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Arabica Robusta

Harnessing Spain's "communist moment" | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • If one thing convinced the founders of Podemos of the need to enter politics, it was the mass protests on the streets of Madrid in 2011, when disparate civic associations and single-issue activist groups, along with huge numbers of people with no previous involvement in politics, identifying themselves simply as “indignant,” coalesced into what has become known as the 15-M movement.

    There were two important things about those protests. The first is that they weren’t led or coordinated by the organizations that should have been able to do so, which were labor unions such as the UGT and the CCOO, or the Communist Party-led United Left grouping.

  • Despite the domestic and international media’s portrayal of the 15-M movement as little more than a bunch of anarchists, the creators of Podemos were aware throughout the summer of 2011, and would point this out later, that 15-M, despite its success, provided two important lessons: “It wasn’t us who organized this,” and that not everybody in the movement was “left wing.”
  • Carolina Bescansa, who had been studying 15-M for the Center for Sociological Research, noticed during the street protests that the traditional right-left divide no longer made any sense when trying to understand people’s voting intentions.
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  • Aware that 15-M was not left wing, but made up of a cross-section of society that was sick and tired of the current political system, one dominated by two large parties that were increasingly seen as out of touch with the people, the founders of Podemos and the groups related to it joined in the protests enthusiastically, trying to lead them and to channel their energy, but at no time trying to appropriate them.
  • For Iglesias, there was little to celebrate in having almost doubled its vote from 969,000 in the 2008 elections to 1.7 million in 2011, and instead the party’s celebration of its achievement was further proof of just how out of touch it was with reality. Amid the worst economic crisis in more than four decades, what was so great about garnering seven percent of the vote, when the Socialists had seen their share fall from 43 to 28 percent?
  • But the leaders of the Communist Party, argued Iglesias, “have become a regime, people who are happy to be awarded a bronze medal, and never think in terms of actually winning elections because all they are interested in really is being seen to be on the left, to be authentic, and to not win.” In short, the communists had become conservative, argued Iglesias, because they had failed to see that the only way to win was by changing the rules.
Arabica Robusta

Where did the 15-M movement go? | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • The movement's strategy is based on assembling ad hoc citizen coalitions to help push back and challenge specific government actions; trying to figure out how to affect policy by exerting force on specific choke points in a system that badly needs reform. Politicians worried about inter-party politics, re-election or special interests can't see the importance of this. It's about using the power of the network to shake things up and find ways to make the political process more responsive to the needs of everyday citizens.
  • Typical of the all-encompassing approach of the 15-M movement are the myriad cooperatives set up around the country by a range of professionals looking to barter their services with other groups, as well as to sell them to the wider community.

    As the Spanish welfare state crumbles, 15-M offers practical solutions based on collaboration and cooperation

  • "I was brought up to be competitive; but what really matters is sharing.
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  • Reflecting a growing perception that the labor unions are standing by doing nothing while the government presses ahead with labor market reforms that make it easier for businesses to sack employees, on May 1, 15-M set up an initiative to protect the interests of people who are having to work on short-term contracts, grants, bogus training schemes or on a self-employed basis to save their employers from having to pay their social security. The idea is to encourage more people to work together through cooperatives, as well as to use social networks and other media to report companies that are taking advantage of high unemployment to impose abusive working conditions.
  • Last week it emerged that a police unit normally assigned to monitoring terrorist groups has been given instructions to put some of the higher-profile 15-M leaders under surveillance. "Putting these kinds of stories about is clearly an attempt to use the media to create a climate of fear," says Aitor, who belongs to the Real Democracy Now (DRY) organization, which spawned the 15-M movement. "They want to convert what we are doing into a public order issue." He blames the Popular Party administration at the central and regional level of trying to prevent people from using public spaces to protest.
Arabica Robusta

Police dislodge last of 15-M protestors | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • Since the main camp was disbanded on June 12, the government had held that the 15-M information booth that remained in Sol was a municipal concern, while local authorities argued that it was a matter of "public order" and thus of national interest.

    The eviction comes a week after a failed attempt that ended with police charging against the protestors. A few demonstrators told the SER radio station that this latest move is "more than strongly related" to the upcoming visit to Madrid by Pope Benedict between August 16 and 21, and that they were "expecting it."

  • Ignacio Laro, president of Apreca, the association of business owners in the area, said he was "very happy" because "the problem has been solved and the square can now resume its [commercial and tourist] activity."
Arabica Robusta

Interview: Zygmunt Bauman: "Social media are a trap" | In English | EL PAÍS - 0 views

  • He has outlined his pessimistic world view in books such as 2014’s Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?, which argues that the world is paying a high price for the neoliberal revolution that began in the 1980s and that wealth has not trickled down to the rest of society. In Moral Blindness, published last year, he and co-author Leonidas Donskis warn about the loss of community in our increasingly individualistic world.
  • Power has been globalized, but politics is as local as before. Politics has had its hands cut off. People no longer believe in the democratic system because it doesn’t keep its promises.
  • Forty years ago we believed that freedom had triumphed and we began an orgy of consumerism. Everything seemed possible by borrowing money: cars, homes… and you just paid for it later. The wakeup call in 2008 was a bitter one, when the loans dried up.
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  • Conflict is no longer between classes, but between each person and society. It isn’t just a lack of security, but a lack of freedom.
  • Changing one party for another will not solve the problem. The problem is not that the parties are wrong, but that they don’t control things. Spain’s problems are part of a global problem. It’s a mistake to think you can solve things internally.
  • I think we’re still following the principles of Versailles, when the idea of each nation’s right to self rule was established. But that’s a fiction in today’s world, when there are no more homogeneous territories. Today, every society is just a collection of diasporas. People join the societies to which they are loyal and pay their taxes, but at the same time, they do not want to give up their identity. The connection between where you live and identity has been broken.
  • most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.
Arabica Robusta

March | 2011 | cities@manchester - 0 views

  • There is an uncanny choreographic affinity between recent urban revolts in the Middle East and eruptions of discontent and urban protest in Athens, Madrid, Lyon, Lisbon, Rome, London, Berlin, or Paris, among many other cities. However, although the Middle Eastern uprisings are celebrated by Western media pundits and politicians, their European counterparts are often disavowed as illegitimate outbursts of irrational anger and anarchic violence.
  • Politics inaugurate the re-partitioning of the Police logic, the re-ordering of what is visible and audible, registering as voice what was only registered as noise, and re-framing what is regarded as political. It occurs in places not allocated to the exercise of power or the instituted negotiation of recognized differences and interests. As Badiou insists, politics emerge as an event: the singular act of choreographing egalitarian appearance of being-in-common at a distance from the State. Whereas any logic of the Police is a logic of hierarchy, of inequality, politics is marked by the presumption of equality within an aristocratic order that invariable ‘wronged’ this presumption.
  • It is within this aporia between la politique (the Police) and le politique (the political) that urban insurrections can be framed.
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  • This constitutive gap between Police and Politics needs to be affirmed. Politics cannot be reduced to managing and ordering space, to consensual pluralist and institutionalized policy-making. This is the terrain of the Police; the ontic dimension of everyday socio-spatial management.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Where are the people who are going to change things? - 0 views

  • Despite what melancholic lyrics may suggest, they exist – the men and women who want to change things. In the months leading up to the 2006 elections in Uganda, there were demonstrations outside the Central Police Station and the High Court where an opposition presidential candidate, Dr Kiiza Besigye, was first detained and then brought to trial.
  • The vendors only came back at lunchtime. As I learnt over the coming days, their commitment was striking: day after day the market vendors attended court in solidarity with Dr Besigye. By contrast, office-workers stayed at their desks. You do not win government contracts by demonstrating in the streets.
  • It is heartbreaking to watch the video footage [iv] of Sankara appealing to his fellow presidents to repudiate unfair debt agreements with IMF and other foreign creditors at the Organization of African Unity Summit in 1987. He accused them of degrading their people. He says, only half-jokingly, that if they do not support him he is going to be assassinated: “I may not make it to the next meeting.”
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  • Mariam Sankara describes him in terms reminiscent of Biko’s conscious black man, “Thomas knew how to show his people that they could become dignified and proud through will power, courage, honesty and work. What remains above all of my husband is his integrity.”
  • He too repudiated debt as a solution to all that ails Africa. But after an attempt to barter trade with neighbouring countries he gave in to the beckoning finger of the North.
  • In either case, his official statement was clear, “When it comes to medical care for myself and my family there is no compromise [vi].” The families of the 16 women a day who die in childbirth for lack of essential drugs, properly motivated (or simply paid) staff and lack of equipment held their peace.
  • Agricultural reform in Uganda was meant to be brought about by the National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAADS). It was funded to the tune of $100m over 8 years, with $50m repayable to the World Bank. The project review after eight years reported “no significant differences were found in yield growth between NAADS and non-NAADS sub counties for most crops….[vii].”
  • Genuine agents of change die young. Either they do not make it to State House or they die while there (with the possible exception of Jerry Rawlings in Ghana). Such is the dynamic. The rest capitulate early while continuing to assume the demeanour of revolutionaries. They can do so because Western powers are willing to turn a blind eye to their increasing profligacy in return for their signatures on a succession of documents keeping their countries in debt bondage. They rule for decades, well into old age at which point they usurp the role of Elder Statesmen and receive credits due to others [viii].
Arabica Robusta

Podemos: Latin America exports political ways and means | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • The first 15 years of the twenty-first century have generally been quite positive for Latin American economies. This has been due, to a great extent, to the rising price of most exports, which in turn has produced an improvement in tax revenues that different countries have used to reduce disturbing poverty levels. Oil has regularly exceeded $120, but high prices for natural gas, copper and soybeans have also helped the economies of these countries to grow vigorously and to improve the living conditions of their people.
  • It seems, however, that the continent is capable of exporting more than just commodities. Together with the economic good times linked largely to rising exports, we are currently witnessing an unusual phenomenon from a historical perspective: Latin America is beginning to export political practices and ways of doing things.
  • This is the fertile ground from which Podemos springs. But we must add to this the political tools that Podemos is using to take advantage of the situation. This is where the adaptation of Latin American leftwing neo-populism comes in.
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  • The first thing to say about Podemos is that it is an organization characterized by ambiguities. Iglesias says certain things and then undoes his words; he is assertive and then softens his stance. His discourse fluctuates and is veiled under a mysterious mantle calculated to throw analysts off-balance, in a manner that might remind us of the 1998 interviews of Jaime Bayly and Oscar Yanes, in which an apparently tamed and moderate Hugo Chavez busied himself with disowning measures he later went on to implement.
  • Its neatly vertical structure, headed by trained social scientists, conducts a flawless strategy aimed at accessing power (Iglesias himself holds a master degree in political communication) through the development of a post-Marxist discourse that blurs the class struggle (the traditional political engine of the Left) and fills it with concepts of social inclusion without losing a bit of its belligerence.
Arabica Robusta

Rio de Janeiro: a story of occupations and evictions | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • The Homeless Worker Movement occupied a building in Rio, helping to shelter thousands — but in the run-up to the World Cup they were violently evicted.
  • Before the advent of Google Maps, maps of Rio de Janeiro depicted the older, more traditional areas of the city and the newer expansions towards Barra and Recreio while the rest of the area was apparently uninhabited space. Google maps dealt a serious blow to this bucolic image of the Cidade Maravilhosa (‘Wonderful City’) by revealing that all available space in the urban area — hills, valleys, rough ground — was occupied by favelas. The reaction of much of the elite was a sense of betrayal, but it’s impossible to sweep these satellite images under the carpet. Suddenly everyone was forced to admit the favelas‘ existence.
  • So what was the solution for all this “criminal activity”? At dawn on April 11, 1.600 heavily armed military police invaded the area. Sleeping women were kicked awake, huts were knocked down, everyone was sprayed with chemical spray — not from the usual hand-held canisters but from massive cylinders the size of fire extinguishers, which the police carried in backpacks. All members of the press, whether corporate or independent, were expelled from the area and even one of the Globo reporters was arrested by police on the spurious charge that he was “throwing stones.” Occupants allege that four infants succumbed to the chemical spray and rumors circulated that one of the reasons for keeping reporters out was to prevent them from witnessing the fatalities.
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  • The contagious spirit of the mass protests that have been rocking Brazil over the past year has also found fertile soil in the favelas, where the death of every young person murdered by police is another rallying cry for popular resistance. As the current wave of anti-World Cup protests shows, the genie is out of the bottle — and it will take a lot more than violent evictions and police repression to silence the awakened and indignant multitude.
Arabica Robusta

La Puya Peaceful Mining Resistance Dismantled by Force | North American Congress on Lat... - 0 views

  • The Guatemalan government granted permits for the El Tambor mine to KCA, a mining firm based in Reno, Nevada, over a decade ago. Yet the communities near the mine were never informed about the construction. According to Kelsey Alford-Jones of the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, it wasn’t until 2010 that the community learned about the sale and construction of a mine that would affect all of their lives.
  • Further, there was no consultation with the community, and to make matters worse, it appears that the environmental impact assessment was fraudulent. An outside independent assessment found that the original had not investigated the impacts of the mine on social, cultural, and environmental factors.
  • Activists throughout Guatemala risk a lot to maintain their resistance. The heavy-handed response of the Guatemalan government marks a criminalization of protest in Guatemala.

    “The government has brought back the idea of the internal enemy,” said Alford-Jones. “This idea is what justified torture and genocide during the internal armed conflict.”

Arabica Robusta

How the left let Abahlali down - Cape Times | - 0 views

  • Years ago I began to support a unique and influential social movement called Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the Shackdwellers’ Movement.

    At the time, the movement had just refused to work with an influential leftist NGO called the Centre for Civil Society (CSS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Supported by the militant Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC), AbM had protested against the takeover of the Social Movement Indaba by NGOs such as CCS.

    As grassroots activists, they understood that their voice was being managed and also often silenced by those on the left coming from more privileged backgrounds.

  • AbM and the Anti-Eviction Campaign’s principled stance was brave. They lost massive support from leftists who believed themselves to be the vanguard of working-class struggle and who thought the poor must be directed towards the “right politics”. Leaders were ridiculed, pseudo-academic pieces were written to undermine the movement, and friends of the movement received death threats – some even lost their jobs. Many Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyists scoffed at their “No Land! No House! No Vote!” campaign as being short-sighted and liberal. The only legitimate form of organising, they said, was around the creation of a workers’ party.
  • Abahlali has always been an autonomous movement. While it has shared ideas and worked closely with other movements, including some non-authoritarian NGOs and a few supportive academics, decisions have always been taken by the movement without regard to outsiders’ wishes and/or agendas.
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  • This autonomous organising was truly Frantz Fanon’s work in practice. Abahlali has always been and still is a shackdwellers’ organisation, run not by privileged activists or academics but by shackdwellers themselves.

    But the continued repression of the movement has taken a toll on its members.

  • Renewed threats against Abahlali leadership put its president, S’bu Zikode, and general secretary, Bandile Mdlalose, back in safe houses and members began focusing on ANC repression, rather than the state, as the primary driver of this violence.

    Over the course of the past year, a shift seems to have taken place in the rank and file of the movement in KwaZulu-Natal. Their original critique of the state has shifted to an overarching and focused critique of the ANC.

  • I say opportunistically because that is what it truly is. In Cape Town, the DA plays the same role as the ANC in oppressing social movements and poor communities. The party pioneered the use of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit and is very happy to shoot protesting shackdwellers and build massive transit camps when it suits them.
  • There is nothing about DA policy that is progressive economically or supportive of the rights and needs of shackdwellers.

    However, the DA leadership in KZN did listen to one Abahlali demand (which the ANC failed to do): talk to us, not about us

  • I was shocked and horrified to hear of AbM-KZN’s decision to vote as a bloc for the DA. (Note: Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Western Cape has not endorsed the DA despite media reports to the contrary). I believe that this is a hugely mistaken move for the most important post-1994 social movement – both from an acknowledgement that the DA is a right-wing, white supremacist political party, and also from an understanding that electoral politics undermines, destroys, and co-opts rather than helps social movements. Despite my love for Abahlali, it is very difficult for me to continue to support an organisation that votes for the DA – a party founded on white supremacy.
  • Some leftists have cried foul, claiming that the process could not possibly have been democratic or that white supporters of the movement, such as myself, were involved in manipulating Abahlali to support the DA.

    To other leftists, the fact that AbM went through a rigorously democratic process and yet ended up voting for their oppressor, proves once and for all that shackdwellers cannot be trusted with a vanguardist political project.

  • If we are to talk about Abahlali baseMjondolo’s core focus around land and housing, it would also be important to note that not only are there many more shacks per capita in Cape Town than in eThekwini, but Cape Town remains by far the most segregated city in the country.
  • Most of the people attacking the movement have never lived a day of their life in a shack settlement – yet their self-righteousness is palpable. They’ve refused to comprehend the way repression makes backing the DA seem like a very practical decision – one not about principles or the extent of AbM’s radicalism, but about tactically defending one’s own life. Under constant threat of death, what would you do? Do any of us really understand how much pain they have endured?
Arabica Robusta

US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake | Mark Weisbrot | Comment is fre... - 0 views

  • When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.
  • An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer last week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government's "weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela", and said that there was an obligation for "government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens". He was joining the opposition's efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any "regime change" strategy.
  • Kerry refused to recognize the election results. Kerry's aggressive, anti-democratic posture brought such a strong rebuke from South American governments that he was forced to reverse course and tacitly recognize the Maduro government. (For those who did not follow these events, there was no doubt about the election results.)
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  • Opposition leader Leopoldo López – competing with Capriles for leadership –has portrayed the current demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office. It was obvious that there was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen. As University of Georgia professor David Smilde has argued, the government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain.
Arabica Robusta

The Story of Venezuela's Protests » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the ... - 0 views

  • First, while there have been some peaceful opposition marches, the daily protests are anything but peaceful. In fact, about half of the daily death toll from Venezuela that we see in the media – now at 41 — are actually civilians and security forces apparently killed by protesters.
  • Of course the increased shortages and rising inflation over the past year have had a political impact on Venezuela, but it is striking that the people who are most hurt by shortages are decidedly not joining the protests. Instead, the protests are joined andled by the upper classes, who are least affected.
  • Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chávez and then Maduro in the last two presidential elections, was considered too conciliatory by the more extreme right, led by Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado. They decided that the time was ripe to topple the government through street protests. Both were involved in the 2002 military coup against then President Chávez; María Corina Machado evensigned the decree of the coup government that abolished the elected National Assembly (AN), the Constitution, and the Supreme Court.
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