Notes on CLT’s Praxis

“What are you actually doing?”

This is a fair question. We have a website, whose front image is of a barricade during the 1905 Revolution in Russia. We have a lot of notes about the state of questions of organization, general historical development, and a set of points of unity regarding what we consider correct positions on a level of struggle internationally. All of this might seem a bit grandiose for a group of less than twenty people in a third rate city of the most ridiculous state in the US. This is why, in the same way that it is important for those engaged in the practical politics of Capital to hold tightly to and nurse their illusions (“if the Democrats just get that super majority then we can really have some reform”), for us whose aims are ambitious in the extreme it is necessary to approach things practically.

LARPfight

In previous pieces Donald Parkinson alluded to LARPing (Life Action Role Playing), a pejorative popular among leftcom internet circles used to describe groups whose politics are based around the replication of past historical moments and organizational forms, usually lacking the very necessary historical context to understand how those movements developed in their time. It is easy to simply mock this, but it is also easy to fall into this trap. After all, since there is no clear historical continuity between us and major past revolutionary organizations, doesn’t trying to “bring back” modes of politics that have been abandoned for decades constitute a form of “historical reenactment?” The underlying problematic, of which LARPing is only the most absurd outward manifestation, is of how to realize an emancipatory, anti-capitalist politics in a period of high subsumption like the one we are living in, particularly in the United States. Our group will be no less immune to the dangers of marginalization, sectism, etc. than anyone else. But we believe that if we approach organization in an open manner that retains a certain sense of self-awareness, a sense of humor, along with an honest, clear-eyed analysis, we can hope to avoid the kind of toxic interpersonal environments and needful opportunistic thinking that plagues much of the rest of the phantom left.

I’d like to discuss here in a concrete manner what our organization is, and what we want it to be. For those who want the short (tl;dr) course, right now it’s a discussion group that would like to include more people in the discussion. Now, for the remainder of this piece I’d like to reflect on this in a bit more detail, as well as our broader aspirations to share, develop, and implement these ideas within our particular local circumstances with a sober sensibility and realistic sense of historical scale. The real question that we have is less “what are we doing” and more, “what can we do?”

What is to be done (if anything)

Roughly around 2012, an ex-Occupier, two IWW members and a couple of non-political friends formed a reading group to work through all three volumes of Capital. After this, the group continued to read Marxist texts and expanded the number of people circulating in and out of the reading group. The membership had engaged in differing forms of activism. We had worked together at one point to start a solidarity group and help a man fight his slumlord over bedbug issues. After a couple of years of decreased political activity and intellectual development we decided to form a new organization.

Communist League of Tampa is intended as a platform for us to engage the working class with a Marxist analysis of capitalism and a dialogue about the idea of communism. We seek to do this with a relatively realistic outlook regarding the broader political configurations of the present moment. Given the high degree of subsumption under capital, the massive political-historical defeat of the working class, and the current state of class composition in Tampa, we view it as entirely likely that opportunities to spread these ideas, and general public interest in them, will remain necessarily limited in the foreseeable future. So what do we do with this? Well, for one thing, we intend to focus on activities that are actually enjoyable for those involved. Without the capacity to pay professionals to carry out organizational functions, we must limit ourselves to what our members volunteer to accomplish. And with a limited pool of membership to draw on, one basically has to rely on people’s good will. In circumstances where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of return for time and effort invested, or even a clear, foreseeable future for our politics (i.e. living in a non-revolutionary moment) there is a high risk for burnout, wasted energy, and the loss of perhaps our most precious personal resource: time. In these circumstances, most activist groups use guilt, cult like social pressure, and high turnover in order to ensure themselves a steady pool of what is essentially unpaid labor.

We absolutely reject this sort of “solution” and its attendant voluntarism. We won’t become a mass organization or serious political player simply by trying really hard. Instead we should focus on simpler activities which can function as ends in and of themselves even if they don’t open any doors to new possibilities. To this end we can look toward one of the few other decent organizations in the area, Food Not Bombs, which if nothing else, is at least getting some food and relief to people who need it, and is able to operate on a scale practical to the people participating in it. As for our group, whose task is a bit more amorphous, as long as everyone involved is enjoying themselves and we are honest about the functioning and role of our organization, if we try to keep ourselves open, accessible, and available to more people, then there is nothing wrong with simply being a communist social club for the time being. Since our group as of present is largely made up of self-selected radical nerds, albeit of a largely working class orientation, the real organizational challenge will be to engage a wider section of people with these ideas. We will have to ask ourselves: how do we reach and include those who might not necessarily be inclined towards lengthy discussions of theory and historical material?

The core of our organization is currently based around a weekly reading/discussion group. The conversations tend to progress organically surrounding a text, which leads to different sets of questions to investigate, and new texts that help to expand the analysis of the group generally. There is a core membership that is there nearly every week, with a peripheral set of members who attend less frequently. We are also in the process of developing short classes on Marxist theory to be given through the local “Free Skool” as well as hosting biweekly radical movie screenings.

We have begun focusing on publication, primarily through our website. We have also begun putting together pamphlets for instances in which a physical copy might be a better distributional means for the material (tracts for demos, installation in zine libraries, tabling etc.) Our writings will run the gamut from comments on current events, more in-depth theoretical articulations and polemics, as well as introductory literature aimed at a lay audience.

The Communist League of Tampa could also act as a platform for intervention in local struggles (or when impoverished enough on this point, pseudo-struggles) that we may not have had a direct hand in organizing. Having a collective voice and platform can help to amplify our influence (or annoyance) as a tendency and help us to think about what might actually be worth engaging in. It can also serve to focus our engagement with these struggles, by bringing an articulated perspective to them. Rather than attending events as individuals in a haphazard uneven manner, seeing business as usual, and then bitching about how dumb everything was afterwards, we can act as a group and attempt to articulate our perspective both in the form of literature and in our actions.

As mentioned previously, a good deal of the membership was involved in an effort to organize a Solidarity Network. Some were also involved in efforts toward direct workplace organization in the mode of the IWW. Though the return we sought on these kind of efforts was not perhaps what we had hoped, we still leave open the possibility for this form of organizing, and we hope to be able to assist in direct labor and proletarian organizing, should the possibility for it open up in the future. As we take stock of our experiences in efforts at local organization, and as both our understanding of communism, and the real movement of the class develops, the forms and types of work through which we attempt to engage the class will change. For now, let us say that we remain committed to some measure of indeterminacy; that the possibility for the recomposition of proletarian organization exists, if only as some kind of latent potential energy.

What education means (for us at least)

In our studies and development, more and more we are coming to the conclusion the real function of a revolutionary organization is educational. Our role in any “real movement” is to work do develop class consciousness. Since we are a part of the working class (and even if we weren’t) this includes ourselves both as individuals and as an organization.

There is still a great deal of theoretical development to be done. The history of proletarian struggle, buried under the trauma of its failure and the cover ups of its existence, is still in a period of excavation facilitated by the rapid information exchange made possible by the internet. This also applies to Marxian economic analysis, whose renewed interest and investigations have been boosted by the increasingly apparent flaws in the “end of history” ideology of late neo-liberalism. Understanding and developing this analysis, often denigrated as intellectual masturbation, in fact carries tremendous implications. We reject this notion that our current historical impasse is simply the result of a lack of political will, the stupidity of the public, or the increasingly absurd sectarianism of the left. These phenomena, poorly characterized but descriptive of something, are much symptoms as they are causes. If we are serious about seeking to abolish capitalism, then it would be helpful to actually understand what capitalism is, and what has happened in the past that lead others attempting the same thing to go astray. Without some measure of theoretical rigor, people fall into activism, grasping on to whatever notions are floating around in their milieu and whatever flatter their prejudices elsewhere. This sort of needful, opportunistic thinking is the basis of the burnout that inevitably occurs after a period of indefinite campaigning.

That our analysis is incomplete should not be a source of discouragement. It is entirely appropriate that the questions of the proletariat today are our questions. We should be open to engaging with emerging movements and points of apparent class struggle. We should also be completely open about our positions, and be as ruthlessly critical of the ideas of other movements as we are of everything else. We are not out to further sectarian division with this, but rather to advocate our ideas and foster a healthy culture of internal debate and educational development. We strive to make our ideas comprehensible to as many people as possible, but we are absolutely uninterested in obscure pedagogical exercises in which we lead potential recruits through the 36 Chambers of the Death of Capitalism until they are ready to pay dues to our awesome cadre. Marxism, like any other strain of science, can be explained to a general audience without watering down or distorting the core content. We obviously reject the ideology of mass lines, or united front induced self-censorship, in which it is concluded that the proletariat has to be deceived before they can be shown the truth. This sort of intellectual dishonesty is an ideology of political opportunism. We need to be as forthright about our aims and ideas as possible and advocate for them today, not the promised tomorrow that never comes. It also presumes that there is some kind of pure ideological understanding held by a core elite. A lot of this is connected to the bureaucratic tendencies in post-comintern political parties which have somehow outlived their historical failure. The “real movement” of the proletariat should inform our analysis, but it must remain within a scientific framework. We acknowledge an inevitable division of labor in the work of communist analysis, but assert that this process, while based upon certain theoretical principles, is dynamic and informed by new developments. It is a process which, in principle, anyone can be a part of.

Towards regional and international organization (eventually)

What of the future? This is always less clear. Many of the questions we have been grappling with in the reading group, including but not limited to: class composition, crisis, the nature of industrial development, surplus populations, ecological horizons, and potential communist societal organization, all have tremendous bearing on this. Unfortunately only time will tell which direction history will take. In the mean time we can engage in research and work to develop our own theoretical frameworks for understanding these phenomena. As our understanding comes more into focus, and if class struggle heats up, it will become easier to make this theoretical knowledge into the basis for practical decision making. To this end it will be necessary for communists to have some basis for organization on which to act at a higher level. This will likely entail having links to the leading actors in class struggle locally, as well as broader organization regionally and internationally.

We should avoid undertaking the latter tasks on too early. In terms of local class struggle, attempting to seek out leading actors would likely consist of talking to tired trade union bureaucrats. The more militant outbursts occasionally seen outside of this, tend to be too spontaneous and dispersed. These moments, like Ferguson or Sanford, are reflective of the pre-political quality of the moment and would be too difficult to reach or influence concretely in advance. As to the matter of regional or international organization, this takes a tremendous amount of work. With a limited membership pool, flimsy relationship to the broader class, and lack of practical tasks in front of it, such organization could easily fall into Fourth International syndrome, if not outright failure. For now we encourage people to develop local groups based upon shared principles and tailored to the needs of their region. Seek out others, develop understanding, and attempt to share it with a broader public. In the immediate future perhaps some conferences or collective publications will be appropriate, and it is my understanding that there are already talks of bringing this into being. The road to a renewed proletarian struggle will not be an easy one, and will likely take a very different path from what we’ve seen before. But if we commit to a basic set of principles, keep an open mind, and exercise a healthy amount of revolutionary patience, we can prepare ourselves for a new beginning.

Why we need a world party

As a long-term goal communists should work towards a world party organized around a minimum/maximum programme that can tolerate factionalism while maintaining independence from bourgeois and reformist parties.

mythical party

“…it is inevitable that the growing proletariat should resist exploitation, and that it should organize industrially, co-operatively and politically to secure for itself better conditions of life and labor, and greater political influence. Everywhere the proletariat develops these phases of activity whether it is socialistically minded or not. It is the mission of the Socialist movement to bring all these various activities of the proletariat against its exploitation into one conscious and unified movement, that will find its climax in the great final battle for the conquest of political power.” – Karl Kautsky, The Road to Power, 1909

“There are therefore no bodies which are revolutionary because of their form; there are only social forces that are revolutionary through the direction in which they act, and these forces are organized in a party that fights with a program.” – Amadeo Bordiga

Do Communists need a party? If so, what kind do we need? Can revolutionary syndicalism or councilism serve as an alternative to forming a party? While the Communist League of Tampa is not a party formation the question of proletarian political organization is raised in our Points of Unity which states: “the proletariat must form its own political institutions independent from other classes and develop the capacity to rule as a class and abolish capitalist relations.” 

It is my view that political organization inevitably takes the form of a party of some kind if it is effective, so communists undeniably need to form a party as a long term goal. Right now the conditions for forming a party aren’t viable. This does not however mean that there isn’t work in the current circumstances we can do to change these conditions. We can still form political groupings, build those groupings, merge with others, intervene in mass struggles and run educational efforts without being centralized as a single world party. Instead we have to develop the basis for such a party to exist.

To clarify, a party is simply defined as a formal organization unified around a programme, which is in the broadest sense a series of political demands and basic principles of operation as well a long term vision of social change. This programme is the basis around which it organizes, agitates and educates. It is these characteristics that define a party rather than precise organizational structures, which can vary. A party doesn’t necessarily mean standing in elections; nor does it always mean a “vanguard party” where a small cadre with strict ideological unity proclaims itself the leaders of the working class. Neither does it mean an organization which will substitute itself for the working class by establishing a monopoly on political power.

The kind of party we need is first and foremost a world party, an organization where (to use a rather militaristic metaphor) each national section is essentially a battalion in a worldwide army. Our revolution will be international, hence there must be organization at an international level to coordinate it. Before the question of seizing power is even on the table some kind of world party that can pursue the internationalization of revolution must exist. Such an organization must have a balance of centralization and decentralization so as to prevent a single national section from asserting specific national interests over the whole organization while also allowing for the autonomy that separate sections need to meet their specific conditions. This was one of the problems of the Comintern: its domination by Russian national interests. To paraphrase Bordiga, the Comintern should have run Russia rather than the other way around.

This party should be a mass party rather than a vanguard party in the following sense. It should welcome all workers and intellectual allies that are willing to follow the programme and collectively work to actualize it. There should not be a tight ideological/theoretical line imposed on members, which constrains the ability of an organization to adapt to new conditions and have open debate without splitting or needlessly expelling members. Unity should be based around the broader programme, with debate open within all layers of the group on policy as well as theoretical issues. There must be internal democracy, accountability and transparency. Like a proper proletarian government it must be run on principles of delegation and egalitarianism rather than through a caste-like hierarchy. Leadership responsibilities should be formalized to ensure accountability, though recallable by constituents if necessary. The party also should not associate itself with the vanguard of the class struggle itself. The vanguard is not a single organization but a layer of the class that exists both within and outside party organizations. To say otherwise would be making the untenable claim that class struggle only occurs under the control of the party.

The kind of centralism we desire is one that is based on a true unity of the group around programme and action. This kind of centralism is a goal to be worked towards, not something to be forced by a clique in the leadership when the conditions for it don’t exist. Therefore the banning of factions as such is not a tolerable policy, as factions are an expression of real divisions in the organization that cannot be ‘cured’ with mere suppression. The ability to form factions and oppose leadership is part of a healthy organization that develops itself through debate rather than blind conformity to the central committee. This isn’t to say any and all factions should be tolerated; some positions will fall completely outside what can be tolerated in a communist organization. That said a healthy organization must be able tolerate factionalism, as it will be inevitable in any kind of mass party.

Bolshevism, before the Russian Civil War, operated on these principles for the most part. The party contained multiple factions and would publish internal debates in their public press. Much of the attempts to mimic Bolshevism today are based more on how the Party and Comintern developed after the Russian Civil War rather than pre-1918 Bolshevism. The point is not much that we must mimic their example, but that mass parties based on these principles can be formed and that a party like the Bolsheviks became successful organizing with them. The notion of an “iron-law of oligarchy” where all political organization of a considerable scale will lead to authoritarianism should be avoided for the conservative notion that it is. Of course any party will have tendencies towards deformations due to operating under the pressures of capitalist society. But these tendencies can be fought against; they are not impossible to overcome.

The Bolshevik Party before 1918 was hardly a bureaucratic centralist organization that stifled internal debate.

Attempts to replace the party as a central organ of revolution such as syndicalism and councilism have provided interesting movements and critiques but ultimately have failed to provide a realistic alternative. Syndicalism counterposes party organizations to workers in industrial unions that will prepare a revolutionary transformation through general strikes that seize the means of production to institute workers self-management. One basic problem with this strategy is the general tension between the roles of trade unions and political organizations. Syndicalism aims to essentially combine the two, forming trade unions that are based on a political affinity to a general vision of seizing means of production. This model of organization had much appeal to workers who were skeptical of social-democracies parliamentary tactics, seen as avoiding the mediation of politics altogether in favor of direct action on an economic basis. Yet a vision of seizing the means of production and self-managing them is still a political vision that must grapple with social problems beyond the economic.

Unions, to most effectively perform their function of protecting the basic economic interests of the workers they represent, must gain membership from as many workers as possible in a given trade or sector regardless of politics. However political organizations are based on the exclusion of those who don’t follow the groups political line. As a result in syndicalism there is a constant tension between maintaining the political vision of the union and operating as a functioning union that can mediate the relation between laborers and employers. Syndicalists unions therefore tend to either give up on radical politics and become reformist unions like the French CGT or essentially become parties that run workplace committees, albeit confused ones that refuse to recognize they are essentially parties. This isn’t to say revolutionary or ‘red’ unions never have existed or can’t exist at all, but they tend to not last for long or have trouble sticking to their politics and therefore on their own have trouble developing the kind of long term strategy and base that can provide a basis for revolution. Revolutionary unions have a place in a broader communist movement, but by themselves they are insufficient.

Another alternative to the party that is raised by some communists is councilism, which argues that the only legitimate revolutionary organs are workers councils formed by the workers themselves through mass strike actions. Councilism argues that political parties are an essentially bourgeois form that will inevitably substitute themselves for the proletariat as a class and therefore must be avoided at all costs. Generally its adherents argue that rather than organizing as a party communists should simply educate others and circulate information. Most councilists therefore take a very fatalistic attitude to revolution, arguing that only intense economic crisis will inspire the proletariat to form councils without any kind of prior organizing from conscious militants. The hope is that workers will spontaneously realize the need to seize the means of production and form workers councils on their own without guidance from conscious organized militants.

Councilism is based on a historical fantasy, because the actual historical experiences of workers councils have all been connected to political parties. The Soviets of 1917 were formed by Mensheviks, while the workers councils of the German Revolution were all connected to whatever political parties the workers who participated were involved in. Council rule is still essentially party rule, just the rule of whatever party dominates in the councils. In Germany 1918 this was the SPD. In Hungary 1956 the councils backed a social-democratic left nationalist Imre Nagy. On their own workers councils have never been able to act as an alternative centre-of-authority to the bourgeois regime. They have functioned moreso as united-front organizations of the class in struggle that rarely stand as permanent decision making apparatuses. Practically every mass upsurge of the working class has involved agitation, organization and education from conscious militants, both during and preceding the uprising.

Without a party with a mass base in the working class that develops a plan for an alternative to the current regime workers councils will simply give power back to the existing state or give way to other reactionary or reformist forces. There must be organized political opposition to reformist/reactionary groups that can organize an alternative center of authority and coordinate an overthrow of the state and formation of a new revolutionary regime. This means more than just loose networks of individuals who circulate information and theory who will either be completely ineffective or unaccountable. The hope that councils on their own will rule without political parties simply has no real basis in history. It is an idealistic fantasy. The workers who make up councils are themselves part of political parties, and the delegates they elect and decisions they make will reflect this. The alternative would be to ban political parties, which of course then raises the question of who enforces this ban.

The question of substitutionism raised by councilism is still an important one however. What will prevent a party from taking power and substituting itself for the proletariat, becoming a bureaucracy separate from the class that sets up an exploitative state? The simple answer is that the party doesn’t rule as a single party with complete monopoly on power but shares power with the entire revolutionary mass movement, as well as other revolutionary tendencies it may be in alliance with. Through political struggle within and outside the party the class keeps it on track and accountable to mitigate the development of internal counter-revolution. For this purpose the ability to form factions and for workers to have institutional channels outside the party to defend their basic interests are of importance. Another consideration to make is that the regime which developed in 1920s Russia primarily represented petty-proprietors (professionals,state bureaucrats, peasants) rather than the proletariat. With a ban on factions in the party and the soviets being shells of what they once were there were no institutional means for the proletariat to challenge this, leading to a sort of ‘red bonapartism’.

When the party takes power it doesn’t install itself as the sole source of authority but rather secures the basis for its minimum program to be put into practice. The minimum program is a set of institutional and political measures that destroys the bourgeois state and raises the entire working class to take hold of the ‘general means of coercion’ (Marx). This includes but is not limited to rule of the commune-state (based on free elections, recallable delegates, political egalitarianism, self-government of localities), the arming the workers, the abolition of police and military, reduction of work hours, banning of bourgeois/reactionary political parties, and empowerment of workers at the point of production. In other words it secures the dictatorship of the proletariat and enables class struggle to ascend to a new level without the constraints of the bourgeoisie state. This minimum program, as it becomes universalized internationally, provides the basis for enacting the maximum program which is composed of measures to transition into communism. If the minimum program cannot be actualized due to insufficient support then the party must wait; there is no shortcut into power through coalitions with bourgeois parties unified around a more reformist and tame programme that isn’t blatant opportunism.

Rather than taking power through a coup the party gains sufficient support for its minimum program and mobilizes the population to enact it. If properly applied the minimum programme will expand political power to the entire proletariat rather than confine it to a single party. The party doesn’t rule with a monopoly on power in the name of the class; it secures the institutional means for the class to rule as a whole and abolish itself along with all other classes. We have no patience for conspiratorial Blanquist fantasies, yet at the same time we reject that taking power must mean majority support in bourgeois elections. How we determine sufficient support depends on specific historical circumstances. There are no formalistic procedures, especially not success in bourgeois elections, that can measure this. We should of course aim for majority support of the working class, but even then measuring whether or not we have a true majority is difficult.

This proposed party would be organized around an invariant minimum/maximum programme as detailed above rather than transitional demands or a “mass line” that tails the spontaneous demands arising from immediate struggles. It would have to patiently build up mass support for its politics rather than hoping to be the “spark that lights the prairie fire”. This entails not softening our politics in hopes of “chasing” the masses to gain popularity or sacrificing our political independence through united fronts with bourgeois or reformist parties. The party must be a party of opposition to the entire bourgeois order, one that stays hard and fast to its programme without embracing reformist coalitions as a shortcut to power. This doesn’t mean refusing to fight for reforms short of proletarian dictatorship, but it does mean rejecting the notion that we can ‘trick’ the working class into taking power by mobilizing it to fight for reforms.

To emphasize the role of the party is not to deny the role of spontaneous mass struggle. There is a mutually reinforcing relation between the spontaneous mass movement (where action precedes consciousness) and the planned efforts of communists organized on the basis of programme (where consciousness precedes action). Mass action and party together comprise the totality of the class struggle, the former bringing the largest masses of workers into the battle against capital with the latter working to merge this mass movement of the class with the communist programme. This doesn’t mean class consciousness is injected into the class “from without” through the bourgeois intelligentsia, but it doesn’t mean it will develop spontaneously into a movement to topple class society without the conscious efforts of communists either.

Today there is much hope amongst ultra-left tendencies like Endnotes that spontaneous class struggle will bring forth completely novel forms of organization that are adequate for our times. While this is possible there is reason to believe that as long as politics exists the party (defined as organization centered around programme) will be invariant as a necessary means of intervening in politics (any collective project of changing society). Politics means a clashing of social visions which are products of class interests, and to contest these social visions classes and factions within classes form programmatic organizations. Some would claim that the party is a 19th century form of organization that is outdated by changed conditions. There is no doubt the 21st century won’t bring us organizations identical to German Social-Democracy or Bolshevism; to attempt to recreate these models would be foolish. Conditions have certainly changed, but how they have changed to make the party in general irrelevant is never made clear by those making this claim. A party for today will obviously look different from those of the past, operating under different structures and formalisms. We need organizations that can adapt to the novel circumstances of today. There is no perfect past model for us to mimic, no ideal form of proletarian organization that we can resurrect for todays use. Yet there is also no reason we cannot learn from the whole past of revolutionary organizations, from groups like the early SPD and Bolsheviks, the KAPD, the PCInt and even syndicalist organizations like the old IWW or FORA.

Forming a world party is not the immediate task at hand. First we must develop the “raw material” that can form the basis for such an organization. An organization with membership dominated by a single locale or country cannot declare itself a national or world party in good faith. Such an organization would merely be a sect masquerading as a party. First we must build our local committees and organizations around revolutionary politics. Yet we cannot do this in isolation. It is essential that we stay in contact with other communists around the world, engaging in collective discussion on long-term strategy, coordinating our activities and organizationally centralizing as necessary.

Fight for 15 Reportback

Here’s a reportback from Shallah Baso on the recent Fight For 15 event in Tampa Florida that our group attended. 

ff15

Recently, a group of us from the Communist League of Tampa gathered to participate in a march for the Tampa Fight For 15’s April 15th action (“Fight 4 15”). According to their count, 1,000 people took part in the march (this seems exaggerated by my own count). Given how big the events have gotten not just here but nationally, I want to give a little reportback and some of my thoughts to folks about the event.

The Event

I got to the park a little late, where a cookout was happening next to a speaker’s platform. People took turns (in between chatting with friends) to listen to workers talk about their experiences of living on low pay, or to religious leaders weighing in on low wages as a matter of injustice. Apparently politicians like Mayor Bob Buckhorn and a city councilor spoke as well, reminding people to vote. There were plenty of group tables, including a CLT table some comrades had set up. I didn’t recognize many of the people in attendance, which felt encouraging because of how daunting it can feel to only attend events where you see and recognize the same old folks. Many of them appeared to be workers, since they carried signs or wore shirts indicating their union or job affiliations (I can’t say how many were fast food workers, but there were a solid amount).

After the speeches finished, we began to march down the sidewalk to the main road (CLT marched as a bloc, though I stuck with some other workers I knew at first). We had a somewhat inanimate protest, unlike others I had been to with more organized chant leaders and enthusiasm, but people chanted things like “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!”. As we crossed the road, I saw a group of people, I believe from the Bay Area Activist Coalition, block off the highway by locking arms in a long line and preventing all traffic from moving westward. I had heard some talk of taking the street, so I didn’t think too much of this, though it put me on guard about how the police would react. As we turned onto the street, I began to feel very uncertain about what the march organizers’ intentions were. I began to walk in the street, following others several dozen feet ahead of me, but other people (I couldn’t tell if they were event organizers or not) started waving me and others back onto the sidewalk. Many of the marchers did move onto the sidewalk, but some stayed in the street, making what we were doing further muddled. The traffic-blockers had also not prevented the eastward traffic from moving, and so a bit less than half of the march was cut off from the front section.

At some point, whether because the organizers finally made up their mind or they realized people’s uncertainty and assured them of where they should be, almost all of the front section poured into the street. We continued to march with a McDonald’s in sight as our final destination. People started chanting, in addition to “$15 and a union”, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” This gave some of us the impression that we were going to do something along the lines of “shutting down” the McDonald’s, like blocking the driveway in from the street or the drive through or even occupying the store. Instead, we got off of the street and chanted slogans at what looked like six or so executive types (they weren’t in McDonald’s uniforms like how I would expect managers to be, they wore white shirts and black suit pants) inside the store.

We did this for a while, and then some of the staff organizers from FF15 called us over to a side street adjacent to the McDonald’s. A ‘die-in’ was held, and people laid down for 4 and a half minutes (a reference to the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body lay in the streets of Ferguson before coroners picked up his body). Some people from the FF15 staff and union members gave speeches, and finally we wrapped the whole event up and headed back to our respective cars and buses.

Reflections

Several things stuck out to me while the event unfolded, and later when I thought them over more deeply. I want to make it clear from the start that any criticisms I make are not meant to be personal attacks against any participants as much as heartfelt issues I had with the march.

First, the police acted in an incredibly non-antagonistic way the entire time. The street-taking had been planned beforehand (at a talk I had attended, some FF15 staffers had mentioned this to those in attendance), but during our excursion into the street, the police followed behind us and held up traffic. It’s still unclear to me why this was the case. I don’t believe our permit allowed for it, and it would have been odd for some of the protestors to form a human chain to block traffic if the police were going to handle it for us the whole time. If it wasn’t permitted, it was odd for the police to be so non-antagonistic and even “helpful” in blocking traffic for us.

The theory I have been working with is that the McDonald’s management had spoken with the police earlier, telling them to allow the road blocking if it could avoid the arrests that made media waves at previous days of action. Another possibility is that the Tampa Police Department simply underestimated the march, and didn’t have enough people on. In either case I think the police and McDonald’s management had a sense of how the march would go given previous incarnations of it both in Tampa and around the country.

Second, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the march was logistically unsound and confused. The confused aspect, I would argue, comes from something that I will call a lack of “street level analysis clarity”. By ‘analysis clarity’ I mean that in a campaign we know who we are, who we’re fighting, and how we’re going to win. The last part can remain uncertain about whether it will work, but it should still be concrete and focused. By ‘street level’ analysis clarity I mean that we know these things so well that in the moment we’re ready to respond quickly to a changing situation.

For comparison, marches I’ve done with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers make it clear that we are allies following the leadership of the CIW, fighting companies like Wendy’s and Publix in order to get a direct agreement between them and the CIW, and we’re going to march and use picket lines to win. We know it won’t escalate to civil disobedience, occupation, etc., and to me this is not a problem because the purpose of that march is to win certain demands according to a certain set of tactics that work. It is also clear where we are marching to, and basic things like side personnel having marchers go two by two or three by three to avoid clustering or spilling off into lanes of traffic are always present.

Unfortunately, the march/the organizers failed to establish a clear sense of who was leading, where we were going, what kind of tactics were acceptable to use, and even who we were really marching against. The chant-leaders seemed too inexperienced to really keep the beat and rhythm going, and the side personnel weren’t sure what we were doing and what was an arrest risk. Even if we marched to the McDonald’s, the campaign’s demands have shifted so greatly from “we want McDonald’s and other fast food companies to agree to $15/hr wages and a union” to a more vague demand that seems to be directed against congress or the local state legislature or the Tampa city council. It seems more like “telling the world” this is what we want, than a concrete demand which will get measurable results over time.

Third, and somewhat paradoxically given the above point, the march felt like a carefully crafted media spectacle. I am borrowing from Adam Weaver’s analysis here, where he calls the FF15 a ‘March on the Media’ in contrast to a ‘March on the Boss’, and a form of ‘militant lobbying’. There was a real energy happening with many of the workers and supporters there, and it seemed like people were ready for some more intense tactics, but instead we kept things at a mostly symbolic level. I think this is because of the organizers, who used that militancy and energy to make an appearance to the media of real power.

In anarcho-syndicalist circles (such as conversations in the IWW), folks often discuss the differences between ‘business unionism’ (a top-down, ‘service-provider’ approach to worker organizing where union bureaucrats control contract negotiations with bosses and curtail militancy and worker upsurges during the length of the contract) and ‘solidarity unionism’ (a bottom-up, ‘you are the union’ approach to unionism that relies on direct action and workers’ direct control of struggle). Fight For 15, a project of the Service Employees International Union, seems squarely in line with the former tendency. After the day’s events I had no sense that the workers themselves were leading what was happening, at best given roles that they could not deviate from the union’s line on. The FF15 staff were playing cop for the union bosses and making sure we didn’t deviate from the media image SEIU wanted.

Fourth, I saw a lot of what I’ll call “symbolic appropriation of militant movement tactics and rhetoric”. For example, the phrase “shut it down” came up a lot, even though the most we did was hold up traffic for a few minutes before the police helped us do it anyway. We also held a ‘die in’ on a side street and not a busy intersection, where the police were unlikely to arrest us. The die in also felt confused, because it is a tactic clearly coming from the Black Lives Matter movement, so I assumed it would be us giving a statement of solidarity and converging struggles. Instead, organizers asked us to use the 4.5 minutes to reflect on all the struggles that workers go through. It made some sense, but it felt somehow disingenuous to what the symbolism was meant to get across.

Earlier in the campaign, FF15 (and sister campaign OUR Walmart, backed by the UFCW) had used the language of ‘strike’ a lot to describe one day work stoppages by workers. This would be jarring because you might have only several workers out with dozens of community members in support. In one OUR Walmart action I went to, no workers from that store had joined the picket, and the workers present were all fired Walmart workers on tour with the staff/intern organizers. This kind of labor organizing always felt cynical and unsustainable to me, using workers to get a message across and describing something that was hardly a ‘strike’ in the sense that workers from that shop were putting real pressure on the boss in that shop. Instead, as Weaver writes, it’s “lobbying the same entrenched political system, appealing to change from above”, while using the language of radical workers movements which have ‘shut it down’ by the refusal of work, sabotage of production machinery, etc. More than anything, it seems a hindrance to use these phrases away from actually using the tactics the phrases represent, because it clouds our thinking about what will actually challenge the conditions that destroy people’s lives.

Conclusions

I am glad that the CLT participated in this event, but it affirmed suspicions I have had about the organizing going on in FF15. I believe that we need a workers movement where workers themselves lead, and I don’t think the SEIU can or will provide that. As a fast food worker of sorts myself, perhaps we need an organization of our own in Tampa Bay, one that will represent our interests because it will be led by us as workers in Tampa. We can only get there through careful planning, organization, and follow through. For now, we of the CLT will keep watching what’s happening and reflecting on our own experiences as workers and as communists dedicated to the overthrow of the existing order.

Greece and the Future of the Nation State

The solution to the Greek Crisis will not come through the national-state but through the international action of the working class.
 
greece flag
We’re about 7 year out now from the depths of the most recent crisis, and yet Greece continues to fester. In many ways it is the Herpes of Europe; just when it appears recovery may be at hand the painful sore breaks out again and embarrasses everyone involved.
Living half a world away, the most direct experience one has with Greece is with the media reporting on it. The mainstream press, even supposedly left leaning ones, paint Greece as being a nation of lazy moochers, living high on the hog and barely working.  This is particularly galling in America, where it’s pretty much taken for granted that none but the most secure professionals will have things like benefits, vacation time or a reasonable retirement age and that everyone must work themselves to death. Shortly after Syriza’s election I heard a tongue in cheek radio report which attempted to explain the situation by comparing the country to a millennial, lackadaisically pursuing a career in the arts and living off the largess of his all too generous family. Now, having blown through his latest installment of allowance because he was arting while he should have been working, he comes once again, hat in hand, to his stern German mother only to receive a dose of tough love. This story was heard not on some FOX affiliate, but on NPR, considered to be among the most liberal of mainstream media outlets.


The condescension of this narrative is matched only by its ubiquity in the media and surpassed only by the obscenity of the actual situation. In the years since 2008 the financial crisis has morphed into a humanitarian crisis. Welfare benefits were slashed just as unemployment stretched above 25%. People in Greece are literally starving to death. This malnutrition isn’t extant because there isn’t enough food. Hunger rears its head again in Greece because financiers insist on recouping every last penny of their foolish investments. The Banks and titans of finance have the IMF, World Bank and other organs of international capitalism as their muscle. They’ve been holding Greece upside down by the ankles for the last five years, shaking them to see if maybe a few more pennies might fall out of a pocket. For those few pennies they are content to allow Greeks to (again, literally) starve. Meanwhile the Bourgeois media paints this vicious austerity as a kind of “Tough love.”


Rarely mentioned is that the bailout money doesn’t actually go to Greece. It goes to the institutional investors who were all too willing to make what every one now seems to agree was a stupid investment in Greek bonds. There was a time when it was accepted that if you made a stupid investment it was only fair that you take a loss. Now sufficiently large investors get to take entire countries, indeed entire continents, hostage until they recoup their investment and then some. Meanwhile, having adhered to the bailout program Greece is actually more indebted than ever, their bonds more widely held. The situation won’t be resolved until a portion of Greece’s debt is written off, but the more indebted they become the more painful the inevitable default will be for everyone.


The humanitarian crisis has in turn lead to a political crisis. The two main parties, the rough equivalent of America’s Democrats and Republicans, have collapsed. The Greek people, finding that their choices are austerity administered by Social Democrats or austerity administered by Conservatives, deserted both en mass. In to the vacuum stepped previously fringe parties, inflated by said deserters. The most terrifying of these  parties is the Golden Dawn, an explicitly Neo-Nazi party which engages in much the same activities of their brown shirted forebears and did startlingly well in parliamentary elections. The election of Syriza has hopefully exorcised this particular fascist demon for now, but it’s not yet been able to exorcise the demonic force which gave rise to it; the mass suffering caused by austerity. Until their misery is alleviated, Greeks will be vulnerable to all manner of xenophobic hucksterism, whether it’s The Golden Dawn or some other gang of thugs. Unfortunately Syriza, no matter how well intentioned, will not be able to end that suffering on its own.


The truth is that most nation states have very little control over their actual economic policy. Unless you are a first tier market like the US, Germany or China any controls on capital are pretty easily circumvented. Capitalism has also gone self consciously internationalist. The IMF, World Bank, WTO,  so called “Free Trade” acts(which are really about promoting the interests of institutional investors) and the consolidation of the Euro zone all give Capital supra-national power and coordination. Workers organization on the other hand remained stubbornly national in character. Indeed, unions and parties tried to tie themselves even closer to “The Nation” even as Corporations shed whatever loyalty they may have had to their home base.


This creates strange bed fellows as leftists upset with austerity ally themselves with xenophobes upset with the nation’s apparent loss of power. Thus Syriza finds what politicians have already known for centuries; nationalism makes a convenient political cudgel. Syriza used this cudgel to form an alliance with a right wing, anti-immigrant party, and will undoubtedly use it to try to consolidate its domestic popularity generally. Meanwhile attempts to buttress the flagging autonomy of the state will be halfheartedly thrown up, and no one will be surprised when they inevitably backfire. Any clear headed observer should know by now that global integration is not a trend that will be reversed. The question is not whether we’ll have globalization, but rather what kind of globalization will it be.

When Syriza attempts to defy Capital it does so in isolation, while Capital can bring literally a world of pressure to bear on Greece. To the extent Russia could conceivably pursue “socialism in one country” at all, it was precisely because it was so large and so isolated from the outside world. This is not the case for Greece. Syriza’s strategy for ending austerity was basically to ask the Troika to end austerity then grumble and shrug when they refused. However if there was a movement in Europe, especially Germany, with which Syriza was able and willing to coordinate than perhaps some concessions could have been won. Thus the situation in Greece shows the necessity of internationalism in achieving even the most modest of reforms.


That nation states increasingly have little control over actual economic policy and function more and more as coercive administrative bodies implementing decisions made elsewhere has become clear. Markets have always undermined the ability of rulers to control their economies. What’s changed is not just the extent to which this is true, but also that it’s a consciously cultivated outcome. It begs important questions. If states don’t control their own economic policy than in what sense can they be thought of as sovereign? After all questions of taxation and expenditure have traditionally made up the meat and potatoes of politics for millennia. structural adjustment programs and EU bailout packages take these decisions out of the hands of national governments.


A more important question for socialists, whose concerns are fundamentally economic, to ask is what purpose does seizing state power serve? In most places a largely symbolic one, since their economic decisions will be effectively vetoed by international capitalism. There are those who fetishize the nation state form and will uselessly try to reverse its inevitable loss of power, but we know better, or at least we ought to by now. The nation state is not the natural mode of political organization, nor is it even a particularly desirable one. It’s simply a familiar one, but we’re not interested in supporting the devil we know. National states may remain coercive and administrative organs carrying out decisions made elsewhere, so why would we want to coop them? Hasn’t our long term goal been their abolition anyway? Why would we want to prop them up now? Either way there’s not much point in contesting state power because it’s not where the future lies. Instead the working class needs to find new means of building and exercising power, ones not based on outmoded political forms. These means will have to be figured out but first and foremost they’ll have to be effective, and to be effective they have to be international. The question is not whether we’ll have international integration but what form will it take. The fighting organizations of Capital have gone international. It’s time for the working class to fight internationally as well.

What is happening in Ukraine? Interview with International Secretary of KRAS-IWA

This is a translation of an interview made by Chinese anarchist blog “emblack.wordpress.com” with international secretary of KRAS-IWA, an anarcho-syndicalist union in Russia. Posted from here

Ukraine

How would you explain what is happening in Ukraine? What happened in Ukraine to bring it to such a war situation now?

The Ukrainian crisis is a multi-level phenomenon. It developed against a background of bad social and economic situation of working people arose from continuous neoliberal reforms after the end of “Soviet Union”. This situation led to deep discontent in the society. But it is not this social discontent which produced the so-called Euromaidan protest in 2013, but the political games in the ruling elites of Ukrainian “oligarchic democracy”. The protest actions for integration in the EU were started by a little bunch of youths from the “middle class”, and they obtained a organizational, financial, political, medial etc. support from the oppositional tycoons and parties which wanted to depose their competitor, the little group around President Yanukovich. It was from the beginning not a social protest but a clear political multi-class movement with no less reactionary characteristics than the Yanukovich regime. During the long and violent confrontation on the streets between the opposition and police forces, the protesters begun to arm themselves, and the openly ultranationalist and neofascist forces and groups conquerred a hegemony on the street and in the discourse. After the violent overthrow of Yanukovitch in Kiev, a counter-movement arose in the East of Ukraine, at first, with the federalist demands, and then under the banner of Russian nationalism and separatism as a counter-play to Ukrainian nationalism of Maidan. This movement is also under the leadership of bourgeoisie, and the pro-Russian ultra-rightists and neofascists playing a very significant part here. The separatist regimes in Donbass are no less reactionary then in Kiev. And there is a civil war between them.

The intervention of foreign powers is another decisive factor in the crisis. The USA, the states of EU, the NATO and the Russian state have manifold interests in Ukraine: economical, political, strategic and military. The worldwide struggle for a new repartition of World between the capitalist powers continues, and they wage a “substitute” war on the soil of Ukraine. Western powers supported from the beginning the Euromaidan and then the new, the NATO-oriented regime in Kiev, giving to new rulers money, consultants, weapons and dictating the politic designed by IMF. On the other hand, the Kremlin used the situation of quasi “failed state” in Ukraine to annex the Crimea and to help to Eastern separatists, directly and indirectly. In such a way, the foreign powers struggling each other using their puppets in Ukraine.

Ukraine actually has a long anarchist tradition, people were telling me that everybody in Ukraine has known or heard something about anarchism, did any anarchist movement really root in the society today, if not why, if yes how?

This tradition existed of course, but it was interrupted by Bolshevist and Stalinist repressions as in other parts of “Soviet Union”. It`s true that almost everybody in Ukraine heard about Nestor Makhno, but people consider him as a “popular hero” rather as an anarchist. This leads to very strange phenomena. Both Ukrainian nationalists and people from East of Ukraine take now Makhno as their “own”, without having any real understanding or knowledge about Anarchism and about it aims.

So we can`t say that anarchism has more roots in the Ukrainian society than anywhere. The society in Ukraine is atomized as in the other countries of ex-“Soviet Union”, and the workers haven`t a class or libertarian consciousness.

What about the anarchist history in Ukraine, was it only Nestor’s army or was there other existing anarchist faction, what were they like, if they are now existed in any other different way?

Properly speaking, the Makhnovist army was not anarchist; it was rather a formation of local / regional self-defense, consisted mainly of peasants. Among the political active people, there were not only anarchists therein, but also members of “Party of Left Social Revolutionaries”, non-party people or sometimes also rank-and-file Bolshevists. And this army didn`t have any “anarchist program”: it declared only that it aimed to liberate the population of dictates from outside and to give to it a possibility to organize life how people wanted. There were only a few socialized industries or agrarian communes; the traditional structures of peasants self-administration dominated in the countryside. But it`s true that the anarchists played a key role both in the army and in the constructive work in the liberated areas. The principal anarchist organization was the “Confederation of Ukraine`s Anarchists “Tocsin””. It was surely a most attractive anarchist association which participated in the Russian Revolution 1917–1921. It militants (Voline, Aron Baron etc.) had most developed and radical revolutionary ideas, combining anarchist communism as the goal, syndicalism as the means and anarchist individualism as a philosophy, and they proposed to all anarchists to unite themselves on this ground. The militants of “Tocsin” organized worker unions / syndicates, initiated the building of free Councils and their Congresses, made a school, cultural and propaganda work, and they struggled also in the army of Makhno. This organization was destructed by the Bolshevik State simultaneously with the suppression of Makhnovist movement; some militants were arrested and later executed, the other get in foreign exile. But there were several attempts to rebuild the “Tocsin” in the underground, up to the beginning of 1930s. The repressions of the State were terrible.

Unfortunately, this tradition was interrupted. The new libertarian movement in the Ukraine emerged in the time of Soviet “Perestroika”, in the beginning as a part of an Union-wide movement. Like the most libertarian groups in Russia, it was rather “moderate”, sometime supporting the ideas of a “market socialism without state” or some other strange things. In the 1990s, two principal centers of movement appeared. The first, the so-called “RKAS Makhno” had it strongholds in the East, in Donbass. Despite some allusion to anarcho-syndicalism, this organization was more or less “platformist”, i.e. it advocated a building of a centralist “anarchist” party for leading unions or other social movements. There were also some moments of a quasi-religious sects in it: there was a real leader who was in the same time a teacher of martial art Wing Chun, and the trainings went hand in hand with the mental influence of “anarchist” postulates. In the 2000s, the leaders of the group tried to build a new “platformist” International, with the groups or people from Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel etc., but this project failed after a short time. After the beginning of actual civil war in the Ukraine, the RKAS ceased it activities: some militants supported the Ukrainian state, some others get to separatist army units, and the leaders declared the organization “frozen”.

The other center of movement was in Kiev. It was from the beginning more “new leftist” or sub-cultural, partly with intellectual semi-marxist interests. In the 1990s and 2000s, they animated a semi-syndicalist student union “Direct action”, together with the Trotskyists and some other Marxists. The group didn`t have any clear conception of anarchism, mixing together some platformist, syndicalist and neomarxist elements. Then they proclaimed creation of an “adult” organization, “Autonomous Workers Union” (AWU), which contacted the Swedish SAC and other reformist syndicalists abroad. After the beginning of the actual crisis, the more important figures in the AWU supported the Maidan, declaring it a “bourgeois revolution”. They defend the Ukrainian “national liberation” and the actual regime in Kiev against Russia, rejecting the internationalist position against all states, governments and nations and welcoming the NATO. Some members of the AWU consider such position “too nationalist”. They consider themselves “internationalist” and created a group “Black Rainbow”, but they miss until now to reject Maidan and to break definitely with the nationalist leadership of AWU.

Ukraine in recently years has had a lot of politically active groups appear. When we say political, it says it is almost a pan-political trend of people thinking if they act under the name of the “nation” or a certain big name such as “feminist” or such they are rather promoting a democratic or post colonial change (reflects the culture imperialism they have faced in such political-economical weakness in Europe) under its acute political/economic situation. What do you think are the real interests of the people in this? Are they facing such a difficult time that they are using a lot of names to confuse people about what are the real problems? And what is the reason it brought such an revolt with the people?

It`s a very important point. This problem exists not only in Ukraine, it is worldwide. In the last years, we see a lot of movements in different countries (from Egyptian Tahrir to “movement for free elections” in Russia or “umbrella protest” in Hong Kong), where there are no social and economical demands but only striving for removal of some politicians and for replacing them with others. Moreover, because the demands for any real different social politic are absent, these new rulers obtain in the fact a “carte blanche” for the continuation of the same (or for the carrying out of even worse) politics against working people. These movements are usually multi-classist and occur under the hegemony of bourgeoisie and oppositional politicians. The active political or non-governmental groups mentioned by you consist partly exactly of such people with “middle-class mentality” who think that the existing authorities, corruptions etc. hinder them to go upstairs. Sometime they name themselves a “creative class”. But it`s true that sometime there are also working people who participate in these movements. The grounds are various: the democratic illusions, the lack of class and libertarian consciousness, the personalization of politics (with an identification of system problems with concrete politicians), the absence of any alternative idea about how the society can be reorganized etc.

Unfortunately, some libertarian groups and militants incline to participate in these “pure political” movements “for the democracy”. Some share in the reality a Marxist concept of “stages in the revolution”: first the bourgeois democracy and only then a social revolution. Some other are simply too “movementist”: for them, the principal thing is to do something, and what concretely – it`s secondary. We say in jest about activist “adrenaline-dependence” in such cases. And some activists are afraid “to cut adrift from The People”: as though “the People” are always right… Some try to find the elements of “self-organization” even in reactionary and nationalist mass movements, forgetting that even the fascism can be “self-organized” and that exactly a coincidence of form and content is important…

In our opinion, this is a very dangerous trend. We can and must participate only in the broader movements which promote an independence of working people from ruling classes and politicians, which help to destroy illusions and not to strengthen them. So pure “political-democratic” movements, without any real social demands and under the leadership of politicians, aren`t interesting for us as Anarchists. A normal decisive strike challenging a capitalist or any real social conflict in the neighborhood is a thousand times more important for the possible awareness-building of working people.

How would you explain why it would bring such a war situation politically and what does it mean to ordinary people?

Both sides of the war don`t want to make any serious concessions, because they don`t want limit their power hunger. Both desire to have all. And the puppeteers from Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Moscow etc. incite them to this stubbornness. At the same time, the working people in Ukraine are too disorganized and have less consciousness to stop this war through mass actions or strikes. It`s true that there is a massive local resistance against mobilization and conscription (at least, in the regions under the control of Kiev; unfortunately, we don`t have a such information from Donbass). But it was not enough for stop the war.

The toils of war and the suffering hit the population, ordinary people. This are not only immediate consequences of the war: several thousands of killed, more than 1 million refugees, destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, infrastructure… Also a humanitarian catastrophe (lack of foods and medicaments in the war zone), and a social one (much workers and retirees don`t have their money since months)… The economic suffers from the war, and this makes the hardest economic crisis deeper and only heightens the dependence from IWF, EU and USA, in one side, and from Russia, in the other. And also mental and ideological impact of bestial nationalism will poison the conscience for several coming years if not decades…

Those anarchist outside who went to join the ANTIFASCIST army seem to have simplified what is happening in Ukraine, and it seems that they are also reflecting their failure in their own local that they search a war to fight against the visualized enemy, rather than the rooted enemy – state/capitalist in their own country. Would you give some example about what the Russian people think, and how this reflects their own life struggle?

I agree with your appraisal: this is unfortunately a very serious problem for activists of solidarity movement in the whole world and especially in the so-called “First World”, where many generations of leftists were educated politically in the sense of a “collective guilt” complex against the “Third World Peoples” as whole. So they see in the other parts of the World often only what they want to see. A good example is f.ex. the appreciation of PKK regime in Syrian Kurdistan as a “libertarian revolution”.

For some libertarian people in Europe and America the “antifascism” is a magical word which can justify everything. Also a very active role of ultra-rightists under the so-called “antifascist” spectrum. Thereby they don`t want to see the presence of many Russian and pro-Russian neofascists in the armed forces of Donbass, speaking only about the neofascists on the Ukrainian side. Or they consider it not important at all because they think, the NATO / US imperialism is the “greater evil” etc. This reflects also the leftist ideas about “national liberation”.

And you have right: for some people it is also a kind of compensation for the inability to fight “at home”, against local state and capital!

As to reaction of ordinary people in Russian… I must recognize that not a few people were carried by nationalist, patriotic sentiments and supported the annexion of Crimea etc. The nationalist hysteria organized by the state aimed also to distract the attention from the economic crisis in Russia. But little by little, in process of deepening of crisis, the number of people ready to suffer the real worsening of their situation for the sake of Crimea etc. decreased perceptibly. The population is discontent with low wages, high prices and other social problems (in health, education etc.). But it remains passive in majority: the level of social atomization is too big.

Lets called off the international support of the anarchist of the world in this war? Are they fighting this “for the ordinary people of Ukranie”? What is your personal idea toward Ukraine issue, what do you think what is the real thing that we can do in this ????

I think, the anarchist must not support any of belligerent sides in this war and any of imperialist state power or bloc. Of course, anti-war protests are important and necessary, but they must be equidistant, against all sides and states. And of course do not participate in such joint actions with ultra-rightist only because they are against USA (as it occurs for example in Germany). It would be very good to support the deserters and conscription evaders and also strike movements and social protests in both sides of Ukraine. And if people want to send a humanitarian aid, it is strictly necessary to not give it to organizations close to any of the belligerent sides: there is no guarantee that this aid will reach ordinary people. Such sending makes sense only through real independent organizations, with the possibility to prove the just repartition at place.