Gezi, Occupy Solidarity, and Beyond
Global social movements lit up like constellations all around the world beginning in 2011. Protests in Egypt, Tunisia, the United States, Spain, Israel, then Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria and Greece brought to the fore urgent socio-political issues including neoliberal economic transformation, the privatization of commons, the widening income gap, repressive regimes and a longing for an egalitarian sustainable world. Protestors’ demanded for an inclusive democracy actualized in self-organized occupations and encampments. Perhaps the beauty and sadness of these horizontal platforms is the fact that they were short-lived. As these occupations dissolved for various reasons, there is a danger that cynicism will replace them. Instead, perhaps a constitutive and joyful collective potential will be activated via persistent assemblies around the main question: What next? How can we transform these beautiful moments into long-lasting, durable forms of democratic social change?
On October 4th and 5th, activists, scholars, politicians and artists came together for the Talk Turkey: Rethinking Life Since Gezi conference at the New School For Social Research to discuss some of the social, political and economic questions that the Gezi Uprising in Turkey underlined. Each panel was organized around particular issues including the Turkish state’s human rights violations, artists’, the role of women and LGBT activists in Gezi Park, the AKP’s authoritarian/Islamist neoliberal economic policies and development obsessed growth model, urban transformation, mass housing projects and the idea of spectacular city planning with regard to their immediate social political consequences.
In the Occupy Solidary and Global Consequences panel, that I moderated, Despina Lalaki, Jeffrey Golfarb and Michael Hardt reflected on the specificity of the new global political movements. Despina Lalaki highlighted the intimate relationship with neoliberalism and the rise of nationalism in Greece, something that resembles the rise of Islamists in Turkey after the 2001 economic crisis. Jeffrey Goldfarb stated that artists, LGBT and women’s participation in Gezi and the consequent cultural production underlines the fact that the politics of small things are something that we should be particularly aware. He commented on the “repertoire of political action” and how they relate to larger social political questions. Michael Hardt gave his account of the characteristics of the cycle of 2011- 2013 and the evolving capacity of the multitude to act creatively in this discussion, expanded upon in an interview following the Talk Turkey conference. –Hakan Topal