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Socialism Will Be Free, or It Will Not Be at All

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 04:20

An Intro to Libertarian Socialism

By Arthur Pye ~ Black Rose Federation



Socialism is officially a buzzword again. According to a recent poll, 44% of U.S. millennials “prefer socialism to capitalism”, and even mainstream Democrats are starting to call themselves socialist. As one headline put it: “Socialism is so hot right now.” Used to describe everything from Bernie Sanders to Stalinist Russia, there are few words which inspire such varied and contradictory meanings. Like most buzzwords, socialism’s true meaning has been obscured by its popularity.

But what does socialism actually mean, and what does it look like in practice?

At its core, socialism is the idea that resources and institutions in society should be managed
democratically by the community as a whole. Whereas under capitalism, economic and
political power is concentrated in the hands of the rich, socialists fight for a society
in which the means of producing and distributing goods and services are held in common
through the democratic self-management of workplaces and communities.

This article will make the case that libertarian socialism represents the most thorough
and consistent embodiment of core socialist principles. In essence, libertarian socialism
is a politics of freedom and collective self-determination, realized through a
revolutionary struggle against capitalism, state power and social oppression in all its forms.

Part 1: Freedom from Capitalism Socialism vs Capitalism

In order to survive under capitalism, those without property are forced to rent themselves
to property owners and be exploited for profit. This relationship between “haves” and
“have-nots” forms the very basis of capitalist society – class exploitation. In such a
society, power flows directly from one’s relationship to property, i.e. one’s class
position. While a handful of people own and control society’s institutions, the vast
majority of people (the working class) are rendered powerless as individuals. As the
revolutionary socialist and disability rights activist Helen Keller put it: “The few own
the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all.”

Virtually nothing happens in a capitalist society unless it makes a rich person even
richer. By its very nature, capitalism not only feeds on class exploitation and wealth
inequality, but it also requires endless growth and expansion of the economy, resulting in
wars, colonialism, and ecological destruction. Corporations will stop at virtually nothing
in their pathological pursuit of profit.

Socialists advocate a “class struggle” in which those of us rendered powerless under
capitalism organize to shift the balance of power until society’s institutions are brought
under democratic control and class-as-such has been abolished. In a socialist society
private profit would be eliminated. Instead, the purpose of political and economic
institutions would be to sustainably meet the needs and desires of the people through the
democratic self-management of workplaces and communities. As the socialist maxim goes:
“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

Eliminating the need for a propertied employing class and a propertyless employed (or
unemployed) class, workplaces would instead be cooperatively managed by the workers
themselves, replacing private business. Public policy would be planned through democratic
councils of self-administration, federated from the neighborhood outward, replacing the
centralized state. It’s in this original spirit that we define socialism as a
revolutionary movement for a classless society.

Socialism vs Social Democracy

This vision stands in clear contrast not only to so-called “socialist” dictatorships in
Russia or China, but also to capitalist countries such as Sweden or Norway, often
described as “socialist.” These societies (also called “social democracies”) have the same
power dynamics as any other capitalist state. Whereas socialism calls for cooperative
ownership and direct democracy, “social democracies” maintain concentrated economic power in the hands of the rich, with a powerful central government regulating social programs,
thus leaving the class structure of society unchanged. In this sense, self-described
socialists such as Bernie Sanders would be more appropriately described as “social
democrats” or “liberals” because their end goal is to carry out progressive reforms to
make life under the capitalist state more tolerable. Such reforms can improve people’s
living and working conditions in important ways, but taxes and cheaper healthcare do not
constitute socialism. Socialism is the revolutionary appeal for a classless society.

Isn’t Libertarian Socialism an Oxymoron?

In the United States, the word “libertarian” has taken on the opposite meaning from that
of the rest of the world. Strangely, it’s become synonymous with advocacy of extreme
capitalist individualism, private property and the “rights” of corporations to be “free”
from public oversight. But freedom for the powerful is not freedom at all.

Since its origin, libertarianism has been synonymous with anarchism or
anti-authoritarianism: the belief that relationships based on domination, hierarchy and
exploitation should be dismantled in favor of freedom and self-determination. To
anarchists, an individual can only be free in a community of equals. As the 19th century
Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin put it: “Political Freedom without economic equality is
a pretense, a fraud, a lie.” It should come as no surprise then, that libertarians have
always been socialists, since capitalism is based on class domination.

Though the possible confusion is understandable, libertarian socialism is more of a
redundancy than a contradiction in terms. Freedom and socialism are indispensable to one
another. Without one, the other loses its meaning. So libertarian socialism simply means
“free socialism.” As the anarchist thinker Rudolf Rocker put it: “Socialism will be free,
or it will not be at all.”

Part 2: Freedom from State Power Libertarian Socialism vs State Socialism

Historically there have been two general tendencies in movements for socialism, which we
can roughly describe as those “from above” and those “from below.” Both sides are
dedicated to the abolition of capitalism but they differ crucially in their vision of a
future society and how to get there. The key difference between these tendencies is their
approach to state power. While state socialists view the state as the means to socialism,
libertarians see it as a barrier.

Socialism from Below:

Libertarian socialists have long argued that states (or governments) are not neutral
institutions, but instruments of class rule, set up to protect a ruling minority through a
monopoly on violence. Without police, jails, militarized borders and centralized political
control, a state is no longer a state. Such a concentration of power is antithetical to
democratic self-management, and therefore to socialism.

To achieve “free socialism,” those of us rendered powerless under capitalism must empower
ourselves by organizing where we live, work and go to school, creating popular
organizations (ie, rank and file unions for workers and tenants, popular assemblies, mass
community organizations) and building the collective power not only to push back against
the problems imposed on us, but to bring the institutions around us under democratic
control. Eventually, workers can seize their workplaces from bosses, tenants can seize
housing from landlords, and indigenous communities can assert sovereignty over colonized
territory. If movements are sufficiently organized and united with one another, isolated
actions can grow into a full scale social revolution, laying the basis for a new society
in which governments and corporations have been replaced by coordinated bodies of self-rule.

Such structures should be based on the principle of direct democracy, in which people
directly participate in the decisions which affect their lives. Rather than simply
electing our own rulers (a.k.a. “representative democracy”), direct democracy empowers
people to collectively govern themselves.

The world is complex and the details always depend on the circumstances, but our guiding
principles are uncompromising: concentrated power in all its forms must be overcome in
favor of freedom, equality and direct-democracy.

Socialism from Above:

State socialists take a different view. Rather than seeing the revolution as a wave of
transformation from below, it must instead be implemented from above. From this
perspective socialism is understood as a science, requiring professional administration. A
core of professional revolutionaries (the “vanguard”) must therefore seize control of the
capitalist state on behalf of “the masses” (through either electoral or military means)
and administer socialism through the existing mechanisms of power. Rather than bringing
the economy under community and worker self-management, land and industry are instead
nationalized and placed under direct state control.

Revolution vs Regime-Change:

There’s no shortcut to socialism. Replacing a capitalist ruling class with a
self-proclaimed “socialist” ruling class is not a social revolution, but a coup; a
regime-change. State socialism, therefore, is a contradiction in terms, more accurately
described as “state capitalism” since the general population is still forced to rent
themselves to a boss (in this case the all-powerful “socialist” state).

If the core of socialism is collective self-management, then socialism at gunpoint can’t
be socialism at all. Even Karl Marx himself famously said: “the emancipation of the
working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” A society in which
power flows from the bottom upward can only be built from the bottom upward. Therefore,
any attempt to impose socialism from above will logically fail at its professed aim.
Throughout history, whenever a small group of people take state power in the name of
socialism, instead of creating a classless society, the state becomes increasingly
centralized, often resulting in a society more oppressive than that which it overthrew.

The Russian Example:

The “vanguardist” ideology of state socialism was first developed by Vladimir Lenin during
the Russian Revolution, and then implemented once he and the Bolshevik party seized state
control in 1917. While a genuine socialist revolution did indeed sweep the country, it was
quickly co-opted and overturned by the new “socialist” state. The newly-formed democratic
workers councils (soviets) and agricultural communes – the very foundations of a socialist
revolution – were dismantled by the Bolsheviks and placed under direct state control.
While the Russian workers demanded “All power to the councils!,” Lenin insisted that:
“revolution demands … that the masses unquestionably obey the single will of the
leaders.” Countless socialists were jailed or killed in the name of socialism long before
Stalin ever came to power.

Vanguardism in its various forms (Leninism, Trotskyism, Maoism, etc) was taken as an
ideological model throughout the 20th century by many who succeeded in taking state power.

Unfortunately, due to the model’s success at producing self-described “socialist” regimes
(Russia, China, Cuba), the vanguardist ideology has largely become synonymous with
revolutionary socialism itself.

Libertarian Socialist Revolutions:

Fortunately not all socialist revolutions have been co-opted by authoritarians. From the
Spanish anarchist revolution, to the Zapatista uprising and the Rojava revolution in
Northern Syria, there are numerous examples of movements reorganizing society along
socialist principles without a state. These movements, like any, are not universal models
to be replicated, but examples which can teach us important lessons and inspire us with
the hope of revolutionary possibility.

Part 3: Freedom from Social Oppression Solidarity and Collective Liberation:

For libertarian socialists, all struggles against oppression are necessarily linked in a
broader struggle for collective liberation. A society rooted in self-determination
requires the full emancipation of all people – not only from class exploitation and state
authority, but from any and all forms of social oppression, period.

As socialists, we believe concentrated economic power and class exploitation are
fundamental to the oppression people face today under capitalism. But as libertarians, we
also reject the idea that simply “socializing the means of production” would automatically
create a free society. Instead, we believe that in any society, capitalist or otherwise,
people of all walks of life have to defend their rights against any and all forms of
discrimination and oppression.

Fighting against social oppression such as racism, sexism and transphobia should not be
treated as an afterthought or side note to the “real work” of class struggle. Instead, it
should be understood as central and indispensable to any libertarian socialist project.
With a holistic understanding of oppression, we can see that if class struggle means the
struggle of working class people for their freedom, then there can be no class struggle
without queer struggle, feminist struggle, anti-racism and anti-colonialism. A libertarian
socialist society necessarily requires an end to all social oppression because true
freedom for anyone requires a dignified life for all. Or as the old Wobbly slogan puts it:
“An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Power vs Privilege:

For libertarian socialists, collective liberation also requires that we address the root
causes of oppression. Manifestations of personal privilege and cultural discrimination
should be understood as symptoms of underlying structures in society which determine who
has power and who doesn’t. The powerful (mostly rich white men) have used their control of
society’s institutions to shape the dominant culture in their own image and their own
interests. Only through shared struggle and revolutionary transformation can we
fundamentally reshape these institutions so that they serve everyone’s interests.

Part 4: In Practice: Building Power vs Taking Power

How do we fight for socialism without getting caught in the traps of liberalism or
authoritarianism? The short answer: by building popular power. Popular power is the
opposite of concentrated power. It means building self-managed social movements
independent of the institutional left that can win meaningful reforms while laying the
groundwork for pushing beyond them.

The question we must ask ourselves is not who should sit in the seat of power, but rather
how do we shift the balance of power so that the seat loses its meaning. Rather than
putting our faith in those who profess to represent us as benevolent rulers (in this
society or the next), we should see ourselves as responsible for our own liberation. This
is the difference between representative politics and direct action.

Representative Politics:

Representative politics requires that most of us take a back seat. By focusing on electing
politicians or rallying behind charismatic leaders, we surrender our agency in exchange
for promises. In practice, what our “representatives” are seeking is access to state
power. This is dangerous because, as mentioned, states are not neutral institutions but
instruments of minority rule. States can (and should) be reformed in ways that improve
people’s lives but the history of electoral politics shows that they will defang,
demobilize and create relationships of dependency with social movements rather than
strengthen them. If we want transformational change, we have to fight for reforms by
building power from below, not by reinforcing it above us.

Direct Action:

There’s no substitute for popular power. Not parties, nor charismatic leaders. Direct
action means fighting for ourselves: uniting with others and fighting oppression with our
own power rather than through some third party. A strike is the perfect example: workers
use their own collective power to simply stop working until their demands are met. Not
only is this a more direct and effective means of change, but it’s also transformational,
emboldening workers towards a future where they could run their own workplace. The same is
true of struggles over land, housing, education, etc. Transformational change happens when
everyday people discover and exercise their own collective power.


If we take an honest look at the structures and relationships around us today and ask
ourselves: “could this be more free, equal and democratic?,” our answer will almost always
be: “yes.” If you take these principles seriously, and follow them to their logical
conclusion, you just may wake up and discover you’re a libertarian socialist. But fear
not! Socialism is not some utopian pipedream. Freedom is possible. And admitting it is the
first step of the revolution.

Arthur Pye is a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation in Seattle.

Hiding the Real Number of Unemployed

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 05:18

via CounterPunch

by Pete Dolack

Your government believes that exhausting your unemployment benefits is a cause for celebration — because you are no longer unemployed!

Huh? Well, there is a slight of hand here. Only working people who are receiving unemployment benefits are counted as “unemployed” in official statistics issued by countries around the world. Thus the actual unemployment rates are much higher than the “official” rates, generally about twice as high. Most governments make it difficult to find the actual rate, and the corporate media does its part by reporting the official rate as if that includes everybody.

Then there is the matter of how much of a given national population is actually engaged in paid employment, another useful number difficult to discover. Finally, we can consider wages, both how fast they might be rising as compared to inflation and whether they are increasing in concert with increases in productivity.

To cut to the chase, things ain’t so hot. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Let’s start our global survey with the United States, where, contrary to expectations, the real unemployment figure is easier to discover that most other places. Perhaps the Trump régime hasn’t gotten around to suppressing it, busy as it is hiding scientific evidence about global warming, pollution and other inconvenient facts. The official U.S. unemployment rate for May was reported as 3.8 percent, the lowest it has been in several years, and less than half of what it was during the post-2008 economic collapse. Predictably, the Trump administration was quick to take credit, although the trend of falling employment has carried on for eight years now.

Nonetheless, you might have noticed that happy days aren’t exactly here again. The real U.S. unemployment figure — all who are counted as unemployed in the “official” rate, plus discouraged workers, the total of those employed part-time but not able to secure full-time work and all persons marginally attached to the labor force (those who wish to work but have given up) — is 7.6 percent. (This is the “U-6” rate.) That total, too, is less than half of its 2010 peak and is the lowest in several years. But this still doesn’t mean the number of people actually working is increasing.

Fewer people at work and they are making less

A better indication of how many people have found work is the “civilian labor force participation rate.” By this measure, which includes all people age 16 or older who are not in prison or a mental institution, only 62.7 percent of the potential U.S. workforce was actually in the workforce in May, and that was slightly lower than the previous month. This is just about equal to the lowest this statistic has been since the breakdown of Keynesianism in the 1970s, and down significantly from the peak of 67.3 percent in May 2000. You have to go back to the mid-1970s to find a time when U.S. labor participation was lower. This number was consistently lower in the 1950s and 1960s, but in those days one income was sufficient to support a family. Now everybody works and still can’t make ends meet.

And that brings us to the topic of wages. After reaching a peak of 52 percent in 1969, the percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product going to wages has fallen to 43 percent, according to research by the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve. The amount of GDP going to wages during the past five years has been the lowest it has been since 1929, according to a New York Times report. And within the inequality of wages that don’t keep up with inflation or productivity gains, the worse-off are doing worse.

The Economic Policy Institute noted, “From 2000 to 2017, wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers, continuing the trend in rising wage inequality over the last four decades.” The strongest wage growth was for those in the top 10 percent of earnings, which skewed the results sufficiently that the median wage increase for 2017 was a paltry 0.2 percent, the EPI reports. Inflation may have been low, but it wasn’t as low as that — the typical U.S. worker thus suffered a de facto wage decrease last year.

What this sobering news tells us is that good-paying jobs are hard to come by. An EPI researcher, Elise Gould, wrote:

“Slow wage growth tells us that employers continue to hold the cards, and don’t have to offer higher wages to attract workers. In other words, workers have very little leverage to bid up their wages. Slow wage growth is evidence that employers and workers both know there are still workers waiting in the wings ready to take a job, even if they aren’t actively looking for one.”

The true unemployment rates in Canada and Europe

We find similar patterns elsewhere. In Canada, the official unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent in April, the lowest it has been since 1976, although there was a slight decrease in the number of people working in March, mainly due to job losses in wholesale and retail trade and construction. What is the actual unemployment rate? According to Statistics Canada’s R8 figure, it is 8.6 percent. The R8 counts count people in part-time work, including those wanting full-time work, as “full-time equivalents,” thus underestimating the number of under-employed.

At the end of 2012, the R8 figure was 9.4 percent, but an analysis published by The Globe and Mail analyzing unemployment estimated the true unemployment rate for that year to be 14.2 percent. If the current statistical miscalculation is proportionate, then the true Canadian unemployment rate currently must be north of 13 percent. “[T]he narrow scope of the Canadian measure significantly understates labour underutilization,” the Globe and Mail analysis conclude.

Similar to its southern neighbor, Canada’s labor force participation rate has steadily declined, falling to 65.4 percent in April 2018 from a high of 67.7 percent in 2003.

The most recent official unemployment figure in Britain 4.2 percent. The true figure is rather higher. How much higher is difficult to determine, but a September 2012 report by Sheffield Hallam University found that the total number of unemployed in Britain was more than 3.4 million in April of that year although the Labour Force Survey, from which official unemployment statistics are derived, reported only 2.5 million. So if we assume a similar ratio, then the true rate of unemployment across the United Kingdom is about 5.7 percent.

The European Union reported an official unemployment rate of 7.1 percent (with Greece having the highest total at 20.8 percent). The EU’s Eurostat service doesn’t provide an equivalent of a U.S. U-6 or a Canadian R8, but does separately provide totals for under-employed part-time workers and “potential additional labour force”; adding these two would effectively double the true EU rate of unemployed and so the actual figure must be about 14 percent.

Australia’s official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, according to the country’s Bureau of Statistics. The statistic that would provide a more realistic measure, the “extended labour force under-utilisation” figure, seems to be well hidden. The most recent figure that could be found was for February 2017, when the rate was given as 15.4 percent. As the “official” unemployment rate at the time was 5.8 percent, it is reasonable to conclude that the real Australian unemployment rate is currently above 15 percent.

Mirroring the pattern in North America, global employment is on the decline. The International Labour Organization estimated the world labor force participation rate as 61.9 percent for 2017, a steady decline from the 65.7 percent estimated for 1990.

Stagnant wages despite productivity growth around the world

Concomitant with the high numbers of people worldwide who don’t have proper employment is the stagnation of wages. Across North America and Europe, productivity is rising much faster than wages. A 2017 study found that across those regions median real wage growth since the mid-1980s has not kept pace with labor productivity growth.

Not surprisingly, the United States had the largest gap between wages and productivity. Germany was second in this category, perhaps not surprising, either, because German workers have suffered a long period of wage cuts (adjusted for inflation) since the Social Democratic Party codified austerity by instituting Gerhard Schröder’s “Agenda 2010” legislation. Despite this disparity, the U.S. Federal Reserve issued a report in 2015 declaring the problem of economic weakness is due to wages not falling enough. Yes, the Fed believes your wages are too high.

The lag of wages as compared to rising productivity is an ongoing global phenomenon. A separate statistical analysis from earlier this decade also demonstrated this pattern for working people in Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Workers in both Canada and the United States take home hundreds of dollars less per week than they would if wages had kept up with productivity gains.

In an era of runaway corporate globalization, there is ever more precarity. On a global scale, having regular employment is actually unusual. Using International Labour Organization figures as a starting point, John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney calculate that the “global reserve army of labor” — workers who are underemployed, unemployed or “vulnerably employed” (including informal workers) — totals 2.4 billion. In contrast, the world’s wage workers total 1.4 billion. Writing in their book The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China, they write:

“It is the existence of a reserve army that in its maximum extent is more than 70 percent larger than the active labor army that serves to restrain wages globally, and particularly in poorer countries. Indeed, most of this reserve army is located in the underdeveloped countries of the world, though its growth can be seen today in the rich countries as well.” [page 145]

Having conquered virtually every corner of the globe and with nowhere left to expand into nor new markets to take, capitalists will continue to cut costs — in the first place, wages and benefits — in their ceaseless scrambles to sustain their accustomed profits. There is no reform that can permanently alter this relentless internal logic of capitalism. Although she was premature, Rosa Luxemburg’s forecast of socialism or barbarism draws nearer.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books.

Sport may be an opium of the people – but it matters

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 05:09

via The Conversation

by Jon Dart

Many on the political left, including the linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, view sport as serving the interests of capitalism, in part by entertaining, pacifying and disciplining the working class.

The French academic Marc Perelman abhors sport for the same reason Karl Marx disliked religion – that it is akin to an “opium of the people”. However, while Marx understood why people might seek a haven in a heartless world, Perelman shows much less tolerance, advocating that sport is utterly worthless, impossible to reform or reclaim.

But dismissing sport outright as a crass display of muscle-bound dullards, as appeasing “bread and circuses”, or an opiate drug fails to adequately engage with and explain its popularity.

The charge sheet against sport is long and damning. It can show the worst aspects of people’s behaviour and mirror the nastiest characteristics of capitalism, including its racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism and militarism. While bigots can be found at most sports events, it’s not “their” game and they shouldn’t be allowed to think it is.

Particularly at times of global events such as the World Cup, sport “contaminates” all parts of society and the disproportionate amount of media coverage sport garners clearly irritates many people. We can rightly despair at the amount of time and space elite sport receives and how it depoliticises and diverts people from political activity that might challenge the existing order – such as protests against the upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK.

Read more

World Cup 2018: The Moral Clarity of Pussy Riot’s Protest

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 05:05

via The New Yorker

On Sunday, in the fifty-second minute of the final game of the World Cup, four women dressed in Russian-police uniforms charged the field, briefly disrupting the match. They were members of the Russian protest-art group Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot is often misidentified as a punk group, which is, in fact, only one of its many guises. The group, which was founded in 2011, is an open-membership collective that stages actions, documents them on video, and provides textual statements intended as clear and accessible explanations of their intentions and demands. The group’s best-known action was what they called a “punk prayer,” in which a group of women attempted to sing a political prayer of their own making inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, in Moscow, in the lead-up to Russia’s 2012 Presidential election. The performance was meant to protest the country’s symbiosis of church and state. As a result, two of the group’s founding members served twenty-two months in prison.

Pussy Riot released a statement, on Twitter, that claimed responsibility for the World Cup action. It also cited the Russian poet, artist, and performer Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. Tomorrow will mark eleven years since his death. One of Prigov’s iconic creations, present in his poetry and performances, was the image of an ideal policeman, a just and ultimate authority that Pussy Riot’s statement dubbed the Heavenly Policeman. In contrast to the Heavenly Policeman, the statement suggested, stands the earthly policeman. “The Heavenly Policeman will protect a baby in her sleep, while the earthly policeman persecutes political prisoners and jails people for sharing and liking posts on social media.” (I am providing my own translation from the Russian original.)

The message is not intended to be subtle. In Putin’s Russia, dozens of people are behind bars for political crimes—which do in fact include social-media behavior such as “liking” and “sharing.” Unlike the 2014 Olympics, in Sochi, where Pussy Riot also protested, the World Cup has occasioned little criticism or reflection from Western politicians or media. It has proceeded undisturbed, as though a Heavenly Policeman were guarding its dreamlike state. For Russians, whose cities have filled with crowds of foreign soccer fans over the past few weeks, it has also provided a vision of a different life, one of a country integrated into a big and friendly world. “The World Cup has reminded us of the possibility of a Heavenly Policeman in a wonderful Russia of the future,” the Pussy Riot statement said. “But the earthly policeman, who intervenes in the game every day and knows no rules, is destroying our world.”

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Some Lessons from Revolutionary History

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 03:17


by Wayne Price

Review of Loren Goldner, Revolution, Defeat, and Theoretical Underdevelopment: Russia, Turkey, Spain, Bolivia (2017)

This book brings together a set of analyses of popular struggles in a number of countries—as its subtitle indicates. It is written by a someone within “the libertarian or left communist milieu” of Marxism (43), although he expresses a friendly attitude toward anarchism. Overall it has a conclusion, a rejection of “a methodology repeated again and again whereby different variants of the far-left set themselves up as the cheering section and often minor adjuncts to ‘progressive’ movements and governments strictly committed to the restructuring (or creation) of a nation-state adequate to…world capitalism. This methodology involves imagining…a healthy ‘left’ wing of a bourgeois or nationalist or ‘progressive’ or Third World ‘anti-imperialist’ movement that can be ‘pushed to the left’ by ‘critical support’, opening the way for socialist revolution….Their role is to enlist some of the more radical elements in supporting or tolerating an alien project which sooner or later co-opts or, even worse, represses and sometimes annihilates them.” (225)

Goldner believes that rejecting this statist and capitalist “methodology” is necessary to re-arm the far-left if it is to overcome “the nearly four decades of quiescence, defeat and dispersion that followed the ebb of the world upsurge of 1968—77…the long post-1970s glaciation….” (1) “I nevertheless part ways with a swath of currently fashionable theories; I still see the wage-labor proletariat—the working class on a world scale—as the key force for a revolution against capital.” (2) He writes, “the key force,” not the “only force,” since he includes peasants and other oppressed as necessary parts of an international revolution.

This overall conception, from a (minority) trend in Marxism, is consistent with revolutionary class-struggle anarchism, as it developed from Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin to the anarcho-syndicalists and anarcho-communists.

However, Goldner shows the limitations of his knowledge of anarchism by a number of errors. For example, he remarks that “the ideology of pan-Slavism [was] also advocated by their anarchist rival Bakunin….” (57) Actually Bakunin had been a pan-Slavist before he became an anarchist, not since. Goldner refers to “the early mutualist (Proudhon-inspired) phase of the Peruvian and Latin American workers’ movement (…superseded by the global impact of the Russian Revolution).” (171—2) But after an early period, most anarchist influence in the Latin American working class was anarcho-syndicalist (although there was still some interest in credit unions and coops, alongside unions). This is why the Sandinistas and other Central American revolutionaries (nationalist and Marxist) later adopted black and red as their colors.These had traditionally been the colors of the anarcho-syndicalist-influenced workers’ movement.

Lenin and the Russian Revolution

Goldner writes that revolutionary libertarian socialist currents, such as anarchism, syndicalism, council communism, and the IWW, “were effectively steamrollered by Bolshevism…and the ultimately disastrous international influence of the Russian Revolution….” (9) In this book, his criticism focuses on Lenin’s misunderstanding of the Russian peasants. Lenin overestimated the extent of the peasants’ production of commodities for sale on the market. He overestimated the extent to which capitalism had taken root among the peasants. He overestimated the decline of the peasants’ communal institutions (the “mir”). He overestimated the class stratification among the peasants. These misunderstandings led to an authoritarian, repressive, and exploitative relationship of the Soviet state to the peasants. They were a major factor in the split between the Bolsheviks (Communists) and the peasant-based Left Social Revolutionary Party. That in turn contributed to the formation of the single-party dictatorship. (See Sirianni 1982) “The Soviet Union emerged from the civil war in 1921 with the nucleus of a new ruling class in power….” (43)

Goldner also reviews the relations of the early Soviet Union with Turkey, then led by the nationalist, Kemal Attaturk. Goldner had previously believed, with the Trotskyists, that it was only under Stalin that international Communist parties were turned into agents of the Russian state and the world revolution subordinated to Russian national interests. But he found that the government of Lenin and Trotsky had sought close relations with the Turkish nationalists, even as the Turkish government was repressing and murdering Turkish communists. He quotes a memo from Trotsky at the time, saying that the main issue of revolutionary politics in the “East” was the need for Russia to make a deal with Britain.

However, Goldner defends Marx, and—more oddly—Lenin from anarchist charges of laying the basis for Stalinism. “I…reject the commonplace view one finds among anarchists who see nothing problematic to be explained in the emergence of Stalinist Russia.” (43) If he means that the Russian Revolution needs to be analyzed in detail, without assuming any inevitabilities, then I agree. And there are libertarian-democratic, proletarian, and humanistic aspects of Marx’s thought. But anarchists correctly rejected Marx’s program of a revolution in which the working class (or a party speaking for the working class) would seize power over a state and establish a state-owned, centralized, economy. The anarchists had predicted that this would lead to state capitalism and bureaucratic class rule. Whether this is “problematic,” it seems to have been justified by experience.

Goldner denies “that there exists a straight line, or much of any line, from Lenin’s 1902 pamphlet What Is To Be Done? to Stalin’s Russia.” (43) Maybe not; there is a democratic aspect of WITBD?, a call for the working class party to champion every democratic cause large or small (peasants, minority religions, censored writers, etc.), no matter how indirectly related to working class concerns. But Lenin treated support for democratic issues as instrumental, steps toward his party’s rule, rather than as basic values. Overall he had an authoritarian outlook. This can be demonstrated from much more evidence than just WITBD? (See Taber 1988.)

Anarchists and Trotskyists

Discussing the Spanish revolution/civil war of the ‘thirties, Goldner is “anything but unsympathetic to the Spanish anarchist movement.”(119) His views are similar to that of the council communists (libertarian Marxists) Karl Korsch and Paul Mattick. Then living in the U.S., they were supportive of the anarchist-syndicalists in the conflict (Pinta 2017). Goldner writes, “The Spanish working class and parts of the peasantry in the Republican [anti-fascist—WP] zones arrived at the closest approximation of a self-managed society, sustained in different forms over two and half years, ever achieved in history.” (118) He quotes Trotsky saying pretty much the same thing.

However, “Spain was the supreme historical test for anarchism, which it failed…,” adding, “in the same way that Russia was, to date, the supreme test of, at least, Leninism, if not of Marxism itself.” (118) Instead of organizing the workers and peasants in their democratic unions, factory councils, communes, and militia units, to replace the collapsed national and regional states—the mainstream anarcho-syndicalists joined the national Popular Front government and the Catalan regional government. “The Spanish anarchists had made the revolution, beyond their wildest expectations, and did not know what to do with it….Everything in the anarchists’ history militated against ‘taking power’ as ‘authoritarian’ [and] ‘centralist’….” (126-7)

Goldner does note that there were some anarchists who advocated a revolutionary program, not of joining the bourgeois government or of “taking state power,” but of organizing a democratic federation of workers, peasants, and militia organization to manage the economy and the war. In particular, there were the Friends of Durruti who “called for a new revolution.” (141) (For more on the Friends of Durruti , see Guillamon 1996.)

The main lesson Goldner draws from the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution is the need for radicals “to think more concretely about what to do in the immediate aftermath of a successful revolutionary takeover….[to devote] serious energy to outlining a concrete transition out of capitalism.” (149)

Discussing the Bolivian revolution of 1952, Goldner shows how the Trotskyists made the same sort of errors as the anarchists had in Spain. There was a revolutionary situation, where the Trotskyists for once had a large influence among the rebellious (and armed) working class. Instead of advocating independent power to the mass workers’ organizations, the Trotskyists gave support to radical (bourgeois) nationalists, claiming that they were really on the road to socialism (although, Goldner demonstrates, the nationalists had fascist influences in their formation). “The Trotskyist POR…ended up providing a far-left cover for the establishment of the new [bourgeois] state.” (214) Eventually, the Trotskyists were no longer useful to the nationalists and were repressed (the classical “squeezed lemon” process). The regime swung to the right. This was another illustration of the “methodology” of radicals tailing “progressive’ movements and governments strictly committed to the … nation-state [and] capitalism,” as I quoted in the first paragraph.

Anti-Imperialism? Anti-Capitalism? National Liberation?

I find Goldner’s opinions on “anti-imperialism” and national liberation to be unclear. He is correct in rejecting the left program which substitutes national struggles for class struggles, which ignores class (and other) conflicts within oppressed nations, and which spreads illusions about the “socialist” nature of nationalist and Stalinist rulers. But it is unclear whether he regards national oppression as a real issue for millions of workers and peasants. If we recognize this as a real concern, then libertarian socialists can be in solidarity with the people of oppressed nations, while opposing their nationalist would-be rulers. It becomes possible to advocate national liberation through social revolution and to propose a class struggle road to national freedom.

This would seem to be consistent with Goldner’s agreement with Lenin’s WITBD? strategy of revolutionary working class support for all democratic struggles, as well as Goldner’s expressed agreement with Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.” He specifically condemns the Popular Front government in the Spanish civil war for “the failure of the Republic to offer independence or even autonomy to Spanish Morocco (…) which could have had the potential of undercutting Franco’s rearguard, his base of operations, and, in the Moroccan legionaries, an important source of his best troops. “ (129) That is, the liberal-socialist-Stalinist-anarchist coalition failed to adopt anti-imperialist policies (due to Spain’s imperialism and its attempted alliance with French and British imperialism).

This is a fascinating book, with detailed analyses of revolutionary turning points in world history. Loren Goldner’s discussion of these events and the issues which arise from them is important and useful for anti-authoritarian revolutionaries to consider.


Guillamon, Agustin (1996). The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937—1939. (Trans.: Paul Sharkey). San Francisco: AK Press.

Goldner, Loren (2017). Revolution, Defeat, and Theoretical Underdevelopment: Russia, Turkey, Spain, Bolivia. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Pinta, Saku (2017). “Council Communist Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, 1936—1939.” In Libertarian Socialism; Politics in Black and Red. (Ed.: Alex Pritchard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta, & David Berry.) Oakland CA: PM Press. Pp. 116—142.

Sirianni, Carmen (1982). Workers Control and Socialist Democracy: The Soviet Experience. London: Verso.

Taber, Ron (1988). A Look at Leninism. NY: Aspect Foundation.

*written for

Ecology in Democratic Confederalism

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 03:07


by Ercan Aybog

Ecology is one of the three pillars of the paradigm of Democratic Confederalism, the political-theoretical concept of the Kurdish Freedom Movement. Besides democracy and gender liberation, ecology has been mentioned explicitly as a dimension in this concept since 2005. However to date, ecology is less discussed and practiced than the two other pillars.

Ecological destruction and exploitation in Kurdistan

With the widespread introduction of capitalism to Kurdistan in the 1950s came a systemic and destructive exploitation of nature. The four colonialist states -Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria – started to plan large energy, mining, agriculture, infrastructure and other investment projects whose implementation led to exceedingly grave ecological destruction and exploitation[1]. This is caused, amongst other factors, by the capitalist economic model, respectively low ecological and social standards in the implementation of the many projects as well as by the simple fact that Kurdistan has the de facto status of a quartered colony. While keeping the colonial status, the hegemonial states introduced step by step, using economic as well as military measures, capitalist relations into the societies of Kurdistan. In the 1970s the construction of numerous large projects – particularly dams, oil-drilling and mining – had been realized through the exercise of the hegemonic power of the highly centralized states in the four parts of Kurdistan under the pretext of progress. After the first preparation work in the 1960s, agriculture started to be industrialized in the 1970s, particularly in West Kurdistan (Rojava) and North Kurdistan (Bakur), later in South (Başur) and East Kurdistan (Rojhilat).

One result of these policies was that communal and solidarity-based relations became weaker in the society of Kurdistan. The infrastructure projects and investments were designed and implemented with absolutely no consultation of the local population and through an authoritarian approach, were in the interest of the colonialist states and the colonialist and collaborative Kurdish upper classes and aimed a profit maximization through capitalist modernization, oppression and a deepening assimilation. While this development was still slow in the 1950s and 1960s, it took on a accelerating character in the 1970s. As a result of the implementation of large infrastructure projects in rural areas and the consequent displacement of hundreds of thousands; the industrialization of agriculture; the continuous economically-driven migration of rural people; rapid urbanization; industrialisation; and the colonialist wars against the population as from the 1980s; society has lost for a big part its characteristics of solidarity and communality. The main characteristics of the pre-capitalist societies were communalist approach and solidarity on decision-making, economy, sociality, culture and others issues, but different intensity of feudal and conservative forms were also present. Since the 1990s, the number of implemented large projects, as well as the livelihoods of people and economic relations, experienced grave changes. The surviving elements of the subsistence economy and local circles of economy were marginalised and Kurdistan became fully part of the “national market” of each state and entered the neoliberal global market.

The former times were certainly full of hierarchy, patriarchy and discrimination, but the transition to capitalism was a brutal break in the social and historical development and in a certain way it has even deepened societal sexism and patriarchy. To understand what has been diminished in these decades, the following approaches and characteristics of communalism and solidarity were eroded between the 1950s and 1990s. Typically:

  • Although usually not inclusive concerning sex and age, many villages had in practice a kind of assembly of mostly older men and sometimes of some older women which gathered if necessary and took decisions.
  • Solidarity on economical issues was common. For example, when a family or a household wanted to build a new house, the whole (or most) of the village joined the construction for at least several days which were crucial to building work proceeding significantly.
  • It was usual that the animals of all households have been grazed together in appropriate locations. This was managed in turn by all households.
  • When a household had a bad year of harvest, the others in the village supported the affected family by supplying them with the basic foods.
  • When a household lacked yeast for cooking bread or milk, the neighbors shared it without hesitation or any discussion. In the following days the supported household put the same amount in the front of the house whose family gave the support.
  • When a household had a a large harvest of a certain product (like walnut), it was often the practice to share some of the surplus with others in and around the village.
  • Solidarity on social affairs was also common. For example, when one or two parents of a family died or were forced to migrate in search of work, then the others in the village took care of the children who could not support themselves.
  • There was cultural solidarity. In the evenings often people gathered in one of the houses and shared stories, myths, poems and songs among each other.
    Kurdistan belongs worldwide to the countries where until recently capitalist modernity[2] was weak and solidarity and communal structures in the societies were still existing in a significant way. Today the older generations of Kurdistan remember quite well how life was until the 1960s or 1970s.There is no objective to romanticize the life several decades ago, but nevertheless there was a significant solidarity and sharing in the society and not everything was valued monetarily; life and commodification[3] was not materialized as it is the case today.

    Start of discussion on ecology

    After two decades of freedom struggle in North Kurdistan, in the 1990s the Kurdish Freedom Movement (KFM) started to discuss the ecological question on a Kurdish and global level. The discussion took place against the background of the systematic destruction in Bakur through the Turkish State’s war on Kurds; more than 2,5 million displaced people were confronted in a brutal way with the urban and capitalistic life while Turkish state forces destroyed up to 4000 villages and torched huge forested areas in Bakur. The majority of the displaced people had been living before in a mainly subsistence economy with regional product circulation and limited ecological damage. Particularly between 1992 and 1995 large areas were depopulated and many cities in Bakur often doubled their population without being prepared in any way and without support from the Turkish government or others.

    In the 1990s especially the political leader Abdullah Öcalan of the Kurdish Freedom Movement (KFM) questioned the emergence of neoliberal capitalism, with new analyses in general and notably in relation to neoliberalism’s impacts on nature. Particularly the concept of growth, and the increasing disconnection of profit from production has been criticized in Öcalan’s writings and speeches. In this sense, he is speaking against the growing number of large investment projects because of the huge and irreparable destruction of nature they cause. Here he included also the climate change which, among others, he considered as an acceleration of ecological destruction by capitalism. To destroy nature for the interest of central governments and profit of companies means usually to destroy the basis of life of millions. The massive ecological destruction affects seriously human life. Often large projects displace a large number of people and/or exploit the land and surrounding areas which they are forced to leave. Öcalan also discussed the disconnection of people to nature and what kind of impacts this could have on people’s minds and the relation of people to each other. In a fundamental way the alienation of people has been put in relation to the disconnection of people from nature. At this point Öcalan connects the discussion on ecology with institutionalized hierarchy which has its roots in patriarchy.

    But ecology had not found a place at the core of the ongoing discussions in the 1990s. It was new, not yet theoretically strongly developed and in the shadow of the ongoing brutal war of the Turkish state. The central theoretical discussion at that time focused on highly important topic of women´s liberation. At that time, it was most urgent for the Kurds to discuss the liberation of women as it was the main tool for overcoming conservative and hierarchical structures in society. However an important part of the revolutionaries and political activists within the KFM took note of the discussion on ecology of the 1990s. It influenced in the following years the minds of thousands of politically engaged and interested people. Öcalan’s discussion showed a strategic approach as it was a discussion which was ahead of the times in comparison with all other left(ist)-democratic groups and movements in Kurdistan and Turkey. Öcalan was rather at the same level with some global discussions and movements which had started to discuss the ecological contradiction.

    Municipalities in Bakur – Challenge to develop an ecological practice

    Shortly after Öcalan has been kidnapped through an international plot under the coordination of the USA and delivered to the Turkish state in 1999, the armed struggle of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) stopped, and a new and broad discussion on means and perspectives of the freedom struggle started while giving priority to the political-civil struggle. The aim to set up a “Kurdish state” has been given up finally. In the same year in the local elections several important municipalities had been won by HADEP, the People’s Democracy Party, the legal party of the KFM at that time. The gained municipalities – among them Amed (Diyarbakir), Batman and Wan (Van) – became essential elements of the freedom struggle of the Kurds. This coincided with decreasing repressive conditions mainly because of the stop of the armed struggle. This facilitated the space for the municipalities, HADEP and other organizations of the KFM to spread their own political ideas and to get better in contact with new and not politically organized parts of the society. What has been claimed for years, namely that the KFM has better and much more democratic concepts, could be implemented at local level through municipalities and other political organizations. But at the same time the dynamic created by the armed struggle did not exist anymore. A shift in the way of thinking and acting became necessary.

    Between 1999 and 2004 HADEP administered 37 municipalities and has been challenged to prove to the population that it is capable to govern better and more socially-responsibly than all other authoritarian and corrupted political parties of the hegemonic system. After taking over of the municipalities the state repression never ceased, but it was much less than in the 1990s. Rather the State’s approach was to give some space, but to bring the HADEP (replaced in 2002 by DEHAP, 2004 DTP, 2009 BDP and 2014 HDP/DBP) municipalities with certain imposed policies, including challenging frameworks like neoliberalism and administrative centralism, to a point where they would fail, thus loose the following local elections and finally lose their attractivity.

    The HADEP municipalities, and in broader terms the Kurdish Freedom Movement, have the declared political goal of creating a democratic-ecological society with the year 2000. It was expressed publicly that the approach to the nature would be respectful; natural sites would be conserved and developed within the cities and their surroundings would be more clean and green; and the investments projects would not be implemented at the expense of nature. The practice had to be significantly different from municipalities ruled by other parties which in Kurdistan did not care in any way for ecological life.

    These first years were the time when thousands of political activists and other politically-interested people in Kurdistan and Turkey started to read articles and books on ecology and particularly social ecology, including Murray Bookchin. This brought forward the discussion how an ecological life should be developed and what that could mean in long-term and short-term politics. It affected also some employees and politicians in the municipalities. This was important as the difference can be observed sometimes in the details. It should be considered that in the whole state of Turkey the discussions on a more ecological or “sustainable” country were quite new, and political campaigns against destructive and exploitative developments and projects were rarely carried out. But it was also the time when in several regions struggles against large investment projects came up. In Bakur two struggles became widely known. One was against the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris which is planned to flood a large part of the Tigris Valley and the ancient town of Hasankeyf. Another one was against several dams on the Munzur River in Dersim where live mainly people of Alevi believe. Both struggles gained big support amongst the Kurds. The Kurdish society started to discuss for the first time issues of rivers, dams, energy, cultural and natural heritage and development in relation to each other on a broader scale that contributed to an increase of a critical awareness on these issues.

    However, in fact the gained municipalities in their first period (until 2004) showed a practice which was by far better than the others from an ecological point of view. The cities became cleaner and healthier with improvement of the waste system, also in the poorest neighborhoods which had been neglected for decades. The drinking water supply and sewage management was improved significantly in several cities within few years. The green area per person increased too. The sites of cultural heritage got more attention and accessibility for the public. More public spaces like squares or market places had been build up. The public transport had been developed to all settled areas and for a comparatively low price. Some designed large projects with problematic social and ecological impacts had been canceled or changed by the municipalities or not followed up. The life conditions in the poor quarters had been improved also by paving the streets, building social infrastructure like social centers or washing centers for clothes and the neglection of unpaid water bills. Efforts to include civil society groups in the decision-making process on many projects and even city planning became day to day reality. We can state that in the very beginning there were many urgent works in the field of basic services that had to be undertaken. The living quality in most cities was under a big threat – a stress that was exacerbated by the situation of those displaced by conflict in the 1990s.

    Although these positive developments occurred, there was lack of an overall consensus as to how to develop a further and future ecological policy and the bigger ecological context could not be explained well. Almost all mayors and policy decision makers of the municipalities and other structures of the KFM did not consider the ecological perspective as one of the main strategic approaches and it remained often secondary if other aspects prevailed. The ecological consciousness of such people stayed limited with the pragmatism of parliamentarism. This was not very surprising as the general political movement stayed weak in the field of ecology and the discussion was quite new for the movement in general and particularly for the broader society. There were no strong actors within society who claimed a stronger ecological policy by the municipalities. In these years the fore-mentioned ecologist movements against dam projects concentrated their efforts on the dam projects; and the new “environmental” associations and civil organizations that were emerging in the cities, including organisations of engineers, architects, lawyers and medical doctors, did not yet demand strongly enough ecological criteria to be included in urban development.

    There were two other aspects of relevance. The first is that the society was only just emerging from an extended period of intensive systematic state terror and was still in a phase of basic recovery. The political focus of the KFM was mainly on the human right violations of the 1990s and the demand for Kurdish identity in Bakur to be accepted with basic autonomous rights within the Republic of Turkey. The second is that capitalism in Kurdistan became very strong after the crisis of 2001. In 2003-2004, the official economic growth rate achieved up to ten percent, the money in the economy accumulated significantly and everywhere new and larger investments were done. Many more people started to earn big amounts of money through trade and investments. This created an intense pressure also on the cities in Bakur and approaches to open space for private investors affected almost all municipalities which suffered from structural financial low income. These were the years when neoliberalism entered Bakur.

    In Bakur and also in Başur (with the US occupation in 2003) and Rojhilat, the development of extractive industries (mining, oil and gas) became very dramatic in these years. Investment projects in all fields had become widespread. In this sense the rural areas had been confronted with the following projects: all rivers should be transformed by hundreds of dams into artificial lakes or dried out by diversion dams; thousands of licenses had been commissioned to companies for test mine drilling; all main roads started to be broadened; mega coal plants had been constructed in several provinces; one of the world´s largest cement factory had been constructed; Bakur had become a hot spot for fracking; and finally the whole agricultural land – even the mountainous areas – faced fast change according to capitalistic market rules. The state planners started to consider each square meter in terms of financially exploitable land and prepared or approved thousands of projects. The AKP government under Erdogan attracted with such policies the interest of global capital. Only the cities administered by the KFM resisted for a big part this development. That is why the government could not implement the most planned policies in half of the cities of Bakur.

    In a period when the society of Bakur started to develop quickly an ecological awareness, the neoliberalized capitalism started to make the largest historical ecological (and thus social) destruction and exploitation in Bakur. The destruction of nature and overcoming of most of remaining social-traditional elements in the society was much more intensive than during the war of the 1990s. Only the mountainous areas with difficult access for humans could recover after 2000.

    Ecology within Democratic Confederalism: the theoretical concept

    On Newroz 2005, Abdullah Öcalan declared “Democratic Confederalism” as the new political-theoretical concept of the Kurdish Freedom Movement. Thereby the writings and discussions of the prior years and the whole experience of 30 years of struggle could be summarized and put into relation to each other in a systematic way. Without doubt Democratic Confederalism cannot be considered disconnected from the discussions and critics after the collapse of the “state/real socialism” around 1990 and the new leftist and libertarian social and political movements all around the world. The outcome was a critical, inclusive and radical thinking with new perspectives for the Kurds in relation with other people in the Middle East. The new political concept is being expressed with a paradigm based on three pillars. An ecological approach to the life was stressed as much as radical democracy, which goes beyond parliamentarianism, and gender liberation with a focus on women liberation. To repeat the obvious: The pillars and the whole concept are expressed with the aim to achieve a liberated, emancipated, equal and solidarity-based society in harmony with nature.

    Radical democracy and women´s liberation had been stressed and developed strongly among the Kurds already for many years before. But actually each of the three pillars of Democratic Confederalism cannot be thoroughly developed without links to the other two. However the initial starting point is women’s liberation.

    Prior to 5000 years of women’s oppression and exclusion evolved the Neolithic period when a complete communal social order was created around woman which can be also called matricentric society. Öcalan emphasizes that this social order saw none of the enforcement practices of the state order and existed for thousands of years. It is characterized by equality and freedom, was viable because the social morality of the matriarchal order did not allow ownership and it had a harmony with the nature. It is this long-lasting order that shaped humanity’s collective social consciousness; and it is our endless yearning to regain and immortalise this social order of equality and freedom that led to our construct of paradise.

    Öcalan states that with the overcoming of matriacentric society by patriarchy institutionalized hierarchical structures had emerged and spread among human societies and characterized the upcoming states until nowadays. Long before explicit social classes came into being, the first oppressed and exploited class are women. This has been followed in the following centuries and millenia by the oppression of children and man. This political-ideological formation led also to the domination and destruction of nature by humans during the different periods of human history. The ecological exploitation and destruction must be analyzed basically from such an approach.

    Today the conservative and reactionary approaches of existing states is experienced in the first instance by society through the oppression of women. Another important point is that Women as oppressed gender have a stronger relation to the nature than men; in all patriarchal societies men are usually more attached to power and thus are more alienated from nature than. Thus, the struggle for an ecological and liberated society means in the end also the struggle against patriarchy and liberation of women or, to put it another way, without the liberation of women there cannot be an ecological society.

    As the oppression of society starts with patriarchy, it is logical that the KFM has started to focus more and more on the liberation of women which at the same is the liberation of all kind of genders and the whole society. Within the KFM, this consciousness came out to top in the beginning of the 1990s and thus an intensive and widespread discussion on women’s liberation started which became more deep and systematic after the halt of the war in Bakur in 1999 and additionally more with the development of Democratic Confederalism.

    Discussing more in depth the approach of the KFM on nature, firstly it has to be stated that the KFM views nature as the body of all living beings, including humans. Humans are part of nature and do not stand over it or any species. Like in the Neolithic Period it is regarded as alive and animated, no different from themselves. All living beings are part of one common big ecosystem which offers enough opportunities to live for everybody. Nature was omnipresent, there was for the significant majority of people always in the daily life a strong connection with nature. Öcalan describes this as follows: “This past awareness of nature fostered a mentality that recognized a multitude of sanctities and divinities in nature. We may gain a better understanding of the essence of collective life if we acknowledge that it was based on the metaphysics of sanctity and divinity, stemming from reverence for the mother-woman.” Today there are still some beliefs where in nature are a multitude of sanctities and divinities, one of them is the Alevi belief. Consequently for spirituality and inspiration among humans nature was and is the main source.

    Based on through adherence to ecological principles nature should be treated respectfully and not as a resource for profit. Nature was and is the source of food, housing and all other material needs of life. Under capitalist modernity, humans living in urban centers are usually weakly connected to nature and understand less the relation and connection to nature. Nature had and has a multidimensional meaning in life and is essential for the development of culture and identity as well as spirituality. Due to the alienation between human beings which contributes significantly to the alienation between nature and human beings, nowadays nature is overexploited. Despite everyone experiencing the impacts of grave ecological destruction in the next decades, the destruction of nature seems to continue. The current approach of human driven capitalist modernity is a state of betrayal of humans to nature, to their body.

    In this sense, if human beings would meet only their needs[4], nature would not experience serious destruction and the ecosystems would have the capacity to recover itself. At this point, the question what is the real need of people today is not easy to be responded and should not be left only to biologists or economists, rather it relates to the question of democracy, i.e. whether a society can take decisions under broadly democratic conditions free from imposed exploitative-extractive economy policies. We assume that in a liberated, solidarity-based, radical-democratic and ecological society there will be no pressure to over-extract “elements”[5] from nature.

    Do not forget that humans are not only physical or material organisms, they have strong and deep immaterial feelings and metaphysical needs in their life. Although humans cannot express them, they do not think and act only in a rational way. For thousands of years, people have sought inspiration and motivation following different methods, including retiring from their surroundings to nature. With the exponential increase of urbanization, asphalt application, cultivation of landscape and investment projects all over the territories, less areas are suitable in this sense and so it becomes always more difficult for inspiration by nature, in capitalist modernity particularly for poorer people from cities who have less financial capacities to experience directly nature. In connection with that this affects also physical reproduction and recovery activities for people from urban centers.

    Communities far away from the urban centers, industry and industrial agricultural areas are closer to nature and have more spiritual connection with environment. The less there is capitalist modernity, the more natural and spiritual the life can be. If such communities in non-urban areas belong to oppressed groups like the indigenous peoples of Latin America, the Adivasi from India and Alevi Kurds, then the connection to nature may have an additional importance because the oppressed peoples express themselves also through nature. In this sense the nature is a very essential part of their oppressed identity. Accordingly the destruction or misappropriation of nature by the colonialist force is an elimination of their identity. This is often not much understood by people in the capitalist and big urban centers where life no longer has has a strong relation to nature.

    In the ideology of the KFM, the ecological perspective is considered of strategical importance and as a tool to create awareness in the whole human society and all human linked activities and processes from a nature conservation, anti-capitalist and holistic perspective. In doing so, the approach is that the dimensions not covered by gender liberation or radical democracy would be expressed with ecology. In this sense, the emphasis on ecology within Democratic Confederalism can be understood also as the completion of the two other pillars.

    However, it should be underlined that nature conservation and even nature restoration by humans is a strategic goal. From the very beginning on, the KFM stressed that each living being has the right to exist due to its natural occurrence. The life of animals and plants must be protected actively by humans. Regarding nature conservation, the goal to limit and stop anthropogenic climate change is a crucial topic, as in the next decades it could affect in a much more dramatic way everything on our planet – actually Kurdistan and Middle East have already been affected for almost two decades due to decreasing precipitation. Climate change is no less important than “nature conservation” (here it meant projects/policies to conserve species, habitats and areas of high biodiversity) and reverse, as some environmental organizations or politicians prioritize in their discussions, they are mutually dependent and should not be treated independently from each other. Climate change can not be limited without the conservation and restoration of forests, vegetation, rivers, water cycle, soil, air etc. For the KFM, climate change is part of nature conservation and a reason why in this paper climate change is not mentioned specifically.

    Thus it is concluded that each struggle against ecological destruction is very essential and a necessary step to reestablish a relation to nature for many people; but in long-term not enough to protect the contested natural area and related human society. Not enough because the related investment project as well as all other destructive projects are caused by the dominant political-economic system. This dominant system will never step back to implement all designed and planned projects.

    That is why being ecological means also to criticize all processes in the society, particularly the way of producing and consuming, feeding, housing, mobilization, organizing leisure etc. The KFM rejects categorically the way these models are implemented by capitalist modernity and the direction they take today – KFM’s insistence on communal life is an expression of such a rejection. The current level of consumption is without doubt too much for the earth. Going on like this would end in the dramatic destruction or significant deterioration of all existing ecosystems and the loss of the most biodiversity. If there is no deceleration in the short-term and significant conceptional change in mid-term, nature’s destruction and climate change will continue and the basis of life will become much weaker with grave impacts for the ecosystems, biodiversity, animals, plants and billions of humans. The worst affected people would be mainly people, communities and states with weak socio-economic capacities.

    To achieve a considerable change of these models, the basic approach must be to reduce consumption of energy and material by at least 80 % in industrial states in mid-term and to find a new balance where each human has the same amount of energy and material for use; one important criteria should be to allow degraded ecosystems and biodiversity to recover.

    At this point it should be emphasized that each destruction of nature or ecosystem has serious impacts on humans and is thus a social destruction – several factors determine the level. Each investment project like dams and mining has the high potential to destroy nature as well as to violate the basic rights of affected people. So ecological destruction must be understood also as the violation of political, social, cultural and economic rights of people. This connection is still not made by many critical activists or analysts in our world.

    Going one step further the KFM is aware that with capitalism – even without neoliberalism – the ecological destruction can never be stopped, not to mention the reversal, i.e. the renaturation of nature and restoration of climate balance. If capitalism dominates the global economy and capitalist modernity the political sphere, there will be an intense pressure to have “growth” in the capitalist sense and (almost) no space to develop other forms of living, for democratic decision-making processes and a communal and democratic economy. Over centuries and decades, capitalist modernity has conquered the brains and behaviors of billions of humans in a subtle way. It cannot be overcome with a concept based only on new social and economic goals as “real/state socialism” intended to do. Hierarchy, state and capitalism is firstly an ideological development.

    Capitalist modernity has started to deepen at an accelerated tempo the alienation of humans from humans and from nature; and this much more than the former hierarchical political systems. Particularly in the last 200 years each area of the world and each community has been affected by capitalist modernity. Nowadays all people – except the rich – have been put under pressure with neoliberalism. Through displacing people from their natural environments by physical or economic force to cities, humans lost their culture of living in much more natural surroundings. And when territories are under threat by such destructive investments in areas where people are oppressed on the basis of their identity, the displacement of people by nation-states contributes to the assimilation of cultures under threat and pressure. Small or marginalized oppressed cultures are particularly affected by such policies. The Kurds are one important example for that.

    People in cities do not only consum , they are also disconnected from their strong social and cultural heritage and thus are lost fishes in the sea easily to catch. Disconnected from their cultural past means, among others, to be open for extreme individualistic and isolated ways of life where a healthy balance between individuals and society does not exist. People alienated from nature and communal and solidarity-based relations are much easier to become instruments of exploitation in industrial production, consumption, reactionary thoughts and establishing of authoritarian political systems. Urban people do not know usually any more the name of most plants and animals and how in practice processes in nature function or how humans can benefit from them sustainably as our ancestors have done it for thousands of years. So humans in cities do not live the nature on a daily basis. In other words, humans do not feel soil, plants, water, sun and air and start to lose a deep understanding for them and their context; they may know it usually in theory like biologists. In cities, more now than ever before, everything is organized with money while villagers still can produce some of their needs, exchange goods among themselves and support each other with self produced goods. People in rural areas are usually less affected by capitalist modernity and reproduce a thinking and lifestyle less connected to capitalism and state hegemony. In cities, on average humans are faced with more psychological and social traumas than in rural communities; and these traumas are transferred to their children. The traumas of displaced people from rural areas are maybe the worst. Actually, today the majority of our societies live under heavy psychological conditions.

    Capitalist modernity creates people offering their labor force to private companies or public organizations without to produce any of their needs as their ancestors did in villages. Thus from their salary they have to buy all their needs. These people are put under hard and stressful working conditions. . Working people under permanent pressure did not care much about the ongoing ecological destruction in the first period of industrialization when working conditions and salaries were in the center of their interest. Although strong trade unions did not developed an ecological approach until recently. However after generations more and more people in almost all parts of the world have started to think about ecology and alternatives to the capitalist way of living. While in the older industrial states the most people start to learn facts on nature and an ecological life from zero, in the newly or hardly industrialized states there are much more characteristics and remnants of non-capitalistic relations, processes and thinking on which critical people can build up. The recovery can be realized in an easier and faster way as for example critical people can benefit from the experience of their grand parents or even parents. Kurdistan is such a geography.

    While above the connection between ecology and women´s liberation has been introduced, there is still the connection between ecology and democracy to be described. In order to defend nature and ecological relations, destructive and exploitative projects need to be stopped and the models of housing, production, consumption, mobility etc have to be altered radically. All this can be done only if democratic decision making structures are dominant in the society, i.e. radical democracy is developed, and no more small circles in the society can influence via lobbying the political decision. Only when there is an economy based on solidarity and communality can the big ecological destruction be prevented in long-term. Summing up it can be analyzed that the connection between ecology and democracy is realized particularly via the sphere of economic relations.

    The KFM has developed over the years some new terminology with the concept of Democratic Confederalism which may be of interest. Many movements do this, but within Democratic Confederalism some more words have been created. It starts with the name of the concept. Some definitions are a combination of words like “democracy” and “autonomy” or “democratic” and “nation” which are widely used . The theory of Democratic Confederalism follows also the line to occupy existing crucial definitions like “nation” or “modernity” and to give them also a positive content in a certain framework. From an ecological perspective within Democratic Confederalism the terms “ecological industry” and “communal life” is of higher relevance. Ecological industry may be controversial as industrial activities have led to a big part to the destruction and pollution of the nature and concentrate continuously economic and political power. But at the same time the human societies have achieved a point of life and economical relation which can not be maintained without industry. For the KFM “industry” is understood as the production of goods in a systematic and concentrated, i.e. by mechanized processes, way. . It needs some expert skills and higher technologies. Actually primitive forms of industry exists for a long period in human history. The current level of industry with its negative impacts was not inevitable; history could have taken a different turn. However, nowadays it is extremely challenging (almost impossible) to de-industrialize societies which would have incalculable risks. Thus the question is how to reorganize the industry in terms of technology, capacity and management from an ecological perspective and breaking with the existing concept of economic growth. Democratic Confederalism has on this topic yet no well-developed concepts, but rather basic ideas.

    Role of the Guerrilla in the growing ecological awareness

    The increasing ecological awareness is related also to the guerrilla of the PKK, the People’s Defense Forces HPG, which never ceased to exist widespread in the mountains of North and South Kurdistan since the 80ies. The HPG has thousands of guerrillas in huge areas of Northern Kurdistan, and in a broad stretch of 250 km in South Kurdistan; thus must be considered as a geographically and political highly important factor. When not fighting with the Turkish Army, the guerrillas spend their time in a mix of military and political education. In South Kurdistan, the focus is even more on political discussion and education.

    The guerrillas discuss the entire range of social and political issues in their political educational program. Since the 1990s when Öcalan started to discuss the ecological crisis , the guerrilla included ecology in their discussions. The manner in which it discusses ecology and all the other topics differs from people and organizations in the broader Kurdish society, which makes the discussion itself more independent. The guerrillas are not part of the hegemonic political system and have no narrow individual expectations from the state or others. In contrast, people and organizations from the “normal” society are influenced continuously by concerns and personal limitations. Even if they struggle intensively to get rid of influences by capitalism and statism, there is always a remaining part.

    The difference with the guerrilla is that since its emergence in the beginning of the 1990s, the life conditions are exceedingly difficult, but completely communal, based on solidarity and far away from capitalist modernity. There is almost no private propriety existing; money and material interests play no role in the relations among humans; decisions are taken sometimes on a basis democratic way; and a system of criticsm and self-criticism is implemented systematically.

    Concerning ecology, it is also very crucial that the guerrilla lives in harmony with the nature. There is almost no negative impact by the guerrilla on plants, animals and ecosystems; rather in the last years they care more than ever on this issue. The life is oriented strongly alongside ecological criteria. It comes along that the existence of the guerrilla in many mountainous regions leads to the prevention of widespread hunting, and to the preservation of many forests through calls or bans on the start or continuation of numerous destructive infrastructure projects of the Turkish state or the Kurdish Regional Government in South Kurdistan.

    The discussions and proposals for overcoming the ecological crisis are often practiced in the guerrilla areas on a small scale and as much as possible in the lives of individual guerillas and as a community. So there are not solely theoretical outcomes, there is also a dimension of practice. Through this practice in some cases the guerrilla can adjust their first theoretical assumptions.

    The ecological practice of the guerrilla can be explained with the following examples. It is absolutely forbidden to throw away waste like plastic or metal in the environment; trees are cut only under exceptional cases; animals are hunted not much and only in a way so that no species would be endangered in a certain region – some species could recover; a few dozen small diversion dams for electricity are built in South Kurdistan which divert usually one third of the flowing water (most states divert between 2/3 and 90%); as much as possible food is produced by the guerrilla’s own means in the mountains.

    The results and developed approaches of the guerrilla reflect the material conditions with the strong characteristics of solidarity, communality and ecology; and they challenge the other parts of the society – particularly the part of the population which is physically and politically close to them. The reason is that criticsm is much more profound and ideologically justified, the claims are higher and there are less “realistic” elements which could limit thinking. Thus the guerrilla accept fewer compromises and thus fewer spaces for capitalism. The approaches of the guerrilla are closer to harmony with nature and request stronger and broader communal structures.

    Developed approaches and proposals on ecology – like with the other fields – can be connected and transferred quite easily to the broader society of Kurdistan as there is a strong relation of the guerrilla with the Kurdish society. Consider that each year hundreds of thousands of people meet and discuss with guerrillas. Coming from the capitalist modernity and meeting revolutionaries who share communal life affects these people and beyond, especially young ones.

    However in all fields two basic approaches within the Kurdish Freedom Movement – one represented mainly by the expressed ideas of the guerrilla – collide often in a strong way. Not all proposals are approved one to one by political activists or politically interested people in the broad society who live in different material conditions. There are aspects which the guerrilla does not consider in their discussions as they live far away and in different and extraordinary conditions. Generally, the approaches of the guerrilla are closer to what is considered more democratic, communal, gender liberated and ecological.

    The synthesis must have been in majority of the cases the most correct way as the KFM managed to survive and to get stronger in the last years. We can say that the mountain-city relations of the Kurds have created over the years a specific dynamic which is beneficial for the whole KFM.

    How the contradiction creates a dynamic

    The Kurdish Freedom Movement has been winning the local elections in an increasing number of cities in North Kurdistan since 1999, and they have acquired some important knowledge on how local governments can transform the society to be more social, gender liberated and ecologically oriented. It is only since 2010/2011 that the reasons to transform life ecologically were grasped substantially; previously, the approach and the discourse of ecology were rather shallow as described above.

    There are basically three reasons for that. First, capitalist relations continued to advance quickly in North Kurdistan in the second part of the 2000’s and the ecological destruction reached seriously concerning levels. Second, the concept of Democratic Confederalism has encouraged and strengthened ecologists in Bakur to deepen and broaden their struggle. Third, the critic and resistance against the ecological destruction and exploitation increased in an organized way, gathered some serious experience and even small successes.

    The book “In defense of a people” by Öcalan published in 2004 and the declaration of Democratic Confederalism in March 2005 contributed definitively to the better systematization of the ideas and discussion on an ecological society in Bakur and other parts of Kurdistan. In the first months after the declaration of Democratic Confederalism, there was a controversial discussion among many political activists within the KFM or those close to it, about the pillar ecology. While for the activists who already incorporating ecology in their activism and discussions this was very encouraging and supportive, the others either did not take it into account seriously or raised concerned and considered it premature to emphasize ecology or “not fitting to the reality of Kurdish society”. However, in general, the political structures of the KFM welcomed the pillar ecology and started to discuss it – even it was still only superficially. At least it opened the mind for ecological discussions, campaigns and requests.

    Just in this time the Ilisu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant, the largest dam project in planning or construction in Bakur and Turkey, came again on the agenda after the Turkish government started a new effort to build it – the first attempt had failed in 2001/2002. Between 2006 and 2010 the struggle against this dam project, which would have huge grave impacts on social structures, cultural heritage and the Tigris ecosystem and destructive consequences for the local society, was continuously on the agenda of the Kurds and got support by many Kurdish organizations, activists and media. Coordinated by the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive this campaign was an expression of the increased ecological and cultural awareness among the Kurds. It contributed at a new level to the questioning of energy, water, agriculture and development policies of the Turkish state and exceeded significantly the discussions during the first round of struggle on the Ilisu project between 1999 and 2002.

    In the following years there was a steady increase in the number of groups and people working on issues concerning nature conservation, the impacts of big infrastructure and energy projects, food production and social ecology theory. Associations and initiatives opposing dams, mining, coal plants, environmental pollution, urban development, commercialization of life etc. have been initiated or strengthened for example in Amed, Dersim, Çolemerg (Hakkari), Batman, Qoser (Kiziltepe), Wan and Riha (Urfa). Although in these years the diversity of contested project types broadened, dams were still the main challenge for the ecology movements. These were the years when each square kilometer of Bakur and the whole Turkish state territory have been considered by state planners and big companies as a source of profit – internationally this approach started to be discussed as “extractivism”. Capitalism was spreading to all niches of the society of Bakur. The capitalist modernity unfolded its maximum destructive forces, the AKP government did everything to enable investments in the region. The need to form a coalition of groups and activists with a strong ecological and critic awareness in Bakur has become important in these years.

    Considering these growing protests and the need to act in a comprehensive way against the encroachment of neoliberal capitalism, the coordination of the Mesopotamian Social Forum, which has been organized for the first time in 2009 in Amed, decided to organize an Ecology Forum. At this forum in January 2011 with the contribution of activists by all struggles of Bakur, researchers, representatives of different civil organizations and movements and activists from Turkey and other countries, ecological struggles and approaches were discussed in Kurdistan in a broad and organized way for the first time in history. As consequence of the forum, “ecology activists” started a discussion to form a network of groups in Bakur. It took more than one and half year to achieve the first meetings of about ten groups and a decision to form the “Mesopotamia Ecology Movement” was taken. The theoretical basis from the very beginning on was Social Ecology and Democratic Confederalism. Although the name described it as a movement, rather in the first years it was a network.

    In these years capitalism has started to affect in a strong way also some political structures and thinking of activists in the KFM, including municipalities and activists in small towns. Due to the fact that there was still a lack of system and depth in the discussion of ecology regarding all decisions and actions within the KFM, it is not surprising that some people and structures acted contrarily. The impact in the practice was that, among others, the behavior and approaches of political parties and organizations of the existing hegemonic system did not change significantly for many activists of the KFM decisions like city planning did not really brake with capitalist-statist prescriptive practices; some mayors were co-opted by local entrepreneurs to get tenders; and competition far away from solidarity relations between organizations and activists partly increased. These challenges may always come up and become dominant in the case of a not very well developed and accepted radical democratic structure with transparent and inclusive decision-making processes. The KFM had only started in 2007 to set up a completely new political structure which takes the paradigm of Democratic Confederalism as basis. The Democratic Society Congress (in Kurdish: KCD; in Turkish: DTK) as the umbrella structure of the KFM for the new people’s councils from the neighborhoods, civil society organizations, social movements, professional organizations, municipalities and political parties was quite new and still in the process of finding a way to function properly given the big diversity of above-mentioned structures.

    In the initial stage, the Mesopotamia Ecology Movement (MEM) was challenged to find ways to bring the member groups together around subjects, campaigns and discussions and set up a permanent and reliable working structure. If this could be realized, the struggle against the numerous destructive and exploitative projects and policies of the state could be confronted better and within the KCD the struggle for ecological discussions, thinking and approaches would get more political weight. In confronting the government`s projects and objectives, a continuously rising number of people started to question the state policies in other areas. Not only the policies on Kurdish identity, collective rights, education, women’s rights, militarization, but also those on economy, energy, agriculture and related issues in Bakur became more and more a focus of the political struggle. Each economic decision or investment project started to be perceived more critically.

    At the same time, the municipalities governed by the legal party of the KFM came under a critical focus by the MEM because municipalities acting against the political goals of the general movement would harm the whole struggle, including the ecological dimension. The demand was that municipal politics had to be changed comprehensively along ecological principles, developed by the MEM, and the self-administration of people’s councils. The aim of the state is clear: it wants to dominate, oppress and exploit the society in close cooperation with big companies, and in Bakur also with middle big companies. In this struggle, the KFM municipalities had to make a clear stance against the state policies. Although municipalities are according to Turkish law in the end an organ of the central government, they have limited capacities and freedom with which they could challenge state policies. While on the one hand they are forced to act in compliance with Turkish law, on the other hand the municipalities should do everything in their powerto support radical democratic structures in the society, i.e. particularly the people’s councils, women’s self-organization and a communal economy, as well as taking as stance against the gentrification of urban areas and bringing equitably services to the entire population. But the reality in these years was often only in part like this. Capitalism has put the municipalities of Bakur under the pressure to follow the neoliberal AKP municipalities as development model through the domination of discussions about urban development. It was a time – up until 2011 – when economic growth in Turkey was high, the social contradictions in Turkey and Bakur were significantly less and the AKP government was still not very repressive: hence, the criticsm by the KFM against capitalist modernity did not go down well in Kurdish society. Another pressure was systematic financial discrimination by the Turkish national government: since 1999, KFM municipalities could not benefit from many governmental funds unlike other municipalities.Obstacles were also often created in the approval of big projects (each big project needs usually approval by the governor who is directly appointed by the Turkish government) and the KFM municipalities have not been supported with experts and skills like the other municipalities. This latter discrimination was not very surprising as the Kurds have been oppressed since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. It is a subject with which a struggle is needed.

    However, what was more concerning for the MEM was the lacking stance of the municipalities on capitalist development. In this respect,one case became important for the ecology struggle in Kurdistan. It is about the hill “Kırklar Dağı” in the outskirts of the city of Amed where a housing project was announced in 2009. As a historical and natural area at the south edge of the city of Amed, Kırklar Dağı is very known among the population and thus a sensitive location. When the physical preparation for the housing projects started in 2011/2012, which actually was not in line with the master plan approved in 2006, the MEM and some other civil organizations requested an immediate stop and cancellation: after long discussions and negotiations, the two involved municipalities of Amed rejected this demand. So, when the construction started fully in 2013 a demonstration by the MEM with thousands of people was organized. Although the project did not stop, the demonstration was a novum for the KFM: a civil organization criticized publicly in a sharp way a municipality from the “own political movement” because of an urban project. However, this had some long-term impacts. In the following years, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP; the party of the KFM and member of the HDP) municipalities started to act more carefully when they planned any housing or bigger project. This case showed that thinking and acting ecologically needs activists to consider also their own side and not the other side, the state and big capital. Apart from the case of Kırklar Dağı there are many other projects in the cities, which are object of capitalist transformation and need to be regarded much more critically.

    Another criticsm of the MEM targets the big shopping malls which have been constructed in the last years in each city. These are private projects and of course supported by the AKP government, but there were some cases where the DBP municipalities have not intervened and in few cases even welcomed them. Some of the shopping malls could have been prevented, or at least delayed. The Turkish law allows the central government to take over city planning whenever it considers necessary. So, the question is how to resist this legal unfairness; even if it not possible to impede in the long-term the non-wanted projects, at least they should be delayed and subject to public debate. After intensive criticsm by the MEM and other movements like the women´s movement in 2014, a much more critical approach has been implemented by the DBP municipalities.

    These two cases show that the ecology struggle in Bakur has not only to focus only in rural areas, but also in urban areas, because capitalism has started many years ago to seek for profitable investment projects everywhere. 2013 was the year when an ecological awareness and criticsm started to express itself much more openly, accompanied by public actions and this not only through the MEM. The youth movement, women´s movement, professional organizations (particularly architects, engineers, medical doctors), trade unions achieved qualitatively a new level in their approach as to how society mightbe conceived from an ecological perspective.

    At this point, it needs to be stated that within the concept of Democratic Confederalism one field – in Bakur society is organized by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK/KCD) into 14 fields (also branch or sector), like women, justice, health, education, diplomacy, beliefs, ecology, municipalities, youth, self-defence – is usually promoted by one movement or organization, but it is not only limited to this organization. Actually, it is favored that activists from other fields also discuss deeply ecology, women´s liberation or communal-democratic economy. For this, the connections between the fields become important. In parliamentarian systems, ecological/environmental NGOs and movements act usually on their own for the objective to stop certain projects and/or to change the laws or society in ecological sense. In the new system of Bakur – and Rojava – the social movements struggle for their objectives, but do it within a democratic and inclusive system. This comes from the perception that society is one whole and has been divided by capitalist modernity so much that the different social and political groups and genders do not act in balance with each other: one group tries always to dominate the other one. In capitalist modernity, usually the groups with big financial capacities or weapons dominate over the others. This is a significant difference which has been brought by Democratic Confederalism.

    An example how the different movements can work successfully together and how much the different fields are interrelated, are the relations of the MEM with the economy movement. The economy movement has been formed in 2013 after broad discussions by dozens of activists from different struggles and critical economists from Bakur and Turkey. Among these people were several activists from the MEM. Since then there is a good connection and exchange between the two branches. The good relationship has brought together the two branches into cooperation on certain projects; projects which are related to both fields ecology and economy. One example is the long-discussed construction of a bank for local organic seeds. A dynamic, cooperative and critical relation with the new upcoming economy movement, which wants to develop a communal and democratic economy in Bakur, is crucial for the aim to develop an ecological society. All that is discussed and developed among the MEM is aimed to be implemented in cooperation with the economy field as well with as the municipalities. Without considering communal economy, an ecological society is impossible as described above.

    The Mesopotamia Ecology Movement

    In 2014, a new discussion among the activists of the MEM about its restructuring with the aim to become a real and broad social movement started. After many discussions, it resulted in the formation of councils in each province of Bakur which offered space for political activists working on ecology and for newcomers. All previous and new initiatives and associations and activists working on ecology, but also other civil society organizations, professional organizations, unions, municipalities and the people’s councils of the KCD in the urban quarters and rural regions had been invited to participate. This form of representation intends to include as much as possible of societal playors and to establish something which in short and medium term should build a society that is more ecological, and thus, more just and democratic.

    The main work of the MEM is done in the different commissions which are established according to the needs and emphasis defined by the provincial councils. Every activist in the MEM joins at least one commission in its province. Apart from the commissions which exist in nearly every province, there are some specific commissions. For example, in the province Dersim, there is one commission for forests and, in the metropolitan area of Amed, one for animal rights. There are also a few commissions at the Bakur level, like those for diplomacy, law and organising. The coordination at provincial level consists of the two co-spokespersons – one woman and one man. The co-chairs are elected periodically (3 or 6 months) by the provincial assembly which gathers at least twice a year (sometimes 4 times each year). Each provincial assembly elects annually several (around 6) delegates based on gender quota for the assembly at Bakur level which meets twice a year. The coordinations at provincial level elect two delegates, one woman and one man, for the Bakur coordination which meets more often than the Bakur assembly. As it can be determined within the MEM each structure has a gender minimum quota of 40% for its delegates. The MEM has a 50% quota.

    Since this restructuring the MEM is now represented more strongly in the KCD through the actions, projects and campaigns it is realizing. The MEM can bring better its content and requests to the coordinations of the KCD on provincial and Bakur level and to the KCD general assembly. The stronger the MEM is, the more it can have impacts on the KCD as a whole, and on its activists. For example, it is crucial to work towards those municipalities which have no good practice on ecology as well as on other issues.

    The MEM is connected quite well with many ecological movements and NGO’s outside of Bakur within the Turkish state. Since 2015 for several times there were common actions, delegations (like on forest fires) and discussions. In this sense it is part of the ecology council of the People Democratic Council (HDK). The HDK is the turkey-wide supra-structure of all structures of direct democracy, thus also including the HDP. In other words, HDK is equivalent to KCD while not being comparatively strong like the KCD.

    Since its start the MEM had to struggle with a low awareness for ecology in society which has its impacts in the different organizations of the KCD. Although there is a meaningful change in the last years, ecology is still considered by a big part of the society as something elitist and far away from real life and is associated with focusing on the conservation of some species or important natural areas or having healthy but expensive organic food. Moreover the terminology used still does not make much understandable what the activists are seeking. That is why practice has become so crucial in order to attract more people for the movement. Considering that even a large number of people with an academic background are interested less in theory and more in practice, projects on the ground can motivate and activate many and can make better understandable what is aimed with an ecological society. Projects like common gardening and traditional construction, which all interested people can join, have also the impact that the MEM can validate and develop its theoretical approach based on the outcomes of such projects. This should be considered also in the light that the KFM starts with the general approach in the most fields of society and substantiate its approach in a protracted process of practice and discussion. Projects on the ground offer collective work and give back the feeling of community and solidarity to people, particularly from cities. One successful project was the collection of local and organic seeds from different areas Bakur in the winter 2015/2016 and their reproduction in 2016 in seven provinces. The reproduction has been done mostly with the local people’s neighborhood councils which is a good example how the different fields of the KCD can work together. This campaign on seeds received interest by many parts of the society. Considering that humans are rational as well as emotional beings, touching soil, water, mud, plants and wood can create a big synergy. A further result such a practical approach can have: in times of repression and war it can hold people together and allows them to come through politically difficult periods like the one started with the war in summer 2015 which worsened with the state of emergency in summer 2016.

    In autumn 2015 the MEM conducted a half year discussion on the eight main political fields (agriculture, energy, water, health, communal economy, forests/biodiversity, ecological cities, eco-technology) for what working groups at Bakur level had been established. At the end of these processes, papers have been prepared and later approved at the first MEM conference in April 2016 in Wan. These policy papers have become the guidelines for the future work which cover a broad span and are linked to other political fields like women’s liberation, economy and health. This challenging work may help to find initial answers on the question as to which direction the MEM should take, strengthen without doubt the commitment to the struggle and privide tools for successfully struggling against state and companies as well as within the KFM.

    Remarks1) It needs to be stated that the heavy political repression in Bakur on all levels of political engagement, which started in summer 2015 and achieved with the state of emergency, declared in July 2016, an extreme level, has affected in a strong way also the MEM. Since then the most activities of the MEM have been limited, halted or changed. However the activities have undergone some important change. In this paper the period after the state of emergency has not been considered. Rather it has been aimed to describe the development of the consciousness and discussion on and the struggle for ecology in Bakur before the current repression.

    2) The discussions and practice of Rojava has not been included in this paper as there are very different frameworks (no state any more, much less capitalism etc.) although the political concept is the same.

    [1] In recent discussions also described as “extractivism”.

    [2] The KFM uses the definition capitalist modernity in order to describe the current hegemonic political-economic system. According to that capitalism is covers mainly economical activities while capitalist modernity is a system which includes the political and ideological (for example it is meant: mentality, human relations, social behavior) dimension of the developed hegemonic system.

    [3] Change from use value to exchange value

    [4] Often “basic needs” is used in such discussions. But its quite difficult to differ between “needs” and “basic needs”, thus here it is foregone to use “basic”.

    [5] Instead of “resources”, which is used widespread nowadays, here “elements” is preferred. “Resources” assumes that they exist or wait to be extracted and exploited by capitalist economy.

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Melting the Ambiguity and Power of ICE

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 18:32

via The Hampton Institute

by C. S. Ryan

In less than a week, the people of the world have forced the President of the United States of America to no longer allow detained immigrants to intentionally be separated from their family members. Such an inhumane practice has been permitted at more than 400 detention facilities supervised by ICE agents in the United States.

What this piece aims to do is delineate ICE as an organization and provide a critical analysis of U.S. foreign-policy initiatives, the proposed solution to the ICE facility attention, and an honest call to action.

ICE: Its History and Functions

When discussing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there is an ambiguity in consideration to its foundation. We know that ICE is the problem, but what is ICE?

ICE was born in 2003, in accordance with the Homeland Security Act of 2002 following the events of September 11, 2001. Since, ICE has become the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, the second largest body of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the second largest “criminal investigative agency” in the U.S. (trailing the FBI). There are more than 20,000 ICE employees in over 400 offices in the U.S. and in 46 countries abroad.

ICE has two primary arms: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Each are equally important.

There are approximately 6,500 HSI agents. HSI agents have the authority to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act ( Title 8 ), U.S. Customs Laws ( Title 19 ), general federal crimes ( Title 18 ), Controlled Substances Act ( Title 21 ), as well as Titles 5, 6, 12, 22, 26, 28, 31, 46, 49, and 50 of the U.S. Code .

The HSI agents are to investigate national-security threats such as human rights violations, human trafficking, drug trafficking, document and benefit fraud, transnational gang activity, cash smuggling, money laundering, and the like.

Their international offices are used to combat transnational criminal activities and work with governments abroad to prevent such activities from entering the U.S. This policy framework can be considered something similar to the “National Security States” used in Central America to repress what was then considered a communist infiltration, known as the supposed “Real Terror Network”. Today, we must keep in mind that we’ve passed the “end of history”. Communism is out, terrorism is in. With terrorism at the frontline is bred the dehumanization of the migrants, no longer the Reds. The war on communism has morphed into the war on terror; and ICE, with its HSI agents, are spearheading this new war.

There are other functions of the HSI, but this synopsis should do. Next, we will investigate the ERO.

The ERO are the ones primarily responsible for the current national spotlight. Their function is to capture illegal immigrants and assure their removal from the U.S. In the time between this removal, the families being expedited are held in government and “charity-sponsored” detention camps, or in the case of the Brownsville Detention facility in Texas, a shelled-out Walmart.

The ERO has been strengthened by the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) , which allows ICE to cooperate with state and local law enforcement agencies. In doing such, it authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to also work with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions. As such, ICE provides these law enforcement officers with the training to identify, process, and detain immigrants.

In detainment, the so-called aliens are placed in the detention centers (similar to jails) mentioned above. Something very important to note here is that, as of 2009, the U.S. Congress has mandated that ICE detention centers must have at least 34,000 people confined each night. Thus, by law and similar to prisons again, there is a requirement (quota) for detention.

Between 2003 and 2007, 107 people died in ICE custody. The New York Times reported that in some cases officials used their supervisory roles to cover up evidence of mistreatment and avoid media coverage of “substandard care or abuse”. Between 2010 and 2017, The Intercept reported that 1,224 sexual assault complaints had been made in ICE detention facilities, with only 3% being investigated.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Fighting “Terrorism” with Terrorism

Considering the youth of ICE as an agency, as well the timing of its inception, ICE is undoubtedly a component of the “war on terror.” Created by the Bush administration, emphasized and vastly expanded by the Obama administration, and now mushrooming under the Trump administration, we must recognize that ICE is part of a much larger conglomerate. While it is ICE that is attracting much attention, it is not just ICE that we should call into question. Its purpose is to refuse all “aliens” who are “infesting” the U.S., but it is simply a bullet in the gun.

We must see this segment of the government as piece of their new war against the people of the world. The wars that the U.S. have escalated abroad, causing mass refugee migration crises in Central America, the Middle East, and Africa, are primarily responsible for such successions. With the rise of climate change as well, we will soon have a world unstable to support current and expected living standards.

Clearly then, ICE’s purpose is to fend off migrants and refugees developed from the wars promoted by the US’s other militaristic forces. Last year, people were worried about Syrian refugees flooding the states. Today, the focus is back on the Mexican border. In the future, expect further crises in Africa. HSI operates abroad, they are the international eyes for the ERO. Working with both foreign and domestic law agencies, ICE has created in less than two decades a global force of supervision and detention.

This analysis goes along with the U.S. Commission on National Security which stated , “In the new era, sharp distinctions between `foreign’ and `domestic’ no longer apply.” Accordingly, former President Barack Obama noted , “there is no distinction between homeland and national security”. The importance here lies in the conundrum considering that U.S. foreign policy initiatives have been disastrous, for the soldiers sent abroad, for the world in general, and for democracy as a whole. The same values the U.S. government claims to represent in every war it initiates are those which it refuses to allow develop without its supervision, and what ICE and the quotes above illustrate is that the leaders of our country are very aware of their dwindling control over the masses, and specifically who the masses are that they must control. But this conundrum posed appears common knowledge, thus we begin to ponder why we keep making the same mistakes?

Simply put: the U.S. is the producer of terror. It is the producer of terror abroad and thus the engineer of the very terrorism it aims to fight. This is not the result of stupidity. This is its purpose. Such social stratification is ideal for the ruling class. If they can decimate countries abroad, they can go in and offer their assistance. This assistance of course comes with loans. Those loans of course come with interest. Yes, the U.S. is the most indebted nation, but it also makes its money by indebting other nations! These are not mistakes, they’re markets.

The terrorism that the U.S. has promoted in the overthrow of governments in Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haití, Greece, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and so on, is on a scale never seen in history. This is what the U.S., as the main facilitator of the global capitalist system, strives for. The U.S. just passed a $716 billion defense budget. The U.S. allowed the Pentagon to misplace $21 trillion in 17 years. Across the world, the U.S. has promoted right-wing, ultra-conservative, authoritarian regimes, reaping the benefits while the workers of these countries are murdered and forced to live at starvation wages. Even today, the U.S. operates with approximately 75% of the world’s dictatorships. Our policy is not democracy, it is detention. Thus, the same military that caused many to flee their homelands is now being asked to detain them at home.

A quick historical contextualization of the “Mexican immigrant crisis” is needed. The U.S. under President James K. Polk went to war with Mexico over territory and conquered 525,000 acres of land in 1848. Afterwards, the Native Mexicans, now Americans, were exterminated by a California state-sponsored genocide that massacred over 80% of their population. Come 1914, the U.S. intervened after the Mexican Revolution, toppling the government in order to protect its imperial interests in Mexico’s oil, mines, and railroads, which were predominantly owned by USAmericans. In 1938, after discussions of reparations which were not paid to Mexico after the U.S. invasion, Mexico decided it would nationalize its oil reserves. Consequently, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided not to imperialistically intervene, though during the great depression the U.S. did expel between 400,000-2,000,000 Mexicans from the U.S. (60% of who were birthright citizens). In 1982, during the world oil crisis, the nearly 150% drop in oil’s worth meant that Mexico’s foreign debt more than doubled . This foreign debt was owed to the U.S.-sponsored World Bank. And after NAFTA passed in 1994, Mexico’s government became so reliant on the U.S. that now over 88% of its exports go directly to its neighbor, the U.S.

NAFTA has made it more difficult for Mexican workers to organize, thus wages have plummeted and corruption has run wild in the country. This is perfect for the neocolonial empire as it creates an austere society, with money coming from the top to colonialists, who then protect those giving them money if threatened. By destabilizing Mexico, they allow the society to fight itself at the bottom, while the corrupted officials remain floating above the general public.

What CIA-trained forces did during Operation Condor in Central America has passed. The Japanese internment camps during World War II were temporary. But what they have being built now, these ICE detention facilities, they are here to stay. They are here to stay unless we stand up and fight back against such terror. We cannot become desensitized to these detention facilities, as we have with the creation of a military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and the slaying of innocent young black men. We must fight.

Trump’s Solution: A Crumb to the Beggars

President Trump recently signed an Executive Order that will no longer allow families to be separated unless criminal laws say otherwise. For this, I have seen liberal praise. We must reject such gains as “wins”. Such an order goes along with another liberal argument I’ve seen that separating families in the detention facilities is morally wrong. Yes, indeed it is. But so is the blanket detention of non-violent immigrants. So is the containment, isolation, entrapment, and debilitation of so-called aliens. The liberal “resistance” seemingly wants us to settle for allowing them to be in cages so long as they are together in these cages.

What this Executive Order does not do is mend the separation that has already taken place. Moreover, it seeks to indefinitely detain these families– calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a request in court to change the settlement in Flores v Reno. What’s more, it calls for families to be detained at military facilities, as well. The same military that has brutalized the world, trained torturers, tortured others themselves, and killed on mass scale, is now being called upon to “care for” detained immigrants. This is a scary revelation. The average citizen cannot just walk on to military facility grounds. We cannot walk into jails for inspection, let alone military facilities. What they hid before, they will hide again.

Such detainment facilities are beyond just immoral, they are abhorrent. They are heinously inhumane and such institutions should not exist anywhere. There are borders today, yes. There are laws and rules, and there are important procedures in place to protect our citizens from potential terrorists. This, however, does not require the detention and deportation of all “illegal” families. In fact, prior to 2012, such a notion was not only unheard of, it was structurally impractical.

Our Solution: A Call to Action

The protest-blockade against the ICE facility in Portland, Oregon is unprecedented. Here, protesters have effectively shut down and ICE detention facility by sheer will of the human body. They blockaded the garages so that ICE vehicles could not exit. For a while, ICE employees even could not exit the facility. Eventually police were called in to escort them out of the building.

Such direct action should set as a reminder that we the people have the power. In numbers, when organized, we have the potential to shut down each facility in the U.S. Approximately 1,000 citizens surrounded the building, the garage, and even ICE employee’s cars (provoking the police to arrest one demonstrator) in Portland. These protestors were so effective that the ICE center was actually shut down indefinitely, due to security concerns!

These protests were against Trump’s separating of families. What is important is not allowing this Executive Order to calm the fire. We must fight ICE at every step, we must melt ICE. Starting with preventative care, we can help our immigrant communities know their rights by circulating literature on how to defend from ICE raids. It is also important that we verify when ICE is in the neighborhood and document it. We owe gratitude to Sam Lavigne, who doxxed the Linkedin profiles of the majority of people working as ICE agents. We now we know who our enemy is. We have the locations of ICE detention facilities (via ICE’s own website), we know where they are stationed. What happened in Portland can just as easily happen in any US city!

We must take a stand. Times are ripe, people are awakened to the monstrosities of this administration because it is Trump, and because it is Trump it is profitable for the media to “uncover.” The capitalists only think of money, not the substance. And this substance is accidentally revolutionizing our country. Come an economic collapse, which we are due for as it’s been 10 years since the 2008 recession, the honest Left should and will be ready. We must begin organizing and fighting now, and it starts against ICE.

C. S. Ryan is an activist and member of the Capital District Socialist Party of New York.

From Microaggressions to Legalized Lynching: Weaponizing Police Against Black People

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 15:28

via The Hampton Institute

by Cherise Charleswell

Thanks to social media’s ability to help news headlines (and those stories that don’t even make it out through mainstream media) go viral, Black people and other people of color are beginning to receive some vindication. For many years, our testimonies about our lived experiences with micoaggressions and overt racism have often been dismissed. Yes – too many, we were simply playing “the race card.”

We are told that we are being overly sensitive, that white privilege doesn’t exist, that we should simply just comply, and oh yes – President Barack Obama’s election was proof enough that we now live in a post-racial society. Never mind the fact that the election of 45 was the result of a “white lash,” which actually proves that the United States, almost two decades into the 21st century, is anything but post-racial. The deep-seated issues of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia continue to exist, and the election of a President whose entire campaign aligned with those attitudes has literally open the floodgates of hate.

However, those of us with melanin-rich skin know that 45 alone isn’t to blame for the rise in hate crimes and white supremacy groups , nor is he solely responsible for the racist vitriol that we have openly seen on display since his election. His blatant (he has moved far past the use of “dog whistles”) and continued racism, with stereotypical and hateful language that targets specific groups of people, is a sign or symptom of the prevalence of racism, and the United States has been sick for some time.

Black people and other non-Black People of Color (NBPOC) have spent many years pointing out that racist stereotypes, such as one that claims that we have a predisposition for criminal behavior, have translated to Black people constantly being viewed with suspicion and fear. These viewpoints, steeped in racism, have had dire consequences: From the false accusations launched against Emmet Till that led to his brutal murder, to the 1991 murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins and the 2012 murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, to the removal of a group of Black women on a Napa Valley wine train . There has been a need for white people/dominant society to police Black bodies, and this legacy continues. It is a legacy that is currently manifesting in a rash of publicized incidents, many of which have now gone viral, where white people are calling the police on Black people for simply existing.

These white people are following a long historical tradition of proactively criminalizing Black people. With each incident, they are able to turn mundane interactions into melodramas, and this is all due to their preconceived beliefs about how Black people behave, where they should be allowed access, how they talk, how they dress, and so on. As always, these incidents are initiated and escalated not by the actions of the Black person, but rather by the white person’s prejudiced beliefs.

Something that particularly stands out with these calls is that they are overwhelmingly being made by White women, and this is again a continuation of a historical pattern of racism and white supremacy. It is the exact behavior that led to the aforementioned murder of Emmet Till and the lynching of many people of African descent in the United States. It is a notion that Black people/POC present a threat and danger.

All too often, the cruelties of slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, apartheid, and so on are attributed only to white men, letting white women off the hook. However, this tactic of tattling, calling law enforcement, and literally producing physical “white tears” is how white women have engaged in white supremacy for centuries. Worse yet is that this tactic is also utilized due to envy and the need to assert their position in the structure of global patriarchal white supremacy, stemming from slave-plantation dynamics. Forced rapes and sexual relationships between white men and women slaves on plantations often produced children – clear evidence of their infidelity, something the slaveowner’s wife could not openly acknowledge. Therefore, many chose to utilize passive-aggressive tactics against the enslaved people on the plantation, including the enslaved mistress and her offspring. More than a century later, the same passive-aggressive tactics are now wielded in the workplace and just about every social setting. This form of white privilege is so powerful when wielded because it the power to direct lynchings and other forms of violence against Black bodies.

During the first half of 2018 there has been many instances of weaponizing the police to carry out “legal lynchings” initiated by white women’s tears. A quick review of a few of these incidents include:

An incident in New York where a former White House staffer was accused of breaking into his own apartment.

– The incident where Donnish Prendgast, daughter of Sharon Marley and granddaughter of Bob Marley, had the police called on her by a white woman, while checking out of an AirBnB in Rialto, California with three other filmmakers. She and her cohorts were stopped by at least seven police cars and a helicopter after the white woman who called claimed that they were “stealing stuff.”

An incident with a contractor in Memphis Tennessee where a White woman calls the police on a Black real estate investor inspecting a house next door.

– The infamous incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia Pennsylvania that led to Starbucks closing thousands of stores for diversity training.

– The incident at Yale University where police were called after a Black Yale student fell asleep in the Common room, while trying to work on a paper. More about the caller and her history of racially-charged statements here .

– The Waffle House incident in Alabama that all began when a Black woman asked for a complimentary (which is standard in most dine-in restaurant) plastic utensil.

– The infamous case of BBQ Becky up in Oakland California who called the police on a family trying to have a Cook out at Lake Merrit.

– One carried out by White men against Black women at a golf course in Pennsylvania . Where police were called on the group of 5 because they were apparently golfing “too slow.”

– And the most recent case of a white woman, now referred to as ” Permit Patty ,” threatening to call the police on a Black girl who was selling bottled water outside her apartment building.

Note that a number of these incidents occurred in States and cities that are considered to be more “liberal.”

By the time BBQ Becky made yet another false and unwarranted call to the police we had become oversaturated with these stories, and Black people have had to lean on one of our traditional strategies for survival – Laugh Rather Than Cry – because the constant barrage of microaggressions and racism can take its toll. How this stress impacts the health outcomes of Black people and other minority groups is well documented (see here ) and is actually linked to health disparities . This is why laughter as a coping mechanism is necessary. This is something that Black Twitter carries out so well. And when it came to BBQ Becky, the proliferation of memes on social media ( see here) shows why Black Twitter remains undefeated when it comes to producing poignant, thought-provoking, honest, informative, and truthful commentary in a biting, sarcastic, blunt, humorous, and unapologetic manner.

However, after we laugh and cry, we truly need to consider how we will finally deal with this issue, because the problem is far more than implicit bias – which helps to reassure these white callers that the police will most likely side with them in interactions with Black people and other minority groups. It is as if they are certain of this outcome, and that is why they make these calls so quickly. Then there is the fact that minority communities have not had great interactions with law enforcement historically, and are thus less likely to call them for minor disputes, especially when a white person is the aggressor. Just consider the incident that occurred in a Santa Monica California parking lot. Santa Monica is a place which many are led to believe is liberal, “open-minded,” “tolerant,” etc. The incident involved was a parking lot dispute which quickly elevated when an White man hurled racial slurs against a Black woman, followed by physical violence, where he attempted to kick her.

Then there was an elderly white woman who attacked a pregnant Black US veteran . In both cases, despite being the actual victims, the Black person did not call law enforcement.

Why didn’t they call?

Because, they knew that they would most likely be seen as the aggressor, not the victim. And this means that they could be arrested, assaulted, or even murdered.

That is just it – it is the threat of bodily harm and/or lethal force carried out by law enforcement that makes these calls so problematic and sinister (these callers have to know what they are doing!). Despite the consequences, which can include the state-sanctioned murder of Black people and other minority groups, white people continue to make these calls. Thus, it is not only a misuse of law enforcement, it is a matter of using white privilege – and weaponizing law enforcement to carry out “legal” lynchings.

Further, these calls make it difficult for Black people to exist, go on with our lives, and live carefree, simply because of the color of our skin. Even while minding our business, we are being criminalized. We can’t barbecue, we can’t golf, we can’t sit at restaurants, we can’t carry out our jobs in peace, we can’t go golfing, and we can’t even request utensils at a restaurant without a racist making an unjustified call to law enforcement.

It is time to “Strip the power of the White aggressor away”

Knowing that there are dire and legal consequences to these false/unwarranted calls. They need to be treated like a public-health problem. Research is needed, as well as interventions and changes in protocols, as well as policy/legislation.

1. Intermediate interventions that will act as a deterrent for these false calls should involve implementing fines or arrests/charges on these callers, due to misuse of the emergency call system and tax-payer funded law enforcement resources.

2. Changes in policy or protocols should be mandated for 911 operators who receive these calls. They should be trained to quickly assess the legitimacy of these calls – and whether there is an actual emergency occurring. Or whether there is just a racist/bigot on the other end of the phone. In the vast majority of these calls, there was no threat of danger that even mandated officers being deployed.

3. Responding officers need to also be held accountable for their role, particularly when it comes to false arrests and imprisonment, which is what occurred when two African American men were arrested and incarcerated after sitting at a Pennsylvania Starbucks restaurant, for a timespan of two minutes, while waiting for a colleague. Many witnesses came forth to attest to the fact that the men had done nothing wrong, yet they were still arrested by police. Many may argue that more training is needed for law enforcement, but they already receive extensive training. And no one should have to be trained to acknowledge other’s humanity. So, a different approach is needed. Something more must be done to assist officers in choosing to use discernment if they respond to one of these calls. Alternative strategies can include: subjecting officers with personal fines, responding with lawsuits regarding false imprisonment against police officers and personally against arresting officers, formally defining these incidents as misconduct and making the necessary documentation on the arresting officers personnel file, etc.

In the end, one truly has to ask, is it really that hard to NOT be an asshole?

Here is a flow chart to assist you with determining when it is the appropriate time to call the police.

Try to Live and Let Live and realize that Black people and PoC have a right to exist. In closing, a message to BBQ Becky: instead of calling the police, all you had to do was ask for some food, and understand that we simply do not want to eat your potato salad.

Who’s Sober in Narcotics Anonymous?

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 15:22

via Jacobin

by Hannah Beckler

Dahlia took her first oxycodone at nineteen, months into her first semester as a college freshman. She was curious and a little naive with a penchant for trying her luck — and drug addictions, she thought, were for other people.

“It was the worst kind of stupid mistake,” she said.

What followed was months of chipping pills; oxycodone and codeine. She crushed them in a straw and snorted them in the bathroom before class. But pills were expensive. Heroin was cheap. Within the year she had dropped out of school and graduated to an intravenous heroin habit that she’d wrestle with for the next five years.

At twenty-two, Dahlia entered a four-day detox center and relapsed twenty-four hours after she was released. A few months later she tried a different rehabilitation program, stayed clean for a month, and relapsed again. So began a familiar cycle. Scoring heroin when she had the money, suffering brutal muscle aches, chills, and vomiting when she didn’t.

Exhausted and desperate, Dahlia’s family helped her get into a methadone treatment program. On methadone, Dahlia finally kept off heroin. For the first time in years, she woke up without thinking about her next fix, where the money was going to come from, if the needle was safe, or whether the next batch would be cut with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that would put her at risk of overdosing or dying.

Six months later, she’s at a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting, hoping for a sober chip — a plastic round emblazoned with the NA logo and a time stamp: Six Months Clean and Serene.

When it comes time for members to celebrate their clean time and receive their sober chips, Dahlia stands. But as she moves to the front of the room, the meeting leader shakes his head. He explains that she’s ineligible for a sober chip as her methadone use means she’s not sober. The group does not acknowledge her clean time.

“I was embarrassed. I was angry. I felt like a failure,” Dahlia said. “Here’s this drug, methadone, that’s been a miracle for me, I haven’t been at risk for overdosing. I haven’t been using needles. I consider myself clean. What have I been doing for the last six months if I haven’t been clean?”

Read more

Border Abolition: The Common Sense Position

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 15:16

via C4SS

by Ryan Calhoun

One big problem with border abolitionists and open borders advocates is a lack of focus on how unradical it actually is. Well, of course it’s radical politically, but the major concerns among restrictionists are cultural, and well, we live in a post-monoculture world. We have for pretty much all my life. Most people don’t understand the country they want to preserve from globalism is the country most responsible for globalism’s existence. One thing I’ve noticed is that communities, even in conservative areas, are not at all fearful of the actually existing immigrants living among them. They will even rally to protect them. The hopeful yet frightening truth is that if the US citizenry wanted to purge itself of its undocumented population it has the capacity and institutions. But as happy as we are to call the police on our neighbors in many circumstances, an extreme minority of the population possess the desire or motivation to make that call to ICE.

What they dread is a meme embedded in their head by the media they consume. Rather than presenting them with the neighbors that have participated and contributed to the life they wish to preserve, the media feeds them representations of some brave new world where what they know is overrun by, at best, strangers from a strange land, and more typically by a horde of amoral third world conquistadors. We too often insist that the natives learn to adjust to this imposition rather than point out this is already the world they live in, and the political movement that would need to wipe away the values and progress of our civilization is actually the closed borders crowd. Without some cataclysm tearing our ways of life asunder, the free flow of the world population is inevitable, and in many ways it is already here.

Problems have and may yet emerge as a consequence of national barriers breaking down, but those problems are often inflicted by the last gasps of a dying world that very few of us have lived in for much of our lives.

So if you wish to go back to that world, then find a community that wants to build up those walls, and leave the billions of us who love this rather familiar world in peace. And to those who wish to fight for the promise of a world that has evolved beyond these glorified gang lines, realize that it is not the forces of reaction against that goal that pose the greatest danger. The threat comes primarily from inaction and a lack of perspective. The likes of ICE and DHS were constructed overnight, not long before this night. They can be demolished at the same pace, as long as we possess the moral and historical clarity to strike at their shallow roots and expose their weakness, their contingency, and the damage they’ve inflicted on every person who wishes to live in a world that’s freer than the one they were born into. It has been over a half century since humanity escaped the gravitational pull of the earth. Let us not accept that the world as we’ve viewed from the heavens, open and united, is beyond our grasp. Anything less than the abolition of this whole state of affairs is uncivilized and beneath every individual upon the surface of this boundaryless rock.

Britain: Can anarchists give Trump the welcome he deserves?

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 14:55

via Freedom News

Ever since Trump became President of the USA there’s been the prospect of him visiting the
UK and the chance for direct action. Anarchist organising is not what it was in London
just a few short years ago. I seriously doubt the capacity for bursting the official
bubble and suspect that the main leftist counter demo will be the only alternative
narrative on offer.

The mainstream left initially called on the government not to invite Trump to the UK when he first became President. This typical call to ban anything they don’t agree with was as predictable as it was lacking in imagination. You can’t ban fake news, let alone bad news and he is bad news in every conceivable way. Let’s have him here and challenge him in some way, even if we can’t get anywhere close.

There are many ways this can be done. His will be a spectacle dominating our national news
for days on end. What we could do with is a variety of alternative spectacles for the news
to highlight. The left’s aim for a massive peaceful jamboree is lacklustre but at least
it’s something. We’re all at different levels of political activity and action and I don’t
blame anyone for going along to something where they will have a nice time. We have to
hope it might be a bit more exciting than this though.

I’m not sure that there is a black bloc in London anymore but emulating what happened in
Washington DC on the day Trump was inaugurated would be a fine thing indeed. Damage to
property was the order of the day highlighting the very real damage that trump and people
like him do to people and the planet. Of course the black bloc faced some criticism for
causing trouble but they also got space to explain why they did what they did and why it
matters. Property damage is entirely justifiable and nothing compared to the damage he is
causing to lives and livelihoods.

It doesn’t have to simply be black bloc activity either. There are a myriad ways in which
the point can be made. I notice a crowdfunded activity to install a massive inflatable
baby Trump above the capital for example. This might not achieve a great deal but it makes
a point and maybe there will be people who are more willing to help that than to get their
paint bombs out. It’s all good and while I think we should push protest down radical
routes when and where possible we’re having trouble simply getting our own house in order
so I’m not going to criticise anyone for actually getting something done.

I can’t underplay how much damage the rise of Corbyn has done to anarchism in Britain.
It’s now clear that many people involved in anarchism over the last 10 years or so have
moved towards constitutional methods for their politics. The argument that Labour is just
as bad as the Tories doesn’t work for them anymore. In Labour, many see a chance for a
transformational progressive government. I can’t help but assume that this is the reason
for the lack of dynamism within the anarchist movement since 2015. These things perhaps
run in cycles. The anarchist movement has been dominated by the green and peace movements before and maybe we’re moving to a period when they take the forefront again.

I’d love to be proved wrong though. There is a chance that through antifascist organising
the weekend of Trump’s visit could present an opportunity to mobilise in large numbers.
Whilst the Trump protests will take place on Friday July 13th, the following day sees a
planned far-right demo take place in support of Tommy Robinson. Two fascists in two days?
Well Trump certainly has fascist tendencies and he actually has power so I place him as
more important than that wretched imbecile currently squealing ‘free speech’ while hoping
he can one day paralyse all our vocal chords.

There is no doubt though that this could present a weekend like no other in terms of the
possibilities for direct action, subversion and counter spectacle. Having opportunities
and being able to take them are of course two different things. We’ve waited a long time
for Trump to finally get his ass to the UK. Those that are able will mark the occasion I’m
sure. Whether anarchists can puncture through all the official pomp and even the official
counter pomp of Labour and their supporters remains to be seen but if they do there is the
chance of inspiring a new generation of people on the margins of politics. Trump’s visit
will give us a clear indication of the health of the anarchist movement and the direction
it is taking in the UK.

Jon Bigger

The State Against Climate Change: Response to Christian Parenti

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 20:32

via Black Rose Federation

By BRRN Radical Ecology Committee (REC)

In the concluding chapter of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2012), author Christian Parenti suggests that those seeking to mitigate and adapt to the disastrous effects of global warming can do so best by taking power of the State to
implement the necessary changes to bring about a transition to a post-capitalist global
society powered by renewable energies. In an address to the 2013 Left Forum, “What Climate Change Implies for the State,” in which he develops these ideas, Parenti asserts that the Left should adopt a strategy of recovering and reclaiming the territory of the State,
“reshaping” it toward the end of an all-out short-term mobilization to resolve the
impending threat of climate destruction. Though Parenti recognizes that the State’s
primary role within the rise of capitalism to have been to facilitate the exploitation and
destruction of nature, he somehow believes that this same mechanism could now serve the
opposite end. He claims that climate change can be resolved simply through fiat by the
Environmental Protection Agency: “we’re[just]waiting for numerous rules from the EPA.” He
insists that the Left desperately needs to come up with “realistic solutions” to the
gravity of the climate crisis, and that any strategy of merely “being outraged” or
“invoking the righteousness of our cause” will utterly fail.[1]

What Is the State, and Is It Neutral?

To begin to respond to Parenti, we first have to ask, what is the State? Peter Kropotkin
distinguishes between the State as bureaucratic despotism imposed from above and
collective self-governance from below, otherwise known as self-organization or
self-management.[2]Examples of the latter can be seen in the soldiers’, peasants’, and
workers’ councils of the Russian Revolution; indigenous Latin American assemblies; the
Paris Commune of 1871; the Gwanju Commune of 1980; the cooperatives, communes, and free cities of medieval Europe and today’s Rojava Revolution; and the Local Coordinating
Councils of the Syrian Revolution, among other examples. Therefore, when we mention “the
State,” all that is meant on the philosophical level-leaving aside for a moment the very
real physical presence of the State, as embodied in militarism, prisons, and the police-is
just centralism, or the concentration of decision-making power, whether that be a monarch,
emperor, One-Party State, or modern multi-party western democracies.

In terms of ecology, it is clear that the State is not a “neutral” arbiter but rather, as
Parenti argues, the facilitator of ecocides global and local. The EPA’s laws and
regulations are often not enforced, even when the ruling class believes they should at
least be on the books, and are currently being decimated due to the Trump Regime’s
affinity for fossil capital. If enforced, these standards are too-often observed along a
racial-territorial basis, exacerbating environmental racism. Centralism in practice leads
to bureaucratic lack of accountability and popular dis-empowerment, among other problems,
as Kropotkin specified. So then the question becomes, do we need centralism for a
successful transition to a post-capitalist, “ecological” future? The answer to this is of
course not.

Facing Global Ecocide

To be clear, the need for a revolutionary transition beyond capitalism and global ecocide
is absolute, given how seriously climate change, species’ extinction, chemical pollution,
and several other environmental disasters threaten the future of humanity and, indeed,
complex life on Earth. That is not under question. Rather, this is a question of strategy.
In this sense, Parenti’s statism is a dangerous distraction from the necessary struggle of
organizing a broad-based international popular movement against the factors impelling
catastrophe: that is to say, capitalism and the State themselves. Parenti’s short
concluding chapter to Tropic of Chaos and his Left Forum address do not consider this
possibility; yet it is a surer way of resolving the problem than deferring to the State.

One undeniable problem of a reliance on the State to combat climate change is that the
“progress” supposedly made by the State is eminently reversible upon the entry into power
of a new administration: hence Barack Obama, a notorious climate criminal who effectively
continued George W. Bush’s approach while presenting the same as just and reasonable, is
followed by the Trump Regime, which in power has closely implemented the
anti-environmental de-regulations announced by candidate Trump, ranging from the opening
up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling to the US’s withdrawal
from the Paris Agreement, intensified bombardment of different Middle Eastern countries,
privatization of public nature reserves, and suppression of climate science, ad nauseum.
While the gains of the revolution can similarly be reversed-for indeed, what we are
witnessing on the part of the State across the globe is an unprecedented
counter-revolutionary mobilization-they should also be considered closer to the interests
of the people, the soul of the revolution, who ensure the progression of the necessary
social changes by fighting autonomously for them-and for the collectives of humanity and
all life on Earth behind them.

An Anti-State Ecological Transition

Concretely, we know what has to be done: to avert the worst of capital-induced climate
change, we must transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels right away, with the
proviso that, in Peter and David Schwartzman’s view, we should set aside a given amount of
petroleum for the construction of renewable-energy infrastructure.[3]According to Jeremy
Brecher, achieving a transition beyond fossil fuels implies undermining several “pillars
of support” for them, including the cancellation of the trillions of dollars in subsidies
for these fuels; the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies; direct carbon
sequestration; the discrediting of the “climate destroyers,” or those principally
responsible for the problem; the increasing of the negative consequences of continued
fossil-fuel extraction and burning; and developing of dual power.[4]

None of these goals requires the State, but they can be achieved through dual power. We
can imagine workers and communities coordinated across borders to shut down fossil-fuel
industries, thus revealing the simplicity of the problem. Rather than divert our struggle
into the State, where it becomes lost, we can do this better ourselves. It is only a
conscious working class battling with the interests of the youth, future generations, and
the planet at heart that provides hope. To rely on the State and the bourgeoisie is sheer
folly, given that they’re the reason we’re in this mess. While the example of taking
matters into our own hands can be expected to provoke a concerted backlash on the part of
the privileged, it can also open the horizon of possibility that is currently veiled by
the ethos of capitalist “realism,” which denies the very destructiveness of bourgeois
society while prioritizing production and consumption above all else.[5]

To close, let us summarize the argument. Is the State necessary for the struggle against
climate change? No; instead, we see that the State is, alongside capitalism, our principal
enemy in contributing to global warming and other environmental catastrophes. Due to its
functional role in defending and expanding the capitalist system, the State cannot be a
means for true climate justice. Let us not concern ourselves with reformist false
solutions to environmental problems, but rather get on with organizing a broad-based
popular global movement that implements the solutions we need.


Javier Sethness Castro, “Reform and Revolution at Left Forum 2013,” CounterPunch, 14 June
2013. Available online.
Jim Mac Laughlin, Kropotkin and the Anarchist Intellectual Tradition (London: Pluto,
2016), 137-141.
Peter D. Schwartzman and David W. Schwartzman, “A Solar Transition Is Possible!” Institute
for Policy Research and Development, 2011. Available online.
Jeremy Brecher, Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2017).

Stefan Gandler, Critical Marxism in Mexico: Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez and Bolívar Echeverría
(Leiden: Brill, 2015).

New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 19:27

via New York Magazine

By Eric Levitz

America’s unemployment rate is hovering near half-century lows. There are now more job openings than unemployed workers in the United States for the first time since the government began tracking that ratio. For America’s working class, macroeconomic conditions don’t get much better than this.

And yet, most Americans’ wages aren’t getting any better, at all. Over the past 12 months, piddling wage gains — combined with modest inflation — have left the vast majority of our nation’s laborers with lower real hourly earnings than they had in May 2017. On Wall Street, the second-longest expansion in U.S. history has brought boom times — in the coming weeks, S&P 500 companies will dole out a record-high $124.1 billion in quarterly dividends. But on Main Street, returns have been slim.

Economists have put forward a variety of explanations for the aberrant absence of wage growth in the middle of a recovery: Automation is slowly (but irrevocably) reducing the market-value of most workers’ skills; a lack of innovation has slowed productivity growth to a crawl; well-paid baby-boomers are retiring, and being replaced with millennials who have enough experience to do the boomers’ jobs — but not enough to demand their salaries.

There’s likely some truth to these narratives. But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political — explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations.

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A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 19:01

via Medium

by Mark Tseng-Putterman

A national spotlight now shines on the border between the United States and Mexico, where heartbreaking images of Central American children being separated from their parents and held in cages demonstrate the consequences of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” on unauthorized entry into the country, announced in May 2018. Under intense international scrutiny, Trump has now signed an executive order that will keep families detained at the border together, though it is unclear when the more than 2,300 children already separated from their guardians will be returned.

Trump has promised that keeping families together will not prevent his administration from maintaining “strong — very strong — borders,” making it abundantly clear that the crisis of mass detention and deportation at the border and throughout the U.S. is far from over. Meanwhile, Democratic rhetoric of inclusion, integration, and opportunity has failed to fundamentally question the logic of Republican calls for a strong border and the nation’s right to protect its sovereignty.

At the margins of the mainstream discursive stalemate over immigration lies over a century of historical U.S. intervention that politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle seem determined to silence. Since Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 declared the U.S.’s right to exercise an “international police power” in Latin America, the U.S. has cut deep wounds throughout the region, leaving scars that will last for generations to come. This history of intervention is inextricable from the contemporary Central American crisis of internal and international displacement and migration.

The liberal rhetoric of inclusion and common humanity is insufficient: we must also acknowledge the role that a century of U.S.-backed military coups, corporate plundering, and neoliberal sapping of resources has played in the poverty, instability, and violence that now drives people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras toward Mexico and the United States. For decades, U.S. policies of military intervention and economic neoliberalism have undermined democracy and stability in the region, creating vacuums of power in which drug cartels and paramilitary alliances have risen. In the past fifteen years alone, CAFTA-DR — a free trade agreement between the U.S. and five Central American countries as well as the Dominican Republic — has restructured the region’s economy and guaranteed economic dependence on the United States through massive trade imbalances and the influx of American agricultural and industrial goods that weaken domestic industries. Yet there are few connections being drawn between the weakening of Central American rural agricultural economies at the hands of CAFTA and the rise in migration from the region in the years since. In general, the U.S. takes no responsibility for the conditions that drive Central American migrants to the border.

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For Asian Immigrants, Cooperatives Came From the Home Country

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 16:28

via Yes! magazine

by Yvonne Yen Liu

Asian American immigrants to the United States have long survived and persevered by practicing cooperation and mutual aid. New immigrants have faced hostile environments to their participation in the mainstream economy, either because of exclusionary legislation or because they lack paperwork. The standard trope about immigrants is that through hard work and perseverance new arrivals to the U.S. are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In fact, Asian American immigrants have not only survived but also thrived because of these cooperative institutions.

Anh-Thu Nguyen knows this from first-hand experience. Her parents were Vietnamese boat people, part of the 2-million-person exodus who survived arduous journeys over the ocean from a country left destitute by the war. Both her mother and father were originally from the Mekong Delta region, but met in Florida, where there was an established Vietnamese refugee community.

She credits her family with teaching her the values of self-sufficiency and cooperation that guides her work today at the Democracy at Work Institute, where she directs the creation of cooperative-led value chains in the textile and fashion industries.

“Cooperatives weren’t a part of my language growing up, but it was what we did to survive,” Nguyen explains. “Cộng đồng means community, what ties you together. If you need to borrow money to buy a car, someone will help find a way to make it happen.”

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The socialist case for the INS?

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 15:59


by Scott Jay

Many calls in the US to “abolish ICE”, including from a recently elected socialist, are actually calls to return to the notorious immigration police of the last century.

For several months, immigration policy in the US has erupted into a full blown crisis. Images of children in cages, even children from Central America, have disturbed the consciences of millions of Americans. The crisis is so bad that even right-wing politicians like Senator Ted Cruz and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan have expressed dismay over the current policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.

The current situation cannot hold, but not because caging children is anathema to US politics. In fact there is a long tradition of caging children in the US and separating them from their parents, from the enslavement of Africans (whose family members were often sold and never heard from again) to the genocide of Native Americans, whose children were shipped off to boarding schools through the Twentieth Century. Continuing to today, migrant children from Central America were encaged under the Obama administration, and juvenile detention centers continue to encage mostly Black and Latino children. The most notorious recent example is that of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old who was detained on New York’s Riker’s Island for three years after being accused of stealing a backpack, later committing suicide after his release.

The Kalief Browder’s that still sit in cages throughout the US will see no relief from whatever reforms come to deal with the current immigration crisis. And the reforms are likely to come. The legitimacy of the US’s racist border policy depends on a change to this disastrously cruel policy. It will likely be changed in order to ensure that Mexican and Central American and other immigrants can continue to be policed and exploited and terrorized, just perhaps with a bit less visible cruelty toward the children.

“Abolish” ICE

The rallying cry that has arisen, with a surprisingly radical tone, is to “Abolish ICE,” that is, to put an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal immigration police force. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand–who is likely to be a contender in the 2020 presidential election–has called for an end to ICE. Cynthia Nixon, the Sex And The City actress running for Governor of New York, has called ICE a “terrorist organization.” Some ICE agents have even called for the agency’s dissolution.

The last example should clarify what is really going on here. ICE agents–much less Kirsten Gillibrand–do not want to transform US immigration policy. On the contrary, these ICE agents see the soiled name of ICE as an obstacle to enforcing current immigration policy. This is why such a rallying cry has taken off across the mainstream, and not because any of these people really want to abolish anything.

What may be surprising is the case of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Ocasio-Cortez defeated incumbent Joe Crowley for his seat in Congress representing parts of the Bronx and Queens in late June. Crowley was an entrenched, mainstream Democrat and a likely successor to Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democratic Party caucus in the House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, is a 28-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America winning her first election.

Alongside her Bernie Sanders-style campaigning over working-class issues, Ocasio-Cortez has taken up the call to “Abolish ICE,” which has probably encouraged and even pressured others to do the same. Incredibly, however, her call is hardly different from the likes of Gillibrand. Rather than transform US immigration policy, Ocasio-Cortez wants to replace ICE with its predecessor, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), or something similar to it.

In a series of tweets from a month before the election–though completely unnoticed by those on the Left falling over themselves at “the birth of a new socialist movement”–Ocasio-Cortez noted:

About 10 years ago I worked in Ted Kennedy’s foreign affairs/immigration constituent office. I REGULARLY fielded calls from panicked mothers who came home to missing family members. ICE was created in 2003 along w/ the Patriot Act. It was a weapon waiting for a tyrant. . . .

In fact, the folks who panic about the idea of #abolishICE seem to forget that we had a system before it: the INS. The INS forwarded crimes to the Department of Justice. That is exactly how it should be done. . .

If a person commits a crime, they should go through due process as outlined in our Constitution. Period.

That’s how it was until 2003. ICE changed all of that, and created an extrajudicial black-box system that has deported >10k US citizens(!) Here’s what must be done:

We must #abolishICE. It’s very structure is about as undemocratic and authoritarian as it gets in the US. We have to replace ICE with an updated INS-like structure that handles crime through the same court system we’ve had for well over 100 years.

This is shocking stuff coming from an avowed “socialist.” One wonders if she has any idea that “panicked mothers who came home to missing family members” lived the same experience under the INS. One also wonders if she is aware of such “undemocratic and authoritarian” institutions such as the FBI, the law enforcement agency in the Department of Justice.

These comments on Twitter are not just a fluke, they are her official immigration policy. In an interview with National Public Radio shortly after the election, Ocasio-Cortez reiterated these same points:

Interviewer: [Y]ou’re still going to have immigration officers, right? You’re still going to have customs officers, if you got your way. I mean, there’s going to be border enforcement. It’d just be under a different name.

Ocasio-Cortez: Well, I think it’s a different name and a different approach, you know? Before ICE, we had Immigration and Naturalization Services, but it wasn’t until about 1999 that we chose to criminalize immigration at all. And then once ICE was established, we really kind of militarized that enforcement to a degree that was previously unseen in the United States.

Ocasio-Cortez continued: “I do think that we have to have a secure border. We need to make sure that people are, in fact, documented.”

The most obvious question to this last statement is: why? Why do we have to have a secure border? Why do we need to make sure that people are documented? The answer is, capital needs these things. And if you want to succeed in the Democratic Party, you cannot call for open borders. This is probably non-negotiable, and this is precisely why the Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements. No struggle for immigrant rights can really expect to accomplish much if it is calling for the INS and secure borders. The Democratic Party acts as a graveyard not just for those inside of it, who accept these limitations, but also for those who go around making excuses for these things because they like Ocasio-Cortez’s class rhetoric even though they pretend to remain proudly independent of the party.

Just a note on the INS for those unfamiliar. It was the predecessor to ICE–the INS was “abolished” in favor of ICE in 2003 as a part of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security after September 11, 2001. The INS was the organization responsible for rounding up Japanese-Americans and placing them in internment camps during World War II. Shortly after, the INS was one of the departments that oversaw the notorious “bracero” guest worker program, which brought millions of Mexican laborers into the US to work in some of the most difficult and heavily exploited work in the country, before being sent back home with no rights. In the decades since, the INS terrorized immigrant workers with workplace raids which destroyed people’s lives, ripped them from their families and, in many cases, successfully disrupted workplace organizing campaigns.

It is hard to believe that anybody even remotely around immigrant struggles would be so ignorant or naive as to propose the INS as a good example of immigration policy. On the other hand, some people actually think the Democratic Party could be a force for radical change, so it’s hard to tell. In fact, there is long tradition of progressive reformers with left-ish sounding messages supporting policies that are ultimately quite backward–in order to position themselves in the Democratic Party. Whether they are cynically jockeying for power or offering what they think is the best possible solution under the difficult circumstances is irrelevant. It is their actions that matter.

The significance of all this is that both the Democrats and the Republicans are seeking a solution to the current crisis. Specifically, this is the crisis of the media showing immigrant children in cages and telling stories of them being ripped from the arms of their parents. Once the media can be convinced to stop telling these stories, the crisis will be over.

Somebody like Ocasio-Cortez will be able to play a key role in delivering a solution to this crisis. Efforts to “abolish ICE”–or rather, repeal and replace it with the INS–will be made much easier by Leftists who line up to tell fairy tales about how great life was for immigrants before 2003. Whether she endorses the final legislation or simply plays along with a corrupt process and pretends it will produce positive results before pulling out at the last minute–a favorite tactic of liberal Democrats–she will be able to rally support for her party’s efforts.

The future of the party

Far from challenging the Democratic Party leadership, Ocasio-Cortez has already been hailed by Tom Perez, leader of the Democratic National Committee, as being the “future of our party.” Perez knows well what a valuable role she is playing in exciting young people, such as his own college age kids. She has embraced a number of Democratic Party candidates around the country and can be relied on to continue to do so, while giving radical sounding demands–”Abolish ICE!”–a way of fitting into mainstream Democratic policy positions.

Efforts to support her, even turning out people to hear her speak, will bolster efforts toward fundraising for the party, registering people to vote (as Democrats), and making excuses for indefensible positions–like bringing back the INS. This is how party politics works. This is why parties exist. Basking in the glow of socialism does not make these things go away, they just make them more palatable. Tom Perez is much more savvy than his predecessors in understanding this. Whether the Left is more savvy than Perez is an open question.

What Perez understands is that there is now a template that may be applied in some areas of the country for winning elections. In these places, where the DSA and other left-wing groups are well organized, the Democrats can fall back on a base of support for their ground campaign for turning out the vote, raising money and building other campaign events. So long as the candidate is socialist enough to get these people excited, they will be able to support violent, racist institutions like the INS, helping the Democrats pursue reform efforts that may otherwise be unappealing to progressives. This is exactly what political parties do. This is why they exist.

The fact that it feels so exciting and engaging does not change anything–it merely makes it more effective. That people get excited by the soaring rhetoric of a Barack Obama or a Bernie Sanders without even considering that they are in fact being manipulated in order to help some other people gain power is one of the great mysteries and challenges of party politics.

This is why the Democratic Party is the graveyard of the Left. It can take the aspirations of radicals and feed the radicals what they want–left-wing rhetoric preached in the media and to large crowds–so long as they accept the limitations of the system. Incredibly, people who understand this process well and have preached its dangers for decades are suddenly rethinking all of this after the election of a single socialist candidate as a Democrat.

It is as though these Leftists had never even considered that such an election result would look exciting and popular, or that a socialist movement could have better things to do than to dive into electoral campaigns. Say, the class struggle for example.

Yes, the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was historic, and offers opportunities for many on the Left to fulfill their lifelong dream of having a mass socialist movement. But perhaps the Left can take a break from hyperventilating for a moment and focus on developing a strategy for resisting the reformed INS that she is offering to bring in. Perhaps they might even consider that this would actually build a stronger Left, even if it seems a bit less exciting in the short term.

Federal prosecutors abruptly dismiss all 39 remaining Inauguration Day rioting cases

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 04:49

via The Washington Post

Federal prosecutors on Friday dismissed rioting charges against all remaining defendants arrested after destructive Inauguration Day protests in the nation’s capital, bringing to a close a controversial case that led to allegations of government overreach.

Prosecutors began filing paperwork Friday afternoon to formally drop the cases against 39 people who had been awaiting trial.

The vandalism of downtown businesses on the day President Trump was sworn in stretched more than 16 blocks as part of a disturbance called DisruptJ20. Members of a large group of protesters set small fires and used bricks and crowbars to smash storefronts.

In all, 234 people were arrested and charged with rioting. Of them, 21 defendants pleaded guilty before trial. But prosecutors had been unable to secure convictions at trial against others in the group.

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Riders unite: a wave of struggles in the gig economy

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 03:29

via Libcom

by Johanna Schellhagen

Food delivery couriers working for Deliveroo, Foodora and Uber Eats are at the frontlines of the fight against precarious work in the gig economy, and their campaign is becoming ever more connected and coordinated.

In this collection of videos and reports, tells the story of how a huge wave of precarious riders’ struggles has spread across Europe to Hong Kong and Sydney since 2016 – an inspiring visual account of their campaign.

We are witnessing increasingly how businesses like Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon Turk are avoiding labour protections and pushing company risks onto the backs of workers through the use of freelance, “gig economy”, platform and crowd work.

Food delivery couriers working for Deliveroo, Foodora and Uber Eats are at the frontlines of the fight against the spread of precarious work in the gig economy. Over the last two years their campaign for better working conditions has spread internationally across continents.

With irregular hours, a fragmented workforce, high turnover and the threat of dismissal these riders are organising under particularly difficult conditions. But in the face of these challenges they have found new and innovative ways to advance their campaign, through direct actions, petitions, picket lines in front of restaurants as well as wildcat strikes. Some of these actions have achieved significant results.

The Deliveroo organising campaign first exploded in the media in August 2016 when around 200 riders in London began a 7 day long wildcat strike with the support of the independent IWGB union, after it was announced that their pay would be dropped from an hourly rate to a per drop payment system. The strike forced the company to listen to the riders and go back to an hourly pay system plus £1 per drop. This was an example of how self employed riders with no employment protections can force the hand of their employer when they take collective action, and was an inspiration to riders in other cities to follow their example.

After the campaign in London, Deliveroo riders mobilised in Brighton, organising several strikes and diverse actions, including collecting signatures from restaurants to support their campaign “Deliver a living wage”, as seen in the following video. Many of them are organised in the IWGB union, but non-member riders joined the fight as well.

The riders in Brighton were calling for a raise from £4 to £5 per drop, and a freeze on new rider recruitment as there were too few orders. They managed to get a recruitment freeze in February 2017 but their other demands were not fulfilled. In November 2017, they organised a wildcat strike seperately from the union and managed to disrupt the service, preventing deliveries from taking place for several hours. In Bristol and Leeds riders were also organising with the IWW, and a regular news bulletin called “rebel roo” was started with the solidarity group Plan C.

In Germany, riders from both Deliveroo and Foodora have been struggling for better working conditions since 2016, with actions of over 100 riders taking place in Berlin as part of the Deliverunion campaign with the FAU union. Foodora riders, who are paid by the hour but who still have to pay for all of their equipment, have organised log-outs and numerous direct actions. In January 2018, they organised a rally in front of Foodora’s parent company Delivery Hero to protest against having to pay for their own repair costs. One day before the demonstration, Foodora announced a new repair plan for their riders: they would receive an extra 25 ct per hour worked. This would translate to 5 ct per km at most, and amounts to a maximum of 42 € per month for full time workers, which is by far not enough to pay for new parts, let alone the costs of actual repairs. The FAU union is demanding 0,35 ct per km, which is seven times more than what Foodora offered.

In 2018 Deliveroo riders in Berlin started a petition with four demands:

– pay for the waiting time (4€ for every half an hour without an order)
– cover the compulsory statutory accident insurance
– reimburse bike parts expenses (0,35€/km)
– progressively raises riders’ pay (an additional 0,50€ after 3, 6 and 12 months of working for Deliveroo)

They managed to get more than 150 riders’ signatures and in April 2017, they delivered the petition to the Deliveroo office… in a pizza box! Management ignored the demands and simply sent an email to all riders, inviting them to express their concerns in an individual basis, refusing to listen to what they called “third parties”. The day after the petition was delivered, security guards were added to the office doors to “increase the security [riders] deserve” (as was worded in their email). To protest against this, riders organised a “log-out” in a central Berlin zone at the end of April, which managed to disturb the service. They have created a blog to announce further log-outs.

On an international level, apart from strikes and actions, riders have also tried to challenge the legality of their working conditions by taking the company to court, particularly in cases where riders were fired because of their organising activities. In Bologna, at the first national assembly of organised riders in Italy, riders received with dismay the decision of the court in Turin which ruled that Foodora riders are to be considered self-employed.

However, attempts to challenge delivery companies in the courts have proved successful in some cases. In Belgium, in March 2018, the Administrative Commission for the Governance of the Employment Relationship decided that Deliveroo riders qualify as employees under Belgian Law. Similarly, in June 2018, the Labour inspectorates of Valencia and Madrid held that workers of Deliveroo and Glovo, another delivery platform, were in a subordinate relationship to the platform company and were therefore to be considered as employees.

Currently, in the UK, a group of riders, backed by the IWGB union, are taking Deliveroo to the High Court in London in an attempt to overturn a ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee which classified the riders as ‘self-employed’. The union has launched a crowdfunder to raise money for the legal fees. At the end of June 2018, 50 Deliveroo riders shared a six figure settlement pay out from Deliveroo, because the company knew they would probably lose the employment tribunal case.

Some dismissed workers have also looked at the possibility of creating their own company to continue working as riders but under fairer working conditions. For example, riders in Spain are on the verge of launching their own cooperative version of the Deliveroo app in Barcelona, and others are looking into using the “coop-cycle” app in Belgium and Germany. These co-owned delivery platforms could offer a meaningful alternative to Foodora, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and co where the profits of the company go to those who are actually “driving” it, and where workers can enjoy better working conditions, safe contracts, sick pay, holidays and above all, respect. Co-ownership wouldn’t just mean sharing the profits, it would also mean workers being democratically involved in the running of the app and having more autonomy over their day to day working lives.

Over the past two years there have been countless actions of gig economy couriers in many cities around the world across Europe to Hong Kong and Sydney. While this transnational movement of organised riders is growing and expanding, it is also becoming more connected and coordinated, with plans to host an international riders “congress” later on this year. Sign up to’s email list to receive more videos on this topic, and other worker organising campaigns.

Chelsea Manning traces her political roots back to rave

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 03:15

via The Outline

by Michelle Lhooq

Every moment with Chelsea Manning felt surreal, like a dystopian sci-fi dream: Fade in on a windy Saturday night in Durham, North Carolina. Thunder crackles ominously in the summer sky as Manning arrives at an electronic music festival called Moogfest, looking every bit the part of a cool hacker chick: black tank top, leather combat boots, gold hashtag charm hanging from her necklace. Surveilling the city square with a calm intensity, Manning focuses her gaze on a neon-lit bar down the street, from which the faint sound of pounding music is drifting. “Let’s do something fun!” she orders.

Suddenly, the clouds break into torrential rain, sending shrieking festival-goers scattering for cover. Squaring her shoulders, Manning pops open her pink umbrella. “We can do this,” she says under her breath. Cue Orbital’s ethereal rave classic “Halcyon On and On,” swelling strings building into a thumping crescendo as her solitary figure disappears into the darkness. Fade out.

Manning is best known as the Iraq intelligence analyst who sent thousands of secret government files to WikiLeaks in 2010 — a headline-exploding act that marked her as one of modern American history’s most controversial figures. Deemed either a heroic whistleblower or heinous traitor, depending on who you ask, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison. She became the first American prisoner to undergo gender-affirming hormone therapy in a military prison before she was released unexpectedly by President Obama last year.

Manning is now delivering speeches across the country on her areas of specialty: the rising threat of authoritarian control over our daily lives via technology like data surveillance. She also ran as a Democrat for senator in Maryland, losing in this month’s primaries to incumbent Ben Cardin.

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The Bullshit-Job Boom

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 02:13

via The New Yorker

Bullshit, like paper waste, accumulates in offices with the inevitability of February snow. Justification reports: What are these? Nobody knows. And yet they pile up around you, Xerox-warmed, to be not-read. Best-practices documents? Anybody’s guess, really, including their authors’. Some people thought that digitization would banish this nonsense. Those people were wrong. Now, all day, you get e-mails about “consumer intimacy” (oh, boy); “all hands” (whose hands?); and the new expense-reporting software, which requires that all receipts be mounted on paper, scanned, and uploaded to a server that rejects them, since you failed to pre-file the crucial post-travel form. If you’re lucky, bullshit of this genre consumes only a few hours of your normal workweek. If you’re among the millions of less fortunate Americans, it is the basis of your entire career.

In “Bullshit Jobs” (Simon & Schuster), David Graeber, an anthropologist now at the London School of Economics, seeks a diagnosis and epidemiology for what he calls the “useless jobs that no one wants to talk about.” He thinks these jobs are everywhere. By all the evidence, they are. His book, which has the virtue of being both clever and charismatic, follows a much circulated essay that he wrote, in 2013, to call out such occupations. Some, he thought, were structurally extraneous: if all lobbyists or corporate lawyers on the planet disappeared en masse, not even their clients would miss them. Others were pointless in opaque ways. Soon after the essay appeared, in a small journal, readers translated it into a dozen languages, and hundreds of people, Graeber reports, contributed their own stories of work within the bullshit sphere.

Those stories give his new book an ad-hoc empiricism. YouGov, a data-analytics firm, polled British people, in 2015, about whether they thought that their jobs made a meaningful contribution to the world. Thirty-seven per cent said no, and thirteen per cent were unsure—a high proportion, but one that was echoed elsewhere. (In the functional and well-adjusted Netherlands, forty per cent of respondents believed their jobs had no reason to exist.) And yet poll numbers may be less revealing than reports from the bullshit trenches. Here is Hannibal, one of Graeber’s contacts:

I do digital consultancy for global pharmaceutical companies’ marketing departments. I often work with global PR agencies on this, and write reports with titles like How to Improve Engagement Among Key Digital Health Care Stakeholders. It is pure, unadulterated bullshit, and serves no purpose beyond ticking boxes for marketing departments. . . . I was recently able to charge around twelve thousand pounds to write a two-page report for a pharmaceutical client to present during a global strategy meeting. The report wasn’t used in the end because they didn’t manage to get to that agenda point.

A bullshit job is not what Graeber calls “a shit job.” Hannibal, and many other of the bullshittiest employees, are well compensated, with expanses of unclaimed time. Yet they’re unhappy. Graeber thinks that a sense of uselessness gnaws at everything that makes them human. This observation leads him to define bullshit work as “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”

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