Friday, October 31, 2014

November 1st. International Day of Solidarity with Kobane

In the documentary Carnets d'un combattant kurde a young Kurdish fighter mused on the beauty of the mountains, for her the most beautiful places are those where there is hope.  Rojava is surely such a place, This was International Women's Day in the capital Qamishlo:

Monday, October 20, 2014

One Language under God?

The USA is certainly an exceptional country, indeed it is so exceptional that the National Question is seemingly of no importance whatsoever.  Lesser countries may have to confront their national problems: Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, but the USA?

Only one of the 50 states has an official minority language - Hawaii - but with less than 1% of the population speaking the indigenous tongue that official status would seem to be largely symbolic.  A fifth of the US population speak a hearth language* other than English, but then why should recent immigrants expect any official recognition for the language of a country they have left behind?  According to the US Census Bureau's Community Survey more than 2200 claim Welsh as their hearth language, a figure that sounds as credible as the 22000 Irish and the 1400 Scottish Gaels. It is ridiculous to suggest that these languages or even those more widely spoken like Russian, Chinese or Italian should have official status.

Of course the speakers of Native American languages are not recent immigrants, but there's no official status for any of them either - a total of 374000 being estimated as speaking an indigenous language at home, nearly half of them speakers of Navajo - in Arizona and especially New Mexico where they make up 4% of population.  It's sad to relate that many well-known tribes have less hearth speakers than the figure claimed for the Americanwyr Cymraeg - Blackfoot, Paiute, Mohawk, Seneca, Kiowa, Comanche, Cree, Shawnee, Pawnee etc.

Now there's a final category who are often overlooked - these being folk who speak a European language but whose ancestors never migrated to the United States, rather the United States came, uninvited, to them.

There are a number of French speakers in New England, especially Maine (5%).  Were these people recent migrants to the US from French Canada?  The border between Maine and Canada was not finally agreed until 1842 and it seems safe to assume that some at least of the 18% of the population of Aroostock County who speak French will be descended from folk who never migrated to the USA.  More well-known than the New England French are those of Louisiana, with 3.5% of the state's population speaking the language at home - mainly in a concentrated area, with some parishes having up to 30% of hearth speakers.  Again this national group, including the Acadians expelled from Canada by the British, never migrated to the USA. In recent years, in contrast to the oppressive policies of the earlier 20C, there have been moves to encourage the use of French in Louisiana schools, aided by teachers from Francophone countries.

We hear a lot about the border fence and the problems associated with latino migration to the American South West.  What is often forgotten is that these states were originally part of the Spanish Empire - New Mexico and Arizona joining the Union as recently as 1912.  Texas became a state in 1845 and California in 1850, both as the result of war with Mexico.  I've no idea what continuity there is between the original Spanish speaking population of these areas and the present day, no doubt the majority are more recent migrants; but given the continuous history and the substantial numbers involved  - California 28%, Arizona 21%, New Mexico 28%, Texas 29% - there seems little reason why Spanish shouldn't regain its former status as an official language.

* Hearth language is a useful term from the 19C, meaning the language used by a family in their own home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The Empire rather lost control of the narrative last week.  The western media had a grandstand view of the fighting in Kobane and, for once, perhaps inspired by the woman fighters of the YPJ, they actually reported what they saw rather than what they were told.

This forced Washington's hand and, despite the objections of its Turkish ally, the United States engaged in some PR bombing of the ISIS forces massed in and around the town.  At first this was half-hearted but for the last few days it has been carried out successfully because of co-ordination with the forces on the ground defending the Kobane.

It's said that the western media's attention span doesn't extend much beyond ten days and already the Kobane grandstand is emptying.  So what happens next?  The United States has so far failed to arm the Syrian Kurds, indeed they still regard them as a terrorist group.  With the media gone will they accede to Turkey's demand that a buffer zone be set up in northern Syria - a zone which coincidentally would see the suppression of the secular and democratic cantons of Rojava.  Cantons based on the confederalist theories of the imprisoned PKK leader Ă–calan -  an experiment in decency and common-sense that the Islamist Turkish government is determined to snuff out. 

While the Iraqi army and even the Peshmerga fled when confronted by the Islamic State's 7C terrorist playbook, it was the armed forces of Rojava - the YPG and the YPJ - who were largely responsible for rescuing the Yazidi Kurds from Singal mountain. Alone among the forces confronting ISIS these Rojavans - they also include some local Arabs and Assyrians - have a record for fighting rather than capitulating and are the least likely group to indulge in murderous sectarianism.

Meanwhile the US and EU are allied with the sponsors of Islamic terrorism - the Turks, the Saudis and the Gulf Arabs.  You can tell an empire by the company it keeps, whether it is East European neo-Nazis, Central American death squads or the godfathers of the headchoppers. The life loving girl fighters of the YPJ must be like garlic to sour old vampires like McCain and Hillary.

Musical Interlude

Paul Gubarev is currently hospitalized following an assassination attempt, a few weeks ago he and his family were enjoying this cheerful ditty celebrating the Russian lands from Alaska to Odessa.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

We're All Fascists Now

The IWA site Click on Wales currently hosts articles on fascism from three of the country's more interesting pensmen Tim Williams, David Melding and Robert Stradling - oh and some of the comments are quite thought-provoking as well.

Now these articles do not discuss the current resurgence of murderous far-right nationalism in Eastern Europe - nurtured and sponsored in the main by the United States and the governments of the EU - nothing so controversial.  No, these articles are concerned with the Wales of 70 and 80 years ago and, you've guessed it, our old pal Saunders Lewis.

Tim Williams has a special talent for getting up people's noses even when he is right.  Surely he is correct when he says that Wales is "wending its inexorable way towards a monoglot English-speaking status." It's not the statement so much as the relish which we imagine he feels at the prospect.  I doubt that even a 1930s Catholic would disagree with his statement that Catholicism was "not on the side of human freedom and progress."  In pre-liberation theology times wasn't that rather the point?  But in any case this plain speaking is hardly likely to endear him to two of the country's larger population segments.

David Melding ably demolishes Williams' attempt to equate fascism with right-wing Catholicism.  Fascism for example worshipped the modern in a way which was anathema to the likes of  a "crank" such as Saunders Lewis.  In a way is Tim Williams something of a crank himself?  While Saunders Lewis wanted to turn the clock back to a rural, Catholic, monoglot elitist past, Williams' sympathies lie with the despised people he sees as having created modern Wales "and the political tool of the majority - industrial Wales and the Labour party."  A valley Wales which to all intents and purposes is as dead as perchentyaeth* and the itinerant bard tramping the countryside between the halls of his patrons.

Robert Stradling contrasts the Wales of the 1930s, proletarian and socialist, with an Ireland largely sympathetic to the right-wing Catholic dictatorships, and possessing the largest fascist party in Europe not in power.  Thinking perhaps of Lewis and his allies Stradling quotes Gwyn Alf Williams "it was as well for Wales that there was an English channel in 1940."  This is a common viewpoint that seems to think that a Nazi victory would have led to a Welsh puppet regime. I doubt this would have been the case - many in the English elite would have been eager to co-operate with a victorious Germany and the anglophile Hitler would have been happy enough to indulge them.  More likely Wales would have been the scene of some violent resistance in the Valleys, bloodily suppressed by London's quislings.  Where would Saunders Lewis have stood?  Well we have his own words, as reported in the Western Mail, to help us decide:  "It is possible, he added, that there would be bloodshed in South Wales if there was a Fascist Government. In such a case the Nationalist Party must take sides with the popular masses of Wales against Fascist dictatorship."

Is there a purpose, beyond entertaining history buffs such as myself, in this continuing discussion of the minutiae of Welsh history.  It's doubtful, although I would love to read a work about real Welsh fascists, rather than the imaginary ones puffed-up for shabby political advantage.   I've blogged about some here and hereThis is quite interesting as an illustration of current academic standards east of the Dyke.

Far better to discuss the present-day, the way in which Communism and Nazism are now treated as two sides of the same coin for example.  What in the 1980s were considered to be the viewpoints of over-the-top cold-war ideologues and emigres with unsavory backstories are now the mainstream. It won't be long before Hitler and Nazism are declared the lesser evil, all of which suits those elites who see the now disorganised working class as a latent threat to their hegemony.

Today the Ukraine is like some 1940s re-enactment park, except the refugees, the shelled working-class districts and the tortured bodies are real enough.  All this hushed-up by a neo-conservative mass media and given the green-light by the likes of Merkel.  Meanwhile the European and Anglo-American elites plan their Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a perfect recipe for the corporate state.

The question we should be discussing isn't whether Saunders Lewis was fascist but are we?

*  To those unfamiliar with this term I don't believe it to mean home ownership which seems to be the wikipedia version of the word.  Rather it is the obligation towards wider society placed upon those privileged to enjoy wealth.