The Feminist Transformation in Radical Kurdistan
Review of Meredith Tax’s A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State
(New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2016)
After the fall of Aleppo, it’s only a matter of time until Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad fixates on the autonomous region of Rojava. As brutal civil war has devastated Syria and added to the massive refugee crisis, in Rojava—the predominately Kurdish region of northern Syria—a left-wing, feminist revolution is being carried out. This radical project has gained the support of a range of actors in the United States, with its combination of all-women militias; abandonment of the ethnic nation-state as the goal of revolution; and military victories over ISIS.
To be sure, the allure of far-away revolutions have led many to buyer’s remorse—including A Road Unforeseen’s author Meredith Tax, who visited Maoist China in 1973. Like many new Rojava supporters, Tax did not have a background in either Syrian or Kurdish politics, but was drawn to the struggle after seeing images of Kurdish women fighting in Kobane, the town in Rojava which fought off a bloody siege by ISIS from September 2014 to January 2015. Tax’s book is an on-the-fly intervention in an ongoing conflict. It smoothly shows many things at once, and she does a commendable job in creating a concise and readable account of this tangled situation. This includes: 1) the history of the Kurdish struggle, which spans multiple political parties in four countries; 2) the transformation of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from an orthodox Marxist-Leninist nationalist struggle into one advocating for feminist, multi-ethnic, political decentralization; 3) Rojava’s role in the Syrian civil war—infamous for its complex entanglement of multiple internal actors and numerous foreign governments; 4) the role of women in Kurdish society and political struggles; and 5) the evolution and spread of Al Qeada’s two offshoots in Syria, Al Nusra and ISIS.
Read the full review at Toward Freedom
The Trump administration’s reported new plan to change a federal program which combats violent “extremism” into a project focused exclusively on “radical Islam” looks like another step toward demonizing Muslims — while adding to concerns that the administration will actively empower open white supremacist groups. Reuters reports that multiple inside sources say the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program will be being renamed either “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”
Almost every year, the white supremacist movement is the political movement that kills the most Americans. (In the rare year that they don’t come in first, they come in second.) But, for many years now, the federal government has refused to focus resources on violent far-right groups. Instead, efforts have been poured into surveilling the Muslim community at large — even going so far as to entrap Muslims in order to arrest them. The FBI also spent years fixating on eco-saboteurs and animal liberation activists, even though they had not killed anyone. The far right, however, has gotten a relative pass. This is despite white supremacists having committed mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina and Oak Creek, Wisconsin; armed conflicts with patriot movement paramilitaries in rural Nevada and Oregon; and multiple police killings by sovereign citizens.
Read the full article at Truthout
I have a new piece up at Colorlines about the need to support and help expand the rural Left in the U.S.
“Everyone is familiar with the election map that shows the two Americas: a vast swath of red stretching across the country with a few blue patches clinging mostly to the coasts. This unbroken red block has been the cornerstone of what’s looking like a catastrophic political future for people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, health care, reproductive rights, civil liberties, Social Security, the environment, and the list goes on.
So its no surprise that debate is raging among progressives about the White working class people who voted for Trump. Should these voters be uniformly dismissed as racist deplorables or should progressives try to appeal to them with populism?
I think we should be asking another question: How can progressives break up the sea of red by creating a vibrant small-town and rural movement?”
Read the rest at Colorlines
I have a new piece out about the contemporary U.S. antifascist movement, and how it has changed from the last wave of ARA/RASH/etc groups in the ’80s and ’90s.
“The mainstream media have given a lot of coverage to today’s organized racist and fascist groups — especially the far-right coalition of fascists, white nationalists and other Trump supporters that refers to itself as the “alt-right” — but most media have ignored the new wave of antifascism. Antifascism has been around for as long as fascism has, and antifascists — also known as “antifa” — are mostly left-wing activists who track and counter-organize against fascists and other far-right activists. In the last year, the antifascist movement has grown exponentially in the United States. And the movement — which was the first to warn about the “alt-right” — has changed both in terms of the complexity of its approach, and composition of its membership, compared to its recent past.”
Read the rest at Truthout
“Where Do We Go From Here? Racism, Populism, Fascism and the Future of the Hard Right after the 2016 Election” – A Panel Discussion with Abby Scher, Sophie Bjork-James, Spencer Sunshine, and Chip Berlet
November 30, 2016
6:30 – 8:30 PM
CUNY Graduate Center,
Sociology Lounge, Room 6112
365 5th Ave (b/t 34th & 35th)
subways: Herald Square (B/D/F/M/N/Q/R/W) or 6 at 33rd St
The white supremacist movement and self-described Alt-Right used the Trump presidential campaign to amplify its message and swell its ranks. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and militia leaders are celebrating the Trump presidential win as a victory of their own. A panel of experts on right-wing media and movements will discuss what we can expect of the hard right after the stunning Trump victory and how to challenge it.
Crimes against immigrants and Muslims spiked and online harassment of Jewish commentators and journalists was widespread in the midst of the racist rhetoric of the campaign. A September 2016 study by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found that white nationalist use of social media now far exceeds the online presence of the Islamic State on virtually every social metric.
Join us for this important conversation.
This event is free and open to the public. Please note that the school will require you to present a photo ID and sign in when entering the building.
My German speaking tour went very well, and i’ll be in London for a couple talks next week:
Tuesday, November 15: London
The U.S. Radical Right in the Age of Trump
London Activist Resource Center
62 Fieldgate St, E1 1Es
Wednesday, November 16: London
U.S. Left/Right Crossover Movements
School of Social Science, History and Philosophy
28 Russell Square
Dreyfus Room (Room 202)
The U.S. Radical Right in the Age of Trump
In the United States, the campaign of Donald Trump has been a huge catalyst for the radical right. Patriot movement paramilitaries publicly brandish weapons to force the privatization of public lands and intimidate Muslims and refugees. Rightists are attacking Black Lives Matter protests with firearms, and violence has skyrocketed at counter-protests against fascists. White Nationalism is having its biggest growth in decades, and now includes new faces: intellectuals, hipsters, prison gangs, and Third Positionists. How will Trump’s presidency affect the furthest reaches of the far right? How will U.S. antifascists respond?
U.S. Left/Right Crossover Movements
In the last decade, many new forms of left/right crossover movements have developed in the English-speaking world. This includes the spread of new forms of Third Positionism, Julius Evola’s influence, popular mobilizations against finance capital, conspiracy theories, doctrines of racial separatism on the Left and Right, the spread of anti-semitism, and the popularity of Sovereign Citizen pseudo-legal theories. In music, there has been a spread of Rock Against Communism, fascist neofolk, and black metal (NSBM) bands. What do these movments say about the Left and Right as distinct political forms, and how have traditional political actors responded to them?
I’ll be a doing a speaking tour in Germany leading up to the US elections, as well as a couple dates in London. There are two different talks I will be giving: one is on the U.S. radical right in the age of Trump, and the other is on U.S. Left/Right crossover movements (which in Germany is recognized as an issue for the Left, more than in the U.S.).Read More »