conducted by CrimethInc. International Brigades volunteer Ret Marut
A Bulgarian organizer and ‘zine publisher describes current anarchist projects in his country, discussing how Really Really Free Markets work in an eastern European context and addressing the local relevance of CrimethInc. texts from the United States. Contacts are included for those hoping to connect with anarchists between Sofia and the Black Sea.
Describe your group: how many people are involved, how long have you been active, how do you make decisions together? What projects have you been involved in?
I am part of 2 groups. The one is called “Anarchosaprotiva” (AnarchoResistance). It is based in Sofia and now we are something like 6-10 people. The group has been active since 2001. I joined this in 2004. We have a meeting every week. We don’t have any particular scheme to talk and make decisions.
It’s more like a friendly conversation and when we have ideas to do some action all of us should agree and get consensus about the thing, but everyone is free to do whatever he/she wants outside of the group. The group used to publish a monthly leaflet called “Anarchosaprotiva” as part of the Bulgarian anarchist newspaper “Svobodna Misal” (Free Thought). Now there are a lot of changes in the newspaper which is published by FAB (federation of the anarchists in Bulgaria) and this supplement is stopped being publish in the newspaper. The group has done a lot small protests actions against the militarization and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We and our Greek friends from Anti-Authoritarian Movement Thessaloníki organized a No Border Camp in Bulgaria and No Border Actions in Greece to support the freedom of movement and the illegal immigrants jailed in a illegal detention center in Venna (Greece). Some of us also have been part of the Food Not Bombs group here in Sofia which lasted for 6 months but now is dead. We have also done some creative anti-elections actions and took part in a lot of ecological protests. We put out some anarchist leaflets and distribute them during protests, concerts and at some video screenings that we organize.This year we also organized 2 times a Free Festival (Really Really Free Market).
I am also part of another group based in Razgrad. It’s not an official group. We are just a bunch of friends that do some small local actions. We are 5-6 people. The best thing is that we have started organizing this Free Festival since last year. Now a lot of people are enthusiastic by this idea of free sharing. We are very happy that we opened an Infocenter in Razgrad. It is open once a week for a couple of hours. We are a little dependent on the owners of the building. It is some school center project but the people running this place are very nice and gave us 1 big room to put literature and movies and we organize video screenings, presentation and music concerts there. My other side project is this Katarzis zine. I started doing it 2 years ago inspired by CrimethInc. I translated some texts and then got the idea to put them together, so this is how everything started. Now some people have started to help me. we write news about actions in Bulgaria, interview anarchist bands and write some our texts.
Which anarchist communities outside Bulgaria do you have the most interactions with and influence from? Greece, the US, Turkey, other places?
Maybe the most interactions we had with Anti-Authoritarian Movement from Thessaloníki (Greece), but we also have connections with a lot of anarchist groups around Europe. Now we get in touch with People’s Global Action network and will try to organize local Balkan network amongst the activist communities to share information, ideas, to support each other and to do some international action together. We have been influenced by the anarchist communities all around the world, but for most of us the biggest influenced is the CrimethInc. Collective.
How many of the projects you carry out in Bulgaria are based on formats (such as the Really Really Free Market) that you have imported from other contexts, and how have you adjusted them to fit the context in Bulgaria?
We have started with 2 projects based on such “formats” and one is now dead. Some of us were part of a Food Not Bombs group in Sofia. The idea fitted for the context in Sofia, because it is big and developed city following the western pattern. Bulgaria is also part of NATO and spent a lot of money on military actions and support the war in Iraq and Afghanistan so it was good idea to do such kind of actions. There are also a lot of homeless people in Sofia and we decided to help them in someway and to distribute antimilitaristic and vegetarian propaganda at the same time. We were collecting food from 2 big markets and from a couple of restaurants and bakeries. We managed to build good infrastructure and we did actions every Sunday for near six months, but then the summer came and most of the people hit the road and when the autumn came we were very few left, organized 3 more actions and then everything died. The other project based on such a “format” is this Free Festival we have started doing since last autumn. We have heard about this initiative in the USA and thought this was great idea and could be started here in Bulgaria. I think this is a universal model and could be put into action everywhere all around the world. In some countries there is this consuming way of life and the people could share the things they don’t need instead of throwing them; in other countries which are undeveloped there isn’t an excess of such kinds of goods, but the people could share other things like food, skills, songs, any kind of art, etc.… I think this is one of the best examples of what anarchy in practice is.
In what ways is it different to hold a Really Really Free Market in Razgrad or Sofia than it is to hold one in the USA?
I think there isn’t a big difference. Maybe the only difference is the living standard of the people. So while you could find a stereo system or a computer at a USA Really Really Free Market, this is almost impossible at a Bulgarian Really Really Free Market. The people here share mostly old clothes, shoes, books, music CDs, and toys. We try not to limit the event to be only a free market for products, but as a free zone where everyone is stimulated to take part, to play, to dance, to live a free life. And the good of this event is that everyone contributes to it. We only give the idea and set the date about it and the people come and do it.
Do you feel the public response to Really Really Free Markets is different in countries that used to have a “communist” government than it is in countries that have always been openly capitalist? Or is the relation to property the same?
I don’t think that there is big difference in the public response. Bulgaria was under “communist” government 40 years and the last 17 years of “democracy” have opened the door to unrestrained capitalism. So most of the people in Bulgaria have started to behave like the others in the Western world.
You mentioned taking some influence from CrimethInc. In the United States, some people criticize CrimethInc. by saying that the ideas associated with it are only relevant to middle class people in wealthy countries, that poor people outside the USA can have no use for them. Looking at this question from Bulgaria, what is your perspective on this critique? What have the responses been to the texts you’ve translated? What have people found useful and what has not been useful? How have you changed things to make them more useful, or decided which things to focus on when picking things to translate?
Maybe it’s true that most of the CrimethInc. tactics are not relevant for poor countries. For example, dropping out in a way of quitting your job and make a living by dumpster diving is extremely hard and almost impossible in Bulgaria. I agree with the idea of not supporting the capitalist system at all but sometimes and especially if you are alone it’s almost impossible to be out of this system and you need to work in order to survive. But I still think that if you live collectively with close-minded friends you could arrange your life in an alternative way. Most of the Roman (Gypsy) people in Bulgaria are kind of drop outs and they are still alive and exist somehow. This critique on such kind of CrimethInc. tactics exists here, too. Even some anarchists from FAB (Federation of the Anarchists in Bulgaria) blame us that we are fake and pseudo anarchists following the “modern” Western anarchism, that we are some kind of hippies and distract the attention from the main enemy which is “the state and the capital.” So we are also being criticized and have some conflicts even in the anarchist circles. But on the other hand I see that a lot of young people are interested in the projects we do. Most of the people like the zine we do and I think that the most inspiring thing is this romantic anarchism. In the beginning the zine was only consisted of translations from Days of War, Nights of Love and Recipes for Disaster. Some of them were not useful for the situation in Bulgaria, but it’s always nice to get some new ideas. We try to put these ideas into action and to change them to suit for the situation in Bulgaria.
Food Not Bombs was one of these projects. It’s possible to do it in Sofia because it’s a big city, but sometimes we were not able to collect enough food so we had to buy some stuff. We wanted to organize a Food Not Bombs group in Razgrad too, but it didn’t happen. It’s kind of impossible. We were looking for leftover food at the market but it’s almost nothing for us. So we decided to try this Really, Really Free Market and it has suited perfectly for this small town. First—the idea is great and the people are likely to share, second—nothing interesting happens in Ragzrad and event of this kind attracts a lot of attention, even the local media was interested and supported us. We were also looking for a place to squat and do an infoshop, but there are very few abandoned houses, which in most of the cases are almost destroyed. So we got in touch we some institutional organization (a school center) and asked for a place. They liked the idea for an alternative infocenter and gave us a hand. So we have this infocenter now, we are a little dependent on the building owners and could not do whatever we want in there but for now this is the best project we have done.
What are the best ways anarchists in North America can support the projects of anarchists in the Balkans?
Sometimes even an encouraging word is enough to make you feel better and continue the fight. When we are desperate the only thing that help us to not give up is to know that we are not alone, that there are other people like us around the world fighting for a better life. I am not sure what are the best ways anarchists in North America could support the anarchist projects in the Balkans. Maybe first we have to get in touch and get to know each other, to exchange information and ideas about the projects we do, to share books and other propaganda materials.
Please give a list of projects and groups in Bulgaria that could be useful to anarchists in the rest of the world, with contact information for each one.
Infocenter “Ecotopia” – this is an alternative information center based in Razgrad. It has a reading space and library with various anarchistic, environmental, anarchafeminist, animal rights, subcultural etc. materials. The place is open for video screenings, discussions, concerts, exhibitions, etc.… so anyone who is passing nearby get in touch: email@example.com
Autonomous anti-authoritarian group “AnarhoSaprotiva” – this is an anarchist group based in Sofia. www.aresistance.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
Katarzis zine – this is a zine with news from the local anarchist scene, some texts about everyday anarchism, environmentalism, animal rights, anarchafeminism, practical tips and interviews with music bands: email@example.com
Thanks so much!
Thank you, too!