The Art of Organizing Hope, Ghent (2018)

Weaving Solidarity against Repression

When reclaiming hope is the motto in a world where millions of lives are endangered, solidarity must become the actual agenda. Whoever is not on the move may not conceive the imminent potential that forced migration may bring to this planet. Looking at the recent “Art of Organizing Hope” event in Ghent, I have come to realize scaffolding ideas to build synergies towards common action is indispensable in today’s given conditions. It takes skill more than anything and the skill-pool calls for experience sharing online and offline in versatility. Sharing, no matter what kind of trauma one goes through, takes courage and endless mobilization towards social good and justice.

The main aspiration must come from the grassroots; concentrate on what has been repressed by the authoritarian capitalism at stake. It should then be released to transform into a mobilized coalition for saving human dignity .

During the 1800’s in the United States of America, abolitionists, former slaves, First Nations people, and sympathetic allies maintained safe houses and transportation for Blacks attempting to flee slavery into British/Canadian territory. This was The Underground Railroad. They did so without a specific hierarchy, and not only without help from the government, but in direct opposition to it. It was illegal to shelter fugitive slaves, even in so called ‘free states.’ Another such network arose in Europe during the rise of the Nazi party and up to the end of World War II. Individuals and groups from many backgrounds and political persuasions sheltered, hid, and helped transport Jews out of Germany and Europe.

However, helping fugitives is only one role of a solidarity network. In many cities in the United States, groups have been organised around helping immigrants and low-income folks (especially people of color) get wages from cheat in employers or deposits back from deadbeat landlords. their members aren’t just ‘activists’: in fact, many involved are people who’ve been helped by former actions.

Seattle Solidarity Network, 2018

One example is the Seattle Solidarity Network. SeaSol is a volunteer network of working people who believe in standing up for their rights. Their goal is to support fellow workers’ strikes and struggles, build solidarity, and organize to deal with specific job, housing, and other problems caused by the greed of the rich and powerful. Since Occupy movement in the US, it is a bright exemplary as the most persevering solidarity network against invasion of housing and jobs by the rich and the government, mobilized by workers emotional labor.

Infrastructure analyses must be given more attention if we are to advance our understanding of networked social forms. Too often the term network is used in a loose and undefined manner. All kinds of transnational social phenomena are described as networks without specifying exactly what is networked about them. This development obviously entails a risk that the concept becomes inflated to the extent that it loses its analytical relevance and imaginative potential. Paying attention to the infrastructure of the network must therefore be an indispensable part of any network analysis. Network infrastructures may obviously be very different but all networks have one; if they do not it becomes untenable to speak about networks at all. It seems as if the node actors as in 15 M, Indignados or DIEM25 movements have had to ally with other initiatives at the edge in order to create purported mobilization against the post-capitalist authoritarianism at stake. Times of crisis or disasters have been conceptualized by Rebecca Solnit through Disaster Communism at the time of Queensland floods.

Conceiving the Present State of Things

Right populisms that have climbed incessantly at extensive scales do not only create fear through bending realities and faking truth. Such ideologies with specific power-escalating agenda have also innate genetics for misusing labor and creating false enemies through rigorous identity politics.

Organizations, initiatives, networks around setting Sustainable Development Goals as the achievable norm and functioning creatively through emotional labor; 2020 is almost here, so the earth-saving action must be international and unstoppable! Just check the campaign website of RisingUP!; Extinction Rebellion https://extinctionrebellion.org/ for yourself if you have not been taken away by their sparkling flags and banners during some recent rally in EuropeJ They have declared their Declaration of Rebellion very recently on 31 October, 2018, underlining the fact that we have 10 years at most to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions required to save the earth. The high risk of extinction is true for not only humankind, but many species living on this planet. They call their action website, the primary outlet for the campaign and have taken a rather revolutionary domain name: https://rebellion.earth/ The slogan ``Rise from the Wreckage`` and the warning ``Hope Dies, Action Begins!`` are equally bloodcurdling… There is really no alternative anymore!

Making the Transition

Commons Assembly is a good example for how commons movement and DIEM25 have merged to sustain forces. However, the challenge is huge. As Lorenzo Marsilli metaphorically puts forth: “we can certainly common our way out of a beautiful collectively-managed garden, but around us will be wasteland”.

The challenge is huge. It is beyond than making democracy more bottom-up, more local or more participatory. It is about re-thinking democracy and enacting a truly democratic culture at all levels! One thing became crystal clear: both approaches are, to quote a Belgium participant: “extremely complementary“.

European Commons Assembly is a great trigger and initial step, but it is almost impossible and maybe not wise to conglomerate all commons iniatives for social-good under a centrality. Such an effort would never form an exhaustive list and stay as a label on the side. However, when solidarity economy is the case , it would be possible to create a functional showcase for alternative economies of scale and be helpful where it is most needed in communities suffering from neoliberal injustice. Platform cooperativism, when solidarity with initiators and backend labor networks are concerned, can also be marked as an adaptive transitional economy project-hub where the systemic bureaucracies and recursive crisis situations/forecast do not apply. Fair-coops through which P2P networks are active and no intermediaries with neoliberal stakes are present, may also be marked as safe zones of influence in this regard.

Transforming the Externalities along with the Internalities

In this transformational phase, many buzzwords come into view: Solidarity and transnational aesthetic-political dissent and/or subversive tactics against strategy…There is however, a relational approach in cities: contested spaces where culture, gender, class, race are interacting to form contradictory and unexpected spaces: New geographical imaginaries and interventions form in the urban. One may refer to autonomous and radical commons networks in this respect: Guerilla Translation Collective; founded in Madrid in 2013 and inspired by the 15M and Occupy movements, GT is a Peer2Peer and commons-oriented translation collective. It was conceived as a new kind of livelihood vehicle for activist translators that combines two compatible functions: a voluntary translation collective working for activist causes (eg. social, environmental, etc.) and an agency providing translation and general communication services on a paid contract basis. The proceeds from this paid commissioned work go, in part, toward financing the social mission by retroactively paying translators for their voluntary (aka ‘pro-bono’) work. The rest is a contemporary governance regime that functions on fair distribution work, crowdfunding campaign and a taste for open-coperativism to carry out the social mission.

Another great example comes from Simin Fadee`s recent fieldwork in India on permaculture movement of diverse earth practitioners. In her Open Democracy article, Fadee points out that introduced to permaculture in 1986, the major transformative potential of this considerably new practice in India lies in its ability to make small-scale farmers self-sufficient. Hence, it offers viable solutions to the very deep crisis farmers are facing in a country where more than 80% of agricultural holdings are under 2 ha.

Final Word on Another Academy: Academics for Peace Network / Solidarity Academies in Turkey and abroad

Istanbul Solidarity Network, Besiktas (2017)

Academics for Peace (BAK in Turkish, this short name will be used from this point on) was founded in November 2012 in the aftermath of a statement that supported Kurdish prisoners’ demands for peace in Turkey, which they voiced through a hunger-strike. The statement was signed by 264 academics from over 50 universities. Between the years 2013 and 2016 BAK signed petitions, organized meetings including one with several members of the Wise People Committee- a committee that the government tasked for meeting with people to learn about their expectations from peace- and published reports on their activities. The members of BAK also contributed to the peace process by writing in newspapers that compared Turkey’s process with other cases in the world and have at numerous times announced their willingness and readiness to actively participate in the process. However today, what is known as the Academics for Peace (BAK) are the signatories of the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” which was publicized in January 2016 and include a plurality and a size that go much beyond these previous works. Since the day the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” was declared to public through a press conference, the signatories, whose number at that time already exceeded 2000, faced many attacks. Hundreds of them have been fired from their jobs, their passports have been cancelled and confiscated, they were prevented from finding jobs, several were physically and verbally threatened, others were taken into custody, four of them who read a press statement condemning these violations were imprisoned, hundreds have been robbed from the right to work in the public sector through governmental decrees and finally all of them are currently facing individualized court.

This time, I will use the “we” noun since I`m also a part of the network: As the academics who were forced out of the university structures because we have not retreated from our word for peace, we maintain our connection with the academic knowledge processes through alternative local academic organizations. The first steps of the Solidarity Academies were taken by the solidarity classes in Eskişehir, followed by SansCampus Academics in Istanbul. The first organized example of the academies took form in September 2016 by the creation of Kocaeli Solidarity Academy-KODA. Today Solidarity Academies continue their activities in Ankara, Antalya, Dersim, Eskişehir, İstanbul, İzmir, Kocaeli, Mardin, Mersin and Urfa. Street Academy (Sokak Akademisi) and Sans Campus (Kampüssüzler) initiative are unique in their composition and practice. Street Academy announces itself with an authentic statement: As opposition scientists, we oppose this systematic violence in our universities with our students. We move the academy to the middle of life, that is, to those who wish to dismantle science and life from the campuses. We will describe the knowledge and ideas we produce on the streets. The first course of Street Academy started in December 2016 and continues thereof. SansCampus aims to produce knowledge and to provide information to the public by examining the examples of both non-conflict and peace building and socialization processes. The most recent documentary installation, realized during the coordination camp of Solidarity Academies, realized by Kathryn Karaoğlu Hamilton, Oscar Durand and Shailoh Phillips are accessible at: Kampussuz / Academics with No campus ; the improvisational theater act by BAK in honor of detained academic, Onur Hamzaoglu; Timsah / The Crocodile; shots taken at the Courthouse premises where BAK trials are held; Caglayan / The Courthouse Academy .

This overflow of critical pedagogies and collaborative art interventions had to transcend not only traditional campus premises, but also geographical borders: The network expanded itself as signatories outside of Turkey joined hands with those migrating from Turkey due to dismissals and formed satellite networks in place. BAK-Germany, BAK-UK, BAK-France, BAK-US, BAK-Canada, BAK-Montreal all exist to continue the advocacy for academic freedom and freedom of speech for intellectuals, artists and peace activists alike. Some of us pursue civic-networking and dissemination activities with other initiatives in different parts of the world; seminars, talks and street demonstrations are our familiar tasks that we enjoy practicing and sharing through.

Quite a number of us have been supporting other initiatives concentrating on critical pedagogies of peace. Here is a short story of one: Located in Germany, Off-University Association, was founded to create new and emancipative opportunities for education and research. It was established for and by academics from Turkey yet addresses itself to academics all over the world: academics who have been purged from their institutions, forced to resign, who are legally and politically persecuted and even imprisoned because of their opinion and research by anti-democratic regimes and those who seek to speak up against these practices in solidarity. It offers researchers and students with limited opportunity to move around freely an occasion to participate in online education with a mission based on its commitment to peace in the world and to living together in diversity; focusing on education-research activities that are less hierarchical and more democratic.

Autonomous and digital platform initiative that features alternative news-media also deserve attention; this time, most of the voice raises from Ankara, Turkey. Halagazeteciyiz.net (we`re still journalists in English), the platform initiated by sacked journalists and dismissed academics to prove that they are still in the field, actively pacing news. They aim to share content on the digital platform and organize open seminars/workshops to disseminate credible news. They are journalists of Turkey`s capital Ankara who strive to keep news channels open to public retroactively and produce content in Turkish and English. Dismissed academics facing injustice and purge continue writing up media watch reports and special editorials on freedom of speech and press, a self-taught strategy reclaiming their scientific work.

Kulturhane`s Patreon banner, 2018

I can not conclude without mentioning commons neighborhood initiatives that have sparkled from BAK: Kulturhane in Mersin, Turkey is one we are all proud of. It is a knowledge-collective, a cultural workspace, library, café and seminar venue all at the same time; according to the most recent flipped news banner, it is creating a venue for collective events and diverse podcasts. Featuring in Patreon as a crowdfunded socio-cultural knowledge sharing hub, it has already become one of Mersin`s most attractive venues, thanks to dismissed colleagues diligent work and imagination since its first day. With promising hope and inspiration, Ucurtma Kitap Café in Eskisehir and other bookshops, antique shops, old record stores have opened doors by members of our BAK network in Turkey, Germany and other geographies to come.

Free spaces of collective thinking must come alive…The virus is already in Greece with her solidarity schools and in Poland with her solidarity academy! Just as the title of this special issue beautifully reinstates, our solidarity movement will persevere and spread — so long as it is OPEN to collaboration!

REFERENCES

http://libcom.org/blog/disaster-communism-part-1-disaster-communities-08052014

https://extinctionrebellion.org/

https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Neocybernetic_Governance_and_the_End_of_Politics

https://www.guerrillatranslation.org/2018/07/26/no-future-from-punk-to-zapatismo-and-connected-multitudes/

https://www.guerrillatranslation.org/2018/08/22/punk-elegance-how-guerrilla-translation-reimagined-itself-for-open-cooperativism/

https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2018/10/developments-cooperatives-movement/

http://blogfr.p2pfoundation.net/2018/09/07/transformer-les-externalites-en-internalites-est-il-possible-de-produire-pour-les-besoins-humains-en-tenant-compte-de-toutes-les-externalites/

Fadaee S. (2018) Harvesting hope: the permaculture movement in India, Open Democracy / ISA RC-47: Open Movements, 29 July. https://opendemocracy.net/simin-fadaee/harvesting-hope-permaculture-movement-in-india

Olesen, T. The transnational Zapatista solidarity network: an infrastructure analysis ttp://www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/sites/www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/files/zapatista%20j.1471-0374.2004.00082.x.pdf. accessed 31 October 2018