(image: “Make Rojava Green Again”, c )
By Thomas Duffin
I write this following the tragic forest fires that have plagued Wales following last week's notably dry and hot weather, which was the hottest Easter Weekend on record for all 4 countries within the UK. From Blaenau Ffestiniog to the Sirhowy Valley, Wales has already been scarred by flame, with hotter weather still to come.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that the flames burn hotter and earlier with every coming year, with our climate rapidly careering toward catastrophe, forests and fields in Wales are being devastated. Even less surprising, yet also terrifying, is that this will only get worse without radical action.
Of course, with the climate catastrophe approaching us, we have seen some valiant attempts toward greater ownership of our environment by activists. From Greta Thurnberg to Extinction Rebellion, it is clear to see that climate action is becoming a mainstream issue in British politics. This, however, is still far from what is needed to overhaul our society in the time we have remaining to do so.
Even with the noise we're making today, it is clear the Westminster state establishment will attempt to continue its traditional path of reformism and concessionary action to whittle down activists and limit the inconvenience of businesses and capital rather than commit to lasting policy change. It highlights the severe disconnect between the working classes and the supposedly democratic institutions that declare that they "hear us" yet won't act accordingly.
For any political movement to be successful in this regard, we must not only recognise that our political institutions have failed, but attempt to establish an alternative model from which to organise a resistance to ecological collapse. In Wales, this is all the more necessary as movements such as YesCymru (https://www.yes.cymru/) begin to march down the path to independence, yet still only provide a very vague vision of what annibyniaeth (independence) will look like when set in motion: Will a "Free Wales" simply shift the role of Westminster onto the Senedd, continuing the long and suicidal trend of political inaction over our habitats, or will we find this "new" model of democracy in which to rapidly reorganise our society towards ecological ends?
This is where the latter half of this article's headline comes into play. This "new" model I refer to isn't new at all. In fact, the political movement I imply has been put into practice across a region of Syria known as "SANES", or the Self-Administration of North-East Syria. Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2012, The politically disenfranchised North-East of the country peacefully ousted much of the Assad Government institutions and began rapidly implementing their own alternatives. From this, they have developed a radically different mode of political discourse that has empowered communities to commit to restoring desertified Northern Syria to the lush greenland that preceded it.
Syria's Kurds, under the banner of the YPG and YPJ, not only ousted ISIS, but also worked with Arabs, Turkmen, Syriacs and other ethnicities to establish community-run councils that resolved divisive discourse within Syrian society that lead to much of the original civil unrest. Syriac and Kurdish became official languages along with Arabic, and a cultural and linguistic revival of cultures once outlawed by Assad has been cultivated from the rubble of cities and towns ravaged by Daesh. Direct democracy has stripped the political establishment of its power, and handed this power back into the local communities that some 8 years ago were rioting over similar political ignorance that we see from our leaders today.
The lessons learned in this democratic project can certainly be replicated in Wales. A country that historically has seen cultural and linguistic oppression, exploitation of natural resources, and a struggling movement for lasting political autonomy. Activists for independence and the rejection of Labour-Tory austerity politics need to see that a Free Wales is an ecological and directly democratic Wales. In the rubble of communities devastated by the abrupt end of most of our mining industry, we can build an alternative from the foundations of the Syrian question.
The way forward has been sown into the Earth, and we need only water the seeds.