Belabored Podcast #28: Solidarity

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This week on Belabored, Sarah and guest co-host Peter Frase (Jacobin magazine) talk about solidarity of all kinds. They discuss international solidarity campaigns between European and South African unions and workers here, particularly in the South; give an update on the situation in Detroit as unions fight the city’s planned bankruptcy (which Marcy Wheeler discussed on Episode 16) and the wiping out of their pensions; and more. Then, independent journalist Susie Cagle joins them to talk about labor unrest in the Bay Area, including wildcat strikes at the Port of Oakland by port truckers and the Bay Area Rapid Transit workers’ strike. Solidarity, it seems, can be hard to come by, both in the suddenly tech-enriched community and even among workers at the port itself. And for “Argh,” Sarah presents her favorite piece on solidarity, ever.

Links For Those Following Along At Home:

Detroit Bankruptcy Hits Pivotal Phase

Grambling State University football players strike by Brendan O’Connor at Jacobin

International Solidarity for Americans: South African unionists at Nissan in MississippiSwedes at Ikea in VirginiaGermans at Volkswagen in Tennessee

Sarah on port truck drivers in Savannah

Yvonne Yen Liu on wildcat port trucker strike in Oakland

More on port truckers, from Los Angeles

Susie Cagle on Burning Down BART Strike Strawmen

Peter Frase on the BART Strike and Techno-Libertarianism

Mike Elk: BART Strike Media Fail

Labor Notes: Bay Area Transit Workers Beat Back Worst, End Strike

Last-minute deal averts grocery strike

Pieces We Wish We’d Written:

Peter: Iza Kaminska at the Financial TimesWorld War ZIRP

Sarah: Chris Hayes at In These Times, In Search of Solidarity

The Last Great Strike - UC Press [Advertisement]

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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.