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Interview with A. Part 2, March 17, 2022 [Ukraine]

Ukraine. The following interview was conducted by Tous Dehors. The March 17, 2022 interview is part 2 of a series of interviews. Part 1 can be found here.

Originally published by Tous Dehors.

What has been the evolution of looting and its repression ?

It’s really hard to estimate how far has looting spread: what you mostly see are the arrests, which have stayed constant. Repression has definitely strengthened since the amendment of the looting laws, and I’ve seen first reports of looters “found dead in the temporary confinement”, which is horrifying and probably only the tip of the iceberg, as some are simply left naked in the middle of cold streets.

Have strikes taken place ? On the other hand, are there signs of a transition of the economy to a war economy ?

Ukraine is mostly relying on imported weapons now, and the factories that have been producing Ukrainian weaponry in the east have been destroyed by the Russian shellings. Ukrainian state seems to be completely impotent in the face of the difficulties introduced by war, it’s unable to regulate rent prices, gas prices and availability jump around as well, and the call to “return to normality” in the peaceful West mostly relies on PR campaigns rather than any kind of forced employment. The government has relaxed some of the taxes though, trying to encourage imports and people establishing businesses and investing in them during the war, and banks delay the debt payments, raise credit limits in acts of proud patriotism.

Regarding the ‘people in arms’, we imagine that the current situation has nothing to do with that of Spain in 1936. What about armed groups ? What is their degree of autonomy ?

It has nothing to do with Spain 1936 in a sense that there is no possibility of a large openly working-class army movement emerging, but I think Spain has revealed certain limits of anarchist action: we can’t simply fight regular armies symmetrically, we should try to instead make the return to capitalist relations impossible through mass disruption and redistribution, while undermining war efforts, but we’re far from that as well, of course.

Ukrainian anarchist groups are really small and simply fight alongside other militia and regular army formations, taking their orders from the state. But we should beware from generalizing from this: it doesn’t mean that “anarchists support Azov”, it simply means that without any larger organization, in a desperate situation like this, anarchists don’t have much choice. If you’re going to be conscripted anyway, why not fight alongside your comrades?

Is the fact that people are armed to be considered as a sign of the rise of right-wing groups ? If an agreement were reached between Ukraine and Russia, could these armed groups be tempted to take power ?

I think that weaponry actively being sent to Ukraine right now will definitely serve reactionary goals (not to mention that it’ll allow many European countries to blow up their military budgets), but I am not so sure nationalist groups want or would be able to get political power. I think Zelenskyy is definitely scared of them though, which is why he is trying not to look too “pro-Russian” during the peace negotiations, although he was labeled that during his entire presidency. Ukrainian nationalists prefer to take over the streets, patrolling them as parts of militias which allows them to monitor and prevent “degenerate” activity: be it queer people just walking around, people having fun and drinking, or womens rights’ marches. This invasion might change their ambitions as they are moving even further into the mainstream and wielding more and more power, but I would refrain from any predictions.

Have you heard of desertions or refusal of conscription ? Are there support networks for men who would like to avoid conscription and perhaps flee the country or go into hiding ?

I think everybody is trying to survive on their own, there aren’t any mass efforts out there. People hide out in the villages, hide in car trunks to try to cross the border, but the ones caught by cops are paraded around as traitors: men aren’t allowed out of the country and not wanting to stay and fight is treason. Conscriptions are done at random, people are picked up in their hotel rooms right after they arrive there from the East, people are stopped at checkpoints, so some people decided to volunteer for local militias as not to get sent to the frontlines.

The West’s ‘extraordinary solidarity’ is unlikely to last. Are there support networks for emigrants, in Ukraine as in Europe ?

There are quite a lot of volunteers helping people leave, both inside the encircled cities and on the railway stations all across the country, and I’m hearing many wonderful stories about the help people receive abroad from ordinary people. This is quite notable since there aren’t any official evacuation efforts, and the state continues saying that every city will be defended and there’s no need to leave. I’m not sure there is any “planning” or “expectations” going on though, most refugees are simply burning through their savings and are trying to find any work; and being separated and sent to different cities by the authorities makes it hard to establish durable links, especially with the language barrier.

Do you have any information about the protest movements in the occupied zone ? And on the collaboration with the Russians ?

They are still happening, although on a smaller scale than during the first few days. Russia has murdered several people at these protests, but people are relatively used to seeing corpses now, so this hasn’t had a lot of an impact. Russian riot police continuously fires warning shots into the air, so people are aware of the dangers at these protests, but still continue coming out. This is obviously not enough to disrupt the Russian occupation, but I haven’t seen any “partisan” resistance forming either.

Quite a lot of border-adjacent policemen and mayors are collaborating with Russians, mostly in the places that have been captured on Day 1, but there are some that decide to collaborate to prevent the city from getting shelled every now and then.

What can you tell us about possible struggles in Russia against the war ?

A few of my Russian comrades have left the country, or are now increasingly fearing for their life since the sanctions and the blockade of the country have intensified the repressions and the state has unleashed all the forces to jail anyone trying to express the tiniest bit of dissent. I truly don’t know how a movement can form in these conditions, as long as Russian riot police continues to be successful at containing and breaking up the few protests that are still happening.

Do you want to add something ?

As the war goes on and Russian advancement slows down even further, I still can’t see the way for it to end: Putin clearly wants more and is moving more forces in, and Zelenskyy refuses to back down and is asking for the Crimea, the Donbass, and security guarantees. There are some sparks of revolt, but they are quickly suppressed, and meanwhile millions of people continue pouring out West through the border checkpoints, increasingly not sure what to expect ahead… The image of a patriotic war that Ukraine is winning only gives more power to nationalist forces, and decreases the probability of any peace settlement. As Ukraine is going to try to restart production in the West, we might see some workers’ unrest emerge, but generally I think we have to get used to conflicts, and develop our strategy on their basis: how can a movement possibly emerge out of the ruins?

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