Much of the left in the US is basically taking the same position that Donald Trump is taking regarding Syria. As the New York Times reports: Trump’s position is “that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians and their Russian backers.” “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump has said.
Is this so very different from those on the left who see the Islamic State and al Qaeda (in the form of Nusra) as the only opponents of Assad? Is it so different from those who justify any crime against humanity in the name of combating the Islamic State fascists? What will they say if a Trump presidency actually does join forces with Putin & Co. in Syria? Will they support that?
Basically, these lefts have abandoned any class position. They see one, and only one enemy: US imperialism. The Russian capitalist state cannot be imperialist, according to them. That includes when it imposes itself on the people of Chechnya, using the same military tactics that the racist State of Israel used against the people of Gaza.
Same as the Stalinists of Old
These lefts are taking a position similar to that taken by the Stalinists and their liberal supporters back in the 1930s and ’40s. In the first place, any reports of the crimes of Stalin & Co. are purely capitalist propaganda. Second, that those who traveled to the Soviet Union as guests of the terrorist regime of Stalin and came back with glowing reports were “independent” reporters – as if the people of the Soviet Union then or Syria today would speak openly to these “reporters” for their torturer! But, most important, back in the era of Stalin his supporters argued, in effect, that the world working class must sacrifice its interests for the interests of the “socialist homeland”, which in reality meant the Stalinist bureaucracy.
“US Imperialism the One and Only Enemy”
Today, the defenders of Putin/Assad (and Rouhani and Hezbollah) make a similar argument: That the one and only battle that matters today is that against US imperialism (and its allies, including Israel). Therefore, anything is justified in opposing US imperialism, which is the only imperialist force in the world. They forget that every capitalist state is imperialist, or would be if it could. What is the Guatemalan state when it casts covetous eyes on Belize, with the desire to invade that country? What are both the Indian and Pakistani states with regard to Kashmir? How about the Brazilian state when it sent troops into Haiti to murder Haitian workers protesting in the streets? How about the Chinese state, when it expands into Pakistan, Africa and South America?
This is not an argument in defense of the Number One terrorist, imperialist state in the world: US imperialism. It’s simply saying that imperialism is an inherent part of capitalism everywhere.
For these lefts, any crime is justified in combating the one and only enemy: US imperialism. When Putin and Assad use the same military tactics that Israel used in Gaza – basically leveling entire populated areas, bombing schools, hospitals and public markets – that is okay. That particular war against an entire people is okay. When the Industrial Workers of the World wrote: “The working class and the employing class (meaning the capitalist class) have nothing in common,” for these lefts that only applies to the United States. The representatives of the Russian, Iranian or Syrian capitalist class are our allies. The class struggle stops at the border of the United States.
Popular Uprising Became Militarized
Basically, what happened in Syria is that a mass, radical, popular rebellion against that stooge of the World Bank, Assad, became militarized. In such a situation, it’s nearly impossible for the masses of working class people to retain control. Who are the fighters against Assad now? We don’t really know, although as recently as last March, popular protests erupted throughout Syria against both the Islamic jihadists and Assad. But whoever they are, nothing can justify the mass slaughter being carried out by the air forces of Putin and Assad, nor the terrorism of the Shia terrorists, Hezbollah.
Inability to See Role of Working Class Leads to Abandonment of Socialism
The problem is that these lefts cannot see the working class as an independent force, as the subject rather than the object of history. As a result, they flail around, looking for some other force.
Support for Putin/Rouhani/Hezbollah/Assad is a betrayal of socialism just as much as is support for the US government. On either basis, it would be impossible to make the direct, worker-to-worker links that are so necessary to start to build a world workers’ movement against all these capitalist terrorists.
Those who like this article might also like this one, which is a report on a radio debate this writer had with a defender of Putin/Assad. The article also contains a link to a recording of the debate.