AntiNote: This is a call, from a non-native activist in Rojava, for those of us elsewhere who support the revolution there to do the greatest, scariest thing we can to make our support truly real: go.
We recognize the perils of such a call. The one making it (as well as the one heeding it) risks transgressing a wide range of activist norms of behavior. However, although it is slightly against character for the AWC, there are things about this call’s stridency and confrontational challenge that we find appealing. Sometimes it’s good to push it—what with the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom and all.
Even if your first instinct is to recoil from such harangue, we urge you to stick it out and reflect on how this attitude could arise and where this comrade kind of has a point. You could go so far as to imagine what it would mean and what it would look like for you to heed such a call—perhaps you already do this. Next thing you know, you’re packing. Stranger things have happened.
Our own hypocrisy will become apparent in a few weeks when you notice that our website has not gone dark and our writers collective is still pursuing sources of quiet, affecting remonstrations against structures of domination. That we don’t put our money where our mouth is ourselves, greasy as that is, is not meant to sabotage the authentic purposefulness of this call.
The article originally appeared on 27 June 2015 at the website of a Poland-based international support and solidarity network, the Rojava Recovery Volunteers. A contact of theirs sent it to them with the request to post it anonymously and unchanged, in the spirit of freedom and solidarity. We have edited it lightly for clarity, hoping the spirit of freedom and solidarity is nonetheless intact.
The time of theory is over. Now is the time of action.
by an anonymous activist in Rojava
“History is made by people who leap into unknowns. If you are satisfied with the status quo, stay where you are.”
I’ve been in Rojava for half a year working in various areas of society. This has been a unique opportunity to get a good overview of the system in action. My libertarian philosophy and practical experience puts me very close to the revolutionaries of Rojava, and they like to hear my ideas and criticism.
I’m writing this after seeing articles warning against “letting Kobanê and the rest of Rojava be defeated by big corporations and international financial institutions.” [We’ve published one of those. –ed.]
My response to this is to ask: OK, what are you doing in the West? Rojava is better than the West. When you stay in the West, you are helping capitalism. You are part of the machine. If you live in the city, consume products or participate in life there, you are a hypocrite.
There are not enough people of radical disposition here. We need people here who can work. Once you are here, it is not stressful. It’s a fertile space and people are listening to you and your ideas. In Europe or America, projects for autonomy are blocked, but here the government listens to you and provides the resources they can. But things can go slow.
The revolution is not certain, and Rojava needs the strong spirit of foreign revolutionaries giving their support here on the ground. It’s not enough to make some token gesture. If you are a revolutionary, then enough with your joke excuses, you have work to do.
Rojava happened because experienced revolutionaries of the PKK came from Bakur (Kurdish Turkey), organized their own underground military force, and then seized power when the Syrian civil war started. Most of the people in the government are from Bakur. They formerly spent years in the mountains organizing and studying philosophy. They know about freedom and politics, and are not stupid.
These are revolutionary people with a deep mind trying to organize in a society that is used to a mindset of submission and respect for authority. In Rojava (like in Europe), normal people don’t care about politics. They really don’t care. They just want nice clothes, clean streets and good schools. They just want to go to work, and have their life sorted out for them without extra effort. If they like Öcalan, it’s because he helps them.
Some Kurds in Rojava don’t understand why they are helping Arabs. There are people in Rojava who like [president of Iraqi Kurdistan] Masoud Barzani despite his being a capitalist crony of the West and a corrupt racist dictator. They see him as helping his people because all the corporations are coming to Bashur (Kurdish Iraq). They say that Erbil is clean, that there are nice buildings and good shops. Very bourgeois things. But this is what normal people in this society desire.
For instance, one difficulty in Rojava is that the economic groups are trying to organize worker cooperatives that serve the needs of people’s lives. However, people are often saying, “Just tell us what to do and pay us a salary.” They don’t want to take charge of their lives, manage a business or think about anything. They just want to be organized and serve their role. This is the old system of Bashar al-Assad, and the oppressed mentality it has created in many people here.
However there is a lot of support for Rojava and Öcalan. Even if normal people have no idea what they’re talking about, many are behind ‘their leaders.’ Not everything is perfect, and problems exist. It’s tough to get people thinking for themselves. This revolution’s main aim is a cultural transformation.
Rojava is organizing grand projects in education, and their task is momentous. However parents simply want respectable-looking schools where the children are well-behaved. People talk with nostalgia about the old Assad schools which were well-equipped and looked good.
On women’s participation, there are some very strong women in important roles in the society. The relations between men and women are unique and special, something I haven’t seen even in Western society. However, normal girls are still very much sticking to their old gender roles, being obsessed with makeup and clothes. I went to a cooperative meeting, half the members women, half men—and yet for three hours only men were talking. The women only sat and didn’t participate. They have a lot to do here to overturn an antiquated culture, but there are real things happening here. There is some very good work being done by and for women here.
It’s all well and good when outsiders from Rojava say there shouldn’t be corporations, but the fact is that people have their needs to live. It is the responsibility of the system of Rojava to provide for its people. If the administration cannot provide for the needs of the people of a decent life, then people will turn against them regardless of ideology. So they are under pressure. Here are some adverts in Rojava:
“Summer production usually exceeds the needs of this region. To benefit from the overabundance of food, we need to reactivate a factory for canned food which has not been working for a long period.”
“… We are looking for $60,000 for the repair and maintenance of a fodder factory. The Center of Economic Development considers it necessary in order to provide sheep farmers with fodder.”
“Project: modern spaghetti factory for production of different shapes and sizes, from 200g to 1kg, with a capacity more than 7-10 tons per day. Estimated cost around $2 million, with 25 workers.”
“Jazira [Cizîrê] Canton has significant livestock characterized by good quality pasture. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, a dairy factory is needed to produce sterilized milk in glass or plastic bottles.”
So where are all the skilled people? We don’t need your show of solidarity or outside help. We need people here on the ground. We need people that can teach, start and manage projects and provide real solutions. You cannot do anything from outside that is actually effectual.
The people in power here say many things like that there’s no state, there’s people power … but the fact is, if this were a real democracy, normal people would immediately recreate a normal state system because they see Barzani. The YPG is an army, the Asayish is a police force, and despite what people say, there is a central government, central economics group, central ministries of health and education, and a growing bureaucracy. Now Rojava is sending diplomats to Western countries asking for help, and 70% of their money goes to the army.
Yet, in positions of power, there are many revolutionary people with a strong anti-state philosophy. So there is an opportunity here. We have a unique space where we can organize, carve out our own projects and implement our ideas. We are at an advantage in this space with access to a lot of resources, rather than your little commune or squat. Maybe that’s cool for you and you like the lifestyle but don’t call yourself a revolutionary. I’m disappointed that there are less than a dozen libertarian type foreign revolutionaries here. They are desperate for solutions here, and if we don’t bring some, they will go to the corporations rather than allowing their people to starve.
ISIS became strong when they announced to the world their project for a revolutionary caliphate. Revolutionary Muslims came from all over the world with the strength of their conviction and made ISIS powerful. If Rojava fails it will be because of the lack of international solidarity, and I will personally disown the anarchist movement as a joke movement incapable of practical change. Now the revolution has happened but people don’t seem to want to know about it. Cool.
Here are some excuses I’ve heard from friends I’ve invited: “I have to look after my dog.” – “I can do more from here advocating and protesting.” – “I don’t know if Rojava is real.” (i.e. “I will stay comfy in a capitalist state rather than risk a revolution.”) – “I have important work here.” (Maybe your work is more useful in Rojava.)
History is made by people who leap into unknowns. If you are satisfied with the status quo, stay where you are. But this revolution is the biggest libertarian project of this century. This is a chance to be a better person, someone who swam against the tide. The more of us that do this, the stronger we become. And we don’t even need to be that great in number.
The time of theory is over. Now is the time of action.
Featured image: site of a proposed university in Rojava. Source: Rojava Report