Burma, a Revolutionary Crucible

Transcribed from the 18 July 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

“In Egypt in 2011, they were where Burma was in 1988. Burma has a very long history, now, of resistance to military rule, and different ways to go about that. It’s not just about getting millions of people into the streets, that’s not good enough. What do you do next?”

Chuck Mertz: Award-winning reporter Delphine Schrank went undercover inside the military junta-ruled nation of Burma to find out how a resistance movement overcame decades of abuse, arrests, torture, and deadly violence to finally challenge the dictatorship.

Delphine, thanks for being on our show this morning.

Delphine Schrank: Thank you so much for having me, Chuck.

CM: Delphine is author of The Rebel of Rangoon: A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance in Burma. Delphine was the Burma correspondent for the Washington Post, where she was an editor and staff writer.

You write of Burma—Myanmar—as “a country whose very choice of names since 1989 bespeaks one’s political sympathies.” So what political sympathies does either name reveal? And why do you use the name Burma?

DS: There was a massive uprising in Burma in 1988 in which millions of people poured into the streets to kick out a military general called General Ne Win. And they managed to kick him out, and there was going to be a regime change, and it seemed like parliamentary democracy was on its way. But the military had never retreated to the barracks, and, in a counterrevolution, took over the country.

A junta calling itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the SLORC, took over and began twenty years of deeply repressive rule. In 1989 they changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar.

Democracy activists persisted in calling it Burma, and persisted in calling the capital city at the time Rangoon instead of Yangon. The United States recognized that; several holdouts in the West recognized that; the United Nations ended up calling it Myanmar. So ever since then, people who recognize the legitimacy of the democracy movement, the legitimacy of a political party that won elections in 1990, the National League for Democracy—they prefer to call it Burma.

As for me, I persist in calling it Burma because the protagonist of my book would prefer to call it that. Continue reading Burma, a Revolutionary Crucible

Suruç: The AKP and the Turkish “Deep State” Are Also Guilty

by Joseph Daher for Syria Freedom Forever
Reprinted with permission (original post)

On Monday, 20 July 2015, the ultra-reactionary movement Daesh (known as the self-proclaimed Islamic State) targeted a cultural center in Amara (in the district of Suruç, Turkey) which was hosting a meeting of 300 young Kurdish leftists, members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF). They were preparing to go to the nearby town of Kobanê in Syria, in order to participate in its reconstruction.

These young revolutionaries had left Istanbul the day before, to present themselves as “Children of Gezi”—children of the protest movement that began in Istanbul in June 2013. In a video for their campaign, a socialist youth of the SGDF said: “We will plant five hundred trees in the name of revolutionaries who were killed in the resistance against the Islamic State in Kobanê. We will also plant fruit trees in the name of Berkin Elvan [who was killed during the Gezi protests at the age of fifteen], reconstruct the war museum in Kobanê, rebuild the library and nursery at the cultural center, build a playground, and join the cleaning efforts in the city center of Kobanê.”

These young people were bringing books, toys, and clothes, as well as young trees to plant. The terrorist attack caused the death of more than thirty of them, and injured over one hundred. Continue reading Suruç: The AKP and the Turkish “Deep State” Are Also Guilty

Movements and Migrants: A New Era Is Needed, A New Era Is Here

By Sergei Abashin, STAB (School of Art and Theory Bishkek)
English originally published on the indispensable blog The Russian Reader. Reprinted with permission.

Movements and Migrants in Central Asia*

  1. Movements

Movements in Central Asia have become large-scale and permanent, involving all social groups, rich and poor, women and men, young and old. They move around their own countries and among countries. Some go for several weeks or months and come back, while others live far from their place of birth for years, only occasionally visiting their homelands. Still others leave forever, breaking all ties. Some travel in search of a new homeland, so to speak. Others go to make money, study or receive medical treatment. Still others go for fun and excitement.

All this movement has come as a surprise to experts and politicians. I still remember the debates in the Soviet Union in the 1980s as to why the people of Central Asia were reluctant to travel outside their region. Even then officials and academics in Moscow, observing the beginnings of the demographic decline in Russia itself, were planning to relocate people from borderlands with an excess labor force to the central regions of the then still-unified country.

These plans failed, because few people wanted to leave their homes. Only organized and, in fact, involuntary labor recruitment and military labor brigades partly solved the increased need for labor power. The weak affinity that Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz felt for voluntary mobility was proclaimed, on their part, an inherent and incorrigible attachment to family, community, and the hot climate.

However, all these explanations were put to shame only a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when millions of people from the titular Central Asian nations felt an irresistible urge to hit the road, leaving and, sometimes, literally abandoning their homes.

Let us try and make sense of these circumstances, to understand why movement in the region has suddenly become a vital life strategy among a considerable number of people. Continue reading Movements and Migrants: A New Era Is Needed, A New Era Is Here

“There’s A Lot We Can Do Ourselves.”

Transcribed from the 27 June 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“Cooperatives are not just about doing good or creating change through our work externally, but also about bringing democracy and equality into the economy.”

Chuck Mertz: Imagine a world where you actually find your work to be something more than a job. Imagine, if you will, a world where a life’s work is actually fulfilling and expresses who and what you really are and believe, where the pursuit of happiness is actually happening every day. I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to imagine. After all, this is hell.

But it’s actually happening, at least in some parts of our world. Here to tell us what steps we could take toward a happier place here on Earth: Rhiannon Colvin, who wrote the article Re-imagining the Future of Work, which is an extract from Resist: Against a Precarious Future, the third book in the Radical Futures series.

Thanks for being on This is Hell!, Rhiannon.

Rhiannon Colvin: Hello!

CM: Great to have you on the show. Rhiannon graduated two years ago, and after competing in the brutal graduate job market and researching solutions to youth unemployment in Portugal and Spain, she founded a group called AltGen, which supports 18- to 29-year-olds to set up cooperative businesses as an empowering and collaborative solution to youth unemployment.

You write, “Imagine that it’s 2025 and the world of work has changed. Today we do labor out of passion, not obligation. Nobody has a low-paid job or has to balance multiple jobs just to make rent. Work gives us meaning and direction, but it does not define who we are. The three-day working week means we have time to spend with friends and family, to contribute to our communities, and have a say in how society is run.”

That sounds fantastic. But are those things even the goal of today’s economy? And how much do you think we’ve forgotten that a functioning economy should give everyone a better quality of life?

RC: I don’t think that those are the goals of today’s economy, but they are the goals of many young people and progressive movements today. And it sounds like an unrealistic dream, but it’s something that really is possible through a number of different strategies I outline. In the UK, when people in government—or trade unions, even—talk about solutions to youth unemployment, they keep within the narrative of more and more jobs…in the same kinds of companies, in the same kind of way.

They don’t actually have any vision for what kind of future we want. Continue reading “There’s A Lot We Can Do Ourselves.”

Strike Forever

Quitting, as an individual act of rebellion, remains just that. To be revolutionary it must be an action taken collectively. Do we have it in us?

by Antidote’s Ed Sutton

Getting Personal

Once again it has been a stretch since you, dear reader, have heard directly from our writers collective. As we begin to feel your eyes on us, and as the number of eyes grows, we have been grappling a little with insecurity. As such, this essay represents a petulant determination to ignore the imagined pressure to “drop something big” and simply stick to what we’re good at. Although we have confrontational ideas, we are bound somehow to voice them calmly and quietly (though not always), and we find value in ponderous reflection and even some touchy-feely self-examination. Isn’t that what we all wish more people would do? Continue reading Strike Forever

Another Step Toward Utopia: The Solidarity Movement in Greece

Transcribed from the 13 June 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“We don’t want to be the alternative in a generalized system of inequality and injustice. We want to be the mainstream.”

Chuck Mertz: A revolution has been happening in Greece that may overflow and create solidarity for all of us. At least that’s the hope of this movement: to have the potential to change the way we lead our everyday lives.

Live in studio, all the way from Greece, Christos Giovanopoulos, is a member of Greece’s SYRIZA party and an activist working with Solidarity For All, a network of grassroots organizations in Greece fighting against austerity. Chris is currently touring the US, speaking to different groups and raising money for Solidarity For All. Continue reading Another Step Toward Utopia: The Solidarity Movement in Greece

Camara Negra presents: Ecos Del Desgarro

The story of an impossible revolution

We share an important documentary made by the Camara Negra Collective which looks at the Syrian revolution and counter revolution, giving voices to the grassroot activists who continue to struggle for freedom from tyranny and opression. In Spanish and Arabic with English subtitles.

“I belong to this revolution that surpasses national borders. I love all revolutions. I love the revolutionaries that understand its meaning, its morals, its aspirations and its vision.”

AntiNote: Early in March 2011, inspired by the images coming from Tunisia and Egypt around 15 school children were arrested for writing “The People Want To Topple The Regime” on the walls of their schools. In their beautiful naivity they wrote their names under their messages of hope. The mukhabarat (secret police) broke into the houses of the children and arrested them In the dark of the same night . Among other verbal abuses, the chief of Intelligence Atef Najeeb told the parents to forget about their children. First demonstrations broke out, first victims of a genocidal regime had to be burried, more protest followed. That is where the uprising started. Out of solidarity, for freedom and justice, self-determination and personal emancipation.

The Syrian Revolution did not follow any blueprints. Nevertheless, and contrary to the constant misrepresentation, it remains a  struggle for self-determination, liberty and a breaking point with the fear towards an all-powerful regime. Continue reading Camara Negra presents: Ecos Del Desgarro

A tale of blind doctors and good illnesses


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