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″

No Pasaran for today

 

A few months ago, in the happy days before Trump stole the election or the Brexit referendum or the escalation of Erdogan’s repression following his gift from god, I went to a film. No Pasaran, directed by Daniel Burkholz. A documentary comprised of interviews with veterans from the International Brigades. It was very inspirational. For the most part, it was the events and motivations that led them to join the Brigades that were discussed. Again and again, different interviewees stressed that the Spanish Civil War was a fight against European Fascism in its entirety, and the war in Spain only represented the best place to confront it at the time. As one German Jew recounted how after fighting in Spain and then seeking refuge in France “we proposed to the French army that we could join their army and fight Nazi Germany. They agreed and suggested to us that we enlist and they would station us in North Africa to relieve Foreign Legion soldiers who would be deployed to the German front. So we got together and had a meeting to discuss this and we all agreed that No. Our fight was with Nazi Germany, not to defend the french empire” (warning: quote is a misquote).

nopasaran_poster__english
Image from roadside-dokumentarfilm

A few years ago, 2012 or so, I read The Age of Empire by Eric Hobsbawm. I was very taken with it at the time, in particular the idea that there was a sense of crisis that permeated every aspect of society: the generalised crisis in modernist certainties of progress caused by global recession of the capitalist system, which was only averted through the imperialist project in Africa, something that only temporarily displaced the internal systemic contradictions, but which in a short amount of time just led to renewed inter-national capitalist competition amongst the ‘great powers’, which in turn led to world war and the working classes embracing nationalist sentiment and standing against and slaughtering one another. What amazed me reading it in 2012 was how similar this pre-war period was to the austerity regime we were going through then. Now having seen No Pasaran I’m more inclined to say our period resembles the period prior to the second world war with the changes that have come in the last 5 years. The fascist right are having electoral success in Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Hungary, and the US. In other countries they are strong on the streets, they have infiltrated the police, or even the army, in places like Greece, Britain, and the US. And they are to be seen wearing new clothes in the form of ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and in the likes of Putin and Erdogan in Russia and Turkey. And another similarity with today that was highlighted in the film (although I don’t think they meant to make this analogy) is that in the same way that those fleeing Franco’s Spain to France were put in camps, only to be handed over to the Nazis when France fell, we are doing the same thing today by containing and shipping those fleeing ISIL off to the likes of Erdogan’s Turkey under the EU’s scandalous deal. If you think back to how it was through Coup d’Etats that the Fascists came to power in Spain and Austria in the 1930s, all it would take today is for the military to make a move against Syriza’s government or possibly in Italy, and the ‘refugee camps’ with their razor wires would be a gift horse they wouldn’t look in the mouth. The same with the prison industrial complex which have played up anti-terror hysteria to escalate their practices of policing and imprisoning racial minorities. Although we don’t call them “concentration camps” now, de facto concentration camps is exactly what are being built.

What is clear is that an anti-Fascist movement that is Europe-wide and further towards the Arabian Peninsula is needed. And it is necessary to see all the distinct issues – the far right, austerity, ISIL, refugees, police killings, drone attacks – and to unite them as part of the one system: 21st Century Fascism. Above all, this is a struggle for humanity, and in the spirit of the first intercontinental against neoliberalism and for humanity, the struggle for humanity is the struggle of the left. Although the socialist revolution looks further away than at anytime since maybe the 1980s (with the exception of Rojava), the road to revolution will only be made through walking. As another Brigadista interviewed in No Pasaran described life in Franco’s POW camps: “every morning they would line up three people to be executed. Any last words? Long live socialism, long live anarchism, long live communism! And they were shot” (also a misquote). They died believing that by fighting the fascists they were making the revolution.

There is a lot of work for this anti-21st Century Fascist movement to do. Included within:

  1. Direct aid to refugees, particularly ‘new arrivals’.

  2. Fight the policy whereby refugees are shipped to Turkey

  3. The fight against ISIL is the fight of the Left. Eventhough it is dominated by hostile powers (US, Russia, Turkey), ISIL are the most extreme manifestation of right-wing nationalism, and as such it is our fight. Like the International Brigades went to Spain as the most strategic place to fight European fascism, today we need to unite with the Kurds in Rojava (because with the growing budiness between Erdogan, Putin, and Trump, I reckon the days of US support for Rojava are numbered – although I don’t yet know what to make of the strike on the Syrian military airbase).

  4. Stop the further success of the far right in Europe, whether in elections or on the streets.

  5. Practice community self-defense with targeted groups.

  6. Fight borders. Whether this is physical construction of barriers, intensification of policing the borders, or bio-political-economic control from a distance – where people are dissuaded from crossing or even approaching borders by their associated costs like the dangers of traveling through hazardous routes, extortion by smuggler cartels, the precarious existence of ‘irregular’ living on the other side. The ultimate aim should not just be freedom of movement and refuge for those arriving from unsafe places, but also legal, safe, and free (as in free speech and free beer) passage for all.

  7. Fight against the conditions that strengthen the right: the state of things where the costs of economic crisis are being lumped onto the working classes, or where domestic economies are boosted by fighting foreign wars.

  8. Be prepared to work with liberals where this is likely to lead to direct material improvements in security for targeted groups. But constantly remind the world that it was the liberal centre that empowered the rightist surge by sitting-out and eventually exhausting the left-led mobilisation in the earlier years of austerity.

  9. Work with groups that specifically push beyond the confines of the liberal response. This can include for instance Black Lives Matter, who’s very existance insists that the liberal doctrine is false. I.e. that All Lives Do Not Matter to the US state, regardless of how many times it is written in some laws that they do. Also groups who campaign on the basis of migration as reparation for colonialism, to push beyond the whole ‘migrants are not a threat to our way of life’. We are a threat – we are a threat to and we aim to take down the whole capitalism-colonialism-nationstate nexus.

Statement: IMPACT Trade Union on anti-water privatisation victory

Statement by IMPACT Trade Union on Irish parliamentary committee’s recommendation to hold referendum on public ownership of water.

The background: Ireland was one of the worst hit countries to experience the austerity treatment in the EU but unlike Greece or Portugal, resistance was not very visible. Until plans were announced to privatise water. A resistance movement embracing direct action tactics of non-payment of charges and blocking installation of water meters swung public opinion so that all political parties declared themselves against water charges at the election in March 2016, forcing the new government to climb down. But this victory was not enough for the campaign. Although this government scrapped the plan there is nothing stopping any later government from re-introducing it. That is why the campaign went on the offensive and pushed for a constitutional referendum enshrining public ownership of water – that way any future government would not be able to privatise water without going back to the people in another referendum, where they would be defeated. Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee recommended holding a referendum, signalling a big victory for the anti-austerity movement in Ireland.

Originally posted on the IMPACT blog.

The decision of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services to recommend a referendum on enshrining public ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution was big news for the European water movement. For us, this was a huge encouragement for the many local and national groups fighting the privatisation of water services across the continent.

It followed on the heels of the Slovenian Parliament’s decision to introduce an amendment, guaranteeing the right to water, into the country’s constitution. Today [Wednesday 22nd March] is World Water Day, an occasion for us to celebrate the huge contribution that decent water services make to public health and quality of life, and to highlight the opposition to privatisation that’s growing throughout Europe.

People in Ireland and elsewhere are making it clear that water services should remain in public hands.

The concern that water services could be liberalised through trade agreements, like the CETA deal just agreed by the EU and Canada, motivated many workers to protest. And it mobilized Irish and European trade unions to start a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) on the right to water.

Attracting nearly two million signatures from across the EU, this became the first ever successful ECI, effectively placing the issue on the EU’s legislative agenda at the behest of its citizens. The European Parliament then fully supported the ECI demands in an opinion piloted by Irish MEP Lynn Boylan.

The European Commission responded, as it had to. But it failed to bring forward the legislation sought by unions and the European water movement.

Despite the clear message delivered directly by citizens through the ECI, and by their elected representatives in the Parliament, the European Commission fails to listen. In the case of Greece, where people rejected water privatisation, the Eurogroup has been forcing the government to sell shares in the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies.

World Water Day is also an opportunity to ponder the extensive research that underlines why private water companies want to stay on the pitch and make huge profits from what is a public good and a human right.

The University of Greenwich Public Services International Research Unit, which has undertaken extensive work on the issue, says public ownership is the right model for delivering quality water and waste services not least as public authorities can source cheaper loans than private corporations, and because the profit motive pushes up the price of water delivered by multinational private companies by as much as 10%.

Another drawback of privatisation that gets scant attention is that financial and other risks are never transferred to the private sector when lucrative contracts change hands. The quality of the water in our taps is put at risk. Public authorities remain responsible. But private companies can simply walk away, without sanction, when things go wrong.

On top of all this, the European Commission highlighted in 2014 that private water and waste contacts are a potential source of corruption.

These are the reasons why local authorities in European countries like France, which risked costly experiments in water privatisation, have been bringing services back into public ownership. The Portuguese city of Mafra followed suit after years of rising bills for water users.

The Irish people have made crystal clear their desire to see water and waste water services remain in public ownership. Their instinct is supported by the overwhelming results of research that shows privatisation is a bad choice.

Ireland has the support of Europe’s trade unions and the broader water movement, which is connecting the resistance to privatisation across European borders.

Kevin Callinan is Deputy General Secretary of IMPACT trade union. Jan Willem Goudriaan is General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

Book Review: Eric Hobsbawm – How to change the world: reflections on Marx and Marxism

This is an excellent book, as with many Hobsbawm

Front Cover - How to change the world
How to Change the World by Eric Hobsbawm. Published by Yale University Press in 2011. Image taken from the publishers.

books. The title is a little offputting: I don’t like prescriptive-sounding books with only one author; I think somebody who is used to people shutting up and listening to them at length is the least likely to know how to make the world a better place. But it is Eric Hobsbawm and he is always very interesting to read, has a wealth of fascinating insights about the history of the left or history of the world from a leftist perspective. But actually (thankfully?) the title is a bit misleading. What the book offers is a history of Marxism, Marxism being an idea that was born out of industrialising capitalist europe, has been used as a toolbox by countless emancipatory movements of (and unfortunately too often for) the oppressed over the last 150+ years, has been used to legitimise some of the worst acts of humanity, and has struggled for its place in the last 25 years.

As Hobsbawm puts it in the introduction, when Marx died in 1883,

“there was little enough to show for his life’s work. He had written some brilliant pamphlets and the torso of an uncompleted major piece, Das Kapital, work on which hardly advanced in the last decade of his life. ‘What works?’ he asked bitterly when a visitor questioned him about his works. His major political effort since the failure of the 1848 revolution, the so-called First International of 1864–73, had foundered. He had established no place of significance in the politics or the intellectual life of Britain, where he lived for over half his life as an exile” (p3, 4).

But in the years since then the impact of his thought has been enormous, and often awful. So today, at time when popular movements have succeeded in escaping doomed strategies of various Marxist guises, yet also seem incapable of developing a strong enough counterpower to neoliberal hegemony (or the new variant of fascist demagogues) using alternative ideas on the left, a history of this sort can be very useful to help us figure out whether and how marxist thought can be a friend or foe.

The story begins with a brief sketch of some of the strands of socialist thought prior to Marx and Engles coming on the scene, before going on to tell us about the the context in which Marx and Engels lived and wrote much of their works. Reflections are given on particularly influential works through discussing their impact when ‘discovered’ and published later, often with adapted articles written by Hobsbawm at the times of the publications of certain new collections. Part two of the book goes on to discuss the trajector(y/ies) of the revolutionary theory and movement after the death of Marx. This starts with the meteoric rise of socialist parties in europe quite soon after his death and the formation and ultimate fortunes of the Second International, leading on the one hand to totalitarian dictatorships and on the other to bourgeoisification and support for their respective nations in the bloodbath that pitted worker against worker in World War I. From there, we are brought on a tour of anti-fascism, Gramsci, post-war resurgence in the anti-colonial independence movements and among the 60s movement in Europe and North America, and finally, decline. In all this, the book is made engaging because he doesn’t just describe Marxist theory, but what people did with it and how they changed its direction at different times throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. A true historian of ideas.

BUT there are problems with the book. Obviously any book on such a hugely influential subject has to be selective, but I think part of this selectivism is unfortunate. The biggest example is that the history stops in 1983. Although there is nominally a chapter on the years of decline for marxism 1983-2000 (followed also by the ‘comeback’ years 2000-2009), this chapter focusses mostly on events prior to 1983 which led to this decline rather than how marxist ideas coped and transformed with this decline. Arguably, the attempts of marxism to understand itself ‘at the End of history‘, without the anchor of ‘actually-existing socialism’, and at a time when Marxism did not have a hegemonic position within the radical left – the latter something not seen since 1930s Spain but which explosively re-emerged in 1994 with the Zapatistas – would be the most enlightening and promising in terms of emancipation and pedagogical re-invention. But you won’t learn much about this from the book.

Elsewhere, the role of Marxism in the post-WWII anti-colonial struggles and the movement of the non-aligned, while acknowledged, is underexplored. Its role in the movements against dictatorships in Latin America get barely a mention, and while its role in Greece and Portugal in ousting dictators is touched upon however briefly, the failure of these two post-revoluntionary countries to lead toward socialism or at the very least for the political landscape to take a similar leftist path such as those in Latin America would be a fascinating discussion but is unfortunately not taken up. Another topic that barely gets a mention is the Autonomia movement in 1970s Italy, a tendency which has since had an influence on leftist movements and theory proportionally far greater than other more classical schools. Of course, not everything can be included, but these kinds of exclusions mean that we are denied most the influences on Marxism from movements which are non-European, worker-led, and which creatively grapple with the contradictions of revolutionary ‘success’. As a consequence, we are left with a picture heavily influenced by the orthodox, the Euro-centric, the institutionalised, the educated, and the male. (Although in defence, there is a whole chapter if not two dedicated to Gramsci, and another to anti-fascism). For all his emphasis on the importance of history, this kind of selectivism leads to a standard of Marxism that is of limited use to changing today’s historical conditions (e.g. neo-liberal precarity, globalised divisions of labour, the importance of non-european repertoires of collective action in the global south above the European and american history of bureaucratic unions).

Another weakness is in his conclusions. I did mention that the prescritptiveness of ‘how to change the world’ is a bit deceptive. Still, Hobsbawm does pick out two main ‘conclusions’ from the historical narrative: (1) Marxism will(/should) continue to be of relevance; and (2) the importance of the Party. On both counts, the case for these conclusions has manifestly not been made. The only basis somebody could have for arriving at these conclusions from the book would be an implicit logic of, ‘well it is has been important in the past, ergo it shall continue to be important’. I would expect a bit more intelligence from an intellectual giant like Hobsbawm.

That being said, apart from these weaknesses – which admittedly would be difficult to address: how can one ‘comprehensively summarise’ such a large topic, and how can one ‘conclude’ anything concrete and definitive in an evolving history of our own making like this – the book is an absolutely fascinating read. Both because of Hobsbawm’s mastery of subject and his gift of being able to write in an accessible and engaging style, and because the subject itself is such an important one for the left. Of all books on Marxism that are not in graphic novel format, How to change the world is probably one of the most engaging and easy to read. For anybody finding themselves forced into struggle in these times, I recommend you acquire yourself a copy, but draw your own conclusions and don’t take his at face value.

This is our Pact

“Fascism is on the rise” declares Neil Hannon, singer in the Divine Comedy, as he introduces his new song, The Pact. It’s a song about coming together to stem the rising fascist tide, and has lyrics like:

When they attack
And you can be sure that they shall
We shall without delay
Come to each other’s aid
And man the barricades together

Unlike most activists or theorists that I usually quote on this blog, Hannon is not of the radical left, eventhough lyrics such as these would not go amiss as part of our philosophy. Instead, Hannon describes himself as a “Wooly kind of liberal” and when he told the guardian in 2010 that he was wary of extremisms I imagine he was talking more of aversion to the left – as that was the current on the rise following the crash – rather than the Fascist right. But this woolly liberal seems to have been moved by these darker times to make his anti-fascist views known. And he is far from the only one who has ventured out of their generally apolitical worlds to voice opposition. A lot of otherwise politically apathetic people are speaking out and if not nailing their colours to the mast at least making it visibly and vocally known that they are against this kind of thing. Which presents a bit of a dilemma for radical leftist activism in terms of the best strategies and alliances for anti-fascist resistance.

There is no question but that the priority is front line defence of communities targetted by the fascists whether this is simply practicing anti-racist solidarity by making it that bit more difficult for police and arseholes to act with immunity by crowding around, documenting, and possibly intervening in racist activity, or the more medium term construction of community networks to develop a degree of autonomy from attacks.

What one may lack
The other party will provide
And everyone must know
You mess with one, you mess with both
And together we’ll beat the bastards back

But beyond this, the traditional pre-figurative tactics and alliances of the autonomist and anarchist left are less equipped to getting the bastards out of power. In the immediate term, the only solution to state power being captured by racist bigots is to have somebody nicer at the wheel. Usually this kind of strategy is bollox – its only a matter of time before the nicer people betray us – but the threat to all things progressive with the fascists in charge is so great that it seems to be an option worth pursuing for the moment: anything to get us out of fascism.

And this kind of strategy entails cooperating with some of our enemies: liberals, both wooly liberals and consciously committed neo-liberals. And make no mistake, both will sell us out in the long term, the committed will do so deviously to avoiding sharing any of their new-found power with those of us who helped them get is, and the woolies will sell us out in the name of moderation and restraint. But rather than just putting our hands up at the outset and refusing to work with anybody in the name of anti-fascism because they are not going towards exactly the same destination as us, the threat is too serious, and too many people are already being hurt to play the moral anarchist high ground.

We need to join The Pact, but we need to do so in such a way that we are always pushing past the limits of liberal strategising. Both Brexit and Trump are outcomes of electoral politics – and no matter how much the liberals refuse to admit it, the solution to voting is not more voting. When working with ad-hoc alliances, we need to remind people that it is the demand of liberals for the support of people yet at the same time their refusal to truly represent people that has gifted the platform to the fascists. By portraying extra-parliamentary direct action and prefigurative resistance as either illegitimate or purely auxiliary to representative politics, yet at the same time sabotaging any ground made by the electoral left (e.g. the Democrats deliberately undermining Sanders, the coup against Corbyn and the general political and media alliance against him, or the cooptation of any leftist party that managed to get into power during the post-crash neo-liberal restructuring, most scandalously and brazenly with Syriza in Greece) how did they expect people to act out their opposition?

A popular front is what is needed, but we need to participate in it as we would in any campaign that doesn’t work along perfect purist anarchist principles but that actually has real people participating in it. The immediate goal is community defence and then getting the fascists out. In working towards these goals, our role is to push for prefigurative tactics built on mutual aid which make an injury to one an injury to all, and for strategies that frame these goals within a broader horizon that sees past our liberal allies’ goals to give the shaft to us and to the vast majority of people once they get the liberal peace they want.

A bond born of brotherhood
A friendship forged in fire
To benefit the common good

Launch of Banned propaganda terms

Writing is getting more difficult. With everything happening so fast it is hard to stay alert and not inadvertently re-use one of the many propaganda phrases in circulation these days – words that make you start talking about something from the perspective of and full of the assumptions of the enemy classes. And then explaining why you write with weird phrases just makes pieces awkward to read.

So, what I have decided to do is make a new page on this blog, full of banned propaganda words and phrases. For the moment it is a small list, but I will be adding to it over time. Below is the first set of words and phrases that have been annoying me lately.

Immigration : – there is migration. Calling certain movements immigration only makes sense if (a) you assume the legitimacy of a defined territory into which people migrate, and (b) you are already there. Starting from the principle that decisions should be made by those most affected by them, any discussion of ‘immigration’ automatically excludes those people most affected – those who are not yet in some territory or other.

Post-coup crackdown (Turkey) :- I’m not denying there is a crackdown in Turkey at the moment. What I don’t like about the phrase is that it implies that all this is in response to the failed coup. When actually it is not. The move towards authoritarianism and the repression of democracy started long before the coup. If I was to give a date it would be the June 2015 elections when the AKP party lost its parliamentary majority – but I am open to correction and disagreement. Erdogan blatantly proclaimed that he was going to use the failed coup to his advantage and indeed the process of repression intensified since the coup. Calling it a post-coup crackdown allows him to play the over-reacting victim.

Post-truth politics :– This is one that enrages me. Are we to believe that politicians never lied until the likes of Trump came along? Does anybody remember a british prime minister who said “What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme”, launched a war on the basis of this lie and then stayed in power for another 6 years? Does it mean that the jobs of press offices is just to make transparency more efficient? The only thing different now is that the old elites have lost their monopoly on disinformation, which is why they have started circulating this propaganda slogan. The clever thing about it is that it itself is misinformation dressed up as a thoughtful and objective concept. Some spindoctor somewhere has earned his christmas bonus.

Trump’s victory/ Trump’s election, etc : Trump didn’t win, he got less votes than Hilary Clinton (and to put it in context, less than either of the republican candidates that ran against Obama). Calling it a victory legitimises him and the terror he is about to unleash. Calling it his election legitimises the anti-democratic system.

Book reviews: To dare imagining: Rojava Revolution by the Autonomedia collective and A small key can open a large door by the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness collective

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A small key can open a large door – front cover. Image from Combustion Books.

Something incredible seems to be happening in Rojava. The first revolution ever to be pre-figuratively anti-patriarchy, anti-state and anti-capitalist, and doing all this in the most difficult of circumstances. Of course the Rojava Revolution is not without its contradictions: they have a military alliance with the US, there is the hero-worship of Öcalan, official feminist and libertarian ideology seem to have been decided on by the leadership of a formerly Stalinist Communist Party. But as Marx said, “every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes”, the Revolution in Rojava is something real, happening, and it is something to be supported and deserves our solidarity.

The problem I have is getting info on it. The many online resources are great to keep abreast of things. But like a lot of things on the internet while being swamped with updates I don’t really have a clear idea of what is being updated. On the other hand the problem with books is that they take so long to write, publish, distribute, become affordable, and finally to read them that they are hopelessly slow at keeping pace with the situation that changes everyday. And usually long single-author reads are just inappropriate for reflecting a real democratic revolution that is by nature full of diverse and often conflicting viewpoints and is constantly fluctuating.

Two books which kind of address this are To dare imagining: Rojava Revolution by the Autonomedia collective and A small key can open a large door by the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness collective. Both books are short, accessible compilations of multi-author texts, and published relatively recently. Compiled to specifically address this dilemma outlined above they are aimed at international audiences to raise awareness about what is going on in Rojava and to stimulate solidarity movements.

To dare imagining was motivated by an utter failure on part of the american media “to report on the real story of what is happening in Syrian Kurdistan, i.e. Rojava”, believing that “journalists are literally unable to comprehend the very idea of a social revolution” which they outline as:

“a left-tradition of resistance to oppression, and like those struggles, the Rojava Revolution has identified the State itself – nationalism, hegemony and patriarchal power – as the force to be overthrown. Alone amongst all recent armed uprisings in the world (except that of the Zapatistas), Rojava’s is an anti-authoritarian insurrection” (p7).

Compiled of texts (sometimes new, sometimes ‘borrowed’) written by visitors to Rojava, commentaries on the work of Abdullah Öcalan, and a few excerpts of his work, the collection reflects “a distinct urgency about getting this book out and into the american conversation”. It contains a diversity of viewpoints and is sufficiently coherent yet retaining the rough and ready feel that reflects its role as emerging from an ongoing and changing situation. In short, it is anarchist publishing at its most useful. Among the highlights are a set of interviews with women combatants in the YPJ discussing the experiences and feminist reasons for taking up arms, an essay on the sociology of biopolitical and necropolitical wars – the Kurds are victims of both state/imperial rationalised violence and the communal ritualised violence of the likes of ISIS with the implication that new logics and institutions need to be imagined as appeals for protection on the grounds of citizenship or humanitarianism don’t work – and a great piece by Dilar Dirik, a Kurdish activist, phd candidate, and one of the editors of the book.

A small keyis similarly motivated by the observation that “Radicals in the West have been mostly silent as regards the Rojava Revolution” arguing that although “it is absolutely true that it is easier for radicals to travel to Chiapas, Greece, Palestine, or Ferguson” because the “danger is greater in Rojava then so too is the necessity of our support” (p41, 42). But beyond supporting the experiment,

“we also need the Rojava revolution for our own work here in the West. Revolutionary politics in the West have been waiting far too long for an infusion of new ideas and practices, and the Rojavan Revolution in all of its facets is something we should support if we take our own politics at all seriously. […] we can not wait for the selective safety of hindsight to analyze the revolution now unfolding. The people of Rojava have chosen to fight and so must we” (p. 42).

Unlike To dare imagining, A small key is built almost entirely on translated statements, documents, or interviews from groups in Rojava or Turkey and not original pieces, apart from a very informative introductory chapter written by the editorial collective and another great piece by Dilar Dirik on what it is that gives the revolution the will to succeed in the face of so many forces against them (“In the midst of war, Rojava’s cantons have managed to establish an incredibly empowering women’s movement, a self-governance system that operates through local councils in a bottom-up grassroots fashion,and a society in which all ethnic and religious components of the region work hand-in-hand to create a brighter future […] the anticipation of such a free life is the main motor of the Kobani resistance”).

If there are drawbacks, the most obvious one is that both are very much oriented to US audiences. A small key compensates a bit being based on translated texts, as mentioned above, from people or groups taking part in the revolution or activists in places like Turkey. This gives it more of a feeling of talking to a friend who has family and friends active there, whereas To Dare imagining feels more like being taken on a tour by a group of Western academics. Added to this, you have to be cautious and aware that both books only contain a very partial view of the revolution. With To dare imagining you have to keep in mind that the writers are themselves being taken on tours, most likely PR tours, by the welcoming committees, drivers, and translators who bring them everywhere. I’m sure there is as much hidden as there is shared with these messengers. And the other drawback, which is generic to this form of communication, is that they are already woefully out of date – A small key was published in March 2015, while although To dare imagining generally feels rushed and hastily prepared, the most recent of pieces date from January 2016.

Despite being dated, there is still a lot to learn from both books. What is going on in Rojava, if these books are in any way accurate, is nothing short of a new way of thinking and doing feminism (undoing male domination of women and society inherent in the birth of ‘civilisation’, hierarchy and the city-state thousands of years ago) and a new way of doing anti-capitalism (through practicing “the peoples’ economy”). It has made me rethink my perspectives on militarism and nationalism: I used to have answers – both were bad; now just uncertainty.

If I had to choose one of them, I would probably go with a small key. It feels closer to the revolution. That said, to dare imagining does convey more of the philosophy which is (apparently) behind it – particularly in terms of feminist theory and Öcalan’s writings on Sumerian roots of civilisation-as-patriarchy-and-hierarchy and on democratic confederalism. And it is that bit more up-to-date.

But I probably would also prefer the newer book, Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan which is more up to date and at least written by people who had spent more time there (written by three Germany- and Turkey-based activists who have been working for years with with and in Kurdish groups, they visited Rojava and spent a month there and compiled their notes into the book, which originally appeared in German but has been translated into English recently by Janet Biehl). Hoping to get my hands on a copy of that as soon as I can. But in the end, it is not so important which book or blog you follow. The most important thing is to spread info about what seems to be an incredible struggle that should be supported and learned from as much as possible.