Zealots and ditherers

August 15, 2019

The UK government seems hell-bent on crashing out of the European Union without a deal on 31 October. This leap into the unknown carries the threat of economic hardship and disruption, constitutional crisis and the reconfiguration, or even break-up, of the UK.

The political uncertainty since the 2016 Brexit vote, on top of a decade of austerity,

“FcK Boris” demonstration, 24 July 2019. Photo by Steve Eason

is causing most Brits anything from stress to nervous exhaustion. And the next ten weeks are unlikely to be any less worrying.

Can the manic “no deal” crusade be stopped? The short answer seems to be: it’s difficult, but may be possible, provided parliament gets its act together. Suggestions about how that might happen are being made daily by “left” and not-so-left writers who know more about parliamentary procedure than I do.

This article focuses, instead, on what this frenzy tells us about the crisis of the Tory party and the property-owning class it represents. Because, to develop radical politics in the face of this insanity, we need to understand more clearly what generated it.

Our enemies are divided

It’s not the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is driving the “no deal” process, as far as I can see. Rather, he is the enabler of zealots: Dominic Cummings, chief of Read the rest of this entry »


“You picked a fight with the state, we will grind you into dust”. How a Russian activist was tortured

June 4, 2019

The “network case” – an investigation into alleged terrorism by Russian anarchists and anti-fascists, during which security service officers have repeatedly tortured detainees – has gone to trial. Hearings are taking place in Penza and St Petersburg.

Dmitry Pchelintsev, one of the defendants, gave testimony in court about how he was tortured. An edited translation is published here.

The “network case” investigation began in 2017. Officers of the Federal Security Services (FSB) claim that twelve young men were part of an organisation called “the network” – a “terrorist group” that allegedly planned to “stir up the population in order to destabilise political conditions” in Russia via a series of terrorist attacks. The FSB claims that “the network” had cells operating in cities across Russia and Belarus.

Pchelintsev’s testimony about torture is not the first. Other defendants in the case have repeatedly stated that they were tortured (e.g. here and here) into confessing to charges.

Pchelintsev, 27, lives in Penza in central Russia. He is charged with creating “the network”; illegal possession of weapons; and an attempted arson attack against a local military office.

The article below is the second part of Pchelintsev’s testimony at Povolzhye Regional Military Court in Penza. MediaZona, a Russian web site focused on unjust imprisonment and prisoners’ rights, published an abridged account in Russian. It was translated by openDemocracy and is republished here with thanks to them.

For information on the international solidarity campaign in support of “the network” defendants, see the Rupression site.

Day one: “He stripped the wires and attached them to my toes”

I was arrested on 27 October, 2017. Naturally, I didn’t admit my guilt and refused to testify. My lawyer, who was not planning to represent me in the future, said: “If you get another lawyer, you will testify with him. Take your Article 51 rights [against self-incrimination] with me now.” So, I didn’t admit anything and I wasn’t particularly questioned that day. I was

Dmitry Pchelintsev and his wife Angelina. Photo from his family/Mediazona

brought to a temporary detention centre, and spent one night there, after which I was taken to court. The court chose arrest as a deterrence measure. I was arrested and sent to the city’s Investigative Detention Centre No.1 [SIZO 1].

SIZO 1 has three blocks: an old block, a new block and a block nicknamed “Titanic”. But they put me in the fourth block, which was completely empty. There was not a single person there. This is a two-storey block where no one is held and no one monitors. It stands apart from the rest of the detention centre. I was brought to Cell 5.1, where I dropped my mattress on the floor, and then I was told: “Let’s go.” It was my first time in investigative detention, so I had no idea what was supposed to happen. I thought I probably had to go through some procedures, fingerprinting, perhaps something else. I was told to enter a neighbouring cell, Cell 5.2. I entered, and the door was closed behind me.

This was on 28 October, my first day in investigative detention. In theory, I should have been placed in quarantine, in the “Titanic” block. But I was brought to the Cell 5.2, and left Read the rest of this entry »

Russia: “network” case lawyers prepare for court battle

March 25, 2019

Lawyers for Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov, two of the defendants in the “network case”, are now preparing for their trial. The defendants in the case are Russian anti-fascists who were arrested – and tortured by security services officers – in St Petersburg and Penza last year. They are accused of a so-called terrorist plot – a prosecution denounced by Russian human rights organisations as a frame-up.

Anti-fascists across Europe, as well as in Russia itself, have been campaigning for the charges to be dropped, and for those responsible for torturing the defendants to be brought to justice.

This is a report of an update on the case provided by Vitaly Cherkasov, lawyer for Viktor Filinkov. It was published on the Russian news web site OVD-info.

On 19 January, Vitaly Cherkasov, legal counsel for Viktor Filinkov, held a press conference on his client’s case in St Petersburg. After being under investigation for 13 months,

Yuly Boyarshinov, in conversation with his lawyer, at a court hearing. Photo: Rupression.ru

Filinkov’s case has now been sent to court, and Cherkasov is free to discuss the evidence. According to Cherkasov, there is no substantial evidence in the case file against his client.

“We are concerned that the court will follow the prosecution’s lead and hold the trial in camera,” said Cherkasov. “Having studied the case file, we didn’t find a single document that would count as a state secret or other secret. We want the trial to be monitored by the public. We believe that with the help of the public and the press, we can convince the court in an open hearing to examine the case objectively.”

Viktor Filinkov was detained at Petersburg Pulkovo airport on 23 January 2018, but he was arrested only on 25 January. Later Filinkov recounted how he was tortured by FSB officers throughout the intervening two days.

“The case file contains my client’s testimony, which were given to the state-appointed lawyer,” Cherkasov stated. “This lawyer did not pay attention to the bodily injuries sustained by Filinkov.”

Initially, Filinkov gave statements that were advantageous to the investigators, but after he appointed Cherkasov as his legal counsel, he stated that he had made false confessions Read the rest of this entry »

Argentina: Theatre Against Dictatorship

March 21, 2019

On Sunday (24 March), Argentina will mark the 43rd anniversary of the 1976 coup d’état with demonstrations and meetings. To mark the occasion, People & Nature is publishing Argentina 1976-1981: Theatre Against Dictatorship – the story of the Workshop of Theatrical Investigation (TiT), a clandestine political theatre group that fought against the military junta that took power that day, as told by Marta Cocco, one of the group’s founders.

The Argentine junta, which overthrew the government of Isabel Peron, was one of the most violent in Latin American history. More than 30,000 people, mostly young opponents of the bloodthirsty regime, were killed in the security forces’ rampage that followed the coup. The resistance to the dictatorship, of which the TiT and many other groups were part, was a link in the chain of humanity’s striving for a world free of exploitation, hierarchy and war, that continues today.

Please read and share this story of resistance.

Members of the TiT, who defied the Argentine junta with theatrical performance


Russia normalises torture in case against anti-fascists

February 10, 2019

Re-posted from Red Pepper.

Evidence that anti-fascist activists were tortured by Russian federal security officers is “really disturbing”, president Vladimir Putin told the Kremlin’s own human rights council in December. He promised to “look into it”.

But ten of the young activists in question remain in detention awaiting trial in the “Network” case, charged with organising a terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons. The prosecution’s main evidence comprises statements taken after the accused were tortured with electric shockers, hung upside down, throttled and beaten up for hours on end.

The FSB, Russia’s main security service, claims members of the “Network” were planning to organise bombings during Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections and the football

A demonstration in St Petersburg on 19 January, remembering the murdered anti-fascists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Photo by Elena Lukyanova, Novaya Gazeta

World Cup, that they planned an armed uprising and were “stirring up the masses for further destabilisation of the political situation in the country”. It says that defendants had assigned roles (leaders, communications personnel, sappers and ideological officers), discussed their plans on social media and held minuted meetings about them.

The FSB case includes the fact that all the defendants played airsoft (a team shooting sport with no live ammunition) and that some of them did physical training together.

The ten, mostly supporters of anti-fascist and anarchist groups, were detained in late 2017 and early 2018. In January 2018, one of them, Viktor Filinkov, made a detailed public statement about being tortured; two other defendants, Ilya Shakurskiy and Dmitriy Read the rest of this entry »

Leeds women workers’ story retold

February 7, 2019

I am very pleased to publish today an article about the Leeds clothing workers’ strike of 1970: “You’re not a worker, you’re a pair of hands.” How Leeds women workers struck back, by Liz Leicester. It describes an unofficial strike by almost 30,000 clothing workers who demanded an increase in the hourly pay rate of one shilling (5 pence, worth about 75 pence today, taking into account). The action snowballed as the strikers, mostly women, marched around the city calling on others to join them. They were angry at an agreement signed between their union and the employers’ federation which discriminated against women workers. The article is based on a talk Liz gave in December 2018 in London.

Strikers on the march, 1970. From the Secret Library Leeds blog / Yorkshire Evening Post

New Russian torture case provokes student anger

February 5, 2019

Hundreds of Moscow students have joined a protest campaign over the arrest and torture in detention of Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student at Moscow State University.

Miftakhov was rounded up together with ten other anarchist activists, and charged with

Azat Miftakhov. Photo from Autonomous Action / The Russian Reader

preparing explosions. (See reports in English here and here.)

Miftakhov, and Daniil Galkin, were denied access to lawyers, brutally tortured and paraded on state TV. At least ten other people were arrested.

Many people in Russia feared a new case, similar to the “Network” case, in which a group of anti-fascist activists were tortured in detention and are now awaiting trial on terror-related charges.

When Miftakhov disappeared in to the security service’s dungeons, his fellow students put together a protest letter demanding “the immediate cessation of torture”. It was signed by more than 250 teaching staff, more than 500 students in the mathematics faculty where Miftakhov is studying, and more than 800 others from other faculties and outside the university.

Here is the text of the letter. You can read – and sign – the original here.

An open letter in support of mathematician Azat Miftakhov

Multiple sources confirm that on February 1, 2019 Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student of the Moscow State University Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics, was detained on suspicion of manufacturing explosives. He was tortured by the police and the Federal Read the rest of this entry »

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