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A tale of Rojava and Europe: no time for dried-up dreams

Several hundred Kurds and sympathizers gathered to show their support for the city of Afrin bombed by the Turkish army. Paris, France, March 24, 2018. Boivin Samuel/ Press Association. All rights reserved.At times like
these, it can be difficult not to bury your head completely in the sand, eyes
closed, turning away. What’s going on?

The state of our
lives is precarious and, contrary to the narrative of progress that characterised
the twentieth century, today, we face a deep uncertainty. The earth is filled
with refugees – human and non-human – scorched areas are abandoned, species
die, and there are flows of refugees forced to move because of war at home or a
lack of water to grow food. Heteropatriarchal power struggles are transforming
the world into a powder keg of destructive force.

And so at this
chaotic, precarious time, listening closely is all the more important.

Back then, when
Kobane was liberated from the so-called Islamic State, the strains of
liberation songs also reached us in Europe. Today we hear them again, this time
worldwide, because there is above all one sentence that mixes with these
wonderful sounds: Afrin is everywhere, there is resistance everywhere.

The political game
continues, even as the window of action becomes smaller. But we mustn’t be
fooled by romantic fantasies and supposedly internationalist ideas – we’re
better off leaving these behind. Rojava is not the sound of a projection of
radical democratic dreams, but a project born of a historical experience, built
and fought for by people who have understood that the only future is that which
begins today. It is time to focus our actions and boldly look ahead.

It goes without
saying that we support the revolution in Rojava in DiEM25. We wouldn’t be living
up to our name if we didn’t profess our support for the project and the values
​​it embodies; DiEM25 is called the ‘Democracy in Europe Movement’. ‘Democracy
in Europe’ will remain an oxymoron as long as there is no democracy in the
Middle East, Latin America, North America and Africa. ‘Democracy
in Europe’ will remain an oxymoron as long as there is no democracy in the
Middle East, Latin America, North America and Africa.

And the prospects for our democracy in Europe are currently bleak. While our
democracies are increasingly being infiltrated by fascist structures, and
journalists are ending up murdered on their own doorsteps for bringing to light
the corruption of their governments, the technocrats in Brussels respond with a
free Interrail ticket. A few thousand young Europeans will be able to spend
their summer travelling for free through a Europe in which youth unemployment
is, in some parts, at 50%, through inner cities, where people are being evicted
from their homes because they can no longer pay the rent, through Germany,
where children are too hungry to go to school and where Portuguese
twentysomethings work for minimum wage in Munich restaurants despite holding academic
degrees, and across lands in which right-wing parties have won majorities. This
PR gag will cost the EU € 12 billion and cannot hide the fact that this Europe
is falling apart. With every human life that sinks to the bottom of the
Mediterranean, Europe loses a piece of its soul.

The left has not
yet managed to formulate a coherent strategy. On the contrary, it is more
fragmented than ever. The positions range from 'open borders' to 'left
nationalism' à la Melanchon and Wagenknecht. We believe that retreating into
nation states is immensely hazardous. We believe
that retreating into nation states is immensely hazardous.

The sounds of those songs from Kobane may then bring us back, and remind
us that something better may yet come. We need to tell and build another story
that is about hope and about the future. Our project is a daily struggle, a
commitment of politically-minded people who realise that we can only be radical
if our actions are rooted in collectives. The idea of ​​democratising Europe
from within may sound utopian, but Europe will crumble if we do not dare to
try.

We are building a transnational, hybrid structure of horizontal, participatory
grassroots democracy in our cities and communities, as well as vertical organisation.
We are currently forming Europe-wide electoral wings that can take part in
national elections with a transnational identity, unless there are parties or
party-like platforms in those countries that we support (for example, in
countries like Denmark or Poland this electoral wing approach would be
redundant thanks to our collaboration with Alternativet or Razem respectively).

We see this
strategy as an extension of our activism in DiEM25 (parliamentary democracy
continues to exist, after all), but the electoral wings are controlled by the
movement. Along with the values ​​we have anchored in our manifesto, we invite
all open-minded democrats to participate in this process and to work with us on
our progressive agenda, which provides answers to the manifold crises of our
time. In 2019, together with our friends in allied parties and platforms, we
will offer these answers to Europeans for election in the form of the first
transnational list, the ‘European Spring’.  And why shouldn’t Kurds be on this list? The transnational
list is already a testimony to the fact that we can prevail if we focus on the
common.

Ideas of
individual survival, as handed down to us by twentieth century science fiction
films and in neoclassical economic or evolutionary theory, are misleading. “Survival,
at this precarious time, means working through differences”, writes
anthropologist, Anna Tsing. “Survival, at this
precarious time, means working through differences”, writes anthropologist,
Anna Tsing.

In Democratic Confederalism, Abdullah
Öcalan outlines a political structure that stands for equal coexistence and
reconciles political traditions. The implementation of these ideas will, of
course, not happen overnight – reality is complex and heterogeneous. But the
historical oppression of the Kurds in the context of the nation state is
central to understanding these ideas and their realisation. The experiences of
thirty years of women's guerrilla and autonomy struggles will be fundamental to
the success of the revolution in Rojava. Without them, revolution is
unthinkable. We, in Europe, can learn a lot from this conversation.

Come, I'll open my heart
Come, I’ll tell you my sorrow …[1]

The songs from Kobane may remind us that Rojava is, indeed, an enclave of hope
in a broken present; they may inspire our collective imagination, that which
makes us human after Marx. They may also remind us that this hope knows the
historical experience from which it is grown, and that it represents a path as
well as a goal. The revolution in Rojava has shown us that people cannot only
face their deep dehumanisation with resistance, but have the ability to build
alternatives in the here and now, whose fruits will be tasted in the future. In
this sense, our experiment in European democracy can only be a process.


[1] English
translation from Kurdish poetry.

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