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"Twenty-First-Century Geopolitics: Fluidity Everywhere"

Alternatives International - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 22:23

The most fluid arena in the modern world-system, which is in structural crisis, is arguably the geopolitical arena. No country comes even near to dominating this arena. The last hegemonic power, the United States, has long acted like a helpless giant. It is able to destroy but not to control the situation. It still proclaims rules that others are expected to follow, but it can be and is ignored.

There is now a long list of countries that act as they deem fit despite pressures from other countries to perform in specified ways. A look around the globe will readily confirm the inability of the United States to get its way.

The two countries other than the United States that have the strongest military power are Russia and China. Once, they had to move carefully to avoid the reprimand of the United States. The cold-war rhetoric described two competing geopolitical camps. Reality was different. The rhetoric simply masked the relative effectiveness of U.S. hegemony.

Now it is virtually the other way around. The United States has to move carefully vis-à-vis Russia and China to avoid losing all ability to obtain their co-operation on the geopolitical priorities of the United States.

Look next at the so-called strongest allies of the United States. We can quibble about which one is the "closest" ally, or had been for a long while. Take your pick between Great Britain and Israel or even, some would say, Saudi Arabia. Or make a list of erstwhile reliable partners of the United States, such as Japan and South Korea, Canada, Brazil, and Germany. Call them "number two's."

Now look at the behavior of all these countries in the last twenty years. I say "twenty" because the new reality predates the regime of Donald Trump, although he has undoubtedly worsened the ability of the United States to get its way.

Take the situation on the Korean peninsula. The United States wants North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons. This is a regularly repeated objective of the United States. This was true when Bush and Obama were president. It has continued to be true with Trump. The difference is the mode of seeking to achieve this objective. Previously, U.S. actions utilized a degree of diplomacy in addition to sanctions. This reflected the understanding that too many U.S. public threats were self-defeating. Trump believes the opposite. He sees the public threats as the basic weapon in his armory.

However, Trump has different days. On day one he menaces North Korea with devastation. But on day two he makes his primary target Japan and South Korea. Trump says they are providing insufficient financial support for the costs deriving from a continuing armed U.S. presence there. So, in the to and fro between the two U.S. positions, neither Japan nor South Korea have the sense that they are sure to be protected.

Japan and South Korea have dealt with their fears and uncertainty in opposite ways. The current Japanese regime seeks to secure U.S. guarantees by offering total public support of the (shifting) U.S. tactics. It hopes thereby to please the United States sufficiently that Japan will receive the guarantees it wants to have.

The current South Korean regime is using a quite different tactic. It is pursuing very openly closer diplomatic relations with North Korea, very much against U.S. wishes. It hopes thereby to please the North Korean regime sufficiently that North Korea will respond by agreeing not to escalate the conflict.

Whether either of these tactical approaches will stabilize the U.S. position is totally unsure. What is sure is that the United States is not in command. Both Japan and South Korea are quietly pursuing nuclear armaments to strengthen their position since they cannot know what the next day will bring on the U.S. front. The fluidity of the U.S. position weakens further U.S. power because of the reactions it generates.

Or take the even more knotty situation in the so-called Islamic world going from the Maghreb to Indonesia, and particularly in Syria. Each major power in the region (or dealing with the region) has a different prime "enemy" (or enemies). For Saudi Arabia and Israel, it is at the moment Iran. For Iran it is the United States. For Egypt it is the Muslim Brotherhood. For Turkey it is the Kurds. For the Iraqi regime, it is the Sunnis. For Italy, it is Al Qaeda, which is making it impossible to control the flow of migrants. And so on.

How about for the United States? Who knows? That is the nub of fear for everyone else. The United States seems at the moment to have two quite different priorities. On day one, it is North Korean acquiescence with U.S. imperatives. On day two it is ending U.S. involvement in the East Asian region, or at least reducing its financial outlays. As a result, it is increasingly ignored.

We could draw similar pictures for other regions or sub-regions of the world. The key lesson to draw is that the decline of the United States has not been followed by another hegemon. It has simply folded into the overall chaotic zigzagging, the fluidity of which we spoke.

This of course is the great danger. Nuclear accidents, or mistakes, or folly suddenly become what is on top of everyone's mind, and especially that of the world's armed forces. How to deal with this danger is the most meaningful short-term geopolitical debate.

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How She Became Asma

Alternatives International - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 15:04

HER death was the top news in all media outlets. Tributes to her from national and international leaders have been pouring in large numbers. Millions of people across the country, in jhuggis as well as in posh bungalows, are numb with grief because the voice that was unfailingly raised in their support has gone quiet forever. Many at her funeral agreed that she had touched more hearts than any other living Pakistani. How did Asma Jahangir attain this stature?

Quite a few have tried to sum up Asma's character in a single word such as ‘courage', ‘commitment', ‘leadership', ‘love' and so on. None of these words fully defines Asma, and even a combination of all of them might be inadequate.

Courage — she was threatened by mail and verbally from many a platform. Some young men scaled the walls of her house with the intention of causing her harm. Shots were fired at her vehicle in Balochistan. She was warned of having been put on the hit list of privileged gunmen. But nothing could deter her from standing up for the people's rights.

Courage for her did not mean merely absence of the fear of death, it meant essentially an ability to say whatever needed to be said in any situation, on any issue. It meant resistance to oppression, dictatorship and injustice, regardless of the consequences. It also meant determination to stay firmly on course in the struggle for fellow Pakistanis' entitlements.

Many agree that she touched more hearts than any other living Pakistani.

Commitment — Asma's reservoir of courage was a measure of her commitment to the causes of the fellow beings she chose to uphold. She fought for Samia's freedom from an unwanted marriage and for other girls' right to marry boys of their choice. Journalist Jugnu Mohsin says women in her village tell their husbands to behave otherwise they will seek Asma's help. She was among the women who defied Zia's police on the Mall in Lahore in February 1983, and many were the occasions when she stood at the barricades and faced police baton charges while condemning violence against women and lawyers.

While establishing gender justice was her first ideal, she never failed to defend men in distress. She fought for Gilgit-Baltistan's popular hero, Baba Jan, and also for Okara's peasant leader, Mehar Sattar, both victims of the abuse of law. She fought for the freedom of bonded workers at Punjab's brick kilns and in Sindh's agriculture, and she fought since 2007 till her death for the recovery of ‘missing persons' and for an end to enforced disappearances.

For the last many years, she had been concentrating on defending the people's right to democratic governance, rule of law, due process, and protection against illegal detention and torture.

She began rejecting authoritarianism in her teens when her father was thrown in jail for resisting it and had her name entered in Pakistan's law records as the petitioner in the Asma Jilani case, the only case in the country's history in which a dictator was declared a usurper. No one in Pakistan has rejected authoritarian rule so firmly and so consistently as Asma Jahangir did. Even when some of the civil society stalwarts were deceived by Pervez Musharraf's rhetoric, Asma declined to accept authoritarianism under any garb.

Such a strong commitment to defend democracy, even at the risk of being misunderstood by the morality brigade, could come only from an absolute clarity of vision and rejection of halfway houses on the path to democratic freedoms.

As a firm believer in the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession, she was in the vanguard of the lawyers' movement for the restoration of the judges thrown out by Pervez Musharraf. She was disappointed like the original leaders of the French Revolution at the post-victory behaviour of the young cavaliers and the beneficiaries of the victory. But she did not allow frustration on this account to affect her resolve to do her bit for the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Leadership — many years ago, according to Shahid Kardar, seasoned politician and one of the principal leaders of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Dr Mubashir Hasan, declared that Asma had the qualities of a leader who could put the state back on the rails. This opinion was perhaps based on the way Asma had laid the foundations of HRCP and guided its destiny directly for its first six years and indirectly till the last working day of her life.

Her success lay firstly in persuading, with the help of Munir Malik and the late Sabihuddin Ahmad, the incomparable Justice Dorab Patel to be the HRCP's first chairperson. And, secondly, in running the commission by consensus without compromising on its principles and its strategy. She also succeeded in bringing into the HRCP a galaxy of jurists, senior lawyers and trade union leaders, from all the four provinces, reflecting the country's cultural diversity. She did all this while maintaining the commission's federal and democratic character.

The Supreme Court Bar Association was another institution where Asma demonstrated her leadership qualities. The standards of personal integrity and commitment to fellow lawyers' welfare she set will be remembered for long. Besides, says a senior colleague and one of the leaders of the Pakistan Bar Council, so long as Asma was there they were sure she would sort out whatever mistakes were made by them.

One of Asma's greatest services to Pakistan, which is often not recognised, is that as a UN special rapporteur she raised Pakistan's prestige not only in international councils but also among the people of the countries she visited.

Everybody is saying that the void caused by Asma Jahangir's passing can never be filled. The gap indeed appears to be hard to bridge. But Asma has left a legacy of hope. Who knows how many from amongst the young men and women she inspired, trained and worked with — women paralegal workers, human rights activists, interns at the legal aid organisation AGHS and HRCP, and young lawyers guided by her — may learn to speak for all the disadvantaged who Asma loved.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2018

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1389434/how-she-became-asma

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FAIRgabe als Chance für ein faires Berlin am 15.02.2018

WEED - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 23:00
15.02.2018: Konferenz zu nachhaltiger öffentlicher Beschaffung in Berlin
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Newsletter Faire Stadt Berlin

WEED - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:00
14.02.2018: Der Newsletter bietet einen Überblick über die vielseitigen Aktivitäten, Veranstaltungen und Entwicklungen im Bereich Fairer Handel und faire Beschaffung in den Berliner Bezirken und dem Land.
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BDS Movement Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Alternatives International - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 15:12

As a member of the Norwegian parliament, I proudly use my authority as an elected official to nominate the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nominating the BDS movement for this recognition is perfectly in line with the principles I and my party hold very dear. Like the BDS movement, we are fully committed to stopping an ascendant, racist and right-wing politics sweeping too much of our world, and securing freedom, justice and equality for all people.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the American Civil Rights movement, the grassroots, Palestinian-led BDS movement is a peaceful, global human rights movement that urges the use of economic and cultural boycotts to end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.

Basic Human Rights

The BDS movement seeks to end Israel's half-century of military rule over 4.5 million Palestinians, including the devastating ten-year illegal siege collectively punishing and suffocating nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, the ongoing forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes, and the theft of Palestinian land through the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. It seeks equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, currently discriminated against by dozens of racist laws, and to secure the internationally-recognized legal right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes and lands from which they were expelled. Palestinian refugees constitute nearly 50 per cent of all Palestinians, and they are being denied their right to return, guaranteed by law to all refugees, simply because of their ethnicity.

The BDS movement's aims and aspirations for basic human rights are irreproachable. They should be supported without reservation by all democratically-minded people and states.

The international community has a longstanding history of supporting peaceful measures such as boycotts and disinvestment against companies that profit from human rights violations. International support for such measures was critical in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the racist colonial regime in former Rhodesia.

If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.

The BDS movement has been endorsed by prominent figures, including the former Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire. It is gaining support from unions, academic associations, churches, and grassroots movements for the rights of refugees, immigrants, workers, women, indigenous peoples and the LGBTQI community. It is increasingly embraced by progressive Jewish groups and anti-racist movements across the world.

Twelve years since BDS' launch, it's high time for us to commit to doing no harm, and for all states to withdraw their complicity in Israel's military occupation, racist apartheid rule, ongoing theft of Palestinian land, and other egregious human rights violations.

Awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement would be a powerful sign demonstrating that the international community is committed to supporting a just peace in the Middle East and using peaceful means to end military rule and broader violations of international law.

My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step toward bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region. •

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/2018/02/bds-movement-nominated-nobel-peace-prize/#more-13144

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Resist Bigotry, Recover Solidarity: Say No to “Hindus for Trump”

Alternatives International - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:10

February 12, 2018: We, the members of India Civil Watch (ICW) reject unequivocally the rank opportunism of “Hindus for Trump” (henceforth HFT) that leads them to offer to pay for President Trump's proposed wall at the Mexican border as long as it will facilitate their own presumed ability to stay in the U.S.

The enthusiastic support of HFT's members - immigrants or children of immigrants themselves - for Trump's racist anti-immigration policies is the worst kind of political expediency. Supporting thus the bigoted and vindictive policies of an administration that openly expresses racist contempt against immigrants, minorities, and non-white populations of the world is an affront to South Asian communities in the U.S., a diverse population in terms of class, caste and status, which often shares with other Americans of color their struggles for dignity and a stable livelihood, and aspirations for lives free of racist and sexist discrimination.

HFT's demands for exceptional treatment in the immigration process are based in 'model minority' rhetoric, and an expectation that their class status should grant them immunity from America's social hierarchies and legal regimes. They would however do well to heed Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian-American elected representative in U.S. Congress, who compared caste in India with race in the U.S. while demanding civil rights for all.

HFT's support for Trump's “merit-based” immigration system is consistent with their opposition to affirmative action (known as “reservations”) in India, designed to provide access to jobs and educational opportunities to those suffering from centuries of oppression under India's caste system. A large proportion of Indian immigrants are from communities of privilege that have benefited from caste hierarchy, which denied economic and social opportunities to generations of those consigned to so-called "lower caste” communities. It is not surprising that HFT is an avid supporter of the Islamophobic and casteist policies of Indian Prime Minister Modi, who, inspired by Hindu Supremacist ideology (known as “Hindutva") sees non-Hindus and oppressed castes as permanent second-class citizens.

HFT's embrace of white supremacist rhetoric about immigration is particularly contradictory given the discrimination and exploitation that Indian workers historically faced in the U.S. It was barely a hundred years ago that Punjabi farm workers laboring in the fields of California made common cause and built community with Mexican immigrants working alongside them, navigating exclusionary laws around land ownership and civil rights, but also drawing hope in the commonality of their lived experiences.

ICW believes that our political work should be based on relationships of solidarity and a recognition of shared histories of neocolonial exploitation as seen in the shining example of the drivers from the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance who staged an impromptu strike at JFK to protest against Trump's Muslim ban. We list below a brief sampling of statements from South Asian and Indian groups fighting for labor, immigrant, and minority rights that have explicitly dissented from groups like HFT that support Trump's bigoted policies.

A community that has produced a Ravi Ragbir who stands for the rights of the undocumented, should not have to settle for a Shalli Kumar (founder of ‘Hindus for Trump'), who seeks to ingratiate himself to white supremacists for a shameful seat at the table of injustice. Indian Americans can draw inspiration and take pride in a Kshama Sawant who fights for working people, instead of being embarrassed globally by a Nikki Haley who serves the dangerously militaristic foreign policies of the Trump administration. ICW calls on Indian communities in the U.S. to actively participate in anti-racist, anti-caste and and anti-colonial politics, both in the U.S. and in India.

List of Statements:
• Statement by Sadhana, Coalition of Progressive Hindus about Hindus for Trump: https://www.facebook.com/sadhanaprogressivehindus/
• Indian-American lawmakers respond to the Republican Hindu Coalition (also founded by Shalli Kumar)'s support for Trump's ‘Muslim ban' and orders against refugees from anywhere: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/nris-in-news/indian-american-lawmakers-slam-republican-hindu-coalition-for-backing-donald-trumps-immigration-ban/articleshow/56906924.cms
• Statement by SAALT about the rise in Xenophobia and hate crimes since Trump's rise, documented in their report, “Communities On Fire”: http://saalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Communities-on-Fire.pdf

India Civil Watch is a collective of Indian-Americans committed to furthering progressive politics in the USA and India. For more information, please write to indiacivilwatch@gmail.com

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Obituary: Pakistan's Bravest Citizen Is No More

Alternatives International - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:03

NOBODY in Pakistan's brief history, which has witnessed four military coups, has matched Asma Jahangir for her dedication to public service, her belief in the rule of law, her relentless defence of democracy and pursuit of free and fair elections. She stood for both peace and justice with all of Pakistan's neighbours.

Indians too mourned her loss as did people around the world. She was loved by millions while her detractors treated her with the utmost respect. At a time when Pakistan is once again facing immense political uncertainties and severe tensions with the US and all its neighbours, Asma's role as a voice for peace and sanity was absolutely vital. Sadly that voice has now gone silent and for the time being there is nobody with the stature or the willingness to take her place.

Throughout her life she took enormous risks. She was the bravest of the brave.

She was born in Lahore in 1952 and educated in the city before being called to the Lahore High Court in 1980. She was first arrested in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military regime of Gen Ziaul Haq. Many more arrests and house arrests were to follow even as she engaged in fighting the cases of those who had suffered at the hands of the establishment.

In 1987 she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its secretary. The HRCP earned global recognition for its fairness and defence of religious minorities, battered women, children and those who were too poor to seek redress through the courts.

Its annual report on the state of human rights in the country is still one of the most significant and relevant documents put out by any non-state organisation. It is also used by foreign governments to determine the state of human rights in Pakistan.

Together with her sister Hina Jilani and two other lawyers she formed the first law firm established by women and for women in Pakistan. The firm took cases gratis in case abused women were too poor to pay, while the law firm quickly became the centre for defence of the press and other social causes.

Asma Jahangir was perhaps the most honoured Pakistani citizen, receiving multiple human rights awards, honorary degrees and other awards from universities in the US, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Philippines as well as from think tanks and governments all over the world.

Her most prized cases that she took up were also the most dangerous that she faced — the defence of those accused under the blasphemy law. “It would be hypocrisy to defend a law I don't believe in like capital punishment, the blasphemy law and laws against women and in favour of child labour,'' she told the media in 2005.

Yet Asma will be remembered for much more than her long list of achievements and the services she rendered to a state that has always grappled between orthodoxy and liberalism. She was a remarkable human being with a wonderful sense of humour, a devoted mother and wife and later revelled in the time spent with her grandchildren.

She kept an open house which at any time of day was filled with her friends, litigants, abused women and children, senior politicians and people from the media. Small in height but fiery in spirit, her finger wagging at assertive anchormen on TV, at lawyers and others in court became just one of her many hallmarks.

Her ability to debate or criticise anyone at any time on virtually any subject ensured that she was as much feared by the media as she was loved. She never hesitated to call a spade a spade be they politicians, bureaucrats or generals.

Her defence of the law and the legal system was at times far stronger and more implacable than that undertaken by even senior judges, lawyers and journalists. In a country that has for at least one third of its existence been bereft of law and a democratic system, Asma's defence of the law was unprecedented.

In moments of crisis, doubt, fears and uncertainty people from all walks of life invariably turned to her and they would come away emboldened, strengthened and ready to take on the world.

She was not for herself, she was for everyone. Her tiny frame knocked up against the harsh world outside and invariably led to her inspiring all those around her. She will be remembered and honoured for ever.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2018

Source : https://www.dawn.com/news/1388906/obituary-pakistans-bravest-citizen-is-no-more

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GroKo - Verantwortung für Wirtschaft und Menschenrechte: Ungenügend

WEED - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:00
07.02.2018: Der Koalitionsvertrag von CDU, CSU und SPD stellt die Freiheit der Wirtschaft in entscheidenden Punkten über den Schutz von Menschenrechten und Umwelt.
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Red and Green: The Ecosocialist Perspective

Alternatives International - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 15:21

The contemporary international political economy is marked by a great contradiction. On a planet characterized by finite resources, the economy is predicated upon an absurd and irrational logic of infinite expansion and accumulation. With its fossil fuel based operations continually spewing carbon into the earth's atmosphere, the capitalist system's productivist obsession with profit has brought humanity to the brink of an abyss. Climate change is accelerating much faster than predicted – the accumulation of CO2, the rise in temperature, the melting of the polar ice, the drought, and the floods: everything is happening too quickly. In fact, the scientific assessments are now perceived as being too optimistic. The question is: after a certain level of increase in temperature – say six degrees – would the planet still be inhabitable for our species?

How should we respond to this enormously frightening scenario? We have seen that partial reforms are completely inadequate. The failure of the Kyoto protocol, for instance, illustrated that it was impossible to meet the dramatic challenge of global warming with the methods employed by the capitalist free market, such as the emission rights stock exchange. What is needed is the replacement of the micro-rationality of profit by a social and ecological macro-rationality, which demands a veritable change of civilization. It is, however, impossible to work toward that change without a profound reorientation aimed at replacing contemporary energy sources by clean and renewable ones, such as wind or solar energy. The first question, therefore, concerns the issue of control over the means of production, especially decisions on investment and technological change, which must be taken away from the banks and capitalist enterprises in order to serve the society's common good.

Ecosocialism

Ecosocialism is an attempt at providing a radical civilizational alternative, based on the fundamental arguments of the ecological movement and combining them with the Marxist critique of the capitalist political economy. It's an economic policy founded on non-monetary and clearly articulated extra-economic criteria: ecological equilibrium of the earth and fulfillment of the social needs of its people. Ecosocialism, thus, questions the Marxist notion of destructive progress inherent in capitalism. This new dialectical synthesis has been well articulated in the works of a broad spectrum of authors, from James O'Connor to Joel Kovel, Ian Angus and John Bellamy Foster, and from André Gorz to Elmar Altvater. It is as much a critique of ‘market ecology', which does not challenge the capitalist system, as much as that of ‘productivist socialism', which ignores the issue of natural limits.

The possibility of an ecosocialist transformation rests on public control over the means of production and planning. It is characterized by a democratic and pluralist debate at all those levels where decisions are to be taken, and a process by which different propositions are submitted to the concerned people, in the form of parties, platforms, or any other political movements, ultimately leading to the election of delegates. This rigorous form of representative democracy, however, must be complemented, and corrected by direct democracy, where people choose directly between major options at the local, national and, even global level.

The passage from ‘destructive progress', which accompanies capitalism to the final stage of socialism, is a historical process, a permanent revolutionary transformation of society, culture and mentalities. This transition would lead not only to a new mode of production, and an egalitarian and democratic society, but also to an alternative mode of life, a new ecosocialist civilization. It would be beyond the reign of money, beyond consumption habits artificially produced by advertizing, and beyond the unlimited production of commodities that are useless and/or harmful to the environment. It is important to emphasize that such a process cannot begin without a revolutionary transformation of social and political structures, and the active support of an ecosocialist program by the vast majority of the population. The development of socialist consciousness and ecological awareness is a process, where the decisive factor is people's own collective experience of struggle, from local and partial confrontations to the radical change of society.

The countries of the South would have priorities somewhat different from the global north. They would need to build critical infrastructure, which is not currently uniformly available to its people – railroads, hospitals, sewage systems, roads etc. But there is no reason why this cannot be accomplished with a productive system that is environment-friendly and based on renewable energy sources. These countries would also need to grow great amounts of food to nourish their population, but this can be much better achieved by an agricultural system based on family-units, cooperatives or collectivist farms, rather than by the destructive and anti-social methods of industrialized agro-business, based on the intensive use of pesticides, chemicals and GMOs.

Urgently Needed Reforms

To dream and to struggle for green socialism does not mean that we should not fight for concrete reforms, which are needed urgently within the existing system. These include a general moratorium on genetically modified organisms, a drastic reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases, the development of public transportation, the taxation of polluting cars, the progressive replacement of trucks by trains, a severe regulation of the fishing industry, as well as the phasing out of pesticides and chemicals in the agro-industrial production.

These urgent eco-social demands can lead to a gradual process of radicalization. We must not accept limits on our aims according to the requirements of the capitalist market or of ‘competitivity'. Each small victory, each partial advance can immediately lead to a higher demand, to a more radical aim. Such struggles around concrete issues are important, not only because partial victories are welcome in themselves, but also because they contribute to raise ecological and socialist consciousness. These victories will promote activity and self-organization from below, and ultimately to a radical and revolutionary transformation of the world.

This article first published on the Radical Ecological Democracy website.

Michael Löwy, a philosopher and sociologist of Brazilian origin, is a member of the New Anti-capitalist Party in France and of the Fourth International. He is the author of many books, including The Marxism of Che Guevara, Marxism and Liberation Theology, Fatherland or Mother Earth? and The War of Gods: Religion and Politics in Latin America. He is joint author (with Joel Kovel) of the International Ecosocialist Manifesto.

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/2018/02/red-green-ecosocialist-perspective/#more-12981

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Aktion und Aktivitäten zu Koalitionsverhandlungen

WEED - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 23:00
02.02.2018: Über das Bündnis Umverteilen nahm WEED an einer Aktion zur GroKo teil. Auch mit Stellungnahmen und Gesprächen tritt WEED für Steuergerechtigkeit und gegen Steuerflucht ein.
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Afrin and the Rojava Revolution

Alternatives International - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 15:37

The dark clouds of 21st-century fascism are once again hanging over the heads of the people of northern Syria. As if the inhabitants of the region often referred to as Rojava haven't suffered enough over the course of the past seven years of war, the Turkish state has come to the conclusion that the time is ripe to pick up the fallen, bloodied sword from the corpse that is Islamic State. Together with Salafist mercenaries carrying flags of the Syrian ‘rebels' – one of the many components of what at one historical juncture seemingly all so long ago was a cohesive ‘Free Syrian Army' – Erdogan's regime vows a ‘swift operation' to destroy ‘terrorism' in Afrin.

It is Afrin that has been a beacon of stability in Syria over the course of the war, not only taking in tens of thousands of refugees from elsewhere in the country, but establishing the principles of direct democracy, women's liberation and ecology in the midst of an otherwise catastrophic and tumultuous period. It is precisely this model of a socialistic, multi-ethnic, feminist canton advocated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that Erdogan's AKP government sees as ‘terrorism'. The irony could not be more obvious.

Background

For those who have been following closely over the past few years the events in not only Afrin, but in the other two cantons that make up the Rojava region (officially the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria), the current battle faced by the Kurdish forces is strangely reminiscent of the 2014-15 battle for Kobane. At that point, the so-called Islamic State was on the verge of reaching the Syria-Turkey border by securing the city known officially as Ayn al-Arab (a brutal reminder of the Arabization and monolithic nation-state mentality of the Ba'athist government). The Kurdish forces of the YPG and YPJ found themselves fighting off the fascist forces as Turkey allowed Daesh militants to enter Syria freely. Turkish tanks sat idle at the border, and soldiers watched the action, hoping for the elimination of the ‘terrorists' – not Daesh, of course, but of the Kurds! The so-called international community was silent, until the U.S. intervened with airstrikes after an enormous amount of pressure in the form of massive global protests.

Today in Afrin, as Turkish planes and tanks aim to finish the job that the Islamic State was incapable of accomplishing, world leaders are again silent. Although a relationship had been forged in recent years between Russia and the YPG/J in Afrin, Moscow now seems to have withdrawn its forces, clearing the way for the Turkish incursion. The United States, although supportive of the YPG/J's operations against Daesh east of the Euphrates River, has wiped its hands of any association with their ‘allies' in Afrin. The Syrian government has said that it will shoot down Ankara's planes – yet it seems as if the actions of Erdogan's regime have so far gone unopposed.

This understandably leaves the Kurdish people and their forces in Afrin feeling as if the old maxim ‘the Kurds have no friends but the mountains' is once again deeply relevant. Perhaps they understood throughout the complexities and twists and turns of the war that this was always the case.

After all, my experiences in Rojava last year confirmed to me that the YPG/J was far from a ‘pawn' of ‘puppet' of anybody, despite the often misunderstood relationship between them and Washington. In fact, it was clear to me that they were preparing more than a year ago for not only an eventual Turkish military operation, but for the moment that self-reliance would have to be stepped up and a fight undertaken on their own to protect the territory of Rojava and the gains of their revolution.

My Inability to Understand Rojava Before 2015

Today, I am yelling at the top of my lungs in support for the people of Afrin and for the Kurdish forces of the YPG and YPJ. There are hundreds of solidarity demonstrations taking place across the western world. Yet, just over three years ago when the Islamic State was threatening to take Kobane, I lacked the understanding of the situation in the country to adequately provide that same solidarity. I didn't attend any of these protests despite the considerable threat that was being manifested toward an anti-fascist militia that espoused principles largely in line with my own.

Indeed, this is part of my confessions – or rather, self-critical assessment. I wasn't always the most supportive of the idea that what was taking place in northern Syria constituted a real revolutionary process. In fact, much of the reason that I have decided to undertake such a considerable amount of writing since the time I spent in Rojava last year is that my experiences there made me feel a sense of urgency about being critically reflective of my previous erroneous positions. I knew that if ‘observation and participation' in the revolution has altered my understanding of Syria, there was at least the possibility that my work could have that kind of impact on others who perhaps hold positions akin to those I used to.

Let me break it down from the beginning. In 2013, exactly five years ago next month, I visited Kurdistan for the first time. This trip took me to the territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Although I may have set foot in Kurdish lands, the week that I spent there did little to reveal the true nature of Kurdistan as a whole – or perhaps I simply didn't bother to look hard enough or investigate aptly. Nonetheless, I was convinced that the KRG was little more than a puppet entity of the United States. That assessment may not be so far off the mark – but the problem was that I failed to grasp the differences between ‘the Kurds' of Bashur (Iraq) and Rojava (Syria), not to mention Rojhilat (Iran) or Bakur (Turkey). [See my previous article “The Kurds: Internationalists or Narrow Nationalists?”]

Throughout 2013, the focus of the United States was on whether it should engage in a direct intervention in the Syrian war by means of airstrikes on Syrian Arab Army targets. Understandably, this put the anti-war movement and socialist activists in the U.S. in a position of putting its emphasis on opposing any machinations of the Obama administration to launch a wider war in Syria. At this time, my principal obligation seemed clear – oppose the aggression of the Obama administration and my own government. I believe such a position is pivotal. However, all too often socialist activists in the western metropoles have a tendency to put anti-imperialism on ‘steroids' – in other words, to reduce geopolitics to a single contradiction, refusing to seriously investigate the contradictions of the state in question, or of the other dynamics at play.

To be clear, it's not as if I saw the Ba'athist government as one that I was ideologically aligned with. It's not as if I didn't engage in some level of investigation of the situation on the ground throughout the whole of the country. In fact, in songs like “Hands Off Syria” – which I released in the Spring of 2012 – I explicitly mention that “there's been problems in Syria for quite a long time.” Perhaps this was too little in the way of expressing the reality in the country, but it did try to account for the fact that the dynamics in the country were complex and that any defence of the Syrian state vis-à-vis imperialism wasn't the same as overt support for the policies of that state.

Grappling with Kobane and the Resistance of the Kurds

However, the general tendency that I grew to express was more and more toward full solidarity with Syrian Arab state. The problem with this position wasn't so much the fact that I explained the machinations of imperialism toward a government that defied its diktat in the region, particularly in regards to the colonial settler entity of Israel. The problem also wasn't that I expressed how the U.S. government's support for the so-called ‘rebels' was creating a situation in which Shia, Christian, or even Sunni communities were facing genocidal consequences. It was simply that I was simplifying the narrative, and not giving voice to those who had been the victims of a monolithic Syrian state based on racial and ethnic prejudice for decades.

I first began to grapple with this during the battle of Kobane. It was obvious that the so-called Islamic State was enemy number one in the country. This was largely agreed across political lines – by so-called ‘moderates' within the FSA, by the Syrian state, and of course by the Kurdish forces who were bearing the brunt of their fascistic attacks.

Kobane first highlighted the fierce resistance of the YPG/J to the world at large. Although these forces had defended predominately Kurdish lands in Syria since the beginning of the Rojava Revolution in the Spring of 2012, this battle would finally bring these fighters' struggle to international attention, as well as that of the Kurdish question in general. Suddenly, the nearly 40 years that the Kurdish movement had fought the genocidal policies of the Turkish state also began to achieve a certain level of recognition.

It is true that the women's revolution in Kobane and Rojava was fetishized in the mainstream western press. Beyond the H&M adverts, a more thorough examination showed that it was the consequence of a deliberate policy to liberate women from patriarchal oppression that was first undertaken in the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), not in Syria, but inside of Turkish borders.

It was not until the martyrdom of Ivana Hoffmann, a German internationalist in the ranks of the Turkish Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) in Syria in March of 2015 that I began to seriously reflect on the correctness of my political understanding of Syria. I knew that there were communist parties in Syria that had been in a de-facto alliance with the Syrian state against the moves of imperialism. Yet, I did not realise that there had been Turkish communist groups that had been fighting side by side with the Kurdish forces. Not only were these cadres from Bakur but many of them – like Ivana – were young internationalists. Ivana did not die in Kobane, but her death became linked to that decisive battle in historical memory.

Investigation and Participation

I knew that I needed to investigate the matter further. Therefore, I made it my business to make sure that I travelled to Rojava to see for myself what was taking place in the areas of Syria which were experiencing what the Kurdish forces called a ‘revolution'. Was this really the case? Or was this a mere attempt by the U.S. to carve out a proto-state in a part of Syrian territory?

Any doubts I may have had about whether or not the ‘Rojava Revolution' was a genuine revolutionary process were put to bed within mere days of arriving in Syria. I soon realized what an absolute travesty it was that people who are generally aligned with the left in the west had fallen into the mistaken position of referring to these Kurdish forces as ‘Zio Kurds' (despite a historical relationship with the revolutionary Palestinian movement), ‘separatists' (despite an unflinching opposition to any plans to partition Syria), or imperialist proxies (despite fighting imperialism for nearly 40 years).

Let me be honest: admitting that I have been wrong, especially for years on end on such a key political question, wasn't easy. In fact, the hardest thing about being in Syria was having to engage in the daily ‘tekmil' – criticism and self-criticism sessions. Coming from our western experiences, it just isn't that easy to not take such sessions deeply personally, even if their focus is on improving the character of revolutionaries.

To be clear, this does not mean that I think those journalists and activists who have been to government-held areas of Syria are necessarily wrong in the positions they have put forward in the so-called western alternative media. Given the malicious war propaganda put forward by the western mainstream press, particularly in the U.S, it is important to defy these perspectives. I do not doubt that the Ba'athist state enjoys considerable support in many areas of Syria. Personally, I know countless Syrians who may have been critical of the state before the war, but who have increasingly sympathized with Bashar al-Assad's leadership and view his presidency as a stabilizing factor. This is particularly true, from my experiences, among Christians from Syria who see the Ba'athist government as a secular and moderate force.

In fact, it does not surprise me that many who have been to Damascus and other regions of the country see the government as a progressive entity. Especially given the war and the outlook of the factions opposed to the state, this seems to be an entirely understandable conclusion. In some parts of Damascus, I am certain that the Ba'athist state may be viewed as the bastion of progressiveness, secularism, and inclusiveness. I do not doubt the sincerity of the journalists and activists who have reported on this reality within the country. The only thing I doubt – and have come to understand – is that their views are incomplete.

What is a secular, progressive government to an Arab Christian, Alawi, or even Sunni living in a considerable part of the country is the same government that I came to see that for an Assyrian, Kurd, or other ethnic minority in the north of the country was a ‘fascist' regime. The stories I heard of the repressive policies of this state were harrowing. For sure, if I had simply gone to Damascus, I may have just reinforced my existing beliefs and perspectives. Yet, I was eager not to do precisely that. I was eager to see more of the country, to do what many of my other journalist colleagues as yet hadn't done.

It is true that the Syrian Arab state has been part of the so-called ‘resistance axis' to Zionism and imperialism in the region. Yet, everything has a dual character. The state's orientation vis-à-vis imperialism may be progressive. It may be anti-colonial. However, it is internal policies that have also exhibited a considerable degree of colonialism as far as the Kurds are concerned. It seems laughable to many in the north of the country to seriously speak of a ‘resistance axis' to occupation when their lives have been characterized by exclusion and suppression of their language and culture.

The Left Must Express Its Solidarity With Afrin

Things changed post-Rojava. Gone was any conception or idea that perhaps the administration behind this region's transformation was anything less than revolutionary. Gone was any semblance of thought that this governing structure was a proxy of imperialism. Gone was any notion that this system should not be supported overtly. I knew that I had to turn over a new leaf in raising my voice in solidarity with Rojava, and of convincing those who thought as I previously had – who were at the very least skeptical about ‘the Kurds' – that this was a historical process worth supporting, even if critically.

Of course, I'm well aware that just as the views of those who have only travelled to Syrian government-held areas are limited in scope, so are mine. My assessments are frank, sincere, and I believe correct. However, I certainly won't fall into the trap of claiming that I am a Syria ‘expert' or that I possess all of the answers. I will only assert that what I have seen gives me tremendous hope in the potential for humanity and for socialism's revival.

Until now, I do not think I have clearly expressed that I know my previous position on Syria to have been incorrect – or perhaps to phrase it better, to have been far too simplistic and incomplete. In that regard, take this as my public self-criticism. I will never again be so arrogant and simplistic to believe that major world conflagrations can be boiled down to a single contradiction. I will do my utmost never again to fail to express my solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed and downtrodden resisting fascistic structures and barbarism.

Three years ago, I should have been in complete solidarity with the resistance of Kobane. Honestly, I failed. Today, I am demanding the international left engage in a serious assessment of just how significant the Rojava Revolution is at this historical juncture as the radical left reconstitutes itself globally. Solidarity with Afrin should be front and centre at this moment. I fully believe that anything less than this is a full betrayal of the principles of humanity and abandonment of one of the most progressive forces currently in existence.

Although it is, of course, true that my writings on Rojava may be reflective of the human flaw of containing romantic sentiments – and I believe they probably are – I would not consider it an overstatement to say that the revolution being defended with the gun by the YPG and YPJ is akin to the vanguard of humanity.

That makes it all the more difficult to be within the confines of western capitalist modernity while this attack on Afrin takes place. My soul and my spirit are in Rojava at this crucial moment. I yearn to be able to be there to physically resist the attacks of the fascist Turkish government and mercenaries against this radical, democratic experiment. Although I know that this is not possible for the time being, what is possible is that we do all we can in the western metropoles to raise our voices to make sure that Afrin does not become a victory for the neo-Ottoman ambitions of the Erdogan government. Anything less is indeed to betray the principles of revolution and internationalism. •

This article first published by The Region.

Marcel Cartier is author of Serfkeftin: A Narrative of the Rojava Revolution coming 2018. He blogs at marcelcartier.net, and vlogs at youtube.com/user/Revmind84.

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/2018/01/afrin-and-rojava-revolution/#more-12916

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Israel Embarrassed by its Holocaust-Denying Allies in Poland

Alternatives International - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 16:37

A crisis is brewing between Warsaw and Tel Aviv over a new Polish law criminalizing mention of the role some Poles played in the German genocide of Jews during World War II.

The law passed in the lower house and is expected to pass in the senate and be signed by the president before it takes effect.

From Israel's perspective, the problem is how to appear sufficiently upset in order to maintain the self-declared Jewish state's self-appointed role as the guardian of the memory of the millions murdered.

It's an awkward balancing act since in the 21st century, anti-Semites and even some Holocaust deniers are among Israel's closest and most fervent allies.

“Alarming parallels”

Over the last year, Israel has kept a low profile whenever its anti-Semitic friends have shown their true colors.

A year ago, when the Trump White's House's Holocaust Remembrance Day message omitted any mention of Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained silent even as American Jewish organizations and – implicitly – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum voiced sharp criticism.

Months into the new administration, the Anne Frank Center warned of “alarming parallels” between history and the present day United States.

Just days later, on 11 and 12 August, torch-bearing Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” before one of their number allegedly carried out a vehicular attack killing anti-racism activist Heather Heyer.

Trump received blistering criticism for his lacklustre response that seemed to give a wink to the far-right extremists. But on that occasion too, Israeli leaders maintained a conspicuous silence.

Netanyahu also tightened his embrace of Viktor Orban, the far-right pro-Israel prime minister of Hungary who lionizes Hitler ally Miklos Horthy, the man who sent hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to their deaths.

And lawmakers from Netanyahu's Likud Party have given a warm embrace to neo-Nazis who surged in elections in Germany and Austria – because those far-right extremists now offer solid support to Israel.

Nazi genocide in Poland

Now comes the situation with Poland – another country whose far-right nationalist government is closely allied with Israel.

The official Polish view enshrined in the new law is that Poland and its people – Jewish and non-Jewish – should be viewed entirely and only as victims of the Nazi occupation regime.

And there is no doubt that they were victims. In a statement criticizing the Polish law, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recalls that from 1939-45, “approximately three million Jews – 90 percent of Poland's Jewish population – had been murdered in mass shootings and at stationary killing centers in occupied Poland, Auschwitz-Birkenau being the most well known.”

It also notes that “many Poles risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors.”

At the same time as the extermination of the country's Jewish population was going on, the museum explains, some “two million non-Jewish Polish civilians – including tens of thousands of Catholic priests, intellectuals, teachers and political leaders – were killed by the Germans and millions more were imprisoned and subjected to forced labor. Over 1.5 million Poles were deported as forced laborers.”

Yet a full accounting of history, according to the museum, requires discussion and research into the fact that as “German forces implemented the mass murder of Jews, they drew upon some Polish agencies, such as Polish police forces and railroad personnel, in the guarding of ghettos and the deportation of Jews to the killing centers.”

Moreover, individual Poles “often helped in the identification, denunciation and hunting down of Jews in hiding, often profiting from associated blackmail, and actively participated in the plunder of Jewish property.” And notoriously, the museum recalls, in July 1941, Polish residents of the town of Jedwabne “participated in the murder of hundreds of their Jewish neighbors.”

The Polish law's attempt to criminalize even discussion of these facts is simply too embarrassing for Israel to remain silent. So Israel's ambassador went to meet with a top Polish official to express her government's displeasure.

According to The Times of Israel, the ambassador “reiterated Israel's concern that the legislation violates freedom of speech and would limit the discourse surrounding the Holocaust in Poland and its victims.”

Nakba denial

It takes considerable chutzpah for Israel to give lectures on “freedom of speech” when it has been busy cracking down on human rights defenders who criticize its crimes against Palestinians.

And, Israel – like Poland – also builds its modern national myth on the denial of history.

As Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who sits in Israel's parliament, writes for +972 Magazine, Israel has for several years had legislation restricting commemoration of the Nakba, the well-planned ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 and afterwards by Zionist militias and the Israeli state.

“Isn't the Nakba Law also an attempt to rewrite history? To hide and deny certain parts of it?” Zoabi asks. “It is true that the Nakba Law does not – yet – criminalize individuals. But in its essence, it is a law that seeks to silence, just as the Polish law does, and allows the effective denial of the Palestinian catastrophe.”

“As a Palestinian, I feel a kinship with the victims of the Holocaust,” Zoabi says, “I am angry at all those who continue to murder and remain silent, those who force others to remain silent.”

Polish surprise

Another person expressing anger – albeit from a different direction – is Poland's President Andrzej Duda, who was reportedly “flabbergasted” by Israel's “violent and very unfavorable reaction” to the new law that he supports.

Duda's surprise is perhaps understandable, since Israel and its lobby groups cannot claim they didn't know about the Polish leadership's Holocaust revisionist tendencies even as they cozied up to them.

In a leaked briefing paper obtained by The Electronic Intifada in December, the European Leadership Network, a pro-Israel lobby group, reported that assurances were recently given by Polish officials that Israel “can count” on Poland during Warsaw's two-year term on the UN Security Council that began on 1 January.

“Israel looks to Poland as one of the friendliest countries in the European Union,” the briefing paper states.

The lobby group went so far as to allege that Poland's ruling Law and Justice party is “in denial” over how Polish citizens were involved in murders of Jews during the Holocaust, something it is prepared to overlook because of the party's pro-Israel stance.

But Israeli leaders don't have to rely on their Brussels lobbyists to tell them this. In recent months, Israeli officials themselves spoke at a conference hosted by an anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Polish group aimed at whitewashing Poles' role in the murder of Jews.

In the Israeli publication Ynet, commentator Sever Plocker expressed his consternation and outrage at the “participation of a minister and a Knesset member from Israel in a conference aimed at distorting the memory of the Holocaust and legitimizing Poland's racist-nationalist (and anti-Semitic, despite all its denials) right.”

Old alliance renewed

The alliance of Zionism with anti-Semites, first with anti-Semitic Protestant Christian Zionists and later with the Nazis, was foundational to the movement – despite Israel's claim that it represents the very antithesis of anti-Semitism.

That old alliance has found new life as Israel's most extreme supporters embrace white supremacists and anti-Semites tied to the Trump administration and regressive nationalists in Europe.

It is an alliance reinvigorated by a shared hatred of Muslims, who have superficially replaced Jews as an acceptable target for the kind of scapegoating and vilification that was supposed, in the wake of the Holocaust, to have ended in Europe.

Understanding this is essential to understanding why Israel today is at the vanguard of the global far-right, the model for authoritarian states and the guiding light and alibi for ethno-nationalists and racists.

That is why in the struggle against all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jews and Palestinians committed to equality and human rights stand together on one side, while Israel, Zionists and their bigoted cheerleaders are on the other side.

Source: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-embarrassed-its-holocaust-denying-allies-poland

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Boaventura de Sousa Santos interview to the Greek periodical Epohi

Alternatives International - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:46

Epohi: Europe is in a big and multifaceted crisis. Do you think it is a temporary crisis, or do you think it will get permanent and irreversible features?

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (BSS): Europe is not an island. The anomic and dystopic vocation of the global neoliberal disorder is reaching new thresholds as the concentration of wealth and the environmental crisis reaches unprecedented levels. The fall of the petrodollar seems closer and closer as China and Russia buy gold and prepare to negotiate oil and gas contracts in yuan. Saddam Hussein and Kaddafi paid a dear price for their attempts and Venezuela may follow the same destiny, while Brazil, another of the BRICS, is neutralized by the judicial-political coup instigated by US imperialism. For the same reason, Yemen must be destroyed and, in line with his predecessors, President Donald Trump prepares “his” war, this time against Iran.

Particularly after Durão Barroso became president of the European Commission (2004-2014), the EU turned into a subaltern partner of neoliberal globalization. At first, only foreign countries, non-European countries in Africa and Latin American, noticed the changes as they realized how the Brussels technocrats aligned themselves almost unconditionally with US based multinationals, World Bank and IMF officers in negotiations of trade agreements. As the financial crisis of 2008 hit Europe in 2011 (Greeks have a tragic experience of it), it became finally clear to most of European citizens that neoliberal orthodoxy had hijacked the European project (probably an illusion from the start) of combining development with social protection in a wider politically democratic community. Raw economic and hence political power was in charge, the vulnerable countries were made more vulnerable so that the political costs of intervention would diminished. As I said, non-European countries knew all this by tragic experience. For Europeans it was a surprise since most them had forgotten not only about the remote past but also about thr recent one, the World War II.

In light of this, the European Union is tied up to the fate of neoliberalism; in this respect the crisis may be considered as permanent as the crisis of neoliberalism. The political disintegration began with the way the so-called “Greek crisis” was dealt with, continued with Brexit and the rise of the extreme-right under the guise of a new version of populism (always a rightist political reaction, never a leftist one).

The rhythm of the crisis may change and, in my view, it is changing, but the fundamental tendency will continue unless a deeper political transformation takes place. As I write, the rhythm of the crisis seems to be slowing down with the designation of the former Portuguese Finance minister, Mario Centeno, as finance minister of the Eurogroup. As I will argue below, the recent Portuguese political experience has shown that the neoliberal orthodoxy is a lie, a tragic lie, and Mario Centeno was an important protagonist in demonstrating this. Probably out of a survival instinct, the dominant powers in the EU (Germany and France) and the technocrats of the European Commission have concluded that insisting on the neoliberal impositions would lead, rather sooner than later, to the end of the benefits they collected from an unequal integration and for the Brussels establishment, the end of their golden jobs and privileges. They first reacted by showing to the UK that it would pay a very high price for leaving the EU unilaterally; and then chose Mario Centeno as a signal that they were ready for some kind of reformist change. How successful this move may be remains to be seen. Above all, it remains to be seen if Centeno will have, at the European level, the political support he had at the national level to conduct the very moderate but highly successful anti-neoliberal policies. Quite frankly, I doubt it, but, as I always insist, sociologists are good at predicting the past not the future. In any case the reasons for some pessimism are grounded both in the recent declarations of Jens Weidmann, the president of Bundesbank and in the new, socially insensitive European budget for 2018 indeed approved by the European Parliament with unprecedented lack of consensus.

Epohi: You have talked about the need of building a new vision for Europe. How can this happen? And what will be its features?

BSS: Europe faces an intricate challenge: to reinvent itself both from its centre and its margins. Such reinvention will not take place unless a double transformation occurs: a transformation in the ways we know what is happening to us and to the world and in the ways we educate the European youth according to such knowledge (epistemological shift); and a transformation in the political configuration of Europe as a supranational entity and as an international actor (political shift).

Throughout the last one hundred years, Europe became a continent of high expectations and dismally broken promises: the promise of social justice and human rights; the promise of anti-colonialism; the promise of democracy and the end of authoritarian political regimes; the promise of cultural diversity and peaceful conviviality. The expectations were as high as the frustrations were deep in light of a resilient dissonance in real politik. The continuing oscillation between these two poles led to a political culture run by exorbitant hopes and nihilistic fears. Until the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe (what was then Western Europe) was run by the predominance of hope over fear; since then we have entered a period of the predominance of fear over hope. At first, the fear was about the survival of social democracy (democracy with social and economic rights), today it is more and more about the survival of democracy tout court (democracy reduced to civil and political rights).

The new vision of Europe is based on the realistic utopia that it is possible to move to a period of probably less brilliant hopes but hopes that are resilient enough to keep the nihilistic fears at bay. The epistemological shift is premised upon the need to learn from the Global South (both extra-European and intra-European South) which has a long historical experience of living collectively with more humble hopes and with a sustained capacity to resist against fear-inducing oppression caused originally by European colonialism. Since the seventeenth century colonialism has been the core identity of Europe together with capitalism and patriarchy. We should bear in mind that external colonialism was first tried out inside Europe, as internal colonialism, as Ireland, Spain and several countries in Eastern Europe illustrate. The way the recent financial crisis in South European countries has been dealt with by core Europe shows how active and vicious such internal colonialism remains today.

Looking to the world with less arrogance and with the will to learn instead of teaching, involves a cognitive and educational paradigmatic change. This epistemological shift will occur side by side with a political shift. Europe has a future as transnational entity to the extent that it engages in an active anti-colonialist politics, both in relations with the non European world and in the intra-European relations. A new attitude regarding the infinite diversity of the world and of Europe itself. The outside world is expanding and Europe is shrinking. The continuation of the colonial attitude is suicidal. During the Cold War and because it was internally divided, Europe stayed outside the main rivalries among the super powers. This relative distance was the precondition for the relative international autonomy of Europe. After the end of the Cold War Europe surrendered too easily to US global hegemony and became a subaltern partner in an imperialist drive for unilateral power, economically driven by neoliberalism. Such power is declining and the neoliberal disorder is becoming more and more evident. The USA can afford to put America first by threatening wars against any imagined competitor (the real ones are only China and Russia to a certain extent). In Europe such strategy is suicidal given the structural weakness of Europe concerning the most crucial resources to conduct such wars (both military and financial resources). The new vision of Europe demands that Europe distances itself from USA. Only in this way can Europe pursue a credible anti-colonial politics in relation to the world. The problem is that under current conditions of neoliberal globalization anti-colonialism is not possible disengaged from anti-capitalist politics. This is only possible with a significant deepening of democracy beyond the liberal mold. At a time in which the serious ecological crisis is indicating to us the end of the Cartesian view of nature as an infinitely available natural resource, we must sponsor humble hopes of dignity and conviviality. But such hopes can only be kept if supported by a utopian horizon. Such horizon, I would venture, is socialism as democracy without end. This utopian horizon will never be fully achieved; but it will keep us walking in its direction.

Epohi: The recent years, the European social democracy faces its more serious crisis in the after war years. How do you see its future? What do you think will mean the potential participation of SPD in the next German government for the further developments, as it has some special meaning for the European Social democracy?

BSS: The SPD represents the most grotesque ruin of European social democracy. At the moment, we experience an interregnum. The world created by neoliberalism in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall ended with the financial crisis of 2008-2011. The world that follows has not been defined yet. The post-1989 world had two agendas with a decisive impact on left politics all over the world. The explicit agenda was the definitive end of socialism as a social, economic, and political system ruled by the State. The implicit agenda amounted to the end of any social, economic and political system led by the State. This implicit agenda was far more important than the explicit one because State socialism was already agonizing and since 1978 thinking of reconstructing itself in China as State capitalism following reforms by Deng Xiaoping. The most direct result of the end of soviet-like socialism was the temporary demobilization of communist parties, some of them already far distanced from the soviet experience. The implicit agenda was the important one, and that is why it had to occur silently and insidiously, without walls falling. In the phase that until then characterized dominant capitalism, the social alternative to soviet-like socialism was universal and social economic rights, of which were beneficiaries mainly those who, devoid of privileges, only had law and rights to defend themselves against the economic and political despotism that was shaping capitalism, by nature prey to the logic of the market. The most advanced form of this alternative was post-war European social democracy, which at the beginning, in early twentieth century, actually comprised an explicit agenda (democratic socialism) and an implicit agenda (capitalism compatible with democracy by means of minimal social inclusion as presupposed by democracy). After 1945, it soon became clear that the implicit agenda was really the only one there was. Ever since the lefts became divided between those that continue to maintain a socialist solution (more or less distant from the soviet model) and those that, no matter how vocal about socialism, only wanted to regulate capitalism and curb its “excesses.” After 1989, as happened at the beginning of the century, the implicit agenda went on being implicit, even though it was the only one in force. It gradually became clear that both previous lefts had been defeated. Hence, the crisis of social democracy. The demobilization of the social democratic left was for a while disguised by the new articulation of forms of domination that were in force in the world since the seventeenth century: capitalism, colonialism (racism, mono-culturalism, etc.) and patriarchy (sexism, arbitrary separation between productive and reproductive work, that is to say, between paid and nonpaid work).

Social claims aimed at so-called post-material agendas, i.e. cultural or fourth-generation rights. Such claims were genuine and denounced repugnant forms of oppression and discrimination. The way in which they were conducted, however, led the political agents mobilizing them (social movements and NGOs) to think that they could carry them out without touching the third axis of domination, capitalism. What was being designated as class politics was actually neglected in favor of race and gender politics. Such neglect proved to be fatal when the post-1989 regime fell. Capitalist domination, reinforced by the legitimacy earned during those years, readily turned against the anti-racist and anti-sexist conquests, in its ceaseless search for ever more accumulation and exploitation. The said conquests, devoid of anti-capitalist will or separated from anti-capitalist struggles, are finding it increasingly harder to resist. SPD didn't even manage to be very active in anti-racial and anti-patriarchal politics. As it went on as well losing its call as a class party, particularly under the leadership of Gerhard Schroeder, SPD became one of the most vacuous social democratic parties in Europe, more vacuous even than the British Labour Party.

Epohi: Can the countries of the European South form a pole that will question the German dominance in Europe? What kind of possibilities are there in your opinion?

BSS: The countries of South Europe are peripheral countries in economic terms, with the relative exception of Spain. For some years, there was a credible belief that economic peripherality would be compensated for by political equality within the Union. The crisis of 2011showed that this was a cruel illusion. The Southern countries fought back. Greece first and with little success. Portugal learned a lot with Greece and followed a different path with apparent more success (see below). But up until now they have resisted in isolation. They have a lot to show to the core countries on how to handle crises and go on fighting for social cohesion . In order to be effective, however, they must articulate their European policies. I hope that will be possible in the near future with Spain on board.

Epohi: To finish with, could you describe us the current situation in Portugal and make an assessment of the Portuguese government so far?

BSS: There is no doubt that the left government in power in Portugal since late 2015 is pioneering. It is not very well known internationally not only because Portugal is a small country whose political processes rarely break news in international politics, but also and mainly because it offers a political solution that counters the interests of the two major global enemies of democracy – neoliberalism and global financial capital – which control the media today. Let's recapitulate. Since the 25 April Revolution the Portuguese have frequently voted in left parties but were ruled by right parties. While the latter would run in coalition, the left parties, following a long historical trajectory, would run as divided by apparently insurmountable differences. This was what happened in October 2015. On this occasion, however, in a gesture of political innovation that will make history in European democracy, the three left parties (Socialist Party, Left Bloc and Communist Party) decided to engage in negotiations to find a parliamentary articulation capable of facilitating a left government led by one of these three parties, the one that had gathered more votes, the Socialist Party. Following separate negotiations between the Socialist Party and the other two (mutual mistrust was there at the beginning) it was possible to reach governing accords that made possible a left government without precedent in Europe during the last decades. The genius of these accords resided in several premises:

  1. the accords were limited and pragmatic, and were focused on minor common denominators in order to facilitate a government capable of stopping the anti-democratic policies implemented in the country by the neoliberal right parties;
  2. the parties would zealously keep their programmatic identity – their banner as it were – and made clear that the accords would not put it at risk since their response to the political conjecture would not put it in question, let alone discard it;
  3. the government had to be coherent and needed therefore to be the responsibility of one party alone, given that parliamentary support would guaranty its stability;
  4. good faith would preside over the accords and the latter would be regularly checked by the parties involved.

The accord documents are models of political contention and rigorously detail the agreed upon terms. Basically, the agreed upon measures had two major political objectives: put an end to the impoverishment of the Portuguese by retrieving the income of workers and retirees according to the income scale, and stop the privatizations which, under neoliberalism and finance capital, are nothing less than acts of piracy. The accords were successfully negotiated; the government took office in a politically hostile climate generated by the then President of the Republic, the European Commission and the financial agencies – all of them servile lackeys of neoliberal orthodoxy. Gradually, the government policies yielded surprising results. Soon enough, many detractors had to acknowledge economy growth, unemployment decrease, and overall improvement of the country's image. The meaning of all this can be summed up as follows: by putting in place policies that are opposed to the neoliberal recipes, the very results advertised by the latter are achieved without augmenting the impoverishment and suffering of the Portuguese. On the contrary, achieving moderate betterment. More clearly, this political innovation shows that neoliberalism is a lie and that its only purpose it to further the concentration of wealth under global financial capital.

Of course, the national and international neoliberal right is not happy at all and will try to put an end to this political solution with the help of that fraction of the right that never liked the excesses of neoliberalism and wants to grab power again.

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The Geopolitics of the Kurds and the Case of Rojava

Alternatives International - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 15:19

How does the military cooperation of the Kurds in Rojava and Northern Syria with the US, Russia and other forces affect their standing in the larger Syrian context?

Nowadays, with the defeat of the so called “Islamic State” (IS) on the ground in Syria the geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds is discussed more than ever. To be precise, we should speak of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and of the political structure “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” (DFNS) of which Rojava (West/Syrian Kurdistan) is a part. What is of interest for this article is the criticism by some (or many) leftists against the military cooperation with the US. However, speaking only of the US would be too limiting, since in this particular conflict Russia, Turkey and Iran are also closely involved.

The geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds can be understood only in connection with the democratic-leftist Kurdish Freedom Movement (KFM). Starting with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in North Kurdistan (Bakur; Turkish part) in the 1970s, it spread to Rojava and East Kurdistan (Rojhilat; Iranian part) in the 1990s. When in 2003 the Party of Democratic Union (PYD) was founded, it accepted Öcalan's political concept of Democratic Confederalism as basis. Due to the intensive repression by the Baath regime, the space remained small, but the organization of the population never ceased to exist.

In 2011, when the uprising against the Syrian regime started, the PYD saw its interest in benefitting from the weakness of the regime in order to organize people democratically in Rojava and the big cities of Syria. In the first months, the aim was to develop the self defense capacity as it was difficult to foresee further developments against the Baath regime as well as against the armed reactionary opposition. In the following months the revolutionary movement had been organized as TEV-DEM which apart from PYD included dozens of social organizations and people from the growing people's councils all over Rojava. The Barzani-linked ENKS, the conservative Kurdish party bloc in Rojava, remained weak while TEV-DEM became the main player in Rojava. In spring 2012 when it was clear that the war is intensifying, the preparation for the liberation of Rojava started. The movement needed to be ready for the right moment.

TEV-DEM was faced with two basic decisions: Either Rojava will be defended by its own forces or it had to be given up. The second outcome would mean that other forces like the ENKS and/or the reactionary Syrian opposition would control Rojava.

Rojava was more difficult to defend than other parts of Kurdistan. On the level of terrain, the area is mainly flat and spread out. Furthermore, many international and regional powers had armed many warring forces in Syria. The unarmed democratic groups in Syria and the TEV-DEM, on the other hand, had no support from abroad. TEV-DEM had declared it a duty to defend Rojava, otherwise it would be a great setback for the KFM in all parts of Kurdistan. The point was to defend this revolution and to learn lessons from former revolutions in the world.

With the beginning of the successful liberation of Rojava's towns in July 2012, the attacks against the area grew stronger. First, it was some FSA groups and Al-Nusra Front which could be defeated by the YPG (People's Defense Units) and YPJ (Women's Defense Units). Then came ISIS (later IS), and at first, from summer 2013 until May 2014, could be defeated as well. But with the occupation of Mosul IS had grew so strong to challenge even state armies. The Baath regime also attacked Rojava at times, motivated by the Iranian regime.

Currently the biggest threat to this region is the Turkish army which has been launching attacks since October 2015 almost daily at the borders and on the front lines. In fact, all of the regional and international powers had no interest in seeing an independent and democratic force in Syria become strong, this includes western states, which just ignored TEV-DEM, and Russia which met with TEV-DEM, but with no common goals. Even Turkey, Syria and Iran met with TEV-DEM politicians (later the Democratic Self-Administration (DSA) founded in January 2014 as a democratic enlargement), but with the sole aim to incorporate it into their own bloc.

In the summer of 2014 IS was at the peak of its power. The world was shocked and considered it a new major threat. This was the case in the Middle East as well as in the rest of the world. This was also the time when forces of the KFM were resisting against IS in ?engal, the main settlement of the Kurdish Ezidis in Ba?ur. In the beginning of August 2014 both the PKK and YPG/YPJ rescued up to 80.000 Ezidis and prevented a bigger genocide – it was not the “international community” that saved these people, but those who who were till then either considered “terrorists” or ignored. From that moment, the perception of the Kurds in general, particularly of Rojava and the PKK started to change. A US led global coalition against IS was formed, at first focused only on Iraq.

Then, the large IS attack on Kobanî happened in September 2014. The Kurds resisted with whatever they had. Tens of thousands of people in Bakur gathered continuously at the border to Kobanî in order to show solidarity and protest Turkish states support for the IS. Around a thousand crossed the border to fight the IS. Because of the global IS threat and the successful resistance in ?engal the international media were also present at the border. Never before did the Kurds get so much attention. They were recognized not only as suffering, but rather as resisting. Kobanî was now well known and well seen worldwide.

The resistance was strong, but it was not enough in the face of IS. Because of the Turkish embargo, the YPG/YPJ from Cizîre, the biggest region in Rojava, could not join the resistance. If that was not the case, there would have been a balance of forces and international support would not have been necessary.

During the first days of October 2014 the US publicly declared that it could see no hope, even if it was already bombing IS in parts of Syria. A few days later, the US started to bomb IS systematically in and around Kobanî city. The resistance in Kobanî, a big uprising in Bakur/Turkey and the global public request for Kobanî support were the main driving factors for that. This intervention in Kobanî started under specific political conditions and it was not clear how long it will last. Only after that, did serious negotiations happen.

Motivations for the US and Syrian Kurds

On the short-term, the main motivation for the US was seeing that the defeat of IS in Kobanî would be very beneficial for their own strategy in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Kobanî became IS' Stalingrad. For the revolution of Rojava the defense of Kobanî was crucial, otherwise it could be marginalized in Syria. This is how two forces opposed ideologically ended up having the same short term interests.

The bombing of IS gave the US a strong partner in Syria. This comes after the US along with Turkey and some of the Gulf states had been supporting armed opposition groups. These groups however, were unable to overthrow the regime and were becoming weaker, or becoming more and more extreme in their Islamic ideology. Furthermore, these groups were less committed to their western sponsors and more to Turkey and the Gulf sponsors, which the US saw with suspicion. This is why a cooperation with the YPG/YPJ promised to give the US more influence in Syria and having an active role in designing a new Syria.

In the beginning of the military cooperation the USA planned to subordinate Rojava militarily to the government of Ba?ur. The notes of the talks on March 14, 2015 between several HDP (People's Democratic Party) parliamentarians and the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan state that the US exercised pressure on the YPG/YPJ to accept to be part of the PDK-Peshmerga commando structure, and that Öcalan took position against that. This did not happen, but the cooperation continued.

There are certainly other long-term motivations for the US to start the military cooperation with YPG/YPJ/SDF. One is to come back to the Middle East political scene and appear as a positive force after the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan which turned the US into an unwanted force in almost all Muslim majority countries.

This military engagement also served to limit the influence of Iran in Iraq which increased especially in the years until 2014. This became yet more important after Trump was elected.

Another reason is pressuring the Turkish government which has been moving away from its western allies in the last years. Turkey, has been trying to benefit from the conflicts between different powers, particularly the US and Russia to increase its influence in the Middle East. The support for Al Nusra and IS was part of this strategy while bypassing the embargo on Iran. For several years, the NATO has looked at these actions with suspicion. Turkey's main concern in its international policies are the Kurds.

Furthermore, the US has actively supported the big parties PDK and YNK (PUK) in Ba?ur since 1991 which led to a status of autonomy. There were expectations, among others, that the two parties would dominate the three other parts of Kurdistan and push back the KFM. But they failed. Instead, their corruption pushed Ba?ur into a big economic and political crisis. Also, the PDK has been influenced by Turkey's policies, especially by the sale of oil through Turkish pipelines.

Öcalan's vision, on the other hand, is an inspiration for a new inclusive and democratic approach. Democratic Confederalism is the most powerful democratic concept in the Middle East. Millions of people in Bakur and Rojava had the possibility of experiencing it. Successful coalitions for democracy are formed with Turks, Arabs, Assyrians and others.

Neither the western states nor the Russian-Chinese block can propose anything to the multidimensional crisis of the Middle East – they are out of ideas. The discussion is almost only about “defeating terrorists, stability and building walls against refugees”.

The US wants to instrumentalize the KFM for its own interests either by taming the whole KFM or by disconnecting Rojava from the rest of the KFM. This could be done by offering more military support and international political support in exchange for promises of a strong political status within Syria if the DFNS would distance itself from Öcalan, and reject the KFM in Bakur (and the PKK), while giving more space to the PDK of Barzani and the YNK. However, since the beginning of the military cooperation in October 2014, there has not been much change in the balance of power and dependency between the two.

It would be much harder for the SDF to defend its territory without American military cooperation. The DFNS would be more vulnerable to attacks from Turkey and the Syrian regime, now that IS in no longer an existential threat. Now the SDF have much more fighters, technical capacities, motivations and thus a higher defense capacity, even if they had been defending their territory before US support.

Russia's cooperation

The DFNS has important relations with Russia too, since 2012. Russia's has multiple interests in this relationship, including that the SDF not deepen its military cooperation with the US.

For Russia this limited cooperation with the SDF can be used against Turkey, and the same goes for the US. While Turkey wanted to overthrow the Baath regime in the first years of the Syrian uprising, since 2016 it focuses almost only on limiting the growing power of the new democratic project in Rojava/Northern Syria. This approach of the Turkish government gives Russia the opportunity to play on the Turkish fears.

Having strong political-economic-military relations with Turkey, Russia allowed the Turkish army to invade the triangle region between Jarablus, Al-Bab and Azaz in Northern Syria, in return Turkey cut the support for armed groups in Aleppo. This invasion disconnected Kobanî and Afrîn. And with the Turkish army in Syria, Russia can exercise pressure on the SDF. This is the case especially around Afrîn, the site of the Turkish assault and where Russia has observation points it uses against both Turkey and SDF.

Russia has also been trying to seek an agreement between the growing DFNS and the Baath regime. The DFNS have repeatedly declared that they seek a strategic agreement with the Syrian regime which would make Syria democratic and federal. It has become public that the two sides have met several times. In these meetings, the Syrian regime was only ready to accept cultural rights for Kurds and a strengthening of municipalities, while the DFNS insisted that the reality of a broad democracy in Northern Syria and a basic democratization of Syria as a whole will be accepted. However, at the end of October 2017 the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallim, said that negotiations about autonomy for the Kurdish regions can be discussed, a surprising development. But this is a dangerous and unacceptable proposal because it would divide the Kurdish and Arabic regions. Here the DFNS is in a more advantageous situation and continues to insist to be accepted by the Baath regime as a federal region.

The DFNS considers its relations with Russia beneficial in several terms. One objective is to limit the attacks by the Turkish state against the SDF liberated territories. Another objective is to use Russia's influence to pressure the Syrian regime to negotiate a democratic solution and include the DFNS in the international negotiations to end the armed conflict in Syria. The third objective is not to deepen the relations with the US and benefit from the conflicting interests of the two international and regional powers. However, both states have in their international policies the interest to stay in contact or even to develop ties with the Kurds which now includes also the KFM – even if it is tactical.

Characteristics of the cooperation

The military cooperation has often characterized by tensions. One big controversial discussion was over Minbiç (Manbij) which the SDF wanted liberated while the USA focused on Raqqa. The SDF launched its operation in Minbiç anyway without American support, and was already in the outskirts of the city when the US gave support to the operation, and finally achieving its goal on August 12, 2016. This case shows that the cooperation between the SDF and the US is not one-sided.

When at the end of August 2016, the Turkish army moved to occupy Jarablus, the SDF tried to reach the city and strike back at the Turkish army by pushing out IS from the south. Although the Turkish army suffered losses, it could take over Jarablus city while IS retreated within one day without fighting. Several days later a de-facto ceasefire between the SDF and the Turkish army was negotiated by the Americans and came into effect. But with the American support of the Turkish invasion, the coordination between the SDF and the US fell into crisis for several weeks.

Nonetheless, the SDF was able to resist quite successfully against the moving Turkish troops around Al-Bab. The fight only ended when Russia and the US sent soldiers to the front around Minbic.

The number of US soldiers in Northern Syria should not be exaggerated as they are not fighting on the ground, except in Raqqa city. They are however involved in training and coordination of arriving military equipment.

One month before the liberation of Raqqa, the SDF started the “Cizîre storm” operation to liberate the whole region east of the Euphrates river in the Deir Ez-Zor province. The SDF commanders stated that they were going to carry the operation even if the Americans were opposed to it because it was urgent: the Syrian army was progressing quickly towards Deir Ez-Zor city. The operation was successful.

Although there is military cooperation between the SDF and the US led Global Anti-IS Coalition, it is not possible to speak about a political cooperation. The US makes a clear distinction between the political and military dimension and have not insisted that the DFNS is part of the Geneva negotiations. Although the US government refused public accusations by Turkey that the YPG are terrorists using American weapons that will eventually fall in the hands of the PKK, it has never said anything positive in public about the political process in Rojava/Northern Syria. Until now, no leading figure from the DFNS or SDF was allowed to visit the US.

Although the military relationship with Russia is much less developed than with the US, politically Russia gave more direct and positive statements about the Syrian Kurds and the DFNS. For example in the beginning of 2017 Russia prepared a draft for a new constitution which included that Kurds should be involved in the international negotiations. Just recently Russia announced a “people's congress of Syria” to which the PYD/Kurds would be invited.

Background of the war

The KFM says that what is happening in the Middle East is the Third World War with Syria at the very center, and there are three main forces: first is international imperialism represented mainly by the US and Russia ; second is the regional status quo powers with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia as the main players with imperialist characteristics ; and third is the revolutionary and democratic forces led by the Rojava Revolution and the PKK. These three forces are fighting among one another and the result is complicated with continuously changing coalitions and armed conflicts. Each force develops relations with those who seem to be opposed to the enemy, in order to achieve their strategic interests.

This is related to the deep and structural crisis of capitalism experienced violently in the Middle East. It is not enough to have an ideological and political approach as many leftist and socialist organizations do, rather an organizational and military approach is crucial. Without being dogmatic, it is necessary to fight against threats, but also to be able to restructure one's organization according to the conditions and to understand the dynamics and contradictions of other players in order to be able to benefit from them. The goal must be to defend the gains and build a strong self-organized society wherever it is possible to strengthen one's own power. The creation of zones of freedom is not only possible with friendly forces. A dogmatic position will lead to the defeat, so each step needs to be calculated well, particularly for the Kurds who have been colonized by four nation-states. Because the KFM acts on this approach since its foundation, it could achieve the current level of strength. The stakes are high: either the forces of imperialism and capitalism win, or a new space for freedom is forged for humanity in the region, and this is why international and regional powers are fighting so violently to preserve the status quo.

The people in Rojava

Irrespective of all developments and discussions it is important to see how the military cooperation with the US affects the society of Rojava. There are two main questions. First, how do political activists and the population consider this military cooperation. And whether and how the economic-political-cultural structures have experienced any changes through this cooperation.

Between February and March 2017 I held around 50 interviews with political activists and people from different administrative bodies on their political work and the political-social situation. Apart from one person, no one regarded the military cooperation without any concerns. The interviewees said mostly that this cooperation has come up because of difficult conditions - particularly in Kobanî - and numerous enemies, but does not include a political dimension. For them the US is cooperating for its own interests and the cooperation is a tactical one. There was a clear awareness that the revolution should not rely on this military cooperation which could end at any time, but should try to benefit from it. The same goes for Russia. These were important answers based on a critical perception and far-sightedness. Activists continue to develop and deepen their political work and insist on a strongly self-organized society. I observed that in Rojava a self-organized and self-sufficient society includes more and stronger communes, people's councils and other political structures, a communal economy which produces its own needs as much as possible, an independent education and health system and self-defense in all neighborhoods, communes and villages. This approach is connected to a 40 year experience of the KFM which never depended on any other political power. In the general political discussions, the military cooperation with the US was seldom a subject.

Like other political and social structures, the press of Rojava does not put the military cooperation in the center of the news. Rather the focus is on the political project of democratic federalism/autonomy, defense, liberation, the building of new structures in society and public demonstrations.

I met few people who expressed a big expectation from the US. The silence of the USA/NATO states when the Iraqi Army attacked Kirkuk after the referendum in Ba?ur in September 25, 2017 has confirmed that a critical approach is crucial.

The efforts to build up communes everywhere never ceased after the start of the military cooperation with the US; rather the number of communes doubled. Also the creation of cooperatives continued; today there are a few hundred of cooperatives. The democratic-communal economy continues to be developed. The anti-capitalist mentality was stronger in 2017 than in 2014 when I traveled for the first time to Rojava.

In discussions with YPG and YPJ members there was not much attached value on the relations with the US: it certainly provided more military equipment, but the human is always the strongest weapon in a war.

A member of the YPG, who is in direct relations with commanders in all areas, told me that the US military never tried to impose anything directly or tried to intervene in the political-social-economic model or life because they are aware that the SDF and DFNS would never accept any kind of intervention in their internal policies. He also emphasized that they are prepared for an end of the military cooperation with the US Army at any time. According to him the cooperation has some serious advantages, but has also risks. Particularly to get used to the US support over time is a risk which needs to be discussed permanently, thus the YPG has to take measures. Another challenge is that because of the US presence within Syria the disputes with the Syrian regime should not end up in a big war because the DFNS wants to come to a mutual and respectful agreement with the Ba'ath regime.

About whether the SDF coordination has fears that the cooperation could change the interest and political vision of the fighters, he said: “We believe that we have a strong political project with Democratic Confederalism which is an inspiring tool for us. What kind of ideas offer does the US or other states offer to us? We have a stronger democracy which is direct and inclusive and a gender liberation in rapid development. Most importantly, we have a vision for a new life for the people of the greater region. What the capitalist states have, is money, weapons and democracy in structural crisis, not more.”

I spoke to dozens of international volunteers who are still coming to join the Rojava revolution, mainly from Europe or North America. Most had a positive position on the development in Northern Syria and wanted to stay longer and learn how people organize themselves, discuss and share what they have.

The many internationalists do not consider the military cooperation between SDF and USA as an obstacle for their engagement in Northern Syria. There are at least several hundred internationalists, not counting the Arabs, Turks and other people of the Middle East. This fact should be considered when people only see the cooperation with the US and neglect all the other deep revolutionary and social developments in Northern Syria.

But if the US ends the military cooperation without any peace agreement for Syria, the SDF controlled territory would be more vulnerable to big military attacks from the Turkish army and the Syrian regime. This would mean a new intensification of the whole Syrian conflict with an unclear outcome. Furthermore, the continuing cooperation could develop over time into a dependency of the DFNS/SDF on the US due to deteriorating conditions in Northern Syria.

The risks of the military cooperation with the US are debated openly. And the population understands the positive and negative sides which creates a sort of immunity against dependency.

Another mechanism against dependency is to benefit from the contradictions between all powers involved in the Syrian war. For instance by maintaining relations with Russia which is interested to have relations with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq for its own long-term interests.

For the KFM it was possible to survive within the Syrian war thanks to the “revolutionary diplomacy”, while developing a new political model, first in Rojava and then in other parts of Northern Syria. The revolutionary diplomacy includes permanent evaluation in order to see upcoming risks as well as initiatives to be active in these political and military cooperations.

Another important mechanism – of course also a principle - is to develop the international solidarity with the revolution of Rojava and in general with the KFM, for instance with the internationalists who would transfer the revolution to their countries, or the continuous political work on international level. The resistance in Kobanî has created a solidarity movement worldwide, but it is not strong enough. International solidarity should not be underestimated as anti-revolutionary forces lobby against the revolution at all stages. Only a strong international solidarity – also in the Middle East - with this revolution will make the revolutionaries less dependent on military cooperations with the US.

If the revolution of Rojava would fail, this would probably be a setback for democratic and revolutionary forces in Kurdistan, Syria and also the Middle East and the world. Its survival and development, however, has the big potential to change the mindsets of millions of people in Middle East.

Source: https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/ercan-ayboga/geopolitics-of-kurds-and-case-of-rojava

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Intersectionality is a Hole. Afro-Pessimism is a Shovel. We Need to Stop Digging

Alternatives International - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 14:44

The US left has a fundamental problem, perhaps the root of most of its other problems. That fundamental problem is that the US left is not organized as or led by any class conscious or class oriented formations. Union membership is somewhere around 5% of the workforce, and major unions have long been captured by the Democratic party. So the US left is composed of the black activists in their boxes, the gender activists in theirs, the immigrants and their friends over here, Latinos over there, the environmentalists in their corners and the rest in their own zones, each and every one doggedly “centering” their own experience, and if we're lucky “intersecting” now and then.

It's a recipe for impotence and futility. But this is the US of A, we tell ourselves, where for some reason a class struggle oriented left has not emerged in any of our lifetimes. Adjusting to this toxic reality rather than taking the responsibility for changing it, US leftists have developed a self-deceiving and self-limiting language, a discourse that normalizes a kind of alternate universe in which class analysis is deprecated and discouraged and class struggle taken pretty much off the table. Intersectionality, and its nappy headed stepchild Afro-pessimism are prominent features of the stifling closet in which the US left has locked itself.

The word intersectionality was originally used by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in her discussion of a civil rights lawsuit filed by a black woman who alleged she'd been discriminated against as a black person AND as a woman. Absurdly the court rejected her claim, saying the plaintiff needed to choose whether she alleged discrimination on the basis of gender or of race, but not both. Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to cover these instances of multiple and overlapping oppressions. As a legal theory it hasn't gained a lot of traction. But in the worlds of politics and the nonprofit industrial complex intersectionality has become a pervasive buzzword.

In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn't deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others. What's sneaky about the substitution of intersectionality for solidarity is that intersectionality allows the unexamined smuggling in of multiple notions which directly undermine the development and the operation of solidarity. Intersectionality means everybody is obligated to put their own special interest, their own oppression first – although they don't always say that because the contradiction would be too obvious. The applicable terms of art are that everybody gets to “center” their own oppression, and cooperate as “allies” if and when their interests “intersect.” What this yields is silliness like honchos who run the pink pussy hat marches telling Cindy Sheehan earlier this month that their womens' movement can't be bothered to oppose war and imperialism “...until all women are free,” and the advocates of this or that cause demanding constant, elaborate performative rituals of those who would qualify for "allyship."

The nonprofit industrial complex, funded as it is by the one percent, loves, promotes and lavishly rewards intersectionality at every turn because it buries and negates class struggle. Intersectionality normalizes the notion that the left is and ought to be a bunch of impotent constituency groups squabbling about privilege and “allyship” as they compete for funding and careers, not the the force working to overthrow the established order and fight for the power to build a new world. Even Hillary Clinton uses the word now.

Afro-pessimism is a term coined by Dr. Frank Wilderson at UC Irvine, and a nappy headed stepchild of intersectionality. Afro-pessimism, to hear Wilderson tell it is the realization that black people have no natural allies anywhere, that we are born with ankle irons, whip marks on our backs, bulls eyes on our foreheads and nooses around our necks. Blackness, he says is “a condition of ontological death ,” and the dead have no allies, at least among the living. Wilderson is at least honest. He freely admits that afro-pessimism leads nowhere and offers no answers to any strategic or even tactical questions. Wilderson's shtick is that of an old man throwing word grenades and he seems not to care much where or how they explode, as long as they do. Whatever works for him, I guess.

But in the context of a US left that just doesn't DO class struggle Wilderson's grenades are being picked up and thrown again and again, both by old heads who ought to know better, and by younger ones looking to fit in with what bills itself as the movement. The intersectionality that dominates the US left is a kind of poisoned atmosphere in which the purple prose of afro-pessimism fits and thrives, a place where the dishonest can pretend, and the unwary can believe it provides the answers that even Wilderson says it does not.

To be fair, some intersectional activists do pretend to embrace class struggle. Patrice Cullors one of the three ladies responsible for the #blacklivesmatter hashtag famously proclaimed herself and Alicia Garza were “trained Marxists.” One might imagine that a trained Marxist would look at US history and discerning that there are no leading class struggle organizations contending for power, try to figure out how to overcome the obstacles to their creation and successful operation.

But the embrace of intersectionality has led the US left in precisely the opposite direction. Intersectionality pretends that class struggle and overthrowing the capitalist order and fighting for power are impractical, impossible, non-pragmatic or just secondary to gender struggles, to the plight of immigrants, to the environment, or in the case of afro-pessimism, to those permanent ankle chains, whip marks and nooses around our necks. Intersectionality calls upon the left to adjust to powerlessness and our poisoned atmosphere, not to contend for the power to change it.

Intersectionality is deep a hole. Afro-pessimism is a shovel. The next thing we should do is stop digging.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and co-chair of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reliably reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com. He's trying to get better at answering his Twitter @brucedixon.

Source: https://www.blackagendareport.com/intersectionality-hole-afro-pessimism-shovel-we-need-stop-digging

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The Yechury-Karat Debate Frames Left Politics In a False Binary

Alternatives International - Thu, 01/25/2018 - 15:52

Media reports on the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s central committee meeting held in Kolkata (January 19-21, 2018) indicate that the party is majorly divided on the issue of its current political assessment and tactical position. According to these reports, the draft political resolution presented by party general secretary Sitaram Yechury was defeated (by 31 votes against 55), and the forthcoming CPI(M) congress in Hyderabad is now expected to take up the draft attributed to former general secretary Prakash Karat for deliberation and adoption. Within the CPI(M), the division is being widely seen as a clash of the ‘Bengal line' and the ‘Kerala line'. Beyond the CPI(M), among broad progressive liberal circles, this is being seen as a clash between a pragmatic mass line and a puritan isolationist position, a conflict between people who understand the nuances of popular electoral politics and those who are driven by copybook Marxist dogma.

These are very superficial and misleading lines of demarcation. The CPI(M) in Kerala is as much a deft practitioner of electoral politics as the CPI(M) in West Bengal once used to be. Kerala is where communists first came to power in 1957, and despite periodic defeats, they are still in power after 60 years. This may not be as spectacular as the 34-year-long reign of the CPI(M) in West Bengal, but then the CPI(M)'s fall in West Bengal has been no less spectacular. In contrast, the stable and protracted Kerala saga is certainly no less significant than the West Bengal story of the CPI(M). Let us, therefore, try and look beyond these superficial stereotypes at the real and deeper political questions.

What the debate is all about

The debate apparently revolves around two key issues. How should the CPI(M) assess the current Narendra Modi regime and the present phase of Sangh-BJP aggression? And what should be the CPI(M)'s electoral/political tactics at this stage? Yechury reportedly argues that fascism is staring us in the face and the Left must forge a broad secular alliance to combat fascism. Karat, on the other hand, has argued that what we are facing is not fascism but communal authoritarianism, and an alliance with the Congress is not the answer to this challenge.

There is indeed wide agreement among Left-liberal circles that what we are experiencing in India today is nothing short of fascism. We must not wait for a complete overrun of bourgeois democracy and the chilling reality of concentration camps, gas chambers and the horror of holocaust to say that fascism is ravaging India. The communal lynch mobs, the numerous vigilante squads, the intensified Brahminical-patriarchal aggression, the targeted killings and mysterious ‘deaths' and ‘disappearances' of dissenting voices and common citizens are enough warning signals that we can ignore only at our own peril. True, India is a former colony now dreaming of becoming a global power under imperialist tutelage, while Germany under Hitler was a cornered and declining colonial power trying to achieve global supremacy and racial ‘purity‘ and ‘pride' through internal fascism that spilled and grew into a world war. But these distinctions in no way negate the fascist essence of the Sangh-BJP Hindu supremacist project of turning secular India into a Hindu rashtra.

Had the Modi government been only about the Adani-Ambani brand of crony capitalism and the aggressive pursuit of the policies of privatisation and globalisation, coupled with arbitrary measures like demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax and Aadhaar, we could have perhaps called it just another authoritarian neoliberal regime. But the ever-growing domination of the RSS in the entire scheme of things makes the current regime undeniably fascist. The RSS has all along been a fascist organisation with a fascist project, and now that it has acquired such a controlling grip on state power, it is in a position to unleash its entire agenda at a breakneck speed. It is, therefore, essential to oust the Sangh-BJP dispensation from power and what happens in elections is definitely of crucial importance.

But the BJP has not risen overnight; it has had a steady and spectacular growth over the last three decades. This has been possible because of a political vacuum created by the discrediting of successive governments and the complicity and capitulation of a whole range of parties of the ruling classes in dealing with the BJP. The fact is that there are more parties today willing to do business and share power with the BJP than the ones that are ready to fight against it. We certainly need a credible alternative with a stronger democratic content and foundation to effectively defeat, expose and isolate the Sangh-BJP establishment. A dynamic and vibrant Left can surely play a big role in building and energising such an alternative.

Finding the right alternative

The simple formula of a broad secular alliance with parties easily crossing over from the ‘communal' to the ‘secular' camp and back (Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United in Bihar being perhaps the most glaring but not the only example) has only discredited secularism and not provided any stable alternative to the BJP in any province in India. It is one thing to devise an electoral strategy to ensure the BJP's defeat on as big a scale as possible or to try and work out any possible post-poll arrangement to keep the BJP out of power, but reducing the Left's tactics to the illusive idea of a grand secular alliance is a different proposition and a futile exercise, if the experience of the last three decades is anything to go by.

The debate over the Congress is actually an escapist debate within the CPI(M). From indirectly sharing power with the Congress during the UPA-I period to having seat adjustments with the Congress in the last assembly elections in West Bengal, the CPI(M) has had various forms and degrees of collaboration with the Congress short of openly joining a Congress-led alliance. That has not stopped the BJP from growing (not just nationally but specifically also in West Bengal) or the CPI(M) from losing ground in West Bengal (and by implication also suffering a massive erosion in its overall strength and stature). It is interesting to note that while the CPI(M) is debating its relation with the Congress, the latter is more interested in courting the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as a potential ally.

It was the presumed Congress-CPI(M) proximity that led to the rise of the TMC in West Bengal and the BJP backed it fully, directly when the TMC was a part of NDA during the early Atal Bihari Vajpayee years at the Centre, and indirectly even after the TMC quit NDA, to secure the CPI(M)'s ouster from power. Of course, even after that the CPI(M) had managed to secure 80% majority in 2006 and its fall from that height has little to do with its equations with the Congress. The collapse was triggered by the internal derailment of the Left Front government, illustrated most starkly through the Singur-Nandigram-Lalgarh episodes, coupled with the CPI(M)'s complete identification with and reliance on the government and the bureaucratic arrogance and alienation of the CPI(M) leadership at different levels of the party and government from the people. The CPI(M) refuses to acknowledge and address this basic problem, smugly blaming the people for bringing the TMC to power in the state.

Today, for both the CPI(M) and the Congress, Kerala is a crucially important state. It is well known that the RSS has a fairly strong and extensive network in Kerala even though the BJP's electoral success is still very much limited. The Congress-CPI(M) alliance in Kerala can only facilitate the BJP's rise in Kerala as the main opposition force. In Tripura, the Congress has effectively given way to the BJP as the main opposition force in the state. And in West Bengal, even as the CPI(M) treats the TMC as the main target and virtually equates it to the BJP, at the moment the TMC and the BJP appear at loggerheads and the TMC remains the biggest anti-BJP force in the state in public perception. Indeed, if the CPI(M) sees a broad secular alliance as the answer to the BJP, then it should reinvent and rehabilitate itself as a junior partner of the TMC – and to be sure, that will again be a great service to the BJP.

A strong and dynamic Left is the need of the hour. The experience of the post-2014 political scene tells us that while most opposition parties, the Congress included, have often been clueless and demoralised, and devoid of any major oppositional or agitational initiative, there has been no dearth of popular agitations challenging the BJP and throwing up new faces and new forces in the process. The story of the recent Gujarat elections was as much a stunning corroboration of this fact as it was about belated attempts at reviving the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. And by launching the election campaign (as well as the exercise to review the election results) from the Somnath temple, the Congress has once again revealed its proclivity to compete with the BJP on the latter's own turf of Hindutva, the suicidal streak that has enabled the BJP to go about setting the agenda ever more aggressively, compelling a clueless Congress to remain limited to belated defensive responses.

Rather than chasing the mirage of a grand secular alliance, the Left must take the lead in launching powerful struggles on the ground and unleashing bold socio-cultural and ideological-political campaigns and initiatives. Prompt intervention on every issue and concerted efforts to build and promote struggles in defence of democracy is the key to defeating the BJP in the coming series of elections going up to the all important showdown in 2019. The Left approach and tactics must be aimed at increasing and leveraging the strength of the Left and maximising its initiative and impact. The Yechury-Karat debate frames the tasks and direction of the Left in a false binary – a powerful and independent assertion of the Left becomes all the more urgent in the face of the growing fascist danger. This assertion is perfectly consistent, and must be combined, with a readiness to explore suitable electoral tactics in keeping with the objective political conditions in different parts of the country and the central objective of defeating the BJP and strengthening the Left.

Dipankar Bhattacharya is general secretary, CPI(ML) Liberation.

Source: https://thewire.in/216712/cpim-karat-yechury-congress-alliance/

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Women's health advocate, Emerita Professor Abby Lippman (1939-2017)

Alternatives International - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 17:56

Abby Lippman (1939-2017) was a formidable presence in Montreal. Often seen striding down Sherbrooke Street, she was a force to be reckoned with. Lippman died on December 26, 2017, of natural causes. She was 78.

She specialized in feminist studies of applied genetic technologies as well as general issues in the politics of women's health. Her primary focus was the relation of gender to health in the areas of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

Lippman was a mentor to many young women who wanted to challenge the biomedical and patriarchal model of health care, and was a ferocious critic of the pharmaceutical industry.

Lippman was born on Dec. 11, 1939, in Brooklyn, N.Y., earned her BA in Comparative Literature at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and moved to Montreal in 1973. She earned her PhD in Human Genetics at McGill.

Even after 40 years of living in Montreal, Lippman never lost her thick Brooklyn accent.

Her thesis underlined the importance of taking serious account of the views, needs and wishes of people receiving genetic counselling. This attention to empowerment was to characterize all her academic work.

“My mother was absolutely wonderful – loving, caring and generous. There will be a memorial to her sometime in the spring when we can guarantee that weather will not affect anybody's travel plans. In lieu of flowers a donation in her name to the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal would be greatly appreciated,” said her son, Chris “Zeke” Hand.

Hand recalled that as a boy growing up in New York in the 1960s, he was acutely aware of his mother advocating for women's rights. “I know that social activism was sort of like her bread and butter,” he said. “It was extremely important to her.”

Daniel Weinstock, Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy, said on Facebook: “Very saddened to hear of the passing of my colleague Abby Lippman. Abby was truly fearless and indefatigable in her work for social justice, be it in our own society or internationally. May her memory be for a blessing.”

Lippman had retired as Emerita Professor of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill, but continued to assist students. She was as renowned for championing social causes as she was for her critiques of reproductive technologies and other medical topics.

Lippman focused on problems linked to what she called “geneticization” (the tendency to attribute undue importance to genes as a determinant of human health) and “neo medicalization” (the trend of the pharmaceutical industry to catalogue and create illness).

Lippman was past president of the Canadian Women's Health Coalition, and, after retirement, often worked at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, a college within Concordia University, established in 1978 to provide a foundation for the interdisciplinary pursuit of Women's Studies.

Those who knew her say one constant in her life was being “too busy.” In addition to her activism she was devoted to her family and her grandchildren.

Just before she died, she wrote this poem, published on the Montreal literary website Montreal Serai.

LOST

Where are we when LOST in thoughts?
Where are the minds that a person loses:
the lost words and faces not recalled.
Where is our temper when we lose it?
What is lost in translation?
Where do these lost thoughts, feelings; these lost words, go?
Do they live? Do they die?
Surely they are not like the socks and gloves gone missing in a clothes dryer.
And what about the person for whom all this is lost?
What remains of her? And where is she to be found?

****
Lippman is survived by her son Chris, daughter Jessica, and her two grandchildren, Seonaid and Maxwell and her brother, Marc Lippman.

A memorial gathering is being planned for April and the family requests that in lieu of flowers a donation in her name to the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Source: http://publications.mcgill.ca/reporter/2018/01/womens-health-advocate-emerita-professor-abby-lippman-1939-2017/

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Israeli Government Blacklists South African NGO

Alternatives International - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 16:06

The South African human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, BDS South Africa, a registered NGO and Public Benefit Organization (PBO), is among 20 international groups that have been added to a "blacklist" by the Israeli government's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, headed by Gilad Erdan.

According to Erdan, who's department is responsible for countering the international BDS movement, members of the blacklisted organizations will not be allowed to enter the country. Israel's Haaretz Newspaper quotes Erdan as saying: "We have shifted from defense to offense...[And] the boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them…”. Israel's Interior Minister Arye Dery, whose ministry is responsible for implementing the list, has said that he will act against activists of the BDS movement "by every means.” (Click here) Last year Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz called for the "civil targeted killing" of BDS leaders.

Among the 20 groups blacklisted by Israel is the 101 year old American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that was honoured with the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for assisting and rescuing Jewish victims from the Nazi regime during World War 2. Kerri Kennedy, an AFSC official, responded to the AFSC's inclusion on Israel's BDS Blacklist by saying: “We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations."

Another organization included on Israel's BDS Blacklist is the US-based progressive Jewish organization, Jewish Voices For Peace (JVP). The irony of Israel and its lobby calling Israel "Jewish and democratic” cannot be lost. Click here for a moving article by JVP Executive Director titled "I'm a US Jew on Israel's BDS Blacklist. I Have Family in Israel. But I Won't Be Silenced". Other US organizations on Israel's BDS blacklist are the women-led anti-war group, CodePink and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Two prominent UK organizations have been added to Israel's BDS blacklist, the first is the UK charity and advocacy organisation War on Want, who's director has commented: "This blacklist is a repressive tactic borrowed from the same playbook used by the apartheid regime in South Africa, when it tried to censor critics. Such attempts to silence human rights defenders through blacklisting and targeted harassment failed then as they will now.” (Click here). The other UK group blacklisted is the UK-based Palestine Solidarity campaign that includes, among its patrons, the UK Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

In being blacklisted by Israel, we international activists are facing are only a shadow of what Palestinians endure on a daily basis. For example, to date Israel has denied entry (in violation of international law) to the over 700 000 indigenous Palestinian refugees who were in 1947 evicted, forcibly removed and prevented from returning to their homes.

BDS South Africa echoes the sentiment of our partner organizations, that have also been added to the Israeli "blacklist", who have termed this latest move by Israel as a sign of the regime's increasing desperation and a reflection of the success of the BDS movement. If anything, with this blacklist and barring of people, Israel - like Apartheid South Africa - is isolating and BDS'ing itself!

ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA

BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
5th Floor | Mishumo House | 77 De Korte Street | Braamfontein | Johannesburg
PO Box 2318 | Houghton | 2041 | Johannesburg
T: +27 (0) 11 403 2097 | M: +27 (0) 74 054 3826 | F: +27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: www.bdssouthafrica.com | E: kkekana@bdssouthafrica.com
www.facebook.com/bdssouthafrica | www.twitter.com/bdssouthafrica | www.instagram.com/bdssouthafrica

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446

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While Pundits Condemn Iran, Honduran Police Kill Street Demonstrators

Alternatives International - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 19:47

Do you smell a double standard? You should—and hardly for the first time.

As the usual crowd of neo-conservative regime-changers, liberal humanitarian interventionists, and Israel lobbyists join President Trump in backing anti-government street demonstrations in Iran, their collective silence has been deafening regarding the killing of at least 30 people in Honduras by police, after protests against alleged fraud in that country's recent presidential election.

Do you smell a double standard? You should—and hardly for the first time.

The op-ed pages of major U.S. newspapers weren't filled with columns demanding a tough response last July when Saudi authorities executed four Shia Muslim men for participating in protests against security forces who run a police state much tighter than Iran's. The victims—like other pro-democracy demonstrators who have been condemned to death—were reportedly convicted on the basis of confessions produced through torture.

Nor did many columnists and think-tank pundits complain when security forces in Bahrain killed five protesters last May amid what Human Rights First called a “ferocious crackdown against opposition human rights leaders.” The same tough Sunni monarchy crushed huge street protests in 2011 with the help of Saudi troops.

And now, amid serious accusations that the recent presidential elections in Honduras were stolen, where are the voices condemning the killing of protesters there by heavily armed military police?

The protests broke out after a highly suspicious ruling by Honduras's Supreme Electoral Tribunal—delayed for 36 hours because of thousands of missing vote tally sheets—handed a narrow and unconvincing victory to the incumbent conservative presidential candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, in the Nov. 26 national election.

His party took power after a military coup in 2009, which the Obama administration, to its great discredit, eventually endorsed. Hernández himself was first elected president in 2013, apparently with the help of funds stolen from the Honduran Social Security Institute. A 2010 State Department cable stated that “he has consistently supported US interests.” He enjoys the respect and friendship of President Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly, who got to know the Honduran president while heading the U.S. Southern Command.

Hernandez's run for re-election last fall violated the Honduran constitution, which grants presidents only one term in office. It was supremely ironic: the military coup in 2009 was predicated on the charge that the left-leaning president at the time, Manuel Zelaya, was contemplating running for a second term, which he staunchly denied.

The only consistent standard shared by the Honduran military and Washington, then as now, is to support conservative governments in Central America.

Within days of Hernández's latest alleged electoral victory, the Trump administration cleared the way to him receiving $644 million in aid appropriated by Congress, by certifying that his government was fighting corruption and defending human rights.

At the time, the election tribunal had not yet even certified the results; the Hernández government had suspended constitutional rights; and police were battling protesters in the streets with tear gas, water cannons, and gunfire.

Moreover, the government's record on corruption is debatable at best. Testimony by a convicted Honduran drug kingpin in New York last spring implicated the brother of President Hernández (who denied the charge) in a money laundering operation. The same kingpin reportedly also gave U.S. authorities a recorded conversation with another trafficker who claimed to have made a quarter-million dollar payoff intended for the president himself.

In addition, President Hernández's security minister—in charge of the country's national police force—was accused by another former trafficker of helping to facilitate shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Honduras. As a military officer, he attended courses in counterinsurgency and psychological operations at the U.S. military's School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Under his purview, noted the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor, “the country's security forces, enriched and empowered in the shadow of the U.S. war on drugs, have been accused of human rights abuses and targeting dissidents, including allegations surrounding the 2016 assassination of Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and outspoken opponent of Hernández.”

In late December, unsurprisingly, the State Department endorsed the election tribunal's dubious declaration of Hernández as the winner. It also called on both sides to refrain from violence.

Human rights groups took a harder line.

“Amnesty International has accused the government of deploying ‘dangerous and illegal tactics to silence any dissenting voices,' while the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have denounced torture of detainees in military installations and said they were ‘alarmed by the illegal and excessive use of force to disperse protests,' reported the Guardian at the beginning of 2018. “But the US-backed government has rejected a request by the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a special delegate to investigate abuses.”

Bottom line: In Iran, U.S. economic sanctions are contributing to the misery that drives protesters to the streets. In Honduras, by contrast, U.S. military aid supports many of the security forces that are killing protesters much closer to home. Yet most pundits with a national platform in the U.S. media ignore Honduras while insisting that Washington must denounce the Iranian government for its crackdown on dissidents. Go figure.

Jonathan Marshall, an independent journalist and scholar, is author or co-author of five books related to national security or international relations, including, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. He previously covered "The Honduran Coup's Ugly Aftermath" for ConsortiumNews.com.

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/01/04/while-pundits-condemn-iran-honduran-police-kill-street-demonstrators

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In South Africa, Ramaphosa Rises as Lonmin Expires

Alternatives International - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 16:55

Workers, Women and Communities Prepare to Fight, Not Mourn

Monday night's internal African National Congress (ANC) presidential election of Cyril Ramaphosa– with a razor-thin 51 per cent majority of nearly 4800 delegates – displaced but did not resolve a fight between two bitterly-opposed factions. On the one hand are powerful elements friendly to so-called “White Monopoly Capital,” and on the other are outgoing ANC president Jacob Zuma's allies led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and former African Union chairperson. The latter faction includes corrupt state “tenderpreneur” syndicates, especially the notorious Gupta brothers, and is hence typically nicknamed “Zupta.” (Zuma is still scheduled to serve as national president until mid-2019.)

South Africa's currency rose rapidly in value after Ramaphosa won, for he is celebrated by big business and the mainstream media. But he has also gained endorsements – due to quirky local political alignments – from the SA Communist Party, ANC-aligned trade unions and most centrists and liberals who despise the Zuptas. With this base and some nominal prosecutions of corruption, Ramaphosa will likely relegitimize the fast-fading ANC in time for a 2019 electoral victory. However, given the narrowness of his win, he probably cannot engineer Zuma's early departure as many hoped, in the way Zuma had ousted Thabo Mbeki nine months before his term was due to end in 2009.

Moreover, Ramaphosa's much-anticipated attempt to clear Zupta muck from the corrupt stables of several parastatal organizations and government departments will fail. Too many ANC patronage systems have become cemented. And three other leaders elected at the congress are high-profile Zuptas with corruption-riddled reputations, including secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy Jessie Duarte, as well as ANC deputy president David Mabuza. A new slur, “Ramazupta,” may emerge as the epithet for the coming regime.

Ramaphosa was a heroic mineworker leader during the 1980s, a crafty ANC secretary general under Nelson Mandela during the early 1990s when he led negotiations on many crucial semi-democratic deals with the outgoing apartheid regime, the main drafter of the country's liberal constitution in 1996, and then – after losing the deputy presidency job to Mbeki in 1994 – a black-empowerment billionaire thanks to joint ventures in mining, banking and ‘food' franchises McDonalds and CocaCola. He became ANC deputy president in 2012 and in government, became the national deputy to Zuma in 2014.

By the 2000s, Ramaphosa had earned a reputation for seeking profits at any cost. The worst incident was at the Lonmin platinum mines at Marikana, two hours' drive northwest of Johannesburg. On August 15, 2012 Ramaphosa emailed a request to police – for which he weakly apologized only a few months ago – demanding “concomitant action” against “dastardly criminals,” against whom police should “act in a more pointed way.”

He was referring to 4000 desperately underpaid miners who had been on a wildcat strike the prior week, during which six workers, two security guards and two policemen had died in skirmishes. Neither Lonmin officials nor Ramaphosa wanted to negotiate. The following day, as strikers peacefully departed the strike grounds for their homes in nearby shantytowns, 34 men were shot dead by police, and 78 wounded.

Ramaphosa's role was especially unconscionable given his struggle history. In the Emmy Award-winning film Miners Shot Down (from minute 13), director Rehad Desai reveals the class-loyalty U-turn. In 1987 in the midst of a legendary strike, Ramaphosa accused the “liberal bourgeoisie” of using “fascistic” methods. Thirty years later Ramaphosa had become the main local investor in Lonmin, and within five years was a “monster,” according to local activists, playing a familiar role described by the workers' lawyer, Dali Mpofu:

“At the heart of this was the toxic collusion between the SA Police Services and Lonmin at a direct level. At a much broader level it can be called a collusion between the State and capital… in the sordid history of the mining industry in this country. Part of that history included the collaboration of so-called tribal chiefs who were corrupt and were used by those oppressive governments to turn the self-sufficient black African farmers into slave labour workers. Today we have a situation where those chiefs have been replaced by so-called Black Economic Empowerment partners of these mines and carrying on that torch of collusion.”

Lonmin Unlamented

Last week, London and Johannesburg investors witnessed what seems to be the death of Lonmin, a firm born as the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited in 1909. Lonrho had languished through the 1950s but then became one of the world's most degenerate corporations, thanks to managing director Tiny Rowland's corrupt deals across post-colonial Africa. By 1973 even British Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath labelled Lonrho “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.”

One reason for the company's death was the backlash against the Marikana Massacre. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) became sufficiently strong to wage a five-month strike in 2014. The Massacre also humiliated a high-profile Lonmin booster, the World Bank. Its 2007-12 poster-childtreatment of Lonmin's so-called “Strategic Community Investment“ attracted persistent complaints from a Marikana community group, Sikhala Sonke. These grassroots feminists have rebuffed several bogus “dispute resolution” efforts from Washington, and their stinging legal critique of the Bank was deemed valid by an internal ombudsman earlier this month.

But unless objections by such groups and trade unions prove overwhelming before Lonmin's annual general meeting in London on January 25, the world's third largest platinum corporation will be swallowed by the young (five year old) Johannesburg-based mining house Sibanye-Stillwater. The price is a measly $383-million, which is 1/7th Sibanye's current share value and a tiny fraction (1.4%) of Lonmin's peak value of $28.6-billion a decade ago.

The company's complicated postmortem will have two chapters:

  • partial suicide – by a wicked management abetted by the Bank and at least one allied politician, Ramaphosa; and
  • partial assassination – by the iron laws of capitalist crisis in the form of overproduction tendencies, combined with Volkswagen's greenhouse gas emissions scam, which together drove the platinum price up too high and in 2015 crashed it too quickly.

Resource Curses Reloaded

Consider the rapid reaction to Sibanye's takeover by the main union leader representing Lonmin workers, Amcu's Joseph Mathunjwa: “We are prepared to join forces with communities around Lonmin to ensure that the interests of mineworkers' mine-affected communities are defended. We want to warn the new owners and current shareholders that we will fight and not sit quietly as our members' future is destroyed.”

Not only are 38 per cent of Lonmin's 33,000 employees due to be retrenched within the next three years, according to Sibanye's takeover plan. And not only did its CEO Neil Froneman immediately warn critics to cease attacking Lonmin for repeated violations of its state-mandated Social and Labour Plan: “Communities that are unhappy, the Department of Mineral Resources that is unhappy – need to stop and allow us to complete this so that in the longer-term we can do more.”

Just as importantly, Froneman's takeover does nothing to resolve at least half a dozen underlying Resource Curses revealed at Marikana, though also witnessed to a lesser extent across the country's ‘Minerals-Energy Complex':

  1. political – the obedience of politicians like Ramaphosa and the state security apparatus to the needs of multinational mining capital;
  2. economic – the tendency to overproduction intrinsic to the capitalist system, especially in times of a commodity super-cycle (2002-11) whose subsequent crash left Lonmin vastly over-exposed;
  3. financial – usurious microfinance borrowed by mineworkers, leading to extreme borrower desperationby the time of the August 2012 strikes, and $150-million in World Bank ‘development finance' investment;
  4. gendered – especially the stressed reproduction of labour and community by women in the Nkaneng and Wonderkop shack settlements;
  5. environmental – extreme degradation within fast-growing peri-urban slums, nearby which minerals are dug and smelted using high-carbon processes that also pollute local water, soil and air;
  6. labour-related –
    platinum rock drill operators' inadequate wages and deplorable working and residential conditions, especially in comparison to mining executives' ludicrously generous remuneration:
    the durability of apartheid-era migrancy, itself a condition dividing workers from the area's traditional residents along familial, ethnic and (property-related) class lines;
    intra-union battles which split workers and generated some of the initial 2012 violence, followed by further violence in 2017 including within Amcu;
    and ongoing mass retrenchments due to a (failing) automation strategy and platinum gluts.

Unless there's radical change, the industry's future is gloomy. As Mining Review Africa acknowledged in November, “demand for platinum, used primarily in diesel-fueled vehicles, continues to take a hit from the repercussions of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.” With the platinum market glutted, Froneman's main rationale in buying Lonmin is to consolidate the firm's relatively cheaper smelting over-capacity for use by other firms. Closure of Lonmin mine shafts will accelerate.

These factors contributed to mass strikes in 2012 (one month) and 2014 (five months), to periodic social uprisings and to ongoing discontent. Most could have been avoided had the 1955 Freedom Charter calling for socialization of mining wealth been heeded by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after liberation in 1994. The social democratic Freedom Charter was once, after all, the ANC's ideological bible – and always vigorously opposed by capitalists.

But when ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema again raised the demand for mining nationalisation at a 2011 conference, a party disciplinary committee led by Ramaphosa expelled him and his comrades. They subsequently founded the Economic Freedom Fighters party and won a large share of the platinum belt's vote in subsequent elections.

The massacre shifted South African politics forever. Wrongdoing was investigated by the 2012-15 Farlam Commission set up by Zuma, but the outcome was weak and biased. It is tempting to emphasise the negligence or malevolence of personalities. Judge Ian Farlam blamed maniacal police leadership. But recall, too, that Lonmin chief executive Ian Farmer's salary was 236 times higher than the typical rock drill operator, that his main executive replacement Barnard Mokwena was later unveiled as a State Security Agency operative, and that Ramaphosa's financial ethics were missing in action.

Ramaphosa was implicated in a Lonmin tax avoidance scandal via his Shanduka firm's control of the Black Empowerment partner Incwala. According to Lonmin's lawyer, “Incwala for very many years refused to agree to the new structure” to halt a $100-million outflow to the Bermuda tax haven justified as marketing expenses. As the Paradise Papers recently revealed, Ramaphosa's firm also retained Mauritius accounts for nefarious purposes and as chair of Africa's largest cellphone operator, MTN, he suffered continent-wide criticism for illicit capital flight.

Resistance Rises Too

Against mining capital and the politicians stand Amcu, Sikhala Sonke, the church-based Bench Marks Foundation (which earlier this year began campaigning for Lonmin divestment), the Marikana Support Campaign, Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters, and solidarity activists in Britain and Germany. In addition to better wages and community investment, their four post-massacre demands are that Lonmin and the government publicly apologize, pay survivors and widows reparations (civil suits of more than $75-million have been filed) and declare August 16 a national holiday with a monument at the site of the massacre.

But now a much larger opportunity rises to cure the diseases that felled Lonmin, especially if Sibanye's offer is rejected. After all, Lonmin's nationalization at such a fire-sale price is eminently reasonable and affordable. The state should also charge the firm's shareholders for the costs – legal liabilities and fines – of decades of misbehaviour imposed on the economy, society and the environment. Moreover, so as to lessen vulnerability to volatile world capitalist markets, it is long overdue for South Africa (with 88% of world reserves) to join Russian and Zimbabwean authorities in a world platinum cartel, about which formal discussions began nearly five years ago.

In the process, a genuinely green strategy for the region should move the economy away from overdependence upon traditional coal, iron ore, manganese, gold and diamonds exports, and ensure a ‘Just Transition' to post-‘extractivist' economic activities in line with South Africa's growing climate mitigation and adaptation imperatives. As Sikhala Sonke and allies point out, the latter should be especially friendly to women's needs, within not just the sphere of production but also the reproduction of society. As an example, the Cape Town-based “Million Climate Jobs” campaign recently produced anther booklet explaining the Just Transition process.

These sorts of visionary demands contrast with the ANC's lowest-common-denominator ideology of neoliberal-nationalism, now that the worst tendencies of both the WMC and Zupta camps are on display within the party's leadership. Aside from a #FeesMustFall breakthrough when Zuma promoted free tertiary education last Saturday just as the ANC congress began, it is likely that 2018 will begin with budgetary austerity and a Value Added Tax increase. Meanwhile ANC leaders will continue to talk left (so as to) walk right, with renewed preparedness for a state of emergency if socio-economic protests continue rising.

But amidst undisguised pro-Ramaphosa media bias (e.g. the popular Daily Maverick), even his corporate backers are genuinely nervous about Monday's “poisoned chalice.” As they are now realising, “Markets got this one wrong – and were pricing in a Cyril slate victory,” failing to comprehend new dangers within the ruling party's fusion of the WMC and Zupta factions. Durable liberal-bourgeois concerns about the new leader have also been expressed in ascerbic critiques of the “Grand Consensus“ “nothing man“ by Business Day columnist Gareth van Onselen. I once debated another liberal commentator, Richard Calland a few years ago, in which he was pro-Ramaphosa for all the wrong reasons.

Neither the ANC nor Lonmin are going to exit their respective crises in the immediate future. The notion of crisis has always implied both destruction and opportunity. Mining tycoons and political elites have generally (except in 2015) avoided the former and are now grabbing the latter. So even if the South African state under Ramaphosa's leadership can never become a trusted ally of the left, resistance from below will no doubt expand activist horizons, the more damage Lonmin does – even now in its messy death throes.

The takeaway message is the same threat “Cyrilina Ramaposer” offered in her haunting Makarena on Marikana: “This shit ain't over.”

Patrick Bond teaches political economy at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He is co-editor (with Ana Garcia) of BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique.

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/2017/12/south-africa-ramaphosa-rises-lonmin-expires/#more-11949

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