The Rojava Report

News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan

Is the PYD Collaborating With Imperialism?


The following piece – “PYD emperyalizmle işbirliği mi yapıyor?” -was written by Rıdvan Turan, the General Secretary of the Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) in Turkey, and confronts allegations made by some on the left that the PYD is ‘collaborating’ with imperialism. It originally appeared in Özgür Gündem and has been translated into English below.  

The US airstrikes on ISIS positions around Kobanê and the subsequent delivery of weapons to the PYD has caused a fictitious debate within the left around the question of imperialism.

The debate is revolving around whether or not accepting weapons from the United States is the same as collaborating with imperialism. I am of the opinion that this thesis’ approach to imperialism is counter to Marxist-Leninism insomuch that ignores any manner of engagement with existing praxis and the current conjuncture of class forces.

But the basis of this question also has a dimension that is related to the way Kurdish resistances have been approached historically.

It is no secret that among those who make this criticism there is tendency to view the processes around Kurdish nation-building and the struggles in this direction as collaboration with imperialism from a denialism inspired by Kemalism. The directives from the Comintern to support the Kemalist regime against the Kurdish rebellions, which were proclaimed to be ‘backwards’ and ‘feudal,’ are well known, as is what the Turkish Communist Party actually did around this question. There are some, both then and now, who have already sized up everyone by employing their “god given” anti-imperialism rubric and who have long since sacrificed the right of self-determination to national chauvinism. They have an easy time proclaiming the Kurds to be collaborating with imperialism while not seeing their own state’s collaboration with imperialism. It carries no value that the PKK has for years avoided coming to resemble the KDP, but their acceptance of the delivery of weapons from the United States under the shadow of massacre is collaboration.

This rote recitation of the same discourse does not change despite the fact that the characteristics of the system in Kobanê have been determined by a leftist paradigm, and the Kurds remain unable get out from under the accusation of collaboration. What kind of abandonment of reason is this that instead of seeing the success of the Kobanê resistance as a step forward for the revolutionary center forming in the Middle East and of supporting the resistance they joyfulling shout out “look you see – they are collaborating with imperialism”?

Is it not necessary that one choke on one’s own words when claiming that the PYD is collaborating with imperialism while a people resist – man, woman and child – face to face against gangs which have themselves been produced by imperialism? There is more than two years of cooperation, in both word and deed, between the United States, Turkey and the KDP around the Rojava question. Do not forget that just yesterday US imperialism and Turkish colonialism was pressuring the PYD to become a part of the Free Syrian Army and fight against Assad. Do not forget that they wanted the PYD to join the National Council of Syrian Kurds (ENKS), which is controlled by Barzani, and be rendered powerless; do not forget the border politics nurtured by the alliance between Turkey and Barzani, nor the implementation of an undeclared embargo. Up until the debate about military aid, imperialism had many times attempted to manipulate Rojava through the use of regional powers. Those who are now sounding the alarm about collaboration never once raised their voices against these colonialist/imperialist onslaughts. Why do you think that those who now degrade the acceptance of arms delivered by the United States while under the shadow of a communal massacre as collaboration with imperialism have for years never brought attention to this movement’s liberatory and anti-imperialist stance? Let me tell you, because of an unredeemable social chauvinism.

Collaboration is not accepting military aid while under the threat of massacre but of entering into imperialist dependency and colonial relations. To claim that the acceptance of weapons has this meaning is to discount the class struggle entirely. The character of such relations are defined not in the “moment” but over the course of a “process.” The reverse means to claim that imperialist dependency and colonial relations are established independently and automatically from the momentary circumstances determining the class struggle. To advance this argument is to see imperialism as ‘Almighty.”

Remember that it was Lenin’s transportation from Switzerland to Saint Petersburg with the necessary material support of German imperialism that produced one of the finest moments of the First World War. The hope of the Germans was to contribute to the confusion in Russia and work toward the overthrow of the Czar. As a result Germany would end the Russian war and send all of it forces on the Eastern front to the Western front. The plan was carried out and civil insurrection broke out in Russia.

The Soviet revolution became the most important response to those who in that period claimed that Lenin was a German agent. It was not the support which Germany gave to Lenin that determined the character of the process but the revolution which emerged from the creative forces of the class struggle in Russia. The class struggle has long since provided an answer to the question “is Lenin a great revolutionary or a collaborator with German imperialism” to all of those who were incessantly ringing the warning bells of collaboration. Just as it is now. We see that some are running the risk of declaring Lenin an imperialist collaborator and even a German agent in order to declare that the PYD is collaborating with imperialism. One is surprised and cannot help but ask: where is the dignity of all this hostility to the Kurds?

5 comments on “Is the PYD Collaborating With Imperialism?

  1. CWG (USA)
    October 28, 2014
  2. rwgzimbabwe
    October 31, 2014

    Reblogged this on rwgzimbabwe.

  3. retw
    November 4, 2014

    There are three very interesting sources of information on what is going on in Rojava. One is the website which lists human rights violations in the area. ‘Report no.9’ is especially interesting.

    Here are some extracts from an interview with Salih Muslim Muhammad, the PYD leader:

    KurdWatch: ‘In Kobanî and Serê Kaniyê Kurdish activists were kidnapped and severely tortured. In both cases, the PYD is being blamed.’
    Salih Muslim Muhammad: ‘There are problems in Kurdish society, as there are problems in all societies. There are immoral incidents, for example drug use. There are people who sell drugs. The state and outside powers are behind this. They want to break society apart. There are people who do not accept this. We are not those people. In several Kurdish cities there are brothels. Here, too, there are people who are against this. It is not the PYD, but society that does not accept this. Thus it is clear that there will be corresponding reactions. There will be an attempt to classify these reactions politically. But politics is not behind this.’

    KurdWatch: ‘In the 1980s and 90s, the PKK killed many of its Kurdish critics in Syria, many others lost body parts, and others were threatened and beaten. Should we be afraid that the PYD is planning similar acts in the future?’
    Salih Muslim Muhammad: ‘If the PKK punished people, it had its reasons. We know this much from that period. Either the people in question were traitors or they had caused harm to the PKK. There were PKK courts that determined the punishments. Or people were punished because that’s what the people wanted. The PYD is a political organization. If someone betrays us, he will be punished. But we do not use murder or violence. The PKK has military units that follow their own laws, as it is the case with the military all over the world. They do not act like political organizations.’

    In this same interview Salih Muslim also makes clear that: ‘we apply Apo’s [Abdullah Öcalan’s] philosophy and ideology to Syria: It offers the best solution to the Kurdish problems in Syrian Kurdistan.’

    Another good source is ‘Conflict, Democratization, and the Kurds in the Middle East’ by David Romano, in which one Syrian Kurd is reported to have said:’The portraits of Bashar Assad have simply been replaced by portraits of Abdullah Ocalan. Nothing has changed.'(p243)

    There is also a very interesting report by the International Crisis Group (Middle East Report no.151

    There it is claimed that: ‘a Qamishli resident who witnessed formation of its council said the PYD selects five to twenty people from a neighbourhood; appoints a leader; and puts the council in charge of distributing gas and humanitarian aid.’ This doesn’t sound very ‘democratic’ and neither does the compulsory conscription that has recently been introduced. According this same report: “Each recruit is supposed to receive military training and attend political classes (muhadara siyasiya) on Öcalan’s ecological and philosophical views. They are taught by YPG fighters from Qandil”. (p13-4)

    Another interviewee claims:’I was in the YPG [PYD militia] since before the uprising, but I have left. Since last year,at least 400 new PKK military personnel came from Turkey and Iran. They are not Syrians,and they want to control everything. They don’t care about Syrians. They make deals with the regime and [Iraqi PM] Maliki. This is why I left.'(p17)

    Whether any of this is true is very unclear but these sources provide a useful contrast to other equally interesting but more pro-PYD reports such as Janet Biehl’s (Murray Bookchin’s associate) website

  4. Pingback: الدولة الإسلامية: تحليل ماركسي | الثورة الديمقراطية، الطراز السوري

  5. Pingback: Ο άλλος δρόμος ξανά – SideliK_2

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This entry was posted on October 27, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

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