It could perhaps be argued that what brings much of the Third World together is a sense of pain, what the Koreans would call han, a sort of righteous indignation at the wrongs perpetrated upon the world. What brings the Third World together as Christian theologians is…the sense that God also shares in that han, that God, as the Bengali poet Tagore beautifully has it, is a God whose ‘robe is covered with dust,’ who somehow shares in the marginalization of non-people, and in the pain of the oppressed: but further, a God who is active in doing something about it in the process of human liberation.
John Parratt, An Introduction to Third World Theologies
might make some enemies with this, but i gotta say i find 99% of the discussion surrounding kurdish national liberation and its relation to Syria to be super frustrating.
am i in favor of kurdish national liberation? yes
do i think that it is more than a coincidence that u.s. leftists spend a hugely disproportionate amount of time talking one part of that liberation struggle that the u.s. military has a neutral-to-friendly relationship with? also yes
the u.s. has and will continue to coordinate with the YPG because the u.s. is still aiming for regime change in Syria. i don’t at all buy the narrative that u.s. support of Turkey (who of course are involved in their own efforts to quell Kurdish resistance) indicates that the u.s. is “pivoting” away from its support of the YPG. u.s. support of Turkey is nothing new and was the case before the civil war in Syria even started and has continued throughout the whole process. But from the perspective of the u.s. State, u.s. policy does not have to adhere to some logically consistent set of abstract principles. The u.s. has no difficulty supporting Turkey—even as the latter attempts to stamp out Kurdish resistance—at the same time that the u.s. supports the YPG because the u.s. will back any force that it perceives is going to forward u.s. interests in the region. The fact this results in a contradictory policy with regard to ISIS and really the broader project of Kurdish national liberation doesn’t bother the u.s. either—the u.s. is trying to keep its allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia happy while exacerbating instability in Syria in hopes of regime change there, all while “keeping a lid” on ISIS. It’s a messy strategy but just because it’s messy doesn’t mean the u.s. isn’t doing it.
And u.s. support of the YPG isn’t some cracked conspiracy theory, you don’t have to look any farther than what the YPG and its associated political party, the PYD, themselves say on the subject. These bodies have both readily acknowledged that they’ve coordinated on the ground with u.s. military forces. It’s not a secret that anyone’s keeping.
Pointing this out doesn’t mean you don’t support Kurdish national liberation either. See, the thing is, u.s. leftists throw around this monolithic picture of “the Kurds” and then they basically conflate “the Kurds” with the YPG and the struggle in Rojava. The YPG is however one body within an entire nation of people, and the liberation struggles in different parts of Kurdistan involve a number of different groups with different agendas and different politics. Acknowledging this is obviously an important part of actually treating Kurdistan as a real nation with its own political struggles which can’t be reduced to glossy presentations in western press. And what should also be obvious is that we can be critical and express concern about how the PYD and YPG seem not to believe u.s. intervention to be the greatest long term threat to their own liberation project—and how this puts the YPG in a position where it could end up in the aggregate advancing u.s. interests in the region—without condemning the whole notion of Kurdish national liberation. Kurdish national liberation is simply not immediately identical with the YPG.
At any rate, it’s not a coincidence that the YPG gets such a favorable presentation in u.s. media (and you’ve really got your head in the sand if you think this isn’t the case) and it’s troubling that u.s. communists mostly feed into that echo chamber without much critical analysis. I think it’s fine to draw attention to Kurdish national liberation of course, but there is a combination of things going on and it’s this precise combination that i think has a very negative effect: 1) in many cases the only liberation struggle people talk about is the one in Rojava (when there are many others around the globe that almost no one talks about), indicating that what people care about mostly follows what the ruling discourses dictate; 2) people share stuff about Rojava without any critical analysis of the overall balance of forces in the region and what role this struggle is objectively playing in the broader field; 3) people who object to presentation of the YPG as a stand-in for “the Kurds” and to the uncritical presentation of the YPG in general get shut down immediately. These three things together are what make a lot of the rhetoric in the u.s. left surrounding Rojava more-or-less just an amplifier for u.s. State apparatuses.
Also, as a general point, i think it is inappropriate for communists in imperialist countries to try to send materiel support to Third World liberation struggles either in the form of donations, shipments of goods, or sending people to join the fight (there might be some possible exceptions to the latter thing but in general i think it’s bad practice). This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but really, people in imperialist countries have the luxury of sitting back and “picking and choosing” what liberation movements to “support” in this kind of way. This is not only arrogant but materially, it is also what Kae Sera and E. Tani called “false internationalism,” in the sense that it ends up being yet another way in which political forces in imperialist countries attempt to “direct” the flow of liberation movements in the global South (regardless of whether this is the conscious aim of the imperialist-country “supporters” or not).
There is however a way in which communists in the u.s. can materially support all liberation movements in the Third World and that’s to resolutely oppose everything the u.s. does around the world and to actively work against whatever rhetoric and whatever policy the u.s. is dishing out. This is what the u.s. left still seems to struggle with, and on the subject of u.s. intervention in Syria in particular it has a really bad track record.
Revolutionary Feminist Bruja Consciousness in the 21st century requires a commitment to both cultural and economic radical theory and praxis.
Urban patriarchal culture and modern capitalism work in tandem to repress all youth. It isn’t difficult to identify the ways in which urban culture has developed patriarchy, yet the way in which it also advances capitalist ideology is both grotesque, ironic, and rarely addressed. Skateboarding, Music, Visual Arts, mediums the underground have dominated and used to incite critical consciousness, are indisputably dominated by men. Women are still seen and used as props and imagery by men. Meanwhile women who are participating artists are subject to harassment, tokenization, fetishization, and disrespect at the margins. What effects does this create on the labor and economic reality of urban women? Brujas, as revolutionary feminists seek to combat the subordinate and overly sexualized positioning of women by producing and representing ourselves authentically in media, however our goals as a collective should and do stretch beyond asserting our right to representation in urban culture. Representation in many ways connotes “buying in” to a system already designed to exploit the laborers that sustain it. Economic disruption is thus the most important element of our vision of social progress.
Despite living in an abundantly wealthy imperial center, we recognize that the post-industrial economic reality of urban working class youth is bleak. Repression as severe as pre-mature death and incarceration threaten our community on a daily basis while also leaving those “free and alive” trapped in the seemingly unavoidable monotony of the service industry.
It is our belief that male artists athletes intellectuals and entrepreneurs form cultural solidarity driven historically and often unconsciously by economic strategy. So while the seemingly endless number of groups of male friends may seem like a benign social phenomenon, these groups actually create channels for their own economic survival together, making their exclusivity more violent and dangerous for women creatives. Excluding women principally through cultural patriarchy ultimately deprives women of creative livelihoods, relegating working class women to a new kind of “domesticity.” Women’s recent participation in the workforce and democratic process has defined a new age of economic progress and independence for women. Yet, women in the global south comprise the overwhelming majority of factory and sweatshop workers. Meanwhile, young women working in the first world service industry clean cook organize and care-take for wages. Women may no longer be housewives but they are still performing predominantly servile labor. Every missing woman from your roster (from skate brands to record labels and lineups) is a missing participant in the creative economy.
We, as Brujas, encourage women’s participation in the creative economy. Yet we also draw from Marxist-Feminist, Anti-Racist, and Anarchist knowledge traditions to challenge our community to think more critically about scarcity and competition. There is no winning in a system designed to reward some and fail others. We reject Capitalism and the current state of reliance on scarcity and competition to produce everything from art to basic life necessities. Given the fact that it is the system that has simultaneously excluded and exploited us for its success we choose to build and imagine alternatives instead of obsessing over wealth, fame and success.
Obsession with success is in itself a dangerous form of materialism driven by capitalism. Everyday we wake up asking ourselves am I doing enough, am I killing it, am I doing something? We are inflicting pressure on ourselves to succeed in an economic system designed to fail us, and “doing something” usually means making some sort of art and getting recognition for it. It is unfortunate and sad to see young people in the process of rejecting the monotony of work under capitalism only to obsess over producing and selling art and cultural services. (Its like y’all want out of this shit, yet the avenues your taking still involve even more complex, self involved forms of commodification).
Marxism to the conscious revolutionary is one of the most important forms of political thought because it problematizes the commodification of labor, i.e. selling your labor. Have you ever thought to yourself, is it wrong that in order to survive I have to sell my time to somebody else who is making more value off of it than I am receiving in return? The gap between the value of what laborers produce and what compensation they receive (surplus value) is what drives capitalism. You know its weird and wrong to produce value for somebody else, You, I, and everybody else want to produce things themselves, and these things we self-produce usually take the form of cultural artifacts, or art. This is how fundamentally anti-capitalist sentiments bring us to artistry, the drive to self produce comes from an aversion to the exploitative structure of capitalism. However these sentiments are rarely given the space to breathe and manifest into full formed anti-capitalist ideas. These usually non-realized anti-capitalist urban youth start racing to be involved in the market of selling art. They start drowning in it, loosing sight of the quest for autonomy over their work and time and obsessing over market success. The market asks its merchants to compete with one another, and this competition drives artists to not only commodify their products, but now they must commodify themselves. In the context of the post-industrial service economy in the U.S, the rise of the personal brand can thus be seen as a phenomenon by which generational sentiments that reject traditional and exploitative labor relations are channeled back into capitalist valuing and commodification. The anti-capitalist sentiment driven by the desire to self-produce is almost completely lost in the whirlwind of competing in the market for success. Brujas is not this. We believe that Audre Lorde’s words are as relevant as ever, she reminds us that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” And with this reminder the revolutionary feminist bruja rises above the games by remembering that their goal is not success but autonomy. Brujas are harnessing the radical potential of lifestyle and personal branding to organize youth in a way that is culturally relevant and familiar, yet explicitly anti-capitalist. We are searching for a new popular model that is going to bring agency empowerment, material and emotional support to our community. All power to the people.
Our basic principles are informed by the movement for queer and transgender liberation, the movement for universal basic income, prison abolition, workers sovereignty, de-colonial and indigenous power, black power, third world liberation, environmentalism, holistic healing, and curanderismo, radical feminism and centuries of anti-capitalist resistance… to be continued.
Where do Indians fit into Asian American culture? Sometimes I feel like I'm considered like different and its confusing because? I'm Asian?
Yes! Indians are commonly referred to as part of a group called South Asians, or anyone from the Indian subcontinent of Asia. They, and you, are absolutely a part of Asian American culture and I would consider your voice integral to any discussion about Asian American experience.
The term “Asian American” is a relatively new one. It was coined in the 1960s during the black Civil Rights movement, by student activists of the Yellow Power, and Third World Liberation Front groups. Before the 1960s, most Asian Americans were very starkly divided along ethnic lines, and for good reason. If you look at the immigration waves in the late 19th century to 1965, they are almost all the result of mass labor importation to augment or replace existing workforces. For example, in Hawaii, Chinese labor was first used in conjunction with native Hawaiians to harvest sugarcane. When they became too organized, Japanese laborers were brought in to replace them. And then Filipino, then South Asian, so on and so forth.
During the Civil Rights movement, Asian student activists realized that even though we as Asians of various ethnicities have our differences, the vast majority of America as a whole views us as the same; and that HOW they view us is as “perpetual foreigners”. Therefore, it was in our best interest politically to act as a unified bloc than remain divided. This doesn’t mean that individual ethnicities don’t matter; they do and we must be aware of them. While Indian Americans share a great deal of the same issues with say Chinese Americans, we can’t ignore those of Hmong Americans who are struggling with a whole other set of issues.
This of course is a tricky idea. Pan-ethnic coalitions always are. A lot of the older generations hold very strong, and admittedly understandable, grudges against other Asian ethnics. My own family was very anti-Japanese for a long time because both of my grandfathers fought against them in WW2. It’s difficult. One of the paradoxes is that we want to maintain our ethnic individuality, but still be a part of a larger whole.
But I think we are beginning to realize that we are much more visible and politically powerful if we fight for each other. And I don’t mean just Asian Americans for other Asian Americans, but for black Americans, Latinos, Natives, etc.
So yes, you are Asian American. We want you to be Asian American.
Why SJP is not the Palestinian movement you think it is
SJP is a thorn in the side of Western-Based Palestinian movements in the same way that Oslo was a thorn in the side of popular Palestinian resistance movement within Palestine
SJP is literally a liberalized pro-Palestinian movement [frequently headed by white Americans] that is designed to be consumed by the West without having to pull them out of their comfort zone.
That’s not to say that decent SJP branches don’t exist, or branches headed by Palestinians, but the OVERWHELMING majority of them simply are not, and as a whole, SJP’s end-goal is BDS
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from or discussed with members of different BDS branches who spout washed down Western “solutions” and “suggestions” about our struggle as Palestinians, or have seen Palestinian refugees abandoned, or a two-state solution actually embraced, or armed resistance on the ground condemned.
SJP is the white-man’s Palestinian liberation movement, meant to contrast them against other Palestinian movement in which SJP is seen as the “reasonable, moderate movement for peace” while the others are all “crazy, radical A-rabs out for blood!!”
And the worst part is that many people with their hearts and minds in the right place are swept up into BDS with great intentions and ideas…only to be further liberalized or sucked into the pacification.
Prior to SJP, GUPS [The General Union of Palestine Students] was the leading power of the Palestinian diaspora movement. With a global presence, shit was done /throughout/ the world to advance the Palestinian movement while linking our struggle with our black and brown brothers and sisters.
GUPS was an active member of the Third-World Liberation Front, worked to set up the first Ethnic Studies departments in the US, advocated and contributed to the release of numerous Palestinian political prisoners, managed to have the ONLY Palestinian mural in all of the US painted on the San Francisco State University campus, among numerous other accomplishments in its 60+ years of active radical organizing.
Then Oslo came along, followed by the Intifada, which resulted in a literal GLOBAL crackdown on the organization, shutting down all but the most steadfast of branches [from several hundred, less than a dozen remain].
In the ashes of GUPS, SJP was formed as a more “tame” alternative, and it the fervent desire to pacify the radical Palestinian student movements throughout the US and Europe catalyzed the growth of SJP and resulted in what we have today.
SJP serves as a funnel, it takes those who would otherwise be involved in active, radical, on the ground liberation efforts throughout the US alongside our allies with various Black, Native, Filipino, and Latin@ organizations, and instead pacifies and molds that passion, that drive, and funnels it into BDS as the be-all-end-all.
Again, BDS is great
But it’s also a problem in that there is no step to be pursued AFTER it is passed. We all hear about the numerous BDS victories, and then that’s it. No attention is paid to the attempts to reverse the BDS victories, or the fact that many are victories in writing only, while the actual divestment in some cases doesn’t even occur, and that is a terrible, terrible thing that stunts our movement.
We all know that BDS serves to harm Israel, but the attention Israel is paying to BDS serves mostly to legitimize it in the eyes of these various student movements in order to dissuade them from pursuing other courses of action and grass-roots coalition-building efforts. It’s an effective scapegoat because it actually DOES harm Israel…while not harming it remotely enough or working to actually change the mindset of those around us.
So much of the confusion surrounding the dynamics of oppression within imperialist countries seems to be a result of black-and-white thinking and a reticence to acknowledge that a population can be oppressed in various ways and also benefit from the oppression and exploitation of others. Moreover there is often a reluctance to see how a population that is oppressed may—consciously or not—accept their domination because it allows them to continue benefiting from other aspects of the social order which they wish not to part with (e.g. women defending traditional roles because acceptance of these roles allows many First World women access to a higher living standard, etc.). Further still, it still seems to make many people angry when we point out that imperialism provides opportunities for oppressed people to mitigate their own oppression to an extent at the expense of others, and that this is a major component of an explanation for the social chauvinism in ostensibly “radical” movements of all forms across the history of imperialist countries.
To say that nearly the entire polity of imperialist countries is parasitic on the labor of the Third World is not to say that there is no oppression within the First World, nor is it to say that oppression does not produce conflicts which we can strategically intervene in to direct popular movements in progressive directions. It is to say that these points of conflict will drive revolutionary movements in the imperialist countries forward onlyif they are directed toward genuine anti-imperialism, in solidarity with Third World liberation movements, and with an aim to dismantle the First World as such and the very real, historical privileges that First World populations have gleaned.
So for example, although it is crucial to understand the dynamics of gender oppression, which is visible throughout the world including in the First World, this is not enough. It is also necessary for an anti-imperialist, feminist movement in the First World to interrogate how First World women benefit (as do the majority of people in general) from the exploitation and oppression of the Third World, including Third World women. It is necessary to examine how the demands of First World feminist movements historically and currently are a product of First Worldist ideology which obscures the connection between affluence and social mobility in the First World and brutal exploitation of Third World labor. That is to say, we must examine whether our demands accelerate the divide between First World and Third World women, or whether our demands actually challenge the broader imperialist, patriarchal system.
In other words, of course i think dissatisfaction with gender oppression is absolutely a point of conflict that First World communists can and should intervene in. However it is not enough that people are dissatisfied; it also matters whether they understand how they benefit from imperialism, and whether they understand the social forces which divide women along national lines, tending to give rise to feminist movements in the metropoles which may improve conditions for First World women, but do so at the expense of others. The point of such an interrogation is ultimately to avoid social chauvinist feminist movements, a task which is difficult but crucial.
The sort of analysis and self-reflection that is required for a revolutionary movement to develop seems still to be rather unpopular. It is difficult to look beyond one’s own borders, and every time an ostensibly “radical” movement pops up and becomes marginally popular, people just forget imperialism and start talking on a national(ist) basis again. It’s scary to me because the difference between First Worldist leftism and fascism are rather thin indeed, and imperialist-country leftists, even those claiming an anti-imperialist orientation, often don’t want to see that or interrogate their own (tacitly) chauvinistic world-view in any way.
I suppose however that things are improving in this regard, albeit slowly. In my own organizing i’ve witnessed an increasing awareness of the connection between Third World exploitation and First World affluence and a slowly increasing willingness to challenge our own biases, blind spots, chauvinisms, etc. But will this be enough to post a challenge growing populism and reaction? I worry about this often.