Gerber: Rojava shows we can change existing systems and provide an alternative to nation states

Swiss historian Gerber said in the second part of this interview that "Rojava showed that capitalism is not indestructible."


In the second part of this interview, Swiss historian Gerber said that Rojava has become a place where theory is put into practice.

The first part of this interview can be read here

As you know, many young people from all over the world went to Syria and became a part of the Rojava Revolution. What do you think was their motivation?

Yes, Rojava has become a place where theory is put into practice. In this sense, I think this is very important. The ideas of libertarian municipalism were found in practice for the first time in Rojava. It showed that it could work and that it was an interesting theory. When Bookchin died, many people did not believe that his theory would work in practice. The ideas of libertarian municipalism are very difficult to understand. But, in the end, Öcalan and the people of Rojava managed to show that this is not the case, that it can be implemented and that it can be a political alternative that has been sought for many years.

I am not surprised that many young people want to support Rojava and go to Rojava, just like people who joined to support Spain or other causes. Social ecologists were among the first to support Rojava, saying that although the revolution in Rojava had its shortcomings in terms of Bookchin's ideas, it was a real revolution that we should support, because nothing is perfect. But we must continue to support it.

So, do you want to say that the Rojava Revolution represents hope for the future for these young people?

Yes. Rojava showed that we can change existing systems and that there is an option other than the nation state. Again, Rojava showed that capitalism is not indestructible and that it is possible to create loopholes in this very rigid system, where decisions are made in areas far away from the people, who vote but do not actually have the power to decide.

Do you think it is possible to implement the Rojava project in other places?

That's the real question. How can we ensure that this system and ideas are implemented elsewhere? It is not easy to support and express this in developed countries. The situation in Rojava was quite special, because there was a situation where the central authority collapsed and there was a civil war.

For example, here in Switzerland the central government is very strong. Trying to implement these ideas here will not be at the same level.

If we want to build a system similar to the one in Rojava, we must find other ways and look for alternatives.

It may be a case of introducing these ideas to communes and municipalities that want more independence, taking charge of parliaments, or trying to find other possibilities to introduce them. As the French Commune did, one can try to change the rules of the game by simply saying ‘We want to do politics in a different way, let's do it’ without anyone's approval.

This system, which you say is an example, is being destroyed by the Turkish state today. What can internationalists or those who believe in this system do to protect Rojava?

There are many things that can be done. The first thing about war today is that they are widely covered in the media. In other words, people should expose, point out the conflict, and not remain silent about what is happening. Currently, especially the war in Ukraine and what is happening in Israel demonstrates this to some extent. While these are happening, we forget about Rojava, what is happening there is overlooked.

We should especially draw attention to the actions carried out by Turkey, which occupies part of Rojava's territory and has no right to do so within the framework of international rules, and support Rojava.

Again, we must remind Americans that they have a duty to their allies. And we must remind Europe that the decision to still consider the PKK as a terrorist group must be changed. We cannot continue to define an organization that we want to help us in the fight against ISIS in this way.

We really need to change the world vision and perspective towards the PKK, Rojava and its freedom fighters. The PKK should be seen as a liberation movement.

The PKK and Rojava are seen as the carriers of a democratic project.

The system in Rojava should be implemented not only for Syria, as suggested by Abdullah Öcalan, but also for the democracy of the entire Middle East.

For the problems we see in Israel and Palestine today, we need to be inspired by a confederalist model, have less political crystallization on nation-state and land issues, and tear down these walls and borders.

Don't you believe that a two-state structure is the solution to the Palestine-Israel problem?

It's not that I disagree, it's just that I have a hard time believing in a two-state solution in the current situation. I believe there is something to be said on this subject. I don't know if Bookchin's vision is more realistic in solving this problem. However, for now, I have the impression that we are very far from the two-state solution or other solutions.

Kurdish People's Leader Abdullah Öcalan himself proposed the democratic confederalism model as a solution to the Palestine-Israel problem. Today, we are witnessing that the existing systems can no longer produce a solution in the face of many crises in the world. In the face of all this, we cannot see the existence of an alternative project...

Yes, we are experiencing a lack of other projects to counter the capitalist system. There is a lack of awareness that the nation-state model may have reached an impasse. Similarly, the model of representative democracy seems to have reached its limits. We see that more and more governments cannot be formed because coalitions cannot form a majority in the parliament, and in many countries governments fall one after another and political instability increases. Representative democracy and the model of politicians who are supposed to represent the people no longer work and have lost credibility.

So we need to return to decentralized decision-making, especially given the political and ecological challenges ahead. Current politicians will not be able to make these decisions. Yes, we need new models. Bookchin and Öcalan are putting forward some interesting ideas and models today, and these ideas are being validly implemented on the ground, including in Rojava. So there are inspiring ideas and models to explore.

We talked about the ideas of Bookchin and Abdullah Öcalan. Today, Öcalan is held in absolute isolation in Imralı, where he has been imprisoned for 25 years. There has been no contact with him for more than 3 years. Neither his family nor his lawyers could meet him. What are your thoughts on this?

Isolation is a shame. Abdullah Öcalan is a political prisoner. Of course, there is conflict and there were deaths on both sides. However, keeping him in prison for 25 years with no contact with the outside world is unacceptable. We can draw a parallel with Mandela. Mandela was also imprisoned for similar reasons, accused of 'terrorism' and many other things. He spent many years in prison. When he came out, he was hailed as a hero and savior. Why don't we learn from this experience? Why do we not accept that Öcalan is in the same situation while Mandela's case remains a historical symbol?

There is a new hypocrisy in the Western world and certainly beyond, regarding the position of Abdullah Öcalan. Turkey seems untouchable, but I don't know if this will last forever. I think the wind will turn around in Turkey, but I don't know if it will be too late for Öcalan then. We cannot be hypocritical in the face of Öcalan's situation.

So my message is this: don't forget Öcalan and see what and who he represents.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I would like to add a few things about Rojava. Whatever happens, I think something important has been achieved in Rojava for the future. Something very lasting and hopeful has been achieved. A social revolution has been achieved, and whatever the future of the country may be, it will continue to live by this message. I wish good luck to the Kurdish people and Rojava in terms of its continuation and future.