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Gezi Tanıklığı / Witnessing Gezi

In May-June 2013 mass demonstrations in Turkey took place, initially to contest the gentrification of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. After the violent eviction of a sit-in at the park by the police, outraged protesters clashed with the police forces and, subsequently, supporting protests and strikes took place across the country. People from various political backgrounds (liberals, republicans, anarchists, socialists, communists) addressed issues like of freedom of the press, of expression, assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism. Social media played a key role in the organization of events, especially due to the reluctance of the Turkish media to broadcast the protests (especially in the early stages). In overall, 5 million people have taken an active part in almost 5,000 demonstrations across Turkey whilst 11 people were killed and more than 8,000 were injured due to heavy police repression.

The photojournalist Emin Özmen who witnessed the protests that sparked supporting strikes across Turkey turning into a resistance movement of great importance for the country has created ‘Witnessing Gezi’ aiming to present the human aspect of this civil resistance, a crucial event of the last 30 years in Turkey.

For more information click here

Cornelius Castoriadis, interview on the Greek public TV (ERT)

In this video, the universal philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis is interviewed by Teta Papadopoulou for the broadcast called Paraskinio (Backstage).

Castoriadis was born in Istanbul in 1922 and after the Asia Minor Catastrophe moved with his family to Athens. His parents were distinguished school teachers, enlightened anti-royalists, who quickly become among the strongest influences on his philosophical adventures. Castoriadis during his early adulthood became an active Marxist after joining the Greek Communist Party (KKE) in 1992, only to abandon it one year later after criticizing its leadership, exposing its chauvinistic and ultra-bureaucratic tendencies. He, later on, joined the small Trotskyist Group of Spyros Stinas which resulted in his persecution by both the Nazi occupiers, the Gestapo forces and the Stalinist guerillas of EAM (that officially belonged to the KKE) who executed dozens of non-Stalinist Marxists in Greece before and after the December 1944 violent clashes in Athens.

In 1945 Castoriadis after wining a scholarship from the French Government, will permanently move to Paris. There he published the magazine «Socialism ou Barbarie» (a magazine that included Jean-François Lyotard, Guy Debord and profoundly influenced the French intellectual left), which – despite its small circulation – inspired radically the revolutionary students of May ’68. A few years later he will entirely abandon Marxism – a theory that (as he states in the documentary) became degenerated into a tool for the preservation of the Soviet regime (or other similarly bureaucratic regimes). He, then, begun to develop his own social and political theories, by combining different fields of knowledge, such as philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis, economics, biology. During this time, Castoriadis spoke about the project of autonomy (as almost tautological with direct democracy). For Castoriadis, an autonomous society knows (consciously) that every institution is created by its members and no extrasocial force (such as the laws of ancestors, the laws of markets, the laws of history, laws of God) interferes in the common world of public sphere.

The Castoriadian project of autonomy is, however, twofold: it is, on one hand, synonymous with the freedom of prattein, but this freedom is not exercised arbitrarily; it is not unrestricted. For Castoriadis autonomy (and democracy) is also the regime of equality and self-limitation, that is direct acknowledgement of some ethical restrictions aiming to prevent individuals (or societies) to fall in hubris, in the condition of unlimited desire for pride and power which leads to enmity and destruction. Hitherto, there have been two historical periods (as he explains in the interview) where autonomous movements emerged; one is ancient Greece (particularly Athens). The second can be found shortly after the decline of medieval feudalism. The project of social and individual autonomy is a reflection of the progress and evolution of the spirit of Greek antiquity in the modern age. This spirit is enhanced when citizens become politically active; engaged in political movements (such as the labour movement or minority initiatives, historically speaking) that call into question the existing social institutionalized order, proposing more openness and broader participation in the decision making at the same time, or it recedes when societies conform to the existing order and cease to despise norms, values and ethics (a condition that for Castoriadis reflects the state of heteronomy).

Bosnia/Herzegovina and the plenums documentary

A short documentary (produced by Global Uprisings) explains thoroughly the uprising in Bosnia and Herzegovina that started on the 5th of February 2014, as  protests swept across the country when workers from five factories in northern city of Tuzla: Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, GUMARA and Konjuh, declared strike. During these days, several governmental buildings were set on fire in cities across the country (including the presidential building in Sarajevo) resulting for four regional governments to resign.

The factories had been bankrupted and then illegally privatized, leaving the stuff unpaid and with large debts, deprived of health-care and other benefits. The protests were followed with popular assemblies (the so called plenums) exorcizing direct democracy organization. The first plenum appeared in Tuzla, (the starting point of the revolt) and then quickly spread in the following cities: Sarajevo (the capital), Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar, Travnik, Brčko, Goražde, Konjic, Cazin, Donji Vakuf, Fojnica, Orašje and Bugojno.

Autonomous Government I – First-grade textbook for the course «Freedom according to the Zapatistas»

Autonomous Government I is now available for download, and the remaining books will be published at one-month intervals (if not sooner).

The Books:

  • Autonomous Government I (Available now: click here)
  • Autonomous Government II (Will be published no later than April 8th)
  • Participation of Women in Autonomous Government (Will be published no later than May 8th)
  • Autonomous Resistance (Will be published no later June 8th)

via: Escuelita Books

Ernesto Laclau – On Populist Reason

In this new and highly original work Ernesto Laclau continues the philosophical and political exploration initiated in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Times and Emancipation(s). His topic here is the construction of popular identities, conceived in a wide sense covering the ensemble of strategies making possible the emergence of the ‘people’ as a collective actor. The book skillfully combines theoretical analysis with a myriad of empirical references from numerous historical and geographical contexts.

The first part presents a critical reading of the existing literature on populism, demonstrating its dependency on the basic categories elaborated by the theorists of ‘mass psychology’, from Taine and Le Bon to Tarde, McDougall and Freud. The second part forms the main theoretical core of the work, where the question of the emergence of the ‘people’ as a political and social force is treated. Several categories already present in Laclau’s work – such as empty and floating signifiers, hegemony and heterogeneity – are developed here in new and innovative directions. In particular, the relation of populism to democracy and to the logic of representation is given special emphasis. The third part is devoted to particular case studies of both the conditions leading to the emergence of the ‘people’ and the obstacles preventing its formation. Finally, in a concluding chapter, Laclau locates the question of popular identities within the context of a globalized world and differentiates his approach from those of other theoreticians such as _i_ek, Hardt and Negri and Ranciere. This book is essential reading for all those interested in the question of political identities in present-day societies.