In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we spoke with someone about the ongoing repression of anarchists and antifascists in Russia and how it ties into larger waves of State clampdowns against dissent and social movements. We also talk about Russiagate, the band Pussy Riot, and in general how both the US and Russia is seen within the other’s respective counties.
To be clear, the situation in Russia is very dire. The FSB, the modern incarnation of the KGB, the secret political police force, has pushed a narrative that a vast network of anarchist terrorists exists, and is a threat to the wider public. Under such a pretext, the Russian State has began a campaign of rounding people up, torturing them, and then releasing them back onto the street.
As CrimethInc. wrote:
In account after account, anarchists and anti-fascists describe how the FSB kidnapped them, planted weapons in their cars, and used torture to force them to sign false confessions admitting to participating in an obviously invented terror network.
For decades now, the security agencies of many different countries have repeatedly attempted to fabricate national and international “terrorist conspiracies” in order to frame anarchists. To date, all of these efforts have been embarrassing failures. Now, the Russian secret police have introduced an innovation: by kidnapping anarchists without warning, planting weapons in their cars, and torturing them until they agree to sign forged “confessions,” they hope to finally make charges of participating in a “terrorism network” stick. If they succeed, we can expect to see other police agencies across the world emulate their tactics.
As Newsweek wrote:
Kapustin says he was tortured because of his friendship with young, anti-fascist anarchists in Russia, and because of his own history of activism. Throughout the years, he participated in environmental protection projects, distributed food to the needy and joined anti-war protests, he says. He had plans to move south to start an agricultural cooperative. But those plans were cut short after his experience with the FSB. Today, he says he is too afraid to return to Russia, where a handful of young, left-wing activists are still being held in prison and are accusing the FSB of torture.
“They are charged with participation in a terrorist group. I would have to see the evidence against them to know if the charges are true, but given the quite credible torture allegations it’s likely the government doesn’t have sufficient evidence against them,” Tanya Lokshina, a Russia-based researcher with Human Rights Watch who has been following the cases, told Newsweek. “Torture is quite common in Russia, and it generally happens in those cases when they don’t have sufficient evidence. So torture is used to force an individual to incriminate himself and provide evidence about others.”
In some ways, this mirrors recent attempts by the State in the US to label Water Protectors, Black liberation militants, anarchists and antifa all as ‘extremists’ and terrorists. This labeling has been used to justify new legislation, such as laws which criminalize masks and give out felonies to those protesting at pipeline construction sites. It also shows the pitfalls in allowing such a narrative of “extremism” to be spread, especially when the neoliberal State is willing to go to such extreme measures to protect itself and its power.
As power and repression is now truly globalized, the need to stand in solidarity with our Russian comrades is greater now more than ever. Already there have been calls for days of action in solidarity with Russian comrades, CrimethInc. has also produced a new series of posters for putting up, and in this interview, we talk about the need for people to organize solidarity demonstrations outside of Russian embassies as well as fundraiser and raise awareness.
Currently, the situation in Russia is only intensifying. In late October:
Today, a young Russian anarchist died in an attack on the FSB headquarters in Arkhangelsk. The FSB has gotten its wish, bullying young Russians into carrying out bombings rather than engaging in public organizing.
— Atlanta Antifascists (@afainatl) March 28, 2018
Then on December 4th, Russian anarchists launched a hunger strike against the wave of repression and continued torture. As the UK anarchist paper Freedom wrote:
Two imprisoned Russian antifascist started a hunger strike at the end of last week, protesting their imprisonment and treatment during the investigation they are subjected to, and attempts to force confessions out of them. The hunger strike started when one of the antifascists, Dmitry Pchelintsev, was placed in a “punishment cell” and forced to admit that he has breached prison rules, namely he conversed with fellow prisoners during a walk. He refused to confess to any guilt and started a hunger strike. He was joined by Andrey Chernov, one of his fellow prisoners, shortly after.
We hope that this podcast contributes to more solidarity and dialog across borders, and the coming together of comrades to defend those facing unspeakable acts of torture and repression.