Political void, social despair and circular solutions

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The Internet appears to be a place that can facilitate free and open dialogue yet, in reality, what often happens is the opposite. Online content is created and promoted in a manner that does not open up avenues for dialogue but for self-affirmation. In relation to the Western liberal political debates on the web, this is achieved by what is called ‘cancel culture’, which promotes the exclusion, censorship and moral assassination of dissident voices, while critically affirming and reaffirming itself.

At times, neoliberalism is perceived as an ideological doctrine or a homogeneous body of theoretical knowledge; then and again, it is perceived as a political-economic phase of capitalism. I reckon both propositions are wrong. Neoliberalism does not represent a coherent body of knowledge, nor it is political-economic practice with a defined scope; it is instead both a tactic and a strategy within dominant capitalist relations. It has never had a pure, homogeneous form; on the contrary, it is so heterogeneous that it is amorphous: everything and nothing at the same time. It proclaims anti-state capitalism only to enable capitalist monopolies to deeply rely on state power in order to secure the transfer of wealth upwards from the labour class to the 1%.

It emphasises a free market but uses legal and military power to block, sanction, attack, and destroy adversaries. It proclaims the values of freedom and liberty, but secures a tight grip over the media and public speech, asserts censorship over dissident voices, privatises the public domain, and fosters fascist regimes, bloody monarchies, and dictatorships aligned with its own interests. Neoliberalism is a tactic of social control and domination, which makes vast use of cultural war, thus, rewriting history, changing the perception of reality, controlling social narratives, shaping social behaviour, and destroying cultural memory.

As socioeconomic conditions are decimated and, accordingly, social despair grows, neoliberal tactics, which are more known at an economic level, require complementary tactics in order to impose themselves as part of a broader strategy. Cultural domination did not occur automatically as a meritocratic product of political-economic strategies, which, in fact, represented for most people a constant worsening of life. Its complementary strategy is post-modernity, which represents a form of social neoliberalism – it asserts a dimensionality of cultural domination. The relativisation of everything was achieved by the implementation of a sequence of sub-tactics. The notion of the end of history, as if capitalism was the zenith and final stage of social organisation, could only be imposed by enabling a political void and a theoretical vacuum, this, in turn, enabled cultural amnesia.

Generation after generation has grown up not only disbelieving any social change but also every possibility of political action was crushed a priori. Politics has been associated with business, corruption, personal gain, etc. Everyday life appeared distilled from political relations. They there; we here. A-politicisation gave way to depoliticisation. People were disgusted and appalled by it. Social reality crumbled; existence appeared as the mere amalgamation of isolated, atomised individuals. Any change could only exist and be realised at the sub-atomic level, namely individual perception. The social change produced by political action was substituted by the subjective apprehension and interpretation of the world. But this world meant the world of within, a subjective individual inner world. While the capitalist elites rage class war on the people at a worldwide scale, Western intelligentsia promoted the debacle of the struggle of classes, which became abhorred and abolished by the leaders of social movements.

The only struggle possible was the struggle of the self. The greatest minority of all – the capitalist elite – imposes its force over the majority by dividing it politically and imposing upon it its ideological control. To the majority of people, the only possibility left was that of self-identification with one aspect (or small singulars) of its own identity. This canon, which has always been an important driver of racism, chauvinism, patriarchy, and religious despotism, was now converted into the only principle for social struggles, now rebranded, identity politics. The level of irrationalism reached new heights. The fight against some social-political categories was implementing conceptual categories while claiming to ban all categorisation. Not only were the masses divided and did not have an intellectual and artistic representation anymore, but became themselves the targets of the Western intelligentsia, instead of the elite.

These are the conditions in which voices like Jordan Peterson‘s emerges. As Left-wing struggles were being substituted by liberal indoctrination, human emancipation striving for the recognition of the human being in its universality was substituted by the oxymoron of identity emancipation (today, also under the mask of the so-called woke movement).

Systemic conditions disappeared not because they were superseded but because they were suddenly postulated absent. While billions of people – the 99% – are first and foremost affected and threatened by existential conditions, Western intelligentsia imposed over them struggles over gender, race, and climate. Instead of demanding to abolish the horrific labour conditions affecting all women, men, gay, trans, straight, black, white, immigrant, non-immigrant, etc. alike at a superstructural level, instead of demanding the recognition of the differences among people due to historical heritage, natural conditions, social economic backgrounds, access to political power etc. the intelligentsia did the opposite.

Maintaining all the conditions for social oppression and destruction of nature, activists, academics, and artists pushed forward (mostly unknowingly) the notion of changing everything so that nothing changes.

The decadent capitalist tactics of neoliberalism and postmodernity are then rhetorically called “socialism”, its abandonment represents a mystic return to pure capitalism. The likes of Peterson, therefore, represent the other side of the same coin. Their role is to represent an alternative voice in order to keep everything the same; theories that, as in postmodernism, depart from some half-truths and epitomise themselves in pure irrationality – denial of history and reality. They are great expressions of the theoretical and political void of our times, and appear to fill this vacuum, when in fact they are prolonging, disguising, and giving a new form to it. The fact that the likes of Peterson have gained any social dimension reveals the lack of theoretical relevance, depth, and methodology in contemporary society and both within its leading intellectual and political classes. Although they have a very clear political program, the depoliticisation of society and the appearance given to their messages enables them to get away with it, as if purely scientific messages were being promoted, as if this was even possible, as if science is not always embedded within a political reality.

Finally, exactly for this reason exemplified above, I constantly insist on the absolute necessity that theoretical and methodological grounding cannot be separated from political struggles. The form, the content, the reach, and the results of contemporary Left show that Left-wing movements still disapprove of most theories that do not mimic their aprioristic worldview detached from the social-historical dimension.

 

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Sweden changes its constitution and its ideals

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Sweden has made a worrying change to its constitution, making it illegal to release information that could be ‘damaging’ to the country’s relations with other countries or organisations

We, the people of Sweden, were promised that applying for NATO membership would never impact our democracy. Nothing would change, no laws broken, no human rights violated and Sweden would keep its long tradition of being a force for peace and solidarity. This was what we were told by the political left and right. A couple of months after the submission, nothing can be further from the truth.

The Swedish constitution has changed. On November 17, the parliament voted in favour of changing its constitution to ‘protect’ us from espionage. Funnily enough, just recently, multiple individuals have been charged with espionage, so apparently it was already illegal before. So what does the new change do? Well, it makes it illegal to release information that could be ‘damaging’ to Sweden’s relations with other countries or organisations.

And how does this protect us? That question was asked by one of Sweden’s most renowned journalists to a representative of the parliament. She had no answer.

So why did this happen? Is this a coincidence that the major parties need to fill a gap in the legislation? Or is this part of something bigger?

Lawmakers who disagree say this is to convince other countries, foreign powers, that they can count on Sweden to deal with any potential leaks, or whistleblowers that may make life difficult for human rights abusers. Otherwise there’d be no reason to conceal this information. It is cowardly and shows a trend to walk the line of expediency instead of calling out abusers, even if they are our allies or much more powerful than we are. We have a history in Sweden of condemning atrocities. This is a step away from this tradition.

Why is it then necessary to have a law that criminalises actions that might “damage” Sweden’s relationship with other countries? On May 16, Sweden applied to join NATO. Since then we have worked hard to get people like Erdogan and Orbán to let Sweden join the club. Erdogan wants us to give him a number of people whom he classifies as terrorists. Many of these people are journalists. It is worth reminding that Turkey is one of the countries with the highest number of jailed journalists.

In the eyes of DiEM25 Stockholm there is no doubt that Sweden’s application to join NATO has been the catalyst to many morally abhorrent, or at least highly questionable, decisions and now it is clear that the foundations of the Swedish states are being altered to fit the needs and wants of authoritarian member states. This is an early Christmas gift for Erdogan. And you who want us to join NATO, is this how you want us to go about it?

What will change? What can be said for certain is that potential whistleblowers need even more courage to give us, the people, the information we should have.

 

 

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Cyprus visit: Launch of DiEM25 branch and meetings on both sides of the divide

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Our delegation was there for the launch of DiEM25 in Cyprus as well as meetings with organisations on both sides of the divide

DiEM25, along with our Greek political party MERA25, enjoyed a highly productive and successful three-day visit to Cyprus for the launch of the island’s branch of the movement.

The delegation, consisting of Kriton Arsenis (MP of MERA25 Greece), Erik Edman (political director of DiEM25) and Danae Stratou (President of mέta) held meetings with left-wing and progressive organisations, both Greek and Turkish Cypriot.

The main public political event of the official launch of DiEM25 in Cyprus took place on Wednesday, November 25, at the University of Cyprus Library in Nicosia.

Photo credit: Electra Stavrou

This was followed by an interesting political discussion, through questions from the guests and participants of the event.

“The voice of DiEM25 is here. We are politicking in the interests of the many and the protection of the environment, as a voice of the working class, the precariat and underrepresented social groups,” Arsenis stated.

“We call you for political action and rallying, to grow the local collective of DiEM25 and increase our influence on the political regime, inside and outside the decision-making circles. To form a strong component of a progressive anti-systemic front. To fill the ideological gap that is politically established in Cyprus today and to achieve a break with the oligarchy, through a democratic revolution, as the only alternative.”

On Thursday, November 24, the delegation visited the Akrotiri Peninsula of Limassol, which under the control of the UK government, where we received an update on the situation in the area from the environmental group Birdlife Cyprus and the Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre.

“The Casino is for the few, this place is for the many,” Arsenis said, in reference to the mega resort being developed in the city.

DiEM25 Cyprus is also in favour of the comprehensive and effective protection of the wetland of the Cape Limassol Peninsula and the Lady’s Mile beach from the (large-scale) adjacent residential, commercial and tourist developments.

We are taking a stand against large private interests and the interlocking oligarchy, for the public good, the local community and the flora and fauna of the island.

At the end of the day, an open meeting between members and friends of DiEM25 and MeRA25 was held in Limassol.

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We remain in solidarity with the Palestinian people

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November 29 is International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, whose cause is of great importance to DiEM25, not just on this day but every day.

It’s an opportunity to once again reiterate our support for the people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom and dignity – a struggle that should concern people with humanitarian values everywhere.

In Europe, showing solidarity with Palestinians means acting to pressure our governments into withdrawing their shameful support for Israel’s vicious occupation and apartheid policies. One campaign which DiEM25 is a part of is doing just that – and you can help.

Stop Trade With Settlements

The EU opposes annexation and considers illegal settlements in occupied territories as an obstacle to international peace and stability. But even though illegal settlements constitute a war crime, the EU allows trade with them.

That trade allows for profits from annexation and contributes to the expansion of illegal settlements across the world. We are calling for an EU law that will end trade with illegal settlements once and for all.

This law will apply to occupied territories anywhere, among them the Occupied Palestine Territory and Israel’s illegal settlements there. It will also send a powerful signal around the world that the EU will no longer reward territorial aggression with trade and profits.

Sign the petition that pushes for a historic law that stops trade with illegal settlements here, and support the Palestinian people on this important date.

Free Palestine!

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What goes on inside an Amazon factory, and how workers are fighting back

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DiEM25’s Frontline interviewed Agnieszka Mróz, an Amazon factory worker in Poland, who provided an insight into the company’s exploitative practices and the tactics that her union uses to push back

Few know more about the dirty tricks Amazon deploys to resist any meaningful change to the systematic exploitation of its workers than Agnieszka Mróz.

Not only has she been working at an Amazon factory since 2014 in Poznan, Poland, but Agnieszka is also a union organiser, and a key player in the struggle against the e-commerce giant for fair wages and better all-round conditions.

In the latest episode of DiEM25’s Frontline, Mehran Khalili sat down with Agnieszka, where she provides an insight into the various problems and possible solutions, from the company’s exploitative practices to the tactics that her union uses to pressure Amazon’s management.

In an attempt to put a dent in the e-commerce giant’s activity, the Make Amazon Pay campaign, launched by the Progressive International and supported by DiEM25, takes place on Black Friday which unites workers and unions in striking on November 25.

Agniezska began by explaining the origins of Amazon unions in Poland.

Agnieszka: We started in 2014 with 30 workers, some of them actually worked in Amazon warehouses in France and Germany, and were trained there.

When they came back, they quickly realized the working conditions are worse in Poland, and because they saw unions in action in France and Germany, they understood that this is our weapon as workers. So they decided that we should start organizing together in Poland.

Mehran: What is it that’s worse about the working conditions exactly in Poland compared to the other countries where Amazon is present?

Agnieszka: If you go inside the warehouse, most of the warehouses in Europe look exactly the same. So what is worse? It’s not really the type of work we are doing because we are doing exactly the same work as in other countries, but it’s about the legal framework, which makes our ability to organise different.

First of all we have much lower wages than Western European wages, of course. Secondly, we work 24 hours, seven days a week. And we are not paid overtime for working Sunday and Saturday.

We work ten hour shifts, including at night – that’s the difference. And then a very important difference, which is making our ability to organise more difficult, are the very restricted strike laws in Poland.

Because in order to organise a legal strike in Poland, the law says that you need a vote, like a ballot, of 50% of workers who are going to vote on the strike but it’s counted in the legal entity of Amazon Fulfilment Poland, which is 30,000 workers. So in order to organise a legal strike, we would need 15,000 votes. That’s a bit unrealistic, but that’s the law we have in Poland.

Mehran: When you started working at Amazon, what were the existing unions, retail unions, etc, that you could join and why the decision to make your own union rather than connect your struggle to that of workers from other retail companies?

Agnieszka: Amazon is anti-union in general, so they don’t want to play this social dialogue. They haven’t played that model of social dialogue unionism even with the big unions because they just didn’t want to have unions in the shop floor.

They call us third parties, but we are not third parties. We are workers in this shop floor, so they cannot tell us that we have our own interest or that we don’t work in the interest of workers. This is the strategy Amazon was really exploring against big business unions in Western Europe, but also in the US.

Mehran: Tell me about some of the tactics that you’ve used in your struggle against Amazon. What works, what didn’t work, why didn’t it work, etc.

Agnieszka: As I mentioned before, the strike law in Poland is very restrictive but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to use law as a tool. Right now, we are in the process of collecting votes on the strike referenda, but we use it more strategically. We would have to collect 15,000 votes to have a right to strike in Poland. But what the law allows us right now is to travel around all 11 warehouses in Poland and be present in the canteens, in the in front of the warehouse, talk to workers… So we also use it as a strategy of permanent rally, permanent pickets, that we are there in the canteen, we talk to the workers during breaks and before and after work.

We have access to the warehouse. This is very important. And we hope we can get as many votes as possible, but what has value itself is just having access to our colleagues, which Amazon usually is very strict that about, that one warehouse [can liaise with] another warehouse. Usually there is no access.

Mehran: Is this strike that you are now collecting votes for, is this part of the international action for Make Amazon Pay for Black Friday on the 25th of November?

Agnieszka: The one demand we have right now is just about higher wages, so we demand six Polish zloty more (1.28 euro), and of course it is a part of the ‘Make Amazon Pay’ campaign, because we want Amazon to pay us higher wages.

But of course, it also refers to the wage difference between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. So we believe we deserve more. We also believe that the wages Amazon offered this year – from 3% to 7% in different countries in Europe – are totally not corresponding with the growing inflation and our needs as workers to provide for our families.

So we believe that wages should be higher, and this is the first precondition. And in this way, yes, we want to make Amazon pay.

Within the last eight years, we experimented with different forms of organising and struggling. The most powerful actions were taken by workers on the shop floor level which were in direct response to some restrictions or some new measures introduced by Amazon.

To give one example, Amazon once came to the workers in the ship department – these are the guys who load trucks on the gates – and they [Amazon] said that if you violate some regulations you will be punished and you will not be allowed to drive a forklift anymore. But they were not objective at all. So it was actually a manager who could decide who could be punished or not.

So what workers did, they collectively refused, and gave back the driving license for forklifts. Workers said: ‘Okay, I’m not going to drive a forklift if you’re going to punish me on this non-objective condition’. The answer of the company was immediate. A top [level] manager came in, they started to negotiate, and they [the workers] won.

Another example are the pickers – a picker in the old school warehouses when there are no robotics, actually walk around all the little corridors where items are stocked on the shelves. And then, using a scanner, they find the item, put it on the trolley and send items to the packing department. They are those who collect items from the shelves. And usually they collect 12 to 15 items to a box and send the box to the packing department.

When the pickers were forced to do obligatory overtime, which meant a 12-hour night shift, they said: ‘This is too much, we do not agree with it’.

And they started to send one or two or three items to each box and send it to the packing department. And if you do it collectively, it’s just paralysing – the conveyor belt just doesn’t provide packers with enough items. These are some of the most powerful actions that have come from understanding that working collectively can directly affect the production inside the warehouse.

Other forms of action was a blockade during Black Friday in 2020, when supporters just blocked the gate for trucks coming in and out of the warehouse for at least three hours.

It was coordinated through leafleting inside the warehouse, inside the canteen, talking about our demands and talking about how to make Amazon pay in general.

And then we do a lot of leafleting action, we have a worker’s newspaper, we circulate leaflets regularly, we organise the smaller picket lines quite regularly, just to inform workers about their rights.

There was also an action called ‘Safe Package’, which was about providing certain tips to workers in different departments on how they can work slowly according to the health and safety rules, and that leaflet was part of the Amazon Workers International campaign, and was translated into German, French and Polish and distributed on Black Friday at the same time in different countries.

Mehran: What do you mean exactly by working slowly? Do you mean to not overexert yourself and create people who are exhausted on the job?

Agnieszka: Amazon is putting a lot of pressure on workers to reach a particular target of items per hour. So they would say you have to make 200 or 300 boxes per hour depending on the department you work.

We have a lot of targets. You have to really know if it’s small items, big items, how many per hour you have to make, but you have to do [as many as they say]. And if you don’t, the manager will come and give you a negative feedback for productivity. So this is the reality we are facing on a daily basis.

But on the other hand, they have a lot of rules that contradict this pressure on targets because they would, for example, tell you that you have to look at every item from all six sides to make sure that the customer is not getting an item that is destroyed in any way. Or they would say that you have to follow the various health and safety rules, especially during COVID.

That was very visible because they expected us to keep two metres distance from each other while still putting pressure on our productivity. But we wanted to use this, during our struggles, as a way of saying that, if they tell us to drink water to not be dehydrated, it means that we have the right to, or we have the right to go to the toilet without being harassed by managers.

So if you organise these kinds of actions collectively rather than individually, it does affect companies and this is the kind of resistance that sends the message that we should be treated better.

Mehran: What you’ve just described sounds like modern slavery – monitoring how often you go to the bathroom yet telling you that you’ve got to check each item thoroughly while still having to meet targets otherwise you get penalised.

Tell me how that feels for you, the situation that you’re in.

Agnieszka: Actually organising with our colleagues helps us to survive the reality of our work. Because the company wants you to work on your individual productivity, to not talk to other workers, to just focus on work and work only. We don’t want to be treated like this because we are human beings.

We have the right to, for example, talk to our colleagues at work: we are not robots – this is of course the age old slogan of the labour movement at Amazon.

We are not robots, but we are also not slaves. Workers don’t like to be called this. There’s a patronising approach in the mainstream media, when they present say that it’s ‘digital slavery’, ‘it’s like algorithmic hell’.. you know, all these descriptions that are quite ‘sexy’ for the media, but they don’t appeal to workers because us workers have our dignity and we don’t want to be called slaves.

Because if you call yourself a slave, it actually cuts you from the perspective that you can organise and fight for improvements.

So we would rather focus on making connections. Organising within the warehouse is all about making connections with others, to break this isolation and just to think together about what we can do about it. And actually that makes our ten hour shift survivable. Because if you don’t want to be another algorithm or appendix to the algorithm, and if you’re a human being, then you have to find your community, your group, that when then manager is coming to you for ‘one-on-one’ talks – they love these one-on-one talks – and we say, no, we are not one-on-one.

We have our friend who is a picker working next to us, or we have a shop steward from the union who can come. You can just share your story that you’re not alone.

Mehran: So one-on-one talks are great for isolating the problem, rather than letting other people in on what’s wrong.

Agnieszka: Yes, exactly. That’s why Amazon is so openly anti-union because they know that in the union, we are not one against them, that we are holding this collective force.

And of course they do respond. They do oppress us. We had to of our shop steward stewards from our union fired last year. They put us in different departments, they make our lives harder and harder. We got a lot of disciplinary letters as well, so they let us know they are watching us. But that also means that they are afraid of what we are doing and that we are kind of doing our job well.

Mehran: You’ve spoken in terms of ‘us and them’, the management and the workers. I presume you’ve got good, respectful relationships with some people in the management in that there is a bit of give and take or is it just antagonistic?

What’s the psychology of it in a typical working day for you?

Agnieszka: I would say it’s very antagonistic to the extent that a lot of my colleagues, when you go by bus and you see the warehouse approaching, a lot of my colleagues would say, ‘oh my God, I have a stomach pain, I don’t want to go there’. Like ‘I’m here again’.

People just feel this pressure on their bodies from the very beginning. Most of the workers would not work longer than three or four years because your body is so overused that you look for any kind of alternative. If you find an alternative, you just go.

I want to add that the structure at Amazon is very flat. Most [of the workforce] is warehouse workers, while leaders and managers are few. So you don’t have this strong hierarchy between regular workers. We are all making the same wage. We are all working the same hours so, in the warehouse, when there is 5,000 workers, 80-90 percent would be on the same contract, so the structure is very flat.

But also, if you are working inside, it is, as we call it, exploitation with a smile. Because the managers would not shout at you. They would come to you and with a smile, they will ask: ‘how can I help you? You are slowing down today.’

So they are not antagonistic to your face but you know that, through all the tools they use to measure our work, through scanners and computers, it just means total control of our speed. And if you slow down, they would, with a smile, come to you and say: ‘here is disciplinary letter because we noticed that you didn’t work for eight minutes here, seven minutes there, five minutes here…’

And then they take away a day off, accusing you that you took an additional 40 minutes of break, because they add it all up. So you can talk nicely to your manager, but you know that this manager will come to you and give you this disciplinary letter because the system prints them out and this is his job, to discipline you when you slow down.

So as I said, wage is a problem. Low wages that are totally incompatible with the huge profits we’re making. But also the second demand is about not treating us like robots, controlling us through robots, because we don’t want to be controlled by these algorithms.

Mehran: Some people might read this and think that it’s wonderful that Agnieszka is pushing for better conditions for her and her colleagues but, if it’s so terrible, she’s been there since 2014, why does she stay? Surely there are other things that she can do. Perhaps you can shed a little light on your own personal situation that makes this your choice of work.

Agnieszka: Talking amongst colleagues, a lot of us have worked in smaller warehouses or factories, and the conditions were even worse.

They say we have to stay here, not quit and look for alternatives. We have a saying in Polish: You can, from a little rain, end up under the drainpipe (English equivalent: Out of the frying pan and into the fire). The idea is that it’s better to stay here in the hope that, because Amazon is so big and so influential, the important struggle for the improvement of the conditions of all workers can be achieved across the board.

There are a few more companies that actually try to set up conditions in the whole sector. So if we are there and we want to learn how they discipline workers, what kind of kind of tools they use, how to implement these improvements… we should also understand what is happening in the whole sector.

So it’s not some kind of liberal approach of ‘If you don’t like it, find a better place’. Some of my colleagues worked in 15 workplaces like this. There are millions of us in Poland working in these kinds of conditions.

I believe that a challenge for labour movements and for us as labour activists is not to look for individual solutions, individual careers, but to go back to these places, even find a job if you can for a short time. It’s good to read about how capitalism is working, it’s really good to know the theory, but it’s really a life-changing experience  if you go into factories, if you go to work in these warehouses and try for yourself to break this isolation, alienation..

You can read about this in very important books, but you really have to experience this and take this challenge of changing the world, to fight capitalist exploitation for real.

Mehran: And Amazon being such a big company and such a prominent company, that’s where the fight really is. And you get first-hand knowledge of all these mechanisms of exploitation or control, the digital surveillance and so on. You start to understand how they control the workers because probably other places are much further behind in terms of how they manage these mechanisms…

Agnieszka: And from that experience, you can actually join the movement because the movement is growing. You can really see it from a wider perspective. Amazon has been operating since the nineties – in Europe, its first warehouse was created in 1998. It really took really time for us, the labour movement, to start doing things.

But there are so many exciting new initiatives that have been happening in the last years. Look at the situation in us, but not only, you know, there’s, Grassroots movements are in every country. In Europe, wherever Amazon is, you can find people trying different strategies [to fight against it].

There are some bigger unions, smaller unions, or more social movement people who try to build coalitions between labour movements and environmental movements and all this. So there are many points where you can become a member of this movement. Of course we, as workers, say that the most powerful position is to be on the inside, talking to other workers and to build this movement from the inside.

But I would say, for those who are starting in the labour movement, I think it’s really an exciting challenge. Because you can easily connect. Right now, through these [social] networks, we are connected. You can find our unions and different unions on social media. You can read about it. The media is willing to ask us for interviews because Amazon is a big player. So there is a space in which we can talk about our struggles, and I think this movement can make a difference. It’s growing, and campaigns like Make Amazon Pay show that we have a leg to stand on.

Mehran: How many people are working in the warehouse in Poland?

Agnieszka: It’s changing, depending on the peak time. Altogether [there are] 30,000 workers in Poland in 11 warehouses.

In my union, there are 1,000 members right now, but because of the high turnover, people come and go, so actually we have had three times more who have gone through this experience of doing things together.

So we don’t see this is as a defeat that these 4,000 who went through our ranks are gone We say in touch – some are now truck drivers, work in delivery sectors or work in other factories. They call us for advice and, in this is the way we are networking with other people from other workplaces.

Mehran: November 25 is ‘Make Amazon Pay’ day, the worldwide campaign organized by our sister organisation, the Progressive International for Black Friday, in which they call for a strike on that day.

There have been previous such initiatives in the past which also related to consumer boycotts and strikes. Does asking people not to buy anything from Amazon on a certain day make an impact?

Agnieszka: I personally believe that it’s much better to support organised labour movements than to go on an individualistic consumer boycott. But as long as this form of networking and campaigning is going along with what we do in the warehouses, that also helps us because that brings attention, that give us space to talk about our problems as workers.

So I see that the Make Amazon Pay campaign is just this space, not just one campaign. A space where people coming from different traditions, from different unions, can use one slogan that we all agree on, that Amazon should pay,for higher wages, for climate destruction, for taxes and so on.

Mehran: So what in your view is the best way to communicate the struggle of Amazon workers worldwide in a way that isn’t dehumanizing, victimizing and demoralizing for workers?

Agnieszka: The best way is to talk about struggles and campaigns that are happening. They are exciting cases and campaigns every year so it’s all about doing some research, to collect these experiences and show that workers are able to make demands and take action.

As long as you focus on our struggle, if you say that the demands of these workers in different countries are important. That’s why as outside activists, you create spaces in which these demands can be heard. And this is for me make what the Make Amazon Pay campaign is about.

Also try to not stay on this symbolic level. If you can, go in front of an Amazon warehouse on that day, because you might be surprised. On that day, workers could distribute leaflets, hang banners, maybe workers there need support, financial support through the strike fund. Maybe they need people to come at four o’clock in the morning before the morning shift to just help distribute leaflets, come to the picket lines, try to be involved.

And if you can, just go and start working on Amazon – it’s not difficult and you can have this experience yourself. You can connect with us, with local unions, and make this movement grow.

Find out more about Amazon Workers International here and the Make Amazon Pay campaign here

You can watch the full interview below

 

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Varoufakis to Cuba ambassador: ΜeRΑ25-DiEM25 against US asphyxiation of Cubans

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The new Ambassador of Cuba to Greece, Mr Aramís Fuente Hernández, paid a visit to MeRA25’s General Secretary Yanis Varoufakis.

Following an hourly overview of international developments, the Ambassador extended an invitation on behalf of the Cuban government to Varoufakis to visit Cuba in an official capacity in late January for talks on setting up a New Non-Aligned Movement, as announced in the Athens Declaration on May 13, 2022.

This visit would also include a speech by Varoufakis in Havana on global economic and geopolitical developments.

On his part, the Secretary of MeRA25 expressed the total objection of MeRA25-DiEM25 and the Progressive International to the continuing asphyxiation of the Cuban people, which the US has been pursuing for six decades.

“War, the nuclear threat, climate catastrophe, violence and the dependence on oligarchic imperialist centres are the common enemy of all people,” Varoufakis stated at the end of the meeting.

“I look forward to working with you to prepare your visit to Cuba,” added Mr Hernández.

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DiEM25 panel: How to make Amazon pay this Black Friday

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Black Friday is coming up, the day of the year where stores and outlets offer massive sales on their products. Yet while many see as it as an opportunity to snap up bargain goods, it is the big businesses that ultimately come away victorious.

Among the biggest beneficiaries is Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has grown into a global behemoth at the expense of cheap and abusive labour, technological invasiveness and environmental exploitation.

To mark this day, therefore, DiEM25 is taking an alternative route, supporting the Make Amazon Pay campaign launched by the Progressive International, which seeks to unite workers and unions in striking on November 25. The aim is to send a message to the Jeff Bezos-owned company and hopefully put a small dent in its activity.

On our latest DiEM25 panel, we discussed both this action and other potential ways of combating Amazon’s abuses.

Amazon is a technological fiefdom

Yanis Varoufakis first summarised how Amazon is like no other ‘market’ and shouldn’t even be described as such, given that it targets customers algorithmically.

“The moment you enter Amazon.com you exit capitalism (laughs). You exit the marketplace because Amazon is not a market,” he began. “For a market to be a market you need to have a common space where there is an interaction between buyers. [In a market] we walk down the street and see the same things.

“If any of us here logged on and searched for a book, each one of us would be directed to a different book. It’s the equivalent of us walking down a market street side by side, turning our eyes to the same spot and seeing different things and what we see is determined by the owner of the alogirthm, of the digital space. The digital fiefdom.

“Because this is not a market place, it is a fiefdom, it goes back to a kind of feudalism, only it is a digital, technological fiefdom.”

Digital boycott

As well as the Make Amazon Pay strikes, Varoufakis then stressed the need for a consumer boycott, a digital boycott, to send a message to Jeff Bezos.

“The only thing that would affect Jeff Bezos is a fall in the share price. There will be no such drop even if a significant proportion of Amazon warehouses don’t work for one day – it is important, but there has to be [a consumer boycott].

“I would love to have a 20 percent reduction on Amazon.com on that day because that would really piss of Jeff Bezos. That would have a negative impact on the share price. Even for one day. That’s when he takes notice, that’s when we win.”

Adding to Yanis’ point of staging a digital boycott was Daniel Kopp from Progressive International, who is leading the Make Amazon Pay campaign.

He mentioned GenZ for Change as a good example of collective activism, a group of US TikTokers that stood in solidarity with Amazon workers by creating the ‘People Over Prime’ campaign that saw TikTokers with a combined following of 50 million people refuse to monetise their content with Amazon content.

“That was so powerful that the company [Amazon] had to respond,” Daniel said.

Amazon is becoming one of the biggest advertisers on the internet and so “maybe it’s not the Make Amazon Pay campaign or the trade unions that should call for it but those who actually have the most direct line to consumers, whether it’s TikTokers or Twitch streamers, which Amazon recently bought”.

Vote with your wallet

Julijana Zita also made a necessary point. She mentioned how Amazon have long been edging towards the automation of their production line, whether it be robots in their factories for the production of goods or drones that would deliver the products. A consumer boycott would therefore dent both its attempt to reduce the need for human workers and, at the same time, dent its profits.

The need to shop local was also stated, referencing how there has been a demise for local businesses, which have been replaced by international conglomerates. “I think that reality, real life, has to fight back against these online companies. It is in the interest of small business owners and consumers to question what they’re buying there [on Amazon].”

Find out more about the Make Amazon Pay campaign here.

You can watch the full discussion below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DiEM25 and MeRA25 to visit Cyprus from November 23-25

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Our delegation and local members will visit the island for the launch of DiEM25 Cyprus and take part in important meetings and discussions

DiEM25, our Greek political party MERA25, and our local members in Cyprus have the pleasure to inform you about the official launch of DiEM25 Cyprus.

To mark this event, a team of political members of DiEM25 and MeRA25 will visit Cyprus from November 23 to November 25, 2022.

The delegation will consist of Kriton Arsenis (MeRA25 Member of Parliament and distinguished environmentalist-activist), Kostas Daskas (Coordinator of the Central Committee of MeRA25), Erik Edman (DiEM25 Political Director), and Danae Stratou (President of mέta).

We are also delighted to be able to gather with local members of DiEM25 Cyprus and MERA25 Greece on this visit.

The purpose of the visit is to learn about the most important political issues at stake in Europe, Greece and Cyprus, through events, meetings, symbolic visits to areas of political interest and interviews with local media.

Below is the detailed programme of events and activities of the three-day event:

23/11/2022, 19:30, Nicosia, amphitheatre LRC014, New Library of the University of Cyprus. Main political event, with Kriton Arsenis. Introduction by the other members of the mission. A discussion with the audience will follow.
24/11/2022, 12:00, Limassol. Meeting with environmental groups, briefing and visit of the Limassol Cape Peninsula.
24/11/2022, 19:30, Limassol. Open meeting of DiEM25 and MERA25 members and friends, at NeMe Arts Centre.
25/11/2022, morning, Nicosia. Meetings with the parliamentary parties AKEL and Oikologoi.

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If the world survives, who will rule it?

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What the violence wrecking communities in Northern Africa and the failed meetings at COP27 tell us about our future

On November 12, gunmen attacked a village in northern Nigeria, leaving at least 12 people dead. The massacre is the latest horrifying chapter in a host of conflicts taking place far away from the headlines of European newspapers, though they are claiming thousands of lives every year.

In Western and Northern Africa, clashes between groups of farmers and nomadic herders have been intensifying. Some of these clashes have been triggered or exacerbated by climate change, which can force herders to change their routes and compete with farming communities for water and land as a result of droughts. In a harrowing report, Mary Hommes – a woman who survived an attack on her village last year – described witnessing three women being murdered as they begged for their lives next to their babies.

While these people were being gunned down on November 12, directly east of that region in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, world leaders gathered to try to solve this same climate crisis at the Coca-Cola-sponsored COP27 – in-between speeches, banquets, and press grillings on their hosts’ Western-funded, brutal record of violence and repression. A closer look at who’s attended the conference is educational.

The United Arab Emirates, whose oil exports account for 30% of its economy and who will host next year’s COP, sent the biggest delegation to Egypt, with over 1,000 members. The second-biggest “delegation” is the global fossil fuel industry: 637 representatives of the companies directly responsible for burning the planet to the ground – and who have the most to lose if we change course – were mingling behind closed doors with world leaders. That’s “more than the combined delegations from the 10 most climate-impacted countries”.

With that stage set, the first draft of the conference’s key document won’t come as a shock: There are no provisions for much-needed funding for poorer countries to assist in their just green transitions. There are no reparations to these countries for the damage already inflicted upon them. And there is no commitment to a complete phase-down of fossil fuels. In fact, the text’s bullet points read almost as a parody of carefully vague PR-speak: they “reaffirm”, “acknowledge”, “note”, “stress” and “underlie”. Nothing more.

But although turning off the tap of fossil fuels would be a fundamental step in securing the planet’s survival, that alone won’t avert the destruction of communities across the Global South. What’s set to come after that happens – green capitalism – is, in some ways, just as dangerous for groups such as those experiencing systematic violence in Africa.

Although many fossil fuel giants will keep pumping oil and gas for as long as they’re allowed, a huge amount of private capital saw the writing on the wall long ago and began scrambling for the resources and projects that will ensure that the masters and servants of the new “green” world order stays the same – projects that will exploit and displace people in the Global South to sustain the North’s imperial lifestyle. In Morocco, for instance, droughts are not the only threats to pastoral communities: massive solar plant projects, funded by equally massive foreign debt, are grabbing their land without their consent.

When people in the Global North think of the effects of the climate crisis, they tend to conjure images of the Earth taking direct revenge upon humans in the form of violent natural disasters. It’s hard to wrap our heads around everything that will ultimately be worse in the world due to capitalism’s insatiable appetite for exploitation and carbon-burning, but the farmer-herder conflicts in Africa teach an important lesson. Climate change won’t just take lives in never-before-seen floods. It won’t just sweep up entire towns and villages in apocalyptic storms. Its invisible hand will also claim lives, bit by bit, in forms that may at first glance seem far-removed from it. Raiding. Pillaging. Mothers shot next to their wailing babies.

The planet’s warming can’t be avoided anymore, but we can limit it. And, just as importantly, the richest and guiltiest nations on Earth have a debt to pay to countries such as Nigeria, so that they can support people being uprooted in the face of dwindling resources, and prevent violent struggles over them.

The settling of that debt – not pilling on top of it – is the only right thing to do.

Tune in to our  COP OFF! Panel

Sign up for our COP OFF! Panel on Saturday, November 19, and Sunday, November 20 where we will talk about the ideas and principles that must guide a just green transition Join us live on YouTube on both days at 18:00 CET, and send us your questions and comments!

You can also check out our blueprint a Green New Deal for Europe which aims to unite the continent’s communities, unions, parties, and activists behind a shared vision of environmental justice.

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