About: This is “Echo of Freedom, Radical Podcast (Эхо Свободы, Радикальный Подкаст)”. In each podcast episode a different issue is discussed. Each episode can stand by itself, but there is a direction of the whole podcast towards the complete liberation. Additionally this is the space where poetry will be uploaded.
Author: My name is VolodyA! V Anarhist, i am politically anarchist, ethically vegan, spiritually ex-buddhist, religiously atheist, epistimologically agnostic, artistically poetic, sexually perverted, and queer gender-wise. But this podcast is not about myself, but rather about my ideas.
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Sat, 6 December 2014
We are all aware of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, and as anarchists we all have said one thing or another on this subject. I myself have previously voiced my criticism of those, who are fighting on the side of Russia or Ukraine in this conflict, and many other comrades have done the same. In this episode i want to make my position a little clearer, i do not wish to back‐pedal on what was said before, nor do i want to start the conflict within us. However, we need to go beyond saying what is obvious and try to understand more exactly the nature of our relationship to this conflict.
Specifically in this episode i want to contrast the anarchists and antifascists who are fighting on the side of Ukraine and those who are fighting for Russia. I believe that enough comparison and looking for similarities was done already, and what i say here should only be understood as the addition to that discussion, rather than the substitute for it.
To briefly summarise what is already known at this point. After the Euro Maidan protests, which had significant problems associated with them, but yet had the popular sector as well, Ukraine's president has ran away from the country, within days Russian troops have began taking control of Crimean peninsula, and within months a referendum, controlled by the government of Russia was held, which was used as the pretence to annex that territory. At the same time military and police agents have crossed the border into the Eastern Ukraine and have started the uprising with the goal of inclusion of that territory as a part of Russia. Local people were a part of those uprisings, but were originally never a part of the top leadership. At that time the Right Sector, a large portion of which identify as “national socialist”, have became a reasonably strong force within Western and Central Ukraine. Ukraine has eventually started an offensive on the positions of the pro‐Russia fighters in Eastern Ukraine and have began using USA‐like tactics of indiscriminate bombings of the population. At this time some anarchists and antifascists have began actively joining the fighting forces. Some have joined the Ukrainian military in its attempts to kick the Russian imperialist army from Ukraine, others went with the pro‐Russian rebels attempting to fight the fascists.
Antti Rautiainen in the article “The End of Antifa?” has done a great job explaining why joining either dichtomic side in this conflict is counterproductive. But even in that article there was no attempt at analysing the differences between those who fight for Ukraine and those on the side of Novorossia.
Although every conflict is unique, we can still draw a lot of guidance from looking at the history of the anarchist movement and seeing how anarchists have dealt with the issue of choosing the side in a war of the governments. Some will speak of the World War II, others remember the Free Territory or Makhnovschina, while others may take the chronologically middle route and inspect the role of anarchists in the Spanish revolutionary war. Let's look at all three while asking the following questions: What decisions in respect to nationalism were made? Were these decisions strategic or tactical in nature? What analogies can we draw with today's conflict?
Free Territory (Makhnovschina)
The first thing to understand about the Free Territory of Ukraine is that it was driven primarily by the Platformism and by charisma of several individuals, who were leading the people through it. Nestor Makhno was a brilliant tactician, but he was not a political philosopher. Much of what he did was out of the position of necessity, but that was in part why Free Territory has survived for so long. The question was never “What will make me appear the most radical?” but rather “What will give the greatest freedom and stability in Free Territory right now?” Makhno had no problems making temporary pacts and alliances with nationalists if that allowed the army of Makhno to receive less casualties. These were tactical steps, but strategically and ideologically some things were never done. Anti‐Semitism for example was always an offence within the ranks of the army, that has carried the death penalty. Bolsheviki were a group that Makhno saw in much of the same way as nationalists, uniting with them temporarily, but never allowing oneself to become a part of their structure. Where the interactions with Leninists and nationalists was different, it could have been caused by the fact that both were drawing from the same crowd to some extent. Although Platformism at that time has never matured enough to be appealing to the urban population. One group that was always on the opposite side of the barricades from Makhno were the armies of the foreign powers that came into Ukraine (regardless of their ideologies). The reason for that was not some appeal to nationalism, but a much simpler rational: A foreign power has no intention of helping the people on the annexed territory, the only goal of such power is to benefit its central hub at the expense of the population of its satellites.
In Spain the interaction with nationalists was more complex. There were Spanish Nationalists, who were fascists. And there it is unknown if there even could have been much alliance building, even if one of the sides wanted it tactically. The fascists of Spain did not hide the fact that they were not content on any portion of the country, they needed the whole thing for their political survival. But there was another nationalist group, which was actively helped by anarchists and republicans. Even as the fighting was taking place within Spain, they were supporting Ethiopian nationalists who were fighting against the invading forces of Italy. In this case there was absolutely no tactical advantage to Spanish anarchists to do this, the only thing that drove that was the question of ideology and perhaps minor strategic gains.
Large numbers of anarchists, antifascists, and republicans went to fight on the side of the Republic or syndicalists. The goal of those who went was to support the self‐determination of the local population, and not to subdue it into one government or another.
The strategic position in dealing with nationalism during the Spanish Revolutionary War seems to be the differentiation between different kinds of nationalism. The fascism of Franko was dealt with in a completely different way than the fight against the external invasion by another country.
World War Ⅱ
The role of anarchists in WWⅡ is somewhat smaller than it could have been. In the USA, all those who have opposed fascism before the start of the war were labelled “premature antifascists” and could not participate in combat. In Britain many anarchists engaged in the anti‐draft advocacy, and many were sent to prison because of that. In USSR by that time the only anarchist organisation large enough to speak about was the group of Tolstoyan anarchists in Moscow, who have voiced their opposition to the draft policies of Stalin and were swiftly destroyed by the government apparatus. It is not to say that individual anarchists and antifascists did not participate in that war, undoubtedly they did, but they did not do it as any kind of solid unit or at the very least they are not remembered any longer.
German Nazi army did, however, use some anarchist symbolism when they were retreating from the Ukraine near the end of the war. They have set up black battalions who would claim to be the ideological descendants of Makhnovschina, but they had no link to the anarchist movement nor held any of the same philosophical standards.
Where does it take us?
Throughout the history, when anarchists have individually joined the armed forces in the intergovernmental armed conflict their contribution has made little difference at the end. And in fact it might have contributed to the destruction of the segments of the anarchist movement that were working against militarisation of the society. But if we talk about a massive support to some side of the fight, then anarchists of the past have shown time after time that it makes little sense to support any external army invading another territory for the purposes of annexation. It is an ideological and philosophical position, which is backed up by the strategic benefits. However, joining the 'legitimate' side of the conflict is wrong for different reasons, those are normally tactical in nature, but sometimes are upgraded to the level of strategy.
Anarchists and antifascists that are joining the Ukrainian side are making the mistake in their strategy and tactics. There is little chance that their contribution will change the political landscape in Ukraine even if it manages to kick out the Russian army. On the other side those who are fighting on the side of Russia are not only wrong strategically for the very same reasons, but they are committing a very strong ideological back‐step by supporting a force that is attempting to annex the territory. At no previous time in history have antifascist volunteers joined the imperialist forces that tried to expand their borders, and there is a very good reason for that; it goes against the very essence of the libertarian antifascist position.
In closing i wish to say that my goal is not to excuse one side because the other is “more wrong”. However, the consequences of the actions do need to be measured carefully in these things. And my hope is that those who are making the stands that i consider problematic will either begin an active dialogue with the larger movement, explaining their positions, or end their problematic behaviour and attempt to undo some of the damage done already.
Direct download: EchoOfFreedom_135_2014Dec06_TacticsStrategyAndIdeologyInUkraineConflict.vorb.oga
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:44am EST