– Kobane: While desperate people grasp at straws, others who know better are applauding
– The criminal attacks of Daesh against Kobane and the worries and hopes of the war in Rojava
(AWTWNS 13 October 2014)

This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 13 October 2014 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.

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Kobane: While desperate people grasp at straws, others who know better are applauding
– The criminal attacks of Daesh against Kobane and the worries and hopes of the war in Rojava


Kobane: While desperate people grasp at straws, others who know better are applauding

13 October 2014. A World to Win News Service. Countless people throughout the Middle East and the world have been inspired and even called back to life by the selfless, death-defying determination of Kurdish men and women to halt Islamic fundamentalism. The battle for Kobane is one that Daesh (also known as the Islamic State or ISIL) needs to win not only because of the area’s location in terms of the strategic axes along which its troops are moving, but for compelling political and ideological reasons as well. The peoples of the Middle East have sorely needed the Kurds’ uprising against Islamism, an ideology that justifies and consolidates oppression on many levels, including national oppression and the oppression of women.

But the Kurds are under fire from many quarters, and everything depends on what they understand about who are their friends and who are their enemies. The U.S. and Turkey want to use the Kurdish struggle for their own, sometimes conflicting interests, and they are willing to see Kurds massacred if that suits their strategic goals – as they have so many times before. At the same time, despite all that is so positive about the just fight against Daesh in Western Kurdistan, it has not pointed to a way out of the tragedy being played out in the Middle East and more broadly: the fatally erroneous conviction that in today’s world one must take sides, and indeed serve, either the reactionary order Islamists wish to impose or the unacceptable order the Western imperialists and their friends seek to defend.

The current politics and outlook of the Kurdish leadership, which has deep influence among the Kurdish people and their friends, is that only cooperation with the U.S. can save them. They think that by going along with the U.S. and its project for the region, they can play off their enemies against each other. But what they see as an opportunity is a trap, and Kurds will pay for it with their lives if they fall into it.

Clearly the Erdogan regime has a plan. It may be that he and the class forces he represents would like to continue using the “Kurdish card” against their rivals and enemies, to use Kurdish support to boost their fortunes against others within the Turkish ruling classes and in their contention with the U.S. to become the dominant regional power even while accepting overall U.S. supremacy. But for this regime the Kurds can’t be accepted as “friends” unless first they get a good beating to show whose interests this “friendship” is going to serve.

The PKK in Turkey and its affiliate PYD leading Kurds in Syria seem to believe that right now Turkey and the U.S. need their military strength to defeat Daesh, and that therefore Kurds can use this situation to make these reactionaries help them. Hugh Pope of the International Crisis Group, whose business it is to give Western imperialist governments back-room advice, harshly referred to the “Kurds’ August hubris”. He wrote that the Kurds need to be taken down a peg before they can be considered ready for any alliance with the Turkish state and the U.S.

Looking at the world through the non-revolutionary lens of immediate and narrow Kurdish national interests, PKK founder and leader Abdullah Ocalan has spent years trying to negotiate an agreement with the Turkish regime and now Erdogan. Now that means nothing less than providing Kurdish backing for Erdogan’s Islamist and Turkish chauvinist project in the country and the region. Wasn’t this clear when the PKK failed to give real support to the Gezi Park youth protests last year? And now, while Ocalan is threatening to break off these talks (and PKK commanders are even threatening to resume guerrilla warfare in Turkey) to pressure the regime to lift the Turkish blockade of Kobane that is now preventing the city’s defenders from getting weapons and reinforcements, the PKK is promising that Kurds can be “boots on the ground” for a project even more monstrous than Daesh’s, the rescue of the U.S.’s endangered domination of the Middle East.

The situation in Kobane is determined by complex factors. The U.S., as Secretary of State John Kerry recently said straight out, is most concerned with “saving” its hold on Iraq from Daesh’s challenge, and in that light, defending Kobane is not a “strategic” goal. Turkey is a potentially strategic ally for the U.S. in its objectives, but it is also pursuing its own objectives, which include toppling the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and replacing it with an Islamist government meeting Turkey’s regional and ideological ambitions. Erdogan has said straight out that his goal is regime change in Syria, and that Kurds have to either get behind him in that or take the consequences. This may be a source of friction with the U.S., for whom Syria is not the central concern, and which at least until now has sought to prolong the civil war devastating Syria as long as possible while awaiting the appearance of a U.S.-favourable end game that is still not in sight. Again, to state the obvious that doesn’t seem to be obvious enough: how can the U.S. be called upon to save people from Daesh when its role in Iraq and Syria has been so essential to the rise of Daesh? And whatever their differences – which are potentially explosive – what Erdogan and Obama most agree about is that saving Kurdish lives is not in any way a strategic objective.

This is what makes the approach being taken by the Kurdish leadership so doubly heartbreaking. They are coming to Turkey and the U.S. bearing Kurdish lives in their hands to trade, which is criminal enough, and the most likely outcome is that all they will get in return is worthless coloured beads. Contrary to what some people are dreaming, Kobane does not represent a “third road”   – instead of breaking through the middle while their enemies are fighting each other, this road means getting trapped between them.

The idea that allying with the West “to save Kobane from Daesh” can open the door to revolution can only feed more lives into the mouths of these warring, ravenous monsters. This line echoes both the Islamist and imperialist lies that the only choice is one monster or another. Haven’t we already seen this in Egypt, where after glorious years of rebellion so many would-be revolutionaries let a pro-Western, pro-Israel, religious ignoramus American-trained general pacify Tahrir Square? People who point to the approach being taken by Kurdish leaders as the way forward should ask themselves where exactly that road has led and will always lead.

Don’t blame the real difficulties of making revolution amid this madness on the masses of people – if so many people are ready to give their lives in Kurdistan – Kurds, Arabs, Turks and others throughout the region – don’t revolutionaries have the duty to figure out how to make those aspirations and sacrifices bring about fundamental change in people’s lives through revolutions to overthrow all exploiting and oppressing classes and begin to dismantle the world imperialist system? Otherwise, there will be only more imperialist oppression, and more Islamism as well, and the situation will continue to spiral downward. Revolutionaries who know better should not just applaud as desperate people on the brink grasp at straws that will surely snap. Desperation needs to give way to science, because an objective – and not self-deceptive – analysis of reality can reveal the real opportunities for revolution that lie within the contradictions and chaos now generating such tragedy.

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The criminal attacks of Daesh against Kobane and the worries and hopes of the war in Rojava

The following statement by the Communist Party Of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist), dated 23 September 2014, appeared in the latest issue of the party’s publication Haghighat.

As a result of the recent attacks by Daesh [also known as IS and ISIL] against Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava – means the West in Kurdish, also known as Western Kurdistan), the people in this region have been confronted with the danger of being massacred. The attacks were intensified on 18 September and the Daesh Islamists succeeded in seizing several villages around this city. Thousands of people flooded towards the Turkish border; at first the Turkish military blocked their way into the country, even as Turkish government ambulances were transferring Daesh’s wounded in the same war to Turkish hospitals for treatment.

Kobane (Ayn-al-Arab) and the villages around it have more than half a million population. This city is located 150 kilometres from Aleppo and 30 km from the banks of the Euphrates River. Under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party of Kurdistan (PYD), an organization close to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Kurds have been resisting Daesh with whatever arms they have available. The resistance of the people in this region is known in particular because of the participation of women in fighting against Daesh. When the civil war in Syria was at its peak, PYD announced that would stay neutral between Bashar Assad regime and the opposition groups backed by Turkey and the West. When the regime forces withdrew from the region, this party took the opportunity to fill the power vacuum left by the central government and formed its own regional power structures.

The Turkish government, in cooperation with the heads of the the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, in particular Massoud Barzani, has tried to lay siege to the Rojava region and break the resistance of the people. To do this, Iraqi Kurdish leaders have been ordered to dig ditches several metres deep and wide along the border with Syrian Kurdistan. Kurds in Syria see these moats along the border as a service and appeasement to the Turkish government.

The PYD’s popularity and good name was especially enhanced when they helped save the Yazidis in the Shangal mountains in Syria. [The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious minority considered infidels by Sunni fundamentalists.] On 1 August, when Daesh turned its attacks on Shangal, five brigades, totalling some 15,000 pershmerga, under the leadership of Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) retreated from the city without any resistance. Daesh was able to seize the town. But the PKK and PYD guerrillas were able to open a secure corridor to save the lives of tens of thousands of people, and then organised and armed people there.

There is a dramatic difference between life and resistance in the Rojava region, with the people’s hopes for liberation and their broad participation in their self-determination, and conditions in the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government. After more than a decade under the rule of the Iraqi Kurdish parties headed by Barzani and Jamal Talabani, Iraqi Kurdistan has turned into a place with growing class differences and obvious social oppression, in particular feudal-tribal structures of women’s oppression, the same characteristics that mark the rest of the societies in the Middle East.

But the policies the PYD leaders have adopted, especially in relation to the current reactionary wars in Syria and Iraq, will not bring about a different future for the people in this region.

The heads of the PYD recognizes the PKK’s Abdullah Ocalan as their ideological and political leader and are working hard to be accepted as a partner of the imperialist countries and the dominant regional exploiters and oppressors. One PYD leader, in an interview with the Turkish journalist Hassan Jamal, said, “Turkey along with Kurds can become very powerful. If Turkey is freed from such anti-Kurdish policies, it can own the whole Middle East.” Given that perspective, the PYD leadership should be asked whether they are fighting for national liberation or the national subjugation of Middle Eastern nations by Turkey.

PYD leaders are hoping that Daesh’s attacks will oblige the U.S. imperialists to recognise them and allow them to join the U.S-led coalition in Syria that is mainly composed of reactionary Islamist groups. It is said that the U.S. imperialists are refusing to recognize the PYD because of Turkish government opposition. Nevertheless, PYD leaders are doing their best to be recognized by the U.S. and the West. The Associated Press quoted PYD spokesperson Khalil Nawaf as saying that it is ready to join any coalition to fight Daesh. Hadj Mansour, a defence official in PYD-led Rojava, said that the U.S. has a double standard, because in forming its coalition of Syrian oppositions forces it ignored PYD, and he criticized the U.S. for recognizing PYD as its real ally. (“Militant Gains Illustrate Plight of Syrian Kurds,” Bassem Mroue, Associated Press, 18 September 2014)

PYD spokespeople complain that the U.S. even refused to give a visa to one of its leaders, Salih Muslim, who had intended to visit the U.S. to negotiate with U.S. officials.

Speaking for the U.S., Joint Chiefs of Staff, head General Martin Dempsey said that the U.S. needs the Syrian Kurdish forces to put pressure on Daesh, but that they will not necessarily be made part of the coalition. (AP, 18 September)

The Financial Times reports that Salih Muslim met with UK government officials in London recently. This paper also reported the extensive efforts of the PYD leaders to connect with the west. (“Syrian Kurds eye greater role in West’s Isis fight,” Erika Solomon and Piotr Zalewski, Financial Times, 17 September 2014)

It is not a secret that the leadership of this “coalition” is the U.S. imperialists and the policy of this war will be determined according to the U.S. plan in relation to the countries in the region, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The New York Times reported, “In a secret office near the Syrian border here (Reyhanli, Turkey) intelligence agents from the United States and its allies are laying the groundwork for what they hope will become an effective force of Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops in the international battle against the extremist Islamic State.” (“U.S. Goal Is to Make Syrian Rebels Viable”, Ben Hubbard, NYT, 18 September 2014) The article continues to state that the PYD is vigorously trying to enter into a coalition with the forces selected by the US. Although the U.S. calls these groups “moderate Islamists”, the report says, they are ideologically no less Islamist than Daesh.

Instead of seeking recognition and alliance by the imperialists and reactionary powers, PYD leaders should be aware that a struggle independent of an imperialist-led coalition would be a point of strength and not of weakness. They cannot bridge the deep gap between their claims about creating a “democratic” society with no social oppression, one where women are free and equal, and their policy of seeking admittance to deeply anti-people coalitions. The oppression of Kurdish people is an integral part of the functioning of the Turkish state, and the imperialists are even more criminal than Daesh. Over decades their policies have institutionalized national oppression in the Middle East and the power structures they erected could not exist without such oppression.

The reality is that PYD leaders and other organizations they are working within are walking down a road that can only betray the hopes and goals of the young men and women in Syrian Kurdistan who are risking death with the aim of building a society different than the oppressive societies they have been living in. It is possible that these leaders have no such intentions, but this is the path that their line is taking them, no matter what they think.

The pictures of armed women in Syrian Kurdistan are very inspiring and certainly do attract many women and men from other parts of Syria and the Middle East.

Despite the apparent differences between the PYD and PKK leadership and previous Kurdish nationalist leaders (religious or self-identified “leftists”, according to the situation), they all have been implementing the same kinds of realpolitik, “practical” policies based on pragmatism, or in other words, going along with what is possible and what seems beneficial to oneself at any given moment. Though such a policy has sometimes brought political power for some leaders of these groups (such as the Kurdistan Regional Government), more than two decades of experience with the KRG in Iraq shows that this has not led to basic rights for the masses but instead social degradation.

Different factions of Kurdish bourgeoisie have produced different notions that all amount to conformity with the existing society and imperialist domination. This conformism has been an obstacle to the national liberation of Kurdistan. PYD Abdullah Ocalan has been so intent on conforming to this situation that he is now taking the road of serving immediate imperialist policies in the region.

The Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) made a statement comparing the battle in Kobane with the battle to defend Stalingrad in World War 2, saying the Kobane resistance against the fascist criminals of Daesh remind us of Stalingrad [a heroic moment in the defence of the then-socialist USSR against Nazi Germany]. Undoubtedly this is a great wish, and if in fact an example of Stalingrad takes some form in this region, that will have the enthusiastic support of the people in the Middle East and the world. But nothing analogous to Stalingrad is possible by entering into the coalition being formed by the imperialists, regional fascist states and Islamist groups. In WW2 the Soviet Union entered into a coalition with the imperialist countries that were at war with Germany. But the socialist Soviet Union had sufficient political, economic and military might to wage its independent policies and not become slaves to any imperialist power. There is a difference between coalitions that are in the interest of revolution and coalitions that are in the interests of imperialism. Despite U.S. and British attempts to sabotage the Soviet war effort, Stalingrad became Stalingrad through self-reliance. The Soviet Union could rely on itself because the masses had been able to liberate themselves from the capitalist and feudal exploiting classes through a socialist revolution. Stalingrad was not purely a military battle. It was a confrontation between two fundamentally different social systems: on one side the capitalist-imperialist system in the form of Nazis Germany, and on the other side a system that was the product of the October Revolution. These two systems were engaged in a death and life battle. The victory of Stalingrad was mainly due to the existence of a socialist system in the Soviet Union. The bread and guns needed to carry out this war were produced by the workers and toilers themselves, and they did not need to rely on guns, bread and financial support from other imperialists powers that were also waging war with the German imperialists, namely the U.S., Britain and France. The Soviet war was basically advanced by reliance on the productive, military and organizational strength of the masses of the Soviet Union, and it was thoroughly a people’s war.

Despite the sacrifice of fearless women and men in the battle against Daesh, given the leadership and political line prevailing in Syrian Kurdistan it will not have a better fate than that of Iraqi Kurdistan ruled by bourgeois and feudal classes. But there is an even greater danger. All the powers from which the PYD seeks legitimacy and cooperation have a very bloody history of crimes against the Kurdish people. From the U.S. and Turkey to Iran and Syria, they have all always broken whatever “agreements” they entered into with Kurdish forces, and betrayed the Kurds to more powerful partners. The shadow of past bloody sell-outs looms over the current situation. The question is whether once again people who have risen up for social change will become cannon fodder for notorious reactionaries and big powers, or will consciously fight for their fundamental interests? Our answer is that everything depends on which class, what political programme and which vanguard force leads the people’s struggle.

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