By Anne-Sophie Mariposa
Translated from the German version in Kurdistan Report
Before traveling to Rojava, I had much conversations with friends and comrades about how to make it possible to learn from this revolution without just taking advantage of it or putting it to meaning derived from my socialization at the heart of Capitalism. We agreed that we need to learn from previous experiences of internationalism and not repeat the mistakes. Recent examples of an inadequate approach to internationalism are Nicaragua or the Zapatista movement in Mexico, which has received relatively broad support (not only) from western revolutionaries, but has also been associated with strong romanticization and revolution-tourism.
As a result, the revolution was seen as a radical, socially changing process separate from our own social reality. As an idealized world into which one can briefly immerse oneself and then be overwhelmed again by the reality into which one returns. Or in which one wishes to remain forever, because one sees no possibility to do the necessary preparatory work where one comes from. Which is more like an escape and often leads to the confusion of those who have started a joint struggle and does not help to overcome together the obstacles that are at the heart of capitalism. Revolutionary tourism also does little to change the world. Because in many cases, the eurocentric attitude that in the end we cannot overcome by a superficial, short-term stay.
One way of critically reflecting on this often unconscious approach is the concept of the critical whiteness. It emerged in the context of postcolonial theory and calls for reflecting upon the privileges we have as members of a white, colonizing society. This includes our truth regime, which is very much related to our history as an exploiting class. What we understand as civilized, was right, was worth supporting. An important example in this context would be the armed struggle. In our world, which has shifted armed conflicts far outward through skilful agreements and has made them invisible, but in no way contributes to abolishing them, its easy to demand that the suppressed should fight for their rights without weapons. The fact that this demand in many cases would simply mean the end of this fights and the destruction of the movement, in another reality of life, is simply not seen without critical reflection of this privilege of living in the pacified center of capitalism.
Another “privilege” in the context of revolutionary internationalism is the freedom of choice. It is reasonably possible for us to choose the place of our revolutionary action. This is not the case for people from the periphery. They are forced, so to speak, to push the revolution where they grew up. You can not avoid it. They are unable to run away from the responsibility that comes with recognizing that this world and our humanity can only be saved through a radical systemic change. They are forced to overcome the contradictions of everyday life.
In the conversations with friends and comrades, we had concluded that the most important support for the revolution in Rojava can only be if we are pushing our own struggles all over the world. I know this is not really new insight – on paper. But how does it look in practice? Who really takes these findings from the experiences of internationalist struggles to heart today and tries to implement them with force and conviction? Why does nothing happen? Why is there still so little revolutionary, constructive work here? Why is there no strong revolutionary organization? Or why can they be intimidated as soon as repression hits? Why, despite all revolutionary exchanges, have we not yet learned that a revolution is not to be combined with comfort or is easy to do?
These were my thoughts before I went to Rojava. Actually I already knew that the greatest support of the revolution in Rojava would be to work on the revolution where I came from. At the same time, however, I also had the feeling of being in a complete dead end. Who still talks of revolution today? And how is it done to those who do it? With subtle, perfectionist, indifferent criticism of every small movement. Perhaps the relationship of the experienced left to the new courageous youth can be described as that of nagging adults to their children who then either paralyze the child or drive it to a total rage. Neither paralysis nor uncontrolled rage seemed to me to be a suitable path. I wanted to find a way out of the dead end.
Then I came to Rojava and could see that this argument was hardly discussed in other groups. At that time, the border between Rojava and Basûr (South Kurdistan), controlled by the South Kurdish Democratic Party Kurdistan (KDP), was even more permeable and with some reasoning it was possible for some activists and journalists to obtain permission from the KDP to go to Rojava. It was particularly noticeable that a large proportion of activists believed that they could understand a revolution after only three weeks, without even having dealt with one of the three fundamental goals – the liberation of women. I’ve been there for over a year now, learning the language, getting to know society, reading Öcalan’s books, discussing a great deal and working in practice. And yet, I would never allow myself to claim that I understood that revolution and could deliver my analysis to a western person.
In Rojava I met a lot of men who had decided to bring the “right” revolution to Rojava. Men who do not even know how to keep themselves alive, who are dependent on frozen pizza. Men who do not know how to take care of their friends in their collective. And this men would seriously claim that they were the forces of the “right” revolution? Men who simply have to move out of the center of capitalism to the periphery because of the great overpowering of the state and are convinced that they are actually already true revolutionaries. My impression is that the mothers in Rojava, who defend the revolution and build the picture much closer to the image of the revolutionary subject than these ridiculous, lost figures. And where are the revolutionary women from the West? Because of their critically-distanced attitude to patriarchal behavior, they have not arrived at all. Well, we could have had so many experiences with internationalism. A comparison with the seemingly hardly existing reality of the theoretically correct concept of critical whiteness.
I think there are two basic concepts of internationalism and the resulting consequences for the revolutionary struggle that we should analyze well. One is the one I have just described, setting itself as the benchmark and failing to learn from the struggles elsewhere, not beeing able to overcome eurocentrism. And there is the other concept, a doubtful, critical and distant, especially from feminist and poststructuralist circles, which excludes experiences. Is not the elevation of theoretical knowledge as opposed to practical experience also structurally patriarchal?
I would like to take a closer look at this point: some of my comrades had the opinion that they could not go to Rojava on the basis of the theoretically recognized contradictions. I felt that we can only overcome the deadlock if we break out for a short time and complete the theoretical considerations through practical experience in order to really get ahead. I think that with all correctness, we should not neglect the concrete work, the concrete joint struggle. Otherwise, theory quickly becomes the excuse, the remoteness, the avoidance of change. To support the existing system. Of course we all make mistakes. But this is part of it, because only through it we can learn.
I am not very into the concept of critical whiteness, at least as I have learned in a university setting. My fights are no longer presented in this concept. I feel like I can not step out of my “privileged” situation. But acutally i feel my situation is anything but privileged. I come from a precarious family. I am a woman. I am someone who simply cannot live in capitalism, someone who cannot bear the misery of the masses. And I think that these are the connecting elements. We are all looking for what a human being is, what life means, what it means to live together. What happened to us was that we could get so far from it. Today, we can look at pictures of dead bodies without flinching. Or that we do not even look at them. To continue to work. In order to keep us the last little door, which allows us to join in capitalist society again.
Our privilege is probably this possibility. That we could be integrated into this murderous system if we wanted, and that we simply do not have to decide. But is this possibility of complicity really a privilege? And if we want to be human, do we really not have to decide? Do we really have a choice? Can we really live with being part of a despising, human-exploiting, murderous system? We always talk about it, there is no alternative. Of course, who is going to get this all out of us? Is not that likewise the eurocentrism? So long to wait until the most direct victims of violence and exploitation have created an alternative? Then jump on the moving train? That cannot be a possibility.
The revolutionary regional struggles show us that there are alternatives. Why should not we be able to do that? But only because we cannot afford to be scared that we feel too weak. Because we no longer believe in ourselves. Because this system destroys our entire self-esteem. Is it really a privilege to be made a screw in the transmission? Is it really a privilege to recognize the wickedness and to feel unable to act? Is it really a privilege to believe that you cannot face the challenges? Let’s not hide that behind the term “privileges” anymore. Let’s do it. Let us learn. Let’s get stronger, let’s fight TOGETHER for a human life with all our strengths and weaknesses! It is not absolutely necessary to go to Rojava for this. Or Bakûr. Or Chiapas. There are plenty of opportunities for joint practical combat here.
Why do so many “leftists” not go for the demos of Kurdish society? Because of the “leader cult”. Ok, but that’s the contradiction! Who of these “leftists” has ever gone to the kurdish center and said: “I dont understand that, please explain it to me”. I am pretty sure that they understood a lot better, that they would like to go to the streets together for the freedom of Öcalan and that they would also find an open ear for criticism. This is the essential foundation of the common, worldwide revolutionary struggle: respectful criticism and the will to understand and learn from each other. Of course, there are thousands of construction sites, thousands of mistakes, thousands of shortcomings. But the question is what consequence we draw from it. Do we traditionally see ourselves in the right of the colonialists to evaluate and criticize everything from our point of view? Or see ourselves as part of the solution and get involved.