It is symbolic that Obama is visiting Greece on his farewell tour. The Balkans have served as a laboratory for neoliberalism and US military interventions since the late 20th century; Greece in particular has undergone a global experiment of crisis management and repression. As war draws closer and closer—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Turkey—the Balkans are expected to serve Europe and the US as a buffer zone while suffering the same abuse as the periphery.
Now that the pipe dream of universal economic growth has come to an end, giving way to a vista of chaos and climate catastrophe, we can see that the new order will only be stabilized by the empty promises of politicians and the brute force of the police and military. In a word, by the ballot and the bullet. The buffer zone is getting smaller and smaller, and the United States is not exempt—the same National Guard sent to Iraq have already been deployed in Baltimore. Now is the time to fight, before the situation grows any worse.
For months, hundreds of people, including members of nearly a hundred different indigenous peoples, have mobilized to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. On October 27, police raiding the Sacred Ground camp encountered stiff resistance. We’ve just received the following firsthand report from comrades who participated in the defense of the camp. Describing some of the fiercest clashes indigenous and hey pose important questions about solidarity struggles.
Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world has cringed as US voters struggled to identify the second worst of all possible evils. As anarchists who believe in bona fide self-determination, we have critiqued and mobilized against the reduction of freedom to electoral politics in every Presidential race since 1996. This time, it just seemed redundant.
But the 2016 election is practically over. What’s coming next is worse.
You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to email@example.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.
What harm could possibly come of using the discourse of democracy to describe the object of our movements for liberation? We can answer this question with a fable drawn from history: the story of the uprising that took place in Paris in June 1848.
In addition, to commemorate the June 1848 uprising, 168 years ago this week, we’ve prepared a biography of one of its many colorful participants, including the first translation into English of the only surviving account from the proletarian side of the barricades.
Like most political words, democracy is an “essentially contested” concept—its meaning is itself a political battleground. What political ideologies do, as mass patterns of political expression, is to “de-contest” or fix the meaning of such concepts and place them in particular relationships. The term “equality,” for example, can mean equal access to advantage (liberalism), equal responsibility to the national community (fascism), or equal power in a classless society (anarchism). On such a reading, there is no way objectively to determine the meaning of such concepts—all that exists are distinct usages, each of them regularly grouped with other concepts in one or another ideological formation.
I would therefore like to suspend the discussion of the appropriate conceptual understanding of democracy, and instead ask about the strategic choice to employ the term. Is it worthwhile for anarchists to de-contest “democracy” in ways that point towards statelessness and non-domination? Two arguments follow. The first is that anarchist invocations of democracy are a relatively new and distinctly American phenomenon. The second is that the invocation is problematic, because its rhetorical structure and audience targeting almost inevitably end up appealing to patriotic sentiments and national origin myths.
In the latest installment in our series exploring the anarchist critique of democracy, guest author Paul Z. Simons offers us a meditation on revolutionary forms of organization. Drawing on his experiences in Rojava in 2015, he contrasts conventional democratic practices with what he has seen of democratic confederalism and evaluates the federation of communes as a model for North American anarchists. At a time when the ruling order has been discredited but there are very few proposals for how else to shape our lives, Simons suggests some much-needed points of departure.
On April 23, 2016, hundreds of people gathered to oppose a rally called by the Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia. This convergence brought together a wide range of groups committed to shutting down the KKK. The crowd circumvented several blockades consisting of hundreds of local officers, riot police, and state SWAT teams to reach the parking lot where the white supremacists were assembling.
This was just one of many events in the wave of black-led revolt since the eruption in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 following the murder of Mike Brown. To understand the context of what happened in Stone Mountain, we have to pan back across the struggles of the preceding years. In this report, we recount the demonstrations that led up to this one and offer a blow-by-blow account of the action for everyone who may have to mobilize in response to similar rallies in the years to come.
In the latest installment of our series exploring the role of democracy in the struggles of the past decade, we trace the Bosnian uprising of 2014 from its first fiery days though the massive directly democratic plenums that swept the country to its rapid collapse and the return of business as usual. Enthusiasts of direct democracy all around the world reported eagerly on the plenums when they were at their peak, but within three months they had died away. What can we learn from this brief explosion of popular assemblies? What was its relationship with the riots that opened up an opportunity for social change? Why was it possible for the government to reestablish order?
In winter 2012-13, a massive wave of protests swept Slovenia, a small country in the northern Balkans. It started in the second largest city, Maribor, a de-industrialized husk that was once the center of Slovenia’s vanished automobile industry. The corrupt mayor had installed speed-checking radar at every major crossroads, resulting in hundreds of already impoverished people being charged with penalties they could not afford to pay, for the profit of a private company. In a series of clandestine attacks and public demonstrations, people burned the speed-checking devices one by one, then gathered on the squares and streets to inform the mayor by means of Molotov cocktails, rocks, and everything else they could get hold of that he was no longer welcome in their town. In response to the initial police repression, solidarity protests spread around the country in a matter of a few days. They lasted for six months.
On one hand, these protests were a reaction to the disastrous effects of the transition from socialism to free market capitalism, which left many people poor and humiliated. On the other hand, from the beginning, they were clearly aimed against those who held institutional political power. This was the biggest self-organized struggle in Slovenia since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. It brought down the mayor of Maribor and the national government—but more importantly, it opened up a space in which it became possible to invent new forms of autonomous action and to question representative democracy.