Friday, November 11, 2016

Socialists and wars in the 21st century – The case of Syria

In a recent article, “Syria and the Antiwar Tradition,” published in the Socialist Project’s on-line bulletin The Bullet, David Bush discusses various positions taken by international left currents on issues raised by the current war in Syria and asks what, if anything, socialists can or should do about it.

Bush advances many arguments, and I agree with much of what he writes. But since I had expressed a somewhat different approach in a members-only email discussion list of Socialist Project, the Bullet editors asked if I would like to comment on the article for publication. Pursuant to that invitation, I submitted a response to Bush’s article to the editors on November 5. Since it has not yet been published I reproduce it below, as submitted together with a list of suggested readings and a short article by Gilbert Achcar that I considered apposite.

As well, I use this opportunity to add some additional comments following that article on an aspect of the debate that I alluded to only briefly in my original text.

* * *

Solidarity with the people of Syria! Build the antiwar movement!

By Richard Fidler

David Bush’s article “Syria and the Antiwar Tradition,” in the November 3 issue of The Bullet, is a commendable attempt to debate what antiwar activists in Canada and other “Western” countries should be saying and doing about the current war in Syria.

In that country, the rebel cities that rose up four years ago in revolt against the brutal Assad dictatorship are now under a genocidal siege, bombed and assaulted from the air by Assad’s military aided and abetted by Russian fighter jets and bombers. Their desperate fight for survival, if unsuccessful, will put paid to the Arab Spring and with it the potential for building a democratic, anti-imperialist governmental alternative in the Middle East for an extended period to come. Socialists everywhere have every interest in supporting the Syrian people and opposing that war.[1]

David Bush correctly calls for building a broad antiwar movement in this country and he cites as precedents the powerful movements against the Vietnam war in the 1960s and ’70s and the Iraq war in 2003. Oddly, however, in discussing how the antiwar movement should address the war in Syria, he wants to impose limits on the political message and alignments of the movement that in my view would contradict the goal of building a united front of opposition to the war. In doing so, he — unwittingly — reveals one of the major reasons why such a movement is lacking.

David takes issue in particular with “sections of the international left” that seek to build a movement of support to the anti-Assad opposition and opposition to the brutal military assault on it by the regime and its allies, chiefly Putin’s Russia. They are framing the complex situation in Syria “in ways that are completely off the mark in terms of guiding an appropriate response at home,” he charges.

For socialists in the imperialist countries, he says, “the main enemy is at home.” In Canada, this means focusing the antiwar movement on Canada’s “drive to war” while presumably putting solidarity with the Syrian people and their democratic popular uprising on the back burner. He criticizes some left opponents of the war for confusing “the act of building a solidarity movement with the act of building an antiwar movement.” Solidarity, he says, involves “bringing awareness and material support to a group of people,” while an antiwar movement is directed to “stopping your own government’s drive to war.”

“Speaking out on crimes perpetrated elsewhere is important but prioritizing the fight at home is key....”

I fail to see this distinction between building solidarity and building an antiwar movement. The revolutionary socialist movement has historically not made such a distinction: building mass antiwar movements is precisely the clearest and most direct way to express solidarity with the victims of imperialist war and the democratic and revolutionary forces on a global scale.

“[P]rioritizing the fight at home,” David explains, means that “In Canada, the focus should be on ensuring the Liberals do not re[-]engage with airstrikes in Syria. It also means demanding the [Canadian] troops be withdrawn from the Middle East and from the Ukraine and Eastern Europe, while also advocating for more refugees to be taken in and stopping Canada’s escalating arms trade.”

In themselves, these are good demands. But isn’t there something missing? What about the bombing, and the actually existing war that is taking place today in Syria? Surely we can’t remain silent on that.

For example, in France an antiwar committee called a demonstration for October 29 in Paris around a number of demands that speak to the self-determination of the Syrian people. Among them: Immediate end to the bombing of Aleppo and in the rest of Syria; departure from Syria of all foreign militias and occupation armies; international prosecution of war criminals; French government assurance of protection, in accordance with international law, of the Syrian people, prevented up to now from having the necessary means to defend themselves against the air bombing of schools, hospitals, markets and homes; immediate and unconditional access to the besieged and starving populations, in coordination with the democratically elected local councils; and immediate freeing of all political prisoners in Syria.

These demands, or some variation of them, should resonate with many people, not least the Syrian exile community whose ranks are now swelled by millions as a result of Assad’s brutal repression. In Ottawa recently, I chanced upon a group of about 100 demonstrators on Parliament Hill waving Canadian and Syrian flags. Almost all of the demonstrators were Syrian Canadians. The demonstration, I was told by the chief marshal, had been hastily organized within their community to call on the Canadian government to protest the bombing of Aleppo and other cities. The demonstrators’ slogans were clear and straightforward: Stop the bombing! End foreign intervention! Trudeau, speak out against Assad’s murderous assault!

But where was the traditional antiwar movement? And what if anything is it doing about Syria? The most recent statement on the Canadian Peace Alliance web site is headlined Stop Bombing Syria. But it is focused on NATO. Not wrong in principle, but the statement, addressed to Canada’s previous bombing of ISIS positions in Syria, is many months out of date. There is nothing on the CPA site about the current murderous air and bombing assault on Syria’s cities. And it would appear that across the country the movement is doing nothing to protest the war.

Why the silence? Is it only because Trudeau has pulled Canada’s fighter jets out of Syria; after all, Canadian planes and troops are active in other parts of the Middle East. The CPA denounces the bombing of Syria by Harper and Trudeau but says nothing about the bombing now by Putin.

In my view, the failure of the antiwar movement in Canada — and elsewhere — to address the situation in Syria is a reaction in part not only to the admittedly complex nature of the military and political alignments involved but in particular to a shift in global geopolitics that the anti-imperialist and antiwar activists are having difficulty assimilating and incorporating in their strategy. (For explanations of those alignments see the suggested readings listed at the end of this article.)

To put it bluntly, I sense a reluctance on the part of many activists to condemn the Russian bombing and its alliance with Assad when Russia itself is the target of NATO encirclement and threats of aggression, especially in Eastern Europe. This is understandable. As David Bush notes, political and economic elites in the “West” are waging a campaign to demonize Russia, reflected in hypocritical attacks on some antiwar organizations for not signing on to that campaign. As David says, we must reject the view that Russia is the main enemy on a global scale. Thus it is logical and correct for him to include the demand for Canadian and NATO troop withdrawals from Ukraine and Eastern Europe among the appropriate demands for the antiwar movement of today.

But does that preclude criticism and denunciation of Russia’s bombing and overall counter-revolutionary strategy in Syria? That was the view of one comrade in an email discussion I participated in recently. He expressed his discomfiture at criticism of Russia’s conduct in Syria. “Where Russia is concerned,” he said, we should instead aim our fire at the U.S. and NATO.

This seems an evasion to me. It is not the U.S. or NATO which are bombing the hell out of Aleppo and other dissident cities, it is Assad and his Russian ally. To be sure, Putin's commitment to maintaining the Assad regime is in part motivated as a response to threatening moves by the U.S. and NATO in other regions, especially eastern Europe. But do such maneuvers oblige us to maintain silence on Russia's atrocities in Syria? (As it happens, in Syria the U.S. has been attempting to collaborate with Russia and the Assad regime in efforts to rout its Islamist fundamentalist opponents.)

It is no accident that David turns to the pre-World War I debates among socialists for historical precedents for today’s antiwar movement. Our world today is much more like the world in the early 20th century, one of contending imperialist powers of uneven strength and influence, than to the Cold War confrontation of East and West blocs that shaped global politics in the latter half of the century.

David draws attention to the linkage between war and imperialism that the early socialists made. As he notes, however, their fine resolutions were ignored when the war broke out: “most sections of the [Socialist] International sided with their own ruling class.” The “correct orientation of each national group,” he says, “was to oppose its own ruling class’s drive to war.” The main enemy is at home.

I agree, but would add that this stance did not mean that socialists in one imperialist country would turn a blind eye to the crimes of other imperialist powers in their mutual rivalry for plunder of resources, new markets and colonies. Socialist internationalism was the corollary of consistent solidarity with all the peoples and nations subject to imperialist exploitation and aggression. That is the essence of the resolutions of the Second International and the Zimmerwald Left cited by David.

This points us to the need for political clarity in the united front of antiwar opposition David proposes we build. He cites the precedents of the mass movements that were built in opposition to the Vietnam war in the 1960s and ’70s and the global mobilizations against the impending Iraq invasion in 2003. In both cases, as he notes, the “terms of the movement were simple: do you oppose the war? If yes, then let’s join forces on that question and debate other political perspectives along the way.”

“What has been lost in the debate around the war in Syria is precisely this perspective,” he says.

Actually, in the case of the Vietnam war, it was not quite that simple. A fierce debate was waged in the movement, especially in the United States, over the slogans that would build the broadest front of opposition to the war and solidarity with the revolution. In the beginning many antiwar activists wanted to focus the movement on the demand for negotiations to end the war in the hope of finding common ground with bourgeois politicians by conceding some legitimate interest to Washington, some interest it could defend in negotiations with the Vietnamese revolutionaries. Those in the militant wing of the movement, on the other hand, argued for the simple demand “Out Now!,” which was consistent with the democratic right of the Vietnamese people to self-determination and thus an expression of the fullest solidarity.

Over time, with mounting antiwar sentiment among the public and the U.S. troops, spurred by the military victories of the Vietnamese fighters themselves, Out Now became the dominant slogan, and around that demand a mighty movement was built that eventually did force Nixon to the bargaining table, where Washington was obliged to make concessions that contributed to the ultimate victory of the Vietnamese revolution. (In Canada, we also raised the demand for an end to Canada's complicity with Washington's war.)

The point is that opposition to a war may not by itself be sufficient as the basis for building an effective antiwar united front. The central demands must be principled and point to the clearest and most effective way to end the imperialist intervention and advance the interests of those fighting it on the ground. Thus I would question David’s assertion that in the case of Syria a united front of antiwar opposition should include “all those who advocate for ending the involvement of your own ruling classes.” Would that include supporters of Assad? Of the Russians, or of the other forces allied with them? David rightly rejects such alliances elsewhere in his article. I would think the central political message should include the demand for an immediate end to the bombing and the assault on the civilian population, coupled with other demands that express material solidarity with the Syrians, not their government — along the lines of the slogans raised in the Paris and Ottawa demonstrations I noted above.

In the case of both Vietnam and Iraq, the war was the project of the hegemonic imperialist power, the United States, albeit in alliances with lesser imperialist powers. And in Vietnam, the other protagonists were North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front: strong forces united around a common project of national liberation, re-unification of their country, and a break from imperialist domination.

In the Middle East today this scenario does not apply in the same way. In fact, the lack of a united anti-imperialist, anti-Hussein movement in Iraq was the primary explanation for the failure of the resistance. And disappointment over the failure of the global antiwar protests in early 2003, immense as they were, to impede the Pentagon assault on Iraq is a major factor in the passivity of the international antiwar movement today. The more recent Arab Spring, inspiring as it was, could not compensate, as it took the form of largely spontaneous uprisings that, even where victorious, did not produce major democratic or popular conquests and in Egypt were soon succeeded by a regime even more repressive than Mubarak’s.

But there is a further factor as well. Today’s world differs substantially from that of the Vietnam war. In the 1960s, a military, political and economic bloc led by a dominant imperialist power, the United States, confronted a bloc of states that in one way or another had been torn from the circuits of capital accumulation under Wall Street’s aegis and constituted a vital source of support and even survival for “Third World” liberation movements, as in the case of the Cuban revolution. Today, in the wake of the collapse of the ostensibly “socialist” bloc, we need to pay more attention to the shape of the world that is emerging on a global scale. In a context of declining U.S. hegemony and the emergence of new and nuclear-armed capitalist powers like China and Russia, we must assess what that means for the anti-imperialist fighters of today.

I think it is wrong to approach Syria as just another front in some “new Cold War” between Russia and the U.S. and NATO. Each situation must be assessed in terms of the class forces involved, not some abstract geopolitics that overlooks the interplay of contending imperial interests. In the post-Cold War world, a new era of national and inter-imperialist competition and rivalry, socialists undermine their own credibility if they limit their “anti-imperialism” to denouncing only their “own” imperialism. As Gilbert Achcar argues in a valuable article I have appended below, our starting point in this case must be the interests of the Arab revolution, the Arab Spring, and the popular uprising that in Syria erupted almost half a decade ago.

The challenge posed to the antiwar movement by the global configuration of forces is huge, there is no denying it. But where peoples are fighting their oppression and imperialist intervention, there is no dichotomy between antiwar resistance and solidarity with the forces on the ground. Nor should our solidarity be determined by whether or to what degree the Canadian state is directly involved.

Yes, in Canada we must direct our fire against the Trudeau government’s aggressive moves against Russia and its present and projected military engagements elsewhere, as in Africa.

But a consistent antiwar movement should also have no hestitation in attempting to mobilize solidarity with the Syrian democratic and popular opposition — for an end to the war: for an end to the bombing, withdrawal of all foreign troops (in this case mainly Russian), and emergency provision of massive food, medical and other necessary supplies to the population in the besieged cities.

November 5, 2016

* * *

Middle East: Standing Against Barbarism

by Gilbert Achcar

[Republished from Jacobin, October 20, 2016, originally published in Arabic at http://www.madamasr.com.]

Both the Syrian regime and the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen aim to bury the aspirations of the Arab Spring.

The Arab political opinion falls into two main categories: those who condemn the murderous and destructive bombing of Syrian cities and rural areas by the Syrian regime and its Russian master and keep silent about the murderous and destructive bombing of Yemeni cities and rural areas by the Saudi-led coalition, when they don’t support the latter; and those who condemn the murderous and destructive bombing of Yemeni cities and rural areas by the Saudi-led coalition and keep silent about the murderous and destructive bombing of Syrian cities and rural areas by the Syrian regime and its Russian master, when they don’t support the latter.

We hardly hear the voice of the third category, those who condemn both bombings and regard them as equally criminal (even though there is no denying that the bombing by the Syrian regime and its Russian master has caused much more killing and much greater destruction than the other). And yet this third category exists and it is certainly larger and more widespread than what its silence would lead one to believe.

It is the category of those who put the interests and safety of populations above all political considerations and reject the deplorable logic according to which “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” regardless of the nature of this “friend,” the values that he represents and the goals that he pursues. The truth is, indeed, that the counterrevolutionary forces that mobilized against the great Arab uprising of 2011, known as the Arab Spring, are of various sorts and forms.

Both the Syrian regime and the Saudi one are key pillars of the old rotten Arab regime against which the uprising stood up, with the dream of being able to sweep it away and replace it with an order that would provide “bread, freedom, social justice, and national dignity” — the slogan that was chanted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and numerous other squares providing the best summary of the aspirations of the Arab Spring. The purpose of both bombings — that perpetrated by the Syrian regime and its Russian master and that perpetrated by the Saudi regime and its allies — is one in essence: they both aim at burying the revolutionary process ignited in Tunisia on December 17, six years ago.

The role of the Syrian regime and its Iranian (with auxiliaries) and Russian allies in confronting the Syrian revolution and repressing it with the ugliest and vilest means at the cost of untold massacre and destruction, is as clear as could be — except in the eyes of those who don’t want to see and persist in denying the reality or strive to justify it in presenting the uprising as a foreign conspiracy, thus repeating the worn-out argument of all reactionary regimes confronted with uprisings and revolutions.

As for the role of the Saudi regime in heading the Arab reaction, it is attested by the kingdom’s entire history, especially since the winds of liberation from colonialism and imperialism started blowing over the Arab region. Since 2011, this role took different forms from direct repressive intervention as occurred in Bahrain to support to the old regime by various means as occurred in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as provision of assistance and funding to Salafist groups in Syria in order to drown the uprising in a religious sectarian ideology that suits the kingdom and thus to ward off the democratic threat that the Syrian revolution represented for Arab despotism in all its variants, and not for the Syrian Baathist regime alone.

In Yemen, the neighboring country where events are the object of its greatest concern, the Saudi kingdom intervened to foster a compromise between the very reactionary Ali Abdallah Saleh and an opposition dominated by reactionary forces. This shoddy agreement was doomed to be short-lived: it collapsed and with it collapsed the Yemeni state, leading the country in its turn into the inferno of war.

The Yemeni war is not one between a revolutionary camp and a counterrevolutionary one, but one between two camps antithetic to the fundamental aspirations for which Yemen’s youth rose up in 2011. The Saudi-led intervention is supporting one side in a war between two reactionary camps and for considerations that are exclusively related to the kingdom’s security. Its main tool fits well its reactionary nature: the aerial bombing of populated areas with indifference for the murder of civilians, identical in that respect to the Russian bombing in Syria, not to mention the Syrian regime’s deliberate murder of civilians.

That is why it is indispensable that all those who are loyal to the hopes created by the Arab uprising and keen on reviving the revolutionary process that it unleashed and that was faced with severe reactionary relapse two years after it started, it is indispensable that all of them stick to a consistent attitude in condemning the reactionary onslaught that is falling from the sky, whichever its source is.

This is one aspect of what it takes to build in the Arab region a progressive pole independent of all the poles and axes of the old Arab regime and its reactionary contenders — the indispensable condition if the Arab revolution is to arise again and resume the march that it began six years ago, short of which there is no hope of overcoming the catastrophic situation into which the region has degenerated.

Gilbert Achcar is professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His most recent books are Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism and The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising.

Suggested reading:

US imperialism and the war for the Middle East, by Corey Oakley

The Western left and the Syrian war, by Corey Oakley

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution, by Ashley Smith

Dereliction of Duty? The Left and the Syrian Civil War, by Evan Sandlin

* * *

Further Thoughts, added November 11, 2016

Both David Bush and I agree that an antiwar movement today, as always, must be anti-imperialist in its orientation. We both oppose the aggressive foreign policy of successive Canadian governments, including Canada’s membership in NATO and its recent participation in the NATO encirclement strategy aimed at Russia. We both draw on the best traditions of the early socialist movement, in particular the internationalist stance taken during the First World War by the revolutionary wing of the socialist movement in Europe: in each of the warring imperialist countries, the socialists had to prioritize opposition to the aggression of their “own” governments and ruling classes; this antiwar opposition, I would add, was an act of supreme solidarity with the antiwar opposition in the opposing “enemy” countries. And we both cited the Zimmerwald Manifesto, adopted by antiwar socialists during that war. However, in the context of Syria today, there is more to be said in this regard.

The Zimmerwald Manifesto, adopted in 1915 at a conference of European socialists, was a powerful appeal for “a peace without annexations or war indemnities.” The right of self-determination of peoples, it said, “must be the indestructible principle in the system of national relationships of peoples.”[2]

Some of the Manifesto’s signatories were critical of the Manifesto, however, for failing to link the struggle against war with the struggle for socialism. Lenin, in particular, was insistent that “a revolutionary struggle for socialism is the only way to put an end to the horror of war.”[3] In a pamphlet he drafted on behalf of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, immediately prior to the Zimmerwald conference, Lenin explained that “our attitude towards war is fundamentally different from that of the bourgeois pacifists (supporters and advocates of peace) and of the Anarchists” who were a major influence in the workers movement in many European countries at that time.[4] His thesis is summarized at the very outset of the first chapter:[5]

We differ from the former in that we understand the inevitable connection between wars and the class struggle within a country; we understand that wars cannot be abolished unless classes are abolished and socialism is created; we also differ in that we regard civil wars, i.e., wars waged by an oppressed class against the oppressor class, by slaves against slaveholders, by serfs against landowners, and by wage-workers against the bourgeoisie, as fully legitimate, progressive and necessary. We Marxists differ from both pacifists and anarchists in that we deem it necessary to study each war historically (from the standpoint of Marx’s dialectical materialism) and separately. [Emphasis added]

These key propositions were in substance adopted in the program of the Communist International in Lenin’s day. See, for example, the Theses on the National and Colonial Question adopted at the Second Congress in 1920.[6] And they served as useful guidelines in assessing the Second World War, a complex combination of five different conflicts: as Ernest Mandel summarized them, (1) an inter-imperialist war fought for world hegemony and won by the United States; (2) a just war of self-defence by the Soviet Union against an imperialist attempt to colonize the country and destroy the achievements of the 1917 Revolution; (3) a just war of the Chinese people against imperialism which would develop into a socialist revolution; (4) a just war of the Asian colonial peoples against the various military powers and for national liberation and sovereignty, which in some cases (e.g. Indochina) spilled over into socialist revolution; and (5) a just war of national liberation fought by populations of the occupied countries of Europe, which would grow into socialist revolution (Yugoslavia and Albania) or open civil war (Greece, North Italy).[7]

In my view, this approach is relevant to the present situation in Syria: and in particular, the progressive nature of the Syrian masses’ “civil war” directed against their oppression and repression by the Assad regime and by necessary implication the global imperialist system of which it is a component. This struggle is in essence a class struggle, and its success (and the success of the other democratic uprisings in the Arab Spring) is a precondition to the development and ultimate success of the fight for a socialist Arab East. Socialists should have no hesitation in supporting that struggle and opposing all imperialist intervention aimed at suppressing it.

– Richard Fidler

Appendix:

In my text for The Bullet, above, I mentioned the demands of a coalition sponsoring a Paris demonstration in defense of Aleppo. Since then, a statement by another coalition participating in that demonstration has come to my attention. Since it is even clearer in its anti-imperialist thrust, it is worth republication here.

Statement by French coalition against the bombing of Syria’s rebel cities

The following statement was issued by the Collectif Avec la Révolution Syrienne [Collective in support of the Syrian Revolution – ARS] in advance of a demonstration in Paris November 5 to protest the Assad regime’s siege, supported by Russian fighter jets and bombers, of urban areas in Syria inhabited by civilian opponents of the regime. The full list of members of the collective, which includes about eight organizations including the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste, appears in the French text of the statement, available here. My translation.[8]

* * *

On October 20, 2016, after a month of mass killings organized by the air forces of Assad and Putin, the population of Aleppo, taking advantage of a truce lasting a few days, came into the streets again. And as they have said since the beginning of the revolution, in 2011, they chanted “the people want the fall of the regime.”

Despite weeks of bombardment, they refused again to leave the besieged city and denounced the population replacement policy orchestrated by Assad in some regions (as in Darayya, or Moaddamya recently).

Against and despite it all, the civilian and armed resistance continues to fight both the Assad regime and Daesh.

After discussing for more than a year with Putin, whose army is massacring civilians in the liberated zones, many diplomats turned up the volume, especially in the United Nations, when Putin and Assad stepped up the massacres in Aleppo.

While the Aleppo bombing is (provisionally?) less intensive now, the bombing of civilian populations in many regions continues.

Furthermore, Eastern Aleppo, like other regions, is still under siege, and more than 251,000 political prisoners are still being mistreated (and often tortured to death).

There are many eyes riveted now on Mosul, Iraq, and on Raqqa, Syria, controlled by Daesh. The international coalition (including France) is intervening there with the proclaimed objective of “eradicating” Daesh. But eradicating Daesh while letting the butcher Assad quietly continue to annihilate the Syrian people; need we recall that more than 90% of the dead civilians in Syria were killed by Assad and not Daesh? Daesh developed with Assad’s complicity and because of the international abandonment of the Syrian people whom Assad has been massacring for five years, amidst the indifference of many.

The best way to put an end to Daesh and the Assad regime is not through foreign intervention but by supporting the people of Syria in their struggle against these two scourges. A people who have demonstrated their great capacity to self-organize.

But the governments of the regional and international powers are above all unwilling to support a people who demand the right to their self-determination, that is, to decide their future themselves without being massacred, whether it be by a Syrian dictator or by the Russian, Iranian, Iraqi armed forces, or by Hezbollah.

So it is necessary to continue demanding an end to all the bombing of the Syrian populations — by the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies, first, but also by the coalition led by the United States in which France is participating, which provide Russia with an argument to justify its own bombing and which reinforces the jihadist propaganda.

While the major global powers try to impose, via the UN in particular, their view of how the conflict in Syria should be resolved, only the popular and democratic forces are able to bring about a peaceful political solution to the present tragic situation.

From this standpoint, we must support the convergence among all the democratic forces, especially Arabs and Kurds, fighting against the powers that oppress them in Syria and in the other countries of the region.

It is up to the Syrian people to determine their own future and to define the forms of support that seem necessary to them, support that the supposed “friends of Syria” have completely perverted. We must open our borders and welcome in decent conditions the populations that are fleeing the war.

__________________________________

The organizations in the collective With the Syrian Revolution and the Declaration of Damascus for a democratic change, in their diversity and with their own analyses, support the following common basis:

For an immediate halt to all bombing in Syria!

For an immediate end to all the sieges, and immediate freeing of all the political prisoners!

For the departure from Syria of all foreign armed forces!

The demand of the Syrian people for the departure of Assad and the end of his regime, immediately and unconditionally, is legitimate. It will help to shorten the suffering of the population, allow the return of the refugees to their country and build a free and democratic Syria.

Solidarity with the people in struggle against the barbarism of Assad and his allies, against the barbarism of Daesh, for a democratic alternative. It is for the Syrian people and they alone to determine their future and whatever support they think they need, including weapons to defend themselves against the death raining down on them from the skies.

For an international mobilization calling for humanitarian aid and a welcome for the refugees!


[1] For a recent description of some of the ways in which the Syrian grassroots opposition has organized in the face of Assad’s repression, see “Self Organization in the Syrian Revolution,” by Mark Boothroyd.

[2] See the text of the Manifesto in John Riddell (ed.), Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents 1907-1916 (New York, 1984), pp. 318-321.

[3] For Lenin’s critique, see ibid., pp. 331-336.

[4] The pamphlet, entitled “Socialism and War,” can be found in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 295 et seq.

[5] Ibid., p. 299.

[6] John Riddell (ed.), Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920 (New York, 1991), Vol. I, pp. 283-290.

[7] Ernest Mandel, The Meaning of the Second World War (Verso, 1986), p. 45.

[8] The editors of the web site Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières note that this text “converges” with those of two other groups joining in the same demonstration: Pour une Syrie libre et démocratique (PSLD) and La Déclaration de Damas pour un Changement Démocratique en Syrie - Comité de France.”

2 comments:

  1. YASSIN AL-HAJ SALEH:

    'In America, the leftists are against the establishment in their own country. In a way, they thought that the U.S. establishment was siding with the Syrian revolution — something that is completely false and an utter lie — and for this reason they have stood against us. And this applies to leftists almost everywhere in the world. They are obsessed with the White House and the establishment powers of their own countries. The majority are also still obsessed with the old Cold War-era struggles against imperialism and capitalism.

    Many on the left look at Syria and know nothing about the relationship between the Assad regime and the Western powers. The Assad regime was never a power against imperialism in the Middle East. In fact, it always sought a role for itself in the imperial game in the region. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that Assad was against imperialism. Even if that were the case, the Syrian people would still be a part of the deal! We as a people are not merely a tool for the narratives of the Western left. This is our country. We are not guests.

    Over the past several years, there has been, in effect, a “Palestinization” of the Syrian people. We are being dealt with by the regime, and the world, as a people who will be annihilated politically. Maybe they won’t kill all of us. Many of us are still living. After all, only around half a million or so have been killed so far. But politically, they are annihilating us the same way that the Palestinians are being annihilated.

    At the same time, there is a corresponding “Israelization” of the Syrian regime. The same way that Israel relies on the United States for United Nations Security Council vetoes to protect it internationally, the Syrian regime now relies on vetoes from Russia. In Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, only one side — Israel’s — has air power. The same is true in the conflict between Assad and the opposition.'
    [http://notris.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/syrias-voice-of-conscience-has-message.html]

    ReplyDelete
  2. Comrade Fidler's analysis has a glaring hole within it. It doesn't recognize that the overall situation in Syria has been irrevocably altered since the events of the Arab Spring.

    Since that time of popular ferment, the progressive potential of the Syrian revolt has, tragically, been transformed into its opposite. The movement has been largely cut across and neutralized from within and without by the hegemony of counter-revolutionary forces.

    The Syrian crisis is now dominated by a military struggle, which is practically ignored in comrade Fidler's article. Not only that, but the Syrian armed opposition is overwhelmingly dominated by reactionary Salafist militias. These counter-revolutionary outfits are sustained with arms and vehicles, money, intelligence, and foreign recruits by outside interventionist powers such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

    The islamist fighters -- so beloved by the naive impressionist 'left' -- currently hold east Aleppo, for example: such notorious outfits like the Al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al Sham, and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. (All these so-called 'revolutionaries' and 'moderates' are supporters of Sharia Law.)

    Are these the forces that comrade Fidler expects to champion revolution in a Syria liberated from the Assad government?

    What is the basis for hoping that these armed extremists, who are funded by reactionary regional powers, can ever be genuine agents of democracy and liberation in Syria?

    Do Saudi Arabia and Turkey intervene in Syria in behalf of freedom and democracy? Do they support revolution?

    Such ideas are preposterous on their face. Such a 'revolution,' in truth, can only be a counter-revolution!

    Revolution can never come out of a force so dominated, as the Syrian armed opposition is, by anti-democratic religious ideologues who are the agents of reactionary powers (such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the CIA).

    Should the armed opposition ever succeed (which looks unlikely) the very last thing they would do, would be to hand over power to secular democrats, or to local citizens councils in Syria, or to socialist revolutionaries! What a joke! Instead, they would ruthlessly suppress any democratic stirrings and kill any socialists foolhardy enough to raise their heads.

    And what of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA)? Does it represent a democratic and revolutionary alternative?

    The answer is plainly no. For example, at this moment in northern Syria, Turkey is carving out a 'safe zone' for its mercenary militias, a zone which is intended to be free of Kurdish forces and any opposition to Turkish occupation. The FSA brigades are helping the Turks to clear this zone, showing that these 'freedom fighters' are nothing more than armed proxies of the Turkish regime and ruling class.

    Comrade Fidler's analysis is blind to the hegemony of counter-revolutionary forces within the Syrian armed opposition. It furthermore ignores the intervention of reactionary regional powers, who are all longstanding allies of US and NATO imperialism. Regrettably, such glaring oversights are fatal to the usefulness of comrade Fidler's analysis as a guide to understanding the current Syrian reality.

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