Dear cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism

Wearing the flag of Ocalan

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

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

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

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

First failure: mr Anarchist is no anarchist

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

Second failure: relying on vidence from on high

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Failure: imperialism left out of the picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Posted By

Apr 4 2015 21:25


Attached files


Connor Owens
Apr 10 2015 18:38
I do assert that there are indeed real, clear differences in the level of theoretical content, regardless of how it is expressed, in this thread. I do not think its just a matter of "differences in terminology being mistaken for differences in beliefs".

I never said there weren't clear differences. I think you know pretty well that you've taken that quote out of context as it was part of a whole list of things wrong with this thread.

I also take issue with the Owens and the like, who clearly have not seriously considered what such theory that they hold so dearly would mean in practice. Like really, what would a "trans-class movement", a "libertarian municipalism", a "social ecology" mean in practice over here (in the US, UK, or whatever) OR even over there, in the 'Rojava Revolution'?

I explained in multiple comments what it would mean, both in the Global North and in Rojava, most especially in a long comment to Ocelot clarifying the Social Ecologist position on class and hierarchy.

If you're too lazy to bother reading those comments - let alone even a single theoretical work by Bookchin, John P. Clark, Takis Fotopoulos, Brian Morris, Brian Tokar, Janet Biehl, or other Social Ecologists - then I'm afraid the problem lies with you in refusing to even read the literature, not me for not explaining it to you and wasting my time when you could easily look up the info yourself.

If its too " disingenuous", "offensive", "insulting", maybe you can respond with a post with further insults, maybe throw in the usual "Marxo-Anarchist" one liner, more straw mans. Just go ahead. I don't mind.

The use of the term Marxo-anarchist was not an insult of any kind. It was a description. It was referring to self-described anarchists such as the ones on Libcom who root their ideas mainly in Marxism (but with anarchist politics) instead of in classical or modern anarchist thought. It could also equally apply to self-described Marxists like Spikeymike who have (or present themselves as having) libertarian politics. If you find such associations with Marx "insulting", then why do you defer to his thought so much?

Agent of the In...
Apr 10 2015 18:51
Connor Owens wrote:
The use of the term Marxo-anarchist was not an insult of any kind. It was a description. It was referring to self-described anarchists such as the ones on Libcom who root their ideas mainly in Marxism (but with anarchist politics) instead of in classical or modern anarchist thought. It could also equally apply to self-described Marxists like Spikeymike who have (or present themselves as having) libertarian politics.

Did each and every one of us officially declare our political self-identification at the very beginning of this discussion, and our roots in "Marxism" (whatever you mean by that)? I think I missed that part.

Agent of the In...
Apr 10 2015 19:10

'Okay, settle down, before we begin our discussion of the important issue of the day, I think its important we loudly proclaim our politics, one by one. Shall we?'

And so they did, one by one:




'Left com.'



'Class struggle anarchist.'


'Left Marxist.'

After a moment of silence,

'I think we are done here...... wait, wait a minute, the gentleman all the way in the back. You with us?'

And everyone turned around and the man looked up and declared,

"social ecological libertarian municipalist Bookchinite!"

Connor Owens
Apr 10 2015 21:37


But I'm not actually a libertarian municipalist. I identify far more with Bookchin's thought from the 1960s to the mid 1980s, with its greater plurality of approaches to social struggle, than the more rigid, programmatic turn he took in the 1990s and especially 2000s.

Nor would it be accurate to define any Social Ecologist as a "Bookchinite", except perhaps Bookchin himself. Anarchists describe their positions after idea and practices. Not after people. Doing so implies fidelity to the person instead of fidelity to their theories.

Guerre de Classe
Apr 11 2015 16:02

Red Marriott wrote:

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.

rat wrote:

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

The State is not merely a structure of government, police, army and administrative apparatus… The State, as the communist movement grasps it, is a social relation, a materialization of capitalist world order, no matter whether its legitimacy is based on parliament or community assemblies. If therefore PKK and its PYD’s henchmen claim that they do not seek to create a State, it is just because in reality they already – due to their role, practical and ideological, they play in Rojava – represent the State. This is what some of PKK’s partisans call quite rightly “a State without a State”, i.e. a State that doesn’t necessarily territorialize as a Nation-State, but which ultimately really constitutes a State in the sense that capitalist social relations, private property, are not fundamentally challenged.

Indeed, contrary to all the idealistic beliefs conveyed by the dominant ideology, and therefore also by a large number of proletarians in struggle and militants, contrary to how the State is grasped generally, that is to say while being reduced to an “apparatus”, an “institution”, or a simple “structure”, the State is not a “neutral” tool that the proletariat could take in hand and use as such for its own purposes or even something that could be transformed from “vertical” decision-making into “horizontal” decision-making (fetishism and misery of federalism!) or even something that could be remove by single decree and voluntaristic will. A large number of revolutionaries of the past, whether they were “anarchists”, “communists”, “Marxists”, “revolutionary socialists”, etc., always grasped the State as a “tool” or quite simply as “the government”…

The State is a social relation, composed of various apparatuses (government, parliament, police, army, employers, unions, political parties, school system, etc.) combined with many ideologies that make it strong (parliamentarianism, religion, positivism, authoritarianism, etc.). The State is a social relation that reproduces even within our struggles, and which we vehemently fight against.

The State is a social relation and at the present level of the development of class societies (and capitalism is the ultimate outcome of this development as a synthesis of previous modes of production), the State can only be the State of the capitalists, and therefore it can only be destroyed not through simple reforms (whether “radical” they may appear) but rather through the force of social revolution, through the movement of subversion of this world that will terminate all shapes of exploitation to hand over to the communist society…

Black Badger
Apr 11 2015 17:28
Nor would it be accurate to define any Social Ecologist as a "Bookchinite", except perhaps Bookchin himself. Anarchists describe their positions after idea and practices. Not after people. Doing so implies fidelity to the person instead of fidelity to their theories.

Anarchists all-too frequently choose to follow the edicts and scriptures of various theoreticians; just because anarchists don't call ourselves after a person or persons doesn't mean we are therefore immune from ideological rigidity based on the ideas of a chosen dominant thinker/writer/celebrity. Fidelity to a dominant set of practices often results in the same sort of ideological competition and stupidity.

If you don't believe me, maybe you'll consider what a former Bookchinite has to say (incidentally, I was probably the first person to call Morse that, way back in the 1990s).

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 17:35

At this point I'm just so weary of all the Marxist attacks on both Rojava and myself for supporting it (as a Social Ecologist) I don't even have the will to respond to the comment above.

All I can really say about this experience of trying to debate this issue with you on Libcom is that most of you just come across as deeply unpleasant people with a pretty warped view of the world - made all the worse by thinking your ideology is the objective truth, and therefore anything else must by definition be "bourgeois" or "liberal" or "nationalist".

Not sure what more there is to say really.

Serge Forward
Apr 11 2015 18:00
Connor Owens wrote:
most of you just come across as deeply unpleasant people with a pretty warped view of the world

Blimey, Connor is one of the nastiest pieces of work I've seen in a while on Libcom, someone whose strategy to win us all over has been to waltz onto this site, construct a ton of strawmen and slag the shit out of everyone here from the outset. Do you not realise that even those who actually agree with you are giving you a massive swerve, you unleasant fucking melt.

Black Badger
Apr 11 2015 18:06

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Marxist. Not all of the critiques of your perspectives come from an adherence to Marxism (in "Leninist drag" or otherwise). I frequently disagree quite heartily with many people on Libcom (and elsewhere), but I fully respect and support the stand of principled internationalism/anti-nationalism evidenced here.

(Bookchin's abandonment of class as an analytical tool has had a deleterious effect on Anglophone anarchist discourse for the past three decades. I say that as a non-syndicalist, anti-neoplatformist, rejector of the LTV. His eventual rejection of anarchism and his congealing of the parochialism of "libertarian municipalism/communalism" was a path too many of his champions [can't say "followers," right?] have also taken.)

Apr 11 2015 18:10

What's a "Marxist attack"? Hitting someone over the head with Dad Kapital? Though I guess you would use Theories of Surplus-Value as that's thicker.

But seriously, don't you realize how silly you sound when you make comments like that? And that unless you seriously change up the way you discuss you may as well leave because, as Serge said, even folks that may be closer to your point of view think you're a bellend.

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 20:26

Lotta cries of "strawman!" from people who spent the previous nine pages claiming I denied the importance of class/said class struggle wasn't important/denied the existence of class, and claiming I was a nationalist/Trotskyist/bourgeois/liberal.

Don't give it if you can't take it.

Apr 11 2015 20:33
Don't give it if you can't take it.

Exactly, why do you think people engage with you in the way they do?

Not sure what more there is to say really.

Then don't.

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 20:38
Not sure what more there is to say really.

Then don't.

Try to stop me Marxist.

Apr 11 2015 20:45

Hey, it was just a suggestion (and it's not like I have young Angelina Jolie hacking skills). After all, since nobody takes you seriously, you are wasting your time. Still, at least some of us get the lulz from reading your crap. Sure you're not Kenneth-level mentalness, but your ego and exaggerated sense of importance place you in the same general area of seriousness.

Apr 11 2015 20:55
Connor Owens wrote:
Try to stop me Marxist.

Has Connor Owens now transmuted into Rick from The Young Ones?

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 21:15
it's not like I have young Angelina Jolie hacking skills

That movie was shit.

After all, since nobody takes you seriously ...

Says the guy from some tiny sect who thinks some book written in the mid 1800s holds all the secrets for how to smash a globalised political-economic bureaucracy 150+ years later and thinks efforts to build federations of directly-democratic associations and worker cooperatives are just bourgeois nationalist reformism because those undertaking said efforts aren't paying enough attention to that book.

Apr 11 2015 21:23
That movie was shit.

Probably the only thing we'll ever agree on.

tiny sect

sorry not member of one anymore. Do you know why? I left it (fucking Common Cause in Ontario) because of their sexist workerism and defence of rape culture.

thinks efforts to build federations of directly-democratic associations and worker cooperatives are just bourgeois nationalist reformism

Where have I said that?

book written in the mid 1800s holds all the secrets for how to smash a globalised political-economic bureaucracy 150+ years

Well, if you'd actually read Capital you would know that they contain no such secrets. After all, Capital is a "critique of political economy", not a blueprint for a communist society. That is, Marx's spends a lot of time on analyzing capitalism and economic theories about that system, but precious little on how to actually smash said system. Sure, he observes that one of the first things that happen after capital's advent is that people start to struggle over time (struggles that happen everyday even today), and that what capital leads to is accumulation of wealth on one pole and misery on the other (again very observable phenomena today), but I guess those don't fit into your imaginary world (seriously are you a Bizarro-Owen Connors?)

That you don't even know that speaks volumes (but then again, it is to be expected from someone like you).

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 21:43

Well, if you'd actually read Capital

Typical refrain of the die-hard ideologue. Did it ever dawn on you that I might have read Capital but, unlike you, ended up disagreeing with most of it? That I know well what Marx was talking about but think he was wrong? That Bookchin, not Marx, ended up being vindicated with regard to the effect the capitalist workplace and class society would have upon the formation/development of the working class subject - ie: becoming passive and adapted to the alienating work routine of capitalist production instead of more confrontational and "class conscious".

You actually remind me of the Austrian school right-libertarians.

"You disagree with me!? Well clearly you must not understand the Austrian Business Cycle Theory! Because why would anybody who's read the same books I agree with ever come to different conclusions than me?

Apr 11 2015 21:49
Did it ever dawn on you that I might have read Capital but, unlike you, ended up disagreeing with most of it? That I know well what Marx was talking about but think he was wrong?

Nope, it never dawned on me. You're pretty much a poseur. From your posts it is clear that you really have no clue what Marx was talking about and therefore you cannot actually judge whether he is wrong or not. Sure, you may actually have read it, but I question if you understand it at all. I am pretty sure that you cannot even identify the central thesis of Capital.Or what he was even trying to explain by using terms like value and value form.

And there are many many things in Marx's works that you can and should disagree with; and there is lots that needs to be updated to help us understand capitalism in the age of computation, global logistics and high frequency trading, but the basic building blocks are still the same.

Do you have to have read Marx to be a commie or an anarchist? Far from it. There are better ways to spend your time on than reading shit that is incredibly dense, can only be done in reading group that will take at least half a year to get through the book. After all, you can experience capital and how it works by turning up at your place of employment everyday and suffering from not being able to make ends meet. But, if you claim to have read Marx, you really should know what you are talking about and understand the theory on its own terms before rejecting it (and that is fine; no revolution will occur just because more people have read Marx)..

Connor Owens
Apr 11 2015 22:29

Marx spoke of three kinds of "value" which are frequently misinterpreted by detractors as talking about one thing - use-value, exchange-value, and just value* without a prefix,

By value*, he did not mean the same thing the maginalists mean by "subjective utility" and certainly not price (leading many neoclassical economists to make the notorious "mud pies" argument against the labour theory of value). Rather, by value* he was referring to the degree of importance to the productice/reproductive process of capital. Marx also never claimed that supply and demand play no role in price formation or that cost-of-production was the only determinant of market value. Engels later claimed something along the lines that value* acted as a sort of foundational price which was rarely realised in reality, with supply and demand altering this foundational price, causing it to go up and down slightly, with value* acting as an axis.

Also, contrary to marginalist misreadings, and even readings of many Marxists, Marx never claimed that value* existed in each individual commodity. Rather, socially-necessary abstract labour time of many producers (including the "dead labour" of plant and machinery) formed the basis of all value* which was only realised at the point of exchange on the market.


I may disagree with much of the above, and find it not untrue, but incomplete, however I do understand it. Despite your protestations.

Read Nitzan and Bitchler. They offer a better economic framework anarchists should take on and develop in a libertarian direction.

no revolution will occur just because more people have read Marx

Tell that to everyone else here condemning Rojava.

Black Badger
Apr 11 2015 22:38
Tell that to everyone else here condemning Rojava.

I am pretty tired of your constant misrepresentation of the diverse criticisms and skepticism toward the PR of the PKK/YPG/Biehl/Graeber, et al as "condemnation" rather than honest and principled disagreement -- regardless of the vehemence of parts of the discourse (a vehemence and vitriol that you exacerbated, by the way). I'm also sick of your flattening of the obviously diverse experiments occurring in the Rojava area into this idealist and ideological construct you now call "Rojava."

Disagreement is not the same as condemnation. Critical analysis is not the same as rejection. If you'd bothered to learn something about real dialectics instead of Bookchin's neo-Idealist sub-Hegelian version, you'd probably be able to understand that.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 11 2015 22:47
Connor Owens wrote:

Says the guy from some tiny sect who thinks some book written in the mid 1800s holds all the secrets for how to smash a globalised political-economic bureaucracy 150+ years later and thinks efforts to build federations of directly-democratic associations and worker cooperatives are just bourgeois nationalist reformism because those undertaking said efforts aren't paying enough attention to that book.

Well, that's one more strawman to add to the pile.

Again, no one on these threads has gotten hung up about the classic theorists other than you. But keep swingin at all them strawmen.

Black Badger
Apr 11 2015 23:04

Just as a small aside, for insults to be effective, there needs to be at least a tiny grain of truth embedded in them somewhere for the person on the receiving end to feel just enough of a sting. Otherwise it's just empty posturing. Connor, your style of insult is really too reminiscent of your mentor old man Murray, who was from the spaghetti school: throw a bunch of random, unconnected, incoherent, and internally contradictory vitriol at the wall and see what (if anything) sticks.

Apr 11 2015 23:18

Like a vocab lesson in this piece.

Connor Owens
Apr 12 2015 10:40

Not even gonna bother addressing the Marxist shit any more. But for any anarcho-syndicalists out there, here's a Bookchin critique to rile you up even further.

Black Badger
Apr 12 2015 14:14

Still not a Marxist...

Apr 12 2015 15:57

Oh, HERE is where we should discuss VALUE. You keep bringing up Nizan et. al. In their introductory paragraph, they already mae it clear they have not engaged with Marx in a serious sense. They take as there departure mostly the post-transformation-problem maoisty new left marxists.

As nizan points out, capital is not a thing. This is as marx argues. It is a social relation between people, expressed by objects. That's what price/value is. In a commodity society, the amount of labor that is sunk into a commodity, can only be communicated, assert itself, in the magnitude of that commodity's price. Indeed, every part of the production process is reduced to being expressed in that commodity's price/value. As for specific prices, I agree that Marx felt they were not in the last determined directly by labor. Labor is the act, buried deep in the production process which only asserts itself through the value of the commodity, as it figures in the production price, which eventually figures into the always fluctuating price of sale. But this price of sale is anchored around the labor time. Consumer Pice Index anyone?

What is the form of value? Here we have two possible meanings. 1. is that "value" circulates and is at one in the form of Money-capital, then Commodity capital etc. But 2. is that marx is referring to the form of value itself which he argues is the form of ex-changeability concomitant with commodity society, and if anything it's root, it's premise.

Many of us asked what exactly the economic situation was in many of the Kurdish areas. That's because the production/reproduction of society has it's own logic, and generally is deeply connected to forms of political rule and culture. Think about it for a second. We live in a society where the mass of goods and services are produced and considered always interchangeable based on some intrinsic value. This is unique to our social system. What is necessary for such a situation to occur? How about imperialism, or any extremely violent situation where the "freeing" of labor from the land, a project of "community administration" in the name of controlling foreign and domestic invested capital to put it to "good use." could be launched. (This was the 20th century strategy from Mussolini, to Chavez). In order for this universal exchangeability to occur in any one region, there has to be a basis for it in production, and money has to rule society. At many points in 20th century history, at the crest of the post-WWI revolutionary wave, where all of us draw our politics in some way, many of those same communists/anarchists realized that alliances AT ALL with the bourgeois, whether oppressed or not, would lead to the routing of cause of getting rid of capitalism.

Even people like Joe Hill, of the IWW sardonically quiped at the political usage of the term "the people" for all it's ambiguity at trying to induce restraint in workers from going after the whole pie. Isolated, there is no "community" that can overcome capitalist social relations, not in one dorm room, not in city block, not in one county, not in one state.

Many here have pointed out how much this is a serious struggle of Kurdish workers against all kinds of imperial slaughter. Most of us just don't see much to trust in a lot of the political organizations at play (PKK, governing bodies in society) and in the possibility of a positive outcome in the region. If you got somewhere I can send socks, that I know will end up in the hands of a refugee family and not in some storage room by the PKK or some other racket, then share it with us.

Anybody who thinks that their million miles away "solidarity" means anything other than a pat on their own shoulder is absolutely deluding themselves. Solidarity is the practical and concrete expression of shared interest. Let's not water it down anymore... (or you know, the concept is dead, the workers are dead, long live Anarcho-Bergerism!)

Apr 12 2015 16:50

So, about Rojava...

gram negative
Apr 12 2015 17:17
Flint wrote:
So, about Rojava...

Yeah, if people want to argue can that be split off from this thread?

Apr 12 2015 18:03

Yeah sorry for the derail. I tried to tie it back in. Was trying to condense a lot of complex ideas in a way that I could somewhat explain them rather than just restate the positions gleaned from them, as that wasn't helping Connor understand. But yeah, Rojava, etc.