What better way to celebrate New Year’s than cozying up on the couch with a glass of champagne, reading through some of the best longreads we published over the past year?
The colonial secrets of Canada’s most racist city
In a global age of resurgent fascism, Trudeau brands Canada as the alternative. The persistence and denial of colonial violence in Thunder Bay tells another story.
There are three reasons why an international audience should care about the otherwise insignificant Canadian city of Thunder Bay, a community of 120,000 souls 100km North of the American border right in the middle of the world’s second most spacious nation-state.
The first is that, as Canada’s murder and hate-crime capital, with the vast majority of these terrors directed at Indigenous people, roughly 13-20 percent of the population, its example has a lot to teach us about the dire failure of the Canadian model of liberal capitalism, corporate multiculturalism, and half-hearted “reconciliation.”
Second, as a troubled (post-)extractive and logistics-based economy in a “first-world” country — a country that exports and finances extractive industries around the world — its patterns of racist violence reveal something profound about capitalism today.
A community in arms: the Indigenous roots of the EZLN
By building a “democracy from below,” the Zapatistas recognize the leadership of, and carry on a long tradition of resistance by Indigenous communities in Chiapas.
On January 1, 1994, several thousand Indigenous Mayan people, organized as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), rose up in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, and took the world by surprise. They were members of the 21 or so ethnic groups who occupied the areas in and around the Lacandon forest near the border with Guatemala. Their weapons were limited to rifles — and some of the rebels carried only wooden replicas. They seized government offices and occupied thousands of acres of private land while briefly taking control of the city of San Cristobal de las Casas and six Chiapas towns.
After 12 days of confrontation with the Mexican army, the rebellion was contained. President Salinas realized that he could not simply go in and smash the Zapatistas. The massive Mexican and global militant mobilization forced the government to declare a unilateral ceasefire and choose another tactic, that of a fake political dialogue while continuing the war in other forms: frequent attacks, massacres and dispossessions.
For their part, the EZLN agreed. Once they achieved the aim of the uprising — making the Indigenous voices heard — they laid down their arms and entered the so-called “peace talks” suggested by the government, while continuing to build the non-hierarchical, “horizontal” political and social system of Chiapas.
What went wrong for the municipalists in Spain?
Spain’s municipalist parties suffered a major setback at the May elections — their own actions and inactions are largely to blame for the loss of support.
On May 26, citizens across Spain went to the polls to vote in municipal and European elections. The results were widely seen as a setback to the municipalist wave that swept Spain’s major cities four years prior. Carlos Delclós published one explanation, focusing on the gap between their hype and their policies and how the Catalan independence movement has upset the landscape. To put it simply, parliamentary majorities are now all but impossible, given that the divide between Left and Right has been further divided by a perpendicular axis, the one between Spanish nationalism and Catalan nationalism.
There are, however, a whole series of failings that stem from the actual programs and interventions of the municipalist parties. Weeks of wrangling to turn the divided vote into feasible coalitions has given us even more examples of politics as usual in the last month, and I think we are obliged to take an honest look at the four years the governments of change have been in power. Delclós has mentioned some accomplishments; I will focus on failings.
The battle for the commons in neoliberal Colombia
Juan Pablo Melo
The local struggle to protect the Rio Blanco ecological reserve epitomizes the resistance against the destructive impact of decades of neoliberal development.
Arriving in Manizales by air from Bogotá, the airplane glides over a jagged urban topography that juts up and down over ridges and hills. Manizales, capital city of Caldas province in central Colombia, seems disproportionally large, spread thin far beyond the necessity of its half a million inhabitants. Outside the city center, which follows the plaza-centric grid layout derived from the traditional Spanish colonial settlement, the urban fabric cascades into undulating patterns without any apparent logic.
What is puzzling about Manizales is not just this growth beyond demographic need, but even beyond tangible economic foundations. The city’s urban sprawl, however, does respond to a very specific logic: that of neoliberal boosterism. There is little to no profit to be made for developers and financiers in densifying the existing city or in repairing and retooling existing neighborhoods and urban infrastructures to house and provide services to growing populations. Therefore, it is little surprise that, expanding to the tune of financial speculation, Manizales is beginning to encroach upon its own ecological conditions for survival.
Hindu nationalism must be defeated — also in the US
Hindu nationalism is festering in the United States, and opposing it should be a priority for American anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must have relished this particular moment from the massive rally held in his honor in Houston, Texas on Sunday, September 22. The Hindu nationalist hardliner, who was recently reinstated as India’s Prime Minister, backed his American authoritarian counterpart Donald Trump for re-election with a slogan that Trump adapted from one of Modi’s own previous campaigns.
Devised as part of Trump’s effort to woo Indian American voters, “This time, Trump government” is a spin on, “This time, Modi government,” widely used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the leadup to Modi’s first general election victory in 2014.
As Modi and Trump swapped slogans, smiled for the cameras, and waved to the crowd of 50,000 packed into the NRG Stadium, they embodied the extent to which Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is a transnational project with powerful links to the United States. These links are not without precedent: as members of the lowest-ranking group in India’s caste hierarchy, Dalits living in North America have endured continued exclusion, erasure, and abuse at the hands of upper-caste diasporic Hindus for decades, as exemplified by the Hindu American Foundation’s recent attempts to whitewash the horrors of the caste system from Californian K-12 textbooks.
Berlin renters organize to expropriate the mega-landlords
Berlin’s spatial dynamics and organized working class show how to secure liveable spaces and combat the financial nature of housing: socialize them.
Over the last few decades, housing in cities around the world has undergone unprecedented financialization and artificial speculation. Investors have never been richer. The worldwide value of the current real estate market is $217 trillion, 36 times worth the value of all the gold ever mined.
Profits from the commodification of the housing market have skyrocketed in step with the enclosure of spaces and the fixing of financial value to them. Living spaces are now complex financial products that can be packaged up into investment funds and swapped by companies across the world.
As Raquel Rolnik, former special rapporteur to the UN on adequate housing, attests, “In the new political economy, centered around housing as a means of access to wealth, the home becomes a fixed capital asset whose value resides in its expectation of generating more value in the future, depending on the oscillations of the (always assumed) rise of real-estate prices.”
Berlin has been the epicenter of the emerging struggle against capital, giving birth to a rebellious housing movement. A city-wide referendum is underway to expropriate “mega-landlords” with 3,000 apartments or more. If successful, the campaign could tip the scales away from speculation and essentially decommodify 250,000 apartments. In Berlin, tenants and housing activists are building upon shared struggle to break capital’s control over the home and democratize how and where we live.
And here’s to a rebellious 2020!
Source URL — https://roarmag.org/2019/12/31/the-year-in-six-longreads/