PKK, Democratic Confederalism, and Nonsense – Juraj Katalenac

PKK, Democratic Confederalism, and Nonsense – Juraj Katalenac

We publish here a critical text about PKK and the “Democratic Confederalism” (which we have translated into French and Czech) from militants who mainly express themselves in Croatian and gave to their structure the name Svjetska Revolucija (“World Revolution”). We don’t know much about this group and it is linguistically difficult for us to further deepen our knowledge of their programmatic positions.

However, in a basic document of theirs, published in Croatian, developing a series of interesting affirmations, there is one in particular that we want to briefly criticize here. It’s their position on “terrorism” when those comrades say: “Terrorism is not a method of struggle of the working class. It advocates secret action of a small clique in total contradiction with the defence of class violence, which derives from the class-conscious and organized mass action of the proletariat.” []

We don’t agree at all with this position which leaves the door wide open to pacifism in the name of the “Great Night”, the revolution to come under the pretext that here and now “the masses are not ready”, as social democrats of all kinds have eructated since decades to better disarm our struggle. There is no “terrorism” in itself! Every action, every thought is essentially determined by its class content and the dominant social relations; there is therefore indeed a class terrorism which appears in a variety of forms (and essences) according to the nature of the program it contains and that carries it.

There is therefore on one hand a bourgeois, employers’, capitalist, counterrevolutionary terrorism: it’s the permanent terror of everyday nature in our forced labour, it’s the police and military (and the union one) repression to crush our strikes, our struggles, our hopes, and it’s also the terror of the murderous slaughter on fields of horror of the bourgeois wars, etc.

But, and in radical opposition to this counterrevolutionary terrorism, there is also a proletarian, revolutionary, human terrorism: it’s the permanent sabotage by our class of the tools of exploitation, alienation, oppression and domination, it’s the organization even minority one of direct action, that is to say, without intermediaries, without mediation, it’s the destruction of what destroys us for the final abolition, the total eradication of the very causes of our misery.

To conclude this short presentation and fraternal critique, we want to reaffirm the lifelong positions of the communist movement (some good old programmatic “jewels”) vis-à-vis the necessary revolutionary violence to put an end once and for all with this old world:

“The purposeless massacres […], the very cannibalism of the counterrevolution will convince the nations that there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”
(Karl Marx, “The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna”, NeueRheinischeZeitung No. 136, November 6th, 1848)

“Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction.”
(Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League”, London, March 1850)

# # #

PKK, Democratic Confederalism, and Nonsense – Juraj Katalenac

We hear about the threat of Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) every day. The media ceaselessly informs us about their brutal executions of western journalists and humanitarians, crimes against the population who do not accept their religious fundamentalism and their military victories. American President, Barack Obama, vowed on the 11th of September this year — on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre — to eradicate ISIL, but at the same time, western leaders are reluctant to engage in military intervention in Iraq — at least, in any form like that launched against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Many military analysts have been warning us of how it is in in the interest of the USA to not engage in full intervention against ISIL but only to force ISIL out of Iraq and into Syria where they are fighting Assad’s regime.

But the fight against ISIL is not the topic of this article; instead, it is the seemingly unlikely alliance that has come out of the current situation: one between the western powers and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — until recently, considered a terrorist organisation.

One of the ways in which the West has intervened against ISIL — with the exception of airstrikes — is through the arming of Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. This is done by equipping the combatants and by using shipments of Croatian weapons which we had to get rid of when we entered NATO. The increasing involvement of the Kurds in the fighting in the region has gained an increasing support which they have not experienced since the fall of the Soviet Union. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has endorsed the creation of an independent Kurdistan as a condition for an alliance of “moderate states” of the Middle East, and Turkey also agrees on establishing a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. Besides the opposition of Iran, there is not much getting in the way of the realisation of a Kurdish state.

This article was prompted by the perverse interest that the Western Left has had for the PKK: it is perverse because the PKK is an organisation with a great history of abuse, harassment and racketeering of the local (Kurdish) population, sectarian violence and murder, heroin trafficking, extortion and forced recruitment of local people in its military wing, and it is idealised by Western Leftists as “revolutionary”, “proletarian”, “feminist”… while it is just the opposite. Also, it is necessary to mention that what has awakened the interest of Western Leftists to the PKK is their alleged “communalist” or even “anarchist” politics, a turn which is reflected in their replacement of their former Marxism-Leninism (i.e. Stalinism) with “democratic confederalism”. That is what we can read about in many articles such as “The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan” by Rafael Taylor [1] or “Kurdish spring: what are the PKK fighting for?” by Brian Whelan [2].

So, in this article I will deal with just three myths about the PKK: that it is “revolutionary”, that it is “proletarian” and that it is “feminist”. It is important to clearly explain why the support of such organisations is harmful and ridiculous.


The PKK was founded on 27th of November, 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan, Mazlum Doğan and twenty followers. The aim of the PKK was to fight “Turkish colonialism” in Turkish Kurdistan and to establish an independent and united Kurdish state. When it was founded, the PKK was inspired by the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, like many similar organisations in the region which enjoyed Soviet support, and in fact, was an exponent of the Soviet Cold War foreign policy. Therefore, the PKK thought that they could win power through combat operations of their national guerrilla army and that it could find allies among Eastern Bloc countries, as well as among the Kurdish landowners to fight against its Kurdish rivals.

On 15 August 1984, the PKK attacked police stations in the villages of Eruh and Şemdinli, starting an uprising. In these actions, it killed two Turkish police officers. As a countermeasure, Turkey has recruited thousands of Kurds as village guards against the PKK. The PKK has been unkind to these guards, as well as to all other Kurds who showed sympathy towards the Turkish government, and rivals who have attacked certain landowners who sided with the PKK. Because of that, the PKK lost sympathy of the part of the Kurdish people who found themselves wedged between the PKK and the Turkish army. In addition, the PKK had strained relations with the Kurds outside of Turkey, like Masoud Barzani in northern Iraq.

Although it was initially established as a Marxist-Leninist organisation, as a result of the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, the PKK has lost a significant number of foreign allies. The Gulf War of 1991 drew a new map of the region, where the Marxist-Leninist “defence of socialism” was replaced by Kurdish nationalism as an ideology for recruiting new fighters. Because the various imperialist countries have always wanted to own a piece of the pie of the Middle East, the PKK has proven itself to be an important strategic partner, enjoying the support of the governments of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Greece and Russia. It is important here to emphasise the role of the EU countries that intervened when, on 15 February 1999, Turkey arrested Öcalan. The EU’s intervention changed the original death sentence to life imprisonment.

Since I have already mentioned the jailing of Öcalan, it is necessary to draw attention to the repression suffered by the Kurds at the hands of the Turkish state. In fact, the PKK was established for material reasons because the modern Turkish state, just like her mentor, France, does not recognise minorities and uses repressive measures that stifle any resistance. For example, all parliamentary organisations that fought for the interest of the Kurdish people have been banned or declared as terrorist organisations.


In the past few years, the PKK has become extremely popular among Western anarchists and leftists, for the alleged “libertarian turn” of the PKK, of which they have been writing, including such authors as the above-mentioned Rafael Taylor and Brian Whelan. They claim that Öcalan experienced a purification in prison and replaced Stalinism with libertarian socialism, specifically Murray Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. Öcalan has developed libertarian municipalism in the form of democratic confederalism through the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the PKK’s territorial experiment in “free and directly democratic society”. Democratic confederalism to them means “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society” or “democracy without the state”. But it is necessary to put an end to such nonsense and explain the real background to the PKK’s ideological shift.

At the Eighth Congress of the PKK, held on 16 April 2002 the “democratic transformation” was voted, this meant that the PKK would reject violent means to achieve “liberation”, by seeking political rights of Kurds within Turkey. From that congress, the PKK has been transformed by creating a new political organisation, Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), whose task was to struggle through exclusively democratic means. Despite the political turn of the spokesman for the PKK/KADEK, it is clear that the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the PKK, in order to maintain self-defence, will not disband. Over time, KADEK transformed into a more moderate Kurdistan People’s Congress (Kongra-Gel), otherwise it would not have been possible to take part in negotiations with the Turkish authorities and to facilitate the participation in parliamentary politics. KCK, known as the main organ of “democratic confederalism” is, in its essence, a proto-state for the Kurdish people under the administration of the PKK, and gathers many other Kurdish forces that recognise the supremacy of the PKK.

In 1999, Kurdish nationalists participated in local elections for the first time and won a large majority in Turkish Kurdistan which they have held since that time. Since 2005, Kurdish nationalists renewed their attempts to enter the Turkish parliament and to pursue a legal struggle through it. This began with the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was established to replace the recently the forbidden Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP). But this party was banned by the Turkish state for its ties with the PKK, just like before, and it was replaced by the newly founded Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in 2009. While it is connected with the PKK, the BDP is a recognised member of the social democratic Socialist International.

The “communalist turn” of the Kurdish nationalists answered the repressive strategy of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against the Kurdish population. It is essentially a plan for democratic autonomy of the region in the framework of the Turkish state and the Turkish constitution. So, the original separatism and the creation of an independent state have been abandoned. Under the plan, the Kurdish language in addition to Turkish and local dialects, will become the official languages of Kurdistan, there would be representatives of an autonomous Kurdistan in the Turkish parliament that would guarantee the implementation of the law and equal rights for Kurds, and autonomous Kurdistan would have its own flag which would be based on the national symbols of the Kurdish people. Over time, the idea evolved towards a confederation of Kurdish provinces in the region. However, the PKK is not an alternative to the AKP — they are two sides of the same coin. Both sides are increasingly progressing towards a common agreement which the mainstream media has been writing about.

We can better understand this if we read a public statement in the PKK’s press:

“The model of democratic self-government is the most reasonable solution, because it corresponds to the history and political circumstances in which Turkey finds itself. In fact, the Kurds enjoyed an autonomous status within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Hence this proposal is not based on separatism. Instead, our people will determine their reciprocal relationship based on free will and voluntary union in a common homeland. The model does not envisage the abolition of the state, nor a change of borders. Democratic Turkey and democratic autonomous Kurdistan are a concrete formula for our peoples to govern themselves with their own culture and identity and their right to live freely.” [3]

But what lies behind this turnaround? Is this a change in consciousness or something else? Certainly, one important reason is that since Öcalan’s arrest, he has promised to serve the Turkish state. Other reasons can be found in the geopolitical changes after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Syrian support, the PKK was forced to look for new “sponsors”. It was therefore necessary to reject the former Marxism-Leninism and replace it with “democratic confederalism”, which fit perfectly because, as opposed to Marxism-Leninism, one “no one is upset and no one minds it”, making it easy to find external allies. Also, the PKK is trying to make a deal with the Turkish state, while at the same time, they need an ideology that emphasises the “uniqueness” of Kurdistan. This new foreign policy strategy of the PKK is based on three premises. The first is that the PKK is trying to raise as many donations from the Kurdish Diaspora worldwide. Also, they are trying to get support and be presented as the only true representative of the interests of the Kurdish people, which has succeeded, to a large extent. The second is the removal of the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations, for which they have received very helpful assistance from the Western Left, which constantly puts pressure on their governments and draws attention to the political situation and repression in Turkey. As a result, PKK activists are extremely active in presenting this mythology of “democratic confederalism” among the Western Left. And the third premise is getting the support of “Western allies”, in particular the USA.

And what is the interest of the USA in the PKK? The USA is primarily interested in having fighters on the ground, whose power interests coincide with the interests of the USA, so that the USA, due to dissatisfaction of the American population, does not need to send its own troops. Kurdish nationalists want to create a state in northern Iraq, something that Western powers openly support, which will be a state that will fight against the Islamists of ISIL. Furthermore, their nationalism is opposed to Islamism precisely in order to gain the support of the West. Of course, the USA has done all of this in consultation with its ally, Turkey, which benefits from the crossing of Kurdish militias to Iraq from Turkey because it grants Turkey internal peace but also makes it easier to establish control over the local Kurdish population.


In addition to the attack on the already mentioned village guards, the PKK has for years undertaken a campaign of killing Turkish teachers who are attacked as “agents of the Turkish state” because they taught the Turkish language. To make matters worse, in Turkey after graduation, the country sends young teachers wherever they are needed especially in the villages and in the eastern parts of Turkey, so this means that teachers do not have a choice or a chance. Under attack by the PKK were also local leftists, but also Kurdish nationalists who disagreed with the policies of the PKK.

Also, it should be noted that the PKK is advocating ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in Syria that inhabit the Kurdish region. Thus, the leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish party associated with the PKK, said on television that “One day those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas will have to be expelled (…) if it continues the same way, there will be war between Kurds and Arabs.” [4] The interview was published on the website of supporters of the PKK, with which it was cited. The PKK has in the past had extremely bad policies toward minority populations in the territories in which the Kurds were in the majority. Currently, it is changing and the PKK is often presented as the defender of all the people in Kurdistan. But where the PKK can operate with many national minorities, for very obvious reasons it cannot work with Arabs, Turks and Persians. And when conflicts break out with them, everyone is clearly aware that the PKK is primarily an ethnic party.


In the West, the PKK has a reputation of an organisation that treats men and women equally. There are many records that talk about how women are escaping to the PKK from their families, arranged marriages, blood feuds and other patriarchal customs of Kurdish and Turkish society. But contrary to the picture which is built on the PKK itself, they have not found salvation in the organisation but they were victims of abuse in the PKK’s camps.

The source for this claim does not come from the Turkish state’s “propaganda machine” but from the PKK’s dissidents. So Mehmet Cahit Şener — one of the founders of the PKK who led the short-lived PKK-Vejin (an organisation which split from the PKK because of disagreements with the leadership) — wrote in 1991, before he was killed in a joint action by the PKK and Syrian secret services:

“Apo [Öcalan] has forced dozens of our female comrades to immoral relations with him, defiled most and declared the ones who insisted on refusing to be people ‘who haven’t understood the party, who haven’t understood us’ and has heavily repressed them, and even order the murder of some claiming they are agents. Some of our female comrades who are in this situation are still under arrest and under torture, being forced to make confessions appropriate to the scenarios that they are agents (…) The relations between men and women within the party have turned into a harem in Apo’s palace and many female comrades were treated as concubines by this individual.” [5]

Selim Çürükkaya, one of the founders of the PKK, who fled to Europe because of Apo, also wrote of similar incidents. In his memoirs, Çürükkaya wrote that sexual relations are banned for the entire membership, and those caught in the act, regardless of whether they are men or women, are strictly punished — tortured, imprisoned and branded traitors which would lead to their execution. Quite contrary to these rules, Öcalan had a right to every woman in the organisation, and the rest of the leadership was awarded according to their merit. These testimonies have been confirmed by other leaders of the PKK who have since left the organisation.


Regardless of ISIL’s crimes, it is impossible to take sides in this conflict. I think that for everyone who monitors the situation clearly there are only two choices: ISIL and Western imperialism. The Kurds and the PKK are on the side of Western imperialism.

While we can be appalled over ISIL’s crimes against the Kurdish population in Syria, we should be clear that supporting the PKK does not achieve anything. Furthermore, support for the PKK is support for one horrible ethno-nationalist policy which we have already experienced in the 1990s. [6] Similarly, support for the PKK only strengthens their foreign policy objectives, feeding the Western left’s mythology of a libertarian society, while at the same time strengthening its position among Western powers and facilitating the implementation of their ethnic nationalist politics in the field.

Certainly, it is necessary to condemn the current policy of Turkey against the Kurds, but the PKK is not a movement that will solve this issue. The PKK is a movement of chicken thieves, who intimidate the locals more (such as the recent attacks on the village schools) than they fight against the system and discrimination. Because their ultimate goal is to hold power in Kurdistan, if they can achieve separatist policies they will achieve this within Turkey or through participating in the war in Iraq on the side of the USA.

The author would like to thank the comrades from Turkey (Dunya Devrim) for their translation efforts and the information without which this article would not be completed.

Juraj Katalenac, Zarez.

Original source in Croatian:
Source in English:

[1] The article was published in ROAR Magazine on 17 August 2014; link:
[2] Analysis by Brian Whelan published on the website of the British Channel 4; link:
[3] Translator’s note: “Press Release of the KCK and the Kongra Gel”, Kongra-Gel Presidential Board, KCK Presidency of the Executive Council, 13th of August, 2010; link:
[4] Translator’ note: Quote obtained from:
[5] Translator’s note: This quote was an English translation material that appeared in this article:
[6] Translator’s note: The author here referred to the Yugoslav wars which occurred in the 1990s.

Posted By

Guerre de Classe
Mar 31 2015 17:46



Attached files


Mar 31 2015 18:11

It is good you translated it, I now had the chance to re-read everything again; from Arab genocide, to Ocalan's sexual life.The speed of misinformation and the power of Kurdish movement bashing is really strong in this forum, arguably can even match Turkish State propaganda media levels. Though, one question remains for me, what is the motivation? ( I can understand manin stream Turkish media attacking Kurdish movement) But I do not get for example; why Croatian "communist" writes such a text (obviously based on other texts he saw in a forum website) and why someone translates this qucikly and publishes it here? Also the same question about similar texts that pop up biweekly or something here.

Apr 1 2015 10:51

kurrem... and others,

I presume that these Croation communist's experience of the break up of the old Yugaslavian Federation amidst the impact of the breakdown of the old Soviet Union, EU expansionism, nationalism and ethnic rivaliries etc is influencing their take on events in the Middle East and the Kurdish regions. Their experience is not to be dismissed as irrelevant even if a straight transfer of experience from one region and recent period to another is not possible.

The section dealing with the claimed 'feminist' character of the PKK even if the details in relation to the past experience of the internal life of the PKK is true is admitedly weak in terms of a valid criticism of the challenging roles of women in the context of the social movement in Rojava.

However the text makes some valid observations of the practical function of the Ideological shifts of the PKK in the context of the break up of the old Soviet Union and subsequent local imperialist and nationalist rivalries and equally the practical function of Western leftism in all this.

As regard the Guerre de Classe introduction on the matter of 'terrorism' whilst their criticism might be valid at an abstract level this word is open to many different and contentious uses and is of little use when it comes to evaluating any particular incident of violence irrespective of whether or not such incidents are branded by the state or radical media as 'terrorism'. This would deserve a whole seperate discussion, though it would be interesting to know what they think of the recent Turkish leftist hostage debacle.

Apr 2 2015 12:01

I definitely see your point in terms of his experience of dissolution of Croation's real socialism effects his analysis. And this is all fine but he makes a point about a locality he has no experience with. So he just generalizes his experience. So it is no surprise that he fails to discuss any real application of democratic confederalism and instead just assumes it to be "the true face of pkk".

So instead he could try to explain the real structures Janet Biehl, or Graeber or Kurdish anarchists, or Turkish anarchists etc... mentions in their texts in relation to dissolution of the idea of "socialism in one state" and prefigurative experimentation today for a democratic society based on autonomy etc... (which is -in its own words- democratic confederalism is all about anyways) Of course he could criticize their dangerous relations with imperialist powers and conscription as possbile threats to their alternative modernity project. I am all OK with that however he does not do so ( I am also not OK with just reducing everything to these two) It is sad to see communists/anarchists who experience the illusions of real socialism (and who - I am sure- trying to develop new alternatives and practices for a contemporary socialism), fail to grasp the similar inspirations in other movements and come together. And unfortunately they just criticize other movements in a cynical and skeptical tones and based on one-sided accounts that help no-one.

Apr 1 2015 19:38

Basically I think all the criticisms here are important. And I haven't heard any reasonable explanations of why we should support the cult of personality of someone who is an admitted sex offender. Is anybody here claiming that the personality cult of the great leader is anything healthy?

Apr 1 2015 20:13

Well if you bothered to read the discussions you could see that he did not admitted anything, and the book that he supposed to did is read by nobody here. It is just mentioned as so, in another man's book who wanted to establish another Kurdish movement.

However I am really bored to writing this stuff, to correct the meaningless internet discussion going here that does not involve any one from kurdish movement. Anyway the ultimate point still stays the same: Empty "accusations" are not substitute for true materialist analysis or empricial research. So extend your perception from "who is a sex offender" to a wider political or historical analysis.

Apr 1 2015 21:02

Kurem, I've never understood why on earth you see it as essential to defend ocalan. I get why you do that viz Rojava, and I get where you're coming from, but I just can't for the life of me understand why we have to embrace everything by the Kurdish movement, especially not someone who has established a cult of personality and also seem to believe he still knows best even though he's locked up. As I've said lots of times before, your wholesale embrace of ocalan and PKK undermines the often good arguments you make on behalf of the Rojava experiment.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 2 2015 15:16
Khawaga wrote:
I get why you do that viz Rojava, and I get where you're coming from, but I just can't for the life of me understand why we have to embrace everything by the Kurdish movement... your wholesale embrace of ocalan and PKK undermines the often good arguments you make on behalf of the Rojava experiment.

Forgive me for being blunt, but I think what is missing in this portrayal is the absolute and unbreakable tie between Ocalan, PKK and the so-called "Rojava revolution". Without PKK there is no Rojava, w/o Ocalan there is no "leadership" as PKK people would tell. In this trinity Ocalan is the ideological spirit, PKK is the ruling army-party and Rojava is the physical body that materialize the rule of the ideology-party-army. The whole discourse, strategy and social organization in Rojava is planned, developed and organized by Ocalan/PKK.

If we look beneath the ideological discourse, in Rojava there is only a Kurdish Arabic war fought between Kurdish nationalist parties and the Arabic/Islamist groups. On the west there is Rojava and it is controlled by PKK and on the East there are other Kurdish nationalist parties. Eventually this represents the collapse of Iraq/Syrian states on national and ethnic lines.

Inside Rojava itself, the actual class composition is this: there is an ethnic cleansing of Arabic property owners and a statist-PKK centered capitalist centralization of the economy.

The ideological packaging is just aimed for the Western market. It is especially aimed for the broad left that is frustrated, disillusioned and uncertain about the potentials of working class and for that reason looking for simple solutions to deep rooted problems like religious resurgence and ethnic massacres.

Apr 2 2015 12:06

Kwarga you are right, My attempts to defend Ocalan is working counter productively. But as I already wrote before I was just trying to find sufficient proof of an accusation that seemed very unrealistic (Ocalan rapes women, then accepts it and publishes a book containing that speech then later nobody now remembers it but a guy who left pkk...) and apparently even the writers of the text in libcom do not have the full quotation (of admitting) or even read the book itself. So this thing that is an issue in libcom forums is artificial for a Turkish or Kurdish radical you can not just believe it. But anyway I should stop speaking about these issues I guess (Including stuff like; "the so called: Arab genocide attempts of Rojava", who gives a shit that Salih muslim excused for those, clarified he meant only the removal of Arabs near Rojava and who support ISIS and there is even a Arab quota in local government in Rojava )

Anyway whatever we optimistically wish or hope Kurds currently can not just quit loving Ocalan. The clear evidence for you is just provided above by mikail's comment.. In Turkey from some of the Turkish Stalinist parties to leftist republicans to Government all agrees with his reading of the Rojava: Kurds are just a sheep following Ocalan so they have no capacity to do real change. Well I think as long as people evaluate the kurdish people from their high towers of X (here X can be communism/anarchism/Welfare state/liberal democracy/conservative democracy etc...) Kurds will just say them go to hell with your X and I really think this attitude is even a condition for politization of Kurds and their possible revolution to reshape the middle east.

EDITED to be more readable

Apr 2 2015 09:04

OK, personally I am willing to withdraw the sexual predator part for the reasons mentioned above. But still we can all see the cult of personality and question, from a libertarian perspective, descriptions of how an entire region supposedly changed its politics because the ideological reader read some books in jail, which seems even more incredible than any allegations of sexual misconduct of the charismatic leader.

I am certainly ready to concede that there may be some interesting things happening in Rojava and that they can mean some advance in a more positive direction, but I think the criticisms of Juraj and Mikhail are important and have a basis and I am glad that at least there are people out there who are not likely to be conned by every claim of "revolution" that gets presented. Because if we look back at the last 20-30 years, I can remember of lot and a lot of fools who called revolutions that weren't. Of course it is dangerous to be suspicious of everything just because most "revolutions" called by leftists in the last year have shown their true nature and exposed them as fools, so let's not fall in that trap either. But here the comrades' arguments are quite normal and important, in my opinion.

Red Marriott
Apr 2 2015 09:21
akai wrote:
we can all see the cult of personality and question, from a libertarian perspective, descriptions of how an entire region supposedly changed its politics because the ideological reader read some books in jail, which seems even more incredible than any allegations of sexual misconduct of the charismatic leader.

Ironic that kurre regularly tries to dismiss any criticisms of Rojava by telling critics how out of touch and remote they are from events on the ground - unlike his beloved Ocalan, of course...

Apr 2 2015 12:08

akai, for the record I agree with your last comment (well except the ideological change in PKK actually started in 1990's [do not ask me which congress though], probably connected to failure of real socialism and end of hopes for an independent "state socialism", but anyways)

I do also think if Rojava just ends up reproducing exploitation as a capitalist economy (accumulation of capital in private hands) or state model (central government structure, purely representative politics etc...) then it will be a lost cause (as you mean, I guess if I am not over interpreting). However currently whether we believe them or not they are rejecting them both ideologically and more importantly in established practices in Rojava (in the sense that actively trying to do something different) (according to near universal empirical evidence provided by other anarchists/communists from region [including Turkish solidarity] or from those who went there)

The personality cult is of course a thread to any social emancipation. However what I am trying to emphasize is that: it is very complex issue. The only think I say about it (except it exists) is this: I just want to resist the interpretation that Kurds can not go beyond Ocalan cult. However to something like this to happen first of all Ocalan should be freed and become another politician among others. As long as Ocalan and his leadership will be criticized by argumets mikail kindly exampled above (and shared by -I repeat- all of the right wing parties and "Turkish" left): I see no way kurds will stop defending him as their leader. In other words: saying well I like kurds (let's say as workers) but I just hate Ocalan and It would be so nice if they just give up Ocalan (and PKK) and join my ranks of universal emancipation (enter imaginary revolutionary organisation here) is a very very obsolete idea that is not helping anyone. I also think this approach is latently nationalistic/colonialist. I think it is better to listen to what they (and pkk say) and criticize their shortcomings without missing the context of their existence and what they try to achieve.

Well I think many of the internationalists and anti-capitalist here just fail to do that. And I suspect it is a symptom of substituting theory (and for some moralism) to politics whose institutionalized variants constitute a problem for leftists in general. Because in this conditions under the disguise of communism lurks subjective standpoints and personal weaknesses. (Ex: Someone translates a political rivalry text with an accusation with no real proof and we all start to discuss whether someone is a rapist, instead of discussing women's movement)

Apr 2 2015 11:21

Red Marriott

I do not think Ocalan is governing everything form his prison cell. I do not think Ocalan is all that powerful actually. If you look at it it is the argument of mikail (the unbreakable and absolute tie between Rojava and Ocalan). I do think many of the sides of kurdish movement act autonomously more or less (including pyd and ypg) So for example electoral party HDP has much more variety in it (including some islamist kurds for example) however pkk army is much more homogenous and propably very close to idea of a socialist army. Kurdish population consists of people with different aims. However current unifying goal of these is democratic autonomy.

The weakness of Ocalan -for me- is also evidenced for example in current peace process in Turkey. Peace process is going secretly as wished by Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan with Turkish intelligence making meetings with Ocalan and other power centers.. Ocalan six months or so said peace process is going good and called for people to do not participate in destructive events. However in Cizre ( a town in Turkey kurdistan) cops killed a child by bullets. So people build barricades to streets and there were a civil war in the city. (some more people killed again by cops) Well practically people did not listen to Ocalan. During the clashes Kurdish movement figures ( I do not remember if Ocalan did say anything personally at that time) just made statements for calls to end violence (to persuade Cizre people) and in the end I guess State backed up a bit, the cop who killed the child is taken to trial and barricades are removed. Anyway in the end, Ocalan publically apoligised from kurds that he went to fast and he made mistakes in handling the peace process.

I do think that though, PYD and YPG and anarchists and communists who support them and fight with them are sincere and they are doing their best to establish an alternative modernization project for region in the context of realities on the ground ( which they know better then me and you, however I accept I might be getting more frequent news)

Red Marriott
Apr 2 2015 23:32

Well thanks for your reply. But your facts seem to emphasise one of our long-running disagreements; the dislocation between what supporters claim is the anti-statist and anti-nationalist on-ground practice and goals of the Rojava communes etc and the clearly statist and nationalist political behaviour, alliances and statements of the PKK leadership. If any social movement on the ground that may exist doesn’t develop a critique of this – ie, political representation as one of the hierarchical divisions of labour within class society – then it dooms itself to be ruled by a PKK ruling class in alliance with local and international capital, as is clear from the repeated PKK statements in favour of a mixed market economy.

Left unchallenged, it is that reality that will finally determine social relations rather than any democratic experiments now occurring. The personality cult of the leadership is the ideological expression – ie, submission to an ideological boss - that helps enforce those hierarchical power relations within the Party, the movement and finally flows out to the wider society. That so many ‘anarchists’ are so uncritical of this is quite pitiful.

Whether Ocalan has much real control is not the central point; though his influence is in some ways considerable if he could call for confederalism to be implemented and a whole new ideology and practice then becomes widespread. But he remains a figurehead for the PKK leadership, his personal authority and the deference shown him verifies the rule of that elite. The fighter groups may be necessarily quite autonomous in their military arena – but the PKK politicians will also be autonomously acting in their own separate ruling interests as they conduct their diplomacy and statesmanship in the international political arena, cutting deals with states and capitals.

Apr 3 2015 12:46

Well, thank you Red M.

Unfortunately we disagree so much it is hard to speak about anything.

What do you mean by mixed economy? See this or this. Nobody says in Rojava: we are creating a mixed economy. Here is a definition and aims of mixed economy. The imperatives of these two are explicitly opposed. Rojava says there will be political control over private capital in favor of collectives (so they complete each other) on the other hand in mixed economy state helps capital to grow. So at least “discursively” they two can not be considered under the same category.

So why do you call their economy a mixed one? In my own humble opinion you avoid defining what you mean by terms (this can be applied to others like state or nationalism or political representation but, let’s not make this longer) or use them so loose anything “bad” for you can easily fits in. I think only you can solve this issue for yourself. This leaves me with two options about your argument:

1) So if your argument then is whatever they say/wish/aspire/theorize is unimportant in the grand schema of things and they will just be another "mixed economy" (the term of course comes with its baggage of legitimization of exploitation as described by above link). I think this is just wrong kind of thinking that stops communism to be relevant again. This is just repetition of the same endless debates and images of revolution that newer come and saved the humanity. I do not speak this language. I wish you do very well with it, to form a "social" movement (let alone a one with revolutionary potential) with it.(But please do not take your anger from Kurds, who even still can be killed in Turkey just because they spoke Kudish in public.)

2) But if you just only mean that ”if they end up being a mixed economy they will not be a real revolution”. So if they give up or fail to realize their autonomy democratic programme. Yeah I agree with you on that to full extend. I have reasons to believe they won't myself, but I understand if you just can not be sure about it.

About Ocalan, I did my best to explain it in the above posts. I can not improve my argument. If you engage with my argument, maybe I can get a better hint to reconsider my position. I currently find your position -excuse me for language- completely arrogant and unhelpful (as I said above same with Turkish nationalists and Bourgeoisie; though you mean good yourself, I know).

About relations with imperialists well I mean of course everyone is prone to corruption and should be checked by organizations to eliminate emergence of privileged individuals or classes of people. But I do think these are necessary negotiations, and I want "democratic autonomists" to participate in them (otherwise Kurdish or Arab nationalists or Islamist will do). However I see nothing right now that proves your point that some people in PKK (or PKK as a whole) acting for its own benefit and against people. Let’s speak this on a case or anything concrete.

Best wishes

Red Marriott
Apr 3 2015 15:33
kurre wrote:
Nobody says in Rojava: we are creating a mixed economy.

I didn’t say that. If you read what I said it was that whatever occurs in the Rojava democratic experiments is not decisive if the PKK politicians realise their repeatedly stated goal of a market economy. As I said above;

the dislocation between what supporters claim is the anti-statist and anti-nationalist on-ground practice and goals of the Rojava communes etc and the clearly statist and nationalist political behaviour, alliances and statements of the PKK leadership.

In previous debates/threads in which you were involved these PKK statements have been highlighted. And it’s present in the articles you link to above. The 1st article by a PKK economist you link to talks of wages, prices, private and state-run services etc, private capital etc;

Private capital is not forbidden but it is made to suite our ideas and system. We are developing a system around cooperatives and communes. However this does not prove that we are against private capital. They will complete each other. We believe that when the cooperative system is developed moral private capital can be added in certain parts of the economy. The society of Rojava will be made better in this way and taken away from the liberal system. In the liberal system the big fish swallows the small fish and there is no morality. In our canton a Commerce and Industry Organization was founded and has 7 thousand members. Here there is only thing that is forbidden and that is finance capital.

I think describing that, as I did, as a “mixed market economy” is fair - a mix of local, foreign, private and state/central authority/national or whatever capitals rather than exclusively either state/national capitalist or free market.

The 2nd link has similar stuff;

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, for them to use. ... It shouldn’t be a capitalist system, one without respect for the environment; nor should it be a system which continues class contradictions and in the end only serves capital.

Private property, wages, commodities, tax, foreign investment etc – but it’s not capitalism? What is this non-capitalist “commerce” they speak of, then? Private capital - and so classes - without class contradictions? Private property in the service of all?! Was there ever a free marketeer capitalist who didn’t say their wealth creation/profit contributed to the general social good?

The ‘mixed economy’ article you linked wasn’t the basis of my description so isn’t really relevant but it doesn’t contradict PKK statements of economic goals;

For historical and other reasons the relationship between state and private production is changeable and, moreover, varies from country to country. State enterprises may he turned over to private concerns, and private enterprises may be nationalized; the state may be a shareholder in private concerns or keep them alive through subsidies. The interpenetration of private and state production occurs in a variety of combinations.

kurre wrote:
But if you just only mean that ”if they end up being a mixed economy they will not be a real revolution”. So if they give up their autonomy democratic programme. Yeah I agree with you on that to full extend.

According to descriptions by PKK that is what they apparently are creating and what PKK intend to establish as an end.

From a historical perspective it is truly bizarre that a Party with a long Stalinist/nationalist history should in the 21st C adopt and attempt to impose across a wide region the ideology of a dead libertarian municipalist like Bookchin, ideas that were not even particularly popular among today’s anarchists or anyone else. But perhaps it’s only a Stalinist-type form of organisation that could in this day & age have imposed such a rapid conversion among so many – apparently based (or presented as such) on the whims and reading habits of a glorified Leader in his remote prison cell. It may be that a major shift in PKK ideology was inevitable anyway as material conditions changed, but the form its taken was determined by the Stalinist organisational form and its personality cult.

kurre wrote:
Unfortunately we disagree so much it is hard to speak about anything.

Agreed. I think developments in Rojava & PKK will soon enough reveal the truth of the matter.

Apr 3 2015 17:27

16 years is not a short time for an ideological change. Further, we should expect even more rapid change of ideas in a situation of state collapse, crisis and revolution as has been the situation in 2012.

Practice on the ground will always matter more than rhetorical claims.

Apr 3 2015 18:41

No, this is not revolution from below (Ocalan chose his version of two stage revolution theory from different circumstances in the early 2000s, not 2012) Ocalan and PKK should not be presented as examples socialism from below.

Red Marriott
Apr 3 2015 20:38
Flint wrote:
16 years is not a short time for an ideological change. Further, we should expect even more rapid change of ideas in a situation of state collapse, crisis and revolution as has been the situation in 2012.
Practice on the ground will always matter more than rhetorical claims.

But the relationship between the practice & the rhetorical claims matter a lot – otherwise why would you debate them or make your own claims? Even the Rojava supporter, Kurdish anarchist Zaher Baher, recognises the dangers and importance of the relationship between practice and rhetoric;

[he] warns "It is very unfortunate that I found many ideologists among the PYD and Tev-Dem members, especially when it came to discussions about Abdullah Öcalan’s ideas. These people are very stuck with Öcalan’s principles, making them refer to his speeches and books in our discussions. They have total faith in him and, to a certain extent, he is sacred. If this is the faith that people have and put in their leader and are scared of him, it is very frightening and the consequences will not be good. For me, nothing should be sacred and everything can be criticized and rejected if they need to be. "

Flint wrote:
we should expect even more rapid change of ideas in a situation of state collapse, crisis and revolution

Should we? I haven’t seen evidence of similar changes in other places with similar breakdowns of normality. I'd think it's more the presence of the PKK that have meant such changes have occurred as they have. On the time scale of change; there’s a big difference between an ordained ‘change of Party line’ ordered from the Leadership and obeyed by the faithful rank’n’file and a growing revolutionary practice and consciousness evolving from self-activity and collective self-organisation that would be a necessary part of an anti-capitalist movement. The 'novelty' of Rojava appears to be that the 'self-organisation/democracy' seems to be largely a result of a hierarchical change of line and directive from above.

But the official PKK ideology – its pro-market social democratic programme etc – however it became popular, simply isn’t anti-capitalist anyway. The personality cult and, eg, recent reports of how new recruits are going through rapid ideological training “so we know what we are fighting for”, as one was quoted, make one question the depth of the process of ‘revolutionary change’ – whatever its content. As Zaher says;

The PYD, United Democratic Party and PKK are behind the mass democracy movement there and are political parties having all the conditions that a political party needs in that part of the world: hierarchical organization, leaders and lead people, and all orders and commands from the leaders coming down to the bottom of the party. There has not been much consultation with members when it comes to making a decision on big issues. They are very well-disciplined, have rules and orders to go by, secrets and secret relationships with different parties, either in power or not, in different part of the world.

So he confirms what I’ve repeatedly pointed out; the continued autonomy of the political elite to pursue their own particular and separate interests. One great contribution of anarchists to revolutionary theory is to point out the danger to revolutionary social movements of the continued existence of any separate hierarchical representative power able to exist outside and autonomous of the movement. Most ‘anarchist’ Rojava supporters appear to ignore this crucial truth.

Apr 3 2015 22:01

You are aware that Zaher Baher has said things since and seems to have become more optimistic about the situation? You have read that right? If you haven't, please do.

"Should we? I haven’t seen evidence of similar changes in other places with similar breakdowns of normality"

Wasn't that the case in Argentina in 2001, in Portugal 1974, Italy in the 1960s-70s, France 1968, Hungary '56, Spain 1936, Russia 1917, Paris 1871, etc...? Sure, there are also disruptions in society that can send people to a complete break down in civil society and killing fields (which also are a rapid NEGATIVE change in ideology; one that is also unsustainable). People can change their minds about politics. Rapidly If you don't agree with that, then we'll just disagree.

I'm not a complete spontaneitist or anything. I'm not some naive insurrectionist. I think revolutionists do need to advocate for revolutionary ideas, to engage in fights for immediate reforms and building up the organizations of the working class to build up their capacity to fight. But sometimes things do rapidly change and expand over the course years, months or even days.

I think that the most powerful and convincing revolutionary propaganda though is living examples of social revolutionary situations. Maybe not quite to the extent that George Katsiaficas advocates in the "Eros Effect"; but I think movements can be very influential on each other and the population at large.

The facts on the ground in the Rojava cantons seem to disagree with your opinion of the PYD / Tev-Dem program as just capitalism.

I'm not opposed to the YPG/YPJ having an ideological/political education as part of the program by which they hand out weapons and organize militia. I would expect revolutionaries to propagate their ideas. Particularly with those they are sharing weapons with. How do you think it should be done?

Apr 3 2015 21:56

zaher also says after your quote that tev-dem is the exact opposite of top down structure and consists of many people not members of pyd. So what is your position on tev-dam then? Do you support and wish tev-dam to florish as much as you wish pyd? it would help to debate if you could extend your debate there (I am on phone sorry)

Apr 3 2015 22:04

Red m.

What do you also think about this comment of Zaher on people's voluntary political participation in kursish freedom movement for themselves ? Is Zaher only true only when you can use him? (of course if I predict your answer wrong I am sorry) I am on phone I will reply longer after you later

Apr 3 2015 22:35

I just can not stop myself who does not except the possible dangers or failures of Rojava as I have already stated that it might fail (see above) but you do not see that or comment that and just jump over it and invent an enemy who I dont know why believes future is 100 percent revolution.
I did commented on possible problems of revolution (or some sort of post establishment) at şeast in two comments in other topixs now.
one of which was based on the class character. however you quote above some stuff and say there are wages or capital etc... I am sorry but none of this is capitalism. You are again using categories vaugely. The capitalism -as far as I understand can only occur when free work force (which lacks means of production) meets capitalist enterprise. (Or come with your own definition) this is basic example coming from England
I actually seaeched now and I could not find any mention of wage for example in the texts I quoted. Or what is exactly a wage if you work in cooperative operated coşlectively and you get a wage is it automatically capitalism? I do not think so.
define your terms please give me as much space to work with as I give to you (for example I tried a definition above)

Apr 3 2015 22:56

No it is not at all ok to call it mixed market exonomy. Why dont you call it mixed cooperative economy? How do you know for sure the free labor that has no other ways to ensure his/her survival meet capital there thus creating capitalism? My references does not mention any such thing, but you say you saw (even bizarely wages) Lastly if I just can not see them because of phone ( small screen shitty android) I am sorry.

Apr 3 2015 23:38


Apr 3 2015 23:38


Apr 3 2015 23:36

About wages, it has been stated that many of the worker council enterprises don't have wages. Further, that Tev-Dem wants to end the use of currency in the cooperative economy, that they want to abolish money (and they have already abolished interest). This touches on remuneration debates. If this is true of their program, it actually places them as more communistic than the anarcho-syndicalis t Workers Solidarity Alliance and the participatory economists who advocate remuneration.

But it may also be a practical reality of poor people abandoned by the state and the bourgeoisie who were already cash poor and now have no markets too even use with whatever Syrian state currency they have. With the collapse of banks, one economic analyst in Rojava said people just stuff money into mattresses, as it currently has no utility.

On the other hand there is enough money floating around that Tev-Dem imposes price controls on essential commodities. Also Tev-Dem takes action against hoarding commodities like sugar (and other commodities to, likely).

The way to resolve these seemingly conflicting statements is to assume that the solidarity/collective economy is in different degrees of development. It varies from canton to canton, neighborhood to neighborhood, village to village, refugee camp to refugee camp, and probably enterprise to enterprise.

Apr 3 2015 23:45

Flint I am always suprised how come you come up with this interesting empirical evidence whenever needed. I mean when I read many of your references or quotes I go like stupid brain why I forget to mention this thing I also read, but speculate instead.

Red Marriott
Apr 3 2015 23:52
Flint wrote:
You are aware that Zaher Baher has said things since and seems to have become more optimistic about the situation? You have read that right? If you haven't, please do.

Yes, I’m aware of that but my point - his original description of the evolution of the top down directive for the democratic experiment - isn’t contradicted by it. And I very much doubt that the structure and function he described for PKK and other parties (in his earlier piece) has changed – their reported recent international diplomacy efforts with various heads of state don’t indicate that.

Flint wrote:
Red wrote:
"Should we? I haven’t seen evidence of similar changes in other places with similar breakdowns of normality"

Wasn't that the case in Argentina in 2001, in Portugal 1974, Italy in the 1960s-70s, France 1968, Hungary '56, Spain 1936, Russia 1917, Paris 1871, etc...? Sure, there are also disruptions in society that can send people to a complete break down in civil society and killing fields (which also are a rapid NEGATIVE change in ideology; one that is also unsustainable). People can change their minds about politics. Rapidly If you don't agree with that, then we'll just disagree.

I should’ve indicated I meant in recent similar breakdowns; Congo etc. All your examples are from very different historical periods and situations – and only 1936 & 1917 could be said to have any single organisation as a player with a comparable influence to PKK, whose influence and relation to the movement was my original point.

Rojava supporters repeatedly try to refute criticisms by showing how ultra-democratic things are on the ground. Aside from how convincing the evidence for that is – even if one accepts it, the vulnerability of events on the ground to unchallenged political power remains. The evidence of pro-market intentions by PKK is abundant in their own statements. All of which makes the bland claims of an “anticapitalist” revolution very problematic. Excuse that as you like, the reality remains. A genuine anti--capitalist revolution would have to quickly attack the pro-capitalists in its midst, the PKK leaders; we could expect that to deserve its name it would already be doing so. And a serious look at the history of your list above of former radical movements would show how the exploited were often finally defeated by ‘their own’ externalised political representation; by their tolerance of it.

kurre; I’ve patiently spelled out enough my position to you and you either can’t or choose not to deal with what I actually say. Your latest posts are also dissolving into incoherence. So I've had enough of pointlessly repeating ourselves to each other.

Apr 4 2015 00:00

Well I am fine finishing speaking nonesense with you. As you even can not say what capitalism is and use every term vaugely. It only helps to prove your subjective points by butchering discussion, eventhough people are willing. Goodbye

Red Marriott
Apr 4 2015 00:05

Good riddance!