In the heart of Syria's darkness, a democratic, egalitarian and feminist society emerges

In our Cosmos Café today, we talked about the Rojava cooperative movement in northern Syria—which is potentially being threatened by the current Turkish invasion, enabled by the US military pullout.

Here is some background on that movement:

And their own site:

I hope we’ll return to bring some attention to this movement again. It seems there is a lot we can learn from how such groups arise and grow even amidst conditions of chaos and ubiquitous threat.


This is a fascinating article, to be sure, but it’s oddly troubling at the same time.

It is clear to me why this isn’t at the forefront of mainstream media: it goes against everything their ideological drivers stand for. What’s at play here is the closest I’ve seen to “integral” (in my own understanding, naturally) so far. I was reminded of Connolly’s “cross-regional pluralist assemblages” while reading this, but what has arisen here goes much farther than even he might hope. It is a tender shoot that is being massively threatened by the worst of what (post?)modernity has to offer: ethnocentric-capitalist militarism. It would seem – unfortunately – that where the US is not the actor, they are the enabler. That saddens me deeply. The USA I visited has little, if anything, to do with the USA I left. I was skeptical, but still hopeful then; I’m just curmudgeonly disillusioned now.

What is going on there needs engagement, not just resistance to the war-mongering and horrors that will follow, but the ideas, notions, methods, and structures as well. There is undoubtedly a lot we can learn from them. What struck me while reading was how often it was mentioned that it was the “mentality” that had to be met head-on, both from the supporters as well as the opposers. As Hamlet aptly noted, there is nothing good or bad, but our thinking make it so. Oh yes, we need to get our bodies involved, but what good does that do if our heads are still screwed up? That the young people – according to the article – don’t get it is another troubling point.

At the moment, however, it is the Turkish military (and subsequent policy) actions that are the greatest threat. If they have their way, the movement could well be forgotten before we have a chance to remember it.


❛Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.❜

—Zelda Fitzgerald



Thanks for your responses, @achronon and @Michael_Stumpf. It’s been fascinating to learn more about the Rojava cooperative movement and the Kurdish people in general, who are so beautiful and interesting.

How amazing it is that an actual feminist-anarchist radical democratic movement has taken shape in the most unlikely of places…making it perhaps exactly the sort of place (or the kind of conditions) where we should be looking—in a liminal zone between people and statehood, under intense, violent pressure from all sides, finding a new balance and social forms that could transcend the very conditions that gave it rise.

I am reminded of W Heiner Mühlmann’s theory of “Maximal Stress Cooperation,” which was discussed in the “Generations” series of Cafés:

Are the Rojava not an example of a generative reality?

We have also broached this notion of a postnational/stateless society here: The end of a world of nation-states may be upon us – Jamie Bartlett | Aeon Magazine

And we’ve discussed municipal/democratic confederalism and the writings of Murray Bookchin (a major inspiration for Abdullah Ocalan) here: A new model for the left?

More background on the Kurds:

And here is an interesting commentary (propaganda—but still…) from a Westerner who’s joined the cause for the ideals—echos of Republican Spain…

Another ideological (in the neutral sense of that term) explanation:

And finally, David Graeber, who had the opportunity to visit Rojava:

As Trump said (in his Trumpian, amoral way): the Kurds are not angels. (Or are they?) My interest is not in the violent part of the Kurds’ necessary struggle—I still enjoy the privilege of living in the shell of American empire—but rather in how such a radical movement could undo the power dynamics that perpetuate political violence in the first place.

If the Kurds can at least attempt it (assuming they survive the latest incursions by Turkey, which I assume they will, by whatever means), why can’t we, who have it so much easier?


Could it be – and I’m just thinking spontaneously out loud – that we can’t because we have it so much easier? Where’s the incentive? For the Kurds, what they do and how they do it is existential. For Americans, as long as the shoe isn’t pinching too badly, why would I need to change shoes? What is more, the comparatively l-o-n-g history of suffering and oppression sensitizes one to opportunities for movement: when the powers that be get distracted (and the Iraq War and the supposed Syrian Civil War were certainly that), you suddenly have chances to strike your own irons while they’re hot. If anything is cooking in America, I would suspect it is where one least expects it, but where minorities are tolerated, even welcomed.

What is more, when I hear what Graeber is saying (if I’m understanding him correctly) and I think about both what Trump’s biggest supporters and detractors are saying, I get the distinct feeling that neither group really understands what they’re dealing with, and neither group, especially in their current, purer forms, is positioned in any way to effect real change, because I’m not sure that either group really wants that. I think the question that too many people ask is “Are things really so bad for me, personally, that I’m willing to risk it for something else?” That’s no basis for a revolution to my mind.

But, like I said, I’m thinking rather spontaneously out loud.

On a more sober note, there is a lot in those previous articles, threads, and Cafés that could be picked up again and thought further, at least that’s the impression I get from scanning back through the links. It also raises the question in my mind whether significant change (or revolutions or …) are ever planned or are they fundamentally reactionary (in a literal sense) by nature?