“Some run for miles when there is talk of sacrifice or responsibility.” (George Jackson)
Dar al Janub, a union for anti-racist and peace policy initiatives, developed during the protest movements of the early 2000s, when the wars of aggression against Afghanistan and later Iraq brought people from different political and migration backgrounds onto the streets. Years of intensive internal discussions led to the desire to work together politically – and to take RESPONSIBILITY. The strands of these discussions included: the so-called “war on terror,” the colonial crimes of the global North against the global South, the central element of racism as legitimation for colonial conquest, economic exploitation and geopolitical rule, as well as the historical and continuing significance of the Arab-Muslim area in this context.
“The colonist makes history and he knows it. And because he refers constantly to the history of his metropolis, he plainly indicates that here he is the extension of this metropolis. The history he writes is therefore not the history of the country he is despoiling, but the history of his own nation’s looting, raping, and starving to death. The immobility to which the colonized subject is condemned can be challenged only if he decides to put an end to the history of colonization and the history of de-spoliation in order to bring to life the history of the nation, the history of decolonization.“ (Frantz Fanon)
These focal points are reflected in the name of the association’s premises: Dar al Janub – Arabic for “House of the South”. At the same time, public debates about the Hijab and Islam intensified, and in much of what remained of the left, solidarity with the global South (the so-called “Third World” or “developing and emerging countries”) declined. Although the left-wing debates of the 1980s (and their diminishing echoes in the 1990s and 2000s) were still dominated by terms such as colonial/neocolonial exploitation, liberation movements of the global South, and international solidarity with oppressed peoples, many left-wing groups disintegrated during this period or – worse still – turned into NGOs. Thus, independent politics was systematically integrated into institutions which themselves were at the root of the problem. The former left-wing activists became hired hands, and perforce took over and perfected the (new) institutionalized racism.
The discourse changed fundamentally. Increasingly, culturally racist and hegemonic arguments became dominant and the concept of solidarity itself was reinterpreted. In the course of NATO enlargement, the consolidation of the European Union, the “wars on terror,” and “peacekeeping missions” solidarity was transformed into a concept that negated itself.
Consequently, Dar al Janub was conceived from the start as a project that would work in this force field. It was intended to unite the political efforts of people from different backgrounds, and to link them with an understanding of international solidarity, internationalism and anti-colonial liberation, as well as to rethink these concepts. From the very beginning, the linkage of academic discourses (particularly those of the global South, and particularly those of marginalized voices there) with practical solidarity work was as much a part of the Dar al Janub’s agenda as our own non-academic work – all deliberately outside the knowledge industry. Hegemonic science in the service of global power was to be confronted with political and scientific work in the service of international solidarity.
After an initial phase of several years, the temptation to obtain state funding brought Dar al Janub close to the NGO industry. However, in the implementation of state-funded projects, the repressive intervention of government agencies severely restricted our association’s clear position on European settler-colonialism in Palestine. In retrospect, we are very grateful for this attempt at political interference. On the one hand, the experience allowed us to escape instrumentalization by government agencies and becoming part of the system that is RESPONSIBLE for global conditions. And on the other, it became obvious just what could and could not be said in increasingly repressive bourgeois democracies. Herbert Marcuse once wrote:
“… I believe that there is a ‘natural right’ to resistance for subjected and oppressed minorities, and to use extra-legal means once the legal means have proved to be inadequate. Law and order are always and everywhere the law and order of those who protect the established hierarchy; it is nonsensical to insist on the absolute authority of this law and order vis-à-vis those who suffer under it and struggle against it, not for personal gain, or personal revenge, but because they defend their humanity. There is no other judge above them than the appointed authorities, the police, and their own conscience. When they use violence, they do not set off a new chain of violence, but break the established one. Because they will have to suffer the blows, they know the risks of violence, and if they are willing to take it upon themselves, then no third party, least of all the educators and intellectuals have the right to preach restraint to them. (Herbert Marcuse / One-Dimensional Man, translation: Dar al Janub)
Today, the institutional intellectuals have declared such ideas as unmentionable in practice. They do not demonize or defame Marcuse, but they accept the limits on what may be said within our institutions. They are rewarded by acceptance – the hotter the air the intellectuals spout, the louder the applause from the institutional Apparat. As Gramsci once put it, the consciousness of intellectuals in the institutions is no longer “contested terrain.” The British imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, once quipped: “If you don’t want civil war, you must become imperialists.” Western knowledge producers, journalists, and government consultants have internalized these words (to differing degrees) for reasons of vanity, cowardice, or conviction, but it hardly matters.
Thus, Dar al Janub has become a political and social center that aims on the one hand to have a public presence that counters the hegemonial consensus (by means of congresses, lectures, readings and symposia), and on the other to offer initiatives, campaigns, and an infrastructure to political, social, and political-cultural groups that are increasingly excluded from the public space. In everyday life in the streets or inside institutions, political and social rights are challenged whenever friends or family are confronted with the racism of the dominant society. “Yield not an inch” must be our motto – easy to say, but hard to practice. We will leave the final words to someone who has exemplified this struggle:
by Assata Shakur*
Love is contraband in Hell,
cause love is an acid
that eats away bars.
But you, me, and tomorrow
hold hands and make vows
that struggle will multiply.
The hacksaw has two blades.
The shotgun has two barrels.
We are pregnant with freedom.
We are a conspiracy.
*Former member of the Black Panter Party and Black Liberation army;
now living in Cuba in political asylum.