"Guerra social y telaraña imperialista en Siria (2011-2015)"
Here is a very fast draft translation of a chapter from a brochure published in Spanish about the struggles in Syria.
"Guerra social y telaraña imperialista en Siria (2011-2015)"
CHAPTER 6. THE STRUGGLE IN ROJAVA
A lot of ink has flowed during the last few months about what is happening in the Rojava region, either from bourgeois media as from all kinds of Social Democratic spokesmen (including libertarians). All united in a holy alliance to boost, cheer and bless this “genuine revolution” which occurred in Syrian Kurdistan. Although we cannot take their statements very seriously, we also cannot forget that they fulfill a not insignificant function in maintaining the capitalist order.
We are not surprised that some libertarians, Marxists-Leninists, Trotskyites, Maoists, liberals… give each other a helping hand to defend this “paradise” emerging in Rojava. Because basically they agree on the essential: for them the revolution is not a social transformation abolishing and overcoming to the root the existing conditions, but a whole of reforms, of changes in the management, of changes in participation or in lifestyle, to be applied to the capitalist crust. If there is something to argue about it is primarily on how to implement these reforms: through politicist or a managementist practice.30 Rojava gives them the opportunity to give each other a helping hand in a symbiosis (which is nothing but new) of these practices of counterrevolution: communalism.
United in the bloody masquerade of the imperialist intervention in Rojava , in the declarations of love to the policies of the PYD or the PKK,31 and combined with comprehensive use of armed women as irrefutable element of the revolution underway, this amalgam of leftist and declared bourgeois greet with enthusiasm the “new society” born in that region. But the one who goes through the veil of ideological hallucinations that rises to hide the terrestrial sad reality, finds the same bleak scenario that has been imposed across the country: the transformation of class war into an imperialist war.
We are not like those who deny the force demonstrated by the proletariat in Rojava, crystallizing as we shall see a boost of struggle deeper than in other parts of Syria, but what the defenders of the “revolution” in Rojava claim is precisely what has buried that wonderful force outlined by our class.
The capitalist adaptation to a situation dominated by the initiative of the proletariat is a historical reality. There is an accumulation of experiences in the past in which the bourgeoisie shows its flexibility and ability to stabilize a jeopardized situation. In those moments it’s about safeguarding the fundamental aspects of capital adopting new forms that respond to the situation and appear as revolutionary. But everything happens in the world of appearances, representation, and spectacle. Quietly it goes on with beating the heart of the capitalist beast as well as the fundamental elements that give it life: wage labor, commodity, surplus value, the State… Rojava offers us a current example of this approach.
The peculiarity of this region consists in what has become obvious to the rest of the proletariat in Syria as events unfolded, for the proletariat in Rojava it was clear from the beginning: the FSA and SNC were bourgeois apparatuses of containment and liquidation of the proletarian struggle. An area full of proletarians of Kurdish origin and refugees from Turkey, who have suffered decades of State repression there, couldn’t do anything but quickly reach this conclusion by recording that the operations base and the guidelines came from Turkey.
From the beginning it was a pole of instability and centralization of proletarians in rupture not only with the FSA, but also with those that took over from it (Islamic Front, Al-Nusra). The constant clashes that happened between these proletarians and all the forces of capital responded to the need of the bourgeois opposition to submit that region and the consequent resistance of the proletariat.
However, the force contained in this rupture as well as the potential outlined in the whole country will be minimized by its own limits. Unable to get rid of the ideology of national liberation in its communalist form, the proletariat in Rojava has been directed by the PYD into a dead end. The threat hanging over the bourgeois power has thus been removed and this one had finally to only temporarily adapt itself to a situation that could only evolve favorably for it. The Kurdish State in Syria will develop hidden behind the smoke screen of the “liberation” of Rojava from the hands of Assad and the bourgeois opposition, while making democracy trickling from all sides, propagating managementism, and obviously consolidating imperialist war. But above all it will renew the role of the proletariat as cannon as well as exploitation fodder.
The PYD as a weapon of neutralization of the bourgeoisie against the proletarian struggle
In early 2011 the revolt in Syria gained a special virulence between the proletariat of Kurdish origin and areas where this sector of our class carries a certain weight, especially Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava). We should point out that it’s about an area and a proletariat with a rich tradition of struggle that goes beyond the Leninist guerrilla organizations trying to channel it.32 Against the threat that it supposes, the international bourgeoisie intensified since 1998 the repression against them through the Syrian State.
With the outbreak of the revolt in March 2011, the proletariat of Kurdish origin is precisely characterized by the clarity of the watchwords that rose from the demonstrations, were written on walls and banners or expressed in direct action. “We don’t want citizenship, we want the end of misery” was one of the watchwords that echoed strongly. The proletariat expressed by this that it didn’t struggle to acquire democratic rights through the Syrian citizenship, but that it struggled to manage to live, to impose its human needs against those of economy.
Demonstrations, riots and expropriations were suppressed as in the whole country to the best of the possibilities of the regime, which was in full decomposition in the first months. Mass defections in the army became endemic desertions among draftees of Kurdish origin. Many were shot on the spot, others captured and tortured, many others were hiding and struggled. But by mid-2012 most of the neighborhoods and towns in the North of the country predominantly Kurdish were totally out of control. The proletariat used weapons smuggling networks across Iraq and solidarity of its class brothers in Turkey for getting light weapons and ammunition, apart from their own hidden arsenals, becoming stronger in its territories. The Syrian State resorted to bombings and army raids without being able to impose order.
In this context we must make clear the role of the PYD, this party which is only formally distinct from the PKK since 2003 for tactical reasons but which assumes the same program and has a great influence on the proletariat of the region of Syrian Kurdistan. This influence and this containment of the proletariat are supported by the prestige given by the PKK’s guerrilla since 1984 in the war against Turkey. If we add the strong links this organization has in other parts of Kurdistan, it’s easy to understand the ability of containment it reached, which places it as the only bourgeois organization that can control the situation from the inside.
Precisely this containment capacity of the PYD has historically been used by the Syrian State to keep the area stable. In the past, the PKK acted in connivance with this State to maintain order among the refugees coming from Turkey. He faced the Turkish NATO ally of the US, and favored the order in Syria, an ally of Russia. Although later the development of the events led to break that relationship, the necessity makes old acquaintances to be reconciled again. This was how the government headed by the Assad family reached a tacit agreement with the PYD and decided to withdraw from areas that could be controlled by these old allies. The Syrian State, overwhelmed by the revolt in the whole country, perceived as a lesser evil to yield to this organization the control of the territory to try to keep a semblance of order in the region.
In the whole process of containment, the PKK and the PYD knew since long carry out a change of this old and worn-out Marxist-Leninist ideology and replacing it through another religion called democratic confederalism. They also added a handful of feminism and environmentalism as well. The “conversion” attracted new coreligionists and some international support, especially from the libertarian milieu, which was amazed by how the Messiah Öcalan finally raised a new consciousness through “anarchist” ideas (sic!), through his opposition to the State (sic!), and which finally considered him as a new icon.
But we should not confuse this opportunistic turn, despite the questioning at the ideological level of the national State, with the abandonment of the goal of any national liberation movement; its Leninist weight has simply been removed. Actually the program of this party has taken an opportunistic turn while switching from Leninism to communalism, based on libertarian municipalism and economic and social managementism. Although it’s still a clear Social Democratic program, this ideology has been presented as “revolutionary”, as “anti-capitalist, as “anti-State” and is propelled throughout Kurdistan in opposition to the openly bourgeois program of Barzani’s Party in Iraq. The phraseology of this libertarian municipalism that wants to appear with a new looking is basically the old municipal communalism, such as the one that buried the Commune of Paris.33 It’s the local management of capitalist economic life as claimed by the old programs of the German Social Democracy of the nineteenth century. But we will briefly explain how this whole program of the counterrevolution crystallized.
In July 2012, as a part of a tacit agreement between the PYD and the Syrian State, begins the withdrawal of government forces from the north side of the city of Hasaka, from some districts in the province, some towns and villages particularly difficult to pacify, just as they withdraw from the surroundings of Ayn al-Arab (Kobanê). The proletariat took advantage of the situation and assaulted some police stations controlled by the Syrian State expanding thus its domination over the territory, taking the lands needed and defending those in its hand. The withdrawal of the Syrian State forces will be gradual and partial in some cases, so that the areas taken by the proletariat appear as small or large oil stains that gain ground.34
Some sectors of the bourgeoisie continued to try to frame these proletarians in the bourgeois opposition. On the one hand, the FSA’s attempts to channel this process failed. The proletariat expelled by force the commanders of this organization who come from Turkey. On the other hand, the Kurdish National Congress was intended to negotiate the terms of accession to the “future regime”, that of the SNC, but it also failed. It was hard for the proletariat in Rojava to swallow what was offered by all this bourgeois opposition, because it was the same “privileges” than under Assad that was in store but with the electoral show in addition.
The fundamental question that immediately comes into our head is to know what the proletariat is doing in the territories in its hands. Does it use them as a stronghold to boost the rupture and the struggle throughout Syria, in Turkey, in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the rest of the world? Does it set up revolutionary measures over the conquered territory? In the historical conditions where stands the world proletariat, which ignores its own program of the revolution, and in the particular development of the proletariat in Rojava, where the ideology of national liberation combined with communalism has been imposed on our class, the proletariat has been doomed to submit to the program of the PYD, while expecting thus open the way to its emancipation. But it is precisely in this way that it will close it, not only for itself but also for the rest of the proletariat struggling in Syria, as an advance of the proletariat in Rojava could mean a new impetus to come back on a class terrain and destabilize the fronts of imperialist war. Guided by the PYD the proletariat will fall into a slaughter to defend a territory that obviously doesn’t belong to it and where capitalist life unfolds but under forms adapted to the situation.
We stress that at the beginning of the events, the proletariat with its powerful class instinct surpassed the PYD through its practice, but many proletarian fighters belong to this organization or proclaim to be, what will give to this party the necessary means to quickly obtain the control over the situation. In those early days, the PYD despite its strong presence is not able to control the course of events, except in Ayn al-Arab (Kobanê), where with the passing days and the reinforcements given by the presence of the PKK’s guerrilla it will get the direction of the situation. But an event will arise that will accelerate the PYD’s domination over the region: the emergence of Islamist volunteers of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) who seek to make a breach in Rojava so that the supplies that come from Turkey and the new fighters can enter normally through the Kurdish border without too much of resistance in that region. For the FSA this meant a serious problem to not control this strategic area, but this was also highly risky to drive its soldiers to fight their insurgent neighbors. But at that time the process of Islamization was underway and that organization had at its disposal an inexhaustible source of foreign fighters with this ideology. It’s precisely in this confrontation that the PYD will take control over the situation as the polarization Islamism/anti-Islamism asserts itself.35
The unification of militias, the need for a sole command to face the Islamist FSA, is an element that allows the PYD to put forward its extensive experience and its organizational capacity. The consolidation of the militias YPG/YPJ (People’s Defense Units / Women’s Defense Units) as a unified army allows the PYD to directly control the positions of responsibility in the line of command and direction. That way the influence and domination of that organization spread. When the Islamic State assaulted Ayn al-Arab [Kobanê], this process of affirmation of imperialistic war strongly consolidated the PYD’s position.36
Revolution in Rojava?
It is in all this process of framing that the PYD communalist program has been set up and imposed itself. As at the time of the Paris Commune, the historical function of communalism, as an expression of managementism, is to lead the forces of the proletariat toward what is not really important or rather to divert them from what is crucial in the revolutionary process, to make the proletarians participate in managing their own exploitation and to entertain them on minor points. Municipalism, management of small units of capital, liquidation and exploitation of the proletariat diluted in the people… The unavoidable tasks for the development of the revolutionary struggle are rejected and the proletarians end up getting attached to the reform movement of capital. Obviously it’s about a program for exceptional occasions, of strong social crisis in which the bourgeoisie has difficulties in maintaining its domination and is forced to hide its pillars under various shapes. True democracy, “radical” democracy is the flag par excellence of this ideology. Communalism claims the liberation of communes from the control of the central State, liberation that has nothing to do with any abolition of class relations, and therefore the State, submission, exploitation, labor slavery go on reproducing under other ways. Participation and grassroots decision-making process becomes the last words which justify all this.
In the wake of this ideology, a wide network is created in Rojava with democratic organizations and structures at different levels: assemblies, communes, people’s houses, local committees… The goal is to manage everyday life and obviously the decision-making scope of these instances is limited to a municipal or community level. They manage health, education as well as public civil engineering and social emergency. This managementism is based on the social participation in the capitalist economy, which is the genuine content of all this social practice. This doesn’t change an iota of capital’s foundations. It wants to make so that the proletariat itself manages the social order, that it does policing, that it adequately trains the new proletarians in education centers,37 that it enforces private property within acceptable margins, that it pushes the proletariat to collaborate with the (imperialist) war economy whose production occurs in small businesses or in cooperatives of farmers and workers, those who have taken properties of the bourgeois who fled. It’s a matter of denying the force of the proletariat in struggle while diluting it in citizenship, in the people where exploiters and exploited live in harmony. All is confined by the laws of the world market, by imperialist war under way as well as by the decisions and planning of senior committees, with the Kurdish Supreme Committee at the top, which control the strategic sectors of the economy and military logistics.
All this organizational framework, all this network of democratic structures implementing grassroots democracy, far from guaranteeing the proletarian autonomy or promoting the revolutionary process, materialized just the contrary. These structures not only ended up serving the bourgeois State against the revolution, but they have been integrated and asserted themselves as a fundamental part of the new bourgeois State in the process of formation: the Rojava State. All the apologists for the abolition of the State in Rojava, for the opposition of the PYD and the PKK to the State, for the “new society” that emerges in this region, conceal or ignore the genuine nature of democracy and the State.
“Like the progress, democracy is not something positive in itself, that the self-organization of the proletariat could use. Democracy is on the contrary the very essence of the structure of capitalist domination, the whole of the social and economic (merchant) mechanisms dissolving the interests of the proletariat in the autonomized individual, pushing it to act as such (free, equal, autonomous, owner…) and to decide on the basis of maximizing its utility, which obviously has nothing in common with the interests of a social class whose social project is the destruction of capital and its State. It is also utopian and reactionary to want to achieve socialism while occupying the State and developing capital (as the Bolsheviks did) as well as to want to struggle against capital on the base of democratic self-organization that tends perpetually reproducing commodity and the decision-making system corresponding to the bourgeois State.”38
Therefore nothing can be expected from the development of these democratic structures except the strengthening of capital and its State. Grassroots democracy in its further development ends up reproducing the most appropriate forms for its preservation. In Rojava for example the proletariat is left to manage the secondary issues of everyday misery, but the big decisions are taken by the leadership of the Rojava State to ensure its harmony with the needs of the capitalist economy.39 The Kurdish Supreme Committee becomes the centralizing organ that will decide on key issues. It will involve the elements the most capable of defending capital’s interests, the bourgeois elements who will play a key role in the State. And it is not surprising that the PYD and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) of Barzani share the power in this organism out among themselves. Thus half of the members of the supreme organ of the Rojava State are represented by the US State thanks to the KDP. In practice it means that senior executives of this State are a tentacle of the US State which has push the KDP to participate in that organ despite its dispute with the PYD. The gendarme of the world capitalism in the senior cadres of a State which is not a State according to the apologists of Rojava! Reality overcomes any fantasy!
For us it is clear that the bourgeois power remains intact thanks to the imposition of all this communalist ideology, and this power lives on only because capital’s foundations remain intact. Bourgeois power will collapse only when the conditions that create it will be overcome: the capitalist social conditions. But we can imagine other “changes in daily life” of the Rojava “revolution” and how the PYD’s program represents nothing else than the capitalist continuity.
The first thing we see is how money is still the community. The community of death. Of course the proletariat in its struggle imposed that certain products are for free (wheat, clothes, housing, even electricity) and the State had no other choice but to ratify this as well as other measures in front of the strength of our class. But even in any war, the States have been in the situation of giving ration cards for many products in order to maintain the proletariat in its role of cannon fodder. And we do not doubt that when favorable conditions are met, these few products will be subjected to the general conditions of the law of value applied throughout the capitalist world. In fact, they contain a plan distribution that responds to the needs of the imperialist war under way. But it’s to be continued.
Tradesmen can fulfill their role of intermediaries in the movement of commodities. Bosses of small shops do not suffer the communist outbursts of their workers. Nobody calls into question the role of money, representing the dictatorship of value. There is not even the slightest attempt to disguise it under other names or forms or to juggle with the currency at its legal price (either while substituting it with bonds or other currencies) to hide it. “Businessmen” are not always bothered as long as they maintain certain forms of “revolutionary” civility, charity for refugees included. Cooperatives presented as collectivization, e.g. agricultural, do not differ at all from any capitalist cooperatives. Mere commodity production companies where proletarians are subjected to wage labor. Peace, order and freedom prevail in the markets, workplaces and streets, along with the development of imperialist war. Freedom of private property, trade and business reign supreme on relations. Proletarians devote their lives to the hell of work or imperialist war. None of the apologists of the “revolution” in Rojava dares to talk even once about social classes, capital, exploitation, money… Or perhaps about absentee upper bourgeoisie and other subterfuges to refer to State or private monopolies. Let us note also that oil and gas wells are controlled by the Kurdish Supreme Committee that considers them as a strategic industry, to be traded on the international black market. As in any bourgeois State strategic sectors are nationalized for the need of capitalist restructuring.
As for the liberation of women we can only denounce the exploitation of their image as an advertising icon of the “revolution” in Rojava. Proletarian women have always played an important role in the struggle of the proletariat of Kurdish origin, both in Syria and Turkey. The proletarian community of struggle in that region has have a tendency to fight in its bosom any patriarchal heritage suppurating from capitalism, while assuming the struggle as men and women who are part of the same class and the same being. The proletarian community of struggle, made up of proletarians of both sexes, tends to affirm deep down inside the unity of its being. But this has nothing to do with what feminism sells to us as well as with the claim of the “role of women” in Rojava, her egalitarian participation, her inclusion… It makes you wonder how this participation of women is better, how she gains more equality. As it is for the rest of the proletariat it is about her to take part in capitalist management, her to submit to the imperialist war, her to participate in State structures… Women battalions like YPJ, which are presented to the world as an example of “liberated women who take their fate in hands”, embody the submission of proletarian women to the imperialist war. The nature of an armed force is given by the social project that is defended and the YPJ as the YPG are subjected to the bourgeois program of the PYD, they are under the command of and perform the functions conferred to them by the Kurdish Supreme Committee, the upper organ of the State in Rojava. Like any army of any State, but with feminist scenery and particularly organized for proletarian women, to boost their specific involvement, this is what the YPJ represent. With the YPG they materialize the integration process of the armed proletariat to the logic of military fronts of the inter-bourgeois war, the logic of bourgeois armies and their command, to the needs of capital.
Of course for us proletarians of both sexes there is nothing interesting in all these achievements claimed by feminism. What interests us is to break down the structure of capitalist domination and with it all the patriarchal oppression reproduced by the latter. But capital won’t be the one that will provide us with the means of this emancipation. While feminism has undertaken to claim the role of women in global capitalism and to subsume these ones to the capitalist dynamics (whether as a female wage slave or as a female exploiter) –and its results are spectacular-, in the proletarian struggle however women and men assume the struggle against patriarchy as a part of the totality of the struggle against capital.
Therefore it is clear that there is no qualitative element allowing to talk about a revolutionary process or a social revolution in Rojava, but rather the contrary, what is being consolidated is the counterrevolutionary process, the channeling of the proletarian struggle, the liquidation of the subject of revolution and its submission to the logic of capital. Communalism and grassroots democracy, “direct” democracy,40 the administration of little things by people of modest means and the management of misery did not represent the social revolution in 1871 during the Commune and does not represent it either in Rojava in 2015. It only represents the burial of the genuine proletarian struggle and these experiences of struggle, the submission of the proletariat to the capitalist spiral. It leaves certain margins to the “self-organization” as a way to resolve the open crisis and delegates certain functions to local assemblies that will assume the role of local government. The result is clear: to reduce the class contradictions, to freeze the energies of the proletariat in the management of its own exploitation, to maintain the proletariat attached to the defense of a territory “democratically constituted” as communes, to generate a struggle apparatus against apparatus, to destroy the revolutionary perspective against the international bourgeoisie, to deny the international and internationalist proletarian practice… Here’s what lies at the heart of what has been called the “Rojava experiment”: i.e. a project of national liberation trying to hide its State adorned with all types of democratic and managementist bodies, channeling and neutralizing the struggle of the proletariat.
[To be continued.]