The Third International after Lenin

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kobane, Socialism and the Question of Intervention: The Misery of the Left in Europe

For information purposes. -- Jay


As the ISIS started to occupy the headlines of the daily papers in Europe, the Western imperial states have also started to mention the legitimacy of the war against the horrifying actions of the ISIS, for which they also share the responsibility.

A new imperialist intervention would again be the case, but this time against ISIS, the enemies of humanity. The left in Europe which has almost never covered the massacres carried out by the ISIS previously, fiercely opposed the idea of intervention from a traditional interpretation of socialism. It is fully understandable to oppose the idea of military intervention, yet, what is the alternative? Silence?

What is ISIS?

ISIS, known also as ISIL or IS, benefitted from the complex and intensive political and military situation in the region and self-declared an Islamic State in Sunni-Arabic dominated regions of Iraq and Syria. They have fiercely attacked any group and manifested very brutal forms of violence in the name of Islam. Beheading those "kufars", raping and enslaving women, fusillading en mass and several kinds of manifestations of violence have become ordinary images coming from Iraq and Syria. Three options were given by the ISIS to those who are not Sunni-Muslim: convert to Islam, pay jizya (tax imposed on religious groups other than the "official" one) or be killed. Facing this brutality, many immigrated to neighbouring countries. The ISIS is raping the values of human-kind in Mesopotamia and the western world is just watching everything like a movie made by a famous director, continuing talking about the new "film" and convincing themselves about "how barbarian the rest of the world".

The ISIS and other jihadist groups are not new and they have not come from "nowhere". They have been attacking the Kurds for at least two years during which the Kurds have been trying to reach those "pragmatic" and "rational" "decision makers" in order to highlight how dangerous they are for the future of the entire world. However, just as it has happened many times, the West started to talk about this cruel organisation after they beheaded American and British journalists and made it available online. It is certainly not acceptable what they did to the journalists; yet, we would not see such a scene if the "decision makers" had only considered what the Kurds have faced and were facing. Not surprisingly, the left in Europe has also ignored the jihadist threat to the region and the track that the developments could take. It is worthy to repeat for the left once more: these gangs are raping the values of human kind, including the values of revolutionary struggle.

Misery of mainstream left wing parties and organisations

One can simply put hundreds of reasons as to why the left has to oppose and react against the ISIS and what they have been doing to innocent people throughout last two years. However, those who are supposed to speak out against the ISIS, primarily the left wing parties and organisations, have simply failed to come up with a comprehensive approach, are even devoid of understanding what is going on exactly and, unfortunately for them, are stuck in the orthodox interpretation of socialism against imperialism. They have once again stuck to the marginal track to blame their respective governments as imperialist, which in fact, means almost nothing, either for the government or for the society.

In the specific case of the ongoing resistance of the Kurds in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) the Popular Protection Units (YPG) have been resisting against both the brutal attacks of the jihadists and the military aggressions of the Syrian regime. The Kurds have not opted for cooperation either with the regime or the mainstream opposition groups due to very convincing and understandable reasons. The regime has been oppressing the Kurds, among others, for a very long time and therefore, it was impossible for the Kurds to go along with the regime politically. However, facing political and military difficulties in the context of the ongoing war, the regime decided to focus on the strategic areas in their war with the opposition groups and intelligibly, have not carried out heavy military offensives against the Kurdish self-declared cantons, compared to other regions of the country. Furthermore, the declaration of the Kurdish cantons in Rojava would pose certain problems to Turkey which has been amongst the most vocally critical countries of the Syrian regime. Thus, we can talk about a political convergence between the regime and the Kurds rather than a strategically motivated agreement. Besides, the Kurds could not have cooperated with the mainline Syrian opposition because of two core issues. The first, the Arab opposition have not recognised any collective rights of the Kurds and postponed all Kurdish demands to a probable post-Assad period. The second, the Arab opposition did not have a clear agenda for the future of Syria. The question such as whether it would be a new dictatorship or a democracy has not a clear and convincing answer and the Kurds remained sceptical about the will of the opposition in relation to democratisation.

Taking all this background into account, the Kurds opted for a third line policy and started to build their cantons with a new democratic understanding, inclusive of all the different factions of the population. The Kurdish cantons have never carried out any offensives against any group unless a military attack was the case. The current resistance of the Kobane canton is due to the brutal attack of the jihadist ISIS and it is a war of self-defence. The Kurds are carrying out a socialist experiment in the Middle-East, one of the most challenging regions of the world, and the international left is equally responsible for the protection of this emerging socialist hope. This experiment needs the unconditional support of the socialists of the world and internationalist solidarity. (For those who are interested in the new model in Rojava here is an article, available online:

However, the left wing parties and groups in Europe are far from understanding what is going on exactly in Kurdistan and in Kobane, nor do they have any plans to understand the ideological background of the Rojava Cantons. They have to admit that they were unable to understand the third line policy and, just like the mainstream media have been doing, positioned the Kurds together with the Assad regime despite the fact that the Kurds clearly declaring and practically manifesting a billion times that they are an opposition group. They kept on blaming the Kurds to be the proxy of the regime. Besides, some other groups adopted a restrictive approach and claimed that if the Kurds are not with Bashar al-Assad then they have to be with the opposition. Yet one should remind people of the fact that being against the regime doesn't automatically mean accepting all analyses and projections of the mainline opposition in Syria. Moreover, the mainline opposition in Syria is also supported by "imperialists" against the regime. So, the Kurds clearly understood the right place to stand was a third line.

Most of the left groups have started to pay attention to the issue only after the international coalition declared that air-strikes would be carried out against the ISIS. Despite the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan, these groups have turned a blind eye on the issue and as always, their agenda was set by imperialists once more. They could have been in solidarity with the peoples of the region and the only democratic-socialist experiment in the middle-east. They could have raised awareness concerning the threat of the jihadist groups before they slaughtered the Yazidis in the Sinjar (Shengal) region of Iraq and the threat of massacre on Kobane. It is clear that most of those left wing parties and groups are very much dependant on the "state-centric" paradigm and don't have their own agenda nor do they have the capacity to foresee. Remaining silent on the issue of the jihadists is also leverage for them. The European public is sceptic about Muslims and this scepticism is being instrumentalised by most of the populist right wing parties. Nonetheless, when the left analyses the question of Islam in Europe, it has to clearly separate Islam as a religion and Islam as a politically motivated jihadist regime. Most of the left wing groups in Europe fail to comply with this separation.

As far as military intervention is concerned, parliamentary left parties voted "no" to a military intervention and non-parliamentary groups protested against military intervention. Me personally, I have never been in favour of any kind of military intervention and I will never be. However, there are a couple of questions to be answered in this regard. The Kurds are being killed mainly by the weapons of the western countries which were captured by ISIS from the arsenals of the Iraqi central government and those of the Free Syrian Army which had been provided by NATO countries. So, isn't there an objective responsibility of the western imperial states to the peoples of the Middle-East while they are being massacred by their arms? Shouldn't the left wing parties feel responsible to remind their government of this responsibility? What is the alternative to a military intervention that these parties can suggest from a leftist perspective? What can these left wing groups do while the Kurds are being massacred by the terrorists of ISIS? And a last question: Why didn't the left parties cover the Kurdish question in Syria before the military intervention of the coalition? There is not a short-cut answer to any of these questions but a further concentration on these questions is vital and essential. Furthermore, different from the traditional anti-imperialist discourse, these questions deserve to be reconsidered and reconceptualised from the perspective of the left in Europe. Otherwise, this is going to serve nothing but the continuation of the misery.

The Kurds are experimenting with a new democratic-socialist model in Rojava which needs the support and solidarity of the left in Europe. Yet, as the Kurdish socialists living in Europe, we are fed up with the endless discussions with leftist groups with no concrete steps. On the question of international solidarity, the left in Europe is in a cycle of desperation, driving it in a misery of perspective, which it should get rid of without any further delay.

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