On Friday, the 2nd of May, the House of Trade Unions in Odessa caught on fire. Altogether at least 42 people lost their lives during the clashes in the city, most of them in the fire and the others in streetfights. This is an account of the tragedy.
Events began to unfold when armed pro-Russian AntiMaidan fighters attacked a demonstration organised by football hooligans with nationalist sympathies. This attack resulted in lethalities, but soon the pro-Russians were overpowered. They escaped back to their protest camp in the Kulikovo field, but pro-Kiev demonstrators followed and lit the protest camp on fire. The pro-Russians then escaped to the House of the Trade Unions, which soon caught on fire. The fire spreading, is visible in this video. At the 2 minute mark, you can see a flame behind a closed window, making it plausible that some of the fires were started from the inside. For example, due to accidents with Molotov cocktails which were used by both sides during the fight. However, you can also see pro-Ukrainian nationalists throwing Molotov cocktails, making them at least partially responsible for the fire.
There are doubts as to whether the core group of pro-Russians who attacked the demonstration with firearms were outside provocateurs. But certainly, there were people in the House of Trade Unions, who had nothing to do with the attack. In a number of photographs, you can see police protecting the core group of attackers. Otherwise, police were very passive during the fire, and did not interfere in the events. Even if the police were not part of a conspiracy, at the least, they acted completely unprofessionally.
During the weekend, troops of the central government and local “federalists” had been waging war in the city of Kramatorsk in Eastern Ukraine. This means, that what is happening in the Ukraine can already be considered a civil war. In the upcoming weeks, it will become clear how widely the warfare will spread and if Russia will interfere.
I consider myself an expert on the Russian context as I lived in Moscow for more than 12 years, but this does not mean that I am an expert on the Ukrainian one. I have only visited the country three times in the last years, and have hardly more than 20 friends there. Still, when getting myself acquainted with the Ukraine, I quickly understood that civil war could be a possible scenario there. All of my Ukrainian friends, however, were absolutely certain, that nothing like that would ever happen there. That even with all the differences between Eastern and Western Ukraine, no-one was prepared to kill in their name. They were convinced, that Ukraine could never become another Yugoslavia. All of them had acquaintances, friends and loved ones on both sides of the river Dnieper, both Ukrainian and Russian speakers. But if you only ever take into consideration your own friends, you will fall into the trap of scaling, obstructing those mechanisms which create hatred on a large scale.
War does not require personal hatred between people, geopolitical and economical reasons are good enough for that. And in the Ukraine, the geopolitical interests are far greater than in Yugoslavia. If you have an interest in flaring up ethnic hatred or war, a rather small ethnic rift is enough. A few abuses, murders, and kidnappings, and everyone will be ready for battle. This has succeeded now in Ukraine, just as it has succeeded in many other places.
At the moment, the Western “left” seems to be pretty much clueless in terms of the events taking place there. This is because the “left,” broadly speaking, is not a very useful concept in the former Soviet Union, as it can mean anything from social-democrats and anarchists, to stalinists supporting Putin. Personally, I prefer to always write the word in quotation marks. I identify with anarchists, not the “left,” since, for quite a while now anarchists have been the only political force in Russia which united the ethos of opposing racism, sexism and homophobia to the ethos of social equality. Until very recently, there had not been much of any Western “new left” in Russia, with the exception of a handful of Trotskyists.
A split within the “left” in Ukraine is completely predictable and even necessary. In Kharkiv the streetfighting, Stalinist organisation, “Borotba” (meaning Struggle) has been on the opposite side of the anarchists. In this region of the former Soviet Union, 99.9% of the “left” will always support imperialism for the sake of “being with the people.” It is about time that anarchists refuse the “left” label. We have nothing in common with these people.
But anarchists, too, can be easily manipulated with buzzwords such as “self-organisation” and “direct democracy.” For example, Boris Kagarlitsky, a Russian intellectual widely known amongst the Western “left” and a frequent guest of World Social Forums, has found favorable ground in the West by using these buzzwords.
Apparently, the Ukrainian and Russian anarchists could not foresee the developments which lead to the civil war. Maidan had only been discussed from the point of view that it could offer something better than the Yanukovich regime. It was not expected that Russia would react to a Maidan victory with a conscious escalation of the conflict, and which could eventually lead to civil war.
Whereas Russia is the major propaganda machine and arms provider in the conflict, Western countries are not doing much better, as they only acknowledge the interests of the new government in Kiev and present the movement in Eastern Ukraine as mere Russian puppets.The armed wing of the “federalists” are definitely Kremlin puppets, but if it were not for the widespread discontent and protests against the new regime in Kiev, this armed wing would not have emerged.
I do not believe that a civil war was the Kremlin's aim. First of all, it wanted to destablizie Ukraine to the maximum in order to have Kiev give up any attempts to gain back control over Crimea. Now the situation is out of the Kremlin's control, and it may have to send regular troops to Ukraine in order to fulfill the promise of support it has given to the “federalists.”
The government in Kiev has given so many “final ultimatums” which were quickly forgotten, and has announced so many unexisting “anti-terrorist operations,” that it is clear it has very few battle-ready troops. A few times, the central government troops have actually taken action and the results have been tragi-comic. Thus, the government understands that it's still in question whether it would succeed in a full-scale civil war. However, it also understands, that war can help discipline society and stabilize the new order to the extent, that any promises given to Maidan would be forgotten. With time, both sides have come to understand that a full-scale war might be necessary for their interests, even if neither was initially planning for this.
Disagreements within the anarchist movement
Over the course of events, the Ukrainian and Russian anarchist movements have split into three different sides. A first group concentrated on producing internet-statements against both sides of the conflict. For them, keeping out of any social processes is a matter of principle, and they only want to monitor and assess. Participation in the social protest is not a goal for them, as they prefer to keep their hands clean. Since every process has input from either disgusting liberals, hated nationalists, awful stalinists, all three at the same time, or other undesirables, one can never fully participate in anything and the only alternative is to stay home and publish statements on the internet about how everything is going from bad to worse. However, most of the time these statements are just self-evident, banalities.
A second group, was made up of those who got excited about all the riot-porn and anti-police violence in Kiev, without considering who was carrying out this violence and in whose interests. Certain antifascists drifted as far as to defend the “national unity” in Maidan, and threatened particular Kiev anarchists due to their criticism of Maidan and refusal to participate. Most of the people in this camp are just fans of anti-police violence without any theoretical frame, but some want to give Maidan an imagined anti-authoritarian flavor, by equating the general meeting of Maidan (“Veche”) with the revolutionary councils established during 20th century revolutions. They base this claim on the social demands occasionally presented at Maidan, but these demands were always at the periphery of the Maidan agenda.
One of these peripheral demands was the proposal that oligarchs should pay a tenth of their income in taxes and was generally in tune with nationalistic populism. However, the demands of the Kiev Maidan were still far from returning the billions stolen by oligarchs back to society. In Vinnytsa and Zhitomir, there was an attempt to expropriate factories owned by German capital , but this was the only case going beyond the national-liberal context that I am familiar with.
In any case, the main problem at Maidan wasn't the lack of a social agenda and direct democracy, but the fact that people did not even demand them. Iven if everyone kept repeating that they did not want another “orange revolution” like in 2004, nor for Yulia Timoshenko to return, at the end of the day chocolate industrialist Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitchko are leading the polls. This was the choice the people made as they grew weary of the revolutionary path as proposed by the radical nationalists of the Right sector. As of now, people want to return to “life as usual,” to life before Yanukovich, and are not prepared to make the sacrifices that further revolutionary developments would demand. Representative democracy is indeed like a hydra, if you cut one head, two will grow in its place.
However, none of the fears of “fascist takeover” have materialized. Fascists gained very little real power, and in Ukraine their historical role will now be that of stormtroopers for liberal reforms demanded by the IMF and the European Union — that is, pension cuts, an up to five times increase in consumer gas prices, and others. Fascism in Ukraine has a powerful tradition, but it has been incapable of proceeding with its own agenda in the revolutionary wave. It is highly likely, that the Svoboda-party will completely discredit itself in front of its voters.
But anyone attempting to intervene, anarchists included, could have encountered the same fate — that is, to be sidelined after all the effort. During the protests, anarchists and the “left” were looking towards the Right sector with envy, but in the end all the visibility and notoriety, for which they paid dearly, was not enough to help the Right sector gain any real influence.
If Kiev anarchists would have picked the position of “neutral observers” after Yanukovich had shot demonstrators, it would have completely discredited them. If after being shot, the working class, or more exactly “the people,” that is, the working class along with the lower strata of the bourgeoisie, would have failed to overthrow Yanukovich, Ukrainian society woul have fallen into a lethargic sleep such as the one Russian and Belarusian societies are experiencing. Obviously, after the massacre there was no choice left except to overthrow the power, no matter what would come in its place. Anarchists in Kiev were in no position to significantly influence the situation, but standing aside was no longer an option.
And thus, we come to the third, “centrist,” position taken by anarchists — between the brainless actionism and the “neutral” internet statements. The camp of realist anarchists understood, that even if the Maidan protests pretty much lacked a meaningful positive program, something had to be done or the future would be dire.
The limits of intervention
In Kiev, anarchists took part in a number of important initiatives during the revolutionary wave — first of all the occupation of the ministry of education, and the raid against the immigration bureau by the local No Border group, which was looking for proof of illegal cooperation with security services of foreign countries. But the most successful anarchist intervention was the one in Kharkiv, where Maidan was relatively weak but also freer of nationalistic influence.
Still, such centrism has its own problems. For one, you might unintentionally help the wrong forces gain power, also discrediting radical protest. A second problem would be that you might end up fighting a fight which is not your own. When AntiMaidan attacked the Maidan in the city of Kharkiv, its imagined enemy were not the anarchists, but NATO, EU or Western-Ukrainian fascists. Since anarchists had joined Maidan, it would have been cowardly to desert once the fight started. Thus anarchists ended up fighting side by side with liberals and fascists. I do not want to criticize the Kharkiv anarchists, after all they made, perhaps, the most serious attempt among Ukrainian anarchists to influence the course of events, but this was hardly the fight, and these were hardly the allies they wanted.
And so, comes the point when desertion becomes imperative, and that is when civil war begins. As of now, it's still too early to make any final assessment of the anarchist attempts to influence Maidan, but after the beginning of a civil war, Maidan will no longer play a role. From now on, assembly will gradually turn to the army, and assault rifles will replace Molotov cocktails. Military discipline will replace spontaneous organisation.
Some supporters of the Ukrainian organisation, Borotba (meaning Struggle) and the Russian Left Front claim that they are attempting to do the same things as the anarchists did at Maidan, that is, direct protest towards social demands. But AntiMaidan has no structures of direct democracy, not even distorted ones. It quickly adopted the model of hierarchical, militaristic organisations. The AntiMaidan leadership consists of former police and reserve officers. It does not attempt to exert influence through the masses, but with military power and weapons. This makes perfect sense, considering that according to a recent opinion poll, even in the most pro-”federalist” area of Lugansk, a mere 24% of the population is in favor of armed takeovers of government structures. That is, AntiMaidan cannot count on a victory through mass demonstrations.
Whereas at its essence Maidan was a middle-class liberal and nationalistic protest, supported by part of the bourgeoisie, AntiMaidan is purely counter-revolutionary in tendency. Of course, AntiMaidan has its own grassroots level. One could attempt to intervene, but an intervention by joining would mean supporting a Soviet, imperialist approach. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Borotba, the Russian Left Front and Boris Kagarlitsky have all joined this Soviet chauvinist camp. Intervening in Maidan made sense only as long as the enemy were Berkut police forces and paid thugs. When the opponents are mislead AntiMaidan participants, it no longer makes sense to fight in the streets.
When looking at either side of the conflict one can see a dangerous tendency, which every anarchist and anti-authoritarian will face in the future: the recuperation of anti-authoritarian rhetoric and terminology for the purposes of hierarchical ideologies. On the one side, “autonomous nationalists” who have found sympathy amongst many anarchists, and on the other, intellectuals such as Boris Kagarlitsky. Both characterising warring factions with attributes such as “direct democracy” and “self organisation.” In reality, these characteristics are either present in a distorted form or not at all. When two different flavors of nationalism are “self-organising” in order to maim and murder each other, there is nothing to celebrate. Subsequent to the events in Ukraine, it is clear that anarchists must explain the essential difference between “self-organisation” and self-organisation to the world.
According to the opinion poll referenced above, in Eastern Ukraine as a whole, only 12% of the population supports the “federalists'“ armed actions, whereas the Kiev government is supported by some 30%. The remaining 58% supports neither, and in conditions of civil war, this is the majority on which we should count. We should encourage desertion and conflict avoidance. Under any other conditions, and if anarchists had more influence, we could form independent units against both warring factions.
Unarmed civilians have stopped bloodbaths in several places by moving in between the troops as human shields. If not for this kind of civil disobedience, a full-scale war would have been launched much earlier. We should support this movement, and attempt to direct it against both “federalist” and government troops simultaneously.
In case Russia reacts either by occupying parts of Eastern Ukraine or the country as a whole, we could take the example of anarchist partisans in World War II era France and Italy. Under such conditions, the main enemy is the occupying army, as it will antagonise the whole population very quickly. But it is also necessary to keep the maximum distance from the nationalistic elements of the resistance, as any alliance with them would hinder anarchists from realising their own program in the framework of the resistance.
The events in Odessa are a tragedy, and it is possible, that among those who died in the House of the Trade Unions were also people who played no part in flaring up the violence. People who threw molotov cocktails at the House should have understood the consequences. Even if the fire igniting was not solely due to them, it is not for lack of trying.
In case civil war spreads, these deaths are just the beginning. No doubt that on both sides the majority only wants a better life for their close ones and their motherland, and many hate governments and oligarchs to an equal extent. The more sincerely naïve people die, the greater the pressure to support one of the factions in the war, and we must struggle against this pressure.
Whereas it may occasionally be worth it to swallow tear gas or to feel the police baton for a bourgeois revolution, it makes no sense at all to die in a civil war between two equally bourgeois and nationalist sides. It would not be another Maidan but something completely different. No blood, anarchist or otherwise, should spill due to this stupidity.
This article i can go along
This article i can go along with and recommend to others.
This is the original with
This is the original with links:
Great article. Glad they're
Great article. Glad they're around to counter all the Stalinist/Russian nationalist agitprop that is *still infecting the western Left, including anarchists who appear to have no learned anything at all from the last century.
So, everything I've been
So, everything I've been dismissing as administration propaganda from Kerry and Obama is factually true?
I think it depends on exactly
I think it depends on exactly what you're referring to. Seems to me like a lot of what they say is still lies/propaganda but that some of what they say is true, even if by accident.
Quote: Whereas at its essence
Since when "middle-class liberal" and "nationalistic" isn't the same as "counter-revolutionary"? Is it still 1789?
So, in order to remain pure,
So, in order to remain pure, anarchists should sit this one out? No wonder they have no following. There are openings to be used.
There are plenty of openings
There are plenty of openings to sign up with the various armies and militias, is that what you were referring to?
There's no point in fighting for things you don't believe in just so you can have some spurious following.
bastarx wrote: There are
I don't think that is what he is referring to. There are many opportunities and openings for agitating against the madness of nationalistic wars (or at least that is how I see it).
I have a few comments to make
I have a few comments to make on this piece. I haven't been following events in the Ukraine particularly closely, but I am going to make an effort to catch up with it. That said I may make some serious mistakes through ignorance of the situation.
If this is the case it shows a deep lack of analysis. How could they not see the potential for civil war after the events of recent years in Syria, and Libya? Did they expect Russia to just sit back and let Ukraine be integrated into the EU and NATO? I don't think that this was very difficult to see. Indeed from the very first days of this movement, I talked to people who were worried about civil war. If that was the view from outside , then those on the ground must have been particularly blind. This is a point where a lack of theoretical understanding becomes almost criminal.
I don't think that the question of whether you get involved in something is about whether their are bad people in it. The real question is about the class nature of a movement. It is plain to see that you don't like this group of people by the way you talk. In this case these people might do nothing,I don't know. What I do know is that accusing people of standing on the sidelines is a very common line. Which people are you referring to here? Are they really committed to not intervening in struggles?
What is clear is that there are times when militants can't do anything There are times that you can only comment. I remember a point about seven years ago when there was a big movement of 'secularist' demonstrations in Turkey. There were three demonstrations all with seven figure numbers attending them, the biggest if I remember correctly being about 2,000,000 in İzmir. We decided that although they were anti-government demonstrations, that they were orchestrated by the army and the main opposition party, and there was nothing for communists to do there. Equally so, when there was the movement that emerged around Gezi Park, there were all sorts of people involved, including for example fascists. This was a very different type of movement where there was room for communists to intervene.
This group seems to be a pretty reactionary one. When a fetishism for violence ends in you supporting national unity, surely it must be time to question what you are doing.
All sorts of people make the occasional social demand. It means nothing. The important things are not the general meetings, but the class content of a movement.
I don't think that this is the real problem. There are lots of class movements where workers aren't strong enough to establish democratic organs to control the struggle. Other sort of movements can have very democratic structures, but it doesn't change their class nature in itself.
Why? I don't suppose that these anarchists had a great deal of influence within the class anyway. If they had analysed the situation and seen the threat of civil war, and then refused to take any part in the events, would they have had significantly less than the virtually no influence they had before.
On the other hand, in countries that have gone through civil wars people often look back later, and ask how they allowed it to happen. If they had refused to take part, and warned against the dangers that were present, is it not possible that in the long term they might come out with a particular amount of credit in many people's eyes.
The idea that the 'working class (along with the lower strata of the bourgeoisie) overthrew the regime seems to suggest that this was a class movement. I don't think that it was. The fact that in sociological terms many workers took part does not make it a class movement.Workers took part as atomised individuals, not as workers. As far as I know there were no strikes anywhere, which I think is quite indicative.
Even ignoring that, would this 'lethargic sleep' have been worse than what has happened?
Even if that 'no matter what' was civil war? Do you think that there can be times when there is a movement in the streets with the intent of overthrowing the government that revolutionaries shouldn't support? Should we get carried along with everything? This argument seems to me to be quite similar to that of those you describe as "get[ting] excited about all the riot-porn and anti-police violence".
This seems a very strange statement. Surely if we are doing something that is plainly wrong people thinking that we may be cowards is not a good reason to change our policy, and stop our involvement especially when it gets to the point of people fighting each other on behalf of two bourgeois factions.
So when it gets to this point it doesn't matter if one is accused of cowardice. Surely then the point when to 'desert the fight' is just down to an analysis of the situation. I wouldn't say it is about the weaponry involved, but about judging the political situation. Even worse, by not appearing as 'cowards' earlier, these people played a role, however small, in the situation building to this point.
Isn't 'middle class liberal nationalism' pretty counter-revolutionary in itself?
What does intervening on the Maidan side mean then? Who are you supporting in that case?
Once again, I think that this shows pretty clearly that it is important to judge the class nature of the movement. That is what we need to understand as that it what makes 'self organisation' something that revolutionaries should be supporting.
There are parts here which are very good. 'Encouraging desertion and conflict avoidance', and the methods that are advocated here to do that sound like practical things that people have done, and things that revolutionaries could get involved in.
I find the bit about 'forming independent units against both warring factions' very worrying though. If as I think you do, you mean military units, I think that this is a very dangerous approach. I don't think military units set up by political groups, whatever their ideology, end up being independent in a war, but rather end up being dragged into it on one side or another.
Do you think that this is possible in any way?
one of the best articles I
one of the best articles I read so far about the subject!
Quote: Since when
In Russia and Ukraine it is not even 1789, perhaps something like 1750. Not that I consider bourgeois revolution a necessity, but they are happening all the time.
Devrim wrote: If this is the
I tried to answer this in the article itself. It is a negligent percent of people in Ukraine who were ready for war, and people living there simply do not know anyone ready for war personally so they did not expected it. It is a very different society from Syria, where there has occasionally been factionalist fighting at least since 50's, or Libya, which is a society organised around clans. Ukraine is an atomized society, where any movements are weak, including nationalist ones.
Even now, Strelkov who is a Russian who appointed himself as leader of Slavyansk Militia, said 2 days ago in youtube that DNR militia he has less than 1000 fighters. Vast majority of the people in both sides are totally uninterested to participate in this. And it would never have started if not Russia was pushing for it. And even now, there is a possibility of strategical stalemate due to weakness of both sides.
But still, I agree that it was weakness of analysis for locals not to predict this scenario.
This mostly refers to KRAS, Russian IWA-section. They are very prominent in their non-intervention to anything, and have even developed some kind of theory around it. In Russia you see them nowhere, but you may see them in the internet all around, libcom forum involved. Of course they find echo here amongst all MrDupontists.
In my opinion EuroMaidan was/is something in between these two. But there is a huge difference between Turkey and Ukraine in the scale of popular, social movements. Gezi park movement was way beyond anything you could expect in xUSSR. If you have nothing like that, you must work with what you have.
Not the class content but class consciousness of the movement. Any movement with scale of EuroMaidan is dominated by working class in numbers, but it is a whole another thing if it is dominated by working class in content.
I think EuroMaidan and other similar xUSSR movements totally disprove the neo council communist idea that working class movement always eventually formulates a communist program. No it does not, unfortunately. Vast majority of the people in the streets were workers, what they wanted was almost completely bourgeois program.
Although anarchists do not have real influence in the society, there are still thousands, more likely tens of thousands of people who are in the reach of anarchist message and who follow it. If you send wrong message, they make their conclusions.
This is just a play of definitions which is pointless. What happened in Kiev in february was something between a bourgeois revolution and a coup, it had elements of both. I do not care if this fits your definition of "class movement" or not, I did not used this term. It is a fact that most of the participators were workers.
Just visit Belarus and Russia and compare to Ukraine or Turkey. There is absolutely no hope in Belarus and Russia, not for many years to come.
Actually I think this might be the reason why you have problems in comprehending some points made in the article. To understand Ukraine and positions people took there, you should also understand Belarus and Russia. These 3 are basically a common political space although situations are vastly different.
If you read my text, you will see that there are 3 possible positions I list, and there is a difference between all of them.
Look, in 99% of the cases when Nazis, conservatives, religious fundamentalists etc. are attacking you, it is working class people. Is this a reason to run a way, in order not to hurt "mislead workers"?
What happened in Kharkiv 13th of April is that AntiMaidan attacked Maidan, to which anarchists had made an intervention. Basically, point of anarchists was to go to Maidan demonstration to explain people that there is no point in liberal nationalistic shit and we should push for a social revolution instead.
Then a bunch of thugs cames to beat up everyone, should anarchists then run away? Who would then believe to social revolution, if that means getting trashed by a bunch of thugs who were originally sponsored by the local governor? Even if you do not believe in taking over streets but workplace, that is a relevant issue as thugs will come after you also if you took over your workplace. You must be ready to fight them off, wherever you are.
So what happened eventually in Kharkiv was unfortunate, but I doubt anarchists had any other option. If you run away, you do not only discredit yourself but also the whole point you are making.
Bourgeois revolution may only be counter-revolutionary if working class revolution is in making. In Ukraine it is not.
Intervention and support are different things. Intervention means just going there and making your point. Of course sometimes the difference might get blurred for force majeure reasons, as happened in Kharkiv. But in general case, it is possible to maintain the dfference.
Ok, we have two movements, both at least 90% Working class. Another one is making bourgeois demands (anti-corruption etc.), another one working class demands (takeover of production etc.). So what makes the "class nature" of these movements different? Obviously not the class of the participators.but the demands itself. But from point of view of neo-council communists, this "class nature" (that is, political program) is something inherent which you may only analyse, but not influence by making an intervention. This is something I totally disagree with.
I think there were some minor successes in 40's Italy and France in this respect. In Ukraine however this would require some kind of major disappointement to the current opposition which would result influx to autonomous workerist groups.
Hey, I think that's a really
Hey, I think that's a really good post. I disagree with you in some areas, but overall I found it very informative. In particular, I don't think you and Devrim are actually disagreeing on the class nature of the movement.
Numerically, of course it is mostly working class, but for both of you that's irrelevant, largely. What matters is the class content of the movement, i.e. is it making class demands? Or bourgeois democratic (or undemocratic!) demands. And in this case, Euromaidan was clearly not a proletarian class movement (although it could have had those elements, and personally I am undecided on whether or not it would have been worth trying to intervene in. I would probably defer to revolutionaries in different areas to make the decision themselves, as it seems the movement was pretty different in different towns anyway).
On this bit though, I think you have the wrong end of the stick:
I don't think this is an accurate interpretation of council communism. I don't know of anyone who thinks that if people "take to the streets" about something they will automatically become communists.
I want to come back on this
I want to come back on this question of what determines the class nature of a movement. Particularly one of the things Devrim said above.
This I find seriously puzzling. It seems to imply that the class nature of a movement is somehow separate from, or even transcends any link to self-organisation or autonomy. Which raises the hypothetical possibility of a class movement that was, in terms of its organisation, directed entirely from the outside or blindly following some authority. How can the class nature of a movement be separated from the process of its own becoming?
We accept that the simple "sociological composition" (let's say, technical* composition) does not determine the nature of the movement. So simple membership of the class-in-itself is out. But then if we require some measure of the movement from class-in-itself to class-for-itself to be happening, then how can that be separate from the process of self-organisation? (or, contrarily, in the case of Maidan, submission to external party political organisation, aping the forms of self-organisation in the Veche, as per standard US Orange/Otpor/Gene Sharp-style astroturfing). Is autonomy (or the lack of it in Maidan) really external to the question of class nature of the movement? How can this be?
In relation to the class nature being diagnosed by the content of the demands, as Steven suggests, we're back to Devrim's statement that "All sorts of people make the occasional social demand. It means nothing". Which seems, apriori, to rule out demands as a means of diagnosing class nature.
In response to that position, S2W suggests
But again, I'm not sure how a subjective factor like class consciousness can be objectively established from the outside (and, more problematically, from the outset). Except indirectly through looking at observable factors like demands and actions. So we are no further.
Finally, on this
You could say the same of the Poll Tax, as regards lack of strikes. I note the word "indicative" here presumably meaning that strikes are symptomatic rather than definitional. But there's still a question mark as to whether the class nature of a movement is defined by a narrowly view industrial struggle, around wage work, or whether struggles such as last week's confrontation between the Brazilian MTST (Movement of Workers Without Roofs) and the cops around the Sao Paolo stadium, are part of the struggle between proletarian needs and capital, or a "secondary contradiction" or "merely symbolic" action?
Also there seems to be a contradiction between dismissing the technical composition of the crowd on the grounds that they were "atomised individuals" after saying that the question of self-organisation is not a definitional issue. Which one is it? Does self-structuring/self-organisation - precisely so as not to be atomised individuals - matter or not?
* [or maybe para-technical composition, given that people are not acting here within the framework of their specific technical roles alloted to them within the capitalist organisation of social production, Maybe hair-splitting, but I think there is a non-negligible distinction]
Just to make it clear, I
Just to make it clear, I didn't say all of what is in the quote which you start with. The bits in the quotation marks come from the article.
I think that the class nature of a movement is central to the topic being discussed here. I am not saying that it is an easy thing to judge at all. Of course there are things that indicate it, but I am not sure if there is anything that in itself guarantees it. It is a collection of things.
Ocelot makes some comments about what I said. I'd like to raise objections to them. It is not to say that these points aren't connected to the issue at hand. They obviously are, but it is not a simple thing. The examples I will give are all extremes. The function of this is to try to make a clear point when discussing what is obviously an extremely complex issue.
I am sure that we can all think of strikes where the workers have had no control over their struggles whatsoever. There has been no self-organisation in any sense, and the workers have done what their unions have told them to do. It could apply to many of the large one day strikes called by the trade unions. Yet I am sure we would all agree that these are class movements.
Yet there are movements that are utterly reactionary that are also self organised. Many of the strikes after Enoch Powell's infamous 'rivers of blood' speech were self organised. There are times when workers can organise themselves in pursuit of totally reactionary goals. On its own I don't think that this is enough.
Maybe 'nothing' was hyperbole her. It obviously means something, but in itself I don't think it is enough. The UK Labour party is calling for fuel prices to be frozen. This is a 'social demand'. It doesn't make the Labour Party's election campaign a class movement though.
Yes, I used indicative in the sense that you understood it. I don't think it is determining, but it does suggest what is going on.
With reference to the Poll Tax, there was at least one strike against it (organised by a rather infamous anarchist) that I know of, and many attempts to organise strike action around it. In general though you are right. There can of course be class movements which don't involve strikes, and draw no response in the work place. I would say though that within movements which shake entire countries, like the movement in the Ukraine, or the recent movements in countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Syria, strikes, or lack of them are indicative of class content. I don't think that this applies to smaller movements, like the Poll Tax, or these demonstrations around a stadium.
I don't think that self organisation is unimportant. Maybe I didn't express it very well. What I was trying to say is that it is not determining on its own. I don't think this is a contradiction.
tl;dr I don't think that it is easy to determine the class content of a movement. There are various contributory things, all of which are important, but non of them on their own are determining.
S2W, I will reply to you
S2W, I will reply to you later when I have time, probably on Friday.
S2W wrote: Quote: Since
What does this mean? Serfdom and other feudal social relations were swept away in Russia and Ukraine over and hundred years ago and generalized commodity production, wage-labor, extraction of surplus value, etc. have long since been established. Bourgeois revolutions certainly aren't happening all the time--unless you consider any regime change led by some bourgeois faction to be a "bourgeois revolution" for some reason--because capitalist social relations have been extended across more or less the entire world already.
huh - I thought I posted this
huh - I thought I posted this yesterday. But no sign of it today. Oh well, thanks be to emacs' kill-ring buffer...
First of all, although this is a point I think we agree on, it's worth repeating/underlining for clarification, no particular form, strikes included, are a guarantee of class content. As the example you raised of the Enoch Powell inspired racist wildcat strikes* of 1968 clearly show.
Given that, I'm not sure why you are sure that we would all accept that strikes involving union members passively obeying the orders of their union bureaucracy are class movements? Surely those left communists and others who consistently denounce the union bureaucracy as part of "the left wing of capital" would not agree that these are class movements?
Let's take the topical example of the Ukrainian oligarch Akhmetov recently ordering his workers onto the streets of Mariupol to regain control from the separatists. Here are workers exercising their collective power by taking the streets - but at the order of their employer. This, I am pretty sure, we would agree is not a class movement. But then if the reason is the identity of the authority issuing orders, then a question mark has to be raised when the bosses ordering union members onto the picket line are union bosses, if we hold the political position that the union bureaucracy are an element of the DEcomposition of the class.
The most recent case of a one day strike in Ireland was the one called by the unions in 2009. A small minority of union members dutifully attended picket lines (which in many cases basically involved telling social service clients that needed help that they couldn't help them today) while the majority took the day off. The strike itself was purely a cynical bargaining move by the union bureaucrats in advance of the next "social partnership" talks, from which they came out with the Croke Park Agreement, basically 10-14% pay cuts all round, which they then sold to the membership as a "victory". The upshot was absolute demoralisation amongst those workers who'd bothered to go on their first picket line (social partnership since the mid-90s meant that many workers were too young to remember the previous periods of industrial unrest and miltancy). So, an event in the class struggle? Certainly. But in terms of its movement effect on the political composition of the class, it was purely destructive without any countervailing positive effects.
So, if we reject the sociological composition of a national one day strike (i.e. that it is carried out by workers) and any automatic class character of the strike form itself, what is the basis of calling it a class movement?
By contrast to the contribution of the Irish 2009 public sector one-day strike to the demobilisation and demoralisation of the class, we can look at the effect of Gezi on subsequent struggles in Istanbul. While I was over in March I was talking to a DAF comrade who was involved in support for the Grief factory occupation. He asserted that that struggle could not have taken place, without the "Gezi effect". A judgement echoed by the IWW in an interview on this site (here). In a similar vein an IWW member (possibly the same one) made the allegation that the country-wide reaction to the Soma disaster could not have reached the extent that it has, without the same influence.
Now you may disagree with those assessments (and I obviously wouldn't be in a position to second-guess you on the political situation in Turkey), but I think the point stands. That it could even be argued by participant observers, that a movement like Gezi, outside of "traditional" industrial stuggle, engaging elements of the urban proletariat on a basis of little other than being urban and proletarian (questions of control over urban space, police repression, developers interests against urban dwellers, corruption, cultural repression, institutional corruption, etc) and without being strongly formed by a particular programme of demands, can have a lasting effect (no matter how limited in time it will turn out to be) on the general conditions or environment for the class stuggle in other instances or arenas, locally at least.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with your characterisation of the Poll Tax as a "smaller movement" that didn't "shake [the] entire countr[y]". My memory of what the APT did to Thatcher's Britain is maybe a little different. (Certainly in terms of the >6 month-lasting local organisations (Anti-Poll Tax groups or "unions") there was far more organicisation than I'm aware the Gezi movement created). However I will push back on last weeks MTST-led clash with the Sao Paolo cops as merely "a little local difficulty". The underlying issues are the same as those that created a virtual political earthquake in Brazil last July, which very much did shake the entire country. Again the spark last year was the Free Pass Movement (MPL) which is an issue around material needs of the urban proletariat (MPL research showed that many workers in the big Brazilian cities spend around 30% of their income on barely functioning public transport), rather than employer/employee wage/work conflict. Anyway, more a passing comment...
So, I agree with your basic point that determining the class content of a movement is not an easy thing or that there is any single element that you can point to as determinative.
My point between your raising the "atomised" nature of the participants as a contradiction, would be in relation to a strong position of saying that self-organisation has nothing to do with the class nature of a movement. Now you clarify that you don't think self-organisation "unimportant", but that's a very ill-defined position.
We agree that self-organisation is not a sufficient condition. I think where we disagree is that for me, while not sufficient, it is still necessary. You need to clarify whether "not unimportant..." is to be qualified by "...but still not necessary", or not. Because it's there I think we disagree.
So, from my perspective, which finds an echo in the FARJ's assertion "there is never a political vacuum, anywhere"**, the revelation from interviews with Kievan anarchists, that their was no self-organisation in the Maidan, that all the logistics, the political direction and the stage-managing of the Veche (a sort of "X-Factor" pastiche of assembleas, where the cheering or booing of the audience was used a focus group for testing the opposition parties initiatives), was the second clearest indication (after the accounts of the nationalists violently purging any organised left presence) that there was no class nature to the movement, as there was no self-organisation and no autonomy. An autonomist position if you like.
Secondly, also, the agreed difficulty with determining the class nature of a movement does imply for me, as a corollary, that it is almost impossible to determine the nature of a movement at the outset - i.e. until its development has unfolded. Of course there are some obvious exceptions (main initial demand being racist, misogynist or otherwise aimed at attacking a section of the class - although see the controversy of the UK refinery worker electricians strike a few years back, when certain left groups alleged that it was essentially racist/nationalist based on the use of a "British Jobs for British Workers" Gordon Brown quote), and hindsight is 20/20 vision, but generally it is hard to predetermine the outcome of how a movement develops.
So the negative habit of some ultraleftists of retrospectively attacking groups that engaged in a movement that developed in a reactionary direction, on the basis of that outcome being always-already determined (usually based on a fairly selective take on available evidence) seems to me to be evident bad faith in that light. Which I think ties into one of the points of the original article (possibly tenuous, but we got there).
* For details see (here)
** from this passage in Part 8 of Social Anarchism and Organisation
Tyrion wrote: What does this
In Kiev there was a conflict between two segments of the oligarchy, but besides these, also a widespread discontent in segments below oligarchy. Especially petty bourgeioisie totally hated Yanukovich administration, and petty bourgeoisie is a typically Middle- and West-Ukrainian element, whereas in East Ukraine economy is dominated by huge corporations and middle-segment is almost non existing.
In general, I would consider most of the "color revolutions" as bourgeois. They make bourgeois demands (against election fraud, against nepotism, for human rights). East-European and Central Asian states have tendency to become family clan affairs, although this status of family clans is not given such a legal framework as it was given in the feudalist framework.
Steven. wrote: I don't think
I do not talk about council communism but about neo-council communism of the likes of Mr. Dupont and whatever "critics of activism" there are around. These are two completely different things, "second time as farce", as we all know. I do not even have to dig up links, as you see in the main Ukraine thread, there are plenty of people in the libcom forum who dismiss any attempt of intervention whatsoever.
S2W wrote: Bourgeois
The thing is, proletariat is now the only revolutionary class. These contemporary "revolutions" are nothing but regime changes. Regimes are changing, but ruling class remains the same, and capitalist mode of production rules over the whole globe. There can be no "progressive" bourgeois factions, because bourgeoisie was progressive only in relation to feudal lords, slave owners etc.
Here's my 2 cents anarchists
Here's my 2 cents anarchists are only good for fighting amongst themselves!