In the second part of our interview with the combatants of Anarchist Struggle they specify the role of their project in the context of global anarchist struggle and send a message to Russian comrades. This message reflects on deepest and most serious problems and aspects of current libertarian practice worldwide: the questions of self-dedication, criticism and self-criticism as well as one of organization. Comrades finilized their part by paying honour to the martyrs of anarchist struggle — Mikhail Zhlobitsky and Willem Van Spronsen.
Hevale: What is your concept concerning a place of your project in a context of global anarchist struggle? What role the group Anarchist Struggle want to play for the international anarchist movement?
Tekoşîna Anarşîst: The purposes of us, organize as anarchist and libertarian in the Rojava revolution can be summed up into critical solidarity and internationalism. We are here to practice solidarity with the people, the movement and their ideology here, but we also want to acquire a holistic and non-dogmatic understanding of the dynamics of this place, and eventually develop new perspectives on organizing, militancy and revolutionary process from the unique experience here. We as internationalists are committed to defend the revolution shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Rojava, but simultaneously we are here to engage in praxis, to learn and gain experience and to develop ourselves in revolutionary ways and militancy. So that we can build, improve and develop revolutionary struggles elsewhere.
We do not want to simply replicate the methods, ways of organizing and ideological frameworks from the revolutionary movement here, and reproduce them in other parts of the world. Instead, we recognize that how struggle and resistance shall be organized should be based on the locality; the particular historical, social, cultural background of such.
We recognize there are shortcomings in how resistance and struggle elsewhere are organized currently but in particular drawing from the experience of European anarchist scene; that different nods or aspects of resistance are atomized, there is a void in the ability to develop revolutionary strategy, holistic analysis and revolutionary blueprint that are able to organizationally and ideologically link up particular and localized struggles into a greater framework. We desire to contribute to finding the solutions to these limitations in order to move struggles forward. We want to create, advance and maintain infrastructure that can allow international anarchist/libertarian revolutionaries to learn, to gain experience, knowledge and different expertise from self-defense and social revolution, train, educate and to work in different capacities. Not just learning in an individual fashion, but accumulating knowledge collectively, taking up of responsibilities and self-organizing.
We also acknowledge the importance for queer people to participate and learn in the Rojava revolution, thus this project creates the possibility for people who don‘t fit into the gender norms and binary to be able to come to Rojava, which otherwise is at the moment still very hard place to be accepted when you have different sexuality or different identity than a binary one.
Hevale: What else important you would like to add now? Would you like to send any specific message for the Russian-speaking audience?
Tekoşîna Anarşîst: Okay so this one goes out specifically for Russian-speaking audience, but not necessarily in Russia. Russia and surrounding post-soviet countries have similarities and differences, and Russian speaking comrades are spread all over the world. Sometimes it seems like we speak very different languages and come from very different contexts. But there are many topics that we could all speak to each other about. Due to the fact that we are based in Rojava and experiencing quite different reality from our home contexts, we would like to mention several self-criticisms that are directed to us as anarchists in general; Russian-speaking audience is no stranger to the matters that we want to mention. In fact, some of the things that we want to point out are very actual for anarchists movement in Russia and neighboring countries. The intention of that critique made from the heart and comradeship, is to bring people into asking themselves questions that they may not yet have asked, and/or looking at things from slightly different angles. We don’t pretend to come out with an in-depth analysis and we are rather posing questions; all of these are topics, that we are discussing within our organization on a daily basis. We would like to share them with you all.
To begin with, we would like to point out to several things in relation to organizational culture. We see several matters that need serious reflection:
A common thing in the anarchist movement is a problem of something that we call “disposable relationships”. It means that people easily get involved into conflicts within the groups and organizations, and are not holding on to their comrades and relationships with them, treating it like if nobody has to care if people stop to cooperate and there are many people around they can work with instead. It literally means making enemies and separation needlessly. It typically goes in the circles again and again, and people “change” their comrades, collectives and projects like gloves. Some individuals are even taking personal and inter-organizational conflicts as a matter of war. Personal ego and patriarchal, competitive mentality often goes above common interests and even common threats that we are facing. These conflicts between us are hugely destructive and damaged a lot of anarchist and related subversive structures that were built in past 15 years in Russia, for instance.
Meanwhile, we don’t have effective solutions for many questions in the scale of the movement; for example, how to overcome such obstacles like economy and logistics, which would allow us to organize more in more committed and effective fashion, without putting entire capacities that we have into basic surviving in capitalism? How not to create competitive relationships between organizations or members and people outside of them?
How do we build collective understanding of tactics and strategy of the movement by constant sharing and progressing them, instead of making entrenched centralized decisions? How to formalize things to overcome informal hierarchy, without making party hierarchy? How not to exclude people after major shortcomings but progress beyond the usual solution of kicking them out, and give people meaning instead of creating separation? How to resolute conflicts effectively? How to create critical solidarity – comradary yet critical relationship between people and groups?
Here in Rojava, we learned that the formalized tool of bringing mutual critique and self-critique to each other and between organizations, which here is called Tekmil, can be used in an anti-authoritarian, healthy and horizontal way. At the moment, bringing critique to our comrades beyond Rojava is rather hard. Criticism is often seen as a personal attack and disrespect; criticized people have strong defensive reactions and have a high wall of their own ego that is very hard to overcome. On the other hand, Tekmil must not become a way to bash down your comrades but rather giving them critique in a loving way with perspectives and a belief that we all can change our destructive approaches and hierarchical mindset. It is a consequence of the societies we grew up in. We can create our own values, our own way how to relate to each other. Critique can be a gift, with belief in your comrades, that they can become better. Not with an aggressive intention, but rather with an intent of reflection and development. For that, a revolutionary culture of criticism and self-criticism needs to be developed.
Then, it necessarily comes to a point of reflection on a militant personality and commitment to revolutionary organizing. The lack of commitment is a big problem in anarchist movement. We all ask ourselves, how to approach daily life and relations with people in connection to our political believes? Is that something that we do at all? And inside of our organizations, how do we balance between the responsibility, individual wishes and desires, so we ensure continuation of some kind of our common line which, on the other hand, is what keeps us all alive and going? How can we develop understanding that revolutionary organizing isn’t a hobby or free time activity, and take it seriously without loosing our desires and joy in life?
And finally, we see a lack of serious political analysis, which is necessary instead of constant reacting on the events that are happening around us. Which is also needed, but how to keep up with events happening, meanwhile not letting it to drag us away from building our own strength and figuring out a long-term strategy and understanding our tactics? And especially now, when FSB is in full scale war against anarchists and overseeing all dissent in Russia and beyond, how do we as anarchists understand self-defense beyond the physical/military one? How to not create an elitist cult or macho bullshit? There is a need of developing a focus with a serious analysis, with a deep understanding of not only actual burning social and economical issues, but also look back to history and see which things worked and which not, and look for deep connections in the present day. That is to say, there is a need of holistic approach to the anarchist analysis, and we don’t necessarily mean academic research by that.
In all post-soviet countries (and elsewhere) a connection between widespread patriarchal reaction, “hurray” nationalistic chauvinism and necessity of struggle against prison system can be understood even on the most simple daily basis and you don’t need to be a political activist or sociologist to understand what these things are about, and to know which side of barricade are you at – for instance, any average person in Russia or Belarus can relate to the topic of prison industrial complex or corruption, in one way or another.
There is a need of self-defense, both in terms of attack and creativity and building our own structures, strength and capacity.
Our Russian-speaking comrades have a unique heritage of historical experience of GULAG system and devastating experience of Soviet union, a look on it from anarchist point of view. It is something that drastically influenced every single detail of social and economical reality that we live in present day in a very specific manner. On the other hand, a patriarchal, chauvinist and homophobic state reaction is a reality which goes hand to hand with prison system and question of it’s abolition. There is a vital need of strong movements influenced by and also inspiring abolitionist narrative reflecting on experiences of revolution, counter-revolution, prisons and patriarchy for at least last 150 years.
Creation and direct involvement into people’s self-defense in various forms is needed, as well as strong participation of non-male comrades, with creating autonomous non-male structures which would allow to grow and expand diversity and include various groups of people. We think that there is a possibility of creation of new narrative with overall focus on struggle for prison abolition and new understanding of justice, uniting people in front of capitalism and wage labor, and strong focus and practice on gender liberation and libertarian forms of social organization. On the other hand, there is a need for strong organizations and reliable structures, as well as understandable open proposals to come up with when shit will start to go down and Kremlin will not be able to suppress social upheaval so effectively anymore – with not only proposing, but enacting our ideas directly.
For the last words, we would like to honor the memory of anarchist comrades Mikhail Zhlobitsky and Willem Van Spronsen, and many others, who gave their lives for others, who struggle behind prison bars. The legacy of our fallen comrades is lightening our path.
We would like to send revolutionary greetings to the Russian-speaking audience and thank for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts, hopes, and aspirations.
Read the first part: Rojava Complexity
Specially for Hevale: Revolution in Kurdistan