ROAR Magazine is a media platform focused on highlighting the plight of social movements from around the world. This spring, it launched the first issue of a new print magazine. ROAR’s Founder and Editor, Jerome Roos, recently spoke to The Canary about challenges, lessons, and inspirations for the left in 2016.
What’s the inspiration behind ROAR?
ROAR was inspired by the global uprisings of 2011. Roos explains:
Watching the Egyptian revolution unfold on live television was exhilarating… Participating in the occupations of squares in Madrid and Athens later that year really brought that idea home… We sort of rode that wave as it unfolded… The energy from the mass mobilizations of 2011 and after that sustained and powered ROAR.
ROAR has no corporate funding behind it. Until recently, the project was powered by volunteers, a crowdfunding campaign, and a grant from the Democracy & Media Foundation in the Netherlands. Now, the subscription fees for the new print magazine, ‘Revive La Commune’, will keep ROAR going for another year.
For Roos, the project is “a bridge between the academy and the streets”, seeking to be accessible, analytical, and radical all at the same time. Its non-sectarian approach aims to reflect the ideological diversity present in today’s social movements, creating constructive dialogue between these different currents.
What are the biggest lessons we need to learn from the past?
Roos regrets how many on the left:
…ignored, forgot, misinterpreted, misconstrued or even actively repressed the lessons from the nineteenth century.
In particular, he refers to the Paris Commune of 1871, when competing left-wing currents remarkably agreed on “the necessity to dismantle the centralised state apparatus and replace it with a confederated structure of self-governing communes”. If this lesson had been learned, Roos insists:
…perhaps we would have been spared some of the horrors and disappointments of the twentieth century!
But unfortunately, he says, there is still a “fetishisation of the centralised state” among many today.
What are our biggest challenges today?
Workers face very different challenges, Roos asserts, depending on the industries they work in and where they work. But in the end, he says:
…all are compelled to either sell their labour power to a capitalist or to engage in other forms of informal labour simply to survive.
The question of “automation and robotisation” is a particular worry today, Roos insists, as it threatens to destroy jobs and leave large numbers of people unemployed. In addition to making technological advances which reduce the need for human labour, economic elites have also been relocating to places where workers have fewer rights, moving into different product areas, or simply engaging in speculative investment (which makes them money but doesn’t actually create anything). But because they are always vulnerable to resistance from ordinary working citizens, the global capitalist system is:
undergoing a constant process of mutation and adaptation in response to recurring waves of workers’ struggle
In turn, Roos says, workers are responding “in new and innovative ways”.
What are the most exciting social movements in the world today?
Having spent time in Spain after 2011, Roos says “the social movements that emerged out of the 2011 square occupations in Greece and Spain” are particularly close to his heart. But at the same time:
the Zapatistas have always been a source of inspiration, as are other indigenous and autonomous struggles across [Latin America]. And of course the Rojava Revolution and the Kurdish struggle more generally have been an incredible source of light in the middle of the darkness that is the Syrian civil war.
He has also been impressed by the way ordinary citizens have reacted to the arrival of refugees in Europe, especially in Greece:
The outpouring of solidarity from below is the only thing that Europe can still be proud of in these dark days, as the continent slides into a new barbarism.
Finally, Roos turns his attention to the United States, where anti-police riots, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15 movement, and “the enormous enthusiasm surrounding the campaign of Bernie Sanders” have all left him “positively surprised”:
I don’t necessarily feel the Bern myself, but the fact that young Americans are increasingly warming up to “Socialism” (however flimsy its definition may be at this point) is a very positive sign.
Sanders and his campaign may be far from perfect, he says:
…but his unexpected success in the primaries speaks to a broader social development that bodes well for the future.
Young people are losing faith in capitalism and the established elite—and that is a very good first step towards real change.
Featured image via ROAR.