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Ukrainian anarchist dispels myths surrounding Euromaidan protests, warns of fascist influence
workers issues |
Thursday January 23, 2014 21:44 by T
Asheville Fm radio, based in western North Carolina, aired a fascinating interview with an anarcho-syndicalist named Denys, from the Autonomous Worker’s Union in Ukraine. In the interview, Denys debunks many of the myths surrounding the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, and explains motives behind the stories and propaganda being circulated around the protests.
Why is the Free Association Agreement with the EU (which would mostly benefit the ultra-rich oligarchs of Ukraine) deliberately being
construed as actual integration? Ukrainian leaders backed off from signing it at the last minute. Meanwhile, Russia is trying to pull
Ukraine into her Customs Union by offering Kyiv a deal for promised purchases of billions of euro of Ukrainian products, and a 30 percent
discount on Russian Natural Gas.
Denys explains that when the protests broke, the political class of Ukraine was taken by surprise. However, the opposition, a coalition
leaning towards far-right (with fascist Svoboda being the most visible of them all) quickly regrouped and turned the street into their PR
machine. The opposition had massive demonstrations in their plans, as fascist Svobodas leader declared in an interview in March 2013. Evidence emerged of the opposition leaders plans to overthrow the current government with the financial and political support of Germany’s
conservative Angela Merkel, the EU leaders from Brussels, and with visible support of the United States, whose envoy, conservative John
McCain was the guest star of the Euromaidan.
Kyiv City Hall, occupied by the Ukrainian opposition led by Svoboda and turned into their “Revolutionary HQs”. The cross in the circle is a neo-nazi symbol.
Editor: Given the importance of this issue and the protests in Kiev, we are reproducing this in full rather than linking to the story
Two months after they started, Euromaidan protests started to wane, despite being forcefully encouraged by the conservative political elites
and governments of Europe and the United States. These protests have been controlled by the politicians who took over the Kyiv City Hall, and
in this video, we can see a neo-nazi white pride Christian cross, proudly displayed by the opposition in their “Revolutionary HQs,” the
City Hall of Kyiv which they occupied earlier in December.
It’s hard to say who is more desperate – the government or the opposition, but the latter announced they would focus on the upcoming
presidential elections, due in 18 months, though it’s not quite clear what candidate they’ll support. Fatherland sided with the ruling Party
of Regions of the current president Viktor Yanukovych in backstabbing Vitali Klitschko, most likely to make room either for their man, Arseniy
Yatseniuk, or for the leader of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok (or maybe for Tymoshenko for whose release from prison, the West makes huge pressures).
Klitschko, already promoted by the conservative leaders of Europe as their favourite, announced he would run in the March 2015 presidential
elections, a month before the Euromaidan.
However, Svoboda’s leader exposed their plans to take over Kyiv in a March 2013 interview which a month later was followed by street protests
which failed to call for early elections for the mayor of Kiev, which would have led to the ousting of one of the allies of President Viktor Yanukovich from a powerful post.
7 months later, the opposition used the street protests against the government to gain power in Ukraine. The results have been very fruitful for the Svoboda party. On January 1st, the Svoboda party led a march of over 15,000 nationalists to celebrate the birthday of long dead nazi
collaborator Stepan Bandera.
Klitschko attempted to disassociate Euromaidan from the Bandera march, but this lacks meaning as he has allied with Tyagnybok and demonstrated his willingness to collaborate with the Svoboda party. Many participants in Euromaidan have expressed their disapproval of the Bandera march, yet many of the same people have expressed their desire to not split the protests, meaning they will still willingly collaborate with nazis. This has essentially allowed Svoboda to establish hegemony among Euromaidan
attendees as well as the capital.
In this interview, Denys explains what are the real facts and how are they reflected in a labyrinth of deformed mirrors, which one must remove
from their way to understand the reality of life in Ukraine, a country where “people are ill because the State is a Ministry, Court, Oligarch, Scoundrel and non-accountable Parliament all at once, with all the same personalities over and over again.”
The transcript of the interview with Denys has been slightly edited from the spoken language into the written one, for more clarity. The edited
parts are in brackets.
Denys: You must distinguish between the two Euromaidans. (In) the first
one which (took place) on November 21st, middle class people
(participated), who mostly wanted the signing of that European Union
agreement. However, today (our note – two months later), most of the
people who are on the streets are concerned with rather more practical
issues, such as police brutality, which was shown on the night of
December 1st, and generally they are not happy with the government and
the president. So the European integration remains a wider issue, but
today it’s kind of the second place.
(As far as) the pro-government protests (are concerned): the people (who
participated in them) were taken by the government on busses and
(brought) to Kyiv for the weekend. (These) protests were not honest.
Many people who work for the government, like teachers, doctors and so
on, were told by their bosses that they have to do it. So, it was like
mandatory for them. I would not say this (was) a real protest. But
(regarding) the people who support the Union with Russia and Belarus and
Kazahstan, yes, there is such an opinion and, as a whole, the country is
divided more or less 50-50 regarding the integration into the European
Union or the Customs Union.
The problem is that the second position is just not very represented in
mass media which lean towards the other direction (pro-EU). And
generally those people (who support the Customs Union) do not have the
habit of protesting. They live in smaller towns and therefore they are
not (represented in the media as much as those who live in the capital).
Also (the supporters of the Customs Union) have very stupid political
leaders, for instance the main political force, which had organised
those protests (in favor of) the Customs Union, (had) as their main
point of anti-EU propaganda (the claim) that the European Union will
bring about the same-sex marriage, and non traditional things which
supposedly would not be welcomed by the Ukraian population. They even
invented the term “Euro-sodom,” like (in) Sodom and Gomorrah.
And the other political force which supports the Customs Union is the
Communist Party of Ukraine, which for many years has had nothing to do
with communism, its political programme and agenda (can be) rather
described as conservative, just like a regular social conservative
party. If you compared (them) with Marie Le Pen, you would not find much
difference between them.”
Asheville Fm radio: Is in their wording and imagery a sort of call back
towards the Soviet era and rejoining with other Eastern European countries?
Denys: “Yes, of course they speculate about it, because the bonds
between regular people are still very strong. You know many people have
relatives (in Russia), (not to mention things) like the common
mass-culture. Many people watch the Russian TV channels, so that is much
more common in the regular lives of people in central, eastern, and
People in the Central and Southern region have many things in common
with the Russians, in their lifestyle, and they don’t feel they are the
same as the European people.
But at the same time, a large part of the (Ukrainian) population is now
currently living abroad, in the European Union, especially in Spain,
Italy, Poland and Czech Republic and Portugal. Mostly these are people
from Western regions, but not exclusively.
Asheville Fm radio: With the supporters versus the detractors of the EU
inclusion, I can see a dividing up according to social norms, as you
mentioned, so people who are maybe more social liberal (are) maybe
leaning towards the West with its more progressive laws and same sex
marriages, and then on the right side you have more conservative, more
orthodox leaning – it will be a different orthodox church than the
Russian orthodox – I’m sure that, depending on where you are in the
country or what industry you’re in, you’re going do more business
generally with the East or the West. But would you say that both the
positions are basically more towards liberalizing the economy and
weakening workers’s rights within Ukraine, or is it sort of a false bind
for workers in Ukraine?
Denys: First of all you talked about the prevailing social liberalism
among the pro-EU (Ukrainians). I would not really agree with that. There
is such an impression because the pro-EU protests are headed by the
educated middle class people who do have a (sort) of more social liberal
But still it’s more like cultural right versus cultural right.
So, for example, regularly, people at the Euromaidan pray publicly like
together, all together. Then again, (regarding) the same sex marriages
(issue): most people who stand for the EU integration would never accept it.
(Indeed) the social issues regarding the workers’ rights are not on the
agenda at all. The working class, as a class, does not take part in
these events at all. The workers naturally do take sides, but they are
not organized in class-like organisations, in unions, as such they just
don’t participate in these events. And they have good reasons for this,
because both sides just talk about the cultural, political issues, which
don’t have any direct connection to needs of an average worker.
The protesters who support the EU have the utterly false impression
about Europe as some paradise where everything is all right, everything
is much better than in Ukraine or anywhere else. It’s useless to tell
them about the protests within the EU, about the austerity programs.
They just don’t listen and they would say, “Ah, so you would better join
Russia, wouldn’t you!”
So this false choice is just overwhelming and I think the same could be
said about the opposite side. The leftist agenda, the workers’ rights
agenda, is just not present at any of these squares (where people protest).
Asheville Fm radio: That must be a rather a frustrating position. All
right, I guess, as an anarchist, it might open all sorts of
possibilities and questions, (when they say) “Well, you must be
pro-Russia if you’re against this”, (could you say) “Well, actually
there’s another way.” Do you find that opens up a lot of conversations
Denys: “No. The people are very hyped-up, they are very nervous. Today
and maybe all the other days of last weeks, you could be in real
physical danger, if you start saying something like this because you’d
be immediately considered a provocateur from the ruling party. Actually,
there were a couple of such incidents at the Euromaidan, when people
from different leftist groups were trying to do exactly what you’re
saying, and some of them were beaten quite harshly, others were just
pushed out. (This is) because regular people do show some interest
sometimes, but the other problem is that the whole situation in the rank
and file in the euromaidan, the security and the local managers
(organisers of the protests), who do stuff, they are heavily infiltrated
by the far right groups that actually have their own things to say to
the left. And they have the trust of the normal, the political people,
so if some new Nazi whom we know says, “Oh my god, look, these are
communists, these are like provocateurs, I think they just support
Yanukovych,” nobody would listen to you anymore. You’d be like pushed away.
This is the mass hysteria in which I do not think it is possible to do
much agitation, although I think during the next year we’ll have much
more possibilities, because given the awful state of Ukraine’s state
finances, I think during the next couple of months, the protests could
be transformed into something (closer to a) more of a social economical
Asheville Fm radio: Let’s hope so.
Can you talk a bit more about the Ukrainian political system, and what
the spectrum looks like? What kind of parties should our listeners know
about to get a basic understanding about the dynamics, and what the
stances are on the Ukraine joining the EU or the Custom’s Union?
Denys: “The Ukrainian parliamentary politics basically consists of two
large (political) parties – these two parties have pretty identical
social, political and economical agendas. They both can be described as
centrist-right populists. One party is the Party of Region, which is the
ruling party, president Yanukovych is their chief, and the government
consists of the Party of Regions’ members. The opposition consists of a
bloc of three parliamentary opposition parties, which are basically the
same, the only difference is that they speak Ukrainian. (These
opposition parties) have their electoral base in the Central and Western
Ukraine, while the Party of Regions (people rather) speak Russian, and
they speculate on these cultural differences, since their voters live in
the South and in the East. These are the parties which gather perhaps 60
percent of all votes. Also there is the “Communist” party of Ukraine,
which I already told you about. And one of this so-called National
Democratic Opposition is the Svoboda (party), which is translated as
“freedom”, but actually is a far-right party, identical to the other
far-right populists from the European countries actually. Most of the
political parties which I described do support the integration into the
European Union, including most of the businessmen who support the Party
of Regions (the ruling paty of president Yanukovych).
Actually, during this year, there emerged an opposition, based on
pro-Russian conservative grounds, inside the Party of Regions, but it
was very severely suppressed. The would-be leader of that opposition, a
member of the parliament, was expelled from the Parliament, on grounds
that he rigged the elections in his constituency.
Up until the end of November everything said that Ukraine would sign
that Association Agreement (with the EU) because everybody is interested
Then things changed rapidly, as far as can be understood, when the
president and the prime-minister looked at the figures and they just
realized that they can’t do it because the trade was with Russia and
because (of the situation of) the State’s finances – we don’t have money
and the budget is just empty and we can’t afford the losses which would
be brought about by that association Agreement. Obviously nobody read
that agreement at all (until at that moment), because (until the moment
they backed off), the prime-minister and the president were the main
euro-optimists in the country.
Overnight then they became the main euro-skeptics.”
Asheville Fm radio: Was the International Monetary Fund’s restructuring
plan a part of getting into the European Union, or was that a separate
thing that suddenly came up about the same time for the Yanukovych’s party?
Denys: “These are two separate things, which are united by the fact that
the Ukrainian government badly needs money. So they’ve decided to press
the European Union in order for them to help Ukraine negotiate for
better conditions of (getting) a credit fund from the IMF.
This is because the IMF demands (the same measures) as they usually do
for many countries. (They impose) very harsh conditions, such as rising
the gas price for the population, and the devaluation of the national
currency. And the government refused to do that that over the past
years, and it would be certainly political suicide for any politician
who would try to do that now, when there is one year left before the
Asheville Fm radio: From what I understand the IMF demands a 40 percent
increase of the price of natural gas in a country that is quite cold,
Asheville Fm radio: That seems like political suicide. I can see that
Denys: “The main political force in the far right scene in Ukraine today
is undeniably the Svoboda party, if I would have to seek some comparison
I would compare them to other eastern european far-right parties such as
Hungarian Jobbik party (more on Jobbik: documetary, news report, and
article) which I think American listeners may be aware of. There was a
huge scandal when they got lots of votes a couple of years ago in
Hungary. Svoboda (is) pretty much the same thing, it’s a political party
which has its own project of a so-called “national constitution” (which
would bring about) many awful things, such as the death penalty for the
so-called “anti-Ukrainian activities,” without further comment.
Basically anything contrary to that parties spirit could be considered
Today in the Euromaidan they are calling for a political strike, but
actually what most people just don’t realize is that, in the Svoboda’s
project of (a new) Constitution, the political strike is a criminal
Asheville Fm radio: It’s a state of exception for them, I’m sure.
Denys: “Yeah. The paradox is that they’ve become extremely popular among
the educated liberal middle class in urban areas, especially in Kyiv. So
today Kyiv votes for Svoboda, as the Western regions of Ukraine do,
because they just say, “Well, I don’t know what is their program like. I
did not read anything (about it), but they look so harsh, they are such
cool guys, and I’m sure that at least they would break the necks of
those corrupt people who are now in the party (holding) power.”
This is, of course, very much reminiscent of the historical situations
in other countries in 21st century.
I don’t want to sound too much in panic, but there are some similar
traits, because regular bourgeois people from the middle class just
don’t see anything wrong with it. And, to some extent, they are right,
because, if the far-right wins over the country, these people would not
feel any major difficulties (in their life). The main difficulties would
be directed towards the far left, towards all the left parties and
movements, and towards the ethnic minorities and racial minorities.
But normal people would not feel anything for some time (at least), and
that’s the problem.
Also another interesting fact about (the Svoboda) party: they (went
through) a rebranding, and now (they) call (themselves) “freedom”. This
is a generic word for the European right, but up until 2005 or 2004,
they called themselves the Socialist Nationalist Party of Ukraine.” (our
note: Actually the current Svoboda leader said at one point that every
Ukrainian must become a Socialist-Nationalist.)
Asheville Fm radio: Do you have anything to say about the Ukraine
National Assembly party?
Denys: “They’re not very influential now. They used to be a very
powerful far-right party (back) in the `90s, when they really had their
own para-military soldiers, and even a semi-army, and their fighters
(participated in) the war in Chechnya, and in other Caucasus wars and in
Transnistria, and, yeah, they were very scary. But today they are just
mostly a club for the nazis who don’t like Svoboda.
Asheville Fm radio: I came across the website of Dimitrov Kutchinsky,
that guy is crazy. There are also references to national-anarchism.
Denys: “Are you familiar with that concept at all?”
Asheville Fm radio: Yeah there are some idiots claiming to be that in
the United States. In San Francisco, and New York and Chicago. Are they
much of a thing in the Ukraine?
Denys: “Yes, actually yes. Because unfortunately this is a very popular
trend – to mix with the leftist things, like (in adopting an)
anticapitalism (narrative). The anarchist (position) is very trendy,
cool and gives you some points immediately, but people mix it with
national things, which also look very trendy and cool with the youth,
mainly with teenagers who just don’t see any problem in trying to
combine these things. And it’s especially funny in Ukraine because we
have a very big myth about Makhno.
Today he’s an integral part of the national myth, he’s considered a
nationalist, actually, because, well, he fought the Bolsheviks,
therefore he must be for Ukraine, for independent Ukraine, and for the
rule of the nation and so on. Obviously this is total bullshit, but this
mythology is very popular and it adds to the popularity of that
left-right synthesis, the third position actually, like Terza Posizione,
(which is) the Italian fascist tradition.”
Asheville Fm radio: Yeah that’s the same phrasing that they use in the
United States: third positionists. There’s also a lot of overlap of
nationalism and regional bio-centric ecology, so that they seem to make
invasions into Green Anarchism before they start to make it into the
mainstream or before a lot of people became aware of who they were and
what they were doing.
Denys: “I understand that, but here in Ukraine, apart from the New Age
things, they are also very fascinated by the proper fascists, such as
Mussolini, for example. They somehow are trying to mix it with anarchism.
Also you may be aware of the split in the Russian anarchist movement
Asheville Fm radio: No, I’m not actually.
Denys: “Well there was a big split and that is repeated in Ukraine too.
It’s the split between the anarchists who support the minority rights,
the feminist struggle, they pay attention to general issues, to the
minority rights to the ethnical minorities, and the other
macho-anarchists who don’t like all this ‘feminist b….t.’ They say, ‘We
are cool guys, we do lots of sports and we are the proper anarchists, we
don’t want anything to do with those pussies.’
Unfortunately, this manarchism is also gaining a lot of popularity lately.”
Asheville Fm radio: Is that a phrase you use in Ukraine, manarchism?
Denys: “Oh, we know that it’s originated in the United States, but for
the lack of better word, yeah.”
Asheville Fm radio: It was quite surprising to hear it, I mean your
English is very good but also the colloquial, the subcultural terms that
you’ve pulled, they’re quite good. It seems in the United States that
that’s always been a trend, that’s a possibility and that’s happened
over and over again where people split off and say, “Oh, we need to have
action now, no, these other ideas will happen after the revolution, we
can wait to talk about race or sexism after the revolution and we’re
gonna make the revolution right now so that we’d get on to those
conversations,” and it seemed to a lot of people, starting about 10
years ago maybe in the United States among insurrectional currents of
anarchism that that was a thing that people were tending towards, but I
don’t think that there was actually a split in the United States,
thankfully, I think there are people who have that perspective but
usually they get put in their place by other people pretty fast.
They get called manarchists, and then internet videos are made about
them and they are made fun of in public and then they don’t want to be
that person anymore, hopefully.
Denys: “The difference is you don’t have such developed fascists, do you?”
Asheville Fm radio: No.
I mean we have a lot of far-right leaning groupings in the United
States, some of which are para-military such as militias, or the KKK,
though they’re not very big anymore, there are large pockets of neo-nazi
subcurrents, but for the most part these groupings are at the political
fringes, and the mainstream of America would not listen to them,
although there have been large upsurges in anti-immigrant perspectives
over the last 10 years that have led to armed groups on the border with
Mexico for instance that have been deputized in certain states. In a way
that kind of reflects from what I understand the Kozaks as an armed
civilian militia that’s trained and armed by the state in Russia?
But, yeah, the integration of rasist and fascist elements, as (openly)
fascists is not really a thing although people make the argument that
the United States is a fascist State it’s definitely not Mussolini’s
Italy and definitely not Hitler’s Germany.
Denys: “We have an additional pressure from the right and more people
just tend to confuse these things. You know, all these things are
against the power, against the government and, yeah, (they are like),
“I’m too lazy to read anything about it yeah, so I should go into the
street, and not even go into the street, but merely go into the gym.”
There is a (Denys told Revolution News that this is a true story) joke,
(about) the Kyiv manarchist (and it goes), “The day before yesterday
they’ve issued a call of unity among the Kyiv left in the face of the
Euromaidan like “We should be united and go together and do something
social to raise some social issues and so on, but that call for unity
contained one note: that if we see people with a black violet flag they
would be considered provocateurs and all the necessary measures will be
Asheville Fm radio: And black and violet being the color spectrum from
Denys: Yeah, right.
Asheville Fm radio: To bring you back to the protests initially as it is
the Euromaidan began November 21st with 2000 people gathered in
occupying Kyiv’s Maidan, it is the Independence’s square, right?
Asheville Fm radio: And Maidan means square?
Asheville Fm radio: Can you talk briefly about the Orange revolution
and the comparisons that have been made between the protests that are
going on right now and the scale of these protests and maybe the lack of
scale in the demands of the people on the streets?
And compare that to the Orange revolution?
Denys: “Well, one thing which was prominent in the Orange revolution
events was (the focus) on one person.
Everybody was shouting, “Yushchenko” the name of the candidate for the
presidential position and at that time all the left were criticizing the
Orange revolution for this, (because) they did not pay any attention to
other vital problems, they just shouted “Yushchenko” and they thought
that he was the Messiah who’d get things done.
But today they don’t have even this and still they don’t pay any
attention to the bread and butter issues. Large masses of people just
have the illusion about the fairytale of Europe, which they want to
join, like personally. And nobody says anything about the actual content
of that (EU) Association Agreement.
Yes, now the mobilization of what I understand is already larger than in
2004 events, so potentially the opposition holds a vast resource, but
the problem is they don’t really know how to use it.
We can read in the interviews of their politicians who took part in the
Orange revolution, at that time, (how) the politicians controlled the
crowd much more tightly.
For example, one politician recently gave an interview, and he said, “Do
you know why at that time the euromaidan was entirely orange and now
they have different flags of different colors? Well, that’s not a
coincidence. It’s just because everyday (back in 2004) we brought there
300 fresh orange flags.”
They’ve controlled the crowd, they were giving them the flags and doing
their organisational work more efficiently than now. Today the
parliamentary opposition was just responding to a spontaneous
mobilization, they did not order it and then they just did not know what
to do, in the first few days. In this situation, then, again, the most
prepared party turned out to be the Svoboda. Which is the only party
that has its own rank and file activists, who can do things in the
field. So they get the most benefit as for today, as it looks now.
Asheville Fm radio: How has the media in Ukraine dealt with, interacted
with the Euromaidan movement and what is the ownership structure like
with the media in Ukraine. What sort of influences do different stations
Denys: Oh it’s a very interesting story because in 2004, during the
Orange revolution, all the media were heavily censored in that regard
and all the people were watching Channel 5. (This) was the only TV
channel (broadcasting) all these events, because its owner was Petro
Poroshenko, an opposition politician. Today the ownership structure is
not any better for the opposition, but still all the main TV channels
and generally all the main mass media are covering the story very
closely. When it was that bloody crackdown all the main channels
belonging to the richest oligarchs covered it almost live, showing these
riot police beating up people and saying how awful this is and so on and
This shows that the owners of the media are really not happy themselves
with the current president, and this was a big news for most Ukrainians
as well. Because there is a popular (belief) that all the oligarchs are
behind the (current) president, but, as we can see now, recently, the
business advisers of the Ukrainian President Yanukovych have really
irritated the media moguls, who are the owners of large portions of the
Ukrainian GDP. They are not really happy about the president’s family
doing things they should not do with their business.”
Asheville Fm radio: Talk about the group that you’re with, or the
Denys: “It was founded two years ago, and it’s still not super big. But
I would say that we really have had some development in quality as well
as in quantity, because today we have two local (branches), one in Kyiv
and one in Harkov – (this is) the second largest industrial city in Ukraine.
We have about 20-25 people in Kyiv and maybe like 15 people in Harkov.
These are not astronomical figures, but they are larger than they have
been initially and I think we are growing. We see ourselves not as a
political propaganda group, more as a class union.
We are guided by the revolutionary syndicalism principles, although
lately our group is becoming more and more just anarcho-syndicalist.
Earlier we had some trotskysts and some marxists but now I think that
most of them are already anarchists.
But unfortunately we still don’t have any workplace organisations,
because, according to the Ukrainian law, you must have at least 3 people
at every local workplace. We have people from different areas who often
don’t work anywhere officially at all, like seasonal workers or
construction workers and so on.
That’s the problem and today we function in actuality more like a
propaganda group, although we want to be an actual union more like IWW,
that’s the model we look up to.”
Asheville Fm radio: For any listeners who are not familiar with
anarcho-syndicalism, would you lay that down, briefly, and how it
compares and differs from revolutionary syndicalism?
Denys: “Syndicalism as a method (stands for the) negation of parties
and parliamentary politics, as an instrument of reaching any political
goals. The main accent is laid on direct action instruments, such as
strikes, demonstrations, occupations and so on.
The main issue of syndicalism per se is the strategy, which lies in
connecting the political and economical struggle in the struggle of
syndicates, of unions.
So, unlike trade unionism, the labor movement, or laborism like in
Britain, syndicalists believe that unions should pursue political goals
together with the economical goals, they should fight, for example, for
high wages and together they should keep in their mind that they are
fighting eventually for communism, for the downfall of capitalism. In
the syndicalist theory, this is called revolutionary gymnastics.”
Asheville Fm radio: I’ve never heard that phrase before.
Denys: “The revolutionary gymnastics is everyday struggle for similar
reformist things which at the same time develops the muscles of the
working class. After these struggles, the workers come out of them more
organized and higher level of class conscience.
During strikes and demonstrations, the working class consolidates and
sort of trains itself for class battles, and for more important and more
vital political battles which will come.
The revolutionary syndicalism unites basically any left anti-capitalist,
while anarcho-syndicalism also implies that all the members of the
movement share anarchist views.
Personally, I don’t think that anarcho-syndicalism is contradictory in
any way to other forms of social anarchism.
Anarcho-synthesism is a school of thought which combines
anarcho-communism as an ideal, anarcho-syndicalism as a method of
reaching that ideal and anarcho-individualism as a base from which you
evaluate your actions.”
Asheville Fm radio: Criticism that people might come up with is that
it’s difficult to keep doing reformist work in the short-term even
though it can get you better working conditions or less repression from
the state, and keeping an eye towards conducting a revolution or not,
just buying into the system you have to make better.
Is that the criticism that you hear?
Denys: “Well, our answer today is putting forward unrealistic demands.
For example, one of our program’s points is to demand the lowering of
the retirement age for men and women equally to 50 years, making longer
the yearly vacations (pensions), and shortening the working hours to 35
hours a week.
These demands are postulated in the social context in which the
government tries to raise the pension age and (increase) the working hours.
But still it does not look as utopian to most people because they can
sympathise with this – everybody wants to have longer vacation. This
helps us to get in a situation, into a zone where our demands are not
considered some lunacy while at the same time obviously if our
government would try to make them real any government would collapse.
Another example is our current campaign for free communal transport in Kyiv.
It was a response to the Kyiv government’s decision to raise the price
of metro and buses (fares) (by) 50 percent. Nobody is willing to
protest, the left groups who want to capitalize on this they just say,
you know, the regular stuff, “We are against the raising of the tarifs,
we don’t see it as a necessary step.”
I think our tactic was better because we put forward the offensive
demands, not the defensive ones. We said, “Actually, we want free
transit.” And here is the budget of the Kyiv government and we can see
that here and here are the money which can be redirected and spent so
that it can grant all the inhabitants of this city free transit.
Of course, this demand is still “unrealistic” in terms of real politics.
But it creates some space where you can be revolutionary and reformist
at the same time.”
Asheville Fm radio: Your explanations have reminded me of the IWW’s
push for the 4 hour work day, which they’ve played with for a long time.
It’s like you say that to someone and they say, “That’s totally
unrealistic, it’s not going to happen.” But then you break down the
numbers and if everyone was actually working and profit would be
redistributed in a certain way then that could work and that begs the
question of what’s wrong with the system that makes us have to work so much.
How can anyone of the listeners outside of Ukraine support the work of
the Autonomous Workers’ Union and support the people struggling against
the EU and the Ukrainian government and Russian intersession.
Denys: “I think the most useful thing would be to actually do what
you’re doing now – to try to dispel the myths about our current
situation because as far as I can understand most of the anarchists in
the Western countries are just super optimistic about the protests, they
see it as the right path to the EU and (they think) we shall overcome.
But, as I’ve tried to explain, the situation is not that simple, so I
think first and foremost everybody should try to learn as much they can
about every other struggle in the world. This is what I’ve tried to do
and of course it’s not an original answer but the international
solidarity can help. We know from our own experience that when some
groups from other country stage solidarity protests however small it can
be and it is very helpful. Our group has also staged lots of actions,
demonstrations in solidarity with Greek comrades, Polish comrades and
not only it raised up spirits, but it is a useful thing for building up
networks and organisational cooperation. There is a thing called Red and
Black coordination, I think it only unites Western Europeans in
libertarian movements, but still it is potentially very useful and our
union I think it’s going to join, by the way.
It would be good just to start communicating with each other directly
and seeing the needs of each other.
Asheville Fm radio: You yourself just got back from a solidarity
protest. Can you talk about that cause I was not aware of this massacre
Denys: Two years ago, in 2011, all workers in several oilfields in
Kazakhstan staged a strike. Their first demands were just higher wages
and better working conditions. But after they were totally ignored by
the government and by the employer, they were radicalized by the local
trots and they’ve started organizing a national network of militant
collectives, demanding the nationalization of the whole oil industry and
the workers’ control, and putting forward some political demands as
well. Anyway they were still largely ignored until August after their
strike has lasted for half a year, the government started repressing
them. First they’ve beaten up some activists, they’ve locked up behind
bars the woman who had given them legal advice, but still they were
holding on the main square of Zhanaozen, which is a small workers’ town,
in the West of Kazakhstan. But on december 16th there was a huge
celebration of Kazakhstan’s independence day. And exactly on that day
the strikers were attacked by a group of thugs obviously financed by the
governor of that region who opened fire on the crowd. And 17 people were
dead, several dozens were injured. That’s the perfect example of the
unity of the capital and the state. If an anarchist wanted to talk about
how the capitalists and the state support each other there can be no
greater example in the recent history.
Especially since it was the main state holiday, Independence day.
After that the government started closing even the liberal media and
repressing even the established bourgeois opposition. (more on the massacre)
Also this massacre was just the starting point for the Kazakhstan’s
regime to turn into something much more brutal than it was before that.
Also in the sphere of workers’ rights just recently the Kazakh
government has come up with new proposals. They want to ban all the
independent trade unions, so if you have a union cell in a factory, this
cell should be controlled and governed by the National Federation of
Trade Unions, the relic from the Soviet state, which is obviously
heavily controlled by the government. If you don’t have any relations to
that federation, your union is just illegal.
The other “great” initiative is that they want to raise the pension age
again for women to make it 63 years, and to put a legal ceiling on the
wages – not of top managers, but on the wages of relatively well off
working people in such sectors such as oil and gas, where the wages are
on average higher than in other sectors.
And the funny thing, but of course nobody cares in the West about it, no
capitalist democracy can be bothered by this at all, the Kazakh state
owns companies that are listed (at the western stock exchanges, like the
and they have huge success on the stock markets, then again it shows
that there’s no big difference between the capitalism in the West and
the capitalism in the former second world, because this point is often
made by liberal experts here in Ukraine. They say something like, “You
have a wild capitalism in Ukraine, but somewhere in the realms of
Western paradise there is a true humanist capitalism.”
As you can see this is all the global unified system.”
Asheville Fm radio: If people want to learn more about you what website
should we send them to?
Denys: It’s avtonomia.net. http://avtonomia.net/