Tuesday, April 4, 2017

We should continue to support Rojava's advanced revolution---And the critics aren't being honest

Nick Fredman has written a helpful article about fake news about the Rojava revolution. The article takes some writers to task who may be familiar to our blog readers. The artcle begins:

Fake New about the Rojava revolution

Sharply different opinions have developed among the radical left in recent years towards the Syrian radical democratic movement led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — an initially Kurdish-based force which through a series of political and military struggles and alliances has recently formed the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, as a model for a multi-ethnic, non-sectarian, federal and socially just alternative for the nation and the region. Some on the international left have accused this movement of human rights abuses, political repression and collaboration with the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

I was prompted to write the present notes in response to two articles by Roy Gutman in the USNation magazine (here and here). But as these articles both sum up and are fairly extreme examples of the left criticisms of the PYD-led movement, it makes sense to discuss some background and previous articles before taking up Gutman.

Socialists should not idealise any group or personality. Moreover, in undertaking the difficult task of confirming the truth amid the fog of the Syrian war, we should be open to the possibility that the PYD-led movement has authoritarian tendencies or is responsible for abuses.

But we should be very careful before casting assertions from our relatively comfortable and privileged position at those fighting and dying for the cause of human liberation. It is right to uphold high socialist norms of human rights and democracy but we also have to understand the challenges any movement will face meeting these when trying to transform a poor, traditional society in a time of war.

Read the entire article here.


  1. Whether the PYD truly is "head and shoulders above anyone else" in Syria is beside the point for the left in the US; its primary duty, one which it shirks at practically every opportunity, is to oppose US imperialism. This task can and should occupy our full attention. The 'correct' line on Syria is simple: No US involvement, self-determination for the people. To go further, to pass our "expert judgement", as it were, is to risk lending credence to war propaganda. We saw exactly the same dynamic play out during the Yugoslav war, five years ago during the bombing of Libya, and in the run-up to virtually every other imperialist adventure. A 'principled' left refused to strongly oppose imperialism because we didn't approve of imperialism's target. And what has been the result? Is the former Yugoslavia a place where a "socialist-led feminist movement" could thrive? Is Libya? Do we imagine that the people of either country care one whit about the 'principles' of some cosseted Western leftists? If we wish to show solidarity with the peoples' struggles around the world, we should focus on the task we have shamefully neglected: defeating imperialism and chauvinism in our OWN countries.

  2. The PYD has been among the most consistent anti-imperialist forces in the region. The PYD exemplifies the demand for self-determination in its actual revolutionary form. Support for self-determination means international solidarity. That support raises the question of support for whom. I'm good with a position which supports the PYD, supports the PYD on the basis of its anti-imperialism and non-alignment, sees Assad as a potential partner in negotiations, opposes the Turkish, Iranian, U.S., Israeli and Russian interference in the region, views ISIS as a fascist threat and opposes those who support ISIS and Al-Nusra. I don't know why "socialist-led feminist movement" is in quotes, and I don't see a parallel between the experiences of Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria. Certainly the defeat of socialism in Yugoslavia was a blow, and certainly imperialism targeted these countries, so it's important to support revolutionary trends in these countries; for me that equals supporting the PYD while I study the situation in Syria more deeply. I take the point that we live in the strongest capitalist nation and have the key work to do. The PYD has gone far in demonstrating how some of our tasks can be accomplished.