Feminism, Democracy, Autonomy: Utopia Under Siege

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By Mark Mason

Introduction

Following a telephone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish military crossed the border into northern Syria on October 9th with the express purpose of attacking the Kurdish population residing in the region known as Rojava.

This was not the first Turkish military attack on the Kurds of northern Syria, but this one had the visible public support of the US government as US troops were withdrawn from the Syria-Turkey border to make way for the Turkish invasion. Although Turkey violated international law and has been committing war crimes against civilians, much of the US news media chose to characterize these actions as a conflict between two celebrity heads-of-state. Although Trump feigns opposition to the current Turkish crimes in Syria, the invasion is borne out of conscious collusion between the US and Turkey. This collusion represents crimes of patriarchal states manifesting a struggle not only of life-and-death in Rojava, but a struggle of industrial capitalist patriarchal culture in a longstanding theme of Death against Life.

The withdrawal of US troops from the Turkish border has been described by some US media as precipitated by an impulsive decision made by Trump while he was speaking to Erdogan by telephone. Furthermore, some analyses claim Trump’s foreign policy is lacking in consistency and planning. News analyses in which Erdogan is presented as a skillful manipulator of a feckless Trump is not supported by the evidence. US and Turkish military actions in northern Syria have the appearance of coordination with intent to give Trump a political position to deny complicity with the Turkish invasion. Public sparing between Trump and Erdogan generated the appearance of well-planned theater. Contemptuous of the corporate media, letters Trump sent to Erdogan, the sniping public verbal exchanges, the use of Pence to create the appearance of mediation with Erdogan, and the threats of US economic sanctions[1] against Turkey appear as well-orchestrated grand theatre for the purpose of hiding coordinated ethnic cleansing. Attacks on Rojava, whether military or verbal, are attacks upon a women’s movement for political and economic power which exhibits the willingness to take up arms against patriarchy.

Analysis

Trump and Erdogan are colluding in misogynistic, imperialist aggression. By colluding in a military and political maneuver, the following goals are to be met:

  • Crush the feminist secular community democracy of Rojava. The anti-capitalist and anti patriarchal armed feminist movement in Rojava is an existential threat to the patriarchy and imperialism of the US Empire. Erdogan’s goal is the reconstruction of the Ottoman caliphate. ISIS is the Middle East equivalent of the German Brown Shirts which were exploited by the Nazis, then pushed aside as Hitler rose to power. ISIS has received support from the USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and will be pushed aside if the US and Turkey are successful in carving up the Middle East for their own imperial benefit. The Kurds of present-day northeastern Syria are caught in the crushing crucibles of three imperial ambitions: USA, Turkey, and Russia. Feminist-driven direct democracy is an existential threat to the US Empire and to Erdogan’s imperial ambitions. The current US abandonment of the Kurds is a well-planned action best described as a modern-day patriarchal capitalist witch hunt.[2]
  • Ethnically cleanse Kurds from northeastern Syria, replacing them with a mix of Arab and other Islamic war refugees as a base for Turkey to illegally annex land from Syria. These actions constitute cultural destruction of the existing Kurdish communities. Ethnic cleansing.
  • US seizure of oil fields in northeastern Syria. The US is concerned with imperial control of Middle-East oil, not lives or democracy. Empires have no friends. From the perspective of US foreign policy, people and states are perceived as temporarily-useful clients, client states, or as enemies. The goal of the Kurds of Rojava is to build a politically autonomous region founded upon decentralized, community direct democracy. Such a program is perceived as an existential threat to both Turkey and the USA. The US and Turkey reject independent secular democracy.
  • Create chaos in the Middle East as a distraction from congressional impeachment hearings intent on removing Trump from office.
  • Divide international peace advocates by Trump publicly claiming that his goal is to end Middle-East military conflicts by withdrawing US troops from Syria. Withdrawing US troops from northern Syria was calculated to garner support for ending US military violence in the region, although Trump quickly changes the military strategy from withdrawal to re-assignment within Syria.
  • To distract and manipulate the US corporate media. Trump’s contempt for the media is evident in his media maneuvering. Presidential tweets threatening economic sanctions against Turkey make corporate media headlines.
  • As Chomsky has stated: “…there is an underlying strategic objective: to consolidate the alliance of reactionary states (the oil monarchies, Egypt, Israel) as a base for U.S. power in the region. […] These objectives fall within a broader strategy of forming a global reactionary alliance under the U.S. aegis,..” To which we can add Turkey to the list of reactionary states. Sultan Erdogan and Emperor Trump display an affinity as they exhibit underlying imperial strategic goals which are filtered through a lens of imperial fiat.[3]

The most recent Turkish invasion of Rojava has all the markings of a military operation planned well in advance with the cooperation with Trump. The public displays of conflict between Trump and Erdogan take on the appearance of scripted public antagonisms which are not substantiated by their actions. The propaganda goals are to convince theUS corporate media that Trump is opposed to the Turkish war crimes committed by the military invasion of and attacks on the people and property of Rojava. Trump and Erdogan are displaying characteristics of patriarchal authoritarian violence towards women and democracy. Trump needs a proxy cover for a means to manifest his own, and the corporate-state’s, misogyny and contempt for democracy.

Both the women’s rights element and the decentralized democratic element of the Kurdish autonomy movement are perceived as existential threats to patriarchy and the state. Economic sanctions are not appropriate responses to warfare. If Trump were truly intent on opposing the Turkish invasion of Syria, he would not have withdrawn US troops from the area and he would have taken military action to block Turkish military. Trump is not being manipulated by Erdogan. Furthermore, the exit of US troops from the border region is an invitation for Turkey to revive ISIS, thereby creating more violent chaos in northern Syria and westen Iraq.

All this is perceived as quite delightful to the US Empire, with the small problem of the Russians rushing in to fill the vacuum left by the US. The US Senate Republicans and indeed, the Democrats as well, are opposed to the US troop-withdrawal-that-isn’t. Nevertheless, all the turmoil now in Congress created by the Erdogan-Trump Syrian war crimes and chaos, and the made-for-TV impeachment proceedings, builds a media spectacle behind which, among other things, Trump is using to attack poverty-stricken Americans by cutting federal food assistance and advancing a Pentagon military land-grab in Nevada. That Kurds are victims of Turkish war crimes doesn’t matter. The US goal is to assert patriarchal corporate dominion over the Middle East while reviving ISIS as a means to maintain chaos in Syria. The US does not tolerate the following: 1) women’s rights, 2) democracy, and 3) regional stability anywhere.

A boy, in a sense, learns to be a man in the act of shutting his mum up. To be men, they have to learn to silence women.
~Mary Beard [4]

For Donald Trump, beating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest was a triumphant conquest of women, the ascendency of patriarchal domination over all women and all things related to compassion, birth, nurturance, community, connectedness to the Earth, and life itself. The 2016 election exhibited the public manifestation of a cult of state misogyny, plutocracy over democracy, and of a capitalist death-cult of totalitarian industrial ecocide. For Erdogan and Trump, being men is silencing women. The subordination of women by both has been publicly visible.[5], [6]

We are witnessing an ecocidal struggle of longstanding Western imperial culture as manifested in capitalist patriarchal violence: Eros and Thanatos.

The collaboration between Trump and Erdogan represents a unity of death over life, of men over women, and of the state over communal autonomy. Rojava, where women dismantle patriarchal tyranny and where community autonomy challenges the tyranny of the state, is perceived by the purveyors of capitalist-state patriarchy to be an existential threat. Secular, egalitarian community autonomy will not be tolerated by the tyranny of men, their corporations, and their states.

The Turkish and USA governments manifest misogynistic violence, aversion to secular democracy, and intolerance for local autonomy.The YPJ military units manifest women’s empowerment, defense of local democracy, and autonomy from Syrian state and theocratic rule. These conditions are abhorred by powers committed to domination through capitalist patriarchy. Secular, democratic autonomy is not tolerated. It is important to identify the underlying ideologies which motivate economic, state, and theocratic centers of power. In the US corporate news media, journalists assume a position as spectators of celebrity politicians. They ascribe actions by heads-of-state either on the basis of pseudo-psychological explanations or else resort to repeating state propaganda. It is our task as inquiring minds to reveal the institutional structures of power. Themes of institutional power for the past 300 years include patriarchy, Euro-American colonialism, racism and white supremacy, statism, and capitalism. These are the perennial themes being manifested by every US president and all state powers. These are the themes that define the death cult of the modern-day capitalist patriarchal state.

Conclusions

President Trump has signed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) in which the US sanctions Turkey by removing them from the F-35 fighter jet consortium program. This action taken by Congress is retaliation for Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system and for Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border that left a military vacuum that was quickly filled by Syrian and Russian forces. More civilians are suffering from Idlib to Rojava. The violent suppression of humane, democratic secular regional social organization continues to be a high priority for the US Empire for the reason that the US considers democracy an existential threat.[7]

Given the domination of the US and Russia in the Turkey-Syria-Iraq border region in conjunction with the autocratic patriarchal theocratic governments of the states enclosing Rojava, no apology is made for the reference to Utopia. If ever there was a time calling for a coalition of the many who are unwilling to submit to arbitrary concentrated economic and state power, the time is now. The place is Rojava.

Beyond Rojava, Syria is a microcosm of chaos and collapse that exhibits local conditions which are manifesting globally as universal state collapse. The viewpoint of state-centered anti-imperialism becomes problematic, not only in Syria but globally, because the realities of multiple sources of abuse of power are omitted.[8] There are no “good states” clashing with anti-imperialist states.

The ideology of anti-imperialism is without moorings because the global state system is collapsing and fragmenting from within. Some state-centered anti-imperialist analyses posit the USA as the bad imperialist, and therefore should exit Syria now irrespective of what consequences result for the Kurds at the hands of the Turkish and Syrian militaries. The USA is the biggest imperialist bully on the planet, yet the politics of the Middle East manifests in the presence of multiple brutal regimes, including but not limited to the Assad government, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia. The list is incomplete. The goal of anti-imperialism would take a positive position by advocating the end of military action by all parties. Adopt the politics of minimizing human suffering and violence. The recent shift of US troops away from the Syrian border region is having the predictable consequences of magnifying human suffering.

The global capitalist-state system is collapsing under the economic and political weight of brutal imperial regimes. The US and its NATO system exhibit the worst offenses while global opposition to state neoliberal brutalities are under considerable visible popular resistance. From Hong Kong to Honduras, and from Chile to Lebanon, conspicuous insurgencies foment popular unrest. Deep global fractures in neoliberal capitalism fracture imperialist states and victim states together. The framework and vocabulary of liberation should reflect deepening comprehension of portentous political history.[9]

We are witnessing the consequences of Sykes-Picot from a hundred years ago, the consequences of petro-chemical industrialism, capitalism, and the Treaty of Westphalia. We are witnessing the theft of the commons, the concentration of state and imperial power going back about 6,000 years. We are witnessing the consequences of the invention of the plow, of patriarchy, and of the enclosure. The fence. The wall. The plutocrat, and the penniless. Today, we are witnessing the consequences of the invention of the city-state, itself dependent upon the invention of agriculture.[10], [11]

The collapse is now. New-old thinking is needed. Indigenize. Reclaim the Commons. Capitalism begins with denial and isolation. Capitalist patriarchy and the state is a death cult. If we do not come to consciousness soon, we will commit ecocide. Can we heed the message of liberation from Rojava?


Footnotes:

[1] Reuters and The Associated Press. “Trump Warns Turkey Over Syria: I Will Obliterate Your Economy if You Do Anything Off Limits.” Haaretz. Tel Aviv. 07 October 2019. Web edition.

[2] Federici, Silvia. Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women. Oakland. Common Notions/Autonomedia/PM Press. 120 pp. 2018.

[3] Chomsky, Noam. 2019. In: Polychroniou, C.J. “Noam Chomsky: Trump Is Consolidating Far-Right Power Globally.” Truthout. 03 July 2019. Website.

[4] Beard, Mary. Video Interview. “Why Medusa lives on – Mary Beard on the persistent legacy of Ancient Greek misogyny.” Aeon Magazine. Director: Matthew Miller. 09 December, 2019. Web edition.

[5] Agence France-Presse in Istanbul. “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: ‘women not equal to men.’” The Guardian. London. 24 November 2014. Web edition.

[6] Merelli, Annalisa . “The Trump administration isn’t just curtailing women’s rights; it’s systematically eroding trust in women.” Quartz. 14 October 2017. Web edition.

[7] Chomsky, Noam, 2007. In: Chaudry, Amina. “Noam Chomsky on Religion and Politics.” The Islamic Monthly. 04 February 2007. Website.

[8] Parry, Max. 2019. “How the Pro-War “Left” Fell for the Kurds in Syria.” Off Guardian. 23 December 2019 website.

[9] Gatnash, Ahmed. 2019. “The Left’s Tribal Anti-Imperialism.” Arab Tyrant Manual. Transcribed by Ed Sutton in: Earth to Dogmatic Leftists: You Are Making Solidarity Impossible. Antidote Zine. 12 December 2019. Website. [Note the hypocrisy of making false claims against Chomsky]

[10] Zerzan, John, editor. Against Civilization Readings & Reflections, 2nd edition. Port Townsend. Feral House. 276 pp. 2005.

[11] Sonnenblume, Kollibri Terre. 2019. “It’s Not Capitalism that’s Driving Ecocide; it’s Civilization.” CounterPunch. 27 December 2019. Website.


Dr. Mark Mason offers analyses of United States’ domestic and foreign policies for the international news media. He was trained as a biological anthropologist educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and was engaged in the Occupy and bioregional green and peace social movements.

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