Middle East

Revolution and Counter-revolution in Syria: a reply to R.L. Stephens

Note: We attempted to get this article, plus a shortened version of the same article, published on the DSA blog site as a reply to an article by R.L. Stephens, who is also the editor of that site. So far, the editor has not published it, so we are doing so here.

In the summer of 2017, the US Department of Defense’s Strategic Studies institute published a report called “At Our Own Peril” in which they outlined the global threats facing US capitalism. A central feature of those threats as these strategists for US imperialism saw it, involved both the rise of the Islamic State and the threat of the Arab Spring – tendencies which they say emanate from the Arab world but may “metastasize”.

In other words, these strategists for US capitalism see the crisis in Syria as being at the center of the political crisis of world capitalism. They may be right. That is why it is crucially important that socialists understand the nature of this crisis. Unfortunately, the article written by R.L. Stephens of the DSA NPC gets it wrong on almost every count.

Hafez Assad seizes power

Basher (left) and Hafez (right) Assad. Hafez seized power in a coup aimed against the left of his party – the Baath Party.

Hafez Assad seized power in a right wing coup against the left wing of the Baath Party in 1970. As did a series of regimes in underdeveloped countries throughout the world, he did carry out a series of steps that moderated the ravages of the “free” market, nationalizing industries and intervening in the market to make basic consumer goods more affordable to Syria’s poor and working class people. He also helped many small farmers gain ownership of their own land. In part, this was possible due to the existence of the Soviet Union. However, with the capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and under the pressure of the global “free market”, his son Basher Assad reversed these measures. As industries were privatized, Assad and his cronies massively enriched themselves in a process which Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine” graphically describes in other countries. These measures were the order of the day in many of the surrounding countries. Also, Basher continued the brutally repressive regime that his father had instituted.

Arab Spring shakes the world
A revolt shook that part of the world in 2011, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt and later in

Syria. In Syria, the revolt started with a group of teen agers spray painting anti-Assad slogans

Arab Spring in Syria: a “revolution of the poor”

on a wall. Assad’s police arrested these teens, tortured them to death and then dumped their

mangled bodies at the doorsteps of their families. That did not deter the revolution there. Assad’s brutality turned thousands of rank and file soldiers against him and a layer of Assad’s officers followed, in order to be able to control the rank and file soldiers.

Assad’s “ghost troops” – the Shabiha. “Either Assad or we burn the country” was not an idle threat.

The response of the Assad regime can best be demonstrated by the slogan of Assad’s “ghost troops”: “Either Assad or we burn the country” was their slogan. This was not just some idle threat. Since that time, there has been some 500,000 people killed and over half the population has been forced out of their homes. According to one estimate It is the Assad regime which is responsible for the deaths of over 90% of the civilians killed. That stands to reason, since it is the regime plus its main backer – the Russian regime – that controls the skies in Syria. Any cursory glance at the photos and video emanating from places like East Ghouta show to what devastating effect they are using their control.

Like much of the left, R.L. Stephens largely pictures the situation as an inter-imperialist rivalry. He also sees the position of US imperialism as being similar to that in Iraq, as being a position of “regime change”. This is entirely mistaken.

“Regime Change” or Assadism without Assad?
The example of Egypt is instructive: When the Arab Spring first arose, the position of the US regime at first was to support Mubarak. Quite quickly, Obama saw Mubarak as being an obstacle to capitalist stability and called for him to step down. In Syria, things were a little more complex but essentially the same. That was why Obama called for Assad to step down, but what he never ever did was in any way call for “regime change”. In other words, similar to in Egypt, what the US regime wanted was “Assadism” without Assad. They never had any intention of carrying out the sort of regime change purge that they carried out in Iraq.

Nor did the US regime ever give serious aid to any rebel force as the article by Schulman and Sloughter,  carried in these pages, shows.

Trump supports Assad

Donald Trump. He supports Assad.

 

By 2014, the US regime had more or less dropped any effort to even institute Assadism without Assad. That was because by then they saw the greater threat as being the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially the Islamic State. Michael Karadjis has amply documented this, as for example his article documenting how the US and Jordanian regimes demanded that the Southern Army of the FSA stop fighting Assad.

Obama never explicitly stated his priorities, but Trump has. Even before he came into office, the NY Times (11/11/2016) reported his saying in an interview “that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians (i.e. Assad) and their Russian backers.” This position has been repeated since Trump came into office.

U.S. bombings of Syria
And it has been carried out in practice. Like much of the left, Comrade Stephens makes much of the recent US regime’s bombing of Assad’s chemical facilities, just as much of the left did last year following the Assad regime’s sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun. It is ironic that those same people and groups on the left more or less ignore the US air force attack on the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque near al-Jinah on March 16, 2017, just a few weeks before the bombing of the al Shayrat air field. In contrast to the latter, some 40 civilians were killed in the mosque bombing, which was an attack on the Nusra/HTS. While Nusra is not a friend of the revolution, it is attacking the Assad regime. Thus, that US attack effectively was in support of the Assad regime! In the case of the al Shayrat bombing, that attack was coordinated with the Russian regime and, through it, with the Assad regime too. Nobody was killed and that airfield was back up and running within 24 hours. The al-Shayrat bombing was simply for show; it was intended to show the world that Trump and Company are opposed to the use of chemical weapons, while at the same time ensuring that nothing was done to seriously weaken the Assad regime.

We have seen a similar but even more egregious blindness on the part of much of the left more recently. As in the al-Shayrat airfield attack, the recent attack on the  Assad regime’s chemical weapons facilities was coordinated with the Russian regime and, through them, with the Assad regime too. It was carried out for the same reasons as the al-Shayrat attack, and is not reported that anybody was killed.

Raqqa: Genuine war crimes ignored

Photo of Raqqa before and after US aerial assault. Why do so many ignore this war crime of US imperialism?

Contrast that with the US regime’s aerial bombardment and shelling of Raqqa. It is estimated that some 200 people were killed in the first several days of that attack. According to the Washington Post (4/19/2018), over 11,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged, and they say “it is easier to count the buildings that are still standing than the ones that have been reduced to shattered concrete and twisted reinforced steel.… Raqqa has become nearly unrecognizable to those who try to return and navigate its streets. Public squares are hidden underneath debris, and the tallest residential towers are mere rubble.” The picture that article carries of Raqqa is indistinguishable from photos of Gaza after the Israeli regime attacked it in 2014. If anything, the Raqqa photo is worse.

Why do these war crimes in Raqqa tend to be ignored? The most charitable explanation is that what happened in Raqqa does not fit the common narrative. That’s because the US regime’s attack on Raqqa was not an attack on the Assad regime; it was in fact in indirect support of that regime. The attack was carried out against the home base of the Islamic State in Syria; it was carried out for the US regime’s allies – the Kurds – to take over there. But the Kurdish forces have been operating with a de facto truce ( See this article among others) with the Assad regime for many years now!

Reality: A revolution from below
But all of this is somewhat beside the point. The main point is this: What happened in Syria in 2011 was a revolution from below. That revolution met with a counter revolution, just as all such revolutions do. The counter revolution took two main paths. One was that of the Assad regime and its backers – the reactionary regimes of Putin and Rouhani. The other main path was the reactionary forces of the Islamic State. (It should be mentioned that Assad himself encouraged the growth of the Islamic state. As the book “Burning Country” among others points out, shortly after the start of the Syrian revolution, he famously released from prison some 1,000 or more violent salafists. They formed the basis for the nucleus of the Islamic State in Syria.) US imperialism has played a slightly more complex but also a secondary role in Syria. While it first called for Assad to step down (Assadism without Assad), it never really seriously acted on that call. It gave moderate support to elements of the Free Syrian Army, but as the case of the Southern Army shows, it used that “support” to prohibit the FSA from really attacking Assad’s forces. Today, its overwhelming focus is on destroying the Islamic State.

Assad, Putin & Rouhani the main criminals in Syria

Here are photos of East Ghouta today and Gaza in 2014 after Israel got done bombing there. Can you tell which is which? Yet many seem to consider the mass slaughter in E. Ghouta acceptable.

Comrade Stephens raises the role of other imperialist forces, including those of the Putin regime. However, an equivalence is drawn between those forces and the forces of US imperialism. That is a serious mistake. It is the Russian forces who, together with those of Assad himself, who have caused the majority of the damage due to their bombing campaigns. It is they who have been bombing hospitals, schools, residential neighborhoods and public markets throughout the country, rather than in just one city (Raqqa). It is the Assad regime that is carrying out mass imprisonment and widespread torture and execution of political dissidents. In addition, as Leila al Shami, co-author of “Burning Country”,  among others points out, there is presently a program of ethnic cleansing being carried out throughout Syria by the Assad regime and also by the Iranian regime. These are the principle actors in Syria.

As do some others, Stephens refers to the 2,000 US troops in Syria. However, those troops are not there to conduct “regime change”; they are there to defend the PYD in North East Syria and to oppose the Islamic State. Trump made that perfectly clear when he recently called for their withdrawal, which call was based on his belief that the IS had been defeated. He was quickly corrected by his military advisors, who believe that if the US troops leave that part of Syria, that the IS will make a comeback.

Perspective for Syria
This raises the question of perspectives for Syria: With the militarization of the popular revolution from below, and with the forces opposed to Assad largely defeated militarily, what does the future hold for Syria and for Syrians? One possibility is that Syria will be divided up into different regions of imperialist influence. One region may come under the influence of Iranian sub-imperialism; another – that of the PYD – under US imperialism; and the rest under the control of the Assad regime and their sponsor, Russian imperialism. As for the 5 million plus Syrian refugees living outside Syria, it seems they will remain permanent refugees at least for the present. That is because as al Shami among others reports, if they return they are greeted with suspicion and often with arrest by the Assad regime. And anyway, where will they return to since the Assad regime (and also the Iranian one) is tending to resettle regime loyalists in the homes of these refugees. So, at least for the moment, they will live as do the millions of Palestinian refugees in semi-permanent refugee camps. Except that the conditions for the Syrian refugees are often even worse.

The Arab Spring in Syria.
From here, we cannot know what forces of this revolt remain.

What forces remain of the original revolution? Here in the United States, it’s impossible for us to really know. But there must be some; as recently as January of this year there were reports of protests against both the Assad regime and the Islamic State in several different cities not under regime control.

International working class solidarity
Socialists in the United States should be guided by the principle of international working class solidarity. First and foremost, we should be countering the disinformation campaign such as carried out by the Putin mouthpiece, RT.com, and repeated by many on the left here. This campaign pretends that what is happening in Syria is all a matter of US imperialist inspired “regime change”; that it is simply a replay of what US imperialism did in Iraq. In fact it originated as a revolution from below, and socialists should be orienting towards that revolution; we should start with that. Anything less than full support for the Syrian revolution, any tendency to ignore the massive crimes against humanity carried out mainly by the Assad, Putin and Rouhani regimes, will inevitably be correctly seen by the Syrians themselves as implicit support for one of the most brutal dictatorships of the present era, a dictatorship whose methods have been correctly likened to those of fascism. (In that regard, it is no accident that within the Assad administration is the outright fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Nor is it any accident that fascists and semi-fascists around the world support Assad. That includes former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Russian fascist Aleksander Dugin, Marine le Pen of France’s National Front, and the British National Party.) We should also be pointing out the massive US war crimes in Raqqa as well as the real role of US capitalism in Syria, which is opposition to the Syrian revolution.

Alliance of Middle East Socialists
Instead of implicitly supporting the Assad regime by ignoring its crimes, we should be following the example of the Alliance of Middle East Socialists (AMES): As we know, there have been protests and strikes in Iran against that tyrannical regime. AMES is calling on the Iranian workers to connect their struggles with that of the Syrian revolution. That is what we should be doing here in the US regarding our own working class. In addition, we should be calling for the US to admit many thousands of Syrian refugees into this country.

As events show, US capitalism actually supports the Assad regime as the lesser evil compared to either the Islamic State or, even worse (in their thinking), a popular revolution. That is true for both of the main capitalist political parties – the Republicans and the Democrats. Therefore, the campaign to support the Syrian revolution is connected with the campaign to build a mass working class political party here in the US.

Support the Syrian Revolution!
In other words, which side should socialists be on today – the side of the Syrian revolution or of the counter revolution? The question answers itself.

John Reimann
Tristan Sloughter
Ephraim Hussain
Cheryl Zuur

This piece was written before Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. That withdrawal means a possible military assault on Iran. It was also written before the Israeli murders of protesters in Gaza. With or without a US assault on Iran, a new peace movement, a movement against US imperialism, is likely to develop on a wider scale in the US. That makes a clear understanding of what is really happening in Syria and the real role of US imperialism in Syria all the more important. It is hoped that this article will contribute to that understanding.

Note: for those who are interested in further reading from this point of view, we recommend the following:

  • This piece puts the war in Syria and the role of capitalism in the former colonial world in its historical/theoretical context. It explains why capitalism in countries like Syria cannot accomplish what it did in the developed capitalist world.
  • This pamphlet explains how and why so much of the “peace movement” in the United States has come to develop politics that overlap the politics of the far right, including outright fascist groups. It puts this development in the context of the return to capitalism in Russia.

In March and April of 2016 year, despite everything the Syrian people have gone through, the protests in the streets sprang to life again. Here is a protest in Barzeh on March 18 of 2016

Categories: Middle East, Uncategorized

14 replies »

  1. There are so many glaring problems with this article that it’s difficult to know where to begin. You cite the DoD’s Strategic Studies Institute to claim that the Syrian conflict occupies a central role in the U.S. geopolitical vision, but if you go to the text itself, it makes clear that – as with the recently released National Security Strategy – that the main objectives of the U.S. is to grapple with what it calls “revisionist great powers like China and Russia” and, on a lesser scale, “gray zone challenges” in the form of “Iran and North Korea.” In case readers don’t know, this means that the U.S. identifies two of the parties bolstering the Assad regime as its geostrategic competitors, yet you would have readers believe the opposite—that the U.S. government shares the goal of Putin and that “Trump supports Assad.” This blatant distortion flies flagrantly in the face of repeated statements by the U.S. government that its objective continues to be a Syria cleansed of Assad’s rule. You do your readers a disservice from the very start.

    You then nostalgically revisit the mass demonstrations of 2011, depicting them as entirely progressive acts of resistance against a brutal dictatorship. The reality, which at this late stage of the conflict should be known by anybody who is so concerned about the conflict that they’ll publish the kind of piece that you have, is a bit more complex. The protests were contested space, combining mostly progressive elements alongside rightists who were united under rather ambiguous slogans like “dignity” (karama) and “freedom” (hurriya). Rightist militias had already been organizing underground for the prior several months and had likely been striking government targets from the very start of the demonstrations. This is a fact, and I can provide sources (no, not RT or MoonofAlabama) for these if you would like to see them.

    Sensing that they could use the protests as a cudgel to pressure Assad into relinquishing his non-compliant orientation toward U.S. imperialism, the Obama administration began funneling weapons and money – to the tune of millions then later billions of dollars – into the armed opposition. Much of this came from the reactionary Gulf governments and were directed, via U.S.-controlled MOCs in Jordan and Turkey, toward groups that reflected their far-right ideologies (e.g., Ahrar al-Sham is the pet project of Saudi Arabia). None of this U.S. meddling gets mentioned in your “response,” despite the fact that, as Karl Liebknecht argued more than a century ago, “The main enemy of every people is in their own country!” Whatever you want to call your approach, it departs in fundamental ways from Marxism.

    As a result, you completely ignore the ten U.S. military bases and presence in the eastern part of Syria. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. presence has never been stronger, with at least 5,000 people serving in a military capacity there. Despite your claims that the U.S. simply lost interest in pressuring Assad from power and was concerned only with defeating ISIS, the reality is that the war against ISIS was a convenient pretext to establish a lasting presence in the country, including in the parts of the country that contained the most lucrative oil fields, under the guise of “fighting terrorism” rather than the open program of “regime change.” At this date, with ISIS already collapsed throughout all of Syria, the U.S. military still refuses to leave. None of this makes sense according to your narrative, which stunningly accepts at face value the claims of the State Department.

    It is true that the U.S. isn’t trying to rehash Iraq in 2003. It has learned from Iraq and Libya, and doesn’t seek a total collapse of the Syrian state. This is why it has not provided enough aid to the “rebels” in Syria to actually win, but only enough to continue to prolong the conflict and exert mounting pressure on Assad. The Washington Post published a story years back in which officials from the CIA were clear on this: “The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.” To you, this amounts to “supporting Assad.” Did you catch that? “Political settlement.” What kind, we should wonder? This wasn’t just a one-off statement; it was repeated by John Kerry in a meeting at the UN with Syrian activists who wanted the US to bomb Assad to smithereens. And it has been telegraphed in countless other venues. Your analysis couldn’t be any more out of touch with reality. The U.S. doesn’t invade a country, build a dozen military bases there, and spend billions funding rebel groups because it “supports” the government. To believe otherwise is so ludicrous that it borders on outright (self-)deception.

    You then close with what may be the most disturbing thing of all: vague calls for “international solidarity.” Now, as a Marxist, I’m used to dealing in concretes. So what does “international solidarity” with the supposed “Syrian revolution” mean in the present context? How are people in the U.S. supposed to “support the Syrian revolution”? Setting aside that you can’t name the groups and parties who are leading this mythical “revolution” (an odd position to be in for a Marxist), we can guess that acting in solidarity might entail rhetorical gestures of the kind your piece is full of. But beyond that, what else does this mean? Unfortunately, all too often, it means failure to condemn U.S. attacks on the Syrian government, lest we be guilty of the crime of “Assadism.” There are those of us who have been protesting the U.S. military’s war crimes in Raqqa, the attacks on “terrorists” in eastern Syria, because we have understood all along that as Americans, our primary enemy is indeed at home, and that we had a duty to defend ALL Syrians (including Assad) from U.S. aggression. Yet all too often, the people extolling a Syrian “revolution” only find the time and energy to attack those who oppose such imperialist bombings and aggression, rather than the actual aggression itself. This, coupled with the virulently xenophobia and chauvinistic Russiagate mentality that has drifted from the liberal camp and begun to permeate certain sections of the left, has made it incredibly difficult to even begin to rebuild the kind of anti-war movement that as little as a decade ago existed in this country before the Obama campaign strangled it.

    • We do not have time to reply at length, but we will do so later. However, we note one little “detail”: in “Bolshevik’s” entire commentary, there is not one single word on the nature of the Assad regime. Not one word on its drastic neoliberal economic reforms. Not one word on its massive repression, including mass rape, mass executions, mass torture. In other words, for “bolshevik” the working class of Syria does not exist. That invalidates everything else she/he has to say.

      As far as our attitude towards US imperialism: “bolshevik” should have taken just a few minutes to look at our other articles. We have repeatedly argued against US intervention of any sort in Syria and, in fact, make clear the reality of US intervention (Raqqa) in the article above.

      We will reply at greater length later.

      • I think you have covered it off fairly well, b1917. The UNAC has been working to rebuild the antiwar movement in opposition to US imperialism’s ever spreading wars, but it is an uphill battle, not helped by sectarianism. https://www.unacpeace.org/home.html

      • UNAC? Are you serious? This is the group that sent a representative to that fascist-inspired “anti globalization” conference in Russia, the one that was connected with the Russian fascist Aleksander Dugin. The one that was also attended by the Confederate League for the South. And UNAC had no problems with that.

  2. The reason I did not issue “one word on the nature of the Assad regime” was that I was responding to you, and you had done a fairly good job covering that already. That’s generally how discussions work, but if you want to pretend that that somehow “invalidates” the facts I was pointing out in my critical response to your piece, I suppose I cannot stop you.

    I am also aware that you have been a pleasant exception to the overwhelming trend I’ve seen online and in person of people who will viciously attack people at anti-war demonstrations of being “Assadists” while refusing to participate in the demonstrate itself. You did, for instance, release a statement opposing the US attack on the Syrian government in April, and you should be commended for that. But again, you’re an exception to an unfortunate rule.

      • On the violent nature of the uprising from the beginning, I’d recommend you consult Joshua Landis, who is a leading expert on Syria in the American academy (and by no means an “Assadist” — if anything, he is a liberal do-gooder who wants to make the American empire smarter and more capable). He has written about the early violence repeatedly on his website. See https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/western-press-misled-who-shot-the-nine-soldiers-in-banyas-not-syrian-security-forces/ and https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/the-armed-gangs-controversy/. There are also articles in the New York Times that describe this early violence. Would you like links to those articles as well?

        On the fact that rightist militias were organizing in Syria, underground, well before the Daraa protests relating to graffiti, see http://world.time.com/2012/07/26/time-exclusive-meet-the-islamist-militants-fighting-alongside-syrias-rebels/ The key passage here is: “‘The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,’ Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a. The group announced its presence about six months ago, he said. Abu Zayd denied the presence of foreigners, even though TIME saw a man in the group’s compound who possessed strong Central Asian features. ‘Maybe his mother is,’ Abu Zayd said unconvincingly. ‘We are not short of men to need foreigners.'”

        This is consistent with the U.S. intelligence agencies own reports that far-right Islamists began to predominate as soon as the uprising became increasingly violent (a fact which dovetails perfectly with the fact that the early oppositionist violence appeared to be from already organized Islamist militias). I’m sure you’re aware of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s early reports in 2012 that the *armed* opposition was driven overwhelmingly by sectarian and rightist types (http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf).

        There has been a consistent issue I’ve noticed with people trying to homogenize “Syrian voices” and “the Syrian people” as if they were some monolithic entity, but that strikes me as incredibly orientalist. Around the time of the so-called Arab Spring, you had Occupy and the Tea Party both breaking out in the U.S., not to mention that there were some “libertarian” rightist types actually involved with Occupy. Why do some people have a difficult time accept that these early civil protests in 2011 in Syria were just as much a mixed bag? To this day, as polls indicate, “Syrian voices” are saying a lot of different things: http://www.gallup-international.com/surveys/syria-poll-march-2018/

        And please bear in mind that my claim was not that the *non-violent* protests in 2011 were “significantly” or overwhelmingly rightist. The problem here is that that movement was quickly shoved aside by the armed elements when things turned violent, spurred by the Assad government’s brutality (especially the older hardliners, though oddly some people want to reduce the government to just Bashar Assad) and the desire to provoke that brutality by rightist elements. There was no Soviet Union to give arms to leftist activists, who in any event were animated by relatively amorphous slogans about democracy and opposition to corruption. But there were some very powerful governments in the region who forked over billions in arms and aid to the far-right groups. If you claim to be a Leninist, you must remember that states are above all armed bodies of men. Who has the arms actually means something.

      • The opening act in the Russian Revolution was a march on the Tsar, the “Little Father”, led by a reactionary priest, Father Gapon. Had the real Bolsheviks take the approach of “bolshevik1917”, they would have simply denounced the event and washed their hands of the whole thing. Or take an example from today: Up in Western Washington state, carpenters have voted 2-1 to reject a sweetheart contract their union leadership has negotiated. (See article on this blog site.) They are engaged in a struggle to get the union to really fight for them. I have no doubt that a goodly proportion of them – possibly even the majority – voted for Trump and support him to this day. So what are we to do? Simply denounce this movement as being permeated with racism and chauvinism?

        Back to the Arab Spring: I spent nearly a week in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring. There were Coptic Christian tents, Islamic fundamentalist tents… you name it. I had an exchange with a guy who was an Islamic fundamentalist who got his imam to give me a long lecture on how the American government hates Muslims. I answered by explaining all the crimes of our government, going all the way back to the enslavement of Africans and genocide against the Native Americans. The Vietnam War, coups in Latin America… and don’t forget machine gunning US workers on strike. When I finished, the guy said I’d “entered into his head”, insisted on having a photo taken of the two of us together (I posted that photo in another article on this blog site) and told me that he hoped I’d read the Koran one day. (I thanked him very much and said I hoped he’d read the Communist Manifesto one day.) Had I followed “bolshevik’s” method, I’d have simply denounced this guy as a reactionary and walked away. In fact, given the huge variety of different tendencies in Tahrir Square, I’d have denounced the entire movement.

        But if the Russian Revolution started off with a great deal of confusion, how can we expect any less confusion at the outset of any movement today? In fact, given the collapse of the socialist movement as well as other factors, even greater confusion is inevitable. The fact that in the early days some of the participants were using such abstract slogans as “dignity”? “Bolshevik” simply ascribes that to the presence of right wing elements. If there is any greater confusion than what we see in these movements from below like the Arab Spring, it’s the confusion of the “left” including people like “bolshevik”!

        It is also significant that although “bolshevik” denounces the role of US imperialism, she/he has nothing to say about Russian imperialism and Iranian sub-imperialism. She/he hides behind the slogan that socialists should fight the enemy at home, our own capitalist class. That applies in the main in a situation of an inter-imperialist war. But that’s not what we’re seeing in Syria; there what’s happening is that there was a revolution from below and it was met with a counter-revolution. By refusing to recognize this, “bolshevik” is in effect taking the side of the counter-revolution.

        “Bolshevik” pretends that US imperialism has focused on overthrowing Assad and makes much of that alleged $1 billion. Without taking the time to get into the details, here is the answer to that: http://www.dsausa.org/the_case_for_solidarity_with_the_syrian_revolution_dl

        It is also significant that “bolshevik” seems to willingly accept the praise of the UNAC supporter. Not a word about UNAC’s collaboration with fascists. Not a word on the fact that UNAC ignores the US attack on Raqqa, which was and is the REAL US war crime in Syria. Not a word on UNAC’s de facto support for one of the most reactionary national leaders in Europe – Putin.

        And still “bolshevik” continues to ignore the massive war crimes being committed daily in Syria by the governments of Russia and Iran, as well as those committed by Assad.

        “Bolshevik” mentions the US troops stationed in northeast Syria. She/he pretends this is part of a US invasion of Syria meant to overthrow Assad. She/he covers up the fact that, in reality, these troops are there in support of the Kurds, who are in a de facto alliance with Assad! Those like “bolshevik” denounce the Free Syrian Army as stooges of US imperialism because US imperialism has given them a little bit of aid. Why, then, don’t they similarly denounce the Kurds, who have received incomparably more US aid?

        “Bolshevik” criticizes the slogan “international working class solidarity”. Sure, there’s not much we can do in practice today. The main reason for that is that the overwhelming majority of the “peace” movement in the US supports the reactionary regimes of Assad, Putin and Rouhani. If there were a real internationalist movement, it would be protesting at Russian embassies, while also opposing US intervention. It would also be demanding that Syrian refugees be allowed into the United States. The reason why this “peace” movement – in reality a pro-Putin/Assad/Rouhani movement – does not make that demand is that the vast majority of Syrian refugees totally disagree with the approach of this “peace” movement!

        So, what serious socialists, serious internationalists can do today is start by simply trying to clarify what is really happening and what really happened in Syria. That would be a major step. After all, understanding events does matter.

  3. Meanwhile, we are waiting to get the documentation from “Bolshevik” for his claims that the “rightist elements” played any significant role in the original revolt against Assad in 2011.

  4. Hi, thanks for your article. Just a quick comment though to point out the picture captioned “arab spring in syria” is from Lebanon (2005 most probably).

    • From the article: “But the guns could be spread out to support a wide range of US-backed groups on the ground, including the Raqqa Internal Security Forces and the Deir ez-Zor military council, as the Pentagon tries to add more Arab fighters to the anti-IS mission.” This is simply further confirmation that the aim of US imperialism in Syria is to fight the Islamic State, not Assad.
      So, what we recommend to all these “opponents” of US imperialism is to take the position of the Spartacist League, who called for the victory of the Islamic State. At least they recognized who the US is really fighting in Syria.

      Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/us-double-ak47-supply-partners-syria-pentagon.html#ixzz5GAWLRPgK

  5. Notice: This site is no longer allowing the posts of “bolshevik”. We’ve been in lots of debates with people like these and it never leads anywhere. They bitterly deny being Assad supporters, but all they can see is the negatives of those who rebelled against him. Nor do they ever mention the crimes against humanity of Assad, Putin and Rouhani. Nor do they seriously look at the facts. Many of them claim to be “trotskyists” but they think that the capitalist politician Assad can be anti-imperialist. They have accepted all the ideas of Stalinism. Meanwhile, many of them refuse to even accept that Russia is an imperialist state. They are living in the past. It’s not worth debating with them. We are happy to debate lots of issues. However, we only Assadists a very limited amount of space on our blog site. That includes “bolshevik”.

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