This article appears in the current issue of Solidarity.
At the November 1st demonstration in Trafalgar Square in support of besieged Kobane, it struck me that the speakers — and more broadly, the Left — were not singing from the same page.
On the one side there were those who were demanding that Britain and NATO do more to help the Kurds fighting against the Islamic fascists of IS. For example, Peter Tatchell led the crowd in chants demanding that David Cameron authorise the dropping of more aid to the Kurds, including weapons. There were calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO because it, unlike other NATO countries, was not prepared to help the Kurds. And more generally most of the speakers especially the Kurdish ones, had not a critical word to say about the USA, the West, NATO or imperialism. Everyone was focussed on the evil that is “Islamic State”.
On the other side, some of the far-Left speakers went overboard in denouncing NATO, the USA and the West, going so far as claiming that IS was a creation of NATO and Washington.
This was particularly the case with a spokesman for the “Stop the War Coalition” — an organization whose presence at the event surprised many of the participants.
The Coalition’s website has almost nothing at all about the war taking place today in Syria and Iraq and indeed the only reference to it is video of George Galloway denouncing the support NATO is giving to the Kurds. Galloway also voted against this support in the Commons.
It seems to me that elements of the British far Left find themselves in a bit of a bind.
On the one hand, there’s this extraordinary, inspiring resistance movement in Kobane, which has captured the imagination of many who would normally be the natural constituency for the Left. The people on the ground, fighting IS, belong to a movement which was seen, until recently, as part of the broad international Left.
Obviously they deserve our support — and yet that seems to mean supporting the US and British air strikes, supporting NATO.
To get around this, the far Leftists have decided on the “ISIS is NATO” line, which is an extraordinary position — one is almost at a loss for words to describe it.
For those not understanding how IS could be both under NATO attack and simultaneously a creation of NATO, some of the speakers went so far as to say that IS was using American weapons.
The implication was that America gave them weapons.
This is, of course, utter nonsense. The American weapons that have fallen into the hands of IS were taken from the retreating Iraqi army. Taken — not handed over as a gift by the Americans.
One of the anti-NATO, anti-American tirades came from an organisation I’d not previously heard of called the “Revolutionary Communist Group”. (I’m sure that specialists will know the entire history of this micro-sect, but for me it was new.) And groups like this, which get invited to speak at mass rallies, give only a very small piece of their line because they’d be booed off the stage if people knew what they really believed.
The RCG’s speaker shouted the usual stuff about solidarity with the Kurds, but a quick glance at their website shows that they are in fact enthusiastic supporters of the bloody Assad dictatorship and its army. The same Syrian army that abandoned Kobane — an army that no Kurd wants to have back. But there was no mention of that to the largely Kurdish crowd in Trafalgar Square.
So what are people like this, who support Assad and Saddam, who demonize NATO and the USA, doing at these rallies?
They’re there because they can’t afford not to be there. To have nothing to say when the battle of Kobane rages would be unacceptable; they must somehow show solidarity with the embattled Kurds.
But they oppose the very thing — NATO air support — that has made that battle possible. The tide may be turning in Kobane because of US bombing and air drops.
On the ground, some Kurds have been heard chanting “Long live Obama!” How embarrassing for the anti-Americans on the far Left.
These people with their crazy views, denouncing the essential support given by the West to the Kurds, praising Assad and Saddam, have no place at Kurdish solidarity rallies. They are there purely to cover their tracks, to provide themselves with some kind of moral cover as IS continues with its murderous rampage across Syria and Iraq.
We should give them no platform.