By Ertuğrul Kürkçü*
On the fortieth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increasing reports of mutual military casualties, Ukrainian civilian losses, mass immigration, destruction of complete urban settlements such as Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel now extend further to cover horrifying war crimes of deliberate killings and the torture of civilians, sexual assaults and the rape of women and girls – fresh proof to substantiate the old maxim that “there is no clean war.”
Blinded by liberal illusions
The Russian invasion seems to have come at a time when the European and world public were blinded by the neoliberal illusions that with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact buried, “communism” defeated, and Germany reunified, the root causes of war across Europe and the world would vanish and peace and prosperity would reign forever.
Yet, this Eurocentric way of thinking belies an unhistorical omission as recalled by the manifesto of “Potero al Popolo” who hosted an international forum “For a European Movement Against War!” on 3 April in Rome: “it was in Europe that some of the most atrocious massacres of the last thirty years played out, as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart by the resurgence of nationalism, fomented by the Western powers and by a NATO-led ‘humanitarian war’”. And we can add that it was also in Europe that the two previous world wars erupted, and where racism, Nazism and fascism were born, as well as communism, socialism, feminism and humanism…
The true basis for democratic peace: recognition of the right to self-determinaton
What is unfolding before our eyes is a war now fought on Ukrainian soil between NATO and Russia, the latter justifying its war purposes by rewriting Russian and Soviet history to claim parts of Ukrainian territory and reject their right to self-determination.
As declared by the Manifesto of the [Russian] “Socialists Against War Coalition”, Putin’s “is an unfair war of conquest. […] With his aggression, Putin nullified all the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists, all the intrigues of American and NATO hawks. Putin gave them such arguments that new missiles and military bases would almost certainly appear along the perimeter of our borders.”
During this war in Ukraine, we hear many repudiations across the globe of the Russian claims negating Ukraine’s right to self-determination, and rightly so; but we hear very little about the right to secede of Donetsk and Luhansk. We hear many words for “the right to freedom to opt for NATO membership” of Ukraine as a “sovereign nation”, but we hear very little of the criticism of this mockery of freedom that boils down to an oxymoron -“freedom to join world domination.”
As verified by history, the internationalists’ “peace programme” should without any reservation condone the recognition of self-determination simultaneously with the repudiation of annexations. That is, the internationalists of every nation should demand the right of secession for nations that are oppressed by their governments. Further, internationalists should explain incessantly that the imperialist powers and the imperialist bourgeoisie cannot grant a democratic peace.
Unless immediately stopped by determined international action for “peace”, the ongoing war in Ukraine – given the insanity and selfishness of the leaderships of the contending parties – presages even the involvement of “nuclear arms” in the conflict, and thus threatens the very existence of the globe as such. Immediate action by a third force, that is, the collective will and determination of the peoples to prevent “their” leaders from further bloodshed and devastation of the lives of the survivors, is urgent.
Hence, we should return to our proper roles. We cannot the claim the part admirably played by the Russian internationalists: fighting against Putin’s “Great Russian chauvinism.” It falls on us to play the part of the ardent critic of the aggressive military pact of NATO, of the contribution to this war of domination by our “own” governments using the peoples’ resources and of the hypocritical justification of this unjust war.
It is inspiring to hear and see that our demands and urges are echoed by initiatives from across Europe challenging the “binary thinking” which overwhelms “the European mainstream media, where everything must be seen as black or white”. The weekend forum called by Potere al Popolo in Rome, will be followed by the “European Conference for Peace”, called by Podemos in Madrid on 22 April.
To quote Potere al Popolo’s declaration “For a European Movement Against War!”: “Anyone who dares to attempt contextualisation, to remind us of the complexity of the situation – pointing, for example, to the destabilising effect of NATO’s progressive expansion eastwards – is accused of being a Putin ally. […] Yet despite the media pressure, there is still strong opposition to the war in Europe. […] There have been demonstrations in several European cities, in some cases attended by hundreds of thousands of people. However, we need to build a pan-European anti-war movement that goes beyond individual demonstrations and can prevent our governments from involving us in what could become a third world war. We need to speak out against Orwellian governments who tell us that ‘war is peace’.
Ankara’s hypocritical part in the ongoing war
Turkey is one of those “Orwellian” governments, a “walking dystopia”, the best example of imperialist hypocrisy, both in terms of its own practices and of NATO’s capacity of swallowing Ankara’s infringements of the rights of its own Kurdish citizens and of the Kurdish citizens of Syria (Rojava) and Iraq (Sinjar) to self-determination.
A NATO member country with the biggest army and a military-industrial complex second only to that of the USA in the Atlantic Alliance, Ankara has already occupied and eventually depopulated Syria’s Kurdish provinces of Êfrin (Afrin), Serekanê (Ras al-Ayn) and Gire Spî (Tell Abyad) to deny self-rule to Syria’s Kurds. It is continually bombing Sinjar to deny self-rule to Iraq’s Êzidi (Yazidi) Kurdish population, and in Turkey perpetually denying the Kurds’ right to self-detemination and keeping the Kurdish provinces under colonial rule with ruthless coercion.
With its expansionist ambitions in the last two decades, Turkey has become a major threat to peace across the Mediterranean, in the Caucasus and the Middle East, building alliances with warring parties in Libya, in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict and in the Somali civil war, and backing forcible regime change from without in Syria as well as organizing, arming, and hosting al-Qaida and Da’esh elements in Turkey and Syria against both the Kurds and the Syrian regime and also carving a proxy army from among the jihadists for its own purposes.
But the same Erdoğan, while joining the war on the side of Ukraine and supplying it with UCAVs, also unabashedly plays the part of the “solo peace builder”, while denouncing the Russian Federation and voting to expel it from the Council of Europe, also refrains from joining the Western financial blockade against Moscow and thus keeps the military-industrial complex on track, the Russian natural gas pipeline running and the Ukrainian wheat exports flowing, all the while preparing for new wars against the Kurds with renewed consensus from the contending parties for its mediating role – and disgustingly cheered and praised by all!
For a categorical end to war, we call on the peoples of Turkey to join the campaign for Ankara’s withdrawal from NATO and from similar existing and prospective military pacts and treaties for regional and global domination; urge Ankara to stop arms sales and purchases to and from Ukraine and Russia, to withdraw its military forces from Syria, Iraq and Cyprus, to join forces for a reconstruction of the Republic of Turkey on the basis of the voluntary unity of peoples in recognition of the self-determination of any constituent entity from the Kurdish provinces down to the smallest village.
We call on Ankara to stop its military preparations for incursions to the south to crush Kurdish claims to self-rule in four-parts-Kurdistan.
The United Nations cannot stop the ongoing war and the growing threat of nuclear war as the very conflict stems from the competition for domination and repartition of the world among the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, Britain, France, Russia, and China.
The conditions are ripe and the need is urgent for the peoples of Europe, the USA and Russia to establish an international movement for peace to resist the war of their own governments; for bringing together the political and social movements, leaders of public opinion and governments who distance themselves from the belligerent powers – parties to the war – across the globe. The left and internationalist forces of Europe and North Africa, the emerging democracies of Latin America led by progressive and anti-fascist governments – such as Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Honduras – can play a leading part in such a global undertaking.
Unless we successfully build an international front of peoples for peace to stop the war and protect the globe from destruction by the inhuman activities of human beings, we may end up with extinction, and in that case even a return to “barbarism” may appear a rosy scenario. We can emancipate ourselves from the horrors of war only through the emancipation of humanity from capitalism.
*Ertuğrul Kürkçü is Honorary President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)