This is the fifth in a series of translations of the articles in BASTA!, a special Russian-only issue of Chto Delat that addresses such pressing issues as the fight against racism and facism, the new Russian labor movement, the resistance to runaway “development” in Petersburg, the prospects for student self-governance and revolt, the potential for critical practice amongst sociologists and contemporary artists, the attack on The European University in St. Petersburg, and Alain Badiou’s aborted visit to Moscow.
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At first I was in one of the communist parties. There, it was all “Jawohl, mein Fuehrer!” They did everything they did because that’s what Lenin wrote. It was round then that I first read Kropotkin’s and Bakunin’s books about anarchy. That is why I left the party and became an anarchist.
The RASH movement [Red and Anarchist Skinheads] emerged here in 2003-2004. I was the first RASH. Nearly all of us were anarcho-punks who became anarcho-skinheads. We take part in demos. We publish pamphlets, broadsides, and a newspaper [Frontline, available for download at www.redskins.ru]. I am also involved in the skinhead and punk subcultures, so I organize concerts and do propaganda work within these groups. If folks react, we work with them. We try and develop them physically; we conduct training classes in martial arts and self-defense. When you go to an antifa concert there’s a risk you’ll be attacked by Nazis. If you’re not prepared to defend yourself, the attack will probably end badly for you.
I’ve been in the hospital once with stab wounds. There’s this [weekly] anti-war protest. First it was attacked, but the protesters fought off [the Nazis]. We figured there would be another attack the following week so we put a group together and went to defend the protest. It wasn’t attacked, but after it was over we split up. There were seven guys with me, and something like twenty-five or thirty [skinheads] jumped us.
I’ve never been attacked at a concert, especially because I became more careful after this incident. At concerts, it is mainly the folks who let their guard down who get attacked—they go out to get beers by themselves or they walk from the metro to the concert alone. You absolutely shouldn’t do this.
Xenophobia has always been very well developed in Russia. In the early part of the twentieth century there was the Union of the Russian People. It was essentially a Nazi party and it carried out pogroms against Jews. There was something like half a million people in this organization. Xenophobia didn’t just emerge in the nineties, and it isn’t a western import. When parents scream, “The wogs have flooded the streets!” or “It’s all the fault of the Jews!” their children listen to this. Then those same kids see upper-form students who are “boneheads.” For some reason they decide these guys are cool and they join them. Most of them, though, get tired of it quickly or they run into trouble—with the police, for example. And now we’re on the beat, and they might run into us.
For me, anti-fascism is one aspect of the anarchist struggle. On the whole, there are good prospects for the development of Nazism in Russia. Right now the Nazis are moving to a new level; they’re giving up Hitlerism. They’re basing themselves on their “historic” roots: national patriotism, the Black Hundreds movement. This is the direction they’re moving in, and they’re members of organizations like DPNI (The Movement Against Illegal Immigration) or the Slavic Union. A lot of folks get worked up over these ideas: God, Tsar, great power status, empire. The Hitlerists don’t have a leg to stand on here in Russia: the majority associates National Socialism with evil. But national patriotism, orthodox patriotism bordering on Nazism, could really take root.
Nowadays there are quite a lot of immigrants, and the standard of living is fairly low. Why did the Nazi skinhead movement in England get a head of steam [in the seventies]? Because there were problems and there was someone to blame the problems on: foreigners. It’s the same way now: [Russia has] social problems that can be blamed on others. And the authorities are playing both sides of the court: they come out publicly against Nazism, but on the other hand they promote it in all sorts of clandestine ways as a safety valve for the working class. So that the people don’t blame the government, but blame the foreigners instead.
It is really stupid people who carry out the attacks. Either they’re commissioned to do them or the idiots do them on their own initiative. In Moscow, the veteran boneheads say that these Petersburg midgets who butcher Tajiks have to be whacked because they don’t achieve anything this way. The Tajiks will still keep coming—the country is going to the dogs. But because the skinheads butcher Tajiks, they get a reputation as extremists and murderers. The police give them a real hard time; they don’t let them hold concerts. They lose money and they lose the folks they could have recruited at these shows.
People are so indifferent about racist attacks because they believe that the police should deal with them. Most policemen, however, are xenophobes themselves. I’ve been beaten up at the police station just for being antifa. Several times it’s happened that the policeman rolls up his sleeves and there’s a swastika on his arm. An ex-Nazi (or a current Nazi) and he’s employed by the police!
I worked actively to form a housing co-op in the building where I live. In theory, a co-op is a tiny libertarian cell. But everyone said, “What are you talking about? We can’t run our own building. Let’s leave everything to the state housing authority. The state won’t rob us.”
I also participate in the workers movement. It’s also quite hard to explaining some things to them. Let’s organize a union, you tell them. “We have a union already.” Yeah, a shitty union, a state-run union that engages in appeasement.
All the guys at work are Gastarbeiters. If you say anything to them about unions, about fighting for your rights, they say, “What are you on?! All we worry about is that they don’t depart us back to Tajikistan tomorrow.” What needs to happen is that local workers start supporting each other first, and then start supporting the migrant workers.
But there are positive examples: the union at the Ford plant, grassroots groups like Living City and Save Yuntolovo. We try and interact with them—to help them grow and to use them as examples in our conversations with people: “People up and saved their local park. You can do this, too.” Right now I hope we’ll be able to get a movement on its feet in the neighborhood of the Politekhnicheskaya metro station, where the authorities are planning to demolish the Khrushchev-era housing blocks and relocate the residents God knows where. We plan to organize residents committees. But we don’t to be an avant-garde—just a wind that will give them a little nudge so that they do everything themselves.
Because otherwise people don’t want to live their own lives. That is why my work aims to help people at least think with their heads and take action in their daily lives. People are uneducated and unprepared. We have to take them to the next level. When they get the experience of this form of struggle under their belts, then we’ll be able to do this.