Monthly Archives: December 2009

Free Valentin Urusov!

The campaign to free Valentin Urusov has a Facebook page that you can access here. Our friends at The Commune have also put together leaflets that you can download here and here. Please send word of your protests and other actions to the Institute for Collective Action, at and to the London campaign group at

This article appeared in The Miner, December 2009, page 5

The National Union of Mineworkers national officials are supporting an international campaign for the release of Valentin Urusov, a Russian miner framed up and imprisoned after recruiting workmates to a union.

Ian Lavery, NUM President, has written to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, and urged him to intervene to get Urusov freed from jail. Urusov, an employee of Alrosa, a diamond mining company, is serving six years’ hard labour for an obviously fabricated offence (possession of drugs). Urusov was singled out for attention after an industrial dispute in July last year at Alrosa’s mine in Udachny, in Yakutiya, eastern Siberia.

Mineworkers staged a protest hunger strike over poor working conditions and set up a new union organisation. Urusov acted as their spokesman. In response, the mine management set up a bi-partisan negotiating committee.

The committee started work, but on 3 September 2008, two days before it was due to report, Urusov was arrested. He was detained at home, illegally and forcibly taken 60 kilometres away, and threatened with a firearm.

Officers searched his home when he was in detention, and “found” drugs there. On 26 December 2008, Urusov was convicted and sentenced by the Mirinsky district court in Yakutiya.

The main owner of Alrosa is the local government of Yakutiya, a huge east Siberian province with big resources of gold, diamonds, coal and oil. Urusov’s lawyers say the local government influenced the court.

When Urusov was first jailed, protests were sent to Yakutiya by trade unionists from all over the world. On 12 May 2009, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Yakutia overturned the conviction on procedural grounds and released Urusov on bail – a rare victory.

The illegal and flawed nature of the prosecution case was widely publicised. Criminal proceedings were begun against the officer who headed the investigation.

Despite all this, on 26 June this year, the case was returned to the Mirinsky court (that’s the standard procedure in Russia) – and it confirmed the original conviction and six-year sentence.

Russian trade union activists face many types of victimisation, including workplace harassment, sackings and beatings by company thugs. But this is the first time in recent years that trade union activity has been “punished” with a lengthy jail sentence.

A coalition of Russian trade union organisations and human rights campaigners are campaigning for Urusov’s release. They have called on trade unionists internationally to protest to the government.

NUM President Ian Lavery, Vice President Keith Stanley and Secretary Chris Kitchen met recently with representatives of a campaign group set up in the UK to support Urusov. The group brings together trade union activists, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and others.

Ian Lavery said: “We have a long record of solidarity with miners in Russia and Ukraine. And we will never forget the support they have given us.

“We will not stand by when any mineworker, anywhere in the world, is imprisoned for trying to organise his workmates into a union. We hope that the whole UK labour movement will join us in asking the Russian president to review this case.”

What you can do:
* Write to the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, demanding Urusov’s release (model letter below);
* Urge your MP to write to President Medvedev;
* Ask your trade union, trades council, campaign group, etc, to support the campaign;
* Tell Chris Kitchen, NUM Secretary, and the campaign group at, about your protests.

Dmitry Medvedev,
President of the Russian Federation,
Ilyinka Street No. 23,
103132 Moscow,

Dear Dmitry Anatolyevich,
I write on behalf of […] to urge you to intervene in the case of Valentin Urusov, the trade union activist, and to secure his immediate release from imprisonment.

Mr Urusov, a mineworker employed by Alrosa diamond mining company, was convicted for possession of drugs, and sentenced, on 26 December 2008 by the Mirinsky district court in Yakutia. On 12 May 2009, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Yakutia overturned the conviction, and Mr Urusov was released on bail. The illegal and flawed nature of the prosecution case was widely publicised. Nevertheless, on 26 June 2009, the Mirinsky court confirmed the original conviction and sentence of six years’ hard labour.

We have no doubt that the case against Mr Urusov is fabricated and could not be sustained in any just court hearing. We believe that Mr Urusov – who was active in recruiting his fellow mineworkers to a trade union organisation and sought to represent their interests – is the victim of a witch-hunt against trade unionists.

Mr Urusov’s imprisonment is a denial of his human rights, a stain on the record of the Russian legal system, and a dangerous precedent.
Yours sincerely, […]

Note. You can post the letter to the address given. If you want to email the Russian president, you have to fill in a form on this internet page:


Filed under open letters, manifestos, appeals, trade unions

Manifesto of the January 19 Committee


On January 19, 2010, a year to the day from the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, we, the organizers of an antifascist march, call on you to join our campaign against neo-Nazi terrorism.

The word fascism has been utterly devalued today. It is hard to find a political movement that avoids branding its opponents as “fascists.” But there are also meaningful interpretations of this term. Many of them have a direct bearing on what is taking place in contemporary Russia.

For some people, fascism is the extreme intolerance intrinsic to authoritarian societies. For others, it is an ideology of exploitation and coercion. For still others, it means the use by the authorities of covert paramilitary units for the suppression of democratic movements. Finally, for some, fascism is a force that murders good people, people like the lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Nastya Baburova, the young antifascists Fyodor Filatov and Ivan Khutorskoi, the ethnologist Nikolai Girenko, the chess player Sergei Nikolaev from Yakutia, the programmer Bair Sambuev from Buryatia, and hundreds of others. People who define fascism in this way do not divide their enemies into Russians and non-Russians, grown-ups and children, priests and punk rock fans, young activists and defenseless janitors from Central Asia.

It is not a matter of definitions, however. All the murderers come from one and the same environment.

They can be defeated only through a combined effort, only by overcoming the barriers that separate political activists from each other and from people who do not trust politicians and are not involved in the political process. For this purpose we are organizing an antifascist initiative that will unite people of various political persuasions with all those who consider themselves apolitical but who are convinced that the rise of fascism in Russia demands a clear response from society.

The neo-Nazis have changed. They now not only attack marketplaces, they also blow them up – along with railroad tracks, concert halls, churches, cafes, and the entryways of the buildings where their political opponents live. The fascists now not only beat up people on the streets, they also murder them. Neo-Nazi terrorism has become a reality.

If this goes on much longer, Russia will turn into a country wracked by ethnic cleansing and inter-ethnic war. We appeal to everyone who would rather not wait to see this happen. Act now: take a public stance using whatever means you have at your disposal.

We also call on well-known and respected people – scholars, artists, writers, and intellectuals – to support our cause with their good names. We believe that the struggle against the neo-Nazi scourge in Russia must be raised to a new level. It has to become a mass campaign of solidarity that reaches beyond youth subcultures and activist groups. The understandable aversion people feel to politics should not prevent them from recognizing the threat posed by neo-Nazism.

We believe that we have three main tasks today. First, we need to deprive neo-Nazis and racists of the explicit and implicit support they receive from bureaucrats and establishment politicians. Second, we have to drive members of ultra-rightist organizations out of mainstream politics. Third, we must put an end to the practice of using radical right-wing gangs to intimidate and murder social and political activists.

We call on people in various cities and countries to take to the streets on January 19, 2010, and show their solidarity with our cause.


Filed under anti-racism, anti-fascism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, protests, Russian society

What a World (Copenhagen)

In Copenhagen, the world’s richest leaders continued their fiery fossil fuel party last Friday night, December 18, ignoring requests of global village neighbours to please chill out. Instead of halting the hedonism, US President Barack Obama and the Euro elites cracked open the mansion door to add a few nouveau riche guests: South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, China’s Jiabao Wen (reportedly the most obnoxious of the lot), Brazil’s Lula Inacio da Silva and India’s Manmohan Singh. By Saturday morning, still drunk with their power over the planet, these wild and crazy party animals had stumbled back onto their jets and headed home.

The rest of us now have a killer hangover, because on behalf mainly of white capitalists (who are having the most fun of all), the world’s rulers stuck the poor and future generations with the vast clean-up charges – and worse: certain death for millions.

The 770 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere envisaged in the “Copenhagen Accord” signatories’ promised 15% emissions cuts from 1990 levels to 2020 – which in reality could be a 10% increase once carbon trading and offset loopholes are factored in – will cook the planet, say scientists, with nine out of 10 African peasants losing their livelihood.

The most reckless man at the party, of course, was the normally urbane, Ivy League-educated lawyer who, a year ago, we hoped might behave with the dignity and compassion behooving the son of a leading Kenyan intellectual. But in Obama’s refusal to lead the global North to make the required 45% emissions cuts and offer payment of the US$400 billion annual climate debt owed to Third World victims by 2020, Obama trashed not only Africa but also the host institution, according to leader Bill McKibben: “he blew up the United Nations.”

Patrick Bond, “How to cure the post-Copenhagen hangover” (read the rest of the article here)

At the 3 degrees rise predicted by the UN on the basis of current negotiating positions, you can declare the game over. That is potentially the tipping point beyond which it is impossible to regain any control over global temperatures, the point at which positive feedback mechanisms cause temperatures to increase exponentially. I cannot adequately describe the full horror of such a scenario – the food shortages, the droughts, the floods, the fleeing of millions of people from newly uninhabitable territory, the intensified geopolitical competition over basic resources, the extinction of half or more of the species on the planet… it’s just unthinkable. But, as Copenhagen shows, unthinkable horror is exactly what the rulers of the world have in store for us.

− Lenin’s Tomb, “Hope? Nope” (read the rest of the weblog here)

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Filed under film and video, international affairs, protests

Is Denmark a Police State? (Release Tadzio Mueller, Luca Tornatore and Other Climate Prisoners!)

Release Tadzio Mueller and the other climate prisoners!

To add your signature:

To:  The Danish Parliament

Over the past week, tens of thousands of people from across the planet have taken to the streets of Copenhagen demanding real and just solutions to climate change. But on the streets, as well as inside the UN Climate Change Conference, delegates and ‘outsiders’ alike are doubting that the conference will reach a deal that isn’t a disaster for most of the world.

Inside the Bella Centre, where the UN delegates are meeting, numerous critical voices have been marginalised through technical and procedural manoeuvres. Others, like Friends of the Earth International, have had their accreditation revoked. Outside, the policing of protest has been consistently draconian and occasionally brutal.

On Saturday 12 December, almost 1,000 participants in a ‘Climate March’ through Copenhagen were arrested. On Monday 14 December, hundreds more were arrested at a party in the city’s Christiania district following a public meeting, addressed by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein and others. On Tuesday 15 December, Tadzio Mueller, a spokesperson for Climate Justice Action, was arrested by undercover police officers following a press conference at the Bella Centre.

This morning, on Wednesday 16 December, Tadzio appeared before a judge on a number of charges relating to his public support for today’s Reclaim Power demonstration. The declared aim of Reclaim Power – also supported by social movements, many conference delegates and other civil society actors – is to hold a People’s Assembly at the Bella Centre, to discuss real solutions to climate change. At this morning’s court hearing the judge decided to hold Tadzio for a further three days, after which he will reappear in court. There are reports that the hearing was closed to the public.

Meanwhile, hundreds more protesters have been arrested today and there have been numerous reports of police brutality and the extensive use of batons, pepper spray and tear gas. We have also heard of further arrests of individual activists by undercover police officers.

We, the undersigned, not only lend our support to those in Copenhagen seeking to push for real and just solutions to climate change, but also demand the following: 

  • The immediate release of Tadzio Mueller and all other climate prisoners
  • A halt to the criminalisation and intimidation of activists, including
  • the pre-emptive detaining of protesters in Copenhagen;
  • The immediate re-instatement of accreditation withdrawn from NGOs and other critical voices at the Climate Summit

(This Open Letter was drafted by the editors of Turbulence: Ideas for Movement, of which Tadzio Mueller is an editor.)

Initial Signatories (name and affiliation):
Ben Trott (Turbulence editor)
David Harvie (Turbulence editor, University of Leicester)
Michal Osterweil (Turbulence editor, US based lecturer, UNC Chapel Hill)
Keir Milburn (Turbulence editor)
Rodrigo Nunes (Turbulence editor)
Kay Summer (Turbulence editor)
Naomi Klein
Katja Kipping (Member of the German Bundestag)
Ulla Jelpke (Spokeswoman for internal affairs of the faction DIE LINKE in the Bundestag)
Alexis Passadakis (Member of the Coordination Committee of Attac Germany)

Dr. Simon Lewis (University of Leeds and UN accredited science advisor in COP15)
Emma Dowling (Lecturer, University of London)
Ingo Stutzle (editor, ak – analyse & kritik)
Zoe Young (writer and film maker)
Friends of the Earth International

To add your signature:

Luca Tornatore isn’t only our friend. He is a scientific researcher at the Department of Physics at the University of Trieste. He is a scientist, one who combines passion and a desire to change the world to his scientific skills. These are the ingredients that pushed him to go to Copenhagen together with hundreds of Italian environmentalists. Luca is in Copenhagen to demand climatic justice, to participate in the Climate Forum and to network with others who believe that the environmental emergency must be faced beginning from a democratization of decision-making and not through delegating the question to those who started the problem in the first place or to those who are worsening it.

Luca Tornatore was arrested, together with many others for having participated in a debate. Luca, like hundreds of others, committed no crime. His arrest was confirmed based not on evidence, but only to punish his political involvement, his public visibility and his skills.This would be laughable but what is happening in Copenhagen is unprecedented. People are being stopped randomly on the streets, being preventively arrested (an already noted monstrous device of the state of exception) without any shame. More than 1500 arrests have been made, nearly all completely unjustified. Copenhagen, an ex-symbol of social-democracy, has been transformed into a police state.

We demand the immediate release of Dr. Luca Tornatore, above all for his innocence, but also because the suspension of the state of right, the provocations and the lies make Luca’s absence intolerable for all of us that sincerely share his worries for the future of our planet.

Trieste – Venice, 15 December 2009

Please sign and circulate:

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Filed under activism, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests

Free the Belgrade Six!

About the Case

On Saturday, September 4, 2009,  five* political activists were arrested in Belgrade on trumped up charges. The five, Tadej Kurepa, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac, and Nikola Mitrović, are activists in or associates of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, the Serbian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA). (*The sixth person sought by police, Ivan Savić, was also arrested some days later.)

The arrests are allegedly related to a direct action which took place at the Greek Embassy on August 25. Negligible damage was done: a crack in one window, a tiny burn mark on the facade and a circled A graffiti on the embassy as a act of symbolic solidarity with Thodoros Iliopoulos. The prosecutor however imagines this as an act of “international terrorism” and would like to charge our comrades with such. If the state allows such charges to be pressed, they could be facing 3-15 years in prison.

For more information on the ASI and the case, read this interview with a Slovenian anarchist. Here is an excerpt:

– What influence does the ASI have in Serbia?

As we all know, this is a small organization, yet it has a great influence on society. They have been gaining influence in public opinion, among workers and have been shown to be the only alternative to other unions. They were very effective and persistent with anarchist propaganda, with its principles, tactics and aims, not only among the working class, also among students, teachers, etc.. We firmly believe that this is the main reason for the arrest and we assume that the Serbian intelligence service is behind the entire process.

In addition I would add that the ASI not only has an influence in Serbia, but in many Balkan countries. As these countries do not have anarcho-syndicalist organizations (with exception in Croatia) for the moment, they are the reference. The ASI has put much effort in recent years in the need for a anarchosyndicalist organization.

– What has been the reaction of the Serbian people?

Many kindred organizations have expressed solidarity with the comrades and also public figures (film directors, journalists, writers, etc.).. Also university professors and some leftist groups. As said, the ASI is far more influential than the rest of Europe thinks.

– What is the current status of other anti-order groups in Serbia?

As I said before, the Serbian state has very repressive policies. One of the most active struggles today is anti-fascism and one of the few where all organizations are quite united. This is so because fascism is very strong in Serbia, including in the parliament.

 Notably, the fascist movement tends to focus its campaign against the anarcho-syndicalism. For example, just a couple weeks ago when they made a strong campaign against the ASI. I would dare to say that Serb fascism does not focus their struggle against liberal anti-fascism. Its real enemy is anarcho-syndicalism, demonstrating, and I never get tired of repeating it, the great work he has done by the ASI.

 In fact, ASI was the catalyst in the BAFI (Belgrade Antifascist Initiative).

You can also keep updated on the case here.

What you can do

The ASI/Free the Belgrade Six solidarity website has an easy-to-use form for emailing a protest letter to high Serbian officials, including the president and prime minister. You can access it here. You can write your own message in the form or send the following prepared text:

We are writing to demand the immediate release of Tadej Kurep, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac and Nikola Mitrović, arrested Sept. 4 in Belgrade on absurd grounds. The prosecutor’s assertations are clearly ridiculous. It seems perfectly clear that this case has been politicized and a show case is being made out of a minor incident. In the meanwhile, the state continues to deflect attention away from the institutionalized violence inflicted daily through war, policing and exploitation, which is the real terror of daily life for millions around the globe. We will not stand by idly as people who fight for social justice are repressed based on their history of political activism. We will campaign for the release of these activists and for the end of state repression.

The Serbian original of the following open letter can be accessed here; thanks to Comrade A. for sending us the English translation.

Open letter from a group of intellectuals concerning the court trial against six anarchists

The Indictment of Anarchists for Terrorism Is a Political Trial

The alleged throwing of two burning beer bottles at the Greek embassy was qualified as an extremely serious crime by the public prosecutor’s office on November 3, 2009. Six proven anti-fascists are thus accused of no more and no less than international terrorism! A group for monitoring the trial against the six anarchists has initiated a petition, collecting signatures under an open letter that aims to bring to public attention the fact that what we are faced with is in fact a political trial. The text of the letter has been endorsed by numerous intellectuals.

The group for monitoring the trial against six anarchists

On September 3 and 4, 2009, Ivan Vulović (24), Sanja Dojkić (19), Ivan Savić (25), Ratibor Trivunac (28), Tadej Kurepa (24), and Nikola Mitrović (29) were arrested by the police. They were arrested under suspicion that they perpetrated the criminal act of causing general danger by throwing “Molotov cocktails” at the Greek embassy building. 24 hours later the state prosecutor’s office changed its qualification of the alleged act from “causing general danger” to “criminal act of international terrorism”. We fear that this was an arbitrary interpretation of the Criminal Code and a case of its instrumentalization for quotidian political purposes.

It is necessary to state the social context in which all this is happening. Historical revisionism is becoming more and more normalized, and legal rehabilitations of Nazi collaborators from World War II are on the agenda. The equation of leftist and far-right political ideas is a consequence. In the year 2009 alone we have witnessed the escalation of violence: as a consequence, one foreign citizen was killed, and numerous threats of violence have been made by the fascist groups. All of this has met with a mild reaction on the part of state prosecutors and the police. To name just one example: in the days leading up to the gay pride parade, the threats of physical liquidation of the gay population were termed mere “polemical tones” by the state’s representative.

The state has been brought to a situation where a confrontation with the violent right-wing groups that it initially nurtured (but which have long since metastasized) seems unavoidable, if only just an illusionary confrontation. And yet the state finds its scapegoat on the left, penalizing it with draconian measures to establish a quasi-balance and thus present itself as “just” (as “restrained”) by opposing wo equally dangerous extremes.

We live in a state where there is no guarantee that a person will be prosecuted for his or her incitement of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred. In all these years, members of the clerico-fascist organization Obraz (which has been operating without interference since 1993) and the Serbian national movement 1389 (which presents itself as “patriotic” while maintaining close contacts with Russian fascist organizations) have not been held criminally liable for their acts, which have included threats against the LGBT community and numerous attacks and beatings of its members. Goran Davidović (aka “Fuehrer”), leader of the neo-Nazi organization Nacionalni stroj, was allowed to openly mock the legal system of the Republic of Serbia when he successfully appealed the guilty verdict in his case, basing his challenge on the fact that trial documents were written in the Latin alphabet.

We also need to remind ourselves of the fact that in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia the act of international terrorism is equated with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against the civilian population, organization and incitement of genocide, war crimes, and aggressive war. We live in a country that for decades now has been dominated by the national-chauvinist discourse and where even today it is debated whether there was a genocide in Srebrenica or not, or whether mass war crimes in Kosovo even happened.

The willingess of the prosecutor’s office to qualify two thrown beer bottles in the same way as the most horrific crimes known to humanity represents a devaluation of these crimes and is a symptom of the deeply degenerated value system that made such an accusation possible.

On the night of October 23-24, R.K. (17), N.H. (18), and I.F. (19) were arrested in Vršac. The reason for their arrest was that they had been pasting up posters with the slogan “Freedom for arrested anarchists” written on them. A criminal case was initiated against these young people: they are accused of “obstruction of justice” (Article 336b of the Criminal Code). They are threatened with three years in prison if found guilty. Despite the fact that the original stated intention of including this paragraph in the Criminal Code was to combat right-wing extremism, what we see again is a crackdown on the left.

We think that the reason that a political indictment of this kind could even be produced lies in the influence the political parties have on the representative and judicial branches of the government (one example is the fact that judges are re-elected by the High Council for Legal Affairs, whose members are nominated by the parliament). The Venice Commission in the Council of Europe and the European Commision have both already pointed to this arrangement as controversial.

Taking into account Article 10 of the European Declaration of Human Rights, we do not hesitate to openly state that all the circumstances of this case clearly lead us to conclude that in its essence the trial against the six young people is a political trial. That is why we demand the withdrawal of this senseless indictment.

10 December 2009

Signed by:

Aleksej Kišjuhas, Borka Pavićević, Dragomir Olujić, Goran Despotović, Jovo Bakić, Ljubiša Rajić, Ljubomir Živkov, Pavel Domonji, Sonja Biserko, Sonja Drljević, Srbijanka Turajlić, Staša Zajović, Svetlana Lukić, Svetlana Vuković, Todor Kuljić, Nebojša Spaić, Vera Marković, Vesna Rakić Vodinelić, Vladimir Ilić, Zagorka Golubović, Zoran Petakov, Želimir Žilnik 


Filed under activism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, trade unions

Blue-Collar Blues (Tallinn)

Blue-Collar Blues

Kunsthalle Tallinn & Gallery of Kunsthalle
December 22, 2009 – January 31, 2010

Exhibition opening: MONDAY, December 21 at 6 pm
Performing at the opening: Paul Cole & The Great Outdoors!!!

Artists: Art Center for Dismissed Employees, Francis Alÿs, Fahim Amir & Krõõt Juurak, Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler, Dénes Farkas, Vladan Jeremić & Rena Rädle, Johnson ja Johnson, Olga Jürgenson, Kennedy Browne, Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta, Marge Monko, Eléonore de Montesquiou , Santiago Sierra
Curator: Anders Härm

Give me a job, give me security
give me a chance to survive
I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line
my god, I’m hardly alive

Styx, “Blue-Collar Man” (Long Nights), 1977

The direct and most immediate motivation for this exhibition is the new “more flexible” Employment Contracts Act that came into force on July 1st of this year, and the disputes revolving around it for the past two years. In the middle of November, the number of unemployed in the country with 1.3 million inhabitants rose above 100,000. At the same time, this law is a result of large-scale global processes, a symptom of systemic global neoliberalization. These processes, which have lasted for the last half century and are the focus of this exhibition, have resulted in changes in work relations, the nature of production and salaried labor as well as the economy as a whole. Labor issues affect everyone – if only indirectly – and therefore a direct relationship exists with them (as opposed to global cash flow movements or the real estate bubble related thereto). This is a topic in which class conflict break through the post-political haze and is articulated fervently, quite uncharacteristically of the administrative-political era. This is also occurring with increasing momentum in Estonia, where we are slowly overcoming the post-Soviet false shame related to trade unions, workers’ rights, etc. The time is ripe to talk about these topics! It’s time for Blue-Collar Blues.

Through symbolic gestures, direct actions, as well as relational projects, the Blue-Collar Blues exhibition attempts to give meaning to labor issues at a time that can rightfully be called global  capitalism’s greatest crisis. In the course of 20 years, we have become aware that we live in a world where attempts at governance are based on a combination of global “free market” dictatorship and neoliberalism as the only possible philosophy of life, where democracy has just become a hollow colloquial phrase. This is a world, where, on the one hand, a fatal end is predicted for work, while an attempt is being made to show the uncertainty and instability of the labor market as a positive challenge. This is a world where initiative and business are equated. Creativity is one of the favorite expressions of this new mutation of capitalism, which is required under conditions where any and all creativity is precluded. This is a world where every employment relationship may develop into something resembling slavery. This is capitalism without part-time work opportunities or social guarantees, where the employer’s expenditures for the workers are minimal, while the profits are maximal. This is a world that, despite resounding slogans and promises, has arrived at the most serious crisis of its existence.

Since labor issues are universal in some sense, being densely integrated under conditions of globalization, the geographic range of this exhibition is also broad, reaching from Latin America to Eastern Europe and from the Balkans to the Nordic countries. Naturally, those participating in the exhibition include great international names like Francis Alÿs and Santiago Sierra, Oliver Ressler and Kennedy Browne, as well as a large number of younger Estonian artists, whose works deal with these topics. All the Estonian artists are producing new works especially for this exhibition, which are motivated by local issues. The exhibition’s focus is on labor relations, the psychological and social changes caused by the changes in these relations, and the more general situation of workers under conditions of neoliberal capitalism.

Several additional events will also take place at the Kunsthalle during the exhibition. On Saturday, January 16th at 9 pm, a performance by Krõõt Juurak and Fahim Amir, entitled Autodomestication, will take place, which deals with the situation of “creative workers” in the labor market. Since Estonian trade unions, politicians and social scientists are involved in the exhibition project, in order to try and better understand labor issues, a seminar entitled “The Position of the Citizens in Labor Relations” will take place at the Kunsthalle on Friday, January 22nd at 12 noon. The main participants are political scientist Oudekki Loone and sociologist Marju Lauristin. The panelists include Harri Taliga, Tarmo Kriis, Eiki Nestor, Raul Eamets, Allar Jõks, and others. Within the framework of the exhibition, another event in the Porotfolio Café series will take on Saturday, January 30th at 12 noon, in which art students will be offered free consultations and feedback from international curators, and some of the artists that are participating in the exhibitions, such as Eleonore de Montesquiou, Tellervo and Oliver Kalleinen, as well as from older colleagues and Estonian specialists.

Press release prepared by:
Anders Härm
More information:

We express our thanks to the following: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Center for Contemporary Art, Estonia, Art Museum of Estonia, Austrian Embassy in Tallinn, Irish Arts Council, Irish Embassy in Tallinn, Annemarie Reichen and the Peter Kilchmann Gallery in Zurich, Elena Crippa and Lisson Gallery in London, FRAME, Caoimhin Corrigan, Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Marko Stamenkovic.

Seminar is supported by  Open Estonia Foundation

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, trade unions

Eight Protest Bystanders Charged with Multiple Felonies after UC Demo

Eight protest bystanders charged with multiple felonies after UC demo


UC Berkeley student, Marika Iyer —
Other student Organizers of Live Week:
Laura Zelko, student organizer with Live Week:
Callie Maidhof, student organizer with Live Week:

UC Police arrested 8 more people – many whom eyewitnesses say had not been engaging in any illegal activity – on the final night of a 5-day, 24-hour-a day “Live Week” open university, held by Cal students and faculty to protest and provide an alternative to the “dead week” at the end of the semester resulting from recent furloughs and budget cuts. The final event of the week, a free performance featuring Boots Riley, a hip hop artist from The Coup, had to be moved at the last minute after a morning police raid on Wheeler Hall, the primary site for “Live Week” activities.

Some 200 students gathered for the concert at the UC Berkeley campus from UC Davis, SF State, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA as well as Berkeley. Following the concert, which had been interrupted by police cars constantly circling the area, some of the attendees joined a night march that left campus for the residence of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Some of the protesters carried torches to light up the path, they said. Some dragged newspaper boxes into the street.

“Regardless of what one thinks about the events of last night, the minor vandalism that occurred cannot be viewed outside the context of the physical violence inflicted by police on student activists and the broader assault on public education,” said Callie Maidhof, a student organizer with Live Week.

Many of the marchers were upset about the arrests that had been made earlier that day, when police stormed into a building where students had been holding Live Week events since Monday. Sixty-five people who had been sleeping or studying were loaded onto Alameda County Sheriff’s buses during the cold pre-dawn hours, some of them barefoot and wearing only their underwear. Most of the students were given misdemeanor trespassing charges and released by the afternoon, but some say they’re fearful of additional charges that either the District Attorney or the UC administration could add on in the coming year.

Police swooped down on the activists in front of University House around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, resulting in pandemonium as the students and other activists dispersed in all directions.

“When everyone is running, you don’t think that clearly. My friends and I were trying to leave because things were getting out of hand,” said Jobert Poblete, a Cal alumni who participated in the march.

Poblete was split up from his friends, who ran into the woods near Strawberry Creek. Police then swept up Carwil James, 34, a visiting Ph.D student from City University in New York.

“Carwil hadn’t been doing anything at the time. Now he’s in jail on his birthday, and they just raised his bail from $50,000 to $132,000. There’s no way we can raise that much money. This is a travesty,” said Poblete.

David Morse, 41, an independent journalist, was filming the demonstration and police response when he was arrested, said witnesses.

“They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a student who observed the chaos when police arrived at the chancellor’s house and declined to give their name. “Not all of the protesters were students at Cal – but the issue here is larger than tuition hikes anyway. It’s about the state of public education and neoliberalism in the US and abroad.”

Eleven people arrested at student demonstrations during the past week remain in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

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Islands in the Stream, Terrorists in the Attics, and Trees on the Chopping Block

Three more dispatches from various fronts of the war being waged by “developers” and bureaucrats against Saint Petersburg and its citizens. Continue reading

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Alexei Etmanov: An Appeal for Solidarity with Russian Auto Workers

The following solidarity appeal by Alexei Etmanov, co-chair of Russia’s Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), to Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, was published on the ITUA website yesterday. You can read the original text in Russian here, as well as download the English translation (which we have reproduced below) for redistribution and reposting.  The IMF has previously expressed their solidarity with the ITUA. You can read more about that here.

Jyrki Raina
General Secretary
International Metalworkers’ Federation
Geneva, Switzerland 

Dear Brother,

More than once did Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA) receive brotherly support and solidarity from the IMF and its affiliates. However, worsening situation with basic labour rights in Russia forces us to turn to IMF again.

Recently ITUA shop floor organizations and their members have faced increasing pressure from government authorities, particularly from the local Departments for the Prevention of Extremism created by the Investigative Committee at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, local Prosecutor’s Offices themselves and from the Departments of Internal Affairs. Pressure from employers has also increased. It is our view that this pressure is aimed at suppressing ITUA activities at the national level and destroying shop floor organizations created by workers.

We would like to draw your attention to the following facts.

What raises special concern is the fact that a number of leaflets issued and distributed by the activists of the ITUA union at Tsentrosvarmash plant in Tver, Russia were included in the ‘Federal List of Extremist Materials’, composed by the Ministry of Justice. [Editor’s note: these materials are indeed on the list under nos. 439, 441—444, 446—447.] The materials were deemed ‘extremist’ by Zavolzhsky District Court in Tver on August 28, 2009, but ITUA representatives were not informed of that case. Union members learned about the court ruling only after the ‘List of Extremist Materials’ had been published on the official web page of the Ministry of Justice. To date, union activists still haven’t been able to get hold of the court ruling – that’s why they can’t challenge it in court. As for the leaflets, they solely deal with labour rights protection: creating shop floor organization, demanding fair payment for night work, union’s anti-crisis programme, and fight against precarious employment.

Federal Security Service (FSS), a Russian special service, considered initiating a case against Dmitry Kozhnev, chairman of the Tsentrosvarmash union, under item 1 of article 280 (‘Public call for extremist activity’) of the Russian Criminal Code. This didn’t happen. However, in April and June Kozhnev was summoned by FSS for ‘interviews’. FSS officials didn’t give him the case materials, but asked him to sign post factum about ten official notices on the dismissal of a criminal case.

Instead of protecting the union from rights violations and employer’s repressions, Tver Prosecutor’s Offices themselves put pressure on union activists who create shop floor organizations. Thus, in November 2009 activists of the unions at Tver Wagon Building plant and Tsentrosvarmash V. Kornilov, D. Kozhnev, E. Vinogradov, V. Sergeev and V. Kremko were summoned by Zavolzhsky District Prosecutor’s Office for giving testimony (the summons were given by employers). Activists were asked questions about the procedure of creating shop floor organizations, their activities, number and names of their members, preparing and distributing union materials, union leaders’ travels and meetings.

In October 2009 ITUA co-chairman and the chairman of the union at AvtoVAZ plant in Togliatti, Russia Petr Zolotarev was twice summoned by the Department for the Prevention of Extremism (so‑called Center ‘E’) prior to the mass protests organized by the union. Center ‘E’ officials questioned Zolotarev about the union’s planned activities. They also asked who will take part in those activities, what demands will be made and who will address the protesters. In July 2009 Zolotarev was returning by train from a union meeting in Moscow. When the train approached the station ‘Zhigulevskoe More’, several Center ‘E’ officials joined Zolotarev in his compartment. They questioned him about his trip and meetings in Moscow. Zolotarev feels that he’s been under surveillance all the time.

In February 2009 chairman of ITUA union at GM Auto plant in Saint-Petersburg, Russia Evgeny Ivanov was also summoned by Center ‘E’, where the officers tried to induce him to ‘cooperate’. For them ‘cooperation’ meant informing Center ‘E’ about the work of the plant and the activities of the unions in the city and the surrounding area. The same offer was made to ITUA co-chairman and the chairman of the union at Ford MC plant in Vsevolozhsk, Russia Alexei Etmanov.

In the meantime, union members and activists face ongoing pressure from employers. After the union organized so-called ‘Italian strikes’ (work-by-the-rules) on October 21 and November 11-20 at GM Auto plant in Saint-Petersburg (the demands were: switching premiums for the increases in guaranteed pay, pay increases, more freedom in using holiday time, abolishment of summarized annual recording of the working time and introduction of 40-hour work week), chairman of the union at the plant Evgeny Ivanov and union activist O. Shafikova were fired. Union activists A. Tsaregorodsev and I. Dorosevich face increasing pressure (the administration forced them to combine tasks without additional payment, moved them to unfamiliar work site and took disciplinary action against them). Management representatives propagandize against the union at shop floors.

Prosecutor’s Offices and other authorities don’t take any action regarding employers’ illegal activities. Over a year ago many ITUA leaders and shop floor activists were physically assaulted, but the investigation still hasn’t resulted in anything at all.

All these facts raise serious concern about the fate of ITUA, its shop floor organizations, activists and members. All-Russian Confederation of Labour (ACL) has prepared a detailed report based on the evidence of trade union rights violations, ITUA cases included. A complaint to ILO against Russian Federation is being prepared. However, the situation changes very fast, and in the unfavorable direction. This is why we turn to the IMF, asking to look for an effective response to the attack against its affiliate. We ask IMF to launch a global campaign of solidarity with ITUA.

Help and support from the international labour movement, particularly from our brotherly unions welded together by the IMF can secure the survival of our organization and the personal safety of its members and activists today.

We are ready to answer any questions regarding the facts mentioned above and render to IMF all the additional materials we have on this case.

In Solidarity,

Alexei Etmanov,
Co-Chairman, ITUA

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“Pugovka”: A Film about the Battle to Reopen the European University

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This film by Ilya Utekhin, an ethnologist at the European University in Saint Petersburg, documents the closure of the university in February 2008 by fire inspectors and the vigorous, highly creative campaign on the part of students, faculty, and their supporters (at home and abroad) to reopen it. The university was in fact reopened on March 21, 2008.

In Russian, without English subtitles, but certainly worth a look even if you don’t understand Russian. Running time is 44 minutes. The title refers to a song by the great Russian bard singer Yuli Kim, which you will see him performing live at the end of the film.

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