctly, the gathering was puzzled. Then, quite suddenly and almost as if it had been arranged in advance, delegates began to call out from all over the hall.
“Hey, what kind of a bird is this delegate? Where does he come from? Who sent him? If he doesn’t know what the bourgeoisie is after everything that has happened, they made a queer choice in sending him here! Tell us old boy, haven’t you found out yet what the bourgeoisie is? Well, you must have a thick skull. You’d better go home and find out, or else keep quiet and don’t take us for idiots.”
“We have other things to do than waste time splitting hairs,” cried other delegates. “There are questions to settle which are important for the whole region. And for more than an hour we have been fooling around instead of working. It’s beginning to look like sabotage. Let’s get to work.”
“Yes, yes, enough fooling, let’s get down to work,” came the shouts from all sides.
The pro-bourgeois delegate swallowed it all without a word. He had made a mistake. He was completely silent for the rest of the conference, which lasted nearly a week, and during that whole time, he remained isolated from the other delegates.
While the delegates were thus berating their unfortunate colleague, I looked at Lubim. He seemed surprised and pleased. However, the preliminary incidents were not yet finished, for the storm had hardly died down over the last interruption when Lubim himself leaped to the platform.
“Comrades,” he began, “excuse my intervention. It will be brief. I make it in the name of the local committee of the Left Social-Revolutionary Party. This time it is a really important question. According to our chairman’s declaration, he doesn’t want to preside effectively. And you must be aware that he is not in fact fulfilling the real function of chairman of the congress. Comrades, we Left Social-Revolutionaries find that very bad and fear it will be harmful. It means that your congress has to work without a head, without direction. Comrades, have you ever seen an organism without a head? No, comrades, that is not possible. It would mean disorder and chaos. We have had enough of that already. No, it is impossible to work usefully, fruitfully and unconfusedly under these conditions. You need a head, for the congress, you need a real chairman, a real head.”
As Lubim delivered his diatribe in a rather tragic and imploring tone, his intervention sounded more and more ridiculous with each repetition of the word “head”. But, since my method of procedure had not yet proved itself, I wondered if the delegates might not be impressed by Lubim’s ideas.
“We have had enough of those heads,” came shouted from all over the hall. “Always heads and more heads! Let us try and do without them for once. Let us try to work really freely. Comrade V. has explained that he will help the congress technically. That is enough. It is up to us to observe our own discipline, to work well and keep our eyes open. We don’t want any more of these ‘heads’ who lead us like puppets and who call that ‘work and discipline’.”
Lubim could do nothing but sit down. This was the last incident. I set about reading the agenda and the congress began its work. Archinov was quite correct when he said that in its discipline, in the orderliness of its work, in the prodigious enthusiasm that animated the delegates, in its serious and concentrated character, in the importance of its decisions and in the results it achieved, this congress was exceptional.
The work was accomplished rapidly, and in perfect order, with remarkable unanimity, intimacy and ardour. By the end of the third day, all signs of distrust had disappeared. The delegates were thoroughly inspired by the freedom of their activity and the importance of their task. They consecrated themselves to it without reservations. They were convinced that they were working on their own and for their own cause.
There were no grand speeches or grandiose resolutions. The work assumed a practical and down-to-earth character. When a rather complicated problem needed reducing to simple terms, or when the delegates wanted clarification before they began their work, they asked to be presented with a detailed report, and I or some other qualified comrade would give an explanation. After a short discussion, the delegates would then set about working for definite results. Once agreed on the basic principles of a question, they usually created a special commission, which would draw up a very thoughtful project and arrive at practical solutions instead of composing literary resolutions. In this way a number of immediate and concrete questions, of great interest to the life of the region or the defence of its freedom, were eagerly discussed and worked over in their smallest detail by the committees and the delegates.
In my capacity of Technical Chairman, as I was called, I had only to supervise the order of business, formulate and announce the results of each completed task, call upon the delegates to consider and adopt certain rules of procedure, etc. The most important thing was that the congress functioned under the auspices of absolute and genuine freedom. No influence from above, no element of constraint, was felt.
The idea of free Soviets, genuinely functioning in the interests of the working population; the question of direct relations between peasants and city workers, based on mutual exchange of the products of their labour; the launching of a libertarian and egalitarian social organisation in the cities and the country; all these questions were seriously and closely studied by the delegates themselves, with the assistance and co-operation of qualified comrades.
Among other things, the congress resolved numerous problems concerning the Insurrectionary Army, its organisation and reinforcement. It was decided that the whole male population, up to the age of 48, would go to serve in this army. In keeping with the spirit of the congress, this enrolment would be voluntary, but as general and numerous as possible, in view of the extremely dangerous and precarious situation in which the region found itself.
The congress also decided that the supplying of the army would be done primarily by free gifts from the peasants, in addition to the spoils of victory and requisitions from the privileged groups. The size of these gifts would be carefully established, according to the size of each family.
As for the purely “political” questions, the congress decided that the workers, doing without any authority, would organise their economic, political and administrative life for themselves, by means of their own abilities, and through their own direct organs, united on a federative basis. Archinov tells us that:
“The peasants, among whom there were old and even ancient men, said that this was the first congress where they felt not only perfectly free and their own masters, but also real brothers, and that they would never forget it. And, indeed, it is hardly likely that anyone who took part in that congress could ever forget it. For many, if not for all, it remained engraved for ever on their memories as a beautiful dream of the life in which true liberty would bring men together, giving them the opportunity to live united at heart, joined by a feeling of love and brotherhood.
“And when they left, the peasants emphasised the necessity of putting the decisions of the congress into practice. The delegates took away with them copies of the resolutions in order to make them known all over the countryside. It is certain that at the end of three or four weeks the results of the congress would have been known all over the district and that the next congress, called on the initiative of the peasants and workers themselves, would not have failed to attract the interest and active participation of great masses of workers.
“Unfortunately, the true freedom of the labouring masses is continually being destroyed by its worst enemy, Power. The delegates had hardly time to return to their homes, when many of the villages were again occupied by Denikin’s troops, coming by forced marches from the northern front. To be sure, this time the invasion was only of short duration; it was the death agony of a dying enemy. But it halted the constructive work of the peasants at the most vital moment, and since another authority equally hostile to the ideas of freedom for the masses (Bolshevism) was approaching from the north, this invasion did irreparable harm to the workers’ cause; not only was it impossible to assemble a new congress, but even the decisions of the first could not be put into practice.” (Op. cit., pp. 242–4)
I cannot pass over in silence certain episodes which marked the last phase of the congress. A short while before its termination, when I announced the classic “general questions”, several delegates undertook and carried out a delicate task which gave another proof of the complete independence of the congress and of the enthusiasm to which it gave rise, as well as the moral influence it exercised in the course of its labours.
“Comrades,” said a delegate who took the floor at this moment, “before ending our work and dispersing, several delegates have decided to bring to the knowledge of the congress some painful and regrettable facts which in our opinion should receive the attention of the members. It has come to our ears that the many sick and wounded of the Insurrectionary Army are very badly cared for because of the lack of medicine, medical help, etc. To make sure, we ourselves visited the hospitals and other places where these unfortunate men have been placed. Comrades, what we have just seen is very sad. Not only are the sick and wounded deprived of all medical care, but they are not even humanely lodged or fed. The greater part are sleeping any old way, even on the ground, without mattresses, pillows or covers. It seems that there is not even enough straw in the city to soften the hardness of the ground a little. Many of these poor men die only because of lack of care. Nobody looks after them. We understand very well that, in the difficult conditions which exist, the staff of our army has not the time to supervise this need. Comrade Makhno also is absorbed by the immediate problems of the front. All the more reason, Comrades, why the congress should take’ over. These sick and wounded are our comrades, our brothers, our sons. They are suffering for the cause of us all. I am sure that with a little goodwill we can at least find some straw to ease their sufferings. Comrades, I propose to the congress that it immediately name a commission which will concern itself energetically with this matter and do everything in its power to organise this service. It should also get in touch with all the doctors and druggists in the city, and request their aid and assistance.”
Not only was the proposition adopted by the whole congress, but fifteen delegates volunteered to form a commission to attend to the matter. These delegates, who at first had expected to return to their homes in a day or two after a sham congress, did not hesitate to sacrifice their own interests and delay their return in order to serve the comrades in distress. They had to remain several days in Alexandrovsk and accomplished their task successfully. They found the straw, and managed to organise a free-lance medical service.
[After this matter had been quickly settled] another delegate claimed the floor. “Comrades,” he declared, “I want to speak to you about another matter that is equally disturbing. We have learned that a certain amount of friction has occurred between the civil population and the services of the Insurrectionary Army. In particular, it has been reported to us that in the Army there exists a counter-espionage service which engages in arbitrary and uncontrolled actions — of which some are very serious, rather like the Bolshevik Cheka. Searches, arrests, even torture and executions are reported. We do not know if these rumours are true, but some complaints we have heard certainly seemed serious. It would seriously prejudice and even endanger our whole cause. We do not want to interfere in purely military matters, but we have a duty to oppose abuses and excesses if they really exist, for they will turn the population against our movement Since it enjoys the confidence and general esteem of the population, the congress has a duty to make a basic enquiry on this point, to find out the truth, to take steps where they are needed and to reassure the people. It is our congress, emanating from the living interests of the workers, which at this moment is the supreme institution of the region. It is above everything else, for it represents the workers themselves. I therefore propose that it immediately create a commission in charge of investigating these stories and acting in accordance [with its findings].”
Immediately a commission of several delegates was constituted for this purpose. Such an initiative on the part of workers’ delegates would not have been possible under the Bolshevik regime. It was by activity of this kind that the congress gave a preview of the way in which a society should function from the beginning if it is based on a desire for progress and self-realisation.
We should add that the events that followed did not permit j this commission to complete its work to the end. The incessant j fighting, the movements of the army, the urgent tasks which absorbed all its services, prevented it.
A final incident remains to be told. Yet another delegate rose to his feet. “Comrades,” he said, “since the congress is acting against certain defects and weaknesses, let me mention another regrettable incident. It is not very important, but all the same it merits our attention because of the sad state of mind of which it gives evidence. All of you must have read the notices posted on the walls of our city several days ago, bearing the signature of Comrade Klein, military commander of Alexandrovsky. In this notice, Commander Klein calls on the population to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages to excess, and especially not to go out in the street drunk. That is very fair and good. The form of the notice is not at all insulting or gross, it is not insolent or authoritarian, and one can only congratulate Comrade Klein on it. Only, comrades, not later than the day before yesterday, a popular evening party took place here with music, dancing and other distractions, in this very building where the congress is sitting. Not only insurgents, but also citizens and citizenesses attended it. I hasten to say to you that there is absolutely nothing reprehensible about that. The young people amused themselves and relaxed. That is entirely human and natural. But there was also a great deal of drinking at this party. Many insurgents and citizens got blind drunk. To see for yourselves you have only to look at the number of empty bottles piled up in the passage. (Laughter). Wait, comrades, the principal object of my intervention is not that. One amuses oneself, one drinks, one gets drunk. That isn’t so bad. But what is more serious is the fact that one of those who got as drunk as a pig was our Comrade Klein, one of the commanders of the army, military commander of the city and the signatory of the excellent notice against drunkenness! Comrades, he was so drunk that he couldn’t walk and had to be put in a carriage and taken home in the early morning. And, on the way, he behaved scandalously, cursing and so forth. So, comrades, a question arises: in drawing up and signing his notice did Comrade Klein believe that he himself was above the rest of the citizens, exempt from the good conduct that he preaches for others’? Should he not, on the contrary, be the first to set a good example? In my opinion, he has committed a fault so serious that it should not be disregarded.”
While Klein’s conduct was really fairly harmless, and the delegates considered the incident as rather comic, it aroused a certain amount of feeling. The annoyance at Klein was general, for his behaviour might be the expression of a culpable state of mind, that of a “chief” who considered himself above the “mass” and believed that he could do anything.
“Klein must be called right away!” someone proposed. “Let him come and explain himself before the congress!” Directly, three or four delegates were sent after Klein, with the mission of bringing him back. A half hour later, the delegates returned with him.
I was very curious to see what his attitude would be. Klein was one of the best commanders of the Insurrectionary Army. Young, courageous, very energetic and combative — physically a big, well-built fellow, with a hard appearance and warlike gestures — he always threw himself into the hottest part of the battle and feared nothing and nobody. He had been wounded many times. Well liked, as much by his colleagues as by the ordinary soldiers, he was one of those who had thrown over the Bolsheviks and brought Makhno several regiments of the Red Army. The son of a peasant family of German origin, if I am not mistaken, he was rough and uncouth in manner.
He knew that in any circumstances, he would be vigorously supported and defended by his colleagues — the other commanders and Makhno himself. Would he have enough knowledge to realise that a congress of working people was above him and above the army and Makhno? Would he understand that the workers and their congress were the masters: that the army, Makhno, etc. were only the servants of the common cause, bound to be held accountable at all times by the workers and their organs? Such were the questions that preoccupied me while the congress awaited the return of the mission.
Such a conception was entirely new. The Bolsheviks had done everything to wipe it out of the spirit of the masses. It would be something to see, for example, if a workers’ congress called a commissar or a commander of the Red Army to order! Of course, that is absolutely inconceivable. But even supposing that somehow a workers’ congress dared to do it, with what indignation, with what self-possession would this commissar or commander denounce the congress, while playing with his weapons on the platform and singing his own praises: “What!” he would shout, “you, a simple collection of workers, have the nerve to call to account a commissar, a practical leader, with exploits, wounds, citations to his credit, an esteemed, celebrated, decorated leader? You have no such right! I am only responsible to my superiors. If you have anything to reproach me for, address yourselves to them.”
Would not Klein be tempted to use similar language? Would he sincerely understand an entirely different situation and an entirely different psychological attitude?
Smartly clad in his uniform and well armed, Klein mounted the platform. He had a rather surprised air, and it seemed to me that he was uneasy.
“Comrade Klein,” the questioning delegate asked him, “you are the military commander of our city?”
“Yes.”
“You are the one who drew up and had posted the notice against the abuse of beverages and drunkenness in public places?” “Yes, comrade, it was I.”
“Tell me, Comrade Klein, as a citizen of our city, and its military commander, do you consider yourself morally obliged to obey your own recommendations or do you believe yourself outside of or above this notice?”
Visibly uneasy and confused, Klein took a few steps to the edge of the platform and said very sincerely in an uncertain voice.
“Comrades, I was wrong. I know it. I made a mistake in getting disgracefully drunk the other day. But, listen to me a little and try to understand. I am a fighting man, a man of the front, a soldier. I am no bureaucrat. I don’t know why in spite of my protests they landed me with this job of commander of the city. As commander I don’t have a bloody thing to do, except stay all day at a desk and sign papers. That isn’t for me! I need action, the open air, the front, companions. I am bored to death here. And that’s why I got drunk the other evening. Comrades, I would like to make up for my mistake. For that, you have only to ask that I be sent back to the front. There, I can give real service. But here, at this cursed post of commander, I can’t promise you anything. Let them find another man for my place, a man who can do this job. Forgive me, comrades, and have me sent to the front.”
The delegates asked him to go out for a few minutes. He obeyed docilely. They deliberated on his case. It was evident that his conduct was not due to the mentality of a vainglorious, overbearing leader. That was all they wanted to know. The congress very clearly recognised his sincerity and his reasons. They called him back to tell him that, taking account of his explanation, they would not hold his mistake against him and would do what was necessary to have him sent back to the front. He thanked the delegates and left very simply, as’ he had come. The delegates intervened in his favour, and a few days later he returned to the front. ,
To some readers, these episodes may seem trivial and insignificant, and not worth so many pages. I would venture to say that from a revolutionary standpoint, I consider them infinitely more important, more suggestive, and more useful in their slightest details than all the speeches of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, delivered before, during and after the revolution.
[And I would like to] relate one more little episode — a personal one — which took place outside the congress itself. As I was leaving, I met Lubim, who was smiling radiantly. “You cannot imagine,” he told me, “why I am so pleased. You must have seen how busy I was during the congress. Do you know what I did? I have specialised in the formation of scouting units and special detachments. This very question came up on the agenda. Well, for two days, I worked with the committee of delegates in charge of studying it, and finding a practical solution. I gave them a lot of help. They thanked me for my work. And I have really done something good and necessary. I know that is going to help the cause, and I am very pleased.”
“Lubim,” I said to him, “tell me sincerely: in the course of this good and necessary work, did you think for a single instant of your political role? Did you recall your position as a member of a political party? Did you think of being responsible before your party? Was not your useful work, in fact, an apolitical task, concrete and precise, a work of collaboration and co-operation, and not that of a ‘head’, of a ‘direction that imposes itself, of governmental action?”
Lubim looked at me pensively.
“The congress was very fine, very successful, I admit it,” he said.
“There, Lubim,” I concluded, “reflect well upon it. You really played your part and did a good job at the moment when you left your political activity! And very simply helped your colleagues as a comrade who knew about the task. ,You should realise that that is the whole secret of the success of the congress. And that is also the whole secret of the success of the revolution. It is like this that all revolutions should act, both on a local level and on a vaster scale. When the revolutionists and the masses have learned that, the real victory of the revolution is assured.”
I never saw Lubim again. I do not know what became of him. If he is alive, I do not know what he thinks to-day. But I hope these lines may come to his eyes, and that he remembers.

[28] In certain cities the Makhnovists appointed a “commander”; his function consisted only of serving as a contact man between the troops and the population, to make certain measures dictated by military necessity, which might have certain repercussions on the life of the inhabitants, and which the military command felt it opportune to take. These commanders had no authority over the population and did not interfere in any way with their civil life.
[29] They spoke here of Socialist parties and other organisations not because they wanted to keep these rights from the non-Socialists, but only because in the midst of a popular revolution the rightist elements were not active. There was not even any question of them. It was natural that the bourgeoisie would not dare, in the circumstances, to publish its press, and that the printing workers, masters of the printing houses, would flatly refuse to print it. It was therefore not worth speaking of it. The logical accent fell on “all” and not on “Socialist”. If, nevertheless, the reactionaries succeeded in printing and publishing their works, no one was disturbed by it. For, in the new situation, this did not represent any danger. 

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/Voline__The_Unknown_Revolution__1917-1921._Book_Three._Struggle_for_the_Real_Social_Revolution.html#toc12
http://www.bank.gov.ua/control/uk/currentmoney/image;jsessionid=10C27ADEBA06F06EF6E4E31BD85B420C?id=595&g=2&s=1

 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ukrainian Events

A Statement from AWU (Autonomous Workers’ Union) on the Situation in Kiev

We just finished translating a statement from some our friends’ and comrades in Kiev, released by the Autonomous Workers’ Union.  The text in full:
Avtonomia_ACT_KievStatement about the situation in Ukraine from AWU (Autonomous Workers Union).
Civil war began in Ukraine yesterday.  A less than peaceful demonstration clashed with state defense forces and divisions formed by the adherents of the current government near the Vekhovna Rada (Parliament).  On February 18, police, together with the paramilitaries, arranged a bloodbath in the governmental quarters during which numerous demonstrators were killed.  Butchers from the special divisions finished off arrestees.  Deputies of the ruling Party of Regions and their bourgeois lackeys from the “Communist” Party of Ukraine fled from the Parliament through an underground tunnel.  The vote for constitutional amendments, intended to limit presidential power, did not take place after all.  After their defeat in the governmental quarters, demonstrators retreated to the Maidan.  At 6 P.M., the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Internal Security Bureau (SBU) declared an ultimatum to the protesters, demanding their dispersal.  At 8:00 P.M., special police forces and paramilitaries, equipped with water cannons and armored vehicles, began their raid on the barricades.  Police, the special divisions of SBU, as well as pro-governmental troopers made use of their firearms.  However, the protesters managed to burn down one of the armored police vehicles, and it turned out that governmental forces were not the only ones in possession of guns.  According to the data released by the police (on February, 19, 4 p.m.), 24 people were killed: 14 protesters and 10 policemen.  Thirty-one policemen received gunshot wounds.  Even if their estimate of losses on the side of the police is accurate, the number of victims among the protesters was definitely diminished.  Maidan’s medics cite at least 30 killed.
One gets an impression that President Yanukovich was certain that by morning the resistance would be crushed, and so arranged for the Opposition leaders to meet with him at 11 A.M. on February, 19.  As the negotiations did not take place, we can conclude that the government’s plan had failed.  During the unsuccessful operation to clear off the Maidan, the citizens of several western regions occupied administrative buildings and chased away the police.  At the moment the police, as an institution, do not exist in L’viv.  According to the SBU, protesters have captured 1500 firearms.  In less than 24 hours, the central government lost control over a section of the country.  Right now, the only solution may be the stepping down of the President, however, that would mean that he, his family, and their multiple acolytes and dependents, which form a rather large group in the ruling government, would lose their source of profit.  It is likely that they will not accept this.
In the event of Yanukovich’s victory, he will become a ruler for life, and the rest will be doomed to a life in which they face poverty, corruption, and the abolition of their rights and freedoms.  Rebellious regions are now experiencing massive restorations of “the constitutional order.”  It is not improbable that the suppression of such “terroristic groups” in Galicia will have the character of ethnic cleansing.  Mad Orthodox radicals from the Party of Regions have, for a long time, seen the conservative Greco-Catholics as the aids of “Eurosodom.”  Such an “antiterrorist” operation would be carried out with the assistance of the army, as the Minister of Defense, Lebedev, has already announced.
Today, Ukraine experiences a tragedy, but the real horror will start when the government breaks down the opposition and “stabilizes” the situation.  Signs of the preparation of a mass-cleansing operation became noticeable as far back as early February, when criminal cases were opened against the Maidan self-defense divisions as illegal military formations.  According to Article 260 of the Criminal Codex, members of such divisions may face imprisonment for 2 to 15 years.  This means that the government was planning to put more than 10 thousand citizens behind bars.  In the regions, as well as in the capital, special “death divisions” are acting as a supplement to the usual police forces.  For example, responsibility for burning alive a Maidan activist from Zaporozhye was claimed by such a “death division,” calling itself “Sebastopol Ghosts.”  They announced that they are ready to subject Maidan participants in the East to similar treatment.
In the event of the Opposition’s victory life would be far from perfect as well.  Although fascists form the minority of the protesters, they are quite active and are not the sharpest tools in the shed.  A few days of truce in mid-February lead to conflicts between the rightist groups, resulting in several pointless and violent confrontations, as well as attacks on ideological ‘heretics.’  Besides the fascists, old and experienced Oppositionists will also attempt to seize power.  Many of them already have some experience with working in government and they are no strangers to corruption, favoritism, and the use of budget funds for personal purposes.
The “concessions” that the Opposition is demanding in Parliament right now are pitiful.  Even the Constitution of 2004, that they are trying to restore, gives too much power to the President (control over the riot police and special forces is one example), and the proportional electoral system, with closed listings, hands parliament over to the control of a group of dictator-like leaders, who can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  Together with the President they will rule without obstructions.
Their second demand – the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers composed of Opposition leaders – is altogether shameful.  Are people risking their health, freedom, and life for the sake of someone becoming a prime-minister, and someone-else getting an opportunity to control the flow of corrupt-money?  This is the logical outcome of preferring pathos-ridden conversations on “the nation,” and focusing on vertical structures tied to the same hated politicians, instead of developing ground-up organizations around financial and material interests.  This is the main lesson that Maidan is yet to learn.
However, we will be able to apply this lesson in practice only if the current government loses the battle.
The Opposition inside and outside of the Parliament is broken into multiple hostile and competing factions. If it wins, the ensuing regime will be unstable and lacking in coherency.  It will be as bourgeois and repressive as was the Party of Regions before their first show of force against the protesters in November.
The guilt for the spilled blood is partially on the EU which gladly receives money from the corrupt scumbags in Ukraine, Russia, and several African countries, while diligently neglecting to check the source of such “investments.”  It is only after seeing the dead bodies of the victims of such “investors,” that it gets so very sentimental and full of humanitarian pathos.
This is not our war, but the victory of the government will mean the defeat of the workers.  The victory of the Opposition also does not promise anything good.  We cannot call the proletariat to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Opposition and its interests.   We think that the extent of participation in this conflict is a matter of personal choice.  However, we encourage all to avoid being drafted to serve in the internal military forces controlled by Yanukovich, and to sabotage by all means available the actions of the government.
No gods, no masters, no nations, no borders!
Kiev organization AWU (Autonomous Workers Union)
http://avtonomia.net/2014/02/19/zayavlenie-ast-kiev-o-situatsii-v-ukraine/