Assad’s reign of terror is dying, and this is a fact that even the Butcher’s closest friends have understood.
The slow-motion fall of Assad’s regime, like the fall of the other dictators in the region, has been marked by numerous bitter ironies that have conditioned the course of the Syrian revolution for bread, equality and freedom – but have not yet determined its final outcome. In this analysis we describe and critique essential elements of the current political state of the Syrian revolution, and call on the revolutionary Left inside and outside of Syria to organize in defense of the interests of those whose blood has underwritten this revolution: the working people of Syria.
A revolution “led” by counter-revolutionaries
Despite all its differences from the Tunisian, Libyan and Egyptian revolutions, the Syrian revolution shares striking similarities. Like the others, the Syrian revolution is inherently a social revolution – carrying all the characteristics of a global anti-capitalist movement of working women and men. Like the others, it aims at overthrowing the dictator (indeed a necessary first step, and only one step), but falls short of reaching the essential and natural objectives of the revolution: bread, equality, and freedom! These are revolutions for radical changes. Yet revolutionary masses, instead of aiming at seizure of political power, rally under the flag of forces that are neither capable nor desirous of leading the masses further than the fall of the dictator.
Ironically, after a year and half of sacrifices by the Syrian people, mass protests of revolutionary women and men, demonstrations and strikes, the West and their Syrian allies – the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and of course regional players Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others – have arranged the scenery in such a way that, to the outside world, the bourgeois opposition of Assad and its armed partner, the Free Syrian Army, appear to be the standard-bearers of the Syrian revolution.
Learning from Libya and Egypt, the anti-Assad counter-revolution has so far managed to secure the tools necessary to control the outcome of the current revolution in Syria by limiting the practical objective of the revolution to the overthrow of Assad. It is even aping the Yemen counter-revolution by trying to secure a transition of power, unadulterated by the revolution, against a generous amnesty for the Butcher – a “peaceful transition” from the current dictator to the most suitable candidate selected from the spectrum of counter-revolutionary factions that exist in the opposition.
Those counter-revolutionary factions advocating for intervention now – the advocates of “no fly zone” and “safe haven” – are the same forces that went to great lengths to persuade the revolutionary people of Syria to adhere to a “non-violent” and “peaceful” doctrine (1), thereby discouraging the revolutionary masses from taking matters into their own hands and doing away with the Butcher and its decades of barbaric violence in a direct strike against the bases of the regime’s power (e.g., the security apparatus; the interior, propaganda and defense ministries; the presidential palace; garrisons and police stations inside major cities; Ba’ath party offices in neighborhoods; the Parliament, etc.).
These are the same forces that prohibited the freedom-loving women and men of Damascus, Homs, Hama and countless other cities, the striking and demonstrating workers, from defending themselves and their revolution by going on the offensive.
These are the same ones who – while thousands of revolutionaries were being killed, arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the army, security forces and plainclothes Shabiha – officially declared in the first article of their “revolutionary program” for the transition period that society will be managed through the use of the military (2). This “management” is comprised of wielding the military against the revolution, which even now they have pre-emptively labeled as elements of “chaos” and “infiltrators” (3) – common epithets hurled against revolutionary working women and men by all oppressors, including Bashar al-Assad himself and his murderous father!
They – these advocates of “non-violence” – were not naïve! Those who paid the price – the revolution, Syrian men and women – were!
Revolution being swept away in the name of “revolution”!
The Butcher of Damascus is about to fall, and the recent use of attack helicopters and fighter jets against densely populated neighborhoods, and counter-offensives in Damascus and Aleppo at the cost to the regime of abandoning the Turkish border areas (which are vital bridgeheads for the FSA), with all the corollary consequences, is the climax of Assad’s might. The Butcher has played all his cards. Irrespective of the outcome of the battle of Aleppo, Assad has lost the war, and he either accepts the very generous deal that the West made available to him, or else someone sooner or later will pull him out of a sewer canal somewhere in Syria.
Despite the propaganda apparatus of the West and regional players, the imminent fall of Assad, with all its enormous regional and international consequences, would not have become a reality if it wasn’t for a revolution: the people in the streets of Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib… rising against the social and economic misery and poverty forced upon them, their hatred of the regime, and their sacrifices in the face of the despicable savagery of a barbaric regime.
Yet although the Syrian revolution, like the other “Arab Spring” revolutions, is the result of the unbearable economic, social and political situations of revolutionary masses – and hence contains within itself the objective circumstances necessary to produce social revolutions for equality and liberty – it too has not yet come close to articulating its own concrete and revolutionary social, political and economic objectives! Socialism with its essential components – equality, freedoms, welfare, and people’s rule through their general assemblies, etc – has never been introduced as an immediate alternative in the “Arab Spring.” The people’s struggle and sacrifices have not yet born any fruit other than pulling down one dictator, only to replace it with guardians of the same system of governance.
This is in a sense natural: beside the global Left’s ideological bewilderment (4), the working class – the main force of these revolutions – has not been politically and organizationally capable of branding its own unique identity on these amazing revolutions – a result of decades of brutal suppression of their political and economical movement. They have not yet succeeded in countering the generously-supported programs and propaganda of the bourgeois opposition. The revolutionary left in Syria, like in Egypt, like in Tunisia, could not mobilize all oppressed masses, workers, teachers, nurses – the majority of the population – to overthrow the dictator and secure the hegemony of the interests of the working class. They – the revolutionary masses – naturally have thus far been rallied under the false flag of “freedom.”
Syria and the obligation of the Left today
The outcome of the “Arab Spring” thus far, from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya to Bahrain and Yemen to Syria, proves that progressive forces – the revolutionary left – even in a society like Egypt, with a very rich immediate history of class struggle, are too disorganized, aberrant and immature to lead social revolutions to victory.
With regard to Syria, the self-proclaimed “Left,” both in the Middle East and internationally, own a major share of the responsibility for allowing a disorganized and extremely weak counter-revolution to hijack the revolution and until now prevent working men and women from taking what belongs to them: the power. Worse, they have allowed this to come to pass within the context of an unprecedented global political and economic crisis of the capitalist system. (5)
But the revolution in Syria continues, as it does in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
Any counter-revolutionary transitional government in Syria after Assad, like the military dictatorship in Egypt (SCAF), will find it difficult to force the masses to docility. People have paid too high a price for overthrowing dictators, who only 2 years ago seemed invincible, to then surrender the streets, neighborhoods, factories and harbors to a new one. All of those objective elements which have rendered the “Arab Spring” unavoidable are still at large, or, more correctly, have intensified in their necessity. The bourgeois opposition of Assad has already made clear to the world that it has no intention of respecting the natural objectives of the current revolution, i.e., bread, equality and freedom. Syrian working women and men therefore have no other choice but to continue their revolution, and the revolution will continue as long as the revolutionary people of Syria have not accepted defeat and the price that remains to be paid to the victor – and working women and men of Syria have not.
The Syrian people’s revolution continues, and despite an all-out war against the people of Syria, the streets of cities and villages continue to fill with protesting masses, who now have even taken control of and are physically protecting their neighborhoods. While the revolution continues without a revolutionary political leadership, the socialists of Syria have to learn from their own shortcomings; learn from the Egyptian, Tunisian, and Yemeni experiences; and pull themselves together to claim their political and organizational leadership, raising the flag of a social revolution. And the international left must stand with them, starting with a vigorous critique of the approach and program of the Syrian National Council.
For it is either continued revolution and victory, or a new round of unprecedented poverty, hunger and misery. Either socialism, or a new round of capitalism’s brutal attacks on our sisters’ and brothers’ already unbearably minimized share of the proceeds from their labor. It is time to raise the banner of equality, freedoms, and a humane society: the banner of socialism.
Mission Free Iran
(1) The third basic principle of the Syrian National Council’s mission statement and program is as follows:
“3- Safeguarding the non-violent character of the Syrian Revolution.”
The program can be viewed at the SNC site (http://www.syriancouncil.org/en/mission-statement.html); we maintain a screen-captured version collected on 29 July 2012 here.
(2) The first point under the SNC’s program for the Transitional Period begins as follows: “The SNC will take responsibility, with the military apparatus, to manage the transitional period…” The seventh point under the program for the Transitional Period states that “The SNC will continue to implement its founding declaration concerning the preservation of state institutions, especially the military institution, throughout the transitional period.” Emphasis added. The program can be viewed at the SNC site (http://www.syriancouncil.org/en/mission-statement.html); we maintain a screen-captured version collected on 29 July 2012 here.
(3) From the description of the Syrian National Council’s Military Bureau: “The Military Bureau will promote compliance of armed groups with internaitonal [sic] humanitarian laws. It will also work on maintaining peace and stability after the fall of the Assad regime in order to safeguard the nation against chaos and infiltrators who attempt to cause instability.” Emphasis added. The description can be viewed at the SNC site (http://www.syriancouncil.org/en/slideshow/item/600-snc-military-bureau.html); we maintain a screen-captured version collected on 29 July 2012 here.
(4) More than a year after the Syrian revolution began, socialists continue to debate in open fora about whether or not to support the Syrian revolution; e.g., from 24 March 2012: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=27876
(5) In the midst of the global crisis of capital, in the midst of the Syrian revolution, the bourgeois opposition of Assad feels so politically secure and uncriticized that it shamelessly promotes its affiliate, the Syrian Business Council (http://www.syriancouncil.org/en/slideshow/item/613-syrian-business-council.html; pdf), which declares that “the rule of law and economic freedoms will be principles highly promoted by the SBC to insure [sic] the stability and sustainability of investments in the future Syria.” Their promise to the capitalists of Syria is that they won’t be dealing with the problems which Tantawi has been dealing with; they will have the “freedom” to continue to brutally economically exploit the poor and working class to within an inch of its life – and beyond. In an era in which the entirety of the global capitalist system is reeling from its inability to manage society and prevent masses of people from falling into poverty, starvation, and death, the SNC expects to profit from the blood spilled by the revolutionary people of Syria, and to subject those who survive to more of the same failed, exploitative, and criminal method of managing the economy.