- Date published:
3:36 pm, February 11th, 2015 - 63 comments
Categories: culture, democracy under attack, democratic participation, education, feminism, history, International, Left, political alternatives, political education, racism, Revolution, social democracy, Syria, vision, war - Tags: democracy, hypocrisy, middle east, revolution, Rojava, Social Democracy, syria
Imagine this – a society where women and men are afforded equal rights and decisions are the result of deeply participatory and grassroots democratic procedures. Believe it or not, that’s the case in Syria today within the autonomous cantons of Efrin, Kobane and Cizire where some 4 million people live
Until last week, when a link to a Wallace Chapman RNZ interview arrived in my inbox, I had heard nothing about any such thing happening in Syria. The interview really ought to be listened to.
Some internet searching has turned up, not what I’d call a ‘huge trawl’ of further information from major media outlets. There was, among precious little else, an opinion piece in the Guardian by David Graeber entitled ‘Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?’ It should be read.
Given that our government, in concert with other western governments, bang on about democracy and women’s rights in the Middle East, some might then wonder why they don’t promote and embrace the Rojava Revolution (as the people of the region have named it), call for an end to sanctions affecting the autonomous Cantons and provide whatever aid and help is required.
The Constitution of the Rojava Cantons states in the pre-amble –
Under the Charter, we, the people of the Autonomous Regions, unite in the spirit of reconciliation, pluralism and democratic participation so that all may express themselves freely in public life. In building a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs, the Charter recognizes Syria’s territorial integrity and aspires to maintain domestic and international peace. (my emphasis)
Read the David Graeber article linked to above – hell! Read this one too – if you are wondering why our governments would rather such sentiments (and others besides) weren’t expressed in relation to democratic governance. Liberal governments, as history teaches us, despise democracy and would rather embrace fascism than defend or promote it.
Case in point? As of Dec 4th, any Australian going to Syria to aid the Rojavans in any way shape or form will face ten years in jail. The Al-Raqqi Province the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs has decreed as ‘off limits’ runs between the autonomous Cantons of Cizire and Kobane.
Meanwhile, any financial, medical or other assistance anyone may be tempted to send the way of the peoples of Rojava will instantly fall foul of the blanket western definition of the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
Any attempt to sign the facebook petition calling for the lifting of that definition will find a deleted facebook account.
Thank god then for people like Australia’s Northern Territories Labor Party President Matthew Gardiner. (His face book account has been stripped of all content btw)
More on David Graeber
( and he is more handsome than John key)
Spanish Civil War, Guatemalan left, Angolan Marxist militants, South African Marxist militants; there are plenty of old leftie analogies to buttress moral urges to get in there.
There have also been plenty of posts on TS saying how complex the Middle East is, with a strong subtext inferring that intervention by nation-states has been wrong all along and further intervention would be even more wrong. Looks like quietism, caution, cynicism, and the standard retreat to the right wing doing the international heavy lifting because they have historically had fewer qualms about using the military, taking the glory, fudging mistakes, and picking up their gun.
This wasn’t the left’s pattern in the first half of the twentieth century.
The Prime Minister only yesterday signaled he will now frame the left hard as cowards. The media will boil this down very hard, very fast. They will both conflate WW1 into it, however fairly or not.
We have two hard questions ahead, which the left must answer:
1. Which kind of state-sanctioned professional military intervention do we assent to as citizens?
2. When does the left pick up a gun?
When does the left pick up a gun?
We did that a long time ago – despite calls to decommission the Army, Navy, Air Force and GCSB, the Left is armed as much as any other party in Parliament.
Whom do we target, and what are the rules of engagement?
That’s the interesting this about citing the Spanish civil war, because it was a civil war – there were very few rules of engagement. The invitation from Bill is to get into a war with no rules of engagement. Very seductive; it’s the precise analogue of ISIS inviting its own fighters to join them.
Ad, until last week, any and all western interventions were based on what pack of bastards to back. I’ll stick to my guns (not picking them up) on that one and maintain that all such intervention is wrong.
Here’s a thing though. Current western intervention is bolstering the embargo on those autonomous regions and more or less delivering heavy weapons to fcking ISIS.
Current reports from major news outlets consistently fudge and ignore the context of people of Rojava dying fighting ISIS – I mean, the fcking Guardian wanked on about martyrs (dead women combatants) in one article while ignoring the framework or context that led to them taking up arms. (Graeber mentions it in the second link I provided and I’m sure you could find the Guardian article with minimal searching)
Others laud the US and NATO air strikes ( eg – Yazidis stuck on Mount Sinjar) while ignoring the fact that it was men and women from the Autonomous Regions that facilitated the descent of tens of thousands of men, women and children down the mountain and along the corridor they maintained following those air strikes…
In the end, unless we prevent it, our governments will sit back and allow the peoples in the Autonomous Cantons to be wiped out by who-ever when their interests no longer coincide with their own…Spain redux.
And there is nothing ‘lesser’ about anyone on the left providing medical aid or expertise…being a driver…being a builder or a plumber or whatever. BUT. Our own governments have decided that any and all persons traveling to Syria for whatever reason – even the most philanthropic reason – are fcking terrorists.
Well, the government of Kurdistan has formally recognised the Cantons, and are going to be part of any ongoing solution, especially now Turkey seems more amenable to a Kurdistan existing at all…
But if you just take the time to read some of the links, you’ll understand that the Rojava Revolution is predicated on rejecting any notion of a Kurdish state.
So, Turkey being amenable to a ‘Kurdistan’ is just irrelevant nonsense. And I’m deeply suspicious of your other statement… if you have a link to the Kurdish state government formally recognising the Cantons and, by extension, the Rojava revolution, I’d really appreciate you posting it.
I was about to, and then I found a reference to it in your links.
It’s the Duhok agreement, I think.
If I’m reading the info in that link correctly, there was a positive vote within parliament, and yet no formal recognition by the government.
The language used in reports of other links (google search for Duhok agreement) is, at best, confusing. It would appear to me that the agreement is between two hierarchical organisations and amounts to an attempt at sidelining the people of the cantons and effectively hi-jacking the Rojava Revolution via ‘recognised’ (liberal)vehicles of authority.
I could be wrong. It’s just my reading of contradictory and confusing language.
But how else to explain shit like “The groups agreed to…” where ‘the groups’ are two discreet Political Parties and not, it seems, subject to the democratic mechanisms being developed and honed within the Cantons?
I’ll say it again. The Rojava Revolution isn’t just about Kurds and it certainly isn’t about any ambition to form a Kurdistan or any state bound form of representative parliamentary democracy.
EDIT: Just read the third comment below the linked article and it reflects (confirms?) my own suspicions. -“The main problem in KRG is being divided beetween parties. And know you want to create that problem in Rojava? For your own intrests. There is unity in Rojava. You just want power.”
The Kurdistani government in Iraq espouses similar values: independent media, free elections, democracy, so it isn’t just about Kurds either.
That said, they’ve spent the last two and a half decades defending their borders against everybody. The desire to expand them cannot be their top priority, especially in the face of Wahhabist (is that what ISIS are?) aggression, not to mention the “war” on “terror”.
I see the Rojava as an extension of Kurdish democratic revolution, and still the KRG has to respect Realpolitik as much as the House of Saud or the Tea Party.
The cantons want the KRG to fully open the border. Not exactly what you demand of enemies, eh.
OAB. I don’t know whether you’re doing what I’d term ‘a TRP’ and willfully refusing to understand, in this instance, the very unique situation within the Cantons (who the peoples are and what they hope to achieve – a form of libertarian municipalism as espoused by Murray Bookchin…which is why his photo is on the front of the post), or whether you genuinely can’t get your head around the gulf in mentality that exists between ‘recognised’ Kurdish liberal authorities of the region and the peoples of the Autonomous Regions.
But I have to dash anyway.
I get the link.
I’m struggling to see the difference between what the KRG has achieved in their existing territory and what the inhabitants of the Cantons have achieved in theirs, other than that the KRG has had ‘relative stability’ for decades rather than years.
Probably I’m not paying sufficient attention.
PS: who says that “being divided” is a problem? The Borg?
Division is a feature of every bloody democracy I’ve had the misfortune to support, I’m willing to bet that the inhabitants of the cantons are similarly diverse, and that the various parties of the KRG will reach out to those factions with shared values.
More straw men. Can’t see a reference to “being divided”. But that as it may, you do understand the difference between diversity and division, yes?
And this “every bloody democracy (you’ve) had the misfortune to support” have always been liberal democracies and not in any way, shape or form like the democracy being forged in the Syrian Autonomous Regions where diverse peoples don’t support what’s going on so much as partake and participate.
And liberal democracies are always inimical to genuine democracy. 1930’s Spain is your historical pointer if you need one. Post WW2 Northern Italy affords another historical example if needed.
And now I am gone for the evening.
The main problem in KRG is being divided between parties.
The very comment you quoted as the foundation of your argument, Bill. Don’t forget to breathe.
PS: you think the KRG was founded and exists because of a Liberal uprising? Seriously?
Bill’s point I believe is that party politics is toxic to any true democracy.
CR then so is brain physiology/chemistry/neurobiology, at which point “true democracy” fails the reality check, no?
“CR then so is brain physiology/chemistry/neurobiology”
Weka, because they create a spectrum of opinion, aka “divisions”, aka “party politics”.
In wartime, people tend to unify. In peacetime, not so much.
What makes you think biology is the cause of that rather than it being an indicator of some other effect?
OAB, not sure why you are trying to liken organisational and institutional impediments to democracy (political party structures) with innate physiological ones.
Pretty silly of you.
CR, Weka, I guess you can argue that biology has no influence on worldview, and that worldview has no influence on politics if you like.
Organisational impediments to “true democracy” exist because people organise, even revolutionary people:
The Charter of Social Contract (foundation of the Cantons). My bold.
PS: I’m not making light of this, or misinterpreting you deliberately. Just trying to make some sense of it.
Am I harbouring illusions about the KRG? Most probably.
PS: seriously, you think the Turks are going to take on the Peshmerga in Iraq after how long?
I’m not referring to the Peshmerga. They’re the military arm of the Iraqi Kurdish government not the Kurds and others who are fighting ISIS and defending themselves in Syria.
Do I have that wrong?
The troops defending Kobani were reinforced in part by Peshmerga after Turkey agreed to allow them (the Peshmerga) free passage through their territory – again, not the actions of enemies.
NATO and the USA arm twisted Turkey for over a year to allow that to happen.
In the mean time, Turkey ran military raids on various groupings of Kurds that they call “terrorists.”
Not exactly the actions of friends.
I was talking about the Peshmerga.
That’s a really deep moral morass you are inviting us to make sense of.
I also fully respect that the left needs to find a way to react with the same moral certainty that Key has when he accuses Little of backing away when people are getting their throats cut live on television. Identifying virtuous cantons is a way of reaching for that moral certainty. Finally, someone with modern values worth rescuing.
I also totally take your point that there are more kinds of intervention than picking up a gun. One could be kinder and ask “When do we go over and join in with the resistance effort?”
My reaction is the opposite of yours. To me, the more complex the Syrian/Iraq war becomes, the more we (individually and as a nation) should be guided only by nation-states acting to UN mandates.
The Labour Party needs to respond with actual moral certainty, not this faux Crosby Textor BS that Key puts on.
Can Labour do that? Can Little do that?
The lines and strategy to push back are easy. The political team I am part of can put together the package in 30 minutes flat. Can Wellington?
Ad likes to play devil’s advocate.
When there is a realistic and plausible plan for victory, and when the strategy for the aftermath isn’t going to make things even worse than they are; not when the fucking chicken hawks all start deciding to act and talk all tough.
Do you see a plan for victory on the table?
Key is a coward. He sends other people to die in a lose-lose scenarios while he drinks cognac and smokes cigars.
If the Left can’t pull their PR together to cover off both him and “oh I guess sometimes shit happens” Tony Abbott, then we deserve to be slammed into the media wall.
I’m with you CV, lead on brother.
IF the parties seeking to swoop in on IS gave a shit about women or democracy they wouldn’t be so cosily allied with Saudi Arabia.
Tracey +100…if the Kurds are to be protected the causes of ISIS and the funding of ISIS need to be dried up…(Saudi Arabia and its friends … the opponents of Iran and Assad/Syria…those who have destabilised the Middle East and given the fuel to ISIS)
……in the end the solution has to be political and through UN.
The starving of funds and arms for ISIS and the mis-named ‘Syrian Free Army’ and a host of others is probably do-able via the UN and various policy changes by certain Nation States, including NZ.
But…and it’s a big ‘but’…the UN and all its members are of the liberal tradition and will not tolerate any genuine expression of democratic agency by any of ‘the great unwashed’. That was the parallel between Spain and Syria that Graeber was at pains to point out…
Any UN or other liberal ‘solution’ would include the rolling back and stomping down of the Rojava Revolution.
That very much depends on the military situation at the beginning of the inevitable ceasefire.
As such, the KRG is the Rojava revolution’s only credible (less compromised than the other ones) ally. The Peshmerga have already helped defend it with their lives. I’m picking natural alliances have an even chance of success.
Edit: I’d far rather our forces were placed at the disposal of the Peshmerga than the USA, that’s for sure, especially if the UN are persona non grata.
This was posted by SaveNZ on Open Mike yesterday …the solution to ISIS has to be through the UN
Noam Chompsky Solution to ISIS…..
And to solve the mess, the US again decided to act against the international law, building an anti-ISIS coalition that is “meaningless, apart from being illegal.”
“A law-abiding state would go to the Security Council, ask for a declaration by the Security Council of a threat to peace, and request the Security Council to organize direct response to it. And that could be done. The US could then participate in it, but so could Iran,” which is a major military force and would probably wipe out ISIS in no time, if it was allowed to join the fight on the ground, Chomsky believes.
and, stop selling weapons to non nation states… and then group together and attack the black market of arms dealing …
to say this is not a solution is wrong. some nations simply will not choose this solution, which is not the same as “there is nothing else we can do”
Actually the total market of arms dealing has to be hauled dramatically backwards, not just the black market.
So those on the right wish the left to take up arms.
Are they inferring therefore that if the US is overthrowing and fighting leftist governments as they have done historically the left should take up arms against the US. Are they inferring that the right would support such moves because the principle of fighting for “your side” makes it a fair and just war. Can’t have the left not having the courage of their convictions
As the left watches this government, and previous ones including Labour, dismantle one after another the socialist systems that existed / still exist in this country they should take up arms and wrest control back off the right wing bastards that have done this?
Equally should the right respond with the same take up of arms when their is leftist intervention in right wing governments.
What is it with this desire to intervene, to fight, to kill, to hurt that drives people like you ad.
It’s quite clear that the battles various right leaning governments choose to part-take in have very little to do with the atrocities happening in any particular country (otherwise I’d be looking forward to our invasion of China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Israel et al) and much more to do with strategic and political relationships that they wish to influence (positively or negatively) and foster.
Probably a good time to reconsider War Is A Racket as well. There’s some people making some good money out of this war-mongering as they have always.
And besides the Prime Minister framing the left as cowards doesn’t make them cowards. You know he’s taking a political cheap shot but this government is good at insulting it’s own citizens – it has no respect at all for the very people it’s supposed to govern on behalf of.
I take no responsibility at all for any label he wishes to put on me and nor should anyone else.
If only the fucking Left had the guts to back their own people to the hilt, the bottom 50% of NZers, as bravely as they want to pick up guns, approve mass surveillance and be part of capitalist empire extracting labour and resources from the third world (which they created).
Someone help Colonial Rawshark out to the carpark to throw up so that we don’t end up with bile all over the debate.
In a democracy they’re only “their” people if they vote for them.
Clearly either the politicians are not left or and/or the voters aren’t.
The parallel between Spain and Syria goes so far but no further.
In Spain a bourgeois democratic republic was attacked by a fascist army.
Correctly volunteers from the Western left of all shades joined the ranks of the republican army to defend it against the fascists.
Some mistakenly joined the bourgeois Spanish regimes in Madrid and Barcelona rather than forming a militia independent of these regimes.
The Stalinists did so because they feared an independent working class at a time when they were in alliances with the Western democracies against fascism.
In Barcelona the anarchist leaders betrayed their rank and file by joining the bourgeois regime also.
The civil war was lost because the fascists were armed by Italy and Germany while the republic was not armed by the ‘democracies’. In fact they did all in their power to prevent the arming of the republic.
The only way that this war could have been won, was the formation of a popular councils and militias independent of the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists, backed by massive workers brigades from around Europe, that would have begun a revolutionary war to smash fascism right across Europe.
In Syria we have a fascist dictator, Assad, opposed by a popular democratic revolution.
Some in the leadership of that revolution, the FSA for example, want to form a bourgeois republic as an alternative to Assad.
But many revolutionary fighters reject these bourgeois leaders as aligned to one or other imperialist powers.
There are numerous militias that are locally organised and loosely coordinated so effectively that they have resisted Assad despite being starved of arms by the ‘democracies’, so that without SAMs Assad’s planes dominate.
Moreover, because most of the Western left has defended Assad and parroted his line that he is being attacked by foreign terrorists (an irony since he has mercenaries from many countries including the Iranian Republican Guards) funded by the Saudis, Turkey, the CIA, you name it. He also released from his jails many who went on to form the ISIS in Syria.
Because of this reactionary campaign in the West the revolution and its democratic objectives has been largely ignored, and unlike Spain there has been no massive flood of left wing volunteers to join the militias.
Yet these popular militias that organised Local Coordination Committees that are run on a democratic basis have been able to survive for four years against Assad, and in the last 2 years against the jihadists armed by the West and its local allies.
Unlike the PYG that has fought to defend Rojava from the ISIS with the benefit of US etc air support, the Syrian revolutionaries have been starved of military support by the West and by the Western left, except for a few notable exceptions.
One is the Leon Sedov Brigade made up of Trotskyists that still exists as an example how to organise independently of the FSA bourgeoisie, the imperialist powers and their local stooges, and fight on three fronts to link the Syrian revolution to the Palestinian revolution and the wider Arab Revolution.
Check out the articles on the ongoing popular Syrian revolution here.
In particular this recent overview
“The US continues to argue that there is no question of normalising relations with Mr Assad, nor of considering him as an ally against Isis. Yet the underlying impression is that the whole Assad question has been put on the back burner, as if that would enable a swifter victory against Isis. That narrative casts the military effort against Isis in Syria and Iraq as a fight against extremism. Yet extremism was deliberately fed by Mr Assad from the start, when he released jihadi prisoners from his jails and then avoided targeting Isis in places such as Raqqa, its stronghold on Syrian territory. Mr Assad can happily bathe in the ambiguities of claiming that the US-led coalition, through third parties, regularly informs his forces of air strikes.”
The Guardian underscores that the US is now in an informal alliance with Assad to deal with IS. So sending NZ troops to fight IS and jailing (like Aussie) those who want to fight Assad, is siding with the worst enemies of human rights; the US, its convenient ally Assad, its military ally Israel, against the target, IS, that originated in the US funding the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the 80s and 90’s.
Against this coalition of the evil, perpetrators of terror, is the coalition of the masses, popular militias armed and supported by the international working class to defend and extend democracy and socialism.
Of course Key will want to form a government of national unity, as NZ does when committing to a serious war…
The argument that the ‘allied’ coalition fighting IS ‘do not give a shit’ because they turn a blind eye to what goes on in Saudi Arabia is no different to the Allies working with the USSR during WW2 to overthrow Hitler. Those on the left may not like it but Stalin was no angel…. A means to an end (working with the USSR), perhaps and the end result (east verses west) was not ideal but after 6 years of war 25 million dead there had to be an end to the madness. IS is no different to the SS, they have to be stopped.
I also agree with the writer regarding the Kurds, I have followed the PKK since the mid 80’s. I am right in my politics but support the principal of self determination.
Where do you get your information from?
Truth is the first casualty in war.
I don’t believe anything that comes from mainstream media or western government. They are conflicted all to hell.
Andrew, many on the left know that the problems embedded by Lenin, gave rise to an individual like Stalin.
Here is a couple of books from leftists from the 1920’s who outline out how the revolution had been captured.
Both have further links to full versions of the texts.
Bit of a dumb analogy. The “allies” no where their energy and financial interests lie. That’s what they go to war for. Saudi Arabia is a friend in this regard, ISIS is not.
Some good background articles on Syria: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/on-syria/
One of the weaknesses of the rise of the radical left in Greece is that its electoral support isn’t matched by working class action such as factory takeovers, let alone the emergence of bodies of dual or alternative power to the capitalist system.
In factory occupations we can at least see the germ of an alternative way of organising society, so an occupation like the Vio.me one in Thessaloniki has pointed the way:
Greek lessons: workers occupy factory, continue production: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/greek-lessons-workers-occupy-factory-continue-production/:
Video on the Vio.me struggle: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/4506/
Greek factory: “the machines of self-management have been turned on”: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/greek-factory-the-machines-of-self-management-have-been-turned-on/
Workers’ self-management only solution – interview with spokesperson for the Vio.me occupation: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/workers-self-management-only-solution-interview-with-spokesperson-for-vio-me-occupation/
For a report on Syriza meetings in Ireland to build solidarity see the piece below on the eirigi site: http://eirigi.org/2015/02/08/lessons-from-greece-internationalism-in-action/
Comment on Morning Report this morning Radionz relating to Australian think tank advocating on war issues and making comment on NZ deployment in Middle East.
How handy to have an authority like The Australian Strategic Policy Institute to call on that backs up what the government is planning on doing, yet is against the citizens’ interests.
And in Oz they are talking about 20 new frigates and submarines, how many, do we need them. Healthy discussion!
Also a bit extra on them (I can’t get this to load)
The Strategist | The Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Also – Federal police want to use military drones to spy on Australians from the sky
I know I harp on about this guy. But, the world would be a sadder place if he had not fought for the Republic.
This sick and twisted approach to the middle east is just FUBAR. The liberal democracies are at sixes and sevens, and once again working people are the ones who get it in the neck.
So in effect – thanks Bill – great piece.
Interesting comment on the role of ASPI. I have written on the subject of the arms buildup in the Asia Pacific for CSIS in Washington and S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. They can be accessed on their sites.
Basically there is a widespread consensus in Australia to have a powerful military. They have quite a different view of their place in the world than does NZ. The Aussies, including the general public consider they must be a serious military player in the Asia Pacific. And indeed they are. I would put them about no 5, after the US, China, Japan and India (maybe also after South Korea)
More money for the military industrial intelligence complex. Meanwhile Australia continues to impose cut backs on areas of community, science and technology unrelated to the war machine.
Same as we can see happening in the USA.
Good comment. It is good that someone does the scan with the light bed of the rationality machine when discussing political moves of all kinds.
Q. Does the ‘average aussie’ who is ‘pro military’ understand that by ‘protecting’ their ‘way of life’ they are ensuring it will in reality continue to be taken away ?
Q. At what point might a realisation occur ?
Greece,will be the testing palate.Socialist capitalist governance,defiant on its stand and hard fast too.Capitulation is inevitable,outside aid from China and Russia.They may like to hang the upcoming the other financial collapse on them, that is coming for those not closed to see.