To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
October 14, 2014
RE: The struggle at Kobane
For a month, the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Syria has been resisting the advance of the murderous ISIS. Should Kobane fall to ISIS, ISIS would impose the same fundamentalist hell as it has done elsewhere, and it would kill all those who oppose it. If Kobane falls, it threatens the entire Kurdish autonomous regime of Rojava which has been set up in northern Syria during the fighting of the last few years, and it would be a blow against the struggle against Assad. The struggle at Kobane is very difficult, with the defenders outgunned, short of supplies, and blockaded by the Turkish and US governments. It is a very dangerous situation: ISIS has penetrated into Kobane, but still has not overcome the resistance.
The resistance of the defenders of Kobane against ISIS has inspired respect around the world. While the heavily-armed Iraqi army suffered huge losses to ISIS, the lightly-armed defenders of Kobane have held their own steadfastly against the tanks and artillery of ISIS, giving up ground only slowly. The main defenders of Kobane are a Kurdish militia, the YPG (People's Protection Units), which are associated with the Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party). There are many women among the YPG's fighters, something which demoralizes the anti-women fundamentalists in ISIS. Many Kurds in Turkey, including refugees from Syria, are seeking to rejoin the struggle in Kobane. Also involved in the struggle are units from the FSA (Free Syrian Army), who are part of the general uprising against the Assad dictatorship.
While the Iraqi army collapsed before the onslaught of ISIS, the people of Kobane, and the main anti-Assad forces in Syria generally, are resisting. While the US government talks of taking years to deal with ISIS, the people of Syria have another idea, and they are fighting to push back ISIS now. They don't want the fundamentalists; they don't want Assad; they don't want US boots on the ground; they don't want to be part of the political deals hatched up by Washington or the UN; and they are suspicious of the US bombing, which strikes ISIS but has also struck the anti-ISIS, anti-Assad forces; and they simply want -- from wherever they can get them -- the anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and supplies that would let them deal with ISIS and the Assad dictatorship. It is not the lack of people, but the lack of weapons, that has hamstrung the mass uprising in Syria.
The Baath party dictatorship in Syria, first headed by Hafez al-Assad and then his son, Bashar al-Assad, has lasted for decades and continually denied democratic rights to the Syrian people. Previous to that, Syria had been a place with a lively political life. But two generations have grown up without real elections and without the right to form independent trade unions or other mass organizations, except those linked to the Baath party. Towns in the Kurdish region of Rojava, and various other towns liberated in the uprising against Assad, have elected their own administrations for the first time many people could remember, and the Kurds have built up their own autonomous area. The people are trying to rise to their feet; and this is why they fight under trying conditions and against better-armed troops.
Obama has repeatedly derided the Syrian uprising as composed of ordinary people, like farmers and dentists. Shouldn't ordinary people going up against a dictatorship be firmly supported? Not according to Obama. He thinks that "farmers, dentists and folks who have never fought before going up against a ruthless opposition in Assad" can't win (statement to CBS on June 22, http://www.businessinsider.com/barack-obama-and-the-free-syrian-army-2014-6) To make sure that they can't win on their own, the Obama administration has obstructed the flow of outside arms to the Syrian uprising, not just giving few if any weapons but blocking weapons from other sources as well. The Obama administration has insisted that a precondition for the FSA obtaining weapons from outside Syria be acceptance of the latest American plans, but the democratic anti-Assad forces won't agree to that. Obama and the American generals and strategists prefer to see thousands upon thousands of Syrians slaughtered day after day, than to see the Syrian people have their own say on what goes on in Syria.
The Obama's administration is opposing ISIS, but its plans for fighting ISIS have little to do with helping the Syrian people themselves fight back against ISIS. Instead, they aim at creating a long-term US presence in the region. There is talk of training some Syrian fighters, starting next year, if these fighters agree to accept US plans, whatever they may be. US Secretary of State Kerry downplayed the importance of the battle at Kobane, saying preventing its fall to ISIS wasn't a "strategic goal" of the US. Instead US officials talk of long-term intervention that will last for years.
This disdain for the working people fighting at Kobane and throughout Syria is not an accident. It's because the US government, whether headed by Republicans or Democrats, is an imperialist government, which aims not at serving the interests of mere "farmers and dentists", but of bankers, financiers, and multinational corporations. It is not a government "of the people", but a government that mocks and distrusts people all over the world. This is why, while Syrian fighters will take weapons from anywhere they can get them, they are suspicious, and rightly so, of US government plans. This is why the US government will bomb in Syria -- sometimes ISIS, but not always -- but still won't let the Syrian fighters get the weapons to fight for themselves.
Meanwhile the Turkish government is actively blockading Kobane. It complains of all the refugees from Kobane who, fearing an ISIS takeover, fled into Turkey, but it's doing its best to stop Kurds who want to go back and fight ISIS in Kobane. Turkish tanks stand on one side of the border, visible from Kobane, and just let ISIS continue to bombard the hell out of the city. Turkish Kurds are outraged at what the Turkish government is doing, and demonstrations have taken place in many cities all over Turkey, with about 20 protesters killed.
The area of Kurdish majority is spread across parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The Turkish government, whether secular as in the past or Islamist now, has oppressed the Kurdish minority for a long time. Although the present moderate Islamist AKP government had relaxed some of the vicious anti-Kurdish measures of the past, it doesn't want to see a Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria, because it fears the example will inspire Turkish Kurds. So it demands, as the price of opposing an ISIS attack on Kobane, that everyone agree to set up a "buffer zone" in Syria, which will replace the Rojava autonomous region. It wants outside powers to guarantee the suppression of Kurdish rights in Syria, in order to ensure the continued denial of Kurdish rights in Turkey.
Some outside powers even directly support the Assad dictatorship. The Russian government, for example, has sent arms. The Iranian government has gone all out to supply troops, supplies and money to prop up the Syrian dictatorship. From their point of view, Assad may be brutal, but there's nothing that Assad does that they wouldn't do to their own people, and they also have strategic alliances with the Assad dictatorship against other countries. Their hands drip with Syrian blood. The Obama administration is seeking some sort of agreement with them to fight ISIS, but the price of such accommodation will be surrendering any serious opposition to Assad.
The mass uprising against Assad began in 2011, and it would have overthrown him long ago if it weren't for the obstruction and opposition from so many hostile outside forces, both those mentioned above and other Middle Eastern governments. Syria has become a focal point where many of the backward forces in the world have sought to misdirect or oppose the mass struggle, to back Assad or to promote fundamentalist groups of one sort or the other or to subordinate the anti-Assad struggle to international agreements. The result has been 200,000 dead, tens of thousands languishing in Assad's dungeons, three million refugees, and millions more people displaced from their homes but still living within Syria. All this makes solidarity with the mass uprising more important, and it means that the overthrow of Assad would not just benefit the Syrian people, but weaken many reactionary forces elsewhere.
There have been differences within the main opposition to Assad. Simply because a people rises for freedom doesn't mean that they have put behind them all their problems such as national chauvinism. One problem has been that the Free Syrian Army and many other opponents of Assad were not ready to grant national rights to the Kurdish minority in Syria. As a result, armed conflicts had broken out between units of the FSA and some Kurdish villages and armed groups. But in the struggle against the common enemy of ISIS, some progress has been made. The FSA and the Kurdish PYD have made agreements on coordinating their fight against ISIS, and this reportedly includes some recognition of the desirability of autonomy for the Kurds. As a result, some FSA fighters are alongside the YPG in Kobane. This is a hopeful development.
If the outside capitalist powers have helped tear Syria apart, it is all the more important that progressive people around the world support the Syrian uprising and the Kurdish people. All real communists or socialists should be in the forefront of supporting these struggles for democratic and national rights. But most of the groups calling themselves communist or anti-imperialist have either opposed this struggle or been silent. Their excuse has been that the struggle against the Assad dictatorship is supposedly an imperialist plot of the US government to overthrow the Syrian government. But it was the Syrian people who rose against Assad, upsetting the years of cooperation between Assad and the US government. And we see that today, in the name of fighting ISIS, the US government is again searching for deals with the Syrian government and its supporters, such as Russia and Iran. We see that Obama has scorned the Syrian democrats as just farmers, dentists, and ordinary folks. We see that those groups who have called for preventing arms getting to the Syrian democrats have, in part, been playing the same game as the dominant political faction of US imperialism.
The shameful attitude of much of the left towards the Syrian struggle is an example of what we in the Communist Voice Organization call "non-class anti-imperialism". Real anti-imperialism means supporting the masses of working people, such as those rising up against Assad or standing for Kurdish national rights. But non-class anti-imperialism ignores the working masses and instead supports one imperialism against another, one murderous regime against another. It is a fake anti-imperialism, a would-be anti-imperialism without any faith in the people or the oppressed classes. In the case of Syria, the non-class anti-imperialists support a most bloody and sick dictatorship, that of Assad. They think his current differences with US imperialism mean that he is anti-imperialist. They know that the Assad government worked hand-in-hand with US imperialism for years, even cooperating in the torture of the Canadian citizen Maher Arar and many other people, but they cynically shrug that off because the Assad dictatorship had even closer ties to Russian imperialism than US imperialism. We instead support the mass struggle. We know that, if dictatorship falls in Syria -- not just bringing down Assad personally but the whole machinery of dictatorship by the Baath Party -- this ultimately strengthens anti-imperialism. And this will be true even if the democratic anti-Assad forces managed to obtain some weapons from this or that reactionary outside force such as the US government.
Solidarity is an important force. Solidarity not only supports the current struggles, such as those against Assad, but unites people for future struggles. Let's end the shameful policy that has predominated in the American left of taking a hands-off attitude to the just struggles of millions upon millions of people around the world, such as the struggle against Assad, the past struggle against Qaddafi, and the struggle in Ukraine against Russian intervention and local economic oligarchs. Let's end the shameful policy of supporting one imperialism against another. Instead, let the working people of the world unite, in struggle against the imperialists and dictators, whether of the east or the west.
Solidarity against the fundamentalist onslaught!
Support the national rights of the Kurdish people!
Support the democratic uprising against the Assad dictatorship!
Support the democratic struggles of working people around the world!
Joseph Green, editor, Communist Voice <>
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