Writer and activist Sarah Glynn interviews John Holloway during the Challenging Capitalist Modernity Conference in Hamburg. Below are some key points from the interview:
What message does Abdullah Öcalan have for the wider anticapitalist movement?
He opened my world in the sense of introducing a different geographical historical context. He traces things back to the Sumerian empire, which I would never have thought of. I find it very stimulating.
This is really an interesting approach. It’s fresh, it’s different. It’s something that we should engage with very much I think. And I think it’s something that people are engaging with…
[The conference] shows how the Kurdish movement has become such an important influence in radical left, radical anticapitalist thought in the last few years; and also how the movement itself has opened up to different directions, to different ways of thinking.
What about Öcalan and education?
I think what I would want to say, or what I will want to say about education really has to start with the kind of rage and indignation I feel, and I think that we all here feel, about the decision by the president of the University of Hamburg – the administrative council – to expel this meeting from the university… How awful that is. For me, completely anti-intellectual, anti-theoretical, politically stupid, contemptible…
We have to think of education where we are – from our own contradictory experiences. In schools and in universities we don’t actually exist – most of us – in an autonomous framework. We actually exist in and against the system.
If you could meet him, what subjects would you raise with Öcalan?
It could be lots of different theoretical points about the question of money and the market, for example. That he sees the market as being important… – a kind of small scale market, as being an important part of the development of a post revolutionary society. It seems to me, in a much more traditional Marxist framework, that no, we shouldn’t think in terms of market at all: that we have to think in terms of some sort of common, communal system of planning, of production and distributions. I think, on a more intermediate level between theory and practice, I would want to ask him about how he feels about his own cult status within the movement. He obviously has had an enormous impact in making people think and move away from hierarchical structures, and think of the revolutionary movement as a collective communal effort, which is so evident here in this congress for example. And then, on the other hand, you have Öcalan as the leader figure, which is an obvious contradiction. How does he feel with that. Certainly that was also a theme in the Zapatista movement.
What about the organisation of the movement and the hevalti (comradeship)?
There is this combination of a very high standard of discussion and a very friendly atmosphere. Very welcoming, very international, which obviously involves an awful lot of hard work…
A final word
The final word would really be just how important these events are. Just how important the influence of movements like the Kurdish movement and the Zapatista movement is for the way in which we – who are neither Kurds nor Mexican indigenous – the way in which we think, the way in which we think about the world, the way in which we hope for a different society. I think the important thing for me, is not to think in terms of solidarity with them who are over there, but really to think of the way in which the interaction with them is enormously stimulating – certainly for us and I hope also for the people directly involved in the Kurdish movement.
The whole interview: