David Graeber’s Homage to Rojava.

The imperialists and the ever-faithful Western “Lefts”, led by chronic NATO-cheerleading “Academic Anarchist” David Graeber and the effervescent celebrity-left cling-on Charles Davis, are attempting to appropriate the Syrian Kurds and engineer a situation in Syria very similar to events that occurred during the Spanish Civil War – both from the perceived propaganda angle with regard to the “Lefts”, and the concrete with regard to the imperialists. As a result of this ongoing deception, those who support Syria against imperial aggression are to be portrayed as obstructing an ostensibly “thriving democratic Kurdish autonomy”, or “Kurdish self-determination” in its supposed battle to create a libertarian anarchist eco-utopia in Northern Syria, and break free from the clutches of the “evil Assad regime”, or, as is otherwise known to adults still able to converse outside the lexicon of Orientalist bourgeois propaganda: the Syrian State and nation at large.

Contrary to the mythical fantasies of Graeber & Co., most Communists are fully aware that this supposed “autonomy” gained via the US military will never be achieved under the aegis of imperialism. It will only be usurped and used to further the reactionary goals of empire in dividing Syria and to further exacerbate the consequences of this reaction and impending subordination of the entire region.

Just as the opportunists and anarchists misunderstood the historico-material international characteristics of the civil war in Spain, followed their own utopias and chose to break with the united front and the republic against Franco’s fascism–they choose to oppose the right of nations – the Syrian nation and all its people regardless of their ethnicity – to self-determination by supporting the inevitable imperial domination and division of Syria such imperial “aid” to the Kurds will engender. In their shortsighted compartmentalized support of a “just cause”, the Western “Left” opportunists and poorly disguised social chauvinists once again support the road to reaction.

People may well “empathize” with oppressed actors seeking to acquire “impure assistance” [from US empire] but it is a Communists duty to expose that “impure assistance” as reactionary to the core, that it is antithetical to the material aims both of the oppressed actor forced into a condition of seeking to attain it and to the working classes and oppressed peoples of the wider region. US empire has never aided even the slightest progressive movement without it being in the US empire’s larger interests, which in turn are nothing but reactionary all along the line.

The “Lefts” could arguably sing: the Kurdish cause in Syria is a “just cause” based on the historical persecution they have undoubtedly received at the hands of the Syrian Arab ruling class, and therefore the Kurds “desiring impure US assistance” must be supported to achieve an assumed utopian future, but this is the argument of a one-sided simpleton. Would a Communist have ever advocated the oppressed Irish take the military or political “aid” – and equally therefore the domination – of the German Nazi’s to break the yoke of the British ruling class, to jump from the frying pan into the fires of hell?

The PYD will have no political authority over the “assistance” they are given by empire, as a result of receiving such aid they must become empire’s subordinates, in line with the Kurdistan Regional Govt in Iraq ruled by the NATO/Israeli clients of the Barzani clan. Again, the US will only aid the PYD and its military wing the YPG if that course of action furthers US imperial interests (hence the rabid support from the imperialist “Left” David Graeber), interests which are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the entire region, not least the vast majority of the Kurdish population. US goals in Syria are the break up of the Syrian State into antagonistic ethno-sectarian “mini-states” incapable of obstructing imperial (Western/Israeli) domination. This is not the road to the emancipation of the Kurdish working class, much less the working classes of Syria and the region. Yet it may well prove to be the road to “freedom” (imperial patronage) for a small minority of bourgeois Kurdish elements – as it has proven to be for the Barzani clan in Iraq – at the price of the enslavement of the majority of the population. The argument could well be made that life “under the regime”, would be no better, but this is an ahistorical blind assumption contrary to all the facts. Life for Syria’s Kurdish minority “under the regime” may well have been oppressive, but it was by no means the worst in the region, and nothing like the oppression minorities receive under US client regimes.

So, our dear “Lefts” end up once again appropriating the sections of the Kurdish Syrian community that mistakenly seek alliances with and aid from fascist US imperialism, by focusing on intermittent flare-ups with the Syrian army and anti-Assad elements from within the PYD, and those who aim to influence it in this direction from without, as the sole expression of the entire Syrian Kurdish community. (As it must also be noted here that the PYD is itself divided on its future path and fluctuating alliances, even as it engages in sporadic clashes with the Syrian army and localised militia of the National Defense Forces, and releasing bellicose denunciations of “Assad’s fascist forces”, there are nonetheless concrete local alliances on the ground elsewhere, not to mention the historic ties between the Syrian Ba’ath and the PKK/PYD leadership) Graeber & Co. are deceptively promoting the partition and weakening of the Syrian nation currently under vast imperial aggression and the imminent threat of reaction from all sides. They are further advocating the Kurds submit to US empire, to become its patsies in a war of aggression, its proxy enforcer against the Syrian army and State; they advocate the PYD succumb to an empire that has played a lead role in the persecution of the Kurdish community for decades upon decades.

It is important to stress that the US empire is not attempting to simply aid the Syrian Kurds’ quest for political autonomy; throughout the insurgency the US and its partners have used “ISIS” & Co. as a tool of coercion against the PYD in attempts to cause further cleavage between them and the Syrian State and to act as a conduit for US/Turkish contras. It is these “rebel” contras that viciously assaulted Kurdish communities ever since the PYD became detached from the puppets of imperialism in the “SNC” and refused to become part of the project against the Syrian State in 2012 – coincidentally, of course, when David Graeber & Co. were no doubt singing the praises of the very same “moderate” chauvinist Takfiris utterly opposed to any form of Kurdish self-rule. The US and Turkey have been very clear that any aid to the PYD would be subject to strict conditions, the principal condition being to abandon their neutral stance – by extension any possibility of Bookchin’s libertarian anarchist eco-utopia – and join these “rebels” against the Syrian army.

While the “Left” imperialists pretend the US is willing to “aid” the Syrian Kurds’ quest for this metaphysical “democratic libertarian autonomy” (or pretend that this is even a practical possibility under current conditions), empires’ Kurdish compradors attempt to usurp and coerce the PYD into an alliance with imperialism, with the ultimate objective of using them as a tool to irrevocably divide and disintegrate the Syrian nation, thus further weakening the entire region and its peoples ability to combat Western-Israeli imperial fascism.

The Western “Lefts” who advocate the Syrian Kurds subordination to the fascist American empire are not supporting Kurdish progression or “self-determination”, they are supporting imperialist reaction under the guise of Kurdish progression. And it is an unfortunate but necessary responsibility that falls upon Communists to remind the Kurds themselves who have been lured by this course of action and these reactionary alliances that they are mistaken in their choices, just as Barzani was mistaken in helping to create the cleavages that now form the puppet Kurdish petro-state of US and Israeli imperialism in Iraq.

It is a Communists duty (a Communist of any nation as we are internationalist in outlook, not philistine chauvinists who make concessions to our own imperial bourgeoisie under guise of supporting “their own chosen natives”) to warn the PYD and its supporters that seeking such “aid” from empire is a reactionary and dangerous policy and will lead to the further immiseration and oppression of the Syrian people, including the oppressed Kurds. Communists should just as surely recognise the historical roots of this antagonism and while lending support to the necessity for a unified Syrian front against imperial fascism to not become accustomed to forgetting to criticise and oppose the chauvinist elements within the Arab ruling classes and their oppression of the Kurdish population. It is about separating the two trends and determining a principled position on them both that forwards the objectives of the global working classes and oppressed people, from within the totality of the class struggle under the modes of production during the current epoch of imperial fascism.


18 thoughts on “David Graeber’s Homage to Rojava.

  1. actual quote from the interview in which I supposedly cheerlead US support for Rojava while failing to “warn” the (apparently, according to Greaves, naive, innocent, foolish) Rojavans about US imperial intentions:

    Q: what would you say to the comment that the West/ imperialism will one day ask Syrian Kurds to pay for their support. What does the West think exactly about this anti-state, anti-capitalist model? Is it just an experiment that can be ignored during the state of war while the Kurds voluntarily accept to fight an enemy that is by the way actually created by the West?

    DG: Oh it is absolutely true that the US and European powers will do what they can to subvert the revolution. That goes without saying. The people I talked to were all well aware of this…

    • I’m unsure as to your point with this Mr. Graeber, or why you have chosen to reduce this to your interview, as opposed to your general position on the issue. The quote you provide doesn’t actually refute anything i’ve written, nor does it provide any evidence of the smeary perjoratives you claim I throw at your wonderfully Orientalist generalisation of “Rojavans”.

      “it is absolutely true that the US and European powers will do what they can to subvert the revolution.”

      Of course it is, absolutely, David, as we are all aware, in case you missed it I also make very clear the Kurds are very well aware of this, unless you think that the Kurds themselves are unaware of the actors that have “persecuted them for decades upon decades”.

      The point is you and your ilk promote the idea that this “doing what they can do” will miraculously fail and the caveated “aid” you promote will indeed work in the Kurds favour, that this fantasy libertarian utopia you promote will be built overnight and the wider politics – in crisis – effecting the entire region with the threat of imperialist predation, reaction and enslavement will somehow be avoided, yet you don’t really bother to suggest how this will work in the current situation, What is to be Done? etc. In fact the wider region does not even register in your train of thought – if only “they bomb the tanks”, just like you promoted in Libya. Tell me, how is Libya by the way following the NATO-enabled “revolution” you were once a cheerleader for? You don’t seem to speak on Libya these days,… on to the next target i suppose.

      But this is the problem dearest David. For someone so keen on history you cannot even remember the last time you foolishly – or mendaciously, I am yet to decide if you are a simple mercenary or the usual expression of an imperial core petty bourgeois “academic” – promoted the slaughter of thousands in “Other Lands” your imperialist masters crave in your supposed quest for “revolution”. I am actually beginnning to wonder if you even understand the term you throw around like a petulant child.


      Unless you bother to address what I have written, I can only take your cheap attempt to play the spokesperson of Rojava and implication I call the Kurdish people “naive, foolish” and “innocent” as the crass sophistry it appears.

      • This is so childish as to leave me almost speechless. Anyone reading your original statement knows that it is contradicted by my statement. I guess if you just lie your head off you think no one will notice. What “aid I promote”? Can you point out where I have exactly “promoted aid”? Of course I hadn’t. It’s a flat-out lie. Then you go on about “cheerleading” NATO in Libya. Again, a flat-out lie. I stated quite clearly during the NATO intervention in Libya that I could never “support” NATO since I opposed the very existence of NATO and wished to see it dismantled, I just remarked on this occasion I wasn’t going to be out in the streets protesting either. That’s hardly “cheerleading” and you know that perfectly well. I just wanted to set the record straight. You tried to convince your readers that I support US imperial intervention, knowing full well it isn’t true. I have no idea why you wish to deceive people in this matter. No doubt there is some very convoluted reason why you have decided that misrepresenting my position will somehow further global proletarian revolution – who knows how? But in fact I don’t support US “aid” to Rojava, have never said anything that could be interpreted as supporting it, have explicitly said that US imperial aims are to subvert the revolution there, and that everyone I talked to when I went there was perfectly well aware of it. So why you keep insisting I address the argument that a “communist’s duty” is to “warn the PYD and its supporters” that US aid would be deleterious is beyond me, since, once again

        * there is no US aid going into Rojava
        * I don’t support US aid going into Rojava
        * people in Rojava aren’t asking for US aid
        * everyone is perfectly aware what US imperial intentions are so they hardly need me or any other patronising foreigner to “warn” them about it

        but I’m not really interested in the blather – I just wanted to make sure you didn’t confuse anybody as to what I’ve actually said, since I can think of no purpose for your post, with my name in the header, other than to try to give readers the impression I hold positions I suspect you know perfectly well that I don’t hold.

  2. ‘”I find it remarkable how so many people in West see these armed feminist cadres, for example, and don’t even think on the ideas that must lie behind them. They just figured it happened somehow. “I guess it’s a Kurdish tradition.” To some degree it’s orientalism of course, or to put simple racism. It never occurs to them that people in Kurdistan might be reading Judith Butler too. It never occurs to them that people in Kurdistan might be reading Judith Butler too.”

    That’s Graeber’s explanation for women defending their homes and communities. Judith Butler authorized it.
    He doesn’t need to offer any evidence for this becuse, you know, the East…is a fantasy.

    And the Orient is a career.

  3. Well David, it is good of you to address something I’ve written.

    It appears then your contention is you don’t propagandise for NATO aid to the Kurds in Syria, and you didn’t propagandise for the same for Qatari’s Wahhabi death-squad “revolutionaries” in Libya, thus it also appears you are intent on brazenly lying, which is but typical of the academic type. Firstly you lie about your support for US aid to, and the subsequent domination of the PYD, and secondly you lie about your support for the contras that destroyed Libya.

    Here is an excellent little storify courtesy of twitter user @lastwheel that thoroughly refutes both of your blatant lies:

    I leave it with you, dear anarchist.

  4. Creepiest thing about Graeber is this “is it better to be dead?” as if for the United States to escalate its invasion and bombardment of Syria is a strategy for saving lives. He knows but must deny his meaningful contribution to a real solution that will actually save lives would be to stop doing the propaganda for the US that allows it to conceal that it is the puppetmaster of Daesh, and to unite with the people of the whole region to demand the US stop attacking people with Daesh, and to work with the people of Syria to make it possible also politically by being truthful for YPG and SAA to work together to defend themselves against the US’ contras until such time as the people of the US, including Graeber or despite him, can join the people of the rest of the world in checking and reining in the imperial aggressor.

    But mentioning that would be impolite to the US empire and doing so can harm an academic’s career and msm access, so Graeber really prefers that many and many Syrians be dead than that he join the antiimperialist positions taken by the majority of humanity.

  5. “Would a Communist have ever advocated the oppressed Irish take the military or political “aid” – and equally therefore the domination – of the German Nazi’s”

    Maybe not, but the very so-called Communists who you adore weren’t above entering an actual pact with the Nazis to divide up the nations of e. Europe (which additionally exposes your posturing on ‘the rights of nations’). You may have heard of the pact: it’s in all the petty bourg history books. (No doubt you believe the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement never happened or something comparably insane.)

    “it is a Communists duty to expose that “impure assistance” as reactionary to the core”

    More laughable bluster. All this talk of purity is rather rich coming from an unapologetic Lenin fanboy. German empire, sealed train. Ring any bells? Your claims are so disingenuous, the hypocrisy on your part so glaring, so ridiculous, that I have to wonder if all this isn’t just a piece of performance art. You know, how you basically act as if the Bolshevik Central Committee were still around and you were on it. It’s mildly entertaining, I’ll give you that.

    As for your ‘interpretation’ of the anarchist revolution in Spain, well, that’s just pink elephant shit. Surely you were hallucinating when you wrote it?

    • You know the more you become hysterical the more you resemble Louis Proyect, but how would we ever know who the brave anarchist Krackpotkin is? Nevertheless, it is kind of you to visit, and anonymously throw crass abuse under pseudonym.

      “Maybe not,..” – Good to know you’re in agreement with the fundamental question at hand.

      The remainder of your comment is – typically of you – utter tripe, ad hominem and historical revisionism and outright falsification in a feeble attempt to divert the question at hand and the Communist principles that must guide us – irrespective of your alleged historical deviations, nevermind the conditions that created this supposed “hypocrisy” you speak of. Because as is clear, you have no option but to agree with them.

      I must thank you nonetheless for your noble effort in defending a serial NATO-apologist and slandering Communist revolutionaries. Until next time…

      • Since you agree that Lenin was a hypocrite for receiving support from the German empire, then perhaps we can begin to have an actual exchage.

        Let’s stick with communist principles. As far as I can tell, you think the USG runs ISIS, so how exactly is the YPG receiving aid from the USG? Certainly they’re not getting any actual aid in terms of either weapons or food/supplies.

        So Graeber is cheering for the YPG against all odds. That’s better than rooting for Putin—pretending that opposing the US equals ‘left’. Actual leftists and communists know enough to oppose Putin, Obama, and your hero Assad. Which I think Marx would’ve done also, as a matter of principle.

  6. US empire has never aided even the slightest progressive movement without it being in the US empire’s larger interests, which in turn are nothing but reactionary all along the line.

    What a drooling imbecile Greaves is. Both Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong received arms and training from the OSS. MN Roy tried to get arms from German imperialism. It is only a wanker like Greaves who has never *done* anything except mouth ultraleft verbiage who can act as judge, jury and executioner on people in struggle.

    • But by Greaves’s standards, Ho Chi Minh and Mao are illegitimate revolutionaries, which I think is correct actually. Certainly Mao can lay no serious claim to the mantle of a fighter for the people, since he made it his job to kill people.

      If only Greaves would abandon these ghouls—Lenin, Trotsky, Mao—and start thinking seriously about communism—that is, stateless, free communism— and what it actually means, then I look forward to a chat.

  7. Mao and Ho both led large, established and credible movements with clearly defined political goals. They wanted to cooperate with the US to fight their common enemy, Imperial Japan. This does not apply to the Libyan and Syrian rebels. The Libyan jihadis would not have been successful without NATO and the Syrian rebels are floundering. They have almost no domestic support, rely on Arab Monarchies for weapons and have begged for western intervention virtually from day one. This is not what Mao and Ho did.

  8. “And it is an unfortunate but necessary responsibility that falls upon Communists to remind the Kurds themselves who have been lured by this course of action and these reactionary alliances that they are mistaken in their choices,”

    Somehow I can’t see the Kurds (including, prominently, Kurdish communists) who are actually fighting for the lives of themselves and others minorities in the region against ISIS setting much store by ‘reminders’ from self-styled Marxist-Leninists sitting comfortably in western countries about what they should or shouldn’t do to defend themselves.

    But maybe that’s just me. Maybe they’ll read Phil’s blog, realise their error, demand the USA and other western countries end all their military assistance, and allow themselves to be slaughtered or enslaved en masse for the good of Phil’s idea of the revolutionary struggle. I mean, what would those Kurdish Marxists know that a proper western Marxist like Phil doesn’t?

    “Life for Syria’s Kurdish minority “under the regime” may well have been oppressive, but it was by no means the worst in the region,”

    Of course. I don’t know what they are complaining about! It was only a few hundred thousand of them exterminated by Saddam, and it’s only ISIS enslaving, raping and beheading them and Assad barrel bombing them in Syria. You tell those comfy Kurds, Phil. You and your family could obviously put up with that kind of low-level stuff, couldn’t you? You tell them what to do, Phil, even if it’s a heavy burden for you to bear to tell them that.

    Well done Phil, your blog is a textbook reminder of why the Marxist left is today mostly ignored, and when not ignored reviled. Keep maintaining your ideological purity, and keep that demanding Kurds and others, communists and non-communists, lay down their lives for it.

    I still don’t think they will.

    • You seem to have missed the entire point, which is that receiving such “aid” from western militaries will most certainly result in the immiseration and death of many more Kurds – not to mention the people of the wider region. Let us also not forget who armed and created the forces that have been attacking the PYD in Syria for over two years. The Kurds are well aware of this themselves, and while it is very easy for you to spew emotional hyperbole it is in fact you that seems to think the Kurds are incapable of hearing, or understanding this hard truth.

      Of course neither is true, and while its also very easy to play the white man card I am in fact not demanding the Kurdish community do anything, it is entirely their choice, do you think if i advised them to jump off a cliff they would simply do it?

      You seem also to intentionally confuse historical Kurdish persecution in Iraq with the historical conditions in Syria, and then further confuse the issue with conditions since the outbreak of war. As is made clear in the post, these condiions have greatly fluctuated and represent a complex issue of local interconnections, rivalries and grievances, with the “rebels” and their more extreme counterparts – not to mention all their international patrons – firmly in the mix. This somewhat complicates your crude depiction of “Western aid, or barrel bombs and beheadings”.

      As a Communist, a Western one at that, it is my duty to expose the mendacity and reactionary characteristics such “aid” from imperialism – “my” ruling class – will engender, you do the Kurds and the entire region a disservice by masking these realities with ridiculous notions of Western military benevolence.
      I wonder, are you by any chance as keen for the PYD to take up the offer of military aid from the Syrian govrenment, or maybe a regional actor already combatting “ISIS” like Iran or Hezbollah–as opposed to the imperial forces that created and sustained it, the very forces that have played a lead role in Kurdish persecution alongside their NATO client Turkey for decades!? To put the question more simply: is Western “aid” somehow purer to you than the options offered by regional partners to better enable the Kurds to fight ISIS? If so why? Why do you think this is the Kurds only option and why on earth do you think it is the best one considering this little thing called history?

      Its odd you should mention Saddam. do you know who enabled his oppression of the Kurds? Western imperialism; they even sold him the gas for Halabja.

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