Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas Sweeps Elections...

Some talking points in reaction to the recent elections in Palestine by Left Turn editor Rayan El-Amine who works for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in San Francisco:

It should go without saying but I will go ahead and say it - as progressives,
radicals and leftists we know that Islamists ideology and Islamist parties often
represent regressive, patriarchal, homophobic and sexists politics. But the
Hamas win should be seen in the context of the political situation in Palestine.
I have compiled ten points below to try to give that context.
(I have also copied point # 5 for at top of the list for emphasis.)



"The biggest obstacle preventing a progressive, secular, democratic movement from
blossoming in Palestine is not Hamas but the continued colonization of Palestinian
land and repression of Palestinian civil society by Israel"

1) Hamas’s victory is a protest vote by Palestinians against the horrendous
conditions they live under and a statement to those who make their daily lives
miserable - primarily the US/Israeli governments and the corrupt Fatah leadership.
Palestinian society and politics had been historically one the most secular and
progressive in the Arab world and even in this election many secular Palestinians
voted for change not for an Islamic state.

2) The Palestinian elections are a microcosm of what US foreign policy has done in
the ME in the past year. US policies have helped usher Islamists in Egypt,
Lebanon (increased Hezbollah in parliament), religious Shiites in Iraq (not
secular) and in Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a religious conservative was voted

3) US and Israeli policies have historically worked against secular and
progressive movements in the region and have directly helped Islamist movements
(Israel at one point directly aided Islamists in Palestine to counter the secular
PLO in 70's and 80's). The US helped a variety of dictators in the region crush
Arab Nationalists and left secular movements and directly funded Islamist
organizations when it seemed to serve its interests.

4) Hamas won with a slogan of "reform and change" not “Islamic theocracy and
jihad”. Furthermore the vote by 77% and overwhelming majority now represents one
of the most legitimate democratic representative governments in the ME.

5) The biggest obstacle preventing a progressive, secular, democratic movement
from blossoming in Palestine is not Hamas but the continued colonization of
Palestinian land and repression of Palestinian civil society by Israel

6) The mainstream US coverage of the Palestinian elections gives no context to the
rise of Hamas. Hamas is presented as have grown out of some sort “genetic” or
"cultural" anger and irrationality of Palestinians, when in reality it is as a
result years of violence and oppression perpetuated by Israel on Palestinian
society. ( NY Times had 4 articles on the issue this weekend in one day, none
mentioned Israeli killing of Palestinians and only one mentioned that Palestinians
where occupied).

7) Groups like Hamas are much more complex and dynamic then some people in the
West think on all sorts of issues from democracy to women’s rights (that was seen
in the development of Hezbollah in Lebanon). Their Islamic rhetoric tells more
about their desperation than their aspirations. Furthermore, Hamas has for years
has successfully filled a vacuum of social services, schools and hospitals to
serve the most marginalized in Palestinian society which seems to be a the center
of their work.

8) Anti-Jewish sentiment exists in the Arab world and should be confronted by
progressive forces. But it should be understood that anti-Jewish sentiments in
the Arab world is different than historically European anti-Semitism. The
apartheid nature of the state of Israel, the racist foundations of Zionism and its
countless abuses against Palestinians and Arabs are the most significant factors
of anti-Jewish sentiments in the Middle East. Jewish minorities under Islamic
rule and in Islamic empires before Zionism faced far less institutional racism
than in Europe.

9) The argument that a Hamas victory will make Israel more right wing seems
irrelevant considering the recent history of Israeli policies. Israel did nothing
to help improve the lives of Palestinians in the past few years even when the most
malleable president, Mahmoud Abbas was in office. Palestinian negotiation with
Israel and the so called “peace process” has led to nothing but continued ethnic
cleansing, land confiscations, targeted killing and unilaterist policies.

10) As progressives and leftist in the US we should be emphasize that the growth
of Islamists and the retreat of progressive politics in the Middle East is a
direct of US imperialism. If you want progressive movements to grow in the Middle
East, fight Isreali occupation and US imperialism and support Palestinian SELF

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Battle for the Future of New Orleans!

Though most of the major media outlets have found it high time to 'move on' from the devastated Gulf Coast region and the story of New Orleans in particular, as the Black Commentator recently pointed out the struggle is only beginning. The overwhelmingly Black New Orleans diaspora is returning in large numbers to resist relentless efforts to bully and bulldoze them out of the city's future and as a spokesman for the African American Leadership Project (AALP) pointed out: 'Struggle on the ground has intensified enormously".

This is an important time for all of us to stay focused on what is going on in New Orleans and to give support to the local black leadership that is fighting to rebuild their city and their cultural heritage in their own image. Jordan Flaherty's latest essay called 'Privatizing New Orleans' is an informative read for those who want to know what will eventually happen to the city if we dont collectively succeed in pushing back the onslaught of big business which is licking its chops at a city full of hotels, convention centers, and well lots of white people. Jordan was also on the radio show CounterSpin today which you can download and listen to online.

The fight to save New Orleans has been difficult, especially with a very fractured (and in general fairly weak) Left movement in the US. The deadly legacy of COINTELPRO and the mass incarceration of Black militants (and people in general) in this country over the past three decades has of course played no small roll in hindering some sort of mass popular response to what has been going on. There are of course some very inspiring projects going on like the work at the Common Ground collective, but even parts of that work is not without its own set of contradictions, as you have a situation where a huge number of white (mostly college) students are coming into New Orleans to help out and rebuild the city.

Left Turn is doing a big joint fundraiser with Common Ground down in Washington DC on Febraury 3rd, the night before the NCOR conference starts. Malik Rahim, the founder of Common Ground (also in the picture above) is flying up for the event, and will also be a part of a big panel discussion that we are organizing called 'Building Our Levees' at NCOR itself.

The Fundraiser Will be at:

Before It's Too Late
People's Media Center at Al-Fishawy Internet Cafe
4132 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20011
(between Taylor and Upshur near Shell gas station, 3 blocks north of the Petworth Metro on the green line, on the #70/71 bus line)

Hope to see yall there!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Daniel McGowan released on bail

For everyone out there who knows Daniel and has been following the case, we got some good news last night as he has been released on bail into the custody of his sister. Check out for more info on his case and the ordeal that he is currently going through. It is good to know that through a lot of hard work on behalf of his family and friends he is home now even though he will be heavily monitored by feds and obviously he still has to stand trial facing some serious (trumped up) charges. Daniel is facing a minimum of 30 years in prison and the possibility of life in prison if convicted but has emphatically declared that he is not guilty. Hopefully those around the New York City area will find ways to support him on his return sometime later this week. Being in the federal court room back in December where the judge originally denied Daniel bail, I cannot even imagine what was going through his head. It was kind of a complete state of shock among his family and supporters as we left the court room that day. For me it was just another sharp reminder of the power of the state when they want to come after someone and the kind of power they constantly have over all of us even if they have to hit people with fake charges etc. Although the stress of the trial is still looming and this thing is a long way from over, im glad your home Daniel...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ALL-CITY Represent!!!

Well before continuing my previous post, Im excited to announce an important event taking place this March 3-4th. Over the past few months I have been a part of this inspiring project called All City which is putting together its first city wide event on the topic of popular education & liberation at the El Puente Academy for Peace & Justice. All City is a multi-racial, multi-class organization made up of youth and students from around the city, specifically from Hunter and City College. All City comes from the graffiti term 'going all city' which means getting your graffiti tag (street identity) up in all 5 buroughs throughout New York City. The concept of the project is outlined more in depth below, but for anyone interested in popular education or creating our own educational institutions on the local level please come through March 3rd & 4th for what should be the first of many 'All City Forums' here in NYC.

March 3rd and 4th
At El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice
211 S. 4th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

ALL CITY FORUM #1 “Education as Liberation”

The original mission of CUNY (City College of New York) was to educate “the whole people” of New York City. ALL CITY was formed by students who realized that this mission was not being pursued. Even those with access to formal higher are not exposed to education that promotes critical thinking about the psychological, historical, social, political and economic forces that control our reality or receive the resources needed to develop ourselves and communities. Most schools are designed as factories, turning out obedient cogs in the existing economic grind and power structures.

As students and organizers, we began to realize that if we wanted the whole people educated than the people must build their own educational institution. We come from various colleges, high schools and communities to make up ALL CITY. We began a program of popular education classes to teach ourselves and to cultivate our ability to learn and act collectively. In honor of the original name of CUNY, when there was no tuition, we called this program the Free Akademy.

To live up to our name of “All City” and our dream of educating the whole people, we are creating spaces in the NYC area for folks to freely express themselves and work together to change the unjust society we live in. In response to the government’s elitist and enslaving education system we have seen how community organizations have developed spaces for educating themselves. Our desire is to grow autonomous spaces like these across the city and to form them into an institution of liberated learning and coordinated action for social change. We recognize that we cannot accomplish this alone. We want to work with students and youth to form a network across the city where people, recognizing themselves as change-agents, will share and build relevant experiences, skills and knowledge and work together to transform our world. We dedicate ourselves to the building of an educational network that educates the whole people.

The inaugural forum of the “Education as Liberation” will be the jump-off session for an ongoing action between students, youth and community organizers in building an alternative educational program. Involving people in a discussion about their experiences with the education system will open the door to forming relationships and strengthening bonds that would generate solutions for and alternatives to the inadequacies of the current situation. Sharing models that we and others have developed in response to our conditions will lead to the active creation of a growing network and to the building of further skills to fill the void for a participatory education. This forum is one of many, not a one-time event that comes and goes. It is our hope to build a continuous dialogue between NYC youth and students to help us connect our work and create the vision for the world we want to see. We are not organizing a space for people to be talked at, but a one to talk to each other. We see this as part of a much larger process of creating the relationships that are necessary for a “All City” youth and student movement.

The Meaning of Revolution Today? (part I)

Though (like most academic texts) I have had a hard time getting through parts of it, to me John Holloways book entitled "Change the World Without Taking Power" is one of the most important texts (theory wise) to have been published in several years. The description on its publishers website writes:

"The wave of political demonstrations since Seattle have crystallised a new trend in left-wing politics. Modern protest movements are grounding their actions in both Marxism and Anarchism, fighting for radical social change in terms that have nothing to do with the taking of state power. This is in clear opposition to the traditional Marxist theory of revolution which centres on taking state power. In this book, John Holloway asks how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against power, not for power.

After a century of failed attempts by revolutionary and reformist movements to bring about radical social change, the concept of revolution itself is in crisis. John Holloway opens up the theoretical debate, reposing some of the basic concepts of Marxism in a critical development of the subversive Marxist tradition represented by Adorno, Bloch and Lukacs, amongst others, and grounded in a rethinking of Marx's concept of 'fetishisation'-- how doing is transformed into being."

Im not going to try and wax poetic about Holloways theories before I actually do some deeper reading of the book, but like many, looking for an alternative to state centered strategies for radical social change I am excited by some of the things Holloway brings to the for-front and the debates that the book has launched across the world. Of course the book and his subsequent essays have caused a tremendous amount of critique (most notably by such writers as Tariq Ali). Radicals who have for large parts of their lives conceived of the revolutionary project as primarily a 'project focused on the overthrow of the capitalist class by the (industrial) working class' who would then go on to establish one or another form of 'dictatorship of the proletariat' -- have, as would be expected reacted overwhelmingly sceptical to Holloways writings. Some, like Tariq Ali, have pointed to Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela (itself an electorally based movement, which operates in parallel to the 'corporate-capitalist' class up until this point) as an example of how the only way to change things will still be through state power.

To me though, (and im actually fairly excited about whats going on in Venezuela - although much remains to be seen), it has been clear (whether through electoral or military means) that historically the state socialist project has failed 'the people' and perhaps more importantly, it has distorted the idea of revolution to the point where very few people still even identify with the term (at least in the US). On some levels this probably has some positive side effects since many people are re-thinking what (big R) Revolution actually looks like and are trying to (like Holloway) theorize new ways of radically transforming society -- but in general its clear this idea of the power of the people to change things is at a fairly low level. Revolution in the US exists in the slogans of multinational corporations ("revolutionizing the way you look at banking"), on the trendy Che Guevara t-shirts you see on every street corner, and among the Academic Left -- a sector which is currently hopelessley out of touch with any real social movements based in this country. On the other side you still have various left groupings (or sects), prodominantly Trotskyists and Maoists but also Anarchists, who have dealt with the lack of real broad based, working class, revolutionary movements by simply becoming more schrill and isolating in their rhetoric. Rather then contributing to a larger anti-capitalist dialogue though, these groupings have (in my opinion) simply made the radical left more unattractive.

So.... what is a (r)evolutionary to do?

More on this topic tomorrow, but in the meantime for anyone in or around the New York City area, check out this class starting on Thursday nights at the Brecht Forum, February 16th entitled 'The meaning of revolution today?"

Teachers/Facilitators: Ayça Çubukçu & David Graeber

This six session study group will explore closely John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, in reference to both contemporary political theory and action. Holloway's book has sparked some of the most engaging debates that the alter-globalization movement has produced, concerning questions that range from the lessons of Zapatismo to questions of "power" and the state; from desirable revolutionary strategies to their implication in the problems these strategies seek to counter in the first place. The seminar will engage with these critical debates (with complimentary provocation from Antonio Negri and Giorgio Agamben) that our movements need to address - if not resolve- in action.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Free The P" Mixtape !

This mix-tape is off the hook. Besides the fact that its a benefit project for a good friend who is putting the finishing touches on an amazing documentary on the Palestinian Hip-Hop movement, the tracks on the Free The P album are all blazin. My boy Andrew El-Kadi wrote a review of the album for the new issue of Left Turn so check that out, check out the Free The P website, and keep your eyes open for Jacqueline Solloum's documentary 'Sling-Shot Hip-Hop' which is going to be making some major waves across the country (world?) when its released in a few months.

Left Turn magazine #19 hot off the press!

We are very excited about the release of issue #19 which features a series of articles hard hitting writting from the front lines of New Orleans, Iraq, Lebanon, & Hong Kong to name a few. We have also put a few articles online including:

by Walidah Imarisha

Although we try to make many of our articles available online for free, we only survive as a publication through people like YOU subscribing or donating to the project. Many of you have over the past 6 months and we have seen a huge increase in our subscriber lists, but as the person who sends out the mailings i know many of you are still fronting on subscribing (I know who you are) so if you usually count on getting free copies or sometimes pick up the magazine at your local store -- Please subscribe now! Its the cost of like 2 meals or something like that and you get a year and a half worth of Left Turn delivered to your door...

Friday, January 06, 2006

National Conference on Organized Resistance [NCOR]

The 9th annual NCOR conference will be taking place from February 3-5th in Washington DC and I encourage anyone who has the time to try and make it. Many of the workshop descriptions are now available online and include a variety of topics including:

* Another Kind of Politics: Community Power, Autonomy, & Zapatismo
* Because Good Ideas are Not Enough: Building Our Organizations
* Breaking Down Walls: Anti-Prison Organizing and Movement Building
* Building Our Levees: The Lessons from New Orleans
* Building Student and Worker Coalitions
* Canada and Empire: "Imperialism with a Smile"
* Community Organizing Towards Making A Revolution Possible
* Creating Caring Communities
* Next Steps for the Global Justice Movement in the US
* The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
* Parenting for Social Change
* Participatory Learning: Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Activism
* Race and Privilege in Radical Communities
* "Recovering Argentina": Lessons on Resistance and Solidarity
* What Next for the Palestine Solidarity Movement?
* What's the Meaning of Protest, Anyway?

The NCOR conference is pretty much the only yearly conference based in the US that attracts consistantly over 1,000 young radicals. It has a few drawbacks, as most conferences do - specifically it attracts primarily college educated, prodiminantly middle class white activists. Having said that, NCOR has made great strides over the last few years and the organizers have really made a commitment towards getting a more diverse audience and series of presenters there. Organizers will be coming from all across the country and in my experience the weekend is always a good 'field trip' kind of thing if your trying to build relationships with a group of local individuals or activists. So... rent a car and or van and go to DC February 3-5th!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The 'Other' Campaign Begins...

Marking the twelfth anniversary of its uprising, the Zapatista National
Liberation Army (EZLN) launched the next phase in its struggle Jan. 1
to a thunderously warm send-off from thousands of supporters in the
overfilled Plaza de Resistencia in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

The six-member Zapatista command, four men and two women, assumed
the stage with a backdrop bearing a mural of Emiliano Zapata as a sea of
black balaclavas, red bandanas, banners, Mexican citizens,
internationals-in-solidarity and tourists cheered on. Banners lifted
high in the air announced, “Long Live the EZLN”

The Other Campaign, the Zapatista political initiative which hopes to
forge an anti-capitalist alliance of the non-electoral Left in Mexico,
has officially begun. Thousands who have signed on gathered with
subcomandante Marcos, now called Delegate Zero, in his first day.

Narco News, a great internet resource, will be covering the new Zapatista
initiative throughout for folks here in the US interested in following the

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years Re(v)olutions!

So the internet that ive been able to get for free over the past two years seems to have hit a little bump in the road, thus the lack of posts recently. Thanks to everyone who commented on the recent 'STRIKE' post and to all of who who have been reading but have yet to participate (post comments) perhaps your new years resolutions can be to help make this blog even more interactive.

New Years eve was kind of different this year from last year as three of my close friends who I spent new years with last year were not around. Two of them are currently traveling in Palestine and Southern Mexico respectively, while a third is now living in Lebanon. I spent the night doing the usual new years eve stuff, hanging out with old high school friends and talking very little about politics. Still I have been thinking a lot about the new year both in terms of the larger political landscape, and within that how work that im doing personally is going. So along those lines, and in the spirit of looking foward in hope...

1. On December 24th, the recently elected Bolivian president Evo Morales gave a speech entitled "In defense of humanity" in which he stated: "I want to tell you, companeras and companeros, how we have built the consciousness of the Bolivian people from the bottom up. How quickly the Bolivian people have reacted, have said--as Subcomandate Marcos says--ya basta!, enough policies of hunger and misery." Morales is the latest example of the 'leftward' political shift underway throughout Latin America and could represent another small but important piece in the puzzle to challenging the US (and its major corporations) supremacy in the region. Morales should not be confused with Marcos, or even Oscar Olivera, and he is working under many more restraints then say a Hugo Chavez because of Bolivia's level of poverty and lack of major resources like oil. Still the recent election of Morales is hopeful and if his speech last week was any indication he will veer more towards the path of Chavez in Venezuela rather then Lula and the workers party in Brazil. As the US administrations miscalculations in Iraq become more and more apparent in the new year, it will be interesting to see these social movements all over the Americas continue to grow in strength. As activists in the US we will need to continue to build ties with these movements as well as (more importantly) continue to show the Americas and the world, that here in the heart of the empire we too are building our autonomous social movements outside of the corporate political party structure and independent of reformist liberal NGOs.

2. On the personal front, 2005 was a big year for Left Turn magazine. The 8 of us that took over and collectivized the magazine back in September of 2004 have now put out 5 excellent issues, all of which have been extremely well received throughout the country and internationally. It has been really hard at times producing and distributing a national publication as an all volunteer collective, but the work is really starting to pay off. Over the past 4 months our subscriber base has increased over %40 which shows us not only that people are reading the magazine but also that they feel its important enough to support as a movement publication and institution. Besides the dedication on the part of the editors though, a special shout-out to everyone who has helped out in any way with the magazine this past year either as writers, distributors, event coordinators, or just general supporters. Specifically I would like to thank Josh and the whole 'Leftist Lounge' crew who pulled together an amazing fundraiser party back in September which raised the most money of any single event or donor in Left Turn magazines short history. I would like to thank Clare, Chris, Ingrid and the whole Catalyst Project crew for the support of the magazine over this past year, and specifically for organizing a really nice event for us when we had our national meeting out in the Bay Area this summer. Thanks to Paula, Eric, Ije, Nicole, Morgan, Priscilla and the rest of the Sista ii Sista crew here in New York City both for writing such an amazing articles in issue #18 and for working together with us on the 'Revolution Will Not Be Funded' event back in October which was dope.

A special new years shout-out to the whole Left Turn team including; Rayan, Brooke, Sasha, Uda, James, Mary-Ann & Rachel out on the West Coast... Sheri down in Oklahoma, Jordan in New Orleans who did so much amazing reporting over these past few months while keeping up with our full time schedule... Zein, Rami, Crystal, Dan, Ellen, Kristin and the rest of the DC crew.... Steve up in Seattle, Molly in Philly, Marc up in Umass, Mick and Trip in New York.... Peter, Rafeef, Adam and the Toronto crew up North... Jen, Jason, Josh and the whole Clamor magazine team out in Ohio... it has been a pleasure to work with all of you.

Finally, to my 'new years 2005 comrades' (RJ, Ora & Bilal) who are doing their thing in different parts of the world right now -- Francesca and I held it down in New York this time around but we definitely missed you all very much and look forward to sippin some cheap champagne together sometime soon...