Ireland: The Uncomfortable Dead of Easter 1916

Ireland’s Official Easter Rising commemoration sheds light on 100 years of inequality and failed expectations.

Dublin was in lockdown on March 27th as the Easter Sunday State Commemoration was held to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Surrounded by an extensive ring of steel, 5,000 state dignitaries and invited VIPs witnessed an extravagant ceremony in front of the historic site of the General Post Office--The GPO—ground zero of the insurrection one hundred years ago.

Beyond the closed-off main thoroughfares, thousands of onlookers –predominantly tourists-- strained to catch a glimpse of the activities. If watching a small country’s drab army and fire brigade march by is your thing, you would have loved this. Spectator numbers fell dramatically short of the organizers expected 250,000. 


Photo: Easter April, 1922. Veterans of the 1916 Rising commemorate the Rising’s 6th anniversary by marching through the city. (Source: irishvolunteers.org)


 On a crowded side street, away the official events and television cameras, The Homeless Families of Ireland organization held a protest, raising a voice in particular for the 1,800 homeless children in the state. Invoking the Proclamation read by the rebels on the steps of the GPO in 1916, the homeless spokeswoman appealed for “all the children to be cherished equally.”
“On this day, we ask that we not only celebrate the rebels with flowers and speeches, but we commit ourselves to achieving their vision of creating a Republic of equals, by solving the homeless crisis which shames our nation today.”  
Reflecting the disparity within an increasingly two-tiered society, the two concurrent events were a stark reminder of the growing divide within the affluent Irish state between the haves and the have-nots. 

Revolutions never turn out as planned
The Easter Rising of 1916 was a pivotal historical moment not just for Ireland, but for colonized peoples all over the globe. The British Empire was at that time the most formidable power in history, controlling one fifth of the world’s population. Edward Said saw the Irish rebellion as a “model of twentieth-century wars of liberation”. 
The courageous--but doomed-- act to rise up against the global power by a few hundred rebels set an example, and inspired others. Anti-colonial rebels from India to Africa took note. Before the Russian Revolution the following year, Lenin hailed the Irish insurrection as “a decisive blow against the British Empire.” Yet it appeared a more significant political event abroad than in Ireland. 
The Rising occurred during a period of global unrest and revolutionary fervor. The 1916 generation were an enlightened mix of anti-imperialists, fenians, socialists, syndicalists, feminists, secularists and-- of course-- writers, poets and artists illumined by the rebellious zeitgeist of the age. 
The insurrection created a revolutionary moment filled with great potential: suddenly a different Ireland was not only possible but being created in the here and now. 
The tragedy of 1916 is that the revolutionary vision of the Proclamation--to change everything-- was defeated within a few short years by counter-revolutionaries emerging from within the nationalists’ ranks.
In the wake of the War of Independence and the Civil War, conservative nationalists working closely with the Catholic Church created an authoritarian and patriarchal statelet that did not differ greatly from the status quo before the rising. Notions of social justice and equality were put on the backburner. The revolutionary generation of 1916 was shoved aside; women were told to return to the kitchen. 
The dreams and ideals of 1916 were not realized, and the revolutionary impulse of the generation was lost. There are consequences when a great historical moment like the Easter Rising provides such a mediocre outcome. For Ireland, it meant 100 years of underachieving, where progressive change came slowly and only through the tireless efforts of grassroots initiatives. 

The Uncomfortable Dead
The Irish state was always uncomfortable with the notion of celebrating the Easter Rising. The 75th anniversary in 1991 was a mute affair, only really commemorated by marginalized republicans. The centenary presented a dilemma – how to commemorate a revolution when it is still unfinished business, and faced with a sizeable portion of the population deeply unhappy with the current government – some militantly so.
The solution was to make it a huge media spectacle, stripped of political currency, re-branding 1916 as a marketable commodity for tourists to consume. 

The first act was to change the date of the anniversary. Why commemorate the Rising on March 27th, almost a month before the actual anniversary of April 24th? 

Journalist Gene Kerrigan commented, “Why not hold it on the anniversary? Well, due to the lunar and solar cycles and a formula initiated by the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, this year Easter is within 10 days of St Patrick's Day. This created an accumulation of tourism potential, between March 17 and March 27, that the Government couldn't resist…So, yet again fumbling in the greasy till, it's brought the gig forward by a month, to boost the hotel and catering trade. We're celebrating the 99 years and 11 months anniversary of the Rising.”

With a reputed €45 million budget, the state has gone into overdrive, saturating the country with everything 1916. 1,800 or so commemorative events were scheduled – free talks, exhibitions, debates, film, performances and dramatizations; every form of media is swamped with anniversary content. Dublin is awash with centenary fervor, from theatrical reenactments in the streets to buses converted to Easter Rising tours. Buildings are draped with enormous banners representing different figures of the era, including notorious anti-insurgent political leader John Redmond, who described the Rising as a “wicked and insane” event.
While the celebrations are undoubtedly popular, the overflow of media coverage serves another purpose. With its multitude of interpretations coming from every historical, cultural, and political perspective, radical voices are marginalized, and the ideology of the Rising is dispersed through the cacophony of voices. And in the process, the meaning of the Rising is recuperated by the state. 
Many are boycotting the official commemorations and holding a Citizens' Centenary Commemoration on April 24th, the actual date of the centenary. 

Another Easter Rising 

Yeats’ mesmerizing words have long been employed in the service of official Ireland, and his Easter 1916 poem has been rolled out ubiquitously this month - All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.

But change has come too slowly since 1916 and the aspirations of the 1916 generation remain so; most of all for the sizable portion of the population that is excluded from the wealth of the nation: The homeless, the marginalized, those forced to emigrate, the 138,000 children living in poverty. 

On a side street in Dublin, the homeless are protesting the rising shame of Ireland’s growing inequality. These are the excluded, those from below. Official Ireland has no place for them.

For them, another of Yeats’ famous lines serves better – perhaps it is time once more to “hurl the little streets upon the great”.

Paid Off in Passion: The Life Lessons of John Ross’s Rebel Reporting

Book Review: Rebel Reporting: John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists, Edited by Cristalyne Bell and Norman Stockwell. Hamilton Books, 2016

There is an amusing exchange between legendary journalists Studs Terkel and Hunter S. Thompson during a celebrated 1973 radio interview. Terkel comments on the notoriety of the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author.
I just thought of a phrase for you - a disturber, you are a disturber, and that is probably what a journalist should be all about.”
Thompson quips back: “A lot of people are very insulted by my kind of journalism. But I am insulted by some of their stuff too…”

John Ross is of this ilk, this is his constituency. A little bit of Terkel’s folksy bard of the people storytelling, and a lot of Thompson’s gonzo-style frontline reporting. And in Rebel Reporting, Ross enters into the realm of academia to pontificate on journalism to a class of students, and lecture them on how most everything they know about the craft is wrong. John Ross, a disturber? Certainly! 

Pearls of Useless Advice
John Ross worked as a freelance journalist for 50 years, right up to his death in 2011, wrote ten volumes of fiction and non-fiction and penned numerous books of poetry. Rebel Reporting is a posthumously published series of lectures first delivered at San Francisco‘s New College in 2006, and quite unlike anything previously produced by Ross. To call them lectures is probably a misnomer – in reality they are a series of provocations, or incitements.

“Now we come to the part where I emit pearls of useless advice,” he tells the no doubt bewildered students, “Useless because you have to live this stuff to know it.” Indeed his empiricist philosophy makes for a remarkable and stirring series of interventions, a tour-de-force encompassing anecdotes and storytelling, interspersed with a medley of his inimitable beat poetry.

At root, Ross’s Rebel Reporting is a passionate plea -- a howl-- against conformity and complacency and an unrelenting attack on formal journalism as represented by J-School.
“Avoid J-School like a poison,” he counsels. “J-School teaches you how to lie for a living, how to sell your skills to transnational media consortiums for an ounce of flesh. J-School teaches you how to promote class oppression, consumerism, racism. How to justify genocide and the destruction of the planet. The status quo.”
Don’t hold back, John. Tell us how you really feel.
“J-Schoolers are not reporters.” he rages, “—they are careerists. J-School teaches you how your career is so much more important than speaking truth to power.”

John Ross is all about speaking truth to power. This is why the series is entitled Rebel Reporting, invoking his own book Rebellion from the Roots (1994), about the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas. For Ross, journalism is not a profession but a moral responsibility. “The first thing you need to know is that you do not have a career in journalism. Forget about your career. You have an obligation—to tell the story of those who entrust you with theirs, to tell the truth about the way the world works.”

He delivers his talks like a poetry slam, his sentences read like melodic progressions and he habitually employs repetition to craft rhythmic cadences. “Rebel reporters are storytellers. Rebel reporters are poets. Rebel reporters are travel writers.”

His journalism is a world of freewheeling bards, not desk-bound hacks churning out fillers between the adverts. His reporters are vitally active participants in society at large: “Rebel reporters are all Joe Hills, trouble-making troubadours moving from town to town singing out the news in public plazas. The emphasis is on singing here.Rebel reporters put the music in the news.”

Ross was an engaging public speaker – a skill honed as a tenant organizer in San Francisco in the 1960s, even running for public office as supervisor – and this volume captures the essence and vigor of John Ross speaking live. All that is absent on the page is his signature self-effacing charm, as well as his stoical gait – a rough and tumble life had left him marked and visually impaired; he inevitably crouched closely to peer over bunches of papers. 

Rebel Partisan
Having impressed upon the students the potential folly of pursuing a journalistic career, what alternatives does he proffer?

For John Ross, nothing less than total emersion is enough. Reporting is a way of life, not a job, and intrinsic to that is taking sides – on the side of truth and against power. A good reporter is a partisan who, he asserts, “makes people angry, encourages organization, offers them hope that another world is possible. A good rebel reporter is a participant in rebellion, or resistance or revolution or whatever you call the struggle for social change.”  

Good rebel journalism incites rebellion, he declares. These are no idle words and Ross’s lectures begin with one reporter languishing in jail for withholding sources, and ends with the death of another, shot down in the line of action. The stakes are raised and the role of the reporter is magnified.
Risk -- both personal and economic -- is inherent in Ross’s proposition to reject J-School and eschew a formal career. In this sense, Rebel Reporting reads like a manifesto for freelance precarity, a double-edged sword at once righteous and perilous. Ross describes it thus: “I am free to choose what words to use, and also free to sleep under bridges and lose all my teeth.”

Clearly for him, the wager is worth it, and the fruit of the labor is serving the people. “The coin of our realm is passion,” he writes, beautifully. It is worth quoting this passage in full:
While corporate journalists bask in the bland neutrality of their vaunted “objectivity,” dabbling in a language drained of all outrage for fear of damaging their career track, rebel reporters, who know only too well they have no careers but rather a responsibility, are paid off in passion —passion for language, passion for telling the story with passion, passion for struggle and change, for sharing spirit, solidarity.

Handing it Down
Ross titles his series of talks “Handing it Down”, and in four installments explores various angles of rebel reporting - from how to cover global resistance movements (embed with them), to how to be an Anti-War Correspondent (never embed with them).

Ross’s mantra is “ir a lugar del los hechos,” go where the story is, and this he does with some prolificacy, managing to place himself on the frontlines of countless rebellions around the Americas and as far afield as Baghdad.
He covers the use and abuse of language, and ostensibly, gives advice to students on how to document injustices and pitch stories -- although he has already made it clear that all this can really only be learned in practice by doing.

What he is actually “handing down” are a series of musings on his life work, serving as a kind of pep talk and motivator for activists already engaged in the field of rebel reporting - his ‘community.’ John Ross, in his wisdom, has left us a somewhat reflective, somewhat instructional document outlining what it is to be a rebel reporter, what he has learnt from experience and mistake, and how to go about it with integrity.

Some might say his is a dying breed of on-the-road reporter, with pencil and pad churning out stories for disappearing newspaper outlets. Certainly some elements of John Ross’s repertoire have become superannuated through technology, but the rebellious impulse remains as prevalent as ever. Rebel reporting is thriving, and is everywhere evident in decentralized, dispersed and autonomous media networks online and in print.  

The spirit of John Ross lives, and one similarly courageous reporter immediately springs to mind. In terms of speaking truth to power, Barrett Brown’s reporting for The Intercept is exemplary. Although somewhat unfortunately hostage to the concept of ‘ir a lugar de los hechos,’ Barrett’s prison writings are subversively acerbic and captivating. Good rebel journalism incites rebellion indeed, something the prison authorities have noted, resulting in Barrett’s frequent sojourns in the hole. 

Throughout the book, John Ross extolls us to follow in the footsteps of rebel reporter luminaries -- Joe Hill, Live like him! Brad Will, Live like him! He would undoubtedlyand unequivocallyhave added one more name: Barrett Brown – Live like him!

From National Liberation to Autonomy: The Trajectory of the PKK

teleSUR, December, 2015
Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding Islamic State group threat on the ground in northern Syria. 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
 http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html

The PKK - Coming Down from the Mountains
by Paul White (Zed Books, 2015)
 Review by Ramor Ryan

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding ISIS threat on the ground in northern Syria. Hand in hand with beating back the advance of ISIS, the Syrian Kurds--organized in People’s Protection Units (YPG)--are also implementing a democratic revolution within the liberated territory of Rojava, part of the historic homeland of the Kurdish people.

 To better contextualize these rebels–currently supported by US-led coalition air strikes, and alsoa source of inspiration for leftists the world over--one must look beyond Syria into the greater Kurdish region, and at the YPG’s much-larger affiliate, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

 For almost four decades, the PKK have been at the forefront ofanational liberation struggle for an independent Kurdistan spanning the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Denied statehood in the wake of WW1by colonial powers carving up the regional borders set by the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Kurds have been struggling for independence ever since. The current reinvigoration of the Kurdish issue can be attributed to the resurgent PKK, with a support base numbering millionsprimarily among Turkish Kurds and a formidable guerrilla wing based in the Qandilmountains, northern Iraq, (or in Kurdish eyes, southern Kurdistan).  

 In a geographical area convulsed by war, upheaval and competing local and global powers, the PKK and its affiliateshas emerged as a uniquely progressive movement, secular, left-wing and actively promotinggrassroots participatory democracy in its extensive zone of influence.

 They haven’t always been so. Paul White’s new book, The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains is a timely and useful critical analysis, exploring thecomplicated, messy and bloody development of the organization, as well as charting its remarkable ideological evolution.In an “astonishing transformation”writes White, the PKK moved in two decades “from striving for an independent Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan to the current position of advocating ‘democratic confederalism’ by peaceful means”.

A History of Endurance

White offers an insightful history of the PKK organization from its founding in Turkey in 1978 by a small group of post-68 Marxist students and Kurdish nationalists, emerging out of “racist provocation, and Kurdish economic under-underdevelopment.” Like the history of the Kurds, the story of the PKK organization is one of endurance, existing under the constant threat of annihilation.Armed struggle was the tactic chosen by the rebels in the wake of the 1980 military coup in Turkey, launching their campaign in 1984 with guerrilla attacks on military targets.

 As the conflict escalated, the Turkish military employed overwhelming force to crush the rebels, and “a total of 32,000 PKK militants were killed and 14,000 captured between 1984 and 2008”, writes White. “Some 5560 civilians died and 6482 Turkish soldiers were killed during the same phase.” Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were displaced by the military in scorched earth policies, driving many into the arms of the PKK. The Turkish militaries’brutal counterinsurgency policies seemed only to fuel the insurgency, and by March 2013, a million Kurds were gathering in Diyarbakir, the de-facto Kurdish capital in the southeast, in support of the PKK.

 By this stage, the PKK had changed its strategy, and sought a negotiated solution for the conflict. The group’s leader, the charismatic and somewhat messianic Abdullah Öcalan – imprisoned by the Turkish state since 1999 – declared that “a new era is beginning and arms are silencing, politics are gaining momentum.”

 White, an academic, although sympathetic to the cause, has little sympathy for the PKK.  His previous work Primitive Rebels or Revolutionary Modernizers? The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Turkey (Zed Books, 2000) provided a stinging critique of the PKK, particularly what the author saw as counterproductive Marxist-Leninist inspired armed struggle. White however, is enthused by the PKKs turnabout and sees it as a breakthroughtowardreal conflict resolution. Although the nascent peace process is “contradictory and perilous”, White believes that Turkish President Erdoğan has the will to back it, despite the threat from the Turkish‘deep state’ – a powerful cabal of military leaders and top government officials who have their own nationalist, even fascist agenda for the Turkish state.

 Democratic Confederalism


Alongside striving for a peaceful solution, the PKK have initiated a revolutionary process of participatory democracy on the ground in their zones of influence.

 White identifies the beginning of the transformation from “an orthodox guerrilla Marxist-Leninist group into an autonomist movement seekingdemocratic confederalism”withthe first PKK unilateral ceasefire in 1993. Recognizing that the armed struggle would not achieve the aimof an independent Kurdistan, the insurgent movement began to explore alternative ways of achieving Kurdish self-determination. After his imprisonment, Öcalandevelopeda non-statist ideology influenced by his reading of US social ecologist Murray Bookchin, advocating a self-managed autonomy with power based at community level.

 Putting theory into practice, the PKK set up an umbrella network in 2006 called the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), to implement a network of autonomous local councils and assemblies across Kurdish zones in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, as well as among the sizeable Kurdish diaspora in Europe.White describes how theKCK has “spread out to cities, towns, neighborhoods, streets, village organizations, communes and homes” as a movement organizing “to establish its own democracy, neither grounded on the existing nation-states nor seeing them as the obstacle”.Thus autonomy has taken hold to such an extent thatinmajor Kurdish provinces such asHakkâri and Şırnak“the people don’t accept the state authorities and two parallel authorities exist.” The Turkish state has responded by imprisoning some 8,000 KCK activists, an indication of how seriously it views the threat of autonomy.

 Intrinsic to the radical democracy of the autonomous model is equality for women, and Kurdish women have organized in the Free Women Unions (YJA) ensuring equal participation and representation within the assemblies of the KCKs. The female fighters taking on ISIS in Rojava have received much media attention, but women have long being central to the Kurdish struggle. White quotes independent reports stating that women constitute between a third and a half of PKK fighters. Rapperin Afrin, a commander of the PKKs Women’s Army, explains how “the women’s movement is the most dynamic part of the PKK. We are aware that without the liberation of women, a liberated society cannot be developed.”

 White also addresses the question of the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan. As the PKK transforms from an authoritarian and hierarchical structure to an autonomous, democratic movement, White outlines how Apo (Uncle, as he is known) has de-centralized the power structures of the movement, changing his role from absolute ruler to symbolic figurehead. Of course, being locked up in prison with his communication to the outside world mediated by his captors, realistically what other role can he play?  Nevertheless, he remains revered and, as White explains, assumes a more transcendental place in the struggle as a symbolic embodiment of Kurdish aspirations.  “Through their warm personal relationship with their serok(leader), his members and supporters have come to believe that they were already, in a sense, ‘liberated’ or at least ‘experiencing’ Kurdistan.”

 Coming Down from the Mountains

It is often repeated that the Kurds have no friends but the mountains, and in this work, White postulates that the PKKs’ current political initiative offers a real possibility of breaking that isolation. However, he recognizes that the recent rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region destabilizes the peace process in Turkey. The Turkish government is seen as covertly supporting the Islamic State while the PKK has urged all Kurds to take up the fight against ISIS. In August 2014, the PKK was hailed for rescuing 20,000 Yezidis surrounded by ISIS in northern Iraq, and in the battle of Kobane, northern Syria, the PKK-affiliate YPG emerged as the most effective anti-ISIS force. The anomaly of the PKKs listing as a designated terrorist group is becoming increasingly absurd as the US-led coalition openly supports them militarily on the ground. Such actions add to what White describes as the groups “long transition from ‘terrorists’ to legitimate rebels.”

As they continue to accrue political capital and expand their popular base among the Kurds, it would seem that, against all odds, the PKKs time has finally come.





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Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding Islamic State group threat on the ground in northern Syria. 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
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Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding Islamic State group threat on the ground in northern Syria.

Hand in hand with beating back the advance of the Islamic State group, the Syrian Kurds – organized in People’s Protection Units (YPG) – are also implementing a democratic revolution within the liberated territory of Rojava, part of the historic homeland of the Kurdish people.

To better contextualize these rebels–currently supported by US-led coalition air strikes, and also a source of inspiration for leftists the world over – one must look beyond Syria into the greater Kurdish region, and at the YPG’s much-larger affiliate, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

    The female fighters taking on the Islamic State group in Rojava have received much media attention, but women have long being central to the Kurdish struggle. 

For almost four decades, the PKK have been at the forefront of a national liberation struggle for an independent Kurdistan spanning the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Denied statehood in the wake of WWI by colonial powers carving up the regional borders set by the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Kurds have been struggling for independence ever since. The current reinvigoration of the Kurdish issue can be attributed to the resurgent PKK, with a support base numbering millions primarily among Turkish Kurds and a formidable guerrilla wing based in the Qandil mountains, northern Iraq, (or in Kurdish eyes, southern Kurdistan).

In a geographical area convulsed by war, upheaval, and competing local and global powers, the PKK and its affiliates have emerged as a uniquely progressive movement: secular, left-wing and actively promoting grassroots participatory democracy in its extensive zone of influence.

However, they haven’t always been so. Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a timely and useful critical analysis, exploring the complicated, messy and bloody development of the organization, as well as charting its remarkable ideological evolution. In an “astonishing transformation” writes White, the PKK moved in two decades “from striving for an independent Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan to the current position of advocating ‘democratic confederalism’ by peaceful means.”

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding Islamic State group threat on the ground in northern Syria.

Hand in hand with beating back the advance of the Islamic State group, the Syrian Kurds – organized in People’s Protection Units (YPG) – are also implementing a democratic revolution within the liberated territory of Rojava, part of the historic homeland of the Kurdish people.

To better contextualize these rebels–currently supported by US-led coalition air strikes, and also a source of inspiration for leftists the world over – one must look beyond Syria into the greater Kurdish region, and at the YPG’s much-larger affiliate, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

    The female fighters taking on the Islamic State group in Rojava have received much media attention, but women have long being central to the Kurdish struggle. 

For almost four decades, the PKK have been at the forefront of a national liberation struggle for an independent Kurdistan spanning the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Denied statehood in the wake of WWI by colonial powers carving up the regional borders set by the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Kurds have been struggling for independence ever since. The current reinvigoration of the Kurdish issue can be attributed to the resurgent PKK, with a support base numbering millions primarily among Turkish Kurds and a formidable guerrilla wing based in the Qandil mountains, northern Iraq, (or in Kurdish eyes, southern Kurdistan).

In a geographical area convulsed by war, upheaval, and competing local and global powers, the PKK and its affiliates have emerged as a uniquely progressive movement: secular, left-wing and actively promoting grassroots participatory democracy in its extensive zone of influence.

However, they haven’t always been so. Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a timely and useful critical analysis, exploring the complicated, messy and bloody development of the organization, as well as charting its remarkable ideological evolution. In an “astonishing transformation” writes White, the PKK moved in two decades “from striving for an independent Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan to the current position of advocating ‘democratic confederalism’ by peaceful means.” 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a useful critical analysis exploring the group’s history and ideological evolution.

Kurdish liberation forces have come to global attention as the front-line defenders in the heroic battle against the marauding Islamic State group threat on the ground in northern Syria.

Hand in hand with beating back the advance of the Islamic State group, the Syrian Kurds – organized in People’s Protection Units (YPG) – are also implementing a democratic revolution within the liberated territory of Rojava, part of the historic homeland of the Kurdish people.

To better contextualize these rebels–currently supported by US-led coalition air strikes, and also a source of inspiration for leftists the world over – one must look beyond Syria into the greater Kurdish region, and at the YPG’s much-larger affiliate, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

    The female fighters taking on the Islamic State group in Rojava have received much media attention, but women have long being central to the Kurdish struggle. 

For almost four decades, the PKK have been at the forefront of a national liberation struggle for an independent Kurdistan spanning the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Denied statehood in the wake of WWI by colonial powers carving up the regional borders set by the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Kurds have been struggling for independence ever since. The current reinvigoration of the Kurdish issue can be attributed to the resurgent PKK, with a support base numbering millions primarily among Turkish Kurds and a formidable guerrilla wing based in the Qandil mountains, northern Iraq, (or in Kurdish eyes, southern Kurdistan).

In a geographical area convulsed by war, upheaval, and competing local and global powers, the PKK and its affiliates have emerged as a uniquely progressive movement: secular, left-wing and actively promoting grassroots participatory democracy in its extensive zone of influence.

However, they haven’t always been so. Paul White’s new book, “The PKK – Coming Down from the Mountains,” is a timely and useful critical analysis, exploring the complicated, messy and bloody development of the organization, as well as charting its remarkable ideological evolution. In an “astonishing transformation” writes White, the PKK moved in two decades “from striving for an independent Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan to the current position of advocating ‘democratic confederalism’ by peaceful means.” 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-National-Liberation-to-Autonomy-The-Trajectory-of-the-PKK-20151202-0021.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english

A Europe Without Solidarity: Debt Crisis and the Failure of the Neoliberals

 
The current European sovereign debt crisis has the capacity of jeopardizing the whole European Union project with devastating social consequences. Tony Phillips’ new book Europe on the Brink investigates the root causes of the crisis, critiques its mismanagement spearheaded by the European Central Bank, the EU Commission and the International Monetary Fund (collectively called the Troika), and suggests alternatives. Bringing together eight leading critical economists and sociologists, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Europe on the Brink portrays a European Union that is increasingly authoritarian and non-democratic, where the rule of law and the well-being of the people are brushed aside in the interests of balancing the books and imposing a neoliberal agenda.

Ramor Ryan talks to author Tony Phillips, a researcher in the University of Buenos Aires, who specializes in alternative development, sovereign debt issues and ecological economics.

Ramor Ryan: Can you tell me a little about the book and why you put it together?
Tony Phillips: Since 2000 I have been fascinated by the relationship between sovereign debt and international power. From Venezuelan gunboat diplomacy in 1902 to financial collapse in Argentina in 2002, South America (where I spend most of my time) is a test case for this center-periphery power relationship; a relationship that is measured in sovereign debt. Redefining this relationship could redefine ‘development’ right now; it might even save the planet while we’re at it.
In 2011 I was called back to Europe to participate in an Irish book called “What if Ireland Defaults?” to bring a South American perspective to the Irish financial collapse. In 2013 I decided to take this to another level on a pan-European scale; hence this book.
As to the authors, I made a point of seeking out local experts, like Christina Laskaridis, a debt activist in Athens; Mariana Mortagua, an anti-capitalist member of Parliament in Lisbon; and Roberto Lavagna, former Minister of Economics: the man who took on the IMF in Argentina. The new Spanish edition also has Podemos economist Vicente Navarro.

RR: You describe Europe as having a “bi-polar system”.
TP: There are two financial poles in Europe now. There are the central countries like Germany and the UK, who export goods and services, especially financial services, to the other pole (the periphery). They feed the other pole, the periphery. The press likes to refer to the periphery as the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain), referring to our slovenly financial standards. It is part of the propaganda that paints a nasty picture of the credit unworthy — we are the pigs.
 
RR: The book distils the European debt crisis through close case studies of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, countries that have suffered the most from the austerity policies implemented by the Troika. How does the perspective from the peripheries differ from that of the central powers?
TP: At the core of this difference is the lender-borrower relationship. The lenders are the private banks in the center, much of this debt was private debt, this debt has now been 'socialized' onto the populations of Europe by the European Commission using their Taxpayer assured private funds. The European Commission went way beyond their mandate creating various funds like the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) and the 'permanent' fund called the ESM (European Stability Mechanism).
A lender just wants to be paid back with interest; a borrower wants to have access to more credit, so both have an incentive to keep the European debt crisis from causing a default. However, the periphery sees certain unpayable loans as illegitimate, while the center sees a loan as a loan, no matter whether that loan funded a bribe for an official or a private real estate credit boom; the center says it must be paid back by taxpayers. There is such a thing as illegitimate debt; President Bush tried to use this when he invaded Iraq and inherited the debt of Iraq (he was hushed up rather quickly). These were the two viewpoints faced by Greek and German interests in the negotiations in Athens in the summer of 2015. It is a question of creditor responsibility. If you lend to a credit-unworthy country at a high interest rate should you always be paid back? If so, why make the interest so high? High interest rates imply risk - you can’t have it both ways!

RR: The European Union’s attempt to reduce regional disparities in income and wealth between the Centre and the Periphery through social funds has not succeeded. How did it get to this point of crisis?
TP: The early European Funds – called the EU Structural Funds – were designed to bring the periphery's economies, particularly their infrastructure — airports/seaports/motorways etc. — into line with France, Germany and Holland. These first funds were donations; the periphery did not have to pay them back. In the drug trade the first hit is always free. From that moment on, exports from the center of Europe, in the new common market, created euro surpluses in the center and structural deficits (funded by debt) in the periphery. Countries in debt have little choice about their internal economic policies. We saw that in Greece in 2015. Germany wants blood, Greece is anemic; something's got to give! Pardon the mixed metaphor but you can’t get blood from a stone.

RR: The Greek people have just re-elected the anti-austerity party Syriza (The Coalition of the Radical Left) into power. Last July, Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras negotiated and signed an agreement with the Troika for an emergency third bailout of 86 billion euros, despite the Greek public rejecting the harsh austerity conditions of the bailout in a referendum. The then Minister for Finance Yanis Varoufakis says Syriza has now been set up to fail: “Week in week out, the Troika will be demanding more recessionary, antisocial policies: pension cuts, lower child benefits, more foreclosures.” What options remain for Syriza?
TP: Whether the Syriza government is really anti-austerity (or simply pro-Euro) is difficult to ascertain; after all, they did sign the agreement with the Eurogroup. Syriza managed to hoodwink Schaüble (the German finance minister), they avoided an exit from the Euro, but to do this they agreed to do the impossible: to pay an unpayable debt while privatizing Greek patrimony. The privatization contracts are already being signed. Greek infrastructure, its seaports and airports, its energy infrastructure; it is all under the auctioneer’s hammer. German corporation Fraport AG paid 1.2 billion euros to buy up Greek airport concessions, New York investment firm Cerberus paid 1.6 billion euros to the Irish state’s bad bank called NAMA. These deals have brought further accusations of bribes. It is payback time, time to turn unpayable debt into real assets. It is Argentina in the 1990's all over again.
Where will this lead? It is all profit and loss, corporate profit and human loss. The debt is unpayable; the default is simply delayed. Meanwhile politicians remove social protections (squeezing blood from a stone), pensioners commit suicide; a quarter of a million young Greeks emigrate and Tsipras keeps on smiling.

RR: In the final chapter of Europe on the Brink, Roberto Lavagna -- Economy Minister during the Argentine economic crisis, from 2002 to 2005 -- describes a “heterodox exit from the crisis” for Argentina. Does Argentina’s sovereign debt restructuring offer guidelines so as to envisage useful policy initiatives for Europe’s heavily indebted nations, like Greece?
TP: It does and it doesn't. Argentina is hardly a model of financial probity but neither is Greece. What Greece has learned is that the debt-to-GDP ratio is a key determinant of ability to pay; you raise your GDP or you lower your debt. Argentina reduced this ratio by doing both and avoided further default. They grew their economy and kept the overall debt pretty much static. It was painful but much less painful than Troika-mandated austerity in Greece. The only alternative within the current debt-based international financial system is to exit the debt-spiral (think of an airplane spiraling downwards, overloaded by debt). You must restructure the debt and grow the economy.
In Argentina, corruption was not tackled; in Ireland and in Greece corruption is also an issue. One hopes that Syriza will tackle corruption in Greece such as payments by German arms manufacturers to former defense ministers. Varoufakis offered his partners a clean-out of corruption in Greece and look what happened to him. I’m not holding my breath.

RR: What do you hope to achieve by producing this book? Why did you title your book Europe on the Brink?
TP: This book is about busting myths; myths that are repeated in the press all the time. I was sick of the lies, politicians giving us more of their “There Is No Alternative.” Of course there are alternatives. A debt economy is a system that is in a permanent state of failure. We need to break out of this — it drives unsustainable growth, it drives increasing inequality, it is driving European unity (which could be a good thing) to the brink of extremist unpopularity. This crisis could push this whole capitalist system over the brink, not just in Europe. Time to shift gears. We need a paradigm shift. It is time to end this blinkered austerity for good!

Tony Phillips’ blog can be found here (projectallende.org) and details on his book can be found here (europeonthebrink.com)