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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ocelot
Apr 9 2015 10:25
Pennoid wrote:
The rest is movementism.

Hadn't realised this particular SWP swearword had made the jump over to the libcom milieu. What do you understand by this?

Spikymike
Apr 9 2015 10:32

I think there are at least some cross-over areas between us 'class struggle orientated anarchist/libertarian/left communists' and some of the points made in Flints posts in so far as we recognise that there is A struggle going on in Rojava that inevitably includes elements of proletarian assertion of needs but in an objective set of circumstances and political influences that prevent those elements from asserting their dominance and make them prey to accomodating/supporting alternative options still contained within a modern nationalist 'social democratic' framework which does not represent any threat to capitalist dominance that is quite capable of surviving temporary disruption of service in the Rojava enclave. Part of that 'prevention' is equally the limited level of class resistance to the current effects of the social and economic crisis of global capitalism (particularly in this case in the immediate vacinity of the Kurdish regions). That stunted resistance is in turn partly a reflection of the low level of class consciousness and the strength of nationalist and democratic ideologies that unfortunately much of the left (including prominant western promoters of the claimed 'Rojava Revolution') continue to peddle. Owens on this site is, despite their genuine radicalism, just one of the more obvious and consistent in their promotion of this ideological turn.

rat
Apr 9 2015 10:34
Connor Owens wrote:
And as David Graeber noted, every single person he talked to expressly said they were an anti-capitalist and an anti-statist, and that they were actually trying to downplay just how against capitalism they are internationally to avoid alienating potential allies.

Potential capitalist allies?

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 12:02

I found something I find it interesting actually. Not only Graeber but also Lucien Van der Walt himself seems to think the proper anarchist position is to support Kurdish movement's confederalist and autonomist project. Moreover he finds Listen Mr.Anarchist article (see second comment from the top) :

Quote:
Without necessarily agreeing with every part of the above article, I find its views compelling.

He then references this following article An Anarchist Communist Reply to ‘Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective: . Moreover if you check out comments section he replies to some critiques and ends his debate by saying this:

Quote:
In reply to the last comment: events have shown Rojava to be far more than "just" a nationalist movement, to be kept at arms length. It has shown something that is probably in advance of the EZLN model, and that has simply failed to fit the neat categories the WSA comrade, the UK AFed, and others have tried to impose.

Well I do not know what is Lucien's reputation around here. But it is certainly very high for me. thanks to this and this awesome books. If anybody jumped over this, I am glad to put it to your notice. Well to be honest finding this out -kind of- fulfilled me as I am not occupying a wrong position in terms of social anarchism historically.
Anyway An Anarchist Communist Reply to ‘Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective’ (link again)should be also included to libcom. It was missing here right? I think it really gives a clear representation to historical social anarchist perspective. I am gonna add it. I am not mistaken and it is not published right? (as the search function in libcom sucks really hard -sorry to say that to people who makes the website)

rooieravotr
Apr 9 2015 11:25

Owen Connors:

Quote:
"My question is, [i]are all of these of no relevance at all to building libertarian socialism because they're connected to an organisation you don't like? And/or because they don't fit with your class struggle narrative of how revolutions are "supposed" to happen"

Answer to the first question: yes, they are of some relevance. What I think of the PYD is not an argument against assemblies and direct democracy in Rojava. I never said it was. I said something else, which you studiously ignore or callously dismiss. Cooperating with the US is damaging to any independence, any perspective for autonomous develepment, the assembly and democratic structures might have. But that does not mean that I consider the elements of direct democracy and seklf-management as either non-existant or irrelevent. I don t know how strong and how independent they truly are. But iI never dismissed them, neither in my piece nor in following comments.

Answer to second question: see answer to first question.

Spikymike
Apr 9 2015 11:39

Don't think AFed has tried to ''impose'' any model but equally it wouldn't be difficult for anything to be ''in advance of the EZLN model''

Red Marriott
Apr 9 2015 11:39
kurre wrote:
I do not know what is Lucien's reputation around here. But it is certainly very high for me. thanks to this and this awesome books.

These links were posted in comments below the 2nd book;

Red wrote:
There has been previous critical discussion of some of the book's historical failings and inaccuracies;
http://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/new-historical-syndicalist-book...
http://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/books-italian-anarcho-syndicali...

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 11:46
Quote:
stunted resistance is in turn partly a reflection of the low level of class consciousness and the strength of nationalist and democratic ideologies that unfortunately much of the left (including prominant western promoters of the claimed 'Rojava Revolution') continue to peddle

What if the whole idea of "class consciousness" is a gigantic distraction from actually getting things done in terms of building organs of direct democracy which enable people to take control of their own lives? What if the people of the region - and of the rest of the world - don't want to fit into your very narrow Marxist conception of how they should perceive themselves when they try to organise new self-managed structures on the ground?

What if it were possible to hold your national identity (which is being denied to you) as important without being "nationalist" in the sense of wanting a separate nation-state?

And what if building revolution as people, through democratic communities, as opposed to solely as "workers", through workplace organising, is able to express more of a general interest of what people want as opposed to the sectional interests they have as workers?

As for being "ideological", I'm not the one denying the existence of an increasingly democratised and self-managed economy and/or saying it has zero anti-capitalist potential because it doesn't fit with the Marxist revolutionary script. I'm paying attention to what's going on in material reality. You're denying it because you think it can't possibly be the case if it wasn't forseen in the writings of European economic thinkers who lived over 100 years ago.

With regard to its relation to global capitalism, I guess I need to repeat myself - nations and regions extracting themselves from the globalised, neoliberal market economy and getting back some kind of economic self-reliance from the Global North economies can only be a step in the right direction in breaking neoliberalism (and thus capitalism) worldwide.

As explained in this article, that's theyre eventual aim.

http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/rojavas-threefold-economy/

Kurdistan, other nations opposed to global neoliberalism, and other stateless democratic confederations set up in future could, in potential, form an alternative pole to contest the hegemony of the Global North, which seek to integrate all other economic regions under its rubric.

If you don't believe so, fine. What's your alternative other than more vague declarations of "class solidarity" without explanations as to what that's supposed to mean in practice?

Marxism has been discredited worldwide because of the 20th century. People aren't going to believe "no, this kind of Marxism isn't brutal and totalitarian" when you try to sell them on the idea of proletarian "class consciousness".

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 12:03
Quote:
Cooperating with the US is damaging to any independence, any perspective for autonomous develepment, the assembly and democratic structures might have.

How and why? All they did is accept US bombings of the people who were trying to kill them. In an earlier comment you attempted to twist my words into claiming a "strategic alliance" and a "military alliance" must be the same thing. Um, no. A strategic alliance means that you share a common enemy and stay out of each other's way in trying to take that enemy down.

A military alliance would mean that the Rojava and U.S. military actively collaborate - share Intel, weaponry, have soldiers working together - and that would indeed mean they would end up being pawns of imperialism as the U.S. would almost certainly stab them in the back later, either overtly or through blackmail, refusing to provide help unless they broke up the democratic communes and privatised the economy, letting it be open to Northern corporate plunder.

Dropping bombs on people trying to kill you? How exactly does that jeapordise their democratic, socialist project?

And let's say the result right now were the exact same as if America didn't drop bombs on ISIS, but the YPG/YPJ were able to drive off ISIS to the same extent without US help ... how would this be furthering American "imperialism" even though the current situation for the Rojavans would be the exact same?

This tells me that your cries of "imperialism" are coming from a kind of deontological ethical position in which in which no one can agree to anything the U.S. government does in any situation, irrespective of the actual consequences. You don't oppose them accepting the bombings because you think it'll jeopardise the potential for libertarian socialism, but because all western involvement anywhere in the world must be opposed for reasons of Marxist ideological purity, with possible negative consequences being an afterthought, not something considered beforehand.

Class-strugglist ideological purity comes first. Consequentialist considerations come second.

Spikymike
Apr 9 2015 14:15

Owen's - you don't NEED to repeat yourself but you keep doing so whilst asserting 'Your What If' scenarios' as a matter of belief that denies the actual experience of national liberation struggles and a clear prejudice against any of the more 'libertarian' marxist influenced communist tendencies of which you seem ignorant.

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 14:35
Spikymike wrote:
Don't think AFed has tried to ''impose'' any model but equally it wouldn't be difficult for anything to be ''in advance of the EZLN model''

"anything"? Like David Cameron's Conservative Party election manifesto, for example?

You really are too old to have an excuse for such silly sectarian hyperbole.

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 14:41
Connor Owens wrote:
It increasingly looks like all the class-strugglists are refusing to accept that this can ever be something worth supporting because it flies in the face of all their elaborate theories about how revolutions are "supposed" to happen.

*Ahem*. I am a class-struggle anarchist (and certainly not a Bookchinite, god forbid...). As indeed are the various Anarkismo-affiliated groups.

Not all class struggle anarchists are ultraleft orthodox Marxists. Some of us still refer back to the anarchism of Bakunin and Malatesta.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 15:05

First serious, then snark.

Flint wrote:
chilli wrote:
we take the proletarian nature of most of Rojava's residents as a given.

Great. Then the question becomes, how democratic is Tev-Dem?

Not sure it does. Proles can make all sort of bad decisions democratically, that's doesn't mean the critique is incorrect

In the States, for example, workers and even radical unions opt for NLRB elections and do so very democratically. It still needs to be critiqued.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 15:09
Owen wrote:
I'm still at a loss as to why you all keep referring to people as "workers". Is this honestly how you perceive yourself as your own primary identity? - your function within the capitalist system? I can't fucking stand doing most of what's defined as "work" (formal wage-labour) under capitalism and try to avoid it whenever possible. I'm currently unemployed and so are most of those in my age group (20s). I do not, and never have - and most likely never will - think of my central defining feature being a "worker". I'm a person, not a cog in the capitalist machine.

So, I've been reading a lot of Marx (boo! hiss!) lately. One of the things he talks about is the fetishism of capitalism or, in other words, that the reality of capitalism exists outside of the consciousness of an individual's position within it.

You can say you're not a worker or a prole or whatever, but you do have a shared class interest with everyone else who's forced to sell their labor to survive. In other words, it's not about how people “see themselves” - that's some weird liberal, activisty bullshit, not a class analysis.

Owen wrote:
Dropping bombs on people trying to kill you? How exactly does that jeapordise their democratic, socialist project?

The thing is, I might accept it, I might even be happy to see those bombs dropping. However, to pretend that accepting military assistance/support/whatever from the the most powerful imperialist state in history doesn't jeopardize a purportedly libertarian socialist project is just madness.

I mean, you said it yourself: Turkey would see organising a general strike as an act of “aggression” and attempt to “pulverize” the region. Yet, you think the leadership of the PKK can somehow co-operate with the US and keep their supposed libertarian socialist principles intact? Seriously?

Owen wrote:
You're denying it because you think it can't possibly be the case if it wasn't forseen in the writings of European economic thinkers who lived over 100 years ago.

Man, building those strawmen all day must really keep you busy. No wonder you're unemployed.

Flint
Apr 9 2015 15:36
Chilli Sauce wrote:
First serious, then snark.

Flint wrote:
chilli wrote:
we take the proletarian nature of most of Rojava's residents as a given.

Great. Then the question becomes, how democratic is Tev-Dem?

Not sure it does. Proles can make all sort of bad decisions democratically, that's doesn't mean the critique is incorrect

In the States, for example, workers and even radical unions opt for NLRB elections and do so very democratically. It still needs to be critiqued.

A labor union inherently mediates between labor and capital. The NLRB election is just one method of achieving recognition by the labor union as the exclusive mediator between labor and capital.

In Rojava, who is Tev-Dem mediating with?

I agree that proletarians who have worker control of the means of production are still capable of making terrible decisions. The majority can be factually wrong. The majority can make the wrong estimations. The importance of democratic control of the workplace by workers is not that workers are infallible; but that it control should be in the hands of those that do the work to decide how work should be done and what should be done with the product of their labor. To leave decision-making of working conditions to an undemocratic minority of capitalists, to leave decision-making on the distribution of production to an undemocratic minority of capitalists--will lead directly to exploitation. But we all agree with this because we are communists.

So, when I ask "how democratic is Tev-Dem", I'm asking how much control to Rojava's majority proletarian population have over these local neighbohood assemblies in determining the distribution of production? I'm asking how much of society is really in Tev-Dem control, and how much is under the control of some other authority--whether its Afrin landlords, Salih Muslim or Cemal Karayilan in a hilltop camp in the Qandil mountains.

NLRB election.tongue Thats almost as useful comparison as the time Dauve compared to Rojava to Kuwait.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 15:50

The thing is, though, I'm not comparing Rojava to a union election - all I'm saying is that decisions made democratically ("How democratic is the Tev-Dev?") are not a litmus of whether groups, organisations, or movements should be supported on class-struggle grounds.

Various points have been raised to this end already:

1) We don't actually have that clear a picture of what's happening on the ground - and, call me an ideologue, but I take the statements of hierarchical , paramilitary organisations engaged in a nation-building project with a grain of salt.

2) It's also about who has control of and a guiding influence within those councils. Someone's pointed out the in post-war Germany there was a movement of factory councils, many of which were democratic but still ultimately under the control of the SPD.

And I get that's not exactly your point. And, you're right, there could be some really libertarian initiatives going on in Rojava. Their existence, however, doesn't mean that the involvement of nationalist organisations also doesn't need to be criticised at the same time.

Pennoid
Apr 9 2015 16:13

Oh my, did I use a word that is also occasionally used by a couple of people that other people don't like? Woe be to ME!

I didn't realize the word "movementism" was a core ideological device in use by the SWP. I'm from the states, and haven't had much experience with them. I will say that what I meant by it is the obsession with "doing something" that exists, especially among college-activists, deluded cults, and anarcho-liberal protest politics that ascribe revolutionary worth to # of protests one has attended where media was present, and completely evacuates practical class politics of any meaning by slinging around empty phrases like "critical support" (Uhm, what?) devoting their entire practice to clamoring after one protest opportunity to the next. If some theorist of the SWP thought this up and it found usage, well, bully for them.

Further, it's not about a formula. I'm not even convinced that peasants cannot play a significant role in fighting against capitalism, neither was Marx. But that's not what you were saying earlier. You were saying (Connor) that no cross-ethnic alliance based on class had ever played a liberatory role in history. That is just plain incorrect. You further showed that you did not really understand the nature of capitalism or class by defining class so narrowly as to refer only to production workers in heavy industry. That's also completely wrong. Class is complex, but it has an essential component (whether one produces commodities at all, or just services them is not relevant) which is the condition of being a waged laborer. That's important, too because it figures into the general commodification of the components of production, and that, as the general characterization of capitalist society, is important because it can highlight some of the dynamics important for understanding why isolation happens, why geography is important, the function of politics and war, and the limits of reform and self-management. It also can help us understand what types of struggles lead toward capitalism, even though they may sound communist (i.e. struggle for the rights of petty proprietors of one nationality to manage their affairs and political life without the intervention of foreign capitalists).

As for suggestions, I don't have any. I don't have any suggestions for how my boss can better manage the workplace either, because I don't my boss should exist, let alone the workplace. Hell, I don't have much in the way of suggestions (concretely) for my co-workers. We're kind of in a bind. We're not organized, so we don't have power, so it's hard to organize. Kind of a catch-22. Figuring this stuff out isn't easy.

Guerre de Classe
Apr 9 2015 16:03

During weeks and months that the battle of Kobanê lasted, which opposed the jihadists of Islamic State versus Rojava Kurdish forces and militias (PKK/PYD, YPG/YPJ) and their allies of the US-European coalition, and even since several years, both big political families standing at the left and extreme left of the bourgeois traditional parties – families that share the ideological market of representing “people’s aspirations” (or proletariat’s ones, for some more “radical” expressions) – deal us their laudatory slogans for describing the “Rojava Revolution”.

For important sectors of “anarchism”, for libertarians – most of whom proving to be quite clearly rather Proudhonist than communist –, the events in Rojava would be essentially libertarian-inspired, anti-State and anti-capitalist in nature (although some are somewhat more balanced). Or at least, the “Rojava Revolution” would no longer meet the traditional criteria of “national liberation struggles” but its ideological structuring would directly ensue from the writings of the American libertarian academic the late Murray Bookchin and his principles of “communalism”, “municipalism”. There are even some who venture to compare Rojava with Spain of the 1930s.

For the other political family, competing but yet complementary to the other one, for this ideological family which claims more or less (or openly proclaims) to adhere to “Marxism”, there is nothing surprising about the fact that it puts forward precisely “the right of peoples to self-determination”, dear to Lenin, Bolsheviks, Third International, and their Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite heirs. We even recently read in an article published in the French newspaper “L’Humanité” that the “Rojava Revolution” would express a new form of “socialism with a human face”…

So how could we for so many weeks and months not understand and grasp this reality? How could we ignore this profoundly progressive and “revolutionary” character in the intense battle that takes place still today in Rojava and generally in Kurdistan? How could we be so blind to refuse to see what is blindingly obvious? How did we do not want to believe those libertarians who swear by all the gods that Rojava, without being a “Honey Valley”, would be at least the resurrection of the Paris Commune mixed with the uprising of Barcelona? How could we be deaf to the sirens’ song and anthem of the abolition of money in certain parts of Rojava? How have we not accepted, “nihilistic” we are, this sacred “truth” that in Rojava “the revolution is going on”???

“Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”!!! But now we finally understood! Our eyes were closed and are now open to the new Light! Finally, we come out of the fog and darkness, and everything becomes clear since the visit of a Rojava delegation in Paris in early February 2015. We will not deny our pleasure while reproducing verbatim the dispatch of the “Firat News Agency”, close to the PKK, which celebrates this event:

Quote:
Abdullah: We received pledge of help from Hollande

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Paris – Anf / ali güler

PYD Co-president Asya Abdullah and YPJ commander Nesrin Abdullah said they had spoken to French President François Hollande regarding joint struggle against ISIS and the reconstruction of Kobanê.

Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-president Asya Abdullah, Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) Kobanê commander Nesrîn Abdullah and PYD Fransce representative Dr. Xalid İsa met French President François Hollande at the Elysee Palace on 8 February.

PYD Co-president Abdullah told ANF that victory in Kobanê had made such meetings possible. She said they had discussed the future of Rojava and developments in the region with the French President, drawing attention to the fact that with Kobanê a new page has been opened in Kurdish history. She added: "Our victory over ISIS has presented us with opportunities internationally. Our relations with France were already good.”

Abdullah said they had discussed the rebuilding of Kobanê, the opening of a corridor, the future of the cantons of Rojava and joint struggle against ISIS with Hollande. She added: “He greeted us warmly and congratulated us for the victory in Kobanê and promised to assist us.” Abdullah said such meetings were important for the Rojava revolution and were just a beginning.

‘Everyone was talking about the success of Kurdish women’

YPJ commander Nesrin Abdullah said they had met with great interest, adding: “Everyone at the Presidential Palace was talking about the success of Kurdish women. They said the spirit of Kobanê was in Paris. If it hadn’t been for the victory in Kobanê such a meeting could not have taken place. For Kurdish women’s military force to have been welcomed like this made us happy. It is important to be accepted officially.”

The French President’s official website has published 4 photographs of the meeting, which was described by the French media as ‘a first’ and a ‘historic meeting’.

That’s enough joke and let’s become serious again! This ridiculous event is nothing but the confirmation, if necessary, of the bourgeois character of the organizations (PKK/PYD, YPG/YPJ…) that contain and claim to represent the social movement of subversion of this world in Rojava (despite its weaknesses and limitations, which are in the image of those of the global proletarian struggle). We are obviously not going to be amazed at the announcement of this “Tea Party” at the Élysée Palace between supporters and representatives of different sectors of the world capitalist State and the ruling class, in this case here its French and Kurdish branches. We will not be amazed either at the media heavy silence on the side of leftist circles, libertarian and other, who didn’t have too much the taste to spread the information about this event, too embarrassed they were to see their PKK/PYD idols “slumming” with the highest political representatives of the “French State”.

This reception with great pomp at the Élysée of the Kurdish delegation reveals nothing else, and openly, but the effective role of military auxiliaries and back-up troops of the Western powers played by these Kurdish forces in the region against a “common enemy”, i.e. the Islamic State. In this sense, in the sense of classic bourgeois politics, there is nothing to be amazed or offended at seeing the PKK/PYD meeting its partners in order to strengthen their relationship and to discuss their military cooperation as well as the business of reconstruction in Rojava and Kobanê... For France, it is also necessary, especially in the light of recent attacks against “Charlie Hebdo” in January, to promote in the media an image of official rapprochement and alliance with the forces fighting on the ground Jihadism, “radicalism”, “Islam fascism” (to use that term much in vogue today).

Let’s emphasize in passing these “particular friendship” that emphasize the obvious complicity of these “revolutionary” organizations from Rojava (PKK/PYD, etc.) with our class enemies at the very time when the capitalist State (in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain,…) initiates, develops, strengthens so-called “antiterrorist” new measures and campaigns, which advocate “national unity”, “sacred union”, “the defence of republican values”, “living together” and ultimately the reunification of the people around the “Democracy in danger”, i.e. the capitalist dictatorship so much hated by the exploited. These terrorist campaigns of the State aim first and officially to fight against Islamism but in fact are in a second time (and this is their original and essential goal) much more powerful new tools in the fight against subversion, against the re-emergence of class warfare, against the global social revolution to come. For us definitively and contrary to leftist circles, there is no “lesser evil” that is worth to be supported…

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 16:13
Pennoid wrote:
Oh my, did I use a word that is also occasionally used by a couple of people that other people don't like? Woe be to ME!

I didn't realize the word "movementism" was a core ideological device in use by the SWP. I'm from the states, and haven't had much experience with them. I will say that what I meant by it is the obsession with "doing something" that exists, especially among college-activists, deluded cults, and anarcho-liberal protest politics that ascribe revolutionary worth to # of protests one has attended where media was present, and completely evacuates practical class politics of any meaning by slinging around empty phrases like "critical support" (Uhm, what?) devoting their entire practice to hobbling after one protest opportunity to the next. If some theorist of the SWP thought this up and it found usage, well, bully for them.

I get it, In a UK and Ireland context we would probably refer to this more as "activism" or "mindless activism". As in the "Give Up Activism" article in the post-J18 Reflections collection.

The SWP use "movementism" as a charge of heresy, particularly during the split, more or less synonymously with "autonomism" and "intersectionalism" as charges of deviancy from the Leninist true path For e.g.

Quote:
'[Alex Callinicos] made a sharp distinction between the Leninist approach and what he described as the political degeneration of John Rees, who provided left cover for the reformism of the trade union bureaucracy by asserting that it is “ridiculous” to believe that strikes are superior to demonstrations and direct action. This opportunist formulation, Callinicos argued, replaced proletarian class struggle with “movementism”. (see the footnote in Le Blanc’s article for what John Rees actually said at the People’s Assembly)

In the Callinicos worldview there are basically three tendencies on the radical left: Leninism, left reformism and movementism. The first is struggling, while the latter two trends are apparently thriving.

And these latter two trends are really two variants on a theme, or two sides of the same coin: left reformism is focused on parliament and the Labour Party while movementism is concerned with street-based protest movements, but they both apparently involve a rejection of revolutionary organisation and a downplaying of the role of 'organised workers' (trade unions) in social change. This downplaying is treated as synonymous with writing off the working class as a political actor.

Hence why I was a little puzzled to see it in a libcom context. Thanks for the clarification.

Pennoid
Apr 9 2015 16:42

Ahh, that makes sense. Yeah, like I said I'm thinking more of the anarcho-liberals obsessed with "the real movement in the streets." The idea that if we just get active, everything will fall into place etc. This is obviously something of an extreme characterization of their views (they would certainly interject that they LOVE plenty of meetings, as if that's the missing link as well!).

Flint
Apr 9 2015 16:46
Chilli Sauce wrote:
We don't actually have that clear a picture of what's happening on the ground - and, call me an ideologue, but I take the statements of hierarchical , paramilitary organisations engaged in a nation-building project with a grain of salt.

We also have a number of accounts from an academic delegation to one canton. The usual accusation there is that the academics were led around by their noses by PYD manipulators to Potemkin villages, or the academics are so wanting to believe in a revolution that is influencing their reports. The most critical piece from that academic delegation was Becky from SIC International Journal of Communisation. She said:

becky, SIC International Journal of Communisation wrote:
"The new administration took the land and distributes portions of it to self-organised co-ops who are working to expand the farming of animals and to increase and diversify what is grown. It continues to extract some oil and to refine it into low quality diesel to sell in the canton and to distribute to co-ops and other institutions. What co-ops produce is sold either to the administration or in the bizarre(sic) under administration price controls. The administration provides each household with a bread ration.

Frustratingly, Becky says she spoke with mostly middle class people:

becky, SIC International Journal of Communisation wrote:
"There was no talk about the positive empowerment came with the necessity of disrupting relations of exploitation and exchange. Perhaps this was because the people we were bought to talk to were mainly middle class, although this fact itself is also significant... The transformation taking place in Rojava rests to some extent on a radical Kurdish identity and on substantial middle classes contingent who, despite radical rhetoric, always have some interest in the continuity of capital and the state."

Before concluding...

becky, SIC International Journal of Communisation wrote:
"While what is taking place is not communisation*, it is a real movement against state plunder and cohercion, fighting militarily on its boarders and inwardly through the diffusion of power within them. The limits of the struggles in Rojava in this sense are those of struggles everywhere where the relation between labour power and capital has become a matter of repression and struggles that take that repression as a starting point. These struggles take place far from the strongholds of capital’s reproduction and are not directed at over turning relations of exploitation. What will be interesting in Rojava, for now largely cut off from the force of global capital, is what struggles will emerge over relations of exploitation: over the distribution of land, over assignment to different kinds of work, over prices and wages, over imports and exports. What transformation of property and production relations will women demand as they return from the militias?"

Yes, that will be interesting! And some of that is going on right now. It would have been great if Becky had asked questions about those things. We have gotten some information about it from other sources.

I'd really like to know the sorts of people Becky talked to. Did she talk to landlords, shopkeepers and farm-owners who employed wage laborers? Or by "middle class" is she referring to people with a university education? Frustratingly, she provides no details. Supposedly the employment situation has changed from one of high unemployment to one of high employment. Could noone talk to folks from the worker councils at some of the worker-controlled collectives?

We also have the reports from DAF and KAF. The usual accusation is that DAF is too close to the PKK and become corrupted by association and has always been too soft on nationalism. There isn't a usual accusation on KAF, folks tend to quote KAF's earlier impressions, but as KAF spent more time in Rojava and talking to refugees from Rojava they have warmed further towards the Rojava revolution.

We also have this interesting Travel Account of a Karakök Autonome Activist who visited Suruç and interviewed the the refugees from Kobane there.

Karakök Autonome Activist wrote:
"I speak with people from Kobanê who have fled here to Suruç. They tell me about the citizens’ assemblies, the self-governing structures. Before I came, I wasn’t sure if the reports I had read and heard were true. Could it be that these tales of Rojava, the liberated region, were embellished? Will I hear from fleeing former Rojava residents that the self-governing structures don’t really have much bearing on day-to-day life but operate rather on the fringes while familiar party structures make up the actual government?

"But when I speak with residents here, I find that my doubts are unfounded. On the contrary: I am gaining higher esteem for the developments here, as I hear firsthand reports from youths, women, and elderly gentlemen. They describe the citizens’ assemblies, how everything is discussed and decided collectively, that everything is managed “from below.” They tell me about the women’s committees, the communes..."

"An older woman tells me about the structures in Rojava and paints a picture of a real-existing libertarian society, without using any theoretical terminology or throwing around the names of whatever libertarian gurus. Presumably she doesn’t know them, and that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Terms and names are superfluous, when there is reality."

It included this fascinating tidbit about the control of agricultural produce from one farmer that Tev-Dem wielded:

Karakök Autonome Activist wrote:
"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"

If folks are libcom were interested, I think it would be great to compile a list of questions we would actually like to ask workers in Rojava about "relations of exploitation: over the distribution of land, over assignment to different kinds of work, over prices and wages, over imports and exports" and conditions of work, safety, hours, etc...

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 17:00

To be fair, that all sounds really interesting. The thing is, I think where the problem stems from is that when people don't express support for the entire project - or harshly criticise some elements of it- some supporters tend to get really aggy. Ridiculous insults and accusations then get directed towards those being critical - something I think you'll agree we've seen a bit of this on thread.

Anyway, I know I should leave well enough alone...but I do want to point out that despite Owen's claim that the posters on this thread don't support the revolution because we're stuck in some time-warp of worshipping old bearded men, it's only been him (and maybe Kurrem?) who've quoted the the old-timey anarcho saints.

And, if I'm asked to give up a basic understanding of class and communism to support what's happening in Rojava, that really should give pause for thought - and I'm not being snarky this time.

(Last two paragraphs not directed at you, Flint.)

Agent of the In...
Apr 9 2015 17:12
kurrem wrote:
Well I do not know what is Lucien's reputation around here. But it is certainly very high for me. thanks to this and this awesome books. If anybody jumped over this, I am glad to put it to your notice. Well to be honest finding this out -kind of- fulfilled me as I am not occupying a wrong position in terms of social anarchism historically.

Unfortunately, there are some "anarchists" who have a rigid, static view of anarchism, rather than a view of anarchism as historically evolving and developing. So classical texts are read in a way, that all positions taken by the author are uncritically accepted, and passed over into the 21st century as the 'anarchist position', sometimes even in the same antiquated language.

That that position you find confirmed in a book as having the most influence on practice historically does not make it the correct position. And it certainly is not the 'anarchist position', as I try to make clear in one of my previous post, to which you responded that my "imagination is almost comical" or something like that.

Such "anarchists", like Owens, treat it as if it is a matter of picking a whole, neat package, a brand, a "libertarian municipalism", rejecting other packages, maybe on grounds of rejecting a reductionism (economism). In this case, Owens seems to believe he rejected and avoided reductionist thinking, without realizing his embrace of it in other forms (i.e. an abstract communitarian populism).

If that's all it comes down to, if that's anarchism for such "anarchists", then clearly they will remain incapable of understanding why many of their critics are anarchists as well.

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 17:21

Spikeymike

"asserting 'Your What If' scenarios' as a matter of belief that denies the actual experience of national liberation struggles"

As far as I'm aware, other national liberation struggles aspire to create a nation-state to replace the external colonial state they are subjugated under - thus leading to a class-collaborationist movement that just ends up substituting a foreign ruling class for a new indigenous ruling class (whether capitalist or state socialist).

The current incarnation of the PKK and its affiliates on the other hand - including the PYD in Rojava - have expressly abandond that goal in favour of creating a stateless, municipal-confederation made up of directly democratic communities and coordinated through inter-municipal administrative councils. This, it seems clear, makes it a qualitatively different kind of national liberation struggle, akin to the indigenous struggle of the the Zapatista national liberation army.

If most leftists in the Global North can see some value in supporting the Palestinian liberation struggle from Israel - which is led mostly by religious, authoritarian, nationalists - then why not the Kurdish struggle from Turkey and Syria just a few hundred miles north?

One point that sticks out is that the Palestinians are being subjugated by a U.S. ally, Israel, while the Rojavans have, at this present moment, shared interests with the U.S. in having the Middle East not be overrun by ISIS. One is led to believe that support for one and condemnation of the other is motivated by this kind of irrational anti-Americanism that sees anything it ever does as by definition "imperialist".

"and a clear prejudice against any of the more 'libertarian' marxist influenced communist tendencies of which you seem ignorant."

Did it never occur to you that I have a prejudice against such "libertarian" Marxist tendencies not because I am ignorant of them, but because they're silly and irrelevant to contemporary struggles? They're basically just ideas borrowed from social anarchism tainted by their continued reliance on outdated, economistic Marxian economics/sociology.

Pannekoek's Council Communism in particular has been pretty much useless since the 1920s.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 17:28

I really should leave it alone...

Quote:
If most leftists in the Global North can see some value in supporting the Palestinian liberation struggle from Israel - which is led mostly by religious, authoritarian, nationalists - then why not the Kurdish struggle from Turkey and Syria just a few hundred miles north?

Again, you're pretty ignorant of the politics of the site and of basic anarchist ideas. You can support Palestinians in their struggle against Israel without supporting an Palestinian state, Hamas, whatever. Just like you can support Kurds in Kobane without supporting the PKK or supposedly libertarian non-nationalist nation-building projects.

Quote:
Did it never occur to you that I have a prejudice against such "libertarian" Marxist tendencies not because I am ignorant of them, but because they're silly and irrelevant to contemporary struggles?

And, again for good measure...

If I'm asked to give up a basic understanding of class and communism to support what's happening in Rojava, that really should give pause for thought - and I'm not being snarky this time.

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 17:38
Quote:
*Ahem*. I am a class-struggle anarchist (and certainly not a Bookchinite, god forbid...). As indeed are the various Anarkismo-affiliated groups.

Not all class struggle anarchists are ultraleft orthodox Marxists. Some of us still refer back to the anarchism of Bakunin and Malatesta

Agreed. I should clarify that my critical remarks are directed more that those self-described anarchists who root themselves at the theoretical level more with Marxism. And many of the people I've been responding to here are not anarchists at all but self-described Marxists.

As a Social Ecologist I may disagree with the overall class strugglist perspective in favour of (what I find is) a more broad conception of social struggle which includes class struggle and workplace organising, but within a larger framework of trans-class organising centred around democratised localities. That's not to say there isn't a lot of good work done by class struggle anarchists and that they have a lot of good ideas. Most of the anarchists here in Ireland come from the class struggle angle and I have enormous respect for them.

My issue is more with class reductionism - whether anarchist or Marxist - which has led most of the Libcomers to deny there is, or ever can be, any liberatory potential in Rojava (or Chiapas) because it doesn't fit with the predetermined Marxist script for how revolutions are supposed to occur. I find that this is an ideology of inertia and purism which makes one write off anything that doesn't fit within a certain practical framework (workers fluent in Marxian concepts, organising primarily around workplaces) leading to nothing getting accomplished as no movement for change can ever be so specific and pure.

Red Marriott
Apr 9 2015 17:40

Flint quotes from;

Quote:
Tev-Dem, Project for a Democratic Syria wrote:
All the constituent peoples in the Syrian community— Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, and Turkmen, as well as Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis—cross boundaries: that is, the lands where they live do not begin or end at the state borders. This diversity will foster correct and healthy relations with neighboring countries, and it will also form a fertile ground for the construction of democratic confederal relationships that will spread in the Middle East, one that inherently rejects ethnic and religious nationalism as well as the nation-state... The transition from an authoritarian, nationalist, and chauvinistic structure to a decentralized democratic system in which everyone shares in self-management

But the document reads overall to me like a social-democratic plan for Kurdish regional autonomy within the umbrella of the larger Syrian statehood. As described elsewhere; http://libcom.org/history/stalinist-caterpillar-libertarian-butterfly-ev... - the PKK ‘anti-statism’ seems (since Ocalan went to jail) limited to dropping the demand for a separate Kurdish state. In light of the interpretation of Tev-Dem by Rojav supporters as revolutionary vanguard it begs the question - if Tev-Dem is really so radical and at the heart of an “anti-capitalist” and “anti-state” “revolution” you have to wonder why they put out a statement less than a month ago that so contradicts those goals;

Quote:
one that effectively provides for the participation of peoples and of diverse small groups and even individuals, so as to build, protect, and develop a new democratic regime....

determination and commitment to a constructing a democratic, pluralistic, decentralized, secular Syria based on respect for the democratic rights of each constituent as provided for by laws and international norms and guaranteed by a new democratic constitution. ...

the first demand of a democratic Syria is that it recognize the rights of all ethnic and religious groups to manage themselves according to their own free will, and to put no obstacles on the path of becoming a national democratic society. It must affirm the democratic the right of peoples to self-determination.

Democracy and the state can play their roles under the same political roof, and the democratic constitution sets the boundaries between their spheres of influence. If the ruling state is really committed to democracy, it should not hamper it or impose a ban on the formation of a democratic society.

In the Democratic Nation, those rights will be guaranteed in a constitution, including a right to semi-democratic independence. Thus, all of Syria’s genuine social constituents can have the character of free individual in a democratic community along with the constitutional citizenship of the mother state, interactively and synchronously. In other words, citizenship will be bilateral and dual. (TEV-DEM, 18/3/2015) http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/tev-dem-an...

If one's 'anti-statism' is limited to choosing regional autonomy over separate statehood - well, it's absurd and misleading to confuse that with the revolutionary anti-statism of anarchism/anti-state marxism/libertarian communism which realise the necessity of a struggle to abolish all states and which have an explicit critique of claims that winning some form of statehood can be a transitional part of struggle towards that.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 17:45
Quote:
As a Social Ecologist I may disagree with the overall class strugglist perspective in favour of (what I find is) a more broad conception of social struggle which includes class struggle and workplace organising, but within a larger framework of trans-class organising centred around democratised localities.

So, let's clarify this one more time, and apologies for the all caps: CLASS STRUGGLE DOES NOT JUST MEAN WORKPLACE STRUGGLE.

Again, you're setting up a strawman that could be disproved by looking at, I don't know, the website of any major British anarchist organisation - all of which are going to theoretically cover and be involved with tenants struggles, claimants struggles, student struggles, and community organising.

At least drop that one strawman, for the love of God.

What the hell "trans-class" means is anybody's guess...

Flint
Apr 9 2015 17:49
Connor Owens wrote:
One is led to believe that support for one and condemnation of the other is motivated by this kind of irrational anti-Americanism that sees anything it ever does as by definition "imperialist".

The award for the most idiotic anti-Americanism would go to the Workers World Party for their ongoing support for Ba'athists like Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad. That is, they would get the award if the Spartacists hadn't already won it by supporting Daesh against the YPG/YPJ: "imperialist intervention means that revolutionary Marxists have a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and their proxies, including the Syrian Kurdish nationalists, the pesh merga, the Baghdad government and its Shi’ite militias."

Just as anti-semitism is the socialism of idiots, Anti-Americanism is the anti-imperialism of idiots.

The non-intervention "is it full communism yet?" gang could certainly have worse positions.

Flint
Apr 9 2015 17:53
Red Marriott wrote:
Flint quotes from;
Tev-Dem, Project for a Democratic Syria
But the document reads overall to me like a social-democratic plan for Kurdish regional autonomy within the umbrella of the larger Syrian statehood.

That particular document is what Tev-Dem is laying out to the rest of Syria what their requirements for peace would be, not their full platform for social organization in Rojava.

As I have stated elsewhere, I think the document is far too accommodating to markets. However, as a negotiation position for folks to STOP SHOOTING EACH OTHER, its pretty good and demands a surprising lot out of the rest of Syria in regards to multi-culturalism and women's rights.

I quoted it earlier to point out that they aren't trying to create a Kurdish nation-state but want a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. Because people keep claiming they have the same nationalist ideology the had back in the day and hadn't changed their perspective. They have.