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 (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 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,, 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.


(1), 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

Apr 4 2015 21:25


Attached files


Red Marriott
Apr 12 2015 18:41

The intolerance of opposing views by pro-Rojavans often found here and eslewhere and the arrogance with which it’s often been expressed here (Flint honourably excepted) is certainly worthy of mention. Ed said earlier;

But the way pro-Rojava people seem to deal with ANY criticism/reservations makes me think that Rojava supporters are WAY more pathalogical than 'we' apparently have been..

I’ll speculate that this symptom is based partly on the fear that there is some truth to the critiques that so enrage pro-Rojavans. Those who have invested so much so publicly in their position are perhaps becoming aware of the evidence accumulating of accommodation to and positioning within global capital by PKK (obliged to acknowledge this largely due to their critics, it seems); so their excuses for such compromise become both more necessary and more uncomfortable. As all this becomes more blatant and indefensible the shrill indignation will become quieter and quieter and eventually fade to a deafening silence in which you will hear the absence of any reflection on their errors.

If the ‘revolution’ was to follow PKK/Tev-Dem official policy, then what? ... There’ll be an island and beacon of ‘libertarian communism’ in Rojava complete with foreign investment, private capital (regulated of course by councils/co-ops), military protection supplied by Western allies, oil reserves traded on the global market to fund this ‘communism’ and to buy arms from military allies? Strikes by oil workers termed anti-social & counter-revolutionary? All administrated by the hierarchy of PKK ministers & bureaucrats and their close diplomatic links with global capital (arguably that scenario is already emerging)? With statues of Ocalan and Bookchin in the squares of every municipalised village.

Again, I’ll say that the reduction of visions of the radical abolition of class society and of our liberation from capitalism to such things as, eg, the pro-market economic vision of PKK policy – particularly when peddled by ‘anarchists’ as has already happened in some quarters – is only one more obstacle added to the task of any genuine radical challenge to existing conditions.

Flint, comment, p.7 Apr 9;

That particular document is what Tev-Dem is laying out to the rest of Syria what their requirements for peace would be, not their full platform for social organization in Rojava.

That is surely your generous/partisan assumption; the doc is not presented like that. But anyway the two are not necessarily incompatible – one could have operational local democracy in a region with some autonomy that is under the umbrella of what they call the “mother state”. Nor is the democratic form always incompatible with a capitalist economy. The programme in the doc is anyway similar to earlier Tev-Dem docs and in line with what Ocalan & co and Rojavan ‘economic ministers’ etc have been saying for years now in entirely different contexts (as the De Jong article shows).

The prospects for future social conditions & organisation in Rojava surely can’t be abstracted from the question of what kind of central authority/state-like body will define Rojava’s legal, military, juridical, economic etc status in a world of nation states it must have relationships with. Yet Rojava supporters often seem to want to treat the democracy on the ground as unrelated or autonomous from these questions. Or to treat these PKK social democratic plans as not at all contradictory to their claims of an anti-state revolution - or maybe as part of a good old-fashioned ‘transitional programme’ towards that?

If they can support a movement with such an official program then another question arises; are we also to believe that the Rojavans themselves involved in the democratic experiments – who’re claimed by supporters as proof of an anti-state, anti-capitalist revolution - also see no contradiction between the pro-market policies and their co-ops, communes/cantons etc? If so, how ‘anti-capitalist’ can that movement or ‘revolution’ really be? We might also ask how much would that official policy be debated rather than just received from on high by the rank’n’file?

I quoted it earlier to point out that they aren't trying to create a Kurdish nation-state but want a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. Because people keep claiming they have the same nationalist ideology the had back in the day and hadn't changed their perspective. They have.

I’m not sure that’s quite what people are saying – eg, saying they’re still in some way nationalist isn’t to necessarily deny they’ve changed their policy somewhat. As I’ve said, they appear to have revised their ideology from independent statehood to negotiating for a regional autonomy sheltering under a national statehood of the big brother state. But that’s not how their supporters generally describe their position on the state question; the PKK ‘change of perspective’ they regularly say is “anti-state” (with references to Spain 36 etc) – while, according to PKK themselves in various official statements, it isn’t really.

Apr 12 2015 21:33

First, US bombs. Now, US advisers? Where have we all seen this before?

n the volatile front lines facing the so-called Islamic State outside the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, American military personnel have been coordinating with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), according to a local commander from the left-wing guerrilla group that is still on the U.S. State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Ageed Kalary commands a unit of about 30 PKK fighters positioned some 500 meters from the front. He claims that he has met with U.S. military personnel accompanying commanders from Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government, whose soldiers are known as the Peshmerga, and which has strong, open American support. The last direct encounter, he said, was in December. But the coordination does not have to be face to face.

“The Americans tell us what they need and share information but there is no formal agreement,” he says about the U.S. military’s interaction with a group that earned its “terrorist” label for the tactics it employed in its 29-year armed struggle against Turkish rule.

The PKK’s dug-out fortifications on the flats of the Little Zab River are shared with a Kurdish unit of the Iraqi army and all are in the line of fire for snipers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The winding front is reinforced by a mix of Kurdish Peshmerga units, PKK, Kurds equipped by the Iraqi army and Shia militias, while the U.S. provides logistical support and airstrikes to keep most of northern Iraq’s richest oil region from the clutches of the jihadists.

I know, this is about Iraq, not Rojava. But it is US cooperation with the PKK, well-connected with the PYD and ideologiocally similar, to say the least. I would think it adds to the evidence of xcloser and closer cooperation by the PKK/PYD complex on the one hand, and the US on the other.

Apr 12 2015 22:50
rooieravotr wrote:
First, US bombs. Now, US advisers? Where have we all seen this before?

Except, the article doesn't say that. The Daily Beast chose a provocative headline.

The PKK has worked with the KRG peshmerga. The U.S. has supported the KRG peshmerga (though to a less extent than it has supported the Iraqi army).

If you think the PKK and the KDP are going to become the best of friends, there is a bridge across the Euphrates I'd like to sell you.

Apr 12 2015 23:32
If you think the PKK and the KDP are going to become the best of friends

I am not thinking such a thing, though funnier friendship have broken out. But I was not talking about friendship, I was talking about cooperation, in this case PKK/ Peshmerga/ US cooperation. There is no need to point out that there is no friendship involved. But the hostility between the PKK and related groups, and the US, seems to be diminishing while cooperation goes on. Both the PKK leadership and the US leadership are practical people who won't let principles and emotions stand in the way of a useful alliance.

Apr 13 2015 01:23

If only US Advisers were attached to US bombs....

Apr 13 2015 06:31
rooieravotr wrote:
If you think the PKK and the KDP are going to become the best of friends

I am not thinking such a thing, though funnier friendship have broken out. But I was not talking about friendship, I was talking about cooperation, in this case PKK/ Peshmerga/ US cooperation. There is no need to point out that there is no friendship involved. But the hostility between the PKK and related groups, and the US, seems to be diminishing while cooperation goes on. Both the PKK leadership and the US leadership are practical people who won't let principles and emotions stand in the way of a useful alliance.

Really, don't trust the Daily Beast.

There are better descriptions of the situation.

Also, the KDP just moved to suppress the HPS militia in Sengal (Sinjar). It probably would have repressed or atleast disinivited the HPG, but they don't have the strength to repress the HPG while actively fighting Daesh.

I know it fits some folks narrative to find a growing alliance between the PKK and the U.S., but regardless of our own politics--I just don't think that's a very objective way to see the current relationship. Nor is improvement of that relationship likely. As soon as the KDP and PKK come into conflict, the U.S. will back the KDP.

Apr 13 2015 08:05

Good post Red Marriott, good post.

Jun 4 2015 23:46

The problem is that there is an eternal "either/or" in these discussions which are not at all helpful to grasp the contradictions bound in up the Syrian Revolution--or what's left of it. So far as I could tell, international anarchism was fairly mum (with the crucial exception of Darth Nader) pre-Rojava and had nothing to say when the PYD was attempting to throw cold water on the younger Kurdish protesters who joined their Arab brethren to denounce and agitate against the Baathists in Hasake and Qamishlo. As we all know, the PYD is an affiliate of the PKK. Now, Öcalan's affinity towards petit-bourgeois Bookchinite anarchism has been discovered, and lo and behold--an anarchist revolution in the making!

This wretched tailism that is so common among anarchists is astounding. And yet there is now a battle going on which has become so polarizing among anarchists and the ultra-left that the entire issue has been obscured as black and white.

The problem is, like any revolution, there are nuances and any materialist (Marxist) analysis worth its salt must intervene in this debate and figure out who is worthy of defending and who isn't.

I can say without any reservation that Rojava, with all of its degenerate Stalinists running the show, must be defended. They must be defended, and I say because one must recognize the progressive features of Rojava that are head-over-heals better than living under chauvinisic Arab "socialism". Anyone who has done even the most minimal of historical investigations on Kurdistan, especially in Syria, knows that this is an improvement. Gender dynamics, voting, greater imput on self-organization, self-rule, and so on. The question, however, isn't "either/or" and that's it--the question is one of strategy. What are the limits of the PYD ideologically? What are the material constraints of Rojava? The balance of class forces? And so on.

It is clear that as degenerated Stalinists, they will shift their guise to whomever will give them material support--to the point of asking the USAF to bomb their enemies. Their representatives will stump before the world's leading imperialist power to convince them they are the true democratic will in the Middle East today--and should be recognized as such.

This is their opportunism in front of the imperialists.

Their maneuvering on the ground reflects a class-collaborationist approach with their talk of collective management of industry and so forth. They are not asking for national liberation, and not even autonomy, but semi-autonomy. What does this mean if and when the Civil War comes to an end, and the PYD leadership is asked to contribute to the reconstruction of the Syrian economy and state? There are no unions, only cooperatives. This means that the workers of Rojava will be at the mercy of Kurdish bosses, who are in turn at the mercy of their Syrian Arab masters in Damascus.

Permanent Revolution as a strategy understood by Marx and advocated by Trotsky understands the limits of such schemes and attempts to point for ways in which the class can exercise its power, delineating the "traps" which are being laid or will be laid by bourgeois forces. I for one stand for the workers in all of Syria to exert class independence, while still fighting the imperialists and defending whatever gains they have recovered--in addition to never ceasing the class struggle against the bosses in Rojava.

Oct 19 2015 11:06

Given the time and space given over to Janet Biehl , 'Social Ecology', and the claimed 'Rojava Revolution' at the forthcomming London Anarchist Bookfair and the ever increasing complexity of regional and international imperialist interventions in the Middle East most recently, this particular discussion thread, despite the friction between some of the participants, does provide some useful insights worth another look in terms of the wider context of events.
This background text is also worth another look;

Oct 21 2015 09:48

This older thread still relevant given other argumeents around.

Oct 21 2015 10:37

Should I go and revitalize the text that is response to this as being still relevant. Or maybe we should cut the crap and turn this into who writes more texts is right kind of debate (that is anti-war's favorite game)

Feb 13 2016 02:47

Needed somewhere to dump this:

Gepetto wrote:
Kurdish nationalists are proxy of US imperialism whether you like it or not.

I was talking about those inhabitants of Kobane who evaluated their options between fleeing to refugee camps in Turkey or the new "Mediterranean passage" to Europe and those who decided to risk their lives instead of staying where they were put.

Gepetto wrote:
In Rojava there are hardly any proletarians, it was always an economically underdeveloped region and after devastation caused by the civil war it reverted to petty commodity production and population was largely lumpenised. The movement here is petty bourgeois in its social composition.

You've been there then? I have to say I've only been to Suruc. We did try to saunter across the border as musicians on tour, but we got pulled up. From sight Kobane (even in it's ruined state) was slightly bigger than Suruc, although they were both fairly backwater provincial towns in that fairly blocky cement, pillar and deck construction you get throughout the smalltown Middle East*. Suruc was full of shopkeepers, restauranteurs, taxi drivers, schools, local municipality, etc, etc, etc. Even in rural areas there are a lot of non-agricultural wage workers. You are correct that the Putilov Factory Works was not there (although there was a big concrete factory just outside town - on the Suruc side). But most people in towns are not sleeping there to get up in the morning and prepare for the drive to the fields to tend crops. Kobane may be a town in one of the richest wheat-growing areas in the region, but it is not a village.

But enough casting of bivalve offal before porcines. The issue here is praxis - the instrumental use of theory as a guide to practice. Please enlighten us as to your advice to a Kurdish townsperson in Kobane at the time of the onset of the siege - run away or fight? And why?

* or West Asian, or whatever. Colonial geography vs tradeoff with familiarity of signifiers

Feb 16 2016 15:37

Can we now say though that in the current battle lines in northern Syria in the more recent context of the Russian and Turkish military involvement that the Kurdish lead PYD/YPG is chancing it's arm with a fragile and potentially short lived balancing of it's alliance with both the USA and Russian states - is it not more obviously now in practice a proxy for one or the other's ambitions??

Feb 16 2016 17:26
Spikymike wrote:
Can we now say though that in the current battle lines in northern Syria in the more recent context of the Russian and Turkish military involvement that the Kurdish lead PYD/YPG is chancing it's arm with a fragile and potentially short lived balancing of it's alliance with both the USA and Russian states - is it not more obviously now in practice a proxy for one or the other's ambitions??

Um... if the PYD/YPG is balancing its short term alliances with either USA and Russia, doesn't that sort of imply that they aren't actually proxies but have their own agenda that only temporarily sometimes corresponds with other states. Proxies usually don't have any sort of autonomy where they get to chose which way the pivot in international relationships. Hell, most nation-states don't have the flexibility to be on the good side of both U.S. and Russia.

A better understanding of the situation in Northern Aleppo is that the SDF/YPG/JAT is able to convince FSA elements to join up and convince the more Salafi Jihadist groups to flee.

Attention should be paid to what happens in Ahras in regards to near term relationships between SDF and SAA.

Feb 17 2016 11:00

Yes but in an effort by the 'weaker' proto-state to gain advantage from the stronger established states who is calling the shots and who in the longer run will gain the most? I'm all for a better understanding of what is happening both 'on the ground' and 'in the background' in Northern Aleppo and it's surrounds. Our very imperfect news media suggests significant friction if not outright military confrontation between the YPG lead alliance and the remaining FSA in the area?

Feb 18 2016 11:51

And since it seems Janet Biehl is to have, following London, another expenses paid session at the Dublin Anarchist book to promote her brand of 'Social Ecology' on the back of the Rojava experiment this sometimes heated discussion thread is still worthy of a re-read.

Feb 18 2016 14:39
Spikymike wrote:
And since it seems Janet Biehl is to have, following London, another expenses paid session at the Dublin Anarchist book to promote her brand of 'Social Ecology' on the back of the Rojava experiment this sometimes heated discussion thread is still worthy of a re-read.

She'll be speaking in Baltimore soon at Hopkins. You have any questions you'd like me to ask her?

She had a very public break with "Social Ecology" in favor of "Social Democracy". That was before the Syrian civil war, though. The events around Rojava (and Bakur) do seem to have inspired her.

Feb 18 2016 16:47

Yes I forgot that it was claimed that she had moved to a more mainstream Social Democracy as mentioned elsewhere on this site back in 2011/12 but is she not also associated with the 'New Compass' site and it's incorporation of a version of 'social ecology' ?

Feb 18 2016 17:24
Spikymike wrote:
Yes I forgot that it was claimed that she had moved to a more mainstream Social Democracy as mentioned elsewhere on this site back in 2011/12 but is she not also associated with the 'New Compass' site and it's incorporation of a version of 'social ecology' ?

I don't know the inner workings of New Compass. They list her books are in their books and they often run interviews and articles by her.

From what I've read, she has found the situation in Rojava rather inspiring. So, I wouldn't be surprised if she has thought revolution a bit more possible than when she penned her rejection of Social Ecology for Social Democracy (to defend Social Security in electoral politics).

Are you making an argument about her politics or just labeling? She has been supporting Rojava and the PYD. She was supportive of the movement in Bakur as per her translation of TATORT's Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan.

Anyway, I should be seeing her on March 4th if you've got any questions you'd like me to ask.

Feb 18 2016 17:49
Spikymike wrote:
Our very imperfect news media suggests significant friction if not outright military confrontation between the YPG lead alliance and the remaining FSA in the area?

It might be better understood as a conflict in the nothern Aleppo area is between FSA elements between the polls of YPG on one side and Salafi Jihadhists on the other.

A lot of the fighting has been between Jaysh al-Thuwar (JAT) and Jabhat al-Nusra and their allies. Jaysh al-Thuwar was independent of YPG and part of the FSA. One of its components is Jabhat al-Krad. In Northern Aleppo in particularly JAT had a lot of Jabhat al-Krad. The northern Aleppo area was the base of operations for Jabhat al-Krad. Before the rise of ISIS, Jabhat al-Krad controlled much of the area between Afrin and Kobane; particularly the Al-Shahba reservoir area and the Kurdish villages there.

The newly formed Syrian Democratic Assembly includes an Al-Shahba Regional Assembly representative.

Rumor has it that Jabhat al-Krad was setup by the PYD specifically to participate in the Free Syrian Army. Also, that some FSA elements tried to force out Jabhat al-Krad because of alleged ties to YPG. Ofcourse, many other FSA groups got pushed that way to... including Jaysh al-Thuwar, what became Quwat al-Sendadid and eventually even Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa.

Outside of those groups, many of the FSA groups in northern Aleppo were seen as sympathetic with Islamic front groups. Or atleast willing to tolerate them. For example, Northern Storm around A'zaz is able to work with Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) in terms of governing A'zaz. Nothern Storm acts as the local police and also controls the border crossing to Turkey, which reaps them considerable money. JAN maintains a presence in A'zaz and influence over the Sharia court there, which Northern Storm is obliged to use.

The Mare Operations Room repeatedly came into conflict with YPG, JAT and Jabhat al-Krad. The Mare Operations room includes Levant Front (an islamist grouping) and probably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham. It also includes Falcons of Mount Zawiya Brigade, which is a US-backed FSA group that has received TOW missles from the U.S.

There was a TOW missile attack recently against an SDF vehicle on the road between Tell Rifaat - Ain Daqnah. So, this likely either came from the Mare Operations Room or some other way by which a group like al-Nusra acquired a TOW and training to use it. the YPG has never received TOW missiles because Turkey wouldn't like that.

Jaysh al-Thuwar, Jabhat al-Krad, Falcons of Mount Zawiya Brigade and the Mare Operations Room all fly the green flag of the FSA. The FSA isn't a coherent body.

I can't say who will gain the most in the long run, I'm not a fortune teller.

But I would shy away from using a term like "proxy" for the YPG when its clearly a group that has its own clearly defined agenda. There are definitely proxies involved in this conflict, like the Sultan Murad Brigade for Turkey.

Feb 19 2016 13:24

News is that a major redeployment of several hundred ' Syrian rebels' escorted and armed by Turkish 'forces' have moved through Turkey from Idlib governorate via the Levant Front controlled crossing to Azaz to resist the YPG advance. It is claimed these do not include ''the hard-line Nusra front or other jihadist groups'' but from Flints more detailed summary that doesn't say much. In other ways it is clear that the Syrian Civil war is rapidly advancing within Turkey's border.

Feb 19 2016 17:15

Two reports yesterday, Ch. 4 News and Press TV said that a 2000-strong militia was being escorted across the border by the Turkish army into Syria. It may be more of the Turkmen militia that the Turks have been using and Russia has been pounding these last weeks. There were also a couple of reports that the Turkish military do not want to invade Syria with ground troops unless there is a UN resolution to this effect (ie, it's led by the US). The reluctance of the Turkish high command and a certain tension that it implies between it and Erdogan may put a different light on the Ankara bombing.

All the proto-states and states involved in the national liberation struggles of the 60's, 70.s and 80's on the military chessboard had their own agenda. It didn't stop them being part of that whole imperialist framework - on the contrary it immediately sucked them into it. Different circumstances today but the framework for imperialism remains exactly the same and the Kurdish factions fit right into it with their involvement in imperialist war, their nationalism, their manipulation by the larger powers and their ethnic cleansing.

Feb 19 2016 17:49
baboon wrote:
their ethnic cleansing.

You took a bridge too far. Not even Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International claims that the PYD is engaged in ethnic cleansing. What Amnesty International did criticize as a war crime was temporarily displacement, destruction of two villages and destruction of some houses of folks accused of being ISIS sympathizers by politics or familial relation.

Syriacs and Arabs are increasingly integrated within the structures of TEV-DEM, YPG, HXP, QSD and MSD.

If you want to say that everyone engaged in the Syrian Civil War are imperialists/pawns of imperialists/etc... fine. That's your political analysis (but its such a broad brush I wonder how its useful for understanding the world). A "proxy" however has a more precise meaning. The PYD can't simultaneously be the "proxy" of Russia and the United States--pick one!

Feb 20 2016 12:33

Take your point about careless application of the 'proxy' terminology (not used here by baboon though) but these movements towards 'autonomy' within existing states or attempts to establish new nation states, whether purely ethnically based or on a more secular democratic basis have no hope of any genuine independence without compromise/ alliance/protection of the stronger imperial forces at the regional and global level, quite apart from the undermining influences of global economic competition in to-days world.

Feb 21 2016 17:11

Also being discussed to some extent under the 'Future of the Kurds' thread on this site with some different speculative opinions.

Apr 27 2016 11:16

Discussing the Kurdish issue, meny Western leftists and anarchists fall into the trap created by their own invented false sense of guilt before the peoples of non-Western countries. Instead of discussing it turns to "mimimimi". In contrast, the text is interesting. I agree 90% with what the author writes. But there are some additions.

It is here
Unfortunately the censor Juan Conatz shut down the discussion there. This is not the first manifestation of censorship on the site.

Apr 27 2016 14:42

Meerov, that's not censorship, but sensible adminning. There must be literally a dozen threads on the Kurdish movement covering exactly what you posted. Post to one of those threads, better yet read them.

Apr 28 2016 13:18

I wrote a separate text and not a comment to this article. In my text I compare the PKK with the movement, the study of which I do professionally - with the party of socialist-revolutionaries. You close my mouth without reason.

You give some people the right to open new articles on the subject, and won't let me do it. Exactly the same thing happened with the discussing of Ukraine. Few people realize the censorship on this site, and several other seek the favor of the censors.

That there is censorship already written by different people. But you are also afraid to admit it.

Apr 28 2016 15:11

You do realize that what you wrote is still up. The threads were just closed. And you've started plenty of threads so your complaints are a bit hollow.

Jul 14 2016 12:28

"Becoming refugees that abandon their land is wrong."
PKK Executive Committee Member Duran Kalkan made important evaluations for MED NUÇE regarding the current political developments in Turkey and Kurdistan. I don't give reviews. I think this text speaks for itself. What do the supporters of No Borders think and do they agree ?

At this point, does the PKK have an alternative for Syrian refugees? How does the PKK evaluate the situation, and what solution proposal does it have?
First let me say this, we will not accept the AKP’s plan to change the demographics of Kurdistan. Everyone should know that AKP cannot settle in Kurdistan, Kurdistan is not alone. We will struggle against this. They are trying to pit Kurds against other peoples, nobody should fall into this trap. This is dangerous. We are not a movement that is bothered by peoples’ coexistence, we defend Democratic Confederalizm and Democratic Nation.
Kurds have coexisted with other people throughout history. They have not fought any people. The PKK says ‘yes’ to peoples’ coexistence, but will resist the destruction of Kurdish people’s lands and the construction of buildings for people other than the Kurds. Nobody will turn a blind eye to this, and we will resist. No social group should be a part of their plan, but they can establish relations with the Kurds. Kurdish people will then support them and share their food with them.
To the Syrian refugees in Turkey, I say that there is a war in Syria and the AKP attacked the Syrian regime and peoples in Syria in many different ways. Now it is said that Esad spoke to Erdoğan. Syrian society has been crushed and insulted, we see and understand this. But they should be mobilized, becoming refugees that abandon their land is wrong.
They should avoid being a part of AKP’s policies. Yes, they need to defend themselves in the face of attacks. But they should not allow the AKP to use and enslave them.