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Tag: kurdistan

Secular Utopia

by Wes Enzinna

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One of the safer crossings into Syria is at a small town called Fishkhabour, in the far northwestern corner of Iraq. In a whitewashed shack on the shore of the Tigris River, an official from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government pointed out the window toward a pontoon bridge that bobbed in the cola-colored water. A year ago, 30,000 refugees fleeing an Islamic State massacre in Syria walked for 30 hours before crossing it in the opposite direction, half-starved, half-dead, terrorized. The official told me and my interpreter, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, that a few days before we arrived, an Italian volunteer was arrested by a border patrolman while trying to swim back toward Iraq. ‘‘Don’t change your mind,’’ he said, wagging a finger.

Our destination was a sliver of land in the far north of Syria: Rojava, or ‘‘land where the sun sets.’’ The regime of President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t officially recognize Rojava’s autonomous status, nor does the United Nations or NATO — it is, in this way, just as illicit as the Islamic State. But if the reports I heard from the region were to be believed, within its borders the rules of the neighboring ISIS caliphate had been inverted. In accordance with a philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan, Rojavan women had been championed as leaders, defense of the environment enshrined in law and radical direct democracy enacted in the streets.

But much of the information emerging from Rojava seemed contradictory and almost fantastical. To the Turkish government, the territory, which is now the size of Connecticut and has an estimated 4.6 million inhabitants, was nothing more than a front for a Turkish group known as the P.K.K., or Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Since its founding in 1978, the P.K.K., led by Ocalan, had been fighting for independence from Turkey, hoping to establish a homeland for the country’s 14 million Kurds. The effort had caused the deaths of 40,000 people, thousands of them civilians, and led to the imprisonment of Ocalan. The American State Department designated the P.K.K. a terrorist organization in 1997. Having failed in Turkey, officials claimed, the P.K.K. was trying to create a Kurdish homeland amid the disruption of war. ‘‘We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south,’’ President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in June. ‘‘We will continue to fight in this regard no matter what it costs.’’

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Communist Round-Up

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The Great Wheel by Phil Neel

Fuck freedom, I concluded. Fuck having to choose between a variety of identically vacuous options and identically fucked futures and then being forced on top of it to enjoy them because they were, after all, my choice. I didn’t want freedom, I didn’t want choice. I wanted the raw, impersonal logic of sheer chance. No systems, no skills, no betting high, no bluffing, no holding aces, no revolver in the back pocket, just the one wheel—red or black, the ball spinning like the dead thing that it is and landing wherever for no reason and that complete absence of reason determining whether I make or lose a hundred dollars, two hundred, a week’s pay even, the win or the loss without any work or myths about how much I earned it or how badly I invested. No self-help books. No inspirational stories and no cautionary tales. Just democracy by lot. Absolute equality in the most unequal of times.

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Defending Rojava by AM Gittlitz

The time is right to redraw the map, former US lieutenant colonel and Fox News talking head Ralph Peters argues, with a Free Kurdistan as the New Middle East’s crown. “Stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, it will be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan,” he says, continuing a century-long tradition of treating the Kurdish people as a talking point in negotiating borders, disciplining Turkey or invading Syria or Iraq. As the most effective fighting force against ISIS and the faction most likely to set up a stable secular democracy, Western hawks like Peters are once again championing the Kurdish cause, so long as it fits the daily agenda. Often equally instrumentalizing, the Western left has taken a newfound interest in the allegedly revolutionary situation in the Kurdish-majority region of Rojava in northern Syria. There, a new system of stateless governance has formed and their rhetoric against patriarchy, neo-liberalism, and the nation-state quickly lead to both enthusiasm from those who see the embattled Kobane as the new Catalonia, and scorn from those who see it breeding short-sighted and faux-revolutionary nationalism.

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Interview with Adolph L. Reed, Jr.

I think anti-racism is beyond useless as a politics. It is now an artifact of neoliberalism and has been for quite some time. Its inadequacies even for making sense of the carceral state are made clear by contrast with Marie Gottschalk’s new book, Caught, some of the key themes of which she articulates in a recent interview. As Gottschalk notes, even if all the racial disparities in criminal justice were eliminated, for example, the United States probably would still lead the world in carceralization. Anti-racism—along with anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, etc., as well as diversity as the affirmative statement of them all—is a species of a genus of social and economic justice that is utterly compatible with neoliberalism: parity in the distribution of costs and benefits among groups defined by essentialized ascriptive identities. That is what is commonly referred to as identity politics. Despite the chatter among its proponents about group celebration and recognition, the substantive ideal of identity politics is a condition in which costs and benefits and potential individual winners and losers are sorted in rough proportion to their representation in the society. A “Left” committed to this metric, in addition to identifying outrages, focuses on cleansing opportunity structures of invidious and unjust discrimination along identitarian lines within what remains a regime of increasingly ruthless upward redistribution. That is a vision that marks the ultimate triumph of Gary Becker’s utopia.

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The Anthropocene Myth by Andreas Malm

A single average US citizen emits more than 500 citizens of Ethiopia, Chad, Afghanistan, Mali, or Burundi; how much an average US millionaire emits — and how much more than an average US or Cambodian worker — remains to be counted. But a person’s imprint on the atmosphere varies tremendously depending on where she is born. Humanity, as a result, is far too slender an abstraction to carry the burden of culpability. Ours is the geological epoch not of humanity, but of capital. Of course, a fossil economy does not necessarily have to be capitalist: the Soviet Union and its satellite states had their own growth mechanisms connected to coal, oil, and gas. They were no less dirty, sooty, or emissions-intensive — perhaps rather more — than their Cold War adversaries. So why focus on capital? What reason is there to delve into the destructiveness of capital, when the Communist states performed at least as abysmally?

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60 Days Older and Deeper in Debt by TPTG

Only a new insurrectionary, self-reflective proletarian movement that will manage to impose the needs and interests of the proletariat on the capitalist state on a European level can subvert both austerity and moral panics ideology. Surely not a left government which prevailed on the basis of the retreat, the defeat or the recuperation of previous class and social struggles and which moreover is not willing to sacrifice its practical eurocentrism over its theoretical left keynesianism. Neither any faction of the Greek ruling class. The latter has been entangled into an unresolvable contradiction: on the one hand, by submitting itself to the protection of the hegemonic neoliberal/neomercantilist powers in the Eurozone it managed to submit the working class to labour and wage discipline. On the other hand, the ridiculous ideology of “expansionary contraction” in the EU, i.e. the policy of permanent austerity, especially as it has been implemented in its extreme version in Greece, has led to a disastrous devaluation of total social capital and contractionary effects on private domestic demand and GDP from which there seems to be no exit.

Kurdistan?

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by Gilles Dauvé

“There are times in which we can do nothing except not lose our head.”
Louis Mercier-Vega, from La Chevauchée anonyme [1]

When workers are forced to take in hand their own affairs in order to survive, they open the possibility of social change.

Some Kurds have been forced to act in the conditions that they find and  attempt to create, in the midst of an internationalized war unfavourable to emancipation.

We are not here to “judge” them.

Nor to lose our heads.

Self (defence)

In various parts of the world, proletarians are led to self-defence through self-organization:

A vast cloud of “movements” — armed and unarmed, and oscillating between social banditry and organized guerrilla activity — act in the most wretched zones of the global capitalist junkyard, presenting traits similar to those of the current PKK. In one way or another, they attempt to resist the destruction of already marginal subsistence economies, the plundering of natural resources or local mining, or the imposition of capitalist landed property that limits or prevents access and/or use. […] [W]e can randomly cite cases of piracy in the seas of Somalia, MEND in Nigeria, the Naxalites in India, the Mapuche in Chile. […] It is essential to grasp the content they have in common: self-defense. [O]ne always self-organizes on the basis of what one is within the capitalist mode of production (workers of this or that company, inhabitant of this or that district etc.), while the abandonment of the defensive terrain (“demands”) coincides with the fact that all these subjects interpenetrate each other, and that as the capital/wage-labour relation that structures them starts to disintegrate, the distinctions cease to exist. [2]

In Rojava, has self-organization led (or could it lead) from the necessity of survival to an upheaval of social relations?

It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of the powerful Kurdish independence movement in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurds have been torn apart for decades through the rivalry between these countries and the repression that they suffer there. After the explosion of Iraq into three entities (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd), the Syrian civil war has liberated a territory in Syria where Kurdish autonomy has taken a new form. A popular union (that is to say cross-class) was established to manage this territory and defend it against a military threat. The Islamic State (IS) has served as the agent of this break. The resistance mixes old community ties and new movements, in particular women, through a de facto alliance between proletarians and the middle classes, with “the Nation” [acting] as cement. “The transformation taking place in Rojava rests to some extent on a radical Kurdish identity and on [a] substantial middle class […] contingent who, despite radical rhetoric, always have some interest in the continuity of capital and the state.” [3]

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