“Solidarity is a core value of the Socialist Alliance. Wherever we see people fighting tyranny or oppression our response is one of solidarity. Many of our founding members, including myself, had come to our socialist convictions when we were part of the powerful solidarity movement for the Vietnamese struggle against US imperialism.”
So when people started rising in the Middle East in the so-called “Arab Spring” revolts we jumped into solidarity action once again. Knee-jerk solidarity with the oppressed, you could say. We were in the streets with the Egyptian community when it took to the streets around Australia and when the people in Syria rose up we helped organise one of the first solidarity actions in Sydney.
As the Syria civil war proceeded, we started to notice the remarkable developments in northern Syria/Rojava. We could see that this was not just an uprising against the Assad dictatorship but a revolution that was putting power into the hands of the ordinary people. And of course we were struck by the role that women were playing in it and this revolution’s focus on the liberation of women.
This demonstrated that the Rojava revolution was not just a political revolution (where one power is replaced by another) but an actual social revolution in progress.
The systematic subjugation of women is so intrinsically bound up with all systems of class oppression that the actual liberation of women can only come when those structures of oppression and exploitation are beginning to be pulled apart.
Another powerful proof that this was a revolutionary process was how this movement, which had been started by Kurdish freedom fighters, had systematically reached out to the other peoples in the region. Later as these forces liberated more and more territory from the reactionary Daesh/Islamic State terrorists we saw this demonstrated on an epic scale across the region.
We could see that this process was no accident. There was a revolutionary movement leading this process and it had co-thinkers all over Kurdistan, the land of a people who were denied a nation when the imperialists carved up the Middle East in the infamous Sykes Picot agreement.
So we began to study this movement and its ideological development. Here we recognised familiar ground. We also believe that the socialist movement needs a revolutionary renewal. That it needs to break out of the prison of dogmatism and sectarianism and it needs to learn the lessons of the monstrous legacy of the bureaucratic state regimes that hijacked the revolutions in Russia and China.
The Socialist Alliance has a strongly anti-Stalinist politics but sadly there are still some people who call themselves socialists or communists who think those state-bureaucracies were revolutionary. They have a perverse worship for its the big state and its national-chauvinist ideology.
By contrast we see the state as an instrument of oppression and an instrument to enforce class division and exploitation. We recognise that revolutions cannot be won without power but all revolutionary powers need not just to defeat the oppressors but also need to simultaneously build the new institutions of grassroots-based popular power to displace the state.
We have being pursuing our own process self-critical re-thinking for many years. We have studied the thoughts of revolutionaries outside the silos of our own political lineages and Socialist Alliance itself had formed as a regroupment of socialists from different political tendencies. Among the texts we studied were those of Murray Bookchin, which we came across in the 1980s through discussions with people pursuing radical ecological perspectives.
We reached out to the local Kurdish community to offer solidarity and to learn more about his revolution. New friends and comrades were made at many forums, meetings, demonstrations with the community. We were inspired and informed by reports from the frontline via eyewitnesses and via internet links from our friend and comrade Hawzhin from Rojava.
One issue which holds back some socialists from supporting the Rojava revolution is the tactical military alliances that the liberation fighters organised now as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This has confused a section of the left.
But in our opinion, it is really quite simple. The two sides are moving on completely different tracks: the Kurds and their allies want freedom, the US wants to dominate the Middle East.
The revolutionaries in Rojava know that they have very different objectives and perspectives to US imperialism. The revolutionary changes they are forging in the liberated zones are an anathema to the US ruling elite. A cooperative and communal based economy, sustainable environmental practices… this is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare!
US imperialism is not interested in promoting the revolution in northern Syria or anywhere else. Imperialist governments (including the Australian government) list the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the political co-thinkers of the Rojava revolutionary movement as banned “terrorist” organisations. Recently, they have announced that PKK leaders are on their wanted dead or alive list.
The US tried to create a force to fight Daesh IS but failed. Only its weakness forced the US to turn to the Kurds. On the other hand, the Kurds needed Washington’s military backing, especially its devastating airpower, in order to prevail against IS, especially in the battle for Kobane. However, the US refusal to help Afrin showed the limits of this purely tactical military collaboration.
All revolutionary struggles have been forced to make difficult tactical alliances (including military alliances) at a certain stage in their struggles in order to advance. This was the case with the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions. Each of these had short-lived military tactical alliances with imperialist powers.
Back in 1966, the famous revolutionary Che Guevara called upon the world to “Create one, two, many Vietnams”. That became a revolutionary slogan that resounded around the world. Today we should say: “Create one, two, many Rojava revolutions!”