The bloodbath in Syria: class war or ethnic war?

Anarchists join Kurdish fighters in Syria

As the Syrian conflict drags on, Devrim Valerian looks at the fighting, in particular in Syrian Kurdistan which many on the left have hailed as a "social revolution" and asks whether any side deserves workers' support.

The Arab Winter

How long three years seems. In early 2011 it seemed that a fresh wind of revolt was stirring from the East and spreading throughout the Arab world1. Massive protests and workers’ strikes in Tunisia and Egypt had terrified the ruling class to the point where they felt the need to depose their own heads of state. The embers of revolt were being fanned across the Arab world, and eventually even seemed to spread sparks across the world as a whole in the form of the occupy and indignados movements. All of this on the back of mass movements in Iran and Greece just a couple of years previously gave millions across the world the illusion that there was a massive return to struggle within the working class, that once again ordinary people were seizing the possibility of radically transforming their lives.

And yet coming towards the end of 2014, the situation is not looking nearly so optimistic. In the Middle East the conflicts in Syrian and Iraq seem to have merged into one joint ethno-sectarian war, which even today is threatening to spill over into neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan seem to be the most vulnerable. In Eastern Ukraine a low level civil war is continuing despite an initial ceasefire. We have travelled in these three short years from a situation where there seemed to be a return to class struggle to a situation where the working class instead of grasping its chance to struggle in its own interests has plunged headfirst into deeper and deeper ethnic-sectarian struggles.

The Arab winter seemed to have set in almost as soon as the first shoots of spring had emerged. While it may have been difficult for some to see as they were swept along with the enthusiasm of the movement without at all noticing the direction that it was going in, the signs were there from March at the very latest. In Tunisia, and Egypt the working class was mobilised in defence of its own interests. In both countries it was strikes of masses of workers that shook the state. However, in other countries this was not the case. The conflict in Libya never possessed these characteristics even at its very beginning. In Libya, the Arab spring took on the characteristics of a fratricidal tribal war. The intervention of the Western powers on the side of the rebels did nothing but push the conflict further in that direction. Further to the East, however, potentially much more dangerous events were brewing.

While the conflict in Libya was essentially a struggle between rival tribes, the struggle in the Levant and Mesopotamia took on a much deeper sectarian character, which had the potential to spread far beyond the borders of a single state, and engulf the entire region. The struggles in both Syria and Bahrain took on these characteristics. Syria, a country where the majority of the population are Sunni Arab Muslims, is ruled by members of a minority Shia offshoot, who have a tendency to rely upon the country’s other minorities for support. Conversely in tiny Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy rules over a majority Shia population. Worried about the Shia minority in their own countries the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organisation of the Gulf oil monarchies led by Saudi Arabia sent in tanks to crush this Shia uprising in mid-March. At this point it became absolutely clear that the conflict had ceased to be a series of 'national' events and was now becoming a sectarian struggle across the entire region, the main protagonists being Saudi Arabia, and the GCC along with Turkey on the Sunni side, and Iran, Syria, and factions in both Iraq and Lebanon on the other.

Of course there were many on the left, who just as they had in Libya, saw a genuine workers’ revolution in Syria. Others, aware of the reactionary sectarian nature of much of the protest movement, defended the Syrian state in the name of secularism, anti-imperialism or whatever ideology they could use in an attempt to cover up the gore of a murderous bloody state. Anarchists in particular, but not alone, were particularly vulnerable to talk of democratic committees and self organisation of the revolt. Many insisted on these characteristics even as it became increasingly obvious that the war was turning into a multi-sided bloodbath where different ethnic/sectarian gangs controlled the populations that they controlled by force. Of course, as communists we too agree that there can be no genuine working class movement without workers' self organisation. However, we also insist that their can be no workers councils without workers' struggle. Local democracy in itself is not a revolutionary thing. In many countries workers can vote for their local representatives who are responsible for running municipal services, and in many countries few of them bother to.

What invests workers' councils with their revolutionary content is not their democratic forms, but the fact that they are representative of workers in struggle. The war in Syria saw an initial burst of enthusiasm in the struggle against the regime. People created various committees and councils, but this was not a workers' struggle. Ultimately as armed gangs took control of what rapidly became a war, enthusiasm and popular involvement died down. Of course some committees remained, but it was armed men giving the orders. Much, but not all of the left, seemed to realise its mistake. As internationalists had stated from the start there was no progressive side in this war. It seemed like some sort of lesson had been learned.

And then came Kobanê...

The Protagonists -The Da'esh, and the PKK

Since the middle of September the small city of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border has become the centre of world attention when the Da'esh began a siege aimed at capturing the city. Once again the left has renewed its cheer-leading of what is essentially just another phase of the larger sectarian struggle being waged across the region. This moment, within the larger struggle, is almost being portrayed as a struggle between light and darkness by much of the left. In the corner of good and light we have the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and in the corner of darkness and evil we have the Da'esh, now newly renamed as simply the Islamic State.

The Da'esh's origins lie in Iraq in at the end of the 1990s. It underwent various mergers, and name changes including being known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and eventually settled on the name Islamic State of Iraq in late 2006. The thing that really built the Da'esh during these years was the development of the situation in Iraq into open civil war in 2006. Although presented in the West as a struggle against the US occupation, the Iraqi civil war had more of the characteristic of a sectarian struggle between Sunni, and Shia Muslims.

Iraq had traditionally been a state run by members of its Sunni minority ruling over a Shia majority. After the last Iraq war the newly promised American democracy, gave the Shia majority more representation and control of the Iraqi government. Now the boot is on the other foot. The Shia majority is using its power against the Sunni minority. Acts of ethnic cleansing similar to those being committed by the Da'esh are also being committed against the Sunni population further south in Iraq. The Da'esh managed to place itself as a leading Sunni force in the sectarian civil war in Iraq. During this time, they reduced the number of foreign fighters, and professionalised their military structure by bringing in former Ba'athist military and intelligence officers. It was during this time also that they gained the mastership of tribal politics, which has served them so well in the years since.

With the beginning of the war in Syria, one faction within the Da'esh began to infiltrate militants across the border. Again positioning itself as the defender of Sunni Muslims against atrocities perpetuated this time by the Syrian state, and slowly through its use of tribal alliances and divergences,and its struggles and mergers that have been constant within the Syrian opposition, it has manoeuvred itself to the top. Of course, the support, in political financial, and manpower terms came from Saudi Arabia, and certain of its allies in the GCC, not to mention the support received from Turkey. For the Gulf states in particular, the Da'esh was a weapon that could be used in the wider struggle, pointed at the Shia government in Baghdad, and the Alawite government in Damascus, two of the three main allies of their ultimate enemy, Iran.

The Da'esh now seems to have lost the support of its backers in the Gulf2. Turkey though seems to still see them as having some use, as a tool in the struggle to overthrow the Syrian state, and as a hammer to strike a blow against its enemy of thirty years, the PKK.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been fighting a war in the South-East of Turkey for the last three decades. Like the Da'esh it is essentially an ethnic militia. Its origins lie not in Syria, but in Turkey. However, during its long war, it has established sections in neighbouring countries with Kurdish populations. Like the Da'esh the PKK has also received support from various foreign states, primarily Syria, but also Iran (until the PKK's Iranian section began to bother the Iranian state), and Russia. It is also suggested that its Iranian section, PJAK, has received aid from the US, and it has certainly tried to deepen whatever contacts it has with America, with PJAK spokesperson Ihsan Warya going as far to declare that “PJAK really does wish it were an agent of the United States”.

The Syria section of the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) stood apart from the majority of factions at the start of the Syrian war, standing apart from the Kurdish National Council backed by the PKK's rival, Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Syrian National Council, which it saw as too closely connected to Turkey. In July 2012, the Syrian state made an operational decision to withdraw the majority of its troops from the Kurdish areas of the country in order to enable them to redeploy against an opposition offensive against Aleppo. Shortly after the PYD took control of the vast majority of the Kurdish region. This take-over was accomplished with very little violence, and it has been suggested by many that a deal was done between the PKK/PYD, and the Syrian state. What the PYD has done in Syrian Kurdistan since then, has been seen by many as a social revolution.

Revolution in Rojava

The PKK has been running a massive propaganda offensive in the West. Articles talking about the struggle in Syrian Kurdistan are appearing all over the Western media, from leftist magazines to women's magazine, Marie Claire. What was once seen in the Western mainstream media as an authoritarian Stalinist nationalist group has now repositioned itself as an democratic, ecological, feminist movement, moved by a philosophy called 'democratic confederalism' adapted from that of the anarchist Murray Bookchin. To many in the region, who are familiar with the PKK's mode of operations, this seems very difficult to believe. The PKK is an organisation with a dark past. Even their imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan talks about periods of “gangs within our organization and open banditry, arrang[ing] needless, haphazard operations, sending young people to their death in droves”. The history of the PKK is something that has been well documented by internationalist critics3. It is not what we want to engage with here.

For us the problem is not that the PKK has a bloody history of crimes against both its own members and the working class. It does have this history of course. This is no surprise though. Virtually all nationalist gangs have a similar sort of history, and while many on the left who back these gangs may wish that they didn't, it does go with the territory. Even if there were some pristine nationalist movement unstained with the blood of the working class, and its own members, the nationalist logic would still propel it in the same direction, so here we intend not to concentrate on the PKK's bloody past, but to concentrate on its position today.

A lot has been made in the Western media of the female only militia units with pictures of young women in combat fatigues with guns gracing the pages of magazines, and websites. To be cynical it sells. Here we have these brave young women fighting off these 'Islamic barbarians'. The PKK marketing department certainly knows its audience. When you stop to think about it now, it’s not really exactly that radical. The Da'esh also have women only groups of combat troops. You can't imagine them having mixed groups in an ultra-Islamic group, but then neither does the PKK, and nor does the Iranian state, which also has female combat troops. In fact the PKK, has a long history of separating the sexes and sexual relationship between the sexes have long been punished, just like in any other bourgeois army.

However, it is a big propaganda selling point for them. The aim of this campaign in the West is twofold. One aim is to have the PKK removed from lists of terrorist organisations in various states. With the emergence of the Da'esh devil, the PKK line for the mainstream is that these young women are the ones fighting against the terrorists. The line they sell to the left is that this is some kind of social revolution, where relations between the sexes are being overturned. Anarchists have been making comparisons to the Spanish revolution, which we discuss in the accompanying article4. The second goal of this campaign is to get US and European practical support for the fighters in Kobanê, which has so far been successful with the Americans dropping weapons and ammunition to the besieged troops, and providing air support.

To return though, to the question of revolution; for us as communists, a revolution is a creation of the working class in struggle for its own interests. Within the course of this struggle the working class not only transforms society, but also transforms itself. In Syrian Kurdistan, there was no movement of the working class. Control of the towns in Syrian Kurdistan was taken by an armed group filling the power vacuum left after the withdrawal of the Syrian Arab Army. That's not to say that there was no support for the PYD, as everywhere today nationalism in the Kurdish regions is strong. Local committees were thrown up which took control of the necessary tasks usually undertaking by the municipal level of the state. The Da'esh too, has in many cases left local people in charge of local issues, and like the Da'esh, the armed men have maintained power at the top. The supreme ruling body of Rojava, the Kurdish Supreme Committee is a body, not composed of delegates from lower level committees, but an alliance between two political groups, the PYD, and the Barzani backed KDP. Despite all of the democratic pretence, ultimate control is wielded by nationalist gangs with guns.

And a nationalist gang is what the PKK is. As we mentioned before the PKK despite a somewhat patchy history with minority groups in Turkey has now set itself up as the defender of the minorities of Kurdistan. This, however, does not apply, and can not apply to Arabs. On more than one occasion, Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD, has talked about 'expelling Arabs', and the possibility of 'war between Kurds and Arabs'. Just to be clear, Muslim is not talking about expelling all Arabs, “One day those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas will have to be expelled”. The Arabs that he is talking about here are those who were transplanted to the region in the states 1973 Arabisation campaign. Given the demographics of Middle Eastern countries though (Syrian has a median age of just over 22), the majority of “those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas” will actually have been born there. Muslim himself admits that these Arabs are 'victims' in all of this. This doesn't stop him though from proclaiming that “All the villages where they live now belong to the Kurds”.

Of course these Arabs can no longer be separated from Arabs who were previously there. There are many of them who were born in Kurdistan, who have married with local Arabs, and had children and even grandchildren. How will the PYD discriminate between them, and more importantly how will other Arabs react to this talk of ethnic cleansing? This is the path to ethnic conflict that we have seen across the Middle East, particularly in neighbouring Lebanon, and in places such as ex-Yugoslavia, and Northern Ireland in Europe, all too many times before. Whatever the left talk of some of the protagonists in these struggles, they follow an ever deepening spiral into more and more vicious ethnic/sectarian conflict. At first the worst atrocities might be 'mistakes', shootings of civilians undertaken without direction or permission of the leadership of the various nationalist militias. However, to the families and friends of the victims, this is of secondary importance. They strike back, and murder is followed by atrocity and massacre.

In the midst of a civil war between a Kurdish militia, and what is essentially a Sunni Arab militia, these events will happen. It matters not how progressive the PKK portrays itself. The logic of the situation dictates what will happen. A good example would be the Kingsmill massacre in County Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1976. The IRA, like the PKK, was viewed as a 'progressive, socialist' organisation, but the day after Protestant paramilitaries shot dead five Catholic civilians, Irish Republicans went out and stopped a bus of building workers, and took off the eleven protestants on it, and shot them, killing ten of them. The IRA denied involvement in the attack. However, that didn't stop the Protestant paramilitaries from enacting their revenge, and the tit for tat killings continued.

For communists a revolution cannot be enacted by armed ethnic/sectarian militias and fighting between the militias of different ethnic/sectarian groups will only lead to the working class being divided and being used to massacre itself.

Class War or Sectarian War?

It is this threat of ethnic/sectarian war, which heralds the danger for the future. Ultimately despite the differences between the PKK and the Da'esh, the similarities between the two are what links them. A socialist veneer does not stop an ethnic militia from playing its part in the escalation of the cycle of ethnic conflict, and ethnic cleansing. It is clear in this struggle that the Da'esh is the aggressor, and that the PKK is merely defending its turf. It is also clear that compared to the Da'esh, the PKK looks positively progressive. None of this stops either of them playing their roles in the intensification of ethnic conflict.

Of course we have sympathy for Kurds being massacred by the Da'esh. However, unlike others on the left, internationalists recognise that those dying on the side of the Da'esh, also come in the main from the working class and the peasantry. Like amongst the Kurds, there will be many fighting with the Da'esh who have lost loved ones in sectarian massacre performed by Shia militias in Iraq, and by the Alawite run state in Syria. Also on the side of the Da'esh, as with the Kurds, there will be many young workers and peasants who have been conscripted into these gangs.

In a struggle like this where workers and peasants are butchering each other in the name of nationalism and religion, communists do not take sides. Those who take sides in this war will not contribute in the long term to any progressive victory, but merely to the further ethnic division, and increased militarisation of the region, neither of which will be of benefit to the working class. It also seems ironic that many on the left, especially those aligned to the PKK in Turkey, who for so long sided with whichever local imperialist power, or proxy, opposed America is now cheering the US on. Of course, they must know that American intervention in this war is certainly not for the benefit of the people of the Middle East, but they seem to have forgotten it very quickly.

The working class, neither in the Middle East nor in the rest of the world, is not strong enough to stop this war just as in 1914 it was not strong enough to stop World War One or the Armenian genocide a year later. To pretend otherwise is to be prey to illusions. However, that does not mean that revolutionaries should dive headfirst into taking sides in it, and acting in a way which will almost certainly lead to the prolonging and intensification of ethnic/sectarian conflict. It is important to remember that the siege of Kobanê is but a moment in a larger struggle across the entire region being fought out by the proxies of various local imperialist powers. Turkey along with Saudi, and the GCC, will continue to try to overthrow the Syrian state, and Turkey will continue its terrorist war against not only the PKK, but also the civilian population in Turkish Kurdistan. It is almost inevitable that in return other powers opposed to Turkish policy will begin to channel arms to the PKK to continue its fight against Turkey. Recent demonstrations in Turkey in support of the fighters in Kobanê left over thirty people dead, the majority of them murdered by the Turkish state, and some of them by Turkish nationalist gangs, and saw the state using tanks against demonstrators for the first time since the 1980 coup. The Turkish armed forces have also, after a period of ceasefire, renewed their attacks upon the PKK in Turkey. Of course, Turkey is the aggressor here, but when the PKK replies in kind, and kills some Turkish conscripts that won't be the first thing in the minds of grieving mothers, relatives, and friends...and so the spiral of ethnic hatred, which in turn leads, to violence, murder, and massacre will go on.

The alternative that internationalists pose to this is that of class struggle. It may seem far away now, but it is only four years ago that the TEKEL strike in Turkey really seemed to be breaking down barriers between Kurdish, and Turkish workers, and led to a much wider strike wave. 2013 saw massive demonstrations across Turkey sparked by police brutality against protestors in Istanbul's Gezi park. The three years since the Arab spring may seem like a long time now, but in times like these changes can occur very, very quickly. Although the working class seems weak today struggles where the working class is fighting for its own interests will return in the future, and they are the only solution to overcoming the ethnic and sectarian divide by uniting workers as workers, not as Kurds, Turks, Arabs, and Persians, or Sunni, Shia, Christian or Yazidi.

D. Valerian 28/10/14

Glossary: Who’s Who in Kurdistan – A Brief Summary

  • PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party. A Turkish Kurdish political and military organisation, originally Marxist-Leninist (ie. Stalinist) founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan (in prison in Turkey since 1998). At war with the Turkish state since 1984.
  • PYD Democratic Union Party. Syrian branch of the PKK founded in 2003.
  • YPG People’s Protection Units. Military wing of the PYD.
  • KNCS Kurdish National Council in Syria. A heterogenous grouping of Kurdish political organisations opposed to the PYD and under the patronage of the KDP.
  • KDP Kurdish Democratic Party. Founded in 1946 by Mustafa Barzani and now led by his son, Massoud. It is the ruling power in the KRG.
  • KRG Kurdistan Regional Government formed after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq under Massoud’s KDP it is a staunch ally of the USA.
  • PUK Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Founded in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1975 after a split within the KDP. It is dominant in the southern part of Iraqi Kurdistan and its leader Jalal Talabani was President of Iraq 2005-14

From http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2014-10-31/the-bloodbath-in-syria-class-war-or-ethnic-war

Comments

Soapy
Nov 3 2014 14:35

To play devil's advocate what about the fact that if the PKK loses there may be a subsequent massacre in Kobane? It's easy to talk about how support for the PKK isn't at all revolutionary, but in terms of preventing any sort of massacre, wouldn't it be best if the PKK defeated ISIS in this battle?

kurekmurek
Nov 5 2014 09:48

Again a masterful piece by Devrim, that is full of unfounded accusations against Kurdish movement:

Quote:
You can't imagine them having mixed groups in an ultra-Islamic group, but then neither does the PKK, and nor does the Iranian state, which also has female combat troops. In fact the PKK, has a long history of separating the sexes and sexual relationship between the sexes have long been punished, just like in any other bourgeois army.

This is plain wrong. See Asayish forces, they are mixed. You again make up something out of your ass (sorry) to frame a group. You are still ignorant of any Kurdish women and their opinions. The example you give is related to history of the movement not its today. You again use an old issue to frame an organization without basis. And you use it to "hide the improvements in the organization in question" itself (which is a given impossibility for you)
Unfortunately my friend thanks to you: you and me (and some other libcom crowd), like Ocalan and its "opponents" are being parts of a debate where men is using women to back up their positions (i.e. their wishes to be authorities) and do not let any women to speak for themselves.

Quote:
To return though, to the question of revolution; for us as communists, a revolution is a creation of the working class in struggle for its own interests.

Yes of course, everyone agrees on it I guess. However the issue is in a time (and place) of lack of working class movement and antagonism, should we consider any "new" way (Bookchinian theory for example) just simply as anti-working class. Maybe a sort of experimentalism with new ideas is what is required for future development of communistic theory and praxis. (I do not mean their total acceptance, however I think their total denial is not the answer either)

Quote:
That's not to say that there was no support for the PYD, as everywhere today nationalism in the Kurdish regions is strong.

How do you explain the the Christians and Arabs and Turks (including communists) that are members of YPG? Are they Kurdish nationalists? Or do they think PYD is not a mono-ethnic nationalist political party? Are they so stupid that they can not see what you saw from far far away?

Quote:
The supreme ruling body of Rojava, the Kurdish Supreme Committee is a body, not composed of delegates from lower level committees, but an alliance between two political groups, the PYD, and the Barzani backed KDP. Despite all of the democratic pretence, ultimate control is wielded by nationalist gangs with guns.

You are again "assuming" stuff. What about New Compass article about dual power structure? What about Zaher's text? Why you do not consider their views. Who are after all go to the fucking Rojava unlike you. I am not saying it is all superb but it is not as basic as you picture it to be also given that it is in a region that is under war. What they accomplished is a HUGE issue.

Quote:
And a nationalist gang is what the PKK is.

According to what? According to your bullshit of course.

Quote:
Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD, has talked about 'expelling Arabs', and the possibility of 'war between Kurds and Arabs'. Just to be clear, Muslim is not talking about expelling all Arabs, “One day those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas will have to be expelled”. The Arabs that he is talking about here are those who were transplanted to the region in the states 1973 Arabisation campaign.

This is discussed on libcom. You only report one-sidedly. He pardoned and said he is misunderstood and he said he only implied those who support enemy troops. Moreover Rojava constitution explicitly states Arabs are a founding ethnicity (it is not a an ethnic racist national constitution) There are quotas to ensure political participation of Arabs in Cantons and upper councils. You must know these if you read any of the discussions in Libcom forums but you repeat the same lies. So your accusation and subsequent idea is pointless.

Quote:
For communists a revolution cannot be enacted by armed ethnic/sectarian militias and fighting between the militias of different ethnic/sectarian groups will only lead to the working class being divided and being used to massacre itself.

What working class you are speaking on their behalf again. Don't you see PKK actually tries to stop Turkish hatred in Kurdish youth that could easily turn into racism? (and this hatred is totally fault of Turkish state who historically did not recognize Kurds)

Quote:
ethnic conflict, and ethnic cleansing.

What ethnic cleansing? What are you saying? Does YPG cut people's head off? Do they sell women as slaves? What are you talking about?

Quote:
None of this stops either of them playing their roles in the intensification of ethnic conflict.

What? How can you blame PYD for intensifying ethnic conflict? They even say “we do not wish to fight outside of our Cantons. We do not want to expand” According to you they must be blamed for defending Kurds from a massacre? What are you saying?

Quote:
Of course we have sympathy for Kurds being massacred by the Da'esh.

Of course man, you are a lovely creature. I am sure if YPG gives up. You would cry for the killed Kurdish working class.You seem to think this is the ultimate help a communist think of under these conditions. (sorry Syrian workers, you should just born in an advanced capitalist country that is all grin )

Quote:
However, unlike others on the left, internationalists recognize that those dying on the side of the Da'esh, also come in the main from the working class and the peasantry. Like amongst the Kurds, there will be many fighting with the Da'esh who have lost loved ones in sectarian massacre performed by Shia militias in Iraq, and by the Alawite run state in Syria. Also on the side of the Da'esh, as with the Kurds, there will be many young workers and peasants who have been conscripted into these gangs.

Yeah but in the end they decided to kill others as a revenge. Unlike what Kurds are doing now! This is what makes their political organizations reactionary. And this is exactly the point what is so different about Kurdish movement. You could realize this yourself if your hatred of PKK somehow stops.

Quote:
In a struggle like this where workers and peasants are butchering each other in the name of nationalism and religion, communists do not take sides.

Sure, How I forget this -communist- god given rule. So you also suggest this for example to a Syrian Kurdish worker right: (I imagine you would say something like this: ) “Leave your co-workers just escape for your ass and let people die for your beloved ones. If you do not do so, you are a nationalist and not a communist at all.”

Quote:
Those who take sides in this war will not contribute in the long term to any progressive victory, but merely to the further ethnic division, and increased militarisation of the region, neither of which will be of benefit to the working class.

So you want the war end by the victory of the strongest group. So that you can "organize workers there" which will be living in peace i guess? Very good thinking. Such communism Wouv!.. (Maybe I should make communist “doge” mems? Anyone interested?)

Quote:
The working class, neither in the Middle East nor in the rest of the world, is not strong enough to stop this war just as in 1914 it was not strong enough to stop World War One or the Armenian genocide a year later.

But Kurds who are facing the threat to be massacred like Armenians in Turkey are defending themselves along with organizing in communalistic and democratic lines. AND you keep claiming this is just plain nationalism. I wonder how your communism would support Armenian socialist organizations who tried to stop ethnic cleansing. I guess you would just condemn them as nationalist gangs and equalize them with Ottoman Empire, right?

Quote:
Although the working class seems weak today struggles where the working class is fighting for its own interests will return in the future

And people try to say to me I am romantic because I see a possibility in Rojava. I think you are the person that should get this "title".

NOTE: I am sorry for posting for so long again. But articles that are full of disinformation and narrow minded ideological criticism, is produced over and over again. I feel a duty to reply back at them.

EDIT: I just found the a reference to gender mixedness of Asayis it is here:

Quote:
the Asaish (a mixed force of men and women that exists in the towns and all the checkpoints outside the towns to protect civilians from any external threat).

It is from this. https://libcom.org/news/experiment-west-kurdistan-syrian-kurdistan-has-proved-people-can-make-changes-zaher-baher-2 I recommend everyone to read it.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 14:57

Devrim:

Quote:
TEKEL strike

Tekel strike was big on TV but it did not wield any results. No policy changed. The laws workers opposed were passed (4-C laws, making some workers of state contractual workers) There was a second call to protest. The second TEKEL call was a failure. No worker showed up thanks to State's prevention and stupid worker's union. We wait with a lot of socialists in the Sakarya square against cops and just give up as there were no workers at all.

Also if you have gone to the tents of TEKEL resistance the workers were segregated by their places of birth (one tent is for this city, other is for another one etc...) So basically workers were staying with their own ethnicity (Kurds were mostly in Diyarbakir for example)

Turkish Nationalist workers parties (some of which are explicitly anti-Kurdish) for example came visited TEKEL tents. Nobody (especially Turkish workers) did not try to prevent them from entering into the tents. However unfortunately the same thing never become a possibility for Kurds. I also know a Kurdish flag was taken out due to request of other (Turkish) workers.

I also remember for example during CHP's women branch visited the tents. They took a picture of resistance. However they excluded Kurds from the photo they took as a "memory of resistance". Nobody kick them out for being racists.

So basically I liked TEKEL resistance as much as you do, However let’s not paint it as a paradise of working class. It was hugely divided among the ethnic lines in practice. Kurdish workers were minority and their representation (especially politically) were limited. They were basically threated as second class workers again. (As it is a tradition in Turkish politics.) what we should learn from TEKEL is not that it was a working class paradise but ethnicity is still an issue even for so called actions that are directly related to "working class self-interest".

mikail firtinaci
Nov 3 2014 15:16

It is likely that there is not anybody else left in Kobane except those people who are directly or indirectly engaged in the fight with the ISIS. According this link there are only 4 thousand people left there (out of an original 140 thousand):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/turkce/haberler/2014/11/141030_kobani_hayat_ersin_caksu

Soapy
Nov 3 2014 15:23
mikail firtinaci wrote:
It is likely that there is not anybody else left in Kobane except those people who are directly or indirectly engaged in the fight with the ISIS. According this link there are only 4 thousand people left there (out of an original 140 thousand):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/turkce/haberler/2014/11/141030_kobani_hayat_ersin_caksu

Not necessarily talking about Kobane, would ISIS attack refugees in the surrounding areas?

mikail firtinaci
Nov 3 2014 15:30
Quote:
would ISIS attack refugees in the surrounding areas?

It can,t because there is no other settlement left around Kobane, which is not under the IS control, and the refuges are already in Turkey.

Soapy
Nov 3 2014 15:56
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Quote:
would ISIS attack refugees in the surrounding areas?

It can,t because there is no other settlement left around Kobane, which is not under the IS control, and the refuges are already in Turkey.

k, thx for info

Entdinglichung
Nov 3 2014 15:56

there were reports in the news during the last couple of weeks that some shells did hit the town of Suruc "by accident": http://www.dailysabah.com/nation/2014/09/29/fifth-mortar-shell-hits-border-town-suruc ... but I think, that ISIS will at the moment not launch an outright attack on the territory of its ally Turkey

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 16:07

Mikail what about other cantons? If Kobane falls, would ISIS let other cantons existl? What about total of 1 million Kurds (and other nationalities and religious minorities) living in others cantons? Should they also go away to be refugees? And do not fight? Maybe they should even kill themselves to be helpful non-nationalists themselves?

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 16:06

I am also still fascinated by your willingness to demand from people to give up the fight for their own lives and homes under an enemy attack, just because it is not "the proper (class) war".

mikail firtinaci
Nov 3 2014 16:10
Quote:
I am also still fascinated by your willingness to demand from people to give up the fight for their own lives and homes under an enemy attack, just because it is not "your ideological war", just because great mikail is not nationalist like them.

Well this might shock you Kurremkarmerruk, but thousands of refuges already escaped Syria rather than fighting for Ocalan.

mikail firtinaci
Nov 3 2014 16:11

Entdinglichung;
Why do you think that Turkey is an ally of ISIS?

Matoska
Nov 3 2014 16:16

This is so undeserving of publication that one hardly knows where to begin- The jargon, the politics, the anti-Kurd rhetoric, the presumptions. Someone wants to keep folks from finally admitting the political presence of the Kurdish liberation struggle. Not surprising since it has only been since the resistance in Kobani that anarchists have even begun to see the protracted armed struggle of the Kurdish people for survival.

Quote:In a struggle like this where workers and peasants are butchering each other in the name of nationalism and religion, communists do not take sides. Those who take sides in this war will not contribute in the long term to any progressive victory, but merely to the further ethnic division, and increased militarization of the region, neither of which will be of benefit to the working class.

Why take sides? Do like the Turkish military is doing and watch from the sidelines. Or do like the British and French did in the Spanish Civil War and declare neutrality. A "curse on all their houses". Their resistance is not deserving of us. "We" are the makers of history, everyone else just messes it up for "us". Go home Turkish anarchists there is no room for you. Go home little ladies, that is your place in this world. Go home peshmerga you are troops of a government and we might be contaminated with the Southern Kurdistani ebola virus.

If you've done nothing to build this struggle, at least have the decency not to proliferate propaganda supporting the reactionaries. YPK grows because they organized to resist the attacks. They have stood their ground. Kobani shall not fall.

Quote: Of course, Turkey is the aggressor here, but when the PKK replies in kind, and kills some Turkish conscripts that won't be the first thing in the minds of grieving mothers, relatives, and friends...and so the spiral of ethnic hatred, which in turn leads, to violence, murder, and massacre will go on.

That's called resistance kak Devrim. Pacifism leads to genocide.

You might also want to recognize that between 1980 and 1999 the US exported $11.551 billion in arms, $4.627 billion in grant aid (none since 1992), and $1.982 billion in direct loans (none since 1997) Further, transfers of U.S. Weapons to Turkey Under the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) Treaty, 1991-1993 included: 264 M-60A1 main battle tanks,658 M-60A3 main battle tanks, 250 M-113 armor personnel carriers and 72 M-110 Artillery. Between 1994 and 2003, Turkey took delivery of more than $6.8 billion in U.S. weaponry and services. Ending military aid for Turkey is certainly a preferable option to more mass murders.

Behind the slave lies the hand of the master. Behind the free lies the bitter past.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 16:35

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/kobani-de-olume-direnen-siviller-gundem-1961142/

This is from milliyet (Nation) it is a newspaper that is far away from Kurds politically. One of their reporters went to Kobane and he says: In Kobane there is war at night, but children scream and play at the streets in daylight. There is a thousand families still living in Kobane (which I guess mikail is sure that they are militant nationalists and not people who have nowhere to go or does not want to go from their homes) There are children aged 11 and 14 reporter speak to. They say "we are now getting used to war." (But they are again bloody nationalists who deserve to be killed by IS I guess according to mikail, I suppose)

I mean come on mikail how can you be so cold hearted on this issue. you could just write to google and search for civilians in Kobane (in Turkish) and get the articles. And find out yourself not everyone still in Kobane is militants. (rather then sayin they are "propably not civils") . Or you could also think about the faith of million kurds who live in other cantons, if the Kobane falls, yourself.

Don't you see: your hatred against PKK is blinding you. Or in worst case You just don't care about Kurds. They are insignificant to your "game" of working class revolution (in other words: self-enjoyment in Libcom). That's all!

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 16:27

Mikail:

Quote:
Quote:
I am also still fascinated by your willingness to demand from people to give up the fight for their own lives and homes under an enemy attack, just because it is not "your ideological war", just because great mikail is not nationalist like them.
Well this might shock you Kurremkarmerruk, but thousands of refuges already escaped Syria rather than fighting for Ocalan.

No why should it bother me? It is very normal of a lot of people get displaced in wars. But why you are so indifferent towards people, in Kobane or other cantons, you speak like they should get away or die or something?
Why you want people to suffer instead they support YPG in their fight against IS ? This is also the case for many Kurds: Relatives of these refugees are fighing in Kobane as parts of YPG. Did youeven speak to one of them? Many came here to bring the kids and elder out of combat. They are not going out of Syria "against the will of PYD" at all.

AES
Nov 3 2014 16:51

The objection was to working class support for capitalist and governmental civil war, even if this has been dressed up to be a 'revolution' (by some who thrive on suggestibility and impressionability of overseas sympathisers, who it seems cannot criticise this fake revolution, the political parties, the conscription, the absence of independent working class organisations, etc) yet there is no control from below (because of the extent of the secrecy).

baboon
Nov 3 2014 17:14

The military adventures of these nationalist gangs, like the PKK, are the opposite to class war. "Ethnic war" for me doesn't really sum up the overall force at work here which is imperialist war undertaken by the major powers with the local actors.

"Preventing a massacre", humanitarian intervention is an old trick of the ruling class to cloak its imperialist appetites and warfare. No-one wants to see a massacre of innocents anywhere Soapy but they are going on all over Iraq and Syria and have been for a couple of years now. Hundreds of miles away from Kobani around Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish/Syrian border, towns and villages have fallen one after the other to al-Nusra - sometimes working with Isis, sometimes not. Who would you back here Soapy the US-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionary Front, part of the FSA (the majority of whom seem to have gone over to al-Nusra and Isis - as have many civilians in the face of relentless US, British and French air strikes)? Or maybe back the Qatari-backed Islamic Front who are also fighting Isis (or not, as the case may be)? What about the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias? Once you start looking for a lesser capitalist evil you can only end up supporting the forces of nationalism and imperialism

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 17:23

AES you are done now with speaking on behalf of Syrian Kurdish working class and started to speak in the name of mikail or devrim I guess. Well OK. My counter point was there is no clear-cut class distinction in current politics (working class or mainstream) that is not tainted by ethnicity. Communists should not be blind to ethnic issues that materially affect the condition of existence of working class. It might not be case where you came from but it is true for the region under discussion!. Being blind to it only avoids the question for yourself and alienate you from Syrian Kurdish working class more.

Lets make a critique of PKK for its lack of organizing urban working classes based on real issues.Let's make a critique of PKK based on lack of democracy if the problems with TEV-DEM arises. Let's make criticism of conscription, if it continues after war. Let's make criticism of PYD if it backs from its progressive policy concerning women.

However please stop equalizing PYD with ISIS and inventing new bullshit arguments to condemn PYD and framing all the Kurds who fight against IS as power hungry maniacs (as made in text and comments). Overall: I get it, PYD might not be your thing that's OK. But please do not deny the Kurds the political agency they deserve. I think they can and will argue or even revolt against PYD or Ocalan if the conditions arises. However currently their historical and conjectural enemies are so powerful ( Turkish state and IS) that Kurds come together and unite in a very real way. I think this is what the discussion on PKK and Ocalan is missing. This is of course will not last forever but demanding that they should be where you want them to be is a sickness in communist politics. Do not forget theory may not have temporality, but societies and people have. Do not rush things and invent antagonism that is not realized in daily life just to get to "revolution" as it is impossible. However work with masses so that later you could have affect on them when they will be making future decisions.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 17:30

baboon

So you think communists should not care about 1 million Kurds that will be affected by war (possibly by way of massacre, as willingness of neighboring countries will decline as the number of refugees rise) So what do you think communists care for? If this is communism, I really appreciate US intervention and their "humanism".

NOTE: I just realized I started to feel the same way with Kurdish population in Syria who nowadays started to shout "Biji Obama" slogans (Long Live Obama) Thanks communists.

Iskra
Nov 3 2014 17:32

This is one of the best articles/analysis on this topic. I think that anyone should read it and I'm grateful to Devrim for writing it and sharing his experience and knowledge with us.

Also, comments on this article pretty much show why was this article so necessary.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 17:37

Iskra

Devrim did not put any experience into article if you want experience read these: https://libcom.org/news/experiment-west-kurdistan-syrian-kurdistan-has-proved-people-can-make-changes-zaher-baher-2 or http://new-compass.net/articles/consensus-key-new-justice-system-rojava
However it is obvious that it is not the experience what you are looking for.

Iskra
Nov 3 2014 17:42

Don't you have better things to do with your life then troll his article?

AES
Nov 3 2014 17:43

I can only speak from my experience, so to clarify, I look to independent working class organisations as a starting point for solidarity, but as we know the PKK/PYD are the reason why there are no independent working class organisations in that specific region. I have not suggested in the past nor do I now intend to speak on behalf of the working class, or anyone else. I will not support capitalist and governmental civil war.

Where I am originally from ethnic nationalism is called racism and Apartheid.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 17:57

AES
No it is not the reason, we discussed it, PKK is the result of nationalism of Turkish left. On top of that Kurdish populations being a population that has no state historically oppressed by every nation they were part of. You are reading the picture backwards. The real power that stops the emergence of Kurdish working class movement is the still oppressive and racist politics of Turkey (and other authoritarian regimes) Assuming that the real thread is PKK is just wrong.

(I am asking now according to our previous discussions) So I guess you were critical of black struggle against apartheid even before apartheid is abolished? You know it was not anarcho-syndicalist and it helped a bourgeoisie to emerge? If you are, only then I can accept your criticism of PKK coherent now. Are you critical of PKK in its struggle against Turkish regime or Syrian regime?

NOTE: I do not know how to speak about races in a proper way in English, if I made a mistake I am sorry about it.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 17:54

Iskra

Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with us.

AES
Nov 3 2014 18:27

In struggle against apartheid, I helped organise at work on a class basis with my workmates against apartheid bosses and the new bosses. Most of my workmates were black african (including various languages - sotho, xhosa, zulu, ndebeli, shangaan, afrikaans, english and a few european/asian languages). I was involved workplace struggles and also involved with support for landless/homeless and other struggles.

I did *not* support the SACP (the neostalinist) 'national liberation' party in alliance with the ANC (nationalists). I refused to serve as a conscript under the apartheid military regime, I told an army colonel that they cannot trust me with a gun, I was beaten and given a dishonourable discharge (G5K5).

I don't accept that there is any obligation or requirement for workers to support capitalist political parties and support their civil wars.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 18:58

That is good for you but the question was that: Were you critical of people who supported SACP during the Apartheid? Did you consider those who supported SACP as equally bad as apartheid itself? Did you consider SACP as equally bad as Apartheid at that time and under that circumstances? Were SACP was preventing actively the emergence of black working class movement back then? Was SACP the dominant force that stopped emergence of working class movement in black population, or was it also related to attitudes of white people themselves?

This is what is discussed here AES. I definitely understand your wish to prevent from emergence of another SACP. But how can you say Aparthied and SACP (while it was fighting Aparthied) was the same? Don't you see these articles by international communists do that: They equalize Turkish State with PKK, they equalize IS with PYD etc... This is what I am arguing against. I am perfectly aware PKK will not solve all the problems that culminated in the region (as everyone should be) PKK is basically this for me. I do not know what is misguiding you on what I say and what these articles mean in context of Kurdish population and PKK but I would really like to solve this problem.

AES
Nov 3 2014 20:29

Whether PKK/PYD or ISIS/ISIL are the same, is not my point.
Whether SACP/ANC or National Party/IFP/Apartheid were the same, is not my point.
To join a militarist party-complex to avoid terror is coercive tragedy.

I don't accept that there is any obligation or requirement for the working class to support capitalist political parties and to support their civil wars.

The more I learn about the PKK/PYD, the more I consider the fake radicalism called Democratic Confederalism (regardless of it being based on ex-anarchist Bookchin and has been promoted overseas as a 'revolution') is nothing other than top-down structure of local municipal government, which meets business needs, and is suitable for political parties, police, military to 'consult' with "the people".

I cannot be more in disagreement with your suggestion that criticism can only be made after the civil war.

kurekmurek
Nov 3 2014 21:46

I was not saying you said something like that. I was saying that article in discussion (we are actually commenting under) is making this kind of assumption and it is fundamentally wrong. Except that I can just admire your dedication to anarcho-syndicalist cause. However I wish there was a way for you to argue your points not as moralistic principles to be hold regardless of time and place but as actual arguments that you propose to someone in a discussion.

AES
Nov 3 2014 23:30

If you want to pursue your objection with left-marxists (left communists) about their position on the PKK again, then address your question to the author of the article about its specific contents.

I have answered your question - to join a militarist party-complex to avoid terror is coercive tragedy.

Above, I have replied to your comments, specifically about your defensiveness for the ideologies you endorse, which are ethnic nationalism and 'democratic confederalism', which I consider from a comparison of my experience as similar, if not the same as the neostalinist two-stage theory of the SACP. It is absolutely clear, that the PKK had to reinvent itself through a radicalisation strategy to regain credibility but for the avoidance of any doubt - I have not found genuine evidence of the PKK making a thorough structural and substantitive change to break away from its Stalinism.

You argue that I am being 'moralistic' and 'ideological', but in fact the position I have held has not been to insist on any ideology at all, in all of these discussions about Rojava, PKK/PYD and ISIS/ISIL. I have argued in favour of the working class to be able to organise itself independently and anti-militarism in relation to all capitalist and governmental institutions. These are basic minimum demands without any particular doctrinaire adherence.