communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Tag: Iraq

Secular Utopia

by Wes Enzinna


One of the safer crossings into Syria is at a small town called Fishkhabour, in the far northwestern corner of Iraq. In a whitewashed shack on the shore of the Tigris River, an official from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government pointed out the window toward a pontoon bridge that bobbed in the cola-colored water. A year ago, 30,000 refugees fleeing an Islamic State massacre in Syria walked for 30 hours before crossing it in the opposite direction, half-starved, half-dead, terrorized. The official told me and my interpreter, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, that a few days before we arrived, an Italian volunteer was arrested by a border patrolman while trying to swim back toward Iraq. ‘‘Don’t change your mind,’’ he said, wagging a finger.

Our destination was a sliver of land in the far north of Syria: Rojava, or ‘‘land where the sun sets.’’ The regime of President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t officially recognize Rojava’s autonomous status, nor does the United Nations or NATO — it is, in this way, just as illicit as the Islamic State. But if the reports I heard from the region were to be believed, within its borders the rules of the neighboring ISIS caliphate had been inverted. In accordance with a philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan, Rojavan women had been championed as leaders, defense of the environment enshrined in law and radical direct democracy enacted in the streets.

But much of the information emerging from Rojava seemed contradictory and almost fantastical. To the Turkish government, the territory, which is now the size of Connecticut and has an estimated 4.6 million inhabitants, was nothing more than a front for a Turkish group known as the P.K.K., or Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Since its founding in 1978, the P.K.K., led by Ocalan, had been fighting for independence from Turkey, hoping to establish a homeland for the country’s 14 million Kurds. The effort had caused the deaths of 40,000 people, thousands of them civilians, and led to the imprisonment of Ocalan. The American State Department designated the P.K.K. a terrorist organization in 1997. Having failed in Turkey, officials claimed, the P.K.K. was trying to create a Kurdish homeland amid the disruption of war. ‘‘We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south,’’ President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in June. ‘‘We will continue to fight in this regard no matter what it costs.’’

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Capitalist society is death organized with all the appearances of life. Here it is not a question of death as the extinction of life, but death-in-life, death with all the substance and power of life. The human being is dead and is no more than a ritual of capital.

Jacques Camatte, Against Domestication

Ritual is a magazine of contemporary politics. We assume as a foundational premise the proposition that, under existing conditions, life is routinely dominated and continually transformed by capitalism. We aim to grasp just how this domesticated human being, homo economicus, is perpetuated across space and time, and how it attempts to express itself as a response to a transformative and transforming capitalist hegemony. Ritual is a critical platform for tracing the cultural, philosophic, and socioeconomic threads that mark the interface between human life and capital.



by Gilles Dauvé

“There are times in which we can do nothing except not lose our head.”
Louis Mercier-Vega, from La Chevauchée anonyme [1]

When workers are forced to take in hand their own affairs in order to survive, they open the possibility of social change.

Some Kurds have been forced to act in the conditions that they find and  attempt to create, in the midst of an internationalized war unfavourable to emancipation.

We are not here to “judge” them.

Nor to lose our heads.

Self (defence)

In various parts of the world, proletarians are led to self-defence through self-organization:

A vast cloud of “movements” — armed and unarmed, and oscillating between social banditry and organized guerrilla activity — act in the most wretched zones of the global capitalist junkyard, presenting traits similar to those of the current PKK. In one way or another, they attempt to resist the destruction of already marginal subsistence economies, the plundering of natural resources or local mining, or the imposition of capitalist landed property that limits or prevents access and/or use. […] [W]e can randomly cite cases of piracy in the seas of Somalia, MEND in Nigeria, the Naxalites in India, the Mapuche in Chile. […] It is essential to grasp the content they have in common: self-defense. [O]ne always self-organizes on the basis of what one is within the capitalist mode of production (workers of this or that company, inhabitant of this or that district etc.), while the abandonment of the defensive terrain (“demands”) coincides with the fact that all these subjects interpenetrate each other, and that as the capital/wage-labour relation that structures them starts to disintegrate, the distinctions cease to exist. [2]

In Rojava, has self-organization led (or could it lead) from the necessity of survival to an upheaval of social relations?

It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of the powerful Kurdish independence movement in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Kurds have been torn apart for decades through the rivalry between these countries and the repression that they suffer there. After the explosion of Iraq into three entities (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd), the Syrian civil war has liberated a territory in Syria where Kurdish autonomy has taken a new form. A popular union (that is to say cross-class) was established to manage this territory and defend it against a military threat. The Islamic State (IS) has served as the agent of this break. The resistance mixes old community ties and new movements, in particular women, through a de facto alliance between proletarians and the middle classes, with “the Nation” [acting] as cement. “The transformation taking place in Rojava rests to some extent on a radical Kurdish identity and on [a] substantial middle class […] contingent who, despite radical rhetoric, always have some interest in the continuity of capital and the state.” [3]

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by Il Lato Cattivo

[We publish below a translation of “‘Questione curda’, Stato Islamico, USA e dintorni” by the Italian collective Il Lato Cattivo. Though there are limitations to the text (for example it largely ignores the Arab Spring) we think it provides an insightful analysis of recent geopolitical conflict in the Middle East. Thanks to Nicole, Marco, Matthew, and the authors for help with the translation.]


The following text was originally prepared for a public meeting — held in Bologna at the beginning of September 2014 — with Daniele Pepino, author of Kurdistan. In the Eye of the Cyclone (in “Nunatak” no. 35, summer 2014). Unable to attend the meeting, we subsequently altered the initial draft; what results can be read either as a series of marginal notes on that article, or as a stand-alone text.

Kurdistan. In the Eye of the Cyclone has the merit of presenting a clear picture of the political forces that act in the Kurdish region; but the article gives rise to a series of questions that we would like to pick up. Beyond a simple valorisation of the intervention of the PKK militias in support of the Yazidi, threatened by the Islamic State (IS), in northern Iraq, the author mobilizes a veritable apologia for this organization and its alleged “libertarian” turn (the so-called democratic confederalism). Moreover, the absence of a description of the social and class forces of which the various organizations are an expression, presents their work as the product of simple subjective choices made by indeterminate individuals. Finally, a number of issues, from the financing of the PKK to the framework of alliances that goes into defining the Middle East, are too perfunctorily dealt with. Of course, one would need to write several books in order to comprehensively address all these points; the following notes are accordingly not any less sketchy. But we can in this way examine in a different light both the recent evolution of the “Kurdish question”, as well as the conflicts that are going on once again in the Middle East. If this can be of any use for us, or for others, it lies in the fact of not posing the question of autonomy (whatever that means), but that of communism.



Source: The Economist

The emergence of a specific “Kurdish question”, beginning at the end of the First World War, is inscribed in the chaotic process of the formation of nation-states in the Near and Middle East. Everywhere, the formation of a modern nation-state requires that the borders of an administrative state match those of a single national population. Multinational states are generally problematic or exceptional situations. The nation-state, i.e. the state of capital, is mono-national, because the relationship between the individual and the state cannot tolerate loyalty to intermediate communities—state and nation must coincide. This process is nothing “natural”, it is a process of homogenization that includes every kind of bricolage, and can avail itself of forms of soft assimilation as well as the most brutal ethnic cleansing. If it is true that for Western Europe the population puzzle has been a less important obstacle than in the Balkans or the Middle East, the reason lies not so much in the greater or lesser complexity or insolubility of the puzzle itself, but in the fact that, in Western Europe the formation of nation-states was realized with the momentum of an endogenous capitalist development, made possible by a precise sequence of previous modes of production, while in the Balkans and the Middle East it followed from a development of capitalism that originated elsewhere, and the inter-capitalist rivalries that emerged as a result.  The fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire, or rather its division between the victorious war powers Britain and France, led to the foundation on the one hand of Iraq and Syria under the respective mandates, and on the other that of Turkey, with the rise of the nationalist movement of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). The latter found himself immediately confronted with the multinational character of the future Turkish state (Turks, Kurds and Greeks of Anatolia), although  the situation had already been “simplified” by the extermination of the Armenians in 1915–16 at the hands of the “Young Turks” (1.2 million deaths). As for the Kurds, the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) had sanctioned the possibility of creating a small independent Kurdistan, provided that this corresponded to the collective will of the Kurdish people and that an Armenian state was also built from some provinces of eastern Anatolia. These conditions were rejected by tribal leaders and sheikhs (landowners), because the territory of the proposed Kurdish state was small relative to the region actually occupied by the Kurdish population, a territory that would have been further reduced by the emergence of an Armenian state. An embryonic Kurdish nationalism then tried to join the Kemalists whose response after consolidating their own position was to crush Kurdish dissent along with the Marxist element at Koçgiri (1921), before imposing through the treaty of Lausanne (1923) a revision of the Sèvres agreements of three years earlier, finally fixing today’s Turkish borders and in doing so leaving Southern Kurdistan to the British Mandate.

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