Platformism Without Illusions: Czech Republic

Platformism without Illusions: Czech Republic
NEFAC Interviews Organizace Revolucni­ch Anarchistu - Solidarita (ORAS)

With the collapse of Soviet Communism and growing dissatisfaction with
capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe, a new generation of revolutionaries
from former Soviet-Bloc countries has come to embrace anarchism. NEFAC has
maintained fairly close relations with Organizace Revolucni­ch Anarchistu -
Solidarita, a relatively young organization with a similar political
orientation to ourselves from the Czech Republic. This is an interview with
Vadim Barak and Jindrich Lukas, two active militants from ORAS. Part of this
interview was originally conducted in 1998, and printed in Red & Black
Revolution #4 (theoretical magazine of the Workers Solidarity Movement).
Additional questions appear here for the first time. Since this interview was published, ORAS has split. The arguments and contradicitions in ORAS that are plainly visible in the interview, have led to a split between those who now identify primary as left communists and council communists, and those who still identify themselves as platformist anarcho-communists. Attached to the end of this interview is a statement from a new group, the Anarcho-Komunist Alternative (AKA), made up of the platformist side of the split.

- interview by Kevin Doyle (WSM-Cork) & MaRK, Class Against Class (NEFAC-Boston)

******************

What sort of history do anarchist ideas have in the Czech Republic?

ORAS: Anarchism started here in the 1880s as a youth section of a patriotic
and liberal movement against the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. When the Social
Democratic Party was established, its left wing was represented by libertarian
socialists, but after several years they were forced to break away. Until WWI
the most powerful libertarian current was anarcho-syndicalism. A stronghold of
Czech anarcho-syndicalism was in the Northern Bohemian mining regions.
Anarcho-syndicalists were soon organizing their own union federation, the
Czech General Union Federation (the CGUF). Repression by the state strangled
the CGUF in 1908, but could not destroy the syndicalist spirit among workers
and new syndicalist unions like the Regional Miners Unity were formed.

By 1914, the Federation of Czech Anarcho-Communists (the FCAC) was also well
established among Czech workers. Syndicalists and anarchists published a lot
of papers such as "The Proletarian". Anarchists established some consumers'
co-ops. During WW1 there was a general clampdown on the Czech libertarian
movement - a lot of militants were either jailed or marched to the front; many
were killed. Unlike syndicalism, the FCAC survived the war.

In 1918, on 14th October, the FCAC's militants, together with left Social
Democrats, organized a 24-hour general strike that in fact marked the end of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire's domination of our nation. This event made Czech
nationalist politicians, who did not want to break away from the empire until
that moment, start negotiations with the empire about our independence.
Strikers were demanding our right to national independence and a creation of
the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. After a day the strike was called off by
the Social Democratic leadership. On October 28th, ordinary people - mainly in
Prague - rose up again to finish off the decaying Austro-Hungarian authorities.

At that time the leading anarcho-communist intellectuals were already moving
towards Leninism. One of them became an MP in the parliament of the new
republic and another was a minister of the first government. On the other hand
it tells a lot about anarcho-communist influence at the time. In 1918 the
anarcho-communists became the left wing of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party
(the CSSP). In 1923, anarcho-communists were expelled from the CSSP and their
leaders maneuvered them into a last step before an open unification with the
Communist Party (CP), which had already been established in 1921 by left
Social Democrats and left anarcho-communists, who openly converted to
Bolshevism (in fact they were the first here to translate Lenin's works.) This
last step led to the formation of the Independent Socialist Party (the ISP).
In 1925 the ISP, despite resistance from the last remnants of syndicalism -
the Association of Czechoslovak Miners, which was tied to the
anarcho-communists - abandoned federalism and other anarchist principles and
joined the CP.

Was there anarchist activity in Czechoslovakia in the lead up to the Velvet Revolution (1989)?

ORAS: Yes, there was an anarchist minority in an illegal party called the Left
Alternative (LA). This party was very small and composed mainly of
intellectuals and students who belonged to various currents of democratic and
revolutionary socialism. They opposed the Communist regime and pursued a
program of socialism based on workers' self-management and direct democracy.
As freedom of speech and association did not exist, the LA remained confined
to being a more or less discussion group, not an organization active among
working class people.

During the Velvet Revolution the LA gained some credibility among ordinary
people, and in Prague - the center of the revolution - it made significant
steps to becoming a real working class alternative. In the first local
elections, 10,000 people voted for the LA in Prague. But by then the
revolution had been usurped by careerist dissident intellectuals and former
Communist bureaucrats. They took over a movement of Citizens' Forums and the
state apparatus, and by means of a massive propaganda campaign succeeded in
persuading people that we could not have socialism with democracy - that the
only way was the western "market economy" idea.

This new situation saw the LA once more in a position of isolated discussion
circles. This time it was fatal. Some of its leading figures were moving
towards a pro-market position, sectarianism occurred and in the end its
internal conflicts destroyed it.

Tell us a little about your formation. Is Solidarita a completely new
organization or did you develop from another organization?

ORAS: Solidarita developed from the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (ASF),
whose roots reach to the LA. After 1990, in a time of the greatest illusions
about the market economy and consequently the greatest isolation of the left
(no matter whether pro-market or socialist), the ASF sank into a deep
sectarianism and dogmatism - which it has not recovered from yet.

But after this interval, there was a change: The first union struggles
occurred; students fought back against the introduction of fees for education
at universities; there was more and more support among people for
environmentalist campaigns; in general the discontent of the working
population was growing. A minority in the ASF did its best to be involved in
this ferment and tried to translate its experience from those struggles into
an internal debate in the ASF. That debate should have changed the ASF into an
active and effective libertarian organization. However, the majority in the
ASF refused to discuss our proposals and we had to leave. Since that time
(1996), Solidarita has been working to build itself. Our theoretical and
organizational development is not finished yet. Through continuous involvement
in local as well as national struggles of workers and young people, and
through discussions, we are accumulating experience and clarifying our ideas.
We describe ourselves either as anarcho-syndicalists or libertarian socialists.

How has "platformism" influenced Solidarita-ORA and informed your
group's activity?

ORAS: In the second half of the 1990s we accepted the platformist tradition of
anarcho-communism as the best one offered by anarchism: for both its emphasis
on class struggle and pro-organizational direction, as well as for its
orientation towards the working class rather than the activists' ghetto.

However, the self-reflection of our functioning has reminded us that our group
lacks deeper, critical discussions which would allow us to look for the most
coherent theory/praxis; this self-reflection has influenced further
functioning of ORAS.

The discussions, which we have tried to develop since then, concern the
fundamental questions such as "What is Capital?", "What precisely is the
fundamental contradiction of capitalism?", "Are unions possible weapons of the
working class for communization of society?", "What are the possibilities and
limits of revolutionary minority in non-revolutionary times?", "How can we
involve ourselves in day-to-day class struggles and still keep our
revolutionary attitudes?". These are practical questions for us, which we - as
proletarians within the (libertarian) communist tendency - ask ourselves and
which spring from certain experiences of ours - experiences that we gain from
the class struggles and workplaces and from the "activist" involvement with
the anarchist movement. We believe that not burdening ourselves with difficult
critical debate for the benefit of "political realism" and "action in the here
and now" does not pay off. However, we also think that becoming
"revolutionary" academics would not be the right path to take.

The Platform indeed was not the Bible for us, it meant the beginning and not
the end of revolutionary theory (also, we take into account that it is
concerned with building mass organization in revolutionary times). We started
to search also for another sources of inspiration: we have returned to Marx
and have absorbed influences of left communism, Situationism, council
communism and autonomist Marxism. We understand them not as some petrified
sets of doctrine, one of which we could accept separately or mix them all
mechanically, but we regard them as the historical expressions of proletarian
movement to which we can relate. And we think that this process has to be
continuous. That means that while some of us are inclined rather towards the
"pure platformism" and others would rather call themselves simply
"communists". We refuse to blindly adhere to any ideology. On this level we
strive for the theoretical reflection of a real movement of the proletariat.

What is the relationship between Solidarita and other anarchist groups
active in the Czech Republic and Slovakia? Is there much collaboration? Are
there any formal anarchist networks between the various former Eastern Bloc
countries?

ORAS: Our relationship with other anarchist groups seems to be relatively
good. On some actions we co-operate with the Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation
(CSAF), March 8th Feminist Group (FS8B), Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), Federation
of Social Anarchists (FSA), and Reclaim the Streets! (UL!). Also, to various
extents, some of our members and supporters collaborate with AFA, and we
distribute some of materials of all these groups.

As for the formal anarchist networks between Eastern European countries, there
does not seem to be any. Rather it is more of an informal, though organized,
exchange of information through mailing lists (alter-EE mailing list, for
instance) and occasional visits. Also an international anarchist magazine
"Abolishing Borders From Below" should be meant as a tool for an exchange of
information.

What is Solidarita's position relative to the unions? Do you favor the
formation of new syndicalist unions?

ORAS: Despite all the problems with the present unions, we believe in working
inside them. We believe they are real working class organizations. Within them
we argue for a syndicalist alternative of combative and democratic unions run
'by workers for workers', where all delegates would be immediately recallable
so that workers would control their own struggles. Unions should be active not
only in a workplace, but also in communities. They should take part in
struggle against racism and fascism, in environmental campaigns. Their final
goal should be transformation of this society of market dictatorship into a
libertarian socialist society of social justice, workers' self-management and
grassroots democracy.

That kind of union can come into existence only through our active
participation in present day unions and through a rank and file movement in
these unions for control over their organizations and fights.

How is Solidarita involved in workplace struggles? I have read reports
about the "Workers Actions Groups" you have formed in various factories. What
is the strategy behind these groups? How effective have they been in advancing
militancy and self-organization among workers?

ORAS: Now we are involved in workplace struggles mainly as individuals, who
work on a particular job. Thus some of our members practice absenteeism,
sabotage, slow work, or occasionally participate in some collective attempts
at resistance (for example, an attempt of cleaning workers to fight for
shorter hours and higher pay). As ORAS we have occasionally tried to intervene
in factories, where mass layoffs have occured.

Examples of an older forms of this kind of intervention are "Workers Action
Groups" (WAG). Actually, we took this idea from striking Czech miners from the
Koh-i-noor mine, who spontaneously developed a practice where the most radical
workers acted as an informal group, which in some kind started and/or
prolonged the struggle. As this was in the time of relatively widespread
industrial unrest, in which unions proved to play fully on the side of the
capitalists, we tried to voice this particular miner's tactic (independent of
unions, and to some extent even an anti-unionist position) to other workers,
who felt that under the leadership of unions they were losing.

In two cases we were to some extent successful, because a kind of WAGs was
established and they tried to put up resistance. In the Zetor tractor factory
three workers of the 8-member WAG handed out leaflets calling for a general
workers assembly to be held at a particular hour. This assembly in front of
company headquarters was attended by about 1,000 of their workmates. However,
as this idea of the resistance outside and against unions had not organically
originated from their previous struggle (as in the case of miners), but had
come as a mediated experience from an outside group, they were not able to
develop this situation any further. WAG was intimidated by joint efforts of
unions and management, and gathered workers were not prepared to do anything
themselves. An important factor in this definitely also was that workers
themselves sensed that under objective conditions than they have no chance of
accomplishing any significant victory. Even the miners were able only to put
off the closure of their pit. To some extent (and with the same outcome) WAGs
also contributed in the case of Zetor, and an aircraft factory LET Kunovice,
where workers self-organization finished after a spontaneous demo.

From these experiences we concluded that although under some conditions a
revolutionary group can inspire workers self-organization, it cannot move the
particular struggle of workers any further if the workers do not do this
themselves, on the basis of their own experience and perception of their own
conditions. Thus in a next case of mass layoffs (Flextronics Brno moving its
operations to China), we just made a leaflet describing individual forms of a
passive resistance against layoffs, explaining them as a latent form of class
struggle. We knew that workers themselves realistically do not believe in a
possibility to prevent the relocation of the plant and do not even strive for
preserving those shit-jobs. That is why we just tried to contribute to their
self-awareness and express our own conclusions derived from their experience
with multi-national capital.

What is some of the current activity of Solidarita? Future plans?

ORAS: We have been able to launch discussions and reading groups (most
recently around Dauvé's "Eclipse and Re-Emergence of Communist Movement") with
relative success. These have aroused the interest of new people, who take part
in them along with us and that is positive.

One of our most important contemporary projects is "Alarm: The Internet
Magazine of Libertarian Communism". As we note in the mission statement, its
aim "is not to make a counterweight to official newspapers: we just want to
express our everyday experience of life in the capitalist society, its
reflections and the anarchist-communist tendency, which is an expression of
this experience: tendency, which rejects present private capitalism in the
same way as state capitalism, which ruled the Eastern bloc before 1989, as
arbitrary forms taken by the dictatorship of capital." "Alarm" contains news
from class struggles all over the world and from struggles of the anarchist
movement and other anti-capitalist minorities, as well as important
contributions to the development of revolutionary theory. Besides this we
irregularly publish a paper called "Solidarity" aimed primarily at
proletarians, and some pamphlets.

Our Prague collective is also involved with running an info-cafe called
"Mole's Column", which costs us a lot of energy, time and money. In this way
we would like to express our gratitude to all foreign comrades, who have sent
contributions for this project, as well as to those who send their press
materials to reading room/library, which will be the part of the info-cafe
(Troploin, Loren Goldner, Alternative Libertaire, WSM, NEFAC, ICG,
Internationalist Perspectives, etc.). And again I have to mention our
comrades, who work with AFA and try to develop an communist critique of
anti-fascism and search for communist ways of struggle against fascism.

Recently we were involved in a campaign and protests against NATO summit,
which took place in Prague in November 2002. As ORAS, we have not been
involved with the organizers' collective for the whole time, but in accordance
with our capacities we helped out with some specific activities. In the
Moravian region we made a speaking tour explaining our position towards NATO,
refusing capitalist wars and peace and arguing for "No War But The Class War"
and in the same spirit we co-organized a smaller anti-NATO gathering in Brno.
We also participated in the protests themselves, in the Medical Group and in
the self-organization of demonstrators against police provocateurs and
capitalist media. We were also bringing topical news from the streets in "Alarm".

As for the future plans, we are determined to further develop revolutionary
theory and search for new modes of intervention in class struggles, although
we have no illusions that this will be anything other than a very challenging
process.

Solidarita-ORA

PO Box 13, Cerna¡ Hora, 67921, CZECH REPUBLIC

intersec@solidarita.org

http://alarm.solidarita.org

******************

This interview is from the "Platformism Without Illusions" series in The
Northeastern Anarchist #6 (Winter/Spring 2003). Further interviews include
platformist-influenced anarchist groups from the United Kingdom, Ireland,
France, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, and Chile.

The Northeastern Anarchist is the English-language theoretical magazine of the
Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), covering class struggle
anarchist theory, history, strategy, debate and analysis in an effort to
further develop anarcho-communist ideas and practice.

ORDERING INFORMATION:

Current issue is $5ppd ($6 international) per copy, back issues are $2ppd ($3
international) per copy. Subscriptions are $15ppd for four issues ($18
international). For distribution, bundle orders are $3 per copy for three or
more copies, and $2.50 per copy for ten or more.

Checks or money orders can be made out to "Northeastern Anarchist" and sent to:

Northeastern Anarchist

PO Box 230685 Boston, MA 02123, USA

email: northeastern_anarchist@yahoo.com

******************

AKA - Anarcho-Komunist Alternative
A founding declaration

We are a small, newly established group of revolutionary anarchists, who
feel the need of further active cooperation after our resignation from
the Organization of Revolutionary Anarchists - Solidarity.

Our ascending discontent with the current trends in this organization
and interpersonal disagreements prompted our resignation. It is over a
year that the issue of revolutionary theory and practice have been
discussed in Solidarity and nowadays ORAS is finally leaving the
positions of anarcho-communism, which was entirely confirmed at the last
ORAS conference in Prague. There several members of ORAS clearly
expressed that they no more consider themselves to be anarchists and
that they believe the anarchist movement to be antirevolutionary. Such
movements as the left communism and the communism rad nowadays inspire
ORAS. For that reason a fraction of members from Brno, Uh. Hradiste and
Prerovsko left ORAS in protest and founded the Anarchocommunist
alternative. We did so for several reasons:

Although the ideas of the left communism or the council communism can be
inspiring in many cases, we object to the refusal of the platform
tradition in anarchist movement as of the directions to form the tactics
of a revolutionary organization, which is being rejected by a number of
left communists and said to be contrarevolutionary. Furthermore we
disagree with the refusal of political activism and the syndical
elements in the worker's struggle. We still believe the anarchist
organization to be an ideological "vanguard" that associates the most
libertarian-conscious part of the working class and also to be the
helper and the mastermind of the organization of workers in the struggle
against capitalism.With our unionization we can contribute to the
limitation of the authoritarian ideologies such as bolshevism and its
scions, fascism and nationalist socialis m

We don't reject activism, according to us it has still been one of the
best ways to spread revolutionary ideas among workers, but at the same
time we don't think it to be the only way. We will continue to support
the trade union struggle, as though with emphasis put on its
independence and the promotion of solidarity and autonomy principles.
That is because we don't think the organizing at workplaces has outlived
its usefulness. There are still many possibilities of radical trade
union activities in both our country and the world. It is true, that
these are reformist, but only thanks to the struggle for partial
elements the work class can gain revolutionary consciousness and learn
self-unionizing.

We don't feel ourselves to be anarcho-syndicalists, autonoms,
ecoprimitivists, or anarcho-individualists. We are anarcho-communists
and that is why we consider the revolutionary anarchist organization
important. Temporarily, we plan this new project as a propagand ist
collective of the people, who want to spread the ideas of the class
struggle with all their forces (by means of brochures, leaflets,
magazines and public activities) and to develop theoretical discuss that
can later lead to a more profiled anarchist organization based on
platformist principles.

We want to continue in everything that we consider positive, which was
started in the times of still "anarchist" Solidarity and in which we
participated actively.

The 12 of April 2003

The founding members of Anarcho-Komunist Alternative

aka-cz@email.cz