A text of exposure has recently been published by people who left the anarchist organization that has recently adopted the “Revolutionary Anarchist Federation” name about Serkan Bayrak and Çiğdem Bayrak, who are the founding members of the organization, which included allegations of harassment, psychological and physical abuse against other members. After the first disclosure bearing the signature of “Individuals separated from DAF”, many other new allegations came out on social media.
Regarding the disclosure text, DAF statement on social media wrote, “While we do not accept what is written except for some of the cases of violence mentioned, we are aware that violence is unacceptable. After what happened, two years ago, a process of criticism-self-criticism-sanctions has been carried out. In this process sanctions has been decided with the participation of all the organized members and the case was closed. Since that day, sanctions has been carried out and the observation continues.” It is noticeable that in this reply against the allegations, there was no response to the allegations and no specific details has been given.
The crisis of capitalism and the absence of a revolutionary alternative to this crisis lead to a decay that spreads throughout the society. We have seen and continue to see countless examples of how this decay has spread to those who claim to be revolutionaries. We have seen that the decay has come right next to us, with the disclosures made about DAF, which we were to see as a friendly anarchist organization. Although we have many criticisms of the internal structure of the DAF and the way it struggles, we were appalled by what was told in the last disclosure text.
We waited for DAF’s response before commenting on these allegations about an anarchist structure with which we have developed a friendly relationship. However, in the statement of DAF, we see that a defensive attitude is adopted, which is far from being self-critical. It increased our disappointment to see that this attitude is even worse than the attitudes that are common in the Leninist left that we have criticized over the years. In the face of such heavy accusations, the fact that DAF lacks its own internal control mechanisms and does not intend to engage in an interrogation, despite all that has happened, has shown denial and avoidance of accountability with a few sentences and a frivolous statements, without even having to question the people who are the subject of the accusation.
Even if we leave aside the discussion about the allegations that they have denied, the acknowledgement that “some of the violent acts” were committed in the statement made by the DAF alone is enough to reveal the gravity of the events. Violence against anarchists in the DAF is a serious crime, not in terms of bourgeois law, but in the sense of revolutionary principles as we understand it. Comrades do not use violence against each other, especially never such a systematic and domination-oriented violence. We accept the violence inflicted on them as inflicted on ourselves. We strongly reject this, we condemn this.
The fact that the perpetrators of the crimes described in the aforementioned disclosures have been kept within the DAF and are still being protected shows that the ideological and political problems we know exist, aside from being resolved, have become chronic, leading to a structural crisis and decay. One of the main criticisms of anarchism against Leninism is the lack of effective internal control mechanisms, especially for those in managerial positions and active cadres, covering up their crimes, and being closed to criticism from outside on this issue. The Leninist organization/party understanding, which aims to seize state power in theory and claims to bring “correct consciousness” to the working class, also includes the idea that the vanguard party is infallible and inerrant. In practice, criticism of the leading cadres within the party is coded as an attack on the party, and an attack on the party is believed to be an attack on the revolutionary struggle.
However, as of its emergence, the anarchist understanding of organization has been shaped on the rejection of such hierarchical and high-ranking structures that are not accountable. However, anarchism that emerged in these lands recently was shaped by the understanding of creating structureless organizations against hierarchical organizations. Until the organization called Anarchist Youth Federation (AGF), which was founded in 1999, anarchists in Turkey come together as student groups and magazine circles and did not form defined organizations. Until 1999, anti-organizational or loose, undefined organization (network type etc.) supporters were hegemonic within the anarchist movement. AGF also built itself on this dominant and distorted understanding within the anarchist movement, gathered around the rhetoric of anarchism, not around common principles and goals, and continued its practical activities with individual initiatives, not with defined institutional mechanisms. This understanding, which the anarchist movement has defended intellectually until that day, shapes in flesh and bone with the AGF.
As a result of this, since the establishment of AGF, it has become a hierarchical structure in which individuals that have more information, experience, time, etc. having taken complete control of the initiative, and eventually, in the face of criticism, they acted with the reflex of “defending the organization” with an aggressive attitude towards anarchists other than themselves, but eventually withered away as in 2005-2006.
Since we haven’t properly discussed and learned from these experiences, it shouldn’t be surprising that history repeats itself. Radical feminist writer Jo Freeman explains this situation in her famous article, The Tyranny of Structurelessness, published 50 years ago in 1972:
“A Structured group always has formal structure, and may also have an informal, or covert, structure. It is this informal structure, particularly in Unstructured groups, which forms the basis for elites.
All groups create informal structures as a result of interaction patterns among the members of the group. Such informal structures can do very useful things But only Unstructured groups are totally governed by them. When informal elites are combined with a myth of “structurelessness,” there can be no attempt to put limits on the use of power.” (https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm)
What is mentioned in this text written for the feminist movement is very familiar to us as pro-organizational anarchists. From this point of view, the issues that emerged with the last disclosure require an evaluation beyond being a crime that can be put on the shoulders of only two people. If we can’t see that everyone who has taken part in the anarchist movement since the 1980s, when those who call themselves anarchists first emerged in these lands, has a responsibility in this picture, it will be inevitable to experience similar problems and perhaps worse ones. DAF is the successor of AGF in every aspect. Chronologically, the period when the cadres that make up DAF today came together is just after the dissolution of AGF. Even though they had some differences in terms of discourse and practical activity due to the fact that anarchist communists emerged as a strong alternative within the anarchist movement at that time, the fact that the organization was based on the initiative of people rather than determined principles is like a repetition of AGF in terms of its political discourse and organizational structure on many issues. DAF, like most anarchist circles in Istanbul before and after the AGF, carried out an activity stuck in Taksim and Kadıköy, and its members were mostly students.
These two examples show us what the result of all this is, regardless of the intentions of those who struggle within these structures. In both cases, there are no structural mechanisms, sufficient political partnerships, and the work proceeds on personal initiative. Aside from the psychological consequences of seeing oneself as a part/founder/pioneer of the “combatant”, “the only true” anarchist organization that has existed for a long time, this situation causes that group to turn into an introverted community. And for this reason, we think that what we really need is to move the discussion from the axis of personal accusations to the subject of what should be done so that what happened does not happen again, although we do not trivialize the existing crimes.
Undoubtedly, anarchists have advocated different understandings of organization in many parts of the world and have built different forms of organization. However, we think – from worldwide historical experience – that the prerequisite for an anarchist organization to be able to wage an effective struggle and to prevent the emergence of inequalities and hierarchy within itself is based on theoretical and political partnership and a direct/participatory democracy understanding. We believe that all members should be equal and that there should be defined decision-making, implementation and control mechanisms. The examples we have been through in these lands have also reinforced this experience.
However, we know from our experience that another prerequisite for an anarchist organization not to turn into a closed sect and to be an effective fighting organ, like any political structure, is to be a part of social movements ranging from workplace struggles to housing movements, ecology struggles and immigrant struggles. It is only possible for an anarchist organization to overcome its internal crisis and problems that have become structural, with the experiences gained from the social movements it is involved in and with the external control of those movements, by becoming an organization which is not only a structure that influences and gives political direction to the movements it involves in, but is also influenced by, learns from and is controlled by them, . What we mean by social movements is to be a part of existing mass movements or to try to create such mass movements, not to establish institutions and sub-organizations composed of their own members. This is actually the result of the understanding that anarchist organization is not an end but a means to strengthen social movements and bring about a social revolution that will ultimately abolish capitalism.
Another way of control lies in one of the basic principles of anarchism, internationalism. The anarchist organization we defend should have an internationalist understanding and structure not only as a general principle, but also in terms of the policies it maintains, discourses and relations it establishes. There are many international federative structures formed by anarchists with different understandings from various countries of the world. It is clear that international solidarity has a strengthening effect on local struggles as well as a result of this anarchist understanding of world revolution. On the other hand, the anarchist organization’s participation in an international organization in accordance with its own understanding is another mechanism of criticism and control from outside.
Anarchists should not hesitate to demolish rotten structures with chronic problems. As Bakunin said: Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternally creative source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too.
We are not the prophetic bearers of indisputable truth and the chosen saviors of humanity. We are just ordinary people who are aware that states as the forceful apparatus of capitalism and the capitalist class, which we see as causing the misery of the working class and the disaster of humanity and all natural life as a whole, must be abolished. This is exactly what makes us revolutionary.
We know friends from DAF, we think that many of them are revolutionaries who believed in anarchism, and we respect their struggle that they undertake until today. We hope they don’t forget that we are not their enemies, but rather anarchist friends whose paths crossed many times, even if there are points of divergence.
We also want you to remind yourself that those who made the disclosure today are not “vultures who betrayed the struggle”, but your former comrades who have suffered severe psychological and physical violence. It is the crimes, some of which you have accepted, that have been condoned until today, and the persistence of a defensive stance against these crimes that really harms not only the DAF, but also the anarchism that flourishes in this land as a whole and finds its response in wider sectors. You cannot and should not allow anarchism and the DAF to be discredited by a small group.
On the other hand, this event became the occasion for the enemies of organization and some authoritarian socialists to attack organized anarchism. Undoubtedly, as we mentioned above, there are countless lessons that the anarchist movement in Turkey should draw from these experiences and countless issues to discuss about how this will not happen again. However, it is clear that what is happening within the DAF is not inherent in anarchism as a political movement, it is the opposite of it. This unnamed central clique that emerged within the DAF is the remnant of the statist and centralist understanding of the Turkish left, which came from the Stalinist tradition. The decay within the DAF is not the reason for glorifying disorganization. On the contrary, it is an indication that we need to organize properly against this crisis-ridden order that corrupts every segment of society.
Finally, we announce that we are institutionally severing all ties with the Revolutionary Anarchist Activity until they terminate all relations with the aforementioned persons and make a serious assessment and self-criticism of what has happened.
“So much so that organisation, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders.” Errico Malatesta