"Leftists" defending the counter-revolution, “local co-ordination committees”, Basel Sulaiman, Farshad Azadian, Fightback, harsh repression, mass demonstrations, People's Councils, strikes and civil disobedience, the 'People's Voice', the limits of the revolution, the so-called “leadership” of the movement, the Syrian revolution
[Norm’s note: I’m posting this not merely because it deserves to be read in its own right, but also because some ( or many?) have claimed — in the vein of Stephen Gowans, Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, and others — that there never was any popular unrest in Syria in the 2011 lead up to the ‘civil war,’ and furthermore, that the current ruling establishment in Syria is both ‘socialist’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ in character. The ‘facts’ of the matter appear to be otherwise, as attested by a growing host of sources and articles either being linked to or re-published at this blog.]
By Farshad Azadian and Basel Sulaiman (16 March 2012)
It is a year since the Syrian masses rose up against the Assad regime. Since March 2011, the Syrian people have faced the open brutality of the state in wave after wave of mass demonstrations, strikes and civil disobedience. These movements arose in response to the stifling dictatorship, and against the massive inequality, unemployment and poverty in Syrian society.
Estimates put the total number of civilians killed by the regime at anything between 7,500 and 9,000, according to various sources, with the death toll increasing every day. In addition, there are reports that many soldiers refusing to carry out orders to kill civilians have been executed. Summary executions, torture and mass imprisonment have been the methods used by the Assad regime to curb the revolutionary movement in Syria.
State brutality has only served to re-double the efforts of the revolutionaries. The Syrian revolution, once limited in its ability to reach into Damascus and Aleppo, has shifted over the past months. Aleppo, the industrial and commercial hub of Syria, saw a mass campaign of civil disobedience in response to a call for a general strike in December 2011. Most important has been the spread of the movement to Damascus, the country’s capital, which is seen as a regime stronghold. Over the past period massive funeral processions have been held in Damascus, which turned into demonstrations. This indicates a shift in the political situation in favour of the revolution among some layers.
Thousands of soldiers and military officers have defected from the regime and have established the Syrian Free Army (FSA). This revolutionary army has been used to fight the old state apparatus and protect demonstrators. In the face of the massacres, many civilian protesters have decided to join this revolutionary army, with the ranks swelling to upwards of 10,000 to 20,000 according to some estimates.
In certain areas, and for short periods, the old regime lost control and there has been the tendency to set up People’s Councils that carry out all manner of activity, including security, healthcare, holding people’s tribunals, distributing food and protecting refugees fleeing repression. We had the short-lived example in the town of Zabadani, which is just 50km away from Damascus, where the old state apparatus was replaced by the Free Local Council of Zabadani, where every thousand residents elected a representative to the council. The council also had representatives from religious minorities and military defectors. The town was under popular administration for several weeks before, unfortunately, finally being crushed by the army.
In this article, we outline what we believe should be the Marxist position in relation to the Syrian revolution, the imperialists and the tasks that lie ahead. It is the task of Marxists to support the revolutionary Syrian people in overthrowing the brutal Assad regime, and to patiently explain the way forward.
We have to look at reality and understand that the Syrian revolution has many obstacles ahead of it, not least of which is the role of the so-called “leadership” of the movement itself. This leadership has a political programme that does not meet the real needs of the Syrian masses. The result has been limited working class action against the regime, in the form of industrial strikes, which could easily paralyze the regime.