Wednesday, 08 June 2016 09:36

Good Reads - From Olof Palme to Democratic Confederalism

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Photo: Bernt Sønvisen(Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0

Our editor Fernando Burgés points you in the direction of a few essays and articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about former Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme, democratic confederalism, the Kurdish question and what we can expect from the economic developments in the coming years.

Fernando, Brain and Heart editor

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Between Olof Palme and Murray Bookchin, Democratic Confederalism is the Bysectrix

I recently spent a few days in Stockholm, where I finally had the chance to follow the steps of one of my greatest political heroes, Olof Palme, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, assassinated in 1986. His life, as much as his death, is shrouded in a smoke of mystery and romanticism, worth of a book. Indeed, several have been written, and yet I cannot affirm which is the best, I can certainly recommend the brilliant piece of investigative journalism, Blood on the Snow, by the historian Jan Bondeson. 
For those not very acquainted with this man, I highly recommend a documentary A Life in Politics as an introduction. Besides the most famous episodes of his career, it is particularly interesting the policies implemented by him years before taking over as Prime Minister of Sweden. When Palme was the Education Minister, he carried out reforms that revolutionized the country deeply: he replaced student grants for a minority with a student loans system for a larger number of people; expanded further education facilities for adults; integrated preschool into the whole education system; expanded day-care centres and introduced classes on sex and procreation in a straightforward and comprehensive way. Above all, his biographers say, in the kindergartens, Palme revolutionized the prevailing mindset, promoting collectivist values.

Later, as a Communications Minister, Palme gave the impetus to a new state TV channel, TV2, which had a pronouncedly radical profile. Pelle Neroth – one of the many who wrote a book about Olof – tells that a genuine and not untypical TV2’s programme listing for one evening in 1975 was something like: a Danish film about a boy in a psychiatric clinic followed by a programme about a railway in Tanzania built by Mao’s China, a debate about kiosk thrillers and the dangers of violence affecting readers, followed by a programme about socialist fighting songs against the Spanish dictator Franco. The evening ended with a debating programme on the proletarian theme of “from the factory floor”. Furthermore, although Donald Duck comics were not censored in the way Disney TV cartoons were, children’s comic books also took a left wing slant. Under Palme’s influence, a remarkable comic for older children was a socially and politically aware graphic novel featuring a heroic feminist Swedish doctor taking on the “racist fascist” regime of Rhodesia, while other taught children as young as six how they could go on strike against their parents.
Thirty years after his assassination, the identity of the killer remains unknown. One popular theory that spread at the time was that the murderer was a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK. The police allegedly tried to exploit the episode to discredit the PKK and the refugees from Turkey and the rest of the Arab world who were, at the time, immigrating to Sweden en masse. Hans Holmér, then Stockholm police commissioner, was a particular proponent of this accusation, but after it was proved wrong, he had to resign and left to Austria. 


PKK and Democratic Confederalism

Photo: Kurdishstruggle (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0

Speaking about the PKK and the Kurdish question, it is worth taking a look at this brilliant article by Dilar Dirik, recently published by Roard Dilar is a young Kurdish activist and a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge. I had the pleasure to meet Dilar last January, during the New World Summit in Utrecht. She focuses her research on the role of the women’s struggle in articulating and building freedom in Kurdistan. Her article is a good introduction to the concept of “democractic confederalism”, an autonomy model currently being implemented in Rojava. Insired by Abdullah Öcalan, who has been guiding the Kurdish cause behind bars. Contrary to what many think, the Kurdish quest for self-determination no longer seeks for a separated state. Öcalan reminds that over the last decades, the Kurds have not only struggled against repression by the dominant powers and for the recognition of their existence but also for the liberation of their society from “the grip of feudalism”. Hence, it does not make sense to replace the old chains by new ones or even enhance the repression, he says. This is what the foundation of a nation-state would mean in the context of the capitalist modernity. Without opposition against the capitalist modernity, there will be no place for the liberation of the peoples. The solution to the Kurdish question, he points out, needs to be found in an approach that weakens the capitalist modernity or pushes it back.
His model, the Democratic Confederalism, is said to be open towards other political groups and factions. It is flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic and consensus-oriented. Ecology and feminism are central pillars. And at the root of this kind of self-administration lies the Murray Bookchin, founder of the social ecology line of thought.
Concluding this libertarian loop, I suggest the article Economic Contradictions and New Opportunities, published by New Compass. Drawing on David Harvey, Gar Alperovitz, Paul Mason and Jeremy Rifkin, the social-ecologists Jonathan Korsár and Svante Malmström take a look at the reasons behind the economic crisis that started in 2008 - then continued after a slight sign of recovery - and wonder: what can we expect from the economic development in the coming years and decades 

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 11:30

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