Dear cheerleaders, we need to have a chat about imperialism

Wearing the flag of Ocalan

On the process of change in Northern Syria often called the Rojava revolution, the PYD as proponent of the process, and its alliance with Western imperialist powers.

In Rojava, in the North of Syria, Kurdish fighters are struggling against IS, Islamic State. That struggle deserves out interest, because it is not just a fight between armeed groups fighting for territory. The fight in Rojava is at the same time a struggle for a different social and political order, called Democratic Confederalism. Direct democracy, a central rol of women in the fight and in the running of society, space for people of different ethnic backgound to express themselves and co-determine their own fate, libertarian socialist inspiration and a clear break with the Marxist-Leninist and nationalist orthodoxies of the Kurdish movements involved , the PYD in Syria, the PKK in Turkey with which the PYD is connected ... all this gives many people reason to cheer the events as an important revolution – the Rojava Revolution. Others, however, are less convinced, some – myself not excluded – have serious reservations. Exchanges of opinions, sometimes furious ones, have been going on for months now.. What follows is is a contribution to this polemic.

Those of us expressing reservations on the Rojava process of change are often promptly accused of sectarianism or worse. A rather shocking example of this put-down attitude appeared in ROAR Magazine, in general a very useful publication that sheds lights on many encouraging struggles against neoliberal capitalism the world over, but also a publication that, in its boundless enthusiasm, sometimes veers into the direction of cheerleading for a particular fight: that of Rojava. ROAR has published valuable pieces on that struggle, but its general attitude seems a bit over the top to me. And when other radicals express their doubt on Rojava, such doubt is met with scorn. In this case, that scorn is expressed by Petar Stanchev.

Target of his article is Gilles Dauvé, who wrote a piece on Rojava in which he tries to show that the movement in Rojava, however courageous, can best be seen as a radical form of liberal democracy, not a form of proletarian, anticapitalist revolution. I think many of his arguments have a lot of merit, but what I am more interested in here, is Stanchev 's ferocious reaction. For him, Dauve's attitude is an example of the “short-sighted, poorly informed, dogmatic and sectarian manner” in which “the struggles of the peoples in the Global South” are criticized – criticism which “(is) wittingly or unwittingly reproducing the logic of colonialism in h the process.” Further on in the article, he warns us about the danger of “the colonial mentality and profound dogmatism of certain gropups and individuals in Western anarchist circles.” Hence, his warning, and the title of his piece: “Mr. Anarchist, we need to have a chat about colonialism”. The warning fails on at least three points, a minor one, and two rather more serious ones.

First failure: mr Anarchist is no anarchist

The first failure is polemicizing against Dauve as “Mr. Anarchist”. Gilles Dauve does not speak or write as an anarchist. He does not claim to be an anarchist. Rather, he stands in the tradition of Left Communism: those basing themselves on Marx' revolutionary critique, while rejecting both Social Democracy and Leninist orthodoxy. The fact that Left Communists reject the state and either reject any form of party, or understand by 'party' something totally different from the power-grabbing organizations usually meant by that name, brings them quite close to anarchist positions. But that does not give anybody the right to either claim them for anarchism or dismiss them as anarchist. I agree that “Mr Left Communist or “Mr Communization Theorist” would make for a less attractive title. But that does not justify addressing someone you criticize by a name that is not hers or his.

Second failure: relying on vidence from on high

The second failure is the evidence that Stanchev puts forward. He counters the scepticism of Dauve and others by pointing us to two kinds of sources. One is: the Worksd of Comrade Öcalan! Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader who was captured in 1999 by the Turkish state and was in jail ever since – was the one who developed the concepts of Democratic Confederalism after reading texts by libertarian socialist theoretician Murray Bookchin. He still is the guiding light of both the PKK and the PYD. Ocalans portrets are to be seen in abundance in the Rojava area where Democratic Confederalism holds sway. And quotes by this Ultimate Leader now are to be found in a text defending the Rojava experience from criticism. And they are being used to show how wrong this criticism is. Imagine how we would react of someone countgered criticism of Mao by quoting that Chairman himself. What's so 'anti-colonial' in basing or defending your point of view on a Supreme Leader?

The other form of evidence Stanchev points to, is the content of eyewitness accounts. Of course, that is much better than quoting The Leadership. However, the accounts often originate from a visit by an academic delegation that travveld through parts of the area ain a kind of semi-official visit. Participants, among which Janet Biehl and David Graeber were prominent, were led around by officials, received by at least one minister of the regional authorities.

Reading, for instance, “Impressions of Rojava: a report from the revolution” , the account of Janet Biehl, also on ROAR, I was struck by the way she presents a more or less official view by the movement. For instance, on the Öcalan portrets that even she will not deny: “Images of Abdullah Öcalan are everywhere, which to Western eyes might suggest something Orwellian: indoctrination.” Only to Western eyes?! However, be not afraid, ye faithful. “But to interpret those images that way would bem to miss the situation entirely.” How do we know? “ 'No one will gove you your rights', someone quoted Öcalan to us, “you will have to struggle to obtain them.'” We need not fear Öcalans overwhelming presence, because that same Öcalan Himself says we should trust our own powers. … Here, we come full circle: even the evidence on the ground that Stanchev bases himself on points to Öcalan as a point of reference. It is a classic belief system where truth comes from on high. What is 'colonial' about pointing out and criticizing that top-down-dynamic?

All this does not mean that there is nothing encouraging going on in Rojava. Reports of serious efforts to build directly democratic strtuctures, and on the role of women in the struggle, are credible. But so are the reports on its limitations; the adulation for Öcalan, the repressive practices of the PYD against opponents. And then, there is the economy. Dauve claims that you cannot seriously argue that workers in Rojava are in control. Duh, replies Stanchev, “the 'proletariat' in ist Western sense does not exist in Rojava”. Be that as it may, Dauve 's point stands.

But if proletarians are not in control of producing and distributing goods and services, who is? Well, there is a “cooperative economy”, which sounds good, and probably is. “It is based on communal ownership and self-management and often operates outside then monetary economy.” Excellent! “Some of the lands were collectivized after the big land-owners left the area after the PYD takeover”. That indeed points towards a bit of social revolution. Maybe there are some proletarians active after all in this process, proletarians in the sense of propertyless people who have to sell their labour power to make a living. The idea that only factory workers in blue overalls are proletarians, may be 'Western”. But the whole concept of proletarians as working class people in the broadest sense, may be less alien for Rojavan realities than Stanchiev admits. I fail to see what ś so 'colonial'about asking some critical questions about its presence and role.

Unfortunately, the cooperative sector is not the only one. There is the “private economy” bound by the “social principles of the revolution”, and obliged to cooperate with local administrative organs. And then there is the “open economy”. That means: “foreign investment, which unfortunately remains necessary for the development of the region 's infrastructure”, in, for instance, refineries. “The idea is to attract foreign investment – but only at the price of respecting the social nature of the cantons. The local economy will be developed on the terms set by the inhabitants of Rojava and their assemblies, not by Western capitalists.” And what if local desires clash with capitalist demands, in a situation where foreign investment is considered essential? Who will win out, the assembly of a Rojava village, or Shell 's board of directors, possibly backed by military threats? There is a word for this kind of relationship between big capitalist firms based in powerful Western countries on the one hand, and the population in impoverished regions in the Global South. That word is 'colonial'. Okay, let 's have a chat on colonialism then, Mr. Stanchev, shan 't we?

Let me make one thing clear at this stage. my anger is not directed at the PYD, even though I criticize their position. They do their thing, in extremely unenviable circumstances. They make choices, right ones and wrong ones, under duress. They express a political goal that is only partly mine, but that is their right. My annoyance is directed at those radicals – some fellow anarchists, some quite close to my own views – who present the process of change as an anticapitalist revolution, which it is clearly not.

Yes, there is the claim, again expressed by Stanchev, that “(t)he industry that will be developed in Rojava should be under direct workers control, or at least this is the expressed intention of the PYD officials.” Note, first, how it is the view of officials, not of the people at the grass roots, whose desire is here presented as central. And note, second, how this is presented as something far into the future. Note, third, how this ambition necessarily clashes with the desire to encourage Western capitalists to do business in Rojava. You can have workers controlling and running the factories. You can have capitalist running factories and exploiting workers and local natural resources. You cannot have both things at the very same time. The PYD trying to balance these things off in a tricky game, is bad enough. Cheerleaders finding excuses for this balancing act and refusing to side with one side of the equation is inexcusable.

Third Failure: imperialism left out of the picture

The third failure may be the most devastating of all three. It is the failure to see imperialism's role for what it is: a deadly threat to any autonomous revolutionary effort. Rojava 's existence as a zone of autonomous cantons, more or less run on democratic confederalist lines, has come to depend on American military force. Complaining about colonial prejudice amongst the PYD 's critics, while ignoring imperialism 's almost open colonial role, that is what we have in Stanchev 's case.

The PYD is now in open military alliance with the US empire. And Petar Stanchev is silent about that alliance and what it may imply. Janet Biehl does not give it a mention either in her report. Neither does David Graeber. This is a disastrous distortion: presenting a process of social change as much more self-reliant and independent than it really is. But how can you talk about 'autonomy' – a word frequently and glowingly used by radical fans of Rojava democratic confederalist change – when your sheer survival has come to depend on US bombing raids?

Before I present some of the evidence, let me state this: proving that the PYD is part of an imperial alliance is not the same as denying that there is a serious process of social and political change going on in the area. The Rojava revolution and the PYD organization are not exactly the same thing, even if I find the epithet 'revolution' a bit much for the process. Criticizing the PYD – but more importantly, criticizing its Western fans! -is not the same as dismissing the process.

The fact of alliance and dependency can be easily established, even if Graeber, Biehl and now Stanchev prefer not to. We have provided coalition forces with the coordinates of IS targets on the ground and are willing to continue providing any help they will request”, Asya Abdullah, part of the PYD leadership said, according to the BBC on 9 October 2014 . On 14 October an interview appeared with Polat Can, spokesperson of the YPG, the fighting force connected to the PYD. Some information from that interview: “For the last few days, the air strikes have been numerous and effective. We can clearly state that, had these attacks started a couple weeks ago, ISIS would not have been able to enter Kobane at all. ISI would have been defeated 10-15 kilometer away from the city, and the city would not have turned into a war zone.” Turkey did not cooperate at first, and there were logistical issues, but after that was solved, the attacks began to work. Contacts with the US were going on earlier, but after the attack on Kobane, things begin to move forward.

To the question, “Can we say there is an official relation between the YPG and the coalition?” his answer was affirmative. “Yes, we are acting in concert with the international coalition forces. We are in direct contact with them, in terms of intelligence, on a military level, and in terms of air strikes.” The contact is rather direct. “YPG representative is physically ready in the joint operation command center and transmits the coordinates.” That is again about the locations that the US subsequently bombs. For clarity's sake: ISIS is what is also known as IS, Islamic State. “Coalition forces” refers to the US-led military alliance, with the YPG as de facto ground forces.

Not yet convinced that the PYD and its armed wing is part of the US-led coalition? A piece on the website Rudaw.net (1) on 5 November 2014 had the following : “Muslim, who traveled from Kobane to Erbil for a conference, said the People's Protection Units (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish militia, now considered itself part of the international coalition battling ISIS.” Muslim refers to Anwar Muslim, head of the Kobane administration, the one in charge (apart from Öcalan, of course).

This is much more than coincidentally fighting the same enemy at the same time. This is active collaboration. And in such collaboration, between a local guerrilla force and the bigges military empire on earth, who will call the shots? And what was Muslim doing in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where US oil companies abound, and where a US consulate is located? By the way, YPG and the Peshmerga s– part of conservative Kurdish movements in Iraq – are fighting quite nicely together. “We are more acting like a single army than as two forces in coordinated way. The Peshmergas are endeavouring to carry out what is asked from them in a self-sacrificing way”, says Mahmud Berxwedan, commander of YPG forces. There may be diplomatic friendly exaggeration at work here. Still, the enthusiasm for this kind of cooperation with the US and with pro-US Kurdish forces, is clear. This is cooperation with ruthless enemies of any kind of serious revolution, even if they are willing to tolerate bits of democratic confederalism for the moment..

One of the most dangerous of these enemies has made an appearance in the unfolding tragedy. His name is Zalmay Khalizad, former (?) US diplomat and one of the neoconservative functionaries in the Bush administration. Andrew Cockburn tells the story in "The Long Shadow of a neocon”, a 12 June 2014 article on the website of Harper's Magazine. The story has some relevance for the matter at hand.: US imperialism and the PYD.

Khalilzad once was presidential envoy and then US ambassador to Afghanistan, after US intervention overthrew the Taliban in 2001 he promoted Karzai to the presidency. Later on, after the US invasion of that country, he was ambassador to Iraq, where he promoted Maliki to become prime minister of that country. It was Maliki 's policy of of Shia sectarian rule that pushed Sunni communities to protest, and even to grudgingly support ISIS against the onslaught of Maliki 's Iraqi army in 2013-2014. However, corruption was all around., alarge part of the Iraqi army mainly consisted on paper, a large part of the rest ran away as fast as possible when ISIS came close. Maliki 's military onslaught collapsed. ISIS rose to power in Mosul and other Iraqi cities, Maliki was pushed aside in political intrigue in Bagdad.

These disasters are part of the heritage for which this Khalilzad is co-responsible. He is “now an obscure businessman seeking crumbs from the table as an 'international consultant' in Cockburn's 2014 description. But what is this? The co-leader of Syrian Kurds met with former US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Kalilzad, reportedly to discuss further military coordination to push out the Islamic State (ISIS) from the embattled city of Kobane”, according to an news article on Rudaw.net on 9 December 2014.

The “co-leader of Syrian Kurds” happens to be Salih Musliim, from the PYD leadership. And you can besure that Kalilzad is not there on purely private consultancy business. If Kalilzad sees fit to meet somebody from the PYD leadership, you can be sure that evil is afoot, with that leadership either being trapped or becoming partners-in-crime, or something in between. Khalizad, in his times in office in Afghanistan and Iraq, operated as a kind of colonial governor. The PYD apparently,is now prepared, willingly or grudgingly, to operate as part of that neocolonial order. Is it really the ones who are not buying Graeber 's, Biehl 's and now Stanchev 's admiring attitude towards that PYD that need chats on colonialism? Or is the noble threesome itself in need of some anti-colonial enlightenment?

As if working together with the US empire is not bad enough, Great Britain is in the picture as well. On 25 March, pydrojava.net, a PYD-related webside, announced: British foreign minister receives Saleh Muslim and tomorrow will deliver a speech to the British parliament”. Reading further, we see that Muslim actually met, not the minister himself but Gerrit Baily, apparently some lower functionary of the department.. “Also yesterday on 24-3-2015 Saleh Muslim had a speach (sic) in a closed session at the Royal institute of research services”. Whatever that is exactly, it does not sound as an initiative to introduce democratic confederalism to the British Isles. These talks and similar others are all about “recent developments in the region and Rojava and cooperate to eliminate then terrorist Desh from the region.” Daesh is another word voor ISIS or IS. PYD is a junior partner in this latest episode of the War on Terror, and seems mighty proud as well to be taken serious by the bigwigs in that war.

US imperialism's role around Rojava is clear for all to see, that is, for all who are willing to look. Of course, this does not make the US and the PYD friends. They share a common enemy, and not much else. But that is how empire often uses all kinds of forces. Carter did not need to 'like' the Afghan Mujaheedin in order to use them against a pro-Russian Afghan government. Reagan did not need to 'like' them in order to use them against Russian invading forces, there to support the government that felt threatened by the Mujaheedin armed struggle. Obama did not need to 'like' the Libyan militias NATO used to get rid of Khadafi. Obama does not need to like the PYD either. Pentagon and White House probably distrust the left-wing politics of that organization, just like they distrusted Islamism among their auxiliaries in Afghanistan, Lybia, Syria.

Right now, however, the PYD plays a useful role for the US. They are rather good at something that other military forces are rather bad in: killing ISIS fighters, and helping the US kill more. And the US sees ISIS as a threat to their oil protectorate in Iraqi Kurdistan and other allied and pro-US regimes. Just bombing them may not be enough to defeat them, sending ground forces is politically risky for any US president. So why not use PYD fighters willing to play that role? You can always discard them as soon as they get in the way, as the US did with Kurdish guerrilla fighters against the regime of Saddam Hussein in 1975-76 and again in 1991.

This is how empires work. Cortez and his 508 Spanish conquistadores probably would not so easily have conquered the Aztec empire if he hadn't allied with tens of thousands of Taxlacans, another Mexican nation with plenty of reasons to hate the oppressive Aztec rulers, and willing to let themselves be used by the Spanish invaders. Not much remains of the Aztec empire. Not much remains of Taxlacan independence either. Substitute 'ISIS' for 'Aztecs' ,'PYD' for 'Taxlacans', 'USA' for 'Spain' and 'oil' for 'gold' , and allow for some differences because history never plays out exactly the same way (2). Still, the logic is clear.

What about social radicalism in Rojava? I do not believe the US leadership cares very much if there are a few mountainous areas where people experiment in direct democracy, as long as they do not expand these efforts towards Istanbul, Baghdad or Cairo. The fact that the PYD, the main force in the area, is willing to open the area to multinational capital will ease Obama 's mind even further. Things are not half as radical as they look. Villages and towns with a leadership that cooperates with the US may as well govern themselves as they see fit. That saves the cost of direct colonial rule.

And now that Kobane is saved from IS, in large part by US air attacks. And the war goes on. Rudaw reports on 2 February: “In their advance against ISIS, the YPG fighters are supported by Peshmerga artillery and coalition air strikes.” The PYD can be grateful: if not for US bombs, Kobane might have fallen to ISIS. That creates dependency. You might argue that this dependency cuts both ways: PYD owes its survival to imperialist intervention, just like the US owes some of its success to the assistance PYD fighters have given US forces. But things are not in balance. A small force allied with the biggest capitalist power is not an alliance of equals. The result of such an alliance for the weaker partner usually is not enhanced autonomy, but enhanced dependency.

PYD, to put it bluntly, is being used. They are not in control of their destiny, and we should not operate under the presumption that they are. Heroic their fight certainly is. But is the PYD waging an autonomous social revolutionary struggle? As part of an big power alliance led by the USA? Something is not right here. Dear Cheerleaders, we need a chat about imperialism.

Notes:

(1) Rudaw.net, which I quote several times, is in its own words “a Kurdish media network”, which “aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner”. It is based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. How close it is to the authorities there – no friends of the PYD, though now in alliance with them – I cannot say. They seem well-informed on what happens behind the scenes, though obviously care is needed in using their information.

(2) For instance, the Taxlacans – 150.000 tot 200.000 thousands of them – were relatively stronger compared with the few hundred Spaniards. Even so, it was Spain, not Taxlaca, which came out on top. The US is much much stronger compared to the PYD than Spain compared to Taxlaca. Another difference: Cortez fought with hardly any direct back-up from Spain itself. He was basically freelancing. The same cannot be said about the US bombers.

Posted By

rooieravotr
Apr 4 2015 21:25

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Pennoid
Apr 6 2015 00:34
Quote:
Material gains which, even if achieved, may have accommodated both Turks and Kurds to the Turkish state system instead of accelerating the fight for autonomy. As I said, "class solidarity" is a Marxist myth. Appealing to people across racial, national, and linguistic barriers "as a class" has never worked to advance libertarian ends. Because people don't (and can't) see themselves primarily as class agents.

This is great. With Milk-toast autonomous politics, freed from dogmatic rhetoric of "Marxism" you can wind up any little clock-work "struggle" of people for "liberation" without recourse to pesky reality.

I mean, what the actual fuck are you saying? Irish nationalism has worked out so well. A whole CLASS of Irish bosses were finally free to sink their teeth into the Irish working class, HURAY!

Connor Owens
Apr 5 2015 23:51

How interesting rooieravotr that you can devine me as one of those uncritical "cheerleaders" from a comment in which I identified myself as one of those expressing critical support for what's been happening, and still maintain that position after I said in follow up comments that Ocalan was a Stalinist crackpot, that the PKK is indeed a problematic organisation with a nasty past, and that it would have been preferable if the democratic confederalist ideas being practiced emerged autonomously instead of being disseminated via the PKK and PYD leadership.

I have no love for either organisation but nor am I a Pollyanna who thinks the grassroots institutions can just disassociate themselves from them in the middle of a war with four or five armies surrounding them all trying to kill each other - the silly position of Anarchist Federation UK, which was deemed "excellent" by the Libcom admin.

On Graeber and Biehl, both have actually been there, unlike the contributors to Libcom. And both are trying very hard to try to convice people in more mainstream media sources that they shouldn't just be bombed by the FUKUS militaries along with ISIS fighters, and that when the first remotely anarchistic movement since the Zapatistas emerges and involves hundreds of thousands of people trying to achieve something libertarian on a large scale - instead of just waving a few red and black flags a protests in the relative safety of the Global North - it may not be the best course of action for anarchists to pour scorn and derision on it for not being Marxist (sorry! Class struggle anarchist) enough.

As for "imperialism's role and its acceptance by people who should know better", if he has a secret plan that would have prevented the Kurds from getting massacred by ISIS without agreeing to a strategic alliance with the U.S., he should let the rest of us know. The information he must have at hand is surely vital to what's going on in the region.

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 07:46

rooieravotr

Well nice reply for my taste. As I stated above your article is superior to many others in my opinion (Well thanks to ed grin I re-read Devrim's article and discussions below it - that article is considered internationalist for god's sake) . So please take the next paragraph as a suggestion and the last as a "sort of" contribution. I am really trying to be constructive here, I hope it can be felt:

You choose a road that is so easy in the end that bothered me. The ultimate advice of the article is so simple, it feels like you think "cheerleaders" are stupid (Well you might not name them but everyone feels in which category they fall into grin ) Everybody knows imperialist powers are strong. Everybody know that they are capitalist. Do you think people including the leaders of the Kurdish movement does not know that? I think you should develop a proposal better than this.

I find your claim (basically) "Kurds become tools of imperialism" or your suggestion in the comment "Enemy is so big (and bad), you must fight it" though honest totally counter-produtive for development of Rojava and its democratic structures for now. I honestly felt bad about your claim "Kurd's could only succeed because of USA" So I propose some revisions to these. As you know kurdish movement is not created by USA and it was fighting for Kobane before USA came. They did not start their war accoridng to USA or others. They declared autonomy in 2012 in their own homelands. Without any help from imperialists. If we move forward, they were also the last group that is included in meetings for future of Syria, western imperialists for long denied this right from kurds that they give to FSA. So in this reading of the events Kurds basically won the right for "international" recognition by force in the ground and their determination. So I think people and politicians of Rojava are not illusioned about the fact that democratic autonomy is their own project and their survival is mostly their own success. And I think reason why they go nowadays to a lot of meetings with heads of states is to realize their project of democratic confederalism to end the bloodbath in Syria. Well I also hate this macro politics but it is a must to do if they are not gonna fight everyone perpetually. And their current position is not very bad considering how small but crucial they are. Sometimes you need to play the game for your agenda I am afraid.

rooieravotr
Apr 6 2015 00:47

@Connor Owens: my comment about you being cheerleader as well sarcastic, though almost invited in my opinion after your "Trotskyist slander"-comment which was ridiculously and needlessly offensive, and systematically reacted to what I explicitly did NOT say, as I showed. Name-calling invites name-calling. But I should have been wiser, and I apologise that I named you such, for as you show, you clearly are not. The main points of contention, of course, stand.

Quote:
On Graeber and Biehl, both have actually been there, unlike the contributors to Libcom.

Being there, basically on a guided tour, guarantees nothing. It means that you have seen things that I have not. It does not mean that you are right about things. Awful movements and regimes have been defended by well-meaning people who dismissed criticism with "I have been ther, have you?" Maybe Graeber and Biehl have the better part of the argument, maybe I am totally mistaken about this issue. Arguments will decide. But the fact that they have been there and I have not is no proof of that. It is not an argument, it is a claim of authority.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 00:50

Here is a decent update about PKK's situation in Turkey and its relation with the Turkish government and Erdogan from a serious non-partisan journalist:

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-the-kurds-power-play-backfired-t...

rooieravotr
Apr 6 2015 01:48

kurremkarmerruk, I like your last reply, it is indeed constructive. We do not agree but that is OK.

A few things:

Quote:
The ultimate advice of the article is so simple, it feels like you think "cheerleaders" are stupid (Well you might not name them but everyone feels in which category they fall into grin )

I do not think that the people I mention as cheerleaders are stupid. I think they are intelligent and sincere. But I also think that I they are wrong, and that their errors can do serious damage to serious solidarity and struggle.

And I DID name them, and I will name them again. David Graeber, Janet Biehl and Petar Stanchev. Not you. You take the issue of imperialism seriously, though you come to different conclusions than I do. At least, you do not leave it out of the picture, as the three I named do.

Quote:
I find your claim (basically) "Kurds become tools of imperialism" or your suggestion in the comment "Enemy is so big (and bad), you must fight it" though honest totally counter-produtive for development of Rojava and its democratic structures for now. I

I did not say (not even basically) that Kurds become tools of imperialism. I said PYD are being used by imperialism. PYD are not "the Kurds" but only one organization. Please, do not make my conclusions "bigger" than they are. I am not blaming the Kurds, I am criticizing one specific organization.

And my claim can be considered counterproductive, if you want, First question, however, is: is my claim true or not? If the truth is counterproductive, we have a different kind of problem. I prefer counterproductive truth above productive untruths wink But I think in the long run, truths is always productive in a revolutionary sense, even it truths may sound terrible. So the question really is: is there truth in what I am saying, namely that PYD is being used by US imperialism, and that US imperialism is an enemy to be opposed, to to be allied with? Nobody asks you to LIKE the truth. But let 's at least try to find out...

Quote:
honestly felt bad about your claim "Kurd's could only succeed because of USA" So I propose some revisions to these.

I understand that. I understand that my claim does not sound nice at all. But it is what PYD and YPG people themselves say: US bombs helped a lot to save Kobane from IS attack. I did not make it up. if my evidence is untrustworthy, I am open to correction. But nobody disputed that the quotes I gave were authentic or at least credible. So if you feel bad about the claim that Kurds only succeeded because of the USA, you have to feel bad about PYD people implying that. I showed what they said.

Quote:
As you know kurdish movement is not created by USA and it was fighting for Kobane before USA came. They did not start their war accoridng to USA or others. They declared autonomy in 2012 in their own homelands. Without any help from imperialists.

I know. I never denied it. But before the US came in, they were about to lose Kobane. After the US came in, that loss was prevented and PYD could counter-attack effectively, with more US bombs to support them. US intervention was decisive.

And the fact that the US did not create the Kurdish movement does not change what I say about the PYD and their alliance with the USA. They are not born as pawns in the US game. But they have become so, much against their own desires, I think.

We can have very different feelings and judgements about that. We can discuss these differences. But reality should be a starting point, and reality is that PYD are a very minor partner in a very large imperialist alliance under US leadership. I did not invent that to insult the Kurds. I tried to show an aspect of what is happening because I felt that not everybody is clear on that issue.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 03:24
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Here is a decent update about PKK's situation in Turkey and its relation with the Turkish government and Erdogan from a serious non-partisan journalist:

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-the-kurds-power-play-backfired-t...

So does this mean you are voting HDP?

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 04:12
Quote:
So does this mean you are voting HDP?

grin Well I'm sure the majority of the Turkish/Kurdish anarchists will!

Flint
Apr 6 2015 04:14
rooieravotr wrote:
And the fact that the US did not create the Kurdish movement does not change what I say about the PYD and their alliance with the USA. They are not born as pawns in the US game. But they have become so, much against their own desires, I think.
.

An informative opinion on U.S. bombing during the siege of Kobane.

Kissinger, Kerry and the Kurds in Kobani

We should also keep in mind that Daesh's strength during the siege of Kobane had been increased after they conquered Mosul and took over the abandoned armor for the Iraqi army. Armor provided by the U.S.

Before Daesh gained the Iraqi army armor, they hadn't succeeded in their previous attempts to penetrate into Rojava.

Also, while the U.S. was bombing Daesh in Syria during the siege, Turkey was simultaneously bombing HPG/PKK camps.

The U.S. also provided very little humanitarian or military aid to the YPG/YPJ, particularly compared to the lavish aid it has given "moderate" FSA rebels like defunct Harakat Hazm, or the Iraqi government, or the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government through the Iraqi government. Ultimately, the only anti-tank weapons used in the defense of Kobane were some that came with only 250 KDP/KRG peshmerga that came very late in the siege.

The siege of Kobane became a very convenient place for the U.S. to leverage some of its airpower to kill Daesh. While that may have made the U.S. (not NATO) briefly allies with YPG/YPJ; I don't think the YPG/YPJ is under any illusion of how shallow U.S. support is.

In the long term, the U.S. would probably rather deal with the Assad and the Ba'ath than Tev-Dem.

As mikail firtinaci pointed out, the Turksih parliamentary elections this June will probably have an impact on Turkey (AKP) and PKK relations, for good or ill. After that, Barzani has to stand for re-election to KRG presidency; and Gorran has made no secret of wanting to oust him. The U.S. would also prefer to deal with Barzani than any PKK-sympathetic Gorran. Whatever weak support the U.S. was willing to extend to the YPG/YPJ while they had a mutual enemy in Daesh will quickly dissipate if it looks like KDP control will weaken in Iraqi Kurdistan.

I think we can all agree that prior towards the enmity between the U.S. and Al Qaeda particularly after 9-11, U.S. foreign policy would have been to aid groups like Daesh to kill socialists like PYD/Tev-Dem/YPG-YPJ; and the the PKK only went on the NATO terrorist list AFTER 9/11 as the price for Turkey's support for the "war on terror".

I don't think many folks in the PYD/YPG/YPJ/Tev-Dem are under any illusion that the U.S. will somehow be a long term ally.

Ofcourse the argument is that no matter what they do, they will always be some country's imperialist tool. During the civil war, I've heard it claimed they are the tool of: Syria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, the KRG, the U.S. and even Israel. If you are mikail firtinaci, you believe that peace between the PKK and Turkey--strengthens Turkey; you also believe that Tev-Dem defending itself against Daesh strengthens those (Syrian Ba'ath, Iran, Iraqi Shia, Iraqi KRG, the U.S., NATO, probably even the Houthis) against a Sunni-Arab alignment; and you also believe libertarian municipalism is a justification for exclusive ethnic micro-states--there is simply nothing the PKK or the PYD can do that won't be a tool for imperialism except ceasing to exist (and even that probably serves imperialism!). Please correct me if I got your position wrong, mikail firtinaci.

I would hope that events over the last few years would demonstrate to the left that the U.S. does not always get its way, militarily, in espionage, in diplomacy or in trade. If anything, U.S. foreign policy in the middle east these days now seems to be flailing about, paralysis, or wack-a-mole with its never ending list of enemies.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 04:15
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Quote:
So does this mean you are voting HDP?

grin Well I'm sure the majority of the Turkish/Kurdish anarchists will!

I didn't ask them. I asked you. Your post made me think you somehow thought the upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey were significant in some way.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 04:44

Also, this is laughable.

Quote:
Rudaw.net, which I quote several times, is in its own words “a Kurdish media network”, which “aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner”. It is based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. How close it is to the authorities there – no friends of the PYD, though now in alliance with them – I cannot say. They seem well-informed on what happens behind the scenes, though obviously care is needed in using their information.

Rudaw was established and fully sponsored by Nechervan Barzani, KDP senior leader and KRG Prime Minister. Anything that comes out of Rudaw you should assume is KDP propaganda. Sometimes, its even true! Or has elements of truth in it. Sometimes, its out right fabrications.

http://www.milletpress.com/english/en_report/post_detail.php?id=15

It recently ran a story claiming that the leader of a group of Yezidi resistance (who were not the YBS/Sinjar Resistance Units, YPJ-Sinjar or affiliated with Tev-Da) stating that they would fight the PKK after expelling the Daesh. The leader of that Yezidi resistance group quickly announced that Rudaw didn't interview him and that their claims are a lie.

http://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/2zi9b3/xpost_rkurdistan_...

Pretty much all the news sources on the Syrian civil war or the Iraqi civil war are biased. Folks should know what the biases of the sources they are using.

Also, incase you couldn't tell, milletpress.com is PUK media.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 16:32

As a principle I don't vote in any elections. The communism I defend necessitates confidence in proletariat and its revolutionary internationalist struggle to overthrow parliaments and not in bourgeois parties like HDP, which involves in secret dealings with the Turkish imperialism.

Flint
Apr 6 2015 05:01
mikail firtinaci wrote:
As a principle I don't wont in any elections. The communism I defend necessitates confidence in proletariat and its revolutionary internationalist struggle to overthrow parliaments and not in bourgeois parties like HDP, which involves in secret dealings with the Turkish imperialism.

Lets go with that there are secret dealings, even though the article you linked had one speaker claiming they weren't. The dealings are to end the conflict between the Turkish army and the HPG/PKK, right? We want that war to end right? Easier to organize the proletariat when the army isn't destroying villages and being fought by a guerrilla army? Do you think peace between Turkey and the PKK is a good thing? Or are you totally indifferent?

There are so few self-identified communists that our election votes don't matter, either in voting or abstention. Making a principle of abstention it seems like a matter of identification than tactic. Abstention really only matters in a dual power situation when the proletariat is on the cusp of abolishing the bourgeois parliament. You probably disagree, which is fine.

mikail firtinaci
Apr 6 2015 05:41
Quote:
We want that war to end right?

Yes but don't jump to the conclusion so fast. Just because the war between PKK and Turkey seems to be on halt temporarily now does not mean that there is no war in the region. In fact on the contrary the war is even more violent now. There is now a brutal war between Sunni and Shii Arabs. There is still a war between Kurds and Arabs. Thousands of sunni lumpen youth in Turkish cities have been joining ISIS as volunteers...

Second, the so-called peace process in Turkey is totally based on Ocalan's ceaseless calls for a cease fire. As the article clearly shows, there is no substantial stable-legal change in Turkey's official policies towards Kurds since 1999. The "Erdogan thaw" is solely a temporary deal based on PKK's retreat from Turkey. So, I don't see how the war is ended since there is definitely no peace around...

On a more general "abstract" note, if you are so supportive of PKK, I don't really understand why are you so critical about the Bolsheviks and Lenin. Let's list the similarities:

1- Bolsheviks also made secret military dealings with foreign bourgeois states following the Rapallo treaty (1922). PKK is consistently in doing secret dealings with capitalist powers since 1980s.

2- Bolsheviks merged the party-security apparatus-state and the soviets into a single whole gradually starting during the civil war. At least many bolsheviks were critical of this in 1920s. However in the case of PKK/PYD it is unclear where the party or the army ends and the so called "councils" start.

3- Bolsheviks monopolized their control over the red army. However, they tried to check the army in control by political commissars who at least on paper were answerable to the rank-and-file soldiers. PYD/YPG is just an army.

Tell me please Flint, why those anarchists, who support (of course with a pinch of criticism) the PYD/PKK rejects Leninism completely in "abstract" theory?

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 07:32

The article you shared is rubbish! First of all I do not get it what back fired to whom? Kurds are achieving tremendous legitimization and propaganda with their position and political activity in Turkey recently. (Apart from the Rojava stuff)

Well the peace process (if not realized) might backfire at Turkey and especially to Tayyip Erdoğan. But why do you care about this so much?And in what way you care about it? You want absolute peace, democratic autonomy or the war? I do not think Kurds are really afraid of not entering into parliament as their power does not come form any electoral victory but from their legitimization in the eyes of Kurdish population (which is getting another boost thanks to what they achieved in Rojava)

And you clearly fail to see that Kurdish movement is no fool. They will not stop until they get what they want. Kurds are the last party who wishes to make processes secrect. They always call for open negotiations and neutral referees and public visibility. Moreover Ocalan does not repeatedly call for cease-fire. There is already cease fire for years now. He lastly called for peace based on a 10 article list and called for dearming after its reforms are made.

So what do you propose should Kurds go back fighting the state? They are doing the talk -as they finally found a someone willing to- now, however if the talks do not end in a remedy of the ills of Turkish state well you know what they might do instead. I do not think nobody fails to understand this in Kurdish movement from electoral candidates to armed guerillas to peasants.

Connor Owens
Apr 6 2015 07:46
Quote:
your "Trotskyist slander"-comment which was ridiculously and needlessly offensive

In retrospect, yes, it was. And for that I apologise. That description however still would apply quite well to many of the Marxo-anarchists I've witnessed here taking many of the same positions as you but with less delicate phrasing.

And significantly, you still failed to provide any kind of sensible response as to what the Kurds (leadership and grassroots) should have done to avoid getting killed by ISIS other than agreeing to a strategic alliance against them with the U.S.

If being associated in any way, shape, or form, with the U.S. is automatically to be a "pawn" of imperialism, then I'd suggest you move out of the Netherlands as quickly as possible, which is an American ally, as you must be a pawn of imperialism by simply being there. It's very easy to accuse people thousands of miles away of being pawns of imperial powers while (1) not being in the middle of a war, but in the relative comfort of a Global North country, and (2) not even being willing to leave that country, which is even more aligned to imperial US interests than agreeing to have a mutual enemy bombed on your turf.

The reflex of so many Marxo-anarchists (and of course actual Marxists) to the U.S. doing absolutely anything is "imperialism!" And therefore anyone who agrees with anything they may be doing is therefore a participant in "imperialism" while rarely being specific about what that means in practice. The U.S. obviously has resource and military interests in the region. So does ISIS.

If thinking that it's a lesser evil, given the circumstances, to agree to bombings by imperialists of Islamic fascists trying to kill you, makes me also a "pawn" of imperialism, I think I can live with that, as it means very little in practice.

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 09:01

rooieravotr

Yeah let's agree to disagree as I think your account needs a better and bigger reply than a comment. I definitely think imperialism is a real issue, however I am still not convinced about "PYD being currently used" argument.

About Rudaw: Flint is right, it is really not the best source of information, as it is clearly sides with KDP (and their US ally) As I reported previously the relation between KDP and PKK is not smooth at all. Anyway the news itself is true though. However I think you understand it like they fight suddenly "outside of Kobane" . This is not true. Kobane is not just one city, ten thousands of people live in farms or villages outside of city center (well they used to of course) What is a city center anyways in a rural environement. Many people live outside of it and has partially related to it. I guess there are about 360 or so villages. I guess at most 200 of them were liberated now. Kurds plan to liberate all of them. So they still did not made any changes from their original plans* Anyway you know truth is power grin so you might wanna recheck your conclusions or what you understand from the news you linked -at least in your mind.

*Moreover also a side note about possible future developments: my guess is that they will not hesitate to form a cooperation with anyone who is willing to help them eliminate threatening IS targets near (well this is a relative concept grin ) their borders. Also if they could they would definitely go for connecting the cantons and/or creating a corridor to outside world.If developments go beyond these I think your argument will gain much more validity (at least in my opinion)

Devrim
Apr 6 2015 09:18
Quote:
And you clearly fail to see that Kurdish movement is no fool.

I don't think they are fools. However, I'm deeply confused by their strategy with regards to the June elections. For those who don't know the HDP is standing as a party this time whereas previously they had stood as independents, and formed a party group when they got to parliament. The reason that they stood as independents before was because in Turkey for a party to enter parliament in must get 10% of the national vote (incidentally the highest bar in the world).

They are encouraged by their showing in the presidential elections, and think that this 10% is achievable. Personally, I don't think that it is. I would expect them to get between 8.7 and 9.4%. Of course, I could be completely wrong and they could be right. Even if they are though, the margins will certainly be very tight. If they reach the 10% bar, they will significantly increase their number of seats. If they don't, they will get none.

Speaking to HDP members, and supporters, they seem convinced that they are going to make it. Certainly they are trying to diversify their appeal as widely as possible. However, it does seem like they are gambling on the turn of one card, and I don't think that this card is likely to be a good one.

Devrim

Biffard Misqueegan
Apr 6 2015 09:56

Ejecting stalinism, great.. Rejecting stalinism in favour of some form liberal/social democracy, no thanks. that's not progress and not worthy of praise.

Also the idea that you cannot apply the same robust critique to an organization in syria as you would an organization in france seems incredibly patronizing. this strange "anti-colonialist" perspective treats workers outside the industrialized world like children or less advanced proto-humans - incapable of the advanced political thought and organization of the western left. what an offensive perspective

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 09:49

I am upvoting Devrim, what the world has become grin (just kidding) As I said I do not think they will really lose much, even if they lose the election as it is not their basis of legitimacy. Turkey needs to take them as actors in political game regardless of the result. I think they want to see what they can do with elections: how much vote they can get, can they get support of socialists or others, how effective they can be politically in a possible post-peace Turkey.

And this election as Flint asked to mikail (and mentioned in the article mikail shared), kind of interesting because, if HDP gets 10 percent it would really damage electoral power of AKP. 1)It will steal votes from it 2) It will take significantly more representatives (decreasing AKP) compared to going independent (due to election system apart from the calculation of votes). So mathematics really point to HDP for those contrary to AKP (well, electorally) However we will see whether this help HDP or mistrust of Turkish population (of secret plans) continue. (My prediction is the latter, unfortunately)

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 09:47

Biffard Misqueegan

Quote:
Also the idea that you cannot apply the same robust critique to an organization in iraq as you would an organization in france seems incredibly patronizing.

Iraq? I think you are kind of lost? Who applies what to "an organization in iraq"? Do you wanna critique KDP? Be my guest.

Biffard Misqueegan
Apr 6 2015 09:55

oops no. that's just my cold medication talking

Chilli Sauce
Apr 6 2015 10:29
Quote:
So creating self-managed workplaces is vital, but if they only exist as islands separated from each other, they have zero hope of contesting the power of state and capital.

So, I just wanted to pick up this comment.

Basically, I agree. However, there are a number of issues:

1) By the PKK's own admission, these self-organised workplaces will exist alongside private capital within Rojava. Given the entire history of the co-operative movement, how long do we think these are going to last?

2) Even if they managed to self-manage all of Rojava, it would still be an island of socialism that has "zero hope of contesting the power of state and capital".

I realize that all sounds very defeatist, but I'm trying to make a point about internationalism: by focusing on it's own narrow liberation, Kurdish nationalism can't bring about socialism. And I'm not even opposed to co-ops as such - if capital's fleeing, yeah we should take over our workplaces. I just think when we critically engage with what's happening in Rojava, its supporters shouldn't try to change limitations into virtues, if that makes sense.

Connor Owens
Apr 6 2015 12:09
Quote:
y the PKK's own admission, these self-organised workplaces will exist alongside private capital within Rojava. Given the entire history of the co-operative movement, how long do we think these are going to last

That's not exactly how it works. This is assuming the cooperatives exist in the context of a national market economy and are competing with private capitalist firms. The cooperatives are actually integrated with the popular assemblies into a kind of social economy which insulates them from market competition. The commercial sectors exist as subordinate to the democratic socialised part of the economy, not the other way around, like with cooperatives having to compete with corporations under capitalism.

Quote:
Even if they managed to self-manage all of Rojava, it would still be an island of socialism

Since when are national liberation and international struggle antithetical to one another? If anything, achieving libertarian socialism, even in one country, will act as a global rallying cry to achieve it elsewhere and demonstrate that it is indeed possible in practice.

Though I do agree with your last point that we shouldn't try to turn limitations into virtues. Personally, I'm more on the side of those who are optimistic about what's going on, and as shown in my comments here, I'm critical of those Marxists and Marxo-anarchists who've been attacking it as "bourgeois", "imperialist", or in general not in line with the ultra-economistic class reductionist ideology these people hold to.

But at the same time, there have been those on the optimistic side who haven't been critical enough of the PKK's shadiness, Ocalan's cult of personality, and the structure of the PYD leadership. The non-anarchist Bookchinites at New Compass fit into this category.

Spikymike
Apr 6 2015 12:33

Owen's will find little favour on this site for the proponents of so-called 'national liberation' struggles - there are plenty of other library texts and follow-up discussions on this site dealing with that if Owen's want's to pursue a more general discussion on that theme!

bastarx
Apr 6 2015 13:06
Connor Owens wrote:
Since when are national liberation and international struggle antithetical to one another? If anything, achieving libertarian socialism, even in one country, will act as a global rallying cry to achieve it elsewhere and demonstrate that it is indeed possible in practice

They've been antithetical forever you silly circled-A Trotskyist. Nearly all of the former colonies have been nationally "liberated" and yet capital still rules everywhere.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 6 2015 13:47
Quote:
That's not exactly how it works. This is assuming the cooperatives exist in the context of a national market economy and are competing with private capitalist firms. The cooperatives are actually integrated with the popular assemblies into a kind of social economy which insulates them from market competition.

Except that they will be competing with private capitalist firms both domestically and internationally - despite the proclamations of the PKK or even what they themselves may believe.

Quote:
The commercial sectors exist as subordinate to the democratic socialised part of the economy, not the other way around, like with cooperatives having to compete with corporations under capitalism.

And, again here, I think this belies a pretty deep misunderstanding of capitalism. In any case, I might suggest a case study in Cuba if you believe this is really possible.

Joseph Kay
Apr 6 2015 14:40
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Except that they will be competing with private capitalist firms both domestically and internationally - despite the proclamations of the PKK or even what they themselves may believe.

For the sake of argument, not necessarily. Even if private capital exists alongside municipal co-ops (assuming that's the case), it may not exert much competitive force if the freedom of capitalists is constrained. E.g. price controls to prevent private firms underselling co-ops on pain of a militia visit. That isn't likely to be a stable equilibrium though imho (when you've got an armed force regulating capitalists, my money's on the capitalists to buy themselves the armed force in the medium term).

But this is almost entirely speculative, since supporters and critics alike seem to be operating with scant information, hence this boring 'purist!'/'cheerleader!' polarisation, which is pretty much the same structure of argument over every movement/electoral venture/tactic.

Soapy
Apr 6 2015 15:02

Seems like the US is building up Kurdish forces in the region to simply sail them down the river when they see fit just as they have done so many times before.

From an interview with Chomsky in 2008 about US support for the Kurds in Norther Iraq http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20080217.htm

Quote:
The alliance is, I think, fragile. That should be obvious even from recent history, for example, Kissinger's abandonment of the Kurds to the savagery of Saddam Hussein 30 years ago after having encouraged a revolt against Saddam, or Reagan's support for Saddam's massacre of Kurds a decade later, or Clinton's enormous and decisive support for Turkey's violent and destruction repression of Kurds through the 1990s. At the moment, the relatively autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq is providing support for the US goal of ensuring that Iraq remains a client state and a base for US forces in the region, and that it will privilege US investors, as stated rather brazenly in the Bush-Maliki declaration of November 2007, reiterated by Bush in a "signing statement" in January 2008, in which he asserted that he would reject portions of the congressional legislation he had just signed that interfered with these objectives. But if those services to US power decline or are considered less useful, then the alliance will once again erode.

Just want to point out that it really seems like people care TOO much about getting people in the English speaking world to support the PYD. Is it really that important to convince English speaking left communists that the PYD is a revolutionary force? I can understand if you were talking to people who lived in the region that the PYD operates in, but most people here hail from the US or UK. This seems all too reminiscent to me of the attitudes of the leninists/trotskyists who I spent time with while doing palestine solidarity stuff some years ago. Cheerleading is a great word to describe it because it's akin to rooting for a sports time. Like "yay my armed guerilla group is winning, there is hope!"

Since it seems like Rojavaites simply respond to the statements in posts that are easiest to argue with and conveniently ignore the stronger points I'll repeat it again:

Just want to point out that it really seems like people care TOO much about getting people in the English speaking world to support the PYD. Is it really that important to convince English speaking left communists that the PYD is a revolutionary force? I can understand if you were talking to people who lived in the region that the PYD operates in, but most people here hail from the US or UK.

kurekmurek
Apr 6 2015 15:39

There maybe some people cheerleading in name of Rojava. But there is (at least) another motivation also going on here, you are missing. There was a huge injustice in representation of Kurds in some forums in English language in the beginning (nowadays it is progressively getting better in my opinion). And I think, thanks to some of these interventions the debate actually get better on many points. (though it was a hard process for everyone, admittedly)