National Sections of the L5I:

Solidarity with the Kurdish resistance to the Islamic state!

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The attack by the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, against the Kurds, Yazidis and other religious and national minorities in Iraq and Syria has taken a murderous toll within a very short time. Thousands have perished at the hands of these "warriors of God", with the populations of entire villages massacred and towns like Sinjar virtually emptied of their inhabitants and women systematically raped. Hundreds of thousands of religious minorities such as Yazidis and Christians are still in flight, or in refugee camps, in areas controlled by Kurdish forces, such as Rojava, in Syria or in the Kurdish state in the North of Iraq.

Even before the Islamic State, the region was not short of arch-reactionary and counter revolutionary forces. The Iraqi Government itself has given the entire state apparatus and the wealth of the country to the Shia upper classes, capitalists and landowners on a confessional basis. It seeks to defend their privileges by any means necessary and has so alienated the Sunni population of the north and west of the country as to drive former Ba’athists into an alliance with the Islamic State. Likewise, the Assad regime in Syria is brutally suppressing a popular revolution and is principally responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 people.

The “Islamic State” is only the latest force spawned from the reactionary barbarism that has swept through both Iraq and Syria. Their methods and goals, their words and actions, demonstrate an unprecedented and unambiguously barbaric form of reaction, that seems to put everything else in the shade.

They have abandoned any pretence of fighting for the "democratic" or "human rights” that even the Syrian or Iraqi regimes claim for themselves. Anyone who will not subordinate themselves to their rule, or convert, or does not accept their decrees, faces annihilation. Far from trying to cover up or deny the "blitzkrieg" against their enemies, the crushing of villagers under the wheels of their trucks, the public executions of their opponents, the systematic terror against the subdued masses, against "infidels" and women, they publicise them as widely as possible via social media.

This not only inspires terror, but advertises itself to a whole host of de-classed and alienated young men, who see no future for themselves. It is recruitment propaganda aimed at the Sunni middle classes, former soldiers and state officials and the lumpen-proletariat. The Islamic State has recruited a social base like that of fascism and, indeed, it acts like an extreme, clerical-fascist force.

Roots of Barbarism
The mainstream media, and the political establishment in Europe and the United States, are expressing their horror at these developments. The USA and EU, we are told, have taken their eyes off the situation for too long and now they have to intervene. The United States is now bombing positions in Iraq through which Islamic State forces have been advancing for weeks, even months. Those forces have long been attacking the Kurdish areas in Syria and the strongholds of the "Free Syrian Army". Now they have joined forces in Iraq with the Sunni elite against the equally reactionary and sectarian regime in Baghdad.

The advance of the "holy warriors" has now reached the point where it has forced the imperialists to change their plans.

The whole barbaric development, leading up to the creation of the Islamic State, would have been impossible without the devastating impact of the different imperialist powers, above all, the United States, and various regional powers who have been pursuing their own interests in Iraq and Syria for two decades.

After its victory in the cold war, the United States, as the dominant world power, tried to build a "new world order". After two Iraq wars, Saddam Hussein was overthrown and executed, although he had previously been a close ally of the United States, had been given a free hand to massacre the Kurdish people and had waged a barbaric war against Iran in the interests of the West. He had become an obstacle to the "restructuring" of the Middle East, a key region of the "new world order", and had to go.

However, the United States was unable to replace him with a stable, pro-Western regime in Iraq. The failure of their war and occupation, and its aftermath, demonstrates the decline of US hegemony.

The Arab revolutions, themselves a result of the global crisis since 2008, showed that dictators whose regimes had been stable for decades were now tottering and falling. However, because there were no revolutionary socialist forces that could lead those revolutions forward, the old dictators were either replaced by new counter revolutionary regimes, as in Egypt, or countries were plunged into brutal civil wars as in Syria and Libya.

It was not only the United States and its Western "partners" that tried to intervene in these revolutionary crises in order to maintain or extend their influence. The same was true not only of the “West's” imperialist rivals, Russia and China, but also of regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and even Qatar.

In Syria, Assad took advantage of this and was able to hang on to power through the support of Russian imperialism and Iran and the United States, for all its talk, ultimately had to accept this fact.

This was the context which allowed the "Islamic State", as well as other Islamist organisations, to grow. On the one hand, they got funds from states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (if not directly from their governments, then from millionaires and sections of the repressive apparatus). They were seen as a useful weapon against the Kurds or the democratic forces of the Syrian Revolution. On the other hand, they grew by welding together out of the declassed middle strata and parts of the Sunni "lower classes", an armed force that could act as a battering ram against any progressive alliance.

They gave organised expression to the desperation and aggressiveness that grew out of the general social devastation and the systematic discrimination against the Sunni population. Thus, it is primarily US imperialism, as well as its local lackeys and the regimes in Syria and Iraq, that is ultimately responsible for the current barbarism. It was its policies that created the conditions which formed a social breeding ground for the Islamic State.

Defending the Kurdish people
Today, it is the Kurdish people, as well as other national and religious minorities, who are threatened with massacres, expulsions, mass murder and, ultimately, genocide, by the Islamic State and its allies from the Sunni clans.

The forces of the Islamic State advanced on a front almost 600 kilometres wide. After the conquest of Mosul, they captured heavy military equipment and millions of US dollars. Because it is located not only in Iraq but also in Syria, its offensive threatens the FSA bases in Aleppo, from whence it was expelled only half a year ago.

In the areas under its control, the Islamic State rules with brutal terror not only against women and people of other religions, but also against rebellious clans, that had previously been its allies. For example, 20 men of the Shiatat tribe in the province of Deir az-Zur, near the border with Iraq, were executed in mid-August.

The self-defence forces in the Kurdish area of Rojava in Syria, are the only force that has had any success against the Islamic State. For months, the region of Kobane has been fought over particularly fiercely.

In Iraq itself, the Peshmerga battalions, because of their rudimentary equipment, proved too weak to defend themselves effectively against the Islamic State. The protection of the fleeing Yazidis was organised by Kurds from Rojava. Peshmerga units of the rival, pro-imperialist, bourgeois parties, Barzani’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DKP) and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as well as the PKK and forces from Rojava have also collaborated in the defence of northern Iraq.

Undoubtedly, many Kurds and other minorities welcomed the bombing of Islamic State troops by the United States, and possibly also its Syrian bases by the Assad regime. Of course, it is entirely justified that they use such a weakening of the Islamic State to advance against the mass murderers themselves.

Nonetheless, the Kurds, like all the democratic forces, the left and the labour movement generally, must be clear that such support has neither "humanitarian" nor "selfless" objectives, but is ultimately just a means to stabilise the situation in the interests of imperialism. In the case of the Assad regime, the aim is to bring it into negotiations as a "lesser evil" and an ally to the West.

What the oppressed nations, workers and farmers need is not more, or "more determined" or "united", intervention by the US, the EU and Russia, but an end to all imperialist intervention in their countries. Therefore, we oppose any imperialist intervention, including air strikes, by the United States, the EU, NATO and their allies, whether on their own behalf or on behalf of the UN.

At the same time, it is clear that the proto-fascists of the Islamic State are unstoppable by "peaceful" means such as appeals for "negotiations" between "all groups" in Iraq and Syria, as some in the peace movement fondly imagine. This represents not only a toothless but also a macabre and cynical "alternative" to the imperialist intervention.

Instead, we advocate support for the Kurdish resistance and that of all other oppressed nationalities and religious minorities. In the parts of Syria held by the FSA, in Rojava, in northern Iraq, the populations can only be successfully defended against the Islamic State if they are themselves armed, organised and coordinated.

Whoever is for their victory against the pogromists, must also be for their having the means for victory. We recognise unconditionally their right to obtain weapons and logistical supplies from whatever source, including the imperialist powers or the regional powers. What is crucial is that no conditions are placed on the use of those weapons by the suppliers. All weapons must be under the control of those fighting to defend themselves.

Just how much the imperialists want to dictate such conditions can be seen from the fact that their declared overriding aim is that the Iraqi puppet government in Baghdad should not be endangered. Their military administration has not only more or less voluntarily left modern war equipment to the Islamic State, but also denied it to the peshmerga for years.

The imperialists will exert the maximum pressure to ensure that weapons do not get into the hands of the "wrong" Kurds, that is, the PKK or the Rojava self-defence forces. Although they have proved themselves to be effective fighting forces, the embargo on the region remains in full force, keeping the 100,000 resident population and the refugees living under ever more precarious conditions. The ban on PKK and its inclusion on the EU and the US lists of "terrorist groups" is not even up for discussion.

In Rojava, a democratisation process and social upheaval has come about, in contrast to the rest of Syria and also to the region of Iraq under the control of the PYD. Even though this by no means has a socialist character, as some on the left believe, it has brought a number of important social and democratic reforms, in particular in the field of women’s rights and the equality of nationalities and religions.

Rojava also stands in sharp contrast to the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. There, the dominant political forces of KDP and PUK are closely linked to US imperialism and also cooperated with Turkey for many years, including taking measures against the Kurdish liberation movement in Turkey and Rojava.

The fact of this reactionary leadership, however, does not mean that the brutally oppressed Kurds in Syria and Iraq have no right to defend themselves or that they should only get weapons once they have established for themselves a more progressive leadership. Revolutionaries must stand for their right to defend themselves, arms in hand, against the Islamic State without for a moment ceasing political criticism of the existing, bourgeois, pro-imperialist leadership and the struggle for a working class alternative.

The very fact that a defence against the jihadists requires a common struggle with the PKK and PYD, could become a major problem for the corrupt, bourgeois KDP and PUK, which are closely tied to the semi-feudal landowner families of Barzani and Talabani that have been dominant for decades. In the common struggle alongside other Kurdish groups, religious minorities such as the Yazidis, and also volunteers, men and women, from the Kurdish cities, there is the potential to undermine the political monopoly of the KDP and PUK.

As well as this, there is also the potential that, after decades of resistance and despite repeated betrayals and mutual mistrust, the unity of the Kurdish people can be established, or these divisions decisively weakened, creating the basis for the common struggle for the self-determination of the Kurdish people across all the boundaries drawn by the imperialists.

That is what all the imperialists fear, and for good reason. The United States and other imperialists could tolerate a de facto independent, or at least largely autonomous, state in the north of Iraq, especially if they do not manage to hold Iraq together as a state at all.

The "red line" for the imperialists, however, is that the Kurds should not be allowed, under any circumstances, to put the borders of the other states and, with them, the whole “established order” in the Middle East, in question. At the moment, they can rely on the existing leaderships of the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan. In Turkey, the PKK aims to integrate the Kurds via democratic reforms in the country and to establish the HDP as a kind of Turkish left-wing party.

In Rojava, the PYD hopes for the retention of the established structures of municipal and corporate self-government within the framework of a reformed and democratised, but still bourgeois, Syrian state, a "third way".

A democratic reform of the Turkish state, is an unlikely prospect, even if some sort of limited solution for the Kurdish question with an expanded democratic façade for Turkish capitalism cannot be ruled out absolutely.

A democratic reform of the Syrian regime, however, is a pure utopia. There are only two possibilities if Syria is to remain a bourgeois state; either the Syrian revolution, what is left of the FSA and especially Rojava, is crushed by reaction in the form of the Islamic State and its allies, or it is crushed by reaction in the form of the Assad regime. Of a "Kurdish government" nothing would then be left, absolutely nothing.

The alternative is that the Kurdish liberation struggle, by showing that the Islamic State can be fought and defeated, will become an inspiration not only for a new development of the revolution in Syria but also for the resistance of the workers and peasants of Iraq, independent of both Sunni and Shi'ite reactionaries and of imperialism.

The fate of the Kurds, therefore, is clearly linked to that of the Arab revolution, and to the class struggle in Turkey and Iran. The liberation of the Kurdish people and an end to their national oppression is not possible in Rojava alone, but only within the framework of a democratic and social revolution in the entire region.

At the centre of such a revolution, and certainly in its first stages, will be the struggle for democratic rights, for women's liberation and the rights of all the national, religious and ethnic minorities. This can weld together a mighty popular force of all the exploited and oppressed.

All these questions are necessarily linked to a struggle against the colonial and imperialist fragmentation and predation of the region. This is symbolised by the vast natural wealth, oil, that has quite literally fuelled the economies of Europe and North America and been squandered by monarchs and military dictators, whilst the people of the countryside live in misery and squalor.

To uproot this entire iniquitous system, requires the involvement of the working class against all capitalist exploiters, indigenous and foreign. Only on this basis, can the fundamental issues of low wages and unemployment, social inequality, the expropriation of large landed estates, the nationalisation of the large industrial and wholesale businesses under workers' control, be resolved to create a new, liberated society. It requires the political leadership of the working class in alliance with all the oppressed and exploited.

This poses another vital question, now, in Kurdistan, in Syria, in Iraq, in Palestine and Egypt; establishing a social and political power that can bring this about, that is, the creation of workers' parties, linked together on an internationalist programme of permanent revolution, whose goal is the creation of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East.