(English translation from Belarusian, link to the original Euroradio.by interview)
Anarchist Mikola Dziadok now lives abroad, and just recently he was in prison, sentenced for actions against government institutions. He answered Euroradio’s questions about who Belarusian anarchists really are, how much they have in common with football fans, why they are not infiltrated by KGB, and what they are trying to achieve by participating in protest actions.
- Do Belarusian anarchists have leaders?
Anarchist definitely don’t have leaders or hierarchical organizations, it goes against core principles of anarchism. We have a whole range of different anarchist initiatives, from charity to media efforts. For example, Anarchist Black Cross helps anarchist and anti-fascist political prisoners; Pramen (“Ray of light”) group works with media and publishes anarchist news; Food Not Bombs is giving food to homeless; there’s Volnaya Dumka (“Free Thought”) library that openly operates in Minsk; and so on. However, most anarchists are not registered with any initiatives or organizations.
- Who are anarho-communists? (that’s how one of the Non-slackers’ March described himself)
There’s no need to overcomplicate this. This name describes people supporting social revolution in general, and specifically, grassroots struggle and direct action by working people defending their rights. When someone in Belarus says they’re an anarchist, typically it follows that they’re an anarcho-communist. The “communist” suffix is explicitly added by people who have studied anarchism extensively and want to highlight the social aspect of their political position.
- Is there a connection between anarchists and football fans?
There might be some football fans among anarchists. But there isn’t any kind of merging or close collaboration. If you’re talking about the football fans that recently got large prison sentences for a fight with fans of another club, they called themselves anti-fascits. That’s not the same as anarchists, it’s completely different notions. Any anarchist is by definition an anti-fascist, but not all anti-fascists are anarchists.
Did the anarchist movement recover after the events in 2010? (In 2010 there was a wave of arrests of most active anarchists in Belarus. They, including Mikola, went to prison for many years, and after that the anarchist movement became significantly less active and visible.)
You can say that after that, anarchist movement went underground for about three years. This kind of mass sweep was new and unexpected, and many of us didn’t know how to deal with that… But recently the movement has resurged. In some ways, we’re not fully recovered, but in others, we’re stronger than we used to be. Compared to 2008-2010, we get very different people joining anarchist ranks. Now it’s people who are ready and prepared for oppression.
- How many people, approximately, are in the anarchist movement?
I won’t tell you that, it’s a secret. Why would I publish information that can be useful for police?
- What are anarchists trying to achieve?
Our long term goal is to build the ideal society without state government. We want our society to be based on direct democracy and self-management of workers. We don’t need state. We want people to resolve all their problems and disagreements in common meetings, assemblies, and in workers councils. At the same time, we want all property, all the society’s resources, to be controlled by the workers. That means collectivization and socialization of private property. I don’t mean that someone’s going to come and collectivize your computer or your socks away, I’m referring to the means of production. This goes hand in hand with our demand to eliminate all sources of inequality between people, including racist and sexist and other kinds of prejudices. In other words, getting rid of all artifical barriers between people.
In the short term, we aim to radicalize the ongoing protests, make them more resolute. No so-called dialogues between protesters and the government. People should stand firmly by their demands and force the government to satisfy them. I don’t think I’d be wrong to include Lukashenko’s resignation in our short term goals, but we go far beyond that.
- Why is government so afraid of anarchists?
I see three reasons. First, anarchists are capable of radical actions. In 2008-2011 there were radical actions, including arsons and sabotage, and the police is aware that anarchists are capable of that. They need to build a database of people capable of radical actions, and at the same time to intimidate these people. That’s why anarchists are getting arrested, primarily to identify them. And this is where police is making a mistake: most of the anarchists going to the protests today want no part in any arsons, they’re not interested in that kind of stuff.
Second reason is that anarchists can’t be controlled. May opposition activists forgive me, but I think that our traditional opposition is heavily infiltrated and influenced by KGB. This is why opposition wastes the momentum of mass protests so often. You only have to remember what happened in 2006. The opposition, in its current form, will never be able to take power, because it’s controlled by KGB. Not directly, but there’s enough indirect influence to render it impotent. Anarchists can’t be controlled this way: without hierarchical structure and leadership, influence of infiltrators is limited to the point of being pointless. The only control that’s left is beatings, detentions, preventative arrests at home. In other words, rough methods.
The third reason, specific to this wave of protests, is that people startedd to actively support anarchists. We saw on February 17 how people wouldn’t let police arrest anachists on a bus stop, applauded to anarchist slogans, took fliers. I was told that on March 15, ordinary people would march beside anarchists and shout our radical slogans like “State is the main enemy”. KGB crooks see that and realize that they have to isolate the radicals from the crowd, from the people, before the people begin to radicalize.
Is it true that anarchists have radicalized the Maidan in Kiev? (Belarusian state TV keeps telling about anarchist training camps, and blames anarchists for starting direct clashes with law enforcement in Ukraine during Maidan in 2014.)
I very much wish that the Ukrainian Maidan were done by anarchists. But that’s not so. It was done by ordinary citizens, and most active of them were nationalists. Anarchists played a very minor role in Maidan, mostly because they participated individually, not as an organized force. There were only a few anarchist tents there.
Regarding militants, vast majority of anarchist activities, maybe 80-90%, is peaceful. Spreading our views, creating social projects, education, charity, and so on. In other words, peaceful dissemination of our view, but the TV is intentionally ignoring that. They’re not going to say that for the past eight years anarchists have been feeding the homeless in several locations in Minsk, they won’t say that anarchists are setting up free education initiatives on different subjects, or anything like that. Instead, they would single out one case of arson, something that happens once in three years, and present that as main anarchist activity. It’s manipulation.
- Do Belarusian anarchists take money from Russia and collaborate with Russians?
I said this before and will say again: anarchist movement does not recognize national borders. To me, Belarusian anarchist, or Russian anarchist, or an anarchist from anywhere else is the same, they’re all my allies. It’s no secret that we actively cooperate with anarchists from all over the world, and naturally most of all with those who live nearby. It’s practical. Naturally, government agencies and their pocket think tanks are going to represent that as a transnational conspiracy, as if some foreign nation is providing us with money and military training. That’s lunacy. Anarchist movement is international, and we consider ourselves a part of the global anarchist movement.