After a Kurdish feminist rally in Vienna-Favoriten was attacked by Turkish fascists on Wednesday, hundreds of anti-fascists took to the streets against this attack on the following day. After yesterday’s demonstration the fascists escalated the situation again and attacked the EKH, an occupied house in Vienna, with a mob of about 200 to 300 people. Stones, bottles and incendiary devices flew on the squatted house, which is shared by left-wing migrant organisations and anarchist aligned squatters.
We have translated an article by Zeynep Arslan (@zeynemarslan) from the Austrian Mosaik Blog to give you a first overview and analysis of the situation. The antifascist demonstrations are organized under the motto Faşizme karşı omuz omuza! – Side by side against fascism! Try to find an answer on the streets!
The noise of the police helicopters could be heard late into the night yesterday. For a long time no peace and quiet returned to the streets of Vienna-Favoriten. It all began with a rally by a Kurdish women’s organisation based in the Ernst Kirchweger Haus (EKH). The participants wanted to point out the increasing number of feminicides in Turkey and Austria. They wanted to show what the effects of anti-women policies are, which can be seen, in the privatisation and destruction of women’s shelters in Salzburg for example.
Then the women were attacked by a group of fascist men. Within a very short period of time, around a hundred right-wing extremists appeared, and a large-scale police operation was launched. The women fled to the EKH and had to stay there for hours for security reasons.
It wasn’t the first attack in the district. Similar incidents occurred on Mayday on the fringes of a rally on Keplerplatz. And a pattern is emerging: the extreme right-wing group of young men seems to have no fear of the security forces, who were even supported by two police helicopters last night.
Two to three young people can turn into fifty to a hundred within minutes. They act as owners and guards of Favoriten and want to supervise their district. They forbid residents and visitors to events to consume alcohol during the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan. They try to keep Kurdish music and language out of the public. They also like to sic the police on Turkish-Kurdish participants of events – with the insinuation that they are followers of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). Self-confidently they accuse the police and the Austrian state of allowing a terrorist organisation to take over public space. They mobilise each other via their mobile phones and are organized in hierarchical roles.
The group’s world view is shaped by the political ideas of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They position themselves as his defenders and do not shy away from making the wolf salute (comparable to the Hitler salute as a distinctive sign of Turkish fascists), which is forbidden in Austria, in the presence of the police.
How is it possible that young people who were born in Vienna and Austria internalized such an unreflected racist Turkish way of thinking and generalized hatred? Unfortunately the omnipresent discrimination in Austria favours the propaganda of the Turkish right-wing extremists. Young people who regularly experience exclusions according to the motto “You are and can be with us, but you will never be one of us” can never feel equal rights and equal treatment. This structural and institutional racism prevents a common, pluralistic understanding of democracy across cultural and national affiliations.
The male “us” narrative à la Erdoğan offers these young people an identity, even if it is constructed and artificial. The corresponding messages and war propaganda from Turkey reach them daily – and are received by them uncritically and without reflection. When they are confronted by others because of their attacks, they declare that despite their citizenship and perfect German they will remain foreigners forever and ever. Their disorientation provides fertile ground for right-wing extremist propaganda.
The young people born in Austria take on the megalomania of “Turkishness” across borders. Basic democratic rights obviously have no place in this. That’s why they attack marginalized groups from their supposed “own” cultural circle: Kurds, Alevis and women. For them, their rights are part of the “corrupt Christian strangeness” in which, in their opinion, they live. They seem to have found a feeling of belonging only in the group. In the group they feel strong – but even a rally against violence against women becomes unbearable for them and threatens their male power.
So we are dealing with an aggressive inferiority complex. It is rooted in a constructed legitimation of identity, that refers to Turkish history. It begins in the steppes of Central Asia, continues through the invasion of Anatolia, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and migration into the European diaspora. Various massacres, genocides and defamations in the course of the formation of the Turkish nation state a good hundred years ago are also part of this legitimation.
The Turkish state doctrine grants them the international privileged status of “Turk-Turkish-Sunni-Muslim Man”. To defend the leader and the fatherland, even far from Turkey, any use of force is justified. This can also be seen in violent anger against women.
Last night the self-proclaimed “guardians of Favouriten” were able to carry out their second action this year in front of the Austrian public. Prior to this, their attack was directed against the May Day rally on Keplerplatz. These developments can no longer be ignored. Behind them lies a political power structure that operates transnationally. The young men are only a pretense. The structures and ideologies behind them reach as far as Turkey. A trivialisation of the current incidents would be irresponsible towards the future.
What is needed is courageous action against all forms of racism, which goes hand in hand with sexism – no matter what corner it may come from. Each and every one of us must democratically engage and take responsibility for our common future. The world views that further stabilize a male-dominated ideology must be broken up. The patterns and motivation for racist and sexist violence and incitement to hatred are always the same: the perpetrators want to compensate for their own feelings of inferiority and the existential fear associated with it. After all, the young right-wing extremists are not as strong and courageous as they themselves believe.
“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.
Solidarity statement from antiauthoritarians in Germany and Austria
After a white cop in Minneapolis, Minnesota suffocated the Afro-American George Floyd under the eyes of three of his colleagues, half the country is on fire. It was not the first racist murder by the US police, it was not even the first one this year and not the last since. It was just one too many.
The night after George’s murder, protests broke out in all kinds of cities across the United States and quickly increased. The protests were organized from within black communities in big US cities and quickly met with a huge wave of solidarity. After Trump had feigned sympathy and demanded an investigation into the murder, the mask has now fallen: Swinging his Bible, the autocrat declares the protests to be terror, against which he now wants to bring in the military, after the National Guard has already been mobilized in most states. Following the motto “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, Trump wants to put a stop to the social uprisings. In the same breath, he wants to blame antifa directly for the protests, whom he has long since known to be communist and anarchist agitators. Fair enough! But while the truncheon orgies continue on the streets of America, Trump leads a campaign against those who stand in the way of the unchained state power.
The authoritarian Republican bloc in the US has long since mobilized all its media power to shift the discourse: Instead of racist cops and structural violence, FOX News discusses looting and terrorism. In trying to divide the protest into peaceful and violent, the Liberals, as so often, willingly let themselves be pulled in front of the Republicans’ trolley and toot the same horn: While armed sections of the Ku Klux Klan have opened the hunt under the eyes of the police, the Liberals on both sides of the Atlantic emphasize how important it is to remain non-violent. As if this is an option against police state and gangs of nazi thugs!
Trump had already made it clear in his presidential election campaign that he would not only stand for complete neo-liberal unleashing, but would also be prepared to use the strong state to beat this order into existence with all necessary force. The social distortions in a country where half the population considers health insurance to be Stalinist cannot be ignored. The COVID crisis has only exacerbated these differences: More than 20 million people lost their jobs and the foodbank queues stretch for miles. While it is the role of the state to ensure the normal accumulation of capital in times of peace and crisis, particularly exceptional situations such as this one show the other side of the coin: where integration fails, terror must be unleashed!
Meanwhile in Germany a whole sea of crocodile tears is being shed. From the conservative paper FAZ to the left-liberal Taz, from Christian Democrats to the Left party everyone agrees that one cannot handle justified anger in this way. Forgotten are the beatings of the G20 summit, the state’s involvement in Nazi networks, forgotten the evictions, deportations, deaths in police custody, etc… We write this declaration in solidarity one day after the 53rd anniversary of the murder of the student Benno Ohnesorg by the bullet of a German policeman.
It is not new that for the state no means are too drastic in the fight against insurrections to secure its monopoly on the use of violence. We send greetings of solidarity to our comrades and friends on the streets of American cities, who are showing practical solidarity against the state’s power!
From Germany & Austria to Minneapolis: Fight the Police! Solidarity beyond borders! Black lives matter! Abolish the system from below!
…ums Ganze! – 3rd June 2020
Re-post from Its’s Going Down.
The streets of Minneapolis exploded on Tuesday evening, following the horrific murder of a 46 year-old African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of white police officers on Monday. In a now viral video, Floyd’s grizzly murder was captured on film, as a white police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck while he lie on the ground for several minutes, as an angry crowd gathered and recorded the killing. In the video, Floyd can be heard saying that he was not able to breathe, echoing the words last spoken by Eric Garner, who was also killed by police in 2014 in a similar incident in New York.
"The more the social order loses credit, the more it arms its police." – The Invisible Committee pic.twitter.com/RcfBXnVycJ
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) May 27, 2020
As CBS Minnesota wrote:
Overnight, video of the attempted arrest circulated on social media. Posted by Darnella Frazier on Facebook,the nine-minute video shows a white officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck behind a squad car. While lying facedown on the road, Floyd repeatedly groans and says he can’t breathe.
“He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro,” one bystander tells the white officer and his partner, in the video. “You’re f—ing stopping his breathing right now, you think that’s cool?”
After about five minutes, Floyd stops moving and appears unconscious. People in the gathering crowd plead for the officers to check Floyd’s pulse. The officer on Floyd’s neck does not lift his knee until medical personnel arrive and carry him to an ambulance.
Directly following the video of Floyd’s murder going viral, all four of the officers that were involved in the killing were fired, a rarity in cases involving police deadly use of force. Multiple media outlets also reported that the FBI is now investigating the killing “for possible civil-rights violations.” According to Mapping Police Violence, police are charged with a crime following deadly encounters only 1.7% of the time. Data from Killed By Police, a website which tracks police killings, shows that at least 400 people have been killed by law enforcement in 2020, making for an average of around 3 people per day.
— SOLLY THE BANKBOY.® (@SollyBandz_) May 26, 2020
Despite expected heavy rains and the firing of the four officers, the demonstration on Tuesday evening brought out thousands of people onto the streets; the vast majority of them wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Arial shots of the demonstration show it stretching across several city blocks. According to folks on the ground, actions happened throughout the city. At the intersection where George Floyd was murdered, there was a continuous gathering and street blockade. Marches on Tuesday took off from various points; collectively converging on the 3rd precinct. During one of these marches, anti-police graffiti slogans were extensively painted. Upon converging at the precinct, the massive crowd surrounded the building and the front window of the precinct was busted out and people began to write slogans on police cars and building walls, while others pelted other windows with eggs and projectiles. People then began attempting to break out more windows before being repelled by police tear gas from officers inside the building.
It should also be noted that during this time, other demonstrations were also taking place – outside of the home of Derek Chauvin, the now fired police officer at the center of the video showing the murder of George Floyd. Posts to social media show large crowds outside of the home of the former officer with one person commenting that several attempts at food delivery had been turned away, “So he’s in there hungry. Hope he’s fucking scared.” Chauvin lives in Oakdale, a suburb of St. Paul, “joining the estimated 94 percent (in 2014) of Minneapolis police officers who live outside the city,” according to one local news report.
Police cruiser smashed up outside MPD 3rd Precinct pic.twitter.com/6Slb4dqcT7
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) May 27, 2020
Meanwhile, back at the 3rd precinct, during this chaos, various “peace police” attempted to contain the crowd, trying to get them to stop attacking police property, yet these cries fell almost completely on deaf ears. A group of police wearing gas masks were then successful in pushing the crowd away from the building and towards the police parking lot, where people began to tear open fences to vandalize and attack a variety of police vehicles; breaking out windows, mirrors, popping tires and spray painting slogans.
Battles raged for hours outside MPD's 3rd precinct. After the building was tagged, its windows smashed, and the parking lot gate broken open to allow people to sabotage their vehicles, police fired massive amounts of tear gas in a futile attempt to disperse the crowd. pic.twitter.com/9smcXenNE2
— The Minnesota Wild (@lets_go_wild) May 27, 2020
Enraged, police then began shooting massive amounts of projectile weapons and tear-gas into the parking lot, pushing people onto the adjacent street, and away from their vehicles. Unicorn Riot reported on the ground that these tear-gas canisters led to a series of small fires, which were quickly put out by demonstrators, who also threw the tear gas back towards the police. Officers also shot off large amounts of “marker rounds,” which left large blotches of paint behind when fired; marking an individual for possible later arrest.
Over the next several hours, running street battles took place between protesters and law enforcement, much of it within the parking lot of the nearby Target store. Rioters built barricades with shopping cars while police attacked the crowd indiscriminately. Those on the streets, many very young, acted bravely in the face of intense police violence, protecting each other, treating tear-gas, and throwing back smoke canisters. As the evening wore on, people also looted the nearby liquor store and smaller clashes continued to break out with police until the early morning of Wednesday.
A Minneapolis City Council member described the police violence on Twitter, writing:
This is a disgusting display. I’m here on the southside, helping people as I can with milk, water, and towels. So far, I have been unable to prevent the police from firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Moments ago, I held a towel to a teenage girls head as blood poured from it.
The uprising comes after several months of rising unemployment and massive State failure in the face of the coronavirus, which so-far has led to the deaths of over 100,000 people. People in the so-called US have also watched over the past month as both elite interests and neo-fascist groups have pushed jointly for the economy to “ReOpen,” which has only solidified poor and working-people, often of color, being placed onto the front lines of the pandemic. The fact that police have shown heavily armed far-Right protesters nothing but kid gloves for the past month at various “ReOpen” rallies was also not lost on anyone, and many on social media pointed out the vast difference in police response. Ironically, several far-Right “Boogaloo” protesters did try and intervene in support of the demonstrations in Minneapolis, only to be quickly shown the door.
Ongoing back and forth exchange of police munitions w fireworks and other projectiles from protesters. Crowds angry about George Floyd’s killing have had this area saturated and mostly shut down for quite a few hours now pic.twitter.com/o9JgODeWR0
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) May 27, 2020
As the gates to the 3rd precinct's parking lot were being opened, many of the building's windows & doors were showing obvious signs of damage.
Graffiti in the second photo: "George Floyd! Remember it!"
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) May 27, 2020
On Wednesday, May 27th, the City of Minneapolis began construction of a metal fence around the 3rd precinct, as new protests began in the streets.
The city of Minneapolis is literally BUILDING AN ENTIRE WALL around the 3rd Police Precinct on Minnehaha Avenue. They are more concerned about protecting a building than they are with the sanctity or Black life. #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/xTcscHgH17
— untilfreedom (@untilfreedom) May 27, 2020
The wildcat strike of Romanian agricultural workers in Bornheim shows that struggles are possible even under conditions of racist super-exploitation. Originally published on akweb.de.
On Friday, 15th of May, some of the 250 seasonal workers of the Spargel Ritter company in Bornheim (North Rhine-Westphalia) stopped working in the asparagus and strawberry fields and informed the local press. Management called the police, but the intimidation attempt failed. The strike was covered widely by the media.
The workers are angry because they received ridiculously low wages of 100 to 250 euros instead of the promised 1,500 to 2,000 euros, and because they are housed under inhuman conditions in a container warehouse, idyllically located between a cemetery and a sewage plant on a vacant building site. As a result of the strike, they were immediately threatened with early dismissal and expulsion from their accommodation. Spargel Ritter has been bankrupt since March 1st, according to other sources even since January, and is now managed by the law firm Andreas Schulte-Beckhausen in nearby Bonn. In April, the firm hired both foreign seasonal workers and labourers from Germany without informing them that the company is in a state of insolvency. Obviously the insolvency administrator is using all means necessary to make the company attractive to new investors.
The protest continued on Monday, 18th of May with a rally organised by the anarcho-syndicalist trade union FAU at the accommodation containers, which was attended by about a hundred external supporters. Women workers in particular protested against their exploitation, making impressive and angry speeches. Afterwards, all of them demonstrated together in front of the company’s nearby yard, where some of the outstanding wages were alleged to be paid. Instead, the workers were expected by a chain of police officers and aggressive security guards. It quickly became clear that the strategy of the insolvency administrator was to divide the workers and set them against each other: Some were paid 600 euros, others only 50 or 70 euros. The security guards opposed the presence of a FAU lawyer during the payments, until the police enforced the lawyer’s presence. While the isolation of migrant workers usually means that this type of super-exploitation is largely ignored, the Bornheim case caused a nationwide sensation. Monday was a difficult day, as FAU Bonn tweeted: “A hard day is coming to an end. Even though we cannot be satisfied with the result: The fact that the wages of a few hundred euros were paid at all is a panic reaction of the class enemy. Tomorrow we will enter round 2.”
On Tuesday, the seasonal workers and solidarity activists met for another rally, this time in downtown Bonn, outside the insolvency administrator’s office. From there they went to the Romanian Consulate General, where a delegation of ten workers was received. The consul admonished the workers to be calm and considerate. They should return to their accommodation and wait – because the Consul is in contact with the Romanian Minister of Labour Violeta Alexandru, who is in Berlin at the invitation of the German Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner. According to the Consul her second stop after Berlin happened to be Bonn anyway, where she would meet with the Farmers’ Union.
On Wednesday, the minister actually showed up at the lodgings. After a long conversation with the Romanian workers – in which no trade union representatives were allowed – she announced that “everything was settled”: the insolvency administrator had assured her that she would push ahead with the payments, and her ministry would organize a free return to Romania or, in agreement with the German Farmers’ Union, the transfer to another company. After their departure, buses picked up groups of ten workers each for payment at an unknown location. The supporters together with the workers were able to make sure that a lawyer and interpreters were present for all payments, but they had to hand in their mobile phones first.
Since this dubious payment procedure could not be trusted, supporters followed the buses to “unknown places”, which a visibly disoriented police officer tried to prevent them from doing. It came to absurd wild-west-style chases across the strawberry fields, until the busses stopped at a field, where the payments were made in the burning sun. The lawyer made sure that the workers didn’t sign any termination agreements, and many gave him the power of attorney to check their wage claims in court. The FAU announced on Wednesday evening that the minimum target had been reached.
The fact that not all the workers from Romania and a few from Poland took part in the strike is due to the division caused by different contracts. Those workers with contracts running until September instead of only until June who were also promised higher wages saw their contracts of employment endangered by the strike and criticised the unrest that had arisen. In addition to the foreign seasonal workers, about 200 labourers from Germany have been hired since the end of April. As one worker from this group told us, they are called the “German team”, even though they come from all kinds of countries, but are resident in Germany. It is a motley crew – young people who have responded to the call to help “our” farmers to protect the harvest, and people who simply need the money urgently because of short-time work or unemployment. Unlike the workers from Eastern Europe, they are not employed on a piecework basis, but on an hourly wage, and receive a few cents more than the minimum wage of 9.35 euros, to mark the racist differentiation. Another reason for this is that the untrained workers from Germany would not have been able to work at the same pace as the Eastern European workers, who have been doing this kind of work for longer.
At work, the “German” and “Romanian” columns – these are the divisive terms used by the bosses and their foremen – are kept strictly separate when working in the strawberry tunnels, but they run into each other when the full crates are handed over. However, communication usually fails because of the language barrier. On Friday it was noticed that the “Romanian column” was missing, but it seems that word of the strike didn’t get around to the “German column” until Saturday. After the “German column” had continued working on Saturday and Monday, they were sent home for a day on Tuesday because according to the bosses the situation was too heated.
In the past weeks there have been increasing reports on the miserable working and living conditions of agricultural and slaughterhouse workers in Germany. The main reasons for this are the inhumane living conditions to which the workers are exposed and which are even more threatening in the current corona situation due to the lack of protection against infections. While Germany celebrates its low number of cases, it is not surprising that infections break out in places where people live and work under particularly precarious conditions. The refugee accommodation in Sankt Augustin, the slaughterhouse in Dissen and a deceased Romanian field worker in Baden-Württemberg are examples of these scandalous conditions.
The Romanian field workers were initially left on their own. Their outcry was heard by left-wing supporters – above all the FAU. And what about the IG BAU, the mainstream construction union? And the DGB federation? Members of parliament? No chance! With little money and few resources, FAU Bonn managed to support the workers in every step, despite the language barrier – a prime example of concrete solidarity.
This struggle shows above all that even the precarious and unorganised can defend themselves. This experience gives courage for the future. And it remains to be seen whether those who have now been placed on other farms through the Farmers’ Union will carry the strike virus to other fields. In Romania, all major daily newspapers have reported on the strike in Bornheim. This, too, could strengthen the self-confidence and entitlement of the seasonal workers.
In the Corona crisis, in view of the danger of infection, numerous social grievances have become the subject of discussion, which were already disastrous before Corona, but remained hidden for years. In a situation of crisis, people might initially deal with the burdens and troubles on an individual level. But in various sectors, micro-processes of resistance are currently taking place that can easily develop into collective struggles. In some cases these struggles come together, in others the divisions and hierarchies need to be broken through.
Alice Claire is an activist from Cologne and member of Beyond Europe.
Christian Frings is an activist, author and translator (of David Harvey and others).
John Malamatinas is a freelance journalist from Berlin, Brussels and Thessaloniki.
For more than two weeks, young people from Fridays For Future in Germany have been on hunger strike. From the very beginning the protesters in Germany tried to establish a contact to youngsters at the Moria refugee camp. At a joint press conference on 19th of May, young people from the Moria slum camp prepared and read out very moving statements. Two youngsters from the small German town of Landau. Under the name “Colored Rain” they called on people to join their protest. Sooner said than done: Another hunger strike by a person from Dresden followed. Also in Trier two other activists joined the action. On May 19, the hunger strike in Landau was ended by a protest march to the state capital Mainz. There their demands were symbolically handed over to the state government. Earlier, the activist from Dresden had already ended his action, while the hunger strike in Trier continues.
The youths criticized above all the inactivity of the politicians in meeting the demand to evacuate the camps. Even if the hungerstrike is now partly done, the exchange between the young comrades from Germany and Moria is still active. This is an important thing to strengthen each other and create a common understanding of a joined fight against the border regime.
The situation has not improved. The European migration regime is too deeply inhumane, Moria is an example of this. So let us fight together to counter the policy of exclusion and dehumanisation. The words of the young people of Moria urge us not to give up this fight!
The statements in text form:
Moria Refugee Camp, Greece, 19th of May
Usually people describe happiness as improvement, or they say if you want to have a happy life you should live in the moment, but when I look at my situation in the camp, I realize I am going backward instead of improving and I am experiencing a bad period of life, I don’t know, maybe this is my punishment because of I was born as an immigrant.
Hussain ali (16)
Moria refugee camp, Greece, 19th of May
I’m Hussain Ali. I’m 16 years old and I live in section where they keep minors. Coming from illegal ways is like you accepted a challenge of life or death. When we decided to come from illegal ways I didn’t know this but slowly slowly I knew that coming from this ways is like a suicide but there was no way for us. For being alive we used to accept this challenge and we started as I was a teenager it was hard to come but I thought that I can pass this bad way and I will reach to Europe and the problems will be finish.After a lots of hard days and many problems I reached to Greece and I thought I finished my problems but that was just a dream. Moria is a small Afghanistan.insecure, not safe and a place where we get mental problems and many other problems.
We are the most bitter story of the world.
Moria refugee camp, Greece, 19th of May
When it comes the name of Moria, immediately all the thoughts go through the terrible available situations inside the camp such as overcrowding problems, horrible sanitation, lack of basic needs like water, electricity fuel and…
Definitely these can be the most important and problematic issues that are visible at a glance but if we pay attention deeply there are more hidden and unsaid things, let’s think about the mother who crossed the dangerous borders to make her child’s future but lost her in the fire, nothing left but burnt bones.
The father who lost his innocent boy during the crazy fights and no one asked why? How?
Or Someone who came here to find peace and safety but is living in a more dangerous, unsafe and stressful place even more than the land he has come from.
The child whose toy was changed to a fake knife and trying to do, talk and shout just what he saw in the adults.
The girl who tried to learn, be independent and stand on her own feet but is even more vulnerable than ever that should rely on someone else to take one step out of his living area.
The people who are losing their mind, patient, tolerance due to living in this awful situation and dealing with so many challenges.
Moria refugee camp, Greece, 19th of May
My name is Milad, 21 years old from Afghanistan. Before entering the European soil, I had some imaginations from Europe, for example, European countries respect a lot to human rights, so that Europe will be the best place to have a safe and comfortable life, but unfortunately, Moria refugee camp proved that it’s nothing but an imagination, I realized that in the first days in Moria. And I’ve been in this hell for five months.
In Moria, at days I’m facing to the danger which is treating people’s lives all around the world, COVID-19, which is treating my life as well because in this camp, unlike the rest of the world which people have the ability to protect themselves from this virus by washing their hands frequently, keeping their distance from each other or even having sufficient and suitable medical equipments and supplies to be far from getting infected by this virus, we don’t have enough medical supplies, we don’t have enough water to wash our hands, even we can’t keep our distance between each other because of long lines like food lines, shower lines, toilet lines, market lines, Doctor lines or even ATM line, and the reason is that because it is an overcrowded camp. And at nights I’m facing to the danger of being injured or killed in huge fights between refugees, which keeps me awake for hours at nights. I have to be awake in nights when fights are happening because of my safety.
Europe was a strong big hope for me like a narrow bright light in the deepest terrifying darkness days of my life, but Moria proved that it was nothing but an imagination and took that light from me and took me to another deepest terrifying darkness days of my life again in another place.
Moria refugee camp, Greece, 19th of May
Moria, hell of migrants, it’s a good place for criminals, murderers, rapists, thieves and fighters, a place where people have to stay in lines for hours, a place where there is only few clinics for 19000 of migrants, a place where there is no school for thousands of youngsters who came for a brighter future, a place where there is no water to wash our hands, a place full of trash, a place where police has no control over fights in there own homeland.
Three days ago a fight happened between volunteers of Movement and Team humanity, it was a huge fight more than five people were stabbed and police did nothing, later that day at night there was another fight between two Hazara and Panjshiri nations and I am pretty sure more than fifteen people were stabbed that night, in that morning I witnessed cut fingers on the ground.
Is that the how safe Europe is? Is this the humanity they are always talking about?
Please leave no one behind
Solidarity with the strike of the harvest workers in Bornheim (near Bonn)! Ultra low wages, mouldy food and no protection from Covid-19. German asparagus and strawberries taste like workers exploitation!
On the ground report by Severin Marten, Alice Claire and John Malamatinas
Hundreds of syndicalists and activists expressed on Monday solidarity with the wild strike of the Asparagus harvest workers in #Bornheim between Bonn and Cologne in Germany.
Last Friday hundreds of seasonal workers stopped work on the asparagus and strawberry fields, whereupon the management of the company called the police to intimidate them. Like thousands of other seasonal workers, the harvest workers in Bornheim live and work under catastrophic conditions: The wages of the now insolvent Spargelhof Ritter were kept, the accommodation is under inhumane conditions – an imminent homelessness could be averted. The workers complain not only about mouldy food, unheated mass accommodation next to a sewage plant and a complete lack of protection against corona – but also about not being paid. They had only been paid 100 to 250 Euros for a month of hard work.
The company belongs (or belonged until a few months ago) to the Ritter family, but has been in insolvency administration since the beginning of March. Andreas Schulte-Beckhausen’s lawyer’s office is responsible, and according to media reports it already has a new investor for the large company on hand. In the main season, the farm is said to have employed up to 500 harvest workers in the years before.
The protest began on Monday at the accommodation containers and continued at the company farm. Tough negotiations were held all day. Around 3 pm the situation comes to a critical point. Suddenly it is said that the payment of outstanding wages should take place on the farm. A police chain awaits them there, and two security men are also there, who were very aggressive towards union organisers. They say that money should only be given to people who are on an ominous list. The assumption was obvious that the strategy of the insolvency administrator was to set the employees against each other, in which some paid 600 Euros and others only 50 or 70. The lawyer from the insolvency administration came out and sat in the car. He drove away. People were yelling that they want their money. The police protected the car and partly took action against the field workers. Outrage reigns.
Where the isolation of the migrant workers from the rest of the world usually leads to that this over-exploitation being largely ignored, the joint organisation with FAU Bonn was able to cause a nationwide sensation. It was a difficult day as FAU Bonn tweets: “A bone-crushing day draws to a close. Even if we cannot be satisfied with the result: that wages of a few hundred euros were paid at all is a panic reaction of the class enemy. Tomorrow is round 2.”
German agriculture is largely based on low-wage work performed by migrant workers. About 300,000 seasonal migrant workers come every year to Germany to work in the fields. Shifts of 14 hours, seven days a week for unhealthy heavy work are not uncommon. They work and live under catastrophic conditions and are mostly isolated from the outside world from the time they are picked up and taken to their accommodation in order to maintain the over-exploitation of migrant labour.
Now it is important to continue to maintain solidarity with the workers and not to be satisfied with the payment of small amounts of money.
Therefore, come to Bonn (Oxfordstraße 2) tomorrow at 10 a.m. in front of the seat of the insolvency administration, which is in charge of paying out the wages.
Germany you lousy piece of asparagus!
Support the call for strike against racism, for self-organization and a beautiful life for everyone by the germany-wide Day of Rage initiative!
Dear friends, dear comrades,
We migrant self-organisations call on our siblings to join us for a day of enragement and a general strike on 8 May 2020. We call on people with migration heritage, Jewish people, BIPoCs and all people in solidarity to strike with us.
Why the 08 May? The date is considered the day of liberation. But while the war and the Nazi dictatorship came to an end, the Nazi ideology and its representatives lived on and so racism and anti-semitism have a long tradition in Germany. After the end of the Second World War, Germany was at most only symbolically denazified. Former members and functionaries of the NSDAP and SA held political offices here and in Europe after 1945 or ran successful businesses.
Already in the 1950s, there were acts of racist violence. In 1979, Cuban contract workers Raúl García Paret and Delfin Guerra were killed in the GDR during resistance to racist violence. During this time, attacks on immigrants were poorly or not at all documented and so we do not know all the names of victims of racist violence. But the list of names of victims we know is long and apparently endless.
On Thursday, February 19, 2020, nine people with migration heritage were shot dead by a racist in Hanau, five others were injured.
Vili Viorel Păun
Said Nesar Hashemi
To this day, politics watches as our siblings, friends and our anti-fascist comrades are killed, even in the custody of state institutions, therefore we cannot rely on them. They do not protect us and at the very least since the NSU we know that in Germany, in all likelihood, protection of perpetrators continues.
We are not silent, we are not intimidated, we do not engage in racist discussions, we do not abandon the streets to Nazis. If Germany wants to continue to cosy up to Nazis, we will have no part in it!
Inspired by the Ramazan Avcı initiative, we take our fury and grief to the streets on May 8th. Get organized and call for a strike with us.
Day of Outrage, 08 May, Germany-wide
Call from Migrantifa Berlin
We cannot rely on the State – self-organize migrant protection and denazify all state apparatuses now!
We join our brothers* and sisters* in a call for all people with migration experience and inheritance, all Jewish persons, Sinti and Romani persons, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and all those who feel solidarity with us, to come together and express our rage, our grief, our remembrance, and our resistance.
May 8th is commemorated as “Tag der Befreiung” to celebrate our liberation from National Socialism – this year in Berlin it will be a legal public holiday for the very first time. Although the war and the national socialist dictatorship ended in Europe, the fascist, racist, and antisemitic ideology of National Socialism lives on. Not four years following the end of the Second World War, voices from the political and social spheres loudly demanded a stop to denazification. So it is not at all surprising that shortly after 1945 thousands of former members and officials of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) took over leading positions in politics, the justice system, national security, and the economy.
Seventy-five years after “liberation” we see a Germany where, once again, fascists and racists march on the streets and commit murder, where they insert right-wing ideology in parliaments, schools, and the police force under the guise of democracy and freedom of expression. Germany has once again become a leading player on the world stage, and it will ensure that its “interests” are enforced in order to secure its “prosperity” – no matter what the cost.
The pogroms in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, the attempted murder in Mölln, the National Socialist Underground affair (NSU-Komplex), the murders of Oury Jalloh in Dessau, Burak Bektaş in Berlin, and, most recently, Arkan Hussein K. in Celle, the attacks in Halle and in Hanau, as well as the daily murders at the European borders – all these are just a few of the thousands manifestations of the fight between an imaginary “inside” and “outside.”
It is not a poison that is responsible for this, but a State that fuels and legitimizes a racist and nationalist ideology by prioritizing national interests and by propagating a value system of “useful versus useless.” And at the same time, it is also the State that protects right-wing perpetrators with its bloody hands: relatives are blamed, files get shredded, deals are struck with dictators, and the right of asylum readily suspended. Evidently, racism and right-wing extermination ideology is not a matter of a few mentally unstable individuals. It is a structural problem within mainstream society, one that is inherent to the logic of the bourgeois State and its institutions.
So we call out and say: Enough! We will not let ourselves be divided and we refuse to tolerate more racism, more fascism, and more murders in Germany! Let us take up the torch of our parents and grandparents and continue the struggle! Let us bring our voices together loudly and express our rage, our grief, and our resolve – whether on our balconies or on the street, from a place of anger or remembrance, for the right to come, to stay and to leave, online or offline. We will exercise our rights, we will make others uncomfortable, we will organize ourselves – beyond borders, for social justice, and in solidarity and remembrance for all those affected by right-wing and racist violence! There will be no final stroke!
From Moria to Hanau, no forgiveness, no forgetting!
In remembrance – #saytheirnames #hanauWarKeinEinzelfall
How to protest:
All information regarding time, location, printing materials, etc. will be published on our website and on our social media channels!
During our action week some of our friends decided to occupy hotels which during the corona pandemic are empty in order to show that there is plenty of room for everyone in Europe. Here is a small collection:
Öffnet die Hotels – Evcuate Moria – Shutdown Capitalism!Heute Montag haben Aktivist*innen ein Transparent auf dem Wiener Hotel Intercontinental befestigt, um darauf aufmerksam zu machen, dass während hunderte Hotels ungenutzt leer stehen, tausende Geflüchtete in Lagern auf den griechischen Inseln leben müssen. Die auch ansonsten schon äußerst prekäre Situation in diesen Lagern wird durch die drohende Gefahr eines Ausbruchs des Coronavirus noch massiv verschärft. Verantwortlich dafür ist die seit Jahren menschenverachtende Grenzpolitik der Europäischen Union und ihrer Mitgliedsstaaten, ganz wesentlich gestützt und vorangetrieben von der österreichischen Regierung um Bundeskanzler Kurz.„Während in Österreich Corona-Schutzmaßnahmen fortgesetzt werden, leben 40 000 Menschen in maßlos überbelegten Lagern auf den ägäischen Inseln, festgehalten an den EU-Außengrenzen noch bevor sie das europäische Festland erreichen konnten. Ihr Elend ist politisch verursacht und gewollt, es soll zur Abschreckung dienen“, sagt Carla Sedlak, Pressesprecherin der Plattform Radikale Linke. Dieses Missverhältnis zeigt deutlich, wie auch unter der Maßgabe des „Seuchenschutzes“ weiterhin zwischen schützenwertem und nicht-schützenswertem Leben unterschieden wird.Die mehr als 20 000 Menschen, die in der Hölle von Moria auf Lesbos zusammengedrängt ausharren müssen, sind zum Symbol dieser Katastrophe geworden. Das Lager ist höchstens auf 3 000 Bewohner*innen ausgelegt. Sanitäre Einrichtungen, Desinfektionsmittel und ärztliche Versorgung gibt es kaum, Wasser ist nur begrenzt vorhanden, die Infrastruktur steht kurz vor dem Kollaps. Angesichts der Gefahr eines Corona-Ausbruchs entwickelt sich das Lager nun für die vor Krieg und Gewalt Geflohenen zur Todesfalle. Abstand wahren oder das Einhalten anderer Vorsichtsmaßnahmen ist schlicht unmöglich. „Die AUA holt mit hohem finanziellen Aufwand Österreicher*innen aus aller Welt zurück, ansonsten werden möglichst billige Arbeitskräfte für das österreichische Pflegesystem und die Landwirtschaft eingeflogen. Die Aufnahme von Geflüchteten aus den höchst prekären Lagern an den europäischen Außengrenzen wird nicht einmal mehr öffentlich diskutiert“, zeigt sich Sedlak empört und fährt fort: „Die viel gepriesene „Solidarität“ endet also an der nationalen Grenze – was dazu führt, dass sie keine Solidarität im eigentlichen Sinne ist.“Die Aktivist*innen fordern die sofortige Evakuierung des Lagers Moria und die Aufnahme von schutzsuchenden Menschen in den leerstehenden Hotels. Des Weiteren fordern sie die Schließung aller Lager, die Freilassung aller Personen in Schubhaft und die Abschaffung des mörderischen EU-Grenzregimes. „Vor der Zukunft haben alle Angst. Sie wird durch Abschiebungen verstärkt, durch das Elend hinter dem Zaun, nicht durch offene Grenzen. Sie wird gemildert durch die Sicherheit: Was auch kommen mag – niemand wird zurückgelassen, keiner muss im Elend verrecken, wer er auch sei", so die Sprecherin der Plattform Radikale Linke abschließend.#LeaveNoOneBehind #WirHabenPlatz #EvacuateMoria
Gepostet von Plattform Radikale Linke am Montag, 27. April 2020
Open the hotels – Evacuate Moria – Shutdown Capitalism!
Today, Monday, activists* placed a banner on the Hotel Intercontinental in Vienna to draw attention to the fact that while hundreds of hotels stand unused, thousands of refugees have to live in camps on the Greek islands. The already extremely precarious situation in these camps is massively aggravated by the threat of an outbreak of the coronavirus. This is due to the border policy of the European Union and its Member States, which has been inhuman for years, and which is supported and driven forward by the Austrian Government headed by Chancellor Kurz.
The activists* demand the immediate evacuation of the camp Moria and the welcoming of people seeking protection in the empty hotels. They also demand the closure of all camps, the release of all persons in detention pending deportation and the abolition of the murderous EU border regime. “Everyone is afraid of the future. It is reinforced by deportations, by the misery behind the fence, not by open borders. It is mitigated by security: whatever comes – no one is left behind, no one has to die in misery, whoever they may be”, the spokeswoman of the Plattform Radikale Linke Platform Radical Left concluded.
EVACUATE MORIA – #leavenoonebehindDie Zeit der Bitten ist lange vorbei. Die Situation in den Refugee-Lagern auf den griechischen Inseln ist eine humanitäre Katastrophe. Heute haben wir im Rahmen unserer Aktionswoche EVACUATE MORIA – SHUT DOWN CAPITALISM das Ibis-Hotel am Rosenthaler Platz besetzt. Während für zehntausende Spargelstecher*innen eine Luftbrücke eingerichtet wird und hunderttausende Hotelzimmer leerstehen, werden die Menschen in Moria, in der EU, zum Sterben zurückgelassen. Das ist die mörderische Logik von Staat, Nation und Kapital. Wir fordern: Holt die Leute raus! Offene Grenzen, sichere Fluchtwege und ein bedingungsloses Bleiberecht für Alle. We´ve got space – #EvacuateMoria
Gepostet von TOP B3RLIN am Donnerstag, 30. April 2020
EVACUATE MORIA – #leavenoonebehind
The time for pleading is long gone. The situation in the refugee camps on the Greek islands is a humanitarian disaster. Today we have occupied the Ibis-Hotel at Rosenthaler Platz as part of our week of action EVACUATE MORIA – SHUT DOWN CAPITALISM. While an airlift is being set up for tens of thousands of asparagus cutters and hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms are empty, the people of Moria, in the EU, are left to die. This is the murderous logic of state, nation and capital. We demand: Get the people out! Open borders, safe escape routes and an unconditional right of residence for all.“
After the evacuation of all refugee camps people still need safe escape routes and a right of residence! Enough hotels are empty! Thats why we occupied an empty Ibis Hotel!
Who are the politicians and organizations that are constantly refusing to rescue people that are fleeing from war zones, from hunger and fear and in search for a better life all over the world? Who is to blame for the health- and life-threatening living conditions in refugee camps like Moria in Greece and elsewhere? It’s the system – but also the bosses who enforce it. Enough is enough! All over Germany and Austria posters popped up during the night, calling out the people responsible for this murderous situation.
EVACUATE MORIA. SHUT DOWN CAPITALISM – JOIN THE TWITTER-ACTION TODAY
On the twitteraccounts @umsganze and @beyondeurope we are documenting the action. Join us in addressing the actors of these policies directly: Tweet and retweet your message under the Hashtags #evacuatemoria and #leavenoonebehind and dont forget to add Von der Leyen (@vonderleyen), Merkel (@RegSprecher), Seehofer (@BMISprecher), Mitsotakis (@kmitsotakis) and Leggeri (@frontex) in your tweets. Lets make your demands heard: The closure and evacuation of all refugee camps! For a decentralized and humane housing for refugees! Autonomy for the people living inside the camps and support of their self-organizing! Free and unrestricted access to medical care, medical supplies and corona tests for all!
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.
Banner drop action by Antiauthoritarian Movement Thessaloniki
It was not a coincidence that we chose the building at Nikis Av. 39 in Thessaloniki to hang this banner. We are political emotionally attached to it. It was the home of a few of us, till it was evacuated -simultaneously with two other squats- from the cops of the leftist Syriza government at the 2nd July 2016. The common ground of these three squats was the fact that refugees were living inside. Syriza prepared the ground for the rightwing
neoliberals of New Democracy to continue on the way to the totalitarian management and re-contextualisation of the migration issue from the side of the state. From the human living conditions, „we live together-we fight together“ and the mutual aid to the hells-on-earth of the detention camps.
What about now with the #stayathome dogma and the orders to keep the right safety distances? All these apply only to those that have a home and not the ones that the state chooses to make invisible. Homeless, refugees and prisoners are being abandoned completely and left to die during the pandemic. But also a lot of people that have a home right now, watch their housing situation becoming more and more fragile. We had felt the housing crisis deepen also before the pandemic. The rents were exploding due to gentrification, the extreme touristification and the short term rentals. The auctions of the first residence are also about to start. The real estate capital smells money and views our houses and neighbourhoods as investments with the blessings of the state, which can only be happy to see the creation of whole territories populated by individualised, flexible human consumers. The fact that our house remains empty after 3,5 years -along with thousands of buildings around the world- strips down the irrationality and violence of state and capital.
In the upcoming extreme poverty we ought to deepen the mutual aid political proposal that came up due to the pandemic. We will either move as a collective or the law of the jungle, hence the law of the market and the dehumanisation will dominate. We have to take roots in our neighboorhoods and from there start to imagine another world, where no one is being left behind.
EVACUATE MORIA – SHUT DOWN CAPITALISM
Take part in the action week from 24 April to 1 May! We share with you the call for action by …ums Ganze! from Germany/Austria:
While in Germany measures such as the contact ban will be continued at least until May 4th, 40.000 people are living in excessively overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands, detained at the EU’s external borders even before they were able to reach the European mainland. The reason why they have to stay there is to allow the authorities to deport them back to Turkey, as part of the EU Erdogan deal, in case that their asylum applications will be rejected. This disparity clearly shows how, even with the pressing aim of “epidemiological protection”, a distinction is still being made between life that is worth protecting and life that is not worth protecting, ergo surplus life.
The group of more than 20.000 people crowded together in the hell of Moria on Lesbos have become a symbol for this disaster. The camp in a former military base is designed for a maximum of 3.000 occupants. Sanitary facilities, disinfectants and medical care are scarce, water is limited and the infrastructure is on the verge of collapse. In view of the danger of a corona outbreak, the camp is now becoming a death trap for those who fled from war and violence. Keeping distance or taking other precautions is simply impossible. Masked as a protective measure for the refugees, the Greek government has now sealed off the camp and de facto abolished the people’s freedom of movement, that had already been very restricted. True protection against the virus is now provided only by the residents themselves, who have organized themselves and are working together with local initiatives to inform the camp’s residents about the virus.
Meanwhile, Germany coldly demonstrates how to govern with maximum emphasis on national interests: the coronavirus parties continue to take place at workplaces such as logistics centres, the steel industry or in the poorly paid care sector. Now further loosening of lockdown measures, for example in the retail sector, have been granted. A few billionaires are profiting from the crisis, while most people do not know how to pay their rents with the deminished wages that the state is offering them. At the same time, the provisionally installed massive cuts in the rights for freedom of assembly and freedom of movement remain valid. Demonstrations are often prohibited even when they imposed strict protective measures on themselves. These restrictions also prevent the refugees here in Germany, many of whom are also still housed in camps, from defending themselves against the health-threatening living conditions inside those camps. Their protests, carried out with every precaution, are violently dissolved by the police. Even in prisons people remain locked up in very cramped spaces which has already led to several prison revolts, as in Italy for example.
This double standard is also evident in many other areas: The so called „German Airlift” brings back 100.000 stranded German tourists with numerous charter planes, but it is obviously not justifiable in the “pandemic” to rescue more than 50 unaccompanied youths from the hell of Moria. There is no mentioning of the old and the sick people in the camp who would be most affected by the disease in case of an outbreak and who would be dependent on the supply of intensive care beds and respirators.
Meanwhile, the first of the 40.000 harvest workers that the German Government has flown in from neighbouring eastern european countries has died of Covid-19. The solidarity that has been conjured up by Söder, Laschet, Merkel, von der Leyen and the likes, obviously has very narrow and very national boundaries.
After the financial crisis in 2008ff., the austerity policy under German dictation has destroyed the health sector in many European countries. Now, this policy is developing devastating consequences, as can be seen in the enormous death rate of Covid-19 cases in Italy with all its cruelty. In crisis-ridden Greece more than a third of hospitals have been closed and over 40% of funding cut. In order to prevent a collapse of the desolate Greek health sector, the right-wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is now reacting with even more authoritarian border control measures than before. But already in early March – as a result of the escalation between Turkey and the EU – Mitsotakis suspended the right to asylum for a limited period of time and received 700 million euros financial support from the EU to further ward off refugees. Almost forgotten are the shots that were fired by the border police and which killed the refugee Muhammad al-Arab.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner EU is not only counting on external border control and protection against the pandemic for selected individuals only. European policy and national interests also reach out to one another. The debate on the so-called Corona Bonds shows this clearly. Once again, the winners of the crisis in 2008 – above all Germany – are putting all their energy into fighting common debts at EU level. It is in vogue to express concern about the fate of their poor European neighbors but at the same time relentlessly trying to secure their own competitiveness on the world market at the expense of exactly those neighbors. The German press, from FAZ to Bild, once again uses the stereotype of the lazy Italians.
One hardly dares to imagine the extent of the catastrophe that will occur as soon as the pandemic hits the Sahel zone, where Islamist groups are trying to use the crisis to their own advantage, or war-ravaged Syria, from which a large proportion of the refugees originate already. Still, humanitarian demands, as articulated by „Seebrücke“ or „Mission Lifeline“, are currently being ignored.
And yet, during the recent weeks, numerous people in Germany and Europe have clung to the fact that solidarity knows no borders and human rights are indivisible. From Sea Rescue and Refugee Councils to the organization „Seebrücke“ and artists: they have set sail, set signs, put up posters, submitted petitions and published appeals. They try to find out how to protest under the conditions of the pandemic, with physical distance and masks, with shoes and street chalk left behind as symbols, with protest online and offline. And they will continue until the camps are closed and the people are here. And so will we!
The closure and evacuation of all refugee camps! For a decentralized and humane housing for refugees!
Autonomy for the people living inside the camps and support of their self-organizing!
Free and unrestricted access to medical care, medical supplies and corona tests for all!
We are accusing the profiteers of isolation, exploitation and exclusion!
Therefore we are organizing campaigns in many cities in Europe from 24st of April to 1st of May. Keep your eyes open, take part in initiatives or do something in your city or village! There are many ways to become active in this protest, online but also on the streets, and still take care of each other. Naturally, do not endanger yourself or others. But it is also clear that we cannot stand idly by while the refugees on Lesbos and the other Greek islands are left to fall ill and die. The fight for a better society after the pandemic begins now!
EVACUATE MORIA – SHUT DOWN CAPITALISM!
…umsGanze!-Bündnis, part of Beyond Europe, Antiauthoritarian Platform Against Capitalism, April 2020
Villeneuve-la-Garenne has been on fire since Sunday evening. The revolt erupted after a city resident, Mouldi, crashed into the door of an unmarked Passat police car, stopped at a traffic light, Saturday night around 10 p.m. on Verdun Avenue.
In the police car were four officers from the Anticriminality Brigade of the Hauts-de-Seine district, who had noticed Mouldi while he was driving without helmet on a motocross. When Mouldi arrived next to the vehicle to overtake it from the right by taking the cycle lane, one of the passengers, who nevertheless observed him in their rearview mirror and could not have missed his arrival at full speed, opened the door, throwing Mouldi onto a sidewalk pole. Note that the car was unmarked, so that Mouldi could not know that it was a police vehicle.
Direct witnesses present at the scene filmed the following minutes and posted the videos (two different angles) on Snapchat. We can see Mouldi screaming in pain, while a policeman bandages him a meter from the pole on which he landed. His motorcycle is a few meters further on the sidewalk, while three other police officers go back and forth between Mouldi and their vehicle. One of the witnesses will testify later that one of the officers was drunk, claiming that the door was opened voluntarily when the motorcycle arrived. Witnesses initially believe that Mouldi lost his leg. Treated in hospital, he suffered an open fracture of the left leg, but fortunately was not amputated.
The next morning, another video taken from the gas station adjacent to the accident site, shows police taking away the pole on which Mouldi was thrown the day before. The prosecution says that no internal affair’s investigation has been carried out so far, but the press claims that an investigation was opened against Mouldi for “urban rodeo” [illegal motorcycle race] and “endangering others”. The investigation is being conducted by the local police department, that are the direct colleagues of the police officers involved in the accident. An investigation is also conducted against the witnesses for “Contempt, threats and insults against persons holding public authority”.
Who cares if Mouldi had a criminal record? With this repressive state, tens of thousands of us have a criminal record, for various reasons. That will never justify police officers beating, maiming and killing even just one of us.
In the night from Sunday to Monday, it was not only the districts of Villeneuve-la-Garenne that erupted with anger, but also many districts of Nanterre, Suresnes, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Egly, Gennevilliers, Epinay, Grigny, Fontenay, Saint-Ouen, Villepinte, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Amiens Nord, Rueil-Malmaison, Noisiel, Mulhouse, Sevran, Evry, Strasbourg, La Courneuve, Neuilly-Sur-Marne, Chanteloup, Bordeaux, Toulouse: trash fires, fireworks and barricades on one side, facing tear gas, rubber bullets and grenades on the other. There were also violent arrests of independent journalists, a practice that has become common among police officers who are clearly to blame…
These outbursts of anger are not only the result of the Mouldi accident, but follow the constant controls, humiliations and violence suffered by residents of working-class neighborhoods, especially since the beginning of the curfew. This anger is political.
Six deaths at the hands of the French police in two weeks!!
We associate ourselves with the anger of the rioters, who are only reacting to this systemic and racist violence that floods our daily landscape, with social networks allowing witnesses to instantly broadcast footage of police actions in working-class neighbourhoods. These images will not do justice, but they at least allow us to establish the truth and to take a critical distance from the official version served by the perpetrators of these acts and the prosecutors who systematically organize their impunity.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.orgNaší 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: email@example.com 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!
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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