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We are the 99 percent

What Do Bosnia, Bulgaria, And Brazil Have In Common?

Posted 10 years ago on June 18, 2013, 2:31 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: greece, turkey, brazil, #changebrazil, bulgaria, bosnia, chicago, #occupygezi

by Jerome Roos
Originally published at roarmag.org

Once again, it’s kicking off everywhere: from Turkey to Bosnia, Bulgaria and Brazil, the endless struggle for real democracy resonates around the globe.

Brazilians take to the streets

What do a park in Istanbul, a baby in Sarajevo, a security chief in Sofia, a TV station in Athens and bus tickets in Sao Paulo have in common? However random the sequence may seem at first, a common theme runs through and connects all of them. Each reveals, in its own particular way, the deepening crisis of representative democracy at the heart of the modern nation state. And each has, as a result, given rise to popular protests that have in turn sparked nationwide demonstrations, occupations and confrontations between the people and the state.

In Turkey, protesters have been taking to the streets and clashing with riot police for over two weeks in response to government attempts to tear down the trees and resurrect an old Ottoman-era barracks at the location of Istanbul’s beloved Gezi Park. But, as I indicated in a lengthy analysis of the protests, the violent police crackdown on #OccupyGezi was just the spark that lit the prairie, allowing a wide range of grievances to tumble in, ultimately exposing the crisis of representation at the heart of Erdogan’s authoritarian neoliberal government.

Gezi aerial

Now, protests over similar seemingly “trivial” local grievances are sparking mass demonstrations elsewhere. In Brazil, small-scale protests against a hike in transportation fees in Sao Paulo revealed the extreme brutality of the police force, which violently assaulted protesters — even pepper spraying a camera man, shooting a photographer in the eye with a rubber bullet, and arresting those carrying vinegar to protect themselves from the tear gas. After four nights of violent repression this week, the protests now appear to be gaining momentum.

Fed up with increasing inflation, crumbling infrastructure and stubbornly high inequality and crime rates, many Brazilians are simply outraged that the government is willing to invest billions into pharaonic projects that do not only ignore the people’s plight but actively undermine it. The militarization and bulldozing of the poor favelas and indigenous villages ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are a case in point. As usual, the ruling Workers’ Party seems more concerned about pleasing capital than helping workers.

[OccupyWallSt.org Editor's note: Here in Chicago, USA, we feel a particular affinity for those tens of thousands who fight to #ChangeBrazil and have courageously taken to the streets in cities across their country because we, too, are being hit with similar austerity measures. Here, our authoritarian "Mayor 1%" Rahm Emmanuel is forcing through imminent closures of 50 public schools in spite of spirited community resistance (including mass demonstrations, strikes, occupations, lawsuits, and more) from unions, public school teachers, students, and families, Occupiers, and community members. These school closures are almost entirely located in people of color-majority neighborhoods that are already dealing with disinvestment, widespread poverty, lack of opportunity, and violence. We are told the schools must be closed because we supposedly "cannot afford" to keep them open. At the very same time, the city has pledged $100 million to build a new, and unnecessary, basketball stadium for a private university. Here, as in Brazil and across the world, these struggles reveal the true nature of austerity: It is not a question of lack of funding, but of priorities. The 1% is more interested in expensive entertainment for the ruling classes than education for poor and working peoples. Our struggles are connected, and our movements are united!]

Meanwhile, in Sarajevo, the inability of a family to obtain travel ID for their sick baby — who needs urgent medical attention that she cannot receive in Bosnia-Herzegovina — exposed the fundamental flaws at the heart of the nominally democratic post-Yugoslavian state. On June 5, while the government was busy negotiating with foreign bankers to attract new investment, thousands of people occupied parliament square, temporarily locking the nation’s politicians up inside and forcing the prime minister to escape through a window.

While competing ethnic fractions vie for political power, the Bosnian people continue to suffer. By playing the race and religion cards, Bosnian politicians hope to keep the people divided while retaining the financial spoils of foreign investment and World Bank and EU development loans for themselves. But in a sign that most ethnic divisions are politically rather than socially constructed, the Occupy Sarajevo protesters now have a simple message for their politicians: “you are all disgusting, no matter what ethnicity you belong to.”

Sarajevo protests

On Friday, Bulgaria joined the budding wave of struggles that began in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 and that was recently revived through the Turkish uprising. After the appointment of media (and mafia) mogul Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security, tens of thousands took to the streets of Sofia and other cities throughout the country to protest his appointment, which was approved by parliament without any debate and with a mere 15 minutes between his nomination and his (pre-guaranteed) election.

Chanting “Mafia” and calling upon Peevski to resign, the Bulgarians are warning their politicians that a limit has been reached. Ever since the transition from state communism to democratic capitalism empowered a tiny minority of oligarchs to enrich themselves by feeding off the state’s public possessions, Bulgaria has been effectively ruled by a Mafia kleptocracy. As in any capitalist state, political and business elites have become one, undermining the promise of democracy the Bulgarians were made at the so-called End of History.


Greece, in the meantime, finally appears to have been waken up from its austerity-induced slumber. Following the decision of the Troika’s neoliberal handmaiden, Antonis Samaras, to shut down the state’s public broadcaster ERT overnight and to fire its 2,700 workers without any warning whatsoever, the workers of ERT simply occupied the TV and radio stations and continued to emit their programs through livestreaming, making ERT the first worker-run public broadcaster in Europe. ERT workers have since been joined by tens of thousands of protesters and workers, who on Thursday held a nationwide general strike to protest the ERT’s closure.

At first sight, it may seem like these protests are all simply responses to local grievances and should be read as such. But while each context has its own specificities that must be taken into account, it would be naive to discard the common themes uniting them. As my friend, colleague and fellow ROAR contributor Leonidas Oikonomakis just pointed out in a new opinion piece, the Turkish uprising may have started over a couple of trees, but we shouldn’t let that blind us to the forest: the obvious structural dimension at play in this new wave of struggles.

If we take a closer look at each of the protests, we find that they are not so local after all. In fact, each of them in one way or another deals with the increasing encroachment of financial interests and business power on traditional democratic processes, and the profound crisis of representation that this has wrought. Furthermore, the protests show a dawning awareness that the divide-and-rule practices of the ruling class everywhere — pitching the religious against the secular, Bosnians against Serbs, blacks against indigenous against whites, poor against slightly-less-poor, and ‘natives’ against immigrants — are just part of a strategy to keep us from realizing our own power.

In a word, what we are witnessing is what Leonidas Oikonomakis and I have called the resonance of resistance: social struggles in one place in the world transcending their local boundaries and inspiring protesters elsewhere to take matters into their own hands and defy their governments in order to bring about genuine freedom, social justice and real democracy. The resonance of these struggles across national, ethnic and religious boundaries tells us that three decades of neoliberal peace since the End of History were not really “peace” at all; they were merely the temporary victory of other side in a hidden global class war.


Now that has come to an end. A new Left has risen, inspired by a fresh autonomous spirit that has long since cleansed itself of the stale ideological legacies and collective self-delusions that animated the political conflicts of the Cold War and beyond. One chant of the protesters in Sao Paulo revealed it all: “Peace is over, Turkey is here!” And so are Bulgaria, Bosnia and Greece — as well as Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Chile, Mexico, Québec and every other place in the world where the people have risen up in the global struggle for real democracy.

The ominous bottom-line for those in power is simple: we are everywhere. And this global occupation thing? It’s only just getting started.

for freedom



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[-] 4 points by GirlFriday (17435) 10 years ago

You know, a couple of years ago, Turkey's constitution was altered. So, I would not be surprised if that grievance doesn't tumble out at some point.

[-] 0 points by 51coin (3) 10 years ago

The Stigmergic Revolution Kevin Carson | November 12th, 2011

It was long believed that the queen played a central role in the complex social order of an ant colony, through the exercise of direct command and control over her subjects. Not so. Biologist Pierre-Paul Grasse coined the term “stigmergy” for the anthill’s social organization There is no central coordination, no hierarchy, no administrative mechanism. Each ant’s behavior is entirely spontaneous and self-directed, as it responds independently to the chemical trail markers left by other ants.


[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 10 years ago

All over the world and in America, people are trying to resist neoliberal austerity. So here are 'Five Ways That The US Can Have An Icelandic Revolution' - http://www.nationofchange.org/five-ways-us-can-have-icelandic-revolution-1370524936 and a hard lesson from Turkey - http://www.nationofchange.org/turkey-s-tree-revolution-hard-lesson-democracy-1370873880 . Never Give Up! Occupy Democracy! Solidarity.

[-] 2 points by Bighead1883 (285) 10 years ago

In the not too distant past there was dignity.It may only be a seven letter word,yet its connotation expounds a virtue bound to rich and poor alike.It abounded in vocational fields where breadwinners acted with and received dignity.In return for this dignity attributed to the breadwinners,they in turn treated their employer with a mutual dignity at the two privileges,one being gainfully employed and the other in having the dignity of grace accepting that the employer was fortunate enough to be in their respective position.Yet this seven letter word is easily brought undone and sullied by the five letter word greed.Greed takes away all dignity from the giver to the recipitant hence it being one of the named seven deadly sins.Im not a religious person but I fully concur with the values of the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues.Yet dignity does not exist as a virtue from even the ancient Greek Philosophers texts to the more modern Christians values.So what Im saying is that dignity is a special concept,its virtuous in nature with the added appendage of grace,Yet dignity is not listed as a grace.So therefore its special status is even more adorned in humanity.It must therefore be a value,but we can only see that values are a code of conduct in the Tata Code of Conduct regarding how employees treat their employer.So again dignity escapes definition,its not a deadly sin thats for sure,its not a virtue according to philosophy or theology,its not a grace and its not a value.Hmm,dignity is truly hard to pin down yet its importance as a human condition is paramount,its felt deep inside,it pours and seeps into the very being of existence.So after much philosophical bisecting and analysing I`ve come to the conclusion that dignity is the most important of all,as it is the SOUL of being.May when Democracy is again found,we regain our dignity.

[-] 2 points by utopianpath (2) 10 years ago

I believe that our democratic system is outdated and unrepresentative. How is it that in democratic countries, the vast majority feel that they have no real choice and that their government has its own independent agenda? Surely government should have no agenda but to implement the wishes of its citizens? I know that there must be a better way of doing democracy. This book represents my journey in researching and discovering 21st century models of democracy that are already being successfully trialed. I want to share and promote these models in the hope that we can challenge the status quo of our outmoded and clumsy political institutions. I am writing about a new democracy here: http://democracy.pubslush.com Your thoughts and ideas are welcome!

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago

The ominous bottom-line for those in power is simple: we are everywhere. And this global occupation thing? It’s only just getting started.

Right-on - forward health and prosperity for ALL - Down with world wide political corruption.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

I can't be happy if Turkey is declaring an end to peace

but that is probably article spin as much as anything

I remember when the US tried to frame the occupy movement as violent

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

I've heard that Islam meant peace

but as I understand theres a whole religion involved

[-] 2 points by jph (2652) 10 years ago

planted seeds take root, memes spread, minds open.

the global-mind begins to stir.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

Brizil has really moved to actions action the nation city to city

starting with public demands of government service


[-] 0 points by TikiJ (-38) 10 years ago


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