Bookchin’s Moment? The Rojava Experiment

“The Rojava Experiment November 29, 2015 by Adrian J Ivakhiv Wes Enzinna’s New York Times Magazine article on “The Rojava Experiment” finally gives mainstream recognition to what has been happening among the Kurds of northern Syria. As he writes, “In accordance with a philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan, Rojavan women had been championed as leaders, defense of the environment enshrined in law and radical direct democracy enacted in the streets.” Ocalan’s philosophy, in turn, is a revolutionary Kurdish version of eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin’s philosophy of “social ecology” and “libertarian municipalism.” In Enzinna’s account, the hundreds of communes making up Rojava’s three cantons of Qamishli, Afrin, and Kobani are “Bookchin’s utopian idea materialized”, with “municipal assemblies” as the building blocks of an eco-socialist-feminist order in which all upper-level government positions are shared between a man and a woman, all police recruits “receive their weapons only after ‘two weeks of feminist instruction’,” and where the enemies — the Islamic State and the Assad regime (along with Turkish president Erdogan’s propaganda war, and sometimes worse, on the Kurds) — make for as harsh a set of circumstances as one could possibly imagine. “ISIS,” one of the Kurdish militants suggests in the article’s finale, “has chosen the side of slavery. We’ve chosen the side of freedom.” She continues: “Ideas, like people, die if we don’t fight for them.” The irony here may be that those ideas are being implemented on a large scale because of the force by which they were communicated by a charismatic political leader — Ocalan, whose earlier Marxist-Leninism was upended as he read Bookchin’s works in Turkey’s Imrali prison — who, in turn, took them from another idealistic and forceful communicator (Bookchin) who had by that time lost all faith in political change. Such change is occurring in northern Syria because, as another interviewee put it, “the whole world collapsed.” In Bookchin’s America, meanwhile, the world chugs on. Enzinna’s calling Bookchin an “obscure Vermont-based philosopher” who is “mostly forgotten” today may not be exactly accurate — at least not for eco-activists and -theorists — but what’s more important is that this article may make it much less accurate. That would be a good thing. (Janet Biehl’s new biography of Bookchin may help with that as well)

see also:


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s