This newsletter consists of highlighted reports from some of the CWI sections on work carried out amongst Kurds following the abduction of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. As illustrated below, the CWI sections have played an important role in supporting the oppressed Kurds and have also concretely raised the need for workers’ unity. The Kurdish issue has generally received a sympathetic response from workers and youth internationally, but it has also led to quite differently polarised situations (see Germany and Greece below) and we have had to carefully and sensitively raise our ideas and demands in these situations. Through our interventions we have been able to deepen our analysis of the Kurdish question and sharpen our demands.
The CWI has produced quite a lot of material on the Kurdish issue over the last two years. Sections have been sent the 1997 CWI Statement on Kurdistan, the CWI Open Letter to the PKK December 1998, and the CWI Statement on Abduallah Ocalan’s abduction and Kurdistan, 1 March 1999. This material and the work sections are conducting will be crucial in developing our work in Turkish Kurdistan and the region.
REPORTS FROM THE CWI AUSTRALIA (Militant Socialist Organisation).
Here in Melbourne we have had the Kurdish Association address our members and have joined with them in their rallies. We have also arranged for the Kurdish Association of Victoria to visit two of the largest university campuses to speak. We have also put the KAV in contact with members of the International Jurists Association. We have taken Kurds onto university campuses for orientation week stalls to fill out petitions and we have had excellent responses. At our public meeting we had members of the Turkish left speaking in solidarity with the Kurds. We are continuing our work with the Kurds, resourcing them and assisting them whenever we can.
AUSTRIA (Sozialistiche Offensive Vorwarts).
Comrades have taken part in pickets at the Greek and Kenyan embassies. Comrades had organised a demonstration but then decided to join a Kurdish occupation of the ex-social democratic SPO head offices. The Kurds were very friendly and comrades sold 15 papers and 20 pamphlets with the CWI statement. Comrades also took part in a picket outside a UN building.
BRITAIN (Socialist Party).
The section has established close links with Kurds in Britain over the last number of years and played a key role in developing international trade union links with Kurdish and Turkish workers. Comrades intervened at the protests outside the Greek embassy in London, which was occupied for a few days by scores of Kurds. The section also joined a Kurdish demo in central London on the Saturday after Ocalan’s arrest.
Last Saturday Socialist Party members intervened in a demonstration against New Labour’s Asylum and Immigration Bill. Over 1,000 Kurds, out of a total of 5,000, also took part. 90 copies of our paper were sold and 1,000 leaflets distributed. A comrade, Julie Donovan, addressed the end of the demonstration.
GERMANY (Sozialistiche Alternative).
The German state and media have conducted a massive racist campaign against the "terrorist immigrants". One opinion poll even showed a majority of people in favour of deportations for Kurds. Our comrades have answered this racism and combated attempts at divide and rule. We have also pointed out that some Kurdish protest actions unfortunately result in alienating many German workers and isolating the Kurds further. We have argued for action that supports Kurdish rights but also can win over German workers. The comrades report:
We participated in demonstrations, for example, the memorial march of 10,000 in Berlin for the Kurds who were killed at the Israeli embassy. We also organised a public meeting in Rostock, where 80 people attended, together with other organisations including a Kurdish one. We held a similar public meeting in Aachen against deportations. We issued a joint statement with DIDF (Turkish immigrant organisation connected to TDKP/EMEP PARTISI) and some German organisations, which attacks the role of German imperialism. We will probably start joint stalls with German and Kurdish activists next week in order to get in a dialogue with German workers who are very much affected by the racist propaganda in the last weeks.
March 1 saw a festival organised by well known artists in protest against the role of the Greek PASOK government over the abduction of Ocalan. The event was massive. Around 50,000 attended, made up of a large number of people in their 60s and 70s and a huge number of youth.
We had a good intervention, distributing over 5,000 leaflets and selling over 200 papers.
The government has made a massive blunder over this issue. They have managed to hit every sore nerve in Greek society: anti-Turkish feeling, the involvement of the CIA, memories of the Junta, and have provoked general opposition to the government’s policies.
IRELAND-SOUTH (Socialist Party).
A Kurdish comrade from our Cork branch participated in a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Dublin organised by the Kurdish Information Network the day after the arrest of Ocalan.
SWEDEN (Rattvisepartiet Socialisterna).
Comrades reported on 1 March:
On Saturday 27 February we participated with speakers in demonstrations in four towns. Our banners from Socialist Justice Party (RS) and Elevkampanjen at the 15 000 strong demo in Stockholm on the 20 February, were on the international Kurdish TV channel, MedTV for days.
In Uppsala, one of our Kurdish members was on the protest organising committee, and we (RS) were officially invited by letter. Our party banners was given the best possible place in the demo organised in Uppsala. Arne Johansson spoke, interrupted several times with applause. The comrades sold over 100 papers and got 17 subscribers for the paper in the 1,200 strong demo. This was the only demo with other parties speaking as well. Arne was strongly applauded for criticising the social democratic speaker’s call to Turkey for a "fair trial" and for it to follow "its own laws and rules".
In Stockholm, 500 participated in a demo for the 12th day in a row. Comrade Per-Åke Westerlund has spoken a number of times and received a very good reception. We sold 89 papers, to almost every fifth demonstrator, and seven subscriptions.
In Gothenburg, comrade Tommy Lindqvist spoke for RS to 1,000 demonstrators. The Young Left had a speaker, but none of the parties spoke, not even the Gothenburg based Stalinist party KMPLr, who in the 80s had close links with PKK. Our members sold 61 papers in pouring rain.
In Luleå 70 took part in a demo organised by us and local Kurds (not PKK). Per Johansson spoke for us and the comrades sold 10 papers. Seven of the Kurds went along with the comrades to our meeting on Lenin - ‘What did he stand for’ - on the same day.
Earlier comrades have spoken at demos in Eskilstuna and Umeå as well.
Our themes, apart from attacking the so-called justice in Turkey and the treatment of Kurds in Sweden, has been:
- The Kurds have the right to their own national state.
- The Kurds cannot trust imperialism, only the international working class.
- The struggle is socialist.
Some points on the interventions:
- The paper is key. We had the Kurdish question on the front and back page in the issue immediately following Öcalan’s capture. The week after it was the main story on the front page and on the center page. This week, we have expanded the paper to 16 pages in order to have 2 pages on the Kurds. People have been queuing to get the paper. If we only have shorter articles or leaflets, those should be shown to everyone in the demos. Our sellers should stop and talk to everyone. (These points are general for any movement, not just the Kurdish one).
- There are many different layers on the demos. This is shown by the fact that both conciliatory speeches from PKK, and our messages, get applause and support. This is also due to confusion. Many Kurds have not yet understood Öcalan’s and PKK’s turn to a "Palestine solution". The capture of Öcalan has also united in these demos many that are not PKK supporters, even if the latter are in the majority. We have had the best response among youth.
- We have recruited no one so far, but established a strategic position. We will now try to get Kurdish speakers at our events on the 8th of March.