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 (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 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,, 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.


(1), 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

Apr 4 2015 21:25


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Apr 8 2015 14:45


Can you check this (also my first comment) please. When you have time of course. It is published in ANF offical news source of Kurdish movement. I think the text further clarifies whom they actually depend globally, while playing the inevitable inter-states game any real political mass movement needs to do.

Edit: I also just noticed another article (though it is in Turkish, but google translate maybe) They made an interview with Franco Cavalli who is a socialist. He openly criticizes America's past interventions and current proposals for the people in Middle East. America's project is not real democracy but to establish systems to exploit the people.He says America's real purpose is to get the oil. (well he says Kurds developed a real democratic model) But the point is why would you publish such articles in your official website, if you depend to imperialism.

2.Edit: link You know I mentioned Kobane Resistance still continued but wrote what I know of, here is the link of current situation of war for total liberation of Kobane and IS still continues to attack as you can see.

Btw, I am just trying to provide you with some info, examples etc... I am just trying to bring also some counter examples to your attention. It is you to decide. As the tensions in the forum is a bit high I hope you do not get me wrong.

Apr 8 2015 14:30

So... the answer is that ISIS is not really autonomous, even though it is currently being bombed by US, Saudi and GCC air force?

That position seems a little contorted to me, in fairness.

So far a lot of what I'm hearing is "it's different, are bourgeois!".

I have a problem with this stretching of bourgeois to cover not just G8 or G20 states, but also Daesh, the old USSR as was, the Third Reich, etc. The proposition "if it's not FULL COMMUNISM, it must ergo be bourgeois" is not convincing to me from a historical materialist definition of bourgeois social relations, such as the one Marx talked about, referencing the "doubly free" proletariat, the coercion of political command over labour being replaced by the anonymous coercion of the labour market, the subsequent mystification of exploitation through "free and equal exchanges", commodity fetishism, etc. To simply equate the slave labour of gulag or the KZ with neoliberalism and zero hour contracts, seems to liquidate Marx's analysis of a historically unique set of social relations, specific to capitalism. These analytical and ontological questions are my real problem with the level of critique (or rather mere criticism) being articulated on these threads.

Apr 8 2015 14:45

...which brings me back to another issue with the article as stands

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.

The logic is clearly bourgeois. Which is a problem. Framing history as an unchanging set of geopolitical militarist dynamics (as "realist" and "neorealist" International Relations does) is diametrically opposed to a historical materialist perspective. If you're saying the dynamics of imperialism are essentially unchanged from the time of the pre-capitalist Conquistadors, to present day conditions, you're essentially saying that the logic of colonialism is unaffected by changes in historical modes of production.

Am I making too much of a relatively minor passage in the text? Possibly, but I think it speaks to a bigger problem.

I would agree that one of the problems of the Stanchev text that this one is in response to, is that it is written using the term "colonial" as essentially a moralising term of ethical abuse.

However, if you're going to write a response entitled "...we need to talk about imperialism", then actually having a critique of imperialism that is analytically viable, rather than being in its turn simply a disguised moral vexation, is not a minor issue. It's actually pretty central.

I imagine rooieravotr has moved on from the definition of imperialism promoted by the ISO affiliated group that he was involved with a good while back. But that still leaves the question of what the actual analysis of imperialism is behind this text.

So, yes, we really do need to talk about imperialism. Shame this text doesn't really do that, aside from making declarative assertions about its effects, unlinked to any analysis of its nature.

Apr 8 2015 14:49

Class is not the fact that you're an industrial worker. That viewpoint is exactly the 1930's horseshit view that you claim to reject. The proletariat, the working class, is that class of people who have nothing, and so must sell their labor-power to capitalists almost everyday to purchase their necessities. This class comprises service workers, gov't workers, nurses, as well as construction, production, and transport workers. Wage labor as the dominant form of surplus extraction and as key to the organisation of society of capitalism, is a central component of Marx's critique of capitalism (and a lot of classic anarchism, but you, like Bookchin, cannot be bothered with the past, when utopian visions of magical revolutionary transformation dance through your head!).

Wage labor is what is repulsive, the daily alienation of my time and my ability to interact with nature and other people, gets me pretty down in the dumps, but also reduces me to living paycheck to paycheck and not having healthcare etc. The wages I'm paid, decide how impacted I am by the changes in prices whether it's rent, milk, meat, cigarettes. These two "simple economic interests" (low prices, high wages) seem like they might, oh I dunno, be politics, subsumed behind a quantitative relation, the struggle over which is continuous and ongoing in capitalist society. It's almost like working people have nothing to gain from periodic increases in wages, or reductions in price, at least not as a whole group, i.e. all the people who have nothing and are forced to sell labor-power to purchase necessities. Everyone who has to this would be better off if they did not have to do this. But capitalism has to keep most people in this position in order to exist. So, people in this position have an interest in getting rid of capitalism.

The Bread and Roses Strike? Haymarket? Free Speech fights? Sacco an Vanzetti? Local 8 of the philly longshoremn? None of those I guess are examples of class interests across racial or ethnic lines, for either material gains, or purely political expressions of the plight of proletarians or the need to overthrow capitalism. Nope, we have no alternative but national liberation politics.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2015 14:51
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.

Try not to wear yourself out beating up that strawman all day.

Apr 8 2015 15:05


The Bread and Roses Strike? Haymarket? Free Speech fights? Sacco an Vanzetti? Local 8 of the philly longshoremn? None of those I guess are examples of class interests across racial or ethnic lines, for either material gains, or purely political expressions of the plight of proletarians or the need to overthrow capitalism. Nope, we have no alternative but national liberation politics.

But why do you normatively try to reduce down anarchism to these? So all we should just pretend none of this ever happened? Why should we think if something is not pure class lines, it is tainted and no use? I mean you might think that but certainly historically anarchism was not that. Historically speaking, -mostly- anarchism did not opposed national liberation/self-determination/ethnic and national counter-power to international workers struggle. Actually you are using the names of people you referenced above in a very very distorted and manipulative way.

Edit: I see why you are angry to Owen but you are making an invalid criticism, this is just I am saying. I also personally find some of his claims too sharp for its own good, but your way is not to go.

Apr 8 2015 15:02

@ocelot i did not say isis not currently autonomous, im saying it was created by saudi/qatar/pakistani funding and now that it has lost these supporters it is suffering major setbacks. Additionally you managed to ignore the part of my post where i contested your claim that jihadi groups operate with autonomy

Apr 8 2015 15:11

I'm taking issue mostly with Owen's understanding of class and marx. I'm not reducing anything to anything, I'm merely trying to provide examples that counter his claim.

As far as anarchism is concerned, it always failed when it started lining up behind different blocs of nationalist capitalists. It often split the movement and highlighted the limitations to classic syndicalism as an approach to the class struggle.

Apr 8 2015 15:20

The YPG/YPJ hasn't gotten anything like the support the U.S. lavished on the Afghan mujahideen. How many anti-tank weapons has the YPG/YPJ gotten from the U.S.? None. What anti-tank weapons made it to the Kobane front are exclusively in the hands of 158 PUK peshmerga from Iraqi KRG. The U.S. won't give YPG/YPJ anti-tank weapons because Turkey fears they would be used against Turkish tanks (which had a nice little parade through Kobane to recover an old corpse). Such anti-tank weapons like TOW missiles do go into Syria from the U.S. to groups in the FSA like Harakat Hazzm. Harakat Hazzm dissolved and their TOW missiles came into the possession of Al-Nursa (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria). So, Al Qaeda is still getting more anti-tank weapons in Syria than YPG/YPJ.

The U.S.has been bombing Daesh before Daesh launched their siege on Kobane. The U.S. had been bombing Daesh before Daesh took Sinjar (and only the YPG/YPJ and HPG came to their aid). The U.S. did not bomb Daesh in Kobane until Daesh had made there way into the city itself.

And the armor that made the Daesh progress into Kobane so rapid was actually acquired from the Iraqi army when the Daesh took Mosul because the Iraqi army abandoned it. And that armor came from the U.S. to Iraq.

The U.S. has given very little to the YPG/YPJ. The U.S. bombed a mutual enemy.

If anything, the non-aggression between YPG/YPJ and the Syrian Arab Army (Assad/Ba'ath) in the Cizîrê canton and the Ba'ath overtures of diplomatic compromise probably has far more potential to undermine Tev-Dem's expropriation of capital and local democracy than the U.S. bombings and non-existent material aid. But for now, the YPG/YPJ is officially allied with the FSA; but in practice is only allied with former-FSA groups that were kicked out because of accusations of ties to the PKK.

It is increasingly looking like Daesh will be defeated in Mosul and throughout Iraq and Syria. Then that the U.S. will learn to tolerate Assad and the Ba'ath as they did in the past, and that Assad will look to make a compromise with Rojava granting some degree of local control while Assad can concentrate on Al-Nursa, Daesh and whatever is left of the FSA. But who knows? Turkey could even still invade Syria to oust Assad. Iran could try to play a larger role than it already is. A lot of could happen.

Apr 8 2015 15:31

sorry but you are too carried away with your own understanding of the world and politics.

As far as anarchism is concerned, it always failed when it started lining up behind different blocs of nationalist capitalists. It often split the movement and highlighted the limitations to classic syndicalism as an approach to the class struggle.

So if workers were taken by nationalists, workers would win. Can't you see that: this is another way of saying well apparently -historically speaking- national identities proved to be more powerful than class identity. This is exactly the Owen's (and Bakunin's) point:


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.

You are just going in wrong direction

Agent of the In...
Apr 8 2015 15:24
Anarchist Federation wrote:
Anarchists do not see the world in terms of competing national peoples, but in terms of class. We do not see a world of nations in struggle, but of classes in struggle. The nation is a smokescreen, a fantasy which hides the struggle between classes which exists within and across them. Though there are no real nations, there are real classes with their own interests, and these classes must be differentiated. Consequently, there is no single ‘people’ within the ‘nation’, and there is no shared ‘national interest’ which unifies them.

That's taken from this pamphlet called Against Nationalism. It presents a far more nuanced position on nationalism and national "liberation", than your out-of-date libertarian nationalism.

Apr 8 2015 15:37

Agent of the Fi...

You know what you shared above is not an argument, it is a statement of faith. It is dangerous to substitute it for an argument even if you consider it as true. And it would be bad (or worse) if everyone just quotes stuff instead of arguing to prove their points -unlike what Owen does. Believe me, I went there grin

Apr 8 2015 15:44


But for now, the YPG/YPJ is officially allied with the FSA; but in practice is only allied with former-FSA groups that were kicked out because of accusations of ties to the PKK.

FSA is pro U.S and U.S. is not so good with russia currently. So I was wondering why the hell on earth are they meeting in moscow? You come up with the missing part of the puzzle again grin

Apr 8 2015 16:15

That strikes me as the sort of argument that argues against racism by claiming races do not exist and thus there is no reason to organize on the basis of race and that to there should be no autonomous organizing by people of a certain race against racism. The general strike and the one big union will fix racism.

Nation-States certainly exist, often as a homogenizing force that attempts to suppress ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity; as well as using national identity as both an indicator of privilege and subjugation--and at its extreme genocide. Resistance to nationalist oppression by people with oppressed national identities exists. Its a very real thing when you can be imprisoned for speaking a language or killed because of your ethnicity and cultural practices. One can not stop being "Ezidi", "Kurd" or "Assyrian" by force of their own will when there are states and armies looking to kill them because you aren't Arab enough.

Yes, internationalism is something we have to build, to unite all workers across gender, race, ethnic, religious and nationalists divisions to defeat the bourgeois. But as long as we tolerate racist, ethnic, religious and sexist oppression--that unity isn't going to be achieved.

And while noone seems to believe it when they say it, Tev-Dem claims to unite Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Ezedi, Turkmen, Sunni, Christians, Alawi, Atheists, etc... into a confederation of local democracy that has changed 3/4ths of all property in to the commons and made 1/3rd of all enterprises into worker controlled collectives.

(And yes, I know its possible to have a Nation-State that claims to be multi-ethnic/multi-racial. I do live in the U.S.!)

More productive than "their nationalists!" debate, I think would be in criticizing the actions of Tev-Dem that are the most statist and coercive (like conscription); and also pointing to where they have not gone far enough towards communism economically (where lack of workers control, rent, existence of money, etc...).

Outside of this arena of discussion, Tev-Dem and the KCK are increasingly arguing AGAINST nationalism and are not nearly so far apart from AFED as AFED seems to think.

Ofcourse, if you think its all a pack of lies; then it doesn't matter what they say.

Apr 8 2015 16:10
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
FSA is pro U.S and U.S. is not so good with russia currently. So I was wondering why the hell on earth are they meeting in moscow? You come up with the missing part of the puzzle again grin

Its all about Burkan Al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano). "Jabhat al-Akrad was expelled from the FSA Aleppo Military Council on 16 August 2013 due to alleged PKK affiliations amid widespread clashes in northern Syria between predominantly Sunni Arab rebel groups—led by units affiliated to al-Qaida—and Kurdish militia led by the YPG."

Other FSA groups like Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa initially were fighting YPG, but then found themselves fighting Daesh... and then eventually allied with the YPG against Daesh when the Daesh literally drove them into Kobane.

"we started out actually fighting against the YPG or the PYD, and then when Daesh moved on Raqqa, we stopped fighting against the YPG and shifted into fighting Daesh. Then Daesh pushed us out of Raqqa and we had to withdraw from the city and into the northern suburbs of Raqqa, which are close to Kobane. There was a sort of cease-fire or truce between the FSA and the YPG. Ahrar al-Sham played a role in that cease-fire. And so we were on board with the cease-fire. It was for six months. We reached out to the Kurds and we became friends. Then we withdrew even further into Kobane itself. The YPG were fighting Daesh, so we were forced into an alliance with the YPG. We had nowhere else to go. Daesh were surrounding us on all sides, except of course behind us was the YPG.... I don't think the PYD will give up its identity and bundle itself into the FSA. However, in Kobane, our brigade received an offer from the Kurds to have the PYD to join with them and fight under the FSA banner."

"One should also note that the Jabhat al-Nusra’s statement partly came in response to a narrative promoted by Islamic State supporters that because Liwa Thuwar Raqqa has been coordinating with the Kurdish YPG (in the form of the Jabhat al-Akrad front group) in the remnant northern Raqqa countryside insurgency against the Islamic State (primarily west of Tel Abyad), therefore Jabhat al-Nusra was supposedly in an alliance with the “PKK apostates” and therefore guilty of apostasy itself."


The Shammar tribe also has worked closely in Cizre canton with YPG/YPJ in expelling Daesh from arab villages. The Shammar tribe also has an FSA brigade: the Liwa Ahrar al-Jazira (LAJ). LAJ has also been attacked by Daesh.

YPG and FSA form a joint military chamber to combat ISIS in Syria

The ENKS (Syrian Kurdish parties affiliated with the Barzani KDP) also pushed for Rojava to ally with the FSA. But the reality is that the YPG/YPJ largely has a cease fire with the SAA in Cizre and Afrin cantons, and the SAA doesn't exist in Kobane canton.

People have this idea that the FSA is actually an army. It isn't. Its increasingly irrelevant. Some groups claim they fight under the FSA banner. But the FSA doesn't have a central command or anything. It doesn't have a functional council. Groups saying they are FSA are pretty much just indicate they are willing to fight Assad/Ba'ath/SAA/NDF; and also the hope that maybe the U.S. will aid them

Agent of the In...
Apr 8 2015 16:22

Historically speaking, the position of Bakunin and many classical anarchists, was to treat national liberation movements as something they can participate in, influence and transform into a class struggle movement, a "boring-from-within" approach.

They saw society as divided into classes, and believed that revolution should be carried out by the proletariat (unlike Owens), but they also believed in the 'nation' as valid concept, and that oppressed 'nations' should carry out a liberating revolution. That revolution, as they defined it, would be on a class basis, against the dominant, exploiting class, creating a libertarian society ('collectivist' or 'communist'). This is what they essentially advocated.

For a lot of people new to anarchism, reading the classical literature can be confusing because of that use of the concept of 'nation' and 'national liberation'. So "anarchists" like yourself accept it, but deny being nationalist and encourage participation in national liberation movements, without understanding the logic behind the arguments they made.

The structure of such arguments are not entirely correct, and doesn't deserve to be repeated into the 21st century, because the 'nation' is a fundamentally nationalist concept, and national liberation movements are always class-collaborationist, state building projects.

But posters like you (kurrem) and Owens, have not only accepted 'national liberation' ideology, but went further, and divorced it from the class struggle perspective that the likes of Bakunin had in mind. So there is a difference between what Owens, Kurrem is advocating, and what Bakunin and classical anarchists advocated. The former went backwards from the latter, and is totally retrogressive in nature.

The position that the Anarchist Federation put forward, is a major advance forward theoretically, and it should be read by the likes of you, unless you wanna be ignorant of the perspectives that informs your critics.

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 16:21
I'm taking issue mostly with Owen's understanding of class and marx

Looking back through the comments I left, I realise that I wasn't clear enough in putting forward my overall position. Each comment was a response to a single person's criticisms and so I didn't make the effort to present the ideas as part of a coherent whole, rather, I was concerned with rebuking what I think are the negative positions of some (not all) of those who take the class-struggle anarchist position - and most of those who take the "libertarian" Marxist position (which I don't take all that seriously in most cases).

So to make it explicit, here is what I was trying to communicate:

On Marx and Marxism

Marx had a lot of good ideas, even if many of them were co-opted from Proudhon and Ricardo. Social anarchists certainly benefitted from adopting the basic framework of Marxian economics and economic models. But in retrospect, it's pretty clear that he was wrong about a great deal. And the problem with Marxian economic die-hands is that they keep trying to update an economic framework from the 1800s to a world that is fundamentally different.

Personally, I find the power economics school of Jonathan Nitzan and Shimschon Bitchler a lot better at explaining the economics of capitalism works. If anyone's interested, they've made their introductory text, Capital as Power available for free as a PDF online. Also out lately is the book The 1% and the Rest of Us by Tim DiMuzio, which is a less academic introduction to the school of thought. Most of its adherents come to reformist political conclusions. But then, most Marxians come to authoritarian statist conclusions.

On Historical Materialism and Class Struggle

As I already made clear, I'm a Social Ecologist. Social Ecology doesn't accept historical materialism as part of its methodology and instead adopts a perspective that views the relationship between material/technological base and ideational superstructure (to use the Marxian terms) to be reciprocal, instead of the former determining the latter in a mostly one-sided way. Thus, it rejects economism.

But this methodology (called dialectical naturalism) should not be taken as a simple rejection of class categories and class analysis. On the contrary, it is properly understood as an expansion of class analysis by integrating it within a larger framework examining all forms of social hierarchy, not just economic hierarchies.

The same applies to class struggle. Bookchin, in his writings, at times came across as excessively dismissive of class struggle and workplace organising (and so have I in these comments) but this is only because he existed in a milieu which really did tend to reduce everything to class categories and economic concerns, leaving trans-class forms of domination out of the equation, or relegating them to secondary importance.

But his idea of a broader kind of social struggle can in fact include class struggle and of course include workplace organising as an essential part of social transformation - as long as it's not seen as the primary form of struggle and the revolutionary subject is properly understood in a social-political sense as "the people" instead of a narrow economic sense as "the workers".

On National Liberation

I was absolutely not calling for nationalism of any kind or for support for each and every kind of national liberation. This is something I really wasn't clear about and for that I apologise.

I was expressing support for a very particular kind of national liberation that was explicitly anti-statist, socialist, and directly-democratic - ie: the Zapatistas and the Kurds. This is a type of national liberationism that is in very short supply so, yes, I can understand how my comments could come across as support for just about any kind of nationalism or statist national liberation struggles.

It's true that nationalism is more a dividing category than a unifying one. But nationalism is not the same thing as a sense of nationhood. As in keeping with the Bakunin quote above, national identity (and any other social identity) should matter (thus serve as a dividing line) unless it's being denied to you.

The same is true of being queer. In a libertarian world, being cishet or queer would make absolutely no difference and wouldn't be a factor dividing people. But because there exists a clear hierarchy between the former and the latter, it makes sense to give special priority to queer folks and see being queer (as an identity) as a subjectivity which can be used as a unifying factor for liberation. The same principle (and I'll admit I may be wrong about this) can be applied to nationhood - and to indigenous identity while we're at it.

Apr 8 2015 16:24

Agent of the Fi...

Your imagination is just comical, I can feel the major advances of Anarchist Federation even from here. Get real. This does not even require an answer.

Agent of the In...
Apr 8 2015 16:27
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
Agent of the Fi...

Your imagination is just comical, I can feel the major advances of Anarchist Federation even from here. Get real. This does not even require an answer.

I stress major, because of your relatively backwards, absurd bullshit.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2015 16:28

Good post, First.

Also, I just want to say that I have respect for Kurrem and Flint who I think are arguing in good faith - even if I disagree with them. The problem is that whenever the Rojava debate comes up on libcom we inevitably get the likes of an Owen coming on basically being a douche. Sorry if you two bare the brunt of that.

EDIT: lot of cross-posting there. This in was in response to First's post beginning "Historically speaking.."

Apr 8 2015 16:32
rooieravotr wrote:
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 resistance wants 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.

1) I don't buy that what Daesh wants is not qualitatively different from what the US wants.

2) Despite radically different ideologies, I think that in certain respects the Ocalanists* have more in common with ISIS than with KDP and PUK, the latter Kurdish nationalist clients of the US of long-standing.


The US wants to make the world safe for business, for investors, for capital markets. ISIS wants to make the world a slave to Salafist tyranny. They are not qualitatively the same thing. The USSR also wanted "a state to build, a workforce to exploit and resources to sell". So did Louis XIV.

Is Louis the XIV and pre-revolutionary Ancien Regime France of no qualitative difference to the 21st century republic of the USA?

Again, historical materialism has to say no, or cease to exist as an analytical project.


I keep referring back to Hassan Aboud's** statement, shortly before his assassination, that the reason the Iraqi army ran away, rather than fight the Daesh invasion of Mosul and half of Iraq, is that they had no ideology. That's because US imperialism likes local forces that lack ideology, from the South Vietnamese Army, up to the post-2003 new Iraqi army, the US picks only the most corrupt, most venal, most anti-ideological warlords to be their local native troops. Downside is they never fight. Same mistake, over and over again. Free Syrian Army anyone?

So, in the end, when Daesh attacked Iraqi Kurdistan, the payola tribesmen of the KDP and PUK militias ran away from Sinjar and the Turkish Kurd refugee camp at (that place that starts with an M, on the road to Erbil) and the Ocalanists stayed and fought. Because, like Aboud said, ideology is what makes people stand and lay down their lives in the (ideologically-mediated) service of others. In a sense the ideological polarisation of upper mesopotamia between Daesh and the Ocalanists, both rejecting the bourgeois nation state, albeit from opposite perspectives, is an index of the failure of the post-colonial project of building subaltern economic areas on the basis of Sykes-Picot.

rooieravotr wrote:
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.

Well I would certainly share that concern. But I continue to think that the real nub of contention is over the "any revolutionary dynamics it may be connected with" bit. The dogmatists say that there is no "may", that there are simply no revolutionary dynamics because...dogma.

In your article there is apparently an interchangeability between social revolution and anti-capitalist revolution. I've waffled on about this at length on other threads. But to make my position clear again, in (relatively) succint form, I don't consider the two to be self-evidently synonymous.

If the passage from the Ancien Regime to capitalism involved a social revolution (and I would argue it did), then social revolution is not simply restricted to the passage from fully subsumed capitalist bourgeois society to full communism.

For me the social revolutionary strategy of the Ocalanists, and particularly what is now the KJK, a major driver within this (since 1994 - well before Ocalan's capture or literary encounter with Bookchin, NB...) is founded on the objective of rupturing the specifically local social relations of what they call the "feudal-tribal structure". Which is not the same as the social revolutionary passage from a non-tribal feudalism to capitalism (bourgeois revolution) or passage directly from non-tribal feudalism directly to socialism (permanent revolution).

The analysis of what the "feudal-tribal structure" actually is in historical materialist terms, is still a work in progress (and not one being clarified by Ocalan's post-facturm ideologizing, imo). And yet it is there and it currently mediates class conflict and social politics with Kurdish society and the passage to recomposition of proletarian counterpower, locally, inescapably passes through its subversion and eventual destruction.

The alternative "class essentialist" ("second wave socialist") view of a global "geological" time, with it's "coupe essentiele" (to use Althusser's terminology) of a unitary capitalist epoch, where the class relation exhausts all social categories, structures and dynamics, is an untenable ontology, from my viewpoint.

* PYD, YPG/YPJ, PKK/HPG, KCK/KJK, alphabet soup, let's call a spade a spade for convenience.

** leader of Ahrar ash Shams, the most powerful non-IS aligned Syrian Islamist group. Until it was decapitated by the mysterious (as if we don't know what killed them) liquidation of the whole leadership, shortly before the US launched it's air strikes on Daesh and Al Nusra.

Agent of the In...
Apr 8 2015 16:36
Chilli Sauce wrote:
EDIT: lot of cross-posting there. This in was in response to First's post beginning "Historically speaking.."

Lol. You could use "Agent", I don't know whose First.

Apr 8 2015 17:09
Flint wrote:

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.)

Didnt see this until now. Yes at one point I was interested in Palestine solidarity actions, I am no longer as I feel it is ridiculous for a number of reasons.

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 17:11
I have respect for Kurrem and Flint who I think are arguing in good faith - even if I disagree with them. The problem is that whenever the Rojava debate comes up on libcom we inevitably get the likes of an Owen coming on basically being a douche

How exactly am I being a douche? Fair enough, I'll admit that my comments thus far have been confrontational. But considering that I've been attacked from all sides, insulted as a Trotskyite, and every comment of mine downvoted in the double digits, just about anybody would be put in a confrontational mood.

In retrospect, some of this was my own fault for not being sufficiently clear with regard to my positions on (1) Rojava, and (2) class struggle. Most of it however was the result of espousing an unpopular set of ideas rather than the factual content of what I was saying.
"He doesn't support proletarian class struggle like the rest of us? Attack!!!

Apr 8 2015 18:11

Ocelot, thanks for replying at length to the substance of what I write. A few small clarifications from my side.

No, I do not think imperialism is unchanging. The comparison with Cortez, the Aztecs and so on served a rather limited purpose: allying with a Great Power to get rid of a hated enemy usually hands power to that Great Power, not to you. There is no need to read more into it than that.

Having said that, I do not feel constrained anymore to give my analysis a basis in what you stil call historical materialism. That is one of the things I have left behind in leaving the Trotskyiste orbit I once was in (you proably find that a sad child/ bathwater loss, but this is how it is:) ). I am an anarchist communist, I use analyses by Marx, and by many others, but telling me "but this is not historically materalist!" is not a way of convincing me either way.

Analyzing imperialism was not what I set myself to do with this piece. Rather. I wanted to point to dangers of imperialist entanglement - using "imperialism" in a sense that I supposed everyone on this forum would understand. I do not feel that your objections really showed the wrongness of my point of view. At most,. you proved that I did not reason in an historically materialist fashion, that my way of reasoning was not consistent with Marxian theory. So be it smile

Then there is this:

he proposition "if it's not FULL COMMUNISM, it must ergo be bourgeois" is not convincing to me from a historical materialist definition of bourgeois social relations

Let ś leave aside the "historical materialist" bit (see above). But I object to this way of presenting my view, if that is what you intended. I did not say that any movement I discussed was bourgeois because it was not 'Full Communism'. I did not even the latter concept. I did not use that way of reasoning at all.

Specifically on Daesh, I think it can be shown that it is 1. a hierarchical, state-like formation, and where it has power, actually a modern (though rather weak outside its terroristic aspects) capitalist state. 2. based on a combination of wage labour under capitalist direction, slave labour and petty capitalist production, with the state basing itself on extortion of the whole process, a bit like a religiously motivated Mafia. (still a bit of materialist analysis there smile )No, that is not like the US of A. But is it really that different from the Saudi regime? Saudi-Arabia has static borders, and a king. Daesh has flexible borders, and a Khalif... Not essential differences, I would suggest.

Anyway, in its classbased-ness, its essentially capitalist dynamics, a lot closer to the USA than it ist to what the PYD and connected movements at least aspire to. Comparisons with 'full communism' are unnecessary here. Alliances between Daesh and capitalist states fit the nature of the thing most closer than alliances between PYD and capitalist states. Having said that, the more PYD allies with the US, the more it will adapt to the logic of states, regimes and the economic forces behind them. Yhey are not like any other orninary power in the region. But they run the risk of becoming such an ordinary power, if only a small one.

There is much more to react to. Let me finish with something else: I have a growing respect for both Flint and kurremkarmerruk in this thread. I often do not agree with them. But they come with facts and facts and facts (as I tried to do, mine was not a very theoretically sophisticated piece, nor was it meant to be that), and argue from there. I learn a lot that way, and I take may cap off for them with due appreciation smile

mikail firtinaci
Apr 8 2015 17:26

Don't confuse obscure journalism and propaganda with facts. They are trying to overrun the debate by drowning it under web-links. These old school stalinist propaganda methods don't challenge any of your arguments. The spirit of your essay and your concerns are legitimate. Don't yield to obscurantism and stay firm in your convictions.

Also, essentially there is no difference between Connor Owens and Kurrem/Flint positions. CO only defends what apologist chauvinists can not say here openly; that the interests of proletariat are antagonistic to the nationalist agenda of the PKK. That is the basic fact here, which a thousand links to pro-PKK websites can not change.

Connor Owens
Apr 8 2015 18:09
essentially there is no difference between Connor Owens and Kurrem/Flint positions. CO only defends what apologist chauvinists can not say here openly; that the interests of proletariat are antagonistic to the nationalist agenda of the PKK

Okay then, could you provide a summary strategy the proletariat of Turkish and Syrian Kurdistan could take that was:

(A) not nationalist, and
(B) leading in the direction of libertarian socialism?

I'm not being facetious. I genuinely want to know.

And just to clarify, are you using the term "porletariat" in the classical sense to mean urban industrial manual workers (because that's a very small segment of the population in the Kurdish regions) or in the broader sense to mean all those people who aren't capitalists?

Because while I can see some potential in conceiving of a "workers" revolution with that broad understanding of the class concept, conceiving of a working class revolution being led by such a tiny portion of the Kurdish population as the urban industrial labourers doesn't really make sense given the economic conditions and other social factors at play. It is the latter position I've been arguing against in all my comments thus far.

Also, those people in the three cantons of Rojava are not synonymous with the PKK or even the PYD. The ideological framework they are operating with may have been handed down from the ranks of the party leadership going all the way back to Ocalan, but the thousands of people doing the constructive work on the ground are not tied at the hip to the whims of a former Stalinist loony and his sycophantic cadre. So support for the grassroots activity is not synonymous with support for the PKK, PYD, or any of the other organisations associated with the Kurdish fight for autonomy and defence against ISIS.

Several reporters - from left, western liberal, and NGO organisations - have now visited Rojava and confirmed that there are existing institutions of confederated direct democracy in effect which are transforming social, political, and economic relations along broadly libertarian lines. Along with a growing economy aimed at being structured along self-managed cooperative lines under the direction of the popular assemblies.

All differences over how an anti-capitalist social revolution should be conducted aside, what I've been seeing in this forum is largely not a constructive view of what could be done in place of the democratic confederalist approach (from a class-struggle perspective), but a pretty scornful view that an anti-capitalist social revolution can't take place because it doesn't fit within a very narrow idea of how revolutions are supposed to happen.

In other words - do correct me if I'm wrong - because it:

1. Isn't oriented around class and workplace organising
2. Aspires to have a community-directed economy instead of a worker-directed economy
3. Is connected to an organisation with a negative history with Stalinism and statist nationalism

. . . it therefore has zero hope whatsoever of being pushed in a more libertarian direction.

There's also a trend to extrapolate horrible things from certain factors that don't fit within this class-strugglist point of view:

Not class-based = therefore bourgeois
Stalinist past = therefore Stalinist future
National liberationist = therefore nationalist-statist
Accepting of US bombings of a mutual enemy = therefore the deluded and helpless puppets of American imperialism with absolutely no autonomy or control over their own destiny

So what I'm basically asking - of everyone in these forums - is this,

Question One

Do the institutions of direct democracy and a cooperative economy that have been set up in Rojava have no significance at all to a movement towards libertarian socialism?

Question Two

If not, what would a constructive movement to achieve libertarian socialism in the region look like?

Question Three

How exactly should those in the region go about building libertarian socialism while fighting a war against theocratic fascists without becoming pawns of western imperialism?

Apr 8 2015 18:10
Connor Owens wrote:
But considering that I've been attacked from all sides, insulted as a Trotskyite, and every comment of mine downvoted in the double digits, just about anybody would be put in a confrontational mood.

You should have been here earlier when the pejorative insult was Stalinist.

Apr 8 2015 18:23
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Don't confuse obscure journalism and propaganda with facts. They are trying to overrun the debate by drowning it under web-links. These old school stalinist propaganda methods don't challenge any of your arguments. The spirit of your essay and your concerns are legitimate. Don't yield to obscurantism and stay firm in your convictions....That is the basic fact here, which a thousand links to pro-PKK websites can not change.

Yes, why bother with facts when we can make assumptions about current struggles from a priori judgements from ancient left communist scientists and old ICC position papers. It would be great if Enternasyonalist Komünist Sol (or whatever the cluster of folks involved with it are now calling themselves) could send someone to investigate the Rojava canton claims of worker-controlled councils. But we both know that is never going to happen.

Black Badger
Apr 8 2015 18:29
Do the institutions of direct democracy and a cooperative economy that have been set up in Rojava have no significance at all to a movement towards libertarian socialism?

This is a fake question, taking the existence of "direct democracy" and "a cooperative economy" as givens, when there remain doubts as to what they actually look like given the particular circumstances in Rojava. Further, how do folks know that these "institutions" (which should already create a little squeamishness) are operating under specifically libertarian principles rather than temporary expedients, or because of directives from whichever Party happens to be in (at least) nominal control of a particular region -- in other words (and this has been pointed out plenty of times before, but you are pretty deft at avoiding it), are people involved in these experiments in "direct democracy" and "a cooperative economy" doing it from their own class-based understanding of self-organized opposition to capitalism and the statism, OR are they following the recommendations of Ocalan and his still-hierarchical cadre (or the other allegedly non-Ocalanist Parties)? The council movement in Germany 1918-1919 was organized on a similar basis -- at least nominally -- but happened primarily under the aegis and direct control of the SPD. The skepticism that some folks bring to your shiny reportage is therefore not without historical precedent. In which case, the end of your question becomes completely irrelevant, since there would be no reason to think that such Party-controlled institutions would be able to be used for anything libertarian at all.

Your three questions are actually statements, merely worded in such a way as to make them look like questions -- since they have question marks at the end. They are false questions because the expected answers are already embedded in them. That's a handy implement to have in your rhetorical toolbox, but some of us who are more accustomed to using critical thinking skills will never be convinced by that technique.