An Existenial American in… Kiev: A repost

by b socha

An interesting comment I found from an American comrade who went to Kiev during the 2014 Revolution. I will not tell you what to think, but only ask that you do:

1. Putin has used rhetoric of fascist nationalists in an attempt to discredit the Revolution and the government. This author presumably does not share the propagandistic notions of the Kremlin and yet said author claims this is a right wing dominated political milieu as of 3.1.2014. Might there exist some complexities in the phenomenon Ukrainian nationalism that are not coextensive with fascism?

2. What are the values and the limits of individualistic, seemingly non-syndicalist/non-realist interpretation of social action?

3. Do presumptions of existential loneliness preclude political formation and associations beyond affective kinship? (IE must anarchistic motives always accompany a syndicalist component)

4. Is horizontal really horizontal association if domination is reproduced? Isn’t this a failure to perceive other dimensions of power?

I visited the maidan for the first time yesterday. Again today. It is a bad place; psychically assaulting. To act as myself would be to invite physical violence from any of the masked/armed/armored men that are everywhere so I adopt the passing role I perform most often. Their eyes search for deviance and their mouths bark orders I can’t understand. I know them. Police, diffused.

To be there is to be confronted by something terrible. All nodes in the network of domination are present and cofunctioning more perfectly than I experience them in daily life. Daily life is just any block away from where the immense barricades create inside/outside.

Inside nearly all horizontality is gone. Gone is the mutal aid in service of revolution. Not that I’m upset at this except for missing the chance to make a sandwich as feminist action. Horizontality on its own is meaningless, or, maybe we are learning all the time at our work places w/o bosses, on the streets of Kiev, and from images of post-riot broom blocs organized from #Twitter that horizontality is actually hostile to us unless certain conditions are present that are consciously arranged. Left to spontaneity, horizontality may tend to reproduce domination this time in a horizontal mode.

It has been replaced by the beginnings of the differentiation of “the opposition ” into distinct sects. With revolution won, and The Police nowhere (but the necessity of policing burning behind the eyes of every masked man), they are faced with the obligation to continue their civil war by political means. Huge banners are everywhere with faces of politicians and names of parties/cliques/crews. Masked men no longer fight The Police but instead are balanced precariously on makeshift ladders tying up more line from which to hang banners, every suitable surface already fully saturated. I think it doesn’t take Clauswitz/Foucault for them to recognize their present maneuvers for war = politics = war. It only took the lived experience of preparing/fighting/winning war and a few cusory thoughts to what is to come.

The barricades are ominous. They would be beautiful if not for the cause of their creators, so, instead they are terrifying. Manned by armed/armored/masked men, still.

The volume of fascist graffiti is disturbing.

The graffiti is: Swastika and sloganeering. But also crew names – the fascists formed armed/armored crews during the revolution – heralding their presence.

But what really gets me are the circle-A’s (sprayed, I’m told, by antisocial youths more often than by “real” anarchists…) that have been détourn as iron crosses. The first time I saw one I think that it is a circle-A over the iron cross. I am slightly amused and recognize myself – we’ve all censored racist or fascist graffiti before, no? But the second time I see this it is somehow totally plain to me that it is a fascist reappropriation of space.

I’m crushed. This realization is as jarring as the terrifying moment I’m roughly pulled by my arm into orderedness by a masked/armed/armored man after I didn’t understand his orders in Ukrainian to walk where he says I should walk and not where I am walking. I only realize the issue is where I’m walking after I’m thinking I’m being attacked. Comrades are still hospitalized here from assaults by mobs of men like him. And for less than walking out of bounds.

The US State Dept. issued a travel advisory for Kiev before I arrived but I have still never felt scared of my American-ness despite people telling me I am brave for being here in the same breath as telling me Americans aren’t safe here – I need to be careful. They reify threats by making warnings. Maybe on purpose. Here, I am seen by all for a part of who I am – a spoiled westerner.

Ukrainians, especially young and pretty women, are isolated from the west, bodily, by visa denials. Officially, you can apply for a tourist visa for USA or EU but because of “stereotypes of mail order brides and that all Ukrainian women are prostitutes in the west” they are all denied. This is told to me by a 20-something ex-anarchist ex-hardcore punk rocker ex-straight edge ex-vegan still-wild woman I had the pleasure to meet serendipitously.

Reality here: Dropping out of anarchy and into a state run subpar university education-in-progress is her ticket to student visa status in the west and a chance at self-actualization she could never have here no matter the subcultural identifiers or strugglismo under taken. She told me about her experiences in antifascist black bloc actions and how she is glad for those experiences and all those ex-subcultures because they opened her eyes to possibilities she could have never known otherwise. Possibilities being one of 50 anarchists (quantity has a quality all its own and this quality is a big reason why anarchists have been made marginal in maidan) stuck without theoretical tools (social war theory hasn’t reached Ukraine and the academy is fucking us again here because comrades even tried to read Foucault but admitted to me they didn’t understand just like I can’t but at least I can read KKA or Murder of Crows or illustrated beginners guides – they don’t have those here…) could never give her.

In summation: Don’t believe any source trying to spin this as anything other than a nationalist/conservative, bourgeois capitalist revolution won by fascist youth. It is actualized nightmare. If I thought this revolution would change anything, as most everyone (non-comrade) I’ve spoken to thinks it will, I’d be scared for the people here. As it is, I think I know everything will continue as it was – the interesting questions: What will become of the disillusionment in the months to come? After elections? After EU integration?

I am deeply affected by what I’ve experienced and the people I have met – comrades, common joes and janes, and critical ex-comrades alike. This experience has called into question everything I’ve thought and done up until this point, anti-politically speaking. Most assumptions I’ve made and actions I’ve taken just don’t hold up to what I’ve learned here. Some sadness or guilt or regret at this realization but mostly I feel the joy that comes with breaking through limits.

Something I have felt from the second I arrived but that I haven’t written about here and that has contributed to this shaking-down and reassessment are my privileges here. Material conditions here are grim to say the least. Provocative feminist action is making sandwiches. In a new context I’m a new person with new thoughts on old, formerly decided, subjects. I leave with more questions than I came with but I leave with some answers, too.

Before I say this, I acknowledge I have been guilty of this thing I’m about to attempt to start a dialogue about and that in some ways I’m guilty of it RIGHT NOW having arrived here to participate in the situation and forge connections, but I need to say this. I strive to say this in a comradely way and in coming from a place of solidarity and recognition of myself.

Comrades have told me, with some amusement, of all the requests for interviews from counter-media projects back home. You know who you are and I won’t name projects/people here for many good reasons chief among them that this is not a calling-out but a call for reflection and dialogue. Some of you know me as an acquaintance and teammate; we’re not close but we have shared moments that felt to me like really living. I value all of your projects and feel richer for them. This isn’t just about these great projects, but this is also about commenters here and otherwhere. And about attempts at analysis formulated by friends and crews around dinners and on walks. And about mediation by the media and how this affects us as it effects a false understanding of struggles and how our analysis suffers for it.

Some of the questions asked in these requests for interviews have struck me as naive, having experienced the things I have here. The questions are premised on points of departure from distortions created by the western media according to their role in the creation of reality and reaffirmation of control narratives. Questions of analysis are posed from these points of departure fabricated by the media and so the media has a direct, heavy (if invisible hand) in shaping our analysis.

Then there is the politicization that comes with this distance and mediation. A process of reduction that makes us only see what we want; we project what suits us onto these far off struggles. This behavior of ours doesn’t serve us. Why do we do this? I don’t have answers. I’m bleary eyed so I’ll leave it here but I’d like to have dialogue on this happen. Here isn’t the right place. Maybe the counter-media projects that all know each other and share many affinities can discuss this in an appropriate context and do better?

Submitted by a— in kiev on Sun, 02/23/2014 – 16:58