On the occasion of the RiseUp4Rojava Action Week1 from November 1 to 8 this year, we published short writings on anti-fascism2, women’s liberation3 and ecology4 over the last days, according to the respective topic. On November 5th, the theme day was “Anti-imperialism and anti-colonial struggles”, so today we want to make our contribution with a short paper and share it with you.
Those who expect a detailed analysis of imperialism and the anti-imperialist struggle that is to be opposed to it, will not find what they are looking for here. We can, however, refer to a number of comprehensive readings that will enable you to get a more detailed overview, or which are worth reading and discussing. First of all, the books of Abdullah Öcalan, his prison/defense writings, are certainly worth to be recommended. Especially the last five volumes, which were published as a “Manifesto of Democratic Civilization “5 and some of which are translated into different languages, provide a detailed view of the historical connections and development processes of nature and humanity and show the imperialist disposition of all historical and present systems of rule. Furthermore, the classics from Lenin6 to Luxemburg7 to Frantz Fanon8 are of course manifestations of anti-imperialist theory that should not be neglected.
So, as I said, we will not give you a new analysis or academic-theoretical treatise on imperialism, but we will try to describe what imperialism means and how anti-imperialist struggle can be organized internationally today on the basis of our own experiences. Against this background, we will also briefly discuss the title of this text: Anti-imperialism in the 21st century?!
Why this title? What distinguishes imperialism from before the turn of the millennium with the situation now? We have chosen this title not because we think imperialism today would somehow function differently than before and therefore an anti-imperialist attitude must also change. No, the basic mechanisms on which capitalism, patriarchy, rule-making are based are still the same. Not much has changed in this respect. Even though we are bombarded daily with hundreds of thousands of events and changes worldwide and can follow them more or less easily and quickly with our smartphone in our hands: The essential characteristics of the system that oppresses peoples, exploits women and workers, murders struggling, strong-willed people, occupies and colonizes countries, and destroys and leads our habitat, Mother Earth, to the abyss, remain unchanged. But today we find ourselves in a time in which the contradictions come to a head. This is not only noticeable in one place, one struggle, not only recognizable in the chaos into which the Middle East has been plunged, but can be observed worldwide. This is not to say that the contradictions were less explosive in the 20th century, for example. However, in the 20th century, in the period between 1917 and 1991, we find a situation that differs substantially from the present one. The world was divided into two main poles of political power: Real socialism and capitalism, USA/Western Europe and Soviet Union, NATO and Warsaw Pact, etc.
This historical situation, however one evaluates the practice of the Soviet Union or real socialism, made a clear distinction between the socialist world and the imperialist world. This means: clear borders, unambiguous alliances and front processes. Who is on which side – who fights against whom – friend and foe were clearly distinguished from each other. Against this background, it was also relatively understandable to whom and what anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist struggles and movements would directly or indirectly refer to and in what way. However, we must understand that these lines of the 20th century, the past, belong to the 20th century, they have dissolved.
Has the role of NATO, the USA, etc. changed because of this? No, of course not. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, they declared their victory (rashly) over socialism and even went so far as to announce the end of history, to proclaim eternal capitalism: The eternal dream of all dictators, immortality, eternal superiority and domination. Against this background they began to set up new plans and projects in accordance with the changed world political power situation.
After this “victory”, how would they divide the new territories, regions, areas and seas, the new resources and the emerging investment and sales markets among themselves? How would they reorganize and restructure the world after decades of two-block order? How to perpetuate the existence of the capitalist order? These are the questions the capitalists and imperialists “had to” ask themselves.
To weaken Russia’s potential new competition and claims to power, the breakaway and founding of numerous mini-national states in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and other former Soviet republics was encouraged. The so-called Third World more or less opened itself up to the neo-colonial aspirations of the West, for the West’s great competitive power of previous decades no longer existed and its successors were preoccupied with themselves and the chaos the imperialists had left behind. Moreover, many countries that had fought hard and at great sacrifice to gain independence were not economically and politically strong enough to stand on their own two feet completely, and continued to be forced into dependence. But individual states and regimes, most of which governed their country in an autocratic manner, which were previously considered part of the real socialist bloc and which continued to resist the influence of the Western powers, stood in the way of the project of renewal and restructuring of global capitalism. So they had to be addressed. Especially the Middle East and North Africa were and are a thorn in the side of the West as well as objects of desire. Geopolitically and strategically it links Africa, Asia and Europe; important resources, investment and sales markets; trade and supply routes that are difficult to replace; but on the other hand: a resistant culture and way of life that runs counter to capitalist logic, high revolutionary potential in society and regional regimes that prefer to maintain the status quo rather than submit to international capitalist dictates. So we are talking about the Palestinian liberation struggle and the related conflict-ridden situation that is keeping the entire region in suspense; we are talking about the occupation and division of Kurdistan into four central states of the region and the revolutionary struggle of the Kurdish people; we are talking about the explosive frustration of the societies towards their governments, as manifested for example in the so-called Arab Spring, and we are also talking about states like Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc.
The imperialists’ response and the solution they developed for themselves and have pursued adamantly ever since was and is the so-called “Greater Middle East Project”9. Previously, the Western Bloc powers had been content to curb the influence of the Soviet Union and communist movements by supporting dictatorial regimes and promoting political Islam. They wanted to create a so-called “green belt”10 that would prevent socialist ideas from infecting Middle Eastern societies. For this reason, massive support was given to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the origins of movements such as the Taliban and el-Qaeda were traced back to them. A strategy with which the left in Palestine was also sent almost into insignificance and with which even today an attempt is being made to contain and, if possible, destroy the revolution in Kurdistan, or at least to dull its radiance to the other societies of the region.
In this respect, the arming and payment of the Afghan Mudjahedin against the Red Army was the beginning of a larger strategy, which continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union and on the basis of the “Greater Middle East Project” with the Gulf Wars, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, and in recent history has been continued in different ways in different countries by exploiting the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring 2011. Thus the Western powers were able to get rid of Gaddafi in Libya, for example, and plunge the region, especially Syria, into permanent chaos. A clear component of these strategies has always been to build up militias according to their own interests. Against this background it is not surprising what happened in Syria: In Syria, under US-NATO direction and in direct connection with Turkey, the various Islamist gangs that operated under the banner of the “Free Syrian Army” and today occupy Idlib, Efrîn, Ezaz, Bab, Cerablus, Gire Spî and Serêkaniyê as the “Syrian National Army” were systematically built up, trained and supported. The so-called el-Nusra front, the Syrian branch of el-Qaeda, which was sent to war against the revolution in Rojava, between 2012 and 2013, was the first major beneficiary of this NATO operation. In direct succession, it was the Islamic State (IS), which, from 2014 onwards, with the help of professional intelligence support from various states, especially Turkey, which functions locally as a frontline state of NATO, became a regional power in a very short time with well thought-out propaganda and extraordinary cruelty and brought large areas of Iraq and Syria under its control. All this only to have the IS then take up the fight against the revolution in Kurdistan as the counterrevolutionary hope of Turkey and its imperialist partners.
A major part of the effort to bring the “Greater Middle East Project” to fruition was not least the international conspiracy that culminated in the arrest and abduction of Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. What we are witnessing today in Kurdistan is the continuation of this conspiracy: an international concept to destroy the revolution on all levels. That is, the systematic attack on the revolution. Militarily, economically, ideologically, secret service and political-diplomatic.
In order to understand the conflicts, wars and fronts of our time, to understand how a revolution can be carried out and defended in a country today, to survive without losing itself, we need to take a closer look at the parameters on which anti-imperialist policies were based in the 20th century and see that they are no longer applicable today. The Russian Federation, too, is no longer an anti-imperialist force but an imperialist actor. The blocs no longer exist in this way. It is not only necessary to distinguish between the imperialist powers and the objectively anti-imperialist states and accordingly to draw a distorted picture of “good” and “evil”, because the situation is much more complex. There is, for example, also a third way, as the revolution in Kurdistan tries to follow, with its own paradigm and parameters.
Alliances and alliances of states and rulers exist at various levels and can be thrown over from one day to the next. They are all capable of being friend one moment and enemy the next, working together in one place and against each other in another. This is exactly what makes the situation of the revolutionary struggle so complicated, especially in a region like the Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria. This is why such a revolution, which is anti-imperialist and socialist, is inevitably in the difficult situation of being able to act diplomatically on the one hand, with forces that want to control and govern it, and on the other hand, to find and support democratic, socialist allies with whom it can work together in the long term for the same goals. We can ask rhetorical questions about this: Would there be any need for certain diplomatic efforts with, say, the U.S., if tens of thousands had set out to defend the revolution against fascism, as in 1936? Because, the war in Syria is not a so-called “civil war”. It is an international war in which dozens of states and forces are involved. It is possible to ignore this reality and go under, or to acknowledge this reality and determine the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle accordingly. Because in this war there is no mercy and no “conscience of the international community” that would not allow so-called war crimes to be committed. The war is a brutal reality and those who are strong and have the strength become the determining actor.
That is exactly what imperialism is: it is violence and war against the peoples! Occupation, exploitation, enslavement, expulsion and rape. By all possible means, from political diplomatic to economic and military coercion, the power of capital and the ruling classes is enforced. Imperialism is the paradox of hearing those states that have bled humanity dry over the last 500 years and robbed the riches of the countries of Africa, America, Asia, now fantasize about civilization, democracy and human rights. Imperialism has different faces: it can be the dollar bill, which, as here in Syria, has become the epitome of inflation; it can be a self-proclaimed development NGO or a UN report that creates facts that do not respect the will of a society. It can be the sound of bombs being dropped or the hum of a drone, armed with thermal vision, camera and Hellfire missile circling above you. Imperialism can be many things. It is the division of the world into nation states, poisoned by nationalist propaganda that divides and divides. Imperialism is when some forces, which have so far only harmed the Êzîdins in Şengal, conclude an agreement11 to impose their own administration from outside on the population in Şengal and suppress their self-conquered autonomy. Imperialism is when a refugee camp like Maxmûr, because the people there cannot be bent, is bombed and put under pressure with an embargo. Imperialism is when the forests of Kurdistan are cut down and burned to deprive the guerrillas of their natural protection, when roads and military barracks are built on some mountain tops and the peasants and nomads are forbidden access to the plateaus, and when they, insisting on their own will, are thrown out of flying helicopters12. Imperialism is also when a fascist state like Turkey is kept on its feet with injections of funds, arms exports and political legitimacy and when the door is open for this fascist state to expand. It is also when Turkey sends refugees to the borders of Greece in order to enforce its own political interests against the EU. It is when the regional fascist and counterrevolutionary forces are united under the USA’s leadership to secure the existence of the rule of capital and destroy the revolution13.
To counter the imperialist plans and to thwart them, international solidarity, both practical and symbolic, is our strongest weapon. We must not leave them, the fascists, capitalists, racists, sexists and imperialists, any quiet hinterland. We must expose their connections, shenanigans, lies and dirty games, and strengthen and unite both locally and globally our struggles for a democratic and ecological society and women’s freedom: Thinking and acting together.
No attack on the revolution must remain unanswered. We must defend what has been created and destroy what oppresses us. We must take the initiative and go on the offensive.
Long live international solidarity!
Together and internationally against Turkish fascism and its supporters!
RiseUp4Rojava! Rise Up Against Fascism!
1Call for the actionweek of the campaign RiseUp4Rojava: https://riseup4rojava.org/call-international-week-of-solidarity-and-action-1st-8th-november-2020/
5All books by Abdullah Öcalan translated so far can be found here: http://www.ocalanbooks.com/#/english
6V.I.Lenin, Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/index.htm
7About Rosa Luxemburg: https://www.rosalux.de/en/
9“Greater Middle East Project”: long-term project of the USA-NATO since the beginning of the 1990s to restructure the Middle East in accordance with the interests of international capital.
10“Green Belt”: Strategy of Islamizing the political opinion of society. Targeted promotion of political Islam in the Middle East as a “protective wall” against the Soviet Union and for the marginalization and liquidation of communist/socialist movements.
11More about the agreemen: https://anfenglishmobile.com/features/baghdad-and-kdp-agree-on-us-plan-for-shengal-47159
13Nothing new, old hat and seen in many places at different times of the last century. For example: “Civil war in Russia” after the revolution in 1917, Vietnam, Congo, Angola, basically everywhere in Latin America and not least in Kurdistan, also here and now: Alliance of KDP and AKP/Turkey: https://anfdeutsch.com/aktuelles/treffen-zwischen-barzani-und-mit-22569