In April 2015, a conference was held in Hamburg ‘to introduce the thoughts of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, to the international community.’ Silvia Federici was supposed to send a ‘message of greeting’ – just as Toni Negri and Immanuel Wallerstein had at a similar previous conference.† Federici then dropped out. However David Harvey, David Graeber and John Holloway did attend and all three spoke on a stage with a large portrait of Ocalan in the background.†
During the event, held on Ocalan’s birthday, Harvey claimed that Ocalan ‘is waging a struggle for the freedom of all women.’† While Graeber said: ‘He has written the sociology of freedom. … I have some questions and criticisms in the technical dimension, but I agree and appreciate his views.’†
This all raises several questions, such as who exactly is Ocalan and is his political project really as radical as these well-known intellectuals seem to believe?
OCALAN ON VIOLENCE, REVOLUTION AND DEMOCRACY
Abdullah Ocalan is the ideological leader of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, whose offshoot, the PYD, is the main political force in the Kurdish areas of Syria known as Rojava. Many PYD activists in Rojava have what one eye-witness calls ‘total faith’ in Ocalan and consider him to be, to a certain extent, ‘sacred’.† Indeed, the leader of the PYD, Salih Muslim, has openly admitted that: ‘We apply [Ocalan’s] philosophy and ideology to Syria.’†
This semi-religious attitude to Ocalan goes back to the 1980s and 1990s, well before his imprisonment in Turkey. PKK fighters from these earlier decades say things like: ‘The PKK is in a certain sense identical with its founder, Abdullah Ocalan’ or ‘[Ocalan] doesn’t so much represent the party, as he is the party.’†
When ISIS began threatening Rojava in 2014, the PKK/PYD introduced compulsory military conscription. All PKK/PYD fighters are still ‘trained in political thought’† and, consequently, they still say things like: ‘our ideas are based on the philosophy of Abdullah Ocalan’† or ‘these are the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan, this is our ideology’†. This deeply Stalinist way of thinking would be a problem even if Ocalan’s ideas were genuinely revolutionary but, like most Stalinists, he has little enthusiasm for social revolution.
To his credit, Ocalan does acknowledge not only the appalling brutality of the Turkish military but also the brutality of the PKK during its war of national liberation against Turkey. For example, he admits that there was ‘unfeeling violence … escalating to the point where we killed the best of our own comrades’† and that ‘young fighters were summarily executed in the mountains.’ He even says that ‘the whole party is guilty; nobody can deny his responsibility.’†
But Ocalan’s admissions now just make it easier to believe long-standing claims that he authorised the execution of many hundreds of people including civilians and dissident PKK members.† To give just one example, an ex-PKK leader has said that ‘there were between 50 and 60 executions just after the 1986 PKK congress. In the end, there was no more room to bury them.’† Ocalan’s admissions are also seriously marred by his repeated attempts to shift the blame for any atrocities away from himself and onto what he describes as ‘gangs within our organisation’†.
This blame-shifting raises even more questions when one reads Ocalan’s claim that ‘young women fighters … [were] forced into the most primitive patriarchal relationships.’† This is a statement that begs to be compared with that of another PKK leader who claimed that it was Ocalan himself who ‘forced dozens of our female comrades to immoral relations’ and that he went so far as to ‘order the murder’ of women who refused to have ‘relations’ with him.† *
Ocalan had his accuser killed so we may never know if there was any truth to these allegations.† We may also never know how genuine Ocalan’s regrets are concerning wars of national liberation. This is especially the case if we consider his assertions that these wars ‘were valid at the time’, that the war against Turkey ‘could have been won’ and that when ‘nationalism [was] flourishing, it was almost treason not to agree with the principles of national liberation.’† But we do know that the failure of the PKK’s war – combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union – led Ocalan to reject not only any continuation of the war but also any sort of violent revolution.
In his Prison Writings he warns that ‘socialist society must not attempt to overcome old structures of state and society by means of violence and force.’ He goes on to say that: ‘It would be a gross contradiction of the nature of the new ideology if force were to be accepted as a means of overthrowing the state – even the most brutal one.’† He also claims that ‘revolutions and violence… cannot abolish [social phenomena]’ (vol.1 p224) and that ‘revolutionary overthrow … does not create sustainable change. In the long run, freedom and justice can only be accomplished within a democratic-confederate dynamic process.’†
These statements are more than just understandable criticisms of violence, they seem to be rejections of any need for social revolution once a Western-style democratic system has been instituted.
Ocalan does claim that such a system will eventually be superseded by ‘a more adaptable administration which will allow even more freedom’. But he also claims that ‘the Western democratic system contains everything needed for solving social problems.’ He even says that, eventually, ‘the right and the left … will come together in the system of democratic civilisation.’†
OCALAN ON MARXISM, ANARCHISM, FEMINISM AND CAPITALISM
Like so many other neo-Stalinists, from Gorbachev to the Eurocommunists, Ocalan combines his enthusiasm for Western-style democracy with a dismissal of Marxism.†
He also rejects anarchism, saying: ‘Anarchism is a capitalist tendency. It is an extreme form of individualism which rejects the state itself.’† He is quite clear that he ‘does not reject nor deny the state’.† Instead, he advocates ‘a lean state as a political institution, which only observes functions in the fields of internal and external security and in the provision of social security.'† **
Few liberals would have too much disagreement with this approach to the state or, indeed, with Ocalan’s approach to feminism. Just like any liberal, he is also quite clear that women’s liberation ‘should have priority over the liberation of … labour.’†
Ocalan does make bold, if somewhat hypocritical, statements about male domination in contemporary society such as: ‘To kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle of socialism.’† And women’s participation in the Rojava revolution is a striking example of how women will be central to any social change in the 21st Century. But a genuine women’s revolution would surely require a proletarian women’s movement outside the control of either middle-class activists or the PKK/PYD.
Such a revolution would also require the transcendence of the family. According to one Rojavan human rights worker: 'Society here is very masculine and very feudal, … there still needs to be a change in the classic family structure if we are ever going to see [women's role] expand.'† Yet, despite his criticisms of the family, Ocalan still insists that the family 'is not a social institution that should be overthrown’. Indeed, he even argues that a reformed family is both the ‘most important element’ and ‘the most robust assurance of democratic civilisation.’†
As regards capitalism, Ocalan does argue for a ‘progressive transition from a production based on profit to a production based on sharing.’† But he appears to believe that capitalists ‘never number more than one or two percent of society’† and he even claims that the class war ‘has come to an end’.† He also proposes that the new social order 'will allow for individual and collective property’ and that labour will be 'remunerated according to its contribution to the entire product.’†
In the programme for the Hamburg conference, John Holloway claims that the Kurdish movement in Rojava is one of ‘the most outstanding examples’ of anti-capitalism.† But these statements by Ocalan instead show a movement whose ideological leader has a very limited understanding of capitalism and no real desire to end the misery of private property and wage labour. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that one of the economics ministers in Rojava has openly stated that he wants any cooperatives to compete with private capital.† While, the head of Internal Security even said that Rojava is ‘a new market, and everyone can play a role, including the Americans.’†
Ocalan’s solution to every social problem really does seem to be, not anti-capitalist revolution, but democracy. Democracy is certainly preferable to dictatorship. But it makes little sense to say that democracy, even a radical form of direct democracy, is itself a ‘corrective for extreme class divisions’.†
It is, of course, just such extreme class divisions and inequalities, exacerbated by capitalism’s chronic crises and wars, that have led to today’s situation in which so many people have turned to the seemingly revolutionary alternative of ISIS. But from Egypt to Turkey to Iraq, democracy has done little to empower proletarians to push for the radical sharing of wealth that is so urgently needed to end all class divisions and so end the appeal of ISIS.
The PKK say they want to transform the Middle East ‘without the utopian perspective of a world revolution’.† But it is surely only the prospect of an anti-capitalist world revolution that could ever inspire people both to overthrow ISIS and to spread the Rojava revolution across the Middle East.
Such a world revolution would require a political movement that was far more internationalist than the PKK/PYD could ever be, burdened as it is by its deep attachment to Kurdish identity. The PKK/PYD is also burdened by its initial decision to be relatively neutral in the Syrian civil war and by its later decision to ally with the US. No matter how understandable these decisions were, they have discredited the Rojava revolution across the Arab world and made it even more difficult for it to become a starting point for international revolution.
Any talk of international revolution may seem utopian. But the Arab Spring and Occupy movements showed that potentially revolutionary movements are now able to emerge and spread internationally like never before. And a global revolution is still a more realistic prospect than any hope that an alliance with Western imperialism will somehow lead to the Rojava revolution spreading across the Middle East.
After the victory at Kobane, the PKK/PYD leader, Salih Muslim, visited government officials in London and spoke passionately in favour of an even stronger alliance with the West. He said:
‘We insist on establishing good relations with the US. … We had a martyr who was English. He died in the same trenches as us. … Our martyrs are the most glorious treasure we have. We see them as the crowns, they are crowns and they are light that show our way to peace and freedom. … We want to establish stronger relations with the English, Australians, Germans and Americans. That relation will be nourished by our martyrs’ sacrifice. … Rojava is taking the lead in giving an example of democracy in all of Syria. And our people are proud of that. And you know it is true when you see a British man next to you in the same trench and he becomes a martyr. … [Our] resistance is becoming an example to the world.’†
Despite obvious differences, this overblown rhetoric sounds very much like that of politicians a century ago who extolled ‘English, Australians, Germans and Americans’ to sacrifice themselves for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in the trenches of the 1914-18 war.
The revolutionaries of the last century made two great errors: one was to support the descent into the imperialist bloodbath of 1914, the other was to support Stalinism. Developing a 21st Century revolutionary politics that avoids any repetition of these disasters will not be easy. Radical intellectuals like Negri, Graeber and Holloway have made important theoretical contributions that can aid this development. But their apparent support for the PKK suggests serious limitations in their political outlook.
Fortunately, younger Kurdish activists are increasingly questioning the authoritarianism of the PKK. If radical intellectuals have any constructive role it is to encourage such attitudes and to avoid giving any credibility to the totalitarian cult around Ocalan.
Capitalism’s present crisis will, sooner or later, compel people to question the entire system more deeply than they are presently doing in Rojava – or, indeed, in other countries where various types of neo-Stalinist have taken power such as South Africa, Venezuela and Greece. Until then, we surely need to keep trying to find ways to support grassroots’ struggles without giving any support to neo-Stalinist politicians – or to imperialism and its endless wars.
All sources can be found by clicking on the † next to the quote or see the version at libcom.org
* Some critics of Ocalan have claimed that his response to such abuse accusations was to say: ‘These girls mentioned. I don’t know, I have relations with thousands of them. … [They] say ‘‘this was attempted to be done to me here’’ or ‘‘this was done to me there’’! These shameless women. … I try to turn every girl into a lover. … If you find me dangerous, don’t get close!’† However, unlike the other Ocalan quotes in this article, I have been unable to find a verifiable version of this quote. I have also been unable to find a second source to confirm claims that the Rojavan authorities 'prohibit the display of flags and photos of political figures' other than those of Ocalan and other PKK symbols.†
** The revolutionary hopes engendered by the Arab Spring coincided with a fall in support for Islamist terrorism. Once those hopes were dashed, such terrorism revived and, inevitably, the Rojavan police have now set up an elite anti-terrorist unit just like those of any other capitalist state. (See their Hollywood-style video here.) This development is in some contrast to Graeber’s hopes that the Rojavan police were on the way to, one day, abolishing themselves.†
‘Democratic’ assemblies, street scenes, militia fighters and colleges in Rojava - all overshadowed by the leader of one party, the PKK’s Abdullah Ocalan.
Good article - and a good
Good article - and a good contribution to the debate within the anarchist movement about Rojava.
agreed very good read
agreed very good read
Here are some images from the
Here are some images from the website of the major women's organisation in Rojava, Yekitiya Star.
This organisation is 'the leading factor in the construction of a new system today. It opened 15 training centers and two academies for women and formed social committees in many areas. ... Yekitiya Star regards Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan as the builder and leader of freedom.'
And here are pictures of YPJ fighters declaring oaths:
Whatever is happening in Rojava, this is not my vision of a genuinely libertarian/feminist/socialist revolution.
David Graeber has said: 'Let me make my position clear. When someone in a wealthy country insists on equating (a) the imaginary revolution they like to fantasize about someday creating, and (b) actual revolutionary struggle in the Global South, then condemns (b) for not living up to (a) and refuses solidarity on that basis, they are turning their situation of privilege into a pretense of moral superiority, which is a classic form of racist imperialism. This is true whether or not they are personally racists.'
But does that mean that if you refused solidarity to Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia in the 1970s, that you were being racist and imperialist?
Of course, it is only natural to sympathise with people in Rojava, threatened as they are by the horrors of the ISIS - just as it is natural to sympathise with people in Damascus or Baghdad faced with ISIS there.
But this is, surely, no reason to support the PKK - any more than it is a reason to support Assad or the Iraqi government.
Does "Anti War" do anything
Does "Anti War" do anything except criticize Rojava?
S/he's the necessary
S/he's the necessary counter-weight to posters like you.;) Looking at your respective recent track records you've posted on a lot more Rojava threads than Anti War.
Yeah, that's fine Red
Yeah, that's fine Red Marriott.
I, however, have a personal history, organizational ties and am interested in other things (like the recent protests in my home of Baltimore).
I'm actually critical of some things about TEV-DEM, YPG, PYD, PKK, etc... some criticisms that Anti War shares.
Anti War seems likely an exclusively anti-Rojava project. The Anti War account was set up 19 weeks 4 days. But its obviously someone who know communist politics. So, this is specifically an anti-Rojava/anti-PYD project, right? By someone who wants to mask their identity and doesn't want their critique tied to a particular organization. And their project seems to be pretty exclusively anti-PYD and not pro particularly anything except a rhetorical communism.
Its fine if someone wants to always remain anonymous. But I do have to wonder about a political project that is exclusively anti-Rojava, and always anti-Rojava.
Whats the agenda?
Also, a lot of the arguments done by Anti War are in poor faith. Lots of straw men. David Graeber would support Pol Pot, etc... ridiculous.
Deleted. I have no horse in
Deleted. I have no horse in this race.
Lighten up, Flint; even if
Lighten up, Flint; even if all you said was true, so what? You're displaying the over-sensitivity to critical views typical of pro-Rojavans. Eg, kurremkarmerruk is at least as much an 'anonymous exclusively pro-Rojavan project' here. But I don't here you complaining about that or questioning 'their agenda'.
Most people are 'anonymous' here for various good reasons but we don't start reading conspiracies into that. Eg, I don't know anything about you or kurrem that makes you less anonymous to me than Anti War.
Well lots of 'people in wealthy countries' did find that Maoism, Pol Pot etc did fail to live up to 'the image of the revolution they wanted to create' and said so at the time. And got flak from leftists for what imo was often very valid criticism. I've experienced much the same in recent years from pro-maoists; http://libcom.org/library/myths-realities-nepalese-maoists-their-strike-ban-legislations
But I don't think Anti War is saying Graeber would support Mao or Pol Pot, just that by what he sees as the same logic one could equally condemn those who did critique Mao & co. There is a common implication made that the critics set impossibly high standards to measure against. So once again it comes down to evaluation of content of a struggle; after all, if you argue it's absurd to say Graeber would support Pol Pot then presumably that's cos the content of that struggle didn't measure up to his definition of the kind of revolution he wanted to create. If that's the case then it shouldn't be so hard to accept that Rojava doesn't measure up to what some see as a revolution they can support. However right or wrong that may be - to claim, as Graeber does, that such a view is "a classic form of racist imperialism" is a real "ridiculous strawman".
I'd really like to know what
I'd really like to know what other projects Anti War has been involved with, what they see as efforts worthy of support, what their ideological foundations are, what they would regard as positive activity in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
Anti War is a specific political project, not just a random poster. I think it's fine to ask those sort of questions of a such a project, particularly given its style of presenting information tends to be wholly one sided with little consideration to the sources of the material and quite a lot of distortion and selective quotation. Pretty much everything they post is some kind of smear job designed to push particular buttons here.
I'd appreciate it if Red Marriott would stop trying to dismiss me as if my politics were somehow a matter of emotional excess or hyper-sensitivity. That kind of patronizing dialogue will do little to change my opinion or activity.
In defense of
In defense of kurremkarmerruk, he's been a member of this site for more than 7 years, posted for more than 3 years, and comments on a number of topics. Comrades I know and respect have met him.
Anti War might very well be the sock puppet of a regular poster here. I don't know. But they could engage the questions I raise about their activity, aspirations and alternative ideas. They don't seem much interested in dialogue though. Just find whatever anti-Rojava stuff they can find and post it. Or find any Rojava news, write their own quite partisan critique of it... and just post the critique. A lot of the writing is terrible just from a writing perspective.
I get that lots of folks here are more skeptical of Rojava than myself. I even respect some of those positions. But the way Anti War engages the topic strikes me as intellectually dishonest in addition to overtly hostile.
Atleast folks know where the ex-ICC folks are coming from.
Quote: I'd appreciate it if
I've said in the past you were "an honourable exception" to the dismissive attitude, strawmanning, over-sensitivty etc of other pro-Rojavan posters. But on this thread I'm not just being "dismissive", I find your attitude as I described it. I also undismissively dealt with specific points of what you said (some of which you haven't responded to, which is fine). But many pro-Rojavans are just as dismissive; Graeber quickly flouncing out when anyone dares to disagree, others just repeating the same stock responses in a parody of 'dialogue' etc.
But trying to hold people to account by bringing out your 'movement record', service medals etc and wanting to know theirs I find a dubious method. At worst Anti war is someone who doesn't respond to critics; that doesn't mean they have to 'prove themselves' in that kind of way. You're free to post disagreement with what and how they post. It sounds like you're slipping into trying to discredit the poster rather than what they're saying; which is a tactic other pro-Rojavans like kurre have tried to use in the absence of a more credible response. Demanding a political CV from critics? That's a little odd.
Come on, your presentation of news items you find is just as "partisan" in its own way. I don't feel the need to know or demand your credentials to respond.
When AFED, the ICC, Graeber,
When AFED, the ICC, Graeber, WSM, etc... publish opinions, they stand on bodies of work, experiences, track records. They have reputations. It puts weight on their words which can help someone evaluate them.
If you don't see that as an important thing, then you and I have different ways of evaluating complex situations.
Ah, the power of prestige
Ah, the power of prestige (aka cultural capital); the ad hominem praise. The value-form reinforced and extended through the supposedly neutral descriptors "bodies of work, experiences, track records," and, especially, "reputations," and "weight." The accuracy or insight of a critique is not magnified by prestige (the logical fallacy of appeal to authority), nor is it diminished by anonymity. Fail.
When someone I know and
When someone I know and generally agree with goes somewhere and tells me what they see, I put more weight on it than someone who pulled a twenty year old quotation.
Flint, why don't you just
Flint, why don't you just ignore Anti War if s/he pises you off by posting things that the regular reader might not read/see otherwise? Are those photos photoshoped or what is the problem? Can this thread concentrate on Rojava more than individual posters?
MT you are definitely right.
MT you are definitely right. However I doubt if the fault lies in Flint.
For example I go try to find these pictures in the supposed official website of YPJ http://www.yekitiya-star.com/ku/ I could not. Then I searched for the last of them online. I found only turkish leftist sites with tgis picture plus a blog and libcom.
So I think the pictures might authentic but they might not be as contemporary or at least are not representative state of kurdish organisations as they claim to be (they are like picking the few that support your position)
Also my little experiment kind of proved Flint that this Anti-war is actually another poster and most propably a turkish one I suppose (or maybe kurdish but he seems not to know kurdish but who knows)
So I am on phone but can not make proper research. But please everyone do their own
Quote: When someone I know
Nice feint, but this is an entirely different point than the one you tried to make before. There's no cultural capital or body of work here.
The Yekitiya Star pictures
The Yekitiya Star pictures can be found on the front page of the Arabicversion of their website here. See also here and here.
Another picture can be found here. Even more pages of articles on Ocalan can also be found on this Kurdish version of the website here.
Today, there are four pictures of Ocalan on the front page of the Yekitiya Star website.
Here are some covers of Yekitiya Star's recent, 2015, journals:
All other references in the article can be found by clicking on the † after the quote.
Much of the above article comes from Ocalan's Prison Writings, Vol.2 and his Liberating Life pamphlet. These were published in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Well there is of course
Well there is of course pictures of Ocalan in their website nobody disputes that.
However when I open their website today I can only see one Ocalan picture that is in the column of writers so I assume they publish one of his writings (as this is very common in Kurdish media to publish a writing of his relevant to issue) Well except that there are some people making a traditional dance, in the background there is a portrait of Ocalan but so what? Does this mean they are pushed by guns and knives to hang it there?
I guess journal in Kurdish is "KOVAR" if you try "find in page" you can reach to 5 issues of their magazine. And yes 2 has Ocalan in the frame 3 has not. Though I am lost what does this tells us. Well I remember this CNT poster from Spanish Revolution with Durutti:
So are CNT was a totally corrupt organisation? If the CNT were to win would Durutti will be a some sort of "king"? :D And nobody could have any respect to Durutti except a dictatorial one? Were even Spanish Anarchists were blind to power as Kurds? Were there reasons to publish such posters? or should we be automatically against CNT as they could have published such hero-worshiping poster?
But I can not read Kurdish or Arabic so I am lost about what these journals or writings about. anyways. You seem to be satisfied just showing of some pictures apparently so have it your way I guess.
And also please someone
And also please someone explain to me things like this in the article:
There is no reference to this sentence. May I ask: according to whom or according to what measure? Well unfortunately but their fight in Rojava become a huge boost for Kurdish movement,
1) Many tribes in Turkey nowadays join the Kurdish movement (and we mean like tribes with 20.000 or so members) http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/hdp_asiretleri_nasil_ikna_etti-1354021
2) As Barzani and his peshmergas failed to protect their land, movements in opposition to him gaining power in Iraq. (including the ones sympathetic to pkk)
3) Yezidis for example avoided pkk historically due to their different religious beliefs and opposition to war. but however nowadays they are forming their own militias and self-organize in style of YPG. There are other ethnic or religious communities nowadays active with and within YPG in Syria.
If you combine these with the boost in number who went to fight for Kobane. Actually Kurdish movement seems to be experiencing another golden age and currently recovering from the defeat that happened in the early 2000s
But unfortunately you are just here to make anti-propaganda anti-war. I hope you do not deceive too much people. People can be "internationalist left/communist" I have no objection to that, but I strongly emphasize that bad and misguided judgement represented as facts or analysis is always resuls in bad and ineffective politics no matter what they are called.
Also by the way f*ck
Also by the way f*ck photoshop (or paint).
Look at how nice Durutti's huge head looks. Well it is kind of hard to miss it actually as he nearly covers half of the damn poster :D It is I guess painted by hand by a talented artisit. Giving him a really inspiring posture. His hat's shade over her eyes. And look at his big dark cheeks that you can nearly see his muscular body and fitness. His eyes looking towards far away lands (possibly CNT planes and clouds also :D ) From this poster you get the idea that he must be a human-giant or something.
And look at the pictures of Ocalan, he looks like someone just cut his head from a photo and pasted it over a sunflower. Ridiculous, he looks like my grandfather seriously :D Life is a bummer :D
What is staggering is that
What is staggering is that after nearly 6 months of debate, the "antis" have learned absolutely nothing.
Never mind the myriad details (a point by point refutation of all the errors and wilful distortions in the above would be substantially longer than the article), the structure of the argument itself is simply unacceptable from the perspective of left-wing class politics.
The structure of the piece is effectively the same as those right-wing German historians who try to explain the Third Reich in terms of Hitler only having one ball. For the German right it is a convenient historical alibi for Germans, of all classes, to pretend that from 1933-1945 the entireity of the Gerrman public lost all agency and simply moved as passive puppets of the will of "the master of the Third Reich".
Of course the intent behind the article is different here. But the problems of ditching any materialist analysis, of the assumption that millions of Kurds are simply passive vessels for the ideas of their "ideological leader" (the term is symptomatic of the sectarian idealism) in a way that the author would never accept as characterising the relation of Catholics to their "ideological leader", the pope, or Germans as passive victims of "Hitlerism", are structurally the same. In the name of defending class politics, the author presents an argument that divests Kurdish society of actually-existing social and class dynamics. That anybody should see this "analysis" as anything other than the inverted right-wing "history of great men" that it is, is frankly astonishing.
Other commentators have raised the allegation that behind this "One Big Kurd" (to paraphrase Ice-T's characterisation of Bush Sr and other US racist's amalgamation of African-Americans as "One Big N*****r") thinking is an unconscious racism. While this is clearly present, I don't think it is the primary cause. I suspect the problem lies precisely with the micro-sect mentality that perceives ideology, and ideological-correctness (even a crypto moral-correctness) as the alpha and omega of political movements. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, in real political movements, the relation is not ideological-correction -> effective action, but real practical problems -> empiricist fumbling for effective response -> retrospective ideological justification.
Once again, the practices of the KCK and other organisationally-linked cadre that constitute the day to day activity of the Democratic Autonomy turn, are not to be found being invented in the writings of an imprisoned ideologist, but in the social insertion practices of the cadre. Neither Qandil or Imrali is the ultimate source of these practices. That the prisoner in Imrali has sided with the cadre, to guarantee his continued relevance in the light of the operational command of the men of the Executive in Qandil (Karayilan, Bayik, Erdal), and that in turn that cadre, particularly the KJK, exalt his authority, is the assertion of autonomy by the latter, relative to the military command. What matters is the content of the activity itself.
Also the title "Negri,
Also the title "Negri, Harvey, Graeber, Wallerstein, Holloway..." is like that lame thing that early webpages used to do of putting common search terms into their html headers. There is absolutely nothing here about any of these people's actual positions in relation to this debate. The link given (incidentally I highly encourage people to follow those links, as in most cases the sources say something entirely different from that alleged in this text) in relation to Negri, for e.g, has his name appearing on a conference in Germany. That's it.
Quote: If the CNT were to
Two fails in one! (Three, if you count the very bad attempt at irony.)
First, it's spelled Durruti -- you should probably look at the graphic.
Second, he was dead by this time. And Durruti was not the chairman of the central committee of the Anarchist Workers' Party of Spain.
It's true that Anti War
It's true that Anti War hasn't justfied the connection ''Negri, Harvey, Graeber, Wallerstein, Holloway'' in terms of any substantive underlying theoretical approach of these radical academics but despite some important differences between them (and ignoring Wallerstein whom I'm not familiar with) the others do display some similarities that can be seen in a particular version of 'autonomous marxism' and 'anarchist populism' that has lost any reference to a modern internationalist class politics in favour of some amalgam of other cross class social movements that would incline them to overemphasising the revolutionary anti-capitalist significance of the current PKK influenced Kurdish movement as previously the moderrn day Zapatismo.
Ocelot, it's telling that you
Ocelot, it's telling that you don't really qualify "antis'. I don't think the broad group of people on here that are skeptical about the general "movement" purported to be associated with the PKK and other connected orgs are anti-kurdish, racist, etc. and it's far more intellectually dishonest to suggest that, then anything I can see in this article.
Based on the above post, it may follow that those people who claim "the ideology of Ocalan" as their guiding principles, would merit a critique that is rooted in criticizing the ideology of Ocalan, which this detailed article appears at first glance to do. "Materialism" would enter into this if one was attempting to tie this particular set of thinking to a very specific set of relations, that were in some way new to us. But they aren't. Capitalism is old hat. So the author appears to be pointing out:
1) the direct contradictions in Ocalan's thought
2) The places where the "thought" takes for granted categories of bourgeois society
Which seems like a reasonable tact to me, unless of course you're criticizing our dear leader.
Nobody is criticizing
Nobody is criticizing Anti-war because he/she is critical of Ocalan or PKK. I (and possibly others) are critical of Anti-war as he tries to paint a movement just a puppet in the hands of Ocalan who is just a stupid dictator of some sort. He/she actively tries to reduce the whole significance of kurdish movement to just Ocalan. He disregards any political or justice related question. This is a wrong presentation and politics. Nobody objects to a throughout critique or a historical analysis like for example this. I think this is a tragedy that the inspirations of some people in this forums can be misguided that they end up siding/believing/supporting dishonest anti-propaganda in the name of anarchism/communism etc...
Thanks for all the
Thanks for all the though-provoking criticism. Though, I still feel we need to find ways to support grassroots struggles in Rojava, without giving any support to the PKK/PYD and its personality cult around Ocalan.
To appreciate the depth of this cult, check out Ocalan's last ever interview where the interviewer says: 'One has the feeling that [the] PKK is ... totally under your control?' Ocalan reply is to say: 'Yes, ... If I ask them to die, they will do it.'
Also check out this TV interview where a female fighter says, 'I love him' while being interviewed alongside Ocalan. (The Youtube version is here.)
Earlier in this TV interview, he says: 'Prophets have always been leaders in the Middle East. They are called messengers and it's very hard to lead people without understanding the role of prophets. To mobilise these people, you have to use the prophets' methods. You shouldn't get me wrong, I don't call myself a prophet, but I pay attention to their methods as well. It's necessary for success.'
Also check out the opinions of Abdullah Ocalan's brother, Osman. As an ex-PKK leader and dissident, these opinions may be exaggerations, but they should still be taken into consideration:
In 2013, Osman Ocalan said: '[the] ideology of the PKK ... means one party, one leader, and one authority.' He also said: '[Cemil] Bayik comes second after Ocalan in terms of influence and I can say that he - who adopts a radical socialist Stalinist ideology - orchestrates 90 percent of what is happening in Syrian Kurdistan.'
When Osman and others fled from the PKK in 2004, they accused Ocalan of being a 'despot comparable to Stalin or Hitler'. Other dissidents have compared Ocalan to 'Mussolini'.
A women's militia commander who fled at the same time as Osman, in 2004, was very clear when she said: 'One man decides everything, nobody else can say what they think. ...To become a member of the PKK is like joining a religion.'
This all makes it easier to believe that there might be at least some truth to the allegations that the PKK/PYD is now trying to ban any pictures of politicians except those of Ocalan and other PKK/PYD figures:
'On April 12, 2015, the Committee on Internal Affairs for the transitional administration in the canton of ʿAfrin, which was appointed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), published ordinance number 105, which prohibits the display of flags and photos of political figures and martyrs in and on public places, shops, and private vehicles. The ordinance stipulates that violations will be punished with legal action. A similar ordinance was published on March 30, 2015 in the canton of Jazirah. Independent activists and politicians critical of the PYD fear that the intent of the ordinance is to ensure that only PKK-affiliated symbols are permitted in the Kurdish regions of Syria.'
Quote: Thanks for all the
Bullshit, you never ever published any article or written a paragraph on how to do it. You just recently started to make the limp service of saying "grassroots struggles in Rojava" should be supported. However you never write even a single world how it can be done.
Your only contribution so far was producing articles repeating the same argument: Ocalan is a dictator he is as bas as someone could be. PKK is just his tool and all kurds are following him blindly. And apparently especially the women. And decorating your articles with Ocalan images you pick from all over the web.
Holy smokes, it's *NOT THAT
Holy smokes, it's *NOT THAT HARD*
This is the first paragraph under the first sub-heading. As the author does several times throughout the piece, they define clearly the subject of critique as being the PKK/PYD and associated militants. How again is the author painting the entire Kurdish movement or for that matter, Kurdish people everywhere as worshippers of Ocalan? I know it takes GREAT POWERS of elucidation and critical thinking to pierce the fog of the authors complex prose, (or maybe the fog of your own ideology) but just *try*.
Well I mean the members or
Well I mean the members or the sympathizers of Kurdish freedom movement above, not all Kurds of course. It must be very obvious actually. As there is different Kurdish political parties and tendencies obviously.
However again Kurdish freedom movement (well we are speaking at least 5 million of people here) in general is something more then what Anti-war tries to show it to be. Or current ideological position of Kurdish freedom movement has much to offer than making women Ocalan's sex slaves as Anti-War loves to repeat. Read the whole of the eye-witness account referenced in your quote above: https://libcom.org/news/experiment-west-kurdistan-syrian-kurdistan-has-proved-people-can-make-changes-zaher-baher-2
Another example of what
Another example of what Anti-War tries to accomplish:
Why does this article starts with a demonstration people carrying a lot of Ocalan pictures? Are this picture is relevant to Kobane? What demonstration is it?
Well I searched it on google images and found a result that it was published online in 2001. Why put a picture from 2001 ? I guess it has got to do with the fact that this picture is taken in a demonstration after Ocalan was arrested. So it was from a demonstration to prevent him from being killed by the hands of state, so there is huge amounts of Ocalan pictures in the crowd.
But who gives a shit about time or place or purpuse if the whole idea is to make counter-propaganda isn't it? You know whole purpuse of misinformation lies in how the things look but not in their actual contents. I hope not much people are falling to this tricks.
Edit: Well I guess I finally found the demonstration where the photo is taken. It is from 2011 (if not earlier) see here anyway still the picture has nothing to do with Kobane or Rojava. -But I am 100 percent sure that Anti-War just wishes to help Kurdish people from Kobane by sharing these photos really.
Also apparently this Anti-War
Also apparently this Anti-War person operates not only in here
I also found this picture and article in Louis Proyect's blog:
What is more striking about picture is that Louis Proyect seems to fallen for the trick, he thinks this photo is from Rojava or Kobane, millions marching just for the "holy" leader of some sort. Under the picture he wrote:
Do you see how easy it is to trick people to make such an impression that all democratic developments in Rojava can be dismissed, using one photo? And Anti-War is shameless in this business as if the current photos of Ocalan in walls looks boring, he just goes and pick a photo from past and from another event so that he can create the impression that all "these" kurds are mindless puppets.
I feel I have exposed Anti-War's real intends enough, You go see the blog yourselves: http://louisproyect.org/2015/05/03/negri-graeber-holloway-the-cult-of-abdullah-ocalan-and-the-rojava-revolution/
The problem in short is that: Anti-War works definitely as a Stalinist propaganda machine by mixing fact and judgement and repeating the same messages over and over again hoping that they will catch up with people. He/she is a good example of what he/she appears to criticize. Beware.
Louis Project's placement of
Louis Project's placement of that caption was a mistake. Unfortunately, these things happen when articles get posted around.
Toni Negri's message to an earlier Hamburg conference is here.
The idea that 'kurds are following [Ocalan] blindly' is not my opinion but it is, perhaps closer to Ocalan's own opinion. For example in the above quoted interview, he complains that PKK members 'all have very strong ties with me. If I ask them to die, they will do it. But they don’t have any personal creativity.'
Back in 1992, Ocalan blamed Kurdish national submissiveness on Kurdish women themselves. He said: 'Woman is like a slave, weak, and too unequipped and dangerous.... That is, she craftily uses her own state of being-pulled-down in order to pull down the whole society.... The reason why most of you are inadequately revolutionized is the relationships that you established with the woman reality.... Don’t you know that a relationship with a woman, into which you were plotted, is a trap?'
By 1999, Ocalan was also blaming this submissiveness on 'castrated Kurds', even saying: 'This is why I renounced manhood. Why, because they wanted to castrate me. I told them that I resigned from my manhood.'
Of course, the solution to all this submissiveness is always to look to Ocalan. As he said in 1992: 'One person represents the new upright posture, practically the resurrection of a nation. My role is indeed that of a prophet, speaking to an enslaved, mercilessly oppressed people.’
But, if anyone actually stands up to Ocalan, they are purged. This wikipedia-style website claims that there have been 'almost 1,550 internal executions' in the PKK.
One PKK dissident has written that Ocalan 'demanded absolute submission to his person.'
Another dissident has claimed that PKK activists were 'not allowed to cross their legs (only Öcalan is allowed to do that), to make hand gestures when speaking (Öcalan’s privilege), or to sit before being instructed to do so. Drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and having sexual or even purely platonic relationships [were] also forbidden.'
Yet another disillussioned former PKK fighter complained that: 'you’re not allowed to question Ocalan’s orders. You’re not free.' He also said that 'If there were a Kurdish State it would be like the PKK.'
The PKK are unable to control Rojava in the way they control their own members but there are clearly tendencies in that direction.
Well making mistakes is not a
Well making mistakes is not a problem, the thing is that will you accept the responsibility and try to solve the problem? For example will you change the picture at the top of this article? Will you email "Louis Project" about the mistake? Or will you continue to share interviews from 1992 under Rojava as if they are directly relevant to Rojava. Can you provide content for your own words in any way? That is the problem:
Let me remind you what you wrote:
Let me repeat it again, what is "support grassroots struggles in Rojava" and what are you doing to support it? Unlike Ocalan or PYD/YPG who are clearly trying to suppress it as you try to make it seem like so (with contemporary material like: interviews and pictures from 90's) ? Well the real picture is very obvious anti-war you can only fool those who are far away from Rojava.
Anti War wrote: Another
And also in PKK strongholds like Diyarbakir. Having been there recently I can confirm that there is no drinking or smoking. People fear to cross their legs. There is a lack of small children as all Kurds have stopped having sex as "Apo said so". Within a generation the Kurds will be extinct...
Seriously. Are you out of your tiny mind?
You remind me of those medieval monastics who faithfully reported tales of monopods and dogheads they'd heard from travellers to foreign lands. One of the reactions of Western Europeans to Marco Polo's account when he returned from his travels was surprise that he had failed to find the dogheads when he travelled to the East (turned out that people in the East thought the dogheads lived in the West).
Rojava Kurds at Newroz
That Toni Negri message to
That Toni Negri message to the 2012 Hamburg Conference is worth quoting in full:
Clearly another slavish adherent of the Cult of Ocalan. (*sarcasm*)
"Anti War" should know that
"Anti War" should know that we all don't have access to their C: drive.
They probably meant to link to this: The Production of the New Man within the PKK (2014), which is itself quoting: Çürükkaya, Selim (1997) PKK. Die Diktatur des Abdullah Öcalan, Frankfurt am Main, Fischer Verlag (first published in Turkish under the title Apo’nun Ayetleri (The verses of Apo), place of publication unknown (Switzerland), 14 Temmuz Yayınları, date of publication unknown).
Is probably From Kawa the Blacksmith to Ishtar the Goddess: Gender Constructions in Ideological-Political Discourses of the Kurdish Movement in post-1980 Turkey (2012) which is quoting: Öcalan, Abdullah (1992a), Kadın ve Aile Sorunu (ed. S. Erdem). Istanbul: Melsa Yayınları.
If you read that quote in isolation, it certainly sounds bad... but if you read the whole paper, the quote is talking about opposition to the patriarchal family (a position communists have had since atleast Engels and "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State") and over all the author seems to have a rather positive view of the PKK and Öcalan's embrace of feminism. In the very next paragraph, the author is positively quoting Öcalan: "Women’s liberation is Kurdistan’s liberation; it is even the men’s liberation. It seems to me that men’s relation to women is similar to that of an occupier. … The level of women’s freedom is also the level of society’s freedom; that, in turn, is the country’s freedom. (Öcalan 1999: 27)"
You should slow down the speed with which to publish quotations from 17 to 23 years ago or you might accidentally reveal your identity.
I'm also skeptical of Öcalan or any other individual leader. I also don't like the cult of personality. But a lot of what "Anti War" is doing is just intellectually dishonest. Its also stupid because they think we are incapable of checking the orchard of their picked cherries.
If you want to criticize Rojava and the PYD, do it! But that means engaging the situation there right now and the people involved. The further you get from that, the less believable your criticism gets.
Flint wrote: you might
If you think Anti War is 'someone else' - whatever that means in the world of the internet - why don't you just say who you think they are?
Red Marriott wrote: Flint
Why don't you prove a negative? I get that you don't care about the origin of a criticism. The author is dead, long live the author.
WTH you made a claim, however
WTH you made a claim, however ambiguous, that could reasonably be backed up. We're not talking about total faith here, or unknowable phenomenon or miracles. Yeesh.
Pennoid wrote: WTH you made a
You're right that "Anti War"'s purpose and origin isn't unknowable. Its why I asked.
I asked a series of questions to "Anti War" about what their agenda was, etc... They decided not to answer any of them. A few people criticized me for being politically curious about where "Anti War" was coming from and what the purpose of that project was.
You're right that "Anti War"'s purpose and origin isn't unknowable. Its why I asked.
Anyway, since that time, "Anti War" has continued to do crap like pull a 22 year old quote from Ocalan out of context to imply he was making an essential argument about women when he was actually criticizing the patriarchal institution of marriage that wouldn't sound unusual coming from Emma Goldman.
But really, I'm done with wondering what "Anti War" is about. Challenges that I dare question "Anti War" seems to be the topic, and I'm not really interested in debating that. I pointed out why I thought authorship is important to credibility; but other people don't share any such concerns. I'm alright with agreeing to disagree on that. "Anti War"'s criticisms can continually to float on the air and if anyone wants to dismantle them--have fun in the archives!
Flint wrote: Red Marriott
You're drawing all sorts of fantastic misinterpretations from my simple request for you to clarify, if you can, what you've asserted. Ironic that when I ask you to say who is the author you respond by claiming I don't care about authorship.
I'd have thought it was
I'd have thought it was given that the Anti-War account is a sock puppet run by a long time poster here who wants to be able to post out of context material etc without damaging their own credibility though identification with that technique. There is of course a lot wrong with that approach including that other people may make the wrong assumptions about who anti-war really is.
I'd also presume the admins know who it is as they have access to the standard Drupal tracking info as well as I'd presume server logs. Which suggests that anti-war is either ignorant of that or confident that it doesn't matter. But in any case its hardly up to Flint to make potentially damaging best guesses as to who Anti-War really is, if you think there is a problem that means they should be identified you should be talking to the admins, not Flint.
AndrewF wrote: I'd also
(a) No we don't (b) Drupal logs at most give an IP and log in times, which isn't necessarily conclusive (c) We rarely access this information, which isn't available in the dashboard. (I'm not even sure if we still have access to actual IPs, we were looking into hashing them).
If anyone has evidence Anti War is a sock-puppet account please post it, or contact the admins, as sock-puppetting is not allowed.
If not, and if Anti War is posting false or misleading - as opposed to disagreeable - information, please take issue in the comments. Admin will try to keep an eye out and take appropriate action.
AndrewF wrote: its hardly up
I'd imagine Flint's already taken a guess (for all I know he even thinks it's me?). But it's Flint who thinks there's a sock-puppet problem, so according to your logic he should be talking to the admins, not me.
Talking about who I think is
Talking about who I think is a sock puppet is boring even to me.
Plenty of intellectual dishonesty from "Anti War" without having to critique their sock puppetry. I am kind of amazed people defend it though. But whatever. I'm done writing about it.
Somebody suggested a few
Somebody suggested a few pages ago that it was a long term poster in Turkey. As far as I know there are two long term posters in Turkey, Leo and myself. It's certainly neither of us. I don't see why anyone would think that it was. If either of us wrote this article, we wouldn't hide behind some sock puppet.
Flint wrote: I am kind of
I don't see where anyone has defended it - please point that out. Eg, I asked you to say who you thought it was - that's hardly defending sock-puppetry. Sock-puppetry may be bad practice, but making accusations of it and then responding as you have to reasonable and unsurprising requests to clarify that claim isn't too great either.
Ok, I guess you mean me. I
Ok, I guess you mean me. I said only this:
I did not said it is a long term poster. I said this person is possibly Turkish well because he uses Turkish/Kurdish media very extensively. Photos from Diha or radikal etc... I did not pointed to nobody. I also think there are definitely other posters from Turkey in forums, which I am sure you personally know. (anyway let's leave them aside)
As I stated above I consider the top picture from unrelated event as a deliberate attempt at production of fake information related to Rojava (which is still not changed btw). Moreover I consider selection of misleading bits of quotes (see Flint's comment above) and images from media (selecting the journal covers that only have Ocalan pictures) to produce a misleading impression as a deliberate attempt at production of misleading information. And I do not know anything related to Anti-War except they only writes fabrication articles mixing fantasy and facts and present and past except one comment they made in a totally unrelated issue.
So I do not know who they really are. I did not pointed to anyone for now, OK?
As my last word on the issue, it is too hard to say against Anti-War except tracing the sources of their out of context or one-sided photos. Because ultimately Anti-War has no argument at all. He just rewrites the same image he has about Kurdish freedom movement over and over again. Well when you criticize this attempt at false image production by repetition and old/wrong image circulation, someone else can always say you just "disagree" with anti-war.
I am now thinking Anti-war actually successfully does whatever they want to do. They produce articles we comment under making the articles a "hot" topic. Trying to solve the issues and problems within it, we kind of fall into a trap. This devours our own time to maybe produce good and concrete articles with good (con or pro) arguments. Notice Anti-war does not spent any time replying to anything really, they continue their next propaganda piece. It is just sad that a medium as beautiful as this site is used like this. I also feel very bad that when you try to warn people of these fabrications or misleading quotes, generally get like 5 or so down votes if not more. And I am called an admirer of Ocalan. It is weird how one determined person can stagnate or prevent a possibly fruitful discussion between different ideas and alienate possibly so many people to develop and express their views so successfully.
Well Anti War has a rather
Well Anti War has a rather obsesive singular line of attack against the surely undenighable hero worship of Ocalan and is rightly skeptical regarding the political evolution of Ocalan and the PKK and may well be selective in their use of sources as a result, but some corrections aside, this is still justifiable as a counterweight to the PKK enthusiasts swamping this site with repetitive material arguing for the 'revolutionary anti-capitalist' content of the PKK influenced struggle in Rojava which whatever else it might claim, it isn't.
You don't counter-weight
You don't counter-weight first person accounts of current events of folks actually present in Rojava with twenty-two year old quotes deliberately taken out of context to mean the opposite of their original intent.
Well, I guess you do if you are "Anti War".
Plenty of bad shit going on that there is no need to make stuff up. For example, I posted up the Human Rights Watch criticisms and related content in regards to the suppression of the protest in Amuda, the use of teenage soldiers, the conscription law, etc...
Spikymike wrote: Well Anti
Agreed. Whatever Anti-War's faults/errors, they seem imo to be being fixated on and being blown out of proportion by opponents in a lame attempt to discredit all his content - in resentment at someone putting in as much effort as the pro-Rojavans but from a largely opposing angle. It's almost like they don't like this stuff being made an issue.
JK/admins wrote: If anyone
Can we assume Flint that, as you presumably raised the accusation in good faith and not as only an attempted smear of an awkward opponent, that you've given the info you base your claims on to admins? If it exists you don't seem to want to share it here.
Fucking drop it. I don't give a shit anymore.
Back to talking about David
Back to talking about David Harvey (who "Anti War" doesn't really engage), here is a longer interview with Harvey when Was recently in Amed/Diyarbakir. His opinion here is far more guarded and reserved than that earlier quote. Not really adding any new information, but it's a more cautious assessment of Rojava.
That’s an interesting
That’s an interesting interview. Maybe Harvey will change his opinion one day and maybe Negri, Graeber and Holloway will also change. But, so far, they still cannot bring themselves to criticise the Ocalan cult. Indeed, in a video recorded in Hamburg, Harvey even made the astonishing claim that Ocalan has ‘advanced Marxist thinking very significantly in terms of women’s role.’
This deference to a prominent politician, combined with a blindness to the realities of Stalinism, is hardly new among leftists – especially more reformist leftists who, like the PKK, see world revolution as ‘utopian’.
For example, it is well known that the influential reformist intellectuals, the Webbs, praised Stalin and made comments such as ‘Stalin is not a dictator.’ But it is less well known that Francois Mitterrand also praised Mao as a ‘genius’ who ‘is not a dictator’, while Tony Benn even said Mao was ‘the greatest man of the 20th Century’.
Other leftists have gone so far as to defend North Korea’s Kim Il Sung. The Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver, called him a ‘genius’ preciding over a ‘paradise’. While the influential Keynesian economist, Joan Robinson, justified the cult around Kim Il Sung by claiming that he ‘seems to function as a messiah rather than a dictator.’ This kind of argument is, of course, rather reminiscent of the way some people describe Ocalan.*
If anyone believes that calling yourself an ‘anarchist’ provides immunity from this blindness to the realities of Stalinism, they should look at Herbert Read and Noam Chomsky.
In 1959, Herbert Read visited China and was even more impressed than David Graeber was when he visited Rojava. Read was impressed by the street committees ‘which settle all disputes’, by the ‘women’s associations’ and by the claim that crime was so rare that the police ‘were not needed’. He wrote that, although people used ‘the same answers everywhere,’ this was ‘not indoctrination’. And he described China’s communes as ‘my idea of anarchism come into being’. He even believed that these communes had been set up ‘spontaneously’ and that they had increased ‘production … in leaps and bounds’. The reality, of course, was rather different and 30 million people starved to death in China between 1958 and 1961.
This enthusiasm for Mao’s regime was vastly more deluded than Graeber’s, hopefully temporary, enthusiasm for the Rojava regime. But Chomsky’s embarrassing reluctance, in the 1970s, to acknowledge the full extent of Pol Pot’s atrocities in Cambodia does have similarities to Read’s blindness concerning Mao’s atrocities in China.†
Chomsky also gave significant support to Hugo Chavez’s regime in Venezuela while, apparently, refusing to listen to the views of local anarchists.† These anarchists have since pointed out that, in the 1980s, Chomsky was ‘rather discreet with regards to the growing authoritarianism of [both] the Sandinistas … and the Castro dictatorship.’
Chomsky and Castro. And Chavez with another anti-Stalinist leftist, Istvan Meszaros, who described Chavez as a ‘deeply insightful revolutionary intellect’ and ‘one of the greatest historical figures of our time’.
‘Postmodernism’ provides even less immunity to Stalinism than ‘anarchism’. Michel Foucault, for example, was heavily influenced by Maoism.† He recycled the old Maoist slogan, ‘where there is oppression, there is resistance’, as his own philosophical insight, ‘where there is power, there is resistance’. Then, when Foucault lost faith in Maoism, he turned to revolutionary Iran – at one point even claiming that Shiite Islam gives ‘its people infinite resources to resist state power’.
And, if anyone thinks that advocating ‘democracy’ provides immunity from this sort of blindness, they should consider the writings of Tariq Ali. He dedicated his 1989 book on Gorbachev, Revolution from Above, to Boris Yeltsin, in the naive hope that these Stalinist bureaucrats would somehow democratically revive Soviet socialism.† Instead of this, of course, Yeltsin imposed a market economy on Russia that led to over three million excess deaths in the 1990s. (Stalinists have always avoided a market economy if it might lead to them losing power. But if such an economy might increase their personal wealth, they have invariably jumped at the chance – whatever the consequences for ordinary people.)
Why so many leftists refuse to accept the cynical realities of Stalinism and neo-Stalinism is a long story. But it has never been because they have lacked information. There were always plenty of clues as to what was going on in the various Stalinist regimes – just as there are plenty of clues from Rojava.
For example, one 13 year old girl recently escaped from a PKK/PYD militia training camp claiming that conscripts are beaten and even publicly executed for trying to get away. (Apparently, lessons on Ocalan and ‘the history of women’ are also provided in these camps!) Amnesty International now say they are concerned about PKK/PYD forced conscription as well as about ‘a growing number of reports of abuses’ by PKK/PYD fighters, including 'forced displacement'. (See here, here, here, here and here.)
Of course, you cannot judge any regime on accounts that may well have been fabricated or exaggerated by political opponents. But Rojavan officials themselves make statements that show the regime is going in a very worrying direction. For example, one of Rojava’s finance ministers has recently declared that ‘all workers must work in the communal projects’, that private property is ‘sacred’ and that ‘the market is a main part of social economy.’
Does this mean that Rojava’s officials want to combine a system of forced ‘communal’ labour with market capitalism? We really don’t know, just as we really don’t know to what extent male and female proletarians are taking any more control of their lives in the various assemblies and co-ops set up by the regime. But we do know that the PKK/Ocalan cult permeates every aspect of the Rojava revolution in ways that cripple that revolution’s potential.
Like every other Stalinist project, the PKK/Ocalan cult is both a product of class dynamics and a distorted expression of people’s rebelliousness or autonomy. Like every other Stalinist project, the PKK/Ocalan cult may make some progressive changes, but, overall, the project will probably lead to disillusionment, if not disaster. The Kurdish proletariat – and the world proletariat – deserve better. And, hopefully, they will do better in the coming decades.
* The Rojava regime is certainly vastly preferable to that in North Korea. But both are run by semi-religious cults that see their leaders as ‘the Sun’.† In fact, in one respect, Rojava is even more totalitarian. North Korea, at least, has two different flags – one for the nation and one for the ruling party.† But the Rojavan flag seems to be identical to that of the ruling party.† †
'Totalitarian' may seem too strong a word but it is certainly a tendency in Rojava, as these pictures of women's groups and parades by army and police officers show:
P.S. Sources can be found by clicking on the quotations and † symbols. Please do not take my word for any particular quotations, read the source texts and decide for yourself.
P.P.S Sorry if my approach to Rojava annoys anyone. Any differences of opinion are fundamentally about our different approaches to revolution and to the horrors of Stalinism – not about anyone’s bad faith. Thanks to kurremkarmerruk, Flint and Ocelot, Libcom has the widest-ranging opinions and information about Rojava in English. Let that continue!
And he also said resistance is a trap... So not mere recycling of Maoist slogan especially considering Foucault was interested in epistemology.
I think we should criticize
I think we should criticize Rojava by pointing the problems of any polities with "west" in their name.
This map shows the extent to
This map shows the extent to which the Rojava regime relies on its alliance with the US. One PKK/PYD commander has recently claimed that women fighters 'outnumbered male combatants' in the battle of Kobane. However, Patrick Cockburn seems to believe that the PKK/PYD has been exaggerating the extent to which Arabs are fighting alongside Kurds, so this striking claim might just be another exaggeration by the PKK/PYD.
Cockburn also seems to believe that some PKK/PYD fighters have been expelling Arabs and telling them to ‘go back to the desert’. Unfortunately, this allegation appears to be confirmed by recent statements made by two PKK/PYD fighters.
One fighter is a German national who says that younger Kurdish fighters ‘think everyone is Isis' and 'if you tell them it’s an Arab village they’ll trash the place.’ The other is a female fighter who says that ‘we depend on the ideology of Abdullah Ocalan' and if male 'fighters do not commit ethnic cleansing after the capture of a city, it is mainly because our influence stops errors from being committed.’
Of course, no matter how much these abuses promote more sectarianism, they are still very mild compared to ISIS who recently massacred over 150 civilians in one day in Kobane. (For more on claims of abuse by the PKK/PYD militia, see the Rojava wikipedia page.)
Away from the frontlines, a self-described 'libertarian' eye-witness has recently claimed that, although women’s involvement is impressive, in one co-op meeting, ‘for 3 hours only men were talking’. This eye-witness - who has been working in Rojava for six months - also claims that co-op workers ‘don’t want to take charge of their lives’ and instead just say: ‘tell us what to do and pay us a salary.’
Of course, selling your labour to a workers’ co-op in a market economy gives you no real control of your life anyway, so this cynical attitude by co-op workers is not quite the problem it appears. However, a genuine escape from wage labour would require a global revolution and, in the isolation of war-torn Rojava, it is not surprising that this eye-witness also claims that ‘normal people don’t care about politics’ and that ‘if this were a real democracy’ they would just chose the kind of society there is in Iraqi Kurdistan (i.e. neo-liberal capitalism).
What’s more, this eye-witness is clear that 'the PKK ... seized power’ in Rojava and that ‘most of the people in the government are from Bakur’ (i.e. from Turkey). They are also clear that, although the regime has a ‘strong anti-state philosophy’, in fact, ‘the YPG [militia] is an army, the Asayish [security] is a police force, and, despite what people say, there is a central government … and a growing bureaucracy.’
What makes this account believable isn’t just that it is consistent with how other revolutionary situations have been manipulated by Stalinists but that it is written by an eye-witness who actively supports the PKK/PYD regime. Indeed, they call their remarkable account:
‘The Time of Theory is Over, Now is the Time for Action’
They also ask for ‘libertarian type revolutionaries’ to go to Rojava in order to counter the growing number of ‘revolutionary Muslims’ going to ISIS areas. And they even appear to argue that an influx of foreign activists - who ‘organise, carve out our own projects and implement our ideas’ - will help counter the ‘oppressed mentality’ of the local Rojavans.
Finally, on the issue of the PKK/Ocalan cult and its nature, they are also clear that, in Rojava, ‘many people are behind their leaders … [although] normal people have no idea what they’re talking about’!
Of course, Murray Bookchin
Of course, Murray Bookchin also fell under Ocalan’s spell and wrote that the Kurdish people ‘are fortunate indeed to have a leader of Mr. Ocalan’s talents to guide them.’
This statement doesn’t sound very anarchistic. Indeed, it was only because Bookchin had given up on both class politics and anarchism that a Stalinist like Ocalan could adapt Bookchin’s ideas in order to maintain control of his party and movement.
Bookchin close colleague and Ocalan fan, Janet Biehl, told a 2012 Hamburg PKK conference that, at first, Bookchin 'gave up on Marxism, since the proletariat had clearly turned out not be revolutionary, … [then] he did everything to persuade [anarchists] that libertarian municipalism was the way to make anarchism politically relevant. But by 1999 - around the time of Ocalan’s arrest - he was finally admitting that he had failed, and he was in the process of disengaging from anarchism.'
With rather more consistency than the anarchists who claim that the Rojava regime is an anarchist experiment, Biehl herself has said that she has reverted to her ‘pre-1987 political identity, which was what leftists call a social democrat.'
Well Graeber has continued
Well Graeber has continued his fall into the lap of Ocalan worship along with the rest of tthe New Compass crew writing a preface for and promoting their latest publication of Ocalan musings - so sadly no change there.
Spikymike wrote: Well Graeber
You've read "Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization"?
Flint, No I'm not prepared to
No I'm not prepared to pay money for it but would certainly add it to my list if it comes on-line. I have read other shorter pieces by Ocalan and plenty on the New Compass site and of course by Bookchin. It's the whole trajectory of the politics (and the hero worship) I'm critical of not necessarily every comment by either Ocalan or Graeber.
Spikymike wrote: Flint, No
Apologies, my mistake. I thought you were offering an opinion on a book you had actually read.
David Graeber justifies his
David Graeber justifies his writing of a preface for Ocalan’s latest book on the grounds that Ocalan’s anthropological writings are ‘a lot more compelling than other ones out there’. He also says that ‘we have a lot to learn from [the PKK’s] self-analysis of what they got wrong.’
Graeber does admit that the PKK still has a ‘cult of leader’. But he also claims this is only true ‘to some degree’.
This assertion is in some contrast to another anarchist visitor to Rojava who says that, despite his sympathy for the revolution, he was ‘sickened by the blind obsession with Ocalan‘. This anarchist eyewitness also complains that Kurdish fighters’ 'heads are just filled with Ocalan's words’ which are treated ‘like gospel’.
Furthermore, this eyewitness rather harshly says that Graeber ‘only spent ten days here and most of what he says is nonsense.’ He goes on to say that:
Graeber’s assertion about the PKK’s ‘cult of leader’ is also in some contrast to Kurdish oppositionists in Rojava who have been demonstrating and complaining that: ‘The new schoolbooks are filled with pictures of … Abdullah Ocalan and teach his philosophy to young students.’
Janet Biehl has also recently been in Rojava and she confirms that Ocalan’s ideology is, indeed, taught in schools. But, worryingly, she is very enthusiastic about this political indoctrination, presumably because Ocalan's ideology is influenced by Murray Bookchin,
To be fair to Biehl, she did question the Rojavan Culture Minister about the censorship laws which say that ‘a book could not be published that goes against the morals of the society’(33m). But she also seems to be somewhat reassured by the Minister’s unconvincing response that censorship will only apply to books that encourage pre-marital teenage sexuality.
This billboard shows Ocalan insisting that Rojavans should live a communal life. Such propaganda is backed up by the chief administrator of Rojava’s democratic institutions, the Tev-Dem, who insists that: ‘We are openly against the individualistic concept. Individualism is like a mischievous rat who chews on the society.’
From an anarchist point of view, the great challenge of any revolution, is how to build a society that encourages both communalism and individualism. Unfortunately, this attitude to individualism is yet more evidence that the Rojava regime has little to do with genuine anarchism.
Anti War wrote: This
The very next paragraph from that anonymous account reads:
Then the anonymous author you are quote goes on to write:
Where did you get your training to so skillfully operate a cherry picker?
Fair point and I should have
Fair point and I should have encouraged people to read the whole account.
It's also important to read two other highly informative accounts from pro-PYD anarchists living in Rojava. Here they all are:
'Ask Me About Rojava: Been Here 3 Months' at Reddit
'The Time of Theory is Over. Now is the Time of Action'
at the Rojava Recovery Volunteers website
'A Personal Account of Rojava' at the Lions of Rojava website
And, of course, there have
And, of course, there have been words of wisdom from Zizek:
'I ... support the Kurds wholeheartedly.'
'A Kurdish state in the Middle East conversely isn’t a threat to anyone. In fact it would be a bridge between peoples.'
'As Kurds, and I’m not saying this in terms of violence, you need to play very cruelly. That is to say you need to play the powers against each other and comprehend them well.'
'I think the Kurds need to be another version of Jews in the Middle East. So, not oppressive or invasive, but dynamic and open… '
'I really send my best wishes. I want to visit those areas too. Are there universities in these cantons? How does one go there?'