AntiNote: Just days after the speeches featured here were delivered, the string of arrests and torture of anarchists in Russia continued. Meanwhile, the first “Network” trials approach, and solidarity and legal defense efforts are still building.
Check out the above links and those at the end of this post for more context on these specific depredations of the Russian state. But we are reproducing these speeches here now, several months later, because of the broader historical observations within them. They help us glimpse both a past and a future, neither of which is pretty, and which many leftists and liberals, both inside and outside Russia, seem unwilling to face.
Let us please pay heed to this testimony as the “multi-polar” fascist Internationale continues to gather force—perhaps then we can begin to resist rather than get swept up in its current.
We have to understand that this Russian case is not a far-away exotic reality. If twenty years ago the image of the post-Soviet world was one of “catching up” with the so-called “West,” the imagination draws an absolutely opposite picture today: post-Soviet Russia is the future of Western Europe.
More than 150 people marched through the East End of London on Saturday, 19 January 2019, to voice solidarity with antifascists in Russia. 19 January was the tenth anniversary of the killing in Moscow of two prominent Russian antifascists – Stanislav Markelov, a lawyer, and Anastasia Baburova, a journalist. The date was marked by demonstrations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kyiv and other cities in Russia and Ukraine.
The event expressed solidarity with eleven Russian antifascists who have been tortured in detention after their arrests in the so-called “Network” case. These young people have been beaten up, struck repeatedly with electric shockers (like cattle prods), hung upside down and suffocated by security services officers.
The London event started at the Cable Street mural, which commemorates the “battle of Cable Street” in 1936, when the fascists were driven out of the East End. It ended at Altab Ali Park, named after a young Bangladeshi textile worker killed by fascists in 1978.
Right-wing radicalism grows from social injustice, M. from Russia said to the marchers in a speech before they set out. “As long as we have rich and poor, people will be angry,” he said. Those in power try to turn that anger against refugees and migrants; we need to turn that anger against the people in power.
Rosa, another Russian comrade, said the “Network” case was seen by many in Russia as “a contemporary caricature of a Stalinist show trial.” It is a manifestation of an “‘antifascist’ fascism” that “the Russian state is also promoting abroad.” The Russian state “tries to appear as a decolonial counter-power to US hegemony in the world […] it is this ‘antifascist’ fascism that also led the Russian state to Syria.” [Speeches in full below.]
Olesya, from Ukraine, told the demonstrators about the campaign to release about a hundred Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, including the filmmaker and writer Oleg Sentsov, and anarchist activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, from Crimea. She spoke of the terrifying similarity between the methods of torture used against them, and the methods used in the “Network” case. We need to build solidarity between different campaigns that have a target in common, the Russian government, she said.
Dimitris from Greece said that rightwing radicalism was using issues such as the re-naming of Macedonia to mobilize large street demonstrations. Thugs from such a rally had attacked and destroyed a squatted social center, Libertatia, in Thessaloniki last year. An evening benefit gig raised funds both for the “Network” case defense and to support Libertatia.
A message of support from the Jewish Socialist Group extended “solidarity to those fighting repression” in Russia today, from “Jewish socialists in Britain today, many of whom are descended from families who emigrated or fled to London’s East End from discrimination and oppression in the Tsarist Russian Empire, and as political descendants of the Bund – the Jewish workers’ movement that fought for a better Russia.”
The London event was supported by: Anarchist Communist Group, Anarchist Federation, Brighton Anti-Fascists, Bristol Anti-Fascists, Brazilian Women against Fascism, Feminist Fightback, Labour Briefing, London Anti-Fascists, London Anarchist Black Cross, North London Anti-Fascists, Plan C London and RS21. —Gabriel Levy
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Speech by Rosa, a Russian comrade
We gather here to express our solidarity with eleven Russian antifascists and anarchists arrested in a fabricated case between October 2017 and February 2018 in Russia.
It has been brought to light that some of the defendants were tortured by the Russian security service officers, and forced to learn by heart testimony to incriminate themselves, to admit to belonging to a terrorist organization “The Network.”
The Russian Federal Security Service tortured some of the defendants in minibuses, and in solitary confinement cells in the investigating officers’ premises. They applied naked wires to the activists’ various body parts and turned the electricity on. They beat them up, and hung them upside down.
One of the defendants said that he was tortured in the minibus for about five hours, until he was able to recite a statement confessing to crimes. His bloodstained hat and trousers, which the defense demanded be put into the case file, suddenly disappeared.
The “Network” case defendants are awaiting trial in 2019.
State violence against anarchists and anti-fascists, the criminalization of any kind of protest activity in general and of the radical left in particular, is not something new in Russia. Even the fabrication of cases is a very well-known strategy.
We saw a similar level of repression after one of the biggest demonstrations in Russia since the 1990s, on May 6, 2012 at Bolotnaya square in Moscow. Back then, more than thirty people, including antifascists and anarchists, were officially accused of an alleged massive riot and alleged violence against police.
Back then, an international campaign of solidarity helped to release some of them from prison and significantly reduce their prison terms.
What is new in the “Network” case is the use of torture and a fabricated narrative about a radical underground, which to many in Russia appear as a contemporary caricature of a Stalinist show trial.
It is a caricature, because nowadays, the Russian security services do not recognize a difference between the fascists and the antifascists. In April 2018, a Russian state TV channel showed a documentary about the “Network” case, in which a narrator claims that the “Network” was modeled on the Ukrainian far-right organization “Right Sector.”
It is this fascist “antifascism” that the Russian state is also promoting abroad. It frightens the Western public with the Ukrainian fascists, and tries to appear as a decolonial counter-power to US hegemony in the world.
It is this “antifascist” fascism that also led the Russian state to Syria. And it is this “antifascist” fascism that tries to blur the difference between the left and the right by all means, and between a plotted conspiracy and a real protest.
However, we have to understand that this Russian case is not a far-away exotic reality. If twenty years ago the image of the post-Soviet world was one of “catching up” with the so-called “West,” the imagination draws an absolutely opposite picture today: post-Soviet Russia is the future of Western Europe, the shameful future of a capitalist society that went through a series of geopolitical, economic, and political crises, severe austerity measures, and a rapid dismantling of the welfare state.
The deeper the economic crisis is, the more aggressive the response of the state to activism is; the more severe the cuts and austerity measures are, the more brutal the forms of racialization of the poor and criminalization of protest are.
And the less we resist such policies as “Prevent” in schools and at universities, the less we resist racist abuse at the workplace and on the streets, the less we resist the rise of the far-right and xenophobia in Europe, the greater the consequences are.
All of the brutalities mentioned can be legitimized by law. And they may well be interpreted in such a way that we will soon be able to see some bureaucrat at work, concocting stories about radicalization, the underground, and the conspiracy against the state.
We’ve been told that there are West and East, we and they, democracy and barbarity, the developed and the developing countries, mature capitalism and wild capitalism.
But the rhetoric of “catching-up capitalism” masks from the very beginning one simple and unattractive fact: since the countries of the former Eastern Bloc became a part of global capitalism, they showed all the features and the future of neoliberal modernity in advance.
In this capitalist train of “catching up” ideology, post-Soviet Russia is the passenger who is running ahead: it shows the brutality of what is to come if no one is going to stop this train.
Solidarity with the Russian antifascists is the solidarity against the brutality of this crushing train.
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Speech by M. from Russia
Hi. Ten years ago, Russian human rights advocate and journalist Stanislav Markelov, and journalist Anastasia Baburova, were shot and killed by a Russian ultra-nationalists.
I tried to write a speech that will show you how important Stas Markelov was for our movement, but it seems impossible to include everything in five minutes.
On 30 November 2008, Stas made a speech at the meeting against political terror in Moscow. I decided to read it for you, because it describes perfectly Stas himself and the overall situation in Russia at that time.
I’m in a strange position. It turns out that I’m the lawyer of all the people who wound up in these awful stories. And I’m tired.
I’m tired of coming across the names of people I know on the crime pages. […]
I’m tired of opening up a criminal case and seeing that the first point in the list of charges is that the accused is a member of the antifa movement. People not only have charges filed against them for this, they are arrested and put in jail, just like [Alexei] Osinov right now.
I’m tired of reading the crime pages and scanning lists of victims. This is how I found out about [anti-fascist activist Fyodor] Filatov, who was recently murdered outside his home. This is no longer a job, but a question of survival. Whereas Mikhail Beketov needs blood right now, all of us need protection [Beketov was a journalist who supported an environmentalist campaign to protect the Khimki forest from destruction by road builders. In November 2008 he was attacked in his home, suffering brain damage and loss of a leg. He died in 2013. —GL]. We need protection from Nazis. We need protection from the mafia-like authorities. We even need protection from the law enforcement agencies, who often just serve them. We all need protection.
And we know perfectly well that, besides ourselves, no one is ever going to give us this protection. Not God, not the Tsar, not the law, no one. Only we ourselves. And only when we manage to march shoulder to shoulder will we be able to protect each other, only then will we make a breakthrough. I hope that this will happen. Otherwise we’ve gathered here in vain.
Only two months after this speech, on 19 January, Stas was murdered.
It’s hard to make a list of all the things that he did for the left movement in Russia. He took part in human rights conferences and social forums, trying to unite the ideas of human rights and social justice. He defended leftist and antifascist activists throughout Russia. He defended environmentalists, whose protest camps were attacked by local administrations, law enforcement officials, and legal and illegal armed units. He defended trade union activists. He defended members of the Belorussian opposition. He was practically the only Russian lawyer who worked on controversial cases in Chechnya. He also represented victims of the Nord-Ost and Blagoveshchensk terrorist attacks.
He and Anastasia Baburova were killed in the middle of the day in the very center of Moscow.
Someone might say that Nastya was just a random victim, but I would not agree on that. Her ideals and her choices led her to that place in that time. She was a brave person who combined activism with journalism. That day, after the shots targeting Markelov, she could have run, but she decided to turn around and try to stop the attacker. She was killed.
Stanislav Markelov as a lawyer was involved in so many hot cases that at first it was hard to say exactly who might have pulled the trigger. But at the end he had been killed by Nazis. Stas and Nastya were killed by a neo-Nazi organization called BORN. This organization was formed by people who had the desire to kill, and they made it real. As a result, BORN murdered multiple enemies of their imaginary happy white pride future.
It’s obvious that such right-wing radicals do not come from nothing. They need a basis to grow from. And this basis is social injustice. As long as we have rich and poor, people will be angry. Those in power try to turn our anger against refugees and immigrants as an easy target. But it will never solve anything, it only brings more problems and pain.
We need to turn our anger on people in power, on those who start wars and destroy our planet for profits. To stop racist killings, we need to put an end to capitalism.
Stas and Nastya both knew that. Everything they did was for that. And eventually they gave their lives for that. Now it’s up to us to make the rest of the world see the bigger picture, to give people the knowledge so they can fight for themselves everyday.
Let’s not forget Stas and Nastya’s struggle.
Antifascism is an action. To remember is to fight.
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Featured image: The 20 January 2019 solidarity rally in London, with the Cable Street mural in the background
More on solidarity with Russian antifascists:
The Rupression website, supporting the “Network” case defendants