might make some enemies with this, but i gotta say i find 99% of the discussion surrounding kurdish national liberation and its relation to Syria to be super frustrating.
am i in favor of kurdish national liberation? yes
do i think that it is more than a coincidence that u.s. leftists spend a hugely disproportionate amount of time talking one part of that liberation struggle that the u.s. military has a neutral-to-friendly relationship with? also yes
the u.s. has and will continue to coordinate with the YPG because the u.s. is still aiming for regime change in Syria. i don’t at all buy the narrative that u.s. support of Turkey (who of course are involved in their own efforts to quell Kurdish resistance) indicates that the u.s. is “pivoting” away from its support of the YPG. u.s. support of Turkey is nothing new and was the case before the civil war in Syria even started and has continued throughout the whole process. But from the perspective of the u.s. State, u.s. policy does not have to adhere to some logically consistent set of abstract principles. The u.s. has no difficulty supporting Turkey—even as the latter attempts to stamp out Kurdish resistance—at the same time that the u.s. supports the YPG because the u.s. will back any force that it perceives is going to forward u.s. interests in the region. The fact this results in a contradictory policy with regard to ISIS and really the broader project of Kurdish national liberation doesn’t bother the u.s. either—the u.s. is trying to keep its allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia happy while exacerbating instability in Syria in hopes of regime change there, all while “keeping a lid” on ISIS. It’s a messy strategy but just because it’s messy doesn’t mean the u.s. isn’t doing it.
And u.s. support of the YPG isn’t some cracked conspiracy theory, you don’t have to look any farther than what the YPG and its associated political party, the PYD, themselves say on the subject. These bodies have both readily acknowledged that they’ve coordinated on the ground with u.s. military forces. It’s not a secret that anyone’s keeping.
Pointing this out doesn’t mean you don’t support Kurdish national liberation either. See, the thing is, u.s. leftists throw around this monolithic picture of “the Kurds” and then they basically conflate “the Kurds” with the YPG and the struggle in Rojava. The YPG is however one body within an entire nation of people, and the liberation struggles in different parts of Kurdistan involve a number of different groups with different agendas and different politics. Acknowledging this is obviously an important part of actually treating Kurdistan as a real nation with its own political struggles which can’t be reduced to glossy presentations in western press. And what should also be obvious is that we can be critical and express concern about how the PYD and YPG seem not to believe u.s. intervention to be the greatest long term threat to their own liberation project—and how this puts the YPG in a position where it could end up in the aggregate advancing u.s. interests in the region—without condemning the whole notion of Kurdish national liberation. Kurdish national liberation is simply not immediately identical with the YPG.
At any rate, it’s not a coincidence that the YPG gets such a favorable presentation in u.s. media (and you’ve really got your head in the sand if you think this isn’t the case) and it’s troubling that u.s. communists mostly feed into that echo chamber without much critical analysis. I think it’s fine to draw attention to Kurdish national liberation of course, but there is a combination of things going on and it’s this precise combination that i think has a very negative effect: 1) in many cases the only liberation struggle people talk about is the one in Rojava (when there are many others around the globe that almost no one talks about), indicating that what people care about mostly follows what the ruling discourses dictate; 2) people share stuff about Rojava without any critical analysis of the overall balance of forces in the region and what role this struggle is objectively playing in the broader field; 3) people who object to presentation of the YPG as a stand-in for “the Kurds” and to the uncritical presentation of the YPG in general get shut down immediately. These three things together are what make a lot of the rhetoric in the u.s. left surrounding Rojava more-or-less just an amplifier for u.s. State apparatuses.
Also, as a general point, i think it is inappropriate for communists in imperialist countries to try to send materiel support to Third World liberation struggles either in the form of donations, shipments of goods, or sending people to join the fight (there might be some possible exceptions to the latter thing but in general i think it’s bad practice). This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but really, people in imperialist countries have the luxury of sitting back and “picking and choosing” what liberation movements to “support” in this kind of way. This is not only arrogant but materially, it is also what Kae Sera and E. Tani called “false internationalism,” in the sense that it ends up being yet another way in which political forces in imperialist countries attempt to “direct” the flow of liberation movements in the global South (regardless of whether this is the conscious aim of the imperialist-country “supporters” or not).
There is however a way in which communists in the u.s. can materially support all liberation movements in the Third World and that’s to resolutely oppose everything the u.s. does around the world and to actively work against whatever rhetoric and whatever policy the u.s. is dishing out. This is what the u.s. left still seems to struggle with, and on the subject of u.s. intervention in Syria in particular it has a really bad track record.