Letter: PYD democracy lacking

Submitted by Matthew on 26 July, 2017 - 7:36 Author: Dan Katz

Riki Lane writes about PYD rule in Rojava (Solidarity 444), “Overall this is essentially standard bourgeois democracy, but with a strong emphasis on bottom-up democratic development of a social economy.”

I think Riki is the victim of a PKK public relations operation. The PYD is an off-shoot of the Turkish Kurdish PKK, which remains a militarised Stalinist-nationalist party. The PKK/PYD is dissembling for an international audience because they want support against Turkey and currently they are listed as a banned, terrorist group. They aim to present themselves as unthreatening.

A better parallel for the PYD/Rojava is not with radical bourgeois democracy, it is with Stalinism/Eastern Europe in 1944-8. Now, admittedly, that analogy needs qualification. We are not living in the late 40s, and Stalinism is a withered force. Stalin’s Red Army had enormous power and prestige. Nevertheless the nod at democracy, the creation of a political alliance where the PYD has gathered a number of other parties around itself, for camouflage, reminds me of Poland in the late-40s. As does the fact that the PYD maintains a monopoly on state force.

Although the PYD operates within international constraints, and taking into account their relative lack of power in relation to the Turkish military, they still have a considerable amount of room to do whatever they choose in Rojava. The PYD run a centralised state which has a functioning taxation system, some public services and has recently introduced conscription. They repress their political opponents. A 107-page Human Rights Watch (HRW) report from 2014 (Under Kurdish Rule: Abuses in PYD-run Enclaves of Syria) begins, “[Our report] documents arbitrary arrests of the PYD’s political opponents, abuse in detention, and unsolved abductions and murders. It also documents the use of children in the PYD’s police force and armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).”

In March 2017 HRW commented on the repression inside Iraqi Kurdistan and Rojava following clashes between Barzani’s Iraqi Kurdish forces and the PYD. Political opponents of the PYD inside Rojava were arrested, peaceful demonstrations were broken up and the offices of political opponents were ransacked and closed. Similar actions took place against PYD-PKK supporters inside Iraqi Kurdistan. Of course, back the PYD in fights against Daesh. But let’s not go any further in our political support.