Media, Roma, and Capitalism

Media, Roma, and Capitalism

The media in Bulgaria gets very insulted whenever they are accused of participating in the dumbing down of society. They are very insulted because it is the truth. The media is not busy informing, but instead maintaining stereotypes. Under the guise of “freedom of the press” they release critical commentary but only if their criticisms don’t reach dangerously close to the truth.

Because of this there are many statements on the television, along the lines of “Yes, capitalism has its issues but we can fix it to have a human face” when discussing business in Bulgaria. Is it a conspiracy between the state and media, that the problems will simply be blamed on the “wrong people making the wrong decisions”? Usually, such ‘brave’ speeches are garnished with “we deserve who we voted for”. The media hints that we only needed to vote in the ‘right people’ and all would be milk and honey.

It never happens that a speaker in the media says that the “capitalist state” system is a huge problem. Leaders instantly nudge troublemaker to check themselves – and usually that’s what happens.

Recently, one morning a national television station invited a “model Roma” to repeat the cliché excuses that are given as liberal propaganda. By the way, with the problem of “internal refugees” the media in Bulgaria are swinging like a pendulum: that gypsies are causing ethnic tension, ruining Bulgarian society, and that there should be some resistance to their actions or that the Roma must be integrated into Bulgarian society because “That is democratic and European”. The first shows a support for nationalist interests, while the second supports the same illusion of a ‘just country’ and ‘human capitalism’. The two both veil the social issues of the problem, and lend credibility to the lies that politicians tell, allowing them to play the public with “there is, there isn’t” to patriots and liberals alike in a con game.

The “educated Roma” however, although not involved with radical thought, often puts his finger in the wound and looks to official state statistics which he deviates from and engages the host and other guests in debate. He will probably not be invited again.

Exemplary citizen Ognyan Isaev, represents the educated part of the Roma youth, with his ‘unusual’ calmness and expression, stands in the face of viewers and their well-known and falsified facts.

He reveals the public secrets, that Roma thugs control Roma ghettos in pure obedience, causing them to do anything that which we call ‘petty crime’, that is badness that is not something horrible in of itself. Moreover, a little before this the media reported on the arrest of a group of money lenders (and a few days afterwards about an arrest of another similar group, which was led by a mayor), who for years harassed a Roma neighborhood. What is revealed is that they gave the most attention not to oppression and its consequences but mostly to the participation of the group in “migrant trafficking” – which implies that the media saw this as its biggest crime.

If you hear a crash, it’s the collapse of the cliché of the lack of integration of gypsies in the market economy – infact, they are perfectly integrated into capitalist production, for our shared troubles.

Afterwards, Ognyan challenged the myth that social welfare is parasitic; in Bulgaria, social welfare helps 60,000 people, and not only gypsies. The budget dedicates 60 million to social welfare. In comparison, the state administration costs 2 billion.

He showed with official data, that shared participation of gypsies in light and medium crime is comparable with the percentage of ethnic Bulgarians. It is true, that statistics are only registered cases, but even with this correction, that data from one side is not drastically affected, and is also proven the true, undeclared goals that the police should exist – and they are not “guardians of citizens” at all, but only of the ruling class.

This aside, damage of the whole “Roma criminality” through the last 25 years is not enough to reach even half of damage of the the KTB affair – committed by Bulgarian bankers and politicians. And this is the damage done without us even counting all privatizations, external loans, and such dealings of the state, whose functions are at 95%, according to the words of both pure Bulgarians and passionate patriots.

The myth of irresponsibility and excessive childbearing for state support within the Roma community is also breaking apart. Having many children only stopped being Bulgarian tradition from the middle of the last century, and today only 5% of families have more than two children. However, the Roma are more than 5% and through statistics, the myth makes no sense. But the media prefers to show the exceptions and show them as the rule. But either way, the state allocates 90 million within the budget for child support. How much does the parliament cost?

During talks about Roma, leading opponents of Roma within Bulgaria blur the topic of work within the Roma community, hence the decline in interest towards education (successful businessmen in Bulgaria are not burdened by higher education – again a statistical fact) which creates the self-perpetual cycle that pushes the Roma towards dirty work. Bulgarians, in another conflict with the Roma, aren’t presented with another exit besides to side with their oppressors, because Bulgarians prefer to beat the poor instead of taking the risk in removing their leaders. Explicitly, Roma thugs are business partners with their “white” brothers. Towards the list of Roma problems (which is very similar to the list of Bulgarian problems) Ognyan adds “illegal buildings”. A large part of these became illegal after privatization of land and the removal of regulations. Warning, tomorrow the same might happen to ethnic Bulgarians; will there be riots against those in charge of such acts?

For us affected by Ognyans facts against capitalism and servicing statehood. Ognyan, of course, did not present them like this, but his efforts to debunk media myths received a sharp reaction. This reaction of the media is fully transparent: little remains from these people to make real, radical choices – for example, that Bulgarians, Turks, and Roma should work together to rid themselves of the thugs in charge instead of fighting between themselves. However, it is exactly this that the media wants to prevent by any means possible.

Only through sowing discord between ethnic groups can those in positions of power (nationally and economically) stay in power. Remember this: without ethnic tension, the state would have long ago been in the mud, where it belongs.

Originally written by the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria, or Федерация на Анархистите в България.

“We have become conformists. We only get angry when we are queuing”

Conversation with Glauber González from the East

Black Chronicles are a series of interviews conducted to different anarchists currently living in Venezuela, narrating all the struggles that they face living in one of the few socialist regimes of the 21st century. These interviews deal with the everyday lives of men and women and highlight the precarious situations to which they have been subjected.

In this edition we interview Glauber González, our libertarian colleague from the east and musician of the musical project “think and react”. He will be explaining to us how it is being a father in the current state of Venezuela.

 

An anarchist musician in Venezuela…How is it being a libertarian in one of the few socialist regimes of the 21st century?

It’s complicated.

 

I know that you are a father… How do you deal with the economic scarcity of raising a child in Venezuela?

It is extremely difficult because even if you have enough money for diapers, medicine or milk you still won’t be able to obtain them; and if you somehow manage to buy these items they will cost you 10 times the amount of what they usually cost.

 

Do you normally queue or engage in ‘bachaqueo’ (Black markets)? On which side of the spectrum are you on?

Sometimes I queue, sometimes I collaborate with bachaqueo and other times I look for other solutions to my problems. I am against the government because it is so depressing, frustrating and sickening what it has single-handedly done to all Venezuelans. The government has screwed us psychologically and economically.

 

Do you have access to clean water in your house?

I have lived in many places and where I currently live sometimes the water is murky, dirty or smells strange.

 

Do you constantly have power cuts? How do you do to prevent food from rotting?

I do experience lots of power cuts. I also don’t buy too much food to avoid decomposition.

 

Have you ever thought of emigrating?

Yes, but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to do so.

 

Have you ever been a victim of criminal gangs? Have any lynchings happened where you live?

Yes, we were on the road and they broke our rubber wheels and stole everything from our car. In regards to lynching, if people have the chance of punishing thieves then they will do so, I have already seen 2 cases.

 

How is the attitude of the police or National Guards in your area?

Other than feeling completely disgusted by those puppets most of them also engage in bachaqueo and abuse the weakest people.

 

How do you deal with boredom? Locked up in your house, with no money living in a socialist state that doesn’t represent you?

I enjoy the boredom with my daughter.

 

Do you think that people are ignoring this situation?

No, I don’t think so. As I said to you before, this government has psychologically affected all Venezuelans.

We have become conformists, we only get angry or display passion when we are queuing. Discontentment exists but we need other actions to express this feeling.

 

What should the attitude of anarchists in Venezuela be in this moment?

Everyone should aim for direct and organized action.

 

To end this brief interview, would you like to add anything?

Thank you for taking me into account for the interview even though I am currently in standby with “think and react”. I hope that I get to see you again in other anarchist meetings and that we sing new songs that make us think and react.

 

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

 

There are still those of us who think that we can plant something for a new tomorrow

Conversations with Luis Vásquez from Cantaura/El Tigre

Black Chronicles are a series of interviews conducted to different anarchists currently living in Venezuela, narrating all the struggles that they face living in one of the few socialist regimes of the 21st century. These interviews deal with the everyday lives of men and women and highlight the precarious situations to which they have been subjected.

In this edition we interview Luis Vásquez, libertarian colleague from Cantaura/El Tigre, musician in the band Genoxidio and promotor of the magazine “Existencia Muerta Records”. He will also be talking about being a father and libertarian in Venezuela:

1. Is it difficult being a father in the socialist state of Venezuela of the 21st century?

Hello comrade many thanks for taking the time for this initiative that helps us remember our objectives and bring together friends. In regards to the question, funnily enough I had my children at an ideal moment, as we weren’t so bad, and being a wage-earner meant that I could buy necessities for my children. Nowadays I see engineers, professionals and common people struggling to buy diapers or milk. Even though my kids are a little older it is still difficult being in charge and finding ways to bring food back home.

2. Have you had any health problems? What have you done when one of your children gets sick? Do you go to hospitals or clinics?

Thankfully I haven’t been sick recently. However one of my kids was in it got really complicated. After some time he’s recovered and this made us work even harder so that we could provide a medical insurance for all our children. No one pays it for us, we have opted for a private policy that isn’t too expansive. This at least gives us some tranquillity in regards to the wellbeing of our children. The situation in all hospitals is abysmal, in fact one of our nephews once came into the hospital with the flu and came out with a new illness.

3. How is the topic of education? Are you teaching?

Well now I have almost a year to conduct my personal project with my colleague, and we are also teaching in UNEF. I’m also finishing a post-graduate degree in logistics, which has resulted in a fusion of ideas between the processes of transport, libertarian ideas and bicycles. Teaching for me becomes a tool for showing my experiences rather than a profession to financially sustain myself with. It is one of the few activities that give me a sense of purpose, winning the respect and even admiration of students that I teach is incredibly gratifying.

4. You’ve had several business ventures with record labels like Existencia Muerta Records and the rehearsal room Meu Avo… What is going on with these projects?

The record label Existencia Muerta still exists and survives by offering discounts of even 70% and only sending through Ipostel, which takes up to one year to arrive to the intended destination. We decided to close our rehearsal room due to the crisis and several robbery attempts. We have started a new project and had to sell all our equipment to continue building our new office. We are dedicating ourselves to something which we believe will be successful and very well received by the community.

5. How is the issue of shortages where you live?

Here, like in most capital cities, it’s a complete disaster. The amount of people that are in the streets waiting for trucks to bring products is incredible because it is more reasonable to queue for 5 hours to buy a packet of diapers.

This is definitely an ingrained social problem. I have been in queues where bikers take control of the queue and pick which people can buy products. The police never intervene, I have seen all of this with my own eyes. There is a supermarket near my house that always saves some food for neighbours, which is consoling in this perverse context.

6. Have you ever been robbed? Do you belong to the crime statistics?

Of course they have. I was robbed 2 times by bikers and one time they entered our home and stole everything. This has been a really hard blow on us, especially now when it is so difficult to acquire things. This has made me lose faith in humanity, we now sleep with one of our eyes open, as my grandmother used to say.

7. How are the rationings of water and electricity in your area? Do you have internet, water and electricity?

Here shortages occur once a day every three hours, which is a huge inconvenience for work, but I use the time to read or do some kind of activity that doesn’t depend on electricity. The internet is total crap, in fact in my house we haven’t had any internet for three months. This has been reported but unless you offer money to the technicians no one will ever fix it, but oh well, I guess will have to get used to this?

8. You have participated in several solidarity campaigns with people who weren’t specifically anarchists but still managed to fight against the contamination of Tascabaña with José Manuel Delmoral and Rosbel Rangel… Could you expand on these campaigns?

I am still in contact with José Manuel. Not long ago they threw a grenade on the pavilion where he was imprisoned in. Thankfully he wasn’t injured and managed to escape alive, 5 people were injured one person died. I think that the grenade was intended for someone who was having trouble with criminal gangs and innocent people had to suffer the consequences. José could have died, which just goes to show the dangers of being imprisoned in Venezuela. Currently he is starting a new trial, his third one. He’s unfairly been in prison for 6 years, and when his previous trial was about to end they changed the judge. This is one of the thousands of cases that are happening in the country.

9. Does the ruling party remain being the main political hegemony force in Anzoátegui?

No, here people are beginning to make more of an effort, they are passive but very angry. The opposition takes advantage of this and I still don’t understand how people still fall into the same old trap. The thing is that here there is an inexplicable passivity, which makes me think that a huge social explosion is bound to happen. And I will be there to celebrate this awakening.

10. What are your thoughts on the anarchist movement in Venezuela?

There are some fearless comrades that never give up. There are others that distance theirselves for some time and eventually come back. Finally, there are some that have completely distanced themselves from the idea and stopped believing, but there are still those of us who think that we can plant something for a new tomorrow. I have decided to do what I can, perhaps in a more individualistic manner but I’m always interested in collective initiatives. I know that now more than ever we are suffering but we will get out of this mess stronger than ever, as my parents used to say “In the face of adversity, practice solidarity”.

11. To end this interview…What would you recommend to all younger comrades? What is going to happen in Venezuela?

I am happy that there is a large community of young people, especially here in the east that organize things. I express my admiration towards them because it must be exhausting and difficult. I try to help in any way I can all these comrades. My slogan is “we have been dealt a very hard era” but this is all part of the spectacle, strong and new ideas will come out of this. I can’t even fathom that something worse is going to happen in Venezuela than what we are facing today. Ironically this is what I told myself a year ago, so we have to prepare ourselves and do things to try to survive. I have had the chance to leave this country but I still have hope, I want to stay here because this is the place where my grandparents believed in. I can’t leave this ship because of these complications, I think that we all must try to contribute something to try and improve this rotten society.

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

Black Chronicles: “To change things I would return”

Conversation with Jaime “el chino” Chang

Black Chronicles are a series of interviews conducted to different anarchists currently living in Venezuela, narrating all the struggles that they face living in one of the few socialist regimes of the 21st century. These interviews deal with the everyday lives of men and women and highlight the precarious situations to which they have been subjected.
In this last edition we interview Jaime Chang from Brazil, libertarian colleague, better known by everybody as “el chino” (the Chinese)  for his Asian ancestry. He was a member of the local anarcho-punk scene, collaborating with music, magazines and art.

How was to live in socialist Caracas?

Living in socialist Caracas was a crucial time in my life which convinced me that I didn’t want anything to do with the State. It also helped me grow as an autonomous individual.
I remember that working or being connected to the government was one of my goals and a solution for many people. I managed to work in many cultural projects, where a hierarchy based on status existed. There was a huge gap between newbies like me and those who had already been working there. Instead of growing together as a collective through solidarity, I noticed all the competition in the environment, as old workers felt intimidated by new competences. There was a mini mafia recruiting all of the most skilfully workers that fitted into their aesthetic group. You then saw them all in all the cultural programs and shortly after they all had new motorbikes that the State offered, it looked like there were already assigned for them and the sons of military members.
The university was decadent every day, indefinite unemployment and the dining rooms eventually stopped working.
I was very excited when everybody started expressing their discontent, there was solidarity with many teachers and we were all united in the same fight. I remember that there were student demonstrations, book sales to spread news and elaboration of banners.
We all went together to demand our rights to the principal of the university. But when the fight started gaining momentum, the discontent was divided into red or blue.

University life was reduced to queuing for a number in the secretary department to get into the waiting list. The attraction of the queue was to see in the message board the requirements that you had to present to get the paperwork to leave, it was like playing bingo.
In the social areas, the high cost of living and precariousness helped build alternative means. Amongst these the necessity of generating DIY guides (Do it yourself) arose. This scheme took into account recent events with leisure time: In youtube you can find many tutorials, including with many household materials that we discard daily.
These home meeting became more frequent and we made lots of Friends. They became offices or workshops for vegan cuisine, video forums, DIY offices and even tattoos.

What motivated you to leave Venezuela?

I left as a consequence of an emotional crisis. I felt sad, lost, fooled and like a prisoner. The social expectations were to gain respect and admiration by being the liveliest person. I simply didn’t identify with this behaviour of harming people just to benefit a few individuals, I couldn’t stand being surrounded by these types of people. I feel like one doesn’t have the chance to grow as an individual in this atmosphere.
The main reason for my departure was to destroy this past and rebuild it in another place, isolated from all these toxic people. I wanted to be able to solve problems without relying on any contacts (I am sick of pragmatic friendships), test my autonomy and continue practicing my Portuguese.

During your time in Venezuela did they ever steal from you? In Brazil there is delinquency…is it the same like Venezuela? Where do you feel safer?

They robbed me once a Discman with a cd, which is a pretty harmless robbery, whilst I was leaving the underground station of Chacaíto.
In Brazil there are lots of robberies. They tried to steal from me in São Paulo when I was returning from the place I was living in.
Comparing the fact that I don’t have to worry about the time that I have to return home, I feel much safer here. Maybe the use of my bicycle influences this, as I don’t have to depend on the timetable services of a bus.

You have travelled a lot in Brazil? Talk a little about these trips.

Brazil is huge, each state is like a country where the accent and use of words and cultural context vary a lot. São Paulo is called the grey city for its asphalts, buildings and smoke from the factories.
In December 2014 there was a very interesting festival of anarchist films in the centre of São Paulo. There were international guests of the Anarchist Federations. Representatives of Mexico, France, Radio Berlin, FAL in Argentina and the federation of Valdivia, Chile.
We did a vegan barbecue in the social centre of the comrades of popular uprisings. I talked about movements, collectives, publications and bands in Venezuela and we culminated in melodies with the accordion.
I was left very impressed by the immense market of faith that Brazil possesses. It is a block where you can see several Christian churches of different branches, all of them next to each other. In the favelas you can see rented houses with people opening churches. It is absurd the amount of churches, common in all states.
It is common to see many people that live in the street and people collect cardboard in a trolley to recycle. It has lots of people from different ethnic groups. There are lots of people from communities like the Asian, Hispanic, black, LGBT and even Americans and Europeans for work or tourism. With so much ethnic diversity I can’t explain why there are still intolerant neo-nazis in the underground. In relation to intolerance, there is a segregation of people from the north and south. The northerners are pejoratively considered farmers. I travelled in several states in which I lived with these people, amongst them:
Bahia is beautiful, its black roots are present everywhere. From capoeira to the amazing acarajés (a bean croquette with a salad), there were lots of vegan options. The warmth of the Bahia is equally reflected through the people and the weather. Here I met the collectives crust or die and the napalm raid. I stayed in the house of a great friend, the coexistence was incredible. Every day we grew together by watching documentaries, exchanging bands, making magazines, composing music, cooking vegan food and clearing the land for farmers.
With these experiences in Bahia I started building my base. My friend even stopped working in his paid job and now works independently with vegan food. We all started selling alfajores (caramel cookies).
I witnessed the best party of San Juan in Campina Grande, in June they celebrate the corn and rain. I pretended to dance until I lost consciousness. I never imaged being in a celebration were the heroes were corn and the accordion. The only thing else I needed was a cachapa to feel at home.
Now I’m living a few metres away from the beach. I’m sharing a space with 3 people from Bike Vegan, which promotes urban cycling and vegan cuisine, demystifying it as gourmet.

Are you already a master of capoeira?

I learnt all the basics and I think that I would be able to defend myself. It is admirable how all people know how to play the pandeiro. Capoeira is basically letting go, sharpening reflexes to react and control any negative intentions. Applying this to my daily life has helped me come out of challenging situations.

What are the differences between living in Brazil and Venezuela?

Differences…Caribbean beaches are enviable. There is no folkloric music that compares to ours: the unpredictable rhythms stimulate all of us to sing. Even our accent is nice.

Do you feel any nostalgia for Venezuela? What are your fondest memories?

I feel nostalgia for my family and Friends. My fondest memory is going out every Saturday to the market next to the crystal park to eat cachapas (Venezuelan pancakes), the rivers and cakes of Mérida.

What techniques and discussions learnt in anarchist groups Brazil would you bring to Venezuela?

Management and organization of events, autonomous fairs and teaching vegan cooking workshops (demystifying from its supposed gourmet label).

How do you currently see Venezuela?

I must admit that I’m a little isolated from its current situation. I only find out through my friends and I try to collaborate with art.

Would you ever return to change things in Venezuela?

To change things I would return.

To end the interview… What would you like to say to your libertarian comrades in Venezuela?

The transmission of magazines with vegan content can be a link to connect members of the community. Through this common interest, using it as an alternative to fight scarcity, a community based activity could be organized, and the money collected could be used for a common good, such as: materials for cultivating food into the communities land.
A magazine or video publication could be done which shows the community how we organize ourselves, solve problems and other learning experiences that could be useful.
Local communities could be presented with this initiative, offer workshops and organize days of this initiative with other communities, creating a type of community network. This scheme could be organized at a certain time and could raise money for a social centre.

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)