Dear Mr. Anarchist, You Aren’t Listening

Decolonize

A reply to "Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism" about libertarian communist dialogue and criticism in regards to the Rojava revolution and anti-imperialism.

09 April 2015

by Stefan Bertram-Lee for Kurdish Question*

Since the West noticed the existence of the Rojava Revolution during the heroic defence of Kobane in September 2014 (though of course the process of Social Revolution in Rojava entered its present phase after they asserted their autonomy in 2012) there has been article after article denouncing and rejecting the Revolution put out by various Western Far Leftists. From the infamous ‘Anarchist Federation Statement on Rojava - December 2014’ to the latest ‘Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism’, these articles have common themes. The most disgustingly colonialist of these ideas is the one that the Rojava Revolution is pantomime, but the notions surrounding the ‘class nature’ of Rojava, and the alliance between the USA and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), are also worth discussing.

Each time I see another author, one that is supposed to be a fellow ‘Anarchist’, (For whatever that is worth) giving the slightest credence to the idea that the Rojava Revolution is all an act put on for Western Leftists I am shocked, for I have heard few ideas that are more absurd. This idea is made explicit in the ‘Anarchist Federation Statement on Rojava - December 2014’, which states that the PYD ‘initiated an intensive marketing campaign by the PKK towards Western leftists and anarchists in order to look for support and allies.’[1] While not so obvious in ‘Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism’, it can clearly be seen in the author’s doubts about the eyewitness accounts of Janet Biehl and David Graeber, the author being unclear on whether he believes them to be good naturedly hoodwinked by the PYD, or if they are in on this grand conspiracy to trick the Western Leftist.[2] The idea that a Social Revolution that stretches across the northern half of Syria, that encompasses hundreds of thousands of people and has driven back the horrifying patriarchal force that is Da'esh (ISIS) is nothing but a play is simply something I cannot wrap my head around, but what is more unbelievable is the intended audience of the supposed play.

These critics seem to believe that the PYD looked out at our world knowing it would need support in the post-USSR world, where Marxist-Leninism didn’t cut it anymore, and that they were willing to pretend to be whatever would get the most support. They saw a world dominated by the network of Western Financial Neo-Liberalism, where all dissent against capitalism is ruthlessly and viciously put down, where the left have been forced so far back we are failing to defend the gains that were made 70 or more years ago. The PYD looked out at this world, and decided the best ideology to imitate would be that of an obscure American Left-Libertarian theorist, who by the end of his life had even rejected Anarchism, and was more or less ideologically isolated. What cold hearted cynic would choose this? To appeal to the broken remnants of the Western Anarchist Movement, a pale shadow of what it once was, weighed down and trapped by its history, having won no victories since the breakdown of the Anti-Globalisation movement a decade ago. Why would they not choose to pretend to be Western Liberals? We do not even have to imagine where it would have got them; we can simply see it in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). A client of the USA and Turkey, they have received all the help they could ask for, when the PYD begged for heavy weapons the KRG received them, and they have been the focus of the USA’s bombing campaign throughout. It should be obvious that the PYD did not choose the path of least resistance; they chose a principled ideological path that has only made life harder for them.

But we should be clear on another point. If their ideology really was a ‘marketing campaign’, then it was an abject failure. The critics of the Rojava Revolution are keen to emphasise that what is happening there is nothing at all like what was happening in some places in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and in some ways I agree with them. The Social Revolution in Spain had the backing of tens of thousands of foreign volunteers, the Rojava revolution does not. There is no massive wave of international volunteers; there is no mass outflow of arms or money or food, or really anything at all. If the impotency of the Western Left to provide substantive help to a foreign revolution was not clear before it should be now. I would make clear here that I mean no disrespect to all those in the West who are doing what they can for Rojava, and those like Ivana Hoffmann who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the revolution. But if we look to those few volunteers who have gone to Rojava (A fraction of the number who went to Spain) we can see that the majority of them are not leftists, and of those who are even fewer are Anarchists. Many, like Ivana Hoffmann, are Marxist-Leninists, and if the PYD are as cynical as their critics believe perhaps they would have been better off sticking to their old ideology. It is clear that despite the heroic actions of a few, and support from others, the Western Left has not made a substantive difference to the situation in Rojava.

The criticism of the Rojava revolution as pretence while the most egregiously wrong, is not the only criticism. It is also attacked on the basis of not being a real ‘Proletarian Revolution’. This has been one that has been present since the very start. I remember being at the London Anarchist Bookfair in October 2014, Rojava was just exploding into the popular consciousness as the siege of Kobane kicked off. We all knew very little, but all wanted more. We all dutifully crowded into a too small room to be told of what was happening there. The speaker took questions afterwards and one of them asked ‘Who owns the Means of Production?’ The speaker did not understand the question. He tried again asking ‘What happened to the bourgeoisie?’ But the speaker did not understand.

Partly this was due to the speaker not speaking English natively, but it also showed a disconnect. The social reality of the Kurds, (And the history it is constructed from) is decidedly different to that of those who have grown up in the west, and so their perception of what a revolution is (and so what their revolution was) is very different. To a western Anarchist who first crossed blades with his oppressor during the Anti-Globalisation movement the idea of a free territory asking for foreign investment stinks of nothing less than counter-revolution, but our experience is not the experience of all. This is not to say that the limits to the economic revolution in Rojava do not worry me, much of the success of the mutualisation of the economy comes from the fact that many of the most powerful elements of the bourgeoisie fled. This installs a fear that in a real confrontation with capital the PYD may retreat.

But on what basis is this to dismiss the Rojava revolution? It is only such if you believe that the relationships of capital are the prime and only factor determining the success of a revolution. We can hope that the foreign investment that the PYD wishes for will be held to a stringent system of public consultation as are done in the Zapatista Territories. (A Zapatista community recently got running water 20 years after the revolution, when a western charity said it would be done in a few months back in 1994 if they were given free reign. But if that is the price of dignity, so be it.) But even if the PYD betrayed the revolution of the Rojava people by bending to the forces of capital, then the Rojava revolution would still be a success. This is because what has occurred in Rojava is a women’s revolution, one I believe to be the best developed in the history of our civilisation.

The Women’s Revolution goes far deeper than the ‘representation’ and ‘pretty women with guns and European features’ so many, even on the left, focus on. In Rojava any decision made by the popular assemblies can be overturned by the women’s assemblies. As what is most vital here is not that the women can overturn decisions, but that they can choose which decisions are their business. This is the final overthrow of a patriarchal system, which assigns women a sphere and presumes itself non-meddlesome when it fights any attempt to reach beyond that sphere. Finally we can choose what is ours, not have to appeal to someone who does not understand our reality to grant it to us.

The critics of Rojava pass doubt on how much power these committees have, or will have if the PYD choose to crackdown on them, but I believe the unique structure of the Rojava Revolution makes such a situation unlikely. In the EZLN you have an army which is partially formed of women, while in the YPJ you have a women’s army. In Rojava (and throughout all parts of Kurdistan where the Kurdistan Communities Union, KCK is influential) women have self-organised into a system of parallel structures, for every aspect of men’s organisation (as what any organisation of mix gender is under a system of men’s domination) there is a women’s one. As we know only organisations belonging to people themselves can ensure their own liberation, in this sense men’s organisations cannot liberate women. So in Kurdistan women are presented with a unique opportunity to liberate themselves, the tools to defend and push forward our liberation with the help of no one but our fellow women are there. The women of the Spanish revolution were predominantly disarmed and their revolution overturned by the end of the war, if the men of Kurdistan ever wish to do the same then I wish them the best of luck, for they will face an enemy far more organised and fierce than they have ever faced before.

The final aspects the committed western ‘Anti-Imperialist’ objects to about the Rojava Revolution is the PYD’s cooperation with the United States. This is something that is undoubtedly true; the PYD has received air support and some minor amounts of arms from the United States, this is something that any supporter of the Rojava Revolution should have no interest in denying. The author of ‘Dear Cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism’ objects to this on the basis that this has made the Autonomous Territories in Rojava ‘dependent’ on US aid for their survival, and by engaging with open cooperation with the United States they have made themselves a pawn in a relationship the United States will inevitably dominate. The first thing we must do is cast out of our minds entirely the notion that any form of cooperation with the United States is inherently negative. If the United States military asked if I could spot for them in order to kill soldiers of a reactionary force engaged in active combat with my comrades, I would do it. If the United States offered to supply me with arms so I could combat a reactionary force, I would do it. I would hope any Anarchist would, as to do anything else is to put purity above good sense.

The second idea that must be attacked is that the United States airstrikes were the deciding factor in the Siege of Kobane ‘’now that Kobane is saved from IS, in large part by US air attacks’’, says Peter Storm. This is simply not true. As the United States has found, a war cannot be won by airstrikes. Undoubtedly the airstrikes were helpful, but to act as if without them Kobane would have fallen is nothing but Colonialist logic. It ignores all the victories that the YPG/YPJ and other guerrilla forces associated with the KCK have accomplished without the slightest amount of help. Would Mr. Storm also claim that the relief of Shingal came because of US airstrikes? Or would he recognise it came from the heroic actions of the KCK fighters, who the US instantly erased the role of in the siege? To claim that the United States’ airstrikes are so important is nothing but a reproduction of colonialist hegemony where western forces can do as they will in the rest of the world, and win every time.

Storm callously and with only the slightest historical knowledge goes onto speak of the Spanish genocide of the Americas. If he knew the slightest thing about history he would know that it was not a few hundred conquistadores that conquered the civilisations of what is now ‘Latin America’ but rather a century’s long genocidal war with the full power of European Civilisation behind it combined with the Europeans being resistant to highly infectious diseases the indigenous did not. But this is beyond the point, what Storm is attempting to claim is that cooperation with an Imperial power inevitably leads to the destruction of the lesser power, but he gives the perfect counter example to this in his own text, the Mujahedeen. The Mujahedeen, or as those are now billed by the west, the Taliban, have successfully resisted Imperialist forces since the 80s. (Unfortunately to defend a regime that is even more reactionary than our own.) First armed and funded by the United States in order to resist Soviet invasion, the United States turned their back on them during the start of its ‘War on Terror’. The US’s coalition was able to evict them from government, but never remove from their rural strongholds, and once the US forces finally withdraw they will in all likelihood return to government (and start cooperating with the US, of course). So why could the Kurds not do the same to any US invasion? Only the mind of a Western Anarchist imagines victory as impossible. We do not learn from our defeats, simply imagining that defeat is inevitable, for us and all others, something readily encouraged by the hegemonic forces around us.

So it is clear that the Rojava revolution does not need the permission of Western Anarchists to be able to succeed, it does not need us one way or the other. Whether myself and people like Janet Biehl, David Graeber and Petar Stanchev ‘win’ this argument or whether people like Afed and Peter Storm do, does not really matter for the Rojava revolution, we are simply too few. The only people this argument is important for is ourselves. In the west we have failed, while in Chiapas and Rojava a social revolution has occurred. We need to examine our tactics and our methods, and compare them to the PYD and EZLN, and see where we have gone wrong and where they have gone right. We cannot win by fighting as if the territory we are fighting on is the United States prior to WWI, or Spain prior to WWII, the same old tired Anarcho-Syndicalism will not win in the 21st Century. Subcomdanate Marcos says that when he first went to Chiapas all he could do was talk, and not listen, and so he failed. The peasants did not listen to those who could only talk. It is only when he learnt to listen that he was able to move forward, and this lesson is one that must be learnt by all Western Anarchists. We are not winning, and we need to listen to those who are.

[1] http://www.afed.org.uk/blog/international/435-anarchist-federation-statement-on-rojava-december-2014.html

[2] http://libcom.org/blog/dear-cheerleaders-we-need-have-chat-about-imperialism-04042015

* Stefan Bertram-Lee is a Second Year Undergraduate at the University of Essex and is President of the Zapatista Solidarity Group Essex.

(The Kurdish Question)

Comments

Serge Forward
Apr 9 2015 20:29

Wow... has Stefan got enough straw men in there? Could do with a couple more thrown in for good measure. Ironically, for those of us who don't buy into the whole left communist/ICC stylee critiques yet still have their critical faculties switched on, then this sort of mard arse whining about those who lack the same blind faith doesn't really get us anywhere.

Devrim
Apr 9 2015 20:34

This is the worst anarchist article I've seen on this issue, which certainly takes some doing.

Devrim

Black Badger
Apr 9 2015 20:37
Quote:
* Stefan Bertram-Lee is a Second Year Undergraduate at the University of Essex and is President of the Zapatista Solidarity Group Essex.

Not trying to be too much of a dick, but really this is all you need to know in order to figure out what the content of his rant will be. Barely out of his teens, living in the rarified world of undergraduate know-it-alls, and not yet alive (or barely an infant) when the EZLN burst onto the international stage... he clearly missed all the relevant contemporary discourse on the relationship of the EZLN to anarchism, the various ways anarchists showed/lived their solidarity, and came to (perhaps) a slightly better understanding of how international solidarity works -- or doesn't.

One of the more important issues -- apparently not internalized by too many who declare themselves to be principled anarchists and/or anti-statists -- is how solidarity has to be justified by the (false) imputation of an ideological adherence of oppressed people and their defensive (sometimes armed) formations to the ideology of the ones offering said solidarity. What happens is that the un- or non-radical aspects of the oppressed group's formations/projects get ignored or dismissed as irrelevant, while the one or two practices that resemble "direct democracy" or some other horizontal or grassroots form of decision making, perhaps even accompanied by some kind of cooperative and/or non-exploitative economy are labeled "anarchist" or "communist" despite the self-understanding of the people engaged in those projects (that's called ideological colonialism by the way).

The point is that expressing and engaging in international solidarity with/toward oppressed people who are fighting against their oppressors doesn't require any particular justification from radicals -- but especially not with false imputations. If you want to support the EZLN, fine, but don't tell me I have to as well because the EZLN is anarchist. If you want to support what certain Kurds are doing, fine, but don't dare to tell me I have to as well because what's happening in Rojava is just like what was happening in Barcelona in 1936. Support whomever you choose, using whatever justifications you choose, but please don't expect some of us not to be annoyed when you make your solidarity into an condition of a principled adherence to anarchism.

Serge Forward
Apr 9 2015 20:48
Quote:
Stefan Bertram-Lee is a Second Year Undergraduate at the University of Essex

That's an 'F' from me then.

rat
Apr 9 2015 22:42

Stefan Bertram-Lee:

Quote:
The Mujahedeen, or as those are now billed by the west, the Taliban, have successfully resisted Imperialist forces since the 80s. (Unfortunately to defend a regime that is even more reactionary than our own.) First armed and funded by the United States in order to resist Soviet invasion, the United States turned their back on them during the start of its ‘War on Terror’.

Just terrible.

JoeMaguire
Apr 9 2015 22:47
Quote:
But on what basis is this to dismiss the Rojava revolution? It is only such if you believe that the relationships of capital are the prime and only factor determining the success of a revolution. We can hope that the foreign investment that the PYD wishes for will be held to a stringent system of public consultation

Eh? Totally failure to understand markets, or the political sway of the ruling class. This is pure reformism. As it seems to advocate state capitalism. As though holding my, or any ruling class to account through "a stringent system of public consultation" is sufficient.

Quote:
This is because what has occurred in Rojava is a women’s revolution, one I believe to be the best developed in the history of our civilisation.

The Women’s Revolution goes far deeper than the ‘representation’ and ‘pretty women with guns and European features’ so many, even on the left, focus on. In Rojava any decision made by the popular assemblies can be overturned by the women’s assemblies. As what is most vital here is not that the women can overturn decisions, but that they can choose which decisions are their business. This is the final overthrow of a patriarchal system, which assigns women a sphere and presumes itself non-meddlesome when it fights any attempt to reach beyond that sphere. Finally we can choose what is ours, not have to appeal to someone who does not understand our reality to grant it to us.

I think this is at the core of the piece. It's a product of the intersectional left.

ocelot
Apr 9 2015 23:17
JoeMaguire wrote:
Quote:
This is because what has occurred in Rojava is a women’s revolution, one I believe to be the best developed in the history of our civilisation.

The Women’s Revolution goes far deeper than the ‘representation’ and ‘pretty women with guns and European features’ so many, even on the left, focus on. In Rojava any decision made by the popular assemblies can be overturned by the women’s assemblies. As what is most vital here is not that the women can overturn decisions, but that they can choose which decisions are their business. This is the final overthrow of a patriarchal system, which assigns women a sphere and presumes itself non-meddlesome when it fights any attempt to reach beyond that sphere. Finally we can choose what is ours, not have to appeal to someone who does not understand our reality to grant it to us.

I think this is at the core of the piece. It's a product of the intersectional left.

Ah. The boogeywoman, Now all is clear.

Both lazy and ignorant.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 04:28
Quote:
I remember being at the London Anarchist Bookfair in October 2014, Rojava was just exploding into the popular consciousness as the siege of Kobane kicked off. We all knew very little, but all wanted more. We all dutifully crowded into a too small room to be told of what was happening there. The speaker took questions afterwards and one of them asked ‘Who owns the Means of Production?’ The speaker did not understand the question. He tried again asking ‘What happened to the bourgeoisie?’ But the speaker did not understand.

Partly this was due to the speaker not speaking English natively, but it also showed a disconnect. The social reality of the Kurds, (And the history it is constructed from) is decidedly different to that of those who have grown up in the west, and so their perception of what a revolution is (and so what their revolution was) is very different.

Quote:
But on what basis is this to dismiss the Rojava revolution? It is only such if you believe that the relationships of capital are the prime and only factor determining the success of a revolution.

I hope this essay and above quotes does not show the average intellectual depth of the pro-PKK political milieu in the West. Beacuse ff this is the case than it means all hope of a meaningful discussion is lost.

In its support for cross-class alliances this essay even comes on the verge of appropriating this romantic racist Hollywood image of noble innocent savages fighting for their classless native communities. This is an incredibly ignorant view if not proto-fascistic. Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes. This region has a very complex and advanced history of cultural differentiation and social dynamism. For instance feudalism has probably a history in Kurdistan as old as, if not older, than its Western European version. Further, mercantile relations developed in Kurdish regions very early historically giving birth to an extremely complex social structure that continued to evolve for centuries.

Even suggesting that Kurds somehow did not "experience" class exploitation and class oppression is sheer nonsense. Kurdish workers today are not only violently exploited by capitalism in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria but they are also extremely combative. In fact, one could even argue that even the Turkish left would be long dead if it could not exploit the insurgent spirit of our Kurdish worker brethren.

Obviously this cheerleader mentality is ready to sacrifice and ignore the torments of the Kurdish proletarians for the sake of an anti-intellectual activism without any sympathy for the real human suffering in Syria and Iraq. Unbelievable...

rooieravotr
Apr 10 2015 04:23
Quote:
The Social Revolution in Spain had the backing of tens of thousands of foreign volunteers,

He means the International Brigades, sent under Stalinist auspices to save the Republican government which by then was already persecuting anarchists and independent marxists and suffocating the revolution, helped in this practice by GPOE agents? That is the example he wishes us to emulate? One shivers.

bastarx
Apr 10 2015 07:23

The author of that Dear Anarchist nonsense is also at the University of Essex. Sounds like an awesome crew they have there.

*bastarx is a graduate of a university but was too lazy to pursue a professional career so is now employed in a blue collar public sector job and has been a smartarse on libcom for 9 years now.

Fall Back
Apr 10 2015 09:28
JoeMaguire wrote:
I think this is at the core of the piece. It's a product of the intersectional left.

Awful article - probably thing written about Rojava I've read so far, amidst stuff competition - but this is possibly the single stupidest comment I've ever read on libcom.

Kureigo-San
Apr 10 2015 10:50

You know, one very amusing comparison between Rojava and Spain that I haven't seen yet is that during the Spanish revolution, they didn't feel the need to obsessively refer to it as such the way we see with The Rojava Revolution™.

Spikymike
Apr 10 2015 10:28

I meant to say on one of the other related threads that we should bear in mind that the reflections of the likes of radical academics such as Biel and Graeber on their visits to Rojava that both went there we some very strong preconceived ideas rooted in ideologies that predisposed them to looking for proof of the correctness of said ideolgies and unsurpsingly found them (at least to their satisfaction if not all of ours).

ocelot
Apr 10 2015 12:12
Kureigo-San wrote:
You know, one very amusing comparison between Rojava and Spain that I haven't seen yet is that during the Spanish revolution, they didn't feel the need to obsessively refer to it as such the way we see with The Rojava Revolution™.

er...

my godfather's old man was a CNT printer in Girona and moved to Barcelona after the July ;36 uprising to print newspapers and posters for the CNT. Like the above. The word "revolution" made more than one appearance as any perusal of the propaganda of the time will show (try google images).

Would have been a good gag, otherwise.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 10 2015 12:42

Yeah, this article is laughably piss-poor. I mean, it's just strawmans. Has anyone argued that Rojava is just a show being put on for liberals? And as if the anti-globalization movement was some great high point of anarchism... Just so much of the article is painfully activisty.

Like I said on another thread, it's great to feel like we're winning, but this article in particular is full of either willful ignorance or an impressiveness level of cognitive dissonance.

Mikhail wrote:
Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes.

I did want to ask about this. My understanding is that Kurdish as a distinct ethnicity or "nationality" is a pretty modern construct, maybe only a 100 years or so. I am incorrect about that?

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 13:18
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Mikhail wrote:
Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes.

I did want to ask about this. My understanding is that Kurdish as a distinct ethnicity or "nationality" is a pretty modern construct, maybe only a 100 years or so. I am incorrect about that?

The roots of Kurdish nationalism dates back to the 19th century. It emerged earlier than Turkish nationalism. However, in this earlier form it was mostly under the control of feudal lords that sought independence/autonomy from the Ottoman empire.

My knowledge about this period comes mostly from Martin van Bruinessen's books.

Soapy
Apr 10 2015 13:23

lol David Graeber keeps calling us losers on twitter. Ooo but David Graeber taught at Yale, he's a winner! We're just fucking losers everyone.

Flint
Apr 10 2015 13:37
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Mikhail wrote:
Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes.

I did want to ask about this. My understanding is that Kurdish as a distinct ethnicity or "nationality" is a pretty modern construct, maybe only a 100 years or so. I am incorrect about that?

"However, in the High Middle Ages, the Kurdish ethnic identity gradually materialized, as one can find clear evidence of the Kurdish ethnic identity and solidarity in texts of the 12th and 13th century"
Wikipedia: Kurds

Yazidis date back to the 12th century. Wikipedia: Yazidi: Origins

Mikhail is probably speculating on the origins of agriculture with Wheat originating ild einkorn wheat suggests that it was first grown in the Karacadag Mountains
Wikipedia: Wheat: Origin, Wikipedia: Karaca Dağ
Karaca Dağ is just outside of Diyarbakir, which is regarded as the "Kurdish capitol" of Bakurê (Northern Kurdistan). Its also definitely where the KCK draws a lot of its strength and popularity.

Mikhail, being a proper sort of historical materialist determinist sees the origin of wheat and thus declares that the change in material production of food is directly related to class stratification. Çatalhöyük be damned!

Ofcourse, arguing that folks who are Kurds today are the direct descendants of the people who first cultivated wheat is speculation. But Kurds were living there long before Turks migrated to Anatolia. Kurds have been subject to class stratification as long as most other peoples in the area.

Its all interesting speculation for archaeology and linguistics, but I don't think its all that important for evaluating whether there is workers control in regards to TEVDEM in Rojava. People ought to be able to speak the language they know and like and have the cultural practices they know and like regardless of how ancient those languages and practices are. People shouldn't be oppressed by nation-states because they don't match the national identity the nation-state is homogenizing.

bastarx
Apr 10 2015 13:44

Did any ethnic identity as we understand identities exist in the middle ages? I thought that like nations and nationalism they were largely a product of capitalism.

Flint
Apr 10 2015 13:59
bastarx wrote:
Did any ethnic identity as we understand identities exist in the middle ages? I thought that like nations and nationalism they were largely a product of capitalism.

You'll have to define what you mean by nations and nationalism. People have been speaking some variety of Kurdish for a long time in the area. People have had ethnic identities for a long time, which also gets mixed up with religious and cultural practices. The Nation-State as homogenizing force with irrendentism as a the basis of the state is a 19th century idea; which makes the question "Kurdish as a distinct ethnicity or "nationality" is a pretty modern construct, maybe only a 100 years or so." redundant. If nationalism can't exist before the 19th century, then Kurdish nationalism can't be any older than that. But for a long time, people have preferred to have leaders or rulers of similar culture to their own. How long have the English been going on about the bloody Norman yoke, sine 1066 or so.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 14:53
bastarx wrote:
Did any ethnic identity as we understand identities exist in the middle ages? I thought that like nations and nationalism they were largely a product of capitalism.

That is a good point and I think I was not very clear. I should have written as the region (Middle East generally) instead of Kurds. The Kurdish ethnic identity is definitely formed, (along with Armenian, Arabic, Iranian and Turkish) in the 19th century in the middle east.

Yes people talked in Kurdish but that does not mean that being Kurd was an element of self-identification suggesting a national reference. In fact, tribal and religious ties were hegemonic forms that defined community ties. In fact, throughout the middle ages Turkic tribes had Kurdish notables or chiefs and Kurdish clans had Turkish notables through marriages. This affected the language and customs. So there are turkic clans today who considers themselves Kurds and speak Kurdish and Kurdish clans who considers themselves Turk and hence speak Turkish.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 14:58
Flint wrote:

Mikhail is probably speculating on the origins of agriculture with Wheat originating ild einkorn wheat suggests that it was first grown in the Karacadag Mountains

Mikhail, being a proper sort of historical materialist determinist sees the origin of wheat and thus declares that the change in material production of food is directly related to class stratification. Çatalhöyük be damned!

Flint, whatever you are smoking I want the same. Please help me get in touch with your dealer.

Flint
Apr 10 2015 15:00
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Flint, whatever you are smoking I want the same. Please help me get in touch with your dealer.

Explain what you mean by "Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes." then.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 15:06
Flint wrote:
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Flint, whatever you are smoking I want the same. Please help me get in touch with your dealer.

Explain what you mean by "Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes." then.

See the above post

ocelot
Apr 10 2015 15:57
bastarx wrote:
Did any ethnic identity as we understand identities exist in the middle ages? I thought that like nations and nationalism they were largely a product of capitalism.

Well as already mentioned, nationalism and hence nationality as we understand it today is a legacy of the French Revolution. However it didn't appear out of thin air all at once.

In the middle ages the Ottoman empire had its Millet system. Whereby confessional "castes", especially non-Muslim ones (Armenian and Syriac Christians, Jews, etc) were subject not only to Jizya, but also barred from certain professions, had to wear certain items of dress or other identifying markers etc. Whether that counts as what we understand as ethnicity today, certainly the Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians of Ottoman Constantinople and Smyrna would have self-identified as "Greeks" for sure.

edit: and tribalism, albeit in various evolutions and adaptations, has been around like, forever. And "ethnos" etymologically stems from the Greek for "company or people, heathens", which is pretty much how tribespeople have always been viewed, so...

Connor Owens
Apr 10 2015 18:16

May I politely ask each person who (1) responded to this article with ire and derision (including immature and spiteful quips about the author's age) and (2) continue to hold that what's happening in Rojava holds no potential for building libertarian socialism, what exactly are you doing at the moment that's so much more revolutionary than what the Kurds and co. are doing?

I'm sure most of you have 9-5 jobs, families, and other commitments where you are, and so are not exactly in a position to materially help out a social revolution going on several thousand miles away. Or at least not in person. But to not even be willing to lend support to people trying to construct organs of participatory democracy and self-managed socialism? It just doesn't make sense to me.

I see a lot of comments here claiming that the author is attacking strawmen in his analysis of the workerist anarchist position, but then what is the real position of which said strawmen are a caricature? Thus far I've seen tonnes of criticising - "it's not class based" "they're nationalists" "the US bombed the people trying to kill them, therefore they're helping imperialism" - but very little in the way of constructive proposals for what the people (or "class") or Kurdistan ought to do if they did want to build libertarian socialism; other than vague declarations of them needing "class solidarity" and "class consciousness". Yes, yes, but what exactly is that supposed to mean in practice?

If it means they need to ditch Bookchin and adopt Marx, they already tried Marxism-Leninism once and that proved a disaster. After the poor taste that ideology left in people's mouths I doubt they'd be very open to taking on board anything with "Marx" in the name. As for anarcho-syndicalism, it had its heyday but most of its old theory is no longer relevant to digitised society in the Global North, nor to mostly agrarian societies like Kurdistan.

So what, concretely speaking, have workerists - Marxist and anarchist alike - got to offer to global struggles today other than reformist workplace organising and claiming it's the most revolutionary thing of all because it's got the right class analysis?

Devrim
Apr 10 2015 18:31
Flint wrote:
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Flint, whatever you are smoking I want the same. Please help me get in touch with your dealer.

Explain what you mean by "Kurds are probably one of the first ethnic groups on earth that are divided into classes." then.

It's pretty simple really. Civilisation, and thus class society first developed in Mesopotamia. Therefore the areas around Mesopotamia would obviously be amongst the first subjected to class society. Iran, being right next door, would have been one of those areas, and the Kurds, being an Iranian tribe would have been one of those groups.

There are theories, which identify the Kurds as the historical Medes, but they are contested.

Nevertheless, they almost certainly would have bee one of the first groups subjected to class society.

Devrim

Flint
Apr 10 2015 18:49
Devrim wrote:
Nevertheless, they almost certainly would have bee one of the first groups subjected to class society

O.K. Not sure how that is relevant to anything today.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 10 2015 18:52

Thanks Devrim.

Khawaga
Apr 10 2015 19:19
Flint wrote:
O.K. Not sure how that is relevant to anything today.

It's in relation to Connor Owens arguing that class basically does not exist in Kurdistan and that class struggle there is therefore pointless and other forms of struggle, such as nation and gender, is the basis of struggle and what drives it forward. So yeah, only relevant in the context of discussion about Rojava on libcom.