Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Anarchists United: Is It Possible For Anarchists of Every Kind to Work Together?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the diverse anarchist strategies could combine against our current class society. How every variation on the theme of “assert your freedom now,” from the anarcho-syndicalist direct action to Sam Konkin’s agorism, could combine in order to make the existing order ever less interesting and more impracticable. How we might eliminate political, economic and social privileges, while also promoting mutual aid among human beings.

It might look a little complicated to reconcile the specific goals of anarcho-syndicalists, collectivist anarchists, anarcho-communists and individualist anarchists – especially with those last two. However, I believe there’s more common ground than conflict between these schools, and the institutions they wish to develop can be complementary to one another. I will seek to outline here how anarchists can form a coherent coalition to overthrow the current statist-capitalist system.

I will begin with the institutions proposed by individualist anarchists in the mutualist tradition, since they are the ones I am most intimately familiar with. The central idea of mutualism is to establish the control of the productive process by workers through the widespread dispersion of capital in society. Proudhon held that every individual should own a means of production, individually or collectively with others by contract, and Kevin Carson outlined in Homebrew Industrial Revolution some of the ways in which current desktop production technologies and hobby material can help accomplish this ideal.

It’s not hard to imagine how the current monopoly capitalism, – increasingly bureaucratic, hierarchical and centralized, relying on state intervention to keep competitors out of the market, – creates serious incentives for people to look for more and more ways to get out of the crushing routine of wage slavery. A brief investigation of the lifestyles of the average metropolitan inhabitant will show people want something more.

Thus, one can imagine that more and more people will seek to acquire some personal means of production. In the beginning this may be individualist anarchists committed to the cause, but then others without any ideological affiliation will follow, only seeking more independence. Technologies such as the personal computer, 3D printers and CNC tools, increasingly more accessible, can help a lot, but a good old garden in any piece of land one can get is enough to begin with.

These independent workers will initially produce to the general market, for sure. But the general market is subject to government taxation, a spoliation of their work just as much as the monopolist profit, and it is in the interest of these revolutionaries to subvert this state of affairs. An ingenious recent crypto-anarchist contribution, virtual crypto-currencies, can come to their aid in this regard. These independent producers can form mutual aid and commerce networks, exchanging their products through bitcoins (or any other currency, who knows, maybe a labor bitnote?), that are resistant to regulation. As long as all transactions be made inside the network and with virtual currencies, it is impossible to track them, regulate them or even tax them.

Such a network of independent producers establishes yet another incentive: bringing more producers into the network. The more products and services can be offered inside the network, the less dependent on the state-dominated formal economy (in Konkin’s terms, the “white” and “pink” markets) producers are. How to do this? Once again mutualist ideas come to our aid: the establishment of a mutual bank, as proposed by Proudhon and William Greene, which lends capital with almost zero interest (or at least infinitely smaller than those of the current bank cartel) through virtual currencies. Such a bank would be able to finance the acquisition of means of production by an even greater share of the population disgruntled with the current economic system.

With the growth of the producer’s network and the mutual trust relations promoted by the mutual bank, a truly revolutionary potential is unleashed. Increasingly more complex production processes can be organized through cooperatives, P2P projects, and other kinds of collaboration. This makes the network more and more independent from the state-dominated formal economy we live under today. As this network gets stronger and more resilient, more goods may be created inside of it, such as schools, aid to people in hardship, medical treatment and collective transportation.

So far I have described a way to begin a parallel economy inside the current economy, as defended by mutualists and agorists. Let’s now add a little spice from other anarchist schools.

Anarcho-syndicalists defend the establishment of a worker’s democratic self-managed workplace, to be achieved through direct action and solidarity among the working classes. We can see clearly how the independent producers’ network described above would have a huge space for the establishment of trade unions and decentralized federations through cooperatives. But let’s examine the possibility of, through trade unions in the formal economy, bring the current corporations to worker’s control of production.

Following the Wobblies’ direct action tactics, in their classic pamphlet How to Fire Your Boss, workers in the most diverse industries can use direct and decentralized organizations, gain a huge bargaining power in the face of these industries’ management. The greater such bargaining power, the closer to the democratic self-management ideal they are. The constant disruptions in these industries’ productivity will systematically hurt the capitalist profit, and if they are sufficiently unpredictable and concerted, they will have little effect on workers, even taking into consideration the probable state intervention on behalf of the capitalist by the police.

An effect of this disruption in production (and the consequent decrease in the market value of the company) may be the gradual take over, by workers individually or as a collective, of the involved companies’ shares in stock exchanges. Such a stock purchase would provide more and more control over the workplace, and could be funded through the mutual banks described above.

Once a certain workplace had completely come under worker’s direct self-management, its products can be exchanged inside the network of independent producers on a mutual basis. This would greatly add to the stability and to the welfare of all inside the network, since a large quantity of people are now connected. We can see now that mutualist and anarcho-syndicalists can work together against the state and capitalism, achieving not only the goals they share, but also their more specific aims. Let’s try to expand this to include some more anarchist schools.

Collectivist anarchism, heavily connected with the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin, defends a form of social organization much like a society organized around the trade unions described above. If these unions adopted a wage policy (or, more properly speaking, a division of production) based on the quantity of labor performed by each of its members, possibly through the labor bitnotes accepted by the whole network of independent producers, it would be simple to organize collectivist anarchist communes. I imagine that such communes would decentralized societies, located around the unionized industries, with the relevant social organizations being all of collective nature. Several of these communes, also connected to the market through the network of independent producers, could coordinate to supply their members with products and services that were not available locally.

Another possible organization for these communes would be around the principles of anarcho-communism, whose main theorist Peter Kropotkin defended the end of wages and a division of the products of labor according to the individual necessities instead of the quantity of labor [1]. For this, it would suffice that the unions abolished payments and the use of any currency, and that communal distribution systems were created.

In the economic sense, the anarcho-communist societies would be outside the network of independent producers, since there would be no exchanges even in crypto-currencies. But certainly they would be connected by ties of trust and mutual aid. For example, the network could supply products and services for free through those members that so wished.

Other models for integrating anarchist institutions and communities, similar to those just described, can be developed in order to harmonize with the specific interests of green anarchists, anarcho-naturists and, who knows, maybe even anarcho-primitivists!

In conclusion, I would like to include one last thought, from a classical liberal with serious anarchist tendencies, Gustave de Molinari. As this intricate network of producers and independent communities were simultaneously developed by the anarchists’ direct actions, it would ever more be at the capitalist state’s gunpoint and at odds with its armed forces. The 20th century has shown us what states are capable of when promoting horror and violence. It’s not hard to imagine that this revolutionary network would need protection. Molinari proposed that the services of protections and conflict resolution be provided by independent producers, and not by a monopolist institution like the state. Surely our network of independent producers could include people interested in providing these services. Also, several kinds of decentralized and community organizations of protections and conflict resolution could emerge in the collectivist anarchist and anarcho-communist communes. This collaboration between the communes and the market of independent producers would create a powerful bulwark against the lethal dangers of the state.

In conclusion, my central point here was that anarchists from every school can unite into a coherent coalition. Through concrete actions derived from their own traditions, they can advance both their common causes of overthrowing statist-capitalist domination and their specific causes, in the most genuine spirit of mutual aid.

I myself am preparing a sustainable community project, and mining some bitcoins,. I look forward to collaborating with you all!


[1] a great description of such a society is the book The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin

(Source)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

British Student Diversity Officer Calls For White Men To Be Killed

  • Bahar Mustafa, 27, is the student union Welfare and Diversity Officer at Goldsmiths University in London
  • She was criticised after planning diversity meeting that banned white men
  • No confidence petition alleges she tweeted #killallwhitemen and called someone 'white trash' on official account
  • Ms Mustafa says in her response that the hashtag was an 'in-joke'
[Left] Ms Mustafa admitted that using the phrase 'white trash' on an official account was 'not professional', but said the hashtags had been used as a joke.

The university equality officer at the centre of a racism and sexism row could lose her job after she allegedly tweeted a hashtag 'kill all white men'.

Bahar Mustafa, 27, student union Welfare and Diversity Officer at Goldsmiths University in London, was accused of discrimination after she told white people and men 'not to come' to a meeting she was organising to discuss 'diversifying the curriculum'.

[Left] Ms Mustafa was pictured posing in front if a 'no white men' sign while pretending to cry.

Now students have launched a petition calling for her to be removed from the post, saying she has 'made students feel intimidated', been 'unprofessional in her public conduct' and 'encouraged or expressed hatred based on an individual’s race, gender, or social position'.

A similar petition on the public change.org site, which says she should be expelled has more than 2,700 online signatures, although another one backing her has been signed by nearly 1,300 people.

The students union petition, which closes on May 26, calls for a vote of no confidence in Ms Mustafa and claims she used hashtags including #killallwhitemen, as well as calling someone 'white trash' on Twitter.

It reads: 'The current welfare and diversity officer has used hate speech based on race and gender.

'For example, the consistent use of hashtags such as #killallwhitemen and #misandry, and publicly calling someone 'white trash' under the official GSU Welfare and Diversity Officer Twitter account.

[Left] Bahar Mustafa, 27, student union Welfare and Diversity Officer at Goldsmiths University in London, is at the centre of a racism and sexism row could lose her job after allegedly tweeted a hashtag 'kill all white men'.

The twitter account has since been shut down.

Ms Mustafa's ban on white people and men from the meeting was made public last month.

She had written on Facebook: 'Invite loads of BME [black and minority ethnic] Women and non-binary people!! Also, if you’ve been invited and you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME just cos i invited a bunch of people and hope you will be responsible enough to respect this is a BME Women and non-binary event only.'

Non-binary is a term used to describe people who do not consider themselves exclusively male or female.

Miss Mustafa, 27, added: ‘Don’t worry lads we will give you and allies things to do’, followed by a wink.

The event’s online page said it was open to ‘self-defining BLACK and ETHNIC MINORITY women and non-binary people with gender identities that include “woman”.’

[Left] Row: Ms Mustafa appeared to ban men and white people from attending the meeting in this Facebook post.

A notice about the meeting later appeared to show the ban had been dropped, stating: 'Allies now welcome!'
The post was met with outrage by students of the university, one of whom described the exclusive policy as 'patronising beyond belief'. 

Ms Mustafa has previously defended her position on her ban in a video clip, where she said in a statement read out to her fellow students that ethnic minority women could not be racist as they 'do not stand to gain' from inequality.

She also accused the media of embarking on a 'witch hunt and shameful character assassination'.

If three per cent of students' union members sign the petition, Ms Mustafa will be subject to a vote of no confidence. She will lose her role if two thirds of those who vote say she should be removed from the post. 

In her response to the no confidence petition, Ms Mustafa admitted that using the phrase 'white trash' on an official account was 'not professional', but said the hashtags had been used as a joke.

[Left] Goldsmiths has insisted the Student Union is a separate organisation over which it has no control.

She wrote: 'Regarding my use of hashtags: these were done on my personal account, which is separate to my work account. 

'However, I still recognise and understand how this can be alienating and troubling to some. 

'These are in-­jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves­ it’s a way of reclaiming the power from the trauma many of us experience as queers, women, people of colour, who are on the receiving end of racism, misogyny and homophobia daily. 

'These are not political stances. However, in regards to calling someone "white trash" under my official GSU Welfare and Diversity twitter account, I can accept that it was not professional and I do apologise for this.'

She also said that she had received racists and sexist abuse, as well as death threats, 'since the media storm' over her comments. 

Miss Mustafa recently graduated from Goldsmiths with an MA in gender and media studies.

She is understood to live with her mother Nursen, 55, father Ismail, 57, and sister Ipek, 23, in Enfield in a £450,000 three-bedroom terrace.

(Source)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Inside The UK’s Oldest Green Community (And Why We Should All Be Living This Way)

A short film about the beautiful Tinker's Bubble, the oldest community of its kind.

The off-grid community of Tinker’s Bubble in England is the longest standing low impact eco-village in the UK. For 21 years, an eclectic mix of individuals and families have lived here, isolated from the system. Some pass through, others stay. The so-called ‘Bubbleites’ make shared money through gardening and selling apple products. They don’t earn much, but they are happy and have all they need. They use wood for cooking and heating, and they have been fossil fuel-free for over two decades and counting.

Tinker’s Bubble is set in over 40 acres (16 hectares) of hillside and woodland, in a beautiful part of rural Somerset. The location is like a scene from The Hobbit, and the quaint English thatched roofs on the buildings in Tinker’s Bubble reflect that Tolkien ‘Shire’ feel.

This short documentary about the community is well worth watching. It’s a deep and inspiring short film, with some thought-provoking interview clips from various ‘Bubbleites” who talk openly about their views on education, community, the outside world, sharing, and living in harmony with nature. It also has some sobering statistics: If we go on as we are, we only have 39 years of oil left. 

With that in mind, there’s a lot here to inspire all future off-gridders!


(Source)

Friday, 15 May 2015

David Cameron to unveil new limits on extremists' activities in Queen's speech

Make no mistake, these are very serious developments and anyone who believes that democracy prides itself on free speech should think again. The judicial legislature that is about to become law in this country will allow police to limit the activities of anyone considered to be a "threat to the functioning of democracy” and out of step with "certain values". The precise nature of such values is to be defined by the State itself, of course. Furthermore, despite having more CCTV cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world, mass surveillance in the British Isles is about to get even worse. 

You can't fight the power of the British state directly... that would be tantamount to committing suicide. We have long advocated the establishment of effective revolutionary structures and alternative economies that will break the stranglehold of capitalism (N-AM Manifesto).

Decentralist ideas cannot possibly be implemented without cutting the population first, but that can't happen through reform. Here is something I wrote about population in the late-90s: The Inevitability of Depopulation.

Given that the State is about to clamp down on anyone it suspects of having the "purpose of overthrowing democracy”, I hope some of you will share this article and help to give it wider attention. 

- Troy Southgate

Prime minister will announce counter-terrorism bill including plans to restrict harmful actions of those seeking to radicalise young people

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.

The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.

Cameron will tell the NSC: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

“Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”

The home secretary, Theresa May, will say: “The twisted narrative of extremism cannot be ignored or wished away. This government will challenge those who seek to spread hatred and intolerance by forming a new partnership of every person and organisation in this country that wants to defeat the extremists.”

The proposals arose out of the response to the killing in May 2013 of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London, and the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham a month earlier.

A separate bill will be introduced later in the parliament to revive and extend the so-called snoopers charter, which would include the retention of records of phone calls, emails and other data.

(Source)

Thursday, 14 May 2015

UK Government quietly rewrites law so that GCHQ and other British spy agencies can avoid prosecution for hacking computers

  • Government has changed the law via an amendment to Serious Crime Bill
  • The change offers more protection to spy agencies who hack computers
  • Privacy International is challenging the legality of GCHQ's spying actions
  • The charity has called Government's 'underhand' behaviour 'disgraceful'  

The Government has surreptitiously rewritten anti-hacking laws so that GCHQ and other law enforcement agencies can avoid criminal prosecution, it has been claimed.

Details of the alteration emerged at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal - which is currently hearing a challenge to the legality of computer-hacking by the country's intelligence agencies.

The Government changed the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) two months ago to give intelligence agencies more protection - via a little-known addition to the Serious Crime Bill.

The law was brought in just weeks after the Government faced a legal challenge that GCHQ had broken the law under the CMA by hacking computers to gather intelligence.

The case was brought forward by the charity Privacy International and seven internet service providers - who claim the spy agency's actions were illegal.

[Left] Protection: The Government has surreptitiously rewritten anti-hacking laws so that GCHQ (headquarters, pictured) and other law enforcement agencies can avoid criminal prosecution.

The claims follow revelations from NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who said the US and UK agencies were monitoring internet traffic on an industrial scale.

Snowden also claimed that GCHQ and its US counterpart – the National Security Agency – had the ability to infect millions of computer and mobile handsets with malware.

This would allow them to gather huge amounts of digital content from devices, while also listening in to phone calls, tracking users' locations and switching on cameras and microphones.

Privacy International launched its challenge asserting the use of malware was illegal in England and Wales under the 1990 CMA. 

Eric King, the deputy director of the charity, told The Independent: 'The underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ's hacking operations is disgraceful.

'Hacking is one of the most intrusive surveillance capabilities available to any intelligence agency, and its use and safeguards surrounding it should be the subject of proper debate. 

[Left] Revelations: US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden said the US and UK agencies were monitoring internet traffic on an industrial scale.

'Instead, the Government is continuing to neither confirm nor deny the existence of a capability it is clear they have, while changing the law under the radar.'

Government sources say the amendment did not alter the law as the enforcement agencies already had powers to hack under the Intelligence Services Act.

Parliamentary guidance notes explaining the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill state that its purpose was to 'remove any ambiguity over the interaction between the lawful exercise of powers … and the offence provisions.'

Privacy International say this fails to properly explain the amendment's impact.

The charity also claims that the Government failed to notify regulators, commissioners and the public of the change before it came into law, taking effect on May 3.

Privacy International added that it wasn't the first time the Government has changed the law - pointing out that in February, a code of practice for GCHQ was released which gives 'spy agencies sweeping powers' to hack people not even suspected of a crime. 

The Home Office has rejected the activists' claims and say there have been no changes made to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 by the Serious Crime Act 2015 that would affect the scope of spy agencies.  
The full hearing is expected later this year. 

(Source)


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Land of the lost tribe: The Indian Ocean island that is home to a community who have lived there for 60,000 years... but is too dangerous to visit because they try to kill outsiders

Land of the lost tribe: The Indian Ocean island that is home to a community who have lived there for 60,000 years... but is too dangerous to visit because they try to kill outsiders

The indigenous tribe has lived on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean for an estimated 60,000 years. Their limited contact with the outside world usually involves violence, as they are hostile towards outsiders. Islanders have been known to fire arrows or toss stones at low-flying aircraft on reconnaissance missions. Tribespeople have rarely been photographed or recorded on video, as it is too dangerous to visit the island. India's government has given up on making contact with the islanders and established a three-mile exclusion zone.

[Above ]Sentinelese tribespeople, holding javelins, gather on the shore of North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal 

From the sky it appears to be an idyllic island with amazing beaches and a dense forest, but tourists or fishermen don’t dare to set foot on this outcrop in the Indian Ocean due to its inhabitants’ fearsome reputation.

Visitors who venture onto or too close to North Sentinel Island risk being attacked by members of a mysterious tribe who have rejected modern civilisation and prefer to have zero contact with the outside world.

[Left] Following the 2004 tsunami this member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing an arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter.

When they do interact with outsiders, it usually involves violence – the indigenous Sentinelese tribe killed two men who were fishing illegally in 2006 and have been known to fire arrows and fling rocks at low-flying planes or helicopters on reconnaissance missions.

Located in the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island belongs to India and remains an enigma, despite being populated for an estimated 60,000 years.

Untouched by modern civilisation, very little is known about the Sentinelese people, their language, their rituals and the island they call home.

[Left] This satellite image taken by NASA shows the untouched North Sentinel Island, which is about the size of Manhattan.

It is too dangerous to approach them due to their hostility to outsiders, meaning they are rarely photographed up close and almost never seen on video. Most of the photos and video clips that do exist are of poor quality.

There are also conflicting reports on the tribe’s population, with most estimates putting it in the range of a few dozen to a few hundred.

It’s still unclear what impact the 2004 tsunami had on the population and the island, which is part of India’s chain of Andaman Islands, although the uncontacted tribe managed to avoid being wiped out. After the tsunami one member was photographed attempting to fire an arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter.

Often referred to as a ‘Stone Age tribe’ – a title that advocates take offence to, as its members have adapted over time – the Sentinelese may be the most isolated tribe in the world, with the Indian government choosing not to meddle in their affairs.

[Left] The tribespeople are rarely photographed or recorded on video; the only existing images or video clips tend to be of poor quality.

The government made several failed attempts to establish contact, but has abandoned all attempts and allows the tribe to live how it chooses on an island that is about the size of Manhattan.

Indian authorities have gone as far as making it a crime to try to make contact with the Sentinelese. It is illegal to go within three miles of the island.

While privileged people are eating £15 burgers and splashing £100 on new trainers, the near-naked Sentinelese are surviving off the land and hunting for sea creatures.

[Left] To protect the Sentinelese people - and visitors - the Indian government has established a three-mile exclusion zone.
 
But the waters surrounding the island appear to be under threat by even more illegal fishermen.

Survival International reported late last year that it had received reports that fishermen are targeting the area, with seven men being apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard.

One of the fishermen reportedly stepped foot on the island in close proximity to the tribe’s members, and he managed to leave unscathed.

[Left] Survival International said the islanders are ‘extremely healthy, alert and thriving’, but their fishing waters are being threatened.

Survival International, which advocates for tribal peoples’ rights, describes the Sentinelese as ‘the most vulnerable society on the planet’ as they are likely to have no immunity to common diseases such as flu and measles.

Due to their complete isolation, the chances of them being wiped out by an epidemic are very high, according to the organisation.

In a statement, Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said: ‘The Great Andamanese tribes of India’s Andaman Islands were decimated by disease when the British colonised the islands in the 1800s.

‘The most recent to be pushed into extinction was the Bo tribe, whose last member died only four years ago. The only way the Andamanese authorities can prevent the annihilation of another tribe is to ensure North Sentinel Island is protected from outsiders.’

[Left] This aerial image shows the dense tree canopy on the island, which has remained untouched by modern civilisation for centuries.

The organisation said the islanders are ‘extremely healthy, alert and thriving’, despite threats from the outside world and their 'old world' way of life.

Their hostility towards outsiders can at least be partially attributed to past conflicts. Survival International said 'the outside world has brought them little but violence and contempt'.

[Left] This aerial image from Google Maps shows a shipwreck off the coast; clashes with salvagers have left several tribespeople dead.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s several tribespeople were killed in battles with armed salvagers who visited the island to recover iron and other goods from a shipwreck.

(Source)


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Road to Self-Sufficiency

AS you well know, in Soria province there resides our comrade Fernando, Arevaco Uxama, the man who founded and who runs a self-sufficient food bank with the unconditional collaboration of his family and the occasional help of comrades and friends who visit this place and who help with many of the activities, as required, like this weekend’s harvesting task.

A group from the Iberian N-AM section travelled to the north of Soria and enjoyed a great weekend away from the big cities, its rush, its pollution, degradation, decadence and degeneration and have worked on the task of harvesting, in addition to knowing and walking around the area, breathing the fresh and clean air, experiencing the different and varied gardens and the charm with which the people and the region welcomed us.

With this article, in addition to showing how our work continues, the natural environment around our site and other orchards, we serve to encourage all our members, supporters, and in general all young rebels (and not so young) to work the land and involve themselves with nature and the magic that this will offer in return, while you feel, if not entirely, a little closer and far more freedom away from the trash and stench from capitalist exploitation, the big cities, and all the misery, corruption, drugs, alcohol, pollution, shallow trends and junk food. In any town or city there are hundreds of plots in a state of total abandonment and from "zero” local food independence can become possible. We encourage you, for example, to go to your parents, grandparents and use the acres of fertile soil in which to sow the seeds of freedom.

We wish to report that Arevaco will be sure to extend its food-producing independence by extending its activities into a neighbouring field, and to inform you that comrades of the Province of Madrid have achieved the same thing in the mountains of nearby Guadalajara. W will keep you updated about the militants of Iberian National-Anarchism and their activities.

Land-Community- Identity-Freedom! Land for those who work it!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.

To view a documentary on the Lykov famaily, scroll down to the end of this article. 

In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga.

Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

[Left] Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world–not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.
  
Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

[Left] The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window “the size of a backpack pocket” and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’
 
The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:
 
The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

[Left] Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

[Left] Peter the Great’s attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.” 

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

[Left] Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

[Left] A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take.… Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

[Left] The Lykovs' homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark. We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

[Left] The Lykovs' graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

“What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!’” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!’”

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.
His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

[Left] Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness [Vasily Peskov] is now available in paperback. A Russian journalist provides a haunting account of the Lykovs, a family of Old Believers, members of a fundamentalist sect.

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.
She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.

Sources

Anon. ‘How to live substantively in our times.’ Stranniki, 20 February 2009, accessed August 2, 2011; Georg B. Michels. At War with the Church: Religious Dissent in Seventeenth Century Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995; Isabel Colgate. A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses. New York: HarperCollins, 2002; ‘From taiga to Kremlin: a hermit’s gifts to Medvedev,’ rt.com, February 24, 2010, accessed August 2, 2011; G. Kramore, ‘At the taiga dead end‘. Suvenirograd , nd, accessed August 5, 2011; Irina Paert. Old Believers, Religious Dissent and Gender in Russia, 1760-1850. Manchester: MUP, 2003; Vasily Peskov. Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family’s Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

A documentary on the Lykovs (in Russian) which shows something of the family’s isolation and living conditions, can be viewed here. To view a full length English language documentary, 'Agafia's Taiga Life', click here.