Kurdish Women Speak on Rejection of Marxism, the State

12 posts / 0 new
Last post
S2W
Offline
Joined: 21-01-09
Jun 27 2014 17:58
Kurdish Women Speak on Rejection of Marxism, the State

Admin: moved from news to news forum.

In most European countries (the major exception is France), participants in the struggle for Kurdish independence are not regarded as political refugees, and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union. The two women who have been travelling around and who gave a talk at a social center in our city did so assuming a certain personal risk. Nor are they safe in France--in January 2014 in Paris a hitman probably connected with Turkey's secret service killed three women, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Söylemez, connected to the PKK and in the same organization as the two women who came to give the talk. On other occasions, Kurdish activists in Europe have been assassinated by Iranian hit squads.

Kurdistan, a mountainous region north of Mesopotamia, has a long history alternating between statelessness and domination by a variety of empires. Since the aftermath of WWI it has been occupied by Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

In the '70s, the Kurdish liberation movement has been characterized by an adhesion to Marxism-Leninism, a tendency cemented with the 1984 foundation of the PKK, which launched an armed struggle against the Turkish government.

In 1995, Kurdish women formed an all-women army in the mountains of Turkish Kurdistan, unhappy with the wide gulf between theory and practice within their struggle for their liberation, a liberation which was intended to not only be political but revolutionary, affecting all aspects of life. As part of this process, they also formed a women's party.

Since the reign of the Ayatollahs, Kurdish movements have been brutally suppressed in Iran, whereas since 1991 Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed political autonomy, though dominated by a government closely allied to the US, and therefore not claimed as an example of independence by the Kurdish liberation movement.

The women giving the presentation talked about their experience as guerrillas in the mountains, and the importance of the armed struggle and the liberated zones in the mountains for advancing their movement. Sometimes their column would enter villages to stop forced marriages. Their ranks were flooded by Kurdish women fleeing patriarchal relations and concepts of honor in the villages.

Seeing how it was impossible to create new women liberated from patriarchy within the old structures, they became increasingly critical of party organizations, the State, and Marxism. Eventually they formed non-party based women's organizations.

In a process that seems to be parallel and simultaneous, the women's organization, the much revered leader of the PKK Abdullah Öcalan, in prison since 1999, and parts of the base that supports the armed and political organizations, influenced by anti-authoritarian traditions in Kurdish society, became critical of Marxism-Leninism and decided to no longer fight for a State. Instead, they are fighting for what they call "democratic confederalism," an explicitly anti-state system with autonomy at the village level, and elected delegates (always a man and a woman) who coordinate at higher levels that also include various political organizations. In most villages they decide using majority vote, though in the PKK and in the army in non-emergency situations, they increasingly use consensus, which is the ideal they are moving towards.

Their democratic confederalism is without a doubt more formal and state-like than what many anarchists would be comfortable accepting, especially given the almost saintly role accorded to Öcalan, but it would take an extreme lack of humility and contextualization to not recognize a great maturity in their struggle and many points for possible solidarity. (Incidentally, I asked the women and yes, they had read Bookchin, but no, that was not the basis for their model. "I don't like him very much," one of them said. "Me neither," I responded. We smiled).

At one point, to try to understand a basic point despite large differences in our vocabulary, I asked if there were prisons within democratic confederalism. One of the women rolled her eyes and told me like I were a stupid child, "I've already said we are against the State. How are we going to have prisons if there is no State?" It should be contextualized that on previous stops on their tour, some arrogant and eurocentric anarchists were less than solidaristic in their interrogation of the differences between the Kurdish struggle and anarchism.

In another moment, one of the women told me how at first many Kurds were upset when they learned the women were no longer fighting for a State. "After all we have risked and suffered! How can you say you no longer want a Kurdish state?" The explanation that proved effective was, if the Kurds had a state, they would need a police force, prisons, laws and prohibitions, the oppression of minorities like Armenians within Kurdistan-- they would have to start doing all the horrible things that had been done to them for so many years.

With the civil war in Syria, the Kurdish movements tried to keep their neutrality, sometimes fighting against both the Assad regime and the al-Qaeda linked militants, violently anti-Kurdish, among the rebels. Since then, Syrian Kurdistan has won a considerable measure of independence and begun to implement democratic confederalism.

In Turkey, thousands of activists and delegates were arrested to prevent the implementation, though the women say the transformation is still happening at the village level.

S2W
Offline
Joined: 21-01-09
Jun 27 2014 17:58

I submitted this as I was requested by a comrade who wants to stay anonymous, I have not written this.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Jun 27 2014 19:30

I have a rather short attention span and I'm a bit tired now, but isn't this article basically an apology of PKK? Lol.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Jun 27 2014 21:54

Really author's politics seem to be more dubious or confused than those of AWU with their "critical support" for Banderomaidan (wink)

Why should we care that what is still a nationalist (and thus bourgeois) movement embraces "democratic confederalism", or rather why we should, as author sees to imply, look at this as something inspirational even if "a bit" "flawed" (in their own words: "it would take an extreme lack of humility and contextualization to not recognize a great maturity in their struggle and many points for possible solidarity")?

And the reason PKK dropped Marxism-Leninism was pretty simple- after the collapse of the Eastern bloc it stopped getting them sponsors and was only alienating them.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jun 28 2014 09:53

Is unabashed nationalism some how more acceptable if it comes from women?

Devrim

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Jun 28 2014 10:44
Devrim wrote:
Is unabashed nationalism some how more acceptable if it comes from women?

Devrim

And what about those gay neo-Nazis from Western Europe? wink

Caiman del Barrio
Offline
Joined: 28-09-04
Jun 29 2014 12:09

Both the replies from Devrim and Gepetto are hugely disappointing tbh. I thought this was an interesting, thought-provoking article which displayed an element of nuance and critique far beyond the facetious contempt in both of their contributions. I don't feel at all qualified to comment on the Kurdish situation, but I think it merits a bit more than the replies here.

Devrim, especially, has much more to say of interest on this.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Jun 29 2014 12:55

What exactly was thought-provoking to you?

And one doesn't need to have as much knowledge as Devrim has about the region to dismiss nationalists as, well, nationalists.

BTW it's telling how this article doesn't mention "class" even once.

Caiman del Barrio
Offline
Joined: 28-09-04
Jun 29 2014 14:48

Yeah maybe it is, could you explain why you think that? Is a class politics merely a sort of lipservice bingo of "mentioning class" or could social relations possibly be more subliminal and atmospheric than that? I'm unsure on the answer, but I'd much rather discuss that than do some of name-calling turkey shoot.

Regarding nationalism, the OP at least cedes that their conception of a state and democracy aren't entirely anarchist, but perhaps there is something of interest there.

I think these discussions about language, semantics, etc, sometimes risk a sort of Anglo-/Euro-centrism. Note the lazy translation of "patria" (used by the vast majority of emancipatory movements in Latin American history) into "country" or "fatherland" in English, as a simple means of dismissing them as nationalist. The words "nation" and "state" don't translate so readily into many languages, and even when they do, they may encapsulate different concepts and be influenced by different histories. Some parts of the world have almost never had an effective state, so their understanding of it may diverge from ours, and the terminology may have been adopted by locals to imply a different thing. They may use the term to refer to something different, which is sort of what the OP is hinting at, with a number of qualifications and caveats, to be fair.

More important/interesting questions:

What do the Touareg mean when they call for an Azawad state?
What do the Zapatistas mean by the 'national liberation' in their name and how significant is that now, bearing in mind their apparent political development and their practices?
What role do 'plurinational' states like Ecuador and Bolivia play in the development of semi-autonomous peoples on their social and geographical margins?

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jun 29 2014 15:24
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
I think these discussions about language, semantics, etc, sometimes risk a sort of Anglo-/Euro-centrism. Note the lazy translation of "patria" (used by the vast majority of emancipatory movements in Latin American history) into "country" or "fatherland" in English, as a simple means of dismissing them as nationalist. The words "nation" and "state" don't translate so readily into many languages, and even when they do, they may encapsulate different concepts and be influenced by different histories. Some parts of the world have almost never had an effective state, so their understanding of it may diverge from ours, and the terminology may have been adopted by locals to imply a different thing. They may use the term to refer to something different, which is sort of what the OP is hinting at, with a number of qualifications and caveats, to be fair.

So when Salih Muslim, PYD leader talks openly of "expelling Arabs" he isn't talking about ethnic cleansing at all, but using it "to refer to something different".

The PKK is a reactionary anti-working class nationalist organisation. A bit of libertarian sounding rhetoric doesn't change that.

Devrim

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Jun 29 2014 15:46

Even if they really mean something different it doesn't mean it's something positive.

Quote:
Yeah maybe it is, could you explain why you think that? Is a class politics merely a sort of lipservice bingo of "mentioning class" or could social relations possibly be more subliminal and atmospheric than that?

My point was that author seems to be interested in their ideal of organisational form (and eternal principle of direct democracy) as well as cheering for the "oppressed peoples" like some modern day Lord Byron rather than class politics.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jun 30 2014 07:53

I agree with gepetto and devrim on this. We published an article on the PKK's 'anarchist' turn some time ago:

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201304/7373/internationalism-on...