A people of four lands.
October 27, 2014 1:09 PM   Subscribe

The Kurdish people have had a pretty brutal recent history.
Adam Curtis explains that the Kurds have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker, Murray Bookchin.

Masoud Barzani, the President of the semiautonomous Kurdish region that occupies the northern part of Iraq in July told the Kurdish parliament
"The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us".
posted by adamvasco (19 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Turkey will cry crocodile tears as the northern part of Iraq is turned into Kurdistan but I've really had enough of the indifference of this wannabe regional leader. They should have helped against IS instead of thinking IS will destroy the PKK solving Turkey's biggest problem. The enemy of your enemy is most certainly not your friend in this case.
posted by Talez at 1:20 PM on October 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Adam Curtis link is fascinating, thanks for posting this.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Calvin Trillin wrote this great little ditty back in 2003 around the start of the Iraq War:
The Kurds are in the way again,
And so, to our dismay again,
If we begin a fray again,
As it appears we may again,
It seems we must betray again
It has applied to the majority of events in the region, especially those not really involving Israel, for over a decade in each direction.
posted by zachlipton at 2:05 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Very interesting reading here, thanks!
posted by jeffburdges at 2:10 PM on October 27, 2014

Bookchin: brilliant, curmudgeonly, generous. I found him a great critic, but institutions do not merely depress activity, they enable it. I appreciated his rejection of the utopian impulse within anarchism, but he still could not figure out how to get from here to there. It's interesting that he so deeply influenced an outside organization. It's a lot better than Leninism.

Still, the larger and more sophisticated an organization, the more likely there will be hierarchies. Large organizations tend toward oligopoly. Because not everyone wants to go to meetings, and running meetings effectively is a skill that takes time and effort to learn.

How a hierarchy behaves within bounded rules, however, is another problem. Bookchin was right to reject Marx, but there's also a large amount of literature about the culture of organizations.
posted by john wilkins at 2:28 PM on October 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

There are a bunch videos of Bookchin. God I love his accent!
posted by bukvich at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2014

What changed everything for him was the experience of working in a factory. Bookchin had gone to work for General Motors - and he realized as he watched his fellow workers that Marx, Lenin and all the other theorists were wrong about the working class.

He clearly wasn't working in a true factory.
posted by thelonius at 2:47 PM on October 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thanks to this post, I now know there is a city in Turkey called Batman.
posted by molecicco at 2:56 PM on October 27, 2014

But I enjoy lifestyle anarchsm!
posted by larrybob at 3:13 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The penchant for International Communism certainly explains why U.S. administrations screw them over, even though they're sympathetic figures most westerners support.

The War Nerd has some poignant analysis of our recent treatment of these "allies" we consistently betray.
posted by clarknova at 3:41 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was working in Kurdistan last year for five months. They are lovely, generous people who have earned the right to decide their own fate. They had a brutal time under Saddam, some of it worsened by their own internal jockeying for power where the PUK and KDP took it in turn to betray the other side. However, now they seem to have put it to one side in an effort to seize nationhood. I hope that they don't waste the opportunity.
posted by arcticseal at 5:16 PM on October 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

They are lovely, generous people who have earned the right to decide their own fate.

I know what you mean, but I feel compelled to say that people don't have to earn that.
posted by thelonius at 6:22 PM on October 27, 2014

From anarchism to socialism is not much different than from liberalism to conservatism...manhy of us swing from one position to its opposite when we discover that an earlier Truth is not swo true.
posted by Postroad at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's the constitution of the Rojava Cantons, for those interested in the finer details of what kind of system and society the PYD is trying to create. I've been following current events in Kobane closely- the whole issue has come to be one I care greatly about. The PYD/YPG certainly isn't perfect and the PKK who they are inspired by has a very troublesome history, but IMO, of all the factions in Syria, they are by far the ones most worthy of support. I don't much care for Bookchin for various reasons which are mostly irrelevant to this, but his ideology is an enormous improvement over Leninism, and what the PYD is trying to do is something which I think has the potential to be a great example for the left worldwide.

One small critique I would have of the framing of this FPP is that IMO it treats the Kurds as a bit too much of a monolith- it's far more accurate to say that the PKK and PYD have a vision of a completely new kind of society, rather than the Kurds as a whole. There are a broad range of political views among the Kurdish people, and the Kurdish independence movements in Syria and Turkey have developed along very different ideological lines than those in Iraq and Iran. In particular, I would note that Masoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party are very ideologically different from the PKK and PYD, who are the ones inspired by Bookchin. The KDP's ideology tends towards a far more traditional nationalism, as opposed to the PYD's libertarian socialism- and it's fairly clear, from all I've gathered, that there's no love lost between them. Barzani's government in Iraqi Kurdistan is definitely not in the least inspired by Bookchin or libertarian socialism in general- those on the PYD/YPG side tend to feel that it is far too autocratic, nepotistic, and overly concerned with appeasing the Turkish government, while I imagine Barzani supporters tend to think of the PYD as dangerous radicals. (I say "I imagine" because I've not run into many Barzani supporters online, which probably says something in itself.)

Talez: Turkey will cry crocodile tears as the northern part of Iraq is turned into Kurdistan but I've really had enough of the indifference of this wannabe regional leader. They should have helped against IS instead of thinking IS will destroy the PKK solving Turkey's biggest problem. The enemy of your enemy is most certainly not your friend in this case.

The actions of Erdogan's government in response to this have been utterly appalling, and I think they should face severe consequences for it. While they close off the borders to Kobane and prevent the PKK from reinforcing the YPG, there are signs that they are outright colluding with ISIS- there are innumerable reports of ISIS fighters moving freely back and forth across the Turkish borders with no effort made to stop them. In particular, this article, which describes a Turkish border town virtually taken over by ISIS fighters while Turkish police consciously and deliberately turn a blind eye, is one which should be getting much more publicity, IMO. I'd say Turkey should be kicked out of NATO for this, but I realize that's never going to happen and would probably have a very negative outcome- I was quite pleased that the US sent supply drops to the YPG in Kobane right after Erdogan said that he was against it, at least.

Very few real-world conflicts are straight-up good vs. evil, but the YPG vs. ISIS is about as close to that as it ever gets, and Turkey is clearly on the wrong side of it right now. I consider ISIS to be in the same category that the Nazis, Khmer Rouge, and Hutu Power were, and the airstrikes against the ISIS forces around Kobane and the supply drops to the YPG forces there are a very rare case of US military action I completely support- after what I wrote about it here before, I was very relieved that the US finally did take action and that my worst fears weren't realized. Nevertheless, the battle in Kobane is far from over and I feel the US could be doing much more than it is (so long as we do it well, which is unfortunately not something that can be counted on)- personally, I feel the best thing the US could do is give the YPG a bunch of heavy weapons (up to the level of tanks, at least) and the training to go with them, and then mostly avoid military intervention in Syria unless the YPG asks for it, but I realize current geopolitical realities make that scenario unlikely in the extreme.
posted by a louis wain cat at 7:05 PM on October 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

From the constitution of the Rojava Cantons linked above,

a – Syria is a free, sovereign and democratic state, governed by a parliamentary system based on principles of decentralization and pluralism.

Out of all the ideas floating around the world, decentralization may be the most trendy, but perhaps the most impossible to realize, because the contributions it makes will be mistaken for something else and avoided. I wonder if the Kurds are accepting a fate or pioneering a destiny here. I don't advocate centralization for its own sake, but I don't think fractalized entities can be described as decentralized, making it rather meaningless to a distributed system.

Perhaps related, Bookchin doesn't subscribe to private property, according to Wikipedia. I would argue counter-intuitively that the real or practical revolution is taxing wealthy people's money every day, then letting them make some more in order to tax later. But that doesn't appeal to the money-loathers, and brand-named socialism always comes down to the acceptance or rejection of money as a tool. Marx was famously the latter.
posted by Brian B. at 9:50 PM on October 27, 2014

I love Adam Curtis but he should be read with this in mind.
posted by liliillliil at 12:53 AM on October 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

NYT: A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone - Turkey's Obstruction of Kobani's Battle Against ISIS. By Meysa Abdo, also known by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin, a commander of the resistance in Kobani.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:00 AM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

"I come from a political family and I am a democratic socialist. I used my art and politics to defend the Muslim community from attacks initiated by fascists of the Golden Dawn party, but I consider IS jihadists as 21st century fascists posing a greater global threat as they barbarically spread Islamofascism on an international level," he said. "I believe that the YPG is therefore leading the greatest anti-fascist struggle of our time by fighting against IS jihadists. I joined this struggle to fight against global fascism in defence of democracy and peace in Kurdish Rojava."
Maybe somewhat related: 75 years ago: Farewell to the International Brigades
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:24 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

From Adam Curtis' post:
Winston Churchill - who was the Secretary of War at the time - said they should be gassed....
But the British government thought it wasn’t a good idea. The Kurds would have to wait for Saddam Hussein - who was also strongly in favour of using poisoned gas.

posted by doctornemo at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2014

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