1921-2021. The Kronshtadt revolt and the workers’ movement

February 26, 2021

One hundred years ago, on 1 March 1921, sailors at the Kronshtadt naval base took up arms against the Russian Soviet government. In 1917, those sailors were on the front lines of Russia’s two revolutions, which overthrew tsarist autocracy and the capitalist government that succeeded it. Those struggles brought to power the Soviet government, the first in the world claiming to rule on behalf of working people. (The soviets were workers’ councils.) After defeating the counter-revolutionary “Whites” in the civil war of 1919-20, that government’s Bolshevik leaders faced an explosion of protest by the very workers they claimed to speak for, that culminated in the Kronshtadt revolt. The movement demanded not only action against economic inequality, but also the restoration of the soviet democracy and free speech won in 1917. Today People & Nature publishes an article by Simon Pirani, describing the 1921 workers’ movement, its political aspirations, and how the Bolsheviks, by suppressing it, took a decisive step towards authoritarianism. The article builds on research for Pirani’s book, The Russian Revolution in Retreat: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (2008). CONTINUE HERE

Rebel sailors on the battleship Petropavlovsk, at Kronshtadt, during the March 1921 uprising. Photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive


South Africa: communities remember anti-mining activist Mama Ntshangase, and organise

January 26, 2021

In South Africa, the state remains willing to sacrifice rural communities for its coal-fired development agenda, one that persists despite visible social and environmental devastation  and the growing threat of climate disaster. HALI HEALY writes in this guest post about the communities’ response

Vigils were held across South Africa last month for murdered anti-coal activist Mama Fikile Ntshangase, who was brutally gunned down in front of her teenage grandson on 22 October

The vigil outside the Minerals Council building in Johannesburg

2020. She had dared to oppose plans by coal mining company Petmin to expand operations in the Somkhele region of KwaZulu-Natal province.

Vigils serve multiple important social functions. Usually held at night, they are occasions for mourning that allow the bereaved to remember the significance of their loss. Vigils also can serve as protests, drawing public attention to travesties of justice. Or they can be understood as a collective response to tragedy, one that hopefully eases the visceral pain of grief, replacing it with a sense of peace, and in the process, offering some sort of societal lesson.

Despite being held in broad daylight, the vigil for Ntshangase in Johannesburg was all of these things.

Gathered under the searing mid-day sun, a small group of some 15-20 activists, most of them women, convened in front of the offices of the Minerals Council, a powerful industry association, in central Johannesburg.

Coordinated with the assistance of the Extinction Rebellion network, they came from Read the rest of this entry »


“Now and then the flame dies down, but solidarity is a stream of sparks”

January 18, 2021

ILYA SHAKURSKY, an antifascist political prisoner in Russia, appeals to you in this interview to write to him, and to others imprisoned in the infamous “Network” case. Please see a note at the end about where to send messages.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 19 January, is the anniversary of the assassination of antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, who were shot dead in broad daylight in central Moscow in 2009. People will gather – in Moscow, to lay flowers at the place where they were killed, elsewhere on line – and we publish this article on several web sites simultaneously, to express solidarity.

The “Network” case began in Penza and St Petersburg in October 2017, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) started detaining young anarchists and antifascists, who

Ilya Shakursky

had supposedly participated in a terrorist group. The security services claimed that the young detainees were preparing terrorist acts, aimed at the presidential elections and the football World Cup in 2018 [which was staged in Russia].

It soon became clear that this “Network” organisation had been dreamed up by the FSB, and the confessions extracted from the alleged participants with the use of the most barbaric tortures. Details of the methods used, including electric shock batons, were published widely before the defendants were tried.

Nevertheless, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced – in January 2019 in St Petersburg, Igor Shishkin to three-and-a-half years’ detention; in February 2020, seven defendants in Penza, including Ilya Shakursky, to between six and 18 years; and in June 2020 in St Petersburg, Viktor Filinkov to seven years and Yulii Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half years.

In October 2020 an appeal by the Penza defendants was heard and rejected. An appeal by Viktor Filinkov is in progress.

All ten defendants are included in a list of 61 political prisoners compiled by Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights defence group.  

This interview with Ilya Shakursky, who is serving a 16 year sentence, is by Dmitry Semenov. It was published by Free Russia House, an “alternative embassy for Russian civil society” based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and by the Rupression collective that supports the “Network” case prisoners. (The questions were sent via Yelena Shakurskaya, Ilya’s mother, and answers received, via Yelena, in written form.)

 

Question: Do you feel the support from outside the prison system, and how important is it? Could you say something briefly to our readers and to people who support you?

Ilya Shakursky: It feels good to realise, every morning when they call out my surname and hand over letters I have received, that people remember me and continue to support me. At those moments, the grey monotony of imprisonment is broken up by different colours. It doesn’t matter whether the letter is a couple of lines or goes on like a whole essay. Just getting some news gives me strength and happiness. When I Read the rest of this entry »


A statement by the Rupression collective

January 18, 2021

Statement by the Rupression collective about ceasing financial support for two of the “network” case prisoners, 1 November 2020 [Original here.]

Dear readers of Rupression, and all those, who support political prisoners and express solidarity with the defendants in the “Network” case,

We have been compelled to take very difficult and complex decisions, and to formulate our position on supporting the defendants [in the case], due to their conduct with respect to the criminal case or separately from it.

First of all, the Rupression group is not a fund or an organisation, but a collective that came together spontaneously. People join, and leave, get burned out and then find new strength, and, sometimes, operate at the limits of what they are capable of. This Read the rest of this entry »


To remember is to fight!

January 18, 2021

Antifascists in Moscow will tomorrow (19 January) lay flowers at the place where on that day in 2009 the antifascists Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov were assassinated. A facebook post by the organisers said:

19 January 2021 is a day of memory and of struggle. On that day at 7.0pm we will lay flowers at the place where Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova died.

The Moscow mayor refuses to permit the traditional rally on the anniversary of Stas and Nastya’s death, due to coronavirus restrictions. A gathering to remember the

"Stop political murders. To remember is to fight!"

“Stop political murders. To remember is to fight!”

journalist [Baburova] and lawyer [Markelov] who died at the Nazis’ hands has been held every year for 12 years and has brought together people of many different views. The 19 January Committee declares:

Political repression and murder not only continue in our country but have gone into overdrive. Today their source, more and more often, is not the Nazis but the state.

Repression is unleashed on organisations who defend citizens’ rights from police terror and domestic violence, environmental groups and those opposed to property Read the rest of this entry »


Just transition on the North Sea: let’s talk about public ownership

December 15, 2020

The UK paid Royal Dutch Shell $116 million of tax rebates in 2019, while the company reported $92.1 billion revenues in the UK for the year.

Internationally, Shell made pre-tax profits of $25.5 billion in 2019, and paid $7.8 billion income tax and $5.9 billion royalties, in dozens of countries. But the UK, France, South Africa and Indonesia handed money back to Shell.

The figures were published last month by Shell. The UK tax rebate to Shell also shows up in the UK Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report, published last week, along with a smaller £14.7 million tax rebate to BP.

At least the UK’s upstream oil industry as a whole paid some tax in 2019 (£1.43 billion) – unlike 2015 and 2016, when the Treasury paid out more in rebates than it collected in tax (as shown in this earlier EITI report).

Shell and BP’s rebates are part of the hugely generous system of tax breaks for North Sea producers, linked to the decommissioning of declining oil fields (and analysed last year in the Sea Change report by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth).

These are subsidies to fossil fuel production, running into billions of pounds, devised by a Tory government that claims to be taking action on climate change.

And the problem runs deeper. North Sea oil production has since the 1980s been taxed with profit-based, rather than resource-based, methods, which gave the international companies access to the resources in the ground on unprecedentedly favourable terms.

The central role of these tax arrangements in the neoliberal “process of redefinition of the economic frontiers of the state” was analysed in this article by Juan Carlos Boué, Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus medic says: “You chose to spit in our faces. We won’t forget”

November 16, 2020

“There will be no dialogue on the street: let that be a warning”, Natalia Konchanova, speaker of the upper house of parliament, told protesting health workers in Belarus last week.

She was addressing hospital managers, after more than 4000 health workers signed an open letter, calling for an end to violence against the protest movement; investigation of

A memorial event in Grodno yesterday for Belarusian murder victim Roman Bondarenko. Photo: TUT:by

torture allegations; an end to obstructions to health provision for imprisoned demonstrators; reinstatement of their colleagues sacked for protesting; and new, lawful presidential elections.

Doctors and health workers have been on the front lines of the protest movement in Belarus since the results of the 9 August presidential election were announced. Their first demonstration, in Minsk on 12 August – with posters saying “doctors against violence” – was triggered by their shock at the horrendous wounds inflicted by police on demonstrators.

That led to a chain reaction.. Hospital directors and rectors of medical schools were dismissed for failing to crack down on staff and student protests. Medical staff and doctors were dismissed or arrested for demonstrating; their colleagues were dismissed or arrested for demanding their release.

Konchanova’s statement, on 11 November, soon provoked a reply, on facebook, from Nikita Solovey, the chief consulting expert on infectious and parasitic diseases at the Minsk city council’s health committee and an associate professor of infectious diseases at the Belarusian State Medical University. Here we republish his post in full:

Madame Konchanova! I hope that this would be an appropriate way for slaves to address a master? Because slaves is how we, the medics, are now seen by bureaucrats and administrators, who believe that we have a duty to treat everyone at all times, but Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: labour protest as part of political revolt

November 12, 2020

The popular revolt against the autocratic regime in Belarus and its thuggish security forces is now going into its fourth month. On Sunday, mass anti-government demonstrations were staged for the 13th week in a row – and more than 1000 people were arrested.

A first-class analysis of the relationship between the street demonstrations and the Belarusian workers’ movement was published last week in English, on the Rosa Luxemburg foundation site.

The article, by two researchers of labour movements, Volodymyr Artiukh and Denys Gorbach, compares the labour protests against the Belarussian regime, which they call “state capitalist”, with those in Ukraine, where private capital dominates.

In Belarus, the falsification of results in the presidential election in August first gave rise

Medical students demonstration in Vitebsk on 20 September. Polina Nitchenko is carrying the sign, which reads: “You can’t just wash away blood like that, I can tell you”. Photo: Ales Piletsky, TUT.By

to monster street demonstrations, and then to a wave of strikes, mass meetings and other workplace actions. (I published what information I could find here, here and here.)

This was not only “the most numerous, geographically diverse, and most sustained labour unrest” since 1991, Artiukh and Gorbach write, but also “the first large-scale labour protest to happen within the context of a broader political mobilisation”.

Three months on, the unrest has “gained a more individualised, sporadic and invisible form”, they argue. The workers’ acts of defiance “have been effective, but more on the symbolic level than in material terms”.

Workers “became an inspiration for the broader protesting masses” and were greeted on the streets with banners and chants – “a significant exception in the region, for in no Read the rest of this entry »


Hydrogen for homes is a terrible idea. We should fight it

October 30, 2020

A plan to pipe hydrogen, instead of natural gas, to millions of UK households is being pushed hard by the fossil fuel industry. It sounds “green” – but could wreck efforts to make homes truly zero carbon, using insulation and electric heat pumps.

Oil and gas companies support switching the gas grid to hydrogen, as a survival option in case of decarbonisation, as hydrogen is usually fabricated from gas.

But the hydrogen strategy cuts across the approach recommended for years by housing

The gas grid: better to replace it with heat pumps. Photo by Ran-Allen / Creative Commons

policy wonks and architects: to use insulation to slash the amount of heat needed, and install electric pumps (which work like fridges in reverse).

Leeds Trades Union Council (TUC) last month launched a campaign in favour of retrofitting homes with high-quality insulation and heat pumps.

It’s an issue many people can unite around – those fighting for better housing and tenants’ rights, campaigners against fuel poverty, trades unionists fighting building industry cuts, and all of us who want to tackle climate change.

And there’s a choice to be made we cannot avoid.

If the gas grid is switched to hydrogen, that will block for good the electrification-and insulation approach, that heats homes better, more cheaply, with technology that we know works, and is truly zero-carbon. We cannot have it both ways.

We will be locked into extra dependency on fossil fuels, instead of speeding the shift away from them.

That gas-to-hydrogen switch is being planned in north-east England by Northern Gas Networks (NGN): its H21 project would convert 3.7 million homes and businesses by Read the rest of this entry »


India climate crisis: this is about capitalism and inequality

October 6, 2020

Global warming is upsetting the monsoon, making droughts more likely, and changing the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians, writes NAGRAJ ADVE, in a guest post based on his pamphlet, Global Warming in the Indian Context.  

The average sea level rise worldwide over 2016-2020 was nearly half a centimetre per year, says the United in Science 2020 report, published last month by the World Meteorological

Photo: Fridays for Future Guwahati

Organisation (WMO), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific institutions.

The rate of sea level rise is now significantly higher than the 20th century average, largely due to the loss of ice from the great ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland, besides warmer ocean waters expanding.

Reading the United in Science 2020 report made me think about sea level rise in terms of centimetres rather than millimetres – for the first time in the 15 years that I have been engaging with the climate crisis.

The impact of rising waters in the Indian sub-continent is one of the many issues covered in a new edition of my pamphlet, Global Warming in the Indian Context, published today by People & Nature.  I have updated the pamphlet – which was first published on People & Nature in June 2016 – to highlight many things about the climate crisis that have changed since then.

But the first thing to emphasise is that the social context in which climate change hits people in India is very different from that in the UK or mainland Europe.

■ In India, 650 million people rely on agriculture or related occupations; the average landholding per household is merely 2.5 acres, and half the area is under key crops such as rice and wheat;

■ Millions of small and marginal farmers have no access to irrigation, are entirely dependent on the rain, and hence more vulnerable to climatic changes; and

■ In the world’s most disastrous Covid-induced lockdown, 120 million people have lost their jobs or livelihoods – and there is no sign of economic recovery in sight.

Extreme climatic events have been getting more intense and frequent in India (and worldwide) in recent years – particularly extreme rainfall events. These result in floods, loss Read the rest of this entry »


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