“When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles, in the goal that you’re striving for, not in the way you reach them.”
3 weeks ago, the African-American George Floyd was brutally murdered by police officers. Since then, an anti-racist wave of protest against police violence and White Supremacy has been spreading, which is being taken up internationally. In France, England, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Canada, but also in Germany, masses of racialized people and those standing in solidarity are taking to the streets in the middle of the pandemic. In the various countries where protests are taking place, different social situations exist from which the uprisings arise. White Left activism must show solidarity with the struggling organisations and movements of black people and people of color and recognise their spearhead role in the anti-racist struggle. We are communists from Germany who participated in the protests in Cologne and would like to present some analyses and theses on the current #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In the USA, black people make up 13% of the total population, but at the same time 33% of corona patients who need hospital treatment. They suffer from poverty-related pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, much more frequently and receive much worse health care, as they are much more likely to be affected by poverty. Black people are more than twice as often victims of murder by police officers than white people. The murder of George Floyd was certainly not an isolated case, but the straw that broke the camel’s back. The massive rage that is currently erupting everywhere merely makes these brutal facts visible. The images of the riots and the looting in the USA are by no means frightening, as postulated by bourgeois media, but are an expression of the need to upset the murderous status quo. One could plunder for a lifetime; this would not replace what capitalism stole.
The movement has already had some success. 54% support in the US-population for the burning Minneapolis police department speaks for itself. Now the police department there is to be disbanded. Worldwide, the #BlackLivesMatter protests have caused colonial monuments glorifying slavery to be hit, as in Bristol and Brussels. These successes would not have been possible without the far-reaching mass militancy. No petition had achieved this before. In Germany no monument has been tackled so far. Some influential political figures externalize the problem: it is an American phenomenon. Former faction leader of the Christian Democrats, Friedrich Merz, claims that there is no latent racism in the police. The facts tell us something else: since 1990, at least 159 People of Colour and black people have died in police custody in Germany. The racist terror does not only come from the state, but also from racists and fascists who have killed at least 209 people since 1990. In Germany racism is present everywhere. The rulers do everything to make it ignoreable for the majority of society – to the murderous disadvantage of those targeted by racism.
The internationalization of the protests makes three things clear: racism and capitalism are inseparable. Racist plundering only works with social pacification and class contract. The bourgeois state plays a central role here: it secures the capitalist normalcy, and thus inevitably also the racism that supports it and shapes it. That is why it and its personnel are now faltering in the face of the internationalization of the uprisings that are continuing in many places. The uprisings, when they attack systemic racism, necessarily attack the whole system. Civil liberties will only be accepted by those in power if the social movements can be integrated into the status quo. And: Where understanding is expressed in another country about the protest, it is usually unpopular as soon as it is directed at one’s own ruling class and it does not remain peaceful. But the renewed protests in Atlanta also make it clear that the state can try to pacify its inmates with reforms and at the same time fight the uprising with the help of the military, but also gets massive headwind from the internationalization of the protests. Whether Trump, Bolsonaro, Macron or Johnson: They are currently getting a lot of fire under their asses.
The last social movements had a subjective factor and lived on spontaneity, which caused their rapid growth: whether it was the students of Fridays for Future, who will still feel the effects of the climate catastrophe during their lifetime, or the women’s movement, which attacks the systematic double exploitation of gendering under capitalism worldwide, or the BLM movement, which makes the daily murderous threat to black people visible. Social movements take up and attack the contradictions concretely: Whether racist police violence, patriarchal and sexual exploitation or the climate catastrophe. The fight for the whole can only be won by expanding the struggles. Where systematic oppression by domination is made a problem of individuals or certain groups, the so-called “progressive neoliberalism” beckons with quotas and ridiculous reforms like body cams to satisfy the state inmates. Revolutionary answers to the crisis do not speak of individual perpetrators and redistribution. With #DefundThePolice the police as an institution is questioned. Meanwhile, in Hamburg and Berlin it quickly became clear how the smallest spark of resistance against police officers is dealt with. We have to attack racist structures and institutions, as well as colonial continuities, where we live and struggle. In other words: disempowering capital and the perpetrators of violence and expropriating the rich.
#BlackLivesMatter feeds off the anti-colonial struggles of the Black Power movement. Black culture plays a central role here, which in turn comes from a resistant tradition and poses questions of social representation and participation radically from below, but at the same time has gained quite a high popularity. Without this popularity, the wave of protest would not have been able to internationalize so quickly. In the German public and the German left, black culture is marginalized, as is knowledge of the struggles of movements and organizations. Often black voices are overheard, or their critical sting is removed. Afro-German communists, like the resistance fighter Hilarius Gilges, who was brutally murdered by the Nazis in 1933 in Düsseldorf, or the partisan fighter Carlos Grevkey, who was also murdered by Nazis, are not well known in the anti-fascist German left. This statement is directed as a criticism of ourselves, as part of this movement.
Racism is treated as a problem and, across different political camps, as structural violence. Even Horst Seehofer (German minister of the interior) and others say: We have a racism problem. This could be seen as a discursive victory for interventions critical of racism. The problem is: the legitimate questions about representation of black people and PoC, as soon as they are taken up by the Congress, the EU Parliament and the Bundestag, lack the class standpoint. Intersectional research and theoretical approaches are very vulnerable to being turned against themselves, as they have already been appropriated by the bourgeois academic sphere. The realization that many social conflicts and injustices of our time can be interpreted on the basis of the categories race, class, gender, does not necessarily put them in conflict with the capital relation. In contrast to this is the notion of striving to overcome capitalist rule, which is expressed through class relations, racism and gender relations. The difference lies in the fact that in comparison to diversity-oriented and racism-critical approaches, capitalism as a whole is denounced. Racism and gender relations are by no means a side contradiction to class relations. They are historically closely connected and can only appear to be interwoven with each other. Thus this theory differs from bourgeois theories by two central features: It has a Marxist basis on which to argue. That is, it goes beyond the categorization of inequalities. Secondly, in contrast to academic intersectionality theory approaches, the theory of triple oppression in particular aims at the revolutionary overcoming of capitalism. Or, to use Bobby Seales (Black Panther Party) words:
“We are an organisation that represents black people and many white radicals relate to this and unterstand that the Black Panther Party is a righteous revolutionary front against this racist decadent, capitalistic system. Our organisation doesn’t have any white people as members. If a white man in a radical group wants to give me some guns, I’ll take them. I’m not going to refuse them because he’s white.”
If we as leftists want to make our contribution to the BLM movement, we must intervene practically and locally. For Cologne, a minimal catalogue of measures would be the abolition of the construct of “dangerous places” (a rationalization for stop and frisk), such as the Domplatte and Ebertplatz, an end to racist police controls, #JusticeforKrys (a young man shot and by a conservative politician), Herkesin Meydani – a memorial in Keupstraße (where nazi terrorists detonated a mailbomb), the private accommodation of fugitives and to dump the Kaiser Wilhelm statues in the Rhine. Nationwide: the disarmament of the police, the return of colonial looted goods, immediate debt relief and reparations payments for former German colonies, a reappraisal of the involvement of German shipbuilders and financial houses in the slave trade and the evacuation of all camps. Those who do not want to talk about colonialism should also keep quiet about capitalism.
by Mina Khani, translated by Kian Zeytani. First published at German newspaper Analyse&Kritik on April 21st, 2020.
The Corona outbreak reached “Iranian soil” much earlier than the government in Iran admits. As alte as February 18th, right after the 41st anniversary of the revolution (February 11th) and shortly before the parliamentary elections (February 21st), the Iranian state confirmed via the Revolutionary Guards newspaper that Covid-19 had arrived in Iran. But weeks before, there had been reports of infected people spreading through the social networks.
Iran rapidly proved to be a country badly affected by the corona virus – even before the crisis became a global pandemic. Despite the delicate situation in China, the Iranian state did not stop air traffic to China until March 4th. Although the government under President Hassan Rouhani had announced that it would cancel flights to China, Mahan Air alone, the largest private airline in Iran, flew 16 times to and from China between late February and early March, according to BBC Farsi.
This provoked outrage among many people in Iran, most of whom attribute the continued air traffic to corruption in the state. The anger was heightened when Rouhani declared on 25 February that from 29 February “everything in the country will return to normal”. A few days later he had to admit that the virus had now reached all Iranian provinces.
Also the statements of the religious leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have also caused outrage in the social networks: “The virus is a biological attack on Iran”; “The virus was produced by the USA”, which is why “we do not accept any help from the USA”; “Corona is a small problem”, and it is not up to science to solve the problems of mankind, that is the task of the imams, Khamenei said in different speeches.
The misinformation and partly contradictory statements of the Iranian leadership about the seriousness of the Corona crisis weigh even more heavily for many people, as the virus has hit the country in the middle of an escalating economic and political crisis. The Otageasnafiran, the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, estimates that the corona crisis could cost up to 1.6 million people their jobs. In early April, the Iranian central bank applied for an emergency loan of five billion US dollars from the International Monetary Fund.
At a time when Corona was not yet a global pandemic, the Iranian state could not even prevent the rapid spread of the virus in the country; it even denied the fact that the virus spread to Iran early on. It was only on 24 March that Dr. Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Corona Committee, declared “that the corona epidemic very likely arrived in Iran much earlier than reported”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of infected and dead is at least five times higher than the Iranian state admits. According to official figures, about 75,000 people were infected with the corona virus in mid-April, and more than 4,500 died of the disease. Even though the state is trying to control the flow of information by massively restricting the Internet and the freedom of the press, one thing is certain: a large part of the Iranian population does not believe the state’s statements. The distrust of the state is certainly reinforced by the lack of transparency about the extent of the Corona crisis, but this feeling is not new.
Old and new protests in Iran
In November 2019, the country had experienced massive protests against the government. The trigger was the tripling of gasoline prices. Shortly afterwards there were demonstrations in more than 100 cities. The state then switched off the Internet and brutally crushed the protests. When the Internet was switched on again a week later, the extent of the state’s power only became apparent. It is still unclear today how many people were murdered or imprisoned during this time. Amnesty International spoke of more than 300 deaths, according to the news agency Reuters even 1,500 people are said to have been killed.
In early January 2020, just a few weeks after the riots, the Revolutionary Guard shot down a passenger plane, killing 176 people. In this case too, the government denied having anything to do with it for three days. Many in Iran think that the only reason they finally admitted to shooting down the plane by mistake was because Canadian and European citizens were also killed.
Consequently Corona was a political and economic crisis in Iran from day one. The sanctions, which were again tightened by the USA, further intensified the effects of the crisis. It is remarkable that the Iranian state’s crisis of confidence is evident in this issue as well. In view of the massive corruption, many people who speak out in social networks think that even if the sanctions were lifted, the state would not let them benefit from this. Already in early 2018, when the nuclear agreement had not yet been cancelled, there had been mass protests against state corruption. During the harsh sanctions imposed by the US in the last two years, it has continued to rampage.
Now the government is demanding that people stay at home, but is taking no responsibility for the fact that the privatized health care system, inflation, the intensification of “international conflicts”, the privatization of factories and the lack of a welfare system are forcing people to leave their homes and work. In some hospitals there have already been protests by the staff because of the lack of protective clothing and the poor situation of the nursing staff, but so far these are isolated cases.
The situation is even worse in the overcrowded prisons. After reports of corona infections among prisoners and guards from several prisons, such as Evin Prison in Tehran, panic is spreading there and among the relatives of the 220,000 prisoners in Iran. The prisons are overcrowded and the sanitary facilities are often in poor condition. If the virus gets a foothold here, it can spread at lightning speed.
In at least eight prisons there have already been demonstrations, riots and – in some cases successful – escape attempts. The pressure is so great that up to 100,000 prisoners have been given temporary reprieve. However, Amnesty International also reported in early April that Iranian security forces had used live ammunition and tear gas in the prisons. At least 30 prisoners were murdered.
Around the world, the sudden lockdown to limit the pandemic’s spread is leading to an abrupt economic slowdown. With cash handouts as the only way to avoid starvation and social unrest, the topic of Universal Basic Income is back on the table. Here is why it is (not) the solution.
by Jan Fürth
UBI as a bandaid or a permanent fix?
“In times of crisis, we are all socialists”, as social media memes liked to comment economic measures taken by governments facing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Italy, Canada, Germany and even the US are among those who have included cash handouts in their action plans, with many countries following suite. At the beginning of April, Spain made international headlines by announcing the introduction of a permanent Universal Basic Income (UBI), even if it’s not really universal. Finally, in his Easter message, Pope Francis came out in favour of the idea. What was a marginal idea only several weeks ago jumped to the forefront.
Without a question, various forms of (universal) basic income are necessary steps in this time of pandemic to allow people to stay in quarantine while preventing them from starving and losing their homes. Especially, as the quarantine is expected to be on and off, with waves of infection over the next months or years. However, UBI as a long-term instrument has several pitfalls that we must avoid if we don’t want it to become yet another aspect of neoliberalism. Indeed, there is a real risk that UBI could serve as an instrument to worsen the precarisation of labour and excessive consumerism if it is not accompanied by a radical redistribution of wealth and a reorganisation of economic relations.
Panem et circenses
While we should welcome the prospects of freeing people from the necessity to sell their labour or to be policed by social services in order to have a bare minimum to survive on, there are many ways in which UBI could be far from emancipatory. Indeed, we should be wary of a dystopian capitalist future in which the masses on a low UBI would be providing cheap and flexible labour for Uber, Wolt, Airbnb and all the other gig economy villains. With UBI ensuring the basic needs of workers, these corporations could have a powerful argument to scrap work contracts, the minimal wage and social security contributions.
In this sense, a low UBI could just be a perverse way to trap people in the Western consumerist lifestyle by giving them enough to feed corporations but not enough to discourage them from selling their labour to consume even more. As the foremost supporter of UBI in the USA and Democratic Party primaries’ candidate Andrew Yang writes on his website: UBI “actually fits seamlessly into capitalism. […] Markets need consumers to sell things to. UBI is capitalism with a floor that people cannot fall beneath.” While Yang does speak about social issues, this rhetoric betrays the fact that UBI could just be a little fix for the system without really challenging it. A modern version of Ancient Rome’s system of panem et circenses, bread and games for the masses.
Tax, seize, transform
Far from discarding UBI as a tool of neoliberal capitalism, we should see it as a two-edged sword that could be part of a series of immediate measures towards a major overhaul of socio-economic relations. Indeed, in the short-term, it can help society better absorb the shocks of the radical socio-economic changes necessary to avoid new social and environmental destruction, and in the long-term it can be part of a new economical system in which productivism and profit are not central tenets anymore. Accompanied by a radical redistribution of wealth and a reorganisation of economic relations, UBI can be a source of great personal and social emancipation.
If UBI does not go hand in hand with a radical redistribution of wealth, it risks being implemented to the detriment of other key sectors of social intervention such as infrastructures, housing, education, public transport and healthcare. Thus, it can only be introduced if it radically questions wealth redistribution. As a way to immediately fund it, addressing tax justice is crucial. According to the EU Parliament, up to a trillion euro is lost every year to tax avoidance and tax evasion! Yet, no action is taken as EU countries are pitted against each other, with some of them like Ireland having become financially dependent on its role as a tax haven.
While UBI can be financed by taxing the richest individuals and big corporations, we cannot stop short of greater changes and we must challenge the very structure of this system. Thus, UBI should be seen as a tool for radical reforms and a shift in the public and political discourse about labour, wealth, living conditions and the social structure, rather then the end goal, in efforts to stop the madness of the current system built on greed and destruction. With the current crisis, states have a historical chance to challenge the rule of capital and lay the bases for a social and environmental economy. Indeed, now and in the upcoming months, corporations on their knees can be cheaply bought off by the state, or simply nationalised, and transferred to the workers themselves. With UBI, the shocks of mass unemployment and of the transformation can be better absorbed.
In a context of necessary transformation, UBI is not about getting rid of work. It’s about valuing everyone’s existence while also redefining what is work, who does it and for how much. The post-pandemic cannot be a return to the so-called ‘business as usual’, but must be an acceleration of socio-economic changes. Escaping the grip of global finance through taking back control over public finances and moving away from a growth- and profit-driven economy, it is time to massively invest in socially owned green energy, infrastructures, healthcare, education, housing, agriculture and culture. This requires a lot of work and workers, but it must be done without setting a hierarchy between workers based on their market value.
Indeed, one of the injustices of capitalism is that it sets the standards for what is ‘work’ and how much one earns, with little interest for real value based on social usefulness. Thanks to its financial strength translated in political power, it has been increasingly socialising costs and privatising profit. This is especially obvious in the case of unpaid labour in the care sector (childcare, home care, domestic work), mostly performed by women. Despite its usefulness for capital itself, capitalists have largely escaped their responsibility to contribute to it. In efforts to unharness work from a profit-driven logic, UBI can put an end to this artificial separation between labour and chores, and finally remunerate those people who are often performing inestimable tasks outside of traditional working collectives.
Whether it’s being with children, taking care of the sick at home or just doing other forms of communal, reproductive work, everyone can be sure to at least a living wage through UBI, without bureaucratic hurdles and policing. As we see in these times of pandemic, and as we could see before, many people are eager to help each other without expecting a reward. Unfortunately, this is not seen as ‘work’ in our system, and only few people can afford to devote all their time and energy to serving the community. Instead, they are forced to enter into economic relations based on a logic of exploitation and financial return on investment. This has dire consequences for both society and environment, as human energy is more often than ever put in the service of personal greed and resource depletion.
UBI is not the solution, but if it comes along with a radical redistribution of wealth and deep changes in economic relations, then it can be a formidable tool on the path to rebuild a social economy from the bottom-up. With UBI covering basic needs, social investments restoring public services and systemic rules restraining or eliminating big capital, the way will be paved for new economic relations based on environmentally responsible and non-hierarchical principles. Limiting the possibility and the need to sacrifice human and non-human well-being in order for one to make a living can open up countless possibilities for creativity and emancipation.
I see the revival of rural communities freed from the need to compete on the global market. I see the sprouting of autonomous workplaces that can develop without the pressure of instant profit-making, with workers able to make decisions collectively without fearing to die of hunger, without the unfair competition of asocial corporations, without state repression and financial rapacity. I see individuals able to devote themselves to their artistic projects and to communal work without having to think about food, rent and the bills. I see slower societies in which no one is pushed aside and social uncertainty is sent to the dustbin of history. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
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
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
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.