No. This is a Genuine Revolution - Interview with Graeber by Evrensel Newspaper

142 posts / 0 new
Last post
kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 29 2014 08:06
No. This is a Genuine Revolution - Interview with Graeber by Evrensel Newspaper

"No. This is a Genuine Revolution"

By David Graeber and Pinar Öğünç

Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, activist, anarchist David Graeber had written an article for the Guardian in October, in the first weeks of the ISIS attacks to Kobane (North Syria), and asked why the world was ignoring the revolutionary Syrian Kurds.

Mentioning his father who volunteered to fight in the International Brigades in defence of the Spanish Republic in 1937, he asked: “If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but ISIS? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world -and this time most scandalously of all, the international left- really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?”

According to Graeber, the autonomous region of Rojava declared with a “social contract” in 2011 as three anti-state, anti-capitalist cantons, was also a remarkable democratic experiment of this era.

In early December, with a group of eight people, students, activists, academics from different parts of Europe and the US, he spent ten days in Cizire -one of the three cantons of Rojava. He had the chance to observe the practice of “democratic autonomy” on the spot, and to ask dozens of questions.

Now he tells his impressions of this trip with bigger questions and answers why this “experiment” of the Syrian Kurds is ignored by the whole world.

-----------

In your article for the Guardian you had asked why the whole world was ignoring the “democratic experiment” of the Syrian Kurds. After experiencing it for ten days, do you have a new question or maybe an answer to this?

Well, if anyone had any doubt in their minds about whether this was really a revolution, or just some kind of window-dressing, I’d say the visit put that permanently to rest. There are still people talking like that: This is just a PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party) front, they’re really a Stalinist authoritarian organization that’s just pretending to have adopted radical democracy. No. They’re totally for real. This is a genuine revolution. But in a way that’s exactly the problem. The major powers have commitmented themselves to an ideology that say real revolutions can no longer happen. Meanwhile, many on the left, even the radical left, seem to have tacitly adopted a politics which assumes the same, even though they still make superficially revolutionary noises. They take a kind of puritanical “anti-imperialist” framework that assumes the significant players are governments and capitalists and that’s the only game worth talking about. The game where you wage war, create mythical villains, seize oil and other resources, set up patronage networks; that’s the only game in town. The people in Rojava are saying: We don’t want to play that game. We want to create a new game. A lot of people find that confusing and disturbing so they choose to believe it isn’t really happening, or such people are deluded or dishonest or naive.

Since October we see a rising solidarity from different political movements from all over the world. There has been a huge and some quite enthusiastic coverage of Kobane resistance by the mainstream medias of the world. Political stance regarding Rojava has changed in the West to some degree. These are all significant signs but still do you think democratic autonomy and what’s been experimented in the cantons of Rojava are discussed enough? How much does the general perception of “Some brave people fighting against the evil of this era, ISIS” dominate this approval and the fascination?

I find it remarkable how so many people in West see these armed feminist cadres, for example, and don’t even think on the ideas that must lie behind them. They just figured it happened somehow. “I guess it’s a Kurdish tradition.” To some degree it’s orientalism of course, or to put simple racism. It never occurs to them that people in Kurdistan might be reading Judith Butler too. At best they think “Oh, they’re trying to come up to Western standards of democracy and women’s rights. I wonder if it’s for real or just for foreign consumption.” It just doesn’t seem to occur to them they might be taking these things way further than “Western standards” ever have; that they might genuinely believe in the principles that Western states only profess.

You mentioned the approach of the left towards Rojava. How is it received in the international anarchist communities?

The reaction in the international anarchist communities has been decidedly mixed. I find it somewhat difficult to understand. There’s a very substantial group of anarchists -usually the more sectarian elements- who insist that the PKK is still a “Stalinist” authoritarian nationalist group which has adopted Bookchin and other left libertarian ideas to court the anti-authoritarian left in Europe and America. It’s always struck me that this is one of the silliest and most narcissistic ideas I’ve ever heard. Even if the premise were correct, and a Marxist-Leninist group decided to fake an ideology to win foreign support, why on earth would they choose anarchist ideas developed by Murray Bookchin? That would be the stupidest gambit ever. Obviously they’d pretend to be Islamists or Liberals, those are the guys who get the guns and material support. Anyway I think a lot of people on the international left, and the anarchist left included, basically don’t really want to win. They can’t imagine a revolution would really happen and secretly they don’t even want it, since it would mean sharing their cool club with ordinary people; they wouldn’t be special any more. So in that way it’s rather useful in culling the real revolutionaries from the poseurs. But the real revolutionaries have been solid.

What was the most impressing thing you witnessed in Rojava in terms of this democratic autonomy practice?

There were so many impresive things. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anywhere else in the world where there’s been a dual power situation where the same political forces created both sides. There’s the “democratic self-administration,” which has all the form and trappings of a state -Parliament, Ministries, and so on- but it was created to be carefully separated from the means of coercive power. Then you have the TEV-DEM (The Democratic Society Movement), driven bottom up directly democratic institutions. Ultimately -and this is key- the security forces are answerable to the bottom-up structures and not to the top-down ones. One of the first places we visited was a police academy (Asayiş). Everyone had to take courses in non-violent conflict resolution and feminist theory before they were allowed to touch a gun. The co-directors explained to us their ultimate aim was to give everyone in the country six weeks of police training, so that ultimately, they could eliminate police.

What would you say to various criticisms regarding Rojava? For example: “They wouldn’t have done this in peace. It is because of the state of war”…

Well, I think most movements, faced with dire war conditions, would not nonetheless immediately abolish capital punishment, dissolve the secret police and democratize the army. Military units for instance elect their officers.

And there is another criticism, which is quite popular in pro-government circles here in Turkey: “The model the Kurds -in the line of PKK and PYD (The Kurdish Democratic Union Party)- are trying to promote is not actually embraced by all the peoples living there. That multi-… structure is only on the surface as symbols”…

Well, the President of Cizire canton is an Arab, head of a major local tribe in fact. I suppose you could argue he was just a figurehead. In a sense the entire government is. But even if you look at the bottom-up structures, it’s certainly not just the Kurds who are participating. I was told the only real problem is with some of the “Arab belt” settlements, people who were brought in by the Baathists in the ‘50s and ‘60s from other parts of Syria as part of an intentional policy of marginalizing and assimilating Kurds. Some of those communities they said are pretty unfriendly to the revolution. But Arabs whose families had been there for generations, or the Assyrians, Khirgizians, Armenians, Chechens, and so on, are quite enthusiastic. The Assyrians we talked to said, after a long difficult relation with the regime, they felt they finally were being allowed free religious and cultural autonomy. Probably the most intractible problem might be women’s liberation. The PYD and TEV-DEM see it as absolutely central to their idea of revolution, but they also have the problem of dealing larger alliances with Arab communities who feel this violates basic religious principles. For instance, while the Syriac-speakers have their own women’s union, the Arabs don’t, and Arab girls interested in organizing around gender issues or even taking feminist seminars have to hitch on with the Assyrians or even the Kurds.

It doesn’t have to be trapped in that “puritanical ‘anti-imperialist’ framework” you mentioned before, but what would you say to the comment that the West/ imperialism will one day ask Syrian Kurds to pay for their support. What does the West think exactly about this anti-state, anti-capitalist model? Is it just an experiment that can be ignored during the state of war while the Kurds voluntarily accept to fight an enemy that is by the way actually created by the West?

Oh it is absolutely true that the US and European powers will do what they can to subvert the revolution. That goes without saying. The people I talked to were all well aware of it. But they didn’t make a strong differentiation between the leadership of regional powers like Turkey or Iran or Saudi Arabia, and Euro-American powers like, say, France or the US. They assumed they were all capitalist and statist and thus anti-revolutionary, who might at best be convinced to put up with them but were not ultimately on their side. Then there’s the even more complicated question of the structure of what’s called “the international community,” the global system of institutions like the UN or IMF, corporations, NGOs, human rights organisations for that matter, which all presume a statist organisation, a government that can pass laws and has a monopoly of coercive enforcement over those laws. There’s only one airport in Cizire and it’s still under Syrian government control. They could take it over easily, any time, they say. One reason they don’t is because: How would a non-state run an airport anyway? Everything you do in an airport is subject to international regulations which presume a state.

Do you have an answer to why ISIS is so obsessed with Kobane?

Well, they can’t be seen to lose. Their entire recruiting strategy is based on the idea that they are an unstoppable juggernaut, and their continual victory is proof that they represent the will of God. To be defeated by a bunch of feminists would be the ultimate humiliation. As long as they’re still fighting in Kobane, they can claim that media claims are lies and they are really advancing. Who can prove otherwise? If they pull out they will have admitted defeat.

Well, do you have an answer to what Tayyip Erdogan and his party is trying to do in Syria and the Middle East generally?

I can only guess. It seems he has shifted from an anti-Kurdish, anti-Assad policy to an almost purely anti-Kurdish strategy. Again and again he has been willing to ally with pseudo-religious fascists to attack any PKK-inspired experiments in radical democracy. Clearly, like Daesh (ISIS) themselves, he sees what they are doing as an ideological threat, perhaps the only real viable ideological alternative to right-wing Islamism on the horizon, and he will do anything to stamp it out.

On the one hand there is Iraqi Kurdistan standing on quite a different ideological ground in terms of capitalism and the notion of independence. On the other hand, there is this alternative example of Rojava. And there are the Kurds of Turkey who try to sustain a peace process with the government… How do you personally see the future of Kurdistans in short and long terms?

Who can say? At the moment things look surprisingly good for he revolutionary forces. The KDG even gave up the giant ditch they were building across the Rojava border after the PKK intervened to effectively save Erbil and other cities from IS back in August. One KNK person told me it had a major effect on popular consciousness there; that one month had done 20 years worth of consciousness raising. Young people were particularly struck by the way their own Peshmerga fled the field but PKK women soldiers didn’t. But it’s hard to imagine how the KRG territory however will be revolutionized any time soon. Neither would the international powers allow it.

Although democratic autonomy doesn’t seem to be clearly on the table of negotiation in Turkey, The Kurdish Political Movement has been working on it, especially on the social level. They try to find solutions in legal and economic terms for possible models. When we compare let’s say the class structure and the level of capitalism in West Kurdistan (Rojava) and North Kurdistan (Turkey), what would you think about the differences of these two struggles for an anti-capitalist society -or for a minimised capitalism as they describe?

I think the Kurdish struggle is quite explicitly anti-capitalist in both countries. It’s their starting point. They’re managed to come up with a kind of formula: One can’t get rid of capitalism without eliminating the state, one can’t get rid of the state without getting rid of patriarchy. However, the Rojavans have it quite easy in class terms because the real bourgeoisie, such as it was in a mostly very agricultural region, took off with the collapse of the Baath regime. They will have a long-term problem if they don’t work on the educational system to ensure a developmentalist technocrat stratum doesn’t eventually try to take power, but in the meantime, it’s understandable they are focusing more immediately on gender issues. In Turkey, well, I don’t know nearly as much, but I do have the sense things are much more complicated.

During the days that the peoples of the world can’t breathe for obvious reasons, did your trip to Rojava inspired you about the future? What do you think is the “medicine” for the people to breathe?

It was remarkable. I’ve spent my life thinking about how we might be able to do things like this in some remote time in the future and most people think I’m crazy to imagine it will ever be. These people are doing it now. If they prove that it can be done, that a genuinely egalitarian and democratic society is possible, it will completely transform people’s sense of human possibility. Myself, I feel ten years younger just having spent 10 days there.

With which scene are you going to remember your trip to Cizire?

There were so many striking images, so many ideas. I really liked the disparity between the way people looked, often, and the things they said. You meet some guy, a doctor, he looks like a slightly scary Syrian military type in a leather jacket and sterm austere expression. Then you talk to him and he explains: “Well, we feel the best approach to public health is preventative, most disease is made possible by stress. We feel if we reduce stress, levels of heart disease, diabetes, even cancer will decline. So our ultimate plan is to reorganize the cities to be 70% green space…” There are all these mad, brilliant schemes. But then you go to the next doctor and they explain how because of the Turkish embargo, they can’t even get basic medicine or equipment, all the dialysis patients they couldn’t smuggle out have died… That disjuncture between their ambitions and their incredibly straightened circumstances. And… The woman who was effectively our guide was a deputy foreign minister named Amina. At one point, we apologize we weren’t able to bring better gifts and help to the Rojavans, who were suffering so under the embargo. And she said: “In the end, that isn’t very important. We have the one thing no one can ever give you. We have our freedom. You don’t. We only wish there was some way we could give that to you.”

You are sometimes criticized for being too optimistic and enthusiastic about what’s happening in Rojava. Are you? Or do they miss something?

I am by temperament an optimist, I seek out situations which bear some promise. I don’t think there’s any guarantee this one will work out in the end, that it won’t be crushed, but it certainly won’t if everyone decides in advance that no revolution is possible and refuse to give active support, or even, devote their efforts to attacking it or increasing its isolation, which many do. If there’s something I’m aware of, that others aren’t, perhaps it’s the fact that history isn’t over. Capitalists have made a mighty effort these past 30 or 40 years to convince people that current economic arrangements – not even capitalism, but the peculiar, financialized, semi-feudal form of capitalism we happen to have today- is the only possible economic system. They’ve put for more effort into that than they have into actually creating a viable global capitalist system. As a result the system is breaking down all around us at just the moment everyone has lost the ability to imagine anything else. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that in 50 years, capitalism in any form we’d recognise, and probably in any form at all, will be gone. Something else will have replaced it. That something might not be better. It might be even worse. It seems to me for that very reason it’s our responsibility, as intellectuals, or just as thoughtful human beings, to try to at least think about what something better might look like. And if there are people actually trying to create that better thing, it’s our responsibility to help them out.

(This interview has been published by the daily Evrensel in Turkish.)

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/no-this-is-a-genuine-revolution/

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2014 12:49

Even if we were to accept the possibility of the PKK inspired social movement having a 'progressive' potential beyond it's current situation and borders (which I would challenge) then I have still seen NO evidence to back up the claim here and elsewhere of the 'Kurdish struggle in both countries being explicitly anti-capitalist'. Such claims seem to be based on little more than the false assumption that a push towards more democratic expression will of necessity evolve into a more fundamental challenge to capitalism as a whole.

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Dec 29 2014 13:48

Yes, Graeber's conception of a revolution is pretty strange if the most striking revolutionary transfornstion he can describe is the creation of certain democratic bodies without any talk of what the socialist content here is. Certainly no evidence is presented of this explicit anti-capitalism that Graeber refers to. And how are ISIS and the YPJ any more equivalents of the Falange and Mujeres Libres than any other brutal army fighting women's fighting units. Graeber is also totally uncritical in his take on the PKK/PYD. Since he dismisses criticism of the PKK, are we to believe that it's merely a benevolent supporter of a (supposed) working class revolution? And if not, surely its influence in this situation is an integral factor to consider. I'm also confused by Graeber's description of modern capitalism as semi-feudal, since, if anything, capitalism has less in common with feudalism than ever before.

rat's picture
rat
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Dec 29 2014 14:27

There's not a mention of communism in the article.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 29 2014 15:50

Spikymike

I really wish to write a comment that is not critical. For example I agree with you (and Tyrion) that Kurdish movement quite possibly have problems confronting capitalism (I wrote them in Libcom at least two times: 1) lack of post-capitalistic organizing in Kurdish big cities [in Turkey] and 2) class based organization of precarious Kurdish workers). And Graeber in this interview just jumps over these issues and takes anti-capitalism of Kurdish movement as given.

However your interpretation of the reason for this problem is so off, I can not stop myself becoming suspicious of whether you read all of the interview or not.Let me explain:

Quote:
Such claims seem to be based on little more than the false assumption that a push towards more democratic expression will of necessity evolve into a more fundamental challenge to capitalism as a whole.

However he says the contrary in the article:

Quote:
I don’t think there’s any guarantee this one will work out in the end, that it won’t be crushed

And he gives other reasons to support it in the interview. Which could be interesting points of conversation (For example; reduction of Anarchism/Communism to an identity) This makes me think maybe you actually suppose any form of democratic "expression" inevitably results in development of capitalism and anything that remotely resembles or could be associated with capitalism is in itself inherently reactionary to the full extend in each and every situation (well actually you can even associate women's movement with capitalism). So maybe Graeber is much more nuanced and open than your interpretation of him. And your view might be as deterministic and simplistic as your interpretation of his views.

akai
Offline
Joined: 29-09-06
Dec 29 2014 17:10

While I do wish the local population there good luck and really hope that they can and will develop truly libertarian practices, I guess the real problem is the influence of libertarian municipalism on anarchist thought which leads one to see the implementation of a more direct democracy as an anarchist result in and of itself, whereas most anarchists still believe that a libertarian society is libertarian because it has goals of real material and social equality. If Graeber wanted to prove to the world that they were fighting to have this equality, it would be better to give examples of this. In most historical discriptions of anarchist movements which fought for this, you can give very clear examples of collectives, communal life, abolition of money or free distribution of goods ... Instead of providing us with examples to support his claims, Graeber decides instead to "prove" what he says by calling the people who are not sure, are critical or doubt different names, from sectarian to poseur. This sort of behaviour is a very poor substitute for factual reporting. If anybody wants to promote anarchism, and they have examples of projects and struggles, usually they are able to give more concrete information on how things look in practice.

It is really horrible that the bourgeois establishment have people like this.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 29 2014 17:32

By the way as a general note: let's not forget that the interview above is not made for western anarchists/communists. It is made for a Turkish socialist newspaper whose "party" is already part of alliance formed around Kurdish legal party. So it would be absurd for Graeber to try to illustrate the intended audience the socialist side of Kurdish movement (they are probably much more convinced about it than Graeber himself)

On the other hand if anyone wants to learn more on socialistic and libertarian practices of Kurdish movement. I suggest reading this (as it is written by an anarchist who has no direct connections with PKK before - and previously had hostile views towards it) https://libcom.org/news/experiment-west-kurdistan-syrian-kurdistan-has-proved-people-can-make-changes-zaher-baher-2 Also for specific issues, see New Compass (A Bookchinian Irish website) like government, laws, women issues. http://new-compass.net/ One thing to note about these, is that they are written by people who went to place and see, analyse, criticize etc... and not just make theoretical deductions according to their own views.

Note: Also, I guess more content on and analysis of such practices are on their way as recently about twenty academicians went to Rojava (Graeber was one of them) and came back.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2014 18:39

Just for the record kurrem.. I do not regard anything and everything short of a fully conscious mass movement of opposition to capitalism as being 'reactionary' and I have commented on another related thread here regarding different uses of the term 'progressive' in relation to both libertarian communist and reformist politics. The weakness of ( I wouldn't use the term 'reactionary') social movements that revolve around issues of 'democracy' are in my opinion internal to the process and not simply a matter of external threats. Bookchin's shift from a class strategy towards one based on 'communalism' and 'democratic confederalism' is in turn equally flawed at a theoretical and practical level even in the context of it's country of origin seen from a libertarian communist perspective, though I can see that it might seem to be relevant to non-working class social movements in other less capitalistically advanced areas of the world.
And since you are reposting links to texts that you have mentioned previously, I will also take the opportunity again of recomending (particular the later sections of) this: http://libcom.org/news/kurdish-question-isis-usa-etc-17112014

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 29 2014 18:36

Yeah I mean it is all fine by me. I am just saying you might be misreading his optimism wrongly (and reach to wrong conclusions because of that about people's motives). So again, I do not think he is that naive and suppose that revolution can only be crashed externally.

David.Graeber
Offline
Joined: 29-12-14
Dec 30 2014 00:01

Evidence? The reason I said the revolution was anti-capitalist was because every single person I talked to said that they were anti-capitalist and considered capitalism to be the revolution's ultimate enemy. Many stated the explicit formula: "you can't get rid of capitalism without getting rid of the state, you can't get rid of the state without getting rid of patriarchy."

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Dec 30 2014 00:25
David.Graeber wrote:
Evidence? The reason I said the revolution was anti-capitalist was because every single person I talked to said that they were anti-capitalist and considered capitalism to be the revolution's ultimate enemy. Many stated the explicit formula: "you can't get rid of capitalism without getting rid of the state, you can't get rid of the state without getting rid of patriarchy."

In a practical sense, what is anti-capitalist about what is happening in Rojava? After all, there have been countless times when people involved in this or that upheaval have conceived their movement to be anti-capitalist without this being at all the case (e.g. most historical movements controlled by a Communist Party). These comparisons to Spain 1936 seem very empty unless there actually is practical action in the direction of from each according to their ability, to each according to their need as was the case in that revolution.

AES's picture
AES
Offline
Joined: 15-02-04
Dec 30 2014 00:56
Interviewer wrote:
Although democratic autonomy doesn’t seem to be clearly on the table of negotiation in Turkey, The Kurdish Political Movement has been working on it, especially on the social level. They try to find solutions in legal and economic terms for possible models. When we compare let’s say the class structure and the level of capitalism in West Kurdistan (Rojava) and North Kurdistan (Turkey), what would you think about the differences of these two struggles for an anti-capitalist society -or for a minimised capitalism as they describe?
David Graeber wrote:
I think the Kurdish struggle is quite explicitly anti-capitalist in both countries. It’s their starting point. They’re managed to come up with a kind of formula: One can’t get rid of capitalism without eliminating the state, one can’t get rid of the state without getting rid of patriarchy. However, the Rojavans have it quite easy in class terms because the real bourgeoisie, such as it was in a mostly very agricultural region, took off with the collapse of the Baath regime.

The necessary condition of belonging to the bourgeoisie is owning capital and buying the labour-power of the working class - can you unpack exactly what it is that you are saying here (emphasized in bold italic)?

David.Graeber
Offline
Joined: 29-12-14
Dec 30 2014 01:29

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.

boomerang
Offline
Joined: 20-01-14
Dec 30 2014 07:42
Quote:
almost all production is in the hands of worker-owned collectives
Quote:
The aim is to connect cooperatives directly to one another so as to ultimately eliminate the use of money entirely in the cooperative sector.
Quote:
There is a conscious strategy of deprofessionalization of knowledge to prevent the emergence of new technocratic classes.
Quote:
Key necessities (mainly wheat and petrol that are produced locally) are distributed free to local communes and collectives,

What David describes in his post above (with some choice quotes picked out if it's TL;DR for you) shows that the movement in Rojava is challenging capitalism -- something I had no idea about until just now reading his post.

We of course can come up with criticisms of "it doesn't go far enough here or there" or point out flaws, but this is equally true of many other movements that anarchists have respect for, respect that comes with criticisms, of course, but still, these are movements they're willing to call revolutionary or at least recognize that they had revolutionary potential, and willing to celebrate the positive aspects of.

So I'm wondering why David's post got a couple downvotes. I'm wondering what people's thoughts are in reaction to his post, if it changes their perspective on Rojava. And if not, why?

~

Hi David, thanks for stopping by. I remember reading some stuff on Rojava that made me worry that there is a new state emerging. I forget the details right now, but I wrote a post about it on another thread. I'll dig it up and re-post it here -- I'd love your opinion on it. (But tomorrow because it's late here and it won't be easy to find -- there are several huge Rojava threads it could be in.)

Also, could you write about this stuff from your last post in an article somewhere? It's pretty unfortunate that I'm only just now reading about any challenge to capitalism in this movement, and that I'm reading about it on an obscure internet forum.

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Dec 30 2014 07:44

Maybe because in months of heated argument across multiple threads this is pretty much the first we've heard anything about the economy of Rojava from those who argue it is worthy of support.

Did it take them that long to make this stuff up? Plenty of Western lefty visitors to 1930s Russia spoke glowingly of the actually existing socialism there. So forgive me if I'm a bit suspicious of the (first hand?) account of one anarcho-celebrity.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 30 2014 08:14

I just love the friendly mode, consructive criticism and strive for knowledge in libcom forums

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Dec 30 2014 08:19

Kurremkarmerruk, I think it depends on your opinion of what is going on. I think that the PKK is just another ethnic militia in a wider ethnic/sectarian conflict, which is ultimately fueled by the imperialist conflict in the region.

Given this I don't think that 'constructive criticism' is possible. Some other people on here feel the same.

Devrim

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 30 2014 08:29

Did communist God sent you a message and told you what is going on? Why do you pick me? Graeber is here, discuss stuff with him as he has first hand knowledge, this way we can learn more stuff. Boomerang's point is right. Discuss things with Graeber, comment on his words (not on him as bastrax did) If you know something argue, not just state your convictions. I am totally open for that.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Dec 30 2014 08:41

I mentioned you because you just seemed to think that it was people's attitude problem. I don't think its that.

For personal reasons, I don't really have time to spend a lot of time discussing issues on left forums at the moment.

I'm not really interested in discussing with Graeber. To be honest I think he is what was historically called a 'useful idiot'. I have spoken to people who have visited there from quite a few backgrounds, and I have of course spoken to many refugees (I speak Arabic). Nobody I've spoken too, even people who are HDP supporters have been as over the top and as enthusiastic as Graeber.

Devrim

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 30 2014 09:15

It is scarcely for me to claim any "ownership" for ideas developed independently by Rojava and perhaps i am completely wrong in detecting within their democratic procedures something that the SPGB usually says but is frequently disregarded in exchanges.

Quote:
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anywhere else in the world where there’s been a dual power situation where the same political forces created both sides. There’s the “democratic self-administration,” which has all the form and trappings of a state - Parliament, Ministries, and so on- but it was created to be carefully separated from the means of coercive power.

I often say that it is not the outward form of democracy that is important but the content and frequently suggest that there is no standard one size fit all but that around the world depending on history and tradition, the process of revolution will differ. In the UK the SPGB do argue that we will capture the state machine and dissolve the coercive organs of it and adapt what remains. I think many in the SPGB propose that local democracy through town and city councils, (and now dormant parish councils), will have their roles changed.

So without going into the in and outs of programmes and practice of the PKK, in my opinion (not the SPGB official position) from what i have read i see an overlap of principles...that we will use existing stuctures and extend their democratic nature and integrate them with the various diverse new ones that may arise from the many different manifestations in particular and sometimes unique struggles for socialism around the globe.

Graeber will probably hate me for inferring it but he may be closer to the SPGB position on class power than to the the anarchist one of rejecting the use of the State to abolish itself.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Dec 30 2014 09:36

Thanks for that description David, I'd say in influencing anarchist opinion on Rojava fleshing that out is probably the more useful thing you could write as it turns the question around from the false pro/anti Ocalan one of the colonial left to whether whats happening on the ground is worth defending.

Burgers
Offline
Joined: 20-08-14
Dec 30 2014 09:58

Seriously how many left nationalist threads does libcom need?

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Dec 30 2014 10:08

Oh no an Irish nationalist called us the colonial left.

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Dec 30 2014 10:08

Oh no an Irish nationalist called us the colonial left.

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Dec 30 2014 11:27

From the UK ‘Sunday Independent’ - 28 Dec 2014;

Quote:
Keeping the night watch at a border outpost at the edge of Kobani, one member of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic People's Units (YPG) stands surveying the surrounding area, despite the near total darkness of the city's wartime blackout. The triangular yellow flag of the YPG flutters on a small pole above him, a red star at its centre.
"Islamic State [also known as Isis] are over there," he says, pointing south-east, "less than a kilometre away." He adds that the first coalition air strikes came at a crucial moment.
"We only had one or two days left when they started bombing," he explains. "We were out of ammunition, everything."

Now, whenever an air strike lands, people happily shout "Obama!" and several newborn babies in Kobani have been named in honour of the American President.

... Before the US-led air strikes began in early October, the YPG had been battling Isis fighters in Kobani alone for 45 days. They were outgunned and outnumbered, and no one expected the town to survive.

"The bravery and courage of our forces stopped Isis," says Anwar Muslim, the Prime Minister of the canton of Kobani. "Then the coalition air strikes began and the [Iraqi Kurdish] Peshmerga also offered support, and our forces gained the initiative.

... While she spends her days taking care of her family, most civilians are actively participating in the war effort. "We were given military and ideological training," says Asia, a young woman who joined the Women's Protection Unit three months ago. "The ideological training is just as important. You can't fight if you don't know what you're fighting for."

[My emph]
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-with-isis-the-resilient-people-of-kobani-are-proof-that-the-militants-can-be-defeated-9946603.html

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 30 2014 11:41

Just to clarify: the ideological training she means is against "capitalist modernity" on Bookchinian lines you know that right? Also Obama slogans were mentioned several times before in libcom forums including me.So in this context I just wish that ideological training expands more into Rojava society. Therefore people do not just act according to their immediate benefit (bombing of IS) but has a wider stance on issues and relations to make an informed decision.

David.Graeber
Offline
Joined: 29-12-14
Dec 30 2014 12:13

No it took me that long to actually go there, idiot. Wow. Three up-votes for the paranoid narcissist who thinks I'm making things up to impress him.

Do you honestly believe that hundreds of thousands of people engaged in a revolutionary struggle, not to mention daily fighting for their lives against fascists armed to the teeth by imperial powers and sent to kill them, are really going to be sitting around plotting and scheming ways to convince YOU that they're really communist enough? Actually they're a lot more busy downplaying the fact that they're anti-capitalist at all when dealing with the "international community" - since just being known to be democratic-confederalist feminists has already set all region powers against them.

This reaction is a perfect embodiment of the "loser left" phenomenon I talked about in the interview. I am increasingly convinced that people like this don't actually want to see a revolution at all. Anyone who had the faintest desire to see a libertarian communist revolution happen would, if told that, say, a formerly Marxist party had abandoned their previous ideas and adopted an anti-state position, let alone that they were actually trying to build a society based on anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchy politics, would not immediate react with scorn, hostility and desperate efforts to prove it wasn't, couldn't, really be true. Obviously healthy skepticism and constructive criticism is a good thing. The TEV-DEM people in Rojava were constantly asking us be more critical, to warn them of likely upcoming problems. But what I've seen is not that. What I've seen is passionate denunciation based not on specific evidence that there's something to denounce, but lack of absolute proof there isn't. To me the only explanation of such odd behaviour is that the possibility of a real revolutionary movement is actually a threat to them - since revolutions are necessarily messy, complicated, impure, and above all, mean the involvement, on equal footing, of massive numbers of just the sort of ordinary people who said revolutionaries claim to speak for, but actually, don't really want coming to their meetings. Sorry. But it's very difficult to figure out any other interpretation for people who claim to be libertarian communists screaming in rage the moment something that looks like a libertarian communist revolution actually appears.

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Dec 30 2014 12:13

@ kerr...; It just struck me that in a movement where participants have been having "ideological training" so they "know what you're fighting for" that "Obama" is apparently such a popular slogan and baby name.

Caiman del Barrio
Offline
Joined: 28-09-04
Dec 30 2014 12:31

In terms of people talking past each other, or an ugly atmosphere around Rojava threads, I think comments like this have to take the biscuit:

Quote:
Thanks for that description David, I'd say in influencing anarchist opinion on Rojava fleshing that out is probably the more useful thing you could write as it turns the question around from the false pro/anti Ocalan one of the colonial left to whether whats happening on the ground is worth defending.

Bearing in mind this is from someone linked to Anarkismo (who I imagine would support my pet cat if she had brown skin and a red beret), this is a pretty unpleasant comment.

At least Graeber has bothered to give some flesh to his arguments, and I'd really like it if our Turkish posters - from both sides of the debate - could respond to his points about the economy out there, rather than remaining in entrenched positions due to a lifetime dedicated to inflexible ideologies.

David.Graeber
Offline
Joined: 29-12-14
Dec 30 2014 12:31

to Boomerang:

thanks for your post. The reaction it got (I was the only one who upped it!) rather tells you everything about this forum. In the past there's been one or two genuinely thoughtful and interesting posters (Kay...) that made the otherwise largely toxic environment worth enduring now and then. Now it seems to have degenerated even from that! I guess this is a failed experiment. I am certainly preparing detailed descriptions and reflections for more widely read venues.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Dec 30 2014 12:43

And Graeber immediately gets three down votes again grin (now four grin )

@ Red: I will pm you

@ Caiman del Barrio: No he is making a valid point, you are (like bastrax did above) judging people not their arguments at all. Naturally then you proceed to ideological critiques of groups, which is mostly a pointless debate. So you are part of the problem (in my opinion).

Still, I am open to any discussion, I especially want to see opinion of some people in light of information Graeber provided.

@ Slanderers::By the way criticizing is one thing but insulting another person who is part of a conversation is another. This forum is not your property, I participate post here as much as you do. I do not want Graeber just go away and lost our only information source available now, because of your ignorance and rudeness. If you do not like him and it is beyond everything for you, just do not post in this thread or do not post anything related to him, that is all. Thank you.