Ai Weiwei – So Sorry

Fei chang yi han or So Sorry (Mandarin, English Subtitles, 55 minutes)

As a sequel to Ai Weiwei’s film Lao Ma Ti Hua, the film “So Sorry” shows the beginnings of the tension between Ai Weiwei and the Chinese Government. In Lao Ma Ti Hua, Ai Weiwei travels to Chengdu, China to attend the trial of the civil rights advocate Tan Zuoren, as a witness.

In So Sorry, you see the investigation led by Ai Weiwei studio to identify the students who died during the Sichuan earthquake as a result of corruption and poor building constructions leading to the confrontation between Ai Weiwei and the Chengdu police.

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Burma, a Revolutionary Crucible

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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

The Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk

Tang Shui’en, mainland left-libertarian musician and activist, recounts his path from childhood in 1980s rural Hubei to participation in Wuhan’s pioneering punk scene since the late 1990s, interaction with overseas radicals, and experimentation with independent media and an “autonomous youth center.”

Among the common masses, how many of us are aware of the oppressive forces that push us to society’s margins?

Apart from a small minority, most people – even if at every moment they feel discomfort – are unable to determine the source of this pain. The word “marginal” itself is so abstract that it can only serve as a code of recondite academia and mass media. As the radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire has shown, the masses are the “object” of development. We do not exist within the active process of naming things, but only within the theories of education and behavior created by our oppressors, which have fostered a “culture of silence” among the people.Continue Reading

The Right to Bread and Social Justice

Chants for bread and social justice didn’t emerge out of the January 25, 2011 revolution. Long before 2011, a strong protest movement existed against the economic policies of former President Mubarak and his regime, which gained momentum in 2006 through the protests and strikes of labor workers in Mahalla al-Kubra.Continue Reading

CINEMA UTOPIA: Flame

Living Up to a Name: The Story of Plamen Goranov

Interview and film republished with permission

LeftEast recently sat down with Martin Marinos and Andre Andreev to discuss their film Flame: A Short Film About Plamen Goranov, which recently won the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Short Film. The documentary explores the life of Plamen Goranov, whose self-immolation during the Bulgarian protests in 2013 spurred the resignation of Varna’s mayor and was also cited by the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as one of the reasons for his resignation. Martin and Andre have generously made the entire film available to our readers. –LeftEast editors

 

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Capitalism, Slavery, and Resistance

AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Listen to it in its entirety:

 

On 20 December 2014, host Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio spoke with author and historian Edward Baptist about the continuing legacy of slavery and the ongoing sanitization and downright falsification of its history in the United States.

This conversation was timely when it took place, as protests over police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and all around the country had been escalating. Since neither the regular police murder of unarmed black men and women in the United States nor the white supremacist system that drives and condones it has ended, this conversation remains timely now, six months later, with the world’s eyes on Baltimore.

The conversations around lethal racist policing and the growing rebellion against it have continued to evolve over these six months, with some promising turns. While deeper investigations into the racial, institutional and economic history of Ferguson were not completely absent from media coverage of the police murder of Michael Brown, it seemed to happen primarily at a low frequency on the fringes of the discourse. The same could be said of alternative analyses of rioting as a legitimate response to state violence. But both of these avenues of thought have factored much more prominently in the coverage of Freddie Gray’s horrific beating murder by Baltimore cops and the ensuing uprising there.

Indeed, they have combined in a way. The relatively recent history of Baltimore’s economic abandonment has been used as further evidence of the hypocrisy of people who complain about broken windows but not broken spines. As the argument goes, they never complained about the broken windows, the broken homes, the broken communities that de-industrialization, white flight, the War on Drugs, and austerity produced in Baltimore. Just the ones broken by black rioters.

Good point. Yes, a crucial backdrop for the ongoing racial unrest in Baltimore and the rest of the United States is the economic suffering wrought by neoliberalism over the last half-century. But this system of violent racialized economic exploitation has been a feature of capitalism for much longer than that.
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Is Culture Important? The Struggle Over How to Struggle

AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Listen to it in its entirety:

 

On 24 April 2015, Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) talked to author and educator Andrew Hartman about the ambiguous legacies of the concurrent but dissonant cultural and economic revolutions of the last fifty years in the US.

This has been a topic of reliable contention in the AWC: how much a focus on cultural struggle may distract from or even impede the ostensibly more pertinent material struggle against neoliberalism—or, put the other way, whether a purely material, structural economic struggle is worthwhile or even possible without a cultural dimension.

When it comes to specific issues and strategies, implicit disagreements about how to answer these questions divide many on the Left. We appreciate Hartman’s approving attention to cultural struggle and its successes, as well as his sober awareness of perhaps greater defeats in the political-economic sphere, and join him in encouraging us all to consider both together when organizing our struggles today.

“As more and more people have clawed their way into whatever this thing is that we call American identity, fewer and fewer people have been willing to commit to the collective good. That’s the paradox.”

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