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Wukan, China: Revolt Begins Like Others, but Its End Is Less Certain
Michael Wines, New York Times
WUKAN, China — Each day begins with a morning rally in the banner-bedecked square, where village leaders address a packed crowd about their seizure of the village and plans for its future. Friday’s session was followed by a daylong mock funeral for a fallen comrade, whose body lies somewhere outside the village in government custody.
It has been nearly a week since the 13,000 residents of this seacoast village, a warren of cramped alleys and courtyard homes, became so angry that their deeply resented officials — and even the police — fled rather than face them. Now, there is a striking vacuum of authority, and the villagers are not entirely sure what to make of their fleeting freedom.
“We will defend our farmland to the death!” a handmade banner proclaims, referring to a possible land deal they fear will strip them of almost all their farmland. “Is it a crime,” another muses, “to ask for the return of our land and for democracy and transparency?”
How long they will last is another matter. As the days pass, the cordons of police officers surrounding the village grow larger. Armored trucks and troop carriers have been reported nearby.
(16 December 2011)
The Struggle Emerges in Russia
Boris Kagarlitsky, Socialist Worker
Protests by tens of thousands of people in Moscow and other cities December 10 were by far the largest demonstrations in Russia since the collapse of the USSR two decades ago.
The focus of the mobilizations was massive fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections. The ruling party, United Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, outraged millions with ballot-stuffing operations to try to achieve a parliamentary majority. These brazen attempts at vote-rigging were documented by both poll monitors and ordinary citizens using cell phone cameras.
The fraud triggered immediate protests over two days in Moscow and other cities. Initial demonstrations were met in typical fashion for Putin’s Russia–with police brutality and hundreds of arrests. But after an international condemnation of the crackdown, leaders of liberal parties brokered a deal with the government for a permit for the December 10 demonstration.
… Boris Kagarlitsky, a former political prisoner in the ex-USSR, socialist activist and author of numerous books about Russia, spoke to Lee Sustar about the roots of the protests and prospects for the future.
SINCE COMING to power in 1999, Putin was able to preside over an economic expansion that created stability based on a kind of social contract–until the economic crisis hit in 2007-08. What has happened since?
THE ECONOMY did grow strongly from around 2002 to 2007. As a government official said of that period, many people in Russia moved from misery into poverty–as if that were an achievement.
In truth, it was some kind of achievement. There was real industrial growth in that period. But most growth of industrial output was provided by old, obsolete equipment from the old Soviet period, or by foreign investment in the most protected industries, like auto. The sectors that were most protected were precisely the ones that attracted the most foreign investment, because foreign companies had to build plants in Russia to gain access to the Russian market.
So in many ways, things were doing better economically up to 2008. But things deteriorated very rapidly after the collapse of oil prices. Industrial output declined, unemployment increased, and a social crisis erupted. All of a sudden, people discovered that in the period of Putin, the remaining parts of the welfare state from the USSR had been undone, or were coming under attack. So we gradually started losing, one by one, elements of welfare state that we retained after the “reforms” of the 1990s.
Now there is a systematic attack on education, health care and some elements of social provisions. We have austerity, as in Europe. It’s comparable to what you see around the rest of the capitalist world.
So over the last three years, the economy was deteriorating, anger was growing, and yet nothing was happening.
WHY THE delayed response in terms of protest?
PEOPLE WERE hoping that things would get better. Putin and his entourage retained some popularity for their record for the first part of the decade. It was, of course, not all their success, but it was associated with them.
(15 December 2011)
Also posted at ZNet.
And see Dmitry Orlov’s article: Party of swindlers and thieves . – BA
Occupy! Connect! Create! (part 7)
Ethan Miller , Grassroots Economic Organizing
What is it “to occupy”? What is this charged word that is spreading like wildfire and inciting us to reclaim public space? It reminds some of us of invasion, colonization-as in “an occupied nation.” At the same time, the #Occupy Movement is pointing toward a different sense of the word: something more like a taking back, a holding of space in order to open it up toward new collective possibilities. From its Latin roots, “to occupy” can, in fact, mean to seize a space against the status quo and to turn it towards something new. To occupy is to construct a space in which we can engage in the craft-the occupation-of enacting the world we long for.i
We need to understand and to enact “occupation” in the widest sense possible: to seize every single space that we possibly can-physical and conceptual-in which to exercise collective power and experiment with new forms of collective life. This is also about making visible the spaces that we have already occupied, the practices and forms of life in which we are already rooted and which we already share in common. Think of us as water; think of our spaces of occupation as the cracks into which we flow. These are the footholds from which we launch each new moment of creative action.
The brilliance of #OccupyWallStreet is to create a common public space that is more than protest-as much a space of creation as it is of opposition. And this is what our emerging movements must be: not just protest movements, not movements clamoring only for our demands to be met, but movements actively working to build the world that we wish to live in. Nobody will do this for us, and nor would we want them to. …
We are only as strong as our connections with others, and the work of building other forms of livelihood cannot be done alone. Remember “the trap”: our creative escape, if it is to work, has to be collective. We will do it together, or we will not do it at all.
Our occupations, then, must be about making connections at every step.
First, linking our work across multiple issues: building relationships of solidarity between people struggling against Wall Street financiers, predatory lending, corporate personhood, military action, the prison-industrial complex, the many faces of racism, the ongoing colonization of indigenous land and culture, climate change, the ecological devastation of industrial and factory farming, islands of plastic collecting in our oceans, toxic waste in low-income communities, privatization and slashing of social programs, decaying public infrastructure, and skyrocketing foreclosure and unemployment.
All of this work of linking is being done, effectively and compellingly, by many groups, and we need to support each other as much as we can at every turn. …
The work of occupation and connection must become the work of creation: the creative, collective construction of forms of livelihood and community that might enable us to imagine a day when Wall Street can topple without bringing suffering millions with it. This is our way out of the trap. It is not a naïve notion of “dropping out” (as if everyone had the privilege to do this, or the privilege to choose otherwise), or a dreamy hope of evading hard work and struggle. It is, rather, about recognizing that the work of breaking out of our dependence is a necessary site for our creative action.
We need housing, food, water, clothing, education, healthcare, love and dignity. How will we organize to create these for ourselves?
… This is where we work, recognizing our dependency on that which we must transform, for job creation. But not just any job creation: we must demand public (and private) resources to help us develop new kinds of jobs:
Locally-rooted jobs: it’s time to refuse the myth that jobs must be given to us by huge, “outside” forces which are unaccountable to our needs, our stories and our places. We need jobs that build on and enhance local and regional strengths, and that reflect the aspirations and values of our specific communities.iv
Cooperative jobs, worker- and community- controlled jobs: it’s time publicly proclaim that a society in which a majority of people spend their days working under the rule of dictators (bosses) and learning to obey orders rather than think for themselves cannot be a democratic society. We need jobs that embody, in their daily workings, the kind of broader society we wish to cultivate.v
Ecologically-restorative jobs: it’s time to be serious, too, about forms of employment that are not dependent on the ongoing destruction of the ecological base upon which we all rely. “Green jobs” that seek to sustain our current levels of consumption and production in a “sustainable” form will not do. We must create forms of work that are synergistic with our common habitats.
Ethan Miller is an activist, educator and researcher working to cultivate and support movements for solidarity-based economic transformation. He works with Grassroots Economic Organizing and the Community Economies Collective, and has lived for the past ten years at the JED Collective and Giant’s Belly Farm in Greene, Maine. Ethan is currently on a hiatus in Australia, working on a PhD at the University of Western Sydney with the Community Economies Research Group.
(5 December 2011)
Also at ZNet.
Occupy and the Tasks of Socialists
Pham Binh, The Unrepentant Marxist
Occupy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-merge the socialist and working class movements and create a viable broad-based party of radicals, two prospects that have not been on the cards in the United States since the late 1960s and early 1970s. The socialist left has not begun to think through these “big picture” implications of Occupy, nor has it fully adjusted to the new tasks that Occupy’s outbreak has created for socialists. In practice, the socialist left follows Occupy’s lead rather than Occupy follow the socialist left’s lead. As a result, we struggle to keep pace with Occupy’s rapid evolution.
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) mobilized more workers and oppressed people in four weeks than the entire socialist left combined has in four decades. We would benefit by coming to grips with how and why other forces (namely anarchists) accomplished this historic feat.
The following is an attempt to understand Occupy, review the socialist response, and draw some practical conclusions aimed at helping the socialist left become central rather than remain marginal to Occupy’s overall direction.
Occupy’s Class Character and Leadership
Occupy is more than a movement and less than a revolution. It is an uprising, an elemental and unpredictable outpouring of both rage and hope from the depths of the 99%.
… Compared to these three movements, the following differences stand out: Occupy is broader in terms of active participants and public support and, most importantly, is far more militant and defiant. Tens of thousands of people are willing to brave arrest and police brutality. The uprising was deliberately designed by its anarchist initiators to be an open-ended and all-inclusive process, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of the failed conventional single-issue protest model. The “people’s mic,” invented to circumvent the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) ban on amplified sound, means that anyone can be heard by large numbers of people at any time.
One of the most important elements that makes Occupy an uprising and not merely a mass movement is its alleged leaderlessness. Of course as Marxists we know that every struggle requires leadership in some form, and Occupy is no exception. The leaders of Occupy are those who put their bodies on the line at the encampments and get deeply involved in the complex, Byzantine decision-making process Occupy uses known as “modified consensus.” Occupy’s leaders are those who make the proposals at planning meetings, working groups, and General Assemblies (GAs) that attract enough support to determine the uprising’s course of action.
The people leading the uprising are those who are willing to make the biggest sacrifices for it.
… Our tasks with respect to the anarchists are twofold: 1) to work with them in neutralizing adventurists and ultra-lefts when their activities threaten Occupy as a whole and 2) to out-compete them in daring, audacity, creativity, improvisation, and revolutionary elan in the most friendly, collaborative, and comradely manner possible.
Pham Binh’s articles have been published by Occupied Wall Street Journal, The Indypendent, Asia Times Online, Znet, and Counterpunch. His other writings can be found at www.planetanarchy.net
(14 December 2011)
It’s surprising to hear such self-criticism of the socialist left.
Also posted at LINKS. -BA