Lately, communication and collaboration between activists of East and West has been on the agenda of a variety of meetings and seminars, in other words, tusovkas. Looking back at those events an uneasy feeling remains that such communication has not really taken place, except perhaps on a personal level, during breaks and in front of a beer or coffee. It seems that all these meetings were a failure in this respect. It is not enough just to bring people from different backgrounds together (with Western organizations funding their travel, room and board in order to compensate for the lack of funds in the East) and have them discuss ideas on campaigns and collaboration.
Certainly, language problems account for part of the lack of communication. There is a definite lack of practice of English in Eastern Europe, and even if participants understand English, it may be more difficult for them to express their ideas. Western and Eastern activists tend to be unfamiliar with each other's discussion culture and background. Since most meetings are on topics chosen by Western activists according to the interests of Western activists, using a Western approach and Western concepts, this leaves Easterners at a serious disadvantage.
Looking for existing channels of communication between activists in East and West, we have of course come across various electronic mailing lists which distribute information widely, including in and about Eastern Europe. We think that these e-mail lists cover certain communication needs rather well. Brief descriptions of actions, calls for actions, quick questions - most of the daily business of political activism and networking is attended to. However, on a more theoretical level of analyses, strategies, historical background information, the exchange is much more difficult, if only because of the language barriers.
People may (and do) casually translate a short comment on an action and cross-post it to lists in other languages, but this great, insightful history of the Russian green movement in a Moscow zine I'll miss forever if I do not know Russian. Likewise, if I do not know English, I am likely to miss many of the discussions on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). It is precisely such gems of political analysis and articles reflecting ongoing discussions that we would like to gather and make available in both English and Russian. We would be happy if this newsletter could become an additional, slower channel of communication, just slow enough to provide time for translating interesting texts, for readers and writers alike to digest, to think, to answer and complete, to build upon the information or thoughts given in a previous issue. We would be happy if Tusovka could become an interactive media for all of us to write in, and thus contribute, at its own pace and not necessarily in the rush of external events, to building up a common political background that we can rely and build on when we do actions and run campaigns together on a daily basis. We see all the texts we publish in Tusovka as discussion texts, never as presenting dogmatic truth. Comments and criticisms on all the texts are welcome.
Our attention was called to the fact that several of the articles in the pilot issue are rather theoretical, and that many activists would prefer a more down-to-earth approach with close ties to our concrete activities. As more people start contributing to Tusovka, we hope to find a balance between more analytical texts and stories close to life, and find new ways of discussing issues. Analytical, theoretical texts have played a large role in shaping a number of political movements, and we feel that such texts need to have their place in Tusovka, if we are to facilitate a deeper understanding of those movements.
We consider "Tusovka" to be an experiment. It will depend on you, the readers and hopefully contributors, what the next issue will look like, how the newsletter will evolve.
Let us know what you think of the idea(s), spread the word, enjoy the articles in this issue!
The editing team for the pilot issue: Olga and Alain, with the help of Golda, Yuriy, Natasha.
* By "political", we do not mean the high spheres of party and state "politics", but rather derive the term from "political movement" in the sense of "grassroots movement". In fact, according to our idea of what is a political approach to life, most "politicians" are usually completely unpolitical. A political attitude, for us, is a specific way (though constantly redefined in a collective process) of looking at the world, at economic and social developments, at environmental questions, in which we take care to be aware of the historical context, of the social mechanisms at work, of the stereotypes involved, and of the role we ourselves play in these developments.
** Street parties: Parties on the street which are popular in the West, with disco and music instruments, carnival costumes and banners, at which people dance and express their protest against injustice.