Friday, 12 July 2013

Ural Koroglu: Neighborhood forums, neighborhood committees

Following the brutal attack to Taksim Gezi Park and occupation of  Taksim Square by the police, two new “resistance forms” have come out, one is the “standing person” and the other one is the transformation of the parks in numerous neighborhoods in Istanbul and some other cities into forum arenas and assembly places [1]. By all means both of them are manifesting that the resistance against Tayyip Erdoğan and AKP (Justice and Development Party) power have transformed into different forms.
The distinguished importance of the neighborhood parks’ transformation to forum arenas is beyond its being a form of sustaining the resistance, the practice shelters significant important and new characteristics on behalf of the struggle. The foremost characteristic is the practice of direct democracy [2] by a vast mass of participating people probably for the first time. The initiative and the inspiration for the neighborhood forums was undoubtedly the Gezi Park experience throughout which “living space” had been formed and lived along where state and government authority did not exist for nearly 15 days. There had been effective accumulation of experience on health, sheltering, alimentation, hygiene and other vital issues in Gezi Park. In the beginning the park forums facilitated as an open mic platform to bring the people together to express their ideas and to share their stories with other. Yet the relationship among people in the forums was not passive at all. In order to prevent disturbing the residents nearby, new arm gestures have been defined for acceptance, applause and rejection. In short time, people have started to take decisions in the forums. First of all, “subordinate initiatives” determined by the participants’ profession has been formed. More than 10 subordinate initiatives were formed in Abbasağa Park such as engineers’ initiative, women initiative, youth, lawyers, craftsmen and artisans initiatives. These initiatives are in charge of answering the demands of the resistance’s and forum participants’ needs and requirements in general yet they are well capable of positioning themselves in accordance with the neighborhood’s needs as well. One of the important topics on which unanimous consent is sought for is to name and define these communities and People’s Assembly, Solidarity Platform, People-Resistance-Freedom Platform are among the proposals. The most inspiring and forthcoming feature of the forums is their ability to take immediate decisions, though generally as a reflex, get mobilized and act. In the evening of the day the court has released the police officer who shot Ethem Sarısülük from his head, several neighborhood forums, Kadıköy-Yoğurtçu Park, Kartal, Tarsus, decided to march in order to protest the judge’s decision
Besides these encouraging aspects of the forums, it is definitely unavoidable for us to determine the deficiencies and weaknesses in order to overcome them as soon as possible.
First of all, it is hard to say that the number of participants of the forums is sufficient. Even in Kadıköy district, where over ten thousand people have marched across the Bosphorus Bridge early in the morning before dawn, the participants all over the forums merely add up to one thousand. Most of the forums are carried on by 100 to 500 people in total. A significant difference among the central neighborhood and periphery, poor neighborhoods can be observed as well where in latter one the number of the participants is quite low and the discussions concentrate on local agenda. The lack of comprehension that forum participation is necessary for the continuation of the resistance, the lack of association consciousness overwhelmed by the scarification of individualism are among the principal deficiencies yet calls for forums are not effective and inclusive enough. Location and timing in addition to topics of the agenda and discussion may be announced in advance. Forum arenas which are mainly simple parks can be organized so the participants’ needs are fulfilled.
Remarkable number of people perceive and evaluate the forums as “a show” where individuals get on the stage for themselves rather than prioritizing the community’s and/or the struggle’s requirements. People talking in return usually make everlasting political analysis and emphasize on elections. There is no definite solution to prevent such misleading behavior, yet they can be reduced by highlighting the community’s common agenda instead. It is possible to limit the speeches by a given period of time, to oblige them in accordance with the agenda of the day, to change moderators, both women and men on daily basis.
It must be kept in mind that “a marching column advances at the pace of the slowest”. This is the most important principle and ground basis to mobilize the forums and assemblies held in the parks to a common aim. The main achievement is to succeed in preserving the integrity of the communities and catch “the collective median”. At this point, classically defined leftist organizations and political bodies tend to behave erroneously. Forums may be dissolved and decomposed if the community is continuously challenged to act and get mobilized in a revolutionary way. If we are to repeat and summarize our concerns, the main objective is to preserve the forums and assemblies as integrity and a whole, to try to seek for consent, to respect the “slow pacer”, to determine a common objective, to institutionalize from within.
The method of decision these kind of forums apply is obviously more flexible than the “democratic centralism” principle which is applied commonly by democratic mass associations where all participating during the decision making process has to abide by the decision. The method of decision in the forums has to be in accordance with “decentralization” principle. Everyone can participate in decision making process yet it may not be obligatory for all to the final decision. Hence, one must pay attention not to challenge the community and give rise to conflicts and disenchantment.
It is far too early for the forums and assemblies to institutionalize themselves; their progress is carried on and characterized by experiences. Possible committed mistakes may cause disappointments within the communities and may harm the new embodiments of people. It would certainly be more effective and useful to determine achievable, realistic but high objectives rather than forming subordinate initiatives for every matter discussed. Three indispensable aspects of these kinds of formations are the presence of regular – participation granted common will formed on the basis of volunteerism, achievable main demands and aims [3] and a defined period set in advance for the main objective to be achieved.
The political opposition which has stemmed from Gezi Park has not culminated yet and it is still prevailing on the streets. Four demands which have been announced repeatedly have not been met yet. People’s conception that their freedom is at stake have not changed yet. Fair and proper legal assessment, judging and penalizing have not been applied at all. On the contrary, the police, governors, ministers and the state are given double standard and protection. Tayyip Erdoğan’s numerously repeated, insulting and degrading discourse continues on. As a consequence, people’s opposition head towards manifestations where they can express themselves. Lastly on June 22, the call for meeting in Taksim Square to commemorate our losses, to remind the demands, and to condemn the violence have gathered over a hundred thousand of people. We find it appropriate that every Saturday may be announced with one of the demands of the resistance (Justice Saturday, Freedom Saturday, etc.) and therefore mass gatherings will continue.
Local forums should not give up their local agendas and discussions but all need to thrive on this axis. It is indispensable that the political emphasis is visualized by positioning against AKP. However these people need is not to indulge propaganda against each other. A proper propaganda method has to be found to catch the discrepancies on behalf of the AKP bloc.
Besides the majority of the participants in the forums are unorganized and backed up by erroneous perceptions they are against being organized. Therefore forums should be the actual places where the importance of being organized is shown. Calls for “organized labor, professional associations, democratic mass associations, Halkevleri [People's Houses]” has to be designated in future as advanced models.
The “pros and cons” of the forums can be summarized as above “for now”. One last comment we can add shall be the “utopia” that is going to be realized. The first condition for this utopia is to save Gezi Park from police occupation and get people design the park themselves as a free “life and meeting” space. And eventually let all the parks turn into Gezi Park which becomes the common will of the people’s assemblies all around the city and the country. We all hope for “direct democracy” to be practiced in every park, for all parks to transform into “life and meeting” spaces, for spaces of freedom where none of the reactionary and fascist ideologies could penetrate within and there will be no need for state authority…
Translation: Isik Kiribrahim
[1] List of several parks where forums are held and gathered together in İstanbul; Acıbadem, Esenyurt, 5. Sokak Akasya Park, Sarıyer-Dağevleri, 2 Temmuz Yaşam Park, Üsküdar Fetih Mahallesi Tahralı Park, Yeniköy Park, Kartal Park, Beşiktaş Abbasağa Park, Elmadağ-Harbiye, Maçka Park Kadıköy Yoğurtçu Park, Ümraniye Çarşı Park, Okmeydanı Sibel Yalçın Park, Beyoğlu Cihangir Park, Göztepe Park, Etiler-Akatlar Sanatçılar Park, Alibeyköy Karadolap Belediye Park, Fatih Saraçhane Park, Bahçelievler Egemenlik Park, Bakırköy Square,Maltepe Square, Kireçburnu Ömürtepe Mahallesi Çamlık Picnic Area, Hisarüstü-Boğaziçi University, Duatepe Park.
[2] Which means neither power nor right is delegated, people not only participate in the decision making  process but  are active in implementation as well, the policy initiatives decided are obliged to checks and balances chosen representatives can be called to resign.
[3] For example in Beşiktaş, Abbasağa Park, the significant local demand  was to have the bus stop removed by the justification of  its potential obstacle for the PM when he arrives in his working office and/or  departs from there to be placed in former place again. Besides, this demand was put forward after the mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş have announced that “we are going to consult everything, even a bus stop with people from now on”.

Yalcin Burkev: “Middle class”, leading the revolt, is the proletarianized petit-bourgeoisie

Our conversations on class character, appearance, causes and probable results of the revolt, institutionalization of the resistance, and conclusions that should be considered by socialists and the Kurdish Movement are continuing. The second guest of the conversation series, which we have started with Prof. Korkut Boratav, is the editor of NotaBene Publishing, Yalcin Burkev…
The resistance that followed the attack to Gezi Park gives an appearance of revolt of middle class rather than a class oppositional movement. What can you say about its causes and probable results?
Yalcin Burkev: Gezi Park Resistance has been a challenging development. As in all historical revolt movements which erupted as a synthesis of very complicated causes, one should not respect much simple explanations that claim to analyse it. Yes, also for this event, those who take it superficially argue that it is a “middle class revolt”. Particularly the prevailing media handled this thesis significantly, and it seems that it will go on doing the same thing, depending on the scenes, the humour in the slogans and graffiti, and peaceful style of the action.
Of course, as this resistance includes significant differences from the previous ones, it does not reveal a classical appearance of laborer revolt. Yes, one significant dimension of the event is related to “middle classes”, that is with petit-bourgeois. However, this middle class leading the revolt are the losing ones, that is to say the proletarianized middle class. These components of the society reflect reactions of a social stratum that is, indeed, newly belonging to the working class. While these people are lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, graphic artists, designers, etc. that we meet daily; they have been rapidly losing intermediate class characteristics and becoming a member of the working class. Because, these “middle classes” have been dequalified in their occupations, and alienated from their job related to the neoliberal policies on one hand. On the other hand, they have become included in wage earner category under conditions of “precariousness”, and have lost their level of prosperity permanently. That means, this “loss” is not a temporary situation related to the crisis, but a permanent change in their social class position.
“Proletarianization of the middle classes” should be considered at top places among critical events which trigger revolt movements of the era that we pass through.  The role that was played by the unemployed young people in Egypt (especially in 2011) and Tunisia has also reflected this historical process, and also, just before it, the protest movements opposing the commodification of education of the European university students that burst out in 2011.
Basic factor underlying the experience of these “middle class” reactions as a historical wave is transformation of petit-bourgeois (or in the trendy term “middle classes”) into a mass of “losers”,  which had been expanding with inflation of particular sectors by the artificial economic expansion as a result of financialization in 1980-1990s, beginning from 1999, but becoming more significant following the global crisis of 2009. These loser masses are rapidly becoming poorer, dispossessed, and proletarian. These are  well-educated young people grown up according to prevailing consumption standards with the hope of a higher level of prosperity. However, still they can hardly go on their daily life depending on the material support of their parents, deny being proletarian, and could divert to the most short-cut reactions to escape this situation. These factors underlie the inclination of the “middle classes” to left, to social democracy and particularly to Kemalist nationalism[1]. They do not behave with respect to proletarian pattern to a large extent. They actually confine themselves to short-cut daily reactions.
The mentioned objective class behaviors underlying the whole process have not gained a direct political appearance. The process can be mediated by some situations before having a political appearance. For instance reactions to the general proletarianization in Turkey turn out to be a secular reaction, as the neoliberal policies have been carried out by “the moderate Islamic AKP”[2]. While AKP has been creating its own middle class, it has been eliminating traditional “middle classses” and young “middle class” candidates pushing them to the side of losers.That I to say, the AKP staffing is the basic factor in the rise of this new middle class. Thus, “proletarianization of the middle class” in Turkey has been experienced in a quite original way, and there is a big mass of losing secular middle class in spite of a rising small mass of Islamic middle class, and these polarize on a Islamism-secularism axis.
Naturally, the new laborer masses impoverished and became precarious by the neoliberal policies, who do not feel close to place themselves in the Islamic social network, form one of the main dynamics, though one cannot claim it to be the leader of the process. Moreover, reactions of “Alevis”[3] who feel excluded and under threat in general, and particularly hot reactions of the Arab Alevis because of the Syrian events, should be noted as identity-derived reactions adding to the class dimension in the revolt. And, of course, the leading role of women inside every political community and their mass contributions in general are considerable, and this contribution is a significant defense and freedom reflex against oppressive conservative tendencies.
As a matter of fact, all those “class and identity-pivoted” issues have been blended and shaped as a freedom struggle against the almost dictatorial regime. This struggle of freedom has received support from various communities who feel themselves oppressed politically, socially and also economically. The point that it burst out is typical as well, it is an expression of the accumulated reactions towards the urban transformation and rantier policies. That means it is a reaction to the motor sector of the neoliberal policies. Briefly, the problem has a complete class characteristic of proletarian axis, the reactions are against the neoliberalism mixed with Islamic fundamentalism, and it can never be handled as a static “middle class” behavior.
It is early to make comprehensive explanations about results of this outburst before the process comes to an end. Though, whatever the results are, a certain thing is that, construction of the politics only on the hegemons policy axis which has been valid since 1980 came to the end. That is, (in football terms) single-goal match is over, a new platform for the new working class movement to be involved in politics have been formed depending on its reconstruction. Secondly, the image of political “stability” that has been drawn by the hegemons for the last ten years has been ended up irreversibly.
Naturally, involvement of the labor and the oppressed will not appear with its most developed form, but we will witness many small or big spontaneous social outbursts. Current experiences are certainly a “revolutionary situation” in classical “objective terms”, however “subjectively” it lacks enough power as it corresponds to reestablishment of labor movement. For this reason, if we would assess these events in a historical perspective, it would be meaningful to compare them with 1830 revolts and 1848 revolutionary movements reflecting the first periods of the formation of labor movements, instead of comparing them with the conditions of the organized labor movements of 20th century revolutions, like 1905, 1917, etc.
What can be done for institutionalization of the resistance and establishment of a dual power status?
For dual power, the resistance needs to set a locality continuously (at least for a period). For example, occupation of urban squares was just such a state. It lasted for a short time, now it continues in different forms like the park forums.
Even within this short-lasting Gezi Park model, which broke down existing political polarizations and put forth the possibility of another world, having got its attraction from an enormous wealth of action styles and especially “direct democratic” methods of decision-making, is a sample model of social opposition in the new period. However, it is hard to say that the depth of this method could be comprehended thoroughly today in many cities, especially in places other than Gezi Park in Istanbul. Especially it seems typical to manage the situation by applying to pragmatic and temporary alliances instead of developing “direct democracy” methods. So, the Gezi Park Model should be discussed on and disseminated with its whole depth. Again labor arm of the process progresses quite slowly and fragmentally. Internal dynamics of the social opposition also progresses problematically. Instead of trying to overcome at the level of governing forces and fighting continuously with the related conflicts,  one should try to spread and deepen the Gezi Park Model particularly in the base, in localities and work-places.
What are the lessons that the socialist left and the Kurdish Movement need to take from the resistance? 
What happened up to now is the feeling of great masses that creating another platform or another world is possible and testing democratic ways to reach this goal. This is a magnificent gain. It means that masses have felt the possibility of surmounting the existing political polarization. However for the process to acquire more persistent forms, first of all the social opposition needs to face with its basic weaknesses. First of all comes the inability to overcome the polarization between Kemalist nationalist dynamics and the Kurdish Movement. It cannot be expected that these segments could simply come together. It has been strikingly seen that the ability to melt such sensitivities in the same pot opposite to the neoliberal dictatorship is critically important. The basic magic of the Gezi Model is this ability.[4] Still let us imagine for a moment that the Kurdish Movement, PKK, participate actively and extensively and suppose how great results its effects could achieve. Let us conceive what a difference could be brought in the country by a resistance which spreads to all of the Kurdish cities and also including the Kurds in the West. Of course there would come a series of objections about its impossibility and probable negative results. However those who would express those negativities should consider that polarizations among the oppressed could be surmounted in the simplest and the most persistent way through social struggle. Of course this potential would signify a critical lesson and a possibility from the perspective of struggle of all of the oppressed people. And, of course, it would be necessary to review retrospectively ways that have been followed up to now (to pave the way to the future).
It is possible to draw a noticeable series of lessons from this wave of revolt for all arms of the social opposition.
First, it has been seen once more strikingly that the hegemons of the nationalist foci had a rightist mentality, whereas those masses who had nationalist sensitivities, especially the poor and low-middle income groups, had out-of-order reactions. As Dogu Perincek (the leader of Worker’s Party-IP) has fallen into an in-order situation by proposing a “temporary national government” on the basis of “IP-CHP-MHP”[5] coalition to pass through this period; segments who have strong nationalist sensitivity, particularly of CHP basis, who acted together with the left and even with some Kurdish actors in localities, exhibited an out-of-order inclination they really had. As much as the CHP administrative committee had a restrictive attitude respecting the sensitivity of the capitalist segments with “common sense” with a governmental mentality, the CHP base exhibited such radical inclination. It is certain that every arm of the oppositional segments need to act considering this real situation. As these segments cannot be left to right-nationalist or liberal leadership, they cannot also be left to leftist chattering like “join us, we are telling you the right thing to do”. These problems should be met bravely considering mainly the basis movement.
Secondly, the left should adopt an attitude which enables to break down existing clichés in itself. The social dynamism has brought an opportunity for the left to face with its bureaucratic habits which obliged itself to engage to little targets in a restrictive and stereotypical way far from rapacity and inclusiveness. This opportunity requires a radical review of its style, program, organizing and the struggle insight. In this respect, creative action and direct democracy practices (taking decisions via forums, determine group attitudes after actual in-group discussions, etc.) have been manifested by the Gezi Park Model. Furthermore, it was extremely considerable that the Gezi Resistance accomplished to build the pluralism that the left and social opposition could not achieve before, and also it was equally important that the oppressed segments could get into contact with each other in a positive interactive way.
Third, the obligation for the Kurdish National Movement to think over the problems derived from its failure to face with the liberal pressure on itself has come up. As is known, for the time being the Kurdish National Movement follows a policy based on “international opportunities” and bargaining with the hegemons. On the other hand, in Turkey, where the most populous and the most dynamic mass of Kurds live, the Kurdish Movement showed a hesitant, leery and distant attitude towards this historically significant public movement, with the reason that it could harm “the peace building process and expansion that they have been carrying out with AKP”. To me, the movement should not neglect this hesitant attitude, should seriously face with its causes, and should analyze its results and lost opportunities. This cannot be solved solely by correcting tactics. The Kurdish National Movement should draw lessons going on during June and the Gezi Park experience like all of us.
Lastly, notice, the Gezi Park Resistance (or the June Revolt) transformed into what a magnificent mass outburst as a basis movement by going beyond all of the political actors, how it has debilitated the power forces, and how it raised to consciousness its potential to become an alternative power. Evidently as everything complements each other here, it should also be noted that the way of struggle being a “civil resistance” in a form of “civil disobedience” had a limited degree of violence and developed using legitimate defense methods. This resistance pattern is specific to current reconstruction phase of class movement. The power which has been militarized enormously has become helpless against such a rightful and legitimate action. It should be considered once more how effective results this legitimate-militant way created in various countries being civil disobedience forms developed in accordance with current international and national power-opposition balances and being specific to new class movement. As the militant struggle had a role of opening the way in every critical threshold, creative actions supported and contributed by big masses complement each other symbolizing possibility of another world in stagnation periods.
June 15, 2013
Interview: Özay Göztepe

[1] Kemalist nationalism is a term which also includes statism, petit-bourgeois progressiveness in the “folk-Kemalist” understanding. But not in the understanding of hegemons’ Kemalism. Also, “how to understand Kemalism is a big debate going on in the left.
[2] AKP (Justice and Developement Party) is the Islamic party who has the power in Turkey till 2002.
[3] The second biggest sect in Turkey, nearly includes 20 million people who mostly takes oppositional and progressive positions.
[4] While Gezi Park was occupied, there were all parts of the opposition, even some people among fascist masses, a small part of Islamists (anti-capitalist Muslims), and also some organised Kurdish groups also joined the protests but the Kurdish Movement didn’t prefer to enter the protests massively. Nearly, not a protest happened in Kurdish cities.
[5] Worker’s Party is a very small (ex-Maoist) Kemalist nationalist party (they consider themselves in left, but non of the left does consider them in left) which plays an important role in the actions of radical Kemalist nationalists; CHP is a social democrat, Kemalist mass party and the main opposition party which got % 26 in the national elections; MHP is the basic fascist party which got % 12 in the national elections.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Lorenzo Raymond: Pacifism and the Coma of Occupy


(an informed polemic from an OWS veteran)
Be true to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age. It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’
-Emerson, “Heroism” (1841)
Watching the heart wrenching scenes of resistance, repression, and mass rebellion in both Turkey and Brazil this month is a bittersweet, and in some ways shameful, experience.  For an American, it can only bring to mind the Occupy moment of two years ago – the moment that was torn away from us, and that we failed to muster any similar courage to defend.
In Turkey, a comfortable and industrialized country like our own, the protesters’ winning efforts have ranged from sit-ins, to street fighting, to blissfully daring tactics like commandeering mechanical diggers to overpower police vehicles.1 This is the epitome of a diversity of tactics that goes beyond dogmatic nonviolence.
Diversity of tactics was a founding principle of Occupy Wall Street, which was one of the things that set the movement apart from the established political party/NGO left. 2 To be sure, the principle was controversial around the camp, but that was because many occupiers were confused about the history of the anti-authoritarian wave that was sweeping the globe in 2011.  A host of pundits had told them that the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships were accomplished without substantialcivilian violence: “…Hosni Mubarak took such great pains to use armed thugs to try to provoke the Egyptian demonstrators into using violence…” wrote Erica Chenoweth in a typical New York Times op-ed.  “Mr. Mubarak failed.”  (Adbuster’s originally promoted OWS as America’s “Tahrir moment”)
Mubarak’s real failure, of course, was underestimating how ferocious the masses could be.  On January 25, the first day of the revolution, the Guardian reported “thousands [in] running battles with armed police…”  Street fighting was kicked off by gangs of soccer fans, known as “Ultras” (similar groups play a crucial role in the Turkish rebellion today).  It soon spread throughout much of the population:“There were a great number of women that were on the front line hurling stones at the police and pro-Mubarak thugs,” Egyptian feminist Sama El Tarzi told Al Jazeera. 4
Little by little, more and more occupiers became aware of this history of resistance, and they also noticed that it was the most militant encampments that were advancing the movement.  Occupy Oakland embraced diversity of tactics the most ardently, and simultaneously it re-introduced the weapon of the general strike (familiar in other countries, but anathema to the timid American left) for the first time in decades.
As the concept gained ground across the country, due both to education and activists’ own experiences with the limits of nonviolence (some encampments like Occupy Albany were cozy with the police, but the cops still ended up pepper-spraying them out of their park like all the rest), pacifying left media figures vilified the militants and re-instituted a culture of doctrinaire nonviolence – although one now haunted by a bad conscience.  Some of these left celebrities were well-intentioned people whose passion for change had been perverted by cowardice and privilege; others were authoritarian socialists – or in the case of Derrick Jensen, authoritarian environmentalists – who would rather see working people run circles in helplessness than break free without the leadership of a bureaucratic vanguard.
The most notorious of these neo-pacifists, of course, is Chris Hedges, with his “Cancer in Occupy” libels. David Graeber, in his new book The Democracy Project, makes short work of Hedges so I won’t even bother with him. 5 Instead I’d like to examine a few arguments from established left figures who retain greater vestiges of credibility, and whose influence is therefore more insidious.
The tendency I’m dubbing “neo-pacifist” here is marked by token statements that force is appropriate…at some place and time far, far from the here and now  (similar to a liberal’s attitude towards socialism, really).  One of the more lengthy neo-pacifist arguments last year came from Michael Albert, co-founder of Znet and Z  Magazine.  “Sometimes self defense is essential,” Albert wrote, “Sometimes even aggression is desirable. But for the most part, and certainly in the large, violence is the turf of the status quo, not of change, and certainly not of a new world.”  Albert then claimed some unspecified critical mass of people would have to be achieved before a movement deviated from strict Gandhism – ignoring the fact that Occupy had already drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets (as we will see below, the civil rights movement was no larger when it made use of violence).  Needless to say, tactics endlessly deferred are tactics endlessly denied; and the strange migration of self-defense from “essential” to “certainly not of a new world” in Albert’s statement reveals his position as self-negating sophistry.
A larger problem with neo-pacifist arguments is that they distort history in ways that are genuinely Orwellian.  For instance, Albert presented the World Trade Organization shutdown of 1999 as an example of nonviolent victory undermined (almost!) by rabble militancy: “The anti-corporate globalization uprising that took place in Seattle, Washington, in the U.S. – which is just one among a great many similar cases – had, before any trashing occurred, already hamstrung the WTO.” 6
But the reality is the black bloc-ers got up just as early as the blockaders did on the day the WTO was crippled.   At 8:45am, “About 20 protesters dressed in black throw eight metal newspaper boxes into 5th Avenue, but are chased away by other protesters,” – so reads the University of Washington’s WTO History Project Timeline for November 30, 1999  7 (The Seattle City Council’s timeline puts “Crowd breaking Niketown windows” even earlier, at 8:04am).  By late morning, protesters had not only shattered windows at Bank of America and a dozen other commercial locations, they had thrown “cans, bottles, and barricades at the police.”  Then and only then did the WTO cancel its opening ceremony at noon, and the Secret Service sequester Secretary of State Albright in her hotel.
The left media largely relies on David Solnit of the Direct Action Network for their understanding of Seattle.  Solnit too is fond of denigrating the smashy kids, 8 but in unguarded moments he’s admitted that DAN had no confidence that nonviolence alone – even nonviolence involving thousands of people – would shut down the meeting:
“I think we were all surprised when we completely disrupted them and shut them down to the point where they couldn’t even have their opening ceremonies, and when that happened all day, most of us thought that we would disrupt them in the morning and the police would start regaining control in the late morning…” [“David Solnit interviewed by Jeremy Simer, March 23, 2000”  WTO History Project, University of Washington]  9
The reason why the police couldn’t regain control until the morning of the next day – and the reason a state of emergency was declared which made the WTO protests a prime-time story – was precisely because of the chaotic rebellion that Solnit and Albert are so eager to demonize.
A secondary complaint of both men is that the rioting distracted from the real issues.  There are at least two peer-reviewed studies – Deluca and Peeples 2002, 10 and Owens and Palmer 2003 11 – that say the complete opposite.  The former concluded that, “In Seattle…symbolic violence and uncivil disobedience in concert produced compelling images that functioned as the dramatic leads for substantive discussions of the issues provoking the protests… On NBC, for example, dramatic images of violence yielded to a female protester declaring, ‘We’re just normal people who are tired of the exploitation of the multi-national corporations throughout the world.’”  And Albert’s contention that the spectacular coverage “replaced substance about globalization with an endless litany of noise” is really bizarre; Z Magazine expended thousands of words at the time documenting the lack of substantial mainstream commentary about globalization until the riot.
While Seattle benefitted from a de facto diversity of tactics, Occupy in its earliest days benefitted from having them de jure.  The founding guidelines of the Direct Action Working Group of Occupy Wall Street stated “We respect a diversity of tactics, but consider how our actions may affect the entire group.”  As Nathan Schneider noted in The Nation, this flexibility led directly to spontaneous confrontations that brought OWS global attention.  “The two incidents of police excess that catapulted the movement into the mainstream—the pepper-spraying of young women and the mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge—both happened after protesters moved from the sidewalk to the road during marches, improvising…The NYPD, caught unprepared, overreacted in front of cameras, and public sympathy flooded to the protesters”
There was a lot of improvising – and a fair amount of aggression – in those heady September days before Big Labor and the left celebs started piggybacking in the wake of the headlines.  In the minutes leading up to the great pepper-spray massacre, I recall seeing 19-year old Brandon Watts scuffling with the cops.  Brandon was later famously bloodied by the police the week of the Zuccotti Park eviction.  He was charged with assault – throwing batteries at them to be exact. 12 Watts was generally agreed to be a loose cannon by occupiers, but then again, he’s also generally agreed to be the first kid to “face the cops down” and assert his right to put up a tent.  “After that, tents started popping up everywhere,” one occupier told the New York Daily News.  “That kid was a fighter.”  13 Some considered him crazy, some considered him a hero, but either way, we needed people like that.  If there were a few more fighters, the movement might be, well, moving – instead it’s in traction.  Projects like Occupy Sandy are admirable, but they look an awful lot like America before the rupture of 2011.  Eight years ago, the Common Ground Collective of New Orleans fostered an impressive amount mutual aid as well – but it wasn’t the beginning of an insurrection, just the beginning of a non-profit corporation (albeit one better than average).  And let’s not mince words: insurrection is what this rotten country desperately, desperately needs.
If one studies the history of American social movements with open eyes, it becomes clear that it’s always been this way.  In 1962, the civil rights movement was at a low-ebb; Martin Luther King’s star in particular was fading, 14 so the Southern Christian Leadership Conference decided to go into Birmingham in 1963 looking for confrontation as well as nonviolent witness.  King’s chief of staff, Wyatt Tee Walker developed a strategy that relied on the rowdiness of black “onlookers” to their demonstrations – that is, angry people who hadn’t been trained in, nor agreed to, nonviolence. 15 Even as the iconic pictures of crowds bombarded with fire hoses were being taken, Life magazine photographer Charles Moore was injured by a brick thrown by a protester, intended for a fireman.16  “A duel of rocks and fire hoses escalated” through the second week of May until Birmingham’s elite agreed to negotiations with King. 17 The Ku Klux Klan then bombed the movement’s local headquarters, and in retaliation 2,500 blacks rioted and burned a nine-block area of the city. 18 White House tapesshow this to be the direct impetus for Kennedy’s belated backing of civil rights legislation.  19“President Kennedy feared that black Southerners might become ‘uncontrollable’ if reforms were not negotiated,” writes award-winning historian Timothy Tyson.  “It was one of the enduring ironies of the civil rights movement that the threat of violence was so critical to the success of nonviolence.” 20
“Predominantly nonviolent” is a phrase that appears over and over again in the movement case studies put forward by pacifist theorist Gene Sharp (including his whitewashed history of the Black Freedom Movement). 21 It’s clear on inspection, however, that “predominantly nonviolent” is just another way of saying “partly violent” – a part that’s usually indispensable.  From Birmingham, to Seattle, to Turkey, toBrazil, any autonomous movement that hopes to seize and hold public space – and seize and hold the public imagination – must manifest a diversity of tactics.
by Lorenzo Raymond
1. Jacob Resneck, “Demonstrations rock Istanbul”, June 3, 2013 –
2. Nathan Schneider, The Nation, April 20, 2012 –
4. Fatma Naib, “Women of the Revolution” Al Jazeera, Feb 19, 2011 –
5.  David Graeber, “Ask me anything chat”, Jan 28, 2013
6.  Michael Albert, “Violence Begets Defeat or Too Much Pacifism?” Znet, Feb 10, 2012 –
7. “Day 2- November 30, 1999” WTO History Project, University of Washington –
8. David Solnit, “Seattle WTO Shutdown to Occupy” The Indypendent, December 5, 2011 –
9.  “David Solnit interviewed by Jeremy Simer, March 23, 2000”  WTO History Project, University of Washington –
10. Kevin Michael Deluca and Jennifer Peeples, “From Public Sphere to Public Screen”  Critical Studies in Media Communication Volume 19,  Number 2, June 2002, pp. 125-151 –
11.  Lynn Owens and L. Kendall Palmer, “Making the News: Anarchists Counter-Public Relations on the World Wide Web”  Critical Studies in Media Communication Vol. 20, No. 4, December 2003 pp. 335 – 361 –
12. Jillian Dunham, “A Protester’s Uneasy Presence at Occupy Wall Street” New  York Times, City Roomblog, December 2, 2011 –
13. Joe Kemp, et al, “Protester Brandon Watts, who was first to pitch a tent at Zuccotti Park, is now the bloody face of ‘Day of Action’” New York Daily News, November 18, 2011 –
14.  “The Limits of Nonviolence”, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Era 1954-1985 website –
16. David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Harper Collins, 2004), p239 –
17. Foster Hailey, “Dogs and Hoses Repulse Negroes at Birmingham” New York Times, May 4, 1963
19. Glenn T. Eskew, But for Birmingham: The Local and National Struggles in the Civil Rights Movement(University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p301 –
21.  Timothy B. Tyson, “Civil Rights Movement” in The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature, eds. William L. Andrews, et al (Oxford University Press, 1996), p149 –
22.  Glenn T. Eskew, “Filling the Jail in Birmingham” Nonviolent Sanctions Vol. 5, nos. 2 & 3, Fall 1993/Winter 1994 .  Note that in this account of the Birmingham campaign, published in Gene Sharp’s newsletter, all mention of rioting is suppressed, even though it’s written by a historian who had considered the rioting significant in his other scholarship on the campaign.  (compare with note 19 for instance)

Korkut Boratav: A Matured Class Based Contumacy

The class composition, appearance, causes and possible outcomes of Gezi Revolt; institutionalization of resistance; we talked with Prof.Dr Korkut Boratav about the lessons that the socialist left and Kurdish movement has to deduct from the resistance itself. The resistance erupted after the assault on Gezi Park seems like a middle-class rebellion instead of a total class counter-action. What could you say about the causes and consequences about this aspect?
Korkut Boratav: If we to see this in a Marxist perspective, the term of middle-classes have to be approached with cautions. Be careful, I say “term” not “concept”; hence the definition of “middle-classes” is arduous if we use the “concept” within the American Political Science Tradition. Then we would have to express that the definition would be comprised from two words that do not have the capacity in order to be defined as a “concept”.
Then, we should focus on the class composition of the Gezi Resistance in order to pin-point what is the quality of the participants’ of this revolt that depicts it as a “middle-class spectacle”.
First of all an externalization is on-going and it is asserted that neither the individual workers nor workers-as-a-class are within the ranks of the resistance. It is true that the working-class had not joined the resistance with their organizations and programs, but if what is meant is that the absence of the working-class elements in total; I think that the objective justifications of this assertion has not been seriously considered? Which elements were absent? People living in relatively more out-classed neighborhoods? Blue-collar workers of industrial sector? White or blue collared wage workers without a university degree? Students as a group that is been assumed having roots in families within the relatively higher levels of society?
If there is anyone still insisting that “these groups are not participating”, following an exact opposite approach, we can begin discussing from, albeit it would not be beneficial; Ethem Sarısülük, an OSTIM[2] worker, who killed by a police bullet in Ankara with the social profiles of other victims or the football “supporter groups”, those in the forerunners of resistance, and their class compositions. Would it really plausible that the progressive, secular, left-wing and democrat elements within the traditional working-class have opted-out from the revolt which had begun with the Taksim Resistance in the first place?
On the other hand we have to accept that the majority of the people engaged in the resistance have some common social characteristics. Let us try to depict these characteristics by through the overpowering of the label “middle-classes”.
Once, important part of the participants in the revolt comprises from university and high-schools students. For them the label of “middle-class” is meaningless. We ought to talk no further if we do not know anything about their class roots (social profile of their parents). But, we must point that; the objective configuration of the students, in the broadest of aspects, is a belonging to the working-class as a potential. Their schools are training them to become a component of qualified elements in the supply of workforce in the near future. Also, capitalism offers them unemployment. Hence in the first stage they will be admitted to the army of reserved workforce and with their objective configuration they will become elements of the working-class in its broadest understanding.
Derivatives of university students (to define them like this) whom graduated ten years ago are within the thronged ranks of resistance: Defined with their Undergraduate (and beyond) degrees; these qualified workers, with their qualified labor characteristics, are placed amidst the complex sector of “services” as wage-laborers… Unemployed sections of these people do not lose their status as “wage-laborers”.
When it comes to unqualified sections of the “service” sector; it is a known fact that within these wage-laborers, number of individuals with a university degree have been multiplying. Thus the toils, works of these elements have begun to be aligned with new terminologies that are suitable with the position of “white collar” workers (and [whilst] aiming a separation from the working-class). They have been promoted to the positions of Salesclerks, caretakers, secretaries, “office, sales, security personnel and staff members”; hence day-by-day larger segments ending up with university degrees.
The productiveness of their branches of activity – and the appendages of the “services” sector – of the above mentioned sector and their direct labor does not alter our point of discussion. As wage- laborers; they either create surplus-value straightforwardly for their employers or engaging in a labor activity that enables their employers to reach, expropriate surplus-values deriving or transferred from different business sectors. And, in the broadest sense, they are the elements of real or reserve labor armies. In short, objectively in today’s conditions, their existence spontaneously belongs to the working-class whilst composing the important proportion, in quantity, of the class.
We have to encounter another important stratum that has been squeezed into the bloc of “middle-classes”:Independent professional groups that do not sell their qualities deriving from their education directly to employers but to their “clients” in order to make a living such as; doctors, lawyers, consultants, engineers, architect and accountants. This stratum depicts similarities in quality, ideology, value-systems and living choices with the above mentioned segments (educated, white collared workers); yet their class differences becomes stark when it is think within relations of production.
Is there another possibility of a class-relation apart from this?
If not hiring workers above limited thresholds, not elevating to corporations; elements of this stratum can be accepted as petit-bourgeois. According to this, peasants, craftsmen and independent/professional segments; owning the means of production (land, ateliers, tools/implements and specific instruments for specific occupations) and earning their livings basically through their own (or through the toils of their families) labor, generates the petit bourgeois. Their common characteristics could be formulated as being external to the two main classes that formulates the determined antagonism of capitalism (working-class and capitalists) and their indeterminate attitudes within class struggles.
Nevertheless, professional groups became differed from productive petit-bourgeois qualitatively. Their direct positions within the social division of labor cannot to position within capitalist relations or in simple commodity production. Their wages depends on selling their services. The service being sold could be taken as “productive” if it belongs to professions such as doctors, engineers, teachers; but in this instance the priority of the antagonism of distribution for the production of small-scale commodity (between the direct producer and commercial/financial capital) does not hold prominence or validity. The unproductive services encompassing lawyers, accountants and consultants requires funding (surplus) from the other –productive – sectors of the economy. In both cases the source of income lies a real faculty, dexterity or –pending on a license or certificate allowing activity – an artificially created penury annuity emanating from education and experience.
Hence, significance of independent professionals, deriving from these characteristics, together with their important influences upon the superstructure spatiality (politics, ideology, culture, legal system); it would be apt to consider them external to the small-scale producers within the bloc of the exploited direct producers. Also they do not belong to the position of qualified wage-labor (objectively the position of the working-class) within capitalist relations. According to the traditional Marxist class theory; the sole member of the middle-classescould only be independent professionals.
We know that, there had been participation that cannot be underestimated from independent professionals, for example from doctors and lawyers. Apart from the representations of profession within the resistance; the political attitudes of professionals and qualified workers had ran parallel courses. But, social division of labor and the differentiation in the labor process could possibly end up in separations. For example, the search for stability of the latter, hence their compromising attitudes, could be unearthed sooner than the former. Still, the widest autonomy belongs to the students and unemployed.
Is there a class confrontation in the Gezi Resistance?
When we looked at the triggering incident, the start of the Taksim project, I think, there is a matured class reaction: Highly qualified and educated workers, together with their future class comrades (students), with the inclusion of professionals; confronting the attempt of expropriating of the huge city annuity by the pick pocketing bourgeois and political power unified with it.
This is a matured class-based rebellion against this plundering capitalism. It is class oriented hence; it is against the bourgeois and its State apparatus, the resistance is a collective act by individuals not in a unity of predestination with the system but who are in a dis-unity of predestination with the State and bourgeoisie. Also it is a matured class-based action hence; there is not a present, short-termed and direct antagonism in distribution with bourgeois and the State. The prime minister also askes in daze “Which one of you the Taksim Project hurt? Why are you opposing it?”
It is true, that the opening of the centre of Istanbul to exploitation and plundering does not have negative effects on the incomes, wages, working conditions of the people who are trying to resist; or it does not increase their rents, student loan paybacks, fuel prices or the inflation in general. There is no operation that seeks to increase the rate of exploitation or the extraction of surplus-value. What is being done is; the giving away of the commonwealth of the present society, which has bequeathed from past generations, by the political power to the pickpocketing bourgeoisie. People resisting today are resisting against the transformation of their collective property, which has been left by the past generations to present society, into bourgeois private property. When they look at the prime minister they see this; and it is because of this comprehension they react. Within this context; this is a matured class reaction in a superior level of understanding.
I think the maturity of a class reaction is revealed, also, in the rapid and spontaneous transformation of the movement into a political line. I think this line could be defined with its enlightening and unlimited (direct) democratic characteristics. The entrapments of parliamentary democracy have been detected: It has been transmuted into a political power of pickpocketing bourgeois and a regime of Islamic fascists. The solution;“everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance…”. This is the call for the historic yearning of the working-class; the call of direct democracy.
Great revolutionary Mao Zedong says: “There is turbulence (chaos) in the word, the situation is very good…”. Students, intellectuals, workers, mental laborers in Taksim gave us this turbulence as a present. Of course they will be defeated in the end; but the “universal” law of the dialectic will carry on no matter what: It will function while elevating Turkey unto a higher level and bestowing an important gift to the history of social struggles…
What is ought to be done in order for the institutionalization of this resistance and creating a dual political power?
It is important to be careful with the historical analogies. We should not be in haste.
What are the lessons socialist left and the Kurdish Movement has to deduce from this resistance?
Korkut Boratav: I hope that the socialist left has learned to make peace with facts and phenomenon of theTurkish Republic, the gains of the Republic, and with their symbols.
I hope that; Kurdish Movement on the other hand, to explain with an old Turkish proverb, has learned that “who sleeps with the blind, wakes up squint-eyed”: It is an impossibility to reach democracy and freedom compromising with Islamic fascism.
The movement of resistance, I hope, has showed the Kurdish Movement its natural ally. The opposite of this observation is also valid; but I think the responsibilities of the Kurds are heavier.
Interview: Özay Göztepe
[1] Korkut Boratav (born 1935) is a Turkish Marxian economist. Boratav was born in Konya. After his graduation from Ankara Gazi Lycee in 1955, he continued his studies at Ankara University, Law School. In 1960 he became a lecturer and researcher in that university in Finance and Economics, by getting a postgraduate degree on Public Finances. He was granted a doctoral degree in 1964 with his thesis about “income distribution and public finance”. He taught at Cambridge University between 1964 and 1966. In 1972 he was granted an assistant professorship at Ankara University for his thesis on “Progress of the Socialist Planned Economy”. In 1975, he worked as a specialist in the Health and Welfare Department of the United Nations Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland. In early 1980, he became a professor at Ankara University. But after three years, he was dismissed from his position after the “1402″ law put into effect by the Military coup of 1980 in Turkey. He then taught at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare from 1984–1986 and thereafter returned to his previous position at Ankara University. He has retired from teaching since 2002.[1] He was honored in 2005 by a conference about his work, organized by Ankara University and History Foundation of Turkey. He continues to publish as one of the most influential scholars of Turkish economy and economic history. Boratav is a member of the Advisory Board of Praksis, a Turkish journal of social sciences.
[2] An organized industrial district in Turkey’s Capital Ankara. Officially it comprises 139 branches within 17 different sectors; from electronics to packaging, from furniture to production of machinery . But a place, nevertheless, with full of precarious workers in bad to worse working conditions under full-fledged capitalist exploitation.