Two years ago a wave of terror against social activists and journalists rolled over Russia. Newspaper editor and activist Mikhail Beketov was severely beaten in Khimki. In Moscow, persons unknown attacked sociologist and activist Carine Clément. In Vsevolozhsk (Leningrad Region), independent trade union leader Alexei Etmanov was also attacked by unknown assailants on multiple occasions. In Yakutia, trade union activist Valentin Urusov was framed by local police on a drugs charge, tried, and sentenced to several years in prison. In response to this terror, social activists held a demonstration at Chistye Prudy in Moscow that was attended by a few hundred people.
Two years have passed. Police have still not identified and arrested the people who assaulted Beketov, Clément, and Etmanov. Valentin Urusov is still serving time in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Today we are witnessing a repeat of the events of two years ago. Environmentalist Konstantin Fetisov has been severely beaten in Khimki. Unknown assailants have attacked and severely beaten journalist Oleg Kashin. The authorities are trying to frame antifascist activists for crimes they did not commit. In Zhukovsky, thugs beat up journalist Anatoly Adamchuk.
We believe that these new tragedies are the result of apathy in our society, which two years ago was unable to force authorities to find and punish the guilty parties in those dark events. The time has come to put an end to this, for if this time the criminals are not found, the atmosphere of impunity will untie the hands of all other scumbags once and for all. Instead of being shocking exceptions, these acts of terror will become a matter of everyday practice.
At 2:00 p.m. on November 14 we ask you to come join us at Chistye Prudy in Moscow. We realize that there is no point in long speeches. It is unlikely that anyone can learn something new, something that has not been published in the Internet. And so we suggest that you bring with you anything that can make a lot of noise as a symbol of your rage and indignation.
Silence and calm is exactly the reaction aimed for by those who jail, cripple, and murder people who disagree with the existing order.
Russia: Stop attacks on auto workers union
Alexei Etmanov (pictured), the leader of the Ford-Vsevelozhsk trade union and co-chairman of Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA) has been the target of two brutal attacks on November 8 and 13. An anonymous caller following the first assault contacted the union and warned Etmanov to stop his union activities or “we will take away your life,” the caller said. No one has been charged for the crimes and an investigation has been suspended. Other members of ITUA have been assaulted, including the leaders of the local trade union organisation of Taganrog automobile plant, Alexei Gramm and Sergei Brizgalov. Those incidents were not investigated either.
The International Metalworkers Federation is carrying out a campaign to protect the leaders of ITUA, demanding that the Russian authorities conduct a complete investigation of all cases of the assaults and to punish the guilty ones – both those that took part and those who ordered the crimes to be committed.
Please follow the link at the top of this message to sign the petition in support of Russian auto industry unionists.
We here at Chtodelat News are pleased to announce the launch of an important new online resource for social activists in Russia and those of you who read Russian and are interested in keeping abreast of how the fight for civil, labor, environmental, housing and human rights is going in the world’s largest country. Dvizhenie—“(The) Movement”—is the brainchild of three friends and allies: Artem Marchenkov, Vlad Tupikin, and Alexander Bikbov. In recognition of their timely hard work, we are pleased to publish a translation of an essay by Alexander Bikbov that was just posted on Dvizhenie. Bikbov reflects on the recent series of attacks on labor and social activists in Russia and asks the question that should be on everyone’s mind: who stands to gain from these cowardly crimes?
Alexander Bikbov, sociologist
Crimes against Justice: Who Stands to Gain?
The events of the last several days—a series of attacks on [Russian] activists—are acutely alarming. It is not political hierarchs who have been attacked or rival businessmen or professional militants from one or another side of the barricades. No, these attacks have been directed against people who have expressed their sense of fairness and justice publicly: in print and at demonstrations, by defending their own rights and the rights of others, by taking honest, consistent stances at their workplaces. The perpetrators are unidentifiable; their masters are anonymous. These are blows from the dark. Continue reading
End the Terror Against Social Activists in Russia!
Public Statement on the Attacks against Social Activists
Recently, criminal attacks against the leaders of trade union and social movements have clearly increased. Among the latest such incidents, we should note the attacks against Carine Clément, a member of the working group and a leader of the Union of Coordinating Councils; Alexei Etmanov, leader of the labor union at Ford-Vsevolozhsk; Mikhail Beketov, leader of the movement to defend the Khimki Forest; and Sergei Fedotov, leader of the deceived land shareholders of the Moscow Region. In addition, a great many activists fighting the infill construction that is happening in all our cities have been attacked. There have been murders, in particular, of antifascist activists.
This is not a random phenomenon, but a clear trend: active citizens who try to restore justice and defend their legal rights are more and more often subjected to brute force. With no other arguments at its disposal, the opposite resorts to criminal methods. While it is clear that in each situation it is a different group of people who commissions these crimes, the overall tendency demonstrates that excellent conditions for the further escalation of this brutal method of “social dialogue” have been created in Russia today. These conditions include lawlessness, the lack of criminal liability for violations of the law by state officials or members of the ruling elite, universal corruption, and the hypercentralization of authority in the absence of any form of control from below. Many cases of “political” attacks on activists have still not been investigated, and the guilty parties not be found, which gives the assailants a sense of impunity and thus provokes further crimes.
We say, Enough! Continue reading
Knuckledusters as an Instrument of “Social Dialogue” in Contemporary Russia
Who Is Bothered by Alexei Etmanov?
Reprisals against union leaders have, unfortunately, ceased to be merely a part of the ancient history of the trade union movement. They have more and more often become a reality of labor relations in today’s Russia.
On the night of November 8, when Alexei Etmanov, chair of the union committee at Ford-Vsevolozhsk and co-chair of the Russian Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), returned home after his shift, he was attacked by three armed bandits. It is clear that the people who sent them wanted to ensure numerical superiority. Here, however, their calculations ran afoul: Alexei managed to force his attackers, who were armed with knuckledusters, to retreat in shame.
However, in order to dispel any doubts as to the motives for the attack, the “organizers” of this piece of brigandage telephoned another union leader at Ford, Vladimir Lesnik, and threatened reprisals if the Ford unionists “didn’t stop getting in [their] way.”
Over the past two years such attacks have happened more than once: labor activists have been savagely beaten in Kaliningrad, Togliatti, and Taganrog. Each time the targets were union activists who challenged the complete sway of their employers and thus all employers who recognize no one’s rights other than their own sovereign right to dictate the work conditions and the lives of “their” workers. Continue reading
The Fight Is Effective When the Fighters Know How to Defend Themselves
On the night of November 8, Alexei Etmanov, the chair of the trade union committee at the Ford-Vsevolozhsk plant, returned home from the second shift. He parked his car in a lot and headed for his house. On Heroes Street three men jumped in his path and without uttering a word attacked Alexei. They were armed with knuckledusters.
During the tussle, Alexei managed to pull a stun weapon from his pocket and get off a shot. The cloak-and-dagger types beat a hot retreat.
Etmanov told a police investigator that in his opinion the assailants were ordinary “yobs.” However, he turned out to be wrong.
The following day, Etmanov’s deputy, Vladimir Lesik got a call on his mobile phone. The caller warned him that the nighttime incident had nothing to do with robbery or mugging.
“You got a mild chewing-out. But if you keep getting in our way, you’ll part with your life,” the anonymous caller declared.
The combative trade union at Ford-Vsevolozhsk gets in a lot of people’s way—both employers and dealers. And, by establishing the Russian Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), the young workers of Vsevolozhsk have also gotten in the way of employers in Taganrog and Togliatti, as well as those trade union organizations that the authorities use like an “engine whistle” to let off the steam of popular rage.
It is a matter for the police to find out which of these forces attacked a labor leader with knuckledusters.
For our part, we would like to remind our sons of Lenin’s statement that a revolution is worth its salt only when it knows how to defend itself.
Trade union activists are in the process of preparing an appeal to the police to open a criminal investigation. Continue reading
This is the seventh 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.
The entire issue may be downloaded as a .pdf file here. Selected texts may be accessed here.
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We often explain that we will work for “majority” and “conscious” revolutions. Majority: which implies “revolutionary-democratic” processes. […] Conscious: which requires the preparation of the revolutionary rupture by a series of confrontations where the masses go through the experience of the superiority—even partial—of socialist solutions compared to capitalism.
—François Sabado, “Components of Revolutionary Strategy”
Advanced by the workers of the Ford plant in Vsevolozhsk on the eve of the parliamentary elections (in early December 2007), the slogan Don’t Vote! Strike! was a precise and capacious reply to certain vital questions. For example, it became clear what was meant by the “active boycott” to which leftists have long been making abstract appeals. An answer was given to the question, “Which is better: not to go to the polls or to go and invalidate your ballot?” This question has, up until now, been followed by the useless, apathetic answer, “Go or don’t go. Tear up the ballot or don’t tear it up. All the same we’ll be deceived.” A weighty word has also been uttered in the debate about whether there is a working class, and if there is one, who should represent it and how it can be given a voice.