Turkey made the inevitable move into Syria with air strikes and artillery bombardment of Kurdish positions along the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkish and allied troops have entered Syria, moving towards the town of Afrin. The policy, which Turkey has made clear, is to remove Syrian Kurdish control over the land along the border which the Kurds call Rojava, or Western Kurdistan. The Kurds - organized as the YPG and the YPJ as well as the Syrian Democratic Forces - are well dug in with a network of tunnels and hardened bunkers to give them the ability to fight off the invasion. But, since there is no air power with them and little hope of resupply from any direction, the Kurds will likely be defeated by Turkey and its proxies. Kurdish leaders believed that the United States would protect them, either with air power or with a UN Security Council resolution. None are forthcoming. Both Damascus and Washington, DC, for different reasons have abandoned the Syrian Kurds.
In The Hindu, I have a brief report on the Turkish entry into Syria. You can read it here.
One of the key elements of the story is that Syria is being slowly eaten into by its neighbours, each of whom are building secure zones to their own benefit. Turkey and its proxies hope to create a cordon sanitaire that would push the Kurds towards the Iraqi border and deeper into Syria. The Lebanese forces of Hezbollah have already built a kind of security ring around western Qalamoun, along the M-5 highway that runs from Damascus to Homs.
The most important security corridor being built - almost in the shadows - is by Israel, which has pushed its borders into the Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa. Nour Samaha, formerly of al-Akhbar, has done some tremendous reporting which has just been published at The Intercept. Nour shows how Israel's project has already created proxy forces that have been purchased by money and arms. These forces - not dissimilar to the South Lebanon Army that operated between 1985 and 2000 - act on behalf of Israel for pecuniary ends but also for sectarian reasons. Please read Nour's report.
Syria, the war that has vanished from the headlines, remains in crisis. Pockets of war continue and sections of the country are being eaten away.
For the past several years, I've been writing about the refugee crisis - about how the social consequences of war are borne by millions of ordinary people. Over the past year, I've been looking at a rather nefarious development: not merely the creation of chaos through hunger and war that produces a refugee crisis, but how countries of the wealthy have begun to export their borders, to outsource the violence necessary to keep the wretched of the earth away from their lands. These borders are no longer where the territory of the United States begins, but it is at Nicaragua's border with Costa Rica. It is not at the Italian island of Lampedusa but it is on the other side of the Sahara Desert in the Sahel region. It is not in Australia, but it is on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea). It is in Turkish camps and Libyan camps - places purchased to hold refugees rather than allow them to come close to the territorial frontiers of Australia, Europe and the United States of America.
At Alternet today, I write of these developments and conclude,
What the countries of Europe, the United States and Australia have done is to export their borders far from their own territory and to make sure that the harsh interdiction of refugees and migrants is done outside the light of their own media. This is a kind of arms-length outsourcing of the refugee crisis: the West gets to drive its terrible anti-migrant policies, but it at the same time gets to appear innocent as its subsidiaries do the dirty work for it.
You can read the report - based on my visits to some of these new borders - here.
The picture above is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife at Gandhi's charkha at Gandhi's ashram on the Sabarmati River near Ahmedabad (Gujarat). Looking over him is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gandhi would have been horrified to see the leader of a country that continues an occupation which the UN sees as illegal and the leader of his own country who disdains everything Gandhi stood for. This photograph is a travesty. It is part and parcel of the propaganda exercise conducted by Modi and Netanyahu - an exercise in hiding the actual mission of these two leaders, namely to ensure that India continues to buy Israeli arms and that Israel finds a way to mask its occupation of the Palestinians. At al-Jazeera I wrote a short report on the visit. You can read it here (in Bengali at Prothom Alo here). I was happy to join a hundred Indian artists and intellectuals in a statement against the propaganda exercise. You can read that statement - hosted by the Indian Cultural Forum - here.
Modi is a travesty. Coming up from LeftWord Books is our volume -Strongmen, with essays on Modi, Trump. Erdogan and Duterte (written by Danish Husain, Eve Ensler, Burhan Sönmez and Ninotchka Rosca respectively). Can't wait to share it for you.
But how to defeat these strongmen? Does a Left force have to make electoral alliances with everyone or does the Left have to fulfill its primary task, namely to build the confidence of workers and peasants, of historically oppressed sections of the population, of sensitive and decent people? These are important and serious questions. The Indian Communists have debated these questions for almost a hundred years, as I show in my book No Free Left: the Future of Indian Communism. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met last week and decided on a clear line - to build the strength of the Left and not to fall into an opportunistic alliance with parties (such as the Congress) that have drifted so far to the right and that have no clear agenda with which to go to the people. The attack on the Left for taking this principled position has been severe. In the new Indian periodical The Print, I wrote a brief commentary that seeks to explain the basis of the CPI-M's position. You can read it here.
Nepal had a different trajectory. At Newsclick, a young Nepali communist intellectual Pramesh Pokharel has written an assessment of the journey of Nepali communism. You can read it here. At LeftWord we are eager to get a short book on Nepali Communism.
Finally, at The Dawn, there is a charming interview with Che Guevara's daughter Aleida Guevara March. She is asked to define a revolutionary. Her answer is lovely,
I think that our Fidel defined the revolutionary when he created the concept of Revolution: he must possess understanding of ethics, honesty, compassion, respect for the people, dedication to his goal, and a great capacity for love.
We are coming closer and closer to the launch of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. Our website is being built, our first Working Document and Dossier is being prepared. In a few weeks, this newsletter will come from me as the director of the Institute. I am so excited to share the work we are going to be doing together here. I'll soon let you know how to get involved.