Op-ed by Noaman G. Ali
The recent elections in Nepal appear to spell a heavy retreat for the country’s Maoist movement. After initiating a People’s War in 1996 that lasted ten years and saw it in control of the majority of the countryside, the popular Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) formed a front with mainstream political parties to overthrow the monarchy and institute a democratic republic in the 2006 People’s Movement. Thereafter, the CPN(Maoist) emerged as the largest party in the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections.
However, by November 19, 2013, the date of the second set of CA elections, the party had split into two factions that both appeared to have failed in their goals. On one hand, the reformist, electoral Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or UCPN(Maoist), lost much of its support and was reduced to third-party status in the new assembly. On the other hand, the election boycott called by the revolutionary Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) is alleged to have failed, seeing as there was a “record” turnout of voters (as we will see, the reality is more complex).
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist (UML), which despite its name does not pretend to have revolutionary or even broadly progressive politics, has come in second place after the Nepali Congress, whose politics is hard to tell apart from that of the UML. Their victory then seems like a gain for the right in Nepal.
But putting elections at the centre of our analysis can take away from understanding politics in Nepal. Dramatic changes in Nepal’s recent political history have occurred as a result of non-electoral politics that have often been spearheaded by or have involved considerable popular communist agitation. What’s more, Maoists came third in the 1991 elections (with 9 seats) and boycotted elections in 1994 and 1999, but that didn’t stop them from becoming the country’s largest and most influential political force by 2006.
Let us then turn to understanding four questions: First, what led to one Maoist faction engaging in elections and the other deciding to boycott the CA process in its entirety? Second, what were the reasons for the boycott called by the CPN-Maoist? Third, why did UCPN(Maoist) lose the elections? Fourth, was the CPN-Maoist boycott a failure?
By the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front
As Venezuela faces yet another attempt by the Right-wing opposition to create political, economic and social turmoil in the wake of the upcoming municipal electoral process, the Hugo Chávez People’s Defense Front of Canada, organized a 5 City speaking tour with Katrina Kozarek from the Comuna Socialista Ataroa in Lara, Venezuela. According to organizers, the purpose of this tour was not only to bring attention to the renewed destabilization campaign against Venezuela, but also to show exactly what this process of building peoples power in Venezuela looks like from the ground.
According to Santiago Escobar, of Barrio Nuevo and the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, the speaking tour had the intention “to promote the accomplishments of the Bolivarian revolution, especially the socialist communes, which are concrete experiences of popular power from below and to the left, also with the intention of creating a network for educational and information interchange as an alternative to the information created by mass corporate media”.
Since 2006 Venezuela has begun to create a new ‘geometry of power’ in an effort to deepen and fortify the Bolivarian Revolution. This has meant the application of direct democracy through participation in economic, social and political planning and decision making from the grassroots, local organizations building towards a ‘communal state’.
At the neighbourhood level, laws were passed providing guidelines for the people to organize themselves into communal councils comprising of up to 400 families in a defined geographic area. Once formed through a democratic process that invites and includes all people living in this area, the communal council decides the identity of the area (including the name), elects spokespeople and defines the neighbourhood priorities. Importantly, it can also obtain funds in order to meet its assessed needs. Since the passing of the Law of Communal Councils in 2006, over 33 000 communal councils have been registered and over $2 Billion transferred from the central government directly to these communities for projects ranging from repairing of stairs and roads, to neighbourhood sports facilities, to cooperatives producing shoes and bricks.
In 2010, the Law of Communes was passed, which outlined the process for neighbouring communal councils to come together to take greater control over their area. Over 1100 communes have been registered to date.
Kozarek, who is part of the Ataroa Socialist Commune which comprises a territory which includes roughly 30 000 families, describes the communes “as the primary defense strategy of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela that promises to bring the country to the point of no return towards a truly democratic, and socialist future, creating an infrastructure for direct participation from a grassroots level, as well as promoting local and national production and self-sustainability.”
Kozarek acknowledged the fact that this process is still in construction and that capacity of Venezuela to resist the economic and other forms of sabotage is extremely important for the future of Venezuela and all of the countries and popular movements that have come together under the platform of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America (ALBA) to resist imperialism in the region and build a model that moves away from neoliberalism.
The tour started off in the University of Toronto on the 7th of November, passing through Guelph University, Centro Hispano de York, Kitchener, Ottawa and finishing off in Montreal. The diversity of organizations, individuals and groups that participated in the events, joined in the call to participate in a solidarity social network created by community media and social movements of ALBA in Venezuela, called the Cayapa Communicacional, to share information and counter-act the opinions and information disseminated by the opposition and their supporters on an international level.
by Steve da Silva
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have boycotted the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka last week, but he still managed to reach the summit of hypocrisy.
Harper confirmed in October that it was with “somewhat of a heavy heart” he would be boycotting the meeting due to Sri Lanka’s human rights record, the specifics of which he was vague. Harper cited extra-judicial killings and the ongoing intimidation and incarceration of political opponents and journalists as reasons, but he remained made no direct reference to Tamils, the genocide they experienced in 2009, and the ongoing oppression they face in Sri Lanka.
Of course, media sources (here, and here) in Canada were quick to pick up on the fact that the diplomatic move was a clear gesture to Canada’s Tamil population, the largest Tamil diaspora in the world with nearly 300,000 people. Toronto is now home to the majority of this population, with a very active community in ridings that the Conservatives would like to cultivate a base in.
Toronto-area Tamil activist and BASICS occasional correspondent Pragash Pio, who has long supported Indigenous people’s struggles in Canada and has worked to develop relations of solidarity between the Haudenosaunee nation (of Six Nations) and the Tamil community, told BASICS that “Harper’s criticisms of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights record and subsequent ‘boycott’ of the [Commonwealth meeting] in Sri Lanka is electoral opportunism and political hypocrisy. Tamil’s make up a significant voting bloc in key ridings in Toronto and are known to be a well organized community with higher then average voter turn out and Harper’s is courting them with this personal boycott.”
Sri Lanka shot back last week, with government officials reported to be citing Harper’s move as a way to placate Tamil Tiger activists in Canada. A ridiculous charge, to be sure, considering that Canada has prosecuted people with alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and even dismissed that a genocide ever occurred in 2009 (as this would place Canada under obligations to recognize the country’s refugees). However, cultivating a Conservative base of support amongst Tamils – that’s another thing entirely.
In 2009, the Sri Lankan state has launched a war of annihilation on its minority Tamil population that consisted of a 5-month campaign of indiscriminate shelling and bombing of the north coast, which is home to a majority of the Tamils. The campaign included the deliberate targeting of safe zones, hospitals and schools. The outcome was the death of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, even if the main objective was the decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which many Tamils recognized as their legitimate national organization. Civilians that survived the government onslaught were forced into detention, and some 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were imprisoned in state-run concentration camps.
For its part, the Canadian government aided Sri Lanka in this war by adding the LTTE to its list of designated terrorist organizations in 2006, and days later raided the offices of the World Tamil Movement, which it also listed as a terrorist organization in 2008. During the course of the genocide, Canada sent aid money to Sri Lanka and demonized Tamils in Canada who were in the streets as “terrorist supporters” for trying to bring attention to the killings in their homeland. Refugees desperately fleeing the genocide were halted, and the claims to be refugees were dismissed as frivolous.
Pio was in Vancouver (Coast Salish territories) this past week speaking alongside Indigenous, Palestinian and other solidarity activists at a series of events called “Criminalizing People’s Liberation Movements: Scrap the So-called Terrorist List.” The events also featured Toghestiy, a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en nation who has been involved in the Unis’tot’en Camp. In an interview with BASICS over the phone, Pio also linked Tamil oppression to Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people: “There is also the hypocrisy of the Canadian state accusing the Sri Lankan state of human rights abuses against the Tamil Nation such as land theft, torture, illegal detention, and systematic sexual violence against women when the Canadian state has similar patterns of abuse against First Nations.”
While some Tamils may have appreciated the little boost that Harper’s boycott may have given to their struggle for the recognition of the 2009 genocide, Pio sees it differently: “There has been no significant change in the Canadian state’s position on Tamil refugees, deportations to Sri Lanka, and illegal detentions. The CBSA is rigorously contesting in hearings the status of many of the Tamil refugees who arrived by the MV Sun Sea and MV Ocean Lady. There are two cases of deported refugees being tortured, and one murdered because of the CBSA’s collusion with the Sri Lankan security in labeling en masse Tamil refugees as terrorists and security threats has already been discovered.
Canada’s boycott of the Commonwealth summit is especially hypocritical in the face of Canada’s dismissal of some of the findings and recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Ayana, who toured First Nations communities and met with Indigenous nations in early October. Anaya issued strong criticisms of Canada’s “adversarial approach” to land claims, the ongoing issue of missing and murdered native women, and Canada’s rushing ahead with the First Nations Education Act. Canada has also continued to resist calls for an Inquiry into missing and murdered, which was among Anaya’s recommendations.
by International Women’s Alliance
Close to 80 women and their allies turned out to the International Women’s Alliance meeting in New York, October 5, 2013, hosted by local member groups including the Women’s Fightback Network and Gabriela USA.
The meeting came on the heels of a successful 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees that had culminated in a rally in front of the United Nations the day before.
The women were primed to talk about the pressing issues of women in the Americas and the need for international solidarity between women’s organizations within the Americas and globally.
After a short video presentation of the last March 8 rally in New York City organized by the International Working Women’s Day Coalition, the meeting chaired by IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, Monica Moorehead and began with a short slide-show orientation on IWA, its origins and history by Marie Boti of Montreal Québec, Secretary General of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA).
This was followed by Brenda Stokely, a leader of Million Workers March and IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, who spoke about the Coalition’s IWD initiatives since 2005 including paying tribute this past March to two Black freedom fighters, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. She also pointed out the need to create a display for various communities on the amounts spent on the war and military budget that could be spent to meet human needs for food, housing and social services.
Monica Moorehead of Women’s Fightback Network (Executive Committee member of IWA) spoke about the importance of Can We Live demands like health care, education, childcare, etc. and connecting these overall demands to high-profile cases such as Marissa Alexander, a Florida African-American mother of three and survivor of domestic violence, serving a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her estranged abusive husband.
Gwen Dobrow, from the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, spoke on the case of Lynne Stewart, a terminally-stricken human rights lawyer in prison for her stalwart defense of a client.
A student from the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee spoke about the campaign against growing militarization inside the U.S., with on-campus recruitment for the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) and the hiring of high profile former military commanders like David Petraeus to teach on campuses. This same student was arrested for a recent protest against Petraeus.
There were also representatives from Fanmi Lavalas, a Haitian group based in Brooklyn and Transport Workers Union Local 100.
Women participants got up to share their struggles: Lucia, an undocumented woman from South Africa told how an abusive husband forced her and her daughter to flee to the US; Mavie, a Filipina, talked about how she had survived human trafficking and was becoming empowered by the support of her community. Kendall Jackson from Picture the Homeless spoke about the 100,000 women and children in New York who were homeless. “The average homeless person is not a drug addict or a criminal, it is people like me and my daughter,” she said.
Jennine Ventura of Gabriela USA spoke about the Millions of Migrants mobilization which started October 2 with a flash mob dance in Manhattan, Hong Kong, and other cities and leading to a concluding event on International Migrants Day, December 18. Actions across the USA for migrant justice and legalization of the undocumented will take place while the US Congress discusses a bill for immigration reform.
Elaine Vilasper of Gabriela USA said the lack of decent jobs in migrants’ home countries that pushes them to leave to survive is a form of violence. “This is created by economic policies that try to kill our spirit,” she said.
Tess Tesalona from the Immigrant Workers’ Centre in Montreal, an IWA member organization, spoke about how IWA groups in Montreal were linking issues from members’ home countries with their conditions locally, with campaigns about mining aggression by Canadian corporations abroad and at home, and exploitation of sweat shop labour in the countries of origin and locally.
Rita Acosta of the Movement Against Rape and Incest in Montreal, a founding member of IWA, reported about the IWA member groups in Mexico and Ecuador dealing with issues like gender violence and opposing mining aggression.
Evelyn Calugay of Pinay Québec an association of Filipino domestic workers, spoke about the successful battle at the International Labor Organization to have domestic work recognized as work. “Now the countries have to adopt and apply that recognition, which is not easy. For example, Canada and the USA have yet to sign the Covenant to protect the rights of Migrants and their Families.” she said.
Marie Boti pointed out many of these issues were part of on-going campaigns underway with IWA, including the campaign against War and militarization, as the US shifts its focus from the Middle-East to Southeast Asia, accompanied by growing pressure on countries like the Philippines to build and re-activate US and foreign military bases.
A campaign to demand liberation of all women political prisoners has also been taken up by IWA internationally. The Oct. 5 meeting agreed by consensus to coordinate global IWD events in 2014, all supported by IWA.
IWA Book Project
Boti spoke about a major IWA book project, which would gather information about the issues of women and their experiences dealing with these on the ground in different regions where IWA is present.
IWA would produce a unified framework to put together data and testimonials about these issues and women’s resistance strategies, as well as input from progressive women academics. This project would be developed in line with IWA outreach and consolidation in each region. Fund-raising is underway for this project.
(NOTE: Those interested should get in touch with their local IWA groups for more information.)
Women at the meeting resolved to improve their linkages, share information on the International Women’s Alliance web site, Facebook, and send each other solidarity messages for special events.
A tool kit was made available to all, which included the Manila Declaration of Unity, the IWA Constitution and an application for membership for new groups.
Those present also agreed to move towards the establishment of a regional chapter of IWA Americas in the next year.
The upcoming visit in November 2013 of Lina Solano, an indigenous leader from the IWA group in Ecuador, Women’s Front Defenders of the Pachamama, would be another opportunity to bring together the IWA network in New York.
The meeting adjourned with a rousing chant session led by the dynamic head of International Affairs for Gabriela USA and IWWD Coalition co-coordinator, Irma Bajar, followed by a group photo.
Please see some of the photos at this link:
Also visit the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) web site at http://www.internationalwomensalliance.wordpress.com
NEW YORK, NY—Over 350 migrants and refugees from across Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America gathered in New York City October 1-5 for the 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR4).
The IAMR4 week of activities included a one-day dialogue between migrants, refugees, and church representatives, a press conference and flash mob in Washington Square Park followed by 3-day conference at St. Patrick’s Church in Long Island City.
“We are gathering just 3 miles away from the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development [UN HLD], where state governments are discussing how to manage the lives of 215 million migrant workers worldwide to meet their 2015 Millennium Development Goals. But they don’t want to hear from us migrants about how their policies really affect us and our home countries,” states Eni Lestari, Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the main convener of the IAMR4 and an Indonesian domestic worker working in Hong Kong since 1999.
“The UN HLD claims migration can be managed as a tool for development, but what kind of development do they mean when our home countries are getting poorer and migrants are facing greater exploitation? The IAMR4 is the international grassroots-level dialogue of migrants and refugees who can speak for ourselves and can speak on what our home countries need for genuine development,” Lestari continued.
Highlights from the assembly also included a visit from Cuban mission representative to the United Nations, Ariel Hernandez, who delivered greetings in person to a packed assembly hall, and a cultural performance by Bronx hip-hop activists Rebel Diaz.
March to the United Nations
After the first day of workshops, IAMR4 launched a 400+ march from Times Square to the UN Headquarters where the UN HLD was taking place.
IAMR4 representatives who registered to UN HLD walked out on the first day and joined the march when efforts to assert genuine migrant voices inside proved futile.
Chanting “We are workers! We are not slaves!” the IAMR4 march first passed through the consulates of the Dominican Republic, where the march was joined by Frente Amplio President Fidel Santana, and of Nigeria, where IAMR4 keynote speaker and Nigerian refugee Rex Osa-Aghedo led a spirited rally.
“Migration should not be treated as a tool for development but rather as a development concern which should be addressed in the post-2015 agenda,” stated Garry Martinez, Chairperson of Migrante International, an alliance of Filipino overseas organizations and IAMR4 convener. “Migration, as a choice or an obligation for family survival, should serve as a measure to see whether development goals are working.”
Marchers passed through Dag Hammarskjold, down First Avenue until they reached the front of the UN Headquarters building. It was the first time since 9/11, protesters were able to march down the heavily police-barricaded First Avenue to demonstrate at the UN.
Speakers at the IAMR4 rally in front of the UN included Fidel Santana, Frente Amplio President of the Dominican Republic, and Saul Arellano, son of IAMR4 spokesperson Elvira Arellano, who became a symbol of undocumented immigrants in the US in 2006 when she defied a federal deportation order and sought sanctuary with Saul in a Chicago church.
March for Genuine US Immigration Reform
Responding to the national day of action for US immigration reform, IAMR4 delegates marched for genuine comprehensive immigration reform across the Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday, October 5.
“The US must lead the way in how it treats its immigrants and foreign workers with dignity and respect, and we immigrants need to be in the forefront of this struggle,” stated Terrence Valen, President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), an IAMR4 convening organization.
Chanting “Whose Bridge? Our Bridge!” the IAMR4 march called for legalization and denounced deportations, militarization of the borders, and neoliberal trade policies.
“If Obama wants to get rid of undocumented immigrants, he should first stop pushing policies that wage war and plunder our home countries, that force us to migrate,” Lestari stated, explaining US immigration reform can never be genuine without addressing the root causes of forced migration.
IAMR4 delegates capped off a successful assembly and march at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge near City Hall with a flash mob dance entitled “Millions of Migrants Mobilizing Worldwide.”
For pictures, videos, and more information on the IAMR4, visit www.iamr4.com.
by Steve da Silva – Co-produced with Two Row Times
The verdict couldn’t be clearer: we are destroying and degrading the Ocean at a pace not even anticipated by the experts just two years ago.
This is the forecast of the Global State of the Oceans Report, by a body of the world’s leading marine scientists along with international marine governance officials. The report takes a holistic, “earth systems” approach to studying the state of the oceans, as opposed to artificially isolating problems into specific locales or species.
The ocean makes up one of the primary systems in Earth’s overall ecological system, and the report acknowledges that its role as an overall regulator is being compromised by human activity.
The report warns, “the window of opportunity to take action is narrow. There is little time left in which we can still act to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to marine ecosystems as we see them today.”
Many may think that the most immediate threats to the ocean are coming from industrial pollutants and overfishing – which are indeed major problems. The 80-90 million tons of fish caught every year is rapidly depleting fish stocks and the larger food webs they are a part of. Meanwhile, pollutants from profit-driven industrial activities and agricultural run-off are depleting the oxygen levels in in the ocean and creating large “dead zones”.
Yet, the greatest threat of all to the Ocean’s role in the earth system is climate change. As carbon emissions rise, so too is the extent to which they are absorbed by the ocean, which is leading to ocean acidification with disastrous consequences for marine life.
Yet, while the writing on the wall spells out Earth-system collapse if drastic changes are not made to our economy’s relationship to the Earth, the report falls short of putting forward the radical solutions needed, pointing instead in the direction of policy actions within the same economic system. It comes as little surprise, given the reports main audience are “policy makers,” which is to say mostly people invested in the status quo.
The report concludes that “Without decisive and effective action, no region or country will be immune from the socioeconomic upheaval and environmental catastrophe that will take place – possibly within the span of the current generation and certainly by the end of the century. It is likely to be a disaster that challenges human civilisation.”
by Saraswati Ali, writer and lawyer in Toronto
The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar by Amrit Wilson
Pluto Press, 2013. 192pp. Paperback. African Studies. CDN$ 32.56 at Amazon.ca
The Threat of Liberation returns to the tumultuous years of the Cold War, when, in a striking parallel with today, imperialist powers were seeking to institute ‘regime change’ and install pliant governments… The book also draws on US cables released by Wikileaks showing Zanzibar’s role in the ‘War on Terror’ in Eastern Africa today. – Pluto Press, Publisher
The Threat of Liberation reflects on the history of a party which confronted imperialism and built unity across ethnic divisions, and considers the contemporary relevance of such strategies.
In her first book on the topic, US Foreign Policy and Revolution (1989), Amrit Wilson, feminist activist and writer based in London, UK, discussed how this union of regions was orchestrated by the U.S., who was desperately attempting to prevent Zanzibar from becoming the Cuba of Africa, spreading dissent and revolution through the continent.
In her new book, The Threat of Liberation, Amrit Wilson tells us what the U.S. was so scared of – the Umma party, its characteristic leader A.M. Babu, and the leadership’s dedication to fostering multiracial unity, socialism in Africa, and independent relations with China and the Third World.
Wilsons delves into the historical details of 1950s and 1960s Zanzibar through records and interviews with the few leading activists who have not been murdered or died. A.M. Babu has also left extensive writings which form the guiding spirit of the book. It is an important tale of an attempted revolution, in the midst of the Cold War. It conveys how the presence of an organized and principled Umma party, and especially a youth wing, helped convert a revolution led initially by “lumpen” elements into a focused revolutionary government.
However, the process was only allowed a few months before it was hijacked by Julius Nyerere under orders from the U.S. Nyerere was a pro-West leader. He led a one-party state which governed Tanganyika and then Tanzania from 1961 to 1985.
Zanzibar became relegated to dominion status within the union, and a viciously oppressive and racist (anti-Arab and anti- Asian) clique was permitted to govern Zanzibar. All the Umma activists were either murdered, tortured and jailed for years. Hundreds of women suffered forced cross-racial marriage and rape by the ruling party in the early years.
As and when opportunity presented itself, and when he was not imprisoned, Babu continued to cultivate links with radicals, including Malcolm X. They spoke together at rallies in Harlem, and Babu influenced Malcolm X into adopting an anti-imperialist perspective.
In the second half of the book, Wilson uses Wikileaks released material to bring the story to the present and to look at how and why Zanzibar continues to present itself to the paranoid U.S. as a threat – this time because of its masses of unemployed Muslim youth sitting on…. an abundance of natural gas and oil. Talk in foreign intervention circles is ongoing regarding “allowing” Zanzibar to secede – this time as a disciplined workground for SEZs coupled with oil extraction monopolies.
In this section, Wilson takes us through the contours of the horrific current processes of recolonization of Africa with the descent of multinational extraction companies and donors like vultures on the land, in search of gas, oil, valuable metals, and minerals. It is a very important story to hear because it tells of the contrasting methods of the Western powers (including Norway usually touted for its wonderful social democratic state) compared to China, who is also gaining access to the oilfields, but through setting up long-lasting infrastructure projects which could potentially bring benefits to African development.
One of the most important aspects of revolutionary struggle that Wilson discusses at some length is the nature of the underlying vision – what did Babu and other radicals in the PanAfrican movement want. This is best seen as what Babu attempted on one occasion – he went to Indonesia in 1964, then a major importer of Zanzibar’s cloves. A tri-lateral trade cum industrial agreement was made, where Zanzibar would provide Indonesia with cloves, Indonesia would provide East Germany with raw materials of equal values, and Germany would provide Zanzibar with industrial tools and machinery. By the time he returned to Zanzibar, however, Nyerere had taken over, with no vision of development for Zanzibar. Later, however, Babu did manage to get the Chinese to offer Tanzania the historical Tanzania-Zambia railway. This permitted Zambia to be able to export its copper from a port outside of racist South Africa. Hence Zambia could partially de-linking from the imperial-controlled routes and take an autonomous stance on apartheid. The World Bank and the U.S. government had refused to finance this railroad.
Wilson also offers us a debate between the African socialism model of Nyerere and the socialism in Africa model of Babu. The former, with its romantic rhetoric of pre-colonial class-less Africa, had no concept of how to raise the necessary capital for the welfare it wanted to deliver. The model became implemented as an authoritarian system of top-down rule leading to the impoverishment of the peasantry on the other as they were compelled to live in collectives under terms of austerity with no infrastructure, market, or subsidy. A.M. Babu and the Umma party, long dissolved, could not put into practice or refine their own vision, but Wilson at the end of her book imagines what it might look like in the contemporary context: where the extraction of oil and gas in Zanzibar is controlled by and used to benefit the people; such that illiteracy and poor health can be relegated to the past; and housing , education and employment a birthright to all. She does not tell us if anyone is discussing these ideas with the ‘radical Muslim’ youth in Zanzibar, but perhaps that is one reason why she wrote this important book.
Documentary Review by Ashley
I had the pleasure of attending the documentary film screening and director’s presentation of a fascinating film “Tied in a Knot: Narratives from Bride Seeking Regions of India”. It examines the newly emergent phenomenon of bride buying and commoditization of the female body in India, and the attendant gender based violence that the sourced, bought, or trafficked brides undergo in their marital homes, directed by Reena Kukreja and her team.
The documentary was the fruit of Reena Kukreja’s 2 year journey travelling to 226 villages and interviewing over 56 brides, their respective families, and people living in the surrounding villages. Some of the main issues highlighted in this film are patriarchal influences, as well as the socio-economic impacts that neoliberalism and imperialism have on women and their communities in poor rural areas in India. The film is not only a geographic journey, but one of self-discovery and rich political analysis that attempts to go beyond the ‘othering’ of the Northern India’s rural women and focusing on the greater socio-economic forces that contribute to a tendency to look at India through a narrow lens. The film provides a holistic view of the situation in India from the subtle changes in perspectives of the caste system that force men from one state to find brides in a different geographical location regardless of their caste, to the greater imperialist forces like ‘tied aid’ and rapid industrialization that have contributed to severe poverty in rural areas.
What was most compelling were the diverse stories that came from this project. The film did not hold a one-sided view that all Indian women are ‘coerced’ into these marriages. While anti-Trafficking units have been created, Reena insists that trafficking only happens in a small percentage of cases and that most people choose to be married off into families outside of their homes because of other reasons. She asserts the importance of not placing all women in the ‘trafficked’ category and in ‘need of saving’. She speaks to class and caste issues, along with the larger legislative policies that dictate ‘equal’ treatment of people, but rarely is put into practice. In fact, she further researched the impact of lax policies that lead to an increase in gender-based violence (ie, disappearances, kidnapping, rape and assault).
In the discussion, Reena also raised the importance of examining whose stories and issues are brought to justice and profiled in the media, such as the Delhi rape case of a middle-class woman which received a great deal of media attention and a large outcry from the ‘community’ in contrast to those whose stories and lives are not treated with that same importance. For example, Dalit women, who are among the lower classes, face gender-based violence everyday but their stories do not garner the attention.
The film highlights the “family planning” campaign that came out of Donor Aid (with developments in reproductive technologies with their structural adjustment policies and aid from the UN) to ‘control’ the population by introducing ultrasound machines in communities. Coupled with male preference and female feticide, this has led to a ‘female shortage’ in many states, alongside poverty that affect communities in ways that lead men to look out of state for brides. There are a small group of people that are indeed trafficking women and girls within the regions that she explored. Reena critically looks at the the real intentions and agenda the anti-trafficking units funded by the Western countries, and their approach to ‘save the brown women from their ‘savage’ native husbands’ to ‘liberate the women’.
Interestingly enough, caste rules are being broken because of migratory bride selection because men are desperately looking for brides to fulfil their need for free labour – in the fields and bearing children (sons) that will eventually inherit their land. Women make up 80% of UNPAID, productive labour, from agricultural, daily work, childcare and household chores. The film captures all sides of the story and is a powerful testament to the resiliency of women who will do almost anything to uphold the honour of their family.
“Tied in a Knot” are stories of women that travel long distances, away from their family, language, traditions and community. It speaks to their loneliness and isolation, racism, abuse and exploitation. It looks at intersections of globalization, greed, industrialization and market economies, poverty, and its connection to how all of these things affect people and exacerbate the struggles of daily life.
The screening was hosted by the Education Committee of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly (GTWA) and Centre for Feminist Research (CFR) at York University. The film is available on the Directors website: http://www.tamarindtreefilms.com/film-store.php
by Hassan Reyes
Within the murky and increasingly violent landscape of the civil war in Syria, there is a tough reality for progressive, internationalist-minded people in identifying an ally. Given that the lion’s share of fighting continues to be between the Syrian government and military (which, up until prior to the Arab Spring, had been collaborating with the ‘War on Terror’) and Western imperialist-backed rebels (including operatives and fronts with recognized ties to Al Qaeda), the prospects for Syrians appear bleak. This is especially true if the US and their NATO allies, including Canada, get their way and a bombing campaign, comparable to one that was unleashed on Libya, gets authorized.
However, an overlooked factor and player, within this conflict, are the over 2 million Kurds in Syria’s North-east region. Their role as political actors provides not only some much needed insight into the devolution of this internal conflict, but also some hope for a peaceful outcome that will benefit the majority of Syrians.
The Kurds in Syria
Representing roughly 10% of Syria’s population, Syrian Kurds are concentrated on the border of Turkey and Iraq, which represent the historic concentrations of Kurds in the region.
Kurdish settlements in the north of Syria can be traced to the 11th century and increased throughout the period of the Ottoman Empire. When the French took over the region following the defeat of the Ottoman in World War I, the Kurds were provided with rights, by the French, in order to recruit minorities into its military ranks.
Once Syria was declared a Republic, Kurds were largely stripped of their cultural and social rights, including citizenship, following the 1962 Jazira census and the Arabization of the north of Syria in the following years. Since being stripped of citizenship, many Syrian Kurds, who were now declared ‘alien’, lost numerous rights, such as the dispossession of land. Current estimates of stateless Syrian Kurds range from 200 000 – 400 000.
Since its declaration as an Arab Republic in 1961, Syrian governments that followed failed to recognize and reinstate cultural and social rights for Kurds, including language rights. Mass demonstrations, asserting these rights, often ended with repression against the Kurdish masses. Examples of this would be the Newroz protests in 1984, which lead to 4 people being killed by Syrian security forces, as well as the Qamishli massacre in 2004, where 65 people were killed and more than 160 were injured in riots that followed a soccer match between a Kurdish-supported team and an Arab-supported team.
Kurdish organizations, most of which had remained illegal, were among the first to join the demonstrations in Syria, in 2011. Representative for the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in Latin America, Mehmet Ali Dogan, confirmed that the organizations allied with the PKK operating in Syria “were part of the initial demonstrations”. In the latter half of that year, a Syrian Kurd politician, Maashal Tammo, was assassinated in his apartment. While Tammo’s family blamed the Syrian government, the PKK believed that this type of assassination had the trademark of a Turkish operation.
Since the beginning of 2012, two major camps have evolved among Kurdish organizations in Syria. The Kurdish National Council (KNC), formed in Iraqi Kurdistan, is part of the Syrian National Council (western recognized political opposition) and seeks Kurdish autonomy. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), on the other hand, does not want to set up an independent Kurdish state, but rather follows the political line of the PKK, which seeks to establish ‘democratic autonomy’ within the Syrian state.
“We see that the imperialists want to Balkanize (divide) the Middle East in order to make it easier to control. We are communists, internationalists, we want to free not only Kurds but all people,” said Ali Dogan, explaining why the PKK and PYD have refused to join the SNC and reject the idea of declaring an independent state in Syria. “We feel that this should be an opportunity for Syria, to become an example for the Middle East, to be the Venezuela of the Middle East.”
While remaining officially in opposition to the Syrian government, the PYD has distanced themselves from US-backed opposition and the Free Syrian Army, stating that “although the opposition likes to portray itself as revolutionary and democratic, its actions have resembled nothing like it.”
Currently, the PYD and its Peoples Protection Units (YPG) control a large portion of North-East Syria, administering to these areas with the creation of popular assemblies. At the same time, protecting Kurdish civilians and securing the borders against mercenaries and supplies coming from Turkey and Iraq, particularly those affiliated with the Al Nusra front and the Islamic State of Iraq.
In a statement, deploring the sectarian violence being fomented in Kurdish areas by these foreign-backed mercenaries, the PYD states “The Kurds and the democratic movement in Syria have successfully managed to administer themselves democratically and peacefully and they have actively sought to contribute to democratic, peaceful change inside Syria… We consider a comprehensive political settlement to be an effective resolution to end the Syrian crisis and its brutal civil war.”
While the US and Canada work furiously to advance the bloodshed in Syria, by proposing bombing and continuing to finance and arm an opposition that includes Al Qaeda-linked groups and organizations that are committing atrocities on the ground, the actions and demands of groups like the PYD go unnoticed. PYD proves that the people, once organized and without external meddling, can solve their own problems and start building a future for themselves.
by Nicole Oliver
New York City | The 4th International Assembly of Refugees and Migrants (IAMR4) kicked off this week in New York City. Since 2008, the IAMR has brought together grassroots migrants’ organizations from across the globe. Under the banner of the IAMR organizations stand together in opposition to the gatherings of the Global Forum for Migration and Development, which was formed by the UN High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in 2006. Those who assemble at the IAMR meetings over the years “seek to expose the bankruptcy of the United Nations’ line of managing migration as a tool for development”.
Migrant workers and their supporters unite at the IAMR in the struggle for human rights and justice for migrants. The IAMR seeks to address the root causes of forced migration and highlight issues that migrants and refugees confront daily, such as family separation, labor exploitation and wage theft, detention and deportation, barriers to health and social services, racism and xenophobia, gender and sexuality-based violence and discrimination, and neoliberal labor export policies.
BASICS Community News Service is included among the various organizations in attendance. Other organizations composing the Canadian delegation include Anakbayan-Toronto, International Workers’ Centre (IWC-Canada), Migrante-Canada, Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste-Montreal, and Pinay-Canada.
The activities scheduled for October 1 included a church witnessing with migrants and a candlelight vigil held outside of the Church Centre for the United Nations.
The October 2 IAMR4 activities brought together grassroots folks in Washington Square Park for an animated flash mob dance. Cultural performances and key note speeches held at St. Patrick’s Church relayed strong messages of solidarity and people power in confronting the struggles of migrants. The Tuesday evening concluded with a powerful and motivating performance from the hip hop group Rebel Diaz.
IAMR is the main gathering organized by the International Migrants Alliance, an international network of progressive and anti-imperialist migrants organizations.
The IAMR4 continues in New York City until October 5, 2013. For more details on the scheduled events visit http://iamr4.com and or https://www.facebook.com/IAMR4.