The Syrian Revolution and the Project of Autonomy

What follows is a series of variations on Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s observation that “Syria is a metaphor for a global crisis of representation.” It describes aspects of the present situation of the Syrian revolution, a process of tremendous strength and courage that has been rendered almost illegible in the West. It also looks from the present to possible futures, which are necessarily speculative, in order to pose three questions for discussion.

By Stephen Hastings-King

Note: This is a revised version of a presentation I made at Hamisch, the Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul, on October 16, 2015. I would like to thank the comrades of Hamisch for their hospitality and for the chance to make something new. Then as now, my hope is to contribute to a widening of conversations about the Syrian revolution and the ways in which the struggles of the Syrian people are interconnected with global struggles for basic human dignity.

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Where I am from there is no political future. There is only repetition of the same. The present is a ubiquitous horizon. Only the details will vary.

Where I am from the future has been privatized. People worry about their children.

We need to make new significations, ways of thinking beyond the horizon of the present.

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What follows is a series of variations on Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s observation that “Syria is a metaphor for a global crisis of representation.” It describes aspects of the present situation of the Syrian revolution, a process of tremendous strength and courage that has been rendered almost illegible in the West. It also looks from the present to possible futures, which are necessarily speculative, in order to pose three questions for discussion. Continue reading “The Syrian Revolution and the Project of Autonomy”

Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’

This essay first appeared in The Drouth (‘The Thirst’), a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow (Issue 50, Winter 2014/2015). I wrote it in December 2014.

The Road to Iraq book coverThe Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Edinburgh University Press
£19.99

Reviewed by Danny Postel

I was reluctant to review this book. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.

But I’m glad I set these reservations aside and took the assignment. This forcefully argued and meticulously researched (with no fewer than 1,152 footnotes, many of which are full-blown paragraphs) book turns out to be enormously relevant to the present moment, on at least three fronts:

  • ISIS emerged from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, which formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Without the 2003 invasion, there would be no ISIS as we know it—and the region’s political landscape would look very different.
  • The US Senate report on CIA torture has brought back into focus the rogues gallery of the Bush-Cheney administration—the same cast of characters who engineered the 2003 Iraq invasion. This book shines a heat lamp on that dark chapter and many of its protagonists.
  • There is talk of a neoconservative comeback in Washington. This thoroughly discredited but zombie-like group are now angling for the ear of Hillary Clinton, who might be the next US president. Ahmad’s book provides a marvelously illuminating anatomy of the neocons, which has lessons that apply directly to this movement’s potentially ominous next chapter.

The central question Ahmad attempts to answer is: Why did the 2003 Iraq War happen? In one of the book’s most valuable sections, felicitously titled ‘Black Gold and Red Herrings’, he goes through several prevalent explanations/theories and takes them apart one by one: Continue reading “Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’”

Almost 200 Hollywood Celebrities Sign on to Israel’s Genocide of the Palestinian People

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Today, [Creative Community for Peace] say, there is not a single musical act, from Justin Timberlake to the Rolling Stones to Alicia Keys, that they have not approached and coached in advance of their performance in Israel. ~Times of Israel

It’s no surprise that the genocidal Times of Israel is so eager to push anti-BDS initiatives. It’s also no surprise that one of Israel’s most well connected, elite whitewashing team, Creative Community for Peace [CCfP], is doing exactly what it vowed to do- whitewash genocide. However one might wonder about some of the names on the below statement that CCfP has published:Crceative Community For Peace Genocide

Continue reading “Almost 200 Hollywood Celebrities Sign on to Israel’s Genocide of the Palestinian People”

Spirituality, Stanley Jordan, and BDS

Update: On January 6, Stanley Jordan has cancelled his collaboration with the Red Sea Jazz Festival, joining a long line of artists combining their ethics, politics, and spirituality. Joy Harjo, still has not made a public statement rethinking her stance on the issue.

Note: Stanley Jordan is scheduled to perform in the Red Sea Jazz Festival between 17-19 of January. Although, after much deep soul searching, he has written a statement that he intends to continue as scheduled (below), in our political reality, we don’t give up until the Jazzist plucks the first guitar string in front of a segregated audience.
For your convenience, the rest of the international artists performing in the festival are listed at the end of this article.

Stanley Jordan

I’m a Spiritual Atheist. I never knew you could capitalize that phrase, but thank DOG, the internet is a wondrous place:

SPIRITUAL ATHEISTS are people who are:
1) ATHEISTS
Spiritual Atheists do not believe in the existence of an entity external to the universe that supposedly created and rules the universe… Spiritual Atheists generally recognize the word “God” as a personal name that has been given to the collective personality of the infinite and eternal universe… Even so, many Spiritual Atheists are extremely reluctant to make use of the word “God”, due to the extreme desecration it has suffered by traditional Theists and Atheists alike.

2) SPIRITUAL
Spiritual Atheists believe that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale. Therefore, Spiritual Atheists generally feel that as they go about their lives striving to be personally healthy and happy, they should also be striving to help the world around them be healthy and happy! (“Wholistic Ethics”)

There are many people in the world like me. Some are atheists, some are theists. I respect all’s choices and love me a good theological debate, but to me, the most important piece of information in the above quote is “generally feel that as they go about their lives striving to be personally healthy and happy, they should also be striving to help the world around them be healthy and happy!”. This is also the first time I’ve heard the phrase “Wholistic Ethics”, I have my critique of it (and also have a critique of trying to unite atheists who define themselves as spiritual), but that would derail the conversation from what I really want to talk about: What does spirituality have to do with politics? Continue reading “Spirituality, Stanley Jordan, and BDS”

On the ‘Keynesian Neoliberalism’ of the New York Times

by Costas Panayotakis

This article first appeared at the NYTimes eXaminer.

One of the regions of the world most severely hit by the current global capitalist crisis is Europe.  The European crisis has been rendered even more severe by a regression to a pre-Keynesian outlook that, as Paul Krugman has pointed out in his New York Times columns, is reminiscent of the outlook of Herbert Hoover and other political leaders in the early stages of the Great Depression. In today’s Europe this regression takes the form of brutal austerity measures that drastically cut government expenditures and attack ordinary workers’ and citizens’ salaries and pensions.  The ostensible purpose of these measures is to reduce government deficit and debt and to alleviate the sovereign debt crisis that is posing a threat to the future of the eurozone and the European project alike.  In fact, however, these measures are proving counterproductive, thus leading to some debate even within the still dominant neoliberal camp.  Against the ‘budget slashing’ neoliberalism favored by Angela Merkel and the European economic and political elites a more subtle ‘Keynesian neo-liberalism’ is making its appearance.

A recent New York Times editorial on the European austerity programs illustrates this alternative approach. The editorial begins by pointing out that two years “of unrelenting fiscal austerity … have brought [Europe] nothing but recession and deepening indebtedness.”  As the editorial explains, this is due to the ‘growth-killing’ effect of ‘spending cuts and tax increases’ at a time of economic crisis.  As the economy shrinks and unemployment soars, the editorial suggests, government tax revenues suffer, making the austerity programs counterproductive even from a narrowly fiscal point of view.

Continue reading “On the ‘Keynesian Neoliberalism’ of the New York Times”

Privatisation of the Police Force

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie poke fun at the privatisation of the police force.

Accoding to The Guardian, West Midlands and Surrey police are offering a £1.5bn contract under which private firms may investigate crime and detain suspects:

The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.

The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.

More

The League of Gentlemen

 

A 1992 documentary by the brilliant Adam Curtis about the rise of Monetarism during Britain’s economis crisis in the 1970s. As countries accross Europe bow to the seemingly inexorable logic of austerity and the European Union attempts to lock in a neoliberal model of economic governance, it has lost none of its relevance.

In his most recent blog post, Curtis unearths yet more wonderful archival gems and documentery evidence of what Stuart Hall calls the ‘long march of the neoliberal revolution’.

The State of Palestine – A Hint of Liberation?

State of Palestine Stamp by Khaled Jarrar It occurs to me that I can’t address the issue of a Palestinian state without addressing my Anarchism. The national struggle is an issue of inevitable debate for many Anarchists who support the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Truth be told, as a local Anarchist, in a time when Palestine is still occupied territory, when asked about the Palestinian bid at the UN for a Palestinian state, I worry mostly about how more violent the Israeli army could get when we demonstrate with the villages. I worry about being denied entry into the occupied territory, in order to get to the demonstrations. I worry about not being able to see my friends, or being prosecuted for attempting to do so.

Many of us- “on the ground” as they say- Palestinians, Anarchists and allies, have been brushing off the reality of a Palestinian-state-positive vote in the UN , because we doubt it’ll change anything ”on the ground.” To those shot at, holding a flag or holding a stick is at best a semantic exercise.

That said, declaring a Palestinian state is not one of those small issues that can be brushed aside, especially because “state” is an internationally accepted legal term. As an Anarchist the idea of an international general assembly, in which whole populations have their say is remarkable to me. Had the United Nations been fashioned after a participatory society model, rather than a hierarchical, neo-liberal, democratic model, maybe it needn’t have had to hang its head in shame. But for now, one must hold the status of a “state”, in order to be recognized as a people- and consequently a person. So in a bid to understand the repercussions of next week, over our lives, more deeply, I’d like to delve into the legal opinions that have been published about the move.

Continue reading “The State of Palestine – A Hint of Liberation?”

Latin America’s left at the crossroads

Income inequality rose under Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Gallo/Getty)

William I. Robinson writes at Al Jazeera on the subject of the Pink Tide–“the ambiguous turn to the left in recent years in several Latin American countries”:

The Pink Tide governments have been “leftist” insofar as they have introduced limited wealth redistribution, restored a minimal role for the state in regulating accumulation, and administered government expansion in more inclusionary ways. When we cut through the rhetoric, however, a number of these governments – such as the Socialists in Chile, Kirchner in Argentina, and Lula in Brazil – were able to push forward capitalist globalisation with greater credibility than their orthodox neo-liberal predecessors, and, in doing so, to deradicalise dissent and demobilise social movements. What emerged was an elected progressive bloc in the region committed to mild redistributive programmes respectful of prevailing property relations and unwilling or simply unable to challenge the global capitalist order – a new, post-neo-liberal form of the national state tied to the larger institutional networks of global capitalism.

In many Pink Tide countries there has been no significant change in the unequal distribution of income or wealth, and indeed, inequality may actually be increasing.  Nor has there been any shift in basic property and class relations despite changes in political blocs, despite discourse favouring the popular classes, and despite mildly reformist or social welfare measures. In Argentina, for instance, the percentage of national income going to labour (through wages) and to the unemployed and pensioners (through social welfare subsidies and pensions) dropped from 32.5 per cent in 2001, before the crisis exploded, to 26.7 per cent in 2005. In Kirchner’s own words, the aim of his policies was to reconstruct capitalism in the country, “a capitalism in which the state plays an intelligent role, regulating, controlling, and mitigating where necessary problems that the market does not solve”. Despite its social programmes, the Kirchner administration worked to demobilise and divide Argentina’s social movements.
Continue reading “Latin America’s left at the crossroads”

Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

Continue reading “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms”