The Republic of Taksim: that is this title that French newspaper Libération chose for its first page today. The title is associated to a picture taken on Taksim square in Istanbul showing the crowd of occupiers and a Turkish flag with Atatürk’s portrait. The latter is an explicit homage to the original Republic of Turkey declared in 1923 and whose strict secularism is claimed by the Turkish occupiers. This idea of a Republic of Taksim was used in various articles about Occupy Gezi. Of course, this is a bold poetic name for the movement – at least the Istanbul part of it – but, in this article, I would like to propose to take it seriously. That is not necessary to say that Taksim should become its own nation, welcoming all those who do not want to live in conservative Turkey, like for the New York Commune project on which I am currently working with friends. To explain what I mean, I need to go back to September 2011, when I entitled my first article about Occupy Wall Street “I am a Citizen of Liberty Square.” That was a similar manifesto of belonging to a smaller piece of territory than the national one we usually refer to when talking about the notion of citizenship.
The Republic of Taksim exists. It lives as I write these words. Maybe, it won’t exist anymore in a week, in a month or in a year from now, although it seems difficult to believe that it won’t continue to exist in another form by that time, but for now, it exists. This territory, like any other territory, can be defined through its spatial characteristics, but more importantly, and that is where lays all the difference, it is defined by the bodies that inhabit it: the citizens of the Republic of Taksim. For this reason the limits of the latter are fluctuant and continuously muting. Sometimes, the Republic of Taksim swarms out of Taksim and flows into the streets of Galata or in other parts of Istanbul. It started to protect a piece of public space from the forces of autocracy and capitalism but quickly deterritorialized itself to other places in Istanbul and other cities of Turkey.
The bottom line of such a Republic is that, wherever it is territorialized, only the bodies who inhabit it are citizens who participate to the collective decisions. That is the meaning of occupying. A citizen can leave the Republic of Taksim for a few hours, to work, have a shower, sleep in a real bed etc. and during that time, (s)he is no longer a citizen. Only when (s)he makes the radical choice of forming a political collective, can (s)he be a citizen. That does not mean in any way that those who stayed the longer within the Republic of Taksim would be better or superior citizens; no. Whoever enters it, even for a few minutes only, is a citizen of the same status, with the same rights than any other. It is needless to say that there is no problem of immigration in the Republic of Taksim! All are immigrants in the processes of deterritorialization that characterize them and, none are immigrants for that all have the same rights as long as their body occupy the same space, or rather, a space adjacent to the ones already occupied and that thus participate to increase the collective territory.
The Republic of Taksim does not mind its ephemerality; it knows that nothing is eternal. One day, for tactical reasons, it will have to spread around, fragmenting the Republic in many islands that will have to continue the resistance as political archipelago. Its citizens won’t have the same visibility than they currently have, but the quasi-invisible link that ties them together will still be operative and will be able to reform a central political island whenever it will be needed. The Republic of Taksim is already part an archipelago, the one that make indignados, occupiers, Arab Springer, Chilean and Quebecois students and the Greek youth fight together against the various agents of capitalism and totalitarianism.