Anarchists vs. ISIS: The Revolution in Syria Nobody’s Talking About

Photos: Erin Trieb

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

YPJ2

In the cantons of Rojava, there is a small central government with an absolute minimum of 40% female delegates, but most of the day-to-day work of running society happens at a local level, street by street and village by village. Democratic Confederalism’s chief architect, Abdullah Ocalan, says that “Ecology and feminism are central pillars” of the system he has spearheaded, something that you would have to go very far to the margins to hear from Western politicians. In Rojava, men who beat their wives face total ostracism from the community, making their lives in a highly social, connected society virtually impossible. Instead of a police force and jails, ‘peace committees’ in each municipality work to defuse the cycles of inter-family revenge killings by consensual agreements between both sides – and it works.

The only part of Rojava’s experiment that has received any international attention has been the YPJ, the female-only paramilitary forces that have been fighting, and winning, against ISIS and the Syrian Army. NBC, the Guardian and even Marie Claire have all covered the YPJ’s bravery without even paying lip service to the ideology that makes it possible.

It was the YPJ, along with their male counterparts the YPG, that rescued the thousands of Yazidis stranded and encircled by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. The Yazidi community had the misfortune to be based almost entirely inside the area that ISIS has claimed – and they have been a hated minority in the Islamic world for a thousand years, accused of ‘devil worship’. While the US dropped supplies from above, the Syrian fighting groups broke ISIS’s lines and saved tens of thousands of lives. They also successfully defended the city of Kobani when ISIS launched an all-out assault on the city of forty-five thousand with tanks, missiles and even drones. Despite heavy losses, the city remains ISIS-free, though its surrounding villages are still contested.

YPJ1

The YPJ/G and the the Democratic Society Movement that they fight for aren’t perfect: they have been accused of using child soldiers (girls as young as twelve serve as cooks and cleaners for the YPJ and undergo some basic combat training, though they aren’t deployed in combat) and they are forever tainted by their association with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), led by Abdullah Ocalan and classified as a terrorist organization by most nations. The formerly Marxist-Leninist party also has some murky connections to the drug trade and Turkish intelligence.

Despite all the obstacles facing them, the people of Rojava are, right now, the only large-scale movement on the entire planet implementing a real, working alternative to the state and capitalism. Like the Spanish anarchist federations and the Mexican Zapatistas before them, the people of Rojava have chosen to do the impossible: to create a new society while fighting as one of the smallest forces in a regional war, a tight-rope walk through a dodge-ball court. Only time will tell if they can pull it off.

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The Author

Gareth Watkins

Gareth Watkins

Born and raised in the UK, moved to Calgary, Alberta for the weather. Currently writing for this publication and others while working on a book.

  • D Forton

    If people are to agree on the definintions of anarchism, feminism, libertarianism, and other terminology, those who call themselves anarchists, etc. should take the time to observe the Rojava experiment. It’s a valuable opportunity for a critique of one’s own ideology.

  • Dookie Houser

    How are they anarchists if they operate under a government and are an organized group??

  • Jeremy

    To be more clear, Libertarianism is a compromise of Realism with American political idealism, we work within the societal limits! Compromise is bad when it comes to ideology, however this is necessary to sway opinion in a peaceful manner.

  • Jeremy

    This site is awesome! Found it after I googled “Kurdish Anarchism”, I am just becoming aware of the struggle for independence in the Middle East. BTW I don’t agree with you Steve, Libertarianism is not silly, it is transitional anarchism- however, when somebody calls me an Anarchist now I proudly agree and make their face red with anger/confusion.

  • Steve

    Anarchism: collective, useful, generous, practical, sensible and European.

    Libertarianism: individual, theoretical, grasping, silly and American.

    To understand anarchism, first you have to get past the absurd tenets of US-style “individual liberty” (a chocolate teapot concept much beloved of gun-freaks and climate change deniers).

    Big up Kropotkin!

  • Guest

    Afghanistan and pakistan are part of south asia btw to all the people who dont know(youll be surprised how many dont). So yeah next time just watch cuz youll sound like an ass calling them middle east

  • Rocketman

    Anyone who believes that Anarchy means “No private property” doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about. Anarchy DOESN’T MEAN NO RULES, IT MEANS NO RULERS! It seems that most of the posters on this article are left wing libertarian wanttabe’s who think that because they fall outside the mainstream that it automatically makes them a “libertarian” and nothing is further from the truth.

  • Jonathan

    But the BBC did an excellent story on these guys in november 2014. It’s on youtube.

  • Jonathan

    You should google a bit before you make pointless crowd-pleasing swipes at mainstream outlets. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKhjJfH0ra4

  • Playing Boom Beach is a lot of fun but it can be a real hassle trying to build
    up the amount of diamonds, wood and coins you need.

  • Get real. Kurdish militia in Syria may say one thing to please the US, but they only survive because they are backed up by the SAA.

  • Hofman

    The Spanish Civil War was a war between Nationalists in defense, and the Papists attacking them.
    General Francesco Franco would wear a large papist cross around his red neck all of his life.
    The war started when newspapers started to spill the beans on adultery of priests, monks and nuns, and the babies murdered afterwards.

    In Syria about the same thing is happening, where Jesuits where expelled in 2012.
    Islam has been murdering perceived enemies of Rome for over a thousand years now, and will continue to do so.

    Putting these propaganda terms on people like anarchists, capitalists, while hiding the role of the papists, the romanists, it’s just another attack done by this author above, that people there have to suffer. The truth is simple, but hiding it in order to make money and reputation, it’s very immoral.

    The Q’ran was written by papists, this is easy to see by any one looking at the way Mary, Jesus and the prophets, the latter not as prophets but in insulting terms, are mentioned.
    Gareth Watkins may fool a large majority, but never every one.

  • Mark Chapman

    Just wait until ISIS gets their hands on these little hotties. They will be in dog collars and cages in no time.

  • gey

    You should have mentioned that they are inspired by MURRAY BOOKCHIN. There are excellent videos of this passionate but torn man talking on youtube. He writes very well and critiques a lot of the anti-human bullshit that has permeated into metal music as well. Its silly. “KILL ALL LIFE”. Nice gimmick.

  • THEY HAVE MY VOTE! PreBuddha Flower Glow, Rouen Sterling – the flowering tree of power glowing brightly. Relative to Jehanne d’Arc killed at Rouen. My name was not chosen by myself, nor was it known then of the relation. All coincidence. So please be well and please save our world from its present condition.

    They are absolutely correct and the only way we will ever get this whole world transformed into a utopia … you know .. where war isn’t a necessity but a defense … where atrocity is NOT appropriate …

    The vampirism of the USa has gotten out of balance. Russia running rampant with Haarp, and now portals above Norway and CIA discussion of a planned alien invasion to coerce the populate into defense in space … don’t let them fool you …

    Channeling Jehanne d’Arc::recursively

    SIN :: isn’t good nor bad.
    SIN is the ACTION OF SELF alone.
    With no consideration …
    … nor reward…
    … nor any winwinwin for others.

  • Missak

    the only large-scale movement?? Marxisme leninisme and marxisme leninisme maoisme only victory: Inde and Philippines principely. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emCsHhbgUI0 https://vimeo.com/8398072 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qCFul4bsF0 http://download.www.arte.tv/podcast/arte_reportage_f/videos/20101211-inde_fr.mp4

    • Aaron Boone

      No thanks.

  • Artur Sixto

    Well, don’t be surprised that mass media keep quiet about this. In Catalonia we have a bigger, self-determination process going on step by step, which rests on an unprecedented, distributed, mass, self-organized, democratic and peaceful civil society movement which is NOT attempting to eradicate the state or capitalism. The revolutionary thing we are doing is just taking democracy in our hands, i.e. implementing real, but also plain, democracy. This started in 2009 with an independance referendum organized by the people of Arenys de Munt. It spread to all of Catalonia. Barcelona was the last city to hold one. It was a massive success. Impecably organized everywhere it took place. Most villages and cities held their own referendum. A fifth of the country’s population participated in spite of those local referenda being symbolic, run by volunteers from all walks of life and receiving legal threats from the Spanish government. Since then, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, three successive monster demonstrations for independance have been held in Catalonia, averaging 1.5 million demonstrators each time, democratically, peacefully, and joyfully, without a single relevant incident. Nothing broken. Not even a little garbage left behind, on the streets. The milion and a half people equate to a fifth of Catalonia’s population of 7.5 milion. Try to imagine one fifth of England’s or the USA’s populations gathering in London or Washington not once, but thrice. This is world, historical news by any standards. What did the world’s mass media and even Spanish, non Catalan, mass media report about those revolutionary events? VIRTUALLY NOTHING. And we are talking about events taking place at the heart of the western world… Don’t believe me? Then watch the news next September 11 and 27-28. September 11 is Catalonia’s national day, when we hold these huge demonstrations. September 27 is the Catalan Parliament elections which will hinge on independance, since Spain does not allow us to hold any formal referendum. If pro-independance parties win it will mark the beginning of secession and the birth of a new, participative, transparent, just, advanced democracy. Because for Catalans it has become a simple matter of democratic freedom and will to build a better kind of society.

    • Spelunker4Plato

      Just be careful. If there’s another large war that steals media attention, they’ll go after you and attempt a repeat. I get the sense that WW2 was specifically to derail socialism and moving to a more logical and peaceful society.

  • “Forever tainted”. I would rework that paragraph.

  • ritacocorita

    it is so badly written, that…what? obvious and….sort of mistaken and sort of….. it should mislead?

  • “also has some murky connections to the drug trade”

    This does not move me. There is nothing morally wrong with providing drugs to consenting adults, and in an anarchist society this would be permitted.

    Great article.

    • Jeff Armstrong

      I’d sure like to know the source for these assertions in an otherwise good article, especially the idiotic claim that Ocalan has ties to Turkish intelligence. He was the most wanted man by the Turkish military intelligence and was captured by the CIA and sentenced to death in Turkey without surrendering anything. The PKK, far from being a pawn of the US of Empire, is still a banned “terrorist” organization in the US and its supporters have been imprisoned and expelled from the country. Again, Obama would be subject to indefinite detention and possible drone strike if he were subject to his own anti-terrorist laws for belatedly (out of desperation) supporting the YPG in Syria, which has direct organic ties to the PKK.

      • cbt13

        “He was the most wanted man by the Turkish military intelligence and was captured by the CIA and sentenced to death in Turkey”

        That is wrong. Really really wrong. As soon as he was captured, death punishment was removed from the law. If they killed him, or kill him anytime in future, it will quickly turn into all out war in Turkey’s streets. And that’s the exact reason they removed the law.

  • mikili

    you either have very little idea of what you are talking about, are misinformed or just romantic with no connection to reality or the wits to figure things out. OR you are just another agent provocateur engaged in perception management. there might be some romantic individuals among PKK and YPG/J who actually think as you have suggested but, strictly speaking, the organizations and the leaders are no more than mere puppets of USA. USA funds and controls everything. the leading motive is to establish another puppet state in middle east, one that is even more prone to control and manipulation than turkey, with the kurdish leaders simply craving more power. it is politics and war of power and nothing more. lets not even go into how ISIS came to be. so please stop bullshitting from halfway around the world. and yeah gotta love charismatic and cute photos of kurdish girls.

    • BanzaiKen

      Can I have the drugs you are one?
      We have:
      -Screwed them utterly in Iraq by denying them equality in voting, in lawmaking, and active government
      -We have pretty much looked the other way every time Turkey threatens to leave NATO when they want to fire a mortar into their enclaves.
      -We let Saddam gas 5000 Kurds in Halabja at the end of the Gulf War. The only nation that protested was FRANCE.

      I’d say of all the regimes to back, I’d back that one. Good, bad, we have screwed them repeatedly and they are still extremely friendly and moderate. I don’t see anybody else trying to stop the actual I-Cant-Believe-This-Is-Still-Around slave trade of Yazidis going on in that region and actually dying for it. Of all the ME whackadoodle tribes to back, I’d back them in the region, long, long before anybody Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.

      You sound like a Turk. Blame everything around you on the US while doing absolutely nothing to stop it and then wondering why the EU is appalled at your actions and won’t let you into the clubhouse. If it wasn’t for your secular military you guys would be going Jihad Johnny on your neighbors like everybody else down there.

  • LeslieFish

    It’s fascinating how small groups of people all over the world are turning on the very idea of big central govt. Apparently, desperate situations force people to think outside of the box. BTW, being Anarchist does *not* mean rejecting the very idea of private property. I’ve seen a surprising number of American Libertarians taking that step over the line to declare themselves Anarchists. I’m tickled that the leader of this particular bunch was inspired by Murray Bookchin. And I’m not surprised that the mainstream media are completely silent about this worldwide development; after all, they ignored the fact that the Libertarian Party here in America doubled its votes in the last national election.

    • Private property is theft. You’re not an anarchist if you believe ascribe to that notion, I suggest you read The Conquest of Bread by Kropotkin to disassociate yourself of that silly notion. There’s a distinct difference between personal property, and private property.

      Personal property, the things you use in your daily life (your house, your clothes, your car), are yours and no one else has any right to them without your consent.

      What Anarchists/Socialists/Communists in general have a problem with is absentee ownership. When someone claims ownership over means of production, land, or resources that they themselves do not directly use they are depriving others that need those resources. This creates an unequal power relationship and is the cornerstone of exploitation and class society, two things Anarchism in this case is against and fights to destroy. You cannot have anarchism and yet maintain the very systems that lead to exploitation.

      • Nick Girard

        Explain to me the difference between personal property and private property and why organizations shouldn’t be allowed to privatize certain areas and resources within a place of business. Specifically the example of an office where specialist work is done and intellectual property cannot be compromised else it will lead to the failure of the initial investment in the business.

        • Private property is any property that is used to generate wealth. It’s real estate, it’s land, apartment buildings, factories, etc. This is different from personal property, such as your car, your clothes, your house. Things you do not use to generate wealth. The first is to be abolished, the second is to be reinforced.

          To quote libcom: One will no longer be able to “use and abuse” something, whatever it is, just because one owns it. […] The question regarding whether, for sentimental or any other kinds of reasons, human beings or some human beings have a need for a particular territory or for objects over which they can establish tacit rights, has nothing whatsoever to do with property. Each person’s material and emotional security will, on the other hand, be reinforced: the disappearance of relations of force and of money will allow for human relations in which each person will have the right to food and clothing, and to live alone or with others, depending on his tastes. It is the interest of each person that takes precedence over the rights of property, of force, or of money, which one may or may not possess.

          Now as for your other question, you wouldn’t be able to privatise anything under Communism because private ownership would be abolished, and under the control of the working class. Private ownership of the means of production (the social and material resources used to create wealth: machinery, office space, land, patents, etc) means theft of what is essentially a social thing. Why? Because it is used by groups of people working in coordination and collaboration (meaning it’s labour is communal), and yet it’s controlled by, and provides benefit to, private individuals, which leads to exploitation and income inequality.

          As to your specific example, there’s no reason why what you’re talking about couldn’t work, or even be encouraged under Socialism, it would simply work differently. For starters, there would be no single owner of that enterprise. Under Socialism it would be collectively owned and democratically operated by every employee that worked there. Under Communism it would be collectively and democratically controlled by society as a whole.

          In any event, let’s say just for argument sake that you, Nick, live in a futuristic Communist United States. You have an idea for an enterprise that’s going to make artificial intelligence. And so you petition whatever committee we democratically elected to judge and assign the acceptance of new undertaking such as yours, and tell them your ideas. After lengthy discussion and eventual approval, you and those who agree to work alongside you, would be granted access to the appropriate resources, office space, machinery, computers, etc, in order to make it happen.

          Whatever failure occurs from your inability to deliver on your promises is absorbed by the community is as a whole, as it was by democratic consensus and support that you were able to launch the project to begin with.

          Feel free ask me more questions. Or better yet, join us on Reddit. Our sub is called r/CommunismWorldwide and we’d love to take your questions there so long as they continue to be friendly and polite as they have been thus far :3

      • bob dobbs

        Anarchism is directly opposed to private property in every way. The ideas do not correlate at all. Unless you are one of those anarcho capitalist dip shits.

        • … Did you read what I said? Where did I say that they were compatible? Anarcho-Capitalism is an oxymoron.

      • Jack Johnson

        Proudhon was referring to real property (not personal property), otherwise you’re correct. In general, even left anarchists recognize some form of personal property rights. You have exclusive use of your home while you’re living in it … but not ownership in the way it’s commonly viewed (i.e. you don’t have a title decreeing ownership or the right to transfer your property via sale, since many forms of anarchism either disavow completely or severely restrict the use of currency). If you choose to relocate to another residence, someone else in the community who needs a living space would inhabit the home (under procedures agreed upon via consensus by members of the community in which the home is situated). Mutual aid is also a common feature of anarchism, so if there’s a shortage of housing, sharing arrangements would be made via consensus (and unanimity serves as the defense against oppression). Things like worker cooperatives do tend to be a feature in modern anarchist communities, and they do imply legal ownership by workers (but really that’s a necessary concession to the surrounding society, and not necessarily representative of the way things would work in a purely anarchist society). In other words, there is a distinction between anarchism and market socialism (the latter would really require a state, as things like title to property and transfer rights cannot reasonably exist without enforcement backed up by police power, or something like what anarcho-capitalists propose e.g. privatized police forces, which still implies a form of coercion which is antithetical to traditional anarchism). I think the extent to which American libertarians have any connection to historical anarchism differs (the strand of thought you’re describing here isn’t common among right anti-state libertarians, who simply believe in capitalism without a nation state). So anarchists who advocate capitalism have no connection to historical anarchism (which has always played a key role in anti-capitalist and socialist movements). Capitalism innately requires hierarchy, which is (as mentioned) the antithesis of traditional anarchism.

    • Nick Girard

      It helps that this is a community who’s borders may be reached by any member of it. I hope that this works. No taxes in a desert sounds like a risky situation, but I’m glad to hear they’re making something of themselves. Best of luck, I hope ISIS stays far away.

    • Aaron Boone

      ‘BTW, being Anarchist does *not* mean rejecting the very idea of private property.’

      It does. Control over industry and resources by a propertied class necessarily creates hierarchy, power disparity, domination. It’s the antithesis of anarchism.

      ‘I’ve seen a surprising number of American Libertarians taking that step over the line to declare themselves Anarchists.’

      In the same sense that me having a beard and being keen on kebabs makes me middle-eastern. They have no historical or philosophical connection to anarchism beyond a couple of market socialists and individualists that they erroneously claim as theirs.

  • Joan of Arc

    As wonderful as this all sounds, I hate to break it to yah all…. that it’s been written like a fictional movie script… Aaaaaah look at the website’s pages…. Music, Art, Film, Culture…

    • Spelunker4Plato

      i get that sense too. especially since they’re dropping the word “feminism” but not going in to any detail about it.

      it could just be that they are egalitarian and the writer is just slapping that label on it.

  • amy m.

    the zapatistas are still around, you know.

  • What’s provoking these folks to prioritize ecology and feminism? That can’t be out of nowhere. Need to know motive to understand how to copy it! Or at least learn from it.

    • Jon

      Ocalan, the nominal leader of the movement, directed the Rojava Kurds to read various works by Murray Bookchin — an American anarchist thinker who focused on the importance of ecology and feminism. Here’s an article by BBC’s Adam Curtis that goes into the story in more detail.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/entries/5a7b18b5-0ec3-3d3e-a307-54820a7c6a59

      • retakingdullest

        Bookchin FTW!

    • EMi Va

      probablly just by observing nature, filogenesis and listening to the most inner core of living being conciousness??

    • cosmicengine

      They incorporate a very large amount of neo-Maoist theory. Direct your research into the ideology of “Apoism” (developed by Abdullah Öcalan) for more information. One of the main reasons for the incorporation of – or at least experimentation with – post-nationalist ideologies is the trans- / pre-national situation which the Kurds have faced for pretty much their entire existence. To quote Öcalan: “It has become clear that our theory, programme and praxis of the 1970s produced nothing but futile separatism and violence and, even worse, that the nationalism we should have opposed infested all of us.”

      While extremely progressive – relatively, in view of the state of the region and cultures / ideologies which are in opposition – Apoism is not without shortcomings. For example, it is a kind of “dear leader” form of pre-industrial communism. A brief study of Marx will reveal the inherent contradictions of attempting to implement a communist system before technology has sufficiently advanced. In addition in practical application many groups excise the self-criticism practiced by Öcalan and the rejection of dogmatism he advocates, instead utilizing the ideology in a pseudo-religious capacity.

      In other words, as with most other forms of great-man revolutionary movements there is a tendency to devolve into a cult of personality as the ideology is filtered down through teachers to pupils, from theorists to those actually undertaking the application of the theory itself. Perhaps this is unavoidable.

      Given the alternatives, however, one feels a strong tendency to support these groups, the YPG/J, PKK, et al. They have shown themselves to be staunchly committed to equal rights, the rule of law, and the advancement of human welfare; this is far more than can be said for any of their adversaries. One hopes that the rights of the Kurds are recognized internationally – rights to self-governance, self-determination, security, et cetera; and that their struggle is answered with the establishment of a peaceful and internationally recognized and supported Kurdish state.

      As for the possibility of an anarchist, non-capitalist, stable and prosperous system existing in same I would have my doubts. Perhaps at some point in the future when they are sufficiently industrialized, this could be possible. Perhaps there could be limited experiments with policies along these lines at the local level, however similar systems have existed in tribal areas throughout the region for far longer than we have records to document such things.

      Above all else, we should all keep our eyes and our minds focused on this struggle of these proud people as they courageously face a wide array of foes, who range from nations attempting to secure their borders from Kurdish secession to truly barbarous medieval-minded psychopaths. I hope we can at least be united in the desire that the conflict is expeditiously resolved peacefully and that a compromise serving the interests of all who have the greater good as their intent is reached as soon as possible.

      • Jack Johnson

        Very nicely written. I would tend to agree with your synopsis. I think if the Kurds were to form a Kurdish state in what is today northern Syria and Iraq (which is becoming a real possibility) they would face pressure from more mainstream Kurdish groups (who advocate something more analogous to western representative democracy and modern capitalism). Even if they’re granted autonomy within the regions they reside (and I think it’s likely they would be granted autonomy, considering the history) they will have a hard time defending the merits of their system when their people travel to neighboring Kurdish regions and experience all the creature comforts of modernity. In other words, the i-phone, flat screen TV, modern hospital, water treatment facilities, electrical plants, and so on … may prove to be a bigger problem than ISIS ever was. But still, they will serve as an example of equal rights and feminism which I think will influence all Kurds in a positive way. Is it possible that something new, unprecedented, and really interesting could evolve from this? Fingers crossed (but first, they need to win the fight against fascism).

  • gragor11a

    Glad to hear somebody has an enlightened form of government.

    As for “the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), led by Abdullah Ocalan … has some murky connections to the drug trade and Turkish intelligence. …” For a minute there I thought you were talking about the CIA and the DEA and their ties to the cocaine fields of South and Central America or perhaps NATO’s association with the opium trade out of Afghanistan.

    Nobody is tainted by anything western politicians might think up because they are all lying bastards.

  • Peter Grønborg

    What can I do to help?

  • FritzHead

    No taxes?
    Must be nice.

  • jtaylor991

    you say “working alternative to…capitalism” and “anarchists” in the same article. Huh?

    • Jon

      You do realize that anarchism has always been an anti-capitalist movement, right? Anarchism is about dismantling hierarchies, not just opposing that state. It’s libertarian socialism (as opposed to state-based, authoritarian socialism).

      Or have you never heard of Revolutionary Catalonia, the Ukraine’s Free Territory, or any actual anarchist revolutions?

      • He probably hasn’t. Anarchism is even more obscure than Marxist-Leninism.

        • Jon

          I wouldn’t necessarily describe either anarchism or marxism as obscure. Both have have major historical impacts, which are deliberately blurred in mainstream history. We wouldn’t have an 8 hour day, the right to form unions, or any other worker protections without anarchism and marxism. But school textbooks and popular mythology would rather present these things as if they were magnanimous gifts from on high, rather than the products of sustained class struggle.

          In terms of the present day, there are large scale anarchist and socialist experiments underway right now, completely ignored (or, if that is no longer possible in some cases, demonized) by the mainstream media. So I can see what you’re saying when you say obscure, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the right word for this.

          Situationists, now that’s obscure haha. Anarchism is more like deliberately maligned to prevent people from paying attention to the solutions it offers.

          • SCDCC

            Hi jon

            , you got some links or search terms for the large scale experiments you where reffering to , interested to check them out .
            Cheers
            SDCC

          • SCDCC

            Hi Jon
            Could you link up or give some search terms for the large scale experiments you mentioned would be interested to check them out .

            cheers
            SDCC

          • Jon

            Sure! If you’re interested in historical anarchism, I’d suggest looking into Revolutionary Catalonia, the Ukraine’s Free Territory, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) actions in early 20th century USA, the antifa resistance to the fascists in Europe, and the huge role anarchists played in the Mexican Revolution.

            In terms of contemporary experiments, there’s obviously Rojava (the subject of this article) , there’s also the EZLN territory in Chiapas, Mexico, and large sections of Greece (notably Exarchia, although I’m not sure I’m spelling that properly), Marinaleda, Spain (sort of a hybrid between classic socialism and anarchism), the Mondragon co-op system, and we can’t forget the large role that anarchists tend to play in social justice movements in general (especially where I live, in Montreal). There are also a lot of indigenous movements that could be described as conforming to anarchist principles without explicitly self-identifying as anarchist.

            Hope that gives you some interesting reading!

            Jon

          • SCDCC

            Thats great , thanks alot !

          • SCDCC

            Think some other really interesting stuff is our human history and evolution , observation of people that still live in these ways provides an interesting view on how truly egalitarian societys function.
            http://radicalanthropologygroup.org/av/video/womans-biggest-husband-moon-how-hunter-gatherers-maintain-social-equality

            cheers
            SDCC

          • Jon

            Thanks! I appreciate the radical anthro link. I’ve always been a fan of David Graeber’s writings on the same subject, and appreciate having more literature to go over.

            Jon

          • Nikkie

            It is Exarchia, you spelled it right, although it’s more of a neighborhood in the center of Athens rather than a large section. There are squats and self-organised groups all over Greece but they’re either too sporadic or too ‘unofficial’ (e.g the island of Ikaria, to where communists were exiled after the Greek civil war of the 40s and to this day the population remains leftist. I think it matches the description in your quote “There are also a lot of indigenous movements that could be described as
            conforming to anarchist principles without explicitly self-identifying
            as anarchist”. People in Ikaria work on their own pace and time frame, for example you never, ever complain if your food order is late or if a shop is closed as servility is not in their culture, people are there to help you out, not to serve you (servility, if you think about it culture-wise, is the backbone of capitalism). Or, if the bakerman is not in the bakery you take the bread, leave the money on the counter and leave- and it works. This is quite anarchy-ish, isn’t it? Also, Ikaria, perhaps due to its stress-free lifestyle, is among the places with the lowest mortality rates, worldwide)
            Maybe nations or population groups who haven’t got a long relationship with the concept of the State (due to wars, political instability etc), are more likely to demonstrate anarchistic elements in their cultures, albeit this is often not consciously or reinforced by a specific education/ ideology. And it’s those groups that are most often characterised with underestimating descriptions, regarding their culture, as it is incompatible with the state and capitalist standards.

          • Jon

            Thanks so much for that clarification! That’s really interesting. I had been under the impression, based around the little bit of research I had done, that Exarchia was quite explicitly anarchist (I saw a good documentary called Let’s Not Be Slaves that looks at it in more detail), so it’s very interesting to know that it isn’t so clearly defined. Is there any English or French language literature / videos that you could refer me to? I’d really love to learn more.

          • Nikkie

            It is explicitly anarchist, I just said it is not a large section. Have you watched the documentary Agora? I haven’t but they say it s good. No other recommendations I’m afraid, only an offer to give you a tour if you visit (I live pretty close 🙂 )

          • Jon

            Ahhh alright. Yea I guess “large” was not the right word to use, although it’s larger and more concrete than a lot of other anarchist experiments. So it’s comparatively large, although not necessarily actually large in size.

            I’ll check out that documentary! As far as the tour, I’ll have to pass (I’m in Canada, which is not exactly close by haha). Thanks for the offer and the info though!

            All the best,

            Jon

          • You misunderstood my point. I didn’t mean to say that Anarchism is itself obscure, I’m talking about the fact that in comparison to movements such as Feminism, it’s obscure. No one is arguing that it didn’t have major historical significance.

            Of course the Status Quo would rather push all forms of Socialism aside into obscurity precisely to prevent people from having easy access to those systems, ideologies, theories and analyses.

            So your disagreement with me is purely semantic apparently. What word do you want to use, then? It’s the exact same word LibertarianSocialistRants used in one of his videos when it came to establishing Anarchism in relation to the mainstream ideologies.

            No matter the word you use, it’s somewhat irrelevant. What matters is the point and context, which we both agree on: that people don’t know enough about it, and associate it with some guy dressed in black busting shit up or giving everyone the finger, tagging encircled As everywhere, and saying ‘Fight the power’.

            I’d be surprised if the average person even knew that Anarchists are Communists.

          • Jon

            Yea, basically my disagreement was semantic. I agree with everything you’re saying, I just think that the word “obscure” would be better as “marginalized,” or something along those lines. I was definitely not trying to say that you’re wrong, and your response shows that you clearly are well informed on the subject.

            No need to get defensive, although it is always hard to register tone through text.

          • It is yes, no defensiveness was necessary or indeed intended xD We agree, and yes I think ‘marginalised’ or perhaps ‘obscur-ed’ would be better ways of putting it.

    • Paul Lord Bootle Newton

      Yes; so what’s wrong with that? or do you not understand the true meaning of @narchism?

  • Scott E. Greenwald

    In their case, i don’t see the child labor as a sin. i don’t believe they do it for greedy profit, but rather to help ensure the survival of their society.

  • duh510

    SRSLY! For REAL?!
    Better than any movie by far…
    as major as what’s going down historically, currently in Greece, the Ukraine, etc., of course.
    Or Iceland’s land of quiet solutions…with its shades of real life Paradise Island (WonderWoman) vs. HELL.
    AND YES, LIKE THE PEOPLE & WOMEN OF NIGERIA WHO TOOK ON CHEVRON early this century:
    practically ignored by major media…
    THANK YOU ERIN TRIEB, GARETH WATKINS & CVLT NATION!

  • Anon

    Super neat! Not sure about the libertarian designation though, this implies that they are fierce advocates of an unregulated ‘free market’, which is implicitly tied to a culture of capitalism. Perhaps they are just anarchists, recognizing an ability to self-determine and self-define.

    • No.. no… no… Libertarianism is a general sense of skepticism toward social hierarchy, it’s not a laissez-faire capitalism that supports private property, contrary to what the inane ramblings of Americans like Rothbart who coopted the word in order to defend corporate power and the exploitation of the working class. Anarchism, in fact is libertarian socialism. All Anarchists are Communists, and that means a classless, stateless, moneyless system where private property is abolished and the means of production (the industries, farms, apartment buildings, machinery, patents, office space, etc) are collectively controlled by the people.

      • Michael Jon Barker

        Anarchist just means no gods no masters. Rothbardians don’t support I.P. or patent law which is the back bone of corporatism. Corporate hierarchies are state supported and protected which wouldn’t exist in an ancap society where their is no state.

        • Your definition is reductionist in order to allow for your oxymoronic ‘An’-capitalism. Anarchism is a social movement that seeks liberation from oppressive systems of control including but not limited to the state, capitalism, racism, sexism, speciesism, and religion. Anarchists advocate a self-managed, classless, stateless society without borders, bosses, or rulers where everyone takes collective responsibility for the health and prosperity of themselves and the environment. Capitalism necessitates the establishment of State power and the monopoly on violence, it’s incompatible with Anarchism.

        • That’s a deliberately reductionist definition of Anarchism meant to fit in your “Anarcho”-Capitalist philosophy. Anarchism is a social movement that seeks liberation from oppressive
          systems of control including but not limited to the state, capitalism,
          racism, sexism, speciesism, and religion. Anarchists advocate a
          self-managed, classless, stateless society without borders, bosses, or
          rulers where everyone takes collective responsibility for the health and
          prosperity of themselves and the environment.

          Simply put, your Capitalism is incompatible with Anarchism because it gives rise to social hierarchies, and cannot exist without the State, which is precisely what Anarchism seeks to dismantle. You cannot enforce Capitalism’s Private Property without sanctioned State violence and coercion.

      • bob dobbs

        right again, the free market libertarianism idea is a modern definition and has nothing to do with the classical real definition.

      • Anon

        In theory I agree with you, but in practice this is (unfortunately) far from the truth. Libertarianism, at its root, is no doubt about radical autonomous free decision making and self-empowerment, but it has so effectively been co-opted by hardcore laissez-fair capitalists that it is arguably unrecognizable from its initial form. This would be akin to claiming that democracy refers to a radical participatory form of collective governance (which is the root of democracy, but has now been transformed into a isolated competition for elites). Moreover, not all anarchists are communists, as there are many many forms of anarchism today. Regardless, its all a pointless issue of labelling and semantics. But I guess we love labels 🙂

  • Mike_Hunt

    Capitalism exists in all societies and one could argue this is one of the MOST capitalist societies as there is no state to inhibit it.

    • Jon

      That is only true if you define capitalism using the exclusive lens of trade / the consumer market. In fact, capitalism involves three key intertwining factors: private ownership of the means of production, the consumer market, and the use of wage labor. Without all three of those elements, it is not capitalism. What the Rojavan Kurds are doing is not capitalism, as the means of production are socially owned. It is closer to Mutualism, a school of anarchist thought developed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The Rojavan Kurds are directly influenced by Murray Bookchin, an American anti-capitalist / anarchist.

      Capitalism absolutely does not exist in all societies, unless you are looking exclusively through the lens of the present era — a historical period where capitalism has violently conquered the entire world. Throughout history, capitalism is a relatively new phenomenon. I would highly recommend reading David Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” for a detailed, academic discussion of the points in this paragraph.

    • Nicole Maron

      You could, as a thought exercise, but in all practical sense you’d be very, very wrong.

      • Mike_Hunt

        Why?

        • Because the two pillars of capitalism are money and property, which are both
          products of the law, law can only be enforced by the State and its monopoly on violence. Think of it this way… an apartment building complex has 50 tenants, these people are exploited by the landlord, a single person. These people are forced to pay rent because if they don’t, the landlord calls the State (the Cops in this case) in order to enforce his property rights.

          Eliminate the state and the Capitalist dies, the renters refuse to pay and he’s powerless to do anything about it. Capitalism cannot
          exist without the state, they are intrinsically linked. Under Socialist self management and shared, common, ownership based on participatory communities and mutual aid, there is no room for exploitation.

          The fact that you think that the State is somehow impeding Capitalism is only have correct, it is what allows Capitalism to flourish and prosper, and rescues it when it inevitably collapses as it does every three to seven years.

          • Mike_Hunt

            Capitalism exists in all societies, regardless of the existences of a state or not.

            Why can’t a private police force be used?

          • bob dobbs

            you are completely not seeing a HUGE gap in your argument, mainly the nature of capitalism.You are only seeing its basic definition and not how it really functions. The nature of capitalism does require a state that allows production of cheap goods for their product to be competitive and feed a capitalist bottom line, money. This means cheap labor victimizing the workers who really make the shit. A fat cat would not have the means of production without the state supporting their wealth. Capitalism allowed their families to build wealth to own all that they do. Why would anyone work for crap wages if they were not forced to by the system. And dont say they dont have to. Only someone from an over privileged position would say that. The state is what forces people to work for crap when in reality they are the ones doing everything. The boss just collects the money. Stop playing devils advocate and showing your ignorance about these topics. if you are truely interested in learning about these things then dont be argumentative, ask questions and come to your own conclusions. trying to show everyone that you are right makes you seem weak and unsure of your position.

          • Mike_Hunt

            I think what you’re suggesting is fascism/corporatism, a collaboration between the private and public sector, an inhibited form of capitalism, not the free market model.

          • I’ll explain. If you were to have say a big store and were to abolish the State apparatus, what would stop people from saying: ‘I don’t want to pay you, I have a right to eat.’ And then take a twinkie from the shelf without paying?

            Currently what’s stopping that person is the State. Same thing with a landlord whose tenants refuse to pay rent. Or workers from tossing their boss out into the street and taking over the factory. You call upon the State to enforce the minority rule of the Capitalist class over the Working class majority. If you were to say ‘Well I’ll just employ a private police force”. Then I would ask who does this “private police force” answer to? Who pays them? Where is their loyalty? And if the answer is “me.” Then congratulations, you would have just become Lord, and returned us to Feudalism whereby you, along with your private army of vassal knights, subjugate the peasants.

            This form of hierarchical authority is incompatible with Anarchism, which is why Anarcho-Capitalism is an oxymoron my friend.

            Just to be clear, private property is not the same thing as personal property. Private property is any property that is used to generate wealth: an orchard, a factory, office space, patents, machinery, etc. Personal property are things like your home, your clothes, your car, and so on. No one would infringe upon those things, they are your own and have a sentimental, emotional value and are intrinsic to your identity and survival.

            Feel free to share and defend them to your heart’s content. And if by any chance you work out of your home and make stuff, little commodities like cat mugs or something, have at it Hoss, Anarchism, which is Communist at its core, isn’t concerned with taking your sowing machine or laptop away x3 It concerns itself with the deliberate exploitation of other people, the theft of their labour surplus and the coercion used to extract value from them.

            Last point: Capitalism currently exists in all societies, that’s true. But it’s a young system that has only been around for the past 400-300 years. Before that we had Feudalism, before that we had Slavery, before that and for the longest period of human development as hunter-gatherers, we were primitively Communistic. We lived in a classless, stateless, moneyless society with no market system of distribution, rather we planned our economy.

          • Mike_Hunt

            Lord of my own property.

    • TD

      If you think that capitalism can exist in the absence of a state, then you have absolutely no idea what capitalism is.

      • Mike_Hunt

        Define:capitalism…

        “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

        Sounds like the less state the better.

  • Cool.

  • Ed

    Don’t tell any members of the U.S. government. They’ll rush right in to “make it better”. Especially if there is oil in that region.

    • cbt13

      There is oil in that region and US is already making it better there…

  • jcts57

    I have thought for some time that the Kurdish struggle is among the most inspiring and just, and that it is a crime they aren’t better represented in our media and more talked about in our culture. It also occurred to me some years ago (though, certainly not an original realization) that one can tell an awful lot about the motives, indoctrination, and sincerity of advocates for Palestine by their answer to the question of an independent Kurdistan.
    Defenders of nation states become mighty testy when one suggests abolishing boundaries drawn, without regard for actual People, by Great (especially European) Powers.

  • Real nice but the young lady’s vest and rifles appear brand new and unused, as if she was dolled up and posed.

  • John Lemon

    This was an interesting article but the person who wrote it really ruined it with the western propaganda, I’d like to see an honest unbiased person write an article about this. 🙂

  • xmodox

    i just made a translation to spanish of this article and posted it here http://xmodox.tumblr.com/post/110305762911/anarquistas-vs-isis-la-revolucion-en-siria-de-la

  • This is great.

  • Erik Mason Von Browne

    Holy crap! Bitcoin ASAP! 😀

  • “Despite all the obstacles facing them, the people of Rojava are, right now, the only large-scale movement on the entire planet implementing a real, working alternative to the state and capitalism.”

    What the ???? is this journalism? Or sensationalism? I highly doubt there are no other movement out there living off grid and trying to be independant of the banking system..

    This article treat of the war as if it was a hockey game being disputed…

  • Very interesting

  • Jenner Carnelian

    Maybe I need to move there…

  • BartiDdu

    I was surprised to read that the author is British. Usually the idea that there could be a connection between ‘fierce libertarianism’ and the fact that ‘guns are everywhere’ is very much a U.S. train of thought.
    Also, the last paragraph is misleading, as the Zapatistas in Chiapas are still creating a ‘real, working alternative to the state and capitalism’ on a daily basis, and have their own schools and hospitals that are run by their communities, having no link to the Mexian government. There are also similar autonomous communities that have been running their own affairs in Guerrero state, in the west of Mexico, for a similar amount of time, although they are increasingly being threatened in these times of escalating (often state-sponsored) violence.

  • Neil Bailey

    fuck yes

  • YES CVLT NATION!

  • Smasher

    Would love to have some more information than “peace committees” and “but most of the day-to-day work of running society happens at a local level, street by street and village by village”

    Who builds the infrastructure? Who ‘owns’ whatever it is they are producing? What about schooling, etc.

    • Jon

      Check out David Graeber’s articles about what’s going on in Kurdistan. He went and visited Rojava (specifically, I believe it was Kobane) and wrote about what he saw. Adam Curtis has a good article or two about it as well.

  • François Villeneuve

    Before castigating Ocallan as all bad, it should be said that he’s the one that introduced propagated the idea of democratic confederalism to the Kurdish nationalist movement, after reading Murray Bookchin in prison and deciding to move away from centralized Leninism…

  • Story of the day / week / year – thanks for posting!

  • This would be a more informative article if its integrity wasn’t soiled by ideological influence.

    For starters the title of the article says, “Anarchists” against ISIS, but then goes on to discuss “Democratic Confederalism” which obviously has nothing to do with anarchism. It’s like the author needed to put the ole’ A word in just to get peoples attention.

    It is also hilarious how in the same paragraph, the author explains that this is a social EXPERIMENT, but then goes on to claim the system of government being experimented with is, “a more advanced system”, It’s like yeah why bother waiting for the actual findings of the experiment … (and then totally, lets make fun of the mainstream media for their misreporting right?)

    It is important to remember that pretty much any system of government can be made to work with small, similar minded groups of people – which the world is mostly not made of.

    4.6 million seems like a lot until you remember that nations are made of hundreds of millions of people, No taxes sure sounds nice, until you remember that’s how social programs like welfare and healthcare is funded.

    It will be very interesting to see how these people fair. Glad to see they are fighting the good fight against ISIS.

  • Jason Owen Black

    Any sources you can share? I’d like to read more about this. Thanks.

  • They are helping to liberate the Yazidis, which nobody else would probably do! Good for them!!

  • Cxcellent article!

  • Yea Girls with balls!!

  • Interesting story- trying get my head around it..!!

  • Fantastic article, as with many thru Cvlt Nation, thank you!

  • Aaron Boone

    Anarchists is perhaps a bit of a stretch, as references to the abolition of class and private property are largely absent. Not to do down their phenomenal achievements in fighting off the child-raping vermin of ISIS though, and their social advances too. As you say, far from perfect, but their good points should be lauded.

  • Ray Khay

    The Middle East is also the last place you would find Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • vetra

    I’m glad this is getting more attention; however it is disingenuous to refer to the YPJ and YPG as “anarchists”. Social leftist Libertarians (Anarchists) would, and have, stood in Solidarity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCCODxq8diI

  • which are exactly the connections of PKK with Turkish intelligence? any source worth reading?

    • Seems unlikely to me, Turkish Intelligence tends to snuff out Kurdish nationalists.

    • that’s what I suspect

  • Alexander Evans

  • don’t fall for that politcal propaganda crap, nobody knows what’s really going on. most ppl in charge are just lying, killing, killing even more and this is what you see if you look back no matter how many centuries…and guess what, they keep on killing, and you can watch it in HD now, this is the only thing that changed at least since i’m on this freakin’ planet. so keep it simply, love your family and friends, try to be a good person and get the fuck back to the primitive! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3LE6_y8J0s

    • Eric

      What a load of crap go drink some beer metal dude.

  • “The middle east today is the last place anyone in the west would think to look for progressive political thought” – Excuse me what??? There are tons of Middle Eastern scholars, writers, artists, philosophers, and activists speaking up and fighting against ISIS, ideology and violence. “Our image of the region” – speak for yourself man.

    • They are saying that s the view to the average person on the street, whose only view of the Middle East is through the Western media. They are not saying that is how the Middle East is…

    • I know what this is saying – I am pointing out that this is an incredibly badly written beginning of an article, and also factually wrong – not all Westerners (re: “anyone in the West”) think the Middle East is backward, in fact i know quite a few who are very interested in progressive political thought and action from the Middle East. The premise of the introductory sentence is wrong.

    • average westerner >< all westerners

    • As with just about any nrws reporting there may be/are disputed facts, the over all tone is very interesting and not something I had any clue of prior to readong this. Your info plus the article are exceptionally interesting to me. Fascinating. Good work Cvlt.

  • Great if they can help rid the world of Isis

    • The article is not only about getting rid of Isis, actually that’s a detail of this magnific story.

  • yes

  • Nobody fucking care East-Turkestan too.

  • That’s ace