this was originally published in Green Anarcy #16 (nov. 2004). i am particularly pleased that i mention the kurdish resistance movement’s evolution from the PKK into the Pesh Merga. written while incarcerated, i had limited access to radical publications and alternative news sources, but you make-do, y’know? so, here is the original, which i will shortly update to focus primarily on the kurdish revolutionary’s embracing of anarchism as their end goal, with libertarian municipalism as the model. interesting ideas, and i’m going to be doing a lot of reading on this today and tomorrow. i’m not a great fan of bookchin, to be totally honest, but i’d much rather live in a society we create along even flawed anarchist ideas than the death culture we are stuck with now.
DURING THE ERA OF CONQUEST, there was a current of resistance to colonialism from within, as people expected to participate in the subjugation of foreign lands and Peoples instead switched sides. They disappeared across the frontier and integrated into indigenous cultures, usually through marriage.
Trappers, adventurers, outlaws and renegade slaves escaped from the repressive conditions imposed upon the subjects of militaristic colonial powers. Escaped slaves played a vital role in helping some Indigenous Peoples replenish their numbers after they’d experienced epidemics of imported diseases. In some instances, escaped Africans, colonials and remnants of decimated native Peoples created their own distinct cultures. These African and mixed race Peoples became known as Maroons.
1 At times, Maroon societies prevented colonial expansion into unconquered lands or outright defeated colonial powers in armed conflict, as they did in Florida, Brazil 2 and Haiti.
Intermarriage between native Peoples and colonials also led to the development of distinctive, bi-cultural societies, most notably Caribbean Creoles, French-Indian Metis and New Mexican Cibelaros. The latter were Spanish and Mexican settlers who “went native.” They built homes more similar to native’s pueblos (easily defended) than to Spanish estates. In the spring, they would plant corn, squash and beans. The men would spend the summer hunting in the plains, then return home for the harvest. A newly appointed viceroy to New Mexico once complained that he had difficulty distinguishing “the Christians from the savages.”
There are many such subversive cultures we — as insurrectionary, green anarchists — can look back upon to help us envision alternatives to the shitstem we’re currently mired in.
Sadly, we cannot return to the past. We can only learn from its examples. The pertinent question to be answered at this point is: Are such cultures of resistance achievable in the 21st century?
Frantz Fanon’s monumental book The Wretched of the Earth suggests that it’s not only possible, but necessary, in order to rid the world of residual colonialism and imperialism. Fanon describes the differences between revolutionary urges in city-bound, educated Marxists and the more immediate, deeply felt aspirations of the country folk, and focuses his attention on Algeria.
As the revolutionaries — workers and students for the most part — began to attract the attention of the government, the resultant repression brought against the rebels drives them out of their comfort zone and into the countryside. There, they encounter people oppressed beyond the city-dweller’s worst nightmares.
At this point, the revolutionaries must tread carefully, because the rhetoric with which they attempted to attract followers in the cities is volatile in the countryside. The oppressed tribal Peoples are restless, angry and always ready to explode. The revolutionaries must organize among the people and embed themselves within the culture of their rural supporters in order to successfully utilize the revolutionary energy in the countryside.
Too often, Marxist parties end up merely using the natives for their party’s gain. However, this is no longer the only example of native- based insurgence. The EZLN of Mexico are the most well-known alternative to the classic communist revolutionary group. The Zapatistas spent 10 years underground, learning the lay of the land, the ways and needs of the people and, most importantly, deprogramming themselves, clearing out rigid Marxist dogma in order to cultivate a new revolution, one arising from the struggles of Indigenous Peoples.
Native Peoples of South America have shown their strength by toppling governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, and are continuing to threaten the states of Chile, Argentina and Peru. Adivisi Peoples in India are fighting against development projects that would destroy their ancient cultures — mostly because of dam construction that would flood their homelands.
5 In these instances, there are no vanguard parties directing native insurrection — the people are guiding themselves. No education is required, they live through the conditions of their exploitation and oppression.
Another successful insurrection is taking place in Algeria. There, an insurgent movement of village and neighborhood assemblies — the AARCH — has arisen to displace the federal and provincial governments in the Kabylia region. The AARCH consists of a network of revocable delegates. Their insurgence has such widespread support, the Algerian government and their henchmen in electoral and leftist parties, unions, even Islamic fundamentalists, have been unable to gain the slightest grasp on the movement.
It is encouraging to see revolutionary movements after the post-Cold War collapse of totalitarian communism. Even more encouraging is the evolution of Marxist revolutionary movements into genuine People’s movements.
The Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) has toned down its dogma since the capture of their Party’s chairman, Abdullah Ocalan, in ’99. Although still revered by his followers — who write poetry about and for him — his successor and brother, Osman, has changed the group’s name to the Congress of the People (Kongra-Gel), and they’ve become more of an Indigenous People’s movement.
According to PKK founding member Duram Kalkam, “We wanted to transform a system that massacred our language, culture and being. Perhaps instead of asking why we didn’t take advantage of the (partial amnesty) law, one could ask Turkey, ‘Why did the people leave their homes and go up to the mountains?’”
By giving up their privileges as wage earners and following the people into the mountains, the guerrillas of the Kongra-Gel are learning to value their People’s cultural heritage above their own material comfort. They admit to suffering hardship, but believe the sacrifice is worth the effort, particularly the women soldiers who have the most to lose should fundamentalist mujaheedin governments form in Iraq and Turkey.
Indigenous People’s struggles to maintain or regain their autonomy are forming the basis of revolutionary insurrection in the 21st century. Here in the US, we must look to the past to rediscover our own culture of resistance to Leviathan.
8 This is the one step back we must take in order to take two steps forward. Those steps being: 1) supporting genuine insurrectionary People’s movements throughout the world, and 2) creating the conditions for our own autonomous revolution.
Right now, the native cultures of Free Papua are in danger of being wiped out by the Indonesian army and corporate mercenaries. Similar genocides are being carried out in Amazonian Peru, the Cloud Forests of Colombia, Western Sahara and numerous other places in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.
The people perpetrating, growing wealthy or otherwise benefiting from these atrocities mostly live in the G-8 nations, where the banks that finance genocide and the corporations who profit from it also reside. They are able to do this with impunity. It is up to us to hold them accountable for their actions.
It’s worth mentioning that vast amounts of lands claimed by the Canadian State have never been ceded by the Native Peoples (1st Nations) there, so Canada has no legal claim to much of British Columbia, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories. If half the number of people who attended anti- globalization protests were to sustain continuous pressure on the Canadian government to recognize 1st Nations’ autonomy in those regions, it would be a major victory, one which all North American Indigenous Peoples could build upon. And one which we could benefit from, if we “go native.”
(1) From the Portuguese “cimmarron,” meaning “wild,” according to John Conner in Children of Guinea.
(2) Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by William Loren Katz.
(3) The Comanchero Frontier: A History of New Mexico-Plains Indian Relations by Charles L. Kenner.
(4) ¡Basta! Land of the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas by George Collier.
(5) The Cost of Living by Arundhati Roy.
(6) Insurrection in Algeria from Ye Drunken Sailor Vol. II issue III.
(7) Guerrillas in the Mist from U.S. News and World Report, 3/15/04.
(8) See Fredy Perlman’s epic Against His-Story, Against Leviathan.