Rojava: an anarcho-syndicalist perspective

An anarcho-syndicalist perspective on the political situation in Rojava by a member of the Workers' Solidarity Alliance.

“The principal problem of national liberation struggle for the anti-statist anarcho-syndicalist form of organisation is that it is inherently statist. Advocating a more local form of state, the national liberation movement bows to the idea that the state is a desirable institution – just not in the current form. As such, it has the fundamental flaw that, if successful, it will generate a new state – which may or may not be ‘worse’ than the current oppressor, but it will nevertheless be an oppressive mechanism.” – Solidarity Federation

“Anarchists refuse to participate in national liberation fronts; they participate in class fronts which may or may not be involved in national liberation struggles. The struggle must spread to establish economic, political and social structures in the liberated territories, based on federalist and libertarian organisations.” -Alfredo Maria Bonanno

As this is published there come news reports that the Islamic State (ISIS) has been almost completely pushed out of the city of Kobane, party headquarters of Democratic Union Party (PYD) the Syrian affiliate party to the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), their co-president Saleh Muslim calling such developments the liberation of Kobane.[1] Hopefully as such progress in the region moves forward anarcho-syndicalists and social revolutionaries of all tendencies can start to objectively discuss the situation in West Kurdistan without the emotional reflex to a population under siege, facing a humanitarian disaster.

Anarcho-syndicalists should should hold no illusions about the Rojava Revolution. Since the turn of the millenium there have been reports of a libertarian municipalist turn in the Kurdish national liberation struggle inspired by Murray Bookchin. This change in politics has been lead by jailed founder and ideological leader Abdullah Öcalan of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) who discovered Bookchin while in prison. The PKK a former Maoist/Stalinist organization had turned to ethnic nationalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and discreditation of “really existing socialism” and so such a turn has been welcomed by many on the revolutionary left. However such processes of political transformation do not automatically translate to full adoption within a populace nevermind their official representation in leading parties.

After the start of the Syrian mass uprising and resultant civil war a power vacuum was created where the forces of Assad, tyrannical head of state in Syria, left Western Kurdistan, known as Rojava, to the Kurds. At first the Free Syrian Army (FSA) a so called moderate opposition force tied to Western Imperialism attacked the Kurdish forces but was soon repelled. In this open situation the PYD and it’s armed militias the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) decided to implement their now long held program of democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism on the ground.

As reported by the Kurdish Anarchist Forum (KAF) a group of pacifistic Kurdish anarchists in exile, as the Arab Spring took hold of Syria there was the development of a directly democratic grassroots movement created by everyday workers and people in Rojava called the Movement of the Democratic Society (Tev-Dem). It was this movement that with pushed for the implementation of “its plans and programs without further delay before the situation became worse.” [2] This program was very extensive and it is worth quoting the KAF report at length:

“The Tev-Dem’s programme was very inclusive and covered every single issue in society. Many people from the rank and file and from different backgrounds, including Kurdish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Assyrian and Yazidis, have been involved. The first task was to establish a variety of groups, committees and communes on the streets in neighborhoods, villages, counties and small and big towns everywhere. The role of these groups was to become involved in all the issues facing society. Groups were set up to look at a number of issues including: women’s, economic, environmental, education and health and care issues, support and solidarity, centers for the family martyrs, trade and business, diplomatic relations with foreign countries and many more. There are even groups established to reconcile disputes among different people or factions to try to avoid these disputes going to court unless these groups are incapable of resolving them.

These groups usually have their own meeting every week to talk about the problems people face where they live. They have their own representative in the main group in the villages or towns called the ‘House of the People’.

They believed that the revolution must start from the bottom of society and not from the top. It must be a social, cultural and educational as well as political revolution. It must be against the state, power and authority. It must be people in the communities who have the final decision-making responsibilities. These are the four principles of the Movement of the Democracy Society (Tev-Dem).”

In other eras and places such a movement of democratic assemblies and committees at the base of society open to the people have been known collectively as workers’ councils. If these developments are true the Tev-Dem was quite the achievement.

However such reports have included accounts of the creation of a constituent assembly like parliamentary legislative body called the Democratic Self-Rule Administration. As New Compass a Bookchinite publishing collective has reported:

“While in many areas the Kurdish population already has decades of experience with the Kurdish movement’s concepts of women’s liberation and social freedom, here too there are of course also divergences. Some wish to organize in classical parties rather than in councils.

This problem has been solved in Rojava through a dual structure. On one hand a parliament is chosen, to which free elections under international supervision are to take place as soon as possible. This parliament forms a parallel structure to the councils; it forms a transitional government, in which all political and social groups are represented, while the council system forms a kind of parallel parliament. The structuring and rules of this collaboration are at the moment under discussion.”[3]

This among other questions lay bare the reality of the political situation in Rojava. It is unclear if the establishment of such a social democratic apparatus is a push by certain elements, or if this is part and parcel of Kurdish democratic confederalism. With anarchists the world over looking towards these developments as some libertarian light in the region, the question of the State and what form of governance is being established should continue to be watched closely. Historically the libertarian socialist program though has been for the development of genuine workers’ councils and committees like those originally set up by the Tev-Dem, and there have been bitter fights against the establishment of parliamentary democratic state projects, with free votes, where participation is atomized, and power really held by executive powers above the people.

If there is one great hope for libertarian openings in the region it is the existence of the women’s movements. Kurdish society like world society as a whole has historically been a deeply patriarchal society to the point that Öcalan from his own admission in 1992 is probably a rapist, with is especially worrying with the personality cult developed around him.[4] Though still tied to his teachings Kurdish women out of their own experience through the last few decades started to organize themselves autonomously. Groups like the Kurdish Free Women’s Movement (KJB) and the Free Women’s Units Star (YJA Star) call for world wide solidarity between women’s movements against the patriarchal nation-state. As Dilar Dirik an activist close to YJA Star describes in her talk on forming a “Stateless State” as seen in a widely circulated video, the Kurdish women’s movement through the experience of patriarchy in the Kurdish national liberation movement and Kurdish society at large has come to the conclusion that forming a new nation state should no longer be part of the Kurdish liberation project, as the nation state is an inherently patriarchal institution. However, though many anarchists would agree with this analysis and are surely nodding our heads in agreement, Dirik makes clear that the movement is not at the moment in favor of the general abolition of the State, but organizing democratic autonomy inspite of the State. As anarcho-syndicalists it is our duty and not a criticism to point out that the Syrian state, as well as the rest of the nation states encircling Rojava and which in the rest of Kurdistan exists will not merely disappear with the development of their project for regional democratic autonomy. The State must be actively fought and smashed, by the masses within every nation and it is the historical mission for all revolutionary internationalist liberatory forces.

In conclusion, the development of the social democratic representative democracy, the patriarchal and ethnic nationalist past of the PKK (PYD Saleh Muslim leader has hinted at needing a war to expel Arabs down the line[5]), the PYD’s cooperation with and truce with the FSA and Islamists[6], the draft since July[7], the different elements seeking US/international community support are reason enough to be hesitant to put too much emphasis on the official leadership. The bright spots where they exist are with the resistance and self-activity of the masses and the women’s movement. Social processes of transformation are complicated and often rife with internal conflicts and dynamics. The political program put forward might be decentralist with strong potentialities towards social democracy rather than anti-statist and social revolutionary. There is also still much research to be done about industrial and agricultural economy and organization. That shouldn’t hold anarcho-syndicalists back from defending the self defense of the everyday masses and their own organizations of struggle in Rojava against ISIS, local states and western imperialism, but we should be careful not to jump to cheerleading for the official representation of the Kurdish movement through it’s traditionally statist parties like PKK and PYD.

Long live the struggle of the toiling masses and free women!

With the oppressed against the oppressors, always!

-K.B.

Sources:

[1] “The air-strikes were very very successful. In a short time, we will report to the world liberation of Kobane.” -Saleh Muslim

http://www.demokrathaber.net/dunya/salih-muslim-kobanideki-son-durumu-anlatti-h39595.html

[2] The experiment of West Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) has proved that people can make changes. http://www.anarkismo.net/article/27301

[3] Democratic Autonomy in Rojava http://new-compass.net/articles/revolution-rojava

[4] In a book written by Öcalan in 1992 titled Cozumleme, Talimat ve Perspektifler (Analyses, Orders and Perspectives), he stated: “These girls mentioned. I don’t know, I have relations with thousands of them. I don’t care how anyone understands it. If I’ve gotten close with some of them, how should this have been? (…) On these subjects, they leave aside all the real measurements and find someone and gossip, say ‘this was attempted to be done to me here’ or ‘this was done to me there’! These shameless women both want to give too much and then develop such things. Some of the people mentioned. Good grace! They say ‘we need it so, it would be very good’ and then this gossip is developed (…) I’m saying it openly again. This is the sort of warrior I am. I love girls a lot, I value them a lot. I love all of them. I try to turn every girl into a lover, in an unbelievable level, to the point of passion. I try to shape them from their physique to their soul, to their thoughts. I see it in myself to fulfill this task. I define myself openly. If you find me dangerous, don’t get close!”

[5] PYD Leader Warns of War with Arab Settlers in Kurdish Areas http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/24112013

[6] Details about the development of an alliance between the PYD and the FSA and Islamist forces including a split from Syrian Al Queda.

https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/564212-fsa-fighting-alongside-kobane-kurds

http://www.ozgur-gundem.com/index.php?haberID=118383&haberBaslik=YPG+ve+%C3%96SO+%27ortak+eylem+merkezi%27+kurdu&action=haber_detay&module=nuce

[7] Conscription begins in the Kurdish region of Syria, evasion elsewhere

http://www.wri-irg.org/node/23519

- See more at: http://ideasandaction.info/2014/10/rojava-anarcho-syndicalist-perspective/#sthash.qmhFIioO.dpuf

Comments

MalteBlom
Oct 19 2014 00:08

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I humbly give my comments, as someone that has neither been there to observe the unfoldings or have much knowledge.

I want to bring up the distinction Dilar Dirik makes between confronting the surrounding states and organizing their society in spite of them.

It is true that most anarchists have imagined the struggle against the state as a confrontation or clash ("smashing the state"). It is obvious that the people of Rojava are in fact clashing with the surrounding states, as they have grown accustomed to for many years, by necessity. And there is a difference between self-defense (this might include solidarity actions to help friends and allies), and on the other hand actively seeking confrontation with the states. I hear you saying, that self-defence is not enough and that people of Rojava "must" actively "smash" the State.

First, I find it difficult to understand how anyone can tell the people of Rojava what they 'must' do. But maybe it was just your phrasing, a bad habit that comes with the left's programmatic tradition. Maybe you meant it as a sincere advice (I would like to think so). But advice are often difficult to follow, even less believe or trust, if they are not backed up by reasonable grounds.

And I do think there is a case to be made about organizing stateless territories 'in spite of the State'. Actually, I think it is something of a brilliant phrase. No confederation of stateless regions will ever be given official recognition by the international community, because that 'community' is composed of states themselves. They will only recognize other states. Thus, any liberated region will necessarily have to deal with the fact that they formally exist inside State territory. This is a condition and 'the political maps' (or Google Maps or whatever) will probably not change either. But the State can be compelled to stay away and, in the end, this is important thing.

It might not be so important who owns the territory. The important thing is having the power to be there autonomously, or simply 'being the territory'. Ignoring ownership over lands and concentrating on more important things as power is also, it seems to me, a straight-forward and practical way of abolishing the very idea of ownership over lands.

I would think that liberating the territories from the Syrian state equals abolishing it in that region. There are no Winter Palaces were a movement would be able to definitely abolish the State, so liberating a territory from the police or army or making it difficult for it's bureaucrats to transport themselves there and effectively administer the area seems to me the closest thing we get to abolishing a state. If people in Rojava have made an 'agreement' with the Syrian regime, that they stay out of each others' business, this seems to me a sign of the strength of the people of Rojava.

Abolishing the state today cannot mean that an armed population, which has just kicked out the local state-apparatus, "must" expand their struggle and confront all the other States head-on. Their task of continuing to defend themselves, healing the wounded, mourning the dead, taking care of each other and struggling locally to ward off the development of a new quasi-state, all this is already immense in scope. It seems like an unreasonable thing to ask of them to actively seek up armed confrontations outside their regions on top of that. Surely, this is not what you wanted to say? (I apologize for misreading you in that case).

Of course, liberating a territory from a state has historically often led to the development of a new state. Theoretically the governing parties of Rojava (like PYD) align themselves with the idea of "democratic confederalism", but they are not identical to the council/commune-system or the TEV-DEM movement, and the tension or power balances between these tendencies are not clear, at least to me. Maybe this is what you meant to bring up. I also would like to learn more about what is actually going on, esp. the tension between the popular communes and the more party-aligned tendencies. Also, which is really a deal-breaker if Rojava has promise of becoming a stateless region, I wonder what role the Asayis (the para-police controlled by PYD) plays outside of checking border posts, that is, their role internally in Rojava, ie. whether they form a monopoly on force or how their role in mediating justice, which on the surface should be grounded in the communes, plays out.

AES
Oct 19 2014 05:37

MalteBlom, the article is entitled 'Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective', so it is made clear that it has Anarcho-syndicalism as the basis of it's analysis. For more information see this libcom.org reading guide). About your view that the state can be ignored, here is an extract (with my emphasis) from 'basic anarcho-syndicalism'

Quote:

What is anarcho-syndicalism?

Anarcho-syndicalism is a current of thought and principles which appeared at the end of the 19th century. It has these fundamental characteristics:

  • The goal of organizing the world's workers for the defense of their immediate interests, and to obtain improvements in their quality of life. To form unions to achieve this.
  • The creation of a structure in which there are neither leaders nor executive power.
  • The desire for the radical transformation of society, a transformation to be brought about by the means of a Social Revolution. Without this goal of transformation, anarcho-syndicalism does not exist.
  • Another name for anarcho-syndicalism is revolutionary syndicalism.

    Irrespective of any political/ideological views - the material fact remains that the state is not a neutral institution (including all of its apparatus: such as government, judiciary, military, etc) because its historic role has always been as the protector of the rulers/ruling class and the safeguarder of the power and property it has taken. Capitalism will not allow workers/unwaged to organise themselves independently - it will make use of the state with its apparatus and functionaries to attack mercilessly, whether you want to protect yourself by smashing the state or not.

    MalteBlom
    Oct 19 2014 12:27

    AES, I think you are misreading me as an apologist of the State. Did you even read my answer? I did not want to contend whether 'the state is a neutral institution' or whether it is good to abolish it or not. Obviously, I wish the state abolished. I was bringing up the subject of how to do it. And I find Dilar Dirik's approach of 'organizing in spite of the state' an appealing approach, which surely must be critically analyzed and understood through conflicting voices from Rojava, but cannot be wiped off the table without reasonable arguments. Again, the discussion is not 'state or no state' but how to get rid of it. There are many other subjects people can discuss in this thread, but this was just one I wanted to get some perspectives on. I have to say, I find it slightly offending that you do not ask me a single clarifying question, which might have resolved your misreading, but instead merely shove me off with a syndicalism 101.

    Ans sorry for everyone else for taking up this unnecessary space.

    AES
    Oct 19 2014 13:48

    I only support class organisation on a class basis without social partnership. That is anarcho-syndicalism, which is the basis of analysis of the original post.

    PKK are an ethnic nationalist electoralist party-complex. I do NOT accept that they are 'organizing in spite of the state' which is not possible in class collaborationist structures (in these circumstances they function as a pluri-statist complex-organisation in multiple territories integrated and co-operating or attempting to integrate and co-operate with multiple governments). If the 'organizing in spite of the state' concept were true, then as a party-complex they would have no government functionaries in all or at least have worker-driven institutions, but not unlike other capitalist political parties - they have politicians, employers, etc throughout their ranks and in control of all their institutions.

    Eleanor Finley, Institute of Social Ecology wrote:
    "... as a paramilitary organization, the PKK maintains a hierarchical command structure with Abdullah Öcalan at its center. Thus councils are often established ‘from above’ and it is unclear whether the popular legitimacy of these councils stems from a grassroots revolutionary sensibility or rather the widespread perception of illegitimacy attributed to the occupational Turkish government. In the past, the PKK have violently repressed rival left factions and Kurdish nationalist groups. Today, they negotiate with Erdogan’s government and pursue regional alliances with liberal Turkish political coalitions"

    If a revolutionary/anarchist movement was to emerge in these circumstances, at the very least, it would be controlled by the workers/unwaged themselves without bosses, would be an opponent of the PKK party-complex and completely independent of it. I would obviously welcome this.

    boomerang
    Oct 19 2014 18:26

    Thank you for this balanced perspective on the Rojava revolution! It's a mix of both praise and criticism, which is absolutely the proper response.

    There's been a lot of rallying here on libcom to condemn the "cheerleaders" of the Rojavan revolution, but to run to the extreme and just piss over everything with nothing good to say? That really irks me.

    There's a lot to be hopeful about here, and the revolutionaries in Rojava have a lot to be proud of! There's also the looming potential for the directly democratic structures to be swept away by those who wish to build a new state (though they are cleverly not calling it that). I'm still holding on to hope that Rojavan revolutionaries will realize and successfully resist it before it's too late.

    I actually uploaded this same article earlier! (Not realizing it had already been uploaded some hours before I did.)

    MalteBlom
    Oct 19 2014 18:19

    AES, I wrote an answer to you, but on re-reading it I realized I was just re-hashing the overall points of what Ideas & Action said. Which seems pointless. Original post mentions several sources that have observed popular assemblies at work, while at the same time reminding of the contradictory tendencies in the movement (esp. the more party-based and authoritarian tradition, which still exists). Clearly, what will help us understand the situation from the distance is are more observations from outside delegations or, even better, self-criticism from the movement itself.

    I will leave the discussion here, because I don't see how any of us are contributing new material.

    AES
    Oct 19 2014 18:44

    For your information I am sharing this (but I do not endorse it). I do not sympathize with 'anarchists' who are apologists for and act as validators for capitalist political parties.

    facebook.com/groups/Anarcho.Syndicalists wrote:
    A member of the DAF responds to this Workers Solidarity Alliance's critiques:
    Quote:
    Nice text about the critics about the Kurdish Movement but deficient in perspective and knowledge about the movement.

    Firstly, naming Kurdish Movement as nationalist is not correct with every meaning. We are not talking a popular movement in first world countries. I am not stressing this anti-imperialist stuff. But even capitalist do not take the popular movements in 3rd world as nationalist. So critics related with Kurdish Movement's nationalism doesn't seem as correct. (Ok I am not professor in this matter but I am talking about this political theory stuff).

    Comrade, when Zapatista Movement in Chaiapas appeared, we as DAF did not condemn them as a nationalist movement. Not just for the arguments that they are using as this revolution is an international revolution. But also, it has relation with the history of anarchist movement.

    We have to accept that social anarchism has links with the people's freedom struggles. Like Indonesian people struggle which was directly attracted by Spanish anarchism. Or what about Bakunin's effort for mobilizing the oppressed people who live under three big empire, Ottoman, Prusia, Russia... Is it possible for us to unlink the freedom struggles of Balkan people, like Bulgarian or Greeks against Ottoman. Was it chance that the leading organisations of this freedom struggles were anarchist. What about Armenian Struggle against Ottoman? Atabekyan, the leading figure was left hand of Kropotkin in Asia.

    Social Anarchism has relation with the freedom fights of oppressed ones.

    Today, Kurdish Movement is not just referencing Bookchin, they are referencing Kropotkin and Bakunin. Ok we have to accept that these reference do not make the movement anarchist. But to accept a popular movement if they are anarchist is something like that related with arrogance.

    At the end of 90's, the movement try to understand the way of Zapatistas. They tried to use their methods but in their own way. We have to criticize Zapatistas before Kurdish Movement.

    We, as DAF, are giving struggle for oppressed ones and with oppressed ones. Do not think that oppressed ones are equal just to proletariat. Today, we have to keep in mind the politics of Turkish State while talking about the movement. The massacres and assimilation practices of the state has not been finished.

    Comrades from West part of the world are ready to judge the movement with their politic tradition that they do not defend anymore.

    We are witnessing the practices of Direct Democracy efforts, decentralization in their politics. This is a good step.

    Rojava Revolution is a social revolution. As comrade Durruti criticized french anarcho-syndicalists in 1936 about not taking part in the social movement at that year in France, their answer was they did not see the conditions are ready for social revolution. We think like what Durruti said to these comrades, anarchism is not just to make theory and criticize the revolution, if you do not take part then you can't make theory to criticize.

    Comrade, I don't want to say that there is nothing to criticise in Kurdish Movement. Of course there are. That's why we are organising in a different organisation. But it is time to raise the revolution in Rojava and raise the resistance in Kobanê.

    Sorry, it is a long mail. I hope it will be usefull for you to understand our way of understanding Rojava.

    With solidarity,
    Huseyin of the DAF

    http://ideasandaction.info/2014/10/rojava-anarcho-syndicalist-perspective/

    mikail firtinaci
    Oct 19 2014 18:52

    Hey AES;

    Is there any Turkish translation of this statement yet?

    AES
    Oct 19 2014 19:42

    As referenced above, the communication was shared without noting which DAF member it came from via social media (facebook closed group) about an hour ago. I have asked "will you please ask this unnamed DAF member to communicate through the DAF rather than anonymously (and provide kurdish/turkish versions, if possible). Please kindly send my message to this person if that is more convenient."

    syndicalist
    Oct 19 2014 23:02

    All things considered, the article seems balanced.

    AES
    Oct 19 2014 23:17

    syndicalist, I agree, my reading of it is that the article favours solidarity with the working class in that region and begins an important process of critical understanding of the circumstances.

    syndicalist
    Oct 19 2014 23:42

    AES, comrades...I believe that is one of the things the author set out to do. It's a tough situation there, with no easily identifiable friends and allies.

    akai
    Oct 21 2014 12:56

    I thought the article was not bad. Thanks.

    AES
    Nov 2 2014 15:40

    I noticed this thread from late 2009 Anarkismo and the PKK which mentions the PKK murder of over a hundred teachers (for teaching in Turkish) and that party's involvements in drugs trade, etc (also in the UK) and on 'national' liberation, see also here and here.

    An article saying the PKK are 'progressive' on Zabalaza In the rubble of US imperialism

    A reply to the above article http://anarkismo.net/article/27540 and some comments to that article

    Mülayim Sert wrote:
    90% of this article consists of stating and re-stating in the abstract a strategy of critical-support for non-anarchist progressive forces. While the details of that approach itself can be debated, so far so good.
    The sole basis of the position taken up by the author is in this part:
    " “K.B.” notes that there are parallel – and potentially rival – structures and projects in Rojava and contestation around these. By some accounts – including a document that basically forms the Constitution of Rojava [6] – there are two types of systems/structures in place based on what seem to be diverging ideas that are running concurrently. One structure is a type of representative parliament with something akin to a cabinet; the other being democratic confederalism of a sort based on assemblies, councils and communes. There does also appear to be the possibility of tension arising between these two types of systems going forward too, if Rojava survives.
    So there is a faction in Rojava politics, including in the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), that want what amounts to a state structure – rather than the more radical PKK vision. In practice they are trying to implement representative democracy based on a parliament, with basic human rights, where an executive will have quite a lot of power, but tactically they can’t call it a state as it appears the idea of democratic confederalism is widely held as an ideal amongst many Kurds. "
    This picture is COMPLETELY ILLUSIONARY, for several reasons. First of all, it imagines a conflict where there is none, between the PKK and PYD. The PYD is the younger little-sister organization of the PKK, and their ideologies are identical. The PYD line is merely the application of the PKK line to Syrian conditions.
    The self-management structures (local "communes" etc.) are best understood as the local government counterpart to the parliamentary structure advocated by the PKK/PYD. Just like there is this dual governmental structure between central and local government in every democratic state in existence. It is hardly a radical departure.
    The only novelty seems to be a bit of self-management thrown in at the very local level of municipal government. The exact nature of this self-management is unclear. Is it a genuine ideological commitment to "stateless democracy" or a pragmatic solution to the poverty that prevails in the region (the local government cannot provide services, so "outsources" the provision of such to the local population themselves).
    Just look at the Rojava Social Contract document at http://civiroglu.net/the-constitution-of-the-rojava-cantons/. The same constitution lays out the principles of both the parliamentary central government structure and the local municipal structure that is to be implemented. Keep in mind that for the time being, not even this bourgeois-democratic form is in operation, but rather the PYD-led popular-front style administration is in charge, where the PYD has monopoly over the armed forces (If you want, the Spain '36 parallel here is to the CPE dominated Republican Government, not the CNT-FAI / POUM).
    There are no "rival factions" that have emerged, one democratic-confederalist vs. one statist etc. This is pure illusion. Both are part of the unitary vision of the PYD, a progressive bourgeois-democratic vision to be implemented in the future by an authoritarian party administration that has transitioned to some degree from Marxist-Leninism / National Liberationist to Bourgeois Democratic / Regional National Autonomist. "Democratic Confederalism" is mostly radical windows dressing, intended to substitute for the softening of the earlier project of classical national independence in favor of regional autonomy.
    Quote:
    This article is filled with one strawman fallacy after another. Nowhere in the article does K.B. say that a movement must be anarchist or syndicalist for us to support it. Moreover, the piece completely overlooks the positive aspects of the mass resistance which were highlighted in the article, such as the base "communes" (groups of 50 families) and the radical Kurdish women's movement.
    The authors here seem to be incapable of understanding the class line. A state is going to represent the interests of an alien class. The Democratic Union Party, which is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK (your piece is confused about that), has suggested that its decentralized parliamentary government in Rojava creates "facts on the ground" for a future negotiation for the new state regime in Syria after the civil war.
    You also ignore the fact that one aspect of Bookchin's ideas that Ocalan particularly liked was his abandonment of worker struggle in the workplace.
    So, what we want to see in the struggle are mass organizations that are a means of struggle for the mass of immediate producers at the base of society, the exploited classes. The article says:
    "If applied, for example, to South Africa and apartheid the position on Rojava presented by this article, therefore, would amount to saying something like “we don’t support the UDF, FOSATU or COSATU and definitely not the ANC because they are not anarchists”, and that would have amounted to saying, “who really cares if the apartheid state wins because there is no struggle for anarchism”.
    This is a strawman since nowhere in K.B.'s article does he say or imply any such thing. As you may recall WSA was in fact a suporter of FOSATU & COSATU in the anti-Apartheid struggle...precisely because they were mass worker organizations, created from below, roughly democratic.
    Similarly, in the case of the Sandinista revolution in late '70s, we supported the Sandinista mass organizations, which advocated worker control, and were critical of the comandantes & the FSLN party, despite also supporting the mass resistance against the Contras.

    Comparing the PKK/PYD (party-complex) to FOSATU or COSATU (trade unions) is not accurate. In this context the correct comparison is that PKK/PYD resemble the SACP (South African Communist Party, which are neo-stalinist political parties with two-stage transition policies that begin with a fake radicalisation process, aim for control of government positions, promise socialism). Anarchists (including me personally) openly criticised the SACP during the South African transition from apartheid.

    Quote:
    To answer the question from Red & Black Action, the article by K.B. was his own opinion, not necessarily the opinion of WSA. We have not had a collective discussion about the Kurdish movement & have no collective position on it, although we've been trying to dig up information & follow what is happening.
    I think also that the position of "critical support" for the PKK, which you re-assert, is also merely abstract. What in practice does that mean? I know there are revolutionary socialists in Syria who support the mass resistance in Kobane without backing the Democratic Union Party, which they say has no internal democratic processes. Moreover, the resistance in Kobane is not simply the Democratic Union Party but involves other political organizations & seems to have taken on a mass character, not reducible to the "project" of one party, even if that party is influential. It would seem more reasonable to me to support the militia & the communal organization than the party. Given the Democratic Union Party's support for a parliamentary (even if decentralized) new state in Syria, I think we have to view that party with a certain skepticism, as a means for a leadership to obtain a form of state power. I think we also need to insist on the importance of democratic mass self-organization of the working class. These may come later, as the revolutionary process develops there, but nonetheless it would be a mistake to overlook the importance of this.
    I will also refer you again, since you once again ignore it, to the position we took at the time of the Sandinista revolution & the struggle against the U.S.-supported Contras, which was a kind of "national liberation" struggle. In that context we supported the Sandinista mass organizations, which were also supportive of that "national liberation" struggle. If there had been significant libertarian socialist elements in those organizations, the process there need not have gone in a statist or social-democratic direction. An alternative might have been opened up.
    We do actually have a position on this subject as an organization, which is as follows (from our Where We Stand statement):
    In situations where a “national liberation movement” aims to oust a pro-imperialist leadership in a country or fight an occupation, we support mass movements of workers and peasants in their struggle but not the state-building project of a “national liberation” political party. Real self-determination of working people requires the development of self-managed unions and popular organizations that exercise independence in relation to boss groups.
    From an anarcho-syndicalist point of view, what is critical is the emergence of the self-organized mass, democratic organizations of the subordinate, exploited class. I don't see an adequate appreciation of the importance of this in the reply to K.B.
    AES
    Nov 2 2014 15:05
    Mülayim Sert wrote:
    Let us be clear that criticism does not mean inaction or even neutrality.

    To me solidarity with Rojava includes these concrete forms regardless of the nature of the PYD administration:

    1. Condemn Turkish involvment and demand an end to semi-covert support for ISIS, the trade blockade from the north, the militarization of the border, murderous repression of pro-Rojava and Kurdish protests.
    2. Participation in pro-Rojava and pro-Kurdish rights actions with own slogans and ideas.
    3. Arguing for fully open border for all refugees and provision of all their needs. We draw attention to conditions in the refugee camps, and conditions of all Syrian refugees working or begging or entangled in petty criminal activities in miserable conditions all around Turkish cities.
    4. Humanitarian aid to Rojava.
    5. The arms/supplies blockade is illegitimate and the corridor/airdrop demands are legitimate. However, we criticise and point to the poisonous nature of the aid that will come from US imperialists or Barzani or FSA or Turkish forces. This is similar to the poisonous nature of the help the USSR gave to Republican administration in Spain during the revolution. It will always come with strings attached, which is political subservience to the givers of such aid.

    Where I draw the line and criticise:

    1. I oppose revolutionaries further to the left of PYD enlisting to fight under YPG command. Active military engagement can only be if independent militias are allowed to operate in Rojava on voluntary basis. The PYD monopoly on armed forces and its conscription policy precludes this.
    2. We must dispel the illusions that are rapidly and globally manufactured by the PKK/HDP line about the anarchistic / social revolutionary nature of the PYD administration in Rojava.
    3. The non-transparent nature of the "solution process" between Turkey and PKK is alarming. Hedging hopes on this completely enigmatic "process" that is handled by the supreme leader Ocalan and the supreme leader Erdogan is suicidal. The process has produced pretty much zero reforms and doesn't even stop the Turkish police, military or paramilitary right wing forces (Turkish Hizbullah) from murdering Kurdish civilians, and has only resulted in a partial cesattion of armed conflict between Turkish and PKK armed forces.
    4. The Duhok agreement has already half-destroyed the independence of Rojava. If this is an inevitable compromise, it must be presented and discussed as such, rather than being swept under the rug.

    And another 'anarchist' recruiter for the PKK on social media - Arm the PKK

    AntiWar
    Nov 2 2014 16:05

    This is a very interesting website listing accusations of human rights violations by the PKK/PYD in Rojava:

    KURDWATCH.org, reports human-rights violations against Kurds in Syria.

    'Report no.9' is especially interesting.

    See also these worrying news reports:

    http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/24112013

    http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/12102014

    syndicalist
    Nov 2 2014 21:03

    For the record, the article was written by a WSA member, not the organization. That said, there is general agreement with much of what the author has written.

    On "national liberation movements", WSA's believes: "In situations where a “national liberation movement” aims to oust a pro-imperialist leadership in a country or fight an occupation, we support mass movements of workers and peasants in their struggle but not the state-building project of a “national liberation” political party. Real self-determination of working people requires the development of self-managed unions and popular organizations that exercise independence in relation to boss groups." WSA "Where We Stand". "Anti-Imperialism" section - http://workersolidarity.org/about-wsa/where-we-stand/

    With all fluid situations, these sorts of articles are open to revision based on the flow of newer reliable information available in english or other languages the author or the organization can read and access. Not being an expert in this area, what I read I generally found to be balanced.

    Devrim
    Nov 2 2014 21:32

    I thought this article was pretty poor. It didn't have anything of interest to add, and basically it ended up supporting nationalist gangs, maybe not as jingoistic as some of the rubbish we have seen from anarchists, but still the same line.

    Devrim

    kurekmurek
    Nov 3 2014 09:21

    This article is posted twice right? (Because I think I also made a comment under it somewhere). anyway the first comment by MalteBlom really deserves credit.

    kurekmurek
    Nov 3 2014 09:45

    AntiWar

    I replied to you in another forum thread but the sources you "believe" belong to Barzani. He is another actor who wishes to take control of region. You are just being used by him while sharing these.
    Of course not everything they wrote is untrue. (however most of their political commentaries are just political moves to force PKK/PYD to their own policies.) However I would not suggest you depend on them too much.

    boomerang
    Nov 3 2014 21:12

    Response to this article by Hüseyin Civan, a member of the DAF, was emailed to me today and can be found here: http://libcom.org/library/response-article-rojava-anarcho-syndicalist-perspective

    klas batalo
    Nov 4 2014 18:10
    Devrim wrote:
    I thought this article was pretty poor. It didn't have anything of interest to add, and basically it ended up supporting nationalist gangs, maybe not as jingoistic as some of the rubbish we have seen from anarchists, but still the same line.

    Devrim

    With more information in the last few weeks I am actually sympathetic to Devrim's views of my assessment. I'll update as able. I haven't read his or other ICT papers yet on the matter, but I did read the comrade who wrote the West, IS, and PKK's piece and thought it was pretty good materialist analysis, as well as more and more reports from Rojava Report and Kurdish Question that lay out the real basis for what is going on there.

    Also:

    Reply to Anarkismo & DAF on Rojava

    To call my critique of the PKK an attack on the Rojava Revolution is misleading. My article tried to emphasize support for what I saw as “organizing from below” by the Tev Dem and the women’s factions of the PKK. I appreciate the Anarkismo editorial group and the DAF replies to my perspectives shared on Rojava from my “anarcho-syndicalist” view, for the spirit they wish to hold debate on developments there.

    Like the Anarkismo editorial group I believe in sharing honest critique but not liquidation of anarchist political positions. My article did not say we can only show support if an organization is adequately anarchist or internationalist enough, like some purists do. While Anarkismo and DAF comrades say “No one claims Kurdish Freedom Movement is an anarchist movement” many Western anarchists have not been so clear, comparing the entire situation to being a second coming of Spain 1936, just because Bookchin used to be a green anarchist who rejected class struggle for libertarian municipalism. I think recognizing this shows that we are sensible about developments on the ground compared to the uncritical cheerleading of anarcho-liberals and other leftist activists.

    First I would like to make some things clear. I support nationally oppressed people’s fight against national oppression. What I do not support is national liberation movements, fronts, parties but the historically existing class fronts within such struggles that anarchists have supported, like workers and popular resistance in their organizations from below. Based on the reports from the KAF of the “directly democratic” Tev Dem and awareness campaign of the “anti-statist” Kurdish women’s organizations (that are autonomous relatively within the rest of the PKK) I saw these manifestations as worthy of highlighting as a hope for the region:

    “If these developments are true the Tev-Dem was quite the achievement.”

    “As Dilar Dirik an activist close to YJA Star describes in her talk on forming a “Stateless State” as seen in a widely circulated video, the Kurdish women’s movement through the experience of patriarchy in the Kurdish national liberation movement and Kurdish society at large has come to the conclusion that forming a new nation state should no longer be part of the Kurdish liberation project, as the nation state is an inherently patriarchal institution.”

    I made clear that it is not critique but our duty as anarcho-syndicalists to not liquidate our politics along with our solidarity and share our perspectives in whatever ways we can. I chose to highlight these organizations like the Tev-Dem and women’s groups/militias as real manifestations on the ground that seemed to be formed on a class basis as well as being non-statist and anti-patriarchal as compared to the mainstream of the PKK.

    In regards the PKK and it’s mainstream I would like to clear up a few things as put forward by my critics. I will admit humbly that I did not do enough research into the allegations of assault, and a comrade from Turkey pointed out to me that if these admissions are from Öcalan and not just anti-Kurdish propaganda they are in regards intra-party romantic relationships that were banned in the party’s Marxist-Leninist phase. However I maintain if this is Öcalan speaking he still comes off with loads of machismo in regards his relations with women, and it is not disconnected from reality to point out that the PKK was historically a very patriarchal organization, otherwise why are there autonomously organizing women’s factions within it?

    “We agree with “K.B.” that it is precisely in the self-activity of the grassroots masses and women of the PKK and allied structures that the most promising prospects for struggle in the direction of complete liberation lie.” - Anarkismo editorial group

    If this is what the Anarkismo editorial group believes then I hardly see why they should try to say I support some abstract pure groupings that don’t exist. My article highlighted what I saw as the grassroots masses (Tev-Dem) and the autonomous women’s structures within the PKK. What I do reject from an anarcho-syndicalist standpoint is the leftover nationalism of hierarchical political parties, especially when there is the chance for grassroots popular and anti-national anti-patriarchal resistance from below in such national struggles. I believe as anarchists there are class lines we do not cross, and critical support for nationalist parties is crossing them.

    “To perceive the classes in a shallow vision and trying to interpret social struggles just with economical struggles is to create a hierarchy between the struggles of the oppressed. An anarchist point of view that limits the oppressed to workers and disregards other relations of power contradicts the history of anarchist movement. Revolutionary history of anarchism is full of economical, political and social struggles of the oppressed.” -Hüseyin Civan, DAF

    I think this is a great point put forward by our DAF comrade. I disagree with them on my article seeing the Rojava situation only through the lines of the economic. I mostly made a political analysis, since reports are few on the economic makeup and class composition of society there. I did however think that the Tev Dem seemed more connected at least in origin to a real movement of daily working/popular class life (though now there are reports that Tev-Dem has been transformed more into local municipal government of the social democratic administration.) I also saw the social and cultural situation of Kurdish women leading them to favorable non-statist positions. This reminder is an important one to take heed of in the light of left-wing Marxists who tend to bend the stick too far in favor of class reductionist approaches. However it is very much apparent that the nationalist and social democratic program as it is developing is in no way favorable to libertarian communist outcomes, its economic program being cooperativist and seeking a space to integrate relatively autonomously within capitalism, instead of smashing it.

    Going forward I hope comrades from Anarkismo and DAF can see my writings as informed by this reply, and can refrain from strawman arguments and friendly fire assertions that my perspective was an “ultra-left” position statement on these issues.

    Long live the struggle of the toiling masses and free women!
    With the oppressed against the oppressors, always!