Month: December 2016
Save Aleppo! Oh, hang on, Aleppo is not Kobani …
Please help the people of Aleppo, just like we helped the people of Kobani. Oh, hang on, Aleppo? Kobani? Oh, that’s right. In Kobani they were Kurds. Civilised, secular, “progressive”, feminists, even green warriors apparently. They were like “us.” “We” (western imperialists and western … “anti-imperialists”) understand them. Therefore, they deserved to be saved from ISIS beasts, said the imperialist leaders, and their “anti-imperialist” echo in unison. Aleppo? Facing a fascistic enemy that has massacred twenty times as many people as ISIS fascists could ever manage, is not full of Good Kurds. It is full of Arabs. And we all know what western imperialist leaders, the far-right, neo-Nazis, Trumpists, racists, and “left-wing anti-imperialists” think of Arabs, especially when they live in Syria. They are all backward, blood-thirsty, barbaric, “jihadis” and “head-choppers,” *all* of the above categories tell us, yes, the left-fascists just as emphatically as any of the others. So those men, women and children, schools, hospitals, markets, every sign of life, are not deserving like Good Kurds are. Indeed, the left-fascists are now all over social media, in unison with their far-right co-thinkers, expressing their great joy with the victory of the most violent, most mass-murderous counterrevolutionary massacre of our era, expressing how happy they are that a fascist regime with an airforce, backed by an imperialist state invading with its airforce, have together bombed a whole country to pieces for 5 years, but moreover have bombed 300,000 people cramped into east Aleppo for months with every conceivable weapon of mass destruction except nuclear, ripping children to pieces on a daily basis, destroying hospital after hospital till none left.
See, when US imperialism intervened in Syria with its airforce in September 2014, bombing ISIS away from Kobani, many “anti-imperialists” decided that just this time they were not opposed to imperialist intervention, because Kurds and especially the PKK are “Good”, and ISIS are Really Bad. And so even though US imperialism has gone well beyond the emergency of defending Kobani from being overrun by ISIS, and has continued to bomb Syria for over 2 years, bombing not only ISIS, but also Nusra, other (non-jihadist) Islamists, and even on occasion non-Islamist FSA fighters, that’s OK; even though every time the US airforce has fought ISIS on behalf of the Kurdish YPG, in full coordination, in full-scale cooperation, including with US special forces, and even US air-bases, that’s OK; even though, beyond the Kobani emergency, all the rest of the US/YPG war on ISIS-controlled territory has been offensive, not defensive, operations, and the US airforce has killed 850 “collateral damage” civilians in these operations, that’s OK say the “anti-imperialists,” because the one armed force the US has never attacked are the armed forces of the Assad fascist dictatorship. Yet, when Aleppo (and countless other towns before this) have been confronted with murderous sieges by an enemy far more murderous than ISIS, and the US has not ever even hinted at helping the people against Assad, the same “anti-imperialist left” that hails the YPG, and did not organise a single “anti-war” demonstration for two years as the US bombed Everyone But Assad, has the impossible gall to slander the heroic Syrian revolutionaries as … “US proxies.” And when Hilary Clinton meekly implied that she might be in favour of some kind of “no-fly zone” to prevent Assad’s airforce from bombing children to bits – not to bomb Assad on behalf of the rebels with the US airforce, to drive back Assad and help the rebels advance, as the US does for the YPG against ISIS, but rather to prevent an airforce from bombing – the “anti-imperialist left” decided that this meant Clinton would bring “World War III”, and so the KKK-loving Trump team were preferable because Trump openly declared his love for Putin and Assad.
Hypocrisy is nothing new historically from any quarter, of course. However, it is rather difficult for me to conceive a level of hypocrisy coming from “our” side – the left, those supposedly dedicated to human liberation – that comes close to this.
Now, before continuing, I can already hear many supporters of Rojava feel they are under attack here. So to clarify, this post is not directed at the Kurds in Syria (despite my political criticisms of the PYD leadership), and still less anyone in the western left who gives solidarity to all equally, those expressing solidarity to both Kurdish and Arab resistance to both Assad and ISIS. The post rather is about the gross Orientalism of parts of the pro-Rojava movement. Further, I am not at all suggesting support for the defence of Kobani was wrong. And for all the anti-imperialist-intervention principles that many of us grew up on, when the US intervention did finally take up the defence of Kobani (about a month into its bombing campaign, which I did oppose from the start – for the first month, the US bombed anywhere but Kobani, especially in Aleppo and Idlib where there was no ISIS), it never occurred to me to go out in the streets and demand “US out now” at that point! Yes Kobani was in danger of being overrun by ISIS maniacs who had just acquired a windfall of US advanced weaponry courtesy the US-Iranian regime in Iraq which handed them Mosul, and the YPG was squeezed into a corner. Like with the defence of East Timor in 1999, I very reluctantly understood that at this point, the US was doing something necessary. For its own reasons. Even though I regard the rest of the US intervention in Syria highly negatively. I am also deliberately making a distinction between the US/YPG defensive, emergency operation then and the more general offensive operations since because I frankly do not support permanent US intervention in Syria to help one side militarily, with all the “collateral damage” and more general political damage it causes (including to the Kurds), yet even then I certainly prefer the YPG/SDF to ISIS rule, whatever criticisms I have of the former. No, the post is about selective solidarity. About those saying ‘Yes to the defence of Kobani against ISIS, including even 2-year ongoing US air support to the YPG’, but ‘no to even a single US gun to help the people of Aleppo (and elsewhere) resist Assad’s bloody dictatorship, Russian imperialism and the global Shiite-jihadi invasion forces’. That hypocrisy has just turned genocidal.
While it may be true that Syria is “complicated”, and not everyone has the time or interest to study the most profound revolutionary upheaval of the 21st century (except a bit of it in “Rojava”, the bit allied to US imperialism to the hilt and also the bit never hit by Assad or Russia), nevertheless, mass murder is not “complicated.” Of course, many on the left are not in the category of the left-fascists, who are a breed of their own which are indistinguishable from their right-wing co-thinkers. Many are personally appalled, but seek to relativise the slaughter (isn’t Qatar also arming some rebels? Oh yeh, that’s why the rebels are SO able to protect themselves and the civilians from the 5-year aerial massacre), or satisfy themselves with the fact that they can do little about it since it is not their own government doing it. Apparently, that makes active solidarity a bad thing, in their view. Whatever. I don’t have a big beef with those genuinely appalled who are simply confused. What we need to stress however is this. Far too much of the western left have labelled themselves the “revolutionary” left, by which they mean that, unlike some other leftists, who they see as mere reformers, they are “the revolutionaries.” Well, revolution, as Grenada’s Maurice Bishop once said, is not like making a cup of instant coffee. In the real world, revolutions are extremely complicated and messy. People like those in Syria, living for decades under a totalitarian tyranny that brutally suppressed all opposition thought, do not emerge from this with fully developed “revolutionary” programs and “correct” ideas that those of us living our entire lives in the relative comfort of western cities may think are necessary. Yes, there is much we need to evaluate in terms of lessons of lost revolutions (if the crushing of Aleppo does end the revolutionary process, by no means a given). But that is entirely different to not knowing which side you are on. The fact is, much of the self-declared “revolutionary” left turned out to be only marginally better than the centrist/Stalinist/”mainstream”/pacifist/”anti”-war left, who were the most resolutely counterrevolutionary. That is, confronted by an actual people’s revolutionary uprising, warts and all, they decided either to support bloody counterrevolution or to declare a plague on both your houses or to use the same racist discourse about “jihadis” and “liver-eaters” etc or one way or another simply had no idea what to do or what to say.
So, while many of these people and groups indeed do an enormous amount of highly dedicated great work around concrete *reforms* in their own countries (eg, they campaign to defend refugees – even Syrian refugees from Assad’s holocaust, ironically enough – among many other valuable campaigns), a very good thing, how about we drop the BS about being the “revolutionary” left? No great harm in being honest. In Australia, two far-left socialist organisations, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity, have distinguished themselves with their unstinting support for the Syrian people’s revolution, to the bloody end, and the same is true of countless other left and socialist organisations around the world, mostly also parts of the far-left alongside many individuals from among the more honest sections of the reformist left. Although I am a member of neither, I am proud to be associated with these comrades.