Rojava, Bakur and the pitfals of economic revolution

This is my comment and answer to an extensive account, provided by Zaher Baher from Haringey Solidarity Group and Kurdistan Anarchists Forum after a trip throughout Bakur (Northern Kurdistan) just before Turkish election two weeks ago.

Whole text is available here. I have copied some fragments, to show context of my comments.

As it was written just before the election, I am largely omitting this aspect, as historical. I try to focus on items that are more future-oriented.

> * To rebuild Kobane, humanitarian aid and materials have to enter
> through Syria or Turkey. So that reconstruction of Kobane whether
> thorough the big corporations or through the international
> solidarity, has to be through Turkey.At present Turkey only allows
> humanitarian aid and winning the election is extremely important for
> rebuilding Kobane.

Opening access to Kobane was one of the most important issues, until recently the communication between Cizre and Kobane was restored. At the same time closing the gap cut off main communications and logistics corridor between Turkey and Daesh. Now, the supplies can get to Kobane from Bashur, which is hopefully much easier to negotiate than forcing Turkey all the time.

It is my serious and personal frustration that, over several months, since the liberation of Kobane town, my efforts did not make anybody in my direct environment (mostly in Poland) launch a single demonstration, single protest to push towards opening a logistic corridor from Turkey to Kobane. All that happened were few “general solidarity” events, aimed mostly on “raising awareness” of the very existence of Rojava and DSA. It is good, but not good enough, when we may see Rojava being abandoned by the “anti-ISIS” coalition and invaded by Turkey at the same time.

That was the main reason, why I decided to launch Amargi, with its very specific profile and why I seek allies to expand its operations.

What we see clearly is that Erdogan is not going to accept peacefully his relative political defeat nor the fact that now ISIS is cut off from his material support, while Rojava has approximately 400 km of continuous land border with Turkey.

First aggressive propaganda, then the support for the sneaky terrorist attack in Kobane show that Erdogan is ready to crush Rojava with all his army. Only the threat of political consequences keeps him at bay. And it is not about the internal politics. The situation clearly resembles that of EZLN, where it is external, global political support and recognition, which stops the Mexican state from using its military force.

The part of the program we developed for Amargi is focused exactly on buiding “international grassroot recognition” for DSA — in a number of ways.

> Second: the DSA in Bakur and their differences with Rojava:

While I — and generally we in Europe — Have SOME knowledge about theory, the praxis of DSA — be it in Bakur or Rojava — is largely unknown. Every insider report is priceless.

> There are many similarities of the DSA in Bakur and that of Rojava.
> What both experiments share are self-reliance and belief that things
> can be changed and done differently. Creating different radical local
> groups, committees, people assemblies and the House of People in the
> villages, on streets, neighborhoods and towns. In both experiments
> there are working voluntaries; making decisions collectively through
> the people assembly or the House of People. This resulted in bringing
> back decision making into the hands of communities. This also leads
> to decentralization and weakening the authority of the state.

In the Eastern Europe there used to exist some concepts of “parallel polis”, but they never got enough traction, until it was too late. Only recently, there are some symptoms of revival.

> * The DSAs in Rojava have been recognized to great extend in the
> world. They have received a good attention, solidarity and support
> from leftist, communists, trade unionists, socialists, anarchists
> and     In contrast the DSAs in Bakur have been recognized as a work
> of PKK and PKK, which for the US, Turkey and the Western countries is
> a terrorist organisation.  Their poisoning propaganda has even
> affected the value and importance of the DSAs there.

I think this is the main point we should take into consideration. There is no sense to wait until Rojava is stable and then start supporting Bakur DSAs. As these two regions are closely related, the support should go in parallel (while perhaps not identical) ways. Both similarities and differences should be taken into consideration.

> * The continuation of ISIS war in Rojave is costing many lives, the
> stability of the region. This war also affects very badly the
> financial position of this area. The situation is paralyzing most of
> the economics, politics and social future planning. Furthermore,
> there is a continues threats from other terror forces, like Syrian
> free army and the Assad’s forces as well. Whereas, in Bakur and until
> now, there has not been any war.
> * Rojava is an agricultural region and it is very rich in oil, gas
> and phosphates. Equally, Bakur is a very fertile land and ample
> source of water. The river Tigris is going through this region along
> with some other rivers. In addition the Van Lake is in the heart of
> Kurdistan. The area with it’s high and snow covered mountains can be
> a tourist attraction too. With all these resources the area can be
> self-sufficient, without a need from the central government.
> * Capitalism has not been developed in Rojava yet. There are no big
> corporations, companies or factories. Therefore, the ugly face of
> capitalism cannot be seen here. In contrast in Bakur there is some
> form of undeveloped capitalism. This is   as a result of a deliberate
> racist policy from the regime, to exclude Kurdistan from major
> developments.

Apparently, in this particular situation, the hostile attitude of the state turned into some good. Compared with Bashur, which is already penetrated by global capitalist institutions, Bakur is relatively safe — as long as it is under the people’s control AND the people not get manipulated into accepting trinkets of capitalism. In 1990’s, when there was a change of political and economic system in Poland, we were under pretty strong propaganda pressure, which turned us easily into aspiring capitalist society. Now, more and more of us are looking for a way out of the “American dream”, turned nightmare.

> * The trade unions in Bakur are very strong and play a big role in
> Municipalities, the radical groups, people assembly, House of People
> and also in the work places as well. They have good relations with
> the three main Turkey trade unions. Obviously emerging the unions
> there relate to the industrialization of Bakur although not as
> advance as in the rest of Turkey.   On the other hand the number of
> the trade unionists and unions in Rojava are very small; therefore,
> they have a very little role to play.

I would like to point out, that trade unions are closely related with _capitalist_ industrialization. They serve as the power of workers to counterbalance the power of owners. In their classic form they are only needed as long as the industry or factory is under capitalist ownership. In context of the ideas of DSA, their natural evolution seems to go towards workers’ cooperatives, owning — or just managing, for the benefit of community — their factories.

In this sense, trade unions even should disappear with capitalism. Otherwise THEIR power would need another counterbalance.

At the same time Rojava can — and probably will — skip this stage, getting straight towards cooperative-based solidarity economy.

> In one of my meeting with people in Van they talked in details about
> the situation there. They talked about the heavy present of police
> and military forces in their area. These forces put a lot of pressure
> on people; harassing, humiliating and the threat of arrest. Despite
> of all these, the activists there continue to further their course to
> progress there DSA. They work in variety of groups; such as
> political, language, health services, women, environment and
> agriculture. It is estimated that DSAs can manage to 80% of Van. In
> 1056 villages there are people assemblies and in 40% of the area
> there has been some form of self managements. What is worth
> mentioning here is women’s 50% participations in these self
> management organizations.
> In addition of the agricultural nature of Van; the region has a great
> potential to become a great tourist attraction. The House of people
> in Van has future plans to make it more attractive for tourists and
> have Eco-tourist projects to protect people and the environment.
> One of the other problems facing people is the poor production up to
> 50% less than expected. This is due to the distraction activities of
> the regime’s forces. There is also the culture of lack of confidence
> among people and unwillingness of sharing, lack of freedom and
> political problems.
> However, I was told by people there; that they face a mammoth task.
> It is not easy to overturn 500 years influence of the Turkish
> authority. Throughout of these years people have been marginalised,
> isolated and treated with utter disrespect. To change all these
> require a lot of work on the ground and on the individual level as
> well. But what is promising is the zeal and determination of the
> activists in the area.
> In my meeting with co-president of HDP, another party chief and
> co-leader of Colemerg Municipalities, it became apparent that DSAs in
> the region are facing major problems. The situation gets worse more
> you get closer to the boarder. In fact there are areas are restricted
> by the military and people are not allowed to enter.
> Despite all this; the Municipalities in Colemerg are determined to
> implement their main Ecology plan. They have agreed that Colemerg to
> be the Ecology Pilot. It has also been decided to work on this
> project as soon as the election is over.

In certain aspects situation in Bakur is harder than in Rojava and the ways we — friends and allies of DSA — could help are much more complicated.

There are obvious threats, that can be somehow remedied: direct terror of the state, overall moral and political fatigue of the society, wrong ideas and principles applied in the past, technical and organisational glitches, lack of education or solidarity.

There are also threats invisible, coming from the most friendly and benevolent actors. From those who — from within or from outside — try to improve the situation and to support revolution the only way they know.

I do not know specific situation in Bakur, but I strongly believe all people involved should carefully analyze every suggested “revolutionary” solution, especially coming from the area of Western civilisation. Even so called “alternative” concepts were usually developed for communities to interact with the capitalist surrounding. While it may be helpful in a short perspective, the impact of such tools can be disastrous for the whole idea. Convenient technical, economic or political tools usually become addictive and start taking over. As the American saying goes: if you are a hammer, everywhere you see nails.

Very careful and educated _political_ analysis is in order, to filter out as many “Trojan horses” as possible. This is also part of the self-assumed role of Amargi, which we hope to start playing as soon as Amargi House in Thessaloniki occurs.

I am also going to address this aspect in my soon-to-come article on hackerspaces throughout Bakur and Rojava.

> Kobane and its Reconstruction:

> Now Kobane and the whole of Rojava enter the economic test which is
> difficult indeed.  Many countries can resist militarily occupation
> but cannot survive an economic one.  Launching an economic war by the
> big corporations and the international financial institutions can be
> devastating.

I agree by all means. I live in Greece now and, even being an outsider, I can see such a war up-close and in all its ugliness.

> This may start with the reconstruction of Kobane.  Rebuilding it
> could bring death or the survival of Rojava as a whole by initiating
> its social revolution.
> In my opinion rebuilding Kobane may take one of the following roots:
> * Either through the work of big corporations and financial
> institution, like IMF, WB and ECB. This will no doubt benefit the big
> corporation in particular and the capitalist system in general as
> happened, by imposing so many dramatic conditions, in Africa and
> South America.
> * Or through international support and solidarity of the leftists,
> communists, trade unionists, socialists, anarchists and libertarians.
> This of course is a slow process but it is the only way that Kabana
> can be rebuild solidly and avoiding the influence of the big
> corporations.
> * It could also be done by contracting out some of the projects to
> some companies to supply materials and expertise but the actual work
> to be done collectively by the people. This is provided a close watch
> and scrutiny of the DSAs and the Tev-Dem. Could be imposed.

I believe the second and third ideas should be combined. External friends and allies can bring a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge. Also, THEY can form solidarity-based enterprises to provide goods and services for Kobane (and whole Rojava) reconstruction and redevelopment. Such entities will be much more cooperative and willing to conform rules defined by Tev-Dem and DSAs.

When they gain practice and trust, they will be also good partners for Bakur development. Returning home, they will take their experience and carry best practices of social and political way of Rojava wherever they go. A peaceful export of revolution may become very powerful side effect of this approach.

> There is currently a big discussion among the politicians, academics
> and economists about the rebuilding Kobane and the future economy of
> Rojava.  In fact a big conference was held in Amed in early May
> regarding rebuilding Kobane but so far no decision has been taken.
> While I was in Bakur I spoke to many people in important position.
> They all rejected the big corporations and explained that this is
> their own official and firm view.
> Making no decision in rebuilding kobane through the big corporations
> and the international financial institutions is excellent decision
> against the interests of   US and the Western countries and keeps
> their powers out. In the meantime it is our duty all to help and
> support whatever we can to participate in reconstruction of Kobane in
> order to protect this shiny experiment. We should not let the blood
> of thousands of people who scarified themselves to liberate Kobane
> and protecting the social revolution in Rojava to go in vain.

Amargi PL is keen (and almost able) to take part in this endeavor. We have access to the knowledge and specialists from the “open source” environment, reaching beyond the computer and internet issues. We want to help people in Bakur and Rojava built their own infrastructure of Research and Development, not constrained but capitalist way of thinking. Instead, aligned with political principles of DSA.

Technology, even advanced one, can be available for and controlled by the people. Living in democratic and free society needs — and benefits from — “liberatory technologies”, mostly abandoned in the West, as they damage capitalist profits and cripple state control. But they are available and they can work for the social revolution. Our modest wish is to help people from Rojava and Bakur achieve this result.


Turning stories into reality.

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Posted in Inspirations

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