Anarchy in Kurdistan?

Murray Bookchin's new fans


Possibly Bookchin's best text; definitely his best cover.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been active in the Kurdish parts of Turkey since the '70s. It has a sometimes sordid history: Its politics were Marxist-Leninist, and its willingness to kill prisoners and civilians earned a rebuke from Amnesty International. Its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been under arrest since 1999, but its armed struggle with the Turkish state continued until a ceasefire was reached last year.

I was vaguely aware of all that, and I may even have read at some point that Öcalan had recently rejected his old Leninist outlook and terrorist tactics, proclaiming a newfound devotion to democracy. What I did not realize was what brand of democracy had attracted Öcalan's interest. Somehow, he became smitten with the American left-anarchist Murray Bookchin. He appears to be particularly interested in Bookchin's idea of devolving power to cities governed by neighborhood assemblies.

I just called Bookchin an anarchist, but by the time he died Bookchin had rejected that label, calling himself a "Communalist" instead. But I'm not writing this post to discuss Bookchin's ideas—the curious reader can check out my obit for him here and Reason's interview with him here—so much as just to express my astonishment to see Bookchinism bubbling up in the PKK, of all places.

ROAR has more on Öcalan's evolution here. Bookchin's partner Janet Biehl discusses these developments here. Some left-anarchists greet the PKK's conversion with a mixture of interest and skepticism here. Kevin Carson is enthusiastic here. The most blistering critique of Bookchin ever written is here. A latebreaking correction to my Bookchin obit is here.