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(en) Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group: LESSONS OF THE ROJAVA REVOLUTION by ablokeimet
Thu, 7 Nov 2019 09:23:28 +0200
This leaflet was first distributed on 2 November 2019 at a Melbourne rally to protest the
Turkish invasion of northern Syria. ---- Abandoned by the United States, the Rojava
Revolution in northern Syria is being crushed. On the one side, there is the tyrant
Erdogan and his genocidal Turkish nationalism. On the other side there is the butcher
Assad with his Arab chauvinism. The balance of military forces is vastly unequal and, if
any of the social achievements of Rojava survive, it will only be because Assad sees
Erdogan as a greater long term threat. ---- The defeat of the Rojava Revolution is not the
end, though. The Kurds have been defeated many times, and betrayed by putative allies just
as often, but have always risen again. So it is vital to learn the correct lessons. What
were the successes of the Rojava Revolution? Why are the Kurds suddenly confronted by two
vastly better armed enemies? And what should be done in future?
The Rojava Revolution achieved much in northern Syria. The most obvious is the defeat of
Daesh and the fall of its so-called "Caliphate". The YPG-YPJ's heroic defence of Kobanê
and the subsequent drive to the east and south rid the world of a truly horrific
barbarism. While Daesh's "Caliphate" was an impossibility, it produced vast quantities of
blood in the attempt to create one.
More important than the military victories, though, were the civil achievements of
democratic confederalism. The improvement in the status of women in northern Syria will
echo through the generations. Even if patriarchal religion forces women back into
servitude, the memory of their freedom under democratic confederalism will live on and
fire a burning hatred for their new oppressors. And the experience of local democracy, of
different ethnic groups getting along in peace and equality, will only sharpen people's
detestation of the cruelty and oppression of the butcher Assad. The Rojava Revolution will
live on in the hearts of the people who saw the benefits.
The Road to the Impasse
The Kurds are the largest nation on Earth without a State of their own. Instead, Kurdistan
is divided between four other States, each of which subjects its Kurdish minority to
national oppression. The struggle for Kurdish national liberation has been going on since
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the imperialist carve-up of West Asia.
If the Kurds haven't yet achieved their liberation, it's not for the want of trying. They
have risen in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran many times. Each time they faced the same
fundamental problem - they were outnumbered and economically marginalised in the country
where they revolted. Their allies have always deserted them when it was convenient and
exposed them to bloody retribution. It is famously said that the Kurds have "no friend but
the mountains". Unfortunately, while the mountains may assist Kurdish fighters to survive,
they cannot help the Kurds to victory.
Abdullah Öcalan, the primary leader of the Kurdish struggle in recent decades, has had
some important insights and developed new ideas. Borrowing heavily from US Anarchist
Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), he rejects the State as a vehicle for national liberation and
advocates bottom-up democracy, which he calls "democratic confederalism". He also insists
on equality for women, saying all bodies should have two co-chairs, one male and one female.
Democratic confederalism has been an important advance in northern Syria, allowing
equality for Kurds and for a range of ethnic and social minorities, as well as those Arabs
willing to work within its structures. Democratic confederalism also contributed to the
establishment of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which absorbed the YPG-YPJ. It has
not, though, been sufficient to counter the political isolation of the Kurds and their
suppression by militarily superior forces.
To counter that isolation, the Peoples Democratic Union (PYD) chose to ally with the
United States. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group opposed this decision from the
beginning (Victory to the Rojava Revolution! 25 October 2014), warning that democratic
confederalism and US imperialism were incompatible. We called for the PYD to break its
alliance with the US and throw in its lot with the workers and oppressed masses of West
Asia instead (Drop the Charges Against Jamie Williams! 6 August 2015). And, in the wake of
the USAF bombing of Raqqa, we said in The Anvil (Sep-Oct 2017):
The MACG recognises the right of groups struggling for national liberation to acquire arms
from wherever they are to be had and to be judged on what they do with them. However, the
collaboration of the SDF with the USAF, and allowing US special forces to be embedded
within them, is politically disastrous and must be condemned as a betrayal and a strategic
blunder of the first order.
The alliance with the US prevented the Kurds from allying with the oppressed masses of
Syria, Iraq, Iran and, most crucially, Turkey. When the United States betrayed them, as
everybody surely knew they would, the Kurds were left where they are today - with no
friend but the mountains.
We have no military advice to give the SDF. They will make the best of the choices they
face. It is clear, though, that little or nothing of the democratic confederal bodies will
be left standing. The struggle must move to a new phase. The question of the hour is what
that phase should be.
The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group firmly believes that the only road forward is
class struggle. Öcalan, when he took up Bookchin's great insights, also took up his most
profound mistake - the rejection of class struggle. The workplace is the source of the
capitalists' power and also their Achilles' heel. And it is also the means by which the
Kurds can find better friends than the United States or whatever regional power might be
pleased to use them as expendable pawns.
In Turkey, for example (similar observations apply in other countries in the region),
Kurdish workers are an important component of the working class in cities like Istanbul,
Ankara and Izmir. There, they are viciously exploited by the Turkish capitalists - as are
workers of Turkish ethnicity. Joint struggle against the capitalists is in their clear
material interests. National chauvinism, however, has been a key ideology binding Turkish
workers to their masters and crippling their struggles. Only a small minority of the
workforce is covered by genuine unions.
The burning necessity is to take democratic confederalism into the workplace and make it
the basis of the struggle. Bottom-up democracy, with autonomy even at the lowest level,
allows both unity and flexibility, while building trust between groups of workers who have
sometimes been in conflict before. And there is a name for this strategy. It is called
Anarcho-Syndicalism and was once practised in Spain by the CNT, which had a million
members in 1936.
Democratic confederalism is a strategy of workplace struggle that can unite workers in
Turkey and across West Asia against all oppressors. Such unity will bring all other strata
of the oppressed masses in behind them. This, in turn, will fatally weaken the sheiks, the
generals, the Islamists and, last but not least, the Zionist war machine in Israel.
Revolution will be on the agenda.
The Rojava Revolution is being buried. But, if its democratic confederalism is sown in the
workplaces, it will flower again, in a riot of freedom.
TAKE DEMOCRATIC CONFEDERALISM
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