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I read this on Libcom and commented there. I would be interested in any response:

I have a few comments to make on this piece. I haven't been following events in the Ukraine particularly closely, but I am going to make an effort to catch up with it. That said I may make some serious mistakes through ignorance of the situation.

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Apparently, the Ukrainian and Russian anarchists could not foresee the developments which lead to the civil war. Maidan had only been discussed from the point of view that it could offer something better than the Yanukovich regime. It was not expected that Russia would react to a Maidan victory with a conscious escalation of the conflict, and which could eventually lead to civil war.

If this is the case it shows a deep lack of analysis. How could they not see the potential for civil war after the events of recent years in Syria, and Libya? Did they expect Russia to just sit back and let Ukraine be integrated into the EU and NATO? I don't think that this was very difficult to see. Indeed from the very first days of this movement, I talked to people who were worried about civil war. If that was the view from outside , then those on the ground must have been particularly blind. This is a point where a lack of theoretical understanding becomes almost criminal.

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A first group concentrated on producing internet-statements against both sides of the conflict. For them, keeping out of any social processes is a matter of principle, and they only want to monitor and assess. Participation in the social protest is not a goal for them, as they prefer to keep their hands clean. Since every process has input from either disgusting liberals, hated nationalists, awful stalinists, all three at the same time, or other undesirables, one can never fully participate in anything and the only alternative is to stay home and publish statements on the internet about how everything is going from bad to worse. However, most of the time these statements are just self-evident, banalities.

I don't think that the question of whether you get involved in something is about whether their are bad people in it. The real question is about the class nature of a movement. It is plain to see that you don't like this group of people by the way you talk. In this case these people might do nothing,I don't know. What I do know is that accusing people of standing on the sidelines is a very common line. Which people are you referring to here? Are they really committed to not intervening in struggles?

What is clear is that there are times when militants can't do anything There are times that you can only comment. I remember a point about seven years ago when there was a big movement of 'secularist' demonstrations in Turkey. There were three demonstrations all with seven figure numbers attending them, the biggest if I remember correctly being about 2,000,000 in İzmir. We decided that although they were anti-government demonstrations, that they were orchestrated by the army and the main opposition party, and there was nothing for communists to do there. Equally so, when there was the movement that emerged around Gezi Park, there were all sorts of people involved, including for example fascists. This was a very different type of movement where there was room for communists to intervene.

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A second group, was made up of those who got excited about all the riot-porn and anti-police violence in Kiev, without considering who was carrying out this violence and in whose interests. Certain antifascists drifted as far as to defend the “national unity” in Maidan, and threatened particular Kiev anarchists due to their criticism of Maidan and refusal to participate.

This group seems to be a pretty reactionary one. When a fetishism for violence ends in you supporting national unity, surely it must be time to question what you are doing.

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Most of the people in this camp are just fans of anti-police violence without any theoretical frame, but some want to give Maidan an imagined anti-authoritarian flavor, by equating the general meeting of Maidan (“Veche”) with the revolutionary councils established during 20th century revolutions. They base this claim on the social demands occasionally presented at Maidan, but these demands were always at the periphery of the Maidan agenda.

All sorts of people make the occasional social demand. It means nothing. The important things are not the general meetings, but the class content of a movement.

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In any case, the main problem at Maidan wasn't the lack of a social agenda and direct democracy, but the fact that people did not even demand them.

I don't think that this is the real problem. There are lots of class movements where workers aren't strong enough to establish democratic organs to control the struggle. Other sort of movements can have very democratic structures, but it doesn't change their class nature in itself.

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If Kiev anarchists would have picked the position of “neutral observers” after Yanukovich had shot demonstrators, it would have completely discredited them.

Why? I don't suppose that these anarchists had a great deal of influence within the class anyway. If they had analysed the situation and seen the threat of civil war, and then refused to take any part in the events, would they have had significantly less than the virtually no influence they had before.

On the other hand, in countries that have gone through civil wars people often look back later, and ask how they allowed it to happen. If they had refused to take part, and warned against the dangers that were present, is it not possible that in the long term they might come out with a particular amount of credit in many people's eyes.

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If after being shot, the working class, or more exactly “the people,” that is, the working class along with the lower strata of the bourgeoisie, would have failed to overthrow Yanukovich, Ukrainian society would have fallen into a lethargic sleep such as the one Russian and Belarusian societies are experiencing.

The idea that the 'working class (along with the lower strata of the bourgeoisie) overthrew the regime seems to suggest that this was a class movement. I don't think that it was. The fact that in sociological terms many workers took part does not make it a class movement.Workers took part as atomised individuals, not as workers. As far as I know there were no strikes anywhere, which I think is quite indicative.

Even ignoring that, would this 'lethargic sleep' have been worse than what has happened?

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Obviously, after the massacre there was no choice left except to overthrow the power, no matter what would come in its place. Anarchists in Kiev were in no position to significantly influence the situation, but standing aside was no longer an option.

Even if that 'no matter what' was civil war? Do you think that there can be times when there is a movement in the streets with the intent of overthrowing the government that revolutionaries shouldn't support? Should we get carried along with everything? This argument seems to me to be quite similar to that of those you describe as "get[ting] excited about all the riot-porn and anti-police violence".

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When AntiMaidan attacked the Maidan in the city of Kharkiv, its imagined enemy were not the anarchists, but NATO, EU or Western-Ukrainian fascists. Since anarchists had joined Maidan, it would have been cowardly to desert once the fight started. Thus anarchists ended up fighting side by side with liberals and fascists. I do not want to criticize the Kharkiv anarchists, after all they made, perhaps, the most serious attempt among Ukrainian anarchists to influence the course of events, but this was hardly the fight, and these were hardly the allies they wanted.

This seems a very strange statement. Surely if we are doing something that is plainly wrong people thinking that we may be cowards is not a good reason to change our policy, and stop our involvement especially when it gets to the point of people fighting each other on behalf of two bourgeois factions.

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And so, comes the point when desertion becomes imperative, and that is when civil war begins. As of now, it's still too early to make any final assessment of the anarchist attempts to influence Maidan, but after the beginning of a civil war, Maidan will no longer play a role. From now on, assembly will gradually turn to the army, and assault rifles will replace Molotov cocktails. Military discipline will replace spontaneous organisation.

So when it gets to this point it doesn't matter if one is accused of cowardice. Surely then the point when to 'desert the fight' is just down to an analysis of the situation. I wouldn't say it is about the weaponry involved, but about judging the political situation. Even worse, by not appearing as 'cowards' earlier, these people played a role, however small, in the situation building to this point.

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Whereas at its essence Maidan was a middle-class liberal and nationalistic protest, supported by part of the bourgeoisie, AntiMaidan is purely counter-revolutionary in tendency.

Isn't 'middle class liberal nationalism' pretty counter-revolutionary in itself?

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Of course, AntiMaidan has its own grassroots level. One could attempt to intervene, but an intervention by joining would mean supporting a Soviet, imperialist approach. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Borotba, the Russian Left Front and Boris Kagarlitsky have all joined this Soviet chauvinist camp.

What does intervening on the Maidan side mean then? Who are you supporting in that case?

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When looking at either side of the conflict one can see a dangerous tendency, which every anarchist and anti-authoritarian will face in the future: the recuperation of anti-authoritarian rhetoric and terminology for the purposes of hierarchical ideologies. On the one side, “autonomous nationalists” who have found sympathy amongst many anarchists, and on the other, intellectuals such as Boris Kagarlitsky. Both characterising warring factions with attributes such as “direct democracy” and “self organisation.” In reality, these characteristics are either present in a distorted form or not at all. When two different flavors of nationalism are “self-organising” in order to maim and murder each other, there is nothing to celebrate. Subsequent to the events in Ukraine, it is clear that anarchists must explain the essential difference between “self-organisation” and self-organisation to the world.

Once again, I think that this shows pretty clearly that it is important to judge the class nature of the movement. That is what we need to understand as that it what makes 'self organisation' something that revolutionaries should be supporting.

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We should encourage desertion and conflict avoidance. Under any other conditions, and if anarchists had more influence, we could form independent units against both warring factions.
Unarmed civilians have stopped bloodbaths in several places by moving in between the troops as human shields. If not for this kind of civil disobedience, a full-scale war would have been launched much earlier. We should support this movement, and attempt to direct it against both “federalist” and government troops simultaneously.

There are parts here which are very good. 'Encouraging desertion and conflict avoidance', and the methods that are advocated here to do that sound like practical things that people have done, and things that revolutionaries could get involved in.

I find the bit about 'forming independent units against both warring factions' very worrying though. If as I think you do, you mean military units, I think that this is a very dangerous approach. I don't think military units set up by political groups, whatever their ideology, end up being independent in a war, but rather end up being dragged into it on one side or another.

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In case Russia reacts either by occupying parts of Eastern Ukraine or the country as a whole, we could take the example of anarchist partisans in World War II era France and Italy. Under such conditions, the main enemy is the occupying army, as it will antagonise the whole population very quickly. But it is also necessary to keep the maximum distance from the nationalistic elements of the resistance, as any alliance with them would hinder anarchists from realising their own program in the framework of the resistance.

Do you think that this is possible in any way?

Devrim

 

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