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Kurdistan & the Struggle for National Liberation
Inter notional Bolshevik Tendency
First published September 2003
International Bolshevik Tendency www.holshevik.org
Posrfach 10060 1,47006 Duisburg, Gcrmany BCLMBux 4771, London, W C l N 3XX, Britain Box 405, Cooper Starion, New York, NY, USA 10276 Box 3 1796, Oakland, CA, USA 94604 Box 332, Adelaide St. Stn., Toronto, Canada M5C 2J4 Box 9671, Wellington, New Zealand
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1. Kurdistan and the National Question Reprinted from 19 17 No. 12, 1993. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2. Free ~ c a l a n Defend the PKK! ! Reprinted from 1917 No. 21, 1999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 3. The Kurdish People and the U.S.Occupation of Iraq Reprinted from Workers Vanguard Nos. 804 and 805, 23 May and 6June 2003 . . . . . . . . . . , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 4. A Bogus Polernic I2 June 2003 letter to Workers Vanguard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , . . . . 17 5 . BT Doth Whine Too Much Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 8 0 6 , 4 ] u l y 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 6. Robertson's 'Vulgar Chauvinism' IBT leaflet, 4 July 2003. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 7. Editorial Statement Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 807, 1 August 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 8. BT: Renegades for Hire Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 807, 1 Azigust 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 9. The Truth Hurts 8 August 2003 letter t o Workers Vanguard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 10. BT: A Walking Provocation Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 808, 29 August 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 11. The Emperor Has N o Clothes IBT statement, 12 September 2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Appendix A: For a Trotskyist perspective in Turkey WSL's Pre-Conference Discussion Bulletin No 12, Febrrrary 1978 . . . . . . . . . . 31 Appendix B: Kurdish Workers in the Iraqi Revolution of 1958-59 by Reuben Samuels Reprinted from Workers Vanguard, No. 370, I 1 Jantlary 1 985 . . . . . . . . . . . 35
on earth without their
the United States. opds because it would a1 regimes through which impen this strategically vital region. viable road to the realization of Kurdish national
phlet originally appeared a def the Iriternational Bolshevik on founded by former cadres t tendency (today the Inter-1CL). The secoild docu17. This is followed iginally appeared in Workers the Spartacist League [S I.]). e Kurds closely parallels our he nonetheless denounced itjon on the question. In (Document 4) we sugnuine example o i "selfin a 1978 speech by SL on, i l l which he referred as "TurJ5." 111 the same speech, which was trant internal bulletin, Rohcomrade who is
ational Discussion Bulreference to Robertson's chauvinist remark on the
Kurds struck a nerve. The WV editorial board initially tried to sidestep the issue by printing a truncated version of our letrer (Document 5). Our 4 July statement (Document 6) which pointed out that this amounted to a tacit repudiation of the SI, lidu rnaxirno's chauvinist vulgarity apparently brought the ed board's subterfuge to Robertson's attention. He was not pleased. The next issue of WVfeatured an obsequious lnea crilpa froin the editorial board (Document 7) as well as an expression of contrition for having engaged in a political discussion with us in the first place. To make amends, W a l s o produced a hysterical rehash of slanders agailisr the IRT in general, and comrade Rill Logan in particular (Document 8). The WV art~cle asserted that only "those genuinely inspired by chauvinisn~"could i~iterpret Robertson's cornnlent as havinganything to d o with Kurds, yet, as we noted in our 8 Augusr rejoinder (I>ocument Y), it provided n o altrrnarive interpretation for their national chair's remark. The 29 August issue of WV did finally advance an absurd alibi for Robertson (Document 10) t o which we responded in an 8 September statement (Document 11). * * * .s the central leader of the Spartacia tendency, James 4 Robertson played a critically important role in preserving and developing the thread o f authentic Bolshevism (i.e., Trotskyism) through rhc 1960s and 1970s. But the Spartacist tendency today is a pseudo-revolurionary centrist formation qualitatively sinlilar to Gerry Healy's unlamented Socialist 1,ahoul. I-eaguc of the late 1960s, as our recent exchange demonstrates. However, the contents of this bulletin are of interest not only because they document an aspect of the decline and fall of the Spartacist tendency, but also because they provide a Marxist analysis of the Kurdish national question and demonstrate the relevance of I.,eon Trotsky's program of permanent revolution in the struggle for a Socialisr Federation of the Middle East. International Rolshcvik Tc~ldency Septem ber 2003
cialist Federation of the MidnIe East
stan and the National Questi
cooperatioll with the rulers of the states in which Kurds lived. The Kurdisli areas are kent in a state of nernlancnt underdevelopment by each of the oppressor states, and primitive agriculture predominates. Modem industry and infrastructure have bcen developed on a minor scale only where it has been useful for rhe exploitation of raw materials. In Turkish Kurdistan, for example, only enterprises established by Turks get state aid. Nonetheless, fcw invcstn~ents made in this are area because the region is considered too unstal?le. It is difficult for large Kurdish landowners t o invest capital in Kurdistan, and the indigenous bourgeoisie has undergone only the most rudimentary developincnt. Migrarion from rhc land to the cities and towns is a widespread phenomenon in all four countries. In Turkey Kurds make up 20 percent of the population, yet only five percent of the proletariat is Kurdish. The Kurdish prolerariar exists basically in non-Kurdish areas. One expert on Kurdish societ); Martin van Bruillessen, noted: "There is a Kurdish proletariat and also Kurdish industrid capiral but both exist outside Kurdistan" (Agb~, Scheich und Staat). The old social-economic structures in Kurdisran, the remnants of feudalism, are deliberately prcscrvcd, Landlords, sheiks and clan chiefs represenr the unimpeachable economic, polirical and religious authority in society. Kurdish women are trebly oppressed: as women, as Kurds and as workers or peasants. The propertied cla..ses and ciwres in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) live from the crumbs of rhe Turkish bourgeoisie, in exchange for denying their own nationality and participating in the oppression of the other componcnrs of the Kurdish nation. The sheiks and clan lcaders in South Easr K~irdistari(Iraq and Iran) are not forced to renounce their ~lationality,bur, to obtain their quota of crumbs, they must prove tl~emselves he "reliable" Kurds by to collaboratirlg witti their rulers against the "subversiven Kurds.
plornacy than tlie Kurds, a Near Easteni nation of million pcoplc. In 1923, Kurdistan was tor11 into
d s launched a movement Cor a separate Kurdish state. This Rational movement developed in tandem with the Young Turk movement in Turkey. After the outbreak of World War I, whicli pirred the Ortoman Empire against Czarist Russia, the
leaders of the Young Turks (including Musrafa Kemal--later known as Kemd Amtiirk) laundled a calnpaign against the Christian Armalias, who wcrc accuscd of siding with [he Itussians. This narionalisr campaign was animated by pro-Islamic propaganda aimed at rhe 'Turkish i ~ n d Kurdish masses. The rcsult was the first state sponsored genocide of thc 20th century. At least a million Armenians (as well as other Christians, for example, rl~c Assyria~is) were killed in the course of the government's campaign to expel them from Turkey. Kurdish natioiiaIists today prefer t o ignore or deny the fact chat Kurds also played a role in the Turkish scare's genocidal persecution of die Armenians. In 1920 Atariirk promised a common "state of Turks and Kurds" to win thc support of rhc Kurdish clans in resisting the harsh tcrms of the Treaty of Skvres [the equivalent of thc VersaillesTreaty imposed on Gern~any year betore] and to drive the the Greeks out of Asia hlinor. Several years later Atatiirk rewarded Ius Kurdish allics (who were by then officially deskmated merely as "moul~tain Turksn) with nierciless persecution. The teaching of Kurdish in schools was outlawed and it was even forl~iddcn incntion the exisrencc of Kurds o r other national to rninoritics within Turkey. llnder Atariirk, a series of Kurdish uprisings were brilnlly suppreswd, ,uld hundreds of thousands of Kurds wcrc deporrcd into central and wesrcrn Turkey. To dare, every Kurdish revolt has hinged on the collaboration of the corrupr Kurdish nationalist leaders with their own rulers, or the imperialist powers, particularly with Britain, France and the U.S. T l x resulr has been an unbroken string of crushing dcfcats for Kurdish self-detennination. The Kurdish bourgeois nationalist n~ovelnenthas proved roo feeble to struggle independently for its goals.
Bourgeois Parties of the Kurdish Resistance
Ismail Besicki, who has been repeatedly persecured hy successive Turkish regimes for his importanr studies on the Kurdish question, describes the Kurdisl~ bourgeoisie as "literally rotten and collapsed." Thc weakness of the Kurdish bourgeoisie is rcvealed by thcir acceptance of the partition of thcir nation. None of the bourgeois Kurdish lcadcrs denlands anything more than autonomy within the various oppressor states. The Iraq-based 1)cmocratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), for example, has always accepted the inviolabiliry of the borders drawn up by thc imperialists, Under the flag of "autonomy," the KDP'b founder, the mullah, Musrafa Barzani, collaborated alternately with Baghdad and Tehran, while always keeping in touch with Washington. One of the low points of Battani's treacherous career was his cooperation with the Shah to crush a Kurdish uprising in lran in 1966-68. From 1972-75 he presided over Parastin-a security scrvice established with help from the infamous Iranian SAVAK, the ClAand the Israeli Mossad-which aided in rhe sun~ressioll Kurdish resistance in lran. In 1975. when of the Shah signed a treaty with lraq,Tchrail abruprly c e a x d c o operation with Barzani; a mass exodus of hundreds of thou1.
Kurdish Social StructureImposed Underdevelopment
As a rcsult of the division of Kurdistan, each coinponent of the fledgling bourgeoisie was only able to d c ~ ~ c l o p through
sands of Kurds began and tlie 50,000 figliters of Harzani's peshmerga werc dispersed. Barzani's successors, his sons Idris and Massrld, have purslied iderlrical policies of collaboration and fratricidal srrit'e: d u r i ~ ~ g Iran-Iraq war, they oncc rhe more sided with Tellran and led Kurds into battle against Kurds. An important grouping in Iraq-Kurdistan is rhc Patriotic 1Jnion of Kurdistan (PUK), founded in 1975 by Jalal Talabani. Tdlabani split from the KDP in 1964, blaming Barzani for leading the fight for Kurdish independence "with tribal methods" and for "maintaining the alliance with i~nperialisni" (Kurdistun rtnd die Kurdcn, Vol. 1). This well-founded accusdtion didn't hinder Talabani from forming similar alliailces. During the Iran-Iraq war, Talabani first tried to cut a deal with Saddam Hussein in 198.3, and then sided wid1 Khomeini (and Barzani) against Baghdad and the Iranian KD1' (whose leader, Abdulrahnlan Ghassernlot~, aligned himself with Saddam had Husscin). The bourgeois Kurdish partics in Iraq have been quitc anxious t o rerain an autoiiomous Kurdish area with the blessing of the iniperialists. During the 1991 imperialist war against Iraq, Barzani and Talabani both appealed directly to the imperialist powers. Shortly after Iraq moved into Kuwait, Talabani initiated discussions with some American senators in Washington. Barzani signaled his rcadi~lessfor joint action with rhe United Nations, the fig-leaf fur imperialist aggression (cited in B. Nirrimand, D e Kurdische mgodie). Whr11 i the U.S. rulers made it clear that they took a dim view of the "I..eba~nization"of Iraq, Talabatli a k c d the Turkish president Ozal ro try to persuade George Rush to overthrow Hussein. During the subsequent uprising of: the Iraqi Kurds againsr Hussein's murderous repression, which included the infamous gas attacks. the boureeois Kurdish resistance con~bined their operations with the British and U.S. secret services. When the revolt was suppressed, the imperialists stepped in and declared the Kurdish territory in Iraq t o be a "security zone" that w a s off limits t o Hussein's troops. This is now being enforced hy U.S. and orhrr warptanes based in Turkey. As revolutionary internationalists, we recognize rhar the Kurds in Iraq are entitled to regional autonomy if they wish. Bur we arc unconditionally opposed ro any kind of imperialist intervention against Iraq, including that undertaken bcneath che hypocritical banner of "protectiiig" the Kurds. Moreover, as the present difficulties of the lraqi Kurds deinonsrrate, "autonon~y"is noc a viahle option. Baghdad responded to rhe creation of a "sec~trityzone," established by i~nperialist diktat, by imposing a blockade in September 1991 which has left the lracli Kurds dependent on the U.S. and tlic European Community for hasic supplies. The political corruption of the bourgeois Kurdish parties in lraq is revealed by their anxiety to retain an "autonomous" Kurdish area in Iraq at any cost. To this end, Rartani and Talabani have recentlv cotnbiried nlilitarilv with tlie Turkish army in a struggle against guerrillas of the competing Kurdish Workers Parry (PKK) based in Turkey.
the leaders of the tribcs and claris t o take up arms against th PKK in alliance with the Turkish army. Ankara's tools rang fron~ outright bribes to threats to desrroy whole villages. I the clan hcads agree to collaborate in suppressitig the 1'K the entire village is considered a parry ro the deal hecause t chief's word is law. 11 the past, the PKK has responded to rhi 1 "system of village guardians" by themselves butchering who1 , villages. Tod;\y the PKK officially dissociares inelf from such acts of indiscriminate terror. In rhe 1980s the I'KK also discredited itself by the p-acticd of liquidating its interriai and external critics (including for. mer members). Thcse criminal practices, derived from the PKK's Stalinist ideology, made it easy for European poliq agencies, in cooperation with rhe T~irkish secret police, ta persecute PKK supporters and to rreat the entire Kurdish re sistance in exile as criminals. In Germany, in particular, dozq ens of Kurds have been arrested on the flimsiest pretexts and are facing trial as possible "1'KK terrorists." As Trotskvisrs we reiect the Stalinist nracrices of the PKK and we oppose any anii-working class dctions that its me& bers may have carried out. Nevertheless, the workers' move. lnellt 117 Gerinany must defend the accused in the so-callec "PKK Trial" [a si~iister conspiracy trial now ui~derway Ger. in many] in order to stop the criminalization of rhe Kurdish re sistancc in Germany. Such a defensc is not only an elenlentar) obligation of international solidarity, it is also a concrere pro rest against the close cooperation of Germany and Turkey ir the suppression o i the Kurds. The PKK is a petty-bourgeois guerrilla movelnent with : progranl that reflects the rerarded development of capitalislr in Kurdistan. The PKK's description of their goal as a "peo pies' revolution," is taken snaight from the vocabulary of Sta linisc class collaborationism. In an interview published ir 1992, Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's undisputed leader, de fined his group's objecrives as follows: "What we stand for, we call radical demrbcracy Thi! .... means thar we are not defined by classic principles. We arc not a communisr movemenr. We are neither a nationnlis nor an Islamic religious movenlent. These currents are criti cized hy us. One thing isclear. We are no narrow minded na tiot~alists. sand against any form of nationalism. We wil We not be takcn in by bore~ucraricsocialism inany caw and wc are also against the idea of economic competition." -Ez Kurdim Ich bin Kurdin, Schumarttt/(;oeDi
The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)
The PKK is the hest known and largest leftisr organization in Turkish Kurdistan today. One reason for in accelerated growrh in recent years has been its uncompromising refusal to collaborate with che Turkish reginre. Becilrtse of this, tho11sands of PKK fighters have beell r~iercilessly hunted down and murdered under both the Turkish nlilirary regime and its civiliail successors. Ankara's terror against the Kurdish population has created mass support for the PKK. The Turkish regime has pressured
'The cross-class characrer of this "people's revolution" be comes dear in 6calan7sexplanation of the PKK's occasions reference t o socialisn~: "When we refer to scientific sncialisn we mean a socialism that stands ahove the interests of thc srare, the nation, and chc classes." This conception of social ism refkcts the fact that, despite irs name, the PKK is a perry bourgeois r~ationalist formation, programn~atically incapah11 of forging the necessary alliances with the Persian, Arab anc Turkish workers' movements. According to rhe New York Times (24 November 1992 PKK fighters from Turkey "moved into the area [norther Iraq] aftcr Western forces established a Kurdish enclave" fol lowing the 1991 imperialist war against lraq. The same articl reports that in November 1992 thc IsKK units in the area ha suffered a crushingdefcar at the hands of an unholy allianc between the bourgeois KDP and PUK peshmergas and th Turkish army. Kurdish and Turkish militants, as well as th entirc international workers' movement, have a duty ro dc fend the PKK against the Turkish generals and their Kurdis quislings. According to the NYTarticle: "Leaders of rhc Iraqi Kurds now hope that thcir milira1 role against the Turkish Kurds will win t h a n favor in A1
in Kurdistali have ensnared them-
For the Right of Self-Determination for the Kurds!
The PKK ha3 established a reputation for its unconditional
liberal bourgeoisie." -Leon Tmtsky, The Permanetrt Revolution
Daimler Bent AC; ak)ne." The German irnpcrialisrs' criticisms o Turkey's oppresf sion ot "its" Kurds are usually intended merely as a iorm of
national question is that ir is intertwined with the social question in rhe states with Kurdish nlinorities and, through them, in all thc statcs of the Ncar East. Thc fight for frecdo~n thc of