A People’s History of the Syrian Revolution

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An in-depth interview with Joseph Daher

Originally appeared on LeftEast 15 October 2014, with link citations we have not duplicated. Reprinted with permission.

“We need to support liberation struggle unconditionally.”

Note from the LeftEast editors: The following interview was conducted with the Syrian revolutionary Joseph Daher by Italian journalist and activist Mattia Gallo. It provides an important perspective on the current Western intervention in Iraq and Syria that has been excluded from much of the mainstream media reporting of this conflict. We acknowledge that the views expressed here concern a conflict that has lasted over three years and has been especially divisive for the Left in both the Middle East and Europe. We therefore wish to remind our readers that our decision to publish this interview does not reflect an official position of the LeftEast editorial board, but rather our commitment to promoting a broad and informed discussion of the current conflict and its significance for the Left more broadly.

Mattia Gallo: The mainstream media have described the civil war happening in Syria since 2012 as a clash between religious groups present in the country against the Assad regime, effectively ignoring the dynamics from below. Have there been groups of revolutionaries who fought for social justice, equality, freedom?

Joseph Daher: For more than three years now, the majority of observers have analyzed the Syrian revolutionary process in geopolitical and sectarian terms, from above, ignoring the popular political and socio-economic dynamics on the ground. The threat of Western intervention has only reinforced this idea of an opposition between two camps: the Western states and the Gulf monarchies on one side; Iran, Russia and Hezbollah on the other. But we refuse to choose between these two camps, we refuse this logic of the “lesser evil,” which will only lead to the loss of the Syrian revolution and its objective: democracy, social justice and the rejection of sectarianism.

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The Battle Intensifies: Stories from Summer 1999

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AntiNote: As the first installment in our reflection series on the Minnehaha Free State (MFS), we present a handful of edited excerpts from Elli King’s 2006 people’s history of the encampment, Listen: The Story of the People at Taku Wakan Tipi and the Reroute of Highway 55.

In case you missed it, please read our introduction to this series here.

We are picking up the story at a particularly tense juncture, almost exactly fifteen years ago. The following three testimonies deal with events over two days in late July, 1999: the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s first successful attempt to break ground on their still legally precarious project (with extensive police protection), the Free Staters’ attempts at resistance, and a street blockade the following day to protest the state’s violent and destructive actions—which itself was met with more violence.

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The Battle of the Story of Taku Wakan Tipi

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by Antidote’s Ed Sutton

Our writers collective has only existed informally for a couple of years, and has only been publishing for a few months. Members of the Antidote Writers Collective are still in the process of introducing ourselves to you. As our regular readers have likely noticed, the relatively few instances where Antidote’s curators weigh in with our own writing, so far, have been largely devoted to expository essays examining our own philosophical ‘upbringings.’ As they continue to trickle out, we hope these reflections on our own experiences of radicalization will help give some approximate shape and timbre to the eZine as a whole.

Continuing this exercise, it is my pleasure to reminisce a little about my home town.

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Journey Through a Counterculture

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

On 12 April 2014, Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) talked to activist, educator and author Paul Buhle about bohemians.

Perhaps mainstream discourse has already wrung every last drop of usefulness from the topic of “bohemians” (or “hipsters,” or whatever term we’re using for this amorphous subgroup of people)—it has become as much of a cliché as “fratboys” when trying to shoehorn people into categories. But sometimes much more vital questions are embedded in these discussions, like those of gentrification, right to the city, the aristocratization of creativity, and the convergence of art and radical activism.

We find Buhle’s perspectives on some of these questions to be of particular interest because in some cases they contradict our own current understanding—and are based in large-scale historical thinking that demands to be taken seriously.

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The Greatest Privilege of All

by AntiDote’s Ed Sutton

My good friend and comrade in the AntiDote Writers Collective, Laurent Moeri, has recently written a very moving series of portraits; short vignettes about the deaths of children and young people at the hands of authorities. It is called Berkin Elvan Lebt (“Berkin Elvan Lives;” the full English version is now available here).

But Berkin Elvan is dead. Continue Reading

“The World We Live in Is Created by Slavery”

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

On 15 February 2014,  Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) talked to Greg Grandin about his recent book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New WorldGrandin asks us to acknowledge, reexamine and confront the legacy of slavery—in all its historical forms but in particular the brutal example of the trade on the Middle Passage—in our assessment of current political, social, and economic relations and institutions.

Looking out from AntiDote’s home base in Europe (where a torrid and nearly unchallenged ascent of racist ideologies across the Continent can truly no longer be denied), and Switzerland in particular (where a referendum tightening immigration policy passed last month, accompanied by an across-the-board denial that the vote had anything to do with racial discrimination), we are moved to remind our readers that the philosophical lessons Grandin sets out are applicable not only in North America, as so many here—not without an air of relief and reproach—seem to think, but everywhere.

SlaveTrade01

In the 1770s the Spanish began to use phrases associated with today’s society—they began to privatize and deregulate the slave trade.

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Contemporary Israeli Anarchism

Our anonymous interlocutor traces the prehistory and development of contemporary Israeli anarchism, touching on the origins of punk and the animal rights movement in Israel and presenting a critical analysis of the trajectory of Anarchists Against the Wall. He concludes by reflecting on the function of nonviolence rhetoric in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We strongly recommend this interview to anyone interested in the Israel/Palestine conflict or, for that matter, in the strategic challenges of formulating an anarchist opposition in adverse conditions.Continue Reading