Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The following originally appeared in the English language section of the Russian anarchist news site Avtonom. It has also been reprinted on the A-Infos anarchist news site. The following is the text of an interview with Avtonom by the Danish Autonomous Info Service. As per usual I have edited the following for English grammar.
Russia, An interview with Autonomous Action by the Danish INDYMEDIA Service:
Recently the Danish Autonom Info Service contacted us to ask some questions on the current political situation and the state of the "left" in Russia. The Danish version of the interview is available at the Danish Indymedia, http://indymedia.dk/articles/781. The answers by an activist of Moscow Autonomous Action Igor, in a personal capacity.
Q:What is the situation among leftwing radicals in Russia after the murder of Anastasia “SkatBaburova?
At first I must point out that there is no consensus amongst Autonomous Action on the question if we are "left" or not. All of us are libertarian communists, most of us are anarchist communists, but the question of "leftism" is more controversial. Some of us consider themselves "leftists", me not, because "left" is just identity and symbols, such as Che Guevara T-shirts.
Personally, I do not consider myself "leftist", I do not really know how the situation has changed, probably not at all - irrelevant Trotskyists keep on organising their seminars. I suppose that the patriotic majority of the "left" is certain that Nastya was murdered by some kind of international Jewish conspiracy.
What comes to anarchists and libertarians, a bit of radicalization has been visible as the demonstration the next day after the murders was the first major anarchist demonstration in Moscow with some property destruction. But many anarchists have been murdered during the last few years so I do not think a single murder will change situation a lot.
Q: We know that the assassination was aimed at Stanislav Markelov, and that Anastasia was with him by accident, when the hired killer turned up. Rumours say that the clues lead to military circles or to rightwing extremists in Moscow . Has it meanwhile become clear, who stands behind the assassination?
No, and I do not see much reason to speculate. Stas touched the interests of many different authorities and groups, not only Nazis or military circles.
Q: Can you briefly characterize the situation of Russian society today?
I think this is a bit too wide of a question. The economic crisis has hit Russia harder than most of the West, but not as hard as Latvia or Iceland for example. Protest activity is rising, but yet it is hard to see if it will grow to an uprising similar to that of the spring 2005. The TV is pretty much controlled by the state, but one commercial TV-station is half-independent There are also independent papers and radio stations, but these are not available in all regions. In general, Russia is a huge country and there are huge differences between the regions - some have rather liberal regimes (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Karelia and Perm for example), others are very authoritarian (Chechnya, Ingushetia before the recent regime change, Mordvia, Bashkorstan, Mari El and Kalmykia for example). There are currently 6 anarchist and anti-fascist political prisoners in Russia, 4 of whom are on remand. As for "leftist" political prisoners, it depends if you count the National-Bolsheviks as left for example.
Q: Can you describe the leftwing radical mileu in Russia/Moscow today? What political tendencies and groups exist and what are their primary activities ?
Again, it depends whom do you count as "left". That word may mean pretty much anything.The largest "self-described left" force is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation KPRF. They work "inside the system", and try to curb radical street activity as communist parties do everywhere. Recent election restrictions have been useful for them, as all other oppositional parties have been practically excluded from the federal political system. Their main electorate are the state bureaucrats and pensioners. They are maybe even more patriotic than the communist parties in other countries; they were supporting the bloodbath in Chechnya for example. However they have not attempted alliances with outright fascists for a while.
The "Motherland"-party is a Kremlin-created structure to compete with the KPRF vote. They are even more vehemently patriotic than the KPRF, although they have sidelined the outright Nazis who were present when the party was founded.
The more hardline Stalinists are pretty much marginalized as they never had any other strategy besides elections, which is no way forward these days. The Revolutionary Communist Worker's Party RKRP maybe has some presence still in some alternative trade-unions (such as Zaschita Truda, "Defence of Work"), but the hardline Anti-Semite TR (Working Russia) apparently has not.
There are number of Trotskyist (self-described or not) groups, but none of them has more than few dozen people and they are pretty much irrelevant.
In terms of "youth street politics", it used to be the realm of two groups -the National-Bolshevik Party and the Stalinist AKM (Vanguard of Communist Youth). Both of them are in decline due to repression, and ,for example, in Moscow active anarchists are more than both of them together -however due to a lack of commitment, anarchists seldom manage to mobilize more than they do.
In Siberia there is the Alternative Trade Union Siberian Confederation of Labor; some of their activists are anarchists or syndicalists. They have some 6000 members.
What comes to anarchists (whom I do not consider leftist personally),the movement has been growing constantly during the last 9 years. Anarchist organisations include Autonomous Action, Rainbow Keepers (the main activity of which is ecological protest camps). There is not much left from the Association of Anarchist Movements ADA, but they still have a few active people. In Moscow there are two syndicalist groups - KRAS (Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists) and MPST (Inter-Professional Union of Labor).
However the majority of anarchists are outside organisations, these networks also involve number of people who consider themselves just anti-fascists for example.
Anarchists are ready to join any current protest initiatives; the main activity initiated by anarchists themselves during last years has been joining dwellers' protests against urban development, other ecological protests, anti-war and anti-army actions, anti-fascism and anti-repression work. At times there are squats as well.
Q: Can you mention some of the most important print- and internet media for the revolutionary, Russian left wing?
I do not care about the "left". What it comes to non-authoritarian activists, they are very active in terms of zine publishing; for example in the year 2007 alone there were more than 60 different zines published in Russia, however mostly on music and other subcultural themes. What comes to strictly political publications aimed at a wider audience, they are few. Besides the several journals and papers of Autonomous Action, only anarcho-syndicalist papers come out with the slightest regularity.
When it comes to the internet, social networks and blogs have mostly replaced anarchist websites - this is good as they make reaching out to the people easier, but also bad as reaching out for information is sometimes tricky and because there are no anti-authoritarian technical platforms which can really compete with the commercial ones.
For a comprehensive list of contacts, check the contact section of Abolishing the Borders from Below-journal or the Anarchist YellowPages-website (http://ayp.subvert.info/). But the following is a selection of the most important websites in the anti-authoritarian spectrum(NB: ALSO see Molly's Links section for others, especially under the anarchosyndicalist links section):

*Autonomous Action:
*Anti-fascist portal of information and
*Indymedia Russia
*Indymedia Kuban (Krasnodar region
and Adygeya)
*Indymedia Piter
*Indymedia Siberia,
*News about squatting and the squatter movement


Q: Do there exist feminist and queer groups or networks in Russia/Moscow? If yes, what are their activities?

There are no really inter-regional feminist organisations, but there are some groups and various kinds of networking, for example in social networks and between people in academia (who are not many). There are many LGBT organisations, fighting between themselves on the right to present the community towards the West and to receive grant money. Otherwise they do whatever such organisations do in all countries - lobbying,education and sometimes small street actions. You may read about our attempts to cooperate with these people in English here: http://avtonom.org/index.php?nid=1045

and here: http://avtonom.org/index.php?nid=1563

Q: What is your attitude towards the reformist left wing?

That does not exist very much in Russia. The biggest "self-described left" in Russia is the KPRF, which claims that it will reform the Soviet Union if they will get the power, which I think is a rather radical idea, albeit a stupid one. Social-democrats do not really exist in Russia.

But if you ask about the likes of the KPRF, I do not really care about them as long as they are not an imminent physical threat to us.

Q: What is the composition of the right wing extremist scene in Moscow ? Do they have a connection to political structures of power in the parliament? Is there any documented connexion to police or military circles?

The Nazis attempt to reach more for the middle class and to get rid of their lumpen image, and at times they have some success with this. They have some connections to the Duma, where some right-wing deputies may help them by doing enquiries on "terrorist antifa activity" for example. Some individual cops are Nazis and this is well documented, for example with the case of our comrade Bychin from St. Petersburg, who was in a fight with two boneheads, and one of them was a cop. I haven't come across any with clear connection to army structures, but for example many of the people who put a bomb in the Cherkisovsky marketplace in Moscow were former veterans of the special forces. However the mainstream of the deputies and cops are against the Nazis.

Q: How strong is the anti-fascist resistance and how does it act towards public appearances of the extreme right?

It is not clear if Nazi movement is going down due to a general tendency towards welfare, stability and control in Russia, or due to state repression or due to the Antifa. Probably all of these factors play some role, Antifa being the least significant.

It is not really possible to influence the public appearance of the extreme right in Russia. Counter-demonstrations are not allowed, and the antifa is not ready to battle hundred of riot cops, which would be result of defying such bans. What anti-fascists may do is to ambush smaller groups of Nazis and sabotage them, but these activities do not really influence the public appearance of fascists, they only make them more cautious and spread fear amongst the Nazi scene.

Much has been written in English about the Antifa in Russia during the last few years; you may for example make a search in google with the keywords "antifa Russia" and you find much interesting stuff.

Q: Thanks dear comrades, is there anything you want to add?

Nothing at this point; keep up the spirit! The struggle for Ungdomshuset was a big inspiration for Russian anarchists and activists. We hope that you may maintain the momentum of struggle in Denmark!

(source: http://avtonom.org/index.php?nid=2264)


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