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Mere Anarchy
Published Postimees  4 July 2013 

Fed up with reading with all the stuff that has been happening at the centre of Estonian politics, lets take a look at the stuff that is happening on the fringes.

Estonia's young left-wing community, the anarchists had a problem. They couldn't seem to get away from the opposite numbers, the Neo-Nazis and Fascist types. The Neo-Nazis would attacked them in Tartu's bars, in the grim housing estates where some of them lived, in the seaside town of Pärnu and outside gay clubs.

Eventually a group of Anarchists got together and came up with the solution. They would set up their own centre. It would be a place to gather, share ideas, hold concerts, do social evenings, have language courses to help to improve relations between Ethnic Estonians and Russian speakers. It would be a place to organise and spread the message of building a civil society and best of all it would be far away from the Neo-Nazis.

They found a place to rent near Kristiine, the Ülase centre. Andres K, a young activist takes up the story: “We signed the contract after a month we did an opening event and we went there to put up posters and the first morning we saw the most famous Neo-Nazi in Tallinn barbecuing across the yard.”
It turned out that the main focal point for Neo-Nazi activity was in the motor club in the same vicinity.

Worse, there was a Black Metal club in the same hall as the Anarchist centre, which attracted some National Socialists rockers.

The Anarchists had no idea they were there, but they refuse to be moved on.

That the far left can exist at all and the ying yang relationship between the two group is an indication of the Westernisation and modernisation of Estonia.

There is almost symbiosis between Fascists and Anarchists. There was a Nazi skinhead who turned into a anti-racist skinhead or SHARP, he then reverted to being a Neo-Nazi and tried to arrange the beating of old friends. There are punks who wear anarchist badges and then go drinking with Neo-Nazis.

There are more Neo-Nazis than Anarchists, over a 100 can show up for Neo-Nazi rock gigs in Tartu and Tallinn. But strangely the Anarchists are better organised and have therefore gotten more media.

The Anarchist centre looks like it should. It is dark, dingy and punk, second hand furniture, stained walls and at odds with the Estonian taste for bourgeois living. There are drawings of Andrus Ansip and Mary Olsen from Little House of the Prairie on the wall, two notorious bullies, they think, one fictitious the other real. There is a boxing bag in the centre of the room. The Anarchists are non-violent but with the Nazis living a stone throw away, many of them have taken up self-defence.

Kristina Mering explains the history of the centre.

“It was put together by a group of people who had been active before. And all of the people were part of a squat project. We were thinking we really need a place of our own,” she said.

“We are celebrating our two year birthday. We opened on the 8 May two years ago,”

As an Anarchist, Mering doesn't like the title leader, but she definitely has a leadership position.

“We make decisions based on censuses, we divide roles based on the skills that people have. Since I am a huge talker I am more in the picture. It doesn't mean I am more important. Among ourselves we know that no-one is more important.

“The purpose of the centre is to attract young people to find out more about left wing beliefs.

“We also have very many non-political events for chess evening. concerts, language groups. There is a necessity for a centre like this. It gives me motivation when I see people coming to events.”

The far left in Estonia has evolved into a mishmash of beliefs with several different focal points much of it based on identity politics; LTBG activists, animal rights activists and radical feminists. They are mostly Anarchist rather than Communists. Important influences are Saul Newman, and Naom Chomsky, It is easier to work out what they are against than what they are for.

They fight capitalism, exploitation of people and animals, sexism and discrimination and most of they are against fascism. Some of them describe themselves as Antifa, a German term that means Antifascist.

Mering's own interest is in Animal rights activism.

“ Everybody should find a topic which is really the voice of their heart. In my philosophy all these questions are really important. My roots are in punk, that were I got all these ideas. Most of us have some connection with the punk scene but it is not a must.”

The new young Anarchists are completely different to what people think of as Anarchism in Estonia. It is part of a Western pan-European movement. Estonian Punk and Anarchism in 80s was really a reaction to the repressive Soviet regime, it was never a Western movement, it primary focus was Anti-Sovietism.

Andres K doesn't think much ot Trubetsky.

“Trubetsky wrote this book which is practically copied and pasted from wikipedia. The media call him father of anarchism but his theoretical knowledge is not that good and he is not really active,” he said.

Estonian Anarchists still have a long way to go.

“The movement is a lot stronger Spain and Greece. It is a dream from every Estonian Anarchist to take their stuff and move to Greece,” Andres K said.

Ying Yang

The far right and the far left always had a kenetic relationship in the West.

The skinhead movement begun in England in the 60s simply as a working class movement. They liked black people and black culture and were the only white kids going to clubs where young Jamaicans immigrants would hang out. Being young and rowdy they would cause trouble. People started to assume they were racist, so anybody who was racist would be a skinhead, and the whole thing snowballed from there.

Don't be surprise to find skinheads at the Anarchist centre.

In Estonia today, there all many different types of skinheads; traditional skinhead also known as Trojans or spirit of 68 who hark back to its origins a working class pride movement, there are SHARP skins (Skinhead Heads Against Racist Prejudice) easily recognisable from their black and white clothing, Then there are Nazi skinheads also known as boneheads who other skins say are not real skins. There are even Red skins, communist skinheads, notorious for their violence towards boneheads.

“We have skinheads who claim to be apolitical but they are really left. If a skinhead is about working people's pride then they are welcome,” Mering said.

The Neo-Nazis are a dangerous bunch. Whereas Russian-speaking and ethnic Estonian Anarchists get along with each other and co-operate, Russian-speaking and ethnic Estonians skinheads and neo-Nazis hate each other and fight. They carry knives and train in martial arts.

In Tallinn  they go to the- ironically named- Woodstock bar on a Friday night. It is next to a gay bar. One activist was almost stabbed one night outside Woodstock, it was all peace and love.One thing saved this person. The fact that she had breasts. She is a lesbian who dresses and acts like a boy. Once the Neo-Nazis realised that they about to stab a girl they put away their fists and their knives away. Even the Neo-Nazis have limits to what they are prepared to do.

Mering has been pushed around but she admits a lot of the violence is based on gender.

“I'm a woman, they will probably not kick my ass.”

Anarchists and Neo-Nazis are cut from the same cloth. They come from socially deprived backgrounds.

“Anarchists often come from broken homes, dysfunctional families, growing up in poverty,” said Andres K.

He is a good example, he grew up in the sprawling estates of Lasnamäe where he still lives. He said he could just as easily have turned into a Nazi.

“Because of my low education I don't have any chance to make a career. I didn't finish high school because I was bad at maths. I was 17 when I quit school.”

“I am pretty bad financial place, even a janitor job I can't get,” he said.

Young Anarchists are conviction politicians. They are in involved in activism because they feel  they have to do it, not because the enjoy doing it. And they don't get paid to do it. With all the cynicism about corrupt politicians they are the kind of politicians Estonia actually needs. It is a shame their beliefs are too radical for most Estonians.

Estonian anarchist see their greatest success to be the growth of the civil society even with issues that they may not necessarily agree with. But just as Estonian people are cynical about politicians anarchists are cynical about Estonians.

“For most Estonians the only right they care about is the right to offend other people.

“Why can't you tolerate my intolerance,” said Andres K
“The most important thing is, to let the public know that violent bald guys exist,”  he said.

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