Deniers of Syria revolt ‘cannot be seen as left’: Syria socialist

4 Sep

People’s Resistance Unit, 18 August 2012. Last month, 19 brigades of the Free Syrian Army in Damascus and its suburbs united into one battalion called the People’s Resistance Unit, led by colonel Abdullah Al-Rifai. This video announces their unification to the people of Syria and the world. English sub-titles.


by Syria Freedom Forever

31 August 2012

article abridged & re-edited

The resistance of the Syrian people has not ceased growing since the revolutionary process began in March 2011. The struggle of the Syrian people is part of the popular struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, which has spread to other countries in the region.

The new massacre at Daraya, where over 300 people were killed, including dozens of women and children, has added to the long list of crimes of the regime. The terrible repression against the Syrian people continues.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, announced on 23 August 2012 that at least 24,495 people have died in the violence since the beginning of the revolution, including a total of 17,281 civilians, while 6,163 soldiers and 1,051 deserters who joined the insurgency have been killed. We must add to this sad news some 1.5 million people displaced inside the country and 250,000 refugees in neighboring countries.

Despite this terrible repression by the regime, some sections of the global left, increasingly a minority, refrain from unambiguously supporting the Syrian revolution. That’s despite the popular struggle of the Syrian people to topple the regime and build a new Syria that is democratic, social and in solidarity with other peoples’ struggles, especially the Palestinian people.

Some of these leftists hide behind a biased interpretation of anti-imperialism, very primitive and false in many ways, which in the past has defended authoritarian regimes like Gaddafi’s Libya or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Meanwhile others simply repeat the propaganda of the Syrian regime, that the uprising is a conspiracy of the imperialist West and its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, against a Syria that would be anti-imperialist and pro-resistance.

Another section of the left, with a more nuanced discourse, refuses to support the Syrian revolution, but without publicly siding with the regime. They argue that the Syrian revolution has now become purely a military conflict between the opposition supported by the imperialist Western and regional powers, against a regime that is not anti-imperialist, but opposes imperialist interests and objectives in the region.

This section of the left focuses only on the potential danger of Western imperialist and regional intervention, without saying a word about the much more real and important intervention by the states of Russia and Iran. They also discuss the potential threat of a sectarian religious war, without thorough analysis of its dynamics, and without showing how to overcome the dangers of sectarianism.

Finally, under the argument “the main enemy is at home”, they claim that their sole duty is to oppose their own imperialist government, while showing no solidarity for the struggle of the Syrian people. They refuse to raise the slogan of victory to the Syrian revolution.

We condemn these positions for several reasons, including the “anti-imperialism” of the Syrian regime, which is a lie. Does amnesia strike these sections of the left? Do they not remember that Bashar Al Assad was presented as a reformist by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the beginning of the revolution in 2011? Or that the Syrian dictator was received with great pomp by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy in his presidential palace in December 2010?

Also, how can they speak about supporting resistance when the Syrian regime crushed the Palestinian and progressive movements in Lebanon in 1976, ending their revolution, all under the watchful eye of the imperialist West and Israel? The same regime participated in the 1991 imperialist war against Iraq which was led by the United States, and worked with Washington in the “war against terrorism” launched by US president George W. Bush.

During the past 30 years, the Syrian regime has arrested all those inside the country trying to liberate the Golan Heights. Not a single regime bullet has been fired to free Golan from Israeli occupation.

Even so, some leftists speak of “re-colonisation” of Syria. They fail to see the dynamics of Syria’s popular movement, whose already high political awareness is increasing every day through the revolutionary process, at very high cost.

We say with full candor: those who deny popular revolutions like Syria’s thereby set themselves against emancipation from below by the people. They cannot be seen as being on the left.

Contrary to what some say, Syria’s popular movement has not been removed from the streets, universities and workplaces despite the regime’s many forms of political and military repression.

The main forms of organisation have been through popular committees in the villages, towns and regions. These popular committees are the real backbone of grassroots mobilisations. Inside liberated zones, elected popular councils are organising collective self-management, proving that anarchy is caused by the system, not the people.

The Syrian revolutionary process is a real popular and democratic movement that mobilises the exploited and oppressed classes against the capitalist elite linked to the global order.

Over the past ten years, the neo-liberal policies implemented by the Assad regime have collapsed the public sector and weakened the whole economy. Society has been impoverished, with 60 percent of Syria’s population below or just above the poverty line. The Assad clan, especially around the person of Rami Makhlouf, used the privatisation process to accumulate more than 60 percent of Syria’s economic wealth.

Yet some still say that the Syrian people should not confront their “main enemy at home”, the Assad regime, which exploits, oppresses and massacres them, because the Assad regime is supposedly “anti-imperialist”. No party, government or regime can claim to fight imperialism while oppressing and exploiting its own or other people.

The Syrian popular movement began peacefully, calling for reforms, but the regime responded with violence and repression across the board. Parts of the Syrian population then organised armed resistance to defend themselves against armed attacks from security services and regime thugs, known as Shabiha.

A code of good conduct, respect for international law and opposition to sectarianism, has been signed by a large number of armed groups belonging to the popular movement. The number of signatories continues to grow daily. This measure was taken after acts of torture and killing by armed opposition groups, not necessarily related to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which have been condemned by the popular movement and the vast majority of FSA battalions. An FSA officer has also declared in a video the aim of protecting the goals of the revolution, including total opposition to sectarianism.

Composed of military deserters and civilians who took up guns, the armed resistance has real roots in the popular insurrection. The largest section of Syria’s revolutionary movement is the proletariat and the rural and urban “middle class” who have been economically marginalised by neoliberal policies, especially since the coming to power of Bashar al-Assad. It is mainly these components of the revolution who joined the Free Syrian Army.

Thus it is completely misleading, and far from any materialist analysis, to identify the FSA’s armed groups as proxies of global imperialist or regional powers.

Similarly, to consider the armed resistance as a group of Islamists acting independently of the popular movement is far from reality. It is certain that Syrians who are Sunni Muslim represent the majority of the armed resistance, but to consider each person of this community as an Islamist is wrong and, above all, Islamophobic. In fact, a Muslim is not equivalent to an Islamist. The armed groups include all ideological, ethnic and religious components of Syrian society.

The presence of foreign fighters is a reality, but one that is exaggerated in the media and has a negligible influence on the ground. Most analysts of the region and activists in the field agree that they do not exceed 1,000 men, while Syria’s popular resistance consists of about 70,000 fighters. They are present only in a very limited number of groups. And the jihadists are often not seen in a positive light by the local population.

And the so-called “massive aid” sent by imperial powers to the popular movement and armed resistance remains to be demonstrated by tangible facts after more than 18 months of fighting. Most Western countries have refused any military assistance to the armed revolutionaries, only promising non-military aid. The feeble means of popular armed resistance comes primarily from the regime itself in the form of weapons carried by defecting soldiers, buying weapons from corrupt officers and spoils of war.

The major Western countries and other imperial powers such as Russia and China, as well as regional powers such as Iran, will try to implement a Yemen-type solution in Syria – to cut off the head of the dictator, Bashar Al Assad, while keeping his regime’s structure intact. The Russian position of trying to keep Assad in power may be sacrificed in the near future to protect its interests in Syria. The United States has repeatedly expressed its desire to keep intact the structure of Syria’s military and security services.

The great powers do not actually favor seeing the regime collapse. Nor does Israel, whose borders with Syria have been quiet since 1973.

The Syrian people repeat their rejection of sectarianism, despite the regime’s attempts to light this dangerous fire. The popular movement has reaffirmed its united struggle, developing a sense of national solidarity that transcends social, ethnic and sectarian divisions. Just in the past few days, under the title “A Revolution of Dignity and Morals”, the committees in the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) has initiated an a continuous campaign to focus on the principles and goals of the Syrian revolution.

At many mobilisations, we can see placards like “Sectarianism is the tomb of the revolution” and “No to sectarianism.”

The local coordination committees also organised a campaign last June under the slogan “Freedom is my religion”. The LCC displayed placards rejecting sectarian discourse, the sectarian practices of the regime and its deadly attempts to transform the Syrian revolution into a sectarian trap. The Saraqeb committee waved symbols of all faiths Syrian protesters, while Daeel’s LCC displayed a sign saying: “In the future Syria, the policy of exclusion will be ended.”

These indicators reflect the political and humanist consciousness of a majority in the popular movement. The Syrian people are aware that the fight against sectarianism demands the overthrow of the criminal regime and a radical change in society.

This break with the regime’s sectarian policies and practices also opposes the Gulf states, with their sectarian propaganda, and the minority among the Syrian opposition who support this kind of discourse.

The Gulf states financially support some small Islamist armed groups, but not to enable the victory of the Syrian revolution. On the contrary, it’s an attempt to divert the Syrian revolution from its main objectives: civil democracy, social justice and freedom. The Gulf states fear the spread of revolution in the region which would threaten their power and interests. Changing the nature of the Syrian revolution into a sectarian war would give their own people this message: every change could well lead to sectarian war, therefore the status quo – in other words, the dictators – should be maintained.

The reactionary leaders of these countries want to intervene in Syria to contain the revolutionary process and restrict the political, social and economic revolutions.

The struggle of the Syrian people echoes this sentence from the Communist Manifesto: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

The left cannot but support the struggle in Syria for dignity and freedom, as we have done for other popular revolutions in the region.

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