Book Review: Getting By – Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain, by Lisa McKenzie

Getting By is the result of ethnographic research by sociologist, socialist, and social housing resident, Lisa McKenzie in her own council housing estate: St. Anne’s “Stanzville” in Nottingham in England. It is an important read for understanding how class works in Britain today. Class is not just a relation to the means of production – it is a social relation defined by being fucked around and having to get through difficult circumstances on a daily basis to get by. Through telling the stories of residents at St. Anne’s we get an idea of the difficulties people have to face on a daily basis and of the strategies used to manage and negotiate these circumstances. In doing so it provides an important counter-narrative to what you might hear from the mainstream media or stereotypes about the scum and worthless benefit scroungers. Instead McKenzie is motivated by trying to show the value of who and what is there on her estate. What she gives us is a picture of a community who are constantly considered worthless by the outside and in response create their own internal systems of valuation and respect (and a lot of this value system is something the outside word should learn from, for example being black or mixed race is envied in St. Anne’s). Highlighting these kinds of things is important in order to show the value of what is there in working class communities. Because without this you have ‘community development’ programmes, designed by outsiders which miss the whole point of council estate problems. The example is given of a mentoring programme claiming that “As a result [of our programme] a ‘mentor’ feels more valued in his own community” (p 162). As McKenzie points out, “This is a very simplistic approach to exclusion and disadvantage, […] and works within a limited framework. Being respected in your community is not the problem: it is being respected outside the neighbourhood that residents of council estates struggle with” (p. 162).

Image from the publishers, Policy Press

The most interesting part of the book is not by design of research. The book talks about how the estate is stigmatised by the outside and in response the residents are creating their own value system and systems of respect. Luckily for the researcher, just as she was finishing the research, the whole business of the 2011 riots happened, and the alternative value system that Stanz people had been creating in place of the one that rejected them began to accelerate. (alternative value systems are usually ignored, and when they are looked at, they are assumed to be statically existing rather than developing). And this gives a very interesting picture of what happens. The value system they are creating values belonging to the estate and an in-group identity. As this accelerates, this identity becomes counterposed to the identities of other council estates, and with that came intra-estate violence and riots. This is what McKenzie calls ‘estatism’:

“While boundaries were put up by those who lived on the estate in order to feel safe […], at the same time those boundaries acted as a wall, keeping in a closed and suspicious group of people, whose fear of stigma and ‘being looked down on’ often prevented them from engaging in pursuits that might make real and positive differences to their lives […] I have described a tight-knit community, which has been built on pride, a sense of belonging, humour, and sharing, but also fear, instability, and stigmatisation” (p. 149).

One of the chief directions of this wall was against other council estates, something that led to turf wars, even in the city centre of Nottingham, where some areas and shops were seen as Stanz territory, and others belonging to other estates like Meadows or Radford. And when the riots came, these inter-estate rivalries became battlelines. It would be fascinating to know how it changed in the aftermath of the riots. The main outcome seemed to be that the police and the courts, spurred on by the right-wing media and politicians, cracked down on any scapegoats they could find. We hear about the stories of people who had no involvement in activities but who were imprisoned by court systems that thought they needed to sate the appetite of a right-wing press and political class.

Like the example of Perry, who was walking home with his take-away dinner on the night of the riots, when he found himself being chased by police and was arrested and later trialled and convicted by jury and sentenced to three years in prison:

“The main argument of the prosecution was that Perry had been on the street in order to ‘get up to no good’, otherwise why else would he have been there? Another part of the prosecution’s argument was that Perry was wearing a red bandanna, which, they argued, was a signifier that Perry was part of a gang in St Ann’s. This line of defence seemed to go along way with the jurors, even though there was no evidence that Perry had done anything apart from being on the street that night, and he looked like a rioter. The police went through Perry’s phone records and contacts – he was not in contact with anyone else who had been arrested that night, and the police admitted that he didn’t seem to know anyone else who he had been arrested with. But among the furore about the riots, and the rising fear of ‘the underclass’ and inner-city ‘gangs’, 12 men and women from Nottingham believed that Perry was a ‘rioter’” (p.190).

This can only feed into the existing perspectives that everybody is against them. McKenzie describes how the talk among men in the boxing gym or or barbers was always about “conspiracy theories they had read on the internet, and swapped information about new sites with ‘new evidence’, which, for them, explained ‘their situation’” (p. 98). The most popular conspiracy theory was about the Illuminati,

“an organisation that is centred around Jewish bankers and Zionist politics, which holds politicians, the media, the legal system and the banks in their hands […] and their racism towards black people is purposeful and political, with the aim of keeping racial order and continuing inequality, thus keeping poor people in poverty, while its members and the Masonic order become more wealthy and more powerful” (p. 98).

What struck me reading this is how much of ‘their situation’ they are trying to explain: racism, poverty, inequality, the1% hoarding all the wealth, the political system, the media and the courts as tools keeping them down… However, as she continues, “while these theories are discussed in the greatest detail, argued about, and the men enjoy the debates that come from new evidence they find on the internet, there is little interest and even less knowledge of national and local politics, apart from the consensus that all politicians, like the police, cannot and should not be trusted” (p. 99). And this distrust leads to a process of looking inwards towards the safety of the estate, something which manifests itself as the inter-estate rivalry and violence. What I’m wondering is if the enemies can be more concretely pinpointed and if different working class communities might come together on the basis of this shared bad treatment after the riots.

An important thing about the book is that the author is working class. This is somebody telling the story of the community she is part of, rather then somebody looking in at them. It is important that knowledge is produced by the working classes rather than for the working class by outside middle class observers. One tendency of university-educated working class people is that the university values and encourages writing for academic or policy-making audiences and the use of language that reflects a grasp of social theory or the management/corporatist ethos of the neoliberal state. This has the effect of bribing/conditioning the brightest of the working class to ‘graduate’ and become culturally middle-class. McKenzie seems to resist this. She makes use of social theory to reveal aspects of estate life, but she doesn’t make theoretical points or convolute her language with references that prove to university audience how much she knows but just make reading it difficult for everybody else.

This poses a question though: who would read Getting By? Is it likely that people from the St Anne’s estate will read this? I don’t know, but it is probable that at least some from other working class estates or communities will read it. And it is here that the biggest potential is. If there is a way to autonomously develop awareness of common experiences of (gender, racial, class) oppression and common interests, surely it must be through recognising oneself in the stories of another. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of remedy to the chief problem that she identifies. Although she tells the story of St. Anne’s from the perspective of the people who live there, she is not shy to be critical when she notices the tendency towards estatism. What this book and other estate-produced knowledge have the potential to do is to counter this division that estatism seems to create by helping people to recognise that WE are all the same (because we are all fucked over by THEM – the true enemies e.g. punishing state, upper class demonisation and complicit media, racism, capitalism, etc…).

And here there is a bit of a contradiction that I don’t think is picked up on by the author. Elements of ‘naming the enemy’ are already there: “since the end of 2010, apathy has been replaced by fear that things are getting worse, and that no one cares, that it is state policy to purposefully run down council estates, and their residents, through death, prison, or both” (p 98). But this anger gets channelled into estatism. This estatism became most pronounced and most visible during the riots that pitted groups from one estate against the others. But the source of the riots was the police murder of Mark Duggan. Somehow, council estates and working class communities all across Britain knew that it was them whose time had come to rise up. It might not be the kind of mobilization that those on the activist or organised left would hope for, but it was undeniably a working class uprising, where people (ok, men more often than not) responded to circumstances on the basis of a shared identification as council estate people – even if this mobilization was channelled intuitively into inter-estate rivalry rather than unity.

So, contrary to the idea that the working class is hopeless, the riots showed that the working class is perfectly capable of self-mobilization, even if is not on the basis of a class identity that ‘we’ would hope for, and even the mobilization it is not of a form that ‘we’ consider strategic or even recognise, and even if it is targetted at groups who should be comrades rather than enemies. Still, this is how the working classes mobilize and if leftists want to have any relevance, the 1st step is in understanding and engaging with this type of mobilization. Getting By is not an analysis of the 2011 riots, but it is an important part of understanding the last part of that contradiction in particular – when people identify as part of but against the working class.

Diversity commentary: single-author monograph written by a working class woman, although she is white and heterosexual she has a mixed race family. University educated up to post-doc level but she was the first in her family’s history to go to higher level education. From and living in and about an English-speaking, European, advanced capitalist country.

Statement: hunger striking refugees imprisoned in greece

Statement from Arash Hampay, one of three refugees on hunger strike in the prison camp Moria, greece. The have been on hunger strike for one month already. Copied from his blog.

Yes you can

Yes, you can torture us, imprison us, humiliate us, do whatever your heart desires with us. You know well that refugees are the most refugeless, the lonliest and the most defenceless. If none cares for them and stands with them, none is going to defend them and opposes you for their sake. You know well that our governments are not like the governments of USA, CANADA, GERMANY and OTHERS who defend and protect their citizens when they are in trouble abroad and create international crisis for the sake of their citizens. If we had states who cared for us, we would not be refugees in your countries. We would not be tortured in your prisons. You know that well and you seem to be very comfortable with that knowledge. 

Know very well, that we shall strike as we stroke in our country against injustices, and did not keep silent. 

Both of us shall strike. You strike with your swords, your whips, your prisons but we shall strike with our pen and our candle. We do not strike the sword in the darkness in order to show our strength, we lit our candle. Our pen and our candle is more powerful than your sword. We know and you know that we shall defeat you in this DAVID VERSUS GOLIAT struggle. We are the people, you are the government. At last the meal of victory is going to be eaten by the people, as ever. Instead of applying a healing cream on our wounds, you apply salt. But let that pass as well. 

#KozhinHussein, #BahroozArash has been hunger striking for 26 days. They shall be released as Amir Hampay was released. From this you will only inherit shame. 

We insist on our promise. All three of us are going to continue our hunger strike untill the day when Bahrooz and Kozhin shall be released

Statement: Text by the assembly of the workers of VIOME about the bankruptcy trustee 

Statement from viome, the recuperated and worker-run chemical factory in Thessoloniki, after the latest court decision that say the rights of private parasitical capital are more important than the rights of people to use the means of production for the benefit of society. VIOME workers took over their factory after the parent company of the owners went bankrupt (i.e. the bankruptcy had nothing to do with this operation) and have been resisting efforts for 4 years by Capital and the subservient Greek courts to take it back for useless purposes. 

The workers collective asks supporters to pass resolutions in support at your own unions, collectives, etc, with a draft resolutions underneath the statement text.

Statement shared from the recovered factory‘s website.

Text by the assembly of the workers of VIOME about the bankruptcy trustee 

 After four years that we work the factory and after six years that we, the workers of VIOME started our struggle, the judicial power has never stopped attacking us. 

 Now, after having enforced a despicable regulation for the bankruptcy and having refused the struggle of the workers to work the factory, the judicial power comes to force the partial auctioning of the means of production, that have been feeding dozens of families for four and a half years. This is the point of view about responsibility from the side of the “honest” judges, who in any case all they think of is how to destroy all that we, the workers of VIOME, have created with so much effort. 

 They do so, in order to discourage any other group of workers from thinking of operating the abandoned factories. 

 For these reason we impeach the judicial authorities and the bankruptcy trustee, who by all means, tries to block the operation of the factory directly by us, the workers without any boss.

 We call on you, trade unionists, workers, collectives to support us and altogether to manifest that since they can’t, we can 

 We ask your practical support so that we can keep the factory alive and our families away from fear and poverty. We call for resolutions to support us in order to prove our strength: the power of solidarity that is stronger than any form of capital repression, than any form of economic collapse of the capitalist economy.

In struggle and solidarity

The workers of VIOME
Resolution against the auction of VIOME 
We, …………….. demand that any judicial, economic, political authority stops preventing the workers from operating the factory and to make it easier for them to legitimize its operation, so that to be able to support their families and children.

For us, any attempt to block the operation of the factory of VIOME is immoral. We remind the hard economic conditions that the workers in our country have been suffering and that the judicial authorities have their share in the collective blame of the officers of the authorities, by doing nothing in order for the workers to get back the money owed to them but instead, they did everything to block the workers’ efforts to take the factory operation in their hands. 

We demand that you take a stand in favor of society who are suffering or else you will meet our confrontation 

(your union / group within a union / collective)

(your seal or logo if available)

The electoral politics delusion

Its that time of the season again where a prominent left-wing party or candidate looks like they might just get close to winning an election, and the question is asked, “what if ….”. This time it is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in the UK, but this comes only a few weeks after Jean-Luc Mélenchon was not so far away from the 2nd round (and some say probable eventual victory had he reached that far). And with the failure of the extra-parliamentary, non-institutionalist left-led wave of struggle from 2009-2013 or there abouts, and with the racist right riding a wave at the moment, can you really blame people for getting enthusiastic about something that looks a little bit hopeful for a change?

The thing is though, if elected, Corbyn won’t implement any radical policies, and he will have a hard time implementing even moderate reforms. But I’m not going to argue this like the usual anti-state anarchist cut-and-paste denouncement of any effort to effect change through the state or political parties. Actually, I would ask people in the UK to vote Labour and maybe even join and become active members in their local Party branches. But before all that, let’s take a look at some trends leading us here.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the general capitalist crisis that followed it was so deep that neoliberalism really faced a legitimacy crisis for a while. But instead of trying to save its image the dominant response from governments right or left of centre was to mount a class struggle assault and to undo gains won from below in previous bouts – something so galling that by 2011 the movements of the squares unleashed the most visible ever (at least in Europe and North America) extra-parliamentary extra-institutionalist movement (of which the M15 or Occupy were only the most well known instances of a more general trend of extra-parliamentary and extra-institutional struggles kicking off everywhere), that explicitly said Fuck You to the entire political Class, in the process bringing in thousands of people who had never been active in any political way before.

But in the end, we failed. Even to get minimum objectives. Although the left-led wave of anti-austerity struggle did articulate visions of a radically different type of economy, there were plenty of other non-revolutionary solutions that we would have been happy with. For instance, Keynesianism is far from anti-capitalist and the capitalist class would have been ok with this as a peace-treaty had we forced it on them. A plane ordinary stimulus solution is even less anti-capitalist. But while capitalism should have been entirely discredited, not only did it survive, but it actually led an assault and pushed beyond the previous peace-lines. The fact is that nowhere has anybody – autonomist left, institutional left, or reactionary right (who regardless of posturing obviously aren’t going to challenge neoliberalism, what with their business leaders support) – was able to win anything: not revolution, not return to Keynesianism, not an end to austerity.

In 2012 we saw Syriza jump from 4.6% to 12% of the vote. But with Golden Dawn making a frightening jump (from a lower starting level of support), and with the general movement still going strong, this was kind of forgotten about. But then, not so long later, as 2014 drew to a close, it looked like this party was likely to win in the election in January. This was certainly different from the movement of the squares, and it was one of the first times a Party that made significant anti-austerity noises had been in a position that they might have a chance of winning. So naturally people across Europe started asking the question: ‘What if…”

Well we soon found out what happened.

But I’m not the type to write-off any prospects for an institutionalist solution just because it didn’t work once. There are any number of reasons why what happened to Syriza would not necessarily happen elsewhere. For example, they were the first openly challenging austerity politics to get to a position where they could technically do something about it. So the Greek and European establishments rallied to prevent it. It is by no means certain such an alliance could hold out indefinitely and wait out the legitimacy crisis if faced with a series of similar situations in country after country (although obviously an unrealistic ‘if’). It was also Greece, the hardest hit of the austerity laboratories, and as a test case the neoliberal cadre has a lot invested in seeing how far they can push this one. It might have been easier to extract concessions if the Syriza phenomenon had taken place in, say, Portugal or Ireland (again, and unrealistic ‘if’).

But these hypotheticals aside, looking at what has happened since, I still say a Corbyn government will not be able to deliver, not revolution, not return to Keynesianism, not an end to austerity. It is generally accepted that Mélenchon would not have been able to do much with a presidency despite the unique circumstances, reflective of a general legitimacy crisis in politics in France, where all you need is 20% to win. But because the support of a similarly diverse parliament is required, only a candidate of the establishment could actually do anything. This of course served to support Fillon or Macron, but Mélenchon or Le Pen would only have survived in the presidency if they made the right compromises. That is leaving aside whether Mélenchon would have actually beaten Le Pen in a second round run-off. Because while the Mélenchon campaign were criticised (correctly in my opinion – but more on that further below) for not showing unambiguously enough a Republican Front stance and instructing their voters to vote against Le Pen, I actually have serious doubts whether Fillon or Macron would have directed their supporters to do the same, because it is quite possible that the Capitalist class would prefer a racist fascist to a communist.

Looking at Labour, the two-round system and the separation of the executive and legislature are not a factor in the Uk and so the challenge for Corbyn is not in institutional structure. But look at what he has faced since being proposed as a candidate for party leadership in 2015: an incredibly hostile media (even including the historically progressive Guardian), and a Party elite which has tried every dirty trick to undermine him and has shown contempt for the internal democratic party process. And they have done this without fear of of negative media coverage, indicating a widespread establishment alliance to get rid of him. This alliance will only get stronger and more determined in that event that Labour wins a majority. And if in the very unlikely event that some radical or even moderately reformist measure was put to vote, it is almost certain that the right-wing Labour MPs will side with the Tories and vote against it.

But earlier in this post I did say that I would ask Uk-based people to vote Labour. After all this criticism, that hardly seems logical. The reason is because an anti-austerity campaign needs a strong and organised movement. Labour in government will not do that. But Labour narrowly missing out on government, with a confident militant grassroots of activists (which I think is Corbyn’s biggest achievements) would be far more effective in defending communities and extracting concessions from the Tories than would a Labour government.

In France, the << ni ni >> campaign (neither Macron nor Le Pen) scored an important victory (although at the time I was against it: Fascism is too dark to gamble with). Although their ‘candidate’ did not get elected, the campaign, and the election results, made it very publicly known that Macron did not win the Presidency – people voted against Le Pen. This makes Macron a much weaker opponent for the French left to extract concessions from than a hypothetical Mélenchon presidency needing the support of a centrist parliament.

And similarly, looking ahead, the Corbyn-inspired grassroots activism in the Labour party is probably the most significant and engaging level of political activism in Europe since the 15M movement and the equivalents in Greece moved out of the city-centres and into the neighbourhoods. Whatever about short term policy changes that may or may not (probably not) be achieved by a government, this kind of mass and sustained activism is what is needed – both to achieve short-term anti-austerity victories here and ther, and also for building community-based militancy capable of pushing for more in the medium to longer term. Unfortunately this is currently being realised through a political party. And when I say unfortunately I’m not talking about because it generate false hopes in a parliamentary solution, but because despite the level and radicalism of involvement, all this energy is always under risk of being co-opted or extinguished by a party hierarchy (whether involving a compromised Corbyn or the Labour right-wing after another one of their coups). What is needed is further movement-building and democratisation of the movement to be able to to resist, or eventually become independent of, the party. And both things can only come from a narrow Corbyn defeat.

Celebrating mayday and a year of Socialise Struggle

Happy international workers’ day to all.

One year ago, this blog was launched with a simple story of some of the frustrations in trying to get precarious workers to identify as precarious workers. Writing for this blog has helped me get through what has turned out to be a very an unhappy year. Working through my reactions to world events, or books I read, and helping to diffuse the messages of grassroots groups in struggle has helped me to get some level of perspective in the middle of all the terrible forces that are consolidating.

For the most part, the blog is built on articles, book reviews, statements and communiques, and end-of-month collections of the best things I’ve read. Unsurprisingly, the biggest themes I have been writing about is fascism and the far right. But looking back I’m a bit uplifted by some of the more positive content about groups resisting the onslaught (e.g. particularly the Revolution in Rojava, or digging up memories of the Occupy Movement, or even Immanuel Ness’s edited book on the rise of autonomist and syndicalist unions in today’s labour movement).

The blog has been building up a community of followers. The most read and most liked post was the book review of Teaching Rebellion, which I’m really happy about because learning from experiences of struggle is what this blog is supposed to be all about. So it’s nice to see people engaging with this.

Among the newer features or projects started is a compilation of banned words. That is, propaganda terms and phrases which are bandied around the establishment media and which have the function of making you unconsciously speak as though you endorse certain viewpoints which support the system, or believe certain lies. I hope to be adding to this. Another new feature is the read diverse books challenge. It is unfortunately the case that even anti-capitalist literature tends to be written by groups with layers of privilege. This challenge is a way of highlighting this and to try to improve on it. So I’m looking forward to reviewing diverse books and sharing some viewpoints which do not get heard enough.

Another change coming is that I’m scrapping the posts-of-month feature. The main reason is that a month is not a useful timeline, not for me, not for readers. At the same time, I like the idea of sharing posts that I have read and which I think deserve to be shared. It also adds to the sense of community. So it is time to face reality and start a dreaded twitter account. This will allow me to continue to share good articles that I come across but in a more timely manner. That said, I still have a life outside of the internet, so timely is still likely to be seen as slow. Anyway, this change to come soon. BUT, I am going to keep the images of the month feature. Collecting and sharing these has been really fun and it is amazing to think how powerful images produced in and through struggle can be.

And speaking of community, just a general invitation for readers to get involved in discussion and comment on posts here. No good revolution was ever made through one person talking, so disrupt the consensus. Also, if you like something you read, tell your friends about it. I don’t do promotion. Advertising is the tool of capitalism to create false demand, and these kinds of “I like your blog, I also have a blog where I talk about similar things” comments are not that much better. Instead, in a commons-based economy which is based on need, we all have a responsibility to help things get to where they are needed.

Finally, thanks to all readers, and I’m looking forward to the second year of Socialise Struggle, regardless of how depressing the real world gets in the year to come. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing about how we beat the fascists back. But until then, for the day that is in it,

ALL POWER TO THE COUNCILS

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

NO PASARAN

VICTORY TO THE MINERS

SOLIDARITY FOREVER.

Review diverse books (because the anti-capitalist literature can be so boringly monochrome)

Something I’m going to start doing on this blog: reviewing diverse books. What does this mean? Well a blog called read diverse books had this challenge to read diverse books in order to fight against the cultural industry’s tendency to tell us stories about how great white people are, particularly males, particularly middle class, straight, heteronormative whites, etc. It looks like a good idea so I’m adapting it here.

I say adapting because the original challenge (and a similar one at wocreads) is mostly oriented to fiction, so it focuses on lead characters. I’m more into non-fiction political books, so I’m adjusting the challenge to focus on authors rather than protagonists (except for biographies, then it is about the authors and the protangonists). I’m also adding some additional dimensions beyond gender/sexuality and race: things like class, experience of state repression, and linguistic communities. And instead of just reading I like to review so as to engage with the ideas and hopefully share the most useful thoughts and tools with those who can make use of them.

The challenge looks like this. I have to review:

  • A book authored/edited by a woman

  • A book authored/edited by a homosexual

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Latin America

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who grew up as an ethnic or racial minority in their country

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Africa

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who identifies as part of an ethno-national community that is without a state

  • A book authored/edited by somebody from Asia

  • A book authored/edited by a biracial person

  • A book authored/edited by a transgender person

  • A book authored/edited by a refugee

  • A book authored/edited by somebody with a disability

  • A book originally written in a language other than English

  • A book originally written in one of the over 2000 UNESCO designated endangered languages.

  • A book authored/edited by somebody without university-level education

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who was imprisoned for at least a year

  • A book authored/edited by somebody who lived under state socialism

  • A book authored/edited by a collective

One of the problems with checklist challenges is that the goal often end up being to complete it so you can say “look how fuckin diverse I am”. The main reason I’m doing this is to show how uniform the anti-capitalist literature tends to be. The checklist will be used mostly as a commentary during reviews about how diverse or undiverse the books are. And the emphasis is on commentary – not a rating. I don’t want this to end up like a judge in the oppression olympics.

Looking back at what has been reviewed so far on this blog, two were written or edited by individuals (How to change the world, and New forms of worker organisation), both white males from the US and the UK, employed (currently or at some time in their lives) as university professors, presumably straight, abled bodied, and originally written in English for English-speaking audiences. The two books on Rojava reviewed here are also written for US/English-speaking audiences, but they at least are edited by collectives, and include some essays and interviews translated from Kurdish and Turkish. Both collectives do seem to be north america-based though.

On the other hand, Teaching Rebellion, is also edited by a collective, this time Mexico-based, and although it is unclear whether it was written originally for a Spanish-speaking or English-speaking audience, almost the entire bulk of the book is composed of interview/testimony pieces which are certainly translated. Clearly the most diverse book reviewed so far here, but it just shows how much things need to improve. Looking forward to seeing what books this challenge leads me to.

Statement on attacks by Syrian and US regimes from alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

This antiwar and anti imperialist (anti all imperialists involved) statement coming from groups directly living through the war in Syria is worth reading and sharing. Shared from the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists website.

“The Trump administration’s  April 6 targeted missile strike on the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack was launched, is not a reflection of any genuine concern for the Syrian people.  It will not help the struggle against the Assad regime, ISIS and Al Qaida.    Instead, this administration’s latest airstrikes are motivated by other aims.

April 7, 2017

The chemical bombing of innocent civilians in the Syrian town of  Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib province) which was perpetrated by the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran on April 4,  is  yet another step in the murderous campaign to destroy what is left of the popular opposition to the Assad regime.  After putting under siege and destroying  Eastern Aleppo, the most important center of the popular and democratic opposition,  and forcing the survivors as well as the survivors from other besieged opposition areas to go to Idlib , the regime is now concentrating its forces on bombing the civilian population in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

The Trump administration’s  April 6 targeted missile strike on the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack was launched, is not a reflection of any genuine concern for the Syrian people.  It will not help the struggle against the Assad regime, ISIS and Al Qaida.    Instead, this administration’s latest airstrikes are motivated by other aims.

Just two days earlier the Trump administration had announced that its priority was not the ouster of Assad.  Once the Assad regime’s chemical bombing delivered a blow to the credibility of U.S. imperialism however, the decision was made to strike Assad’s air base.    In order to calm some dissent within the Republican party’s leadership, Trump had to show that contrary to Obama, he had some “red lines.”

Furthermore,  given the daily new revelations about the Trump administrations close ties to Putin’s Russia and the ways in which these revelations have  seriously damaged  its  credibility even among its supporters, the missile strike in Syria was  a way for this administration to partially distance itself from Russia.   However,  at this point,  we can say that this strike which was announced in advance to the Russian government,  does not indicate any strategic change in U.S. policy concerning  the future of Syria or the Assad regime.  The focus of the U.S. government will still be seeking a transition  in which the core of the Assad regime is not challenged.  Such a policy will  be justified by this administration in the name of the “War on Terror.”

In general, since coming to office, the Trump administration has given every indication that its goal is to promote undemocratic, racist, sexist Middle Eastern leaders and strengthen the repressive environment of the Middle East:   He or his advisers have met with Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu,  Turkish president Recep Tayyip  Erdogan and  foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Egyptian president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi,  Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,  King Abdullah of Jordan.  On March 30,   U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s visit to Turkey   gave a nod of approval to Erdogan  who has arrested over 70,000 people in the past year,  continually bombed the Kurdish population of Turkey and Syria, and is aiming to vastly expand his  repressive powers against all forms of dissent,  through a referendum on April 16.  Tillerson’s visit also led to some unannounced agreements which do not bode well for the Kurds in Turkey and Syria.

Most importantly,   recent American airstrikes  in Mosul, Aleppo and Raqqa which are supposedly aimed at stopping ISIS, have brought about large civilian death tolls.  They have been some of the deadliest since U.S. airstrikes on Syria started in 2014.   They show that greater U.S. military intervention in Syria will only lead to more death and destruction.   One resident of Mosul, Iraq who was fleeing ISIS, compared the destruction brought about by the latest U.S. airstrikes in Mosul to  the U.S.  dropping of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.  (See Tim Arango, “Civilian Deaths Rising in Iraq and Syria as Battles Intensify in Dense City Areas.” New York Times, March 28, 2017).  According to Airwars, during the month of March alone, as many as a thousand civilians have been killed by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in the name of the “War on Terror.” (https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/27/more_than_1_000_civilians_killed)

These realities not only  reveal the Trump administration’s motives but also  compel us to condemn all the states that are carrying out wars against innocent civilians in the Middle East:  The Syrian and Iranian regimes, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, all the other authoritarian regimes in the region, ISIS, Al Qaida, as well as Russian and Western military interventions.  They are all part of an imperialist logic and the maintenance of authoritarian and unjust systems.  They all oppose the self-determination of the peoples of the region and their struggles for emancipation.   Hence, anti-war activists whether in the Middle East or the West need to address all forms of repression and authoritarianism, and condemn all forms of foreign intervention against the interests of the people of the region, instead of  limiting their criticisms only to the West and Israel.

Clearly, no peaceful and just solution in Syria can be reached with Bashar al-Assad and his clique in power.  He is the biggest criminal in Syria and must be prosecuted for his crimes instead of being legitimized by international and regional imperialist powers.

Clearly, an effective way to help Syrians and to change the worsening course of events in the region today is for those Iranians and Russians who oppose their rulers’ military intervention in Syria to build strong anti-war movements that show the connections between their governments’ support for the Assad regime and the worsening domestic repression and impoverishment.   Why has this not happened?  Is government repression inside Russia and Iran the only reason?

In Russia, last week, tens of thousands demonstrated against the corrupt practices of prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian oligarchs.   Criticism of Putin’s imperialist wars however was not highlighted by most who focused on the internal corruption of the rich.  Whether these demonstrations expand their horizons remains to be seen.

In Iran,  not a day goes by without labor protests in various parts of the country.  These protests have focused on the non-payment of wages, layoffs, temporary contracts without any rights or benefits, “privatization” of government jobs, lack of work and safety regulations,  non-payment of pensions and the very low minimum wage ($240 per month) in a country in which the minimum needed for an urban family of four to survive is $1000 per month.

It is the responsibility of Iranian socialists to show the connections between the worsening economic and social conditions of the Iranian workers, teachers and service workers, and Iran’s capitalist, militarist and imperialist policies in Syria and in the Middle East region as a whole.

The failure to draw these connections partly stems from the strength of the Iranian regime’s propaganda which presents the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime as entirely consisting of ISIS and Al Qaida.  The nationalism of those Iranian leftists who implicitly or explicitly support the Assad regime and Putin,  has also  assisted the Iranian government.

As the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists,  we have made efforts to address these issues through our analyses and by airing the views of those Iranians who oppose their government’s military intervention in Syria.   We welcome more ideas and comments from those who represent THE OTHER IRAN and who want to create an anti-war movement to stop Iran’s support for the Assad regime.

We agree with those Palestinian who protested in Ramallah, Occupied Palestine,  against the Syrian regime’s chemical bombing of Khan Sheikhoun.   They chanted:  “Not Leftists, Not Leftists,  Those Who Stand with Bashar al-Assad.”

Joseph Daher and Frieda Afary

Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

April 7, 2017″