Praise for Democracy: The Springs of Rupture
In this paper, I will propose to explore some of the elements susceptible to rethink politics and its principle of improvability and perfectibility, the natural role of the State in the syntagmatic functioning of the Arab World.
Indeed, the world has changed and its forces and political projects have as well. A little less than three decades, social revolution and political revolution have alternated when they were not confounded. The Berlin wall has fallen and globalization has passed through it. The global economic order must be transformed, but the same is true for political orders. That is why against all authoritarianism, politics is today incarnated in the figures of democracy. In the Arab World, sequences of relentless reactivity against integration to globalization appeared as soon as 2010. It is the Arab Spring, made up of public protests of varying amplitude and intensity which by their propagation resembled the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe. December 17 2010 was the beginning. Beyond the ousting of dictators and the onset of democratic revival, these mass movements demanded a redistribution of wealth to secure better living conditions, jobs, and dignity. Politics became a claim to social justice, its truth: “Truth of what? Of the capacity for human collectivity to take charge by itself of its destiny and its configuration” (Alain Badiou). However, it is indeed existing democracy, i.e. the one in crisis in the West, that constitutes the horizon of aspiration. And if the most advanced societies show the way to those who are less advanced (Marx), then they lead the work of constructing new utopias confirming first and foremost, in their own way, the universality of democratic desire and of the natural right to liberty. It is the sense of these popular uprisings which, everywhere, defy authoritarianism and oligarchies.
This presentation will be pre-recorded in French and subtitled in English.
Internationalism and the terrains of modernity: Universality, historicity, territoriality
This work promises a critique of modernity as a systemic totality that precludes a bottom-up internationalism in the twenty-first century. The latest stage of the confrontations between neoliberal globalisation and nationalism has resulted in a renewed debate on internationalism. Among others, socialist internationalism and the new internationalism, as first-hand critiques of liberal and cosmopolitan orthodoxies, have problematised the theoretical, organizational and political means of internationalism from below. Nested in this literature, I argue for a geopolitical relocation of the origins of internationalism beyond material and semantic spaces of modernity. After a historical exploration of the different terrains of resistance to modern forms of domination, I explore their extra-modern origins in time, space, and land. Building on Abdullah Öcalan’s conceptualisation of history, I locate the extra-systemic origins of intra-systemic resistance. Building on the coloniality/modernity school, I illustrate the extra-systemic spaces of resistance through the debate on pluriversality. Finally, building on the decolonial precision of the nation as a provincial imagination of community and Öcalan’s understanding of the nation-state as the territorial incarceration of polity, I explore the specific territorial confinements of modern internationalism.
Keywords: Internationalism, nation-state, Abdullah Öcalan, Coloniality/Modernity
A Utopia in the Middle East: The Rojava Revolution Invaded
The tidal waves of the Arab Spring swept Syria and triggered a civil war between the regime and its supporters, various factions of dissidents (Free Syrian Army), jihadists, and the Kurds. Amidst this devastating war in Syria, the Rojavans (people of Western Kurdistan) set out to organize themselves in a multiethnic, communalist, social ecologist system without a central authority and beyond the parameters of ethnic nationalism. Following Abdullah Öcalan’s Bookchin-inspired theories on social ecology and libertarian municipalism, they have been experimenting on direct democracy, democratic autonomy, and ethno-religious pluralism, and confederalism. Yet, Rojava Revolution is under fire both literally and metaphorically. The YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) have been fighting against IS (Islamic State) since the beginning of Syrian War. Then there is heavy artillery and now the invasion of their liberated homeland by the Turkish state. However, the PYD has been defending the cause on many international fronts against foes and skeptics. While critics give credit to the Rojava “lab” that it is indeed innovative, they nevertheless define the Rojavan charter of social contract (2014) ‘utopian.’ In this paper, I take issue with both colloquial and anti-utopian implications of this position prevalent among anti-Kurdish right and even among some leftist circles in the West.
Analyzed from the perspective of what Lyman Tower Sargent called ‘social dreaming’ (1994), the Rojava Revolution, I argue, debunks the elision between ‘perfection’ and ‘impossibility’ of Utopia that its critics imply. Echoing previous utopian experiments in Europe such as the Paris Commune in 1871 or the Revolutionary Catalonia in the 1930s, the Revolution in Western Kurdistan has been the contemporary example of what Ernst Bloch once called the utopian impulse – an anthropological and ontological drive for a better world, a human predisposition which is not a sole property of European peoples. Thus, I propose to use the very methods and concepts of utopian studies itself to dissect (critical-) utopian elements of Rojavan experiment by focusing on theoretical texts by Ocalan and Bookchin as well as published accounts on the first-hand experiences of the Rojavans.
All in all, this paper aims to fulfill a triple purpose: First, it retrieves utopianism embodied in Rojava Revolution which imagines, creates, and theorizes an alternative, radical way of life amidst an incessant war. Furthermore, by utilizing the conceptual and methodological tools of utopian studies, it attempts to shed light on the dreams and nightmares that concern the alternative ways in which the Rojavans have arranged their everyday life without a central authority. Third, going beyond the current, instrumentalizing narratives on the Kurds as « betrayed allies » and as « historical victims » of four nation-states (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria), this account provides a better, complete understanding of the Rojavan political model as lived experience thereby giving the long-overdue agency to the builders of this real-life Utopia: The Rojava.