by Sandro Mezzadra Liberté, liberté! This chant – belted out by 49 refugees and migrants in the moment...
This October I have travelled to Rojava to offer what skills I have as a volunteer.
Despite three years of military attack, political hostility, and economic embargo the revolution in Rojava, complete with all the victories, setbacks, and contradictions that this process entails, is continuing to expand in the midst of the brutal Syrian civil war. Rojava, built on the intellectual, organisational, and material foundations of decades of struggle, primarily via the PKK in Turkey, is neither a classical Marxist-Leninist revolution nor the one that anarchists believe it to be, though it bears elements of both In the face of formidable obstacles a society built on democratic, feminist, and social values with some form of critique of capitalism is being built. This society has the potential to spread, mutate, and shape the larger region and the states which seek to dominate it. In particular to serve as a model for the rest of Syria and to support the progressive movement in Turkey where the process of democratic confederalism has deeper and older roots. Rojava is a living example of the possibility of radical large scale social change in our times and should be an important focus of solidarity and study for revolutionary structures across the world.
Despite the importance of the revolution in Rojava the radical left is showing a lack of large scale support. The Turkish MLKP have sent the most international volunteers to Rojava whilst also opposing Erdogan north of the border. Across Europe and America we aren’t as strong as we used to be and many parts of the left have been happy to retreat into comfortable subcultural niches and scenes. Though a new, forward thinking and ambitious left is visibly growing at the moment it has few connections to the struggle in Rojava.
Whilst there have been some ambitious fundraising projects for Rojava and Kurdistan in general these need to be replicated on a wider scale and few have travelled to volunteer in the region. Indeed most of those who travelled to join the YPG/YPJ from Europe and North America until recently have been a mixture of well meaning liberals, those looking for an adventure, and even some from the political right. Whilst many of this initial surge of volunteers have left, more politically motivated military volunteers are starting to join either the YPG-International (YPG-I) or the International Freedom Battalion (with the Bob Crow Brigade being comprised of English, Scottish, and Irish volunteers). Comrades with useful skills are being encouraged to make their way to Rojava to not just help to defend it but also to build and deepen the revolution. Whilst military work is an important contribution, civil work through TEV-DEM and the socialist left’s growing social wing SYPG (Unity and Solidarity of the People) to help spread and deepen the revolutions impact beyond the front lines is also vital. If people can’t be convinced the revolution is improving their lives then it won’t succeed.
After participating in Plan C’s Rojava Solidarity Cluster I decided to take the next step, gain the skills needed to be of use and directly participate in what is happening in Rojava. As you read this I will have crossed the border to join the revolution as an English teacher and in whatever other capacities I can be of use. Expect irregular updates, reports, and interviews. I follow in the footsteps of those who have already crossed and hope to broaden the path for those yet to come. Despite the uncertainties and obstacles yet to come I am crossing the border with a happy heart, not expecting to find a communist utopia but ready to work together with thousands of other comrades to continue building an example of another kind of society amidst the brutality of the Syrian civil war. We warmly invite you to join us there.