The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan

by Rafael Taylor on August 17, 2014

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As the prospect of Kurdish independence becomes ever more imminent, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party transforms itself into a force for radical democracy.

Excluded from negotiations and betrayed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne after having been promised a state of their own by the World War I allies during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds are the largest stateless minority in the world. But today, apart from a stubborn Iran, increasingly few obstacles remain to de jure Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. Turkey and Israel have pledged support while Syria and Iraq’s hands are tied by the rapid advances of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS).

With the Kurdish flag flying high over all official buildings and the Peshmerga keeping the Islamists at the gate with the assistance of long overdue US military aid, southern Kurdistan (Iraq) join their comrades in western Kurdistan (Syria) as the second de facto autonomous region of the new Kurdistan. They have already started exporting their own oil and have re-taken oil-rich Kirkuk, they have their own secular, elected parliament and pluralistic society, they have taken their bid for statehoodhood to the UN, and there is nothing the Iraqi government could do — or the US would do without Israeli support — to stop it.

The Kurdish struggle, however, is anything but narrowly nationalistic. In the mountains above Erbil, in the ancient heartland of Kurdistan winding across the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, a social revolution has been born.

Image: Current map of Syria and Iraq. Yellow shades in northern Syria are areas controlled by Syrian Kurds, green shades in northeastern Iraq are areas controlled by Iraqi Kurds (source: Wikimedia Commons).

The Theory of Democratic Confederalism

At the turn of the century, as the lifelong US radical Murray Bookchin gave up on trying to revitalize the contemporary anarchist movement under his philosophy of social ecology, PKK founder and leader Abdullah Öcalan was arrested in Kenya by Turkish authorities and sentenced to death for treason. In the years that followed, the elderly anarchist gained an unlikely devotee in the hardened militant, whose paramilitary organization — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — is widely listed as a terrorist organization for waging a violent war of national liberation against Turkey.

In his years in solitary confinement, running the PKK behind bars as his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, Öcalan adopted a form of libertarian socialism so obscure that few anarchists have even heard of it: Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. Öcalan further modified, rarefied and rebranded Bookchin’s vision as “democratic confederalism,” with the consequence that the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (Koma Civakên Kurdistan or KCK), the PKK’s territorial experiment in a free and directly democratic society, has largely been kept a secret from the vast majority of anarchists, let alone the general public.

Although Öcalan’s conversion was the turning point, a broader renaissance of libertarian leftist and independent literature was sweeping through the mountains and passing hands between the rank-and-file after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. “[They] analysed books and articles by philosophers, feminists, (neo-)anarchists, libertarian communists, communalists, and social ecologists. That is how writers like Murray Bookchin [and others] came into their focus,” Kurdish activist Ercan Ayboga tells us.

Öcalan embarked, in his prison writings, on a thorough re-examination and self-criticism of the terrible violence, dogmatism, personality cult and authoritarianism he had fostered: “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. Even though we opposed it in principle and rhetoric, we nonetheless accepted it as inevitable.” Once the unquestioned leader, Öcalan now reasoned that “dogmatism is nurtured by abstract truths which become habitual ways of thinking. As soon as you put such general truths into words you feel like a high priest in the service of his god. That was the mistake I made.”

Öcalan, an atheist, was finally writing as a free-thinker, unshackled from Marxist-Leninist mythology. He indicated that he was seeking an “alternative to capitalism” and a “replacement for the collapsed model of … ‘really existing socialism’,” when he came across Bookchin. His theory of democratic confederalism developed out of a combination of inspiration from communalist intellectuals, “movements like the Zapatistas”, and other historical factors from the struggle in northern Kurdistan (Turkey). Öcalan proclaimed himself a student of Bookchin, and after a failed email correspondence with the elderly theorist, who was to his regret too sick for an exchange on his deathbed in 2004, the PKK celebrated him as “one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century” on the occasion of Bookchin’s death two years later.

The Practice of Democratic Confederalism

The PKK itself has apparently taken after their leader, not only adopting Bookchin’s specific brand of eco-anarchism, but actively internalizing the new philosophy in its strategy and tactics. The movement abandoned its bloody war for Stalinist/Maoist revolution and the terror tactics that came with it, and began perusing a largely non-violent strategy aimed at greater regional autonomy.

After decades of fratricidal betrayal, failed ceasefires, arbitrary arrests and renewed hostilities, on April 25 of this year the PKK announced an immediate withdrawal of its forces from Turkey and their deployment to northern Iraq, effectively ending its 30-year-old conflict with the Turkish state. The Turkish government simultaneously undertook a process of constitutional and legal reform to enshrine human and cultural rights for the Kurdish minority within its borders. This came as the final component of long-awaited negotiations between Öcalan and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan as part of a peace process that began in 2012. There has been no PKK violence for a year and reasonable calls for the PKK to be delisted from the worlds’ terrorist lists are being made.

There remains, however, a dark history to the PKK — authoritarian practices which sit ill beside its new libertarian rhetoric. Raising money through the heroin trade, extortion, coercive conscription and general racketeering have been claimed or attributed to branches at various times. If true, no excuses can be made for this type of thuggish opportunism, despite the obvious irony that the genocidal Turkish state itself was in no-small part funded by a lucrative monopoly on the legal export of state-grown “medical” opiates to the West and made possible by its conscription and taxation for a massive counter-terrorism budget and oversized armed forces (Turkey has NATO’s second largest army after the US).

As is the customary hypocrisy of the war on terror, when national liberation movements mimic the brutality of the state, it is invariably the unrepresented who are branded as the terrorists. Öcalan himself describes this shameful period as one of “gangs within our organization and open banditry, [which] arranged needless, haphazard operations, sending young people to their death in droves.”

Anarchist Currents in the Struggle

As a further sign that it is abandoning its Marxist-Leninist ways, however, the PKK have recently begun to make explicit overtures to anarchist internationalism, even hosting a workshop at the International Anarchism Gathering in St. Imier, Switzerland in 2012, which lead to confusion, dismay and debate online, but which went largely unnoticed by the wider anarchist press.

Janet Biehl, Bookchin’s widow, is one of the few western anarchists to study the KCK on the ground, and has written extensively about her experiences on the New Compass website, also sharing interviews with Kurdish radicals involved in the day-to-day operations of the democratic assemblies and federal structures, as well as translating and publishing the first book-length anarchist study on the subject: Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan: The Council Movement, Gender Liberation, and Ecology (2013).

The only other English-speaking anarchist voice is the Kurdistan Anarchist Forum (KAF), a pacifist group of Iraqi Kurds living in Europe who claim not to “have any relationships with other leftist groups.” While supporting a federated Kurdistan, the KAF declares that it will “only support the PKK when they give up the armed struggle completely, engage in organising popular grassroots mass movements for the sake of achieving the people’s social demands, denounce and dismantle centralised and hierarchical modes of struggle and instead turn to federated autonomous local groups, end all relations and dealings with the states of the Middle East and the West, denounce charismatic power politics, and convert to anti-statism and anti-authoritarianism — only then will we be happy to cooperate with them fully.”

Following Bookchin to the Book

That day (minus the pacifism) might not be far off. The PKK/KCK appear to be following Bookchin’s social ecology to the book, with almost everything up to and including their contradictory participation in the state apparatus through elections, just as prescribed in the literature.

As Joost Jongerden and Ahmed Akkaya write, “Bookchin’s work differentiates between two ideas of politics, the Hellenic model and the Roman,” that is, direct and representative democracy. Bookchin sees his form of neo-anarchism as a practical revival of the ancient Athenian revolution. The “Athens model exists as a counter- and under-ground current, finding expression in the Paris Commune of 1871, the councils (soviets) in the spring-time of the revolution in Russia in 1917, and the Spanish Revolution in 1936.”

Bookchin’s communalism contains a five-step approach:

  1. Empowering existing municipalities through law in an attempt to localize decision-making power.
  2. Democratize those municipalities through grassroots assemblies.
  3. Unite municipalities “in regional networks and wider confederations … working to gradually replace nation-states with municipal confederations”, whilst insuring that “’higher’ levels of confederation have mainly coordinative and administrative functions.”
  4. “Unite progressive social movements” to strengthen civil society and establish “a common focal point for all citizens’ initiatives and movements”: the assemblies. This cooperation is “not [perused] because we expect to see always a harmonious consensus, but — on the contrary — because we believe in disagreement and deliberation. Society develops through debate and conflict.” In addition, the assemblies are to be secular, “fight[ing] against religious influences on politics and government,” and an “arena for class struggle.”
  5. In order to achieve their vision of a “classless society, based on collective political control over the socially important means of production,” the “municipalization of the economy,” and a “confederal allocation of resources to ensure balance between regions” is called for. In layman’s terms, this equates to a combination of worker self-management and participatory planning to meet social needs: classical anarchist economics.

As Eirik Eiglad, Bookchin’s former editor and KCK analyst, puts it:

Of particular importance is the need to combine the insights from progressive feminist and ecological movements together with new urban movements and citizens’ initiatives, as well as trade unions and local cooperatives and collectives … We believe that communalist ideas of an assembly-based democracy will contribute to making this progressive exchange of ideas possible on a more permanent basis, and with more direct political consequences. Still, communalism is not just a tactical way of uniting these radical movements. Our call for a municipal democracy is an attempt to bring reason and ethics to the forefront of public discussions.

For Öcalan, democratic confederalism means a “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society,” or simply “democracy without the state.” He explicitly contrasts “capitalist modernity” with “democratic modernity,” wherein the formers’ “three basic elements: capitalism, the nation-state, and industrialism” are replaced with a “democratic nation, communal economy, and ecological industry.” This entails “three projects: one for the democratic republic, one for democratic-confederalism and one for democratic autonomy.”

The concept of the “democratic republic” essentially refers to attaining long denied citizenship and civil rights for Kurds, including the ability to speak and teach their own language freely. Democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism both refer to the “autonomous capacities of people, a more direct, less representative form of political structure.”

Meanwhile, Jongerden and Akkaya note that “the free municipalism model aims to realize a bottom-up, participative administrative body, from local to provincial levels.” The “concept of the free citizen (ozgur yarttas) [is] its starting point,” which “includes basic civil liberties, such as the freedom of speech and organization.” The core unit of the model is the neighborhood assembly or the “councils,” as they are referred to interchangeably.

There is popular participation in the councils, including from non-Kurdish people, and whilst neighbourhood assemblies are strong in various provinces, “in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkish Kurdistan, there are assemblies almost everywhere.” Elsewhere, “in the provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak … there are two parallel authorities [the KCK and the state], of which the democratic confederal structure is more powerful in practice.” The KCK in Turkey “is organized at the levels of the village (köy), urban neighbourhood (mahalle), district (ilçe), city (kent), and the region (bölge), which is referred to as “northern Kurdistan.”

The “highest” level of federation in northern Kurdistan, the DTK (Democratic Society Congress) is a mix of the rank-and-file delegated by their peers with recallable mandates, who make up 60 percent, and representatives from “more than five hundred civil society organizations, labor unions, and political parties,” who make up 40 percent, out of which approximately 6 percent is “reserved for representatives of religious minorities, academics, or others with a particular expertise.”

The proportion of the 40 percent who are similarly delegated from directly democratic, non-statist civil society groups compared to those who are unelected or elected party bureaucrats is unclear. Overlap of individuals between independent Kurdish movements and Kurdish political parties, as well as the internalization of many aspects of the directly democratic procedure by these parties, further complicates the situation. The informal consensus among witnesses, nevertheless, is that the majority of decision-making is directly democratic through one arrangement or other; that the majority of those decisions are made at the grassroots; and that the decisions are executed from the bottom-up in accordance with the federal structure.

Because the assemblies and the DTK are coordinated by the illegal KCK, of which the PKK is a part, they are designated as “terrorists” by Turkey and the so-called international community (the EU, United States and others), by association. The DTK also selects the candidates of the pro-Kurdish BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) for the Turkish Parliament, which in turn proposes “democratic autonomy” for Turkey, in some type of a combination of representative and direct democracy. In line with the federal model, it proposes the establishment of approximately 20 autonomous regions which would directly self-govern (in the anarchist and not the Swiss model) “education, health, culture, agriculture, industry, social services and security, women’s issues, youth and sports,” with the state continuing to conduct “foreign affairs, finance and defense.”

The Social Revolution Takes Off

On the ground, meanwhile, the revolution has already begun.

In Turkish Kurdistan, there is an independent educational movement of “academies” that hold discussion forums and seminars in neighborhoods. There is Culture Street, where Abdullah Demirbas, the mayor of Sur Municipality in Amed celebrates “the diversity of religions and belief systems,” declaring that “we have begun to restore a mosque, a Chaldean-Aramaic catholic church, an orthodox Armenian Church, and a Jewish Synagogue.” Elsewhere, Jongerden and Akkaya report, “DTP municipalities initiated a ‘multilingual municipality service,’ sparking heated debate. Municipality signs were erected in Kurdish and Turkish, and local shopkeepers followed suit.”

The liberation of women is pursued by the women themselves through the initiatives of the DTK’s Women’s Council, enforcing new rules like the “forty percent gender quota” in the assemblies. If a civil servant beats his wife, his salary is directly transferred to the survivor to provide for her financial security and use as she sees fit. “In Gewer, if a husband takes a second wife, half of his estate goes to his first.”

There are “Peace Villages”, new or transformed communities of cooperatives, implementing their own program fully outside of the logistical constraints of the Kurdish-Turkish war. The first such community was constructed in Hakkari province, bordering Iraq and Iran, where “several villages” joined the experiment. In Van province, an “ecological women’s village” is being built to shelter victims of domestic violence, supplying itself “with all or almost all the necessary energy.”

The KCK holds biennial meetings in the mountains with hundreds of delegates from all four countries, with the threat of the Islamic State to autonomous southern and western Kurdistan high on their agenda. The Iranian and Syrian KCK-affiliated parties, PJAK (Party for Free Life in Kurdistan) and PYD (Democratic Union Party) promote democratic confederalism as well. The Iraqi KCK party, PCDK (Party for a Democratic Solution in Kurdistan) is relatively insignificant, with the ruling centrist Kurdistan Democratic Party and its leader Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, only recently decriminalizing and starting to tolerate it.

In the northernmost mountainous areas in Iraqi Kurdistan where the majority of PKK and PJAK guerrillas live, however, radical literature and assemblies thrive, with integration between the mountains’ many Kurds continuing after decades of displacement. In recent weeks, these militants have come down from the northernmost mountains to fight alongside the Iraqi Peshmerga against ISIS, rescuing 20,000 Yazidi and Christians from the Sinjar Mountains and being visited by Barzani in a public display of gratitude and solidarity, much to the embarrassment of Turkey and the United States.

The Syrian PYD has followed Turkish Kurdistan’s lead in the revolutionary transformation of the autonomous region under its control since the outbreak of the civil war. After “waves of arrests” under Ba’athist repression, with “10,000 people [taken] into custody, among them mayors, local party leaders, deputies, cadres and activists … the Kurdish PYD forces ousted the Baath regime in northern Syria, or West Kurdistan, [and] local councils popped up everywhere.” Self-defense committees were improvised to provide “security in the wake of the collapse of the Ba’ath regime,” and “the first school teaching the Kurdish language” was established as the councils intervened in the equitable distribution of bread and gasoline.

In Turkish, Syrian and to a lesser extent Iraqi Kurdistan, women are now free to unveil and strongly encouraged to participate in social life. Old feudal ties are being broken, people are free to follow any or no religion, and ethnic and religious minorities live together peaceably. If they are able to confine the new caliphate, PYD autonomy in Syrian Kurdistan and KCK influence in Iraqi Kurdistan could ferment an even more profound explosion of revolutionary culture and values.

On June 30, 2012, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCB), the broader revolutionary leftist coalition in Syria of which the PYD is the main group, has now embraced “the project of democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism as a possible model for Syria” as well.

Defending the Kurdish Revolution from IS

Turkey, in the meantime, has threatened to invade Kurdish territories if “terrorist bases are set up in Syria,” as hundreds of KCK (including PKK) fighters from across Kurdistan cross the border to defend Rojava (the West) from the advances of the Islamic State. The PYD alleges that Turkey’s moderate Islamist government is already engaged in a proxy war against them by facilitating the travel of international jihadists across the border to fight alongside the Islamists.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, Barzani, whose guerrillas fought alongside Turkey against the PKK in the 1990s in exchange for access to Western markets, has called for a “unified Kurdish front” in Syria through an alliance with the PYD. Barzani brokered the “Erbil Agreement” in 2012, forming the Kurdish National Council, with PYD leader Salih Muslim confirming that “all parties are serious and determined to continue working together.”

Still, while the study and practice of libertarian socialist ideas among the KCK leadership and rank-and-file is undoubtedly a positive development, it remains to be seen how serious they are about renouncing their bloody authoritarian past. The Kurdish struggle for self-determination and cultural sovereignty form a silver lining in the dark clouds gathering over the Islamic State and the bloody inter-fascist wars between Islamism, Ba’athism and religious sectarianism that gave birth to it.

A socially progressive and secular pan-Kurdish revolution with libertarian socialist elements, uniting the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds and re-invigorating the Turkish and Iranian struggles, may yet be a prospect. In the meantime, those of us who value the idea of civilization owe our gratitude to the Kurds, who are fighting the jihadists of Islamist fascism day and night on the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, defending radical democratic values with their lives.

The Kurds have no friends but the mountains
– Kurdish proverb

Rafael Taylor a libertarian socialist and freelance journalist based in Melbourne. He is also host of the “Floodgates Of Anarchy” podcast, a member of the ASF-IWA and convenor of the Left Libertarian Alliance Melbourne.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Eleni Tsigante August 18, 2014 at 12:08

I only hope you are right.

My experience re the emerging Kurdistan has been quite other. As an architect I was present at a Greek construction company meeting planning to undertake bridge-building and pre-cast concrete construction (quick to erect) buildings in Iraqi Kurdistan, through a ‘minister’ of the new state. This was seen as ‘no fail’ investment since the new Kurdistan is funded and protected by Israel / USA.


Jerome Roos August 18, 2014 at 12:12

You are right to point this out Eleni. I think it’s very important to make a proper distinction between the nationalist-conservative government in charge of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, and the libertarian-socialist experiments of the new PKK in Syria.


Nina A August 18, 2014 at 12:50

KRG is not controlled by PKK.


jkelvynrichards August 18, 2014 at 14:42

Humans and all other organisms function in the biosphere.
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the biosphere. Ecologists are biologists who describe and analyse the biosphere with a view to explain the evolution of animals, how they have adapted to survive, and offer explanations of their behaviours.
Social Ecologists analyse the impact of human actions upon the biosphere, and offer explanations about the relations between the environment, and all organic species, as well as make predictions about future scenarios.
Social Ecology is reflexive and normative, offering prescriptions and manifestos about how humans ought to behave in relation to the environment, other species, and all extended ecological communities, so as to ensure their mutual co-existence. It evaluates evidence so as to devise social, moral, philosophical, economic, ecological, environmental manifestos in order to identify the principles, policies, and actions that are necessary to protect the environment and enable the survival of all ecological communities in the biosphere in the future.
Social Ecology is best regarded a social science.
Social ecological manifestos should be available to be adopted by any organization, government, or group; from a dictatorship, or a plutocracy, or a parliament, or a corporation, or a local authority, or a municipality, to any political party. Nevertheless, for some reason or other, it has become associated with particular politics such as anarchy; libertarian municipalism; direct democracy; inclusive democracy; communism or communalism, to the exclusion of all others.
I suggest that there is no valid reason why Social Ecology has been so completely tied to these political perspectives. In fact, to do so has led it into a dead end!
Today, most organisations are hierarchies. Nation States are plutocracies even those parading as democracies. All states and corporations are actively involved in capitalism, and state socialism has failed. Most people in the world live in large cities with little sense of community. Most people are poor and uneducated, struggling to survive. Does all this mean that there is no place for Social Ecology? On the contrary, it is most important that all these groups pay attention to, and enact, a Social Ecology manifesto .Humans have walked the earth for less than 200,000 years – a relatively short time in comparison to the existence of the biosphere. From 7000BC to 2013AD, humans have grown more numerous, and developed tools and processes to enable them to reconstruct the environments in the biosphere. It is true that they suffer from the catastrophes of nature: solar flares, earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, tornadoes, cyclones, monsoons, ice and snow storms, floods, forest and grass fires, and diseases like malaria, but they are better able to protect themselves and predict the events. After 1800AD, humans began to manufacture tools of mass construction and destruction which enabled them to mine coal, iron ore, limestone; cut down trees by the thousand; grow wheat, corn, barley, rye, rice on thousands of acres – in fact, to completely transform the biosphere; or to be more precise, to completely destroy nature! As a result of these endeavors the global population of humans has risen to 7.2 billion; and is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, in response to the more efficient use of water and the creation of new plants for food. As a result of their industrial activities, humans have become a threat to the survival of all living organisms. Human communities are no longer committed to the mutual coexistence of living organisms. They are actively involved in the destruction of other living organisms so as to ensure the survival of homo sapiens. Nevertheless, in the near future, some humans will face extinction because of the lack of drinking water; and others will suffer from pollution, and global warming. Many writers have argued that in order to make an impact on water shortages and world pollution, all societies will have to work together. If the world is to survive as an ‘eco-system’ and be sustainable, we will all have to act together. Every individual and every government will have to agree to take specified actions designed to reduce pollution and global warming. The peoples and all other organisms of the world form an extended ecological community within complex networks, and humans must pay attention to their interdependence if they are to survive.Development, Conservation and Environmentalism mean that we should all share the resources of the globe so that we all achieve a satisfactory sustainable standard of life. It means caring and sharing.The nature of our interdependence is such that the greed of some brings about the hunger of others. In order to secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number, we must act in consideration of all others. The warnings are all around us – from scientists, activists, and, increasingly, from our personal experiences of climate change with flooding, droughts , species extinction, and other natural disasters as well as a multitude of unnatural disasters.
.Social Ecology means that in order to protect the environment, and expect a sustainable future, we must alter our behaviour, our lifestyles, our economics, our notions of self; our cultural filters, our priorities, our morality. These changes will require us all to analyse our mindscapes, our cultural filters. Roszak (1973) argues that what is important in the examination of a people’s mindscape is not what they articulately know or say they believe. What matters is something deeper………. the feel of the world around them, the sense of reality; the taste that spontaneously discriminates between knowledge and fantasy. This notion is supported by Pepper (1989) who states that: It is of prime importance for us to study the real and tangible physical environment, how different groups and individuals perceive that environment and the nature of the ecologically, socially and culturally based presuppositions which colour these perceptions, or as some express it, their cultural filters. This means that we have to think and act, locally and globally. Concern for the environment, conservation, development, and ecology are not only about nature, they are calling for social changes. The development of a social ecology, according to which we realize that we are interdependent and connected to each other, as part of complex networks in the biosphere. It is foolish to identify social ecology solely with direct democracy: It is much more to do with the survival of extended ecological communities within complex networks.
Social Ecology is the study of human behavior in the biosphere; concerned with Development, Conservation, Environment, Sustainability, and Subsistence, in order to foster extended ecological communities in the biosphere.
Social Ecology will study political systems, and economic issues in the municipality, the city or the factory when they challenge the viability of the biosphere.
Social Ecology is the identification and analysis of the problems caused by human behavior in the biosphere; the development of solutions to the problems caused by human behavior in the biosphere; the formulation of social practices that will ensure that humans live in mutual coexistence with all living organisms: the formulation of social policies and practices designed to allow all humans to survive and thrive in relation to all living organisms; the development of systems of governance, [social, political, economic] that will enable human communities to take decisions that promote the mutual co-existence of all living organisms in the biosphere: the study of the ways in which humans exist in cooperation with each other, and with other species, for their mutual benefit as an extended ecological community , unpredictable behaviors in order to adapt, evolve, survive, in the face of threats to their survival .will be concerned with behaviors and systems in the municipality, the city, and factory, as aspects of humans in the biosphere.
Social Ecologists will study human behavior and climate change; the emission of pollutants and gases; the exploitation and destruction of forests, and grasslands; the exploitation and mining of oils, ores and minerals; the destruction of species. They will formulate policies and practices to help conserve the biosphere. They will identify alternative systems of economy and politics in order to ensure that humans live in mutual coexistence with all living organisms
Social ecologists recognize the role of humans in the destruction of the environment and the consequences of capitalist enterprise to the exploitation of natural resources. They propose policies and practices that preserve the environment, and do not poison the biosphere. They draw our attention to the facts that we are responsible for the pollution of nature. They urge governments to move towards a sustainable economy based on subsistence, conservation and preservation. They devise models of a steady state economy which will stabilize consumption and growth. They emphasize the need to care and share and for communities to provide welfare for the benefit of all by redistributing wealth. Such a manifesto would lead to significant social change whether it was adopted by local or central government, direct or participatory democracy, hierarchical or non-hierarchical organizations.

A ‘social ecological’ government is one that is primarily concerned about the best ways to ensure that citizens live in mutual co existence with all living organisms. They will propose and practice the preservation of the environment and not poison the biosphere.
If there are politicians looking for alternative systems of government and management, I suggest that they will have to change their aims/objectives/priorities, mind-sets about the impact of human behavior upon the biosphere to ensure that humans live in mutual coexistence with all living organisms. It is clear that we are all far away from achieving any of these changes.


Don Wagstaff October 10, 2014 at 09:19

This reply up there is the empty gesture of a complete egoist.

Don Wagstaff


Someone from TR with a clue August 18, 2014 at 20:20

The “PKK as Bookchinite anarchists” story is a little fantastic. This is a movement that maintains the hierarchical command structure with a leadership cult (Abdullah Öcalan, in prison) on all serious, overarching issues. It is also authoritarian and hegemonic in its strongholds, it does not tolerate rival left-wing organizing in its own areas of strength, not to mention any alternative Kurdish nationalist movements (the PKK wiped those out in the 80′s). The PKK is engaged in a “peace process” with AKP’s Erdogan, who has shed all pretense to “moderate Islam” and “conservative democrat” in favor of autocratic rule, after the 2013 June Gezi protests and the 2013 December graft scandal. He is now presedent-elect and in motion to rule Turkey forever, Putin-Medvedev style, and is open about his aims to change the Turkish constituion to concentrate executive power in the President instead of the PM. This is to happen after the 2015 general elections, if the AKP can get the 2/3 super majority seats. The legal wing of the PKK, the BDP (now DBP) has gathered around itself the most soft-on-AKP left-liberal sections of the socialist left (among more respectable authoritarian socialist parties) under yet another umbrella organization called HDP. The HDP party has a very ambigous program of localism and populism and is for sure NOT anti-capitalist. The HDP presedential candidate recently was on TV claiming he has no issue with fortunes that are “legitimately earned” (referring to Erdogan’s corruption). And by the way, HDP leaders’ attitudes to the Gezi protests went from distanced in the heat of the moment, to lukewarm after the movement died down, at best. Even the graft probe were seen by HDP leaders as “a coup against Erdogan”. On these crucial issues, the PKK/BDP/HDP shy away from upsetting their dictatorial negotiation partner, Erdogan.

The gist of PKK politics is a lot of talk about the grassroots, values of multiculturalism and other liberal niceities (lots of GLBT-talk too) that are then instrumentalized for an overarching nationalist project, that has swithed its strategic goal from independence to co-optation into the Turkish State and rapprochement with Barzani’s Iraqi Kurdistan, which has also developed tremendous economic and political ties to Turkey. In fact along with Israel, Turkey is ready to greenlight full Iraqi Kurdistan independence, the possibility of which paradoxically is advanced by the emergence of ISIS which has put the Baghdad regime to shame. The end game of this regional imperialist power-game is an alliance of Turkey and Iraqi Kurds and Kurdish oil flowing to Western markets over Turkish pipelines (to caricaturize the situation). The picture is blurred by the fuckup that is Turkish policy towards Esad, and the progressive demands of the PKK base that I doubt Erdogan will ever fulfill.

If you believe PKK-led forces in Turkey are about to put in place libertarian municipalism and “democratic modernity”, you have another thing coming. And watch out for an Erdogan sellout of the peace process if he consolidates his personal dictatorship next year (and heaven forbid he pushes that constitution change through with support of HDP MP votes).

The Syrian sister organization PYD could be a little better, I am not very knowledgeable.

All this is aside the positive role played by these forces against the ISIS threat.


Gerry Downing November 2, 2014 at 07:33

Someone from TR with a clue:

What an excellent response to the pro-imperialist tripe in the article.

As if we could all live in a world of our own making, constructed within our own heads, and the decision of the finance houses of Wall Street did not dominate the planet and consign the Kurdish worker and peasant to openury by the push of a button or the clock of a mouse, as if we could escape this reality by pretending it did not exist and forge the relationships described here; peace process based on the sell out of Gerry Adams and Nelson Mandela which produced a few miserable crumbs for their followers and the elimination of conjunctional opponents.

Well done Someone from TR with a clue for keeping our feet on the ground, identifying the real enemies of humanities’ oppressed masses and accurately identifying their agents. A force for liberation, an alliance with the US and Israel a la Barzani – who stupid do you think we all are?

(not total of course, those dissidents are still there in SA,in Ireland and Kuridstan)


Casey Hunt August 18, 2014 at 21:11

I totally agree with Eleni Tsigante that the new Kurdistan (as well as PKK ) is funded and protected by Israel / USA . As a rule of thumb where these states support there is no peace and rest at that region. Together with PKK, these terrorist states are the number 1 responsibles of for over 50.000 people killed in southern Turkey be it from Turks or Kurds. Make no mistake where these 2 states have benefits , they dont care about humanity or justice. So PKK is no freedom fighters but a bunch of used pathetic baby murderers.


Nina A August 19, 2014 at 21:25

Hello mister turkish nationalist.


Bronwyn October 12, 2014 at 01:47

His comment sounds just about as believable as the press releases from our very own White House and State Department.

What I find myself most objecting to lately, is the sheer extravagant transparency and gall of the lies I’m expected to swallow.

Erdogan is preventing Kobane from being reinforced, and we’re not doing anything to stop him, nor to drop supplies ourselves–yet the US/Israel is somehow “protecting” the Islamic State?

I got a bridge in New Jersey to sell you.


Hasey Cunt September 15, 2014 at 01:40

Mr. Cunt is absolutely a turkish nationalist who is quite close minded as expected.
Me, also a turk. But it doesn’t prevent to understant such an offical lie about the deaths… Fist of all it’s not 50.000, it’s usually known 35.000 in Turkey (which means Mr. Cunt is doing PR in English forums in the sake of his country, honor, pride etc.) , and this a strange mannipulation of an statiystics for nearly 20 years.. What am i talking is 30.000 is pkk militants and sivil people, and 5.000 turkish soldier. Who killed pkk militants? Turkish army. Than who is responsible in the in the first priority? Turkish army..errr. no! If you are a kemalist, nationalist or patriotic person in Turkey, you can’t event think about that…. for these guys State means everyting(its kind of shadow of god on the earth) and if dare to struggle with state, than of course you sould be punished. And whatever you did, you are wrong. So, pkk is responsible for killing(!) 30.000 of its own man/woman.

t’s not surprising is the dogmatic and totaliter solve of this information is


Bronwyn October 12, 2014 at 01:48

Then the Occupiers of Taksim Sq must be pretty amazing and unusual people.


Zaher aarif August 25, 2014 at 11:53

It is an excellent article , you have given so much information that no many people even among Kurdish people are not aware. Well done.


Mark August 26, 2014 at 20:33

Sorry, this is ridiculous. You’ve been taken for a ride and are now inviting us to join you.
A casual glance at the Kurdish demonstration that assembled outside the BBC a couple of weeks ago – a PKK operation – would have shown even the simplest anarchist that the cult of Ocalan is alive a well. What with all those large yellow flag with his picture on. Not very anarchist, that, is it?
You’ll see the unpleasant habit that the PKK have of killing political opponents – especially ex-members – is alive and well. I draw your attention to the murder of Osman Balic in Zakho, two weeks ago, as an example. His three year old daughter was murdered too. Not very anarchist that, is it?
Exactly how anarchist is it to get your funding from drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking and extortion?
Do you think suicide bombings against civilians is a particularly anarchist policy? For example outside a cafe (near a Justice and Development office), October 2o11.
Honestly, it is in Ocalan’s interest to say “Ah, we’re totally different now.” They’re not. Get a grip.


Hubertus August 28, 2014 at 11:31

Hello Mark,
first of all, historically I do consider people in Barcelona 1936 worshipping the killed in combat Durrutti as anarchists; as well as those that inhabit fotos of the (extremly authoritan) Bakunin in their houses. In a cult for persons, the identification with the ideas they represent is the main factor; and it’s not only western anarchists that overcame this kind of culture (which used to be part of anarchist propaganda in the past), but also conservative, social-democratic and liberal parties, so that is not an indication. You have to take into account the realities of the people, and they have different references and cultural experiences then western marganilised anarchists. Same for the question of violent – also the spanish CNT comitted various crimes of war during the civil war; does that make their goal less libertarian or antifascist? the anarchists in Italy, Russia or GB acted just like that: killing their own comrades when they were scared they could give informations to the state. These are the inhuman consequences of a long term armed struggle. You are very right by pointing to this, one should not have illusions about the realities of war and militant underground activities. Nevertheless, the goal of Öcalan and the new kurdisch movement – also outside the PKK – is honest. And Öcalans theoretical work the best and largest about the failure of marxist-leninism and national liberation.


someone from turkey with a lot of clue August 31, 2014 at 18:40

This is a very accurate article. My only problem is the tone on “we will see how things will be in practice”. Instead of observing, we should be more encoraged to particapate, to go there, to think about the revolution in there, to make movies, to actively get into action and to support this revolution in a similar manner with zapatistas.


OCL (France) September 1, 2014 at 22:16
Mike Feinstein September 2, 2014 at 18:34

As a Green Party member in the United States who studied Murray Bookchin closely , I found this report fascinating. Thanks so much for posting it!


Janet Biehl September 11, 2014 at 18:33

Here’s how a village assembly works in Colemerg, North Kurdistan:


Janet Biehl September 11, 2014 at 23:44

I’m grateful to Rafael and ROAR for linking to my work on New Compass. But I notice that some of the links don’t work, like the one for “interviews with Kurdish radicals” and “Peace Villages.” You can see the article cited here:


Joris Leverink September 12, 2014 at 17:51

Thanks for pointing this out, Janet. I’ve fixed the links, they should work now!


Ilan Shalif March 24, 2015 at 09:48

The main road to a libertarian socialist/anarchist communist social order is anti authoritarian and anticapitalist state of mind. The direct democracy and horizontalism of the PKK promotion of it is most important though they do not practice yet the post capitalist egalitarian distribution of the fruits of work.


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