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The Fight in Catalunya: Independence or Self-Determination?

mar, 11/12/2019 - 04:21
How the Lines Are Drawn—An Account from the Front Lines

by CrimethInc

The following breathless account of last week’s street fighting in Barcelona and the surrounding regions reaches us from anarchists in Catalunya, where the Spanish government’s crackdown on the movement for national independence has provoked a wave of popular resistance that threatens to transform the demands and consciousness of the movement itself.

For background on the Catalan independence movement in English, we recommend “Catalan Independence and the Crisis of Democracy.” This nuanced text offering an anarchist analysis of the situation is still awaiting translation.

We’ve just experienced the heaviest rioting in Catalunya since the 1970s. Six nights straight, starting Monday, October 14. It’s Sunday night now. Reports are coming in of a barricade on fire in Girona, so make that seven nights.

According to one journalist, 1044 dumpsters burnt, 358 city trash cans ripped out of place, and 6400 square meters of asphalt burnt. And that’s just in Barcelona.

A fascist—or just a good citizen—ran over two people in a highway blockade near Mataró. Earlier in the week, cops ran over two protesters with their riot van in Tarragona, then got out and beat one of them. We’ve had a few hit by cars this week. There’s a comrade in critical condition in the hospital right now; cops hit her in the head. A cop in critical condition, too, shot in the head with a slingshot Friday night; the steel ball broke his helmet. He had spent the week shooting and beating people who didn’t have any protection. Fucker never thought the tables would turn.

In addition to the highway blockades, there are still big protests in Barcelona, roads blocked. It’s mostly peaceful at this point. The media have been trying to sound the death knell of the uprising for days now, and more independent twitter accounts are getting shut down. It could start up again at any moment; it hasn’t really ended. For now, the state hasn’t instituted martial law, though the conservative government of the Madrid region wants to ban all pro-independence rallies there. There are supposed to be clear sides, remember? Spain vs. Catalunya. But those aren’t the lines of this conflict.

What are the lines of conflict in the Catalan independence movement as it spirals out of the control of parties and pacifists?

What’s It All About?

On Monday, the Tribunal Supremo gave seven politicians and two mainstream activist leaders prison sentences of 9-13 years apiece for organizing the independence referendum of October 1, 2017. Sedition. Several more people in exile would likely receive the same sentences. Fuck politicians and these politicians in particular: they were fine running a prison system while they were in charge, and in 2017 they preferred sabotaging the independence movement with the straitjacket of pacifism to losing control of it. My friends and I protected a polling station, starting at 5 in the morning. We hate voting, but we hate the cops even more.

Regardless, this one trial wasn’t the sole focus of the upheaval. The unions said if organizing a referendum is sedition, any protest could be, so they called a strike for the end of the week. And a month ago, seven members of the CDR [Committees to Defend the Republic, grassroots pro-independence and sometimes anti-capitalist assemblies formed in 2017] were arrested and accused of terrorism. They’re still locked up. We have our reservations, but we’re on the side of people fighting against repression and for freedom, always. So the liberal idea of self-determination is contradictory nonsense? Definitely, but that’s a long conversation and we’re still in the middle of it. A barricade in the street? It’s a good figure of speech. Metaphor, comparison? Spell? This is what we mean by self-determination.

By Wednesday, lots of people in the streets were calling for the resignation of the whole Catalan government [which has been pro-independence throughout the last several elections]. Pro-independence politicians have been insulted and ejected from demonstrations. Meanwhile, el Cercle de l’Economia, a think tank representing a large part of the Catalan bourgeoisie, is pointing out that the crisis has political roots, stemming from Madrid’s attempts to reduce Catalan autonomy going back a decade, and they re-emphasize their proposals for more self-government and better financing… within the Spanish state. Their top priority is to put an end to the rioting, so if nationalism means an interclass alliance on the basis of putative ethno-linguistic sameness, this isn’t exactly that. The bourgeoisie have been against the movement for a while now.

It’s Sunday, and a new week is about to start. Whether they are rioters or unlucky bystanders, 28 people are sitting in prison with no option of paying bail, beginning the two-year wait until trial; 194 people have been arrested. Fully 590 people have been reported injured, but a lot of us don’t go to the official medics, so the true number is surely two or three times higher.

There’s a new blockade at la Jonquera, the principle highway connection between the French and Spanish parts of Catalunya. It’s maintained by 500 people, way out in the Pyrenees mountains. Earlier in the week, they blocked the road for 30 hours, drilling rebar into the asphalt and putting plastic bottles on top to make them visible. A group of gilet jaunes came to blockade the other side of the border. When the former blockade got cleared away, a group of truckers decided to make a blockade. Truckers!

The Audiencia Nacional has started investigating Tsunami Democràtic, the nonviolent platform that organzied the airport protests, for terrorism. They just don’t learn. This whole uprising was sparked by repression.

Already on Monday, things started to get out of control with the blockades at the airport, the highways, and on train lines. There was too much chaos, spread out too widely, for the police and the political parties to control it all. Tuesday, the blockades continued, but that night rioting broke out in all four provincial capitals—Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Wednesday, the National Assembly of Catalunya (ANC)1 continued with their plan for marches departing from five different cities in the farthest reaches of Catalunya to converge on Barcelona on Friday. The distance they would cross was 100 km in some cases. This plan was pacifist and pacifying, aimed at just tiring people out—but they didn’t go home, they blocked all the highways, god bless ‘em.

Marching on the highways to Barcelona.

Wednesday night, there was even heavier rioting, even in some smaller cities. When the police charged hard and laid out left and right, people didn’t like that. There were more burning barricades. Catalan politicians started saying it was the work of infiltrators, circulating bogus stories on social media about encaputxats [masked ones] getting envelopes full of cash. I’m still waiting for my envelope, Torra, you stingy Catalan prick! [Quim Torra is a member of the Parliament of Catalonia and the current president of the Government of Catalonia. This appears to be a play on the stereotype of Catalans being stingy.]

On Thursday, the rioting in Barcelona lasted till 6 in the morning. It also continued in the other capitals. Protests took place in solidarity with Catalunya in Madrid, Donostia, Granada, and València. Fascists marched for Spanish unity, too; there were clashes in Madrid and València. They caught an anti-fascist in Barcelona and beat him badly. Another Nazi tried to knife some protesters; he was disarmed, stomped, and left in a coma.

At the beginning and end of the uprising, the barricades represented a symbolic rejection of authority. Throughout most of the week, though, they also served the material function of preventing police from retaking the streets.”.

On Friday, 500,000 protesters converged in Barcelona. Shortly after they arrived, the ANC cancelled the march. I heard some people complaining, “The Assembly calls it off, and everyone goes home,” even as they dutifully headed for the metro. All across the city, street after street, the asphalt was fire-scarred. Where haven’t the rioters been, this week? I picked my way through the crowd at Jardinets to meet up with the group with YPG flags, the Rojava solidarity demo. The Kurdish movement has long supported Catalan independence and Catalunya has been a hub of support for Rojava and democratic confederalism, though the latter is much easier to co-opt in Europe. For its part, Turkey hasn’t been interested in co-opting, only annihilating.

The march managed to start off through the dense crowds, chanting and wrecking a couple BBVA’s [a bank heavily invested in Turkey].

Then it was done. Passeig de Gràcia was packed all the way down to Plaça Catalunya. One block over, Pau Claris was full all the way to Plaça Urquinaona, at the top of Via Laietana, which was guarded by riot cops. Plenty of those people were trying to get down there. The sun hadn’t even set and it was a war zone.

The cops were holding a corner, shooting rubber bullets, and people were responding with stones. People would run when the cops made a particularly strong assault, but then immediately poured back in, edging closer and closer. Barricades went up, increasing in complexity and effectiveness. Every couple minutes, the cops would shoot off a few rounds of tear gas. People would extinguish them in seconds. The cops had to be conservative with their ammunition; after the previous night, they knew they could run out—and that the crowd won’t be merciful. Each gunner was easily shooting off 100-200 rubber bullets and 50-100 canisters of tear gas a night. Added up along an entire police line, that makes for a fierce barrage, but it barely slowed the crowd down.

Early on Friday night, things were a bit awkward. Behind the front line, there were huge crowds of young people hanging out, eager to be close to the action, but not entirely sure that a riot is a good thing. Consequently, the rioters stayed with their own, breaking up rocks at the front, directly in the line of fire. If you tried breaking up the paving stones 20 meters back, where it made sense to do it strategically, a circle of gawkers would form, many filming, asking, “what are you doing?”

Let’s set the scene. There are all sorts of people here—mostly young, but some older. Many people have Catalan flags, plenty are speaking Spanish, some are tourists. Some are clad all in black, some have no masks at all. Of all the arrestees so far, only two have belonged to an independence organization or party, though of course the CDR has no formal membership. Some people question the necessity of the property destruction that is taking place; one has to explain, “rocks are needed up front.” No one questions the attacks on the police—they are the common enemy. Too many years of getting beaten, of peaceful protests and things staying the same. “Forces of occupation, out!” is one of the common chants, and it is hurled against mossos [Catalan police] and nacionales [Spanish police] with no distinction, although people chase after the vans of nacionales with a special fervor. Their presence in the streets here is hatefully symbolic: whereas the mossos live and work here year round, the Spanish cops were sent in just to repress the movement. They’re the ones who beat up people’s grandmothers for voting in 2017.

The Spanish flag is like a red banner, taunting the bull. it provokes a special reaction, but all cops are targets, and the mossos are getting their share. Their more quotidian presence is no advantage: just the week before this all started, they were beating up people who were trying to stop evictions in the Raval and Poble-sec neighborhoods. Hundreds of people were there, thousands of neighbors saw it, everyone saw the videos.

In the hinterland, behind the escalating combat, people are calm, enjoying the liberated space, building ever more complex barricades, occasionally pulling another dumpster to the front to serve as fuel for the fire. I pass some of the biggest barricades I’ve ever seen. Several banks are trashed, while others are oddly untouched. I glimpse what becomes my favorite graffito of the night: “Violent fags seeking revenge.” Another is also spot on: “in the riots, we aren’t so alone.” It’s true: people take care of each other.

There’s a lower street that angles back up to the police position at the bottom of the Plaça. If we take it, the crowd can flank the cops battling it out at close quarters at Urquinaona. A line of riot police holds the top of the street. The approach is 100 meters, under fire the whole way. People start picking their way up the sides, leapfrogging from doorway to doorway to get into throwing range, while one comrade keeps blinding the cops with a laser. The combat grows intense. Projectiles whizz by. People wince or fall when they’re hit, go limping back. Some old guy in an anarchist militia hat, 1936-style, stands in the middle of the road, taunting the police, magically unscathed. When you run out of rocks, you have to scramble, doorway to doorway, back to the mouth of the street.

As the assault intensifies, the police counterattack. A column of riot vans charges down the street and people scatter, but as soon as the vans turn, people charge right back in. This happens over and over. Each time, the vans get to an intersection and they have to choose—they can only pursue one group. As soon as they turn or go straight, everyone who ran in the other two directions starts chasing the cops, pounding on the vans. At this point, all the vans are damaged.

It’s too dangerous for the cops to get out of the vans like they used to do. There are too many people, too angry. They’d get stomped. We’d love for them to get out of the vans. What sorts of goodies might be found inside?

A police van.

The cops have retaken the dumpsters that people pulled across the lower street, which afforded a protected vantage point within easy throwing distance. They pull the dumpsters out of the way. It’s a naked approach again, all one hundred meters of it. People go back to trying.

Suddenly, a group in black is pulling their injured comrade back down the street, calling for medics. Something is wrong. We help them get to a clear spot. I know we shouldn’t crowd them, but I want to slip in, just for one second, to see if they’re all right. A cameraman is going in: I duck in to push him away, and while I’m close, I look. Hit in the face. Eyeball exploded. The medic’s hands are already covered in blood. I turn to my buddy. We’ll stay here, help keep the area clear—and if the cops charge again, we won’t move. No retreat. After what feels like a long time, the ambulance comes. Some reports say four people have had their eyes shot out this week. Other reports place the number at seven.

Back at the Plaça, there’s a burning barricade on the corner and people have sacked a restaurant terrace for the big cloth umbrellas, which they expertly place over a barricade just 10 meters from the police position. Now people can throw from a perfect distance, completely protected. The quarries for preparing projectiles have been set up where they should be, out of the way. People have fashioned tools to lift up the paving stones and the huge fire at the secondary barricade is burning off most of the tear gas. The cops are now pinned under a barrage of hundreds of stones a minute, not to mention the occasional discreet throw from a balcony. How many tons of stone will be thrown at them in the course of this night?

The collective intelligence of the crowd has increased exponentially. People have reconstructed the street so everyone is as safe as possible, so people can approach close to the cops and put them in constant danger. There’s a constant supply of ammunition and the whole crowd is protected from van charges from the rear. What a difference from just one hour ago. The cops are starting to get traumatized as more of them are injured. We’re no longer the victims. We’re winning.

Street after street, the fires are growing bigger, reaching as high as the third floor. In Gràcia, this caused some problems with neighbors, who practically had flames scorching their balconies. But here around Urquinaona, right in the center, Airbnb has already destroyed the neighborhood; many of the buildings are empty. Who cares if tourists can’t get to their cheap apartments? They stole those houses from the people who lived here.

It’s not entirely empty, though. At the moment of maximum conflict, an older couple, faces drawn, walk with a tense step past the rioters, towards the police line, which doesn’t stop shooting. I peek around the corner to watch. It looks like they make it to the door of their apartment without getting hit.

A little later, on the lower street, I take in a sight that stays with me. There are no more dumpsters providing cover in the middle of the street. Three young people have pulled a couple mopeds from their parking spots to fashion a makeshift barricade. They’re crouching down, just 15 meters from the police position, farther forward than those of us taking cover in the doorways. Two of them are masked, but the third, a teenage girl, has nothing in the way of protective clothing. All the same, she keeps straightening up, exposed to police fire, to throw more objects. If only she’d cover her face! Some people make a mad dash from cover to leave the three another pile of stones. People take care of one another as best they can.

This fighting continues for more than four hours. It’s not as long as Thursday night, but far more intense, with more people and better technique. Only after repeated van charges and heavy assaults have hammered away at the crowds on Urquinaona—and after many people have slipped away due to exhaustion, injuries, or just plain satisfaction—do the police bring out their celebrated new weapon, a water cannon mounted on a tank. They make a video showing the tank advancing and extinguishing some burning barricades, but in practice it’s not as decisive as all that. They keep it in reserve until late in the night, only using it with massive police backup, and only after many people have already surrendered the plaza.

I can imagine the cops had a directive from the very top: use it, but under no circumstances let demonstrators destroy it. The crowds would have loved to tear that thing apart.

Smoke engulfs the Barcelona skyline.

Friday is a high point, but it’s not the end. The police deploy some innovations on Saturday. They have a cordon of good citizens forming between their lines and the demonstrators at Plaça Urquinaona that helps to keep things peaceful. How quickly the pacifists agree to serve the forces of repression when people stop obeying them! No one prevented them from doing their peaceful marches, but they’re incapable of accepting any difference or multiplicity of opinion—much like the state itself.

And they don’t accomplish anything. They killed the movement in 2017—and while it’s true that this week of fighting won’t break apart the Spanish state, in these very same days, we’ve seen how people fighting fiercely in the streets have defeated austerity measures in Ecuador, Chile, and Lebanon.

Saturday in Catalunya isn’t a total bust, though. There are still riots in the Raval and Gràcia neighborhoods as well as in some other cities, much as the corporate media try to play that down.

Sunday is definitely calmer, but still people don’t give up. In Girona, 1000 people surround the courthouse, trying to block the judges from sending the arrested to pretrial detention.

We don’t know what will happen next. Society has been divided and the line does not trace any national or linguistic divide. It separates people on the basis of their chosen relation to social control: those who support the police and those who oppose them. Some people still talk about democracy, but they mean opposite things. They’re willing to shoot down helicopters to attain it—or willing to run over protesters and beat up old folks to preserve it. Some of the former people will eventually have to acknowledge that what they actually want is anarchy; some of the latter may admit that what they really favor is fascism. But for the most part, things will remain muddled and equivocal—and we anarchists will do our best to develop and share clear visions of the enemy, clear lines of flight, lines of attack.

In any case, many, many thousands of people have experienced something they’ll never forget. Most of them will not join us in our projects and conspiracies over the next few months, but some will, and we’ve got to learn how to grow and share with them as they share with us.

The rest, they’ll still be there, and we’ll meet in the streets once again. These are not calm times that lie ahead of us.

Solidarity actions in Madrid.

Monday Update

There are protests today outside jails and courthouses. Two of the detainees were sent to migrant detention. The cops have announced the arrest of a youth accused of shooting fireworks at the police helicopter on Wednesday. He has been charged with attempted murder, public disorder, and assaulting authority. This struggle will not end any time soon.

Meanwhile, in one small town outside Barcelona, masked individuals set fire to a couple police cars right outside the station. In a small village on the coast, some people pelted a cop with stones as he was driving away from the station in his private car. In both cases, the targets were mossos, the Catalan police.

Our overlords are also in the news. P. Sánchez, Socialist president of Spain, comes to Barcelona, but refuses to meet with the President of the Generalitat [the Catalan semi-autonomous government]. Dialogue is impossible. Not even the leaders of democracy are trying to fix the situation, if it means looking weak in front of their imagined voters.

The whole circus tent is falling down.

  1. The National Assembly of Catalunya (ANC) is a large pro-independence civil society organization. Their former leader got up on a police van at a moment of maximum tension two years ago and convinced the crowds to quit the streets. He is now serving a 9-year prison sentence for sedition.

The post The Fight in Catalunya: Independence or Self-Determination? appeared first on Infoshop News.

Union-made pizza? In Portland, Wobblies serve a fair slice

mar, 11/12/2019 - 04:14

via NW Labor Press

By Don McIntosh

In September, all 13 workers at Scottie’s Pizza at 2128 SE Division Street in Portland signed a petition announcing their decision to unionize with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the storied union whose members are known as Wobblies. On Sept. 22, half of them delivered the petition to owner Scottie Rivera … and found him happy to recognize the union. It wasn’t a big surprise: When Rivera opened the parlor in 2015, he won acclaim for paying employees at least $15 an hour. The business also provides health benefits, free shift meals and beverages, and an annual stipend for safe work footwear. Walls in the restaurant’s tiny dining area are covered with political posters and framed photos of lefty luminaries. 

“The general attitude among workers in the restaurant industry is that it’s impossible to have a union,” says Scottie’s employee David Adams. “But we think workers need to be represented and have a voice in decisions that are made in the restaurants where they’re living their lives.”

Rivera and the workers expect to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement in the coming months. Adams says workers hope it will serve as an example to other pizza enterprises.

“We want to show that you don’t have to exploit and manipulate,” Adams said. “You can have a relationship with your workers that will make your business stronger.”

The post Union-made pizza? In Portland, Wobblies serve a fair slice appeared first on Infoshop News.

When America Tried to Deport Its Radicals

mar, 11/12/2019 - 03:44

via The New Yorker

By Adam Hochschild

On a winter night a hundred years ago, Ellis Island, the twenty-seven-acre patch of land in New York Harbor that had been the gateway to America for millions of hopeful immigrants, was playing the opposite role. It had been turned into a prison for several hundred men, and a few women, most of whom had arrived in handcuffs and shackles. They were about to be shipped across the Atlantic, in the country’s first mass deportation of political dissidents in the twentieth century.

Before dawn on December 21, 1919, the prisoners were roused from their bunks to be packed onto a barge and transported to a waiting vessel, the Buford, which was berthed in Brooklyn. The Buford was an elderly, decrepit troopship, known by sailors as a heavy “roller” in rough seas. One of the two hundred and forty-nine people who were deported that day, Ivan Novikov, described the scene in the island prison: “It was noisy and the room was full of smoke. Everybody knew already that we are going to be sent out. . . . Many with tears in their eyes were writing telegrams and letters.” Many “were in the literal sense of the word without clothes or shoes,” he went on. “There was no laughter.” Then, as now, deportations severed families: “One left a mother, the other a wife and son, one a sweetheart.”

At 4 A.M., with the temperature in the twenties, shouting guards ordered the captives outside, where a gangplank led to the barge and an attached tugboat. “Deep snow lay on the ground; the air was cut by a biting wind,” wrote that day’s most famous victim of what she called “deportation mania,” the Russian-born anarchist and feminist firebrand Emma Goldman. “A row of armed civilians and soldiers stood along the road. . . . One by one the deportees marched, flanked on each side by the uniformed men, curses and threats accompanying the thud of their feet on the frozen ground.”

The mass expulsion was so important to the U.S. government that, despite the hour, a delegation from Washington joined the deportees on the trip across the harbor to the Buford. The group included several members of Congress, most notably Representative Albert Johnson, of Washington State, who was the chair of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization as well as an outspoken anti-Semite, a Ku Klux Klan favorite, and an ardent opponent of immigration. Shepherding the party was a dark-haired, twenty-four-year-old Justice Department official who was quietly respectful toward the dignitaries he was with but who would, before long, wield far more power than any of them: J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover had met Goldman some weeks earlier, in the courtroom where he made the case for her deportation. Now one of the great American radicals of her day and the man who would become the country’s premier hunter of such dissidents encountered each other one last time, in the galley of the tugboat. She was fifty, more than twice his age, but they were of similar stature, and would have stood nearly eye to eye, with Goldman looking at Hoover through her pince-nez. One admirer described her as having “a stocky figure like a peasant woman, a face of fierce strength like a female pugilist.” Hoover had won this particular match, but, according to a congressman who witnessed the exchange, she got in one last jab.

“Haven’t I given you a square deal, Miss Goldman?” Hoover asked, as they steamed toward Brooklyn in the darkness.

“Oh, I suppose you’ve given me as square a deal as you could,” she replied, two hours away from being ejected from the country where she had lived for thirty-four years and found the voice that had won her admirers around the world. “We shouldn’t expect from any person something beyond his capacity.”

Read more

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When the Ruling Class Feared Communism

mar, 11/12/2019 - 02:55

via Jacobin

By Liza Featherstone

There are plenty of irrational reasons to be nostalgic for the middle of the twentieth century: who doesn’t love the furniture, the hairdos, the cars with vulva-shaped grilles? But there are plenty of practical reasons, too; it was a time of significant social change, thanks in part to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Obviously, the Cold War caused plenty of human misery. Repression marred political life while millions died in neocolonial proxy wars and gulags. And the stress of potential nuclear Armageddon wasn’t trivial. But the contest between two superpowers over which system delivered more comfort, freedom, and happiness to its citizens greatly improved the human condition worldwide. University of Pennsylvania ethnographer Kristen Ghodsee writes, “the general scholarly consensus is that ordinary people — whether in the capitalist, Communist, or developing worlds — benefitted from superpower competition. An unintended consequence of American and Soviet grandstanding was often real progress.”

Here are a few benefits that the working class in the West reaped from these tensions.

Civil Rights

As many historians have pointed out, political leaders across the ideological spectrum persistently argued that racial segregation undermined the United States’ position in the Cold War, making capitalism look bad at home and abroad. Civil rights activists often advanced such arguments, and the political class embraced them. In Brown v. Board of Education, the historic Supreme Court case that made racial segregation illegal, integrating schools all over the nation, the Truman Administration filed an amicus brief arguing that the color line was detrimental to US foreign policy interests: “The United States is trying to prove to the people of the world of every nationality, race, and color, that a free democracy is the most civilized and secure form of government ever devised by man.” The condition of African Americans posed an obstacle to this ambitious scheme, the administration wrote, as “racial discrimination furnishes grist for the Communist propaganda mills.”

Read more

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Just 3% of broadcast TV news segments on the California wildfires connected them to climate change

dim, 11/10/2019 - 20:29

via Media Matters

by Ted MacDonald

A string of destructive wildfires spread across parts of California in October. Broadcast and cable TV news shows have been quick to cover these fires, airing hundreds of segments over a 12-day period from October 21 to November 1. However, the number of climate change mentions in wildfire segments across these shows is pitifully low.

Major morning and nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 243 segments on the wildfires, but only eight of them, or 3.3%, mentioned climate change. These broadcast numbers are actually worse than the coverage of last year’s deadly and destructive California wildfires. As wildfires ravaged parts of the state in November 2018, broadcast TV news shows mentioned climate change in only 3.7% of overall wildfire segments.

Cable news shows in 2019 did not fare much better — out of a combined 419 wildfire segments aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, only 20 of them, or 4.8%, mentioned climate change.

It is clear that the warming climate is increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires in California. Burned area due to wildfires has increased fivefold between 1972 and 2018, and the average wildfire season length is over two full months longer. California has warmed roughly three times as much as the global average in the past century, making many parts of the state’s land more prone to wildfires. In fact, according to Climate Central, “human-caused climate change has been responsible for more than half the increase in fuel aridity” since the 1970s, resulting in drier and more flammable vegetation that is easier to burn.

Research has also been done into the connection between climate change and the strong Santa Ana winds that help fan the wildfires. Climate scientist Daniel Swain stated, “While there’s not much evidence at this point of a direct link between climate change and changes in offshore wind patterns, there is evidence that climate trends are increasing the likelihood that such winds coincide with dangerously dry vegetation conditions, leading to increased wildfire risk.”

Earlier this fall, it looked like California would avoid another bad wildfire season, but now there is a heightened chance for large fires for the rest of 2019. Continued greenhouse gas emissions will increase the wildfire risk for much of the region, making this is all part of a “new normal” that California residents will have to grapple with in the future.

Read more

The post Just 3% of broadcast TV news segments on the California wildfires connected them to climate change appeared first on Infoshop News.

Rojava: The radical eco-anarchist experiment betrayed by the West, and bludgeoned by Turkey

dim, 11/10/2019 - 20:21

In the Heart of Syria’s Darkness, a Democratic, Egalitarian and Feminist Society Emerges (June 2019 article)

Four million people, thousands of communes, a non-hierarchical social structure and a cooperative economy. Why is no one talking about Rojava?

Dor Shilton, Haaretz

The most amazing thing about Rojava is that hardly anyone knows it exists. We hear plenty about Syria – the battlefields and chemical attacks, the brutality of ISIS and barbarity of the Assad regime. But very little has been written about the fact that in northeastern Syria an anarchist-feminist autonomous region has arisen that is the antithesis to everything around it. Well, maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In a world sinking ever deeper into consumer culture, careerist individualism and financial plutocracy, who can believe in the idea of a non-hierarchical society? A coherent autonomy without a centralized government? A cooperative economy? True gender equality? Yet this is precisely the vision that the people of Rojava – known officially as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria – are realizing in practice, in an appallingly hostile environment, surrounded by enemies bent on their destruction.

Against all odds, Rojava, which declared its autonomy in 2014, continues to exist – encompassing four million people, seven regions, hundreds of neighborhoods and thousands of communes. Several principles underlie Rojava’s democracy. To begin with, it is decentralized and lacks any hierarchy, a democracy in which communities preserve their sovereignty and manage their lives by themselves. Second, it’s an egalitarian democracy, which does not prefer one ethnicity or religion over others, and where women play an equal and essential role. And third, it’s a democracy based on a fair, ecological and sustainable economy, which does not sabotage the environment and aims to meet the needs of the common people, not aggrandize the powerful. In short, the inhabitants of Rojava are trying to create a political entity that is the opposite of the capitalist nation-state. They are out to forge true democracy, a society in which the people is sovereign.

“We are all children of the village,” says Zelal Ceger, co-chairwoman of Tev-Dem, the Movement for a Democratic Society in Rojava, which initially created the organizational structure of the autonomous entity, from the level of the commune up to the regional one.

“Our system is not like that in Europe,” she notes in a recent interview arranged under the auspices of the Rojava Information Center, which works with foreign media and academics. “For example, go to our villages and look. If a house gets damaged, the whole village fixes that house together. The natural society was created in Mesopotamia, and even now we still have some of that with us, it’s our basis. As such, our people are ready to create a communal life. But in the last 2,000 years of life under the state system, the state wanted to remove the communal life and ruin it for the people, and wanted society to disperse. After the [democratic and feminist] revolution started, we’re coming together once again to build up that life.”

Island prisoner

Rojava (meaning “west” in Kurdish – the region is actually located in western Kurdistan) constitutes a new solution to an old problem: the oppression of peoples. Like the Jews, the Kurdish people suffered for many long years at the hands of hostile rulers and regimes. Unlike the Jewish people, the Kurds have always lived, since antiquity, in a single, contiguous geographical area: the vast, mountainous region called Kurdistan. Despite that fact and their large numbers, however, a series of Great Power agreements after World War I split the Kurds into minority groups in four different countries: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. As a result, their sense of common identity was lost and the Kurds were persecuted and attacked by four different oppressive regimes. Numbering some 35 million in the region, the Kurds have long held the dubious title of the largest nation in the world without a state.

The collapse of Iraq, and afterward Syria, created a propitious moment to realize Kurdish sovereignty and create a state. In Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government assumed control over some of the northern provinces, and has been steadily breaking away from the federal government. Even though, compared to their neighbors, women are treated better in Iraqi Kurdistan, it has the same political structure as other centralist nation-states. Its almost-exclusive reliance on local petroleum resources effectively made it another paternalistic, Middle Eastern oil-producing state. Revenues are divided among the rulers and their cronies, and because most of the material goods and investment capital come from Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan has become, in effect, Ankara’s colony. The alliance between the two has been particularly vexatious.

Like Israel, Rojava, too, was an idea that evolved into a reality. It even has a visionary whose writings were the underpinnings of its creation: Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). When it was founded, in 1978, the PKK was a Marxist-Leninist movement whose aim was to establish a socialist state for the Kurdish people in eastern Turkey, which is northern Kurdistan. Turkey, for its part, tried to deny the existence of a Kurdish people and toughened restrictions on their language and culture. Even before a military coup in Turkey in 1980, the PKK felt that the situation was becoming more dangerous and violent. In 1979, Ocalan and other party leaders moved to Syria and dug in there. Ocalan lived in Syria for almost 20 years and became a revered figure among the Kurds, known fondly as “Apo” (uncle).

Already then, Ocalan grasped the importance of women in fomenting a true democratic revolution. Women played an active role in the PKK from the outset and became increasingly involved in organizational matters and in combat roles. The PKK’s first women’s organization was formed in 1986, and seven years later, Ocalan set up an all-female military unit. In his other activities, too, such as in military training and study camps of the PKK, Zelal Ceger relates, Ocalan introduced new norms to promote women’s involvement, including in everyday affairs. He asked men to cook and not to expect their wives to do it, so that the women could devote their time to studies. Increasing numbers of female activists joined, the women’s organizations grew stronger, and the seeds of the process were planted that would culminate in the socially egalitarian practices of Rojava.

While the PKK commanders waged the struggle from Syria, many of its activists returned to Turkey, resulting in a blood-drenched conflict between the party and the Turkish army between 1984 and 1993. About 40,000 people died, with both sides accused of deliberately targeting civilians. In February 1999, in an operation involving Turkish intelligence and the CIA (some in the PKK also accused the Mossad of involvement) – Ocalan was seized in the Greek embassy in Kenya and extradited to Turkey. A show trial was held in which Ocalan was charged with treason and sentenced to death. Fortunately for him, Turkey’s attempt to enter the European Union – which had abolished the death penalty – led to the commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment.

For a decade, between 1999 and 2009, Ocalan was the only inmate in the prison on Imrali Island, in the Sea of Marmara, where he remains incarcerated today. In his small cell, guarded by 1,000 warders, he began to delve into Sumerian mythology and the origins of Neolithic cultures, as well as the history of the first city-states. He was influenced by a number of thinkers, among them Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, Maria Mies and Michel Foucault.

The theorist who influenced Ocalan most profoundly was Murray Bookchin, a Jewish-American writer and anarchist who formulated the theory of social ecology. Drawing on the connection between the environmental crisis and capitalist society, Bookchin argued that the enslavement and destruction of nature is the continuation of the enslavement of other human beings. To avert calamity, he observed, the structure of society needs to be rethought; a shift is needed from a rapacious capitalist society to an ecological social structure that maintains a balance between its parts. Consequently, Bookchin proposed a confederative-municipal entity by means of which communities could organize their lives independently.

Ocalan eventually forsook the nation-state concept, which he’d actually begun to turn away from even before his arrest. Instead, he proposed democratic confederalism, a fusion of Bookchin’s social ecology and emergent Kurdish feminism, a system of decentralized social organization that would avert creation of a centralized government like that of Syria, which oppresses its people, and allow individuals and communities to wield true influence over their environment and activities, and most important, would ensure that women would play a vital and equal role at all levels of organization and decision-making.

Ocalan’s ideology began to spread. When the protests of the Arab Spring reached Syria, in 2011, and Assad’s forces started to withdraw from western Kurdistan, the Kurds used the opportunity to establish autonomy, based on a well thought-out political program that they previously devised.

Zelal Ceger met Ocalan in 1993, in Syria. She had grown up with his ideology, but when she finally got to meet him, her knees shook, she relates. But Ocalan turned out to be a warm, friendly person, she says – very far from the dictatorial image sometimes associated with leaders of popular liberation movements. “When I was with Ocalan,” she relates, “I felt simultaneously like a child and an adult. He was like a brother to us.”

She goes on to explain that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) “could not organize the people on its own. We wanted to create an umbrella organization, a council, which could lead all of society. Therefore, we created the Movement for a Democratic Society, or Tev-Dem. Through Tev-Dem we could reach all the peoples: Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Circassians and everyone who lived in Rojava. We took everyone into account.”

By August 2011, half the Kurds in Rojava were already organized in community councils. In that same month, 300 delegates from all parts of the region founded the People’s Council of West Kurdistan, which in turn elected the Tev-Dem; the latter’s members established and helped implement a bottom-up model of governance and autonomous administrative bodies. In January 2014, Rojava’s de facto constitution was signed, declaring its commitment to freedom for all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or religion, and to gender equality, and setting forth the principles of decentralized democracy.

Millennia-old tradition

How can millions of people manage their lives autonomously? That is precisely the challenge of democratic confederalism, as practiced in Rojava. Their system of social organization continues to evolve, but its fundamental principles remain constant.

The basic unit of political organization in Rojava is the commune. Each commune consists of a few dozen families, and its members run their lives by themselves. They meet regularly to discuss the important issues and initiatives, and choose committees to advance them. They also elect two chairpersons, a man and a woman. The coordinating board, headed by those chairpersons, sends representatives to the next level of organization: the locality. It consists of a number of communes, and here too committees are founded to organize tasks, coordinate between the communes and elect the representatives to the next level – the district. Above that level are the canton (in a few cases), the region, the General Council for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, with 70 members, and the Syrian Democratic Council, the chief legislative authority in Rojava.

There are as many as nine different committees at the different levels, each devoted to a specific subject. For example, there are reconciliation committees, comprising five women and five men, which arbitrate a variety of disputes. Only about a third of the cases brought before these bodies at the first level are referred to the next one, to regional courts; the others are resolved at the communal level. In any event, every committee regardless of its mandate must have at least 40 percent female membership, and be headed by both a woman and a man.

Women also take part in Rojava’s military and police forces: There are both coed and all-female units. The goal is to ensure that women do not remain outside the centers of decision-making in the security realm – and elsewhere. “Without equality of the sexes, any call for freedom and equality is pointless and illusory,” Ocalan wrote in a 2010 manifesto.

Rojava’s entire political system is constructed in a way that grants people the true power to decide how they wish to run their lives and about their environment. After all, who knows better about what a particular neighborhood needs than the people who actually live there? For example, at a meeting held in April in a commune of 25 families near the city of Derik, in the northern part of Rojava, residents met to decide what to do with an area of about 30 dunams (7.5 acres) surrounding their village. They agreed to devote most of it to growing crops cooperatively, and a smaller section to a community center. While in the past people needed approval from various government agencies just to plant a tree, restrictions on building have now been lifted: Rojava is replete with construction sites. The ultimate goal is to avert the disintegration of the communally based society, as has occurred in the industrialized West.

According to Mohammed Said, co-chairman of the PYD party in a locale in Jazira, one of Rojava’s largest regions, the sort of social structure being introduced today is based on a tradition going back thousands of years.

“Fifty years ago, I remember, I was living in a village of five or six families,” Said recalled in an interview. “In the summer, if we needed to build a house, we didn’t pay others to do it. We formed a group and we built it. If a house burned, everyone got together and contributed until that house was okay again. If someone fell ill, everyone would help. The communal system we want to build up is exactly that.”

Khalid Ibrahim, a member of a reconciliation committee in Derik, describes the workings of the judicial system in Rojava. “In this committee there are nine members. Of these, two are elected members of the General Council in Derik and seven are elected directly by the reconciliation committees of the localities. An election is held every two years, and the next election is scheduled to take place in another seven months.” However, he notes, that may not be possible, “because it’s not clear if the political situation in northeast Syria will be stabilized” by that time – a reference to the activities of the Turkish armed forces that have occupied a neighboring district.

“Generally, when a conflict occurs, it’s solved at the commune level,” Ibrahim says. “If not, the [reconciliation] committee members write a report and send the case to the next level, the locality. If the conflict is not solved there, the committee writes a report and sends the case onward. If the conflict is still not resolved, it is referred to the justice institutions that operate at the provincial, regional and federation levels, to carry out a deeper investigation.”

Trained jurists are found only in Rojava’s official judicial bodies, but the members of the reconciliation panels are ordinary people whom the community trusts to listen to all sides and to resolve conflicts fairly.

Ibrahim offers a case history concerning a debt: “Mahmood used to sell yogurt from his village to Ahmed. But Ahmed hadn’t paid him for six months. Finally, Mahmood brought the case to his commune’s reconciliation committee. A committee member listened to both sides, understanding both the reasons why the shop owner didn’t pay and the economic needs of Mahmood’s family. She facilitated an agreement between the two. They agreed to reduce the debt, and agreed that Mahmood’s family would have the right to acquire other goods from the shop freely to satisfy its needs. They both signed a contract. With time, the relationship between Mahmood’s family and Ahmed became close again.”

Jihad Omer, co-chairman of the PR office of the Syrian Democratic Council, Rojava’s main legislative body, used to serve on a reconciliation committee in the Afrin district, north of Aleppo, where he helped resolve a long-running conflict. “About 35 years before,” he relates, “some killings took place between two families from two different villages. Each one killed some members of the other’s family. Since then, the two families have not spoken a word to each other and they could not go to the other’s village.

“Our committee of conciliation consisted of old men and old women who have people’s respect. We spoke to the elders of each family, again and again. We got five members from each family to sit together and share all their sorrows. We explained to them that we need to live as a society with love. We told them that they are all living on the same land, they are from the same people, so why should they let their old quarrels keep going? After a month and a half of meetings, we got the two families to sit together and eat together. And this was a big victory.”

There has been a dramatic improvement in the lives of Rojava’s women thanks to its feminist ideology and social structure, says Khawla Diad, a PYD co-chairwoman in a town called Til Temir. An Arab woman, she was initially suspicious of the revolutionary movement that gave rise to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, she told the Rojava Information Center. “At first we thought it was a nationalist revolution for the Kurds, not a revolution for peoples’ brotherhood and democracy. But Apo’s [Ocalan’s] ideology was far-reaching. Slowly we saw that this ideology was not only for Kurds, but also for Arabs and Assyrians, and especially for women.”

Describing the changes in the lives of women in Syria and in her own life, Diad becomes emotional: “Before the revolution women had no life, especially Arab women. They had no opinions, no work, no freedom. Arab women were only supposed to give birth, raise children and tend to home duties, and that’s it. Women were nothing, they were slaves. Step by step, things changed. Kurdish women became an example for all women.”

How have the lives of women changed thanks to communal organization?

Diad: “In many ways. For example, underage marriage. A girl of only 14 would be given to a man to be married. But not any more. Another thing is a second marriage. A man could take four women for himself. But not anymore. Now only one woman. Before, if I had brothers … within our house I didn’t have the right to anything in my family – not property or money or land. But now, women have the right to all those things.”

What about the relations between the Kurds and the Arabs?

“The Syrian state tried to divide the Kurds and the Arabs. We do not accept this conflict. This land is for all of us, not just for Arabs or for Kurds. We organized ourselves according to the philosophy of Ocalan and said we do not want a nationalist state, we don’t want Syria to be divided. We are one people together, we are brothers.”

Diad is determined to continue working to promote revolutionary changes in the lives of women: “Before the revolution I was a person with no will, without any opinion, without existence,” she says. “Today I am free, but other women are still enslaved. This philosophy has not reached them all. It’s my role to bring it to them.”

Social economy

Another vision harbored by the new democracy of Rojava involves a social economy – based not on communism but rather communalism. The goal is simple: to serve the citizens and not the owners of capital. The basis for achieving this is the creation of cooperatives guided by the universal values set forth by a Belgium-based NGO called International Cooperative Alliance: mutual help, mutual responsibility, democracy, equality, fairness and solidarity. There are hundreds of economic cooperatives in Rojava, on local and all other levels, whose establishment has been encouraged by the autonomous administration and by Kongra Star, a local confederation of woman’s organizations. The cooperatives are in essence joining a global movement toward sustainable alternative economies.

The Cooperative Contract of Rojava, issued in August 2016, describes the principles and limitations devolving on the cooperatives. These include: one vote for each member; consultation with the relevant autonomous administration and consideration for the community in which the cooperative is formed; a ban on monopolization, speculation and exploitation; active participation of women; and no more than one person per family serving on the management board, which is elected annually by the General Assembly. Membership in a cooperative involves the purchase of shares, with the standing rate being 20,000 Syrian liras (about $40) per share.

Women’s cooperative business ventures account for about 3 percent of the Jazira district’s economy. For Arin Sterk and Baran Bawer, members of an economy committee in the city of Qamishli (called Qamishlo by the Kurds), on the border with Turkey, the importance of the cooperatives lies in their battles against monopolies.

“Our economy should serve the needs of all the people and not just profit a few people,” Sterk says. “We are not against free trade, but we need to prevent the formation of monopolies. A simple example is seeds. Rojava is an agricultural land, so we need to ensure that the seeds are in the hands of the people, and prevent any monopoly over them.”

What kind of problems do you encounter?

Sterk: “Capitalist mentality is strong inside our society. There is a mentality of ‘I pay you and you work for me,’ but we are fighting against this attitude. You find this kind of mentality on both sides: in the cooperatives, but also among responsible people in the economy committees. We need to understand that economics is connected to our mind-set. As such, the first step toward developing the economy must be to change women’s mentality. The effects of hundreds of years of oppression through the patriarchal system, and the influence of the Syrian regime, as well as the impact of religion, are still strong. Women are still sometimes looked upon badly if they leave the house alone for work, because there should be a man at her side. So women’s economic problems are bound to this mentality.”

Bawer: “On the other hand, we also need to change the dominant, male mentality, the capitalist attitude that looks on everything solely as a means to profit. We cannot allow women to become independent by putting themselves in a position of being exploited by men. It’s not about integrating women into a capitalist system – it’s about building a new economic system.”

Sterk: “We go to houses and talk to the men. We ask them, ‘Why don’t you let your wife go to work?’ We tell the men that women have the right to earn money, too, and help the family’s financial situation. When we gather six or seven women, we ask them: ‘What kind of work do you want to do? Which type of cooperative could you work in?’ As an economy committee, we can also give women financial support to start a cooperative. This is how we can motivate women to liberate themselves.”

Are there other difficulties, apart from mentality?

Bawer: “There is a need to professionalize the women, to supply the needed skills. For example with regard to milk production, we had cases where the know-how was poor.”

How many women have joined the cooperatives in Qamishli?

Bawer: “About 4,500 women are members of cooperatives. Most of these cooperatives are occupied with agriculture, but there are also restaurants, bakeries, patisseries, chicken farms, textile industries and some that manage electrical generators for the neighborhoods.”

How are salaries organized in the cooperatives?

Sterk: “In cooperatives that sell products, such as shops, they divide the sales profits among themselves equally. In agriculture, each women decides how much land to work and for how many hours. She receives a proportional part of the produce and sells it independently.”

The vision behind the creation of Rojava is astonishingly progressive – but there’s a gap between it and reality. Many activists relate that they are having difficulty getting enough people involved in administrative roles in their locales: Most of them, especially women, are simply not used to the type of democratic activism required of them. And young people appear not to be very impressed by the new democratic system.

“The young people in our society are not joining the communal life,” says Zelal Ceger, from Tev-Dem. “They see it as a prison. They are under the influence of capitalism; they don’t accept the new system. They say they want freedom, they want to live in their way. But really, it’s the commune that gives you freedom. You can solve all your problems through the communes. Some of this hasn’t been understood yet, and thus we have certain difficulties.”

That analysis is largely confirmed in a brief correspondence with a young computer programmer from Qamishli, who asked not to be identified by name.

“The system is not really functioning,” he maintains. “The culture here is very communal, so people get along with their neighbors socially, but politically this is not an effective way to manage a society.” Nevertheless, he believes in the potential of the democratic revolution underway in Rojava, which he believes is still in its incipient stages: “Whether they are efficient or not, we have to remember that the social structures are not yet fully formed. People can and should influence them. That is the challenge and the potential of Rojava. Rojava is not an empty page on which someone can create a new society out of nothing. It is a reality that is rooted in history, and in order to develop it we need to recognize its complexity and depth.”

Silence in the West

One might think the emergence of a progressive political entity like Rojava would be welcomed by the enlightened West, which might even invest resources to ensure its development and survival. But it’s just the opposite. The West’s response ranges from relative indifference, as seen in limited media coverage and half-hearted, self-interested military support – to tacit hostility, because NATO supports Rojava’s largest and most dangerous enemy: the Turkish army. Thus, as President Donald Trump withdraws American forces from Syria and Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan assails Rojava with force of arms, there’s a genuine danger that the most democratic autonomy regime in the Middle East will become no more than a historical curiosity, gradually assuming the aura of a legend.

“I think that part of the reason [why people don’t talk more about Rojava] is that we no longer believe revolutionary utopian movements are possible,” American anthropologist David Graeber, who has been writing about Rojava since his first visit there in 2014, tells Haaretz in a recent interview. “We’ve become so cynical that a lot of people just don’t believe it. You get a lot of people on the left whose politics are: ‘Whatever the Americans do, we’re against it.’ I call it the loser left – they basically don’t even imagine that they could win. And, frankly, a lot of liberals, in my experience, really don’t like the idea of [direct] democracy; they might not admit it, but they’re inherently suspicious of ordinary people’s ability to govern themselves.”

You’ve studied a lot of anarchist movements. What’s unique about Rojava?

Graeber: “Since [1930s] Spain, there’s been no place where so many people were able to create institutions outside of a state framework for so long. It’s important to point out just how historically unprecedented some of the things that are happening [in Rojava] are. In Afrin, for example, I think two-thirds of all political positions are held by women. And that might be the only society in human history of which this can be said.”

Leaving aside the external challenges, what do you think are the major internal challenges facing Rojava?

“Well, other than not getting killed… I think that if the revolution endures, the biggest problem will be the tension between the bottom-up structures and the top-down structures. They basically have the equivalent of a dual power system, but it’s a dual power system where they themselves created both sides, which might be historically unprecedented. So you have the self-government system that has a parliament, ministers, and you have to have that to deal with foreigners, otherwise they won’t take you seriously. For example, there’s an airport in Qamishli, it’s the only area that’s still under Syrian government control. Why do they do that? Because if you’re not a government, where are you going to fly? To fly anywhere, you need to have aviation agreements, you need to have security agreements.

“In a way, their isolation has been really helpful, because it made it possible to keep this centralized structure largely toothless. But once they start engaging with external structures, people with technocratic knowledge are going to have an advantage. They’re going to take these [top-down] institutions – with the best intentions – and strengthen them, and that’s going to create a threat to the bottom-up [decentralized] structures.”

Rojava has indeed only begun to address the challenges of a modern society and economy. The power grid within its territory supplies electricity only in the morning and the evening; the rest of the time the localities rely on generators. Despite its aspirations to ecological sustainability, the Rojava General Council is compelled to rely mainly on oil resources. Not only that, but in the absence of a budget to underwrite modern drilling and refining facilities, it is unable to produce sufficient quantities of fuel for trade, and resorts to inefficient, environmentally harmful refining techniques. Indeed, because Rojava is besieged on all sides, current trade possibilities are more or less confined to Assad’s Syria. Taxation policy is also still in its infancy, with most regions levying only import and export taxes and taxes on business that are not cooperatives, though income tax is collected in the Jazira district.

The economy in Rojava, as said, remains largely agrarian, and the fact that the majority of available resources (about 70 percent) go toward self-defense hinders economic and infrastructure development. A relatively new challenge is the tens of thousands of ISIS fighters who surrendered to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The al-Hawl camp in Rojava, for example, currently holds about 73,000 prisoners in an area of four square kilometers. Most of them are former fighters, but about 10,000 are their relatives, mostly women and children. The camps are a ticking bomb, in both humanitarian and ideological terms, and they are depleting Rojava’s coffers at an unprecedented rate.

In the meantime, Ocalan continues to be a prisoner on Imrali Island, despite his repeated calls for peace over the past two decades and his assertion that he does not want an independent Kurdish state in eastern Turkey – only a confederated autonomy as in Rojava. In November 2018, Leyla Güven, a member of the Turkish parliament from the People’s Democratic Party, launched a hunger strike to demand an end to Ocalan’s solitary confinement and permission for him to meet regularly with his family, as well as with his lawyers; he had not met with the latter for some seven years, at that point. Thousands of Kurds worldwide subsequently joined Güven.

On May 2, after 176 days of striking and the submission of more than 800 petitions to the Turkish government, Ocalan was finally allowed to meet briefly with his lawyers. In a statement made through their auspices, he asked the hunger strikers not to put their health at risk and called once again for reconciliation. “There is an urgent need for a method of democratic negotiations, away from all kinds of polarization and culture of conflict in the solution of problems. We can solve the problems in Turkey, and even in the region – first and foremost the war – with soft power; that is with intelligence, political and cultural power instead of tools of physical violence,” the statement said.

On May 26, following another plea to the strikers from Ocalan, the hunger strike ended.

The interviews in this article were conducted with the assistance of the Rojava Information Center.

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As Turkey launches an aerial and ground assault on northern Syria targeting Kurdish-controlled areas, we look at how the offensive threatens the Kurdish region of Rojava with Debbie Bookchin, co-founder of the Emergency Committee for Rojava. She is a journalist and author who co-edited a book of essays by her father, Murray Bookchin, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy.” We also speak with Elif Sarican, a Kurdish Women’s Movement activist and anthropologist at the London School of Economics, and Ertuğrul Kürkçü, honorary chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party in Turkey, known as the HDP. He is a former member of Parliament in Turkey.

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Kalowa Hill is a metaphor for the tragic history of the Kurds. I remain haunted by the images of women searching frantically through skeletal remains in uncovered pits for their disappeared children or husbands. I can still feel in my hands the skulls with their blindfolds and bullet holes. While boys and men, the majority of the victims, were usually blindfolded and shot, girls and women were most often blindfolded and strangled.

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The post Rojava: The radical eco-anarchist experiment betrayed by the West, and bludgeoned by Turkey appeared first on Infoshop News.

Making Waves: From Boston to Wisconsin, vulnerable workers push back against impossible conditions

dim, 11/10/2019 - 05:02

via The Baffler

by Kim Kelly

The U.S. working class is currently riding a mighty strike wave, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the height of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s union-busting spree. The biggest stories have dominated the headlines for weeks, or—in the case of the ongoing #RedforEd movement within the education sector—even years, and their main characters have become folk heroes: The CTU and SEIU teachers and support staff of Chicago fighting for a better future for their coworkers, their students, and their city. The UAW factory workers of General Motors who left the line cold for almost six weeks to end discrimination and inequality at a company that had grown fat off of a government bailout and kept the spoils for itself. The Uber and Lyft drivers leading protests for the fair wages and safer working conditions that their Silicon Valley overlords will do anything to avoid paying for. The fast food workers of #Fightfor15 calling for basic dignity, a $15 minimum wage, and a union, who have forced the national conversation (and the current crop of presidential hopefuls) to catch up to their demands.

These and so very many other players are the driving force behind our current moment of widespread labor unrest, one that has seen almost half a million workers hit the bricks in pursuit of a better deal since 2018. The year’s not over yet, and it’s likely that those numbers will shoot even higher before 2020. While a bona fide general strike may still be a revolutionary’s daydream (for now . . . ), one thing is certain: direct action gets the goods. More and more regular working people, union and otherwise, have realized that the only way to win anything resembling equity—let alone liberation—is through militant collective action, and they’ve shown that they are prepared to take that battle to the bargaining table, to the picket lines, and to the streets. The spirit of 1919 lives on a century later, even if it looks a little different.

The trouble now is that there are so many campaigns, actions, and contract fights happening at any given moment that it can be difficult to keep up—even when it’s your job to do so. I was recently commiserating over this very quandary with another labor reporter (one of the small but dedicated group of journalists covering this beat), lamenting the fact that we can’t cover every story because of the dwindling number of publications to pitch, the bane of editorial indifference, and our own occasional need to sleep. Every strike or protest determines the well-being and livelihood of dozens if not hundreds of workers, but a cruel fact of our media ecosystem is that some strikes reap hundreds of headlines, while others languish in near-silence. Contrast the amount of (well-deserved!) press that the GM strike received with the coverage of the 1,800 Spectrum cable company workers of IBEW Local 3 who have been out on strike for over two and a half years. If a worker on the picket line cries out for justice and nobody hears it, what does that say about our movement? It must be emphasized: every strike matters, and every good contract won is a victory for workers everywhere.

It’s true that the amount of labor reporting at various publications has rapidly increased over the past few years, due in no small part to digital media’s post-2015 organizing wave led by the Writers Guild of America, East and the NewsGuild (as well as endless bloodletting in the form of recurring mass layoffs). The quickest way to change someone’s opinion on unions is to drop them into a bargaining session with the boss to see exactly how the sausage is made; much like Soylent Green, the main ingredient is people. The fledgling organizing efforts in tech and ongoing student worker organizing campaigns at ivory towers like Harvard (whose grad student union just held a 90 percent pro-strike authorization vote!) have also attracted interest from a mainstream media who’d long ago written off the working class as a bunch of bigoted roughnecks in hard hats. Of course, movement publications like Labor Notes, The Nation, and In These Times have been chronicling these stories, big and small, for decades, and upstart newsletter Strikewave has done an admirable job following in their footsteps. No one can cover everything happening in this chaotic capitalist dystopia, but it’s heartening that so many of us are trying. It is my intent with this monthly missive to shed light on those labor stories that may have gotten lost in the shuffle or taken place too far outside East Coast centers of power to have warranted closer inspection from establishment sources.

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The St Petersburg vegans cooking up a revolution

dim, 11/10/2019 - 04:46

via BBC

By Ashitha Nagesh

As Russia enters its 20th year under the authoritarian leadership of Vladimir Putin, St Petersburg’s vegan anarchist community thrives. Hated by the far right and out of tune with Russia’s prevailing nationalist mood, the activists have created a version of what their ideal society would look like – and they’re promoting this vision with delicious food. Could they be changing attitudes among other young Russians?

Once a month, the eight people who work at the Horizontal takeaway hold a meeting in which they air any grievances, discuss updates to the menu, and vote on any changes they may want to make. The front of their restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall that serves vegan burgers, hot dogs and nuggets to go, is covered with stickers promoting anti-fascism, anarchism, and other vegan outlets in the city. Their meal deal offer, something commonly called a “business lunch” in Russia, is called “the anti-business lunch”.

Lately, the group has been discussing whether or not to change location – the complex they’re currently based in holds shows featuring captive animals, which they believe are cruel and exploitative.

Although some of them have been working there for longer than others, all eight members of the team have an equal say within the business. There are no managers and no hierarchies. Varya, 26, has been at the restaurant the longest.

“That’s why we’re called Horizontal – because every person who joins our restaurant is on the same level, and has the same rights and an equal position with all of the others,” she says. The restaurant adheres to the principles of anti-racism, feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, the abolition of borders, and animal liberation. In a country where people who are gender non-confirming or trans are shunned, and even sometimes attacked, Horizontal is a space where anyone’s preferred pronouns will be respected.

The group is planning to compose a manifesto of sorts stating what its values are, to make sure any new starters are on the same page. “For us, it’s important that people who join us hold similar ideology, that they share our views, and that they understand what ‘veganism’ really means to us,” Varya says.

Horizontal is one of about a dozen similar spaces across St Petersburg, promoting vegan anarchism – “veganarchism” – by cooking up delicious vegan food.

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Deconstructed Special: The Noam Chomsky Interview

dim, 11/10/2019 - 04:42

via the Intercept

Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan.

This week who better to speak with about a combination of domestic and international crises, from violence in Syria to the Democratic presidential race in the U.S., than the legendary writer, activist, and political theorist, Noam Chomsky. Wanna know what he makes of impeachment too?

NC: I mean, Trump is impeachable 100 times over. He’s a major crook. Is it politically wise? I frankly doubt it.

MH: Today, in a special episode of Deconstructed, I speak to the one, the only, Noam Chomsky.

My guest today has been a scathing critic of U.S. presidents, and especially U.S. foreign policy, for more than 50 years. He rose to prominence as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam war and was even included on Richard Nixon’s Enemies List. An academic, activist and best-selling author, he’s been described as “the founding father of linguistic philosophy,” but he’s best known today as the intellectual hero to anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, socialists and anarchists.

I’m talking of course about Noam Chomsky, who is often referred to as one of the 10 most quoted sources in the humanities, along with Shakespeare and the Bible, and yet you rarely if ever, see him quoted, published or invited onto the mainstream media, whether it’s the New York Times op-ed page or CNN primetime.

Chomsky, the arch-anti-interventionist surprised a lot of people last year on my colleague Jeremy Scahill’s Intercepted podcast, when he said that the U.S. should maintain a troop presence in Syria in order to deter Turkish aggression against the Kurds. Does he still feel that way today, in the wake of President Trump’s controversial withdrawal of U.S. troops? And what’s his view on impeaching Trump and on the presidential prospects of his old friend Senator Bernie Sanders?

Recently — and I should add shortly before Donald Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi — Noam Chomsky joined me for an interview from his new academic base at the University of Arizona, where, aged 90, he’s now laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics and chair of an environment and social justice program.

[Music interlude.]

MH: Professor Chomsky, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

Noam Chomsky: Very pleased to be with you.

MH: In recent weeks, we’ve seen some pretty gruesome images coming out of northeastern Syria, rebel groups backed by Turkey on the offensive killing and mutilating, not just Kurdish fighters from the SDF, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, but women and children too.

Announcer [translated from Arabic]: This house you see here, there were children playing. A motor fell and killed a boy. The girl she lost her leg.

MH: Am I right in saying that you didn’t support President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the front lines in Syria?

NC: That’s correct. For a long time, I’ve been trying to organize support for opposition to the withdrawal.

MH: And why is that?

NC: Because the, from the left at least, the call for withdrawal was based on anti-imperialist principles. But principles have to be understood in connection with the human reality of the existing circumstances. A small, U.S. contingent with the sole mission of deterring a planned Turkish invasion, which was obvious, is not imperialism. It’s protecting the Kurds from an expansion of the atrocities and massacres that Erdogan has been carrying out both within Turkey itself and in the areas of Syria that he’s already conquered.

MH: And a lot of people listening especially on the left might be surprised to hear you say this. They might say Noam Chomsky, we associate him with anti-interventionism, with opposition to U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. military interventions abroad. Why are the Kurds the exception to that, you know, life-long, career-long opposition to U.S. military interventions, especially in the Middle East?

NC: If you take a look at what’s happening, it’s not intervention. Syria was already invaded by Turkey. The troops that are there were essentially doing nothing except deterring an expansion of a further invasion. You have to not deal with slogans as if it’s a religious catechism. You have to ask how they apply in particular to complex human circumstances.

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Eyewitnesses to the Rojava revolution: women empowerment

ven, 11/08/2019 - 04:25

via Roar magazine

by Debbie Bookchin, Emre Şahin, Marina Sitrin

What has been taking place in Rojava is easily one of the most inspiring and exciting experiments in autonomous self-government to ever exist. It is also one of the most massive, and gender inclusive, often compared to the Spanish Revolution of 1936, as well as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. And yet, people outside the region know little about the different dimensions of the revolution taking place in Rojava. And now, this revolutionary territory is under military and political attack — its very existence at risk.

What follows is the first of a three part interview series with people who have had ongoing relationship to Rojava, and who have spent time in the revolutionary territory. The first two parts of the series are with Debbie Bookchin and Emre Şahin. Debbie, a journalist, author, public speaker and organizer is Murray Bookchin’s daughter and spent a part of the spring of 2019 in Rojava. Emre, a Kurdish PhD student and translator, spent most of the summer of 2019, traveling to 14 different towns and cities in Rojava, conducting research and in-depth interviews.

The third part is an interview with Carne Ross, Executive Director of Independent Diplomat and author. Carne left his career as a British diplomat, having served in numerous embassies and was Head of the Middle East section and Deputy Head of Political Section at the UK Mission to the United Nations. Carne made the film, Accidental Anarchist, based on his time in Rojava.

What was your overall impression? What is the first thing you would want to share about the process in Rojava?

Debbie: My overall impression is that we are looking at people who are profoundly transforming social relations in every aspect of life; the economy, politics and the environment. There is a commitment to changing the way society is organized completely so that every person, in every sphere of life, feels that they have control, has a say, are empowered and get to participate in the decisions that affect everyday life.

There was a long period of preparation for this. This is interesting, because a lot of people think the Rojava revolution happened overnight, but it didn’t at all. This society did not all of a sudden pop up to say, “Oh here is an idea let’s try this.” Rather, it took many years, starting already under the repression of the Assad regime. They were reading about this and watching the model grow, little by little, across the border in the southeast of Turkey where the towns were starting to implement what we call this democratic confederalist philosophy.

Kurds were being elected as mayors in towns across southeastern Turkey, and these mayors were deliberately empowering people based on their reading of various ideological texts. I know they were reading the work of my father, Murray Bookchin, since a lot of it is in Turkish, and because Öcalan recommended it. This was a very carefully thought-out process that required deep commitment to education, study groups and underground discussions about what kind of society is really the most empowering for people in their everyday lives.

Emre: What I found was that although communal and anti-capitalist, economic organizing is at its infancy in Rojava, there are more than 200 cooperatives and thousands of different communes and collectives that operate across the region. Most common examples are village communes, women’s collectives and agricultural, livestock, generator, canned food, garment, bakery, furniture and car repair cooperatives.

The most remarkable aspect of Rojava’s communal economy is its ability to emerge under conditions of war and embargo. I never could have imagined that a decentralized, need-based and diverse network of cooperatives and communes could take root under such conditions where food sovereignty and even daily sustenance for millions of people is at risk.

One of the most significant features of life in Rojava is the direct and participatory forms of democracy. Were you able to observe or participate in any of the popular assemblies or other democratic forms of decision making in Rojava?

Debbie: At the core of the Rojava revolution is this idea of democratic confederalism which is based on the principle that all power flows from the bottom to the top — the complete opposite of the way things are done almost everywhere else the world, with the Zapatistas in Chiapas being an exception to that rule. The idea is that society is strongest and healthiest and people feel the best when they get the feeling that the decisions that affect their lives come from the community rather than from some elected representative who proports to know what is best for the community. That is a dramatic difference even from what we would call democratic socialism in the US. It means that instead of power flowing from the top it comes from the bottom, and that means that people becomes invested in their communities.

I saw people coming together in local assemblies, which start on the very local level — the basic unit is the neighborhood commune — and they talk about all sorts of things affecting them, ranging from things like the traffic to the needs related to electricity and internet accessibility — all things that happen on the local level, including economic development. They make decisions together, often by consensus, sometimes by voting and then they ask that their position on a particular position be represented on the next level by a delegate.

A delegate is very different from just electing somebody based on a political platform, as for example we have in the US. A delegate is accountable to the assembly or the group from which it was sent, and if they do not represent the ideas of the group then they can be recalled. This means that people really have a very direct say at every level. In each case the delegates are mandated by the community, or council in some cases, and this goes all the way up to a confederated group of delegates who meet to decide policy for an entire region. All those policies are reflected upon by the smaller councils and communes, and even though people don’t always get exactly what they want, at least they all have a say and there is discussion and debate.

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This Women-Only Village Was Built to Be a Feminist Utopia. Now It’s Under Threat.

ven, 11/08/2019 - 04:15

via Elle

By Jessica Roy

In the Kurdish region of northeast Syria, a female-only ecological commune has sprung up as a place for women displaced by the Syrian revolution and the rise of the Islamic State. The cooperative is called Jinwar—Kurdish for “Women’s Land”—and it’s home to more than 30 women, many of whom were widowed in the fight against ISIS, and their children. In Jinwar, there is no central power figure; instead, there is a democratically-elected town council, and every month a different council member acts as the town’s leader. Men are allowed to visit only during specific hours, and they’re not allowed to stay overnight. Women of different religions and ethnicities live together in mud brick homes they built themselves, eat food they grow themselves, and teach each other English. There is a bakery and a store, where the women can sell handicrafts they make to people from other villages.

Together the women of Jinwar are working to build a life that is free of the constraints of patriarchy and capitalism. When 33-year-old Amira Muhammad’s husband, a soldier in the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, died fighting ISIS in 2017, she was left without an income or a place to live. Eventually she made her way to Jinwar, where she told The Independent last year, “Here they provide a lot of benefits like education for the kids, their living expenses. It is a nice village, most importantly, my kids like it.”

Having survived the rule of violent jihadists, the residents of Jinwar are attempting to build their own female utopia. It’s a wild feminist experiment in democratic communal living that’s happening in one of the most socially conservative regions in the world, and for nearly two years it seemed like it might actually work. But with Turkey’s ongoing military offensive against the Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey considers terrorists, the village has been under constant threat, and on Monday it was temporarily evacuated following heavy shelling.

Women have played a major role in resisting the spread of ISIS and working to create a democratic society in the wake of the Syrian uprising, which left the Kurdish region of Rojava with de facto autonomy. In July 2012, a handful of women founded Yekîtiya Star (now called Kongreya Star), an umbrella organization for Rojava’s many feminist collectives that strove to ensure the revolution embraced feminist principles. Yekîtiya Star worked with other groups to form democratically-run communes, provide self-defense training, and establish schools and a communal economic system. The People’s Protection Units, a portion of the largely Kurdish and Arab-led Syrian Democratic Forces that played a major role in driving out ISIS, is famously mixed-gender and boasts all-female brigades called the Women’s Protection Units. In 2017, five years after the democratic revolution, Kongreya Star decided to build Jinwar as a safe place for women seeking an egalitarian and self-sufficient way of life.

Now, that dream of a feminist utopia could come to an end. Trump’s support of the Turkish military offensive—which began in earnest last month—threatens not just Jinwar, but the entire autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, which has spent more than seven years attempting to build a free society. It is a blatant betrayal of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which the U.S. employed in the fight against ISIS, and will exacerbate an already enormous humanitarian crisis that has left millions displaced. It’s also a disaster for global security, as SDF troops are holding several thousand ISIS militants in makeshift jails roiling with extremism and violence. At least 750 “ISIS affiliates” have already escaped due to Turkish shelling.

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The Revolution Isn’t Being Televised

ven, 11/08/2019 - 03:51

via Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

by Alan MacLeod

It’s all kicking off everywhere in 2019. Haitians are revolting against a corrupt political system and their President Jovenel Moïse, who many see as a kleptocratic US puppet. In Ecuador, huge public manifestations managed to force President Lenín Moreno to backtrack on his IMF-backed neoliberal package that would have sharply cut government spending and increased transport prices (FAIR.org10/23/19).

Meanwhile, popular Chilean frustration at the conservative Piñera administration boiled over into massive protests that were immediately met with force. “We are at war,” announced President Sebastián Piñera, echoing the infamous catchphrase of former fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet. Piñera claimed that those responsible for violently resisting him were “going to pay for their deeds” as he ordered tanks through Santiago. (See FAIR.org10/23/19.)

Huge, ongoing anti-government demonstrations are also engulfing LebanonCatalonia and the United Kingdom.

Yet the actions that have by far received the most attention in corporate media are those in Hong Kong, where demonstrations erupted in response to a proposed extradition agreement with the Chinese central government that opponents felt would undermine civil liberties and Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status. A search for “Hong Kong protests” on October 25, 2019, elicits 282 responses in the last month in the New York Times, for example, compared to 20 for “Chile protests,” 43 for Ecuador and 16 for Haiti. The unequal coverage is even more pronounced on Fox News, where there were 70 results for Hong Kong over the same period and four, two and three for ChileEcuador and Haiti, respectively.

This disparity cannot be explained due to the protests’ size or significance, the number of casualties or the response from the authorities. Eighteen people have died during the ongoing protests in Haiti, 19 (and rising) in Chile, while in Ecuador, protesters themselves captured over 50 soldiers who had been sent in as Moreno effectively declared martial law. In contrast, no one has been killed in Hong Kong, nor has the army been called in, with Beijing expressing full confidence in local authorities to handle proceedings. The Chilean government announced it had arrested over 5,400 people in only a week of protests, a figure more than double the number arrested in months of Hong Kong demonstrations (Bloomberg10/4/19). Furthermore, social media have been awash with images and videos of the suppression of the protests worldwide.

One way of understanding why the media is fixated on Hong Kong and less interested in the others is to look at who is protesting, and why.

Worthy and Unworthy Victims 

Over 30 years ago, in their book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky developed their theory of worthy vs. unworthy victims to explain why corporate media cover certain stories and why others are dropped. They compared the media coverage of a single murdered priest in an enemy state (Communist Poland) to that of over 100 religious martyrs, including some US citizens, murdered in Central American client states over a period of two decades. They found that not only did the New York TimesTimeNewsweek and CBS News dedicate more coverage to the single priest’s assassination, the tone of coverage was markedly different: In covering the killing of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, media expressed indignation, demanding justice and condemning the barbarism of Communism. The killings of religious figures in Central America by pro-US government groups, on the other hand, were reported in a matter-of-fact manner, with little rhetorical outrage.

In other words, when official enemies can be presented as evil and allies as sympathetic victims, corporate media will be very interested in a story. In contrast, they will show far less enthusiasm for a story when the “wrong” people are the villains or the victims.

On Hong Kong, the New York Times published three editorials (6/10/198/14/1910/1/19), each lauding the “democracy-minded people” fighting to limit “the repressive rule of the Chinese Communists,” condemning the Communist response as evidence of the backward, “brutal paternalism of that system,” in which China “equates greatness with power and dissent with treachery.” Hong Kong, on the other hand, thanks to the blessing of being a former British colony, had acquired “a Western political culture of democracy, human rights, free speech and independent thought.” (The Times has not elected to publish any editorials on the other protests.)

The Times also ridiculed the idea that “foreign forces” (i.e., the US government) could be influencing the protests, calling it a “shopworn canard” used by the Communist government. Yet the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has officially poured over $22 million into “identifying new avenues for democracy and political reform in Hong Kong” or China since 2014. The Times editorials did not mention this funding as possibly complicating their dismissal of foreign involvement in the Hong Kong protests as a “canard.”

However, media (e.g., Voice of America10/11/19Miami Herald10/9/19Reuters10/9/19) are taking seriously the accusation that the Ecuadorian protests are, in fact, masterminded abroad, by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, with the Guardian (10/8/19) going so far to describe the Ecuadorians not as “democracy-minded people,” but “rioters”—a label not appearing in connection with Hong Kong, except as an accusation by Chinese officials (e.g., Time10/2/19CNN10/22/19), are almost universally condemned in coverage as part of a “repressive” (e.g., Vox8/29/19Guardian10/19/19) “dictatorship” (New York Times8/29/19).

In the cases of the less-covered protests, the “wrong” people are protesting and the “wrong” governments are doing the repressing. As the Washington Post (10/14/19) noted on Haiti,

One factor keeping Moïse in power is support from the United States. US officials have been limited in their public comments about the protests.

On Ecuador, the State Department has been more forthcoming, issuing a full endorsement of Moreno’s neoliberal austerity package:

The United States supports President Moreno and the Government of Ecuador’s efforts to institutionalize democratic practices and implement needed economic reforms…. We will continue to work in partnership with President Moreno in support of democracy, prosperity, and security.

In other words, don’t expect any angry editorials denouncing US client states like Haiti or Ecuador, or arguing that the Chilean government’s repression of its protest movement shows the moral bankruptcy of capitalism. Indeed, corporate media (e.g., Guardian10/8/19CNN10/8/19USA Today10/10/19) emphasized the violence of the Ecuadorian protestors while downplaying Hong Kong’s—the New York Times (6/30/19) even inventing the phrase “aggressive nonviolence” to describe the Hong Kong protesters’ actions, so eager was it to frame the demonstrations against China as unquestionably laudable.

Which protest movements interest corporate media has little to do with their righteousness or popularity, and much more to do with whom they are protesting against. If you’re fighting against corporate power or corruption in a US-client state, don’t expect many TV cameras to show up; that revolution is rarely televised.

Alan MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. He is author of “Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting.” His latest book, Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, was published by Routledge in May 2019. Follow him on Twitter: @AlanRMacLeod

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Banks Not Tanks: How to Take Over a Government 2.0

ven, 11/08/2019 - 03:28

via Institute for Anarchist Studies

by George Katsiaficas

A Review of Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), by George Katsiaficas 

On July 5, 2015, with their government bankrupt and every bank closed, the people of Greece voted overwhelmingly to reject their creditors’ demands. Despite capital controls and threats of impoverishment turning into reality, the country wanted to exit from the tyranny of austerity and toil. While it took seven years, Greece’s fall from grace began with the 2008 US financial crisis, when American banks teetered on the edge of bankruptcy and called in European loans. Themselves overextended and short of liquidity, German and French bankers demanded loan payoffs from Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Beginning in 2010, three successive Greek governments were compelled to borrow increasingly enormous sums of money to pay their European creditors, and with “help” from the International Monetary Fund, a small but proud country had control over its economy wrested away by a foreign power—the troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF.

The 2015 referendum was Greek people’s last attempt to regain control over their destiny. From the beginning, popular resistance to austerity was fierce. The country’s GDP had more than doubled in seven years after 2001, when it joined the Eurozone. As is often been the case, when rising expectations are crushed, movements emerge with unexpected speed and depth. Beginning in 2008, street protests and general strikes steadily built in numbers and militance. In 2010, when PASOK leader George Papandreou signed the first bailout of €110 billion, three bank employees were killed before order was restored. The following year, Syntagma Square in the center of Athens was occupied for more than six weeks. Public assemblies continually called for politicians to be removed from office and for the troika to leave Greece. Dozens of cities and islands experienced popular uprisings before police brutally cleared the squares. The next year, fighting grew even more intense. On February 12, 2012, many parts of downtown Athens were in flames as protesters demanded an end to austerity. Nine days later, the second bailout of €246 billion was signed by the conservative Samaras government.

Amid nationwide jubilation, Syriza (as the Alliance of the Radical Left was known) came to power on January 25, 2015 with Varoufakis as its first finance minister. Syriza had promised voters to renegotiate and cut the country’s debt, nationalize banks, restore the minimum wage and labor protections, and reconnect electrical service to thousands of people who had been taken off grid for failure to pay. Days after Syriza came to power, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi banned Greek banks from purchasing their own government’s T-bills, thereby assuring that the Greece would go bankrupt. From the first day of Syriza’s ascendancy, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised Varoufakis that if banks were forced to closed, Syriza would implement a plan to keep the economy going through a parallel payment system using digital smart cards and rotating tax credits for businesses and consumers. Foreign debt would get an immediate haircut, at least temporarily, and the Central Bank of Greece would be returned to parliamentary control.

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All Organizing Is Magic

dim, 10/27/2019 - 04:28

via Verso

by Sarah Jaffe

Witches are troublemakers.

Specifically, witches cause trouble for capitalism. When Silvia Federici wrote Caliban and the Witch, it wasn’t because witches were having a “moment” but to bring us a history braided into social movements around the world. Witches, she wrote, were “the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeah woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” And the witch-hunts of a world coming under the domination of capitalism were part of the process of dispossession and accumulation, a process that Federici noted “was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as race and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.”

While the actual practice of witchcraft isn’t the focus of Federici’s book, it is these days the focus of an increasing number of books, Instagram accounts, magazine articles, profiles, and podcasts. More to the point, today’s left movements are home to many who are reclaiming witchcraft, magic, and indigenous spiritual practices that capitalist imperialism attempted to stamp out. The collective practices of a new generation of young people—mainly women, queer-identifying people, and people of color—may or may not have much in common with the practices of people tortured and killed for witchcraft. That’s because, as Federici noted, the witch-hunts “destroyed a universe of practices, beliefs, and social subjects whose existence was incompatible with the capitalist work discipline, thus redefining the main elements of social reproduction.”

Malaya Davis is one of those people. We met when she was organizing with the Ohio Students Association after John Crawford III had been killed in an Ohio Walmart by the local police. I didn’t know at the time that she had just gotten her first tarot deck; she told me, “It was all around the same time that I was exploring my personal spiritual power, and exploring my personal political power.” Her spiritual practice was very personal at the time, she said, while her political work was incredibly public. The realization that the two were intimately connected came later: “I realized ‘we can’t actually get the freedom that we want if we aren’t free within ourselves.’ That looks like a lot of intentional decolonization, including our spiritual practices, including our practice to heal the trauma that’s a result of the systems that we’re actively dismantling.”

Davis practices Ifa, a faith with West African roots, one that felt familiar to her as she began to learn about it. She had been raised Christian, and for a while she had been a “follow the rules kind of girl.” But as she moved out into the world, beginning her organizing work, she decided to follow her own spirit, to do more research and find people who could teach her. “Following the rules was not getting me to a lot of places that I was told I would get,” she said. What she was learning was a way to find her own power—much as she was finding her political power with OSA. As she told me, “It’s not like, you do these things then by the grace of God something will happen, it’s like by the grace of God and your own personal power, things will happen.”

It was that kind of belief that the witch-hunts aimed to crush, because it encouraged rebellion against the emerging capitalist labor process. Belief in magic had to be eradicated, Federici wrote, because magic was a way to get something you wanted without working for it, “a refusal of work in action.” A belief in magic was a belief in an “anarchic, molecular conception of the diffusion of power in the world,” a conception fundamentally at odds with the centralized hierarchical power structure of the boss. Forcing people to submit to wage labor and the discipline of the time-clock first required the discipline of the stake. Though Davis noted that the women punished as witches did work, “It wasn’t work that benefits capitalism. It was work that benefited the community,” she said. “How do we extract the labor from witchcraft? How do we exploit the labor? We can’t, so therefore it’s demonic.”

The emerging proletariat had to be trained to defer gratification; to stifle desire; to value accumulation over expenditure. A belief in magic, instead, centered desires—and their fulfillment—communal and personal, for care and sustenance and protection. It is no surprise, then, that magic is in vogue again just as the old bargains around work are breaking down. For young college graduates like Davis, taught to follow the rules, the promise of a good job has disappeared into the reality of mountains of debt. Work is no longer working. The scrim of freedom and choice dropped over capitalism’s coercion is falling away, and people are reaching for new—and old—ways to make things happen.

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The post All Organizing Is Magic appeared first on Infoshop News.

Why Don’t We All Rise Up?

dim, 10/27/2019 - 04:23

via Upping the Anti

by Élise Thorburn

Thinking About Resistance with Nangwaya and Truscello

Why aren’t people outraged?” is not a question I often ask myself—it seems that outrage is everywhere, overheard in conversations and witnessed in public life. On the other hand, “Where is the collective expression of this outrage? Where is the collective struggle?” are questions that perpetually niggle at my mind. Living on the edges of the continent, in an isolated rocky province with a near unbroken legacy of poverty, a horrifying colonial history and present, and currently in the midst of yet another economic crisis, I often ask where the collective struggle is to fight the existing state of affairs? In times such as these, as dire as they often seem, concerted collective action is notable here for its absence. Why is there no unrest? Why are “the poor” (the vast majority of the province’s population) not “rising up?” And, even if they are, as individuals, what can—and must—organizers do to translate general discontent and anger into sustained collective action? As an often lonely organizer on these shores, I picked up Ajamu Nangwaya and Michael Truscello’s edited collection, Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? I wanted to see if and how I could apply its myriad lessons to my own struggle in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)—an isolated province with a small population bearing little politically in common with economic centres like Toronto or Vancouver.

The book’s divisions into two distinct sections—The Global North and The Global South—were the first surprise, in that several of the stories told in the category of the Global South addressed questions and concerns of organizing that seemed more relevant to my experience of organizing on the margins of the Canadian state. But the book, and its 17 chapters plus foreword and introduction, were full of such surprises of the small yet cataclysmic kind. Covering Indigenous struggle, race and policing, Black labour, the alt-right, and anti-poverty movements (in the North section) and anti-poverty, environmental, policing, and healing struggles throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Kenya, Sudan, and South Africa (in the South section), the book is wide ranging and offers new stories if not always new lessons for just about anyone.

The title of Nangwaya and Truscello’s collection comes from a 2015 New York Times op-ed of the same name by Thomas Edsall, a journalist and Columbia University professor. While several of Edsall’s assertions are not wrong—neoliberalism has brought greater levels of individualism, household incomes for working class people have bottomed out while wealthy households’ incomes have skyrocketed—it is the fundamental premise of the assertion, that the poor are not in fact engaged continually in projects of resistance and uprising, that the editors of this collection dispute. Nangwaya and Truscello argue that the framing of Edsall’s question itself asserts a liberal narrative that is fundamentally incorrect and incomplete. And this argument is supported by foreword contributor Affiong Limene Affiong, who asks, “Is it true that the poor do not rise up? Or do we simply not recognise their resistance and rebellions?” (1). Alex Khasnabish addresses this question in his chapter on the radical imagination. He reminds us that asking why they don’t rise up is part of an “endless deferral of responsibility on the part of the socially privileged speaker” (120) and does not implicate oneself in the process of collective liberation. Instead, Khasnabish and several other authors insist we must work to collectively understand what is possible through struggle and what propels and animates movements of resistance. In order to bring these rebellions into recognizable light, Nangwaya and Truscello offer a set of global perspectives “on the ways in which the poor are defined, the forms in which they resist, and the obstacles to mass insurrection” (22). In the end, the collected chapters provide evidence that in fact we do rise up, we have risen up, and we will again rise up, and in so doing charts our collective missteps so that we can, as Samuel Beckett urged, fail again; fail better.

Not wanting to endlessly defer responsibility for resistance, reading this collection made me reflect upon my own place in the world and in struggle. I currently live in NL, a province recently revealed to have the highest levels of income inequality in Atlantic Canada. It is a place geographically removed from the rest of Canada and that physical distance reflects itself in a removed mindset: its rugged landscape populated by those proud of their ability to withstand isolation, barrenness, and an often unrelenting wind. It is also far removed historically and culturally from urban centres in the rest of Canada, only joining the country 69 years ago. This distance makes it a doubly difficult place to organize as a radical, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, settler interested in decolonization. Those who organise in NL perpetually lament the inability to bring more people together due to a lack of familiarity with the tactics of social movements and a lack of history of resistance (outside of the fishery), but also because of the distance felt from centres of political resistance, and the difficulty in connecting what is happening elsewhere to what is (or isn’t!) happening here.

NL is a place with histories of struggle. However, these struggles were often centred on individual or community-wide ways to cope, subsist, and survive rather than giving voice to collective expressions of outrage. Isolated into small coastal communities and at the mercy of merchants for generations, 19th century fishery workers engaged in spontaneous acts of rebellion but little organized resistance. Collective organizing came in the seal fishery in the 19th and 20th centuries—then-socialist Joey Smallwood famously walked the length of the island along the railway tracks organizing rail workers in the 1920s. Certainly organized collective struggle has existed in NL, but it also has a long history of bitter betrayal—Smallwood’s turn on unions in the 1960s, for example—and genocide—the Beothuk people, upon whose land the colony squats, were systematically murdered over the course of colonial settlement. Newfoundland and, even more so, Labrador are peripheral zones of extraction whose Indigenious and settler populations have been contained or put to use in the concentration of wealth central to processes of colonization and capitalist expansion. Organizing for resistance, rebellion, or even revolution at the edge of empire—in the peripheral zones of extraction—has long been a challenge. It is even more so when you live on a remote island with few experienced organiziners or long lineages of radical movements and ideas to draw from. From this chilly rock, amidst so much inequality, so much blatant thievery, racism, and resource extraction it may be easy to sense people’s outrage, but difficult to understand why there isn’t more unrest, more revolt, more “rising up.” Why here—and of course, elsewhere—is capitalism viewed as the only permissible game in town?

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The “Ceasefire” Is a Deadly Fraud: A Message from a Comrade in Rojava

mer, 10/23/2019 - 03:52

via Crimethinc

The supposed ceasefire announced by US Vice President Mike Pence is a deadly fraud. Its only purpose is to enable the Trump administration to wash its hands of the bloodshed that the Turkish military is perpetrating while shifting the discourse to blame the victims for continuing to resist. If anything, this fake ceasefire is a greater betrayal than Donald Trump’s original decision to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the green light to invade Rojava and carry out ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish people there in the same way he has in Turkey.

The terms of the agreement between Turkey and the US follow this text as an appendix.

Activists blocking the Bay Bridge in San Francisco on Saturday, October 19 in solidarity with the people of Rojava. The banner refers to the saying that the Kurds have “no friends but the mountains.”

By declaring surrender unilaterally on behalf of the people who have been defending themselves against Turkey’s invasion, Trump and Erdoğan are trying to force them to give up the territory that Turkey hasn’t yet been able to occupy by force. The Islamic State (ISIS) and the other jihadi groups that have taken advantage of the Turkish invasion to resume activity won’t respect the ceasefire in any case. The US has pulled its forces out of the area and has no intention of monitoring Turkish aggression, let alone discouraging it. The fact that Trump has used the supposed ceasefire as an excuse to suspend the economic sanctions that other members of the US government demanded he impose on Turkey confirms this clearly enough.

In fact, Turkey has explicitly denied that this represents a truce and the Turkish military and its Syrian mercenary proxies are already violating the ceasefire with impunity. In addition to reports that have reached us direct from the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), various corporate media sources have reported that the ceasefire has not stopped Turkish forces from continuing to fire on parts of Syria held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF commander in Serêkaniyê reported Friday that more than 40 of their positions had been attacked since the declaration of the so-called ceasefire.

So the ceasefire is a lie.

https://twitter.com/KurdsCampaign/status/1185585537647861760

We fear that as soon as the designated time period expires, Turkey will escalate its attacks on civilians and resistance fighters in the so-called “safe zone.” To the dictionary of Orwellian doublespeak in Syria, alongside “Peace Spring” and “ceasefire,” we can add “safe zone” as a word for killing fields. It’s hard to imagine anything more brazen than killing thousands of people, displacing hundreds of thousands, and enabling jihadis to resume their activity throughout the region and justifying all this on the grounds that it is necessary to defend Turkey from “terrorism.”

As we emphasized last week,

A free Rojava doesn’t threaten the Turkish people; it threatens Erdoğan’s regime and the oppression that Kurdish people face in Turkey. This is an ethno-nationalist war, pure and simple.

Trump is determined to abet all this at any cost in corpses. A Turkish official told CNN, verbatim, the “military operation paid off.” A US government official, speaking more frankly than usual, admitted:

“This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population… This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted. I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because the Kurds have put up more of a resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result. If we don’t impose sanctions then Turkey wins big time.”

Rojava solidarity demonstration in San Francisco—Saturday, October 19.

Russia and Assad also want the Syrian Democratic Forces of Rojava to withdraw from the area along the border in order to extend their control into the region. After bombing hospitals and gassing civilians, this imperialist international power and the local tyrant it props up are thrilled to pretend to be peacemakers and to defend “the territorial integrity of Syria.” From the perspective of Russian imperialism, this entire tragedy is simply an opportunity to put all of Syria back under the authority of Assad, a petty despot that tens of thousands have already given their lives in hopes of toppling.

https://twitter.com/raveenaujmaya/status/1185668235888332800

We received the following message from an anarchist in the middle of the war zone in Rojava. It offers a piercing insight into the so-called ceasefire and the consequences this now double betrayal by the United States will have for the embattled fighters and civilians in Rojava.

18th of October, 13:51 local time. Last night, we heard of the breaking news about the vice president of the US meeting with Turkey and deciding that over northeastern Syria there would be a so-called “ceasefire,” a winning agreement that’s a “great day for civilization,” in Trump’s own words.

To me, it reminds me more of what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1938: the Munich Agreement, when Adolph Hitler from Nazi Germany, Benito Mussolini from Fascist Italy, Neville Chamberlain from Great Britain, and Eduoard Daladier from France met over the table in Munich in 1938 and agreed to give Germany the Sudetenland, a 30- to 50-kilometer zone around the border of what used to be Czechoslovakia. According to the agreement, some small parts of territory went to Poland; Slovakia was cut off and became its own fascist republic run by Jozef Tiso; and the rest of what was left of Czechoslovakia, Bohemian Moravia, would be occupied by Germany as something like a protectorate, but not formally annexed as a part of Germany.

What I see happening here is you have Erdogan as Hitler, you’ve got Trump as, say, Chamberlain—or perhaps more like Mussolini, actually, the high capitalist/clear fascist asshole running his country. The Bashar al-Assad regime is kind of like a stronger Slovakia, leading the fascist section of what will form another part of the “secured” Syria; and the Sudetenland is like what Turkey is claiming for their “safe zone.” But instead of calling it the Munich Pact, they call it a ceasefire. It means that the local people, unless they are jihadist Arabs or Turks, will be moved out or “cleansed.” Or, if not, they will live under extremely terrible conditions and many of them will be killed. There will be atrocities, as happened in Afrin and in many places before.

That is what’s going to happen, what this glorious ceasefire supposedly “saving civilization” is about. It legitimizes the Turkish invasion from NATO. Basically, the proposal we rejected a week ago, and what we are fighting for and people are dying on a massive scale to defend, is now being given to Turkey by the US. That means that we can either accept this and lose, or we can keep fighting, but now the fight will now be even harder. It was already nearly impossible in my eyes; but it was a fight for dignity, for the resistance, for the future generations, if not for winning. You know, as they are always saying, “This is for the spirit of struggle, not for the spirit of victory.” And this might be an exact example of this sentence in practice on a big scale.

So we, the people and the fighters here, can either give it to them or we can fight—but this time, not only against Turkey and the jihadists, but also against the whole world, because they’ve made this agreement. The problem—and this is why I’m referring to Munich in 1938—is that in that agreement, no one asked Czechoslovakia what they thought about it; no one brought them to the table. Not that I agree with representation in the first place, but even for the majority of people who recognize democracy as the legitimate representative order or system—even the democratic representatives of Czechoslovakia weren’t brought to the table in Munich, just as they weren’t brought to Ankara yesterday. No one from the Kurds or the Syrians, Armenians, Assyrians, or other people living here was consulted at all.

[Interruption.] They brought another dead body from the front. [Shouts in the background.] This one has clearly been hit by an airstrike… OK, it was a comrade. This was not the first one today, nor the second.

So, coming back to an analysis of the situation: I see a very direct connection to these events in history, with the people who are the most affected and actually living in these areas having no voice and not even having any means of resistance in their hands. None of the means we had until now were great in the first place. To consider this so-called ceasefire as any kind of progress is really exaggerated and hypocritical.

A rally expressing solidarity with Rojava in Flensburg, Germany, outside the headquarters of Rheinmetall, which produces the tanks Turkey is using in its invasion.

All this tragedy only confirms that no government—neither the US nor Russia, neither Syria nor Turkey nor any state government that might have come to power had the Syrian revolution been successful—can be trusted to look out for the human beings who always suffer most as a consequence of politics and militarism. Autonomous social movements grounded in principles of self-determination and solidarity are the only reliable way to oppose military aggression and support struggles for liberation worldwide. We need to make our movements powerful enough to be able to leverage a real threat to governments and corporations that are complicit in invasions like the one that Turkey is carrying out. Developing international connections with social movements on the other side of the battle lines in Turkey and Russia, and everywhere else around the world from Ecuador to South Africa, is an essential part of this. This is not just a question of long-term outreach, but also of doing everything we can to carry out disruptive solidarity actions right now.

Read our call to action, including information about a host of corporations that are complicit in the invasion.

For more information on the intricacies of the situation in Rojava:

Why the Turkish Invasion Matters: Addressing the Hard Questions about Imperialism and Solidarity

The Threat to Rojava: An Anarchist in Syria Speaks on the Real Meaning of Trump’s Withdrawal

Appendix: The Text of the Agreement between Turkey and the US Regarding the Supposed “Ceasefire”

17.10.19-19.38

October 17, 2019

JOINT TURKISH-US STATEMENT ON NORTHEAST SYRIA

  1. The US and Turkey reaffirm their relationship as fellow member of NATO. The US understands Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border.

2.Turkey and the US agree that the conditions on the ground, northeast Syria in particular, necessitate closer coordination on the basis of common interests.

  1. Turkey and the US remain committed to protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats with the solid understanding of “one for all and all for one”.
  2. The two countries reiterate their pledge to uphold human life, human rights, and the protection of religious ethnic communities.
  3. Turkey and the US are committed to D-ISIS/DAESH activities in northeast Syria. This will include coordination of detention facilities and internally displaced persons form formerly ISIS/DAESH-controlled areas, as appropriate.
  4. Turkey and the US agree that counter-terrorism operations must target only terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment.
  5. The Turkish side expressed its commitment to ensure safety and well-being of residents of all population centers in the safe zone controlled by the Turkish Forces (safe zone) and reiterated that maximum care will be exercised in order not to cause harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
  6. Both countries reiterate their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and UN-led political process, which aims at ending the Syrian conflict with in accordance UNSCR 2254.
  7. The sides agreed on the continued importance and functionality of a safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey, to include the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions.
  8. The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.
  9. The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to all the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal.
  10. Once Peace Spring is paused, the US agrees not to purse further imposition of sanctions under the Executive Order of October 14, 2019, Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria, and will and consult with Congress, as appropriate, to underline the progress being undertaken to achieve peace and security in Syria, in accordance with UNSCR 2254. Once Operation Peace Spring is halted as per paragraph 11 the current sanctions under the aforementioned Executive Order shall be lifted.
  11. Both parties are committed to work together to implement all the goals outlined in this Statement.

The post The “Ceasefire” Is a Deadly Fraud: A Message from a Comrade in Rojava appeared first on Infoshop News.

Change the World or Change Your Shopping List?

mer, 10/23/2019 - 03:45

via Commune

by Sergen Canoglu and Nicole Möller González

How often have we heard that the climate crisis is caused by our insatiable consumerism, our lack of environmental concern, rampant population growth, or the inherent selfishness of human nature? At the current rate of consumption, we would need 1.7 planets to sustain our way of life. So to avoid catastrophic climate change, we are counseled to eat vegan, travel less, turn off lights, drive electric cars. Some critics of consumption even believe that our buying habits are to blame for our stress and depression; they argue that we would be happier with less wealth. The solution to our climate emergency, they suggest, is individual willpower. Resisting the urge to consume would not only free us from misery by leading to a “simpler life”; it would also avert ecological disaster.

In the following points, we explain why this logic is grossly inadequate in the fight for climate justice.

1. The Problem Is Production

We are often told that the way to lessen the environmental impact of capitalist production is through ethical consumption. Products are produced only because people buy them; production, therefore, is driven by our desires. But if we really want to get to the root of the climate crisis, we have to go beyond consumption and understand the dynamics of production. This means not only asking who owns the factories and companies, but also understanding what is produced, how, and why.

Capitalism functions in such a way that production in our society must be ever expanding and competitive. The only reason to produce in capitalism is to earn a profit, which is used to accumulate more capital, which is used to earn more profit, and so on. Constant growth is the only way for a capitalist firm to out-compete other firms. Capitalist production thus depends on an ever-growing supply of natural resources and energy, usually in the form of fossil fuels. This is how environmental crises arise. It is actually quite simple: infinite growth (or accumulation) in a finite world is impossible.

In the capitalist system, production is not primarily determined by supply and demand, but by profit maximization, i.e., by maximizing production and thus consumption. The consequences of this logic can be seen in the staggering array of products that exist, many of which are discarded without ever being used. As much as 50 percent of food produced worldwide is thrown away before it even reaches our plates. Any rational or ethical constraints on production are nullified by the imperative to maximize profits.

In addition, a sizable proportion of emissions can be attributed to industries that don’t produce anything useful but instead exist solely to increase the profits of other industries. According to CarbonTrack, the advertising industry is responsible for 2 million tons of CO2 emissions in the UK alone, enough to heat 364,000 homes in the country for a year. Another example is the oil consumption of the US military, which at 100 million barrels a year is the biggest emitter worldwide. Furthermore, commodities are deliberately designed to not last very long, thus stimulating new consumption and generating further profits for corporations while the environment suffers the consequences.

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Photo:
Banjir Jakarta
Kompas/Hendra A Setyawan (HAS)
20-2-2017

The post Change the World or Change Your Shopping List? appeared first on Infoshop News.

Focus on Kurdistan

sam, 10/12/2019 - 17:10

The latest news, information and resources on Kurdistan.

Latest News ~ October 12, 2019

Recent News

2017 and earlier

Excellent Resources

News

News on Social Media

Support Groups / Solidarity

Background

The post Focus on Kurdistan appeared first on Infoshop News.

The New Age of Protest

mar, 10/08/2019 - 04:23

via CounterPunch

by John Feffer

Led by young people, climate strikers blocked traffic on two mornings at the end of last month in Washington, DC. On the first day, protestors chained themselves to a boat three blocks from the White House, and 32 activists were arrested. On the second day, activists targeted the EPA and Trump International Hotel. It was a not-so-subtle suggestion to commuters stuck in their cars on those mornings to think more favorably about public transportation or telecommuting. It was also a potent reminder, as Congress remains polarized on so many issues, that some paralysis is healthy in the nation’s capital.

The DC protests were part of a global climate strike that involved an estimated 6.6 million people. In New Zealand, 3.5 percent of the population participated. Melbourne, Berlin, and London each had rallies of 100,000 people. In Seattle, over a thousand workers walked out of Amazon headquarters, demanding that the company reduce its carbon emissions to zero.

It wasn’t just the children of the privileged in the industrialized world who were out on the streets. Protests took place in 125 countries and 1,600 cities, including 15 cities in the Philippines, throughout India, and all over Africa.

The global climate strike is just the latest mass protest this year. Demonstrations have roiled Hong Kong since the beginning of the summer. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in Moscow through the fall to protest restrictions on local elections. Thousands of Brazilians thronged major cities to condemn their president’s handling of the Amazon fires, and the same outrage prompted people to gather with placards in front of Brazilian embassies all over the world. Protests against Venezuela’s leadership that broke out on January 1 have recently dwindled even as demonstrations to remove Haiti’s president have heated up and security forces have cracked down on Iraqis protesting the corruption and inefficiency of their government.

Anti-government rallies in Serbia became some of the longest running protests in Europe this summer. Elsewhere in Europe, the yellow vests continued to target the government of Emmanuel Macron into 2019. In the UK, thousands gathered to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament in September.

Protestors marched last month in South Africa to decry rising violence against women. At the beginning of the year, the Women’s March 2019 again focused anger at Donald Trump and his administration’s record on women’s issues, while gun control supporters held “recess rallies” around the United States in August to push for stricter limits on firearms. After massive protests helped oust the previous prime minister in 2016, candlelight protests again returned to South Korea this last weekend as 800,000 people gathered to support an embattled justice minister and his reform agenda.

Analysts almost daily bemoan the erosion in democratic values that has accompanied the rise of autocratic politicians. And indeed, recourse to the streets can be a sign that people no longer believe that the ordinary mechanisms of democracy are working.

Viewed another way, however, the sheer number of protests and their geographic spread prove that 2019 was a banner year for engagement, for participation, for democracy. As protestors like to chant, this is what democracy looks like.

Ahead to the Past?

Fifty years ago, young people also declared that they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. In Warsaw in 1968, Polish students demonstrated in defense of free speech and against police brutality. It was part of a larger rebellion in the Soviet bloc, led by Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” reforms in Czechoslovakia. Students in Germany contacted their rebellious counterparts on the other side of the Iron Curtain as part of their own campus actions. In Paris, meanwhile, French students took over the streets with slogans like “Be realistic, demand the impossible.”

It was a worldwide phenomenon. Students mobilized in Mexico, Pakistan, and Japan. The first protests against the military dictatorship began in Brazil. And, of course, huge anti-Vietnam War demonstrations convulsed the United States.

Then as now, young people were upset with government repression, grievous policies of war and environmental destruction, and systemic sclerosis. They were critical of an imposed political consensus – by military juntas, communist governments, and the joint efforts of liberal and conservative politicians in the democratic world.

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The post The New Age of Protest appeared first on Infoshop News.

Google Worker Organizing News

dim, 09/22/2019 - 14:32

Workers at Google have been organizing and holding protests about issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and racism within the corporation, contracts with companies an countries engaged in human rights abuses, and climate change.

Note to Google workers: Congratulations on finding this page. Google currently doesn’t index our website at Google News, although it has done so in the past. Google has never explained this decision, despite our queries and appeals. Infoshop News is one of the oldest online news websites, online since 1995.This decision by Google not only affects us, but penalizes the independent media and the general public who is looking for news like we provide. If you can help us with this issue, please let us know.

Updated: September 22, 2019

General News

 

Sexism, Sexual Harassment, Racism and Workplace Culture ICE and Homeland Security Contracts Climate Protests Unionization Google Temps

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