Interviews on surviving the Milo Seattle shooting, and helping with a mass escape from a detention center

Just to flag up two new audio interviews that have gone out over the last few days:

Over in Seattle, someone interviewed the Industrial Workers of the World/General Defence Committee comrade who was shot while opposing a Milo talk there. It’s a fascinating interview, well worth listening to.

The Kite Line is a regular radio show from the Midwest, mainly focusing on prison issues, and they’ve just started a three-part series telling the story of a solidarity camp outside an immigrant detention center in Woomera, Australia, that was able to assist with a mass breakout in 2002. You can listen to the first part here.

Posted in Anarchists, Protests, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, The left | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Some contradictions are bigger than others: a reply on Rojava

 

The opening ceremony for the PYD's office in Moscow.

The opening ceremony for the PYD’s office in Moscow.

The recent interview with Peter Loo is well worth reading for a fairly detailed look at what’s happening in Rojava. As a first-hand account from the region, it’s a useful source of information; but the polemical aspects of the interview are a bit more dubious, as they tend to focus on some of the weakest criticisms that get made of the Rojava project, while passing over more substantial ones.

Most importantly, while there’s some discussion of the complex relationship between the PYD and the Assad regime, there’s no attempt to tease out what this actually means, and what conclusions we can draw from it. Loo mentions that Rojava has relied on the support of large states, including “(at times) Russia”, and also gives a passing mention of how the YPG/YPJ in Aleppo “aided Assad’s forces at some points in the fighting”, but doesn’t give any commentary on this, making it impossible to tell what he – and, by extension, “Rojavaist/Apoist” sympathisers more broadly – think about this matter. The crushing of Aleppo was horrific, and by Loo’s own admission the YPG/YPJ have some of that blood on their hands.

It’s hard to imagine anyone on the anti-authoritarian left casually mentioning that someone they support had “aided ISIS at some points in the fighting” and then moving on without it provoking any further comment. It’s well-documented that Assad has killed many more civilians than ISIS, so why is there so little critical discussion of this collaboration with some of the worst forces in the situation?

I understand that (to borrow a term from Obama) many people don’t seem to see the YPG/YPJ’s role in the Aleppo tragedy as a “red line”. I’m not necessarily saying they should, but I would like to understand more about why this is – is it seen as a necessary evil? Not as bad as it looks? And, if you can tolerate this, where do your “red lines” lie?

Just to stress, I really don’t have any hard conclusions on this subject. I’ve had to change my mind about lots of things – both related to Syria and otherwise – after learning things I didn’t know before, and I’m open to doing that here as well. But for that to happen I’d have to see a serious discussion of the subject from PYD-sympathising types, and so far the only real discussions I’ve seen of it have been from more critical voices.

In passing, Loo refers to “a recent article by Gilles Dauvé [arguing] that the women’s revolution in Rojava is limited to the women in the YPJ”. As anyone who’s read the article in question will realise, this is a complete mischaracterisation of the piece, which actually states that:

“Co-ed schools are the norm. Women no longer stay indoors all day. Meetings are held with at least 40% woman attendance. All bodies have two heads, feminine and masculine. Encouragement is given to a women’s world-view and even to a new field of knowledge, jinology (“science of women”). Though feminism has been strong in the Kurdish liberation movement for a long time, these changes are no small innovation in the Middle East, and in some respects sex equality seems more advanced in Rojava than in Europe… Self-organisation does improve the everyday life of a previously neglected and repressed population.”

Of course, Dauvé is a big boy by now, and more than capable of looking after himself, but it is worth pointing out how inaccurate and unhelpful this reading is.

Discussing “What Do You Mean You Support Rojava?”, a previous article published by Plan C, Loo mentions how it made the point that “working in Rojava is not neutral. The choices of who and how we work with here will strengthen some groups, individuals and dynamics rather than others, and we need to be aware of this” and then somewhat oddly proceeds to add that “I read this as making the implicit argument common to many on the anti-authoritarian left to support the people or the social movements rather than organised parties”. Instead, he says that “the revolutionary left needs to be supporting the PYD and Apoist movements across the Middle East rather than some loosely defined, potentially fictitious unaligned ‘people’”.

It’s feels like there’s a strange sort of slippage here, where one moment we’re talking about “social movements”, and in the next about “some loosely defined, potentially fictitious unaligned ‘people’”. I’d agree that any politics which relies on invoking “some loosely defined… ‘people’” is unlikely to be of much use – and, indeed, I’d add that those variants of ultra-leftism that fall back on hoping for some pure explosion of proletarian antagonism, without any of the impurities that tend to accompany real-world movements, are not much better. But I really don’t think that’s what the authors of WDYMYSR were arguing.

To say that, for instance, people should prioritise supporting TEV-DEM over the PYD is to talk about a specific force, not an abstraction. To say that people should prioritise supporting Kongreya Star over the PYD is to talk about a specific force, not an abstraction. To say that people should prioritise supporting the local communes, or that one bakery for that matter, over “supporting the PYD” is to talk about a specific force, not an abstraction.

Perhaps the oddest bit here is that Loo mentions that “the Apoist movement has transcended the boundaries of its political parties and is also a mass social movement with elements of self-organisation beyond the parties” – but surely recognising this can only lead us to reject the idea that “supporting Rojava” has to mean backing the PYD? The fact that self-organisation beyond the parties exists is precisely the factor that makes it possible to have a meaningful conversation about “supporting Rojava” that doesn’t begin and end with the PYD.

The suggestion that we should also prioritise supporting “Apoist movements across the Middle East” also seems problematic. Other than some of the junior partners in the SDF, I’m not aware of any non-Kurdish Apoist movements, so taking this as a criterion across the Middle East would seem to suggest an attitude of “Up (some of) the Kurds, everyone else can look after themselves”. Even just confining ourselves to the places where they do exist, I know a little bit about the situation in Turkey and Syria, and how groups like the PYD and HPD fit into things there; I don’t really understand much about current dynamics in Iran or Iraq. It’s possible that the PJAK and PCDK might be among the most important progressive forces in those places, and worth supporting on some grounds; but all of that is an argument that needs to actually be made, not just assumed.

Just to confuse things further, a few paragraphs on Loo also mentions meeting “a European Marxist-Leninist here who was convinced the anarchists had got the entire revolution wrong and that the communes had a very peripheral role in what was going on. For him, the revolution was dominated by the PYD with the YPG and YPJ providing the muscle behind it. When he met one of the international Marxist-Leninist parties here doing consistent community work promoting and actually setting up communes his whole attitude completely changed.”

Again, this is all well and good, but it seems to completely contradict the idea that trying to look for forces other than the PYD automatically means being stuck with vague abstractions like “the people”.

Throughout the interview, Loo repeats the idea that those with more critical positions are “afraid of… having real power to make change”, or are “rejecting [Rojava] out of hand” because it “isn’t full communism right here and right now”. Certainly, there are some critiques that could be described in those terms, but it’s not helpful to talk as if all criticism can be dismissed so easily.

It’s one thing to accept that “coercion of some kind will be necessary to prevent the bourgeois state from returning in full force with unbridled terror” (although, of course, Rojava is not somewhere where the old state has completely gone away, but somewhere where it still coexists alongside the new system), but to accept this as a general principle doesn’t necessarily mean accepting, for instance, that the arrests of KNC supporters in August 2016, or the recent attacks on the offices of Kurdish opposition parties, were justified.

Loo rightly says that “a real revolution is a mass of contradictions which must be fought through”, but doing that means dealing with these contradictions honestly and openly, not just waving them away. That means talking about the attacks in Qamishlo, or the Asayish taking “appropriate measures” against people who hold demonstrations without a permit, and it definitely means talking about the PYD/YPG/YPJ/SDF collaboration with the Russian/Assadist slaughter in Aleppo. Just over the last few days, reports have come through of the SDF’s Manbij Military Council actively handing territory over to Assad’s army*.

At this point, it’s worth citing the words of the Hamilton Institute:

“However, the open collaboration of the PYD/YPG with the Assad regime as it crushed free Aleppo barely caused a ripple. The YPG helped to cut supply lines, prevent retreats, and attack positions. The relations between Sheikh Maqsoud and Efrin Canton with non-PYD armed groups around Aleppo has been complicated, but even if we can accept some of these maneuvers, how can we accept that a revolutionary project has been content to watch another be crushed right in front of it? How can we explain that a movement based on the spread of directly democratic assemblies fought to opportunistically seize territory that had been held by other popular decision-making structures, the dozens of local councils that existed in Aleppo? Wouldn’t a truly revolutionary position involve encouraging the autonomy of other areas, not monopolizing power and striking alliances of convenience with authoritarians?

…I don’t think anyone is asking the YPG to save Aleppo from Russia and Assad, but many are disapointed to see that after four years of neutrality, when at least some battalions affiliated with Rojava took sides, it was with Assad. Starting last winter with the cutting of crucial supply lines to Aleppo, the SDF helped initiate what would become the siege of Aleppo over the summer. And in late summer and early fall, the YPG captured positions adjacent to Sheikh Maqsood under Russian air cover.

I think this matters. I think it’s insufficient to throw back a bunch of “what abouts” and to try to paint everyone impacted as terrorists.

It’s true that relations between the increasingly authoritarian and sectarian armed groups in Aleppo and Kurdish communities had gotten really bad and there’s no excuse for shelling civilian areas. But Eastern Aleppo was hundreds of thousands of people, and many grassroots activists opposed the belligerence against Kurdish groups — the actions of the YPG against the city weakened would-be allies as well enemies. These activists and locally rooted FSA battalions are the ones that pushed ISIS out of the city and then drove out al-Nosra.

And yes, we won’t be the first to notice that it’s no longer even a civil war, it’s a proxy war. Alliances of necessity and convenience on all sides. But this is another counter-revolutionary dynamic, because it privileges those able and willing to dialogue with states, giving them power over internal dynamics — that is the threat Rojava will face as the fighting dies down. There will likely be a tug of war between those cliques whose power and influence came from war and the grassroots revolutionaries — that’s a big reason why critical solidarity is important.”

Echoing this, I’ve come to feel that that the best approach to Rojava, and the wider region, is not “up the PYD!” or anything similar, but doing what we can to support self-organised projects, whether those are the communes in Rojava or the surviving local councils in the rebel areas, and trying to disentangle this as far as possible from backing state/para-state organisations like the PYD or FSA. Of course, this is complex, especially from a distance – giving support to big-P Political figureheads that are recognised as representatives by the states they deal with is much easier and simpler than finding ways to connect with more grassroots projects.

I’m not an authority on these topics by any means, and I could be wrong about all of this. Perhaps all the criticisms I’ve mentioned relate to necessary evils, or things that aren’t as bad as they look, or whatever. But the issues have to be argued out honestly and openly. Trying to sweep away all criticism as the work of abstract purists – or just making up arguments and then attributing them to opponents, as Loo appears to do with Dauvé – doesn’t do anyone any favours.

 

 

*If nothing else, this deal makes the Bookchin quote appear positively ludicrous – it’s an odd contortion to talk about the need to “prevent the bourgeois state from returning in full force”, while backing a force which is actively handing territory over to that very state.

Posted in Bit more thinky, Debate, Internationalism, The left | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

March Rebel Roo out now

The new issue of the Rebel Roo bulletin is now out, with reports from the struggles in Leeds and Brighton. You can get physical copies by emailing rebelroouk [at] gmail.com or just downloading the PDF and printing a few off. As a reminder, if you live in Leeds or Brighton, there’s mass rides planned there for the 10th and 14th respectively (if you don’t have a bike or a scooter, maybe see if someone’ll give you a backy?)

And if you live anywhere Deliveroo operates, you can help spread the bulletin around – if you work in the city centre, or even if you work somewhere far out but have to change buses in the city centre, and you can work out where Deliveroo riders hang around, it’s pretty simple to try changing up your route home once a week or so in order to go through the right bit of town.

Posted in Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On your bike: Brighton bike ride for Deliveroo workers, and LSE cleaners vote to strike

Two quick updates from grassroots union struggles:

In Brighton, Deliveroo riders and friends will be touring restaurants that have Deliveroo contracts on March 14th as part of their struggle for a living wage.

ridewithus

Meanwhile, over in London, cleaners organised through the UVW have voted unanimously to take strike action at the London School of Economics, which employs them through a contractor and is refusing to give them the same conditions as directly employed staff. They’re out on the 15th and 16th – anyone in the area can get along to the picket lines and strike rallies happening on those days, and anyone anywhere can help by donating to the strike fund, or by writing to Julia Black (j.black@lse.ac.uk), the interim director at the LSE and telling her to stop making excuses and start making sure that the cleaners receive the same terms and conditions of employment as the rest of the LSE community.

lse-cleaners

Posted in Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hillsborough families ordered to pay ex-head of South Yorkshire Police up to £28,000

In a stunningly vindictive decision, a judge has ordered that five families who lost relatives in the Hillsborough disaster will have to pay legal costs for David Crompton, the former South Yorkshire Police chief, which may reach up to £28,000. Unlike most people who lose their jobs, David Crompton is getting the chance to fight his dismissal through the High Court, and when the bereaved families suggested that they might have something to contribute to the conversation, the Right Honourable Lady Justice Sharp decided that their submissions wouldn’t be relevant, and then chose to order them to pay Crompton’s legal bill. A crowdfunder has now been set up to make sure the families affected don’t have to pay anything out of their own pockets, with any extra money raised to be donated to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Posted in Repression | Tagged , | Leave a comment

US prison updates for March

A quick round-up of news from US prison struggles:

Most urgently, there’s a call to support black liberation/former Black Panther prisoner Robert Seth Hayes, with phone calls, faxes and emails requested on Friday March 3rd to help get him the medical attention he requires.

Please pass the following message on:

“Hello, I am contacting you to demand that, as a matter of medical urgency, inmate Robert Seth Hayes #74A2280 needs to be provided with:
1. Immediate provision of an Insulin Pump/Sugar Monitor
2. A Diabetic Diet that consists of fresh fruits and vegetables and all the current recommendations for diabetics.

These are urgent medical neccessities, and the DOCCS will be failing in its duty of care if these things are not provided.”

To the following people:

Carl J. Koenigsmann M.D.
Deputy Commissioner/Chief Medical Officer
NYS DOCCS Division of Health Services
Harriman State Campus, Building #2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12226-2050
Phone: 518-457-7073
Fax: 518-445-6157
Email: Carl.Koenigsmann@doccs.ny.gov

Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci
NYS Department of Corrections
and Community Supervision
Harriman State Campus, Building 2
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, New York 12226-2050
Phone: 518-457-8134
Fax: 518-453-8477
Email: Anthony.Annucci@doccs.ny.gov

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Phone: 518-474-8390
Fax: 518-474-1513
Email: https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form

The March political prisoners birthday calendar is out now. I would particularly like to highlight that Andrew Henry, whose birthday is on March 21st, is incarcerated for his participation in the Ferguson uprising, which did so much to open up possibilities for fighting back against state violence. Write to Andrew at:

Andrew Henry #42521-044
USP McCreary
PO Box 3000
Pine Knot, KY 42635
USA

Over in Minnesota, the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee have started putting out a podcast to help share stories from the inside, you can listen to the first episode of that here.

Finally, a big update from Michigan, where a huge number of people were moved into solitary confinement following the uprising at Kinross last September. There are at least 180 people being punished with total isolation for trying to take part in some kind of collective action at Kinross, and Michigan comrades have compiled addresses for the following 18:

Larry Guy #132556 (Baba X-Guy)
Oaks Correctional Facility
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Harold Gonzales #194496 (H.H. Gonzales)
Baraga Correctional Facility
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Gilbert Morales #186641
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Richard Carter #178539 (AhJamu Baruti)
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Darrin Coats #185616
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Jacob Klemp #231258
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Jamarr Loyd #234363
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Timothy Schnell #516619
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Cedricx Doss #243288
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Leon Echols Bey #204922
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Deon Taivon Joiner #682561
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Ronald Perdue #292317
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Michael T. Witherspoon #225422
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Jonathan Aiden #277075
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Howard Lashawn Smith #358816 (Shawn)
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Juivonne Littlejohn #141899
Baraga C.F.
13924 Wadaga Rd.
Baraga, MI 49908-9204

Freddy Hardrick #440921
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Matthew DeShone #686384
Oaks C.F.
1500 Caberfae Hwy
Manistee, MI 49660

Of course, that’s a lot of people, and it would mean a lot of writing and postage, but even if you can only send post to one or two it would do a bit to help break down their isolation. If you’re a part of a group of any kind, maybe think about splitting the list of prisoners between you – writing to 18 people is a big task for one person, but if you can find five sympathetic people, then writing to three each is much less daunting.

Posted in Protests, Repression, Unions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Events diary for March

March looks to be a pretty busy month, with various events happening across the country. A quick round-up of a few things to look out for:

On the first Saturday, the 4th, Bristol antifascists will be out opposing a far-right mobilisation, there’s a big NHS march happening in London, the Angry Workers of the World collective will be in a Wetherspoons making plans for their series of US/UK discussions, there’s a No More Prisons conference in Manchester, and the With Banners Held High event in Wakefield will be celebrating the history of the miners and their struggles, and trying to draw some lessons for today.

March 8th will see an attempt at a global women’s strike. There’ll be stuff happening all over Ireland demanding the repeal of the Irish anti-abortion laws, and in terms of UK solidarity, there’s definitely a walk-out planned from Royal Holloway, and other events happening in Cardiff, Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Liverpool, and Manchester. Birmingham and London both have two apiece: in Birmingham there’s an event during the day, and then a “how can women strike?” meeting in the evening, while in London there’s a solidarity demo outside the Irish embassy at 1, and then a “death by a thousand cuts” event highlighting how austerity affects women at 4 outside Downing Street. The Home Office is also planning a mass deportation to Jamaica on that day – keep an eye on the Glasgow Unity Centre for how you can help with that.

On Friday 10th, there’s a fundraiser at Kinsley Coronation Working Men’s Club for the three cleaners who were sacked for striking, while Leeds wobblies and friends will be riding around the city centre demanding the reinstatement of the victimised Deliveroo riders there. On Saturday 11th, the annual commemoration for David Jones and Joe Green, the pickets who were killed during the miners’ strike, will be happening in Barnsley, and there’s a demo happening at Morton Hall detention centre outside Lincoln, where two detainees lost their lives within a few weeks of each other.

Monday 13th will see the Orgreave Justice Campaign’s noise demo at the Home Office, as well as a rally for equal terms and conditions among staff employed at the National Gallerya huge co-ordinated rail strike across Southern Rail, Northern Rail, Aviva Rail North and Merseyside. On Tuesday 14th, there’ll be a bike ride around Brighton restaurants as part of the Deliveroo campaign there, cleaners organised through the UVW union will be striking at the London School of Economics on the 15th and 16th, and Monday 20th is the next planned date when Equality Commission staff will be striking for the reinstatement of their sacked colleagues, with offices in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Glasgow expected to take part.

At the end of the month, Leeds Hands Off Our Homes will be hosting a regional housing summit on Saturday 25th. That evening will also see an Orgreave justice fundraiser at the South Kirkby Miners’ Welfare Club, while up in the North-East, County Durham Teaching Assistants are calling on people to join them for a day of solidarity with their dispute. On the 27th, the South Yorkshire Freedom Riders will be out in Barnsley and Sheffield campaigning for the reintroduction of free train travel for elderly and disabled people, and on Thursday 30th, Unite are meant to be organising a national day of action against benefit sanctions, although there’s no confirmation of what that’ll actually involve as yet.

Posted in Gender, Housing, Internationalism, Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment