Listen to the Episode — 76 min
Clara: The Ex-Worker;
Alanis: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Clara: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Alanis: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Clara: Hello everyone, and welcome back to of the Ex-Worker! In Episode 39, we’ll be revisiting our coverage began a few episodes ago on the revolution in Rojava. We’ve got interviews to share with an American anarchist discussing US-based solidarity efforts and an insurrectionary anarchist from Turkey fighting in the United Freedom Forces militia in Rojava.
Alanis: And we’ll share feedback from a critical listener. There’s also an announcement from an international antifascist group about a new defense fund, info on some newly released anarchist publications, news, upcoming events, prisoner birthdays, and all sorts of things. My name is Alanis…
Clara: And I’m Clara, and we will be your hosts. Don’t forget to look at our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, for a full transcript of this episode as well as plenty of links and additional information about all the stuff we discuss.
Alanis: And we’re always eager to hear from you with any suggestions or critiques or feedback, so don’t hesitate to send us an email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: Shall we get rolling?
Alanis: We shall indeed.
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: First things first: the Hot Wire, in which we take a look at the latest news from rebellions, revolts, repression and resistance across the globe. Alanis, what’s the latest?
Alanis: The US government has been so freaked out by the nationwide anti-police rebellions over the last year that the effort to distract and recuperate has gone all the way to the top. President Obama has been on a roll, commuting the sentences of a token handful of minimally controversial prisoners for drug crimes, addressing an NAACP convention on the need for criminal justice reform, and even visiting a prison in Oklahoma to have a photo op conversation with some inmates.
Here are some direct quotes: “Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it.” “For nonviolent drug crimes, we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentences — or get rid of them entirely.” “In too many cases, our criminal justice system ends up being a pipeline from underfunded, inadequate schools to overcrowded jails.”
Clara: So what sense can we make of this about face? All of a sudden, the president is parroting lines that have been key planks in the platform of activists against the prison industrial complex. It’s definitely not evidence that the Democratic party is somehow a better choice. Clinton, as the last Democratic president, oversaw much of the repressive legislation that directly accelerated the incarceration boom. And the 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has made criminal justice reform and criticisms of mass surveillance a prominent part of his anti-big government, semi-libertarian populism.
Is it a sign that now that Obama’s in his last months of his presidency, he finally has the courage or political capital to enact some of the vaguely progressive goals his “hope and change” supporters elected him to enact? Well, in other ways, he’s certainly not taking steps to, for example, repeal the PATRIOT Act as he promised in 2003 (having just signed into law the US FREEDOM Act, its four year extension with some tweaking around certain NSA mass data collection programs); nor has the US military’s colonial prison camp in Guantanamo Bay been closed, nor has the minimum wage been raised to $9.50, etc etc. So what makes this one different?
Alanis: Well, simply this: the most probable source of mass, violent unrest that could destabilize political control in the US lies in popular outrage against racist policing. Obama’s rhetoric about how these reforms can make America better mask how some degree of change will be needed just to make America continue to be possible. Since as anarchists we want to see no one in prison, on some level it’s a positive thing if some of these actions and proposals could result in having less people in prison, or less racist targeting of young people of color by police and the prison system. Yet since as anarchists we are also not trying to make a better America, but a free world without nation-states, we recognize these gestures for the fairly desperate recuperative efforts that they are. We salute the rioters in Ferguson, Baltimore, and all over the country whose willingness to break the law and defy the police forced this moment to happen; I would bet everything I’ve ever had that there is no chance in hell that Obama, whatever his personal convictions, would be saying and doing these things right now if not for the mass anti-police unrest of the last year. And of course, even as he changes his tune, he’s being careful to give props to law enforcement every chance he gets, lest that crucial constituency threaten to undermine the stability of his rule - check back to Episode 33 for our discussion about that.
But far more important that what any single politician does or doesn’t do is how we exercise our collective power. Obama could pardon all two and a half million people in prison tomorrow and we wouldn’t be any more powerful than we were yesterday, so long as what determines who’s in prison is the pound of a judge’s gavel or the stroke of a ruler’s pen. The most progressive face this system can adopt still holds no hope for us, nor any real change; let’s continue to organize to defend ourselves against whoever is in power and whatever repressive forces they throw at us.
Clara: Right, so… anything else in the news?
Alanis: Ahem, right. Sorry. Uh, let’s see… ah, yes! You’ll never guess what happened in Greece!
Alanis: Well, the shiny new leftist party Syriza swept into power on an anti-austerity platform.
Clara: Just to be clear, since we use the term a lot: when we say “austerity” we’re talking about government policies that strip away social protections in order to shift the costs of capitalist crisis onto vulnerable populations. For example, IMF structural adjustment policies, cuts in education and health care and pensions, raising the retirement age, restrictions on unions and strikes, etc etc.
Alanis: Exactly. So Syriza, vampires of the leftist and radical social movements against austerity in Greece, sweep into power, promising to protect the people from the EU and the banks, and hold a popular referendum on whether or not to accept EU austerity conditions. The people come to the polls and vote a decisive NO! Hooray! Power of the people! Democracy wins, right?
Clara: Why do I smell a rat?
Alanis: Because there’s a big dead one in the Greek Parliament, and it’s called Syriza! What do these pieces of shit then go and do? Having urged everyone to vote “NO” in the referendum, they turn around and immediately sign the worst bailout deal yet for Greece, complete with all the austerity measures! Now they will be the ones imposing austerity on Greece! The exact opposite of what they were voted in to do, of what the social movements who elected them are demanding, of what the referendum was supposed to affirm! THOSE MONSTERS!!
Clara: Well, not to say “I told you so” or anything, but… CrimethInc. actually did tell them so. We suggest you read the article on Syriza published in January on the CrimethInc. blog, titled - with, we have to admit, considerable foresight - “Syriza Can’t Save Greece.” We’ve got the link on our website.
Alanis: As you can imagine, outraged Greeks have been protesting; the unions called a general strike, anarchists have been burning things and fighting police, etc. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.
Clara: In all seriousness, one of the worst parts of this is that it makes the fascist Golden Dawn practically the only political party in Greece that has not participated in imposing austerity measures. If it weren’t for anarchist resistance, people might conclude that the only alternative to the misery of state-imposed capitalism is racist nationalism. For everyone who was so optimistic about the potential of radical political parties in the wake of Syriza’s electoral victory, that should be a wake-up call. Say it with me, folks: there are no state solutions to the capitalist crisis.
Alanis: And in the mean time, enjoy this piece from a radical blogger, titled “The Five Stages of Leftism.”
Clara: Stage 1: Denial
Alanis: I don’t believe it. This can’t be real. I just spoke with/saw him/her/they/it and he/she/they/it looked so good. The doctors, and doctorates, were optimistic. He/she/it/they promised. Ignore the papers, ignore the press. Put cotton in your ears. Don’t say another word, I’m not listening.
Clara: Stage 2: Anger
Alanis: Son-of-a-bitch. Bastard. Fuck me. How could he/she/they/it do something like that? Traitor(s). Coward(s). It’s all the fault of those damn ________ (fill in the blank: possible choices– bankers, Stalinists, Stalinists and bankers, Trotskyists, anarchists, black bloc, PhDs, professors, Americans, Germans, German-Americans, German-American Stalinist PhD banker professors).
Clara: Stage 3: Bargaining
Alanis: Look, slow down. Maybe it isn’t all that bad. OK, we agree to the terms, the banks reopen, the money returns, we get some debt reduction, then maybe the economy recovers, and when it recovers we push through certain legislation to modify the program.
Clara: Stage 4: Depression
Alanis: Jesus, this is just terrible. And so sudden. You know what, I give up. I just give up. I can’t even get interested in movies any longer. We worked so hard. We had so much going for us. All that effort. That big turnout. That humungous vote. I just don’t know if I have it in me to go on any longer. I’m going back to school. I’m going back to teaching. I’m going back to on-line gambling.
Clara: Stage 5: Acceptance
Alanis: Yes, it’s bad. Yes it hurts. What can you do? We fought the good fight. So we lost. These things happen. We were never really that strong. Things just didn’t work out, this time. But look, life goes on. There’s my family and my friends, and my teaching. And on-line gambling. And we’ll be wiser for the experience. We won’t make the same mistakes again. There will be other opportunities in the future, and we’ll do it right. Look how popular Podemos is in Spain. I feel better already. Spain, that’s the ticket. Yeah, in a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready to get right back into it and start stumping for Podemos. Hit me, dealer. Blackjack!!
Clara: In other news, the French celebrated Bastille Day according to age-old French traditions by fighting police and burning cars, in Paris and several other cities.
Alanis: Protestors in Rashakai, Pakistan outraged over electric power outages disarmed police and security guards and took them and a politician hostage for hours.
Clara: Several days of violent protests have raged in Limpopo, South Africa, as residents demanding promised road improvements torched mining trucks.
Alanis: Protestors from the Oglala Lakota tribe on the Pine Ridge reservation - site of notorious FBI repression of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s - have been engaged in a courageous direct action campaign against corporate efforts to profiteer off of indigenous alcoholism in their community, with vigils and blockades intended to prevent company trucks from delivering alcohol to the adjacent town’s liquor store, a source of major suffering and exploitation in the Lakota community. In response, local Nebraska sheriff’s department attacked protestors, holding tasers to their necks and hearts, pushing them to the ground and pulling their hair before hauling them off to jail, in a desperate effort to preserve the right of booze-selling capitalists to profiteer off of colonialism and addiction. Despite their brutality, the blockade was successful, with the two alcohol trucks forced to drive off without making their deliveries, and the protest will continue.
Clara: Environmental activists and locals in the Artvin province of Turkey near the Black Sea used felled trees to blockade roads in order to prevent a mining company from beginning operations in the area.
Alanis: Hundreds of protestors in the Hague are defying a government ban on assembly through days of unrest in an immigrant district after Dutch police murdered a man from Aruba. When some had the gall to compare the racist murder of people of color in the Netherlands to the racist murder of people of color by white police in the US, the mayor of the Hague indignantly insisted, “There is absolutely nothing in common between the work of American police forces and the Dutch police and the Hague force. If I thought that was the attitude of the police in The Hague I wouldn’t stand here for another second."
Clara: Self-described WOLVES attacked an industrial development outside Zapopan, Mexico, burning construction equipment and vehicles in defense of the nearby Primavera Forest, while in Meuse, France, “a few determined owls” destroyed a construction site intended to store nuclear waste in the future.
Alanis: I love this trend of animal communiques!
Clara: Speaking of animals - nearly 7,000 mink were released from a fur farm in St. Mary’s, Ontario, where the ALF has been raging this year.
Alanis: Meanwhile, the animal rights group PETA outed a SeaWorld employee who for years has been working undercover infiltrating animal rights protests against SeaWorld in California. A man going by the name Thomas Jones in his anti-SeaWorld activism was revealed to be 28 year old Paul McComb, who has worked for SeaWorld since at least 2008. We’ve put a link to an article describing how McComb was discovered and outed by PETA’s investigation; it’s definitely worth reading for advice on the kinds of tactics you can use to rout out potential corporate infiltrators from radical groups.
Clara: And as promised in our last episode, we’ve posted the address for animal rights activist Amber Canavan, who’s doing a month in jail for exposing cruelty on a foie gras farm and helping free two ducks. You can find it at crimethinc.com/podcast.
FEATURE: THE ROJAVA REVOLUTION, PART II
Alanis: Hey Clara?
Alanis: Didn’t we already do an episode on the stuff going on in Rojava, just a few weeks ago?
Clara: Yes, we did.
Alanis: So why another one? I mean, of course there’s always more to say about any given topic or struggle, more perspectives to integrate and what not. But we have so much that we want to cover and address; what’s so significant about Rojava that we’re devoting a whole other episode to it?
Clara: Well, that’s a fair question. And probably not all of our listeners are going to agree with my answer. But I suspect that the stuff going on there right now is one of the most significant developments for anti-authoritarian struggle of our era.
Alanis: What makes you say that?
Clara: Well, for one, it has huge geopolitical significance: I mean, not only is ISIS a global phenomenon, but Turkey is militarily important to NATO, the nearby oil supplies mean that lots of global powers are concerned, the US is hugely committed in Iraq, and Russia has thrown their hat into the ring by assertively backing the Assad regime in Syria, as a sort of second cold war is brewing on the terrain of Ukraine and elsewhere. If the Kurds and other groups are successful in defending and extending a territorial project of stateless autonomy in the region, the effects could ripple out in a lot of different directions.
Clara: And although it’s hard to know exactly what’s happening or how it looks in practice, the democratic confederalism of Rojava looks like it could be the most similar thing to actually existing anarchism that we’ve seen since the Spanish Civil War, on a scale beyond a squat or a neighborhood or a web of collectives. And as our interviewee from the Rojava Solidarity NYC group argues, it’s important that anarchists actively support the most anti-authoritarian currents within the struggle, since it could go any number of different ways, especially given the tense and complex geopolitical context.
Alanis: I see.
Clara: And finally, speaking of the Spanish Civil War, what happened in 1936 with the International Brigades composed of anarchists, leftists and sympathizers from many different countries coming together to fight against Franco - this is actually happening right now in Kurdistan. David Graeber, the anarchist anthropologist we heard from briefly in our first episode on Rojava, was making this point as early as last fall, to his credit. And now there are full-fledged international brigades bringing together anarchists with communists, socialists, and various other sympathizers, sometimes making very strange bedfellows, but all fighting against ISIS either in the YPG or YPJ, the PKK-sponsored militias, or in separate but collaborating militia groups. It’s entirely possible that this could become, or already is, one of the major international solidarity ventures of our generation, and in contrast to 1930s Spain, there is no popular front government, nor a lurking Soviet Union attempting to subvert the struggle by controlling its leftist participants and promoting infighting. Instead, there’s a large and expanding web of stateless territory organized from the bottom up and a loose coalition of internationals focused on defeating ISIS and defending the free territories.
Alanis: That all sounds very nice, but I’m afraid it may not be so clear cut. You haven’t accounted for the role of the PKK and PYD, which, although everyone seems to claim that they’ve evolved in a libertarian direction, are still playing some sort of directing or coordinating role, and still have a charismatic leader. And the “strange bedfellows” you mentioned who are fighting with the militias include, for example, former US servicemen, members of a Dutch motorcycle gang, and at least one former member of the Israeli Defense Forces, who are unlikely to share the agenda of the anarchist or democratic confederalist forces alongside whom they’re fighting. Given how international outrage and revulsion against ISIS can easily dovetail with racist and anti-Muslim views, the YPG and YPJ are becoming a cause celebre in some circles anarchists and anti-fascists may want to be careful to distance themselves from. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the social experiments being undertaken in the liberated territories aren’t awesome and significant. But we should be careful about uncritical cheerleading for the International Brigades based on our fantasies of what the Spanish Civil War was like.
And it’s not just the weird politics of the isolated individuals who come to fight with the militias that is a source of concern. There is an implicit military alliance between the United States and the PYD militias, in which the latter have provided intelligence on ISIS positions to the former to support air strikes. PYD leader Salih Musliim met with the former US ambassador to Iraq in December to discuss strategy for the defense of Kobane, and traveled to the UK in March to meet with government officials and discuss the struggle against ISIS. The worst case scenario is that the YPG, YPJ and related international militias will play a proxy role fighting and dying against ISIS so that the US and other imperial powers don’t have to get their hands dirty… and if in the process some radicals and autonomists are killed off, all the better, from their perspective.
Clara: Fair enough. But a few counter concerns. For one, we heard from one of our Turkish anarchist interviewees in Episode 36 that the US airstrikes were in fact not militarily significant, and were more of an afterthought undertaken for media purposes. We’ve also heard from Graeber that the militias choose their own commanders and that the formal political structures in Rojava exist just for foreign consumption; from this, we might extrapolate that a PYD leader who meets with US or UK officials may exchange information, but cannot actually compel anyone on the ground to take any course of action that they don’t see as being in their interests. So seeing the PYD and the militias as mere pawns of the international powers doesn’t seem to match the situation on the ground as described by comrades who have been there.
It’s hard to know. But that in itself is a reason to continue seeking more in-depth coverage of the situation in and around Rojava. Hence this episode.
Alanis: OK, fair enough. Let’s see what we else can learn.
Alanis: We can get started with some listener feedback. We got this message from a listener in the Netherlands, who offered some insightful and sobering, thought still supportive, critiques of our coverage in Episode 36. Here’s what they had to say:
Clara: Dear CrimethInc.: First of all, thank you for covering the topic of Rojava in your last episode. I am actually a bit surprised by your approach and a bit more critical. Often I disagree with the very sharp anti-organizational position you take, but when regarding Rojava, you seem very mild in your approach.
Something that staggered me is the portrayal of the YPJ and YPG as people’s militias. I think this is far too easy. The fact that “everybody” can join them doesn’t make them horizontal or liberatory. The structures, as far as I know, are still quite militarist and hierarchical.
The PKK/PYD is not an ‘anarchistic’ organization. The organization has a very hierarchical history and the question remains how libertarian they have managed to become. My own experience isn’t all too bright. Things seem to be shifting - especially with the youth - but the libertarian direction seems still to be coming from the top down. It is difficult to find proof of what is going on and many questions around this remain unanswered. Why is it so hard to find these answers? Even while the PKK is such a well organized organization? Here in Europe there are many local Kurdish organizations affiliated with the PKK but there is hardly any link to the radical left and anarchist movement, nor news in our languages or even English. Why is it so difficult to connect? Even while we could both benefit from it if our objectives are the same or similar?
Although I like many things David Graeber does and writes, I am quite skeptical of the picture our comrade paints (even while he has been there and I have not). Historically there are numerous examples where delegates from abroad were invited and toured around in Revolutionary areas. These tours often were guided tours giving pretty pictures to generate support, not showing the more questionable practices.
I think as anarchists we should support the struggle in Rojava, but not necessarily the structures of the PKK/PYD. They are not the people and we should be very careful of such substitutionalism – there where “the party” is acting as or in name of “the people”. The PKK/PYD seems to be quite dominant in the shaping of this revolution. So is it really not a vanguard in this struggle? It is no different question as that of the Communist Party during the Russian Revolution. The question will be if and how the PKK/PYD accepts different or non-party revolutionaries and give them space for their liberating and revolutionary goals. Even when the revolutionary process would benefit from it at the expense of influence of the PKK/PYD.
There are also independent revolutionary elements and we anarchists can try to help them with our ideas and practices. We should mingle ourselves in the debate on autonomy and horizontalism and share our experience with the libertarian elements both outside and within the PKK/PYD and YPG/YPG.
It is easy do discard and criticize from a distance, and we should be wary of orientalism and colonialism. I certainly do not call for criticizing while people are getting their hands dirty. I’m calling for supporting the revolutionary process and resistance to the IS and the other statist and oppressive elements like the Turkish and Syrian state or even NATO. The bravery of the people in Rojava and the resistance fighters is very inspiring. Their success depends also on our efforts to help it break out of the isolation, which has been the death of so many revolutions.
The support that I propose to adapt is a form of critical solidarity. I think the revolutionary process would also benefit from this, as it would not from a critiqueless cheering crowd. The correct course of struggle can only be found through a critical approach. In my opinion however, we can only critique while involving ourselves, connecting our struggles and facing the same dilemmas. The global anarchist movement should start and wonder how we can materialize our solidarity. Paper statements are circulating so often but have mostly failed to materialize support or critique. We need to critically think about our goals and the effectiveness of our efforts to really help bring about social change.
Viva Libertad! - A comrade from the Netherlands.
Alanis: To our Dutch comrade: first off, thank you for this very insightful response. We heartily agree with much of it. You’re correct to point out that our portrayal of events in Rojava was uncharacteristically supportive, perhaps verging on uncritical. We made that choice for a few reasons.
One is that the reason to do a podcast is to catalyze people to act. It was a deliberate choice to frame our coverage not just as a discussion of an interesting contemporary issue, but in a way intended to inspire solidarity with the struggle. We would never want that to come at the expense of critical thinking. But first and foremost, that’s the whole reason why we bother to put this program out - so that folks will hear about things happening in the world that inspire them to do things.
Also, when we’re dealing with a region where none of us have been in person, nor do we speak the relevant languages, nor can we easily understand the political and cultural context at a great distance, we have little choice but to rely on the testimony of comrades who we trust. Having relationships with folks from DAF in Istanbul, and feeling affinity with their analyses of events in Turkey, we decided to give their analysis of Rojava a substantial role in our coverage. Likewise, comrades we’ve worked with for years engaged in catalyzing anarchist support for Rojava compiled the book “A Small Key Can Unlock a Large Door,” which we reviewed favorably and drew on for information. In both cases, we harbored some discomforts about how smoothly affirmative their perspectives seemed to be, and at least with DAF attempted to draw out some of the nuances in the second interview. But ultimately if we focus too much on picking apart their supportive accounts, we end up in conflict with our friends without actually understanding the situation on the ground any better. It’s a tricky dilemma.
As to David Graeber, he’s a comrade, although we disagree with some aspects of his politics. Was the delegation he went on a canned guided tour intended to drum up support while glossing over problems? It’s possible. Yet the fact remains: he went there in person, and has infinitely more first-hand experience than we do. And also, American anarchist academics don’t exactly command the kind of international prestige and resources to make it very worthwhile to court us as an ally; it would have been much more strategic to offer a canned guided tour to the US military and government representatives, talking about how the militias are an effective partner in the global war against terrorism. Yet that’s not what we’re hearing from there, despite efforts by some Western forces to impose that narrative onto the situation. So that makes me a little less suspicious of the dynamic you mentioned than I would be otherwise. Sure, he’s a college professor, but it seems to me that autonomous Kurdish fighters would have far more to lose than to gain by making it known that their intention is to abolish the police and end capitalism.
As to the YPG and YPJ militias: you’re right to point out that the fact that “‘everybody’ can join them doesn’t make them horizontal or liberatory.” Yet, if we trust the reports we’ve received about militias electing their commanders, it seems possible that they are minimally hierarchical while still functioning as viable military units (and I’d be hard pressed to imagine a militia that wasn’t militaristic, to be fair). Unless you’re critical of all armed forces as such - which is a valid position, but not the one we hold - it seems like anarchists must confront a certain amount of contradiction in any situation of armed conflict, and that the YPG, YPJ and allied militias are at least a marked contrast to standard authoritarian models for armed forces. (The interview with the anarchist fighter from Social Insurrection whose interview we’ll share shortly offers some interesting first-person reflections on this.) One thing does seem clear: today Kobane would almost certainly be in the hands of the Islamic State if not for these militias. And insofar as we buy the narrative of these units as people’s militias, we can speculate that their bottom-up composition and openness to any committed fighters proved an advantage over more rigidly authoritarian military structures.
Clara: I think the most significant point you raised was that of being careful not to substitute an organization for “the people” - doing so risks undermining the very foundation of what makes us anarchists! The consequences of conflating leaders or representatives with the folks they claim to lead or represent was especially apparent during the anti-police rebellions after the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. All sorts of self-appointed leaders showed up, claiming to speak on behalf of the families of the murdered men, or the black community or people of color, or Ferguson or St. Louis or New York, or various other constituencies. What they had in common was that nearly all of them were attempting to either pacify or recuperate popular anger, trying to get people to stop fighting back and stay on the sidewalk, get out of the streets and go back to their jobs and their voting booths. But in the streets, many of us were able to find more in common with each other than our leaders would want us to believe. So in terms of solidarity with Rojava, you’re exactly right that we should be very careful to direct our support where it belongs and not assume that the formal organizations or militias affiliated with the PKK are the same thing as the people who are experimenting with new forms of social organization from the bottom up. Your proposal for a form of concrete but critical solidarity rooted in self-reflection on our goals and desires is exactly the kind of smart radical thinking we’d like to promote. So thank you!
INTERVIEW WITH ROJAVA SOLIDARITY NYC
Clara: We’ll continue our coverage of the Rojava revolution with an interview with a member of Rojava Solidarity NYC, the anarchists who edited and wrote the introduction for “A Small Key Can Open A Large Door,” the book we reviewed on the Chopping Block in Episode 36. We discuss democratic confederalism and the council system in the cantons, compare and contrast the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas with the events in Rojava, and discuss what forms of solidarity anarchists in the US can undertake.
Alanis: This is Alanis from the Ex-Worker, and today I’m speaking with an American anarchist who has been active in supporting the Rojava revolution. Could you tell us briefly about the solidarity project with which you’re involved?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: Yeah, I’ve been involved with the Rojava Soldiarity NYC since it started, and it started around November of last year, 2014. It’s a group of anarchists that were following the events that many of us were following in the mainstream media, about the siege of Kobane in Northern Syria; Kobane is one of the three cantons in northern Syria where the Rojava revolution has most advanced. And we got together to educate ourselves and to figure out what kind of solidarity projects we would be able to do in support of this very historical and interesting revolution that we felt strong affinity towards.
Alanis: As an anarchist in the United States, how did you come to be interested in what’s going on in Kurdistan?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: I’ve been to Turkey a number of times, I’ve met Kurds, but I didn’t know much about what was going on in southern Turkey, which is what they call northern Kurdistan, where a lot of these ideas began. So I learned about what was going on in Rojava much the same as how everyone else did, which is reading media accounts, watching videos, and I thought, wow, this is almost too good to be true: a revolution on a huge scale that [was] implementing a lot of anarchist principles that I had been working for my entire adult life here in the US. So it was very inspiring, and forced us to figure out how we can actually do global solidarity with folks that share a lot of the same political goals and aspirations and dreams that we do. So we set about trying to forge relationships and links with people that knew the area and then eventually with comrades in Rojava.
Alanis: I’ve read that anarchist writers such as Emma Goldman and in particular Murray Bookchin heavily influenced the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. Can you talk about the concept of democratic confederalism in Rojava, and how that relates to anarchism?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: So democratic confederalism is the term or the project or the process that the people in Rojava, the revolution in Rojava, is trying to implement. So they don’t call it anarchism, they call it democratic confederalism. It was heavily influenced by a number of thinkers. [As] for Americans, the two American thinkers Ocalan (who was the head of the PKK, and still is the head of the PKK) was most influenced by were Emma Goldman, the American anarchist, and Murray Bookchin, [who] had a huge influence on their thinking post–1989 on how to go forward with their struggles against the various oppressive regimes in that area: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and of course Syria. So democratic confederalism is a way of structuring decision-making and governance outside of a state structure, whether that’s a federal state structure or some other state structure. So it is specifically anti-statist, and it is organized around the concept of councils. Not just worker’s councils, but all sorts of councils based on affinity, from the Argentina model of local assemblies or local councils, which are geographic or neighborhood based, to more traditional worker councils like the bakery council and Qamişlo, or even affinity councils, like the Christian council or the youth council or the LGBT council, which all exist in the various cantons.
And each of these councils make decisions regarding the work that they’re doing, but participate in the decisions that affect the whole. Unlike how we think of councils in the West, there [are] also responsibilities built into this kind of confederalist structure. Anybody can develop a council, and it becomes recognized as a council. But what keeps a cap on just a whole bunch of different councils is that there are certain responsibilities we have, which is we have to send representatives of course from our council to the other councils, but we also have to send representatives to the various people’s defense militias, the YPG and the YPJ, and also the domestic or internal security forces. So if we are an LGBT council, we have to make sure that we are represented in all of these various civil society facets.
There are larger coordinating councils, but everything comes from the grassroots council or the basic council, what they call, up to the different levels of councils, and finally to a canton level (that is a kind of a regional council).
Alanis: Tell us a little bit about what’s most exciting to you about the new forms of social organization being instituted in Rojava.
Rojava Solidarity NYC: I think there’s a lot; and different people resonate with different pieces because there is so much. For me, I resonate heavily with the fact that this is an explicitly feminist revolution that is driven by the women in this area, and from a traditionally patriarchal culture. I think their interest in ecology also makes it a very fascinating revolution for us in the West. This kind of marriage of feminism, ecology and direct democracy is something that we have been prefiguring for a long time, but it’s interesting to see it being put into practical applications on a fairly wide scale.
I think that’s something that we miss, too, about the Rojava revolution. Currently there’s about two and a half million people, with more being added every day to the Rojava cantons. So it’s a huge epic scale. Originally what first attracted me is they abolished police and they abolished banks and they abolished private property, all within one month. This Saturday will be the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the Rojava revolution. So what I thought was interesting was that right in the very first month, they put in this very practical - and I would call very radical - implementation of their political aspirations.
Alanis: Seeing how different anarchists in the US and Europe are responding to the events in Rojava, I’m reminded of many parallels with the Zapatista uprising twenty years ago. There are glamorous media images of heroic armed rebels, former Marxist guerrillas turned autonomous anti-authoritarians, an emphasis on pluralism and gender equality, and a charismatic leader figure. Of course there are many differences, too. But I sense a similar ambivalence among some anarchists in North America: is this actually a potentially anarchist revolution or simply a radical form of social democracy? Is the ideology of the revolt genuinely anti-authoritarian or is it actually coming top-down from the PKK? How much should we offer support, and how critical should we be? etc. Do you have any reflections on the legacy of anarchist relations with Zapatismo over the last twenty years in thinking about your solidarity work today?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: I think - I was around, I was an anarchist twenty years ago and was inspired by the Zapatistas. And I think, though, it was a very different idea. I think Zapatismo was very different concept. One of the big differences bewteen the Rojava Revolution and Zapatismo is that Rojava is explicitly a pluralistic approach. By necessity, since the Kurds only make up 65% of the population of the cantons, the regions that they’re in. They specifically had to focus on not only a pluralism of ethnicity, but a pluralism of religion, and things like that, which you don’t really have with the Zapatistas. Not that they’re chauvinistic in any way; it’s just a very different cultural context.
I think the difference with the armed revolution versus Rojava is also quite different. You have a fairly sustained and powerful set of opponents for the Rojava Revolution than you did for the Zapatistas, which was mostly the state and some state proxies (right-wing kind of militia groups), that were involved in low-scale warfare. Rojava’s not low-scale warfare. Kobane is basically rubble; it’s more like a Grozny kind of situation. So I think that was quite different.
But the biggest difference is that there wasn’t any ambivalence - there was very little ambivalence, I should say - towards the Zapatistas when they first burst onto the scene twenty years ago, in anarchist circles. I see a lot more ambivalence for the Rojava revolution in US anarchist circles that I did twenty years ago for the Zapatistas. I think part of that had to do with the Zapatista’s propaganda and media arm was much stronger and western oriented, whereas in Rojava that has not really been the case. So that was one of the reasons we wrote the book was to provide some information for radicals and specifically anarchists to get some facts about what was going on at the time that we wrote the book; obviously a lot has changed since we first wrote the introduction and edited the different voices that were coming from Rojava; we thought it was important to hear from different voices in Rojava. And luckily we had comrades who could translate the Turkish and the Kurdish. So it was kind of the first time that people were hearing from non-Westerners about what they were doing and what was going on.
Alanis: Are there any important updates you want to share about circumstances that have changed in and around Rojava since you published the book?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: Well, obviously when we edited the book and wrote the introduction, all the conventional wisdom was that Kobane would fall, and we also believed that that would probably be the case. So obviously the biggest update is that Kobane has not fallen, and in fact the Rojava revolution has also spread. It’s also spread to Iraq, which we didn’t expect, and now we would like to include voices in Iraq that are adopting the principles of Rojava in a slightly different context in Iraq and Sinjal, where the Yezidis are.
So those are big changes that have been going on. Obviously it’s still a very precarious situation; less than a month ago you had ISIS fighters attacking Kobane, ISIS fighters attacking the southern part of the Jazira canton. So it’s still a very precarious situation. But also YPG fighters moved within 30 kilometers within Raqqa, which is the capital of the ISIS caliphate, and liberating many villages along the way - and villages specifically outside the traditional Kurdish homeland. So those were all developments we didn’t really expect, and kind of change the dynamics of the revolution and change some of what we can look forward to happening, and what they also have to be wary of there.
Alanis: What kinds of concrete solidarity can anarchists in the US and other parts of the world offer to the people of Rojava and the Kurdish freedom struggle?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: That is a very good question, and it was the motivating question for our organization to start here in New York City. We thought at first the most important thing we could do is try to get voices from Rojava out so that they could tell their own story, so it wasn’t just BBC or the Guardian or Vice News, that people themselves could speak and tell about what was going on. So we did that by putting together this book. There’s also ongoing through the end of this year, which we’ve spearheaded, a book drive for the Mesopotamian Academy, which is the first university in Rojava, the first university in northern Syria. (The Syrian state had no universities in that area and purposely kept it low on infrastructure.) So they created a university, and it’s a free university, it’s an open university, it’s also the university that militias go to get political education in - but so do housewives, and everybody else. So they needed books, so we’ve collected books and we will continue to collect books and mail them to a group in Turkey that can get those books there. We’re also doing a book drive for the Kobane people’s library - it’s a children’s library. So we are collecting books, specifically graphic novels that have a political theme, to send there also.
There are a couple of other projects that we are working on, or working with others on. The best way to find out what projects are going on is to just do a Google search for Rojava Solidarity NYC, join the Facebook or go to the website, and see what is going on. I know this weekend we have a letter-writing campaign for a woman in the UK, a Kurdish woman - I think she was seventeen years old - who was arrested by the UK government for trying to go to Rojava to join one of the militias - the YPJ, the women’s militia in Rojava. And she was arrested under terrorism charges and she’s being held there. I believe her first major court date is in September, so we’re going to be doing a letter-writing campaign for her this weekend.
I know on August 20th there’s an international day of solidarity for the Rojava revolution, so there will be a number of ways people can plug in and get involved.
Alanis: So what’s at stake for anarchists in how we collectively respond to the Rojava revolution?
Rojava Solidarity NYC: Well, I think anarchists have to… we can’t sit on the sidelines on this. This is an important historical development that I think we underestimate. The Zapatistas twenty years ago was an important historical moment for the radical left, but this is equally if not more important. I mean, it’s a larger number of people; it is in a part of the world that is geopolitically important; it is very well aligned with our anarchist ideals… I mean, this weekend we’ll be celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Rojava revolution. And we have to remember that the Spanish Civil War only lasted three years. This is important, this is crucial; it’s crucial for us to be involved. And it can go any way! Right now the revolution is aligned with our ideals. but we need to support our comrades and people there who are keeping to these kind of libertarian, anarchist ideas to show that we can provide support.
Also, it’s very important for anarchists to see that these things are not impractical, that these types of organizing models, even at the militia level, these kind of non-hierarchical organizing models actually can work in real world situations: providing food, providing shelter, providing medical while there’s an embargo (there’s a worldwide embargo on Rojava), they’re being attacked on three sides by the Free Syrian army, by the Assad regime, by ISIS, and also having belligerent states like Turkey and Iran and even the KRG (which is the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, which is kind of a polar example of this kind of different approach, which is a much more capitalist approach that they have taken).
And I think finally, this gives us another alternative to the kind of traditional national liberation struggle which has never been a particularly good fit for anarchists. Because we’re not fighting for a state, we’re not fighting for a governments or a police force or a secret police force or armies or things like that. And most national liberation struggles, inherent in them is the formation of another stare. I think for us Rojava is another great model, a non-statist approach that really came out of pragmatics. These were not dye-in-the-wool anarchists or libertarians. You know, the PKK/PYD and these organizations were originally Marxist-Leninist, to a certain degree Marxist-Stalinist organizations who realized that their strategy was failing, especially after 1989. It was not achieving liberation; you could not achieve liberation through a state. And I think that’s an important message for us. I know we all believe it, but sometimes it’s important to see it put into practice.
Alanis: Thanks so much for talking with us!
Rojava Solidarity NYC: No problem, thanks for having me.
INTERVIEW WITH AN ANARCHIST FROM SOCIAL INSURRECTION, FIGHTING IN THE UNITED FREEDOM FORCES
Alanis: We mentioned in our introduction that brigades composed of international volunteers have begun to coalesce in Rojava. Over the last few months, news has been trickling in that helps paint a picture of this process so reminiscent of the Spanish Civil War, yet distinct in many ways.
Clara: On March 7th, Avashin Tekoshin, a 19 year old woman previously known as Ivana Hoffman, was killed fighting against ISIS in a YPG unit near the Syrian village of Tel Tamr. She was born in Germany to South African parents, and had been a member of the MKLP, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), in Turkey before joining a YPG militia six months before her death. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that she was the third foreigner killed while fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria, and noted that over 100 volunteers have joined the Kurdish militias from Western countries, including Americans, French, Spanish and Dutch, and other nationalities.
Alanis: On June 27th, a 23 year old Australian man named Reece Harding was killed during combat as part of a YPG operation to liberate the village of Misherfa near Kobane. Through a link on our website, you can see a video he filmed upon taking up arms…
Reece Harding: Hi, my name is Reece Harding, I’m from the Gold Coast, Australia…
Alanis: …to be showed to his family in friends in case of his death. He, too, had taken a Kurdish name - Heval Bagok Australi - to indicate his commitment to the struggle and his fondness for the Kurdish people.
Reece Harding: The Kurdish people are lovely people; I’ve never met such nice people…
Clara: While some, like Hoffman and Harding, join the YPG or YPJ directly, others have formed separate militias to fight alongside them. One such group, called the International Freedom Battalion, which includes volunteers from a variety of small armed struggle groups, formed this spring. The Battalion released a statement announcing their analysis and their intentions; here’s an excerpt:
Alanis: “Revolutionary forces in Turkey and different parts of the globe have come to Rojava in order to strengthen the revolution and expand the war to the lands they came from. We fight in Rojava, die as martyrs and carry the banner of resistance. We fight at the frontline against imperialism and bigots in the region. We confront ISIS gangs’ brutal attacks on the revolution. We live the revolution and feel it in our veins and cells. We are the people in Kurdistan who made the Rojava revolution, the workers, oppressed people, women and internationalist revolutionaries who fight under the banner of YPG-YPJ. We are Spanish, German, Greek, Turkish, Arab, Armenian, Laz, Circassian, and Albanian. We are the revolutionary forces and organizations that have come together from different parts of the world to form the INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM BATTALION. All oppressed people, workers, laborers, women, youth, religious groups, ecologists, anti-imperialists, anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, democrats and revolutionaries of the world; we call on you to fight under the banner of the INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM BATTALION in order to defend the Rojava revolution and expand it, in order to establish people’s sisterhood in the Middle East and the rest of the world.”
Alanis: Meanwhile, Paco and Martos, two Spanish communists who spent time fighting with the Battilion in Rojava, have been arrested in Spain and charged with membership in a terrorist organization. As mentioned in the Rojava Solidarity NYC interview, British Kurdish activist Shilan Ozcelik has been arrested and is facing years in prison for allegedly attempting to support the Rojava militias (who are considered terrorist organizations in some countries for their affiliation with the PKK).
Clara: We know that anarchists are participating in these formations, too; how many, or how influential they are, it’s impossible to say. But fortunately we have a first-hand account from a fighter in the United Freedom Forces, which is part of the International Freedom Battalion. He is an environmentalist, vegetarian anarchist from Turkey who is a member of Sosyal isyan (Social Insurrection) fighting as part of Birleşik Özgürlük Güçleri (the United Freedom Forces) alongside the YPG / YPJ in Kobane, Rojava. The interview originally appeared on the jiyan.org website. The interviewer writes:
Interviewer: We are sitting at the headquarters of United Freedom Forces (Birleşik Özgürlük Güçleri) in Kobane. I ask for a cigarette from a fighter, aiming to meet and talk with him. While he offers one, I ask how many groups form the United Freedom Forces. He says that this force consists of several Marxist armed struggle groups - salvationists [Kurtuluşçular], MLSPB [a Marxist-Leninist armed group], TDP [The Revolution Party of Turkey, also communists] - as well as anarchists, and indicates that he is an anarchist too.
What is the aim of fighting here for the anarchists?
Social Insurrection Fighter: I’m one of the founders of Social Insurrection and also their spokesperson. When the attack of ISIS started in Kobane, in the name of international solidarity, we raised the defense, inspired by the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.
Interviewer: United Freedom Forces was formed by different socialist factions from Turkey. Being an anarchist, how did you become involved with this structure?
Social Insurrection Fighter: United Freedom Forces was founded when we arrived. We made a call to anarchists and ecologists.
Interviewer: Are there any other anarchist fighters who came from countries other than Turkey?
Social Insurrection Fighter: Comrades came from Italy and Spain. There is also an Argentinian anarchist who fights not with us but in YPG.
Interviewer: When was Social Insurrection founded?
Social Insurrection Fighter: Social Insurrection was founded in 2013 in the tents of resistance in Tuzluçayır. [district in Istanbul - translator]
Interviewer: Why did you prefer a black and green flag?
Social Insurrection Fighter: Both because of the memory of Makhno’s peasants and also because of the fact that we are also ecologists.
Interviewer: What sort of a structure does Social Insurrection have?
Social Insurrection Fighter: We defend class war and reject neo-liberal anarchism. Mostly we have classical anarchist, Makhnovist and Proudhonian comrades. Generally, we have a platformist understanding. Social Insurrection could say: we don’t just take Bakunin, Proudhon, Luigi Galleani, Malatesta, etc as they were. We examined every anarchist and added our own thoughts, and declared that we are Social Insurrectionists.
Interviewer: When did you enter the armed struggle?
Social Insurrection Fighter: We defended armed struggle from the beginning when we were founded. Specifically, we were influenced by the insurrectionist anarchism of Alfredo M. Bonanno. We created our own insurrectionist theory. We believe that the revolution will start with armed struggle… But first of all, we dreamed about it. If we hadn’t dreamed about it and tried to practice it, we would just be drinking beers in a bar in Kadıköy or Beyoğlu. Some of our comrades stayed that way.
Interviewer: How has the Kurdish Movement reacted to you in Kobane?
Social Insurrection Fighter: In a way, our presence in Kobane shows that anarchist armed struggle didn’t end in the Spanish Civil War. At the beginning, friends who were socialist or Apoist (defenders of Abdullah Öcalan) were surprised to see anarchists using guns in here. They had a certain idea of what anarchism was in their minds. Actually, people don’t really know about anarchism in here. They think of anarchists as against everything and opposed to all forms of organization. There is a nice statement by Kropotkin: “Anarchy is order.” We’re elaborating and taking responsibility for it, even though it’s difficult…
This is a military war. For example, we reject all forms of hierarchy, but in here, you have to have a team commandant. You can’t give a walkie-talkie to everyone in here or no one can act in his/her own way. Maybe one’s own natural qualities create the advance guard. Here we understood what the guidance of Malatesta and the natural leadership of Bakunin was, which we hadn’t understood just from reading…
I thought I would have some problems about the chain of command but I didn’t. I didn’t confront any sort of pressure or difficulty within the YPG and United Freedom Forces.
Interviewer: Didn’t any ecological problems occur?
Social Insurrection Fighter: There was an orientalist point of view [from some of the international comrades] as though there was a need for people to come here to fill the gap of awareness. For example, comrades from Italy wanted to import organic agriculture, but there are people who already know organic agriculture and they apply it… A Spanish comrade insisted on “not using diesel oil to light a fire.” You’re in a place where diesel oil costs 7 cents. Wood is more expensive and you can’t find it easily because the place is generally a desert. There are olive trees but they are planted agriculturally. You can’t cut them. So it’s absurd to tell these people “don’t use diesel oil, why do you use diesel oil to warm up?”
Interviewer: You told us earlier that comrades from United Freedom Forces asked socialist friends not to eat meat and to apologize to the animals that they’ve killed; but when you were cut off from supplies, you ate mostly meat. Can you talk about that?
Social Insurrection Fighter: So many things happened in the mountains. Supplies didn’t arrive. We were hungry and there wasn’t anything else other than the ducks that were left behind by the villagers. When the comrades began cutting the ducks, I said, What are you doing? It’s murder!” but I said it as a reflex, detached from reality. Things that we do just according to theory had collapsed. Interviewer: You are fighting with socialists in the same group. Have any theoretical discussions occurred among you? Social Insurrection Fighter: Even when they do, they are more like banter. We never had a problem. Us and them, we are all conscious that we came here for international solidarity. We are all acting according to revolutionary ethics. We sleep side by side and we eat together. We are trying to understand each other. Maybe we need a new revolutionary theory in the 21st century that this practice may contribute to, in terms of understanding each other.
Interviewer: What is this Coca-Cola can?
Social Insurrection Fighter: Don’t touch! It’s a handmade bomb.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Alanis: So that’ll just about wrap things up for this episode! Before we’re done, we do wanna share a few announcements about upcoming events. Clara, what’s on the calendar?
Clara: As we go to press, folks are gearing up for the July 18th anti-racist demonstrations in Columbia, SC against the KKK, and in Tucson, AZ against a motley bunch of right-wing and anti-Islamic idiots. We’ll report back on those in our next episode.
Alanis: The No New Animal Lab campaign, which (as the name implies) aspires to stop the construction of a vivisection lab at the University of Washington, has called for a 3rd “Storm Skanska” week of action July 23rd to 30th. The campaign is targeting the construction company Skanska as part of a strategy to undermine the lab’s construction. If you’re interested in taking part or want to find out where actions are happening, visit NoNewAnimalLab.com or follow the link on our website. We’ll be chatting with the organizers of the campaign in a future episode, so stay tuned for that.
Clara: And July 25th has been announced as an International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners. It originated last year as a day of solidarity for Jock Palfreeman, an Australian imprisoned in Bulgaria for defending a young Roma man from a racist attack. This year, organizers aspire to raise awareness about a wider range of imprisoned antifascists around the world. Nearly 20 groups in several countries have endorsed the call, with events planned in several cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and La Puente, California, as well as in the UK, Finland, Bulgaria, Australia, and beyond. You can get more information, including a list of antifascist prisoners and info about their cases, at NYCantifa dot wordpress dot com.
Alanis: One of the groups that has signed onto this call for the July 25th day of solidarity is Antifa International. These folks have established an international anti-fascist defense fund to provide direct material support to antifascists who’ve faced negative consequences for standing up. We spoke to Todd from Antifa International to learn more about the fund. Todd, we’d love to hear about how y’all came up with the idea for this project and what it aims to do.
Todd: OK, that’s great! So the group I’m with right now, Antifa International, is probably self-explanatory; it’s an international group of anti-fascists from different countries who are trying to collaborate and work together on things. And we were noticing that increasingly, antifa and anti-racists in various countries were suffering some pretty serious negative consequences of their work. And we’ve also been noticing a real increase in state repression of anti-fascists and anti-racists. And finally we were noticing that in these situations, it seemed that the groups that they were working with in their communities weren’t that prepared for those consequences, and would have to scramble to get together resources to help their friends when they were in trouble. And then suddenly one of us, who used to be with the Anti-Racist Action Network in North America years ago, remembered that that network had had a defense fund set up and had used that fund to support anti-racists and anti-fascists internationally. and the nice thing about that fund was that the money was there ready to go when it was needed. So there’s no panicky, having to have bake sales or put on benefit concerts, or things of that nature; the money would be there, ready to go, and the group would vote on it or discuss it, get consensus, and just send the money. So I guess we thought that it would be a real good idea to revive that idea. And then the first anniversary of our tumblr site came around, and we thought, what better way to celebrate that than to start a fund like that? And hence the International Anti-fascist Defence Fund was formed.
Alanis: What types of prisoners or situations has the fund been used to support so far?
Todd: It’s interesting that you’re asking that; because the fund as of this conversation has only been around for six weeks, we haven’t had the opportunity yet, except we have two proposals we’re discussing right now. And so that’s been sort of interesting to figure out the kinks and the bugs of how the decisions will work. Our fund is set up so that anyone anywhere can email us directly to request those funds for themselves or for someone they know. And that would be at our email address. And then people who have contributed - I think it’s around twenty or more individuals and groups - participate in the process of discussing who to fund and how much to send. And so right now we have anti-fascists in three different countries that are involved in the decision-making process, and tonight we will have reached a decision about sending money to our friend Valentin, who is an antifascist in Bremen, Germany that was recently charged with various assault charges related from defending himself and his friend against an attack by Neo-Nazis in that city.
Alanis: How can our listeners find out more or donate to the International Anti-fascist Defence Fund?
Todd: Happily, we have a fundraising page on GoFundMe; if you go to gofundme.com/intlantifadefence (and that’s defence with a C), you’ll find us there. We’re on Tumblr as Antifa International, we’re on Facebook as Antifa International, and we’re hoping to develop relationships with other groups doing similar work around the world. We’re currently in discussions with a group in Sweden, and hopefully they’ll be on board with this soon. I think the idea is to have as many committed anti-fascists and anti-racists involved in this project, making decisions and supporting our friends when they need it the most.
Alanis: Thanks, Todd. Clara, what else have we got for Next Week’s News?
Clara: Here’s an upcoming event to announce- but we’ve gotta tell a story first. Back in the late 1990s, hundreds of actions were taking place under the banner of the Earth Liberation Front, the vast majority of which were never solved by law enforcement due to the ELF’s decentralized cellular structure. One of the only public faces of the ELF was Leslie Pickering, who served as the ELF press secretary, receiving and transmitting anonymous communiques from ELF cells claiming responsibility for different actions. Back in 2000 and again in 2001, the FBI raided Pickering’s house in Buffalo, New York and stole truckloads worth of stuff, in a transparent effort to stem the increasingly embarrassing flood of reports of successful militant actions claimed by ELF cells. He was never charged with a crime, and the so-called evidence stolen from his house, including computers, scanners, phones, typewriters, and much more, was found to include “no useful info”, in the words of the FBI. And now, the FBI has finally decided, nearly fifteen years later, to return all of his stuff!
Alanis: Why now?
Clara: Pickering’s attorney speculates that his stuff is being returned because “Leslie’s public speaking activities, such as his recent European speaking tour, has embarrassed the FBI—an embarrassment because during his PowerPoint presentation he shows images of the agents actually seizing the equipment 14 years ago.”
So, hilariously, Pickering has set up a multimedia art installation at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery in Buffalo titled “A Radical Time Capsule,” featuring all of the returned artifacts in the FBI-curated collection, as well as photos, documents, and more. If you’re in the area, definitely check it out.
Alanis: That is brilliant. Gold medal to Leslie for keeping a sense of humor in the face of state repression! We also wanted to point out a couple of new anarchist publications that have recently come out, in case you’re interested in doing some reading. Issue number five of Avalanche, a journal of international anarchist correspondence, is available to read online; a collaboration across several countries, it includes analyses, action communiques, and ongoing threads of reflection and debate among insurrectionary anarchists from Mexico to Spain to Chile to Belgium.
Clara: Also out is EASTWEST #12: Bay Area Analysis, Revolt, History, and Subversion, with articles on curfews and state surveillance, the marijuana industry, resistance to displacement, and more.
Alanis: The longest-running anarchist publication in the US, Fifth Estate, has released their summer 2015 issue, with a set of articles reflecting on the legacy of the Vietnam War and the resistance against it, as well as reflections on the politics and consequences of technology.
Clara: There’s a new zine out about the Hambacher Forest occupation, which we profiled in Episode 37, including a chronology of actions and some analyses written by participants. Alanis: For you theory types, issue number 28 of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, published by the Institute for Anarchist Studies, is out now. The issue’s theme is examining the concept of “justice” from an anarchist perspective. http://anarchiststudies.org/2015/06/17/on-justice-by-maia-ramnath-paul-messersmith-glavin-sara-rahnoma-galindo-and-lara-messersmith-glavin/#more–1115 http://www.akpress.org/perspectivesonanarchisttheorymagazine.html
Clara: And comrades in Australia have released issue number 5 of FTP, which the authors call a “biannual report on anti-colonial, anti-state resistance, within the occupied territory known as Australia.” What does the acronym stand for, you’re wondering?
Both: Fuck the Police, Fight the Power, Free the Prisoners, Fire to Patriarchy.
Alanis: Not too bad as far as platforms go, I have to say.
Clara: And last but most assuredly not least, some prisoner birthdays to keep in mind:
On August 2nd, Eric King, a Kansas anarchist facing charges for allegedly attacking a government building;
Alanis: On August 3rd, Bill Dunne, an anti-authoritarian revolutionary locked up since 1979 for helping attempt to break other radical prisoners out of jail;
Clara: On August 4th, Debbie Sims Africa of the MOVE 9;
Alanis: And August 8th, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, acupuncturist, Black Panther, father of Tupac, accused of robbing banks as part of an underground black liberation cell.
Clara: Please take a moment to write these folks a card or a letter to let them know that we value and appreciate them and that they are not forgotten. Their mailing addresses are all posted on our website, along with links to more info on their cases.
Alanis: And that’s it! Thanks to all of you for tuning into the Ex-Worker, and many thanks to the comrades from New York, Turkey, and Germany for sharing their perspectives on the struggles in Rojava and Kurdistan.
Clara: Next time, we’ll be reflecting about the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson by white cop Darren Wilson, and the significance of the anti-racist and anti-police rebellions that have swept the country since then. Until next time…
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
We shared part of an interview with a member of Social Insurrection who is fighting with United Freedom Forces alongside the YPG and YPJ against ISIS. The UFF form part of the International Freedom Battalion.
In our discussion of international volunteers fighting in Rojava, we mentioned Ivana Hoffman, aka Avashin Tekoshin from Germany, and Reece Harding, aka Heval Bagok Australi, who died while fighting as volunteers with the YPG. You can see a video Harding filmed upon taking up arms to be showed to his family in friends in case of his death, which was released by the YPG.
In our discussion of critiques of the PKK/PYD and YPG/YPJ, we alluded to collaboration between Kurdish leaders and the US and UK militaries, and the risk of the militias of Rojava fighting a proxy war against ISIS that benefits imperialist interests. This perspective is discussed in the article “Dear Cheerleaders: We Need to Have a Chat About Imperialism”. We also mentioned some of the other international volunteers joining the militias, including former US servicemen, members of a Dutch motorcycle gang, and at least one former member of the Israeli Defense Forces.
For more background on this episode, check out our previous coverage in Episode 36, which included excerpts from the CrimethInc. feature “Turkish Anarchists on the Fight for Kobane”, a Dilar Dirik interview with the Chicago-based radio show This is Hell, a short clip from a talk by David Graeber, and a review of “A Small Key Can Open a Large Door”, published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness and Combustion Books. Its insightful introduction, which is available to read online, provides a very helpful introduction to the ongoing events.
July 25th has been announced as an International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners.We spoke with Todd from Antifa International, the group behind the recently founded International Anti-fascist Defence Fund. You can email the group for more information or to request funding at antifaintl[at]gmail[dot]com.
Get ready for a shocker: the Greek leftist party Syriza, swept into power on an anti-austerity platform, has betrayed everything they supposedly stood for and collaborated with the EU to impose brutal austerity conditions on the Greek population. Not to say we told you so, but… if you haven’t seen it, check out the CrimethInc. feature “Syriza Can’t Save Greece”, published in January with, we have to admit, considerable foresight. Say it with me, folks: there are no state solutions to the capitalist crisis.
The animal rights group PETA outed a SeaWorld employee who for years has been working undercover infiltrating animal rights protests against SeaWorld in California. The article describes how the infiltrator was discovered and outed by PETA’s investigation; it’s definitely worth reading for advice on the kinds of tactics you can use to rout out potential corporate infiltrators from radical groups.
No New Animal Lab campaign has called for a 3rd “Storm Skanska” week of action July 23rd to 30th, as part of their ongoing campaign to stop the construction of a vivisection lab at the University of Washington.
Former Earth Liberation Front press secretary Leslie Pickering has set up a multimedia art installation at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery in Buffalo through July 25th titled “A Radical Time Capsule,” featuring artifacts seized from him by the FBI in two raids in 200 and 2001, as well as photos, documents, and more.
Interested in some summer reading? We mentioned several newly released anarchist publications, including: issue five of Avalanche, a journal of international anarchist correspondence including analyses, action communiques, and ongoing threads of reflection and debate among insurrectionary anarchists from Mexico to Spain to Chile to Belgium; EASTWEST #12: Bay Area Analysis, Revolt, History, and Subversion, with articles on curfews and state surveillance, the marijuana industry, resistance to displacement, and more; the summer 2015 issue of Fifth Estate, with a set of articles reflecting on the legacy of the Vietnam War and the resistance against it, as well as reflections on the politics and consequences of technology; a new zine about the Hambacher Forest occupation, which we profiled in Episode 37, including a chronology of actions and some analyses written by participants; issue 28 of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, published by the Institute for Anarchist Studies, focusing on the theme of the concept of “justice” from an anarchist perspective; and issue 5 of FTP, a biannual report on anti-colonial, anti-state resistance,within the occupied territory known as Australia. Enjoy!
As we mentioned in Episode 38, animal rights activist Amber Canavan is in jail this month for exposing brutal conditions and liberating two ducks from a foie gras facility in upstate New York. If you’re reading this before the end of July, drop her a note to thank her for her courage to this address:
Sullivan County Jail
Attn: Amber Canavan
4 Bushnell Avenue
Monticello, NY 12701
Upcoming prisoner birthdays:
Eric King #27090045 [August 2nd]
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, Kansas 66048
Bill Dunne #10916–086 [August 3rd]
P.O. Box 800
Herlong, CA 96113
Debbie Sims Africa #006307 [August 4th]
SCI Cambridge Springs
451 Fullerton Avenue
Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania 16403
Dr. Mutulu Shakur #83205–012 [August 8th]
Post Office Box 3900
Adelanto, California 92301