Open letter from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava following World Afrin Day. Shared from the ICR’S website.
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.
The worst news by far this month was how the anti-democratic system in the US decided to hand state power to a racist misogynist. There’s been many things written about that since the appointment (it’s not an election), so I’m just sharing three of them here: an article in Al Jazeera written by a Palestinian cultural heritage researcher, showing how a series of american presidents and politicians, including both Clintons, have on numerous occasions fucked over Palestine to boost their own profiles. I’m not sharing it in order to say that Trump isn’t that bad – just that in many places outside of the US he represents the continuation of arrogant figures who get to arbitrarily decide whether to intensify ongoing domination, colonialism, and general fucking-over of distant lands. But Trump is that bad, particularly for any people whose existence exposes the myth of white happy america. And that is exactly what the post sub-titled “Make it impossible for this system to govern on stolen land” does: naming a system that is united by the violence it serves to indigenous americans, people of african descent, people of demonised religions, non-white or english-speaking migrants, LGTQBI people, and the list could go on. And how to make it impossible for him/them/it to govern, that’s the reason why the other piece I’m sharing is a list of practical steps to practice solidarity and organise community self-defense in anticipation of a structural violence that looks set to accelerate, published on Cindy Milstein’s blog.
And much else from November follows a similar theme. It’s all about the rise of the fascist right and colonialism, or less pessimistically, anti-colonial resistance and self-defense. In what by now seems something from a different age, this article in ROAR just before Trump lost the election places the targeting of the HDP by Erdogan and subsequently by ISIS, as part of a longer pattern from the elections of 2015 and intensifying after the coup attempt earlier this year in which the country looks firmly on the road from republican democracy to fascist dictatorship.
In terms of anti-colonial resistance, next door to the US, the resistance at Standing Rock is inspirational and there has again been a lot written about it. My pick is this article about two police who left the force instead of attacking the protectors. I know its a drop in the ocean, but moments when the police or military decide that the side of the 1% is not their side are what make revolutions. And we are never going to beat them with violence, the only hope we have is to make it impossible for them to continue defending themselves and waging war on us. Another piece is one by a student in South Africa writing about the #Fees Must Fall movement for decolonising education, their goals (not just stopping university student fees), their victories so far, and some of the internal tensions that it must overcome. And third, a transcribed lecture on the Haiti Revolution and its influence on African history and literature, nationalism and internationalism, black radicalism and the black revolutionary tradition. Interesting stuff there.
And towards the end of the month we had the death of Fidel Castro. Regardless of where you stand on his politics, most people will agree that his death marks the passing of one of last and the most iconic figures of the cold war. Something from a different era, not just pre this current post-neoliberal fascist dystopia, but also pre-neoliberalism itself. The media was predictably formulaic talking about mourning in communist Havana and celebrations in dissident Florida. So the piece I picked was something on Al Jazeera that doesn’t try to balance the two views – he was a monster AND a socialist superman – but more importantly outside of the two cold war core spheres of influence, Cuba, Fidel and Che were known as anti-imperialist internationalists who helped the Vietnam liberation front, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and participated in the Movement of the non-Aligned (although in the end they were shown up to be in the pockets of the Soviets..). (incidentally, for anybody who thinks this is too apologetic, ok, here a second link to a book review outlining the early roots of Che’s Stalinism).
And finally, a few pieces in the spirit of community self-defense, first there is a post shaming the Guardian for its cheerleading and generally unbalanced and uncritical coverage of MI5 (british spying institution) and the imperialist wars of the international community. The Guardian was an important part of my development of political awareness but some of the things I have seen there in recent times are outrageous (e.g. showing ‘balance’ between the Labour party’s membership and the parliamentary party’s attempt to block them from democratically participating in the party) so to honour this betrayal I am pushing to share any post calling them out (I even have a new tag for this – ‘Shame on the Guardian’). Second, an article about Barrett Brown, a journalist arrested and jailed for reporting on companies using and selling electronic surveillance technologies. And third, a resource guide on information security and on how to protect yourself digitally.
Statement by by REPAK, the Kurdish Women’s Relation Office, followed by open letter from The Free Womens Congress, both written after Erdogan decree sees closure of 200 NGOs as part of the broader path of undoing democracy and establishing dictatorship. Both statement translated by Janet Biehl, translations originally appeared on Ecology or Catastrophe.
To the press and public,
Yesterday evening the Turkish ministry of interior decreed that 370 NGOs and associations in Turkey will be closed down. 199 of them are accused of being affiliated to the PKK, 153 to the Gulen movement, 18 to the DHKP-C front, and only 8 to Islamic State.
A short time after the announcement, the first associations were raided. The doors of the affected associations are even now still being sealed. All this is happening under the mantle of the emergency state and so-called “struggle against putschists,” so the associations have no legal way to respond to these unlawful, arbitrary, and antidemocratic attacks. They are being committed by the Turkish AKP government, which aims to totally gag the democratic public and especially the Kurds as the main force for democracy and freedom.
One of the 199 Kurdish associations closed by decree today is the Free Woman’s Congress (KJA), the largest umbrella organization of the Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan. Two weeks ago Ayla Akat Ata, its spokeswoman, had been detained while she was protesting the detention of Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, co-mayors of Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city.
Other associations that have been closed to date are the Selis Women’s Association, the Kurdish Writers Union, the Mesopotamian Culture Centre, the Mesopotamian Lawyers Association, the Libertarian Lawyers Association, the Peace Association, the Association to Fight Poverty Sarmasik (which provides monthly help for 5,000 families), the Free Journalist Union, the Seyr-i Mesel Theater Company, the Solidarity Association for Families of Prisoners, the Rojava Association, which was coordinating help for Rojava, and the Politics Academy of the Kurdish Party of Democratic Regions (DBP).
The closing of more or less all Kurdish registered legal associations follows the detention and arrest of 10 HDP MPs (5 of them women), including their co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas. Sebahat Tuncel, co-chair of the DBP, was also arrested. Within a single year 5,389 members of the DBP have been detained, and 2,574 of them remain in prison.
Within the last year the Turkish state has killed hundreds of Kurds, destroyed tens of thousands of houses, displaced millions of people, detained dozens of elected Kurdish mayors, replaced them with trustees, closed down all Kurdish and alternative media in Turkey—from TV stations to newspapers and journals—and arrested their political representatives. Now it is closing down the last remaining places where Kurds organize themselves.
Meanwhile the Turkish army is constantly bombing Kurdish cities in Rojava, killing dozens of civilians and self-defense forces. Afrin Canton is currently under military siege by Turkish soldiers and elements of the so-called Free Syrian Army, who are preparing to create a second Kobane there. Furthermore last night news reached us that Turkish tanks are crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan to launch an unlawful offensive against PKK forces there.
The current Turkish government, with support of nationalist and ultranationalist parties and forces, is establishing a fascist dictatorship. What is happening today is not comparable to the military coup of 1980 or the ‘dirty war’ against the Kurds in the 1990s. The fascist regime under the leadership of Erdogan is repeating genocidal history, taking Nazi Germany as its example and reiterating exactly the same policy of Hitler after his seizure of power. This is reality that cannot be whitewashed.
We call on you to support the Kurdish people in their resistance against this fascist regime and show active solidarity. This regime is not only threatening the Kurds and democratic forces in Turkey, but following a very dangerous policy whose effects will not stop at the borders of the Turkish state.
Unite against fascism, for freedom and democracy!
Stop Turkish fascism! Join the resistance!
Kurdish Women’s Relation Office – REPAK
12 November 2016
Sulaymaniyah – South Kurdistan / KRG
The Free Women’s Congress mentioned above, KJA Diplomacy, issued this letter to friends:
Dear Women and Friends,
On November 12, 2016, at 8:30 am, Turkish state security forces surrounded the KJA (Kongreya Jinen Azad, Free Women’s Congress) center in Diyarbakir and at 11:00 am, based on a statutory decree article issued under the State of Emergency rule, Turkey’s Ministry of Interior suspended the KJA activities and sealed and shut down its building.
KJA has been raided four times by the Turkish police forces in the past six months. During the last raid, its member registration book and minute/decision book were seized.
These state assaults on us women will never discourage us! We have been waging the women’s freedom struggle for forty years now. With our democratic, ecological, and women-liberationist paradigm, we the women are strongly present in every sphere of life, in each house, in each village, in each town and city.
We know by heart that when the male-domination mentality brutally attacks the women’s struggle, it is because they are threatened by it. And you, male-dominated AKP mentality—you should indeed be afraid of us! We belong to the women’s struggle tradition of Sakine Cansız (massacred in Paris in 2013), which resisted the fascist military coup of September 12, 1980. You will never manage to confine us to our homes. You cannot suppress our struggle by shutting KJA down!
The seal on the KJA building is a dark seal of shame and disgrace imprinted by AKP and Erdoğan on the political history of Turkey.
As KJA, we will not step back. We are angrier and more organized than yesterday now. It is our promise to our people who have paid enormous prices and to all women that we will continue our resistance with escalating determination and steadfastness!
Jin, Jiyan, Azadi!
Both documents lightly edited by Janet Biehl.
The civil war in Syria gets worse, with Assad seeing success with his strategy of starving territory back into control, and Turkey crossing the border. Yet again, the establishment media has done little more than regurgitate the official spin: that Turkey is responding to the ISIL terrorist attack on its territory by committing ground troops to the fight against them in Syria. When in fact, the bomb attack was in (Turkey-occupied) Kurdistan, at the wedding of a Kurdish political activist, which was used by Turkey as an excuse to implement a plan it had drawn up not to fight ISIL but to attack the autonomist project of the Syrian Kurds in Rojava, who are the most successful grouping gaining back territory from ISIL. And the US has gone along with it and finally ended the uneasy ‘temporary’ relationship with the Kurds, possibly because they don’t want Turkey getting closer to Russia, possibly because they too see the Rojava autonomist project as a threat, probably both. Either way, it shows that for the US and Turkey alike, fighting terrorism is less of a priority than imperialist hegemony. See this and this articles on the deal.
Workers at two app-facilitated, conditions-destroying delivery companies in London have opened an important front in precarity-capitalism by organising wildcat strikes – not because they are radical anarchists who say fuck unions and class collaborationist process, but because they aren’t actually allowed to have a union, and as ‘contractors’ they don’t officially work there, so wildcat is the only way they can get together and strike. An important fightback against capital and the propaganda of the ‘sharing economy’. As Carlos Delclos from ROAR puts it, “Companies like Uber and Amazon Mechanical Turk privatized the [mutual aid]-style networking that allows these workers to earn a living, and then challenged governments to adapt their legal structures to their “no-benefits” employment scheme”. See these pieces on the Uber eats strike here and here, and this earlier one on the Deliveroo strike.
Also in England, following the disgraceful behaviour of Byron, a hamburger chain that exploited undocumented workers for years and then rounded them up and turned them over to the immigration police, a group in the National Health Service calling themselves ‘Docs not Cops’ is organising to make hospitals and health facilities no-immigration-police-zones and to refuse them access to medical data. A good article was posted on Novara about them. And Red Pepper ran this article damning the Chilcot enquiry for purposefully avoiding questions on the real motives for the war in Iraq, and the role of private corporations and lobyists in pushing the invasion agenda. Nice to see this, because I was getting fairly sick of hearing the media call the Chilcot report ‘damning’ and peddling its face-saving language (e.g. saying Blair ‘exaggerated’ the threat from Iraq, when in truth he made it up, etc).
- a tragic story about Azerbaijan oil rig workers who died for profit having been pushed to work in unsafe conditions and the state cover up.
- Efforts in the Netherlands to shaft the CETA deal through forcing a citizens’ referendum on it: How the Dutch could derail CETA.
- A surprisingly fair article about an open letter written and signed by 597 sex workers in Kazakhstan demanding legalisation of their work. It outlines points made in the letter rather than finding some organisation to make the argument on their behalf, there is little room given for bigotry critics, and the rest of the article caricatures the government. That said, the accompanying photograph is dreadful, and there is the usual irresponsible wild bandying of baseless figures for sensationalist purposes.
- An interesting interview with an activist in Naples involved in the squatting and social-centre community, about the state of the left and strategising there.
And finally an excellent intersectionalist analysis queering marxism – looking at the many ways heteronormative society pushes LGBT*Q people into precarity. I usually don’t like overly materialist left-wing analysis because they tend to reduce form of oppression to just the economic impact, but this one does a great job.
Call for solidarity put out by the diplomatic committee of the Youth Union of Rojava. Decries treatment of Ocalan in prison, sets out some of the vision of the Rojava Democratic Confederalist project and calls for international solidarity with the movement. Thanks to Insurrection News for sharing.
“Through international solidarity towards Abdullah Öcalan’s freedom
A call from Yekîtiya Ciwanên Rojava
While the capitalist modernity wants to prolong it’s age by emptying the content of our universe especially the minds of people which have been played with by the hands of oppression, until the point that people’s minds neither recognize what is happening in their environment nor with which danger humanity and life itself are confronted with. Since the creation of city states in Sumer and during their continuing development by oppressive powers until these days, all the people that stood up against the monster of capitalism were confronted with annihilation. In all times, especially in the Middle East, the capitalist system has been violating and destroying the natural laws. Furthermore it didn’t let the people of the region live together a life of peace and stability.
But in between this chaos somebody raised his head and said, enough of annihilation of humanity and nature and enough of violence, and began a struggle for the creation of a new system, a system which is lived in peace by all peoples on the basis of women’s freedom and defense of the nature/ecology. The one who created the idea of this system and the one who stood against the annihilation of societies and the interests of oppressive states, is the philosopher of the people Abdullah Öcalan. But he was kidnapped and detained through the international plot of these states on the 15th of February 1999. This plot targeted the will of freedom of Middle Eastern’s people in the individual of Öcalan. Since then Öcalan has been in the Imrali prison.
But because the people of this region do not follow the dirty games of capitalism, that’s why they have created the system of Democratic Nation for a common and con-federal life. In the system of Democratic Nation there is sociology of freedom and social justice to be found for all humans to be able to live equally in a ethic and political society based on youth’s initiative, ecology and women’s freedom. A result of this democratic idea are the revolution in Rojava and the creation of the federal system of North-Syria. Wherein all components of society are participating and have formed their own self-defense to resist the enemy of humanity – the Islamic State.
But this system, which has been created is not in the interest of the oppressive powers. For this reason a total isolation on Öcalan has been imposed from the 5th of April 2015 on, following the decision of AKP not to continue the peace process and therefore not to find a solution for the peoples of the region. The goal of this process, which has been started by Öcalan, is the creation of a democratic future, not only for the Kurdish and Turkish people but rather for all the people worldwide.
We, as the youth of Rojava which is organizing itself with the paradigm of Öcalan, are calling all the people and democratic forces worldwide, especially the youth, for actions and pressure on their governments so that the meetings with Öcalan are continued and informations about his situation are given concerning his life threat due to the very tense situation in Turkey right now. Not at least because this total isolation is against all kinds of human rights and because it’s an international plot, is it absolutely necessary for all democratic forces to fight for the freedom of Öcalan.
The struggle for freedom for Öcalan means struggle for the freedom of the people!
Fighting for freedom of Öcalan means fighting for women’s liberation!
Freedom for Öcalan means freedom for the youth and their initiative role in the society!
Diplomatic relations committee of the Youth Union of Rojava (YCR)”
July was the month of violence and terrorism across germany, france, the usa, and a failed coup and nationalist backlash in Turkey. Although the levels of violence was still far less than in Iraq, Nigeria, or Somalia this month (not to mention Syria) the white media still focussed on dangers in the safest parts of the world. And when they weren’t talking about terrorism they were talking about leadership contests in the anglo-centric centres of the universe, all under the shadow of predictably senseless discussion on Brexit. Among some of the exceptions from within the empires are some interesting pieces on groups trying to tackle post-referendum racism, (see also a piece by the Wretched of the Earth Collective on how to practice anti-racist solidarity, previously linked to on this blog) a discussion thread critically exposing the shamelessness of the anti-democratic elite of the britain’s Labour party, plus some guidelines for how members can try to win back the organisation and turn it into a member-based party (although a structure based on direct democracy and instantly-recallable delegates is still beyond the horizon). And actually, some good points are made in this other post arguing how the time spent by activists reclaiming the Labour party might be better spent on extra-parliamentary organising.
By far the best piece I read this month was a journal entry by a trans woman who has chosen not to undergo surgery and presents as male. Touches on all sorts of complexities of feminism in relation to trans* perspectives. Although it was published earlier in the year, it seems to have only been noticed recently. A similar post in response/inspired by it is also worth a read.
Elsewhere, a discussion of teachers’ unionising and strategising against neoliberalisation and racism and inequality, looking at recent examples in Mexico, usa and uk. A report of the Social ecology gathering in Lyon, outlining what an anti-capitalist, libertarian municipalist social ecology vision could look like, written by Janet Biehl, former partner, collaborator and current biogropher of Murray Bookchin. A sad enough piece about the decline of the Nordic model in Denmark over the course of the last 30 years and the embracal instead of neoliberalism. And pointers to some good movies that are probably worth a look at: recommendations selected from among films screening at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival in ireland.