Archive for maj, 2017

maj 29, 2017

15M Appropriations and Revolutions: Fragmentary Visions in Spain

Perhaps the most radical legacy of 15M lies in the ways in which the expansion of self-managed forms of life have reshaped subjectivities, which in turn feed back into those forms.  ¨With 15M”, writes Carolina León, “like a slap of turmoil and spring with its precariousness, I knew that their existed a politics in each one of us, and that was an experience of transcending solitude.  … [T]he “revolution” has already triumphed, because it allowed a countless number of people to get out of themselves, to concern themselves with more than what belonged to them and pursue the discussion about living together.” (Carolina León, Trincheras permanentes, 11-2)  But to so speak of “revolution” does presuppose that it be re-conceptualised (the dogmatism on this issue by some anarchists is precisely the reason why Tomás Ibáñez thought that it was a good thing that 15M was free of anarchist organisations); a re-conceptualisation that is called for even if within anarchism, the idea of revolution as a single, insurrectionary event was always accompanied by a notion of social change that imagined revolution as emerging from expanding initiatives of self-management.

 

15mobletnica.jpg

Originally published by Autonomies

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe so they are able to read what is going on and for documentation only.

Revolutionary change, the revolution, should begin from this moment on, beginning with the undoing of the authoritarian relations in each instant and place of daily life, breaking with the logic of obedience that power, every form of power, tries and will try to impose on us, resisting, practicing disobedience and giving the example of how we desire to live, for it is and will be these actions, including “the smallest actions of protest in which we participate”, that are those which convert themselves “into the roots of social change”.

Octavio Alberola, Revolución o colapso

On the 15th of May, a few thousand marched in Madrid to the Puerta del Sol to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the movement that would come to be known simply as 15M.  Smaller observances were held in other cities.

Almost a week latter, on the 20th, Podemos would rally over 10,000 in the same square, signaling an allegience to this recent past, but also demonstrating its divorce from it.

Tomás Ibáñez, the anarchist, writing of 15M in 2011, stated that the “worst that could have happened to 15M, and the future of social struggle, would have been for it to have allowed itself to be led by the libertarian movement … or that it have assumed as its own the principles and objectives of the the libertarian movement.” (Ibáñez, Anarquismos a contratiempo, 269)  The “worst” thing, he qualifies, excluding 15M ending up in the hands of some left-wing, extreme left-wing or nationalist political parties.  The rise of Podemos would seem to confirm the worst.

A Podemos political rally is an exercise in controlled demagogy.  The spectacle is staged, each moment generating ever greater emotional reaction and expectation.  The event begins with the expected political folk music, followed by the entry on stage of the nucleus of the Podemos parliamentarians: their age young, their appearance “cool”, they hold each other, smile and punch the air with their fists … “los compas” some in the crowd cry out, “the comrades”.  These are the ones who will lead the assembled to justice and freedom, they are the ones who will sweep away the corrupt, bring order to the State, enforce and pass laws in defence of the citizens, the people, the “fatherland” [“patria”: the word will be repeated without end]  At first, they could almost pass as a rock band, readying themselvs for a grand concert; but no, they are “our” warriors, our “justicieros” in whom faith must be had.  Then come the speeches, often written, seemingly rehearsed, each strictly timed to keep things moving quickly.  Thought and reflection are not expected.  The sequence of speakers itself alternates between parliamentarian and ordinary “citizen”/”worker”: unemployed, student, fisherman, longshoreman, and so on.  The refrain, to be read in the bodies and voices of the common man and woman: Podemos is the party of the people.  The order of the politicians is itself sequenced from the least well known to the leader.  All are presented as heros, indefatigable fighters for our dignity.  The cheering, the chants, follow rhythmically.  Nothing is left to chance, to spontaneity.  When the leader finally does step onto the stage, the crowd explodes in euphoria; it is Pablo Iglesias, white shirt, jeans, long hair held loosely in a pony tail, left hand raised in a fist, moving, pacing in a circle on the square stage like a boxer about to meet his opponents: the enemies of the patria, of the people and of their honest work, and of those who wish to work; the thieves, the crooks, the liars who sack and pillage the country.  Finally a man to fight for us, someone worthy of our trust.  And it is this that Iglesias asks for: faith in him, in his party, in his revolution.

The distance is great that separates the multiple and mass assemblies of 15M in Sol and the Podemos orchestrated show.  However politically limited and fragile the assemblies were, they were assemblies, largely open, horizontal, self-organised and self-managed.  And if they sometimes lost themselves in the self-confession of speakers, as individual after individual took the microphone, what was said was direct, pained or joyful, reflected or impulsive, to be then embraced or rejected by the very many who listened.  Those gathered before Podemos were not asked to listen but to react, in reflex, to words, names, slogans.  The speakers were chosen, pre-selected; those assemblied were the audience.  But so that the latter did not feel themselves entirely passive, they were greeted as the people, the speakers humbled themselves before them, thanked them for their presence, and recalled to everyone the history of their presence:  that as the assembled people, they were the direct descendants of the occupations of the squares of 15M and, even, of the country’s popular uprising against fascism in 1936.  And yet the truth strained, the lie was there for everyone to see.

Iglesias said to all of those present that they would be able to tell their children where they had been on the 20th of May, 2017, for the spirit of History was with them.  The motivation for the gathering was ostensibly to justify and gather support for the future introduction of a motion of no confidence in parliament by Podemos, to bring down the government of the Mariano Rajoy.  This would not be the action of a political party, but of the people, those assembled in Sol, and by extension, in the imaginary of the those gathered, the assembly of all of the people of spain.  The demonstration was thus both testimony of the synchrony of the party and the people, and justification of the party as the party of the spanish people.

The no confidence motion however will fail in parliament.  The party leadership knows this, for the majority of the political parties have denounced the exercise.  What game then is being played out?  In part, it would seem to be one further effort by Iglesias to undermine and fracture the Socialist Party (PSOE: Partido Socialista Obrero Español) that holds its leadership primary elections on the same weekend.  In other words, it is another act in the play in which Podemos seeks to situate itself hegemonically on the “Left”, to thus lay the basis for the conquest of political power.  The “historic” day in Sol then was but theatre, with the “people” as the extras for a game that will be decided elsewhere.  And when the show was over, those in the square could do little more than return home.  Indeed, to so gather the people, Podemos was obliged to rent some one hundred buses to freight people into Madrid from all over the country.  It is not that there is a distance between Podemos and 15M; there is an abyss. (El País 21/05/2017)

Carlos Taibo, in a recent chronicle on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of 15M, could still say, with justice, as he has said repeatedly in the past, “that the 15M that we have known until today has maintained a proud, and fortunate, engagement with self-organisation at the basis of society, in neighbourhoods and small towns, before the paraphernalia of endless entities remote from, and foreign to, what occurs in our daily life.”  For the same reason, 15M has visibly demonstrated itself to be distant from leaderships and personalised power. (Carlos Taibo, “Desde Abajo, Sin Separaciones: Seis Años del 15M”, madrid15m, Nº 58, May 2017)

Podemos is not 15M in political costume.  And if Podemos could not exist without 15M, 15M is not reducible to Podemos.  That Podemos has drained away activism from non-party political militancy is no doubt undeniable – for reasons which cannot be simply swept aside.  Podemos however is nothing more than “a return to reformist politics and this presages, undoubtedly, some social changes of greater or lesser importance.”  What has to be asked though is what is the nature and value of these changes.  That social-democratic reformism can bring about positive changes for ample sectors of the population – though never for the whole population, and more importantly, on a global scale, only ever for a minority – seems undeniable.  But at what price?  If the latter includes “the consolidation, revitalisation and perpetuation of the system that it reforms, then it is not certain that the price is not excessively high”.  And does not such a reformism also contribute to the domestication or deactivation of the multiple struggles that have marked the last years and upon which new political parties like Podemos support themselves?  The Podemos circuses, rather than being affirmations of authority, may prove themselves instead to be spectacles of a phantom life.  (Ibáñez, 279-81)

To consider 15M as Taibo does, that is, as at least in part an autonomous movement aspiring to generalised self-management,  renders any comparisons with Podemos and its capacity to mobilise on the streets, with the party shining brightly while 15M fades into historical oblivion, misplaced.  If 15M began with the mass occupation of city squares, and continued “visibly” in large public protests for another two years, the emphasis on self-management invites us to look elsewhere, at the proliferation and intensification of groups of direct action and collective mutual aid which have since 2011 emerged and/or developed outside the shining light of the spectacle of politics.

Perhaps the most radical legacy of 15M lies in the ways in which the expansion of self-managed forms of life have reshaped subjectivities, which in turn feed back into those forms.  ¨With 15M”, writes Carolina León, “like a slap of turmoil and spring with its precariousness, I knew that their existed a politics in each one of us, and that was an experience of transcending solitude.  … [T]he “revolution” has already triumphed, because it allowed a countless number of people to get out of themselves, to concern themselves with more than what belonged to them and pursue the discussion about living together.” (Carolina León, Trincheras permanentes, 11-2)  But to so speak of “revolution” does presuppose that it be re-conceptualised (the dogmatism on this issue by some anarchists is precisely the reason why Ibáñez thought that it was a good thing that 15M was free of anarchist organisations); a re-conceptualisation that is called for even if within anarchism, the idea of revolution as a single, insurrectionary event was always accompanied by a notion of social change that imagined revolution as emerging from expanding initiatives of self-management.

The question of revolution can be approached from any number of perspectives, but a reflection that appears in Carolina León’s essay Trincheras permanentes is valuable here.  Writing about the acampada of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid in 2011, she finds in the characterisation of the occupation and its multiple, daily assemblies as the realisation of politics, in the sense that Hannah Arendt gives to the term, an unsustainable contradiction.  If, for Arendt, politics depended on labour and work, it was not reducible to either or both of these.  Politics, as the public space of appearing and self-creation, rests upon the satisfaction of physical needs secured privately through labour and work, but does not share in the latter’s qualities.  The private sphere is a space of hierarchical authority, patriarchal authority in ancient greece, whereas the public space of politics is free and equal.  So different are the two, that the colonisation of politics by society (that is, the private management of life made public), that has become for Arendt the fundamental character of modern politics, translates into the death of politics.  What Arendt though assumes is that the private satisfaction of needs is a-political, or worse, anti-political, when it is in fact eminently political.  It is politically that the ways and means of needs satisfaction, and which needs are to be satisfied, are determined, all of which in turn shapes the space of politics.  Arendt in other words assumes the separation or divorce of politics from other spheres of life, when they are, on the contrary, overlapping and mutually sustaining.

León brings this forward in the expression of the “impure agora”.  “The squares rather than Chimeras, were very real.  They were not however delimited spaces separated from life, nor pure places of deliberation.  They were mixed spaces that reproduced themselves through the concrete and unavoidable labour of bodies.  Not of all, nor equally and without grabbing the same attention of other facets of the event.  The tasks that its maintenance demanded remained below, buried beneath the visibility of the debates, working groups and the assemblies of thousands of people.  And not everything was idyllic: in an experience of such intensity, tensions, bad stuff and criminal offenses such as sexual assault, also occurred.  The diversity was brutal because of its very openness.” (León, 160-1)  And if the acampadas were finally lifted, along with their specific politics, it was fundamentally because they could not be sustained, that is, physically reproduced.  In León’s terms, politics and care collided.  The question then becomes, for her, and I believe for any radical, anti-capitalist politics, how can the two be brought together, reconciled, so to speak (for they are in fact always together, with politics though parasitically feeding upon the many hidden activities or labours of social reproduction).

If “care” is understood as the discrete, daily and indispensable actions attending to the “needs of the body”, that provide what is essential for the perpetuation of life and if “politics” is any collective activity that produces a “common world” (in both cases, paraphrasing León, 156, 165), then the crossing of these two terms-activities-agencies is best captured in the notion of a form-of-life: of life lived and shaped collectively in and through itself in relations of affinity (it is friends who care for each other), and in affinity and/or tension with other forms-of-life.

In its most radical expression, 15M has entrusted to us a concept of life as politics and politics as life.

We have to abandon the idea that there is only politics there where there is a vision, a programme, a project and a perspective, where there is an end, decisions to be taken and problems to be solved.  There is no true politics except where it arises from life and makes of it a determined, oriented reality.  And that is born from those who are close …

comité invisible, Maintenant

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maj 29, 2017

From #Chiapas to #Rojava: The Rise of a New Revolutionary Paradigm

“Power to the people“ can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people.»

(Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism)

Originally published by the Cooperativa Integral Catalana.

The largely unknown until recently Kurdish city of Kobane managed to attract the attention of the world with its fierce resistance [i] against the invasion of the Islamic State and became an international symbol, compared to the defence of Madrid and Stalingrad. The bravery and heroism of the People’s Defence Units and the Women’s Defence Units (YPG and YPJ) were praised by a large spectrum of groups and individuals – anarchists, leftists, liberals and even right-wingers expressed sympathy and admiration for the men and women of Kobane in their historical battle against what was often seen as IS “fascism.” The mainstream media was forced to break the silence over the Kurdish autonomy and soon numerous articles and news stories were broadcasted and published, often depicting the “toughness” and determination of the Kurdish fighters with a certain dose of exotisation, of course. However, this attention was very often selective and partial – the very essence of the political project in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) was left aside and the media preferred to present the resistance in Kobane as some weird exception to the supposed barbarism of the Middle East. Without surprise, the red star, shining on the victorious flags of the YPG/J was not a pleasing image in the eyes of the Western powers and their media. The autonomous cantons of Rojava represent a home-grown solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, encompassing grassroots democracy, ethnic, social and gender rights and all this in rejection both of IS terror but also of liberal democracy and capitalist economy . Although the West preferred to stay silent on this issue, this ideological foundation is the key for understanding the spirit that wrote the Kobane epopee and fascinated the world, as the Kurdish activist and academic, Dilar Dirik, claimed recently[ii].

As the battles for every street and corner of the city were intensifying, Kobane managed to captivate the imagination of the left and specifically of the libertarian left as a symbol of resistance and struggle and soon it was placed on the pantheon of some of the most emblematic battles for humanity, such as the defence of Madrid against the fascists in the 1930s. It was not by accident that the Turkish Marxist-Leninist group MLKP, which joined the YPG/J in/on the battlefield, raised the flag of the Spanish republic over the ruins of the city in the day of its liberation and called for the formation of International Brigades[iii], following the example of the Spanish revolution. It was not the battle for Kobane itself, but the libertarian essence of the cantons of Rojava, the implementation of grassroots direct democracy, the participation of women and different ethnic groups into the autonomous government that gave ground to the comparisons with the Spanish revolution. Another association was mentioned briefly in several articles – the revolution in Rojava and its autonomous government were compared to the Zapatistas and their autonomy in the south of Mexico. The importance of this comparison might be crucial in order to understand the paradigm of the revolutionary struggle in Kurdistan and what it means for those who believe another world is possible.

The Zapatista movement is probably one of the most symbolic and influential elements of the revolutionary imaginary in the world after the fall of the state-socialist regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the morning of January 1, 1994, an unknown guerrilla force, composed of indigenous Mayas, took over the main towns of the southern-most Mexican state – Chiapas. The military operation was carried out with strategic brilliance and combined with the innovative back then use of the internet to spread the message of the revolutionaries, it echoed around the globe to inspire international solidarity and the emergence of the Alter-Globalisation movement. The Zapatistas rebelled against neoliberal capitalism and the social and cultural genocide of the indigenous population in Mexico. Ya Basta, Enough is enough, was their war cry that emerged from the night of “500 years of oppression”, as the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated. The Zapatistas rose up in arms when global capital was celebrating the “end of history” and the idea of social revolution seemed to be a romantic anachronism that belonged to the past. The Zapatista Army for National Liberation was forced out of the cities in twelve days of intense battles with the federal army but it turned out that the deep horizontal organisation in the indigenous communities could not be eradicated by any military intervention or terror. The masked spokesperson of the rebel army, Subcomandante Marcos, challenged the notion of historical vanguard as opposed to revolution from below, which does not aim to take power but to abolish it and this concept became central to the most mass anti-capitalist movements since – from Seattle and Genoa to the Syntagma and Puerta del Sol occupations and even the Occupy Movement.

Where are the similarities with the Rojavan revolution?

From Marxism-Leninism to Autonomy – a shared historical trajectory

The roots of the democratic autonomy in Rojava can be understood only through the history of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), the organisation, which has been central to the Kurdish liberation movement since its creation in 1978. The PKK was established as a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organisation in Northern Kurdistan, part of the Turkish state, combining the ideologies of national and social liberation. It grew to a substantial guerrilla force under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan and managed to challenge the second biggest army in NATO in a conflict that claimed the lives of more than forty thousand people. The Turkish state displaced hundreds of thousands and reportedly used torture, assassination and rape against the civilian population but did not manage to break the backbone of the Kurdish resistance. Since its inception, PKK has expanded its influence both in Turkey and in the other parts of Kurdistan. The leading political force in the Rojavan revolution – the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is affiliated with it through the Kurdistan Communities’ Union, KCK, the umbrella organisation that encompasses various revolutionary and political groups sharing the ideas of the PKK. The ideology, which unites the different civil and revolutionary groups in the KCK is called democratic confederalism and is based on the ideas of the US anarchist Murray Bookchin, who argued in favour of a non-hierarchal society based on social-ecology, libertarian municipalism, and direct democracy.

Although the Zapatistas are famous for their autonomous government and rejection of the notion of historical vanguard, the roots of the organisation were also related to Marxism-Leninism and just like in the case of the PKK, the idea of self-governance and revolution from below were a product of a long historical evolution. The EZLN was founded in 1983 by a group of urban guerrillas, predominantly Marxist-Leninists, who decided to start a revolutionary cell among the indigenous population in Chiapas, organise a guerrilla force and take power through guerrilla warfare. Soon they realised that their ideological dogma was not applicable to the indigenous realities and started learning from the communal traditions of governance of the indigenous people. Thus, Zapatismo was born as a fusion between Marxism and the experience and knowledge of the native population that has been resisting both against the Spanish and later the Mexican state.

This shared ideological trajectory demonstrates a historical turn in the understanding of revolutionary process. The Zapatista uprising and establishment of the autonomy in Chiapas marked a break with traditional guerrilla strategies, inspired predominantly by the Cuban revolution, this was made more than clear in the letter EZLN spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, wrote to the Basque liberation organisation ETA:

“I shit on all revolutionary vanguards on this planet. [iv]

It was not the vanguard to lead the people now; it was the people themselves to build the revolution from below and sustain it as such. This is the logic PKK has been shifting towards in the last decade under the influence of Murray Bookchin and this shift demonstrates an evolution of the organisation from movement for the people to a movement of the people.

Cantons and Caracoles – freedom here and now

Probably the most important similarity between the revolution in Rojava and the one in Chiapas is the social and political reorganisation that is taking place in both places that is based on the libertarian ideology of the two organisations.

The Zapatista autonomy in its current form originates from the failure of the peace negotiations with the Mexican government after the uprising in 1994. During the peace negotiations the rebels demanded the government to adhere to the accords of San Andres, which give the indigenous people the right to autonomy, self-determination, education, justice and political organisation, based on their tradition as well as communal control over the land and the resources of the areas that belong to them. These accords were never implemented by the government and in 2001 president Fox backed an edited version that was voted for in congress but did not meet the demands of the Zapatistas and the other groups in resistance. This event was labelled as “treason” and it provoked the EZLN to declare two years later the creation of the five rebel zones, centred in five Caracoles (or snails in English) that serve as administrative centres. The name Caracoles came to show the revolutionary concept of the Zapatistas – we are doing it ourselves, we learn in the process and we advance, slowly, but we advance. The Caracoles[v] include three levels of autonomous government – community, municipality and Council of the Good Government. The first two are based on grassroots assemblies whereas the Councils of the Good Government are elected but with the intention to get as many people as possible to participate in the Government over the years through a principle of rotation. The autonomy has its own educational system, healthcare and justice, as well as cooperatives, producing coffee, cattle, handcrafts etc.

We learn as we make things, we did not know about autonomy and that we were going to build something like it. But we learn and improve things and learn from the struggle– told me my Zapatista guardian Armando, when I visited the autonomous territory at the end of 2013. Freedom could only be practiced here and now and revolution was a process of constantly challenging the status-quo and building alternatives to it.

The Rojavan cantons indeed resemble the autonomy in Chiapas. They were proclaimed by the dominant PYD in 2013 and function through the established popular assemblies and democratic councils. Women participate equally in the decision-making and are represented in all elected positions, which are always shared by a man and a woman. All ethnic groups are represented in the government and its institutions. Healthcare and education are also guaranteed by the system of democratic confederalism and recently the first Rojavan university, the Masepotamia Academy, opened it’s doors with plans to challenge the hierarchical structure of education, and to provide a different approach to learning.

Just as it is in the case with the Zapatistas, the Revolution in Rojava envisions itself as a solution to the problems in the whole country, not as an expression of separatist tendencies. This genuine democratic system, as claimed by the delegation of academics from Europe and North America [vi], that visited Rojava recently, points to a different future of the Middle East, based on direct participation, women’s emancipation and ethnic peace.

Women’s revolution

Gender has always been central to the Zapatista revolution. The situation of women before the spread of the organization and the adoption of women’s liberation as central to the struggle, was marked by exploitation, marginalization, forced marriages, physical violence and discrimination. This is why Marcos claims that the first uprising was not the one in 1994 but the adoption of the Womens’ Revolutionary Law in 1993, setting the framework for gender equality and justice and guaranteeing the rights of the women in the rebel territory to personal autonomy, emancipation and dignity. Today women participate in all levels of government and have their own cooperatives and economic structures to guarantee their economic independence. Women were and still form a large part of the ranks of the Zapatista guerilla force and take high positions in its commandment. The takeover of San Cristobal de las Casas, the most important city the Zapatista troops captured during the uprising in 1994, was also commanded by women, headed by comandanta Ramona, who was also the first Zapatista to be sent to Mexico city to represent the movement.

It is not difficult to compare the mass involvement of indigenous women in Chiapas in the Zapatista ranks to the participation of women in the defense of Kobane and in the YPJ – the Women’s Protection Units, both depicted in a sensationalist manner[vii] by the Western media in the last months. However, their bravery and determination in the war against ISIS is a product of a long tradition of women participation in the armed struggle for social liberation in Kurdistan. Women have played a central role in the PKK and this is undoubtedly connected with the importance of gender in the Kurdish struggle. The Rojava revolution has a strong emphasis on women’s liberation as indispensable for the true liberation of society. The theoretical framework that puts the dismantling of patriarchy at the heart of the struggle is called “jineology”, a concept developed by Abdullah Ocalan. The application of this concept has resulted in an unseen empowerment of women not only in the context of the Middle East but also in the context of western liberal feminism. The women’s assemblies, cooperative structures and women’s militias are the heart of the revolution, which is considered incomplete if it does not destroy the patriarchal structure of society, which is one of the fundamentals of capitalism. Janet Biehl, an independent writer and artist, wrote after her recent visit to Rojava that women in the Kurdish revolution have the ideological role of the proletariat in the XXth century revolutions.

The ecology of freedom

The Ecology of Freedom is probably the most important among Bookchin’s works and his concept of social ecology has been adopted by the revolutionaries in Rojava. His idea that “the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human” links patriarchy, environmental destruction and capitalism and points at their abolition as the only way to a just society. Such a holistic approach has been advocated and implemented by the Zapatistas as well. Sustainability has also been an important point of emphasis, especially after the creation of the caracoles in 2003. The autonomous government has been trying to recuperate ancestral knowledge, related to the sustainable use of the land and combine it with other agro-ecological practices. This logic is not only a matter of improving the living conditions in the communities and avoiding the use of agrochemicals, it is a rejection of the whole notion that large-scale industrial agriculture is superior to the ‘primitive’ way the indigenous people work the land and as such it is a powerful defiance of the logic of neoliberalism.

The road to Autonomy – the new revolutionary paradigm

The similarities between the system of democratic confederalism that is being developed in Western Kurdistan and the Autonomy in Chiapas go far beyond the few points I have stressed in this article. From slogans such as Ya Basta, adapted in Kurdish as êdî bes e to the grassroots democracy, communal economic structures and participation of women, the similar path the Kurdish movement and the Zapatistas have taken demonstrates a decisive break with the vanguardist notion of Marxism-Leninism and a new approach to revolution, which comes from below and aims at the creation of a free and non-hierarchal society.

Although both movements have received some bitter criticism[viii] from sectarian elements on the left, the very fact that the only major and successful experiments in radical social change originate from non-western, marginalised and colonised groups, comes as a slap in the face to the white and privileged dogmatic “revolutionaries” of the global north who have hardly been successful on challenging oppression in their own countries but tend to believe it is their judgement what is and what is not a real revolution.

The revolutions in Rojava and Chiapas are a powerful example for the world, demonstrating the enormous capacity of grassroots organisation and the importance of communal links as opposed to capitalist social atomisation. Last but not least, Chiapas and Rojava should make many on the left, including some anarchists, trash their colonial mindset and ideological dogmatism.

A world without hierarchy, domination, capitalism and environmental destruction or as the Zapatistas say, the world where many worlds fit, has often been depicted as “utopian” and “unrealistic” by the mainstream media, education and political structures. However, this world is not some future mirage that comes from the books – it is happening here and now and the examples of Zapatistas and Kurds are a powerful weapon to reignite our capacity to imagine a real radical change in society as well as a model we can learn from in our struggles. The red stars that shine over Chiapas and Rojava shed light on the way to liberation and if we need to summarize in one word what brings these two struggles together, it would definitely be Autonomy.​

Notes

[i] Dicle, Amed (2015) Kobane Victory, How it Unfolded

http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/insight-research/analysis/kobane-victory-how-it-unfolded.html

[ii] Dirik, Dilar (2015) Whi Kobane Did Not Fall

http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/why-kobani-did-not-fall.html

[iii] International Brigades Form in Rojava (2014)

http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2015/01/international-brigades-form-in-rojava-no-pasaran-video-3100250.html

[iv] Marcos (2003) I Shit on All Revolutionary Vanguards on This Planet
http://roarmag.org/2011/02/i-shit-on-all-the-revolutionary-vanguards-of-this-planet/

[v] Oikonomakis, Leonidas (2013) Zapatistas Celebrate 10 Years of Autonomy With Escuelita
http://roarmag.org/2013/08/escuelita-zapatista-10-year-autonomy/

[vi] Joint Statement of the Academic Delagation to Rojava

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/joint-statement-of-the-academic-delegation-to-rojava/

[vii] Dirik, Dilar (2014) Western Fascination With “Badass” Kurdish Women

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/10/western-fascination-with-badas-2014102112410527736.html

[viii]

Anarchist Federation Statement on Rojava (2014)

http://www.afed.org.uk/blog/international/435-anarchist-federation-statement-on-rojava-december-2014.html

maj 25, 2017

Transnational Social Strike (TSS) meeting, Ljubljana, 19-21 May

tssljubljana

Last weekend, Rog hosted the fourth meeting of Transnational Social Strike (TSS). This platform has emerged in order to connect workers (locals and migrants) as well as unions and activist groups throughout Europe, who fight against exploitation. Due to the fragmentation of the production process and the divisions created between workers, labour struggles need to be carried out by adopting new approaches. Since processes of exploitation don’t stop at the borders of nation states – that is, occur transnationally – these processes can only be deconstructed through transnational and social strikes.

The meeting in Ljubljana took place under the name ‘From Balkan to Europe: Confronting divisions’. As is the case for all countries which were part of the so-called ‘Balkan route’ or ‘Balkan corridor’, the way the Slovenian authorities have dealt respectively deal with migrants, shows that ‘a transnational process against exploitation and neoliberalism today needs to deepen the connection with the mass movements of migrants and face the ongoing political reorganization of the European space’.

In the opening session on Friday evening, it was stated that migrants are at the core of attempts in recent years to challenge neoliberal policies by the EU and its member states. Especially in the Balkans one can see that, although the repression by authorities is extensive, migrants keep pushing through and striving for a humane treatment. ‘Europe’ is thereby obstructing processes, by on the one hand tarring the countries in Southeast and East Central Europe with the same brush, and on the other creating differentiation between them. It was therefore stated, that Brussels keeps treating the Balkans ‘only as periphery’.

Another core player in actions against oppression are women. An example is the mass protest last year by Polish women against a proposed abortion ban. In the context of TSS, this year’s Global Women’s Strike on International Women’s Day (March 8th) was detected as an even more noteworthy and crucial event. Both women and men, and both people who hitted the street to speak out against domestic violence and the decomposition of the welfare state, mobilized. It emphasised once again, how closely connected striving for women’s rights and opposing neoliberal values – as patriarchy – are. This is the core of TSS: attacking exploitation in all its forms by intensifying the renewed presence of strikes. Actions by Amazon and Deliveroo workers and strikes against the reform of the ‘code du travail’ in France are other revealing examples.

Workshop ‘Freedom of movement and the right to stay’

On Saturday, in several workshops which took place in Social Center Rog and Živko Skvotec, specific topics were addressed. In the workshop ‘Freedom of movement and right to stay’, several representatives of organisations in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, and Sweden, shared information about the situation in these countries. All of these countries are involved in dubious acts of ‘push backs’. A representative of no border serbia emphasised, that the big majority of the 7000-8000 refugees which are currently in Serbia, tries to cross the Serbian-Hungarian border. In Belgrade, they have been confronted with the poisoning of their barracks. Besides that, tents have been destroyed. If refugees refuse to register in Serbia, they are pushed back to Bulgaria or Macedonia.

Hungary was termed a special case, because the media are almost under total control by the ruling party Fidesz. This results in far-right rhetoric in the biggest media outlets of the country. In Slovenia, the ‘violence is becoming less brutal, more systemic’. Activists in Italy have recently been criminalised. They have been termed ‘friends of terrorists’, and therefore it’s even more difficult for them to offer migrants help. In Sweden, attacks on solidarity movements by the far-right have occurred. A new law is proposed, which would introduce a special minimum wage for migrants. What follows out of this, is that the initial political solidarity in Sweden now belongs to the past.

After the reports, the discussion brought about, that acts by migrants question the legitimacy of nation states throughout Europe. They should therefore be seen as protagonists instead of victims. For example in Italy, migrants are the main actors in strikes in recent years. By cooperation between the different groups involved in TSS, the EU member states and other countries involved should be forced to take their responsibility. The observation, that finding and formulating the political connection between the actors participating in the workshop is needed in order to be able to implement a transnational approach / action, was an important outcome of this meeting.

‘Logistics labour’ workshop

*Logistics is the organization and implementation of a complex operation. In general, logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, material handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, etc.*

In this workshop, logistics were being considered as something more than solely the logistics sector – the definition of which is outlined above – but instead as a strong driving force transforming the way in which production and labour are organized across boundaries in a transnational and neoliberal manner. Therefore, it is crucial to understand logistics in order to counter neoliberal reforms and disrupt infrastructure projects, especially in regards to the Balkan route which is being developed for global trade and exploitation, and in concern to the ever increasing exploitation of migrant workers as their presence in the labour market expands. In a widened context of logistics’ workers organizing, the situation of Amazon and Deliveroo employees transnationally in Europe was also addressed, as well as other sectors involved in the re-organization of labour and production in the rising gig economy.

Beginning with the organization of workers who are exploited, there is a need for a platform in order to address the social and also political conditions of employment as more companies expand transnationally through neoliberal discourse, which of course means the reliance on exploiting cheap labour in local areas. It was highlighted that whilst platforms used by companies to organize workers, this same platform was also then developed by workers to organize themselves in some instances. However, this did not immediately result in political power to fight the conditions of labour, and these struggles have a political limit especially in terms of migrants.

Logistics translate into global chains of labour and due to this a link between the local and transnational is created. This is represented in the development of ports as being connected entities, the ports of Koper and Rijeka are examples of this, where service ports for production chains are outside the local area and goods produced are not in the hands of the workers or distributed within the local area. Despite this connectivity and transnational ties, the communication between workers employed in the ports is very low and there is little organization. However, focusing on the Koper port, there has been a strong presence of a radical trade union over an extended period of time that is opposed to the privatisation of the port, whose presence and actions are of heightened importance in contemporary times due to the involvement and interest of foreign governments in neoliberal reforms of the Koper port. There have been numerous strikes and blockades from the workers, and effectively from the crane operators proving to be very successful as they hold an influential position to stop global production chains. The Koper port trade union also connects and coordinates workers on the ship, harbour and warehouses, which is a successful strategy to address not only the exploitation of workers on different yet very much connected levels, but also to attack and disrupt the logistics of global labour chains, and to confront the flow of commodities in relation to global capitalism.

Another topic that was discussed was the connection between trade unions and political collectives and how to politicize a social struggle, as social, economic and political issues are inter-related. This is especially so with the destruction of welfare infrastructure whilst isolation is present in terms of closing borders throughout Europe. Politicising struggles with the aim to expand and connect European port workers who are organising outside of trade unions was deemed necessary as trade unions can be rejected by governments (Sweden was used as an example, whose port workers are employed in precarious situations), as well as the presence of governments appropriating production and blaming strikers for harming the economy as a way to fight against or reject politically organised workers. The need to find a common ground between transnational workers is imperative, possibly in the form of politicising struggles and by demonstrating the connectivity of capitalist logistics across work places, and then in turn the effectiveness of shutting down of these capitalist logistics through economic transport infrastructure such as ports, harbours and borders in a collectivised manner, namely by using the weapon of strikes and blockades. However, due to the increased presence of precarious labour many workers are afraid to loose their jobs, therefore trade unions must find a way to include precarious workers (the outsourcing of workers within the postal service in Slovenia was used as an example).

Finally, the automisation of labour was briefly described as a tool to fragment workers, as well as Amazon workers collectivizing (differing nationalities addressing global companies organization and discourse through a network operating across borders in the form of transnational workers meetings). However, this is not the case for the majority of Amazon workers, that due to the very nature of their work and how the workplace is structured, have little communication with trade unions or political collectives, especially so since many employees are migrants in precarious labour.

Workshop ‘Global Women’s Strike’

In the workshop ‘After the Global Women’s Strike: struggles against patriarchy, capitalism and precarization’ was dealt with the question how the aforementioned success of the strike on March 8th could and should be given a decent follow-up. The workshop was opened with the stories of three women, who came from Afghanistan to Slovenia last year. By sharing both their experiences so far and fears about a potential forced return to their homeland, they made clear that changes are needed, and quickly.

These women experienced extreme violence towards themselves and their families, and fled Afghanistan to escape oppression comprising no right to work, no right to education and no freedom of movement, only to be met by equal circumstances in Slovenia. The view of many European governments, among which the Slovenian, that Afghanistan is a ‘safe country’, is the result of wrong information or the incorrect interpretation of sources. This has serious implications for refugees (men, women and children) from Afghanistan, whose status is continuously rejected on these grounds, despite the violence experienced and perpetuated. It was stated, that the first thing that is needed, is a stop of the deportations to countries that are unjustly seen as safe, as well as the creation of a transnational platform for refugee women across Europe in order for their voices and dangerous situations to be heard. It is also worth mentioning that refugee spaces, such as that of Second Home in Rog, are often male dominated and women do not feel safe in such spaces, especially since their children are often with them. The introduction of an ‘unconditional European residence permit’ was mentioned as a goal.

Regarding the connection between women’s rights and neoliberalism, emphasis was put on the fact, that exploitation of men contributes to wishes and attempts to dominate women. That is, patriarchy and neoliberalism go hand in hand. It is therefore needed to address these issues together as much as possible.

 

General assembly and critical analysis / criticisms

In the general assembly on Saturday evening, the conclusion was, that completely fragmented working conditions are at the core of issues regarding the rights of actually all human beings, which are confronted with exploitation. In this sense, focusing solely on a certain exploited group, is not the best strategy when it is attempted to change the current state of affairs. However, this is easier said than done. Because of fragmentation – which is the result of neoliberal practices – the struggle to change this might be more tough than ever. That’s why we’re urged to address the challenges together.

Despite the overall positive goal shared by all who attended the workshops and meeting of countering neoliberalism, exploitation and patriarchy through collective processes, it’s also worth mentioning or highlighting some issues encountered.

Primarily, the issues of language exclusivity and how meetings were structured became an obvious problem, as the language and discourse used across all topics did not allow for the inclusion of a variety of perspectives, especially from those who were not directly involved in groups present from the formation of TSS. Some refugees stated that they did not attend the event as they viewed the weekend as intellectuals pushing out migrants and refugees in order to focus and implement their own political agenda. In regards to this issue, the structure of the meetings in terms of how open or closed they are, needs to be assessed. The presence of a hierarchy in relevance to outsiders or newcomers to the meetings and those that, as mentioned previously, had been there since the beginning, was also noticed.

Secondly, no concrete actions were discussed or organised in the final assembly, despite what was discussed in the Global Women’s Strike March workshop in regards to the precarious and extremely dangerous present situation that refugee women are confronted with, and despite the fact that the need for a unified, transnational action, report or campaign was repeated in the assembly.

maj 18, 2017

#NoG20 From Across The World Together Against The G20

No G20 activists wrote an open letter to the people of Hamburg. “Do not be afraid, because we come as friends”, says Patrick Bond, economist and activist from South Africa, when he talks about coming to Hamburg to protest against the G20 summit. “We want to take away the fears of us, which are fueled by politics”. In the letter co-written by him to Hamburg’s civil society it says: “The true invaders and destroyers of our cities are the G20 and we must protect ourselves together. If they want a democracy-free zone in Hamburg, we want a G20-free Hamburg.”

nog20international

 

Download, print, read and spread From across the world together against the G20: an open letter to the people of Hamburg in PDF Format: Open_Letter_G20

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

 

Already for months people from countries like Argentina, France and Ireland plan their journey to Hamburg. The International No G20 coordinating groups clarifies that they want to protest in July in solidarity with the people living in Hamburg: with respect for their neighborhoods and the inspiring activities within them, that emanates solidarity and freedom. Bettina Müller from Attac Argentina says: “I am looking forward to Hamburg and its people and hope that one gets to know each other during the protests”.

The International No G20 group is part of the global preparation of protests against the G20 summit in Hamburg and is composed of different groups from Europe and the world. This includes for example Attac Argentina, the network “BRICS from below”, social centers from Italy, left groups from Eastern Europe and human rights groups. The protest plans include a congress, blockades, actions of mass civil disobedience and a big demonstration.

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From across the world together against the G20: an open letter to the people of Hamburg

Dear people of Hamburg, you might wonder who is writing to you.
We are women and men from all over Europe and the world, citizens or
activists in many different networks, and from all walks of life. We have
very different ages and political persuasions.

We’re the people who aim to join you in Hamburg, your city, to support the
protests this July when the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful
countries will meet in the very heart of the city.

You have mostly heard about us from politicians and media who want to
make you afraid of us, describing us as “troublemakers” or “vandals”…
However, with this letter to you we want to join hands with you since we
are all subjected to the same global policies created at these summits,
where the few think they can decide for all of our lives.

You are subjected to red, yellow and blue zones. You’ve seen control
stations, police forces and machinery in your city before, as at the OSCE
summit, and you will see even more soon. We can imagine how you feel,
when your freedom of living, movement and assembly and those of your
friends, neighbours and colleagues are suspended – even if only
temporarily.

We also know this from our own worlds. In recent months, we’ve been
hitting the roads of the US, raising up a million voices and marching in the
growing resistance to Trump, asserting racial, social and gender justice
against the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, climatedenialist,
corporate-controlled United States he is building. We know that
many of you are also fighting the Right, against the AfD or autocratic
rulers such as Erdogan, and that many of you share our opposition to the
constant warfare exported around the world.

Often our rights to assemble – like yours – are violated in these struggles.
We have fought for years to defend our planet from the threats posed by
climate change and ecological crisis, from the expropriation and
devastation, from the multinationals’ resource extraction and exploitation
of the lands where we live. Some of us were in North Dakota to put our
bodies in front of the Access Pipeline. Some of us have opposed the longlasting
violence against the Amazon rainforest – as you have fought
Moorburg or against useless, expensive mega-projects like the Olympics or
fought to re-communalize water and energy.

Others of us have protested against undemocratic, corrupt regimes in
Brazil (35 million on general strike against Temer’s austerity this April),
Russia (100 cities staged anti-corruption protests against Prime Minister
Medvedev’s corruption), India (180 million workers fought Modi’s
neoliberalism one day last September), China (with more than 100,000
protests each year), and South Africa (regular mass and micro protests
against Zuma’s neoliberal plutocracy) – showing from below that BRICS
elites are no better than the other G20 rulers.

Last year many of us met on the streets in Paris, against the elites who
threaten our very lives by continuously reinforcing precarious labour and
living conditions. The Loi Travail was a dramatic turning point for this
process in Europe, but we also know how it feels to work at so-called minijobs,
as millions of young people do in Germany – and we experienced how
these struggles feel – for young and old – in times of a “state of
emergency”. But we know this is a struggle for survival and solidarity. And
you – like people everywhere – showed this by welcoming fellow citizens of
the earth fleeing war, hunger and devastation, when you opened your
homes and city for those in need. It is obvious; Merkel’s dirty EU-Turkey
deal against refugees represents neither you nor us.

However, we often meet bitter opposition to our rights to struggle, to
assemble, to protest – from the police or the State. The governments of
Hamburg, Germany and other powerful G20 states would like to silence
and remove us from the public scene, so that they don’t have to hear that
we are many and that we are loud, and that they don’t represent us –
neither in Africa, Europe, the Americas or elsewhere in the world.

The choices that the “powerful Twenty” will discuss and propose in
Hamburg in July are the same policies turning our cities into playgrounds
for high-profit real estate and financial speculation; making rents
unaffordable and raising the cost of living; pushing ordinary people out of
urban centres; making our neighbourhoods uninhabitable; privatizing
public services and common goods; and other policies making life
increasingly difficult for the great majority.

They are the real invaders and destroyers of our cities. We must
defend and protect ourselves from them together!

So we ask you to open your city to us, not to be scared but to welcome us
when we come to raise our collective voice for social equality, freedom
and democracy. They want capitalism without democracy: we want
democracy without capitalism. This is what we already demanded in
Frankfurt, at the European Central Bank opening. We learned there that
where the “powerful Twenty” are, and where capitalism and violence are,
there can be no democracy.

When Trump, Erdogan, Putin, Temer, Modi, Zuma, Macri, Xi, May, Peña
Nieto, King Salman, Merkel and the other crooks and tyrants meet,
planning their next moves to exploit our lives and our territories, we must
stand up to block them.

If they want a democracy-free zone in Hamburg, we want a G20-free
Hamburg instead.

In solidarity with you, people of Hamburg, we will come together in July to
show that there is another world, an alternative one to theirs. We will
carefully respect the city and its activities, because we are really
happy to come to Hamburg and visit your neighbourhoods with
such lively, diverse cultures, with such a strong sense of freedom
and solidarity, with such an important history of struggles for
social, environmental, economic and civil rights for everyone. And
we hope that we will join and come to know each other in the streets!
We are many, we are loud and we will be in Hamburg with all of you – to
show the entire world and become the alternatives to today’s misery.

Hamburg, Planet Earth, May 2017

No G20 International

maj 16, 2017

Medika ostaje!/Medika Stays! #medikaostaje

medikaostaje.jpg

(Scroll down for English)

Dana 8. svibnja na adresu korisnika prostora bivše tvornice Medika stigao je Poziv Gradskog ureda za imovinsko-pravne poslove i imovinu grada na predaju prostora kojim se traži iseljenje i napuštanje korisnika/ca prostora u roku od osam dana (krajnji rok je u utorak, 16.5.2017.). Ovaj dopis kulminacija je višegodišnjeg procesa sustavne prakse srozavanja i zatvaranja mjesta nezavisne kulture u gradu Zagrebu, a pritisak na “Mediku” od strane gradskih vlasti traje već duže vrijeme.

Prostor bivše tvornice lijekova Medika već je deset godina mjesto susreta i djelovanja brojnih umjetnika/ca, kreativaca/ki, radnika/ca u kulturi, udruga civilnog društva, nezavisnih kolektiva i pojedinaca/ki koji taj prostor uredno plaćaju Gradu Zagrebu, u njemu planiraju i provode programe i aktivnosti koji su djelomično financirani čak i od strane samog Gradskog ureda za obrazovanje, kulturu i sport. Usprkos tome Grad Zagreb sustavno zanemaruje svoje obaveze infrastrukturnog održavanja tog prostora (prostor održavaju i poboljšavaju korisnici vlastitim sredstvima) te prijeti oduzimanjem istog i pražnjenjem “od osoba i stvari” – na isti način na koji sustavno prazni i marginalizira čitavu nezavisnu kulturnu scenu.

Provedba ovog Gradskog rješenja značila bi prekid svih programa koji su u tijeku i pripremi, u koje su uložene godine truda i znanja. “Medika” predstavlja trajnu potrebu u životu mnogih koji je koriste i osmišljavaju – omogućuje učenje, vježbanje, okupljanje, stvaranje i predstavljanje svojega rada drugima. Ne promovira kulturu pasivne konzumacije nego aktivne participacije.

Prostor je otvoren novim inicijativama i podložan stalnim mijenama, prema kulturnim i društvenim potrebama grada; kroz “Mediku” su prošle, i ostavile trag, tisuće mladih, umjetnica/ka, pojedinki/aca i kolektiva. Svi koji su imali ideju, a nisu imali prostor, suradnike/ce, tehniku ili publiku – ondje su ih mogli pronaći.
Uslijed godina vrijednih sadržaja i odnosa koji su rezultat napora velike i fluidne zajednice građana, tražimo Vašu podršku u zaustavljanju Grada Zagreba u provođenju ovog rješenja. “Medika” je ključno mjesto slobodne, nezavisne kulture i undergrounda u gradu Zagrebu. Kulturni sadržaj “Medike” rezultat je zajedničke i ravnopravne inicijative brojnih sudionika koji su se u nju kraće ili trajno uključili, a ne nečiji privatni biznis i interes. To je čini neophodnom u životu Grada Zagreba, ali i značajnim akterom nacionalne i međunarodne nezavisne kulturne scene.
Prostor slobode mora postojati.

Pozivamo Vas da podržavajućim pismom svoje organizacije ili vlastitim potpisom podržite našu inicijativu, kako bi se spriječilo njeno nestajanje.

#medikaostaje

Zajednica udruga i pojedinaca korisnika prostora “Medika”
i Autonomni Kulturni Centar – ATTACK!
Pierottijeva 11, 10000 Zagreb

http://attack.hr/medika-ostaje/

Kontakt: medika.ostaje@gmail.com

– – –

On May 8th, residents of the space of former Medika factory (Zagreb, CRO) received a request from the City Office for Legal-Property Relations and the City’s assets to vacate and leave the space in the period of next 8 days (until May 16th). This request is a culmination of a longterm practice of marginalizing and shutting down independent culture sites in Zagreb, and Medika has been under pressure from the City Office for some time already.

The space of the former medical factory has been a meeting and working place of numerous artists, creatives, cultural workers, civil society associations, independent collectives and individuals who have been ordely paying rent and utilities to the City, while conducting programs and activities partially supported by the City Office culture department itself. In spite of this, the City neglects its duty to infrastructurally support this space (it is physically maintained and improved by the residents own means), and recently is threatening to cancel the permit to use the space and will empty it of “people and things” – in the same manner it has been treating the entire independent cultural scene of the city.
Meeting the City’s request would require to halt a multitude of cultural programs already happening and being prepared based on years of effort and experience. Medika is a continuous need in the life of its many participants and creators – it enables learning, training, meeting, creating and presenting work. It opposes the idea of culture as passive consumption and promotes active participation.

Medika is permanently open to new initiatives and undergoes constant changes, reacting to the social needs of the city; thousands of young people, artists, individuals and collectives have passed through the space and left their mark. Anyone who had an idea but lacked space, collaborators, equipment or audience – had a chance to find them here.
Due to our many years of worthy content and relations arising via collaborations of large and fluid communities of citizens, we ask for your support in stopping the City of Zagreb to execute this request. Medika is a key site of free, independent and underground culture in Zagreb. Its cultural content is a result of shared effort of many who joined the project for some time, and not a centralized business vision nor private interest. This makes it indispensable in the life of Zagreb, as well as an important spot of international independent culture scene.
A place for freedom must exist.

In order to prevent this forced eviction, we invite you to support our initiative by signing this petition or forwarding us your organization’s Letter of Support.

#medikaostaje

The Community of Associations and Individuals based in “Medika”
and Autonomous Cultural Centre – ATTACK!
Pierottijeva 11, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia

http://attack.hr/medika-ostaje/?lang=en

Contact: medika.ostaje@gmail.com

maj 13, 2017

Debate: Border Closures, Deportations and Independent Volunteering

Many independent volunteers work with refugees on the Balkan route, but people are also working with refugees in Germany, Italy, France and other European countries. Many independent volunteers understand their work with refugees as a political act, but others don’t. A plea why independent volunteers should understand their work as a political act.

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Image: Graffiti on one of the squatted barracks in Belgrade. The barracks were evicted yesterday.

Written by Riot Turtle

Yesterday I wrote an article about the eviction of the barracks in Belgrade, Serbia. More than 1000 people lost their temporary home and a space where they practiced many self-organised projects like language courses and cooking groups. One of our collective is in Belgrade and witnessed yesterdays eviction. I myself worked in the barracks two times.

I was in many places on the Balkan route and had a lot of different experiences, some where good, but some of my experiences were really bad. Often I heard people saying things like “I am not political, I am just helping refugees.” In my opinion these people didn’t know that helping refugees is already a political act. But were they really helping refugees or were they supporting authorities? Supporting authorities without being aware of it? Probably without reflecting to much on what they were doing many people actually did help authorities.

When I was in the refugee camp in Opatovac, Croatia in October 2015, I had some really bad experiences. This state-run camp which was closed by EU and Croatioan authorities a little bit later, was one of the most awful places I have ever been. The camp was subdivided into 4 zones. Refugees were not allowed to go into another zone without policemen or volunteers when I was there. After a refugee was beaten up by policemen, one of the independent volunteers said: “It was his own fault, he knew that he wasn’t allowed to leave his zone.”

The conditions in the Opatovac camp were really bad. Policemen were patrolling everywhere and refugees told me that there was a lot of police violence. Like we already experienced in state-run camps in Slovenia, volunteers were not allowed to take pictures or film inside the camp. The media were not even allowed to come into the camp. Many independent volunteers were putting pressure on other volunteers not to take pictures or film because they were afraid that the police would throw all volunteers out of the camp. By doing that they were supporting authorities to avoid that the outside world would be able to see how band refugees were treated in these state-run camps. Our group decided to ignore this and filmed (videos below) and took pictures anyway.

Two people of our group (I was one of them) decided to leave Opatovac after only two days because we were not willing to help Croatian authorities to run their inhuman camp. It was really cold with minus temperatures during the night. The night before we left UNHCR officials decided not to give out blankets anymore “because the camp would soon be closed anyway.” People had to sleep on the ground in army tents without blankets and most volunteers accepted this without any protest. And yes… they still thought they were helping refugees. Some volunteers didn’t accept this at all. They stole a lot of blankets out of the UNHCR storage container and distributed the blankets to the refugees in the camp.

We went to Sid, where refugees had to wait for hours and hours on a rest area at the highway. We informed ourselves and asked refugees what was needed most and how things were working in Sid. The refugees said that there were not enough electrical sockets where they could charge their phones, so we decided to come back the next day to build-up a mobile charging station. An official of the commissariat told us that we needed permission to do that, but we decided to ignore that. The next day lots of people charged their phones with our mobile charging station and the commissariat officials decided not to interfere.

When we drove back to Germany we stopped in Salzburg, Austria. Many refugees were all over sudden stuck there because German authorities decided to reduce the daily amount of refugees that were allowed to cross the border. It was before the borders were closed again (before the summer of 2015 the borders were closed for years). We builded up our mobile charging station because many of the refugees in the main train station in Salzburg could not charge their phones. There were many cops and soldiers in and around the train station but they did not interfere.

For us it was clear that we did political work. We did everything we could to work with refugees and always first asked what was needed most and than decided what we were able to do.

After we came back to Germany I went to Tenerife (Canary Islands). I had some serious health problems in early 2015 and needed a long break to get fit again. As I came back from Tenerife the Balkan route was closed again. Several countries were building fences and EU authorities finalised a deal with Erdogan. The border closures changed everything.People lost hope and didn’t know what to do. They were stuck.

After I came back from Tenerife, I went a couple of times to Idomeni to work with refugees there. Again and again refugees were blocking the highway from Thessaloniki to Macedonia (the E 75), in the Idomeni camp people were protesting against border closures almost every day. A few days before Idomeni was evicted independent volunteers were not allowed to enter the makeshift camp anymore. Most volunteers accepted that. I didn’t because I had promised a few families to come back. I heard that the normal roads were blocked by the police but I managed to come into the camp over the hills and since there was no police there I wasn’t even stopped.

After the eviction of Idomeni our group rented a few apartments in Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki, so some families did not have to go into the Greek military run state camps where the conditions were really bad. Later another group rented some apartments and some refugees are still living in these apartments.

A lot of volunteers were worried that they would not be allowed to work in the state camps. I didn’t even try and started to work with the refugees in the apartments and later I supported the refugee shelter project of the autonomous social center Micropolis and Soul Food Kitchen, both in Thessaloniki. Micropolis is organising apartments for about 80 families and is a self-organised project. Soul Food Kitchen is also self-organised and cooks for homeless Greeks and refugees in Thessaloniki.

For me it was an important political choice to work self-organised and cooperate with other self-organised projects. Apart from my work on the Balkan route I was involved in organising actions and demonstrations for safe passage, against boder closures and the EU-Turkey deal. Our group also joined a local initiative to take in more refugees in our city (Wuppertal, Germany). Refugees who were stuck in Greece and other countries now.

In my opinion independent volunteers cannot say we are “not political” but we help refugees. Our political and economical system is one of the resons people have to flee. Our export of arms, our trade treaties. Our wealth is build on plundering other countries. The border closures, the EU-Turkey deal… The whole subject is political. The extrem right is understanding that. They treat people who help refugees as enemies. People, cars and buildings of people and groups who work with refugees are being attacked again and again by fascists in several European countries. EU politicians blame people who are actually rescuing people from being drowned at the Mediterranean sea because these politicians see it as a political act against their border regime. These EU politicians know that their border regime is the real reason why people are drowning.

And people who fled war and persecution are not only drowning or stuck at European borders. In the EU member state Hungary refugees get convicted and imprisoned for many years in show trials and in many EU states people get imprisoned just because they were fleeing for war, persecution and/or poverty. Poverty caused by our economic and political system.

In my opinion its important that independent volunteers understand that they have to make a choice. Either independent volunteers work with refugees together in a self-organise way and organise resistance to demand the freedom of movement and equal rights for all people, or  they are in danger to become lackeys of authorities. Supporting those who are part of the problem is not helping anybody. Not anybody actually isn’t true.. it helps the political and economic elites who are at least partly responsible for the problems that is forcing people to flee. And that is also a political choice.

maj 11, 2017

#Belgrade: Refugees Evicted From the Squatted Warehouses

Serbian authorities evicted the barracks behind the main train station of Belgrade today. During the eviction offcials of the commisariate sprayed insecticides in the barracks at a time as many refugees were still inside.

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Image by BelgrAid Facebook page

Written by Riot Turtle

The eviction of the barracks behind the main train station started at 07:30am this morning. The ministery of Labor, Social and Veteran Affairs announced the “relocation” of refugees from the barracks on May the 5th. According to Nenad Ivansevic, State Secretary of this Ministry, the plan was to complete the eviction within 20 days. Authorities were misleading reporters by saying that they would not use force to “transfer” the refugees. An eviction is always forced when people don’t leave voluntarily but because of an eviction order.

Yesterday it already became clear that Serbian authorities would evict much faster as Ivansevic said.  Several kitchen collectives were told by Serbian authorities to stop providing food to refugees by the weekend and yesterday authorities announced that they will start to demolish the barracks at 07:00am.

Teams of volunteers have been working around the clock to support the people since news of the eviction came in. Local and international activists protested against the eviction. BelgrAid, in collaboration with SoulWelders, No Name Kitchen, Help Refugees, Help-Na, GBGE Galdakaoko Boluntarioen Gizarte Elkartea, Cars of Hope Wuppertal and many independent volunteers have been making distributions of clothes, shoes, back packs, sleeping bags and hygiene kits in addition to our daily lunch distributions.

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Most people were taken to 6 “open” camps in central and northern Serbia. These camps are run by the Serbian government. Some people refused to go to these camps. The government has threatened any refugees found in central Belgrade without papers with arrest and deportation. Although for the most part the eviction was peacefully (But than again, an eviction is never peacefully), there where reports of violence by the commissariat.

During the eviction teams of the commissariat started to sprac insecticides inside the barracks, while refufees where still inside. Tenst, sleeping bags and other belongings of refugees were also sprayed (Video).

(Video).

 

The barracks were squatted in August 2016, after the commissariat evicted the parks around the bus station. Since then the barracks were used in a self-organized way by refugees. The numbers of people who lived in the barracks were always going up and down, but always between 1000 – 2000 people. The refugees are trapped in Serbia because of European border closures, like many refugees who are trapped in Greece for the same reason. During the last winter the people in the barracks attracted a lot of international media attention due to the bad weather conditions. What many people don’t know is that although the people who lived in the barracks have been mainly vicitimized, the squatted warehouses also have been a place of collective organizing, different forms of solidarity and exchange between people from all over the world were practiced. There was a high level of autonomous organizing which started long before the appearance of international volunteers and medoa arrived. Local solidarity groups and refugees organised collective cooking groups, a selforganized language school, sports, meetings and exchanged knowledge. The squatted barracks became also the front line, together with the Timotijević-family on that same area, in the struggle against the huge Belgrade Waterfront gentrification project.

Apart from the Belgrade Waterfront project, the eviction is also in line with EU policies to push people out of sightand isolate them, like in other European countries. Serbia is a EU candidate member state and the EU doesn’t want to see refugees self-organisation and protests. The EU wants the hard conditions were people are forced to live in to take place in state run camps where the media have barely access to.

After last years eviction of the “wild” refugee camps in Idomeni, Calais and todays eviction of the barracks in Belgrade, the resistance for the freedom of movement becomes even more important. A debate between refugees and independent volunteers is more necessary than ever before. The goal should be the freedom of movement and equal rights for all people no matter where they are coming from.

maj 8, 2017

On the French Election: No bosses, no nations! No Le Pen, no Macron!

Two texts from issue 9 of Paris Sous Tension, published this week, responding to the ongoing French electoral circus.

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Image: Round 2 protests announced by “Generation Ingouvernable” Tonight 08:00pm Ménilmontant Métro Paris France.

Originally published by Paris Sous Tension, translated by Bordered by Silence

No bosses, no nations! No Le Pen, no Macron! [1]

Everyone knows the results of the first round of the presidential elections [2]. For us, this isn’t what matters. That millions of people still bother to go vote shows that we are still living in a society largely made up of obedient citizens and not, alas, of free individuals. But how could this surprise us when we know of the whole range of institutions – starting with school – that continue, year after year, to reproduce such creatures. That a majority of them gave their support to an ex-banker (a veritable messiah of the coming capitalism) and to a disgrace (a populist demagogue who plays on the hatred and resentment that drives so many of our contemporaries) reminds us that we truly have no hope of sharing anything with such people. And sadly, it shows where resignation, everyone-for-themselves, identification with the national community, the abandonment of all hope of revolution, and the erasure of historical memory can lead. Nothing surprising. But let’s leave the pessimism for later.

That night, several hundred people showed their refusal of the elections, their unequivocal and unconditional defiance towards the person who will reach the throne. Several unpermitted demos wove their way throughout north-east Paris, moving through Bastille, République, Stalingrad, Belleville, Ménilmontant… With the practice of, as much as possible, directly attacking everything that, within their way of seeing the world, doesn’t have a good reason to exist,: riot cops, military vehicles, banks, insurance agencies, advertising panels, surveillance cameras, real estate agencies, various businesses… [3]

For all democracy tries to give the vote an aura of liberty, for all it insists on presenting it as a mode of expression – while voting is nothing other than giving others the power to answer questions that they themselves impose – it seems that night, many found it more reasonable to go out into the streets together to reject it as a bloc. It’s more reasonable to be with other rebels and to follow up our words with deeds, to express through actions a refusal of this society, one structurally based on authority, that runs on exploitation and pillage, and whose sole “success” is to have quantified and put a price tag on everything, at the cost of an unprecedented human, ecological, and existential disaster. It’s a refusal to choose a master and a flock, because for us, it’s not a question of which master, but that there is one at all. Like thousands of others, we’d rather refuse to vote and go out and struggle rather than step into the voting booth only to later stay home, glued to the TV, watching the results. We collectively refuse passivity, delegation, and resignation.

You have to know how to experience freedom to be free. You have to get free in order to experience freedom. Within the existing social order, time and space prevent us from experiencing freedom because they smother the freedom to experience”. Here’s an invitation for all rebels to begin, to continue asking themselves their own questions and seeking out the means to answer them.

Ballot boxes are for the dead, the streets are for the living!

1] In French, this chant is Ni Le Pen Ni Macron! Ni Patrie Ni Patron! It rhymes and is the main chant to emerge in the period between the two rounds of voting.

2] Do you really, dear anglophone reader? The French presidential election takes place in two rounds, the first of which is open to any candidate who receives 500 endorsements from other elected officials. I think there were 11 candidates this time. The second round is a run-off between the two candidates who scored the most votes. We’re currently in the two-week period between the two rounds. The candidates in round two are Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and finance minister who favours neoliberal economics, and Marine Le Pen of the National Front, the once openly racist, far-right party that has more or less stolen the welfare state from the political left (but for good French citizens only).

3] There’s a longer account of the night in French at the link with some pictures, but in brief, between 8pm and 1am, five or six little snake marches took off one after the other, moving quick and high energy, building little barricades every they could throughout the city: https://paris-luttes.info/recit-et-reflexions-a-propos-de-la-7965?lang=fr

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Already yesterday, Again Today

“The anarchist does not want to be a slave, to follow orders, but also does not want to be a master, to give orders. They are repulsed by the authority wielded over them, like they would be repulsed by the authority they might wield over others.”

Over a hundred years ago now, an anarchist who spent his whole life trying to provoke and participate in many insurrections all across Europe spoke these few words, as illuminating as the sunrise: “My conclusion is this: that we must completely abolish, in principle and in fact, everything known as political power: because as long as political power exists, there will be dominators and dominated, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited.” By political power, he meant the most brutal autocracy (like the jails in which he spent some time), as well as the ideal communist society that some of his contemporaries sought to establish, and even the most “perfect” democracy (which in his time was Switzerland). In such a democracy, as today, the high point of political life was the moment of elections. Like many revolutionaries after him, he was aware that universal suffrage was at once the largest and most refined political hoax carried out by the state. He saw it as the surest means of making the largest number participate in building their own servitude, and even in justifying their servitude to the skeptical and indifferent, to those who won’t be had, who fall out of line, the irreducibles, namely, all those who refuse or who abstain from playing their assigned roles, but who nonetheless bear the consequences.

And here they are: the elections!

Already yesterday, someone found it “inconceivable that, periodically tricked and constantly abused, the voter’s confidence survives all the disappointments they suffer and lament. For any reasonable, thoughtful person, it’s stunning to see how parliaments come and go, each leaving behind the same disenchantment, the same disapproval, and yet still, the voter continues to see voting as a duty.” And another said that: “The voter is a person who, when the day comes that they’re called for like a servant, whistled for like a dog trained to obey, on that day they come when authority says, ‘The moment has arrived to endorse us yet again and to keep a system going that’s by and for others than yourself. The moment has arrived to choose those who will be part of this system with or without the intention to change it, to choose those who, for their contributions to the operation of this machine that grinds up the weak, will be paid in money, in influence, in privilege, in honours. The moment has arrived to set aside yet again the idea of revolt against the organization that exploits you and to listen to the authorities. The moment has arrived to vote, which is to say, to take an action that means ‘I recognize the law”.” Still true today…

Each time, we hear the same refrain from all sides, inciting us to go vote. Behind the nagging spiel of the more well-intentioned, we always hear the same reformist mystification, leading us to believe that, if we elect the “right” candidate, it’s possible to “gradually” change the unequal and hierarchical structures of society, without any sudden convulsions, one improvement at a time. But even this lie only manages to wear away at the combative spirit of those who struggle for their emancipation and for a real, direct transformation of the world.

Because voting, yesterday like today, is not action, but a delegation of power. That’s why, in his time, another anarchist said: “To vote is to abdicate; to name one or several masters for a long or short time is to give up our own sovereignty. Whether he becomes an absolute monarch, a constitutional prince, or a simple official delegated a little piece of royalty, the candidate that you carry to the throne or to the arm chair will be your superior. You name people who will be above the law, because they are charged with drafting them, and their mission is to make you obey. […] So don’t abdicate, don’t put your destiny in the hands of future traitors and those who can only be incapable. Don’t vote! Rather than confide your interests to others, defend them yourselves; rather than hiring lawyers to propose future courses of action, act! Those who are willing don’t lack opportunities. To put responsibility for your actions onto others is to lack courage.” Already yesterday, anarchists believed that the remedy wasn’t to change the government, but to do away with it. And still today, in this electoral season, the only position we can take is to proclaim our refusal of mediation, not only in the form of participating in elections, but also the parliamentary system and even the slightest and most “legitimate” representation within government or state structures. Because indeed “People are told, ‘Put your brain in your pocket, you’ll take it out once in a while to vote, meaning to consolidate authority, and while you abdicate, authority will go on functioning’. And we’re surprised that the revolution doesn’t happen! […] The revolution will happen when people stop abdicating their activity. The revolution will happen when people stop delegating their power, when they stop naming masters, when they stop allowing such people to say, ‘You gave me the right to act on your behalf’. Authority will crumble the day people stop imposing this on themselves, the day they stop creating privileged categories of governors and oppressors. The revolution will start at the precise moment when people give up on politics. All revolutions have been moments where people abandon politics, where they take charge of their own conditions. Everyone who abandons politics starts the revolution, because they resume the activities they’d abdicated until then.

Like for each election, we will abstain. Like millions of other individuals as well, because we know in advance (though in reality this doesn’t matter much), that abstention will win over the most people this election. Yeah yeah. This in spite of the permanent commotion these past months, and in spite of a mountain of propaganda developed by the current democracy. This propaganda is much more widespread, much more constant, pernicious, and insidious, much more effective at orienting individuals, than the propaganda of the totalitarian regimes of the last century. Though it has in common with the propaganda of these totalitarian regimes at least this, as perfectly explained by one of the most powerful and influential nazi official, Joseph Goebbels: “The people must share the concerns and the successes of their government. These concerns and successes must thus be presented and hammered into the people on a permanent basis so that they see these concerns and successes as if they were their own. Only an authoritarian government, firmly tied to the people, can do this in the long term. Political propaganda is the art of anchoring the affairs of the state within the masses of people such that the whole nation feels they are involved, and so it cannot remain simply a method of taking power. It must also be a means of building and maintaining power.” The big difference is that today, propaganda is not controlled by the state, but rather originates from many actors who contribute to the reproduction and reinforcement of the state, which is to say, the political organization of passivity.

So abstention. This means the desire to not participate in the electoral circus and the rejection of the illusion that we can transform anything in this way. But abstention in itself is not enough, because it is also not capable of changing anything. This refusal must be turned into action. Already yesterday, an anarchist said that, “every individual must act without ever offloading on to others the task of acting in their place. It is in these gymnastics that the individual is imbued with a with a sense of their own worth, and in extolling such worth lies the fertilising power of direct action. It marshals human resourcefulness, tempers characters and focuses energies. It teaches self-confidence! And self-reliance! And self-mastery! And acting for oneself!” And still today.

Faced with injustice, for as long as it persists, anarchists are and remain in a state of permanent insurrection” Elisée Reclus

maj 6, 2017

Call Out: Meeting of the TSS Platform in the Autonomous Factory Rog in Ljubljana // 19th – 21st May 2017

After being in Poznan, a crucial junction in the European restructuring of productive organization towards East; after being in Paris, when the struggle against the loi travail and its world agitated the strike as a mass practice of convergence; after being in a post-Brexit London, where migrants and natives engaged in bringing to light the inescapable transnational dimension of society, the Transnational Social Strike Platform will meet next May in Ljubljana, a key political point along the so called Balkan Route. The reason to be in Ljubljana is for us clear: a transnational process against exploitation and neoliberalism today needs to deepen the connection with the mass movements of migrants and face the ongoing political reorganization of the European space. Migrants, entering Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Balkans, overcoming its several borders, have changed Europe as a whole: from East to West, from North to South. They exercised a determined pressure opening the Balkan route and filled it with solidarity and social action which reached beyond the increasingly guarded and impenetrable borders. Migrants’ movements have also brought about a legal and administrative restructuring throughout all Europe with the intention of governing their mobility in the name of social security, for the sake of profits. By practicing their freedom of movement and by striking against the several borders imposed on them, hundreds of thousands showed us new possibilities of resistance against the Europe of neoliberalism and institutional racism.

As a reaction, in the last two years, high wire fences were erected across borders, stricter border control was introduced, political speech referring to the state of emergency has gained wings by exacerbating the rhetoric of fear of the foreign and the other, and the public debate is mostly focusing on the security measures. At the same time, neoliberal reforms and projects for infrastructure development want to turn the very same region into a hub for global trade and exploitation. Against this reality we cannot fail to recognize that deprivation of rights not only befall refugees and migrants in a specific way, but that a common trend of precarization, cuts in social expenses, worsening of wage and working conditions is ongoing at the expenses of precarious and industrial workers throughout Europe. We can say that we all have become migrant workers. By portraying refugees and migrants as the external enemy, the authorities keep precarization, austerity measures, corruption, the diminishing of social rights, and the decline in working conditions well out of our focus. Behind the violence of barbed wires many throughout Europe fight their daily struggles to survive a citizenship that does not guarantee satisfactory inclusion into the social rights , jobs that do not guarantee  fair pay, work that does not guarantee a better life.

We are convinced that an autonomous initiative which aims to storm the present should escape the opposition between Europe as a neoliberal space and the return to the Nation State as a possible solution to the current crisis. If we wish to turn Europe into our battlefield, we have to translate the solidarity with migrants expressed all across Europe and the new transnational circulation of the strike as a means to open up new fronts of struggle, into an actual political process. What we need is that all those who are subjugated to the different kinds of exploitation recognize themselves as part of a common path. While we fight for the freedom of movement we must recognize that the “politics of welcome” concern all the workers (on the level of housing rights, pay, unpaid work, other social income, and the right to reside).

We, migrants, refugees, unemployed, precarious workers, and industrial workers, live in a deep social crisis. In Europe, there is “us” and there is “they”; yet the opposition is not between democracy and terror, but rather the exploited and the exploiters; those who move in search of a better life, and those who build walls, obstacles and fences. Let’s turn the “emergency state”, which in the hands of the governors is an excuse for implementing extraordinary measures, into an occasion to build alliances and spread insubordination.

The Transnational Social Strike Meeting, taking place between 19th and 21st May 2017 in Ljubljana at Autonomous factory Rog, will address the divisions we are being forced into. We will discuss the centrality of the Balkan region for the whole European space and continue our reflection on how to find common terrains for our transnational initiative. We will bring a step further the project of building a political infrastructure which helps to organize across the borders and bring together the multiple experiences of insubordination against neoliberalism within and without the workplaces, in order to make the difference in the existing scenario of social crisis.

The workshops and discussions will address multiple terrains of struggle, trying to establish a political communication among the struggles regarding migrations, freedom of movement, social and worker’s rights, global women’s strike, logistics and the reorganization of production, rights to a decent life, militarization of society, student problems, as well as other social issues.

The meeting will be organized in the form of workshops, assemblies, and plenary sessions. It will start at 6pm on Friday 19th and end at 2pm on Sunday 21st of May. The detailed programme, workshop’s descriptions, the registration form, with info for travelling to and from Ljubljana and for finding cheap accommodation will be published in the following days.

For more information, write to the e-mail address: tssljubljana@gmail.com

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1919560634953618/

Full program: Workshops-Program-Infosheet-TSS-Ljubljana

Registration: TSS Ljubljana Meeting

maj 4, 2017

Building New Solidarities Between Movements: Insurrectionary Politics of Food Autonomy in Athens

The question of rebellion/revolution is often posed in terms of the question, “what is to be done?” However, by so articulating any reflection-practice on radical political change, we are lead to consider revolution in terms of struggles between and for power.  For what the question forces us to consider is what is to be done against those who hold power unjustly and what is to be done after power is conquered by the revolution.  To so frame the matter though is to condemn all anti-capitalist politics to the logic of the very power that it seeks to destroy (with everything that this brings: presuppositions and demands of ideological consistency and purity, the need or desire for institutional, normative and legal compromise, the organisation of social life on the basis of law and obligation, and so on).  This is the reef upon which all revolutions have been broken, trapped by the siren calls of sovereignty and the conviction that freedom depends upon sovereign control.

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Originally published by Autonomies

But what if revolution were instead to be thought through the question, “how should we be or live?” Such a question creates an ethical (the ethical as a way of life, desired and loved) space within which one’s life can be divorced from power, a space within which autonomous forms of life can be structured independently of the destructive obsession for power.  In its place then emerges a politics of the concrete, a prefigurative politics that seeks to address needs and desires while simultaneously constructing a world of freedom. 

As regards autonomous or anarchist politics, it frees it from ideological neurosis and practical paralysis, which is to say, irrelevance.  It is not for the anarchist to organise the anarchist revolution exclusively with anarchists; it is not for the anarchist to struggle between the different types of anarchist thought and practice.  What is necessary is an understanding of oppression and the expansion and intensification of ways of being, forms of life, incompatible with it.

On one interpretation, the “occupy” movements that began with this century (I am thinking of Argentina, but precedents can be found further back in time) sought not to replace one power with another, but to destitute power altogether.    To quote from an older essay published with Autonomies:

“The multitudes in Tahrir, Sol, Syntagma, Taksim and elsewhere, withdrew from state authority not with the aim of making themselves into an opposing sovereignty, but to create forms of life beyond sovereignty. In these moments, the exception of the sovereign decision was suspended, identities already weakened were discarded and ways of being emerged that suppressed the divide between the disunited many and the constituted people. In the binding collective refusal of the anonymous many, a force without a name appeared, a paradoxical force born of weakness, the weakness of the politically non-existent who in retreating from sovereignty realise a form of politics in which the potential for permanent self-transformation is sustained at the heart collective self-creation.”

In continuity with this reading of recent political events and practice, we publish below an essay that was generously shared with us by its author, Inés Morales Bernardos, and that raises many of these same questions within the context of greece.  (The essay was originally published with open Democracy  07/04/2017)

Insurrectionary politics of autonomy, such as food autonomy in Athens, is crucial for building new solidarities and emancipatory imaginaries within cities.

Every town should have its agora, where all who are animated by a common passion can meet together”

The Evolution of the Cities, 1895, Élisée Reclus

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The global tendency that we are witnessing, as Giorgio Agamben described, of “convergence of an absolutely liberal paradigm in the economy with an unprecedented and equally absolute paradigm of state and police control”, is leading to the re-emergence of a socio-spatial imaginary defined not so much by institutions and political parties, but by movements creating, in and through their practices, discourses and modes of action, new political, social and economic spaces.

Under these circumstances, and since the 2008 capitalist (debt) crisis, we have seen how the autonomy of the cities is being challenged and re-made by radical movements across the Southern European peripheries. In addition to the traditional economic, labour or more confrontational struggles, these radical movements are directly connecting with material and emotional conditions to organize and maintain life in cities; a process that it is embedded in both the contestation of what they perceive as an increasingly violent urban order imposed by state and capital and in the historical unsustainable modes of food production .

Following on this observation, we have explored the creative insurrectionist process released by the 2008 revolts in Athens. And more specifically, we have examined the convergences of the autonomous movement together with other radical movements, as performed and experienced in this city, in the reconstructing of food autonomy since 2008.

The autonomous food geography of the city of Athens: a new contested territory

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“They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds”

Graffiti in Parko Navarinou, Exarchia, 2017

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The insurrectionary politics of autonomy “as involving a sensitivity to the fragility of what exists and to the different forms of natural, social and cultural life that should be preserved, along with a desire to radically modify other social forms” that Saul Newman introduced in his work about revolutionary fantasies and autonomous zones, expresses some of the meanings of the practice of autonomy developed in the city of Athens since the 2008 revolts.

Through the shared memories of the revolts and the everyday life of the city we came to understand that the current geography of the food autonomy of Athens is a complex and contested space. More precisely, it is a space that was expanded and reshaped since the streets were occupied in December 2008, after the assassination of Alexis Grigoropoulos and through the cooperation of heterogeneous radical movements.

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“A completely different time and space from what we have experienced before was created. We felt we could intervene on the reality in a more direct form. We felt that we could solve the problems of the city”

Katerina, remembering 2008 December revolts, Exarchia, 2015

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As Katerina shared, these revolts promoted a time and space that made them believe they could “solve the problems of the city”. What others expressed through their desire to “take back their lives in their hands” (Areti, Nikos, Michalis, Vaso, and many other rebels of December 2008). The “spirit of December” (Giorgos, Exarxeia, Athens, 2015) released passions and desires which gradually have been transformed in a creative re-appropriation of the city and the setting up of new autonomous spaces.

The persistently changing material and emotional needs that arose (e.g. outrage, unemployment, hunger) in this period of mobilisations and the answer of various radical movements to them have been shaping simultaneously their new political imaginaries and these new spaces.

In the spaces we have observed, life, and with it then, food production, is re-(self)-organized to facilitate gaining the conditions necessary to “take back our lives in our hands”, i.e, political autonomy from state and capital. Among them, we find community urban gardens, collective kitchens, food cooperatives, self-organized food banks and self-organized farmers markets.

The everyday life encountered in these spaces and the support of the existing self-organized structures of the traditional autonomous movement[1]have led to the  reconfiguration of these movements and to the emergence of other, new radical movements. Moreover, it has resulted in the building of new “sporadic” ties among them and “more social” political imaginaries (Giorgos, Social Centre Nosotros; Thanos, Social Centre Eutopia, Athens, 2016).

In other words, the traditional autonomous movement allied itself with the “Koukolouris” rebels that met on the barricades during the 2008 revolts and who associated themselves with a more confrontational militancy. And after 2011, these were joined by the new uprising and occupation of Syntagma square, as well as with activists with more “hippie-like values” and socio-ecological concerns. These alliances resulted mainly in spreading the “seeds of the revolt” and the desire of autonomy all over the city.

More concrete and also spontaneous alliances have also resulted from relations with the radical trends of new, more specifically focused movements. In answering to increased rates of unemployment, they have come together with the radical trends of a new “social and solidarity economy movement” which has been built by establishing networks of “structures of solidarity”: with the new Greek trend of the “Back to the land movement”, built by the increasing numbers of the “educated young” urban unemployed moving to the countryside to farm in Greece since 2008; the “No middleman movement”, which has been built since 2012 by the cooperation among farmers and consumers in the cities to facilitate both the distribution and the consumption of food.  These are movements and alliances that have brought together a great diversity of constituencies: from students to retired activist, the unemployed and civil servants, from women to men, migrants and refugees, consumers, farmers, old activists and new rebels.

The prefigurative politics (assembly based, horizontality, consensus decision-making) that are building these spaces and the relations of the movements have shaped the latter into a decentralised and rhizomatic cooperative structure. Furthermore, the prefigurative politics are perceived to be crucial to create the emerging new solidarities, trust and mutual aid relations, as well as enabling these movements to adapt themselves to the increased uncertainty and changing everyday life needs of the city and its neighbourhoods since 2008.

The performance of these relations and the geography of food autonomy been have been built in synchrony with the geography of the revolt. In this way, the geography of food autonomy has been expanding from the historically contested neighbourhood in the city centre (Exarcheia), through social centres, “stekia”, squats or community urban gardens, to various neighbourhoods (e.g. Petroupoli, Lambidona, Nikeias, Akademía Platonos, Zografou) and its political organizational structures and neighborhood assemblies.

And from these the movements have expanded to or reproduced themselves in other cities (e.g.Thessaloniki) and their surrounding countryside, through farming collectives. Through this processes of decentralisation and densification, they have been engaging the neighbourhoods and the collectives in their everyday organization and in the maintenance of life. Moreover, they are building new relations between new and traditional farmers and a broad range of consumers in the city.

The earlier existence of certain spaces in the neighbourhood of Exarcheia (social centres, squats and stekia from the autonomous scene and the historical cooperative Sporos  [Seed])[2] and solidarities with movements from the southern peripheries of Latin America and Europe, have been crucial both to trigger the process and to sustain it.

Furthermore, the ongoing inspiration of the politics of autonomy and the strength of transnational solidarity of urban and rural movements such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, “Piqueteros, asambleístas”, and “fábricas recuperadas” of the 2001 uprising in Argentina, the Kurdish communities in Rojava, and European urban autonomous movements have also been fundamental.

Tensions in the everyday life of building new solidarites

A persistent re-configuration of these movements, their relations and spaces, has been taking place during these years, processes not without tension and conflict. Such phenomena can be understood, on the one hand, as resulting from the material and political difficulties in creating common spaces of struggle. And, on the other hand, as a consequence of their very awareness and creativity viz. a viz. the current social, economic and political realities that allowed them to adapt to changing material or emotional needs, as they have arisen (e.g. anger, unemployment, the food emergency).

As Alex shared with us, “the passion, and the individual “fantasies”, or political projects, are leading to constant fragmentations” (Exarchia, 2016). The radical features of these movements are also among the causes that generate tensions. Looking at certain spaces such food cooperatives or farmers markets, and the changing construction of their common ground, we have come to identify tensions due to the difficulties of attaining the material autonomy needed.

In addition to the collective needs of the movements, individual needs of the activists-affected, such as wage labour or incomes, have transformed some of these spaces from volunteer based to formal working cooperatives. While exploring the self-organized food banks, we identified tensions between their transformative dimension and the humanitarian one. A tension that can be found in the paths that construct solidarities and reject philanthropy, through the mutual or delegative relationships between “activist-agent of solidarity” and the “affected”, and the construction of these two different identities.

The political construction of the spaces and the movements that continue to keep to the “habitus” of hierarchical and delegated forms of organization and relation, maintaining informal hierarchies (leadership, vanguard group), is perceived, after various conversations and the observation of these spaces, to persistent competitive relations and divisions of the movements. The political socialization of many of the activist within the traditional political parties (Greek Communist Party (KKE), or Syriza) and the traditional trade unions is perceived as the main cause for maintaining these hierarchies.

The different rural and urban features of these movements can also create some tensions, due to their different constraints and sometimes different understandings of their common struggles and aims, that is, their different needs of organization, more loose relations and times, or different logistic, financial, and transportation.

The experienced instability within these movements and their alliances has also been due to their susceptibility to influence from the parliamentary political context. This was mainly observed between the second of the two 2012 Greek parliamentary elections, when the political party Syriza became the second largest and thus the official opposition party, and their acceptance of a new memorandum in 2015, now as the party of government.  The place and role of delegated or representational authority has also been identified as source of tension the movements, because of their different relations and approaches to the many organisations related to Syriza, such as Solidarity for All created in 2012.

The increased control and destabilisation of these movements have also been the result of police repression and the traditional left parties’ control of their “spontaneous” insurrectionist features. The economical and material control implemented through the various memorandums since 2010 by the International Monetary Fund, European Union and the European Central Bank, and the resulting increased taxation on food goods and professional activities (farmers, working food cooperatives) render difficult more stable and fixed, recognised relations. Furthermore, the police repression has been perceived to create boundaries against stronger ties built on trust and mutual aid among the participants in the various movements.

The relations with the local political institutions have also been established in a top-down direction, through Solidarity for All and through some programs of the municipality of Athens, trying to establish food policies (i.e. urban agriculture, schools gardens). Some of the spaces or groups have sporadic relations with the local governments to re-negotiate the management of material resources such as water or electricity (e.g., the community urban garden Elleniko).

Since the last approval of the memorandum in 2015, and through the continuous material cuts, the few spaces of negotiations with political parties or NGOs have almost disappeared. Universities are the formal institutions that continue to maintain exchanges and co-operation with these spaces.

The city of Athens as an opportunity for new emancipatory scenarios

In the increasingly polarized and global city of Athens, we have perceived the reconstruction of urban food autonomy as an increased complex space where the collaboration of the autonomous movement with urban and rural heterogeneous movements has been possible, at a local level as well as worldwide (e.g., BioME (Thessaloniki, Greece), Zapatistas (Chiapas, México).

As result of the new food geography, new relationships based on cooperation, trust and mutual aid between farmers in the countryside and consumers in the city of Athens have arisen, re-wedding the city and the countryside and thus modifying the metabolism of the city. Furthermore, the multiple connections and collaboration between these radical movements, between the countryside and the city, at a local and global level, seems to influence positively the creation of stronger bonds within the movements.

Cities, and in this case, the city of Athens, are perceived as relational incubators for new emancipatory scenarios. But are the existence and the everyday life of the collective construction of autonomous spaces (e.g. community urban gardens, collective kitchens) through a prefigurative politics, adequate to create the stable ground for new cooperative relations and new emancipatory imaginaries.

As experienced during eight years in the city of Athens, the expansion and multiplication of these spaces and the everyday life encounters and politics that have emerged from them, have led those involved to work on the concrete (e.g. food emergency, unemployment) and in this way to gradually leave aside the political divergences between the different participants and movements that converge on them. Yet, at the same time, this convergence re-politicises the everyday by engaging the neighbourhoods and the collectives in the organisation and maintenance of life, of food production, and in this way broadening their transformative dimension.

It is important to notice that the focus of these movements on the everyday life dimension, together with the locally and globally persistent and changing forms of social control performed in the city of Athens (e.g. austerity, police repression) create tensions within the movements. But at the same time, they generate the occasion to create more resilient relationships based on trust and mutual aid.

The quality of these relationships, loose, sporadic, spontaneous, is a direct result of the malleability of the spaces created. The diverse discourses, subjectivities, constituencies, needs, engaged in these spaces and the aim of respecting this diversity is it’s the main cause. Something that is also important and positive from these kinds of relations and their adaptability is that it also allows the movements to create sporadic relations with local governments, in order to fulfill material needs, such as water or electricity necessary to maintain their spaces.

Based on these observations, we argue that there is a need to reconsider the quality of the relationships that render possible and sustain the cooperation of movements and that are able to build new emancipatory imaginaries within cities; relationships that also allow the opening up of new imaginaries to confront the socio-ecological limits of cities.

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[1] The “autonomous” movement is a term not well accepted by the movements in Athens. But it used in this work to refer to anarchists, anti-authoritarians, libertarian communists, autonomists, anti-fascists and other movements that are based on horizontal and self-organized political structures. In a call made from one of the collectives where the ethnographic work has been done, they addressed them as follows, “anarchist, communist, comrades, political groups, squats, stekia”.

[2] This cooperative, divided nowadays in two different collectives, Svoura and Syn-allois was a local experimental space for “alternative and solidarity trade” built within the solidarity movement with Zapatista communities in Mexico.