Rojava economy and class structure

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 17 2014 20:07
Rojava economy and class structure

A lot of the discussion of Kobane/Rojava has discussed the direct democratic elements, but these seem mostly regarding the political sphere. I haven't seen much on the economy, so please post links. A couple of questions I've been thinking about:

1. What was the pre-war class structure, state of development, economy etc in Rojava? Kamran Matin's piece talks about "rapid processes of capitalist development that has dramatically transformed the social fabric of Kurdish society over the last fifty years or so (...) [and a] rapid, and top-down character of capitalist development in the region." But this isn't expanded much, beyond noting a growth in literacy, urbanisation, and a new intelligentsia.

2. How, if at all, has it changed since the war/withdrawal of Syrian state forces? This piece sounds a bit like 'disaster communism': "Everybody is a volunteer in Kobane, in order to keep up the resistance against ISIS. Doctors and nurses work for free at the makeshift hospitals; shopkeepers have emptied their shops of food, drinks and other accessories in order to distribute them for free to the fighters and civilians. Courageous mothers whose sons and daughters are fighting on the frontline gather and cook food on a daily basis for whoever is hungry and needs food. Money is no longer worth anything because everybody wants to share their resources as well as their willpower to help one another through these hard times" - but this may well reflect the disaster-like conditions of wartime scarcity, temporary flight of bourgeoisie from the warzone etc, rather than a more permanent shift away from a monetary economy.

3. What are the economic policies of the PYD? Apparently "we are starting with cooperatives. We are starting with small units of production. We will develop an economy based on agriculture" and "We will attempt to include regional capital investors in this process. But we will not allow them the opportunity to exploit the community and people or monopolize." Hard to tell if this is like Venezuela's 'co-operative development' where co-ops are exempt from minimum wage etc, or a more novel model of economic development trying to partner regional capital with self-managed agriculture.

boomerang
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Oct 18 2014 06:29

Great questions.

I'm not sure if it's similar in Rojava, but here's some information on Kurdistan in Turkey, which applies to your first question. With the Syrian state things have likely developed differently in Rojava, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were similarities. (Even if not, it's still interesting to know the economic context for Turkish Kurdistan.)

http://new-compass.net/article/kurdish-communalism

Quote:
—Is Turkish Kurdistan a village society? How much is it industrialized?

—Kurdistan is no longer a classic village society. In the 1960s, the Turkish state introduced the capitalist economy into Turkish Kurdistan, and an industrialization process like that of Europe or North America is under way, albeit in smaller steps. But the feudal elements are still strong in half of the provinces, and industrial capitalism is still less dominant in Kurdistan than in the Western Turkish provinces.

Turkish territory doesn’t have much oil, but all the oil it does have lies in Kurdistan. The big five hydroelectric power plants on the Euphrates River in Kurdistan produce an important part of the country’s electricity. But the local population doesn’t benefit much economically.

The first agriculture in human history was developed here. Agriculture remains the main source of income, as farmers till the soil in subsistence farming. But now Turkey’s greatest cotton production also happens here, and most of the hard wheat (used for pasta) comes from Kurdistan. Up to the 1990s, animal husbandry was a significant part of the economy, but the war between the Turkish Army and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) guerrillas destroyed most of it. While Turkey once exported meat, for the past years it has imported meat.

The past twenty years have seen an enormous shift. In the armed conflict, the Turkish Army destroyed 4,000 villages and forcibly displaced at least two million people. Today around half of Turkey’s Kurds no longer live in Kurdistan. Because of the war, and for economic reasons, they have moved to Istanbul and other cities. The Kurdish cities, like Diyarbakir, have grown fast (half of the people live in cities now), and a large, impoverished lumpenproletariat has developed.

The eastern two-thirds of the mainly Kurdish-populated provinces are the poorest in the Republic of Turkey. Three provinces in western Turkish Kurdistan, where the freedom struggle is not so strong and the wartime destruction was limited, are an exception.

According to recent statistics, Kurds constitute almost half of the Turkish working class. They work mainly in the worst-paid sectors of the economy, like construction, restaurants, tourism, and textile. They are not well organized as workers and are not strong in the big labor unions.

In recent years mining is on the rise in Turkish Kurdistan. Large international companies are interested in chromium, coal, and gold. As the most territory is mountainous, intensive mining exploitation would negatively affect both the population and nature.

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Oct 20 2014 06:59

This is from Zaher's piece, touching on the pre-war economy and current (as of a few months ago) organisation:

Zaher Baher wrote:
The main point of the Greenbelt was to bring Arabs from different areas to settle in Kurdish areas and to confiscate Kurdish lands which were then distributed amongst the recently-arrived Arab people. In short, Kurdish citizens under Assad came third, after Arabs and Christians.

Another policy was that Al Jazera should only produce wheat and oils. This meant that the government made sure that there would be no factories, companies or industry in the area. Al Jazera produces 70% of Syrian wheat and is very rich in oils, gas and phosphates. So the majority of people were involved in agriculture in the small towns and villages, and as traders and shopkeepers in the bigger towns. In addition, many people were employed by the government in education, health and local authorities, in military service as soldiers and as small contractors in municipalities. (...)

It is true that there are no factories, companies nor industrial sections. But Al Jazera is an agricultural canton involving many people in villages and small towns and wheat is the major product in Al Jazera. This canton is also very rich in oil, gas and phosphates, although many of the oilfields are not in use due to the war and lack of maintenance even before the uprising.

So these are further areas for the communes to involve themselves in by controlling them, using them and distributing produce to the people according to their need for free. Whatever is left, after distribution, the members of the communes can decide and agree to deal with it; sell it, exchange it for necessary materials for the people or just simply store it for later when needed. If the communes do not step up to these tasks and maintain what they do now, obviously, their tasks will be uncompleted.

I guess another question is the pre-war role of the state. It sounds like there was a policy of underdevelopment, and of ethnic land reform. Was land consolidated into large estates worked by wage labourers or share croppers? Or was it parcelled into small family plots? Are/were there any large landowners? Did the state seek to extract surplus e.g. via taxation, and were there any conflicts around this? What about the merchants in the towns, are/were they largely one-man-bands, or larger concerns with employees?

Imho this matters because I don't see how you can invoke class politics either way - to claim a revolution is in progress which we must support or to invoke proletarian internationalism - without some idea of the class relations on the ground and their (lack of) transformation.

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Oct 20 2014 15:36
boomerang wrote:
http://new-compass.net/article/kurdish-communalism
Quote:
—Is Turkish Kurdistan a village society? How much is it industrialized?

—Kurdistan is no longer a classic village society. In the 1960s, the Turkish state introduced the capitalist economy into Turkish Kurdistan, and an industrialization process like that of Europe or North America is under way, albeit in smaller steps. But the feudal elements are still strong in half of the provinces, and industrial capitalism is still less dominant in Kurdistan than in the Western Turkish provinces.
[...]
The first agriculture in human history was developed here. Agriculture remains the main source of income, as farmers till the soil in subsistence farming.
[...]
Up to the 1990s, animal husbandry was a significant part of the economy, but the war between the Turkish Army and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) guerrillas destroyed most of it. While Turkey once exported meat, for the past years it has imported meat.

This piece seems to have overlooked the influence of nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralism, alongside settled agriculture and pastoralism, amongst the "traditional" (by which I mean connected to the pre-capitalist social production relations) Kurdish economy.

It's a testament to the weak development of studies that include nomadism as an integral part of peasant economy, that the best I could find was this piece by a French sheep enthusiast (I know that sounds wrong...) - Kurdish Transhumance: Pastoral practices in South-east Turkey

In fairness, as the author says at the beginning, part of the prejudice for overlooking the role of semi-nomadic and nomadic pastoralism, comes from within the Kurdish community itself:

Quote:
"Why are you interested in them? There are so many beautiful things to see here!"
.
How many times have I heard or read this expression on the face of Kurdish guides who accompanied me to see the shepherds? Sometimes it is said mockingly; sometimes, with genuine astonishment. Some would urge me to climb Mount Ararat; others, to visit Akdamar or even to attend a festival. However, I remained disturbingly obsessed with the shepherds and their sheep.

Unfortunately, as a non-academic without institutional support and authority behind him, the limits of his access to official Turkish figures means that the account is basically anecdotal. I can't find figures for the prevalence of pastorialism, either before the war or currently, amongst the Kurdish economy.

Still, it's interesting that a number of the accounts coming from the KCK-related sources seem to pay attention to this aspect of the traditional economy.

What also doesn't come out in the above article is the role of violence and internecine clan warfare that goes along with such patriarchal pastoralist modes of living/production, from the Kurds and Pashtuns, through to Western European transhumant sheepherders like the Basques, Corsicans, Sardinians, Albanians, and cattle transhumanists like the Swiss, Scottish Highlanders, Gaelic Irish, etc. No coincidence that all the above were historically sources of mercenaries.

The violence aspect, in my opinion is non-trivial and I think it would be a mistake to file it under "merely political". The Tatort book, for e.g., says that a number of councils report that much of their activity is taken up by defusing problems of domestic violence, honour killings and blood feuds. This is also a problem well known to people working with Irish travellers for e.g. It's hard to see how you can create any form of collective agency without confronting the social fracturing effects of these dynamics - which are manageable for dispersed nomadic groups, but are seriously problematic for much larger urbanised, proletarianised or economically non-integrated populations. In a sense the need for a radical social recomposition of a social model that is breaking down, is not so much a "nice-to-have" but an urgent prerequisite for any form of social politics. So I don't see the PKK/KCK''s feminist turn as merely an affectation, or a simple cynical opportunism to recruit motivated female militants and cannon-fodder, but a response to the social atomising effect of patriarchal inter- and intra-clan feuding.

I suspect that Ocalan's turn away from conventional Stalinism had as much to do with the inadequacy of orthodox Marxist historical stageism (i.e. wait for capitalism to wipe out pre-capitalist features of Kurdish society) to deal with these issues of social breakdown and the need for recomposition, as any personal Damascene conversion away from authoritarianism. Hence also the interest in the Zapatistas, who faced similar issues, albeit from a different cultural starting point.

The problem is that the passage of proletarianisation from a pre-capitalist culture to modernity does not always run smooth. The dispossession and separation from the land does not always match up neatly with a corresponding expansion of industrial production to absorb the dispossessed populations. Hence why capitalist development can on occasion result in genocide. Capitalism cannot develop independently as a pure economic form, it has to do so within the framework of a state project, and that "superstructural" factor does not always have the flexibility to integrate populations that don't fit their chosen citizen-frame. As the Turkish state has already demonstrated in the past with the Armenian and Assyrian genocide. (Something the Kurds know all to well, considering they were heavily implicated in it).

I'd still like to know more about patterns of land-ownership than the brief mentions in the article above, but work that treats Kurdish society from a materialist rather than a superficial "ethno-cultural" viewpoint seems a bit thin on the ground. Or maybe I'm not looking hard enough?

edit: Thevenin references M.B. Rowton's concepts of "enclosed nomadism" and "dimorphic chieftianships", which is a little outdated. This introduction to a recent conference on Nomadism in the Ancient Near East is a useful corrective.

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Oct 20 2014 17:13
Quote:
the best I could find was this piece by a French sheep enthusiast (I know that sounds wrong...)

HAHAHA
.
Good info, btw.

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Dec 30 2014 12:17

http://libcom.org/forums/news/no-genuine-revolution-interview-graeber-evrensel-newspaper-29122014#comment-549599

David Graeber wrote:
Maybe rather than just scoffing at people who are actually engaged in daily revolutionary struggle, you might want to check out some of the voluminous literature produced by the Kurdish movement on this subject. I was hardly going to map out a detailed economic analysis in an interview where I wasn't even asked any questions about the subject anyway. But if you're actually curious - I suppose there's some possibility you might be - I could make a brief introductory list

* the economy of Rojava in general and Cizire especially was of an artificially dependent agrarian economy which suppled wheat, cotton, but also petroleum to be processed elsewhere in the country (there were no mills or refineries in Cizire itself.) Roughly half of land and other resources were state owned but run effectively as private fiefdoms by various government officials or members of their family; otherwise there was a bazaar economy supplying basic needs, much of it made up of black market or smuggled goods. After the revolution the bourgeoisie almost universally fled, and Baathist-owned land and buildings were taken under public control and distributed either to local communes, which exist on each neighbourhood level, and are organised on directly democratic lines, or to municipalities governed by delegates chosen by the communes. These are allocated to various projects, ranging from Academies for popular education, to cooperatives. There have also been efforts to create publicly run mills, refineries, dairy processing plants, and the like to process raw materials that had previously had to be sent off to facilities in other parts of Syria.

* the academy system is a key part of the economic strategy, offering 6 week intensive courses in various forms of expertise that had previously been monopolised by the Baathist, which was very much a rule-by-experts style of administration. There is a conscious strategy of deprofessionalization of knowledge to prevent the emergence of new technocratic classes. Economic academies not only train in technical knowledge but emphasise cooperative management and aim to disseminate such skills to as much of the population as possible.

* The aim is to connect cooperatives directly to one another so as to ultimately eliminate the use of money entirely in the cooperative sector.

* in addition to the collectives and cooperative sector there's an "open economy" sector which includes the existing bazaar economy, which, however, now falls under the ultimate authority of the local communes which intervene to enforce price ceilings on anything considered an essential commodity. Since there is a strict economic embargo on Rojava, most of the goods available in the bazaars are actually smuggled in from elsewhere, so it's not surprising it remains largely in private hands. Key necessities (mainly wheat and petrol that are produced locally) are distributed free to local communes and collectives, by a central board.

* We asked about trade unions but were told that since the "open economy" section is basically commercial, consisting of small shops, or even people selling things in front of their houses, and almost all production is in the hands of worker-owned collectives, this wasn't a priority. There was, however, a women's union which aggressively organised for the rights of caring labor, paid and otherwise.

* a few indigenous capitalists do exist and have not been expropriated though; some are even part of the formal (largely Potemkin) "self-administration" government; the language used to justify this was that the revolution aimed to "change the ground under which they operated" by shifting the way the economy as a whole functioned, and to change the structure of political power so as to make it impossible for them to translate economic advantage into political influence, and thus ultimately, to continue to operate as capitalists in the long run.

* the unusual aspect of the class discourse was the idea that women themselves constitute the original proletariat (arguing here from the German Ideology, etc), and that class differences between men are less applicable between women. This goes along with the formula that capitalism depends on the existence of the state and the state depends on the existence of patriarchy. The elimination of what was often referred to as "capitalist modernity" was seen as having to involve an attack on all three simultaneously. For instance, the family was seen as the primary place of production, production being primarily of people, and only secondarily of material wealth (reversing the idea of production and social reproduction), and women as the primary exploited class within that system; the solution they are trying to put into practice is to undermine both the possibility of a reimposition of state authority and of patriarchy simultaneously by devolving the means of coercive power into the local directly-democratically organised communes (security forces are answerable to the "peace and consensus" working groups of each commune, and not to the formal "government") and ensuring that both the security forces themselves and the communes are composed of women. The emphasis on giving women military and weapons training is not a matter of war-time expedience; people actually insist it is a key part of how they conceive a broader anti-capitalist project for the transformation of social production which would make it impossible to restore a top-down capitalist economic system.

Well, that's for starters. There's much, much more.

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Dec 31 2014 11:35

http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/poor-in-means/

Janet Biehl wrote:
What is daily life like? Are schools, doctors, electricity, and water all supplied for free?
Rojava has been fighting a long, grueling war of self-defense against ISIS, and to that end the self-government maintains defense forces (YPG, YPJ) and security forces (Asayis). Arming these men and women, providing them with food and uniforms, and meeting other military needs consumes 70 percent of the budget. The remaining 30 percent goes to public services. Rojava considers health and education to be basic human needs, and on that slim budget, it finances public systems for both.

The main economic activity in Cizire is agriculture. With its fertile soil and good growing conditions, the canton is rich in wheat and barley. Before the revolution it was the breadbasket of Syria. Notably, the Baath regime declined to build processing facilities in Rojava, even flour mills. The self-government built one only recently, at Tirbespiye, and now provides flour for the whole canton. Bread remains the staff of life—each household gets three loaves of bread a day, which the self-government provides at 40 percent below cost.

For the last two years the self-government has supplied seeds to the farmers, and diesel for their machinery, so they can continue to cultivate their lands. The self-government has also created local companies to develop infrastructure and to build roads. And it finances the refugee camps in the Kurdish areas. Humanitarian institutions are present there too, but only symbolically—they don’t finance electricity, water, or education, because Rojava is not internationally recognized; the agencies have to work through the KRG and Damascus, which doesn’t allow it. So Rojava must provide for them. The result is an economy of survival. Electricity and clean water are in limited supply.

How are people paid?
Some Rojavans earn wages, but many work on a voluntary basis; still others just make their living, say, from a cow. “We consume bread together,” Hemo said, “and if there is no bread, we do not get bread.”

Still, at the top of the economic development agenda is the creation of cooperatives, in Rojava’s “community economy.” “Our political project and our economic project are the same,” said Abdurrahman Hemo, an adviser for economic development in Cizire canton. For two years Cizire has been promoting cooperativism through academies, seminars, and community discussions, and is building them in different sectors. Most of the cooperatives are agricultural, but others are springing up in trades and construction.

What is Rojava’s income? Do people pay taxes?
Rojava collects no taxes from its people, and receives a small income from the border crossing at Semalka. But most of Rojava’s income by far comes form Cizire’s oil. The canton has thousands of oilfields, but at the moment only 200 of them are active. Once again, the Baath regime exploited Cizire’s raw materials but refused to construct processing plants. So while Cizire has petroleum, it had no refineries. Only since the revolution has the self-government improvised a large refinery to produce diesel and benzene, which are sold cheaply in the local economy. Diesel is now cheaper than water—it goes fuels the small generators that provide power in much of Cizire. But the canton exploits petroleum only for its own use.

Why can’t Rojava just sell its oil abroad and gain income from exports?
The reason is the embargo. Rojava shares a long border with Turkey, and several border crossings exist. But they are officially closed now, since Turkey embargoes Rojava both politically and economically. The KRG observes turkey’s embargo, although it has relaxed in recent months to allow trade through the Semalka crossing. But because of the virtually complete embargo, Rojava must build everything itself, from local materials. It gets no investment from outside–all production and all consumption are domestic. Self-sufficiency is not ideology—it’s an economic reality.

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Dec 31 2014 13:17

For background (haven't read it myself yet, but looks to have germane background info on tribal structures, historic modes of exploitation, etc) for anyone with an academia.edu account (free regostration). 1992 Zed Press book, "Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan" by Martin van Bruinessen. https://www.academia.edu/2521173/Agha_Shaikh_and_State_The_Social_and_Political_Structures_of_Kurdistan

Anti War
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Jan 1 2015 16:35

See this also:
'Economy Minister interview' in Rojava

kurekmurek
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Jan 1 2015 18:47

well I am double posting now it now but It has info on: economy, gender relations, decentralized security system, ethnic relations etc... (and the best homemade tank ever grin ) communes etc...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKhjJfH0ra4

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Jan 3 2015 17:42

The van Bruinessen book, which I am still in the process of working through, is worthwhile for people interested in a more in depth treatment of Kurdish tribal structure and its mediation of and intersection with class forces and state manipulation.

However a couple of caveats. First of all the field work for the Phd on which its based was done back in the mid-70s. Admittedly the general shape of tribal structures (if not the particular power dynamics within them) don't mutate that fast, but other aspects of economic change - especially the destruction brought by the war in Turkish Kurdistan in the 1980s and 90s, for e.g. - do,

Secondly, probably more importantly, the author seems genuinely gender blind. In a way that probably passed with less comment in Western anthropological study of Muslim and/or nomadic tribal societies in the 1970s, but is pretty extraordinary by 21st century standards. While it's understandable that as a foreign single man in the 1970s, van Bruinessen's chance of speaking one-to-one with Kurdish women was non-existent, the fact that he doesn't think to list this in his otherwise reasonably fair assesment of the limitations of his own research methodology is instructive.

In practical terms, this means while he emphasises the role of managing blood feuds as one of the crucial raisons-d'etre of tribal structures, he fails to consider the role of forced marriages, sexual "honour" violations, etc, as major causes of inter-familial, -clan or -tribal feuds. Which does not chime with any of the contemporary reports of people doing social work in these communities (and many others with similar tribal/honour structures). So the analysis of the role of specifically patriarchal structures in reproducing Kurdish tribal structures is not adequately addressed in van Bruinessen's work. Which is a major failing for its use as a background source for assessing the structures and processes of Democratic Autonomy as a strategy for undermining tribalism.

Also the book is fairly long. For a shorter read, there is a more recent paper (2002) from the same author - ‘Kurds, states and tribes’

See also Martin van Bruinessen's page of online publications here

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Jan 3 2015 18:46

When I read ocelot's account I remembered there is this book by Mojab, Shahrzad (Edited) (2001) "Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds" I had it in Turkish but could not find it in English that is not an old book moreover, it has special emphasis on women.

While searching for book:
1) I came by an article by Dirik: http://libya360.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/stateless-democracy-how-the-kurdish-womens-movement-liberated-democracy-from-the-state/
Where he comparatively discusses issues of women liberation between Barzani and other varients of Kurdish movement.
2) https://www.soas.ac.uk/lmei/events/ssemme/file67896.pdf This short essay also argues how women reshape the political projects of Kurds. Although it is short it has some good bibliographic references.
3) Martin van Bruinessen on Kurdish women leaders in history (part of the Mojab's book) https://www.academia.edu/5118670/From_Adela_Khanun_to_Leyla_Zana_Women_as_Political_Leaders_in_Kurdish_History

kurekmurek
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Jan 5 2015 23:30

I just saw this a collection of articles and interviews on Rojava. Some of it was already discussed in Libcom (though some might missed these discussions of course) there is also some new. Although they are not just discussions of structures, they nevertheless contain info (and nicely gathered in one place)
http://cooperativa.cat/en/rojava-building-a-better-world/

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Jan 7 2015 10:58
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
When I read ocelot's account I remembered there is this book by Mojab, Shahrzad (Edited) (2001) "Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds" I had it in Turkish but could not find it in English that is not an old book moreover, it has special emphasis on women.

While searching for book:
1) I came by an article by Dirik: http://libya360.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/stateless-democracy-how-the-kurdish-womens-movement-liberated-democracy-from-the-state/
Where he comparatively discusses issues of women liberation between Barzani and other varients of Kurdish movement.
2) https://www.soas.ac.uk/lmei/events/ssemme/file67896.pdf This short essay also argues how women reshape the political projects of Kurds. Although it is short it has some good bibliographic references.
3) Martin van Bruinessen on Kurdish women leaders in history (part of the Mojab's book) https://www.academia.edu/5118670/From_Adela_Khanun_to_Leyla_Zana_Women_as_Political_Leaders_in_Kurdish_History

Taking the last first. The van Bruinessen chapter is interesting historical background. However I agree entirely with his assessment that:

Quote:
The insistence with which many nationalist Kurdish men claim that women already enjoy equal rights in Kurdish society often hardly veils what they really wish to say, namely that there is no need for women's liberation or emancipation. It is true that some women have achieved extraordinary influence in Kurdish society, but the vast majority of them have none. It is true that in some parts of Kurdistan women have a certain freedom of movement, perhaps more than in many other parts of the Middle East, but this is certainly not characteristic of all Kurdistan, and the nature and degree of this freedom moreover depend much on their families' social status.

The second text is fairly short and, arguably, fairly common sense points (i.e. there is a gap between an organisation or movements public declarations of feminist alignment and actual practice of its militants and structures, and that change relies importantly on advances fought on the micropolitical level as well as the macropolitical one).

The Dirik (*she btw...) article is worth discussing. While I don't disagree particularly with the general intent of her article, I think there are significant failures in analysis in her article that obscure the potential significance of the practices of the KCK model. To a degree she is not solely to blame for this given that the same problems are found in the official ideology of Democratic Confederalism, (as laid out in Ocalan's pamphlet of that title for e.g.).

For e.g. take this statement:

Quote:
A structure such as the KRG’s, which is compatible with the framework of the dominant system is accepted, while political parties that challenge the capitalist, feudal-patriarchal statist system are ostracised. This asymmetrical preference of the international community exposes its true undemocratic face. And Kurdish women experience all of this on their own bodies.
[...]
Therefore, women should not expect liberation through a state-like hegemonic structure. The moment we start to define the fact that there is a Miss Kurdistan beauty pageant in South Kurdistan as progress and modernity, we fall for the exact same mechanisms that have enslaved humanity in the first place. Is this what we understand as freedom? Unlimited consumerism? Primitive nationalism? Copying elements of global patriarchy and capitalism, labelling them with Kurdish flags in order to praise ourselves as modern?

The problem is that terms like "capitalist, feudal-patriarchal statist system" garble categories in a completely confusionist way. Unless these categories are to be treated as simple negative accentuators for the "Big Bad", they need to mean something. Above all, we need to understand whether we are working from a historical materialist framework or a liberal-"metaphysical" one. I put the word "metaphysical" in scare quotes as I'm actually referencing the sense in which it is used by Engels in the Anti-Dühring - and believe me, that's not a reference I make very often.

What do I mean by a historical materialist perspective? Not the traditional ortho Marxist notion of a unilinear four-stage (teleological) schema of human history from primitive communism, through, ancient slave society, to feudalism and thence to capitalism. That model is, as George Conminel made clear, is just a straight carbon copy of the French enlightenment four-stage theory of history (hunter-gatherer, pasturage, agriculture, commerce) and is hopelessly irreconcilable with any basic knowledge of human history from the Neolithic revolution to present.

So if the old-style four-stage theory of history taught in the 20th century schools of "really-existing" socialism, is crass dogma, is there any point to attempting to reconstruct a more viable historical materialism? Skipping my reasons, I'd say yes, because the alternative (arbitrarily formed trans-historical abstractions and essentialisms) is imho hopeless.

There remains the fundamental problem that any workable historical materialist approach unavoidably rests on having a workable notion of historical mode of production, and currently the existing candidate models of modes of production are pretty much broken at the moment, as various people, from the Political Marxists, to some of their opponents like Jairus Banaji, accept. The debate over the "Asian mode of production" (or "the Loch Ness Monster of modes of production" as Banaji wryly terms it) being an illustration.

Parenthesis aside, to characterise a system as being both capitalist and feudal, at the same time, is analytically liquidationist. Further Dirk repeatedly uses "feudal tribalist" as a construction, without ever being clear whether these terms are simply synonymous (in places they appear in lieu of each other), common characteristics of a single underlying social form, or represent some kind of hybrid of two genealogically distinct social forms.

Then there's the problem of distinguishing a characteristic (or even normative judgement of) a particular set of social relations or mode of production, and a category equivalent to a mode of production itself, or worse, a transhistorical category of oppression - I speak, of course, of the reference to "global patriarchy" or just "the patriarchy" (as Ocalan repeatedly refers to it).

As a characteristic of a particular set of social relations, we can say that both Western feudalism and Ancient Greece, for e.g., had a patriarchal character, given that both systems were oppressive to women. But that does not mean that they were based on the same mode of production. In this sense reference to a timeless, transhistorical category of "the patriarchy" is confusionist - unless you reject the basis of historical materialism - the historicity of social relations and the specificity of their emergent dynamics - altogether.

My point is that we need to focus on the problem of tribalism both in historical and actually-existing Kurdish society. (And in parenthesis, the fact that the Kurds are far from the only ethnicity in the Middle East and elsewhere that have similar issues, makes this question of far more general application than being simply a "Kurdish matter").

The first problem is the appearance of tribalism as a social form or structure that has historically made the transition from a nomadic mode of subsistence (dodging the question of whether the nomadic mode of subsistence constitutes an independent mode of production or not*) to a feudal mode and is today making a successful transition to a capitalist economy.

This last point - which is the point of Van B's 2002 paper above, is worth emphasising. The contemporary version of the enlightenment materialism of the 4-stage theory, is modenization theory. But modernization theory still holds the prejudice that the development of a capitalist economy will bring in its wake the social winds of capitalist modernity that will automatically sweep away "backwards" social forms like tribalism. Guess what? It just ain't happening. And not just due to economic underdevelopment. There's plenty of oil-related capitalist development happening in KRG's Northern Iraq. Booming commerce, shiny new universities (one of my musician mates was teaching in Erbil Uni a while back), new car dealerships, satellite TV, what have yous. None of this is going to make tribalism magically disappear.

Nor, for that matter, is it as easy as declaring yourself politically at war with the "collaborator" tribal chiefs and landowners, and shooting a few of them, as the PKK did at the outset of their 1980s campaign. Again, as per the 2002 paper above:

Quote:
Since the early 1960s, Kurdish nationalists have waged a guerrilla struggle against the central government, in which both sides mobilised Kurdish tribes against the other in a complicated pattern of alliances and oppositions. In several large tribes, some leading members were actively involved in the Kurdish movement (which was a state-like actor) whereas others co-operated with the government and even led sections of their tribes as prostate militias.
.
The same phenomenon could also be observed in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s, when the PKK fought a violent armed struggle against the central government and its Kurdish ‘collaborators’. Many leading families had a few members in government service and others active in the PKK.[11]
.
A very striking example is that of the Bucak tribe, the leading family of which has long been split in pro-government and Kurdish nationalist factions. Fayik Bucak was in 1965 one of the founders of the KDP of Turkey. He was assassinated in obscure circumstances, probably in a tribal feud; his children have since become prominent in the Kurdish movement, one of them, Serhat, closely associating himself with the PKK. Another branch of the family, led by Mehmet Celal Bucak and his successor Sedat Edip Bucak, has closely co-operated with the state. The PKK targeted Mehmet Celal Bucak in its first symbolic attack on a Kurdish ‘collaborator’ in 1979, which led to an extended feud between this branch of the Bucaks and the PKK. Sedat Edip Bucak has led a large ‘village guard’ militia force, established in the context of the war against the PKK (but which he used primarily to establish his domination over neighbouring tribes.) In the past two decades, members of the Bucak tribe were killed fighting on both sides.
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[11] This is brought out in an interesting report prepared for Turkey's Chambers of Commerce and Industry in 1995. 1267 respondents in eastern Turkey, most of them locally prominent persons who were well integrated into Turkey's political and economic life, were asked whether they had relatives or acquaintances who were with the PKK. Two thirds declined answering this question, but 15% (or 45% of those who did give an answer) mentioned that they had a relative with the PKK (TOBB 1995: 19).

To the extent that the conflict between the PKK and the KDP fall into traditional inter-tribal struggles, no real challenge to the existing social structure, particularly its class structure, can arise.

Or to put it another way, given that both class relations and the interactions with regional state and global imperialist powers is mediated by tribalist structures in Kurdish (and not only) society, then the class or social question for revolutionaries becomes the question of how to undermine and eventually overcome tribalism.

And it is this central question, I submit, that needs to inform any assessment of the progressive potential of the democratic confederalist project. Regardless of the official ideology (especially given that the aim of such a project would require winning the allegiance of both non-tribal and commoner tribal groups, making raising the "smash tribalism" slogan upfront a perhaps impolitic starting point).

Again, in parenthesis, the idea of a social power structure that manages to cross over from one mode of production to another while still maintaining, despite mutations and adaptations, some identifiable persistent social "dna" is also a bit of a theoretical challenge to the whole historical materialism paradigm, certainly as far as the naive base/superstructure model goes.

So we need to draw up some kind of balance sheet of what are the functional roles that allow tribalism to reproduce itself? As an entirely ad hoc first attempt, I go for:

1. The "self-policing" of settling blood feuds without recourse to transcendent state authority or bodies.

2. The monopolisation of military force in the hands of tribesmen as opposed to subject non-tribal society members (and women).

3. The control of the political representation/mediation structures created by regional states and external powers, whether feudal, imperial or liberal democratic electoralist in form.

4. The control of the distribution (and redistribution) of resources, including animals, women, grazing and arable land.

In relation to 1. A possible solution to family heads, clan chiefs and tribal aghas setting themselves up as indispensable arbiters in disputes, would be to form some kind of grass-roots participatory structures where disputes could be settled in a more "horizontal fashion" rather than appeal to a higher authority.

Re 2 - obviously, train all non-tribal and women members of society in the use of weapons and warfare.

In relation to 3. van B made the point that already back in the 1970s, the tribal aghas had moved smoothly into occupying all the elected posts in the secular Kemalist, Baathist or Persian states. If the monopolisation of the conventional political representational structures cannot be avoided, at least in the here and now, then the creation of a parallel political structure in a "dual power" model, seems the only logical counter.

4. Communalise land, animals and means of production as far as possible, including the use of cooperatives, etc. Above all, abolish forced marriage and bride price.

OK, that's a very brief sketch rather than a proper treatment. But I think there is something there to look at.

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* on this question I have a good bit of time for Anatoly Khazanov's contention that historical nomadism is not some autarkic survival from a pre-agricultural pastoralism, but a social form developed after the emergence of agriculture and always in some way in material relation/intercourse with the settled communities with which it trades, raids and occasionally conquers

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ocelot
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Jan 7 2015 10:56

OK, I appreciate the above is a bit long-winded. I've tried to compress the issue a bit by means of a provocative proposition.

Question: in the context of Kurdish society - is forced marriage a class issue?

Answer: Yes.

Yes because class formation and relations in Kurdish society are both mediated and governed by tribal structures, including the non-tribal population who are subjected to the social domination of the tribes. And the maintenance and reproduction of the tribal hierarchy of solidarities depends crucially on maintaining an unnaturally high prevalence of parallel first cousin marriage - the marriage of sons to the daughters of their father's brothers. It is this particular practice of patrilineal endogameity that minimises cross-lineage loyalties such that, in the ideal pattern, a son's loyalty is first of all to his brothers, under the leadership of his father. Then to his father's brothers sons, under the leadership of his paternal grandfather, and so on up the patrilineal hierarchy. Such that the patriarch at every level of the lineage, sub-clan, clan and sub-tribe hierarchy has a dependable body of fighting men below him at his command in a conflict at that level.

The military and disciplinary functions of the clan are thus grounded on the basis of the prevalence of this particular patriarchal form of forced marriage (as distinct from other forms, such as caste endogameity) of daughters to uncle's sons. Even if cultural norms, financial incentives (according to van B, brother's sons are traditional charged half or less of the appropriate bride price for a daughter) and familial encouragement can help to increase the "voluntary" incidence of such marriages, the violent sanctions against violation of "honour" are also required both to promote clan-promoting marriages and, above all, to forbid "inappropriate" ones.

Of course this means violating the liberal prejudices that marriage is a "private matter" and tribal traditions - so long as they don't violate the law of the land (the traditional liberal get-out from the contradictions of freedom of choice in social values) - should be tolerated in the name of cultural diversity.

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Jan 7 2015 11:25

To clarify the whole patrilateral cousin marriage thing, here's a bit from the van B book:

Marriage preference and tribal conflict

A factor that may contribute to making conflicts between tribal sections more severe and enduring in Kurdistan than in many other tribal societies is the fact that tribal sections of all levels are largely endogamous. There is a clear preference for marriage with the father's brother's daughter (real or classificatory). In fact, a girl's father's brother's son has the theoretical right to deny her to anyone else. If her father wishes to marry her to a stranger, he has in theory to ask permission to do so from his nephews, unless these have already renounced their right of first proposal. I never witnessed a concrete case where this happened, but I have heard of this custom in various comers of Kurdistan. And if a father's brother's son proposes, the girl's father finds it difficult, if not impossible, to refuse him.

Everywhere in Kurdistan the bride-price a father's brother's son has to pay is considerably lower than that for strangers, which quite apart from what the origins, causes or functions of this custom are favours the choice of a father's brother's daughter as a marriage partner. It is evident that a consistent practice of this marriage type leads to extreme segmentariness (see figure 2). Whereas cross-cousin marriage (especially where both cross-cousins may be married) cements multiple relationships between the Uneages, the strict endogamy resulting from father's brother's daughter marriage only enhances the segmentary character of the Uneages. As the extreme example of figure 2 shows, the Uneages are completely isolated; there are no affinal relations to soften the potential conflicts between them.

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Jan 7 2015 11:34

I'm also going to stick this in here, because I think it's a useful source (it has further details on the economic aspects) and unfortunately the original host site seems to be down, so this is now only available from Google cache, and I'm not sure how long that sticks around for.

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Kurdish Families - Kurdish Marriage Patterns

Kurdish marriage arrangements are very complex and defined by tribal traditions. Almost all Kirmanji-, Sorani-, Zaza-, and Gorani-speaking Kurds are historically tribal people, and tribal traditions continue to affect the daily experiences of tribal, as well as nontribal Kurds, who live in both rural and urban areas. The term mal also means a lineage in Kurdish. A lineage is a group of people who descend from a common ancestor. According to tribal ideology, brothers, father, and sons are joined in a single group, creating a division within the tribe against the father's brother and his sons. They all unite against far removed patriarchal cousins. Although a tribe is segmented genealogically, all of the units described above are united as patrilineal kin against another tribe at times of conflict, such as blood feuds. Tribal membership exists both in terms of putative patrilineal kin groups (groups that trace their genealogy to a common ancestor of the main branch of the tribe) and fictive patrilineal kinship groups (groups created in circumstances when an individual was adopted as a tribal member; lineages are traced from this adopted individual). However, tribal kinship is described bilaterally (traced through both male and female lines). Kurdish kinship terminology consists of two categories: kin relations traced through blood (consanguine) and through marriage (affinal) relations. In each category, terms are very specific for ascending and descending generations; the categories define patrilineal kin and female affine, as well as social relations. Yezidi traditions are similar to the traditions of Muslim Kurds, yet are differentiated by the existence of social categories: sheihks, peshimams, pirs, kawals, and faqirs. These categories clearly define social, political, and economic positions, as well as responsibilities of these individuals within Yezidi societies.

Marriage is one of the most important events for establishing alliances and creating social hierarchies within and between tribes. Upon marriage, a woman leaves her birth homestead and moves to her husband's village. Traditionally, a woman did not move away from the territory of her lineage since most marriages were within the lineage where members live a short distance away. However, urban migration and diaspora relations resulted in contemporary marriages in which women not only move from their paternal homes, but frequently cross national borders. Traditionally, Kurdish marriages are arranged marriages. Marriage arrangements may be completed even before children are born. For boys and girls, marriage establishes the passage to adulthood. The marriageable age of male and female children varies according to socioeconomic class and the specific needs of individual families. The average age for marriage increases in urban areas, where the parties involved are usually educated and employed. Although the marriage age of boys is slightly higher than girls, this depends on various social and economic strategies of households. Generally, girls' marriages are postponed when there is a labor shortage in the family. However, they may be given in marriage at an early age to settle a dispute in a case of kidnapping, taking an unmarried girl by force to marry against her will. That is, if a son of family A kidnaps a girl from family B, the resulting dispute between the two families can't be settled unless family A gives a girl to family B. The possibilities of both eloping and kidnapping also contribute to the desire to arrange early marriages for girls. Although kidnapping and eloping are relatively rare, both cause a social disruption and require mediation between lineages and families to recover from social and economic damages. These events highlight certain aspects of Kurdish family traditions.

Historically, tribal endogamy—the obligation to marry within the tribe—is followed in Kurdish marriages. Yezidi marriages similarly follow strict endogamy within well-defined social categories. Yezidi traditions do not allow marriages between the families of sheihks, peshimams, pirs, kawals, and faqirs. According to Kurdish traditions, a man has the right to marry his paternal uncle's daughter. Any arrangement contrary to this rule must be negotiated between the two brothers. Therefore, for all Kurds the preferred form of marriage is with patrilateral cousins (the children of siblings of the same sex, FBD/FBS—father's brother's daughter and son) while cross-cousin (the children of the siblings of opposite sex, FZD/FZS—father's sister's daughter and son) marriages are rarely practiced. The lineage endogamy is secured by marrying a first parallel cousin, and if this is not possible, a second or a more distant patrilateral cousin. The patrilateral cousins' marriage keeps property in the family and reinforces patriarchal and tribal solidarity.

Marriages are often arranged in the form of direct exchanges, pê-guhurk. Direct exchange marriages are made if one household head, who gives a daughter to another one as a wife for their son, demands a wife in return. The most common form of a direct exchange between two households is sister exchange. In rare cases, marriages are arranged between three families: family A gives a daughter to family B, family B gives a daughter to family C, and family C completes the circle of exchange by giving a daughter to family A. Direct wife and sister exchanges eliminate the payment of bride-price in marriages.

In Kurdistan, a widowed woman stays with her husband's family. If she is widowed when her children are young, she is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother. This form of marriage is called levirate. Sororate is another custom: When a man loses his wife before she bears a child or she dies leaving young children, her lineage provides another wife to the man, usually a younger sister with a lowered bride-price. Both levirate and sororate are practiced to guarantee the well being of children and ensure that any inheritance of land will stay within the family.

Most Kurdish marriages are monogamous marriages. However, Islam allows polygynous marriages; a man may have as many as four wives at one time providing that he fulfills his obligations as prescribed in Islam. Although statistically rare, polygynous marriages are practiced by Kurdish men who have high economic and political status or claim to have such status. Patriarchal ideology justifies these marriages by emphasizing the Islamic prescription that asserts that social harmony will develop between wives who share household chores and childcare. In reality, polygyny complicates social relations between the members of extended households.

Bride-price is called naxt in Kurdish. It is given to the family of the bride at the time of betrothal or may be paid in increments until the wedding ceremony. It is paid in cash and gold and may include gifts to the bride and her family, the expenses of the wedding ceremony, a rifle, a revolver, jewelry, household goods, electronic equipment, and hoofed animals. The wedding expenses, including the bride-price and the construction and preparation of a room for the marrying couple, may be as much as one year's income for an average household. The amount of the bride-price varies according to the wealth and social standing of the groom's family. However, the bride-price is decreased if the marriage is an FBD/FBS marriage. The bride does not claim any of the bride-price. Generally, most fathers of young sons use the bride-price, which they receive from their daughter's marriages, to pay the family providing a bride for their sons. Fathers of young women are expected to prepare a trousseau and a dowry, which may include jewelry and livestock, for their marrying daughters. Kaleb or sirdan, so-called milk money, is not negotiated between families; rather, it is courteously presented to the mother of the bride, generally in the form of gold jewelry, for her loss of a daughter and a laborer.

Traditionally, peasant weddings include everyone living in the village of the groom and involve elaborate ceremonies. Most able members of the village contribute to wedding preparations in different ways. The wedding ceremonies may last several days. Following proper rules of conduct, a newly married couple avoids being in the same room with the groom's father for close to a week, although they are living in the same house. It is only after this period of prohibition that a bride can visit her parents to receive their blessings.

The preference for FBD/FBS marriages is one of the reasons why young men and women choose to elope. In urban areas, some young girls negotiate to marry a young man they choose by threatening their parents with the possibility of eloping. In both rural and urban areas, kidnapping may also be considered as an attempt on the part of young people to undermine this patriarchal imposition. Eloping and kidnapping also eliminate the problems of paying a high bride-price for the Kurds, but not for the Yezidis. Both eloping and kidnapping bring shame to families. However, kidnapping may have far more serious consequences. It may result in inter-lineage and intertribal feuds, since it is believed that the woman's honor is stained; she is no longer considered a virgin, and can't be returned to her family.

Traditionally, blood feuds are intertribal affairs. When a Kurd is murdered by someone from another tribe, not only the lineage of the dead man, but the whole tribe comes together for an extra-juridical form of punishment, usually provoking countermeasures that lead to escalated tribal warfare. Settlement between the tribes can be a lengthy process and is pursued until an agreement is reached about the payment of blood money, bezh, to the relatives of the victim. Blood feuds are more widespread in Northern Kurdistan than in other parts of Kurdistan, and incidents of it are decreasing as the power of tribal leaders decreases.

Among Muslim Kurds, despite the sharia, Islamic law, and civil inheritance laws where applicable, and among Yezidis, women are not given property, including land, pastures, houses, and livestock, as their inheritances. In addition, FBD/FBS marriages guarantee the continuity of patriarchal domination; it is less likely that her husband will support a woman's right to claim her inheritance. However, in urban areas, education, employment opportunities and nontraditional marriage arrangements situate women in more powerful positions to demand their legal inheritances.

Every birth in a Kurdish family is recognized with joy. In rural households, mothers do not discipline their children in the presence of their inlaws. Generally, breastfeeding continues until the baby is two years old. Although toddlers receive excessive care, as they grow up to understand the world around them, they also recognize that seniority is the organizing principle in Kurdish households. Children are expected to be obedient and submissive to their elders. Traditionally, they do not contest the decisions of the parents.

Sibling bonds, especially between sisters and brothers, are very strong among the Kurds. Brother-sister ties continue after her marriage. This bond guarantees the well being of the sister in her husband's household. In exchange, it secures the brother's right to keep all inherited property. Despite tribal ideology and the segmentary model, FBSs are usually close friends. Conflicts between the two of them, especially related to the division of landed property, are generally managed by the elder's mediation within village life. Cross-cousins (MBSs/MSSs) also usually have a close relationship and most often invest in trading activities together. Kurds are very clear in defining how close their relatives are with specific terms and references. The distance and the closeness of the kin are also strategically defined in terms of establishing ties with individuals who may be profitable to have as familial contacts. Kurds develop close relationships with their non-Kurdish neighbors through a mechanism called tirib relationships.

Circumcision is an important rite of passage in a man's life. Most boys are circumcised between the ages of six and ten. Kurds select a tirib from their neighbors who will comfort the young boy during his circumcision, with the hope that the two will have a lifelong relationship. Yezidis have a similar custom, selecting a Muslim man as karif or kiniv for the young boy, forming a blood-brotherhood between the two.

See also: IRAN; ISLAM; TURKEY

Bibliography

Ahmetbeyzade, C. (2000). "Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey and the Role of Peasant Kurdish Women." In Gender Ironies of Nationalism: Sexing the Nation, ed. T. Mayer. London and New York: Routledge.

Guest, J. (1987). The Yezidis: A Study in Survival. London and New York: KPI.

Gunter, M. (1990). The Kurds in Turkey: A Political Dilemma. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Izadi, M. (1992). The Kurds: A Concise Handbook. Washington, DC: Crane Russak.

Keyenbroek, P., and Allison, C., eds. (1996). Kurdish Culture and Identity. London: Zed Books.

Keyenbroek, P., and Sperl, S., eds. (1992). The Kurds: Contemporary Overview. London: Routledge.

Meiselas, S. (1997). Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History. New York: Random House.

Olson, R. (1989). The Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism 1880–1925. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Van Bruinessen, M. (1992). Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan. London: Zed Books.

Yalçin-Heckmann, L. (1991). Tribe and Kinship among the Kurds. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

MIHRI &NA;NAL ÇAKIR

augustynww
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Jan 8 2015 07:37

no one uses this word here, but it's obvious to me after reading this it's kind of social-democracy:

-What was your first task in terms of the economy?

When Efrîn was secure and peaceful development of commerce picked up pace. Buildings were constructed, workshops were opened. In order to put a system into place an Economic Development Center was founded in the central district of Derik. Branches dealing with things like commerce, agriculture, crafts, architecture that were connected to this center were opened in Qamişlo, Kobanê and Efrîn. Ministries were opened in the cantons. Following this Craft and Commerce associations were founded.

-Jobs, employment…

Before the revolution there were no other work outside of a couple craft jobs. Now in Efrîn there is no unemployment with a population of over 1 million. Everyone who wants can have a job…

-What is the currency and how is it circulating?

We are continuing with Syrian money. Interest is forbidden and no can charge it. Those who do are put on trial and face consequences. There are state banks leftover from the regime but they are not working. We have work around banks and there are banks in every canton however in villages village banks will be opened. Right now people are saving by putting money under their pillows.

-How do you determine your pricing policies?

Efrîn experienced a ‘siege’ last winter. These circumstances made it a little difficult for us. A sack of flour went from 3 thousand to 6 thousand 500 hundred (Syrian pounds). The canton management took a decision and announced that any sack of flour sold for more than 4 thousand 100 (Syrian pounds) would be confiscated. After this we formed a committee and determined that the wheat produced in Efrîn would be sufficient for ourselves. We immediately began working two mills and stopped the export of flour. In this way the price of flour was brought back down to 3 thousand 500 hundred (Syrian pounds). At the same time we are putting together import routes for commerce, feedstock and medical goods.

-There are also some in the same circles who are describing the system as ‘North Korea.’ Is capital or private property forbidden or under threat?

Private capital is not forbidden but it is made to suite our ideas and system. We are developing a system around cooperatives and communes. However this does not prove that we are against private capital. They will complete each other. We believe that when the cooperative system is developed moral private capital can be added in certain parts of the economy. The society of Rojava will be made better in this way and taken away from the liberal system. In the liberal system the big fish swallows the small fish and there is no morality. In our canton a Commerce and Industry Organization was founded and has 7 thousand members. Here there is only thing that is forbidden and that is finance capital.

-You have explained that you are instituting ‘democratic modernity’ together with ‘capitalist modernity.’ Are any contradictions emerging?

In order to build the system of a democratic nation a little time is needed. We cannot do everything in a day. In order to set up this system we are moving forward day by day. We will work until we succeed and we will always do with regard to a moral compass. We will protect the rights of the poor and powerless and cooperatives and communities against the rich.

https://rojavareport.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/efrin-economy-minister-rojava-challenging-norms-of-class-gender-and-power/

this is how social-democracy would look like if it was initially based on Proudhon instead of Marx and went through similar changes (from building socialism to building social capitalism)

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Feb 3 2015 17:52

Novara have now written on this.

http://wire.novaramedia.com/2015/02/6-notes-on-the-economics-of-the-rojava-revolution/

Spikymike
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Feb 4 2015 10:46

Nothing new in the Novara short text - basically a summary of actual changes and published intentions for the future.

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Feb 4 2015 11:31
Novara wrote:
for some sections of the left – the burning question is, of course, what about class and the economy? After all, it’s not really #fullcommunism without the seizure of the means of production…

...There are no banks at the moment, though there is a plan to create banks for holding savings, and private capital will not be banned from investing in the region as long as it adheres to the broader economic principles of the region. ...

No, not even #partial communism.

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Feb 9 2015 02:09

i really like the new dauve article for stating a lot of the obvious on the economic situation there

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Feb 9 2015 09:43
klas batalo wrote:
i really like the new dauve article for stating a lot of the obvious on the economic situation there

Link to an english version? Or just google translate?

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Feb 9 2015 17:13

ROJAVA – THE FORMATION OF AN ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVE: PRIVATE PROPERTY IN THE SERVICE OF ALL

um...where have i heard this before?

@shorty just at google translate for now though i know someone will have an english translation later this week

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Feb 9 2015 17:27
Quote:
“A people’s economy should thus be based on redistribution and oriented towards needs, rather than on being oriented exclusively towards accumulation and the theft of surplus value and surplus product. Local economic structures don’t only harm society, they harm nature. One of the main reasons for social decline is the effect of the local financial economy. The artificial creation of needs which ventures forth to find new markets, and the boundless desire for ever more gigantic profits makes the gap between rich and poor ever wider, and expands the camp of those who are living on poverty line, those who die of hunger. Such an economic policy is no longer acceptable to humanity. The greatest task of a socialist politics lies therefore with the implementation of an alternative economic policy, one based not on profit but on the fairer redistribution of wealth.”

Cross class social democratic economic policy. Let's keep a rich and a poor, just make it more fair and collectively managed.

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Feb 21 2015 21:50

https://soundcloud.com/university-of-cambridge/can-the-revolution-in-kurdish-syria-succeed-1-2

this talk is a must to listen on revolutionary economic and political structures and social transformation (also on ocalan's theories) it is given by another academic who went to Rojava with Graeber.

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Feb 26 2015 03:50

apparently this book will have a lot of primary resources

http://www.combustionbooks.org/products-page/non-fiction/a-small-key-can-open-a-large-door-the-rojava-revolution/

Rojava: Facts at a Glance . 3
Introduction . 5
A Call to Our Sisters and Comrades . 47
A Call for the Dream of Freedom . 51
The Women’s Revolution in Rojava . 55
Defend the Unified Rojava Revolution . 65
The Resistance In Rojava Is A Super-National Resistance . 69
The Resistance of Kobanî will Triumph Over Tyranny . 75
Call to support Democratic Confederalism . 81
Peace, Equality, and Self-determination . 85
Western Kurdistan and the Revolutionary Period . 89
Rojava’s Economic Model is a Communal Model . 93
A Revolution in Daily Life . 101
We are Kawa against Dehaks . 109
Impressions of Rojava . 117
The Travel Account of a Karakök Autonome Activist . 127
Why Kobanî Did Not Fall . 133
Appendix A: The Constitution of the Rojava Cantons . 141
Appendix B: A Timeline . 170
Appendix C: A Lexicon . 175

"The Rojava revolution’s economic plan is called a “People’s Economy” to differentiate it from traditional market and socialist (i.e. state) economies. But though it posits itself as an alternative to the dualism of capitalism and communism, it is really not a fully formed model as of yet. There are three major concepts in the People’s Economy: commons, private property based on use, and worker-administered businesses. The Rojava economic experiment is less an implementation of a single concept than a jury-rigged system that must respond to the needs of a war and a crippling economic embargo. In 2010, a year before the Arab Spring exploded in Syria, the Rojava region provided over 40% of the country’s GNP and 70% of its exports despite only about 17% of Syria’s population living in the region. And yet people in Rojava made well below the median income of the country. The Rojava region sits on the famous Mesopotamian Plain, between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and is the oldest agricultural center in the world. Until 2011, northern Syria exported grain, cotton, and meat to its neighbors and Europe and was the country’s largest producer of oil. Plentiful water from the region’s rivers allowed for cement factories and other medium industrial plants to be built in the area in the 1970s and 1980s.

"However, since the start of the Syrian civil war, the infrastructure required to support these economic activities has been falling apart. Power, communications, roads, and railways have all been seriously compromised. Failed infrastructure, constant war, and a strictly-enforced embargo (most notably by Turkey, which shares Rojava’s only stable border), have ruined the traditional economy of the area. In 2012, the PYD launched what it originally called the Social Economy Plan, which would later be renamed the People’s Economy Plan (PEP). The PEP was based on the writings of Öcalan and the lived experiences of Kurds in North Kurdistan (southern Turkey).

" In 2012, the PYD launched what it originally called the Social Economy Plan, which would later be renamed the People’s Economy Plan (PEP). The PEP was based on the writings of Öcalan and the lived experiences of Kurds in North Kurdistan (southern Turkey). Traditional “private property” was abolished in late 2012, meaning all buildings, land, and infrastructure fell under control of the various city councils. This did not mean people no longer owned their homes or businesses, however. The councils implemented an “ownership by use” sovereign principle, a principle that could not be overturned by any council. Ownership by use means that when a building like a home or a business is being used by a person or persons, the users would in fact own the land and structures but would not be able to sell them on an open market. Öcalan wrote that use ownership is what prevents speculation and capital accumulation which in turn leads to exploitation. Aside from property owned by use, in principle any other property would become commons. This abolishing of private property did not extend to commodities like automobiles, machines, electronics, furniture, etc. but was limited to land, infrastructure, and structures

" The commons encompasses land, infrastructure, and buildings not owned by individuals but held in stewardship by the councils. Councils can turn over these public goods to individuals to be used. Commons are conceived of as a way to provide both a safety net for those without resources and a way to maximize use of the material resources of the community. Commons also include the ecological aspects of the region including water, parks, wildlife and wilderness, and even most livestock. According to Dr. Ahmad Yousef, an economic co-minister, three-quarters of traditional private property is being used as commons and one quarter is still being owned by use of individuals. The economic plan (PEP) posits that the commons are robust enough economically that there is no need for taxes, and since the beginning of the Rojava revolution there have been no taxes of any type.

" Worker administration is the third leg of the stool of the economic plan. Workers are to control the means of production in their workplace through worker councils that are responsible to the local councils. According to the Ministry of Economics, worker councils have only been set up for about one third of the enterprises in Rojava so far. Worker councils are coordinated by the various economic ministries and local councils to assure a smooth flow of goods, supplies, and other essentials. The PEP also calls for all economic activity in the cantons to be ecologically sound. It is unclear who has responsibility for this, whether it is the workers’ councils, the local councils, the City Councils, or the Peoples’ assemblies. Throughout the various statements from the economic ministries, one sees mention over and over again about the primacy of ecologically sensible industry—but details are lacking.

" The PEP is also vague when it comes to its relationship with other economies inside and outside of Syria. A substantial amount of the current economic activity in the region comes from black market oil being sold outside the region. In Autumn, 2014, representatives of Rojava travelled around Europe looking to create “trading partners” and seemed to be suggesting a standard free market policy, while at the same time eliminating banks and other financial institutions inside Rojava. The Rojava canton principles also clearly state that the region will not produce its own money or bonds, so it is unclear how such trading relationships between other governments would actually come to pass even if the embargo is lifted.

A different bit of the book, a travelogue by anarchist has an interesting quote from non-supporter of the revolution who is a refugee from Kobane and currently in Suruc:

"I also notice, however, that some are very conscious in their stand for the structures and principles of Rojava. Some also find the whole thing to be anything but wonderful. One citizen fleeing from Kobanê told me that she wishes a state would be established in Rojava. When I asked her why, she said, “then we wouldn’t have to do everything ourselves. Politicians can decide and organize the basics.” She is convinced that a state would protect the population. “If we had a state, we wouldn’t be getting attacked from all sides. Or at least we would have support from other states.” She then relates that she had to give up ninety percent of her land’s yield to regions with no agriculture, because it was decided in the citizens’ assembly that goods should be as evenly distributed as possible to meet the needs of all; there should not be abundance in one place when there is shortage in another. The woman I spoke to would rather keep her entire yield, or at least a greater portion of it.

"I heard about a survey that was conducted in Rojava by the committee for research and statistics. The goal was to suss out which political system the citizens of Rojava wanted. Almost 70% stood behind the idea of democratic federalism. Around 30% wanted something else, for instance an Islamic or a national state, or a capitalist system"

kurekmurek
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Feb 26 2015 09:25

very interesting klas batalo, thanks for that

Also the threefold economic structure is also futher explained in this recent interview by Biehl: http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/rojavas-threefold-economy/
It appears although they managed to establish economy on somehow equal basis, this seems to not let any future development of economy. So they desperately need some form of foreign aid or private investment from outside to improve their situation. It is open whether they will get that or how they will manage that.

Flint
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Feb 26 2015 15:47

"Q: Who decides how much to produce, of what, and how to distribute surplus?

"Hemo: The situation is complex. The democratic self-government, the committees for agriculture and finance, and the companies are all involved.

"Q: Who owns the companies?

"Hemo: Some of companies are private—the canton self-government has no control over them. Some of them made agreements with the self-government so they can cooperate. For instance, an oil company can be privately owned, but it has an agreement with the self-government. We own the oil, they give us diesel. The energy committee decides how pure the product has to be and how to price it. It’s similar for agriculture—there are private companies that have agreements with the self-government."

Q: How do individuals and people with families make money to live? What occupations are there? Have women and men changed in relation to the economy?

Hemo: There’s no division of labor. Agriculture is the main occupation. This is an economy of survival. There are no wages. Some people just make their living from a cow.

...

'Q: There must still be some people from the old days here who have more money than others, some wealth. Can’t you ask some kind of tax or contribution from them?

'Hemo: We plan to ask for that. But most of the population is very poor. We decided not to collect taxes from the people. If we did, it would all be over. So we get no fixed income in the form of taxes to finance the system.

Since we are under an embargo, we get no outside help. Everything we produce goes for our own needs. We have limited electricity, clean water, the necessities of daily life.

...

"Q: How would you like the economy to work ideally?

"Hemo: Our main focus for development would be on the community economy. But it will coexist with the open economy and the private economy. For instance, we need factories related to agriculture. We need processing facilities. We need fertilizer, cotton processing. We produce petroleum, but we need facilities to produce plastics, benzene from it. If there is an opening, we can create facilities. We need some kind of common economy, and factories should be communally owned. But we won’t create a state economy, or a centralized economy. It should be locally organized."

Abdurrahman Hemo: Rojava's Threefold Economy

Flint
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Mar 9 2015 13:40

Meanwhile in Başûr (Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq):

"In the words of the current finance minister, who took office less than a year ago as part of the coalition agreement, “out of almost 30,000 employees in the ministry, half of them do not exist”. Corrupt officials have registered their associates and party supporters to receive salaries without doing any work. It can be suspected that essentially the same is true for the rest of the ministries and local authorities."

"We can safely say that the hundreds of luxurious hotels and skyscrapers are no substitute for what the region’s people urgently need: thousands of school buildings, hospitals, roads, dams and social wellbeing programs to look after the large numbers of people living below the poverty line.

"There is a lack of official statistics but tens of thousands of the elderly have not received their pensions for the past three months. They turn up to their local bank each month only to be told it hasn’t got any money. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and other civil servants haven’t received wages for December, January and February. We know that most are struggling with their food and heating bills and those who live in rented accommodation or have a sick family member can often survive only through charity.

"In conclusion, the booming economy has mainly benefited the corrupt political elite (oligarchy): many of them rapidly became millionaires and billionaires, while a majority of citizens are now seeing a dooming economy with increasing calamities."

"The KRG Economy: Booming or Dooming?"

Flint
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Mar 19 2015 20:45
Quote:
Economic Foundations

Many nation-states, including Syria, carried out looting and exploitation under nationalist slogans. All economic, political, and social institutions have been developed to justify the looting and to give legality to the tyrant’s continuing to protect their own interests. Economic occupation is the most serious type of occupation and the one that most undermines and fragments it. Thus, economic captivity becomes the deadliest way to deny identity and eliminate liberty.

The economic system of the Democratic Nation and the Democratic Self- Administration stops this barbaric practice and works to restore community control over the economy, and at the lowest levels to reconcile the state and self-administrations. So the semi-independent economy basically works under the ecological industry and the commune economy as a reflection of democracy.

The semi-independent economy accepts markets and trade but does not allow the economy to achieve profit for the accumulation of capital. Based on economic colonialism, the present governing laws restrain economic creativity and ecology. There is a need instead for a legal basis for a semi-independent economy favouring local market dynamics.

TEV-DEM,TEV-DEM announces project for a democratic Syria. 3/18/2015