Prague "Action Week": Activism is a barrier to political clarification

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Between May 20 and 26th, an “Action Week” in Prague around the theme “Together against capitalist wars and capitalist peace” attracted groups and individuals from a number of countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Britain, Argentina… The majority of groups invited were anarchists, workerists or councilists who have taken an internationalist position against the Russia-Ukraine war and – despite many hesitations and confusions – against the other wars ravaging the planet[1]. The organising committee for the event – which seems to have involved two mainly Czech-based groups, Tridni Valka (“Class War”) and the Anti-Militarist Initiative, said in an interview[2] that they had deliberately not invited the principal groups of the Communist Left, who they claim are not interested in debate but only in creating a “mass party” along Bolshevik lines. Nevertheless, the ICC sent a delegation, as did the Internationalist Communist Tendency; also present were comrades close to the Bordigist group that publishes Programma Comunista. Not all the events of the week would be restricted to those formally invited, and for our part we think that the emergence of this opposition to imperialist war is an expression of something deeper taking place in the working class, and communists have a clear responsibility to take part in the process with the aim of clarifying its goals and combatting its illusions.

But while the broad attendance of elements looking for internationalist positions was certainly positive, and their physical concentration in Prague made it possible to develop many contacts and discussions on the margins of the “official” event, it has to be said straight away that the event was very poorly organised and indeed chaotic, even if there were encouraging efforts by a majority of the participants to take control of the proceedings.

One of the factors in this disorder is the profound division within the anarchist movement in the Czech Republic. On the weekend of the “Action Week” there was also an Anarchist Bookfair organised by the Czech Anarchist Federation, which openly defends the Ukrainian war effort and supports the formation of anarchist units in the Ukrainian army. The Bookfair issued a statement distancing itself from the Action Week and the Czech AF put out a leaflet denouncing its participants as “anarcho-Putinists”. The organising committee also argue that these pro-war anarchists have engaged in a number of provocations against internationalists; most critically, they suspect that they contacted the authorities of the venue where the anti-war congress at the weekend was due to be held and told them the real purpose of the meeting, leading to the cancellation of the booking and forcing the organisers to scrabble around for a new venue.

False political conceptions add to the chaos

However, the chaotic nature of the “Action Week” cannot entirely be blamed on the machinations of the pro-war anarchists. The very conception of an Action Week, and the methods of its organisers, were already deeply flawed.

In our view, the primary need for those searching for a real internationalist practice today is for discussion and political clarification around some very fundamental questions: the historic basis of capitalism’s drive towards war and destruction; the counter tendency of the working class struggle for its own interests against the economic crisis in spite of propaganda for national unity; continuing the internationalist tradition of the Zimmerwald Left. While some of the meetings advertised as part of the Action Week contained themes for reflection (such as the relation between capitalist peace and capitalist war, the meaning of revolutionary defeatism, etc), the whole idea of a “Week of Action” could only encourage the immediatist and activist approaches which hold sway over a large number of the participants. This was evident in several of the advertised topics for discussion, such as “how can we aid deserters”, “how can we sabotage the war effort”, and so on. But the pernicious consequences of this activist focus can best be illustrated by recollecting some of the main events of the week.

  • The first event of the week, on Monday 20th, was a protest outside the HQ of the STV company which supplies material to the Israeli army. Although the organisers insisted that the protest was not calling for support for Palestinian nationalism, it attracted a number of people waving Palestinian flags and could thus only appear as a small adjunct to the pro-Palestine demos going on around the world, notably in the universities of the USA and Europe. Equally important: while there was no sign of the organising committee, the small number of “Action Week” attendees who took part quickly realised that this was an illegal protest and had their IDs noted by the police. Since most of them were foreign nationals, this could have led to their deportation.
  • On Wednesday 22nd, the day the ICC delegation arrived, there was a meeting to discuss the principal theme of capitalist war and capitalist peace. The meeting began over an hour and a half late. There was a presentation by a comrade of Anti-Militarist Initiative and the possibility of intervening in the discussion that followed. But the meeting was not chaired, no notes were taken and there was no formal conclusion, although a comrade of the ICC tried to summarise the main points of the discussion, notably the split between activism and a longer-term approach founded on the real movement of the working class.
  • On Thursday the plan was to hold a “Desserts for Deserters” event in a park near the city centre: cakes and snacks would be sold and any proceeds would go to helping deserters from the Ukraine war. Quite a few of the people who had been present the previous evening turned up, but there were no cakes. At this point alarm about the level of disorganisation began to spread and an impromptu meeting took place. The event planned for the Friday had been a street demonstration but after the fiasco on Monday people whose security had already been compromised were entirely unwilling to take part in a march which did not express any wider movement and would further expose them to police surveillance[3]. This was unanimously supported by the meeting, which decided that the priority for the next day was to meet together with the aim of developing a real discussion. A new organising committee was set up and given the task of finding the space for such a meeting. Again, no sign of the official organising committee except for the AMI comrade who seemed to be acting as a kind of intermediary.

Steps towards self-organisation

On the Friday further confusion resulted from the announcement that the original venue for the “Congress” on Saturday and Sunday, the culminating event of the Action Week, had been ruled out. But the “unofficial” organising committee managed to find an adequate venue in the outside area of a café and we were able to hold a reasonably well-organised discussion during the afternoon and early evening. The holding of this “self-organised assembly” was an important step forward given the extreme disorder of the event so far – a small reflection of a wider need within the working class to take things into its own hands and create the possibility of debating and making its own decisions. An agenda was drawn up and it was agreed that it was necessary to start with a discussion of the global situation facing the working class. Here the ICC pointed to the spiral of war and ecological destruction across the planet, the necessity to see all the ongoing wars as part of this process, the need for the same level of clarity on the nature of the war in the Middle East as on the Ukraine war. Having mentioned the night before that one of the groups invited to the week, the Anarchist Communist Group, had fallen into the trap of supporting anti-Israel boycotts, we pointed to the fiasco of the Monday protest to illustrate the danger of this kind of unthinking activism. We also repeated the argument that the real movement against war was less likely to come from proletarians of Israel, Gaza or Ukraine, who had been through a serious defeat, than from the workers in the central capitalist countries who had already shown their refusal to pay for the indirect effects of war (inflation etc). But the capacity of the working class as a whole to understand the link between attacks on their living standards and the drive towards war would take time to develop and could not be speeded up by the substitutionist action of small groups.

In this debate, and the one that followed the next day, it was noticeable that there was a convergence between the interventions of the ICC and the ICT, who met more than once to compare notes on the evolution of the discussion[4]. And given that the delegations of both groups were clearly playing a constructive role in the discussions and in the organisation of the meetings (including the fact that a member of the ICT had agreed to take part in the unofficial organising committee) there was no sign among the participants at these meetings of the hostility to the groups of the communist left which had been openly displayed by the official organising committee.

This did not at all mean that the whole assembly had adopted the positions of the Communist Left. Despite the initial agreement that we need to understand the overall situation before we can start a discussion of “what is to be done”, the effort to do so was constantly being pulled back into speculations about what action can we take tomorrow to block the war drive – networks of counter-information, aid to deserters, etc. The question of the class struggle as the only alternative to war and destruction was held in abeyance by these speculations. Neither was it possible to develop any discussion about a key item on the agenda: what is the meaning of revolutionary defeatism in this period - the ICC has some serious criticisms of this slogan[5] but we will have to raise them on other occasions.

And then came a further disruption. On Friday evening a group of people who said they were not the official organising committee but were speaking on its behalf arrived at the meeting and announced a new venue for the “Congress” on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, it would only be big enough to accommodate 25 or 30 people, although the Friday meeting had already drawn twice as many. This would no doubt mean excluding the non-invitees (notably the groups of the Communist Left or “Bolsheviks” who, according to one argument, presumably coming from the official organising committee, had taken over the self-organised assembly)[6]. None of the participants at the Friday meeting spoke in favour of such an exclusion, while a considerable amount of distrust was shown towards the official organising committee who still refused to show themselves openly. In a statement on the official website they said that this was normal security procedure, but this didn’t impress comrades whose security had already been exposed by the committee’s ill-advised plans during the week.

The result of all this was further division. On the Saturday, some who had taken part in the Friday meeting decided to go to the new “official” venue, but the majority of the “self-organisers” opted to stay together and meet again the next day. This meant again looking around for a venue, and the one that was found was not as suitable as the one used on the Friday. At this stage we have little information about what happened at the new official venue, although the Anarchist Communist Network have written an article about the week as a whole which contains some information about the discussions that took place[7].

Regarding the official committee’s position on security, we should also make the point that Tridni Valka claims a certain continuity with the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste, although there have been some unstated disagreements between them in the past, and the GCI as such no longer exists. But the GCI was a group which had a very dangerous and destructive trajectory – above all a flirtation with terrorism which posed a serious danger to the whole revolutionary movement[8]. This involved a kind of cloak and dagger approach which Tridni Valka appear to have taken on, and which certainly contributed to the disorganisation of the week and the distrust that many of the participants developed towards them.

What outcomes are possible?

Given this litany of division and disorder, there was a feeling among those involved in the “self-organised assembly” that there needed to be some outcome from the week’s events, if only the possibility of continuing the discussion and taking up the many questions that had not been answered. So, on the Sunday there was a final meeting in a park to decide on what to do next. By this time fatigue and division had reduced the numbers attending this meeting, although it included some of those who had been the most constructive in the discussions so far. A mobile contact group had already been set up and would continue, but this cannot be a vehicle for developing a real discussion, so the decision was taken to set up a website which could publish contributions from all the elements involved (including those who attended the “official” congress at the weekend). The comrades close to Programma also proposed a brief “commitment to class war”, which was a very general statement of opposition to imperialist wars. The majority of those present voted in favour[9]. The ICC delegation said it could not sign it – partly because it contains formulations and slogans we don’t agree with, but mainly because we didn’t feel that the discussions at the meetings had reached a sufficient level of homogeneity for such a joint statement to be issued. Instead, we were in favour of publishing a report on what happened during the week, as well as impressions and reflections by different groups and individuals. In addition, the site could gather and publish information about the current wars that would be hard to come by elsewhere. We will see whether this project comes to fruition.

Despite all its weaknesses and failings, it was important to have taken part in this event. The “real movement” against war is also expressed by minorities searching for clarity, and while we are opposed to forming premature alliances or fronts with groups which still harbour confusions of an activist or even leftist nature, it is absolutely vital for the groups of the Communist Left to be present in such gatherings, retaining their political independence and pushing for clarification based on the historical struggle of the workers’ movement and the indispensable lucidity of the marxist method.

Amos, June 2024


[1] A complete list of invited groups can be found on this site.

[2] In Transmitter magazine, “Interview with the organising committee of the Action Week”

[3] According to the official organising committee, the march was cancelled because the committee needed time to look for a new venue for the weekend. But this explanation entirely ignores the real reasons for the refusal to go on the march, based on political and security arguments.

[4] Given the shared internationalist positions and traditions of the groups of the Communist Left, the ICC has for decades proposed common written appeals with these groups against imperialist war, including those on the war in Ukraine and in Gaza. Unfortunately, the ICT has, up till now, never agreed to make such common statements that would reinforce the defence of the fundamental class principle against imperialist war. Prior to the Action Week, we wrote to the ICT to propose that our two groups should as far as possible work together during the event.

[5]  See for example Nation or Class? - Introduction

[6] The original idea for the Congress would be that Saturday would be a public event but Sunday would be restricted to invited groups only.

[8] How the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste spits on proletarian internationalism, ICC Online

[9] The ICT delegation was not present at this meeting, but they had told us the evening before that they would also not be signing it


The struggle against capitalist war