Self-Defense and Strategic Escalation Against Violent Racists
By Antidote’s Ed Sutton
Sometimes I hate being right. Of course, in the last few years, the further intensification and proliferation of racist violence in Europe and North America has been a pretty obvious horse to bet on, so my having called a couple close ones does not count as any kind of unique prescience. But even if it did, it’s nothing to celebrate when a group of visiting Greek students gets attacked by hymn-singing neo-Nazis in the heart of Zurich. “I told you so!” isn’t exactly the winningest response. One young man was hospitalized and nearly lost an eye.
AntiNote: The following is a speech delivered two months ago in the European Parliament by Haj-Ahmadi Rahman (PJAK) at the First International Conference on the Crisis in the Middle East, Iran and the Kurds.
We consider this speech of interest because of the evidence it provides of political cross-pollination across contexts among various branches of the not at all homogeneous Kurdish movement. We have published other material describing and comparing approaches to democratic self-administration and democratic confederalism in predominantly Kurdish areas of Syria and Turkey, but this is the first we heard of the phenomenon in Iran, where conflict and government repression in Kurdish-majority regions has also been escalating of late.
As with any of the testimony we present at Antidote, this speech should be understood as just that, testimony, and not as our endorsement of any particular party or perspective. That said, we do not distance ourselves from Haj-Ahmadi Rahman’s political proposals or their liberatory, collaborative spirit but rather declare our solidarity with Iranian Kurds and all people struggling under and against domination and deprivation.
4 June 2015
First of all, on behalf of the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), hello and warm regards to all conference participants. We hope that this conference will be used as a point of departure for dedicated activity.
As we hold this conference, a new political process is being developed in the Middle East, against the backdrop of what might be called the third world war. But against that backdrop, both crises and potential escape routes are becoming visible. As a consequence of conflicts among widely varying socio-political forces, a new Middle East is taking shape, for better or worse.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is quietly becoming a focal point in these red-hot transformations, as its own striving for regional dominance confronts and comingles with the interventionist policies of capitalist world powers as well as the broad spectrum of democratic movements in Iran itself.
Transcribed from the 25 July 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:
“Whenever we see ourselves repeating a tactic nostalgically, whether it’s mass marches in the streets like in the sixties or occupying like in 2011, then we know we’re making a mistake.”
Chuck Mertz: Occupy Wall Street was a failure. Okay, it was a constructive failure. But are we looking at the end of protest as we know it? Let’s hope so. Here to tell us what we can learn from Occupy and the potential future of protest: Micah White, who is credited with being the co-creator and the only American creator of the original idea for the Occupy Wall Street protest.
An honor to have you on This is Hell!, Micah.
Micah White: Thank you for having me, Chuck.
CM: Micah’s new book The End of Protest: A New Playbook for the Revolution comes out next March. His writing will cover the future of activism, global social movements, the paradigms of protest, and the influence of media on the mental environment. Micah is the co-founder of Boutique Activist Consultancy, a social change consultancy specializing in impossible programs. Their motto is “We win lost causes.”
Transcribed from the 18 July 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:
“In Egypt in 2011, they were where Burma was in 1988. Burma has a very long history, now, of resistance to military rule, and different ways to go about that. It’s not just about getting millions of people into the streets, that’s not good enough. What do you do next?”
Chuck Mertz: Award-winning reporter Delphine Schrank went undercover inside the military junta-ruled nation of Burma to find out how a resistance movement overcame decades of abuse, arrests, torture, and deadly violence to finally challenge the dictatorship.
Delphine, thanks for being on our show this morning.
Delphine Schrank: Thank you so much for having me, Chuck.
CM: Delphine is author of The Rebel of Rangoon: A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance in Burma. Delphine was the Burma correspondent for the Washington Post, where she was an editor and staff writer.
You write of Burma—Myanmar—as “a country whose very choice of names since 1989 bespeaks one’s political sympathies.” So what political sympathies does either name reveal? And why do you use the name Burma?
DS: There was a massive uprising in Burma in 1988 in which millions of people poured into the streets to kick out a military general called General Ne Win. And they managed to kick him out, and there was going to be a regime change, and it seemed like parliamentary democracy was on its way. But the military had never retreated to the barracks, and, in a counterrevolution, took over the country.
A junta calling itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the SLORC, took over and began twenty years of deeply repressive rule. In 1989 they changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar.
Democracy activists persisted in calling it Burma, and persisted in calling the capital city at the time Rangoon instead of Yangon. The United States recognized that; several holdouts in the West recognized that; the United Nations ended up calling it Myanmar. So ever since then, people who recognize the legitimacy of the democracy movement, the legitimacy of a political party that won elections in 1990, the National League for Democracy—they prefer to call it Burma.
As for me, I persist in calling it Burma because the protagonist of my book would prefer to call it that.
Transcribed from the 13 June 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:
“We don’t want to be the alternative in a generalized system of inequality and injustice. We want to be the mainstream.”
Chuck Mertz: A revolution has been happening in Greece that may overflow and create solidarity for all of us. At least that’s the hope of this movement: to have the potential to change the way we lead our everyday lives.
Live in studio, all the way from Greece, Christos Giovanopoulos, is a member of Greece’s SYRIZA party and an activist working with Solidarity For All, a network of grassroots organizations in Greece fighting against austerity. Chris is currently touring the US, speaking to different groups and raising money for Solidarity For All.