Nikos Maziotis on Anniversary of Revolutions in Spain and Rojava
July 19 is a date enshrined in the World History of Revolutionary Movements for Social Release from State and Capital Power. July 19, 1936 is the starting date of the Spanish Revolution (1936-‘39) when in Barcelona, Catalonia, revolutionaries organized in the Anarcho-syndicalist CNT (National Confederation of Workers) and the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation) battled with the military guard of the city that participated in General Franco’s coup and defeated them after 2 days of battles, inaugurating the most radical revolutionary movement of working and rural self-management in the history of the classic labor movement (1848-1939).
July 19, 2012 is the date of starting the revolution in Rojava – N. Syria that began in the city of Kobane when the armed forces of the Kurdish revolutionary YPG movement (popular protection units), along with the majority of citizens who supports the Kurdish freedom movement captured the city and buildings of the collapsing Assad regime that was in power.
In Spain, in 1936, millions of workers and mainly farmers closed a large part of the industry, mainly in Catalonia, which was the most industrialized area of Spain, but also a large part of the agricultural land, expropriating the land of the wealthy and the Catholic Church in Andalusia , Aragon, Levante, Castile and elsewhere and created their own self-managed communities, labor and rural collectives. For a short-lived space, workers and farmers took power in their hands, took life in their hands, putting in place anarchist communism.
In Northern Syria, the Kurdish revolutionary movement was built from 2012 and after an extreme social model that call it a democratic Confederation based on the Community as a new society cell and the popular councils, neighborhoods, districts, Municipalities and villages in 3 Cantons, Afrin, Kobane and Cizre. This model rejects the nation – as a centralized monopoly management mechanism for social affairs and includes in addition to the Kurds and other ethnicities and peoples of the area, Arabs, Yazidis, Assyrians, Turkmens.
Despite the diversity of the time and the distance of 76 years of the two revolutionary ventures, despite the diversity of the political subjects and ideological invocations, there are many things in common between the two revolutionary ventures. The most important thing is the rejection of the state, the nation-state as a centralized, monopoly management mechanism for social affairs. Another is the rejection of the old Marxist legal theory that the development of productive capitalist forces as a “progressive” process is the basic prerequisite for social revolutions and building a liberating society with its own self-management instruments, communities, Communes, municipalities, councils. Both revolutionary ventures occurred in social conditions of underdevelopment of capitalism where the market economy had not prevailed and where societies were in a semi-feudal stage. And in Spain in 1936 and N. Syria today, the majority of the population are farmers or live outside major urban centers, although in Spain the working class played a leading role, mainly in Catalonia, while in Rojava – N. Syria, the working class is absent from the historic spotlight.
The Spanish workers were mainly first-generation migrants who had come from the countryside to the city to work in factories, transferring the community culture of their villages, ideas of solidarity and mutual help. The same was true of the Russian workers in 1905 and 1917. This working class with fresh rural roots has been the leading revolutionary force and differed a lot from the conservative, militarized German industrial proletariat – as in other countries of the developed West. This proletariat in 1918 -19 followed the opponents of the Social Democratic Party, rather than the revolutionaries of Spartakists.
It is noteworthy that the revolution in Reazava – N. Syria is directed against a dictatorial ‘‘Socialist’’ regime with an anti-imperialist-status similar to the status of the Soviet Union where the state-owned economy is prevalent, namely the State and Bureaucratic capitalism and one-party dictatorship, in this case the Baath party of Assad. Both revolutionary ventures have demonstrated (as the Zapatista Movement did) that the fight for freedom can only rely on the subjective will of people for freedom and dignity without the circumstances of the time (social, political, economic). And not in allegedly “objective” economic legal laws, such as the development of productive capitalist forces, or in theories where the economy is the basis and the state the superstructure. No social revolution has happened in history due to such an alleged precondition. The irony of history is that even Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 in order to understand power threw in the trash the story of Marx, since Russia in 1917 in no way was an industrially developed country, but on the contrary, it was a country with feudal features, nor had it passed a “urban-democratic” revolution stage according to Marxist theory.
Another common contribution of the Spanish Revolution and the Revolution in Rojava – N. Syria is to deal with many different enemies.
The Spanish revolution, beyond Franco’s fascists who had the full support of Hitler and Mussolini, faced the hostility of course of the “urban nationalist” schemes of France and the English government, but mainly faced the Spanish and Catalan “Democratic” State, in which the forces of the so-called People’s Front prevailed. The popular front was nothing but an alliance of liberal capitalists with Socialists, Stalinists and Catalan separatists. All of them were fanatic enemies of labor and rural self-management, peasant and labor power, and they had support for the Soviet Union and Stalin.
The Revolution in Rojava – N. Syria faces a variety of enemies, from the Assad regime, the Islamic state that defeated Turkey and international coalitions fighting either in their presence or by representatives in the geographic field of the Syrian Civil War. From the western block of power (US, England, France, Israel) and on the other hand, the reactive or “anti-imperialist” blocks (Russia, Iran) defending the “Socialist” Assad regime. All of them, despite their alliances with Kurds due to the common pursuit of the destruction of ISIS, are against the revolutionary venture of democratic confederation and democratic autonomy.
But it should be recognized that some fighters in Rojava-N. Syria have done so much better than the Spanish revolutionaries of 1936. In principle, despite the huge difficulties of the civil war that continues in Syria and the successive Turkish interventions, the occupation of Afrin in 2018 and the attack one year after, in 2019 in order to create a “security” area of 30 kilometers at the Turkish-Border, which the US and Russia agreed on with Erdogan, the revolution in N. Syria continues to exist 9 years after its inception. In contrast to chaos, violence and bloodshed in the rest of Syria, in the rebel areas of N. Syria, there is peace by defying the dominant propaganda that revolutions involve self-evident violence, chaos, or that everyone does what he wants.
In contrast, the Spanish Revolution was also to a great extent replaced after the Barcelona Battle in May 1937 by the counter-revolutionary alliance of the People’s Front, Socialists, Communist-Stalinists and Catalans Autonomists. At the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938, the urban-democratic state of the People’s Front and the capitalists managed to retrain the power in their hands and the reins of the industry in Catalonia that had been collected by the working class and anarcho-syndicalists. The rural collectives and the communities of the villages, away from urban power centers, although in Aragon they suffered attacks, continued to exist until the final victory of Franco in 1939. Socialists and Communists-Stalinists were, in fact, the figures of the Spanish Revolution before the defeat of Franco’s fascists. But we do not have to ignore the mistakes of the anarchists themselves.
Power is not only the central state but also the collectives, communities, councils. In every revolutionary venture in history there was a period of a binary power, on one side the revolutionary authority of the Communities and the state power on the other hand. The error of the anarchists in 1936 was that they did not take overall power beyond the economy and the political sphere, in Catalonia, where they had overwhelming support against their counter-revolutionary opponents. Thus, in the name of a distortion, the “destruction of any kind of power” and in the name of the common anti-fascist alliance, some ‘companions with influence’ ‘or otherwise the leadership of CNT-FAI cooperated with the popular front. As Murray Bookchin said in the preface of the final fourth work of “The Third Revolution” concerning the Spanish Revolution “No labor organization in the history of Revolutions can compare to the class consciousness of the Spanish proletariat or even the Spanish peasants. No other population has deserved a competent revolutionary leadership more than the Spanish working class, which knew it had a great need for leadership and was willing to be guided. Spain gave the world a utopian picture of the proletariat that the thinkers of the revolution had as then only at the moments of their most uninhibited fantasies. Leaders were needed to earn the respect of the proletariat. Without competent leaders, the Spanish proletariat remained with some who had no qualifications in any way. Frederica Montasene, Juan Gargo Clover, and Diego Abuddan de Sadigian were of course idealists and sometimes noble people, but they had serious shortcomings in historical understanding, theoretical deepening and strategic skills. The results of their leadership were devastating: In the non-revolutionary first years of the 1930s, these “influential figures” were calling on uprisings and were securing every strike to be the beginning of a rebellion. But when in 1936-1937 a revolutionary situation eventually emerged, they did not have the courage to diagnose the barbed border that divided capitalism from libertarian communism. They had not cleared the nature of power – which, in some way was being abolished, and cannot be removed more than air or water -, these leaders were not prepared to use power when the masses finally refined it to their hands. Instead, they allowed developments to turn them into simple liberals and nothing more.”
Another thing that the comrades in Rojava have done much better than the Spanish anarchists is on the subject of female emancipation. The Revolution in Rojava-N. Syria is a predominantly female revolution, a revolution against patriarchy and sexism. The existence of separate armed womens of YPJ units (female protection units), which starred in the Battle against ISIS, the institutionalization of the 40% quota for women in all the institutions of the Confederate System, to the Councils, in the committees, the courts, the self-organization of women demonstrates that the issue of female emancipation and the fight against patriarchy and sexism is a major priority for the revolution in Rojava – N. Syria.
For the revolutionary movement in Rojava, the question of patriarchy and sexism is inextricably linked to the creation of a democratic society without a state based on the principles of communism and ecology. Besides, historically, it has been established that without patriarchy and sexism, the state and capitalism would not have been created with all the suffering, wars, economic crises, poverty, deaths, ecological disaster, pandemics.
Another similarity of both revolutionary projects is the existence of previous revolutionary movements that had proposed years or decades before positions and suggestions on how to be a liberated society. The Spanish Revolution was the result of the existence of about 60 years of the anarchist movement. Since the age of a international, since Mikhail Bakunin sent Giuseppe Fanelli to Madrid in 1868 and the first anarchist rural uprisings, strikes, executions of state officials, armed labor struggles marked the history of Spanish anarchist and labor movement over the years. This movement had processed the theory of libertarian communism at the CNT conference in Zaragoza in May 1936, two months before the Revolution. In the revolution in Rojava – N. Syria, there would be no view of the Democratic Confederation and Democratic Autonomy without the Kurdish revolutionary movement that a decade before the revolution had proposed turning from the goal of creating a Kurdish state to the aim of creating a non-state confederated communities. Also, the revolution in Rojava would not exist without PKK and PYD, without the 40-year armed fight against the Turkish state.
July 19 has greater historical significance than October 25, 1917, despite the fact that the October phase of the Russian Revolution is more famous historically. Because October marked the turning to totalitarianism and dictatorship on the proletariat, the maintenance of state and bureaucratic authoritarianism, the prevalence of state capitalism. July 19 symbolizes true social liberation from the state and capital, real popular power, the power of the municipality, the actual, direct democracy.
LONG LIVE THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION
LONG LIVE JULY 19, 1936 and JULY 19, 2012
FOR A SOCIETY WITHOUT STATE AND WITHOUT BORDERS.
Nikos Maziotis, member of the Revolutionary Struggle
D Wing, Domicocus Prison