Monday, May 13, 2013

Worker's viewpoint: Which is "our" side in the Syrian conflict?

What is the goal of this revolution and which class leads it?
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The situation in Syria is critical.  The Assad regime is hanging on despite calls from Obama's White House for his removal and for those of us not on the ground nor having contacts or reliable sources on the ground, it is very difficult to figure it all out.  I found the previous blog very interesting and it helped me to think more definitively about the situation.

There is no doubt Assad and his regime is a corrupt one.  Like Hussein he is a Baathist. Assad is also an Alawite, a minority religious grouping belonging to Shia Islam like the majority of the Iranian people. The fact that there are so many factional elements in this struggle, Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Christian and when we add to that the ominous presence of US imperialism and Israel on the one hand and Russia and Iran on the other, plus  Islamic fundamentalists, we have quite a mix. The one element missing from that mix is the organized (politically and economically) working class.

I was thinking about this more today as I have been very reluctant to take a position on Syria.  But I have seen numerous statements on the internet and in articles calling for victory to the Syrian Revolution and for a victory for the "Free Syrian Army".  But what revolution are we talking about?  And what is the composition of the so-called "Free Syrian Army."

As far as I can tell, US imperialism is once again supporting any group that might enable it to continue to plunder the resources of the region, namely oil, and increase its presence in the region with regard to Russia and Iran.  The Iranian regime, a backward, undemocratic and misogynistic theocracy supports Assad and his minority regime amid the Sunni majority.  The Syrian Christians from what I have read are extremely concerned about the overthrow of the Assad regime as they have lived in relative security during its rule and the FSA, comprised of it is of many religious Islamic factions including those of the al Qaeda strain, might not be so generous.

But despite the autocratic and corrupt nature of the Assad regime, like Saddam's Iraq, major industries are state owned and the Baath party does have a history, albeit fragmented and turbulent, of support for nationalization and state ownership of major industry. Much of the country's major industry was nationalized and even in agriculture and other sectors, government regulation is considerable. US imperialism isn't supporting the FSA because of its democratic credentials.  Let's not forget the US supported to Mubarak dictatorship for years despite the torture and murders.

Libyan Similarity
The opposition forces trying to overthrow Assad, especially the intervention of US and European imperialism, are not forces that will act in workers' interests as far as I can gather, the ex KGB thugs that run Russia are no friends of the workers of the world either.  It is similar to Libya.  Gaddafi had many friends.  The British trained his secret police and he considered Blair a friend.  "Gaddafi’s son Saif, speaking in his private suite in Mayfair’s five-star Connaught Hotel, told the British Daily Mirror in June 2010":
Tony Blair has an excellent relationship with my father.
For us, he is a personal family friend. I first met him around four years ago at Number 10. Since then I’ve met him several times in Libya where he stays with my father. He has come to Libya many, many times.

This blog opposed the NATO war on Libya but also opposed Gaddafi's murderous regime.  As we commented in our introduction to the previous blog, what inevitably happens when there is no united movement of the working class present as capitalist crisis unfolds is society begins to fragment as we are witnessing in the Middle East.  In to the vacuum steps all sorts of fanatical groupings.  It is important to note that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism was boosted by US foreign policy and the CIA as US capitalism assisted corrupt regimes by helping them wipe out all political opposition from the left.  Al Qaeda is Washington's baby.

With regard to Libya, we said back in 2011:

"So generally my alternative to supporting the pro US/EU Libyan bourgeois alliance, is that workers must support the strengthening of already existing community, workplace and youth communities that have arisen and expanding these formations.  The demand must be for a national constituent assembly to which these committees which would obviously be dominated by workers and youth , would send elected delegates for the purpose of drawing up a new constitution.  This would be a constitution that would represent different class interests than one drawn up by editors of US theoretical journals and businessmen, most who played no role in the heroism and sacrifice that the Libyan workers and youth have shown."

It seems to me that this has to be the position: no support for Assad, no support for the FSA. Western imperialism and NATO does not support a regime or enter such a situation with good intentions and imperialist intervention as occurred in Libya must be opposed by socialists.  Personally speaking I am not convinced by the proclamations that we are seeing a revolution in Syria that will bring democratic reform. The US has 30,000 troops in Bahrain that have sat and watched the murder of peaceful protesters calling for democratic rights we in America take for granted.

The fact is that we are living in a period of capitalist decline.  A period wracked by crisis, one after the other.  The "failed" nation states are examples of this.  Capitalism cannot advance human society.  It's own historical creation, the nation state as we know it, is under threat.  Yes, more so in the former colonial world where nation states were artificially drawn in to existence by the imperialist countries.  But even in Britain we are witnessing the possible break up of a 300 year old  agreement between nations albeit an agreement made between unequal powers but that's how agreements are made between ruling classes.

No section or faction of society based on capitalism and the private ownership of the means of production can resolve the crises affecting nations and the global community.  This includes the looming environmental crisis.  The missing link in all of this is the world's working class.  There is a historic and militant history of working class resistance to capital and to imperialist intervention on the part of the Arab workers.  As I pointed out in a blog the other day, even in the US where we have never had a national mass party of the working class, there have been huge upheavals from the Seattle strike of 1919 to the CIO and the Civil Rights Movement where workers took steps along the road to independence from the capitalist class in ideology and action. The Occupy Movement also helped transform the political debate in the US.   There are always lessons learned.  The working  class is not going away.

Arguing that the working class and only the working class can head off social and environmental disaster will no doubt bring accusations of utopianism especially here in the US where we have not seen movements like those in Europe, Africa and Latin America.  In China, under a dictatorship, workers have waged major battles in the factories and on the land over acquisitions and environmental degradation.

So these are my thoughts about Syria.  I do not support the  Free Syrians as I don't know who they are although I see they have some rather nasty allies and imperialist intervention will always weaken the working class of that country.  These views on Syria are my own, I am not speaking for other writers on this blog. I admit I am not an expert on Syria and welcome any comments about these views from others and am open to hearing why I might be wrong.

1 comment:

Martin MacKerel said...

Agree with your viewpoint. Assad is a nasty piece of work, but I think the parallel to Libya is apt: the US is only supporting the opposition to get access to resources and economies.

AFAICT, the Syrian people themselves are split - that's why it's been a genuine civil war for a while now.