Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Danish Left MP’s Collect Money for Defenders of Kobane as World Left Moves to Back Kurds.

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“If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?

 Guardian 8th October.

“…any genuine and unfeigned demand that imperialist states “arm the Kurds” arises chiefly because of our weakness and incoherence.  Those raising it hope to at least verbally short-cut through the mountain of work and struggle that is necessary to get to a stage where we are relevant to such situations.  And this is the problem.  The British Left has always tended to assume that what it says and does about what should happen Over There is of tremendous significance.  Those former leftists who rallied behind Bush’s ‘war on terror’, on the assumption that it was their war fought in their interests, stood in this tradition.  This is a kind of chauvinism, an ideological artefact of imperialism.  In this situation, the role of a small, divided and weak Left is pedagogy.  The role of any slogan should be to stake out the discursive space in which a leftist, anti-imperialist analysis can be popularised – not just now but ongoingly.  The slogan, “arm the Kurds” is an own-goal.”

Connard of the Day. Richard Seymour. Arm the Kurds. 8th October.


“If someone denies that they have the right to take arms from whomever, I will argue against them. And since they are asking for weapons, I can tell you I have no problem with this at all. But otherwise I’m very reluctant to put myself in a position of determining the rights and wrongs of the Kurds’ war against ISIS.

Richard Seymour. Lenin’s Tomb.

This is the response of the left:

The RGA against Danish fighter jets in Iraq

Thursday 9 October 2014, by Michael Voss

International Viewpoint.

On 1 October, the Danish parliament approved with a huge majority to send F16 fighter jets to Iraq to participate in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIL. Only the Red Green Alliance and one unaffiliated MP voted against Instead the RGA tabled a proposal that Denmark help to supply weapons and humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Kurdish/multi-ethnic areas in Northern Syria. A few days later the RGA itself started collecting money for weapons to the Kurds.

During the debate in Parliament, Nikolaj Villumsen, MP for the RGA said:

The government is proposing a bombing campaign that may last more than a year according to the prime minister. These bombings may very well lead to a strengthening of ISIL and of creating even more chaos. When civilians are killed and foreign military again is bombing Iraq, it may increase the recruitment of ISIL. Many hidden agendas are involved in this alliance that the government want Denmark to join. It is a 100 percent certain that Saudi Arabia and the Golf states do not want democracy in Iraq. Likewise, Turkey does not want Kurdish self-government anywhere inside or outside Turkish borders. I fear that Denmark just will be tail-ending the interests of big powers in the region.

“What we ought to have learned from the previous wars that Denmark participated in, is that we should rather support those local forces on the ground that fight for democracy and human rights. That is why the RGA proposes direct support for the Kurdish militias in Syria. They have defended themselves against Assad and ISIL for three years. But now ISIL have conquered heavy American produced weapons from the Iraqi army in Mosul, and they are launching an offensive against the Kurdish territory around the city of Kobane. The Kurds have real problems in resisting them.

“Turkey is a close ally of Denmark in NATO, and they are closing their borders for arms supplies to the Kurds, while they for years have accepted ISIL-soldiers to pass this border. Official Danish policy towards the Kurds is defined by the government in Ankara. Right now the victims are the people living in the Kurdish areas in Syria. Here, Kurds, Arabs and Christians need our support. We want Denmark to supply weapons to the secular Kurdish forces to make the able to defend themselves against ISIL – plus humanitarian aid so that the civilians can survive.

Of course, the proposal for arms to the Kurds was defeated with only the RGA voting for. Two days later, on 3 October, at a press conference the RGA handed over 40,000 DK (5,500 €) to Saleh Muslim, a representative of PYD, the party of Kurds in Syria that works closely together with the PKK of the Kurds in Turkey. The money is earmarked for weapons.

At the press conference, Nikolaj Villumsen said:

“Since the offensive of the jihadists against Kurdish areas in Syria began, we have tried to convince the government and the other parties to supply the Kurdish defence forces with weapons and humanitarian aid, with no effect at all. Now, ISIL is just outside Kobane, and 400.000 civilians are in danger.

That is why we have collected this amount of money among the local branches of the RGA at only a few days’ notice. It is only a symbolic amount, but we will continue collecting money. We call on all democratic and progressive forces in Europe and the rest of the word to support the fight against ISIL.”

Since then the RGA has repeated its call to the government for arms to be supplied to the Kurds several times and used all parliamentarian options for raising the question. As of 8 October the only result has been that the Socialist People’s Party (SF) now also supports the proposal.

This is what the comrades are rallying across the world to defend.

The most recent pictures of thousands of refugees fleeing from heavy attacks of ISIS and making their way from Syria across the border to Turkey, come from the area of Kobani – one of three cantons of the self- proclaimed Autonomy Region Rojava in Northern Syria.

Rojava-mapThis region –  which consists of three geographically disconnected enclaves along the Turkish border – strategically used the deteriorating situation to declare self-rule in July 2012 and has since been celebrated as the “Rojava Revolution”  within the Kurdish Movement associated around the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The population of Rojava, which has long been a stronghold of the PKK, is predominantly made up of Kurds – both Muslim and Yezidi[1] – as well as Arabs, Christian Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen and Chechens. The desire for some form of self-determination especially among the Kurds was triggered through decades of denial of basic citizenship rights under the Assad-regime.

This quiet revolution is, however, not a question of independence. It is not the founding of yet another nation-state. Deliberately declaring itself an autonomy region instead of a state, derived from the critique of existing nation-states with their homogenising and exclusionary principals of citizenship, centralism of government and non-democratic structures under which the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria have suffered on the one hand and the strategies of classic national liberation movements on the other. This critique along with an alternative model of “democratic autonomy” was brought forward by the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and replaced the earlier struggle for independence. The concept of democratic autonomy is envisaged along the lines of libertarian thinker Murray Bookchin as a decentralised, radical democracy within or despite the given nation-states which abides by principals of equality between genders, religious- and ethnic affiliations as well as ecology[2]. In this sense, the PKK and its affiliated organisation PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Syria are promoting this model, whose fundamental principal is to achieve a unity of all different faiths and ethnic groups without assimilating them, for the whole of the Middle East.


7 Responses

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  1. Even the ‘Morning Star’ editorial today gets it 90% right:


    Jim Denham

    October 9, 2014 at 6:44 pm

  2. God, Seymour’s a prick, isn’t he? Completely self-absorbed, self-obsessed, parochial, insular.


    October 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm

  3. I suppose one should have some degree of compassion for the chap.

    Seymour entered education late in life (wasn’t he a junior Mess Hall orderly in the British Army for twenty years?).

    He wants to show off the bright and pretty new words – or battered ornaments – he has found, and arrange them in striking sentences.

    I have recommended he buy Fowler’s to learn to curb this vicious habit, but, alas, he has not taken my kindly meant advice: http://en.wikipedia.org/…/A_Dictionary_of_Modern..

    Andrew Coates

    October 10, 2014 at 10:43 am

  4. I normally wouldn’t be anything like as hostile to Seymour as you would be, but that post is one of those things that says a lot without managing to say anything really. We don’t need to be told that western governments aren’t listening to the radical left, or that the radical left is too weak to compel them to do anything; everyone is painfully aware of that. So yes, the slogans we come out with at the moment are largely abstract. But it’s not just their impact on British public opinion that we should be thinking about: what impact will they have on the Kurdish supporters of the PKK and the YPG? They’ve been organizing a hugely impressive solidarity campaign with protests all over Turkey and western Europe. The fact that the fighters in Kobani are holding out against such overwhelming odds, with light weapons against tanks and artillery, and their supply route closed off by the Turkish army, must owe a great deal to the moral support they are getting from outside Kobani, from just across the border and further afield.

    The radical left should be able to say something meaningful to them. Raising a slogan like ‘arms for Kobani’—which is clearer than ‘arms to the Kurds’—is one way of doing that; it’s not perfect, but what is? Right now, the most practical way of getting arms to Kobani would be for Turkey to open its border and allow the PKK to bring its own supplies of arms and ammunition; if we get the chance to elaborate on what could be done to help the struggle against ISIS, that would be the thing to highlight. The approach taken by the Danish socialists—voting against the air strikes, but proposing instead to send arms to the YPG, and donating money themselves to support Rojava—is much better than hand-wringing about our own impotence; it may not change the outcome, but at least it sends a message to the Kurdish fighters that they have some friends and supporters in Europe. and if that gives them even the slightest encouragement to keep holding out, it will have been worthwhile.


    October 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

  5. I agree ED with most of your comment.

    But nobody objects to general slogans, support the… stop the…. in ….general.

    The Danish green socialists are thoughtful people and their reaction is well considered.

    I notice that apart from currents not far from them in this country, even traditional groups, from the Morning Star, Socialist Appeal, onwards many are stating their backing for the Kurds.

    The SWP, Seymour and those die-hard’ anti-imperialists’ are out on a limb here.

    Andrew Coates

    October 11, 2014 at 10:26 am

  6. While we British lefts sit around mass debating if supporting the Kurds is supporting imperialism the Danish Red Green Alliance is collecting money to arm the Kurds. We may be able to theorise for hours about the rights and wrongs of western intervention while we sit in our safe European homes but it all means shit to the Kurdish fighters defending Kobani. While us big brave revolutionaries are selling our papers teenagers are fighting and dying attempting to stop the IS. The very least the British left could do is follow our Danish comrades and collect money for the Kurdish fighters.


    October 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm

  7. I could not agree more.

    There are local groups (see Shiraz) being set up across the country which will be able to do this.

    Andrew Coates

    October 15, 2014 at 11:10 am

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