Bridges Between Anarchism and Democratic Confederalism

by Bruno Lima Rocha/Kurdish Question

Introduction to this particular issue

In this part I will expose some basic historical information about the anarchist political organisation model and in the end, make a comparison between these experiences and the nowadays mission of the political organisation that intends to be the catalyst of a Democratic Confederalist social change.

The ancestry of the anarchist organisational model: three important experiences

International Alliance of Social Democracy: As I mentioned in the first part of the essay, the federalist organisational model is not new.  In 1868, within the International Workers’ Association (IWA, also known in Latin languages as AIT) the so-called federalist wing included an organised political force called the International Alliance of Social Democracy (known as a Bakuninian type of Alliance), whose best known public reference was the Russian activist Mikhail Bakunin (1814/1876). The Alliance worked according to an organisation of cadres, of a “Carbonarian” type and with most of its militants acting in secrecy. Some public references were made to well-known leaders within the IWA and this association did not act only in a specific country or territory. It was usual to send delegates and operators (agents with militant commitment) to distant countries or regional divisions to promote social organisation, to form a cell of the Alliance or to support occasional episodes of rebellion. We can observe the role of experienced militants inside the Alliance, acting as social activists, political organisers and ideological propagandists. Also, sometimes, those who would be in the first line for a higher level of social struggle — like that which occurred during the Paris uprising and the Commune — Alliance militants were part of the political forces organising the first worker’s self-government in modern times (from March to May, 1871)

Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Party:Another mentionable experience for this party model was founded in 1891, the Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Party (SRAP, PRSA in Latin languages, known as Malatestian Party) and its most famous reference was the Neapolitan anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853/1932). Although the SRAP had a clandestine wing, it had a party structure most similar to the usual type of organisation. Its militants were references for the mass level (social) and intermediary level (political and social), as well as distributors and producers of political propaganda. The members were more of the multiple role type (multifunctional cadres), including types of direct action carried out in Italy at the time (from the foundation of the party until the fascist coup of 1922).

Ukrainian Insurgent Peasant’s Army: From the Russian Revolution, specifically in Ukraine, came the acquisition of experience in terms of mass political organisation during the civil war (1918-1921). The Ukrainian Insurgent Peasant’s Army (Black Army, also known as Makhnovichnian or Makhnovist), whose militant reference was Nestor Ivanovich Makhnó (1888/1934), had the political, military and administrative hegemony of large regions of Ukraine and developed a modus operandi based on collectivised production and its military section was an army based on mobile cavalry and whose command posts were all elected. Then there was the political/militia merger of the organisation, which promoted at the same time a higher level of conflict against the White Army (right-wing and tsarist) and also against the Red Army (the Bolshevik Party armed force).  The military wing was the self-defence institution to guarantee a political federalist form of self-government and socioeconomic self-management.  With the defeat to the Red Army in 1921, some survivors of the General Staff of the Black Army got together in Paris, France, and wrote a political manifesto, known as a piece of anarchist political theory called the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists. This document, which was widespread in the 1920s and 1930s, contained four basic theoretical guidelines for the model that is still valid today:  Tactical Unity, Theoretical Unity, Collective Responsibility and Federalism.

Common aspects between the three experiences and similarities to the PKK’s actual mission

The exhibition of historical experiences and the accumulation among and from these organisations could result in an entire thesis solely discussing the concepts of the anarchist party. However, I want to emphasise in this series the common aspects between these organisational models: the selection of membership (party of cadres); non-participation in state elections (anti-electioneering); active minority action-type (against the conception of class vanguard); internal federative structure considered as a form of social organisation (political federalism); systematic use of force in collective and mass conflicts (direct action as a priority means of generating political events); projection of social structures organised as a priority (building a strong people), eliminating the professional intermediation  (popular direct democracy); and existence of possible criticism and internal promotion, increasing the political responsibilities according to the militant’s degree of commitment (internal democracy and renewal).

The similarities between the anarchist organisation model and the role of the Kurdistan freedom movement’s political instrument is so impressive and clear that it is easily proved through a simple reading of this paragraph written by comrade Mustafa Karasu and published in the PKK’s English website:

“The PKK has restructured itself as a result of extensive self-criticism and a thorough criticism of classical socialism and its practiced forms. It sees classical socialist theory as insufficient. The PKK believes that classical socialism is not anti-capitalist enough and is too involved with the state; whereas the state is a tool of suppression. To topple a state in order to create a new one is not revolutionary practice, rather, to surpass, topple or minimize the hegemonic system and replace it with a socialist system by implicating socialism in the moment is the PKK’s adopted method. To topple a state is not the same as toppling the system. To liken these two things together is a sign of deviation from socialism.”

When we study socialist history and workers movements in several societies, Western or not, we can observe that this kind of criticism against state and state oriented so-called socialist parties were exactly the same criticism made by thousands of totally committed anarchist militants since, at least, 1864!  After reading a sentence that starts by saying “PKK has structured itself through self-criticism” we can easily observe almost the exact same method of the anarchist political organisation, a constant inner struggle to avoid internally reproducing the political sphere and ideological thoughts that belong to authoritarians and capitalist (liberal or not) traditions. As I said in the first part of this essay, the PKK’s actual praxis can feed anarchists worldwide and vice-versa. The first step is a common recognition and approach between both traditions. To contribute to this common effort is the reason for this series.

Link to Mustafa Karasu article:

Bruno Lima Rocha has a PhD and MSc in Political Science and is a Professor of International Studies and Geopolitics teaching at three local universities in Southern Brazil. 

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