menu close-menu

Today, on a festive day, we decided to dedicate a special article to Belarusian volunteers who are now welcoming the New Year by defending Ukraine from Russian invaders.

“Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow ” talked to volunteer Andrey about why he became a warrior, as well as how to support Belarusian anarchists and anarchistess at the front.

* – name changed

– Do you remember the moment when you made the decision to become a volunteer?

– I made this decision almost in the first days of the war. I immediately realised that the fate of Belarus, the fate of Europe, and maybe even the fate of mankind would be decided now in Ukraine. A lot of time passed from the moment when I made this decision to the moment when I was on the verge. And here you are already standing on the border and waiting for Ukrainian border guards to start inspecting you. Then for the first time I was a little bit scared.

It was also scary to go to the first combat missions. Training is great, but I’ve never seen war. Unfortunately, I did.

If you learn in training, you are supposedly in the game: you understand everything, you are safe and relatively comfortable. But I didn’t know how I would behave in real combat conditions. However, my first outing was normal. It happens, of course, that someone after the first combat goes to Warsaw, at best. At worst, they go to Kiev for treatment. And in the worst case, they don’t go anywhere. But I was lucky.

Photo from Andrey’s personal archive

– Are there many anarchists in the ranks of the ZSU now? And why are anarchists fighting in Ukraine?

– At first there was an attempt to create an anarchist detachment. In the beginning it succeeded and there was an anti-authoritarian platoon, which is known as the “Resistance Committee“. It got its name through the political nucleus around which it was built. There were Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians and comrades from Western Europe. In total, more than 50 people, if I’m not mistaken. But it fell apart because of military bureaucracy.

At the moment there are several more or less large groups: somewhere it’s platoons, somewhere it’s branches or small groups of comrades who fight together. There are also anarchists who still fight without documents, just like real pirates. They are not even part of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, which is the only official volunteer army. That is, these anarchists use their own money to buy cars, necessary equipment, and they themselves rescue and pull people out from under shelling.

Why anarchists are fighting in Ukraine is obvious, in my opinion. A great imperialist country is attacking its small neighbor. Ukraine is freer and more democratic than modern Russia. Ukraine has experience of successful coups or revolutions, there is a strong grassroots movement, independent trade unions, and many political parties. And Russia is one big concentration camp. This situation is quite understandable for us, Belarusians. In fact, the Belarusian model of power is what Putin wants to achieve in Russia. I would say that Belarus is now a reserve of the Russian world.

Therefore, there is no contradiction why anarchists took up arms to protect their societies. Why Belarusian anarchists come here is also quite understandable. As I have already said many times, there will be no free Belarus until Russia loses.

For anarchists from Western countries the war gives an opportunity to get combat experience. It also opens an opportunity to build new political projects. And, of course, they are called here by the ideas of international solidarity.

And finally I want to remember Bakunin’s words: “even the most progressive monarchy is worse than the worst Republic”. Because monarchy will always oppress people.

– What is anarchy for you and what current do you adhere to?

– For me, anarchism is a dream that we can build a world based primarily on the value of human freedom and equality. After all, we know very well the situations when a bunch of people who got to power dictate us how to live, what to do and what war to die in.

Representative democracy, unfortunately, does not solve all existing problems. And Belarus is a good example of that. In fact, we had democratic elections in 1994. The people chose a usurper and have been suffering from it for 30 years.

That’s why anarchists propose direct democracy, in which all decisions will be penetrated by people from below, and not imposed on us by a bunch of elected officials from above. For this we need maximum decentralisation of power, expanded local self-governance and activism of the people themselves.

Personally, I adhere to the ideas of anarcho-communism. I am opposed to the modern capitalist system. Let us take a common situation as an example: a man inherited a business. He has never worked a day at it, but he has a monopoly on power, he gets most of the profits, while the factory workers work for pennies and have little real influence on anything. We, anarcho-communists, believe that the rulers of enterprises should be those who work in them. Workers should collectively decide how the enterprises should work, where the profits will go and so on.

During the Spanish Civil War, there was a strong anarchist movement in Spain, which in practice launched this model. And quite successfully. There are plenty of examples of enterprises under workers’ control in the world. There is even a movie “The Take” of 2004 about the experience of Argentina.

In Belarus there was a good example of alternative business – the printing cooperative “flyer”. It was economically successful and at the same time social, with horizontal management.

Photo from Andrey’s personal archive

– In your opinion, has the attitude of democratic forces to anarchists changed after 2020?

– I think there was a positive attitude towards anarchists even before 2020. In 2017, the anarcho-movement showed itself during the protests against the “tuneyad” decree. And thus greatly frightened the authorities. You can remember Brest, where a small action of anarchists turned into a rally for two thousand people.

In 2020, anarchists looked like one of the most organised groups. A repressive scheme works on most political associations in Belarus, when leaders are put in jail and the movement collapses. But it doesn’t work for anarchists.

Besides, the positive image was influenced by the anarcho-partisans, who were the first Belarusians to show that they were ready to fight with weapons in their hands.

– Do you think the appearance of dictatorship in the modern world is a manifestation of time and people’s disinterest in politics or is this phenomenon historically fixed? After all, we passed these lessons a long time ago?

– Dictatorship is a natural process. As long as there will be a hierarchical state model, there will be dictatorial regimes. And representative democracy does not save from this, as I said above.

Antagonism between the individual and society, or between society and authoritarian a******s, has always existed. The other issue is that we can build mechanisms and institutions that can fight back against usurpers.

– What is the situation on the front now? Can the counter-offensive be considered successful?

– The situation is complicated. At the beginning of the war, Ukraine managed to recapture Kharkiv and Kherson region. But we stalled a bit in Zaporozhye, and the Russian military strengthened there. My comrades who fought in that direction told me that the Russians managed to build a fortress in a year and a half. That is, it is no longer just a dugout in three tents, but concrete shelters with Internet and TV. In my opinion, the problem was that the counter-offensive was highly publicised, but the expected and the real did not coincide. That is why both Ukrainian society and Western partners are now in frustration. Nevertheless, there are successes, it’s just that the Ukrainian army is not advancing as fast as planned.

It seems to me that now Ukrainian and Russian troops have converged at the point where they are fighting with equal forces. Another thing is that Russia has more human resources and they are not afraid to use people as live meat. And for Ukraine, every life is important. Or almost every life.

In addition, Ukraine has long been dependent on Western aid. Now this support is less and less and it is time to get off this needle.

But we fight on, despite all the difficulties.

Photo from Andrey’s personal archive

– How much does winter complicate the life of warriors? What difficulties do you encounter?

– The weather is unstable. Today it can be -15, tomorrow it will be +3. And you walk through this shit, all wet, dirty up to your knees. In short, the situation for work is not the best. I especially do not envy those who sit in a trench in such weather. It’s really terrible.

On the positive side, compared to last year, the Russians decided not to destroy all the infrastructure and there is even light in frontline towns.

– Tell us about the situation with donations: many Ukrainians complain that it has become much harder to raise money. What is the situation with you?

– The situation with donations is going a bit worse, as I think. It should be noted here that since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, anarchists have depended heavily on the support of Western comrades. The leftist movement in Ukraine is not very developed, unfortunately there are no such strong structures to help financially. And the costs, obviously, of the war are simply enormous.

There is such an opinion that Western leftists are tired of the war (we in the trenches are not tired, but they are). In addition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come to the forefront in the Western media, Ukraine is no longer so interesting to the international community.

Sometimes, there is even a narrative among the European left that Hamas freedom fighters and Ukrainian society, which is fighting against a huge authoritarian empire, are Nazis. The myth of “Nazis in Ukraine” has actually been fueled by Russian propaganda.

Nevertheless, needs are being closed through volunteers, through the command. Although, some requests used to be closed faster. Nevertheless, we are looking for other opportunities to work and fight on.

In Ukraine, they have come up with an interesting method that has not been used before: one and the same collection is distributed to several people. After all, everyone has their own circle of acquaintances and friends, who are more willing to donate to a person they know well. In my personal experience, I have not encountered this method, but I think it should work.

There are also several projects that help anarchists, leftists, anti-authoritarians and just progressive people. The main project is the “solidarity collective“. In addition to supporting the military, they do humanitarian work: they travel to the de-occupied territories and help people there.

Part of the Western left (who don’t donate to drones because you can kill a person with them and that’s not pacifist) supports those affected by the war.

There are also two big projects that are not based in Ukraine. They are RAF, a group of German anarchists who started their activities about a year ago. They primarily help the military, but they also have a humanitarian focus. There is another German initiative-GNIP (Good night imperial pride). They work on a point-by-point basis, helping specific collections, specific people. As far as I know, they recently collected a drone for someone from Kalinowski’s regiment. The collection was successful, and perhaps on New Year’s Eve Russians will receive a “festive salute” from it.

It’s worth noting the anarchist black cross. Our Polish, German and, of course, Belarusian comrades are doing a great job.

We are grateful to our comrades from the USA-Yellow Peril Tactical. They have provided various kinds of support: from training camps on vehicles to training sessions on the territory of Ukraine from military and paramedics.

I would also like to mention the initiative from Warsaw xVx tacticaid. They also worked on a point-by-point basis, starting fundraising for one or two vehicles and bringing them here to Ukraine.

Photo from Andrey’s personal archive

– A final word to the readers?

– I realise that now there is such a situation that in Ukraine and among Belarusians there is such an opinion that there is corruption everywhere, they steal everywhere and everything will be stolen. Someone may not trust the Ukrainian authorities or Kalinowski’s regiment, but if there is a collection from specific persons, especially if you have common acquaintances with them, you can always write and ask who is collecting it and for what. It is always possible to help people directly, initiatives that you trust.

Sometimes it happens that the collection is questionable. For example, one paramedic collected a monowheel and everyone laughed at him. And then he sent a video: and he actually rode it to perform tasks. So in such cases, do not be afraid to ask about the details of the collection.

Yes, the situation at the front is bad, Arestovych f****d up us all, the war will not end in two or three weeks. The war is with us and for 2024. And to win this war, we, Belarusians, Ukrainians abroad and in Ukraine, need to be strong and in solidarity with each other. Thanks to solidarity between people, the Russians were not able to seize Kiev. Thanks to mutual assistance, Ukraine has been successfully defending itself against the huge Russian military machine for the second year.

The article was created within the framework of the scholarship program of the Free Belarus Center.