25 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Agua mas allá del Estado

Los comités de agua de Bolivia defienden sus formas organizativas horizontales y participativas, frente a un Estado cada vez más centralizado. 

Marcela Olivera

La autonomía y horizontalidad son parte de las formas tradicionales organizativas de los bolivianos.  Juntas constituyen  una manera real, práctica, cotidiana de entender lo público y de vivir la democracia participativa siempre al margen del Estado y de los gobiernos de turno.

Los comités de agua de la zona sud de la ciudad de Cochabamba, la cuarta ciudad más grande de Bolivia, son el epitome de las formas autonómicas y horizontales bolivianas. Esta red todavía activa, se volvió visible después de la ‘guerra del agua’ del 2000, cuando una movilización popular de gran escala detuvo los intentos de privatizar el sistema publico de agua de la ciudad.

Mientras muchos asocian la guerra del agua con la noción de verdadera democracia, esta descripción pudiera poseer una contradicción en si misma:  una guerra –cualquier guerra- implica violencia, pérdida de energía y recursos, muertes, desacuerdo y la democracia (como la conocemos en Occidente), tiene la función de precisamente evitar todo aquello. Pero el conflicto no fue una simple batalla  por la defensa de un recurso. Uno de los principales motivos de tal(es) conflicto(s) fue precisamente la histórica y permanente lucha de las y los bolivianos por defender su derecho a decidir de una manera horizontal y autónoma sobre sus propias necesidades, es decir: su imperiosa y siempre pospuesta necesidad de vivir en verdadera democracia.

20 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Transforming crisis into krisis, pt.4: The challenge of linking struggles on a national and international level

This is the last in a four-part series of articles on austerity in Greece and the response of society. Read part 3 here.

While mass media tirelessly repeat the “there is no alternative” mantra in order to ease the imposition of further neoliberal austerity, southern Europe resists in a surprisingly collectively creative manner towards system change. This creative resistance is the focus of the Festival4sce. Members of the coordination team, active in various initiatives in their respective local areas, all agree that resistance has to be encouraged and strengthened through the participation of larger groups of society.  For Emma -member of the Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD) in Spain-, the one thing that always stands out is “how strong resilience movements are in comparison with movements that work more focused on strategies of political incidence, change and confrontation. There is a tremendous media blockage in "the centre" of what is happening in the European periphery. A painful vast majority of people have not a clue of what is going on in countries like Greece or Spain and this has shocked me profoundly when moving to France. This is a huge challenge we are facing for neoliberalism and austerity has to be confronted on a European scenario. We have to learn how to deal with the different cultural, political and social backgrounds”.

Differences in struggles although remain the main challenge for networking and cooperation among them. As Jeza -member of 15M International- sees it, in Greece “there are many different initiatives and different ways of working. Social clinics that serve uninsured people (one third of the population) are an example of citizen self-organization to solve a problem or to alleviate a situation. Many countries do not know what the situation is in Greece. That clash with the reality of a humanitarian catastrophe can help put them in context: this is also Europe. The Greek initiatives are fighting in very adverse conditions, what often leaves them little time to work on networking and communication. The initiatives of other countries working on safer ground can provide much there, ideas and developments that are not possible at the time being in Greece”. Emma though, sees differences regarding methodologies and practices: “Social movements in Spain have developed and shared with each other practices and knowledge that have become widespread throughout our movements. This makes collaboration between collectives and nodes very effective and smooth. We are highly networked movements and this is a big difference with Greece. On the other hand, we do have very similar political approaches regarding maturity and understanding of the situation Europe is in. This is the feeling I get when I compare my experiences of collaboration with central and northern European countries. But of course, we have been hit first...”

14 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Transforming crisis into krisis, pt.3: Giving birth to the #Festival4sce: Another world is not only possible but already exists!

This is the third in a four-part series of articles on austerity in Greece and the response of society. Read part 2 here.

During the Syntagma Square occupation, in various citizen assemblies and working groups, the organisation of an event that would foster communication, cooperation and networking in a practical way amongst the various alternative initiatives scattered all over the country, was repetitively discussed. One year later, in October 2012, members of various initiatives and collectives[1] such as the Athens Time Bank-Syntagma Square, Kafeneio Akadimias Platonos, the collective Nea Guinea, the eco-community project Spithari-Waking Life, the Votsalo network amongst others, put in action this idea by organising the so called Festival for Solidarity and Cooperative Economy (#Festival4sce): more than 200 citizen initiatives from all over Greece participated and  organised practical workshops, discussions, presentations and collective events, thus giving the opportunity to visitors to discover another world, where “market laws and exploitation of human labour for profit maximisation isn’t the rule, a world in which human relationships become meaningful again”[2].

Each year the Festival is organised around special thematic threads such as self-management, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, localisation or degrowth. The programme includes discussion workshops, DIY workshops, thematic discussions, workshops for kids, various cultural events such as concerts, music, theatre, performances, exhibitions, video projections, thus combining theoretical and practical knowledge, all designed under a radical thinking perspective. Furthermore, the Festival4sce provides space and time for spontaneous assemblies among groups and initiatives with common interests in order to network and build bonds of cooperation. As a result, the first meeting of exchange networks in Greece was held during the first edition. Besides, the Festival4sce is a source of inspiration of various events taking place in other parts of the country. An interesting example is the CommonsFest, taking place since 2013 in Heraklion, Crete.

12 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Transforming crisis into krisis, pt.2:The societal response to austerity

This is the second in a four-part series of articles on austerity in Greece and the response of society. Read part I here.

From crisis to krisis: the emergence of another possible world

Since the very beginning of Greece’s placement under Troika’s supervision, the Greek society responded with huge and massive demonstrations in the largest cities of the country. During the uprising of the so called Indignants (Aganaktismenoi) movement in 2011, the squares[2] were the main scene of action where the seeds of radical thinking and civil disobedience were planted. Social dynamics of preliminary self-management processes emerged as a spontaneous response to the immediate need of dealing with organisational and logistical needs on the occupied squares as well as bypassing extreme state repression. Thus, various working groups such as first aid, food supply, safety & defence, cleaning, multimedia or infrastructure supply were set up collectively.

A strong will to take life into their own hands inspired citizens from different socioeconomic backgrounds to transform crisis to krisis: through citizen assemblies and working group discussions they gradually realised that the only way to break away from the crisis was to trust and develop their own krisis. Large groups of people, widely questioning the Troika’s authority as well as the government’s policies, have been launched into primary processes of direct democracy, horizontality, shared decision making, participatory leadership and collective intelligence. Forming working groups on different thematic threads such as education, health, economy, culture or justice, they explored ways to put their vision into practice. As a result, the massive and collective reappropriation of public spaces in the biggest cities all over the country played a catalytic role in the emergence of grassroots initiatives; during the occupation of Syntagma Square in Athens, collective action gave birth to alternative initiatives such as the Citizen Debt Audit Campaign, the Athens Time Bank-Syntagma Square, the Exchange Solidarity Bazaar of Syntagma Square or the Real Democracy Multimedia Team amongst many others.

3 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Το νερό πέρα από το κράτος

Οι επιτροπές νερού της Κοτσαμπάμπα συνεχίζουν τις παραδόσεις της ιθαγενικής αυτόνομίας της Βολιβίας, απέναντι σε ένα πρόσφατα επανιδρυμένο αλλά άκρως συγκεντρωτικό κράτος.

Μαρσέλα Ολιβέρα
Μετάφραση: Θοδωρής Καρυώτης

Η αυτονομία και η οριζοντιότητα αποτελούν παραδοσιακές μορφές κοινωνικής οργάνωσης στη Βολιβία. Μαζί, συγκροτούν έναν εναλλακτικό, πρακτικό και καθημερινό τρόπο κατανόησης αυτού που ονομάζουμε «το δημόσιο». Ταυτόχρονα, προτάσσουν  ένα μοντέλο εξάσκησης της ζωντανής, συμμετοχικής δημοκρατίας στο περιθώριο του κράτους και των εκάστοτε κυβερνήσεων.  

Οι επιτροπές νερού του νότου της Κοτσαμπάμπα, της τέταρτης μεγαλύτερης πόλης της Βολιβίας, αποτελούν την επιτομή των βολιβιανών μορφών αυτονομίας και οριζοντιότητας. Οι οργανώσεις αυτές ήρθαν στο προσκήνιο κατά τη διάρκεια του «Πολέμου του Νερού» το 2000, όταν η μαζική κινητοποίηση της τοπικής κοινωνίας κατάφερε να σταματήσει την προσπάθεια ιδιωτικοποίησης του νερού της Κοτσαμπάμπα, η οποία προωθούταν από το κράτος. Σήμερα οι επιτροπές νερού παραμένουν ενεργές. 

Ενώ πολλοί συνδέουν τον Πόλεμο του Νερού με την έννοια της «πραγματικής» δημοκρατίας, αυτό μπορεί εκ πρώτης όψεως να φαίνεται αντιφατικό: ο πόλεμος συνεπάγεται τη βία, την απώλεια ενέργειας και πόρων, το θάνατο και τη σύγκρουση• η δυτική αντίληψη της δημοκρατίας, μας λένε, αποσκοπεί στο να αποφύγουμε τα παραπάνω. Ωστόσο, η σύγκρουση αυτή δεν ήταν μια απλή μάχη για την υπεράσπιση ενός φυσικού πόρου• αντίθετα, ήταν φυσική συνέχεια της ακατάπαυστης ιστορικής πάλης του λαού της Βολιβίας για την υπεράσπιση του δικαιώματός του να αποφασίζει οριζόντια και αυτόνομα για ό,τι αφορά τις δικές του ανάγκες• ήταν, δηλαδή, απόρροια της επιτακτικής και αδιαπραγμάτευτης ανάγκης τους να ζουν σε μια αληθινή δημοκρατία. 

2 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Transforming crisis into krisis, pt.1: The social impact of austerity measures in Greece

This is the first in a four-part series of articles on austerity in Greece and the response of society.

Crisis. Originally, the word derives from the ancient Greek verb “krinein”, meaning to judge in order to take a decision and its noun, “krisis”, meaning judgment, decision. According to Steven James Venette "crisis is a process of transformation where the old system can no longer be maintained."

In Greece, the obsessive persistence of the ruling elites in rescuing by any means the current socioeconomic system, even during its long phase of death rattle, has fuelled a significant social mobilisation towards the Alternative Route, striving to transform crisis to krisis. Several citizen initiatives and grassroots groups organise, since 2012, the Festival for Solidarity and Cooperative Economy (#Festival4sce) seeking to build the foundations of another world that is not only possible, but already growing.

Following the links between the social impacts of the austerity imposed during the last four years in Greece and the alternatives proposed by citizens themselves, this series of articles is structured around four main axes:

PART I: The social impact of austerity measures in Greece

During the last four years, Greece has undergone a deep and unprecedented multidimensional recession, following the international financial crisis of 2008-2009. As a remedy to the abrupt deterioration of the country’s borrowing capacity and the accelerated accumulation of - the already unsustainable - Greek debt, successive governments have signed special MOU’s[2] with the Troika[3] giving away the country’s sovereignty, in exchange for promises to put Greece back on the path of development and growth; the system, in order to survive, urgently required a redistribution of money circulation, redirecting cash from a huge number of small deposits to a small number of huge accounts. As a result, harsh austerity measures have been imposed including slashing of salaries and pensions, drastic tax increases and generalised dismantling of the social role of the State while in parallel special funds to save the Greek banking system have been created. Furthermore, according to the second MOU, Greece has been obliged to open a special account for debt repayment in the Bank of Greece, as an ultimate priority over the current operational public expenses.  All these policies resulted in a dramatic drop of consumer buying power thus influencing negatively all macroeconomic indicators, such as GDP, unemployment rate, growth rate, deficit rate, etc. Worldwide known economists, scientists and even politicians have been widely questioning the effectiveness of such policies. Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic Challenger of Angela Merkel[4] was of the ones to openly denounce this “deadly dose of austerity"; a proven recipe to kill an economy. Even the IMF has reported[5] growth forecast errors in relation to planned fiscal consolidation, admitting that they “failed to realise the damage austerity would do to Greece”[6]. It is interesting to point out that the Troika has recently recognised that Greeks cannot bear new taxes.