Let’s take heart from some remarkable examples of resistance to mafia capitalism from around the world. Long radical traditions have given these movements a capacity to resist. The Occupy project, so young it is not even a year old, can learn and benefit from these experiences and measure the extent of the challenge, even as we are inspired.
In Moscow, where even the mainstream media refer to Putin’s regime as a “mafia state,” the anarchist feminist punk band Pussy Riot responded to the “charges” in their show trial with defiance.
Wearing the No Pasaran! (they shall not pass) T-shirt with a slogan from the Spanish Civil War in Putin’s KGB courts is a powerful gesture.
It was a slogan against Franco’s fascists, made famous by Dolores Ibárurri, La Pasionaria, during the 1936 defense of Madrid (above). It became the chorus to a song with music by Hans Eisler.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, wearing the shirt, said to the “court”
This is a trial of the whole government system of Russia, which so likes to show its harshness toward the individual, its indifference to his honour and dignity…Even though we are behind bars, we are freer than those people.
By “those people,” Tolokonnikova was referring to the prosecutors and other functionaries who are, like latter-day Stalinists, totally dependent on the good will of the all-powerful leader. What’s particularly courageous about these statements is that Putin has been signaling a wish for leniency. If that now happens, Pussy Riot win a total victory. If it compels the regime to imprison the women for what they rightly describe as “opposition art,” then Putin loses again from the storm of negative publicity.
From the other side of the world come images of the on-going student resistance in Chile. Remember that Chile was the first test-case for neo-liberalism, imposed by the military after toppling the democratic left government of Salvador Allende in a US-backed coup in 1973. General Pinochet implemented Chicago-school neo-liberalism to the letter and it was the disaster we have come to expect. One of the areas least changed since those days is education, where fees are routinely charged across the system, even for the poorest.
After months of resistance, the students still have great energy. Today, according to the Santiago Times,
A group of high school students briefly occupied the central offices of the far-right Independent Democratic Union Party (UDI) in Santiago on Tuesday morning, accusing the party of being “complicit in the robbery of municipal money that should go to education.”
This action carries a possible three-year jail sentence under the Hinzpeter law, criminalizing occupying private or public property. There were widespread clashes with police during the demonstration continuing the call for free public higher education. Here are some photographs taken by Julia Antivilo, feminist performance artist, Mapuche Indian activist and artist. Remember these are high school students.
The water cannon were not just deployed for effect.
In this picture, you can see how young these demonstrators are but the government has responded with stern law-and-order threats.
The combination of principle from young people met with violence by the state is bringing the population as a whole to support their cause. From the popular assemblies in Montréal comes this statement:
As Popular Autonomous Neighbourhood Assemblies (French: Assemblées populaires autonomes de quartiers) formed after the imposition of emergency legislation, we openly give our support to student associations who decide to continue to strike in opposition to the increase to tuition fees, and who continue to disobey this emergency law. To force students back to class, as is supposed to happen starting August 13, is nothing more than an attack on students’ right to collectively organize. For this reason, we offer our support to students on strike: we will organize demonstrations and we will be present on picket lines.
From all this we learn that repression works at first, but if people organize, the resistance becomes stronger and wider. Next, look at the historical perspective. In post-Soviet Russia, Pussy Riot cite the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. Quebec has been militant in regards to separatism and public services since the 1970s. Chile’s democratic revolution ran from 1970-73 and that repression is still being undone.
We’ve barely even begun this. Look at the kids. No pasaran!