By Daria Serenko. April 6, 2022.
The day after the start of the “special operation”, the Feminist Anti-War Resistance (FAS) appeared – a semi-partisan activist movement that launches anti-war actions and tries to break the information blockade in Russia. One of the founders of the FAS, Daria Serenko, continues the conversation about why feminists have become the main driving force behind Russia’s anti-war resistance.
There is no one generalized feminism, but there are different feminisms, and all of them in one way or another express the fight against slavery, anti-imperialism and anti-militarism.
In 1914, the British suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst criticized her mother, who was instrumental in women’s enfranchisement, for supporting World War I, calling it “a tragic betrayal of the suffragette movement.” In 1915, suffragettes met in The Hague to form the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to criticize the war and create joint peace strategies. In 1916, Alexandra Kollontai published a programatic article “Who Needs War” about the senselessness of wars and their connection with capitalism. In 1917, the American feminist Emma Goldman, who opposed US participation in World War I, wrote the famous “No” manifesto, in which she called militarization an evil, and called conscription “a crime, oppression and unreasonable arbitrariness.” For anti-war agitation during the First World War, the revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg, who also believed that “as long as capitalism reigns, wars will not stop,” spent a total of four years in prison.
Feminists opposed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposed the Vietnam War. In 1988, the anti-militarist movement “Women in Black” emerged in Israel , covering the conflict with Palestine.
Feminists are well aware of how all types of violence are connected: domestic, state, police and military.
The war affects everyone, but most of all, it impacts those who were more vulnerable before the war: women, queer people, people of “non-hegemonic” nationality, people with disabilities. All achievements in the field of human rights are thrown back by the war machine, which returns us to narratives that erase diversity, inclusion and important differences between groups of people. War “simplifies” us.
War also exacerbates gender inequality. As history shows, in any war, for any woman, the risk of being raped increases several fold. Recently, information appeared on social networks about the first (but certainly not the only) case of rape of a Ukrainian woman by soldiers. After the war, there may be a surge in domestic violence against women, the elderly and children. We must expect that surviving soldiers will come home broken by war and violence (both inflicted and inflicted), and act out their PTSD on their loved ones.
Feminism as a political force that advocates the development of society, helping those who are vulnerable, and also for less violence around, cannot be on the side of [a word prohibited in the Russian Federation] and even more so cannot support [a word prohibited in the Russian Federation]. Just as feminism cannot be on the side of the empire, because the imperial view of people, territories and history is an appropriating, raping, subjugating view. (Of course, there is also right-wing feminism on the political spectrum). The empire desubjectifies those it looks at, because it looks at everyone as prey.
The current [word banned in the Russian Federation], as President Vladimir Putin’s appeal shows, goes under the banner of “traditional values” that Russia allegedly decided to bring to the world as a kind of missionary. What these “traditional values” consist of is well known to all who have followed the domestic politics of the country in recent years: they are based on the exploitation of women and other vulnerable groups and the struggle against those whose way of life, self-determination and activities go beyond the narrow patriarchal norm. The justification of the occupation of a neighboring state by the desire to impose norm on it under the guise of “liberation” is another reason why the feminists of Russia, one of the few remaining active political forces in the country, should resist this [word banned in the Russian Federation].
I’ll tell you about how the FAS – Feminist Anti-War Resistance works . I emphasize that I now have the privilege to speak on my own behalf, without hiding my name: many participants do not have such an opportunity. But we needed a few open faces in order to promote and spread our movement. There is more trust in open faces in some situations (especially in a fundraising situation).
There are about 40 thousand subscribers in our social networks, of which about five thousand are female and male activists of the movement. Not all of what we do can be discussed publicly because of the great risk for those participants who are in Russia. But in short, we create street protests and mass art actions telling people about the [word banned in the Russian Federation] in Ukraine, we distribute anti-war propaganda (newspapers, stickers, leaflets, mailing lists, letters), we participate in the creation of the Russian Anti-War Fund – an aid fund for strikers and those fired because of their views. We publish letters from Ukrainian women and men who are at the epicenter of hostilities or describe their experience as refugees. We build each street action by joint efforts of the network, spreading and multiplying [ideas that work] to 60 or more cities. We also help those protesters who faced police violence. We will soon launch psychological assistance and support groups. Some of us are outside Russia and volunteer for refugee relief initiatives.
45 feminist groups operate throughout the country, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
Russia’s feminist groups communicate with each other, go to actions, and engage in anti-war agitation as a powerful network.
We do not have a general coordination chat channel, for security reasons. But there are many small chat groups with a different composition of people. Any person, any activist can use the name and symbols of the FAS and proclaim themselves to be a member of the movement, or open a cell in their city if they share our main thesis formulated in the collective manifesto: No [Word banned in the Russian Federation].
The manifesto is available for other people to edit and adaptat It has already been translated into 30 languages including [Russian indigenous languages such as] Sakha, Udmurt and Chuvash].
The agenda of our movement is also anti-imperialist, since many peoples living in Russia have their own bloody and painful history of how the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union pursued a violent policy against them. We are talking about external colonialism and about internal colonialism; somethng often not reflected on by those Russian citizens who consider themselves Slavs.
Here is what we say to anyone who wants to join us:
“Every day, by coordinating protests, collectively launching and conceptualizing new actions, and looking for ways to help refugees and protesters, we are struggling with the inertia of meanings: [word banned in the Russian Federation] has nullified many meanings, including the meanings and achievements of civic activism. Even if our movement is not able to stop [a word banned in the Russian Federation], it is able to grow to such an extent that it can stop new [a word banned in the Russian Federation] and act preventatively.
Russian imperialism is rooted in our reality to such an extent that we all need to break a very strong old order in order for “can repeat” to become “never again”.