This essay by Michael Löwy was written as a preface for the multiauthor collection La Commune du Rojava, and published online at Entre les lignes entre les mots. Thanks to Éditions Syllepse for their permission to republish. Translated by David Broder.
Detail from the cover of La Commune du Rojava.
Western public opinion became aware of Rojava’s existence in 2014 with the battle of Kobane, when the combatants of the YPG-YPJ succeeded in doing what the armies of Assad’s dictatorial regime or the Iraqi government could not do, even with Russian and American backing: namely, they inflicted a military and political defeat on Da’esh. The photos of Kurdish militiawomen, arms in hand, in the front rank of the fight against "Islamist" fascism, circulated around the world. They revealed to surprised, astonished readers a singular experience: libertarian Rojava.
Today, the petition to rescind President Trump’s state visit to Britain signed by 1.8 million people will be debated in Parliament. Stop Trump demonstrations are planned for this evening across the country and are expected to draw more than 10,000 people to stand together in solidarity with migrants and against racism and Islamophobia.
Trump’s racist, Islamophobic, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant politics are the same driving forces as those behind the Brexit vote to leave the EU. In the context of the rise of reactionary and xenophobic politics worldwide, the Stop Trump programme of opposition is a joint effort with the One Day Without Us movement, staging its first day of action today. Tens of thousands of migrants and their supporters are staging a walkout from workplaces and places of education to celebrate the contribution migrant workers make to British society. In particular, the action aims to highlight their importance to the British economy: withdrawing their labour for a day would cost the UK £328m – 4% of the country’s GDP.
The British government is not just complicit with Trump's agenda: Theresa May has been a trailblazer in ramping up anti-migrant measures for years before her ascent to the premiership in her role as Home Secretary when she notoriously brought in 'go home' vans. While it debates the terms of Brexit, the government continues to run a brutal and inhumane detention system; demonise and deport migrants; refuse refugees, and extend the border regime deeper into British society, into our hospitals, schools and workplaces.
Verso presents a reading list of books that challenge and expose right-wing narratives about migrant workers and refugees by contextualising crises rooted in the violence of capitalism, legacies of colonialism and war waged by the West. This selection includes books that provide us with histories of resistance from which we can draw strength and inspiration for the fightback ahead.
At no other time has the image of Islam gained so much public attention. Yet, this image is replete with misinformation and ignorance about the theology, history and practice of Islam.
In the Mosaic of Islam Perry Anderson and the acclaimed historian of Islam Suleiman Mourad aim to introduce the long history of Islam and its reception, from Muhammad to the present, in an open and accessible manner. In this extract from the book, Anderson and Mourad discuss the antagonism between Shiʿis and Sunnis, the causes and effects of the Arab Spring, Israel's place in the Middle East, and the history of Pan-Arabism.
"We know that the work for the left now is long and slow and that it requires force and numbers and commitment at a grassroots, community level. We must also recognise that the challenge for the left in 2017 is one of transnational solidarity: figuring out how to join up, link up and learn from global struggles." - Rachel Shabi looks back at a year of many challenges, and what we can do to build solidarity and resistance in 2017.
Of course it wasn’t the worst year, ever. Those bewailing the myriad awfulness of 2016 know history has dealt worse than the year of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, the year of deadly terror attacks around the world, a desperate refugee crisis and an alarming rise in far-right forces across Europe. Even ignoring swathes of history, recent years have been awful, too: the five since the Arab Uprisings have seen grotesque war in Syria, a deadly assault on Yemen, repression and human rights abuses in Egypt and Bahrain – as well as a harsh crackdown in Turkey, once considered to be a ‘model’ for the region. Egyptian analysts might well say the “worst year ever” was 2013, when a military coup put their authoritarian, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in charge.
An agreement has been reached to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from the besieged eastern districts of the city of Aleppo, a senior Turkish official and rebel officials have told the Guardian.
The agreement has capped weeks of horrific suffering and violence that have left many dead and others in total despair, raising serious questions at the lack of response from the international community.
People in east Aleppo have issued desperate pleas for rescue, posting farewell messages on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, predicting they would either die in the ongoing bombardment or be tortured and killed if they surrendered.
As events continue to unfold, we present a reading list of key books which — through investigative journalism, graphic storytelling, and critical analysis – shed light on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo to go to the government-held side.