|Mass funeral at Houla|
A bloody attack on the workers and the poor such as that at Houla is taking place in Syria where the murderous Assad regime supported by China, Russia, Iran are killing thousands of civilians, men women and children in a desperate attempt to remain in power. What started in the ‘Days of Rage’ in February 2011 as a revolt by the masses was part of the ‘Arab Spring’ –actually a reactivated democratic revolution to overthrow dictators –that had swept across North Africa from Tunisia where the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2011 sparked an insurrection, to Egypt in January where the dictator President Mubarak fell. While in those two countries the uprisings led to the fall of dictatorships, the authoritarian regimes that backed them have not fallen so easily. Elections in both Tunisia and Egypt have brought the momentum of the revolution to a halt.
In Libya the brutal attack by Kaddafi on the February 17 uprising led to an 8 month civil war and the intervention of NATO. Kaddafi was overthrown and an Interim Government put in place but an unstable dual power situation exists. While the revolutionary militias remain armed the Government has to negotiate the terms of a new Constitution. Again the democratic revolution has been frozen by bourgeois elections but the rule of imperialism has as yet not been re-imposed.
In Syria the insurrection was sparked by Assad’s brutality in killing young protesters on the street. It rapidly spread to most parts of Syria where Local Coordination Committees of mainly youth protesters were formed. These Committees adopted a simple 3 point program of unarmed, non-sectarian resistance, and no foreign intervention which are still largely unchanged. Exiled opposition groups like the Syrian National Council, were more inclined to call on UN intervention as in Libya. So far this has been blocked by China and Russia who have close ties to Syria and to Iran which is a major backer of the Baathist regime in Syria.
The UN finally got agreement in the last month to put unarmed observers in Syria but this has not stopped the regime’s killings. As Assad’s repression has continued to grow so has the resistance and more and more military personnel have defected to the opposition and formed the Free Syria Army and several other smaller militias. Reports from Syria show that there is no direct US/NATO intervention in the armed resistance which is too weak as yet to go on the offensive.
The revolutionary left has taken widely diverging views of the civil war in Syria. One camp takes the view that the insurrection is a proxy for US/NATO intervention for regime change like they think happened in Libya. Some think it a CIA plot as they did in Libya. For them no Arab country can have an uprising unless it is organised by the CIA, Or Al Qaeda, or Big Oil! It seems that the weaker the Western left is the more it believes in the almighty power of forces beyond its control.
While there are reasons why the US/NATO powers would want to see Assad removed, these are not pressing and so far the US has limited itself to low key statements about arming the resistance. For one thing Assad and his father before him made speeches against Israel but never challenged Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights. Nor has Syria ever helped the Palestinian struggle. It peacefully co-exists with the US/NATO/Israel power bloc in the Middle East.
Second, unlike Kaddafi, Assad’s regime does not stand in the way of any big oil reserves. So there is no pressing need to form a coalition of the willing to grab the oil. With so little to gain attacking Assad would force a direct confrontation with Russia and China, the new emerging imperialist bloc that is now challenging US/NATO for control over the Middle East. The US/NATO/Israel camp is already fixated on Iran which has nearly as much oil and gas as the Middle East which it wants badly. And the targeting of Iran has long been sold as necessary to stop its nuclear arming, not the arming of Syrian Shiites. Thus the US does not want to buy a fight with its heavy imperialist rivals over poor Syria. Further, there is no evidence, despite the many calls by the various factions of the Syrian national bourgeois for UN intervention to oust Assad, that the resistance is in any way directed or backed by the US or NATO powers. These popular and revolutionary initiatives of the poor and young people have not been hijacked by imperialists –so far.
Revolutionaries need to reject these one-eyed conspiracy theories as no more than social imperialism which says that no semi-colonial people can possibly defeat a dictatorship unless they follow the instructions of tiny self-styled revolutionary groups in the imperialist West. Bolshevik-Leninists put these fantasies aside and understand that the Syrian uprising is part of the Arab Democratic revolution and should support the resistance in every way possible. That includes calling on workers everywhere to provide weapons and international fighters to defeat the regime. We must oppose any direct military intervention by the UN/NATO on the side of the resistance fighters because they could lead to their hijacking. Our position is for the defeat of imperialism, both US/NATO/Israel and Russia/China, in any open proxy war in Syria. We should call for the Local Coordination Committees to form a national coalition behind two points of its 3 point program –opposition to foreign military intervention and to sectarian divisions in the resistance. Of course we would argue that reality has already proven that a peaceful, unarmed revolution is impossible.
At the same time we must also oppose any military support for the Assad regime by the other imperialist camp –Russia and China. Like in Libya and Kaddafi we cannot support a military alliance with Assad against a US/NATO intervention if, first; Assad continues to kill the resistance fighters, and second; Assad is being armed and supported by Russia/China. Our position must be for the armed independence of the resistance fighters from any Syrian bourgeois forces, for the defeat of the Assad regime, for a united opposition to form a national popular militia, for the defeat of imperialism, and the creation of a provisional government based on the delegates of all the opposition forces who are active in the resistance.
While the revolutionary left is almost non-existent in Syria, it is necessary for Trotskyist-Leninists who have comrades in Syria or the other Arab states in the region to unite their forces around Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution. This means actively raising the Transitional Program inside the resistance to convince the revolutionary fighters that even the most basic democratic tasks, such as freedom of assembly, self-defence, political democracy, women’s rights, youth rights, for a non-sectarian republic, for re-distribution of land to the small farmers, etc., means we must fight for workers councils, workers militias, a national assembly of councils, a Workers and Peasants Government and a socialist revolution.
For the completion of the democratic revolution as a permanent revolution for a Syrian Socialist Republic in a Federation of Socialist Republics in the Middle East!
From the Revolutionary Worker, No 1, June 2012, political organ of the
Revolutionary Workers' Group of Zimbabwe.