From Our Daily Report
"Who is James Bay?" That's the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a "who" but a "where," and a large portion of New York City's electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio's so-called "Green New Deal," and how maybe it isn't so green after all. The mayor's plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as "zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity." But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec's far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region's ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn't even really "zero-emission." Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)
Syrian Resistance Stands Up Again—This Time Against Islamist Militia
by Leila Al Shami
Over the past few days a popular uprising has broken out across northern Syria's Idlib against the hardline Islamist group that is militarily dominant in much of the province—Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam or HTS, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The uprising began when HTS increased zakaat (taxes) on a number of goods and services including bread, electricity and olive oil.
In Kafar Takharim, a town in north-estern Idlib, which is dependent on olive oil production for income, locals refused to pay increased taxes and attempts by HTS to control the olive oil presses. The local council in Kafar Takharim has long resisted attempts at take over by the HTS-linked Salvation Government. Locals staged protests and stormed HTS- controlled olive presses and police stations, successfully evicting HTS from their community.
Africans Caught in US-Mexico Migration Limbo
by Melisa Valenzuela, The New Humanitarian
For months, hundreds of African migrants and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been camped out in tents in front of the main immigration detention facility in the town of Tapachula, in southern Mexico.
Most flew halfway around the world to Brazil, then made the dangerous journey north through the Darien Gap—a remote, roadless swath of jungle—before traversing Central America into Mexico in the hope of finally reaching the United States to claim asylum.
On reaching Tapachula, they found themselves corralled into a detention centre and told they couldn't progress further without a permit that protects them for deportation and allows them to stay legally—permits that are harder to come by since Mexico agreed in June to help the United States limit the number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.
by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate/The Villager
It was a multicultural crowd that gathered in Rome's Plaza San Silvestro to oppose the draconian Security Decree then pending in the Italian parliament. Popularly called the "Salvini Law" after Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (who appears to be the real power behind the government), the Security Decree was explicitly aimed at two broadly overlapping groups: immigrants and squatters.
Many of those in Plaza San Silvestro were both. One prominent banner read: DALLE MONTAGNE DEL KURDISTAN AL CUORE DI ROMA, ARARAT NON SI SGOBERA. "From the mountains of Kurdistan to the heart of Rome, Ararat will not be evicted." It displayed painted images of a mighty mountain and an old industrial building. Flying above the banner was the red-star flag of the Kurdish revolutionary movement in Turkey and Syria.
Ararat is, of course, the famous mountain in Turkey’s Kurdish east, but here it also refers to the Ararat Kurdish Cultural Center, one of Rome's many squatted community centers, in a reclaimed industrial space in the city's outlying Testaccio district. There was another contingent at the protest of Peruvian migrants living in a squatted building, and yet another of squatters from various Horn of Africa countries. The contingents clustered in groups, while the riot police and paramilitary Carabinieri formed a ring around the perimeter of the plaza.
by L. Ali Khan, Jurist
In the first week of August 2019, the Indian Parliament passed, and the president signed, legislation to remove Articles 370 and 35A of the India Constitution. Article 370 preserved the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a princely state that has been forcibly divided up between India and Pakistan. Article 35A empowers the J&K state to determine its permanent residents.
The constitutionality of the legislation revoking Articles 370 and 35A has been challenged in the India Supreme Court.
By revoking Articles 370 and 35A, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of J&K state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, as discussed below, the revocation complicates matters more than it resolves. The revocation does little to lawfully change the autonomy of the State or alter the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the revocation will foment domestic unrest and possibly an armed conflict between nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan.
by Faten Aggad, African Arguments
It all started on February 16, with protests in the small town of Kherrata in eastern Algeria. Of all places, it had to be here to capture the symbolism of this "Algerian Renaissance"; Kherrata was one of three towns where the French massacred an estimated 45,000 people on May 8, 1945, giving impetus to the war that would eventually lead to Algeria’s independence in 1962.
From Kherrata, the protests quickly grew in numbers and presence. By February 22, they had spread across all districts of the country. Protestors marched every Friday, reminded through messages on WhatsApp and social media that the demonstrations should remain silmiya (peaceful). By April 2, this unrelenting pressure from the streets had made President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's position untenable. After 20 years in office, he resigned.
Why were the protesters successful? And where do we go from here?
Civilians trapped between Assad regime, foreign states and warlords
by Leila Al Shami, Fifth Estate
If 2011 looked like the moment when people could unite, both within and across borders, to topple decades-old dictatorships with the demand for freedom and social justice, today looks like the moment of counter-revolutionary success. After eight years of increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, Bashar al-Assad still presides as president over a now destroyed, fragmented and traumatized country. The dominant narrative is that the war is nearing its end. States once vocally opposed to Assad now have other strategic concerns which take precedence over the victims of his savage efforts to hold onto power. Yet, on the ground, conditions are far from stable; civilians remain trapped and are paying the price for ongoing struggles for power and territory between the regime, foreign states and ideological warlords.
by Terry Burke
The last major national protest in the US was "Families Belong Together" in June 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country demonstrated against the Trump administration's policy of separating children and families at the border. People who had never protested before brought their families. It's now a year later and the situation for immigrant families has only gotten worse. Where is the outrage?
Plans for ICE raids targeting millions of immigrants. Preparing military strikes on Iran. Pulling the US out of climate and arms-control treaties. Conniving with "alt-right" and ultra-nationalist movements around the world. Defying congressional subpoenas. Corrupt, incompetent people heading every federal agency. The list of destructive Trump policies and provocations seems endless.
Trump's recent visit to London brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets. Where are the protests in the US? Where are the coalitions in the US organizing against Trump's anti-democratic, inhumane policies? Where is the left?
Part of the problem is the enormous amount of disinformation that has been specifically directed at the left, disinformation that most of those targeted don't recognize. The disinfo uses anti-imperialist language and is posted on "left" sites that usually have nominally accurate stories on issues such as Palestine, climate change, corporate corruption, and other questions of concern to progressives.
An Interview with Veteran Journalist and Activist Bill Weinberg
by Jae Carico, Pontiac Tribune
This interview with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg was conducted via email by Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network for its organ Pontiac Tribune. It also appeared on the Patreon page of Guillotine Press.
Could you introduce yourself for those unfamiliar with your work?
I'm a 30-year veteran journalist in the fields of human rights, indigenous peoples, drug policy and war. I've reported widely from Latin America and am the author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico, about the Zapatistas and related movements. I'm struggling to finish a follow-up book about indigenous struggles in the Andes. I was news editor at High Times magazine in the '90s, and continue to cover the drug war beat for Cannabis Now magazine.
I was a producer on WBAI Radio here in New York for 20 years before being purged for my political dissent in 2011. Since 9-11, I have been obsessively blogging world affairs from an anarchist/autonomist point of view. You can read my daily offerings at CounterVortex.org. I have also been involved in solidarity work with the left and anti-occupation civil resistance in Iraq after the US invasion, and then the pro-democratic resistance in Syria after the revolution broke out in 2011. I was involved in similar solidarity efforts with anti-nationalist and anti-militarist opposition in all the ex-Yugoslav republics during the Balkan wars of the '90s.