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Arabica Robusta

Ukraine, Omidyar and the Neo-Liberal Agenda » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, ... - 0 views

  • Yanukovych sparked massive protests late last year when he turned down a financial deal from the European Union and chose a $15 billion aid package from Russia instead.
  • But in any case, the idea of supporting an unconstitutional overthrow of a freely elected Ukrainian government in an uprising based squarely on the volatile linguistic and cultural fault-lines that divide the country seems an obvious recipe for chaos and strife. It was also certain to provoke a severe response from Russia. It was, in other words, a monumentally stupid line of policy (as Mike Whitney outlines here).
  • Yet one of the first acts of the Western-backed revolutionaries was to pass a law declaring Ukrainian as the sole state language, although most of the country speaks Russian or Surzhyk, “a motley mix of Ukrainian and Russian (sometimes with bits of Hungarian, Romanian and Polish),” as the LRB’s Peter Pomerantsev details in an excellent piece on Ukraine’s rich cultural and linguistic complexity. 
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  • What’s more, the neo-fascist factions that played a leading role in the uprising are now calling for Ukraine to become a nuclear power again, having given up the Soviet nuclear weaponry on its territory in 1994. Indeed, hard-right leader Oleh Tyahnybok made nuclear re-armament one of the planks of his presidential race a few years ago. Now the party is sharing power in the Western-brokered government; will we soon see Ukraine added to the ranks of nuclear nations? With a bristling nuclearized frontier with Russia — like the hair-trigger holocaust flashpoint between India and Pakistan?
  • None of this justifies the heavy-handed muscle-flexing that Putin has been engaging in. But Russia, in post-Soviet times, with no trans-national ideology, has become a highly nationalist state.  Putin is an authoritarian leader who now bases his threadbare claims to “legitimacy” — and the dominance of his brutal clique — on his championing of Russian nationalism and “traditional values”.
  • the oligarchs and ideologues, the militarists and ministers involved in this episode of Great Gamesmanship don’t want power in any broader, deeper sense. What they want is dominance, to lord it over others — physically, financially, psychologically. Among those at the top in this situation, on every side, there is not the slightest regard for the common good of their fellow human beings — not even for those with whom they share some association by the accident of history or geography: language, nationality, ethnicity. The lust for loot and dominance outweighs all the rest, regardless of the heavy piety oozing from the rhetoric on all sides.
  • Sachs subsequently (and dishonestly) denied he played any such role — understandable given the calamitous results, notably in Russia — but the prescription called for off-the-shelf neoliberalism, applied without reference to any local realities, and Ukrainians are about to get their dosage.
  • Whatever happens, it seems certain that oligarchs — Western, Ukrainian, European or Russian, will continue to exercise dominance — although some who backed the losing side too prominently may be cast down. Then again, most oligarchs, in every nation, are usually expert at playing both sides, or changing sides as necessary.
  • Yet the fact remains that Omidyar’s wider operations — including those in Ukraine — sit uneasily with the image of an adversarial paragon and danger to the system. Putting aside the troubling circumstance of adversarial activism being dependent on the personal whims of a billionaire, there is the fact that Omidyar’s philanthropic vision lies largely in the monetizing of poverty relief efforts — of turning them from charitable or government-based programs into money-making enterprises which reward investors with high returns while often leaving the recipients worse off than before.
  • In this, Omidyar has partnered with Hernando de Soto, a  right-wing “shock doctrinaire” and one-time advisor to former Peruvian dictator, Alberto Fujimori; de Soto is also an ally of the Koch Brothers. Omidyar has also poured millions of dollars into efforts to privatize, and profitize, public education in the United States and elsewhere, forcing children in some of the poorest parts of the world to pay for basic education — or go without.
  • For instance, if one of First Look’s websites publishes some blistering expose on the nasty machinations of some other oligarch or corporate figure, I don’t think it will be unreasonable for people to look and see if the target happens to be a rival of Omidyar’s in some way, or if his or her removal or humbling would benefit Omidyar’s own business or political interests.
  • First Look — owned solely by a neo-liberal billionaire, who, as Jeremy Scahill has pointed out, takes a very active interest in the daily workings of his news organization — should be subject to the same standards of scrutiny as any other news outlet owned by the rich and powerful. But this doesn’t seem to be happening; quite the opposite, in fact.
  • Omidyar’s entire neo-liberal ideology is based on the ability of wealthy individuals to operate free from government control as they circle the world in search of profit. (And also, if it happens, some social benefits by the way; but if one’s profit-making initiatives turn out to drive hundreds of people to suicide, well, c’est la vie, eh?)
  • But I don’t think Omidyar’s enterprise has been set up to challenge the status quo or pose the “threat” to the system that its hero-worshippers are looking for. Indeed, even Greenwald calls only for “reforms” of the system, for “real oversight” of the National Security State by legislators — the same legislators bought, sold, cowed and dominated by Big Money. I honestly don’t think that the powers-that-be feel threatened by an enterprise set up by one of their number that confines itself to calls for “reform” from “within” — especially when its sole owner continues to cooperate with the Koch Brothers, hard-right ideologues like Hernando de Soto and indeed with the National Security State itself in subversive adventures overseas.
Arabica Robusta

Why Venezuela Matters to the Indigenous Movement | Onkwehón:we Rising - 0 views

  • Independent media and social networking movements continue to bridge lives and lifestyles, the (increasingly small) world over. Collective movements spontaneously emerge, collaborate, simultaneously reflect and mutually contribute to the broad base of ideas constantly being generated, recycled, and renewed, each with their own important cultural perspective and intellectual capital to contribute. This has the potential to create a truly democratic international network of movements where access to information is prized above political indoctrination of any sort. The potential exists today. Yet it may not always be…
  • There are insidious policies being pushed through in the darkness of collective public blind spots, international trade agreements that lay the framework for a corporate financial elite to control more and more of…well, everything.
  • In this day and age of 24/7 media and meme culture: shares, likes and ‘viral-ness’ really do matter. It is evident of a new form of social capital that is already wisely, if often unethically, being used to drive advertising campaigns.
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  •  Some fake photos of the recent protests in Venezuela were recently circulated and students’ movements and allied groups across the world were quick to react viscerally (and authentically, in that sense) in expressing solidarity with the right wing protestors there…even though the pictures weren’t real and the ideology behind each movement isn’t exactly compatible. Still, this sounds good on the surface, we can all support each other’s rights to protest without ulterior motives of political affiliation.
  • The ugly back story to the student protests in Venezuela is highlighted by a host of Wikileaks cables that reveal a staggering amount of U.S. involvement in training the opposition leader, infiltrating the student movement, and even overtly funneling U.S. taxpayer dollars into bringing down the anti-imperialist Venezuelan government.
  • Venezuela has long been a ground zero for the anti-imperialist struggle, but this may be changing. It may have in fact already changed. Imperialist forces have launched an almost unprecedented smear campaign on the collective geo-political movement of the global south. And by tentative accounts, it looks like they are winning.
Arabica Robusta

What the Wikileaks Cables Say about Leopoldo López - 0 views

  • Many of the cables focus on internal disputes within the opposition, with Lopez often in conflict with others both within his party and others in the opposition. Given this history, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the current protests that he has been leading, calling for “la salida” – the exit – of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro have also caused internal divisions within the opposition.
  • This week, Smilde added in a quote to USA Today, "Before this happened, Lopez was playing second fiddle to Capriles… I think his goal is to try and leapfrog over Capriles. The student protests have put him in the spotlight."
  • The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, as the State Department has acknowledged, some of the people and organizations involved in the 2002 military coup. Their goal has always been to get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking. However, their funding is probably not their most important contribution in Venezuela, since the Venezuelan opposition has most of the wealth and income of the country. A more important role is the outside pressure for unity, which, as these cables and the history of the past 15 years show, has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.
Arabica Robusta

LAB - Venezuela - the real significance of the student protests - 0 views

  • Initially organised to protest against economic shortages and insecurity, these demonstrations have been calling for ‘la salida’ – the exit of President Nicolás Maduro.    They have been supported by sections of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), led by Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado.
  • Maria Corina Machado, a signatory to the 2002 ‘Carmona Decree’ that temporarily dissolved the Chávez government, was a key protagonist of the recall referendum. Her ‘civil society’ organisation, Súmate, received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, where she was feted by President George Bush in May 2005.
  • The Chavistas learned a number of lessons from the events of 2002-2004:  the importance of consolidating grassroots support (hence, the launch of the social policy initiative, the Missions); the need to build regional solidarity (hence, the acceleration of regional integration initiatives such as the ALBA); the capacity of the private sector to paralyse economic activity (hence, the deepening of the state’s role in the economy); and the urgency of countering false reporting on the country (hence, the funding of community and public media and new regulatory codes for broadcasting). It was this period that was the catalyst for the transformation of an initially centrist Third Way project into Socialism of the Twenty First Century.
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  • It adopted an electoral path as the balance of power swung to moderate factions, and radicals associated with unconstitutional tactics were pushed to the margins.
  • US-based lobbies antagonistic toward the advance of Chávez’s socialism (and sympathetic to marginalised radicals) no longer saw these elements of ‘civil society’ as an effective oppositional vehicle and jettisoned them, deciding that a new tool for regime displacement had to be nurtured.  Students in private sector universities became the new vanguard of ‘democracy promotion’.
  • In 2008, the US-based Cato Institute awarded the US$500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty to student leader Yon Goicoechea for his role in mobilising protests against the suspension of private broadcaster RCTV’s licence. At the same time, a sizeable amount of the US$45 million in funding provided annually by US institutions to Venezuelan opposition groups was channelled to ‘youth outreach’ programmes.
  • The current protests are important on two counts. First, they mark a coming together of the student movement and radical elements of the MUD. López and Machado have been organising with the student leadership,[5] in particular in relation to the February 12th demonstrations on Venezuela’s Day of the Youth, which commemorates the role of young people in the 1814 independence battle of la Victoria.
  • Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating  the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters. In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper[8] cited tweets by opposition activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors.
  • The images disseminated, for example, to a Green Movement activist in Iran and then circulated to her thousands of followers with the tag line ‘pray for Venezuela’s students’, and to other democracy movements around the world show Egyptian and not Venezuelan police beating demonstrators. This same image was carried by the Spanish newspaper ABC.[9] Photographs and video clips of Chilean, Argentinian and Bulgarian police suppressing demonstrators and carrying out arrests (in their home countries) have been circulated and published as of they were assaults in Venezuela,[10] and one widely reproduced image shows Venezuela’s Policia Metropolitana corralling student protestors. The Policia Metropolitana was disbanded in 2011. Twitter has additionally been used to harangue commentators, including this author, who checked the accounts of her abusive critics to find most had only been tweeting for a day and in that space of time had accumulated around 40,000 followers.[11]
Arabica Robusta

How the West Manufactures "Opposition Movements" - 0 views

  • Government buildings are being trashed, ransacked. It is happening in Kiev and Bangkok, and in both cities, the governments appear to be toothless, too scared to intervene.
  • The rhetoric varies, but in essence, the ‘protesters’ are demanding the dismemberment of the fragile Thai democracy. Most of them are paid by the upper-middle and upper classes.
  • the government does not dare to send in tanks or the police to clear the streets. It should. But it is too scared of the army and the monarchy – two pillars of this outrageous hybrid of savage capitalism and feudalism – comparable only to even worse regional nightmares, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
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  • The Prime Minister’s older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, while he was PM himself, attempted to bring in a modern capitalist system to this submissive and deeply scared nation. And not only that: he housed the poor, introduced an excellent free universal medical care system (much more advanced than anything ever proposed in the United States), free and very advanced primary and secondary education, and other concepts deemed dangerous to the world order, and to the local feudal elites, as well as the army.

    Thai elites, whose love of being obeyed more than wealth, admired and feared, reacted almost immediately. The PM was exiled, barred from returning home to his country, and smeared.

  • ‘Protestors’ blocked several central arteries of Bangkok, declaring that “Thailand is not ready for democracy”, and that “if elections should determine the country’s future, pro-Shinawatra forces would keep winning”.

    That, of course, would be unacceptable to the elites and to many Western countries that have, for decades, benefited from the Thai feudal system.

  • Those elected democratically, those progressive in their core, these governments all over the world have been under severe attacks by some armed thugs, bandits, and anti-social elements, even by outright terrorists.
  • Hatay was overran by Saudi and Qatari jihadi cadres, pampered by the US, EU and Turkish logistics, support, weaponry and cash.

    The terror these people have been spreading in this historically peaceful, multi-cultural and tolerant part of the world, could hardly be described in words.

  • the local elites, right now in January 2014, are doing whatever they can, to prevent the re election of Ms Dilma Roussef… You are an experienced Latin America´s observer, you know very well…
  • I witnessed President Morsi of Egypt (I was critical of his rule at first, as I was critical of the government of Mr. Shinawatra, before real horror swept both Egypt and Thailand), being overthrown by the military, which, while in its zealous over-drive, managed in the process to murder several thousands of mainly poor Egyptian people.
  • The logic and tactics in Egypt were predictable: although still capitalist and to a certain extent submissive to IMF and the West, President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, were a bit too unenthusiastic about collaborating with the West. They never really said ‘no’, but that had not appeared to be enough for the Euro-North American regime, which, these days, demands total, unconditional obedience as well as the kissing of hands and other bodily parts.
  • All this is nothing new, of course. But in the past, things were done a little bit more covertly. These days it is all out in the open. Maybe it is done on purpose, so nobody will dare to rebel, or even to dream.

    And so, the revolution in Egypt has been derailed, destroyed, and cruelly choked to death. There is really nothing left of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, just a clear warning: “never try again, or else”.

  • Now in Egypt, Mubarak’s clique is rapidly coming back to power. He was a well-trusted ‘devil’, and the West quickly realized that to let him fall would be a serious strategic blunder; and so it was decided to bring him back; either personally, or at least his legacy, at the coast of thousands of (insignificant) Egyptian lives, and against the will of almost the entire nation.
  • Ukraine is not a fresh victim of destabilization tactics of the European Union, which is so sickly greedy that it appears it, cannot contain itself anymore. It salivates, intensively, imagining the huge natural resources that Ukraine possesses. It is shaking with desire dreaming of a cheap and highly educated labor force.
  • Of course the EU cannot do in Ukraine, what it freely does in many places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It cannot just come and pay some proxy countries, as it pays Rwanda and Uganda (that are already responsible for the loss of over ten million Congolese lives in less than 2 decades), to plunder Ukraine and kill almost all those people that are resisting.
  • More than a month ago, a bizarre deal was proposed, where European companies would be allowed to enter and clean Ukraine of its natural resources, but the people of Ukraine would not be allowed to even come and work in the EU.

    The government, logically and sensibly, rejected the deal. And then, suddenly, Thai-style or Egyptian-style thugs appeared all over the streets of Kiev, armed with sticks and even weapons, and went onto trashing the capital and demanding the democratically elected government to resign.

  • In Africa, just to mention a few cases, tiny Seychelles, a country with the highest HDI (Human Development Index by UNDP) has for years been bombarded with criticism and destabilization attempts.
  • “We are trying to be inclusive, democratic and fair”, the Eritrean Director of Education recently told me, in Kenya. “But the more we do, the more we care about our people, the more infuriated Western countries appear to be.”
  • Bolivians almost lost their ‘white’ and-right wing province of Santa Cruz, as the US supported, many say financed the ‘independence movement’ there, obviously punishing the extremely popular government of Evo Morales for being so socialist, so indigenous and so beloved. Brazil, in one great show of solidarity and internationalism, threatened to invade and rescue its neighbor, by preserving its integrity. Therefore, only the weight of this peaceful and highly respectable giant saved Bolivia from certain destruction.

    But now even Brazil is under attack of the ‘manufacturers of opposition’!

  • What the West is now doing to the world; igniting conflicts, supporting banditry and terror, sacrificing millions of people for its own commercial interests, is nothing new under the sun.
Arabica Robusta

"Emerging market bloodbath" as crisis enters new phase | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • Whatever echoes there may or may not be, what is clear is that the global financial crisis — which many analysts declared to be at end now that the European debt saga finally seemed to be “under control” — is far from over, and may just have entered into a new phase.
  • As Larry Elliot of The Guardian, just put it: “all the ingredients are there for social unrest.” It looks like the world will be in for a rough ride in 2014. Better fasten your seatbelts — the next phase of the global financial crisis may be about to get started. Cities will burn and there will be blood. It won’t be pretty.
Arabica Robusta

Protest Inc. - the corporatization of protest - Reviews - The Ecologist - 0 views

  • Not all activists, as the authors several times take care to emphasise, are drawn into the world of corporations, branding, and global markets: grassroots actions continue, although their strength seems lessened.
  • One thing that seems to be happening is that "over the last two decades activist organisations have increasingly come to look like, think, and act like corporations".

    Three processes are helping this: what they call the securitization of dissent, the privatization of social life, and the institutionalisation of activism.

  • The US Nature Conservancy, for instance, is in partnership with companies that 'real' activists - and many other supporters only a few years ago - wouldn't want to be seen dead with: the likes of BP, Wal-Mart, and Monsanto.

    Greenpeace is given as an example of a NGO that has resisted corporatization more than some, yet "the scope of what [it] is calling a 'victory' is nonetheless instructive of how deep the process of institutionalisation is reaching".

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  • Perhaps Protest Inc. would convince more securely if the authors had allowed the contrary voices more chance to speak for themselves, so that they could be more thoroughly discussed. At present, the analysis seems curtailed.
  • The greatest danger would seem to be the rather obvious one (though that may be with hindsight): that ordinary consumers, brought up in a consumerist, capitalist, society, and addicted to what they consume, are assured that things are going well, and in the right direction, and will continue to do so, so long as we keep buying and consuming the right things.

    And doing the right things: we should ride a bike for cancer research, win a prize and help save the countryside we all love, buy a coke and save a polar bear ...

    But isn't this akin to sidelining what we say we are concerned about, and having a good time? Isn't this just very 'lazy environmentalism'?

Arabica Robusta

Zapatistas: 20 years of reinventing revolution | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • The Zapatistas were expecting their armed struggle to activate other guerrilla “sleeper cells” throughout in Mexico. They thought that peasant organizations and unions would follow and rise up in arms, starting a revolutionary war against the government. Indeed, the call resonated in many places of Mexico’s geography and other belligerent groups, unions and peasant and social organizations declared their solidarity with the EZLN. But it quickly became clear it was not enough to overthrow the authoritarian PRI regime; that victory through military means would not be achieved. The revolution they expected didn’t occur and many diagnosed the total failure of the Zapatistas.
  • many mobilizations (some of them nationwide) followed by long periods of silence when the EZLN returned to the hills (silence became an event as well and served to intrigue the Mexican government about the next actions of the Zapatistas).
  • Complicated geography, organizational networks established by churches and a strong grievance are all elements that help one understand why Chiapas was the perfect place to start a rebellion and nurture a guerrilla organization. The Zapatistas took advantage of the hills and networks, and effectively channeled the local grievances.
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  • Finally, the fog and the rain reveal a wall painting of Emiliano Zapata and a sign: “Está usted en territorio Zapatista en rebeldía. Aquí manda el pueblo y el gobierno obedece.” You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the people govern and the government obeys.
  • But restraining from alcohol also seems to be a measure to become productive, a “must” if Zapatistas are in the quest for autonomy. All the great ethnographies of Mexican peasants (Erich Fromm, Oscar Lewis) treat alcoholism as an essential problem for the campesinos’ well-being.
  • This leads me directly to one possible answer for the question why Zapatismo seems so up-to-date today. Critics of the EZLN argue that the Zapatistas have lost a justification for their very existence because the government found effective means to deal with one of their main claims: to reduce poverty. But these critics forget that, although poverty reduction programs have become an essential component of the income of many disadvantaged Mexican families, they have also been used as a counter-insurgency tactic to dismantle collective identities and to strengthen the clientelistic power of the government over the communities.
  • I had heard the Zapatistas were tireless dancers and now I know is true. There are two Tzeltal girls dancing between themselves. They are soaking as if they just came out of a waterfall and couldn’t care less. I follow their example. Except for the basketball court, there is mud everywhere in the caracol. I was so happy I didn’t fall when I slipped on my way to the latrine, where I found evidence it had been used by city people. I remembered George Orwel’s words in Homage to Catalonia: “Dirt is something people make too much fuzz about,” and I agreed. I’m tired, so I went to sleep minutes after the midnight fireworks.
  • I remembered Orwell’s account on the Catalonia trenches again: “We were not fighting the fascists, we were fighting pneumonia.” On my left side there is a Tzeltal woman sleeping peacefully, covered only with her rebozo. I feel ridiculous shivering next to my inured neighbor.
  • They present everyone of the outgoing junta, who are giving back their command baton to the elder, who in turn will give it to the recently elected members of the junta, composed of men and women, more or less in equal numbers. Everyone is moved when a woman, wearing a pasamontaña and paliacate, receives the baton from the elder, and at the same time breastfeeds her newborn.
Arabica Robusta

Nelson Mandela passes away - his struggle continues | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • After a protracted battle with lung illness, and a long and tumultuous life that led from tribal royalty to armed struggle and, after 27 years of political imprisonment, to an overwhelming victory in the country’s first racially inclusive democratic elections, Father Madiba — as the former President was affectionately known by his people — is finally at rest. He will now stand beside Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the pantheon of iconic freedom fighters.
  • The story of post-apartheid South Africa, and the mixed legacy of Mandela’s heroic struggle for freedom, must certainly qualify as one of the most authentic tragedies in modern history.
  • The reproduction of socio-economic segregation and old-fashioned forms of state oppression continue unabated. Last year’s Marikana massacre saw 34 striking mineworkers murdered by police, with several unarmed men summarily executed at close range while lying face-down in the dust.
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  • As a young shackdweller put it in the award-winning documentary Dear Mandela, “what he has been jailed for has never been achieved.” Now that the legend has passed away and his liberation movement has caved in to its own short-sighted desire for state power and material riches, new freedom fighters are emerging on the scene — in the form of autonomous movements like Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Mandela Park Backyarders — who, fighting to defend the livelihoods of poor South Africans, stress their independence from political parties and instead seek to enact direct democracy in their everyday struggle for survival, dignity and liberation.
  • While Mandela’s symbolic leadership helped unite a country that teetered on the brink of racial violence or even civil war, a new form of political activism will be needed to help South Africa emerge from the deep-rooted socio-economic divisions and widespread political abuse that still persist.
  • The Mandelas of the future will be faceless and plural; they will be nameless multitudes of disaffected poor people — those who grew up in the Rainbow Nation and have learned as much from Mandela’s unrivaled moral fortitude as from the many mistakes he made on his long march to freedom, not least his embrace of a neoliberal economic policy framework. Today’s liberation movements are here to remind us that the only appropriate way to honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy is not to beatify the man but to take his struggle to its logical conclusion.
  • Praise for him is based, as Jerome states, on his sacrifice, but there is no defending him post-release. His time in office, and the subsequent years, have been marked by corruption and self interest.
  • In office Mandela presided over the deception while his right-hand man, Cyril Ramaposa, handled the bribes and graft etc. They both got rich, and the people who put them in power actually got poorer. South Africa is a revolution betrayed, Mandela represents its Thermidor. He is a reactionary, pure and simple, Debordian spectacle concealing a squalid fraud.
Arabica Robusta

Pan-African News Wire: Egyptian Women Detainees Released In Desert Following Clashes - 0 views

  • The interior ministry justified the dispersal, saying the gathering broke a newly enforced protest law since the organisers did not notify authorities of their actions as the new legislation stipulates.
  • The interior ministry justified the dispersal, saying the gathering broke a newly enforced protest law since the organisers did not notify authorities of their actions as the new legislation stipulates.
Arabica Robusta

Don't move, Occupy! Social movement vs social arrest | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • While notable exceptions exist, the overall tendency of most accounts has been to compartmentalize and classify. Middle-Eastern resistance to dictatorship, Northern Mediterranean unrest against externally enforced austerity measures, and an Anglo-American revolt against the tyranny of the financial sector, have been analyzed as discrete cases each with their own structural and contingent dynamics. The results of this compartmentalization are all too predictable. Two years on, instead of a single image of global rebellion, we are left with fractured portraits of localized discontent.
  • Rather than view these uprisings within the recently sanitized history of revolution and an increasingly ineffectual grammar of social movements, it is high time to call the global occupations of public space what they are: social arrests.
  • The uprisings against authoritarian rule in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and Egypt were uniformly proclaimed as “expressing the will of the people”, while the strikingly similar manifestations of their Spanish, Greek, and American counterparts were all but ignored. This bifurcation in Western responses, one equally evident in governments and the mainstream media, is indicative of how we have come to perceive the role of mass political protest in the first decade of the 21st century. In the tradition of the French Revolution, uprisings against authoritarian rule are signified as acts of popular sovereignty — legitimate manifestations of a people unable to express their will through alternate channels — whereas similar protests within liberal representative democracies are marginalized as the acts of a raucous minority.
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  • these responses are the latest manifestation of a silent yet powerful recalibration of the terms democracy and revolution within our collective imaginations, a recalibration that has been ongoing since 1989. The revolutions of 1989 and their afterlives inaugurated a historical taming of the term, a taming that has carried over into the 21st century. This historical taming consists of two interrelated “police operations” conducted by Western liberal democracies: the first involving a particular way of talking about non-democratic revolutions, the second consisting of a conservative periodization of their own foundational pasts.
  • From a 21st century perspective, these revolutions are increasingly being judged not by what they achieved (the overthrow of the previous socio-political order) but by the new regime’s convergence or divergence from a free-market liberal democratic state.
  • The mass political uprisings that occurred after the establishment of democracy have, by this same narrative, been interpreted in a markedly different light. In the new American Republic, the crushing of the Whiskey and Shay’s Rebellions have been seen as the (necessary) assertion of federal power and sovereignty, while in France the continued intrusions of the will of the French people into the National Assembly after 1789 are commonly cited as causes of the descent of the French Revolution into demagoguery and terror.
  • To get an idea of what differentiates the 2011 uprisings from previous forms of popular political struggle, let’s start with a short vignette from a protest action that typified the expression of extra-parliamentary discontent with governments before the 2011 uprisings.
  • But this anecdote underscores, albeit in hyperbolic fashion, the effective crisis in the theory and practice of social movements that defined the closing decades of the 20th century — a crisis linked to the very category of motion itself. It was the death rattle of a type of politics which — from the calls to abolish world slavery to the struggle for gender equality, from communism to civil rights — has defined contentious political struggle over the past 200 years through the category of movement. Instead of asking what kind of movement the new uprisings of the 21st century represent, the time has come to review the relevance and efficacy of the term itself. To do so we need to reconsider, both epistemologically and in praxis, the kinetics of contentious political struggle.
  • Althusser’s image of the hailing of the police officer speaks of a state apparatus (and a correlative subjectivity) that is premised on the idea of arrest. The policeman’s shout essentially stops whoever hears it in his/her tracks, freezes the comings and goings of people.
  • In its place, as another French political theorist, Jacques Rancière, has pointed out, has come an altogether different policing function, one encapsulated by the police officer urging bystanders to “move along!”, that “there is nothing to see here.” While the former is predicated on disruption, the latter above all ensures the constant circulation of people, goods, and services: “The police say there is nothing to see, nothing happening, nothing to be done but to keep moving, circulating; they say that the space of circulation is nothing but the space of circulation.”
  • all of these sites and banners of contentious politics are directed not at a static state structure that arrests movement but are themselves in fact about stopping or arresting an unbridled and accelerating capitalist system. In this light, the very names given to struggle — the environmental movement, the anti-globalization movement, the slow food movement — become at best oxymoronic and at worst open to co-optation by the very forces they oppose (green-washing, the fair trade industry, etc.). We need to ask ourselves: why do we — and should we — still use the term movement to characterize contentious politics? What political conceptions and practices does this term privilege? What forms and histories of resistance has it obfuscated?
  • The police conception of revolution and the crisis in the theory and practice of social “movements” form the dual backdrops for the global uprisings of 2011. Beginning in January of that year, a new form of revolt emerged in North Africa and spread, within months, around many parts of the globe. What actually took place at the sites of these revolts, in Zuccotti and Gezi Park, in the squares of Tahrir, Puerta del Sol and Syntagma, offered a seismic challenge to both the police conception of revolution and the theory and practice of political struggle. What happened in these squares was not movement but arrest, not dispersal but permanent occupation.
  • Alain Badiou once wrote, “In the midst of a revolutionary event, the people is made up of those who know how to solve the problems that the event imposes on them.” The people of Tahrir organized and orchestrated their own security, dealt with human and regular waste, and opened and operated a kindergarten so that mothers with small children could come to the square. They converted a Hardees restaurant into a free kitchen, a Kentucky Fried Chicken into a free clinic, organized networks for digital and print information, set up a pharmacy, handled hired agitators, and protected each other’s religious practices.
  • It became, through the life of the occupation, the stage on which the new Egyptian society was performed and presented. In their generosity, their tolerance, their humor, camaraderie, and song, the Egyptian people asserted their values and boundaries both to themselves and the whole world.
  • There is as much attention devoted to how political and social life should be structured in the square — the ban on party and union insignia, the drawing of lots and time limits governing speech in the assembly, the coordination of meetings with public transit to assure greater participation, etc. — as there is to the what: articulating political manifestos and the position of the Assembly to its outside (whether in relation to the protests in the upper square or to Greek society more broadly).
  • n the first week of June 2013, the actions taken by a coalition of activists against the destruction of a public park in central Istanbul spread to more than 60 cities and provinces, bringing several million people onto the streets. By June 8, the police had withdrawn from Taksim Square, leaving it at least temporarily in the hands of protesters. The protesters erected networks of makeshift barricades at 50 meter intervals along all major routes leading to the square. Within a week, Taksim and the adjacent Gezi Park became a “liberated zone”, a fragile oasis amidst the ongoing and increasingly violent clashes with police forces throughout much of Turkey.
  • There is no doubt that the Greeks, Egyptians, Americans, Spaniards, Tunisians, and Turks first occupied the public spaces of their urban centers to voice political opposition. They came, as Stathis Gourgouris has pointed out, to “withdraw their consent” from the forces governing their lives. As the days passed, however, people had to figure out how to live and act together inside a square in order to sustain a revolt outside of it. In these sometimes very quotidian decisions, they came to define themselves by how they occupied and existed together.
  • The 800+ plus murders committed by the Egyptian security forces unfortunately paled in comparison to the atrocities later carried out in Libya and Syria, respectively, by Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. Overt police brutality, by contrast, is usually the last resort of well-functioning liberal democratic regimes. It appears when the movies, the football rivalries, and the soul-deadening holiday music no longer suffice. Its entrance into the mainstream spotlight, in the United States, in Turkey, Greece, and Spain, is an indication that the urban occupations pose a fundamental challenge to representative democratic states and the clearest signal that its “soft” ideological apparatus is malfunctioning.
  • Yet, within two months of the birth of OWS and over 1.000 sister occupations throughout the US, the federal government coordinated a collective assault on these democratic spaces. The FBI and the Bureau of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the mayors and police departments of over 18 cities, forcibly evicted every major occupation throughout the US.
  • That the monitoring and entrapment of non-violent dissidents has been funded and conducted under the banner of counter-terrorism task forces is an even greater cause for alarm. These signs of an emergent police state within liberal democratic regimes (or more aptly: its passage from shadowed ghettos to front-page visibility) are the strongest testament to the novelty and latent strength of the 2011 uprisings.
  • Yet there is also no denying that almost all of these uprisings have ended in failure. The urban occupations have been dismantled and the aims of the occupiers have either been largely ignored (representative democracies), brutally suppressed (Libya, Syria), or their victories shown to be premature (Egypt).
  • Contacts between the global occupations, formed during the height of the uprisings, have persisted after their evictions. The common form of these occupations has allowed participants not only the opportunity to escape their individual isolation by talking and acting collectively, but more importantly, to draw connections across national grammars of discontent.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Fear and freedom in Africa - 0 views

  • I believe that at this stage in our collective development, youth in many African countries are still seized by flawed ideas of what progress looks like. We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards of “development” that have only been truly achieved in a handful of countries, none of which are particularly vocal about the need to achieve these goals.
  • I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that my trip to Burkina Faso was one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had. Aside from the beauty of the country in all its complexities, the incredible warmth of the welcome I received took me by surprise. Strangers opened up their homes to me. I never paid for transport. I rarely paid for food.
  • Borrowing from X, I would ask African youth: who taught us to fear each other?

    I’m inclined to believe that we are in fear of an Africa that does not exist save in the mind of an overzealous elitist journalist in search of a sexy by-line or adventure. I challenge you: gather all of your friends who have a passport and have ever used it and ask them where they’ve used it.
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  • After 29 African countries of travel, I’ve heard it all. Tribes are useless. Kenyans are violent. Tanzanians are lazy. Nigerians are criminals. South Africans are racist. The DRC is too dangerous. Where is Namibia? All from the mouth of other Africans who have never been or even dreamed of going to the countries in question. We make all these definitive statements based on information filtered through an elitist and biased lens, that is comparing the worst of Africa with the best of the US or the UK. Africans are otherised, and we play along, forgetting that we are Africans too. Then we learn to hate ourselves and fear each other simply because the narrative tells us to.
  • “The most potent tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The potency of this tool comes from its ability to skew our thinking and shape our actions. Like a child who, seeing shadows at night and believing that they are ghosts, cannot leave his bed to relieve himself, our irrational fear of each other is forcing us to sleep in the urine of lowered expectations and mutual suspicion.
  • So as I reflect on the state of African youth, it occurs to me that the biggest problem facing African youth today is not a lack of opportunity, or poverty, or whatever. Our biggest problem from where I stand is our inability to see ourselves with unfiltered honesty and a raw love.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Dialogue, not a monologue - 0 views

  • Obasanjo looked nonplussed. He finished his statement, opened the slip of paper, and said to the audience gruffly, “He has written me a note saying this is a dialogue, not a monologue. I know that.” The audience laughed nervously. The former general defiantly continued his musings for another five minutes. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably, expecting a head-on collision between young and old.
  • Power concedes nothing without a struggle, so it’s better to command respect than to demand it. Get an education, however challenging this might be. Acquire some skills, or a trade that is needed in Liberia. Learn to speak and write a foreign language well. Productive young people are much more powerful when they have something relevant to contribute.
Arabica Robusta

Why You Should Never Have Taken That Prestigious Internship - 0 views

  • If social revolution comes to America, it will not come from New York, San Francisco or other cities where the middle class has been obliterated or is struggling to survive. It will come from St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, New Orleans — cities where you can afford to fail. When success is a stranglehold, true freedom is failure. The freedom to fail is the freedom to innovate, to experiment, to challenge.
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