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Postal-Service Workers Are Shouldering the Burden for Amazon

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 15:31

via The Nation

By Jake Bittle

Every day postal trucks drop off about 4,000 packages at a US Postal Service station in central Tennessee, where they’re unloaded by a team of around six USPS employees. Each person grabs a box, rushes to the only scanning machine, runs the bar code, and then places it in the proper gurney for its route. The process takes about 10 seconds, and it can be repeated as many as 200 times in an hour.

“You’ll see all of us, management included, trying to get under the machine, scanning packages and then tossing them, trying to get through it,” said Amanda, a USPS clerk who works there. “I’m pretty sure every one of us has at least one repetitive-motion injury.”

Around one-third of the packages Amanda handles are shipped by Amazon. As the Seattle-based tech giant commands an ever greater share of the retail market, the number of packages handled by the USPS keeps increasing. But employees say Postal Service management hasn’t responded to the surge in heavy items by investing in staffing or infrastructure. Instead, its leadership has cut costs and resorted to what union leaders call “management by stress.”

“We absolutely don’t have proper staffing for the amount of packages we get,” said Amanda, who withheld her full name for fear of workplace repercussions. “Everyone in the office is overwhelmed by it, but the only way management’s going to respond is if you file an incident report. People are just so busy that they’ll say, ‘It’ll be fine tomorrow.’ It’s not.”

Amazon was able to make a deal to ship its packages through USPS at cut-rate prices, because the company preemptively sorts and labels packages by postal route. But transporting and distributing these packages still takes clerks like Amanda much longer than sorting letters, which can be fed through a machine. If the clerks are delayed, the station’s carriers will be delayed in starting routes, which are already longer than ever thanks to the packages filling up their satchels and trucks. Many won’t deliver their final box until well after the sun has set.

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Anarchism and Catholicism: An Introduction

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 15:21

via The Hampton Institute

by Chase Padusniak

“Anarchy,” a scary word to many, doesn’t get much use in Catholic circles. It seems downright frightening, either theologically or personally-it seems to threaten longstanding traditions of justice, not to mention the personal comfort and status of the West’s largely comfortable and assimilated Catholic population. Witness, for example, the Catholic Encyclopedia :

“The theory of anarchy is against all reason. Apart from the fact that it runs counter to some of the most cherished instincts of humanity, as, for instance,family life and love of country, it is evident thatsociety without authority could not stand for a moment. Men whose only purpose would be to satisfy all their inclinations are by the very fact on the level of the animal creation. The methods they already employ in the prosecution of their designs show how the animal instincts quickly assert themselves.”

Harsh words. Although the Encyclopedia is a useful resource in many ways, it was published in 1907, and, in some spots, is rather clearly a product of its time. I can say this, because, in spite of this absolute dismissal, anarchism became popular with more than a few Catholic thinkers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Fr. Thomas Hagerty, Peter Maurin, Dom Léonce Crenier , Dorothy Day, Emmanuel Mounier, Ammon Hennacy, (arguably) Simone Weil, Fr. Ivan Illich, and Fr. Dan Berrigan all come to mind, and that’s not even to mention famous examples from Orthodoxy and Protestantism such as Nikolai Berdyaev (along with Leo Tolstoy) and Jacques Ellul. Yet, unsurprisingly, the word continues to frighten us-comfortable as we are. In the interest of clarification, really of de-mystification, I’d like to ask: what is anarchism? And why did it appeal to so many Catholics?

First things first then: “anarchism” refers to a good number of traditions with a variety of commitments. For my purposes here, the central distinction is between individualist forms of anarchism-à la Max Stirner, Benjamin Tucker, and, I would argue, Murray Rothbard (insofar as his ideas can be called by the “a word” at all)-and communitarian forms, often associated with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin.

The former looks something like an extreme form of what most Americans would call “libertarianism” (though often with a Left-wing inflection, that is, with a greater interest in the liberating force of anarchism, as opposed to a preservation or shrinking of existing institutions). Donald Rooum, an advocate of Stirnerian Anarchism, defines his views (and thus anarchism more generally) thus :

“Anarchists believe that the point of society is to widen the choices of individuals. This is the axiom upon which the anarchist case is founded […]
Anarchists strive for a society which is as efficient as possible, that is a society which provides individuals with the widest possible range of individual choices.”

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Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: “The Second Amendment is Almost a Time Bomb That Was Planted in the Constitution”

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 17:12

via Williamette Week

By Matthew Korfhage

At 2:21 pm on Valentine’s Day, a Florida man named Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school with a gas mask and an AR-15 rifle. A half-hour after the first gunshots, 15 people were dead. Two more would soon join them. The school’s students clustered in the grass, cordoned from a wall of  cameras by a wall of police. The strangest thing about the event was how familiar it had become, in a country with a near-monopoly on school shootings and nearly twice as many guns per capita as any other country in the world.

Feminist and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 78, is best known for her 2014 book, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, and her 2009 memoir about growing up Okie. Her newest book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment (City Lights, 236 pages, $15.95), takes on the militaristic and white-supremacist origins of our country’s unhinged love affair with guns.

Before her appearance at Powell’s Books this Friday, we talked with her about mass murder, the cult of the Constitution and the takeover of the National Rifle Association.

WW: Does it seem to you that each mass shooting brings the same conversation, and the same results?
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: People are just lost right now. When a shooting like this happens, when there are so many victims, when they’re babies—you almost don’t want to bring up the fact that we have to look deeper for the causes. You want an immediate solution. A mother yesterday asked Trump and Congress: “You have to stop this. Make it so children don’t get guns.” I was on the phone all day with reporters, and I hesitated: Is this the time to talk about history? But there’s no better time for people to say, wait a minute, there must be some deeper cause.

What are people getting wrong about gun violence?
The left blames white nationalism. The right blames mental illness. Neither explains that it happens often here and nowhere else. But mass shootings account for a very small number of gun deaths: Many more women are killed in their home by guns. Men used to just knock women around, but rarely did death result. But with a gun on hand, there’s a death. Half of the gun deaths are suicide. The proliferation of guns is a huge problem, but its cause is not lack of regulations. There were lots of regulations in the ’70s when this started; going postal and school shootings started in the ’70s.

But why not just pass gun regulations?

Seventy-five percent of the U.S., in every age group, some more than others, want to have gun regulations. But those same 70 percent, when asked about whether the Second Amendment means they have the right to bear arms, they support it. They always say, “I support the Second Amendment.”

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Review: The Anarchist Roots of Geography – Toward Spatial Emancipation

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 20:12

via Freedom News

Review by John Clark

The Anarchist Roots of Geography – Toward Spatial Emancipation by Simon Springer
ISBN: 978-0-816697-73-1
PP: 240
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 2016

Anyone who wants evidence that anarchist geography is alive and well today need only read this book. The author, Simon Springer, is one of the most active anarchist intellectuals today. In 2016, he authored two books and edited five, mostly on anarchist themes, and he has written numerous articles, some technical, but many deeply immersed in contemporary struggles.

His lively polemic, “Fuck Neoliberalism,” has over 50,000 hits on one website alone.

The book’s subtitle is a good indication of its purpose. It is committed to the project of liberation of humanity and nature, and to overcoming all forms of domination. With great passion and eloquence, Springer calls for a return to geography’s “radical roots” in anarchist concepts, in which it is a mode of social and political engagement. Through such a geography of autonomy and solidarity, we “configure a radical political imagination that is capable of demanding the impossible.”

Springer relates anarchism to contemporary themes such as biopolitics and rhizomatic theory, but also looks back to the classical anarchist thinkers, showing the enduring value of their critique of hierarchy and domination. He deserves particular recognition for carrying on the legacy of the great French 19th century anarchist social geographer and political philosopher Eliseé Reclus.

Springer is inspired by Reclus’ communitarian anarchist project of a universal geography—in effect, a geography of solidarity—which he compares to Buddhism and Daoism’s ideas of the interconnectedness of all things.

He also follows Reclus in linking the aesthetic and the ethical, proclaiming that “beautiful is something that we already are.” For Springer, utopia is not a distant ideal, but is already present here and now He echoes Reclus’ belief that “small loving and intelligent societies,” are crucial to profound social transformation, prefiguring the anarchist idea of the affinity group as basic to a free society.

Springer argues that “an ethic of non-violence” is at the core of anarchism. He observes that opposition to the state is based on the rejection of organized violence as the major organizing force within society, and that consistent anarchism will have “an unwavering commitment to nonviolence and the absolute condemnation of war.” He thus carries on the tradition of anarcho-pacifists who have found inspiration in the lives and ideas of great figures such as Tolstoy, Thoreau, and Dorothy Day.

Springer also applies the critique of domination to the issue of colonialism. He points out that the project of the centralized state implied from the beginning a process of colonial expansion (conquest) from a center of power.

Springer writes that “to be ‘postcolonial’ in any meaningful sense requires that one be ‘poststatise or ‘anarchic,’ and look to non-statist traditions for inspiration. We must follow the “least alienated” and “most oppressed” peoples, learning from the traditional wisdom and contemporary revolutionary practice of indigenous movements such as the Zapatistas, who have a deep historically- and experientially-based understanding of the destructiveness of capitalism and the centralized state.

Finally, Springer applies this critique to urbanism, which he sees as deeply infected with hierarchical ideology and bias toward centers of power and wealth as models of the urban. In an anarchist urbanism, “the values embedded in public space are those with which the demos endows it.”

Public space becomes the space of self-determination by the free community. Springer contrasts the “Disneyfied” space of neoliberal capitalism, “devoid of geographic specificity,” with such a non-dominated space of anarchic community.

Springer concludes with the hopeful thought that “places wild and free” still exist. In such places, new possibilities for realization of beauty, goodness, freedom, and creativity are always present, ready to emerge. We need “a politics of possibility,” based on living an awakened, engaged life in such places, so that we ourselves “become the horizon.”

Springer is optimistic about such a politics for two reasons. First, there is a long, rich history of realizing such creative possibilities, extending from tribal societies to the great revolutions and recent communal experiments. Second, such emergence of possibilities is inherent in the very structure of reality.

We live in a universe of freedom and creativity. We might even say that we are ourselves nature becoming free and self-creative.

This review first appeared in the fall issue of Fifth Estate. John Clark lives in New Orleans and on Bayou La Terre in the coastal forest of the Gulf of Mexico. He has long been active in the radical ecology and communitarian anarchist movements, and currently works with Bayou Bridge Pipeline resistance. He is director of La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology.

Ursula Le Guin and Utopia

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 19:47

via Anarchist Writers

by Anarcho

It is with great sadness that I write this for one of my favourite writers, Ursula Le Guin, had died. The New York Times called her “America’s greatest living science fiction writers” in 2016 but that does not really do her work justice: she was one of the world’s greatest writers. It is just that she worked mostly in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. And like a few others – Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore spring to mind – also contributed to popularising anarchism outside political circles. Her SF novel The Dispossessed (1974) is still by far the best account of an anarchist society, warts and all!

She was a great writer, one of the best ever. Needless to say, she was my favourite SF writer. Her alien worlds were, well, alien. Her characters, actual people and not cyphers. Her message, humane, egalitarian, libertarian, feminist. She died on January 22, so I hope she saw the women’s marches across the world for as she put it in the 1980s:

“When women speak truly they speak subversively — they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want – to hear you erupting. You young Mount St Helenses who don’t know the power in you – I want to hear you.”

Her parents were anthologists, and you can tell. Far too much of SF (and Fantasy) is just middle-class, middle-aged, white, 20th century American male (who has read or watched too many Westerns) projected into space (or into a cod-Middle Ages). The lack of thought about culture is made up for by some fancy hardware and battles against a thinly-veiled stand-in for “communism” (i.e., Stalinism). The “harder” the SF, the more banal it appears to be. Not Le Guin. Her cultures reflect thought, an awareness that the norms of the current patriarchal, racist, class society are not the only ones. Humanity has provided a diverse range of cultures across time and space, if having an imagination is too much hard work. Much of SF – particularly in its so-called “golden era” – is not particularly imaginative. Again, not Le Guin – her works are imaginative in terms of “alien” cultures.

They were also subversive of the typical reader’s assumptions – the hero of the Earthsea series is dark-skinned, the main baddies white (and she publically lamented when the TV adaption turned that around). The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) addressed gender, by means of a world were humans were genderless except for a week every month during which they could become male or female. Her The Word for World is Forest (1976) exposed the horrors of imperialism long before Avatar trod a similar path in 3D: but no white, male saviour for the – short, furry and green – natives in the Hainish universe, they freed themselves.

She wrote so many books, short stories, articles, that it would be impossible to cover everything. So instead I will make a few comments about The Dispossessed for it is that work – and the related short-story The Day Before the Revolution (1974) – that she has a special place in anarchist hearts.

First, I must note something written on the Guardian webpage after her death. It was an article on what you should read if you had not heard of her before:

“But the physicist Shevek, who is working on a method of interstellar communication called the Principle of Simultaneity, is becoming disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy of Anarres and travels to Urras to find more freedom.”

Do people even bother to read the books they summarise? This is a travesty of the book’s plot and point. Shevek was not “disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy,” he was seeking to make Anarres live up to its anarchist philosophy! He spends a lot of his time on Urras advocating anarchism – if I remember correctly, it is even noted that he was surprised that they allowed him to do so at the Urras equivalent of the United Nations (because his speech is not reported in depth in the popular newspapers). He even compares his academic life to his live in Anarres, considering the academic environment the closest to what he is used to back home – discussion between equals.

And he travels to Urras as part of his struggle to help break the crystallised structures on Anarres – which saw the decision to decline communication with anarchists on Urrras! He did not travel to Urras to “fine more freedom” – he was well aware of the hierarchical nature of the system and experienced it first-hand. He even escapes his “freedom” at the university to join a mass anti-war protest… and he goes back to Anarres to continue to apply his anarchism to the crystallised libertarian society he seeks to bring back to its ideal.

Second, an older comment but one which shares the same apparent unwillingness to understand the book and its message. The SF writer Ken MacLeod, who you would think should know better. I was somewhat surprised to read him proclaim the following:

“It is the absence of political debate, as much as the absence of privacy and the relentless presence of morality, that makes the communism of Anarres, in Ursula Le Guin’s anarchist classic The Dispossessed (1974), so oppressive. When her hero Shevek finds himself in conflict with aspects of his society he has no forum in which to express it, no way to find like-minded individuals with whom he might find common ground; instead, his conflicts become conflicts with other individuals. He is as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state.” (“Politics and science fiction,” The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 230)

I must say that it makes a change for a (ex-?) Marxist to proclaim Anarchism would produce a society which would crush individuality under collective pressure – the usual charge is that we are just extreme liberals whose advocacy of “individualism” would make all forms of organisation and community impossible (Max Stirner is usually invoked, in spite of him having no impact on Anarchism until the 1890s). So it would be tempting to ignore this but the argument that social pressure can be oppressive is stronger and so worth discussing – particularly as many anarchists have argued the same thing and indicated how to combat it.

In terms of “absence of privacy,” The Dispossessed makes clear that people have as much privacy as they like – the environmental limitations of a desert moon pushing towards a more communal set-up. Kropotkin would not have liked the predominant system that much – being on record as opposing hotel-like communes in favour of personal homes – but the possibility of personal/family rooms was there and taken up. As for “the relentless presence of morality,” any society – apart from the most atomised – will have some general set of social standards. On Anarres, these social standards allow quite a range of self-expression – no sexism, homophobia, etc. However, the negative impact of social pressure is one of the book’s concerns – and one which anarchist thinkers have raised.

I’m not sure what MacLeod means in terms “the absence of political debate” as The Dispossessed recounts disagreement on Anarres repeatedly: “in the PDC debates in Abbenay” with its “fierce protests” about supplying Urras with raw materials (83); “Anybody can attend any PDC meeting, and if he’s an interested syndic, he can debate and vote!” (144); Shevek bringing up sending letters to Urras “at the Physics Federation” (137); the discussion on receiving people from, and sending to, Urras. (291-7). In the latter discussion it is noted that radio contact was disapproved being “[a]gainst the recommendation of this council, and the Deference Federative, and a majority vote of the List” as well the “increasing protests from the entire Brotherhood.” (291, 293)

Indeed, much of what MacLeod calls “the relentless presence of morality” is, in fact, political debate – particularly in relation to the “personal is political” and so how best to apply libertarian principles in everyday live. Which includes working with other people in syndicates, communities and federations. He seems to forget that organisations are made up of other individuals – and as the book make clear, Shevek and his comrades (like others) come into conflict with them in institutional settings, in syndicate and federative meetings by means of debates and… votes!

What of no possibility of finding “like minded individuals with whom he might find common ground”? MacLeod seems to have forgotten that Shevek and his colleagues form their own group (“the Syndicate of Initiative”) – as can any Anarres inhabitant – and use the resources of their society – as can any Anarres inhabitant – for their own ends. All of which is an expression of free communism – based as it is on individual initiative, free association and use rights to society’s resources.

So we have “political debate” (both between individuals, within groups and across society), we have “like-minded people” coming together to fight the institutional and societal problems developing within libertarian communism – a far cry from MacLeod’s claims.

How a society described as being so rich in associational life can dismissed as resulting in someone being “as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state” is lost on me. To place this in the context of the book, on Urras which is a hierarchical society marked by class and patriarchy, Shevek’s room is bugged while a mass protest meeting he speaks at – after escaping from his surveillance – is fired upon by government troops, killing untold numbers, and afterwards State repression sees protesters being rounded up (imprisoned, if not shot).

Is Anarres perfect? No, that is the point of the book – it has evolved into a quasi-bureaucratic system (due to routine administration) based on majority rule (via societal pressure). Yet Shevek and his comrades are able to rebel against these pressures using the principles the society was formed on – nor are they actually stopped from doing so (the little mob which forms to stop Shevek’s departure to Urras is ineffectual as well as being obviously spontaneously formed). They are subject to social pressure, disapproval by many others, but they are not – unlike on Urras – shot down or imprisoned for their activities after the appropriate “political debate.”

I should also note that Shevek and his comrades’ activities are part and parcel of libertarian communism and not somehow against it. As Le Guin makes clear:

“from the start, the Settlers were aware that that unavoidable centralisation [i.e., a town where most of the headquarters of the federations and syndicates were based] was a lasting threat, to be countered by lasting vigilance.” (86)

The “syndicate of initiative” is part of this process of “lasting vigilance” – the problem being on Anarres that this vigilance has withered away by becoming crystallised (to use Kropotkin’s term). Indeed, in Mutual Aid elsewhere indicated that this was a recurring problem during society’s evolution – and an anarchist society would also face this danger.

All of which makes you wonder what makes Anarres “so oppressive”? Comparing it to actual totalitarian states shows the stupidity of MacLeod’s assertions. The worse example given in the book is of an artist driven insane by social pressure and its ramifications – which is one of the factors which drive the creation of the “syndicate of initiative.” Which must be placed in the context of the high levels of mental illness within hierarchical systems as well as how often people are driven mad as a result of repressive policies decided upon by the “political debates” within Statist systems.

Of course, I am now comparing a work of fiction with actual social systems – but Le Guin’s book makes you do that because it is quite a realistic utopia, populated by people rather than political cyphers. Ultimately, for all its flaws, Shevek still defends Anarres and its principles on Urras and sees its obvious freedoms compared to that hierarchical regime. He returns to Anarres to participate in the growing movement seeking to eliminate the unhealthy developments within libertarian communism. Again, all very much in line with Kropotkin’s comments in the “Conclusion” of Mutual Aid:

“It will probably be remarked that mutual aid, even though it may represent one of the factors of evolution, covers nevertheless one aspect only of human relations; that by the side of this current, powerful though it may be, there is, and always has been, the other current – the self-assertion of the individual, not only in its efforts to attain personal or caste superiority, economical, political, and spiritual, but also in its much more important although less evident function of breaking through the bonds, always prone to become crystallised, which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State impose upon the individual. In other words, there is the self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element.”

So MacLeod’s summary of Le Guin’s work leaves a lot to be desired – indeed, everything he lists as making Shevek “as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state” is simply not supported by the book. Can there be conflict between community and individual autonomy? Yes and here MacLeod is on stronger ground but he is simply covering ground raised by others, as he notes:

“Orwell’s interest in, and aptitude for, politics as a practical art were negligible, but his interest in, and imaginative grasp of, the implications of political philosophies were deep. What he said in a sentence about the potentially repressive underside of the anarchist ideal summarizes most of the message of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.” (231)

Since MacLeod mentions Orwell, I would think it is sufficient to ask the question whether Shevek on Anarres is “as isolated” as Winston Smith in Oceania to show the weakness of MacLeod’s position.

Yet anyone familiar with anarchist thought would be aware that anarchists have also been aware of this danger. Indeed, an awareness of the authoritarian aspects of utopian socialism and their “ideal” communities has always driven anarchism, not to mention the similar – if not totalitarian – possibilities of State socialism.

Proudhon made the same point – against what he termed “Community” and which is usually translated as “Communism.” This was why he stressed that while ownership should be undivided, use had to be divided (see my “Proudhon, Property and Possession,” ASR 66). Although, I should note, Proudhon was addressing libertarian communism by their comments as that did not exist then. Similarly, communist-anarchists like Kropotkin were aware of this danger (indeed, Kropotkin said Proudhon was right to attack what was called communism in his day). More, anarchist-communists recognised the validity of these critiques and created a new, libertarian, communism which addressed these issues as well as building in mechanisms to reduce tendencies towards them in anarcho-communism – for example, Kropotkin discusses its possible impact on individuality in Modern Science and Anarchy, in the second section entitled “Communism and Anarchy” (first published in France in 1913, it is finally out in English translation later this year by AK Press).

So let me be clear what we are talking about – not social pressure and intervention to stop actual anti-social acts (that is, stopping those who do actual harm to others) but rather social pressure against activities some others think of as somehow wrong but which harm no one. The actions of nosy-parkers, busy-bodies, gossips and such like – plus general social disapproval, particularly of those with avant-guard notions and who express them in action.

This can be – has been, in many a small community – a problem. Yes, it can mean no anti-social behaviour but it can also be suffocating. So that is the germ of truth in this objection. However, as section I.5.6 of An Anarchist FAQ argues, it is overblown. Particularly in a society which does not have hierarchical relations in production and elsewhere – where most people spend the bulk of their time and so shapes them most (excluding authoritarian education, which trains children to be bored and follow orders in preparation for their time in work).

But, yes, there is a danger – but as with those who take anarchism and conclude, wrongly, an opposition to organisation as such, the alternative is worse. For while even the best libertarian organisation can become bureaucratic, no organisation at all would make life impossible. Similarly, public pressure does not disappear with laws and authorities – it gets bolstered by them.

Take the racism of the Southern States of America, well, that became a national issue after the decentralised self-organisation and direct action of the oppressed and their allies in those areas and the violent State or State-backed repression against them could no longer be ignored. And it was an example of centralised political power backing oppressive social customs within the former slave States. Needless to say, we would expect external solidarity to happen in a libertarian society if such a development arose (presumably, in areas within which the social revolution had not taken place or been crushed).

This is the case with any societal progress you care to think of – civil rights, feminism, the labour movement. They all start with a minority pushing at what is considered “normal” and increasing freedom by flaunting convention – that is, by direct action. Progress has never been the gift of authority – it has always been won. And the majority finally shift – but adding the State to the mix hardly makes those struggles easier. It only makes rolling those victories back easier – just look at the Trump regime, where State power is being used to do precisely that.

All in all, if oppressive social pressure is an issue in an Anarchy – and it can be – adding political (and/or economic) power does not make it disappear, quite the reverse. Does the customary rather than political nature of the pressure increase the totalitarian tendencies as Orwell suggests? Doubtful…

Anarchist theory recognises the key role minorities play in social change. Kropotkin stressed it (see “Revolutionary Minorities” in Words of a Rebel), as did Emma Goldman (in “Minorities versus Majorities,” in Anarchism and Other Essays) – and it is obvious. Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism being a must read in this regard. As Kropotkin put it in Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal:

“Well, then, those who will work to break up these superannuated tactics, those who will know how to rouse the spirit of initiative in individuals and in groups, those who will be able to create in their mutual relations a movement and a life based on the principles of free understanding—those that will understand that variety, conflict even, is life, and that uniformity is death”

Shevek’s odyssey is an example of this, of (to re-quote Mutual Aid) “the self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element” against the “the bonds, always prone to become crystallised, which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State impose upon the individual” – or the self-managed associations of a free society. The “syndicate of initiative” is an expression of this minority within the libertarian communist society of Anarres. Progress will remain a product of the interaction of the few and the many, but without the vested interests associated with various social, economic and political hierarchies – and the coercive forces they can call upon in a non-anarchist society.

So where does this get us? That Anarchy is not perfect, but we knew that. Like any social system it will have its problems, its contradictions, its areas in need of work – but, then, we have usually claimed Anarchy will simply be better than the current system rather than perfect. It will be created by and made up of people, people who will be more rounded and better developed than under hierarchy but still flawed. This awareness is why, unlike Marxists, we have always built into our systems safeguards against irremovable imperfections – safeguards such as federalism, election, mandates, recall, socialisation, etc. In short, there will always be arseholes – anarchists just think giving arseholes power over others is not a wise idea.

Sure, in self-management you may often be in a minority – but to see your ideas always be implemented means to either have no groups at all (an impossibility) or be a dictator (or owner, the terms are synonymous as Proudhon noted in 1840). Ironically, the more abstractly individualist a theory is, the more likely it will produce authoritarian rather than libertarian social relationships – as shown by Lockean ideologies (like propertarianism). So not getting your way all the time, ironically, ensures freedom – both yours and others. More, at least in libertarian socialism (unlike capitalism) you will have the resources available to form new associations if you feel that your current ones are ignoring you and your ideas – as is constantly mentioned in The Dispossessed and “the syndicate of initiative” does.

This is not to deny the negative aspects of social pressure – but anarchists are aware of it and build an awareness of this into their ideas. I’ve quoted Kropotkin already on the need for conflict, for variety. I’ve also quoted him on the need for individual self-assertion against crystallised social institutions. So, yes, Orwell makes a valid point – but exaggerates it. As does MacLeod with his misreading of The Dispossessed – which is full of discussion, disagreement, debate. Both fail to mention that anarchism is aware of the problem and has sought solutions – and Le Guin’s book expresses them!

Ultimately, Shevek remains an anarchist, argues for anarchism on Urras and returns to Anarres – for good reasons, as the book makes clear. I cannot envision Winston Smith doing likewise on Airstrip One – or wishing he faced the Thought Police rather than the disapproval of some of his neighbours…

Le Guin, in short, produced a very astute book on anarchism, one aware of the problems and also aware that anarchists had predicted said problems and shown means of solving them. It is a classic – and I gain something new every time I read it. It deserves better than MacLeod’s summary – particularly as those comments are refuted by the book itself, as I have indicated.

Third, MacLeod was friends with the late, great Iain Banks. I should say a few words about their respective “utopias.” The difference is stark – the culture is, to coin a phrase, a Post-Scarcity Anarchism (another classic you should read) while Anarres is very much a “scarcity” anarchism (although the standard of living is high, it is limited by the ecology of the desert moon the anarchists settled 170 years before). Which makes The Dispossessed a far more realistic work. Banks postulates a level of technology which is, basically, magic and so he magics away all the issues any real anarchist society would face. The Culture manages with super-intelligent computers and hyper-advanced technology – but if your system is dependent upon advanced technology (or impossible assumptions) then it best avoided (an economy needs to work if the computers crash!).

Anarres, however, manages it with the technologies of the 20th century – or slightly advanced versions – which makes it more relevant and appealing, in spite of its desert moon setting and the impact that has on the libertarian communist society depicted. Sure, Le Guin did magic – in her Earthsea books! Anarres presents a society which you could see working today, not hundreds of years in the future.

So it is hardly a utopia in this sense, unlike the Culture. In terms of its social organisation, again it is based on federations of syndicates and communities. Again, hardly utopian. Also, the people are people who seem aware of the need to treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. It hardly staggers belief that people brought up with enough to eat, taught to think rather than repeat, treated as people and not resources, would generalise what is now considered the best of us. Its flaws are equally believable – an informal bureaucracy has started to develop and co-operation has started to become conformity.

Shevek and his comrades see the problem and work on a solution which is straight out of anarchist theory. This is because anarchists are aware that people are imperfect and any society we create will be imperfect. We are well aware that even the best society will have flaws and need work. The struggle for freedom does not end with a successful revolution – things crystallise and it needs active minorities to shatter them in a progressive manner.

Is anarchism utopian? No – for its does not postulate anything unbelievable or impossible about humans or social life. It does not seek perfection, just better (which would not be hard!). The people who are utopian are those who criticise anarchism – incorrectly, as it happens – for believing in the natural goodness of people rather than recognising that people are bad and who then turn around and say that a few of these bad people should be given power over the rest. So people will abuse freedom but not power… such is the position of “realistic” people!

So The Dispossessed does not contradict communist-anarchism nor undermine it. Those who claim otherwise should read more communist-anarchist thinkers. As Le Guin did – and it shows. The book is a classic – of both SF and anarchist thought.

All of which shows the power and importance of Le Guin’s work. Her works are full of people and address real issues, like the best SF work it is about now rather than the future. She will be missed – but her writings will endure.

What might an anarchist language look like? I created one, inspired by Ursula le Guin

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 19:31

via The Conversation

by Martin Edwardes

The many articles written in memory of Ursula le Guin, who left this world on her final voyage last month, are testament to the great power of her storytelling. Le Guin’s tales give us insights into different ways of being human, from the deceptively mundane (the Orsinian Tales) through the remote but plausible (the Hainish Cycle of science fiction novels), and into the enchantingly fantastic (the Earthsea stories). Her stories help us to understand others and ourselves. They demonstrate the great power that language has in creating imagined worlds.

This is perhaps most obvious in her 1974 award-winning novel, The Dispossessed. The book has been in press since 1974, and has been translated into at least 30 languages. The novel tells the story of a scientist, Shevek, and his battle against the bureaucracies of two planets to ensure his invention will benefit all humans. The invention is an instantaneous communication device which overcomes the limitation of light speed communication; but the device is just an artefact of the narrative. The real story is about people, their cultures, and how they build these – through language.

The Dispossessed is set on two human worlds: the planet Urras, which resembles 1970s Earth; and Anarres, the moon of Urras, home to a unified anarchist collective. Anarres was settled from Urras by people seeking a better, fairer life, and the resulting collective has been largely isolated from Urran cultures for about 150 years.

Anarres is a planet without property, laws or money; but it does have an advisory bureaucracy and some shared conventions, one of which is the language Pravic. This language was devised by the first settlers, to make the everyday casual ownership which pervades human languages almost impossible to articulate.

Anarres is, of course, a utopia; so it slotted well into Utopia 2016, an exhibition at Somerset House for the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. The event showcased a series of utopian visions presented by a range of artists. Two of these artists, Onkar Kular and Noam Toran, proposed that the utopia of Anarres could be presented as a teaching space which they called Night School on Anarres. The teaching space was designed to showcase the planet and its culture, offering the people of Earth a window into a working anarchistic society.

But the night school was also intended to offer realistic lessons in Pravic, so the project needed a realistic language to teach. This was not going to be easy. Le Guin had described some key features of the language in her book but, apart from a few names, she provided no close detail of how the language worked.

This is where I came in. I teach a module on the BA English Language and Linguistics course at King’s College London in which the students design and describe their own constructed language, or “conlang”. The module is an opportunity for students to show their knowledge of how language works (or could work) in the abstract, but it also gives them a chance to be creative in their reasoning.

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The US-Saudi Coalition Against Yemen: A Primer

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:50

via The Hampton Institute

by Valerie Reynoso

The ongoing crisis in Yemen continues to devolve into further calamity and chaos. Understanding the existing conditions of the region, however, means examining and grappling with the historical forces underpinning the current civil war. Most importantly, United States-backed actors, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have vied for control of Yemen by any means necessary. Whether the incessant bombings of civilian infrastructure, or the targeting of innocent people themselves, the US-Saudi coalition has stopped at nothing to establish dominance. Through the billions of dollars of funding provided by the US, Saudi Arabia has inflicted wanton destruction on the Yemeni people with impunity.

From a national scope, the key actors in the conflict are the Houthis, Yemeni government forces, and al-Qaeda. The fall and subsequent breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 resulted in the formation of two Yemeni states, leading to conflict between southern nationalist groups and the Yemeni government, with both sides suffering numerous casualties. The Ottoman Empire lasted for over 600 years and by 1849, it had dominated significant territory in northern Yemen, including Sana’a, which further satisfied its interests in Mecca and Medina. Following the decline of the Ottoman Empire, a Zaidi Shia Imamate called the Mutawakaliat Kingdom governed the northern kingdom of Yemen and southern Yemen was still divided and governed by several local sultanates. Sultanate rule in southern Yemen came to an end as a result of British colonial rule, through which British colonizers founded their own southern, settler state named the Federation of South Arabia. The Republic of North Yemen was formed in 1962 and in 1967, the People’s Republic of South Yemen was founded after British colonial rule ended. The People’s Republic of South Yemen was a Marxist republic which was significantly reliant on support from the Soviet Union. The decline of the Soviet Union in 1990 had a grave impact on South Yemen. In addition to this, in 1989, the president of North Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the president of South Yemen, Ali Salim el-Beidh, met up and Saleh and the General People’s Congress passed a key proposal to form a federation. Yemen was officially unified in 1990 with Sana’a as its capital; however, the newly-formed state was not equipped for an actual government nor means of distribution of power between the north and the south. El-Beidh believed that southern Yemen was being oppressed and he announced the new southern state, the Democratic Republic of Yemen. Despite this, Saleh defeated the southern rebellion in May 1994.

Although the rebellion failed, tensions remained high. Just under two decades later, in 2011 the Yemeni Arab Spring occurred, which consisted of protests by Yemenis demanding improved socioeconomic and political conditions as well as the resignation of President Saleh, due to his inefficiency in handling corruption and poverty. This was the same year that President Saleh signed a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) measure that gave him dispensation, and he shifted power to his former Vice President Hadi-an action that was also supported by the US, European Union, and the United Nations. In December 2011, the Houthis and the southern nationalist movement called the Hirak organized a Life March from Ta’iz to Sana’a in opposition to the GCC measure. Hadi officially became president in February 2012 through an election in which he was the only candidate. Subsequently, he granted immunity to 500 of Saleh’s assistants. After making the unpopular decision of lifting fuel subsidies in July 2014, Hadi began to significantly lose support as a result of his attempt to appeal to the International Monetary Fund. The Houthis were outraged and demanded new subsidies and a new government, so in September 2014 they seized Sana’a, disintegrated parliament by January 2015, and sought to seize power in all of Yemen-resulting in Hadi fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

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Organizing on a Sinking Ship: The Future of the Climate Justice Movement

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:43

via ROAR

by Kevin Buckland

Climate change rarely comes up at the top of the list when people are asked about issues that concern them most. While this is not surprising, it is nonetheless disturbing considering the gravity of the climate crisis. Yet the key problem of our collective negligence of the climate crisis is reflected in the question itself, rather than the answer. Let us be clear: climate change is not an “issue.” Rather, it is now the entirety of the biophysical world of which we are part. It is the physical battleground in which every “issue” is played out — and it is crumbling.

The global justice movement is one of the many actors trying to maneuver on this battlefield, and the direction it is headed in is reshaping the narratives, tactics and structures that comprise it, hinting at the future of social movement organizing on a radically transformed planet. The rules of the game have changed: welcome to the Capitalocene — goodbye to “activism-as-usual.” As the climate changes, so must movements if they are to withstand, even thrive, inside the coming cataclysm of winds, waves and wars.

Movement Cultures in the Capitalocene

As our planet rockets into a new geological epoch, we find ourselves on unfamiliar terrain. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows what will happen, and no one is in control. The rest of our lives will be defined by an exponential ecological entropy that will increasingly destabilize both the economic and political foundations upon which the modern world has been built. All bets are off. The collapse will be anything but boring.

The Capitalocene is defined partly by a disappearance of spaces of refuge: there is no escaping this problem, and nowhere to hide. We’re all in the same boat. But the boat has crashed into a drifting iceberg, and is sinking fast. Our response to the climate crisis has been to rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic, but whatever we are doing, it isn’t working. It’s time to try something new. On a sinking ship, one’s logic and frames of references must change, just as the traditional frames of the left must evolve in the emerging context of crisis. The struggle is no longer to organize the deck-chairs so that we can ensure equal access for all. Rather, the most critical question now becomes: “How can we best organize ourselves to turn as many of these deck-chairs into life rafts?”

Perhaps as obvious as the climate crisis itself has been the inability of social movements to properly organize around it. For years, the climate movement has been trapped between two discordant discourses: between changing light-bulbs and global revolution. On one hand, any action can seem minuscule and ineffective compared to a crisis as big as the entire world. On the other, deep systemic change can seem far too slow for the urgency of the crisis we face. Yet one cannot “fight climate change” in the absence of such structural transformations, for the climate crisis is itself the result of an extractivist logic based upon an exploitative relationship with the world around us. Long before the industrial revolution, the emerging capitalist world-system was fueled by the exploitation of women, people of color and entire ecosystems.

The climate crisis is the ultimate symptom of this extractivist dynamic, and is an entirely new species of crisis that requires our movements to enact an entirely different logic — including entirely different values, morals, assumptions and strategies — if we are to confront it. Confronting climate change means confronting the system and the culture that has caused it, and providing a scalable alternative. More than merely constructing a new politics to confront the “issue” of climate change, the task of the left in the Capitalocene is to cultivate new processes for engagement in politics. The culture of organizing itself becomes key.

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Photographer: Felipe Lopez Ruiz

The Class Politics Behind Last Week’s Market “Correction”

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:37

via The Hampton Institute

by Ben Luongo

Markets plunged into correction territory last week after losing 10% from record highs. Economists continue to reassure the public that market corrections are a normal part of a cycle that peaks and troughs over time. The term itself implies that the precipitous drops are temporary adjustments that put the markets back on track. This is certainly how investors look at it. Ron Kruszewski, Stifel Financial Corporation CEO, told reporters that “people just need to relax. Just relax […] It’s a healthy correction to a market that has gone almost straight up since the election over a year ago.”

However, framing the recent market drops as transient and remedial fails to recognize the larger structural problems boiling under the surface. Indeed, this week’s market sell-offs reflect issues of class and inequality – in particular it is a direct response to reports of modest increases in American wages.

This may sound counterintuitive. One would think that an increase in wages would be a welcome development in an economy whose GDP growth has remained consistently under 4% for the last fifteen years . After all, higher pay means increased consumption where the demand for more goods and services translates into even more jobs. However, investors interpret the good news of wage increases as a sign of inflation looming around the corner. CNN Money reported that “Concerns about inflation was most glaring on Friday, when stocks tanked after the January jobs report revealed the strongest wage gains since 2009.”

The argument that inflation follows a rise in wages is called wage-push-inflation (WPI). It argues that executives, in an attempt to maintain corporate profits, finance wage increase through prices hikes. If you buy into this argument, then you worry that Federal Reserve will respond by raising interest rates in order to sow the economy. This of course makes it harder to borrow money and grow one’s business. The WPI argument may sound good in theory, but it’s not how the real world works. In reality, the recent increase in worker pay is a modest 2.9% increase , and it is the first in eight years. This hardly suggests a dramatic rise in the bargaining power of workers to demand higher wages. In fact, the real governing power in corporate policy rests with shareholders (I get to this in a minute).

It’s hard to believe, then, that driving the market volatility are fears of rising inflation. Such inflation would have to follow a dramatic rise in worker pay, which simply isn’t the case. In fact, the portion of the profits that workers take home continues to shrink as evidence of the labor share following overall downward trend . Additionally, inflation has been historically low for years. The Federal Research measure inflation through the Consumer Price Index which has held at a low and steady rate since the 1990s. Regardless, the fact that investors treat wage increases as a destabilizing force exposes the role that wealthy elites play in suppressing labor gains. To understand this, it’s important to add context the market’s bullish growth these past eight years.

As much as the media likes to conflate Wall Street with Main Street, market trends reflect elite interests more than anything else (new research by NYU economist Edward N. Wolff evidences how the top 10% of Americans own 84% of all stocks). An important point to make here is how markets are tethered to corporate profits. Where profits go, so go the markets.

The reason for this is because corporate profits are reinvested back into stocks in order to inflate their prices. Rising stock value send signals to speculators to purchase even more shares which, in turn, is good news for executive pay (executive compensation packages usually include stock appreciation rights (SARs) which are essentially bonuses for good market performance).

This feedback loop explains the bullish market for the past eight years. Executives invest in their companies stock, which is good for investors looking to grow their finances. Investors then buy those shares which increases business performance. And the cycle goes on treating executives and financiers very well. As is often the case in economics though, what’s good news for elites is not always good news for labor. The rise of corporate profits have come at the direct expense of worker’s wages.

The reason for this is because the incorporation of SARs into executive pay packages incentivizes management to more on those financial instruments and less on payroll. Think of it this way – executives can either a) reinvest their profits into their workers and factories, which is costly and yields a slower return on investment, or b) purchase stock buybacks and dividends, which generates a much faster return for impatient investors. Executives have chosen the latter. This is evidenced by an overall declining trend in domestic investment as share of the GDP.

While they spend less on building their business and hiring workers, they are investing more in those lucrative financial instruments (buybacks, dividends, etc.)

Overall, company expenditures have been siphoned over the years from payroll to financial instruments in order to cater to shareholder interests. This reveals who really exercises power in corporate policy. The new corporate governance functions to maximize shareholder value – speculators determine how companies invest, executives and management make a killing, and workers takes home a small portion of the pie. None of this suggests, in any way, that labor has the bargaining power to demand higher wages. On the contrary, this exposes how the markets are designed for executives to capture larger portions of the company’s profits in a way that ensure the subordination of labor.

This came to a head with last week after investors responded to wage increases with market volatility. Nervous speculators threw the markets into correction territory after news that workers may be cutting into record-setting corporate profits. After all, wage increases imply more investment in payroll and less in those lucrative buybacks. The decision for executives to ease up on stock purchase and other financial instruments confused speculators who have been used to confident managers investing in their own company’s stocks. As a result, investors become unsure of their shares and their decisions to divest created a seller’s market (and all of that money that top-income earners got from the new tax deal simply sits in the bank).

Overall, last week’s market drops were strategic movements to counterbalance the modest rise of worker’s wages. So, the next time investors describe market drops using the term “correction,” remember what they really see as the problem.

Ben Luongo is a doctoral candidate at University of South Florida’s School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies where he teaches courses in global political economy and international human rights. He previously worked as a campaign organizer and directed several campaigns for groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Save the Children. His articles have appeared in the Foreign Policy Journal, Foreign Policy in Focus, International Policy Digest, and New Politics .

Calling for Resistance: the Electronic Panopticon of Call Centers and the Neoliberal Future of Work

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:53

via Economic Sociology and Political Economy

by Oleg Komlik

For Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres, I spent six months working undercover in a call centre in the UK. Taking inspiration from workers’ inquiry – a Marxist method of co-research that combines knowledge production with organising – the aim was to understand how work is organised in call centres and how workers resist in this context.

A major difficulty with this kind of critical research on work is gaining access. The only way to do so was by going undercover, experiencing the call centre from the perspective of the labour process itself. Over the six months of ethnography, the book details the day-to-day experience of the work, the management techniques, the different moments of resistance, along with attempts to organise. It also includes the serendipitous discovery of finding another researcher in the workplace, although in this case a consultant hired for a very different purpose. This poses important questions about the politics of research, particularly within contexts like workplaces with antagonistic social and economic relationships.

The call centre that is the focus of the book was an outbound sales call centre. It shared the same conditions found in many call centres, a sector in which it is estimated around one million workers are employed in the UK. Most of the work at this call centre involved calling large numbers of people to try and sell life insurance. Although given the sales encounters were scripted, the product being sold really could have been anything. However, despite the scripting, the process of selling over the phone requires workers add emotions and humour to convince people to buy. This form of affective labour places new kinds of demands on workers to perform.

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Devil’s Bargain: We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it’s killing us.

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:46

via Grist

By Eric Holthaus

A trope of sci-fi movies these days, from Snowpiercer to Geostorm, is that our failure to tackle climate change will eventually force us to deploy an arsenal of unproven technologies to save the planet. Think sun-deflecting space mirrors or chemically altered clouds. And because these are sci-fi movies, it’s assumed that these grand experiments in geoengineering will go horribly wrong.

The fiction, new evidence suggests, may be much closer to reality than we thought.

When most people hear “climate change,” they think of greenhouse gases overheating the planet. But there’s another product of industry changing the climate that has received scant public attention: aerosols. They’re microscopic particles of pollution that, on balance, reflect sunlight back to space and help cool the planet down, providing a crucial counterweight to greenhouse-powered global warming.

An effort to co-opt this natural cooling ability of aerosols has long been considered a potential last-ditch, desperate shot at slowing down global warming. The promise of planet-cooling technology has also been touted by techno-optimists, Silicon Valley types and politicians who aren’t keen on the government doing anything to curb emissions. “Geoengineering holds forth the promise of addressing global warming concerns for just a few billion dollars a year,” wrote Newt Gingrich in an attack on proposed cap-and-trade legislation back in 2008.

But there’s a catch. Our surplus of aerosols is a huge problem for those of us who like to breathe air. At high concentrations, these tiny particles are one of the deadliest substances in existence, burrowing deep into our bodies where they can damage hearts and lungs.

Air pollution from burning coal, driving cars, and using fire to clear land, among other activities, is the fourth-leading cause of death worldwide, killing about 5.5 million people each year. Nearly everybody is at risk, with roughly 92 percent of us living in places with dangerously polluted air. That alone makes reducing air pollution a necessary goal.

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How Segregation Persists

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 05:15

via Jacobin

By Douglas Massey

Review of Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2017).

Despite rising minority socioeconomic status, declining levels of discrimination, and growing tolerance for other-race neighbors, residential segregation persists in the United States, and for African Americans remains as high as ever in several large metropolitan areas.

In Cycle of Segregation, Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder make a major contribution to our understanding of how and why residential segregation persists. The authors critique the theoretical and methodological models commonly used by social scientists to conceptualize and study residential segregation in the United States: the spatial assimilation model (which attributes segregation to socioeconomic differences between groups), the place stratification model (which attributes segregation to discrimination in housing and lending markets), and the group preferences model (which attributes segregation to widespread preference for same-race neighbors).

As an alternative, Krysan and Crowder offer a new conceptual framework, the “social structural sorting perspective,” which argues that segregation persists because residential decision-making is embedded within racialized social, economic, cognitive, and spatial structures and that these structures constrain locational behavior to replicate existing levels and patterns of segregation through a variety of self-perpetuating processes that yield urban landscapes that are systematically stratified by race and class.

Segregation and House Hunting

The book begins by reviewing trends in black, Hispanic, and Asian segregation from non-Hispanic whites over the period from 1970 to 2010. Although on average black-white segregation has slowly declined, the shifts toward desegregation have been highly uneven. Significant declines have been confined mainly to small metro areas with small black populations, while metropolitan areas with sizable black communities continue to be very highly segregated.

Levels of segregation for Hispanics and Asians have remained relatively stable over time, despite rapid population growth through immigration. Whereas levels of Hispanic segregation vary from moderate to high, however, levels of Asian segregation vary from low to moderate. Moreover, although it is not mentioned in the book, the rapid increase in the proportion of Hispanics living in US metropolitan areas has produced a substantial increase in the degree of neighborhood isolation they experience. Like African Americans, Hispanics increasingly occupy neighborhoods composed of same-race others.

Once solidly white neighborhoods have diversified over time, of course, but Krysan and Crowder show that this diversification has occurred more through the entry of Hispanics and Asians into white neighborhoods than of African Americans. In fact, the composition of American neighborhoods has changed rather slowly despite the diversification of American society generally. For African Americans, especially, black-white segregation levels in 1980 strongly predict those in 2010, suggesting continuity rather than change in the degree of black residential segregation.

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Decades of organising wins new abortion referendum in Ireland

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:42

via anarkismo.net

by Emilia & Andrew – WSM (Ireland)

The announcement that there will be a referendum to decriminalise abortion in Ireland is the product of decades of active campaigning. Pro-choice campaigners built for repeal ever since the hated 8th amendment was entered into the Constitution in 1983, putting a ban on abortion, which was already illegal in the country, into the constitution. If at first this seemed like a distant demand now repeal looks by far the most likely outcome in May. The story of how this happened illustrates how change comes in general. That is not through elections but through people getting organised to demand that change, regardless of which politicians happen to be running the show in any particular year.

After all few would have predicted that it would have been a Fine Gael government supported by Fianna Fáil (the largest parties in Ireland, both traditionally conservative and centre-right) that would finally move forward on the referendum to repeal the 8th. We can say this with great certainty because when Labour were thrown out of power in the last election a range of pundits from the right and the left, including the Labour Party, tweeted very definite declarations that this meant there could be no referendum. How wrong they were, but fortunately most pro-choice organisers stepped up their activity rather than waiting for the next election.

Who is in power is, of course, not completely irrelevant but significant changes are far, far more dependent on people organising themselves to demand change and forcing politicians to implement that change. Almost every significant change in political policy in Ireland, from the abolition of water charges to Repeal of the 8th has been an outcome of people organising together and mobilising to force change. Within this direct action played a key role in ensuring politicians cannot simply stick their heads in the sand.

With the water charges campaign which defeated a new flat rate austerity tax, it was mass non-payment and the disruption of meter installations that forced the politicians who insisted the charge was inevitable to abolish it. With the pro-choice movement it has been thousands of people per year, carrying unwanted pregnancies obtaining abortion pills for themselves and taking them in Ireland, despite being at risk of a 14 year prison sentence. Before and during the 1991 ‘x-case’ when the state injected a 14 year old she so could not travel to England for an abortion ‘illegal’ distribution of abortion information and huge marches demanding X be allowed travel played the same role and forced the politicians to call the 1992 referenda that saw the bans on abortion information and travel for abortion overturned.

Politicians have always been excellent at stepping in front of the cameras, right at the moment that movements, built by others are on the edge of success. Political careers are made or broken on the basis of the timing of this decision. There is of course some courage involved in that decision due to the risk being taken but the subsequent focus on the politician can give the impression that they are the reason for change, and not the movement they have stepped in front of.

The current wave of organising that won the holding of this referendum inherited the work of others but otherwise began in the protests against the Youth Defence billboards targetting women who had abortions set up by the anti-choice group Youth Defence in the summer of June 2012. Not for the first time arrogant attacks from anti-choice bigots galvanised an angry backlash and a new generation of resistance. In a similar but smaller way in the late 1980s the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children brought together the organisers who put together the x-case march when SPUC went after students providing abortion information in guidebooks.

In the early Autumn of 2012 Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman living in Galway, died from septicemia after being denied an emergency abortion. When the horrific news of her death circulated the pro-choice organisers of the Dublin demonstration knew each other from the protests against the billboards and were able to quickly organise. And after the initial protests they did not go home and wait for the next tragedy but started to do the ground work in preparing the movement that emerged – in particular through the creation of the Abortion Rights Campaign and the annual March for Choice that rapidly grew to mobilising 10s of thousands. Last year’s #Strike4Repeal, a huge grassroots protest which blocked O’Connell bridge and brought Dublin to a halt for the afternoon, turned up the heat in demonstrating there could be consequences to politicians thinking they could simply ignore this growing movement.

There will be time after the referendum victory to write a detailed history of this movement but here we wanted to open this campaign by pointing out that it is not Prime Minister Leo Varadkar or even the Citizens Assembly (a panel set up to deliberate on the issue and make policy recommendation) that is forcing change but the work of a mostly unknown set of organisers over the last few years. This understanding will matter in the aftermath of the referendum when we move on to fighting the problems in the legislation that will be introduced (and there will be problems). But it also matters to how we understand that we can collectively change all aspects of the world we live in. Solutions lie not through the selection of politicians but through the building of sustainable movement that are willing to take action to achieve their goals.


This is an internationalised version of the article published on the WSM website at https://www.wsm.ie/c/finally-referendum-repeal8th-organ…appen. For this Anarkismo publication we’ve explained contents that we could assume readers in Ireland would be aware of but which other Anarkismo readers might not.

Related Link: https://www.wsm.ie/pro-choice

South Africa: Out with the old, in with the not so new

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:35

via anarkismo.net

by Shawn Hattingh – ZACF

In South Africa, for white and international capital the last few weeks have been a period of rejoicing due to Ramaphosa being elected as ANC President. Zuma’s days as the State President are now also over. He was recalled by the ANC and in doing so he was forced to resign; leading the business elite to feel an even greater sense of smugness.

The bitter faction fights within the ANC, therefore, have seen Zuma defeated and his erstwhile supporters – a section of BEE capital and parasites in the top of the state – placed squarely on the back foot.

The slate that Ramaphosa won on was the promise to eradicate corruption within the state and the ANC. The tone that accompanied this was that Zuma would be removed from the Presidency and that he may even be prosecuted, along with the Guptas, for his role in ‘state capture’. The ANC itself is hoping that such moves will reverse its ailing fortunes and bolster its election campaign in 2019. Its alliance partners, the SACP and COSATU, are also opportunistically hoping Zuma’s exit from the state will give them a new lease of life politically; and that their leaders will be able to hold onto their cushy and ridiculously well paid jobs in the top echelons of the state under Ramaphosa, which were initially handed to them by Zuma for their backing in Polokwane in 2007.

The reality is that the battle within the ANC and now Zuma’s total demise has very little to do with addressing corruption – despite Ramaphosa’s claims. It was a fight for top positions in the state and the speed with which Zuma’s former die-hard supporters and allies, including the Ace Magashule and Malusi Gigaba, have quickly jumped ship since Ramaphosa’s victory has shown this. In the bid to secure their well-paying jobs going forward and to use positions in the state to secure business deals, old allies have been dumped and a new one, in the form of Ramaphosa, has been embraced.

Ramaphosa’s history highlights how his talk of tackling corruption within all structures of the state was and is simply a ploy, which has no substance. This is because Ramaphosa himself has been involved in corruption. Ramaphosa got rich overnight in the 1990s when he used workers’ pensions (supplied by union investment companies) to raise capital for his business deals. He was also supplied capital by white South African capitalists. To be sure, they were not buying Ramaphosa’s business acumen when they provided him shares, board positions and capital; they were buying the influence he had in the ANC and the state in order to further their own capital accumulation. All of this was backed by the ANC as it was expected that Ramaphosa would use his new found riches to boost the coffers of the Party.

Ramaphosa’s main business interest was Shanduka, which he was involved in founding in 2001. While in charge of the company, it was involved in cases of tax evasion as revealed in the Panama Papers. By 2012, as is well known, Ramaphosa was also a shareholder and Board member of Lonmin and he was the one that used his political connections to get the state to crush the strike, which saw the police gun down 34 workers at Marikana. Ramaphosa is not a man who, therefore, particularly shuns corruption or using connections to the state and political power to further his own vile money making interests or those of his business partners.

Likewise, his backers in the form of white capital are also not averse to corruption. Historically, their capital comes from colonial conquest and the state creating a pool of cheap black labour that could be exploited on farms, mines and factories through land grabs, hut taxes, pass laws, legalized racial discrimination and ultimately violence. In the apartheid era, the state also provided the world’s cheapest electricity to white capital and it paid handsomely for the sub-standard coal it bought from Afrikaner capital to fire Eskom’s power stations. Corrupt deals in the apartheid years, and there were many corrupt deals, built up white capital and were part and parcel of how business was done in those years – including transfer pricing, tax evasion and sanctions busting.

Even today, corruption is common practice in the private sector (still mostly in the hands of white South African capitalists). This has been shown through numerous leaks in 2017 and into 2018. For example, it recently surfaced that blue chip South African companies, such as Liberty and Illovo, have been using measures to evade tax on an ongoing basis. Not to be outdone, several South African financial institutions were of late caught manipulating the Rand in order to profiteer from the volatility created. Then of course there is Steinhoff that used Special Purpose Vehicles to fraudulently boost profits and lower debts on its books to the benefit of its shareholders and top management. When this became public knowledge, it was clear that the company was in reality in financial difficulties and its share price plunged at the end of 2017. Like Zuma, Steinhoff’s days may be numbered and it soon may disappear altogether. Nonetheless its shareholders, like Christo Weise, have got away with the ill-gotten gains and are unlikely to be prosecuted for the shenanigans that were taking place at Steinhoff.

White capital, therefore, has no problem with corruption. The problem they had with Zuma is that they were being side-lined in the corrupt deals of the state under his watch, with far more going to the Gupta family and a new BEE elite. Hence, they turned on the Zuma faction and backed Ramaphosa as their man: they wanted back in on the money, often involving corruption, which could be made through relations with the state and top politicians.

This means that corruption is not going to end under Ramaphosa’s tender. Making matters worse is the deal that was made in 1994, which saw the bulk of the private sector remaining in the hands of white capital. In return there would be some BEE, but more importantly the ANC leadership would be allowed to take over the state. In other words, capitalism would stay in place, including the harsh exploitation of the black working class on which it was and is based, but the faces in the state would change.

Since then, there has been some BEE, but it has been limited. As a result, white capitalists still mainly dominate the private sector. Aspiring capitalists that were linked to the ANC, who wanted to own large private companies, were and have been largely frustrated by these capitalists. In this context the state became the key, and in many cases the only, site through which an ANC elite could build itself into a prosperous black section of the ruling class – and corruption has been part of this structural problem.

The working class, in its bid to battle corruption, therefore need to be clear that the Ramaphosa regime won’t end corruption. It is a structural problem; and has nothing to do with good or bad personalities. New patronage networks will emerge, some old ones – including corruption at all levels of the state – will remain; although it will probably be less blatant and amateurish than under Zuma. Zuma and the Guptas will probably also be thrown to the wolves as a token; but corruption within the private sector and state won’t end. This is because corruption is a problem linked to the path that capitalist development has taken in South Africa.

If there is a serious bid to get rid of corruption, therefore, the structure and purpose of the South African economy would have to be fundamentally changed, which probably can’t be fully achieved under capitalism or the state system (which entrenches the rule and oppression of an elite minority over a majority and allows for corruption). Trying to end corruption, by definition, will have to be a revolutionary struggle to fundamentally change the society we have unfortunately inherited.

Related Link: https://www.pambazuka.org/democracy-governance/out-old-…o-new

Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:18

via Deep Green Resistance News Service

by Sean Keller / Local Futures

The Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM) has been at the heart of Rojava’s democratic revolution since its inception. The Movement grew out of single-issue campaigns against dam construction, climate change, and deforestation, and in 2015 went from being a small collection of local ecological groups to a full-fledged network of “ecology councils” that are active in every canton of Rojava, and in neighboring Turkey as well. Its mission, as one of its most prominent founding members, Ercan Ayboğa, says, is to “strengthen the ecological character of the Kurdish freedom movement [and] the Kurdish women’s movement.”

It’s not an easy process. Neoliberal policies, war, and climate change have made for an impressive roster of challenges. Crop diversity has been undermined due to longstanding subsidies for monocultures. Stocks of native seeds are declining. The region has been hit by trade embargoes from Turkey, Iraq, and the central Syrian government, and villages have been subject to forced displacement and depopulation. Groundwater reserves are diminishing, and climate change is reducing rainfall. Many wells and farms were destroyed by the self-described Islamic State (ISIS), and many farmers have been killed by mines. Much of the region is without electricity. And there has been an influx of refugees from the rest of Syria, fleeing civil war.

As MEM sees it, the solutions to these overlapping problems must be holistic and systemic. Ercan gives an impressive rundown of MEM’s priorities: Decreasing Rojava’s dependence on imports, returning to traditional water-conserving cultivation techniques, advocating for ecological policy-making at the municipal level, promoting local crops and livestock and traditional construction methods, organizing educational activities, working against destructive and exploitative “investment” and infrastructure projects such as dams and mines — in short, “the mobilization of an ecological resistance” towards anything guilty of “commercializing the waters, commodifying the land, controlling nature and people, and promoting the consumption of fossil fuels.”

In 2016, MEM published a declaration of its social and ecological aims, and it is a thing of beauty. “We must defend,” it says, “the democratic nation against the nation-state; the communal economy against capitalism, with its quick-profit-seeking logic and monopolism and large industries; organic agriculture, ecological villages and cities, ecological industry, and alternative energy and technology against the agricultural and energy policies imposed by capitalist modernity.”

Getting children involved in all of this is critical. Schools in Rojava teach ecology as a fundamental principle. In 2016, with the support of Slow Food International and the Rojava Ministry of Water and Agriculture, MEM helped build a series of school gardens in villages around the city of Kobane, in order to provide a “laboratory” for children to learn about the region’s biodiversity and how to care for it. These gardens are growing fruit trees, figs, and pomegranates, instead of corn and wheat monocultures. Some have been planted on land that was once virtually destroyed by ISIS. In Rojava, even cultivation comes inherently infused with a spirit of resistance. “We grew up on this land and we haven’t abandoned it,” says Mustafa, a teacher whose school was one of those to receive a new garden in 2016. “As a people of farmers and livestock breeders, we have always tended the crops using our own techniques, which are thousands of years old.” As the MEM declaration says, “Bringing ecological consciousness and sensibility to the organized social sphere and to educational institutions is as vital as organizing our own assemblies.”

The spirit of resistance is as alive in the realm of society and economics as it is on the land. The cooperative economy in Rojava is booming. Michel Knapp, a longtime activist in the Kurdish freedom movement and co-author of the book Revolution in Rojava, observes that most cooperatives in Rojava are “small, with some five to ten members producing textiles, agricultural products and groceries, but there are some bigger cooperatives too, like a cooperative near Amûde that guarantees most of the subsistence for over 2,000 households and is even able to sell on the market.”

The government of Rojava is democratic and decentralized, with residential communes and local councils giving people autonomy and control over decisions that affect their lives. Municipal-level government bodies are systematically integrated into the operations of MEM, in a one-of-a-kind partnership between the public and nonprofit spheres. And the prison system is being radically reformed, with local “peace committees” paying attention to the social and political dimensions of crime in passing judgment. Most cities contain no more than one or two dozen prisoners, according to Ercan.

And to top it all, women have taken a leading role in every facet of the revolution. Women’s cooperatives are a common sight in Rojava, as are women’s councils, women’s committees, and women’s security forces. Women’s ecovillages have been built both in Rojava and across the border in Turkish Kurdistan, aimed at helping victims of domestic violence and trauma. Patriarchy is just one more aspect of the neoliberal program being cast aside in Rojava, on the road towards building what MEM describes as “a radical democratic, communal, ecological, women-liberated society.”

This piece was originally published on Medium as part of Local Futures’ Planet Local webseries.

Read about other holistic ecological initiatives from around the world on our Planet Local: Ecology page.

Dig deeper into Rojava and the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement on the following pages (the source material for much of this piece):

Sean Keller is Local Futures’ Media and Outreach Coordinator, and editor of Planet Local, an online ‘library’ showcasing grassroots localization projects around the world. He studied Anthropology and Russian at Vassar College, and spends his free time reading and writing speculative fiction.

Featured image:  Ercan Ayboğa

Should we give up half of the Earth to wildlife?

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:10

via The Guardian

by Robin McKie

The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. One of Earth’s most spectacular creatures is heading towards oblivion, along with the vaquita dolphin, the Javan rhinoceros, the western lowland gorilla, the Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are today declining dramatically. All of these are threatened with the fate that has already befallen the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the baiji dolphin – victims of humanity’s urge to kill, exploit and cultivate.

As a result, scientists warn that humanity could soon be left increasingly isolated on a planet bereft of wildlife and inhabited only by ourselves plus domesticated animals and their parasites. This grim scenario will form the background to a key conference – Safeguarding Space for Nature and Securing Our Future – to be held in London on 27-28 February.

The aim of the symposium is straightforward: to highlight ways of establishing sufficient reserves and protected areas to halt or seriously limit the major extinction event that humanity now faces.

According to one recent report, the number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, as humans kill for food in unsustainable numbers and pollute or destroy habitats, and worse probably lies ahead.

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Photographer: Min An

Gun Violence Has Dropped Dramatically in 3 States With Very Different Gun Laws

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 04:11

via Yes! magazine

by Mike Males

This week, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where mass shootings have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.

Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America’s gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.

The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the “good guy with a gun” (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a “bad guy” opens fire.

Liberals’ dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings (both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.

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Review: Interview With Kevin Doyle about The Worms That Saved The World

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 03:44

via AK Press

At AK Press, we’re always on the lookout for good kids’ books to distribute. One of the recent stand-outs was The Worms That Saved The World, which is always fun to hand off to a kid when we’re tabling somewhere. Here’s an interview with the author, Kevin Doyle, about how the ideas in the book were spawned by real-life struggles in Cork, Ireland. And if you’d like a copy of the book itself, just click here.

Q: The image on the cover of The Worms That Saved The World shows a big group of earthworms marching along a headland. There’s lots of them and they look happy. Some are holding placards announcing ‘We Live Here Too!’, ‘The Headland for All’ and ‘Free The Old Head’. So what’s this all about? Who are these happy protestors?

A: This is a storybook for kids. We decided that a direct appeal to their natural rebellious instincts was what was required. In our book a community of earthworms must fight for their home and their lives. Struggling to win a better world brings them together so that’s in part why they’re happy. Also, in the end, they win too – so they are happy for that reason as well. Oops, spoiler alert there!

Q: Too late. So a happy ending. But apart from that this is not the usual fare for a children’s book?’

A: No, but then the book market does need shaking up. All those celebrities writing children’s books is making things worse not better.

Q: It’s a crowded market.

A: Not content wise. Our book is about the environment and standing up for your rights. In reality there’s not that much around in the book-market that tackles those sorts of things and ideas for the age group we’re interested in anyway. Loads of books about princes and princesses of course! Maybe we can help reboot an old trend, fun books about rebellion.

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Manufactured ignorance: The strange case of Juan Cole and the Kurdish Freedom Movement, and the International Liberal Intelligentsia

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 03:35

via FocaalBlog

by David Graeber

This is a story about how a well-meaning liberal American professor can end up becoming an active propagandist for right-wing forces attempting to destroy a feminist revolution.

Juan Cole is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan, well-known for his blog Informed Comment, which has provided detailed background and analysis on Middle Eastern affairs to a largely university-based audience since 2002. Politically a Sanders Democrat, he appears to operate within that sector of the progressive elite that overlaps with the DC political establishment and therefore exists in at least the same intellectual, social, and professional circuits (i.e., attends the same cocktail parties as members of what is delicately referred to as “the intelligence community.”

What follows might then be read as a study in the moral perils of what can happen when scholars come to operate too closely to circuits of power. It bears in it lessons of no small relevance to anthropologists.

Cole approaches contemporary Middle Eastern politics from what is often described as an anti-imperialist perspective—though he has been known to depart from it in specific instances (he supported NATO intervention in Libya). Much of the power of his analysis lies in his willingness to carefully pick through Turkish-, Arabic-, and Persian-language opinion pieces and news sources, and to examine the social and class basis of Islamist social movements like Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Iraqi Sadrists. Still, an anti-imperialist optic seems, oddly, much closer to an imperialist one than that of someone who is doing something else entirely; like the legates of empire he criticizes, Cole seems to share an instinctual sympathy for “moderate Islamist” strongmen, and an equally instinctual antipathy to anyone in his chosen area of study who purports to share his own left-wing commitments.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in his limitless animus against Turkey’s Kurdish Worker’s Party, or PKK, and any other element of the larger Kurdish Freedom Movement of which the PKK is a part. For almost 20 years, they have been trying to “change the game,” as it were, from a story about empire and resistance to empire, to one where the Middle East should be, rather than a plaything of strongmen and would-be strongmen, the birthplace of a new phase in the history of democracy and women’s rights.

Some background: around 2000, the PKK, a Marxist rebel group that had been fighting a long guerrilla war for a separate Kurdish state, began to undergo a profound ideological transformation. Sparked in part by the evolution of the ideas of imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan—partly, too, by the efforts of women’s groups within the movement—the PKK abandoned Marxism-Leninism and turned to libertarian socialism with a focus on overthrowing patriarchy. It also abandoned any call for a separate Kurdish state for a call to develop a multiethnic, ecologically conscious society based on principles of confederal direct democracy inspired in part by the ideas of the American anarchist theorist Murray Bookchin. Inspired by the example of the Mexican Zapatistas, they pledged not just not to target civilians, but not to carry out offensive actions against Turkish security forces, asking for a ceasefire and peace negotiations aimed at a general decentralization and democratization of Turkish society as a whole. Principles of democratic confederalism and equal women’s representation in all political offices were adopted across the broader Kurdish movement, including HDP (the largely Kurdish-based left political party in Turkey), PYD in Syria, and allied groups in Iraq and Iran.

The Turkish response was to lobby to have the PKK placed on the US, Australian, Canadian, and EU “terror” lists, which they had not been before, and—though Erdogan did make a brief strategic gesture at negotiations—to use the “terrorist” designation as a pretext for rounding up thousands of activists, journalists, and elected officials who tried to pursue the new strategy of trying to build alternative democratic structures, many of whom were systematically raped and tortured in detention.

Some years later, in Syria in 2012, events took a very different course. In the largely Kurdish-speaking northern cantons of Cezire, Kobane, and Afrin (collectively referred to as Rojava), the movement managed to negotiate a general withdrawal of Syrian government forces (government officials, and oligarchs close to the regime, almost all took off as well). Kurdish revolutionaries suddenly had a space to be able to realize their dream of democratic confederalism. This happened, however, in a tense relation with other areas in rebellion. While in the early days of the Syrian revolution, Arab communities too created directly democratic councils, many on a model inspired by a Syrian anarchist named Omar Aziz, the militarization of the conflict had very different effects; where in the Kurdish areas, the revolutionaries created their own militias, the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Forces (YPJ), most of the secular, left revolutionary organizations in the rest of Syria made a conscious decision not to join the armed struggle, leaving that to military defectors who made up the Free Syrian Army, then, increasingly, to Islamist militias armed and supplied by outside powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. There were tensions between the two forces, especially over the YPG/J’s decision not to conduct offensive operations against the Syrian government but simply to protect the social experiments in its own territories. This, already, took a great deal of effort, however, as Islamists allied—openly or tacitly—with Turkey soon began launching major unprovoked assaults on Rojava, culminating in the famous siege of Kobane. International pressure gradually forced the United States to aid the YPG/J, which ultimately agreed to take the battle home to root out ISIS from the entirety of Syria, in the process, spreading the confederalist model and feminist mobilization well beyond Kurdish-majority territories, through about two-fifths of Syrian territory, in what’s now called the Democratic Confederation of North Syria—somewhat bizarrely, working in coordination with some two thousand US troops.

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