Solidarity with the Kurds – or NATO-bashing?

November 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm (anti-fascism, Eric Lee, internationalism, islamism, kurdistan, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", solidarity, Stop The War, Syria, turkey)

Solidarity With Kobane  London takes part in Global Rally

By Eric Lee (cross-posted from the Workers Liberty website)

At the 1 November demonstration in Trafalgar Square in support of besieged Kobane, it struck me that the speakers — and more broadly, the left — were not singing from the same page.

On the one side there were those who were demanding that Britain and NATO do more to help the Kurds fighting against the Islamic fascists of IS.  For example, Peter Tatchell led the crowd in chants demanding that David Cameron authorise the dropping of more aid to the Kurds, including weapons.

There were calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO because it, unlike other NATO countries, was not prepared to help the Kurds.

And more generally most of the speakers especially the Kurdish ones, had not a critical word to say about the USA, the West, NATO or imperialism.  Everyone was focussed on the evil that is “Islamic State”.

On the other side, some of the far-left speakers went overboard in denouncing NATO, the USA and the West, going so far as claiming that IS was a creation of NATO and Washington.

This was particularly the case with a spokesman for the “Stop the War Coalition” — an organisation whose presence at the event surprised many of the participants.

 The Coalition’s website has almost nothing at all about the war taking place today in Syria and Iraq and indeed the only reference to it is video of George Galloway denouncing the support NATO is giving to the Kurds.  Galloway also voted against this support in the Commons.

It seems to me that elements of the British far left find themselves in a bit of a bind.

 On the one hand, there’s this extraordinary, inspiring resistance movement in Kobane, which has captured the imagination of many who would normally be the natural constituency for the left.  The people on the ground, fighting IS, belong to a movement which was seen, until recently, as part of the broad international left.

 Obviously they deserve our support — and yet that seems to mean supporting the US and British air strikes, supporting NATO.  

To get around this, the far leftists have decided on the “ISIS is NATO” line, which is an extraordinary position — one is almost at a loss for words to describe it. 

For those not understanding how IS could be both under NATO attack and simultaneously a creation of NATO, some of the speakers went so far as to say that IS was using American weapons 

The implication was that America gave them weapons.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.  The American weapons that have fallen into the hands of IS were taken from the retreating Iraqi army.  Taken — not handed over as a gift by the Americans. 

One of the anti-NATO, anti-American tirades came from an organisation I’d not previously heard of called the Revolutionary Communist Group.  (I’m sure that specialists will know the entire history of this micro-sect, but for me it was new.) And groups like this, which get invited to speak at mass rallies, give only a very small piece of their line because they’d be booed off the stage if people knew what they really believed. 

The RCG’s speaker shouted the usual stuff about solidarity with the Kurds, but a quick glance at their website shows that they are in fact enthusiastic supporters of the bloody Assad dictatorship and its army.  The same Syrian army that abandoned Kobane — an army that no Kurd wants to have back.  But there was no mention of that to the largely Kurdish crowd in Trafalgar Square. 

So what are people like this, who support Assad and Saddam, who demonize NATO and the USA, doing at these rallies? 

They’re there because they can’t afford not to be there.  To have nothing to say when the battle of Kobane rages would be unacceptable; they must somehow show solidarity with the embattled Kurds. 

But they oppose the very thing — NATO air support — that has made that battle possible.  The tide may be turning in Kobane because of US bombing and air drops.

On the ground, some Kurds have been heard chanting “Long live Obama!”  How embarrassing for the anti-Americans on the far left.

These people with their crazy views, denouncing the essential support given by the west to the Kurds, praising Assad and Saddam, have no place at Kurdish solidarity rallies. They are there purely to cover their tracks, to provide themselves with some kind of moral cover as IS continues with its murderous rampage across Syria and Iraq.

We should give them no platform.

21 Comments

  1. prianikoff said,

    Lee is an apologist for imperialism.
    The speech by George Galloway that Lee refers to, was made during the Sept 26th Parliamentary debate on British involvement in bombing Iraq.
    Galloway was quite right to oppose the motion, as did many Labour MP’s.
    But he certainly did not oppose the Kurdish resistance.

    On October 18th, Galloway conducted a sympathetic interview with Kurdish activist Memed Aksoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gtn90tKXR2Y
    (Aksoy is a regular contributor on Kurdishquestion.com and supportive of the PKK-PYD-YPG/J).
    As became clear in early October, US airstrikes in Syria did not halt the advance of ISIS into Kobane.
    In fact, representatives of the YPG said that the bombing had led to ISIS redeploy its forces from Raqqa to Kobane. Meanwhile, the YPG were being denied aid and weapons and blockaded by Turkish forces.

    Every dog in the street knows that Kerry and Hammond didn’t regard Kobane as a key objective in their campaign. The determined resistance of the YPG/J forced them to act.
    By October 11th there was hand-to-hand fighting between the YPG-J and ISIS in the town.
    It wasn’t until October 20th that the US dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies.

    Lee uses this fact to wave the Stars and Stripes and justify the overall war aims of the Imperialist coalition. But it’s obvious that they will want some political payback.
    In a similar way Britain sent arms to the Partisans in Yugoslavia during WW2, but British troops helped crush the Greek left at the end of the war.

    • charliethechulo said,

      “Lee uses this fact to wave the Stars and Stripes and justify the overall war aims of the Imperialist coalition” and where exactly in the article does he do that?

  2. Lamia said,

    “As became clear in early October, US airstrikes in Syria did not halt the advance of ISIS into Kobane.”

    They did not prevent the advance when there were not many of them, but once the frequency increased, the US air strikes have made a considerable helpful difference, as attested by the defenders of Kobani who asked for more of them.

    But supposedly commentators from Socialist Unity know better than Kurdish forces in Kobani what is most effective. Prianikoff appears to believe that ISIS will be better stopped by grand-sounding resolutions of solidarity with Kurds than by actual ordinance dropped on the heads of ISIS fighters. Not surprisingly, they have been proven wrong, as have many others who claimed that air strikes would and could have no useful effect.

    The fact that the alliance against ISIS has air power and ISIS does not is currently the single main advantage the alliance enjoys. Not using it would objectively aid ISIS, which currently has superiority in well-equipped ground forces; that is not going to change overnight. In the meantime it’s necessary to make the best of what is available. Air power alone will not be sufficient to defeat ISIS, but it is a very necessary component of any chance to defeat it.

  3. prianikoff said,

    So Lamia, the fact that someone has ever posted on a blog with the word “Socialist” in its title (like this one) means that they share the politics of the blog-owners?

    What ridiculous, McCarthyite twaddle!
    But since the article above calls for the “no platforming” those who Lee disagrees with, it shouldn’t be too surprising.

    Like Lee, you tell porkies and mangle words in the interests of your pro-imperialist political agenda.

    While posing as a defender of the “Kurdish forces” in Kobane, you clearly haven’t followed what the PYD & YPG have said, or understood their political strategy.
    Nor have I ever written, or said, what you represent as my position on this subject.

    (btw I was banned from SU over a year ago for criticizing its editors)

    • john r said,

      Maybe I haven’t followed all that the PYD and the YPG have said but here is one quote regarding the airstrikes from one of their leaders –

      “The air strikes are benefiting us, but Islamic State is bringing tanks and artillery from the east. We didn’t see them with tanks, but yesterday we saw T-57 tanks,” [Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani defence council] added.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/11/kurdish-fighters-resist-islamic-state-kobani

      Regarding George Galloway (and I’m not a fan), while it is true that he has opposed the airstrikes, he has also said this in Parliament (26 Sept 14) –

      “..we have to strengthen those who are already fighting ISIL. We have to give them all the weapons they need—the Baghdad Government have paid for weapons that have still not been delivered. We have to strengthen the Kurdish fighters, who are doing a good job of fighting ISIL.”

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0002.htm

      While Mr Galloway does not say who “we” are, one must assume that he means the UK Govt rather than Hamas, the ANC and the Venezuelan Govt who John Rees called on to help. Maybe, the eyes of some, this makes him a “social – imperialist.”

      In truth, anyone who wants the Kurds to survive the onslaught by Isis has to take a “pro – imperialist” viewpoint. Those who want the “defeat of imperialism” must5 realise this would mean the mass slaughter of the Kurds and the fall of Kobane.

    • Lamia said,

      “While posing as a defender of the “Kurdish forces” in Kobane, you clearly haven’t followed what the PYD & YPG have said, or understood their political strategy.”

      A poor bluff. On the contrary, I drew attention before this or other blogs to the words of Polat Can about the efficacy of US airstrikes. Evidently it is YOU who is not up to speed on that. And the efficacy or not of airstrikes is not altered by the political strategy of the PYD and YPG, of which I am perfectly aware. Nor is it altered by the fact that for so long the US refused to intervene substantially, or the reasons why it failed to intervene quickly.

      Your stance on the matter is like a childish superstition: “US airstrikes can’t have any effect on ISIS because they are dropping imperialist bombs, not socialist ones. And they weren’t dropped for the right reasons anyway, which means they won’t harm any ISIS fighters but will probably bounce of and kill innocent Kurds.”

      Not surprisingly, you haven’t substantiated your absurd claim “US airstrikes in Syria did not halt the advance of ISIS into Kobane”. That’s because you can’t. They actually DID halt the advance when they were stepped up, and everyone knows that. You would rather it was not the case, that is all.

      Personally I would have been delighted if the YPG had been able to hold off ISIS on their own, and with no casualties, and with no damage to Kobani and with an ice cream and jelly party afterwards. Meanwhile in the real world that was not and could not be the case.

      It probably rankles with you that the Red Army received masses of supplies and vehicles from the evil imperialist USA in WW2 which enabled its advance against Nazi Germany. Or do you just sulkily pretend that that didn’t happen either?

      As for Socialist Unity, you were for a long time one of the dozen or so orthodox drones on there once the original larger membership had been cleansed almost out of existence. The charge McCarthyite from a former faithful apparatchik of Socialist Unity, the most ban-crazy political blog in Britain, doesn’t carry much weight. The fact that they finally banned even you is just par for the course. One day Tony Collins will probably ban John and Andy and even himself. You were for a long time a vocal member of that pathetic, intolerant crew, however. Your role in the boo-boy cleansing of the place of the few female posters it ever attracted was noted too. It must grate that on this board you can’t get others banned for disagreeing with you. Oh well, tough shit Pranny-fuckoff.

  4. Aaron Aarons said,

    Lee’s article is a clear example of the kind of dishonesty that has been a hallmark of the “anti-anti-imperialist left”. He doesn’t deal with the question of whether or not Western imperialism, and particularly U.S. imperialism, is the main enemy of humanity on a global scale and, if one agrees that it is, how does one incorporate that recognition into one’s strategy and tactics in dealing with the particular problem of ISIS, and the more specific problem of ISIS’ attack on the leftist Kurds of Kobane.

    Lee alleges that ‘most of the speakers especially the Kurdish ones, had not a critical word to say about the USA, the West, NATO or imperialism. Everyone was focussed on the evil that is “Islamic State”.’ But that kind of pragmatic refusal to see the forest for the trees, and insistence on dealing with each individual situation in isolation, is and has long been an essential characteristic of the opportunist left.

    But let me point out a few specific faults in his argument here:

    1) It is dishonest to attack the anti-imperialist left in general for the fact (if true) that somebody or some group made careless, loosely-phrased assertions about the relationship between Western imperialism and ISIS. In fact, inflated rhetoric aside, the U.S. attacks on and occupation of Iraq, and its terror, in conjunction with Shia sectarian death squads, against the Sunni Arab population, are what created the basis for the rise of ISIS.

    2) “There were calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO because it, unlike other NATO countries, was not prepared to help the Kurds.”

    It’s hard to interpret this as anything but support for the existence of NATO, something nobody who deserves to be called a “leftist” or “socialist” would want to be associated with. And the problem with Turkey is not that it “was not prepared to help the Kurds” but that it was and is actually interfering with Turkish leftist Kurds crossing the border to help the Kurds in Kobane. That interference should be opposed with militant mass demonstrations in Turkey and elsewhere, not with appeals to a major imperialist alliance to whip a recalcitrant member into line. (OTOH, any anti-imperialist would be happy to see as many NATO members as possible leave that alliance of gangsters, voluntarily or otherwise.)

    3) The reference to the “Syrian army that abandoned Kobane” is disingenuous, since the Syrian army abandoned the Kurdish regions of Northern Syria to the PYD/YPG, not to any Islamists, and the PYD/YPG and the Assad regime basically have maintained an unofficial non-agression pact, something that has not endeared the Kurdish group to supporters of the anti-Assad movement.

    Principled leftists can’t expect that every oppressed group that is focused on its immediate problems will always be happy with what principled leftists have to say about their problems. To routinely adapt one’s positions to the needs and desires of whatever group one is talking to is pure opportunism.

  5. Jim Denham said,

    “To routinely adapt one’s positions to the needs and desires of whatever group one is talking to is pure opportunism”:an excellent description of the Stop The War Coalition, the SWP, etc, etc.

    The first sentence of your comment, Aaron (” He doesn’t deal with the question of whether or not Western imperialism, and particularly U.S. imperialism, is the main enemy of humanity on a global scale” etc) is unmarxist and Western-centric gibberish

    If you’re a Kurd or a Shi’ite or a member of any minority group in the Middle East, then at the moment US imperialism is not your main enemy just at the moment.

  6. Lamia said,

    “Principled leftists can’t expect that every oppressed group that is focused on its immediate problems will always be happy with what principled leftists have to say about their problems.”

    In turn, your self-described ‘principled leftists’ can’t expect that many people will pay you much heed or view you with much more than contempt.

    That is why your far left is so small and ineffectual – because of people like yourself making ‘theoretical’ excuses from the comfort of western ivory towers why certain groups of people should just be left to the head-choppers, rapists and slave-traders. It’s why Kurdish leftists and democrats are admired round the world for putting their lives at risk while the callous, jargonistic tripe of the self-styled anti-imperialist left is ignored or despised.

    Keep building that mass movement, comrade. Remember, it’s the general populace who are completely wrong, not you.

    • Aaron Aarons said,

      The “general populace” is rather divided in numerous ways, including by who their immediate or perceived oppressors are. But what they don’t need are middle-class and labor-aristocrat “socialists” who, from the comfort of western ivory towers, find “leftist” rationalizations to cheer on Western imperialism, the main enemy of most of humanity.

      • Jim Denham said,

        Aaron: read the Communist Manifesto, especially the section on “Reactionary Socialism”. Marxists have always insisted that socialism must be built, by the proletariat, upon the gains of capitalism and the bourgeoisie (while still in their progressive phase), not reactionary forces that propose going backwards into more primitive societies and economic forms.

        This is a-b-c stuff for educated socialists in the Marxian tradition. But you don’t seem to get it.

      • Lamia said,

        The reason he doesn’t get it, Jim, is because he is not following on from what Marx wrote but according to the Stalinist pseudo-Marxist tradition in which ‘imperialist’ is a term to be (conveniently) applied only to enemies of the USSR/Russia, chief among them the USA. He seems to imagine Marx would have seen only bad in the USA, which is historically not the case. The fact that Aaron and co are more interested in what Stalin said than what Marx said is why they end up in these horrible and ridiculous theoretical and moral contortions.

        And Aaron, I am not ‘cheering on western imperialism’. I am simply describing objective reality – namely that the US airstrikes DID very greatly help halt ISIS at Kobani, something that Prianikoff’s ideological brain is unable to accept and process. There is no point trying to analyse a historic-political situation if you refuse to accept certain basic facts staring you and everyone else in the face simply because you wish they were not the case. I do not regard the success of those airstrikes as counting as some sort of universal vindication of US foreign policy. Evidently Prianikoff and you are worried that it might be seen that way, but that says more about your own fragile thinking and your lack of confidence in the ability of others to think clearly than anything about what has happened at Kobani,

        You evidently require a Manichean ‘Everything the USA does is evil and the USA should always be opposed’ outlook in order to bolster your ideological beliefs, but most people will think that is silly. More importantly, they can see it’s not actually true. It is because far leftists so often assert things that most people can see are wildly ridiculous and obviously false that you do not get listened to when you may have something more worthwhile to say.

        It’s not because of people like myself misleading the poor ignorant masses, it’s because of people like you making idiots of yourselves. You drastically underestimate the intelligence of the masses and overestimate your own. And you wonder why the general public despise you.

  7. Aaron Aarons said,

    Jim Denham: While I have always had a great respect for Marx as one of the most important political thinkers of the modern world, I do not call myself a “Marxist”. And I reject the whole schema wherein human history goes through stages, with capitalism as a “higher” stage in relation to everything that came before it.

    Rather, I see capitalism, including its earlier form as pre-industrial mercantile imperialism, as a destructive force that might at times have destroyed something that really was an obstacle to human well-being, but that also destroyed countless human societies and actual human beings whose destruction was not a benefit to anyone except for a small minority of individuals and families.

    @ Lamia: The assertion that I am “more interested in what Stalin said than what Marx said” is absurd. What I have read of what Stalin said is mostly quotes from him in Trotsky’s and Trotskyists’ polemics against him, which would make me more justifiably susceptible to attacks from defenders of Stalin than from “third-camp” or openly pro-bourgeois-democracy leftists, many of whom come out of the Stalinist tradition. (There are even those, particularly some Maoists, who still defend Stalin while also fitting into the latter categories.)

    I don’t have the energy at the moment to deal with the rest of Lamia’s last comment, most of which is either criticism of things i did not say or totally unproven assertions about how “the masses” react to people like me. In particular, I have seen no evidence that “the general public despise[s]” me, although many Zionists and United Snakes patriots probably do. I have, for example, gotten more positive than negative feedback at rallies and demonstrations, or even on the street, when I carry signs supporting, e.g., Hasan Akbar, the African-American Muslim U.S. soldier who killed two officers and injured about 10 others in an attack on a U.S. base command tent in Kuwait at the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And, in general, my experience with left activists in Mexico and with those from Latin American whom I have met in the U.S., as well as those who I have come across on the Internet, is that their view of U.S. imperialism is closer to mine than it is to Lamia’s or the AWL’s.

    • Jim Denham said,

      “I do not call myself a “Marxist”. And I reject the whole schema wherein human history goes through stages, with capitalism as a “higher” stage in relation to everything that came before it”:

      Ah! This explains a lot. Pity some of the self-proclaimed “Marxists” who reach the same bizarre and reactionary conclusions as you, are not so frank.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        Are you saying that “reject[ing] the whole schema wherein human history goes through stages, with capitalism as a “higher” stage in relation to everything that came before it” is “bizarre and reactionary”? If so, can you back that up with anything other than appeals to the god called “progress”?

      • Jim Denham said,

        ” … can you back that up with anything other than appeals to the god called “progress”?”

        Er…

        * common sense

        * a knowledge of history

        * statistics re life expentancy, health, etc

        * being a rational, sane human being

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        Jim Denham: Three of the four items you listed as evidence for your point of view are just different ways of saying that you are right because you are right. The only item with any content is the reference to “statistics re life expentancy [sic!], health, etc”, which may demonstrate that humans make progress in lengthening their lifetimes and, more debatably, living healthful lives, but does nothing to prove that ‘human history goes through stages, with capitalism as a “higher” stage in relation to everything that came before it’, and less than nothing to demonstrate that rejection of that assertion is “bizarre and reactionary”, if any objective meaning can be given to those two words.

      • Jim Denham said,

        “…just different ways of saying that you are right ”

        Correct: I recognise that I am right as against a moral and political bankrupt like you.

    • Lamia said,

      “I have, for example, gotten more positive than negative feedback at rallies and demonstrations, or even on the street, when I carry signs supporting, e.g., Hasan Akbar, the African-American Muslim U.S. soldier who killed two officers and injured about 10 others in an attack on a U.S. base command tent in Kuwait at the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

      This just flags up your lack of self-awareness. In the USA, where you pride yourself on your daring and brave revolutionary career, people grit their teeth and ignore it when idiots like yourself try to tweak their nose and claim the USA is the world’s Enemy No 1.

      You boast that you have protested in the USA for decades, yet the fact that you are still around freely speaking our mind is the most eloquent refutation of your contention that you are living in the most evil imperialist nation on earth. Had you been an opponent of, say, the Russian government, or many other governments on earth, you would have been disappeared or killed long ago.

      You have no idea of what it is like to live under real repression, and your arrogant prescriptions on here mark you out as the sort of smug US-centric idiot you seem to think you are opposing. You are not fit to tie the shoelaces of the defenders of Kobani. You have been a plastic, posturing ‘revolutionary’ comfortably play-acting in a country that is very flawed but still very tolerant of ‘revolutionaries’ like yourself. apparently you’ve been protesting in this manner for about 60 years, so there’s probably no hope of your achieving any self-awareness. After all that time, you still haven’t understood that the USA is not the centre of the world and the measure of all things, for good or for ill. That makes you a lousy political thinker.

      • Aaron Aarons said,

        Your ad hominem attack is irrelevant. I will readily admit that there are people a lot more courageous than I in almost every political tendency, left, right, or other, possibly even including the AWL. The idea that I pride myself on my “daring and brave revolutionary career” is your invention. I do take a bit of pride, though, in the fact that I have pretty much avoided falling into the trap of identification with the country and ethnic group I happen to have been born into.

        I take advantage of the U.S. ruling class’ desire to maintain the U.S.’ image as a “free country”, despite its having the largest percentage of its people in prison of any country, and of my white skin and Jewish ethnicity, to say things against U.S. imperialism and its clients that are far more provocative than words and actions that have gotten comrades killed in large numbers in U.S. neo-colonies like El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries, at least until the U.S-backed death squads had killed enough people, and terrorized enough of the rest, to make bourgeois “democracy” a viable option for the looters and exploiters.

        Incidentally, you provide not a scintilla of evidence to back up your claims about how people react to “idiots” like me who “claim the USA is the world’s Enemy No 1”, although I have little doubt that most people inside the U.S., and a few other countries, particularly Israel, disagree with me, while I think there have been surveys that indicate that very many people in Europe, and majorities in Latin America, would agree.

        Anyway, I, with all my personal flaws, am not the issue. U.S.-led Western imperialism, and the insistence of people like you and this Eric Lee character to deny its importance, is.

      • Jim Denham said,

        No: you are the question, Aaron. In the sense that you represent all that is wrong about the petty bourgeois, middle class, non-Marxist, identity-politics, self-regarding, anti-enlightenment, self-hating, anti-Semitic, anti-science, reactionary, so-called “left” that (quite rightly) all reasonable people hate, reject and despise.

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