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Resisting Tyranny in Hong Kong

Resisting Tyranny in Hong Kong

Photo from RadicalGraff

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For the hour, we spoke with Ahkok who identifies as a humanitarian, antifascist and musician who grew up in Hong Kong and has participated in protests over the years including the Umbrella Movement and current protests today. We talk about the mindset of the Hong Kong protests, the situation in China, decolonization, racism and more.

photo by Kyle Lam

Y’all may have heard that over the last 8 weeks or so, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests to undermine efforts by the government to create an extradition treaty with China. The protests have included barricades, interesting uses of AirDrop, Telegram and whatsapp and other digital platforms to avoid censorship to spread information, street fights against police and attacks from criminal gangs they and the Chinese government hired (the so-called “White Shirts”) and a raucous romp through the empty legislative chambers of governance leaving wreck and ruin behind. The street actions come on the 30th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Protests of 1989 when student sit-ins demanding democratic political and economic reforms were killed in Beijing and around by the so-called Peoples Liberation Army. Currently, western reporting and word from dissidents inside of China has come about the Re-Education camps such as in Xinjiang where the Chinese government has been interring Uighur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in order to stamp out their religion and socialize them to a more homogeneous Chinese lifestyles, definitely a reason for Hong Kongers to take the streets to keep dissenters there from easy deportation to China.

A couple of interesting ways to keep up on perspectives from the region include ChuangCN, crimethInc, Hong Kong Free Press.


BRABC events

If you’re in the Asheville area, on Friday August 2nd from 6:30-8 at Firestorm Books, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross will be showing the documentary “Love And Revolution” about autonomous and anarchist responses to austerity, police violence and resistance to borders and love for the people who cross them in Greece. More on the film at the website lamouretlarevolution.net. Then, on Sunday August 4th from 5-7pm BRABC invites you to it’s monthly political prisoner letter writing. Show up to scrawl a few screeds and meet some nice wingnuts.

Bennu Hannibale Ra-Sun

Supporters of Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, recently moved out of solitary confinement after years in the hole for organizing non-violent resistance behind bars, are asking folks to show up in Montgomery, AL to support a court hearing for him at 10AM Montgomery County Courthouse, Courtroom 3C, 251 S Lawrence St. Montgomery, AL 36104 held before Circuit Judge James H. Anderson Fifteenth Judicial Circuit.

Support Workers Coop Efforts

Finally, comrades in Carbondale, IL, have put together a gofundme to help fund a workers cooperative. You can find the site by searching “Carbondale Spring Fat Patties Cooperative”, an effort to re-open a closed burger joint to feed the working class, not some fat cat CEO. More info about organizing efforts in Carbondale can be found at carbondalespring.org.

BAD News: July 2019

This month for the A-Radio Network’s “Angry Voices From Around The World” podcast we feature a shortened segment from our previous episode of TFSR with Perilous Chronicles, as well as A-Radio Berlin with notes on the National Socialist Underground trial in Germany and A-Radio Vienna with call-ups for the August 23-30 International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners and support for prison rebel, Andreas Krebs.

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This week, we featured “Jab Cross” by Lucy Furr from their recent album, The Jungle, as well as the track “4K Punk Rock” by antifascist post-rock band Remiso’s album, Pleasant With Presentiment.


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Y’all may have heard that over the last 8 weeks or so, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests to undermine efforts by the government to create an extradition treaty with China. The protests have included barricades, interesting uses of Air-Drop, Telegram and WhatApp and other digital platforms to avoid censorship to spread information, street fights against police and attacks from criminal gangs they and the Chinese government hired (the so-called “White Shirts”) and a raucous romp through the empty legislative chambers of governance leaving wreck and ruin behind. The street actions come on the 30th anniversary of the Tianeman Square Protests of 1989 when student sit-ins demanding democratic political and economic reforms were killed in Beijing and around by the so-called Peoples Liberation Army. Currently, western reporting and word from dissidents inside of China has come about the Re-Education camps such as in Xinjiang where the Chinese government has been interring Uighar Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in order to stamp out their religion and socialize them to a more homogeneous Chinese lifestyles, definitely a reason for Hong Kongers to take the streets to keep dissenters there from easy deportation to China.

For the hour, I spoke with Ahkok who identifies as a humanitarian, antifascist and musician who grew up in Hong Kong and has participated in protests over the years including the Umbrella Movement and current protests today. We talk about the mindset of the Hong Kong protests, the situation in China, decolonization, racism and more.

TFSR: Could you introduce yourself to the audience?

Ahkok: Ok, yeah, my name is Ahkok. Originally I’m from Hong Kong, now based in London. I just came back from the Hong Kong massive protests starting from June, lasting until now, really. I’m a musician and I’m also a member of the Hong Kong antifa group. Yeah, that’s basically who I am.

TFSR: Do you identify as an anarchist as well?

Ahkok: Yeah, yeah, I..

TFSR: It’s ok if you don’t…

Ahkok: I, I do, but I like to call myself a humanitarian more, maybe. But sometimes I’ll put on an anarchist hat and, for to, make my ground or something. So, yeah, I would say I’m an anarchist.

TFSR: So,I got ahold of you because there are these ongoing and incredible protests going on for the last 8 weeks…

Ahkok: yeah, mmm

TFSR: …in Hong Kong. Can you talk a little bit about where they came from, recently, and sort of what’s gone on, please?

Ahkok: Yeah, it’s basically… it started from a murder that happened in Taiwan. So, basically there’s a Hong Kong guy, I think he was going out with this Taiwanese girl. That girl got murdered and he flew back to Hong Kong. And there wasn’t any extradition bill between Hong Kong and Taiwan. So, the Hong Kong government was trying to use this as a chance to introduce this extradition bill. But, it’s not for Taiwan, it’s basically trying to bridge this gap from Hong Kong to China. So, yeah, that happened I think in April. And then a lot of different people trying to reject the bill, but the Hong Kong government was really, really determined to pass the bill. So, on the 9th of June there was this massive protest about this extradition bill worldwide, really. I was in Berlin, and I was participating in a gathering in Berlin. There’s a lot of Hong Kong people living there, about a couple of hundred people.

And then it just… went more aggressive along. There was, on the 12th of June, there was a protest outside of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong and the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. There was a guy, I think he is a reporter, and he got shot in the head, so everyone was sort of watching it and he was in a pool of blood, almost died. I was just really shocked, so I took a flight back to Hong Kong just to be with all of my mates and with the protesters. It just escalated from there and continues right now.

Well, it’s actually a little bit different now because initially we all gathered outside of the Legislative Council, it’s basically like a Parliament in Hong Kong. So there are a lot of protests there. On the first of July some of the protesters actually broke into the Parliament, I think people have seen the videos. Then they trashed the Parliament with lots of graffiti and then came out safely. But the Legislative Council isn’t really operating now so people start to organize different protests in different districts around Hong Kong. Like, for instance, last week it was in Lin Yao and the week before it was in Xiao Tin and so on and so forth. So, it’s basically that there are a lot of smaller protests now rather than just one big, gigantic one happening outside of the Legislative Council.

TFSR: So, is the Legislative Council between sessions where it’s taking an official break that is timed or is it that they are on pause because of the amount of disruption that’s occurring?

Ahkok: They are on pause because of the destruction, yes. Actually, the Chief Executive in Hong Kong, she said the bill is dead but we all think that’s a big lie because there are no options about the bill going dead. You can either pass the bill, approve it, or you withdraw it. But she never said ‘withdraw’, so we think she’s just trying to bide her time and maybe try to reintroduce it later on. So, the protesters keep on protesting her to say ‘withdraw’ but she never used the word. So we just don’t believe her and think the bill is just hanging there.

But, yeah, the Legislative Council is trashed pretty badly and it’ll take a couple of weeks to reinstall. But there will be a somewhat of a break later on anyway. We think that if the bill is coming back, it’ll be in October. But now I think it escalated more than just the extradition bill. It’s more about the independence or the staying away from the evil control from the Chinese government, really.

TFSR: So, I think it’s a good time for people in the audience who may not understand the situation with Hong Kong’s government. SO, basically, for a very long time China was in control, right, and then that was wrested away by the British during the Opium Wars, which gave it back in 1997. Can you talk a bit about that transition and what say the people of Hong Kong had in that and sort of what conflict there would be between the methods of governance that were present or expectations of the ways society ran under British rule versus under Chinese?

Ahkok: Yeah, it’s a very complicated and long story. But, there is this Sino-British joint declaration. Basically, Hong Kong is a British Colony, right? I think we got pretty wealthy because of the Cultural Revolution. There’s a lot of businessmen, maybe from Shanghai or somewhere, who tried to escape the Cultural Revolution so they went to Hong Kong to establish their business.

TFSR: And this was the Maoist attempt to change the cultural landscape in the 1960’s…

Ahkok: Yeah, totally. This was the attempt to try to introduce this really rigid communism around the 1950’s and 60’s. So, the economy was pretty much flourishing under the British colonial government. There was this Sino-British joint declaration saying “we have to hand over in 1997” so the British were handing over Hong Kong back to China. But they had this joint-declaration saying that there will be one country, two systems within this 50 years. So, from 1997 to 2047 we should be benefiting from this one-country-two-systems. Basically, meaning we have our own legislative system, we have our own declarations and so on and so forth, but we’re still a part of China. But as you know since 1997, it’s only been 20 years. Things are just going really really fast.

A lot of people are really scared now. Especially with this extradition bill. Meaning, if the Chinese Govt thought you broke some law in China, they can take you from Hong Kong and try to punish you in China. What this means is that we still have some Free Speech in Hong Kong, we can still criticize the government. We can still criticize the Chinese Communist Party, but if this bill passed then there will be no more freedom of speech whatsoever. They can just take you and put you in a jail in China. So people got really scared. Especially since we’ve been having this Freedom of Speech for a long time, we’ve been saying things about the Chinese government for ages. So, yeah, I think the Hong Kong people are really, really scared about this extradition bill.

The tricky part is that we’ve moved on from one colonial system to another one, I would put it that way. We were a British Colony and we feel like a Chinese Colony right now. So, the younger generation is having a stronger mind on the Hong Kong independence, more than ever, really. In the old days we usually talked about trying influence China as a country so Hong Kong can benefit from it. But now the younger generation is just trying to break apart from China to have their own way, their own system. They don’t really care about the Chinese democratic movement that much anymore.

TFSR: Just to sort of put a pin in what you said about dissent and the suffering at the hands of censorship. I’m reading through this CrimethInc article “Anarchists in the Resistance to Extradition in Hong Kong” that just came our recently. And the person being interviewed talked a bit about booksellers in Hong Kong who were disappeared for selling publications that were banned on the mainland. And activists in Hong Kong who have been detained or deprived of contact while cross the borders with no real possibility for challenging the situations. It seems like this isn’t just based in some conspiracy theory or fear based out of nothing, right?

Ahkok: Yeah, it escalated really fast in the last couple of years. Basically, we have a lot of different bookstores in Hong Kong selling censored books in China, so it actually is quite profitable because a lot of Chinese tourists would like to come and buy some censored books and bring them back to China.

I think the bookstore owner.. there was three of them. Three of them vanished for several months. What happened was this guy, I think he was trying to work with the Chinese government and go back to the store and try to get these phone numbers, so he has these customers information. I think the Chinese government wanted to have this. So, he was told to go back to Hong Kong and take it. But when he went back to Hong Kong, he changed his mind and reported to the mass what happened. So, actually, he’s now in Taiwan and because of this extradition bill he thinks he may not be safe anymore. He went back to Taiwan and thinks that Taiwan is still safe in a way. Don’t know for how long. A lot of people like him feel really that Hong Kong is not a safe place to stay away from the Chinese government anymore.

TFSR: You mentioned a younger generation having a perspective that this was imperialism being imposed after a different form of colonialism and imperialism. Does that mean that young people engaging in this wave of protests against the extradition, are they coming from more of a populist or nativist perspective? Is there nationalism underpinning it? Or is it more of a request of not being, or a push to just not be controlled by a power that is out of their own hands?

Ahkok: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question and very critical. I have to be honest, the younger generation are mostly organized by localists. They are in this spectrum, they are actually quite right wing. The younger generation that is now trying to pick up the identity of what Hong Kong people means, but there are a lot of privileges and discrimination that are behind it. I think, softly speaking, Hong Kong was… they have this elitism in their own sense of identity. Like ‘Hong Kong is much better than China. Hong Kong are a little better species than the Chinese…’. I think that’s the biggest problem about the movement happening it he last couple of years.

There’s a lot of localist leaders in jail now, so these sort of notions that the ‘Hong Kong people are better than the Chinese’ are dying down I think. But at the backbone it’s still the same localist thing. So, what happened was… there’s a lot of fights with the riot police but there are also organized groups to… We have some Chinese buskers, Chinese street performers in Hong Kong and the localists will go and attack them or try to kick them off from the park or something. I think that is not covered in mainstream media at all but that actually makes me really concerned, that sort of backbone of right-wing, localist identity. The tricky part is, how can we address the Hong Kong identity that we aren’t the Chinese and aren’t the British. But at the same time not be discriminating, especially against the Chinese. So, that’s the tricky part.

TFSR: It seems like there’s a possibility, and this is based again on my reading of that article, but that there’s a part of the Hong Kong identity that lies in the identification with refugees who have sought their own life-ways in spite of larger powers trying to control them. And that could be maybe some sort of unifying and non-xenophobic approach. I don’t know if that’s a correct reading on a part of the myth of what it means to be from Hong Kong.

Ahkok: I think, as a local Hong Konger… I spent 30 years in Hong Kong, I have to say that Hong Kong people are fucking racist, man. We had these Vietnamese refugees in the early 90’s. They were treated like rats, man, honestly. They were thrown into concentration camps and having really, really inhumane treatment from the government or the citizens. I think there’s this really powerful colony, the Hong Kong people usually are really.. they prefer the British or the Americans. If your people are black or brown… quite a lot of people from India and Pakistan live in Hong Kong but they are still treated like second-grade citizens still. It’s so difficult to tackle that.

They have this sense of ‘white people are better than the others.’ So, Hong Kong people have been trying to be white for ages. I think that’s one of the most successful colonies, British colonies you can find on earth. So, now, even going to protests, some of them will still wave the British colonial flag, it’s so fucking embarrassing to see. Even some protesters who trashed the parliament they actually took one of these colonial flags with them from inside the parliament. That actually reflects this kind of, really…

TFSR: Reactionary?

Ahkok: … reactionary… Yeah, yeah. I think it’s really naive as well. They thought ‘We have to stand strong and fight off the Chinese colonial power, the Chinese imperial power, so we have to stand aside with the British colony. You know what I mean? It’s like, oh my god can you think of something else. So that’s a pity, really.

TFSR: So, this is an instance that these days, since the end of the cold war, I haven’t heard very much of like how… Hearing from populations resisting a leftist imperialist force. You’ve mentioned that localism and a right wing populism is really frequent and, at least an inherited xenophobia from British colonialism or white supremacy. But, are there many conflictual or resistance movements in Hong Kong that come from an anti-capitalist perspective? And how do they relate to the fact that the Chinese imperial force calls itself ‘Communist’?

Ahkok: Ah, good question. I think one of the key protests was in 2011 with… well we actually had two Occupy Centrals. One was called, really lamely, “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” that was not actually part of the Umbrella Movement but was .. they had this plan with occupying Central with love and peace for a long time but they didn’t know how to execute it because it was a plan from the university elites. But we actually had an Occupy Central in 2011. We spent one year occupying this Hong Kong HSBC bank, the headquarters of this bank. So, we were at the ground-level of this bank for 1 year and then we got kicked out. But that was actually echoing the Occupy movement around the world, so it was basically anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian. But it wasn’t that popular in Hong Kong, actually.

When it was started, actually, we got a lot of attention but gradually, maybe it was just like 5 or 6 tents left at the occupying space. It is actually very difficult to introduce anti-capitalist ideology in Hong Kong because that is precisely the core identity of Hong Kong people. They think they have the economic power, much better than China. Not so, now, but in the 80’s and 90’s that we were much better than the Chinese because we were rich. That we were much better than the other Asian countries because we were one of the strongest Asian countries in terms of GDP and so on and so forth. So, that makes up a lot of Hong Kong’s identity, and people are proud of it because of the financial power.

Part of this Sino-phobia is because we are losing that privilege and China is growing into the second biggest Imperial power in the world. So, Hong Kong is actually losing this privilege. A lot of middle class, right wing Hong Kong people are actually frightened because we don’t have this privilege now. Rather than saying ‘Freedom of Speech’ or ‘Freedom of whatever’.

** 32 minutes **?

TFSR: If there was room for anti-capitalism or if it was so tainted by the dialogue coming… or the monologue coming from the Chinese Communist Party…

Ahkok: I think in the 1960’s and 70’s there was actually more left-wing, anarchist movements. I think because, precisely, in the 80’s and 90’s the financial power in Hong Kong was soaring. People tried to be a-political in order to not cause any trouble. You know, capitalism needs a really smooth, operating system. So they tried not to disturb it. So they became very a-political in the 80’s and 90’s.

I think since the early 2000’s, we tried to pick up social movements again from the 80’s generation. We, who were born in the 80’s, stated to pick up a lot of different protests from that point in the early 2000’s. So, within these 19 years, we actually went on this crash course. Before that, we went to protest and if we tried to snatch a barricade, we got maimed really from the media (saying that we’re Thugs and shit). But, until now we have gotten really good with tear gas, setting up barricades, trying to stop the riot police. This is actually moving so fast, faster than anyone could imagine.

Nowadays in the really front-line, trying to fight off the riot police, are actually people who are like 16, or 16-21. Really, really young. People like me in their 30’s, we are like the older generation already. We actually try to participate by saving the kids in the front, or just providing the resources, the tools that are needed. It actually changes so fast. I got arrested a lot of times before, but usually I was charged with unlawful assembly. The charge wasn’t really, really serious. I got social service for 80 hours and things like that. But now, it’s escalated so that whenever you participate in this kind of demonstration you participate in a riot. So, it jumps from social service to like 8 years of prison time.

TFSR: Oof!

Ahkok: So, yeah, actually, the risk is really, really high now. But the young generation knows it, but they are really very desperate. This desperate feeling, you can get it from the young generation. If this one-country-two-systems is ending in 2047, that’s actually not.. it’s 20 years later. So, maybe this is.. I think that a lot of people think this is our only chance to stop this from happening. This is the only chance to introduce or try to ask for Hong Kong independence. So, the young generation would risk that 8 years prison time to fight for their future.

TFSR: So you mentioned that capitalism requires a lot of smoth running for it to be able to extract resources and move them up the chain in a population. And this sort of disruption, of course, it will bring a reaction from a capitalist state. Earlier, you mentioned that the two-state-one-nation approach… Can you talk a bit more about the shifting power towards China within the decision making within Hong Kong? For instance, representation of the CCP within whatever supposedly democratic institutions that exist in Hong Kong? And how that might impact things like the passage of this extradition rule or punishments for participating in disruptions and such?

Ahkok: You know, we were pretty proud of Hong Kong not having any corruption at all, it’s not like in China. But I wouldn’t say so now, because there are so many new construction plans coming up. It costs fortunes, billions and billions of dollars, even for just one pedestrian bridge or something. So, we actually know that the Hong Kong gove3rnemnt is answering to the Chinese government and trying to maneuver all the money to the Chinese by these kind of construction works. It costs a fortune but the quality is shit. So, the new train stations, for example, even the construction site is sinking a couple of inches, a couple of inches. But, literally, no one got arrested, they still have a way to get around it. They were able to find some specialists to say ‘it’s safe’, that kind of bullshit, but it costs a fortune and things aren’t safe anymore in Hong Kong.

I think a lot of people in Hong Kong are very sensitive to this kind of money investments. So, that makes a lot of people angry in the society in general.

We know this Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong is actually behind almost everything. The Hong Kong government is no longer answering ot the Hong Kong people anymore, it is directly answering to Beijing, and the Liaison Office is actually more powerful than the Hong Kong government.

So, what we saw with the thugs attacking people randomly in the train station last week. A lot of evidence shows that they were actually hired by the Liaison Office. That’s why the Hong Kong police were working so explicitly with them. Because, it came from the highest order of the Liaison Office, so they weren’t interfering when the thugs were attacking. There were no police whatsoever for like 40 minutes and the thugs were just attacking people with pipes and sticks and whatever, randomly. It’s actually state-sponsored terrorism happening in Hong Kong. It was happening in the street called Yuen Long, so a lot of protesters went back to Yuen Long yesterday, Saturday, right. But, the riot police came and they actually… last week we were beaten up by the terrorists and this week we were beaten up by the riot police. Actually, it’s the same, but they’re just dressing different coats really. But they all isolated this Liaison Office. It’s actually an open secret, we know that this government in Hong Kong has this kind of attitude, shamelessly having so much of this police brutality. Because they aren’t really answering ot the Hong Kong people anymore, they are actually working for the Beijing government.

TFSR: So, these thugs that you mentioned, for people who may not have seen the video. There was a video shared online that showed this so-called ‘White Shirt Gang’, a bunch of men in their teens and 20’s, rather large, wearing white t-shirts and attacking protesters in public transit stations. And this isn’t, I mean, but it may be getting worse but this isn’t a new thing, right? In 2014 during the Umbrella Movement, there were also noted cases of Triads or thugs being hired or working with the police to undermine the occupy encampments and beat up protesters, right?

Ahkok: Yeah, it’s not new, but the scale is quite different. It’s not so explicit now. The police just don’t give a shit. They would go and talk to the gangsters saying “Yeah, well done.” Something like that we can see on the videos. I think, back then in 2014, they were still pretty shy to show that the police were working with the thugs. But now, they just don’t care and just admit it. When people were under attack, when people tried to go to the police station to report, they actually closed the police stations. If you call *999, it’s like calling 911 in the States, they actually hang up. If you say, ‘the thugs are attacking’, they’ll hang up or just say ‘if you think it’s not safe, just don’t go out on the street’ and hang up. So, it’s really explicit now, they’re actually the same. **chuckle**. Yeah.

I’m not saying that the police were a fine unit before, we’re not that naive, but this kind of explicitly working together in front of cameras is quite new. I think in 2014, thugs were trying to blend in with the protesters. Their mission was to make the protesters look dirty on the media by throwing things at the police or something like that. Or trying to harass the protesters to make the occupying area less safe. But the mission now is actually quite different. They actually go out and terrorize people. I mean, they aren’t attacking protesters, they are attacking pedestrians, they are attacking random people taking the train.

Yah, I think the scale is actually quite different. I would say that now it’s like corporate terrorism, it’s actually like state-sponsored terrorism. And before it was actually just a little bit different.

TFSR: I think that the US doesn’t have a very proper understanding of the term ‘terrorist’. Recently there was some legislation that was pushed by a few senators, including Ted Cruz (who’s very far right wing), to accuse antifascists or ‘antifa’ being terrorists. When in fact over the last 5 years how many, like 100, people have been killed by right-wing extremists. But, whatever. But to imply, to actually impose terror and make it so that people don’t want to go outside would be an example of terrorism, right?

Ahkok: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s actually a very different kind of context in the States, I think. But, yeah. Maybe it’s not a really good term to use, ‘terrorism’, but the thugs in Hong Kong… I think we have to go back to the history of how these thugs happen to be really snobbish in the first place. Actually, they claim to be the indigenous inhabitants of Hong Kong because their ancestors actually helped by fighting the colonial government. With plows and stuff like that. So, the colonial government tried to say to them, ‘You and your off-springs will have the right to claim the lands” as a way of making a truce. So, what happened is that all of the males from these indigenous inhabitants will have the rights of the land. You know, in Hong Kong, land is really scarce. We have a lot of different living issues, living in really cramped places. But these ‘indigenous inhabitants’, they have the land, so they become one of the privileged classes in Hong Kong. They actually think they own the place. They actually think they own the territory, so they become their own group of people, the main part of these thugs or the gangs that are operating in these terrorist attacks.

The notion that they came out to beat people randomly, saying that they were trying to protect their land. It’s actually really funny. They actually think that the Black Bloc will come to start trouble. So, their first intention is to punish the Black Blocs. So, I think they are trying to go out and beat people in black shirts, and it just escalated to beating up people no matter what they’re wearing. That’s one of the really strange things happening in Hong Kong.

The gangs that are wearing white, the Black Bloc is actually the protesters. Because within this anti-extradition bill, we dress wholly in black, actually, I think it helps a lot of introduce Black Blocs, really. Starting in 2014, we saw Black Blocs, but never in this scale or therefore this kind of organization. I’m actually really proud of the organized Black Blocs, they’re really really powerful and have gained a lot of momentum in the last few weeks. You have to understand that in 2014 it was really just a few people wearing black clothing and throwing objects at the police. But now we’ve become so strong that we can organize many different resources, help people by having our own medics. Yeah, it’s become a really organized groups. I should write something about these Black Blocs coming together in this last couple of months. It’s really interesting.

TFSR: Yeah, I think that you mentioned before the difficulty of engaging barricades and other such things. And now, they seem to be really commonly used and somewhat dispersed among the population. Critiques that people may have gotten for resisting the police in the past have sort of gone by the wayside as wider parts of the population have experienced how difficult the situation is and how dangerous it is. I think it is really impressive and a lot of people have also commented on the very intelligent use of buckets of water to stop teargas. Most people try to throw it back and burn their hands. Can you talk about some of the improved tactics and usch that you’ve seen used in the protests?

Ahkok: Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with the punishment, it’s getting really scary. So, when, back maybe like 10 years ago and we would go out protesting and set up barricades, we didn’t even think of covering our faces because the jail-time was so short. But it escalated with the Hong Kong government trying to prosecute people with riot charges, with 6-8 years in prison. So people think seriously about hiding their identity whenever they go out. So, I think that makes it more popular to have Black Blocs go out in Hong Kong.

I think we learned a lot in the 2014 Umbrella Movement by organizing really big occupying spaces, how to move the tools and resources, how to fight the riot police. Yeah, well after that 79 days of occupy8ing movement in Umbrella Movement, a lot of people went home feeling really pessimistic for almost 5 years, actually. But, in these couple of years, actually, we had a lot of time to really chew on what happened in 2014 and let it sink in. So, when we went back out ot protest in 2019 we came back really strong and really prepared. I think, especially the really young generations don’t have the…

I would say that when we went out to protest maybe 10, 20 years ago, a lot of mainstream politicians were afraid to look dirty on mainstream media. They also calculated how we were actually represented by the media, ‘are we doing things right? Are we looking good?’ Because we thought images would mobilize people to join in.

But, nowadays the younger generation doesn’t give a shit. I mean, they don’t really care about if they try to hit the riot police, if it looks bad on the news. They don’t really care. So, I think from representation to being present in the riot is really different now. So, the younger generation participates and they actually are present in that and don’t really think about representation in the media at all.

And one of the reasons that we have escalated into this kind of mobilization and organization is because a lot of the leaders were arrested **laughs**, they’re actually in jail. I shouldn’t laugh about it, they’re having really hard jail time, but this time we don’t have leaders or main-stages telling what people should do or what people shouldn’t do. So, I think we actually benefited from all of those mainstream political leaders being arrested. So, people have literally no leaders telling them what to do. And now they mobilize with Telegram, or co-location social media… We actually have this main, massive discussion board called Ling-dung, so basically they’ll go online and discuss strategies, what to do and what not to do. Or how to coexist with different knid of risks and tasks. I think that’s the main difference, thinking about it, we don’t have one idealized leader trying to steer away the movement. So things are just born naturally. Some people, maybe they would like to take more risks, to do more things, or some people want to participate in some really peaceful demonstration and go home when things are getting dirty. But they can still work with the Black Bloc. Yeah, I think it’s a new era of protest in Hong Kong.

TFSR: Do you have a sense of how, as trust and this sort of knowledge gets dispersed among more people and decentralized, how people know at what point… I mean, because the Chinese government and the Hong Kong government are watching what’s going on, are listening to what decisions are being made and I’m sure trying to engage and trying to confuse peoples activity and trust with each other. Is there an understanding that at a certain scale we need to devolve our methods of approaching things or have people come to that point yet?

Ahkok: I think that since 2014, there’s a lot of, we call them ‘Ghosts’, undercover cops who would blend in and try to start things or escalate to something more violent, or whatever. They try to make the scripts play out by the movement. I think we still have a lot of those. But we spent a lot of time trying to catch the ghosts in 2014, ‘oh those are undercover cops, those are protesters’ but how do you identify and distinguish them? I think that now people are so aware of it, we always try to remind ourselves ‘don’t spend time catching ghosts, just do your own thing.’ I think this actually works quite well, we don’t really spend time trying to call other people out from the protests ‘they aren’t one of us or they are ghosts or they aren’t protesters’. We don’t actually care now. We do our own stuff, we stay with our own groups of people. But I think that people are getting really smart at the same time. We try to analyze the situation, where to stop and what not to do.

There was this incident on the 1st of July when people trashed the parliament. Actually, four people had this death oath that they wanted to stay inside until the riot police came inside and they wanted to (it was actually suicidal). They actually made this oath to stay inside and fight off the riot police. Before the police came, 100 protesters went into the parliament to pick them up. They said ‘We either leave together or stay together.’ I think this was a very powerful moment of the protests, we actually learned a lot of trust. We’re on the front-line all of the time and we can analyze what would be really harmful fro the protesters, for the Black Blocs and where to actually call it off for the day and come back later on.

It’s just a lot of trial and error, really. But I would say that we’ve been waiting for this moment of leaderless protests for a long time. Because, even in 2014 there were so many idolized leaders that had their mics and said shit, making deals with the police… a lot of people just chanting what they were chanting on the stage. But not anymore. Even some of the politicians, some of the mainstream politicians they know this is not their time. They would just go and try to encourage the protesters to be safe or whatever, Even the lawmakers in Hong Kong know they know shouldn’t take the stage or take the mic to give orders anymore. That’s what makes it really powerful at this time.

TFSR: So, this show sometimes gets heard in China, gets downloads in China and I seriously doubt this will get past the censors.

Ahkok: **laughing**

TFSR: But, in the hopes that someone has a VPN or TOR and can hear this. As you said, things are feeling very dire for people and especially the youth who see a future in 27 years or whatever of China fully taking control of Hong Kong and it losing it’s autonomy and independence, whatever it has now. And it’s also the 30th anniversary of the Tianeman Square massacre, which I know is not allowed to be covered and is censored highly from within China. And I wonder if you have any words for people that are within the mainland about this situation and any hopes that you have… if you have any hopes… for their independence and autonomy. And what you want them to understand about what’s going on in your home.

Ahkok: Yeah, I mean we have a lot of really strong connections with activists in China. We have a lot of respect. Because they are paying a really high price for being dissidents in china. I would say, look, all tyranny collapses. I’ve actually been quite positive. Of course, if the Chinese Communist Party is still around in 2047 Hong Kong will become a part of it and then maybe there’s no escape. But, who knows, maybe the Chinese Community Party might collapse any time soon, man. Part of the reason why there are so many people obedient to the Chinese Communist Party is because of the economic power. There’s only one reason why you obey them, because of money (honestly). Even from Hong Kong. Even some people in Hong Kong are pro-Beijing because they will be made rich.

But I think the economic structure in China is so unstable that it might just collapse at any time. They just make up their numbers. We have been waiting for the bubble to burst for like, for a long time. It might happen any time soon. Once that happens, there will be no more obedience. People will question about the Communist Party in China. Things will be very different.

You know, they have this one… one row one belt, what’s it called, initiative in China. So, in the UN people try to question about… they have these concentration camps, reeducation camps in China now. Actually, 27 countries support these re-education camps in China because they are in the pocket of China. They want to get a piece of it. But I think this time, because of this extradition bill, or maybe we should pay attention to how evil the Chinese government is. Of course, I know a lot of people are trying to go against the imperialism in the States, so they would choose to side with China. I think that is just nonsense, that is just two evil empires. You shouldn’t choose one of them and then think “I’m with the Chinese, so fuck the US government and US imperialism.” No, China is just another, maybe even more evil imperial power, they are just getting stronger and stronger and a lot of countries are supporting them. I think it’s actually a very good time to raise the question “Should we really side with the Chinese?” Look at what they’re doing, there’s no humanity in this system, and that’s why they can grow their economy so fast because there is no legal system, no humanity. Just money. They still use the term ‘Communism’, but they are on the most right side of the spectrum you could imagine on earth.. Let’s think about this. It will collapse pretty soon, man, I have a lot of faith in that.

TFSR: Yeah. I… I don’t necessarily have the faith but I don’t know any better. I can hope for it. And that people can have something better. Definitely not the US coming in but something for themselves.

You kind of addressed one of the questions I had, which was… There are communists, that are statists, who we call Tankies in the west which is a British term. It’s for authoritarian leftists who believe that the opposition to the main capitalist empire, which would be the United States as you said, which would be to support anything that anyone else does that’s in opposition. I appreciate you raising that.

Ahkok: My pleasure, man.

TFSR: So, in terms of that… and I won’t keep you too much longer, I’ve kept you an hour now… But there’s been rumors of the so-called People’s Liberation Army showing up in Hong Kong. Have you heard of that happening or does that seem like a thing that the Chinese government is likely to impose at this point?

Ahkok: Yeah, that’s maybe the worst nightmare of Hong Kong is what happened in Beijing in 1989 happening in Hong Kong. So, there’s always rumors when we do something to upset the Chinese that “The People’s Liberation Army is actually standing by somewhere closer to Hong Kong, maybe in Song Jen (?) or Guangzhou.” And now we have the high speed train, they can just carry all the armies into Hong Kong in no time. But, honestly, to me… I mean… There’s a lot of people saying it won’t happen because the Chinese capitalists still need Hong Kong to make money. If they send in the armies to Hong Kong, the Hong Kong economic structure will collapse and the Chinese government can’t benefit from it. Honestly, I think it might just happen. But, we shouldn’t worry about it. If that’s the trump card, then the CCP has it and they might use it. But we have to mentally be ready for this knkid of reaction to happen in Hong Kong. But I think that we shouldn’t be threatened by this army behind the Chinese.

Or to think that we shouldn’t do this to upset the government more, or we shouldn’t do that. Even going to protest at the Liaison Office, some people are scared because the Liaison Office answers to the Beijing Government. So, when people are throwing paint at the Liaison Office and Chinese officials say ‘We will deploy the army on you if it happens again.’ I mean, yah, just fuck them, just do it then, man. What happened in 1989, it might happen again. Maybe not in Hong Kong, maybe not in Beijing, maybe somewhere else. But we should be mentally prepared if we are still on the road of resistance then we’ll have this obstacle in front of us.

TFSR: Do yo mind if I step back for a moment of clarification for the sake of the audience?

Ahkok: Yeah, yeah.

TFSR: So, when you are talking about the re-education camps that are being engage by the Chinese government, “re-education”, are you talking about the use of concentration camps to break up Ouigar and other Muslim populations within mainland China to socialize them in to, I guess, Han culture or Chinese Communist Party culture?

Ahkok: Well, China doesn’t allow for freedom of religion, right? So, they have been doing a lot of things, bad things, to Muslims for a long time. I think it was the BBC that had this really long coverage about these re-education camps in China. So, basically they throw Muslims from Sun Gong into these concentration camps to make them eat pork or brainwash them into something, until they are not Muslims and are free to go. We call them concentration camps because that’s what they are. I think a lot of people in Hong Kong are worried there might be this kind of concentration camps for Hong Kong Chinese, Hong Kongers. Because it actually might happen, you know? Yeah, yeah, it’s actually really frightening. I think the world should do something about it. We should organize… I don’t know…. We should save them from the tortures happening. We have news of this Muslim poet maybe just died inside the concentration camps. We have this kind of news all of the time. I think the world should really react to those.

TFSR: Boycotting and divesting countries that operate concentration camps such as the United States and China might be a really good idea for people internationally who have a sense of ethics. Or people domestically in those countries if they have that opportunity. Or sabotaging.

Ahkok: Absolutely, man, sabotaging.

TFSR: One thing we haven’t really talked about really… I’d like to touch back on the idea of the youth coming from a kind of right wing, populist perspectve in their resistance to the imposition of rule by the Chinese mainland, by the Chinese Communist Party, which is a very absolutely undemocratic institution by definition. So, with these concepts of Free Speech and Freedom of Entrepreneurship, Freedom of Protest and Religion that exists in Hong Kong, which is very parallel to what I’ve experienced in the United States, is that people point to these beautiful rights that are enshrined in these documents and protected. There’s also incredibly large class divides. A lot of populations, often racialized populations that live at the bottom of society that don’t have the opportunity to partake of that GDP, that fast moving economy that is enriching ‘the country’. So, I wonder, nearing the end of the conversation, do you think that in this push for independence and for thinking outside of.. away from… What do you think it would take or do you see an inkling in the youth in Hong Kong who see that their officials and their business people are willing to make deals with the Chinese Communist Party and state capitalism in the form of Chinese Communism that they can find an autonomous anti-capitalist alternative that doesn’t support the police state authoritarianism of the Chinese or the capitalist creation of feudalism in the current conditions?

Ahkok: Oh, man, that’s tough. I was having this conversation with this guy who’s also participating in the protests. He actually doesn’t know he’s right wing. From this conversation, he said “We’re not welcoming the Chinese in here, we should welcome some people with more, higher standard. Mainly whites, English-speaking groups.” They don’t even know they’re being really right wing. But that’s a part of the problem of being colonized for so long here in Hong Kong. One of the really tough issues is how to decolonize Hong Kong. You know, actually, people still fantasize about the British ruling days. They think it was really good, the financial structure was strong and the legal system was a really smart way of colonizing a place. They haven’t got the tools to criticize about being colonized for so long. Maybe, I would say, we have to educate people, or we have to remind people how bad it actually was when the British ruled Hong Kong. It actually is just really smart. We didn’t have universal suffrage when the British ruled. They just gave a certain kind of freedom: you could criticize the government, you name it. But deep down, we were actually enslaved, we just got really wealthy because of this financial movement benefiting Asia. In the 80’s and 90’s it seemed really good. We should really education people about decolonization means. Also, I think these different places we can look up to or have a different exchange. For example, Catalunya in Spain. I think we have this really common problem around raising our identities while at the same time not being a right wing fascist, saying that people are lower than us.

I’ve been engaging with a lot of Catalan activists. They have a lot of experience to share. Maybe we should have more of this kind of exchange in the future. Actually, there’s a lot of this work to do, but I think now we are more active politically, but we should be educated better with what to do with our deep politics in the future.

TFSR: Well, so how can people abroad.. you mentioned going to a demonstration in Germany at one point… How can people internationally get involved in offering support to resistance to Chinese imposition and the Hong Kong police and how can people educate themselves better on the outside?

Ahkok: There’s a free press in Hong Kong that does a pretty good job in English. If you search Free Press I think you can find a lot of coverage of that. I think there’s a reporter based in Beijing, she’s been writing a lot of articles on Hong Kong and Chinese political issues. Her articles are, I think, in The Guardian, the UK Guardian. So, if you search Guardian and Hong Kong you can find some of her articles as well. So, by knowing the history and the political facts, I think would be quite helpful.

Hong Kong is a really tiny place, really, you know and I’m not really surprised if no one heard of it or thinks it’s a part of Japan. So, knowing the facts is really good.

So, how can foreigners participate? The G20 is happening. Some Hong Kong protesters actually raised a couple of million of dollars to have a lot of different countries front page newspapers saying to address the G20 leaders to help us in Hong Kong. That is so embarrassing, but that actually really reflects how Hong Kong, the majority of Hong Kong protesters think. They are actually trying to ask help from other, strong leaders, or evil organizations.

Well at the same time a lot of my friends in Asia, anarchist groups, actually came to participate in the protests. A lot of comrades from Japan and Taiwan and Korea actually came. We actually have this, really strong anarchist network in east Asia these days. We have meetings probably more than once a year. We always try to talk about how to participate in your countries demonstrations, or other movements. So, we should definitely think about that. Besides knowing the facts and how we can participate when you guys are mobilizing or having different demonstrations and so on and so forth. Yeah, having these kinds of networks actually make us feel better. Maybe it will become something really powerful later on, who knows? Yeah, we actually have this really strong collaboration starting from Fukushima. The No-Nuke campaign in Japan and Taiwan was really active and they were actually working together really well. And of course, in Hong Kong, we have nuclear power plants that have threatened us for a really long time. And China is building quite a lot of new power plants in the near future. So, we actually have a very similar threat. So, from this No-Nuke network we slowly developed this pan-Asian anarchist network. We should definitely think of how to mobilize later on.

TFSR: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you think listeners should know about? That I didn’t ask out of ignorance?

Ahkok: Uh, no, actually that was really good. That was some really tough questions. I tried to answer them but it’s not really easy. I tried to prepare for it, though. I think… I haven’t really engaged with media that have been asking things that deep before…

TFSR: Well, thank you.

Ahkok: Yeah, I feel like I’m still really stimulated by the questions. Yeah, I can’t think of anything to add ,really.

TFSR: Well, I really appreciate the candor and making this work. I know it’s really late where you are.

Anarchists In Conflict: Rojava + Yellow Vests

Anarchists In Conflict: Rojava + Yellow Vest Movement

(Sean Swain at [00:06:28], interviews begin at [00:14:05])

Download This Episode

This week on The Final Straw, the episode’s theme is anarchist interventions in struggles around the world. We’ll be sharing audios from comrades in the A-Radio Network, which just had it’s 5th Annual Gathering in Zurich, Switzerland. The A-Radio Network is made up of stations around Europe, plus a smattering in South + North America. We have been a member of the ARN for 4 years now, which over the last year and a half produces the monthly B(A)DNews: Angry Voices From Around The World news podcast in English, made up of contributions by A-Radio member-projects. You can find past episodes at our website.

In lieu of this month’s BADNews, the gathering produced an 8 hour radio show last week and elements of this broadcast. We’ll present here two interviews from that broadcast concerning the struggle for autonomy in the social revolutionary region of Rojava, in northern Syria. The first is with a fighter with the Tekosina Anarsist (Anarchist Struggle, starts at 42:49) and the second with Zaher Baher, a member of the Kurdish Anarchist Forum in London (starts at 57:04). well as one from another an interview conducted a week ago with an anarchist in Paris, France, involved with the Yellow Vest (Gilets jaunes) social movement in France for some updates and perspectives.

But first, we’ll be airing audio from another member of the A-Radio as well as Channel Zero Network projects, Dissident Island Radio from London in the U.K., with an interview about the geopolitics of Rojava and leadership within the Kurdish struggle with a comrade participating in the annual ‘Long March‘ in solidarity with Abdullah Öcalan (starts at 14:05). We apologize for the audio quality. We invite you to note the differences of opinion between the anarchists who’ve witnessed, lived in, or fought for the Rojava Revolution, as somewhere within and between their perspectives I believe lies some of the truth of the complex situation there.


Happy Birthday Yona Unega (Oso Blanco)

From occupied Cherokee territory in so-called western North Carolina, we’d like to wish a happy birthday on February 26th to wolf clan Cherokee/Choctaw political prisoner, Oso Blanco or, in Cherokee, Yona Unega. Oso is in for armed robberies, where he expropriated from U.S. banks and sent funds to Zapatistas communities in the Yucatan in Mexico. You can write to Oso to write him a happy birthday by addressing letters to his state name:

Byron Chubbuck
USP Victorville
PO BOX 3900
Adelanto, CA 92301

And more info on Yona Unega’s case and efforts can be found at https://freeosoblanco.blogspot.com

If you’re listening to the radio version, please check out our online/podcast version up at our website for another 20 minutes of interviews plus the Sean Swain segment for this week.

Blue Ridge ABC events

Smash Bro's TournamentFriday, March 1st is the first Friday of the month and therefore the Trouble Showing at Firestorm Books and Coffee in Asheville, NC. Episode 18, entitled ACAB (for All Cops Are Bastards) airs at 6:30pm and will be followed by a little over an hour of discussion.

Then, on Sunday March 3rd, as the 1st Sunday of the month, BRABC will hold it’s Political Prisoner letter writing event, again at Firestorm. The event begins at 5pm, letter writing materials including stamps, prisoners names and stories, addresses and help in writing. If you’ve never written someone a letter or someone in prison in particular, no worries. It’s a nice social time. The event runs from 5pm to 7:30pm.

Finally, on Saturday, March 16th, Blue Ridge ABC is holding a double-header at Static Age Records in downtown Asheville. First up, from 3-5pm, a Super Smash Brothers benefit tournament, with vegan cheese-steaks and fries available. Double elimination, best 2 out of 3 rounds. For more info, check out https://www.smashprisonssmashbros.eventbrite.com. Then, from 9pm til late at Static Age, get ready for a lineup Anti-Fascist Metal Benefitof anti-fascist metal including Rat Broth, Arid, and Margaret Killjoy’s project Feminazgul, plus more to be announced.

More on all of these events can be found at brabc.blackblogs.org



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TFSR: This week on the final straw radio, this episode’s theme is anarchist interventions in struggles around the world. We’ll be sharing content from the A-Radio network, which just had its fifth annual gathering in Zurich, Switzerland. The A-Radio network is made up of stations and podcasts from around Europe, plus a smattering in South and North America. We’ve been a member of the A radio network for four years now, which over the last year and a half produces the monthly ‘Bad News: Angry Voices From Around the World’ news podcast in english, made up of contributions from A-Radio member projects. You can find past episodes at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org searching for the term A-Radio Network.

In lieu of this months Bad News, the gathering produced an eight hour radio show last week and elements end up in this broadcast. We’ll be presenting here two episodes from that broadcast, concerning the struggle for autonomy in the social revolutionary region of Rojava in northern Syria, as well as an interview conducted two weeks ago with an anarchist in Paris, France involved in the yellow vest social movement, for some updates and perspectives on that.

But first, we’ll be airing audio from another member of the A-Radio as well as Channel Zero Network projects, Dissident Island from London and the UK, with a review about the geopolitics of Rojava and leadership with the Kurdish struggle with a comrade participating in the annual ‘Long March’ in solidarity with Abdullah Öcalan. We apologize for the audio quality, and we invite you to notice the differences in opinion between the anarchists who have witnessed, lived or fought for the Rojava Revolution, as somewhere within and between their perspectives, I believe, lies some of the truth of this complex situation there.

Dissident Island Radio: Now in our final piece tonight we discuss the ongoing Kurdish struggle and the campaign to free Abdullah Öcalan.

Hi Kawa, thanks for joining us here on the show tonight, do you want to introduce yourself a bit?

Kawa: Yes well I can say that I’m now in a bus in the direction to Strassbourg for the demonstration that will happen tomorrow in solidarity with the Kurdish movement and that I’m taking part of the international Long March and that several people from more than ten countries from different places around Europe are with me right now in this bus going to, uh,  Strassbourg.

D*I: Cool and the march stated in Luxembourg, there was a kickoff event in Luxembourg last Sunday?

Kawa: Right, exactly. We start in Luxembourg and have been walking since there. And we have been crossing different villages and places around france and meeting the different Kurdish community and different political groups in different places we go.

D*I: How many people on the march, how many people doing the full kind of distance?

Kawa: Yeah in this march from Luxembourg to Strassbourg we start like around maybe 60-70 people but now we are much more because there was a several marches, there was one started in Germany but German police stopped them and like attacked them and forbid them to continue the demonstration after two days that they were walking. So they decide to stop their march in Germany and join the international march so now we have this, like the international march with like 60-70 people with also this also this other youth march with I dunno, you call it more like atypical that are together. There are  also another march that are coming from Switzerland there is also a lot of people that have come to buses for demonstration tomorrow in Stassbourg.

D*I: And this kind of response from local people on the route of the march, what kind of response have you received?

Kawa: Well, uh, especially the Kurdish people is welcoming us, like really happy, really motivated to see so many people in solidarity with the Kurdish people, with the Kurdish struggle because we are also demanding the freedom for Abdullah Öcalan because in fact today 15 of February is 20 years since he was arrested and put in jail, in isolation, and that’s why we are asking us for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan.

D*I: Part of the demand of the march is petitioning the EU to put pressure on Turkey to release Öcalan.

Kawa: Yes, exactly. Um, that’s one of the points and somehow that’s why we’re going to Strassbourg. The European Council is there and also the building of the committee for prevention of torture. Because this is, Öcalan is in complete isolation, they are not allowing him to the lawyers and there are several questions about how is his health situation. The committee for prevention of torture make a short visit one year ago, something like this and they just release a note saying he was alive and he was okay. They never said anything if he was under torture or not, and we don’t know anything about his health situation and we are asking at least if his lawyers can see him, because we don’t know anything about him, he’s in complete isolation for now, today, 20 years.

D*I: And what is the European Union’s position on that, because in the mainstream news we hear a lot about the US, and Turkey, and Russia and Iran, and the roles they are playing in what’s going on in Syria in the moment.  But there’s a lot less information about the EU’s position, and what you just said about how the German police stopped the German part of the march from marching altogether, that’s not really a good sign.

Kawa: No, it’s not really a good sign. And we can see how somehow for the European Union, we can see how they [?] with Turkey because somehow Turkey is a NATO country and Europe and the NATO and the US of course and all the countries of NATO keep Turkey close to them because they like being able to do the things that the western countries cannot do in the middle east, that Europe cannot do – Turkey it’s there, and being member of NATO it’s alliance with western powers in middle east. But we can see in the last years [?] Turkey’s turning more close to Russia and to Iran and Europe is trying to also keep Turkey together.

We have also the deal for refugees when Turkey receives at the beginning three thousand millions of Euros and the material of supporting refugees but at the end there is no keeping track of this money and we can see how this money it’s ending in building military bases or like the wall that Turkey build in 2016, a wall that it’s more than 600 km between the border of Turkey and Syria for control the Kurdish people to not cross from Turkey to Syria. And we can see how in Europe the ban on PKK it’s only forcing Kurdish people to have more difficulties to work in solidarity since we can see how Abdullah Öcalan has been the president of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party, and this ban accusing the PKK of terrorist organization is making the things much more difficult. But at the same time, in fact a few months ago there was an initiative in the European Parliament to remove the ban on PKK and at the end at the last sentence on the European Parliament that yes, it’s true, that PKK is never making any kind of terrorist attack or any kind of terrorist actually in Europe. So it’s right that actually we have no reasons for keep them on the terrorist list. But anyway, even saying that, the PKK is still on the terrorist list of the European Union.

D*I: And the whole situation is very confusing for someone on the outside to fully understand because the PKK is not actually in Syria or in Turkey but Öcalan is arrested in Turkey and the US were supporting the YPG/YPJ, the Syrian defense forces, to defeat ISIL in Syria. And they recently announced less than two months ago that they were eventually going to remove their backing and withdraw from Syria and this had caused quite a lot of concern about Turkey is going to do in that northwestern region of Rojava, so do you want to say a bit about what people’s response there has been?

Kawa: Yeah, it’s true there can be a bit complicated because we have a lot of different actors in the same conflict. First for clarify the situation it’s important to understand that when we talk that when we talk about Kurdistan and the Kurdish people, we are talking about, uh, at one time about Turkey but at the same time about Syria, about Iran, about Iraq, and of course over one million of Kurdish people that are in Germany and in other countries all around the world. It’s a lot of actors at the same time, so when we see the situation in Rojava right now we can see that since 2012 there is this social revolution that is happened there where there Kurdish people in the north of Syria start to manage society outside the frame of nation-state.

So it’s interesting to see how the Kurdish liberation movement was born with a frame of national liberation movement in the frame of building a Kurdish state but the beginning of the 2000s they reformulate the political project and they make this step, uh, this step that they call Democratic Confederalist pushing for a society that is based on values of the women’s liberation, ecology, and direct democracy without a state. So we can see how since the autonomy of Rojava in 2012 they are building this society based on these ideas, we can see how in Turkey the Kurdish people in the southeast of Turkey they were also building this autonomy, a system based on Democratic Confederalist, but the Turkish state completely attacked them and in 2015 they start a lot of military operations destroying a lot of cities. Cities like Nusaybin were completely destroyed by the Turkish army. It’s important to see that now the army wants to enter the north of Syria but it’s not something new, like the war from the Turkish state against the Kurdish people have been for a lot of years. In the 90’s there was a huge war.

Now Turkey wants to attack the Kurds in Syria but of course Syria means to cross a border so it means that still Turkey is a county that’s part of NATO. And of course like Russia that’s a country that has been supporting more the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and can put objections if Turkey wants to enter Syria, so that’s why there have been so many objections and diplomatic interactions with so many different actors and Turkey’s getting closer and closer to Russia in order to have green light from Russia in order to allow them to attack the Kurds in northern Syria and Rojava. So we can see since how the announcement of Donald Trump in December 15th that they withdraw from Syria they start to withdraw the diplomatic body of US in Syria, some soldiers are still remainin there. And these has been presented for Erdogan as an example of how Donald Trump is ready to withdraw from Syria for allowing Turkey to enter there. After that there was some contradiction messages, it’s not clear, if the US will allow Turkey to fully enter the north of Syria with bombs and airplanes and drones like they did in Afrin one year ago. Or if they will stop Turkey to use planes, though it’s a discussion ongoing you can see how Turkey is now also talking with Iran, Russia in these international meetings that they are having after the process of Astana. And it’s a really complicated situation  with a lot of different actors that it’s sometimes different to follow maybe.

D*I: And how does it feel to be a part of that actually? Because it’s one thing to attempt to build an alternative community structure that’s really quite large – the region that it’s covering is not insignificant, there’s many many small communes that make up this region of north Syria – so how does it feel to be a part of that, to try and build that, and at the same time be so incredibly vulnerable to all of these international geopolitical movements over which you have absolutely no influence, no control, no ability, you’re just completely vulnerable in that situation?

Kawa: Yeah, and this vulnerability, it’s really interesting point though because we can see the hegemony of the model of the nation-state succeed in taking over the world. And since the Kurdish movement is northeast Syria they are developing a society outside the frame of nation-states, the threat of nation-states is always there. And we can especially how Daesh, the ISIS, the Islamic State start try to create their own system also outside the frame and in opposition to that, and of course the Kurdish people were in the need to defend themselves. And that’s what allow them to also allow them to take so much territory because the threat of the Islamic State and the terror society that they were implementing on to all the people were a direct war and somehow the Kurds were saying “We’re defending ourselves and we are fighting also, not fighting Daesh because we want to fight them. It’s just because this is a threat for humanity, this is a pure fascist system. So it’s an antifascist struggle and we need to defeat them.”

And since all this war against the islamic state, a lot of different territories that have been liberated from the caliphate have been joining to the Autonomous Administration that the Kurds started in the north. When I went to Rojava and I had the opportunity to view for one year how this society’s working for one year interesting to see how they are succeeding in developing a system outside the frame of the nation-state with the women’s liberation as a main point of this social transformation but uh, of course, all the states that are surrounding this territory don’t recognize Rojava as something that they can fear[?}. There is a problem that when the situation of war came, it’s really difficult to defend yourself from an army like Turkey, that it’s a member of NATO with warplanes, drones, like full technology of NATO. And of course, no one will ever sell of give anti-aircraft weapons to Rojava because they are not an actor that can be recognized as a state and they don’t want to be so, uh, somehow it’s a really complicated situation and we can see how all these structure of capitalism and the connection of capitalism with, uh, the weapon industry it’s creating a system which is not allowing other projects outside the frame of nation-state to exist because there is this military frontier that you can’t go and we saw it in Afrin one year ago when was the division of Afrin and it was really clear that the military technology was creating a border that you can’t overcome.

D*I: And I think that something that Rojava has shown us over the past year is just how difficult the creation of an alternative way of structuring society really is. I mean we had some of this experience with seeing what was going on in Latin America some years ago but I guess Rojava is the most recent example of this, and it’s been really impressive to see people actually putting their own lives on the line and going out and fighting the powers that are trying to stop them from existing. Has that the willingness to fight and the demands that fighting has made on that society, like has it had an impact on the communes and the way that they’re organized or has it has any effect in that way?

Kawa: Of course it have effect but I think it’s important to understand the Kurdish people they are used to live outside the frame of nation-state. We can see how in a lot of the structures in the system of communes that they are developing, it may sound like something new for us but for them it’s nothing that it’s completely new. They have been living in this system from, like, forever. So it’s important to see that this process that they are doing it’s without states because they have the knowledge of how the state and it’s important to see how at some point the communes are able to exist now because Daesh has been defeated so a lot of places before the communes was the war. And the war was the thing that was more necessary, so we can see how not only the Kurdish people from Rojava but the Kurdish people from all around Kurdistan came to the northern Syria to fight against the Islamic state because they know that the Kurds are their brothers and their sisters and every step and every city that was liberated, the Kurdish people was able to go back to their cities and then they realized that they were able to win the war so they were able to bring this system of Democratic Confederalist to the maximum example. So before they were already somehow living in a communal way, building up communes, but the point is that now the Syrian state left because they were not able to fight the Islamic State and now they are self-managing all the parts of society. They succeed in creating a self-managed system of justice, a self-managed system of economy based on cooperatives. So they are in a full way of managing all the aspects of life, all the aspects of society outside the frame of nation-state. And of course for the communes it has a huge impact, this war, as they know they can exist and they have the life that they have today because the war that they did and they always remember all the people that has been fighting and all the people that has died.

D*I: And what was it like to be an international there, what does it feel like to go there as an international person?

Kawa: Well, it’s a really interesting experience. We can see how a lot of people already went there as internationalists, especially since 2014-15 a lot of people started to join more in the military side, in the fight against the Islamic State. But since the war against Islamic State was able to take more land and to liberate more territories this society system that they are building is attracting more and more the attention of internationals. So I was one of these internationals that went there in the civilian side, I was traveling there for see the society, for see what means to build the revolution, what means to build a society without a state, what means to build this system of Democratic Confederalism that they are building. And for me I can say that I was really impressed for see a lot of things that seems impossible to be, but at the same time it’s a really hard situation so we’re just fighting a war that means a lot of people and a lot of resources needs to focus on this war and it’s really important to see how this situation there it’s really hard. But what they are building it’s something that can bring a lot of inspiration in order to develop new ways of thinking and understanding the society that can allow the humanity to think beyond the nation-state, beyond capitalism, beyond patriarchy and try to bring new ideas and new hopes to the revolutionary movements all around the world. Like, we saw in the ‘90s with the Zapatistas movement that was giving inspiration to a lot of movements, a lot of revolutionary organizations. We can see how this is happening in Rojava and to be able to be there and to see not only the nice parts and all the beautiful things that you can see but also the difficulties, the sacrifices, and all the problems that they are facing. It’s giving perspective for how we can also start to develop a revolutionary movements all around the world in our countries because somehow if we go there as internationalists it’s not just for going there to see the situation in Rojava, we are also going there for learn, for understand their movement, how they succeed on doing this revolution and then bringing these ideas back home and being able to develop an internationalist movement. We can develop a revolution all around the world.

For me also I’m from Catalonia, so the impact of the international brigades that came in Spain in 1936 at least more than 50,000 peoples from different countries fighting fascism together, um, it had a huge impact. So now we can see how fascism is affecting Rojava, is attacking the people in northern Syria. So it’s important also to have this in mind and to see that internationalist is not something that is in the books of history, it’s something that is it’s happening right now. So we can see internationalists from all around the world are going there to learn, to support and for fight to defend this revolution.

D*I: You said that the march that you’re doing right now is calling for the EU to put pressure on Turkey to release Öcalan. So I have a slightly perhaps controversial question. How important is Öcalan to the movement, is it necessary that there is a leader in the movement or is it more of a kind of solidarity support for an arrested comrade? What’s the dynamic there?

Kawa: It’s a good question, and especially for anarchist people who have been interested in the stateless society that they are building it’s sometimes a bit contradictory, no? This focus on the leader. But it’s important to understand when Abdullah Öcalan started this movement he was always trying to give perspectives on developing revolutionary line in this movement and of course he has been respected for all the perspective and all the ideological background. He’s a person that was writing a lot of books and was giving a lot of political perspectives because he had been studying a lot of different revolutions, different movements. And the point is that he did not it alone, so he was always pushing for education, for studying, for learning together. So the threat of catching him and putting him in jail when Turkey was making the trial they condemn him to seven death penalties but somehow Europe and the western powers was putting pressure for make the Turkey cannot execute him and they have been keeping him in complete isolation in this jail so it’s important to see also how he’s in jail and he’s not able to push for the revolutionary struggle in a practical way, he has been using this time to read a lot and to develop this frame of Democratic Confederalism. So it’s important to see Öcalan not only as the political or military leader but also as one that brings the ideological perspectives, all the ideas of Democratic Confederalism that are summarized in this Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization that is this five books that he wrote from prison, are the books that are presenting this model of Democratic Confederalist that somehow we can see that is a synthesis of all the things that he was reading and all the things also that he was experiencing when he was in the guerrilla movement, in this revolutionary movements. So when read these ideas of Democratic Confederalist we can see influence from all this Marxist background that this movement have, but of course also we can see a lot of influences from different authors. He’s even quoting Bakunin in some books, Sylvia Federici so a lot of different thinkers that are giving perspectives so he’s the one who made the synthesis and for this the Kurdish people it’s really know how he put a lot of effort on giving a perspective for a solution not only for Kurdistan but for middle east and all the world, making this synthesis of other revolutionary movements.

And for this it’s also important to understand the reality in Middle East. Like, middle east has been a place where the oppression and all the attacks of the colonialism has been really strong and we can see how one hundred years ago after the first world war the western powers went there and started to build the nation-states and the dynamics on middle east are not fitting with this system of nation-state, and they are keeping with the system of tribes and different clans so for them this point of the leadership is something that’s really rooted in the society. That of course, from a western view can be difficult to understand and to give meaning. And I think that even for me, before to go there, it was sometimes difficult to understand. But there you can see how this kind of leadership is bringing unity in order to face the enemy so somehow also the point that he’s in isolation as a political prisoner it’s also increasing the solidarity for all the people but it’s not only him, there are thousands of Kurdish peoples in jails, especially in Turkey, that they are also developing a huge movement of resistance in jails, an anti-jail movement. But of course he as the leader of these revolutionary movement have a special importance for the Kurdish people.

D*I: So there was a very interesting and really quite brutal critique a few years ago released by the anarchist federation, of Öcalan, comparing him to Gadaffi and Gadaffi’s pre-dictatorship politics, and then what actually transpired. And I wondered if recognizing kind of the brutality of the geopolitical dynamics that are going on with all of these nation-states fighting for different reasons over this territory, and then also within the wider region of Kurdistan, how many different smaller groups exist that are all toeing not exactly the same line, which is positive in some way and also the ability of a leader to unite these people. Having been there, do you feel that there is structural resilience within what you’ve seen, within the structure of the communes against a kind of re-hash of a kind of Gadaffi situation, of a leader coming in and then eventually capitulating under these geopolitical dynamics and having to force a dictatorship through, like is there a resilience to that happening.

Kawa: Yes, for sure, the implementation of Democratic Confederalism it’s really interesting to see how they are pushing a lot for the development of the communes, how they are really creating systems for avoid any kind of centralization of powers. For example they are building different committees for take care of different things, and for example in Rojava there is one big city, Qamişlo, somehow it’s the biggest city in Rojava and they are putting a lot of effort toward these committees, like for culture or economy and to avoid to put the central place of these kind of institutions in Qamişlo and to decentralize completely them. Somehow they have a huge analysis on the society and the nation-state and what they are understanding is that nation-state it’s the main power of centralization, of homogenization, of control. So in order to avoid a dictatorship, in order to avoid a fascism to happen, the most important thing is to decentralize the power, to decentralize the society for allow anyone to be autonomous and in the commune system it’s exactly this, they are trying to give power to every commune that they can solve their problems but they understand that the situation it’s complicated, so that somehow it’s important that still keeping some structures, and some institutions where these communes can go if they face problems. So the idea is that the commune is able to solve all their problems and all their needs in the life, but in case they are facing problems that they cannot, they are making coordinations in a district level, in a province level, in order to be able to support all these communes.

So we can see how is this system of power is bottom up and it’s important to see that some kind of central institutions have this mentality of like, serving the people, you know like the Zapatistas were saying, a place where the people rule and the government obeys. So they are creating central institutions because of the needs of some dealing with some things, especially with the military situation, with the war. But they are trying to reinforce these experiences of the direct democracy the communes are giving to the people. But of course you cannot change from one system to another in one night, it needs time, it means that the people needs what means direct democracy, what means to manage their own life in all the levels. So for this they are seeing the history also as a process, so they want to push for this society, for direct democracy but they know that managing a society of like four million people, five million people that are living now in Rojava it’s not something easy. So they are trying to develop different institutions that ensure that this revolution is able to defend itself because this is one of the main points of this movement, self defense. They understand how all the living beings need to be able to defend themself in order to survive. So they are trying to push also for all the communities to have their own self-defense system. And I think this is the main structure you can have in order to avoid fascism, when you have a centralization of power to control the others, if you decentralize the ability of self defense, this cannot happen because any kind of commune can see that ‘hey, this is not going in the line that we want with the society so we cannot allow this to control other things.’ So this point of develop self defense in any commune, I think it’s one of the best ways to ensure that dictatorship will not be ever possible there.

D*I: Thank you very much Kawa for taking the time to discuss with us these crazy complexities of an actual real-world attempt to live without a state. So if people want to support the struggle in general, how can they get in touch, where should they go what’s the points of contact and information?

Kawa: There is a website, freedomforÖcalan.longmarch.com.

D*I: Cool, thank you very much and I hope it’s successful

Kawa: It has been a pleasure, thank you a lot for this time and I’ve been happy to talk with you.

TFSR: You’re listening the Final Straw Radio and I’m Bursts O’Goodness.

And I’m William Goodenough.

You just heard Dissident Island Radio’s interview about Kurdish solidarity and the struggle in Rojava. Next up is an interview by comrades from Črna Luknja on Radio Student in Ljubljana, Slovenia with an anarchist fighter in the militia Anarchist Stuggle, a signatory to the International Freedom Battalion.

A-Radio Network Announcers: We’re back in the studio in Turic, so it’s been quite a start, this fifth radio live anarchist broadcast from the gathering of different anarchist and antiauthoritarian radios. We know that in capitalist society class struggle is never far away so battlefields are opening up everywhere, so we will have also on today’s show some reports from France about Gilet Jaunes movement, we will hear from London by our correspondents from Dissident Island and we begin this section of the show with that other ever important struggle that has lightened up all sort of revolutionary imagination of many around the world and of course, Rojava. Territory in Syria that wasn’t widely known a couple of years ago but due to the actions of different political and even military forces and due to the revolutionary efforts of movements there, Rojava somehow became for us in Europe something, a recognizable entity for some fantasy, for others unfulfilled expectation, etc etc. So we will try to also add some more information, some analysis, some reflection to the understanding of ongoing struggles in and around Rojava so for today we will hear two pieces, two interviews.

So first one is an interview conducted by Črna Luknja with a fighter directly from Rojava. So the interview is a couple of weeks old, it deals with the latest geopolitical changes on the terrain that are connected with the recent announcement of the US president that USA would withdraw its military forces and then the other interview that will follow the first is also lets say, tries to critically engage with the common narratives around Rojava Revolution. So it will be an interview with a comrade from Kurdish Anarchist Forum and we should also add a technical remark that the interview was originally conducted in a language other than english, but for this purpose it was translated and then re-enacted. So, yeah. The content of the interview is true to the original even if the voices that you will hear do not belong to the people that were interviewed. So this Rojava slot will take maybe the next 25 minutes of the broadcast, so stay tuned, and inform yourself about the struggles and get ready to open up some battlefields also closer to home.

Črna Luknja: Rojava from Tekoşina Anarşişt, Anarchist Struggle collective that was established in autumn 2017 and just recently announced its military presence in Rojava. They are also participating in the International Freedom Battalion. For the beginning can you present yourself, anarchist collective and International Freedom Battalion.

Tekoşina Anarşişt Member: We’ve been in Rojava – I mean a lot of us have been in Rojava for a longer duration, a long period of time – but our collective was established in autumn of 2017 and we didn’t really want to become like a public, propaganda oriented collective. That was never our interest, we were more focused on doing, you know, material work in terms of going to the front and also engaging with the movement here. We decided to go public simply because of the impending Turkish threat, so everyone right now is kind of, you know, attempting to rally their base and our base is obviously anarchists. So we decided to go public because of that, as well as to some extent we were forced to go public because of the IBF formation, because we are a signing member of the IFB. And I don’t want to speak very much about IFB because they have not made their announcement yet and we prematurely mentioned their formation and we’ve received criticism for this. I don’t want to speak about the IFB very much until the formation has made itself public.

ČL: So it would be very interesting to get some news from within Rojava, what is current political situation there.

TA: I guess I’ll touch a little bit on the Turkey situation. Information here is difficult to come by, to some extent, so a lot of the stuff that we are made aware of actually comes from the internet as well, just following Syria Livemap and stuff like that. Obviously, we are, there has been two particular situations where based upon Erdogan’s threats that we believe that there was gonna be some sort of massive invasion of Rojava, so we’re obviously getting prepared for that, if that is a reality, if that’s going to happen. Things have a little bit seemed to kind of have calmed down but obviously that is a very tangible reality and something that could happen at any given moment so that we need to be prepared for.

ČL: Maybe you can predict some possible scenarios for the future.

TA: Yeah, I mean obviously Rojava and the PYD have been in negotiations with the regime for quite some time now, so hopefully they’re able to come to some sort of agreement. And I say ‘hopefully’ – obviously as anarchists we are not supportive of the Assad regime, we’re not supportive of any regime or any state, etc. – but in terms of survival it’s kind of the only way, as far as I see it, or we see it,  in terms of being able to maintain some element of the revolution here. And in terms of scenarios of outcomes, if there is no deal with the regime I think it’ll be a very difficult situation for them to be in simply because not only will they then have to deal with Turkey but they’ll have to deal with attacks from the regime. So it’s a kind of indefensible position to be in if they don’t cut some sort of deal. I don’t want to say any sort of my predictions about the future of Rojava or anything like that. After Trump decided that he’s just gonna pull out of Syria, just, you know, I’ve kind of given up on making predictions because we’re dealing with irrational actors here. You know Erdogan is not necessarily a rational actor and Trump is definitely not a rational actor so it’s very difficult to make accurate predictions, what’s going to transpire here.

ČL: I don’t know how much you are able to be in contact with the society, how is in general the situation, how is living for the population there?

TA: The good thing is that we are able to have contact with people from like the general population, in fact we have a good friend of ours who is Assyrian, he speaks perfect English and he learned it primarily through American hip-hip which is a kind of interesting thing. And he’s given us a little but of light into more of the civilian population here. I mean, a lot of people are obviously incredibly supportive of like the YPG, the QSD [SDF], YPJ, etc. But a lot of people, especially people who are not Kurdish, are not aware of exactly what’s happening, you know, because it’s a very complicated situation. They’ve had al-Nusra come through, they’ve had ISIS come through, they’ve had different groups and a lot of people aren’t actually incredibly familiar with what you know, YPG, YPJ, the revolution, etc. is but they view it very favorably for sure. I mean, when you have something like ISIS, like al-Nusra or TFSA or something like that, you know obviously people are going to prefer the alternatives. Personally I think that there is a lot of education and communication that needs to happen with the population here simply because they don’t know what is going on, or why internationals are here. They kind of want to go back to their normal life, they don’t want this war to be happening. They really just want security.

ČL: How can people support your struggle and where can they find more information?

TA: So in terms of supporting the struggle at some point we’ll figure out how to properly how to get donations and figure that all out online. So that will be posted. We also very much need medical supplies, that’s one of the projects that we’re trying to work on right now is having competent combat medics. It’s something that’s very very needed here and the medical supplies are quite lacking so, you know, if people can donate things like chest seals, tourniquets, hemistatic dressing, a lot of these kinds of things are very much needed. In terms of finding more information, we’re really kind of starting to be public as I had said previously. So things are kind of going to come out over time, so I guess if you want to follow our twitter that’s the primary place that we will be posting everything. We’ve posted our involvement in Der ez-Zour, today we’ll post about the anniversary of Afrin and the actions that our people took in that. So, yeah, I guess follow our twitter for more information.

ČL: Okay, do you want to add something maybe?

TA: Obviously in Afrin there is consistently examples of people being kidnapped, people being sexually assaulted, people being murdered by the TFSA. There is ethnic cleansing happening in Afrin and if this continues, if the Turkish army is allowed to come in to Rojava the exact same thing is going to be happening. We have to dispel this narrative that, like, Turkey is fighting ISIS. Turkey has never fought ISIS, they never considered ISIS to be a threat when they were on their border. So with the Americans pulling out, with the defeat of ISIS, etc, is the trying time for Rojava. As I stated earlier, we cannot let what happened in Afrin happen to the rest of Rojava. The people in Rojava are living a decent life, a good life, and a safe life, comparatively. So I guess in summation what I want to say is that we need to be supporting Rojava right now, we need to be supporting the people of Rojava. We cannot let this just drift out of the 24-hour news cycle as some tragedy that’s happening somewhere else in the world that doesn’t effect us. This is an incredibly important thing and the Rojava project has provided people with a good life, with a safe life, within the Syrian civil war. So we cannot let them be betrayed, we cannot turn our backs on the Kurds, we cannot turn our backs on the Arabs here, we cannot turn our backs on the Assyrians, the Armenians, etc. We need to stand up for Rojava now.

TFSR: You’re listening the Final Straw Radio and I’m Bursts O’Goodness.

And I’m William Goodenuff.

You just heard Črna Luknja’s interview with an anarchist fighter with the militia Anarchist Struggle, which is a signatory to the International Freedom Battalion, just back from Rojava. Next up we’ll hear from the Kurdistan Anarchist Forum with Zahir Bahir, an Iraqi Kurd living in London.

ARN: Dear [?] thank you for your time, would you shortly introduce yourself. Where are your from, where do you live and what is your connection to the Rojava revolution?

Zahir Bahir: I am Zahir Bahir, originally from Iraq. I am part of Kurdistan Anarchist Forum and part different anarchist groups in London, among others Rebel City. I am also engaged in writing and translation, and as I am retired I am now a full-time activist.

ARN: Let us talk about Rojava. When have you last been there and what was your general impression?

ZB: Well, in respect to Rojava, basically I am part of the Kurdistan Anarchist Forum. We believe in building local groups and changing the society from the bottom and not from the top. At the time I was really excited, I had a close friend who worked at the PKK media and he interviewed me in 2013 for one and a half hours about the local groups. Then they interviewed me again in Brussels and we arranged a journey afterwards to Rojava. I went in May 2014 with a friend of mine. As I was the first one, they were very concerned that the news were spread. I had all the freedom to speak and see whomever I wanted. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. I went to all the meetings, to the communes, etc. I met the top of the people of the PYD and the movement for a democratic society and also from the bottom. I also went to events then. When I came back I wrote a big report in English and Kurdish. However, when I came back the anarchist book fair took place and the comrades organized a meeting at the anarchist and socialist movement. In 2016, I wanted to go back to Rojava to feel the difference between 2014 and 2016 with a French comrade. We tried to organize the border crossing but there was a blockade by the KDP of Barzani. In the end we had to come back. Last year I went back to Kurdistan for one and a half months but I refused to go to Rojava, as then I was supposed to follow the plan of the authorities, and to be honest at the moment it is very difficult to write news about Rojava. Many people went and came back, but they usually went as academics or as a delegation and they usually stay a week or a bit more, and whatever they see was organized for them. They don’t really see or talk to the ordinary people. There are exceptions, but only a few.

ARN: What can you tell us about the political situation now?

ZB: It is very complex and it can change week by week. There are so many forces there, which makes it difficult to have a proper analysis. But one thing is very clear: when I was there, the situation is completely different from now. At the time, there were three powers: the movement for a democratic society, the self-administration, and the PYD. There was a balance between them. Today, the PYD is the dominant actor. At the time, the YPJ was a voluntary force. It is very difficult to properly analyze the development, because I wasn’t there all the time. What I saw so far is that many people don’t realize what would be there to criticize. However, a few things are clear. At least we can say some things about how Rojava is changing. There was a change in voluntary forces or forces that belong to the community. Now, they are a PYD force and are not any more a defender but became an attacker. All this actually happened because of the fight against ISIS. When they attacked Kobani, there was a good moment for the US to get involved in order to control the movement. The best way was to get involved in Kobani side by side with the PYD and YPG. By the strategic change from a defense to an offensive force, they, the PYD and the YPG, needed more weapons, more tanks and more hospitals, more food, more clothes, a lot of things. That’s why a guerrilla force or any movement which has an army cannot do much until they are supported by an original or international power if they are acting offensively. YPG completely became dependent on the US, which tried to increase its influence.

ARN: You have published many articles about the developments in Rojava. What are your most important points about the situation on the ground?

ZB: The situation is continuously changing. What I thought last year was that there was time to resolve the Kurdish issue in the region. There was no guarantee if Assad is winning the battle and if he’ll negotiate or or if he’ll attack. I said if Assad is defeated in Idlib, then the Turkish state will overrun the Kurdish people. However, US and Trump don’t want their power and forces staying there and of course it is important to talk about the interests of the Turkish state and Erdogan. There is no way for any state to support the Kurdish people in expense of their relationship to Turkey. This is one thing. The second thing is one with which a vast majority of Kurdish intellectuals disagree with me, but I can always say that Erdogan is a very clever political that knows how to play. He plays with Russia, with ISIS and with the KRG. He even managed to involve the PKK in a peace process, but now the situation in Rojava and Bakur is getting worse. At the moment there is heavy fighting between the last ISIS groups and the Syrian Democratic forces in Dier ez-Zor. For me it was important that PYD would not get involved so much in the fight against ISIS. This wasn’t a Kurdish war due to many reasons. One of them is that Turkey was exporting his own interior crisis into Northern Syria. This was one reason. Another important thing to talk about is the embargo. Democratic Confederalism is a big task for many, many people. Not only for cadre or PYD or a small minority. In order to achieve that we need an enormous revolution, in education, economic, ecological and other spheres. So ignoring the cultural and political revolution was and is a threat to successful societal change. This is also connected with the embargo. As soon as the money starts to flow and if the sanctions were lifted, this will influence the situation and is a threat to solidarity. If there wouldn’t have been sanctions, Rojava could have been defeated a long time ago.

ARN: One of your main arguments is the gap between the theory of Democratic Confederalism and it’s practical outcome in northern Syria. Could you say a few words about that?

ZB: In my article ‘Confederalism,’ I argue that Bookchin and Öcalan don’t have many differences in their definition of Confederalism. They’re only minor differences. Basically, Bookchin extends his idea to feminism, but Öcalan goes beyond that and extends it to a feminist movement. In addition, Bookchin never believed that a political party can achieve Democratic Confederallism by itself, but in Rojava at the moment it is mainly the PYD that is trying to install and achieve Democratic Confederalism. Bookchin believed in decentralization, and according to what I know, and according to people who went to Rojava it is not exactly Democratic Confederalism that is happening there, as it is mainly executed and organized by political parties. If you give power to political parties to the PYD, you give it to an organization with hierarchy. None of their decisions like cooperating with the US or negotiations with the Kurdish opposition were based on debate with people, but based on decisions made by a tiny minority within the PYD and probably in accordance with PKK cadres. This kind of things, if you look at the connection to the US and the hierarchical organization and the focus on fighting, this is done on the expenses of the commune and the communal organization. This is the opposite direction of Democratic Confederalism. I think PYD and PKK, both of them are somehow counteracting Öcalan’s ideas. His ideas are very clear when it comes to Democratic Confederalism. As many people attack us, we will defend ourselves but we will not attack.

ARN:Nonetheless, there is some sort of emancipation happening. Where do you see the most emancipatory elements within the current development?

ZB: Before I come to the positive point, I’d to point out that if they get defeated it will take a long time to emerge again. In my opinion, this will leave a very bad picture for the people. In the end this will cause a lot of problems and the idea of Democratic Confederalism and the movement as such will be damaged. Regardless of what happened, the movement in general is good. They are supporting the building and emergence of local groups. This is what we are trying to do in Başur, and what is at the core of anarchist ideas. That is one thing. Another thing is the empowerment of individuals. The third thing is the emergence of the women’s movement. The women’s issues were, and are promoted. It took quite a lot in order to develop and support the women’s role. If you are comparing KRG and Rojava, in the KRG women’s issues have women in the past 27 years rather than decreased. Men are in power. When it comes to Rojava, there is a fourth positive point: the ecological issue. It’s important and a direct reference to Öcalan. They have done very little work to ecology, but in fact even if there is only information spread, it’s important. We cannot work towards an ecological society if we are in war. But they still did it and that’s impressive. The fifth positive point is that they make the people live together. Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, etc. That was a big step because still many people at many places are fighting each other based on ethnics, religion and other identitarian reasons. In Rojava, they seperated religion from the power. They made religion a religion s personal issue, and separated from the political area. They don’t force people not to have a religion, but created another way of decision making in this regard.

ARN: What’s your point of view about Democratic Confederalism from an anarchist perspective?

ZB: It’s a big issue, basically. I don’t think that anybody’s definition’s as good as Bookchin’s. I completely agree with Bookchin. I think there are many important things within his concept. One of them is the argument against the nation-state. It’s not only for the working class, but it’s for all the people. Everyone is building up the confederal society. In Bookchin’s eyes, we have to democratize the municipality and regard the municipality as the alternative to the nation-state. He calls this alternative ‘libertarian municipalism’ and regards it as the possibility to achieve a socialist society. In this regard, Öcalan and Bookchin agree with one difference. Bookchin called it ‘libertarian municipals’ and Öcalan called the units ‘people’s houses’. People’s houses are an assembly of the people, these assemblies contain representatives of the groups. In practice, people’s houses are representing local groups. But in the case of Rojava, it seems that people that are on top of the People’s Houses are always the same ones. Bookchin wants everyone to get involved, and everyone to be entitled to get involved, even though he did not believe in consensus within big groups. But he never believed in a leader. He constructed a concept where people can be replaced at any time. For Bookchin, everything has to rotate and people have to change in order to prevent hierarchy and power structures. And I just want to add something, I think that in Rojava it seems to me now that putting decisions into practice is made by the same body that is taken the decision. But it should never be one body, the decision maker and the decision implementor. A decision should always be made by the vast majority of people. In this regard, Bookchin was very clear about Confederalism. What he said was that Confederalism was only administrative. The members of assemblies need to be empowered to participate in direct action and direct democracy. Members of higher bodies should be strictly mandated to be in an assembly or in a group, they should only be chosen to administrate and coordinate the politics that have been shaped by the assembly itself. It’s never ever thought to be a fixed system of representation.

ARN: You called for critical solidarity. What do you mean exactly by that, especially regarding the current threats for the people and the federation?

ZB: Well, in my opinion anarchists do not believe that anything is perfect. That is the beauty of anarchism; even any idea from an anarchist movement should be regarded critically. Even anarchist ideas should be regarded with critical solidarity. I wrote an article about why we anarchists are divided about Rojava, and in fact anarchists are divided. Some regard Rojava as the project of PKK. They reject it as they believe PKK and Öcalan didn’t change. On the other side there are people just supporting it without criticizing, and this is wrong. There is movement, no group that should not be criticized. Criticism is at the core of anarchist actions and ideas. If you isolate criticism from anarchism, you isolate anarchism from a core characteristic. The third part are people like me, supporting Rojava critically. If we support it we can see what’s going on and wrong with the movement and how we can or want to tackle the problem. It cannot be good to only criticize Rojava. I believe that every movement has good and bad things. We need to promote the good, and reject the bad. Referring to the positive points I mentioned, we need to promote these points. At the same time there are negative points we should not support. What’s important for anarchist comrades is not to just support the movement, but also to criticize it on the basis of our ideas. It is not right to align with the US or the UK, it’s wrong to line up with them, it’s wrong how the town meetings are shaped and how influential cadres are. This is why we need to offer both criticism and solidarity.

TFSR: You’re listening the Final Straw Radio and I’m Bursts O’Goodness.

And I’m William Goodenuff. You’ve just heard a translated interview with Zahir Bahir of the Kurdistan Anarchist Forum in London about Rojava and changes she’s seen there, and what might be termed a shift from a social revolution to a political revolution. Finally, we’re about to hear an interview with an anarchist living in Paris, France about engagement with the Yellow Vest movement. This was recorded and broadcast as part of the 2019 A-Radio gathering live broadcast in mid-February.

ARN: Yeah, so you’re still listening to the fifth international radio broadcast from the anarchist and anti-authoritarian radios. Now, this morning we made a short telephone interview with somebody from Paris about the Yellow Vest movement and you’re going to hear it now.

Rebel Girl: Can you introduce yourself and give us a little background on the Yellow Vest movement?

Anarchist In Paris: I’m an anarchist living in Paris, France and since the beginning of the Yellow Vest movement have been taking part of several actions throughout different cities of France as well as writing articles about what is going on here for US comrades. Um, so the Yellow Vest movement started exactly three months ago on November 17th. It started as a grassroots response to the government’s proposal of increasing taxes on fuels for supposedly ecological purposes. Um, then, people realized that this increase of taxes will worsen their living situation. Therefor they decided to oppose the government’s decision. It is important to remember that the same government before wanted to increase taxes on fuels, this idea at the beginning of 2016 to clearly stop taxing the ultra rich. And so by these two kind of decisions, one of like reducing taxes for the ultra rich and increasing taxes on fuels for people who are constantly dependent on their cars, this created the spark that put people out in the streets. And so since November 17th every single week people decided to get organized wherever they were living, that is to say some people decided to gather during major demonstration in major cities in France. Or simply blocking traffic circles. The Yellow Vest movement was supposedly apolitical, leaderless and decentralized at first. And I think that it’s important to notice that instead of talking about the Yellow Vest movement as whole unit, it’s important to approach it as several movements with their own characteristic strategies and specificities depending on the geographical area we are studying. So yeah, for like the little background of the Yellow Vest movement that’s what I have right now. Of course, the movement had like different stages. For example the beginning of it led to a major riot, like in Paris at the Champs-Eleysess there have been like huge riots in the three first weeks of the movement. Then by mid-December it seems like the movement was reaching some kind of plateau with the Christmas holidays approaching, but a lot of us were afraid that it would end up dying after the Christmas holidays. But surprisingly in 2019 it started all over again and until today there are still people in the streets.

RG: Yeah, so I didn’t know if you would want to to talk a little more about what’s going on now and how it has changed or where you think it’s going to go.

AIP: Okay, so like about what is going on now, um, it’s a bit difficult to know. Yesterday there were major national day of action and in Paris there have been some clashed with police forces as usual and about 5,000 people took the streets, which is kind of like massive compared to the previous week. So clearly there are still people willing to be in the streets fighting for their living situations against the government. And this didn’t also just happen in Paris but there was also demonstration in Rouen, Toulouse, Leon, so it was really like a national call again. But what is going on now, it’s difficult. In the sense that people are still gathering in the streets, people are still upset but there’s feeling we are clearly reaching another kind of plateau, according to me.

RG: Yeah, if you want to talk about maybe a little bit all the different forces that have been at play, what’s been inspiring or problematic.

AIP: Uh, so, I think what is important to remember what is inspiring first to the movement is that it’s been lasting for three months and this is something that is quite rare and we should acknowledge it because the government tried on several occasions to pacify the situations by making concessions, by trying open dialogue with some forces among the movement. But besides all this attempts of pacifying the situation and turning the pages of the Yellow Vest movement, the movement is still in the streets, people are still angry, upset, and part of the die-hard participants refuse complete dialogue with the government and have lost all trust in politicians and the system itself. So I think that’s something first really inspiring because it’s quite rare that among our circles or even among social movements there is like, this capacity of lasting so long and refusing any form of dialogue. Another inspiring fact is that the movement started as a grassroots response without any traditional political framework in the sense that usually France, when there is like a social movement, there is always like a call made by trade unions or traditional leftist parties to start a social movement or a demonstration, and for the first time it’s just like people in the streets that gathered and were brought together because of shared frustrations and that refuse any form of like political parties or political trade unions became part of it. So they really started from just common people deciding to gather by their own means and organize by their own means, so there’s like a really interesting aspect in this.

Because we can clearly see some links between our ways of organizing as anarchists and the way the movement started in a sense, with the ideas of being leaderless, decentralized and a horizontal platform. So that’s the things that are inspiring but there’s also a lot of problems within the movement. First, of course, it’s the apolitical stance that the movement decided to embrace from the beginning. And this apolitical stance allowed a lot of like, reactionary tendencies to use the movement as a platform for their own ideas and actions. Since the beginning of the movement there have been a lot of issues with fascist groups taking part in the movement and fighting alongside anarchists and other demonstrators. There have been a lot of problem with conspiracy like discourse, misogynist discourse, racist discourse, anti-Semitic discourse, nationalistic discourse too. So that’s a major problem and it still remain a problem nowadays. That is to say just yesterday in the Parisian demonstration fascists were there too, but luckily, which is inspiring the group of 20 fascists or so got kicked out by yellow vesters and radials. So even if they are still taking part in demonstration there is at least an answer from part of the demonstration to clearly chase them out of the actions. So that’s also something that we need to keep working on, to continue making the movement somehow unwelcoming for those groups of individuals which is extremely difficult. Because only three weeks ago fascists were super organized in Paris and attacked two weeks in a row an anti-racist block that was within the Yellow Vest movement. So right now we have a second front within the movement that leads to a lot of street flights between anti-racists and facsists. So that’s still problematic.

Something that is also really problematic among the movement is that because the movement is really unpredictable, the Yellow Vests are still trying to find a way to increase their structure and to get more efficient. So in January, for example, for the first time since the beginning of the yellow vest movement the so-called leaders of the movement in Paris decided to make a legal demonstration instead of the wildcat demos that they used to do before. Let me explain: when I said a legal demonstration, they decided to discuss with authorities so the authorities will allow a specific march with the people organizing the demonstration. So for the first time they agreed with the authorities to work hand-in-hand on organizing the demonstration with clearly was a big step back in the process of trying to be some kind of grassroots power against authorities and the government. While doing this, the Yellow Vest movement also decided to create their own security group to protect the Yellow Vest participants, and from this specific security groups they hired a lot of ex-paramilitary that are well known far right figures, and for example some of these ex-paramilitary fought in the Donbass during the Ukrainian upraising along side pro-Russians. It’s really problematic to see that for their own security the Yellow Vest movement decide to hire well known fascists and ex-paramilitary to do the job. That’s a major issue also that we’ve been facing. So far we don’t know if this will keep happening or not so that’s clearly something we need to try to fight against and making this ex-paramilitary also unwelcome.

RG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

AIP: Yeah, there’s several things. First, at the time we are talking right now there is another demonstration happening. The demonstration’s to celebrate the three month anniversary of the Yellow Vest movement, so it should begin in less than ten minutes. We don’t know what’s gonna happen, there’s going to be a lot of people joining this demonstration because the national call was to gather to Paris. So we will see what’s coming out of this major demonstration, if there is like an increase of people in the street or if it still seems to be stagnating or slowly declining. The major problem, or asset, depending on where you situate yourself, is that it’s still remains really unpredictable so it’s really hard to tell where the movement is going, even among us radicals we are constantly discussing about where do we think this is going now and we clearly have no clue.

It seems that it’s losing some strength little by little because there are less people in the streets than during December, for example, but there is lot a like of new elements that could bring a new momentum to the Yellow Vest movement. For example right now there are students from high school and university that are deciding to go on strike every Friday to fight against climate change, to force the government to make some efforts to fight against climate change. So if these student strikes is gaining momentum and decide to join their forces to the Yellow Vest movement it could bring some kind of like fresh air within the movement and maybe lead to like a new momentum. It’s also important to know that like a week or so ago trade unions decided to make a major stride and demonstration in Paris. So if trade unions also decide to continue their fight and join the forces to the Yellow Vest it could bring more people in the street and maybe like bring more, like, claims within the movement. But what’s important to remember with the Yellow Vest movement and this has been something extremely difficult among radical circles because we had a lot of fights on this issue is that the movement is by itself impure and some radicals consider this impurity as a good reason for not taking part in it instead of understanding that the world we live in by itself impure and so the movement is just an image of the world we live in, and by taking part of it we can try to bring more analysis and structural systemic answers to the structural problem we are all facing right now. So I think it is important that we stop our purity stance and decide to join what is going on right now and to fight from within to like bring the fresh air to the movement with our own criticisms to it.

RG: Well, thanks so much for speaking with us and good luck out there today.

AIP: Oh, thanks a lot.

Kevin Rashid Johnson on the #PrisonStrike + Two Audio Zines

Kevin Rashid Johnson on the Prison Strike

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This week on the Final Straw, we’re featuring two main events, both themed around the Prison Strike ongoing across Turtle Island until at least September 9th.

First, an interview we conducted with Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. Rashid is a co-founder of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and is the Minister of Defense from within it’s Prison Chapter. He is the author of two books available from Kersplebedeb, Defying the Tomb & Panther Vision, both collections of Rashid’s art and essays on capitalism, racism, imperialism and his view of a road towards liberation. Rashid is a Maoist and presents some interesting arguments in his writings. In this interview, Rashid talks briefly about his own case, his politicization behind bars, organizing the NABPP-PC, it’s split from the New Black Panther Party, cross-racial class organizing, the #PrisonStrike and more. We hope to be able to bring more of Rashid’s voice in the future. To check out his writing and and his quite literally iconic art, check out rashidmod.com. And at the moment you can write to Rashid at the following address:

Kevin Johnson #1007485
Sussex 1 State Prison
24414 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891

Next, we’ll hear an audio post-card that some friends put together, interspersing words of encouragement and audio from a noise demonstration outside Hyde prison in Eastern North Carolina on August 20th. Prisoners at Hyde CI met the outside supporters in the yard and from across lines of razor wire they unfurled three banners with simple statements: “parole”; “better food”; & “In Solidarity”. To read an article about the noise demo, see some pictures and hear about NC specific demands, check out the article, Community Shows Support as NC Prisoners Rally With Banners on ItsGoingDown. Make some noise!

To close out the hour, we will hear some words of encouragement to striking prisoners in #Amerikkka from comrades incarcerated in #Klanada!

If you’re in Asheville today (Sunday September 9th), consider dropping by Firestorm at 610 Haywood Rd at 5pm to join #BlueRidgeABC for the monthly political prisoner letter writing night. Supplies will be free as well as info on writing prisoners, names and addresses, and comradery.

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Show playlist here.

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TFSR: Could you please introduce yourself for the listening audience?

Rashid: Alright, this is Kevin Rashid Johnson, I am a prisoner, incarcerated in Virginia at Sussex 1 State Prison.

TFSR: How has the prison tried to silence your organizing and writing over the years, and is this a consequence of the prison strike or other efforts?

R: I think I’ve gone through the entire range of reprisals. I’ve been subjected to physical attacks. I’ve been denied meals. I’ve been attempted to be subjected to dehydration, I’ve been subjected to destruction of property. Most recently I was transferred out of state, sent first to Oregon, then transferred from Oregon as a result of writing and exposing abuses in that prison system, to Texas. Same process resulted — I was transferred from Texas to Florida. Florida just got rid of me in June and sent me back to Virginia. I was then transferred — when I returned to Virginia, to Red Onion State Prison, and moved from Red Onion State prison and transferred on the 12th of July, and sent here to Sussex 1 State Prison, and I’m now being house on death row, although I have no death sentence, and that being with the obvious purpose of isolating me from other prisoners, as there are only three prisoners left on Virginia’s Death Row, and they’re spread out in a 44 cell pod, which I’m housed in separated and all the inmates have been instructed not to talk to me.

So, the major effort has been to isolate me and to remove me from areas and places where they felt I would be able to talk to prisoners, to be able to gain info about abusive conditions and to, I guess, influence prisoners to challenge abuses and to stand up to conditions that are pretty inhumane and abusive. As far as responses to the prison work strike, I have not as of yet seen any reprisals or any response that I could call reprisals. And they expect that there would be exposure of anything they did, which may be the only deterrent at this point for any type of retaliation. But I’ve been involved in a commissary strike, not spending any money, as my contribution to the strike, because I’m confined in solitary and don’t have the ability to work. I have never participated in prison work. I’ve refused through my incarceration because I have recognized it is slave labor, and I refuse to allow them to exploit me in that fashion.

TFSR: For the listeners in the wider public, can you talk about the purpose of prisons under white supremacist capitalism in the US, and why it’s in all of our interest to not only struggle against these institutions, but to support prisoners’’ organizing efforts?

R: Well, from the outset, I think it’s rather obvious that there is a racial component to who is targeted with mass imprisonment within America, from the New Afrikan, that is Black, prisoners, Black social population being 12 to 13% in mainstream society but being some 50% of the prison pop nationwide. In Virginia, where I’m incarcerated, they have been something like 13% of the state population but 58% of the prison population. So, race clearly is a determinative factor in who is targeted within imprisonment and who receives their sentences and the extent of incarceration and where they are housed. In that context, within the prison system, it’s usually at the low security, the low level institutions where predominately white prisoners are housed, and the most extreme and harsh prisons, in each prison system I’ve been to and I know of, this is where the predominately Black and Brown prisoners are housed at.

Within the prison structure, prisoners tend to polarize into racial groups, based on their shared cultural and social experiences, and guards and administration are typically inclined to try to manipulate prisoners against each other along racial grounds, racial lines, you know. The guards in my experience, especially where I just came from — Florida — are particularly orientated to acting out racist policies and politics. In fact, where I was confined, two of the institutions I was confined to, the Reception and Medical Center in Florida, in the Florida State Prison, those institutions have been exposed as employing card-carrying Ku Klux Klan members, in fact — three guards who were exposed as having plotted to kill an ex-prisoner who was Black, at the Reception and Medical Center, and revealed their plans to an FBI informant were recently prosecuted, and it came out during the prosecution that all three of them were card carrying Klansman, and that they work at the institution. And not long ago one of the legislatures on the Florida Congress had done a tour of the Reception and Medical Center, she being a Black woman, she pretty much expressed in the media that she feared for her life, the attitude of the white guards there were just openly racist. She acknowledged that she knew that the Klan played a prominent role in the staff and the administration of that institution and in that region, which is the same are the Florida State Prison is located. And she expressed her knowledge of a portion of the institution’s guards kicking Black prisoners’ teeth out who had gold teeth, and that in general, she knew that these institutions were run by the Ku Klux Klan. And this is from an elected member of the Congress of Florida, a Black woman who had done a tour and said that she literally was in fear of her life as she did this tour within the institution, because of the treatment and attitudes of white guards of the institution when she did her tour. So, the racial politics are pretty out in the open, and they’re able to exist in such at such a level because prisons not only hold people on the inside and keep us isolated from the general public, they also keep the general public locked out. So there is no scrutiny, there is no supervision, and there is generally no public accountability for and by those who work within the institution, so it’s just a closed culture, where all sorts of corruption and abuse is allowed to fester and just to be carried out with pretty much impunity. The support that is needed on the outside is tremendous. The support that the prisoners have been able to gain over the past several years in response to the work strikes and various attempts to publicize and challenge abusive conditions in the prisons have pretty much got word in to the institutions where prison officials had blocked prisoners from becoming aware of what was going on as far as protests going on and attempts to challenge and expose abuses. And it bolstered and motivated prisoners who otherwise were afraid to challenge abusive conditions and didn’t feel that there was anything that could be accomplished by trying to stand up and oppose conditions. It kind of motivated a lot of prisoners who weren’t otherwise involved to get involved. So the support that can be garnered on the outside and has been garnered is very important to this type of work and this type of struggle. It’s essential that those who are aware of these struggles and aware of these conditions give what support they can, not only as allies, but also as comrades.

TFSR: to anyone behind bars out there who might hear this interview, and is sitting on the fence about participation, what can you say about the nation-wide prison strike?

R: That they should not be deterred, they should not be discouraged, they should not just sit on their hands and refuse to get involved. The more of us who get involved, the stronger the outside support and awareness that we’re serious about the conditions that we’re challenging and the need for change — that they should not allow officials to continue to manipulate us against each other, whether along racial lines whether you’re talking about along the lines of street organizing. That’s what supporters… They should also not allow loved ones to discourage them from participating in the work strike. I know a lot of the loved ones who may hear about the strike, they may advise them to not get involved because of fear of them being transferred, a long way away from their loved ones, or they don’t want to see them subject to relation or being placed on lock down, but their loved ones should understand that  this is a condition, that these are conditions that we live, that they’re not living them and that its important that we take a stand to change these abuses, and not play in to officials trying to isolate and play us one against the other, and cause people to refuse or fear coming involved, and keep us divided amongst ourselves. We need all possible participants; we need the greatest level of unity possible. And one of the things I always emphasize to my peers is, we outnumber the prison guards, the prison officers around us some 30 to one at very least. But they have total power and total control, because they always keep us divided, fearful, envious, and not trusting or believing in our own potential, where as they exercise complete and absolute unity in their actions. If they want to abuse you, the rest of them are gonna fall in line and support that abuse. If one them lies on us and mistreats us, the rest of them are going to conform to that lie and they’re gonna carry out that abuse. And that’s why they have the control and power that they have, because no matter what, no matter what the situation no matter the condition, they always work and stick together. And we need to take that same example and apply it to how we exercise our unity and our level of power amongst ourselves.

TFSR: Rashid, can you talk about your incarceration, political development, and a bit about the New Afrikan Black Panther Party that you helped to co-found? Also, how does it differ from the New Black Panther Party, formerly of the nation of Islam?

R: Ok, my imprisonment initially began in 1990. I was incarcerated for a murder that I had no involvement in, and large part, it was conspiratorial on the part of a police officer who I had a history of conflicts with. They subjected me to deliberate misidentification and a number of procedural violations during the prosecution of the case that was imputed against me, that went the actual jurisdiction, the actual power of the court to try to convict and sentence me for the charges that they were attempting to impute against me.

Ok, throughout my imprisonment, particularly the first decade and a half, I spent a large part of my time struggling directly against guard abuses. Their physical abuses, I responded to with physical responses. They would abuse physically myself or others around me, and I would respond with physical reactions to their abuses. I went through the struggle pretty much back and forth, one to one head up conflicts with guards and their teams, riot guards and cell extraction teams, for about the first decade and a half. I became exposed to political thought put, particularly the writings of George Jackson, around 2002, when I was housed in an area with another prisoner, another political prisoner, Hanif Shabazz Bey, from the Virgin Islands. He turned me on to a lot of different political writings, and different political organizations that were involved in the system in America, the various revolutionary nationalist struggles that had taken place through the world through the 40s and 50s.

I began to do extensive studies into various aspects and levels of progressive as well as revolutionary history and politics. Various theories, etc. And as I studied more, I came to understand the inherent dysfunctional nature of the capitalist, imperialist system that America is at the center of, and I understood or came to understand that the oppression that I was struggling against was much bigger than head to head clashes with individual guards, that it was largely an invalid system that pitted a small group of powerful wealthy people against the masses of working class people and poor people through out the world, and that they lived at the expense of these people. And to change conditions requires a struggle that mobilized the oppressed to bring about fundamental change at various levels of society. And I grew from a person inclined to react on a more individual level to one who recognized or saw the bigger picture and was more inclined to organize people and to contribute what I could with my resources, and the understanding that I was developed to build into something bigger, that was more, addressed more to the fundamental problems of the overall system. So in that, my clashes with individual guards lessened. I was also involved in mitigation and studying and understanding the political system and legal system. I became less inclined to, as I said, individualize my struggle against the system. Though, in doing that, I began to reach out more to people on the outside who were involved in political organizations, trying to pull people who were in positions of influence, politically people who were willing to mobilize groups of people in support of prisoners and conditions that we lived under, to challenge those conditions, to educate prisoners, and to try to consolidate a base of support on the outside to the inside. In doing this, I was able to understand some of the weaker points of the system.

I understood where it was most effective to attack the power structure, and I understood, or came to understand that one of the most vulnerable places that you can direct your attack at the system is by exposing its corruption to the masses, because the masses are the sources of their power, that those people can’t be ruled over by an oppressor, or any power, unless they give their consent at some level to that ruling. And once they become aware of the illegitimacies and the corruption of the system, and they refuse to acknowledge or concede the legitimacy of the system, then they can typically overnight overthrow that system. And this is why the power structure expends such a massive amount of resources and propaganda to try to influence and keep the masses brainwashed and believing that they’re moralistic and they’re honest and they’re well-meaning and their intentions are oriented to the best interests of the masses, because they realize without some level of acknowledgment and consent, the masses of the people could not be ruled over and would not accept their authority, and as you observed during the Arab Spring in, what, 2011? — once the mass of the people refused to accept the power that rules over them, they can send that power into exile and flight over night, and the powers that be understand this. So I understood that by exposing the corruption and illegitimacy of those in power and the lies that the sustain themselves with, this is one means of undermining the false power and the false credibility and sense of legitimacy that these people try to portray themselves, as the basis of them exercising their authority over others. And it has proven most effective, particularly my writings about abuses going on inside of the prisons. My writings exposing the corruptions and illegitimacy of the power structure and the economic system to the extent that people have been receptive to my writings, I have seen a corresponding reaction by those in power, which, as I pointed out earlier, is a result of me facing a much higher level of reprisal and attempts to isolate me now, a very different response from when I was just in my head to head clashes with, you know, guards at a very low ranking lever. When I started to expose the system, they started tryna isolate me, to try and stop me from communicating with people on the outside, to shutting down my lines of communication, transferring me from state to state and deliberately sending me to states where conditions were known to be the most abusive in the country, particularly Texas and Florida, and trying to put me in positions where I would end up in violent clashes with other prisoners, and that sort of thing.

But anyway, as I became more politically I aware, I saw the need for political organizations to represent those who do not have political representations and to operate to educate and organizing the masses on a more revolutionary and fundamental level of understanding the political economic system on how to challenge and ultimately over throw that oppressive system in the interest of the working class and in support of the people. So, we co-founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter initially as an autonomous of the New Black Panther Party, being aware the New Black Panther Party started in 2000 was not practicing the politics and they were not living up to principles in the program of the original Black Panther Party, but had pretty much wrapped up these politics, the racial politics of the Nation of Islam, in an artificial garb of Black Pantherism. And our agenda was to try to take that organization in to the politics and the revolutionary ideology of the original Black Panther Party and to change their reverse racism, and to put them more on to the path of revolutionary politics of the original party. Ultimately, we realized that it was futile trying to do this, in that they were not interested in changing their political orientation, or to maintaining or carrying forward the agenda of the original Panther Party, so we ultimately split from the New Black Panther Party.

We changed our name to the National Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, and from there we have maintained the political line of the original Black Panther Party, but we have been very focused on not repeating the mistakes of the original party, but building on the correct contributions that the party made to the struggle of the 60s and 70s. And trying to carry forward what they were able to accomplish during their more revolutionary stages, which was from 1966 to 1971, and to, again, not repeat the errors that they made, and to learn from the mistakes that they made and from the what we understand now to be a very vicious campaign carried out against them by the US government, and the inclination of the government to attack any organization that seeks to open the eyes of the masses of the people. And we ourselves have been subjected to the same sort attacks and attempts to undermine. We’ve been stigmatized as Black Separatists and domestic terrorists, and all when we have done nothing and we have not been fighting for doing anything except publicizing the corruption of the law enforcement establishment and the abuses inside the US prisons, and they have identified this as being the behavior that they dislike, that they feel qualified us as threats to the security of the country. And I was personally profiled in a 2009 threat assessment report as a domestic terrorist because of my involvement in publicizing abuses in, you know, American prisons. And they’re saying that I prove to have exercised a good level of influence over people and society, in turning them against the law enforcement system because of my writings, which is pretty absurd. But this has been the thrust of what we are trying to organize, and some of the work that we’ve done, and the response has been, as I said, repression, isolation, attempts to attack us, subjecting the various members, leading members of our org to various levels of reprisal. Being placed in, thrown in solitary, subjected to all sorts of physical abuses, and you know, other attempts to try and dissuade and deter us from the work that we’re trying to do.

TFSR: The New Afrikan Black Panther Party has a focus of org with folks of African descent. In your view, how can folks in other groups, like white folks, act as comrades as you say in struggle against white supremacy?

R: Alright, within our party, we founded in 2006 in what’s called the White Panther Organization and subsequent to that, the Brown Panther Organizational Committee, as arms of our party. We are the first Panther organization that has actually brought white comrades and brown comrades in to our party. So we have brown and white Panthers in our party, and the function of them is to take the line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party in to the white communities to struggle against the racism in the white communities, the Brown Panthers take the same line in to the brown communities, and the thing is to bring all these different sectors of society, both domestic and abroad, into a consolidated, united front that will unify us in the single struggle against the imperialist system, particularly focused on the marginalized people that are called criminalized or the Lumpen. Our work is specifically again to take the struggle to the power structure at the most fundamental level, and to build the sort of unity that has been probably the Achilles heel of revolutionary struggles, and undermining their effectiveness, and that has been polarizing factor of race. And as I see it, this is our approach in it has proven quite effective.

Initially when they sent me out of state, they sent me to Oregon, which is one of the few prison systems in America where there is a predominately white prisoner population — it’s probably like 5 or 10% Black. And they sent me there after they had profiled me as a Black Separatist, and when I got to Oregon, they spread amongst the large number of Aryan gangs up there that I was Black Panther, which they portrayed as some sort of Black variation of the Ku Klux Klan, portraying us as anti-white and wanted to make race war against white people and this sort of thing, and they were trying to create a violent conflict between me and the white groups up there, which was obviously the point of them sending me to that state. But in effect, because of the politics of our party, and the orientation of the line of our white panther organization, I was able to politicize the white groups up there to various — they had like 13 different Aryan gangs up there in the prison system. I ended up politicking with them. They immediately released me into the population, which was another indication what they intended to try to see happen. But instead of me ending up in a war with them, I ended up politicking with them, exposing them to the history of racism, how racism was manipulated and created in the late 1600’s, and how it had been used and has been used as the most effective polarizing factor in society to manipulate oppressed people against each other. And I won a large sector of them over, and when I started to prove effective as not engaging them in violence, but winning them over to more revolutionary political and understanding of racial politics, they immediately threw me into solitary, got me out of population, and started to impose a different regiment of abuse and oppression against me, and ultimately kicked me out of the state and sent me to Texas, and when I was able to influence white Aryan gangs there to get involved in the national prison hunger strike that was taking place in 2013, where 30,00 prisoners got involved in Oregon joined them in hunger strike, so the line of our party, with respect to racial politics is specifically to organize white comrades to take the politics of our party, unifying politics in to the white community to struggle against the polarizing culture in, you know, white culture and white society in America, and to try to bring us all together in a common, united front.

TFSR: Can you talk about your views on feminism in the revolutionary struggle for a new society?

R: Alright, I should make a distinction between our line on the gender issue and the question of the struggle against paternalism and male domination. We are not feminist. We are, we are about revolutionary women’s liberation. Feminism seems to be the equal opposite of chauvinism, no– male chauvinism. The line in feminism largely has been represented by the bourgeois sector of the women’s movement, the upper middle class to upper class has always dominated the voice of the feminist movement, so we find it to be largely not a movement that really is about advancing the cause of women, at all levels of oppression, but at the interest of bourgeois and upwardly middle class women to gain an equal foothold with the bourgeois males in dominating society in general. So our struggle is for gender equality, not to raise the interest of upper class women at the exclusion of the lower class and oppressed women. Our struggle is to see working class women, poor women have all their rights respected and to be given an equal stage of power and an equal stage of respect throughout society at all stages, though I would make the distinction between what is known or generally represented as feminism with what we call revolutionary women’s liberation. But we are allied, of course, to the women’s movement, those women who identify as and those other people who may reject the concept of gender etc, who identify with the feminist struggle, but from the standpoint of working class women and working class non gender people or working class lgbtq people, and we stand on an equal footing with them and seek to have all forms of repression of women or all forms of repression of non gendered people, all forms of repression of LGBTQ people overthrown, and all people to have an equal share in power, and an equal interest in having their rights, and their desires, so long as they aren’t opposing and oppressing other people.

TFSR: Are there any other final statements you’d like to make, before we get cut off

R: Well, I would like to state that I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the listen au of this program, and I really hope that much can be achieved through the struggles that are gaining ground and momentum now, and that there will be a growing link between those on the outside and the prison movement, and that this will help advance the cause of the oppressed against this oppressive system.

TFSR: Thank you so much for making this conversation happen, and solidarity

As of May 2019, Rashid has been transferred out of state yet again to Virginia. He can be written at:
Kevin Johnson # 264847
Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Road
Pendleton, IN 46064

You can read his essays and updates on his case, plus get ahold of his two books, learn about the NABPP-PC and see his revolutionary artwork up at: http://rashid.mod