"International support means a huge amount to us"

IssueApril 2006
Feature by Leshy

In 2006, the G8 will meet in Russia for the first time. While for the majority of apolitical Russians this is a totally uninteresting occurrence, the Russian government and all shades of opposition consider it to be a highly significant event. The Russian elite is eager to ensure it does not end up with egg on its face and that all these high-powered meetings run smoothly.

To that end the corrupt, but nonetheless powerful, apparatus of the Russian special forces has been called into action. They have already started calling people in for “chats” with the FSB, and began filming all activists while in detention. Our “counterintelligence” has informed us of infiltration into anarchist activist groups by two FSB officers. Any mention of the G8 draws serious attention. When Food Not Bombs handed out pancakes and G8 leaflets on pancake day, the event ended in arrests.

Another peculiarity of Russia is the high level of activity among a variety of rightwing, nationalist and patriotic-oriented Stalinists, who consider themselves to be the true anti-globalists. A variety of social demands from these groups are combined with a chauvinistic anti-American mood, a desire to re-establish the Russian empire, or the idea that all illegal immigrants should be sent to forced labour camps.

In these conditions we consider international organisation against the G8 in Russia absolutely vital, as the success of the movement must not be taken over by the right-wing. One of the qualities of the antiglobalisation movement is its truly global nature, and that's why it's important year after year to repeat the phrase “We are everywhere”.

The opposition

Amongst the opposition we can see two essential forces. The first is the “alternative globalists”- which includes socialist reformers, Trotskyites, trade unions, a whole range of civilian initiatives, the antiauthoritarian left, and various kinds of academics who “research the problems of globalisation”. They are preparing the second social forum, to be held in St Petersburg, and have already put the call out for action under the banner “Citizens 8”, created by the authorities to work with the NGOs (and be controlled by them).

The first social forum took place in April 2005 and 1000 people gathered - which is quite a lot for Russia. The majority of these anti-globalisationists are demonstrating for the protection of social guarantees for Russian citizens - against the long-term privatisation of the public sector, and neoliberal reform. The second force is the “near anarchist” scene. It comprises several hundred people and includes various different groups - anti-fascists, Food Not Bombs, the hardcore-punk scene, squatters, feminists, radical ecologists, and so no. By no means do all participants consider themselves anarchist, but the common basis of cooperation is an anti-government stance and ideas of equality and social justice. In November 2005 a network against the G8 was set up which formulated five key principles of its existence and resistance to the politics of the G8, you can find these principles on the website mentioned below.

International solidarity

In February 2006 there was an international meeting of activists held in Kiev, Ukraine, where strategy decisions were taken as to how the network should operate. Working groups were set up on street action in St Petersburg, media, opposing repression, organising the “One Day of Action” (solidarity actions around the world), and so on. It was decided that on 2 June - 12 days before the beginning of the summit - training sessions and discussion forums for activists would take place in Moscow.

Why Moscow? One reason is that we suggest that Moscow will be less the target of government control than St Petersburg. Another is that there is a group of activists in Moscow who are ready to take on the responsibility of creating this space, and the training will be essential as there are so many new activists. We are hoping that this space will attract lots of foreigners too, who are keen to share their experience and who want to meet Russian activists and find opportunities for future cooperation.

The three-day summit will happen in an environment of great stress and hurry, so we are inviting all who have the opportunity, to come to Moscow or St Petersburg earlier, so as to take part in the preparation for actions around the summit and not just participate in the street actions.

Even if the actions in St Petersburg are blocked by the authorities, and one must never exclude this possibility, then your journey to Russia will not be completely in vain if you are able to take part in the Moscow training camp.

We really hope that we will get support from people from other countries. We want to use this summit more than anything for the development of the movement in Russia, and international support means a huge amount to us.

A couple of practical notes

  • Visa: Start thinking about getting your visa well in advance as it tends to take a very long time. Get a tourist visa through a tourist agency and name the main town you intend to visit as any town other than St Petersburg.
  • Safety: Foreigners from Western Europe or the USA in Russia can face greater danger than others. Of course they can refuse to let you pass the border, but if you're arrested the cops will try to get you out of their hair as quickly as possible, even if you have committed a minor crime. They panic lest foreign embassies get involved, which would mean media and an international scandal. Fascists never target European looking foreigners, and the crime level in Russia is no higher than in Italy.