user preferences

New Events

Russia / Ukraine / Belarus

no event posted in the last week

Report from 8th General Assembly of Autonomous Action

category russia / ukraine / belarus | anarchist movement | feature author Wednesday September 23, 2009 21:34author by Ellenor Hutson - Liberty & Solidarity Report this post to the editors

Russian libertarian communist organization

featured image
The setting of the assembly

Earlier this year, decided to send a delegate, as an observer representing the organizations which run the Anarkismo project, to the 8th annual conference of Autonomous Action (AD), a libertarian communist organization with branches across Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Present at the conference were delegates from 12 different branches of AD, together with observers from the Union of Autonomous Youth and the youth wing of the Siberian Federation of Labour.

The conference was held at a secret location in the Ural Mountains where a campsite was set up from resources laboriously carried uphill over a 6-hour hike. This was a necessary precaution police attention and in addition provided economical conference accommodation in a country were poverty is widespread.

[Castellano] [italiano] [Português]

Report from 8th General Assembly of Autonomous Action

This year I was privileged to attend the 8th annual conference of Autonomous Action, an anarchist group with branches across Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine as an observer representing the Anarkismo project.

The conference was held at a secret location in the Ural Mountains where a campsite was set up from resources laboriously carried uphill over a 6-hour hike. This was a necessary precaution police attention and in addition provided economical conference accommodation in a country were poverty is widespread.

The campsite was beautiful; nestled in unspoilt conifer forest teeming with wildlife, much of it unfortunately of the insect variety. The comrades were the most fantastic hosts, going out of their way again and again to make me feel welcome, introduce me to people, find me translators, put me up in their homes before and after the conference and generally take very good care of me during my stay.

During the lengthy journey to the campsite the comrades were able to explain something of the recent history of Russian Anarchism to me which I found very interesting. After having been totally crushed by the Bolshevik movement following the Russian Revolution, Anarchists in Soviet Russia faced the task of rebuilding a movement from scratch in the 1980’s when Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of Perestroika once again permitted political opposition. This was no easy task given that the number of living anarchists in a country larger than Europe could literally be counted on one hand. The first task of anarchists in the eighties was therefore propaganda initiatives to inform others of the anarchist philosophy.

As in other countries, the anarchist movement has been influenced by sub cultural movements such as punk. The environmental movement has also been a large influence. In particular the Rainbow Keepers, a Russian equivalent of Earth First active in the 1990’s was influenced by anarchist ideas and organisational principles and has been instrumental in popularising anarchist ideas amongst activists.

Coordination of groups leading to the formation of Autonomous Action began around 2000, as an attempt to organise the diffuse elements of anarchist activity into a federation capable of defending itself and coordinating in a more organised way.

Autonomous Action now has around 120 members. 12 branches sent delegates to the General Assembly representing Tyumen,Ufa, Nizhni Novgorod, Moscow, Irkutsk, Magnitogorsk, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, and Minsk. In addition two new groups based in Cheboksary and Kazan were admitted to the federation during the assembly and an individual member attended from St. Petersburg.

Also attending as guests were the Union of Autonomous Youth, the youth wing of the Siberian Federation of Labour, a syndicalism union with approximately 6000 members, mainly in air traffic control, healthcare and public transport. 48 individuals were present in total.

Within the Autonomous Action, individuals and groups must agree to abide by the manifesto and organisational principles. A proposal passed during the conference also requires members to refrain from publicly voicing opinions that contradict agreed AD positions. Beyond this, groups have a large degree of autonomy to adapt their activity to local conditions.

Joint projects and Campaigns are decided through conference but participation by local groups is not compulsory. Resolutions on joint activity have the status of recommendations. The conference resolved several joint projects including the publication of a “how to” activist guide and a national campaign against the Centre for the Prevention of Extremism, a national police initiative targeting activists.

Decisions are made on a national level in three ways: by a vote or the reaching of consensus between group delegates, by conference or by a referendum of members.

Delegates councils are held every two weeks using the internet. Each group is expected to meet regularly in order to discuss the agenda and mandate a delegate. The delegates council have limited powers compared to the conference, for example they are not able to change any rules, or admit collective members or expel members.

Conference makes decisions by consensus if possible and by 2/3rds vote if not. Members not present can send mandates.

The referenda of members allows decisions to be taken on any important issues that come up between conferences. They can be initiated by any group and decided within one month. As with conference consensus is sought first. The period allowed for attempting to reach a consensus is one month after which a 2/3rds majority vote is accepted. This period is shorter than previously as the spread of the internet across the region has now reached the point where all groups have at least one member who is able to obtain internet access. This is improving the efficiency of decision making.

The conference began each morning with physical training. I’m ashamed to say I never found out what this involved, considering that the hike up the mountains on the first day was quite physical enough and preferring to spend my mornings dipping my feet lazily in the river.

The programme then continued with discussion on various subjects often lasting well into the night. Topics included Anti Fascism, Anarchist Black Cross, the economic crisis and training in how to deal with the police.

There was also decision making on national proposals. These were mostly of an administrative nature but also included a proposals for a shared programme of action. There was also discussion of strategy and the direction Autonomous Action should take in the future.

A large amount of the conference was given over to reports from each group on their activity and the situation in their region, followed by discussion and suggestions. This provided an extremely interesting overview of activity and an insight into the working culture of Autonomous Action. I was impressed by the respectful and comradely tone of discussions and the willingness of participants to listen to constructive criticism.

The overwhelming majority of the groups gave significant time in their reports to an account of antifascist and Anarchist Black Cross Activity. The fascist movement in the region is very large although the exact numbers are obscure as many fascists are organised in a decentralised fashion into street gangs.

The neo nazi movement adopts a radical rather than a parliamentary approach and aims at establishing superiority on the street and crushing political opposition as a precursor to seizing state power. The popular slogan “Russia for the Russians” is given effect by regular attacks on migrants. The existence of these movements clearly necessitates a militant response from the anarchist movement. Comrades reported that violence is escalating, frequently involving the use of knives where previously only fists had been used.

Nationally, 9 comrades have been killed by fascists in the last few years: Nikolay Girenko, Timur Kacharava, Aleksandr Ryukhin, Stanislav Korepanov, Ilya Borodaenko, Fyodor Filatov, Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova and Ilya Dzhaparidze.

Of these, Timur Kacharava and Ilya Borodaenko and Anastasia Baburova were anarchists, and Ilya and Anastasia also members of Autonomous Action.

There is a great deal of racism in wider society against people from the Caucasus and central Asia which the fascists are able to exploit. One comrade told me that more people would probably be involved in fascist movements were it not for the fact that the soviet years had engendered a sense of cynicism towards political expression of any sort!

Only a few groups were able to report superiority on the streets or progress in preventing the fascists from organising. The more common anarchist experience is of being outnumbered locally by fascists. The level of state attention on anarchists is also high. The movement has political prisoners and many groups had experienced harassment from the Centre for Prevention of Extremism. This partially reflects on the militant tactics employed by antifa but is not wholly explained by this. Although the delegates from Ufa reported that general political activism is distinguished from militant anti fascism and is tolerated locally this experience is unrepresentative and in any case is only a recent development there.

Unsurprisingly therefore, participation in the Anarchist Black Cross is a very popular activity for members of Autonomous Action. Anarchist Black Cross activities include collecting money for lawyers fees, collecting and publishing information about prisoners, educating activists in basic legal rights and tactics when dealing with the police and supporting resistance by prisoners.

Anarchist Black Cross activity is coordinated over the Autonomous Action email list. This is apparently not wholly efficient and some difficulty was reported in obtaining accurate information. A proposal was made to delegate responsibility for some tasks to named individuals but this was decided against on the basis of wishing to avoid the creation of an elite of ABC activists and in favour of generalised responsibility shared by all.

Apart from Anti Fascism and the ABC, groups reported a large range of other activities including, animal rights campaigning, environmental campaigns, propaganda production and movie clubs, food not bombs initiatives and attempts to organise factory workers and tenants and student unions and to campaign on bread and butter issues such as the price of public transport.

Anarchists, particularly in Ufa are also involved in LGBT issues, Russia is quite socially conservative and the rights of LGBT people are not always respected. For example a Gay Pride march in Moscow was subject to a counter demonstration by members of the Russian Orthodox church amongst other reactionaries.

Anarchists appear to have achieved the greatest public support for environmental campaigns, understandably so as many of the projects opposed are harmful to local people as well as to the environment more generally.

It would be fair to say, however, that the pursuit of social organising and campaigning work is often overshadowed by the pressing need for survival and self defence. This is not to criticise Autonomous Action, which struck me as successfully maintaining a decent organisation under tremendous pressure. One delegate, in a particularly beleaguered region reported that “All we do is just hang banners and fight for survival.”

Other delegates commented on increased organisation challenges facing their groups as a consequence of repression from police or neo nazi’s. For example groups may find that membership suffers as individuals become dissuaded from remaining in the movement. This prompts a need for greater recruitment activity and a relatively high turn over of activists, leading to a greater requirement for internal education and training.

Autonomous Action appears capable of responding effectively to these challenges although solidarity from abroad is of course always welcome! The conference gave the impression of a small movement but one which is focused and well organised. One comrade commented that although membership had been steady at around 100 people for the last few years but that the quality of participants had increased terms of serious and self discipline.

All in all a fantastic bunch of comrades! I can only end the report by thanking them all for their hospitality over an inspiring and informative week.

Ellenor Hutson
Liberty & Solidarity

Report written for

Autonomous Action's website:


author by j-hanpublication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 11:40Report this post to the editors

"A proposal passed during the conference also requires members to refrain from publicly voicing opinions that contradict agreed AD positions."

this seems off to me. blatantly authoritarian even.

author by Jon - ZACFpublication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 15:23Report this post to the editors

Why is it authoritarian? You join an anarchist organisation by voluntary association; If you don't agree with the "agreed AD positions" and would thus contradict them in public that is not the organisation for you and you should not join. How can you expect people to take an organisation seriously when its members contradict its positions? Sounds like you have a fluffy anything-goes-and-anything-mildly-resembling-discipline-or-theoretical/ ideological/ tactical-unity-is-authoritarian conception of anarchism. Blatantly ineffective.

What would be interesting is to know what rights, for lack of a better word, minority positions are afforded within the organisation, and how much freedom people with minority views are given to argue for their ideas and try to win the majority to their position. If this internal debate were stifled I'd agree it authoritarian, but I doubt that is the case.

author by jay-hanpublication date Sat Sep 26, 2009 03:14Report this post to the editors

go through any of the position papers of any of the groups, I guarantee you will find something to disagree with in any of them, I'm all for the collective formulation of ideas, but I will not be a stooge mindlessly spewing the party line.

author by Thomaspublication date Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:33Report this post to the editors

If you really disagree with the positions of the organization, why be a part of that organization? If you only disagree with the positions a little, then why argue against them publicly? Why not argue against them internally?

Accountability to collective decisions and processes is not authoritarian. Individual members associating with an organization and then disregarding that organization's collective decisions and processes is. For organizations to ever be effective or have any use beyond social gatherings, there must be respect for collective decisions and collective principles. Not publicly undermining them is a pretty basic way of doing that.

author by j-hanpublication date Mon Sep 28, 2009 14:44Report this post to the editors

wait what do you mean by publicly?

author by Jonpublication date Mon Sep 28, 2009 14:54Report this post to the editors

I think t hat, by "publicly" they mean outside of the internal structures of Autonomous Action i.e externally.

author by Thomaspublication date Tue Sep 29, 2009 04:41Report this post to the editors

I can't speak for Autonomous Action; but I agree with Jon (and interpret AA as meaning): externally. So writing and publishing writings that contradict the position of the organization and distributing/ publishing this outside the organization, speaking at events against the positions of the organization, or acting against the positions of the organization at events or actions.

author by jhanpublication date Tue Sep 29, 2009 08:27Report this post to the editors

well what happens if the organization puts forward a point I disagree with?
You can't just up and leave over one disagreement, do you have any idea how much effort it is to create an organization?

author by thomaspublication date Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:07Report this post to the editors

Here's my view (borrowed from other writings and my own experience) about how disagreements can be handled within an organization:

If the majority of an organization is in favor of a policy or a line of action that you oppose, there are different ways that you and your organization can deal with it:

Depending on whether it's a fundamental or a minor disagreement the options for the group are:
1) the majority position or action is taken and the opposing members concede (either agreeing to abide by the policy or promote it or agreeing at least not to publicly work against it), quit or at most extreme are expelled (depending on the seriousness of the matter)
2) if making the decision is not that important or not having a split is more important than making the decision, the organization decides not to take a position or action on the issue until further debate can be had or decides to indefinitely not take a position or action on the issue.
3) as a compromise, two or more different positions or actions are taken as acceptable positions or actions of the members of the organization

#2 and #3 would leave the door open for arguing for and carrying out the minority position and action , but in the case of #1 you could deal with it in different ways until you can have further discussions where you can try to convince your organization of your view or until it's proven right or wrong through experience and time:
- respect the position/ action and promote it/ carry it out
- respect the position/ action but don't promote it/ carry it out*

*Unless it's something fundamental to the organization like "refuse to scab on a strike" or "don't engage in domestic abuse" in which case the organization would likely kick you out if you don't carry out the position/ action.

But unless an organization doesn't have a position on an issue, it doesn't make sense to be part of an organization if you're going to disrespect and work against the processes and decisions that the you and the rest of the organization come up with if you're views don't win out.

Number of comments per page
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch

Front page

Strike in Cachoeirinha

(Bielorrusia) ¡Libertad inmediata a nuestro compañero Mikola Dziadok!

DAF’ın Referandum Üzerine Birinci Bildirisi:

Cajamarca, Tolima: consulta popular y disputa por el territorio

Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin: Playing The Big Man in America

Nós anarquistas saudamos o 8 de março: dia internacional de luta e resistência das mulheres!

Özgürlüğümüz Mücadelemizdedir

IWD 2017: Celebrating a new revolution

Solidarité avec Théo et toutes les victimes des violences policières ! Non à la loi « Sécurité Publique » !

Solidaridad y Defensa de las Comunidades Frente al Avance del Paramilitarismo en el Cauca

A Conservative Threat Offers New Opportunities for Working Class Feminism

De las colectivizaciones al 15M: 80 años de lucha por la autogestión en España

False hope, broken promises: Obama’s belligerent legacy

Primer encuentro feminista Solidaridad – Federación Comunista Libertaria

Devrimci Anarşist Tutsak Umut Fırat Süvarioğulları Açlık Grevinin 39 Gününde

The Fall of Aleppo

Italia - Ricostruire opposizione sociale organizzata dal basso. Costruire un progetto collettivo per l’alternativa libertaria.

Recordando a César Roa, luchador de la caña

Prison Sentence to Managing Editor of Anarchist Meydan Newspaper in Turkey

Liberación de la Uma Kiwe, autonomía y territorio: una mirada libertaria para la comprensión de la lucha nasa

Misunderstanding syndicalism

American Anarchist and Wobbly killed by Turkey while fighting ISIS in Rojava

Devlet Tecavüzdür

Russia / Ukraine / Belarus | Anarchist movement | en

Thu 27 Apr, 20:57

browse text browse image

avtonomobl.jpg imageAvtonom #31, Autumn 2009. English summary 15:50 Fri 09 Apr by Avtonomnoe Deistvie 0 comments

Avtonom is journal of libertarian communist organisation Autonomous Action, which has local groups in 14 cities of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

1.jpg imageActions to commemorate Stas and Nastya around Russia 16:06 Wed 21 Jan by Avtonomnoe Deistvie 0 comments

20th January in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Grozniy, various actions were organized to commemorate Stas Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova, murdered on 19th January. At noon around 400 people gathered at the location of the murder to leave flowers. Police and several busloads of OMON riot police were present at the spot, but eventually did not intervene.

Anastasia "Skat" Baburova imageAnastasia "Skat" Baburova murdered 15:50 Wed 21 Jan by Avtonomnoe Deistvie 0 comments

Our friend and comrade Skat was murdered today in Moscow, shot to head by an assassin. She was studying in evening line of journalist faculty of Moscow State University. She worked a while in "Izvestiya", but left and worked as a freelancer. She joined Autonomous Action a day before she got murdered. Inside the movement, Nastya got well along with everyone.

textEnglish summary of Russian anarchists magazine Avtonom 18:46 Wed 11 May by Avtonom 0 comments

Dear friends, welcome to the spring issue of Avtonom... this year we are turning 10 years, wait for some celebrations to come! Avtonom is a pseudo-quarterly journal by Autonomous Action, which developed from a network to a libertarian communist federation in January 2002, after two years of existence. Currently Autonomous Action has local groups in 13 cities of Russia and Armenia, and supporters and friends in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

textRussian Anarchism: After the fall 23:48 Fri 25 Feb by Laure Akai and Mikhail Tsovma 0 comments

Although many classical anarchist theorists and figures came from Russia, the advent of the Soviet State effectively crushed the movement. Now anarchism is reborn in Russia. Laure Akai and Mikhail Tsovma write from Moscow to tell us a little about the trials and tribulations of the Russian anarchist movement in the early 1990's

Sorry, no stories matched your search, maybe try again with different settings.

textEnglish summary of Russian anarchists magazine Avtonom May 11 Autonomous Action (translation) 0 comments

Dear friends, welcome to the spring issue of Avtonom... this year we are turning 10 years, wait for some celebrations to come! Avtonom is a pseudo-quarterly journal by Autonomous Action, which developed from a network to a libertarian communist federation in January 2002, after two years of existence. Currently Autonomous Action has local groups in 13 cities of Russia and Armenia, and supporters and friends in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

© 2005-2017 Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]