An amusing story of the Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalist V. Damier
Russian Section of the oldest and most respected anarcho-syndicalist international — International Workers Association — is famous as an organization in which all activism, analysis, journalism and propaganda are concentrated mainly in one person. We do not have any reliable data about CRAS-IWA members. Some experts tell about four or five hidden members, but in general they do not show themselves. Except of one — Vadim Damier, who is the only face and voice of CRAS for many years. It’s ok to be the single nonconformist within a hostile environment that shows no understanding. After all, it’s better to be alone but to uphold the truth — this principle became fundamental for anarchists all over the world. Without the courage for being the radical minority, perhaps today we wouldn’t know a thing about anarchism.There are numerous good theoretical and historical texts on the CRAS website, but when this organisation (or her speaker, because we are never able to assess the viewpoints of other members) faces reality, the result is always sad. Ritual worship of past revolutions fuses with an overall depreciation of the present time. Historian and expert in foreign languages resembles a fanatic who exists somewhere in the parallel universe when he tries to speak of actual problems. From time to time we can see all sorts of texts, MS-Paint made pictures and “funny” demotivators coming out of his universe.
But nonsense and slander produced by Vadim Damier are labeled with the name of IWA, respected and solid organisation. They are translated into foreign languages and distributed worldwide. These texts, echoing those of the red authoritarians, repeat after them the lies about Autonomous Workers Union. The latest statement of CRAS-IWA, pertaining to AWU, is a paraphrase of stalinist lies adapted to western anarchist public, already littered with propagandist trash from the lovers of the east-ukrainian right-wing separatism.
“The KRAS (sic) […] appreciates the statement of Ukrainian «Autonomous Workers’ Union» (AWU/AST) «On the confrontation in Ukraine» as a step in the right direction.”
The text begins with the patronizing accolade to AWU. Apparently, an old trick — to have a praise come first, in order to engage an opponent in a friendly mood of grateful pupil. We wonder what the meaning of this “step forward” is, according to Vadim Damier.
“Condemning both sides of the civil war, it differs in this point favorably from the previous position of AWU/AST representatives who in March refused to sign the statement of KRAS, internationalists of Ukraine, Russia and other countries.”
Here we must digress. In March, the guru of anarcho-syndicalism, sitting in an ivory tower in distant Russia, invented a great plan of resistance to imposed war between Russia and Ukraine. According to his brilliant idea, it was enough to blame both governments equally. But what should in this situation the ukrainian and russian proletariat do? «Our duty is to resist it [the war] by all available means!», — asserts the document envisioned by the one-man organisation of Vadim Damier, but alas no mention of means available.
After reading the prayer-ritualistic «statement of internationalists», AWU team came to the conclusion that the indicated text offers barely any analysis and no specific proposals, and thus there’s no merit in signing it. AWU, of course, stands against the war and against both governments, but not for ritual generalizations and washing their hands of an affair. AWU’s position is best described in following statements: “About russian intervention”, “Against the regime in Kiev and the junta in the East!” and “War against war!”.
“The AWU/AST representatives motivated their disagreement with our Declaration by the very fact that we take the position of condemnation of all opposing forces, while they supported the «people» [in russian version — “folk”] who gathered on «Euromaidan» and called for the protection of Ukrainian «homeland» from «Russian aggression».”
Well, this is an outright lie. Never had AWU supported the Maidan as a political entity, and at no time did AWU stand up for “motherland”.
If Vadim Damier means there was no russian aggression, then how can he explain the annexation of Crimea? Authoritarian leftists and their red-brown friends justify Putin’s militarist steps by the myth of the “nazi-Maidan” that threatens russian-speaking population and would soon take up discrimination and even physical annihilation of this population. However, reality shows no threat against the rights of russian speakers. The Putin’s state was the only culprit guilty of loading the guns and starting the war machinery engines.
All of this was explained in a more detailed way in a criticism of the “Internationalists’ Statement”, the general anti-war and internationalist message of which we nevertheless supported.
“Some groups and members of the AWU/AST participated in the reactionary «Maidan» protests against the also reactionary Yanukovich government, without being disturbed even by an active role of the far-right groups in the «Maidan» coup.”
Some groups and members of AWU expressed their opinion wherever it was possible, helped the wounded and protected the incapacitated people in hospitals from police. All of these actions had been unconditionally autonomous from any institutes and factions of Maidan and pursued the goal of reducing civilian casualties, inspiring the emergence of class agenda and promoting libertarian values. For sure, on may question us how well did they fulfill the aim. However there was never any talk about participation and cooperation between AWU and authoritarian, conservative, fascist factions and parties of Maidan.
You may remember one incident, attributed to AWU, which had been disseminated in the blogs of authoritarian lefts for a long time. AWU member and an artist, D.C., made a personal effort and hung up some of his paintings on the Maidan. There were posters and banners from the former anarchist actions. The content varied greatly, including one anti-bolshevik poster used for an action commemorating Kronstadt uprising. The photo of this poster, hanging among the nationalist ones (by other artists, not associated with AWI), gave the authoritarian leftists the material to spread in their rumours about “anticommunist AWU”.
Indeed, DC drew the poster about one year ago for the picket against Communist Party of Ukraine — the political puppet of Regions Party, both being responsible for police violence on Maidan. But in the context of Maidan the message of this art was much deeper: it was a reminder about the reaction that can come after the revolution, that today’s leaders of protests would betray the ordinary participants just like the bolsheviks betrayed the anarchists.
“After the outbreak of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine, some active members of AWU/AST actually supported the idea of armed suppression of «Antimaidan» by the new Kiev authorities.”
The very usage of the word “Antimaidan” demonstrates Damier’s unsatisfactory understanding of ukrainian realia. Antimaidan that supported Yanukovich took place during winter actions in Kiev, also it took place in Odessa and Kharkiv. Armed separatists who seized power in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions are derived from Antimaidan, but they are essentially a completely new phenomenon.
If our criticism of obscurantist and conservative Antimaidan and subsequent fascist juntas (that, contrary to Maidan, had no trace of autonomous, anti-authoritarian initiatives) means support of military suppression, Vadim Damier should be absolutely right. But criticism does not equal the call for suppression by military state forces. That’s why CRAS spreads shameless lies.
AWU published various analyses on Antimaidan and separatist phenomena, criticizing the clericalism, red-brown, reactionary and autocratic propaganda, and the absence of innate opposition — which was present in Maidan, despite all its flaws. The actions and slogans of far-rights on Maidan faced the criticism from other participants (though, unfortunately, insufficient criticism). This does not imply that ukrainian power is a “lesser evil” that should be supported. Every piece of AWU material regarding the topic emphasize the defence of workers’ class interests, which includes weakening of ukrainian ruling class inter alia.
“A new declaration of the AWU/AST appears more balanced and contains no sympathy for punitive operations of the Kiev authorities in the East of the country.“
Yet another Damier’s daydream, for we have never expressed support nor sympathy towards the government «anti-terrorist operation» in the statements of AWU.
“Nevertheless, it is full of contradictions, in our opinion. For example, a separatist coup in eastern Ukraine («Antimaidan») is condemned first, and only then the Kiev government, although the «Antimaidan» was a reaction to the earlier «Maidan» coup [in russian version the word “putsch” is used].”
“Putsch” implies militarized (often conservative) forces taking over, justifying their actions by «the desire of the people» or some other unverifiable reasons. In the case of separatism in the eastern regions of Ukraine it’s exactly what happened — the power was seized by the police officers, loyal to the regime of Yanukovych, with the support of pro-russian paramilitary groups.
Maidan’s victory involved the escape of senior government officials, including the President, after unsuccessful attempts to suppress the grassroots protest (which however followed the bourgeois political course) with the military force. It can even be said that in Kiev the putsch was attempted by the incumbent government — draconian laws, police terror, firearms against people with batons and shields clearly indicate an attempt to trample down all the political life by the country’s ruling party.
It was the Antimaidan that became the ground for legitimization of the putsch of old regime’s forces, who were prepared for the sake of preserving their power to make concessions to the pro-Russian far-rights. Meanwhile the Maidan, with all it’s right and conservative “birthmarks”, became a progressive force in the context of bourgeois democracy. So instead of uncritical quasirevolutionary euphoria we called for addressing the pragmatic use of the possibilities open to the proletariat.
“Moreover, the statement of AWU/AST contained again the praise for «Maidan», which allegedly prevented the curtailing of rights and freedoms”
In the historical context Maidan coped with its task as a bourgeois-democratic force. Presidential power has weakened, the “dictatorship laws» were not passed. Сlass analysis and the perception of political realities are substituted in CRAS’s case with ritual cursing against both sides of the conflict. Instead of automatically sending down «a plague on both their houses», one should evaluate the situation from the libertarian standpoint and note the opportunities and challenges that arise.
“while in fact the «Maidan» coup cleared the path for adoption of new reactionary laws (including the «austerity» regime imposed by the EU and the IMF) and for the militarization of society”
The Maidan coup was aimed at democratization of social and political life, and it achieved it. Reactionary laws and other cannibalistic initiatives of the new government can not be deduced from Maidan’s demands of democracy; ruling class is trying to continue the same course, which it kept both under Yanukovych, and Yushchenko. Despite the fact that the new government was created after the Maidan, it turned out that this new government was liable to control and account only to itself. Civil protest, exhausted by power confrontation, can’t oppose it yet because of the bourgeois-democratic limitations. Meanwhile, the militarization of society is a direct result of a military conflict; It doesn’t follow from Maidan’s demands. With the same success CRAS can blame the French Revolution for clearing the path for the reactionary Directory or militaristic Empire.
“it largely strengthened the hands of ultra-right groups’ terror”
Popularization of Bandera flag and nationalist slogans can signify the popularization of far-right discourse, but does not imply the unleashing of far-right terror. So far, we are seeing the same street attacks against left activists that took place for last three years. A permanent military threat from neighboring imperialist state only fuels the enthusiasm of far-rights.
AWU reminds about the threat of society’s fascisation all the time, and clearly states it in its last statement, which emphasizes the danger of legitimizing the nazis through military service in the volunteer battalions. However, to oppose right-conservative and fascist threat does not mean to blow the danger out of proportion to a cosmic scale, as the Russian and Ukrainian red organizations do, spamming foreign leftist with the tales of «fascist coup, fascist terror, fascist squads in fascist operations of fascist junta».
The panic would never allow to have an unbiased account of Ukrainian events and will not help to deal with the threat of fascism — it only promotes hysterical, totalitarian impulses of restoration of the USSR or entrance to the Putin’s empire. Sad but true — CRAS blindly copies information noise from red-browns and builds its position on fiction.
“…and unleashed a spiral of confrontation, which ultimately led to the current outbreak of the Civil War.”
The current outbreak of civil war is unleashed by juntas of reactionary «people’s republics» and supported by the Russian state, the European ultra-conservatives, conspiracy theory amateurs and religious fanatics. The Ukrainian authorities surrendered Crimea with minimal casualties and proceed against “separatism” in a relatively cautious way. Attributing the inciting of civil war to ukrainian power is biased in the least and contradicts the facts.
Inventing crimes of Ukrainian state will not stop the civil war, and will not calm down angry and hysterical masses. Proletarian organizations should coldly and dispassionately evaluate and analyze the situation and try to discover the ways of the class opposition to the war rather than follow the red-brown social-traitors, telling to the world terrible horror stories about the fascist junta. By repeating their delusions, which strengthens the position of the entire Russian imperialism and pro-russian far-rights, CRAS harms class movement.
“In the spirit of the official mode of Kiev war propaganda, the statement asserted that Antimaidan was just a manifestation of aggression of «Putin and his satellites», although most of the population in eastern Ukraine has repeatedly spoken out in the past against the political forces which organized the «Maidan» coup.”
Indeed, many residents of eastern Ukraine opposed the events on Maidan. But most of them could not pass the likes and dislikes beyond the kitchen. Separatists did not receive grassroots support even in the Donbass, as evidenced by statements of Strelkov, who lamented about the lack of local volunteers. However, the size of the social base of the antimaidan hysteria (which is directly proportional to the Putin propaganda) does not justify tender sentiment for Putin and pro-russian paramilitary forces.
In the quoted paragraph CRAS allegedly appeals to it: if the majority of residents of eastern Ukraine expressed against Maidan, then military juntas DNR and LNR are not Putin’s satellites, but fully justified and legitimate, “peoples” political formations. In this situation Damier takes the very «populist», “narodnik” left conservative position, which he successfully criticized himself in the past. The majority of Russia’s population voted for Putin, speaks against any opposition and fears «anarchists». Following this logic, a person who respects the wishes and actions of the «majority» would have to join “United Russia” party. Isaev (anarchist in the past, member of russian parliament and the ruling party in present), for old time’s sake, could save a seat.
“The authors of the statement warn against the emergence of Ukrainian «Putins» as if the regime of billionaire and oligarch Poroshenko is somewhat better than the Kremlin oligarchy.”
It can not be said that Poroshenko is better than Putin because we do not assess politics from the standpoint of determining the «lesser evil». However it is stupid not to see the fundamental difference between the corporatist regime of Putin, whose rhetoric is becoming more and more far-right (from homophobia on the state level to the protection of the «Russian world») and immature Poroshenko’s bourgeois regime. Let CRAS and Vadim Damier personally note that in Ukraine legal political struggle of the working class is still possible, while in Russia any political action not approved by power can end up for activists in the police station and result in a huge fine or a prison sentence. We hope this argument will convince the supporters of «generalizations» in their errors.
“Finally, the AWU/AST condemns expansionist actions of the Russian state, but not one word mentions inflammatory actions of its equally imperialist rivals from NATO”
«Imperialist rivals from NATO», unlike Putin’s Russia, haven’t yet committed a single expansionist action, haven’t completed a single shipment of armament to the warring sides, and never did they allow the passage of armed groups through the border with Ukraine. Symbolic criticism of Russia and NATO in one context, without studying the specific circumstances, invalidates the criticism. Accusing NATO of ukrainian casualties is as ridiculous as blaming Russian imperialism for the events in Libya or Iraq. Certainly, global players have an indirect effect on all the processes, but it is impossible to compare a direct military intervention and weapon supply to ephemeral backstage intrigues.
“There is no mention of the need to cease hostilities and stop the deaths of workers under the bullets and shells of punitive forces of an “anti-terrorist operation”.”
A very strange comment. A demand for unilateral ceasefire means the actual support of the second side and its conquests. Hardly CRAS is trying to stoke the fire by this pseudo-pacifist statement. Probably Vadim Damier just could not invent any universal anarchist recipe for such cases and foolishly copied this idea from social traitors’ and red-browns’ statements.
“The statement completely ignores the catastrophic humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and blames exclusively the separatists and «agents» of Russia for this tragedy”.
Looking at the fact that the humanitarian catastrophe is happening in the regions controlled by the pro-russian separatists, it would be strange to blame someone else but them and their patrons. Ukrainian government, no matter how bourgeois and anti-popular it may be, can not be held responsible for the turmoil in the «people’s republics». Also neither EU nor USA can be accused of this too.
“We do not feel the slightest sympathy for the regimes established by separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, as in the past time we did not have any sympathy f.ex. for the nationalist separatist regime in Chechnya. But then and now, this doesn`t hinder us to condemn the war and to call for a cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of military troops, paramilitaries, mercenaries or “volunteers” of all sides from the conflict zone.”
Citing the statement of AWU:
“We oppose involuntary military service, and demand to end the conscription and to release all soldiers who do not want to fight… We are ready to support deserters and conscripts who evade service on ethical and political grounds… We express our support and solidarity with the workers’ and trade union initiatives that fight for their labor rights; we are ready to actively support those who are struggling against DPR and LPR from the class standpoint.”
Obviously AWU not only calls on the sides to lay down their weapons (as if any of them would listen to), but also indicates the options for specific actions that could stop the conflict, minimize its victims and consolidate the class position of the proletariat. At the same time mechanisms to resist “volunteer corps” do not exist. Their accountability to MIA is formal, and charging the State to disarm autonomous militias means stating our impotence in advance and prohibiting the creation of the same autonomous militias by ourselves. The only way to deal with the threat posed by the far-right paramilitary groups is the strengthening of the anti-authoritarian class grassroots initiatives.
“We remain convinced that the workers have no homeland to defend. We equally condemn Maidan and Antimaidan; Kiev and Donetsk; Russia and NATO.”
Also, neoliberal China, totalitarian North Korea, South Korea (putting down strikes), super exploitative Japan, caste India, authoritarian Singapore and other regimes, worthy of the toughest condemnation can be convicted in the context of the civil war in Ukraine. It is very unlikely of you to have forgotten to mention them, Vadim!
“For us, both camps in the confrontation are equally conservative and nationalist, and any significant difference between them is not visible: neither in social and economic spehres, nor in domestic or foreign policy.”
In the DPR, there are pogroms against Roma population, Orthodox christian church became the state religion and homosexuality and abortion are outlawed? Only if the same occurs in the rest of Ukraine (hint: it doesn’t), then the bourgeois government of Kiev and the far-right juntas of the East can be equated. In the DPR and LPR the far-rights actually took power, in the rest of Ukraine they are just part of the overall political process, however disturbing their presence might be.
“Neither submission to the European Union, nor the submission to the Russian oligarchy can solve the problems of the working people of Ukraine. As before, we emphasize that the victory of one or another group of the bourgeoisie and the national-conservative reaction may lead only to the social disaster for workers in the country.”
Does Vadim Damier want to say that Ukraine’s accession to the European Union for workers is completely analogous to Russia’s annexation? A very interesting approach. Though, what else to expect from, well, a political scribbler, whose purpose is to have the last authoritative word at any price, even at the expense of class analysis and action? Apparently, Vadim Damier does not know or chooses to forget that in a situation of foreign policy choice an anarchist needs to focus on defending the class interests, but not on formulaic generalizations without reasoning and conclusions.
“In situations where the revolutionary internationalists do not have enough force to intervene and to crush both rival gangs, the most urgent task is to conduct an anti-war agitation among the workers so that they do not engage in military or paramilitary forces of Kiev, Donetsk or Luhansk regimes, but instead remember their class interest and fight for their basic socio-economic needs: improving the living and working conditions and cancellation of imposed policy of «austerity».”
At the end Vadim Damier solemnly decided to reiterate AWU’s conclusions (and even slogans) in the article addressed to AWU. Wonderful!
In general, CRAS again demonstrates incompetence and stupidity, which reaches a new level, — it blindly copies conclusions of stalinists, red-brown, and other social-traitors.Quite confusing is also the sole fact of preachment of the organization, which still has not made any drastic (or even symbolic!) steps in the fight against russian militarism, but instead knowledgeably tells us how to deal with ukrainian militarism.
It is sad that the torrents of lies and outright stupidity are spread on behalf of CRAS. We hope for the revival of the russian section of the IWA as a living (not virtual) syndicalist organization, and we see the comradeship established between us.