Jase's blog

Of Qu'rans, Occupations and Uprisings

As uprisings, revolutions and protests continue to radiate from the Tunisian and Egyptian epicenters, we ought to pause to take a look at the peculiar situation of Afghanistan. “Peculiar” in what sense, however? Peculiar in the character of the protests? Peculiar due to the military occupation and warlord-ization of the country under the occupation authority? Or peculiar due to its religious justifications?

Of Qu'rans and Military Occupations of Muslim Countries

Toward the end of last month, Terry Jones—the pastor who had threatened a “Qu'ran Bonfire” during the height of last summer's wave of Islamophobia in the States—burned a Qu'ran in a somewhat anti-climatic ceremony that gained only YouTube notoriety. The conspicuous absence of the mainstream media for the whole event contrasted with the hyper-obsessive coverage of every action of Pastor Jones just mere months ago, but Jones did get the attention of far right Islamists in different parts of the world.

The Sleeping Giant Stirs: The Renaissance of American Labor

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, what is emerging across the United States is the most significant upsurge of the labor movement in a very long time. What has begun in Wisconsin is rapidly spreading to other states—even some southern states, traditionally vacuums of labor activity.

Egypt: the Clash of Two Spirits

The Mubarak regime—sans the former President himself—has entered into its “Greatest Hits” phase, offering up figures who have been a dominant fixture in elite politics since Hosni Mubarak's ascendancy to the Presidency three decades ago, albeit repackaged and remastered with minor concessions to the revolutionary movement that is rocking not only Egypt, but the entire region with its new style of Arab nationalism.

This spirit of 2011 represents an Arab nationalism from below, built on the backs of popular struggle via neighborhood defense committees, independent labor organization and mass coordination via social networking sites and word of mouth. It stands to repudiate the models of the opposition parties, whether the Wafd, Nasserists, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

It stands in sharp contrast to the elite model of Arab nationalism, what I will call the spirit of 1952, for lack of a better phrase. The spirit of 1952 is a product of the social upheavals that brought the military into power and established it as the defining institution of Egyptian society—the defining institution of the largest Arab state, the Arab state with the largest base of industrial production (and hence working-class). It is not for nothing that in many parts of the region—though this has gone out of style in the Mubarak years—Egypt is known as umm al-Arab: mother of the Arabs.

The Spirit of 1952

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is counting on the spirit of 1952 in order to establish itself in the chaotic turmoil of Egypt's present political and social crisis.

Mubarak Resigns, the Struggle Continues

One thing is clear from the events of the last 18 days: the power of the people is now back on the world stage in a dramatic fashion.

What has transpired in Egypt is nothing less than the largest popular revolution in the last 30 years. Two weeks of demonstrations and mass actions put the authority of Hosni Mubarak on its last legs, and 2 days of strikes finished the job. Masses of working class people have participated in the protests, swelling the ranks in the streets, but once the working-class exercised its social power over the economy in an organized fashion, the regime could not sustain itself. As the Revolutionary Socialists, an Egyptian organization, said: "The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon."

The ruling classes of the world are now on notice: the people are back, in a big way.

Tunisia Breaks Free

The events unfolding in Tunisia before our very eyes constitute a sharp break in world events, albeit a break that has emerged from years of grinding contradictions that have now come to a head. These events represent a break from US-backed “color revolutions,” feigned revolutionary upsurges by reactionary Islamists masquerading as harbingers of progress, and forms of reformist and guerilla-style revolutionary elitism. Popular self-organization from below has scored a victory that—although limited in nature—has had profound effects in transforming the consciousness of people around the Arab world and indeed globally.

The revolt in the streets of Tunis had their origins in the rural southern regions of the country, specifically in the town of Sidi Bouzidi. There, mostly rural workers took to the streets in December “with a rock in one hand and a cell-phone in the other” (according to Rochdi Horchani, a relative of Mohamed Bouazizi—the 26 year old street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the current round of resistance) to challenge the regime of Ben-Ali.

EPA Revokes Spruce Mine Permit, Mountain Justice Scores Victory

Working in the Mountain Justice movement as a socialist has had its trying moments. The movement was established in 2005 by a coalition of local Appalachians effected by the worst excesses of the coal industry and a much younger layer of environmentalist activists from outside the region itself. On one wing of the movement, there is a hard core dedicated to tactics of direct action and non-violent civil disobedience while, on the other, is a NGO-ized section of more bureaucratic organizations dedicated to incremental legal challenges to the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining--a particularly ruthless form of strip-mining. In between these are the actual working people of Appalachia whose hearts are frankly more with with direct action-oriented activists, and with good reason. Incremental legal challenges to the coal industry have mostly failed, especially in the context of the catastrophe that is befalling Appalachia.

Mountain Justice activists

Some Reflections on the Unfolding Revolutionary Process in Tunisia

Without going into too much detail about Tunisia’s situation, let us make clear one thing:

The regime has not fallen, it is still in power–though it is in a precarious position.

Middle Tennessee confronts Islamophobia

(Article authored by lifetime Tennessee resident and local MT Solidarity branch member Jase Short)

For the past month, xenophobic and anti-Muslim forces have stirred up controversy around a proposed mosque outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Considering the Bible Belt location and context of two major wars against majority-Muslim countries, opponents have drawn from some of the most right wing and backwards elements of the region's culture. But local activists have drawn on other traditions: the democratic freedoms in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights movement.

demonstrators confront anti-Muslim protestors

On Thursday, Middle Tennesseans For Religious Freedom (MTRF) delivered a blow to these Islamophobic right wingers and managed to pull out more people into the streets of Murfreesboro than the well-funded opposition. Roughly 450-500 showed up to defend the rights of Muslims against the 300 or so on the other side -- stunning organizers and the entire state of Tennessee. We made it on national and international news. The chances that the County Commission will reverse its decision -- especially now since the mayor has switched his position on granting the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro the right to construct its new facility -- have been seriously diminished.

Fighting Islamophobia in Middle Tennessee

Our city in central Tennessee has become the latest battleground in the struggle against Islamophobia.

A short time ago, an area that had been zoned for a church right outside the city limits of Murfreesboro (home to Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee's largest undergraduate university) was acquired by the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in order to construct a larger community center complete with a space for worship as well as athletic facilities. If constructed, the enlarged Islamic Center—including a very small mosque—would be the first large facility to serve the Muslim population in the surrounding area (the current Islamic Center is incredibly small and located in the industrial sector of the city near the interstate). Following all the legal procedures, the Regional Planning Commission approved the construction—just as it would any of the roughly 180 churches in this area.

On the Ground in Toronto

The Group of 20 Nations Summit in Toronto was marked by incredible divisions within the summit and outside, amongst the demonstrators. Since there is ample analysis of what went on within the summit available to us all, I will try and briefly report back on my experience in the lead up to the large Saturday march, the march itself and immediately afterwards. I attended the march, which was also the largest of the week’s actions, with two comrades from the Middle Tennessee branch of Solidarity and another comrade from Ohio who served as a street medic during the mobilization.

When we arrived in Toronto on Friday it was just in time for a poorly attended spokescouncil meeting at a community center near the downtown area. Instead of a spokescouncil the meeting turned more or less into a briefing session for the 8-10 of us who had just arrived in town. There was discussion of varying degrees of police harassment of small groups of young people throughout the city over the past few weeks. Apparently youth who “fit the profile” of radicals had been harassed, detained, and in some cases even arrested for minor violations like jaywalking and absurd accusations (in one circumstance a young Canadian man was given a traffic ticket even though he was not in a car). We were told that there would be an attempt to lead a break-off from the march in order to reach the security perimeter the next day, and there were instructions on how to find this contingent.