Report and photos by Paul Frei – First published in German on hydra magazine
There’s a fire in South America. While in Brazil and Bolivia the rain forest is literally burning, in Argentina there have been protests for weeks against the neoliberal reforms of the conservative president Macri. In Perú the president dissolves the congress and in Ecuador the government has to flee the capital after massive protests and a general strike.
In this chaos Chile presents itself as a calm and stable country, which is why the right-wing president and billionaire Sebastian Piñera still swarms at the beginning of October about it: Chile is “an oasis in the midst of the restless Latin America”. Less than two weeks later, this fiction has burst. Piñera now speaks of “a war against a powerful enemy”.
Since 19th October there has been a nationwide uprising in Chile. The balance after a little more than a week: 20 deaths, thousands of injuries, of which almost 500 by gunshot wounds, 6000 arrests, 18 charges against the police for rape, further 20 missing persons.
But what has happened that the situation has escalated to such an extent? I am on my way to Santiago de Chile to get an idea of the situation on the ground.
“Chile is a sleeping giant,” says the taxi driver on the way to my accommodation in Barrio Brasil, a few blocks from the Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of the government.
“The increase in fares has overflowed the glass,” he says. School pupils and students called for collective fare evasion after the gradual increase in fares. They themselves are not affected by the fare increase, but showed solidarity.
When the cops react with a hard blow, the metro is attacked, whole subways are on fire, supermarkets are plundered and set on fire. In the port city of Valparaiso, the congress has to be evacuated after demonstrators* have overrun the barrier. All over the country the police lost control and the president declared a state of emergency and sent the military into the streets.
Since the neo-liberal restructuring of the country by the dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), the state’s assets have been privatised and state benefits massively reduced. To date, electricity, water, the health, education and pension systems have been privatized. The protest quickly developed into an uprising that accuses the everyday and systematic constraints of capitalism.
A burned bank
One day after the huge demonstration, the streets in downtown Santiago are eerily empty. The area around the Palacio de la Moneda is closed off. Carabinieros in green full outfit stand at every street corner, the shops have barricaded their windows and entrances.
With more than 1.2 million participants in the capital, the demonstration was the largest since the end of the military dictatorship almost 30 years ago. The demonstration, as well as the demonstrations before, are concentrated in Plaza Baquedano. The square acts as a roundabout from which the 8-lane main street Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’ Higgings leaves and leads to the seat of government. Along the street and in the side streets countless graffiti and tags can be seen.
In this area the fights with the cops concentrated in the last days, so a demonstrator describes the situation to me. “Chile despertó” he said. Chile woke up. The slogan is to be heard again and again on the demonstration and to read banners.
On the about two kilometres between the Palacio de la Moneda and the Plaza Baquedano there are three metro stations which are all devastated and still closed. Five buildings that are located on the track are burned out and the remaining, mostly public buildings or shops along the street are closed and barricaded. A big graffiti adorns the cultural centre Centre Gabriela Minsitral: “There is no dialogue as long as the military is in the streets” is written on the improvised wooden protection from the building. The images of tanks on the streets have awakened associations with the military dictatorship in many Chileans and fired hatred for the state.
According to a representative survey by the CADEM institute, 78% of the population are against the policies of the right-wing president and his coalition of right-wing and fascist parties such as the Independent Democratic Union (UDI). After the massive protests and the big demonstration, President Piñera apologized and introduced a series of reforms to return to normality, such as reducing weekly working hours by 8 hours to 40, increasing the minimum wage and pension by 20%. He also fired his entire cabinet. With this step he tried to restore normality, because on Monday a UN deputy was supposed to come to observe the human rights situation, but this was postponed for unknown reasons.
But the normality in Chile these days is the uprising. While a peaceful spontaneous demo of about 2000 people is on its way to the seat of government, barricades are burning again at Plaza Baquedano and the cops are attacked.
One day after the big demo, several thousand people gathered again on the square to protest further. Nobody wants to return to normality here. On one of the signs of the demonstrators it says “my biggest fear is that everything will go on as if nothing had happened”. A few meters next to it the main entrance of the metro station Baquedano is covered with cobblestones and some Molotov cocktails. The cops are behind the gate that blocks the entrance to the metro and try to hold the entrance. Next to the entrance, a graffiti accuses the cops of “torture here”.
The entrance of the Baquedano station in Santiago
The cops and the military have been heavily accused. Not only did the cops and the military shoot at the demonstrators sharply, injuring several hundred people, some of them seriously. According to official figures, five demonstrators have already been shot, run over or beaten to death and at least twenty people have disappeared.
Furthermore, according to the Instituto Naciónal de Derecho Humanos (INDH – National Institute for Human Rights), 94 charges of torture and 18 sexual abuse (including rape) have already been filed.
In addition, social media circulated the autopsy report of burnt bodies found in a supermarket. According to the report, the bodies are said to have gunshot wounds to the chest, suggesting murder and cover-up by the police or military. Whether this is true will only be conclusively clarified – if at all – in the coming weeks.
Most demonstrators but also taxi drivers, journalists or shop assistants believe at least that the cops or other “Infiltradores” are often behind the arson attacks on already robbed supermarkets. Even a firefighter from Santiago thinks this is possible. “In the event of an arson attack, the insurance company has to pay for the damage. And why rob an already robbed supermarket?” (However, he himself rejects the looting. Not because it is not fair, but because it harms the public image of the demonstrators.)
The mood in Plaza Baquedano remains unchanged. On the square the protest is sung about, street vendors sell drinks and food. Rubber bullets and tear gas are fired again and again to fend off the attacks on the station.
After a few hours more police units arrive to clear the square. As they approach the square from one of the streets, they are greeted by a hail of cobblestones and the slogans “Pacos Culiaos” (fucking cops) and “Asesino, Asesino” (murderer).
Whether masked with a gas mask and armed with a slingshot or filming the situation with a smartphone in hand. Everyone wants to show their aversion to the cops. Since the massive repression and violence, the population’s aversion to the Pacos has been enormous.
Even a driver of a city bus, who drives his alternative route two parallel streets further, passes the fire extinguisher through the open window without hesitation when two masked demonstrators ask him for it. When the cops finally manage to clear the square, the fighting shifts to the side streets around the square. The street battles can finally be cleared completely after about an hour and minor back and forth.
The next morning we should go to Valparaiso for three days to get an impression of the situation away from the capital.
The port city is located 120 kilometres west of Santiago and is regarded as a left and alternative city. In contrast to Santiago, the atmosphere in Valparaíso is more tense. The bus station is guarded by military with machine guns, further units are stationed on standby in the city centre. The criminal police guard their station in heavy gear and military helicopters circle over the city. A large proportion of the residents walk through the winding streets of the city, situated on various hills, wearing a gas mask, because the biting smell of tear gas is in the air.
As was already the case in Santiago, the port city can also be recognised that protests have been held here for over a week. Each of the four main streets in the city centre area is covered with graffiti and destroyed shops on a stretch of approximately three kilometres. In the inner city area there should be around 20 burnt down buildings. Mainly large supermarket chains and pharmacies. Smaller shops were spared the looting, but still barricaded their roller shutters and asked them not to loot their shops with notes, because otherwise they would be faced with nothing.
In Valparaíso, as in all of Chile, the morning starts with Asambleas, neighbourhood meetings in public places to discuss the situation and make demands on the government that go beyond social reforms: Piñera’s resignation is called for, and nothing less than a new constitution for the country. The current one comes from the military dictatorship and is imposed by neoliberal laws.
In front of the Congress in Valparaíso
Even if very few or no organized left and communist groups participate publicly in the demonstrations, the class struggle is omnipresent on the posters, in the demands and the slogans. On Plaza Sotemayor, one of the big squares in Valparaiso, a young demonstrator holds a DIN A3 cardboard sign in the air.
Her sign protrudes between flags and balloons. “If there is no bread for the poor, there is no peace for the rich.
The fans of the local football club, among others, who lead the demonstration, called for today’s demonstration. Followed by several thousand demonstrators of all ages and a block of about 100 motorcyclists including their motorcycles, the demonstration is heading for Congress. On the way people applaud and more and more people with cooking pots and lids join in. “Cacerolzas” – a widespread form of protest in South America, in which people hit pots on the street or out of their windows to show their protest.
Accompanied by trumpets and drums the demonstration sings the well-known resistance song “El pueblo Unido jamás será venecido” (The united people will never be defeated). The song has become a kind of anthem of the protests.
The police, for their part, have placed their barriers a few streets in front of the National Congress, which has its seat in Valparaíso. Compared to Germany, there are ridiculously few cops in Valparaíso and Santiago de Chile. The approximately 10,000 demonstrators in Valparaíso are confronted by a maximum of two dozen carabinieros in full gear, including armoured vehicles and a guanaco. The demonstrators inside describe the water cannons as guanaco, as they spit like the animal.
Approximately 50 metres before the barriers, the cops start firing gas cartridges at the demonstration top. In response to the irritant gas, there is a massive shower of stones and occasionally Molotov cocktails fly. The mood on the demo is angry and fighting. Molotov cocktails are cheered and permanently the drums and trumpets set the rhythm for the slogans and the crowd boosts the front rows.
Burning barricade on one of the hills
While the riots continue in the main street, burning barricades are erected in the side streets to prevent the cops from entering from the side. The curb is broken open, material is collected against the cops and graffiti is placed on the walls and tags are placed against the cops and the government.
Again and again, the front rows are pushed forward to overrun the cops.
However, the cops can use rubber bullets to push back the demonstration tip. The projectiles with which the bullets are fired contain approx. 20-25 about 0.8 cm sized hard plastic bullets. According to the paramedics on the inside, the bullets also have a metal core. When rubber bullets are used, injuries repeatedly occur in which the rubber bullets penetrate the skin and get stuck. According to INDH, more than 100 people have already lost their sight through the rubber bullets.
To support the front rows, the motorcycles ride forward. Accompanied by an uncanny noise the whole demo moves forward and tries to push the cops back. But they manage to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and massive use of tear gas, which is shot far into the middle of the demonstration.
Usually gas cartridges are quickly erased or fly back to the cops thanks to an Instagram instruction. However, if there is a massive attack, the cartridges are not extinguished quickly enough and the strong wind from the coast distributes the tear gas.
If the cops manage to push the demo back a bit, they advance with the water cannon to clear the middle of the road, then speed through the road with the Zorillo (Spanish for skunk), an armored car that ejects irritant gas to the right and left side, letting the crowd flee into the side street and dissolving the demonstration.
After the dissolution, the fights with the police shift to different corners of the city center and burning barricades are erected at the crossroads around the park. The riots and the final game of cat and mouse between protesters and cops drag on for hours. Partly from noon into the night.
The burning barricades can sometimes be held for hours. Cars are diverted by the protesters and it happens that a car stops and lets music play over the loudspeakers and the crowd celebrates. At the edge of the barricades, shops such as pharmacies are plundered again and again.
Especially in Chile expensive articles like toilet paper, handkerchiefs or medicine are appropriated and distributed. Computers or refrigerators are used as barricades and set on fire until the cops move in and extinguish the last barricade in the city centre.
The next morning, everyday life continues as usual. People seem to be used to the uprising and meet at the Asambleas. The fire brigade extinguishes the last fires in the pharmacy, which was plundered yesterday and set on fire overnight.
The shops that are open can only be entered through a small door.
While some of them weld their shops with metal plates, small groups of masked people stream down the hills and set off on their way to the demonstration. By now, people seem to have gotten used to the masked demonstrators. You won’t be bothered if demonstrators with gas masks and slingshots make their way to the demonstration. They are occasionally applauded.
“We have rabies” is explained to me by a friend whom I visit in her shop. The whole week she only tattoos Anticop tattoos. The opening hours are only until noon, so that she and the people go to the demo. The events of the last week have upset the people so much that they are rabid and will not stop fighting until their demands are implemented. She sounds determined but also exhausted. 12 days of protest are dragging her strength. Meanwhile I’m on my way to the demo with one of her friends. He has a wound on his cheekbone. A rubber bullet hit him. But stopping for that reason is out of the question for him.
The demo is more a riot than a demo. It is not a large walk, it is rather a gathering with a few thousand people in front of the police barrier and attacks on the cops. All in all the demo is smaller than the day before but more offensive and Molotov cocktails fly regularly to the cops. Among other things on an armored car, which was just about to disperse the crowd. But when it was hit by a cocktail, it goes into reverse. Accompanied by cheering and shouts of “el pueblo Unido jamás será vencido”.
Altogether the Riots are better prepared. Wooden plates are torn out to erect a protective wall against the rubber bullets. In addition, the criminal police are kept on their toes by repeatedly attacking their station. The attacks are not really coordinated. Much more involved is everyone who is just in the mood for it. A large part of the demo is masked. To protect yourself from the tear gas? To attack the police or because it has become part of the demo style in Chile? We don’t know.
Only in the evening hours the cops manage to scare away the masses by using motorbike units. About 10 carabinieros drive towards the crowd in order to drive them away and then extinguish the barricades.
Only on the hills the barricades are still burning. The neighbors of the street have erected them and almost 100 people guard the quarter at various points. “The police do not protect us, we must protect ourselves from it, so a local resident justifies the barricades. She tells me about missing people, rapes, murder and cover-ups by the government. The INDH confirms the investigations. There are also videos on the Internet of cops breaking into houses and even throwing Molotov cocktails at houses. That is why they organise themselves in the neighbourhood, the cops are not trusted. They are also sceptical about me and prefer to ask twice who I am and why I am here.
The neighborhood guards are well connected with the other neighborhoods and know when the cops are coming. When the barricades in the other streets were cleared one person shouts “We are the last”. Preparations are being made for the arrival of the repression troops. Bottles, stones and Molotov cocktails are ready to defend themselves. They have been here every night since last week. During the nightly lockdown they had to flee as soon as the military arrived. The cops didn’t come tonight. Enough time for the sprayers a few meters below to finish painting their picture. “Resiste” decorates the facade of the house wall. The owner sits a few meters away.
Back in Santiago. For Tuesday the mobilization was again bigger. Several tens of thousands of people have gathered again in Plaza Baquedano. The mood is exuberant. On the square the two main demands are presented on banners: A new constitution and Piñera’s resignation.
In different streets it comes to riots for hours like in Valparaiso. However, the mass of protesters is much larger and better organized, so that the police units can be attacked on several fronts. The roofs of the bus stops are torn down to use them as shields in the front row and to eliminate the effect of rubber bullets. For hours, the fights shift by a maximum of 100 meters forward and backward.
The time is used to redesign the freshly cleaned subway station and some protesters try to take everything useful from a construction site for 30 minutes and then set it on fire.
In order to get an overview of the situation, a police helicopter circles over the city and is caught above the Plaza Baquedano almost by a closed firecracker, which is cheered by the thousands of protesters.
The later it gets, the more serious the cops get. Now they use the water cannon more and more to shoot rubber bullets at the distributed crowd.
With every bang, the demonstrators duck reflexively so as not to be caught by the rubber bullets. Behind the large palm trees in the middle of the dividing strip of the road, whole queues of people take cover so as not to be caught by the rubber bullets or to blind the cops with laser pointers.
Around 10 pm, after more than six hours of uninterrupted riots, the cops finally manage to break up the demonstration with the Zorillo and clear the square.
At least for the night.
For the whole week further protests and a general strike are announced. In addition, feminist groups have called for a march of witches on Halloween. A few hundred meters from Plaza Baquedano, the mostly young people return to their neighborhoods. Singing, they pass a house that just burned down and announce in their songs:
“You will see. The bullets you fire at us will fly back!”
Intervention at offices of Dogus Holding in Athens in the context of the World Rojava Resistance Day
Today, as part of the World Resistance Day, we demonstrated in front of the headquarters of Dogus Holding in Athens. Our action was in solidarity with the Rojava populations and their struggle to maintain the autonomy and the democratic decision making of their region. Dogus is a consortium of companies, based in Turkey, that belongs to Ferit Sahenk, one of the richest people in Turkey and a personal friend of Erdogan. He holds a significant share of the country’s construction industry, as well as 10% of all Turkish media (television channels, newspapers, magazines and radio stations, all known for their pro-government propaganda). His relationship with the country’s regime is a prime example of the way Turkish capitals have been acting during the last years.
The involvement of the Turkish regime in the Syrian civil war is oriented towards a genocidal policy, of annihilating the Kurdish communities of northern Syria. After their attack on Afrin, they unleashed an all-pervading attack against Rojava, aiming in exterminating the people that live there and their goals of autonomous administration of the area. In justifying this attempt, the Turkish regime did not hesitate to use as a vessel the exact refugee populations that the Syrian civil war created, with Turkey’s involvement. Their plan is to create a “safe-zone” in northern Syria, controlled by the Turkish army, that will be used as an area of relocation for the Syrian refugees that are held in camps across Turkey. At the same time, of course, they continue the on-going war against the Kurdish minorities inside Turkey.
Παρέμβαση στα γραφεία της Dogus στο Κολωνάκι(στο πλαίσιο της Παγκόσμιας Ημέρας Αντίστασης για τη Ροζάβα)Πραγματοποιήσαμε σήμερα παρέμβαση στα γραφεία της εταιρείας Dogus Holding στην Αθήνα. Η παρέμβασή μας πραγματοποιείται ως ένδειξη αλληλεγγύης στους πληθυσμούς της Ροζάβα και στην προσπάθειά τους να διαφυλάξουν την αυτονομία της περιοχής τους και τη δημοκρατική της διαχείριση. Η Dogus είναι εταιρική κοινοπραξία με έδρα την Τουρκία και ανήκει στον μεγαλοεπιχειρηματία Φερίτ Σαχένκ, ενός από τους πλουσιότερους ανθρώπους της Τουρκία και προσωπικού φίλου του Ερντογάν. Κατέχει σημαντικό μερίδιο στον κατασκευαστικό τομέα της χώρας, ενώ υπό την ιδιοκτησία του βρίσκεται το 10% του τουρκικού τύπου (τηλεοπτικά κανάλια, εφημερίδες, περιοδικά και ραδιοφωνικούς σταθμούς, όλα γνωστά για τη φιλοκυβερνητική προπαγάνδα τους). Η διαπλοκή του με το καθεστώς της χώρας και με τις πολεμικές της επιχειρήσεις είναι ένα τυπικό παράδειγμα του τρόπου, που λειτουργεί το τουρκικό κεφάλαιο τα τελευταία χρόνια. Τα δίχτυα της Dogus, όμως, απλώνονται και στην ελληνική επικράτεια είτε μέσω επενδύσεων σε φαραωνικά τουριστικά έργα που ερημώνουν τον τόπο είτε μέσω της συμμαχίας που έχει συνάψει με τη γνωστή Lamda Development του μεγαλοκαπιταλιστή Λάτση. Η εμπλοκή του τουρκικού κράτους στον συριακό εμφύλιο είναι προσανατολισμένη σε μια γενοκτονική πολιτική εξόντωσης των κουρδικών κοινοτήτων της βόρειας Συρίας. Μετά την επέμβασή του στο Αφρίν, ακολούθησε η γενικευμένη επίθεση εναντίον της Ροζάβα, με στόχο την εξάλειψη των κατοίκων της περιοχής και της δυνατότητάς τους να διοικούν αυτόνομα το έδαφός τους. Ως όχημα χρησιμοποίησε τους ίδιους τους προσφυγικούς πληθυσμούς του συριακού εμφυλίου, στον εκτοπισμό των οποίων συνέβαλε και το ίδιο το τουρκικό κράτος με την εμπλοκή του. Σχεδιάζει να δημιουργήσει μια «ζώνη ασφαλείας» στη βόρεια Συρία, την οποία θα ελέγχει ο τουρκικός στρατός και την οποία θα χρησιμοποιήσει ως τόπο επανεγκατάστασης Σύριων προσφύγων που κρατούνται στα στρατόπεδα της χώρας του. Παράλληλα, συνεχίζει τον πολύχρονο πόλεμο εναντίον της κουρδικής μειονότητας στο εσωτερικό της χώρας.Μία από τις ελάχιστα σχολιασμένες αποχρώσεις της τουρκικής επέμβασης στη Συρία είναι η οικονομική της διάσταση και το όφελος που προσφέρει στις επιχειρηματικές δραστηριότητες ανθρώπων όπως ο Φερίτ Σαχένκ. Μετά την κατάρρευση της τουρκικής λίρας πολλές τουρκικές επιχειρήσεις όπως η Dogus βρέθηκαν υπερχρεωμένες. Η λεγόμενη «ζώνη ασφαλείας» του τουρκικού κράτους στη βόρεια Συρία, πέρα από τα εθνικιστικά κίνητρα της, προσφέρεται και ως πεδίο επενδύσεων, ιδίως για τις κατασκευαστικές εταιρείες που είναι και ο πυλώνας της τουρκικής οικονομίας. Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι την επόμενη μέρα της τουρκικής πολεμικής επέμβασης στη Συρία σημειώθηκε άνοδος στις μετοχές των τουρκικών επιχειρήσεων που συνδέονται με τις κατασκευαστικές εργολαβίες.Η δημοκρατική, φεμινιστική και οικολογική επανάσταση της Ροζάβα ήρθε σε σύγκρουση με τους στρατιωτικούς και πολιτικούς σχεδιασμούς των κρατών, βάζοντας μπροστά τις αξίες της κοινότητας και του πλουραλισμού μέσα σε έναν από τους αγριότερους πολέμους των τελευταίων ετών. Οι αιματοβαμμένες μιλιταριστικές στρατηγικές των κρατών και των οικονομικών τους συμμάχων είναι η βασικότερη απειλή για τη Ροζάβα, αλλά και για κάθε δημοκρατική πολιτική προοπτική όπου κι αν εκδηλώνεται. Δεν πρέπει να τους αφήσουμε να δρουν ανενόχλητοι.Rise up for Rojava! Νίκη στον Δημοκρατικό Συνομοσπονδισμό!Η Αλληλεγγύη το όπλο των λαών!
Gepostet von Αντιεξουσιαστική Κίνηση Αθήνας – Antiauthoritarian Movement am Samstag, 2. November 2019
What is rarely mentioned regarding the Turkish intervention in Syria, is its financial aspect and the benefits it offers to people like Ferit Sahenk and their business interests. After the downfall of the Turkish lira, many Turkish enterprises, such as Dogus, were found greatly in debt. The so called “safe-zone” in northern Syria, aside from the nationalistic motivations behind it, will offer plenty of opportunities for investments, especially for construction businesses, that are the cornerstone of Turkish economy. It is not a coincidence that on the second day of the Turkish operation in northern Syria, there was a significant stock rise of the Turkish businesses linked with construction.
The democratic, feminist and ecological revolution of Rojava clashed with the military and political plans of the nation-states, promoting the values of community-building and pluralism, in the middle of one of the fiercest wars in recent history. The bloodstained military strategies of the nation-states and their economic allies are the fundamental threat for Rojava, as well as any other democratic political prospect, wherever it is attempted. We will not let them act unopposed!
Rise Up For Rojava!
2nd November 2019
Comment by John Malamatinas – First published in German on neues deutschland
The right-wing conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, elected only last summer, does everything in its power to encourage protest movements. After having started to evacuate self-organized occupations of fugitives, declared war on the inhabitants and anarchists in the left-alternative district of Exarchia in Athens, it is now the turn of the students. The latter have been protesting since the summer against the repeal of a law banning the police from entering the university campus and protecting student protests. The law was a legacy of a student uprising on 17 November 1973 during the military dictatorship, when a tank rammed through the gates of the Athens Polytechnic. Dozens were killed that day.
Yesterday’s pictures of the attack of the Greek infamous Riot police MAT on the students of the Athens University of Economics ASOEE went around the world. Six days before the historic date, MAT units stormed the campus with the aim of preventing the political occupation – an incomprehensible provocation and, at the same time, a political demonstration of power that evoked memories of the dictatorship in the public debate. Actually, the action was intended to flatter right-wing voters – exactly the opposite was achieved: an occasion for a social movement! And this in a difficult phase for the organized left after the years of austerity and the related loss of trust of the people in social change.
When I opened Facebook this morning, a feeling filled me that I had been missing since the last big general strike in February 2012: real hope! Numerous Greek activists, but also ordinary people, shared the pictures and videos of yesterday evening’s demonstrations. There are thousands and thousands of young people who do not want to be intimidated by the police operation and take up the challenge to fight for another future – a future without right-wing police cowboys, racist barbecues to “protect the Greek tradition” against fugitives or homophobic and sexist attacks. It is a two-sided struggle against the re-emerging “Greek values” and the social disintegration forced by Mitsotakis through privatization and displacement.
It should be remembered that the cycle of crisis protests in Greece did not begin with Papandreou’s famous speech from a yacht near the island of Kastelorizo in April 2010, in which he announced “that we will not make it without the financial support of our international partners”, but the youth sounded the alarm much earlier: During the student protests 2006-07 against the neo-liberalization of the universities and in the uprising in December 2008 when the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by the police and the marginalized part of society laid the cards on the table. For weeks, school and university students together with precariously employed and unemployed people organized themselves in occupied universities and town halls and attacked police stations throughout the country. There is currently no lack of inspiration: in Greece, too, everyone is looking excitedly at the current uprisings in the world.
The protests in different parts of the world are putting the question of social alternatives on the table, says Christopher Wimmer*. First published in German in neues deutschland.
The political has once again entered the stage. A worldwide class struggle is raging. Barricades are burning in Chile, Ecuador and Hong Kong, people are dying in social unrest in Iraq. In Lebanon people take to the streets and in Syria there is still a barbaric war raging in which the project of a grassroots democratic society in Rojava is trying to assert itself.
Everywhere, behind the clouds of smoke and the clouds of tear gas, young people and dependents come together to practice new connections with women, migrants and the militant parts of the working class in order to bring various forms of protest onto the streets. These protests have rarely been planned and developed in a coordinated manner, but have mostly arisen spontaneously and unexpectedly. At times they took on a progressive, rarely reactionary character.
The common ground of the movements consists precisely in the fact that the existing apparatuses of the parties and trade unions usually lag behind them or have been made completely superfluous. The protesters themselves know what is good for them and do not need leadership. The many revolts of all those excluded and exploited, who have nothing to say and no influence on the course of events, testify to the fact that these people no longer want to come to terms with the given conditions.
In the uprising they found their language and so strikes, revolts, mobilizations against the financial industry, occupations and clashes with the police are on the agenda. Supermarkets are being plundered, the Gilets jaunes have been moving through the luxury districts of Paris, devastating them. Such actions, together with district assemblies or direct actions, bring the question of social alternatives to the table. Activists and workers are becoming increasingly interested in these clashes. They are united by the desire for their own voice and a dignified life.
The protesters come from diverse (sub)proletarian milieus, resistant subcultures and the remains of the old workers’ movement. Thus they do not form a uniformity and uniqueness in the sense of an organization, but are a diverse mosaic. Its ambiguity must be endured, its productive side understood. The participation of all these people leads to the formation of different resistant subjectivities. Thus constructions by the state are being dissolved in the uprisings. For example, the question of citizenship does not count there. What counts is the presence of the people involved.
The protesters are demanding a new constitutional process. But this is not the same as the call for organisations or existing structures. The need of people to govern themselves from below and to build new structures should not be mixed up with a political power that pretends – from the existing or from outside – to implement the contents of the uprisings. For such a perspective remains far from the real class struggles.
Which possibilities there are for emancipatory forces in the uprisings can be found out by trying oneself in it. There is no doubt that political tactics are gaining in importance if one wants to achieve an egalitarian and rational shaping of society. This requires self-organization. Its core is to create the conditions under which people choose the path of collective resistance and radically challenge the ruling order. A political organization can only be “an order in the service of disorder,” as the French philosopher Alain Badiou puts it. For capitalism, this disorder is the class struggle from below, in which the participants ally themselves.
*Christopher Wimmer is a political activist and scientist. He lives in Berlin. At the beginning of next year his anthology “Where have all the Rebels gone?” on concepts of left-wing counter-power will be published by Unrast Verlag.
Some quick, classifying thoughts on the recent wave of protests in Iran by Kian Zeytani
In the late 21st century, the restriction of mobility (prices for petrol or for local public transport) seems to be a global door opener for extensive system-critical revolts and uprisings by workers and the precarious. After Mexico, Haiti, France and Chile, another country is now joining this series: Iran.
A few days ago, President Hassan Rouhani made a fateful announcement: As of Friday midnight, the subsidies on gasoline prices will be cut nationwide, doubling the litre of gasoline and later tripling it.
A few hours after the announcement, militant protests were ignited in several cities. In the form of rallies, demonstrations, street blockades, attacks on petrol stations, government symbolism, banks, police stations and security forces, the many thousands of people in almost 50 cities* throughout the country expressed their displeasure. Today, the important and symbolic bazaar in Tehran has gone on strike in solidarity with the protests. Around 1000 people have been arrested, at least twenty killed. The Internet, the most important news and mobilization tool in the totalitarian country, especially in the form of social media, has virtually been shut down. The balance of the first 24 hours shows that Iran is currently experiencing the fiercest protests since the revolution in 1979 – some even claim that things are more cheerful than in 1979.
The slogans and the goals of the actions show quite clearly: the rising gasoline prices are only the drop that causes the boiling powder keg Iran to overflow again. For years, a sometimes radical protest cycle in Iran has been solidifying and intensifying, in which anger and frustration about living conditions that are difficult to endure become visible: economic recession, lack of wages, neoliberal cuts in social benefits, authoritarian access to everyday life, increasing repression, corruption, military sword rattling and simply no perspective at all – especially among the working class and the inflated precarious sector, but also among large sections of the middle class. All those are these days again the actors of the uprising, who themselves say they have nothing to lose, which is why they risk their lives and take to the streets against the oppressive life situation in the Islamic republic.
This is expressed in slogans like “Down with the dictator”, “We do not want an Islamic republic” and even “Death for Khamenei” (revolutionary leader and highest authority in the Islamic republic). In other slogans the demonstrators criticize the millions in state support for the regional ideological allies like in Lebanon, Syria or Palestine, while their own people starve to death and slip into more and more misery.
There are reports that the government wanted to reverse the petrol price increase because of the violence of the protests. After an address by the revolutionary leader, in which he acknowledged this step as a necessity against the economic recession and denounced the demonstrators as “hooligans” and “agents provocateurs”, this measure was carved in stone and thus remains intact for the time being. Therefore, a confrontational, repressive and (even more) murderous response by the state apparatus is to be expected again. But the power bloc is not as homogeneous as the supreme revolutionary leader would like it to be. There are even supposed to be anonymous statements of solidarity with the protests from circles of security forces and quite specifically from the political, economic and military power bloc in Iran, the Revolutionary Guards. However, these reports should be treated with caution, because the traditionally conservative Revolutionary Guards are in conflict with President Rouhani, who is regarded as a reformer, and each has its own interests. Nevertheless, if the otherwise violent government is not a threat.
But the power bloc is not as homogeneous as the supreme revolutionary leader would like it to be. There are even supposed to be anonymous statements of solidarity with the protests from circles of security forces and quite specifically from the political, economic and military power bloc in Iran, the Revolutionary Guards. However, these reports should be treated with caution, because the traditionally conservative Revolutionary Guards are in conflict with President Rouhani, who is regarded as a reformer, and each has its own interests. There are also very practical problems: Iran is mobilizing ideologically loyal Shiite militias from surrounding countries, such as Lebanon and Syria, to smash the protests. Due to the complex regional situation, however, these troops are involved. In addition, they cost money, which the state does not always have. All this could strengthen the dynamics of the protests and, above all, create the self-confidence needed in a totalitarian state to stand on the right side. After all, it takes patience, because the Islamic Republic has been tried and tested in insurrection and is firmly in the saddle despite all the problems. However, nothing is forever.
*A list of cities in Iran involved in the protests is circulating in telegram channels:
Tehran, Buschehr, Sarpol Zahab, Andimeshk, Orumieh, Jam, Gorgan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Kazeroon, Kermanshah, Behbahan, Shahriar, Babol, Isfahan, Kangan, Islamabad West, Rig Band, Karaj, Khorramabad, Tehranbars, Gajarsaran, Lorest , Sari, Neyshabur, Ghaemshahr, Shoosh, Salmas, Ghods, Jajrood, Rasht, Yazd, Rabat Karim, Qazvin, Khomein, Sanandaj, Kamyaran, Nikshahr, Saqez, Zahedan, Chabahar, Marivan, Rouden, Nikshahr, Marivan, Kermanshah Shah Abad, Roudehen, Nischapur…
Interview by Sven Wegner, Wissam Abu Fakher and Ricaletto with Gharib Hassou, co-chair of TEV-DEM (Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk, Movement for a Democratic Society in Northern Syria) and former PYD foreign representative in the autonomous area of the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq. The interview took place on November 1, 2019 in Dresden after a discussion at the Evangelical University. German version at lower class magazine.
Beginning of 2020 Sven Wegner and Ricaletto will publish their book “Başur” (Editions Ichi Ichi) about their journey through South Kurdistan in 2017. Their book combines interviews and factual texts with comic and portrait drawings.
Interview: Sven Wegner
Translation: Wissam Abu Fakher
In cooperation with jihadist militias Turkey attacks the north of Syria. What realistic perspectives does Rojava or the Democratic Federation of Northern and Eastern Syria have in this difficult situation?
Before the current invasion, there was stability and all sections of society lived together on the basis of international understanding. Rojava was much better than the areas of Assad and those of the Syrian opposition, which had close ties to Turkey. Both the conditions there and what the people have for their daily lives and all sorts of other things. The aim of the operation against Rojava and more precisely against Serê Kaniyê (Raʾs al-ʿAin) and Girê Spî (Tall Abyad) is to destroy this stability.
The determination of the people on the ground is to be broken. After the invasion we experienced a real state of war and we see that we are facing a war of elimination. Turkey commits many war crimes. Recently they even used phosphorus bombs, which are actually forbidden.
The fighters of the YPG, YPJ and the SDF are offering great resistance in the areas, but the Turkish state makes no difference and simply bombs everything. The international community observes this, but does not act. In addition, all international forces, Russia, the USA, Iran, which interfered in the Syrian war, are also in this area.
But my question was a different one. I was concerned about the prospects that Rojava still has. That brings me to questions such as: What is your view of possible cooperation with the Syrian regime, in other words with Bashar al-Assad or Russia? Are we not forced to cooperate with these forces? What are their positions on this?
We regard democratic confederalism as the only solution to all the current problems in Syria. We see Syria’s future only in a democratic federation, if there is a future for Syria at all. We will very simply fight to protect the system and this idea and philosophy and to combat terror. And if our model is destroyed, then the will of the Kurdish people will be destroyed, because Erdogan wants to change the areas ethnically. He is planning the same with northern Iraq.
That means a cooperation with Bashar al-Assad is not on the agenda at all?
We have long tried to open diplomatic channels with Damascus to agree talks and exchange opinions. But they have always rejected our questions and refused to engage in dialogue. There have been conferences in Bozanê (Ain Issa), in Kobanê (Ain al-Arab) and in various areas, but Assad’s regime does not accept dialogue. Recently there was an agreement between the SDF and the regime that troops would be sent to the border and not to take over SDF territory. This agreement was brokered by Russia and we also wanted to give the regime the task of protecting the border so that we do not have to take over this task alone. But it is precisely here that we can see that the regime no longer has any strength at all and can no longer take over anything. There is no hope that the regime will secure the border. The soldiers were transported in animal transporters. We also know, of course, that there is already an agreement between the regime and Erdogan. And against the will of the Syrian people. We wanted to give the regime the task of protecting the borders, but it has shirked its responsibility.
There is a danger that you will now be crushed between two fronts. On the one hand, the regime and Russia – well, the regime has little capacity, but Russia has an air force – and on the other hand, Turkey and its jihadist militias. So there is a danger that you will be worn out and the civilian population will suffer if you say “Fight, fight, fight”.
Would the regime take its responsibility, it would establish a no-fly zone. Russia could have fulfilled this task as well. Both did not do this, however, with the intention that our bases and areas would be bombed by Turkey. So we will fight now, because it is our dream and our country. This war is already a great war. To whom should we leave the territories and the land? Erdogan and the Jihadists from al-Raqqa, al-Baghuz, Tabqa and Minbic (Manbidsch) who also robbed Efrîn (Afrin) and Idlib and now want to rob our country? We will not leave the country to the occupying state of Turkey and not to the jihadists. We will not allow Turkey to occupy and rob us.
When we look at the no-fly zone, what role can the EU play? What role must NATO play? What would be concrete, realistic steps to contain this war? What is TEV-DEM’s opinion on this?
We have commissions everywhere in Washington, Moscow, the EU and Arab countries on the subject and we have already communicated the necessary steps to the countries concerned. The first step would be a no-fly zone in northern and eastern Syria to stop the Turkish air raids. Secondly, UN troops should be brought into the border region and they can take on the task of containing the war on the ground. The UN’s decisions are important and we welcome UN troops, but there has been no progress or decisions in this direction so far. The United States has also said that it would impose economic sanctions on Turkey if it crossed certain lines. But where are these lines anyway? So far everything is theory, but we hope it will be put into practice. Europeans are afraid because of the DAESH prisoners in our prisons and camps, especially when Turkey liberates them. Then there will be a great catastrophe.
Do you still have diplomatic relations or communication channels with Turkey?
We have offered Turkey several times that we would enter into dialogue and negotiate how we could secure the border and what mechanism we could find. Turkey has so far refused. If they were prepared to do so, we would welcome it very much and it could serve as a platform for more negotiations in the future. It would be an advantage for us to negotiate with them, because the entire northern border is a border with Turkey.
What is currently happening with the DAESH prisoners? What is your political position on this issue?
The SDF say they no longer have the capacity to control the prisoners because they have to protect the border. A few DAESH prisoners have already fled and are now fighting on the side of the jihadists with Turkey.
Do you notice in Rojava that here in Europe thousands of people take to the streets, demonstrate, block, occupy and do many actions in solidarity with Rojava?
Yes, we have seen and heard that the Kurds in exile and their friends do actions. And naturally we are happy about that.
We have already talked about what you expect from the EU and from state governments. What about civil society in Europe? What do you expect from it?
One cannot trust governments and we only trust society. When we talk about society, we mean trade unions, associations and other civil society organisations.
The biggest contribution that civil society can make to resistance in Rojava is to put pressure on governments. There are as many videos and evidence showing how the jihadist fighters desecrate corpses, shout “Allah u Akhbar” as if they had won against the regime or completely destroyed the “infidels”. The civil society can help to collect and distribute this evidence and videos so that the world knows better who we are fighting against.
You said that the Rojava model should be made better known and we had already spoken in Iraq in 2017 about the construction of councils and also about whether parties are necessary at all and whether they should not simply dissolve. But now there is war in Rojava and it seems to be obvious that the decisions are not taken by councils. Councils take a long time, they have to discuss. Don’t the SDF have to take independent decisions because they are under military pressure to move? Isn’t war the complete opposite of council democracy or poison for them?
Turkey is trying to destroy the construction of our democracy. We have seven democratic administrations and 35 Arab, Aramaic, Assyrian and Kurdish parties and these exchange and discuss among themselves and they deliver their opinions and perspectives to the government council in Northern and Eastern Syria. This government council then decides in favour of the SDF. Even now, in times of war, it is difficult, but the decisions are still made by the government council and this council gets the decisions from the local democratic administration.
So it is also the Councils that make the decisions?
Every democratic administration is subordinate to the councils and so the decisions are made from the bottom up.
Critics say, however, that these councils do not really exist. These are all illusions and the question is whether it is really possible for councils to exist under war conditions in the 21st century?
When Turkey began its attack, the SDF leadership met with the Assad regime at Hmeimim, a Russian military airfield, because the administration, the councils and the parties met and all voted to cooperate with Assad. This was a decision of the base and therefore the SDF leadership had to meet with the regime there. I don’t want us to be misunderstood. We did not want to cooperate with Assad. For three years we have tried to enter into a dialogue with him. After the Turkish attack we were forced to go to Assad and he accepted it, but now we see that he is not able to protect the border.
As with the occupation of Efrîn?
There have been repeated reports of forced recruitment and criticism of the introduction of compulsory military service in Rojava. There are several reports of young men who have to hide in Qamişlo (Qamishli) or Kobanê in order not to be arrested and forcibly recruited by the Asayîş (security forces of the Kurdish self-government). When I see pictures from Rojava, I see older women and older men, maybe still a few young women, but I hardly see young men, because almost all of them have to do military service. Which positions do you take on forced recruitment, compulsory military service and the militarisation of society?
We have been misunderstood. We have been at war for seven years and we have been fighting the terrorists of the Islamic State for seven years. During that time, no one criticised us for recruitment and militarisation. But now that we are militarily finished with Daesh, the attention is drawn to this issue. Al-Nusra, for example, educates children to become future terrorists. We are talking about the right to self-defence and we have the right to know how to defend ourselves and that is exactly what we want to achieve. We have built our democratic institutions and they now need to be protected. For example, people in our neighbourhoods carry weapons at night to defend them. People simply need to know how to handle them. I believe that this criticism will be used to legitimise the Turkish attack.
This article by Mina Khanlarzadeh explores the reasons for the recent uprisings in Iran, the fight against poverty of the Iranian People, and why certain opposition groups are aimed at either instrumentalising or silencing the protests. First published in zcomm.org.
It started one morning when I woke up to one gray tick next to a WhatsApp message to my mother. A day passes, and one gray tick still won’t turn into two. In a state of suffocating confusion, I eventually realize that none of the messages I’ve sent to my folks in Iran have been received yet.
I run through the possibilities in my mind: Usually when this happens, it’s because one person may not have Internet access—but in this instance, it’s an entire collective of people. I tune into social media, and images of protestors standing amidst fire, taken before the net was shut down, cover my feed, and voices shouting “down with the dictator” reverberate in my phone’s tiny screens.
The entire population of Iran has lost all means of communication that requires Internet. And the government hasn’t simply shut down the net: Borders have now turned into walls of confinement, muting peoples’ voices, so barring them from receiving information from entire neighborhoods within the country, and outside of it. This move has imposed a unique kind of silence: Instead of the absence of sound, all that’s heard is one continuous scream.
These protesters, who’ve been on the streets, have a lifetime’s worth of stories to tell, but only a few seconds to narrate them. Their stories are chopped into various, wobbly videos that only capture a snapshot of their reality, amid widespread presence of security forces and the fear of death. The government is, as the Iranian scholar Kamran Matin wrote, “practicing a shoot-to-kill policy from the very start of the protests.”
On The Necessity of Crisis
Communication and the flow of information isn’t the only thing on hold in Iran—the official calendar has also been suspended. Universities, schools, sports’ stadiums, and public transportation have been canceled in several places: “Dozens of protesters have been killed and hundreds of buildings have been burned.” Demonstrations don’t have a center, and can’t gravitate towards any particular location. They are spread all over Iran, and the more marginalized areas scream louder and are killed harder. Internet blackouts have been employed by several other states before: Sudan’s ruling military council blocked the Internet as a means to crash political resistance in April.
The IRI used the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) to obliterate resistance by carrying out a project of mass murder of political prisoners, and, in the last decade, has been using the US economic sanctions to adjust the economic structures towards an Iranian government styled neoliberalization of the economy, a devastation of the disenfrachised working classes, and a weakening of the more liberal section of the reformist faction of the government.  The Iran-Iraq war was used as a machine of propaganda to cast any form of resistance against the government as an obstacle towards the unification of the nation against war. Just as the war was considered a blessing (nemat) for the state to distract public opinion from domestic policies, the economic sanctions have been used (both by the government and its apologists) to justify corruption, the unprecedented widening of the class gap, and harsh economic policies affecting the impoverished majority. These harsh policies include cutting off social services, and faithful adherence to the steps carved out for Third World countries by the World Bank.
From Ahmadinejad’s presidency onwards, the intensification of neoliberalism (a particular translation of which has been made to fit the political structure of Iran) has occurred, simultaneously with the reinforcement of the economic sanctions against Iran. In 2009, the IRI invested all of its resources for Ahmadnejad to become the president to follow the economic policies of the World Bank, and for reformists to not be in power when the negotiations with the US take place. The IRI, similar to other states, translates neoliberalism to policies that adjust to its political structure. Political economist Mohammad Maljoo argued that privatization, for the IRI, can mean handing public wealth to various sections of unelected officials to guarantee their loyalty, while this is not the same as privatization, it functions in a similar fashion.
The Fight Against Poverty in Revolutionary Consciousness
Despite fabricated images framing the fight against poverty in Iran as: 1. Belonging to a less politically conscious or lumpenproletariat, 2. Being merely an immediate response to the skyrocketing of egg or petrol prices, or 3. Even as the protesters being manipulated by MEK or monarchists; the redistribution of wealth towards the abolition of poverty was one of the main causes of the 1979 revolution. In his 1970s speech “Religion vs. Religion,” Ali Shariati, the most prominent intellectual before the 1979 Revolution, quoted Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari’s (one of the earliest converts to Islam) statement on poverty: “Abu Dharr said, ‘I am perplexed by a person who finds no bread in his house. How is it that he does not arise against the people with his sword unsheathed?’”
Indeed, one of the main reasons Shariati argued that Islam can be interpreted as an emanicipatory ideology was for its consideration that one person’s poverty had the potential to be a source of guilt for the entire society. In his 1960s short stories, Samad Behrangi, a Marxist social critic, elementary school teacher, and a pioneer of Iran’s modern children’s literature, grappled with the question of class based violence and the right of people on the margins to fight against poverty. In 24 Hours Between Being Asleep and Awake, Behrangi tells the story of a young street vendor named Latif. Latif escaped the harsh realities of life through his fantasies of riding all over the city of Tehran on a camel that he saw in a children’s toy store. At the end of the story, a father and daughter buy the toy camel from the store. Destroyed by the event, and facing his incapability to escape his harsh life conditions even in fantasy, Latif follows their car and is injured. While lying on the ground in pain he tells himself that he wishes he owned the toy gun that was also on display in the window of the store. Behrangi starts the story by clarifying that he is not advocating for violence to be followed as a social template, but wants the readers to contemplate the conundrum of social class and the experience of Latif:
“Dear readers, I have not written this story for you to use it as your social template; my concern was for you to get to understand the children of your country and ask yourself what their solution is.”
Shariati and Behrangi offer us a picture of some of the sensibilities, concerns, and demands that existed among revolutionaries before the 1979 revolution, such as the abolition of poverty and social responsibility towards class-based violence experienced by marginalized sections of the society. The IRI tried addressing these demands in the first decade after the revolution, but has been trying to reverse them since then. Ervand Abrahamian asked how the IRI had survived, and he responded:
“The real answer lies not in religion, but in economic and social populism. By the early 1970s, Iran had produced a generation of radical intelligentsia that was revolutionary not only in its politics — wanting to replace the monarchy with a republic — but in its economic and social outlook. It wanted to transform the class structure root and branch. […] This [pro-equality] populism helps explain not only the success of the revolution but also the continued survival of the Islamic Republic. The Republic’s constitution — with 175 clauses — transformed these general aspirations into specific inscribed promises. It pledged to eliminate poverty, illiteracy, slums and unemployment. It also vowed to provide the population with free education, accessible medical care, decent housing, pensions, disability pay and unemployment insurance.”
Economic sanctions have played an essential role in concealing the IRI’s economic policies towards the privatization of health and education, the monopolization of public wealth by government figures and institutions called Iranian government style privatization.
Why Pro-Reza Shah Slogans?
The compromise of life conditions inside Iran, the continous depreciation of marginalized peoples’ purchasing power, their great suffering due to poor economic management, and harsh international treatments against Iranians (via economic sanctions, and restrictions on Iranians’ mobility by the Muslim Ban and similar policies) have resulted in a collective dream of a strong nationalist leader who would heal the injuries by priorotizing the development of Iran over outside adventures, and bringing international racists policies against Iranians to an end. That is one of the reasons the name of Reza Shah can be heard in some of the street slogans, even as those very people are not necessarily monarchists or in favor of monarchism replacing the current regime.
Over the last several years, nostalgia is understood to be a false consciousness created by satellite television channels (such as Manoto TV) that have convinced Iran that the Shah was great. This false consciousness argument does not help us in our analysis of the complexities and differences within the phenomenon of remembering the past affectionately. Contrary to narratives of a TV channel selling Iranians the idea that Reza Shah was great, the reference to Reza Shah is due to the complex political circumstances which lead to the glorification of a strong patriarchal figure. Inherent to this glorification is the idea that a figure like Reza Shah could lead the nation in the international realm and protect Iranians from being bullied under the rubric of the Muslim Ban and economic sanctions. Moreover, before the 2009 election, there was some hope in reformists to rely on their popular base in the society to conduct transformation, but the hope began getting demolished by internal government conflicts. Reformists moved towards hardliners to receive acceptance, and to keep a space for themselves in the government, and society became more radicalized facing closed doors to its most negligible desire of survival, presented in electing Mirhossein Mousavi in 2009. These internal government calculations and divisions translated into harsher oppressive policies (during Rouhani’s presidency), and further impoverishment, both as a means of control of the society and as a consequence of vast corruption, and deeper (consequently, costlier) involvement of the Iranian government in more countries outside the borders of Iran. The weakening of reformists is, in fact, another reason that Reza Shah’s name is heard in the slogans.
This is not to say that there is not a desire to put the entire nation’s history into a time machine and wake up to a reality in which the exiled figures of popular culture, such as Googoosh and Dariush, could sing on national television, and one in which there are no traces of human and socio-economic damages—including the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and the economic sanctions—or all the repressive policies of the last forty years. The Shah’s regime is one of the possible governments in power when we enter that time machine, but it isn’t the only possibility. That’s why the nostalgia for the Shah’s regime cannot be understood without considering nostalgia for pre-1979 Iran.
I suggest, keeping in mind Svetlana Boym’s concepts of reflective and restorative nostalgias (Future of Nostalgia, 2001), that we divide Iranians’ nostalgia for the past into two divisions: patriarchal past-oriented nostalgia and critical future-oriented nostalgia. The patriarchal past-oriented nostalgia tries to restore the past homeland in the future, the figure of the late Shah is at its center. The main cause of it is determined to be a defense of the past (mainly the Shah’s regime) against all of its past and current dissidents, and the past is re-imagined time and again with the wish to annihilate all the discourse and figures that ever challenged the former regime, to its final absolute restoration. The critical future-oriented nostalgia, however, relies on the past and its fragmented affective memories, to reflect on the present, to imagine a non-linear path to the future, while considering all the marginalized side roads that were neglected in the past while their traces in society and culture are still visible.
Iranian society examines political groups and ideologies based on their attitude towards public and private happiness, and pleasure, as the primary component of measuring their political progressiveness. The state was trying to save people from their sins to pave their path to the religious utopia. Similarly, the intellectuals often attempt to save people from their lowbrow pleasure to pave their path towards cultural elitism. If the criminalization of considerable section of the popular music, after the 1979 Revolution, had occured in the name of avoiding distraction from superior values and defending the authenticity of Iranian traditional music, intellectuals’ looking down on popular culture is most of the time in the name of saving the society’s soul from banality, consumerist pleasure, and poor taste.
The former regime and their supporters have come to represent acceptance towards pleasure, happiness, and understanding of popular art. As a result, another reason for remembering the past affectionately is the IRI’s privatization of happiness, and oppositions’ equation of pleasure with lack of social responsibility and political consciousness. The private space is accessible to the more affluent strata of the society; moreover, protecting the private space form state’s control is more attainable to propertied people than the marginalized groups. Furthermore, relying on tourism for pleasure and happiness is within the reach of those who are more well-off, both for obtaining visas and being able to afford the travel expenses. This is why, for most of society, moving towards any promised utopia, if not possible to be accompanied with, for instance, the popular music songs (banned by the IRI after the revolution) of the exiled musician, such as, for instance, Hasan Shamaeizadeh, is viewed as moving towards dystopia.
Anti-imperialist Apologists and The Authentic Neoliberals
The considerable section of the current reaction to the IRI, outside Iran, consists of two main groups. The first group is anti-imperialist apologists who, at times, superficially criticize IRI, but overall perceive its policies to be justifiable responses to outside imperialist forces. Their refrain is that the IRI is preventing Iran from becoming Syria, but they often fail to consider the role of their government, along with several other governments, in Syria becoming Syria. This mantra magically explains away most of the IRI’s decisions and policies. The second group is authentic neoliberals, who criticize the IRI for not being a true authentic force of neoliberalism like they would be, in case they come to power. They are similar to religious fundamentalists who believe there is an authentic reading of the religious scriptures, they share with the IRI their hatred of Marxists, and their fanatic faith in the World Bank and the IMF. They are also as anti-liberal as the IRI is when it comes to dealing with their critics, some of them even justifying the 1953 coup against Iran. Augusto Pinochet is their favorite leader, and they hope Trump will make Iran great again.
Both groups, authentic neoliberals and anti-imperialist apologists, agree with the IRI’s economic policies. Authentic neoliberals openly express the teachings of the IMF and the World Bank to be their faith, whereas, to anti-imperialist apologists, everything outside the West is irrelevant unless it is defined in favor of or against imperialism. Within both groups, criticism has been more focused on the ways in which the IRI has conducted such policies, and not on the policies themselves.
What to Do with The Disappointed Hope?
A recently surfaced video shows Sepideh Gholian, a labor rights activist who was arrested shortly after her protest, holding a sign that reads: “You increased the price of fuel. Did you also increase the incomes?” Gholian’s simple question not only targets today’s corrupt policies towards impoverishment and weakening of society, refers to the hopes and dreams that led to the 1979 Revolution. The revolutionary hope that the IRI still finds intractable, and in turn uses crises to justify policies that stand against them. As Ernst Bloch wrote in 1998: “For if hope could be annihilated, that is, if it could literally be made nihilistic, it would never have proved so intractable to those despots who represent its opposite.”  Behind Gholian’s question, Samad Behrangi’s “Latif,” and Ali Shariati’s “Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari” stand, and the dreams and hopes that were whispered (or screamed) by the former generations that led to the 1979 Revolution. While their hopes have been disappointed, they have not been annihilated, as they are recorded in Gholian’s video and all other videos that never got the chance to be shared online in the past few days of the outage.
: Ervand Abrahamian explains the isolation of political prisoners before the mass execution of the 80s (before the Iran-Iraq war ended)
“In the early hours of Friday, 19 July 1988, the regime suddenly, without warning, isolated the main prisons from the outside world. It slammed shut their gates; canceled scheduled visits and telephone calls; banned all newspapers; cleared the cells of radios and televisions; refused to accept letters, care packages, and even vital medicines; and forbade relatives from congregating outside the prison gates […]. What is more, the main law courts went on an unscheduled vacation so that concerned relatives would not gather there seeking information. […]The wardens isolated not only the prisons from the outside world but also each cell block from other cell blocks in the same prison. Inmates were confined to their cells. […] One ingenious inmate assembled a wireless set to find out what was happening only to discover that the radio stations were not reporting news about the prisons. They were observing a news blackout. Thus began an act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history-unprecedented in form, content, and intensity. It even outdid the 1979 reign of terror. The curtain of secrecy, however, was so effective that no Western journalist heard of it and no Western academic discussed it. They still have not.”
Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions: Prison and Public Recantations in Modern Iran (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 279
: Ernst Bloch, Literary Essays, trans. Andrew Joron and others (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 344.
Thanks to Atoosa Moinzadeh for her insightful comments.
1. Given the fact, President Piñera presented Chile as «an oasis in the midst of the restless Latin America» just a bit before the uprising, we have no choice but to think of Chile as a sleeping giant. Under the calm surface, what were the social dynamics that set the stage for the current nationwide uprising?
The current administration has been investing very much in highlighting Chile’s stability and business-friendly policies to the outside world. Many Chileans believed in this dream as well, hoping that a continued commitment to the neoliberal economic policies implemented under the Pinochet dictatorship would eventually lift them into the middle class. However, it is impossible to ignore how the growing gap between rich and poor determines every aspect of life in this country. If you have money, you have access to the private healthcare system as well as to the best schools and universities. If you don’t, you’re locked into a perpetual struggle to stay afloat. Salaries remain incredibly low in the face of a very high cost of living, leading many people to go into debt. This reality is obvious to the average Chilean and many have organized in social movements to attack the system from different angles. The current uprising wasn’t a complete surprise; it was the evolution of 30 years of movements demanding the eradication of the economic legacy of the dictatorship.
2. It seems that the main demands of the protests are the following: the immediate resignation of president Piñera and a new constitution. Let us imagine that both will be satisfied in a short time. What will actually change in Chile? Are these demands mostly focusing on the symbolic level or the cure for the social inequalities passes through them?
I think the Piñera administration would very much like this to all go away. After the first weekend of rebellion, he began offering token reforms as if he was distributing candy on Halloween. However, these reforms were not what the people wanted. If a new constitution was offered, people would reject it immediately, because the demand is for a constituent assembly from below; that is, a constitution generated by the people rather than from the government. If we can achieve this process, I believe it would be very important to the country. The constitution was written during the dictatorship and serves as a legal basis for the cruel economic policies people are rising up against. It also protects some authoritarian practices people wish to see eliminated. Of course, Piñera’s resignation and a new constitution would
be enough to satisfy a big portion of those currently in revolt. That said, others are hoping that the process of constituent assemblies can be a way of generating direct democracy on the neighbourhood level. If woven together, these horizontal neighbourhood organizations could become the basis of true counter-power capable of demanding much more.
3. Watching videos of the protests or viewing photos of the demos, we observe mostly Chilean flags and only a few leftist, communist or anarchist signs and banners. Thus, we suppose that their presence is pale or not discrete by choice. It’s a fact that during social
uprisings, the organized groups tend to dissolve into the masses. We wonder which is their role? If and how do they try to deviate the mood of the uprising to more anticapitalist or revolutionary ways?
It’s absolutely true that political parties are not mobilizing under their flags in the larger demonstrations and marches. On one level, this shows how unified people feel at this moment — as Chileans, rather than as members of a particular party. Since the beginning of the uprising, several new symbols have emerged, including a version of the Chilean flag that is almost completely black; this dark image represents how people feel about Chilean democracy at the moment. There is also the fact that these protests are targeting more than just the conservative Piñera administration: the left parties who have participated in the government since the return of democracy in 1990 are also guilty in the eyes of the people. When in power, both left- and right-wing governments maintained the neoliberal policies they inherited and resorted to violence against the population. In fact, despite their large bases, the left-wing parties have often lagged behind the country’s many impressive social movements. Of course, these parties are eager to be the mediators between the people and the government right now and are working hard to leverage current events into future electoral wins. The likely result is that their efforts will split and weaken the movement.
4. The police brutality is obvious and the military is present on the streets. Many analysts claim that one of the reasons for the protests’ success is that the young people don’ t have reminiscences from the Pinochet dictatorship and that fact makes them fearless. How do the Chilean nowadays feel about state repression? Do they feel that another coup d’etat is possible? How they organize and defend their assemblies, their protests, their political
I spent the first 30 years of my life in the US and when I arrived in Chile, I was shocked by the popular dislike or even hatred of the “pacos” or cops in Chile. Even people who weren’t politically inclined would have a negative view of them. The “fearless generation” initiated amazing student rebellions in 2006 and again from 2011 to 2013, rallying a huge base of support around demands for basic rights such as education and an end to privatization in all its forms. Chilean high school students are known to regularly engage in street fighting with police and have subsequently been brutalized by them, including accounts of torture. All this happened under “democracy.” In the current moment, you can see this abuse taking place at a terrifying scale: police are using crowd control weapons to main and even kill young protesters. At this moment, over 200 people have lost eyes. This is in addition to a long list of other human rights violations, including kidnapping and sexual torture. Even people who haven’t been directly injured are being traumatized through exposure to so much violence. For the older generation, the State of Emergency was particularly horrific. For the first time since Pinochet was voted out of power, the military was used to repress the Chilean population. Many people felt like the dictatorship had returned. I personally felt terrified watching tanks roll down my street. I’d never experienced anything like that before. Even though the State of Emergency is now over, the police are essentially acting like the military and the level of violence is quite high. In response, protesters have created their own “first responder” networks through which medical professionals can volunteer their services. You can even see medical units armed with protective shields charging through the protests in order to offer aid. This week, there have been many open calls to donate medical supplies; this reflects the shocking number of people who have been injured. In addition, groups of friends, neighbors, and comrades have instituted “check-in” practices through WhatsApp in order to ascertain everyone’s safety at the end of the day.
Regarding the potential for a coup, I don’t think it’s likely and I haven’t heard any speculation on that topic. Despite all the protests, the government is still remarkably stable and I don’t see any particular force ready to rise up to topple it — from the left or the right.
5. Chile has one of the most powerful feminist movements. Do you think that this has influenced the current situation? What is the feminist approach of the protests?
I am part of the Coordinadora Feminista 8 de Marzo (the March 8th Feminist Coordinator), the coalition that, starting in 2018, has been the main political body of the movement. Something I find interesting is like the other movements that achieved major mobilizations over the years (the students and the movement against the corrupt pension system), Chile’s feminist movement really focused on the cruelty of neoliberalism. In other Latin American countries, the feminist movements had demands to end femicides or to legalize abortion as their animating issue. Meanwhile, Chilean feminists marched under the banner “Against the Precaritization of Life.” In a way, this latest period of intense feminist activity was the runway to launch the plane of full rebellion. This was because CF8M had theorized that feminism was a force capable of uniting the country’s many social movements — movements that were reactivating thanks the energy generated by the feminist wave of 2018. Looking back from this moment, I think I can say their theory was the correct one: the feminists were able to partially unify the left and generate alliances amongst the students, No+AFP, labor unionists, and migrant rights organizations. These alliances represent a potential source of horizontal structure for the rebellion; unfortunately, cracks are already showing as different forces begin to split along ideological lines or even fight for power. That said, on the surface, the movement is booming. Last Friday’s feminist march was exceptionally large with terrific energy. Both organized and independent feminists are engaged in near-constant acts of protest and propaganda. One of the slogans that arose in 2018 is, “Never again to the back row; there will never again be a revolution without us.” Feminists certainly put that commitment into practice in this rebellion.
6. There is a long history of sexual and political violence in Chile and Latin America in crucial historical moments like Chile is experiencing now. Do you think that all this gender violence expresses an effort for gender discipline to the women’s bodies in order to control them?
Absolutely, yes. It has been the position of the feminist movement for many years that state violence and patriarchal violence are deeply connected. During the dictatorship, women were raped and sexually tortured. This was not only to individually disciple “the enemy,” but to provide a terrifying example of what would happen to you if you didn’t stay meekly at home. Now, we have complaints of rape and sexual torture under democracy. You can see why people will never forgive Piñera for this, no matter what he offers.
We received a comment by Kian Zeytani, an Iranian-rooted free journalist based in Berlin and involved in different solidarity-networks since 2009. He takes a glance on the reactions to the killing of Iranian top-tier general Qassem Soleimani by the US and the current threats of war dominating global headlines.
It’s this time of the year again, where Iran is dominating global headlines – but for the wrong reasons. No, it‘s not about the fact, that during last heavy anti-Regime riots in November, the murderous Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has murdered 1500 people in a week (1) . It is about a US drone assassinating IRI‘s top-tier general Qassem Soleimani (2) at Baghdad International Airport in the beginning of our new year. With that, Trump-led US-government takes their turn in the heated escalation vicious circle with IRI; the Ayatollahs themselves do not hesitate to point their finger at the Greatest Satan of all time and to announce harsh consequences – since they, of course, are the poor victims here. Men in power, with several issues, but sadly with effective power buttons and resources, are taking their pathetic twitter battle to a level, where it actually can cost hundreds of thousands people who do not want anything to do with this their lives. A 101 in openly aggressive imperialist politics in our capitalist world.
As a lefty – no, as person with heart and brain, as someone who wants to break this abhorrent game of men in power to stay in power no matter what and literally walking over millions bodies for that – you are suddenly trapped between maniacs all over. Specifically, when it is about USA vs. Iran. In one corner, you have the „Lefties“, whose so called anti-imperialism has gone terribly wrong and who start glorifying Soleimani – a reactionary fundamentalist, a ruthless and vicious man in charge of many murders and a person providing so many reason to be hated – as the fallen martyr in the anti-imperialist cause against the US. No wonder, since Iran is a romanticized homogeneous entity to them with the only good purpose being against the US. They don’t really care for reality in Iran and – in the best case – shut their mouth about the freedom-movement by the Iranian people, because their fragile and outdated world-image of West vs. East is challenged by the first glimpse into reality and the numerous and complex contradictions that exist. Those people, in their permanent urge to reduce every question in the world to condemn the USA, become supporter of the IRI and leave no space, not even for thin paper, between them and the state-propaganda by the Islamic dictatorship. Well done, congratulations, you are disgrace to the Left.
The other corner is not better at all. It consists of people of whatever political attitude (most of the times, they don’t know themselves), but also so called Lefties and self-proclaimed left-liberals or “human rights activists”, who cannot go beyond the thought construct “IRI is bad, killing IRI is good, hail the killers and make them kill more”. The ones who are worth discussing with, are some expressive Iranians on social media who follow and report on the struggle in Iran and who have every right to hate the IRI – for example for biographical reason, because they or their families have been split apart and/or killed by IRI. When it is about getting info on what is going on in Iran, those people can be valuable and reliable sources. But when it comes to bigger political context, their masks come off. Sometimes, I envy those people, because their world-image and therefore their mind must be so easy. They want Trump, of all people Trump – a reactionary fundamentalist, a ruthless and vicious man in charge of many murders and a person providing so many reason to be hated – to invade Iran and – swoosh! Abracadabra! – we have free democracy in Iran, combined with a prosperous culture, economy and social stability and no contradictions at all. They have the magical gift to neglect the last decades of US- “interventionist policy” in the Middle East and the idea of bringing democracy by Air Force One and their disastrous consequences: millions dead, even more injured and crippled, traumatized and/or seeking refuge together and the production of some absolutely failed states. They are believers of the “human rights imperialism” and are proof, that war propaganda in the 21st century is working just fine. But let me re-assure you: those people are not representative for Iranians, even if they do everything they can to appear so (it looks quite forced and not authentic when they start every tweet with “As an Iranian I say”). Sure, people in Iran are so desperate they want the IRI go by any means necessary. But they also notice what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and many other countries around them. Their do-alikes in this corner not even discussing are the mostly white liberals, who do not care about Iran but in times like these suddenly start blabbering about missing “gay rights” and “women rights” as a reason to finally, finally see those bombs destroying Tehran and their wet dreams come true. They summon Soleimani as the worst terrorist of all time, worse than Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain, Gaddafi and Darth Vader combined – but probably 90% had to google him in the first place.
What I see beyond this circle of madness and what I don’t see is this: I see two imperialists powers with big domestic problems challenged by their own people – #impeachment and #IranProtests – being able to distract from those issues and depict themselves as both, victims and strong actor. For the case of Iran, on which I have more expertise than the US, I see state-declared three days of mourning and massive nationalist mobilizations for the murderer Soleimani – and killing off the momentum of powerful, massive and radical freedom-movement against the regime. This insurrectional movement (3) (4) (5) was slowly but surely cutting one of the most important things for the highly ideological IRI: their legitimacy. Now, IRI is re-fueling this legitimacy by pointing to their life-long declared enemy down in the west. I even lost count how many times they did exactly that to distract from own problems, I just know that nearly every time it works. It nearly seems they regularly need the US to point at for their own survival.
What will happen now? No one can say, the situation is very dangerous and heated (6). Everyone is pretty sure, though, that the war-hungry faction of IRI will respond the war-hungry faction of the US government. Probably, they will take out skirmishes or worse in one of the countries they have made miserable, like Iraq or Lebanon or Yemen. They will be joined by other regional imperialists. Once again, ordinary and innocent people will take the consequences.
What can we do? Let’s not take their narrative but keep doing, what we do: when this episode hopefully loses some attention because no other disastrous actions are taken, let’s give those movements and protests against the powerful in the USA, in Iran and everywhere a voice, be in solidarity with them. They are the only ones who can end this misery without producing more failed states and more masses of people bombed into catastrophe. Because I want to see again what I don’t see at the moment, since everybody is busy having an opinion in this game of war and power: footage and information on the struggles and the movements against those in charge and for a better life.
This is a german translation of the Soleimani Killed – Worst Case Scenario. A comment.
Wir erhielten einen Kommentar von Kian Zeytani, einem in Berlin ansässigen freien Journalisten mit iranischen Wurzeln, der sich seit 2009 in verschiedenen Solidaritätsnetzwerken engagiert. Er wirft einen Blick auf die Reaktionen auf die Ermordung des iranischen Spitzengenerals Qassem Soleimani durch die USA und die aktuellen Kriegsdrohungen, die die globalen Schlagzeilen beherrschen.
Es ist mal wieder soweit, der Iran beherrscht die globalen Schlagzeilen – aber aus den falschen Gründen. Nein, es geht nicht darum, dass die mörderische Islamische Republik Iran (IRI) bei den letzten schweren Anti-Regime-Aufständen im November 1500 Menschen in einer Woche ermordet hat (1) . Es geht darum, dass eine US-Drohne den IRI-Spitzengeneral Qassem Soleimani (2) zu Beginn unseres neuen Jahres am internationalen Flughafen von Bagdad ermordet hat. Damit hat die von Trump geführte US-Regierung im hitzigen Eskalationskreislauf mit der IRI den nächsten Zug gemacht; die Ayatollahs selbst zögern nicht, mit dem Finger auf den “größten Satan aller Zeiten” zu zeigen und harte Konsequenzen anzukündigen – denn sie sind natürlich die armen Opfer hier. Männer an der Macht, mit diversen Problemchen, aber leider mit effektiven Schaltknöpfen und Ressourcen, tragen ihren erbärmlichen Twitter-Streit auf eine Ebene, wo es tatsächlich Hunderttausende von Menschen das Leben kosten kann, die damit nichts zu tun haben wollen. Das kleine Einmaleins offen aggressiver imperialistischer Politik in unserer kapitalistischen Welt.
Als Linker – nein, als Mensch mit Herz und Verstand, als jemand, der dieses abscheuliche Spiel von Männern an der Macht brechen will, die alles tun würden, um an der Macht zu bleiben und dafür buchstäblich über Millionen von Leichen gehen – ist man plötzlich zwischen Wahnsinnigen an allen Ecken und Enden gefangen. Insbesondere, wenn es um USA versus Iran geht. In einer Ecke stehen die “Linken”, deren sogenannter Antiimperialismus furchtbar schiefgegangen ist und die anfangen, Soleimani – einen reaktionären Fundamentalisten, einen rücksichtslosen und grausamen Mann, der für viele Morde verantwortlich ist und der so viel Grund zum Hassen bietet – als den gefallenen Märtyrer in der antiimperialistischen Sache gegen die USA zu verherrlichen. Kein Wunder, denn der Iran ist für sie eine romantisierte homogene Einheit mit dem einzigen guten Zweck, gegen die USA zu sein. Sie interessieren sich nicht wirklich für die Realität im Iran und halten im besten Fall ihre Klappe über die Freiheitsbewegung der iranischen Bevölkerung, weil ihr zerbrechliches und überholtes Weltbild von West vs. Ost durch den ersten Hauch von Realität und die zahlreichen und komplexen Widersprüche, die es gibt, in Frage gestellt wird. Diese Menschen werden in ihrem permanenten Drang, jede Frage in der Welt darauf zu reduzieren, die USA zu verdammen, zu Unterstützern der IRI. Zwischen sie und die Staatspropaganda der islamischen Diktatur passt sodann kein Stück Papier mehr. Gut gemacht, herzlichen Glückwunsch, ihr seid eine Schande für die Linke.
Die andere Ecke ist keinen Deut besser. Sie besteht aus Menschen jeglicher politischer Einstellung (meistens kennen sie diese selbst nicht), aber auch aus so genannten Linken und selbsternannten Linksliberalen oder “Menschenrechtsaktivist*innen”, die nicht über das Gedankenkonstrukt “IRI ist schlecht, IRI zu töten ist gut, ein Hoch auf die Mörder, lasst sie noch mehr töten” hinauskommen. Die einzigen, mit denen sich ausgetauscht wird, sind einige ausdrucksstarke Iraner*innen in den sozialen Medien, die den Freiheitskampf im Iran verfolgen und darüber berichten und die jedes Recht haben, die IRI zu hassen – zum Beispiel aus biographischen Gründen, weil sie oder ihre Familien von der IRI auseinander gerissen und/oder getötet wurden. Wenn es darum geht, Informationen darüber zu bekommen, was im Iran vor sich geht, können diese Menschen wertvolle und zuverlässige Quellen sein. Aber wenn es um größere politische Zusammenhänge geht, fallen ihre Masken. Manchmal beneide ich diese Menschen, weil ihr Weltbild und damit ihr Verstand so simpel sein muss. Sie wollen, dass Trump, ausgerechnet Trump – ein reaktionärer Fundamentalist, ein skrupelloser und bösartiger Mann, der für viele Morde verantwortlich ist und der so viel Grund zum Hassen bietet – in den Iran einfällt und – swoosh! Abrakadabra! – haben wir im Iran eine freie Demokratie, verbunden mit einer blühenden Kultur, Wirtschaft und sozialer Stabilität und keinerlei Widersprüchen. Sie haben die magische Gabe, die letzten Jahrzehnte der US-amerikanischen “Interventionspolitik” im Nahen Osten, inklusive der Vorstellung, mittels Air Force One die Demokratie zu bringen, und die daraus resultierenden katastrophalen Folgen zu verdrängen: Millionen Tote, noch mehr Verletzte und Verkrüppelte, Traumatisierte und/oder Geflohene und die Schaffung einiger absolut gescheiterter Staaten. Sie glauben an den “Menschenrechtsimperialismus” und sind der Beweis, dass die Kriegspropaganda auch im 21. Jahrhundert gut funktioniert. Aber lasst euch versichern: diese Leute sind nicht repräsentativ für die Iraner*innen, auch wenn sie alles tun, um so zu erscheinen (es wirkt ziemlich gezwungen und wenig authentisch, wenn sie jeden Tweet mit “Ich als Iraner sage” beginnen). Sicher, die Menschen im Iran sind so verzweifelt, dass sie die IRI mit allen Mitteln loswerden wollen. Aber sie sehen auch, was in Afghanistan, Irak, Syrien, Libanon und vielen anderen Ländern um sie herum passiert ist. In dieser Ecke finden sich auch die zumeist weißen Liberalen, die sich nicht um den Iran scheren, aber in Zeiten wie diesen plötzlich anfangen, über fehlende ” Schwulenrechte” und “Frauenrechte” zu schwafeln, um endlich, endlich diese Bomben auf Teheran fallen zu sehen und ihre feuchten Träume wahr werden lassen. Sie beschwören Soleimani als den schlimmsten Terroristen aller Zeiten, schlimmer als Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain, Gaddafi und Darth Vader zusammen – aber wahrscheinlich mussten ihn 90 % überhaupt erst googlen.
Was ich jenseits dieses Irrsinnskreises sehe und nicht sehe, ist das hier: Ich sehe zwei imperialistische Mächte mit großen innenpolitischen Problemen, die von ihrer eigenen Bevölkerung herausgefordert werden – #Impeachment und #IranProtests – die es schaffen, von diesen Themen abzulenken und sich selbst jeweils sowohl als Opfer und als auch als starker Akteur darzustellen. Im Fall des Iran, zu dem ich mehr Expertise habe als zur USA, sehe ich eine staatlich erklärte, dreitägige Trauerphase und eine massive nationalistische Mobilisierungen für den Mörder Soleimani – und das Abtöten der Dynamik der kraftvollen, massiven und radikalen Freiheitsbewegung gegen das Regime. Diese Aufstandsbewegung (3) (4) (5) entzog der hoch-ideologisierten IRI langsam aber sicher eines ihrer wichtigsten Elemente: ihre Legitimität. Jetzt füllt die IRI die verlorene Legitimität wieder auf, indem sie auf ihren lebenslang erklärten Feind im Westen zeigt. Ich habe aufgehört zu zählen, wie oft sie genau das schon getan haben, um von ihren eigenen Problemen abzulenken. Ich weiß nur, dass es fast jedes Mal funktioniert. Es scheint fast so, als ob sie regelmäßig auf die USA zeigen müssten, um ihr eigenes Überleben zu sichern.
Was wird nun geschehen? Niemand kann das sagen, die Situation ist sehr gefährlich und aufgeheizt (6). Alle sind sich aber ziemlich sicher, dass die kriegshungrige Fraktion der IRI auf die kriegshungrige Fraktion der US-Regierung antworten wird. Wahrscheinlich werden sie Scharmützel oder Schlimmeres in einem der Länder austragen, die sie so elendig zugerichtet haben, im Irak, im Libanon oder im Yemen. Andere regionale Imperialisten werden sich ihnen anschließen. Wieder einmal werden die einfachen und unschuldigen Menschen die Konsequenzen tragen.
Was können wir tun? Lasst uns nicht ihre Erzählung aufnehmen, sondern machen wir weiter mit dem, was wir tun: Wenn diese Episode hoffentlich bald an Aufmerksamkeit verliert, weil es zu keinen weiteren katastrophalen Aktionen kam, dann geben wir diesen Bewegungen und Proteste gegen die Mächtigen in den USA, im Iran und überall sonst eine Stimme; lasst uns mit ihnen solidarisch sein. Sie sind die einzigen, die dieses Elend beenden können, ohne weitere gescheiterte Staaten zu produzieren und ohne noch mehr Menschen in die Katastrophe zu bomben. Denn ich möchte wieder sehen, was ich im Moment nicht sehe, da alle damit beschäftigt sind, in diesem Spiel von Krieg und Macht eine Meinung zu haben: Filmmaterial und Informationen über die Kämpfe und Bewegungen gegen die Herrschenden und für ein besseres Leben.
Our comrades in Munich are co-organizing next weekend a demonstration against the annual Munich Security Conference (short SiKo). We share with you the general call and a call by Ende Gelände which focuses on the debate on safety and climate justice. See you on the streets of Munich!
From 14th to 16th of February 2020, international representatives from politics, military and (arms) industry will meet at Hotel Bayerischer Hof for the Munich Security Conference in order to „counter the world’s most pressing security risks.“ While various power blocs are competing for political influence and the access to resources and markets, remaining barriers to an economic exploitation of the world are to be removed. Therefore, instead of security for human beings – be it from unmediated physical violence or social immiseration – the MSC is about the legitimization and worldwide enforcement of capitalist rule. War here, increasingly authoritarian police laws there and militarized borders between them: the repressive administration of social contradictions – if by political or military means – is enacted as „Security“. The choice between various variants of the same is being presented as as „without any alternative“ so that it is impossible even to imagine a completely different future. Where humans are taking their destiny in their own hands, resisting the violent logic of this order, highly armed despots counter these projects with all their cruelty without having to reckon with serious opposition from other actors of the security conference. The defense of human rights appears at most as a legitimizing story for the next obnoxious event, but is as little a real issue for the MSC as the destruction of the ecological foundations of life on earth.
Whether as a contact exchange for the armaments industry, as a simulation of world politics or as a propaganda event for the status quo – the MSC not only stands symbolically for global rule and violence and is therefore the most appropriate occasion to take our radical hostility towards these conditions to the streets. We fight for a world beyond patriarchal and racist opressions as well as beyond state, nation and capital.
Join us at the protests against the Munich Security Conference on the 14th of February and let’s collectively demonstrate that there is no security for global power relations. For an end to violence!
No safety without climate justice
call by Ende Gelände Munich
Federal Call for demonstrations against the Security Conference in Munich
Come to the Climate Justice Block at February 14th | 18.30 | Gaertnerplatz, Munich
The hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich is going to host an international war politics debate for the 53rd time. Behind closed doors of splendid halls and a wall of thousands of police officers, representatives of politics, economy and military will negotiate conflicts and the economic interests of the richest countries in the world. In times of flight, drought and other consequences of the climate crisis, the Munich Security Conference is a symbol for the absurd conditions of our system.
War as a legitimate climate killer? You are insane!
Warfare and war preparations during so called “times of peace” immensely contribute to the human-caused climate crisis. War planes and war ships have an enormous fuel consumption. A Eurofighter without an afterburner uses up 70-100 litres of aviation fuel per minute. That is without talking about kerosene and fine dust, ultrafine particles and nitrogen oxides which are being emitted into the air. You cannot even compare a diesel to that.
The US military alone used up 42,6 million litres of oil every day in the year 2017. That means that more than 25 million tons of carbon dioxide were emitted. More than half of the world’s helicopters are used for military purposes and around a quarter of the usage of fuels come from warplanes, of which most are inefficient, carbonintensive and harmful to the environment” according to a study by IMI from 2019 [i]. The US ministry of defence is responsible for around 80 percent of the US energy consumption. That makes is a bigger carbondioxideemittent than Portugal, Sweden or Denmark [ii].
Still, high emissions and air pollution caused by military equipment is not the whole problem. There are also military bases that valuable biotopes get sacrificed for. Rare moors, forests and nature reserves must make room for military infrastructure. This happened when US Air Base Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate got extended to be the biggest airline hub of US Air Force in Europe [iii]. Floors are sealed, sensitive ecosystems destroyed and Co2 binding trees exterminated. Floors and groundwater are poisoned through industrial accidents or wrong waste disposal of toxins. On top of that, the production of radioactively enhanced Uranium, which is essential for the production of nuclear weapons, has a catastrophic impact on the environment. Poisonous arrears coming from ammunition – just like enhanced Uranium, Phosphor and Dioxins – that are used on exercise fields during manoeuvres and, in war areas, do the rest.
The fossils beneath the war
Politicians around the world do not talk about the catastrophic environmental consequences of warfare. Neither the Kyoto Protocol 1997 nor the Paris Climate Agreement from 2015 talk about military activities. However, the 20% of the world population who use up about 80% of the world’s resources are the same who profit from humanitarian crises. In order for us to keep our privileges, wars are waged, people killed and the environment polluted. This has nothing to do with democratic intervention as the Western Powers have argued sometimes.
According to IPPNW, it’s proven that oil, gas, other resources and transport routes were the reasons for most of recent western wars. Human rights are just the official justification and used as an excuse [v]. However, economic interests are obvious and no secret. Germany’s Defence Policy reads: “Free trade routes and a secure raw material supply are essential for Germany’s and Europe’s future. That’s why trade route and energy safety and following questions will play a growing role for our safety” [vi]. It is out of question that those raw materials are fossils like oil, gas and coal. Problematic: These resources come from regions with little infrastructure and/or countries of the Global South.
Resources for everyone – Climate Justice now!
Wars – with their high consumption of fuel and energy – destroy the bases for life of people in the Global South in a twofold mode. Forced displacement of indigenous people, civil war, mass extinction, flight and hunger is accepted in order for us to secure our privileged way of living. The Global North reacts with walls and securing external borders. Instead of taking responsibility for the causes of flight, the military increases its arms. The neo-colonial exploitation of the Global South is not only a question of human rights, but also of climate politics.
In our opinion, the solution is a new justice of distribution which means an immediate switch to 100% renewable decentralised energies. Prosperity for all means overcoming the exploitative capitalist system logic. We demand the immediate end of all neo-colonial wars and the end of negotiations in Munich serving one-sided economic power interests. We are striving for a world where everybody has access to vital resources – without being dependent on states and corporations.
Come to Munich on the 14th of February and join the Climate Justice Block. Let us take a stand for just conditions worldwide!
Ende Gelände Munich
Ende Gelände Bamberg
There will come a time we shall rise
as the leaven dough does
the iron burden will brake
your mountains, like the heavy clouds, will disperse
the worlds will tremble and squeak.
Michalis Katsaros- Against Sadducees.
For everyone in the Exarchia neighborhood, the new permanent police presence in Exarchia has changed something in our daily lives. The only ones who remain intact in their business are the drug traffickers and the mafia, even if the repressive forces are a few meters away. Until now, those who have suffered are 150 refugees, women, children, infants and men. Therefore, it turns out that the offensive against the Exarchia neighborhood, according to the long-announced “Law and Order” policy, is simply vindictive and does not target the drug traffickers, as claimed by the new government.
The offensive against the neighborhood, escalating daily with its enclosure, the evictions of squats sheltering immigrants/refugees and solidarity structures, the unjustifiable arrests and abductions, the racist and sexist practices of the MAT anti-riot police units against transient residents and visitors alike, have the absolute goal to intimidate the residents and to establish a climate of terror. Everything is designed and executed according to a short term along with a long term goal:
• Terrorize the inhabitants,force them to abandon the neighborhood in order to carry out a grandiose lightning war operation against all the resistance strongholds, such as self-organized free social centers, where structures are housed that facilitate creation, culture and solidarity.
The broader plan is supported by the overall upgrading of the legal framework for repression, the creation of special arrest squads, the abolition of university sanctuary (asylum) which was established after the downfall of the dictatorship in 1974 and the restriction of labor rights and freedoms.
• The long-term goal is to “clean up” the “rubbish” from the neighborhood, and to force it bringing the gentrification and its surrender to real estate or the golden visa pile of airbnb tourism, to bury Exarchia and its history. At the end of the day the goal is that no one will remember this neighborhood of disobedience, solidarity, self-organization and culture. No one will remember that in our neighborhood as a practical resistance against the memoranda, emerged the first social wards, the solidarity kitchens, the hubs of culture, self-education and creativity, the self-organized playground and the Navarino park, etc.
No one will remember that in our neighborhood the desperate of our time found shelter, food, care and reclaimed their lost dignity.
We call on every resident, working person and friend of our neighborhood to participate, join and fight in a massive, unifying struggle against the escalation of oppression and the police-state that starts from Exarchia in order to expand against every person in society who strives for dignity and solidarity, treating him as a “criminal”, a “suspect”,or an “internal enemy”.
We all fight together : residents, employees, friends and collectives of Exarchia . We are taking part in the demonstration against repression
Saturday the 14th at 12.00 pm Propylaea, Athens.
Exarchia United Social Front against state oppression
Residents, employees and collectives
For further read the text from our comrades from Antiauthoritarian Movement:
On Your Guard !
State has its continuity in Violence, exclusion
and the politics of Death.
The government that represents the Greek Industrialists Association, the CEO’s of non-productive Companies, the wealth hustlers, the scavengers of a particular Balcan type; that government declares emphatically the doctrine of “Law and Order” along with the other one of “Zero Tolerance”. Having already scheduled the privatizations the actual neo- liberal economic planning is within its intentions. Already in the Ministry of Public Order the concentration of power and the Statist logic became apparent. Everything ! Prisons, Immigrants, political opponents, social movements, collectives are under the direct control of that Ministry (ex-Citizen’s Defense). As for the rest like the Secret Service, News Agencies, Mass Media, all are under the surveillance and control of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Deep Greek State is returning in its past looking towards the future while it imposes the modern Statist Totalitarianism through cruel managing and governing.
Just to make things absolutely crystal clear they placed Chrysochoidis at the head of the Ministry, the pure representative of the Deep State, the protector of greek capitalism, the one who created and organized the motorized assassins of the Greek Police, the same one who recruited and broadened the Police Repression.
Apart from Chrysochoidis who ensures the continuity of the State as an eternal model Minister of Public Order, also the managers of SYRIZA already performed their duty showing their Statist Autocracy and Oppression when the police invaded the Squats which gave Shelter and Hospitality to Immigrants in Nikis Avenue, Thessaloniki (something that we will never forget), the Squat Orphanage in the Touba area and in C. Deal Str. at dawn on Wednesday July 27th, 2016 ; as a result immigrants and people of the movement who supported showing their Solidarity, were arrested in mass.
Just recently by order of the same Ministry but from a right wing Government, everything leads us to understand that they are preparing to
evict the Squats Sheltering Immigrants, starting from the Symbol Squat of NOTARA 26. The Notara 26 Squat Sheltering Immigrants was the very first (since September 2015) Squat which gave Shelter and Hospitality to Immigrants and Refugees and at the same time it was a political proposal in the context of Solidarity by creating a free space and denying in practice the state of exclusion of the State and the status which was imposed on immigrants. It was during that time when hundreds of thousands crossed the Aegean Sea and the ones who managed to survive the waves faced not the Benevolent State but a whole Society which in majority was showing its Solidarity to the refugees of the Aegean.In those circumstances Notara 26 was created ; more than 9.000 men, women, children, invalids, LGBT’s found shelter in one refugee community while at the same time food and other products were equally distributed to the local “damned” population.
“ In that asphyxiating context we decided to Squat the abandoned building of ETEAM in Notara 26 Str. intending to create a space for our Solidarity towards the immigrants/refugees in order to take care of their immediate needs (shelter, health care and every other kind of support). That is not an action of Charity, private or public, but a self-organized solidarity venture where the activists and the refugees decide together. The open Assembly is the institution that decides and everyone can participate men, women or other without any exceptions.”
That was at the time and it is still, our commitment for that Squat and it holds us till that day responsible, so we will defend it with no concern for the cost.
The movement has also continuity in Resistance, Solidarity and self- organization.
Using as a pretext Exarchia and everything that happens in that neighborhood – some are a result of the capitalist nihilism of individualism and the rapture of social bonds – they are ready to attack against anything that refuses to accept that condition in order to reinforce the process of fragmenting every bond, every collective, imposing barbarity, the graveyard silence, the institutionalized privacy and socialization.
In other words according to their own declarations, they are
preparing an invasion against the Anti-Authoritarian Movement, it’s collectives, the Free Social Centers where it’s ideas are practiced. They are promising that by the end there will be nothing left standing. In essence they are searching for a pilot program of Suppression like a blitzkrieg against Society and Nature, against the social, political and individual rights.
Using the Universal being of liberalism, Profit, they are distributing to every Commercial Corporation
every right to transform public space in enclosed money-making districts, every piece of land for all kinds of mining and drilling, refusing at the same time the workers’ and social rights from the local and immigrant population ; thus enabling the investments, the economic growth of all the bloodthirsty tycoons and the robbery of the natural wealth, destroying every balance of the environment with the human population.
The Anti-Authoritarian Movement has already a vivid history of multi- level and multi shaped struggles. It is an always contemporary Movement, having its own political, social and cultural presence. A Movement with hundreds of political prisoners that defined the resistance movement against every Authority, against every government. This Movement which never abstained from any social protest, is placed once more in the epicenter of a new Suppression from the managers of Power. Today as never before it must – as we must – build a Barricade against the State Offensive.
We must uphold the Anti-Authoritarian Social Front of both the desire and the need to Resist and Fight Back. A Front open to Society, the working people and all those who are suffering from the gangster style capitalist barbarity.
A Front Everywhere to Resist against Suppression.
For the defense of Free Social Spaces
For Solidarity to Immigrants and Refugees
Resistance against the Ecological Destruction caused by mining and drilling
For the Defense of the University Asylum
For the Struggle against the Anti-Social Reforms and for the Working Peoples Rights.
ANTI-AUTHORITARIAN MOVEMENT ATHENS
It is never too late to join a movement: We call on all anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians to participate in the demonstrations, actions and strikes of the 20-27 September. The current climate movement is perhaps one of the best things that could happen to us – against the authoritarian formation everywhere and for a different future for all! Feel free to print and distribute this text, paint a banner with the slogan “Capitalism kills our future” or to reproduce our stickers. You will find the resources under the text.
There must be some kind of way outta here…
Bob Dylan, All along the watchtower
The headlines are flashing. Disaster reports of peat fires in the Arctic, the record speed melting polar ice caps and last but not least the alarming forest fires in the Amazon region, made possible by the racist and pro-capitalist policies of right-wing conservative Bolsonaro. The last example very impressively illustrates the two threats that are currently leading to a double course of events in our time: The planet is being destroyed and the new fascists are pushing for power.
Trump, Bolsonaro and Co. accordingly join the anti-climate alliance, which sees itself as an opposition and thus clearly stands behind the interest of capital. Even if Marie le Pen in her last speech stages herself as a “climate protector” and thus pursues a supposedly new strategy, she is in no way inferior to her male colleagues, “each for himself” is to survive and the blame for any misery is to be found in the other. Whether it is the local bio-bourgeoisie in the metropolis (which is opposed by the simple people of the diesel drivers), the “refugees” who flow to us and destroy our ecological values, or the overpopulation in the global South – whether national climate protection or homeland protection – they are both on one side of the same coin. On the other side is conservative-authoritarian climate denial. The combination of the two serves nothing but the interests of growth and isolation, ultimately capitalist exploitation.
Others anticipated the climate crisis earlier and turned it into a good – not only political – business. This refers to the green liberals who want to tame deregulated capitalism with a green face under the “Green Capitalism” brand. The moderate demands formulated in this context quickly reveal that the sacred principles of the market, hidden behind the “cloak of feasibility”, should not be touched in this process. But the contradiction between profit interest and ecological sustainability is always resolved within the system at the expense of the environment and ultimately mankind.
The climate crisis does not hit “us” all equally hard. Even now people are fleeing not only from war and hunger, but from the next climate catastrophe, in which women, by the way, have a 14 times higher chance of dying, in order to line up in the capitalist centres of the global North behind the marginalised of deindustrialisation. Perfidiously, the industrial nations of the global North – whether right-wing or neoliberal – have caused climate change, but they will be the least affected. An apocalyptic existentialism – i.e. putting the naked survival of the species in the foreground – deliberately overlooks precisely this fact. According to the elite, it should be important that enough people should abstain – or that in the end the “right people” survive in Noah’s Ark. The change of strategy in the right-wing camp indicates that the problem should not be denied, but that an alleged “overpopulation” in the global South is to blame. The latter doesn’t exist because it’s not about how many people live on the planet, but how their needs are met and their coexistence organized.
So what should we do? Buy enough air conditioners for the whole world? Raise protective walls from endangered coastal cities? Or how many billionaires in Silicon Valley dream of emigrating into space? All these solutions will hardly be possible – except for the rich who want to expand their precious life horizon in the short term. The most useful project for a society that wants to survive is another new deal: the social, system-critical and feasible one. In this sense: smash CARpitalism, fight the fascists and show an undead system how to die. And above all, join the wonderful climate movements everywhere!
On 20th and 27th September we will meet at the Beyond Europe banners!
Banner to paint:
Banner for social media:
Report on the difficult and controversial situation on the island Lesvos by Giannis K., member of Lesvos NGO Employees Base Assembly. First published by our friends from Babylonia magazine and translated and edited by Kostas Savvopoulos for Beyond Europe.
The events that took place
On Monday at midday, some information leaked that the transporting ship Pegasus was commandeered and filled with 10 police units, water cannon vehicles and bulldozers, while at the same time the ship Blue Star Naxos changed its course and was also filled with police units and vehicles. Both of these ships shut off their transmitter (the thing that pinpoints their position in the National Navigation System) so that they can be untraceable on marinetraffic.com. Upon hearing those news the two municipalities of Lesvos shut down the ports of Mytilene with dumpster trucks and other heavy vehicles and at 23.00 that same night a gathering was initiated by SYRIZA, KKE and municipal and political forces from all over the political spectrum. In the beginning there was an uncomfortable aura between the gathered people, because the people that were participating there were complete strangers to each other but at the same time some were known political enemies in an especially polarized situation due to the latest events in the city. The gathered crowd surrounded the port and started to threaten the local Riot Police squads. Half an hour before the arrival of the ship the police attacked with teargas and after that there was a clear spatial differentiation among the gathered: KKE, Syriza and people from various antifascist groups on one side and nationalists along with conservatives and “angry locals” on the other side. Among those there are also a lot of people who refused to “pick sides”. Upon the arrival of the ship the police attacked anew, clearing the way for the units that had just arrived. The Riot Police arrived at the position of Kavakles which is supposed to be where the new closed detention center will be built and clashed with the protesters (1500 people).
The Administration of North Aegean shut down its offices and the Working Center of Lesvos supported the general strike. The people of Lesvos called for two gatherings to the streets that lead up to the newly closed areas, in the positions of Karavas and the Diavolorema. At the same time the Communist Party (KKE) held a demonstration in the city. At noon two new strikes were called by the local Administration, KKE and the antifascist collectives to the roads towards the position of Karavas. During that time thousands of people gathered and clashed with the police. Numerous of smaller groups clashed with the police in the wood areas in smaller skirmishes. As soon as night fell the police launched a full on assault and broke the demonstrations. At the same in Diavolorema people performed a sit in which in turn was broken off by teargas attacks and turned out into a full out confrontation with the riot police for a few hours.
The morning of Wednesday all of Mytilene’s shops and services are closed. A big pansocial gathering is taking place in Sapfous Square with the participation of 3.000 people and is followed by a demonstration in the General Offices Of Northern Aegean and after that to the creation of massive convoys to strategic parts of the island. In the location of Perama in Geras a big group of people march towards a hotel that was hosting out of service riot cops, ransack and trash the rooms of the cops and then proceed to burn all of the police’s personal belongings (clothes, equipment etc) in a similar fashion of what had transpired in the island of Chios earlier that day. In Diavolorema and in Karavas the violent countermeasures of the protesters are upgraded with attempted arson attacks, while the police unsuccessfully try to cut off the protesters. In Karavas the riot police fall back and people start to make way so that they can retreat back to Mytilene. Convoys of cars follow the cops and are attacked by them outside the city. Police then proceed to attack every single car, motorbike and generally everyone in the convoys.
People gather outside of the military camps in Kyriazi, in the Pagani Location, where some riot police squads were spending the night there (after the hotel situations). In a very short time a big gathering of people arrive at the military camp and threaten to tear down the gates and enter the military camps. The head of the Lesvos Administration arrives at the military camp to negotiate the safety of the riot cops. At the same time 6 riot squads attack the gathered crowd and attempt to break through it. The crowd in response starts shooting at the police with hunting rifles ( there are information about 50 injured cops) The Prime Minister calls upon the Head of the Administration and the local mayors for a meeting and the press confidant of New Democracy states that the target had been secured, that is to say that the machines that were going to create the new closed detention centers were safe and in position, so the police that had arrived in the island would be called back.
The class and social composition of the crowds
The people that participate in these gatherings is literally everyone in the island, teachers and workers (foreign and greeks) in NGOs. The politically organized groups that exist in Mytilene and participated are the local rulling municipal party, KKE, Syriza, the nationalist alt right “Free Citizens” and the Antifascist Coordination of Binio ( a squat where various leftists and anarchists gather). Depending on the place, local authorities and civil groups from various villages support the blockades with a mix of nationalism- anti-political and anti cop sentiments. KKE has a very strong presence inside Mytilene and isn’t hostile towards the forces that are in the left of it (leftists, anarchists, etc) while it also has a hegemonic position in various blockades. Among the gathered crowds there also a lot of people who are difficult to place inside the political spectrum and this gives off a constant feeling of political and social fluidity and awkwardness. During the first hours of the Monday gatherings there was a lot of enmity between the gathered, concerning who was who, who participated where and there were also some instances of hostility between nationalist and antifascists. While the gathering continued there were some reactions as to what people were yelling, when one side (the antifascists) were yelling solidarity chants with the refugees. The national anthem is something you might come across as well in the blockades, while also some anti-turkish and racist chants especially in the areas where the villages are traditionally right wing. On the other hand near the blockades who are in the locations of traditionally left wing villages you can hear anti-racist and refugee solidarity chants. In some cases the gathered are split in a spatial way which makes it easier to tell who is who. In other cases it isn’t and it really reminds us of the Squares era (2011) or in some cases the struggles in Keratea and Skouries. However, no matter which place you are in, everybody is hating on the police, and that anti cop sentiment is something that is creating bridges instead of tearing them down.
Some last thoughts
• The images in Mytilene are images from the future, a future that does not fit into the political identities of today and still hasn’t given birth to the political identities of tomorrow. Just like in the Yellow Vests, we are doomed to support and participate in the most distinguished way in these events even though we don’t like that our adversaries are also participating in them. Whoever doesn’t participate in these events will lose every bit of social justification in the eyes of the people.
• There are sides to this issue which are just the thing for the various alt right and nationalist groups because this just goes one step further from the traditional leftist-antiauthoritarian critique (open borders, freedom of movement) talking about closed borders, deportations, and islamists. There are all very charming points to the average “angry local”. On the other hand there are issues with which we are more comfortable and able, such as the corrupt local and state officials and police repression.
• The political “time” is insurrectionary: very dence and every instance counts. It is a duty of the various movements to support without fear the struggle of the locals against the detention centers. The radicals of Lesvos are giving their own battle each day, with their own strengths and weaknesses. On one hand it has a lot of experience from struggles of previous years and a strong climate of cooperation. On the other hand, just now it seems that the initial numbing from the SYRIZA era is going away, while at the same time actually connecting with the locals has proven troublesome because most the people in the movement are not locals. Through the participation the blockades this provides us a solid opportunity to unite with the local youth and create seeds.
• It seems that this political issue will be polarized on a different basis, the basis of either creating detention centers in small uninhabited islands or the defeat of the ruling party and the defeat of the concept of closed detention centers. This inner right wing competition has also to do with the imminent rise of the alt right, species of which we have seen inside New Democracy and Golden Dawn. These specimen can grow in these islands, so far more intensely in Chios while less so in Mytilene. In a moment where the aggressive tactics of the government keeps finding spaces to grow, inertia is not a choice.
More than ever we need: open borders, freedom of movement and a whole different world
Barbarism has reached Europe. No, when we speak of barbarism, we are certainly not referring to the thousands of vulnerable people looking for shelter, who have made it out of the Middle East hell – the global playing field for imperialists of all stripes – and are now at Europe’s gates to the next hell. By barbarism we mean those who are making Europe into hell in the first place. These include the mob of right-wing extremists and “concerned citizens” on Lesbos and in Evros, who go on manhunts and give a damned concrete taste of what fascism looks like. These include their brothers and sisters in faith from all over Europe and the world, in huts or skyscrapers, who tell us that an impossible, bloody journey into the past is the solution to all problems and who, in return, go over mountains of corpses and leave a scorched earth behind. These include Frontex, police, border guards and other disgusting authorities who seemingly rationalize the same project with a devious (neo-)liberal attitude. Last but not least, there is this EU, which has never solved this very situation with its foul Erdogan deal, rather only postponed it for a few years and has been in a stranglehold by the Turkish dictator for years. After all, laws had to be passed, election campaigns had to be won and power had to be secured on the old continent. Congratulations, Europe, at the very latest now you have home-grown barbarism in action and images that many thought impossible.
The demand for open borders, for freedom of movement and finally for a different world – based on the principles of equality, priority of human needs on a global scale, peace, sustainability and ecology – are no longer radical, abstract demands. For a long time they were dismissed, with a benevolent “This is a fine description of the conditions for a utopian world yet far away”. This made it difficult for the people with these demands to have an impact on the breadth and depth of the issue, since the right-wing nightmare of fortress, shooting order, militarization, military build-up and authoritarian escalation against “globalism” was so damned concrete in its murderous intent. The pictures of Lesbos and Evros now make our demands and a world for open borders, freedom of movement and this very different world based on the above mentioned principles as damn concrete as necessary. And you know what? That this is not “radical enough” for some people doesn’t interest us at all. Come on out of your bubble. Because it is right, so damn right, to demand exactly that and to answer the question “Which side are you on” clearly. By the way, the answer is not “a new 2015” and thus the miserable attempt from the left to occupy this historic breach in the dam for right-wing extremists and right-wing populists all over the place. In case you forgot: after 2015, a very short of phase of welcoming and solidarity, came the AfD, came Bolsonaro, came Trump and so on. And they came to stay. The answer is: get your hands dirty in the here and now, break open traditions that are far removed from reality, and off into the turmoil – for the future for all and against barbarism.
So this is a call for action to our friends, those who dont fall in the neutrality trap and choose to pick a side!
Let’s show to all migrants and refugees that they are not alone and practice solidarity , instead of seeing them as the state sees them, instruments in geopolitical games. Let us all organise actions in our cities and put pressure on the EU to open the borders. The start has already been made in the past week, let us continue!
We, as Beyond Europe, will support our friends in the antifascist demonstration on Saturday on Lesbos also and try to make a media coverage of the situation on the island.
CANCEL THE EU-TURKEY-NATO DEAL NOW!
EUROPE OPEN THE FUCKING BORDERS!
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!
WE HAVE ENOUGH SPACE!
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR EVERYONE!
Beyond Europe, March 2020
Übersetzung des Aufrufs Evros and Lesbos – the postponed catastrophe – Call for solidarity
Für offene Grenzen, Bewegungsfreiheit und eine ganz andere Welt
Die Barbarei ist in Europa angekommen. Nein, wenn wir von Barbarei sprechen, meinen wir sicherlich nicht die Tausenden von schutzsuchenden Geflüchteten, die es aus der Hölle des Nahen Ostens – dem globalen Spielfeld für Imperialisten aller Couleur – heraus geschafft haben und nun vor den Toren Europas vor der nächsten Hölle stehen. Mit Barbarei meinen wir diejenigen, die Europa überhaupt erst zur Hölle machen. Dazu gehört der Mob aus FaschistInnen und “besorgten Bürgern” in Lesbos, die auf Menschenjagd gehen und einen verdammt konkreten Vorgeschmack darauf geben, wie der Faschismus aussieht. Dazu gehören ihre Glaubensbrüder und -schwestern aus ganz Europa und der Welt, in Hütten und Wolkenkratzern, die uns weismachen möchten, dass eine unmögliche, blutige Reise in die Vergangenheit die Lösung aller Probleme sei und dafür über Berge von Leichen gehen und eine verbrannte Erde hinterlassen. Dazu gehören Frontex, Polizei, Grenzschutz und andere widerliche Behörden, die mit einer heuchlerischen (neo-)liberalen Haltung dasselbe Projekt rationalisieren. Und nicht zuletzt gibt es diese EU, die mit ihrem faulen Erdogan-Deal genau diese Situation nie gelöst hat, sondern sie nur um einige Jahre verschoben hat und seit Jahren im Würgegriff des türkischen Diktators steht. Schließlich mussten Gesetze verabschiedet, Wahlkämpfe gewonnen und die Macht auf dem alten Kontinent gesichert werden. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Europa, spätestens jetzt hast Du eine hausgemachte Barbarei in Aktion und Bilder, die viele für unmöglich gehalten haben.
Die Forderung nach offenen Grenzen, nach Bewegungsfreiheit und schließlich nach einer ganz anderen Welt – basierend auf den Prinzipien der Gleichheit, der Priorität der menschlichen Bedürfnisse im globalen Maßstab, des Friedens, der Nachhaltigkeit und der Ökologie – sind keine radikalen, abstrakten Forderungen mehr. Lange Zeit wurden sie mit einem wohlwollenden “Dies ist eine schöne Beschreibung der Bedingungen für eine utopische Welt, die noch weit entfernt ist”, abgetan. Das machte es den Menschen mit diesen Forderungen schwer, in dieser Frage langfristig einzuwirken, da der rechte Albtraum von Festung, Schießbefehl, Militarisierung und autoritärer Eskalation gegen den “Globalismus” in seiner mörderischen Absicht so verdammt konkret war. Die Bilder von Lesbos machen nun unsere Forderungen und eine Welt für offene Grenzen, Bewegungsfreiheit und diese ganz andere Welt, die auf den oben genannten Prinzipien basiert, so verdammt konkret wie nötig. Und wisst ihr was? Dass dies für manche nicht “radikal genug” ist, interessiert uns überhaupt nicht. Kommt raus aus eurer Blase. Denn es ist richtig, so verdammt richtig, genau das zu fordern und die Frage “Which side are you on” klar zu beantworten. Übrigens ist die Antwort nicht “ein neues 2015” und damit der klägliche Versuch von links, diesen historischen Dammbruch für Rechtsextreme und Rechtspopulisten allerorten zu besetzen. Falls es schon wieder vergessen wurde: Nach 2015, einer sehr kurzen Phase der Begrüßung und Solidarität, kam die AfD, kam Bolsonaro, kam Trump und so weiter. Und sie kamen, um zu bleiben. Die Antwort lautet: Machen wir uns die Hände schmutzig im Hier und Jetzt, brechen wir mit realitätsfernen Traditionen auf und ab ins Getümmel – für die Zukunft für alle und gegen die Barbarei.
Dies ist also ein Aufruf zum Handeln an unsere Freund*innen, an diejenigen, die nicht in die Neutralitätsfalle tappen und sich für eine Seite entscheiden!
Zeigen wir allen Migrant*innen und Geflüchteten, dass sie nicht allein sind und zeigt praktische Solidarität. Snstatt sie so zu sehen, wie der Staat sie sieht, als Instrumente in geopolitischen Spielen. Lasst uns alle Aktionen in unseren Städten organisieren und Druck auf die EU ausüben, damit sie die Grenzen öffnet. Der Anfang ist bereits in der vergangenen Woche gemacht worden, machen wir weiter!
Wir werden als “Beyond Europe” unsere Freunde bei der antifaschistischen Demonstration am Samstag auch auf Lesbos unterstützen und versuchen, eine Medienberichterstattung über die Situation auf der Insel zu machen.
KÜNDIGT DEN DRECKIGEN EU-TÜRKEI-NATO-ABKOMMEN!
EUROPA – ÖFFNET DIE VERDAMMTEN GRENZEN!
NIEMAND IST ILLEGAL!
WIR HABEN GENUG PLATZ!
BEWEGUNGSFREIHEIT FÜR ALLE!
In the next days we will share with you some texts about the Corona crisis that are circulating in our networks and among our friends in different countries. The following text by Al Mikey and Julia H was published on the website of Plan C. Stay tuned and healthy.
We are in the midst of a surreal time. Everything is changing fast in a way that many of us feared but hoped we would not experience. As we enter into a stage of mass social distancing and the crisis deepens, we must not let it scare us into political self-isolation. With economies already shutting down and stock markets nose diving, the proximity and scale of its impacts is so far unprecedented: millions of deaths, mass unemployment, and societal breakdown on a global scale.
Exceptional times require exceptional demands – demands which are becoming common sense to wider layers of society. We are in this with millions of others that are facing the loss of loved ones. If there is ever time to push for what we need, it is now.
“…the exception we are living in is far from removing politics from social life. It is not the reign of science or cops. It is, in fact, also the space in which very radical propositions can become part of common sense.” DinamoPress, an autonomous media outlet in Rome, wrote last week.
These radical propositions or Pandemic Demands are being made across movements to ask for an expansion of rights to help us to confront this pandemic. Plan C published our first list of Pandemic Demands on Friday including rent suspension to guaranteed basic Income, seizure of private clinics, the right to self-isolate with no fear of economic repercussions. Our weakened social services, welfare and rights are straining to support our capacity to sustain our lives, after being decimated by austerity and 40 years of neoliberalism. Our already precarious lives have meant that even small shocks in our pay cycles or universal credit payments, can lead us to destitution.
To survive coronavirus we need to look at creating new commons through the expropriation of private assets, including private hospitals and hotels without financial compensation. If we cannot work due to the public health risks posed by coronavirus, then regardless of the law enshrined in employment contracts we must have money to live without work. If we cannot pay our rent or mortgages then regardless of our tenancy or mortgage agreements we should stop paying.
We have already seen workers in Italy going on wildcat strikes against the fact that the government required them to continue working in factories, while it ordered shut-downs and self-quarantine for the rest of the country. What this pandemic has exposed is the inter-dependencies of the complex networks of production and reproduction, of care networks and public services on which our lives depend, and the inherently violent class structures that govern them. Our awareness of our own power, a class conscious power, is crucial in how we can act against a system that would rather keep the economy going than protect lives.
Form mutual groups
We have all seen photos of empty shelves and individual stockpiling. The media wants us to criticise those that do, portraying it as mobs of working class people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitisers. In reality this is rational behaviour by the terms set by an irrationally organised system around individualism and survival. It is based on concerns of how we are going to feed ourselves and our families under this socioeconomic system. One that has spent the last ten years destroying our social health care systems, attacking workers rights and pushing millions into food banks, and has caused catastrophic climate change.
In contrast to the media scare stories, another mass movement has been growing. In the past 48 hours across the UK, over 500 new mutual aid groups have been set-up to take action against the pandemic. These mutual aid groups have been set-up to ensure no one is left behind, that those who are self-isolating can call upon others to help them. Primarily using Facebook and Whatsapp Groups to coordinate, from a ward to constituency level, hundreds of people across the country are informing their neighbours of the new initiative.
Keeping it political
Boris Johnson has called for communities to protect each other and ‘think of their neighbours’. This echoes similar previous attempts by the State to use our ‘free’ labour to fill the holes left by Tory austerity. For example, the failed Big Society approach of David Cameron looked upon millions of us, who regularly volunteer and help others, to run previously funded services.
We must resist attempts to recuperate this movement into the liberal ideas of ‘good citizens’, self-help activism and charity. This is a political response to the inadequacy of the government and mistrust of their handling of the situation. To do so, we must continue to politicise what we are doing within these groups and why. This is vitally important as depoliticisation can lead to reactionary forms of civic responsibility. For example, after the 2011 London riots hundreds of people in South London took to cleaning up the streets as a ‘show of strength against rioters’. This failed to acknowledge the desperation of the youth that led to the riots, and the violent systemic inequalities and dynamics that underpin them. We can foresee similar tensions arising as this movement faces greater challenges and the role of police, state and business are further put into question and what may seem as ‘mutual aid’ may turn into proxies enforcing coercive state decrees.
In summary, we must not underestimate the moment we are in and what is fundamentally required to face this pandemic is a communisation of society to provide for our needs. For the owners of capital and the politicians in government, this potential scares them as much as COVID-19. For the rest of us, it is about our survival in the face of accelerating hardships and disease.
For people in UK: Join your local mutual aid group: https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups/
Part two in our Corona series. The following declaration in favour of mutual aid is from Antiauthoritarian Movement Athens.
The coronavirus epidemic appeared and defined the planet in fear and anxiety, anchored people in pessimism and created a strange shadow over our cities. The epidemic is real and dangerous, as is the political and environmental context in which was born and developed in a catastrophic rate. It goes without saying that the nature of the pandemic and the speed of its expansion to every corner of the globe, puts pressure on state management, destroys current sovereign ideologies, and illuminates political issues that we did not pay attention to.
An unpredictable factor sets limits to the neoliberal ideological obsession of competitiveness and profitability. It has stopped the fantasy that the chaos of private interests can work without complications. Society is now called upon to act collectively and to be protected through its collective action. The sense of responsibility for our neighbor and self-restraint is not social distancing. Social distancing is to live in a world of competition and of individual spheres moving irregularly against one another.
It’s time for mutual help
We have no doubt that the state will use today’s crisis , to legislate and to administer the issue of public health, fiscal policy and policing, the new discipline that the population must adopt to move forward. From the crisis management, as well as the one that comes the next day, some of us will be excluded. The pandemic and its after effects are not the same for everyone, state policies do not include everyone in the same ways and they do not require the same sacrifices from everyone. Our fellow citizens with financial disabilities, drug addicts and detained refugees in the Greek islands, are facing and will face, not the side of the state that tries to effectively manage a crisis, but its core dimension, the nucleus of the state , which makes it “the coldest of all monsters. ”
We are at the beginning of a general epidemic and we are all called upon individually and collectively to tackle it. The most effective way, as has historically been documented, is to increase the burden of social conscience and to re-create the ties that have destroyed from negative individualisation and capitalist barbarism. The tried and tested method, which unfortunately we gave up for a temporary bliss, is mutual help and reciprocity.
Society is not founded on love and compassion, but on mutual help and there it owes its evolution.
Morality of mutual aid is the active attitude towards each other and others.
The two pillars of mutual aid: “Do to others what you would like them to do on you on a similiar case-basis” and “Sow life around you”. These pillars mean: protect and help each other, because if the other is saved there is hope and perspective.
These values we intend to apply in these difficult times to society:
1. On the side of the frontline hospital staff of doctors and nurses.
2. Every social center and every squat should change into a place of mutual aid.
3. Every social space should have up-to-date, open, reliable and documented informations
4. Create groups to help people that are excluded at home
5. Solidarity with those in a difficult financial situation.
P.S. Peter Kropotkin
Right after URA gave the following interview, the greek vice Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management announced the following restriction measurements concerning Moria Camp due to the COVID-19 situation: 1) Only one member per family will get a daily permit to leave the camp and go to the nearest town for buying necessary goods 2) Exiting and entering the camp will be allowed only from 7am to 7pm. 3) There will be public busses leaving every hour. 4)All the measures will be controlled by the police. 5) All NGOS will not be allowed into the camp for two weeks. In addition to all these fences will be erected around migrants camps and special medical centres will be created inside.
What we understand is that these inhuman camps, these open air prisons, instead of being evacuated are being set in quarantine. We must show #coronasolidarity to all humans imprisoned in Moria and all the other camps on the islands. #staythefuckhome does not apply for them, since „home“ means in this case what the people themselves call „jungle“: 20.000-28.000 people in a camp that has a capacity of 3.000, no water for bath and toilet the last three days and a handful of doctors to take care of them. These are the ideal circumstances for the virus to spread and the MSF stated it will be impossible to contain the epidemic once it spreads.
You know who to blame for putting at risk all these lives: the EU and its migration policies, which we still have to find ways to fight also in this new situation for everybody. We do not believe a word from the promises of the greek state and the EU to create a more human situation in Moria. One picture of the camp will persuade everybody that not a cent from all these millions was invested there, but only into the militarisation of the EU borders.
This is why we demand the immediate evacuation of the Moria prison and the transfer of the asylum seekers to a place of safety.
* * *
Two days ago there was a fire in the detention camp Moria on Greece’s island of Lesbos. At least one person was killed. We spoke with activists of URA Dresden, who are currently on site, to get an impression of the situation in and around the camp, the cooperation with the local population and necessary next political consequences.
You are currently on Lesbos: When did you arrive and what are the reasons?
We are a small delegation of antifascists. The last disasters at the external border of the EU with Turkey did not leave us cold. The blackmail attempts of Erdoğan and the isolation policy of the EU dehumanize people seeking protection and make them the plaything of a policy, which will only cause more war, chaos and further flight movements. Especially on Lesbos, the coverage of the last five years has been rather poor. In retrospect, neither the situation in Moria nor on the other islands has improved fundamentally. Politically, there is a lack of will – not only on the part of the Greek government, but also in the rich countries of Europe. Even the decision by seven EU states to admit 1,600 children sounds like a bad joke and has so far been nothing more than hot air. After the attacks by local fascists and parts of the villagers, many journalists have disappeared again. Corona makes the information situation even more precarious, so we are exactly at the right place at the right time. Last but not least we have to stress that we want to promote an exchange with local antifascist structures. How does the local movement react in such exceptional situations. We know a similar situation in Germany. We still remember the events in Heidenau well.
At the moment the Corona crisis seems to overlay everything. The situation in the Turkish-Greek border area is hardly present any more. What is the situation on the ground?
Of course Corona plays a major role here too. Even if there is only one confirmed case on the island of Lesbos so far, it is harder to get an idea of the current situation in the camp from newspapers and timelines in times of pandemic reporting. But the camp and the situation in Moria play at least locally a role and every now and then an article makes it into the German speaking media. In general there is a great fear of the corona outbreak in the camp. The danger that the disease will be brought into the camp from outside is higher than that the people who are there have brought the disease with them, as racists like to claim.
There was already an appeal from Médecins sans Frontières last week to finally do something to improve the disastrous hygienic and medical conditions. The sewage, for example, is provisionally drained off in the so-called jungle via small hand-dug channels right across the entire camp. Furthermore, there are no isolation possibilities, no special treatment of high-risk patients, and no testing. There are an estimated 20,000 to 28,000 camp inmates, but only a handful of doctors. Much of the basic care is currently provided by volunteers and NGOs. For political reasons, for example, MSF has withdrawn from inside the camp and is now providing care outside the camp. SOS Children’s Villages has since ceased its work due to harassment by Greek authorities. Grassroots structures, such as the No Border Kitchen, are also wondering what to do now. The situation can change from day to day.
Yesterday we received reports of a fire in camp Moria, in which, according to current information, at least one child is said to have died. What tasks does the camp face after the fire?
Yes, there was a big fire and we were also on site. At that time the fire was finally extinguished. The cops tried to close off the entrances to the inner area of the camp, there were reports of arrests of journalists and in fact we could not see any of them inside. We talked to residents inside the camp. They told us that the camp administration and the police reacted much too late and that the fire probably burned for up to two hours. There is at least one dead child and camp residents inside are talking about another one. However, we do not know for sure, as yesterday there was also talk of five dead people for a short time.
If you ask what to do now: Well, you could build emergency routes and water connections and paint the walls a nice pink, but that won’t help. The infrastructural tasks alone, which the camp would face, are simply not up to the task, especially since they are the same problems as before the fire. We believe your question has to be answered on a political level: The existence of this camp is inhuman and it is illusory that something can be changed for 23.000 people in such a small space and on this island. The idea of the camps itself is inhuman and always linked to the politics of sorting and sealing off. Everyday life for the people there is hell, marked by misery, scarcity and massive violence by the police and, at night, often among themselves. We say that the camp must be shut down immediately and the people brought to the rich EU states. To us, there is no way around a full evacuation.
Again and again we receive information about attacks by Nazis on refugees, their institutions, journalists and NGOs. How do you see the situation on the ground?
The situation is very challenging to assess, because the information situation is difficult. Activists on the ground have started to compile a chronology of attacks, but many attacks on refugees often go unnoticed. We know that since October 2019 there have been frequent actions by organised right-wing groups. Very regularly there are road blockades and patrols. Thus, at least once the food transport to the camp was sealed off. And often this is an attempt to prevent journalists and NGO workers from entering the camp. But we have also heard about physical attacks and damage to property by fascists. So it is very likely that the fire of the non-state school and supply centre “One Happy Family” was set by these people. One notices that there is no intervention of the security forces. On the contrary, even the local press reports that they are directly involved in the actions against the camp, as are local politicians. In Lesbos, too, the shift to the right seems to bring to light what has long been a part of society’s attitude. This is also noticeable in the parliaments: With the “Free Citizens” (Eleftheri Politis) an explicitly racist party sits in the village parliaments and has won twelve seats in the regional parliaments of the southern Aegean. Subjectively, our experience so far was that we have felt animosity, especially after the two anti-fascist demonstrations on March 14. Nevertheless, we would feel more uncomfortable in some parts of Saxony than walking through the streets here in the evening hours.
Are there possibilities for antifascist counter-activities?
Sure, there are always and everywhere! For example, research work has worked well here so far. Especially as far as fascists from abroad are concerned, it has been possible to counteract them, as was shown by the example of the German IB’s (Identitarian Movement) or the Irish fascist Grand Torino. This led to the fact that these people now do not dare to come into public so easily and hopefully discourages others from coming here. That is why this is also an important field of anti-fascist work, which can be supported very well without being here.
Apart from that there are of course the usual activities like graffiti and antifascist demonstrations. However, we know a problem of the local antifa movement also from home. Especially in the rural areas, but also here in the capital of the island, the mostly young activists are not regarded as locals. Family ties still play a very strong role in the province. There it is not so much about a political attitude, but about personal conflicts. In addition, many of the villagers are armed and would also use these weapons, as could be observed in the recent uprisings against the newly planned closed camps. We have also heard from refugees that they protect each other and that this is of course an issue with them. Even the term antifa is familiar to many and has positive connotations. It is therefore a pity that we have not seen an organized joint struggle between Refugees and Antifa so far. In general, it will unfortunately be difficult for the local anti-fascist scene to reverse the political discourse on the island, because the right-wingers with their blockades and their anti-NGO attitude have found socially accepted forms of action and the antifascists now have to find an answer to this without getting stuck on the defensive.
What is the cooperation with NGOs and the inhabitants of the island?
Some of our local contacts work in the NGOs. The relationship is generally divided. There are residents who say that the NGOs would not improve the situation. It sounds to us like the accusation of misery administration. Of course many people on the island are frustrated and feel left alone. You always have to look at the whole situation against the background of a German-European austerity dictate for years. But none of this is an excuse for racist attacks. Nor is it an excuse for declaring NGO employees the target of violence.
On the other hand, there is of course also an emancipatory criticism of NGOs. But this is very constructive. On the one hand, there is internal networking of NGO workers, for example about working conditions within the NGO. The working conditions can also be harshly exploitative, fixed-term contracts, worse wages for Greek workers compared to Central Europeans. This network has fallen somewhat asleep due to current events. But people are now active on other levels, for example in organising demonstrations. On the other hand, there are also numerous solidarity projects on the ground, which do not necessarily have to have an NGO character. But in between there are often mixed forms. In the long term, however, we believe that we cannot avoid fighting together. With all the shitty things that the local people have to go through here, however, we have to look very carefully to see whether tourism has really collapsed and whether it is really due to the refugees that this is so. Yesterday we got figures on this, which we will have to look at first, if we can find a quiet minute here at all.
There is also a kind of NGO business from which many people on the island benefit. Taxis are used more, hotel rooms are rented out to NGOs, shops make better sales or have restructured their range of products to a cheaper price range in order to meet the demand of the refugees. We still have to talk to people a lot to be able to make really well-founded statements. It is important for us to demystify all the statements and to obtain reliable facts.
It is not possible for all activists to provide practical support on the ground. What do you think is a meaningful help for the people on Lesbos that we can also provide from elsewhere?
The most sensible thing would be if people in the rich countries of Europe would organize themselves and put massive pressure on these countries to finally accept people from the camps who are looking for protection. That will not be easy, because there are hardly any people among them who have not suffered trauma and health problems. But any person who still thinks that the European idea of human rights is more than just a hollow phrase should act decisively now.
Corona does not, of course, make things any easier now, but it may be an opportunity to point out the urgency of an evacuation. It is important that not only left-wing or anti-racist scenes are mobilised, but also broad sections of society. In our opinion, the people in this camp uphold human dignity and basic human and fundamental rights against Europe. We should take an example from them. For, in addition to the terrible things that happen in such a camp – after all, it is a situation of coercion in which people are trapped – there is also massive solidarity, openness and friendliness. People from the camp always welcomed us openly and friendly and helped us to avoid police barriers, for example, so that we could report and be eyewitnesses.
But also for those who just want to donate: We will try to find projects worthy of support in the next few days. But once again: The western left must finally learn to fight again, to address broader sections of the population and thereby build up pressure. Something has to happen now. We believe that this will bring more than a Solidarity party in the local Autonomous Center for a school project here. Because only this pressure can change the political situation. You have to keep in mind that conditions like in Moria take place on European soil and not in a civil war country. People who do not want to change this are complicit in every death, every victim of rape and violence in this camp. In Moria alone there are 8 000 children and young people whose future is being systematically destroyed by current policies.
Can you estimate how the next months will develop on the ground, what dangers do you see? Are there perhaps also opportunities that could develop from the situation?
That is a difficult question. We still have too little insight into the local situation. The fire has shown that things can always change or intensify spontaneously. It is important that local antifascist structures find answers to actions of organized Nazis. The time of a balance of power seems to be over and so there must be pro-active approaches on the part of the antifascists. But we don’t want to go too far, but rather talk even more to local people to understand the situation better.
Silence, dear humans, all of your ridiculous calls to war. Lower the looks of revenge you throw at me. Turn off the halo of terror that surrounds my name. We, viruses, from the bacterial background of the world, are the true continuum of life on Earth. Without us, you would never have seen the light of day, nor would the first cell.
We are your ancestors, just like stones and algae, and much more than monkeys. We are everywhere you are and where you are not too. Too bad for you, if you only see in the universe what is your likeness! But above all, stop saying that I’m the one killing you. You do not die from my action on your tissues, but from the lack of care for your fellows. If you weren’t as rapacious among yourselves as you were with everything that lives on this planet, you would still have enough beds, nurses and respirators to survive the damage I do to your lungs. If you did not store your old people in dying rooms and your able-bodied people in reinforced concrete hutches, you would not be where you are now. If you had not changed all that is, and what was still yesterday a luxuriant, chaotic, infinitely populated world or rather worlds, into a vast desert for the monoculture of the Same and the More, I would not have been able to set out on the planetary conquest of your throats. If almost all of you had not become, over the last century, redundant copies of a single, untenable form of life, you would not be preparing to die like flies abandoned in the water of your sweet civilization. If you hadn’t made your environment so empty, so transparent, so abstract, believe me that I wouldn’t be moving at the speed of an aircraft. I have only come to carry out the sanction which you have long since pronounced against yourselves. Forgive me, but it is you, as far as I know, who coined the name “Anthropocene”. You have claimed all the honor of the disaster; now that it is being realised, it is too late to give it up. The most honest among you know this well: I have no other accomplice than your social organisation, your madness for the “grand scale” and its economy, your fanaticism for systems. Only systems are “vulnerable”. The rest lives and dies. There is only “vulnerability” for those who aim at control, at its extension and its improvement. Look at me carefully: I am only the reverse of the reigning Death.
So stop blaming me, accusing me, tracking me down. Stop being stunned before me. All of this is childish. I propose a change in your perspective: there is an intelligence immanence to life. There is no need to be a subject to have a memory or a strategy. There is no need to be sovereign to decide. Bacteria and viruses can also make it rain and shine. So see me as your savior rather than your gravedigger. Feel free not to believe me, but I came to shut down the machine for which you could not find the emergency brake. I came to suspend the operation of which you were the hostages. I came to demonstrate the aberration of “normality”. “Delegating our food, our protection, our ability to take care of our living environment to others was madness”… “There is no budgetary limit, health has no price”: see how I twist the language and the spirit of your governors! See how I bring them back to their real rank of miserable racketeers, and arrogant at that! See how suddenly they denounce themselves not only as superfluous, but as harmful! You are for them only the supports of the reproduction of their system, even less than slaves. Even plankton is treated better than you are.
Be careful, however, not to overwhelm them with reproaches, to incriminate them for their shortcomings. To accuse them of carelessness is to lend them more than they deserve. Ask yourself, how did you find it so comfortable to let yourself be governed? To praise the merits of the Chinese option against the British option, of the imperial-forensic solution against the Darwinist-liberal method, is to understand nothing of either, of the horror of one, like the horror of the other. Since Quesnay, the “liberals” have always leered at the Chinese Empire with envy; and they continue to do so. These are Siamese twins. That one confines you in your interest and the other in that of “society” always comes down to crushing the only non-nihilistic conduct: taking care of yourself, of those you love and what you love in those you don’t know. Do not let those who led you to the abyss pretend to get you out of it: they will only prepare you for a more perfected hell, an even deeper grave. The day when they can, they will send the army to patrol the beyond.
Thank me instead. Without me, how much longer would all of these unquestionable things, things suddenly suspended, have continued to be taken as necessary? Globalisation, television contests, air traffic, budgetary limits, elections, the spectacle of sports competitions, Disneyland, fitness rooms, most commerce, the national assembly, school crowding, mass gatherings, most office jobs, all this drunken sociability which is only the flip side of the anguished loneliness of metropolitan monads: all this was therefore unnecessary, once the state of necessity manifested itself. Thank me for the test of truth for the next few weeks: you are finally going to live your own life, without the thousand loopholes that, year after year, keep the untenable going. Without realising it, you had never moved into your own existence. You were among the boxes, and you didn’t know it. You will now live with your loved ones. You will live at home. You will stop being in transit to death. You may hate your husband. You may not give a damn about your children. Perhaps you will want to blow up the decor of your daily life. To tell the truth, you were no longer of the world, in these metropolises of separation. Your world was no longer livable anywhere or anytime except on the condition of constantly fleeing it. The ugliness was so much that it was necessary to be dazed by movement and distractions. And the ghostly reigned between beings. Everything had become so efficient and effective that nothing made any sense any more. Thank me for all of this, and welcome to earth!
Thanks to me, for an indefinite time, you will no longer be working, your children will not go to school, and yet it will be the complete opposite of the holidays. Holidays are that space that must be furnished at all costs while awaiting the expected return to work. But here, what opens up before you, thanks to me, is not a demarcated space, but an enormous emptiness. I render you idle [désoeuvré]. Nothing tells you that the previous non-world will return. All of this profitable nonsense may be over. By dint of not being paid, what could be more natural than not paying your rent? Why would one continue to pay one’s bank debts when one can no longer work anyway? Isn’t it suicidal, in the end, to live where you can’t even grow a garden? Whoever has no more money will not stop eating, and who has strength, will have bread. Thank me: I place you at the foot of a bifurcation that tacitly structured your lives: the economy or life. It’s up to you. The stakes are historical. Either the rulers impose their state of emergency on you, or you invent your own. Either you get attached to emerging truths or you put your head on the chopping block. Either you use the time I am giving you now to imagine the next world from the lessons of the ongoing collapse, or this latter will end up radicalising itself. The disaster ends when the economy stops. The economy is the ravage. It was a thesis before last month. It is now a fact. No one can ignore the fact that it will take police, surveillance, propaganda, logistics and working from home to repress it.
Before me, do not give in to panic or denial. Don’t give in to biopolitical hysteria. The coming weeks are going to be terrible, overwhelming, cruel. The doors of Death will open wide. I am the most devastating production of the ravage of production. I come to nullify the nihilists. The injustice of this world will never be more glaring. It is a civilisation, and not you, that I come to bury. Those who want to live will have to make new habits, their own habits. Avoiding me will be the occasion for this reinvention, this new art of distances. The art of greeting each other, in which some were curious enough to see the very shape of the institution, will soon no longer obey any label. It will signal sentient beings. Do not do it “for others”, for “the population” or for “society”, do it for yours. Take care of your friends and your loved ones. Rethink with them, sovereignly, a just form of life. Create clusters of good life, expand them, and then I can’t do anything against you. This is a call not for the massive return of discipline, but of attention; not for the end of all carelessness, but of all neglect. What other way was left for me to remind you that salvation is in each gesture? That everything is in the smallest thing.
I had to face the facts: humanity only asks itself the questions that it can no longer but ask itself.
Report and demands from our Kolektiv 115 comrades in Prague
In Czechia just like everywhere else in many countries of the world, the coronavirus pandemic is restricting social and economic activities. The government had played down the issue and is totally unprepared, leading to chaos in the healthcare system. Due to this lack of preparation, the country has no masks and respirators for healthcare workers, social service workers and inhabitants. While some are trying to make a profit out of this, there has also been a huge wave of solidarity with thousands of volunteers either sewing masks or taking care of the sick and the elderly.
While the government has already announced measures for businesses, it is completely forgetting a series of vulnerable groups strongly impacted by the crisis. Not only is this a social time bomb, but by failing to address the issues of those groups, the government is undermining its own sanitary strategy. The most vulnerable group are homeless people and people living in precarious housing. Failing to address this situation since decades was obviously wrong, but in a time of pandemic it can even have dire consequences, as the homeless and potentially evicted people could contribute to spreading the virus if they are not offered adequate housing.
Moreover, Czechia has a high percentage of precarious, often low-paid workers working as freelancers without social security, the equivalent of zero-hour contracts. These people are experiencing a complete or partial loss of revenue due to the lockdown and they are now facing the choice of struggling with survival or neglecting sanitary recommendations to make a living, threatening to help the virus spread.
Finally, many workers are still forced to go to their workplace and they are greatly exposed to a potential infection. While some workers are essential to provide healthcare, social services and keep other essential industries running, others should stay home with full pay in order to prevent infections and the spreading of the virus. It makes no sense to introduce a quarantine when hundreds of thousands of workers have to work next to each others in factories during the day.
Grassroots solidarity is essential in the current situation, but fast systemic solutions are necessary as well. In order to limit the destructive impact of the coronavirus pandemic it is imperative to take a series of measures, not only on an individual level, but also on the level of businesses and the state. It is vital if we want to avoid a social breakdown.
It is necessary for the state to implement:
1. A universal basic income during the pandemic
2. A risk-based bonus payment for workers in the healthcare and care systems
3. The suspension of all debt payments, mortgages and rents
4. The suspension of all debt-related seizures
5. The regulation of sanitary products and basic food products
6. A partial amnesty
7. The lodging of homeless people in hotels and currently empty Airbnb flats
8. The suspension of all presently non-essential work
1. A universal basic income during the pandemic
A large part of the population is hit by a loss of income because of the closure of workplaces. The current social system will be overwhelmed in the current situation and the weakest ones will fall through the safety net, mostly people in precarious working agreements (people on contracts, zero-hour contracts, freelancers). Also, those working without contracts should not be forgotten (students working in bars and restaurants). They did not take such jobs to evade taxation, but rather because no other jobs are available for them.
All of those workers are among the first who will be fired overnight as companies are slowing down their activities. For them and their families there will not be enough to pay for housing and other essential goods. From what the statistics tell us one in four household has no savings and is unable to pay any unexpected expense over 400 euros, not to talk about dealing with a total loss of income. A fifth of the populaiton belong to a social class called ‘the suffering ones’, i.e. people without economic capital or other resources to deal with crisis situation. They don’t neither contacts and acquaintances to deal with the upcoming crisis, nor the knowledge to navigate the social system.
In addition to this, the social system will be totally overwhelmed in the next weeks. Employment offices will be flooded with welfare demands, leaving to an incapacity of the understaffed offices to deal with new demands. Not to talk about the sanitary risk of gathering people in overcrowded offices. The newly introduced possibility to file in for help online will not be of much help for the many people without access to internet, printers and scanners. This is another reason to opt for a temporary universal basic income for which recipients will not have to follow complex, bureaucratic proceedings.
The basic income will make sure that no one will be exposed to suffering and uncertainty on top of dealing with fears of infection. In some places like Hong Kong, this basic income has already been introduced following the pandemic. In Italy, 600 euros will be paid to independent and seasonal workers for the month of March. Even Trump is planing to distribute 1000$ to each inhabitant. No one should be left behind!
2. A risk-based bonus payment for workers in the healthcare and care systems
People working on the frontline should be rewarded accordingly! Not only doctors, emergency workers, nurses, but also social workers, caregivers, grocery shop clerks, cleaning staff and others were not given the possibility to work online from home. They are now carrying out duties in working conditions tied to psychological pressure, the risk of life-threatening health problems and difficult hours. A bonus payment should be given not only to those in the healthcare sector, but other exposed workers. The current system generally underestimates care work. People who are taking care of our health and essential needs and are attending to the needs of the most vulnerable ones are badly paid and their work is not respected. It’s absurd! Let’s support them financially! Let’s show them that we value their work!
3. The suspension of all debt payments, mortgages and rents
The housing crisis doesn’t stop during the pandemic, on the contrary it becomes worse as incomes fall for tenants and those paying their mortgage. It is unthinkable to force people to choose between buying food and paying rent or making debt payments. No one should end up on the streets, whether there’s a pandemic or not.
People who are experiencing financial problems because of the pandemic should have the possibility to postpone the payment of their mortgage or rent during the time of the pandemic. It should also be guaranteed that no one will see their water, electricity or gas turned off during the pandemic. Czech banks are yet to take a firm decision and precise measures on this, but at least the semi-public electricity provider ČEZ has announced that payments can be deferred. Housing is a right and especially in a time of pandemic, no one should lose his/her housing!
4. The suspension of all debt-related seizures
The economic slow-down has a worse impact on those who have been caught in debts. Debts have often forced people into illegal work because they make it impossible to make a living due to debt collection on salaries. And illegal workers are among the first ones to lose their job and income in these times. Let us remind you that more than 820 000 people are now targeted by debt collection. Half of those people have more than three debt collection procedures opened against them and sociologists have underlined that those people have no hope for a return to ‘normality’ if nothing changes. The suspension of debt collections was long overdue even before the pandemic. The biggest debt collection office in Czechia has already put a halt to the furniture seizures, mostly to protect its own members, but it has not stopped collecting money from salaries. It is time to end up with this shameful business once and for all!
5. The regulation of sanitary products and basic food products
Some are trying to make a profit out of human misery and are offering essential goods (including respirators and antibacterial gel) at high prices. No one should be allowed to profit from the vulnerability of others!
6. A partial amnesty
There is a higher risk of viral spread in the overcrowded jails. Through jail workers the virus could then get to the wider population. Releasing people convicted for petty, non-violent offenses would lower the risk of viral spread. Moreover the Czech system is well known for sending to jail people who would have gotten alternative forms of punishment elsewhere. Czechia has been among those with the highest number of prisoners per capita for a long time. It is time to change that. Of course an amnesty has to be accompanied by a guarantee of adequate housing for those without a place to live, as well as financial help (see other demands).
7. The lodging of homeless people in hotels and currently empty Airbnb flats
Homeless people are one of the most vulnerable population group. Because of bad alimentation, a lack of sleep and constant stress, they have a diminished immunity system. Moreover, they do not have the possibility to regularly wash their hands, nor access to protection gear (masks, antibacterial gel). Nor is healthcare accessible for them. While most people can now heed the call to “stay home”, about 17 000 people do not have a home in Czechia. When we force them to quarantine at home, they have nowhere to go. The construction of provisory tent camps (especially as it’s getting cold again) cannot be considered a solution.
Many thousands of other people are also threatened by the current situation, as they are living in precarious housing (in overcrowded, unhygienic residences or in decaying houses in socially excluded zones). Housing the homeless and those living in precarious housing in empty hotels and tourist lodgings such as those on Airbnb and other platforms is a logical and just solution. In Prague alone, thousands of hotel rooms and ‘Airbnb apartments’ are now empty as tourists have deserted the city during the pandemic. The city hall and the state could guarantee flat owners a reasonable price to house citizens in need, or the city / state could act as the official tenants. It is also possible to consider a provisory seizure or forceful housing in the name of common interest. In California, the authorities are now using hotels and motels to find a shelter for the 108 000 homeless people.
8. The suspension of all presently non-essential work
Big concentrations of people without any sanitary protection gear whatsoever is dangerous. All workers coming in contact with colleagues and clients are potentially exposed to infection. If they do not have adequate protection gear, then it is better for their own health and the health of their colleagues not to go to work. It cannot mean laying off workers or leaving them without income though. The priority is people’s health, not business!
Those necessary measures are not going to be cheap, of course. ‘Fortunately’ there are many weapon factories, fossil fuel industries and other highly unethical firms that could finally start taking social responsibility for their actions. As former right-wing Finance Minister and austerity champion Miroslav Kalousek recently said: “After six fat years of profit capitalisation, it’s time to socialise the losses. Putting ideology aside. Although my right-wing soul is hurting, I would not be against more contribution from those who have gained the most in the recent years. PPF, Agrofert, CPI, EPH, etc.” (those companies being owned by the countries’ main oligarchs). Although the financial group PPF of Czech billionaire Petr Kellner is trying to improve its disastrous public image by providing some sanitary masks, we have a message for him: „A couple of masks won’t do it, Petr!“ It’s time to pay up!
For all those who don’t have the power or the means, let us show solidarity, let us take care of each other! Let’s not let this crisis be misused for authoritarian tendencies and asocial changes!
Kolektiv 115, Prague, March 21, 2020
Comment on the situation in Greece by Xeironomia – Antiauthoritarian Movement (Ioannina)
We are facing a global crisis, social and political. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted both issues and weaknesses in the political system as well as reflections of social solidarity and responsibility. The virus already counts thousands of dead and infected, and the next few weeks are critical in spreading it. The picture is split, with army trucks transporting the dead to Bergamo, while Napoleans singing and dancing on their balconies. So far there has been no institutional attempt at a universal organization, with the result that the burden falls entirely on the nation-states. At the same time, the first citizens’ movements from below to tackle the phenomenon appear.
Undoubtedly, the neoliberal management model fails to deal with the situation sharply. The profound anti-social idea of a self-regulated free market has failed and proved how dangerous it is, creating chaos. Extreme consumer mania with the logic of survival brought back phenomena such as black marketeers for common products, memories of other dark times. Distributing products based on the citizens’ financial ability rather than their needs is, in addition to being irrational, deeply unfair. Items needed for the occasion, such as masks and antiseptics, were bought at unjustifiably large quantities by the most privileged (or lucky) so many people would not have access to them. At the same time, there is a huge shortage of hospitals, medicines and virus tests. Today in Greece, there are only 600 intensive care units beds open while 180 to 200 are closed for lack of staff, in a State that chooses to have more priests than doctors. Despite underfunding, the national health system appears to be the only systemic organization that can partially manage this crisis.
The neoliberal narrative leads to extreme individualism, dispelling any sense of social cohesion. In this extreme individualism and the survival of the powerful, the citizen must develop a sense of individual responsibility for the community as a whole, not because he is imposing a state ban on movement, but because he perceives himself as part of society. Adherence to the rules on restricting the virus can be decisive for whether or not to survive, whoever is part of a vulnerable group. In a dilapidated health system, observing these rules is not a form of slavery, but a weapon of solidarity and responsibility, with implications for the health of those around us. So in the context of dealing with the virus, no one should be left helpless. Therefore, mutual assistance networks should be set up at the level of apartment buildings, neighborhoods and social centers. In the face of the frivolity of individualism, let us offer an energetic attitude of support to anyone who needs it.
As a result of the general situation, as in any major crisis, citizens of different categories are created. The paternalistic face of the State does not appear to everyone. Refugees, immigrants, prisoners, homeless, drug addicts and others invisible to the State and the market, are once again on the sidelines, observed without access to health. Whenever a reaction is attempted, as in the camp of Moria, the State suppresses and impedes. We should not treat the situation as having a discrete end, since after the end of the pandemic it is certain that there will be a great financial crisis. In an effort to recover the market, workers will be compensated by layoffs, cuts, and the financial measures announced are minimal.
Considering all of the above we should step up our political analysis and action, realizing the reality, in a way that does not endanger public health. We stand in solidarity with food, distribution, food and health workers at the forefront, supporting their demands for working conditions and hospital equipment.
• Do not be helpless
• Create mutual assistance networks
• Decommissioning prisons and hosting structures
• NO to closed detention centers
• Staffing of hospitals
• Solidarity is the weapon of the people
March 8 was International Women’s Day. Whether in Germany, Mexico or Chile, women all over the world took to the streets. With about 2 million women on the streets of Santiago de Chile, the women’s strike was also one of the largest in the country’s history.
In Chile there have been nationwide protests against the government and the neoliberal constitution since October last year. The feminist movement in Chile, which has been gaining in importance for years, very quickly took on an important role in protests and had a lasting impact on the expression of the demonstrations. At the latest since the performance “Un violador en tu camino”, the protests have also attracted more attention internationally outside the radical bubble. We went to Santiago de Chile on 8 and 9 March and spoke to Mónica an activist and student at the Univerdad Diego Portales.
What role do the protests against the government and the neoliberal system play for feminists in Chile? What makes the situation in Chile special and different from other countries?
In Chile, since October 18, there have been protests against the neoliberal system, a system that precarizes our lives, i.e. a system that puts health, education, work, pensions and even basic goods like water at the service of the market. On the other hand, the government of Sebastián Piñera (Acting President of Chile – BE) has not yet found a solution to these problems and has responded to the social revolt with brutality and police repression against those who demonstrate and legitimately take to the streets.
Therefore, this March 8th had a different character than in previous years. Firstly, because of the context in which we live. The feminist struggle is embedded in the context of the popular rebellion, that is, the massiveness that this march – with more than two million people demonstrating in Santiago and other marches throughout Chile – is a demonstration of the strength that has been acquired by taking to the streets.
It also showed us women and queers from our feminist perspective what has grown in this social movement. It’s a social movement that reached its massive size not only with the social uprising, but years before, and is the work of many people and many circumstances that have contributed to its spread, gradually rooting it in Chilean culture.
Furthermore, this whole context is unfortunately marked by systematic violations of human rights. The government has taken it upon itself to criminalise the protest. Laws have been enacted that allow the perpetrators of the massive human rights violations committed in connection with the protests to go unpunished. There are many cases of state violence, in which no investigations are underway to date that would point to the possible perpetrators. There is no justice on the part of the state, let alone reparations. There are many families whose loved ones have been mutilated, tortured and even killed without the state reacting to their suffering or taking care of them, and the necessary measures have not been taken to stop this state violence, which creates a feeling of impunity. That is why our struggle in Chile is special, because October 18 marks a before and after in political history and from our position as women and queers we condemn the actions of the government and seek a different way of life. There have been many cases of sexual, political violence by the police and military, mostly against women. There is a specific violence against us that neither the government nor the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has taken into account. During the march on International Women’s Day in Chile, the current human rights violations committed in our country were clearly condemned. We know that there are responsible politicians who are responsible for this whole situation and that there must be justice. And these condemnations will come, one of the slogans that was heard most during the marches is the call that equates Piñera and Pinochet. It equates them in the sense that both are responsible for the widespread human rights violations in our country.
Can you say something about the history of the feminist movement in Chile in recent years? Were there catalyzing events like the abuse cases at the universities two years ago?
In 2018 Chile experienced what is later called “Feminist May”, a month in which a large part of the country’s public and private universities were mobilized and occupied by female students. We demanded an end to gender-based violence in our educational spaces, such as not allowing teachers, assistants or students who have abused a colleague to continue working in the same rooms. We also demanded that the institutions have protocols to regulate and punish such cases, as well as a non-sexist education from primary school to universities. This was the fourth wave of the feminist movement, which ended up not as a wave but rather as a tsunami that flooded our country culturally.
Before this feminist May, there was little or nothing about feminism or the word harassment or shelter on television, in the morning, in the newspaper, in public space. After that, these issues became a daily topic of conversation for many sectors of society where it had not been an issue before. It was a taboo subject and it was not a welcome topic. It definitely had consequences for the political world.
In the past conservatives refused to talk about gender equality, feminism or women’s rights, today they talk about it and make a name for themselves because it is politically correct. Although it is a topic that still does not have the importance and priority it deserves, it is a topic that has been installed as such on the political agenda and in our society. That is why this movement of female students, which was born in 2018, was a harbinger of what could happen years later with the spread of the feminist movement and with the identification of many women and queers in our country with feminism, which brings together not only academic women but also people from different realities and different ages who feel recognized and connected with the slogans and the struggle of this movement. It is a diverse movement because there are different understandings of feminism in it, but it is a movement which is ours and which has been built on the basis of our experience and that of others.
The current protests began when students called for fare dodging and occupied the metro stations. The women’s movement and the unions first showed their solidarity, when there was massive violence by the police. What is the contact of the women’s movement with the other movements?
The women’s movement is profoundly heterogeneous in itself and that is where its strength comes from. There are feminists who are workers and professionals in different fields, students, there are immigrants, queer, indigenous or antiprison feminists and so on. The connection with other movements is very close, because we feminists are fighting on different fronts and therefore I think it is fundamental that we write calls and mobilize for demonstrations that bring us all together and where we demonstrate our strength and our potential.
Although there are many areas, especially trade unions, where feminism still seems to be a less relevant issue, there are feminists who are fighting for feminism to advance in spaces that historically have been and continue to be dominated by men.
From the outside, demonstrations and actions often appear quite spontaneous. However, one often reads about many assemblies. How did these gatherings begin and how can one imagine such a gathering?
After October 18th, these neighbourhood assemblies started spontaneously, which was an unprecedented event in our country. I personally believe that it was necessary to meet at that time because there was anxiety, uncertainty about what was happening.
We had to listen to each other and, of course, also talk, talk about how we experienced this social explosion or popular uprising, as we call the situation. It was also necessary to talk about how we experienced the violence that began immediately after Piñera sent the military to the streets. And above all we had to talk
about the reasons that led us to this situation. About what had happened in all the years that we have been silent.
In the past, Chile was a sleeping people that just accepted things, that was indifferent. But after October 18th they “woke up” (“Chile despertó/Chile has woken up” was the motto in the first weeks of the protests -BE) and could see themselves as what they really were. During the meetings and in conversations with our neighbours we became aware that we all live in similar realities. Most of our life, our health, our pensions, education, even water was in the hands of the market and others. People began to wonder why we have endured so many years of abuse and injustice while a very small part of our country has retained all the wealth. This is how it was in the beginning, shortly after the protests started. After that, many of these spaces began to mutate as they periodically evolved as a space for collective reflection and organization, that were spread among neighbors for cultural activities and self-education. It was also a space of hope. The people also wanted to participate in the building of a new Chile, based on everything that the people did not want or perceived as injustice. Proposals were made to reflect on this new country. For example, there were many rooms for self-education with regard to the demanded new constitution, lawyers or law students contributed their information and knowledge for the coming constitutional process. So these organizations or neighborhood assemblies were collectively led to distance us from this individuality and isolation. To go out, to take public spaces and to feel part of something much bigger, a community.
Of course, feminism has a lot to say in these spaces and even in the face of the fact that there were so many issues to deal with, not only were neighborhood assemblies created, but assemblies by issues were created: Environment, mental health, animal rights and also many feminist assemblies. In this way, different topics were addressed, which people wanted to talk about, who wanted to make proposals, who wanted to reflect.
I remember the first feminist Cabildo (neighbourhood council) in Santiago, which was attended by many people. The square where it was convened was full. You can see that even then there were many women and queers who were interested in talking, reflecting and contributing to this process from our position, because we have a specific oppression
The performance “un violador en tu camino” by “La Tesis” from Valparaíso has spread all over the world. In the performance, the police and the state are accused, among others. Do you see sexism as a structural problem in connection with the capitalist state?
It’s a good question that is related to the previous points. Feminism has succeeded in advancing and positioning itself as an important struggle. However, by becoming a mass movement, it runs the risk of being monopolized and used by the ruling classes to integrate it into the capitalist or neoliberal system. Therefore, bourgeois and liberal feminism tends to lose its sharpness as it comes to terms with the cruelties of the current system, the exploitation of women and people, the immense inequality produced by capitalist society and the destruction of our planet.
This feminism is dangerous because it is “beautiful and pleasant”. Because it speaks of physical liberation, self-knowledge, self-esteem, but only for women who have access to positions of power (business women, professionals, etc.). All these are important aspects for feminism, but I personally think that our struggle must go much further and that liberal feminism is not enough for our feminist project, which tries to transform and radically change society and the world.
The capitalist system makes our lives precarious, puts the market and its profits above our rights. It does not recognise the important tasks such as the daily housework of women and believes that while some women can come to power, there will be many others who will not even have the opportunity to obtain a professional qualification or a salary that is sufficient to live in dignity. Today, women and queers are discriminated against in various areas of society and there are some who are doubly exploited or discriminated against. Not only because they are women, but also because they are black, because they are immigrants, because they are poor or because they are indigenous.
When we talk about the fact that the capitalist system is compatible with feminism, I frankly believe that this is not the case, that it is not possible. It would only be possible if we understand feminism as a struggle that only (!) stands for the liberation of the white, privileged and upper class women. That is why I believe that patriarchy and capitalism as systems of domination and exploitation from which we must liberate ourselves are deeply connected and rooted in each other.
The Chilean Congress announced that the Assembly for a new Constitution will be composed of 50% women and 50% men (if the vote is won). This would make Chile the first country to have an equal gender representation in the drafting of a constitution. Do you think that the women’s movement has contributed to this success and what do you predict for the vote on April 26th?
I think that parity in the constitutional body is indeed a success for the feminist movement, behind it there is a great work of feminist political scientists, specialists in the field and women who have worked hard on this issue.
They built this proposal together with women parliamentarians who were also willing to fight for it to be adopted in Congress. During the sessions in Congress in which this proposal was voted on, there was a lot of pressure from the feminist movement both inside and outside on the streets and even in the social networks, urging a vote for this initiative. Since the feminist movement in Chile had been forging or rebuilding itself for some time, it had already taken a relevant position in the political arena, and therefore parity was a minimum lower limit for this body that will draft the new constitution to be democratic, representative, diverse and incorporate our vision. Parity represents the possibility of voices that have always been invisible being heard and of feminism challenging the existing power that has never considered us and that has always ousted us. It was therefore our minimum demand. We must be represented, and this new Charter must also be a feminist constitution that takes up our historical demands and allows women and queers to participate in the debate and the reception of ideas, contrary to what has happened historically.
The plebiscite will no longer take place on April 26th, as agreed in Congress, but on October 25th. The truth is that the predictions are that the process will be open. There will be an information campaign that will reach many people and I personally believe that the votes for a new constitution and a constitution made up of elected representatives will be in the majority. This is also the only option that allows for gender parity.
In 21st century capitalism, in the event of a crisis, work in Amazon’s logistics centres is also one of the “systemically important professions”, alongside doctors, nurses and supermarket vendors. Instead of abstaining from the new hand blender for the immune-boosting smoothies or the 10th pack of toilet paper, people order what they can. Amazon can hardly keep up with the crisis/demand and is trying to hire more than 100,000 new employees worldwide. But it is now well known that Amazon is one of the worst employers in history when it comes to fundamental labour rights. Therefore Amazon wants to lure this (post-)industrial reserve army, which is now to be mobilised, with a small, “cynical” (Leipzig works council) wage increase. But: what goes around, comes around, even the richest person in the world, Jeff, thinks, and asks in a public crowd-funding for support in paying his employees. Cynical? That’s a nice way of putting it. Those users who keep Amazon alive through constant orders are now supposed to pay for the employees themselves. But even more so, because Jeff has been very active in the last few days: In order to cope with the influx of 100,000 new employees, Jeff (sic!) has written a letter to his employees.
This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical.
We’ve changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies. We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us.
I’m not alone in being grateful for the work you are doing. I’ve received hundreds of emails from customers and seen posts on social media thanking you all. Your efforts are being noticed at the highest levels of government, and President Trump earlier this week thanked this team profusely.
Across the world, people are feeling the economic effects of this crisis, and I’m sad to tell you I predict things are going to get worse before they get better. We’re hiring for 100,000 new roles and raising wages for our hourly workers who are fulfilling orders and delivering to customers during this period of stress and turmoil. At the same time, other businesses like restaurants and bars are being forced to shut their doors. We hope people who’ve been laid off will come work with us until they’re able to go back to the jobs they had.
Much of the essential work we do cannot be done from home. We’ve implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees and contractors at our sites around the world — everything from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adjusting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines. We are meeting every day, working to identify additional ways to improve on these measures.
We’ve placed purchase orders for millions of face masks we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home, but very few of those orders have been filled. Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics. It’s easy to understand why the incredible medical providers serving our communities need to be first in line. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people.
My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on COVID-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role. I want you to know Amazon will continue to do its part, and we won’t stop looking for new opportunities to help.
There is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this, and I know this causes stress for everyone. My list of worries right now — like yours I’m sure — is long: from my own children, parents, family, friends, to the safety of you, my colleagues, to those who are already very sick, and to the real harm that will be caused by the economic fallout across our communities.
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. I know that we’re going to get through this, together.
According to Bezos, Amazon is a key player in the fight against the pandemic: “We’re providing vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us.” On the one hand, there is the considerable social, even humanitarian importance of the work at Amazon in the crisis – and on the other hand, there are the workers before whom the supposedly continuous logistics chains stop. This is because Amazon has supply problems when it comes to masks and other protective equipment for its own personnel. While we sit at home, the people at Amazon continue to work – in the logistics centres and in the delivery of the Packages by subcontractors, close to close, 24/7 and without any protection against the virus. What most have not noticed is that many Amazon workers have been protesting against Bezos’ work ethic and have made a list of demands.
Amazon Workers International: Common Statement
While the Corona pandemic has already killed thousands of people and will kill many more, Amazon warehouses continue to operate 24/7. Governments around the world order social distancing, but at the same time they force workers to continue to work. Amazon packages flow through cities that, due to the high spread of the virus, have been sealed off from the rest of the world. In countries where the public is prohibited from gathering, Amazon is allowed to operate as a “state within the state”, free to endanger and exploit us, while we continue to work by the thousands in enclosed spaces. Subcontracted truck drivers and couriers – the veins of our global economy – move the virus between warehouses. Uncountable totes pass between worker hands and facilities. In effect, Amazon forces workers to risk infecting each other and then bringing the virus home to our families, allowing for its further spread.
This crisis has heavily affected all workers (not just us at Amazon). Some workers like nurses or supermarket workers don’t even get proper protective gear! The states of emergency supposedly meant to contain the pandemic are also an attempt to criminalize even the smallest protests and pickets. These policies give the government tools to silence workers, who see that Amazon’s irresponsible policies are facilitating the spread of the virus. But even if Amazon forces us to continue working in close proximity, at an ever-increasing tempo of work and often without healthcare protections, last week thousands of us organized in protest. We protested against the company’s attempt to profit from this crisis while putting our health at risk. We protested in Poland and in Spain, we went on strike in Italy, in France and in New York. We showed that it is possible everywhere to fight for our health and our lives and that we won’t stop. Amazon should also know that a wage raise, different from one country to another as if our lives had different prices according to their nationality, will not be enough to buy our health and safety.
We, Amazon workers from across the world, will not remain silent while our bosses‘ greed and governments‘ cowardice endangers us all. We call on workers everywhere to stay safe and practice social distancing, but, at the same time, to organize, protest, and be prepared to fight back!
The immediate closure of Amazon warehouses until this coronavirus pandemic is declared over by the World Health Organization. During this shutdown, Amazon must pay all workers their full salary.
That Amazon give $20 Billion to the public health systems of countries where Amazon has operations.
Until Amazon closes down its warehouses, the company must provide paid sick leave for all workers who are sick, in quarantine, need to care for loved ones, or who need to care of children due to school closures.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, Amazon workers must receive hazard pay.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, there must be no write-ups or firings related to Rates or Time Off Task so that workers may prioritize safety over productivity in these hazardous workplace conditions.
Until Amazon closes its warehouses, the company must reduce working time at its warehouses, without reducing wages. Workers need more paid time off to allow us to fulfill our basic needs and to deal with the impact of Corona on our lives.
March 22, 2020, Amazon Workers International
At dawn, the electricity company, supported by the police, turned off the power to the occupied and self-managed VIO.ME factory in Thessaloniki.
One might think that soap factories are systemically relevant in the current corona crisis. In the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki people seem to disagree. At 6.30 this morning, the state electricity company DEI, with the support of two squads of the Greek riot police MAT, cut off the electricity to the self-administered cooperative factory VIO.ME. The workers immediately called for public support via social media.
VIO.ME (Viomichaniki Metalleftiki) was founded in 1982 as one of three subsidiaries of Filkeram AG, owned by the Filippou family. When the Filippou family filed for bankruptcy in May 2011, the 30 remaining VIO.ME workers occupied their factory and switched production to ecological cleaning agents in 2013. Without a boss, without a permanent employment relationship and without hierarchies. The self-organized team wants to set an example with this demonstrative continuation: Against capitalism and against dependence. All employees profit equally, and any tasks that arise are exchanged according to the principle of rotation.
VIO.ME became a symbol of self-organization, with the hand soap even being successfully distributed even outside Greece through solidarity networks. Official recognition as a social cooperative followed in 2016.
Since then it has become quiet around the project, but for the employees it is a deceptive calm. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the Filippou family and the bankruptcy trustee pursue the forced sale of Filkeram’s remaining assets. And the project is still considered an illegal occupation and fears continued repression by the Greek state.
The power supply is elementary for the functioning of soap production. Although the police have withdrawn again, the workers are now looking for several power generators. Makis Anagnostou, a member of the project and representative of the VIO.ME company union, told Beyondeurope.net: “This action by the state is no coincidence – in the midst of the Corona bans, it is trying to exploit the situation and create new facts. In the midst of the crisis, attacks on workers’ rights are increasing and this intervention at dawn is reminiscent of actions from the times of the military dictatorship”. In their declaration the workers underline Makis argument: “All this while we are in the process with the Ministry of Labor for the full legalization of self-managed factory of Vio.Me. And while they know that we produce personal and home hygiene products, which are of primary importance to society.”
Tip for our faithful readers: The best help to the cooperative of VIO.ME is to donate directly money on paypal and/or buy their products, for example through the following websites: VIO.ME online-shop (Greece) and union coop // föderation (Germany)
Why it is only a short step for Germany from the crisis winner in 2008 to the ventilation world champion of the #Corona crisis and why we must now urgently fight for open borders, among other things. A statement by …ums Ganze!
We will feed each other, re-distribute wealth, strike.
We will understand our own importance
from the places we must stay.
Communion moves beyond walls.
We can still be together.
(Britney Spears/Mimi Zhu)
What many thought impossible just two weeks ago has become reality: The corona virus is spreading internationally, the capitalist machine is faltering. And the bourgeois state is taking action. It should come as no surprise that in Germany, too, parliament and government do everything the monopolist on the use of force has in store: the protection against epidemics has always been the area where the nation state could demonstrate to its citizens that it is indispensable. What is now being democratically implemented is a dream come true for all fans of authoritarian politics – and all too often has little to do with health policy. Whether their names are Söder, Klöckner or Kramp-Karrenbauer: Border closures, curfews, contact ban, police deployment of the German Armed Forces inside the country, stop of humanitarian refugee admissions and soon compulsory work for asylum seekers, are being carried out almost incidentally. It is not very reassuring that the fascist agitators of the AfD have little to say at the moment. The reason for this is that in the still ongoing initial phase of democratic crisis management the grand coalition is single-handedly pushing through the country’s isolation. The “Yes” to the “Luftbrücke” (Airlift) makes this clear: The state is bringing back 100,000 stranded German tourists with airplanes, but refusing entry to 20,000 refugees on the Greek islands, who are acutely threatened with death there. For this murderous racist logic of nationalism, no tips from the right-wing opposition are needed.
The dead and the undead system
The irrationality of capitalism becomes all the more apparent in the crisis: when meetings of more than two people are banned except at work, capitalism shows that it will go over dead bodies for its survival. The biggest corona parties do not take place illegally in playgrounds or parks, but are state-sponsored: every day in open-plan offices, Amazon fulfillment centers and the country’s factories, as well as, not to be forgotten, in the refugee housing facilities where the state cramps the unwanted people together. What would really help – the interruption of normal operations – is, however, highly controversial. While the World Health Organization warns against a resumption of production, not only autocrats such as Donald Trump and the Brazilian President Bolsonaro are counting on trivializing the problem, but also the German Health Minister Jens Spahn. May they differ in their argumentation and choice of words, the result is essentially the same: accepting deaths in order to get the national economy back on its feet. And to do it before anyone else does, because this is the only way an advantage can be gained in the global market competition. And even though many more people will die in Brazil and the USA than in Germany – the world champion country in respiratory care – the question arises here and there, what kind of a broken society sells the measures for resuming all kinds of work as reasonable and at the same time tries to persuade people that the only thing that counts is their private, self-responsible actions as citizens? The radical left demands what really helps at this point: the abolition of the obligation to work and the interruption of all economic activities which are not absolutely necessary for the basic supply of people now. We must fight to ensure that wages are safeguarded and that people do not have to go to work. Collective solutions for wage losses and new forms of action on the shop floor must be fought for.
Crisis of production, society and politics
The virus has triggered a capitalist crisis of production and at the same time a crisis of society, or more precisely: of social reproduction. The economy was not, however, plunged into crisis by the virus as such – it is only the trigger to which the immanently crisis-ridden capitalism with its latent financial bubble, its industrial over-accumulation and its fragile supply chains now reacts by severely interrupting production. Nature and society are not contradictory: the spread of the coronavirus is ultimately the result of the capitalist mode of production in agriculture and livestock farming. There is neither a naturalness nor a mode of production which is outside the capitalist relationship. The global economic crisis that is now beginning is as real as the virus itself, which must be fought with a poorly organised health system. The condition of the latter, broken by the perseverance of neo-liberal austerity and capitalisation, requires reactions like #flattenthecurve and leads to a bad compromise between virus control and economic rescue. The left must make it clear that the crisis of capital does not necessarily have to be identical with the crisis of society or, for that matter, the crisis of people dying from the virus. Only if it succeeds in this can the corona crisis become a political system crisis. On the other hand, it should refrain from accusing the state of some dark conspiratorial bio-power games – the virus is real, the threat is real. The fight against the virus is itself a vital state interest, because citizens dying of Corona question the sovereignty of the state. But the left should also refrain from speaking out in the wake of state measures to privatise the health crisis. Of course it is right to keep distance, wash your hands and wear a face mask. But left-wing politics does not consist of giving tips on how to behave to others; the state, as the monopolist on the use of force, can handle that on its own. The left muss endure and not misinterpret the contradiction that both the people and the authoritarian state have a shared interest in fighting the virus. The state does this out of the interest of maintaining production. Instead, it must build political pressure and make radical demands: Expropriate companies and billionaires, and pay workers in care, health and nursing appropriately. The mainstream discourse on “systemically relevant professions” should be gratefully received and sharpened. On the one hand, we must point out that it is predominantly women who are in charge of these areas: nurses, supermarket sellers, teachers. On the other hand, we must point out that systemically relevant work is not to be had for nothing. A little nightly applause from the balcony is cynical [In german cities currently people are “thanking” helpers by clapping at 9pm] if it does not lead to political consequences. In the former case it is nothing more than an ideological maneuver pretending that women have only been keeping reproduction going since the beginning of the crisis, whether in reproductive jobs or afterwards at home. Moreover, it is women, whether “systemically relevant” or not, who are disproportionately affected by violence in the private sphere. For some, #staythefuckhome means the opportunity to learn artful pottery, for others it is a domestic hell of violence. For the left, making systemic relevance clear must mean emphasizing the role of reproduction. In this respect, it is once again true: feminism is class war.
Open the borders – save lives!
All over the world the nation states – like Europe – are closing down their borders. The national community suddenly appears again as the only obvious, natural and plausible one. There is a retreat into the national as a narrative of non-ideological solidarity of a considerably expanded charitable community. However, this narrative is actually that of the objective “community of fate” of the citizen collective: who happens to have a German health insurance card is well off, unlike those with an Italian or Spanish one. The fact that after the last crisis in 2008 Germany forced a brutal austerity course on other countries once again proves to be murderous. After all, countries like Italy and Spain have had to cut back on their health systems under pressure from the German “black zero” policy. It is no coincidence that it is these two countries where thousands of people are dying these days – and not in Germany. It is only a small step being the crisis winner in 2008 to the ventilation world champion in 2020. In the current situation, the most important thing is therefore to break through the rampant nationalism of self-care and stand up for those who have neither passport nor health insurance card. The central demand of the radical left must be to stop the humanitarian disaster in Moria on Lesbos and provide medical care for the people crammed together and distribute them among the EU member states so that they too can be protected from infection.
No matter how long it lasts: after the crisis will not be like before the crisis. But it is not clear whether social democratic models with state-capitalist aspects, which have been frowned upon for a long time, will prevail, or whether economic liberals with an authoritarian framework will prevail in order to help undead neoliberalism over the next cliff. Whether all this is accompanied by models of public social control in the South Korean way, or whether new economic forms and changed consciousness are perhaps emerging here and there – will not be negotiated after the crisis, but now. The fact is: capital fractions, such as those of the supply services or pharmaceutical companies, are profiting from the crisis. Amazon, for example, recently advertised 100,000 jobs. And the way in which we work in the future is also being renegotiated: Will the home office remain a low-cost workplace for capital? How will short-time work change the income situation? And how is capital dealing with the slump in the low-wage sector? Far-reaching changes are imminent that can only be won through well-organized struggles.
To find something something good in the current situation seems cynical to us. Nevertheless, the result of the crisis could at least be that the necessities a reasonably society should satisfy are more clearly evident. With the gradual dawning of the public’s recognition that the professions in the care sector are “systemically relevant”, the debate on care revolution, women’s strikes and the labour disputes of health care workers can be linked to this. This also applies to the neighborhood mutual aid that is beginning to emerge in many places, which could be developed into solidarity-based district structures if it were possible to politicize them. They could form a pole from below to support the emerging struggles for wages, the distribution of reproductive work and rent – what Adidas can do with its rent strike, so can we. The current wave of solidarity, which also includes the neighbourhood work of various leftist initiatives and collectives, has to be expanded in order to win these struggles. Today, more than ever, anti-national criticism means scandalising the racist isolation of Germany and Europe from refugees at the national borders.
It is bad enough that we humans die and become ill naturally. But there is no reason to further duplicate this problem socially by continuing to place human needs under the constraints of the “second nature” of capitalist irrationality. Against the authoritarian administration of epidemics in the service of business location and competition, we therefore wield the liberated society as a countervailing power from below. Not as a distant light at the end of the tunnel, as a utopian ideal in dark times, but as a practical movement against the normal execution of capitalism that produces sick people, seeks scapegoats and literally walks over masses of corpses in hospitals as well as at the borders. What else could stop it now?
…ums Ganze! Alliance
March 29th, 2020
you are the oldest topic within our network. Hell, we named ourselves after you. We found each other during the heat of Austerity, imposed by Germany‘s obsession with the „Schwarze Null“ (black Zero; avoiding debts) over all of Europe, transforming several economies into the protestant model by South German cutting master Schäuble (only eat when you work), cutting and crippling everything that seemed somehow social in several societies on the old continent. The enemies of the interiour were found quickly: unemployed, receivers of social services, „the lazy Greek“ and other „parasites“ – the culturalisation of „life is pain“.
Amongst others, these austerity measurements were politicized by many factions and we gained much hope and energy from the square-movements and solidarity initiatives all over Europe. But it were the right-wing populists and extremists and their chauvinist and racist agenda, which led to several, onholding political successes – not only in the form of direct elections and taking over power apparatuses, but in imposing their own agenda on conservative and social democratic politics. They all agreed, that this „sanctuary“ called Europe must be protected – and the fortification of „Fortress Europe“ went into the next level – finding its most hideous expression in the desaster of Lesvos and Moria (just two names representing many cases). Moria is the dangerously concrete example of the saying, that fascist barbarism won‘t come around the corner and say „hey, I‘m fascism, I‘m back“, but disguising itself in pseudo-rational arguments by liberals giving the „reasonable“ ground for real fascists at work: hunting refugees, burning down NGO structures – while the police watches and the European parliament condemns the means, but not the ends.
Furthermore, the Corona crisis reveals the sad reality of the European Union itself, not just in the matter of building up and securing borders, saying who belongs here and who doesn‘t with the language of the military. The late German-European religion, austerity, has shredded down national health systems for the sake of the „free market“ so hard, that we are witnessing it collapsing and with it thousands of people dying – daily, in one of the most advanced regions of the world with unbelievable potentials. Italy and Spain, two countries most shaken up by austerity and, with heavily racial overtones, were made responsible for an „out of the line lifestyle“ – with all their apertivos and fiestas (how dare they!) – lose hundreds, thousands of people a day by the pandemic. What are the reactions? European solidarity? Pah, you wish! China and Cuba, the West‘s worst and most evil enemies, send out staff and medicine to help. Europe? German and British high-profile politicians dare to say out loud: enough quarantine now, the economy has to run! Market over lives – this used to be a metaphor for right-wingers and neo-liberals, now it is literally the agenda.
The measurements to prevent further spread of the virus are highly controversial; experts and medical staff point out every day that we should stay home to prevent further infections, so that the health system and its cut down ressources – hospital beds, respirators, medical staff – will not be overwhelmed too much in a too short time. Otherwise, the battle over these ressources and the decisions, who should live and should die, can turn into ugly civil wars. Certain factions in European politics use these restriction to fulfill their wet dream of even further authorisation and finally cutting down what‘s left of one of Europe‘s greates achievements: non-negotiable individual freedom-rights. While the French slaughterer of the people just calls it „a war“, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban sees the opportunity and officially dispowers parliament. It has a certain sad irony how European Union points fingers at authoritarian systems (Russia, China, Cuba, Middle Eastern countries…) and keeps on and on about moralising its own democratic constitution – but now, it has its own home-made dictatorship.
This is not a destructive piece from the „Anti-Europe“-faction within antiauthoritarians and the Left. This is a perspective transcending the national narrow-mindedness, which is becoming more and more popular at the moment – also within the Left or the radical movements. We came together as Beyond Europe as a consequence of the fact, that transforming our societies cannot happen in national boundaries. The current pandemic underlines that and makes clear, that we need at least a European (if not a global) attempt to stop nationalism, authoritarianism, the mantra „free market over all“, racism and chauvinism, that is why we fight for solidarity, self-organisation, „people and planet over all“, freedom of movement and equality. More than ever we have to move beyond this Europe.
Beyond Europe Editorial Team, April 2020
Our comrades from Αντιεξουσιαστική Κίνηση Θεσσαλονίκης(Antiauthoritarian Movement) and Micropolis social space for freedom are building up the mutual aid network Covid-19: Αλληλεγγύη Θεσσαλονίκηςin Thessaloniki, Greece, along with other organisations and residents of the city. We will be getting more feedback in the next months regarding the situation in Greece and the social structures from below.
You can read their first text setting the framework for this effort here:
Direct action for health and dignity
The coronavirus pandemic, which is dominating the global agenda, is very likely to determine and alter the dominant political strategies, as well as the overall discourse, both dominant and divergent. The states are trying to use communication tactics, authoritarianism and the tenet of “personal responsibility” to cover the long-term lack of funding in public health and social services. The poor, the exploited, the people, are making an effort to move forward in the discourse on the concepts of humanity and solidarity, on the need for coexistence and the organization of mutual aid.
The coronavirus pandemic in Greece is evolving with the public health system totally discredited, underfunded and understaffed, after years of austerity and TINA neoliberalism. Today, we will not let the politics that discredited the system of public health be forgotten. The huge responsibilities of those who until yesterday openly discussed cutbacks and layoffs of doctors, will not now be covered by their applause.
In this situation, measures of self-restraint are important to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the vulnerable. Under no circumstances, though, do they legitimize the state’s authoritarianism, which we expect to escalate and expand, using this situation as an excuse, for instance by banning protests etc. We know fully well that those in power will cynically use the pandemic to impose prohibitions, abolishment of rights and even worse labor relations and wages.
During this difficult period, we are called to bear the burden of responsibility in order to protect ourselves and the people around us, by creating our own social structures and networks of solidarity and mutual aid. These networks and social structures must be turned into living entities of resistance, by first taking the health system in our hands as a conscious choice for achieving mutual care, and by supporting health services along with psychiatric health and social support. From cleaners to doctors, supporting all who struggle to save the dilapidated national health care system.
At the same time, we rise in dignity and face the immediate social needs that arise from the pandemic, which affect everyone, but most importantly those that were already in need. No state and no market can substitute social solidarity and mutual aid and that is the root of the war that takes place in front of our eyes.
The fear, cultivated by the government’s military decrees, and the sudden increase in the prices of personal hygiene products by the capitalist market, can be overcome with solidarity and small, kind actions, to support those in need.
The following teams are already in operation:
-Immediate action of solidarity for the vulnerable (Food & Medicine)
-Campaign and technical support
-Legal assistance (Labor and renting)
-Psychological support and counseling services
-Team of Journalism and Translations
Covid-19: Thessaloniki Solidarity
A call from Beyond Europe and friends: Connecting struggles in times of Covid 19 and beyond
– German version below –
Let’s support the workers of viome by buying their products, which will be sent directly to Moria to make them available to the refugees. This way we can help the refugees in Moria with their Corona prevention and and support at the same time the workers of viome to achieve a self-sufficient power supply for their factory as a basis for their continuance of production.
In the midst of the pandemic, the world is holding its breath. Only relevant professions are being carried out and people are encouraged to stay at home and keep their distance. So far so good, if fundamental rights would not be trampled to further develop the authoritarian efforts. At the same time people in the overcrowded refugee camps at the external borders of the EU are suffering in dirty conditions without the possibility to take any precautions against the virus and left alone in their misery.
While the Greek health care system was stripped down for years by the Troika, the Greek state under the new conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis can think of nothing better than to shut down the self-organised soap factory viome with the help of the anti riot police (MAT) to stop its production of Soap. https://beyondeurope.net/1274/ hands-off-vio-me-occupied-soap-factory-powered-off/
We say no to the attack on human rights at the external borders and to the attack on self-organized labour collectives!
Together with the workers of Vio.Me we connect both struggles. We’ll build a solidarity network that should last beyond the times of Corona.
The inhumane misery camps, however, must be evacuated! A little bit of soap remains only a drop in the ocean. We must continue to do everything possible to free the people from Moria and other camps.
Fight the dirty conditions everywhere! Our weapon remains solidarity!
Please transfer your donations to the following account:
GLS Gemeinschaftsbank e.G.
!subject matter of the bank transfer!: Soap for Moria
Call of the workers and the solidarity comitee of Vio.Me: http://www.viome.org/2020/04/immediate-restoration-of-power-to-viome.html
Kampf den schmutzigen Zuständen!
Unterstützt die selbstverwaltete Fabrik Vio.Me in Thessaloniki und die Geflüchteten in Moria
Ein Aufruf von Beyond Europe und friends: Lasst uns die Kämpfe verbinden. In Zeiten von Corona und darüber hinaus
Lasst uns die Arbeiter*innen von Vio.Me unterstützen, indem wir ihre Produkte kaufen, die dann direkt nach Moria geschickt werden, um sie den Geflüchteten zur Verfügung zu stellen. So können wir einerseits den Geflüchteten in Moria bei der Corona- Prävention helfen und andererseits den Arbeiter*innen von Vio.Me helfen, eine autarke Stromversorgung ihrer Fabrik als Grundlage ihres Fortbestehens zu realisieren.
Im Zuge der Pandemie hält die Welt ihren Atem an. Nur noch relevante Berufe werden ausgeführt und die Menschen werden dazu angehalten zu Hause zu bleiben und auf Abstand zu gehen. Soweit so gut, würden dabei nicht Grundrechte mit Füßen getreten, die autoritären Bestrebungen weiter auszubauen. Parallel dazu verelenden Menschen in den überfüllten Refugee Camps an den EU-Außengrenzen im Dreck, ohne jegliche Vorsichtsmaßnahmen gegen das Virus treffen zu können, und werden so ihrem Schicksal überlassen.
Während das griechische Gesundheitssystem jahrelang kaputt gespart wurde, fällt dem griechischen Staat unter der neuen konservativen Regierung von Kyriakos Mitsotakis nichts besseres ein, als der selbstorganisierten Seifenfabrik Vio.Me unter Einsatz von Aufstandsbekämpfungseinheiten (MAT) den Strom abzustellen, um deren Seifenproduktion lahm zu legen. https://beyondeurope.net/1274/hands-off- vio-me-occupied-soap-factory-powered-off/
Wir sagen Nein zu menschenverachtenden Bedingungen an den EU- Außengrenzen und zu dem Angriff auf selbstverwaltete Arbeitskollektive!
Gemeinsam mit den Arbeiter:innen von Vio.Me verbinden wir beide Kämpfe. Wir bauen ein solidarisches Netzwerk auf, dass auch über die Zeiten von Corona hinaus Bestand haben soll.
Die menschenunwürdigen Elendslager müssen evakuiert werden! Ein wenig Seife bleibt nur ein Tropfen auf den heißen Stein. Wir müssen weiterhin alles dafür tun, die Menschen aus Moria und anderen Lagern zu befreien.
Kampf den schmutzigen Zuständen! Unsere Waffe bleibt Solidarität!
Überweist eure Spenden bitte auf folgendes Konto:
GLS Gemeinschaftsbank e.G.
!Verwendungszweck!: Seife für Moria
Aufruf der Arbeiter:innen und des Solidaritätskomitees von Vio.Me: http://www.viome.org/2020/04/sie-nutzen-die-ausgangssperre-um-die.html
An uprising took place early this morning in the woman’s prison of Eleonas, Thebes in Greece, after the death of a imprisoned woman for an unknown reason.
In two wings, some matresses burned, while according to sources of the General Secretariat of Anti-crime policy police intervention was not necessary and now things are calm. The detainee was initially taken to the hospital where she died and her cause of death has not yet been determined and an autopsy is expected.
The young woman’s inmates are talking about symptoms of corona disease and are asking for immediate protection and decongestion measures.
While it was mathematically certain that the virus would not leave untouched structures with such a large overpopulation like prisons, the Ministry of Citizen Protection has not yet taken the necessary measures other than the absolute restriction of prisoners in prisons.
Despite the concerns of opposition lawmakers, lawyers and penitentiaries for more than a month now, and despite the Council of Europe’s strict directives to take action during the pandemic, all announcements are still on paper and no one seems in a hurry to protect the people in prison with decongestion and hygiene measures.
On this sad occasion we share with you the text about prisons and corona crisis from COVID-19: Thessaloniki Solidarity:
“Inside the prison we feel like we have been sentenced to death.”
This cry is coming from the invisible women and men inside the Greek prisons of and not only them, as revolts are breaking out all over the world for the right to life and dignity, from Italy to Colombia and from Iran to Brazil. The situation in Greek prisons was miserable even before the pandemic: overcrowding, zero medical care, hygiene conditions constituting a health disaster waiting to happen. Prisoners feel as if they are being sent to death row amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, since if the virus contaminates the prisons, it will endanger the lives of thousands of inmates who belong to high-risk groups. In a report dated March 23rd, the World Health Organization also draws the attention of governments especially on detention centers, both with respect to health conditions and also protecting individual freedoms, without discriminating against detainees.
In this case as well, however, just like with the “outside” world, the reaction of the Greek State moved in the same direction: prohibitions and repression instead of actual relief actions, as these would mean expenses for people and groups that have been judged as financially unsustainable for neoliberalism. Open visits by relatives and lawyers have been banned, while detainees cannot receive various items from outside, such as clothes, food and books. Just as the universal ban on out-of-prison traffic does the bare minimum to save the health system from collapsing, similarly the prohibitions within the prisons will not be effective in protecting the health of prisoners, but only in strengthening discipline and incarceration.
Thousands of sick, elderly persons and pregnant women continue to be incarcerated in prisons. So far, minimal disinfection has taken place, following pressure from detainees, e.g. in the women’s prisons of Korydallos. There is no access to sanitizers or masks. In the few cases that employees wear masks and gloves, these are being supplied by themselves and they are not granted a leave if they have flu symptoms. There is no information on anything, neither on the measures taken, nor on the nature of the virus. In some prisons, such as Malandrino and Grevena, there is a constant problem regarding provision of tap water. On the occasion of water being supplied to these prisons it is transferred by tanker trucks (!), and its quality is substandard. Last week, in the prisons of Chania, there was no water for three days. Some detainees may not even be able to wash their hands. At the same time, without conducting any health checks, the Greek State plans to set up a small wing of the Korydallos women’s prison so that patients from Domokos prison and further south can be transferred. This situation makes detainees talk about “Spinalonga” -refering to a Greek leper colony that operated on a remote island until the mid-20th century- as they know that with the situation prevailing in hospitals at the moment, there is nothing for them to expect as far as medical care is concerned.
For these obvious reasons, which are, undoubtedly, the most just in the world, prisoners of different prisons proceeded to mobilizations, and the state has responded with repression and the expansion of the state of exception. As of March 27th, inmates at Chania’s prison have refused the midday bed rest and count. The penitentiary service responded with courtyard prohibition, a measure that makes the situation even more volatile due to the constant and intense overcrowding caused. At St. Stephen’s prison of Patras, inmates of the Wing 3 abstained from their food rations on the very same day, while initially they refused the midday rest and count. In response, special police burst into the prison, and under the pretext of performing a search, they destroyed prisoners’ cells. The inmates of the detention center of Larissa started escalating protests, as of Monday, March 30th, maintaining the prison open during the noon count until the ministry officially responds.
The absence of and prison decongestion and prisoner protection measures is a state crime! We stand by the struggles of the “invisible” prisoners and make their demands visible.
– Μass prisoner releases (heinous crimes excluded), with priority given to immunocompromised, vulnerable groups.
– Cessation of pretrial detention until the end of the pandemic (depending on the charges).
– Provision of special areas for inmates with flu symptoms, as well as HIV-positive people.
– Paid leave for prison employees showing virus symptoms (even mild ones), as is the case for the rest of the population.
– Disinfection of all prisons and free distribution of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, antiseptic).
– Priority to prisoners and prison staff for the COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
COVID-19: Thessaloniki Solidarity
Yesterday our comrades from the group Eklat in Muenster demonstrated with over 100 People for the immediate evacuation of all refugee-camps on the European borders. They made clear, that solidarity does not know any borders. While the demonstration was forbidden because of corona at first, it was allowed under strict conditions later on. We share with you a video and the speech held at the rally:
"Egal ob trotz oder gerade wegen Corona. Es bleibt dabei: fight fucking fortress europe. Lasst uns gemeinsam unsere Wut und Ohnmacht über die Verhältnisse in Entschlossenheit und Kraft wandeln. Lasst uns mit dem Abriss dieser zutiefst unvernünftig eingerichteten Welt beginnen! Das Fass ist schon lange übergelaufen. Evakuiert Moria. Öffnet die Grenzen. Schafft sichere Fluchtwege. Jetzt."- unser Redebeitrag auf der Mahnwache von MS Seebrücke und Bündnis gegen Abschiebungen Münster – I love Bleiberecht Münster(hier zum nachlesen: https://eklatmuenster.blackblogs.org)/redebeitraege/)
Gepostet von Eklat am Mittwoch, 8. April 2020
Fight Fucking Fortress Europe! Evacuate Moria!
While Germany is delivering fine speeches about solidarity everyday no one seems to give a shit about the situation at Fortress Europe’s borders. There are no words for our anger. We have long seen the straw that broke the camel’s back. Evacute Moria – now! Open all borders. Make safe escape routes happen. Now.
While Germans are praising themselves for their so-called solidarity, the other side of the medal looks rather dark. Those who have been outside the society, those who are put down to the end of the value chain can tell a totally different story. Their passports decide who belongs to society and who doesn’t. Suddenly not only their rights in but also their lives are being discussed and mostly not even being taken into consideration. We’ve seen the ‘arguments’ before: From “maybe we should stop rescuing people in the Mediterranean” to “who cares if there’s a Corona outbreak in the refugee camps?” No one seems to care nowadays.
The camps are by definition locations where everything is up for discussion – even the mere survival of people. The first case of Corona has just been reported from Moria but physical distancing, personal hygiene and medical are being made impossible or inaccessible. A situation which puts the majority of the people in the camps into the virus’s “risk groups”. Without being clear about it and maybe even without the intention, the solidarity which has been developing around the society’s health situation becomes the moment of rediscovering the national community which is being declared and risen up as a community of fate. 200.000 people declared as ‚Germans‘ from all over the world have been fetched home by an air bridge: back home to the world’s champion of artificial respiration. Back to the county that can easily overcome the crisis, that can easily pull through the #FlattenTheCurve and that will yet benefit from the crisis again. Meanwhile the borders have been closed overnight and the humanitarian right to stay has been suspended. Far right positions seem to become facts and are covered up with a little help from the so-called centre of society. Justified as being only emergency measures that helps the national community that has no capacities to help anyone else during the crisis. See-no-evil, hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil. Let’s make Germany’s priorities clear for once and all: It’s impossible to help the people in Moria while borders are being opened in order to save the German asparagus. Fuck you.
The truth about the so-called solidarity is simple: It’s the negation of solidarity for many – not only for a few. In fact, you can’t call it solidarity at all. Because it means not only accepting the gap of opportunities and chances between people and that some are reduced to their plain survival. But we can’t even take the latter one for granted anymore. While everyone is on their own – there can be no talk of solidarity anymore. It’s the mere opposite: the backlash in to nationalists’ dreams, into the barbarian national community. What have been our demands ever since becomes now even more urgent: The photos and news from Lesbos have transformed our calls for open borders, freedom of movement and a better, totally different world into concrete, crucial claims. There are not abstract anymore, nor can they be called radical.
Because no matter if it’s despite or rather because of Corona. We say it clear: fight fucking fortress Europe.
Former employees are occupying a closed-down McDonald’s in Marseille to cook food for inhabitants of the neighborhood struck by the pandemic and its economic consequences. Despite the corpo’s refusal, the workers took it over and are finally using it for a good cause.
In the meantime, McDonald’s in France is forcing workers to get back to work under the threat of firing them, so that they can continue making profits, in total disregard for risks to the workers’ wellbeing and public health…
We should not underestimate conspiracy theories that we can all see on the Internet. They can become a motive for action.
First published in a2larm.cz. Written and translated by Simon Kovner
On Tuesday evening, April 7, fifteen-year-old Arkan Hussein Kjo was riding his bicycle near the train station in Celle, Lower Saxony, when twenty-nine-year-old Daniel S. attacked and stabbed him to death. Arkan was from the Yazidi community and fled to Germany with his family when he was ten. Yazidis from the Sinjar region in Iraq were then the target of a genocide unleashed by the so-called Islamic State.
The murderer was detained on the spot by witnesses of the attack and subsequently arrested by the police. However, he is keeping islence in custody and his motive is not clear yet. According to the police, he looked “confused” when detained. However, as journalists from Die Zeit, Michael Trammer and Henrik Merker found out, the attacker was a fan of the QAnon ultra-right conspiracy theory.
Yet another attack
The murder of Celle is thus only one of a series of attacks committed by conspiracy theorists. Earlier this year, Tobias R. murdered ten people in Hannau. The attack was directed primarily against shisha bars where the local Kurdish community was meeting, and the last victim was the attacker’s mother. In October 2019, another striker Sebastian Balliet in Halle unsuccessfully attacked the synagogue and then murdered two random passers-by. Both Balliet and Tobias R. claimed to belong to QAnon before their attacks. The attacker from Halle, who streamed his attack on social media in the video, says, “Hi, I’m Anon, and I think the Holocaust never happened.” Brenton Tarrant, a terrorist from the same Internet environment murdered 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Both Balliet and Tobias R. were described as “confused” or “angry” by the German police shortly after the attacks, and the racial motive was only admitted after antifascists and the press put pressure on the police with the weight of evidence. From analyses of Daniel S.’s online activities, the popularity of conspiracy theories and “humorous” sites with anti-Semitic content is obvious, but at the same time he is far from the clear political profiling of the two previous attackers. However, the psychic instability of the attackers must not lead to the ignoring of political motives, as it is often done with extreme right terrorism contrarily to Jihad-motivated terrorism.
On the contrary, the growing trend of a new type of ultra-right terrorism is clearly visible. While classic Nazi terrorists such as the NSU or Stephan Ernst the killer of the mayor of Kassel mayor came from classic ultra-right structures, took part in demonstrations and other extreme right events (often alongside NPD or AFD leaders), new wave members are often without strong contacts to the organized extreme right and their radicalization process is primarily via the Internet. Internet forums such as 4chan, 8chan or Gab have become part of the trend for new ultra-right movements. QAnon’s conspiracy theory came out of this environment, and its central motive is the claim of a deep state conspiracy to remove Donald Trump (a theory that the government is manipulated by secret services and organized crime). Conspirators are gaining popularity by accusing various celebrities of participating in clandestine sexual slavery, in the past they have accused Tom Hanks, Quentin Tarantino and Oprah Winfrey. The theory also includes classic anti-Semitic images, such as the assertion of extracting a life-prolonging substance from children’s blood, or portraying George Soros as a mysterious backstage player who disrupts the world through managed migration. Qanon is the first conspiracy theory the FBI has identified as a potential source of domestic terrorism.
Who is responsible for your fear
This theory has its supporters also in the Czech Republic. While browsing the Internet forums, most of the participants appear to be confused men in their fifties, convinced that drinking bleach will protect them from coronavirus, but as we saw in the example of Jaromír Balda, who tried to derail a train, there is a short step from phantasmagoric theories to the feeling of being threatened and finally taking action. Even the first Czech right-wing terrorist of the new wave suffered from psychological problems, but his main motive was political. And among Czech conspirators, ultra-right views are as common as new age esotericism.
While in Germany anti-fascists have been drawing attention to the danger of “lone wolves” terrorists for several years, in our country this danger is being underestimated. The current situation in which mainstream political parties are trying to gain popularity by fomenting fear and hatred, combined with the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, can make conspiracy theories more popular. Instead of new Vítkov arsonists (a 2009 attack by Neonazis against a Roma family) or a jihadist attack, we will rather see another act of terror by someone convinced by the Internet and politicians that migrants, feminists, or NGOs are responsible for his fear.
By Jaz Brisack, an abortion clinic defender and labor organizer from Mississippi.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the United States, many states have rushed to restrict abortion access, citing shortages of PPE to order clinic closings. It’s a flimsy excuse: the procedures aren’t performed in hospitals and require little or no equipment. None of that matters, however, since the goal is not to reduce the strain on the medical system — a strain that, one would imagine, surges in pregnancy and childbirth would increase — but rather to further the forced-birth agenda.
Restrictions on abortion are nothing new. Throughout the US, politicians have routinely sacrificed the bodily autonomy of pregnant people to their own ambitions. This is especially apparent in states like Mississippi, the hardest state in which to obtain an abortion, where candidates from both parties jockey to prove their fetus-friendliness before elections. White supremacy figures prominently in their statements on the issue: as the state’s Republican senator attempted to cover up her pro-lynching remarks by calling abortion “Black genocide,” the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor said that he had voted for a six-week ban on abortion out of his desire to keep “white Democrats” in office.
This fundamentalist fetishization of the “unborn” had already made it extremely difficult to get an abortion prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Depending on which state you’re in, you may be forced to get an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound; travel to the clinic multiple times because of mandated waiting periods; get parental permission or sue for a judicial bypass; and raise the money to pay out-of-pocket, as federal funds (i.e. Medicaid) cannot be used for abortion services and many states prohibit private insurance plans from covering it. Additionally, your doctor (who may be required to be a certified ob-gyn) may have to tell you that abortion increases your risk of breast cancer (untrue) or that you will suffer from “postabortion stress syndrome” (which doesn’t exist). States have also tried to regulate the width of clinic hallways, require doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals (who refuse their applications due to religious or conflict-avoidant objections), and force fetal funerals.
These restrictions have created an “abortion desert” in many states, where pregnant people are forced to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic, assuming they can jump through all the other hoops imposed on them. Seeking a way out of unwanted pregnancy, many people turn to desperate and dangerous methods, like ordering unregulated pills online, drinking pennyroyal tea or bleach, or resorting to the infamous coathanger. While the criminalization of these acts contributes to a lack of data on their frequency or deadliness, browsing history indicates a direct link between restrictions and attempts: Mississippi leads the nation in Google searches for how to self-induce an abortion.
Like all of the obstacles that state governments had implemented prior to the pandemic, the Covid-related restrictions were never about improving patient safety or saving lives. However, hypocrisy has never stopped the religious right, who have continued to protest outside clinics as the pandemic rages. Founded by Pinkhouse Defenders, as the activist escorts at Mississippi’s last clinic are called, the abortion rights group We Engage pointed out these double standards in a post late last week. Accompanied by images of masked anti-choice protesters dressed in “Trust Jesus” t-shirts, the post describes them “stand[ing] outside clinics harassing patients wearing N95 masks, a clear waste of PPE. Seems they would want to donate those to a hospital and just ‘Trust Jesus.’ It’s not about PPE. Clearly.”
If the intention was saving supplies and limiting exposure, telemedicine would be an ideal solution for patients in earlier stages of pregnancy. The medication abortion pills could be mailed or picked up like any other prescription, while the consultation could take place online. However, as health providers in certain US states and in other countries, including the UK, move toward relaxing restrictions around telemedicine abortions, many states have refused to allow similar changes.
This inflexibility is already costing lives. Northern Ireland has not implemented the “Pills by Post” program that patients throughout most of Britain are now able to access, and local healthcare providers do not perform abortions, meaning patients must travel to England – a journey that involves an eight-hour ferry ride. Abortion activist Mara Clarke reported on the effects of this policy. When a patient’s appointment was cancelled due to the UK lockdown, they went to a local hospital to ask for an abortion; the staff refused. The following day, they were admitted to that hospital after overdosing in an attempted suicide.
It is more evident than ever that abortion is essential healthcare. It is also a time-sensitive procedure, and unnecessary restrictions have made it even more so by prohibiting abortions after a certain stage in pregnancy. Yet, as the advocacy and comedy group Abortion Access Front points out, states that are shuttering abortion clinics are allowing crisis pregnancy centers to continue operating. These are fake clinics, run by anti-choice individuals, usually without medical training, that lie to and intimidate patients seeking abortions — and often receive funding from state governments. That they are allowed to remain in operation underscores the disparate treatment that abortion rights advocates and their opponents receive.
With demonstrations curtailed due to social distancing, the front line of the resistance is where it has always been: outside clinics, escorting patients past protesters who lack even a rudimentary understanding of personal space, let alone social distancing. While some escort programs have been suspended due to shelter-in-place orders, clinic defense has continued wherever possible, as protecting patients is essential work. Additionally, abortion activists are working overtime to report on and raise awareness of the constantly-changing situation, as false information abounds and as patients’ lives are adjudicated through endless appeals.
This is an extremely dangerous and taxing situation. If there is any source of hope, it is that this pandemic has exposed the callousness and the opportunism of the anti-choice movement, which is using this catastrophe as cover to sacrifice lives by restricting healthcare access. The Covid crisis has amplified the existing issue of disparities in healthcare access — disparities that exist for patients seeking abortions as much as for those needing treatment for the virus. Moreover, the inevitability of Biden as the Democratic nominee means the impossibility of securing Medicare for All through electoral processes. The growing awareness that privatized, employment-based, capitalist healthcare cannot provide equitable or essential treatment may force workers in the United States to organize outside of electoral politics, organizing unions and building a mass movement to demand public healthcare. Our lives depend on it.
Solidarity in the Corona-crisis will only come from those who are most affected by it, says Christopher Wimmer*
The corona pandemic poses enormous social challenges for capitalism. Its contradictions are currently more evident than ever before. Every day we are shown how badly a mode of production whose purpose is profit is equipped to protect human life. It is true that governments are trying – in order to prevent millions of deaths – to boost the production of basic medical equipment, to increase the number of intensive care beds, to stop forced evictions and, in some cases, even to provide accommodation for the homeless. But all these things should, of course, always be at the heart of any humane society and not just appear as an effect of a pandemic. But under capitalism the protection of life is systematically neglected – just as the environment is systematically destroyed. Now the absurdity of such a way of organising our lives becomes obvious.
However, another insight seems to be gaining ground these days. The term “systemically relevant” currently does not refer to CEOs, bankers or factory owners. It refers to all the nurses, parcel carriers, saleswomen, educators, housekeepers, midwives and truck drivers who – as they say – keep the business running. At the same time, it is people in these professions who have a significantly higher risk of contracting the corona virus than the CEOs, bankers or factory owners. But they are paid much less for this. Statistics say that the chance of surviving the pandemic increases with income. The mantra that has been heard for years – put forward by all those CEOs, bankers or factory owners – that performance must finally be rewarded turns out to be what it always was: pure mockery.
It is also scornful when people now applaud from the balconies of the upper floors of the social hierarchy for “those at the bottom” or play music. Surely symbolic solidarity is better than no solidarity. But the rent doesn’t pay any easier, even if the neighbour plays “To Joy” on the piano. Who has a piano anyway and for whom is the home a place of peace and privacy? And for whom is it the dark one-room apartment in the back building with two children? It is just silly and wrong to claim that social classes have disappeared.
“Those at the bottom” have always known that and they’ve always resisted. During the pandemic, there have already been wildcat strikes by grocery store workers, bus drivers, Amazon warehouse workers and health care workers around the world. They all demand protective equipment, hazard pay and dignity at work. There are also movements to occupy empty flats, to coordinate rent strikes, to house the homeless and to open prisons and detention centres. These are self-organised actions that put life before profit. But for many, refusing to pay rent or engage in risky wage labour is not a matter of choice, but a necessity. If such necessities are organized, they can become a powerful political force.
All the nurses, parcel carriers, saleswomen, educators, housekeepers, midwives and truck drivers have nothing to expect from the state. The measures taken by governments are primarily aimed at preventing the collapse of the financial system. Although the worst social consequences are supposed to be mitigated by government intervention, but this helps thr CEOs, bankers or factory owners much more.
The nurses, parcel carriers, saleswomen, educators, housekeepers, midwives and truck drivers increasingly understand that capitalism will not protect them. Instead, they must rely on themselves and the practical solidarity of other working class people. “Those at the bottom” will only help “those at the bottom”.
*Christopher Wimmer is a political activist and scientist. He lives in Berlin and deals with leftist history and movement. His most recent anthology “Where have all the Rebels gone?” was published by Unrast.
Some news from our spontaneous campaign “Fight the dirty conditions” in support of the people in Moria and the occupied factory VIO.ME in Thessaloniki:
*** Thanks to many of you we have collected around 2.500 Euro!
*** The first load of soap is already on the way to Lesbos. We will give you an update once it arrives!
*** VIO.ME has still dificulties to produce on large scale because of the electricity shutdown. The small generators from friends are not enough and they are still in need of a big generator.
*** At the same time the situation in the Greek refugee camps is worsening. After the first Corona cases in the Ritsona camp and other places became public, an evacuation plan for the camps was leaked by the media. But all is still unclear.
*** Corona lockdown continues in Greece. And difficult times are coming up: rising unemployment, no tourism and the ongoing social destruction will transform the country once more in a crisis laboratory of austerity and privatisation. People are already organising mutual aid initiatives and preparing themselves for the coming confrontation. More about the self-organization in the articles on our homepage.
Please continue to support the campaign by donating money and telling your friends about it: All the important information is on this fresh video clip! (big thanks to Nadja Kurz)
Some news from our spontaneous campaign "Fight the dirty conditions" in support of the people in Moria and the occupied factory VIO.ME in Thessaloniki: *** Thanks to many of you we have collected around 2.500 Euro!*** The first load of soap is already on the way to Lesbos. We will give you an update once it arrives!*** VIO.ME has still dificulties to produce on large scale because of the electricity shutdown. The small generators from friends are not enough and they are still in need of a big generator.*** At the same time the situation in the Greek refugee camps is worsening. After the first Corona cases in the Ritsona camp and other places became public, an evacuation plan for the camps was leaked by the media. But all is still unclear.*** Corona lockdown continues in Greece. And difficult times are coming up: rising unemployment, no tourism and the ongoing social destruction will transform the country once more in a crisis laboratory of austerity and privatisation. People are already organising mutual aid initiatives and preparing themselves for the coming confrontation. More about the self-organization in the articles on our homepage.Please continue to support the campaign by donating money and telling your friends about it: All the important information is on this fresh video clip!stay tuned
Gepostet von Beyond Europe am Samstag, 18. April 2020
The reality of a threatening pandemic that has spread like a shadow over our cities has created a weird, unpleasant condition, a numbness and a suffocating feeling. The virus was born in the furnace of Wuhan, one of the engines of the Chinese capitalist miracle, an area where hot and humid climate meets the frenzied industrial production of raw materials and the over-concentration of a proletariat without future. The virus has no political color, but the environmental and political conditions that allowed its birth and rapid spread in the Chinese province and let it reach every corner of the globe most surely have. The thought that almighty capitalism, this totalising social phenomenon, is non-centralized, offers no consolation. A conspiracy theory suggesting that this virus fights on behalf of one side of the planetary war or that its purpose is to solve the constant demographic problem of overpopulation would offer a solution, that would somehow explain the situation. Fortunately, however, not all causal relations are based on how the state and capitalism operate, or at least they do not directly intersect with their core dimensions and strategic action.
The pandemic situation feels like an experience of a world-shaking event, whether or not that proves to be the case. Our eyes have been stretched by the uninterrupted reproduction of unprecedented images. And if China’s dystopian sci-fi was banned from our perception of reality as something exotic -as Ebola once was- the stacked coffins of neighbouring Italy, the empty streets of Western Europe and the drones looking down at us in downtown Athens, leave no room for misinterpretation. We have to go way back, in the heart of the era of extremes, of the short 20th century, to find an event that has so deeply entrenched the planet that it has anchored the present and future of humans. The absolute nature of these lines can be crushed in the wall of reality and of business-as-usual. Ηowever, at the moment, when they are written, the general feeling is this: we live something important that will change us and the world around us.
The virus was born in a world of systemic inequality and exclusion. Those who see the stars from the bottom of the barrel are incomparably most affected. Unemployed people, precarious workers, drug addicts, people incarcerated in prisons, psychiatric clinics and detention centres, face and will face the pandemic literally in terms of survival without having anything to expect from the state and the bosses. Prisons have already declared a high security state and refugees and migrants, who are being suffocated in detention centres such as Moria in Greece, are searching and finding ways to cope using their own forces. Τhe pre-existing or on-going financial hardship has a different effect on different people – some will receive wages without working, while others will not be paid at all. As the pandemic affects conditions of life at global level, openness and closedness, inclusion and exclusion, exception and norm, core elements of the state’s self-interested nature, determine who lives and how, today and tomorrow – they also indicate our political tasks.
Governance in the time of the coronavirus is pivoting on shifting the responsibility to the citizens, on prohibition and repression – it is no coincidence that, behind closed doors, the rulers compare the current condition with that of the Twin Towers attack – but also discuss how to control a situation that seems to escalate very rapidly and, as a result, seriously endangers the health of our fellow citizens.
Starting from the last point, I think we ought to focus on the particularity of the Coronavirus and the resulting crisis which leads states to take onerous, undemocratic, extraordinary measures, culminating in a curfew. This task requires maintaining a delicate balance and reflecting upon the state’s nature. Biopolitics and necropolitics, statisticalization and algorithmization, instrumentalization and constant expansion are elements of the state’s modus operandi and we all know that (?). The state’s point of view is that of public health, which emphasises health policy, by connecting politics and medicine, through quantification and measurability. Many of the measures taken today to control the pandemic could remain active, expand or return slightly modified after the end of it. However it is not wise at the moment to only identify sinister motives behind the adoption of these measures. With numerous examples around us, it seems more appropriate to fully realize that the way in which the state manages this situation is narrow, rigidly set up and does not include any planning about what happens next. In any case, the state doesn’t need much incentive to manage our lives on our behalf, or expand its authority as much as possible; it is simply its role.
Returning to the current perspectives adopted by various governments around the word, we cannot let the deliberate and strategic choice of over-emphasizing on individual responsibility go unnoticed. “Individual responsibility”, “citizens who need to be disciplined”, “the unscrupulous, on account of whom we all have to pay the price” have become a well-written and contagious mantra that comes from above to penetrate our minds, here in the bottom – not accidentally reminiscent of the quite memorable “we ate them together” [a phrase that Theodorοs Pagalos, Pasok’s Member of Parliament said back in the days of memorandums to justify the austerity measures]. The government’s attempt to refuse any responsibility is mediated by blaming the rogue Greeks, who do not protect themselves and the community as a whole. Media help create an atmosphere and pave the way for new, stricter bans. Individual responsibility for public health issues is presented as obvious and as something we must take seriously – and as far as the lived experience of these days shows, the solution of “We Stay Home” has become an act. However, it becomes outrageous that this solution has been raised into an emblematic motto of a government that, beyond bans, has taken no other measures to curb the pandemic: this government hasn’t proceeded with the thousands of hirings it announced, it doesn’t provide the necessary protective working conditions to health care workers, it doesn’t proceed with the requisition of private clinics, it doesn’t protect workers in the workplace.
There is a confusion around individual responsibility and self-restraint, a confusion that has endured in our groups for decades, it has a political and anthropological context and creates complications. Regardless of whether the state policy surrounding the coronavirus crisis consists of bans and repression, self-restraint and a sense of responsibility for us and those around us must be non-negotiable. Our political proposal and outlook is not a general anti-authoritarianism and anti-conformism, but the building of communities based on freedom and solidarity, communities with deep roots and understanding of boundaries.
At the moment, the general consensus is one of a population that expects to be “managed” even more, more effectively, with a firm hand and determination. This feeling is grounded, but we must evaluate it, without paralyzing in the face of new facts, and given that for many the main characteristic of the last decade is a state of fear, a feeling of constant struggle to keep our heads out of the water and whenever we find something to catch, it disappears magically, alas, and we sink deeper.
For many, the state seems to be today the buoy that will finally endure, so they hastily grab it.
It goes without saying that the media blitzkrieg that paints images of strategists of the future for our – in reality – helpless leaders assists to that, but what also helps is our anthropological aversion to boundaries, which creates insecurity and psychologicaldistance between us. Let’s not despair though! The alignment behind the state authority is not universal, and is also characterized by qualities and tensions that we are interested in analyzing and interfering with, such as questioning the capitalist approaches to the management of public goods, re-evaluating entire areas of social activity, the image of the subject in relation to themselves and the community.
On the other hand, the conditions of the pandemic encourage a sense of humanity. It reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality but also of the futility of striving for total sovereignty over the natural environment. It shows us how much we need each other, how difficult it is to survive on our own – let alone live a life that is worth living. So let’s not rush to judge the applause from the balconies, let’s not underestimate the need for symbolic practices that offer relief to the subjects and allow for some emotional connection [in the UK many people went in balconies to applaud health workers, a symbolic trend that was started by the wife of the prime minister and which many saw as hypocritical]. Rather, let’s approach this moment of realising our vulnaribility and mortality as an opportunity to devise a generous repertoire of solidarity movements, with overwhelmingly different ethics, character and form than those underpinning public and private sectors policies. It is always a bet for us to create and maintain an area between the state and the market, an area that cannot be fully controlled by them. Under these conditions, the bet is harder but also more critical.
At the risk of bitterly regretting this prediction, we reiterate that the coronavirus condition is a pivotal event that shakes the pillars of today’s world, today’s status quo, and possibly determines part of tomorrow’s agenda. To begin with, the spread of the virus around the world is following the frenzied course of neoliberal globalization. The way our world is interconnected, coupled with the ecologically destructive prevalence of tourism, extreme consumerism and the neoliberal ruthless movement of goods, does not allow such phenomena to be mitigated locally or – even regionally -. At the same time, it turns out that the major issue of the pandemic can only be addressed at the nation-state level. If in dealing with the financial or refugee crisis the European Union once appeared as completely lacking the ability to make and enforce decisions as an entity, today it seems to accept that the pandemic cannot and should not be tackled collectively and co-ordinated by European primary and secondary legislation – it goes without saying that other international organizations such as the World Health Organization or the International Monetary Fund appear to be equally weak and irrelevant. Therefore, each state is taking its own path right now, for good or for bad, and we look forward to seeing how the EU decides to process all of this, especially on the fiscal level. However, the issues of localization, the decolonization of our imaginary from the unidirectional route of development, the radical critique of tourism and consumption, ideas that already concern us, may gain more room for public debate and may even be proposed by unexpected sides.
Following the above, the threatening tragedy forces Western people to rethink the relationship between the state, or at least its core, and the private sector. The blunders of Mitsotakis [PM which is very fond of privatization of public health] , Georgiades[ex-minister of health also very fond of privatization of public health] and others on the privatisation of part of the public health system today would be heard as if coming from another planet. They have not ceased to be neoliberal – and as elaborated elsewhere, neoliberalism is not primarily about the primacy of the free market economy over the state; however, the conviction that certain parts of state management must be upgraded and remain unaffected by free-market logics, may force them to modify their political strategies. And of course the same is true of Western countries such as France and Italy – quite exemplary here both the statements of the neoliberal icon, Macron, and his finance minister. Given the ideological investment in balanced budgets and general austerity, we look forward to seeing how potential bailouts of the European economy will be ideologically coloured, whether the neoliberal bureaucracy of Brussels will turn to Keynesianism for the benefit of the few, and what the reaction of the citizens who have been manipulated for so many years with technocratic and economist arguments will be.
All of the above is good, good to dig deep, good to analyze and interpret. But in all our conversations, in our technology-mediated assemblies and conferences, what we are constantly coming back to is “what to do”, “how to operate politically in the midst of a storm”. And maybe at these times it is both politically and socially critical to stop over-analyzing and work like never before.
Before attempting to outline some ways of thinking and acting, on the practices we can adopt these days, I must make two points. The first is that people that say that we must “make peace with the fact that there are things we can do nothing about” and that “we must realize our lack of total omnipotence’’, are absolutely right. This statement concerns both a more anthropological, reflective level of our position on planet Earth and an awareness of the political boundaries within which we operate. The second note concerns the need for a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses as individual and collective subjects, as collectives and organizations that place themselves in the anti-authoritarian spectrum. Even if we have surpassed ourselves as many times as we have even experienced the collective joy of surpassing the limits, it is nevertheless necessary to know in which fields we will be most effective, where we can direct our energy, what the scale at which we will be able to make tangible changes to the gloomy current reality is – and along the way let’s be pleasantly surprised once again.
If, as mentioned above, the condition of the pandemic does not bring the same blows to everyone, and if state management once again excludes the most vulnerable, then we have a thread ahead of us to follow. To create and frame solidarity groups and movements that will keep the most vulnerable parts of society on their feet. Whether at the elemental level of the apartment block and neighborhood in which we live, or focusing on the social centers and squats in which we participate, to invest and politicize a sense of humanity, to walk side by side in all this. Collection and distribution of essentials, sanitary material and money, help at home for those who have difficulty moving, provision of reliable information on protection issues, legal assistance and technology and communication advice are just some of the things we can do. Furthermore, these days we have our ears stretched out for voices from the adjacent apartments, for cries from the cells of Greek penitentiary, for the incarcerated in the psychiatric clinics but also for the people who are mentally struggling around us, for the refugees and the immigrants in the islands who may be confronted with the necropolitical dimension of the state but also for the refugees and immigrants of our neighborhoods who, we must be honest, do not have the same access to information, health or anything else!
Second task is to not stop speaking about the aspects of state administration that endanger human lives, instituting an emergency labour law, policing our health with helicopters and announcements – here let us take full advantage of our technological capabilities and collective knowledge of them. Firmly in touch with reality and with a balanced criticism, to think about what it means for a society to send a sms message to go for a walk, how and why the police are entrusted with safeguarding public health, to what extent politics is medicalized and medicine is politicized, what should be done to make it out of all this as a society and not turn into a terrifying episode of Black Mirror. Let’s not succumb to the temptation of conspiracy and disaster and let’s accept – in good faith and for saving time – that this set of measures is temporary. Even so, even if we step out of the test tube in time, the fact remains that we are experiencing situations that will leave a mark on our psyche, will register in our relationship with the state, will reshape our relationship with digital communication.
Let’s, on the other hand, be sharp and ready to deal with the devaluation of our lives, the deterioration of labour relations, the management of the economy in terms of a crisis. Let’s speak here and now and make it clear that we will not tolerate another “rescue [program]”! Let’s attack statistics, administrative procedures, bureaucracy. Society should not be crushed under the weight of numbers, indices and graphs. But let’s understand that this time we need to work, prepare, build structures and infrastructures upon which we can rely massively, openly and inclusively, politically, socially, symbolically.
Even if it sounds completely alien amid a ban on traffic, policing of cities and the necessity for self-restraint and protection, let’s not completely exclude the possibility of physical political action. In today’s conditions, what used to be for us a piece of cake, must become a weapon that we will use when there is no other choice, and always with caution and care, in order to not be alienated from society and reality. Therefore, let it not be completely excluded from our thinking, let it remain a capability to either enact practical solidarity movements, or to defend those who do not have a present or future, or – if needed – as an answer to smash the state’s arrogance.
From our friends in Europe we get the message that “we are staying home now, but afterwards we will launch our counterattack”, that “then we will settle our accounts” and we can only smile and be satisfied with the high morale for fight from our comrades. But in my opinion, in order to have the slightest chance of something like that happening in the near – and so distant – future, we have to rise to the occasion today. So that “we will fight afterwards” does not turn to another “from September incredible things will happen” [a common slogan that people from the Greek movement tend to say during the summer holidays], we must act today socially and politically, cohesively and purposefully. Say what we have to say and do what we have to do. This was always the case and it is also the case today. However weird everything seems.
Short videoclip by our comrades from Antiauthoritarian Movement on solidarity in times of corona
Gepostet von Αντιεξουσιαστική Κίνηση Αθήνας – Antiauthoritarian Movement am Dienstag, 21. April 2020
We share with you the article and podcast by Julia Lindblom on the latest amazon workers protest in New York. It was first published on arbetaren.se
Online giant Amazon continues to grow during the corona pandemic. Just some month ago, the company announced that they were hiring hundreds of thousands of new workers in the United States to meet increased demand during the corona crisis. Now they plan to employ another 75,000 people in the country. This is happening while protests are growing among the warehouse workers on the floor. Arbetaren interviewed Christian Smalls, 31, who organized a strike at Staten Island’s JFK8 warehouse for better security – and who was then fired by the company.
It is early morning in New York when Christian Smalls answers the call. It has only been some week since he was fired from Amazon after organizing a protest at his former workplace, at JFK8 on Staten Island, New York. A distribution center where around 5000 people currently are working.
Christian Smalls said that the company did not take adequate security measures in connection with the outbreak of the virus. Not least in New York, a city that has become the epicenter of the pandemic and where thousands of people have died as a consequence of Covid-19. In early March, the mayor proclaimed a state of emergency in the city of eight million people, and since then the streets have been deserted and empty. At the same time, the work is ongoing at Amazon’s distribution centers as usual.
Christian Smalls says he noted in early March that colleagues around him on the floor began to feel bad.
– Some of them were vomiting, some of them were dizzy, light-headed, tired… I knew something was wrong, so I tried to escalate it to my HR team, saying like‚ hey, something is wrong here, we should quarantine the building just to be precautious. We didn’t have any confirmed cases in the beginning of March. They were like business as usual, we’re following the CDC guidelines, there’s no concern we need to take action right now‘. I wasn’t really agreeing with it, but I was like trying to continue to fight behind the scenes.
Christian Smalls took a few days off and contacted the health authorities in New York. When he returned to work on March 24, he was met by a sick and exhausted colleague. She had bloodshot eyes and said that the day before she had gotten tested for Covid-19 and was now waiting for the test result.
– I told her to go home. It was nine in the morning, it was still early. She was my friend and listened to me and understood. She went home.
Christian Smalls outside the warehouse JFK8 on Staten Island.
Two hours later, at eleven o’clock in the morning, it was the usual time for a manager meeting. There, Christian Smalls was told that they had a first positive confirmed case of Covid-19 in the building.
In Queens, a similar situation had occurred at an Amazon warehouse just some weeks earlier. By then they had closed down the building and then professionally sanitized the premises. Christian Smalls expected the same thing to happen on Staten Island. But that was not the case.
– So I was expecting the same thing. I was expecting us to close down, send everybody home with pay and they call a professional crew to come to sanitize the building. That didn’t happen. Everybody was like business as usual, don’t tell the employees, we don’t want to cause a panic. That was the last time that I worked for Amazon.
Christian Smalls says he refused to give up. He went home, made more phone calls, tried to draw media attention. He contacted the authorities again but without results.
The next morning he returned to the building but went to the cafeteria instead.
– So I went back to the building every single day – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – and I sat in the cafeteria for 8 hours a day, trying to tell the employees the truth. I said hey, somebody was in here, that has been working around you guys, that tested positive. Let’s try to close the building down, let’s go to the general manager’s office.
– So every morning around at 9 o’clock in the morning, we gonna go to interrupt his meeting. I had a group of 10 people to go voice their concerns, including myself. And he get on a phone call and I guess he tried to call the Regionals or whoever is above to decide and try to close the building down – allegedly. But nothing happened.
Christian Smalls says that they repeatedly got the same type of evasive answer – ”it’s not a Site-Level-Decision”, ”I missed the Regionals” and ”we don’t have to close the building down, we’re following the guidelines”.
So I guess he was probing at me, what you guys plan on doing. I was like I don’t know but something has to be done. Christian Smalls
On Friday Smalls went to the general manager’s office alone and got into an intense argument with him.
– I told him we need to close this building down or we gonna have to do something. I brought up the Kentucky building. They closed down, because the government closed it down and they paid the people for the entire week, I believe, until April 1st. I said well, Kentucky closed down, why can’t we close down? We’re the same type of building and he basically told me that the government did it, that the employees didn’t protest. But I read in the article, that they protested. So I guess he was probing at me, what you guys plan on doing. I was like I don’t know but something has to be done.
Christian Smalls again had to read the guidelines that didn’t make any sense or mean anything to him. He left and began mobilizing for a walkout on Monday. This time the media started to call him up.
On Saturday he returned to the building and to the cafeteria. A manager came forward and took Christian Smalls aside. He said he would be put on paid quarantine because he came in contact with someone infected by Covid-19.
– I said, well yeah I’ve been tellin‘ you guys that all week. But not only did I get in contact with her, but my entire department. We all need to be quarantined – the entire building. She is a supervisor, she has to engage with people, she has to work hand in hand with people, she has to help people – we all need to be quarantined. Including the person I drive to work with. No, just you, nobody else, just you. So, just me, not even the person I drive to work with. Ok, no problem. I left. I knew something was wrong, something was obviously wrong! I was being targeted to be silenced. They obviously got tired of me.
On Monday at lunchtime, Christian Smalls organized the walkout.
– About 50 to 60 people that came out. Everything was planned. Down to the timing. I picked the day where it’s gonna be nice weather, 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so I knew everybody would like to eat lunch outside. I gave the world, what needed to be seen, it was the walk out. And people joined us right there on the spot, people were holding my signs up.
– They were talking to the press, the media, telling the truth about not being protected at work and that’s exactly what I wanted to happen. I wanted them to note they were not being protected. There’s no mask, these are not the right type of gloves. That’s what started the spark of revolution, because a lot of people all over the globe realized they’re in the same situation and this is very dangerous, this is life or death.
Two hours later, Christian Smalls got fired from the company over the phone. Amazon disputed that he was terminated because of his agitation or political involvement. A spokeswoman for the company, Kristen Kish, said that he got fired because he had returned to work to conduct the demonstration even though he was in the midst of a paid 14-day quarantine after coming into contact with someone at the facility who was sick.
– We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment, Kirsten Smalls said to New York Times.
Amazon also denies not having told employees at the warehouse of confirmed cases and has told Forbes magazine that the company asked anyone who was in close contact with the diagnosed staff member to self-quarantine for 14 days, with pay.
The strike got a lot of attention in American media. But also the fact that Christian Smalls got fired. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced at a press conference that he has asked the city’s human rights commissioner to investigate the case.
But Amazon also ended up in a media scandal. An internal meeting protocol leaked and Vice News revealed how top executives at Amazon discussed Smalls during a morning meeting.
”He is not smart, or articulate,” senior Amazon chief David Zapolsky wrote in the meeting chat about Christian Smalls. ”Let him be the most interesting part of the story, and if possible, let him become the face of the entire trade union and organizing movement.” Also present at the meeting was Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO.
In a statement to VICE News, Zapolsky said his “comments were personal and emotional.”
“I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself”.
Christian Smalls was not surprised at how they expressed themselves in the internal meeting minutes.
How did you feel when you read the conversation?
– I don’t feel anything, because they didn’t do anything for me, my entire life! I don’t care about their opinion. It’s not about me – it never was. If they’re threatened by somebody who makes 25 dollars an hour and they have the richest man in the world in the room with them, that tells you that I was speaking the truth – is it really that serious to have a meeting with the CEO? That tells you right there that there is some truth to my story. There’s a lot of truth to my story. It’s intimidating them, it’s causing them to lose money. They‘re greedy, they’re all about the money, they don’t care about people.
– They even say that. We don’t worry about the employees, let’s just worry about Christian Smalls. That tells you right there, that they don’t give a damn about the people, sorry for my language, but they don’t care about people. If you work for Amazon, that tells you how little value you are to them. You just making them richer and richer, they don’t care if you bring this virus home to your families. They don’t care about you. They don’t care whether you live or die! You pass away, guess what they’re gonna do? They gonna hire 100 000 more people. People got to wake up. Walk out!
After your resignation, the mayor of New York told them to have the Commissioner for Human Rights investigate the case. Will they do this?
– Yeah, absolutely! They already started it. They sent them letters, they had to respond. It’s only a matter of time. Right now it’s kind of difficult. The courts are closed. Everybody’s quarantined. But they definitely have this as a top priority right now. They’re still working on it. They’re trying to examine it and it’s still investigated. I appreciate the mayor and all the Congress people, senators that stepped up to help investigate.
Do you think many employees are scared to stand up to Amazon?
– Absolutely. Yeah, that’s intimidation, it’ll stop everybody else because people would be like, oh, if you say something, you will get fired. So, there’s a lot of people. I’m getting e-mails every single day, all over the world. People that are telling me I wanna be anonymous, but here’s what’s going on, I’m afraid but here’s what’s going on. It’s sad but I have them all: Tokyo – Japan, Brazil, London, Colombia, you name it, I have spoken to somebody everywhere and it’s sad what is really going on. It’s not just America, it’s not just JFK8 in Staten Island, it’s all over the world, these buildings, all over.
– And my message to everybody is: No. 1 – you want to practise real social distancing, stop clicking the One-Click-Buy, stop ordering from them. If you’re an Amazon employee and you feel that you’re not safe: Take your power back! These people, that’s rich they’re not gonna pick a box, pack a box and send it out to the customer. You have the power. Take your power back, walk out! Stand up! Don’t be afraid.
How did it go when you started working on Amazon? Have you always worked as an assistant manager?
– I started off at the bottom. I started off making 12 dollars an hour. I got promoted up. I was a regular Tier 1 associate, a picker – we call them pickers. I got hired at the bottom, obviously I’m still at the bottom, but it doesn’t matter. I worked my way up into a supervisor position in less than a year, actually, in less than a year I got promoted up. I opened up three buildings for them: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In each building I spent over a year, almost two years.
Your colleague was expected to work while she waited for the results of the Covid-19 test. Shouldn’t she have been quarantined?
– They don’t put you on quarantine, you’re right, you’re absolutely right – they should put you on quarantine until you get the results back, but they don’t! You gotta actually come back to work. That’s the reason why I said their policy doesn’t make sense. How can you go and get the test – you don’t even get the test if you don’t show severe symptoms. So that means that you possibly may have it. I don’t wanna take that chance and let you come back to work. I’ll wait till you get your results back. That’s gonna take a couple of days. I’ve told Amazon many times that they need such policies but they haven’t done anything.
And when you worked there was one person who tested positive, while others claim that there were in fact ten cases?
– There are about 30 cases now. In that building.
Are you planning new actions?
– Well, me, personally, I have to continue with the press, with my team. What I’m planning to do long-term is to continue to help to support the unions across the nation. We have one common goal right now. To form a coalition against these corporations taking advantage of frontliners. That’s the goal right now, to take the power back from capitalism and make a good balance between the frontliner workers, so that never happens again. That’s my goal.
Now that you’ve been fired, how do you manage to support yourself?
– I just put up a “Gofundme” on my page – it’s not really for me, though, it’s for the people that are unpaid. I wanted to take care for my people first, that’s what I started it for. If you wanna support, you can donate to my “gofundme” on my Twitter page. It’s up there now. I decided to finally give in, because the people were trying to donate to me, since day one. I wasn’t accepting this, because it’s not about the money, it never was about the money. It’s about saving lives, but I got people that are suffering right now. People that haven’t been to work for over a month. So I want to take care of them and so I decided to take the donations. I contacted the person yesterday – very good people. They did it out of their kindness, out of their heart and I’m gonna to continue to help everybody else. That’s what we’re going to do with that money.
Are there many now, that don’t dare to go to work, that stay home without pay?
– Yeah, absolutely! You got 18 year old kids who don’t go to work. There are senior citizens, that have health conditions, that don’t go to work. You got people that are sick and can’t get a test – they don’t want to put their co-workers at jeopardy, they don’t go to work. So yeah, there’s a lot of people that don’t go to work. And I want to take care of them.
Have people taken their vacation early to stay home with pay?
– We don’t have any – it’s not going to work. I used all my vacation time, I used all my personal pay time. But if you haven’t been there long enough, you won’t have any. You don’t have enough. We don’t know how long we are going to be in this situation, it could be months.
Over the past two weeks, more employees have been fired after openly criticizing the company. Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham were both employees on the tech side of Amazon and worked as user experience designers. They criticized the company on Twitter for not taking the security risks of the warehouse workers seriously and allowed a call to circulate among the employees. Costa had worked for the company for 15 years and Cunningham for more than five years. Both were also active in the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group.
A company spokeswoman has confirmed to The Guardian, that the two employees were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies”, which prohibit employees from commenting publicly on its business without corporate justification and approval from executives.
Last week, Bashit Mohamed, a warehouse worker in Minnesota, was also fired after trying to organize employees for better security during the corona pandemic. Amazon has stated that Bashit Mohamed was fired due to inappropriate language and behavior.
Listen to the podcast ”Amazon: Resistance in times of pandemic” and interview with Christian Smalls:
Our friends from Kolektiv 115 in Prague just launched their mutual help campaign for tenants threatened by the crisis with this great video:
ROUŠKA DOMOV NEZACHRÁNÍ: SOLIDÁRNÍ KAMPAŇ[English version below] Kvůli krizi přišlo mnoho lidí o práci a nejsou teď schopni platit za bydlení. Vláda sice předložila návrh zákona, který má nájemníky ochránit, ten je ale děravý jak řešeto – mnohé nájemníky neochrání a uvrhne je do dluhové pasti. Zákon jen umožní o několik měsíců odložit splacení nájmů. Ti, kdo toho v nadcházejících měsících využijí, budou muset na podzim místo jednoho nájmu zaplatit každý měsíc dva. Absurdní, že jo? Zákon navíc neochrání ty, kdo mají smlouvu na dobu určitou a ta jim skončí. Pokud nemůžete platit za bydlení, tak se vás majitel muže klidně zbavit zákon nezákon.Nemůžeme připustit vlnu výpovědí a vystěhování na ulici! Je třeba umožnit dočasné neplacení nájemného všem, kdo na to z důvodu aktuální krize nemají nebo nebudou mít! Pronajímatele, které by ztráta ohrozila, ať podpoří stát.Tam, kde nepomůže stát, musí si lidé pomoct navzájem. Proto jsme se rozhodli spustit solidární kampaň "Rouška domov nezachrání". Pokud jste se kvůli pandemii ocitl/a v těžké situaci, v níž vám hrozí, že přijdete o bydlení, a úřady vám nejsou schopny pomoct (a nebo víte o někom takovém ve svém okolí), zavolejte nebo nám napište: Telefon: +420 773 159 397 Mail: email@example.comNaší zbraní je solidarita!#COVID19 #VícNežRoušky★★★[English version]FACE MASKS WON'T PROTECT YOUR HOUSING: SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGNMany people have lost their job because of the crisis and cannot pay for their housing. The government has presented a law which is supposed to protect tenants, but it has many shortcomings: many people won't be protected and risk falling into debts. The law would only allow to postpone rent payments, but those who will use that possibility in the next months will have to play twice as much in rent during the autumn. Absurd, isn't it? Moreover, the law doesn't protect people whose rent contract ends. If they can't pay for housing, the owner can easily get rid of them despite that law. We can't accept a new wave of evictions! It's necessary to allow a temporary halt to rent payments for all those suffering from the present crisis. And let the state support owners whose subsistence depends on rent payments. When the state doesn't help, people have to step up and help each other. That's why we're launching a solidarity campaign called 'Face masks won't protect your housing'. If you're in a tough spot because of the pandemic and you risk losing your housing, with the authorities unable to help you, or if you know about such people around you, let us know! Phone: +420 773 159 397 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Solidarity is our weapon! #COVID19
Gepostet von Kolektiv 115 am Dienstag, 21. April 2020
Many people have lost their job because of the crisis and cannot pay for their housing. The government has presented a law which is supposed to protect tenants, but it has many shortcomings: many people won’t be protected and risk falling into debts. The law would only allow to postpone rent payments, but those who will use that possibility in the next months will have to play twice as much in rent during the autumn. Absurd, isn’t it? Moreover, the law doesn’t protect people whose rent contract ends. If they can’t pay for housing, the owner can easily get rid of them despite that law.
We can’t accept a new wave of evictions! It’s necessary to allow a temporary halt to rent payments for all those suffering from the present crisis. And let the state support owners whose subsistence depends on rent payments.
When the state doesn’t help, people have to step up and help each other. That’s why we’re launching a solidarity campaign called ‘Face masks won’t protect your housing’. If you’re in a tough spot because of the pandemic and you risk losing your housing, with the authorities unable to help you, or if you know about such people around you, let us know!
Phone: +420 773 159 397
Solidarity is our weapon!