Don’t mention the war! On the continuing blindspots in anarchist “critical discussion” of Rojava

As time goes by, the involvement of various sections of the international libertarian left with the social experiment in Rojava seems to be deepening. The recent announcement of a new anarchist guerrilla group in the area, the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF), is one indication of this.

However, this commitment doesn’t seem to have produced much in the way of informed critiques and distinctive anarchist perspectives on the situation; instead, Rojava Solidarity NYC put out a statement attacking the very idea of “critical solidarity” and telling their readers that criticisms of the situation in Rojava are “unequivocally counter-revolutionary… These critics should be thoroughly dismissed”, all without taking a single moment to acknowledge or discuss what it is that these critics actually say.

Similarly, the founding statement of the IRPGF, which one might have expected to contain some kind of distinctive anarchist analysis of Rojava, turned out to be full of abstract generalities (and a fucking Mao quote!) and absolutely nothing in the way of unique analysis of the specific situation where they are, and how their perspective differs from other forces already existing in the area*.

So, for this reason I welcomed CrimethInc’s recent publication of a critical discussion about armed struggle with the IRPGF, as a chance to get a more detailed perspective on what anarchists on the ground think about what’s going on. Sadly, this piece seems to be yet another exercise in skipping over the aspects of the situation that Rojava-ists don’t want to talk about.

In this regard, the CrimethInc/IRPGF interview is considerably worse than the Peter Loo piece, which did at least touch on the subjects of PYD/YPG/YPJ collaboration with Russia and Assad, even if it didn’t deal with them in much depth. In contrast, when considering actors in the region, the IRPGF talk about various Turkish left groups, the Turkish state, the various Kurdish forces, the United States, Daesh/ISIS… and that’s pretty much it. Throughout the entire text, Russia doesn’t get a single mention, and when they talk about Assad, it’s only in the context of Hafiz’s past policies. The actual living Assad, the one who hasn’t been dead for the past seventeen years and who was largely responsible for starting the civil war in the first place, doesn’t rate a mention.

Of course, the Syrian civil war is an immensely complex issue, and anything that actually made a serious attempt to deal with every single force involved would probably be unreadably complex. But there’s a reason why the subjects of Assad and Russia should merit special attention from Rojava enthusiasts (apart from the obvious fact that Assad’s forces control around a third of the country, and a majority of the population, which you might think would earn him at least a passing mention). The IRPGF spend a while weighing up the issue of co-operation between the YPG/YPJ/SDF and the US armed forces, which I agree is a tricky subject and worth thinking seriously about, but I’ve never seen anyone make a serious attempt to claim that collaboration with the US war effort has helped enable a mass slaughter of civilians, or that the SDF has voluntarily handed over territory for the US to rule. On the other hand, the subject of the Kurdish assistance to the Russian/Assad assault on Aleppo is not, or shouldn’t be, so easily dismissed.

To this day, I can’t tell what people like IRPGF or CrimethInc make of the kinds of criticisms made by the likes of Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab, and those close to them. Are they just suckers taken in by Islamist propaganda? Or are the things they say true, but these things are just necessary evils, worth accepting as the price to pay for defending the progress made in Rojava? Whatever the arguments are, it’s well past the time when they should have actually been made, rather than just being left unstated. As the mountain of words from libertarian/anarchist supporters of Rojava grows higher and higher, the silence on Russia, Assad and Aleppo comes to seem more and more inexplicable.

Kurdish and Assad regime flags flying together in Aleppo

*for what it’s worth, it does seem to be the case that other antifascist international volunteers in Rojava, or at least the people who run their social media, appear less than impressed with the IRPGF. Of course, as someone thousands of miles away, it’s hard to know what to believe, so I’m not saying that the AIT’s criticisms here are right or wrong; just mentioning them so readers can make up their own minds.


About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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1 Response to Don’t mention the war! On the continuing blindspots in anarchist “critical discussion” of Rojava

  1. Pingback: Soft answers to hard questions: more on imperialism, solidarity, Crimethinc and Rojava | Cautiously pessimistic

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