Offensive in the Struggle of Paradigms. A Look at the Current Global Political Situation

“By expanding democratic politics this year, we will succeed in the much-needed offensive for the paradigm of democratic modernity,” Arif Rhein analyzes the political situation in 2021.

We are now in the middle of the year 2021, and we can now venture to understand some of the fundamental trends of this year. Every political phase has its own dynamics. Actors, topics and places come to the fore, while aspects that previously seemed spectacular are forgotten. From the point of view of us – the democratic forces of this world – it is therefore all the more important to understand the current phase in its own particularity and at the same time not to lose sight of fundamental historical dynamics. The better we succeed in this, the more we will be able to make ourselves independent of the agenda of Capitalist Modernity in general and its respective nation-state representatives in particular. For our goal is and remains to pursue and advance the agenda of societies, peoples and nations. In the face of global wars, intensified attacks on social cohesion and environmental destruction, this is an all the more urgent task.

A Multipolar World and its Conflicts

The period of global upheaval that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s continues and has concrete implications for current political dynamics. After decades of conflict between two blocs and a brief period of triumphant U.S. sole rule, different centers of power are emerging ever more clearly around the world today. The scaffolding of Capitalist Modernity – its institutions, centers, and paradigm – is shaking, to which the U.S., the U.K., the EU, China, Japan, and Russia are responding. These central nation-state actors of Capitalist Modernity are undertaking offensives at an ever-increasing pace, sometimes independently, sometimes in collusion with each other, to secure the most favorable position possible in the newly emerging multipolar world. London, for example, decided to leave the EU, signed free trade agreements with countries in all parts of the world in recent months, and adopted a comprehensive new military strategy. This repositioning has recently led to repeated political and economic conflicts with the EU. The EU itself is working intensively on the practical implementation of its economic and military autonomy – despite unmistakable contradictions between Germany and France, Northern and Southern Europe, and also with the Eastern European states gathered around Poland. Central European armaments projects are being pushed ahead, a military EU shadow budget is being set up, and the economic integration of the EU is being pushed ahead despite all resistance from individual countries. The conflict over Corona vaccine doses, which is covered by the media, both within the EU and with Russia, China or the USA, illustrates the bitter rivalry between the states of this world. The Biden administration has made many promises at home and abroad in an attempt to contain the potential for social resistance. But so far, especially in the area of foreign policy, the continuities of Trump’s policy very clearly prevail: economic isolation and military provocations toward Russia and China, instability and alliances with dictators in the Middle East, and a clearly hostile attitude toward serious social resistance movements from South America to the Middle East. China continues to expand its global influence, most recently taking a clear offensive toward the Middle East with its 25-year agreement with Iran (1). From the perspective of Capitalist Modernity, the China model of massive digitalization of all areas of life, almost limitless urbanization and industrialization, and the suppression of social rights seems like a welcome injection of energy for the system.

Sociocide and Genocide as Politics of State and Power

Anyone analyzing the current political situation cannot avoid dealing with Corona. In addition to the biological and medical aspects of this pandemic, the question of how this disease has been used politically looms large. This debate may have been distorted early on by empty discourses such as that of the “Querdenker” in Germany. But for societies, especially in the hard-hit capitalist centers, it is even more important to understand how the system of Capitalist Modernity worldwide and nation-states locally have used this severe pandemic. While it is natural to place a high value on the protection of human health, many measures such as months-long contact bans, curfews, the closure of cultural and social institutions, or the restriction of the right to demonstrate seem to have had a very destructive impact on society as a whole. Media coverage in particular has played a large part in allowing fear and uncertainty to dominate the lives of individuals, thus pushing social coexistence into the background. Online work meetings, online events and online streaming services have not been able to replace the self-evident qualities of social togetherness, human warmth and cohesion. Capitalist Modernity, with the help of its highly influential media organs such as the BBC, CNN, Netflix, Twitter, etc., is making the societies of this world an offer that is hardly attractive: a new, secure, all-time controlled togetherness through the digitalization of all areas of life. What the global power and capital monopolies present as an exciting new beginning for the post-Covid phase, we can also understand as a new stage of sociocide. In his book Sociology of Freedom, Abdullah Öcalan warns of the destructive consequences of this development: “The hegemonic powers not only always have the most effective weapons in the literal sense, but they also rule through the weapon of the media. Because they use the media like a second analytical intelligence, they succeed in neutralizing social resistance. With the help of this weapon, a virtual society is constructed. The virtual society represents another form of sociocide. The nation-state is also one of the forms of sociocide. In both cases, society is deprived of its sociality and transformed into a tool of the monopoly that directs it. The underestimation of the social nature is extremely dangerous; the robbery of its sociality exposes society to unlimited dangers. Like the age of finance capital, that of virtual monopoly can coexist only with a society that has ceased to be itself. The simultaneous emergence of these two phenomena is no coincidence, since they are interconnected. The society that the nation-state deprived of its sociality (so that it thinks it is the nation-state), as well as the society seduced by the media, are literally defeated societies from whose ruins other things are constructed. There is no doubt that we are experiencing such a social era.” (2) In order to crush the social resistance that is growing stronger in the periphery and the centers, the forces of Capitalist Modernity are ready for the annihilation of entire peoples and the ruthless shattering of social cohesion. The genocidal strategy is felt in particular by the oldest peoples of this world in the Middle East and Africa in all intensity on a daily basis. During the Corona phase, sociocide has now also massively accelerated in the centers of Capitalist Modernity.

Europe and Germany: A Capitalist Leading Power Pursues Its Agenda

The German nation-state is one of the leading powers of Capitalist Modernity. Its economic power, its political drive for power, and its military weight, which grows from year to year, allow it to assert its own interests ever more aggressively, both in Europe and around the world. Germany used the Corona phase to cement its claim to political leadership in Europe and to further extend its economic lead over the other EU members. Domestically, the pressure on democratic forces has been greatly increased: ecological resistance in the form of forest occupations is being cleared with militaristic police commandos, self-managed spaces in metropolitan areas are being shut down, and large youth protest movements such as Fridays for Future are being paralyzed for the time being by massive restrictions on basic democratic rights such as demonstrations and rallies. In addition to the pressure on the forces of social resistance, the arming of the police and military as well as an increasingly strong fascist organization in the form of so-called Reichsbürger (Reich cititzens), police and soldier networks or Turkish fascists form the basis for securing the policy of “New German Responsibility” (Neue Deutsche Verantwortung) internally. Currently, the state seems to be heading for a reorientation: after 16 years of dry nationalism, radical neoliberalization of the economy and cold global power projection, a new appearance in the world is needed. Ecological, cosmopolitan, and concerned with human rights, the German state will likely seek to capture growing social discontent and more smoothly assert its global claims to power starting in the fall of 2021. The new rhetoric will not change the state’s strategy: to exert as much internal pressure as possible to further increase the profit margins of German capital and to suppress or distort social resistance to it. And within the framework of the slogan “New German Responsibility” the aggressive expansion of profitable ventures of German capital in all parts of this world. With the Green Party, the appropriate party for this is waiting in the wings and may hope for a very strong election result due to the media dismantling of the CDU/CSU in recent months. We have recently been able to follow a similar state realignment in the USA. The leading powers of Capitalist Modernity are thus repositioning themselves in order to gather all their strength for the foreseeable deepening of their internal and external contradictions. A Germany (co-)governed by the Green Party will continue to focus on developing the Berlin-dominated EU into a global hegemon. Increasing involvement in political and military conflicts with all their moral, human and material damage to German society is accordingly foreseeable.

Middle East and Kurdistan: A Promising Year 2021

As a NATO and EU member, Germany is one of the key players in the Middle East. In the wake of the recent NATO decision not to end the mission in Afghanistan, if necessary, and to increase the troop presence in Iraq from 500 to 4,000 NATO troops, Germany’s role in the region is expected to grow even stronger. NATO’s announcement that it will expand its Iraq mission to cover large parts of the country – probably with a focus on southern Kurdistan – is a cause for concern. Also, the timing of this NATO decision: shortly after Turkey’s heavy defeat of the HPG People’s Defense Forces in the southern Kurdish region of Gare. A considerable contingent of Turkish soldiers is stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission. So is the Turkish ally now to receive help in the occupation of Southern Kurdistan with the help of a NATO mandate? We should follow these developments very closely.

The crushing failure of the Turkish operation in Gare in February has had the effect of an earthquake in the region. The impact of the HPG’s victory in Gare goes far beyond the PKK and the Kurdish population itself. Collaborating forces such as the South Kurdish Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the so-called Kurdish National Council ENKS or their offshoot parties in Northern Kurdistan have had to realize that their strategy of becoming Turkey’s appendages does not guarantee success. The Arab nation and the governments of various Arab-majority countries have also watched the hasty withdrawal of Turkish troops after only four days in Gare very closely and with great pleasure. Not without reason, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi experienced strong support from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, as well as Iran, regarding Şengal, in order to fend off Turkish pressure for a crushing of the local Ezidi self-government. It is important to understand that Gare was not an operation to free prisoners of war. If we disregard this red herring of the AKP-MHP government, we can quickly see that the attack on Gare was intended to be a strategic move to realize the occupation of South Kurdistan (including Mosul and Kirkuk). Even the use of poison gas by the Turkish army could not prevent the Turkish Mîsâk-i Millî (“National Pact,” provides for Turkish territory including northern Syria and northern Iraq) from suffering a major setback in Gare. The decisive factor was the unprecedented four-day resistance by six HPG guerrilla fighters who were tasked with guarding and supplying the prisoners of war living in an elaborate cave complex.

The political aftershock in Turkey continues. What is certain is that the Turkish state will be forced to reorganize itself after the strategic defeat in Gare. The discussion about a ban on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a ban on political activity for approximately 700 active HDP members, the closure of the Constitutional Court and new elections must be understood in this context. The Turkish state strategy continues to be the maximum concentration of all economic, military and political means – that is, the stabilization and expansion of fascism. Without the HDP and the Constitutional Court, another major step would be taken toward the complete concentration of power in the hands of a few state cadres and their representatives. The course of these efforts so far, however, shows that the HDP – that is, the united strength of democratic forces in Turkey – is determined and quite capable of standing up to the fascist Erdoğan-Bahçeli regime. The weak reactions of international powers show that Turkey’s main partners – the EU and the U.S. – have no problem in principle with a fascist system in the country. They are only bothered by the fact that the AKP-MHP regime pursues its own power interests in the Mediterranean or in North Africa, which hinder Western power and profits. Accordingly, the German government promoted a “positive agenda” in the form of visa facilitation, an expanded customs union and a new “refugee deal” with Turkey. Behind this – more ill-concealed than not – lies Germany’s intention to use united European-American pressure to bring Turkish fascism into line and at the same time save it from final disintegration. Germany is thus fulfilling its leadership role, assigned to it by NATO since the mid-1980s, to support the Turkish state – regardless of its changing governments – in the fight against the Kurdish Freedom Movement and, in general, all democratic forces in the country.

Accordingly, the international İmrali system – that is, the total isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and his fellow prisoners – is also consistently being maintained. After a deputy from the fascist MHP spread contradictory reports about Abdullah Öcalan’s health shortly before Newroz, strong protests erupted throughout Kurdistan and the Kurdish diaspora. North and East Syria once again took a leading role in this regard, particularly through the large-scale demonstrations in majority Arab cities such as Minbic and Raqqa. It is clear that these protests will continue until Abdullah Öcalan is released. The peoples of the Middle East and their internationalist friends have now had enough of Turkey’s stalling policy. Short telephone calls or irregular visits by his lawyers do not provide a basis for Abdullah Öcalan to play his important role in the democratization of the region. It is clear that the combined pressure of the ever-growing international campaign for Abdullah Öcalan’s freedom, local protests by the population, critical voices in parliaments and guerrilla resistance in the mountains of Kurdistan and the cities of Turkey are having a huge impact. The stronger and more united all these voices work, the sooner Abdullah Öcalan will be able to leave İmralı.

Iran has arrested hundreds of Kurds and executed dozens more since the beginning of the year. There have been sporadic skirmishes with the forces of the HRK guerrillas of Eastern Kurdistan. In Baluchistan, a large popular uprising was brutally put down. Although an end to the international boycott policy is in sight – in the form of the 400 billion Dollar agreement with China, for example – the country itself is becoming increasingly unstable. Even if Iran yields to international pressure and allows itself to become more integrated into the system of Capitalist Modernity, social contradictions will continue to grow. Cultural-ethnic identities such as Kurds or Baluchis, as well as women, are the driving force of resistance in Iran. Without democratization, the country will not be protected from breaking apart from within.

The Pope’s visit to Iraq was viewed very critically in some parts of the region itself. Especially in South Kurdistan, many people wondered how honest and practically effective the pope’s message of peace was. Accordingly, after his visit, not much was left of Rome’s cheerful message in the region itself. Most recently, Sinjar – a region the pope knowingly omitted – once again came to the fore. The U.S.-Turkish pressure on the Iraqi government resulted in the latter being forced several times to issue an ultimatum to the Ezidi self-administration. However, the April 1 ultimatum passed without consequence as well. The reason for this is the strong and uninterrupted resistance of the Ezidi civilian population, their self-government structures and self-defense units YBŞ/YJŞ. For over four months, a protest tent in the center of the city of Şengal has provided impressive proof of how quickly the Ezidi population has regained its democratic culture, with regular large-scale demonstrations and official declarations from various sectors of Sinjar`s society. After decades of destruction and displacement under Saddam Hussein, the subsequent nepotism of the KDP, and most recently the genocide by the Turkish-controlled Islamic State (IS), Sinjar has experienced a democratic awakening since 2014/15. While still far from the goal of a fully self-governed society on the ground, the resistance in recent months against the KDP-Baghdad agreement of October 9, 2020, has impressively demonstrated the courage, dignity, and democratic fervor that the people of Sinjar have gained in recent years. The NATO generals in the Brussels offices together with their Turkish and Iraqi assistants will continue to cut their teeth on this. In addition, Iran is also in Sinjar with its Hashd-al-Shaabi militias and has little interest in losing this strategically important connecting route between Syria and Iraq. Accordingly, commanders of these militias have recently threatened Turkey with war if it were to invade Sinjar.

Military and political resistance continues in Rojava and the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria. The occupation of Efrîn, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî continues to weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of the people. Day-to-day battles are taking place, especially along the new front around Ain Issa and Til Temir that emerged in October 2019. Arab, Assyrian, Armenian and Kurdish fighters are putting up an impressive resistance there against the Turkish NATO army and its Islamist mercenaries. The Efrîn Liberation Forces (HRE) have also been more active again in Efrîn this spring and have been able to carry out numerous successful actions against the Turkish and Islamist occupiers. Politically, the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) is actively working to bring together Syria’s entire democratic opposition and thus lay the groundwork for bringing peace to the country. The self-administration in the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria itself has also been working hard in recent months to fix problems in its structures and to accommodate criticism from some regions. For example, a whole new system of regions and councils has been developed for Deir ez-Zor. The local people are aware that they are under permanent attack politically, militarily, economically and ideologically, and that they will only be able to counter this if they succeed in continually adapting their structures of self-government and self-defense in accordance with requirements in such a way that the great social force of the peoples of North and East Syria is organized and mobilized. International support in the form of public diplomacy, protests, delegations, partnership projects, infrastructure projects or the longer stay on the ground also remains a central component of the self-defense strategy of the revolution of North and East Syria.

Democratic Forces: Responsibility and Proactive Politics

During the Corona pandemic, wars, exploitation or environmental destruction have continued. And the peoples, women and youth of this world have also demonstrated in recent months on all continents that democratic resistance is a basic requirement of social life. In India, an impressive farmers’ protest has been underway for months, making it visibly difficult for the government to push through the neoliberalization of yet another vital area of life. India’s peasants are defending not only their own livelihoods, but the democratic moral structures of village life and the political agency of communal communities. In Myanmar, people have been taking to the streets for many weeks to defend their right to live democratically and freely. They are demonstrating great courage every day against a ruthless, brutal state apparatus. Myanmar, which is so culturally diverse, does not fit into the corset of the nation-state and is marked by correspondingly serious contradictions between society and the state. At the same time, NATO and China are engaged in a power struggle in the country, which is strategically located both militarily and economically. This makes it all the more necessary for the democratic forces there to support society in overcoming internal contradictions and fending off external attempts at intervention on the basis of democratic politics and self-defense.

In Russia, demonstrations in support of the Western-backed opposition politician Navalny have recently attracted attention. Navalny himself relies on the assistance of central NATO members in the form of continuous media coverage, e.g. on the BBC, or by political advisors from Germany. Nevertheless, it is an expression of a great desire for democratic change when thousands across the country defy the huge repressive state apparatus. The problem in Russia seems to lie not in the willingness to protest, but in the weakness of organized democratic forces.

From South America to the U.S., from Turkey to Kurdistan and to London, women have proven time and again in recent months to be the most dynamic and determined force of resistance in this century. Though murders, rapes, domestic violence and everyday sexism are staggering in their force and contempt, women, feminists and their supporters have proven in recent months that they can turn grief into anger. The daily murders of women in Mexico, Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, or the British state’s violence against protesting women in London are just a few examples of Capitalist Modernity’s ever-increasing contempt for women. Feminist alliances such as in Poland, days of resistance such as March 8, or organized self-defense as in the form of the women’s guerrilla YJA-STAR in Kurdistan show that there is no lack of effective forms of self-organization. Resistance against the rising violence and sexism against women in the wake of the structural crisis of Capitalist Modernity will continue to grow. The better this resistance succeeds in overcoming liberal lifestyles, organizing democratically and networking internationally, the faster it will put an end to the sexist state and power system.

The struggle for an ecological world has continued in recent months with similar vigor as the resistance of women. This underlines at the same time the urgency of the problem. The forest occupations and related actions in Germany have proven that selflessness, communality and creativity are the central characteristics of effective resistance. Every occupation action was a success, whether it resulted in eviction or not. This is because the resistance demonstrated determination and strength and thus awakened in many people a desire for more. It is necessary to spread this form of action in all parts of Germany, to anchor it even more strongly in the local population and to connect it with other struggles in Germany and internationally.

For the peoples of Kurdistan and the Middle East, the success of Gare and the huge turnout on March 8 and Newroz have ushered in a year of hope. The guerrillas proved in Gare that human creativity and determination can break the NATO weapons arsenal. This has given new courage and confidence to all democratic forces and peoples of the region. The crucial importance of the guerrillas in the mountains and of organizations such as the YPS/YPS-JIN Civil Self-Defense and the United Peoples Revolutionary Forces HBDH in the cities of Northern Kurdistan and Turkey will continue this year. The combination of military self-defense, political alliances of the democratic forces and national unity of all Kurdish political parties remains the main strategy for the anti-fascist struggle against the Erdoğan-Bahçeli regime this year.

All over the world, discontent is growing over the massive restrictions on basic political rights and social life in the wake of the Corona pandemic. In recent months, there have been repeated protests against curfews and other restrictions in Holland, Brussels and Germany, for example. In the coming period, it will be important for the democratic forces to approach this major social crisis politically and strategically. When the state and power system presumes to instrumentalize a disease in order to further dissolve social structures that are already severely weakened, this requires a determined and consistent response: more communality and more politics. It is precisely now that the strategic alliances of all democratic forces are needed in order to pursue democratic politics together. If democratic politics can be expanded in everyday life – through alliances, communes, cooperatives, academies – states will be forced to find a different way of dealing with the pandemic. Democratic politics is the guarantor that the huge power of society will unfold and be used to solve social problems and projects. It creates space for the social agenda to move to the center of life. The more this happens, the less we will hear about wars, exploitation and environmental destruction in 2021. By expanding democratic politics this year, we will succeed in the much-needed offensive for the paradigm of Democratic Modernity. Gare, March 8 and Newroz have heralded the beginning of this phase.

  1. Iran and China plan to cooperate closely on strategic issues over the next 25 years. The agreement relates to cooperation in trade, economics and transportation and is intended to help deepen Sino-Iranian relations.
  2. Abdullah Öcalan, Sociology of Freedom. Manifesto of the Democratic Civilization. Volume III, PM Press 2020.