Alexei Gaskarov: “They aren’t winning this game by turning to crackdowns”

November 15, 2016

This interview with the Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov, who was released from prison last month after a three-and-a-half year prison sentence, was published (in Russian) by Snob magazine on 1 November. This English translation is reproduced with permission from the Russian Reader. Gaskarov talks about the unjust trial at which he and others were jailed, for “incitement” and other political crimes, after the Bolotnaya Square protest movement of 2012. He also discusses life in the penal colony, the Russian anti-fascist and protest movements, and the war in Ukraine. For readers in the UK and western Europe – where some of the old “left” clings stubbornly to the fantasy that Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government is something to do with “anti-fascism” – this assessment of Russia in 2016, by a real anti-fascist, is worth reading.

Olesya Gerasimenko (journalist who did the interview): Was your trial fair?

Alexei Gaskarov: I regret we agreed to be involved in it. Like Soviet political prisoners, we should have stood with our backs turned and kept our mouths shut, and not treated it as an attempt to get at the truth. I had illusions after Khimki. [In 2010, Gaskarov was arrested and charged with attacking the Khimki town hall during a protest in defense of Khimki Forest, but the court acquitted him. — Snob] Several videos showed clearly that the incidents involving me happened before the riot kicked off,

Alexei Gaskarov. Photo by Tanya Hesso of Snob.

Alexei Gaskarov. Photo by Tanya Hesso of Snob.

according to police investigators themselves. In the end, I ticked off the evidence, the judge nodded her head, but there was no reaction. The entire trial looked as if the decision had already been made, the sentence written out, and let’s get this over as quickly as possible.

So did you push a policeman and pull a soldier out of the police cordon?

I never denied it from the get-go. A year had passed since the rally on Bolotnaya Square. I was working on an important project. I had a week to Read the rest of this entry »

Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov released from jail

October 28, 2016

The Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov was released from prison yesterday, as reported by the Russian Reader here. Alexei’s statement when he was sentenced in 2014, also translated by the Russian Reader, is here.

The Lucas plan and the politics of technology

October 26, 2016

This guest post by DAVID KING of Breaking the Frame looks back at how workers at Lucas Aerospace championed socially useful technology. It is a shortened version of a two-part article on the Breaking the Frame website, and feeds into a debate we’re holding this Saturday at the Anarchist Bookfair.

This year is the fortieth anniversary of The Lucas Plan, the pioneering effort by workers at the Lucas

The original pamphlet cover

The original pamphlet cover

Aerospace arms company to propose alternative socially useful applications of the company’s technology and workers’ skills, whilst retaining jobs. It was an inspiring model of industrial democracy and has played an important role in showing that traditional trade union concerns about jobs losses arising from closures in harmful industries such as arms, nuclear power, etc., can be met. The Plan was hugely influential in the 1980s peace movement, during the crisis at the end of the Cold War.

But although younger generations of leftists, environmentalists and peace activists may never have heard of it, the ideas of the Lucas Aerospace workers are crucially relevant for the challenges we face today, including climate change, militarism and automation/artificial intelligence. A conference in Birmingham in November will both celebrate the achievements of the Lucas workers and, we hope, reinvigorate movements for socially just solutions to those crises.

The plan

In the early 1970s the workers at Lucas had organised themselves into a cross-union Combine Read the rest of this entry »

Wear the white poppy, for all victims of all wars

October 25, 2016

In Syria, the massacre of civilians in Aleppo by the regime, with military support from Russia, continues. In Iraq, a million or more civilians in Mosul are being caught between the national army, supported by the US and the UK, and so-called Islamic State.

On Saturday, the Syria Solidarity Campaign in the UK organised a march in solidarity with the civilian population of Aleppo. “Assad, Russia and Iran burn Syria. The ‘democratic world’ buries the


extinguisher”, they said. As far as I can see, the so-called “left” was largely absent.

The Syria Solidarity Campaign called on the British government to “protect civilians” by enforcing a “no bomb zone”. I find it difficult to support such calls, because I fear what the warmongers Read the rest of this entry »

Technology and the future of work: a debate

October 24, 2016

A debate on “technology and the future of work” will be held this coming Saturday, 29 October, at 4.0 pm, at the Anarchist Bookfair in North London. The discussion will be started off by Nick Srnicek (author, with Alex Williams, of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (2015)) and Gabriel Levy (who writes this blog).

What role does technology play in our ideas about a better world? How could it affect the nature of work in the coming decades? With mass automation looming, is anti-work politics the best solution? The discussion will examine these and other questions around technology and communism, attempting to think through what a future society could look like.

Here are a couple of articles I wrote in response to Inventing the Future, mentioning some of the points that we will talk about on Saturday: ■ Technological utopias: the nuts and bolts. ■ Networked socialism: back to the future.

And here are some more articles discussing Inventing the Future, on the Communism in Situ and Mute sites.

The Bookfair is being held at Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR. There are plenty of other important discussions on Syria, Brexit, communist and anarchist ideas, and so on. Hope to see you there!

Robots at the Kia car assembly plant in Slovakia

Robots at the Kia car assembly plant in Slovakia


Living standards plummet: what war in Ukraine has “achieved” #2

October 14, 2016

Ukrainian working people’s wages last year crashed to around 30% of their peak in 2013, in dollar terms, a report by the International Monetary Fund has said.

In January 2014, average real wages were about 75% of their level in January 2013. They fell steeply in early 2014, as war loomed – after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovich in February and the annexation

Photo: anarchist contingent on a union protest against the new labour code in November 2015. From the Ukraine activist perspective facebook page

Photo: anarchist contingent on a union protest against the new labour code in November 2015. From the Ukraine activist perspective facebook page

of Crimea by Russia in March. During 2015, real wages fell by a further 18.5%, to hit that low point at the end of the year.

This year “real wages have started to recover, albeit from low levels”, the IMF’s Country Report (no. 16/319, downloadable here) said last month.

The economy as a whole has also started to bounce back from the bottom, according to the Fund’s criteria. Last year it measured a 9.9% fall in GDP and a decline in industrial output of nearly 16%. This year the IMF is expecting economic growth of 1% in Ukraine.

The production of steel, coal and other raw materials also sank during 2014 and 2015, and has made timid steps towards recovery this year.

The World Bank, in a separate report, said that poverty “increased significantly in 2015 due to declining real wages”.

“Inflation peaked at 43.3% at the end of 2015”, due to “considerable depreciation” of the hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, said the Bank’s Ukraine Economic Update published on 22 September (downloadable here).

“Households were also impacted by higher energy prices in 2015, although the new means-tested Read the rest of this entry »

Slave labour in Lugansk: what war in Ukraine has “achieved”

October 4, 2016

The separatist “Lugansk people’s republic” in eastern Ukraine is using 5000 prisoners as slave labour, a report by local human rights campaigners says.

The prisoners are caught in a legal no man’s land. Most of them were
sentenced and jailed by the Ukrainian court system, which the barbedwire2“people’s republic” – established in May 2014 by armed separatists supported by Russia – does not recognise.

The prisoners are forced to work by violence, and the profits from what they produce shared by the “republic”s authorities, the report, published last week by the Eastern Human Rights Group (EHRG), says. (Here in Russian.) The group emerged from trade union Read the rest of this entry »