Dear cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism

Wearing the flag of Ocalan

On the process of change in Northern Syria often called the Rojava revolution, the PYD as proponent of the process, and its alliance with Western imperialist powers.

In Rojava, in the North of Syria, Kurdish fighters are struggling against IS, Islamic State. That struggle deserves out interest, because it is not just a fight between armeed groups fighting for territory. The fight in Rojava is at the same time a struggle for a different social and political order, called Democratic Confederalism. Direct democracy, a central rol of women in the fight and in the running of society, space for people of different ethnic backgound to express themselves and co-determine their own fate, libertarian socialist inspiration and a clear break with the Marxist-Leninist and nationalist orthodoxies of the Kurdish movements involved , the PYD in Syria, the PKK in Turkey with which the PYD is connected ... all this gives many people reason to cheer the events as an important revolution – the Rojava Revolution. Others, however, are less convinced, some – myself not excluded – have serious reservations. Exchanges of opinions, sometimes furious ones, have been going on for months now.. What follows is is a contribution to this polemic.

Those of us expressing reservations on the Rojava process of change are often promptly accused of sectarianism or worse. A rather shocking example of this put-down attitude appeared in ROAR Magazine, in general a very useful publication that sheds lights on many encouraging struggles against neoliberal capitalism the world over, but also a publication that, in its boundless enthusiasm, sometimes veers into the direction of cheerleading for a particular fight: that of Rojava. ROAR has published valuable pieces on that struggle, but its general attitude seems a bit over the top to me. And when other radicals express their doubt on Rojava, such doubt is met with scorn. In this case, that scorn is expressed by Petar Stanchev.

Target of his article is Gilles Dauvé, who wrote a piece on Rojava in which he tries to show that the movement in Rojava, however courageous, can best be seen as a radical form of liberal democracy, not a form of proletarian, anticapitalist revolution. I think many of his arguments have a lot of merit, but what I am more interested in here, is Stanchev 's ferocious reaction. For him, Dauve's attitude is an example of the “short-sighted, poorly informed, dogmatic and sectarian manner” in which “the struggles of the peoples in the Global South” are criticized – criticism which “(is) wittingly or unwittingly reproducing the logic of colonialism in h the process.” Further on in the article, he warns us about the danger of “the colonial mentality and profound dogmatism of certain gropups and individuals in Western anarchist circles.” Hence, his warning, and the title of his piece: “Mr. Anarchist, we need to have a chat about colonialism”. The warning fails on at least three points, a minor one, and two rather more serious ones.

First failure: mr Anarchist is no anarchist

The first failure is polemicizing against Dauve as “Mr. Anarchist”. Gilles Dauve does not speak or write as an anarchist. He does not claim to be an anarchist. Rather, he stands in the tradition of Left Communism: those basing themselves on Marx' revolutionary critique, while rejecting both Social Democracy and Leninist orthodoxy. The fact that Left Communists reject the state and either reject any form of party, or understand by 'party' something totally different from the power-grabbing organizations usually meant by that name, brings them quite close to anarchist positions. But that does not give anybody the right to either claim them for anarchism or dismiss them as anarchist. I agree that “Mr Left Communist or “Mr Communization Theorist” would make for a less attractive title. But that does not justify addressing someone you criticize by a name that is not hers or his.

Second failure: relying on vidence from on high

The second failure is the evidence that Stanchev puts forward. He counters the scepticism of Dauve and others by pointing us to two kinds of sources. One is: the Worksd of Comrade Öcalan! Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader who was captured in 1999 by the Turkish state and was in jail ever since – was the one who developed the concepts of Democratic Confederalism after reading texts by libertarian socialist theoretician Murray Bookchin. He still is the guiding light of both the PKK and the PYD. Ocalans portrets are to be seen in abundance in the Rojava area where Democratic Confederalism holds sway. And quotes by this Ultimate Leader now are to be found in a text defending the Rojava experience from criticism. And they are being used to show how wrong this criticism is. Imagine how we would react of someone countgered criticism of Mao by quoting that Chairman himself. What's so 'anti-colonial' in basing or defending your point of view on a Supreme Leader?

The other form of evidence Stanchev points to, is the content of eyewitness accounts. Of course, that is much better than quoting The Leadership. However, the accounts often originate from a visit by an academic delegation that travveld through parts of the area ain a kind of semi-official visit. Participants, among which Janet Biehl and David Graeber were prominent, were led around by officials, received by at least one minister of the regional authorities.

Reading, for instance, “Impressions of Rojava: a report from the revolution” , the account of Janet Biehl, also on ROAR, I was struck by the way she presents a more or less official view by the movement. For instance, on the Öcalan portrets that even she will not deny: “Images of Abdullah Öcalan are everywhere, which to Western eyes might suggest something Orwellian: indoctrination.” Only to Western eyes?! However, be not afraid, ye faithful. “But to interpret those images that way would bem to miss the situation entirely.” How do we know? “ 'No one will gove you your rights', someone quoted Öcalan to us, “you will have to struggle to obtain them.'” We need not fear Öcalans overwhelming presence, because that same Öcalan Himself says we should trust our own powers. … Here, we come full circle: even the evidence on the ground that Stanchev bases himself on points to Öcalan as a point of reference. It is a classic belief system where truth comes from on high. What is 'colonial' about pointing out and criticizing that top-down-dynamic?

All this does not mean that there is nothing encouraging going on in Rojava. Reports of serious efforts to build directly democratic strtuctures, and on the role of women in the struggle, are credible. But so are the reports on its limitations; the adulation for Öcalan, the repressive practices of the PYD against opponents. And then, there is the economy. Dauve claims that you cannot seriously argue that workers in Rojava are in control. Duh, replies Stanchev, “the 'proletariat' in ist Western sense does not exist in Rojava”. Be that as it may, Dauve 's point stands.

But if proletarians are not in control of producing and distributing goods and services, who is? Well, there is a “cooperative economy”, which sounds good, and probably is. “It is based on communal ownership and self-management and often operates outside then monetary economy.” Excellent! “Some of the lands were collectivized after the big land-owners left the area after the PYD takeover”. That indeed points towards a bit of social revolution. Maybe there are some proletarians active after all in this process, proletarians in the sense of propertyless people who have to sell their labour power to make a living. The idea that only factory workers in blue overalls are proletarians, may be 'Western”. But the whole concept of proletarians as working class people in the broadest sense, may be less alien for Rojavan realities than Stanchiev admits. I fail to see what ś so 'colonial'about asking some critical questions about its presence and role.

Unfortunately, the cooperative sector is not the only one. There is the “private economy” bound by the “social principles of the revolution”, and obliged to cooperate with local administrative organs. And then there is the “open economy”. That means: “foreign investment, which unfortunately remains necessary for the development of the region 's infrastructure”, in, for instance, refineries. “The idea is to attract foreign investment – but only at the price of respecting the social nature of the cantons. The local economy will be developed on the terms set by the inhabitants of Rojava and their assemblies, not by Western capitalists.” And what if local desires clash with capitalist demands, in a situation where foreign investment is considered essential? Who will win out, the assembly of a Rojava village, or Shell 's board of directors, possibly backed by military threats? There is a word for this kind of relationship between big capitalist firms based in powerful Western countries on the one hand, and the population in impoverished regions in the Global South. That word is 'colonial'. Okay, let 's have a chat on colonialism then, Mr. Stanchev, shan 't we?

Let me make one thing clear at this stage. my anger is not directed at the PYD, even though I criticize their position. They do their thing, in extremely unenviable circumstances. They make choices, right ones and wrong ones, under duress. They express a political goal that is only partly mine, but that is their right. My annoyance is directed at those radicals – some fellow anarchists, some quite close to my own views – who present the process of change as an anticapitalist revolution, which it is clearly not.

Yes, there is the claim, again expressed by Stanchev, that “(t)he industry that will be developed in Rojava should be under direct workers control, or at least this is the expressed intention of the PYD officials.” Note, first, how it is the view of officials, not of the people at the grass roots, whose desire is here presented as central. And note, second, how this is presented as something far into the future. Note, third, how this ambition necessarily clashes with the desire to encourage Western capitalists to do business in Rojava. You can have workers controlling and running the factories. You can have capitalist running factories and exploiting workers and local natural resources. You cannot have both things at the very same time. The PYD trying to balance these things off in a tricky game, is bad enough. Cheerleaders finding excuses for this balancing act and refusing to side with one side of the equation is inexcusable.

Third Failure: imperialism left out of the picture

The third failure may be the most devastating of all three. It is the failure to see imperialism's role for what it is: a deadly threat to any autonomous revolutionary effort. Rojava 's existence as a zone of autonomous cantons, more or less run on democratic confederalist lines, has come to depend on American military force. Complaining about colonial prejudice amongst the PYD 's critics, while ignoring imperialism 's almost open colonial role, that is what we have in Stanchev 's case.

The PYD is now in open military alliance with the US empire. And Petar Stanchev is silent about that alliance and what it may imply. Janet Biehl does not give it a mention either in her report. Neither does David Graeber. This is a disastrous distortion: presenting a process of social change as much more self-reliant and independent than it really is. But how can you talk about 'autonomy' – a word frequently and glowingly used by radical fans of Rojava democratic confederalist change – when your sheer survival has come to depend on US bombing raids?

Before I present some of the evidence, let me state this: proving that the PYD is part of an imperial alliance is not the same as denying that there is a serious process of social and political change going on in the area. The Rojava revolution and the PYD organization are not exactly the same thing, even if I find the epithet 'revolution' a bit much for the process. Criticizing the PYD – but more importantly, criticizing its Western fans! -is not the same as dismissing the process.

The fact of alliance and dependency can be easily established, even if Graeber, Biehl and now Stanchev prefer not to. We have provided coalition forces with the coordinates of IS targets on the ground and are willing to continue providing any help they will request”, Asya Abdullah, part of the PYD leadership said, according to the BBC on 9 October 2014 . On 14 October an interview appeared with Polat Can, spokesperson of the YPG, the fighting force connected to the PYD. Some information from that interview: “For the last few days, the air strikes have been numerous and effective. We can clearly state that, had these attacks started a couple weeks ago, ISIS would not have been able to enter Kobane at all. ISI would have been defeated 10-15 kilometer away from the city, and the city would not have turned into a war zone.” Turkey did not cooperate at first, and there were logistical issues, but after that was solved, the attacks began to work. Contacts with the US were going on earlier, but after the attack on Kobane, things begin to move forward.

To the question, “Can we say there is an official relation between the YPG and the coalition?” his answer was affirmative. “Yes, we are acting in concert with the international coalition forces. We are in direct contact with them, in terms of intelligence, on a military level, and in terms of air strikes.” The contact is rather direct. “YPG representative is physically ready in the joint operation command center and transmits the coordinates.” That is again about the locations that the US subsequently bombs. For clarity's sake: ISIS is what is also known as IS, Islamic State. “Coalition forces” refers to the US-led military alliance, with the YPG as de facto ground forces.

Not yet convinced that the PYD and its armed wing is part of the US-led coalition? A piece on the website Rudaw.net (1) on 5 November 2014 had the following : “Muslim, who traveled from Kobane to Erbil for a conference, said the People's Protection Units (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish militia, now considered itself part of the international coalition battling ISIS.” Muslim refers to Anwar Muslim, head of the Kobane administration, the one in charge (apart from Öcalan, of course).

This is much more than coincidentally fighting the same enemy at the same time. This is active collaboration. And in such collaboration, between a local guerrilla force and the bigges military empire on earth, who will call the shots? And what was Muslim doing in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where US oil companies abound, and where a US consulate is located? By the way, YPG and the Peshmerga s– part of conservative Kurdish movements in Iraq – are fighting quite nicely together. “We are more acting like a single army than as two forces in coordinated way. The Peshmergas are endeavouring to carry out what is asked from them in a self-sacrificing way”, says Mahmud Berxwedan, commander of YPG forces. There may be diplomatic friendly exaggeration at work here. Still, the enthusiasm for this kind of cooperation with the US and with pro-US Kurdish forces, is clear. This is cooperation with ruthless enemies of any kind of serious revolution, even if they are willing to tolerate bits of democratic confederalism for the moment..

One of the most dangerous of these enemies has made an appearance in the unfolding tragedy. His name is Zalmay Khalizad, former (?) US diplomat and one of the neoconservative functionaries in the Bush administration. Andrew Cockburn tells the story in "The Long Shadow of a neocon”, a 12 June 2014 article on the website of Harper's Magazine. The story has some relevance for the matter at hand.: US imperialism and the PYD.

Khalilzad once was presidential envoy and then US ambassador to Afghanistan, after US intervention overthrew the Taliban in 2001 he promoted Karzai to the presidency. Later on, after the US invasion of that country, he was ambassador to Iraq, where he promoted Maliki to become prime minister of that country. It was Maliki 's policy of of Shia sectarian rule that pushed Sunni communities to protest, and even to grudgingly support ISIS against the onslaught of Maliki 's Iraqi army in 2013-2014. However, corruption was all around., alarge part of the Iraqi army mainly consisted on paper, a large part of the rest ran away as fast as possible when ISIS came close. Maliki 's military onslaught collapsed. ISIS rose to power in Mosul and other Iraqi cities, Maliki was pushed aside in political intrigue in Bagdad.

These disasters are part of the heritage for which this Khalilzad is co-responsible. He is “now an obscure businessman seeking crumbs from the table as an 'international consultant' in Cockburn's 2014 description. But what is this? The co-leader of Syrian Kurds met with former US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Kalilzad, reportedly to discuss further military coordination to push out the Islamic State (ISIS) from the embattled city of Kobane”, according to an news article on Rudaw.net on 9 December 2014.

The “co-leader of Syrian Kurds” happens to be Salih Musliim, from the PYD leadership. And you can besure that Kalilzad is not there on purely private consultancy business. If Kalilzad sees fit to meet somebody from the PYD leadership, you can be sure that evil is afoot, with that leadership either being trapped or becoming partners-in-crime, or something in between. Khalizad, in his times in office in Afghanistan and Iraq, operated as a kind of colonial governor. The PYD apparently,is now prepared, willingly or grudgingly, to operate as part of that neocolonial order. Is it really the ones who are not buying Graeber 's, Biehl 's and now Stanchev 's admiring attitude towards that PYD that need chats on colonialism? Or is the noble threesome itself in need of some anti-colonial enlightenment?

As if working together with the US empire is not bad enough, Great Britain is in the picture as well. On 25 March, pydrojava.net, a PYD-related webside, announced: British foreign minister receives Saleh Muslim and tomorrow will deliver a speech to the British parliament”. Reading further, we see that Muslim actually met, not the minister himself but Gerrit Baily, apparently some lower functionary of the department.. “Also yesterday on 24-3-2015 Saleh Muslim had a speach (sic) in a closed session at the Royal institute of research services”. Whatever that is exactly, it does not sound as an initiative to introduce democratic confederalism to the British Isles. These talks and similar others are all about “recent developments in the region and Rojava and cooperate to eliminate then terrorist Desh from the region.” Daesh is another word voor ISIS or IS. PYD is a junior partner in this latest episode of the War on Terror, and seems mighty proud as well to be taken serious by the bigwigs in that war.

US imperialism's role around Rojava is clear for all to see, that is, for all who are willing to look. Of course, this does not make the US and the PYD friends. They share a common enemy, and not much else. But that is how empire often uses all kinds of forces. Carter did not need to 'like' the Afghan Mujaheedin in order to use them against a pro-Russian Afghan government. Reagan did not need to 'like' them in order to use them against Russian invading forces, there to support the government that felt threatened by the Mujaheedin armed struggle. Obama did not need to 'like' the Libyan militias NATO used to get rid of Khadafi. Obama does not need to like the PYD either. Pentagon and White House probably distrust the left-wing politics of that organization, just like they distrusted Islamism among their auxiliaries in Afghanistan, Lybia, Syria.

Right now, however, the PYD plays a useful role for the US. They are rather good at something that other military forces are rather bad in: killing ISIS fighters, and helping the US kill more. And the US sees ISIS as a threat to their oil protectorate in Iraqi Kurdistan and other allied and pro-US regimes. Just bombing them may not be enough to defeat them, sending ground forces is politically risky for any US president. So why not use PYD fighters willing to play that role? You can always discard them as soon as they get in the way, as the US did with Kurdish guerrilla fighters against the regime of Saddam Hussein in 1975-76 and again in 1991.

This is how empires work. Cortez and his 508 Spanish conquistadores probably would not so easily have conquered the Aztec empire if he hadn't allied with tens of thousands of Taxlacans, another Mexican nation with plenty of reasons to hate the oppressive Aztec rulers, and willing to let themselves be used by the Spanish invaders. Not much remains of the Aztec empire. Not much remains of Taxlacan independence either. Substitute 'ISIS' for 'Aztecs' ,'PYD' for 'Taxlacans', 'USA' for 'Spain' and 'oil' for 'gold' , and allow for some differences because history never plays out exactly the same way (2). Still, the logic is clear.

What about social radicalism in Rojava? I do not believe the US leadership cares very much if there are a few mountainous areas where people experiment in direct democracy, as long as they do not expand these efforts towards Istanbul, Baghdad or Cairo. The fact that the PYD, the main force in the area, is willing to open the area to multinational capital will ease Obama 's mind even further. Things are not half as radical as they look. Villages and towns with a leadership that cooperates with the US may as well govern themselves as they see fit. That saves the cost of direct colonial rule.

And now that Kobane is saved from IS, in large part by US air attacks. And the war goes on. Rudaw reports on 2 February: “In their advance against ISIS, the YPG fighters are supported by Peshmerga artillery and coalition air strikes.” The PYD can be grateful: if not for US bombs, Kobane might have fallen to ISIS. That creates dependency. You might argue that this dependency cuts both ways: PYD owes its survival to imperialist intervention, just like the US owes some of its success to the assistance PYD fighters have given US forces. But things are not in balance. A small force allied with the biggest capitalist power is not an alliance of equals. The result of such an alliance for the weaker partner usually is not enhanced autonomy, but enhanced dependency.

PYD, to put it bluntly, is being used. They are not in control of their destiny, and we should not operate under the presumption that they are. Heroic their fight certainly is. But is the PYD waging an autonomous social revolutionary struggle? As part of an big power alliance led by the USA? Something is not right here. Dear Cheerleaders, we need a chat about imperialism.

Notes:

(1) Rudaw.net, which I quote several times, is in its own words “a Kurdish media network”, which “aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner”. It is based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. How close it is to the authorities there – no friends of the PYD, though now in alliance with them – I cannot say. They seem well-informed on what happens behind the scenes, though obviously care is needed in using their information.

(2) For instance, the Taxlacans – 150.000 tot 200.000 thousands of them – were relatively stronger compared with the few hundred Spaniards. Even so, it was Spain, not Taxlaca, which came out on top. The US is much much stronger compared to the PYD than Spain compared to Taxlaca. Another difference: Cortez fought with hardly any direct back-up from Spain itself. He was basically freelancing. The same cannot be said about the US bombers.

Posted By

rooieravotr
Apr 4 2015 21:25

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Flint
Apr 6 2015 15:34
Joseph Kay wrote:
it may not exert much competitive force if the freedom of capitalists is constrained. E.g. price controls to prevent private firms underselling co-ops on pain of a militia visit. That isn't likely to be a stable equilibrium though...But this is almost entirely speculative, since supporters and critics alike seem to be operating with scant information.

We do know that there are price controls on essential commodities. We do know that even where private enterprise is allowed, that the natural resources being used are owned as part of the commons--so if a private firm is drilling oil, Tev-Dem still "owns" the oil and can set prices. We know that Tev-Dem through assembly vote has also decided distribution of agricultural product to be shared (in Kobane before the siege with alteast one vote in where 90% of the agricultural product was redistributed, with the farmer complaining about it). We know that Tev-Dem has demanded local Asayish take action against an individual who was hoarding sugar. We know that while loans can be made in Rojava, that profiting from financial interest has been abolished. How wide spread this is is a good question.

The opposition to having interest accrue from loans.... to my knowledge if this principle was applied to Rojava's international relationships, this would make it impossible for them to get a loan from the World Bank. Most lenders operate on the basis of interest. The exception are some lenders that are almost charities. Interest-free loans are part of Islamic banking. Sharia banking is 1% of total world assets, 2014 total assets of around $2 trillion were sharia-compliant. There is also the JAK Medlemsbank in Sweden with € 131 million (2011). Also the Jewish Free Loan association with $16 million (2013) in assets. In practice, we don't know the details of even a single loan in Rojava.

Quote:
"Traditional “private property” was abolished in late 2012, meaning all buildings, land, and infrastructure fell under control of the various city councils." and "a building like a home or a business is being used by a person or persons, the users would in fact own the land and structures but would not be able to sell them on an open market." and that " abolishing of private property did not extend to commodities like automobiles, machines, electronics, furniture, etc. but was limited to land, infrastructure, and structures". Anything that is not owned by use is regarded as part of the commons. "three-quarters of traditional private property is being used as commons and one quarter is still being owned by use of individuals. "

If all this is true, it is a very hostile environment for capitalist profitability.

Quote:
"Workers are to control the means of production in their workplace through worker councils that are responsible to the local councils. According to the Ministry of Economics, worker councils have only been set up for about one third of the enterprises in Rojava so far"

(Quotes above sourced from Mountain River)

Communists need more information about these worker councils. With so much control over the product pricing by Tev-Dem, what kind of control do the worker councils have? How do these workers councils make decisions? Do they elect managers or delegates? What is the term? Are they subject to recall? What are the typical decisions made? What are the extraordinary decisions made? What is a day in the life like for most workers? Lots of questions here, and we probably won't be satisfied with the answers until we have multiple interviews from multiple worker councils.

Quote:
"Bread rations are provided by the local administrations to each household, and fuel is distributed by local communes". "The eventual aim is to build the entire economy of Rojava on the basis of cooperatives or other small economic units, binding them together in a network where the use of money is either minimised or eliminated altogether. Currently produce is either sold to the various administrative bodies or at local markets where price controls are enforced on products that are considered to be ‘essentials’."

"Syrian currency is still used, but while loans can be made interest cannot be charged. There are no banks at the moment, though there is a plan to create banks for holding savings, and private capital will not be banned from investing in the region as long as it adheres to the broader economic principles of the region. Many of the goods in the local markets are smuggled into the region, a trade that has yet to be collectivised…"

"As much of the economy is either in the hands of cooperatives or private individuals, trade unions and trade associations are limited in number. There are a number of both unions and associations however, including several for farmers, engineers and agriculturalists, as well as a women’s union that is organising for the rights of care labourers, both paid and unpaid."

http://wire.novaramedia.com/2015/02/6-notes-on-the-economics-of-the-roja...

On Tev-Dem control of agricultural produce in Kobane before the siege:

"She then relates that she had to give up ninety percent of her land’s yield to regions with no agriculture, because it was decided in the citizens’ assembly that goods should be as evenly distributed as possible to meet the needs of all; there should not be abundance in one place when there is shortage in another. The woman I spoke to would rather keep her entire yield, or at least a greater portion of it..."
http://antidotezine.com/2014/11/09/look-toward-kobane/

Quote:
"Hemo: Some of companies are private—the canton self-government has no control over them. Some of them made agreements with the self-government so they can cooperate. For instance, an oil company can be privately owned, but it has an agreement with the self-government. We own the oil, they give us diesel. The energy committee decides how pure the product has to be and how to price it. It’s similar for agriculture—there are private companies that have agreements with the self-government."

Q: How do individuals and people with families make money to live? What occupations are there? Have women and men changed in relation to the economy?

Hemo: There’s no division of labor. Agriculture is the main occupation. This is an economy of survival. There are no wages. Some people just make their living from a cow...

"Q: How would you like the economy to work ideally?

"Hemo: Our main focus for development would be on the community economy. But it will coexist with the open economy and the private economy. For instance, we need factories related to agriculture. We need processing facilities. We need fertilizer, cotton processing. We produce petroleum, but we need facilities to produce plastics, benzene from it. If there is an opening, we can create facilities. We need some kind of common economy, and factories should be communally owned. But we won’t create a state economy, or a centralized economy. It should be locally organized."

http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/rojava-s-t...

Quote:
"the oil industry is under the control of the councils and managed by the workers’ committee. The refineries produce cheap benzine for the cooperatives and the staff of the autonomous government. A great deal of land which was previously nationalised under Assad as part of the anti-Kurdish policies is now managed by free Rojava through agricultural cooperatives. Doctors’ committees are working to form a free health system. No doubt, as Dr Kurdaxi pointed out, many of these developments are in their infancy."

http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/rojava-the...

Quote:
...Roughly half of land and other resources were state owned but run effectively as private fiefdoms by various government officials or members of their family; otherwise there was a bazaar economy supplying basic needs, much of it made up of black market or smuggled goods. After the revolution the bourgeoisie almost universally fled, and Baathist-owned land and buildings were taken under public control and distributed either to local communes, which exist on each neighbourhood level, and are organised on directly democratic lines, or to municipalities governed by delegates chosen by the communes. These are allocated to various projects, ranging from Academies for popular education, to cooperatives. There have also been efforts to create publicly run mills, refineries, dairy processing plants, and the like to process raw materials that had previously had to be sent off to facilities in other parts of Syria...

The aim is to connect cooperatives directly to one another so as to ultimately eliminate the use of money entirely in the cooperative sector.

in addition to the collectives and cooperative sector there’s an “open economy” sector which includes the existing bazaar economy, which, however, now falls under the ultimate authority of the local communes which intervene to enforce price ceilings on anything considered an essential commodity. Since there is a strict economic embargo on Rojava, most of the goods available in the bazaars are actually smuggled in from elsewhere, so it’s not surprising it remains largely in private hands. Key necessities (mainly wheat and petrol that are produced locally) are distributed free to local communes and collectives, by a central board.

http://nicolasphebus.tumblr.com/post/106580014578/some-concrete-examples...

Quote:
Before the revolution there were no other work outside of a couple craft jobs. Now in Efrîn there is no unemployment with a population of over 1 million. Everyone who wants can have a job…

What is the currency and how is it circulating?

We are continuing with Syrian money. Interest is forbidden and no can charge it. Those who do are put on trial and face consequences. There are state banks leftover from the regime but they are not working. We have work around banks and there are banks in every canton however in villages village banks will be opened. Right now people are saving by putting money under their pillows...

Efrîn experienced a ‘siege’ last winter. These circumstances made it a little difficult for us. A sack of flour went from 3 thousand to 6 thousand 500 hundred (Syrian pounds). The canton management took a decision and announced that any sack of flour sold for more than 4 thousand 100 (Syrian pounds) would be confiscated. After this we formed a committee and determined that the wheat produced in Efrîn would be sufficient for ourselves. We immediately began working two mills and stopped the export of flour. In this way the price of flour was brought back down to 3 thousand 500 hundred (Syrian pounds). At the same time we are putting together import routes for commerce, feedstock and medical goods...

Private capital is not forbidden but it is made to suite our ideas and system. We are developing a system around cooperatives and communes. However this does not prove that we are against private capital. They will complete each other. We believe that when the cooperative system is developed moral private capital can be added in certain parts of the economy. The society of Rojava will be made better in this way and taken away from the liberal system. In the liberal system the big fish swallows the small fish and there is no morality. In our canton a Commerce and Industry Organization was founded and has 7 thousand members. Here there is only thing that is forbidden and that is finance capital.

https://rojavareport.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/efrin-economy-minister-roj...

So... there are some details we are learning. Some of it seems contradictory. It seems that the larger cantons of Kobane and Cizîrê canton have stronger cooperative/communal sectors and more council control over prices and capital, while Efrin has a larger private market. Also, I've noticed in a lot of the economic statements coming out of Tev-Dem that they are afraid of centralized state-capitalist system like under the Ba'ath where state property become the private fiefdoms of party bureaucrats. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on local control to counter that.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 16:16
Soapy wrote:
Is it really that important to convince English speaking left communists that the PYD is a revolutionary force?

English speaking libertarian communists are among the weakest political forces on Earth at anytime in human history. The weakness of U.S. and U.K. libertarian communists is not a virtue and our lack of capacity to do something significant is more a poor reflection on our own strategies and tactics than it is any sort of indictment of any other political movement.

Though, by quirk of imperialism, some of our wages could make a tiny impact on certain specific projects. Some of them, however, also involved with various social movements like labor unions or anti-war groups and have influence greater than their small sizes and trivial budgets. The U.S. and the U.K. have also been actively waging war and supporting proxies in the area for decades. By quirk or imperialism, the English language is also something of a lingua franca. Also, a lot of political discussion on the internet got concentrated in English-language forums because of how the internet developed. Folks in the U.S. and U.K. also have relative freedom to protest and lobby. There are a small number of issues we could actually push on in regards to the U.S. and U.K. governments. Libcom has a wider audience than just U.K. and U.S. libertarian communists.

Also, this isn't the only forum that people are active on.

And, maybe, just maybe, we actually should pay attention because there may be things we can learn from the struggle in Rojava.

Why must you continually argue that we shouldn't care? That we shouldn't be interested?

Why did you ever spend time on Palestine solidarity? (Also, 131 comments against Soapy's solidarity hunger strike protest, while he wasn't eating, that is soooo libcom.)

Connor Owens
Apr 6 2015 16:16
Quote:
They've been antithetical forever you silly circled-A Trotskyist. Nearly all of the former colonies have been nationally "liberated" and yet capital still rules everywhere.

So presumably all the colonies should have remained subordinated to their colonial masters instead of seeking self-determination? How libertarian.

Capital would still rule everywhere whether or not colonial subjects threw off the direct rule of the powers the were subjugated under. At least with some degree of political self-determination - and the limited economic power that comes with it - it becomes possible for peoples to steer a slightly different course from the party line proscribed by the transnational capitalist class.

It also creates the potential to create (as a mid-term strategy) an international alliance of nations and regions opposed to neoliberalism. The whole problem of the rule of globalised capital is that it deliberately destroys local, regional, and national self-reliance, making the formerly colonised world dependent on trade and investment from the Global North.

I knew posting comments here would incur a lot of down votes and childish attacks, but I at least expected some positive alternatives being proposed by those who've been wasting time attacking Rojava. Thus far, all I've seen are denunciations of what's going on with no solutions being offered other than impossibly vague declarations of "class solidarity". What this is supposed to mean for the Kurds fighting off ISIS in practice is anyone's guess.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 17:24

Continuing from an earlier post; some other reasons for pro-PKK proto-trotskyist "libertarians" to cease their "abstract" rejection of Leninism:

4- Lenin&Stalin defended the national autonomy of ethnic minorities even inside a soviet based society. For them national autonomy and workers' soviet were compatible forms of social organizations. Stalin went even further and proposed "autonomy" for those tiniest, mostly Turkic ethnic groups stuck in the middle of Russia. PKK style Bookchinism just regenerated this policy afresh minus any discourse about communism being the ultimate goal.

5- Stalin's favorite in early 1920s, Sultan Galiev believed that Tatar Turks could be the leading ethnic group in the anti-colonial liberation movement of all the central asian turks and Asian peoples. SG claimed western proletariat was more or less stagnant and the idea of class solidarity was not practical. PKK claims that Kurds are the real vanguard of the Middle Eastern liberation. PKK supporters today find the concepts of proletariat and class solidarity as "too abstract".

6- Lenin and Stalin believed that alliances with national bourgeois leaderships could be utilized in colonies to weaken imperialism. This policy led to several disasters culminating in the bloody massacre of the Chinese communists and the Shangai workers' councils at the hands of the Chinese nationalist Kuomingtang in 1927. PKK formed a coalition government in Rojava with bourgeois parties led by the Barzani clan which rules Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 6 2015 17:01

Connor, I think you're the one drawing unnecessary distinctions here. No one is opposed to the Kurds fighting off ISIS. What people are saying is:

1) The PKK is not a libertarian organisation and, as such, doesn't warrant the support of anarchists.

2) The Kurds are not the PKK. Show me some worthwhile projects, strikes, struggles that are happening outside of the control of the PKK and I'm more than happy to offer support (although being half a world away, I'm not sure what that support would mean outside of internet declarations).

3) The PKK, by playing politics and seeking legitimacy, a Kurdish state, etc, risks becoming and is arguably already a tool of US imperialism.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 6 2015 17:06
Joseph Kay wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Except that they will be competing with private capitalist firms both domestically and internationally - despite the proclamations of the PKK or even what they themselves may believe.

For the sake of argument, not necessarily. Even if private capital exists alongside municipal co-ops (assuming that's the case), it may not exert much competitive force if the freedom of capitalists is constrained. E.g. price controls to prevent private firms underselling co-ops on pain of a militia visit. That isn't likely to be a stable equilibrium though imho (when you've got an armed force regulating capitalists, my money's on the capitalists to buy themselves the armed force in the medium term).

That makes sense, but it still seems like whatever mechanisms are put in place (regulation, price controls, armed enforcement), the underlying competition of the market doesn't go away - which, in the long-term, is going to come out in one form or another, no?

Flint
Apr 6 2015 21:37
mikail firtinaci wrote:
PKK formed a coalition government in Rojava with bourgeois parties led by the Barzani clan which rules Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.

I'll get around to responding to your "How the PKK isn't Leninism" eventually, but for now... folks seem to want it both ways in regards to the PYD relationship to the KDP. If the PYD does something that seems repressive to a KDP affiliated party people yell "Stalinism!" if they do something that seems accommodating to the KDP affiliated parties, people yell "Stalinism!"

The KDP-affiliated parties in Rojava are probably the biggest obstacle to the expropriation and collectivization of capital in Rojava. Only 70% of the population polled want Democratic Confederalism, 30% want something else (and that something else is probably a capitalist KDP state, like Iraqi KRG). So far, the PYD has let the KDP affiliated parties continue to politically organized. The Tev-Dem hasn't allowed the KDP affiliated parties to maintain their own party-militia. The PUK affiliated parties in Rojava dissolved their militia into the YPG/YPJ.

June 27-28, 2013, aprotest at Amuda where protesters and members Yekiti party were killed, detained and beaten by Tev-Dem Asayish. PYD admitted some fault: "unregulated, uncontrolled and excessive responses" and that "Most of the victims were civilians who were
just passing by". The response at the protest doesn't seem to have been a planned massacre. The arrest of Yekiti members after the protest is more disturbing, though folks were released. There were meetings between PYD and KDP-affiliated parties after that to try prevent that in the future.

In 2012, the Hewler/Erbil agreement, the PYD and KNC (the 16 parties, mostly KDP affiliated parties) was supposed to split power 50/50. Some of those 16 parties are very weak "KNC’s vice president, is blunt: “The parties of the KNC are not equally strong. There are parties that don’t even have fifty members in all of Syria,” "

http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/09/25/syria-s-kurds-must-seek-regional...

The Hewler/Erbil Agreement never came to fruition. "Most of the KNC leaders moved to Iraqi Kurdistan outside of Syria and decided to join the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) last summer. Like the KNC, the SNC doesn’t have a big presence on the ground in Syria. As a result, the KNC parties grew weaker and weaker inside Syria."

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/syria-kurds-geneva-opp...

The failure to have a joint delegation (or any Kurdish delegation) at the Geneva II Syrian peace conference showed that the Hewler/Erbil agreement had completely broken down.
http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=54247

There were meetings in Istanbul and Ankara between the PYD and KDP. http://anatoliaturknews.com/ENG/Detail/PYDKDP-Meeting-In-Ankara/3722#.VS...

The YPG/YPJ and HPG(PKK) went into Iraq to Sengal(Sinjar) to rescue the Yezidi that the KDP/KRG peshmerga and the Iraqi government abandoned. (Though, the KCK had been pushing for Sengal to create its own TevDa and militia since atleast 2005, which the KDP had been opposed to).

During the siege of Kobane, there was finally an agreement, the Duhok agreement. If Tev-Dem agreed to some kind of power-sharing, they would get anti-tank weapons and peshmerga from KRG to defend Kobane. About 250 KRG peshmerga eventually were allowed into Kobane through Turkey.

Quote:
"Within the assembly TEV-DEM will have 40% of the seats, ENKS will have 40% and the other parties will have 20%. There will be a total of 30 seats... 12 people from TEV-DEM, 12 from ENKS and 6 from the other parties. ENKS itself is formed from 9 different parties. They will choose three more from among themselves for a total of 12. Within TEV-DEM there are 6 parties."

"The 2nd article covers relations with the administration of Democratic Autonomy. As you know ENKS had opposed the system of the administration of Democratic Autonomy. In this agreement they accepted the administration. It has become a common project. They have accepted themselves as a part of this project. However they said that “we have some proposals.” As for us we let them know that we will debate these proposals. A committee will be formed within the official body (to debate) these proposals. If their proposals are accepted and there are certain subjects which will be changed then all of this will be debated. Of course in addition to this they will also participate in the administration. They will take part in the legislative and executive assemblies, and can take part in other bodies. However this is all until the elections. After the elections this agreement is no longer binding, because the elections are the main foundation."

https://rojavareport.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/tev-dem-rep-kobane-has-ups...

https://rojavareport.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/duhok-the-kdp-and-the-snc/

http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/221020141

It seems that the Duhok agreement has also broken down, and the KDP affiliated parties boycotted the municipal elections in Rojava this past March 14, 2015. Had they participated, I imagine they would have lost or had very little representation.

https://rojavareport.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/rojava-goes-to-the-polls-2...
http://basnews.com/en/news/2015/03/14/krg-elections-in-jazira-are-not-ac...
http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/13032015

The Syriac Union Party maintained its own militia (the Syriac Military Council (MFS) ) for sometime, but has since dissolved into the YPG--but there are still Syriac (Assyrian) Christian police force for Syriac neighborhoods affiliated with the Syriac Union Party. Many arabs are participating in Tev-Dem and the YPG. Military action in Cizre canton has been coordinated with Arab tribal militias. In Kobane canton, YPG works in the Burkan al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano) alliance that includes a number of Arab Free Syian Army groups.

(It'd be great if we stopped using "Stalinism" as either a descriptor or a pejoriative. It adds nothing to to the discussion. Also, if we could stop referencing Tev-Dem, the PYD, the KCK, the PKK, etc... as "the Kurds", that would be great too.)

Joseph Kay
Apr 6 2015 17:59
Chilli Sauce wrote:
That makes sense, but it still seems like whatever mechanisms are put in place (regulation, price controls, armed enforcement), the underlying competition of the market doesn't go away - which, in the long-term, is going to come out in one form or another, no?

Yeah I don't think it would be stable. But in principle it could go the way of expropriation of proprietors and replacement of market relations, or it could go the other way with co-ops increasingly subject to market discipline, private competition, wage labour, returning proprietors asserting their rights etc.

Flint - thanks for the links and info. I'm meaning to read that 'small key' book when I get the chance.

Agent of the In...
Apr 6 2015 18:16

[This post doesn't exactly follow the order of the conversation, but it addresses a particular ideology that seems to come through Connor Owens and the like.]

I’m not a total expert on Bookchin’s ‘libertarian municipalism’, but from what I can gather from the limited amount of writings of his that I have read, he built his entire model of social transformation on the basis of a seemingly sociological observation that basically argues;

- Workers organising in their workplaces will confine themselves to an “economistic” outlook, in a post-revolutionary society;
- In practice (in a post-revolutionary society), this means class and other divisions will hardly be overcome, and a society in which the means of production and distribution are held in common not genuinely achieved;
- If you had to describe it in simple terms, workers in their workplace assembly, as a group, came first and before the ‘community’. It’s not enough that workers elect mandated, revocable delegate councils, or soviets, to coordinate production and distribution between workplaces, on local, regional, and global levels.
- So he proposed the reverse, that the location of struggle and organising be shifted from the workplace to the ‘community’. Workers (or ‘the people’, I’m not sure exactly who) should congregate themselves into a community structure (“townhall”). In a post-revolutionary society, this ‘community’ consciously organises production and distribution. Then everyone sets about carrying out those tasks determined by the whole community, and that’s when workplace assemblies are formed at will. In simple terms, the ‘community’ comes first and before everything else.

Firstly, in my straightforward opinion, his sociological observation is historically unfounded and not well argued theoretically. Secondly, this model clearly does not have much to offer us in terms of practice in the here and now. It can’t simply because the whole thing is purely speculation on the details of a future, post-revolutionary society. Yet, its adherents (like Connor Owens) have clearly transmogrified it into an ideology that instructs them in the here and now, in what they approve and disapprove of. And it is on such ideological basis everyone, from “classical” anarchists to marxists (regardless of their different approaches) are dismissed as “economistic”.

It’s all nonsense! Workers’ organisations, based in workplaces, are certainly capable of taking up struggles beyond “economistic” issues, i.e. political struggles and issues involving the wider community (and to which Chilli Sauce pointed to in one of his posts). To deny this potential is to reduce those workers to dumb automatons, which is exactly what Mr. Owens is doing. Quite frankly, that sounds like classic Leninism to me.

As for organising outside of the workplace, I don’t think everyone on these forums is opposed to that, and many are probably quite involved in such. A lot of times, where struggles are located are matters of the practical issues involved. It’s perfectly possible to have “community”-based organisation, as defined as outside of the workplace. However, it should and can be class based as well, in form and content, and this is a point missed by the Bookchinianists. Class- based organising or class struggle isn’t confined to the workplace. And nor is workplace organising permanently limited by economism. But such reduction after reduction seems to be asserted by Mr. Owens.

It seems safe to assume that what Bookchin (correct me if I’m wrong), Ocalan, Mr. Owens and fellow travelers have done is push this ‘libertarian municipalist’ model forward, imagined an ideal fighting ‘community’, abstracted away class struggle, in the name of having a greater concern for all other, neglected social concerns and ended with something that in practice, is totally incapable of addressing not only class but all other social oppressions (racism, sexism, etc.). And it makes sense why it was the chosen ideology of Ocalan, for even if Bookchin still had thought class struggle was important, his model pointed to these terrible conclusions.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 18:26
Quote:
folks seem to want it both ways in regards to the PYD relationship to the KDP. If the PYD does something that seems repressive to a KDP affiliated party people yell "Stalinism!" if they do something that seems accommodating to the KDP affiliated parties, people yell "Stalinism!"

It is hard not to admire the logic here. So are there only two ways to deal with bourgeois parties: either massacre and terrorize its members or supporters, or ally with their leadership? How nicely democratic and post-stalinist is that!

Quote:
(Also, if we could stop referencing Tev-Dem, the PYD, the KCK, the PKK, etc... as "the Kurds", that would be great too.)

Well at least there is something we both agree about...

ps: None of the links you presented challenges the analysis presented in my post above. On the contrary, in fact they support the conclusion that PKK is following a stalinist strategy.

Ed
Apr 6 2015 18:20
Quote:
I knew posting comments here would incur a lot of down votes and childish attacks, but I at least expected some positive alternatives being proposed by those who've been wasting time attacking Rojava. Thus far, all I've seen are denunciations of what's going on with no solutions being offered other than impossibly vague declarations of "class solidarity". What this is supposed to mean for the Kurds fighting off ISIS in practice is anyone's guess.

Just quickly, I find this kind of goalpost shifting really frustrating (and very common amongst the pro-Rojava set). On the one hand, it's a revolution and we're supposed to pay attention to all the revolutionary experiments going on. But whenever any criticisms are raised it's immediately "so should they all just let themselves get beheaded by ISIS just coz they're not Spanish anarcho-syndicalists from the 1930s?".. no one's begrudging them for not defending themselves against ISIS using revolutionary syndicalist unions ffs.. but if we're talking about how revolutionary the revolutionary experiments are, the 'revolutionary-ness' needs to stand up on its own, otherwise its just fighting for survival in a really hostile environment (which is admirable in itself but isn't necessarily a revolution)..

EDIT TO ADD: a big shout-out to Flint for providing probably the clearest pro-Rojava resources and arguments I've seen on the whole internet, btw..

Joseph Kay
Apr 6 2015 18:24

@Agent - Verso have just put out a collection of Bookchin's later writings (to cash in on post-Occupy interest in popular assemblies is my guess). It's a handy primer on his later politics though.

Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
It can’t simply because the whole thing is purely speculation on the details of a future, post-revolutionary society.

Tbf, Bookchin did put forward a strategy: municipal electoralism on a programme of holding popular assemblies if elected rather than acting as representatives; then using these assemblies to direct production, probably coming into conflict with the state. And tbf to the PKK/PYD, they have a strategy too, though it's more based on armed struggle (in Syria; in Turkey it seems more electoral now).

That said, I agree that Bookchin's rejection of class struggle is weak; he reduces class struggle to economic struggle, defines workers as manufacturing workers/miners (thus claiming the working class is a shrinking minority), and defines workers' interests as inherently sectional vs the universal interests of 'citizens'. All of those points are questionable, to say the least. He also explicitly bases his argument on post-industrial society, which makes it an interesting choice to apply to a largely agrarian region.

Agent of the In...
Apr 6 2015 18:39
Joseph Kay wrote:
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
It can’t simply because the whole thing is purely speculation on the details of a future, post-revolutionary society.

Tbf, Bookchin did put forward a strategy: municipal electoralism on a programme of holding popular assemblies if elected rather than acting as representatives; then using these assemblies to direct production, probably coming into conflict with the state. And tbf to the PKK/PYD, they have a strategy too, though it's more based on armed struggle (in Syria; in Turkey it seems more electoral now).

Yeah, but for me, its something he formulated with total subordination to his specific vision of the future society to replace capitalism. You get what I mean? Its like parecon, except with a plan*.

*I assume par-economists, like Michael Albert, at least didn't propose a strategy.

Joseph Kay
Apr 6 2015 18:39
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
Yeah, but for me, its something he formulated with total subordination to his specific vision of the future society to replace capitalism. You get what I mean? Its like parecon, except with a plan.

Ah ok I see. Yeah it does feel like he imagined a future society then said municipal elections were the way to get it, as opposed to starting from existing social tensions/struggles and looking how they could develop into a revolutionary movement.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 20:37
mikail firtinaci wrote:
It is hard not to admire the logic here. So are there only two ways to deal with bourgeois parties: either massacre and terrorize its members or supporters, or ally with their leadership? How nicely democratic and post-stalinist is that!

That certainly seems to be the case if you keep distorting what is going on.

The PYD probably has the capacity through the YPG and Asayish to suppress the KDP affiliated parties. But they are not being used as a Cheka. There is one incident in Amunda. That's all HRW came up with. There were also six maybe-political arrests in Afrin with three convictions. Over a 2 year period! There clearly is not a systematic purge of KDP-affiliated parties going on. Read the whole Human Rights Watch report if you haven't already.
http://www.hrw.org/node/126064/section/7

The KDP affiliated parties are being tolerated, politically. The KDP affiliated parties could also participate in the YPG if they so chose (like the PUK is doing). The agreements have largely been about trying to have a united Syrian Kurdish delegation to peace conferences and for negotiating with the Ba'athist state, the FSA, Iraq, Turkey, etc... That body has failed to convene.

There probably isn't even all that much to repress BECAUSE the KDP-affiliated party leaders fled Rojava. They are free to participate in the municipal elections, but they bocyotted them--had they particapated they probably still wouldn't have won many seats because the KDP-affiliated party leaders fled Rojava. If we believe Tev-Dem and the independent (though supportive) accounts of democratic assemblies, the power comes from the bottom of families in neighborhood assemblies and the undocumented processes of "workers control through work councils" of production. If KDP-affiliated people aren't present in Rojava, they aren't going to be participating in Tev-Dem or the workers councils.

I know you think that Tev-Dem, the local assemblies and the worker councils are all a sham and everything is being run top down from a PKK guerilla camp in Qandil. There is probably no report you'd find convincing.

It is my opinion that Tev-Dem is entirely too tolerant of KDP-affiliated parties. They should stop trying to come to any kind of agreement in regards to a joint-Kurdish negotiating group in regards to the Syrian civil war. They should dispense with any attempt to "share power" on the basis that the KDP-affiliated parties are somehow significant. They should allow KDP-affiliated people to participate in the local councils, the work councils, the YPG/YPJ/Asayish and to compete in municipal elections. But otherwise make no special accommodation for political parties that are associated with Barzani and the KDP. They should also finish expropriation and collectivization and get rid of all landlording in Afrin. But I'm just a guy on the other side of the planet.

We'll have to see what happens, but Tev-Dem didn't seem to be shedding any tears that the KDP-affiliated parties boycotted the March Rojava municipal elections. The Duhok agreement was only supposed to last until the elections.

The KDP, by comparison, is very anti-democratic. They've banned the KCK affilaited party the PÇDK from participating in Iraqi elections. Before the rescue at Sengal, they even banned in the KRG the funerals of Iraqi Kurds who died fighting as YPG. Barzani had his presidential term extended so as not to face a reelection campaign, an undemocratic move. Much has changed since then with Gorran becoming the second largest party, with Barzani losing popularity over the failure to defend Senegal, the Peshmerga retreat from Mosul, that the HPG(PKK) had to come to the defense of Makhmour and block the Daesh on the road Howler, of Turkey failing to show up to defend Barzani against Daesh, of the economic and arms boycott of Rojava, of the trench that the KRG dug between KRG and Rojava, the ongoing economic problems of the KRG with failures to pay salaries, KRG failures to defend Christians in Nineveh, Human Rights Watch accusations of ethnic cleansing by the KRG Pesmerga, the over all corruption and nepotism which is part of the KDP's corruption, I think we'll probably see further anti-democratic actions from Barzani as he faces a reelection in August 2015, which he'll try to delay under the pretext that the KRG is fighting a war. The reality in Iraqi KRG is that the KDP and PUK have probably never been weaker, nor the PKK more popular. The PYD enjoys a degree of popularity in Rojava that few socialist parties have ever achieved. And this would be my objective assessment even if I wasn't a libertarian communist.

http://www.thenation.com/article/203545/celebrated-its-stability-iraqi-k...

http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/25/iraqi-kurdistan-arabs-displaced-cordo...

What would you have them do, mikail firtinaci? What would you do if you were living in Rojava? Move?

Flint
Apr 6 2015 20:01
Quote:
Five specialised courts operate here, but only one of the fifteen judges has previous experience, as Kurdish lawyers were generally barred from holding such positions during the reign of the Baath party. “Right now our priority is to protect our children from Islamic State,” says Ewas Eli, Kobani’s Minister of Justice. “Later we will build courts according to international standards.”

Provisional solutions are abound in the new judicial system, and even something as fundamental as which law to apply is decided on a case-to-case basis. The legislative assembly has only been in place since January – hardly long enough to overhaul the entire legislation. At the same time, the existing Syrian law leaves much to be desired, so the judges sometimes simply borrow sections from European law books.

Other difficulties have to do with the society they operate in. “Our greatest challenge is to change the bribe mentality. We have lived for fifty years under this regime, and every institution has been spoiled,” says Ewas Eli. “Every day people try to bribe me.” Indeed, not even the fiercest critics of the new administration accuse it of corruption. However, even supposedly neutral institutions like the courts are generally seen as being strongly dependent on PYD.

Critics of the administration could roughly be divided into hard-liners and soft-liners, both of which co-exist within the umbrella Kurdish National Council (ENKS). In the autumn of 2013, around the time when US airstrikes against the Syrian regime appeared likely, the hard-liners finally managed to drag ENKS into joining the Syrian National Coalition, which supports the rebels and opposes Kurdish autonomy.

Already before this decision, relations between PYD supporters and ENKS hard-liners were characterised by bitter mutual hatred – fuelled by a propaganda machinery on both sides. The hard-liners have been accused of collusion with rebels attacking the Kurdish enclaves and are widely seen as traitors, while on their side, the hard-liners have accused PYD of being a totalitarian regime proxy, and some even seem to embrace the Turkish government’s view that it is no better than Islamic State.

The soft-liners appear highly uncomfortable with ENKS’ decision to join the Syrian National Coalition, and while criticising PYD, they are looking for a solution rather than a confrontation. However, they are currently locked in a dilemma. If they remain on the sidelines, they will drift further into passivity and irrelevance, but by recognising or even joining the administration without credible assurances of future reforms, they may end up as mere pluralist alibis while PYD continues to make all the decisions.

Our members have joined the civilian administration as well as the armed forces,” says Moussa Kino of the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party in Syria (Yekiti), which has resolved the dilemma by a balancing act. While the party de facto supports the administration, it has not yet officially recognised it, and retains membership in ENKS. Kino says that his party has never been asked to register or seek permission for its events, yet never encountered any problems. ”Other parties cannot have activities like we have,” he admits.

On the streets of Kobani, sentiments appear split between PYD supporters and soft-line critics, while the hard-liners are widely reviled. The administration has clearly proven its worth, especially with regards to services and security – both internal and external. While YPG has kept Islamic State at bay on the frontlines, Asayish has softened its approach and come to be perceived as largely effective and fair. At the same time, many recognise the need for reforms to ensure pluralism in civil society and politics, as well as an independent bureacracy and judiciary. “It is good and healthy to have a diverse society, everything should not be the same,” says a displaced shopkeeper from Raqqa, who is reluctant to give his name.

There are also other, more pressing concerns than politics. In addition to the ever-present threat from Islamic State, electricity and water shortages make life difficult, food prices have soared, and many have lost their source of income. Like elsewhere in Syria, public servants still get their salary paid by the Syrian government, but can only collect it after passing through numerous Islamic State checkpoints on the road to Aleppo. Many still take their chances – not all of them return.

While Kobani has seen an influx of displaced people from the surrounding area, there is also a steady outpour. Some are looking for work in Turkey, while others no longer see a future in the region and try to reach Europe. Yet others remain out of a dogged sense of duty and refusal to give up hope. “Every night we hope that tomorrow everything will be better,” says Khelil Kiko, whose run-down gym club remains open for those seeking relief from the constant strains and stress. “We Kurds are not enemies of anyone, we accept everybody and just want to live here peacefully.”

Two weeks later, the Islamic State hurricane struck.

KOBANI BEFORE THE HURRICANE PART 2

Entdinglichung
Apr 6 2015 20:41

Tlaxcala and Tlaxcaltecans, not Taxlaca and Taxlacans ... Rudaw is to my knowledge close to the Barzanis and the PDK, it is to my perception heavily critizised at the moment also by the HPS, the independent one of the two Yazidi militias in Shingal (the other one is the PKK/YPG-inspired YBS) for spreading lies about the situation in Shingal

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 08:35

I was pretty much done with this comments section due to having my position constantly misrepresented, but I now feel the need to make one last quick response to try to actually clarify it to one person who misrepresented it hideously.

Quote:
I’m not a total expert on Bookchin’s ‘libertarian municipalism

Exactly. And that certainly shows in the rest of the comment. I don't know about you, but I generally think it unwise to make broad, sweeping criticisisms about a body of ideas I admittedly know little about.

Quote:
In a post-revolutionary society, this ‘community’ consciously organises production and distribution. Then everyone sets about carrying out those tasks determined by the whole community, and that’s when workplace assemblies are formed at will

Wrong. The existence of eneterprises and respective workplace assemblies would exist before the community assemblies and have a degree of autonomy apart from the decisions they make. The model of Bookchin himself is not the only version of this proposal that exists, Takis Fotopoulos for instance suggested an outline where eneterprises are not formed out of the decisions of the community, but are put together by workers themselves on their own terms and then granted resources to become an enterprise on long-term contract.

There were actually early anarchist proposals to organise a future economy on this community-directed, as opposed to worker-directed, basis. It's just that support for a worker-directed economy won out due to the popularity of syndicalism as an organising tactic.

Quote:
he proposed the reverse, that the location of struggle and organising be shifted from the workplace to the ‘community’. Workers (or ‘the people’, I’m not sure exactly who) should congregate themselves into a community structure . . . this sociological observation is historically unfounded and not well argued theoretically

Well if you'd bothered to actually read his multi-volume writings on the subject (Urbanisation Without Cities, The Third Revolution) you'd see that it is both historically well-founded and well-argued from the evidence. There is a centuries-long history of organising social struggles at the level of the lived urban environment instead of individual workplaces. Just as a case in point, the Paris Commune was not oriented solely around class-based organising by industrial workers. So even back then, the Marxist notion of proletarian class struggle was flawed, or at the very least incomplete.

Nearly a century earlier during the original French Refolution there were the Parisian Sectional Assemblies. And even many of the more significant examples of class struggle involved people coming together as communities and using the city, not the factory, as their primary site of struggle.

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the whole thing is purely speculation on the details of a future, post-revolutionary society.

Wrong again. Today, there are neighbourhood assemblies set up in Argentina to complement the networks of recuperated eneterprises. Participatory budgeting programs (existing in parts of India and Latin America) allow people to plan aspects of their economies as communities instead of as workers.

And yes, this allows them to express a more general interest in economic planning than the particular interest they have as workers - even when you factor in recallable delegates to spokescouncils, worker councils would be primarily concerned with material resources and social concerns would inevitably be given secondary importance.

Quote:
Workers’ organisations, based in workplaces, are certainly capable of taking up struggles beyond “economistic” issues, i.e. political struggles and issues involving the wider community (and to which Chilli Sauce pointed to in one of his posts). To deny this potential is to reduce those workers to dumb automatons

That's not what the approach does. On the contrary, the purpose is to unify class struggle with trans-class forms of struggle, not to dissolve the former into the latter. It's true that, in retrospect, Bookchin underemphasised the importance of workplace organising, but no more so than most other radicals have overemphasised it.

His ideas need to be placed in their proper context. Bookchin himself worked as a metal worker and auto worker for most of his adult life up to his forties. He was reacting in his writings against two pieces of received wisdom in the Marxist left:

(1) That the capitalist work routine would make workers more revolutionary and more passionate to break free of it. On the contrary, what he saw himself was that workers did the exact opposite, even when organised into powerful unions. The workplace had an adaptive function and made them more passive, not more active.

(2) That urban male industrial workers (the proletariat) were some kind of universal class whose unique destiny it was to break free of capitalism and smash the state. Looking at the history of social struggles, the evidence told him that it was self-organising democratic communities (usually in urban environments) who held the most potential for transforming society along libertarian lines.

But Bookchin is not Jesus. His individual ideas are what matter. Each one can be taken up or discarded depending on its usefulness. And it's perfectly possible to have more of a role for class-based organising other than what he himself saw as useful.

As for what's going on in Rojava today being unable to address "all other social oppressions". The evidence does not support that. Women are being included as never before (in the region), ecology is being integrated into social transformation as never before, ethnic and religious lines between Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, and Christians are being broken down and militias contain memebers of all ethnic groups. The "terrible conclusions" are that its working while economistic forms of class struggle haven't achieved much of anything lately other than making a few people waving red and black flags at strikes and protests feel like they're doing something.

Serge Forward
Apr 8 2015 09:05
Quote:
Well if you'd bothered to actually read his multi-volume writings on the subject...

I know! There's some right lazy buggers on that Libcom. Sort it out, you slackers.

ocelot
Apr 8 2015 10:39
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Connor, I think you're the one drawing unnecessary distinctions here. No one is opposed to the Kurds fighting off ISIS.

Actually, on a previous thread both mikhail and Leo very much were against people from Kobane participating in the YPG/YPJ. In fact the original "imperialist cheerleader" tag was based on not being opposed to fighting off ISIS.

rooieravotr's article above (the OP) does not appear to take this line. But then neither does it give clear reasons for why the (ex-)ICCer position of advocating revolutionary defeatism (and desertion) is not the correct one. This is a tension within the article.

Also, as previously noted - not "the Kurds". Not all the YPG/YPJ fighters are Kurds, not all Kurds are involved in the fighting and not all those that are, are involved with YPG/YPJ, some are involved with KDP Peshmerga, some with PJAK, others even with ISIS.

ocelot
Apr 8 2015 10:53

But in my opionion, on the question of imperialism, which given the title of the piece and that section being the final one (people always leave the thing they care most about for the closing argument, it's a psychological inevitability), the contradiction of the conclusion is already contained within one of the examples given within the article.

To whit - the conclusion...

Quote:
The PYD can be grateful: if not for US bombs, Kobane might have fallen to ISIS. That creates dependency. You might argue that this dependency cuts both ways: PYD owes its survival to imperialist intervention, just like the US owes some of its success to the assistance PYD fighters have given US forces. But things are not in balance. A small force allied with the biggest capitalist power is not an alliance of equals. The result of such an alliance for the weaker partner usually is not enhanced autonomy, but enhanced dependency.
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PYD, to put it bluntly, is being used. They are not in control of their destiny, and we should not operate under the presumption that they are. Heroic their fight certainly is. But is the PYD waging an autonomous social revolutionary struggle? As part of an big power alliance led by the USA? Something is not right here.

Which the author later reiterated in a subsequent comment

Quote:
Kurremkarmerruk 'summarizes' my conclusion by sying that it
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ends with the clear message of enemy is so big, you can not win, we are doomed to fail!
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No. I did not say that the enemy is too big. I did not say that at all. I said that you have teh FIGHT the enemy, or - if circumstances make that extremely hard - you have at least to treat the enemy an an enemy, not as an ally. Every enemy can, in principle, be defeated - if you fight her/ him, not if you side with her/ him. That applies to IS, a ferocious enemy. It applies to US imperialism, another ferocious enemy, but even more powerful. Defeating a smaller enemy by falling under the wings, nay, into the chokehold, of a much bigger one, THAT is a recipe "doomed to fail."

the example that contradicts the above conclusion, from the text -

Quote:
US imperialism's role around Rojava is clear for all to see, that is, for all who are willing to look. Of course, this does not make the US and the PYD friends. They share a common enemy, and not much else. But that is how empire often uses all kinds of forces. Carter did not need to 'like' the Afghan Mujaheedin in order to use them against a pro-Russian Afghan government. Reagan did not need to 'like' them in order to use them against Russian invading forces, there to support the government that felt threatened by the Mujaheedin armed struggle. Obama did not need to 'like' the Libyan militias NATO used to get rid of Khadafi.

So the mujaheedin's alliance with the US against the USSR was "a recipe doomed to fail"? Then why are the inheritors of their struggle, Al Qa'ida and Daesh, now running their own territories and implementing their (horrific) social programme? If Islamofascists can make temporary alliances with the "Great Satan" without betraying their ideology or dooming their programmes for social change - because that's what they are - then how does your overall conclusion that alliance with a greater power necessarily destroys autonomy stand?

I haven't read through the whole thread yet (I was away on a walking holiday in the wilds of Donegal), but what I have skimmed so far does not seem to have picked up this contradiction in the article.

Spikymike
Apr 8 2015 11:12

We have had a number of extended critical discussions on this site of the abstract models of how a future society should be organised by the likes of Takis Fotopoulos and Michael Albert (who of course are at odds with each other despite occupying similar ground). It doesn't surprise me that Owens finds comfort in these as well as the later Bookchin's proposals interpretated as a supposed strategy for undermining capitalism and effectively 'building socialism within the framework of capitalism'. Unfortunately this strategy is no more likely to succeed than the earlier failed Social Democratic strategies of 'municipal socialism' and 'socialism in one country' as both fail to really understand the nature and operation of modern global capitalism. The abandon of the later strategy in favour of the former by Ocalan and the PKK is not suprising in this respect given their similarity or it's support by Owens who favours medium term strategies through 'peoples' struggles for national liberation. As an aside I'm not an expert on Bookchin either but I have read a good deal of his work and have some respect for aspects of it including some of his criticism of both lifestyle anarchists and the marxist-leninist and trotskyist left (but not everything marxist) from which he emmerged. Ironic that at least some aspects of Owen's politics should resemble the 'transitional' style of trotskyist politics that he is nominally against.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2015 12:23
ocelot wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Connor, I think you're the one drawing unnecessary distinctions here. No one is opposed to the Kurds fighting off ISIS.

Actually, on a previous thread both mikhail and Leo very much were against people from Kobane participating in the YPG/YPJ. In fact the original "imperialist cheerleader" tag was based on not being opposed to fighting off ISIS.

Just to say here - and not that I think you disagree with me - it was a larger point that the objecting isn't people resistance ISIS, but a critique of the YPG/YPJ/PKK organisations. It was in the reaction to the strawman that if you don't support the 'Kobane revolution' you're somehow letting ISIS win.

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 12:44
Quote:
this strategy is no more likely to succeed than the earlier failed Social Democratic strategies of 'municipal socialism' and 'socialism in one country' as both fail to really understand the nature and operation of modern global capitalism

Given the repeated failures of Marxian methodology to predict or even explain adequately the workings of the now globalised market economy, better, non-economistic approaches are sorely needed. Social Ecology is one such approach.

Given that you still apparently believe a single, spontaneous, global insurrection in every part of the world all at once, organised by factory labourers, is the surest path to libertarian socialism, I'm afraid it's you who is blissfully unaware of how global capitalism works.

One thing that's become abundantly clear is that the neoliberal powers at the head of the global market economy have an inherent desire to bring every region of the world under their control; to subsume them and subordinate their economies and societies to the logic of the market. The only apparent way to avoid this subsumption is to break free of the neoliberal powers and of the global market they control.

One method of doing so is for those nations/regions who are not fully integrated to get back some degree of economic and political self-reliance, moving as close as is feasible to self-sufficiency in production and distribution (as is the eventual stated aim of the Rojavan economy). This provides the potential of forming a global alliance of nations and regions (states and stateless confederations) opposed to neoliberalism and Western militarisim, to act as an alternative economic/political pole to the planetary dominance of the Global North.

So yes, cases of anti-statist national liberation are to be supported as a step forward. International "class solidarity" has never meant much when it comes to actually making revolutions. Mikhail Bakunin once said that national identity (or any social identity) shouldn't matter unless it's being denied to you. And when it is being denied to them - as it had been for the Kurds - nationhood will be a greater motivating force than class every time. Because at least progressive conceptions of nationhood contain within it a concept of people as the people; a collective subjectivity that has real resonance through the ages, unlike abstractions like "the working class", especially the narrow, workerist conceptions of it so popular with Marxists and Marxo-anarchists.

Worldwide proletarian insurrection is a boy's dream that thrives on its own impossibility. It may serve some purpose in providing a folk myth of a glorious workers' revolution (much like the Christian second coming myth and of millenarian movements) but little in the way of practical solutions for how to get from here (capitalist statism) to there (libertarian socialism). It's as impossible as the World Socialist Party's idea that it can be won by getting 51% in a global referendum. And it does little to "build the new world in the shell of the old" in the here and now.

If this is not the kind of strategy you have in mind, then please, explain briefly/roughly how you think we should achieve libertarian socialism on a global scale today.

rooieravotr
Apr 8 2015 13:07

Ocelot:

Quote:
rooieravotr's article above (the OP) does not appear to take this line. But then neither does it give clear reasons for why the (ex-)ICCer position of advocating revolutionary defeatism (and desertion) is not the correct one. This is a tension within the article.

Yes, there is a tension in the article! But the purpuse of my piec ewas not: to solve that dilemma, that tension. My purpose was: indictating the role US imperialism plays, indicating that the PYD is part of an alliance in whicht that imperialism is in charge, and pointing out how that undermines revolutionary autonomy. No less. No more. The tension exists within the situation I describe: there IS a serious social; struggle going on (the ones who read my piece and conclude that I dismiss the struggle itself, simply haven t read very well) - but that struggle is being underminded and endangerd by imperialist entanglement.

[ edit: addition] What tod o about that? hard question, but doing as if there is no problem there, will not do. Hence my title, with its provocative 'cheerleaders" - a word that I only thinks defensible in the specific polemical context in which I wrote my piece. Of course, not everybody who sympathized and supports the Rojava struglle, deserves that epithet, as I made clear as well. from now on, I will not use the term, for it has served its purpose and become counterproductive. There has been enough name-cal;ing, on all sides of the debate., including by me.
[end of addition]

Ocelot again:

Quote:
If Islamofascists can make temporary alliances with the "Great Satan" without betraying their ideology or dooming their programmes for social change - because that's what they are - then how does your overall conclusion that alliance with a greater power necessarily destroys autonomy stand?

Good point. I think, however, that an AlQ aeda-type force can easily operate i nand out of imperialist entanglements: it is, in fact , a piece of imperialist/ capitalist power cut loose. It can operate as a wing of imperialism,. it can operates its min-empire of its own, usually lining up with other states. If things go well for such an outfit, you get a state like IS is building now.

if however, an project of revolutionary autonomy, and a group trying to build that, gets linkt ed up with empire, it damages the heart of the matter; Not just ist military independence (whiocht uou might call 'autonomy'if you want), but the revolutiionary sense in whicht 'autonomy'is used by the Rojava resistence itself.. So, the fact thatislamistr eactionaries can bloom after breaking with the US, without having been damaged by that alliance, does not say much over the question: can revolutionary autonomy, in the sense that PYD proposes, bloom under the wings of the US empire.

So, I think the comparison does not hold, because the difference between wthat ilslamists want and what the US wants is not qualitative (they both want a state to build, a workforce to exploit, resources to sell), while the difference between what the US wants and what the Rojava resistancewants is qualitative, it we take the PYD ambitions to build a revolution seriously. If we do not, if we think that the PYD is just Al Qaeda with a slightly different ideology, the tension disappears. But that is not the line I take here.

On how to evaluate PYD itself, I still am not sure. The more, however, it cooperates with empire, the more any revolutionary dynamics it may be connected with gets damaged and distorted. That was, and is, my main concern here.

Agent of the In...
Apr 8 2015 12:59

In short summary:

Connor Owens wrote:
ThereIsNoAlternative to our directly democratic State building projects. So from now on, we'll be chanting it over and over. So you all better get used to it.

kurekmurek
Apr 8 2015 13:09

Agent of the Fi...

This is just rubbish. He says question the current impotency of idea of pure working class movement. Even if you don't want to do not be a barrier to it. And if you can develop an alternative agenda I do think you would not be so quick to dismiss his criticism.

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 13:13

In short summary:

Quote:
There Is No Alternative to our Marxoid stuck-in-the-1930s strategy of mobilising a global proletariat that doesn't actually exist. So even though it's failed every time , we'll keep chanting it over and over. If you haven't gotten used it it by now, shut up you bourgeois-imperialist-liberal-trotskyite whiner!

Soapy
Apr 8 2015 13:36

@ocelot
The resilience of Jihadi groups (it bears clarification that Al-Qaeda is an idea not a single organization per say) since the triumph of the mujihadeen over the ussr can be attributed primarily to the support given to them by the international financiers of terrorism: Saudia Arabia and Pakistan (who are themselves in close cooperation with the US, contradiction much?). Without Pakistani support for the remnants of the Taliban after 2001, the resistance to the US occupation would most likely look much different. Essentially none of these groups was ever really operating autonomously, even ISIS itself was a demon child of the wahhabist financiers in Saudi Arabia/Qatar/Pakistan who have since become terrified of the monster they helped create and have shifted their funding to other jihadi groups in the region.