Anarchist Black Cross – is a group of people involved in providing assistance to the anarchists and anti-authoritarian activists under investigation or in the places of detention who find themselves in such situations for reasons related to their social activities.
When we wrote this definition of Anarchist Black Cross for our website such groups as Chaurus and Poshug have not existed in Belarus and Autonomny Opir was in a state of Nazi-Autonoms. Times change, and the anarchist movement faced the synthesis of anti-authoritarian ideas and nationalism today, which we previously thought was unacceptable for anarchist circles. Before the period of possible repressions against these groups we would like to say that Anarchist Black Cross Belarus will not provide financial and any further support for activists from organizations that promote nationalism in one form or another. We believe it is important to say it now and justify our decision.
1. Nation and State – artificial concepts.
Today the whole world is divided into limited pieces of land – nation-states. Historically, state borders were established as a result of conquest or “liberation” wars, or as a result of diplomatic games, or as the product of colonialism, that is they do not reflect the interests of those people who inhabit these territories. The result is that two villages located 5 km from each other become strangers, Ukrainian or Belarusian, only because there is a state border between them. The totality of people inhabiting the territory within each boundary was called nations. It is considered that these people share certain values, “mentality”, behavioral reactions. It is clear that the residents of the towns and villages within the “Belarusian” territory initially did not take any decision on “national self-determination”. This decision was forced on them and these people have become controlled by Belarusian / Soviet / other government and were called Belarusians. That is why anarchists argue that the concept of the state and the nation are artificial and are used by the ruling elites to control the population of the territory under their power. There is no single Belarusian or Ukrainian, Soviet people – it is a fictional category. Anarchists advocate class approach – solidarity between the workers and the oppressed, regardless from their place of residence.
2. Nationalism teaches us to be proud of actions that we did not commit and to consider as “other” people outside of own nation.
Nationalists tend to attribute positive characteristics of their nation and at the same time represent the nations around in a much more unfavorable light, thus developing in society xenophobia and racism. Belarusians are sensible, good-natured and hospitable. Jews are greedy and cunning. Americans – aggressive and silly. American nationalism sees the world from own point of view where the Americans are presented in the best light. Than it becomes much easier to figure out who is a friend and who is a foe. Today, with the development of the conflict in Ukraine it can be noted that more and more people in the Ukraine itself have a negative attitude to Russians in general as a nation, which is to blame for the escalation of the conflict. This statement is even more true for Russian attitude to the Ukrainians, who have suddenly ceased to be brothers. Nation unites so different segments of society that some people are beginning to talk about non-true Belarusians or Ukrainians or Germans. That is a member of each nation must follow a set of rules that includes certain character traits and look specific to this nation. People are also said that it is necessary to be proud of some historic “achievements” that have taken place in the current area or on behalf of the representatives of the nation. This is where the enthusiastic attitude to the Belarusian history begins, associating yourself with the rebellions of large and small landowners who once fought for the “golden Gentry liberties”, and nationalists absolutely do not care what these “supporters of liberty” oppressed peasants. Thus, nationalism allows to identify oneself with oppressors, rulers, chiefs, if they have done something that served as the formation of the nation itself. From the point of view of anarchism, there can’t be anything in common between bosses and workers. and to false unity of the nation anarchists must oppose global solidarity of workers, which will create a true community of mutual support and respect, regardless of skin color, place of origin and language.
3. Language as a tool for interaction and belonging to a culture must not be imposed.
In case of Belarus, we see that the government actively enforces the Russian language as a means of unification through the police, schools, the media and other institutions and agencies. But we do not want to see any language being imposed, including Belarusian. Some of us, considering themselves cosmopolitans, deny ethnicity as an innate characteristic of person and leave blank the column “nationality”. In our opinion, ethnicity (or lack thereof) is a matter of personal choice of the person. We believe that communities and individuals have the right to decide what language they speak and what culture to belong to without the guidance of the slogans of groups claiming “Russia is for the Russians” or “Belarus should be Belarusian”.
We do not deny that the way of life, problems, needs of people living within the borders of Belarus and the Ukraine are different, and that this should be taken into account in the context of the organization of the struggle. However, we do not believe that it is necessary to continue to promote the conventional separation and to appeal to the concepts that are deeply entrenched in people’s minds, but wrong. As for the “Russian”, “Belarusian”, “Ukrainian” and any other national culture that is based on the fact that the nation and the state – imposed categories, much of what we are called to consider “our” culture, is also artificial. Cultures of all peoples are affected by local legislation, the dominant attitude, way of the economy, the predominant religion, the relationship of church and state, the historical development, etc. Many cultures are encouraging the discrimination, domination and oppression, preservation of patriarchy, obedience, etc. Those who call for a return to the origins, rarely indicate what are those origins, to what it is worth to strive: to Belarusian culture of X, XV, XVII, XXI century? And why exactly that culture we should elevate? We believe that the question of belonging to a culture must be also solved by self-governing communities and individuals.
In addition to refuse of support to national-antiauthritarian groups, we also urge the comrades of the anarchist movement to be critical to attempts of nationalism to enter the field of our common struggle.
“For the workers there is no regime, no fatherland – there are only people, harmony, humanity.”
Solidaridad Obrera May 5, 1931
NB: On April 5 on our web-page there appeared a publication about the action of solidarity by a left-nationalist Ukrainian organisation Avtonomnij Opir. Since after this publication several comrades from other anarchist groups contacted us with a request to explain this, we find it necessary to inform all people concerned about our policies towards spreading information.
The information about the solidarity action by Avtonomnij Opir was published as part of the list of other actions that had taken place in other cities and countries. We included the information about this action because the aim of the article is to provide our readers with objective information about the solidarity actions in general and the scale of them, not to judge them or the groups that performed the action. We think there is no sense in silencing solidarity actions by any groups that are not part of the anarchist movement, as our silence doesn’t neutralise the action. Other examples of similar information include articles about Jauhen Vas’kovich or Jan Melnikau, who are not at all anarchists, but who had made a solidarity action with our imprisoned comrades.
At the same time, mentioning of these groups or people on our web-page doesn’t mean that we support any of them. However, we admit that such publication arose a fair confusion among many of our comrades, who ask for clarifications. That’s why from now on we will still publish information about all solidarity actions, but will provide the articles with a footnote explaining the position of ABC-Belarus concerning controversial groups.