When looking at history for examples of the establishment of anarchist societies we often think of the Spanish anarchists in Catalonia or the efforts of the Zapatista army in Mexico. These are both examples of groups using tactics of revolutionary armed conflict against the state and capitalism in an attempt to establish an autonomous stateless society in the here and now. And while anarchist Catalonia was eventually quashed by outside forces, the Zapatistas are still fighting on, albeit using different methods than before.
And then there’s the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK). Formally a Marxist-Leninist political party which fought to establish an independent Kurdish state called Kurdistan. However, under the guidance of their leader Abdullah Öcalan, the party changed its platform and strategy. After Öcalan‘s imprisonment during which he corresponded with American anarchist Murray Bookchin and was deeply influenced by his philosophy of libertarian communalism, he called for the PKK to adopt a platform of democratic confederalism and dropped its demand for the establishment of a Kurdish state, instead advocating complete statelessness.
Democratic confederalism is a political structure consisting of many independent and autonomous communities working together as a confederacy based on the ideas of participatory direct democracy at the local level, social ecology, and anarcha-feminism. According to Öcalan himself, democratic confederalism, “is open towards other political groups and factions. It is flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented.” These autonomous communities are built upon communalist values and resources are shared amongst all thus making taxation and forced redistribution of resources and wealth unnecessary and irrelevant.
They focus on building their own systems, ignoring the state altogether in their decision making processes. They do not see the revolutionary necessity or sustainability in an armed overthrow of the state but instead advocate a peaceful evacuation from and gradual dissolution of the state as local communities build their own political systems to replace it. However, they do recognize that the state and other groups will retaliate with violence and that self-defense is much needed. That is why communities maintain a series of decentralized armed militias such as Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (People’s Protection Units or YPG) and Yekîneyên Parastina Jin (Women’s Protection Units or YPJ). Their efforts are funded directly by the community through fundraisers, concerts, parties, and independent businesses, making it a true example of community agorism at work.
The YPJ/G model has proven successful thus far, breaking ISIS lines to rescue thousands of Yazidis — a people often hated and condemned as “devil worshippers” by much of the local Islamic community — when they were surrounded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. Also, despite suffering heavy losses, they successfully defended Kobani when ISIS launched an all-out assault on the city with tanks, missiles and even drones.
Already this philosophy and the group’s actions have inspired others across the globe to help in the fight with many socialist, communists, communalists, libertarians, and anarchists alike currently immigrating to the area and helping to fight hand-in-hand with the PKK. The YPG and YPJ are currently fighting to secure and maintain a free and autonomous Kurdish democratic confederacy against the Turkish government and ISIS, and hope to spread the philosophy far beyond an independent stateless Kurdistan. The PKK has hopes of democratic confederate workers’ revolutions spreading across the world much in the same fashion as the Marxist-Leninist revolutions did in the past. But this time they hope to achieve it by more libertarian means. This is an anarchist revolution unfolding before our very eyes.