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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Concerning Violence

The following is an excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, reprinted yesterday on the great blog Middle East Revised. Its relevance is plainly not only to the Middle East.

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National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon. At whatever level we study it — relationships between individuals, new names for sports clubs, the human admixture at cocktail parties, in the police, on the directing boards of national or private banks — decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men.

Without any period of transition, there is a total, complete, and absolute substitution. It is true that we could equally well stress the rise of a new nation, the setting up of a new state, its diplomatic relations, and its economic and political trends. But we have precisely chosen to speak of that kind of tabula rasa which characterizes at the outset all decolonization. Its unusual importance is that it constitutes, from the very first day, the minimum demands of the colonized.

To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up. The extraordinary importance of this change is that it is willed, called for, demanded. The need for this change exists in its crude state, impetuous and compelling, in the consciousness and in the lives of the men and women who are colonized. But the possibility of this change is equally experienced in the form of a terrifying future in the consciousness of another ‘species’ of men and women: the colonizers.Continue Reading

“Berkin was our heart, our brother, our comrade.”

AntiNote: The following interview was conducted by phone in the final hour of last month’s hostage situation in Istanbul by Ahmet Şik, a prominent Turkish opposition journalist who has been jailed for his writing in the past, with the two hostage-takers themselves.

Earlier in the day, a photo began circulating in social media showing one of the two hostage-takers, Bahtiyar Doğruyol and Şafak Yayla, posing in front of their group’s hammer-and-sickle insignias with a pistol to the head of their hostage, state prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. It was a disturbing photo, and spread quickly without much benefit of context or explanation in most cases. For those unfamiliar with the history and current landscape of militant left politics and conflict in Turkey, the photo was a cipher and prompted much speculation.

At any rate, there was not much time for this kind of social media speculation, much less for real information-gathering, since the Turkish authorities immediately forbade the broadcast media from reporting on the hostage situation, the violence that ended it, or the public outcry that followed. Alternative and opposition print and online outlets insufficient in their condemnation of the act were tarred as supporters of terrorism, a pretext the Turkish authorities have used in the past to harass, intimidate, imprison, and incite violence against journalists. And a few days later, the Turkish government imposed a short-lived ban on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the country.

The still ongoing campaign of censorship around this ordeal has reached beyond Turkey’s borders as well, as the government there also persuaded Facebook to shut down a list of pages it deemed in violation of their gag order. One such page was that of our comrades at Lower Class Magazine, which had published a German translation of Şik’s interview with Bahtiyar Doğruyol and Şafak Yayla along with a short foreword, all of which we present here in English.

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Syriza and Social Movements: Risks and Opportunities

AntiNote: Our comrades at interviewed Spyros Tz of AlfaKappa Athens, about the social and political context in Greece that will be affected by the electoral victory of SYRIZA. We believe that this contribution is useful to observe what is happening in the Hellenic peninsula more lucidly and dispassionately. From a vantage point within the movements, Spyros also outlines moments of immediate verification, and identifies options and spaces to capture amid the ambivalence resulting from the arrival of a SYRIZA government .

Infoaut: Now that Syriza seem to have conquered the majority of the seats in the Greek Parliament, what should we expect as the first moves of the new government? Where will the pivotal focuses of intervention take place, also according to debate of the latest days of electoral campaign? Which issues will be given priority, the internal or the international ones?

Spyros: We are entering a period of really dense political time, the decisions of all political players will generate drastic results that will define the future. It’s too soon to define the first moves of the SYRIZA government in such a fluid and unstable environment. My belief is that the governmental party hasn’t taken final decisions on various crucial matters yet. Tsipras has proven to be acting out of the box of a strict left agenda, adopting a pragmatic agenda based on broad parliamentary consensus. The participation of ANELL (independent Greeks) will surely put serious limitations on the –supposed- agenda of SYRIZA on immigration, human rights, the separation of Church and State and other relevant issues. Of course, the main political issue is that of the national debt. I believe that SYRIZA wants to create a national alliance inside the parliament in order to negotiate the issue more effectively with their European “partners”, so I believe that priority no.1 for the government is to buy some political time to prepare itself for the negotiations abroad.

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Detroit’s Organized Resistance

Transcribed from the 6 December 2014 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:


“This neoliberal project is being pushed incredibly hard by Snyder’s office; it is being pushed by Washington, by New York, by the White House. But I don’t think it’s going to be successful.”

Chuck Mertz: Journalist Laura Gottesdiener has written the TomDispatch piece Two Detroits, Separate and Unequal: A Journey Across a City Divided. Welcome back to This is Hell!, Laura.

Laura Gottesdiener: Thanks for having me.

CM: You start by writing about being driven around Detroit’s well-heeled Palmer Woods neighborhood, a neighborhood that has defined “rich” in Detroit for generations. You write that the guy giving you the tour is commander Dale Brown, founder of Threat Management, a private security company. “Brown’s officers, with their distinctly paramilitary aesthetic, are among the most recognizable of a burgeoning number of private security personnel and surveillance systems scattered across neighborhoods in the former Motor City that people with money have decided are worth protecting.”

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If There Isn’t Justice, Mexico Will Explode

Transcribed from the 29 November episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:


“It’s worth repeating: police. We’re not talking about a crime that was carried out by organized crime. These were uniformed officers.”

Chuck Mertz: Dozens of people victimized by police, leading to nationwide protests…no, we’re not talking about Ferguson, Missouri. Here to tell us about the disappearances that have set Mexico on fire is irregular correspondent Laura Carlsen. She is a Foreign Policy in Focus columnist, a policy analyst and director of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy, and a writer and editor of The Americas Updater. She is based in Mexico City. Good morning, Laura.

Laura Carlsen: Good morning, Chuck.

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