Could you explain the beginning of the Rojava revolution and the historical background of the region?
The region of Rojava (West Kurdistan) had been deliberately impoverished in every aspect. The Syrian regime tried to leave it without a unique identity. Kurdish people in Syria are in reality a people who had been left without identity and whose national presence, language, and culture had been denied. As a result, Kurdish people were deprived of the conditions for producing and developing themselves socially, culturally, politically, vitally, materially and morally. Kurdish people, whose conditions of life were taken from their hands, were made dependent on the regime through these exploitative policies. The “Arabic line” was an “Arabisation” policy which sought to surround and divide Rojava by settling Arab populations in fertile parts of it. Places that Daiş finds most support from today are those areas where people were brought from outside. The divisive colonial policies in Syria becomes more intense and harsh after the 1960’s.
Whether among Kurdish people who were forced to migrate from North Kurdistan to Rojava or those who were born and grew up in Syria there has always been tendencies to be organized and to struggle, and for different organizations to maintain their presence there. The activities to protect the national identity of Kurdish people and to be organized for national democratic rights have been carried on illegally by these organizations. The Kurdish policies of the Syrian regime escalated into a period of massacre dating from 1960. On 30th November 1960, 280 Kurdish children were burned to death in a cinema in Amude while they were watching a film about the Algerian revolution. This was the first of the large massacres that Kurdish people have suffered in Syria. Another large massacre took place on 12th March, 2004. A regime organised provocation during a football match was turned into a Kurdish slaughter. Afterwards, the crowd who carried the dead bodies away were attacked and tens of people were killed as a result. As a result of this, Kurdish cities rose up. Before coming to the period that precedes the 2004 uprising, the regime’s oppressive and terrorist policies reached their peak.
The ”Treaty of Adana” signed between the Syrian regime and the Turkish state on 20th September, 1998 played a crucial role. This treaty led to Abdullah Öcalan being forced to leave Syria. Thus, Turkey obtained the conditions for more actively interfering within Rojava. The activities of the PKK in Rojava date back to the end of the 1970’s. The expansion of guerrilla struggle and revolts, and the national democratic based rights gained in north Kurdistan strengthened and accelerated the dynamics of the Rojava revolution. With the foundation of the PYD beside the 12 Kurdish groups, the political substructure of Rojava which provided the conditions for the present day revolution came into being. If we look at the recent period for the pre-conditions of the Rojava revolution we would see that the Syrian Baas (Ba’ath) regime used economic exploitation and political oppression across all social stratum except for a small minority. Syrian people, whose political rights were taken away and who were doomed to a poor life, started to gradually build the individual and social struggle processes. Syrian laborers and people inspired by the series of Arabic revolutions filled squares across the country with democratic demands against the Baas dictatorship . However, the spark which would start the fire came from the writings on walls which were made by the children in Deraa in 2011 saying ”It’s your turn Doctor” [Assad is a trained doctor.]. The response by the Baas regime was harsh and merciless. Even children were imprisoned and tortured. People resisted these violent and oppressive policies determinedly and militantly. Demonstrations expanded to almost every city in Rojava and Syria, Deraa coming as the first. When it came to its 20th day it reached a new height as Deraa was actually occupied.
At the beginning, the large demonstrations marched against improprieties and impoverishment and demanded democratic rights and justice. As a result of increasing repression and their demands being ignored the character of the uprising changed, with the overthrow of Assad becoming a major demand. When Assad could not suppress this uprising he offered some conciliatory offers. The governor of Deraa was dismissed and the period for military service was shortened from 21 months to 18. Steps were also taken to increase the wages of public officials, increase liberty for the press, struggle against impropriety, to end extraordinary state practices, and Syrian citizenship was offered to one part of the Kurdish people. While withdrawing with these compensations he attempted to make massacres by organizing contra groups called ”şebbiha” (ghosts). The conflict between the masses, of which the main body consisted of Arabs, and the Baas regime then began to take the form of a reactionary civil war, with the interference of imperialists and regional collaborator states. The Arabic democratic opposition became reactionary and lost its legitimacy and rightfulness as they became subordinated to imperialists and collaborator states.
The Rojava revolution however chose its own way. It drew its own independent line against the dual reactionary policies of either moving together with the Syrian opposition, which became the puppet of imperialists and states in the region, or staying beside the Assad regime, and headed to revolution. It started a national democratic-libertarian revolution in Rojavan Kurdistan by declaring that it was the representative of oppressed people who had been exposed to pressure, massacre and policies of denial by the Syrian state. It pushed the regime out of the boundaries of Rojava except the airport in Qamışlo and several symbolic institutions. The Rojava revolution developed through the strategy of defending the lands of Rojava and the revolution against its enemies, at the beginning this was the Syrian opposition and then Daiş and Al-Nusra gangs. As for the present, via the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the struggle to make this libertarian struggle active continues.
How do you understand the process of the revolution in Rojava and what work have you been involved in there?
Our party is organized in Turkey and north Kurdistan. It defends regional revolutions, federations and confederations. For that reason, it sees it as a right and a mission to be organized in the Middle East and the four parts of Kurdistan under the occupation of colonists. It defends the line that the four parts of Kurdistan across different countries have the right to unite. Consequently, all issues of direct interest to the region and Kurdistan, in particular, are also the subject matter of our party. They define the programmatic and political background of our presence in Rojava. Our first forces arrived in Rojava in August, 2012. These forces first worked to extend the revolution to the masses, to turn it into a power for people, to encourage people to adopt the revolution and to help them participate in it. We worked in institutions which are vital for the development of Rojava such as security, in the municipality, in the customs house, and in intelligence. We also took part in the defence of the revolution by sending our forces to different battalions. Besides this, we also took part in the foundation work of the YPG and YPJ and worked to encourage the participation of people. We succeeded in our mission of defending the revolution with our military presence while, at the same time, taking on our shoulders the mission of encouraging the participation of people and helping them adopt its policies – which are the basic problems of revolution. As our revolution was gradually formed, developed, built institutions and progressed towards completion economically, politically, culturally and geographically, the imperialists, regional reactionary countries (such as Saudi Arabia,Qatar etc.), and colonial Turkey at first, and then their collaborator gangs such as Al-Nusra and Daiş, the Syrian regime and the KDP (remember the embargo and the closing of the southern border with trenches) tried to drown our revolution from all sides. These policies continue today.
When the military attacks against our revolution got more intensive, we brought most of our forces to this area. With new support, we increased our military forces both in quantity and quality. The liberation of Kobane was first, then we took part in many defensive battles and liberation operations like Haseke, Serekaniye, Gıré Sıpi, Tıl Temir and Rubar Qamışlo.
Our forces in the International Freedom Battalion also joined in the liberation of Şengal, Hol, and the Tışrin Dam. We fought in almost all the fronts, from Kobane to Şengal. Apart from our military and self defense work we are active in areas ranging from health to media, from working in ”Mala Gel”(People Houses – community centres) to communes, and women’s struggles. We, by the way, supported the establishment of The Institution for the Unity and Solidarity of the People. This institution, the SYPG (In Kurdish – Saziya Yekiti û Piştgiriya Gelan) will be an institution which will function like constructing a bridge between people, making them acquainted with the revolution and organizing their support and solidarity. This vehicle will both contribute to the development of the revolution and will be a step in giving it a socialist character. Our party is not a party that came to Rojava with the aim of short term support so we are here as a constant force. To define it most simply, we accept this revolution as ours and its enemies and friends as ours also.
Which struggles, military experiences, and theories are you based on?
We are trying to be a party which analyses all revolutionary experiences in the world, and that learns lessons from them. We experience these ourselves by using applicable forms of them in our work. The Rojava revolution does not resemble any experience from the past. As a consequence of this a lot of groups could not understand, or did not want to understand, the Rojava revolution. This revolution does not progress like the classical revolutions and its historical formation and conditions, as well as its military structure are totally unique. For example there is not a strong class movement as in classical revolutions. At the core of the revolution there remain national democratic demands. However, It does not just contain a narrow nationalist perspective. Despite having national issues at the center of it, it has a character which includes all the peoples in Rojava. Being a women’s revolution at the same time, even just because of this, makes it a good example which should be defended. Apart from these, this revolution maintains its special and unique place through its economic, democratic, cultural and ecological programs.
The revolution was started by a small organized part of the people and military forces. Organized armed militias and guerrillas succeeded in channelizing the discontent in the streets against the Assad regime into occupying the state institutions. The army and police forces belonged to the state, in the cities of Rojava they did not resist fiercely because they were surrounded by the people and military forces. At the beginning, military structures were formed through guerrilla and militia forces mixing while later it gradually became more structured and specialised, and as a result separated. The geographic structure of Rojava encouraged a unique form of war; Urban battles, such as in Kobane, were mainly based on heavy weapons; attacks with mines and IEDs were elevated to a strategic level; assassinations and counter-intelligence were prominent elements; and attacks by cars bombs (which is a method used by gangs) are also fundamental elements of this war. Another unique element is that the fighting styles of both regular armies and guerrillas are being used at the same time. Sometimes forces fight like regular armies while at other times guerrilla tactics are being used. The historical, cultural, social and economic history, and the current nature of Rojava are the reasons for it not resembling any of the revolutionary experiences of the past. If those elements which make this revolution unique were neglected and classical revolutionary tactics and theories had been applied, we would be talking about something else instead of the current Rojava revolution.
For us Marxists to successfully apply the right methods and forms of struggle at the right time with a materialist analysis of the concrete situation is of great importance. Marxism would not be Marxism if it was not based on dialectic and historical materialism. To grasp and understand the new and unique and, according to this, to reconstruct one’s own beliefs and actions requires a flexibility and creativity that only serious revolutionaries can put into practice. Among revolutionary movements it is still widespread to be an imitator, memorizing and applying historical theories and practices.
Across all places and all times the basic laws of war maintain their validity in Rojava as well. Military life, discipline, rules, aspects of offense and defense, command and obedience, willpower, belief, decisiveness, devotion, knowing the enemy and oneself etc. The answers of all war theorists and commanders to all these issues would be almost the same. Military logic is the same in Clausewitz, Lenin and so many other military and political leaders. The ones who are successful are the ones who construct a military strategy and subsequent tactics after placing the conflict objectively in its own historical conditions, basing these on the conflicts own reality and social material structure. We are trying to make meaningful what we have as a legacy, and what we have learned from our own history and world experiences here in the originality of the Rojava revolution. For that, we do not have any pre-formed image or model that we will apply. As we ”Rojavize” the revolution in all its aspects, militarily, economically, culturally, and socially our revolution comes gradually closer to victory.
What does it mean to live in the MLKP Rojava Battalion?
For us communists, before everything, it means consistency – ideologically, politically and organizationally. One of the most important problems for contemporary revolutionary movements is to be lacking in determination. When the unity of thought and action can not be provided, there arise set of ideas which lead to no practical consequences. If a movement loses its believability, it means it is also loses its reason for existing. The great part of the revolutionary movement fell behind politics. A lack of strategy leads to a lack of tactics which leads to not having politics. The result, inevitably, is to enter the role of a spectator and commentator. Those in this role can neither raise the revolution or be a part of it. To live in the MLKP battalion means, in that sense, to be in a place where revolutionaries produce their revolutionary identities in such criteria as strengthening their revolutionary claims and consistency, spreading belief, trusting in people and ideology, being in the right place at the right time, realizing the dream of a new world and facing the future. MLKP, at the same time, is a party of Kurdistan. Revolutionaries from a wide variety of nations are there and fight together with MLKP Rojava. Our units are open to people who are not members of MLKP but are revolutionaries, including anarchists too. Our party is also a place for fighters who come from other countries, especially from Europe, to fight against barbarism and the reactionaries of Daiş, and fight together with the MLKP . In that sense, it has both a local and international character.
How has the Rojava revolution affected the life and functioning of the Battalion?
We are part of the Rojava revolution in every sense. Apart from our unique characteristics, deriving from our ideological structure and our own history (which, indeed, provides a different perspective and some advantages), we are complementary, especially in military issues. We are as much influencing this revolution as we have been influenced by it. For example, fighters from our battalion take their places on the front lines and join all military operations. Life in the battalion is developed and made stable over time. Despite the fact that Rojava has been mostly cleaned from the gangs the main element of defending the revolution is a military one. We should create and develop a perspective on military defence which recognises this. Naturally, this military perspective and the structures which come from this perspective determine the lifestyle of the battalion. Alongside this, ideological and political education is done regularly in order to understand and to be an active part of the Rojava revolution.
How do you educate and develop new militants?
The Rojava revolution is continuing. It is a revolution whose military character is still fundamental. Because of this, military training is given priority and following this, ideological, political and organizational education is given. These trainings use multiple methods. When needed, fighters who are being trained become trainers. All training is tried and examined first in the battalion. Military training is done within the reality of the Rojava revolution. The military strategy and tactics developed in Rojava are taught. Especially after operations, those forces involved will add their experience to the battalion’s and thus the party’s. Indeed, we form political-militant staff who are tied to ideology, trust in the party, and have the willpower to put into practise the party’s political line, they are consistent, militant and devoted to revolution.
How do you support young militants in handling the difficult conditions of war?
War is the most blunt, harsh and intensive phase of struggle. Because of this, a revolutionary should win the war in his/her head in order to resist and handle the hard conditions of war. We are trying to make them obtain this characteristic first. This is only possible by being strong ideologically, correct, and scientific. Revolutionaries who know what they fight for, live for, and die for when it is needed can overcome all the difficulties of war. When ideological clarity and decisiveness are also strengthened with knowledge, skills, and technical experience, then fighters gain militancy and the skill to overcome the hard conditions. It is important to stress that education is both general and private. It is not one sided, generalizing, and reductive. The needs, skills, and capacity of each comrade are taken into consideration when education is being planned. When education is undertaken on war fronts it becomes more practical and permanent.
How can the ideas of the Rojava revolution be adapted to military struggle and life?
It is the most important motivator to understand the necessity. The Rojava revolution both in its origins and in its defensive period has been one whose distinctive character is military. This characteristic belongs to and is unique to this revolution. In general, revolutions are based, and must be based, on violence, military structures, and forms. If we define the problem practically we can say that the people of Rojava started the revolution using the civil war in Syria to their advantage. Guerrilla forces obtained control of the region with the support of the people. The attacks of gangs like Al-Nusra, which is supported by Turkey and their surrounding neighbours and tries to destroy the revolution, developed rapidly. aThese colonial fascists and reactionary forces are trying to drown our revolution. Even though the resistance of these enemies is broken and they are in retreat, the revolution is still at the risk of attacks by them. It is this most important factor which makes it easier to adapt the ideas of the revolution into military struggle and life. The reality is that the defence and development of the revolution is linked directly to your relation with military struggle and life. For example, if you are not organized through military discipline and rules, and do not develop the struggle in that style, you can not defend the Rojava revolution, or even yourself. This material matter is a reality that is accepted quickly by all forces joining the revolution. There is a big difference between understanding this and putting it into practice successfully of course. That is the quality that our fighters obtain with ideological, organizational and military training. When front line experience is added to this, the adaptation of the characteristics of the Rojava revolution in its military and social aspects emerge.
Is there a relation between Rojava and the struggle in Turkey?
Rojava is a part of Kurdistan. Rojava became the leader in comparison to the other parts of Kurdistan and the role that it will play in regional revolutions. The Turkish revolution is a part of this regional revolution, too. Every development in Kurdistan, especially in the north and in Rojava, both deepens the crisis of the regime and is of great importance in class conflict. As a consequence of this there is a direct relation between Rojava and Turkey. Our party, who correctly evaluated the direction of the development of the Kurdistan liberation struggle, has assessed that Kurdistan has started to develop the unity of the destinies of its four parts by forcing the ideological, political, cultural, and moral boundaries. It changed the perspective which viewed the Kurdish struggle through the limited perspective of the north alone. With the 3rd congress of our party in 2002, through the development of the perspective of ”regional revolutions”, we included the regional democratic and socialist federations into our program. Again at our 5th congress, we changed the internationally used name of MLKP/Turkey-North Kurdistan into MLKP/Turkey-Kurdistan to reflect our work in the other parts of Kurdistan. It is an approach which takes into consideration the right to unite a Kurdistan which is currently divided by colonialists. Our Kurdistan organization includes these four parts in its area of struggle. This perspective is also a blow against the Kemalism which penetrated deeply into the soul of the left movement. Even today, a lot of revolutionary organizations, democrats, and intellectuals can not relate with the Kurdish national movement consistently and based on the correct foundations. As they could not historically understand and correctly comprehend the Kurdish national revolution which started to develop from 1993, today they have difficulty in comprehending the Rojava revolution and they approach it either superficially, deny it, or abstain from it. Our party, due to it being a part of the Rojava revolution, had a positive effect on the Turkish left and revolutionary movement and opened a road for them to turn their faces towards the Rojava revolution, even partially. The aggressive policies of colonialist dictatorship towards our people, laborers, and all those that are oppressed continue intensively on the Turkish front. With the Rojava revolution it was revealed more clearly that the right to self-determination of our people, the wish for self-control, self-defence, economic, cultural and social construction, and a process for creating a new successful society affected all the regions. Actually, the people and laborers of Turkey fill their sails with the winds of the revolutionary storm in the region. To defend the Rojava revolution means at the same time to defend personal freedoms, revolution, culture, and values. And that also means that colonialist fascist dictatorship brings into force the policies of destruction, suppression and oppression of the revolutionary, democratic and libertarian struggle on the Turkish front. As a matter of fact there is no doubt that the colonialist fascist dictatorship was the planner of the spiteful attack against 33 young members from the SGDF in Suruç who were in solidarity with Kobane. Also, the bombing of the rally in Ankara where tens of thousands of people gathered to demand the end of the dirty war in Kurdistan was organized by the Turkish state and, like Pirsus, Daiş was blamed. The objective and subjective conditions for regional revolution directly connect the Kurdish liberation movements revolution in Rojava to the struggle in Turkey. The enemies of the Rojava revolution and the struggle in Turkey are regional reactionaries, imperialist powers, Islamic fascist gangs, and the colonialist Turkish fascist dictatorship in particular. Having common enemies is what makes our struggle and revolution also in common. Until the liberation and socialist struggle is successful the revolution in Rojava will always be under danger. Already, it is quite difficult to guarantee the Rojava revolution before Syria develops into a democratic position.
Do MLKP Rojava, at the same time, contribute to the development of revolutionary society with social projects?
Rojava is undergoing a complete reconstruction process. Society is reorganizing itself and extending its management into many areas such as in the local communes, co-operatives, education, culture, and health. Our party is part of this process, contributing to the construction of the revolution with its own projects and using its resources.
Rojava’s terrain shelters a wide variety of people, religions, and cultures. Our party will maintain its ideological, political and organizational work like it has in the past with the perspective of strengthening the unity and solidarity of people. In addition to this, our work in local issues, press, and health continues.
The imperialist war between countries such as Russia, ABD (USA) and Turkey becomes more complex every day. What is your view on this?
During the period called the Arab Spring the search of people and oppressed people for democracy and freedom against the dictatorships of the region revealed a great dynamism which is contemporary as much as historical. There were places where they overthrew the dictatorships, like in Tunisia. Imperialists and reactionary regional states wanted to benefit from these movements and wanted liberty for their own profits like they did in Egypt, Libya, and Amman. Turkey was concerned with creating areas of control by competing inside this reactionary environment. It started a campaign to build hegemony in the region through Neo-Ottoman policies. With its so called “attacks” against Israel, it tried to substitute the Arabic people for itself. It also concentrated on the process of overwhelming the Rojava revolution by enmity against Kurdish people, oppressing and neutralizing the national democratic libertarian movement based on self-administration and self-defense based in the north.
The Middle East has become an area of competition and conflict for imperialists again…
The USA could not achieve exactly what it wanted in the wars waged against Afghanistan and Iraq. It made a great part of the old colonies of Russia its own market and the line of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Ukraine are the basis of collaboration with UN imperialists. The Balkans were transformed into a market place for German imperialists who also collaborate with the USA. The French started to make more aggressive steps including military actions, especially in Africa. It showed a similar approach in Syria. Russia started to watch for an opportunity to take back the large markets which had been taken by the USA and the imperialist UN block, and thus strengthened and developed its economic, political, and military preparations in order to turn inside out a process which is disadvantageous for itself. The joining of Crimea to Russia was one of the most important steps in turning this process inside out. Russia has recently started to move into Syria more self-confidently and with a bigger military force. It has shown that it is also participating in this competition and conflict. The USA-UN imperialist bloc who could not neutralize the effect of Daiş and other Islamic fascist gangs in the Middle East, as they could not prevent the interference of Russia, had to make an agreement with it. The war in Syria is a result of the conflict between Russia, the USA, and Turkey as the region is shared out again. Even though there were involuntary treaties made between them the contradictions and tensions, especially between Russia and USA, make it a strong probability violent conflict could develop. Turkey has applied a Sunni based policy, together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in the region for a long time. It is trying to interfere in the region by supporting Islamic fascist gangs like Daiş and Al-Nusra to suppress the Rojava revolution and the Kurdish national liberation movement. Both its shooting down of a Russian fighter jet and its entrance into the Başika region alleging mistreatment of Turkmens has the same roots. The policies and plans of Russia in Syria are also not new. As a country who has close relations with the Ba’ath regime and which has military bases there, Russia is influential in the region. When USA and its allied powers appeal to every method, including war, in order to create their hegemonic areas in Syria, Russia did not wait and gave every kind of support to the Assad regime. Now, Russia develops new policies by operating directly in the area. Shia regions of Iraq and Iran are allied to this Russian block. The USA-UN imperialist alliance is trying to redesign the region on their own but have difficulties in doing so because they are not the only power there. People have a willpower too. They tried it in Syria but just like in Iraq, they could not succeed . Different ethnic and religious groups, and political forces in Iraq developed the power to derail the desires of imperialists. Daiş, indeed, with the hope of excluding these powers and of changing the balance in the region was supported and armed by the imperialists. However, after a time Daiş, who wanted to utilize these conditions to dominate a large region, got out of the control of the imperialists and regional reactionary states and became a great threat to the profits of these imperialists. The Iraqi army, Peshmerga, and Syrian forces could not intervene against Daiş effectively. Nor were the actions of the imperialists enough to prevent the progress and spread of Daiş. They struggled against the monster that they had themselves created by establishing an international coalition which, however, could not prevent Daiş. Daiş’s position of not meeting the expectations, and eventually attacking their supporters, can be likened to the situation of Germany during the reign of Hitler. The imperialists of the period supported Hitler’s fascism in order to impede the progress of the Soviet Union. However that monster, with the ambition of power, started to eat itself. For that reason, the resistance and the victory of the Soviets functioned in the role of a lifeguard for the states in the region occupied by Hitler. It is not a secret that components of the anti-Daiş block are against the ideological and political perspectives of the Rojava revolution and the defensive power of the YPG. However, the situation on the ground has obliged them to recognize the YPG forces who fight and resist against Daiş and others at great cost. It is a relationship that the imperialists are obliged to do but would prefer not to. There is no problem for us that some of the imperialists strike Daiş as an owner would hit an unruly wild dog. Especially as that dog attacks us. As a consequence, we are not bothered about them hitting Daiş a little. We should also stress that the USA, UN, and Russia relate to the Rojava revolution primarily through military cooperation. Neither the Rojava revolution nor the national democratic rights of Kurdish people are in question.
What do you think about the international solidarity Rojava has received?
We care about this issue very much in the Party. We are trying to make alliances, organise meetings, develop a unity of action and practices of solidarity with many international groups. However, it is not possible to say that these connections are as strong and widespread enough for the present day’s international revolutionary responsibility. It is enough to just look at the murderous crowds of Daiş travelling to the region to see the shameful situation of the groups who call themselves left, socialist, revolutionary, or anarchist. Think about those thousands of people from almost 100 countries who have travelled to join Daiş. The numbers of internationals coming to join the Rojava revolution which defends women’s liberation, equality, and justice is very weak when compared to this. We are sure that the Rojava revolution, which is like an oasis in the desert-like political environment of the Middle East, deserves more interest, support and solidarity. In order to understand what is happening here, and to improve it, every kind of international support should be given. Our revolution makes it possible. The Rojava revolution, with what it defends and makes possible, requires the international solidarity and unity of world revolutionaries. It must be underlined that revolutionaries and communists should be joining in larger number to defend and build the revolution – to guarantee the Rojava revolution will contribute to the democratization of Syria, the liberation of north Kurdistan, and the establishment and development of socialist federations/units. Our Party has continued to highlight and build the efforts to defend, spread, strengthen, and turn Rojava into the revolution of the people and oppressed people of the world by pioneering the foundation of the International Freedom Battalion.
What do you want to say to the international revolutionary movement?
The Rojava revolution today is the place and shelter for the people of world and oppressed people who fight against capitalism, imperialism and every kind of religious reactionary force. To protect the Rojava revolution means to resist capitalism, imperialism and every kind of religious reactionary force, to impede the progress of it, and to beat it. The victory of the Rojava revolution will be a strong blow against capitalism, imperialism and the reactionary dictatorships of the region. The Rojava revolution is the Paris Commune, Bolshevik revolution, Cuba, China, Vietnam, South Africa and Algeria of the present day. For that reason, to protect, support, and participate within it is the most concrete, inevitable and obligatory ideological and political responsibility of the revolutionary movement today.
sources: indymedia athens
original source, first published : lookleft on December 22, 2016
Re-Posted in full from The Disorder of Things
The Kurdish town of Kobanê has recently become the centre of a geopolitical conflagration that may well change the course of Middle Eastern politics. After months of silence over the threat faced by Kurds from ISIS, the world is now finally watching, even if the ‘international community’ remains conspicuously quiet. However, many Western responses, be it from scholars, journos or activists, have somewhat predictably retracted into recycled critiques of US and UK imperialism, often at the expense of missing what is truly exceptional and noteworthy in recent developments. So, in the style of contemporary leftist listicles, here are four things we can and should learn from events in and around Kobanê.
1. It’s Time to Question the West’s Fixation on ISIS
If Barack Obama, David Cameron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are to be believed, the ‘savagery’ of ‘fundamentalism’ is the primary focus of NATO involvement in Syria. Notably, many left critics have reproduced this very same fixationon ISIS when discussing Western interests. However, for an almighty imperialist organisation supposedly hell bent on stopping ‘Islamic extremism’, NATO have been curiously ineffective. In fact, the US has been indirectly responsible for arming ISIS and altogether incompetent and/or reluctant in arming the decidedly secular Kurdish resistance. US and UK air strikes have been fleeting, and at best symbolic, making little impact on the advance of ISIS. Moreover, Turkey has repeatedly turned a blind eye to ISIS’s use of its territories and borders for training activities and supply lines, respectively. More recently, as Kobanê teetered on the edge of conquest, Turkey insisted any military assistance was dependent on the Kurdish PYD abandoning self-determination and self-governing cantons, and agreeing to Turkish buffer zone in Kurdish controlled areas in Northern Syria (which amounts to little more than a colonial land grab). Now, considering the US and UK were keen to intervene long before ISIS was seen as a threat, and considering Turkey long-standing hostility to the PKK/PYD, we should be more demanding of any analysis of intervention that begins and ends with ISIS. In short, it is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS is little more than a pretext for NATO to pursue other geopolitical aims – namely removing Assad and destroying Kurdish autonomy.
2. Be Wary of Liberal Internationalism
Many anti-intervention critiques have argued that non-military options remain available through diplomatic channels and pressure on regional players such as Iran, the Gulf States and even Russia. This is to misread the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. Firstly, the US does not control every allied state with complete impunity. Despite historical relations of dependency, despite metaphors of ‘puppets’, most Gulf States are remarkably powerful actors in their own right, with interests and activities that are beyond US control. Any suggestion to ask the Saudis to end financial support is likely to be as effective as asking ISIS to calm down a bit. Secondly, to call for American diplomatic engagement with Russia and Iran is to assume relations of international cooperation that simply do not exist. It is to wish away long running geopolitical rivalries among three nation-states vying for regional dominance. It is to place undue emphasis on the agency of Western states – “if only the West made the naughty Eastern countries do this or that, the conflict would be resolved”.
Finally, it is to marginalise and thus close off the possibility of any non-state and anti-capitalist alternatives based on the PYD/PKK project of Democratic Autonomy. Indeed, it is unclear why the imperatives and motives of imperialism that are so prevalent in military action would not be equally problematic when it comes to ‘peaceful alternatives’ directed either by Western states, or indeed reactionary and anti-democratic regional powers. As such we should critically question government claims that military intervention is ‘the only option’. But we should also be wary of empty pacifism based on (neo)liberal and state-centric conceptions of cooperation, insofar as conditions for the latter are absent (and by the way, in the capitalist state system, they’re always absent).
3. Listen to Kurdish Voices
The Western left often suffers from a debilitating and orientalist tendency to overstate the agency of the US and relegate communities and societies affected by intervention to passive actors, not worthy of considered analysis. Indeed, it is striking the number of anti-imperialist commentaries that rely less on the experiences and dynamics of Kurdish communities and more on rehashed critiques of the logic of Great Power predation. On the one hand, this can cause the left to duplicate caricatures of ‘ugly sectarianism’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ in ways that don’t seem too far off the arguments of Cameron and Obama (for some useful correctives see here and here).
On the other hand, it offers little consideration of the voices of Kurdish communities under attack since their intentions and actions simply don’t matter to opposing ‘imperialism at home’. The resultant politics can often be deleterious. We might wonder, for example, what the people of Kobanê would make of calls for ‘peaceful alternatives’ to war. This is especially important, since in Western Kurdistan (Northern Syria) Kurds are defending what is arguably the best hope for left politics in the region. Even the most cursory glance at the constitutional make-up and political achievements of Kurdish cantons would put most Western organisations to shame. Yet this week, while hunger strikesand solidarity demonstrations from Kurdish people were taking place in the UK and beyond, anti-war groupsorganised an entirely separate and potentially conflicting protest. The sooner the Western left abandons its penchant for reducing class to geopolitics, the sooner it can offer authentic solidarity to groups and communities that deserve and need it.
4. Keep an Eye on Turkey
As a result of the Turkish response to Kobanê, Kurdish people and their allies have taken to the streets in towns and cities across Turkey, clashing with police and the gendarmerie to a degree not seen since the resistance movement of 2013. The protests have been militant and focussed, barricading streets, targeting checkpoints, banks, police, military and government buildings and, according to some reports, liberating certain districts. As of late, Turkish politics had been at an impasse with the energy of Gezi seemingly dissipating between the pincer movement of state violence and Erdogan’s electoral victories. At the same time, the so-called Kurdish peace process has stalled, perhaps irrevocably, as the Turkish state’s reconciliation has proven to be little more than lip-service. It is difficult to predict whether the current confrontation between protesters and the state will escalate, but it is clear that Turkish machinations in Kurdistan will lead to a Kurdish response in Turkey.
Large sections of Turkish society remain deeply racist (last night a twitter hashtag inciting violence against Kurds was trending in Turkey) and so polarisation is likely. However, there are reasons to be hopeful that this time may be different. Gezi has prefigured a new – but still very imperfect – support for Kurdish liberation, most clearly evidenced in the unprecedented support for the pro-Kurdish HDP in Turkey’s recent presidential elections. Moreover, in Kobanê, Rojava and elsewhere the PKK/PYD model of Democratic Autonomy constitutes a powerful working alternative to the authoritarianism of the AKP. In this respect, the future of Kobanê is crucial to the democratic and revolutionary hopes of Turkish, Syrian, as well as Kurdish, people.