Iran: Workers Movement Statement on the Death in Custody of Shahrokh Zamani

We’ll turn Shahrokh Zamani’s death into a banner of workers’ solidarity and unity

Note from the editors of People and Nature: This statement was put out by workers’ organizations in Iran after the suspicious death on 12 September of Shahrokh Zamani, a trade union activist who was in the fifth year of a prison sentence. Iranian friends are asking that it be circulated as widely as possible.

Shahrokh Zamani, a brave and tireless fighter for the Iranian workers movement, has died in Gohar Dasht prison. The news was received by all with total disbelief and utter shock. In our view, whatever reasons the authorities may give, the responsibility for his death lies completely with those who have imposed conditions of slavery on the workers of Iran and who have taken away their rights to organize and struggle for a better life, and with those who throw honorable and valiant human beings such as Shahrokh Zamani into dungeons. Continue reading Iran: Workers Movement Statement on the Death in Custody of Shahrokh Zamani

Reinterpreting the Chinese Capital “Scramble” in Africa

Transcribed from the 22 August 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) and printed with permission. Listen to the full interview:

“A fine-tuned analysis gets at the nuance and gets away from both the scare story of ‘the New Scramble for Africa’ and the kumbaya story that because these companies are from the former colonial world, they’re going to act differently because they’re ‘nice.’”

Chuck Mertz: We are honored and delighted to have here in studio the Radical Pessimist himself, Kevan Harris. Kevan is here in Chicago attending the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting. Kevan is organizing a panel on Israel and historical comparative sociology, and presenting a paper on social welfare politics in the global south, which he co-wrote with Ben Scully. Kevan is a former producer here on This is Hell!, currently an assistant professor in the department of sociology at UCLA, former associate director of Mosovar Romani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University, and currently working on a book on post-revolutionary Iran.

But you’re on today to talk about China in Africa.

Kevan Harris: Yes. I was just on a two-and-a-half week trip to southern Africa. I spent a bit of time in Zambia, at an interesting conference called Southern Africa Beyond the West, where scholars, activists, and historians from all around southern Africa—not just South Africa, but places like Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia—were talking about the new entry and influence of economic and political agents and powers outside of the West.

Particularly China, of course—people who read the news may have heard all about China in Africa. But it’s not just Chinese companies and Chinese politics entering African economies but also India, Brazil, and South Africa itself, which is a big economy whose capital flows north to various countries in Africa. Continue reading Reinterpreting the Chinese Capital “Scramble” in Africa

The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

AntiNote: The long-simmering divide on the Western left between (speaking crudely) anti-imperialists and internationalists has reached new depths recently with a relatively high-profile skirmish involving activist journalists writing for publications of considerable influence on the left. If you enjoy inflicting such things on yourself, here is the article that sparked it, a couple of the salvos that followed, and the author’s parting shot. But we don’t recommend prolonged exposure—Hippocratic Oath.

Naturally, all this bickering is occurring at a safe distance from the conflicts it typically concerns itself with (Ukraine and Syria among the main ones), and as such we would be better advised to keep an equally safe distance from it. But unfortunately its tentacles have reached us all: the divide is beginning to do material damage to grassroots organizing, with the formation of cliques and the refusal of some to associate with groups or individuals of the “wrong” persuasion, even at the expense of common campaigns.

This kind of splintering is obviously a time-honored tradition on the left—what seems to be new is this particular line of demarcation, and the sometimes very imaginative accusations being hurled across it in both directions. And it’s happening at just the wrong time, as the issue of refugees is finally gaining in public attention and action in Europe, and countless opportunities for exchange, organizing, and effective intervention will be missed.

That being the case, this deepening—and frankly idiotic—divide has been a frequent topic of conversation within the Antidote Writers Collective, especially as it relates to the issue of Syria. And just as we are arriving at our fancy conclusions, we are reminded that they had already been made. Probably a thousand times over and earlier than this, but this enraged post on a sparsely maintained blog called Palestinian Reflections captured the thing with particular energy…just over a year ago.

With the ground shifting vertiginously at all times in Syria, it is rare to come across an article on the topic that “keeps.” That these arguments maintain their relevance and consistency after (even only) one year gives them a weight, however slight, that similar ones being made today seem to lack. Agree or disagree, but please consider seriously first.

We have lightly edited this text for clarity, and have not reproduced all link citations.

Juntxs Contra la Dictadura / Together Against Dictatorship (Poster featuring Rokan, a Kurdish PYD fighter from Aleppo)
Juntxs Contra la Dictadura / Together Against Dictatorship (Poster featuring Rokan, a Kurdish PYD fighter from Aleppo)

The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

by Mahmoud E. for Palestinian Reflections
26 August 2014
(original post)

As we all witnessed yesterday, Syria’s foreign minister Walid Muallem said that Syria will offer to help the US fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group. This, of course, has left the so called “antiwar” camp and “anti-imperialist” left in the West and even Arab assadists either confused or silent on the matter. It’s important to note these are the same leftists (or, as some call them, ‘tankies’) that support Russian imperialism and Iranian mini-imperialism in the Middle East and don’t even care whether Russia is a capitalist oligarchy or if Iran has communist political prisoners in its jails or has killed them outright because of their ideas. Continue reading The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

Rojava Reality

AntiNote: This is a call, from a non-native activist in Rojava, for those of us elsewhere who support the revolution there to do the greatest, scariest thing we can to make our support truly real: go.

We recognize the perils of such a call. The one making it (as well as the one heeding it) risks transgressing a wide range of activist norms of behavior. However, although it is slightly against character for the AWC, there are things about this call’s stridency and confrontational challenge that we find appealing. Sometimes it’s good to push it—what with the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom and all.

Even if your first instinct is to recoil from such harangue, we urge you to stick it out and reflect on how this attitude could arise and where this comrade kind of has a point. You could go so far as to imagine what it would mean and what it would look like for you to heed such a call—perhaps you already do this. Next thing you know, you’re packing. Stranger things have happened.

Our own hypocrisy will become apparent in a few weeks when you notice that our website has not gone dark and our writers collective is still pursuing sources of quiet, affecting remonstrations against structures of domination. That we don’t put our money where our mouth is ourselves, greasy as that is, is not meant to sabotage the authentic purposefulness of this call.

The article originally appeared on 27 June 2015 at the website of a Poland-based international support and solidarity network, the Rojava Recovery Volunteers. A contact of theirs sent it to them with the request to post it anonymously and unchanged, in the spirit of freedom and solidarity. We have edited it lightly for clarity, hoping the spirit of freedom and solidarity is nonetheless intact.

The time of theory is over. Now is the time of action.
by an anonymous activist in Rojava
(original post)

“History is made by people who leap into unknowns. If you are satisfied with the status quo, stay where you are.”

I’ve been in Rojava for half a year working in various areas of society. This has been a unique opportunity to get a good overview of the system in action. My libertarian philosophy and practical experience puts me very close to the revolutionaries of Rojava, and they like to hear my ideas and criticism.

I’m writing this after seeing articles warning against “letting Kobanê and the rest of Rojava be defeated by big corporations and international financial institutions.” [We’ve published one of those. –ed.]

My response to this is to ask: OK, what are you doing in the West? Rojava is better than the West. When you stay in the West, you are helping capitalism. You are part of the machine. If you live in the city, consume products or participate in life there, you are a hypocrite.

There are not enough people of radical disposition here. We need people here who can work. Once you are here, it is not stressful. It’s a fertile space and people are listening to you and your ideas. In Europe or America, projects for autonomy are blocked, but here the government listens to you and provides the resources they can. But things can go slow.

The revolution is not certain, and Rojava needs the strong spirit of foreign revolutionaries giving their support here on the ground. It’s not enough to make some token gesture. If you are a revolutionary, then enough with your joke excuses, you have work to do.
Continue reading Rojava Reality

A Hunger Strike Against Rapacious Education “Reform”

Transcribed from the 29 August 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“For a lot of parents, especially black and poor parents, the idea of choice is really a myth. The district is making these choices.”

Chuck Mertz: Hunger strikers are protesting the closing of a historic school on Chicago’s South Side. What kind of school would the community like to see in their neighborhood? And what are the chances in fighting back against massive public school closings, a strategy that’s probably coming to a city near you? And could this be a turning point in the battle over whether black lives matter?

Here to explain to us that students are not just digits in a financial formula: writer, research scholar, and artist Eve Ewing was a Chicago Public Schools teacher in the South Side community of Bronzeville, where she taught middle school. Eve wrote this week’s article Phantoms Playing Double-Dutch: Why the Fight for Dyett Is Bigger Than One Chicago School Closing.

Good morning, Eve.

Eve Ewing: Good morning, how are you doing?

CM: Good! It’s great to have you on our show.

It is now day thirteen of the hunger strike in front of Dyett High School. The hunger strikers are living on water, juice, and a fortified drink of some sort, according to WGN Channel 9 News. Mayor Emanuel argues, “I would remind everyone there are ten high schools within a mile of the school. There’s King College Prep. There are a lot of high schools in that area, and how do you talk about another one, or others, that are not at capacity?”

Why do you disagree with Rahm Emanuel? Why do you see this school as more important than he does?

EE: I would like to say that I’m surprised at how disingenuous the mayor is being when he talks about the other high schools in the area, but unfortunately I’m not. It’s very much in keeping with the normal bait-and-switch when we talk about closing schools in the city, especially schools that primarily serve African-American children. Continue reading A Hunger Strike Against Rapacious Education “Reform”

Refugees and the “Death of Europe”

The current crisis, looked upon from further east

Originally appeared in Russian at The Nihilist and in English at The Russian Reader
Raimond Krumgold
September 5, 2015

This summer we stopped back in Latvia on our way to Russia.

During the week as we were waiting for visas, I overheard a lot of things along the lines of “they have completely broken away from the collective and become remote from their people.” But the main shock for me was a one-off attempt at reading the latest Russian-language press. The quotas of refugees for Latvia were being discussed just then, along with the great reluctance to take in these same refugees.

I scanned several newspapers. They all wrote about the “nightmare brewing in Europe” in a tone of aggressive and malicious ignorance that I found quite unfamiliar. I really had the feeling I had opened a neo-Nazi website. The only difference was the gloating at the Latvians, who had discriminated against “us,” the good guys, and now were going to end up with “them,” those awful people.

At first, I decided something had changed over the years, and then I realized it was I who had changed. I tried to remember how things had been before and realized these newspapers had always written in a similar tone. I just used to think this was normal. I had even considered the Russian-language press internationalistically minded in comparison with the already quite right-wing Latvian press.
Continue reading Refugees and the “Death of Europe”

By the Side of the Road: A Central European Elegy

The EU fortress has proven itself to be a heavily fortified yet ideologically empty construct, and the far-right hordes are cheerfully taking up the opportunity to fill the charmless vacuum that the bureaucrats of Brussels have created around themselves.”

by Elisabeth Schober for LeftEast
(original post)
28 August 2015

Nearly six years ago, at Keleti pu, Budapest’s largest train station, a group of people got on an early morning train headed for Vienna so that my South Korean partner and I could get married in a small town in Burgenland. We had more or less randomly chosen the location because the wedding halls in Vienna had been all booked up. And as I was still living and studying in Budapest during those times, the venue to choose had to be close enough for us to take the train back and forth across the Hungarian border in one day. So Burgenland it would be. Continue reading By the Side of the Road: A Central European Elegy

A tale of blind doctors and good illnesses


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