Monthly Archives: July 2016

A French Activist Discusses What’s New in Nuit Debout

Alex, age 29, has been an activist in Paris since he was a teenager who studied political science in university and worked for a member of parliament. He left that job because of the lack of freedom to criticize policy, which he blames on the form of government set up by the Fifth Republic’s constitution of 1958. It replaced the parliamentary government with a stronger president. He defines himself as an existentialist like John-Paul Sartre who doesn’t believe we have an essential nature, so he is concerned about the declining quality of French education needed to shape informed citizens. He’s a leftist “red” socialist who believes that utilities like nuclear power should not be privately owned, but it’s fine to have private ownership of something like a car manufacturers. He said President Francois Holland and his Socialist Party are not socialist when we talked on Skype on May 8, 2016, available on YouTube.

Current protests are “all new, not the old way of seeing the world,” Alex believes. He explained that what’s new is they want the rules to change, so they disobey them with “means of pressure” such as doing occupations or unauthorized marches as when over 2,000 marched to the Prime Minister’s house. He said, “We’re not afraid anymore, we do what we want.” They’re not afraid of the police because protesters are so numerous and activists have a phone app that the police can’t see so they can organize quickly. He observed, “People on the square are writing new rules, discussing new political and social organization, making a network of people who share views. We experiment with direct democracy in the squares, this is never lost. People now have a taste for it.” Nuit Debout demonstrators aim for a “new world” of genuine democracy, with “no leaders, no demands, no pre-fixed ideas.”[i] In the beginning people even used the same name, Camille, which can be for both sexes. They adopted the slogan of the May 1968 student protests, “L’imagination au Pouvoir” (the power of the imagination). A cartoon in Le Monde showed a group of penguins with the caption, “Let’s meet here every night until we can figure out why.”

His model democracy is the Paris Commune of 1871 where workers governed themselves democratically before the German army helped the French military kill 25,000 people in just one week. Alex credits the commune experiment with free education, equal pay for women, and separation of church and state. Along the theme of what’s new, I asked Alex about high school activist today; he said they are more aggressive but not violent, never stop and go faster. Young people made the first video to publicize the protests against the labor laws called the El Khomri law that change hiring and firing protections, at a time when 25% of youth were unemployed.

Alex said the current movement are influenced by economist Frédéric Lordon (age 54), the first time since Sartre that such an intellectual has been part of the movement. Lodron maintains that Nuit Debout is not like Spanish Podemos that tries to replace concepts of left and right with the 1% versus the 99%. Lordon believes that left and right remain important ways of looking at politics: “In France, someone who says they’re neither left nor right is, without exception, on the right or will end up on the right.”[ii] He also advocates that that activists not negotiate or make demands of politicians, as the problem is the political system itself. He thinks social democracy surrendered to the capitalist empire, and looks to self-managed co-ops in Argentina and Spain as models of alternatives. Lordon wrote an influential article about the film Merci Patron, published in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. This article encouraged the filmmaker, Francois Ruffin, to call for a public meeting that happened on March 31. Lordon spoke, advocating uniting the various leftist factions.

To protest proposed labor laws that would weaken hard-won rights from previous struggles (they passed in July), a petition against it got a record million signatures, which doubled quickly. Alex called for a demonstration against the erosion of worker rights via Facebook for March 9, liked by 200,000 supporters. He posted polls about where and when they should assemble. They decided on the Place de la Republique at 2:00 PM. He also called for donations to purchase flags and other supplies, and organized security for the march. Union leaders ignored his calls for three weeks, and then called in their support the day before the march, bringing about half of the demonstrators. They organized a protest on March 31 with over a million people in 250 cities, despite the pouring rain, in the first Nuit Debout protest that continued in nightly assemblies of “nuitdeboutistes.” A popular anti-capitalist documentary film called Merci Patron fueled it. Tens of thousands more marched on April 9 in cities around France to protest the law, and the movement spread to Belgium, Germany and Spain. A group called Convergence des Luttes (convergence of the struggles) claims credit for starting Nuit Debout to unify the anarchists, ecologists, and other leftists.

This was the first large demonstration not organized by unions. Like other global youth activists, Alex didn’t want to be associated with a political party, union or other group, reaching out to unaffiliated supporters. Another new tactic was the use of videos and the Internet only utilized by the left for the previous three or four years; before the right dominated this media. Alex reported about 500,000 demonstrators showed up around France and 100,000 in Paris, the largest demonstration in years. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek leader of an European democracy movement, spoke to the crowd saying, “I’m bringing you solidarity from Athens and one request: Don’t let this energy go to waste.”

The March 9 event was a predecessor for Nuit Debout, where Alex helped organize security. A DJ, he also helped set up a radio transmitter in the Place do la Republique. To avoid loud speakers, demonstrators brought their own radios and boom boxes to listen to the radio station and dance to the music. They also auto-organized a TV station, YouTube channel, and kitchen. A group worked with Alex to build the media center; people who had never worked together before achieved a lot in an hour. Other activities were poetry readings, concerts, and food stalls, and Gas where anyone can speak for five minutes, using the usual hand signals to express opinion in a crowd of up to 3,000 people. Police restricted time in the square, reducing time spent in General Assemblies. One of the topics of discussion is how to deal with right-wing agitators who try to take over. Sometimes they violate the law by not notifying police that some of the demonstrators are going on a spontaneous march.

Since a common issue is men dominated GAs, I asked Alex if this has been a problem. “Yes, men talk more. It’s really hard to change; it’s part of our society. It’s something we discuss a lot but you can’t change all social dominations in one day.” The feminist group active in Nuit Debout, Feminismes denounced sexual harassment in the square, with cat calling and sexist comments and touching. He’s against Affirmative Acton for employers because if they reach a quota they tend to just hire white men. He prefers penalties for companies that discriminate such as fines.

Alex also joined in the first-time occupation of the national theater, the Comedie-Francaise, the world’s longest established theater. It’s near a tourist hub with the Louvre, a statement that the protesters had the power to do what they wanted to make a public statement of protest, without the police being able to interfere. They were careful not to damage the theater.

Alex also protests the reduction of liberty and rights enabled by the state of emergency that President Hollande put in place in reaction to terrorist bombings, renewed after a terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day. Mass demonstrations are prohibited. Police violence against protesters who are called terrorists increased even though protesters are much less aggressive and numerous (about 10,000 people) than in protests a decade ago. Protests in Geneva and Seattle included hundreds of Black Bloc protesters who burned some police cars and beat up police beat. Police not only use tear gas but hundreds of grenades: a fragment of one hit his bike helmet, which police confiscated. Police even threw grenades down the Metro, similar to the Sintagma protests in Greece in 2011 where police are also often right-wing nationalists. A video of a Paris high school student being beaten by police went viral, sparking more outrage. One of the first actions of the spring mobilizations in Paris was to prevent police from beating up refugees and Parisians became more sympathetic to them. However, some protesters smashed bank windows as and cars as capitalist symbols

Violation of citizen rights increased, such as seizing cameras and deleting photos and videos from the Comedie-Francaise occupation or searching an activist’s home without judicial authorizations. Alex was beat up by police in a demonstration at a political science university on March 17 and a young woman got her scalp torn by a police a baton. Alex joined another demonstration at the court on May 9 when five protesters arrested at the university were put on trial.

When I interviewed Alex, he reported that around 5,000 people had been arrested in the last few months, mostly activists. A political science student got six months in jail for throwing a Coke can at police who interfered with discussion of politics at his university. In lieu of jail, some activists are required to report to a police station three times a day, which means they have to give up their jobs and can’t pay their living expenses.

[i] John Litchfield, “Nuit Debout Protet Movement Growing in Size, The Independent, April 19, 2016.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/nuit-debout-french-left-wing-protest-movement-growing-in-size-but-losing-intellectual-steam-in-bid-a6991961.html

[ii] Lucy Wadham, “French Take to the Barricades to Protect their Way of Life,” The Guardian, May 14, 2016.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/14/france-paris-nuit-debout-protests-may-1968

Advertisements

Millennials avoid political party affiliation, even Ivanka

Even Ivanka Trump, daughter of the presidential candidate, said in her speech to the Republican convention, “Like many of my fellow Millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat. More than party affiliation, I vote based on what I believe is right for my family and my country.”

Her outreach for women is to advocate affordable quality childcare and equal pay.

Books and Journals about the Recent Global Uprisings

An online magazine ROAR provides current information but not specifically about youth. The online journal Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements is one of the few scholarly journals to discuss the recent uprisings. The three British editors began publishing the journal in 2009. An exception is Social Movement Studies published an issue on Occupy in 2012.[i] Looking at all their issues from 2011 on, only one included youth in the title, but it focused on organization rather than young people—“’Young People Took to the Streets and All of the Political Parties Got Old’: the 15 M Movement in Spain” (2011). Other social movement publications are Mobilization in press since 1996 and its blog Mobilizing Ideas.[ii] Current Sociology published an issue on “From Indignation to Occupation” in 2013 reporting on the 2011 uprisings but without focus on youth.[iii]

A scan of the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011 found only 26 titles on youth activism or political attitudes out of 224 articles and 10 of the titles were about youth attitudes towards traditional politics.[iv] Surprisingly, not one article was about the uprisings of 2011 to 2014 discussed in this book. A similar search of the Journal of Adolescence found only one issue on political engagement but not rebellions (June 2012), with no other such articles in other issues.[v]

[i] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14742837.2012.708923#.Uy-lSq1dV8k

[ii] http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/category/essay-dialogues/

[iii] DOI:10.1177/0011392113479748

http://csi.sagepub.com/content/61/4/491.short

[iv] http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjys20?open=16&repitition=0#vol_16

Following are the topics and date posted online: Greek youth’s protests in 2008 (January 2011), theories of youth resistance (June 2012), Canadian youth activism for people with disabilities (June 2012), a student occupation of their university in 2010 (November 2012), University of Ottawa students’ political engagement (June 2012), youth involvement in politics in Scotland (June 2012), how to involve young Canadian women in provincial public police development (August 2012), Peruvian youth activism for sexual health (November 2012), Spanish youths’ attitudes towards politics—based on interviews (November 2012), British youth’s political participation (September 2013), Australian girls’ attitudes towards women leaders (January 2013), youth protests in Africa (march 2013), Australian teens political interests (May 2013), young men’s political participation in an English town (September 2013), influences on British youth’s political participation (September 2013), theories of youth agency (September 2013).

Alcina Honwana. Youth and Revolution in Tunisa. Zed Books, 2013.

Ahmed Tohamy Abdelhay. Youth Activism in Egypt: Islamism, Political Protest and Revolution. Library of Modern Middle East Studies, 2014. ($104)

Linda Herrera, editor. Wired Citizenship: Youth Learning and Activism in the Middle East. Routledge, 2014

Jessica Taft. Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas. New York University Press, 2011.

Maria de los Angeles Torres, Irene Rizzini and Norma Del Rio. Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas. University of Illinois, 2013.

[v] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01401971/35/3

 

Five books published from 2012 to 2014 cover the global uprisings but not with analysis of the role of young people: Paul Mason, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions; an anthology by Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices From the Global Spring including activists in their 20s and 30s; and an Internet ebook by Werner Puschra and Sara Burke, eds., The Future We the People Need: Voices from New Social Movements, also about various ages of activists. They wrote another pertinent book available online, World Protests 2006-2013. The 2014 books are They Can’t Represent us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy by Marina Sitrin; Dario Azzellini and Cristina Flesher Fominaya’s Social Movements and Globalization: How Protests, Occupations and Uprisings are Changing the World; and Occupy! A Global Movement (2014), a $150 anthology edited by Jenny Pickerill, et al. I

Numerous books examine the recent Arab Uprisings as listed in the endnote, but most without a focus on youth–not even a chapter title with youth in it.[i] The exceptions are 2012 anthologies featured revolutionary voices of activists in their 20s and 30s: Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices From the Global Spring and Maytha Alhassena and Ahmed Shigab-Eldin’s Demanding Dignity: Young Voices From the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions (2012). These books were followed in 2013 by Youth and the Revolution in Tunisia by Alcinda Honwana, Talking to Arab Youth: Revolution and Counterrevolution in Egypt and Tunisia. In 2014 The New Arabs by Juan Cole was published along with Wired Citizenship: Youth Learning and Activism in the Middle East. Ahmed Tohamy Abdelhay’s Youth Activism in Egypt was published in 2015 ($104).

Arab Dawn: Arab Youth and the Demographic Dividend They Will Bring (2015) by Bessma Momani does feature youth with a positive viewpoint, to counter the prevailing negative view of the Middle East in the West. She thinks the Arab Spring was the beginning of a helpful social and cultural revolution. The youth bulge will lead to a “social and cultural revolution” because young people support democracy, entrepreneurialism—especially young women, and globalism. These attitudes are facilitated by ICT (women write half the blogs) and the growth in university attendance, creating a “hybrid identity.” Momani observes that youth reject the choice of secular versus Islamist as they develop a hybrid of Western and Islamic thought. She predicts that change will be most evident in Saudi Arabia where many young people attend universities abroad.

[i] Ashraf Khalil. Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation. St. Martin’s Press, 2011.

Marwan Bishara. The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolutions. Nation Books, 2012.

Bassam Haddad, R. Bsheer and Z Abu-Rish, eds. The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings. Pluto Press, 2012.

Nouehied, Lin & Alex Warren. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-revolution and the Making of a New Era. Yale University Press, 2012.

Nasser Weddady and Sohrab Ahmari, eds. Arab Spring Dreams. Palgrave, 2012.

Marc Lynch. The Arab Uprising. Public Affairs, 2012.

Gilbert Achcar. The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Spring. University of California Press, 2013.

Layla al-Zubaidi and Matthew Cassel, eds. Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution: Voices from Tunis to Damascus. Penguin Books, 2013.

Paul Danahar. The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring. Boomsbury Press, 2013.

Alcinda Honwana. Youth and the Revolution in Tunisia. Zed, 2013.

Also see syllabus for course on “The Arab Spring” such as https://pol297thearabspring.wordpress.com/syllabus/

Tens of thousands purged in Turkey

Turkey’s coup in numbers

How can Erdogan act so quickly? Files of unloyal suspects must have been kept.

21,000 private teachers have licences removed
15,000 suspended from education ministry
8,000 police officers detained or suspended
6,000 soldiers detained
1,500 staff at Ministry of Finance dismissed
2745 judges dismissed
1,577 deans – Education board demands resignation
492 sacked from Religious Affairs Directorate
399 from Ministry of Family and Social Policies stripped of responsibilities
257 fired from the prime minister’s office
100 intelligence officials sacked
47 district governors dismissed
30 provincial governors dismissed
20 news websites blocked

50,000 educators

Turkish post-coup purges sweep through education as thousands of teachers lose their jobs, Euronews, July 19, 2016.

http://www.euronews.com/2016/07/19/turkey-cancels-licenses-of-21000-private-teachers-removes-15000-state-teachers/

Honor Killing of a Pakistani Feminist by her Brother

The honor killing of a well-known social media star by her brother aroused discussion and controversy in July 2016. Qandeel Baloch, age 26, had recently weeted, “I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality.” Because of threats from conservative Muslims for acts like posting photos with her hair uncovered wearing , she was planning on leaving Pakistan with her parents, but her brother killed her in their parents’ home. Feminists protested and pushed for new legislation to punish these kinds of murders, while other Pakistanis cheered the murder. Her brother, Muhammad Waseem said, “Yes of course, I strangled her. Girls are born only to stay at home and to bring honour to the family by following family traditions but Qandeel had never done that,” so he restored the family´s “honor.”
Interview with a Pakistani feminist before her brother strangled in in an honor killing.
Hufsa Chaudhry, “No One Gives Me Any Credit for Speaking About Girl Power,” Dawn, July 14, 2016.

Attempted coup in Turkey, correction to CNN coverage

I flew out of Ataturk Airport a week before the recent bombing, after doing research for my book on global youth activism. Zakaria said that Erdogan is secular. One bit of evidence he gave was women aren’t allowed to wear headscarves in universities and public buildings. That’s no longer true, they can wear what they want. He didn’t mention Erdogan’s campaign to turn public schools into Islamic schools, which is a profound shift away from secularism. I watched CNN for hours yesterday and didn’t hear anyone mention the president’s extreme sexism. Women I talked with in Turkey are very angry that he said a woman who doesn’t give birth is half a woman, women should give birth to at least three children, women’s place is in the home because their main role is motherhood, they shouldn’t wear red lipstick, etc. His government is mainly male. Turks refer to him as the Sultan or Dictator.