The heroic struggle of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, along with allies of the Free Syrian Army, to defend Kobane deserves the world’s unreserved support. This means first the support of the people, the workers, women, and all who struggle for a better life. The world’s state powers have stood largely aside as the genocidal forces of the “Islamic State” have depopulated village after village in Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan. This despite the U.S. bombing campaign against IS in both Iraq and Syria. As a result there are hundreds of thousands more Syrian Kurdish refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey.
Kobane’s defenders are being forced to fight without the sophisticated U.S. weapons (tanks, howitzers, etc.) that IS brings to bear, appropriated from the collapsed Iraqi military. They have so far succeeded in holding the IS at bay through sheer courage and intelligent tactics. When the IS fighters first entered Kobane they were met with a barrage of booby traps that slowed their advance until they could be forced back. But even heroism can only achieve so much on the battlefield without weapons: the defenders of Kobane must be armed!
The thousands of brave women who are fighting in Rojava as equals on the front lines represent an entirely different idea of humanity than the IS’s misogynist thugs who have come from around the world to crush every expression of human freedom. All know the stakes. As one forthright UN official said, “We remember Srebrenica.”
Meanwhile, Turkey has blocked the border to reinforcements and military supplies. Whatever excuses President Erdogan’s government makes, it is impossible to see this as anything but a continuation of the Turkish government’s long history of oppression against the Kurds. The IS is destroying a living expression of Kurdish self-determination that was made possible by the Syrian Revolution. This is well understood by the millions who have risen in protest in Turkish Kurdistan.
While the U.S. air strikes have been actively coordinated with the Iraqi government, there has been no such coordination with ground forces in Syria. Indeed, while the strikes at IS in Rojava have done relatively little to aid the Kurds, and U.S. officials have described the defense of Kobane as a low priority, these strikes have served to free up Syrian government forces to unleash even more brutal, genocidal attacks on the Syrian people. Over 200,000 Syrians have been killed, and many millions more made refugees since 2011.
The U.S. bombing of the mysterious “Khorasan Group” near Aleppo served mainly to let the Assad regime know that it would have a free hand to continue its genocidal assault on the people and defenders of Aleppo, another besieged city among many in Syria. This is apparent to the Syrian revolutionary forces, most of which criticized the U.S. bombing campaign.
The common thread here is counter-revolution. The world powers, including the U.S., have never supported the Syrian Revolution. The brutality of Russia’s Putin, or of Iran’s rulers, has been more than matched by the hypocrisy of the “democracies.” These powers have refused every rightful request by the Free Syrian Army for significant military aid, as before they refused to use the economic and diplomatic means at their disposal that could have aided the massive, peaceful uprising against the fascist Assad regime. To see the same atrocity repeated now in Rojava is obscene, heart-wrenching, and maddening.
From the start, the Syrian Revolution has been a world-historic event. It has been the test of world politics. The world has largely failed that test.
The nihilistic “Islamic State” has been the ultimate expression of that failure of humanity. Begun by elements of al-Qaeda, it was a marginal force, particularly after the Arab Spring uprisings. It has been able to grow only because the world powers opted for genocide over humanism in Syria. The key term for IS is state: in a world of counter-revolutionary states the IS intends to be the most vicious, the most unprincipled, and therefore the most successful. Students of Marx will recognize that the IS’s real religion is the so-called primitive accumulation of capital–thus its bank robberies, seizure of resources (oil, water, grain), massacre of populations, enslavement, rape and kidnapping of women, extortion of taxes.
None of these crimes are alien to the great powers that turned their backs on or opposed the Syrian revolution, and which without exception have their own roots in slavery and genocide.
It is significant, in this regard, that so many of the IS’s militants come from the U.S., the UK, the Netherlands, France and other former imperial powers. In joining the IS they re-enact (knowingly or not) the same colonialist theft and murder that underlay the very paving stones of their home countries. This filth must be defeated as an idea as well as on the battlefield.
As Marxist-Humanists we call for the support of the ongoing Syrian Revolution. We call for the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people, and we call for military and political support to the heroic defenders of Kobane. This struggle isn’t just local, or sectarian, but rather it cuts deeply into the universal history of humanity’s striving for freedom.
–The Resident Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees
October 12, 2014