On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”
Tag Archives: Anarchism
The Syrian civil war has evolved into a proxy war involving an array of both regional and global powers. On one side, Iran, Russia, and now China have acted to stabilize the government of Bashar al-Assad, while on the other, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey, and the United States are backing anti-Assad rebels, in an effort to affect regime change in Damascus.
Yet the Syrian tragedy — which in five years of fighting has cost nearly half a million lives and provoked the largest refugee crisis since World War II — has brought to the fore forces that have muddied the waters for those powers seeking to oust the Assad government. While the West and its regional allies have sought to back what they describe as “moderate” rebels, the most effective military resistance to the Assad regime has come from a collection of radical Islamist groups. These have included Al-Qaeda’s local franchise, al-Jabhat al-Nusra, which recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an organization which seeks to impose a radical version of Islam on not only Syria but the entire Muslim world.
Source: Between Rojava and Washington
Billymark’s is the most working-class bar in Chelsea, if not all of Manhattan. On a Thursday afternoon in early March, union guys play darts as both TVs air a CBS report on the early days of Syria’s fragile cease-fire. A few minutes after five, Guy, 22, and Hristo, 23, walk in and we grab a booth next to a group of day-drunk FIT students. The minute we sit down, it’s clear something is different. The two men are vibrating with excitement.”You need a punch?” Guy asks me, as he always does at such meetings. He’s asking if I need his dime-size tool to pop the SIM card out of my iPhone — to prevent it from being surreptitiously turned into a microphone. He passes it across the table, and we all remove our SIM cards in silence. Then we turn our phones off — can’t be too careful.”So the first thing we should tell you is we bought our tickets,” Guy says. As usual for them, though, there’s been a hiccup. The bank has put a hold on Hristo’s credit card, suspecting fraudulent activity, so technically they have only one ticket. But after a year of planning, the moment is almost here.
Back in the 1990s Murray Bookchin, exponent of libertarian municipalism, articulated the need to develop a “new politics”, which is “unflinchingly public, electoral on a municipal basis, confederal in its vision and revolutionary in its character”.
The creation of a free “commune of communes” – something anarchists, especially Bakunin and Kropotkin, have fought for over the past two centuries – has always been envisioned as an ultimate manifestation of anarcho-communism, hence of a “new politics” based on libertarian municipalism.
Today, more than two decades later and in a completely different geography, the Kurds in Rojava/Northern Syria and Bakûr/Southeastern Turkey have become the new avant-gardes of the “commune of communes”.
The tragedy of the Kumamoto earthquakes has been covered a lot by now (including by myself in various radio and newspapers pieces). What do I personally have left to say about it? First a simple thing then a cute thing, then a ‘serious’ thing. Try not to change channels after the cute one, huh?
First, and very simply – I wish it would stop. The earthquakes are decreasing, but we are already on day 6 as I write this and there have been six or seven strong level 4 quakes tonight. In fact, just to prove the point, another hit right now – just as I typed the word ‘we’ in the previous sentence. About two hours ago there was a quake strong enough to get me up and running for the doorway (again!). So, mother nature – enough already. Come on! We here in Kumamoto, both Japanese and foreigners need to get on with our lives. Plus I haven’t a cup of tea with milk in it for 5 days now. I’m British – i need my milk tea. But there is simply no milk to be had, or bread, or a range of very normal ordinary food stuffs. I’ve still got no gas, like around 200,000 homes here. But at least I have water. Unlike around 200,000 homes here. But I’m already straying into the ‘serious’. Seems that I can’t help it.
When I set out a few years ago to write a book about Americans in the Spanish Civil War, one of the pleasures I looked forward to was the excuse to re-read, for perhaps the fourth or fifth time, one of my favorite books, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. His memoir of fighting in that war is one of the great nonfiction works of the 20th century. It vividly evokes the mixture of grime, boredom, and terror of his combat experience, and is a bravely honest account — something his readers on the left absolutely did not want to hear when Homage was published in 1938 — of the bitter factional fighting within the Spanish Republic.
Chances are you have already heard something about who anarchists are and what they are supposed to believe. Chances are almost everything you have heard is nonsense. Many people seem to think that anarchists are proponents of violence, chaos, and destruction, that they are against all forms of order and organization, or that they are crazed nihilists who just want to blow everything up. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists are simply people who believe human beings are capable of behaving in a reasonable fashion without having to be forced to. It is really a very simple notion. But it’s one that the rich and powerful have always found extremely dangerous.
At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how. The second is that power corrupts. Most of all, anarchism is just a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by, and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. Odd though this may seem, in most important ways you are probably already an anarchist — you just don’t realize it.
In this interview, independent filmmaker and journalist Zanyar Omrani talks to Janet Biehl about her late companion Murray Bookchin, her trips to Rojava and the important question of how to build bottom-up power structures without risking the reversal of the process over time.
Janet Biehl has traveled to Rojava twice in the past year and has written extensively about her experiences and observations while visiting the autonomous cantons in northern Syria. She is the author of the book Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin.
Zanyar Omrani has visited Rojava several times, where he documented life behind the front-lines of the struggle against ISIS. His documentary, Inside Kobane: Keeping Islamic State at Bay, was screened by the BBC.
At the end of April 1995, with just under a year left in the Unabomber’s nearly two-decades-long campaign of antitechnology violence, the New York Times published excerpts from a letter by the still-unknown, unnamed Ted Kaczynski in which he promised to “permanently desist from terrorist activities” if the Times or another nationally read publication printed his manifesto. The letter, like all of Kaczynski’s writing, was almost biblical in its moral pronouncements: technology is evil. The people who make technology are evil. Evil people deserve to die. People took from this only that the Unabomber was some kind of technophobe or Luddite or something—someone who hated modernity—and to get a more nuanced opinion, the Times sent a reporter to Eugene, Oregon, to interview a guy named John Zerzan.
Even then, Zerzan was probably the highest-profile anarchist in America. He was a fifty-two-year-old who earned his living as a babysitter. He lived in a housing co-op and didn’t own a credit card (even after computers became mainstream, Zerzan did most of his writing by hand). In appearance and temperament, he looked and sounded like Tommy Chong: a bearded baritone you could picture singing “Up in Smoke” while driving around with a doobie the size of a hot dog. If it weren’t for his two published collections of essays, Elements of Refusal and Future Primitive, Zerzan would have passed as another baby boomer with an aversion to adulthood. But in his writing, Zerzan espoused what is arguably the most extreme political philosophy on the planet: that the problem behind all the other problems—war, famine, disease, the environment—is civilization itself, and that the solution is to blow it up and start again.
For many people the idea of anticapitalism seems ridiculous. After all, capitalist firms have brought us fantastic technological innovations in recent years: smartphones and streaming movies; driverless cars and social media; Jumbotron screens at football games and video games connecting thousands of players around the world; every conceivable consumer product available on the Internet for rapid home delivery; astounding increases in the productivity of labor through novel automation technologies; and more.
And while it’s true that income is unequally distributed in capitalist economies, it is also true that the array of consumption goods available and affordable for the average person, and even for the poor, has increased dramatically almost everywhere. Just compare the United States in the half century between 1965 and 2015: the percentage of Americans with air conditioners, cars, washing machines, dishwashers, televisions, and indoor plumbing increased dramatically. Life expectancy is longer; infant mortality lower.