The global revolution gains more areas on its World Tour (starting in Tunisia in Dec 2010 to date). All sorts of workers & a large proportion of the educated youth all across Brazil and Turkey are currently leading a vast movement against government’s austerity of repressive and reactionary practices. This is a very important moment in world capitalism and its’ current crisis, a new epoch of domination and resistance to domination has opened up. Here the aim is to describe and discuss important features of these events in order to make them instructive examples for any emerging class struggles that could emerge, and to make people think about what their participation might be if mass events were to unfold in the UK.
Many countries around the world have seen various precarious workers, school, and university youth, supported by a part of the intellectuals and the middle class, and they are all finding their political feet in direct action. They are occupying squares and streets, central symbolic places; they are marching, calling for freedom, “peoples democracy,” and a new life. In Brazil protests over bus fares and the costs of hosting the Fifa World Cup, & Olympics in 2016 have become a vehicle for anyone unhappy about anything. These protests of the ‘Brazilian Spring’, are ongoing public demonstrations in several Brazilian cities, organized mainly by the Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement), a local entity that advocates for free public transportation, & in Turkey it was the protests against developments in Gezi Park which symbolised a peoples movement and desire for liberty & a more egalitarian fraternity.
They are demanding that the governments either change their conservative politics or resign and they are resisting the horrifically violent attacks of the police. These are the characteristics of an immediate uprising and one which is a popular revolutionary political action. The educated youth and a part of the salaried petty bourgeoisie are rising up, in their own name, against the reactionary state AND they are right to do so!
However, in so doing they open up the problem of the duration and the scope of its uprising, and the age old debate of spontaneity versus organisation. They are right to take action, but what is the real reason for it in terms of thinking, and for the future?
The whole problem is whether these courageous uprising are capable of opening the way for a genuine historical riot and a new insurrectionary period within the working classes and oppressed peoples world history. A riot is historical and an harbinger of a new epoch, this is when history is event, causing a new break in the social order and meaning that life has happened previously simply isn’t tenable – as was the case in Tunisia and Egypt, where the outcome of the struggle has still not been determined – when it brings together, under shared slogans, not just one but several potential actors of a new revolutionary politics. E.g. in addition to the educated youth and middle class, large sectors of working-class youth, workers, women of the people, low-level employees, and temporary precarious sectors. The events are so serious that the state and capitalism either offers compromises, or changes policy, and of course often the oppressed make concessions or have them forced upon them, either way, society changes. Howard Zinn has noted that in a supposedly defeated civil rights struggle in a city in the USA, even then life changed in this area, people were not the same as before, and so even in apparent defeat improved civility and civilised society is possible.
However, it is this move beyond the immediate riot (the widespread need to rebel which cannot go beyond either the immediate cause eg. police murder of a youth, or locality eg. St Pauls Tesco riot) toward a mass protest movement that creates the possibility for a new type of organized politics, a politics that is durable, that merges the force of the people with the sharing of political ideas, and that thereby becomes capable of changing the overall situation of the country in question. The historical riot enables the move on to question and challenge the nature of capitalist society. In doing so it opens up the possibilities for revolutionary change that resonate across not just e.g. the Arab region, but the whole world. There is a desperate need to go beyond old and reactionary left formulas and practice, genuinely and freely opening up organisations and politics of a new generation that must sweep their controllers and potential controllers out of the way.
In Brazil there is a need for the immediate attempt to add extra working class struggles, issues and demands for liberty and equality into the movements. Monday the 17th of June suddenly experienced a spectacular scale-shift of struggles, which have taken place since last year, with mass mobilizations of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians in at least seven major cities, with thousands occupying Congress in Brasilia, and with hundreds attempting to storm and set fire to the Legislative Assembly in Rio de Janeiro. These protests are against an headline figure of a $(the currency is the “Real”) 0.20 cents increase in bus tickets, but this is misleading for a poor country, this 20 cents is the difference between eating and not eating at the end of the month.
At the beginning of the protests the people of Brazil were waking up from their long sleep – and they were furious, but the calm was not here to stay for long;
“Special forces from the police, with their shields, their black uniforms, frightening looks, and “non-lethal” weapons had just arrived and started to make a line in front of us. Our group stopped. The songs fell silent. The situation almost seemed like a duel from a Western movie. All of a sudden, something happened. The people coming out of the Central do Brasil joined us. They were street side vendors, selling fries, or mothers with four children, the children in the street, or hobos and beggars. The poor, the poorest of the city of Rio, came together and positioned themselves right between us and the police. A few minutes later, the riot police shot at us”. This is an historical riot, when the multitude cast off its historical yoke (a yoke is device attached to animals to make them work harder, & symbolically it represents the means by which power exercises domination, and people can recognise their role in a subservient position to this power and domination) that ties itself to the system of domination
This Brazilian moment is about freeing the country from its authoritarian, dictatorial, and cruel heritage, and one that must be included in the world wide wave of popular protest occurring in the past few years. One expressed desire is that if, at the end of these protests, the political class of Brazil – a class for itself more than any other – and its army of capitalist cretins who enrich themselves not through work but thanks to their personal connections, its journalists who prostitute themselves in the interest of an elite, its policemen who kill without hesitation, if all these oppressors are removed from power and forced to recognize that an era of real democracy has arrived, then people maybe very happy to pay 20 cents more for my bus rides, though we must not allow mobilising to be solely motivated by the bus fares, or any struggles for that matter, as that is what can give the bosses a potential to buy off and destabilise OUR struggles.
Currently people are vocalising that the protests are “against the corrupt Brazil that we are living in – health, unemployment, education, everything. Everything’s wrong.” Another explained, “it’s the fury of an irritated Brazil with this damn corrupt stealing government” and there are already efforts to buy off the movement with the lowering of bus fares publically discussed by officials in order to derail and contain the protests. The middle class have been involved pushing an anti corruption ticket and with the help of the mass media as well as social media are a very significant part in these protests, which can swamp the more working class elements. The mass media, when its journalists were attacked by police changed its agenda from opposing the demonstrations to supporting them, and this encouraged the carnivalisation of protest and the subsequent mass marches meant that nationalists, fascists, and undercover police have been causing problems during these events.
As we write, the waves of protest and history are still in motion, it is this coming together of different positions and people which is a class struggle in itself, within our own side, as well as against capitalist business and its state, which is the field of class struggle. Different strategies and tactics are required, and our side has to be dynamic and sensitive in order to maintain and extend working class influences and win these struggles that are continuing. The movement IS the battlefield with all the contradictions and oppressions of Brazilian society, manifesting in sometimes quite problematic ways
Many comrades, friends, ultras and partisans in these areas know the old maxim that when you take on the king; you must wipe him and his forces out, or they will visit terrible vengeance upon the prominent, brave, confrontational, vocal and effective activists who campaigned for liberty.
Within Diversity there is Commonality
We know three things in particular: that there must be no mistake about contradictions; and that in Turkey the movement must not pursue the path of a “desire for the West” as that is a road to ruin and oppression (e.g. former Soviet bloc), and that it is above all necessary to join with the popular masses in inventing, with people other than themselves – with workers, temporary employees, women of the people, farmers, unemployed people, migrants, and so on – forms of political participation, & organisation that are currently unknown.
Within the Turkish example, is the main contradiction today between the conservative Muslim religion and freedom of thought? It is mistaken to think so, but many do due to the corporate media dominance around the world, above all it is a widespread idea in the countries of capitalist Europe, but it must be seen for what it is, an attempt to divide and rule by the embedded capitalist hierarchy that sends a message that its’ way of being is the hierarchically dominant one which will not allow other versions to compete with it. Of course, the current Turkish government openly claims allegiance to the dominant religion, the Muslim religion, but ultimately that is only a minor issue.
When the reality is that today, Germany is governed by Christian democracy, the President of the United States takes the oath of office on the Bible, President Putin, in Russia, constantly panders to the Orthodox clergy, and the Israeli government constantly exploits the Jewish religion. Reactionaries have always and everywhere used religion to rally a part of the popular masses, an historical bloc, to their government & there’s nothing particularly “Muslim” about this. It should in no way lead to regarding the opposition between religion and freedom of thought as the main contradiction of the current situation in Turkey or elsewhere.
What should be made clear is that the exploitation of religion serves precisely to conceal the real political questions, to overshadow the basic conflict between the self-liberation of the popular masses and the coporate development of Turkish & Brazilian capitalism. Throughout these struggles there are internally diverging paths, at least two parallel struggles are occurring, which currently coincide, but which are not necessarily linked; a bourgeois struggle against corruption for greater social justice, presumably towards liberal democracy, and a proletarian struggle against inequality and poverty, i.e. against capitalism and the class system. The struggles today are to re-establish which was once taken for granted, that the struggles must be class struggles and the creation of the working class for itself, because of and despite the participants sometimes.
The uprising currently underway must move in order to acquire the stature of a historical riot and invent a new political path.
Similarly, activists are perfectly aware that what is currently being created in Turkey cannot be the desire for what already exists in the rich, powerful countries like the United States, Germany and France. The word “democracy” in this regard is ambiguous and means different things in practice, does it mean the hierarchical dominance of a couple of main parties which in practice is impossible to overthrow, or does it mean political structures that genuinely express the desire for more social inclusion and equality for all, in other words social policy that works for people not for business.
Do people want to invent a new organization of society, headed toward genuine equality? Do they want to overthrow the capitalist oligarchy of which the “religious” government is the servant but of which anti-religious factions, in Turkey as in France, have been, and can become again, the no less efficient servants? Do they want a democracy in its genuine political meaning, namely, a real power of the people imposing its rule on landlords and the wealthy, or “democracy” in its current Western meaning: consensus around the most ruthless capitalism, provided that a middle class can benefit from it and live and speak as it wishes, since the essential mechanism of business, imperialism, and the destruction of the world won’t be tampered with?
These choices will determine whether the current uprising is just a modernization of Turkish capitalism and its integration into the world market, or whether it is truly oriented toward a creative politics of emancipation, giving new impetus to the universal history of Communism. And the ultimate criterion for all this is actually quite simple: the educated youth must take the steps that will bring them closer to the other potential actors of a historical riot. They must spread their movement’s enthusiasm beyond their own social existence. They must create the means of living with the broad popular masses, of sharing the thoughts and practical innovations of the new politics with them. They must give up the temptation to adopt, for their own benefit, the “Western” conception of democracy, meaning: the simple, self-serving desire for a middle class to exist in Turkey as an electoral and falsely democratic client of an oligarchic power integrated into the world market of capital and commodities. This is called incorporation and it can extinguish the flames of the admirable current revolt, which could then end in a subtler and more dangerous form of subservience: the kind we are familiar with in our old capitalist countries.
More positively there are some quite spectacular events happening in Istanbul. In addition to the silent “standing man” actions around the country, people’s assemblies are slowly starting to emerge in different neighbourhoods across the city. The Beşiktaş Assembly in Abbasaga park, which has been going on for days, tripled its number of participants on Tuesday night, the 18th, with a total of ten popular assemblies taking place in Istanbul alone and at least one more in Izmir. As in Spain, Greece and the Occupy encampments before, the protesters in Turkey are starting to counter-pose their own form of direct democracy to the sham of a democracy proposed by Erdogan’s (Turkish leader) authoritarian neoliberal state. Occupy, that watchword of a new political generation from New York to Spain and beyond. If there was ever any doubt, this shows how deeply intertwined the global struggles truly are.
These assemblies are a beautiful and crucial form of social engagement and political participation. In the future, they can be expanded to cover more and more segments of the population. But even in these moments of euphoria & elation, when we see the people taking matters into their own hands and enacting real democracy in the places where they live and work, we should stay realistic: this is only just the beginning. The capitalist state survives, and creating our own parallel society is not enough. We must self-organize, and then push our quest for autonomy outwards to eventually encapsulate all of society, enlarging our demands and expectations, and taking property and land off corporations, seeking ever more control over our lives as capitalist rule breaks down and as the capitalist classes prevaricate to try and gain time to recompose their forces and enlist other forces, including that of the international capitalist class, to be used against us – we the people – in the struggles that will develop within revolutionary situations
The direct democracy of the squares is also about saying that we cannot wait for some distant revolution to overthrow the capitalist system. We are currently facing a global humanitarian tragedy, brutal economic austerity, an ecological disaster and a profound social and political crisis. We have to act now. We cannot rely on corporate elites to do this for us. We cannot trust in political representatives to take the process ahead. The only ones we can trust are ourselves. We, the people, will have to carry this revolution forward. Starting now
We, the anarchists and militants in the UK, from Hackney to Sunderland and beyond, and other rich countries of the imperialist West, we implore our Turkish friends to avoid creating a situation like ours in their country. To you, our dear Turkish friends, we say: one of the greatest favours you can do for us is to prove that your uprising is taking you to a different place from ours, that it is creating a situation whereby the material and intellectual corruption in which our sick old countries are languishing today will be impossible. For our Brazilian friends, we wish you every success in your efforts to create a better place for you all, we are with you, in spirit at least, fighting police brutality and oppression in the North East, London, and wherever it is found. Jean Charles de Menezes (a Brazilian man shot dead by the London Metropolitan police at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground in 2005), who was executed by police, lives in our hearts. There are many many different things linking all the struggles of the world’s people, and fortunately, in contemporary Turkey, among all our Turkish friends, and exiled communities, including the Kurds, the computer technologies exist to avoid the erroneous desire to be like us. That great country, with its long, tormented history, can and must surprise us. It is the ideal place for a great historical and political innovation to occur. Long live the uprising of Turkish youth and their allies! Long Live the Brazilian uprising!! Long live the creation and creators of a new source of future politics!