Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kurds and the Syrian Revolution

There has been a lot of debate amongst the European and American left about the Syrian Revolution. I think Simon Assaf does good job at explaining the only correct Marxist position in relation to the Syrian Revolution during his Marxism meeting this year:

But one thing that its much harder to get news on is the role that Kurdish resistance fighters are playing in the Revolution. From what I can glean (and Kurdish and Syrian activists can put me right here if I've read this wrong), it seems that there is no coherent unity either within Kurdish Revolutionary forces or with the wider Revolutionary forces. Now, some of this is undoubtedly down to the general level of disorganisation amongst the Syrian opposition - differences carefully fostered from outside. But from what I can see, there are two main problems with how the situation is developing.

Arab Nationalism
The Syrian National Council, the western-backed government-in-waiting of the potential new free market republic of Syria, is insisting on the essential Arabness of the Syrian Nation. So although it has made attempts to incorporate the Kurds into the opposition (naming an 'independent' Kurd as its leader), it still insists on characterising the country as the Syrian Arab Republic, something not that welcoming to Kurdish fighters. This seemed the main cause of disagreement during a congress of opposition groups in early July, where some Kurdish groups walked out.

Kurdish vacillations
This in turn has caused some serious vacillations on the Kurdish side, which have manifested themselves in quite intense disagreements among the Kurdish resistance groups. This isn't necessarily anything new, as each area of occupied Kurdistan tends to have a different approach to the process of liberation anyway (so Turkish Kurds are much more anti-US as the US supports Turkish attacks on Kurdish villages, while Iraqi Kurd leaders were happy to welcome the invasion of Iraq in 2003).

The effect of both of these problems has been to weaken the overall strength of the Syrian Revolution. In that it reminds me of the position of Lenin on nationalities under Tsarism. Lenin argued that any all attacks on the state weaken it and that therefore Russian Revolutionaries had to support all national liberation movements aimed at toppling tsarism. In this he was opposed by Russian Chauvinists, the majority of which went on the become Stalinists (for different reasons, Luxemburg was critical of this stance).

A similar call has to be made of the Syrian Revolutionary forces now - by recognising the possibility of an autonomous or independent Kurdistan, they will wholeheartedly win over Kurdish fighters, strengthening the Revolution.

A Kurdish Republic
Kurdish forces as well need to draw conclusions from this strategy. There quiet takeover of towns in the main Kurdish area is a useful blow against the regime - but that temporary control will not last if the regime survives. They must be part of strenghtening the Revolution against Assad. It is not good enough to act locally in this instance.

Having said that, a very easy way to force the hand of the bourgeois revolutionaries of the SNC, would be to declare an independent Kurdistan in Syria. This will allow Kurds to deal with the SNC on a more equal footing as well having the nice effect of messing up american plans for the Region.

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