For quite a long time we have been discussing whether we should produce such a long text on this issue. Today the anarchist movement on the territory of the former Soviet Union is in an obvious crisis and active people are tired of continuous conflicts. We are also constantly threatened by the state repressions, so you might think there are more important things than talking about inner conflicts and problematic people. And you are right.
But the events that happened during the past few weeks have brought us to the edge and made us speak up about the tumor that exists in the small anarchist movement of Belarus. The conflict is escalating and as one of the last resorts to defend the truth we see informing about it other comrades, including the ones from other countries.
Maybe some of you know the former anarchist prisoner Alexander Frantskevich (can also be addressed as Sasha further in the text), or at least heard about him. He went into prison in 2010 after “the case of anarchists” and spend there 3 years. He got out of jail 2 years earlier than the other comrades: Nikolai Dedok and Igor Olinevich.
After his prison term Frantskevich had lived in Belarus for around 1.5 year and then moved to Kiev. He states that this was done because of repressions but this was not the only reason.
Getting out of jail Frantskevich at that moment became the only publicly-known anarchist who spend his time in prison because of his activity. During his sentence period he was receiving a huge moral, informational and financial support from ABC-Belarus and other groups as well as individuals. He was getting lots of postcards, letters, there were articles written and short films shot about him. The support he had was really big – not all the political prisoners from the mainstream opposition had the same, though they have much more resources.
Sasha had a lot of attention from different people. And he got even more attention when he was released. Because of his reputation of “the real fighter who spent time in jail” he got a big moral authority especially among the young comrades who entered the movement when he was in jail. He was giving interviews to the media, was invited to some shows. Every time he was charged with short-time sentences he was surrounded by human right activists and our comrades.
Because of being quite an energetic person Sasha started organizing meetings with young activists and the subcultural part of the movement. People were happy to join those events and listen to his stories about prison, skills of surviving and of course “the strategy of revolutionary movement”. This kind of honeymoon period didn’t last long.
Step by step he was surrounding himself with a group of people who were loyal and respective to him. In the internal discussions, mailing lists and forums he was always pushing his “proper” ideas on what anarchist movement should be doing (he was saying that all anarchists have to do direct actions with property damage, “destroy the state” and not to spend time on any public/educational initiatives). Slowly he was also becoming rude in his criticism of those who had chosen for themselves the other forms of organization and activity.
Well, there is nothing bad in this. Factionalism is normal in anarchist movement. And it is also natural that every person tries to convince the others of his/her opinion.
But it was just the beginning.
When Franstkevich realized that his influence in certain circles became big enough his criticism to those who did not agree became offensive and humiliating. This happened after several “attempts” to check if somebody reacts to his offenses or not. We didn’t react.
Together with his comrade Roma (also known as Planer) in the internal mailing lists and forums he started to attack the members of other anarchist initiatives – Food Not Bombs, Freemarket, Anarchist University, Anarchist Library “Volnaja Dumka” – initiatives that exist till these days. Other initiatives were also attacked for their criticism of “proper” anarchism and doubts in Frantskevich and Co, who were teaching everyone how should they live. They were immediately getting labeled as “hippies”, “legalists”, “reformists” and so on (at the same time Frantskevich and his friends were considering themselves as platformists and revolutionaries). Constructive discussions were gone. There were no conversations that sooner or later would not end up in a fight. Two parts of the movement started drifting away from each other. Frantskevich (having learned the prison skills of manipulation, demagogy and influence on the others) was skillfully manipulating the other comrades (especially the young ones, who were not critical to him and saw him as leader) and using his reputation of a “prisoner” to attack everybody who didn’t agree with him. Putting his personal issues as political he even developed the terminology and mythology according to which in Belarusian anarchist movement there are hippies (legalists, reformists – the people doing mentioned before initiatives) and revolutionaries (those who stick the leaflets to walls and throw bulbs with paint into billboards). Of course all of those who didn’t agree with Frantskevich ended up being described as hippies, and those who agreed to everything he said were the revolutionaries. After some time he realized that there is no way for him to be the leader of the whole movement and so he started developing the idea of two movements that have nothing in common, in order to take under his influence at least those people who were still listening to him.
At his best using his authority and the skill of quick typing, also underlining all the time that he was a prisoner, he was gradually making this scheme of the two movements real. And though previously the lectures on militant-anarchism and all the other events made by Frantskevich could very well go coincide with the topic of feminism, educational initiatives like “Anarchist university” or discussions about Freemarket, but soon it became impossible.
There are legendary stories in the open social networks about boorish behavior of Frantskevich, and they even made it’s way to be reflected in one of the songs of the punk band “Hoi Divizion” from Minsk “User Fratskevich let’s go and have a fight!” (https://hoidivizion.bandcamp.com/track/-3#lyrics).
No matter how impossible it can seem, but during these internet-battles none of the participants of the belarusian movement did answer to Planer of Frantskevich with insults against their insults, fairly considering this beneath their dignity. There is no reason here to speak about some “mutual insulting quarrel”.
Frantskevitch’s behavior was becoming more and more “cutting”, boorishness – more open, and as a result his group of support was becoming smaller and smaller. Some people stopped communicating to him cause he insults people and threatens them, some people cause of the personal conflicts and authoritarian behavior – cause of his attempts to control his “wards” in everything and preventing any divergence of opinion with him. Many people broke any connections with the crew of “militantanarchists” and rejected to hold actions and spread materials containing links to their web-site because of the reasons mentioned above. A number of events within the movement started being announced with a note: no entry for Frantskevich or Planer.
Probably cause of the short-term sentences, having lost part of his “support group” and having understood that there is no chance for him to become a generally recognized leader in Minsk, he decided to try his luck in a place where he was not well-known previously – in Kiev.
Quite a few months after having moved there he got into another well-known story about which you probably already know. Anyway we would like to remind it. During another quarrel (this time about the May 1st demo in Kiev), when Frantskevich this time was quarreling with Ukrainian anarchists, he called them homosocialists,
and one of them (Dmitriy Mrachnik) replied to him that he is an asshole. Then Frantskevich, knowing that Mrachnik works as a tattoo-artist phoned him pretending he is a potential client, and enticed him into a meeting. At this meeting Frantskevich together with his friend Max has beaten Dmitriy up.
As a result Frantskevich became a persona non grata for many anarchists in Kiev. Ukranian anarchist organization AST has released a statement (http://avtonomia.net/2015/05/24/napad-naaktivista-ast-napadenie-na-aktivista-ast/) calling for all the other anarchist groups and individuals to stop any communication to him.
Soon after this statement ABC-Belarus also said it’s word, noticing that it retains the right to stop supporting the people who use violence inside the movement (https://abc-belarus.org/?p=6185).
An interesting fact, even people who are ok with resolving a conflict by force opposed him in this conflict. It was puzzling: if Frantskevich is such an advocate of “watching what you say” why does he still allow himself to insult his comrades and say shits about them in the Internet? And why being such an advocate of “code of honor” he attacks two on one?
Answering the statement of ABC-Belarus “About violence inside the movement” Frantskevich declared this group to be “hippies” and “reformists”, who are likely to throw the revolutionaries in trouble. He also stated that he will spread the call-outs not to support ABC-Belarus and not to give them money wherever he can (who will suffer from this except the Belarusian anarchist political prisoners?). And Frantskevich made this statement in spite of the 3-year support to him, and also support to his close comrades-in-arms, who were experiencing problems with police straight at the moment of this accusation from his side.
During this period Frantskevich was also organizing events and lectures like “How to counter the secret agents inside the movement”, “How to behave in prison” and on topics like that, actively exploiting his image of “the proper guy” and adamant fighter. But actually not everything was really good with how Sasha behaved during the investigation against him in 2010.
During it he gave the police confessions/testimony not only against himself but also against two other people: Silivonchik (“anarchist” from Soligorsk who became a betrayer) and our comrade Dima Dubovskiy, who managed to escape from the police and is for already 6 years in hiding.
Frantskevich doesn’t like to remember this fact of testimony and doesn’t tell to anyone at all. However, it was never a secret, but, due to the fact that no one was imprisoned because of this testimony back then in 2010, the accomplices of Frantskevich didn’t condemn him for this “fault”. And they would not remind it if Sasha wouldn’t want to take the crown of the flawless hero and the leader of the anarchist movement, who gives estimations to everyone and insults those who do not agree with him.
Nevertheless, if Dima Dubovskiy will ever be caught this testimony will for sure become the basis of the criminal charge against him, it is still not closed (Dima may be imprisoned for up to 12 years).
In August 2015 two more comrades of ours were released from prison: Nikolay Dedok and Igor Olinevich. Within two weeks after his release Nikolay Dedok broke the relationships with Frantskevich.
As it was said previously Roma Planer became the comrade of Frantskevich in his fight against “hippies” (a bigger part of the anarchist movement in Minsk), a young guy who entered the movement in 2011. There is one episode related to him that almost completely formed the split within the movement: in September 2015 he came to a meeting (which he was not invited to and where he was not supposed to be at) with the purpose to “clarify the attitudes” with one of the attendees (in Russian such a formulation of words may often relate to beating or humiliating a person).
He wanted “to talk” to that person about the carelessly said words about the girl from “the camp of the revolutionaries”. Coming up to the meeting Planer started in an ultimate form requesting that person to leave the place for “a talk”, to what the attendee answered that he doesn’t mind talking, but not under coercion of Planer, but according to his own will. All the people present pointed to Planer that at this meeting he is an uninvited guest and must leave as with his visit he is breaking the security rules. Taking advantage of the fact that the meeting was consisted of the people who are not accustomed to violent conflicts, he insulted those present and threatened them. After doing this he finally left. It is necessary to mention that the girl, whom the conflict started with, later wrote that she doesn’t have any complaints to the person who allegedly said those careless words and they resolved the conflict between each other.
Being almost unanimously condemned by all the other comrades for this action in a conversation on one of the internal resources he openly wrote to them: “you are not comrades for me, I have nothing in common with you”, and also didn’t miss his chance to insult the person to whom he wanted “to talk to”.
It is also possible to characterize Roma Planer with the following fact. In 2014 together with one more comrade he decided to steal an advertisement banner from the bridge to use it later for agitation. They were both caught by the police doing this and they got in danger of being charged with a minor theft. Roma signed the police protocol in which it was written that his comrade took part in the theft. To say it simply he gave the documented testimony against his friend. After this Roma acknowledged that he made a mistake and regretted about that. But he kept positioning himself inside the movement as a “professional revolutionary”, creating the image of a person who has the right to teach others how to hold their fight. That’s why we mention this case just “to take off the crown from his head” to show that he is not the person he is pretending to be. At the moment of this case he has already been for 3 years in the movement, read (or should have read) the instructions on how to behave with police, but still gave them information.
In January 2015, when there was a conflict between a group of anarchists from Minsk and “ethnoanarchists” from “Poshug”, the latter contributed to publishing personal information about the participants of the anarchist movement in the open Internet.
Nikolai Dedok asked Planer, who has access to one of the web-sites, to remove a comment, that threatens his security. Roma refused – this comment is still there. As the practice of trials in Belarus shows, this comment can become a part of the evidence base for the next case on extremism.
A paradoxical situation has developed in the movement: insignificant minority (it’s necessary to admit they are quite active in “agitation raids”) that supported Frantskevich and Planer with their behavior or tolerant to that, and the majority that condemned them – these are two groups that do not communicate to each other and broke all the contacts and mutual aid. In 26 years of its existence the anarchist movement in Belarus for the first time appeared to be in such a state. There were quarrels, misunderstandings and factionalism – but there has never been such a mutual contempt and hate.
It seems like the solution is really simple: let every group do their own things, and the time will show who was right and who was not. And it could go like this if not for another important thing.
In the late 2009 in Belarus there was an anarchist initiative “Antinuclear resistance” against the construction of Belarusian nuclear power plant. Frantskevith was not a member of it, Planer was not in the movement then. In 2010 one of the comrades from this initiative found out an opportunity to get money from the western comrades to buy printing equipment. He alone created and justified the application and has received the money: 2500 euro. Nevertheless, at the moment when money were received the movement got under the well-known repressions of September 2010. The movement got into the paralysis for a few years.
In 2013 the question was raised on buying the printing equipment. It was decided to take 600 euro from the existing money to buy a printer. Later the decision was changed to buying a color printer that can process A3 sheets. As long as there was no “Antinuclear resistance” at that moment the printer was bought to print out anarchist propaganda materials. The only person who agreed to and was able to put the printer at his place was Planer – at that time he was still in normal relationships with the movement.
2 years later when the mentioned before events took place the comrade that got the money and those who participated in the discussion on buying the printer raised the question about moving the printer to another person. Planer was given the following arguments:
– more than half of the movement has no opportunity to use the COMMON printer, as they do not want to deal with Planer; – Planer is a person known to the police, so if a house search happens to his place the printer would be taken out; – rotation is a natural thing; he has been storing the printer for 2 years already, let it pass to someone else.
To all of these arguments Planer refused. And he was supported by Frantskevich in that, showing off the situation like this (quote): “reformists want to take the printer from the revolutionaries”. Planer said: “If someone doesn’t want to deal with me it’s their problem”.
After lots of swearing and altercations the parties came to a compromising solution: to move the printer to the person, who is more or less trusted by both parties. It’s necessary to mention that after the split this person stayed close to Frantskevich and Planer, but at that moment there was no doubt in his honesty and responsibility. Printer was given to him. An agreement was composed and the very first point of it stated: the holder of printer DOES NOT HAVE RIGHT to give it to a third party without getting approval from all the others.
It is worth noting that this discussion also included the topic of the common megaphone, which was bought for the money of some particular people but that also remained at Planer. When the movement has not been completely split yet Planer has stopped giving the megaphone to the actions, justifying his decision that it can be confiscated by the cops. And it could not be confiscated at his actions, could it? It was proposed to give back part of the money that was contributed by the people that stopped communicating to Planer and Frantskevich, though not everyone could remind how many have they added to the total amount. All in all it was so long ago and no one could really imagine that one year later they would need to split the “collective” property. Money was not given back, “the revolutionaries” just hushed up the situation.
Approximately half a year after moving the printer we learned that a house search was held at Planer’s place and that this very printer was confiscated from him, this printer that under no excuse could get to him. It turned out that the liable person had not only given printer to him (saying to no one about it – we found this out only because of the house raid), but he had also badly fulfilled his duties: the people interviewed about it said that the orders on printing were not done in time and the printer holder was not responding to their emails under different excuses, delaying the transfer of printed materials and so on.
The liable person told us that the printer was confiscated only two weeks after we had learn about the house search ourselves. He tried to hide from whom the printer was confiscated and then said that the printer had broken and that’s why he had brought it to Planer to repair it. He felt no guilt for that.
Naturally, we were outraged: brazen breach of the agreement and actual transfer of the printer to the person who is not trusted by lots of people. Printer holder was delivered the ultimatum: give back half of the printer price and then they can do with it whatever they want. He quite quickly agreed to that and promised to give back the money. But literally in one week he just took his words back, referring to the fact that the printer was given back by the police and we can go on as we previously did.
We did not agree to that, as no one wanted him to remain the liable person. Additionally, for the past half a year the parties had drifted so much away from each other that people didn’t trust each other enough to use the old scheme. And even if some people would like to do that, none of the “revolutionaries” took part in the discussion about this betrayal. They were proposed to give back the money – just 170 US dollars, considering the wear-out of printer (it is around one third of its real price), and soon we received another positive answer. It only remained to transfer the money.
This transfer took long. After all in several weeks we received a new request, saying that actually it is us who owe them the money, not the other way, because there is still money given to the “Antinuclear resistance” remaining. Only then it is possible to talk about giving back the money for printer, and for now no one denies us access to use it.
Saying that we were shocked by such impudence is nothing to say. In our view the situation is obvious: Frantskevich, having verbal manipulation skills and shamelessly lying, managed to convince the people that were close to him that the money actually belongs to them. According to the version that he spreads across the few people who communicate to him (quote): “I participated in the discussions on the decision about this grant and was representing the anarchists of Minsk to whom this money was given.” This is a total lie.
At first, Frantskevich was never a member of the “Antinuclear resistance”.
At second, there were no meetings about it, everything was discussed in a mailing-list and it was managed by just one person. At third, that money had never been the common money of “anarchists of Minsk”: yes, part of it was decided to be given for printer, that became the collective property, and we do not deny that fact as we asked just for 1/3 of the printer price. At fourth, even if anyone thinks Frantskevich way then it appears that every anarchist from Minsk (a person calling himself/herself an anarchist) can right now demand a part of that money. At fifth, we do not consider Frantskevich an anarchist, no matter how does he call himself. Anarchism assumes not only anti-state positions, but also honesty, equity, respect to comrades. There is no place for “great combinators” in the movement. At sixth, there can be no dialogue with the people who stole the common property – at least megaphone – and tried to do the same with printer.
But that doesn’t prevent him to go on without shame and consciously, just in order to get the money at any cost.
Having understood that his actions are not acceptable not only from the revolutionary point of view, but even from pure ethics, he moved on to threatening (approximate translation): “I’ve heard that someone has threatened the liable guy – yeah, honestly, just try to attack him, then you will learn shits in the process.” As they say “on a thief the hat is on fire” – no one was putting forward threats to these people, but Frantskevich threatens by the warning “just try”.
For us – the people who were getting that money and those who wanted to use the common printer but couldn’t – the situation is obvious: Frantskevich and Planer simple stole the common property of the movement.
Using the circumstance that they were storing the printer at the moment of split, they just appropriated it, leaving the bigger part of the movement without any opportunity to use it.
Namely this fact doesn’t allow us to break up and do whatever anyone wants. And the case is not about that 170 dollars that the printer holder must have given us back, the case is in the principle. We do not want to be victims whose faces were dunked in shit by a few “revolutionaries”, who think that they can deceive, trick, humiliate the others just because they pumped their biceps, inherited thieves’ jargon and got accustomed to carrying a knife.
At the moment when we were composing this text we were already considering a power solution to this issue, when surprisingly the person who had given printer to Planer compensated half of the printer price – that ill-fated 170 dollars. As far as we know he did it by his own will, without consent with Planer and Frantskevich, but also against their will. That is why we decided not to remove this story from our statement. At the last moment after some months of quarreling, the printer holder’s conscience leaped, but that doesn’t remove guilt from the two other persons.
You can ask: “So what do you want from us? What is this huge text for?”
Our aim is to remove the people who are actively and cynically corrupting the movement out of it. The situation described by us shows that one or two people based on the cult of strength, prisonlearnt terms and the concept of domination can decide that all of it can be adopted by the anarchist movement. They can utilize there “the suckers” while being themselves “the watchers”. It is already one and a half year since this disgusting situation has started: just two persons poison the movement and bring their own destructiveness into it. Everything described above is the lesson not just for us, but for the whole post-USSR movement.
The lesson paradoxically is the following: huge support, solidarity and respect to our comrade who had been a political prisoner, being accompanied by his chieftain ambitions, unscrupulousness and followed by uncritically of his admirers altogether turned against us, causing the split in the movement and argues about money. This is also a lesson for us because we saw the big lack of solidarity inside the movement.
When Frantskevich insulted one person – no one condemned him in public except for a few close friends of that person. When Frantskevich together with Max beat Mrachnik – no one stopped dealing with “RevDija” (Revolutionary Action in Ukraine), except for the Ukrainian anarchists (not all of them). And the reason why Frantskevich and Planer are not talked to by most of the belarussia anarchists is mostly not the consequence of solidarity with those who suffered from them, but the consequence of continuous sequence of conflicts by Frantskevich and Planer with EVERYONE IN PERSON.
We keep waiting until the queue of infringement comes for us instead of being in solidarity and from the very start showing the assholes and authoritarians their place.
The idea to write such a letter came to us long ago somewhere at the beginning of the movement split. But we didn’t want to do this knowing the reaction of the surrounding: anarchist movement is already not united, everyone is tired of mutual blames and “dismissals from the movement”. We also didn’t want to give away some sensible information: who administers which web-site, who and where took the money, who is doing what, etc. We do not want to harm anyone, including those who don’t consider us comrades anymore, and that’s why we didn’t bring their “feats” to public.
But the further it goes the more we notice that Frantskevich and Planer are exploiting our decency and feel confident to spread gossips and say shits about us without shame in order to form a group of support out of comrades from abroad. For quite long Frantskevich and Planer were coming out dry from water and no one was writing about them not to damage their heroic revolutionary activities. But now we decided that it is too much for us. Having made an attempt to steal property from their comrades, the property that was supposed to serve the common goals of the movement, they have crossed the border behind which we do not consider it reasonable to cover their backs anymore.
But since nonetheless we still wish no one of them to get into jail we ask you to spread this mail only via the closed and secure means of communication. With this letter we call for you comrades to solidarity with us and isolation for those two persons from the anarchist movement. This is the least they have deserved for the things they did, lots of them are not described here as they refer to personal life of our friends. And we would like to say to those who still keep on dealing with them (worthy to note that the number of these people is getting smaller): think about it and take a look around. Even other anarchist former political prisoners turned away from Frantskevich. Acting so towards us – “the hippies”, “the reformists” – they can easily deceive, trick or humiliate you one day! Anarchism is not just about endless actions, rallies, demonstrations and other “action”. Firstly it is ethics and rules of conduct. Hypocritical and vile people cannot build a fair and honest society.
We realize that many people will react to our mail quite skeptical. “Sick of quarreling”, “fucking crazy, cannot decide on 200 euro”, “anarchist movement is degrading” and etc. But we believe that many of you are wise enough to figure out what’s the case and make a proper decision. Thanks for reading until the end.
P.S. This text got to Frantskevich in the process of coordinating between different initiatives. Following his habits he has promised in personal messaging a participant of one initiative that (quote): “I will beat faces of everyone who will sign this text”. And has followed a bit later (also a
quote): “person X can be offended by Planer, but if he signs this against me – I promise he might be missing some working fingers as a result)”
Anarchist initiatives from Belarus:
Anarchist group “Pramen” pramen.io
Educational initiative “AntiUniversity” (except for 1 person)
Anarchist library “Volnaya Dumka” dumka.be
Anarchist-feminist group “Podkop”
Edited for mb3-org.com