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On Belarus | Editorial

For the past five days I have watched batons smashing into the faces of the working class. I’ve watched people be shot and trucks plough into yet more without any sense or reason other than the sick poison that oozes in the hearts of the police.

I’ve watched children get smacked around and listened to women talk about the police beating and sexually assaulting them in the backs of vans and while locked in cells. I’ve seen hours of footage both broadcast publicly and shared through private channels that has sickened me. I’ve spoken to comrades both local and in the diaspora who’ve kindly taken the time to share their concerns and report on events.

I’m listening to Belarus cry out in the birth pains of a revolution and watching the death throws of a totalitarian regime. They tried to squish the revolutionary movement before it had began, they failed. The moment the factories stepped out and long muted resistance sprang up across the country the future of Lukashenko was sealed. The future of Belarus is being written now on the streets and at the factory gates.

This began last Sunday (9th of August) Belarus was put through an election rife with fraud, by the end of the day 50,000 people from all walks of life had descended onto the streets of Minsk. The police response was brutal with some 3000 arrested, hundreds injured and at least three protestors lost their life. The next day there were hundreds of thousands on the streets of at least twenty cities. Factory workers went on strike and Anarchist affinity groups erected barricades. The aims are clear to all. Lukashenko must be removed.
 
In over 20 cities huge numbers of working class people are fighting for their future, to find liberty from underneath the boot of Lukashenko. Like any popular movement they come from all walks of life and across the spectrum of politics, from the anarchist affinity groups that have existed underground for years to the all manner of nationalists, neo-liberals and progressives. They are not united by the politics they desire but by the politics of those they need to break free from. As comrade put it;

“For sure, there are people in the demonstrations with a wide range of different political views. Most of them don’t define themselves politically at all. When miners go on strike because they don’t agree with the corrupt state government and the exploitation that their bosses are engaged in, do we try to determine their exact political identity as communists, anarchists, or liberals? Trying to define this huge crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered through humiliation, exploitation, and oppression for the last quarter of a century seems ridiculous to me. For me, there’s one obvious fascist: Lukashenko”


It is vital that we listen to our Belarusian kin, and amplify their voices. The working class have no borders between us, no nations to tear us a part. We feel the pain of injustice wherever it occurs, whether that is Brest or Bolton. There can be no question in our minds that the working class of all lands must know that they do not stand alone.

Speak up and share your solidarity.
Belarus, you do not stand alone.

Peter Ó Máille
Editor of Organise!

Read about the situation:

Belarus: Anarchists in the Uprising against the Dictatorship
https://crimethinc.com/2020/08/12/belarus-anarchists-in-the-uprising-against-the-dictatorship-an-interview

Call for solidarity actions with the uprising against the Lukashenko regime – 14 August
www.abc-belarus.org/?p=12980&lang=en

Belarus: ‘without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’
https://libcom.org/news/belarus-without-organisation-without-struggle-oppressive-unfreedom-will-never-disappear-140

Websites to follow:
www.pramen.io – Anarchist Media Collective
www.abc-belarus.org – Anarchist Black Cross Belarus

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Against a Quarantine with Martial Law Characteristics | International

The Opportunism of Martial Law
In March 2020, the people of the archipelago known as the Philippines were alarmed at the rate of local transmission of the disease known as COVID-19. On March 12, police and military forces were mobilized to enforce a community quarantine for the whole of Metro Manila scheduled to start on the midnight of March 15. This quarantine was later generalized for the whole island of Luzon, a population of some 53 million souls. That the mobilization of the state’s apparatus of violence was more noticeable than the mobilization of medical and social resources is telling of the administration’s priorities.

A regime of violence is in place. Soldiers with assault rifles set up checkpoints; one questions the necessity of assault rifles against the coronavirus—do these people plan to shoot it? At these checkpoints, some women report being sexually harassed. Local police and Barangay officials took it upon themselves to creatively experiment in punitive measures like caging alleged lock down violators in a small cage. A police officer was recorded threatening to shoot residents for purportedly breaking lock down while hitting residents with a stick in a Muslim community in Quiapo. A homeless lola was violently arrested for being outside during curfew hours—essentially arrested for being homeless! Houses are still being demolished during a time when people urgently need homes to stay in. A teacher and her son in General Santos were arrested without warrants over Facebook posts. A congregation of people looking for relief goods in Barangay Bagong Pagasa were arrested. The National Bureru of Investigation is subpoenaing people for “unlawful utterances” on social media. President Duterte went on record threatening warrant-less arrests against “disobedience” and in a later speech threatened to shoot people for going out of their homes. Indeed, someone was shot by police at a Bulacan checkpoint, the police washing their hands of it like they did with the drug war.

Under the state of things, it is not an exaggeration to say the government of the Philippines has effectively imposed martial law in fact, if not formally declared in law. At a time of crisis, the gut instinct of the State was to mobilize and deploy its apparatus of violence. The deployment of medical resources is secondary to the assault rifles deployed. Instead of the deployment of increased medical resources, we have uniformed forces aimlessly and needlessly straying city borders with no other purpose than installing themselves as the false faces of the state’s peace and order. It is peace and order and not public health that is the priority of the state.

This martial law is extralegal, not that legality has significance to anarchists in the archipelago. Activists of all stripes understand that the state apparatus of violence is not limited by what they prescribe in law. State violence has always been both legal and extralegal, never mind that legality is a pointless distinction when the balance of power favours the state. Legality is meaningless when what is violent can simply be legalized in an act of congress or municipal ordinance—indeed that is what happened with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The deployment of the apparatus of violence to literally combat a medical emergency betrays a certain opportunism from the state. The state is opportunistically using the crisis to expand its police power. While the purported purpose of the lock down is to quarantine, it is also a godsend to the fascists in the police and military as an excuse to crack down on dissent. And what of the new laws they put into place now? What guarantee do we have that the extreme measures the state takes today do not become the new normal after the end of COVID-19 crisis?

We have seen an unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state with drones and cameras being drafted to keep a close eye over public spaces. Instead of using their resources to feed people, they instead use this crisis as an opportunity to expand their ability to do surveillance!

In a special session, congress railroaded the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act with its controversial provisions on granting special powers to the Office of the President and dramatic jail time and fine penalization for dissenters.1 This is the use of shock doctrine, or the opportunistic use of crisis to pass controversial or questionable laws. First described by investigative reporter Naomi Klein, the shock doctrine is used specifically during crises like our own to take advantage of the difficulty to build resistance to these policies due to the crises. The state is using this crisis as an opportunity to expand its power. This is not a phenomena isolated in the Philippines; Hungary is now practically a dictatorship after Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the crisis to expand his powers to practically dictatorial levels and now rules by decree.

We anarchists are sceptical of authority itself. We do not think those in authority have our best interests at heart. We think they are there only to reproduce and expand their own power. After the crises passes, the state of emergency will be lifted, but the new powers and the new state of surveillance will stay.

Solusyon Medikal, Hindi Militar!
We anarchists in the archipelago do not contest the need for a quarantine. After all, a quarantine and social distancing is needed to protect the most vulnerable among us like the immunocompromised, people living with HIV, and our elderly.

With that said, a quarantine enforced by violence and guns is clearly the wrong way to implement a quarantine. It does more harm than good. The checkpoints are made up of squads of large men with guns with barely any medical equipment in sight, not to mention the repeatedly noted lack of trained medical professionals. Reports of the vagueness of protocol, sexual harassment, and sometimes outright robbery and extortion on the part of the police and military personnel are being posted by people who go through the ordeal of dealing with them. What is even more alarming is the possibility of the checkpoint officers becoming vectors for the diseases themselves with reports of checkpoints without face masks or police and soldiers in close contact with the people they check. Checkpoints also risk becoming a place where people are forced to congregate, creating possible vectors for viral transmission. Ultimately, soldiers and police are trained in violence, not empathy or care-giving. Thus when confronted with homelessness, these people respond with violence—arresting the homeless instead of giving them a home, as was the case with lola Dorothy Espejo.

The severe discrepancy between resources devoted to militarized policing versus medical needs is made even more apparent by this trend of “VIP testing.” Politicians, oligarchs, and elites are able to jump the line and gain priority access to COVID-19 testing all the while people are being turned away from critical treatment due to lack of testing.

On April 1, the elitism of the regime was apparent where people congregated at a national highway in Barangay Bagong Pagasa upon hearing a rumor that food packs would be distributed there. They were met with mass arrests, purportedly for breaking quarantine. Instead of meeting needs, the state opts to just arrest them all. Meanwhile Senator Koko Pimentel who wilfully broke quarantine protocol knowing that he was a patient under investigation is still a free man without any repercussion other than public outrage. Pimentel scandalously endangered critical medical personnel when it was revealed later he was positive for COVID-19. One also remembers that convicted plunderer and widow of the old dictator Imelda Marcos is still a free woman despite the courts deeming her criminal. It is clear that law and protocol only apply to toilers and dispossessed while the elites can live as they will, wilfully endangering working people around them.

We also see the discrepancy in the dismal provision of relief packs. Endless emergency funds are activated but relief provided is paltry. These dismal relief goods are contrasted with images of agricultural traders in the Cordilleras destroying and discarding vegetables simply because they cannot sell these! Vegetables are being thrown away while people are being arrested for protesting their hunger. In these times of crisis the need for an economy to fulfill needs instead of profits is increasingly urgent. One wonders why with all these emergency funds activated from the crisis, government agencies cannot simply purchase all these produce before they are discarded.

Against a militarized quarantine, the people of the archipelago demand in one voice: Solusyon Medikal, Hindi Militar!—Medical solutions, not military! Against the elitist privilege in accessing COVID-19 testing kits, activists cry out: free mass testing now! Against the paltry provision of goods, the people organize in mutual aid and bayanihan networks that seek to fulfill needs.

Quarantine and capitalism are incompatable.
During this time of crisis, it is increasingly apparent that quarantine and capitalism are incompatible. A quarantine requires people to stay at home, limit going out, and practice social distancing. But how can people stay at home if they are precarious workers under a no-work no-pay scheme and live pay check to pay check? How can people confine themselves to their homes if their needs are dependent on their pay checks? If workers are laid off, how will they afford groceries and rent while in quarantine?

A quarantine needs to fulfill the needs of the people as a irreducible minimum for the reproduction of daily life, that is to say, to be able to access food, water, medicine, and other things needed to stay alive. But production under capitalism does not revolve around meeting needs, it revolves around meeting profits. Thus when a state of emergency shuts down the engines of profit, so does the engine of wages shuts down, and with that the needs are left unfulfilled.

Against the contradictions between capitalism and quarantine we need a system that meets needs instead of profits. We need a quarantine that ensures people do not starve. Without work and against the demand of rents and profits, our demands must be to distribute according to need, to cancel rent, and to cancel residential utility bills. And after the crisis, to keep these cancelled.

For a non-militarized, self managed quarantine
In the face of a martial law dressed in medical gowns, what can we count on? Each other.

Regular people, people like you and me, are doing what they can to make sure that not only they survive, but to ensure the well-being of those around them, too. We see people practicing mutual aid, or as it is known in the Philippines, bayanihan. We see people making masks and medical gear, not for profit, but because there is a need for it. Mothers in Los Angeles are taking over abandoned houses in search of quarantine like Kadamay did in Bulacan. Neighborhoods all over the world are helping each other out by pooling together what little they have, and like the political dissident Jesus breaking bread and fish, are able to fill each others’ needs with the most shoestring of supplies. These are seeds for a future post-capitalist economy based on needs rather than profits.

It is clear we can expect no salvation from the state or capital. Against the quarantine with martial law characteristics, it is urgent that we forward a liberatory alternative based on solidarity and mutual aid instead of militarism and impunity. It is possible to have a self-managed quarantine that is not enforced with assault rifles. For example, residents among urban poor communities in Metro Manila have taken the initiative of setting up their own self-managed checkpoints, sans assault rifles and macho egos. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, quarantines are not enforced by force of arms but rather by the collective responsibility of everyone. A quarantine without coercion and violence is possible if we care to look.

Indeed, a better world is possible if we care to look. ■

by Simoun Magsalin with input from the Bandilang Itim Collective
Originally hosted by Libcom


Bandilang Item (Filipino for “Black Flag.”) aspires to end the atomization imposed upon us by capitalist society, an alienation that separates us from each other. Bandilang Itim aims to be the banner that rallies together libertarian socialists in the archipelago known as the Philippines.

Their website can be found here:
www.bandilangitim.noblogs.org

Bibliography

Acayan, Ezra. @eacayan. Twitter Post. 9:07 AM, March 21, 2020.
https://twitter.com/eacayan/status/1241169606787477504

Pasaway daw ang mahirap? Residents of Manila’s poorer districts defend against the coronavirus by putting up makeshift barricades to halt movement in its tight alleyways and jampacked slums where social distancing is nearly impossible.”

Buan, Lian. “Cops Arrest Homeless Lola Who Shouted at Tanods Warning About Curfew.” Rappler. Last modified March 17, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/254926-cops-arrest-homeless-lola-shouted-…

Cabato, Regine. @RegineCabato. Twitter Post. 4:13 PM, March 26, 2020.
https://twitter.com/RegineCabato/status/1243088696435281920

“The government says it will exercise “human compassion” as a COVID-19 positive senator broke quarantine rules. Here’s a thread of how / why Filipinos don’t feel this on the ground. First, from Manila police today: ‘Anyone out at the wrong time will be shot, you sons of bitches.’”

Cabato, Regine. @RegineCabato. Twitter Post. 4:53 PM, March 26, 2020.
https://twitter.com/RegineCabato/status/1243098655092903941

“Someone who evaded a checkpoint in Bulacan was shot and killed by police. The police said he fought back and shot first, a common script from authorities in Duterte’s bloody drug war.”

Chow, Vivienne. “How People Power Has Flattened the Covid Curve in Hong Kong.” Lowy Institute. Last modified March 20, 2020.
https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/two-months-hong-kong-copin…

Cyrus, Smiley. @MINGAWKU. Twitter Post. 10:54 am, march 18, 2020.
https://twitter.com/mingawku/status/1240109402889191424

“May demolisyong nagaganap sa Pasay city yes po tama kayo ng basa demolisyon sa kabila ng banta ng COVID-19 at pagsasabi ng gobyernong ‘manatili sa loob ng bahay’ ay tatanggalan nila ng tirahan as usual ang mga maralita. Fuck this government!”

Diokno, Chel.@ChelDiokno. Twitter Post. 10:19 AM, April 2, 2020.
https://twitter.com/ChelDiokno/status/1245536276964495360

“Di lang si Mayor Vico. Pati ordinaryong mamamayang nagpo-post ng hinaing online, pinapatawag ng NBI. Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil di na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain. #ProtectThePeople”

Engler, Mark. “Theory: The shock doctrine.” Beautiful Trouble. Accessed April 3, 2020.
https://beautifultrouble.org/theory/the-shock-doctrine/

Famatigan, Mark Ernest. “Barangay Captain Cages Curfew Violators in Laguna.” Rappler. Last modified March 21, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/255342-barangay-captain-cages-curfew-viol…

Human Rights Watch. “Respecting Rights During Coronavirus: Taiwan and Hong Kong Show Beijing the Benefit of Open Societies.” Hong Kong Free Press. Last modified March 19, 2020.
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/03/20/respecting-rights-coronavirus-taiw…

Ilas, Joyce. “TIMELINE: Koko Pimentel’s Activities, COVID-19 Diagnosis.” CNN Philippines. Last modified March 26, 2020.
https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/3/26/Koko-Pimentel-COVID-19-timelin….

Lazaro, Ramon Efren. “Bulacan Checkpoint Evader Killed in ‘shooutout.’” Philstar.com. Last modified March 25, 2020.
https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/03/25/2003278/bulacan-checkpoint…

Madarang, Catalina Ricci S. “The ‘Bayanihan to Heal As One Act’ and What’s at Stake in the Law.” Interaksyon. Last modified March 30, 2020.
https://www.interaksyon.com/politics-issues/2020/03/26/164950/bayanihan-…

Marquez, Consuelo. “MPD Probes Cop for Allegedly Threatening Quiapo Resident.” Inquirer.net. Last modified March 26, 2020.
https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1248757/mpd-probes-cop-for-allegedly-threa…

Petty, Martin. “‘Shoot Them Dead’ – Philippine Leader Says Won’t Tolerate Lockdown Violators.” Reuters. Last modified April 2, 2020.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-philippines-dutert…

Philstar.com. @PhilstarNews. Twitter Post. 8:51 AM April 2, 2020.
https://twitter.com/PhilstarNews/status/1245514201776324608

“Human rights lawyer @ChelDiokno reveals he has taken on the case of a netizen who was being summoned by the NBI because the situation is turning ‘inhumane.’”

Rey, Aika, and Rappler.com. “Teacher, Son Arrested Without Warrant in GenSan over Facebook Post.” Rappler. Last modified March 28, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/256157-teacher-son-arrested-without-warra…

Stojanovic, Dusan. “Democracy Test: Hungary, Serbia Leaders Expand Emergency Powers.” The Christian Science Monitor. Last modified March 31, 2020.
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2020/0331/Democracy-test-Hungary-…

Tagani Philippines. @TaganiPH. Twitter post. 4:17 PM, March 24, 2020.
https://twitter.com/TaganiPH/status/1242364791878045697

“Gone to waste. LOOK: Carrots are forced to be disposed of as farmers are not able to sell their produce to buyers at a trading post in Ifugao. Photo by Pubg RenJa Cat-Lamhi”

Tagani Philippines. @TaganiPH. Twitter post. 2:10 PM, March 26, 2020.
https://twitter.com/TaganiPH/status/1243057834448678913

“Let’s help them get their produce to Manila, please! #SupportFarmersPH
http://gogetfunding.com/supportfarmersph WATCH: Almost a ton of pechay wasted in Benguet due to scarcity of buyers during #LuzonLockdown.”

Talabong, Rambo. “Quezon City Residents Demanding Help Amid Lockdown Arrested by Police.” Rappler. Last modified April 1, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/256628-residents-quezon-city-protesting-h…

Talabong, Rambo; Gavilan, Jodesz. “‘Walang-wala Na’: Poor Filipinos Fear Death from Hunger More Than Coronavirus.” Rappler. Last modified April 2, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/256695-poor-filipinos-fear-de…

Tomacruz, Sofia. “Duterte Signs Law Granting Himself Special Powers to Address Coronavirus Outbreak.” Rappler. Last modified March 24, 2020.
https://www.rappler.com/nation/255718-duterte-signs-law-granting-special…

  • 1. Against the co-option of bayanihan by the state to label its expansive powers, anarchists in the archipelago forward a genuine bayanihan in its original meaning of mutual aid.
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The Revolt In Iran

There is open revolt in Iran and for some reason and no one seems to be talking about it.

Protestors first hit the streets over the issue of rising fuel prices and they met with a brutal crackdown by the Iranian regime. The situation escalated at an alarming rate with an internet black out starting on the 16th of November near masking the news while comrades international were focused on Hong Kong, Bolivia and Chile.

By the 19th, Amnesty International said that at least 106 people had been killed and that the number may be much higher, Iran’s government called it “baseless allegations and fabricated figures.” Meanwhile a UN agency said that it was looking to be more like 200 and Anarchists on the ground put the figure closer to 3/500.

It’s was hard to pin a figure on the dead with only the broadcasts of the Iranian government to turn to and they were pouring out a mixture of protestors burning Qurans in Tehran and pro-government rallies in an attempt to alienate the protestors from their communities. Through VPN’s and the occasional bit of signal the odd status update or picture leaked out, however these calls for support seem to have been drowned out in the reams of shocking footage coming from elsewhere.

So here is the situation.
In 2015 the US imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran and there was a subsequent economic collapse. This ofcourse overwhelming affected the working class Iranians, the parasites in control remained quite comfortable. President Hassan Rouhani’s solution was to raise the fuel price (as opposed to say increasing the taxation of the economically wealthy and this saw an explosion of civil unrest. Iran has the cheapest petrol prices in the world, sitting on top of the fourth largest oil reserves . Petrol is seen as a something which should be accessible to all in abundance. A rise of near 200% was simply intolerable to working class Iranians.

However the fuel price increase is simply the straw that broken the camels back as the people face a constant waves of government corruption and wide spread poverty which sees millions unemployed or living extremely precarious lives, depriving them education, healthcare, food, and housing.

Protestors were initially met with water cannons and tear gas. This quickly escalated to live ammunition and local Anarchist comrades reporting tanks on the streets and people being shot at from helicopters.

On the 25th, the internet was restored. Reports came out indicating at the very least there were 400 deaths, 4000 injuries and some 10,000 arrests. Anarchists comrades report protests in 170 cities being composed of a mixture of workers, students and homeless, identifying it as a class war. The protesters were now demanding the overthrow of the Iranian regime, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) due to their corruption and the plague of economic problems and the lack of freedom and fundamental rights.

A statement by The Iranian leftist diaspora in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, formed by a loose coalition of academics and militants calling upon the global left to express solidarity with those struggling in Iran was issued later that day:


“Our world is on fire. Not only forests but also cities are burning all over the world. Social conflicts of all sorts are erupting, spreading their flames across the planet: Algeria, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, you name it. Located within this global context of struggles against the social hell of neoliberal, financialized capitalism, there has been another mass uprising in Iran since November 15 …

. There are many videos showing the police shooting demonstrators in the head and chest — as we observed before in the case of Iraq. This happened mainly in the Kurdish and Arab provinces whose discriminated people are once again at the very forefront of the uprising and have paid the highest price….

The left needs to learn from the oppressed classes to simultaneously oppose US imperialism (especially US sanctions) and the Islamic Republic’s interventions in the region.

We, the undersigned academics and militants, urge the global left to break its silence and express its solidarity with the people of Iran and their resistance.

It is pointless for us to demand anything from the Islamic Republic, but we will demand from our comrades and progressive forces all over the world to be — in any possible form — the voice of the oppressed people in Iran suffocated by the forced isolation. We also call on the international left to condemn the atrocities of the regime against its own people.

Finally, we stand in solidarity with the Iranian protesters who are reclaiming their dignity by refusing austerity, authoritarianism, militarization of society, as well as any other form of domination that stifles their autonomy and freedom.”

Here is a link to those who have signed.
The full text and the contact to add signatures can be found on ROAR

This was subsequently followed by The Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan issuing a statement for a call to arms on the 26th:

The Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime will not hesitate to massacre millions of Iranians, like it has done in Syria and Iraq as well as in Iran these these last few days. Therefore, the Anarchist Union of Iran and Afghanistan is prepared to declare that it will cooperate with all Kurdish, Arab and Baloch armed opposition forces. With respect to the widespread repression of defenseless people in Iran, we must be able to provide them with the right tools to defend themselves, before there are more dead and the people’s movement has been permanently suppressed. Therefore the need to form an armed revolutionary front to support and defend the people against the Islamic regime’s executioners is urgent and necessary. If it is possible to transport weapons to people inside Iran, you should not hesitate for a moment to prevent more people from being bled and buried. The duty of the revolutionary and radical opposition outside of Iran is to provide logistical and strategic support to the struggles and resistance of the people inside Iran”

These statements come just days after President Hassan Rouhani celebrating on the 20th remarked “our people have been victorious against… the enemy’s conspiracy” stating that “Those anarchists who came out onto the streets were few in number,” he said, insisting “this is the biggest display of the power of the nation of Iran”.

Two days later protestors burnt down a bank in Behbahan.

Behbahan, Iran

Protesters have burnt down the central bank in Behbahan, Iran-EW161

Posted by E X I T W O U N D on Friday, 22 November 2019

It would seem he is wrong.

It would seem that Iran is gearing up for a revolution.

Express your solidarity.

Peter Ó Máille

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Latin America and the Caribbean are in Flames | International

Ecuador, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia… and counting.

The triggers might be different but they all have more than our blood in common. Every struggle in the region is connected. Decades of oppression, poverty, inequality, femicide, discrimination, racism, draconian economic measures imposed by US backed neo-liberal governments, who are still selling our resources and displacing Indigenous peoples, and who have no qualms about using the full strength of the army and police force to repress our people and imprison, torture, disappear and kill anyone who dares protest. Students, Indigenous Nations and Afro descendent, , Workers, Women, LGBTQ people.

We can examine the causes of the uprisings in each country, created by colonisers to separate us, but in a way the triggers are just the tip of the iceberg. It is much bigger than that. It goes back to the invasion and genocide but we can just focus on recent years.

We need to be clear that Ecuador is not just out in the streets because of the rise of fuel prices, Chile is not on strike just because of the hike on public transport fares, Mexico is not just destroying itself because of a few bad narcos, Haiti has grown fed up with extreme poverty, Honduras is not just about the fact that the US approved president’s brother is involved in a drug dealing scandal.

Our continent never truly decolonised mentally and in practice. The Indigenous Nations and Afro descendants never benefited from the processes of independence despite shedding our blood in the wars, which were led by criollos (white children of Spanish born in Latin America), the Natives were cannon fodder and abandoned when it was tie to re distribute the lands and profits. Even now, communities and whole towns are being forcibly displaced and even decimated, to make way for Canadian, US, and British mining and fracking companies, whose revenue does not stay in Latin America. And the caste system imposed by the conquistadores never disappeared. White people still rule, Mestizos work for them, Indigenous people are in poverty and suffer great levels of racism, Afro descendants are 4th class citizens, their histories forgotten, even in the classrooms.

The other big issue is how they rule us and educate us. Corruption is ingrained in every sphere. The ruling class is openly there to serve themselves. Fraud in electoral processes has always been the norm and we are resigned somehow. If any government makes real progress for the working class, they are murdered, like Chile’s Allende, or charges are made up to imprison and establish a far right government, Like Lula in Brazil who is locked up with false charges of corruption which led to Bolsonaro’s victory. Venezuela, Bolivia, and, of course Cuba, have emancipated their countries and gone to a mediatic war with the US and suffer blockades and even attempts of coup d’etat.

That is briefly the context where we move now. The eruption of protests in all the continent are not shocking or out of the blue. And the protests are radical. There are sectors who have even been traditionally conciliatory and centrist that have now been radicalised, more so because of the fascist-like response of all the governments, which are right wing like in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

Indigenous peoples are now leading the struggle, and they refuse to be forgotten and tokenised any more. They are fighting for all, and to get the rights to their ancestral lands and stop the destruction of the environment and the theft of our resources. They are keeping our culture alive and decolonised.

Chilean students, Ecuadorian indigenous are being killed, the media is silent, willingly or shut down with guns. And little coverage has been done in the West even by the Left. Haiti has been out in the streets for seven weeks and the no one knows. The work of the capitalist system is not just killing people in protests but in the mind of the people. Derogation of blame, dehumanisation, devaluation.

It is true the cartels in Mexico and Central America control a big part of some cities and villages. Narcos are barbaric in their fight against each other and many innocent people have been victims, murdered or kidnapped, or coerced into working for them. This has always been the case. But, as a child growing up in Mexico, the level of drug related crime was minimum, and , not glorifying them here, they built roads and helped towns when the Neo-liberal governments refused to even open schools.

In the 2000s this changed with President Calderon, not just in Mexico, as the US blessed the so called war on drugs which escalated on a war against civilians and anyone not complaint. Nine women are killed a day, children are being recruited, people kidnapped. The fallacy is the government is taking action. The government are the narcos. And the police and army are involved to the core.

In South America the narrative has been simplistic claiming the revolts are about fare hikes or petrol. It is not, as I previously stated. In Chile’s 40 year old ‘new democracy’ they have suffered cuts and austerity in health, education and pensions. 30% of the income is in the hands of 1% of the people. Water is privatised, constitution is from Pinochet times. 10% of the state’s copper industry goes to the armed forces, and Pinera’s right wing government has gone from promoting Chile as an ‘oasis’ ‘a miracle’ to ‘we are at war with a powerful enemy” in one week. A very unequal “War” that has weapons and repression on one side and pots and pans on the other.

All the governments facing rebellions now have, obviously, blamed Venezuela and Cuba, easy escape, but in one way, Pinera is right in one single thing. The enemy is powerful: It is the Chilean people. All the Latin American people are rising and this time I doubt they are going to stop till we are truly free from oppressive governments and USA and FMI interventionism. .

Solidaridad! Venceremos!! ■

Tais is a Mexican Native and activist based in London. She has been part of the student and Indigenous movements in Mexico and has been involved in animal rights, Antifascism and solidarity work in Ireland and the UK for many years. 

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Anarchism and the Student Movement in Yacuiba

The student movement in the south of Bolivia has a long history, as well as diverse ideological influences. Denying the existence of a student movement in the domain of public universities, especially with the ideological influences of the symbol that it was, affirms that apoliticity on the issue of education is a contradiction; as Paulo Freire says: The political nature of such a task exists independently of whether we are aware of it or not. (p 137, Letters to Guinea Bissau, Freire). If indeed secondary school and university students or teachers, all students, were walking in the Chaco Plain without meeting one another, this wouldn’t mean that their paths would never cross, such as in May 2001, when the “Guevarista”-influenced current in the classrooms of the Universidad Pública en Yacuiba (Public University of Yacuiba) decided to meet with the leadership of the secondary student movement at the centre of the Student Coordinator popularly known as Asoces (Asociación de Centro de Estudiantes – Central Association of Students). For the last three years of the twentieth century this became a space in the south of Bolivia to criticise the policies of the neoliberal Educaional Reform Bill of 1994. Continuing this legacy, in the first decade of the twenty-first century came the revival of the Federación Estudiantil Secundarista (Federation of Secondary Students), but it was then (May 2001) that university and secondary students in Yaciuba really understood the necessity of pushing for the consolidation of higher education in Chaco. We mustn’t forget that in 2001, the University of Tarija wanted to close the only option for public higher education in Yacuiba.

That attempt, which would have succeeded because the fight didn’t resonate with the public (the local bourgeoisie showed no interest in supporting the consolidation of public higher education in Chaco), would still find an opposition in the students who organised in the Asoces, in an agreement with the union which would later repeat itself at other levels of decision. A quote from Bakunin says, The union is strength. This is a well-known truth that no one will want to contradict. However, it is important to understand it well. For the union to produce that effect, it must be real and sincere at all times and not mean the hypocritical exploitation of one party for the benefit of another. (Letter, Bakunin, 1870) It is important to note that the majority of the militants of the Asoces had an inclination towards anarchism, belonging to a group descended from the thought of Liber Forti. This anarchist intellectual played an important role for the constitution of the Universidad Obrera de Llallagua (Workers University of Llallagua), having contributed to the formation of a nucleus of militant anarchists during his visits to the city border of Yacuiba in the second half of the twentieth century. Towards the end of that century, these anarchists would pass their knowledge to a new generation, who would discover a revolutionary truth in the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Errico Malatesta, Mikhail Bakunin and Piotr Kropotkin. Without that knowledge, the anarchist student movement in Yacuiba would not have been able to construct a solid discourse of struggle and unity.

On the subject of the union, Bakunin states: Trust makes the union, and the union creates strength. We have here, without doubt, two truths that no one will try to deny. Moreover, to be true, two things are necessary: that the trust is not a farce and that the union, equally sincere for all parties, must not be an illusion, a lie, or the hypocritical exploitation of one party by the other. The parties who unite must forget completely, not forever, no doubt, but for the time that the union should last, their particular, necessarily opposed interests.” (The Knouto-germanic Empire and Social Revolution, Bakunin, 1870). The economic crisis of the capitalist system which hit the people of Yacuiba in 2002, the consolidation of the secondary student movement in 2003, the consensus of the Encuentro Nacional Libertario (Libertarian National Conference) in Paukaparta (La Paz, 16 October 2004) and the expansion of public higher education in Chaco from 2002, would set the stage for the signing of the founding statement of the Frente Autonomia (Autonomous Front), a student organisation which with time pushed for the creation in 2007 of their own Federación Universitaria Local (Local University Student Federation) [FUL] for Chaco (since 2018 this instance of co-government is no longer classified in a separate list in the directory of the regional FUL, thus burying ten years of an experience of government which respects the particular characteristics of university life in Yacuiba). Since the student elections in 2008, Autonomía has been growing as an anarchist student organisation, on the platform of “a strong student movement, built from the bottom up” (Documento Político para Transformar la Educación superior Pública, Autonomía, 2014). It mobilised students in defence of their rights in various Student Government leadership spaces in the Faculty of Integrated Sciences of Gran Chaco, part of the University of Tarija. By March 2018, it would reach the historical milestone of being the driving force of a university movement at the departmental level, challenging the ruling cliques of the most neoliberal universities of the Bolivian higher education system. The passage of time has allowed for the consolidation of a Yacuiban anarchist group into a model of organisation, direction and unity for the rest of the Bolivian student movement.

Since 2018, Autonomía has been the fundamental pillar in building the Federación Estudiantil Boliviana Anarquista [FEBA], a diverse space for discussion between the popular and anarchist student organisations, which fight the hierarchy and corruption of the leadership of the Student Governments, in addition to the opportunistic electoralism of short-lived groups which, stripped of all ideology, seek only the crumbs of power for their own benefit, forgetting the large majority of students who are victims of authoritarian teachers and the despotism of the university authorities. “It is the students who are the victims of the worst learning conditions, due to the ruling cliques of teachers who silence all protest and the cowardly student representatives who don’t speak up against them,” (Declaración por el día del trabajo, Autonomía, 2019). With this philosophy, affiliated to the FEBA and adhering to the associative pact of the IFA, the Autonomía Frente Universitario is the only student organisation which is currently continuing to defend public higher education in Yacuiba, true to its history and commitment to transform education into an instrument of liberation and social justice.

Article by José Luis Claros López originally shared in Spanish on his blog. Desde Yacuiba
Translation by Organise!

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Communiqué from the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero-Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ) on the recent murder of its members Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote.

Twenty days after the cowardly murder of our brothers Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián, a crime that remains in complete impunity on the part of the three levels of government. With the pain and rage that invade the hearts of the Nahua peoples of the low mountains of the state of Guerrero, we make public the artful murder of our brothers Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote. Both were indigenous Nahua and local promoters of the Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero–Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ). Those who consummated this atrocious murder are professionals of para-militarism and extrajudicial murder who are agreeable to taking lives. They denigrated and enraged them, dismembered and bagged the compañeros’ bodies, and with this vile act they thought that they could also denigrate their history, and denigrate their life. They were wrong.

Not only were they wrong, but also the dignity of their lives contrasts more and more with the cowardice of their murders. The peoples of the CIPOG-EZ and the CNI of Guerrero, Mexico have guarded the memory if the men and women who have given their lives in the struggle for the reconstitution of collective rights. So, we ask the dignified peoples of Mexico and the world to protect and grow the names, the history and the struggle of our brothers murdered for defending life; Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote. Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián.

The responsibility of los three levels of government, the federal government in charge of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the State government of Héctor Astudillo Flores and the municipal government of Jesús Parra García, is complete. Each level of government has done nothing more than give continuity to impunity, passing the ball to one another, by saying that the problems are inherited from past governments, that is the PRI attitude that has submerged us in the blood bath that our country has become and doesn’t see any transformation that wants to change things. It seems that important changes only occur in the spheres above, below our lives continue without mattering to the powerful.

Different narco-paramilitary groups have operated in complicity with the Mexican State for more than 25 years in the Chilapa region and today is no exception. The state regime has attempted the disarticulation of our peoples again and again, and we have resisted the war of extermination for more than 500 years. Our crime has been defending our territory from the extraction of what they call natural resources and for us are sacred hills or springs of water and life. We fight to maintain the principle that our grandparents left us, called by us uses and customs, a world very different from the one the Mexican State has constituted and that doesn’t match our way of community government.

Our peoples are suffering a systemic violence in which they disappear or murder our women, children and men, and it would seem like nothing is happening. Everything remains in complete impunity because of this bad government, in which one of the state’s strategies is generating terror in the heart of our people. Using torture, psychological warfare, death threats and persecution against all the members that serve as promoters of community development.

As indigenous people we ask ourselves again and again: Why is there so much dehumanization? Why is human life no longer worth more? Why are some lives worth less than others? And it rather seems that they see those below as merchandise. We ask ourselves again and again: How would they, the powerful, the governments with more than 30 million votes, react if this violence happened to one of their relatives? Or perhaps disappearance, torture and vile murder are only reserved for us?

As a national indigenous movement we fight to reconstitute the social fabric of our peoples, we fight to re-establish our communities in peace, and we seek the recognition and reconstitution as indigenous peoples of our languages, our culture and the thinking of our peoples that is interwoven with Mother Earth.

On May 23, 2019 around 1:30 pm, our brothers Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote disappeared near Chilapa de Álvarez. On May 24 in the morning we knew the terrible news, their dead bodies were found. Today we denounce it publicly and we ask the honest and dignified compañeros and compañeras of Mexico and the world: no matter how much they wanted to destroy their bodies, let’s embrace today their history of struggle, which is the history of struggle of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and the world.

We demand justice for our murdered brothers: Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote, Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián. That the pain that today besets the family members, friends and compañer@s of struggle, does not remain unpunished, or in oblivion!

FRATERNALLY:

Justice for Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote, members of the CNI!
Justice for Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián del CIPOG-EZ, ex member of the CIG and the CNI!
Justice for Gustavo Cruz Mendoza, murdered indigenous communicator of the CIPO-RFM!
Justicia para Samir Flores Soberanes, murdered indigenous communicator!
Stop the counterinsurgency war against the EZLN!
Freedom for Fidencio Aldama of the Yaqui tribe!
Never more a Mexico without us!
Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero – Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ)
Regions: Costa Chica, Coastal Mountains, High Mountains and Low Mountains of Guerrero
Congreso Nacional Indígena, Saturday, May 25, 2019 ■

Originally published by Congreso Nacional Indígena. Translated by Chiapas Support.
Image above: Members of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities – Peoples Founders (CRAC-PF) in a November 2018 assembly, in Rincón de Chautla, municipality of Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero.

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The Anti-Workers’ Party rage in Brazil: Progressive or Reactionary?

With the radically polarised process of Brazil’s presidential elections and the victory of an openly neo-fascist candidate, an important concept emerges that needs to be better understood within the Brazilian and international activist community: The Anti-Workers’ Party (PT) rage.

The formation of the PT and the New Republic

To better understand this subject, it is important to return to the first half of the 1980s, when Brazil was reaching the end of the military dictatorship period and going through the process of re-democratization. This period is known as the “New Republic” period. The end of the dictatorship in Brazil occurred in a scenario of economic crisis and at the same time of the collapse of various dictatorships in Latin America. In Brazil, this decline was accelerated by a great rise in social movements despite their repression in the dictatorship. One of the most prominent social groups was composed by the metallurgic workers known as “the metallurgical belt of the ABC” (metropolitan region of São Paulo). Numerous strikes and protests led by the group spread through the most diverse social sectors of the country, overcoming the power of repression by the police and the barrier imposed by media censorship. Other groups followed: from landless peasants to students, as well as the progressive wing of the Catholic Church, intellectuals and artists, community movements and workers from the most diverse categories.

The political impact of this struggle was enormous, boosting a historical reorganization of social movements in Brazil. Workers from various factories and categories rejected the rotten union structures (usually linked to the dictatorship) and created new unions such as the CUT (free translation: Central of Workers). From this shift of power and reorganisation of the unions, came the idea of ​​creating a new political party. An independent party from the bourgeoisie, and that unified the diverse social and popular struggles that the country was going through. The Workers’ Party (PT) was therefore created under the leadership of Lula da Silva, a metallurgist from the Northeast of the country, who was at the forefront of the social movements and became a political prisoner multiple times during the military dictatorship.

Throughout the 1980s, the PT was consolidating itself as the main leftist party of the New Republic. Its strategy was to get to power via the democratic electoral route. In the first elections in the country after the military dictatorship ended, in 1987, Lula reached the second round of the process, being defeated by Fernando Collor. Collor would undergo Impeachment two years later due to a corruption scandal. Lula later ran again and lost to Fernando Henrique Cardoso the 1994 and 1998 elections. With the impact of the economic crisis of the late 1990s and early 00s, Lula was finally elected president in October 2002.

The 13 years of PT governments

During the 1990s, PT was already beginning to gain space in the political scenario winning various local and national elections. In many cases, the elected representatives put in practice the social welfare policies and the democratic participation of the population in decision making, such as the participatory budget currently used in several countries. They also launched changes in public healthcare such as the unified system of ambulances (SAMU), inspired by the model used in France, launching in Porto Alegre first and expanding nationwide after 2003.

However, months before the election that led Lula to the presidency, PT released a document entitled “Letter to Brazilians”. In this document, PT committed itself not to alter the pillars of the economic agenda that had been applied by the previous conservative governments (for example, from the party PSDB), calming down the fears that leading economic groups could still have regarding an eventual PT government.

Now in government, PT continued to broadly apply the social-democratic agenda but with some adjustments. During Lula’s second administration, the world commodities market experienced an unusual boom. The Brazilian economy, strongly based on this type of product (oil, gas, minerals, etc.), had grown significantly. The PT government took advantage of the economic growth and increased investments in social policies. The measures did not change the country’s economic structure but allowed the social inclusion of millions of families who were living below the poverty line. It gave access to consumption and goods that a large part of the population had never dreamed of. Sectors of the middle class consequently began to develop an Anti-Workers’ Party rage based on the traditionally retrograde mentality shared by this social class. They struggled to tolerate “poor people in airports and universities”, both seen as privileges reserved to the few. But this new economic scenario of the country went from strength to strength, which left the middle class feeling politically marginalized. Yet the “Cansei” (I’m fed up) marches, a movement of the upper-middle class of São Paulo, typically dressed in green and yellow and protesting against Lula’s presidency, did not reach 100 attendees.

The economic crisis and June 2013

However, the economic growth reached an end. The great global economic crisis of 2007 changed the landscape in Brazil. The commodities market, especially oil, gradually returned to pre-growth levels. Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor, was then in charge of the government. Lula had already served two consecutive terms – the maximum allowed by Brazilian law.

The population was beginning to feel the decline in living standards and to realise that the government was failing to maintain the same economic growth from previous years. There was a feeling that the bill was being paid by the population. The mega-events planned for the country (World Cup and Olympic Games), turned from a source of pride to an example of waste of public funds. All that while the basic needs of the population were not being met. In June of 2013, a student mass protest against the increase of the bus fares in São Paulo was harshly repressed by the Military Police. However, it quickly gained momentum and spread throughout the country. It was the beginning of the so-called “Jornadas de Junho” (Journeys of June), the greatest social mobilization in Brazil’s history: tens of millions of people took the streets demanding further social changes. The protests were very diverse and composed by people from all parts of the political spectrum. In general, the protests of June had in common a progressive agenda. However, the far-right took advantage of the political moment and infiltrated in the process instigating the Anti-Workers’ Party rage, blaming the left for all the social discontent and lack of perspective for a better future.

The 2014 Elections and the Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff

In the 2014 electoral process, Dilma reached the second round against the PSDB candidate in a fiercely contested election. Large part of the upper middle class had adhered to the Anti-Workers’ Party rage. In the second round, PT adopted an anti-austerity speech, more to the left, and reversed the rejection to its policies. At the end of the elections, Dilma adopted a very different agenda from what had been defended in her campaign up to that point, disappointing many of her supporters.

The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, wanted an even stronger pace of fiscal adjustment. It encouraged and radicalised the Anti-Workers’ Party rage, giving support to Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.

Nowadays

In the current elections, with the failure of the traditional conservative parties (such as PSDB), the space was occupied by a neo-fascist alternative: Jair Bolsonaro. To enable his rise, the campaign supported by the international fake News industry (with the participation of Stephen Bannon, former Trump aide) and hate speech. Quickly the campaign took surreal proportions. The far-right took advantage of the desperation and lack of perspective of large sectors of the population to inflame hatred against their “enemy within”: the black, the poor, the women and the LGBTQ. And the left activists fighting the rise of extremism were all labelled as “PT supporters.” The far-right encourages an unhealthy Anti-Workers’ Party rage to facilitate its policy of brutal repression to the social movements, finally making it possible to consolidate their political project.

In this delicate political moment, we understand that the role of the left is to fight the reactionary and neo-fascist president. It does not mean embracing PT with its past mistakes and current limitations. It does not even mean supporting a possible new government from this party. The PT’s alliances, manifesto and recent practices show that the party has not yet realised the need to reinvent itself from within – as for example the UK Labour Party has. It is necessary to overcome the limitations of PT in the future, but today the priority is to fight the neo-fascism.

The post-election period

The  far-right in Brazil used the Anti-Workers’ Party rage as an ideological basis for its strength. Brazil has elected a neo-fascist government. Parallel to that, social movements gain strength and resist, the left reorganizes itself.

A movement of more than 4 million people and led by women stood up to this political threat without defending PT and its alliances. The #EleNao campaign fought the rise of fascism.

No matter what the Bolsonaro government will be, the work of building a new political scenario that goes beyond the polarisation focused on very few parties continues and the task of defending basic democratic rights will be the order of the day. The #EleNao campaign has already shown the way.

We have a long road ahead of us, and we have confidence and willingness to keep fighting.■

Márcia Alves, feminist-socialist activist from Sao João de Meriti, Baixada Fluminense ( peripheral area in Greater Rio de Janeiro).