In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson leading figures from 13 UK unions have urged the UK government to condemn outright the Turkish aggression against the Kurds, triggered by Trump’s precipitate decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria.
They describe Trump’s move as “a green-light to a Turkish military invasion of North and East Syria, which, as we have already seen in Afrin, will undoubtedly lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kurds as well as a resurgence of ISIS.
“We therefore call on the UK government to immediately condemn Turkey’s threats of invasion and to work with the international community to deploy an international force and enforce a no-fly zone to prevent the imminent catastrophe and protect civilian lives”.
Several of the letter’s signatories have backed the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) as it has promoted “anti-imperialist”/ “power-bloc” politics.
And StWC has responded to Trump’s move by shrugging: “the US should never have been there in the first place, and the Kurds were mistaken to trust them”.
Some of the 13 unions (notably Unite) bankroll the Morning Star, whose policy on Syria has been to support Assad and Putin, while demanding that the US simply gets out. Perhaps significantly, the Morning Star has not mentioned the union leaders’ letter.
The paper’s editorial of 11 October is headed “Imperialism is the main source of danger for Syria” and claims that “this dependence on unreliable imperialist allies has always been a strategic weakness for the different Kurdish national contingents.” By “imperialism”, the Morning Star means the US and Israel, not the Turkey which is invading, or the Russia which has bombed to help Assad.
Elsewhere, the paper has been all over the place in its coverage of the US withdrawal: Kevin Ovenden (of Counterfire and the StWC) had a lengthy article (9 October ) in which he at least acknowledged reality: “Donald Trump’s decision to pull back US forces… facilitat[es] Erdoğan plan for a huge military operation to destroy the quasi-independent Kurdish entity there”, before concluding that the need here is to oppose US forces — “for vigorous anti-war movements guided by the internationalist principle of confronting your own imperialist war machine.”
The activist and writer Marcel Cartier, who has spent time in Rojava, clearly feels great affinity for what he describes (in the Morning Star of 11 October) as “the Rojava Revolution which is aimed to create a grassroots feminist democracy rooted in the fraternity of nationalities across Syria”.
Yet he shrugs. “The dizzying pace of events… vindicate[s] what the Kurdish Freedom movement has said from the beginning – that such a relationship with a ‘frenemy’ was always weak and riddled with contradictions, and always one that would at some point be ‘here today, gone tomorrow’.”
When Kosovars, Libyans, and Syrians made similar calls because they felt some form of outside intervention was the only way to avert ethnic cleansing or massacres, many of the people now backing the union leaders’ letter were denouncing them as CIA stooges, and those who supported their calls as pro-imperialists.
Let’s hope that some people might draw some meaningful political lessons from the inconsistency, and reassess their crude “anti-imperialism”.