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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #269 - international, Cooperative Economy: The Rojava Way (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sat, 11 Mar 2017 10:18:35 +0200

Encircled by hostile forces, under-equipped with infrastructure, Syrian Kurdistan must face a major challenge: produce to feed its population. Far from statist utopias and the forced collectivization of the Stalinists of the past, the Rojava Self-Government encourages the free association of producers. ---- The self-administered administration gave them land. They produce without chemical fertilizers and sell vegetables, corn and milk to cooperative members at a lower price than the market. Each share is worth one hundred dollars. Those who do not have this sum can offer their labor power or unite with others. When needed, members help each other by spending a day together in the fields. "We will also plant a wood and when the project is finished we will go into agrotourism. We are in the process of realizing our dream, " says Azad, visibly moved.

It is part of an agricultural cooperative with 5,000 other members in the canton of Cizérê in Rojava. Three years ago, in these countries, cooperatives did not exist. Then a revolution began in northern Syria, only 400 km from Aleppo; unlikely. And yet it exists, it grows and nourishes hope throughout the world by taking its horizon far away because it has made coexistence the key to making the community stronger. The unexplored path of the Rojava is traversed by many diverse people and willing to learn and correct shooting every day.

In three years, more than 100 cooperatives have emerged in the Canton de la Cizre.

"When the revolution started in 2011, we knew that the conflict would turn into a war between Shiites and Sunnis. We have chosen a third way, that of living together, says Haval Jalil, co-chair of Tev-Dem[1]. Our path is that of a cultural revolution which is above all a matter of strengthening the community. " We are Qamislo, 200,000 inhabitants, capital of the canton of Cizîrê, near Turkey.

The Rojava region declared itself autonomous in 2012, and since then it has been experiencing a form of self-government inspired by the principles of democratic confederalism, the politico-social theory that represents the culmination of thirty years of struggle by the Kurdish liberation movement. Democratic confederalism advocates the overcoming of the model of the nation-state by communities organized on a model of direct democracy, and pursues the project of a society based on the coexistence of diverse cultures and religions, ecology, feminism , The social economy and people's self-defense.

for the revolution!

"Kurdistan: Freedom, self-management, revolution.»
Buy the support t-shirt edited by AL (14 euros, original drawing by Pierre Bunk).
The proceeds will go to a self-management project in Kurdistan.

A revolution is under way

An experience unique in the world, in the heart of a Middle East bruised by war, brutal repression and fundamentalisms. An experience that may seem incredible if you do not see it with your own eyes, especially in the context of the atrocious Syrian conflict.

I did not stay there long, but I can testify that a real revolution is taking place. During the last three years, the self-administration of the Tev-Dem, the organization that serves as a link between Syrian Kurdish parties and social movements, has been involved in the reorganization of institutions and the elaboration of new laws .

The basic organizational and decisional unit of the community is the komin (common). The komins are organized mainly on a territorial basis, but there are also them on specific feminine and ethno-confessional bases. In each neighborhood , there are seven or eight komin who elect representatives in the district councils, then in the city councils. In the komin , proposals and requests are elaborated and the needs of the community are collectively met. In city councils, the proposals for democratic self-government (DSA) laws circulate for improvement. Each of the three cantons of Rojava - Cizere, Kobane and Efrin - now has a separate administration.

Founded in the summer of 2016, the Kasrik cooperative produces vegetables, corn and goat milk.

Just a year ago, much of this territory was controlled by Daech. The YPG (mixed) and YPJ militia (women) recovered a large part of the territory through very hard battles. Today, only the canton of Efrin is still separated from the rest of the Rojava by a narrow zone occupied by the Turkish army, to which Daech has yielded ground without opposing resistance. In spite of this territorial discontinuity, the election of the first "Confederal government of Rojava-Syria of the north-east" is planned for next year, through the system of direct democracy built in the last three years.

But the beating heart of the Kurdish revolution is the strategy of transition from the capitalist economic model to a new paradigm: the social economy. "We want 80% of a cooperative economy. We do not believe in a socialist model that would ban private initiative. Our idea is that every person has an active economic role in society and that change happens gradually through people's participation , " explains Haval Rachid, co-chair of the Economics Department. In Kurdistan, each public office is always allocated to two representatives, one male and one female, who serve as co-chairs.

Read the Kurdistan file on Alternativelibertaire.org

Three years ago, cooperatives did not exist in this part of Syria except for a few, isolated and ill-considered because they were linked to the Assad regime. Today, in the canton of Cizre, they are more than 100 and they multiply at an impressive speed. Kasrik is an agricultural cooperative founded four months ago 120 kilometers from Qamislo in the direction of Aleppo. Today, it has more than 5,000 members and consumers living near the cities of Girê Xurma[2]and Dirbesye. "The DSA has given us 5,000 hectares of land. Our project is long term. In eight years, we plan to produce and process most agricultural and livestock products. Already we sell vegetables, corn and milk from a herd of 1,250 goats. About 8% of what is produced goes to the workers, the rest is reinvested in our project until it is completed, " explains Azad, one of the inhabitants who united to give life to this project. Ambitious project.

Food self-sufficiency

"We produce without chemical inputs and sell products to our members at a lower price than the market. Each share is worth $ 100. Whoever does not have the money can become a member by offering his labor force in exchange, or by joining other people. When we need them, members come to help us in groups on a day in the fields. We plan to plant a wood and, when the project is finished, we will go into agrotourism. We are in the process of realizing our dream, " continues Azad, visibly moved.

Agricultural cooperatives are the only ones that have direct support from the DSA. Because of the embargo and very low economic resources, the contributions are minimal but symbolically necessary to mark the importance of food self-sufficiency. Many cooperatives are encouraged by the Kongra Star women's movement, which has already formed some fifty. Most of these are small-scale cooperatives: agriculture, livestock, crafts, catering, food processing.

Lorin is a cooperative that prepares canned products using seasonal products. "We started six months ago. We prepare canned food for sale in the community and at the market. At first, our husbands did not approve but then they understood. The only capital we have is the one that is in our hands and we want to use it to participate, " says Sozda, one of the new member workers. "We also plan to create an agricultural cooperative to directly grow the vegetables we process. "

Havgartin, 26,000 members

Cooperatives are born in different ways: at the initiative of social movements, people, komin (to whom it is required to train at least one), or by transmission. In this field, the most active role is played by Havgartin, the largest cooperative in the region with 26,000 members.

The village of Zargan, in the canton of La Cizre.

"The idea was born a year ago in the village of Zargan during the sugar crisis. We were under embargo and capitalist traders were speculating on commodity prices. It was then that the idea of forming a cooperative was born to buy sugar and resell it at a lower price than the market. From sugar, we switched to a lot of other basic necessities by proposing to all komin to join, in every town of the township. At first, the cooperative was only acting as a wholesaler, now we also distribute the products of the other cooperatives and we invest 5% of the profits in the creation of new cooperatives. Eight more cooperatives were born in the wake of Havgartin, " says Zafer, a member of the board of directors. "Our ultimate goal is to remove the market from the control of traders and wholesalers who do not socialize profits for the community. To do that, we also want to create a bank to promote the creation of new cooperatives. "

There are two things that hold a lot of attention in this absolutely unique process: the speed with which society is reorganizing from a hitherto unexplored model, and the ability of people to learn, exchange, and correct shooting if necessary. "We are experimenting a new path, we are trying to learn from the mistakes that we make every day. We do not have the answers to all requests. We would like, for example, to learn more about cooperative experiences in other countries and the good ideas that may be useful to our process, "concludes Zafer while serving another tea, while on television, uninterruptedly, Images of war, with its atrocious brutality and its inextricable contradictions.

X. Haval ( Dinamopress.it , December 2016), translated by Rémi (AL Lorient)

[1]The Democratic Society Movement (Tev-Dem, for Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk), initiated in 2011, orchestrated the many local committees and councils that structure the self-government of Rojava.

[2]Tell Tamer, in Arabic.

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