In Episode 42 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Yoseph Leib Needelman-Ruiz (Ibn Mardachya), author of Cannabis Chassidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs. In this far-ranging meeting of the minds, the pair explore contemporary dilemmas of Jewish identity in both Israel and the diaspora, Zionism and gentrification (drawing parallels from the West Bank to Williamsburg), nationalism and anarchism, and such strange contradictions as the embrace of cannabis by Israel's right-wing political establishment. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term Oct. 20 amid an official ban on protests, and Jakarta's streets flooded with 30,000 police and military troops. The inauguration was preceded by a wave of mass protests in September, mostly led by students. The demonstrations were sparked by a new law that weakens Indonesia's anti-corruption agency, and another that instates such moralistic measures as a ban on extramarital sex—the latter a play to cultural conservatives who accuse Widodo of being insufficiently Muslim. But protesters' anger was also directed at plans for a tough new criminal code, at troops mobilized to put down the unrest in Papua region, and at the failure to stem forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo that are causing toxic haze across Southeast Asia.
After meeting in Ankara Oct. 17, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria over the next five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a "ceasefire." However, the 13-point agreement does not use the word "ceasefire," but states: "The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal." Operation "Peace Spring" is the utterly Orwellian code-name for the Turkish offensive, and the YPG is the People's Protection Units, the Kurdish militia in northeast Syria. The YPG was not a party to the "ceasefire," but nonetheless agreed to abide by it. Still, fighting has continued, with at least eight civilians reported killed less than 24 hours into the deal. There is also no consensus on the geographic limits of the area covered by the deal. The official text does not define it, and Turkey and the US remain at odds on the size the "safe zone" (another Orwellian construction) that Ankara seeks to establish in Syria. Ankara is still asserting it will be 100 kilometers deep, while Washington is calling for 20 kilometers. (Rudaw, Middle East Eye, AP)
Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's "fake concession," with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth straight week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam's supposed "withdrawal" of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes next month—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement: repudatiation of the term "riots" for the protests (with "riot" charges carrying a 10-year prison term); an independent investigation into police brutality during the demonstrations; release of all detained protesters, and the dropping of all charges; and "universal suffrage" in elections of the chief executive and Legislative Council. (Nikkei Asian Review, The Villager)
In Episode 37 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Spanish Civil War—how leftists around the world mobilized to support the anti-fascist struggle, despite contradictions and complexities within the anti-fascist ranks; how this heroic resistance was betrayed by the world; and how this betrayal presaged a greater and far more destructive war. Today in Syria, a similar struggle is being waged against a fascistic regime—similarly heroic, despite inevitable contradictions and complexities within the anti-fascist ranks. Yet this time, leftists around the world are deeply complicit in the world's betrayal of the Syrian resistance. Weinberg asks: Why is that? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
In Episode 33 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares coverage of the Idlib offensive from CNN and its Turkish counterpart TRT World, illustrating how the US corporate media uncritically echo the propaganda of the Assad regime. While TRT emphasizes civilian casualties, the CNN headline says "terrorists" are being killed—the propaganda technique of dehumanization and objectification of victims. Shamefully, "progressives" in the West are far more complicit with Assad's genocide. The deplorable Amy Goodman has now repeatedly allowed voices such as Phyllis Bennis and the inevitable Noam Chomsky to spew genocide-abetting propaganda on Democracy Now. Weinberg also discusses the contradictions facing the Rojava Kurds in the areas of Syria they control. He closes with a call for Syria Solidarity NYC and Rojava Solidarity NYC to hold a joint workshop at the NYC Anarchist Book Fair, to try to arrive at a unified pro-revolutionary position on Syria. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
In Episode 32 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads from George Orwell's 1945 essay "Notes on Nationalism," and explains why despite his anarchist politics he is willing to march under the Mexican flag but not "Old Glory," under the Palestinian flag but not the Israeli, under the Tibetan flag but not that of the People's Republic of China—and under the Free Syrian flag but not that of the Assad dictatorship. The Free Syrian flag flown by the rebels and opposition is the original flag of an independent Syria, and now represents the struggle to free the country from a one-family dynastic dictatorship massively propped up by foreign powers. Weinberg especially calls out the depraved Max Blumenthal for purveying a version of events in Syria starkly at odds with reality. Weinberg invites listeners to join the Syria Solidarity NYC contingent at New York's May Day march, gathering 5 PM at the Sixth Ave. entrance to Central Park. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Yevhen Karakashev, a 41-year-old left-wing activist from Yevpatoria in Russian-annexed Crimea, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian court on April 19, with the charges based solely on years-old private messages on the social-media network VKontakte. Russia's FSB security agency claimed that the posts fell under Article 205.2 of the Russian criminal code, which imposes penalties for "public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism." The sentence was three years less than that demanded by the prosecutor, and also includes limits on Karakashev's online activities for two years after his release. Russia's independent Memorial Human Rights Center stated that there is a strong likelihood "the criminal proceedings against Yevhen Karakashev were initiated in the context of his opposition civic and political activities as a frequent participant in protests in Crimea." They view this as part of a mounting attack on left-wing activists and anti-fascists in Russia since January 2018.