[Marxism] The battles of Kobane, Aleppo and the relearning of solidarity

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Fri Dec 19 18:47:11 MST 2014

Pierre Rousset's article here deserves to be read in full, covering a 
great deal of ground regarding the issue of the relationship between 
imperialist intervention and the reality of struggles on the ground, the 
question of negotiations, and the issues of solidarity between the 
Syrian Kurdish struggle in Rojava and the more general Syrian 
revolutionary struggle against the regime, symbolised here by Kobani and 
Aleppo. This clip bellow focuses in this third element and where some of 
the international solidarity, in Pierre's (and my) opinion fell short 
and has presented a distorted picture.

The battles of Kobane, Aleppo and the relearning of solidarity
Friday 19 December 2014, by Pierre Rousset


Thus, one of the special features of the ongoing conflict is that on the 
same global theatre of Iraqi-Syrian operations, several separate wars 
mingle and intertwine. Strategically, the fate of all the peoples 
concerned is bound together - and the unity of progressive forces is 
needed. Specifically, the concrete details of the combat conditioning 
tactics can vary considerably, and even “diverge” at certain times. I am 
speaking here only of Kobane and Aleppo, but, more profoundly, conflicts 
also evolve according to very specific situations or global alignments 
and local alliances, which fluctuate and mingle [1].
I would like to take three examples of the difference between the 
situation in Kobane and that of the popular resistance inside Syria, 
personified by the battle of Aleppo. Three examples that have 
implications for solidarity.
Visibility. The popular resistance in Aleppo has not benefited from the 
same media coverage as that of Kobane, be it only for topographical 
reasons: it cannot be filmed from the Turkish “balcony”. In addition, it 
does not benefit from a network of associations and movements in Europe 
and elsewhere of the same magnitude as the Kurdish left (and singularly 
the PKK).
In the case of Kobane, we can say that public opinion spontaneously 
influenced Washington as in the same way that a campaign of solidarity 
could have. We cannot as things stand replace a “strong” media coverage, 
but that implies that we must do everything that we can to ensure 
visibility to the Syrian popular resistance: as much as we devote 
ourselves to the situation in the Syrian Kurdistan, as we must ensure 
that the struggle in the rest of the country is not “forgotten”, while 
it continues in extremely precarious conditions and the violence of IS 
obscures that of the Assad regime.
Exemplarity. The battle of Kobane is exemplary - but is the resistance 
in Aleppo less so? The fighting capacity of the forces of the PYD is 
notably based on its popular roots and the social dynamics initiated by 
revolutionary measures taken in the “three cantons” which make up Rojava 
(Syrian Kurdistan) - but have we not also had numerous examples of 
“people’s power” in the Syrian uprising against the Assad dictatorship? 
The role of women in Rojava and the resistance of Kobane are rightly 
hailed, but they have not been inactive in the rest of the Syria!
There are in various calls for international solidarity with Kobane 
certain formulas or “oversights” which seem to me quite unfortunate. Let 
us take for example the global call for the day of solidarity with 
Kobane on November 1, 2014. The title could have mentioned Aleppo and 
not only Kobane, this was not the case. The terrorist violence of 
Islamic State was denounced, but not that of the Assad regime. And then, 
there is this sentence: “The democratic model of the autonomous 
administration of Rojava is an example for all the populations of Syria” 
.Which would be greeted with bitterness by the forces and peoples 
involved elsewhere in Syria in democratic experiments.
The popular uprising against the Assad regime has experienced its own 
social experiences; if they are etiolated, it is because they have not 
benefited from the same “window” of peace as the PYD in Syrian 
Kurdistan. They were immediately the object of a repressive military 
escalation on the part of the government, and then were attacked from 
behind by counter-revolutionary fundamentalist forces supported by 
regimes which wanted to put an end to the “Arab revolution”.
During this time, the popular movements in Syrian Kurdistan benefited 
from a situation of “non-war” with the Assad regime (which had withdrawn 
its armed forces from the bulk of Rojava); they were only lately 
attacked frontally by the fundamentalist movements, first, in May 2013, 
by the al-Nusra Front, then, in September 2014, by IS. The attack was 
fierce and the resistance remarkable, the stakes were high, but 
international solidarity should not forget the importance of the popular 
movement in the Syrian uprising and the tragic circumstances in which it 
finds itself: with a lot of mortal enemies and no international support 
at the level needed.
Bombing. On the border of Iraqi Kurdistan and Kobane, there has been 
effective US bombing without “collateral damage” which the Kurdish 
forces have been able to benefit from. This is not the case in Aleppo, 
in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk, in the suburbs of Damascus and so on. 
In a general way, in Syria, the Coalition’s air intervention does not 
play in favour of the popular resistance. It enables the regime to 
ensure that it is done with its agreement and to claim a new 
international recognition; its forces benefit from it to concentrate 
their fire against the popular uprising. The fundamentalist movements 
make much of denouncing the imperialist intervention. Assad, like IS, 
draws on a new legitimacy. Militarily, the bombing does not loosen the 
vice on the progressive forces, politically, it detracts from them.
One could say that in the case of Iraqi or Syrian Kurdistan, some US 
bombing was tactically valuable; but the general situation on the 
theatre of operations shows that it remains nevertheless strategically 
disastrous. Solidarity must therefore absolutely not align with the 
imperialist intervention, including in this area - but it must not deny 
the reality of individual theatres of operations. It must also take 
account of the different positions of the movements it supports, in 
Syrian Kurdistan and in the rest of the country. The latter have 
frontally denounced the air intervention of the Coalition, the former 
have roundly criticized the non-intervention of US aviation in Kobane, 
then actively collaborated in its effectiveness when it began.
Solidarity does not have to align itself with the viewpoint of Kobane to 
the exclusion of Aleppo (or vice-versa), but take account of the two.
The problem posed by the above point is not who is the more to the left 
(the PKK-PYD or the FSA?), but the relationship between strategy, 
tactics and compromise. Of course, the analysis of a tactic or a 
compromise depends in part on the perception one has of the movement(s) 
involved. That of the PKK-PYD is not self evident. These parties have 
certainly changed, but to what point? In many articles, they are today 
are presented as a libertarian current, committed to political 
pluralism, as armed anarcho-communists; for others, they retain an 
authoritarian Mao-Stalinist matrix which prohibits them from recognizing 
in practice pluralism on the left: an iron fist in a discourse of 
velvet. The war situation and the urgency of solidarity do not help 
clarify a reality which is probably complex. But in any case, in the 
region, the PKK-PYD current is one of the most radical components (in 
its social project and its roots in the far left); probably the most 
powerful of them.
We should not therefore see in any compromise the announcement of 
betrayal. Very symptomatically, the PYD wants to keep control of forces 
on the ground, while using to its advantage the US bombing of IS 
armoured vehicles: the Kurdish organizations who are close to it reject 
in advance any intervention on the ground by the Coalition.
Similarly, in the rest of Syria, there have been many tactical and 
momentary agreements between various armed components combining for a 
time against a common enemy. But this situation has never led the Syrian 
left forces to change their judgment on the counter-revolutionary nature 
of the fundamentalist groups. Any compromise involves dangers; but the 
rejection of any compromise also does! It is better to follow the 
situation over time, rather than rush to judge each political decision 
of the movements whose struggles we support.
In this area, the role of solidarity is to contribute to creating the 
best possible conditions for peace talks which allow the victory of the 
liberation struggle, of the revolutionary struggle; we are not at the 
bargaining table and we do not have as a general rule to intervene on 
the terms of the discussions between belligerents; but sometimes it is 
demanded of us. This was the case in 1973. The Paris negotiations had 
led to the drafting of an agreement that Washington refused to conclude. 
The Vietnamese launched an appeal to public opinion and to the movement 
of international solidarity to force the United States to sign what 
became the Paris Agreements. We responded actively to this appeal, 
breaking the rules of secret diplomatic negotiations.
The Paris Agreements were a compromise that could seem risky; but two 
years later, the US forces were to literally flee the catastrophe of 
Saigon. The crisis which later shook the “socialist camp” has made us 
forget the importance of the event. The largest imperialist power in the 
world had conducted in Indo-china a total counter-revolutionary war, on 
all fronts - a war at the time without precedent; and still without 
equivalent today by the magnitude of the effort, by the means 
implemented, by its multifaceted character - and it lost. 

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