Class War 13/2021: “Rojava Revolution”? “Anti-State”? “Anti-Capitalist”? Or a new mystification?

The new bulletin of "Class War" group about "Rojava Revolution"

Submitted by Guerre de Classe on August 27, 2021

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION WE SHOULD ASK OURSELVES about Rojava is the following one: Is what some call the “Rojava Revolution” really a social revolution or better said is it a part of the dynamics of destruction of the present social order (that is to say capitalist order)? Or, on the contrary, wouldn’t it be rather about a process of instrumentalization and containment by social-democrat institutions (and therefore bourgeois ones), under the pretext of “social liberation”, of an authentic movement of revolt against misery and State repression, in order to better justify their “struggles of national liberation?

The revolutionary movement naturally sought the answer to this question in discussions and confrontations of often conflicting, vague and complex views, testimonies and analyzes. As “Class War” we took part in this debate too, and we published a selection of contributions to the debate on our blog.

And we can say that this debate has led to a single conclusion: that the famous “Rojava revolution” is by no means part of the revolutionary “anti-capitalist” and “anti-state” dynamics. After all, it is nothing more than a local variant of the “Bolivarian Revolution” or “21st century socialism” controlled and limited by a powerful propaganda machine combining “libertarian municipalism”, Marxism-Leninism and “national liberation”.

Those who deny this conclusion today are not slow to understand or poorly informed. They are simply followers of reform of Capital, its repainting on “red”, adherents of the strategy of changing everything so that the essential remains the same. And today if we hear mostly the voices of Rojava’s supporters at the international level (though less than before), it is because for the revolutionaries this issue has already been resolved and their critical attitude towards Rojava remains unchanged (which does not rule out that the proletarian movement in the region in the future takes a second breath and opposes the social-democratic recuperation of his struggle, which we, as communists, support, of course).

IMPORTANT SECTORS OF “ANARCHISM” (the official and even the less official ones) declare themselves to be the staunch partisans of the “Rojava Revolution”, that would be a “genuine revolution” according to the “eminent” intellectual David Graeber. This “revolution” is prompted and controlled by a set of institutions as for example “popular assemblies”, “cantons”, “communes”, “municipalities” that globally and fundamentally don’t prevent (and historically in themselves never prevented) the reproduction of the same social relations than those dominating on a planet scale.

Were we naïve or stupid to believe “the anarchists” when they declare they merrily hate work, justice and the army?

Indeed, exploitation at work is effectively achieved in Rojava by means of “social economy” and its “cooperatives” where the proletarian is always so deeply tied to “his” (“her”) work tool, to “his” (“her”) machine, to “his” (“her”) workplace, to profitability requirements of “his” (“her”) local, cantonal and “libertarian” economy, in short to “his” (“her”) exploitation that through the magic of words would succeed in becoming more “humane”. It’s always in the name of “realism” and the refusal of critics, which are caricatured as being “ultra-leftist”, that work rules supreme over the region; salaried work obviously, even though the supplying in paper money, in monetary excrements or in coins of the realm is not always fully assured because of war.

“The anarchists” always declared their hatred for the State and the Nation… And yet the Rojava has all of the features of the State… Although some people call Rojava a “proto-State”, that is to say, one that “has a certain number of characteristics of modern States without having all of them”, for our part, our critical conception of the State determines us to see in these entities nothing else than a materialization of the State of the capitalists. Beyond the concept of Nation-State, the State is a social relation, composed of various apparatuses: government, parliament, police, army, employers, unions, political parties, school, and family… combined with various ideologies that give it strength: parliamentarianism, religion, positivism, authoritarianism… At the present level of development of class societies of which capitalism is the ultimate outcome as a synthesis of previous modes of production, the State can only be the State of the capitalists, capitalism organized as a State, as a social force imposing the dictatorship of value over humanity. It is thus for us an absurdity to speak about “proto-State”… As for the nation, is it really necessary to recall the nationalistic foundation of the “Kurdish liberation movement”?

“The anarchists” always expressed their contempt towards the government, parliamentarianism and elections… But the Rojava is led by an infinite number of parliaments, whether they are called “popular assemblies”, “councils”, “communes” or “municipalities” is not important if their practical content always consists in managing (with a “human face” or rather with a grimace of humanity) the social relation dominating world widely (i.e. capitalism, even though it is repainted in red or in red and black). All these structures get organized at a local level of a street, a district, a village, a town or a city, a region and partake all of them of the electoral principle. Finally, at the decision-making superior level, the “cantons” have their own governments as well as their ministries and related ministers. In opposition to what we claim as territorial organizations: “Unionen” in Germany in 1919/20, “Shuras” in Iraq in 1991, etc., what matters is the content of subversion of this world in order to “not make things profitable for the capitalists” (as the KAPD said)…

“The anarchists” pretend to be allergic to all concept of “party” that they reduce to the bourgeois political parties, whether they stand in the elections or not, or even to Bolshevik and Leninist parties. But suddenly, there are political parties that fill these same “anarchists” with joy: it’s about the PKK (“Kurdistan Workers Party”) in Turkey and the PYD (“Democratic Union Party”) in Syria. These parties, and even more the PYD than the PKK, develop a diplomatic politics that couldn’t be more classically bourgeois, going so far as to open “offices” (embassies in a way) in Moscow and Prague. The PYD even went, during a big European tour, so far as “to be on the game” at the Elysée Palace in February 2015, where some of its most famous representatives have been received by “Mr. President” (at the time) François Hollande himself.

For important sectors of “anarchism”, for libertarians, the events in Rojava would be essentially libertarian-inspired, anti-State and anti-capitalist in nature. Or at least, the “Rojava Revolution” would no longer meet the traditional criteria of “national liberation struggles” but its ideological structuring would directly ensue from the writings of the American libertarian academic Murray Bookchin and his principles of “communalism”, “municipalism”. There are even some who venture to compare Rojava with Spain of the 1930s.

For the other political family (competing but yet complementary to the other one), for this ideological family which claims more or less “Marxism”, there is nothing surprising about the fact that it puts forward precisely “the right of peoples to self-determination”, dear to Lenin, Bolsheviks, Third International, and their Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite heirs. We even read in an article published in the French newspaper “L’Humanité” saying that the “Rojava Revolution” would express a new form of “socialism with a human face”…

THE CONCEPT OF “DEMOCRATIC CONFEDERALISM”, which was theoretically developed a few years ago by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, a concept popular and fashionable especially in libertarian circles (but not only there), claims to criticize the Nation-State and the creation of a new Kurdish Nation-State is therefore no longer its political goal (according to the PKK’s “new paradigm”). In addition to “direct democracy”, the immediate declared goal of “democratic confederalism” is “libertarian municipalism”, in which “people’s assemblies” play a key role; as well as the regional autonomy of each “Kurdish entity” through cantonal and municipal organizations within each Nation-State. As can be seen here, the revised ideology of national liberation (in its version of “democratic confederalism”) claims that, of course, after a facelift and some minor reforms, it wants to keep the current existing Nation-States. In the conception of the PKK, “decentralization” and “autonomy” stand against the “centralism” of the Nation-State, against its chauvinism, and they are presented as tools for weakening the State. A representative of the KCK (one of the countless organizations close to the PKK) in Diyarbakir, Kurdistan, Turkey, spoke in an interview about “shrinking the State”…

The PKK therefore sails in the same waters as the Zapatistas, so appreciated by the Kurdish National Liberation Movement. According to us, communists, anarchists, internationalists, it is on the contrary clear (unlike all these reformers of Capital) that the State cannot be “shrunk”, we cannot built something “beyond the State”, but it must be abolished from the ground up and all its material foundations which give it life must be subverted, eradicated…

Some libertarians also openly and unhesitatingly support the “Rojava Revolution” because it brings, in their own words, “anti-Statist forms of national liberation”. Let us therefore recall for the umpteenth time that all nationalism, whether it is a “small” or a “large” nation, is historically chauvinist, expansionist, imperialist… and therefore Statist! It is enough to see today how the three cantons initially forming Rojava in 2014 exponentially developed (Rojava is nowadays made up of seven cantons) to form an area under politico-military control of the PYD and its YPG/SDF militias representing a quarter of the territory of the Syrian Nation-State, extending even beyond the former capital of the self-proclaimed Caliphate of the Islamic State (the city of Raqqa, taken over in October 2017 after months of intensive fighting and shelling that left behind only ruins and thousands of corpses), extending to the outskirts of the desert of the province of Deir-ez-Zor, very far from Rojava. This new administrative entity, supported more or less by its arms suppliers, the USA, momentarily abandoned the name of Rojava (which sounds “too” Kurdish) for the very bureaucratic name of “Democratic Federation of North Syria” (since 2018 “Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria”), which conceals much less “romantic” aspects but which is much more “serious” on the international diplomatic scene.

The “new” ideological paradigm called “democratic confederalism” is finally nothing but just a vulgar imposture wearing somehow the clothes of “revolution”, smelling the vague taste of “revolution” but having absolutely nothing in common with a minimum of beginning of dynamics pushing towards the overthrowing of ruling capitalist social relations.

Let’s have a look for a while also on one of the pillars of this “new” progressivism widely distilled to justify the revolutionary nature of the social movement in Rojava: the “multi-ethnicity” and “multiculturalism” so much praised by all the propaganda channels of the ideological apparatuses holding sway in Rojava as well as acting elsewhere in its favor.

What matters to us, we as revolutionary proletarians, communist militants, or anarchist ones (beyond labels), it’s not what “differentiates” us, it’s not our “singularity”, the fact that we are “Czech” or “French” or “British” or “American” while others are “Kurdish” or “Assyrian” or “Chaldean” or “Sunni” or “Shia”, etc. What is important on the contrary is what unifies us as a human and militant community against the global and universal dictatorship of Capital which materializes for all of us through exploitation, alienation, commoditization of our bodies and our lives, misery, war, death… What matters for us is to display very clearly our contempt for all national community, community of citizens, people’s community, for all democratic community in the deep sense of what democracy is, i.e. not a simple form (parliamentary democracy, “workers’” democracy or direct democracy, cantonal or municipal democracy, etc.) but rather the essence of capitalism and therefore the negation of class antagonism and the dilution of the proletariat (revolutionary class) into this bourgeois entity that is the People, the Nation and ultimately the State. What matters above all is the fact that we are, or become, brothers and sisters of misery and exploitation, brothers and sisters of revolution; and that we recognize it consciously.
Humanity has been separated from itself, from the nature, from its activity and its production, to be turned into slaves, serfs and modern proletarians. Mankind is separated from their genuine human community and they are linked as a multi-“something” false community: multiethnic, multicultural, multinational… Internationalism is not the addition of various or even different nationalisms or all nationalisms, but on the contrary its complete and accomplished negation…

PROXY MILITARIES? We would like to add one more important element to the critique of “Rojava Revolution” developed in different contributions on our blog – the help of the international capital that Rojava has received. The help of NATO, EU, different national States and other capitalist institutions, help that only further confirms the bourgeois character of those organisations that pretend to represent the social movement of subversion of this world in Rojava.

In this sense, in the sense of classic bourgeois politics, there is nothing to be amazed or offended at seeing the PKK/PYD meeting its partners (in Washington as in Paris or Moscow…) in order to strengthen their relationship and to discuss their military cooperation as well as the business of reconstruction in Rojava and Kobanê… For France, it was also necessary, especially in the light of attacks against “Charlie Hebdo” in January 2015, to promote in the media an image of official rapprochement and alliance with the forces fighting on the ground Jihadism, “radicalism”, “Islam fascism”…

Let’s point out in passing these “particular friendship” that emphasize the obvious complicity of these “revolutionary” organizations from Rojava with our class enemies at the very time when the capitalist State (in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain,…) initiated, developed, strengthened so-called “antiterrorist” new measures and campaigns, which advocated “national unity”, “sacred union”, “the defence of republican values”, “living together” and ultimately the reunification of the people around the “Democracy in danger”, i.e. the capitalist dictatorship so much hated by the exploited. These terrorist campaigns of the State aimed first and officially to fight against Islamism but in fact were in a second time (and this is their original and essential goal) much more powerful new tools in the fight against subversion, against the re-emergence of class warfare, against the global social revolution to come. For us definitively and contrary to leftist circles, there is no “lesser evil” that is worth to be supported…

Really, what an interesting “revolution”, “anticapitalistic” and “anti-statist”, which has all the characteristics of a State with a government led by the “single party” PYD, ministries, a multitude of mini parliaments, courts of justice, a “Constitution” (called “Social Contract”), an army (the YPG/YPJ militias increasingly militarized), a police force (the Asayish) which imposes internal social order (also with its “antiterrorist special units” whose Rambo have no cause to be jealous of their murderous colleagues of equivalent corps as the “SWAT” in the United States of America, the “Spetsnaz” in Russia, the “GIPN” and “GIGN” in France, etc.).

“Revolution” all the more interesting because it “cashes in on all sides”: the YPG/YPJ is nothing but proxy militaries of the capitalist powers, their auxiliaries on the ground, facing a “common enemy” (Islamic State). We’ve lost count of the offensives carried out jointly by the YPG/YPJ and other SDF:
• with the US Air Force,
• with the “Green Berets” (these fucking torturers of US special forces),
• with the Russian air force,
• with Bashar Syrian Army (with whom the PYD is co-managing the city of Qamishli, among others) and its air force which is bombing the rebel areas (and not necessarily Al-Nusra and other jihadists!!!),
• with the Lebanese Hezbollah,
• the Iranian “Guardians of the Revolution” (slaughterers of our class brothers and sisters),
• and so on, ad nauseam!

So we can congratulate the Rojava which allowed the murderers of the US Air Force to make up for the difficulties of using their Turkish ally Incirlik airbase. Rojava is not yet a member of the Atlantic Alliance (NATO), but just a little more effort “comrades”… All the bullshit on “democracy without a State”, anti-capitalism, and revolution is nothing but just for show intended for leftist (libertarian and Marxist-Leninist) milieus who are always ready to satisfy themselves with a “lesser evil” and a reform of capitalism.

There’s no need to wonder or to take offense at the fact that the PKK/PYD, the YPG/YPJ overtly announced their collaboration (either simultaneously or in turn) with the USA, Russia or Syria. Yesterday they already collaborated with the Hezbollah, the Syrian regime of Assad father: Ocalan and all the PKK leadership had their headquarters in Damascus before alliances were reversed around 1998!!! The same way the PKK signed peace agreements with Turkey in 2013, agreements that held until 2015, not because they would finally have been denounced by the PKK (supposed to be anti-statist) but because these didn’t correspond anymore to the Turkish imperialist necessities…

Whereas the Assad regime forces again and again heavily bombed the rebel-held region of al-Gutta, East of Damascus, this same regime sent some paramilitary troops (Shia militias close to Iran) in order to defend Afrin canton, which had just been invaded in February 2018 by the Turkish army and its Islamist auxiliaries. The intervention of Syrian forces will be carried out at the request of PKK/PYD, YPG/SDF militias, with a concrete politico-military deal between both sides – “Rojava Revolution” and Baath regime.

And in the ranks of the Rojavists there isn’t absolutely any problem with this and it is quite normal for them that these butchers are coming to help to save “democratic confederalism” from the Turkish aggression. Rojava Administration also called Damascus forces to protect national borders and integrity of Syria. What the hell does it mean to pretend refusing the concept of Nation-State (according to the “new paradigm” of PKK) when in the same time (maybe for “tactical and temporary” reasons, as justified by Rojavists) they make alliances with the Syrian Nation-State, they call for the defense of the latter, “a sovereign state”?

How can the partisans of “Revolution in Rojava” close their eyes to these facts?

Turkey, Syria, the USA, the EU, Gulf monarchies, Russia, Iran, and even “proto”-States like Rojava and Islamic State… all these States, all States are great buddies with varying degrees of good fortune according to geostrategic circumstances and the defense of their particular national and nationalistic interests; they get along with each other at rank and file’s expense, i.e. us all, the exploited, the proletarians.

And the same partisans of “Rojava Revolution” justify this collaboration arguing that: “In the 1930s Spanish anarchists accepted weapons from the Soviet Union even though they were fully aware that conditions attached to these weapons were intended to undermine the revolution.” If counterrevolutionary powers (yesterday the USSR, today the USA, Russia, EU, etc.) provide any armament, any logistical supplies, it’s of course while having their own interests to defend, with their own agenda as powers. And at the time many of our fellow comrades in Spain thought and today fighters in Rojava think that it’s not them who will be used by these capitalist, imperialist powers but they will use them in a kind of “tactical and temporary” alliances. Reality showed and still shows the evidence that it’s completely false. After having fought against fascism, for the defense of the bourgeois republic and refused to put forward the real needs of social revolution (e.g. through the self-proclaimed “dictatorship of anarchy”), the proletariat in Spain had been obliged to accept the dissolution of the workers’ militias and therefore the militarization of these latter, abandoning thus their “revolutionary spirit” on the altar of a “lesser evil” to fight for, of a “revolution” to be done “after” the victory over fascism that never happened…

If indeed the revolution will need weapons, guns, canons, missiles and surely much more, what social revolution needs more than anything else it’s a clear perspective about what is to be done and with whom. The same goes when workers take “their” factories in their hands and manage them; and remember Leon Blum’s cynical but nevertheless somehow acute comments about factories occupation in France in 1936: “workers occupy factories but in fact it’s factories that occupy them”, giving them something to do (in others words: divert them from their tasks to destroy the capitalist social relations)… The problem is not as such to occupy factories and to take in hands the means of production, but from then on what is to be done with them, what is to be produced, and for which purposes…

The “military question”, the use of guns, is not separated from the totality of the revolutionary militant tasks to assume, to take on, it’s not a question apart. It’s not the military question that leads the social movement but the contrary. This issue is very acute regarding what happens in Rojava: we were literally overwhelmed with such a flood of war communiqués about the military situation in Afrin (and before it was in Manbij, Raqqa, Deir-Ezzor, etc. all regions swallowed by Rojava “Self-Administration”). There is no way out nor any explanation to be given on how a “revolutionary” struggle could so easily collaborate directly with US Air Force, US Special Forces (Green Berets), with the fact that the US Army Headquarters was located in Manbij (territory under YPG/SDF control), that there were more than 2,000 of US soldiers in Rojava, the USA had at its disposal ten military bases in Rojava (including two airbases), they had deals with Russian Air Force and Russian Army generally and Damascus government’s bloody slaughterers as well (through “operation rooms” to coordinate military activities between the three armies)…

The proletariat as a revolutionary class has no interest to frontally confront the State and its central repressive apparatuses. What we have to develop on the contrary is the revolutionary defeatism, that is to push dissolving the bourgeois armies (especially while weakening its discipline and coherence), through violence of course, through direct action, sabotage, generalized and insurrectional strike… in the armies, factories, mines, offices, schools… anywhere we suffer exploitation from this world of death and misery… but also through the force and energy of the movement developing its class perspectives. Don’t forget one thing folks, it’s that where there are warplanes and warships, machineguns and missiles and poison gas to repress our class movement, behind them there are always and ever men and women who have to produce them, to transport them to their destination, to fuel them… It’s the duty of struggling proletarians to prevent the war machine to kill our fellow brothers and sisters, to stop the production system to work and function…

LET’S RECALL ALSO THAT HISTORICALLY, after any proletarian defeat, Capital gives itself the material means to transform into contrary energy, into energy aimed at strengthening its social relation, the initial proletarian energy if not of destruction of this social relation, at least of questioning the latter. Capital feeds on our revolts, our defeats, it adopts the vocabulary of the proletariat, its flags, its mottos (taking care to empty them of their genuine subversive content) to bring to its side the proletarians who are disoriented by defeat but still vindictive. The red flag thus deployed by “red” bourgeois attracts the proletarians who are still struggling but who are thus called to be satisfied with only a few bits of tinsel, a few ersatz of revolution…

This “democracy without a State” (Abdullah Öcalan, 2010), this “State without a State”, this “democratic autonomy”, this “democratic confederalism” is still and always a State, in the sense that the communist criticism gives to this concept. That is to say the existing social relation, the present state of things, and therefore the organization in acts of this relation. Organisation that aims to enlarge and perpetuate this relation. And without the revolution sweeping away the old order, this social relation, this state of things can only be and remain that of the capitalists, regardless of the reforms that make it looking like a different, improved form. Capitalism is constantly reforming… It even sometimes “revolutionizes” itself, but this “revolution”, with its jolts (resulting in tens of millions of deaths) which are extremely violent for the exploited of course but also sometimes for certain competing and/or obsolete fractions of the capitalist class, it is never anything more than a “revolution” within the very social relation that needs to be strengthened and broaden.

It would be fatal to confuse a social movement and process with its bourgeois leadership, a proletarian revolution with the counterrevolution, social liberation with national liberation (“national-social liberationism”), a militant dynamics against the dictatorship of the present state of things with a series of reformist measures to consolidate this state of things, which appears obviously under a renewed disguise, with new labels and with face-lifted institutions and ideologies like “popular assemblies”, “cooperatives”, “democratic confederalism”, “social economy”, “women’s liberation”, etc. and finally makes it more acceptable oppressed participating to their own oppression, alienated to their own alienation, exploited to their own exploitation…

THERE ARE SOME WHO WILL SAY THAT WE ARE ad hoc “anti-Rojava” or that we deny the existence of the “Rojava Revolution”. Far from it, we are not more “anti-Rojava” than we are effectively anti-Britain or anti-USA or anti-any-other-Nation-State.

The position of communists and anarchists is clear: May all capitalist States die, may the Turkish State die with its ferocious repression against populations revolted in the southeast of the country and elsewhere, may the Syrian State and its massacres die, may the States of USA, EU, Gulf monarchies, Russia and Iran die, and may also all “progressive” and leftist States die: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia as well as the “proto”-States like Rojava and Islamic State…

As for the real revolution in Rojava, we are of course eminent supporters of it as well as for the revolution in the Middle East and all over the world. We are standing for a world social revolution, and therefore an anti-capitalist one, that will abolish private property, the State, social classes, religions, etc.

Class War – Summer 2021


As follows we would like here to present a contribution that we received some times ago: “A View of Rojava or Criticism as an Opportunity for Growth and Development”, which addresses mainly the anarchist movement in the Czech Republic. We translated it in English (and in French as well) and finally publish it below, with a great delay, but also with the conviction that even today it is not too late.

The text touches on the questions that revolutionaries around the world have asked and continue to ask in relation to Rojava, and which, of course, can be applied to other “autonomous territories”, either historically (Spain 1936) or currently (Zapatistas).

We fully share the criticism of the Rojava that the text develops. What we do not agree with, however, is its subtext – the effort to “balance” Rojava’s unilateral adoration with a critical voice in an effort to create an “opportunity” for discussion.

However, in our opinion, the attitude of the anarchist movement and the far left in the Czech Republic to the events in Rojava (and the same is happening elsewhere in the world) is not based on any misunderstanding of the state of things, little information available or lack of opportunities for discussion, as the text assumes, but it is a much deeper problem – the problem of what content the followers of Rojava attribute to the social revolution. What should the revolution change and how? Those who think that the aim of the revolution is to democratize society or liberate women are, in essence, only striving for a kind of improvement of today’s society, for the completion of the bourgeois revolution, that is, the one that has definitively asserted the domination of Capital. The real revolutionaries, on the other hand, seek to destroy this society based on classes and exploitation, to totally transform it.

The text “View of Rojava…” doesn’t represent for us a call for discussion within the “anarchist movement”, which is able to label “revolutionary” even clearly reactionary events (as we developed it above) just because they are accompanied by red and black PR propaganda. Such a discussion is not possible for us.

On the contrary, we consider it a critique of the attitude described above, an attempt to clarify the concept of social revolution in the context of events in Rojava. And as such we also publish it in connection with our own remarks, which are based on the international discussion on Rojava, as it has been led by various groups and militants in recent years.

And last but not least as the events of Spain 1936 are very often evoked by the partisans of Rojava, we publish at the end of this bulletin a contribution of the Internationalist Communist Group about the revolution and counterrevolution in Spain, false polarization fascism vs. antifascism at that time…




2 years 8 months ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on September 26, 2021

Late to the now extensive libcom list of critical commentary on the significance of Rojava - harsh but true - a celebrated cause amongst western anarchists seemingly now dropped down the list of their concerns.