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An Anarchist View of State Formation-- Review of Peter Gelderloos, “Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation”
A review of Peter Gelderloos'anarchist analysis of how states are formed and developed.It it important for anarchism to have a theory of the state, the fundamentals of government, its origins and development. This is my third essay on this topic, the first being a presentation of the class theory of the state, as held by both anarchists and Marxists (Price 2018a). The second was a review of a “post-anarchist” analysis of the state, proposed by Saul Newman (Price 2018b). This is a review of Peter Gelderloos’ analysis of the nature of the state and its origins.
Gelderloos defines the state as “a bureaucratic, territorial, coercive organization with multiple levels of administration, in which power is institutional rather than personal, and power-holders monopolize (…) the legitimate use of force….” (5) “The state [is] a centralized, hierarchical system of political organization based on coercion and alienation….” (14) These are fine definitions.
In his broad overview of state formation, Gelderloos has two fundamental hypotheses. The first is his opposition to any specific theory of state origins. States are not the result of any one special force, but are the end result of all sorts of factors, he argues. “State formation is a multilineal process and not a teleological progressive evolution.” (Gerderloss 2016; 234) “States…are…a social arrangement that evolved following a wide variety of evolutionary pathways, in very different conditions, on different continents.” (13) His book is a hotch-potch collection of accounts of state formations, in no particular order, covering all sorts of possible causes in specific cases. This includes cultural and religious factors, as well as military, political, and geographic factors, among others. He ends up with no less than fifteen “models” of state formation. (233—234) That many factors go into the formation of each specific state is undoubtedly true. The question is whether any underlying generalizations can be made about the main factor or factors.
What I take to be his second main thesis is the rejection of the class (or historical materialist) theory of the state. He rejects the view that the state grows out of the tendency of early humanity to create a surplus which results in early class divisions (developing out of other early social divisions such as gender, age, or special knowledge). He regards the hypothesis that the state exists “to regulate economic production and surplus value” to be as “demonstrably false” as the myth that it exists “to protect individual rights through a social contract.” (1) On the contrary, Gelderloos insists that the state was first formed and then it promoted class division and exploitation. In his view, the state does not serve capitalism (feudalism, slavery, etc.) but capitalism serves the state.
He claims that this is the classical anarchist view of Bakunin and Kropotkin (which I do not think is true; Price 2018a). He quotes Bakunin, “If there is a state, there must be domination of one class by another, and as a result, slavery; the state without slavery in unthinkable….” (4—5) He writes, “Capitalism can easily be read as the motor of the modern state…. Sometimes capitalists have modernized government in order to increase their power.” ((6—7) These views would seem to contradict his own generalization.
It would be difficult to demonstrate, historically or by anthropology, either that the state created class societies or that class societies created the state. As Gelderloos agrees, very few statist systems began ab novo. Almost all states we know about began in societies which already had states—and had class systems of exploitation. Summarizing the evidence, he makes the important statement, “As a general rule, reciprocity is the basis of society and culture.” (7) This is to say that class division created the state and the state created class division and so on, back and forth, intertwined, at the same time, (dialectically, if you will).
While Gelderloos discusses various possible pathways to state formation, he repeatedly returns to one model: early elites creating a state to serve their interests. “Local elites within the preexisting autochthonous hierarchies were impressed by the greater power amassed by elites in neighboring societies and sought to copy them.” (38) “The exigencies of warfare…are exploited by an endogenous proto-elite to create a pathway for increasing social discipline and hierarchy. “ (53) “The ascendance of the council and other institutional forms of leadership in the [early] Kuba state reflect a push by the elite to extend their power….” (5) “Incipient elites used military brotherhoods and resurgent patriarchy to establish a new kind of state authority.” (133) “State formation was a strategic act of elite will.” (153)
He does not discuss who were these elites which existed before the state but which deliberately created states to serve their interests. Were they not the local lords, rich farmers, clan leaders, patriarchs, slave holders, and so on—proto-ruling classes—who made states to expand their wealth and their power over others’ labor? This is the view of the class theory.
“Primitive Accumulation” by the State
Against “the matter of economic accumulation…as the motor of state formation…,”Gelderloos says, “the very notion of understanding (…) the economy as a distinct sphere of social life is problematic….” (138) He does not realize that the idea of the distinction between the economy and the state was created by the experience of capitalism. Almost for the first time, the ruling class did not need to directly manage the state. Capitalist enterprises were run by businesspeople and their managers, while professional politicians could manage the state. In the U.S.A. today, the state claims legitimacy as “democratic,” while the capitalist economy is justified on the basis of “freedom.”
Gelderloos is right to challenge this apparent distinction between the capitalist market and the state. But then what becomes of his chicken-or-the-egg-which-came-first argument about which causes which? Are we not back to the “reciprocal” (dialectical) understanding that each causes the other? “History has been shaped by the conflict between rulers and ruled” (3) which is also the conflict between exploiters and exploited.
It may surprise Gelderloos, but that was the perspective of Karl Marx. In his discussion of “primitive” (or “previous” or “primary”) accumulation, which began capitalism, Marx emphasized the role of the state and other non-market forces. “In general history, it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part….The history of this, [the workers’] expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” (Marx 1906; 785—6) The different methods of “primitive accumulation,” in different countries and different times, “all employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.” (823—4)
Kropotkin criticized Marx’s concept of “primitive accumulation,” only because he thought it gave the impression that state support of capitalism was solely in its early period. Kropotkin insisted that the state continued to intervene in the economy, to prop up capitalism. “Force” continues to be “an economic power.”
The Marxist geographer, David Harvey, writes, “In recent times, several commentators, including myself, have suggested that we need to take the continuity of primitive accumulation throughout the historical geography of capitalism seriously. Rosa Luxemburg put that question firmly on the agenda a century ago.” (Harvey 2010; 305) The accumulation of capital, not only through exploitation of labor but also through state expropriation of existing wealth, has become ubiquitous. Harvey prefers to call it today, “accumulation by dispossession.” (310) This is consistent with the views of anarchists such as Kropotkin.
Program to Destroy the State
Gelderloos has not written an academic work. With justification, he wants to strengthen the anarchist case against the state, to encourage “an unambiguous desire to destroy the state.” (234) He wants to refute the liberal and reform socialist view that the state can be used to improve society in a consistent and permanent way. “No party has ever stood in the way of capitalism, yet people keep on voting.” (238) He rejects the Marxist-Leninist program of overthrowing this state and replacing it with a new state (the “dictatorship of the proletariat”). He has an ambivalent discussion of the Kurdish movement in Rojava. This has been influenced by anarchism but “they have not made a complete rupture with preexisting governmental and capitalist institutions.” (239)
Rojava aside, there are ambiguities in his programmatic approach. Since he sees capitalism as primarily a tool of the state, he does not advocate “socialism” (let alone “libertarian communism”), as did Bakunin and Kropotkin. He only uses “socialism” to mean “state socialism” rather than “libertarian socialism” (anarchism). Since he regards exploitation as only secondary to state domination, he does not emphasize the popular struggles of workers and other oppressed and exploited people. How wealth is generated and distributed is not central to his analysis of society.
He apparently opposes mass movements making demands on the state (such as ending specific wars, raising minimum wages, outlawing discrimination of women or People of Color, etc.) Instead anarchists should “disparage state representatives, insult them, mock them, ignore them, or silence them.” (244) Disrespecting politicians is all right but not a strategy for destroying the state. Instead of working class struggles, he advocates “refusal to pay taxes,…willfully breaking every law that one can get away with….rejecting or abstaining from the private communications technologies that states increasingly use to monitor their subjects….using cash instead of credit cards….” (244) These are mostly individual, rather than mass actions. This too is hardly a program for overthrowing the state. Gelderloos praises anarchist and other terrorists who have assassinated “monarchs, generals, presidents, and governors.” (246) Without shedding tears for the monarchs, etc., we have to acknowledge that such deeds (outside of the context of revolutionary wars) often killed all sorts of working people, antagonized the popular masses, and resulted in jailing or killing many good militants.
Peter Gelderloos raises many important questions about the relation of the state, its origin, and its future to economic, popular, and class forces. There is very little current material on the anarchist view of the state and this book makes a significant contribution.
Gelderloos, Peter (2016). Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation. Chico CA: AK Press.
Harvey, David (2010). A Companion to Marx’s Capital. Vol. 1. London UK: Verso.
Marx, Karl (1906). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 1. NY: Modern Library.
Price, Wayne (2018a). “An Anarchist View of the Class Theory of the State.” Anarkismo.
Price, Wayne (2018b). “Post-Anarchism on the State—An Anarchist Critique.” Anarkismo.
*written for www.Anarkismo.net
Ιρλανδία / Μεγάλη Βρετανία / Αναρχικό κίνημα / Γνώμη / Ανάλυση Saturday December 08, 2018 20:28 byZaher Baher
Η αυτοοργάνωση είναι το πρώτο και κύριο βήμα προς τον στόχο μας
Το κράτος, μέσα από τα όργανά του, προσπαθεί μερ πείσμα να αυξήσει την επιρροή και την πίεσή του, υπερφορτώνοντας τους ανθρώπους μέσω της αγοράς, των χρηματοπιστωτικών ιδρυμάτων και του εκπαιδευτικού συστήματος, υπονομεύοντας και αποθαρρύνοντάς τους. Προσπαθεί να εκτρέψει τις προθέσεις του μακριά από τα πραγματικά προβλήματα που αντιμετωπίζουμε τώρα. Το Εργατικό Κόμμα επίσης, με το πιο ριζοσπαστικό μανιφέστο του, πιθανότατα από τον Δεύτερο Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, αναισθητοποίησε πολλούς ανθρώπους από την εργατική τάξη, φοιτητές, συνταξιούχους, αναπήρους και άτομα με ειδικές ανάγκες. Και τα δύο κόμματα, το ένα στην εξουσία και το άλλο στην αντιπολίτευση, με τους κάθε είδους αριστερούς, σε διαφορετικούς δρόμους, βρίσκονται σε συμφωνία για τη διατήρηση του συστήματος προσπαθώντας να το μεταρρυθμίσουν, να παρατείνουν την ηλικία του.
Η μόνη διαφορά μεταξύ τους είναι ότι το κόμμα στην εξουσία σπεύδει να καταστήσει την κατάσταση χειρότερη για την εργατική τάξη και τους άλλους απλούς ανθρώπους. Η αντιπολίτευση θέλει να μεταρρυθμίσει το σύστημα για να το παρατείνει. Με άλλα λόγια, καθένας από αυτούς θέλει να μας καταστείλει με τις μεταρρυθμίσεις τους.
Το σύστημα, το κράτος και οι οργανώσεις από τα αριστερά προς τα δεξιά μπορεί να έχουν μικρή απόσταση ή εχθρότητα μεταξύ τους, αλλά όλοι συνειδητά ή ασυνείδητα αγωνίζονται άμεσα ή έμμεσα εναντίον των απλών ανθρώπων, του κινήματος και των στόχων τους.
Με λίγα λόγια το κράτος και το σύστημά του είναι πολύ ζωντανό, πολύ ισχυρό και καλά οργανωμένο. Είναι πολύ μακριά από το να βρεθεί σε μια κρίση και, κατά τη γνώμη μου, ποτέ δεν βρισκόταν σε κρίση. Δυστυχώς, θα είναι πιο κυρίαρχο, ασκώντας πιο ισχυρό έλεγχο σε βάρος μας, κυριαρχώντας όχι μόνο την καθημερινή μας ζωή αλλά και τα μυαλά μας και το σώμα μας.
Δεν είναι το σύστημα ή ο καπιταλισμός σε κρίση, είμαστε εμείς και η κρίση είμαστε εμείς **. Πρέπει να παραδεχτούμε ότι βρισκόμαστε σε πολύ βαθιά κρίση οικονομικά, οικονομικά, εκπαιδευτικά, ηθικά και πολιτιστικά.
Πώς μπορούμε να εξέλθουμε από αυτή την κατάσταση;
Δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία ότι υπάρχουν ομάδες στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο που προσπαθούν σκληρά να εκπαιδευτούν και να οργανώσουν δραστηριότητες. Διοργανώνουν δημόσιες συναντήσεις, συμμετέχουν σε διαδηλώσεις και διαμαρτυρίες και στηρίζουν τους εργαζόμενους όταν βρίσκονται σε απεργία. Αλλά αυτό δεν αρκεί. Όλες αυτές οι ενέργειες μπορεί να μην μας οδηγήσουν ενώ είμαστε μια μικρή μειοψηφία και όχι μόνο ανάμεσα στο κοινό αλλά ακόμη και ανάμεσα στους εαυτούς μας, τους αναρχικούς.
Γνωρίζω ότι σε αυτή τη χώρα ο αγώνας ενάντια στο σύστημα είναι ίσως πιο δύσκολος απ’ ό,τι στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες. Είμαστε παραδοσιακά μη επαναστάτες καθώς δεν είχαμε εδώ μια πραγματικά εξέγερση ή επανάσταση. Αυτό που είχαμε ήταν μια γενική απεργία πριν από περίπου έναν αιώνα, από τις 3 έως τις 12 Μαΐου του 1926. Είχαμε επίσης πολλές απεργίες, αλλά οι κυριότερες ήταν οι απεργίες του λιμανιού του Λονδίνου του 1949 και του 1957, η απεργία των ναυτικών του 1960, η απεργία στην αποβάθρα Thames το 1972, η απεργία των ανθρακωρύχων 1984-1985, της διαμάχης και της απεργίας του Wapping το 1986 και της απεργίας των ωρολογοποιών στη Dandy το 1992. Ωστόσο, σχεδόν όλοι αυτοί οι αγώνες ηττήθηκαν λόγω της έλλειψης αλληλεγγύης, προδοσίας από το Εργατικό Κόμμα και των ηγετών των συνδικάτων καθώς και της βιαιότητας του κράτους. Μπορούμε επίσης να σημειώσουμε ότι, αν όχι όλοι, σίγουρα η πλειοψηφία τους αγωνίστηκε κατά των εργοδοτών τους και το κράτος, αλλά από θέση άμυνας και όχι από θέση επίθεσης.
Τούτου λεχθέντος, αυτό δεν σημαίνει ότι το κίνημα παραμένει πάντα αδύναμο και χωρισμένο όπως είναι τώρα. Αλλά αυτή είναι η πραγματικότητα του εργατικού κινήματος σήμερα, καθώς είναι πολύ αδύναμο και ο καπιταλισμός είναι εξαιρετικά ισχυρός.
Είναι καιρός οι αναρχικοί να συγκεντρωθούν και να αφήσουν κατά μέρος τις μικρές, μη ουσιαστικές διαφορές τους, προκειμένου να οργανωθούν σε ανεξάρτητες, μη ιεραρχικές τοπικές ομάδες όπου και αν βρίσκονται. Δεν μπορούμε απλώς να περιμένουμε να ωριμάσει η κατάσταση ή να μεγαλώσει και να αναπτυχθεί το κίνημα γιατί θα γίνει μέρος αυτού. Το κίνημα δεν μας περιμένει. Δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία εάν το κίνημα υφίσταται συμβαίνει, μπορούμε να είμαστε μέρος του, αλλά θα είναι αργά και, επίσης, δεν θα ξεκινήσουμε ή θα εμπλακούμε από μια ισχυρή θέση.
Η οργάνωση των εαυτών μας είναι απαραίτητη και μέσω αυτής μπορούμε να συμμετέχουμε στην εξέγερση και την επανάσταση από ισχυρή θέση και αποτελεσματικά. Αυτό δεν σημαίνει ότι δεν μπορούμε να οργανώσουμε τους εαυτούς μας, οικοδομώντας τις απαραίτητες ομάδες κατά τη διάρκεια της εξέγερσης. Ωστόσο, η ιστορία της λεγόμενης επανάστασης του Ιράν το 1978-79 και η πρόσφατη «Αραβική Άνοιξη», ειδικά στη Συρία, εξαιρώντας το Κουρδικό τμήμα (Ροτζάβα) και την Αίγυπτο, έδειξαν ότι η οικοδόμηση ομάδων και οργανώσεων κατά τη διάρκεια της εξέγερσης ήταν αποτελεσματική. Μόλις η εξέγερση και η επανάσταση νικούσαν, έχαναν το δυναμισμό τους και γίνονταν αναποτελεσματικοί.
Προφανώς υπάρχουν πολλοί λόγοι γι’ αυτό, αλλά το κύριο είναι πως οτιδήποτε εμφανίζεται κατά τη διάρκεια ή για ένα συγκεκριμένο γεγονός, όταν το γεγονός είναι πάνω από τις ομάδες και τις οργανώσεις είναι συνήθως πάνω από πάρα πολύ. Οι μοναδικές ομάδες που υπάρχουν σήμερα και διατηρούν τη θέση τους είναι εκείνες που υπήρχαν πριν από την εξέγερση, αν και δεν είναι ενεργές όπως ήταν.
Βρισκόμαστε τώρα ανάμεσα σε μερικές επιλογές. Αφήνουμε την αλλαγή της κοινωνίας στους «εκπροσώπους» μας μέσω του κοινοβουλευτικού συστήματος ή παίρνουμε έντονα μέρος, με τους απλούς ανθρώπους, στην αλλαγή του. Αν επιλέξουμε τη δεύτερη, πρέπει να είμαστε σοβαροί, καθώς θα χρειαστεί να δώσουμε μέρος του χρόνου μας είτε είμαστε εργαζόμενοι, άνεργοι, σπουδαστές, συνταξιούχοι ή οτιδήποτε άλλο είναι η κατάστασή μας. Αποτελεί άγνοια και αδιάφορη στάση να πιστεύουμε σε κάτι, αλλά δεν μην κάνουμε γι’ αυτό. Είναι επίσης μια εγωιστική στάση να περιμένετε άλλους να το κάνουν για σας. Δεν υπάρχει δικαιολογία.
*Το κείμενο δημοσιεύτηκε στα κουρδικά στην σελίδα του συγγραφέα http://zaherbaher.com
**Ελληνική μετάφραση: Ούτε Θεός-Ούτε Αφέντης.
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa falls within the 15 biggest polluters in the world. But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – the major polluters in South Africa are the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations (including state corporations), continuing an economy based on cheap black labour, mining and externalising costs. State-backed”empowerment” firms — for Afrikaners from 1948, and blacks from 1994 — are deeply involved.
South Africa’s polluting giants: it’s about profits and classShawn Hattingh (ZACF)
· In 2015 alone, South Africa emitted 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)
· As such, South Africa as a country is a major contributor to global warming – although it is not quite in the league of China, the USA and India
· Air pollution in some parts of South Africa, such as the Mpumalanga Highveld, is so bad that millions of people suffer from diseases caused by air pollution, including skin rashes, heart disease, asthma and lung cancer
· In fact, it is estimated tha between 2 200 and 2 700 people in South Africa die prematurely every year as a result of being exposed to high levels of air pollution
· But there is also a class dimension when it comes to pinning down which sections of society are responsible for air pollution – not all people contribute equally to air pollution
· When pollution is looked at in conjunction with class, it becomes very clear who the major polluters in South Africa are; and it is not the working class
The polluting class· The reality is that the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and top state bureaucrats) and their state and corporations are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions – including CO2 emissions – in South Africa
· The biggest 80 companies operating in South Africa account for over 60% of all air pollution
Two of the biggest polluters amongst these companies are [state-owned] Eskom and [privatised] Sasol
· Sasol’s Secunda plant, which is a coal-to-fuel plant, is the largest single emitter of CO2 in the world. Sasol as a group emits over 60 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
Eskom, however, is by far the biggest polluter in the country
· 90% of the electricity Eskom generates comes from coal and in particular lowgrade coal that creates heavy pollution when burned
· Eskom emits well over 200 million metric tons of CO2 a year
· Over 77% of the electricity generated by Eskom through low-grade coal is used by mining, commerce, manufacturing and agricultural enterprises – with less than 20% being consumed by domestic/residential users
But it is not just CO2 that is emitted by the likes of Sasol and Eskom –other poisonous gasses, including sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and mercury are pumped out by these companies
Profits and pollution· Under capitalism and the market system major polluters like Eskom and Sasol externalise the costs of pollution by dumping it into the air
· Therefore, because they don’t have to pay for the pollution they make, Eskom and Sasol’s profits are subsidised and the costs of pollution – including bad health – are externalised onto people
· Having the ability to dump pollution and externalise any costs also means that companies like Sasol and Eskom don’t have any incentive to use cleaner energy
· So it pays companies to pollute and pollution and profits are very directly connected
Pollution and the structure of the South African economy· The major defining features of South African capitalism, and what has made manufacturing and especially mining traditionally so profitable, are cheap labour and extremely cheap electricity
· Colonialism and apartheid were tied to capitalism and, through oppression and racism, a black working class was created as a source of very cheap labour, and hence high profit, for capitalists (the tiny group of people that own the means of production) in South Africa
But cheap electricity also played a huge role in ensuring the profitability of South African capitalism
· In fact, the state nationalised private electricity companies – such as the Victoria Falls Power Company – in 1948 in order to provide giant companies, including Anglo American, with the cheapest electricity in the world
· To do so Eskom has used low-grade coal, often supplied to it by the very companies receiving cheap and even subsidised electricity, such as Anglo American, because it was the cheapest way to produce electricity
· Thus capitalism in South Africa and the use of low-grade heavily polluting coal to generate the cheapest possible electricity have been and are tied together
If air pollution is to be addressed in South Africa, therefore, the structure of the economy will also have to be changed, as it is the structure of capitalism in the country that drives the use of cheap low-grade coal – and hence massive air pollution – by companies like Sasol, Eskom and ArcelorMittal
Empowerment has a long dirty history· Eskom has not only used low-grade polluting coal as its main source of electricity to benefit giant companies at the expense of the working class and its health; it also gas also has a long history of promoting aspirant sections of the ruling class through ‘empowerment’ and their link to low-grade coal
During apartheid, Eskom was used as a means of Afrikaner economic empowerment
· Most of the low-grade coal mines were owned by Afrikaner capitalists –English capital already had a monopoly over mines with better quality coal
· To assist these Afrikaner capitalists Eskom focused on building power stations that generated electricity through burning low-grade and heavily polluting coal. It favoured purchasing this low quality coal from operations, such as Gencor, owned by Afrikaner capitalists
Today and since 1994, Eskom now plays a key role in elite black economic empowerment
· Most black economic empowerment companies in the coal industry – like Afrikaner empowerment companies in the past – are concentrated around low-grade coal mines
· Eskom today supports these initiatives through purchasing low-grade coal from corporations with shares owned by a black elite, including Patrice Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa
· Thus the focus on low-grade coal by Eskom is also linked to a history of furthering the profits and class interests of an elite with political connections to the state
As with apartheid, it is the working class that pays the consequences
mashriq / arabia / iraq / imperialism / war / opinion / analysis Friday December 07, 2018 14:03 byKhaled Aboud
As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria.As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria. The relationship is gaining strength of late. Ilham Ehmed, co-chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council spared no words of praise to describe the relationship between Saudi Arabia, and the SDF and the de facto state-in-the-making in north eastern Syria:
“Saudi Arabia is a brother country of Syria and important to Muslims. The SDF is ready to cooperate with countries seeking to end the conflict in Syria and to impose stability by building a democratic Syria away from all sectarian and national projects.” (https://southfront.org/sdf-boosts-relations-saudi-arabi...yria/)
In the curious SDF worldview, Saudi Arabia, a country run by an unelected despot monarchy, where flogging and public executions are an everyday affair, where women are pretty much banned from public life, which handsomely has funded jihadists in Syria for seven years, and which has an appalling human rights record in every single respect, is trying to build a democratic Syria! The butchers of Yemen are now a force for stability!
Of course, we can’t take Ehmed words at face value. It all goes down to money. You never bite the hand that feeds you. Saudi Arabia, after realizing that the Free Syrian Army would never defeat the Syrian Army and depose Assad, shifted, together with the USA, to support for the Kurdish-led SDF as a mechanism to have a say in the ongoing Syrian crisis and weaken the Arab nationalist regime of Assad, a thorn in the side to the growing religious conservatism which has swept the region. They have funded the SDF, together with another “beacon of democracy” in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, with over U$150 millions (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/world/middleeast/sau....html). Progressives and libertarians should not remain silent at these developments, as what once could have been a revolutionary force degenerates into a callous pragmatism.
Strange alliances have happened in the course of the Syrian conflict. The Israel-Saudi Arabia- USA- SDF alliance has been possible because of Iran is a common enemy. The US also wants to prevent further involvement of Russia in the region, which could undermine their own weakened hegemony (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/428560a4-9f7a-487f-8...924dc). All of the above mentioned countries will support the Kurdish cause because the partition of Syria will weaken Assad and the Hezbolah-Iran axis. And the Kurdish are ready to use this contradiction to their advantage. But to what extent they are being used? Have they started to change their approach? They started demanding a very radical revolution in social, political, gender and environmental terms. Now their best allies are those who deny climate change and do the most to stop any action to save our planet (the US) and petro-monarchies that are structurally misogynist (UAE and Saudi Arabia). How can you commit seriously, in such a scenario, to any real programme of change, particularly on women and on the environment? Unavoidably, the Kurdish practice will eventually come back to narrow nationalism, totally divorced from its discourse as no real revolution will be tolerated by the USA imperialism and by the Saudis. They already started to create the abyss between the revolutionary PKK and the SDF/YPG: the USA put a price on the heads of top PKK commanders and the SDF/YPG are shamefully silent.
The model upon which they seek to build an independent Syria looks, to may Kurdish commentators, just like Israel:
“The Kurds must pressure western allies to develop a policy that takes a clear stance on the Kurds as Israel has so effectively done. Israel has successfully secured a guaranteed pro-Israel policy and stance from the US and major European powers that have yet to disappoint.” (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/opinion/64b0f9ad-beb2-470...d8a6f)
Israel, at its time, also built its apartheid state while talking about advanced democracy, women’s rights and even of semi-libertarian experiences such as the kibbutzim. But no self-management, no libertarian project can be built on top of the dispossession of the natives and no freedom can be the by-product of colonialism. Unfortunately, the Kurdish project, after covering itself with a multi-cultural lens is becoming increasingly sectarian: clashes have been reported –and they have been violently suppressed by the SDF/YPG- with Christians in Qamishli, and the Arabs in all the territories they are occupying well beyond their own natural areas of influence, are extremely unhappy with what they described as an occupation.
With the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the Kurdish demonstrated that, without US airpower, they are a weak and incompetent fighting force. It also demonstrated that the practical limits of the Kuridsh project are set by the USA: they left Afrin fall like a house of cards because it was no priority to their imperial master. The SDF/YPG difficulties fighting ISIS in Hajin contrasts with the speed by which they seized the oil fields in Deir ez Zor, which was priority for the USA. Unsurprisingly, they are now calling for the USA to establish a permanent military presence in the region (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/d84e262e-0b2a-445a-8...99089). This presence will have great geostrategic importance in shaping the new Middle East project designed by Bush Jr. and will be paid by the USA plunder of Syrian oil. From a libertarian guerrilla force willing to build a new world, they are turning into a US proxy army with a pragmatic approach in their quest to build a new nation-state in the Middle East.
The gap between Kurdish theory and practice has turned into an unbridgeable abyss. Their rhetorical cry for freedom, autonomy and independence is contrasted by their alliance with imperialism and with the most backward monarchies in the world. That they see themselves into the Israeli mirror –a racist, supremacist and militaristic enclave State- should be enough to send shivers down the spine of progressives.
It is clear, at this stage, that what started as a promising revolution has degenerated. From freedom fighters, the Kurdish have turned into the USA proxy army. While all the world look with horror at Saudi Arabia and their genocidal war in Yemen and the barbaric mutilation and murder of journalist Kashoggi, the silence of the Kurdish speaks louder than words. How can you talk about women’s freedom when your allies, best friends, the forces of stability, are among the worst misogynists in the world and you are silent, completely silent, about their crimes at a time that even conservatives like Macron in France criticise their crimes in Yemen and the horrific Kashoggi affair? A truly revolutionary force would be allying with the Saudi women fighting for change and equality, not with the Prince and the King! How can you talk about autonomy when you are absolutely dependent on the USA and indeed you are calling for a permanent occupation of the region where you claim sovereignty? What type of self-determination comes out of the cannon of a foreign imperialist super-power? These are questions that progressives around the world should legitimately ask to the Kurdish liberation movement –solidarity should not obscure critical thinking. What’s more, our solidarity has been with a libertarian project which was represented at one point by the Kurdish, but we should be no slaves to their terrible decisions and become uncritical accessories to justify the construction of their own sectarian state.
We live in strange times, indeed.
We learned at lunchtime today of the tragic news that Alan MacSimóin has died. It was sudden and hit us hard. Alan was a social historian, political activist, trade unionist and great supporter of the Come Here To Me! project from day one.Alan first became interested in politics in the late 1960s as a young teenager. He said back in 2011:
I remember it as a time of optimism, modern ideas were challenging the conservative ones, the civil rights movement had brought out tens of thousands across the North, the Vietnamese were beating the mightiest military power on earth, the women’s movement was winning very real reforms.. Big change seemed possible.
While a secondary school student at Newpark Comprehensive School in South Dublin, Alan joined the youth wing of Official Sinn Féin. He recalls that the Special Branch visited his home and school in attempt to intimidate him as was common back then. Alan was centrally involved in the ‘Irish Union of School Students’ in the 1970s which at its height had 7,000 paid up members.
7-year-old Alan and a friend, both members of the William Thompson Republican Club, published a political magazine entitled ‘Red Rag‘ in 1975. Shortly later Alan resigned from the Official Republican Movement “because of its decision to regard the Soviet Bloc countries as “actually existing socialism” and to describe the 1956 Hungarian uprising as fascist.”
Alan became interested in libertarian socialist/anarchist politics and remained committed to these ideals until the day he died. In the 1970s, he was active with the anti-Nuclear movement and the Murrays Defence Committee.
A still from a television documentary showed Alan at a counter-demonstration in the face of a large anti-Traveller march in Tallaght, 1982.
He helped form the Dublin Anarchist Group (1978) and later the Anarchist Workers Alliance.
In 1984, Alan was a founding member of the anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement and for the next 26 years was involved in countless campaigns around trade union rights, migrant solidarity, anti-racism, anti-apartheid, anti-war and anti-Bin charges.
In the early 1990s, he acted as spokesperson for the Dublin Abortion Information Service and was active with the campaign for divorce in the 1995 referendum.
A life-long historian, Alan was involved with SIPTU’s Dublin District Committee in its 1913 and 1916 commemorations and was a founding member of the Stoneybatter & Smihfield People’s History Project. Launching the website irishanarchisthistory.com in 2011, this pet project of his was an amazing resource of Irish anarchist material from the 1880s until today.
In the last couple of years, Alan was heavily active with the ‘Stoneybatter Against the Water Tax’ and the Dublin Central branch of the ‘Together For Yes’ victorious campaign.
Alan was a political mentor and strong supporter of Come Here To Me! since we launched in 2009. He will be truly missed. A giant of a man, he managed to retain close friends from all strands of left-wing politics in Ireland.
Wed 16 Jan, 18:31
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