The Forbes magazine has included Amir Taaki in the list of the most perspective british entrepreneurs under 30. First of all he is known as a developer of open source IT projects, particularly those which are connected with bitcoins. In 2015 after living in Barcelona squat he went to Rojava. At the begining his goal was to fight jihadists, and then he took part in rebuilding the region as an economic consultant. Journalist Dmitry Sydorov has asked Amir Taaki about the phylosophy of revolution, Rojava perspectives and psychology of those, who will change the world.
— What can you tell about the inner structure of the YPG? Is it really that democratic as it is portrayed, or is it traditional «chain of command» system like in regular armies of the world?
— YPG is a military, and there is a chain of command, but it’s not just an army, rather an army that’s also ideological. YPG members are trained in ideology. The nature of how we fight wars today has changed. For instance, when english troops fought in Afganistan, what happened is that they got trapped between many differrent local conflicts. One tribes told the british that other tribes was Taliban, and they were used to settle scores. That’s what happens when you got military just as a pure mechanism and soldiers are completely obedient to chain of command. They don’t know the overall goals and ambitions of organization they are fighting for. They are reactive, they wait for something to happen so that the chain of command can respond.
— And YPG units act more autonomously in their decision-making? Do they get additional training to be able to do that, to avoid misconviniences of chain of command system?
— There is a chain of command, but there is also ideology that guides their actions. Mainly YPG soldiers are revolutionaires, following Abdulla Ocalan’s ideas. It’s not about just making their own decisions, it’s knowing about what is the vision of the society they want to create and how to move towards it, what is the strategy to organize in such a way.
— Speaking bluntly, what do they study? Culturology, sociology…
— Yes, it’s sociology, philosophy, history, religion, mythology…
— All of that – in military training camps?
— Yeah. And that’s the most of the YPG training, ideological training, not physical. There is a physical training, but it’s not the emphasis. And that’s really important. Take ISIS. Now it’s on the verge of defeat. But today I saw news that they just took a new piece of land in Syria, 75 square kilometers from Syrian opposition in Idlib province. They are almost wiped out and yet fighting offensive battles. Their morale is still strong. Why? Because they have a sense of divine destiny, that gives them drive. They don’t just fight for their state, they fight for cosmological significance, for God. They also don’t just train militants to fight, they train them ideologically, to give them shared sense of coherence. And that’s also why YPG has been so successful.
Just think about it – in 2015 or late 2014 Kurdish Kobane was at the verge of defeat, YPG controlled just the small cloth of canton, two thin strips of land completely isolated from each other. Some friends told me about the beginning of revolution, what it was like. ISIS was in the outskirts of Derjika in the very far north of Rojava. Troops were gained old weapons that didn’t work and plastic bags with piles of bullets to carry about. Then they were sent to the outskirts of town to defend against ISIS assault with tanks and heavy weaponry. But YPG managed to get out from this very bad material situation, from weakness and isolation to becoming the dominant power in Syria, an actual player of the Middle East. Why is that, do you think?
Problem with ISIS is that their ideology doesn’t give them the ability to work with the political situation that actually exist. They are driven by radical fundamentalist religious interpretation that doesn’t provide a way forward, something that cannot resolve fundamental antagonism of people society.
— They are also cut from any kind of diplomacy beside “kill them all”.
— It’s not only diplomacy, it’s about how we use tools of power and the state, how we organize society, how we live in context of modernity. PKK (Worker’s Party of Kurdistan) put forward really strong ideology that gives a very good roadmap of how to resolve the Syrian situation. Second thing is that in modernity Middle East really suffered, it found itself at the bottom of great civilizations of the world. And this is the old, great civilization which gave birth to major philosophies of the world – Abrahamic faiths. A birthplace of modern civilization with very rich cultural history that was completely marginalized in contemporary era. And inside of the Middle East, of all of the nations the kurds were at the bottom of the region – a people oppressed by Iran, Turkey, Syria, etc. What Ocalan has done is not just giving Kurds a philosophy to build Kurdish area, but he gave the roadmap to change the entire Middle East.
What he proposes is that this system of Western nation-states doesn’t work in Middle East, people up there have different mindset, they have loyalties to their tribe, to their clan, to their family, to many different groups inside the society. And that’s a big threat and a danger for nation-states which demand absolute loyalty to itself, it puts itself as the God of society. The way the state came to be, this mechanism, this mega-machine of hierarchy and obedience, where people work to earn sundry to get a good standard of living, where people do things because they are afraid of being punished – this came to be the main drival of people’s behavior. That’s something that have it’s roots in ancient Sumer, where priests took the mythology and turned that into religious dogmatism, which they used to legitimize their position as an elite group of people, administrating the society. It’s something that is secular, a secular distortion of old spiritual societies.
— But are there any actual nation states in the Middle East beside Turkey? I think most of them is “natural states”, more archaic than nation states, something like old Russian Empire before the revolution.
— They’re still nation states, they are based on centralized leadership. But it’s political states as opposedto the western economical, materialistic states. You see, the head of America is basically a financial entrepreneur, the partisan of capitalism. He does represent a break from classic American liberal globalism, but it’s still very representative of what Western society in general is really about, whereas societies of Middle East are organized in a lot more political nation states. They are constructs from the West, which don’t fit middle-eastern mindset, the way that these societies exist, their culture.
So the proposal of Ocalan is to construct a new, democratic civilization in the Middle East. It’s not like European multiculturalism, it doesn’t say: “Islam is good, Ezidi is good, Assyrians is good”. It’s about how we can deconstruct this cultural traditions, to get to the base of them, how we can make organic symphysis to bond everybody together in a unified social body and turn it to a new democratic nation, a new paradigm.
— Let’s return to the military activities. Are there any democratic institution inside certain unit of the YPG?
— Yeah, they have the takmil, where soldiers make critique of themselves in the group, so they can think how they can do things as a group, develop a collective mindset, to grasp the philosophy of democratic federalism in practice. They also discuss the meaning of struggle and freedom. They make assemblies where people make decisions collectively. You got to know that Ocalan made a lot of critiques against anarchism. Three main thing that he says is:
1) anarchists failed to institutionalize the spreading of their ideology
2) people got to learn mythology, sociology, philosophy, history, culture and all of these different topics by themselves, that’s a requirement for participation in organized groups
3) the way people are going to learn ideology is to learn it in a classroom with a teacher. It’s important to understand teacher-student relation as a power relation, to recognize that it exists, so that we can institutionalize ways to challenge this power system.
And it’s not about bringing level of someone down to level of everybody else. That means bringing everyone up to gain power, to reach their potentiality as a human being. Kurdish philosophy is based on struggle, noble uplifting sacrifice, fighting for ideas and virtue, as opposed to classical socialism, which is about building a comfortable happy existence where everybody is well off. Kurdish way is more challenging, but it gives power to be able to struggle in this world we find ourselves in, where liberalism is facing huge disaster. To challenge a project to assimilate humanity, to disintegrate the vestiges of nature that exist inside of us.
There’s a danger that humanity will be trapped inside virtual networks and time will become frozen. To break free of that, we need to return the ideas of striving for sense of vision, a sense of purpose, to bring back the core of society, values that bring people together. Doesn’t mean we need to reject everything that is material, the external material world. What we do is separating ourselves from this world of contemporary capitalism. That’s why Ocalan says that to oppose capitalist modernity we need to construct a new, democratic modernity, new paradigm of how society govern itself. And this separation between spirit and matter is the greatest crime against humanity, by separating these two things we turn people into tools and objects of state-based mechanical system.
People of modern society, they work meaningless jobs for 10, for 20 years just to get enough sundry be able to retire. And that money is printed by group of financial banksters, they are just pieces of paper without any real value whatsoever. That’s a society we found ourselves in, these World Sacred Union just wants to keep the capital flow, making themselves rich and keeping everyone halfed in. That’s a mindless virus that is growing, spreading, infecting the planet without any purpose.
Now they’re talking about making cyborgs, chimeras, genetic engineering, virtual reality. They want to eliminate nature completely, turn human beings into robots, mechanical devices that live in virtual cyber-world of absolute ecstasy, without the need to comprehend the actual reality we live in. Now in England every week one in four people suffer from some kind of mental disorder. In America, 50% of the population suffer from anxiety in their lifetime. I was in Syria for one year, and I didn’t experience the level of mental disorders as I experienced in the West, that is meant to be more advanced.
— So you think Rojava and it’s democratic federalism is an antidote to actually the whole planet?
— It’s an antidote to nihilism, to paralysis of society where people don’t really believe in anything. When I got back to England, I’ve planned to get my visa and go to America to do some work. Police grabbed me and said: you have to stay in America, you have to stay here, is that ok? And I thought «Ok, since I’m here I’ll make use of the situation». So I got really excited: I’ve got a message of Ocalan and I tried to show it to activists, political philosophy groups. «Look, guys, how we can organize ourselves to change something». I thought people will be really interested in that message, but they didn’t really care.
Even people who call themselves activists, they believe in nothing, they’re not doing their activism and politics, because they don’t believe there’s something higher outside of themselves. For them it’s just a way of life, a way to fill their conscience, like doing something good, like charity. This society is completely narcissistic, egoistical society. We have to realize that in every society there are some idealistic and spiritual people, and it’s necessary for their existence to struggle for something meaningful, to devote their lives to the sense of destiny. Ocalan described PKK militants in the mountains of North Kurdistan, whose entire existence was fighting, and who started to disappear as a human beings if they couldn’t fight.
— But in each society there are also a number of high-functioning psychopaths, and such people exist in Rojava too. How do the system counters them, blocks them from rigging the game?
— Why did communism go wrong?
— Because of the psychopaths?
— Yeah. What we need to get rid of is this system of subject-object hierarchy paradigm. Because that is the problem that causes degradation of humanity. If we’re not going to go further, if we’ll just limit ourselves to external world of structure, we’ll always be limited in what we can do. In the end we’ll just rearrange things a little bit to manage this better. But that won’t change society on fundamental level. We need to get further, to change the internal world of human’s thoughts, change how people think. That’s what will really change the shape of society and won’t be some masking change.
The origin of monotheism was in ancient Egypt, when Amenhotep IV set that the only God is the Sun God and all others God’s worship got to stop. What is the sun? It’s the hot static object in the sky, away from Earth, to which human beings always try to reach out towards. It’s the source of power, domination and hierarchy. So he built giant pyramids to be able to ascend to the sun and live an eternal life. But he was not much of a fighter, more of a lover, and his society was conquered by neighboring nations. A really bad thing in ancient world, so in Egypt monotheism got rejected. This shows that society based on subject-object hierarchy was originally based on a desire of elite group of people to enslave a huge workforce, build a military to expand their own power.
In ancient Uruk people worshipped Inanna, the goddess of ancient organic society, the Mother. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there’s a struggle for power with Enki, and we can see the degradation, the victory of group of military men over the organical society of mothers, of matriarchy. In Uruk the king named himself the main consort of Inanna, one day of a year they had a festive ceremony where the king had ritualized sex with the high priestess who on that day became an embodiment of Inanna. That was the main motivation for the rise of dogmatic religion, the construction of male financial, military elite who took control over society, over women, and started expanding militarily in neighboring societies.
— Your main trade is IT. How do you think the use of cryptocurrenices and other high-tech is possible in Rojava region, where the main production is agriculture and oil, and internet is irregular, just gets around from Turkey and Iraq?
— As I explained, the culture and the way of life in Middle East is really different to the West. Western system of financial capital isn’t something that fit the actual reality of Middle East. To break free of that, region need to change system of governance, how political life is organized. Further than that, the economic reality of how society is constructed needed to be ordered along new paradigm, which is about respective to the pluralistic identity of variegated Middle East. A paradigm driven by philosophy and ideas.
Western system of economy based on the unilateral growth and expanding material abundance is something that is actually alien to the spirit of the Middle East. Construction of this new economic paradigm isn’t something that can be done by rejecting the economic reality of the international system we live in, but by actively working on comprehending totality of it’s form to rearrange the tools with fundamental ethic. Part of this tools is technological, cryptographic, like bitcoin, and they can serve new democratic economic paradigm, to give people the autonomy to control their lives, protect their identity.
— So you’ll have some kind of ocalancoins or something like that?
— There is no magical technique that’s going to save us. In the end, all of this techniques are surplus. I mean, the technology is manifestation of technology, it’s even an illusion, not something that really exists. Technology is about rearranging matter into some form to give us power over nature, to exploit it for material personal gain. When we chop down a tree, we use it to build a house. However, with the technological comprehension of the society, with ethics of balance, we can shape a new live of balance and abundance with nature. In return, our own nature is uplifted and enriched.
Going away from pure industrialism, pure technologism means a downgrade in material conditions. But opposing that, we can use the technology to maintain significant material advantage of our lives and arrange it to new paradigm. It’s all about comprehension, what is our destination we ride towards? Then we can start to think how we rearrange this technologies into supplying our vision, utopia we are trying to construct.
— Talking about technological advantage, is Rojava more technologically advanced than, Iraqi Kurdistan, or Asad forces, or its other neighbors?
— The level of technological development is low. There’s not many programmers and so on.
— And does it have potential of becoming technological hub of the region?
— That’s not my idea of how we further the revolution and our revolutionary paradigm. Technology is just a methodological tool we use to rise to that point.
— What exactly were you doing in economical committee after you got demobilized from the front?
— We were working on many project, doing many researches. For example, we built a fertilizer factory, the waste disposal infrastructure, solar panels. I organized foreigners as well.
— So you got familiar with the social structure of regular life of Rojava. Can you describe some example of self-governing institute that you interacted with from the inside?
— I was in many assemblies like the union of teachers, economic bodies. In first we were discussing election structure, in the last we were discussing the collectivization of land.
I don’t think they were useful, because democracy isn’t just about elections, it’s not just a way of governing, it’s something deeper, it’s about the spirit of how the society does things in collective way. Like it’s said in Critique of Socrates, without the education democracy just descends into brawl. Getting rid of system of state won’t solve anything unless you have ideological revolution at the same time. In Rojava, for instance, in each city there’s an economic center, culture center, youth center, center of the martyrs, the municipality, the media center, education center.
I went to all these places and talked to people there. They were working on different kinds of projects, but there was a sense of historical trajectory, of destiny, everybody in society working towards something. There is a wider collective energy in the society.
— It’s fueled by revolution. But every revolution ends at some point. What will come after? Or do you propose permanent revolution like Trotsky did?
— The struggle never ends. When this philosophy has exhausted itself of it’s ability to advance humanity forwards, we will have to conduct a new struggle, look at the logic of how this ideology played out to its descend, make the critique of the ill effects of that, and construct a new paradigm that we can use to struggle against what exists.
— So you propose starting a war in other place?
— First of all, the world is heading towards a gigantic social crisis which will be the opportunity of organized groups of revolutionaries to create new alternative paradigms opposed to western liberalism that is destructive to humanity. There will be a lot of genocide and death. The way the Rojava is going to succeed is by being outward-looking to expand and growth the movement. However, when we are talking about revolution in itself, we realize the trauma of being human: understanding that there is a cycle to anything, and each cycle is going to end. But what comes after it is rebirth. There is nothing eternal we can do except making foundation for arrival of a new type of human being, a person we can’t possibly imagine, someone so radically different from what exists now.
The Messiah that will push for the end of days, which is something that approaching, but isn’t something that’s going to happen by itself. We actively need to work for it, to unfreeze time and when the moment come, break free form this end of history to start the cycle of life to continue to turn. From the ashes of that will be born something new.
— That sounds a lot like ISIS teaching. They too believe they are nearing the arrival of Dajjal and eventually Mahdi.
— Whether it’s Hinduism and Kali-Yuga, whether it’s the Bible and Judgment Day, whether it’s Nitzche and his concepts of eternal recurrence, the last men and the coming of the Overhuman, there’s a lot of truth in religion if we deconstruct it. The reason why it’s so effective is that it speaks to some part of humanity that feels with their collective memory that there’d been a loss, trauma that existed in the past, and they still feel the effects of this trauma. A trauma that erased our mentality, disconnected us from our roots. And religion puts us in touch with some remnants of that pre-trauma time.
— So you think some kind of «Red Messiah» will come and we need to cultivate him? Leon Trotsky was named the one, but he failed.
— Yeah. Communists fell into their own trap of being confined by modernity and Weberian iron cage. Unless we can comprehend what is the illusive barrier that separates us from attaining our own destiny. Once we are able to see that, the reality will make itself visible to us, underline matrix of the society we live in. And then we can start to think about how we can break free from that. A human being without that knowledge is a human being that is not free, without the knowledge of how modern system of caplitalist modernity traps human beings.
— In one of your interviews you said that Rojava is the greatest anarchic revolution since Catalonia in 1930-s, but we all know how the last one ended. Do you fear the same can happen to Western Kurdistan.
— PKK is a movement that was many times on the verge of being wiped out, same as Rojava. Even now a lot of problems exist, but it’s still managing to be very resourseful, to find a foothold in the Middle East. What happened in Cataloina is anarchists refused to engage with the government. They had a chance to take over the government and they didn’t take it. Their revolution was very small and lasted for one year. Rojava exist for 5-6 years. I think Rojava is the greatest revolution of XXI century and the most important anarchist revolution in history.
Look at the Iraqi Kurdistan – it got wiped out, and Rovaja was in a much more precarious postitions, and yet it stays. Why? Because they are not asking for another petty bourgeoisie nation state, they recognizing the political reality in it’s totality in it’s whole and try to work with that, change the reality of power relations. Look at the modern Catalonia – their independence movement is petty bourgeoisie, even their leftism is petty bourgeoisie. They have capitalistic egoistical mindset, it’s not about believing something higher than themselves and devote themselves to it, sacrifice something for the struggle.