2014: One step ahead

2013, an eventful twelvemonth in the world of politics that gave us many reasons to dream or to despair, is nearly at its end. This was the year when the symbol of racial equality, Nelson Mandela, passed away (whilst the real struggle against the apartheid still goes on), the year when Venezuela mourned the death of her controversial leader, Hugo Chávez, and Britain one of the most hated representatives of the Neoliberal ideology, Margaret Thatcher. Νew political figures, leaders and demagogues, however, are emerging, such as Pepe Grillo in Italy, while once again we witnessed civil unrests and revolts that challenged governments and political regimes, with the most notable the Turkish and Brazilian uprising at the end of Spring, the massive anti-corruption protests in Bulgaria and Romania and the right-wing revolt in Ukraine.

Undeniably Mandela and Chávez for many oppressed across the globe represent the spirit of resistance, the former against racism and the latter against the vulgarity of US’s foreign policy and neoliberalism, an economic doctrine that has transformed the whole European south into an impoverished zone, following the massive increase in suicide rates and unemployment, while hopelessness is taking over the entire ‘lost generation’. The ‘celebration’ of Thatcher’s death is an obvious expression of anger against the negative impacts of neoliberal economics in Britain’s poor populations; division, repression and social exclusion. But can we deny that Chavism or Mandela’s longtime power have not radically eradicated poverty? The apparent negative answer clearly indicates that whilst the Venezuelan and South African paradigms can be acknowledged as obvious sources of inspiration, at the same time they teach us how bureaucratic institutions have very limited potentials for a real transformation, towards peace and social justice. This is the actual political challenge for the people of the European south: the solutions proposed by parties and leaders could only temporarily benefit the exhausted populations, and in no way should be considered as permanent answers to all problems. Placing all our hopes to parties like the populist SYRIZA or the Italian self-proclaimed ‘bi-partisan’ (but quasi-reactionary) Five Star Movement (which during the national elections came second after the Social Democrats, sending a clear message to Brussels’ technocrats and the European Central Bank) without engaging in democratic self-organization, self-management and direct participation in the decision making, might result to a serious defeat for all the anti-austerity movements, since the stronger these parties get the more reformist they become, depriving thus all our hopes for institutional change.

As aforementioned, 2013 was the year when one of the biggest uprisings in the history of Turkey took place: people from different political backgrounds (seculars, liberals, nationalists, anarchists and communists) openly denounced the government’s plans to transform Instanbul’s central park into a mall. Once the police responded with violence and brutal repression, a massive revolt broke out all across the country. Millions took to the streets, confronting water canons and excessive amounts of tear gas, while ten people were killed after being brutally attacked by the armed police officers. Soon after the first images of barricades, injured protesters, blood in the streets of Istanbul, dead pigeons (due to tear gas) begun to circulate across the social media networks, Greeks responded with solidarity protests (mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki) and, additionally, in Britain and Germany Turkish citizens gathered outside consulates to condemn Tayip Eordogan’s state of exception. But as in Turkey, similarly in Brazil, citizens took to the streets en masse, opposing the government’s plans to increase public spending for the preparations of the 2014 World Cup, at the moment where the country’s poor population is suffering. Thus widespread clashes occurred in Rio and other cities; police vans were torched, banks were smashed while offices and government buildings became the target of many angry mobs. But Brazil was not alone; large scale protests occurred also in Mexico, (in a country where the Zapatistas communities celebrated their twentieth anniversary of autonomy by inviting thousands activists from all over the world to Chiapas[1]) and similarly in Greece university and school teachers denounced privatizations, organizing protests and occupations.

Greece, again, did not cease to attract the interest of the European mainstream media, where as in the rest of Europe, the crisis has resulted in the increase of one of the worst nightmares, the terror of fascist totalitarianism. Golden Dawn, a party (whose members have participated in murderous racist attacks) that constantly exploit fear on immigration, public indignation against corruption, poverty and uncertainty, after gaining 7% in the elections of 2012, begun to perpetuate its power by organizing food distributions “strictly only for Greeks” and terrorizing political opponents. Their vigilantist tactics achieved to increase their percentages, reaching the alarming 10% in the country’s official polling reports. But Golden Dawn’s real face was soon to be revealed: the assassination of the Pakistani immigrant, Shehzad Luqman, in the streets of Athens, and the fatal stabbing of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fysas, sparked massive riots across the country, sending a clear message to the corrupt, and eroded by reactionary ultra-nationalist elements, Greek justice system. The conservative coalition, acting under the pressure of public outcry, ordered arrests for some of GD’s lawmakers. Most of them are facing charges for murder, while additional police investigations uncovered a series of other crimes (tax and benefit fraud, money laundering and sex trafficking) committed by them. Is, however, this institutional crackdown nothing but dubious and disputable? This question still challenges the Greek anti-authoritarian space and the media, as it is well evident that the ruling party (New Democracy) attempts to exploit the chance in order to attract much of GD’s disappointed votes, especially if we take into account how ND begun to decline in percentages after the PM Antonis Samaras ordered the closure of the National TV Broadcaster ERT.

As circle of crisis, oppression and unrest is repeated all across the globe, Syria experiences its most tragic moments. The brutal civil war between the ultra-authoritarian government of Bashar al-Assad and several Islamic fundamentalist factions has left over 2 million refugees and 120,000 others killed in a country of 21.1 million, while the Egyptian people are still struggling against state repression: the appalling bloodshed that followed after the overthrow of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood clearly indicates that Egypt’s dictators have never truly been removed from power. Is, however, brutal oppression only a monopoly of the eastern world? The, drone strikes in Yemen against civilians, the example of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning who are being persecuted for exposing police surveillance against citizens, war crimes and the vast shift towards the state of exception, along with the rapid criminalization of dissent (as we have seen in Britain this November during the student’s protests in London) not only reveal the hypocrisy of western governments, but also our complicity to this system of injustice and brutality through our acceptance of cynical individualism and our alliance with the culture of indifference that has been cultivated during the past few decades.

Here is 2014, one step ahead, a year where the spirit of resistance has to continue everywhere, where the struggle against oppression, whether it is called neoliberalism or religious fundamentalism has to carry on. We learn from our mistakes but we get inspired from each other’s victories. We call into question power relations, governments, norms and values, the whole social system of representations, institutions that also include ourselves. Therefore, we redetermine our own everyday moves, seeking to replace cynicism, indifference and apathy with free spirit, humanity and creativity which lies inside us in our deepest emotions, in the most substantial discovery of human imagination, that is reason and consultation, the essence of real democracy, of the regime of freedom but also self-assessment. As Foucault (p.xiii) has said, “the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism […] the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us”[2]. Let 2014 be the year where change of consciousness will take place, for global justice, freedom, equality and peace.

The whole world is going through a revolutionary phase that will take us to a new era. Brazil. Egypt. Turkey. Chile. Greece. Spain. It is obvious that people now understand that ballot boxes are just a means for the elite to monopolize power. People express their real opinions in the street. All of this is threatening the hegemony of powerful states. Regimes are trying to contain revolutionary moments everywhere. June 30 in Egypt is just one example… It is our responsibility not to let our revolution be stolen from us again. Glory to the people! The revolution continues! (Mosireen)

[1] See also: Democracy Street, (2013) Issue I, On the Mexican resistance, the new culture of empathy and sharing and the new Zapatista initiative: the “little schools” that teach freedom: a conversation with two Mexican activists (p.1-9)

[2] From the Introduction of Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari; London : Continuum 2000)

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