In the early hours of this rainy 5 May 2021 in Caracas, Nelson Mendez passed away at the age of 68. A tireless propagandist, editor of the publications Correo (A) and El Libertario, author of several books and dozens of opinion and research articles. Nelson died as a result of complications associated with Covid-19.
Nelson Méndez: (Caracas, 1952) had a degree in Sociology and was a professor at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). Linked from his youth to social activism and anarchism from 1980 onwards, from the end of the 1990s he was part of the editorial team of the newspaper El Libertario. He was also one of the animators of the Centre for Libertarian Social Studies (CESL), which operated in Sarría for several years. His most recent book is "Gastronomía y anarquismo. La utopía intensa de unir fogones, barricadas, placer y libertad" ("Gastronomy and anarchism. The intense utopia of uniting cookers, barricades, pleasure and freedom" 2021). He previously published "Un país en su artificio. Itinerario histórico de la ingeniería y la tecnología en Venezuela" ("A country in its artifice. Historical itinerary of engineering and technology in Venezuela" 2011) and, co-authored with Alfredo Vallota, "Bitácora de la utopía. Anarquismo para el siglo XXI" ("Logbook of Utopia. Anarchism for the 21st century").
Nelson was a reference for several generations of Venezuelan anarchist activists. His cubicle at the School of Engineering of the UCV was an epicentre of libertarian publications coming from various parts of the world and meetings to plan organisational and propaganda activities. He was a consistent anti-authoritarian, rejecting the inequities of the Venezuelan governments before and after 1998, as well as the coups d'état of different ideological signs that occurred in 1992 and 2002.
His colleagues at El Libertario would like, with these lines, to pay him a heartfelt tribute. His example continues to be an inspiration to us and we will always carry his joy and kindness in our hearts. Our heartfelt words of affection and consolation go to his partner Mina and his son Salvador. ■
Venezuelian comrade Nelson Mendez has passed away at the age of 68 by Covid-19. In the early morning of this rainy May 5 in Caracas, Nelson Mendez has passed away at the age of 68. Tireless propagandist, editor of the publications «Correo (A)» and «El Libertario».
Author of several books and dozens of articles of opinion and research. Born in Caracas in 1952, he had a degree in Sociology and was a professor at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV).
Linked since his youth to social activism and anarchism since 1980, he was a consistent anti-authoritarian, rejecting the inequities of the Venezuelan governments before and after 1998, as well as the coups of different ideological sign in 1992 and 2002.
Rest in power Nelson. ■
Today, different anarchist groups, collectives and organizations, publicly manifest ourselves against the tax reform's hikes on essential subsistence goods. But not only because we consider the reform as an organized robbery to the pockets of the working class, peasants, service workers, self-employed and freelancers. But also, we make evident the failure that constitutes this Uribist government of Iván Duque and the disaster that is the whole state apparatus of this country. Which has tried to hide with public works, laws, decrees, media propaganda and cheap nationalism, the organized robbery that it really is over the totality of the people of this region of the continent.
The taxes that Duque -falsely- talked about reducing, regardless of the president in office, were, are and will be the same a general theft from the people, since they have guaranteed, through the clientelist mafia, the access to power to no more than 20 families throughout the country. 20 families who have corruptly enriched themselves and continue to exercise power in the territories -many times- through the use of arms, whether legal or illegal. And also benefiting from legal and black market rents, -understood as- drug trafficking, smuggling, human trafficking, land fattening, dispossession of land from peasants and illegal mining.
How can they expect the people to continue to believe in the state, if the same government that controls it, acts systematically against them?
The handling of the pandemic is disastrous, not only the duquismo made the covax option fall apart when it could have ensured the supply of vaccines for Colombia. But they also dare to do business with the health care of the people, at the expense of the taxes that they steal from the workers. The pressure on health workers, the overexploitation they suffer day by day, is not exclusive. The teachers have also been deeply affected, not to mention all the people, who with their sweat, tears and effort sustain a state that takes more than it really gives back to them.
The war, which is maintained in the territories, has been continued because of political decisions against the people. The same people who continue to pay its toll in deaths, and continue to suffer the abuse of the state, the repression of the security forces that only serve to maintain the privileges of those who control the political and/or economic power. From the unfulfilled promises that have led to the beginning of a new cycle of violence, the betrayal of agreements that sowed hope in the population of Colombia . At the end, they decided to harvest a fire fueled with gasoline.
For all this, and much more, is that we, the anarchists, express ourselves in resounding opposition to the simple actions, which is to make a parade along the Séptima Avenue. Instead, we call for an indefinite General Strike, that leads to move the status quo for the benefit of the people: from its local oligarchs and bourgeois minorities, to the wide, long, broad and diverse peoples that make up the majority of the population in of the population in the Colombian region.
Recovering the municipal autonomies, the collectivization of the territory among those who inhabit it ancestrally or traditionally, and the ancestral or traditional inhabitants (not among those who, by usurpation, dispossession and displacement, obtained it), exercising assembly, communalism and horizontality, all decisions collectively, an open, participatory, diverse and permanent assembly, rejecting any authority, caudillism, gamonalism, patronalism and patriarchy. It is not necessary for the state controlled by the elite to decree the AGRARIAN REFORM, its the communities, towns and municipalities themselves, who can do it without intermediaries, they only need to agree to an assembly and start it.
¡!!Abolish the relations of subordination to the narco-oligarchic state!!!!
¡!!!End of passive activity, it is time to go out to the streets!!!
¡!!!!Obstruct the exercise of repression!!!!!
¡!!Build autonomous neighborhood and municipal assemblies!!!!
Abolish the relations of male-dominated and patriarchal oppression: diverse participation and gender equality, agreements of renouncing the war, ¡¡¡¡unarmed civil disobedience!!!!
Avoid the tax reform, avoid pension reform, avoid labor reform.
Abolish the state.
¡!!Constitute the Assemblies!!!!
Colectix Kaos Kreador Antifacista – Banderas Negras – ULET-AIT ■
1st of May 2021. Greetings of the Secretariat of the International of Anarchist Federations (IAF/IFA)
The Secretariat of the International of Anarchist Federations sends its greetings to this international meeting for May Day 2021. Founded in 1968 at the International Anarchist Congress in Carrara, the International of Anarchist Federations continues carrying out the values of social justice, antiauthoritarianism and internationalism that inspired the struggle of the Paris Commune 150 year ago and of the five Martyrs of Chicago 135 years ago. Still inspired by these values, our member federations are committed to build an anarchist alternative for a world that is increasingly devastated by the crimes of capitalism, the logics of states and armies, the ever-growing environmental depredation.
In the last year, this situation has been tragically worsened by the current world pandemic, whose consequences are burdening the working class. Exploited and oppressed people are those most affected by the pandemic, and at the same time most committed to protect everyone’s health. Yet, in various regions of the world we are witnessing the deterioration of the living and working conditions of hundreds of millions of people. In many countries the military budget has been increased and war tensions between states are exacerbating alongside a growing concert of racist, fascist and nationalist propaganda. Governments all around the world are strengthening security measures, tightening control and repression on their populations and are widening the power of police forces. Meanwhile, all over the world, an increasingly segregated population is living in total deprivation in places such as poor neighbourhoods, detention camps for migrants and prisons.
Nevertheless, in every corner of the world there are forms of resistance. In some cases movements of struggle are not only resisting the harshening of authoritarian policies but they are trying to create an alternative. We stand with people revolting in the USA against racism and police, in Nigeria against special security forces, in France against a new police state, in Chile against the
militaristic neoliberal State and the genocidal violence used to repress the Mapuche people, in Great Britain against patriarchy and gender violence. We are with those who are struggling for equality and liberty against dictatorships in Turkey and Belarus, and against authoritarian regimes in Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Where it is present, the anarchist movement is an active part of these struggles, trying to develop their revolutionary potentialities and to counter any authoritarian degeneration. In various regions of the world anarchists are engaged daily, defending spaces of freedom, supporting striking workers, building solidarity and mutual aid networks to tackle poverty, gender violence, inaccessibility to protective equipment and medical treatment.
While it would be impossible to summarize all the activities which are being supported by our comrades and federations in different countries and realities, these include experiences of mutual aid which include, among other possible examples: Creating groups of mutual aid that help one’s community/house/neighbourhood to cope with the virus, for instance with distribution of food, protection equipment and medicine; Opening up new spaces for living and for making cultural activities, including occupations of spaces by homeless peoples; Circulation of books, journals and other supports and explanations to deal with the crisis; Promoting and practically implementing anticapitalistic alternatives to the existing economic system such as solidarity shared funds; Promoting activism to support abused and vulnerable groups such as indigenous people.
Now, more than ever, it is necessary to strengthen the internationalist dimension of anarchism, to oppose the ongoing authoritarian processes and to relaunch a revolutionary perspective in a world that capitalism and state have brought to the point of collapse. In this May Day, a date which is crucial for both our history and future, we confirm and continue our worldwide fight for fostering internationalist solidarity in the workers’ movements worldwide, to go ahead building day by day the new world that we bring in our hearts. ■
The IFA Secretariat
Secretariat: [email protected]
Social Media: www.twitter.com/IntFedAnarchist
AUDIO READING : www.youtu.be/VLl6VXhT-A4
[TW: sexual violence]
Since Organise’s last update on Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has announced that Eritrean troops will leave the region of Tigray in Northern Ethiopia. This comes as a surprise, since Abiy has spent the last few months denying the presence of any Eritrean troops in Ethiopia at all. Yet, even as he was denying the existence of the Eritrean troops fighting a war against a group he declared victory over in November, reports from the UN and Amnesty International were confirming that, not only were they there, they were colluding with Abiy’s government to carry out numerous atrocities. When they leave on their as-yet-unspecified date, a slew of corpses—which could very well number upwards of 100,000—will be in their wake. This prompts the question: who is Abiy’s audience for these lies? Who is a sincere believer, any more?
The flagrancy of Abiy’s lies are echoed in the obscenity of the violence. As accessibility to the region has grown over the past few weeks, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have made little effort to curb their violence under this heightened scrutiny. On the 23rd of March, soldiers beat and threatened an MSF driver and killed at least four men extrajudicially while MSF staff were present. MSF also reported that “most” of their 100+ hospitals in the region had been looted or destroyed.
As is often the case, much of the genocidal violence redounds heavily on women, as Amharic soldiers talk of cleansing them of their Tigrayan blood. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph quotes doctors and nurses from the region: “Soldiers enter hospitals as they like. They cross wards and threaten patients, nurses and doctors. There were recently seven raped women from Zalambessa who disappeared from their beds after seeing soldiers in the hospital,” says a doctor in Adigrat. A nurse says her rehabilitation centre for survivors of sexual assault was threatened with closure in order to stop these stories coming out, but still the attacks continue and still the stories get out.
The story of Selam, a 26-year-old coffee seller from Tigray who was abducted by Eritrean soldiers with 17 other women in January, deserves to be heard in full [TW: extreme sexual violence, HIV]: “They [Eritrean soldiers] took us into the forest. When we arrived there, there were around 100 soldiers who were waiting for us. They tied the hands and feet of each one of us. And then they raped us without mercy. We stayed that way for three days. After three days the soldiers killed five girls who had been tied with us. They poured [alcohol] over our wounds. They danced standing over us.”
The story continues: “After the first attack, [Selam’s] abusers were waiting for her as she returned to her house from the hospital with contraceptives and post-exposure HIV drugs. “Why the hell did you want this? We want you to be sick. That is what we are here for. We are here to make you HIV-positive,” Selam recalled one of the men as saying.”
To try to suppress the stories even though everyone knows what is going on speaks to a regime unburdened by any need to justify its own actions. Without oversight, the cover-up becomes a mere formality which will allow for the execution of more and more extreme violence. As mentioned in the last article, the importance of an independent inquiry by the UN cannot be overstated. A joint inquiry between the UN and the Ethiopian Human rights Commision will not deliver justice, since the EHRC are state-funded and lack the trust of the Tigrayan people whose voices should be at the centre of the report. Pressure should be put on UN member states to help achieve this.
Abiy’s multi-ethnic electoral coalition—the Prosperity Party—and his dream of a more centralised Ethiopia looks more and more futile and more and more bloody by the day. With or without Eritrea, the atrocities are likely to continue for some time and there is a real possibility that the entire country will fracture or even balkanise, as the regional animosities which saw thousands dead and arrested in a wave of 2014 protests come to a head again.
What’s more, tensions with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which would give Ethiopia unprecedented control of the Nile’s water flow into those countries, are building. On April the 11th, talks between the three countries over data sharing came to nothing. Leaving the Kinshasa summit, the Sudanese Irrigation Minister said Ethiopia’s offer ‘implies suspicious selectivity in dealing with what has been agreed upon.’ Again, we see how the lack of trust in Abiy’s government could have serious ramifications for the region.
In light of all this, the upcoming 2021 elections (if they go ahead) may seem trivial, but given how much of the violence has been fueled by Abiy’s desire to cling on to electoral power, they have the potential to change the dynamics of the conflict. Abiy used the elections held by the TPLF last year as a pretext to kill thousands of civilians. The TPLF has since been excluded from competing and it remains to be seen what the ostracisation of the Tigrayan people from the political landscape will mean for the Abiy’s longevity.
Citing COVID struggles, the Ethiopian government has recently turned to the IMF and World Bank to raise funds, offering the state-owned internet provider Ethio Telecom up for partial privatisation and asking for a restructuring of its loans to put off repayment until a later date. The military has already seen its budget steadily increase under Abiy: per the human rights non-profit Omna Tigray, military spending currently averages 4% a year, while health spending sits at 3.3%. It is highly likely that this extra financial flexibility will be used to exacerbate the conflict further.
While we should be loath to put our faith in the world’s financial elite, this does provide the institutions of capital with the opportunity to put pressure on Abiy’s government and we in turn should pressure them to do so, by lending our support to Omna Tigray’s campaign on the issue.
Meanwhile, Abiy’s counterpart in Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, who, like Abiy, previously garnered praise from the West (Bill Clinton called him a ‘renaissance African leader’) while committing numerous human rights abuses, is in a similarly precarious position. He faces being scapegoated by Abiy in order to deceive the international community, with EU sanctions already being levied at Eritrea, while domestic dissent over the country’s involvement in the unpopular war grows. The further destabilisation of Ethiopia though, could give Afwerki room to maneuver in the ever-tightening political knot that he has found himself in, as the hot potato would pass back into Abiy’s hands.
If Ethiopia does fracture then, the competing interests of Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan would complexify the conflict and snowball the violence. As ever, it will be ordinary people, like Selam, whose bodies will be pawned for the personal-political gain of autocrats like Abiy and Afwerki or sucked deeper into the scramble for ever scarcer resources.
On the 15th of April, two weeks after Abiy’s announcement that Eritrean troops would leave the region, the under-secretary general of humanitarian affairs told a UN security council that “neither the UN nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal.” There have been reports of Eritrean troops indiscriminately killing civilians as recently as the 12th. Some have even begun to disguise themselves in Ethiopian uniforms. It would seem then that the withdrawal is yet another lie. Despite Abiy’s words, the genocide simply goes on.
The fact is that no one is a sincere believer. Not Abiy (despite his Pentecostalism), not his defenders and certainly not the oppressed and displaced Tigrayans. This is because the lies of politicians like Abiy, as with Trump or Bolsonaro, no longer aspire to sincere belief, so easily are they refuted. Their lies are mere instruments. Their ideological utility is not located in their capacity to dupe people into believing them, but in the continued violence they make space for by discarding the aim of duping altogether. If no one believes what they are saying, everything becomes negotiable. It is not then a case of ideology being “a set of lies experienced as true,” but “a set of lies experienced as lies, but acted on anyway”—or as the Marxist academic Theodor Adorno wrote, “the lie has lost its honest function of misrepresenting reality.” It no longer posits another reality, just debases the original, no longer demonstrates an awareness of one’s actions as morally condemnable, only a will to continue the morally bankrupt act. In short, there is no longer anything left to unmask, for the mask is already, obviously, painted plastic. ■
Pretty much everyday various comrades in Myanmar put out lists of links documenting the day. Updates on checkpoints,deaths, medical call outs, tactical reports, videos of atrocities. Many of these links soon go silent, get blocked, turned private or account removed.
This is a translated extract from the March 27. These headers are direct translations, copy and pastes or summing up. Fair warning many of the links take you to horrific pictures and the like.
This is A Day In Myanmar and the days are continuing like this.
Medical team is urgently needed in West Mogok city. Too many injured people!! ️(Still Shooting)
Today News report that there have been over 90 people who died from military and police shooting against anti-military protests across the country.
Sexual threat “I will rape your daughters in front of you tonight at the rock canal. If you don't have a daughter, I scream to your women. “
100 Dead in Ahlone/Yangon.
Current Mandalay. Patients can't win at all. They're shooting the rescue vehicles. There are so many fallen people. Those who got wifi please help spread the word. Let the international know
Another killed in Bagan Nyaung Oo In Nyaung-U, a tour guide was shot dead in the morning and another was shot dead on the way from Nyaung-U to Meikhtila Hospital, said a Nyaung-U resident.
Footage of Military shooting in Mogok.
Motherfuckers Two people shot my sniper. (graphic pictures)
Madalay There are almost 15 deaths and 3 victims. It's not over yet. Still shooting
58th Street Mandalay. (photos of someones brain on the concrete)
Trending is in so please keep tweeting.
Mandalay 87/41 Nyaung Pin top Kyauk Wye Park one fell down. My heart is hurting.
North Dagon Bridge 50 ward shootings yesterday.
Mandalay road / 82 Street. (Photos of dead people)
Taung Nyunt train win 13 years old. Maung Waiyan Tun has fallen with his head open. (Just in front of my house) Edit-I took the corpse. source my home
List on ongoing resources and situation reporting.
Insein Fawkan one fell 2:40 .p.m.
Bago hairdresser. He said he got a mouth bullet and opened his head.. 2 pm in the afternoon.
Name - Ko Chit Lin Thu Age - (21) years old Yangon / Insein school gate Fall Date-27.3.2021
The young man who was shot and arrested while riding a motorcycle in Dawei has not died yet.
I cried watching it again. How heartbroken are parents? My baby boy
I have a headache in Sanchaung. The condition is very bad. There is a lot of bleeding. I have been sent to the hospital
Tamu is a small town on the border of Sagaing Division
The situation is bad at 26th Street 91 * 92 I could hear gunshots coming from the house
The situation in Mandalay is deteriorating. The death toll from gun violence by militant council members has risen.
Thila Up to two Vd in front of the eyes
6 people hit the history 1 ward. Edit-2 people reportedly dead..
Electricity cut off early in the morning at 1 Ward.
Private groups for 1/2 Ward News
We've shot our house, plenty of adults and kids stuck at home, can't get close. History 1 Ward, 11th Street, Mayangone LaWa office straight from front of the office. Bro, Sis and Maung Milk Kyar Kung, Rubber Bullet touch. Please help me.
Another one fell. RIP.
There is a sound bomb blasting near North Dagon School Road. There is a sound bomb blasting everywhere (like every ward).
Strike that march with full force in Sagaing Shwebo city has been destroyed. 3 to the bullet, 1 to the eye. 2 people touched the leg. Nyaung Oo city boycott was destroyed and 2 people were hit by bullet. 1 are not in good condition at all.
Breaking News-One dead in Dawei terrorists gang shooting.
Out of 5 Wards in Kamayut Township...17 boys have been caught... 2 of my friends are in!!!
Military Council's attempt to gather protest in Hlaing Thar Yar city. 3 arrested and detained in one place in Hlaing Thar Yar city due to breaking in.
13 year old girl died in Meiktila.
15 year old 7th grader who was shot into the house in Meiktila.
Please come to the nearby cities as they are surrounded by everywhere... Hit 6 and found out one is falling.
Bullet hit brother has fallen
Shooting on 37
Citizens are being dragged in Yangon Yuzana Park, Army dragged drool, death is possible.
If there is any medical cover near Insein Pinne Kone, please come and give me. The one who has touched the arm has not been treated yet. Because it's not easy to go out to the hospital.
Dagon North (Histaing) (Group)
Dogs are entering Innwa Road, standing at the top of Innwa Road (Nandawan Market)
Burning fire between 29th street 84 and 85
3 Lashio people are down. Source: in comment. Please go and tweet on save Twitter.
Shot by real bullet. It was known that he died when he was in the hospital.
Kyeik Htoe/ Two. One ti head. One to neck Shooting with a real bullet
A man who broke down terrorists and soldiers were killed and 4 girls were arrested in Hopin City, Kachin State for protesting this morning.
Wat Kone market caught in tea shop 3 people included.
Mya Mountain War has been destroyed according to this current situation.. (20) people have been arrested.
81 Don't come around 39 82 83. I'm shooting where I see people and I'm drying with guns.
37 81 corner bone pot pagoda is also drawn into pagoda.
Today 27.3.2021 around 8:00 am 80 and 80 am Soldiers are of the public Burning barriers and shooting guns. Warriors are driving around that road. Trying to figure out exactly for military water.
Ta Oo Brani Road, now enter.
Don't come to South Ou and don't come on Yadanar Road .
There are over points in May City...Take care my relatives
Many more military cars went up to Thanlyin General side.
In 2019, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed Ali, received the Nobel Peace Prize for ending a 20-year border dispute with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s long-term, regional rival. By the 19th November 2020, Ethiopian and Eritrean state forces had joined together to occupy the city of Aksum in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. They carried out a series of atrocities including door-to-door extrajudicial killings, looting of food stores and pharmacies, sexual violence and indiscriminate shelling, culminating in the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians on the 28th-29th. Aside from the horrifying testimonies of survivors, the only imagery able to puncture the state-enforced communications blackout are satellite shots of disturbed earth—evidence of recent graves—around the churches and up the roadsides. It is a genocide with the lights turned off.
Since then, the massacres have continued unabated, with humanitarian aid blocked off and MSF hospitals routinely destroyed. As in the Yemen, ongoing environmental degradation and the intentional destruction of food and water supplies have exacerbated already existing scarcities and deprivation. A full-scale famine looms—a UN estimate puts the number of Tigrayans requiring urgent, live-saving assistance at 4.5 million, with 2.5 million children malnourished. 2 million Tigrayans have been internally displaced and over 60,000 have fled to refugee camps in Sudan. For many, this has meant returning to the same camps they found refuge in during the civil war which ended 30 years ago.
Nations, Nationalities and Peoples
The seeds of the central government’s war on the region of Tigray may be found in the first lines of the 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia, the founding document of the modern Ethiopian state. The document begins ’we, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.’ This emphasis on the horizontality of Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic makeup is irreconcilable to the modern nation state’s desire for top-down vertical power and capitalism’s conceptual need for individual financial actors.
The result, as student activist Walleligne Mekonnen wrote in the 1960s, is a ‘fake Ethiopian Nationalism advanced by the ruling class.’ For Mekonnen, this nationalism was fake because it privileged the Amhara and Amhara-Tigray people above Ethiopia’s many other ethnic groups. Now, this fake nationalism smuggles in the supremacy of the state under the guise of preserving the universality of its own self-conception.
Abiy Ahmed Ali became Prime Minister in 2018. While initially from the Oromo Democratic Party, a party in favour of Oromo nationalism, in 2019 he formed and became leader of the new Prosperity Party, a merger of every existing political party except one—the TPLF, a formerly Marxist-Leninist party which is the regional authority in Tigray and was the dominant party in Ethiopian politics from 1989 to 2018. They support the current federalist arrangement, while Abiy's Prosperity Party aim to bring Ethiopia beyond that ethno-federalism and closer to a citizen-based model of the state. In short, they wish to scrub out the “nations and nationalities” part of the constitution.
Because of this, the Prosperity Party has won the respect of some liberals in the Global North, despite the potential misgivings they may have about the slogan which is becoming associated with Abiy—”የኢትዮጵያ ከፍታ,” or “Make Ethiopia Great Again.“ Their platform posits itself (in opposition to the TPLF) as unideological and rational, folding every ethnic-oriented political tendency into their neo-liberal, individualist conception of a pan-Ethiopian politics.
This model is more friendly to capital. The dissolution of old hierarchies onto a purportedly horizontal plane of individuals makes the country more amenable to investment and wealth extraction by Imperial hegemons such as the US and China. What’s more, the state-owned railway, maritime, air transport, logistics, electricity, and telecommunications sectors are all slated for privatisation and foreign capital will be hoping ethnic divisions don’t get in the way of the coming energy windfall from the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which sees Ethiopia gain access to the hydro-electric goldmine of the river Nile.
In response to the flattening of the political landscape into the single Prosperity Party, the TPLF cried illegality and, in a second affront to Abiy, continued to hold elections in the Tigray region last summer, ignoring Abiy’s postponement of them until an undisclosed date, an act which echoed Viktor Orbán’s fascist government in Hungary by citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification. The government declared the TPLF’s elections illegal at the same time as the TPLF were declaring Abiy’s leadership illegitimate.
On the 4th of November, the TPLF put several military bases under siege, claiming to be acting in self-defense. In the days that followed, a mere month after the disputed elections, tanks arrived in Tigray and set about, in the words of an internal report by the US government, “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.”
It is obvious how the state-enforced imposition of a politic based on individualism is not only internally paradoxical, but also in tension with the diverse ethnic makeup of the country. Trying to scrub out the “Nations and Nationalities” inevitably has precisely the opposite effect—ethnic divides become further entrenched. Accounts from Tigrayans in wider Ethiopia talk of landlords using their ethnicity as a pretext for evictions, of illegal detentions by the state, of being fired from jobs and of not being able to speak their own language in public for fear of recriminations from fascists or state actors. The war on Tigray has inevitably become a war on Tigrayans.
A Secular, Holy War
As his political project comes more and more to resemble the bloodthirsty, hyper-partisan regime that it purports to be against, Abiy is at pains to show the world that this is a mere law enforcement operation.
Domestically, the TPLF are designated as a threat to the nominal horizontality of the Ethiopian state, when in reality the inciting threat is to Abiy’s position at the top of the vertical hierarchy of that state. Scenes from the Mai Kadra massacre, the perpetrators of which are, like many others, highly disputed, play on the news, while massacres by Eritrean and Ethiopian state forces, like the one in Aksum, are ignored.
Internationally, Abiy will hope that deceived Western eyes will view the peace deal with Eritrea as the object-cause of the conflict—if the TPLF are seen as a threat to that peace, the international community will be more amenable to state repression of the region. As it is though, the deal already looks rancid, a cynical way to leverage condescending and performative Western prize-politics to squeeze out political rivals and engage in extreme oppression (here, Abiy’s fellow traveler is the now-coup-d'état-ed leader of Myanmar, the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and her genocide of the Rohingya people). On signing the deal, Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki made this cynicism explicit by calling it ‘game over’ for the TPLF.
What we are left with trying to analyse Abiy’s politics is an abstraction of political maneuvering and ethnic cleansing onto the plane of universal values—war for the sake of peace.
On the 30th of November 2020, as survivors of the Aksum massacre were digging the mass graves which were soon to be picked up by satellite, Abiy’s address to parliament amplified this paradox. ‘After all,’ said Abiy, ‘we would like to tell them [the TPLF]—please, understand us, we need peace and it is necessary to know that we don’t compromise anything which comes against our honour.’ In effect: we need peace and we won’t compromise on our need for peace even if that means going to war and compromising on our need for peace.
In Strategy of Deception, Paul Virilio uses the term ‘secular, holy wars’ to describe conflicts which are persecuted with the crusader’s fervour and the human rights lawyer’s moral framework. We might think of how China’s insistence on the “harmonious society” apparently necessitates the repression of the Uighurs or how Western nation state’s offer humanitarian justifications for genocidal interventions in the Middle East.
The war in Ethiopia is a secular, holy war. Unlike territorial wars (though secular, holy wars may initially be territorial in nature), these wars leave no recourse to diplomacy, nor even victory, as the values they are fought under are always already undermined by the sheer brutality of the engagement, the meaning of the conflict immediately lost in a mire of senseless violence.
It is easy to label such wars as ordinarily bloody conflicts decorated with ordinarily misleading state propaganda, but it is not a case of whether any given war is actually being persecuted in the name of peace or not. The point more specifically is that such wars in their contradiction lay bare the continuity between state-determined peace and state-sponsored violence. The two are inextricable—what the state deems “peace,” “harmony,” or a “humanitarian intervention” is a managed violence of which an uncontrolled escalation must always be left possible in order to substantiate the qualifier “managed.”
It is not simply that the state has a monopoly on violence, then. It has a monopoly on violence which posits its very non-monopolisation as the premise of its monopoly. Any violent act, such as Abiy’s continued embargo on international aid and humanitarian groups in Tigray or the Ethiopian army’s destruction of MSF hospitals or any of the numerous crimes against humanity his regime has committed, may be justified in the name of preserving the monopoly on that violence, which trickles from the state, through the ruling class—the landlords who evict Tigrayan tenants, the bosses who suspend Tigrayan workers.
Ethiopian Anarchisms and International Solidarity
In many ways, the situation in Tigray is not only devastatingly sad, but completely disheartening. Aid still can’t get through. The communications blackout is a conscious attempt to foreclose on solidarity, a war without photos. Reports emerge of massacres a month after they have taken place, compounding the sense of uncertainty for those who have loved ones at risk.
Meanwhile, disinformation is rife on both sides. Almost every claim in this article is disputed by the group opposite the one making the claim. In a further paradox and a further Trumpism, Abiy has called for sympathetic Ethiopians in the country and in the diaspora to combat “TPLF fake news” with social media support—you will see photos of Abiy in camouflage as if on the front line, but zoom in and the uniform will turn out to be a Ukrainian soldier’s, an Abiy-esque goatee shopped onto his face; you will find many single-issue accounts parroting various pro-government or pro-TPLF lines of attack, as the distinction between sock-puppetry and genuine political action becomes blurry.
Virilio, writing at the dawn of the internet, quotes the Whig historian Alexander Kinglake’s assessment of 19th Century warfare: “insofar as the battlefield presented itself to the bare eyesight of men, it had no entirety, no length, no breadth, no size, no shape and was made up of nothing.” Although magpied from an entirely different era, this remains an accurate and depressing summation of the experience of post-modern information warfare, where the excluded voices of those human beings at the heart of the conflict are replaced by the cold work of bots filling their absence with long copy-and-paste comment chains, interrupted occasionally by video footage of extreme, casual violence, rotting corpses and weaponised rape (though you wouldn’t find these in any state-sanctioned media).
It is an intentionally hard war to access from the outside, made harder by the indifference of a Western media hamstrung by their need to locate a bogeyman, such as they do with China. Abiy, with his Nobel Peace Prize, unremarkable dress sense, his individualist governmentality and supplantation of the Marxist-Leninist TPLF, makes for a poor Third World despot to journalists that traffic in spectacle and Orientalism.
In this fog, Abiy will try to get away with everything he can. It is incredibly important therefore that our eyes remain firmly on the region. The MapEthiopia project has been tracking the conflict since the 4th of November and is a good way to stay up to date with the changing situation.
Calls should also be made and actions taken to ensure that the UN investigates the situation independently. This can be done through protests and admonitions to whatever member state you reside in. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a state body that will almost certainly sterilise its findings to be more sympathetic to the government, cannot be allowed to handle the investigation.
Anarchism has historically been succoured by the puncture wounds of state-on-state violence. This was the case with the CNT in Spain and the Makhnovists in Huliaipole. Both those places already had an underlying anarchist presence which Ethiopia lacks, but it's not unreasonable to imagine necessity creating the need for collective interventions which organise into an anarchism under a different name, such as has happened in Rojava and Chiapas. In the last year, for example, Horn Anarchists have emerged as an anarchist project in the region and are aiming to medical aid and supplies to refugees stranded in Sudan (their Mutual Aid fund can be found here).
Finally, I have been at pains throughout this article to make the situation comparable to other contemporary instances of state violence. Although the violence in Tigray is extreme, it is unexceptional—China, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar are all executing similar genocides and this violence is in potentiate everywhere that state control exists. What I have tried to do is show how a 21st Century genocide looks like—it doesn’t come in jackboots, but is cossetted in the applauding hands of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. It lies in potentiate everywhere. It talks of citizenship and rationality (soon, it may also talk of preserving the environment). It won’t involve a takeover of state power, but will already be continuous with the normative aims of the state that executes it. ■
For Further reading check out Omna Tigray and Horn Anarchists, the latter of whom spoke to The Final Straw radio broadcast earlier this month. Ethiopia Map is also a usful account to understand the topography and ongoing issues.
Jailed musician and activist Igor Bancer (Ihar Bantsar) is on dry hunger strike. Igor is refusing to drink water or eat. Today is his ninth day. The authorities continue to keep Igor in jail and refuse to transfer him to a hospital.
Igor is preparing for his court hearing which is scheduled for March 12 (tomorrow) in the Lenin District Court in Grodno. He faces up to three years in prison and has already been in custody since the 20th of October 2020. The long standing antifascist activist and lead singer of the Belarusian Oi/punk band Mister X was arrested along with thousands of others during the protests in Minsk and across Belarus.
The prosecutors case is that Igor has allegedly demonstrated his genitals to a police officer during a short dance in front of police car. Igor's position: it was a dance performance, during which he did take off his shorts, but was wearing underwear. He also was wearing a waist bag. The police officer, who saw Igor's dance, has no complaints against Igor. In his testimony he noted that initially he regarded Igor's act as a drunken prank, not a criminal offense.
Last year Igor Bancer was detained three times for participating in protests, he spent 18 days in jail for administrative cases. He is 41 years old, married with three small children. The family conveys their support to Igor through a lawyer, thought they are no longer trying to dissuade him. "It's impossible, because he is resolute," Igor's wife has told RFERL.
Igor remains in jail and has not been transferred to a hospital. He is being monitored, his blood pressure is being measured in jail. On average, a man's body requires 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids intake per day, according to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Potential consequences of untreated dehydration include seizures, severe kidney and other organ failures. According to one study, most elderly persons (85%) - who have voluntarily chosen to hasten death by refusing food and fluids - died within 15 days. In general, another study suggests, survival time at dry hunger strikes may vary from 8 to 21 days. ■
RFERL (translated by Denis Kazakiewicz, edited by Organise!)
If Igor survives, the address to write letters:
Bancer Igor Romanovichul. Kirova 1, Turma-1, Grodno 230023 Belarus
Игорь Банцер, Кирова 1, Гродно, 230023 Belarus.
(Subject to change double check with Belarus ABC)
Original report [in Belarusian] on Svoaboda
Studies of survival time of dry hunger strikes:
This is a call for solidarity with Ruymán Rodríguez, anarchist repressed, tortured and persecuted by the Spanish state for housing the poor. Below is a statement by GAF London as well as a translation of the one released by Federación Anarquista Gran Canaria. These two pieces were originally shared via Green Anti-Capitalist Media (here). Ruymán Rodríguez is the author of Street Anarchy, a collection of three articles which we translated and published May 2020.
The editor wishes to express our complete solidarity Ruymán and other Anarchists who are suffering at the hands a brutal and uncaring state. Solidarity is a weapon of liberation and you comrades, have mine. - P
Here is the statement by GAF London followed by the translation below.
We’ve translated an statement published by the Federación Anarquista Gran Canaria (Gran Canaria Anarquist Federation) where they detail the political persecution of their member Ruymán Rodríguez, who is facing false charges to cover up the brutal violence they inflicted upon him as part of a ploy to repress the radical housing movement in Gran Canaria. The FAGC he’s part of has been involved in a very successful social movement for housing in Gran Canaria and has helped hundreds of families left abandoned by the state. Like any other threat to its legitimacy, the state couldn’t allow this to continue unchallenged.
This happens as the protests for the political incarceration of Catalan anti-fascist rapper Pablo Hasél continue. And if fact just as it’s announced that 8 anarchists have been arrested accused without evidence of participating in the burning of a police van during these protests. This is is clearly a move against the whole of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement, which they seek to use as the scapegoat to try to smother the flames of revolt spreading all over the Spanish state after years of pent up rage for the many injustices the people have suffered under it.
It’s also difficult not to notice the significance of this happening only a day after we remembered the anniversary of the death of Salvador Puig, an anti-capitalist killed by the Francoist regime in what became the last death sentence in Spain to date, precipitating the end of the dictatorship soon after. As we can see, the transition to democracy made little in the way of stopping the political repression or solve any of the issues accosting the people. Rather, it has allowed for the crimes of the dictatorship to go unpunished and for all the institutions that create misery for the people, such as the guarcia civil that tortured Ruy, to continue operating unchallenged. This is the nature of democracies: a more stable and cunning form of domination.
We therefore cannot see this as anything else but as the continuation of the campaign of social warfare states wage against their people to keep them under their rule. This war is always takes place unilaterally by the state even when there’s not significant opposition to it, but it escalates as soon as its subjects attempt to fight back by abandoning the useless calls for civility and non-violence, the meaningless gestures, marches and electoral aspirations. The arrival of a the “most progressive government in the history of the democracy” in Spain has done nothing to stop this. And in fact, it has allowed it to continue more efficiently and brutal than ever by buying the support of parts of the left with electoral promises of representation.
It’s in this context that we call on all members of the international anarchist, anti-authoritarian and antifascist movement to extend their solidarity to Ruymán Rodríguez and the FAGC as well as to everyone else suffering the repression of the Spanish state. Just as they ramp up their campaign of violence, so must we increase the intensity of our fight for freedom. Messages and shows of solidarity are needed, but also actions that target the state and its institutions. No matter in what part of the world you find yourself, our enemy is the same. And any threat to one of its parts affects the whole. Let them feel the fear of those who won’t bow down to their violence.
Solidarity with Ruymán Rodríguez!
Solidarity with the victims of state violence!
Burn down the prisons, free all prisoners!
– GAF London
This is translated statement originally published by the FAGC:
We’ve been notified that on the next 24th of March our pal Ruymán Rodríguez will be taken to the court. “Casually” it’s been little more than a month since we came back to have a presence online. The prosecution asks for 1 year and 6 months of jail time (and a 770€ fine) for a baseless crime of “assault against authority”.
Let’s illuminate the background of this case. End of April 2015. Ruy is about to leave for his job (taking care of the elderly) when two guardias civiles (Spanish militarized police force in charge of civil policing) approach him in the bus stop of Guagua. Without even identifying themselves, they kidnap him and take him to the station.
There it starts the session of insults, death threats, abuse and finally slaps, beat ups and strangling…they only stop after he starts spitting blood.
Ruy refuses to make a declaration, requests the Habeas Corpus, medical assistance and that a lawyer of his choosing is informed. He also threatens them with publicly denouncing the tortures. Like he finally did. This is when the guarcias civiles start to be afraid. They haven’t arrested a helpless person incapable of reacting. This is where the accusation of assault against authority is born, to justify Ruy’s injuries.
They accuse him of kicking in the groing one of the guarcias civiles who was torturing him in the interrogation room. The accusation of assault against authority, a “crime” that happens after the arrest, is also an attempt to justify the police actions.
They justify the kidnapping due to the need of identifying Ruy because, according to them, he refused to identify himself. And why was it supposedly necessary to identify him? Because of an accusation made by a person who entered into “La Esperanza” community without permission, without giving any of the required documentation and who made an accusation against all of the “Rehousing Commission” that came to confront him. These are the requirements (in Spanish). In total 6 people were accused of “coercion”. None of them, logically, were arrested. Ruy, the only one who wasn’t present when this took place, the only one whose name the accuser must have known, is “casually” the only one arrested.
Do you think that’s where this this pantomime stops? When Ruy was arrested it had been days since the accuser, to whom we had been able to explain the rehousing protocol, HAD ALREADY WITHDRAWN ALL THE ACCUSATIONS. There was no reason to identify Ruy, or to detain him or to arrest him.
This is the truth: since 2011 the FAGC has been taking actions that the system couldn’t assimilate. Hundreds of expropriations and rehousings and hundreds of evictions stopped. We’ve helped more people to access a house than any other institution in the Canary Islands. We’ve also promoted the biggest housing socialization project of the Spanish state: 76 families, 200 people, most of them kids, living autonomously in “La Esperanza”. Currently there are 10 other communities of similar characteristics only in this island.
“La Esperanza” was a cause of distress for the Guarcia Civil in Guía. An ancient municipality with high standard of living, but little social and cultural activity. As the Community grew so did the police hostility. During the almost 24 hours the police had Ruy arrested the guarcias civiles said things to Ruy like “you are making Guía full of scum”. Also “go to Las Palmas to burn containers and leave that rehousing shit already”.
The hate for the poor by the police and the institutions and the government’s worry that an incipient anarchism got in contact, after many year of self-isolation, with destitute families, migrants and the homeless. This is the background to understand the arrest of Ruy.
They wanted to cut at its root what later would become a potent housing movement with libertarian influences that would end up crystallising in the “Sindicato de [email protected] de Gran Canaria”. They wanted to stop this: https://kolektiva.media/videos/watch/21e32246-2afa-42d9-a70a-c5d16c7cc9ba
We ask all the social collectives, independent media, etc to make theirs our demand of #RuymánLibertad (#FreeRuyman) and that they be ready to sound the alarm if the legal situation of our pal worsens. Without solidarity we are destined to be defeated.
They ask prison sentences for those who protests, fight and question. For those who, like in this case, have done nothing but help poor families to have a roof over their head. We are immersed in an escalation of repression which we’ll only be able to confront if we are united.
They want to punish Ruy because they believe that with this they’ll be able to destroy what we’ve been building for almost a decade in this island: a neighbourhood anarchism by the poor for the poor. They don’t understand what it means to face off against a social project that comes from bellow.
They are naive if they think we are going to allow them to crush us. Not even with all their gags they’ll be able to stops from continue to shout: “Bring down the walls of the prisons!” “Political or social, let all prisoners out” And of course: #RuymánLibertad (#FreeRuyman). ■
“Now and then the flame dies down, but solidarity is a stream of sparks”
ILYA SHAKURSKY, an antifascist political prisoner in Russia, appeals to you in this interview to write to him, and to others imprisoned in the infamous “Network” case. Please see a note at the end about where to send messages.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 19 January, is the anniversary of the assassination of antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, who were shot dead in broad daylight in central Moscow in 2009. People will gather – in Moscow, to lay flowers at the place where they were killed, elsewhere on line – and we publish this article on several web sites simultaneously, to express solidarity.
The “Network” case began in Penza and St Petersburg in October 2017, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) started detaining young anarchists and antifascists, who had supposedly participated in a terrorist group. The security services claimed that the young detainees were preparing terrorist acts, aimed at the presidential elections and the football World Cup in 2018 [which was staged in Russia].
It soon became clear that this “Network” organisation had been dreamed up by the FSB, and the confessions extracted from the alleged participants with the use of the most barbaric tortures. Details of the methods used, including electric shock batons, were published widely before the defendants were tried.
Nevertheless, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced – in January 2019 in St Petersburg, Igor Shishkin to three-and-a-half years’ detention; in February 2020, seven defendants in Penza, including Ilya Shakursky, to between six and 18 years; and in June 2020 in St Petersburg, Viktor Filinkov to seven years and Yulii Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half years.
In October 2020 an appeal by the Penza defendants was heard and rejected. An appeal by Viktor Filinkov is in progress.
All ten defendants are included in a list of 61 political prisoners compiled by Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights defence group.
This interview with Ilya Shakursky, who is serving a 16 year sentence, is by Dmitry Semenov. It was published by Free Russia House, an “alternative embassy for Russian civil society” based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and by the Rupression collective that supports the “Network” case prisoners. (The questions were sent via Yelena Shakurskaya, Ilya’s mother, and answers received, via Yelena, in written form.)
Question: Do you feel the support from outside the prison system, and how important is it? Could you say something briefly to our readers and to people who support you?
Ilya Shakursky: It feels good to realise, every morning when they call out my surname and hand over letters I have received, that people remember me and continue to support me. At those moments, the grey monotony of imprisonment is broken up by different colours. It doesn’t matter whether the letter is a couple of lines or goes on like a whole essay. Just getting some news gives me strength and happiness. When I see photos of solidarity actions all over the world; when I read interviews with well-known people who speak about the absurdity of the criminal case against us; when I hear the drums and voices of friends [demonstrating] on the other side of the [prison] wall; when I think of the concert, at which the whole hall sang “It Will All Pass” [“Vse proidet”] (a song by the Russian punk group, Pornofilms, about the “Network” case), or of the rap-battle, where verses were read in support of our case, or of the street artist who used graffiti to speak out about repression in Russia today – I feel like it wasn’t all in vain.
If this means that people start paying attention to things that were previously out of their reach, or unclear, or that they didn’t need to think about – then this could become a way in which everyone can contribute to the struggle against the absurdity, the violence and the injustice. Now and then the flame dies down, but solidarity is a stream of sparks, that stops them from putting the fire out all together, that stops us losing heart – or, to put it another way, stops us from bowing our heads and submitting to evil.
If any of you suddenly thinks of writing to a political prisoner, don’t abandon that thought. Don’t hide it in your “to do” list among your other worries. Do it, right at that moment. Write about your dreams, about what you love, share some memories that make you laugh, or your impressions from a book you have read. Please be assured that your letter is more important than it can seem to you. It can save a political prisoner from the awful monotony of another day behind bars and walls. And that really is very important.
I am very grateful to each and every person who supports political prisoners, who fights for their release, and for justice, and who conveys those sparks that light the fire, that prevent evil from consuming our lives.
Q: After you heard the verdict, and the long, severe sentences, at the court of first instance, how did you react? What has helped you not to give up, not to be overcome by depression, to hold on?
ISh: When I heard the sentences being read out, I took them as final confirmation that this was nothing more than punishment for recalcitrance. It’s difficult to believe what’s happened, and even now I try not to dwell on it. Such thoughts can gnaw away at you and drive you out of your mind.
We live in a world where the life of any one of us can be destroyed, on the whim of those who have power in their hands. What’s most terrifying of all is that people get used to this – to everything that is happening now: demonstrators and young politicians being beaten up; criminal cases under terrorism laws being opened against underaged children; the poisoning of undesirables, absurd sentences, and much, much more that is unjust, cruel and brutal, that could become the norm, if society just accepts it as the new reality. I fear that, above all. Really, that would be totalitarianism with the silent acquiescence of the majority. And then it might be too late to start saying that that was not what we wanted.
I admit, honestly, that holding on, not getting depressed, gets harder. Especially in the context of what is happening in the country. But I am still alive, I have friends and family waiting for me outside these walls, they believe in me and sincerely love me – and so I have to hold on. I must not give up, for the sake of those people who are dear to me, for my own sake, for the sake of the stars in the sky and the fresh air, for the sake of freedom and love.
With smiles they were breaking my wings,
My scream sometimes was like a wail.
And I was numb from pain and helplessness,
And could just whisper: thanks to be alive! (Vladimir Vysotsky.)
Q: You practically all received exactly the sentences that the prosecution asked for – evidently, in large part because you refused to admit guilt and you publicly denounced the torture. With the benefit of hindsight, do you now regret that?
ISh: To regret the course we have taken would render worthless all that we have lived through, and are living through now. The very worst time for me was when I gave up to weakness and fear, and betrayed myself by doing so. I felt that I had just stopped being human; hatred for myself overshadowed all my thoughts. But today, although I am in prison, actually behind four walls, I now remain the person that I really am. If I had [approached the trial] differently, my life would have been mere existence. Why talk about freedom, equality and fraternity, and then betray all of that? What would these words mean for people, if each one of us could just turn our backs on them when the executioners demand it?
The more that people betray themselves and others, the more often they carry out criminal orders in spite of their conscience, the sooner we will all become slaves, deprived of our free will, whose lives are mere existence.
Maybe I am guilty for silence,
Guilty for unnecessary words.
At moments of fear and desperation
My guilt can be hidden.
I constantly expect reproach
Even from those who are indifferent.
I, like everyone, am not free of defects,
But I am constrained by my conscience.
That’s what calls on me at times
Not to shut my eyes to evil
And to stand by those who suffer.
Otherwise, the burden of guilt will suffocate us.
Q: If you could make time go backwards, and return to some point before your arrest, would you change anything cardinal in your life?
ISh: I already look at my past from a different, probably more grown-up and aware, viewpoint. So of course there are things in the past I would like to change. For example, I would value more highly the people around me, not make mistakes or take wrong turnings, be less bitter, less naive – and much else, maybe some completely personal stuff. But I take my fate as it is – although of course there’s much I could regret, as there is for many people.
My behaviour, my mistakes, my action and my views and aims made me what I am now. That’s what makes our lives interesting, full as they are of happiness and pain, of light and dark. All the more often now, I realise that I took the road leading in the necessary direction. When I see those who hate me – Nazis, propagandists, Chekists [i.e. those in the Russian security services], thugs – and those who support me – the defenders of Shiyes, musicians, artists, political prisoners, teachers, people from my town, comrades all over the world, family and loved ones – I understand that I am on the right side, the bright side. And that understanding justifies, in many ways, the road I have taken, which is short but from which I have drawn definite conclusions and ideas.
What’s there to say about life? That it turned out to be long.
Only with grief do I feel solidarity.
But whilst my mouth is not yet packed with clay,
It’ll only resound with gratitude
Q: Finally, I would ask you to formulate some sort of phrase or slogan that in the current situation helps you to overcome all the difficulties and to believe that justice will soon be achieved.
ISh: When I write that good will prevail, I don’t have in mind worldwide peace, however much I would like that. The point is that good prevails every day, thanks to sincere, good people. Good prevails when doctors save people’s lives, when people adopt a child from an orphanage, when a taxi-driver saves a demonstrator from sadists with truncheons, when eco-activists defend forests from destruction, when political prisoners are released in court, when human rights defenders protect prisoners from torture, when solidarity and love make us smile, and make us believe that we are not alone, that we are together and that we will win. Good will prevail!
PS [from Dmitry Semenov, freerussiahouse]. At the end of his letter Ilya Shakursky sent a message to the interviewer, not for publication. At the end of that message he again expressed thanks for the interest shown in the case, and best wishes. From my side I would like to send Ilya and his friends rays of support, for their freedom. “For sure, this will all pass.” ■
■ Note. Please send messages to Ilya Shakursky and the other prisoners in English to peoplenature[at]yahoo[dot]com, and I will see that they get translated and passed along. Our friends in Russia say that there is no point in sending letters written in English (or other languages except Russian) to prisoners in Russia, as they will not receive them.
■ The English translation of Interrupted Flight, the song by the Soviet-era Russian bard Vladimir Vysotsky, is from an article by Elena Dimov on the Contemporary Russian Literature site. The translation of the last lines of “I, Instead of a Wild Beast, Entered the Cage” by Iosif Brodsky is by Valentina Polukhina and Chris Jones, from: L. Loseff and V. Polukhina (eds.), Joseph Brodsky (Palgrave Macmillan, London: 1999).
Translated by the Anarchist Federation from the French language original ‘Décès d’Alexandre Skirda, historien et militant anarchiste’ from Le Monde Libertaire (journal and website of La Fédération Anarchiste– French-speaking Anarchist Federation, our comrades in the International of Anarchist Federations): https://monde-libertaire.net/index.php?articlen=5339
Death of Alexandre Skirda – historian and anarchist militant
Following a long illness, on Wednesday 23 December our friend and comrade Alexandre Skirda passed away aged of 78. Has he now joined Nestor Makhno, likewise a descendant of Zaporozhian Cossacks, on banks of the Dnieper?
His interest in the region and understanding of its language enabled him to get to know the revolutionary peasant movement in southern Ukraine, heir to centuries of direct democracy practice. In books such as Nestor Makhno: Anarchy’s Cossack. The Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine 1917-1921 he showed how the creation of free municipalities in that period aimed to establish a stateless society, and how the Bolshevik state destroyed these after eliminating the Ukrainian insurrectionary revolutionary army (which consequently allowed them to defeat the White armies).
Even today, most Trotskyist militants shudder at hearing the name of Alexandre Skirda. They cannot forgive him for revealing the manner in which the Red Army, sent by Trotsky, crushed the City of Kronstadt that had wished for direct federalist democracy in Russia: “It is here in Kronstadt that the first stone of the Third Revolution opposed to the bureaucratic order of the Bolsheviks was laid, leaving behind the dictatorship of the Communist Party, chekas and state capitalism ” (8th March, 1921). In publishing Kronstadt 1921: Prolétariat contre Bolchévisme he granted the longstanding wish of Stépan Pétrichenlo, president of the Kronstadt Provisional Revolutionary Committee: “They may shoot the Kronstadiens, but they will never shoot down the truth about Kronstadt”.
His research enabled him to write several books on that historical event, which have been translated into different languages and reissued many times, enriched by new documents. Significantly, he recently translated and presented the previously unavailable Kronstadt in the Russian Revolution by Efim Yartchuk [also now in English]. This recounted the experiences of one of the key instigators of the Kronstadt anarchists dedicated “To those who had shed their blood during the revolution of 1905 for the complete emancipation of the proletariat from the yoke of capital and authority; To those who fought in February and July 1917 against the new world order; To those who let themselves be deceived by the slogans of the proletarian state raising their arms against the new masters, the Bolsheviks. In memory of those who perished on the road to the Society of free men: anarchy”.
Having this opportunity to scale the mountain of documents feeding his books, those mentioned here being only a small part, we are able to see the importance of his historical work in revealing what has long been hidden – as much by the “Whites” as by the “Reds” – on a revolution which has had consequences, for decades, on the workers’ movement in many countries.
We will not forget Alexandre Skirda, the essential historian of the Russian Revolution, and also the anarchist activist who, from the 1960s, led the Anarchist Studies and Action Group.
“The dead live on, and with them, the dreams they carried”, Gustav Landauer.■
Décès d’Alexandre Skirda, historien et militant anarchiste
À la suite d’une longue maladie, mercredi 23 décembre notre ami, notre compagnon Alexandre Skirda nous a quittés à l’âge de 78 ans. Est-il allé sur les rives du Dniepr rejoindre Nestor Makhno, descendant de Cosaques zaporogues comme lui ?
Son intérêt pour cette région et sa connaissance de la langue lui avaient permis de connaître le mouvement révolutionnaire paysan du sud de l’Ukraine, héritier de plusieurs siècles de pratique de la démocratie directe. Dans des livres tel Nestor Makhno, le cosaque libertaire, la lutte pour les soviets libres en Ukraine 1917-1921, il montre comment dans cette période la création de communes libres visait à établir une société sans État, puis la façon dont l’État bolchevik les a détruites, après avoir éliminé l’Armée révolutionnaire insurrectionnelle ukrainienne, qui avait pourtant permis de vaincre les armées blanches.
Encore aujourd’hui le nom d’Alexandre Skirda fait frémir la majorité des militants trotskistes, qui ne lui pardonnent pas d’avoir révélé la manière dont l’armée rouge, envoyée par Trotski, avait écrasé la Commune de Kronstadt, qui souhaitait pour la Russie une démocratie directe, fédéraliste, et déclarait le 8 mars 1921 : « C’est ici à Kronstadt qu’est posée la première pierre de la IIIème Révolution opposée à l’ordre bureaucratique des bolcheviks, laissant derrière la dictature du Parti communiste, des tchékas et du capitalisme d’État ». En publiant Kronstadt 1921: soviets libres contre dictature de parti, Il exauçait longtemps après le souhait de Stépan Pétrichenlo, président du Comité révolutionnaire provisoire de Kronstadt : « Ils peuvent fusiller les Kronstadiens, mais ils ne pourront jamais fusiller la vérité de Kronstadt ».
Ses recherches lui ont permis d’écrire plusieurs livres sur cet événement historique, qui ont été l’objet de traductions dans divers pays et de nombreuses rééditions, enrichies par de nouveaux documents. Il a notamment récemment traduit et présenté Kronstadt dans la révolution russe d’Efim Yartchouk, inédit jusque-là. Celui-ci, un des principaux animateurs des anarchistes de Kronstadt, décrit ce qu’il a vécu et dédie son ouvrage « à ceux qui versèrent leur sang lors de la révolution de 1905 pour l’émancipation complète du prolétariat du joug du capital et de l’autorité. À ceux qui luttèrent en février et en juillet 1917 contre les maîtres du monde. À ceux qui s’étant laissé abuser par les slogans de l’État prolétarien levèrent bientôt les armes contre les nouveaux maîtres, les bolcheviks. À la mémoire de ceux qui périrent sur la route menant à la Société des hommes libres : l’anarchie ».
Ayant eu l’occasion d’approcher la montagne de documents alimentant ses livres, ceux évoqués ici n’en étant qu’une partie, nous avons pu mesurer l’importance de son travail historique pour révéler ce qui a été longtemps occulté – aussi bien par les « blancs » que par les « rouges » – sur une révolution qui a eu des conséquences, pendant des dizaines d’années, sur le mouvement ouvrier de nombreux pays.
Nous n’oublierons pas Alexandre Skirda, l’historien incontournable de la révolution russe, et aussi le militant anarchiste qui, dès les années 1960, animait le Groupe d’études et action anarchiste.
« Les morts vivent et avec eux, les rêves qui les ont portés », Gustav Landauer.■