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


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Nov 3 2014 12:54


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klas batalo
Nov 6 2014 18:10

i can't tell if that is an american troll of these foreign anarchos or one of these anarchos...

Nov 6 2014 18:21

RebelRising, is in the US and seems to be either mocking to bring across a point or trying to lighten the situation or both.

I agree with recent posts that the slander insults must stop.

Nov 6 2014 18:40

Rebelrising is almost too funny by the way I really laughed a lot in front of computer, nearly cried. Even my partner came to see me if I was OK grin (Congrats RebelRising ) (also thanks AES for your comment, without which I would not get it.)

Nov 6 2014 20:22


Murray bookchin is our thought leader

?? I hope this is a joke, but I am afraid it isn't. As an anarchist, I at least TRY to think for myself, without "thought leader". And I wonder what poor Murray Boockchin would have thought of all this. Whatever his considerable faults, he deserves better than being turned into an icon.

And calling Devrim - a comrade with which, being an anarchist, I disagree sometimes but respect very much - a stalinist, is scandalous and only damages the discussion at least some of us are trying to have.

Nov 6 2014 21:05

I think that that person is just a bad troll. He says "Murray bookchin is our thought leader", so if he is not trolling than it's really sad...

Nov 6 2014 21:30

I think that the term "marxist" or "coomunist" - and "anarchist" - can be used by the bourgeoisie and turned on the working class. In the more advanced western democracies the bourgeoisie generates its own "marxists" and "communists" all the time - intellectuals, trade union leaders, journalists and high profile "activist", etc. From "Socialism in One Country" the bourgeoisie has used the capitalist hell of Russia in order to show the working class a lesson of what happens when you get communism. This campaign continued - and continues - to do this with the collapse of the Soviet Union and we are constantly reminded about the real nature of "communism" is that it equals what went on in Russia. But the deformation of words is not really the issue here, it's the content of a political position and the political position of Devrim above is clearly internationalist and against all forms of "local democracy" and "local autonomy" being dressed up as anything vaguely proletarian. That's the issue. And against the anarchist moralism that underlines much of the support for fighting against Isis forces in Kobani, the text gives a clear indication of what a proletarian organisation, a proletarian tendency actually consists of.

It's no accident that on these threads there has been strong support for the "Syrian Revolution" much along the same lines as support for the PKK. The same, with regional variations, for the "Ukrainian Revolution" - and we've seen previous support for other so-called "Revolutions". In fact here's another example of how the bourgeoisie has taken over this word and used it to its advantage, mobilising various elements behind it while emptying the word of all content. This is a particular task of the left of capital. The problem though is a problem of method, or rather a lack of it which enables any critical elements - amongst others - to get sucked into supporting different factions of imperialism through the back door.

Kobani has become another cause celebre of the bourgeoisie, another crime of capitalist war that is being used to divert all attention away from the fact that these massacres and this sort of warfare has been going on in and around the Middle East for years now and are getting steadily worse. As a real strategic threat is opening up on the Syrian/Turkish border around Bab-al-Hawa, as more and more "moderate" forces go over to Isis and al-Nusra (with their western supplied assets), then more western boots on the ground becomes increasingly likely and it reinforces the fact, that for those of us in the west, the enemy is at home.

Nov 7 2014 00:30

I should like to clarify that it goes against my better nature to make fun of other people's spelling and grammar if English is not their first language, but in this particular instance I couldn't help myself. Apologies to ramyar for my less-than-constructive contribution.

I also hope nobody took me seriously and that they saw through my facetiousness.

Nov 7 2014 12:07

like every political school anarchism has its leaders like bakunin kropetkyn malatesta and bookchin their approach was againts hierarchy of pary and state.
marxist-enges-leninist-maoist all are pro state.
i speak a little english and u not must mocking me because u do not know a word of my language (persian)

Nov 7 2014 12:00

But if Bookchin is your political thought leader ( such an expression to me reeks of Maoist phraseology) then you are being misled as revolutionary anarchists have long had quite serious criticisms of his turn towards libertarian municipalism.
As to mocking your English, you won't find me at least doing that. For آنارشیسم

Nov 7 2014 12:25

Please if you want to have purely an ideological debate I suggest that you find a thread that is more suiting for such a debate.

Please if you want to debate by means of slogans and wiki reference I would suggest anarchistnews.

Please if you want to over generalize and simplify political theory and anarchist/communist/libertarian-leftists/autonomist/marxist theoretical positions I suggest you refrain for posting such comments.

These types of posts do nothing but derail the conversation about regional specific Kurdistan political, social, and economic (non-economic) developments. Instead of simply attacking someone by using a word you assume is some how politically offensive, engage the position and challenge their conclusions (I have fortunately began to just filter and ignore the majority of the posts and response or read that which is relevant to the actual discussion of Kurdish autonomy and critique).

Remember, if you are reading and posting on Libcom, I think it is a pretty safe bet that your fellow thread members are aware and understand such terms as: anarchism, communism, marxism, leftism, stalinism, etc...

I would hope that people are well versed in what they are commenting on, if not, well, that says more about the post(er) more than it does about who they are challenging.

I would also like to point out that its hard to take serious an article that basically quotes and sources itself whether or not valid points are made.

Nov 7 2014 12:31

proletariat lost his revolutionary role .today anarchists have leadership of social change to a direct democracy and freedom without ownership and state capitalism like soviet.

Serge Forward
Nov 7 2014 12:54

Bookchin's earlier works such as 'Post Scarcity Anarchism' were excellent. Later, he took a turn for the worse and as Battlscarred says, we are seriously critical. It appears it is this later Bookchin favoured by Ocalan, and by automatic default, the PKK. Ramyar, your level of English is not an issue and should not be mocked. What is an issue is your utterly bizarre attempt to make an icon out of Murray Bookchin, almost like a libertarian version of Mao Zedong or Kim Il Sung. This deserves to be mocked, mercilessly so.

Nov 7 2014 13:25

the author ignores the threat of isis and assume the attacked to women and cheldren is ethnic war .
do u think they should not defend themselves. the author has sympathy with isis because of common enemy usa .

Nov 7 2014 13:35

Serge Forward

What you say is interesting Serge. Can you open it a bit? I would like to learn a bit more of your reading of Bookchin (or analyis etc..)

Also I would like to point something: It was possibly not realistic for Ocalan to mobilize masses of poor Kurdish populations most of whom either lives in slums or rural places (or cities that are just big villages) based on "post-scarcity anarchism". As the ideology articulated in that book could be very hard (if not outright impossible) to make reference to actual problems of Kurdish rural and urban poor.

I actually realized this gap between people whom I speak here and people whom I (kind of) defend, earlier. While I was starting to hear the very first calls to ban me from the forums. grin Anyway go see for example What is described here as our common situation includes anything hardly relate-able to a life of a working class Kurd in Turkey. (What benefits? Existential boredom of work? what bank balance? A Kurd (also a Turk) can be sure he/she will be married. (as whole society seem to be organized around marrying everyone grin ) Not a problem. Climate change? Mortgage payments? (of what slum houses?) ) A working class Kurd experiences so many different forms of human suffering that is just hard to explain in a language born out of an advanced capitalist country. (This is just to note here, not a call to change "about" page etc...)

Caiman del Barrio
Nov 7 2014 13:41
RebelRising wrote:
I should like to clarify that it goes against my better nature to make fun of other people's spelling and grammar if English is not their first language, but in this particular instance I couldn't help myself. Apologies to ramyar for my less-than-constructive contribution.

I also hope nobody took me seriously and that they saw through my facetiousness.

I have to be honest, I think it's extremely out of order and the recipient of it didn't find it funny in one bit. Edit it you cunt.

Nov 7 2014 14:08

I reccomend a critical reading of this to get some facts on the situation on the ground

Nov 7 2014 16:24
ramyar wrote:
the author has sympathy with isis because of common enemy usa .

No he doesn't. All Devrim wrote is that just as many Kurdish fighters are workers and peasants who were either focibly conscripted or want to defend themselves and avenge the loss of their loved ones, so there are also among those who fight for ISIS many workers and peasants who were either conscripted or want to avenge their loved ones.

Nov 7 2014 19:40

1)conscription just started months ago (it bassed as a law but was not implemented only 1 year ago. Rojava exists for 3 years now. Manjority of the fighters are still voluntary. (Also if you consider people going there to join YPG)
2)pkk for example has no conscription but it has more than 20000 voluntary fighters
3) in rojova they take only one person a house. In Paris Commune when the commune declared evey able man wss forced to be parts of National Guard (i mind you of the name also)

Nov 8 2014 09:28

You cannot compare an event 150 years ago to today and it is quite frankly utterly ridiculous to do so.

Is it also necessary for you to post your pro-PKK propaganda on every thread?

Nov 8 2014 10:16

I am correcting gepettos wrong understanding of kurdish movement.
Although I am ok with your criticism of comparing stuff from different time periods. I also advice you also to be mindful of geograhpy. It is very problematic but repeated many times in libcom. Saying Rojava is not a total worker class movement (revolution) is just a form of disregarding the importance of Rojava in its spatiality (this was adressed ver good in DAF's response)
Except that I do not make propaganda. Ypg still conslsts of voluntary fighters in majority. PKK has no conspriction. And also article above has huge factual errors (i listed in my first comment) that needs to be corrected for correct knowledge to circlulate. So that a real discussion of Rojava could be made.(I also only post in my threads or under such articles etc... Not everywhere)

Caiman del Barrio
Nov 8 2014 13:33
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
I actually realized this gap between people whom I speak here and people whom I (kind of) defend, earlier. While I was starting to hear the very first calls to ban me from the forums. grin Anyway go see for example What is described here as our common situation includes anything hardly relate-able to a life of a working class Kurd in Turkey. (What benefits? Existential boredom of work? what bank balance? A Kurd (also a Turk) can be sure he/she will be married. (as whole society seem to be organized around marrying everyone grin ) Not a problem. Climate change? Mortgage payments? (of what slum houses?) ) A working class Kurd experiences so many different forms of human suffering that is just hard to explain in a language born out of an advanced capitalist country. (This is just to note here, not a call to change "about" page etc...)

Yes, this is a good point about the Eurocentrism of libertarian communism. Quite how it leads to launching a longterm campaign of supporting the PKK I'm not sure... wink

Nov 8 2014 15:41

@kurremkarmerruk- that doesn't change much, as I said they are either conscripted or are volunteers with understandable reasons. What matters is that the bulk of the forces comes from the working class and poor peasantry.

Nov 8 2014 17:29

Camian del Bario

It is your fiction that i make PKK propaganda. I am trying to correct misrepresentations going on here (and they were huge when I started, now they seem better actually) it is your decision to support some movement or not. For example in your qoute of my comment there is not even a sentence that I call for defending for anything I am just pointing to a fact (or a issue) related to geography. And it really was not intended to be so. I know most of my comments could be called pro-pkk but it was just to repel misrepresentations produced by some texts. Because discussing stuff based on them is just making people make errors and just failures in understanding the real succeses and shortcomings of a kurdish population and a movement that kind of represents them.

Nov 8 2014 17:28

Gepetto yeah like all of the wars or revolutions they are. The thing is for me again: politically what IS represents and PYD represents is so different. (Yeah but it is not an immediate salvation of all humanity at once)

Nov 8 2014 18:10
Tyrion wrote:
As both Marx and Engels described the Paris Commune as a dictatorship of the proletariat, I see very little similarity between that and an Islamic dictatorship.

Correct me by pointing to a source if you can, but I don't think Marx ever described the PC as a dictatorship of the proletariat. This comes from a foreword to the Civil War in France written by Engels years after Marx's death. Generally I think Marx's alleged enthusiasm about the PC is overstated. I mean a DoP that did nothing substantial on the economic plane to hurt the bourgeoisie... that's really an overstatment.

Correction: it was actually the 1891 postscript, not the foreword.

Nov 8 2014 18:37


That is very interesting actually. However there are actually two questions hidden as one: 1) did marx called the commune a Dictatorship of proleteriat 2) how much marx supported it (you can also divide this into two 2.1 before it was destroyed 2.2 after it was destroyed )

Nov 8 2014 23:22

How much Marx supported it is only very indirectly related to

i) whether communists should have supported it in the 19th century


ii) what communists should think about the Paris Commune today,

and in my view completely unrelated to

ii) whether communists should support the "revolution" in Rojava today.

Nov 9 2014 05:29

1) Communists is a very vague term. Marx or Bakunin are historical figures with a sort of heavyness connected to them
2) I totally agree with you. I did not said anything that implied we should do exactly as Marx/Bakunin did. The question I ask was to find historical motivations of marx/bakunin to support the commune.
3) Yeah totally. I did not even said anything related to it on my post. You are repliyng to your own age of me and not what I wrote. My explanation however is this marx/bakunin were aware of the political importance of the commune and supported it despite its imperfectness (ideologically) However it is very telling that people can not make histirical comparisons without starting with reservations. It is like judging our own position with the light of communist history can harm us. (I think the opposite)

Nov 9 2014 13:08

In terms of Marx's reasons, I think the idea was to "wait and see" what would happen, as the Commune was seen as something different from previous proletarian uprisings (i.e., independent of a bourgeois revolution, involving many socialists of many persuasions, instituting a political form with some specifics). I think – and Marx made that quite clear himself – there were no high hopes of what would eventually happen, and he basically thought that the attempt had been doomed from the start. But the idea was that the content of it was new and it would be interesting to see it develop (the same could be argued for workers' political parties and parliamentary participation at that time).

This is clear from the way Marx evaluates the Commune in the Civil War: in the famous passage where he talks about the new "political form at last discovered", he mostly talks about what "was to" happen, "would have" happened, "could have" happened... Because he thought the seeds were there but ultimately didn't get the chance to develop. Now, when comparing the Commune with other events, like Rojava, it is therefore important to look at the seeds, and not at superficial stuff like conscription. Even the existence of councils means absolutely nothing – or can even be a very negative factor – if the council members are appointed by parties and/or the councils have no executive powers and/or the councils are not fully in charge of the armed forces. See Germany 1918/1919. And even then, if the balance of forces is such that it is clear you can't win, I think it should be more important to secure some future for revolutionaries (and also just proletarians) than to fight to the bitter end or enter into alliances with imperialist or anti-worker powers that will destroy said revolutionaries when opportunity arises.

Now, whether Marx's stance was a responsible one is another matter. His influence on the actual events was probably negligible, but notice that his position basically amounts to saying "It will ultimately end in a bloodbath, but let's see what happens." I'm not sure about the ethical implications of that. But if we strip away the mythology, the end result was about 10 000 (depending on the source) Communards dead, heavy repression, and the demise of the First International (although the Commune was not the only factor in the latter).

Of course, all of this can be countered with the usual do-somethingism and I encourage everyone to be my guest.

Nov 9 2014 14:04
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
The thing is for me again: politically what IS represents and PYD represents is so different. (Yeah but it is not an immediate salvation of all humanity at once)

Of course there are differences between PKK/PYD and the Da'esh, just like in 1914 there was a difference between Russia and Germany or between Germany and France. Sure they can't be as bad as ISIS, however this alone isn't enough to make PYD supportable for us.