Observations on the Battle of Aleppo and the demise of the US antiwar “movement”

Excellent post-mortem of the Western anti-war movement.

We Write What We Like

US-SYRIA-POLITICS-PROTEST Some “anti-imperialists” who think that the US Empire is the cause of the war in Syria. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

WRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.

Putin cynically offers humanitarian corridors to Aleppo. The cynicism of his proposal is so obvious that even the spineless United Nations must insist on control of the corridors, so as to offer the proposal a fig leaf of “legitimacy”.

Putin’s offer must be understood for what it is: 1) He is responding to international pressure to end the siege of Aleppo, 2) He is preparing a “justification” for new massacres.

Just as the Assad regime only “negotiated” while preparing military offensives, the “humanitarian corridors” offered by Putin are only intended to deflect international criticism as Putin and Assad starve 300,000 people and bury them with air and artillery strikes.

The “terrorists” are using the people as shields, we are told by the apologists for the…

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The Syrian Revolution and the crisis of the anti-war movement

rs21

Suddenly, everyone is talking about Syria. Saturday’s demonstration will be in solidarity with all refugees, but a Syrian refugee is one of the key organisers. Campaigners from the Syria Solidarity Movement UK and Stop the War Coalition are among those involved in the planning, along with many other organisations. Everyone should welcome this commitment to unity against the government’s treatment of refugees and other migrants.

However, as the UK government and mainstream media attempt to divert public sympathy for Syrian refugees into a panic about “jihadists” and support for bombing campaigns and drone killings of British citizens in Syria, it is important that we have solidarity and anti-war movements fit for purpose.

As part of an ongoing discussion, Mark Boothroyd, who was a founding member of the Syria Solidarity Movement UK, argues that the mainstream anti-war movement has failed Syrian revolutionaries struggling against a brutal dictatorship.

Demonstration on the anniversary of the Ghouta massacre, London Aug 2015. Photo: Steve Eason Demonstration on the anniversary…

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A few quotes on voting and democracy

With Victorian state election this Saturday and an inspiring sit-in strike happening right now at the Smith’s Snackfood Company factory in Brisbane (subscribe to Red Flag for ongoing coverage), I find myself pondering the concept of democracy. I’m reminded of the words of that wonderful left-wing writer Howard Zinn who said:

“What matters most is not who is sitting in [government], but “who is sitting-in” — and who is marching outside […], pushing for change.”

This strikes me as spot-on. I’m not saying don’t vote – I’m voting Greens. But I’m doing so without any inflated illusions about the power of voting. The key issue in this state election is whether or not the East West Link tollway will be built, and Labor’s newly arrived-at and somewhat shaky promise not to build the tollway is only the result of many months of protests, leafleting, and early-morning picketing which has delayed works and thrust the issue to prominence. And whatever the outcome of the election, we activists need to be ready to picket and protest and occupy to stop the tollway if we have to.

What I’m saying is that voting is a tiny constricted window onto what is possible in society – and most of the time the only choices visible through that narrow lense are two versions of the same drab concrete wall – like the view from the cheapest room in the hotel. Much more important is to organize together with increasingly more people with the right blueprint to build a suitable vehicle to smash through that wall altogether.

To slightly modify a quote generally attributed to the anarchist Emma Goldman: If voting changed anything really significant, they’d make it illegal.

For the protesters in Ferguson and across the US, like their predecessors of the civil rights struggles of the 60’s, there’s nowhere to vote away racism, police violence and poverty. That can be achieved only through mass action.

I recently read Russell Brand’s new book Revolution. Here are a few of my favourite, and I think most relevant, passages:

“I don’t feel responsible for telling kids not to vote. I feel like I deserve a Blue Peter Badge for not telling them to riot! For not telling them they are entitled to destroy the cathedrals of tyranny erected to mock them in the heart of their community, that they should rise up and destroy the system that imprisons them, ignores them, condemns and maligns them – by any means necessary!”

“[T]he crime of occupying an Apple store and redistributing its contents is nothing, nothing, compared to the larceny that took place to get those goods on the shelves, that torching a Niketown is no crime at all compared to the incessant immolation of the rights of the workers that made the goods within […].

“I don’t feel inclined to rally youths to put an ‘X’ in a box on a little ballot ticket but on the doors of those who will be spared when the plague descends, for we are at a turning point. The exploitation has now reached the pitch where the disenfranchised and exploited can look to a culpable minority with vengeful eyes. This minority though cannot be defined by the colour of their skin but by the colour of their god: green. These worshippers of Mammon have by their ascendance into privilege marked themselves out from amount us.”

So, by all means, vote. But do so with the understanding that it is one of the least useful of a suite of democratic activities that you can and should engage in.

(For a start, if you liked the Russell Brand quote and you live in Melbourne, go to the Socialist Alternative public meeting next Tuesday to discuss what true democracy is about: Russell Brand is right: Why we need a revolution)10433791_10152934570023885_8839460063522943456_n

Ferguson Australia, Murder under the Red, White and by Blue

1 Deadly Nation

A Missouri grand jury has decided Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, will not be charged.

The rest you know.

The police have yet again either killed a black man or allowed a non black man who did the killing to go free. What is statistically strange about today’s decision is this  – According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Grand Juries are a rubber stamp, Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” That is of course unless the Grand Jury is deciding to indict a police officer, rarely does it even get to that stage, then…

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The Syrian Revolution and the struggle for Kurdish Liberation

FSA and YPG units announce the formation of the Burkan Al-Firat coalition to combat ISIS and defend Kobanê.

FSA and YPG units announce the formation of the Burkan Al-Firat coalition to combat ISIS and defend Kobanê.

The Kurdish people have entered a new phase in the struggle to control their future.  The current context is born of the Syrian revolution that emerged as part of the “Arab Spring” of early 2011. The outcome of the Kurdish struggle in Syria (and neighboring countries) is intimately tied to unfolding of the revolutionary civil war in Syria. Their heroic resistance in the northern Syrian town of Kobanê (‘Ayn al-Arab) against the fighters of the right-wing ISIS organization is just one part of it.

Importantly though the need to resist ISIS in the region of Rojava in northern Syria has brought together political groups which previously were facing-off against each other. The success of an allied force combining Kurdish YPG and forces aligned to the predominantly Arab Free Syrian Army (FSA) in defending Kobanê sets a powerful precedent for the rest of Syria.

The Syrian revolution has endured for over 3 years now in the face of monstrous regime repression and international apathy. Upwards of 200,000 have died – mostly civilian victims of the regime’s brutal war on the population. Syrian refugees number over 3 million[1] with a further 6.5 million internally displaced.[2]

Alongside the military campaign, the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has waged an ideological campaign against the revolution, seeking to paint it as the work of US-backed mercenaries seeking to impose a repressive Sunni-Islamist theocracy. It attempted to stir up sectarian divisions within the revolution to mirror the Alawi/Shi‘ah sectarianism of the regime. Until quite recently its success at this had been minimal.[3]

Then, as the regime’s counter-revolutionary war dragged on, and the brutal massacres by loyalist Alawi paramilitaries and Shi‘ah fighters imported from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran[4] mounted, Assad got the enemy he wanted. ISIS’ sectarianism emerged as a response to regime sectarianism – that of both the Syrian regime and of the sectarian Shi‘ah regime installed by the US-led occupation of Iraq. Fearing a revival of the revolutionary wave which emerged in 2011 and also seeing the opportunity extend their influence, regimes of all stripes across the region have tried to influence the war by sponsoring groups who will serve their interests and have a conservatizing effect on the revolutionary wave.

Despite these pressures and the near-absence of assistance from the outside world, the Syrian Revolution lives on. The mass movement which began in 2011 with the aim of ending dictatorship and creating a just, free and democratic Syria continues on as an armed struggle as it once did through peaceful protest.

Kurdish component

Although much commentary refers to “The Kurds” as a homogenous entity, they are affected by a multitude of political divisions. Spread across the national boundaries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, each region has its own particular circumstances. For example, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq is dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani, who actively backed the US-led invasion of Iraq to gain a semi-autonomous region.

The KRG has established close relations with Turkey and has become its second biggest trading partner after Germany. A planned oil pipeline from Iraqi Kurdistan, through Turkey to the Mediterranean would be the jewel in the crown.[5] This puts the project of a broader Kurdish independence at odds with the interests of KRG and the ruling KDP who seek rapprochement with Turkey.

Within the Kurdish regions of Syria, known as West Kurdistan or Rojava, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekitiya Democrat or PYD) is dominant.

From July 2012 the Syrian regime, its forces stretched, started to give control of territory and state institutions to the PYD, while maintaining some presence.[6] From that point the facts are the subject of some controversy.

For its part, the PYD poses as having taken a position of neutrality. Spokesperson of the YPG, Redure Khalil, in Nov 2013 interview with AFP put his position:

“Our strategy is to defend out land and our people. As long as the Syrian regime and armed groups don’t attack us, we don’t attack them.”[7]

In any case, in the context of revolutionary civil war, neutrality is not an option. Defeat for the Syrian revolution would mean an end to the possibility of Kurdish liberation in the foreseeable future.

However, the allegations that regime-PYD agreement goes beyond one of mutual non-interference to outright collaboration are backed-up by a large body of evidence. The facts show that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) had struck a power-sharing deal with the Assad regime and repressed other Kurdish parties who wanted to fight Assad.[8] This alliance with the Syrian regime has been utterly detrimental to the revolution.[9]

Human Rights watch interviewed ‘Delal’ in Rojava:

“I think they arrested my father because of his political views. They arrested my father during his meeting with his friends in KDPS (Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria). In the first month they just tortured him without mentioning the charge. In the next month they accused him of a bombing in Afrin.” [10]

A Vice News report filmed during Sept 2013 – over a year after the Syrian regime started to withdraw from Rojava – shows the PYD-controlled Asayish militia moving freely through regime-held checkpoints in the northern city of Qamishlo to engage Free Syrian Army-aligned forces.[11] Together with a multitude of other reports[12], this constitutes a solid case that the PYD had established an agreement with the Syrian regime and was acting essentially as a counter-revolutionary police force.

Kurdwatch, a Kurdish-run website dealing with Syrian Kurdish politics has even reported the recruitment of pro-Assad loyalists into the YPG. [13]

President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq Maussoud Barzani’s criticised the PYD: “PYD’s cooperation with the regime is a dangerous game for the future of our people in Rojava. PYD has not only taken control of the region, it has already started to arrest and kill members of other party members,” Barzani said.[14] Barzani’s criticism may be hypocritical, given his party’s collaboration with the Turkish state, but he has a point.

Kurdish groups seeking to support the revolt to topple the Assad regime, such as the Freedom Party, Salahudeen Ayubi Kurdish Brigade, Akrad Front and the Komala Brigade have also been repressed by the PYD.

Hardship and opportunity

The onslaught by ISIS on the city of Kobanê has highlighted the importance of correct revolutionary strategy for Kurdish liberation. With the various sections of Syrian society oppressed by the regime having thus far failed to unite effectively, this weakness has meant that the main enemies of the revolution, Assad and ISIS, have had the opportunity to either hold their ground or expand. The assault on Kobanê is both the outcome of the revolution’s weaknesses and an opportunity for a new course.

This September a series of brigades of the YPG and FSA announced the formation of the Burkan Al-Firat coalition to resist ISIS’ assault on Kobanê.[15] Fighting alongside the YPG are fighters from the Kurdish Al-Akrad Front, Islamic Front and other FSA-related groups. Also joining this coalition en masse are members of the local Arab Sherbian tribe.[16][17]

The more this example is followed across Syria, the better. For the Kurdish forces – specifically the PYD – this means renouncing any collaboration with the regime and a commitment to its overthrow. From the point of view of Arab revolutionary forces this means winning the support of the Kurdish masses by working to end to the ethnic and religious discrimination seen under the Ba‘ath regime and supporting a program of full national and democratic rights, including the right of succession. The unity of Syria should only be maintained through consent and not coercion.

To be able to mobilize as much of the population as possible in a revolutionary struggle, the masses must truly see they are fighting for something worth dying for. Wealth redistribution, women’s rights and full rights for national minorities are all important components. With the Kurdish minority alone making up around 10-20 percent[18][19] of the Syrian population, harnessing this power is crucial to the success of the revolution.

[1] http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

[2] http://syrianrefugees.eu/

[3] https://revolution101.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/sectarianism-sidelined-in-syria/

[4] Iran’s Secret Army, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI_88ChjQtU

[5] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/17/pkk-s-rise-in-iraqikurdistan.html

[6] http://www.kurdwatch.org/index.php?aid=2593&z=en&cure=245

[7] Rojava: A Newborn Country, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwdHqGVCKiU

[8] http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/7/syriakurd530.htm

[9] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/06/syrias-kurds-oppose-the-regime-y.html#

[10] Under Kurdish Rule in Syria, Human Rights Watch report, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD-PtKopZok

[11] Vice News, Rojava: Syria’s Unknown War, http://youtu.be/p2zxlFQxkQ4?t=15m49s

[12] http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21628887-syrias-kurds-are-enjoying-more-autonomy-striking-out-their-own

[13] http://www.kurdwatch.org/index.php?cid=1009&z=en

[14] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/pyd-has-authority-only-on-regions-given-by-the-al-assad-regime-iraqi-kurdish-leader-barzani-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=57956&NewsCatID=352

[15] YPG FSA Agreement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePezhg0DFg

[16] Ronahi TV English, YPG FSA Agree on Joint operations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1kta7yAPMI

[17] Kurdish Militias’ Last Stand Against ISIS, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uOKOU7j9f0

[18] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/syrian-kurd-leader-revolution-wont-succeed-without-minorities/251660/?single_page=true

[19] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html

Statement of YPG General Command on Kobani and Fight Against ISIS

Important statement from YPG on alliance with FSA and their joint commitment to fight all tyrants for a free and democratic Syria

Personal Website of Mutlu Civiroglu

YPH_Jazaa

Statement of the YPG General Command

To the Media and the General Public,

It has been 33 days that the city of Kobane has been fighting terrorism in eventful days of resistance, redemption, and enormous sacrifices in combating the terrorist attacks of ISIS and its evils. For this organization which has become the biggest threat to the global peace and stability, the battle of Kobane poses a historic turning point. We are certain that the result of this battle will shape the future of Syria and the democratic struggle for freedom and peace. We want it to be known that the victory in Kobane is a victory for all Syria, and it will also be a major defeat for ISIS and terrorism.

The resistance shown by us, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the factions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a guarantee for defeating ISIS’s terrorism in…

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#TunnelPicket campaign targets corporate criminals

#TunnelPicket campaign targets corporate criminals

by Thomas Tymms

Image

Picketers concluded a series of actions against the $11.25billion[i] East West Link toll-road scam with a trip out to the Linking Melbourne Authority head-office in Glen Waverley. Once again, Victoria Police utilized special squads to break through the picket line: in this case the “Public Order Response Team”. Despite the predictable hysteria from right-wing columnists, the high level of media attention has been beneficial in giving the issue prominence.

In addition to this, several of the seven local councils now opposed to the tollway have held public meetings of up to 250 people to discuss the likely impact and options for opposing it. Other initiatives have included a theatrical flash-mob[ii], attending official consultation events to counter government propaganda, and a legal challenge to back-up the on-the-ground campaign. The next focus is a community rally on December 15.

Those that will actually benefit from this project are very few: representatives of big-business looking for a sound investment. One of consortia vying for the contract – Momentum Infrastructure Consortium – includes the construction giant Leighton Holdings which The Age newspaper has linked to a series of scandals including the paying of kick-backs to secure contracts[iii], and serious human-rights abuses against Indian farming communities.[iv]

But it doesn’t stop there. The history of this company and its parent firm is a case-study in capitalist depravity. In 2001 Leighton Holdings became a part of the construction giant Hochtief, which owes much of its current success to its collaboration with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party! The company’s website[v] shamelessly takes credit for several “buildings for the Führer” including his “Wolf’s lair” command centre and Führerbunker in Berlin. It also admits to using forced labour from 1939 onwards.

But of course, concepts such as democracy and fairness are inconvenient to wannabe Führer Premier Denis Napthine who hopes to rush through the contract before the next State Election. The winning companies can expect to rake in a tidy profit from the “Public-Private Partnership” (PPP) deal – perhaps more accurately described as a publically-funded rort for the benefit of private investors. The tender documents stipulate that the government will underwrite any losses sustained through either industrial disputes or a failure to reap sufficient income from the tolls paid by motorists.[vi] Napthine has also expressed a willingness to utilize a reinstated Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to allow non-unionized labour onto construction sites. As well as having already pledged $1.5billion in federal funding to the toll-road, Tony Abbott is one of the key architects of the ABCC and has vowed to resurrect the anti-union taskforce. If antipathy between construction bosses and the CFMEU flares up again[vii], potential exists for common cause to be made between workers and anti-tollroad activists. It’s high time that unions and the anti-tollroad campaign start building the links that will be needed to win.

 

Join the next community rally:

Sun 15th December, 1pm

@ Smith Reserve on Alexandra Parade (next to Fitzroy Pool)

[this is a longer version of the report that was first published in Red Flag on 2/12/2013 – http://redflag.org.au/article/campaign-against-toll-road-targets-corporate-criminals]


On the Russell Brand question

I heard recently Russell Brand’s address where he bawls out the whole capitalist system. I was getting close to admiring old Russel for his “calls it as he sees it, balls-out” rhetoric till I read about him on Wikipedia and learned that beyond this brilliant 8 Mile-style takedown of corrupt politicians he is a right arsehole. The fact remains that if you were to recite him you’d be hard pushed to find someone who could be legitimately offended.

Curiously enough, that was an extract from Russel Brand’s New Statesman article with only a few deductions and the substitution of “Russell Brand” in place of “Oliver Cromwell” and “capitalist system” instead of “the House of Commons”. If you didn’t notice that then it means you probably haven’t read his article. Read it after you finish reading this. It’s well worth it.

Would it be giving Russell too much credit to suggest this is a conscious parallel he’s drawing? Probably. But I think it’s an important point to consider in light of the criticism Brand’s article and Newsnight interview has received from not only the right but many on the left. The article contains too much spiritual stuff for my liking but also a good deal of fantastic, insightful and quotable political writing, in my opinion. There are criticisms to be made of Russell Brand’s sexism, to be sure, but this shouldn’t mean rejecting anything he has to say as a series of stuffy conservative political columnists have. Brand writes like someone self-conscious of their existence as part of a vacuous media-entertainment world of luxury and privilege, but as an outsider, thrust into a spotlight by, as Russell puts it, “A system that has posited me on a lilo made of thighs in an ocean filled with honey and foie gras’d my Essex arse with undue praise and money”.

Is it any surprise that Brand’s sexism has been encouraged and nurtured in an industry which has as a major function the distribution of sexist imagery and ideas?

He clearly identifies with the Left but makes some valid criticisms which have been reinforced by much of the response to Brand’s recent foray into the political world.

“It’s been said that: “The right seeks converts and the left seeks traitors.” This moral superiority that is peculiar to the left is a great impediment to momentum,” he writes. “It is also a right drag when you’re trying to enjoy a riot.”

His defence of the London Riots of 2011 already sets himself apart from many on the left who rushed to join the chorus of condemnation.

At another time in history with a higher level of class-struggle Brand’s interview and article probably wouldn’t stand out. But for now it’s refreshing to have the capitalist system and one of its BBC defenders put on trial in such a forceful and articulate way such as to give revolutionary politics an exposure currently beyond the reach of the Left.* The revolution will involve many arseholes and very few prophets so we’d better get used to working with each other in a way that is more nuanced than to either glorify or dismiss.

*(the YouTube clip recorded over 9 million views in 5 days across its various duplicates. Here’s the link to the BBC original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk; and the article: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution)

# HISTORY /// The Homemade Weapons of the Syrian Resistance: Reflection on the Evolution of the (civil) Warfare Paradigm

# HISTORY /// The Homemade Weapons of the Syrian Resistance: Reflection on the Evolution of the (civil) Warfare Paradigm.

The Paris Commune of 1871: Women and Revolution

The Paris Commune of 1871: Women and Revolution.

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