Grenzcamp 2000

3. antirassistisches Grenzcamp
der Kampagne 'Kein Mensch ist illegal'
vom 29. Juli bis 6. August 2000
in Forst / Brandenburg
welcome to Telecity Forst 

A., F., G.

On tensions between KMII and the FA Poznan (english)

Sexism, collaboration with right-wing groups and the arrogance of Western activists

Over the past few months, some tension has arisen between KMII and the FA Poznan in relation to criticism that has been raised against the FA Poznan in feminist and antifascist circles in Poland (see below). After the attention of a small group of people within KMII was called to those criticisms by F. in a letter dated 7 March 2000 (revised on 21 March), attempts were made to compile all the available information and translate significant parts of it into English and/or German, to find out how the criticisms were dealt with by the FA Poznan, and to assess the context and dynamics of the discussion. We felt that only on the basis of more precise information about both facts and context could a broader discussion be started. Unfortunately, in trying to avoid to have discussions based on rumors, we have let time go by, and rumors have nevertheless started circulating - a dynamic we regret and take responsibility for. We hope the background information compiled here may help interested people, including the participants in the noborder meeting in Poznan on 17/18 June, in making their own informed judgement.

Two rather different criticisms were raised against the FA Poznan, which in our eyes require different approaches.

At the anniversary celebration for five years of the Rozbrat collective in Poznan, a place that plays a central role for anarchist organizing, in autumn of 1998 a group of women from Poland and Sweden that was visiting was angered by a poster the FA Poznan had made and used in their anti-military campaign, and by a collection of porno magazines in the library. The poster shows a naked woman with open legs, a picture taken from a porno magazine, with the slogan: "While you\'re at the army, she meets with the postman." The women decided to take the poster down, which led some members of the FA Poznan to try to preserve their poster - of which apparently only one copy exists - in a fist-fight. Other members of the FA Poznan intervened to stop the fist-fight. To our knowledge there has been no statement by the FA Poznan as a collective distancing themselves from the incident or picking up the topic of sexism within their own ranks. In an article in Liberation (a Polish-language political newspaper), one of the members of the FA Poznan took up some of the criticism, but chose a sarcastic tone and did not discuss the criticisms as something that needs to be dealt with.

In more recent times, people from both feminist and antifascist backgrounds have criticized the FA Poznan for its collaboration with groups from the right wing of the political spectrum. There is disagreement on what kind these groups are that the FA Poznan has collaborated with, especially about whether they should be considered racist and nationalist. At the very least, the leader of one of the groups they collaborate with, called "Naszosc", wrote in an article that it is time for the left and right to unite their efforts - a classical "broad front" strategy typical of the New Right. One of the incidents that came to the attention of a broader public was the collaboration of the FA Poznan with right-wing groups in their paint-bomb attack against the Russian consulate in Poznan, protesting against the war in Chechnia.

In both cases it seems of the utmost importance to keep in mind both the socio-historical context in which a debate takes place (technological and economic attack of Western Europe on Eastern Europe on a state and corporate level, combined with an often condescending attitude of Western European activists towards Eastern European activists) and the dynamic of the discussion that may prevent people from understanding each other even on points on which they largely agree. In the perception of members of the FA Poznan, but also of other political activists in Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe, the subtext of part of the criticism is the suggestion that the "primitive Easterners" have to learn from Western European activists how to think and work politically. If KMII and other Western European activists do not deal with this conflict in a fair way, this may have a negative influence on all efforts at collaboration between Eastern and Western activists.

It seems to us that the two criticisms need to be treated on different levels.

There does not seem to be much doubt that the events happened more or less the way they are described by the critics of the FA Poznan. The question is therefore not whether or not something has happened, but rather how to deal with it in relation to the collaboration between KMII and the FA Poznan. We would like to point out that the FA Poznan is a group of political activists that is in many ways comparable to groups of political activists in Germany or elsewhere - with a will to criticize power structures and putting much energy into activities that are certainly worthy of our support - and with blind spots on certain power structures, much like most male activists in Western Europe leave a number of topics up to women, or even more explicitly behave in machist ways. The current broad agreement among Western activists on the importance of feminist and anti-sexist work did not come out of nowhere, but was imposed by a feminist struggle in years of confrontation with male activists who would not listen. A process of this kind is currently going on in Poland. While it is clear that our solidarity in this matter lies with the women who are trying to get a deeper and serious discussion started on sexism, including on sexism within the anarchist scene, we think the answer cannot be to collectively exclude the FA Poznan from any collaboration. There are efforts currently going on, involving other branches of the Polish FA, to start a longer-term discussion on sexism. Let us not anticipate on the result of this discussion.

The criticism of the alliance politics of the FA Poznan gives rise to much more debate than the criticism of their not dealing with sexism. Here, notions of left and right and of nationalism are used that are highly context-dependent. The FA Poznan, like many anarchists especially in Eastern Europe, reject positive references to the left, arguing that right and left are concepts historically related to the state and parliamentary politics with which they want nothing to do. This leads to a discourse of "neither left nor right" which in the context of Western Europe with the "broad front" strategies of the New Right is highly problematic, but may not at first have the same connotation in Poland - although this type of "broad front" discourse seems to be gaining ground, as the example of the article by a "Naszosc" leader shows. The left, in the experience of Polish anarchists, is what many in Germany would call the right-wing communists, or Marxist-Leninists. Another aspect which must be kept in mind is the inertia of previously shared struggles. Maybe it would be useful for Western activists to think of the occasional collaboration of the FA Poznan with right-wing groups with which they fought against the state-socialist regime for years, as similar to Western political groups\' occasional collaboration with authoritarian vanguard Marxist-Leninist groups in Germany or other Western European countries. In both cases, the political activists feel that they know the problematic groups they collaborate with well enough to be able to work with them on a case by case basis, pragmatically, without obfuscating serious disagreement with them on some fundamental issues. In the case of the campaign against the war in Chechnya, the FA Poznan chose to work with right-wing anti-war groups against right-wing racists who despise Chechnyan moslems. The fact that the solidarity with Chechnyans has some nationalist aspects in the sense that the struggle of Polish people for liberation from Russian influence is likened to the struggle of Chechnyans can certainly be criticized, but it should not be forgotten with what verve leftist groups in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe have support national struggles for liberation all over the world, until this type of international solidarity recently went out of fashion.

We hope that the information and context provided here will contribute to a fruitful discussion that will lead to a better understanding between Eastern and Western European activists, with mutual criticism in solidarity and a sense that we can learn from each other.

A., F., G.

Mehr zum Schwerpunkt Diskussion um FA Poznan
[20.06.2000] gefährliche verbindungen rechtsextremer und "anarchisten" in polen
[26.04.2000] Open letter to FA Poznan, Emancypunx and Kein Mensch ist illegal (english)
[25.03.2000] KMII und FA Poznan - Versuch eines Beitrags zu einer Auseinandersetzung
[21.03.2000] Zur Auseinandersetzung mit der FA (Federacja Anarchystyczna) Poznan

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