Anarchists in Space

Or the Middle East. But as far as some American are concerned that might as well be in space. With the expanding threat of the Islamic State (IS) much of the Middle East is more chaotic than usual (which is saying something). Old states are crumbling, a new state is rising, and within the chaos a little bit of anarchy is cropping up:

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

Heavily armed anti-state feminists? Sounds like my kind of crowd! If you know your Middle Eastern history then you’re aware that the Kurds have always had their own thing going. Other Middle Eastern nations have tried conquering them time and again but have never really succeeded. The IS is no different. While other Middle Eastern cities have fallen to its onslaught the Kurds have managed to keep it at bay.

According to statists anarchy should devolve into survival of the fittest. The people in Rojava should be slaughtering one another. But they’re not and that isn’t surprising. If you know the history of anarchism you know that it likes to creep up in areas of turmoil and act as an oasis to the burtchery surrounding it. Not only are the people in Rojava enjoying a far freer existence than the people around them but they’re also doing so with classic anarchist tools of organization and justice:

In the cantons of Rojava, there is a small central government with an absolute minimum of 40% female delegates, but most of the day-to-day work of running society happens at a local level, street by street and village by village. Democratic Confederalism’s chief architect, Abdullah Ocalan, says that “Ecology and feminism are central pillars” of the system he has spearheaded, something that you would have to go very far to the margins to hear from Western politicians. In Rojava, men who beat their wives face total ostracism from the community, making their lives in a highly social, connected society virtually impossible. Instead of a police force and jails, ‘peace committees’ in each municipality work to defuse the cycles of inter-family revenge killings by consensual agreements between both sides – and it works.

Like the Catholic concept of subsidiarity, anarchist societies strive to make decisions on the most local level possible starting with the individual. Rojava is doing that by leaving the day-to-day decisions at the local level and only involving more people in the decision making process when it’s absolutely necessary.

In addition to decentralized decision making the people of Rojava are opting for social ostracism instead of vengeful violence (imprisonment, lashings, and other forms of institutionalized violence) as a form of punishment. Statists often claim that anarchism can’t work because vengeful violence against bad actors in society is necessary to prevent societal collapse. But history shows that social ostracism and outlawry, that is taking away the protection of the law from those who refuse to live within it, is very effective at protecting a society from bad actors. There are few threats more frightening to most human beings than being completely cutoff from other human beings. Such is the burden of being a social species.

Obviously this won’t get much play in the media because the narrative of statism must be upheld at all costs. But for those of us who advocate anarchy it’s just another example of it working in the real world.