AC Meetup: In Our Hearts & on the Ground: International Solidarity with the Democrats of Rojava
The most compelling socialist message is how we live our lives. In many places, such as the so-called “free” U.S., repression against socialists often effectively prevents us from coming out of the closet. We know each other by pseudonyms if at all. The credit to our cause for much of our efforts may be lost and actions misunderstood as advancement of one volunteer cause or another, mere do-goodism–not as revolutionary acts intended to promote change from the world neoliberal system that causes unjust conditions to begin with.
Hardly woe is me, however; in Syrian Kurdistan, our sisters and brothers die every day for the crime of living out loving egalitarian solidarity. In truth, woe is “we.” To Islamic State (IS) and its direct enablers in the governments of Turkey and oil-generating Middle East “friends of the U.S.”–making the U.S. in essence the biggest enabler of IS— stateless anarcho-socialism in Rojava is a cause worthy of rape and other torture followed by cruel death.
“We” can come to the aid of the deep democrats of Rojava or watch as our comrades are slaughtered. It is as simple as that.
“We” don’t often get second chances. But we have to be ready. Perhaps once in a great while, we can resurrect our bigger global dreams, move beyond despair to critique honestly “our” mistakes, and then do our best as species-beings. And honor the memory and example of selfless people like Tom Page.
It is a sad tale, the Spanish Civil War. One of the saddest aspects is the left’s disintegration in part from harassing and even killing its own. Almost a sick joke, to the delight of the Fascists and their crypto pals around the capitalist world even to this day: recruited by Comintern, thousands of well-intentioned communists walk into a country to fight Fascists, where they find thousands of well-intentioned Trotskyites and many independent socialists like my dear Eric Arthur Blair also have walked, and a huge and highly successful homegrown anarchist experiment in Catalonia with the living spirit of socialism Blair would never forget; and they are told that they are at war not only with the Fascists but also with their leftist brothers and sisters, whom Stalin’s NKVD proceeds to attack, with the end result of a divided-and-conquered left and the fall of the Republic.
Almost eight decades later, the left has never recovered. But we can still dream, and more importantly act mindfully.
Sometimes I become inspired by a diary published in Anti-Capitalist Meetup to try to work out the practical implications. Such is the case with last week’s excellent diary by NY brit expat. At the end, she calls the hard left to take serious material action in support of Syrian Kurdistan, aka, Rojava. There brave leftist women and men are fighting and dying for stateless deep democracy against all odds–IS and the Syrian regime to the front and sides of them and the government of Turkey to the rear. But, they are not really alone. The more we learn about them, and feel our solidarity with them, the more their fight becomes ours, as we are called to defy boundaries and if necessary laws with our love in action.
The Syrian Kurds are cutoff by Turkey from their brothers and sisters who want to come to their aid. Moreover, Turkey has effectively sided with IS. How else to interpret deeds and words?–ISIS fighter in Kobanê: “Erdo?an has helped us a lot”.
[O]n Tuesday October 7, Kurds across Turkey, but especially in the country’s southeastern region, took to the streets in protest against Turkey’s role in the looming massacre of Kobanê. The size and intensity of the protests were unprecedented (at least since the violence of the 1990s), as was the reaction of the state. The opinion shared by most people I have met over the past few days is that this is the beginning of a new Kurdish uprising.
Before anything else, what has to be made absolutely clear is that the Kurds are not protesting to demand a military intervention by Turkey, as has been presented in several mainstream media outlets. Instead, the protesters — Kurds and sympathizers alike — demand an end to Turkey’s covert support for ISIS and for the border at Kobanê to be opened in order to let refugees out, and humanitarian aid and weapons in. Every single person I spoke to in Diyarbak?r, Urfa, Suruç and in the villages at the border agree about one thing: ISIS could never have grown as big as it did, and conquer as much of Rojava as it has done, were it not for the material, financial and logistical support the extremists received from the Turkish state.
Before discussing practical ways to aid the Syrian Kurds, a theoretical dynamic is worth noting. As deep democrats eschewing the sound bites fed to us by capitalism, we grapple with root causes in the Middle East and everywhere, which Geminijen did well here just two weeks ago. Carrying this analysis to its logical conclusions, we grapple for ways to supercede national boundaries, which as Rosa Luxemburg observed was necessary to establish lasting justice in a material world controlled by and for capitalists. It is therefore ironic that a one-time “nationalist struggle” in part of Kurdistan would now serve as a teachable moment. The reformation of the dream for Kurdistan from a nation state to a stateless deep democracy is remarkable in and of itself. But as a symbol of the means for unifying the human species, the truth lies right in front of us: WE CAN UNITE AS PEOPLE OF THE WORLD no matter what the nation states, which are largely governmental slaves to neoliberalism, tell us. If Syrian Kurds can work to build socialist autonomy in a Middle Eastern war zone with so many obstacles, we see that we too can be part of a stateless deep democratic whole. But not if we won’t fight for it, and do so mindfully.
The following are three key ways to provide international mutual aid to the deep democrats of Rojava. This is not authoritative much less authoritarian. The most important thing is to urgently demonstrate solidarity the best you can.
This also is not a risk management analysis, and you will have to follow-up and investigate as you deem best. If you proceed to implement any of them, but especially the first two, you likely will be placed into a special DHS database if you are not already there–or worse. Nor is this a legal opinion but rather a moral opinion. In a world where innocent people are being used as geopolitical footballs even if it means they will be slaughtered, must we feel justly bound by the rules and artifacts of imperialism imposed upon us by nation states? I would say no, but we must also do our due diligence of the consequences that may result to us and those closest to us.
1. Let us give our money to buy them arms and heal their wounds: A left-wing Danish Party recently came to the conclusion that it should do so and acted accordingly. (This came along with a recognition that “ air strikes do not solve the problem of IS.“) So did a Swedish organization. There has been a “[p]ositive and enthusiastic reception from all over Europe.” Here is a link to a German group describing one way to give money for arms. And if you do not feel comfortable supporting the purchasing of arms, perhaps you will be more inclined to support the purchasing of urgently needed medicines and medical supplies administered by the Kurdish Red Crescent.
The nation states which claim to be moral should not be ostracizing or countenancing barriers to aiding the Syrian Kurds. Their political branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States (see section 219 list ), the European Union and NATO. This affiliation is the Syrian Kurds’ right, and at this point the terrorist designation of the PKK is anachronistic and itself immoral, assuming it ever was justified. While this is not a legal opinion, the way I read the U.S. law, monetary support for the KYG/KYJ, much less the Kurdish Red Crescent, is not support for the PKK. (See 18 U.S. Code § 2339B – Providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.)
2. If we have military training and are in a position to be of service, let us carefully consider whether it would be wise to give ourselves to fight beside them in armed struggle: I say this with great hesitation. Unlike George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I don’t think we should ever cavalierly recommend other people do what we and our loved ones are not ourselves in a position to do. Late Friday afternoon as I packed for a lovely fall camping trip, a couple of kids in the neighborhood were playing basketball outside while their father prepared to ship off for his umpteenth deployment in W and Dick’s wars. Their father is a highly fit early thirties minority from a Rust Best ghetto (I won’t provide details to protect his identity). Military capitalism makes him risk his life and making his kids fatherless so that he can make a living. Moreover, while my hero George Orwell went to Spain and took a Fascist bullet in the throat, he had been a trained British soldier and was in an organized unit that formed part of international brigades. A lone old physically-awkward socialist who cannot fire a gun straight but with a desire to help and a pure heart is not a fair analogy and would likely at best just be in the way. Most importantly, leftist Kurds are ready to cross the border from Turkey and fight. Most of the non-Kurdish “us” may be far less effective than our Kurdish comrades in the direct armed struggle.
3. Let us do the relatively safe but still critical socialist work of exercising speech on behalf of the deep democrats of Rojava: We can give our words to let others from all walks of life know about (a) the Syrian Kurds, including the incredible role played by women in the KYJ, the Women’s Protection Units, a story so compelling it defies not only national but also media boundaries–put the Marie Claire (of all places) photographic article on your Facebook page and ask your “friends” if they support the raping and slaughtering of these women–because that is what has or may soon happen to each of these brave women pictured, with the acquiescence of our great ally Turkey; and (b) the immoral role played by Turkey in furthering the agonies and tragedies being experienced by the Syrian Kurds.