FEEDBACK ON THE MEETING
Please send feedback in whichever language you like. If you are replying to some other feedback, you might want to refer to the reference number given.
During the seminars we were only able to raise some general
to resolve them, complain to each other about how bad things are but we were
not able to come to any ways or plans to work out these problems. For
example, during the anarcha-feminism seminar, half of the time was wasted
trying to discuss what kinds of groups to form: all-women or mixed.
Another negative point was that it wasn't clear which seminar
when and where. A person showed up, sat down and only then understood which
seminar it was and whether or not it was interesting for them, if he
understands the language being spoken, and then decide whether to stay or
not. In addition, people who were interested in both the anti-border and
anarchist conferences could not participate in both.
Despite this, I enjoyed the conference tremendously, I enjoyed
wonderful people, talking about all the topics that concern us all and
learning so much about movements in different countries.
I wanted to feedback on the most common feedback I heard: there
were not enough concrete work/ projects at the meeting. Many people had such
feedback; of couse there were some people who felt it was natural and even
one guy who thought that the aim of such meetings can't really be that but
rather should be to concentrate on and see what things we have in common,
more basic stuff like what makes us all anarchists.
I would like to say something about this lack of concrete projects but also would like to point out that actually, a few concrete projects, although tentative and only in the idea stages, were put forward at the meeting.
* About the lack of projects
(Not to mention this as any type of reprimand, but rather to examine a fact,) despite the fact that this was the most common criticism, I was in a position to see that few people actually made any proposals for projects prior to the meeting, despite many calls to do so. It is not that I would like to comment that people get exactly what they put in or that everybody is responsible for creating things together, although, of course these all also my opinions. Why I don't say that is because that would imply that there was a rather passive attitude of people coming and actually I know that, in general, the most active of the active tended to come, people who I know for having exactly the opposite attitude. Yet, despite this, with all these active people, few concrete projects seemed to come out. Why?
I'd like to offer up an explanation as to why.
Some people did not know each other well enough.
It is not very easy to imagine international projects which can be feasibly realised, especially if travel and language are prohibitive.
Some people have had only limited success with international projects and thus are not likely to repeat ideas that did not work before.
Some of the obvious ideas have already been put into place and work well so they don't need to be repeated.
As to the first point, we do hope that some of you got to know others. A little aside, I was a bit disappointed that in the Networking Meeting, a few people displayed their frustration at going around a second time after brief introductions and asking everybody to say something more about what they do. With all due respect to people who thought it a waste of time, though we already knew each other, had a brief attention span or wanted to move right on to concrete work, I think it would have been a good way to get a better idea of who is doing something similar to us, I think the "concrete work", did not really follow well afterwards because most people were still in the dark as to what they had in common with others and I also think the idea that we all knew each other already really came from somebody who really did know most people there but the assumption that people knew each other shouldn't have been universally applied. Further, people were in general divided into language abilities with multilingual people (in general), having both more pre-existing contacts and being able to make new ones more easily. So it was perhaps important to have more meeting, even though some people hate it, in particular as a way to help people who are linguistically at a disadvantage when trying to meet people in a more informal setting. For example, I noticed a certain very interesting group of people who hung together almost the whole time and I'm pretty sure it was due to language questions that they did not integrate more with others. In such a situation, a large meeting which at least tries to provide translations is more democratic.
(Another point I'd like to add is about translations, especially as language was a topic Will Firth had prepared in Essen. I couldn't attend that meeting because it conflicted with mine, so I can't comment much on what was said, but I know a little of Will's ideas. I think in general he stressed that we needed better communication, needed to learn more languages, perhaps Esperanto and, I of course agree (Russian is EASY). However, I would like to point out that for the time being, the translation systems we've been using for the last 3 years at meetings here in Poland has worked to include more people in mutual discussion. It does require patience for the listener (and for the translators!) but I feel strongly that this patience is also a good skill to have.)
The second point speaks for itself.
I think that sometimes, when people have no real ideas what to do, they make an organization. Sometimes this step leads to more contact and some concrete projects, particulary is there is clearly a common base, but sometimes they become just superstructures which serve almost no purpose and just fall apart.
The next most comon type of thing is the network, but we actually have a functioning network, so the only thing people can do is be encourgaed to be more active. But with the network, it is clear that it is dominated by people who speak English the best. So I think the language matter cannot be underestimated.
I would like to expand and discuss the possibilities for international projects separately and hear ideas about it. Also, as I menioned earlier, there were some ideas which I briefly will present below.
Why some projects work and some fail is a complicated matter. Perhaps to give a more optimistic tone I should start with successful projects (of which there are many good examples), but as it's a frequent problem, maybe we can start with it.
First maybe I can start with an example of the history of East-West publications. I was to involved in at least 4, all defunct. After the last big conference with Eastern Europe (in Trieste) many years ago, there was No Wall for example. Maybe the girl who proposed it flaked out. A number of projects like that dies due to personal burn out. But also the fact was that there was always rather limited follow up. Lots of people like the idea, but few actually sent it material. In projects like OGB, there was more success due to rigorous engagement of people (even to the point of nagging!). Now there is a successful EE publication (ABB), alter-ee (which can and does provide a lot of info which is useful for ABB and many other publications and lists) and that's great - but it's a question as to what happened with the others. While personal flaking out (sorry for non-English speakers - it means getting a bit pathetic and not wanting to do anything), is a factor, but more it was a lack of impetus. We can see this lack of impetus again and again. Can it be people see no sense in it? Is it a language problem? Just too many things to do and too few people? Or is it that really in such projects you have to have some motors who will push and do a lot of work to offset the times when there is weak reaction?
Then there were projects like the expansion of IWW into Eastern Europe where the project made more sense from the Western perspective than the Eastern and there was a little bit of cluelessness as to what the expansion really would mean, etc.. In other words, sort of an international organization without really clear ideas that most Eastern Europeaners couldn't buy because they were unconvinced of its benefits. And I have to admit to my own participation in this and the fact that I quickly found it a little useless and decided instead to work with developing some local independent structures that may eventually network but place much more importance on the local. In other words, the international structure proved only to be a hinderance to developing a local one.
So maybe there have also been examples of different needs in different countries which means it may be hard to motivate people on some issues which are only pressing in one place. Not that people can't be motivated -but the more pressing issues you have or the more you have to work on developing something locally, the more difficult it is.
Without going into too many details of failed projects, it seems that people will naturally place an emphasis on the local. But also it seems often there is too little energy, sometimes legitimately, sometimes due to some laziness and the other side of this is that sometimes others get burnt out if they have to do too much themselves.
The good news is that there is alter-ee for example. Why propose another international list then? It's been done - maybe the people involved think we're too academic or boring here or just prefer their own networks - but I don't know how successfully. In any case, the point is that this type of project exists. So does a good publication - ABB. A web site (even a few), albeit it not up to date, exists. (A LOT can be done to improve in this area!) Some prison support networking exists. Some punk distro networking exists. Some workers networking exists (and hopefully actually more will arise after the meeting). So actually, some of the very basic types of international projects exist, which leaves a more limited scope for things.
There was an idea, for example, to develop a network of anti-sexist people. Why not? But then the question is about the concretes and why this idea didn't go further at the meeting. At the risk of sounding discouraging, my experience in EE has been that few people make international projects based on discussion or ideas. (I'm not saying it shouldn't be done; I participate in such things myself, but I see a tendency for many people to avoid it.) So I think the key to this idea is to really discuss how this might look, what common work could be done and so on.
The same is true for anarcha-feminists. To tell the truth, I was considering a network, but how would that look in fact? In the end, it will still be up to local people to make local publications and events and it only makes sense to make sure to keep contact and exchange info more regularly with people. Although this may simply be my limited imagination. Anybody have any ideas?
Some project ideas
I would like to point out that some ideas came out, although many just in some raw stage. Please add yours if I've forgotten anything.
The people at the workers meeting were very keen to exercise as much international solidarity as possible and I am sure we will see some fruits of that. To that extent, soon participants will get contact lists and I will try to gather some info about some of the participants' projects to mail around. We learned that some info gets around, some not, and again, it's a language problem. I don't know if the computer translators can help, but at least we can create a site where there is a clearinghouse of info in different languages because people don't even necessarily know that something is happening and maybe they can arrange some translations if something important looks to be up. There were also ideas on more effective ways to run campaigns and maybe we can also move forward on these proposals.
In terms of continuing international meetings and no-border activity, there are two ideas for meetings next years although I will refrain from disclosing the locations until the locals confirm. (In one case we may go even if the locals don't invite us!) I should just say that in both cases they are places either with problems carrying activity or which (due maybe to logistic questions) were not able to participate in this meeting. We would like to show some sort of commitment to helping comrades particularly who are in poorer countries, in countries with repressive regimes, etc..
Anarchy tour. An old idea to have a small group of travellers go around Eastern Europe in some anarchy van showing photos, videos, bringing literature, talking about anarchy, etc. in different locales. Infoshop on wheels. The idea is very much up in the air and requires some concrete vehicled volunteers but eventually it should happen - if not next summer, then maybe in two years. I will propose this idea more seriously soon. Maybe some people who'd be interested?
3. Feedback from Laure.
As to the discussions, I generally agree with Karina and others
lack of concretes. However, whether or not time was wasted is relative.
Obviously some people felt the issues of groups - mixed or not - was
relevant, otherwise so much time wouldn't have been spent on it. And
actually, I don't think THAT much time was spent on it. Although it did take
About the question of groups, in general I am not really inclined
women-only groups. However, I had the strong feeling during the
anarcha-feminist group that there was too much time taken by the men. What
do I mean by that? Of course they were there, and I don't want to say they
shouldn't speak, but a couple of men did take almost as much time as all the
women together. (I think I'm not exaggerating.) Now these men are even my
friends; I spoke to one later and of course he just explained that it was
very interesting and a hot topic for him, so why shouldn't he speak. And
that's right. BUT, on the other hand, wouldn't it have also been interesting
to LISTEN to what all the women had to say? In such a situation, I don't
know if it wouldn't have made sense to moderate differently, but at one
point when I mentioned that I felt too much time was taken by men, some
women stuck up for them, so I didn't interfere. So maybe some other women
who were there (most I think are not on this list) will say something about
how they felt this meeting ran.
I also felt that at times there was a real conflict of needs
meeting. Like some people wanted to speak about their personal experiences
of sexism in the movement but it sort of happened that someody said
something then the next speaker changed the topic. So, at that point, you
could say it may have been better to lay out the topics more clearly, but
even in some of the meetings where they were laid out clearly, they were
quickly departed from. So I would like to criticize a little about the
dynamics inside some of the meetings. Not all - some I felt went quite
smoothly. Maybe it depended on whether the topic was very narrow or much
As to Karina's feedback on schedules, etc.. I think a real problem
starting meetings on time. This has been a problem the last couple of years
at camps etc.. You have to be like a Stalinist it seems. Now imagine this
sort of situation that I don't want to look like a leader but I have to go
around with a fucking microphone and tell people what time it is and that
the meeting's starting, and keep making announcements. Wouldn't it just be
better to show up on time? (For me yes.) Not that I wasn't late once or
twice myself, but in general it looked like this: 3-4 people waiting til
other people come to start, going and making announcements, asking each
other if they should just start or wait, finally starting, with people
coming in every few minutes with confused looks on their eyes. Sometimes it
caused even some bigger disturbances because for example, there was at least
two times when it turned out no Polish people were there, so we just started
the meeting without Polish, then they'd come, then we'd have to add Polish,
then sort of people would leave, then we'd notice there's no Polish people
around again, so why are we translating in Polish, etc.. So that made me a
little crazy and I DON'T WANNA BE LIKE A STALINIST dragging people to the
meeting on time, but I also see that if you don't start on time, other
people get totally confused.... So I'm not sure what to do except COMPLAIN
that it's a problem (and apparently not only for me) and see if things won't
change. Maybe they will; I mean, in general I've noticed that meetings are
going BETTER than before in terms of people taking turns, fewer dominating
individuals, so I think it's always worth bringing it up.
On the other hand, something about schedules; a lot of people
to print out schedules or maps from themselves. There were schedules at the
infopoint, at least 12 poster size schedules in 3 languages, notices on the
doors, maps and transport info.... Still some people, somehow, instead of
looking at posters would come and ask me "how do I get to, what's the
schedule today, etc.?", which sometimes made life difficult because if you
go out of a meeting and right away 20 people have questions, and at least
half of them could be avoided if people just took a schedule, well, I don't
know. (Admittedly, the latest version of the Russian-language schedule was
not up on the site before time, so it could be that Russian speakers didn't
see them and needed to ask me for a copy of the schedule.) So it's strikes
me as strange to hear about this confusion. Except I think there was LOTS of
confusion also due to the two conferences at the same time. (For me it was
just a disaster.) In terms of not understanding what languages things were
in and so on, I think this is a question particularly of a workshop on
alternative culture, which many people complained was only in Polish. To
tell the truth, I don't know who organized this workshop, whether it was
someone from the Anarchist Conference or Border Conference, (I think maybe
the Border) but in any case, it was not previously announced. I think that
a number of more spontaneous meetings (plus one in Krynki) went without
translation. So again, this was a question mostly of preparation. But it may
be also true that if people did not come in time for the start, lazybones
translators may have not started translation in that language and then also
not noticed that somebody from that language popped in, or maybe even known
that a person who wandered in needed translation. It wasn't like there were
professional simulataneous translators in booths doing the translation
whether it was needed or not.
A report on International anarchist meeting in Warsaw 27.-30th of June 2003
With some 250 participators together with the parallel anti-border
conference, the first East-European anarchist meeting in five years became a
success. Especially fascinating was the scale of the Eastern-European
involvement - besides masses of Polish practically all anarchist tendencies
from the European side of Russia were present, as well as plenty of people
from Minsk and Kiev, almost all once so hostile to each other Czech groups,
people from Slovakia and Romania, lots of people from Lithuania and even
more East-European immigrants from Western Europe. From other countries at
least Canada, Germany, Italy, USA and Finland were present, organisers
counted 20 different countries.
Arrangement with the anti-border meeting, which took place in
building the same
time was quite confusing for many, especially when relations between
organisers of the anarchist meeting and (also anarchist) organisers of the
antiborder conference developed from hostile to open warfare during the
events. I will write another article on this theme for Alter-EE subscribers
and other concerned because I just love to stick my nose to other peoples
business, but in this article I just want to mention that I still believe
that intentions of the both parts were honest, although pursued political
aims slightly different. I believe none was parasiting the other. Besides
chaos there was also clear synergy. It is no doubt that vast majority of
people came first of all for the anarchist meeting, but many also attended
antiborder workshops, enriching the conference. Antiborder conference had
applied for grants, which was useful for the anarchist meeting for example
as far as sleeping arrangements were concerned. I am sure both groups could
have made it also without each other, but with cost of quality of the
Best always comes last
Best event of the anarchist meeting was the evaluation which
we made at the
Polish border camp 5 days afterwards, too bad for those participators who
did not came to the border camp. I will write another article about the
border camp, but this particular discussion influenced a lot my opinions
about the event in general. The evaluation was just enough days after the
end of the meeting for people to formulate their impressions, and not so
long time afterwards that people could forget them. We could only start
evaluation discussion 23:00 in the evening after a long day of action and
people were very tired, which was very good since everyone was now sitting
peacefully, too tired to run around doing other business or to booze or to
make noise. We could still continue almost 2 hours, so I will try to fool
people to late night workshops in future as well. Only big minus was that it
was outdoors around campfire, and thus it was too dark for taking any notes.
First event of the anarchist meeting were the parallel anti-sexism
anarcha-feminist workshops. Difference between these was clear to few or
none of the participants, since both of them were mixed - maybe the
confusion was an intended provocation by organisers. I ended up to
anti-sexism discussion, where we had 21 men and 6 women - the
anarcha-feminist meeting had maybe same numbers with opposite relation.
Discussion began late, and round of presentations took more than one hour.
This was because everyone was asked to tell about their opinions and
feelings about anti-sexist work, as well as about expectations on this
workshop. No convergence of ideas was reached, as one could expect in a room
full of people from very different traditions as far as the anti-sexist work
goes. Moderators (two German and one Polish) had some ideas in prior, but
were somewhat afraid to govern the course of discussion which meant that it
did not lead much to anywhere. For most of the people issue of sexism is
related to very personal experiences, so discussion was sort of endless list
of most various appearances of the problem people had seen around them. For
some various other kinds of psychological violence in personal relations
than sexist seemed to be closer to their personal experience.
Actually German moderators were unhappy, since many people put
of relating oppression of women to more general issues such as mutual abuse
in personal relations. I suppose these kind of comments would have
considered blatantly anti-feminist and reactionary in big section of the
German scene. I agree that there was at least one person around to whom
feminist argument was a completely blind spot. But I am sure 10 years before
it would not have been one person but all of the room. The original
intention of the German moderators seems to have been enlarging so-called
pro-feminist men network to Eastern Europe, but this idea ended up as
completely ignored. One reason being that it popped up towards the end of
the discussion. This was a shame, there are things I would have liked to
talk about the pro-feminist men network, I have followed a bit their
organising in Finland from outside and I have some questions I would like to
ask, but seems like I have to wait until the next opportunity. And I had to
translate, and when one is translating it is really impossible to take an
active part to the discussion. Some people who participated to the parallel
anarcha-feminist meeting complained that most of the time went to argument
about having or not having separate groups, which was a hot topic for some
Russian MEN involved but generally passe for many participators.
Failure to maintain the schedule was a really big minus for
the meeting. The
difference between big (50 persons) and huge (250 persons) events is that in
big events it might be someway collectively spontaneously decided when it is
time to begin a discussion, but in huge events the mass inertia is just too
much and if there is no discipline and no-one wants to be authoritarian,
program will never start. Every morning program began like 90 minutes late,
which was very annoying since the whole schedule got fucked up and it was
impossible to know when there will be food and when workshops will start
later on during the day. I am sure that if organisers were authoritarian
enough the first day, later on people would have learned that if they are
not in the workshops the right minute, they will miss something. It should
be ones own problem to be around in time. We could have began any workshop
when 5 people were around, this way people would have learned that they
won't be waited. And what is the point to formally began program 10 AM, if
everyone thinks it is impossible that early anyway?
Friday 27th was the only day I participated to parallel anti-border
I had to translate to a Belarussian for a while in a lecture about "New
forms of fascism and anti-Semitism in Poland", made by some Piotr from
Warsaw. He was a totally annoying liberal who made points like "The very
pleasant thing in the Polish society is that unlike Germans and Russians, we
have always been in the centre, extremists such as fascists or communists
have always had just a minor support over here". The point of these "new
forms" was that mainstream Polish parliamentary politicians like nowadays to
use sort of non-direct anti-Semitic rhetoric, for example slogan "I am 100%
Polish" means actually that a Politician is proud not to have any Jewish
blood. Whatever, fuck this guy, I hope I will never have to see him again.
N-word always scores biNGO
First working group in Saturday 28th was the Eastern-European
something which really should have required some preparation and pre-planned
concept. I counted almost 30 different groups or initiatives present, so
having all of them presented would have required the whole day. It was a
good innovation to have presentations in randomised order, but we still did
not got very far because we began so much late. But it is a question how
much it makes sense in general to have presentations in such a massive
There are two kinds of people, those who understand better written,
those who understand better spoken information. Those who prefer spoken
information may read countless articles, but they are always happy to hear
exactly same things spoken since they process spoken information much
better. But since I process written information much more effectively, it
was no surprise to me that all presentations in the meeting together gave me
a minimal among of new information, adding to what I had read from internet
or journals already. Spoken information is always less intense especially if
it has to be translated to two languages.
One idea that came to my mind already few days before the meeting
have "continuous presentation", that every participator was given half hours
of time to present their group activities, theoretical backgrounds and
history in a working group which would be continuously taking place during
the whole meeting time. Presentation order would be available in schedule,
so that people could attend to presentations of groups interesting to them,
and hear much more in depth about their ideas than just the usual 5 minute
superficial torso. Maybe we could implement this the next time, although in
general I think interests of those preferring written information are in an
eternal controversy with of those preferring spoken word.
No expectations - no disappointments
One reason why I am so happy with the Warsaw meeting is that
I had not much
of any expectations, or any ideas of common projects I wanted to get
realised there. For example 5 years before in East-West meeting of Prague I
proposed setting up a news bulletin about East European issues, but when
time was ripe for that it emerged in form of Abolishing the Borders from
Below-paper, completely independently from the networks which once organised
the anarchist East-West meetings. I think Alter-EE list and ABfB paper
already completely fulfil the demand of information networks in the Eastern
Europe, next step should be creating networks connected to some projects. Of
course working group on networking was a good place to promote these two
existing initiatives, but inviting people to ready table is never the most
creative approach, there are always much more people willing to start
something new than to join already existing initiatives concept of which
they may not formulate. But no one had any other ideas except these two
already running initiatives. We also decided to split to smaller more
concrete groups, but only group proposed was the anti-repression one.
I was to moderate it (I am afraid I do not qualify to title
but I just ended up delivering a lecture about the trouble we have lately
had with chekists in Krasnodar, Yaroslavl, Ivanovo and Moscow. This was not
my intention, since we have not yet set up a proper counter-repression
strategy in Russia (when writing this we still are working on it), and I had
nothing concrete to propose to people at that point. I would rather had seen
some kind of emergency response network set up by people who participated,
and a general discussion about anti-repression/Anarchist Black Cross
strategy in Eastern Europe. But unfortunately no people with experience or
ideas on anti-repression or Black Cross activities from Poland (where are
many very active Black Cross groups) or from elsewhere came to this
discussion, so I ended up being the lecturer. All the remaining program of
Saturday I missed because I was doing distro. A good hint for the next
meeting would be to spend one half of a day to a book market, so that people
do not have worry that everyone gets the literature they were looking for,
and do not have to miss so much other program.
In Sunday 29th the first working group was about anarcho-syndicates
workers' activists. It started that much late that I had to leave in the
middle in order to make it to presentation of the Navinki editors, just when
it was about to get interesting. Of course the syndicalist working group was
again mostly presentations, and since less new information since most of the
thing has been covered in internet and ABfB in the past, the essential new
information was foundation of active Casual Workers Union by some Belarus
Anarchist Front people from Minsk, they had even had some successes.
Navinki presentation was something unusual for me, a pleasant
was mainly because Pavlyuk (editor in chief of Navinki) is such an excellent
speaker, among two of the best I know from the former Soviet Union. Good
speakers are a rare phenomena in the anarchist movement of today. Although
everyone should know it already, Navinki is a satirical paper published by
an anarchist collective (with nihilist tendencies;-) from Minsk. Lukashenko
is running libel charges against Navinki, which will most likely lead to
closure of the paper. Already now Pavlyuk has had his parents (!) property
confiscated due to inability to pay his fines given after the libel court of
Learn Belarussian or die
I have always trouble in maintaining serious face when explaining
that Navinki is an anarchist paper which needs support of the anarchist
movement, since there is absolutely nothing serious in Navinki. This is also
the reason why Navinki has been so tremendous success in Belarus, at times
it has been printed 5000 copies which very few anarchism-related periodicals
may beat (only Norwegian Gateavisan and diy-ad financed Profane Existence
come to my mind). I would have liked to have a sort of brainstorming about
organisation of the support campaign, I was in a need of funny and creative
ideas since supporting Navinki with serious face would not make any sense.
Such ideas did not really came out in the discussion. I have some ideas
anyway, such as to organise besides the usual picket a counter-picket as
well, where dressed up KGB agents distribute Belarussian roubles (value of
which is 1/2000 $) to everyone subscribing petition against "obscure"
Navinki. Another idea is to organise parodical studying circles of
Belarussian state-ideology in construction, just as Maoists, Hoxhaists etc.
had their wacko studying circles back in the days.
Enough talking shit
Besides presentations, another disturbing thing in the international
are the demonstrations. When idea about this international meeting came up
in the aftermath of 2001 Polish bordercamp, one of the reasons I thought we
needed such meeting was that in bordercamps it is never really enough time
just to sit down and discuss ideas and projects, since people are all the
time running around and huzzling about the next days actions. There are
number of Polish I have known by face since the 2000 border camp, but with
whom I still have not had time to have a discussion with...
but what happened in Warsaw meeting was that anti-border people organised
support demo for abortion ship on Saturday, many people spent most of the
Sunday in planning mondays anti-visa regime demo and since many people got
arrested on Monday, all the meeting program remaining on Monday had to be
cancelled. So people still had a chance to spend most of the meeting in
demos or in planning them, if they liked.
Anarchist movement in Poland as well as in most of the places
is very young,
and most of the people prefer doing concrete things to discussions. Much
more people had opinions and ideas about the demonstration tactics than were
participating during the other discussions, and atmosphere in demonstration
planning meeting was much more electric and inspiring than during all other
workshops. I also prefer being in a movement which prefers doing against
bare talk than the contrary. But really I have 365 days in a year to
organise (maybe little less spectacular) demos, but only once in five years
I have 4 days for an East European anarchist meeting.
I admit it was cool anyway
Ok, this visa policy demo was part of the concept of the meeting
beginning, and everyone except me liked the idea a lot (I also liked idea
but with reservations), and vast majority except a vocal minority liked the
realisation as well, so I wont be whining on that anymore. And in the
beginning date was definitely very important and symbolical, last day of
visa free travel for people from non EU candidate countries. Although demo
was not legalised, we successfully marched a long time, distributed a plenty
of leaflets and banner we hanged from the bridge was there the next day.
Eventually we got surrounded, few people beaten up and 16 arrested. Demo
definitely made a wrong turn, and even worse went to a sidewalk where it
could be surrounded. This mistake might have had something to do with the
fact that first 20 persons were non-Polish who had little idea about the
road, a clear tactical mistake. In another hand I do not think we could have
walked much more without siege attempts by police. Well disciplined and
trained demonstration force would have quickly dispersed in beginning of the
police blockade and regrouped 500 meter further on the road, but I guess I
wont see anything like that during my lifetime. I will write more opinions
about demo tactics in another text dealing with dirty laundry of the meeting
and anti-border conference. I also wonder why so few people from Warsaw came
to demo, half of the 150 people were foreigners and I suppose most of the
rest from other Polish cities. But anyway, demo was ***** so enough about
Only fraction of the participators participated to daily evening
maybe not so bad since at least there was always space. The performance of
Sunday evening was quite horrible, all performance cliches with masked
person staggering around on after-trip, raw meat and bones... only good
thing was the music which was nice free jazz. However that evening I had
enough sense of humour to watch the trash to its end. Theatre of the next
evening was not much better, but who cares.
To conference or not to conference
The question remains do we really need such events. It is easy
to see point
of a project meeting gathering 30 persons around a concrete issue, but what
is a sense of collecting 200 anarchists to some spot? Identity-building
without any contents? Comment I hear most often after such events is that
maybe workshops and presentations were not that useful, but people managed
to make lots interesting connections and meet lots of interesting people off
program. But if that is the main goal, it would require much less effort to
invite just my 30 friends to a closed meeting, no effort needed for booking
lecturers since everything could be discussed in a pub in informal
environment, no any promotion work necessary. Or maybe to have a big and
open meeting, but without any program or lectures so that everyone could
hang around in corridors 24 h/day. And even if bigger events were necessary
to connect with people about whom I maybe had never heard before, I still
wonder if these kinds of corridor networks were the way I want anarchist
movement to organise, even if they were as effective as their capitalist
equivalents WEF, TABD and Trilateral commission have proven themselves to
be. Networking based solely on personal relations is at first vulnerable,
because people may get repressed or leave anarchist movement, and all these
connections disappear with them and must be built from zero by the
followers. At second, it creates decisionmaking procedures which are not
democratic and transparent for the movement in general, if the most
interesting and important discussion in such meetings are informal you must
know the right people and be in the right place in the right time to
participate to them.
Opportunities and expectations
In another hand, never before have we had so developed communication
transport mechanisms which allow us to organise events for 200 people. 100
years ago anarchists meetings were just for a handful of delegates from each
country, maybe now we could at last organise a completely other kind of
international movement, a movement where everyone is a leader? Well, I still
doubt that there could ever be any constructive discussion with 200 persons
participating, but maybe there could still be some more effective means to
use the opportunities we have today.
For me, the best point which came out during the evaluation
was the vast
variation of expectations people had when coming to the meeting. People from
ABfB collective had discovered this when they were making a videotape with a
more in-depth interviews of the meeting participators. Even more, they had
discovered that many people had no any expectations whatsoever, which also
became evident to me when many people were not saying anything in the
workshops. It is not necessarily a negative thing, but somewhat irritating
anyway. I think taking into account peoples expectations beforehand is a
very crucial thing for a meeting to be a success, we should experiment some
methods such as asking people to fill a blank about their expectations when
they announce interest to participate.
One person from Russian delegation noted me that some people
who were first time participating to some international event seemingly had
inflated expectations. Actually size of the event is also a dangerous factor
of alienation, everyone who comes has some story to tell but it might be
no-one is interested to hear it, at least if you are not able to grab right
person on the right moment. We should think mechanisms to have everyone feel
that they are wanted, welcome and important.
It is fact of nature that most organising among human beings
is based on
inter-personal dynamics, so attempts to organise otherwise might be doomed
to fail. It still remains to be checked, if it is possible to collect 30
persons strangers to each other to one working group, so that they could
left the room 2 hours later with some positive results. In this anarchist
meeting I did not encounter such a miracle, so we must continue
experimenting the next time.
When I voiced these concerns in our evaluation meeting five
days later, I
was soon responded by one Russian enemy of our mode of organisation as if I
was about to form some 4th international. Others were less hostile, but
still stressed the importance of personal contact. Although I think
formalisation and delegated meetings may solve problem of informal
hierarchies in some cases, I do not think they could be applied in the
East-European context. Language barriers would create huge demand of
translating bureaucracy, movement is yet way too little developed, has way
too local and particular approaches. Organisations are created by demand,
organisation for sake of organisation is just empty fetishism. Besides there
already exists a number of anarchist internationals, although they are not
very interested to network in our area, have different approaches than we
have (such as that of exclusively forming workers syndicates) or are
inward-looking in general.
Theory which solves everything
I would illustrate my model of natural development of international
networking with the following linear hierarchy of phases:
information space >> identity >> solidarity >>
common projects >>
organisation >> ? >> revolution
The very first phase is creation of the common information space
East-European area, I think this phase is now completed with Alter-EE list,
ABfB newsletter and increase of international contacts in general. This has
been a drastic development since launching of the Alter-EE some 7 years ago.
Second phase is creation of some East-European anarchist identity,
there exists a specially East-European anarchist movement with some special
kind of struggles which would be the common ground for further common
projects. I think this anarchist meeting might have been a milestone in this
development, it was definitely an event with a distinctively East-European
character. I may already see some special common factors in the
East-European movement. The factor I value the most is the attempt to create
a specific anarchist subject, even if weak, instead of being just a drop in
the ocean of the "left" as often is the case in the Western Europe. If
anarchist movement was just one left flavour without its own identity and
subjectivity, it would be deemed to disappear. Although voices calling for
left unity are regularly raised in the East as well, they are still a
Of course this state of affair is partly due to necessity as
well, since in
East-Europe the "progressive segment" of the society mostly just does not
exist. At times it makes things difficult, since left allows some channels
for anarchists to have dialogue with the larger part of the society, but in
another hand I have seldom seen as positive articles in the mainstream media
about our actions as in the extremely neo-liberal and conservative Polish
society. Often the forces which try most violently to marginalize and
destroy us are those of the left, as the murderous attack Swedish social
democrats launched in Gothenburg 2001 and during its aftermath shows.
Everyone keeps talking about reaching out for the wider society, but
reaching out is pointless if it comes with a price of giving out our
militancy. And as for the militancy goes things are doing quite well in most
of the East Europe, and as for the reaching out goes many people are very
serious with that. Examples of anarchists drifting to NGO activity have in
general been quite scary, I admit that there do are some non sell-out NGO's
around in the East-Europe, but they are less and less every day. Especially
in Russia our task is to prevent emergence of the pacifying civil society at
Solidarity and common projects
Common identity and interests create solidarity, which gives
way to common
projects and initiatives.
This is the phase right now, right now we have common identity and
solidarity, but common projects are still few. This of course depends on the
concrete circumstances as well, many struggles still have a very local
character and that will be the case for a long time. Paradoxically
globalisation has also brought temporary decentralisation of the economy in
some sense, in time of closed national economies corporations managed to
oligopolize to an extent that they were present everywhere in the limits of
a certain nation-state, but after disappearance of economic barriers many
actors have only limited area of presence in the economic space which is
most of the planet, and for example a company with which anarchists are
engaged in some conflict in Poland maybe has not any Russian representation
to attack. In another hand chances to have solidarity actions are abundant,
since anarchist are getting into trouble in some spot of the planet about
every day. This abundance would require some coordination and setting up
priorities, I really wonder if it makes sense to make a fax appeal alert if
few anarchists got arrested in Warsaw or Bialystok for 3 hours for a minor
For me, other word for transparent and democratic means of common
coordination and setting up common priorities is the organisation, fifth
level in my linear development of networking, which as I stated before is
yet out from our reach. It is already details to which extent the
organisation has to be formalised, I suppose it is always easier to agree in
general that we need some coordination and ability to set up priorities than
on the question of formalisation.
Two steps forward, one step back
In reality for sure the development will not be linear at all,
with all the
dirty laundry in the aftermath of the meeting I would suppose that if we got
two step forward this time, we went at least one step back soon after.
Polish movement was the only one in East Europe which had both necessary
material resources and connections to organise such an event, and so much
shit has been flying in the air that it will take years until anything
similar will get organised in Poland again. In general I was a bit surprised
why so many people in the evaluation discussion called for a similar kind of
big international meetings as often as possible, I suppose we do not want to
repeat failure of anarchist East-West meetings of middle-nineties, who
partly collapsed because they were organised annually, a way too often.
To be continued
As for the continuation, my idea is to organise a more specific
meeting the next year for a smaller audience, for example around
anti-repression issues, or around structural adjustment in Eastern Europe,
or noborder organising in East Europe, or maybe EU enlargement (in the last
case we would not come from Russia). Workshops in future international
meetings should have much more substance, and only way to have this
substance is that there is a continuous process in creating their agenda,
preferably a small international group of people organising around the theme
around the year. Many people gave positive feedback that the meeting program
was organised interactively through internet, and it is very unfortunately
that I had no way to participate to planning more actively. Besides this,
several people in the noborder camp were very much willing to organise a
Noborder camp in Ukraine or Belarus, unfortunately none of this people are
from Ukraine or Belarus, so we will see what comes out from that. As for the
Polish camp, yet there is only an idea to organise a music festival against
border in Poland, border camp as a form of protest is loosing some momentum
in Poland and it is unclear if they will continue in their present form (see
a separate article on border camp for this discussion).
Hi people, I decided to send this article about the last anarchist
I wrote almost five years ago, as a backrounder for the article I write
Warsaw anarchist meeting. I think it is important to study failure of the
East-West meeting(s) if we want to develop further the East-European
networking, since goals of the East-West meetings were almost similar to
of the Warsaw meeting, with the slight difference that Warsaw meeting became
be more like "from East to East" than as something networking East with
as was goal of the previous East West meetings. In Warsaw I saw no person
besides me who participated to previous East-West meeting. It must be said
meeting was a great success compared to the previous meeting, both what
to spirit and numbers (with 250 participators some 6-7 times more than
I think main reasons of the failure of the previous East-West
of the last one in 1998) were the following:
1) Conflicts inside IWA - since these meetings were initialized
gradually those excluded from IWA dropped and meetings became irrelevant
since with the remaining base everything could be organised inside the IWA
without a wider framework.
5 years later, this is not a problem anymore - situation in IWA has been
stabilized and since Warsaw meeting was not dependent on any of the
conflicting fractions it was no problem to present it as a neutral event. At
least Czech and Russian IWA fractions were present in Warsaw, I did not saw
anyone from ILS or other more moderate syndicalist international tendencies,
although there were plenty of people doing workplace organising around.
2) Little interest of Western groups. This continues still as
far as the
organised anarchism goes, although there were plenty of individuals from
West in Warsaw. Those Western friends (besides those from sizeable East
European anarchist immigrant community) I saw there which I know to have mo
re constant interest to East European networking are hardly part of the
anarchist, but instead a part of a more general anti-authoritarian movement
and were in Warsaw maybe in the first place because of the Noborder
conference, not because the anarchist meeting.
The concept of the Warsaw meeting ("from East to East") was more healthy
than that of the East-West, latter ones were from the beginning some kind of
"donour - aidee" events, which is not a really healthy approach although at
times aid might be necessary.
3) In mid-90's meetings were organised too often, every year.
I suppose this
will not be a problem now, since there is not known continuation to Warsaw
conference yet at least next year will pass without a similar event.
4) Problem of concept, unfit expectations... I think people
expectations regarding to East-West meetings, and maybe not in the first
place any clear idea why they were organised...
in 1998 I saw little propositions about common projects from those who came
from East, maybe they just expected some aid in some unclear sense... as for
expectations of those from the West, I have no idea what they were since
people from West mostly simply did not came then.
Ok, enough from now, I suppose we will continue this discussion
original report from 1998. I post it in full lenght, but I guess country
reports are somewhat irrelevant now, so you may just skip to resolutions.
REPORT ON 7TH ANNUAL "EAST-WEST" MEETING OF ANARCHO
REVOLUTIONARY ANARCHISTS, Held in Czech republic 27.-31.8.1998
I attended conference as an delegate of Finnish Anarchist Federation
I'm also member of Finnish syndicalist organisation Solidaarisuus. Organiser
of the conference was local AIT-branch FSA, wich is operating in both parts
of former Czech Republic. Among other participators were delegates from
CRAS-AIT (Russia), CNT-AIT (France), FIJL (Spain), WSA-AIT (USA), Brousse
collective (Belgium), FAB (Byelorus), FAK (Russia, Cuban area), Lipetsk free
student union (Russia) and some other organisations and individuals wich I
unfortunately forgot, for example from Ukraine, Germany and Latvia.
I arrived conference thursday 27th, thus I missed discussions
of day before.
On thursday, program was decided to have four parts:
1) Reports on social annd political situation of countries of delegates
2) Reports Situation of anarchist movements of delegates present
3) Reports on fascist/ultra right activities in Eastern Europe
4) Concrete proposals of common activities
Before starting program FSA-people said a word about present
East-West network and their aims on the conference. East-West meeting of
year before was a complete disaster, no western comrades partcipated to the
conference of Lvov, Ukraine. They stressed the importance to support eastern
movements, and the large possibilities of anarchist activities in the
worsening social situation in the Eastern Europe. They were disappointed of
6-year history of "conference-solidarity" and were demanding concrete common
work instead of empty rhetorics year after year. Thus, as their view,
restructuring of East-West network was needed.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SITUATION IN EASTERN EUROPE
Recent economical crisis was just starting during the conference,
situation before was not good either. Actually, talking of "new crisis" is
far from truth because changes to live a decent life have been continuously
diminishing around all the other Russia than the central cities during last
10 years. Crisis doesn't mean a lot to people who haven't been able to buy
any product from shops in many years. Atomization of the society has
prevented peoples from finding collective means of surviving during
continuous catastrophe. Neo-liberal thinking is mainstream in Russia as
well, people don't trust governement but they neither trust each other.
Byelorus has taken a lots of steps back to the totalitarian
social situation is worse than in "old times". Pensions are around
7-12$/month, average salary is 50$/month. Politics of Lukashenko have
guaranteed safer jobs, but ones sacked for political reasons can ever have a
new job. This is why strikes are very seldom seen, last struggle was one of
Minsk metro 1995 - every worker was sacked, and been drop-out since then.
All the opposition has been allied against Lukashenko - nationalists might
guard outside during meetings of radical left! Sentences to political
activists are harsh, recently two youngsters got 2 and 3 years of prison
because of writing anti-Lukashenko tags! Participators of illegal meetings
get huge fines (100$) if caught by police, whom Lukashenko has hired 150
000. State officials earn their salary by smuggling products to and from
Any political activities are possible in Ukraine as long as
disturb money-earning of Ukrainian governement. When anarchist attacked
stealing of the EBRD funds, governement replied with harsh repression (some
weeks after the conference I heard that secret police had twice destroyed
the house of one activist and stolen all her valuable or other important
Economical imbalance has lead to growing of paramilitias and violent street
gangs. Later ones use to rule parts of the big cities and randomly kill
"aliens" from other parts.
Miners of the Donbass-area organised a large protest action during spring
and marched to Kiev, but governement managed to use "divide and
rule"-strategy against the miners.
The anarchist present were actively cooperating with Rainbow Keepers,
radical ecologist movement wich is operating in large areas of former Soviet
union but wich has lately suffered of internal fighting. Greens of Ukraine
have been succesful in the areas of RK activity, but they have betrayed all
their promises, and they haven't got any link to RK. Ukrainian anarchists
present at the meeting received strong critique from others when they told
some local groups had supported communists in last elections, claiming that
it was the "only oppositional force defending the people".
Forthcoming elections shaped political situation of Slovakia.
has lately increased social benefits over a line they can't hold just for
the elections. Every Slovakian party is far-right, even Hungarian minority
has own right-wing movement.
Situation in Czech Republic is better than in many other countries
Eastern Europe. Still since 1990, costs of living have increased by 500%
while salaries have only raised 200-300%. 25% of the people are living under
mininum, 90$ a month. Unemployment rate is about 6%, many are working
part-time. Mass sackings are reality of today, railways sacked 40 000 last
year and 15 000 this year. 11 hospitals have been closed down since 1989,
queue for any operation is about 6 months at least. Milliards in local
currency have been stolen by rich in insurance business. Czech economy is
complete dependent on decreasing tourist industry.
Situation in Latvia is not as bad as in other parts of former
but it's getting worse all the time. Latvian economy is completely dependent
on Russian transito, and Russia tries to crush Latvian economy for political
During last years of right-wing governance, privatization and
labor flexibility has been the word. Unemployement benefits have been cut
50%. Most the new jobs are part-time, one man made a sad record with 14
different jobs a month. Most of the people have been managed to stay in the
middle class anyway.
Pushing around of unemployed people is not so much a problem
in France than
it's in the other EU countries, although benefits aren't high enough
allowing people to stay on them. Recent 35 hour reform has been complete
betrayal of working class, because the new legal definition of weekly
worktime will be average of the year - bosses can choose the working hours
and lenght of the day as they want. CNT-AIT of France has made a pamphlet on
recent reform, and it's the only union opposing this reform, others try to
claim that they have been succesful negotiators.
There is 5-party governement in Finland - the most right-wing
Coalition is in the governement happy together with most left-wing party,
Left alliance. Other governement parties are Swedish party and Greens,
biggest one is Social Democratic party.
During right wing governement before 1995 labour movement was organising
large protests against budget cuts, since then the policy has been continued
but no protests have been organised by official unions. Institutionalized
labor movement has traditionally been very strong in Finland, right now 74%
of the workers are members of the unions. But bureaucratic and authoritarian
unions are weak against the global trend of smashing the working class.
Finnish economy is depending on paper, metals and high-tech electronics such
as Nokia, all these sectors have been oligopolized and huge companies are
moving their production to south.
Official unemployment rate is 13%, but because rating criteria has changed
maybe 5 times since 1990 and every time rate has decreased, you can't really
say how many are without work. Pushing of unemployed is governement way in
Finland, after 6 months on benefit you have to accept filthiest work or go
(I didn't write down about situation of USA or Germany, because
nothing new for me. E-mail of every internet activist is full of US stuff
SITUATION OF ANARCHIST MOVEMENTS
During last 10 years Russian movement has suffered many splits.
now are CRAS-AIT and KAS, Rainbow Keepers and ADA. Russians thought right
now these 4 organisations haven't got serious conflicts between each other.
Another story is organisations claiming to be anarchist but have nothing to
do with it. Difference of CRAS-AIT and KAS is that CRAS-AIT follows AIT's
guidelines but KAS is also influenced by IWW and Swedish SAC. Nowadays KAS
has only groups in Siberia, two organizations are active in different
geographic areas and have fairly good relations.
Rainbow Keepers have recently splitted. Movement is difficult to categorize,
every people ever attended actions is considered as member and only a few of
activists has a theoretical approach. Social ecologists would be fairly good
label for them. RK wasn't invited to conference.
ADA works as an all-anarchist federation, the only official structure is
annual conference. All the kinds of anarchists, some strange such as
CRAS-members present were participating demonstrations and distributing
their magazine. KAS is more able to work as an union in their areas,
providing legal aid to their members and so on.
Kubanians are active in anti-fascism, feminism, ecology and counter-culture.
The city of Lipetsk and all Kuban is in so-called "red belt", where both
bolsheviks and nazis have big popular support. FAK is participating to
actions of RK.
Byelorussians present were active in ecology, anti-fascism and
counterculture. Their group is a local group of FAB, but they criticized FAB
and considered it too passive organisation. Group had contacts and actives
in different trade unions and student activists. Unlike many parts of
ex-USSR, fascism is not very popular in Byelorus.
Official propaganda hasn't (yet?) focused a lot in fighting against
Ukrainian anarchist groups are highly autonomous - not because
reasons but because they have serious financial problems in achieving means
of communication. Ukrainians present (I forget the group - guess it was AFEU
of ARG) had bad relations with RKAS, althought RKAS has decent relations
with RK in general. Ukrainians have been active in work against Lukashenko
and EBRD (European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, big player in
Ukrainian economy along with IMF and World Bank).
Interesting organisations in Slovakia are FSA and anti-fascist
Free Alternative, wich is relatively weak. A separate Slovakian Anarchist
Federation was founded some years ago, but it hasn't been very succesful in
organising, and nowadays it works together with FSA.
Recent history of Czech anarchist movement highly influenced
the climate of
conference and the way it was organised, but I'll save those views to end of
Right now there is 3 anarchist/syndicalist organisations in Czech republic.
I understood FSA, Federation of Social Anarchists, organization hosting the
conference was founded 1992, was a part of Czeckoslovakian Anarchist
Federation CSAF until 1996 and splitted then. FSA is AIT affiliate.
FSA describes it's way of organising as "FORA-model", not as pure
anarcho-syndicalist organisation, views of Friends of Durruti were also
popular in FSA. Organisation is publishing two papers, more theoretical
"Free labour" and free "Voice of direct action", wich have been distributed
to workplaces through a network of workers around the country. Books have
been published as well, such as later Bookchin, mostly to Czech language but
also something to Slovakian. During the seminar there was one political
prisoner at Czech Republic, Vaclav Jez jailed for self-defence against
Split of CSAF was mentioned as a great success, because organisation was
practically incapable to any activity due to interior schisms wich resulted
splitting. Critique against CSAF is a version of lifestylism vs. social
anarchism debate with flavor of personal and strategical disagreements. CSAF
was accused for concentrating on non-creative, countercultural activity,
opposing necessary radical means of anti-fascist work and cooperating with
officials in anti-fascist activity.
Main activities of CSAF include squatting houses in Prague and organising
Street parties, "Counterstream", eco-anarchist group inside CSAF has worked
f.e. for closing Czech and Slovakian NPP's. Counterstream is also a part of
Rainbow Keepers network. CSAF has connections to Swedish SAC and
Solidarita is a small group wich left CSAF few years ago. According to FSA,
it is inspired from SAC, Spanish CGT and French OCL.
CNT-E has more than 2000 members, more than 100 syndicats of
wich most are
illegal. Women's organisation Mujeres Libres has at least 3 active groups,
and hosts a school at Madrid. FIJL, Federaci?n Ib?rica de Juventudes
Libertarias - a sort of youth organisation of FAI althought not officially
connected - has 22 locals, each with 3-6 groups in wich 2-5 actives. Only
anarchists are allowed to join FIJL, magazine Jake Libertario is printed
with 1000 copies. In Spain there exist a division of labor, every
organisation has it's own field of activity. Only FIJL activists were
present, and they only spoke on behalf of their own organisation.
There is some autonomist groups such as "Anarchist Evolutarian Collective",
there is no problem with these people, FIJL aims to a sort of "positive"
competition with these groups, such as organising better seminars,
demonstrations and parties than others but not critisizing activities of
others. Radical ecological ideas aren't very familiar, one group exists wich
sometimes writes articles to magazine of CNT-E.
CGT was criticized for bureaucracy, close ties to political parties, and
allowing police syndicat to work in the same bureau at Barcelona.
CNT-AIT has 25 local groups. Groups are quite independent, some
workers, some students. Main work is distribution of propaganda. CNT-AIT
allows members of other unions to join.
French FA was labelled "centrist", it is not very tight organization. In
some cities relations between CNT-AIT and FA are more, in some less warm.
Movement of unemployed has been quite strong lately, mainly organised by
institutionalized unions but lots of libertarians are present in the
grassroots. Zapatista-solidarity was popular some years ago.
Finnish Anarchist Federation SAL has 10 locals on paper, in
organization is distro and membership paper, membership is around 150 making
it one of the biggest existing anarchist organizations compared to size of
population. Most groups are working in networks built around few special
questions, such as local enviromental struggles and Shell-boycot campaining,
also involving non-anarchists.
Finnish anarchists are regularly imprisoned for refusing to participate any
form of military service, standard sentence 197 days is usually served in
open prisons, wich comrades from East would rather call hostels.
Other anarchist groups are anarcha-feminist league Peppi working mostly at
Helsinki and student groups at few cities.
Solidaarisuus is Finnish syndicalist organisation, non-anarchists are
welcomed as well if they keep party politics outside. (Later note: a
referendum to join IWW has been passed to january 1999). Solidaarisuus has
60 members, active locals at three cities. Common activities are Food not
Bombs-actions and demonstrations inside Finnish welfare institutions.
Workplace-organising is a goal but seldom done, Finnish workplaces without
existing unions are ones very difficult to organise - such as places where
one worker stays about one week.
Radical animal liberation and other radical enviromental movement has been a
dominating part of Finnish "alternative movement" during last years, it has
very problematic public image due to massive sabotage wich has resulted
damages of more than 5 million $ to fur farms for example. Maybe half of the
animal liberators identify themselves as anarchists.
FASCISM AND ANTI-FASCISM
There is around 800 hammerskins at Czech Republic, 2000 applied
Registered Patriotic Front has 500 members, organisation has ties to Combat
18 and Blood and Honour. Ultra right has dropped from parliament wich makes
it a worse problem, now they can distribute freely more hardline propaganda.
Ultra-right Republican party has about 80 000 members.
One of the main reasons of CSAF split was disagreement with anti-fascist
strategies, small Czechian AFA beat heavily 45 nazis during first months of
it's existence - FSA doesn't organise such activities nor opposes them, but
CSAF critisized heavily such strategies. Some CSAF activist have worked at
moderate organisation called HOST, wich collects information about
ultra-right and gives it to officials.
Situation is really alarming, hundreds of ultra-right groups
emerging since the beginning of eighties, most dangerous group is Russian
National Unity with 2000-20 000 activists and one million supporters.
Magazine of organization has a distribution of one million copies.
Organization is dangerous because of it's clever strategy to avoid forms of
activity wich result bad media, violent actions are committed relatively
seldom, exception being attacks against Caucasians and other people with
"wrong outlook" at marketplaces.
Many of the members have right to carry firearms, and organization has a
good business of offering guarding and ticket-control services for
collective traffic. RNL and RNP are more hardline fractions splitted from
RNU "because RNU receives money from jewish politicians and bankers".
Strange neonazist group is Russian Nationalist Bolshevist party, it's a
fraction of European liberation front based in Belgium. They write articles
about Makhno, Guevara, Lenin... flag is black shickle and hammer in white
circle on red backround.
Zhirinovski is not a real threat, his party ever opposed Jeltsin at Duma
United network branch of Russia, Moscow AFA, considers left as dangerous as
right, politically it's near Jabloko party and defends Pinochet, Franco,
market economy and Social Darwinism.
Another anti-fascist group is Left Anti-Fascist Resistance, mainly
Militant-section Trots. CRAS comrades have bad relations with these folks.
Among strange Russian phenomenas is also group called Revolutionary Militant
Council wich made some symbolical bombings of old statues in Moscow, one guy
was arrested and anarchist renegade, fascist Kostenko and Komsomol are
raising lots of money riding with his martyrdom.
Nationalism is common with all the parties. "Motherhood
of Slovakia" is a
fascist propaganda organization, officially "cultural heritage organization"
with close ties to many political parties. Roman catholic church is among
promoters of heritage of first Slovakian state, fascist satellite
dictatorship of nazi Germany during WW II. Neonazis are publishing
hate-records through official state institutions, in newspapers you can read
advertisement decorated with svastikas. Although nazis are visible part of
everyday living, fortunately they are not very united.
There is not a succesful nazi party at France. CNT-AIT representatives
thought that FN is not a real threat compared to threat of working with
social democrats for anti-fascist aims. FN is more useful to state than a
threat to it.
Althought culturally Finland is a sort of Idaho or Texas of
haven't had any support at elections since WW II. Only 0.1% of Finns have
different skin color, to them racism is common phenomena. Street violence is
a threat at some smaller cities. Most of moderate Antifa-groups have ceased
to exist, more radical activity is very rare.
Various ultra-right groups from militias, opposers of Spanish
Ku-Klux Klan to Wise-Use groups, pro-lifers and Christian Coalition jerks.
Anyway, fascists at the governement are the worst ones after all.
Anti-fascist groups are for example organising counter-demonstration,
protecting abortion clinics and monitoring police violence.
Role of existing East-West network structure was put in question,
meetings have resulted almost nothing. Comrades from East analyzed this was
due to looseness of the network. Comrades of the East laid their hopes on
bringing international solidarity more tighter to IWA agenda and practice.
This discussion was tightly around IWA business, only few representatives
were anymore around from non-IWA sections. I warned about making East-West
Network just inside IWA-business, I was replied that non-IWA sections are
warmly welcomed if they share some common ideological points. I guess it's
up to organisers to decide who to invite and who not, not a problem to me.
The resolution of conference was just a draft when I left, I never received
it for to add my name. Guess it was mainly aimed to IWA bureau, asking for
more help to Eastern comrades in difficult economic situation.
Some personal notes on conference and situation of Czech Republic
Almost all delegates from other Eastern groups than FSA or CRAS left the
conference one by one. Prague has become some kind of center of
revolutionary tourism from X-USSR countries, cheap enough and not too big
language barrier. Thus conference was not their main ambition for visiting
Prague, and if they felt themselves not welcomed after minor disputes about
cooperation with communists or promoting legalization of marihuana, they had
a small treshold for walking out from the conference. I think it should have
been avoided, but everyone has a change to choice with whom to cooperate.
One reason was that these people had good relations with CSAF, and were
impressed for their way of their organizing such as squatting - thus they
didn't like the way FSA's were talking about CSAF.
Some of their criticism against CSAF made sense, such as criticizing
cooperation with officials in anti-fascist activities, some comments on
enviromental activities as "neolithism" sounded like a wise use crap. I
think the very backround of FSA's splitting from CSAF was an attempt to get
out from the subculture, wich I think is the main task for anarchist
movement nowadays. FSA selected quite radical way to do this, I wish them
luck in their path. I met CSAF activists during one evening after the
conference, and I hear their counterarguments against some FSA claims.
SAL - Finnish Anarchist Federation
Laure wrote: > As to Karina's feedback on schedules, etc..
I think a real problem was
> starting meetings on time. This has been a problem the last couple of
years > at camps etc.. You have to be like a Stalinist it seems.
I have a killer idea with this one. In next meeting we will
just waint 10
minutes, and then we will just lock the door, not letting anyone in or out until
end of the discussion. Those who came late may just fuck off. People may
piss to bottles (Women may do that as well with a special kind of device).
If you do not want to be Stalin, I will be. I may also take hat, coat,
pipe and moustaches (don't worry, I will not smoke the pipe).
About the E-W meetings, etc.. It may be true you were the only
one at the
last meeting, but a few people were at some of the other meetings and can
compare. But I have to play devil's advocate a bit. I really wonder, again
knowing the people involved in these meetings, how much their demise had to
do with burnout and how much with the sort of give-take relationships. I
mean, in fact, people from Eastern Europe can give and gave much in terms of
knowledge, insight, information, analysis --- but there were always very big
differences in terms of material basis. Some people from the east also
exploited this and I know this also played a part in dissuading some people
from contiuning work. Also, the east is full of some strange characters, and
a few of them got involved in E-W networking. So I don't wanna put blame on
anybody, but I feel your four explanations, although I think all true, are
only one part of the picture.
If you look at E-W relations perceptions now, you can also see
someplace like Poland is a little bit of a black hole from many people,
although it's strange given the fact that some of us send lots of messages
constantly. Maybe this is lack of interest. Maybe something else. I think
that some Western activists tend to identify with groups, ideas and
philosophies and a lack of clear and consistent political positions coming
from activists in Poland may confuse people, especially given all sorts of
comments about strange political alliances here. Right or wrong, there are
many people in the West for whom the ARTICULATION of the goals is important
and for them, perhaps a person who does nothing but who has articulated
themselves very clearly in terms of politics is preferable to people who do
a lot but maybe are not clear about stating (or even formulating) goals. If
you think of the people you know, you may find some examples of this. It's
really a generalization - there are different style and one is not exclusive
to East or West but think about some Western people interested in Eastern
Europe and you can see my point.
> 3) In mid-90's meetings were organised too often, every year. I suppose
> will not be a problem now, since there is not known continuation to Warsaw
> conference yet at least next year will pass without a similar event.
As to this point, certainly not in my town - and probably not
of that scale
but we are actively encouraging a meeting in areas underrepresented in
Warsaw. So Bulgaria, Serbian, Croatian, Romanian and other friends have our
support and encouragement. Rata and Co. really were expecting to do
something this year but were sidetracked cause of repression and Romanians
want to host something again next year, so I'm pretty confident that
something WILL happen down there. Us Russian speakers can go and pretend we
speak Bulgarian, so probably we'll be invited. :-) Of course I'm not
supposed to nag people too much about making this meeting - although I have
been known to organize parties in other people's houses. :-)
One thing we talked about (but I won't write too much on - given
chance) was the expectations people had. Everybody wants these types of
meetings to be fruitful for people as much as possible, but it's a questions
about how fruitful they can be if people don't prepare themselves in
advance. In other words, if you want something concrete, you can't sort of
the meetings to generate these things - unless you start from a concrete
proposal or unless people work on proposals or ideas to talk about before
hand. I mean, you can - but then it looks like one person or small group
coming with their idea and presenting it and people joining up or not. Many
meetings look like that. Other meetings look like experts presenting
knowledge - sometimes with follow-up discussion, sometimes not. So we try to
look at every as a co-organizer, not as an attendant of any event. But only
a fraction of people came with very clear ideas. I guess it's OK; many next
time different people will feel clearer about what they want - this is
particularly true of people going to such a meeting for the first time.
Still, we really have to commend a number of people for preparing
certainly to many for having interesting things to say during the meetings.
Also, we were very happy about some spontaneous organizing help, a constant
number of people who could help with translations, etc..
One thing I have to beg to differ though with you is about the
organization of the anti-border conference.
It also seemed to both Zaczek and myself that a few extra events, extra
people, etc. would be an added attraction for people and certainly the grant
money helped people to travel; without that, a few people would not have
made it. But, it looked a little different from our point of view. For
example, we also had sleeping arrangements made and a lot of them were not
used. It's true, had everybody shown and had there been no hotel, things
would have been tight, a couple of people might have had to pay 2.5 euros
and many people would have had to sleep a bit in the suburbs. We know that
many people did not like the sleeping arrangements in the suburbs - which on
the one hand is understandable, but Warsaw being so expensive, that's where
people (except us who live in criminal districts) tend to live. And just
about EVERYBODY we know in Warsaw who could was really great to agree to
take in guests, etc. - even some people we don't know very very well. Now,
from the point of view of participants, we see that sleeping in a hotel next
to the conference is more convenient - but did it help integration? Two
other points: we don't know the terms of the grant, but probably more money
spent on transport with people living in those houses would have been
better. Finally, from our (selfish) point of view, nothing was that much
better to justify the battery of bad words, not so serious death threats and
agent rumours that came along with that hotel. Even some people who stayed
there and enjoyed the hospitality said later that it wasn't worth it. Of
course most people staying in the hotel and getting travel money were
extremely polite and gracious and thankful for the help, as should be, but
some other people had trouble there and I think nobody wanted to be part of
any issue that led to such shit later.
So in terms of participants, for some it might have been better,
it led to confusion, for us it was hell.
In terms of other aspects of the anti-border conference and
I think it is important to note that the original idea about the anti-border
conference as a separate entity grew out of the fact that XXX did not see
any sense and actively argued against an anarchist conference. In terms of
politics, she sometimes calls herself an anarchist but mostly a Marxist
(often calls herself simply leftist)- which is not an argument against her -
there are lots of people who do not find single labels satisfactory for
themselves. Still, the point is that in each and every matter, she is
against anarchists organizing for themselves, which she considers sectarian.
That's also fine although I don't agree. So the whole point of having the
anti-border conference as a separate entity (and it didn't even have to do
with not working with us because actually I proposed some separate events/
days and even was originally working on this until I got sick of some things
and split), but to create some events intended to integrate non-anarchists.
This is ALSO totally OK with me; I don't expect everybody in the world to be
interested in anarchism and understand that something like No Border work is
not particularly anarchist work, so the idea is totally appropriate. BUT if
you ask me whether or not the quality of the Anarchist Meeting IMPROVED due
to the anti-border workshops, it would be difficult for me to say yes. I
cannot form a definitive opinion as I did not attend those events myself - I
have only feedback to rely on. There were perhaps a few anarchistic speakers
who could just as well as been at the anarchist meeting, but there were also
a slew of liberals, some more disgusting than others. And mostly talking
head style lectures with little-to-now interaction - at least that's what I
heard. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) So I don't know if the inclusion of some
of those liberals improved anything or turned some people off. But I don't
wanna be totally hard on the liberals - some of them are perfectly nice
people and some I'm sure had something interesting to say. I just am more
miffed with some people who constantly stand up for liberals and liberal and
reformist politics and feel it's their personal crusade to try to wreak
havoc with any campaign or project which does not include the liberal or
Whether or not you believe anybody intended to distract from
conference by calling a 4-day anti-border conference on the same days
instead of holding a 2-day conference before or after may also depend on
your concrete experience of working with that person.
Among some things we discussed with Laure yesterday was the
which could be arranged before the conference. By means of a form on a web
page for example,
people could enter the type of activism they prefer (publishing, direct
action, prisoner support, fnb, whatever else)
the language(s) they speak and the countries they are looking for "matches"
This information would help pre-create affinity groups before the meeting,
and would save
the time spent on tedious never-ending presentations, which (translations
included) take a whole
lot of time. I would be inclined to start such a match-making service
permanently on alter-ee
page, if i knew how to do it. Perhaps some commercial service could be
customized well enough,
but preferably it should run on some anarchist server.
Continuous translation in three languages is something that
is on one hand
indispensable, but on the
other hand it makes things last longer than most people's attention span. It
could be said
it's just people's problem if their attention span is so short. It is a
great help however if people come with
a translation in several languages of their presentation (like Janek with
the presentation about "Rovnost").
We did make our life easier a few times by dropping polish translation
soon as the last person
speaking only polish left a meeting, but for sure we were not as quick to
notice when people who needed additional
translation came back ;) A problem was the small number of translators, and
the fact that a lot
of times the translators had to play the role of facilitators at the same
time, which cannot work well. (Well,
usually you can't hear yourself thinking if you have to translate).
I think that from a long term perspective it would be worth
teaching people english well
enough (the level of knowledge of english among anarchists in Poland is
lower than that of a similar
section of Polish society in general - for reasons i don't understand -
perhaps general anti-intellectual mood?)
Regarding a comment that was often made in feedback, that nothing
out of the meetings, i
have two idas:
- Some "local agents" from different countries or
groups should gather info
about what are people's
expectations and what they want to discuss about, and try to get them more
involved in preparing something
for the meeting. There were open avenues for a common creation of the agenda
through the IAM page,
but very few people took advantage of it (although we are very thankful to
those who did it!)
- On the example of the anti-sexist meeting, which to a large
repeated a lot of discussions which
a lot of people had before, leaving the impression of "heating up old
soyburgers", i thought that maybe
an idea to save time would be to make some "prerequisites" for people who
want to join a meeting,
meaning things they have to agree with in order to participate. This might
be seen as an authoritarian measure
by some people, and might make some people angry. It wouldn't be a problem
people were actively filling their "matchmaking" forms before coming to the
anarchist meeting: that
way there would hopefully be the possibility to accomodate meetings for
people with all different
Laure has explained the issues regarding sleeping places, and
the fact that
the places we had
for free were not necessarily the most conveniently located. I don't
particularily want to go into
the conflict about food and accomodation which marred the relations between
of the anarchist and the noborder conference. I don't think it's really
worth it. But i'm also not going to
forget how vicious and manipulative some people can get when their ambitions
are at stake.
I don't see the problem of "a step backwards" being
made because of the
conflict. If a conference is
not going to be organised next year in Warsaw, it's not because it's not
possible, but because it will
be better and more interesting in a new place, and of course i will be able
to enjoy it better if i
don't have to be responsible for the organisation :-)