Kurdistan? - Gilles Dauvé

Kurdistan? - Gilles Dauvé

A critical analysis of the Kurdish movement against the background of the Syrian conflict and the so-called "Rojava revolution", by Gilles Dauvé.

This article in: Español | Français | Italiano

“There are times in which we can do nothing except not lose our head.”
Louis Mercier-Vega, from La Chevauchée anonyme [1]

When workers are forced to take in hand their own affairs in order to survive, they open the possibility of social change.

Some Kurds have been forced to act in the conditions that they find and attempt to create, in the midst of an internationalized war unfavourable to emancipation.

We are not here to “judge” them.

Nor to lose our heads.

Self (defence)

In various parts of the world, proletarians are led to self-defence through self-organization:

A vast cloud of “movements” — armed and unarmed, and oscillating between social banditry and organized guerrilla activity — act in the most wretched zones of the global capitalist junkyard, presenting traits similar to those of the current PKK. In one way or another, they attempt to resist the destruction of already marginal subsistence economies, the plundering of natural resources or local mining, or the imposition of capitalist landed property that limits or prevents access and/or use. […] [W]e can randomly cite cases of piracy in the seas of Somalia, MEND in Nigeria, the Naxalites in India, the Mapuche in Chile. […] It is essential to grasp the content they have in common: self-defense. [O]ne always self-organizes on the basis of what one is within the capitalist mode of production (workers of this or that company, inhabitant of this or that district etc.), while the abandonment of the defensive terrain (“demands”) coincides with the fact that all these subjects interpenetrate each other, and that as the capital/wage-labour relation that structures them starts to disintegrate, the distinctions cease to exist. [2]

In Rojava, has self-organization led (or could it lead) from the necessity of survival to an upheaval of social relations?

It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of the powerful Kurdish independence movement in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurds have been torn apart for decades through the rivalry between these countries and the repression that they suffer there. After the explosion of Iraq into three entities (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd), the Syrian civil war has liberated a territory in Syria where Kurdish autonomy has taken a new form. A popular union (that is to say cross-class) was established to manage this territory and defend it against a military threat. The Islamic State (IS) has served as the agent of this break. The resistance mixes old community ties and new movements, in particular women, through a de facto alliance between proletarians and the middle classes, with “the Nation” [acting] as cement. “The transformation taking place in Rojava rests to some extent on a radical Kurdish identity and on [a] substantial middle class […] contingent who, despite radical rhetoric, always have some interest in the continuity of capital and the state.” [3]

Democratic revolution?

In politics there is much in the words. When Rojava elaborated its constitution and called it Social Contract, it was echoing the 18th century Enlightenment. Lenin and Mao forgotten, the current Kurdish leaders read Rousseau, not Bakunin.

The Social Contract [of Rojava] proclaims the “mutual and peaceful coexistence and understanding between all strands of society” and recognizes “Syria’s territorial integrity“. It is what all democratic constitutions say, and there is no reason to expect praise for the class struggle, nor the demand for the abolition of borders, thus of states. [4]

It is the discourse of a democratic revolution. In the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the right of “resistance to oppression” explicitly provided went hand in hand with that of property as well. Freedom was full but defined and limited by the law. It is the same in Rojava — “private property” is a right under the law. Although opting for the descriptive term “autonomous region“, the Social Contract provides for administration, police, prisons, taxes (thus a central power raising money).

But we are at the beginning of the 21st century: the reference to “Almighty God” stands alongside “sustainable development“, quasi-parity (40% of women), and “gender equality” (although linked to the “family“).

Add the separation of powers, that of the church and state, an independent judiciary, an economic system to ensure “general well-being“, a guarantee of workers’ rights (including the right to strike), and the limitation of the number of political offices, etc. — a left-wing, republican program.

If some people in Europe and the US see in such goals the announcement of social revolution, fault lies without doubt in “cultural relativism”. In Paris, this program would only provoke mockery among the radical milieu, but “over there, it is already not bad…”.

Those who draw a parallel between Rojava and the Spanish revolution should compare this Social Contract with the program adopted by the CNT in May 1936 (and with the way in which it was concretely translated two months later).

New nationalism

Like any political movement, a national liberation movement provides itself [with] ideologies, means, and allies that it is able to, and changes when it is convenient. If the ideology is new it’s because it reflects a change in time.

“One cannot understand the present turn of the Kurdish question, nor the trajectory of its political expressions — the PKK in the first place — without taking into account the end of the golden age of a socialist or “progressive” “Nationalism from below” in the periphery and semi-periphery of the capitalist system, and its causes. “[5]

The PKK has not given up the usual goal of national liberation movements. Even if it now avoids a word that sounds too authoritarian, the aim of the PKK is still today as it was yesterday, the creation of a central apparatus of management and of political rule over a territory — and there is no better word than State to describe this thing. The difference, apart from its administrative designation, is that it would be so very democratic, so much more in the hands of its citizens that it would no longer deserve the name of State. Here is ideology.

In Syria, the Kurdish national movement (under the influence of PKK) has replaced the demand for a state of law by a more modest and more “basic” [basiste — from the base, lit. ‘base-ist’] program: autonomy, democratic federalism, the rights of men and women, etc. What is put forward, instead of the ideology of socialism led by a single workers and peasants party developing heavy industry, or references to “class” and “Marxists”, is self-management, the cooperative, the commune, ecology, anti-productivism and, as a bonus, gender.

The goal of a strong internal autonomy with a democratic life at its base is not absolutely utopian. For instance various parts of the Pacific live thus, the governments leaving a wide margin of self-government to populations that do not interest anyone (except when mining interests are at stake — then the army is sent). In Africa, Somaliland has the attributes of a State (police, currency, economy) except that it is not recognized by anyone. In Chiapas (which many compare to Rojava) people survive in a regional semi-autonomy [that] protects their culture and their values without bothering the world outside. Incidentally the Zapatista uprising, the first of the anti-globalization era, did not seek independence or the transformation of society, but [rather] the preservation of a traditional way of life.

The Kurds live in the heart of a coveted oil region torn by endless conflict and dominated by dictatorships. This leaves little margin for Rojava… but maybe a small place though. Although its economic viability is low, it is not non-existent thanks to a little oil windfall. Black gold has already created puppet states like Kuwait, and allows the survival of the Iraqi Kurdish mini-state. Suffice to say that the future of Rojava depends less on the mobilization of its people than the interplay of the dominant powers.

If the abandonment of the nation-state project by the PKK is real, we must ask what a federation of three or four autonomous areas would be [like] — crossing borders in at least three countries — as the coexistence of several autonomous zones would not abolish the central political structure that brings them together. In Europe, cross-border regions (e.g. around the Oder-Neisse) do not diminish State power.

Another everyday life

Sometimes, such as in this case, solidarity against an enemy has caused the temporary effacement of social differences: the management of villages by collectives, links between combatants (men and women) and the population; dissemination of medical knowledge (the beginning of the overcoming of specialized powers); the free sharing of some food-stuffs during the worst moments ([of] fighting); innovative treatment of mental disorders; the collective life of male and female students; justice rendered by joint committees (elected by each village) arbitrating disputes, deciding punishments, [and] seeking to reintegrate and rehabilitate; [the] integration of ethnic minorities in the region; the self-organisation of women outside the home. [6]

Is this “a democracy without the State”? Our intention is not to oppose a list of the negatives to a list of the positives drawn up by supporters. It is necessary to see from where this self-administration comes and how it can evolve, because we have never yet seen a State dissolve itself in local democracy.

An unchanged social structure

No one argues that it is only the “Kurds” who have the privilege of being the only people in the world who have always lived in harmony. The Kurds, like all other peoples, are divided into groups of opposing interests, into classes — or if “class” feels too Marxist, divided into rulers and ruled. Now, one sometimes reads that a “revolution” is under way or in preparation in Rojava. Knowing that the ruling classes never willingly cede power, where and how have they been defeated? What intense class struggle has taken place in Kurdistan to trigger this process?

This [talk of “revolution”] tells us nothing. If slogans and headlines speak of revolution, articles affirm that the inhabitants of Rojava fight the IS, patriarchy, the State and capitalism… but, on this last point, no one explains why or how the PYD-PKK could be anti-capitalist… and no one seems to remark on this “absence”.

The so-called Revolution of July 2012 corresponds in fact to the withdrawal of Assad’s troops from Kurdistan. Having disappeared the previous administrative and security power was replaced, and a self-government called revolutionary has taken things in hand. But for what “self” is it acting? [And] of what revolution?

If one speaks willingly of taking power at the base [of society] and of changing the domestic sphere, it is never a question of the transformation of the relations of exchange and exploitation. At best, we describe cooperatives, without the least indication of the beginning of collectivization. The new Kurdish state has reopened the wells and refining centres, and produces electricity — [but] nothing is said about those who work there. Commerce, handicrafts and markets function, money continues to play its role. Zaher Baher, a visitor and admirer of the Kurdish “revolution” [says]: “Before leaving the region, we spoke with shop keepers, businessmen and people in the market. Everyone had a rather positive opinion on the DSA [Democratic Self Administration] and TEV-DEM [‘Movement for a Democratic Society’ — a coalition of organizations of which the PYD is the centre of gravity]. They were happy about the existence of peace, security and freedom and running their own business without any interference from any parties or groups.”[7] Finally a revolution that does not scare the bourgeoisie.


It would be enough to change the names. Much of the praise today addressed to Rojava, including on the question of gender, was, around 1930, addressed to the groups of Zionist pioneers in Palestine. In the first kibbutz, alongside the often progressive and socialist ideology, were the material conditions (precarious and necessary for defence) that obliged them to not deprive themselves of half of the labour force: [thus] women had an obligation to participate in agricultural activities and defence, which implied their liberation from “feminine” tasks, including the collective rearing of children.

No trace of this in Rojava. The arming of women is not everything (as the Israeli Defence Force clearly shows). Z. Baher testifies: “I made one interesting observation: I have not seen a single woman working in a shop, petrol station, market, café or restaurant.” The “self-managed” Refugee camps in Turkey are filled with women caring for the kids while the men look for work.

The subversive nature of a movement or organization cannot be measured by the number of armed women — nor its feminist character either. Since the 1960s, across all continents, most guerrillas have included or include numerous female combatants — for example in Colombia. This is even truer amongst Maoist-inspired guerrillas (Nepal, Peru, Philippines, etc.) using the strategy of “People’s War”: male/female equality should contribute to the tearing down of traditional structures, feudal or tribal (always patriarchal). It is in the Maoist origins of the PKK-PYD that one finds the source of what specialists call “martial feminism”.

But why do armed women pass for a symbol of emancipation? Why do we see here so easily an image of freedom, even going so far as to forget what they are fighting for?

If a woman armed with a rocket launcher can appear on the cover of Le Parisien-Magazine or a militant newspaper, it is because it is a classic figure. The monopoly of the use of arms is a traditional male privilege; its overturning must prove the radicality and exceptionality of a particular battle or a war. Hence the pictures of beautiful Spanish militia women. The revolution is at the end of the Kalashnikov… held by a woman. To this vision is sometimes added a more “feminist” one, of the armed woman vindicated, gunning down the bad guys, the rapists, etc.

Note that the IS and the Damascus regime [i.e. Assad’s regime] have constituted some all-female military units. However, and contrary to YPJ-YPG, they do not criticise gender distinctions, they do not seem to be used in the front lines, and are confined to supporting or police roles.

To arms

During Parisian demonstrations in support of Rojava, the banner of the united anarchist procession demanded “Arms for the Kurdish resistance.” Considering that the average proletarian does not have assault rifles and grenades to clandestinely send to Kurdistan, from whom do we demand such weapons? Should we rely on international arms dealers or NATO for weapons deliveries? Such deliveries have cautiously begun, but anarchist banners have nothing to do with them. Apart from the IS, nobody is considering new International Brigades.[8] So what type of armed support is this? Is it about demanding more Western air strikes with the “collateral damage” that we all know? Obviously not. It is, therefore, an empty formula and this is perhaps the worst of the deal: the so-called revolution is a pretext for demonstrations and slogans which no one seriously expects to be acted upon. We are as right-on in politics as in representation.

We are less surprised that people always ready to denounce the military-industrial complex now issue these calls if we remember that already in 1999, for Kosovo, some anarchists supported the NATO bombing… to prevent a “genocide”.


What is sad, more so than the organisations that have always supported national liberation movements, is that this exaltation reaches a wider milieu, of anarchist comrades, squatters, feminists and autonomists — often friends generally more lucid.

If lesser evil politics penetrates these milieus, it is because their radicalism is spineless (though this doesn’t prevent personal courage or energy).

Today it is much easier to get excited about Kurdistan (as 20 years ago it was for Chiapas) while militants despair over Billancourt.[9] “Over there”, at least, there are no resigned and drunken proles who vote for the FN [Front Nationale] and dream only of winning the Loto or finding a job. “Over there” there are peasants (even though the majority of Kurds live in cities), the mountain people in struggle, full of dreams and hope…. This rural-natural aspect (thus ecological) is mixed with a desire for change here and now. Gone are the days of the great ideologies and promises of the “Grand Soir” [10]: we make some things, we “create links”, despite the lack of means, we cultivate a vegetable garden, we realize a small public garden (like the one mentioned by Z. Baher). This echoes the ZAD [11]: roll-up our sleeves and make something concrete and small scale, in the here and now. This is what they do “over there”, with an AK-47 at the shoulder.

Some anarchist texts only evoke Rojava in terms of local achievements and neighbourhood assemblies, almost never speaking of the PYD and the PKK, etc., as if they were only spontaneous actions. It would be a little like if, in order to analyse a general strike, we only spoke of the self-management of strikers and of strike pickets, without considering the local unions, or the manoeuvring of the union management, or their negotiations with the State and the bosses…

The revolution is increasingly seen as a question of behaviour: self-organization, interest in gender, ecology, creating links, discussion, affects. If we add here disinterest or carelessness regarding State and political power, it is logical to see well and truly a revolution — and why not “a revolution of women” in Rojava. Since we speak less and less of classes, of class struggle, does it matter that this is also absent from the discourse of the PKK-PYD?

What criticism of the state?

What bothers radical thought in national liberation struggles is the goal of creating a State. It suffices for it to renounce this and consider that at its base, the nation (provided it is stateless) is the people — and how can we be against the people? [In it] is a little bit of us all, almost 99%. No?

Anarchism has the characteristic of (and to its merit) a principled hostility to the State. Given this, and this is something, its great weakness is to consider it primarily as an instrument of coercion — which it certainly is — without wondering why and how it plays this role. Therefore, it is sufficient to wipe out the most visible forms of the State for some anarchists (not all) to conclude that its disappearance has happened or is near.

For this reason, the anarchist is disarmed before what looks too much like their own program, having always been against the State but for democracy, though naturally they favour democratic federalism and social self-determination. The anarchist ideal is to replace the State by thousands of federated communes (and work collectives).

On this basis, it is possible to be internationalist and support a national movement, so long as it practices generalized self-management, social and political, now called “appropriation of the common”. When the PKK no longer claims to want power, but a system where everyone will share power, it is easy for the anarchist to recognise themselves there.


The attempt at democratic revolution in Rojava, and the social transformations that accompany it, have only been possible because of exceptional conditions: the breaking up of the Iraqi and Syrian states and the jihadist invasion of the region — a threat which had the effect of promoting radicalisation.

With Western military support it now seems probable that Rojava can (in the image of Iraqi Kurdistan) exist as an autonomous entity held at a distance on the margin of a persisting Syrian chaos. In which case, this small state, however democratic it wants to be, by normalising [its relations] will not leave intact social conquests or advancements. At best there will remain some local self-government, progressive education, a free press (on the condition of avoiding blasphemy), a tolerant Islam and, of course, gender-parity. No more. But still enough for those who want to believe in a social revolution to continue believing in one — needless to say by wishing for this democracy to become even more democratic.

As for the hope of a conflict between the self-organization at the base and the structures that oversee them, this is to imagine that there exists in Rojava a situation of “dual power”. This is to forget that the power of the PYD-PKK itself has driven this self-government, and retains the real power, both political and military.

To return to the comparison with Spain, in 1936 it was the “beginning” of revolution that was then devoured by war. In Rojava there was first the war and, unfortunately, there is still no sign that a “social” revolution is about to be born.

G. D. & L.T.


Unless otherwise stated all footnotes are from the original article.

[1] Translator’s note: “Born Charles Cortvint in Brussels in 1914, Louis Mercier Vega was an anarchist journalist who was very active in the French labor movement. After fighting with the Durruti Column in the Spanish Civil War, Mercier returned to France, where in 1938 he joined (as Charles Ridel) a group of young anarchists called Révision, which demanded a process of radical ideological and strategic rethinking. During World War II Vega lived in Latin America, a continent he later analyzed in some of his works. In the late 1950s Mercier became co-editor of Volontà , an Italian newspaper of the anti-organizational current in anarchism that defended creative spontaneity and free experimentation in spheres such as education, culture, and aesthetics. In 1958, he created with Helmut Rüdiger the Commission Internationale de Liaison Ouvrière (CILO), a network around a bulletin of the same name published in Paris until 1965, which aimed to redefine the role of libertarian syndicalism in new contexts of production. His last endeavor was Interrogations , a quarterly review founded in 1974 and written in French, English, Italian, and Spanish, updating key concepts of anarchist political thought, especially the role of the state and the ruling class. The publication lasted until 1979, two years after Mercier committed suicide.” From: (http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781405184649_yr2010_chunk_g97814051846491752)

[2] Il Lato Cattivo , ‘The “Kurdish Question”, ISIS, USA, Etc.’

[3] Becky, ‘A revolution in daily life’

[4] The Social Contract (of Rojava)

[5] Il Lato Cattivo, op. cit.

[6] A relative eclipse of social disparities since the richest Kurds avoid participating in the self-government of camps by taking refuge in other countries with more comfortable conditions.

[7] Zaher Baher, « Vers l’autogestion au Rojava ? », Où est la révolution au Rojava ?, n°1, juillet-novembre 2014 p. 21. English version available as ‘The experiment of West Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) has proved that people can make changes’

[8] Translator’s note: However a small pro-Albanian Stalinist group in Turkey, the ‘Marxist-Leninist Communist Party’ (Marksist-Leninist Komünist Partisi in Turkish) has commited to organising International Brigades for Rojava. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxist%E2%80%93Leninist_Communist_Party_(Turkey).

[9] Translator’s note: I think this is a reference to the old centre of industrial working class radicalism in Paris. From Wikipedia: ‘Boulogne-Billancourt is a suburb in the western suburbs of Paris, France. […] Formerly an important industrial site, it has [been] reconverted into a business services centre and is now home to major communication companies headquartered in the Val de Seine business district.’ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulogne-Billancourt

[10] Translator’s note: The ‘Grand Soir’ is a term common in the French far-left, anarchist, socialist and communist, stretching back at least to the 19th century (though some have noted older, Christian origins). The ‘Great Night’ is in essence the night of the Revolution, the night of the reversal of the social order, the night of the final reckoning. According to Maurice Tournier it has more recently been recuperated by sections of the far right. See (in French): Maurice Tournier, « Le Grand Soir », un mythe de fin de siècle.

[11] Translator’s note: ZAD or ‘Zone À Défendre’ (Area to Defend). A name given by protestors to the area they wish to protect from the proposed ‘Aéroport du Grand Ouest Project’, i.e. the planned airport north of the city of Nantes. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%A9roport_du_Grand_Ouest.


This is a translation made by Notes from the Sinister Quarter of an article that originally appeared on the blog DDT21.

Taken from https://thesinisterquarter.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/kurdistan/


Feb 17 2015 17:42
Feb 17 2015 23:56

AFA Stockholm has reported back from Rojava and mentioned the call for international brigades, http://antifa.se/2015/02/afa-stockholm-reserapport-fran-rojava/ , to assist in rebuilding Kobani, assisting in building up the Cantons, and even partaking in the fight against Daesh (and what will economically and politically come to stop the experiment of democratic communalism). AFA Sthlm's view, appears to be that Rojava is but one front in a struggle against neoliberal capitalism in general and the possibilities currently present and growing in Rojava can and want to develop.

To call or identify the "experiment" or "revolution" developing in Rojava as some class based anarchist or communist revolution to the likes of any case based anarchist or communist revolution is just as flawed as refusing to look favorably at Rojava precisely because it is not a class based anarchist or communist revolution. One should not look to others to define one's own "revolution" yet one cannot ignore "international solidarity".

Feb 18 2015 10:21

Here's a chuck of the above text that gets nicely to the point:

An unchanged social structure

No one argues that it is only the “Kurds” who have the privilege of being the only people in the world who have always lived in harmony. The Kurds, like all other peoples, are divided into groups of opposing interests, into classes — or if “class” feels too Marxist, divided into rulers and ruled. Now, one sometimes reads that a “revolution” is under way or in preparation in Rojava. Knowing that the ruling classes never willingly cede power, where and how have they been defeated? What intense class struggle has taken place in Kurdistan to trigger this process?

Feb 18 2015 11:47

Good to see this text given a higher profile although there is some limited discussion of it and a related text on two other threads as here: http://libcom.org/library/kurdistan - difficult keeping track sometimes!

Feb 18 2015 17:34

Noclass can read the minds of every single Marxist in the world? Too bad his/her telepathy doesn't work on the boogies, otherwise we'd be winning.

Feb 18 2015 20:31
Marx-Trek wrote:
To call or identify the "experiment" or "revolution" developing in Rojava as some class based anarchist or communist revolution to the likes of any case based anarchist or communist revolution is just as flawed as refusing to look favorably at Rojava precisely because it is not a class based anarchist or communist revolution. One should not look to others to define one's own "revolution" yet one cannot ignore "international solidarity".

I don't get this insistence that we should give praise to 'revolutions' which aren't classed-based, when that's how we understand the basis of what a revolution actually is.

It'd be one thing if the Rojava optimists cooled off a bit and said in earnest 'OK, there are all these glaring problems but perhaps libertarian class struggle work and idea can influence things more favourably' but instead what we actually see is a celebration of how it currently is, and all its glorious achievements which herald the new age of..political professionals controlling everything, a bit like before.

Feb 19 2015 00:36

As with the past threads on Rojava and the connected issues, I believe that the term "class" has various meanings and one of the issues with discussing Rojava is the various ways that "class" is used and misunderstood among the people discussing it.

As I have said previously, in my own words, I will agree with the hypothetical quote, "OK, there are all these glaring problems but perhaps libertarian class struggle work and idea can influence things more favorably." Yes, I celebrate the way things are but do not wish for this to simply freeze at this point or believe that the things as they are now are perfect, far from it.

Having "admitted" that and having said that, quite frankly, I do not agree with one of the "class based" analysis used in discussing Rojava that seemingly defines "class-based" struggle harking back to something in the early 20th century. If your own analysis does not reflect this then I mean no disrespect. However, there has already been a long conversation on this issue, but I feel that the conversation was more unproductive than it was productive. Another issue in discussing Rojava is the heightened level of critique levied against Rojava that seems to be absent in discussing past libertarian history or current projects and issues within our own "movements" and activities.

Past conversation on class simply boiled down to the critique that Rojava was not something to sympathize with because they did not raise the red or red/black flags over the factories and declare themselves communists or anarchists. I for one believe there is way more to having a class analysis and class perspective than such a simplified view of "class".

Ireland WSA made a great point regarding anarchism or libertarian leftist tendencies. These are not categories we either fill or not but instead these tendencies are tools to be used in struggle and no one has a monopoly the use of these tools.

Feb 19 2015 09:10

Marx-Trek, in the article above, Gilles Dauvé asks:

Knowing that the ruling classes never willingly cede power, where and how have they been defeated? What intense class struggle has taken place in Kurdistan to trigger this process?

Any pointers?

Feb 19 2015 14:14

You are a little unfair in righting off all 'we critics' of the claimed 'Rojava Revolution' as having a simplistic and backward looking understanding of class as many of us have tried rather to situate the specific class relations in Rojava (and the wider Kurdistan) within the class recomposition effected through the evolution of modern global capitalism and the influence of regional imperialist powers. A strategic communist as opposed to a narrower anarchist assesment of the significance of the Rojava events in terms of their impact in the struggle against capitalism and for communism (and in no way lacking in human sympathy or support for the immediate struggle for survival of people in that area). Not directly relevant to Rojava but you might find this and some related 'Wildcat' texts of interest in terms of class recomposition: http://libcom.org/library/beyond-peasant-international-wildcat

Feb 20 2015 05:13

Marx's good ideas are not political, they are scientific. Marxism is politics, it is not science. Political science is contradiction in term. Politics was created to hide not to reveal. Communists cannot fight to dominate anybody, communist can only fight to remove domination in our world.

Feb 21 2015 17:12


Feb 21 2015 23:46

SpikeyMike, and this precisely why I wrote the next sentence,

If your own analysis does not reflect this then I mean no disrespect.

I am was simply pointing out that this conversation about class make up of Rojava and the "experiment", "revolution", or "struggle" debate going on about Rojava, in other libcom threads, has taken an ugly turn down ideological name calling and gross generalizations based on a generalized political view of Rojava.

Furthermore, as I have stated in past threads on Rojava, I am not a total all out defender/apologist for Rojava (de facto PKK YPG/J/D). The developments on the ground, the cantons, and the generalized thinking and attempted implementation of left-wing libertarian social organization is something to look at sympathetically or at the very least as something very interesting.

All in all, Spikemike I do not find you view or attitude within your post here a target of my critique or statement made.

Rat, you and Dauve asked,

Knowing that the ruling classes never willingly cede power, where and how have they been defeated? What intense class struggle has taken place in Kurdistan to trigger this process?

I am a fan of Gilles Duave's critique of so many things. Having said that, I find that Dauve comfortably operates within the world of theory rather than theory and practice. Not that that choice is in itself bad or less worthy of understanding. I often look to what Dauve has to say about many things because from critique the practitioner of theory will often be able to change their view and actions. However, where Dauve or any other theorists, you and I included, fall short is where obvious theoretical solution has no basis in reality, so no matter how sound nothing based in the material world will make it so.

Take Dauve's great critique of "revolutionary anti-fascism", essentially the crystal clear and correct point is made, if there is a need for an anti-fascist movement in society it is because the working-class movement has already failed and therefore there is basically nothing revolutionary about anti-fascism. Great point! However, where theoretical statement, no matter how correct, does not change the fact that now due to our own failures as a class, we now have to deal with fascism and reactionaries capitalizing off our own failures to defend and propel our class forward.

So, you and Dauve are right, in asking the question. There seems to not be some glorious communist or anarchist revolution that has loped off the heads of the benefactors of class rule in Rojava and capitalism as class relation has not been completely eradicated. Despite this glaring fact, there is still Canton (communes and collectives) that are being organized based on "anti-capitalist" principals and political leadership is being altered and becoming more in lined with "bottom-up" control.

Dauve's question has been asked and answered before in previous threads discussing Kobane and Rojava. To put it simply, its not that women with guns is something that speaks for itself or something to be fetishized and consumed by western radicals. Much like the image of armed Black Panther. Instead, the armed women of Rojava represent something more. The armed women of Rojava are representation of something more. They are the image of willing resistance for something better. They are an image of people willing to stand up and build something different. Again, I am not saying that this is a [R]evolution, but instead something very interesting that can lead to so much more if it is not crushed by the class forces within and outside.

Again, I refer and sometime defer to Dauve's comments and critiques of social aspects of life but where Dauve and all theorists fall short is precisely because they do not pick up the gun, the plow, the factories, the collectives, or whatever means that can either sustain or begin to reproduce new social relationships. Let me clarify, I would much rather see someone attempt to actualize Dauve(ism) rather than only read Dauve's newest critique confirm someone's failure. Regardless I would read and reread Dauve's newest critique of said failure because in looking back there is always insight.

Without being to generalized here, but in hopes of placing my point within some historical comparison, Dauve can and probably has asked the same thing about Chiapas and Revolutionary Syndicalist Spain. Perhaps the EZLN, the Zapatista autonomous communities, and old Spain can give us insight into maintaining a class struggle while pushing forwards that struggle itself without seizing state control. Perhaps this, if I may be so bold, "transition period or withering away", though longer and leading to a protracted struggle against Capital and State will not lead to Leninist and Stalinist deformed solutions. Unfortunately for the revolutionary-theorist in us all the material conditions and current state of struggle is never enough - may it never be enough!

As for Rojava and Dauve's concerns. I am glad he is concerned for I am also concerned. I just put more stock in the people living in Rojava figuring it out and not have to read Dauve's critique of their failures in the prisons of neoliberalism reserved for terrorists or in Daesh's hell.

And finally, Noclass said,

Again, before anything look at production and source of income in Kurdistan.

Yes and I ask you to look at the source of income in any town and country where any movement against capitalism is occurring. What can be said about Rojava can be said about any struggle. Which Kurdistan do you mean by the way? Anything can be theoretically explained away overly broad and general statement (e.g. any revolutionary classed based project in any country where capitalism still exists,hence the problem of capitalism). Capitalism is not some mythic beast that lords over us, it is the social relationship that we exist in and have to deal with, but don't think for second that "we" will not have to abandoned are perfect theories of struggle in dealing with the realities of struggle. The problem is not that we have to live in and live our way out of capitalism. Rather, as our fellow thread commentators have pointed out, its when capitals social relationships are normalized by said theories in hopes of consuming the idea of revolution rather than living in revolution.

Feb 22 2015 00:11

By the way why is the title "kurdistan?" As far as I know what is this text is speaking about is Rojava not Kurdistan right? Rojava means west in kurdish that is given but there is no aim of establishing a ethnic, nationalist, fascist kurdish nation state in Rojava, am I right? (If anyone knows something more please share) So where does the title comes from? (from 80's maybe?) Anyway even the title show where this text aims to reach: opinions and biases, that is all.

Feb 23 2015 02:33


Past conversation on class simply boiled down to the critique that Rojava was not something to sympathize with because they did not raise the red or red/black flags over the factories and declare themselves communists or anarchists. I for one believe there is way more to having a class analysis and class perspective than such a simplified view of "class".

I am simply saying if you want me to buy ideas about movement of Kurdish people, I like to know how people are producing goods and services and how wealth is distributed. If I want to know about your town, the same. So, don't tell me there is a movement in your town without telling me about what is going on in economic level. Capitalism is a social relationship, sure, what is the particular way of capitalism in Kurdistan? This is important, because without this level of understanding, it is not clear to say what that movement is about. Capitalism is a social relationship in which some are masters and some are slaves, I mean, it includes master and slave relationship. Who are masters and who are slaves in Kurdistan? Plus, Stalin was Marxist and at the same time a Master. What is in politics is one thing what is in reality is another thing. In fact, as an anarchist communist, I am not trying to fit realities to theories, I am trying to see what are realities.

Feb 23 2015 23:20

One thing could be that Kurdish society is a primitive form of capitalism. If this is the case, then perhaps we are actually witnessing great reforms rather than revolution in there, reforms to take Kurdistan capitalism to a higher level. Now the question is how should we deal with this situation? It is clear, we as communist do not participate in capitalist reform because we do not want to be a capitalist. If some feel like being one, they can form a Bolshevik like party to lead a primitive capitalism to a higher, or perhaps, state capitalism. In this case, no one would buy it as pro workers movement anymore because we already know what it means by example, not just in theory.

I think, the best way to think about Kurdistan is to begin to understand its economic aspect of social relationship. Unlike Marx, I am not saying economic relation determines the other aspects of human relationship. I am saying it is an aspect that needs to be understood. Of course, Marx is helpful in some ways, not all ways.

Feb 23 2015 05:46
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
By the way why is the title "kurdistan?" As far as I know what is this text is speaking about is Rojava not Kurdistan right?

Is this piece about Kurdistan or Rojava?

It seems to be about Somalia, Nigeria, India, Chile, Chiapas, Pacific islands, Kuwait, Oder-Neisse, Palestine, Israel, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Paris, Kosvo, NATO, etc...

It's a terribly written meandering article that I wonder who the intended audience is. Its certainly not informative to anyone who has been following the news in regards to Rojava or the civil war in Syria. I think the only reason its getting the attention it is because Dauvé's name is on it.

It explains the situation because of "exceptional conditions" but that whatever progressive gains will ultimately be limited---because reasons.

Feb 24 2015 07:36


Again, to be clear, I am not suggesting that Rojava is a workers paradise or even a peasant's paradise (as understood in under dated communist/anarchist theory). Far from it. However, what I am suggesting and what I am supporting is the generalized struggle, empowering, and reorganization that is currently developing in Rojava. This reorganizing has taken on commune, communalistic, collectivist, and is attempting to impliment left-libertarian, social-libertarian social organizing that is both political and economical.

Now, I can counter by asking a very similar question. What about your comment and concern regarding Rojava adequately highlights that the reproduction of capitalist social relationships, e.g. class society is currently being upheld rather than challenged by the "Rojava collectivists" I claim are worthy of support? The same goes for Dauve's article?

To your point, you have not raised any specific economic concerns or forms of social organization tied to economic life in Rojava, so I am not sure exactly what you expect me to say? However, I will attempt to answer or lead you to somewhere you can read about it.

I believe you have yet to raise any economic issues with Rojava while only remaining within the realm of theoretical and political-social critique of Rojava. Your own comments do not properly broach the issues you appear to want to discuss/critique.

Stalin, Marx, master, slave? First off do you not mean capital-labor, wage worker-capital(ist), employee-employer, and the dynamic between use-value and exchange-value?

But to be fair, yes you are correct in that I would have to offer some "economic" issues to further make my point (as we all should) because at the end of the day if the economic-social relationships are not changed we are dealing with radical reform rather than radical communizing class struggle that is succeeding.

First off, I just want to ask have you read the various articles, reports, books, and videos such as Dilar Dirik's that explain not only the political but also economic situtations in Rojava and other more "collectivist" regions within greater Kurdistan? If not, I suggest you do because there is a lot of information concerning those very issues. Again, there are a lot of links in previous discussions concerning Rojava here on Libcom that address this issue.

Here are some quick links to articles that begin to address some economic organizing that is occurring in Rojava and other more collectivist regions of Kurdistan:







Again, I am an autonomist and not a champion of Rojava(ian) communalism. However, as an autonomist I see the potential for radical transformation in Rojava. I believe the current situation from all the information I have read, having not been there myself, Rojava is beginning to resemble revolutionary/syndicalist/socialist Spain and the Zapatista zones within Chiapas. Rojava resembles and is organizing on a higher level, based on libertarian-socialist principals, more so, than what I have witnessed in the west.

So yes, I think that the Rojava is challenging the class relationship that exists and is planning on moving forward towards more and more anti-capitalist measures and means of social organizing. The people within the region are organizing and the political and social structures/committees they have established for themselves is facilitating this move more so than I have seen in recent history. Unlike some communist and anarchist tendencies that then leap to the conclusion that support means conversion to Rojava(ism), this is not the cause. Quite frankly, that is irrelevant. Instead, I see that it is possible to look at something favorably and as an ally without converting. Which, politically, is the whole idea behind free association through de-centeralized means to build up networks for federations of mutual aid. And possibly one day elevate our communizing self-activity.

As for my town, your town, or any town my point being that running oil wells and distributing fuel to people and food and basic necessities as a right rather than a commodity, encouraging cooperatives, encouraging collectives, having a goal to eliminate money while moving resources out of an exchange economy and into a category of needs to be provided to themselves for all intents and purposes looks more like a "workers paradise" than any project in my town and I am assuming your town.

As for the binary of reform or revolution, I do not buy the distinction because reform or revolution are mere tactics for a struggle rather than the end conclusion. For that is to much of a 20th century outlook for my comfort because anti-capitalist change does not merely come from voting or barricades (this is a false distinction and the barricades far to often become nostalgic romantic performance of revolution).

Feb 24 2015 13:07

So, it is about Rojava rather than Kurdistan in general, something that some readers have already mentioned. I consider wage-slaves as slaves and capitalists as masters. Relation is the same, trick is different. History shows clearly that some of the parties and some community relations in Kurdistan are not clean at all. Hopefully, the Rojava case, is different. The economic aspect is the key aspect. I have to abstract the economic part because some fully take advantage when it is ignored. But, generally, I consider the economic part not different from the other aspects of our lives, all aspects work together for us to be human kind. It is difficult not to see the role of mind and politics in economical fromation. So, in economic relation, you can guess the political views, sometimes hidden, sometimes not. I will read all the articles you have given the link, thanks, then I will let you know about my impression. About autonomism, fine, as long as it is autonom, not Marx.

Feb 24 2015 13:47


I didn't watch the videos because of lack of time, reading is faster.

So, they have created councils and cooperatives for now. There are markets, which is Ok to me for now, considering the economy being technically primitive, not organizationally. Yes, we can look positive at the situation. For sure, there will be class differentiation and consequently class struggle if the situation stay stable and developing. So, all we need to do is to support that part which we think is humane, the worker communistic part, coops and councils. Thus, I would not support Rojava, I support that aspect which I think is good. Thus, we need more and more details and connections. About ISIS, for sure, arming all people against them make sense. They are going to have lots of enemies, from West and East, North and South. One of the reader said dual power. I don't know internally, but externally is definitely true because US bombing ISIS might help but at the same time US government is not a friend.

Feb 24 2015 17:32


I think I see the general point you are making and I generally agree with your over all point.

You stated,

So, they have created councils and cooperatives for now. There are markets, which is Ok to me for now, considering the economy being technically primitive, not organizationally. Yes, we can look positive at the situation.
So, all we need to do is to support that part which we think is humane, the worker communistic part, coops and councils. Thus, I would not support Rojava, I support that aspect which I think is good.

Which I can generally agree with. Your point of distinguishing "Rojava" and "aspect" of Rojava which you think is good hints at not expressing such a distinction leads to full faith support of some institution (in this case being Rojava). I think it is pretty clear that the "aspect" is what is being supported and the aspects for which bring forth class consciousness and autonomous self-organizing means within the region. Again, Rojava simply means west (geographical indicator). I assume the when people speak about Chiapas in general they are referring to the autonomous zones that are socially and economically organized along the lines of zapatismo and when people speak of Greece they are generally referring to the intensified struggles being conducted within that country. So, when I say Rojava I am referring to the aspects that I have been describing here in this thread and other threads on libcom.

Your choice of words and when you wish to be specific and when your points being made are generalized leaves a lot open ended. I am not pointing this out to be a dick but rather to make, what I think, is a valid point for both perspective/analysis and the conversation (e.g. "clean", "trick", "master-slave", "aspects" "humane", etc...).


I can point you in a general direction, as mentioned in the 6 notes article (linked in my comment above) which discusses the issues of ceding power, class struggle, and a triggering event.

The triggering event was the long history of various autonomous and semi-nation state autonomous struggles and tensions within the are of what is referred to as Kurdistan; the onset of civil war in Syria; the fleeing of "capitalists" and managers from the war torn region leaving essentially the people of the region to fend for themselves. So it not so much that the barricades and red flags push the capitalists out, instead the reality of abandoning economic control lead to the material social conditions that allowed Rojava(ian) democratic autonomous communalism to sweep in and fill the vaccum. Much like other events in revolutionary history where the power that be simply flee in fear for their safety (e.g. Spain 1936-1939, Red October/Russian Revolution where the initial "overthrow" was quite calm and a relatively easy trade of "control" from capital and institutions to people's councils and social reorganization).

However, from what history has shown us, when the capitalist want to return to reclaim what was lost from fear and fleeing is when things get interesting (e.g. Franco, White Russian army backed by 13 to 16 other national forces, the Mexican military responding to the 1994 launch of the EZLN offensive, etc...). There are similarities and differences between historical events and current events but nonetheless Rojava is pushing forward.

Feb 25 2015 03:52

Marx-Trek, details will close open-endedness of generalization, they may put it in trash can or give it a new life. Thanks for the links and the comments, very helpful.

Feb 26 2015 11:21

Khawaga writes,

Noclass can read the minds of every single Marxist in the world? Too bad his/her telepathy doesn't work on the boogies, otherwise we'd be winning.

Without belittling schizophrenics, telepathy is all good and well, but the written word is what we deal with here. If you want to read the mind of just one single Marxist, just ask me. Please be kind though.

P.S. What are the 'boogies' and who says we're not 'winning'?

Feb 26 2015 20:08

For some history and theoretical historical development and analysis, Bookchin, Ocalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy; http://new-compass.net/articles/bookchin-%C3%B6calan-and-dialectics-democracy

Kurdistan National Congress Information File Canton Based Democractic Autonomy of Rojava offers some history, politics, economics, regional information, and political development; https://peaceinkurdistancampaign.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/rojava-info-may-2014.pdf

I think these texts coupled with the links above and the information coming from people and orgs that travel to Rojava and greater Kurdistan's autonomous zones offers a lot to be discussed.

Feb 27 2015 14:03

I have read a good deal of Bookchins early material and have some genuine respect for his work but his turn away from class politics, (following the failure of the working class to live up to his expectations), towards 'libertarian municipalism/communalism' and obsession with democratic forms was not just a rejection of 'marxism-leninism' (in no way the only marxism) but a relapse into reformist populist notions of 'the people' and a false belief in the possibility of building alternative 'socialist' structures territorialy within the shell of capitalism on the basis of a reconstructed idealised 'citizenry'. That move has in fact been popular amongst some anarchist tendencies still stuck in the past of largely agragrian pre-modern capitalist societies but it is still true that 'the best anarchists are former marxists' and the best marxists those who have outgrown the tradition of Social Democracy. Janet and compass think they have discovered something new and revolutionary but it's really just old material in new clothes!

Feb 28 2015 00:16

A greatly expanded version of Dauve and T.L.'s article is now up on the troploin website, 'Rojava: Reality and Rhetoric' http://troploin.fr/node/83

Feb 28 2015 07:43

Spikymike, a valid theoretical point. I concentrate less on what Janet B. and New Compass are formulating and analyzing through text and theory and concentrate more on the actual subject and transformation that is occurring in Rojava by the people in Rojava. I think there is a distinction to be made between Bookchin(ites) being hyped on their theorist making an impact and Rojava and Kurdish autonomous-democratic communalist utilizing libertarian-municipalism and other ideas from Bookchin.

I would not say that Janet B and New Compass have discovered something old in new clothing. Rather, Rojava are attempting to build something new and more forward and have chosen to use Bookchin's ideas coupled with their own in hopes of succeeding, and it is Janet B. and New Compass who are trying to inform the rest of us about how Rojava has chosen to utilize old ideas in hopes of creating something new. I have read in some articles that Zapatismo is also starting to become a topic of interest. I find this very encouraging precisely because the Zapatistas have always explained themselves as non-ideological, in that the Zapatistas do not want to bind themselves to an ideal or one theory but rather blend and mix to suit their own needs within their zone of operation.

Just because Rojava, the separate PKK, and Ocalan have decided to read Bookchin and in turn Bookchin having turned a classic Marx-Leninist resistance movement towards decentralization and anti-state struggle is nothing but positive. I am confused as to why the means of change in political outlook matters. Does it really matter that Bookchin(ism) was the theory that changed the outlook?

Another point regarding Bookchin and populist reformism and Bookchin's citizenry building another base within the system, who or what anarchist, communist, or anti-capitalist/anti-statist radical groups are not forced, by mere fact that we all exist within capitalism, to build "alternative bases" from within? I for one do no longer share this view that reform and radical action are somehow distinct or diametrically opposed positions. Rather reform and radical action are but tactics used to further one's goals. This fear of reform, like vampires of holy water, is strange to me (e.g. parliamentary left bloc wants to enact legislation that will raise minimum-wage to a livable wage. Of course I favor those parties winning. I would vote and hope that others voted. Not that such reform will cure all of society's ills and smash capitalism but because I will have more money at pay day. Reform is not Capital's inoculate against revolution. Reform or union gains are but quantitative changes where as revolution is qualitative change. One does not negate the other unless you actually believe in reform and uphold the system as something worth saving.

To cast aside any group based on what they call themselves or the theoreticians they choose to follow without analyzing what is being done on the ground is only a theoretical exercise rather than analysis. I believe in the short amount of time that Bookchin's ideas have gained popularity in Kurdistan that people in that region have actualized something way more interesting than Bookchin's words.

Again, I am less concerned with what Bookchin, Janet B., and New Compass have to say about the importance of Bookchin's ideas and more interested in what is being implemented in Rojava (of course I acknowledge that Janet B and New Compass are the main academic source of information but again I am ore interested on what they are discovering rather than what they are theorizing).

One last thing, there is more development in the Kurdish region that makes it not an agrarian society or pre-agrarian. Yes, further class composition and production analysis of the region would be very interesting. There are some links about that highlight some of these issues.

Feb 28 2015 08:29


The article you linked is less informative and draws poorer theoritical political conclusions than this Dauve article here. First off it does a poorer job of understanding the geopolitical and organizational distinctions than the US State Department. The PKK and the PYD/Rojava are legally distinct groups and PYD/Rojava operate freely and autonomously from the PKK. This is not denying the obvious in that clear support is shared by both groups but I would argue the distinction is real and needs to be addressed. There is a difference between affinity and support and proxy/puppet/front groups.

Also in its inability to distinguish between Rojava and the PKK is not a conclusion based on the conditions on the ground but rather tactical choice in hopes of making a point (whether or not that point is grounded is yet to be determined). I can simplify the long winded point here, simply put, what is happening in Rojava is not all that interesting because the PKK were Stalinist which means they are still Stalinist and therefore Rojava is Stalinist. They use anti-state rhetoric for their own political gains but do not put it into practice and therefore Rojava is less interesting. The PKK in the past has sided with the boss and landowners therefore the communalism and collectives happening the Rojava are less interesting. Seriously? Again, lets take Spain and anarcho-controlled areas that still utlized money, Spanish collectives used money and at times used questionable means therefore the efforts of the CNT/FAI is less interesting...I mean what kind of arguments are these other than just generalized logical fallacies?

Swapped marxism for postmoderism,but what about marxism analyzing the postmodern world we currently live in?

Bakunin love the guy but he is the last guy I go to when looking for something practical. Now if I want to read a wild rant against the state, then he is the shit.

Again, attacking the words and texts rather than practice...? For all the trash talking one can do for Rojava coming up with a Social Contract/Constitution and use the text as case and point in proving they are not "revolutionary" without reading it or look at how aspects are being implemented is just bad taste. Whether or not they choose Bookchin over Marx or French liberals over Bakunin matters very little when they are attempting to reduce exchange by money in hopes of moving towards eradicating money (as provided in the links above). Also where production and natural resources are not to be privately owned but controlled for the disbursement of use. For me this sure beats the hell out of Bakunin's petite-bourgeois notions of collective social work but maintaining wages as some form of guarding the individual and individual free choice.

Now matter how sure G.D. is that this trans-border zones are doomed and that oil interests will lead to their demise is a strange point. So instead of going for it and defending their gains, what are they supposed to do? Ever though that in a civil war the state apparatus has stopped functioning? Who's fate is not implicated by big business interests and national powers? Yours? Mine?

All in all this new article is more of a theoritetical and historical exercise than a critique of what is actually happening in Rojava.

Perhaps we can hope wait and see if Aufheben wants to touch the subject.

Feb 28 2015 09:55

This is a much enlarged version of Kurdistan?, published in French on the ddt21.noblogs.org blog.


Feb 28 2015 19:21

Yes, GD's articles make obvious theoretical points and critiques in that what is happening in Rojava. GD simply points out Rojava are not communistic approaches as expressed and desired by GD. To that I ask, quiet frankly, so what (I am a bit at a loss here because GD's texts are usually very well thought out and although having always been highly theoretical were still based on conditions on the ground and the subject of his critique. The material is out there to digest, analyze, and critique, I am almost confused as to why GD seems to have taken the easy way out, regarding Rojava, and has chosen to base the critique on nothing but theory and ideology and an almost conscious over generalization and simplification of Rojava.)?

Even though Rojava is not "moving forward" based expressly on one's own theoretical desires does not make the situation on the ground any less legitimate or valid in the material world. However, within the world of inside the mind the material conditions and events do not stand a chance against the captivating imagination of theoretical communism. Fortunately this still rings true, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."