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Celebrating Exemplary Women in Arms on International Working Women’s Day

As March begins and we approach International Working Women’s Day, it is fitting that we focus on the heroic struggle and great accomplishments in battle of the Women’s Protection Unit or the YPJ. The YPJ is an all-women, all-volunteer Kurdish military force formed in 2012 in Syria to defend the Kurdish population of Rojava (West Kurdistan) from the deadly attacks of the Assad government as well as from the al-Nusra Front (affiliated with al-Qaeda) and ISIS. The Women’s Protection Unit, composed of about 7,500 Kurdish women soldiers, has emerged as among the most effective fighters against ISIS and other reactionary forces in the Middle East. Even the BBC has acknowledged that YPJ and their male counterpart unit, YPG, have been “extraordinarily successful” in their war against ISIS, despite having limited resources.

This is very welcome and inspiring news for us. And yet it is not really surprising.
Given the extreme backwardness of the medieval approach toward woman taken
by the Islamic fundamentalist regimes and other criminal organizations that now
dominate the Middle East, the emergence of such a dynamic and enlightened
fighting force of Kurdish woman as the YPJ (armed also with a revolutionary
approach to the woman question) challenges and threatens to tear to shreds every fiber of the rotten beliefs of the soldiers in the reactionary armies and criminal gangs, including ISIS.* [*FN: Photographer Erin Trieb, who spent a week near the front taking pictures of YPJ armed fighters, recalled that, “The saying among many Syrian Kurds is that ISIS is more terrified of being killed by women because if they are, they will not go to heaven.”]

Possibly of even greater significance is the resurgence of the Kurdish Nation in the course of the liberation struggle that has developed in Rojava, and has already led to the liberation of Kobane, one of the self-governing cantons in Rojava (West Kurdistan). For years, we have pointed to the Kurdish national question as key to victory for the workers and oppressed peoples of the Middle East. In a recent Newsletter, we pointed out: “The Kurdish national territory extends across the borders of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. In all these reactionary states the Kurdish people have been dominated and oppressed in large part because their nationality was divided and deprived of sovereign territory.”  (“The Kurdish National Question: Key to the Liberation of the Middle East,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #87, November-December 2014)

Stalin, the great Leninist teacher on the national question, explained: “A nation is an historically evolved stable community of people with a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” (Marxism and the National Question, 1912) Stalin (whose own origins were in the working class of the oppressed nation of Georgia) went on to say that, if all of these national characteristics are present, that community of people constitutes a nation. That nation, like any other nation, according to Leninism, has the right to self-determination up to and including independent existence as a state. Furthermore, as this scientific socialist definition of a nation indicates, these national characteristics provide a people with a tremendous amount of human and other resources with which to fight for their national freedom against imperialism and all reaction.

It is quite natural that the fighters in Rojava are largely drawn from that area. But it is also noteworthy that significant numbers of Kurdish people from the territory of Kurdistan in the current states of Iraq, Iran and Turkey have come to their aid. As Jose Maria Sison, Chairman of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) wrote last October, “…the heroic resistance of the YPG/YPJ…has inspired the people of the world to rally in support of Kurdish liberation. The acknowledged leader of the Kurdish liberation struggle, Abdullah Ocalan, has called on the entire Kurdish nation to mobilize in support of the resistance in Kobane. Kurds throughout the world have responded by organizing demonstrations in many countries calling for international support.”

No wonder the YPJ and YPG liberation fighters and the gathering forces of the Kurdish nation have become a real beacon of hope for the Arab masses and all the peoples in this vast and strategically vital region.

Comrade Sison concluded his October article, as follows: “We must show our solidarity to the Kurdish people in their hour of need and give them all-out support until victory.”* [*FN: “Support the Kurdish People’s Resistance against ISIS, Condemn US and Turkey for creating and using ISIS,” printed in Ray O’Light Newsletter #87, November-December 2014]

This is an historical moment when there is no genuine international communist
movement. Most communist parties are dominated by a bourgeois nationalist, every party for itself (“every man for himself”) mentality and culture. Whether in state power presiding over increasingly bourgeois states or being hounded themselves by the forces of openly reactionary states, most so-called “communist” or “workers” or “revolutionary” parties are overwhelmingly pre-occupied with “their own” particular national circumstances and concerns. In this situation, in response to comrade Sison’s call, one important form of solidarity with the Kurdish people is to share a revolutionary working class perspective on the Kurdish struggle from a different sector of the world’s proletariat. What follows is such an effort.

In her article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, the director of the
International Security Program at George Mason University, Audrey Kurth Cronin,
states that “no government supports ISIS.” She further points out that the groups
in al Qaeda and other terrorist networks “generally have only dozens or hundreds
of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself and engages in sophisticated military operations. If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army.”  (page 88, “ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2015)

Professor Cronin also “lets the cat out of the bag” when she admits: “ISIS is now led by well-trained, capable former Iraqi military leaders who know U.S. techniques and habits because Washington helped train them….ISIS is now armed with American tanks, artillery, armored Humvees, and mine-resistant vehicles.” (ibid. page 96, my emphasis, ROL)* [*FN: Last September, we pointed out that the sudden emergence of ISIS in Iraq, seemingly out of nowhere, helped provide a cover for U.S. imperialist troops to remain in Iraq, force Prime Minister al Maliki out as Iraqi head of state and keep a U.S. military presence in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish semi-autonomous region and especially the oil rich Kirkuk area. ISIS also provided U.S. imperialism at that time the smokescreen behind which it was able to begin open bombings and other incursions into Syria which it had previously been unable to do. As we pointed out then: “The alleged presence and existence of ISIS is of great benefit to both U.S. imperialism and the Israeli settler state both of which are thoroughly exposed and widely hated in the Middle East at this time. The ISIS factor puts everything up for
grabs…Indeed, the alleged threat of ISIS makes all kinds of alliances in the Middle East ‘possible.’” (See Ray O’Light Newsletter #86, September-October 2014, “U.S. Imperialism’s New Aggression in Iraq and Upcoming Aggression Against Syria”]

Based on ISIS’ apparent great capacity for waging war today, largely due to U.S.
imperialist support, Professor Cronin promotes the idea that the “best chance for
securing U.S. interests is one of offensive containment: combining a limited military campaign with a major diplomatic and economic effort to weaken ISIS and align the interests of the many countries that are threatened by the group’s advance.” (ibid. page 97) And the professor concludes: “for the foreseeable future, containment is the best policy that the United States can pursue.”

And this “limited military campaign” fits in with Obama’s current promise to have no U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, while waging a massive bombing campaign all over Syria. More importantly, at this time U.S. imperialism still has no substantial surrogate to rely upon in Syria among the Bashar al-Assad Regime, the al Qaeda-enmeshed anti-Assad rebels backed by Saudi Arabia and other reactionary Arab Regimes, and ISIS --- despite the fact that all of them were created and/or propped up by U.S. imperialism in the past! Especially because U.S. imperialism retains political, economic and military ties with all the contending reactionary forces there, this type of limited campaign approach maximizes the declining U.S. Empire’s ability to determine that the outcome of the current Syrian war will be favorable to U.S. imperialism, with minimum military exposure. .* [*FN: Of course, Obama is already trying to lift the “no boots” limitation with a three year war authority “to fight ISIS” everywhere, an open-ended authorization to invade anywhere. But all this is part of the same U.S. imperialist strategy.]

In a current Wall Street Journal (3-2-15) article, a former U.S. State Department planner and current professor of international relations, Henri Barkey, makes the
striking observation that, “The Kurds in Syria are the only bright spot in the fight
against ISIS.” This is a remarkable admission in light of the fact that ISIS is a pariah
“state” verbally condemned by every big power in the world and that all these
powers would seem to want ISIS smashed!

All the above considerations lead to the conclusion that U.S. imperialism, with its
“aggressive containment” policy toward ISIS, will fight to the last Kurdish person in Syria, while carrying out its sinister efforts to conquer Syria, Iran, Iraq and beyond. Clearly, with regard to U.S. imperialist direction and misdirection, the people of Rojava and all of Kurdistan need to maintain their revolutionary vigilance.

But this is not all. Because of the heroic struggle against ISIS waged by YPJ and YPG and the Kurdish forces in Syria, Turkey’s NATO allies, with at least the tacit approval of U.S. imperialism, have recently called for the removal of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from terrorist lists. In this political environment, The WSJ article cited just above contains the stunning news that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, still considered by many the outstanding leader of the Kurdish people, after spending the past fifteen years in a Sea of Marmara island prison south of Istanbul, Turkey, where he remains, has offered to end the three-decade old Kurdish military campaign against the Turkish state and disarm the Kurdish fighters. In exchange, Ocalan has demanded “a new constitution that enshrines pluralistic democratic principles such as recognition of ethnic identities and personal freedoms.” (“Kurdish Rebels in Turkey Make Peace Offer,” Emre Peker,
Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2015)

Such peace overtures --- revolutionaries offering to disarm in exchange for vague
“concessions” from the reactionary enemy --- are always extremely dangerous,
especially when dealing with reactionary big powers like the Turkish state. Underscoring the danger in this situation, Henri Barkey, quoted above, points out in the same article that “The majority of the PKK’s conflicts are currently in Syria, therefore it will [be] difficult for it to lay down arms.” This points up the fact that Ocalan seems to be using the battlefield accomplishments of the heroic and extremely effective YPG and YPJ fighters as leverage with which to sell out the struggle of the Kurdish people of Rojava as well as North Kurdistan (Turkey).*

 [*FN: For those that could not conceive of Ocalan taking such a path, it is worth recalling how the intelligence apparatus of the South African apartheid state with much guidance from U.S. imperialism and its intelligence apparatus, was able to use the long imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, when he was totally under their control, to break down that former heroic national liberation fighter step by step and turn him into a comprador serving the interests of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism. (See ad for the Mandela piece elsewhere in this Newsletter.)]

In earlier issues of this Newsletter, we have printed articles by both comrade Sison and me exposing the fact that both U.S. imperialism and the Turkish Regime have been supporters of ISIS. So disarming the Kurdish liberation fighters in Rojava would not be an obstacle for either of them. Finally, the Erdogan government in Turkey might well respond favorably to Ocalan’s apparently unprincipled compromise proposal (and may well be the source of the proposal) in order to undermine and decapitate the biggest popular challenge to the reactionary Turkish state, the Kurdish people’s thirty- year war of liberation inside Turkey.

Thus, the heroic Kurdish liberation fighters in Rojava, including the women fighters of the YPJ, need to be vigilant about a possible sell-out of the interests of the Kurdish people of Rojava from the very pinnacle of the Kurdish national movement!


In our International Working Women’s Day celebrations this year, the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (ROL, USA) is sharing the inspiring story of the Kurdish women fighters of the YPJ and their heroic armed struggle against ISIS and other reactionaries propped up by the reactionary Turkish state and U.S. imperialism. We hope the outstanding example of YPJ will encourage our contacts and friends as well as ourselves to become more active in and wage more militant struggle against U.S.-led imperialist war.

An opportunity to be involved is coming soon. Comrade Cindy Sheehan initiated what has become a growing mobilization for a mass anti-war march in Washington, DC now scheduled for March 21. The Revolutionary Organization of Labor has endorsed this “Spring Rising, An Antiwar Intervention in DC.” While there will be scheduled events beginning on March 18th, our focus is on the March and Rally scheduled from 12PM until 4PM on March 21st. Especially on the East Coast, the international working women’s day celebrations we are involved in which raise up the Kurdish women heroes of YPJ should help in our mobilization for the anti—war Spring Rising that begins ten days later. Elsewhere in the country, for those unable to go to Washington, DC we urge our comrades, friends and contacts to heed the call of comrade Cindy Sheehan to “host a solidarity action in your area.”

We know that the U.S. Empire’s fourteen years of unending war of terror on the peoples of the world has brought the USA itself to a more violent and reactionary 
current situation than ever. And we know that, no matter how complicated the
political situation is in the Middle East, U.S. imperialism is the source of the most
reactionary and most violent forces and situations almost everywhere.

Consequently, the weakening and defeat of the U.S. Empire can only help the peoples from Rojava to Ferguson, Missouri to be able to hold our heads up in
human dignity and be successful in fighting for a better life for all.

Long Live International Working Women’s Day!

Long Live the Heroic Kurdish Women Liberation Fighters of Rojava!

Let there be a SPRING RISING in Washington, DC and throughout the World!



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    Ray o'light

    Revolutionary Organization of Labor (ROL), USA is a revolutionary working class organization that fights for working class power and the elimination of all human exploitation. Ray O’ Light Newsletter is the regular publication of ROL, USA. We believe, with comrade Lenin, that the working class “... needs the truth and there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable petty bourgeois lies.” In the spirit of Karl Marx who taught that “our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action,” we welcome your comments.

    Ray Light, Editor


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