A response to the article "Rojava: An anarcho-syndicalist perspective"

A response to the article "Rojava: An anarcho-syndicalist perspective"

This article was emailed to me (boomerang) by the author, Hüseyin Civan, a member of the DAF (Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet), an anarchist group in Turkey. He'd previously requested that I share it on Libcom. It is a response to the article "Rojava: An Anarcho-Syndicalist Perspective" by a member of the WSA (Workers Solidarity Alliance) which can be found here: http://libcom.org/blog/rojava-anarcho-syndicalist-perspective-18102014 -- and more generally it is a response to criticisms of DAF participating in Rojava.

The effects of social revolutions are not limited by the effect of struggle against political and economical powers in the geographical region where the revolution happens. It's important to see their effect on other different regions along with the intellectual and practical changes this effect brings. Being talked about with Kobanê Resistance ,Rojava Revolution gets more important now to see this effect more clearly.

The reaction and attack of the state and capitalism against what's happening in Rojava, is expected at this point. However, we need to turn our face to the internal debates in social opposition at the same time. It's necessary to emphasize that such debates are an important resort for understanding what the effect of Rojava is.

Since the start of this process, anarchist comrades' behaviors towards understanding Rojava and taking up with the resistance has been quite important for remembering the international solidarity, which we aren't familiar to see in such an organized manner. Again we have experienced that solidarity is our greatest weapon.

This manner of solidarity that was created between anarchists inevitably made the resistance in Kobanê a headline especially among anarchists all around the world.

The paper "Rojava: An anarcho-syndicalist point of view" which was published on several different sites is one of the reflections of this headline. This evaluation of the paper especially aims to correct information about Rojava Revolution and Kobanê Resistance, instead of pointing out positive and negative sides of the paper and making a simple criticism.

Considering different comments may form with the different perspectives of anarchist organizations in different geographical regions; I focused the criticism of paper on the matter of incomplete evaluation of Kurdish freedom struggle and Rojava Revolution. Political criticism against a community which is in a life or death struggle under war conditions can't be made ignoring this condition. Even so if said criticism has certain prejudices and was formed with sharp generalization. And of course, if a huge people's movement is evaluated with a degrading manner...


First of all it's necessary to state that forming a solidarity relationship with Rojava Revolution and Kobanê Resistance is not an emotional relation, unlike comrades with an "anarcho-syndicalist perspective" emphasize. Because anarchist organizations don't base their solidarity relationships on "sympathy". These relationships mostly form considering a political perspective and strategies planned to realize this perspective. Thereby, solidarity and taking up with a struggle aren't far from objectivity.

In different parts of the paper, PKK criticism is tried to be based on party's political history - and with criticism such as short-coming implementation of "libertarian municipality", incomplete state of political transformation and having nationalistic roots; current condition and perspective of Kurdish Movement is being left under prejudice. While doing all these, prejudice is being based on incomplete information, consciously or unconsciously. No one claims Kurdish Freedom Movement is an anarchist movement. Thereby, the practices which are claimed to be short-coming or flawed should be evaluated considering this fact. On the other hand, a people’s movement that value "criticism of the state and the capitalism" so much can't be overlooked by anarchists. This matter can't only be tied to Bookchinist "libertarian municipalism". Movement has referenced many different comrades from Bakunin to Kropotkin on its theoretical relations with anarchism, and could interpret the state problem with a wide perspective. On the other hand, realizing this idea led to a practice which is quite libertarian and non-central. I think this part is very important. This information is based not on quotations from articles and books, but on mutual observation of political organizations that share common ground for struggle.

The condition of Rojava is not as such because of Assad leaving the region or his claimed agreements with global powers. Great social transformation that happened in Rojava two and a half years ago, happened in a conjuncture where political activity forced Middle-East to choose governance of one of two opposing sides (coup-supporting seculars - conservative democrats). Rojava, when "springs" turned into winter in Middle-East region, is people not fitting into these two sides and creating their own solution.

While life is being re-built in Rojava, the non-central structure of social mechanisms being created, insistent emphasis on statelessness, organization of the production-consumption-distribution relations in a way as far from capitalism as possible, self-organization being the warrantor of social process, communes in three different cantons shaping the operation of communes with independent decision processes are undeniably important in this age. Especially, how could an anarchist deny the fact that this process is a promising experience for multiplying with similar examples in different geographical regions?

Let's repeat for comrades that insist on not comprehending. This is not an effort to claim it is an anarchist process. However, the anarchist characteristics of the process in Rojava would make anarchists who struggle for a social revolution happy. This happiness is far from the romanticism that's criticized in the paper, it's about understanding that our political goals and strategies are applicable in such a system, in such an age.

No one can claim that practices of stateless people are negative for anarchists who struggle for a social revolution. Such practices in different geographical regions may develop under their genuine conditions. Claiming these genuine struggles are not adequate with anarchist principles and reducing their importance is exhibiting an understanding of anarchism that rely on theoretical arrogance lacking practice. Another thing in the paper that's worth pointing at is the authenticity of references. It's interesting to reference the expressions of an online group just because they have Kurdistan and anarchist in their name. It's not about the expressions of comrades being right or wrong. It's a problematic question that what political fact the group bases their expressions on, not showing any political activity in Kurdistan region while theoretically criticizing the Kurdish Freedom Movement on a practical level.

While the women's movement in Kurdistan is directly related with the freedom movement, comments that claim the women's movement is apart from this integrity or even against it, are twisting of information. It's a logical flaw to criticize movement as patriarchic while emphasizing on the importance of women's movement in the struggle. Moreover, the logical flaw continues when the claim of Ocalan being a rapist is confirmed through quotes from state's anti-propaganda websites. Another example of references is about "Kurds wanting war to expel Arabs". When you cherry pick a speech disregarding its context, you can use it to support any context of your own. It's clear that the topic of the referred news is about settlers moved by Assad to change the demographic structure of region towards his assimilative goals. Just like Israeli settlers.

Causes can be invented when one tries to be over suspicious. However, it's important to question the relation of these causes with actual facts. It's a mistake to try to define Kurdish Freedom Movement as a nationalist movement. This definition and the likes overlook the transformation of the movement and claim that it continues its old political structure. A perspective that has no knowledge of the practices of process, and has only criticizing articles as a source of information, is extremely problematic. Because a massive part of these critics are worded by statist mindset and its extensions. A healthy criticism can be made by observing and experiencing the political practices. Every criticism that lacks a vision of geographical region and practicality, carry the danger of falling into orientalism.


We spoke before about the process in Rojava and the movement not being anarchist. Another lacking thing is evaluation of Kurdish people's freedom struggle apart from the historical fact that they have been struggling for centuries in Mesopotamian region. Those who draw away from the truth for ideological correctness and devaluate people's centuries long struggle, are betraying their revolutionary responsibilities and should pay attention to whose front they are placing themselves at.

To perceive the classes in a shallow vision and trying to interpret social struggles just with economical struggles is to create a hierarchy between the struggles of the oppressed. An anarchist point of view that limits the oppressed to workers and disregards other relations of power contradicts the history of anarchist movement. Revolutionary history of anarchism is full of economical, political and social struggles of the oppressed. To overlook the effect of movement on people's freedom movements from Europe to Far East Asia in different centuries, to exclude the practical feeding of this effect to class struggles in South America, is to ignore the integrated structure of anarchist movement.

We are not fortunetellers, we can't possibly know what will happen in Rojava a month or a year from now. We can't know that this social transformation which not only gives us hope as revolutionaries that struggle in a geographically close region, but also feeds our struggle in the regions that we struggle in, would move towards a positive or negative future. But we are revolutionary anarchists. We can't just sit aside, watch what's happening and comment; we take part in social struggles and take action for an anarchist revolution.

Long live the Rojava Revolution!

Long live the Kobanê Resistance!

Long live the Revolutionary Anarchism!

Hüseyin Civan (from DAF)

Posted By

Nov 3 2014 21:09


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Nov 4 2014 03:37


Nov 4 2014 08:22

Yeah that is good. Thanks for the efforts of writer. It addresses many issues under discussion in a very direct way from the perspective of an anarchist who has the first hand account of the political situation now in Rojava.

Nov 4 2014 13:37

I see this 'democratic confederalism' (alongside with ethnic nationalism) as cross class mutualism through libertarian municipalism (local municipal government) which is being supported and endorsed by Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet - DAF (Hüseyin Civan) et al. There is no political or strategic coherence.

Nov 4 2014 13:39
There is no political or strategic coherence.

On what ground? what do you mean? Coherence to what exactly?

Nov 4 2014 14:12

Where can we see a strategy from the above (other than falling in line with the ruling parties)?

Nov 4 2014 14:17
Where can we see a strategy from the above (other than falling in line with the ruling parties)?

I do not understand what you are saying

Nov 4 2014 14:24

That's because the above "response" contributes nothing - not to us who are looking for an independent working class organisation that we can have any trust in.

Nov 4 2014 15:11

I guess you still do not get it... The thing is "there is no such independent working class organization!" Nothing will satisfy you, because you do not want to be satisfied. Just as international communists will not grasp the influence and importance of the Kurdish movement as they are sure PKK is "genocidally-ethnically-religiously-militaristly-patriarchally nationalistic".

What coherence you want them to have? It is not coherence you asking, it is a total agreement to your ideology! You are possibly as closed-minded as PKK before 2000's. The independent point you want to get is not independent at all, it is just your point! You will be only satisfied someone from region will say: "Yeah they are not organized according to class basis only, just as AES suspected!"

I can say you that myself. Are you satisfied? Go play with your international communist friends now...

klas batalo
Nov 4 2014 15:59

you know this poster is an anarcho-syndicalist right? not a left communist...

btw i found this an interesting and welcome reply to my article. i will reflect on it and the anarkismo one shortly as able...

klas batalo
Nov 4 2014 18:02

Reply to Anarkismo & DAF on Rojava

To call my critique of the PKK an attack on the Rojava Revolution is misleading. My article tried to emphasize support for what I saw as “organizing from below” by the Tev Dem and the women’s factions of the PKK. I appreciate the Anarkismo editorial group and the DAF replies to my perspectives shared on Rojava from my “anarcho-syndicalist” view, for the spirit they wish to hold debate on developments there.

Like the Anarkismo editorial group I believe in sharing honest critique but not liquidation of anarchist political positions. My article did not say we can only show support if an organization is adequately anarchist or internationalist enough, like some purists do. While Anarkismo and DAF comrades say “No one claims Kurdish Freedom Movement is an anarchist movement” many Western anarchists have not been so clear, comparing the entire situation to being a second coming of Spain 1936, just because Bookchin used to be a green anarchist who rejected class struggle for libertarian municipalism. I think recognizing this shows that we are sensible about developments on the ground compared to the uncritical cheerleading of anarcho-liberals and other leftist activists.

First I would like to make some things clear. I support nationally oppressed people’s fight against national oppression. What I do not support is national liberation movements, fronts, parties but the historically existing class fronts within such struggles that anarchists have supported, like workers and popular resistance in their organizations from below. Based on the reports from the KAF of the “directly democratic” Tev Dem and awareness campaign of the “anti-statist” Kurdish women’s organizations (that are autonomous relatively within the rest of the PKK) I saw these manifestations as worthy of highlighting as a hope for the region:

“If these developments are true the Tev-Dem was quite the achievement.”

“As Dilar Dirik an activist close to YJA Star describes in her talk on forming a “Stateless State” as seen in a widely circulated video, the Kurdish women’s movement through the experience of patriarchy in the Kurdish national liberation movement and Kurdish society at large has come to the conclusion that forming a new nation state should no longer be part of the Kurdish liberation project, as the nation state is an inherently patriarchal institution.”

I made clear that it is not critique but our duty as anarcho-syndicalists to not liquidate our politics along with our solidarity and share our perspectives in whatever ways we can. I chose to highlight these organizations like the Tev-Dem and women’s groups/militias as real manifestations on the ground that seemed to be formed on a class basis as well as being non-statist and anti-patriarchal as compared to the mainstream of the PKK.

In regards the PKK and it’s mainstream I would like to clear up a few things as put forward by my critics. I will admit humbly that I did not do enough research into the allegations of assault, and a comrade from Turkey pointed out to me that if these admissions are from Öcalan and not just anti-Kurdish propaganda they are in regards intra-party romantic relationships that were banned in the party’s Marxist-Leninist phase. However I maintain if this is Öcalan speaking he still comes off with loads of machismo in regards his relations with women, and it is not disconnected from reality to point out that the PKK was historically a very patriarchal organization, otherwise why are there autonomously organizing women’s factions within it?

“We agree with “K.B.” that it is precisely in the self-activity of the grassroots masses and women of the PKK and allied structures that the most promising prospects for struggle in the direction of complete liberation lie.” - Anarkismo editorial group

If this is what the Anarkismo editorial group believes then I hardly see why they should try to say I support some abstract pure groupings that don’t exist. My article highlighted what I saw as the grassroots masses (Tev-Dem) and the autonomous women’s structures within the PKK. What I do reject from an anarcho-syndicalist standpoint is the leftover nationalism of hierarchical political parties, especially when there is the chance for grassroots popular and anti-national anti-patriarchal resistance from below in such national struggles. I believe as anarchists there are class lines we do not cross, and critical support for nationalist parties is crossing them.

“To perceive the classes in a shallow vision and trying to interpret social struggles just with economical struggles is to create a hierarchy between the struggles of the oppressed. An anarchist point of view that limits the oppressed to workers and disregards other relations of power contradicts the history of anarchist movement. Revolutionary history of anarchism is full of economical, political and social struggles of the oppressed.” -Hüseyin Civan, DAF

I think this is a great point put forward by our DAF comrade. I disagree with them on my article seeing the Rojava situation only through the lines of the economic. I mostly made a political analysis, since reports are few on the economic makeup and class composition of society there. I did however think that the Tev Dem seemed more connected at least in origin to a real movement of daily working/popular class life (though now there are reports that Tev-Dem has been transformed more into local municipal government of the social democratic administration.) I also saw the social and cultural situation of Kurdish women leading them to favorable non-statist positions. This reminder is an important one to take heed of in the light of left-wing Marxists who tend to bend the stick too far in favor of class reductionist approaches. However it is very much apparent that the nationalist and social democratic program as it is developing is in no way favorable to libertarian communist outcomes, its economic program being cooperativist and seeking a space to integrate relatively autonomously within capitalism, instead of smashing it.

Going forward I hope comrades from Anarkismo and DAF can see my writings as informed by this reply, and can refrain from strawman arguments and friendly fire assertions that my perspective was an “ultra-left” position statement on these issues.

Long live the struggle of the toiling masses and free women!
With the oppressed against the oppressors, always!

Nov 4 2014 20:06

I really preferred the WSA comrade's article.

Nov 5 2014 04:38

both are insightful, goodnight.

Rob Ray
Dec 24 2016 20:34

The author was jailed for over a year earlier this week, seems to have been caught in the Erdogan crackdown sad


Dec 24 2016 20:43
Rob Ray wrote:
The author was jailed for over a year earlier this week, seems to have been caught in the Erdogan crackdown sad


Yes, we saw this is so. I also noted this on an internal list. Disagreements aside, free press, solidarity and freedom!

WSA put something up on our main FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/workersolidarityalliance/?fref=hovercard
Also reposted the above linked Freedom link.

klas batalo
Dec 26 2016 17:37

Free Hüseyin Civan!!!