International news from Black Flag #213 1998.
Reflections on Australian Democracy
My dictionary defines democracy as rule of the many, from the Greek demokratia meaning government by the people. It is widely accepted that certain countries are democratic (western Europe, USA etc.) and others aren't (China, Cuba, Nigeria, for example). There are many areas where democracy is applied to; industrial democracy, for example, is a watered down version of workers control whereby workers have some say in how industry is run, rather than it being totally at the whim of management. One facet of democracy is the right to abstain or not to participate. While anarchists do not put much store in "rights", this one should be particularly dear to anarchists, as it represents a chance not to choose between equally bad options. The right to abstain is also linked to how those whose views form a minority are treated by the majority. The fledgling Czech democracy, for example, has certainly failed this test when it comes to the Roma refugees.
It is important how a minority is dealt with, and how they perceive their treatment. Anarchists address these problems by making decisions at the smallest possible level, by having federalist structures for decision making where things are transparent and mandated, and by recognising the right to "secede". To secede means to opt out of the federal structure and form whatever new relationship to that structure that the minority wishes to. The right to secede or dissent is what distinguishes anarchist federalism from the phoney versions peddled by the European Union, the US and Australia, among others. But, having recently been there, I'd like to look at Australia's democracy in greater detail.
Australia is one of a handful of countries in the world where voting is compulsory. Failure to vote can result in a $200 fine (about £90). To make matters worse, there are three tiers of government - federal, state and local, each with their won bureaucracy, all for a population of 18 million. The absurdity of it all was well illustrated on a three day tour from Adelaide to Melbourne I took. The tour happened to start on the South Australian election day. Our driver, a good solid bloke with that traditional Aussie anti-authoritarian streak, was too busy in the morning to vote. He had already expressed his contempt for politicians - something I heard again and again in Australia. We spent a while searching several small towns for a polling station (fortunately you didn't have to vote where you live) until we found one, just before it closed. Our driver avoided his fine, and when asked how he voted, replied, "there was only one choice really, I voted No Pokies". No Pokies was a single issue ticket dedicated to getting gambling machines out of the State's pubs.
While it's undoubtedly useful for such campaigns to get a boost, the most famous being "No Dams" in the 80s, it's a farce of a democracy, constructed for politicians' vanity, where they can claim to have been elected on turnouts as good as those achieved by Stalin, Mao, Bokassa and other good democrats, though perhaps not by such wide margins.
The one argument I heard in favour of compulsory voting there was that otherwise single issue and pressure groups would get too powerful. If this is the strength of Australian democracy it is not worthy of the name. My experiences in Australia were of very good people under governments of such incompetence, banality and stupidity that multinationals must rub their hands in glee. T's not a case of the governments people deserve, as no one deserves government such as this.
Olivier Martin - The not unusual case of
After a demo against the Front National in Toulouse in February, Olivier Martin, a 35 year old anarchist militant saw a young Arab guy being beaten up by two thugs. Naturally enough, he intervened. It turned out that the thugs were plain clothers police, and he was convicted of assaulting the police and sentenced to 9 months' imprisonment, plus 9 months' from a previous suspended sentence.
His appeal is awaiting judgement, so letters of support should be sent to:
Comité de Soutien ŕ Olivier Martin c/o CNT-AIT Toulouse 7 Rue de Remesy 31000 TOULOUSE FRANCE
The suppport committee note that his case is not unusual. Police, whether plain clothes or off duty, regularly assault people, usually of Arab origin, and often around anti-fascist demonstrations. As well as Olivier Martin's case, there is also that of Richard Martin in Marseille. Two men who he thought looked like members of the FN. He was charged with assaulting a police officer. When the case came to court, photos proved that the two cops were not wearing any identification, which is illegal under French law, and the police's case lost credibility.
Unfortunately, Olivier Martin's actions were outside the range of the cameras.
……FROM GREECE, TURKEY, CHECHNYA, FINLAND
On November 7, 1997, Basil Karaplis - a member of the Athens ABC - flew to Izmir, Turkey, invited by the local group of Savas Karsitlari (War Resisters) and the Evrensel Kultur Merkezi (Universal Culture Centre), which had organized a three day meeting to celebrate the International Antifascist Day (Anniversary of Crystall Night, Germany, Nov.9 1938). Savas Karsitlari is one of the components of the AMARGI Anarchist monthly which was being produced in Izmir for some years but stopped appearing in 1994 due mainly to economic reasons.
Well, this visit to Turkey was the first that had not to do with military objectors and non violence, since the meeting's purpose was to present the antifascist movement in Greece to the turkish public opinion. The event started on Nov.8 with an exhibition of photos from greek resistance against the Metaxas dictatorship (1936), against the german occupation (1941-1944), during the greek civil war and the british occupation of the country (1944-1949), against the transfer of Greece from the british to the american influence, against the military junta (1967-1974) and up to our days. The film "Z", by Kosta Gavras, was projected in the same evening, telling the story of Grigoris Lambrakis (an MP of the "Unified Democratic Left" who was active in the Peace Movement and in the international campaign against the Vietnam War and who finally was murdered by fascists due to the above activities in May 1963).
Next day, Nov.9, there was projected the film "the greek civil war" (by Roviros Manthoulis) and there followed a detailful discussion on the greek antifascist movement covering all periods of greek history (from the formation of the greek state to the end of the civil war) and all of its aspects, the greek-turkish relations contained. On the last day, Nov.10, there was projected the film "days of the Polytechnic School" (the story of the anti-junta revolt on Nov.17 1973, directed by Dimitris Makris). The discussion that lasted till late focused not only on what had happened in Greece but also on what happened in Turkey and of course on what had happened and still is happening in Cyprus.
The conclusion of the three days projections, speeches and discussion is that greek and turkish people (and peoples and ethnic minorities) have nothing to separate. What they share is a common enemy and that is capitalism and government policies. What the anti-fascists should fight for - in both and in all countries - is the freedom of people and NOT the freedom of things, property or even land (be it a "motherland" or not). The general idea was that we can all be alive and happy, once we get rid of state and "super"-state oppression which give birth to fascism and nationalism when such birth is needed to promote capitalist interests.
Next day, a press conference had been organised at which three newspapers were present (Gundem, Emek and the english-speaking Turkish Daily News). After a night of raki drinking, singing and talking, B. Karaplis returned to Athens after it had been decided to strengthen the contacts between the antifascist movements (and between Anarchists) in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Kurdistan and all over the world.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ A matter also discussed during the visit was that concerning Osman Murat Ulke, a military objector, who is now imprisoned in the Eski Sehir military jail. He's been sentenced to 2 yrs. of prison, after which he's to face another trial (in case he still refuses to serve the army) which will cost him another 2 yrs. imprisonment and that will go on untill he manages to escape or untill turkish laws change under domestic and international pressure. On that point, we must mention that the ties between the antimilitarist movements of Turkey & Greece have been very tight. Anarchist antimilitarists from Turkey had come to defend greek Anarchist military objectors (Nikos Maziotis and Pavlos Nathanail) at the greek court-martials while Anarchist comrades from Greece had defended Osman Murat Ulke, "Osi", at his trial at the national security court of Ankara early this year. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++