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Interview with an anarchist from the city of Perm about the movement of « Absolutely free markets »

category russia / ukraine / belarus | community struggles | interview author Tuesday August 28, 2012 16:30author by Blogue du Collectif Emma Goldman - UCL Report this post to the editors

In Russia

The iron lady of neoliberalism, Margaret Thatcher, declared there was no alternative in matter of economy. Yet, experiences putting in practice alternative and egalitarian economic forms since propagate themselves with a great vivacity to answer to growing needs of impoverishment. Activists subvert the exchange and consumption through the Free of cost and self-organization. Through the interview that follows, on questions of the blogue du Collectif Emma Goldman (UCL), a Russian anarchist comrade from the city of Perm, will describe the phenomenon in expansion of the “absolutely free markets”, and will explain few dynamics of her local anarchist milieu. Whole questions and answers.

Interview with an anarchist from the city of Perm about the movement of « Absolutely free markets »

Perm is a great industrial center of Russia, of near 1 billion inhabitants, just below Ural Mountains, which are traditionally considered a natural boundary between Europe and Asia. Can you first draw us up a brief portrait of the local anarchist and antiauthoritarian milieu of Perm and around what (groups, places or subcultures) it is concentrated?

- Perm is considered to be more liberal and libertarian than other provincial russian cities, because there are many active human rights activists and active non-profit organizations, local authorities are more ready to changes and cooperation, more "calm" police. Active antiauthoritarian community in Perm is not really big; it's about 10-15 people in a core, and about 30 people around. But it's quite difficult to tell whether we are real anarchists, because most of people who take part in these activities won't say they are (some of us are communists, apoliticals, antifascists, hippie…), but they are active and do lots of considered-anarchist things.

A movement of “Frimarkets” (фримаркет) actually seems to be growing in a number of cities of Russia. Solnechnogorsk, Kirov, Magnitogorsk, Perm, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Saint Petersburg, etc. Temporary markets where people bring unnecessary items and food for sharing freely in a common place and “take on the pile” to take an expression from Kropotkine. It is based on a Gift Economy that does present a lot of similitude with Food not bombs initiatives. From which “seed” does this movement evolve as much – is it more or less connected with other anarchist organizing?

- In most cities freemarket movement was really started by anarchist groups. In other places it was caught by young hipster or cultural communities as popular and funny initiative without any sense of anarchism. We strongly feel that real success this story has in the places where freemarkets are not promoted and positioned as "true anarchist initiative" but as local activity that helps common people to get what they need and build community. It teaches people practically how anarchism can work. For example, in cities like Kirov where it's positioned as anarchist activity, only subcultural young people visit their freemarkets and it looks like just funny party for strange people. We try to make it as usable and easy to understand to people as possible, so we even call it here in russian language as "Absolutely free market" (Абсолютно бесплатная ярмарка) instead of english word freemarket.

The Free of charge appears in a certain manner as a subversion of the capitalist economic processes, particularly apparent when people are taken of astonishment to not pay at the distribution points. Society inculcates from early age: “work, consume, and shut up!” to its future workers. Do you believe that “Absolutely free markets” got an emancipatory potential for individuals and communities?

- It surely makes people believe that things can be done without any charge. We feel that today someone gets something he or she needs at freemarket, and tomorrow he or she will be more capable to do kind things for free. Lots of people didn't believe we do that without any benefit, but after they see everything themselves they change their opinion. Unfortunately, we still have some people who try to make benefit of free, so they spend all their time at freemarket trying to get as many "good" things as possible, not taking part in any other activities around them. That's our unsolved problem yet. We try to talk to them, but still have same problem. We try to persuade people to make freemarkets by themselves in their districts, houses, offices, communities (or just make free book shelf or freebox), and sometimes get some response.

Threats and provocations from the radical and fascist rightwing and from the police arbitrariness are realities that a lot of activists face in Russia and abroad. What challenge does it represent to freemarkets of different cities?

- Fascists and police are problems, but not for freemarkets. As it's positioned like something for people and they see that is, that's why I guess everything is okay. Just because if they closed such peaceful and charitable activities, that would cause high resonance and attention.

What are local impacts of the "antiextremist" repression felt by antifascist activists and radical dissent against United Russia?

- In our region we don't have any problems with antiextremist repressions, but in neighboring region, Tyumen, our friend Andrey Kutuzov, has got serious problems because of his views. I think it's also because of more liberal environment in a here.

In domestic work (household work and child care), a certain gift economy is often lived by women under very unequal gender roles and task distribution, thus exploiting their work force without any remuneration. How do you evaluate the awareness in relation to gender and patriarchy in frimarkets?

- Visitors of freemarkets are women in the majority, because they are more interested in clothes, different home-used stuff, that are the most often exchanged things at freemarkets. In a younger generation of about my age (17-25) parts of men and women are equal.

And finally, how do you evaluate the impact, and then the fast diffusion of radical dissident art groups like Война (Voina) and Pussy Riot?

- I think they are cool and have a strong impact. They are for all of us to fell that we can make really strange and strong things right now and simple. They are for people to wake up. I'm really upset by the girls being jailed.

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