by Eliza Egret
Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber has died at just 59-years-old. His books Debt: The First 5000 years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory have influenced countless radicals and activists.
Yesterday the best person in a world, my husband and my friend .@davidgraeber died in a hospital in Venice.
— Nika Dubrovsky (@nikadubrovsky) September 3, 2020
American-born anthropologist and activist David Graeber — credited with the rallying cry “We are the 99%” — has died. He was 59 years old. pic.twitter.com/QVO5nIxnRJ
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) September 3, 2020
Graeber was also an activist, and passionately worked to raise awareness about the Kurdish struggle. There is no doubt that he influenced many people who might not have otherwise known about the ongoing repression of Kurdish people. He visited Rojava to witness first-hand the revolution, and he also visited the Kurdish region of Turkey, where he monitored the intense military harassment that the Kurdish people face when voting in elections.
My father fought in the Spanish civil wars, so I kind of grew up in a place where the memories of what happened in Spain in ’36, ’37, ’38 were very vivid. So one reason I came to be an anarchist is because, I always say, most people don’t think anarchism is a bad idea. They think it’s insane. No police, people just start killing each other. Nobody actually organized things without leaders.
And in fact, my father was in Barcelona when it was run by an anarchist principle. They just got rid of white collar workers, and sure enough they discovered these were basically bullshit jobs, that they didn’t make any difference if they weren’t there.
So this is the first time, I think, since Spain, that you’ve had large area of territory [in Rojava] under the control of people who are trying to do that; trying to create bottom-up direct democracy without a state.
Graeber was supportive of the bottom-up structure of the revolution in Rojava, known as democratic confederalism. He recognised that in order to smash capitalism, you need to need to smash patriarchy. He said:
Well, how do you get rid of patriarchy? Well, making sure all women have access to automatic weapons is one place to start. You really can’t push people around if they’re armed…
So they have direct democracy and that goes from these neighborhood councils, and those councils confederate into regional ones and then municipal ones, and they all send delegates, not representatives, to make decisions together in a big, elaborate system.
Graeber was Jewish and was vocal about accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Graeber said:
It’s stupid to cry wolf when there are real wolves baying at the door, especially when the people you’re crying wolf against are the guys who are most likely to defend us when the wolves show up.
Leaving a legacy
Activists around the world are in shock and are using social media to express how much they will miss Graeber:
It’s with the heaviest of hearts we learn David Graeber has passed away
David was an incredible intellectual, one of the finest radical thinkers of our time. And such a lovely guy
We are heartbroken right now
Sending love to his partner, family & friends
Rest in Power David pic.twitter.com/7ZAwmyxAid
— Double Down News (@DoubleDownNews) September 3, 2020
I’m truly lost for words💔
David Graeber was a comrade of the Kurdish Women’s Movement, a defender of Rojava, a friend of the oppressed, and an important voice in our collective struggles for justice and freedom.
An honour to know you. Rest in light and power, heval David🌱✌🏽☀️ pic.twitter.com/tqsu4uqzxz
— Dilar Dirik☀️ (@Dlrdrk1) September 3, 2020
Graeber leaves behind a wealth of knowledge in his books and interviews which will continue to influence people for generations to come. Rest in Power, David: you were a true comrade.
Featured image via Steve Rhodes