Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 24, 2018

The Rojava Illusion

Filed under: Kurd,Syria — louisproyect @ 9:17 pm

Yesterday I was appalled to read a NY Times article titled “Syrian Militias Enter Afrin, Dealing a Setback to Turkey” that began:

Militias loyal to the Syrian government swept into the northwestern enclave of Afrin on Thursday in support of Kurdish militias, reclaiming the territory and stealing a march on Turkish forces that have been battling toward the city for nearly a month.

Television broadcasts and social media postings showed crowds celebrating in the main square of the city of Afrin, waving flags and holding posters of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey on terrorism charges.

The photo accompanying the article said it all:

While I have become inured to Syrian Kurds making realpolitik type alliances for the past six years, I was still stunned to see them holding aloft a photo of man who systematically bombs hospitals. Does a non-aggression pact with Syria’s blood-soaked family dynast entail holding up his portrait? I certainly understood the need for the USSR to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939 but would that require the Communist press to curtail its attacks on the Nazi persecution of Jews? Um, come to think of it, that did happen…

I suppose that this is not totally unexpected. Until September 2017, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) was led by Salih Muslim who is on record as believing that unless Assad was part of Syria’s solution, 2 million Alawites would die. Evidently he was unaware of how the hard-core supporters of Assad had painted graffiti “Either Assad or the Country Burns” all across the country. Just two weeks after Assad had launched a Sarin gas attack in East Ghouta that cost the lives of up to 1,729 people, Salih Muslim told Reuters that it was a false flag aimed at framing Assad and provoking an international reaction. In other words, there was nothing to distinguish him from the Vanessa Beeleys of the world.

For some on the left, this is just a peccadillo. The Greenleft Weekly that is edited and written by long-time members of the Trotskyist movement in Australia is utterly devoted to the Rojava cause as reflected by the appearance of well over 200 articles that are breathlessly enthusiastic while the fight to overthrow Assad is largely dismissed as jihadist in nature. Even the FSA, which has been largely eliminated because of a genocidal-like air war, gets reduced to a militia made up of warlords and brigands.

On the very day that the NY Times article about Assadist militias rescuing the anarchist paradise appeared, a Greenleft supporter posted an article by Tony Iltis to Marxmail. Titled “As Syria’s conflict intensifies, where do democratic hopes lie?”, it echoes Greenleft’s hatred of Islamic-based militias, referring to “the degeneration of much of the FSA into right-wing Islamist militias”, including those that are being bombed to hell in East Ghouta. By contrast, the Rojava experiment was capable of “uniting all nationalities in Syria, even gaining increasing adherence from the Arab majority.” Unlike the areas under control of women-hating jihadists, Rojava was feminist, democratic and committed to a cooperative-based economy.

Leaving aside the unlikelihood of Rojava becoming a model for the rest of Syria instead of the Gaza-like protectorates of the FSA or the plebian Islamist militias that were united on a class basis against an oligarchy that had destroyed agrarian society, there is little hard analysis of the anarchist dream represented by Rojava. It is understandable why Graeber and anarchists in general look to it as living model of their dreams. But for the people at Greenleft, isn’t there any interest in taking up the question of what amounts to an age-old debate on the left about whether such locally-based co-operatives can ever lead to socialism? Apparently not.

For all practical purposes, Greenleft’s line on Rojava is identical to that of David Graeber, a high-profile anarchist and number one defender of the Kurdish application of Murray Bookchin’s theories.

If Graeber and his friends at Greenleft never bothered to consider the possibility that co-operatives were a dead end except for small-scale enterprises in Park Slope, Brooklyn or within a post-capitalist society like Cuba, where they could complement the main engines of publicly owned firms, there was ample evidence that Bookchin himself was growing doubtful. In an article by Janet Biehl, his long-time collaborator, there’s a critique that has apparently not been reflected in all of the Rojava rhapsodizing. She writes:

In the 1970s, many American radicals formed cooperatives, which they hoped could constitute an alternative to large corporations and ultimately replace them. Bookchin welcomed this development, but as the decade wore on, he noticed that more and more those once-radical economic units were absorbed into the capitalist economy. While cooperatives’ internal structures remained admirable, he thought that in the marketplace they could become simply another kind of small enterprise with their own particularistic interests, competing with other enterprises, even with other cooperatives.

You can find an interview with Graeber on Co-Operative Economy, a website that describes itself as follows:

The co-operative movement in North Syria, known colloquially as Rojava (meaning “West” in Kurdish) is thriving.

In Rojava, a revolution is taking place, based on the political model of Democratic Confederalism, and within this system, co-operatives play an integral part in reshaping the economy. People here are taking collective control of their lives and workplaces.

In Bakur, (the predominantly Kurdish region which lies within Turkey’s border) co-operatives have been set up within a similar model of democratic autonomy, despite the ongoing military repression by the state of Turkey.

I invite the Greenleft people and anybody else on the left who can’t tell the difference between anarchism and Marxism to read the interview since Graeber clearly does.

It seems that Graeber’s father fought in the Spanish Civil War and that one of the things he learned from him is that anybody who doesn’t work with his or her hands is superfluous. “And in fact, my father was in Barcelona when it was run by an anarchist principle. They just got rid of white collar workers, and sure enough they discovered these were basically bullshit jobs, that they didn’t make any difference if they weren’t there.” Well, I was in Nicaragua in the late 80s—a country trying to implement socialist policies under very difficult conditions—and can assure you that engineers, programmers, economists and other white-collar professionals were desperately needed. If they were doing “bullshit jobs”, that was not what we heard from Daniel Ortega. One supposes that Nicaragua would have been better off it had tried to implement libertarian municipalism rather than state ownership and planning but then again Somoza would have thrown the practitioners out of helicopters before they got very far.

Graeber has a rather quaint way of expressing the difference between Marxism and anarchism. People like Somoza or Assad don’t mind if Marxists say things like “I hate you, I want to overthrow you” nearly as much as what the anarchists say: “You guys are ridiculous and unnecessary.” Gosh, where did I go wrong? Instead of joining the SWP in the (vain) hope of making a revolution in the USA, I should have gone up to Vermont and started a maple syrup co-operative. That would have saved me the trouble of reading all that stuff about revolutionary struggles in Cuba or Vietnam and eventually figuring out that the SWP was right in its ultimate goal but totally fucked-up in the way it went about it.

Showing that he has read his Bakunin, Graeber puts it this way: “When those Marxists come, the police will still be there. There are probably going to be more of them, right? Anarchists come, the whole structure will be changed. People will be told that it’s completely unnecessary.” Oh, I see. With Rojava chugging along, the police will disappear. What a relief to everybody except the families of the 13,000 men who were secretly hanged in Syrian prisons without even a trial.

Here’s Graeber summing up the Rojava experiment:

They run the cities. It’s a country of a real economy; it’s a poor one and they’re under embargo. But there are people driving cars, there is traffic rules, there’s workshops and factories producing things, there’s farms. It does all the things you have in a normal society. Roads have to be maintained.

But essentially, what they have done is created … it’s very interesting. I’ve said, I’ve described it as a dual power situation, but this is the first time in human history, I think, where you have a dual power situation where the same guy set up both sides. So they have a thing that looks like a government; it’s got a parliament, it’s got ministers. They pass legislation.

For me, “dual power” refers to what takes place under revolutionary conditions. For example, in the country Graeber’s father fought in, there really was a dual-power situation. Vast portions of the country were producing food and manufactured goods on farms and factories after ousting the bosses. Were those bosses the white-collar people Graeber was referring to? If so, he needs to familiarize himself with Marxist theories of social class, if I can be so presumptuous. A computer programmer working for Michael Bloomberg are not members of the same class. Been there, done that.

In order to regain control of the country, Franco used his air force and powerful military to destroy the militias and regular troops who defended worker and farmer owned and controlled property. Any resemblance between what took place in Spain and now in Rojava is purely coincidental.

I probably wouldn’t have bothered to write this article unless the news of Assadist militias coming to the aid of Rojova as East Ghouta was being pounded into oblivion had not appeared on the same day in the NY Times. The contrast was enough to make me scream. Before concluding with some thoughts on the Kurdish question, let me recommend some critiques of Rojava written by people not in any way affiliated with the Turkish state. I understand that people like Graeber and the Greenleft tend to think that anybody critical of Rojava is an Erdogan stooge but there’s nothing much I can do about that.

Andrea Glioti is a Arabic-speaking, freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Open Democracy and other reputable publications about the region since 2010. In a piece for Al-Jazeera titled “Rojava: A libertarian myth under scrutiny”, he argues that the equal political representation of all ethno-religious components–Arabs, Kurds and Christians—is not really that much different than what obtains in Lebanon. He is particularly concerned about how the Arab representation since it relies on tribal leaders such as Shaykh Humaydi Daham al-Jarba, who was a supporter of the dictatorship. Al-Jabra was the head of Jaysh al-Karama, a pro-government Arab militia that insisted that Bashar al-Assad was the only legitimate Syrian president.

Libcom.org, an anarchist website, has been following the Rojava experiment but with a lot more circumspection than Graeber or Greenleft. For example, on May 17, 2016 Gilles Dauvé and T.L. posted an article titled “Rojava: reality and rhetoric” that blasts Abdullah Ocalan for being an opportunist: “In the days when it claimed to be part of world socialism, it [the PKK] had no time for heretics like Pannekoek or Mattick, and went for successful Marxism-Leninism. When it espouses libertarianism, it does not take after Makhno, and prefers an acceptable version, probably the most moderate of all today, the Bookchin doctrine, that spices 19th century municipal socialism with self-administration and ecology.”

The authors have a particular quarrel with Graeber who wrote that “the Rojavans have it quite easy in class terms because the real bourgeoisie, such as it was in a mostly very agricultural region, took off with the collapse of the Baath regime.” They remind him:

Graeber mistakes a class for the persons it is composed of. Of course class is flesh and blood, but it is a lot more, it is made of social relations. The bourgeoisie does not vanish from an area which bourgeois individuals have fled. At the time of the Paris Commune, the ruling class left the city but its power structure was perpetuated during those two months: in the vaults of the Banque de France and their millions of francs the communards made no attempt to confiscate, and fundamentally in the continuation of the money economy and of wage-labour. In Rojava, there is no sign that the lower classes have done away with the market economy and the wage system.

If that is true of the Paris Commune, it will be a thousand times truer of Rojava. If after Assad finishes off the Sunni rebels, he will be free to turn his attention to the Kurds. While they do not pose the same kind of threat to his dictatorship, he will want to be sure to bring every square inch of his country under Baathist control. Not only will Rojova be subject to economic strangulation, it will be at the mercy of the Syrian air force that will be as vicious as Erdogan’s. Unlike the Kurds in Iraq, the economic foundations of Rojova are quite weak. Sooner or later, the strains being put on it will sharpen class differences among the Kurds. When an economy is being throttled, it tends to divide people along class lines. While the Kurdish elite has little in common with Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, it has its own interests to preserve.

But I identify most closely with Alex de Jong has written for Jacobin. De Jong is the is editor of Grenzeloos, the journal of the Dutch section of the Fourth International, and quite a capable Marxist thinker. His article is titled “The Rojava Project” and structured around a review of Meredith Tax’s “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State”.

De Jong has made some points about Kurdish politics in Syria that have largely gone unnoticed:

Tax writes that, in 2004, the “PYD was involved in organizing the first major uprising of Syrian Kurds,” the Qamishli uprising. Here, she overstates the party’s role: it would be more correct to say that no party organized this spontaneous protest against anti-Kurdish violence and oppression. Granted, the PYD played an important role supporting the protests after they started, as did some of the other more militant Syrian-Kurdish groups such as the Yekîtî (Unity) party. But after the uprising was put down, new groups, critical of both the PYD and the Syrian state, formed.

One, the Kurdish Youth Movement, which largely consisted of teenagers, tried to launch the first armed resistance against the Baath regime. They accused the PYD of working with the state.

The Kurdish Future Movement, also founded after Qamishli, likewise rejects the PYD for its alleged collaboration. This group crossed one of the regime’s red lines by working with Arab opposition forces. From the beginning of the revolution, it has called for nothing less than the government’s fall. In July 2011, the movement’s figurehead Mashaal Tammo declared dialogue impossible: “You simply cannot speak with a regime that kills its own population.”

A Road Unforeseen unfortunately downplays Tammo, describing him as “an activist who wanted the Kurds to stay in the Syrian National Council.” This leaves out Tammo’s important role in Kurdish politics. After his murder in October 2011, fifty thousand people in Qamishli attended his funeral; other large demonstrations took place in Aleppo, Latakia, and Hasaka.

Tax writes that accusations that the PYD was involved in Tammo’s assassination have been proven false, citing documents published by Saudi news channel Al-Arabiya that show the Assad regime ordered the hit.

Unfortunately, things are not so clear. Shortly before his death, Tammo claimed that the regime and the PYD jointly planned an attempt on his life, seeing him as a common enemy. The PYD first blamed Tammo’s death on the Turkish government, then later on the Assad regime. The Kurdish Future Movement, greatly weakened by its leader’s death, still holds PYD responsible.

Tax describes these accusations as part of an “anti-Rojava narrative” circulating among “Western governments and NGOs.” But the PKK’s history of connivance with the Baathist state, as sketched above, has made many people — Arabs, as well as Kurds — distrustful. Further, recent instances of PYD-sanctioned political repression are not so easily waved aside. There have been multiple protests against the party in Rojava. To its credit, the Rojava administration has apologized for these abuses and tried to make amends.

It is understandable why so much of the left, including the Marxists who write for Greenleft, would admire the PYD and Rojova. Against a backdrop of sectarian slaughter with Assad on one side and jihadist militias on the other, Rojova is a breath of fresh air, a kind of oasis. It is a place where Yazidis and others fleeing terrorism and bombing can find refuge. It is also a place where generally it is possible to speak freely and to enjoy a modest and secure existence.

But in making a pact with the devil, the Kurdish leadership will eventually have to reckon with him. In the best of all possible worlds, the national question in Syria would have been addressed in the same fashion as it was in Czarist Russia by the Bolsheviks in 1917. Kurds would have won the right to full autonomy and its language and other forms of national identity fully respected. Baathism, largely modeled on Stalinist practices, was hostile to such rights using the bastardized formulations of the CPs.

When the Arab Spring broke out in Syria, an experienced revolutionary socialist leadership would have prioritized Kurdish demands and made absolutely sure that it earned the trust of an oppressed nationality on a continuous basis.

Instead, the Kurds were confronted by a Syrian National Coalition that was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood figures that shared the prejudices of the Baathist dictatorship. The Kurds were represented on the SNC by members of the Kurdish National Council that was loyal to the tribal leaders in Iraq and hardly representative of the more radical leaders of the PYD. Eventually, the PYD decided that the SNC was a waste of time and carved out a deal with Assad.

Ideally, the Kurds, the educated middle-class of Damascus, the rural poor, the enlightened Alawites would have come together around a democratic and economically progressive program and demolished the Baathist dictatorship through sheer force of numbers. Assad, however, calculated that by militarizing the conflict he would be able to draw in backward Sunni states and local reactionaries into an armed struggle that he could exploit through “secularist” demagogy and brute force.

Since 2011, one of my main interests has been to answer the lies of the Assadist left. But it has also been to maintain contact with the Syrian left, including a FB friend who is in Idlib now working for material aid to a struggling population. He was a law student in East Aleppo who was driven from the city in the same that he facing being expelled from Idlib now. He is a leftist and a person of uncommon decency. It is my hope that such people all across the Middle East and North Africa will come out of this human disaster and constitute the vanguard of the region’s rebirth on a more humane and rational basis. This means confronting the state and its repressive forces and defeating it. If it was choice between maintaining my ties to such people and forsaking those with a left that defended Assad or even waffled on that question, I’ll stick with that one Syrian. In his hands and those of others who think and act like him that the future rests.


May 3, 2015

Negri, Graeber, Holloway, the cult of Abdullah Ocalan and the Rojava Revolution

Filed under: Kurd,Syria — louisproyect @ 1:29 pm


Street scenes, ‘democratic’ assemblies, militia fighters and colleges in Rojava – all overshadowed by the leader of one party, the PKK’s Abdullah

(This article was send to me anonymously by “Anti War”. I am forwarding it to my readers not because I necessarily agree with it but because it seems worthy of crossposting. I have not made up my mind about the issues under analysis but expect that this article will provide food for thought.)

In April 2015, a conference was held in Hamburg ‘to introduce the thoughts of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, to the international community.’ Silvia Federici was supposed to send a ‘message of greeting’ – just as Toni Negri and Immanuel Wallerstein had at a similar previous conference.† Federici then dropped out. However David Harvey, David Graeber and John Holloway did attend and all three spoke on a stage with a large portrait of Ocalan in the background.†

During the event, held on Ocalan’s birthday, Harvey claimed that Ocalan ‘is waging a struggle for the freedom of all women.’† While Graeber said: ‘He has written the sociology of freedom. … I have some questions and criticisms in the technical dimension, but I agree and appreciate his views.’†

This all raises several questions, such as who exactly is Ocalan and is his political project really as radical as these well-known intellectuals seem to believe?


Abdullah Ocalan is the ideological leader of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, whose offshoot, the PYD, is the main political force in the Kurdish areas of Syria known as Rojava. Many PYD activists in Rojava have what one eye-witness calls ‘total faith’ in Ocalan and consider him to be, to a certain extent, ‘sacred’.† Indeed, the leader of the PYD, Salih Muslim, has openly admitted that: ‘We apply [Ocalan’s] philosophy and ideology to Syria.’†

This semi-religious attitude to Ocalan goes back to the 1980s and 1990s, well before his imprisonment in Turkey. PKK fighters from these earlier decades say things like: ‘The PKK is in a certain sense identical with its founder, Abdullah Ocalan’ or ‘[Ocalan] doesn’t so much represent the party, as he is the party.’†

When ISIS began threatening Rojava in 2014, the PKK/PYD introduced compulsory military conscription. All PKK/PYD fighters are still ‘trained in political thought’† and, consequently, they still say things like: ‘our ideas are based on the philosophy of Abdullah Ocalan’† or ‘these are the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan, this is our ideology’†. This deeply Stalinist way of thinking would be a problem even if Ocalan’s ideas were genuinely revolutionary but, like most Stalinists, he has little enthusiasm for social revolution.

To his credit, Ocalan does acknowledge not only the appalling brutality of the Turkish military but also the brutality of the PKK during its war of national liberation against Turkey. For example, he admits that there was ‘unfeeling violence … escalating to the point where we killed the best of our own comrades’† and that ‘young fighters were summarily executed in the mountains.’ He even says that ‘the whole party is guilty; nobody can deny his responsibility.’†

But Ocalan’s admissions now just make it easier to believe long-standing claims that he authorised the execution of many hundreds of people including civilians and dissident PKK members.† To give just one example, an ex-PKK leader has said that ‘there were between 50 and 60 executions just after the 1986 PKK congress. In the end, there was no more room to bury them.’† Ocalan’s admissions are also seriously marred by his repeated attempts to shift the blame for any atrocities away from himself and onto what he describes as ‘gangs within our organisation’†.

This blame-shifting raises even more questions when one reads Ocalan’s claim that ‘young women fighters … [were] forced into the most primitive patriarchal relationships.’† This is a statement that begs to be compared with that of another PKK leader who claimed that it was Ocalan himself who ‘forced dozens of our female comrades to immoral relations’ and that he went so far as to ‘order the murder’ of women who refused to have ‘relations’ with him.† *

Ocalan had his accuser killed so we may never know if there was any truth to these allegations.† We may also never know how genuine Ocalan’s regrets are concerning wars of national liberation. This is especially the case if we consider his assertions that these wars ‘were valid at the time’, that the war against Turkey ‘could have been won’ and that when ‘nationalism [was] flourishing, it was almost treason not to agree with the principles of national liberation.’† But we do know that the failure of the PKK’s war – combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union – led Ocalan to reject not only any continuation of the war but also any sort of violent revolution.

In his Prison Writings he warns that ‘socialist society must not attempt to overcome old structures of state and society by means of violence and force.’ He goes on to say that: ‘It would be a gross contradiction of the nature of the new ideology if force were to be accepted as a means of overthrowing the state – even the most brutal one.’† He also claims that ‘revolutions and violence… cannot abolish [social phenomena]’ (vol.1 p224) and that ‘revolutionary overthrow … does not create sustainable change. In the long run, freedom and justice can only be accomplished within a democratic-confederate dynamic process.’†

These statements are more than just understandable criticisms of violence, they seem to be rejections of any need for social revolution once a Western-style democratic system has been instituted.

Ocalan does claim that such a system will eventually be superseded by ‘a more adaptable administration which will allow even more freedom’. But he also claims that ‘the Western democratic system contains everything needed for solving social problems.’ He even says that, eventually, ‘the right and the left … will come together in the system of democratic civilisation.’†


Like so many other neo-Stalinists, from Gorbachev to the Eurocommunists, Ocalan combines his enthusiasm for Western-style democracy with a dismissal of Marxism.†

He also rejects anarchism, saying: ‘Anarchism is a capitalist tendency. It is an extreme form of individualism which rejects the state itself.’† He is quite clear that he ‘does not reject nor deny the state’.† Instead, he advocates ‘a lean state as a political institution, which only observes functions in the fields of internal and external security and in the provision of social security.’† **

Few liberals would have too much disagreement with this approach to the state or, indeed, with Ocalan’s approach to feminism. Just like any liberal, he is also quite clear that women’s liberation ‘should have priority over the liberation of … labour.’†

Ocalan does make bold, if somewhat hypocritical, statements about male domination in contemporary society such as: ‘To kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle of socialism.’† And women’s participation in the Rojava revolution is a striking example of how women will be central to any social change in the 21st Century. But a genuine women’s revolution would surely require a proletarian women’s movement outside the control of either middle-class activists or the PKK/PYD.

Such a revolution would also require the transcendence of the family. According to one Rojavan human rights worker: ‘Society here is very masculine and very feudal, … there still needs to be a change in the classic family structure if we are ever going to see [women’s role] expand.’† However, despite his criticism of the family, Ocalan still insists that the ‘family is not a social institution that should be overthrown’. Indeed, he even argues that a reformed family is both the ‘most important element’ and ‘the most robust assurance of democratic civilisation.’†

As regards capitalism, Ocalan does argue for a ‘progressive transition from a production based on profit to a production based on sharing.’† But he appears to believe that capitalists ‘never number more than one or two percent of society’† and he even claims that the class war ‘has come to an end’.† He also proposes that the new ‘social order … will allow for individual and collective property’ and that ‘work [will be] remunerated according to its contribution to the entire product.’†

In the programme for the Hamburg conference, John Holloway claims that the Kurdish movement in Rojava is one of ‘the most outstanding examples’ of anti-capitalism.† But these statements by Ocalan instead show a movement whose ideological leader has a very limited understanding of capitalism and no real desire to end the misery of private property and wage labour. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that one of the economics ministers in Rojava has openly stated that he wants any cooperatives to compete with private capital.† Meanwhile, the head of Internal Security even said that Rojava is ‘a new market, and everyone can play a role, including the Americans.’†

Ocalan’s solution to every social problem really does seem to be, not anti-capitalist revolution, but democracy. Democracy is certainly preferable to dictatorship. But it makes little sense to say that democracy, even a radical form of direct democracy, is itself a ‘corrective for extreme class divisions’.†

It is, of course, just such extreme class divisions and inequalities, exacerbated by capitalism’s chronic crises and wars, that have led to today’s situation in which so many people have turned to the seemingly revolutionary alternative of ISIS. But from Egypt to Turkey to Iraq, democracy has done little to empower proletarians to push for the radical sharing of wealth that is so urgently needed to end all class divisions and so end the appeal of ISIS.

The PKK say they want to transform the Middle East ‘without the utopian perspective of a world revolution’.† But it is surely only the prospect of an anti-capitalist world revolution that could ever inspire people both to overthrow ISIS and to spread the Rojava revolution across the Middle East.

Such a world revolution would require a political movement that was far more internationalist than the PKK/PYD could ever be, burdened as it is by its deep attachment to Kurdish identity. The PKK/PYD is also burdened by its initial decision to be relatively neutral in the Syrian civil war and by its later decision to ally with the US. No matter how understandable these decisions were, they have discredited the Rojava revolution across the Arab world and made it even more difficult for it to become a starting point for international revolution.

Any talk of international revolution may seem utopian. But the Arab Spring and Occupy movements showed that potentially revolutionary movements are now able to emerge and spread internationally like never before. And a global revolution is still a more realistic prospect than any hope that Rojava’s alliance with Western imperialism will somehow lead to the spread of socialism across the Middle East.

After the victory at Kobane, the PKK/PYD leader, Salih Muslim, visited government officials in London and spoke passionately in favour of an even stronger alliance with the West. He said:

‘We insist on establishing good relations with the US. … We had a martyr who was English. He died in the same trenches as us. … Our martyrs are the most glorious treasure we have. We see them as the crowns, they are crowns and they are light that show our way to peace and freedom. … We want to establish stronger relations with the English, Australians, Germans and Americans. That relation will be nourished by our martyrs’ sacrifice. … Rojava is taking the lead in giving an example of democracy in all of Syria. And our people are proud of that. And you know it is true when you see a British man next to you in the same trench and he becomes a martyr. … [Our] resistance is becoming an example to the world.’†

Despite obvious differences, this overblown rhetoric sounds very much like that of politicians a century ago who extolled ‘English, Australians, Germans and Americans’ to sacrifice themselves for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in the trenches of the 1914-18 war.

The revolutionaries of the last century made two great errors: one was to support the descent into the imperialist bloodbath of 1914, the other was to support Stalinism. Developing a 21st Century revolutionary politics that avoids any repetition of these disasters will not be easy. Radical intellectuals like Negri, Graeber and Holloway have made important theoretical contributions that can aid this development. But their apparent support for the PKK suggests serious limitations in their political outlook.

Fortunately, younger Kurdish activists are increasingly questioning the authoritarianism of the PKK. If radical intellectuals have any constructive role it is to encourage such attitudes and to avoid giving any credibility to the totalitarian cult around Ocalan.

Capitalism’s present crisis will, sooner or later, compel people to question the entire system more deeply than they are presently doing in Rojava – or, indeed, in other countries where various types of neo-Stalinist have taken power such as South Africa, Venezuela and Greece. Until then, we surely need to keep trying to find ways to support grassroots’ struggles without giving any support to neo-Stalinist politicians – or to imperialism.

All sources can be found by clicking on the † next to the quote or see the version at libcom.org

* Some critics of Ocalan have claimed that his response to such abuse accusations was to say: ‘These girls mentioned. I don’t know, I have relations with thousands of them. … [They] say ‘‘this was attempted to be done to me here’’ or ‘‘this was done to me there’’! These shameless women. … I try to turn every girl into a lover. … If you find me dangerous, don’t get close!’† However, unlike the other Ocalan quotes in this article, I have been unable to find a verifiable version of this quote. I have also been unable to find a second source to confirm claims that the Rojavan authorities ‘prohibit the display of flags and photos of political figures’ other than those of Ocalan and other PKK symbols.†

** The revolutionary hopes engendered by the Arab Spring coincided with a fall in support for Islamist terrorism. Once those hopes were dashed, such terrorism revived and, inevitably, the Rojavan police have now set up an elite anti-terrorist unit just like those of any other capitalist state. (See their Hollywood-style video here.) This development is in some contrast to Graeber’s hopes that the Rojavan police were on the way to, one day, abolishing themselves.†



January 8, 2015

A response to a Jacobin article on Kobane

Filed under: Kurd,mechanical anti-imperialism,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:52 pm

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.43 PM

While it is understandable why the international left should offer the maximum solidarity to the Kurdish struggle centered in Kobane, a Jacobin article by Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır offered in that spirit and titled “The False Friends of Kobanê” does require some scrutiny. Published originally in Infobrief Türkei, it vehemently opposes outside intervention, particularly from Turkey. The article reflects a fairly widespread belief on the Turkish left that there was nothing of value in the Syrian uprising since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was backing it. If it wasn’t enough that Erdoğan was intervening, he was implicitly intervening on behalf of the worst elements:

Given that IS militants have reportedly been crossing the Turkish-Syrian border with ease, and in the context of Turkey’s longstanding hostility to Kurdish interests, it was clear that such a plan would amount to the fox guarding the henhouse.

And as is so often the case with pro-Kobane material, there is a sharp distinction between the pure as the driven snow PYD—the Kurdish militia—and the sneaky Syrian rebels who apparently conspired to draw imperialism into the fray from the beginning:

The PYD had previously made known that its activities were independent of the wider Syrian opposition. When the latter began conferring with Turkey and, with Western support, took up arms against the Syrian government and started calling for foreign military intervention, the PYD spoke out against such outside intervention and stressed that a democratic Syria could only be the collective project of all Syrians.

If you click the link to “calling” above, you will be directed to an article in Jadaliyya.com by As`ad Abukhalil—the “Angry Arab”—that was written in 2012. My friendly advice to Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır, if they ever stumble across this article, and to Bhaskar Sunkara who surely will, is to avoid referencing the Angry Arab if they want to be taken seriously as analysts rather than cheap propagandists. The Angry Arab’s article is a long diatribe describing the war in Syria as an American-Israeli cabal and is just one brick in the edifice he has been constructing for the past four years to demonize the FSA. There are far better Baathist propagandists than him, like Nir Rosen or Joshua Landis. That is, if you want to be taken seriously.

Babacan and Çakır describe a virtual socialist utopia in Syria that was threatened by the imperialist-beseeching Syrian rebels:

Democratically decided price controls, a constitutional justice system, and free schooling in any student’s mother tongue are additional distinguishing features of Rojava’s egalitarian structures. Under exceedingly adverse conditions, the region has managed to sustain its people on the basis of self-organized production collectives.

At the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Rojava’s representatives did not merely reject outside military intervention. In negotiations with the Syrian opposition, they also argued for the autonomy of the Kurdish region in a possible future Syria. The Syrian opposition organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council categorically rejected both these stances.

Once again it would behoove the authors, and the editors at Jacobin, to look a bit more closely at these matters before drawing such a sharp distinction between good and evil, or black and white. As it turns out, it was not just between the Kurds and the SNC. There was another important player, namely the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus that decided to focus on destroying the FSA rather than the PYD just as it would also for Machiavellian purposes refrain from attacking ISIS.

As it turns out, the co-leader of the PYD had come around to the conclusion that Syria’s future and the preservation of the Baathist dictatorship were inextricably linked. That’s what ALMonitor reported in October 2013:

Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said a solution in Syria without President Bashar al-Assad is not easy. “A solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites,” he said.

Muslim, who gave an exclusive interview in Rojava to Hilmi Hacioglu of the popular Turkish TV news program The 32nd Day, said his party wanted to participate in the Geneva meeting not as part of the Syrian National Coalition but as an independent Kurdish movement. Yet, some countries, including Turkey, were trying to block this.

Muslim said a solution without Assad would have been possible two years ago, but it was now impossible. “All Alawites now support Assad. Insisting on a solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites in the country,” he added.

Asked if they were cooperating with the Assad regime, Muslim replied: “No, never. Whoever says this is disrespecting our martyr brothers. We have been fighting with the regime since the 2004 Kurdish uprising. We have nothing in common with them. They don’t recognize Kurdish identity. But others are worse than the regime.”

In terms of whether the PYD was collaborating with the Assad regime, there are different opinions on that as well. Here is one that departs from the socialist utopia narrative that came from Eva Savlesberg, a scholar responsible for the website http://www.kurdwatch.org, which reports on human rights abuses against the Syrian Kurds.:

For more than a year, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Defense Forces (YPG) have exercised state-like power in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Supported by Iran with weapons and ammunition moved through central Iraq, the PYD—a Syrian affiliate of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—controls large parts of the border region between the Kurdish areas of Syria, Turkey and Iraq. Activists criticizing or not cooperating with the PYD have been abducted, tortured and sometimes killed. The PYD imposes taxes on gasoline, collects border fees and has established a system of courts. Since summer 2012, the Syrian regime has handed over the administration of an increasing number of cities and villages to the PYD. The fact that the PYD took over all the cities they now control without any significant fighting indicates that there was a deal between the regime and the PYD and PKK.

There are several reasons for the Syrian regime’s cooperation with the PYD. First, the PYD has, particularly in the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012, violently suppressed dissident demonstrations on behalf of the regime, for example in Afrin. This allowed the Syrian army to concentrate on fights elsewhere and avoid having to open a second front against the Kurds, back then hesitant to join the revolt.

Second, since the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist groups have started to operate in Kurdish areas, handing over control of those areas to the PYD means the YPG—not the Syrian army—is fighting the armed opposition there.

Finally, Syria is once again playing its Kurdish card against Turkey. In summer 2011, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) angered Damascus by siding with the opposition. Like his father before him, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is using the Kurds to apply pressure on Turkey. The AKP cannot afford—politically or militarily—for the PKK and PYD to establish a major stronghold in Syria.

So ironically as Bashar al-Assad was leveling Aleppo and Homs to the ground, two experiments in social/economic development were being conducted in Syria in relative safety—all because of deals struck with Damascus. ISIS was building its dungeon caliphate with its own medieval laws while the PYD was building something that was inspired by Murray Bookchin’s anarchist writings. While clearly Bookchin is more inspiring than ISIS barbarism, the most pressing need since 2011 has been unity among all people living in Syria for a republic based on equal rights rather than privilege protected by torture.

Turning now to the question of outside intervention, it is remarkable that an article so consumed with the need to demonize the FSA for supposedly being a tool of Israel and the USA will in the same breath motivate the need for more “effective” delivery of weapons to the PYG, the Kurdish militia in Kobane:

It is perhaps conceivable that the US had to react to public pressure, but other questions persist. Why weren’t more arms delivered directly to the people’s self-defense forces (YPG/YPJ)?

Maybe the authors should have submitted their article to Foreign Affairs rather than Jacobin if their intention was to make the case for a more effective arms delivery mechanism. And while they are at it, maybe they can make a pitch for the weapons-starved FSA that fought on behalf of the PYD, even after its co-leader accused them of virtually plotting the extermination of the Alawites as he rallied around Bashar al-Assad.

I would add that unlike Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır, the PYD sees the question of where it gets weapons or who bombs on its behalf as a tactical question, just as has been the case for most of the 20th century when the Irish and the Indians conspired to get weapons from German imperialism to use against the British Empire. For the pro-Assad left defying Russia, Iranian or Syrian policy goals became an act of class treachery. This is a debased “anti-imperialism” hardly worthy of the name.

On October 17, 2014 Business Insider described how the PYD and US-led warplanes worked closely together to smash ISIS:

US-led warplanes pummelled jihadists attacking the Syrian town of Kobani on Friday as the Pentagon said there was no imminent threat to Baghdad despite a wave of deadly bombings.

Six strikes hit Islamic State group positions close to the front line in the east of Kobani, taking advantage of new coordination with the town’s Kurdish defenders, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In neighboring Iraq, sandstorms hampered the US-led air campaign against the jihadists, but despite recent advances west of Baghdad, IS is not poised for an assault on the capital, the Pentagon said.

The dawn strikes in Kobani came after US Central Command said American warplanes struck 14 times around the town on Wednesday and Thursday, including “successful” raids on 19 IS-held buildings.

“There is coordination between the Kurdish forces and the Americans,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

“The Kurds are giving them the exact coordinates of where the fighting is.”

So what conclusions do we draw from all this? My position—put simply—is to oppose American intervention everywhere and anywhere. It does not have the right to function as the world’s policeman. More to the point, it has largely been lost on the “anti-imperialist” brigade that its actions in that capacity helped keep the filthy tyrant Bashar al-Assad in power largely by permitting his air force a free rein. In one of the most underreported stories of 2012, we learn how the USA blocked the shipments of weapons that could have turned the tide of war:

U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.

In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.

“We were told that we need to get our house in order on the ground, and that it wasn’t time yet,” said a rebel representative involved in the delivery.

Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2012

The slogan of a genuine anti-imperialist movement might have been “CIA out of Syria–Let the MANPAD’s in!”

November 16, 2014

Rojava: Syria’s secret revolution

Filed under: Kurd,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:37 pm

February 22, 2014

Kurdish and Turkish films of note

Filed under: feminism,Film,Kurd,Turkey — louisproyect @ 11:26 am

Over the past several days I’ve looked at two Kurdish and two Turkish narrative films that would be of particular interest to my readers. The Kurdish films were filmed on location in Kurdistan, the new state taking shape in northern Iraq and the Turkish films in the remote Black Sea and Anatolian regions that are far from urbane Istanbul. Moreover, despite the intensity of the Turkish-Kurd conflict, the four films depict societies that despite their deep contradictions, especially involving the oppression of women against the backdrop of communal solidarity, are very much alike. Leaving aside their topical relevance, they are all examples of art film in the best sense of the term.

Opening yesterday at the Quad Cinema in New York are two films by Jano Rosebiani, Kurdistan’s leading director. I use the term Kurdistan to indicate a people rather than an existing state although conditions are ripening in the Middle East that will make that a reality before long, both in Iraq and Syria.

Set in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, “One Candle, Two Candles” is a comedy about a very serious topic: a young woman named Viyan (Kurdish for desire) is about to become the third wife of a local “headman” who is old enough to be her grandfather. As a car dealer, Haji Hemmo is about as close to a big businessman as you will see in Kurduva, the fictional name for Akre, a particularly beautiful town in Kurdistan where the film was shot. It is a jewel of the liberated territory that has extracted itself from the ongoing sectarian bloodbaths to its south.

In fact the bucolic charm of this town is a poignant reminder of what Iraq could have become if a combination of war and ethnic/religious sectarianism had not torn it apart. In a part of the world where state powers have become synonymous with brutality and economic greed, it is interesting to see how a historically stateless people can lead the way.

At the beginning of the film, Botan, a young, handsome and carefree artist from Zakho, the town that director Rosebiani grew up in, is sketching Viyan and her two companions while he charms them with allusions to ancient Kurdish history. He compares them to beautiful Nefertiti, the Hittite queen of Egypt who came from Zakho. Although the ancient history of the Kurds is not easily documented, there is no question that they originated in the territory occupied by the Hittite kingdoms.

The film is structured around the rivalry between Botan and Haji Hemmo over Viyan as they each line up supporters. Viyan’s father has a vested interest in seeing her married to Hemmo since the dowry includes a car from his lot. The town menfolk live in fear of Kitan, a middle-aged woman who is nicknamed the “ball-buster” since she squeezed the life out of her husband’s family jewels on account of his abusive treatment. Although the Kurds have moved a long way towards achieving peace within their borders, the household remains a battlefield with women under siege. As Engels once said, within the family the husband is the bourgeois and the wife the proletariat.

When Kitan walks through town, men practically duck into an alley to avoid her punishing grip. In one of the film’s many slapstick moments, she spots Viyan’s father on a virgin spin in his new car. She then commandeers the car and forces him to a stop; the town’s avenging proto-feminist in pursuit of another deserving prey. If Norman Mailer considered feminists to be ball-breakers, Kitan would be his worst nightmare. It is too bad a Kitan never got her hands on him.

At times the film will remind you of magical realism. Viyan climbs a tree in a wedding dress to avoid Hemmo’s all-too-persistent advances, a scene that will remind you of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. But it probably makes more sense to see it in terms of a thousand-year old folk tale that Kurds might have told each other around campfires long before there was the novel, movies, television or the Internet.

“Chaplin of the Mountains” is listed as a documentary on the Quad Cinema website but it actually a narrative film. Perhaps the fact that its action consists mostly of some young film students making a documentary in Kurdistan leads to this confusion.

At a hotel in Erbil, a beautiful young Kurdish woman named Nazé, who grew up in France, strikes up a conversation with a group of young filmmakers who have come to Kurdistan to visit small towns and villages in order to document the reaction that people have to their screening of Charlie Chaplin films. Considering the Chaplinesque moments in “One Candle, Two Candles”, one can easily imagine them having the same outlook as director Rosebiani when he was a film student himself.

When Nazé’s flight back to Paris is cancelled, she decides to join the film crew on their tour and accepts their generous offer to help her find her mother’s village that was destroyed during one of Saddam Hussein’s genocidal attacks.

As they wend their way through the countryside, the results are not quite what they expected. Although the children are amused by Chaplin’s antics, some of the elders question the value of comedy to a people trying to build a new nation. Even worse, when they use a temple wall as a screen for a Chaplin one-reeler, they come close to being charged with sacrilege.

As a classic road movie, “Chaplain of the Mountains” is more a series of vignettes than a conventionally plotted drama. To this viewer, what makes it most memorable is the portrait of ordinary Kurdish people shot on location in a remote but beautiful region. They are the real stars. Most of all, you will be mesmerized by a series of performances by Kurdish folk musicians and dancers who are celebrating the continuation of an ancient civilization against all odds.

Ten years ago, almost to the date, I wrote an article about the Kurds for Swans, an online magazine. Given that the USA had just invaded Iraq, I tended to bend the stick in the direction of backing the Sunni resistance, which meant referring to the Kurds as “pawns”. I would not write the article in the same way today. I would refer you to the article if for no other reason that it will stimulate you into learning more about a people with a unique history. At the time I wrote:

The Kurds are ethnically related to the ancient Medes, but only came into their own with the rise of Islamic power. A Kurd by the name Salah-ud-Din reconquered Jerusalem from Richard the Lionhearted in the 12th century. Better known as Saladin, he established the Ayyubid dynasty which ruled over much of the Middle East until the rise of the Ottomans.

Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World had an enormous impact on commerce in the Middle East, which would no longer serve as a lucrative link between Europe and East Asia. Among the casualties were Kurdish merchants and toll-collectors.

In addition to being economically marginalized, the Kurds were isolated geographically as well. Preferring to dwell in the mountains or rocky hills, they subsisted on sheep-herding and small-scale farming. In the strict Marxist sense, class formation of modern capitalist society never took place until late in the 20th century.

Perhaps the amity that now characterizes Kurdistan today is an expression of the belated development of class relations. That is a topic worthy of further investigation.

“Watchtower” is a 2012 Turkish film directed by Pelin Esmer that is now available from Film Movement, a Netflix for the cognoscenti. This is probably at least the third film I have reviewed from their inventory and continue to be impressed by their curatorial finesse. “Watchtower” is a hauntingly beautiful film that is Turkish art film at its very best.

Essentially a two-character film, it depicts a middle-aged man and a young woman drawn together through pure happenstance in the Western Black Sea region, a ruggedly beautiful area. Nihat, the man, has just taken a job as a fire spotter on a mountaintop watchtower. Seher, the young woman, has taken a job with a small bus company headquartered in the tiny village at the foot of the mountain where Nihat stands watch. When she is not serving as a hostess on the bus, she is doing odd jobs around the restaurant that serves the bus passengers during a rest stop.

Seher’s parents have no idea why she should have dropped out of college and taken a dead-end job in such an isolated place. She can only reveal to her mother that she has become pregnant and is due to give birth shortly. Being unmarried and pregnant is tough enough for a Turkish woman from a traditional Anatolian family but in her case there is the added complication of her having been raped by her uncle. The bus stop is a way for her to get the birth of the baby out of the way and allow her to return to a normal life.

After finally giving birth, she leaves the newborn at the gate in front of the bus stop in the same fashion as poor women leaving their baby on the doorstep of a police precinct or hospital in New York, if they are at least humane enough not to leave it in a garbage can as happens from time to time.

Seher does not realize that Nihat has spotted her from inside the restaurant. In response to a tragic loss he has just suffered, he brings mother and child with him into the watchtower as they embark on a complicated relationship. He tries to persuade her to take a more loving relationship to the child despite her frequent attempts to be free of the responsibilities of motherhood, all the more understandable given the circumstances of how it came to pass.

The cinematography of “Watchtower” is stunning, with constant long shots of the Turkish forests and mountains. And even more effectively, there is an inspired use of sound. Dispensing with a film score, the action is highlighted by the sound of automobile tires on the roads beneath the mountains and the rustling of the leaves in the forest, creating a forlorn mood that is the perfect accompaniment to the unfolding human drama.

Female director Pelin Esmer majored in sociology at an Istanbul university before launching a career in film. “Watchtower” is a work imbued with a humanism that is very rarely seen in American films, either Hollywood or indie. It reminded me of a Chekhov short story as if a Turk had written it. Although the film is definitely an art film, it is also a deeply touching story that reminds you of what was lost when young filmmakers discovered irony. A must-see.

I discovered “Bliss” trawling through Netflix trying to find a movie that is geared to those with more than an IQ of 25. It is a 2007 film directed by Abdullah Oğuz that like “The Watchtower” and “One Candle, Two Candles” deals with the oppression of women in Turkish and Kurdish society. If you are not a Netflix subscriber, you can also watch it on Youtube. Part one is above.

When the film opens, we meet Meryem, a 17-year-old woman who has been violated in some fashion in a rural village in Anatolia, the eastern part of Turkey that is hobbled by “traditional values”. Despite the fact that Meryem is the victim, she is deemed unclean and must kill herself as expiation for her sins. While I have doubts that such a punishment is at all prevalent in Turkey, there are reports of such barbaric treatment of women elsewhere in Muslim society. In 2008 a 13-year-old had been gang-raped in Somalia. Instead of punishing the rapists, she was stoned to death by a mob.

Just before Meryem is forced to hang herself in a makeshift cell, soldiers enter the town since it has become notorious for imposing its own vigilante version of Islam, disregarding—for example—the Koranic stricture against suicide.

In order to expedite the punishment, the town elder, a creep named Ali Riza who is cut from the same cloth as Haji Hemmo, orders his son Cemal to take Meryem to Istanbul where he will take her life. Since Cemal has just returned from serving as a commando in the Turkish military against Kurdish rebels, he presumably can be trusted to carry out another act of brutality.

In Istanbul, he takes Meryem to a bridge and orders her at gunpoint to jump. She asks only one favor, if he would allow her to make a blindfold out of her scarf. Just before she jumps, Cemal decides that her life is more important than a village’s rigid codes and pulls her back from the edge. It also helps that the two have become infatuated with each other on the way to Istanbul. Love conquers all.

From that moment on, the couple are fair game for Ali Reza who dispatches a couple of goons to track them down in order to carry out the punishment. Just one step ahead of the hit squad, Cemal and Maryem are fortunate enough to run into Irfan, a professor who is on an extended leave from the academy and the shallowness of urban life in Istanbul. He invites them to work on his yacht as first mate and cook as he sails from island to island in the Sea of Marmara, an inland body of water that is one of Turkey’s most beautiful natural assets.

Irfan develops a paternal affection for the couple, understanding that they are fugitives—not so much from the law but from those who would wish them harm. Essentially, a three-character drama, the relationships between the three intensifies throughout the film as the village hit men close in on them.

“Bliss” is based on a novel by Zülfü Livaneli, a 68 year old Turk who is also a composer, singer, and politician. In 1997 he performed before a crowd of a half-million people in Ankara, to give you some sense of his popularity.

Wikipedia reports:

During his political career in Ankara, Livaneli presented a legislative proposal for amending Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The amendment proposed that the concept of “Turkishness” should be replaced with that of the “Turkish nation” which would put an emphasis on the concept of “nation” which, as formulated by the Republic, unites under its umbrella people of different origins. With this amendment, there would no more be a stress on the notion of Turkish race.

It is in the hands of people like Zülfü Livaneli and Jano Rosebiani to lead the transformation of the Middle East and North Africa. As I have stated on previous occasions, it is the artist—and particularly the filmmaker—who is functioning as the real vanguard of social change. The four films under review here will give you a sense of the yearnings of a people to finally make the land that was the birthplace of civilization its crowning glory once again.

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