- An interview with Autonomous Action by Danish Autonom Info Service
avtonom via @-infos…
February 14, 2009
Recently Danish Autonom Info Service contacted us to ask some questions on current political situation and state of the “left” in Russia. Danish version of the interview is available at Danish indymedia. Answers by activist of Moscow Autonomous Action Igor, in personal capacity.
How is the situation among leftwing radicals in Russia after the murder of Anastasia “Skat” Baburova?
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 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-shirt.
Personally, I do not consider myself “leftist”, I do not really know how their situation has changed, probably not at all — irrelevant Trotskyists keep organising their seminars, I suppose 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 demonstration the next day after murders was first major anarchist demonstration in Moscow with some property destruction. But many anarchists have been murdered during last years so I do not think a single murder may change situation a lot.
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 interests of many different authorities and groups, not only Nazis or military circles.
Can you shortly characterize the situation of Russian society today?
I think this is a bit too wide question. Economic crisis has hit Russia more hard 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 spring 2005. 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 recent regime change, Mord[o]via, 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 National-Bolsheviks as left for example.
- See also : If Conditions are So Bad, Why Are So Few Russians in the Streets?, Paul Goble, georgiandaily.com, February 3, 2009.
Can you describe the leftwing radical milieu in Russia/Moscow today? Which 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.
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 electoral restrictions have been useful for them, as all other oppositional parties have been practically excluded from the federal political system. Their main electorate are state bureaucrats and pensioners. They are maybe even more patriotic than communist parties in other countries, they were supporting bloodbath in Chechnya for example. However they have not attempted alliances with outright fascists for a while.
- On Jan. 21, on the 85th anniversary of Lenin’s passing, Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov rebuked critics of the mausoleum who think Lenin should be properly buried, saying, “Any attempt to vulgarize the memory of the Soviet era, to rewrite it, to take away monuments to Lenin, is an attack on the Russian Federation itself. (…) It was Lenin himself, who created the modern Russian state.”
“Motherland”-party [Rodina] is a Kremlin-created structure to compete with KPRF vote. They are even more vehemently patriotic than KPRF, although they have sidetracked the outright Nazis who were there when party was founded.
More hardline Stalinists are pretty much marginalized as they never had other strategy than electoral, which is no way these days. Revolutionary Communist Worker’s Party RKRP maybe has some presence still in some alternative trade-unions (such as Zaschita Truda, “Defence of Work”), but hardline anti-semite TR (Working Russia) apparently 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 realm of two groups — National-Bolshevik Party and 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 lack of commitment, anarchist seldom manage to mobilize more than them.
In Siberia there is 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 left personally), movement has been growing constantly during the last 9 years. Anarchist organisations include Autonomous Action, Rainbow Keepers (main activity of which is ecological protest camps). There is not much left from Association of Anarchist Movements ADA, but they still have few active people. In Moscow there are two syndicalist groups — KRAS (Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists) and MPST (Inter-Professional Union of Labor).
However 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, 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.
Can you mention some of the most important print- and internet medias for the revolutionary, Russian leftwing?
I do not care about the “left”. What comes to non-authoritarian activists, they are very active in terms of zine publishing, for example in 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 and wider audience, they are few and besides several journals and papers of Autonomous Action, only anarcho-syndicalist papers come out with slightest regularity.
What comes to internet, social networks and blogs have quite a lot replaced anarchist websites — this is good as they make reaching out for the people more easy, but also bad as reaching out for information is sometimes tricky and because there are no anti-authoritarian technical platforms which may really compete with the commercial ones.
For a comprehensive list of contacts, check contact section of Abolishing the Borders from Below-journal or Anarchist Yellow Pages-website. But the following is a selection of most important websites of anti-authoritarian spectrum:
- Autonomous Action
Anti-fascist portal of information and analysis
Indymedia Kuban (Krasnodar region and Adygeya)
Indymedia Piter (St.Petersburg)
News about squatting and squatter movement
Does 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 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 and here.
What is your attitude towards the reformist leftwing?
That does not exist much in Russia. Biggest “self-described left” in Russia is the KPRF, which claims that it will return 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 likes of KPRF, I do not really care about them as long as they are not an imminent physical threat against us.
How is the composition of the rightwing extremist scene in Moscow? Do they have a connection to political structures of power in the parliament? Is there any documented connection to police or military circles?
Nazis attempt to reach more for the middle class and get rid of their lumpen image, and at times they have some success with this. They have some connections to 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 case of our comrade Bychin from St. Petersburg, who was in a fight with two boneheads, and another of them was a cop. I haven’t come across with clear connection to army structures, but for example many of the people who put a bomb to Cherkisovsky marketplace in Moscow were former veterans of special forces. However mainstream of the deputies and cops are against Nazis.
How strong is the anti-fascist resistance and how does it act towards public appearance of the extreme right?
It is not clear if Nazi movement is going down due to general tendency towards welfare, stability and control in Russia, due to state repression or due to Antifa. Probably all of these factors play some role, Antifa being the least significant.
It is not really possible to influence public appearance of the extreme right in Russia. Counter-demonstrations are not allowed, and 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, but these activities do not really influence public appearance of fascists, they only make them more cautious and spread fear amongst the Nazi scene.
Much has been written in English about Antifa in Russia during last years, you may for example make a search in Google with keywords “antifa Russia” and you find much interesting stuff.
Thanks dear comrades, is there anything you want to add?
Nothing at this point, keep up the spirit! Struggle for Ungdomshuset was a big inspiration for Russian anarchists and activists, hope that you may maintain the momentum of struggle in Denmark!
- NB. antifa.net has re-launched; Anti-fascist Attitude — the first ever documentary on the emerging Russian anti-fascist movement made by the activists themselves — is available for download under a Creative Commons License here and here.
We are not afraid
January 21, 2009
On 19 January in the centre of Moscow Anastasia Baburova, a journalist with Novaya gazeta, and the lawyer Stanislav Markelov were shot dead. The killer stood behind them and aimed at the back of the head. He had no reason to fear. Not one such public political assassination has yet led to a trial or conviction.
Stanislav Markelov was an exceptional lawyer.
He took on hopeless and dangerous cases. A Moscow attorney, he was constantly in Chechnya, representing the interests of the victims of extra-judicial punishment and torture. He also dealt with cases elsewhere of those who had been attacked by Russia’s fascist groups.
Stanislav defended those who were killed or humiliated by the State. He was a friend to our newspaper and its legal advisor. He was responsible for the civil cases of Anna Politkovskaya, defending those she wrote about. He represented our journalists in court. Stanislav was attorney for the family of Igor Domnikov, an editor with Novaya gazeta who was murdered in 2000, and tried to force the authorities to open criminal proceedings against those who were behind that killing and who remain, to this day, at liberty.
Anastasia Baburova only joined Novaya gazeta in October 2008.
She very much wanted to work for the newspaper and decided to investigate crimes committed by Russia’s Nazi groups. She had very little time to do her job.
In essence, Stanislav and Anastasia were simply decent people who could not tolerate what the majority in our country has accepted. That was enough for the lords and masters of Russia to issue their verdict, for those who are allowed to kill in our country…
- Nowave: “No offence but honestly who gives a shit about some anarchist in Russia.”
Fruitsalad: “If Russians are so interesting to you, move to Russia.”
~ Melbourne Punx Forum, October 2008
What We Feel was formed in the late November of 2005 by 5 guys from different cities of european part of Russia, who were a good friends, and wanted to play good music with political message together. Since that time we played with bands from different cities of Russia, from Belarus, Ukraine, Finland, Germany, Lituania, USA, Chech Rep., Bulgaria.
In Russia we toured together with such bands like: Tackleberry (Germany), The Force Within (Germany), Last Hope (Bulgaria), Devil Shoots Devil (Belarus), I hope you die (Belarus).
Horrible incident happened on the last day in Moscow in our tour with Tackleberry. Our friend Sasha Rjuhin was murdered [April 16, 2006] by nazi shitheads on his way to the club, were we had to perform. We’ll never forget you bro. RIP. This murder shocked us all as well, as our German friends, and the whole scene as well. Anyway it forced us to keep together, to be closer to each other…
Our music is an explosive mix of melodic punk/hc, with NYHC influences and social/political lyrics, hardcore scene message. All of us are vegetarians or vegans. We always support and take a part in an active antifa, antistate, alf, food not bombs movements and actions, we are against racism, sexism and homophobia. We are friendly to all sXe people, but we are not sXe band (most of us are not).
Our future plans – play as much as possible in different parts of Russia, to support the antifashist movement in this places, and release a third split cd with great band from Bulgaria – Last Hope.
so, see you at our gigs.
keep on the fight.