Monthly Archives: September 2016

Submission to Labour’s Chakrabati enquiry – from Broxtowe CLP

This submission was submitted by me and approved by my Constituency Labour Party as our submission to the Chakrabati enquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism including islamophobia, within the Labour Party. I publish here in response to my expulsion from the Labour Party for being a ‘supporter of the AWL’ and the slanderous accusation made by Owen Smith that the AWL is bringing in antisemitism into the Labour Party.

Submission to Chakrabarti enquiry

This CLP believes that antisemitism is an issue of concern both outside of the Party and within it.

We welcome the affirmation by John McDonnell that antisemitism has no place in the Labour Party. We believe that this primarily has to be done through an urgent education campaign rather than identifying individuals in the Party one by one for having expressed antisemitic views in the past.

As a CLP we are proud to have spoken out against the Gaza bombardment in August 2014 that led to the deaths of over 2,000 people including many children and to have organised a public meeting with Israeli and Muslim speakers that made clear our support for a democratic 2-states solution. We will continue to oppose terrorist acts by either the Israeli state, some of the West Bank settlers, Hamas or any other terrorist organisation.  But we have to recognise that much of that pro-Palestinian movement has little understanding about the reasons why Jews fled to the Middle East from the concentration camps of the Nazis, nor why the existence of the state of Israel needs to be politically defended by socialists or democrats, despite the many brutal actions of its governments.

We call on the Party to vigorously propose educational and debate events both for Party members and Labour supporters on the issue in the months ahead.

My speech against the UCU’s junking of EUMC antisemitism definition

I have been notified that I have been expelled from the Labour Party. The expulsion appears to have happened a few hours before hustings contribution on Question Time on Thursday, 8th September. In his contribution Owen Smith renewed attacks on the AWL started by Tom Watson on 15th August. He made a slanderous accusation that the AWL was anti-Semitic.

I cannot discount that my expulsion is not unconnected with Owen Smith’s attack. I know that the AWL as well as myself have campaigned against antisemitism for decades. As evidence of some of my work confronting anti-Semitism within the labour movement I am republishing my speech to the UCU congress of 2011 and some background to its context

Below is the text of the speech made against the UCUs explicit rejection of the EUMC definitions of antisemitism at its congress on May 30 2011. The motion to reject this definition of anti-semitism, explicitly motivated to support Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas ideologue, Azzam Tamimi, was unfortunately passed overwhelmingly.

At the time of writing it was not known what the alleged use of the EUMC definition referred to. As it was regarding Azzam Tamimi, who has argued that those who live now in Israel who were emigrants from the wartime concentration camps should go back to Ukraine and Poland, a clearly antisemitic assertion, if I had known that, my speech would probably have been rewritten drawing attention to Tamimi’s politics.

Probably only half a dozen against in a conference hall voted against the motion where probably more than a third of delegates had left.

“Those arguing for the motion say that this definition intimidates free debate on the Palestine/ Israel issue. No definition of any form of racism can ever prevent misuse. Each time an accusation of racism is made, of whatever form it should always be assessed by the specifics of its application. Who makes it, can they justify it? In particular does it crudely generalise a condemnation of a part of the people onto a whole people, nation or race?

The fact that definitions of antisemitism may have been misused is no argument that definitions are wrong or that it should not be used.

What does this definition actually say?

The most controversial part appears to be where it says that those who claim that ‘the existence – THE EXISTENCE – of the Israeli state is a racist endeavour’ are antisemitic.

Consider the refuseniks who serve prison sentences because of their opposition to the racist Israeli government’s repression in Gaza and the West Bank.

Consider the left wing peace movement Gush Shalom who advocate a withdrawal from the occupied territories and who as Sue Blackwell pointed out yesterday are being threatened by their government.

The definition means that to call people such as the refuseniks and Gush Shalom racists is an antisemitic act. And that is entirely right.

To blur the distinction between the racist Israeli government and a huge proportion of the Israeli people who oppose it IS antisemitic.

Comrades we should be endorsing this definition not condemning it.

Finally comrades bear this thing in mind. We know yesterday and from leaflets distributed today that we are probably going to have a fiercely contested General Secretary election. Partly because of this, but more importantly because of the inevitable attention that will be given to any union so prominently in opposition to this government as our own, we need to take care.
The business of our congress has never more been in the public eye. Do we really want to give enemies of our union the gift of seeming to think that antisemitism is not a problem.

It is a problem!”

I will not accept my expulsion from the Labour Party

Please support the Stop the Labour Purge campaign acting on behalf of all witch-hunted socialists in the Party

I have been informed today that I have been expelled from the Labour Party after a total of 35 years of Party membership and in spite of being Chair of Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party.

This follows an anonymous complaint about me to the Party. I don’t know what has led anyone to complain to the Party about me. I cannot believe that it comes from anyone in my constituency party where inclusiveness and comradely respect is genuinely shown by all party members. I am very grateful for the quick statement of support made by all of my fellow officers of Broxtowe CLP.

I am told that I am expelled because of I am an ‘active supporter of the AWL’ .

The AWL publishes a very useful and educative paper Solidarity and I welcome and am proud of  its significant contribution to debate in the Party and the wider labour movement.

My expulsion appears to have been activated without the knowledge of either myself or my fellow constituency officers – 2 days before I was notified. It was only hours before Owen Smith renewed the attacks on the AWL as ‘hard left’ and made preposterous claim that the AWL is anti-Semitic. The implication is therefore that I, as an individual, am also anti-Semitic. I have campaigned virtually all of my political life against anti-Semitism within the labour movement and I have evidenced some of my work on it below. I consider that implication and the action against me are motivated and contribute to slander against me.

I believe that this is not an attack solely on me as an individual. It is intended to disorganise my constituency party and demoralise its members. It is also part of a national witch hunt conducted by figures still powerful in the Party who are attempting to drive away the hundreds of thousands of new members who have moved it to the left.

I have long advocated that our Party should be open to all who want to fight for a Labour victory. Free speech and free debate are fundamental to socialism. They are essential to anything claiming to be a socialist political party.

Hundreds of thousands of energetic people are being attracted to our Party. We should welcome them and I believe that in my role as Chair of my CLP I have the responsibility to contribute to that.

That is why I, along with the other officers of my CLP, wrote in protest to the General Secretary and Chair of the PLP against the attempt to oust our leader unconstitutionally by trying to force him to resign without allowing a vote by the Party membership.

It is why, as officers of Broxtowe CLP, we protested to the General Secretary and the NEC about the further discourtesy shown to new members by instituting an unexpected freeze date that denied them the right to vote.

Later still on August 9th individually I organised an accredited online petition calling on the Party to refrain from using the full force of the appeal courts to enforce that freeze and give yet further offense to our new members. Over a 21 hour period, the petition was signed by over 1,000 Party members.

The day after sending that petition to the General Secretary, Tom Watson released his dossier on far left entryism. The following day I first began to hear from journalists, briefed by persons unknown, asking me to respond to accusations of being a ‘Trotskyite entryist’.

For the next 2 days I had journalists contact me before an article appeared in Politics Home claiming that I had been reported to the Labour Party as a ‘hard left’ activist and was being ‘probed’ by the Labour Party. That was on August 17th –  over 3 weeks before the notification of my expulsion. During that time, I heard nothing from the Labour Party and presumed this was a fictional provocation intended to damage the Party. It appears I was wrong.

In the original press attack upon me I was accused of speaking at a recent AWL event. However I spoke on the same platform as Ian Hodson, President of the BFAWU. Other speakers at the week-end event also included prominent representatives of the Progress/ Labour First right wing of our Party, Luke Akehurst, John McTernan. I cannot therefore believe that these are the real reasons for the complaint made against me.

There are no secrets about my politics. The paper Solidarity has been kind enough to cover much of my campaigning work in its news coverage. They have occasionally republished articles I have written elsewhere or on my blog. I find it scandalous that having an association with that paper and the policies it advocates, can be used to witch-hunt me or anyone else out of the Party.

The real reason some want me out of the Party must be is because they want to stop my political activities both for the Party and to influence its policies.

I list below most of the important work I have done over the last 6 years for and within the Party with links to more details. In the absence of my right to appeal, I leave others to make their own judgement on my record and the legitimacy of the attempts to remove me from the Party.

  • Building my local Party and the referendum campaign
  • Campaigning for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader
  • Challenging the government’s support for Saudi Arabia
  • Campaigning against anti-union laws
  • Campaigning against war and terrorism and for a 2–state resolution in Israel/ Palestine
  • Campaigning against anti-semitism
  • Campaigning in support of oppressed Kurdish people in Syria and Turkey
  • Campaigning against the government cuts
    Details of my work can be read in the Appendix to this article

My history and my views have never been a secret. In 2001 I resigned from the Labour Party after, then, 29 years membership. Whilst I continued to campaign for Labour general election victories in the days of Tony Blair’s leadership, I feared that some of the changes of the Labour Party might be irreversible. Firstly, the Party’s turn away from working class communities and towards ‘Middle England’ and secondly, the marginalisation of trade unions. I stood as a protest candidate in the very safe Labour constituency of Nottingham East in 2001 and then again in 2005 after the Iraq war.

I was wrong about the Party. It was able to revive after Blair and Brown’s leadership – it had to revive in the face of a very right-wing Cameron government. Although it has left us a legacy of political alienation in many working class communities which we have seen so starkly in the EU referendum result.

I rejoined the Party in 2010 in Broxtowe after working with it to rebuild the Labour Party in areas of the borough where the BNP had got a councillor elected – another result of the collapse of the Labour Party in many areas because of Tony Blair.

I never hid anything either about my earlier disenchantment with the Party or my activities during those years. I was pleased to say I felt very welcomed by other constituency activists and officers. They showed the same solidarity I believe our Party should show to all others who want to work for its success regardless of their voting or electoral activities in the past.

Genuine political disagreements about how we fight together for the interests of all working class people, the vast majority in our society, should be met with respectful and democratic debate and not crude labelling, expulsions, exclusions and the denial of free speech.

I do not believe I have acted as anything other than a responsible socialist. I will not walk away from the Labour Party nor advocate anyone else does.

I appeal to party members and organisations to support the call for the revoking of my expulsion and my rights to resume my work for the future of this Party and the return of a Labour government. We need that to reverse the devastation inflicted on our society by the Tories and put a government accountable to the vast majority of society, working class people, in control.

Appendix – my recent political work for and within the Party

  • Building my local Party and the referendum campaign
    Over the last 6 years of membership of Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party, I have been a branch secretary for 3 years, constituency secretary for 2 ½ years and from last May its constituency Chair.
    Over the course of my branch secretaries position, with other activists, I built that branch into the biggest and most active branch in the constituency with regular street stalls and very successful council election campaigns.
    When I became Chair of the CLP this year my first act was to agree with fellow officers Cllr Greg Marshall and Cllr Dawn Elliott to go ahead with the production of over 30,000 of a 4 page Newsletter and then co-ordinate their distribution over the final 2 weeks of the EU referendum campaign.
    The Newsletter with its main article in support of remaining in the EU also made clear our opposition to the Tories cuts on our local services. We feel confident that the Newsletter and the energetic work of our much strengthened Party gave us a better result than most other neighbouring East Midlands constituencies – a fact acknowledged by our Tory opponent Anna Soubry MP.
  • Campaigning for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader
    When Jeremy Corbyn put his name forward for leadership I wrote an open letter to Labour MPs in the region asking them to nominate Corbyn. I invited fellow Labour activists to sign it and 103 of them did, including 19 councillors and 1 council leader. See
    Given that the nomination threshold was only closely met and our letter may have affected some MPs, is this why people want me out of the Party?
  • Challenging the government’s support for Saudi Arabia
    In January 2015 I wrote an open letter to Cameron following the intensification of Saudi terror on its own citizens highlighted by the flogging and threatened death sentence on free speech Saudi activist Raif Badawi. Over the following 6 months that letter was signed by over 1,000 human rights activists, journalists, trade unionists and political activists. It was supported by 11 prominent NGOs. It called for Britain to end its arms trade with Saudi Arabia and for other trade sanctions to be considered whilst the Saudi regime continued its human rights abuses.
    The open letter was delivered to Parliament in July 2015 on a Day of Action that I organised with the supporting NGOs. A delegation of MPs and activists delivered it to Downing Street including the now shadow transport minister Andy McDonald. raifpresentAmongst others Glenys Kinnock addressed the assembled activists in Whitehall on that day.
    The same day with the support of John McDonnell’s office I organised a meeting in Parliament addressed by supporting NGOs and Sarah Champion MP speaking from the Labour Party, as well as MPs and leaders from the  SNP and Greens. Jeremy Corbyn was one of the first signatories of our Open Letter and spoke in support of the issue at later Parliamentary meetings.
    I hope that our work contributed to the greater awareness and desire for action against Saudi Arabia that helped Jeremy Corbyn force the later government climb down on their provision of prison equipment to Saudi Arabia. A topic also touched on in my speech to the 2015 Labour conference.
    The abandonment of any aim of an ethical foreign policy was a major failure of the Blair and Brown governments. Is this why certain people want me out of the Party?
  • Campaigning against anti-union laws
    At the 2015 Labour conference I spoke to our motion that was composited with other trade union and CLP motions. My CLP added a pledge to the other motions composited to restore the trade union rights of solidarity and sympathy action that had been taken away by Thatcher. My speech to conference can be viewed here

    As an active trade unionist firstly as GMWU/GMBATU steward, then a UCU branch officer throughout my employed life, restoring trade union and employment rights has always been one of my major concerns as a Party member. Like many trade unionists I consider this to be one of biggest failures of the Blair government. Is this why certain people want me out of the Party?
  • Campaigning against war and terrorism and for a 2–state resolution in Israel/ Palestine
    In July 2014 I made a successful call on my CLP to hold a public meeting on the military onslaught on Gaza. The meeting in Beeston attracted an audience of well over 100 local constituents and was addressed by our PPC of the time, a prominent Pakistani Labour councillor and through Skype by Israeli anti-war activist Elizabeth Tsurkov. All speakers at the meeting not only condemned the Gaza onslaught but made a strong call for peace through meaningful dialogue towards a 2-state settlement.
  • Campaigning against anti-Semitism
    In June of this year I wrote the submission of my CLP to the Labour Party Chakrabarti enquiry. Our submission addressed the issue of anti-Semitism. It called for education and debate in the Party recognizing that much of the contemporary left had only a superficial understanding of the reasons why the continuing existence of Israel is so important to the Jewish community. Our statement called for real action from the Party to revive the prospects of a peaceful and just 2-states settlement for both Palestinian and Israeli people. The statement can be read from this link
    I was frequently active in debates in my union, the UCU, in opposing anti-Semitism: arguing at the 2011 UCU congress that antisemitism was an issue that the union should not deny as much as it did at the time. Link to my speech at the Congress
  • Campaigning in support of oppressed Kurdish people in Syria and Turkey
    In August 2014, I spoke at Kurdish public protests against the brutal attacks on the Yazidi and Kurdish people by the at the time of ISIS’s dramatic offensive in Syria. I wrote an appeal for MPs to meet with representatives of the local 4,000 local strongly Labour-supporting Kurdish community. I led the delegation that met local MP Chris Leslie from whom we had a sympathetic hearing. I have continued to work with the Kurdish community, many of whom have joined, become active and strengthened relations between that community and the Labour Party. I work with the local Kurdish community in Nottingham and across the country in championing the Kurdish militia, the YPG, in their battle with ISIS in Syria and giving appropriate respect to Kurdish and other fighters who go to their aid. They are now facing a brutal onslaught in Turkey as well, about which this Tory government is silent. I campaign along with my Kurdish friends for the Labour Party to give real support to the Kurds but not to use them as an excuse for disastrous foreign military adventures.
  • Campaigning against the government cuts
    From 2012-13, I was secretary of a campaign, Councillors Against Cuts, that was set up with local councillors and advocated that councils consider alternative strategies to those of implementation of the cuts demanded of them by the Tory government. At that time there was a confidence in the trade union movement and an outrage in our councils about these cuts.
    I believe an alternative strategy of combined union/ Party defiance was possible. It is my personal belief that such an alternative strategy still needs to be considered before our services are stripped to the bone.

Assad and Erdogan’s new alliance?

It looks as though there are some startling shifts in alliances in the Syrian civil war. Although for quite some time it has been less a Syrian civil war and more a proxy war between super-powers and tyrannical regimes in the region.

What is the relationship now between Turkey and the US?

Erdogan continues to strut arrogantly around – bolstered by his overcoming of the coup against him. Russia and the Syrian dictator, Assad, rub their hands with glee as Erdogan approaches them independently of the US for mutual favours. The US desperately seems to be playing catch-up, as the militias and the forces they finance and logistically support are turned by Turkey on each other.

The US were long reported to have been angry about Erdogan’s failure to act against ISIS. After all a successful war against ISIS, necessary for the US’s public credibility, is costing them a lot of money with no seeming end in sight.

Many of the leading figures in the recent attempted military coup in Turkey were known to be pressuring Erdogan to act and send troops against ISIS. Whether was this for anti-Islamist reasons or those of Turkish military pride – or both – is not clear to me.

After the failed coup, Erdogan accused the US of helping the attempted military coup against him. He then made approaches to Russia and for the first time argued that Assad need not go as a precondition for peace.

It is clear that more significant negotiations are also going on between Russian/ Assad/ Erdogan about common interests: a key one of these, at least to Assad and Erdogan, would be their common opposition to any Kurdish autonomy.

US Vice President Joe Biden following the coup rushed to Turkey in order to be seen to be repairing relationships with Erdogan. He stood alongside Erdogan demanding that the SDF/YPG leave the area west of the Euphrates, around Manbij, which the US only a few weeks before had helped the YPG take after a fierce siege.

Finally, Turkey sends troops into Syria with clear agreement from Assad. It is difficult to believe that this wasn’t done without NATO and US knowledge. Nevertheless, the US acts as if it has been publicly offended by this act.

After all, the Turkish action ended up with two of the US’s allies fighting against each other, the comparatively new Jaysh al Tahrir (acting with Turkey) and the US’s longer term ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Whatever else these events prove, one thing is clear. Turkey is not just a US pawn, an argument unfortunately too common on some sections of the left about Turkey and other Middle Eastern sub-imperialist countries. It simply isn’t true, Turkey is currently calling the shots here.

Intrique and double-dealing

It is difficult to predict what is going on between the US and Turkey. The cynical double-dealing of all the main players, Russia, US, Assad, is probably at its height at the moment. Some even think that the CIA both helped set up the military coup and leaked it to Erdogan and that they wanted a failed coup in order to help him.

I find that hard to believe. But not because of the implied gross duplicity of the US secret services – that I can believe. I just cannot believe the US would want Erdogan’s increased popularity amongst his Turkish supporters. A popularity that now gives him greater independence from them and able to pursue new relationship with Putin or Assad.

Is partition on the cards?

Some argue that what we are seeing is a move towards a partition of Syria between a Kurdish-dominated area, a Turkey-dominated area and a reduced territory under Assad. If that were to happen, how long could such a partition last or would it be just a short breathing space before another conflict?

About turns are not easy or predictable

The Syrian rebellion is probably close to defeat – symbolised by the fall of Daraya and the imminent collapse in Aleppo. The military coup in Turkey was put down. Each of these events have given their victors, Assad and Erdogan, the confidence to forge a new alliance with Russia’s help. Together with Putin, they see an opportunity to form a new alliance.

But abrupt reversals, especially in the exceptionally cynical alliances that exist within Syria, can cause huge problems. Subordinate elements do not do as they are told!

In defiance of the US’s instructions the YPG have stated that they will not move across to the east of the Euphrates river. If they did so, they would be sacrificing the bridgehead to the Kurdish canton of Afrin and to other potentially besieged Kurdish communities in Aleppo.
Erdogan will not leave a Kurdish dominated area alone even if the US told him to.

  1. They have long had imperialist ambitions of occupying sections of oil-rich northern Syria including the areas west of the Euphrates.
  2. They are conducting a vicious war on their own Kurdish community to destroy any hopes of autonomy, why would they tolerate an autonomous are Kurdish area in Syria?
  3. And even though they eventually dropped their opposition to a Kurdish autonomous area in Iraq, Rojava is not the KRG and the PYD is not the KPD.

Assad bombs YPG held Haska

Assad bombs YPG held Haska

What is now the relation between Assad and the YPG? The YPG have long denied that they have had any formal alliance with Assad. They have claimed they were exploiting his weakness whilst concentrating on fighting ISIS. Their opponents amongst the Syrian rebels frequently define them as being in ‘collaboration’ with Assad. Whatever the relationship may have been in the past, now it is certainly no longer either of those in the wake of the the assault and bombings of Hasaka by Assad’s forces.

Assad’s forces have been in Hasaka but he still feels comparatively confident – at least in comparison with where he has been in the past. The bloody bombardment of his people elsewhere in Syria has to some degree worked – they have been starved and mass-murdered into submission. Some undoubtedly will not surrender but continue to fight on.
So as part of the deal there may be further migration of both the militias and populations that opposed him into areas not under his control – perhaps into the Turkish dominated area of a partitioned Syria.

Where does ISIS stand?

ISIS are clearly in retreat in both Iraq and Syria. Primarily in Syria through the actions of the SDF/ YPG.

Now that ISIS are weak and after the Turkish government allowed them freedom of movement across the border for years, it now uses them as their public justification for military action in Syria.

But the primary intention of Erdogan remains to drive the anti-Islamist Syrian Democratic Forces back as far as he can.

Where have the all the Saudis gone?

The Saudi regime appears to have been sidelined considerably as a big player in Syria. Even more so has the mini-state of Qatar – an earlier major financier of jihadists in Syria.

It was only 9 months ago that Saudi Arabia was given the prestigious role by the UN of diplomatically unifying the anti-Assad opposition during the Geneva peace talks. However, you hear nothing now of the so-called ‘Riyadh opposition’.

A proper analysis of their marginalization in Syria requires more analysis and facts than I currently have access to. But it appears that despite the huge supply of Saudi-financed arms and the influx into Syria of many thousands of volunteer Saudi Wahhabi fighters – they have, as in Afghanistan, proved to have been more of a liability to the Syrian opposition than a benefit.

Suicidal activists and Islamist fanaticism did, and in places may still do, provide a fearsome edge for those fighting back against Assad. But the Islamists’ political objectives inevitably are anathema to many of those who believe they are still fighting against Assad for freedom.

Whenever the Islamists started to become dominant and started to shape society, the repellent undemocratic nature of their ideology was seen.

A brutal quasi-state like the Islamic State can be built in a closed territory where there is absolute and brutal control and where dissent is ruthlessly repressed as has existed in Saudi Arabia for decades.

But an authoritarian Islamist regime can’t be built in one suburb or small town where there may be competing ideologies and leaders, capable of undermining them, a short distance away.
There are other major Islamist outfits in Syria, Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al-Islam or Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly Al Nusra). They however were restrained not only by their financial and logistic dependence by their overseas Wahhabist sponsors, they have never had that degree of total control over a territory.

On occasion Nusra has attempted to enforce its will but it has led to civil and military conflict between them and more popular forces – as in Idlib province last March when there were both street demonstrations in support of the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division when Nusra moved against them.

Is long-term Turkish domination of part of Syria possible?

After cynically supporting chaos in Syria Erdogan now wants to exercise more direct domination through occupation and greater control over Turkey’s 800 miles border with Syria.

His target with both is likely to be not only ISIS but all militias he doesn’t control: those under the influence of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism but above all and, of course, the Kurds.

Turkey wants even greater control of who gets arms and fighters and thereby gains political control and they are now doing so through direct occupation and where they feel unable to occupy a greater control of the border.

A 40 mile wall has been built from Öncüpınar to Çobanbey and that has reduced the flow of fighters to ISIS and other militias Turkey disapproves of. Allegedly 2,000 fighters came through this border before the wall – this has been reduced by up to 90%! And the wall is being extended to reduce this more. See Hurriyet Daily news

A strengthening of Erdogan and Assad’s control will not bring peace

Both the US and Russia may think a stalemate and a partition may be worth working together towards.

Hopes for a temporary peace through partition may also be welcomed by others, particularly after the mass slaughter that has been seen, primarily by Assad of his own people.

If the YPG are also allowed to finish their job against ISIS in eastern Syria, Obama may be able to go into retirement claiming a job done, at least in part. However, the US have little control over Erdogan who may continue his attacks there on the YPG.

There are still huge obstacles to a Turkish/ Syrian enforced partition. Their common enemy, the YPG/SDF, will not be easily removed from western Syria even with US acquiescence. Why should the YPG/ SDF ally with the US in the east if they are stabbed in the back in the west?

The Syrian anti-Assad opposition have not yet been defeated in Aleppo despite a phenomenal assault.

But the gulf between the Kurdish secular militias and the Syrian rebels remains as high as ever. The Arab allies of the YPG in the SDF are not that extensive and may be more a military one than having a shared vision of any multi-ethnic, secular Syria.

The hope for long-term peace and democracy in Syria needs a coming together of those that reject both religious and ethnic sectarianism. The PYD, at least in theory, with their calls for a secular and democratic confederation provided some possibilities of progress to that.

But civil wars are not easy places for political debate.

When barrel bombs and heavy artillery are slaughtering everyone around you, people fight back together regardless of ideology – there is a basic defensive communalism and an understandable astonishment that the world or neighbouring communities do not lift a hand to defend you.

When ISIS are selling women into sex slavery and beheading whoever they like, it is difficult for secular fighters (Kurdish or Arab) to trust those who want Sharia Law, no matter how different from ISIS’s variant.

There has undoubtedly been examples of democratic self-administration in areas freed of Assad’s terror and still inspired by the secular 2011 aims of Syria’s Arab Spring. Some people have argued those community organisations in Free Syria have effectively countered the sectarian agenda of some of the militias operating there. On occasion there have been civil and military conflict with them – as in Maarat-Al-Numanin Idlib province last March when there were both street demonstrations in support of the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division.

But the anarchy, in both good and bad senses of the word, will not be allowed by either Assad or Erdogan. They will control and will attack democratic formations in any territory they dominate.

Those opposing the tyranny of them both and supporting democracy, both Kurds and Syrian, will need to find a way of uniting against them.