Why is NATO moving its Airbase from Turkey to Jordan?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/03/2018 - 3:00am in

Text and Photos by Andre Vltchek, previous published by New Eastern Outlook People in the Middle East are joking, cynically: “From Incirlik, Turkey to Al-Azraq, Jordan with love.”. That is, if they pay any attention to the movement of NATO troops in this part of the world. They should. At least one substantial part of an incredibly deadly and aggressive force has been gradually relocated, from an ‘uncertain’ and according to the West suddenly ‘unreliable’ country (Turkey), to the impoverished but obedient Kingdom of Jordan. It is now clear that NATO is not sure, metaphorically speaking, which direction is Turkey going to fly in, and where it may eventually land. It is panicking and searching, ‘just in case’, for an exit strategy; almost for an escape plan from the most important regional power. Is the West really losing Turkey? Nobody knows. Most likely, nobody in Ankara is sure, either, including Mr. Erdogan. But what if … What if Erdogan moves closer to Russia, even to China? What if Turkey’s relationship with Iran improves? What if …

A Timeline: Michael Flynn, Russia and the Trump Administration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/03/2018 - 4:00am in

The Trump-Russia investigation has reached a historic and defining moment. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was an early and enthusiastic Trump supporter who remained a constant presence in Trump’s inner circle from the summer of 2015 to his resignation on Feb. 13, 2017. Continue reading

The post A Timeline: Michael Flynn, Russia and the Trump Administration appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Is the defense of Afrin proletarian internationalism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 8:21pm in


Syria, Turkey

image/jpeg iconrostock2.jpg

A critique of two articles published by the International Marxist Humanist Organisation by Fredo Corvo.

The reality of the struggle for the independence of Kurdistan has confirmed the views of Luxemburg when seen from the standpoint of the class struggle. The ruling classes of Kurdistan are indeed just an appendage to (...) the great powers, (...) and whom they sell their proletariat as cannon fodder.

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Syria, by Jeremy Salt

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 3:05pm in

In analysing foreign policy, no doubt the first mistake is to assume that policymakers know what they are doing. The recent announcement by the Pentagon that a new 30,000-strong ‘border security’ force is being trained in north-eastern Syria was immediately contradicted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for whom ‘the entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described, some people mis-spoke. We are not creating a border security force at all’.

The reason for the contradiction was the rage of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened to drown this new formation at birth. Tillerson tried to pacify him with an explanation that was far from convincing. Far from being a border force, let alone the North Syrian army, as it has also been called, he said the United States is only setting up a training program for ‘local Arab and Kurdish border guards’. In other words, yes, a border force after all, summoned into existence to guard the 28,000-square-kilometre Kurdish enclave the United States is carving out of northern Syria. This will be a US protectorate, nominally advancing the interests of the Kurds but, of course, primarily serving the interests of America.

Tillerson says the US presence in Syria is ‘conditions-based’. Al Qaida and the Islamic State (IS) have to be defeated not just substantially but completely. A ‘post-Assad’ leadership will have to be elected. Iran’s ‘malicious influence’ will have to be reduced, the refugees will have to be returned, and all weapons of mass destruction eliminated. Refugees would be helped to return only to ‘liberated’ areas. Towards this end, ‘the US, the EU and regional partners will not provide reconstruction assistance to any area under control of the Assad regime’. Furthermore, the United States would ‘discourage’ economic relations between the Syrian ‘regime’ and any other country. Free elections would end in the ‘permanent departure of Assad and his family from power’.*

Clearly, the United States is planning to stay in Syria for a long time to come. Never mind that its presence grossly violates not just international law but its own congressional War Powers Act; never mind that the government in Damascus represents Syria at the United Nations and remains the legitimate government of the country; never mind that the majority of the Syrian people have given their support to this government in presidential and general elections, held in very difficult conditions since 2011 and monitored by teams of outside observers to ensure their fairness; never mind that Syria does not have weapons of mass destruction, having never had nuclear weapons and having had its chemical-weapons stocks removed under international supervision in 2013–14. Never mind the best interests of the Syrian people, which are not served by US support for armed groups. All that matters in Washington is that the United States gets what it wants.

The Tillerson remarks were a tissue of distortions and demands that the United States has no right to make but are fully in conformity with the bullying ‘national security’ policy outlined by Condoleezza Rice when she was secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. According to that policy, the United States would not respect the sovereignty of any state it regarded as actually or potentially threatening to the United States in any way. While it has always done what it wants to, this was an open declaration of war on international law. The word was quickly followed by the deed: drone missile attacks on Yemen, Somalia and other countries; wars of aggression against Iraq, Libya and Syria; and, through the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the war on Yemen.

Current US policy on Syria is only the latest phase in a cycle of hostility that goes back to the Iranian revolution of 1979. Supporting the Iranian revolution and supporting both Hamas and Hezbollah, the Syrian government is an enemy the United States and Israel remain determined to break. The partitioning of Syria through the creation of a Kurdish enclave would be fully in accord with Israel’s Yinon Plan of 1982, the arguments of which centre on breaking down the central lands of the Middle East into ethno-religious statelets. The establishment of an autonomous Kurdish governorate in northern Iraq certainly fits these prescriptions, and the collapse of the independence movement following the ill-timed referendum of September 2017 came as a severe blow to its principal outside supporters, the United States and Israel. A US ‘protectorate’ over the Kurds in Syria would go some way towards making up for this loss.

Through the Syria Accountability Act, passed in 2003 and repeatedly reinforced, the United States has tried to break Syria through economic means. The ‘Arab spring’ came as an opportunity to break it by military means. China and Russia blocked the US-led attempt at the UN Security Council to secure support for an air war: as a substitute, the United States and its allies, calling themselves ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’, resorted to war fought by armed proxies, presented as ‘moderates’ but mostly takfiri extremists adhering to the same ideology as IS. This brutal campaign has ensured the death of about half a million people but has failed to secure ‘regime change’.


Turning the war around

In the autumn of 2015 Russia, at the request of Syria, intervened in support of Syrian army operations. Its intensive aerial campaign in coming months turned the war around. With talks in Geneva repeatedly blocked by the United States and its ‘rebel’ proxies, Russia then set up the tripartite talks (with Iran and Turkey) in Astana that have achieved real progress. Humiliated by Russia and kept out of the talks in Astana, the United States responded by building up its military presence. Apart from its Kurdish enclave it has several thousand troops and special forces positioned at more than ten bases, including one at Al Tanf, to the southwest on the Iraq–Syria border, where US special forces are training new brigades of ‘rebels’, ostensibly to fight IS.

Russia has beefed up its own military presence, if not to the same degree. It is expanding its Khmeimim air base, in Latakia province, in the west, and is also expanding its naval base at Tartus to accommodate up to eleven warships, including nuclear-armed warships, rather than one at present. Russia recently signed a 49-year lease on the bases: according to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, ‘we have begun forming a permanent presence there’.

The Kurds have a long history of being used and then betrayed. While they may feel they have no choice but to make hard choices, when squeezed between the interests of rival powers, they are running the same risk again in Syria, where the United States has created a largely Kurdish proxy militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and, in addition, is backing the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), the military arm of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). If the United States’ new ‘border force’ comes into existence, most probably as a replacement for the SDF, it will also be largely Kurdish.

The Kurds are now the focal point of military operations inside Syria by Turkey, which regards the YPG and the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) as one terrorist group with branches on different sides of the Turkey–Syria border. The United States accepts the designation of the PKK as a terrorist organisation but can hardly apply the same label to the Kurds it is working with in Syria. Its refusal to put them in the same category has greatly angered its erstwhile NATO ally, which, it has to be said, would not have this problem had it not jumped into the campaign to destroy the government in Damascus. Without Turkey’s full participation it is doubtful whether this war could even have been launched in the first place.

Up to 2011 there was no Kurdish problem as such in Syria. There were Kurdish grievances but nothing that the Syrian government could not handle. All this changed after the launching of the proxy war in 2011. While it failed to dislodge the government in Damascus, the war broke its authority across the country, creating a vacuum that others quickly filled. By early 2014, Raqqa had fallen to IS, with its ideological clone, Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaida in Syria), sharing the lead in the fight against the ‘regime’. With the Syrian army too hard-pressed on other fronts to protect the north, the Kurds seized their own opportunity. They declared autonomy in predominantly Kurdish areas along the Turkish border and proceeded to set up their own civil administration.

In August 2016, Turkey launched ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ inside Syria, with the declared aim of clearing IS from its positions along the border with Syria and preventing Kurdish YPG units from moving to the west bank of the Euphrates River. Eventually extended to Al Bab, 40 kilometres northeast of Aleppo, the operation came to an end in March 2017, leaving Turkey in occupation of a large chunk of Syrian territory. Turkey has now launched another large-scale operation, ‘Olive Branch’, this time directed against the YPG in the predominantly Kurdish Afrin region of the Aleppo governorate. The operation quickly took in Azaz, close to the border, with Turkey warning that it intended to advance on Manbij, run by a SDF military council supported by the YPG and US troops, raising the possibility of a direct United States–Turkey military standoff. Manbij lies on the west bank of the Euphrates, and Turkey says the presence of the Kurdish fighting groups there breaches a commitment the United States made not to allow them to cross the river from the east. Erdogan turned up the heat even further by saying Turkey intended to advance all the way to the Iraqi border. Infuriated by US support for the YPG, Turkey says it will not back off; as the Kurds are the mainstay of the US position in northern Syria the United States cannot back off either.


The Islamic State card

Behind its expressed horror at the vileness of IS, the evidence suggests that the United States has been playing ducks and drakes with the late caliphate. The curiosities begin with the IS seizure of Mosul in June 2014. In a region saturated with surveillance from land and air, is it even remotely possible that US satellites and drones did not see hundreds of IS fighters racing across the Syrian desert from Raqqa in pickup trucks to seize Mosul and help themselves to an enormous quantity of US arms and military equipment? In May 2015, IS fighters seized Ramadi, 400 kilometres south of Mosul, before seizing in the same month the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, 200 kilometres from Raqqa and 700 kilometres from Ramadi. The United States must have seen these convoys as they crossed the Iraqi and Syrian deserts. It was spring, the weather was fine, the pickup trucks would have been kicking up plumes of sand—they were out in the open, fully exposed, and could have been completely obliterated from the air, but they weren’t.

Consider also the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memorandum of 2012 that supported the establishment of a ‘salafist’ principality in eastern Syria as a means of keeping pressure on the government in Damascus. Having taken most of the city in 2014, the IS presence in Deir al Zor fitted the bill perfectly. In September 2016, US and ‘allied’ aircraft (some Australian) launched dozens of missile strikes against Syrian military positions on the Tharda mountains, overlooking Deir al Zor and its besieged Syrian air-force base, killing scores of soldiers and wounding many more. The instant the attack was over, IS moved out of Deir al Zor to take the Syrian positions over. The United States claimed the attack was a mistake, which was surely a lie, conveniently accepted by the Australian government: the evidence, including the aerial monitoring of Syrian troop movements over a period of days, suggests that it was carefully planned.

Before Deir al Zor was finally liberated by the Syrian army in November 2017, Russian drone cameras picked up US special forces and SDF mingling with IS fighters north of the city. According to some reports, the US helicoptered IS commanders out of the city before the Syrian army moved in. If this somehow seems a contradiction of stated US policy aims to destroy IS, the capture of Raqqa, the Syrian seat of the caliphate, in October 2018 was more of a handover, with hundreds of armed IS fighters and their dependants, a total of thousands of people, allowed to leave the city—some headed for the Turkish border, others for Idlib, the centre of intensive fighting against the Syrian army by various takfiri groups.

Finally, the United States allowed IS to continue the oil trade that was a mainstay of its finances. After Russia launched its war in support of Syria in September 2015, it released reconnaissance photos showing hundreds of tankers lined up on both sides of the Syria–Iraq border waiting to transport oil to Turkey, and not just oil from territories seized by IS but oil from the Kurdish governorate of northern Iraq, then in disagreement with the central government over oil profits. The United States obviously knew of this trade but did nothing to stop it, perhaps because of the Kurdish connection. It was only after Russia launched devastating attacks on tankers, depots and refineries that the United States stepped up its own war on IS. Russia did more damage to the caliphate in weeks than the United States had done in a year: it was Russia, supporting Syrian troops on the ground, that broke the caliphate’s back in Syria, not the United States and its proxy allies.


Seducing Erdogan

Two NATO members are now occupying large parts of Syria. Their conflict over the Kurds only drives further downhill a relationship that has been deteriorating for years. The principal markers have been the US refusal to extradite the Pennsylvania-based Muslim guru Fethullah Gulen, blamed for orchestrating the failed coup attempt of July 2016, and the trial in the United States of a senior manager of Turkey’s Halk Bank, accused of playing a central role in Turkish money-laundering for Iran.

As the Turkish pendulum has swung away from the United States, so it has swung towards Russia. Relations between the two countries recovered rapidly after the shooting down of a Russian fighter aircraft by a Turkish F-16 in November 2015. They have close economic ties: Turkey has been buying more than half of its natural gas from Russia, and Russia is a lucrative market for Turkish primary produce. These ties were only temporarily damaged after the downing of the Russian plane. Since then Erdogan has been cleverly seduced by Putin. He was brought into the Astana peace talks, and Russia clearly gave Turkey some kind of green light to launch its operation in Afrin, following the YPG’s refusal—since reversed—to align itself with the Syrian government. Turkey’s purchase of sophisticated Russian weaponry (S400 surface-to-air missiles) was received very badly by the United States and NATO. In Syria, for the moment, Turkey’s interests lie with Russia and not the United States. How far this will go remains to be seen, but the drift is there.

The United States is trying to pull Turkey out of the Russian orbit. Its efforts at conciliation have included an offer by Tillerson to set up a jointly run ‘security zone’ along the Turkey–Syria border, its statement that it has withdrawn heavy weapons from the YPG, and its threat to cut arms supplies to the SDF if it fights any enemy other than IS, which hardly exists in Syria any more except for remnants. Someone is going to be sacrificed here and most probably—almost certainly—it is going to be the Kurds. Erdogan has caused offence in Europe and the United States through his abrasive manner and the suppression of human rights in Turkey under his government, but Turkey is too important a player on the regional and global scene to let go.

Although vulnerable in its landlocked north-eastern corner of Syria, the United States is clearly determined to stay in Syria. As with Afghanistan, it could be there for decades. It has a land base from which it can project its power across the region, a base that could be used for war (as in a war between Israel and Hezbollah/Iran/Syria in which the United States would be able to support Israel from inside Syria) or for bullying purposes in political bargaining over Syria’s future. Turkey’s intentions are similarly open to interpretation. It could also be in northern Syria for a long time to come: its campaign will be a test for a military command purged of nearly half its senior officers after the coup attempt of 2016 and an army facing a well-trained Kurdish opponent that will fight hard for every inch of land. Erdogan has promised a quick and successful end to operation ‘Olive Branch’; an alternative view is that he has stuck his hand into a Kurdish wasp nest.

By late January the Turkish offensive had compelled the YPG-dominated Kurdish administration of Afrin to return to the Syrian national fold. Almost certainly the Syrian military would not be able to respond to its call to protect the northern border against Turkish attack: what was very significant in this communiqué was the commitment made to the territorial unity of Syria. Afrin was described as ‘an inseparable part of Syria’ in which the YPG, by fighting Al Qaida and IS, had contributed to ‘the preservation of the unity of the Syrian lands and national institutions’. Whether this signalled a general realignment of the YPG with the Syrian government, at the expense of its relationship with the United States, remains to be seen.

If there is one thing the Syrian war is not about it is the best interests of the Syrian people. The Kurds, the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are all trying to get what they can out of it. They have overlapping interests as well as separate interests. Seven years later, the United States has made it clear that the war is still about the overthrow of the Syrian government and confrontation with Iran, which it is pursuing on other fronts, in coordination with Israel. Russian intervention has added an axiomatic new reason for staying. There are those who are saying the war is over, but this is far from true: too many governments still have too much at stake to bring it to an end.

* The EU has set aside €6 billion for Syrian humanitarian relief but has linked reconstruction aid to political transition. The allocation of funds will be discussed at a conference scheduled for the northern spring. Russia says Syria needs aid immediately; the US says not a dollar should go to areas under the control of the government (most of the country) until the government has been replaced. In the meantime, Syria has signed numerous reconstruction contracts with Russia and Iran. Chinese companies are ready to move in, with Brazil indicating that it also will be seeking contracts. Estimates of the cost of repairing the material damage done to Syria since 2011 run at well over US$200 billion.

Dick Coughlan on the Rise and Fall of Katie Hopkins

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 6:30am in

This is a long piece posted on YouTube from Dick Coughlan’s ‘Left-Wing Propaganda’ podcast, where the comedian and vlogger against racism, sexism and anti-gay prejudice comments on Katie Hopkin’s final departure from mainstream British media.

Hopkins was the loser on British version of The Apprentice, who then went on to make a career out of being a right-wing, racist, corporate loudmouth. This is the woman who said she wanted helicopter gunships to shoot down the immigrants crossing the Med in boats, and who sneered at the father of the little boy, whose body was washed ashore in Turkey after one of them went down. She’s a prize, nasty piece of work. But one no longer welcome in British media. She lost her job with the Daily Mail the other day, and has now gone off to join Rebel Media. They’re another far right outfit with a nice line in racist, anti-immigrant politics. They’re Canadian, and if she moves to that country, it’ll be highly ironic, as she’ll be an immigrant. And way back in the 19th or early 20th century, the descendants of the original European settlers in Canada were campaigning against the influx of large numbers of new immigrants from Britain. But all this will be forgotten, as the new breed of extreme nationalists in Europe and America simply hate non-Whites.

Coughlan goes through the various newspapers and organisations that I have picked her up and then sacked her, or released her, because her views were just too toxic even for them. The Heil is simply the latest. She’s also been given the heave-ho by LBC and the Scum amongst others. He also talks about some of the monstrous comments she’s made, and her foot-in-mouth appearance on Philip Schofield’s show on ITV. This was in a piece about children’s names. Hopkins stated that she wouldn’t want her child going to school with children named after places, because it gave the messages that the parents were low-class and uneducated. Or words to that effect. Schofield then pointed out that she’d called her daughter India. To which Hopkins replied that ‘India is not a place.’ Really? That must surprised the nearly 1 1/4 billion people, who live there, as well as all the people of Indian descent over here!

As for being sacked from the Scum and the Heil, how right-wing do you have to be? The Heil is the newspaper, which ran the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley and the BUF to the skies, when they were goose-stepping around in the 1930s, and in whose pages the father of the current editor, Paul Dacre, ranted about how wonderful Adolf Hitler was. The Mail has been consistently anti-immigrant, with a vicious hatred of the unemployed, the poor and disabled people on benefit, as well as unmarried mothers and anybody else they think is a threat to Tory values.

As for the Scum, that paper’s notorious for its racism. Always has been. Way back in the first years of this century, Private Eye published a piece stating that the Scum had been judged guilty of racism on 19 occasions by the Press Complaints Commission, as was. It comes to something indeed when Hopkins is far too toxic even for them.

Anyway, she out of British media. At least for the time being.

TNT Nation: Daily Mail Racists Freak Out as Cheddar Man Revealed as Black

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/02/2018 - 12:16am in

One of the big stories last week was the unveiling of the reconstructed face of Cheddar Man. As Jeff Waldorf points out in this clip from TNT Nation, this is a prehistoric man, named after where he was found, and not a man literally made of cheese. Cheddar Man, or rather, his skeleton, was found in the caves in Cheddar in Somerset, England, way back in 1906. The skeleton’s 16,000 or so years old, and so dates from about the end of the last Ice Age. The scientists reconstructing his features also used for the first time DNA analysis to gauge his skin and eye colour. And it turns out that he had ‘dark to black skin’ and blue eyes.

They scientists were able to do this using DNA they were able to extract from the skeleton. This had genetic markers similar to those for dark skin, which is also present in ten per cent of the modern British population. Cheddar Man’s colouring was a surprise for the scientists, as they expected him to have white skin and blond or light hair, as an adaptation to the extreme cold. Commenting on the revelation that he was black, one scientist said that it showed that British has not always been associated with Whiteness. It had changed, and would change again in the future. I think they were also able to trace the ultimate origins of Cheddar Man’s people, as they entered Britain from a route across southern Europe ultimately going back to Turkey.

I’m not surprised by this revelation. It’s been suggested since at least the 1990s that the first anatomically modern humans – Homo Sapiens Sapiens – who entered and colonised Europe, were dark-skinned. Back in the 1990s a Channel 4 series on human evolution showed a reconstruction of these people, as they would have looked 40,000 or so years ago, edging along the primeval European countryside as Black. The programme also consciously reversed the idea, promoted in many past books and articles on them, that the Neanderthals were Black. The programme instead argued that they would have had light skins as an adaptation to the arctic temperatures in Europe. If you also look at the remains of our ancient ancestors, you also find that they have more archaic features, like a strong brow ridge, than the other humans in Africa, who were much more gracile. I think its these archaic features which led some archaeoanthropologists to state that some of these humans were of the same physical build as Aboriginal Australians, because these ancient people have also retained some features of archaic humanity.

The real shock, as one of the articles about Cheddar Man said last week, is how recently White skin and hair evolved – in the last 10,000 years or so. It’s much more recent than they expected. However, I can remember reading in a review of the film The Clan of the Cave Bear in Starburst one of the criticisms of that movie. It starred Daryl Hannah as a Cro Magnon woman growing up with a family of Neanderthals. Hannah’s blond, and the article pointed out that blonde hair is only supposed to have evolved 10,000 or so years ago – much later than the age the film, and the book on which it was based, by Jean Auel, is set.

The revelation that Cheddar Man was Black, however, set the racists off. And here Waldorf reads out and tears to pieces some of the comments about this story left on the Daily Mail’s website. And they go from the reasonable, to the completely mad.

Waldorf begins with the comment from one individual, who wonders if the genetic reconstruction is accurate, given the age of the skeleton and difficulty of extracting genetic information from remains that ancient. He states, however, that he isn’t a scientist, but has simply watched a lot of documentaries. Waldorf mocks him for this, which is actually unfair. It’s a reasonable question, as the impression I’ve had from watching the same kind of documentaries is that ancient DNA can be extremely delicate, and is very often fragmentary, so it can actually be very difficult to extract useful genetic information from human remains. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, which made this point when discussing the Neanderthals to show why scientists have not tried to recreate them genetically.

And then there’s the completely bonkers. Another commenter wondered if there wasn’t something deeper going on here. They smelt a conspiracy, as the revelation that Cheddar Man was Black came after, so this person believed, the collapse of the ‘out of Africa’ theory of human origins, and the proof that the Ancient Egyptians weren’t African. First of all, if the theory that humans first evolved in Africa and then spread outwards across the globe has collapsed, then no-one’s told me. Or any of the anthropologists and archaeologists working in this field. The only people I can think of who reject the theory are, er, marginal thinkers. Or cranks. Waldorf takes apart the claim that the ancient Egyptians weren’t Africans, by pointing out that ancient Egypt actually had a very diverse population, and that in the south they tended to be darker than in the north. Also, Egypt is part of Africa.

This comment seems to echo back to the views of some of the White racial supremacists that the ancient Egyptians, as the citizens of an advanced ancient civilisation, couldn’t possibly be Black, and were instead White and European in appearance. This is, of course, vehemently rejected by AFrocentrist historians, who argue instead that they were Black. If you look at the way the ancient Egyptians depicted themselves in their art – in the tomb paintings, for example, they are lighter than the darker skinned Nubian peoples to their south. Male ancient Egyptians are portrayed as having reddish brown skin, while women are yellow. Nubians are painted with black skin. Even so, they are still darker than the Europeans, which appear in their art, such as the people of Minoan Crete. These are depicted with pink skin. The scientifically accepted view is that the peoples of North Africa, including ancient Egypt, were White.

However, way back in the 1990s or the early part of this century some anthropologists reconstructed the faces of people from Roman Egypt. This found that their features were more strongly African than the portraits of them painted on to their mummy cases, which made them look more European. There were definite cultural and economic reasons why an ancient Egyptian really wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Black’. Roman Egypt was a horrible, racist, apartheid state, where the indigenous Egyptian population was taxed more than those of Greek or European descent. This would have left many Egyptians with feelings of inferiority about their African features, which they would have tried to cover up.

There was also the suggestion by one archaeologist that the ultimate origins of the ancient Egyptian civilisation lay in a Black tribe from further south, which migrated to the north. This archaeologist came to this conclusion through examining some of the early henge monuments, which predate the ancient Egyptian civilisation proper by thousands of years. I think these were similar to those in the Black African nations further south. One of the stones in these monuments also seemed deliberately shaped to resemble a cow. Hathor was the ancient Egyptians’ cow goddess, and so there’s the suggestion that she was a survival from this ancient, pastoralist Black African culture.

I also came across another story in the paper recently, which said that the ancient Egyptians weren’t African after all. I didn’t get the opportunity to read it – I only glimpsed the headline in passing – and so can’t really comment on it. But it seems unlikely to me. The Egyptologist John Romer criticised the notion that the ancient Egyptians were White way back in the 1990s in his Channel 4 series, Great Excavations. In one episode, he discussed the various diffusionist theories of human evolution and progress, and how they were influenced by 19th century theories of racial supremacy and conquest. Diffusionism is the archaeological theory that advances in civilisation occur through successive societies and races conquering their predecessors. Early archaeologists were busy examining the remains of these past cultures, and especially their skull and head shapes, in order to develop a classification of the various races these different physical types represented. As the ancient Egyptians were an advanced civilisation, they confidently expected them to have their origins in the lighter skinned peoples further east.

Except that they didn’t. The ancient Egyptian people remained the same stock, unchanged, as their culture developed and flourished around them. They created their culture themselves, without any other invading race creating or imposing a superior culture after them. Of course, at times ancient Egypt was conquered by outside nations, such as the Semitic Hyksos kings and the Nubians, who produced a line of Black pharaohs. They were also an important power themselves in the ancient Near East, at one point holding Syria and Palestine. But ancient Egyptian culture was their own creation, and not the result of invasion by some biologically superior race. And as far as I know, the only people, who believe that the ancient Egyptians had blonde hair and blue eyes are neo-Nazis.

Now I think there is a subtle message behind this recent discovery of Cheddar Man’s complexion. I think some of the comments made by the experts about his colouring and Britishness – that it is only relatively recently that White skin has evolved, and that Britishness is not necessarily connected to Whiteness – have been made to make an anti-racist point. It wasn’t just the scientist quoted by the TNT clip. There was another quote in the papers by someone saying that we may have to rethink the relationship between Britishness and Whiteness. It’s a reasonable, scientifically informed comment. But the recreation of Cheddar Man with dark skin clearly touched a nerve amongst the racists reading the Daily Heil.

As for Cheddar Man himself, he still has descendants in the area. Or at least, a descendant. A few years ago scientists sampled his DNA, and then tested the other people in Cheddar to see if they were related. It turns out one of them was – the headmaster of the local school. He was quite happy about it, but his mother was really upset, worrying what people would think. Well, if they’re sensible, they won’t think anything disparaging. As I said, these people were exactly like us modern humans. They had the same physical features and the same intelligence. They weren’t lumbering ape-men by any means. The only difference between modern people and them is that they lived over 10,000 years ago, when much of Britain was a frozen wilderness. I can even imagine some people being slightly envious, that this chap has an ancestry that can be traced back to this incredibly remote period.

Solidarity with the Metalworkers Strike in Turkey!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 6:44pm in


Labor, Turkey

by by Devrimci İşçi Partisi-Revolutionary Workers’ Party


Hands off the metalworkers’ strike in Turkey!

Government ban means AKP despotism serves the bosses!

International solidarity with metalworkers of Turkey!

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Behind Turkey’s Attack on the Afrin Kurds: Imperialist Machinations in the Middle East

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/02/2018 - 5:52pm in

by by Ali Kiani


The danger of nuclear war is present today more than ever with Trump’s threats against North Korea and Iran. Without precedent in US history, the president openly states that he is willing to wage war and destroy a nation for US interests, disregarding his allies’ wishes. Trump not only follows the advice of his buddy Benjamin Netanyahu about the Iran nuclear deal, but he also announces that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He remains ahead of schedule on the opening of the US embassy there as well as cutting off funding for Mahmoud Abbas for a Palestinian state, unless he bows to Israel and respects Trump. At same time, his military commander General Jim Mattis announces that the US should be ready for war at any moment.

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Turkish labour under deteriorating socio-economic conditions: why is there no united front?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 7:00am in


Blog, Turkey

Turkey, a peripheral country with poor working conditions, has been subjected to an anti-labour regime and severe capitalist exploitation under the consecutive Justice and Development Party (AKP) Governments since 2002. In this guest post, drawing on my article Countering globalization and regionalization: is there a united front within Turkish labour and disadvantaged groups?, recently published in the journal Globalizations, I discuss the possibilities of the Turkish Left to mobilise for an alternative to neoliberal restructuring.

Turkey ranks as the worst country in terms of Gini coefficient (OECD, 2015a) and one of the ten worst third countries for workers (ITUC, 2016). The average number of work accidents from 2007 to 2013 was 88,038 – almost 240 accidents per day – of which 1,189 constituted fatal accidents – almost three deaths per day – (SGK Statistics, 2015). The share of labour income as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product dropped from 41% in 1995 to 32% in 2013 (ILO, 2015, p. 11 and 16). Trade union density decreased from 10.6% in 1999 to 4.5% in 2012 (OECD, 2015b).

Given these socio-economic conditions, can labour and disadvantaged groups in civil society develop an alternative in countering globalisation and European Union (EU) membership? Can they form a united front through organising ‘all the popular forces in revolt against the capitalist regime’ by forming class alliances (Gramsci, 1977, p. 376). If not, what are the impediments behind a united front? These debates are significant for the Left as dissent vis-a-vis neoliberal destruction such as casualisation and commodification and erosion of the welfare state have increasingly been articulated by the radical right and populist policies.

Embarking on a historical materialist framework that draws concepts from Gramsci, the article concludes that labour developed two rival class strategies: Ha-vet (‘No-yes’) and neo-mercantilism, none of which stands as an overall alternative. The former is supported by internationally oriented labour (workers in textile and automotive industries), socialist oriented industrial trade union confederation (Disk) and public employee confederation (Kesk), particular women rights/feminist groups and human rights groups. They argue that globalisation has ‘dynamited’ social rights acquired at the national level. They defend internationalism under the motto that ‘Another globalisation and Europe is possible’. They support membership for democratic consolidation and improvement of working standards, as the economic struggle has already been lost with the completion of the Customs Union. Importantly, their support for an open economy does not mean that they have internalised neoliberal restructuring. On the contrary, their social purpose is internationalism and the creation of ‘Social Europe’.

Neo-mercantilism is supported by nationally oriented labour (workers within the agriculture sector), ‘statist’ industrial confederation (Türk-İş) and public employee confederation (Türkiye Kamu Sen). They also perceive globalisation as inevitable, but defend the nation state as a viable site for struggle. Here, imperialism is read as an obstacle to internationalism. Forces within neo-mercantilism are divided on membership, questioning whether the EU will provide protectionism through structural funds or trigger further liberalisation and dismantle the nation state as an imperialist bloc. Yet, they are united on their critical stance vis-a-vis political issues and privileged partnership, arguing that the EU discriminates against Turkey and supports a separatist solution to the Kurdish problem. They support membership on ‘equal terms and conditions’ as long as Turkey benefits from structural funds and free movement of workers.

There are various factors underlying this division. Structurally, the risk of underbidding and cleavages between established workers (workers who benefit from relative stability in their jobs) and non-established workers (less skilled workers mostly employed on casual conditions) have negatively affected the Turkish labour movement. Considering nationally specific factors, Turkey’s unionisation is fragmented with seven confederations (three in industry and four among public employees) each organised in overlapping sectors with differing political orientations. Second, the working class movement suffers from anti-union legislation. Trade unions have to organise 10% of workers in the given economic sector and overcome 50%+1 threshold in the enterprise to be eligible for collective bargaining. Third, a labour aristocracy has been created. For instance, when the AKP Government introduced flexible employment, newly employed contractual public employees were directed to Memur-Sen which increased its membership from 41,871 in 2002 to 956,032 in 2016 (Ministry of Labour and Social Security, 2017). Fourth, there was further division as a result of identity politics. Some unionists, as a result of their opposition to education in mother tongue for citizens of Kurdish origin, separated from Eğitim-Sen, establishing yet another confederation (Birleşik Kamu-Sen) in 2008.

The strategies of the ruling class have also undermined a coherent workers alternative, including dismissing workers who are unionised, making use of the unemployed reserve army or Syrian migrant workers in order to prevent workers from unionisation. Populist instruments such as social assistance programs, consumer loans and credit cards (creating the impression that lower income groups are economically better off) and revisions in health and education systems have also been influential in consolidating neoliberal restructuring despite deteriorating socio-economic conditions.

The future trajectory is uncertain. Recent interviews conducted in December 2017 give some hints. Labour within Ha-vet has continued to stress internationalism. Yet, they highlighted the need to revise framework agreements with clear enforcement mechanisms. The EU membership perspective has lost priority as reform process has neither consolidated democracy nor improved labour conditions. In fact, EU reforms have implied further liberalisation and commodification. However, the EU is still seen as the most plausible model. To quote an interviewee ‘Do workers in countries within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have better working conditions for Turkey to re-consider its European orientation?’ Yet, they would clearly oppose Turkish integration into the European structure only through market integration without a social dimension.

Labour in Turkey has not yet managed to form a united front. Recalling two cases of resistance of the last decade – the Tekel resistance and the Gezi Park protests – reveal that opposition erupts from time to time. Authoritarian neoliberalism with a conservative Islamic face and populist tools of the AKP regime are approaching their limits. Youth unemployment is on the rise overruling the populist tool of mass university education. Growth and consumption through indebtedness is also approaching its limits. Since the 15th July 2016 coup attempt, there have been almost 50,000 arrests and more than 150,000 dismissals of civil servants with the purge expanding to opposition including witch-hunts and dismissals of Academics for Peace signatories.

Contradictions as a result of commodification in the sphere of social reproduction and moments of resistance are on the rise. See, for example, the local resistance in Artvin Cerattepe against mining activities by the Eti Bakır firm in order to protect the natural habitat of the area, or how heavy rains easily create floods in İstanbul due to gentrification and the absence of an adequate amount of soil in the city to absorb water. The erosion of secular education in the name of creating a ‘pious generation’ causes protests. These instances of struggle will be determined within the dynamics of rising authoritarianism and conditions of the state of emergency. A viable alternative has never been more needed than now.

This post first appeared on Trade Unions and Global Restructuring

The post Turkish labour under deteriorating socio-economic conditions: why is there no united front? appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Solidarity with Afrin, al-Ghouta, Idlib Against All Military Attacks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/01/2018 - 5:30pm in


Syria, Turkey

by by the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists


We, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, oppose the various military attacks on Afrin, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta and support all the innocent civilians in Syria. . . There has been a consensus between all the international and regional powers on the necessity to liquidate the revolutionary popular movements initiated in Syria in March of 2011 . . .

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