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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Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 18:21

Before anybody else here wants to tear my words apart some more, check out this article (responding to the one above) which summarises many of the points being made by those anarchists - class-strugglists and Social Ecologists - who've been supporting Rojava.

http://www.kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/dear-m...

Though incidentally, I actually don't think the author is being critical enough in his analysis of the events. For instance, the PKKs Stalinist/nationalist past and Abdullah Ocalan's cult of personality are indeed big problems that need to be addressed by any anarchists who claim to support what they're now engaged in and want to offer constructive criticism of their democratic project.

He also could have provided more analysis of the Rojavan economy. For that, some general info can be found here:

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

Flint
Apr 9 2015 18:54

This is a really unfortunately named series of articles.

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 20:59

Pennoid

Quote:
All else is reform, of some sort, whether nationalist, racial, gender, social democratic etc. National interests do not lead to revolution if pursued, just like craft, industrial, or other particular interests.

I disagree with this suggestion too much to say anything, do you wonder why? Because this:

Quote:
I guess it's a hard pill to swallow but, sometimes there isn't a very revolutionary thing you can do.

Or this:

Quote:
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.

Pennoid you are proving Owen's points over and over again. Owen says exactly this kind of pure working class struggle can never work and is doomed to failure to be always stay the secondary (for people at the social level). And you wrote these paragraphs and you still do not see you are being like a case example for Owen.

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 19:00
Quote:
This is a really unfortunately named series of articles.

And Kevin Carson might be next to chime in.

If you read this Kevin, this might be an appropriate title: Dear Mr. Class Strugglist ...

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 19:00

radicalgraffiti
Your lie about Graeber was illustrative of the intellectual level of attacks against him -in general. Bunch of people just slandering and now outright lying. This is why now I have to check everything I read in this forums.

Quote:
Graber was telling people to sign a petition for the USAF to bomb ISIS

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 21:00

Red Marriott

Quote:
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) the PKK ‘anti-statism’ seems (since Ocalan went to jail) limited to dropping the demand for a separate Kurdish state.

No it does not say that: it says as Ocalan is in the prison Ocalan's open and undefined writing are filled by activists and guerrillas themselves.This free space is not a bad thing according to me.

Btw his pro-kurdish state position is dropped since he went to jail. You get it completely wrong here -or the article but I don't remember such bizarre error in it- ) There is an explosion of anti-state writings actually in different kurdish movement sources. He now argues for a stateless confederative Kurdish society based on self-organisation. And what Ocalan's open words are filled is exampled by flint quite nicely in a post, see: " Flint Apr 9 2015 16:46 " (see comments page: 6)

Flint
Apr 9 2015 19:08
Connor Owens wrote:
Quote:
This is a really unfortunately named series of articles.

this might be an appropriate title: Dear Mr. Class Strugglist ...

That's not particularly good reference point either. The Anarkismo groups have been supportive and they self-identify as class struggle anarchists.

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 19:26

Two of the articles began with "Dear Mr Anarchist ..." and were written by anarchists for other anarchists. I think it's clear that it wouldn't apply to all class strugglists if it were called that.

Still, maybe you're right. "Dear Mr Old Left Workerist ..." perhaps?

rat
Apr 9 2015 19:24
Connor Owens wrote:
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.

Connor Owens, you can't really separate anarchism from class struggle, no more than you can communism from class struggle.

Also, when you say "a larger framework of trans-class..." That just reads as promoting cross-class politics, as in workers mucking in with capitalists, because they share same interests and are part of the same people, or nation, the Kurdish people, the British people, Irish people, African people.

radicalgraffiti
Apr 9 2015 19:38
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
radicalgraffiti
Your lie about Graeber was illustrative of the intellectual level of attacks against him -in general. Bunch of people just slandering and now outright lying. This is why now I have to check everything I read in this forums.

Quote:
Graber was telling people to sign a petition for the USAF to bomb ISIS

hey i misremembered a petition for the US to give the YPG weapons, as one for the US to bomb ISIS, thats not a lie, i already pointed out i made a mistake in a previous post.

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 19:31
Quote:
when you say "a larger framework of trans-class..." That just reads as promoting cross-class politics

By trans-class, I don't mean cross-class. I mean incorporating forms of struggle that aren't directly tied to economics - queer liberation, women's liberation, anti-statist forms of national liberation, ecology, animal welfare, indigenous recognition, etc - in a way in which they're not relegated to a secondary role compared to class issues.

I also categorically do not mean integrating members of the ruling class or even necessarily the professional-managerial classes into social struggle.

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 20:16

Chilli

Quote:
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.

So if you said the quote below quote just because as a reaction to it (above), I kind of get it Chilli (as you might have observed what time I had in this forums like months now.) But I hope you do not really think like what you wrote below (after Flints examples of postive content of Rojava as you also approved.)

Quote:
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.

1) Well I know you might be feeling so, due to nature of Owen's comments. Let them be for now, Ok?
2) The real point is what you call here as "basic" is not basic at all, If you need to abandon it to support Rojava. ( I mind you you are not writing PYD or PKK) I am not sure what constitutes a basic understanding of class and communism that prevents communists from opposing racial/ethnic oppression or people's right to live without wars or people's organisations to fight against such monstrosities.

Because if you make such a statement then looking back a bit history I really do not find much really first of all none of the anarchist "fathers were communists then they were merely anti-proletarian ideologues then. Well Marx supported Paris Commune which did not abolished property, he also supported Irish struggle (and some other oppressed groups struggles). Believe me I am honest and I really do not want to be bad with you but if you take that road then -not only suddenly all communist/anarchist "fathers" in history seems to be a confused revolutionary about the basics (even for their own periods) - but also socialist movement in general seems to disappear. It somehow looks that Socialism (in general) is not a concrete war to establish in this world but an idea -and a one which is nearly all the time wrongly understood by all it "occurred to". This is of course a wrong approach to history of socialism (well according to me) And such interpretation is what Owen rightly opposes (but using very wrong approaches and terms for this discussion to happen, plus in very long forms -Though in all honesty again I can not criticize Owen much: as I also did it myself (but not for social ecology) )

So I do not think anyone really need to give up anything "basic" to support Rojava and bottom up structures there. However if it is AFEDs leftcoms etc... (well I do not most of them really) position you mean as "basic" (which I do not think you do) then it is whole another story.
.

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 20:26

Agent of the Fi...

Quote:
in one of my previous post, to which you responded that my "imagination is almost comical" or something like that.

I responded like that because you write such stuff as:

Quote:
the 'nation' is a fundamentally nationalist concept, and national liberation movements are always class-collaborationist, state building projects.

So there is nation because we keep repeating that huh? And also look at this all spesificity and "nuances" (as you liked so much in AFEDs position somehow) in the argument or rather assertion. It appears that you have seen all.

Quote:
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.

Who are you to teach me Bakunin? And in all my honesty I can not believe this "if there would be Bakunin here he would surely be opposed to you and Rojava" -imagination- merits to a reply.

Well if you really want to know why I do not want to reply back to you you should search for the reason in your baseless assertions.

Edit: I removed a quote, this was already longer than it should be for a useless discussion

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 20:19

radicalgraffiti

Quote:
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
radicalgraffiti
Your lie about Graeber was illustrative of the intellectual level of attacks against him -in general. Bunch of people just slandering and now outright lying. This is why now I have to check everything I read in this forums.
Quote:
Graber was telling people to sign a petition for the USAF to bomb ISIS
hey i misremembered a petition for the US to give the YPG weapons, as one for the US to bomb ISIS, thats not a lie, i already pointed out i made a mistake in a previous post.

Well I also can not find anything related to it either.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 20:21
Connor Owens wrote:

By trans-class, I don't mean cross-class. I mean incorporating forms of struggle that aren't directly tied to economics - queer liberation, women's liberation, anti-statist forms of national liberation, ecology, animal welfare, indigenous recognition, etc - in a way in which they're not relegated to a secondary role compared to class issues.

The all-caps didn't do it, then?

Quote:
"Dear Mr Old Left Workerist ..." perhaps?

And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 20:49

INTERVENTION

Are we allowed to do such a thing? grin Let's stop maybe to call: All critics of Rojava as class struggle people and also, it would be good if we stop fearing that we will lose our class position the moment we approve people's self-organisations and their right to be not to be killed in a war or speak their language or be subjected to ethnic discrimination in Rojava, Ok?

Edit: I corrected the sentence

Serge Forward
Apr 9 2015 20:27
Quote:
And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

My money's on Connor simply being a troll.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 20:34
Quote:
So I do not think anyone really need to give up anything "basic" to support Rojava and bottom up structures there.

Kurrem, that post was in response to Owen and his premise that 'outdated economist Marxist structures' are no longer legitimate and if I just understood that I'd see how great the Rojava revolution is.

Like I've said time and again, I'm more than willing to believe there's worthwhile stuff happening on the ground. At the same time, I'm going to criticize the organisations and ideas that I think will hamper any successful class movement.

What I won't do is somehow buy into a belief that basic communist ideas about what defines class and oppression are no longer/never were relevant. And I don't think you agree with Owens on that point, but he's not the first gung-ho Rojava person I've seen make those type of arguments.

And, one one hand, I sort of get it. People feel defeated and pessimistic about revolutionary prospects in their own countries so when a "revolution" comes along, it's exciting. I mean, fuck, it's nice to feel like we're winning for once - especially when the leading organisations are using "our" language. The problem is that the situation in Kobane is messy and there's a lot of shit happening that should worry anarchists and which anarchists need to be critical of if they want to remain true to their principles.

Agent of the In...
Apr 9 2015 20:39
Chilli Sauce wrote:
And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

All of these back-to-back responses by Owen, Kurrem and Flint brings to mind the post I wrote on the anarcho-trollism phenomenon, which is a bit dated but certainly relevant.

[Note in advance, I apologize to Webby, for I mentioned him in that post, and no longer consider him in that group.]

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2015 20:36
Serge Forward wrote:
Quote:
And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

My money's on Connor simply being a troll.

Quite a succesful one, in that case I'm afraid.

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 20:37
Serge Forward wrote:
Quote:
And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

My money's on Connor simply being a troll.

In fairness I've seen long-term regular posters here being much trollier. I don't agree with Connor's Social Ecologist politics. But he has been fairly straight about putting them forward. Wrong, but not a troll, for my money. How much we talking? tongue

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 20:39
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
And, really, this is just trolling by this point. Are you actually interested in trying to convince people or just getting people's backs up?

All of these back-to-back responses by Owen, Kurrem and Flint brings to mind the post I wrote on the anarcho-trollism phenomenon, which is a bit dated but certainly relevant.

[Note, I apologize to Webby, for I mentioned him in that post, and no longer consider him in that group.]

*sigh*. Always the silent partner... (*rolls eyes*)

Black Badger
Apr 9 2015 20:41
Quote:
My money's on Connor simply being a troll.

I guess you haven't encountered too many Bookchinites or Social Ecologists then.

Serge Forward
Apr 9 2015 20:46
ocelot wrote:
How much we talking? tongue

I'm quietly confident here, so that's ten pence on the table from me grin

rat
Apr 9 2015 20:52
Connor Owens wrote:
By trans-class, I don't mean cross-class. I mean incorporating forms of struggle that aren't directly tied to economics - queer liberation, women's liberation, anti-statist forms of national liberation, ecology, animal welfare, indigenous recognition, etc - in a way in which they're not relegated to a secondary role compared to class issues.

"anti-statist forms of national liberation" Is such an idea possible? A nation without a state? I don't think so.

From the rest of the list that you mention, it seems that only animal welfare may not be divided by class.

kurekmurek
Apr 9 2015 21:02

Flint, Owen:

Quote:
Connor Owens wrote:
Quote:
This is a really unfortunately named series of articles.
this might be an appropriate title: Dear Mr. Class Strugglist ...

That's not particularly good reference point either. The Anarkismo groups have been supportive and they self-identify as class struggle anarchists.

As the latest one in the series was: "Dear Mr. Anarchist, You Aren’t Listening" maybe the next one can be " I am all ears, cheerleader". grin Maybe I should message this to rooieravotr grin

Flint
Apr 9 2015 21:12

Thats now what trolling means, Agent of the Fifth International.

Trolls are usually disingenous with their opening flame bait. I know that I am sincere and arguing in what I think is in good faith here. I even think there have been some folks who grudgingly now admit that I am correct on some points that there are interesting things afoot in Rojava. I've also participated in the libcom forums for 9 years 16 weeks, though at times very sporadically. I actually am rather sympathetic to how much libcom.org is inspired by some ultra-left arguments. First radical reading group I ever got involved with around 1997 was around Collective Action Notes published here in Balitmore. I was involved with the WSA, and then involved with NEFAC and now Black Rose.

Just because people disagree with you doesn't mean they are trolling. Just because people disagree with you and engage you in debate doesn't mean they intend to "take over your organization" (though I think libcom forums are as much "mine" as "yours"). People do debate in the interest of changing opinions. Whether that is even possible on an internet forum conversation might be dubious. I've changed my mind on matters occasionally from a good argument. But usually, particularly for strongly held opinions, cognitive dissonance usually gets in the way of people changing their minds and folks tend to double down on an opinion even if presented with facts to the contrary. With such a complicated and evolving situation as Rojava, even basic facts about the situation are subject to skepticism; and sometimes the facts are contradictory. You could pretty much assume that of any situation of such intensity, such as during a genuine social revolution.

Several points brought up by folks critical of TEVDEM or the PYD are actually good points of criticism. I don't have a problem admitting where I agree and what I see as problematic. Such as: conscription, cult of personality, nationalism, landlords and incomplete collectivization, etc...

However, in my opinion, this debate in particular has been plagued by some people who do not argue in good faith and some of their debating rhetoric is intellectually dishonest. Sometimes there are genuine mistakes folks make that they have trouble swallowing crow over. If someone's arguments is filled with pejorative insults, broad sweeping comparisons, hyperbole, argument for a priori principles inspite of facts, and dismissing information from the ground that is counter to their positions--it can make for a very frustrating experience.

Red Marriott
Apr 9 2015 21:06
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
Red Marriott wrote:

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) the PKK ‘anti-statism’ seems (since Ocalan went to jail) limited to dropping the demand for a separate Kurdish state.

No it does not say that: it says as Ocalan is in the prison Ocalan's open and undefined writing are filled by activists and guerrillas themselves.This free space is not a bad thing according to me.

No, the article says the opposite about the period since Ocalan went to jail;

Quote:
After the capture of Öcalan, the PKK-presidium declared that he is ’our leader but he is captured. His directions are no longer binding’. For an underground movement, this was a common sense statement to make but the PKK quickly made a u-turn ; in July an enlarged meeting of the central committee adopted Öcalan’s defense plea as the new party manifesto or ’Second Manifesto’. In their book ’PKK. Perspektiven des kurdischen Freiheitkampfes : Zwischen Selbsbestimmung, EU und Islam’, Nikolaus Brauns and Brigitte Kiechle write ; ’Öcalan’s authority was so great, that the PKK presidium, whether it liked it or not, had to take this step if it didn’t want to lose its influence over the party or even be branded as traitors.’ [44] Captured or not, Öcalan remained the önderlik.
Öcalan’s new orientation, now made party policy, was unacceptable even for many previously loyal followers of Apo. Thousands left the movement. [45] A small number of PKK-leaders unsuccessfully opposed the new orientation and the end of the armed struggle that was officially adopted at the PKK’s seventh congress of February 2000. Leading figures like like Meral Kidir, general secretary of DHP (Revolutionary Peoples Party), an off-shoot of the PKK, and Mehmet Can Yüce criticized the new orientation from the jails were they were held by the Turkish state. A DHP statement responded by declaring ; ’Liquidation and provocations, which were all smashed until today, cannot succeed. The fate of provocations and liquidation which is imposed will be the same.’ After the seventh party-congress, Serxwebun threatened the dissidents with the ’most severe punishment’ under ’conditions of war’. The dissidents were unable to formulate any other alternative except a continuation of the failed people’s war strategy and were quickly sidelined. As a sign of goodwill, Öcalan ordered the PKK guerrillas to withdraw from Turkish territory. Many of them were killed as the Turkish army attacked the retreating fighters.

That completely contradicts your description of what the article supposedly said – of a “free space” for debate opening up “filled by activists and guerrillas themselves”.

On the demand for a Kurdish state the article says, as I described;

Quote:
It was not only socialism as a social-economic system that was gradually pushed aside by this socialism of the new man. Something similar happened in PKK statements about Kurdish self-determination. In the second half of the eighties, the PKK would mention less and less the goal of a ’independent and united Kurdistan’, instead talking about a ’Free Kurdistan’, a formulation that leaves more ambiguity about the political goal.

Terms like ’freedom’ and ’independence’ were used more and more to talk about individual, ’spiritual’ goals, referring to this new personality, instead of to statehood. This theme became especially strong in Öcalan’s statement before the court in 1999, partly published as ’Declaration on the Democratic Solution of the Kurdish Question’ and in the prison writings. In these texts, Öcalan claimed that already before his imprisonment he used terms like ’freedom’ and ’self-determination’ mainly to refer to individuals, and not peoples. He even claimed that the PKK was never secessionist, a statement that contradicts the vehement insistence from 1978 that anything less than an independent Kurdistan (specified to be under occupation from Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) would be betrayal. Despite the other ideological renovations, the 1995 program insisted that an independent Kurdish state was the final goal of the movement.

Öcalan would after 1993, when the PKK made a cease-fire offer to the Turkish state, start to talk about a political settlement to the conflict and declared a break-up of the Turkish state was not a precondition to such a settlement. But this didn’t exclude the possibility that an independent (and ’socialist’) Kurdish state would remain the final goal, one that could possible be fought for with other means than armed struggle. This is certainly how many PKK-members and supporters read these declarations. When shortly before his capture Öcalan was declaring that a ’democratic alternative’ could be achieved on the basis of Turkish recognition of the Kurdish identity, a federated parliament and within the existing borders of Turkey, he was contradicting the PKK’s official program. When in 1999 Öcalan in his defense speech emphatically denied the goal of a Kurdish state, even in the long run, thousands of PKK-supporters left in disillusionment. [24]

... It was not only history that was revised by Öcalan. He insisted that the goal of an independent Kurdish state was impossible, even in the long term, and that this was not even desirable. Even the ideas of Kurdish autonomy or a federative parliament, which Öcalan had suggested shortly before his capture, went out of the window. The ’democratic solution’ that Öcalan instead proposed in his defense plea published as ’Declaration on the Democratic Settlement of the Kurdish Settlement’ was that Turkey would recognize the existence of the Kurds and respect basic democratic rights like freedom of speech and the use of the Kurdish language. This would supposedly suffice to make Turkey into a democratic society that could transcend the conflict ; ’I wish to emphasize that it [meaning ’democracy’] transcends tension and conflict with a wonderful balance. That it has ideal governments which, thanks to the suitability of democratic state institutions for such a purpose, can offer a solution without allowing different kinds of politics and the forces behind these to come into conflict’. [39][/b]

An ideologeme that recurs since the ’Declaration on the Democratic Settlement’ is that of ’democratic civilization’, which the PKK now declares to be its goal. In this text, Öcalan explained he took the term from a 1964 book by US sociologist Leslie Lipson : a study of the development of the parliamentary system in western societies. In his recent prison writings, the term takes center-place, now without being credited. What exactly this ’democratic civilization’ is for Öcalan remains unclear.

But it is clear Öcalan, at the latest beginning with the ’Declaration on the Democratic Settlement’, became an admirer of western parliamentary democracy. In it he repeatedly refers to it as a model for Turkey. The statement contained long quotes from Lipson describing the political system of Switzerland which Öcalan used as an example of how in a single country, different social-cultural groups can live together. According to Öcalan, this could be an example for Turkish-Kurdish co-existence in a single state. Later, Öcalan became an enthusiastic supporter of Turkey joining the European Union, hoping this would force Turkey to introduce democratic reforms that would bring closer the ’democratic republic’. http://libcom.org/history/stalinist-caterpillar-libertarian-butterfly-ev...

kurre wrote:
Btw his pro-kurdish state position is dropped since he went to jail. You get it completely wrong here -or the article but I don't remember such bizarre error in it- )

No, you seem to get what I and the article said wrong – I said a Kurdish state position was dropped since he went to jail and the article confirms that. And Tev-Dem – considered by supporters the most radical voice of Rojava - have repeatedly expressed, as I described and quoted, a desire for what can fairly be termed a type of regional autonomy within a larger state or states.

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 21:19
Connor Owens wrote:
Quote:
when you say "a larger framework of trans-class..." That just reads as promoting cross-class politics

By trans-class, I don't mean cross-class. I mean incorporating forms of struggle that aren't directly tied to economics - queer liberation, women's liberation, anti-statist forms of national liberation, ecology, animal welfare, indigenous recognition, etc - in a way in which they're not relegated to a secondary role compared to class issues.

I also categorically do not mean integrating members of the ruling class or even necessarily the professional-managerial classes into social struggle.

OK, having just labelled you as "wrong", I guess I at least owe you some explanation, even if it may end up being more mystifying at the end than when I began. Oh well.

I note your reference to Nitzan and Bichler (sp?) earlier in the thread. Which chimes in with the above and many other folk (from the "Kyriarchy", through most intersectionalists to, whisper it, Toni Negri). You have what I would call a "flat ontology". That is, there is only a single immanent plane on which all forms of domination operate, and exploitation and "classism" is simply another form of domination.

The opposite (but also wrong, imo) is the strong, unidirectional dualist ontology that sees two planes, one of domination and one of exploitation. Roughly corresponding to the political/economic divide of capitalist society (ontological doubling, as it is sometimes also called). The "unidirectional" bit means that the economic plane of exploitation determines what happens in the plane of political domination (oppression), or at least manipulates what happens in the latter instrumentally (note agent/intentionality problem). Base/superstructure. In the most extreme version, the true believers in "Historical Materialism"(tm) as understood from a vulgar reading of Marx's 1857 Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, extends this to a trans-historical eternal rule. Thus ironizing the term "historical materialism" into meaning it's complete opposite, but I digress...

The alternative to these two poles, which I hold, is that social relations can - abstractly - be categorised in different typologies, as relations of domination, production, reproduction, exploitation. In different historical modes of production the way these are combined or subsumed within the configuration of the others changes. So for example, in capitalism, the relative autonomisation of the relations of domination and production, through commoditisation and exchange, mean that the relations of exploitation are subsumed under the relations of production (and to a certain extent reproduction). Whereas in feudalism, for e.g., the relations of exploitation are carried out through the mediation of the relations of domination, externally to the relations of production, which, given peasant production, are relatively marginally social.

Which is to say, that I reject the ahistorical idea of base/superstructure as secret of all history. I accept the real relative separation of political power and economic power in capitalism (hence I reject Negri, Nitzan & Bichler, and apparently Bookchin, if your interpretation is correct).

I told you it would get mystifying, The problem of trying to compress too much into comment posts.

Incidentally, on Chilli's "basic idea of class". In my opinion there's no such thing as "basic" when it comes to class. The articles I've written on class have had to be savagely edited to get under 6-7K word limits, Chilli himself has written many 1000s of word on the subject, over the posts on this site, none of the "basic", and mostly not repeating what has been written before. So, I express my scepticism at his sudden retreat to "good old fashion notions of class". Just saying...

Connor Owens
Apr 9 2015 21:24

We need a new internet law for situations like this akin to Poe's law or Lewis's law.

To placate my own ego, let's call it Connor's law: "any person with an opinion so far removed from the rest of a forum is indistinguishable from a troll"

For three days now we have all left a trail of destruction in our wake, a seven page legacy of insults, misunderstandings, deliberate misreadings, differences in terminology being mistaken for differences in beliefs, and a general sense that this issue for anarchists has ended up becoming what's called a differend: a dispute that's irresolvable because neither party can agree to the other's terms of reference. As a result, I think it's pretty obvious at this point that most of us have just been talking past each other due to our fundamental inability to sympathise with the other side's point of view, or even understand what that point of view is.

Personally, I'm not really sure what's to be learned from any of this. Because short of us all hopping on a plane and seeing Rojava ourselves first hand and arguing about what's going on based on first-person empirical evidence, I'm not sure either the pro or anti (or "neither", but really anti) sides will be able to convince the other as we can't even seem to understand the other.