ROAR Magazine

Bookchin-Öcalan correspondence published for the first time

The Bookchin – Öcalan correspondence has been published as part of a long read exploring the ways in which the Kurds were inspired by Bookchin’s ideas to continue their struggle for freedom and democracy. The article was written by Akbar Shahid Ahmed and posted on the Huffington Post’s blog. What follows is a short excerpt of the article. The links to the documents containing the correspondence can be found in the article, or by directly clicking this link.

In prison, Ocalan dove into radical, post-communist literature, looking for a new way forward. A famously voracious reader whose book selections were regularly leaked in the Turkish and Kurdish press, he began to devour Murray Bookchin. By 2004, Heider and others advocating for Ocalan’s cause felt the time had come to connect him with the aging Vermonter. Establishing some form of dialogue was critical to them, Heider told HuffPost, because conservatives in Kurdish circles were pushing for the movement to completely abandon leftist thought.

They wrote to Biehl.

On April 11, five days after he received Ocalan’s missive, Bookchin wrote back with Biehl’s help.

Then 83, Bookchin had long been curious about the Kurds and written about their struggle in his personal journals, his daughter said. He told Ocalan he wasn’t familiar with all aspects of the PKK’s fight — he blamed the U.S.’s “parochial press” — and he was so old that writing was a struggle, but he was happy to be in touch.

“I am a walking history of the twentieth century in my own way and have always tried to look beyond ideas that people freeze into dogmas,” Bookchin wrote to Ocalan. “I ask you to please be patient with an old radical.”

The existence of Bookchin’s correspondence with Ocalan has been previously reported, but HuffPost obtained the full cache of preserved documents and is publishing them for the first time with permission from the Murray Bookchin Trust, Biehl and Heider. (None of those sources had the initial message from Heider and Oliver Kontny, another Ocalan advocate.)

Read the full article here.

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Unist’ot’en: Unsurrendered

Down a logging road in northern British Columbia, signs of modern life slowly disappear. Blue, snow-capped mountains fill the landscape, their yellowed forests bearing the scars of clear-cutting and the ravenous pine beetle, while the road begins to mimic the path of a river.

Forty miles into the wilderness, visitors reach a bridge checkpoint: an entrance into Unist’ot’en territory. A young man in thick winter gear walks across a bridge to meet them. He asks for names. The volunteer communicates by radio to the clan’s spokesperson, who arrives shortly and takes visitors through a protocol used by generations of indigenous peoples to determine entry onto their lands.

There is a series of questions:

“What’s your name?”

“Do you work for industry or government that’s destroying our land?”

“What skills do you bring here?”

“How long do you plan to stay?”

“How will your visit benefit the Unist’ot’en?”

Freda Huson then steps away and softly radios across the camp. Volunteers emerge to remove the heavy wooden barricades at both ends of the bridge and allow passage onto the Unist’ot’en land.

This clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation has occupied its traditional territory here for more than five years, a response to a proposed network of pipelines full of crude oil and fracked natural gas that will cross this landscape from the energy nexus in Alberta to the West Coast. Plans for Chevron’s nearly 300-mile Pacific Trail natural gas pipeline, the double-barreled, about 725-mile Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline, and TransCanada’s more than 400-mile Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, extending across western Canada and destined for Asian markets, have created deep tension between industry and resistant First Nations clans like the Unist’ot’en.

Despite a series of cases in the Canadian courts upholding the sovereignty of unceded indigenous lands, the Unist’ot’en have turned away a steady flow of police and industry officials at the clan’s bridge checkpoint and confronted others entering remote areas of the territory by helicopter.

Threats from the energy industry and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police rest on an ambiguous interpretation of Aboriginal law. But defenders at the Unist’ot’en Camp see no such ambiguity. Within the traditional laws passed down through their elders, defense of the land is an imperative.

Huson, chosen as spokesperson by the chiefs of her clan, leads the struggle at the frontlines. She makes no decisions without the consent of her chiefs, driven by an ultimate truth: Her ancestors are still present on that land, still guiding her and her people and allowing her to reconnect with the land and reinforce a relationship that sustained indigenous populations for thousands of years.

We highly encourage you to continue reading this important report by Tony Manno at YES! Magazine’s website.

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Rebel Geeks: Hacking Madrid

Pablo Soto, former software developer, activist and recently elected councilor for Participation and Transparency in Madrid’s radical new administration, is trying to build the technology for a direct democracy, allowing citizens to propose and elect their own laws. Together with colleague and fellow democracy activist Miguel Arana, Soto is working on a website that will allow the people of Spain’s capital city to suggest, select and vote on new policies directly.

“Everything that’s happening now can be understood as part of a huge change that started in Spain four years ago”, Soto explains, referring to the 15M or  “indignados” movement that began in 2011. “We didn’t come here to play the game of the parties. We came here to play the game of the people.”

But are the people ready? And can Miguel and Pablo get enough participation to keep the project alive – and protect it from political opposition and media oblivion?

Hacking Madrid was directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa, and is part of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Geeks series.

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Biko quote

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

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Another attempt to auction off VIOME was averted

Since November 26, the struggle of the workers of VIOME in Thessaloniki for self-managing the factory they occupy is under threat from an auction process. A judge gave permission in March 2015 to the state-appointed “trustee” of bankrupt FILKERAM, the parent company of VIOME, to proceed with an auction of the movable assets of the company as well as its real estate property, which includes the premises of VIOME.

The workers of VIOME have a long-standing demand towards the authorities to separate the plot of land of VIOME from that of FILKERAM, so the former is expropriated and granted to the workers in order to go on with their successful endeavour in self-managed production of natural detergents, and the latter is liquidated in order to satisfy the creditors of parent company FILKERAM, among them hundreds of workers. Unfortunately, lack of political will on behalf of the executive power and collusion between judicial authorities and business interests have allowed the situation to come to this point.

Today, Thursday December 17, has been the fourth time in 4 weeks that the threat of liquidation was averted. Energetic intervention of the VIOME solidarity movement, as well as the general strike mobilisations, achieved the cancellation of the 3 previous auctions. However, today the solidarity movement arrived at the courthouse to find the corridors of the auction court cordoned off by police in full riot gear. There were moments of tension and insults by the police, as the solidarity movement denounced the illegality of blocking a public auction process and demanded to meet the attorney.

Although the police presence prevented the bulk of the solidarity supporters to approach the site of the auction, the mass mobilization allowed them to negotiate the presence of delegates of the VIOME workers and solidarity members in the auction hall, to ensure that the auction does not involve any of VIOME’s property.

Around 13.00 the auction started and the workers of VIOME made sure that there was no offer for the acquisition of the real estate property, but only of low-value movable assets of parent company FILKERAM, such as chairs, desks and printers. Hundreds of solidarity supporters were standing by along the police lines, ready to react in case there was an attempt to auction off the real estate property. Luckily, they didn’t have to intervene, as the presence of riot police in such a narrow corridor could have had disastrous consequences.

There is one more auction taking place in the new year; if this is cancelled or there is no interested buyer, another court decision is required to lower the starting price. This development would delay the process of liquidation and it would allow the workers of VIOME some breathing space, in order to step up the struggle and demand the cancellation of all auctions and the expropriation of the land of VIOME, so it can be self-managed by workers and society.

With another threat averted, the workers of VIOME can smile again and go back to carrying out their activity. Last week they proudly announced the incorporation of 3 more workers in the cooperative, two chemical engineers and one IT specialist. The process of improving the formulas of the products is accelerated, and the export network of the high quality soap to European countries is constantly expanded.

But the activity of VIOME is not all about production and the subsistence of the workers. In the past month, a warehouse at the VIOME factory has been turned into a point of storage and transshipment of first necessity items (clothes, sanitary items, baby food) gathered by solidarity collectives all over Greece, before they are transported to the Eidomeni border, where the stance of the authorities has created a huge humanitarian crisis, with thousands of refugees trapped in inhuman conditions. The social movements are in the first line of alleviating the suffering of the people fleeing hunger and wars, at the same time that they demand an end to the absurd immigration policies that hold these people hostages. VIOME is an organic part of these efforts and it supports politically all of society’s initiatives to provide solutions to the refugee crisis, such as the occupation of “Orfanotrofeio” an abandoned orphanage that was turned into a self-managed shelter for refugees and migrants by the social movements in the past few weeks in Thessaloniki.

Furthermore, on Sunday, December 20, VIOME in close collaboration with the militant healthcare professionals of Thessaloniki’s Social Solidarity Clinic are inaugurating a “Workers’ Clinic” within the premises of VIOME, specially equipped to provide free primary health care to uninsured workers of the adjacent industrial and commercial areas. The dismantling of public health care by a series of neoliberal governments can thus be confronted through solidarity. The inauguration will be accompanied by a farmers’ market, a folk music concert, and food and wine for everyone present.

This is just another reminder that in this new conception of labour that the network of European recuperated companies in Greece, Italy, Turkey, France, Croatia and Bosnia bring forward, the factory is not a private space to serve the interests of the few at the expense of the many. Rather, it is a vibrant space of encounter and activity for a wider community to meet its needs of food, healthcare, education and socialisation, and to counteract the attack of capital on the popular classes.

The workers and the solidarity assembly of VIOME would like to thank all our brothers and sisters abroad who have expressed their support and solidarity by signing the resolution, protesting at the Greek consulates and embassies, and organising dozens of informative meetings and screenings of the latest documentary on the struggle. United we stand strong, in our fight for a world of justice, freedom and self-determination!

Reposted from Vio.Me’s website.

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On this day in 2010: Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire

Bouazizi was driven to his actions by the continuous harassment and humiliation by local authorities. After one municipal officer and her aides had confiscated his wares, Bouazizi, a young man with a university degree but no job, grew so desperate that he saw no other way out but to resort to the ultimate act of resistance: he sacrificed his own life to demand justice for the ones he left behind.

Rioting and demonstrations followed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, which intensified after his death on 4 January 2011. After ten days, mass demonstrations caused the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali to step down, bringing an abrupt end to his 23 years in power.

Bouazizi’s actions sparked the Tunisian Revolution, which in turn inspired the Arab Spring. One year later, rulers had been ousted from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while civil uprisings had erupted in over a dozen countries.

At the time, these uprisings filled the hearts of millions with hopes for a better future. Today, five years on, the Arab Spring has largely become recognized as a failed revolution that led to the replacement of one dictator with another, caused the eruption of violent conflicts and ignited bloody civil wars that saw fundamentalist organizations gaining strength and establishing their authority.

In spite of this tragic outcome, Mohamed Bouazizi is still widely regarded a hero and symbol of the state oppression that continues to define the everyday experience of so many across the Arab world and beyond.

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Free “Best of Verso 2015” e-book

With contributions from Patrick Cockburn, John Berger, Bernie Sanders, Gabriella Coleman, Shulamith Firestone, Juliet Jacques, Tariq Ali, Pablo Iglesias, and Teju Cole; covering the rise of Islamic State, post-capitalism, transgender politics, disaster capitalism, the Anthropocene, and lots more.

Catch up on the best of Verso’s publishing this year by downloading this free ebook. And don’t forget that all Verso books are 50% off until the end of December, with free shipping (worldwide), and bundled ebooks.


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TalkReal in Madrid: Beyond the Ballot Box

From the indignados and 15M to housing struggles and municipalismo, Spain has been at the forefront of some of the most inspiring and effective social movements of recent years. With citizen-led coalitions now governing in Madrid and Barcelona, many people see the Spanish context as offering a beacon of hope in a climate of fear and political nihilism.

As the country heads to the polls on #20D in one of the most unpredictable elections since many years, the capacity for upstart parties and movements to grow further will be affected by the results. But how exactly is the health of Spain’s creative grassroots related to what happens in parliament? And how important is Podemos’ performance in the elections to the future of progressive politics in the country?

In our latest English language episode, filmed in the studios of La Tuerka, we discuss these questions and more with Juan Luis Sánchez (, Carlos Delclos (ROAR Magazine), Ana Méndez and Mario Munero (City of Madrid).

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South Africa’s anarchist hip hop collective

This article was re-posted from Africa Is A Country, and was written by Christine Hogg.

That injunction dates back to hip hop’s origins in New York City. At street parties in the South Bronx in the 1970s, sound equipment was often wired up to park lampposts. Hip hop’s origins were strictly DIY and, most importantly, a direct reaction to the structural marginalization of communities and the racism of the mainstream media. SOS are carrying on that initial spirit through hip hop activism that is relevant to their own struggles.

As a collective of both activists and artists they are committed to decentralization, direct action, autonomy and self-reliance. Like anarchist thinkers Emma Goldman or Mikhail Bakunin, they believe that hierarchies corrupt and only horizontal organisation can eliminate inequality. Besides recording albums, SOS hosts regular meetings and “critical” documentary screenings, weekly slam sessions, organize protests and discussions, attend regular conferences and have set up campaigns such as “Don’t Vote! Organise!” or initiatives to save Philippi High (a school on Cape Town’s Cape Flats). They also started the Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan, an annual series of events (this is the third edition) currently taking place through the end of December.

A recent track was directly inspired by the collective’s involvement in the #FeesMustFall student protests.

Continue reading this article at Africa Is A Country

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Can they? Reflections on Podemos

‘I have defeat tattooed in my DNA,’ Pablo Iglesias said in a debate on television last year, a month after announcing the formation of a new political entity called Podemos. ‘My great-uncle was shot dead. My grandfather was given the death sentence and spent five years in jail. My grandmothers suffered the humiliation of those defeated in the Civil War. My father was put in jail. My mother was politically active in the underground. It bothers me enormously to lose, I can’t stand it. And I’ve spent many years, with some friends, devoting almost all of our political activity to thinking about how we can win.’

Continue reading Dan Hancox’s review of Politics in a Time of Crisis: Podemos and the Future of a Democratic Europe by Pablo Iglesias in the London Review of Books.

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On this day in 1853: Errico Malatesta was born

Revolution is the creation of new living institutions, new groupings, new social relationships, it is the destruction of of privileges and monopolies; it is the new spirit of justice, of brotherhood, of freedom which must renew the whole social life, the moral level and the material conditions of the masses by calling on them to provide, through their direct and conscious action, for their own future.

Revolution is the organization of all public services by those who work in them in their own interest as well as the public’s.

Revolution is the destruction of all coercive ties; it is the autonomy of groups, of communes, of regions.

Revolution is the free federation brought about by a desire for brotherhood, by individual and collective interests, by the needs of production and defence.

Revolution is the constitution of innumerable free groupings based on idea, wishes, and tastes of all kinds that exist among the people.

Revolution is the forming and disbanding of thousands of representative, district, communal, regional, national bodies which, without having any legislative power, serve to make known and to coordinate the desires and interests of people near and far and which act through information, advice and example.

Revolution is freedom proved in the crucible of facts — and lasts so long as freedom lasts, that is until others, taking advantage of the weariness that overtakes the masses, of the inevitable disappointments that follow exaggerated hopes, of the probable errors and human faults, succeed in constituting a power, which supported by an army of conscripts or mercenaries, lays down the law, arrests the movement at the point it has reached, and then begins the reaction.

– Errico Malatesta

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Benedict Anderson dies at 79

Anderson (1936) was widely known for his book Imagined Communities, first published in 1983. In it, he argued that the rise of modern nationalism was inherently linked with language and literacy.

In an announcement of Anderson’s death on Verso’s website, Tariq Ali writes:

Ben died peacefully in his sleep last night, in Java, a part of the world to which he had devoted much of his adult life, which he loved and where he had a huge number of admirers and a collection of very old and close friends.

During the last few weeks we had been in regular communication with him, finalizing his memoir, A Life Beyond Boundaries, that was first published in Japan in response to insistent demands from Japanese scholars who wished to know more about his life and intellectual trajectory. Over the coming weeks, much will be written about him as the shock of his death reverberates in different parts of the globe. Our condolences to his family for whom, we know, the loss is immeasurable. A review of Anderson’s books Imagined Communities and Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination by T.J. Clark for the London Review of Books can be read here.

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One in five US adults live in or near poverty

One in five US adults now lives in households either in poverty or on the cusp of poverty, with almost 5.7m having joined the country’s lowest income ranks since the global financial crisis.

Many of the new poor, or near-poor, have become so even amid an economic recovery that is widely expected to lead the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week for the first time in almost a decade. More than 45 per cent of them — almost 2.5m adults — have joined the lowest income ranks since 2011, long after the post-crisis recession was ostensibly over.

The findings, contained in data prepared for a new study of the US middle class by the Pew Research Center and shared with the Financial Times, put a stark human face on the economic legacy left by the crisis and reveal how uneven the recovery has been.

Read more in the Financial Times.


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In pictures: destruction in Kurdish town under curfew

For nine days, the historical district of Sur, in the old town of Diyarbakir was sealed off from the outside world. While a curfew was in place, special police forces attacked the neighborhood with heavy artillery, causing major damage to houses, historical buildings and local infrastructure. For months, local militant youth of the PKK-linked YDG-H have been waging an armed resistance struggle against the violence and oppression of the state in the Kurdish regions.

On Friday afternoon, the curfew in Sur was lifted, leading to hundreds of residents packing their things and leave their homes, while a few journalists and activists had the chance to enter the area and document the destruction. A few hours later, the curfew was reimposed, with many locals fearing more clashes and attacks by the police.

Photos by Ilyas Akengin.

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‘Hope is a Promise’: Twitter Q&A on Podemos

Upon invitation of Zed Books, ROAR editor Carlos Delclós “sat down” with Dan Hancox for a Twitter conversation about Podemos, the Spanish elections, the role of the movements and more. The result is a great, interactive debate that can now be read in full on Storify:

Hope is a Promise by Carlos Delclós is now available as e-book: [View the story “Hope is a Promise” on Storify]

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TalkReal in Vienna: Towards a Plan ‘D’ for Democracy in Europe

For years we have been told ‘There is No Alternative’, that the status quo is both healthy and here to stay. But as neoliberal institutions struggle to contain a complex and multi-headed crisis it is clearer than ever that radical change represents our only chance of a better future.

In this episode of TalkReal we debate with Walter Baier  (Coordinator of Transform), Katerina Anastasiou (Change4All), Kurto Wendt  (Convoy Refugee) and Alexandra Strickner (ATTAC Austria) about how to go beyond the pessimism that has taken over our contemporary political climate. At the core of this question remains the demand for real democracy – the same issue that fuelled many of the 2011 movements.

While these national initiatives were limited in scale and outcome, they did galvanise the imagination of civil society and, more importantly, demonstrated its capacity to organise outside of incumbent institutions. Today, as right-wing populisms leech on peoples’ fear, such experiments should not be seen as a failure but as blueprints for an alternative: a coordinated and international demand for democracy.

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Teju Cole: “Trump is dangerous clown, but…”

Some important reflections shared by Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian Teju Cole on his Facebook page:

Trump is a dangerous clown, and we must continue to strongly oppose him and his hateful crowds.

But it is important to understand that his idea of “banning all Muslims,” scandalous as it is (intentionally scandalous, because he is of course doing it for media attention), is far less scandalous than the past dozen years of American disregard for non-American Muslim lives.

And that wasn’t Trump.

Trump didn’t murder thousands of innocent people with drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Trump didn’t kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people with bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump didn’t torture people at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the numerous black sites across the planet. Trump’s weapons aren’t incinerating Yemen now, and didn’t blow up Gaza last year.

No American president in the past fourteen years has openly championed Islamophobia, but none has refrained from doing to Muslims overseas what would be unthinkable to do here to Americans of any religion.

This deadly speech we are hearing towards the Muslim members of our family is nothing new: it is a continuation in words of what has been real on the ground for a long time. Our legitimate dismay at Islamophobic statements must be situated inside this recent history, a history in which a far wider swath of the country than Trump’s base is implicated.

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