Afrin: an internationalist position

Demonstration against the Turkish military operation

Statement from the Anarchist Communist Group from 3 April 2018 on the Turkish military invasion of the Kurdish town of Afrin.

We deplore the invasion of the city of Afrin by the Turkish state and its armed forces. The main reason for this military adventure is Turkish government concerns that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – primarily controlled by Kurdish forces, which include the PYD (Democratic Union Party), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), closely affiliated to the PKK, the Kurdish nationalist party operating within the borders of the Turkish state – have attempted to set up a zone of influence close to Turkey’s borders. Having a Kurdish zone so close by scares the Erdogan regime in Turkey, which dreads the encouragement this would give to the 16 million Kurds living within the borders of Turkey.

For its part, Russia has entered into alliance with Turkey, which represents problems for its client, the Assad regime in Syria. Russian air forces controlled the skies above Afrin, so the capture of this city by the Turkish army is with the tacit approval of Russia.

The Assad regime is concerned about US support for the YPG. The USA has backed the SDF in its attacks on the ISIS jihadists, as well as furthering its interests and influence in the region. It has established ten temporary bases in order to facilitate these aims.

The Assad regime wants to see the withdrawal of all occupation forces in Syria, including those of the Americans and Turks. Russia, who up to now fully supported Assad has established relations with Turkey and wants an end to the war in the region which until recently involved its own intervention in the region with the use of air strikes and the deployment of special forces. The Assad regime is itself concerned about the development of Kurdish enclaves but is aware that the Turkish state wishes not just to destroy those enclaves but to dismantle Syria, with its support for jihadist armed forces.

The USA has supported the Kurdish forces not out of some concern for “democracy” but to use these forces to combat ISIS and to gain access to oil and gas resources. The YPG for their part were happy enough for this support. Now though, the USA is concerned that its alliance with the Turkish state is jeopardised by the Turkish government’s increasingly cordial relations with Russia and this accounts for the US decision to end support for the Kurds.

For us as internationalists our first aim must be to condemn and mobilise against the Turkish invasion and against continued British arming of the Turkish state.

As our comrades in the anarchist communist group in Turkey, Yeryüzü Postası, note:

“We can see that power-holders in different countries are rubbing their hands with glee about the Afrin operation. It is understood that Russia and USA are constructing their plan on dividing Syria in line with their spheres of influence and probably they have agreed on it. As far as we’ve inferred from statements of England, they are willing to take a share from oil reserves and other natural resources – possibly, again, via a partnership between Shell and Koç Holding. France wants to re-establish its activity in the region.”

For its part, the Democratic Self-Administration of the Afrin province, which is the de facto government of the area and controlled by the SDF has actually called on Assad to come to their aid. In other words, support from a murderous regime that they want autonomy from.

As one Kurdish anarchist has remarked,

“I can conclude that in Bakur and Rojava a couple of high-disciplinary and authoritarian political parties, PKK and PYD, are behind building democratic confederalism in both Kurdistan, Bakur and Rojava. It is these parties that are the ones making major decisions, planning and designing the policies, and also setting up diplomatic relationships with other countries and other political parties. It is they who negotiate with their enemies or the states, and make war or peace. Of course, these are very big issues and extremely important as they shape the future destination of the society. However, unfortunately it is the political parties which are making these decisions and not the people in their own assemblies and mass meetings, or through direct action.”

The imperialist powers are as usual taking sides according to what suits their interests and not what is best for the people of the Middle East. As anarchist communists we do not support any faction in an in inter-imperialist war, even if some of them might appear to side with those being attacked by ISIS or by Turkey. We also do not support nationalist political parties who have the goal of establishing new States, no matter how libertarian the rhetoric may be. There may well be examples of self-organising in areas of Rojava but the problem is that they are still ultimately controlled by authoritarian political parties who have made a cult out of their leader Öcalan. It is not a move towards genuine self-organisation if you are able to do it because the great leader has said that this is what you should do. The situation is very complicated and though we must stand in solidarity with all those who are being killed and resisting Turkish forces, Syrian forces, ISIS etc, we do not then support uncritically the nationalist parties such as the YPD which have assumed the leadership of the resistance.

It is the masses of the Afrin province and of Syria, the peasants and workers who suffer from the depredations of all these murderous gangs, whether they be those of the Turkish state, the different jihadi outfits, the USA and Russia, the Hezbollah and Iranian units. It is the masses who suffer displacement, massacre, bombing, mass rape and the destruction of their land and homes. Neither can there be reliance on the Kurdish nationalists who seek time after time to form alliances with different regional and world powers, only to be betrayed on every single occasion. The only answer to the unfolding situation is the development of a strong working class movement against war and against capitalism itself.

Anarchist Communist Group


Apr 4 2018 12:13

The ACG statement says that the first aim must be to "condemn and mobilise against the Turkish invasion and against continued British arming of the Turkish state". That's the "first aim" and this seems to me ambiguous in relation to an internationalist position. The British supply all their allies in the region, not just Turkey, with arms, training and weaponry and well up there is its Kurdish allies who have been armed and trained by the British among others. The British are not doing this because they support a neo-stalinist illusion of "revolution" but because it justifies their own imperialist presence and defence of their interests in the region. In short the British ruling class supports the Kurds like the rope supports the hanged man. The British have supported the Kurds with training, reconnaissance, arms, Tornado jet-fighters, Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and Special Forces. The British have a long history of using and abusing the Kurdish population in Iraq and elsewhere from the RAF dropping poison bombs on it (and other "uncivilised" elements, as Churchill put it) in the 1920's to its support for the gassing of Kurds in Halabja in 1988 by Saddam Hussein. The British will continue to use the Kurdish population and its illusions in nationalism as pawns in its game. To "condemn and mobilise... against continued British arming of the Turkish state" seems to me to underplay and completely underestimate the role played by Britain in the Middle East.

The YP leaflet talks about the profits being made through war and profits are being made here and there. But it's a bottomless pit for capital overall and a complete and irrational drain on the system. Trump today talks about US Middle East involvement over the last 17 years costing the US $7 trillion, which can be added to the estimated $5 trillion and rising cost of the Afghan adventures, plus the costs of interest on these enormous debts. It's not a question of stopping British arms to Turkey but of the complete bankruptcy and irrationality of capitalism and its descent into full-blown imperialism.

Apr 4 2018 13:45

A pretty good statement from the ACG but the phraseology of '' For us as internationalists our first aim....'' especially without even a qualifying 'based in the UK' is, as baboon suggests 'ambiguous', though at any given moment in time groups do have to choose some level of priority in their activity as would for instance internationalists in Turkey just now. Opposing both, or all sides, in such wars is in principle correct and should be reflected in political statements, but practical action aimed at being effective in some way may be obliged to prioritise it's target.
PS: see also the Afrin related statement from Fred Corvo and short discussion on this site.

Apr 4 2018 16:40

What are the key differences between the invasion of Kobane and of Afrin, that lead to members supporting a statement regarding the condemnation of the latter, but being (with previous hats on) opposed to any statement on the former?

R Totale
Apr 4 2018 17:48

Will you be doing this as a leaflet (I'm crap at working these things out, but guess it might just about fit on double-sided A5, depending on font size) to distribute at demos IRL?

Serge Forward
Apr 4 2018 21:40

Aye it could well be used as a leaflet R Totale. Ether, I think you've misremembered. I don't recall us being opposed to any statement.

Apr 5 2018 00:53

To be more precise it was argued at a meeting (that you wern't present at serge, and to which the minutes are rather sparse) by a now ACG member that anarchists shouldn't involve themselves in supporting or opposing any side in a non-anarchist/non revolutionary conflict, which they viewed the conflict in Rojava as (seeing the Kurdish struggle as a top down national liberation struggle). Whilst they recognised opposition to war in all cases, and to states and reactionary forces killing civilians, they saw no need for an anarchist intervention either in force on the ground or in theory to oppose or support a particular side.

They stated that since Kobane had been under threat for a period of time it was likely empty of all besides fighters of the PYD/PKK to whom he held no allegiance. The minutes indicate they described anarchists joining in with the Kurdish struggle (then against Turkey and ISIS, now against Turkey and ex-ISIS militas) as 'poor actions'.

So, what has changed? Is it now the case that they (and since this is an agreed statement the rest of the ACG) view the Kurdish struggle as more than national liberation? Or do they now believe anarchists should make statements opposing one side in any war where they view one side as better and another as worse, even if neither are viewed as revolutionary? Will there be similar statements each time a military conflict arises, or is there something distinct about Afrin (but not Kobane)?

Genuinely confused as to what has changed. Or is it simply more careful wording when it comes to condemnation of the only force currently resisting the invasion which is itself being condemned? If so it sort of reads like a non statement, with a gist of 'war is bad, states are bad, one side in this conflict is not as bad but not particularly worthy of support either so as anarchists we should uh, um...'.

Apr 5 2018 12:20

It seems 'dark_ether' wishes to continue the recent internal dispute between different parts of the UK Anarchist Federation on the back of this recent ACG statement (and could alternatively pursue that on the older thread) but I suspect others not so familiar with that might struggle to disentangle the finer points of that here. If you look further back into the history of AF articles and statements on the Syrian conflict you will find a number of different statements, with varying emphasis, that have struggled to express a consistent line that maintains a balance between opposition to states and nation building whilst supporting the day-to-day struggle of people to survive in the midst of inter-imperialist war. It's not easy and all of the statements could be criticised in some respects.

Serge Forward
Apr 5 2018 12:48

I'm glad you said that, Mike, as I still wasn't quite sure what Ether was getting at. Anyway, I've sent a message to others in the ACG and if they come back with anything to clarify, I'll post it here.... but I suspect they may be as perplexed as I am, so don't hold yer collective breath.

Apr 5 2018 15:30


Afrin : Une Position Internationaliste – Déclaration de l’ACG

Nous déplorons l’invasion de la ville d’Afrin par l’Etat turc et ses forces armées. La principale raison de cette aventure militaire est que le gouvernement turc soit préoccupé par le fait que les Forces Démocratiques Syriennes (FDS) – principalement contrôlées par des forces kurdes comprenant le PYD (Parti de l’Union Démocratique), les Unités de Protection du Peuple kurde (YPG) et les Unités de Protection des Femmes (YPJ), étroitement liées au PKK, le parti nationaliste kurde opérant à l’intérieur des frontières de l’Etat turc – ait tenté de créer une zone d’influence proche des frontières de la Turquie. Avoir une zone kurde si proche fait peur au régime d’Erdogan en Turquie, qui redoute les encouragements que cela donnerait aux 16 millions de Kurdes vivant à l’intérieur des frontières de la Turquie.

Pour sa part, la Russie a conclu une alliance avec la Turquie, ce qui représente des problèmes pour son satellite, le régime d’Assad en Syrie. Les forces aériennes russes contrôlaient l’espace aérien au-dessus d’Afrin, ce qui signifie que la capture de cette ville par l’armée turque n’a pu se faire qu’avec l’approbation tacite de la Russie.

Le régime d’Assad est préoccupé par le soutien américain aux YPG. Les Etats-Unis ont soutenu les FDS dans ses attaques contre les djihadistes de l’EIIL, tout en renforçant leurs intérêts et leur influence dans la région. Ils ont établi dix bases temporaires afin de faciliter ces objectifs.

Le régime d’Assad veut voir le retrait de toutes les forces d’occupation en Syrie, y compris celles des Américains et des Turcs. La Russie, qui jusqu’à présent a pleinement soutenu Assad, a établi des relations avec la Turquie et souhaite la fin de la guerre dans la région qui, jusqu’à récemment, impliquait sa propre intervention dans la région avec des frappes aériennes et le déploiement de forces spéciales. Le régime d’Assad est lui-même préoccupé par le développement des enclaves kurdes mais il est conscient que l’Etat turc ne souhaite pas seulement détruire ces enclaves mais démanteler la Syrie, avec son soutien aux forces armées djihadistes.

Les Etats-Unis ont soutenu les forces kurdes non pas par souci de « démocratie », mais afin d’utiliser ces forces pour combattre l’EIIL et d’accéder aux ressources pétrolières et gazières. Les YPG, quant à eux, étaient assez heureux de ce soutien. Cependant, les Etats-Unis craignent que leur alliance avec l’Etat turc ne soit compromise par les relations de plus en plus cordiales entre le gouvernement turc et la Russie, ce qui explique la décision des Etats-Unis de mettre fin au soutien aux Kurdes.

Pour nous, en tant qu’internationalistes, notre premier objectif doit être de condamner et de mobiliser contre l’invasion turque et contre la poursuite des livraisons d’armes britanniques à l’Etat turc.

Comme nos camarades du groupe communiste anarchiste en Turquie, Yeryüzü Postası, le notent :

« Nous pouvons voir que les détenteurs de pouvoir dans différents pays se frottent les mains en jubilant à propos de l’opération Afrin. Il est entendu que la Russie et les Etats-Unis sont en train de construire leur plan de division de la Syrie en fonction de leurs sphères d’influence et ils se sont probablement mis d’accord à ce sujet. Pour ce qu’on peut en déduire des déclarations de l’Angleterre, ils sont prêts à prendre une part des réserves de pétrole et d’autres ressources naturelles – peut-être, encore une fois, grâce à un partenariat entre Shell et Koç Holding. La France veut rétablir son activité dans la région. »

Pour sa part, l’auto-administration démocratique de la province d’Afrin, qui est le gouvernement de facto de la région et contrôlé par les FDS, a demandé à Assad de leur venir en aide. En d’autres termes, le soutien d’un régime meurtrier dont ils veulent s’autonomiser.

Comme l’a remarqué un anarchiste kurde,

« Je peux conclure qu’au Bakur et au Rojava, deux partis politiques fortement disciplinés et autoritaires, le PKK et le PYD, sont à l’origine de la construction du confédéralisme démocratique dans deux parties du Kurdistan, le Bakur et le Rojava. Ce sont ces partis qui prennent les décisions les plus importantes, qui planifient et conçoivent les politiques, et qui établissent aussi des relations diplomatiques avec d’autres pays et d’autres partis politiques. Ce sont eux qui négocient avec leurs ennemis ou les Etats, et font la guerre ou la paix. Bien sûr, ce sont de très gros problèmes et extrêmement importants car ils façonnent la destination future de la société. Cependant, ce sont malheureusement les partis politiques qui prennent ces décisions et non les gens dans leurs propres assemblées et réunions de masse, ou par l’action directe. »

Comme d’habitude, les puissances impérialistes prennent parti en fonction de ce qui convient à leurs intérêts et non de ce qui est le meilleur pour les gens au Moyen-Orient. En tant que communistes anarchistes, nous ne soutenons aucune faction dans une guerre inter-impérialiste, même si certaines d’entre elles semblent se ranger du côté de ceux qui sont attaqués par l’Etat islamique ou par la Turquie. Nous ne soutenons pas non plus les partis politiques nationalistes qui ont pour but d’établir de nouveaux Etats, peu importe à quel point la rhétorique peut être libertaire. Il peut bien y avoir des exemples d’auto-organisation dans des zones du Rojava mais le problème, c’est qu’ils sont toujours contrôlés en fin de compte par des partis politiques autoritaires qui ont voué un culte à leur chef Öcalan. Ce n’est pas un mouvement vers une véritable auto-organisation si vous êtes capable de le faire parce que le grand leader a dit que c’est ce que vous devriez faire. La situation est très compliquée et bien que nous soyons solidaires avec tous ceux qui sont tués et qui résistent aux forces turques, aux forces syriennes, à Daech, etc., nous ne soutenons pas pour autant sans réserves les partis nationalistes tels que le PYD qui a assumé la direction de la résistance.

Ce sont les masses de la province d’Afrin et de Syrie, les paysans et les ouvriers qui souffrent des déprédations de tous ces gangs meurtriers, que ce soient ceux de l’Etat turc, des différents groupes djihadistes, des USA et de la Russie, du Hezbollah et des unités iraniennes. Ce sont les masses qui subissent les déplacements, les massacres, les bombardements, les viols de masse et la destruction de leurs terres et de leurs maisons. On ne peut pas non plus compter sur les nationalistes kurdes qui cherchent à maintes reprises à former des alliances avec différentes puissances régionales et mondiales, pour être finalement trahis à chaque fois et sans exception. La seule réponse à cette situation, c’est le développement d’un puissant mouvement ouvrier contre la guerre et contre le capitalisme lui-même.

Source en anglais :

Traduction française : BLESK

Apr 5 2018 19:44

Thanks for the translation Blesk.
I've taken the liberty of re-posting it on the ACG (Surrey) blog: Surrey Anarchist Communists

Serge Forward
Apr 5 2018 19:14

Aye, much appreciated.

Apr 5 2018 20:47

admin: moved to library. In future please post texts like this to the library, rather than the forums

Serge Forward
Apr 6 2018 14:13

It's also now in the new 'other languages' section on the main ACG website.