Saturday, 1 August 2015

Democratic Confederalism: The Kurdish Revolution in Rojava


The frontline of the fight against the so-called 'Islamic State' has not come from the intervention of Western forces but instead has been most fiercely fought by indigenous Kurdish people in defense of their native homeland, freedom and way of life. Since the start of the Syrian civil war and the withdrawal of Assad from the Kurdish region of Northern Syria, the militants of the YPG have not only successfully held off the fascistic designs of ISIS for regional and worldwide dominance but have asserted their autonomy in a revolutionary and libertarian way.

The Kurdish people constitute a stateless nation which stretches over the current borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The YPG is the armed-wing of the Kurdish People's Union, which is linked to the PKK that is based in the Kurdish region of Eastern Turkey. The PKK, which has been fighting a long guerrilla war with the Turkish government to establish a Kurdish state, is designated a terrorist organisation by the British government and also by many other Western powers.

The PKK is no longer anything remotely like the old-style Marxist-Leninist party it once was. Its own internal evolution, and the intellectual conversion of its own founder, Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish island prison since 1999, have led it to entirely change its aims and tactics. They now say "No we are no Communists."
"When the PKK was founded over 35 years ago, they were first Marxists-Leninists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, they analysed books and articles by philosophers, anarchists, feminists, communalists, and social ecologists. That is how writers like Murray Bookchin came into their focus. In a PKK Congress 1995, the PKK called the Soviet Communism a phase of “primitive and brutal socialism” and called for a new period in the socialist struggle. By the inspiration of Murray Bookchin the PKK Leader Öcalan, an atheist and ex-muslim, founded the democratic confederalism, which means a “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society.“

The principles of democratic confederalism are participatory democracy, local autonomy,
gender equality, religious tolerance and an ecological socialist economy. This includes autonomy for all ethnic groups. Democratic Confederalism has as its goal the autonomy of society: in other words, instead of the state governing society, a politicized society manages itself."

The PKK has declared that it no longer seeks to create a Kurdish state based on a centralised government. Instead it is calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy. In this way, they hope, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a worldwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of vast bureaucratic governments and corporate power. Under the pressure of war the Kurds have set about achieving this liberation.

Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance based on the ethnic make-up of each municipality (for example, this could include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman.) There are women’s and youth councils, and a women's army, the “YJA Star” militia (the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

Right now the YPG needs military support to defeat ISIS and are welcoming Westerners with combat experience to fight alongside them. This provides a much-needed counter-balance to the disgrace of those travelling on British passports to join Islamic State --a phenomena of Westernised Muslims themselves becoming neo-imperialist players in the Middle-east.

At home we can learn a lot from the Kurdish resistance to oppressive totalitarian governments and extremist ideologies, guided by a constitutional model for regional self-government.  We too can build our own systems of popular self-management, based on libertarian and traditional models, that work not only for the majority or minority but for all!

Biji Kurdistan and Free England!

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