“Welcome to Colonial Courtrooms,” should have been the title of the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark aboriginal rights judgment.
While B.C. natives were busy last week celebrating the court’s affirmation of their “aboriginal title,” they should have paid closer attention to the fine print. In spite of all the hand-wringing about threats to resource development and the land mass of B.C., this is a big victory for governments. In the unanimous 8-0 decision, which dismissed with nary a nod the last half century of strident native assertions of sovereignty, the high court said B.C. natives are not unlike any other litigant squatter.
If you were contacted by the FBI, what would you do? Do you know who you would call? Would you be able to find a lawyer? Would you quit your job? Would you talk to your partner, your comrades, your parents? More importantly, would you talk to the government? If the FBI informed you that you were being made to stand before a grand jury, at which you could not have a lawyer present and you might face jail time if you did not answer questions—what would you do?
In 2012, several anarchists in the Pacific Northwest had to answer these questions. They were brought before the court to determine if they knew anything or anyone that was connected to a riot that broke out on May Day of that year. Three people kept their mouths…
Over the course of events, the Ukrainian and Russian anarchist movements have split into three different sides. A first group concentrated on producing internet-statements against both sides of the conflict. For them, keeping out of any social processes is a matter of principle, and they only want to monitor and assess. Participation in the social protest is not a goal for them, as they prefer to keep their hands clean. Since every process has input from either disgusting liberals, hated nationalists, awful stalinists, all three at the same time, or other undesirables, one can never fully participate in anything and the only alternative is to stay home and publish statements on the internet about how everything is going from bad to worse. However, most of the time these statements are just self-evident, banalities.
A second group, was made up of those who got excited about all the riot-porn and anti-police violence in Kiev, without considering who was carrying out this violence and in whose interests. Certain antifascists drifted as far as to defend the «national unity» in Maidan, and threatened particular Kiev anarchists due to their criticism of Maidan and refusal to participate. Most of the people in this camp are just fans of anti-police violence without any theoretical frame, but some want to give Maidan an imagined anti-authoritarian flavor, by equating the general meeting of Maidan («Veche») with the revolutionary councils established during 20th century revolutions. They base this claim on the social demands occasionally presented at Maidan, but these demands were always at the periphery of the Maidan agenda.
In any case, the main problem at Maidan wasn’t the lack of a social agenda and direct democracy, but the fact that people did not even demand them. Even if everyone kept repeating that they did not want another «orange revolution» like in 2004, nor for Yulia Timoshenko to return, at the end of the day chocolate industrialist Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitchko are leading the polls. This was the choice the people made as they grew weary of the revolutionary path as proposed by the radical nationalists of the Right sector. As of now, people want to return to «life as usual,» to life before Yanukovich, and are not prepared to make the sacrifices that further revolutionary developments would demand. Representative democracy is indeed like a hydra, if you cut one head, two will grow in its place.
However, none of the fears of «fascist takeover» have materialized. Fascists gained very little real power, and in Ukraine their historical role will now be that of stormtroopers for liberal reforms demanded by the IMF and the European Union — that is, pension cuts, an up to five times increase in consumer gas prices, and others. Fascism in Ukraine has a powerful tradition, but it has been incapable of proceeding with its own agenda in the revolutionary wave. It is highly likely, that the Svoboda-party will completely discredit itself in front of its voters.
But anyone attempting to intervene, anarchists included, could have encountered the same fate — that is, to be sidelined after all the effort. During the protests, anarchists and the «left» were looking towards the Right sector with envy, but in the end all the visibility and notoriety, for which they paid dearly, was not enough to help the Right sector gain any real influence.
If Kiev anarchists would have picked the position of «neutral observers» after Yanukovich had shot demonstrators, it would have completely discredited them. If after being shot, the working class, or more exactly «the people,» that is, the working class along with the lower strata of the bourgeoisie, would have failed to overthrow Yanukovich, Ukrainian society would have fallen into a lethargic sleep such as the one Russian and Belarusian societies are experiencing. Obviously, after the massacre there was no choice left except to overthrow the power, no matter what would come in its place. Anarchists in Kiev were in no position to significantly influence the situation, but standing aside was no longer an option.
And thus, we come to the third, «centrist,» position taken by anarchists — between the brainless actionism and the «neutral» internet statements. The camp of realist anarchists understood, that even if the Maidan protests pretty much lacked a meaningful positive program, something had to be done or the future would be dire.
The limits of intervention
In Kiev, anarchists took part in a number of important initiatives during the revolutionary wave — first of all the occupation of the ministry of education, and the raid against the immigration bureau by the local No Border group, which was looking for proof of illegal cooperation with security services of foreign countries. But the most successful anarchist intervention was the one in Kharkiv, where Maidan was relatively weak but also freer of nationalistic influence.
Still, such centrism has its own problems. For one, you might unintentionally help the wrong forces gain power, also discrediting radical protest. A second problem would be that you might end up fighting a fight which is not your own. When AntiMaidan attacked the Maidan in the city of Kharkiv, its imagined enemy were not the anarchists, but NATO, EU or Western-Ukrainian fascists. Since anarchists had joined Maidan, it would have been cowardly to desert once the fight started. Thus anarchists ended up fighting side by side with liberals and fascists. I do not want to criticize the Kharkiv anarchists, after all they made, perhaps, the most serious attempt among Ukrainian anarchists to influence the course of events, but this was hardly the fight, and these were hardly the allies they wanted.
And so, comes the point when desertion becomes imperative, and that is when civil war begins. As of now, it’s still too early to make any final assessment of the anarchist attempts to influence Maidan, but after the beginning of a civil war, Maidan will no longer play a role. From now on, assembly will gradually turn to the army, and assault rifles will replace Molotov cocktails. Military discipline will replace spontaneous organisation.
Some supporters of the Ukrainian organisation, Borotba (meaning Struggle) and the Russian Left Front claim that they are attempting to do the same things as the anarchists did at Maidan, that is, direct protest towards social demands. But AntiMaidan has no structures of direct democracy, not even distorted ones. It quickly adopted the model of hierarchical, militaristic organisations. The AntiMaidan leadership consists of former police and reserve officers. It does not attempt to exert influence through the masses, but with military power and weapons. This makes perfect sense, considering that according to a recent opinion poll, even in the most pro-«federalist» area of Lugansk, a mere 24% of the population is in favor of armed takeovers of government structures. That is, AntiMaidan cannot count on a victory through mass demonstrations.
Whereas at its essence Maidan was a middle-class liberal and nationalistic protest, supported by part of the bourgeoisie, AntiMaidan is purely counter-revolutionary in tendency. Of course, AntiMaidan has its own grassroots level. One could attempt to intervene, but an intervention by joining would mean supporting a Soviet, imperialist approach. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Borotba, the Russian Left Front and Boris Kagarlitsky have all joined this Soviet chauvinist camp. Intervening in Maidan made sense only as long as the enemy were Berkut police forces and paid thugs. When the opponents are mislead AntiMaidan participants, it no longer makes sense to fight in the streets.
When looking at either side of the conflict one can see a dangerous tendency, which every anarchist and anti-authoritarian will face in the future: the recuperation of anti-authoritarian rhetoric and terminology for the purposes of hierarchical ideologies. On the one side, «autonomous nationalists» who have found sympathy amongst many anarchists, and on the other, intellectuals such as Boris Kagarlitsky. Both characterising warring factions with attributes such as «direct democracy» and «self organisation.» In reality, these characteristics are either present in a distorted form or not at all. When two different flavors of nationalism are «self-organising» in order to maim and murder each other, there is nothing to celebrate. Subsequent to the events in Ukraine, it is clear that anarchists must explain the essential difference between «self-organisation» and self-organisation to the world.
According to the opinion poll referenced above, in Eastern Ukraine as a whole, only 12% of the population supports the «federalists’» armed actions, whereas the Kiev government is supported by some 30%. The remaining 58% supports neither, and in conditions of civil war, this is the majority on which we should count. We should encourage desertion and conflict avoidance. Under any other conditions, and if anarchists had more influence, we could form independent units against both warring factions.
Unarmed civilians have stopped bloodbaths in several places by moving in between the troops as human shields. If not for this kind of civil disobedience, a full-scale war would have been launched much earlier. We should support this movement, and attempt to direct it against both «federalist» and government troops simultaneously.
In case Russia reacts either by occupying parts of Eastern Ukraine or the country as a whole, we could take the example of anarchist partisans in World War II era France and Italy. Under such conditions, the main enemy is the occupying army, as it will antagonise the whole population very quickly. But it is also necessary to keep the maximum distance from the nationalistic elements of the resistance, as any alliance with them would hinder anarchists from realising their own program in the framework of the resistance.
The events in Odessa are a tragedy, and it is possible, that among those who died in the House of the Trade Unions were also people who played no part in flaring up the violence. People who threw molotov cocktails at the House should have understood the consequences. Even if the fire igniting was not solely due to them, it is not for lack of trying.
In case civil war spreads, these deaths are just the beginning. No doubt that on both sides the majority only wants a better life for their close ones and their motherland, and many hate governments and oligarchs to an equal extent. The more sincerely naïve people die, the greater the pressure to support one of the factions in the war, and we must struggle against this pressure.
Whereas it may occasionally be worth it to swallow tear gas or to feel the police baton for a bourgeois revolution, it makes no sense at all to die in a civil war between two equally bourgeois and nationalist sides. It would not be another Maidan but something completely ifferent. No blood, anarchist or otherwise, should spill due to this stupidity.
- there’s much more to read from this report, see autonomous action,
Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.
Governance is a force directing actions taken by society. We began governance with small tribes arranging relationships and personal assets between themselves and authority only required to settle disputes. As populations grew, we moved to a variety of government systems with full hierarchies, official authorities and hard coercive force in the form of official military and police. Lately we have moved far beyond these forms to all pervasive and largely invisible soft coercion. While large populations have always been coerced more by propaganda than by armies, the techniques developed by global intelligence and marketing research of the past several decades have escalated this to global coercion controlled by a very few…
On June 12, 2014 begins the world football cup in Brazil, a sporting event which businesspeople, politicians, journalists and sympathizers eagerly await, some because of greed, others because of nationalist exacerbation, a World Cup that has the highest budget ever invested in history (over 600,000 million dollars, and the account is not even closed yet…).
However, beyond the colourful atmosphere, the dances, the carnival, the “cheerfulness”, the reality is different:
In carioca (Rio de Janeiro), the repressive forces that are commanded by the evil born Dilma Rousseff and trained by US counter-terrorist brigades, namely the army, the police or the ironically named Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), led by the militiamen Alexandre Braga and Ezequiel Oliveira de Mendonça, are implementing a policy of extermination against the marginal population, concentrating their attacks in the favelas and the poorest zones of this region. An extermination that is far from diminishing, since the deployment of military police, orchestrated by the chief of police Tarcísio Andreas Jansen and the colonel Marcelo Rocha, has further increased as the inauguration ceremony approaches.
In cities like São Paulo alone, nearly 70,000 families have been displaced during the constructions for the World Cup preparations, while in Rio de Janeiro approximately 40,000 homes have faced the same fate.
The Brazilian State, showing off its progressive and assistentialist reputation, has offered an amount of money to some of the evicted (obviously none of them was from the bourgeois neighbourhoods, since the latter were not affected one bit) which is far from enough to recover their original dwelling, thus spitting on the residents’ dignity, and thinking that money can cover for all the bloodshed.
And when we talk of bloodshed, there have been hundreds of wounded and dozens of dead in Brazil over the past few months.
We cannot fail to mention the repugnant activity of the State, which is assassinating in the most cowardly way children who survive on the streets, in order to receive an estimated 600,000 tourists that will arrive in the country, offering them in turn the hundreds of bodies of women and girls subjected to prostitution.
These postcards, perhaps unknown to many, are the currency in South America; hence our rage is born of the most sincere hatred, the limited covering of basic needs, the daily submissions and the constant humiliations; hence our rage is not out of boredom or revolutionary pose but is necessary and urgent, and clearly, beautifully violent…
Message posted on Twitter by @caranovanocongr: “NOTICE TO FOREIGN TOURISTS – THERE WILL BE VIOLENT PROTESTS DURING THE WORLD CUP IN BRAZIL. #NAOVAITERCOPA”
As anarchists, we cannot remain indifferent to so much misery, so much pain, so much torture and so much death.
Those responsible for these atrocities do not go hiding; they are the sponsors, the multinationals, the society itself that tolerates and encourages this tournament with its passivity and servility.
Of the former, we are able to find offices and representatives in various parts of the globe…; next, all we have to do is adjust the sights and shoot.
From the latter, we do not expect or ask anything, so we call ourselves to act, the anarchist combatants in various regions, the refractories of this filthy order, and the subversives who understand that the only way is direct and real confrontation.
For consequence and coherence, in rebellion and action.
For this reason, this statement is not intended to be a mere repudiation, but a clear incitement to conspiracy, sabotage and attack against all the instruments of the system of domination that aims to domesticate us, and specifically in this case, this shitty Word Cup.
So for our part, at the kickoff, we made an anonymous call to the JJ8011 flight of the TAM Airlines from Buenos Aires destined for São Paulo, warning of an explosive device with the aim of sabotaging the normal flow of tourists who arrive in the region dominated by the Brazilian government, either unaware of what is taking place over there or complicit through their apathy.
IF NOT YOU, WHO? IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
Active solidarity with comrades in revolt across Brazil!
Vengeance for those injured, imprisoned and killed by the State!
There will not be a World Cup!
International Solidarity Cell To Win or Die For Anarchy.
- It’s been 2 months since the start of the protest movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, what is happening with this movement now? Do people still organise citizens’ Assemblies [Plenums] and does the government hear your requirements?
A lot of things are happening now. Various elements are involved: a strong police repression, political and media propaganda, etc. In the beginning, plenums had some positive energy. But now, Non-Governmental Organisations [NGOs] have taken control of the plenums. They do not ‘impose’ their organisations, but they criminalise protesters at the Plenums. There were allegations against demonstrators who manifested their anger through direct actions. So, plenums are currently discredited. The government is no longer afraid either of the plenums, which have no power, or the demonstrators who peacefully express their dissatisfaction. When we gathered to express solidarity to people arrested during the protests, representatives of NGOs began to divide the protesters to ‘good’ ones and ‘bad’ ones. When comrade Nihad was arrested, we tried to get the support of the Plenum, but the organisers and activists from NGOs said that Nihad had to pay for throwing Molotov cocktails. Also, we initially thought that the people arrested on February 7th were 33 (as we were told), but updated information showed that the number was twice as big. Police claimed they had released all those arrested, but this wasn’t true. In police stations in Sarajevo, there were a lot more arrested boys who had been beaten and humiliated by the police (An interview with an anarchist who was among those who remained in jail, after police and media reported that all arrested are released, can be found here).
So, today, Plenums no longer have any point. Members of NGOs who have taken control of the movement, have crashed its philosophy, as they began to bring politicians to the plenary sessions, including the representative of the international community –Valentin Inzko–, Nicholas Hill from the U.S. Embassy and the delegate of the Italian Parliament. Why? The only logical explanation I can see in the NGOs’ monopoly over plenums is a plan to use it for their projects and the financial support from the US (USAID, NED, etc.). And it’s no secret that members of the NGOs are associated with the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. The plenums’ failure can be seen in that – first few sessions of Plenum gathered several thousand of protesters who wanted their voices to be heard. Today, there is not even 100 people. Many people left Plenums because they know how NGOs work – and they do not trust either the political parties or NGOs anyone.
- Various people were coming to the Plenums – students, workers, war veterans. How do people react to all the events and protests now? How do they react to the presence of NGOs?
When protests were violent, many people who had been to the war were –on one hand– shocked and scared, but most of them accepted the fact that this was the only way for us to be heard. But I believe things have evolved through protests and plenums –people begun to think in terms of class, rather than national– and talk about social justice. Something about which there was not even a word in Bosnia for the last 20 years. As I have said already, it’s no longer secret that NGOs belong to political parties and are connected with the U.S. Embassy. People generally do not trust NGOs’ activists and gave up the protests and the movement, because they are affected by them. Since there is no stable platform / informal organisation that would bring people together -people who are against the NGOs policies-, the movements simply died out.
- The whole movement in Bosnia was spontaneous. Weren’t there any influences by any NGO?
In Sarajevo, people gathered (in the beginning) to express solidarity to the workers and protesters in Tuzla, because the movement in Tuzla had suffered brutal police repression. Of course, that repression, from throwing people into the river, to arresting them for terrorism, spread also to Sarajevo and other cities.
We are currently working on creating an alternative space for people to gather, share their ideas and mobilise, without the influence of NGOs. People here are very skeptical about politics, to the extent that if you mention the word ‘organisation’, they will immediately think that you work for some party. They still hold to the fact that you can be absolutely uninterested in the political situation, or work for some party. Therefore, it is essential to have a place –not an organisation– which would be free of the parties and/or NGOs.
And people outside Bosnia often talk about the “Bosnian revolution”, but there is an evolution there. Because of ethnic and national divisions, people never talked about class struggle – now they do. Now we see Muslims and Croats fighting on the same side of the barricades. People begin to realise that they are all the same – with the same/similar problems. And for these problems the whole system- not just a party or a leader – is responsible.
- Could the rebellious spirit be expanded on the Serbian part of Bosnia?
There weren’t mass protests. In the beginning, there were protests organised by several NGOs in ‘solidarity’ with us in Banja Luka. But a few weeks ago, veterans gathered in solidarity with the rebellious people in the Federation of Bosnia (note: Bosnia is divided on 2 parts – Federation of Bosnia and Republic of Srpska). And this is a huge step for us, because there is a real political propaganda which divides people into ethnic groups and people finally realised that our blood yields profits to politicians.
- People in Bosnia are not too acquainted with anarchy. Has the anarchist movement in Bosnia evolved after protests? Did it gain significance?
People who attended the protests began to create a positive image of anarchism. Before the protests, NGOs loved to play with the term ‘anarchism’ and generally it didn’t get much sympathy. Today people realise that there is a real movement and real anger. The movement definitely began to develop rapidly. People are sick of politics and they started showing interest in anarchism. And not only young people, but all generations. After the war, because of nationalism and all the crap in which we got stuck, there wasn’t space for anarchism. Now, this is its moment.
- What is the basis of dissatisfaction in Bosnia?
We don’t have anything here. The average salary is 150 euros per month. Minimum wage is 20 euros per month. Minimum pension is 1 euro per month, and the average is around 120 euros per month. There are no benefits for students. After finishing their studies, people get jobs completely irrelevant to their profession and most people remain jobless.
At the same time, Bosnian politicians are among the best paid in Europe. Corruption is a major problem here and politicians with their nationalist discourse have shifted the attention from these problems. Today, among the people of Bosnia, including those who have survived war, nationalism is no longer a popular “idea”. Today, we are all together against capitalists and their policy.
- How do you see the future of Bosnia?
The only solution is the complete destruction of the existing system. People are sick of this system which is the product of war. This system is designed to divide people and spread hatred among the various ethnic groups. But behind these masks, politicians are fully consistent in actually having no problem with nationalism in their private life. For example, the RS (Republika Srpska) president’s son is married to a Muslim, with which Milorad Dodik (president of RS) was thrilled. But apart from that, he insisted that this movement is a threat for the Serbians, lying to the people that we bought weapons to attack the Serbs and the RS. Regarding the RS, if Bosnian Serbs want their independence, they have a choice. We will do everything to develop the movement. People now really have a choice – to change or to continue life in this system of hate.
In Tuzla, workers started to organise Plenums in factories. In Bosnia there are unions, but they all belong to political parties. And of course, there is the law under which employees must sign that they will never strike in order to get a job. Otherwise, they can go to jail. For example, one member of Special Forces during protests took off his helmet and asked us to stop throwing rocks at them, because they understand our anger and do not want to use force against us, but also they cannot come on our side, because they can risk 15 years in prison for that. Of course, I do not justify the cops –they are what they are– but it must also be understood that one part of the police force is different in Bosnia than in Europe. Many cops, older than 40 years old, defended the city and were part of the Patriot League during the war. They were the people who defended their friends and family, and now they are on the opposite side of the barricades – as well as those against whom they once fought. Today – they are the enemies.
- Do you still have comrades who are in prison?
Yes. Six comrades were arrested one month after the demonstrations. But, none of them are in prison except Nihad; they are, though, accused of terrorism and are awaiting trial. We don’t know the exact reason why Nihad wasn’t released along with them. Like all comrades, Nihad claimed responsibility for attacking government buildings. He is charged with terrorism and therefore he can get 10-20 years in prison. Nihad, as every other citizen of Bosnia, has good reasons why he did that – he hasn’t received his salary for 5 months. And that’s not an exception, it happens often that people do not get the money they have worked for.
Currently, we have lawyers handling the cases of these six persons accused of terrorism. And the only thing we can do now is to inform people, take solidarity actions and wait for the trial. On the 7th of April, Nihad is to be released, if the judge doesn’t decide once more to keep him in custody. We have no idea what will happen, but whatever happens – we will stand by him and we are ready to help him in any way. Active support to Nihad!
- Thank you very much for your time, Lo. I wish you a lot of strength and luck in your struggle.
The past two weeks have seen a fierce new protest movement in Bosnia, commencing with the destruction of government buildings and continuing with the establishment of popular assemblies. Unlike the recent conflicts in Ukraine, this movement has eschewed nationalistic strife to focus on class issues. In a region infamous for ethnic bloodshed, this offers a more promising direction for the Eastern European uprisings to come.
To gain more insight into the protests, we conducted two interviews. The first is with a participant in Mostar, Bosnia, who describes the events firsthand. The second is with a comrade in a nearby part of the Balkans, who explains the larger context of the movement, evaluating its potential to spread to other parts of the region and to challenge capitalism and the state.