On David Graeber: 'Victory in Kobane. What next in the Rojava revolution?’

On David Graeber: 'Victory in Kobane. What next in the Rojava revolution?’

David Graeber is a very thought-provoking thinker. But his recent youtube talk is more striking for what is not said than for what is.


Havin Guneser: Video Part1

David Graeber: Video Part2

Graeber spoke alongside Havin Guneser of the ‘Freedom for Ocalan Initiative’ who had earlier praised Abdullah Ocalan and cited his slogan: "To kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle".[1]

But, unfortunately, Graeber then never raised the obvious question of why the PKK don’t use this slogan to reject the personality cult around the PKK’s ‘dominant man’ - Ocalan himself. He also never raised the other obvious question of why anyone should respect the ideas of a man who has murdered so many of his left-wing opponents.

The other crucial question for any anarchist or communist is: Why should we uncritically support a revolutionary movement that has no unequivocal opposition to state power, private property, class society - or even to alliances with Western imperialism?

Graeber did relate an interesting story of how one PKK/PYD police chief told him that the Rojavan police intend eventually to abolish themselves.[2] But, of course, modern policing emerged with the rise of private property and wage labour and cannot be abolished until both property and money are abolished.

Moreover, the police chief’s radical claim is rather contradicted by the fact that the PKK’s guru, Ocalan, has himself claimed that his theory ‘does not reject nor deny the state’ and that he advocates a state that ‘observes functions in the fields of internal and external security’. (For a rather disturbing alternative account of Rojavan policing and ‘internal security’ see: Kurdwatch.org.)

The PKK/PYD’s claim to economic radicalism is also contradicted by the Rojavan official who said that: ‘The method in Rojava is not so much against private property, but rather has the goal of putting private property in the service of all the peoples who live in Rojava.’ Another official has made clear that he wants any cooperatives to compete with private capital. And Ocalan himself has argued that the class war ‘has come to an end’.

In true Stalinist style, Graeber’s delegation to Rojava was shepherded around by its Deputy Foreign Minister. But some of the other delegates did observe things which contradicted the PKK/PYD’s official line that they are no longer nationalist. For example, the delegates noticed a 'push for a Kurdish-only language educational system'. They also noticed that maps of a greater Kurdistan were often on display and that ‘references beyond the Kurdish movement were strikingly absent.’ These delegates understandably concluded that this ‘ethno-nationalism’ was ‘likely to alienate non-Kurds’.

This state of affairs - combined with the deeply totalitarian personality cult around Ocalan - will make it very difficult for the Rojava revolution to spread beyond Kurdish areas and break the crippling economic embargo. Indeed, rather than spreading the revolution across Syria, the PYD has instead ended up trying to ally with US and French imperialism. Tragically this whole situation - combined with the PKK’s earlier 20 year de facto alliance with Assad’s murderous dictatorship - can only deepen Arab distrust of the Kurds and so risk pushing the region even further into an inter-imperialist bloodbath.

Perhaps all these problems are not as bad as they seem and we will need more reliable information before we can be certain of anything. But a genuine anarchist or communist approach to the Rojava revolution surely involves not only recognising its achievements in the areas of feminism and local democracy, but also facing up to its many limitations.

One example of this is the full version of Gilles Dauve’s ‘Rojava: Reality & Rhetoric’. There Dauve critiques Graeber and makes the crucial point that: ‘Nobody has ever seen a State dissolve in local direct democracy’.

(For more critique on Rojava, see:
‘I have seen the future and it works.’ – Critical questions for supporters of the Rojava revolution’.)


1. Havin Guneser also said that Ocalan is giving military advice to the PKK/PYD from his Turkish prison cell. But why would any rational political movement entrust military decision making to a long-term prisoner who can have no real idea what is happening on the ground? This puzzling behaviour is matched by the claims of an American PYD fighter in Kobane who said: 'It's extremely dangerous in that they're taking anyone with no military experience, no age requirements ... They are just taking people there, giving them a gun, saying hey good luck buddy.’ If these accounts are true then it seems that the PKK/PYD’s strength derives as much from fanaticism (combined with a semi-religious acceptance of martyrdom) as from any rational political strategy. This, of course, sounds very much like ISIS, despite all the obvious differences between the two types of cult.

PYD/PKK Martyrs of Kobane

2. Graeber seems to be advocating this way to abolish the police and he also seems to be advocating electoral politics combined with mass movements on the Bolivian model. But perhaps it’s unfair to judge him on one talk

Posted By

Anti War
Mar 5 2015 19:01


  • To kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle

    Abdullah Ocalan

Attached files


Anti War
Mar 5 2015 18:54

David Graeber isn’t the only radical theorist who seems hesitant to critique the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan.

In April, Silvia Federici will be giving a ‘message of greeting’ to a Kurdish conference in Hamburg alongside a message from the illustrious patriarch Ocalan himself!

John Holloway will deliver a 'tribute to Kurds and Zapatistas’ at the same conference. Other academics will then discuss how the great Ocalan was influenced by Foucault, Gramsci and Wallerstein.

Immanuel Wallerstein has, at least, been able to point out that the PKK leadership failed to support Turkey’s Taksim Square uprising and that they ‘carefully avoided any statement on the uprising, and in Diyabarkir, the largest Kurdish city, the number of protesters has been very few.’ But there’s been surprisingly little comment from the PKK's academic supporters on their repeated tendency to ally with reactionary states and Western imperialists.

PKK/PYD's leader, Salih Muslim in talks with US neocon Zalmay Khalilzad.

When Antonio Negri gave a congratulatory message to the same Kurdish event a few years ago he claimed that the Kurdish movement was building ‘a governance that would be able to challenge … capitalism’. (However, today Negri seems more excited about Syriza and Podemos than the PKK. He now claims that these half-hearted social-democrats are somehow offering a ‘hope for … a move beyond capitalism’ - while overlooking the fact that Syriza’s leading theorist [and self-proclaimed ‘libertarian communist’] Yanis Yaroufakis, is quite open about his intention is to ‘save European capitalism’.)

Perhaps not since the 1960s, when so many deluded themselves about Guevara and Mao, have radical theorists been so naive. None of this means that they aren’t still worth reading. But their political conclusions need to be taken with a VERY LARGE pinch of salt!

Black Badger
Mar 5 2015 20:05

Not about Kobane/Rojava, but the level of delusion is still strong...


Mar 6 2015 10:20
PKK's academic supporters on their repeated tendency to ally with reactionary states and Western imperialists.

We are speaking general tendencies of movements now huh? Well there is some sound reasoning you have right there I guess grin

By the way Wallerstein is unfortunately wrong in his opinion: As he says many militants from kurdish movement participated in gezi protest especially in its first days. (Well it was actually a parliament member of kurdish party who went first to gezi park to support protestors and stopped using his authority to stop machines from working i.e destroying the park the very first day). They even -like many other groups- held a tent in Taksim while it was occupied. However Wallenstein misses the "national" character of "secular left" in Turkey (though it is also debatable if Gezi was really can be just considered as a leftist event in this light) However the point is although there were a lot of posters and flags of Turkish Republic founder Ataturk and Turkey the Kurdish symbolism is repressed, resulting in their elimination from this so called "open" field. I think it is nationalism of Turkish mainstream politics that made kurdish movement to give up from support. Moreover, I think it was very accurate as AKP did not lose much power after the event (practically contradicting the Wallerstein's prediction again) This is again something not to forget in any sober discussion of event (though as Wallerstein write this text in the highest point of protests he is right be optimistic I guess, and he seems to not condemn but try to channel kurdish movement into this event, unlike bad criticism going on in these forums)

Mar 6 2015 10:29

Well actually Wallerstein has more contemporary analysis of Syria, not exclusively on Rojava though: http://iwallerstein.com/syria-turkish-ambivalence/

Mar 6 2015 10:48

Anti-war you only shared a part of this symposium. And contrary to title you did not shared it to report it but to criticized it. You mention "what he did not said" so much, one wonders whether you are a communist or a lacanian psychoanalyst. so I will use liberty to share this event in its whole in middle east forums as it should be shared. It is good to listen.

Anti War
Mar 11 2015 14:11

Sorry, the introduction is clearer now. As for Lacanian:

Slavoj Zizek with Abdullah Ocalan in the 1980s:

Also, Russell Brand:

And, naturally, Owen Jones:

'That socialists and anarchists are helping to drive [ISIS] back should be a source of immense pride for the international left.'. The Guardian 10/3/15

Mar 11 2015 14:58

Anti war responded to me at last. I never thought I will ever see this day. grin You have a huge photo album antiwar don't you? Unfortunately you have no power of argumentation to match your visual intelligence (as you never replied to any of the discussions and did nothing except repeating yourself) I sometimes wish you just stop writing repetitive articles and just post pictures grin

Mar 11 2015 16:09

Well they say 'every picture tells a story' don't they!

Mar 12 2015 10:37

grin which one is Zizek? the one on the left of Ocalan ? (from our perspective) I wonder what was the occasion. (also who is this Owen Jones?)

Serge Forward
Mar 12 2015 11:09
Spikymike wrote:
Well they say 'every picture tells a story' don't they!

Indeed. I never realised just how tall that Russell Brand is.

Mar 12 2015 12:42

Owen Jones is, amongst other things, a newspaper writer who will support anything left-wing and capitalist. So he's right at home here in this imperialist "revolution".

Anti War
Mar 26 2015 16:40

There's a depressing video for the Hamburg '' conference HERE.

It consists of a series of photos of radical academics, Federici, Holloway, Harvey, Graeber etc. - all shadowed by a picture of Uncle Ocalan!

Anti War
Mar 26 2015 17:08

Even more depressingly, now David Graeber is speaking on the same platform as the PYD/PKK leader, Salih Muslim, Michael Stephen of Royal United Services and John Woodcock MP - all speaking in that hotbed of libertarian socialism, the Houses of Parliament.


Anti War
Mar 26 2015 17:39

Here's a photo from that meeting in Parliament:

And here's the PYD/PKK report of the meeting between Saleh Muslim and UK Government officials in London:

'British foreign minister receives Saleh Muslim and tomorrow will deliver a speach to the British parliament' 25/3/15

'In the framework of his visit in an official invitation from the foreign minister, he met last Monday British Gerrit Bailey whose responsible for the Syrian file contacting with Saleh Muslim co -chairmen of democratic union party and meeting was attended by representative of the party in Britain. The two sides discussed the latest developments in Rojava and Syria and also how to support the joint forces whose fighting terrorism in the region.

Democratic union party delegation has met in the parliament building the former deputy British minister Alistair Burt and the British barons Jane Royal and Lord Kenwood and the parliament Rojer Saif they talking about the recent developments in the region and rojava and cooperation to eliminate the terrorist Daesh from the Rojava.

Also yesterday on 24-3-2015 Saleh Muslim had a speach in a closed sessions at the Royal insitute of research services and he will also has speach tomorrow inside the Dome of British parliament in the presence of a number of parliamentarians and political advisor, and he will focus about the situations and developments in the public or the region and the ways to support Rojava and eliminate the terrorist Daesh..'

Red Marriott
Mar 26 2015 20:42
now David Graeber is speaking on the same platform as the PYD/PKK leader, Salih Muslim, Michael Stephen of Royal United Services and John Woodcock MP - all speaking in that hotbed of libertarian socialism, the Houses of Parliament.


Graeber’s on a long march through the institutions. He’s now becoming the BBC’s pet anarchist;
From 27m 30s here, in discussion with, among others, a Tory MP; http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01shw0f