Impressions from Slovenia – Discussions on Revolution and Rojava

Internationalists have been to Slovenia to talk about Rojava, Jinwar and the Internationalist Commune. But they also learned a lot about Slovenia, and the history of the partisans.

There is great interest in the revolution in Rojava in Slovenia. In order to report and discuss the revolution in Rojava, activists from the women's village Jinwar and the Internationalist Commune of Rojava visited the cities of Ljubljana and Maribor. ANF spoke with the internationalists about their events, their impressions and about the history of Slovenia. 

How did introducing the Women's Village Jinwar and the Internationalist Commune in Slovenia come about? 

For a few years the interest in the revolution in Rojava has been growing in Slovenia. The book "Revolution in Rojava" has been translated into Slovenian and has been very well received. Rojava is associated with the hope and conviction that fundamental social change with a goal of democratic self-government is still possible in the 21st century. Up until now, not many Slovenians have been to the liberated areas in the north-east of Syria or had the opportunity to gain personal experience. That is why we were invited by Slovenian activists to talk about our experiences and perspectives from our time in the cities of Maribor and Ljubljana.

This exchange of ideas and the joint discussions show once more that the internationalist’ bonds and ties are constantly growing and that our struggles and thoughts merge into each other, as well as our ideas and experiences – from which common perspectives emerge.

How were the events and what did you discuss?

Besides the current political situation in Syria, we discussed the basic structures of the Democratic Federation of Northeast Syria. Especially the many different levels and ways society participates in the democratic self-administration, from political parties to the municipalities and civil society organizations. We focused on our experience in the village of Jinwar, the Internationalist Commune and the general social work. It is in these works that the social revolution became most visible and tangible.

In Maribor we were invited to report about the commune and Jinwar, but also about internationalism in general in a podcast from "Radio You're Up". The episode can be heard on the internet here. This radio is part of the GT 22-  a cultural centre that is also political. Besides the radio, it also houses one of the oldest photo collections of the city, an inclusive theatre group, a skate hall and various art exhibitions. One of the key figures in this centre and its staff is Svetlana Makarovič, who herself comes from Maribor. The Slovenian poet, writer and actress repeatedly addresses critical social topics, has a clear anti-fascism stance and is a role model far beyond the left-wing political scene in Maribor.

After the podcast, a public event took place in the cinema hall of the centre, where, in addition to the mentioned topics, the "Komîna Fîlm a Rojava" was presented and one of its short films was shown. In another video, an activist of the Komîna film herself spoke about the current situation in Rojava and especially the situation of the Komîn. The Komîna Film showed how people had to leave the town of Serêkaniyê after some brutal attacks and occupation by Turkish and Islamist troops.

In Ljubljana we had the opportunity to speak in the autonomous centre Rog, a former bicycle factory. It is one of the central political places in the city and is a home for different initiatives like a circus, art studios and fugitive initiatives.

What experiences of yours in Rojava were of particular interest to activists in Slovenia?

For the visitors of the events in Maribor, the importance of the municipalities in the revolution in Rojava and how they work concretely was especially interesting. We talked about the different committees of the Communes, from self-defence to health care and the families of the martyrs. There has been a lot of interest in this since the protests against the government in 2012 and 2013 and many activists have focused on building up district councils and their own self-government. The question that keeps coming up is how to ensure that people's participation does not stop at the edge of their own district, but leads to a fundamental politicisation and political practice.

Of particular interest was also the question of how the revolution manages to bring together different religious groups, cultures and political ideas - in other words, different identities. How is it possible in Rojava that, despite the heterogeneity of society and the reality that different groups have been against each other in history, a common social force has been able to develop.

In Slovenia, as in many other European countries, the various left-wing political forces are divided and do not develop a common revolutionary perspective and force, and not everyone can find themselves. Together we came to the conclusion that we should take up the motto "Unity in Diversity” and find out what this means in concrete contexts.  Up to this point, exactly such a perspective was missing in European political contexts, which mostly fought defensive battles and failed to build up a positive perspective. Especially in those countries and regions where a "socialist revolution" was achieved but failed in the long run, the left is in great depression and has a lack of perspective which needs to be broken through. Rojava is also an important point of reference because the idea of democratic confederalism opens up a unifying perspective animated by people’s differences. The history and experiences of the socialist experiments are not forgotten or denied, but are included and developed into something new.

The discussions also often dealt with the importance of militants and organization in revolutionary processes. We discussed a lot about the values and principles on which the PKK is based and according to which the militants act and their work and personalities are evaluated. Especially from the experiences of the partisans who fought against Italian and German fascism in connection with a strong Communist Party in times of the Republic of Yugoslavia, these are important questions activists need to ask themselves.

It was also important for us to talk about the importance of the martyrs, the Sehîds. Because they are an important part of the struggle, but in Slovenian society and on the left, not without controversy. Although the civilian victims of World War II are remembered collectively, the memory of the partisans is controversial. This makes it difficult for some to gain an understanding of the memory and significance of those who have fallen. It is therefore necessary to build up a new perspective and emotional connection to the martyrs. These discussions are of great importance, because the fallen are the way and the strength of the struggle. In this sense, we also talked about the friend and comrade Sehîd Rodî Cekdar - Martin, who came from Ljubljana, joined the defense forces (YPG) and was killed in Manbij on July 27, 2016 in the fight against the Islamic State and in defense of the revolution. We were also lucky to meet his sister together. This meeting gave us a lot of strength and opened an everyday point of reference to the martyrs of the revolution for the activists in Slovenia.

You mentioned the revolutionary history of Slovenia as part of Yugoslavia. What did you notice in relation to the revolution in Kurdistan?

The question of cultural identities played a crucial role in the "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", of which Slovenians were a part. How can people live regional and national identities - even strengthen them - without falling into nationalism? How can diversity be preserved in unity? These questions are also a concrete challenge in the democratic federation of Northeast Syria, which is faced daily. In Yugoslavia, unfortunately, this attempt has not been successful. Among other important factors, Yugoslavia has been broken apart by this issue. After Tito had died in 1980 as a unifying figure, nationalist tendencies intensified until war broke out in 1991. Following the founding of the nation state, the nationalist tendencies became more pronounced. A new state was created that was no longer oriented towards socialist ideas but towards the western liberal capitalism of Europe.

Another interesting point for us was the positioning of Yugoslavia during the Cold War. Yugoslavia stood between the USSR and the capitalist West. Tito's government tried to find the so-called "Third Way" as part of the "Non-Aligned Movement" between the different powers. He succeeded to a certain extent. In Syria we see a "Third Way", even if it is not between the two blocs of socialism or capitalism.  The "Third Way" of the revolution relies on the strengths of the democratic societies in the Middle East and does not side with foreign imperialist forces that want to reshape Syria according to their interests. At the same time, it does not side with regional powers that want to maintain the status quo. The "Third Way" of the Kurdish liberation movement is also found in the fundamental approach to the state itself. This approach is a big difference to the socialism of Yugoslavia. Even though it distanced itself from the USSR and Stalinism, Yugoslavia remained caught in the state paradigm. The question of the state was not sufficiently addressed.

The movement in Syria rejects the state as a force for social order, and at the same time tries to find a compromise with the Syrian central state in order to create a political solution to this crisis. It is not about abolishing the old system overnight, but about making it unnecessary by forming long-term establishments of social structures that eventually overcomes it.

What from the history of Yugoslavia do you think can be useful for the revolution in Syria?

In contrast to many other countries of the socialist bloc, where the communist parties built a centralized planned economy, the economy of Yugoslavia was based on the principle of self-government of the companies by the workers.  Nevertheless, these enterprises were integrated into a central planning of the entire national economy. This model was designed and implemented primarily by the partisan and later member of the Yugoslavian government, Edvard Kardelj. We think that these experiences of an economic policy between centrality and decentralisation, international trade and self-sufficiency, can also be of interest for the development of a sustainable economy in the democratic federation.

At the same time, from the 1980s onwards, the dependence on e.g. foreign loans from donors such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for Yugoslavia was a decisive factor in its overall development. Since being in debt, the IMF was able to implement various economic adjustment programmes in Yugoslavia, which further neoliberalised the economy. The social and economic consequences for the people were dramatic.

This dependence on the international economy and its institutions, and the influence they therefore have on the development of the countries we see not only in Slovenia but also in contemporary Greece. It is important to include that in our considerations and analyses. War is not only an open conflict with weapons, but can also be conducted in the economic sphere. This economical war is being waged against the revolution in Rojava in the form of embargoes and the aim of destroying economic opportunities.

Which impressions in Slovenia were special for you personally?

The history of the partisans and the resistance is really impressive. For example, the city of Ljubljana was annexed as a province by fascist Italy in 1941. In 1942 the Italian troops had to seal off the whole city with a fence and bunkers, because the resistance in the city was very difficult to break apart. Weapons for the resistance and propaganda material against fascism continued to be produced in the city. There was a Slovenian underground radio of the resistance, which had to change its location constantly in order not to be uncovered and therefore changed position from house to house. The population took a major role in the resistance against fascism. Lastly, the partisans, who became more and more professional, played the decisive role in the liberation of the country from fascism.

The determination in large parts of the society to declare war on fascism and not to give up in spite of strong inferiority is very impressive to witness. It is similar to the resistance of populations in Rojava against the fascist attacks of the ISIS and Turkey. We are convinced that just like the partisans in Slovenia, we will be successful.

For all those who want to learn more about the solidarity work in Slovenia with the Kurdish movement and the revolution in Syria, events and publications can be found on the Facebook page “Rojava kliče”, which means "Rojava calling".