Yesterday (Dec. 17), we had a chance to debate with an apologist for Putin/Assad (and Iran’s Rouhani and their client, Hezbollah) on WRFU’s World Labor Hour. (Hear it here, starting at about 60 minutes in.)
Our basic principle should be (as the IWW says), “the working class and the employing class (i.e. the capitalist class) have nothing in common.” This not only applies to the representatives of the US capitalist class, but also of the Syrian and Russian capitalist class, meaning Assad and Putin, as well as Iran’s Rouhani and the Hezbollah.
The essence of the situation is that there was a popular uprising against that representative of the World Bank, Assad, in 2011. Faced with massive repression, the uprising became militarized and was unable to find a way forward as a “people’s” political revolt. We don’t know who, exactly, is organizing against the regime right now, although as recently as March of this year there were protests throughout Syria against both Assad and the Islamic jihadists. But in another sense, it really doesn’t matter since the present strategy of Putin/Assad is mass murder.
It was interesting to hear what this apologist for them had to say in response.
Mass Murder Becomes “This Implementation”
She started off by denouncing any call for US intervention, but that is a false flag, designed to distract, as I had made perfectly clear that I was opposed to that.
Then she commented: “I have no doubt that people were killed during this implementation (meaning the Russian
forces’ bombings of Aleppo and elsewhere). I think this is always going to happen during conditions of war. but it was not intentional.” All she’d have had to do was add the terms “collateral damage”, and she’d have sounded exactly like a US State Department spokesperson defending the latest drone or other outrage by US forces in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere.
As in Grozny (Chechnya), the reactionary Putin capitalist regime targeted the people of Aleppo, directly contrary to the false claims of the Putin/Assad apologist. It is little different from what the criminal Israeli regime did in Gaza with the backing of their US allies (including the working class “savior”, Bernie Sanders).
She talked about the RT reporter Eva Bartlett, who’s spent a good deal of time in Syria: “She is independent. She’s boots on the ground,” she said. This is a reporter for that organ of the Putin administration, RT, who has been in Syria as a guest of the Assad regime, as I pointed out on the radio show. And given Assad’s long, long history of arrest, torture and murder of any critic of his regime, there is no way that Bartlett could have survived there had she been honestly reporting what has been and is happening.
Then this defender of the World Bank stooge Assad commented “The Syrian government… is legitimate, just as Russia is operating within international law.” This is the fall-back position of all the left-liberal defenders of these representatives of the capitalist class of their particular countries (Assad, Putin, etc.). That they are operating within capitalist legality. It shows that they have not the slightest connection with the working class, not in their own country nor with the global working class movement. Who cares if these regimes are doing what they and their class have made legal? Under that cover, we would have to defend what the governor of North Dakota did when he called up law enforcement from the surrounding states to attack the protesters at Standing Rock. All of that was done under the law, too.
On this basis, the US government’s war in Vietnam was perfectly okay because the US was invited in by the “legitimate” government of South Vietnam!
Defending Hindu Nationalist
Then this defender of capitalist legality defended US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbert as being “too good to be true.” This is a member of congress who is an anti-Muslim bigot and a supporter of India’s vicious Hindu nationalist president, Modi. (Gabbert was also happy to meet and consult with Donald Trump recently shortly after Trump’s election victory.) Oh, yes… “too good to be true”.
World Working Class
This left liberal who was on the radio show is not alone. All sorts of life-long socialists, from Jeff Mackler to Richard Mellor*, are also giving some measure or other of support to Assad, Putin, etc. The problem is that all they can see is US imperialism, and they have lost sight of the role of the working class as an independent force in history. Therefore they flail around looking for an alternative.
It’s true that that role is more difficult to see today than almost any time in many decades. But outside of orienting towards it, what alternative is there?
In this particular case, what can the workers’ movement do?
Build Direct Links
First of all, there are the Syrian refugees throughout the US and Western Europe. Socialists and other supporters of the workers’ movement should be trying to make links with them and through them try to establish direct links with the Syrian movement, both what remains of it in Syria as well as in the refugee communities in Turkey, etc. Through that, a discussion could be developed so that the workers’ movement can start to learn the lessons of what has happened in Syria and the lessons of the Arab Spring. Also, some forms of worker-to-worker aid could start to be developed. What form that would take is impossible to say from here at this point. But it would be completely impossible to establish such links on the basis of any support – either overt or covert – for the criminal and near-genocidal policies of Assad/Rouhani/Putin/Hezbollah.
We should add: It may be that some of the opponents of Assad have some illusions in seeking US military support. That would be almost inevitable at this point. As we stressed time and again on the radio show, socialists would have to be absolutely adamant in their opposition. Inviting in US military support of any kind would be like asking the wolf to guard the hen house against the fox.
Update: We have received a reply to this article from the person referred to above. It was sent as a personal e mail. Unfortunately, we were refused permission to reprint it here. She is welcome to respond to this report at any time, however.
*– since this article was written, Richard Mellor has apparently changed his position of support for Assad & Co.