We welcome this declaration in the leaflet from Yeryuzu Postasi, an anarchist group in Turkey, which is made in the clear spirit of internationalism and the working class. If we make some comments and ask questions, that is engage in debate, we do so in the same spirit and not at all in the sense of "having a go" but because in the face of such tragic and complex events the greatest clarity is needed. Our approach is therefore similar to the one we took over the leaflet of some South Korean internationalists in relation to their declaration regarding rising tensions on the peninsula last autumn[i]. We agree with the fundamentals of the comrades from Turkey on the denunciation of the war and the need for international class struggle but nevertheless a discussion about the analysis of the situation and its underlying roots is also a major part of internationalist solidarity, and to this end we are responding to some areas that we think need clarification.
The leaflet says: "We can see that power-holders in different countries are rubbing their hands with glee about the Afrin operation. It is understood that Russia and the USA are constructing their plan for dividing Syria in line with their spheres of influence and probably they have agreed on it". "Rubbing their hands with glee" doesn't seem quite appropriate given that the Afrin situation is a crystallisation of the confrontation of all the powers engaged in the region: Turkey obviously because of its unbridled determination to eliminate any Kurdish attempts to establish strongholds in the region, which would further encourage Kurdish nationalism to set up other similar zones. For Syria, the Turkish action threatens a loss of authority and control over this region - Afrin and Manjib - which Assad had more or less deliberately left in Kurdish hands as a kind of buffer zone or what the US originally called a "border force". But with the Turkish action here the threat to Assad is that he would lose territory to a full-blown Turkish occupation, and the threat to the Kurds is that they would be overwhelmed by the military superiority of the Erdogan regime. This is why the Military Council of Afrin, part of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) which is also part of the so-called Rojava revolution, has called on the butcher Assad to help them[ii] . Thus the tensions between Turkey and Assad's backers, Russia and Iran, are increased at the same time as a confrontation between Turkey and the US, who has been supporting the Kurdish YPG and the Iraqi Kurds, looms larger[iii]. The US, Britain and others want to continue to support the Kurds as cannon fodder, possibly with more destructive weaponry, in order to justify their own presence in the country. Afrin and its surrounding region therefore becomes a concentration of the antagonisms of all the imperialist sharks, big and small, in the region.
"European governments facing refugee crises are quite happy with the statement of Erdogan that '3.5 million of Syrians will be settled in Afrin'". Leaving the lunatic ramblings of Erdogan aside for the moment, here YP underestimates the misery and displacement of many more refugees that will come from the increased fighting in and around Afrin. As the leaflet suggests, many European countries have been supporting the Kurds so there's not only the Turkey/Assad/Iran/Russia/USA tensions but also those between Turkey and Europe... plus Nato, the latter being very significant. Even if they are fulfilled, Erdogan's promised refugee camps will not only be centres of concentrated misery and all sorts of abuse but also recruiting grounds for those seeking jihad or revenge. The leaflet goes on to talk about there being no "better opportunity for Turkey to prevent (a planned) strike of metalworkers". Given its largely conscript army and its intense war economy the Turkish bourgeoisie will have to reckon with any working class reaction. However there doesn't seem much evidence that the working class in Turkey is at present up to staying the military arm of the bourgeoisie which is first of all determined to crush Kurdish ambitions.
"The war in Syria... motivated capitalists and powers of the world about greater profits" and earlier the declaration mentions the plunder of resources by the major powers, including France and Britain. While profit remains a fundamental motivation, globally speaking military and strategic interests have dominated decisions on an imperialist level since World War One. The leaflet itself points out the similarities with today and the two world wars. Rather than a profit to capitalism, though profits will be taken here or there by arms manufacturers and oil companies for example, the downward spiral into militarism is towards a bottomless pit that has become totally irrational from an economic point of view. The cost of US military operations alone dwarfs any possible economic advantages. It's very difficult to get reliable figures on the cost of wars but Linda J. Bilmes estimated in 2016 that the Afghan war alone cost the US $5 trillion, $2 trillion more than her 2008 estimate and rising every year due to medical care, compensation, etc. And there's huge interest to be paid on this money as it's all borrowed[iv]. We can't estimate the costs to Russia of its war in the Middle East but they will follow the same lines as all the military regimes. We agree with the leaflet that the war has brought nothing but "... death, destruction and poverty to the labourers of Syria. And with this operation the war will intensify more and the chaos will deepen in the region. This means more death, more poverty and more misery for us" and we would add that for the rival powers there's no winner because today's victory can be reversed or transformed into disasters tomorrow - as we've already seen. The policies of weakened US imperialism are an example of these sorts of "fiascos" but it applies to all the powers involved.
There's a clear denunciation from YP of all rival powers involved but there does appear a bit of a weak link regarding Kurdish nationalism; and we think it important to clarify this given the support that Kurdish nationalism, and through this support to the wider imperialist tendencies of the major powers, has received from many anarchists. The Kurds have received the support of the US, Britain and France and now its leaders in Afrin and Manjib are asking for support from the devil himself, Assad, to defend Kurdish nationalism particularly against Turkish ambitions. The web of alliances around Syria has been scrambled and it's sometimes said that the situation in the Middle East is too complex to get to the roots of it all, but what is confirmed is the position of Rosa Luxemburg in her 1915 Junius Pamphlet that all countries, and aspiring countries, are imperialist. The leaflet is correct to talk about the lack of ethics of these imperialist manoeuvres and says that none of the powers "has intention(s) to stop the war". But it's not a matter of choice, intentions or ethics because all the powers, including the USA and Russia, are caught up in the irrational "logic" of being forced to defend their own interests through military deployments. The whole spiral of militarist cancer is dictating its "rules" to all the players. None of them has the means to stop the war because they are all in the irrational grip of imperialism. Statements from the UN and EU show that there is no strategy and there are not the troops to bring a decisive end to the war. It's all the more important therefore to make the clearest possible analysis of the situation and denounce all sides, big and small.
"We think that to struggle against this war is a historical duty for anarchists, communists and other internationalists all around the world. We are calling on all comrades to struggle against the operation in Afrin, against AKP's oppression to war resisters and against all states that are responsible for the actual situation in Syria". Calling for a "struggle against the operation in Afrin" needs a clear denunciation of the Kurdish component as well, a component that is well implicated in this war. And the drama is far wider and deeper than Afrin: another massacre is underway in Eastern Ghouta, just a few miles from Damascus and this follows Aleppo, Raqqa - where the Kurdish YPG were backed by US air power in the 4 month siege - and, probably the bloodiest of them all, the nine-month siege of Mosul (see our press for more analysis on these) with Idlib probably next. There has been so much scorched earth, so many battlegrounds, besieged towns, bloodletting, displacements that the answer cannot be to "struggle against" this or that operation here or there; the whole spiral must be broken and for this we must admit that the working class locally is not up to imposing sufficient resistance. Those doing the fighting are either professionals as from Russia, the torturers of Assad's troops, all kinds of Jihadists from a reconstituted al-Nusra, the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam militia, the Qatari proxy Rahman Legion, killer commandos, modern mercenaries (some from Latin America reportedly), Syrian and Kurdish nationalists, Isis remnants, all of them ready to fight anybody or alongside whoever's contingent. International solidarity means international class struggle and that doesn't just mean calling for action here or there. Any struggle against imperialist confrontations requires a clear analysis and a very clear and unambiguous denunciation of all the sides involved.
For an international struggle against capitalist division and war
Led by the AKP government, an operation of invasion against Afrin has been started with a consensus between all factions inside the state. Boss organizations such as TÜSİAD, MUSIAD, TOBB, unions that defend the interests of bosses against workers and all the constitutional parties have made statements with “national reconciliation” supporting the operation. They became so wild that some bosses dared to say “You can take from workers of my factory to military operation as much as you want.”. In this way, a new phase in the imperialist fantasies of the state has begun, which is represented by AKP who has been aiming at suppression of the opposition and wild implementation of denial and extermination policies regarding Kurdish question.
We can see that power-holders in different countries are rubbing their hands with glee about the Afrin operation. It is understood that Russia and USA are constructing their plan on dividing Syria in line with their spheres of influence and probably they have agreed on it. As far as we’ve inferred from statements of England, they are willing to take a share from oil reserves and other natural resources – possibly, again, via a partnership between Shell and Koç Holding. France wants to re-establish its activity in the region. Probably, European governments facing refugee crises are quite happy with the statement of Erdoğan that “3.5 million Syrians will be settled in Afrin.” And can there be any better opportunity for Turkey to prevent the forthcoming strike of metal workers?
The war in Syria that motivated capitalists and powers of the world about greater profits haven’t brought anything other than death, destruction and poverty to the workers of Syria. And with this operation, the war will intensify more and the chaos will deepen in the region. This means more death, more poverty and more misery for us.
Powers, who seemed to be accompanying Kurdish national movement until now, made contradictory and unclear statements. From this fact, not surprisingly, we’ve seen again that dominant classes and their servile countries are not acting with ethical motivations or supreme goals. As it was in the World War 1, imperialist powers are conducting their competition for spheres of influence by forcing people in Syria and Middle East to fight each other. Even though they establish a strategic alliance with the Kurdish movement, they don’t really care what will happen to Kurdish people in the end. Although we aren’t able to know the content of secret and dirty diplomatic negotiations between states, it is obvious that they only care about their interests and this war is dragging not only the region, but also the world, into an unknown situation.
None of the dominant classes or states that are serving to their interests has the intention to stop this war. Statements of UN and EU allow us to see that they don’t have any strategy to do it and they don’t have troops they can use. Structural crises of capitalism are pushing the dominant powers to make crazy moves that will drag the humanity into a barbaric era. Just like the period before World War 1 and 2.
The only power that can stop this course of events is the working class. For now, war drums’ voice might be drowning the sigh of young soldiers forced to fight in fronts and their families’ secret cries; it might be drowning the scream of the people in Afrin that are killed or forced to leave their home. Today, the voice of politicians from different parties, the voice of clowns that call themselves experts in TVs and the voice of warmongers, in general, might be overshadowing the voice of people who are opposing war. They’re all sitting on their comfortable seats and while children of the workers are dying, they are distributing heroic ranks to themselves.
However, they also know that it will not continue in this way. Therefore, the state is trying to prevent the reaction of the mass of people, who are killed, impoverished and forced to leave their homes, by increasing the oppression. The police are wildly attacking press statements in public places, people are handcuffed just because they made posts in social media against war and arrested. Against all these attacks, as anarchists, communists from Turkey and other international comrades, we should stick together and all together continue to raise our voice against war.
Furthermore, people of Afrin and people of Turkey who are fighting against this invasion are in need of international solidarity more than ever. This international war, in which the only winners are capitalists and the only losers are workers of all nations, can only be stopped with international solidarity.
We think that to struggle against this war is a historical duty for anarchists, communists and other internationalists all around the world. We are calling all of our comrades to struggle against the operation of Afrin, against AKP’s oppression of war resisters and against all states that are responsible for the actual situation in Syria.
Internationalist Class Solidarity or Capitalist War and Barbarism
War to the Palaces, Peace to the Slums!
No to war between nations
No war but class war
Yeryüzü Postası, 18 January 2018
We have made a few minor changes to the English translation.
[iii] See the ICC's articles on the Kurds https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201712/14574/kurdish-nationali... and Turkey https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201712/14538/erdogans-new-turk....