Free Syrian Army, ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, Mass exodus from Aleppo, Michael Karadjis, Robert Fisk, Syria, Syria's "internal First World", the "black Syrians", Tim Anderson, US Imperialism, Yassin al-Haj Saleh
My debate with Tim Anderson on Syria: Reflections on the collapse of solidarity
by Micheal Karadjis / July 11, 2017
Source: Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis
On the evening of June 29, I went up against Dr. Tim Anderson, Australia’s most well-known and prolific propagandist for the murderous Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, at the Gaelic Club’s Politics of the Pub evening. A packed house, and, as might be expected at a drinking gathering, stormy enough, the evening highlighted the severity of the challenge of reconstructing a viable, credible, emancipatory political left able to confront today’s neo-liberal capitalist disaster.
Some may well say the issue is “only Syria” and we shouldn’t generalize about the bad politics that some people have on only one issue. That is a valid enough point. Nevertheless, confronted with close to the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our era – not just “any issue” – a dogged section of the western left has thrown overboard the politics of elementary human solidarity, without which, the bigger task I outlined above would appear to be a very long way away.
As usual, I had too much to say and didn’t get round to making a number of important points, particularly about the role of US imperialism, though I did get to it a little at the end, and in discussion. Some might say that is the most important issue, but given that the US has had very little to do with the dynamics of the Syrian revolution and counterrevolution, it quite simply is not – therefore I believe I was correct to focus more on the actual dynamics of what is going on in Syria rather than abstract geopolitical schemas and prejudices beloved by many western “analysts” who often couldn’t care less about what happens to real people.
Yassin al-Haj Saleh: Syria’s “internal First World” v the “black Syrians”
Before going on, I will first produce the lines I opened with, quoting Syrian Communist dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh (who spent 16 years in Assadist torture chambers for holding an opinion), because he so eloquently sums up the political method I support on this issue:
“That Syrians have been subject to extreme Palestinization by a brutal, internal Israel, and that they are susceptible to political and physical annihilation, just like Palestinians, in fact lies outside the clueless, tasteless geopolitical approach of those detached anti-imperialists, who ignorantly bracket off politics, economics, culture, the social reality of the masses and the actual history of Syria.”
“This way of linking our conflict to one major global struggle, which is supposedly the only real one in the world, denies the autonomy of any other social and political struggle taking place in the world.
“The anti-imperialist comrade is with the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt for the same reason that led him to “resist” alongside the Syrian regime. Whether in Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria, people are invisible, and their lives do not matter. We remain marginal to some other issue, the only one that matters: the struggle against imperialism (a struggle that, ironically, is also not being fought by these anti-imperialists, as I will argue below).
“The response to this discourse need not be to point out the truth, that the Assadist state is not against imperialism in any way whatsoever. First and foremost, the autonomy of our social and political struggles for democracy and social justice must be highlighted and separated out from this grand, abstract scheme.
“A better starting point would be to look at actual conflicts and actual relationships between conflicting parties. This could involve, for example, thinking about how the structure of a globally dominating Western first world has been re-enacted in our own countries, including Syria. We have an “internal first world” that is the Assadist political and economic elites, and a vulnerable internal third world, which the state is free to discipline, humiliate, and exterminate. The relationship between the first world of Assad and the third world of “black Syrians” perfectly explains Syria’s Palestinization.
“Only then would it be meaningful to state that there is nothing within the Assadist state that is truly anti-imperialist, even if we define imperialism as an essence nestled in the West. Nor is there anything popular, liberatory, nationalist, or third-worldly in the Syrian regime. There is only a fascist dynastic rule, whose history, which goes back to the 1970s, can be summed up as the formation of an obscenely wealthy and atrociously brutal neo-bourgeoisie, which has proved itself ready to destroy the country in order to remain in power forever.”
Continue reading via: Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis
“On the evening of June 29, I went up against Dr. Tim Anderson, Australia’s most well-known and prolific propagandist for the murderous Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, at the Gaelic Club’s Politics of the Pub evening. …”
Knowing the corrupt Australian politicians and their simpering acolytes I shouldn’t really expect anything less than an outright arrogant statement by someone who imagines he speaks for all. THAT is his arrogance, not mine.
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Norman Pilon said:
Except that if you can get past your resistance to reading the piece, Susan, Karadjis makes a “reasoned” and “evidence based” argument against Anderson. But we all have our limits as to what we can tolerate in terms of what goes by the name of “cognitive dissonance.” Things are not what they appear to be . . . and sometimes ‘we’ are simply wrong in our ‘assumptions’ about what we already “believe.”
In 2014 the Syrian people as observed by NATO overwhelmingly voted Assad in with nearly 80%(which is 53% more than the last four British General Elections)and his opponents were numerous . One might, therefore presume that the population is predominantly Alawhite or Shi’ite. Happens that such a presumption would be very wrong. Ergo – I will side with the Syrian people and what is their “cognitive dissonance”, which is of course not in step with the 4% socialist vote who are not very tolerant of the majority thinking. I’ve got Jeremy Corbyn, supposedly a socialist doing everything possible to give socialism a bad name and he’s doing a damn good job of it. The more I hear of his socialism, the more I realise he does not speak for me or my perceptions. I’ll continue being “wrong” for not agreeing with someone who does not speak for me, just as so many Tories and Blairites think I’m wrong to promote socialism – that doesn’t make them right.
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Norman Pilon said:
Did you read the piece?
Norman Pilon said:
This is what Michael has to so say about the 2014 election:
Anderson also claimed that Assad had been “elected” at an “election” held in 2014, and from memory one of the questioners even asked why we shouldn’t accept the results of a free election. This is indeed a unique occasion in leftist history when people who have rejected oppression and repression all their lives, and made great efforts at understanding how even our own bourgeois democracy is deeply flawed, uphold an “election” farce run by a murderous dictatorship. Aside from the fact that the only candidates allowed to stand against Assad were two nobodies, allowed precisely because they were Assad clones (to be allowed to stand, the first condition was that a candidate must have the support of at least 35 members of the existing Baathist-dominated parliament, and so 21 of 23 were rejected); aside from the fact that “voters” had to bloody their thumb to stamp the electoral roll, and thus could be spotted at workplaces the following day if the evidence was absent (a possible death or disappearance certificate); aside from large parts of the country being outside regime control; aside from 5 million Syrians being in exile; aside from all of this and more, why would anyone assume that the figures released by the State Ministry of Truth (ie, the 73.4 percent participation rate and the 88.7 percent vote for Assad) mean anything at all? Is anyone able to check?
If we assume these figures are “true” (even taking into account the manipulation and other factors), then do we also accept that in every other “election” that Assad has called since 1971, he has received 99 percent of the vote? Why would anyone with a brain accept that? And if so, do you also accept that Zairean tyrant Mobutu received 99 percent in his 1970 election? That Saddam Hussein got 99 percent and 100 percent in his last two elections? That Mubarak always got 97 percent? That Enver Hoxha usually got around 100 percent?
Anderson claimed large numbers of Syrian refugees voted in Lebanon, though outside Assad state control, thus proving that participation was genuine. However, every media report referred to “tens of thousands” rushing the embassy in Lebanon to vote. Yes, that is a great many. But there are 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, so do the maths – the “tens of thousands” probably do represent the actual level of support for Assad among Syrians in Lebanon. But in any case, the great majority were barred from voting even if they had wanted to: a law was passed that refugees who had fled Syria at checkpoints not controlled by the regime were not eligible to vote. I wonder which groups of refugees fled at regime-controlled checkpoints?
What a sad day for the left that it is even necessary for me to explain this.
Is he being unreasonable in his line of argumentation? If elections in Britain are skewed in any way, what grounds are there to believe that under conditions of all out war they would be less so? Is it reasonable to believe that in any country any candidate would secure 80% of the vote? Was this percentage verified? By whom?
I read it. It was at odds with other journalists observations about who was standing and what they represented. It’s all well and fine supporting the narrative that the Imperialists spout, but why does it always have to be a country the western Imperialists are attacking? Some coincidence?
I would really be interested if these so-called socialists were putting the same information to the degree of vituperation, with a country like Britain. The problem for them of course, is that someone like me could denounce their claims if they were slightly or even markedly innacurate. It’s very disconcerting that anyone who is aggrieved over government policies we must take their word for it whether they are attuned to the people beyond their own involvement or are just pissed off because they hate anyone who doesn’t see things their way and their way was to aggravate an already precarious situation with the US and UK intent on destroying the country. That fact was known in 2003, so who would go out of their way to not just open the door but leave it wide open for even more “evil” tyrants to simply step through and set about their intended destruction.
We have had this conversation once before and I still do not agree with this kind of undermining of a people. We had it here in Britain and it played right into the hands of the elites and corporates. We’ve never been able to turn the tide since. I still believe there is a way and time to do things which serves the flocking sheep without getting them hospitalised or dead and there is a wrong way and time. When our activities serve, not the flock or majority, but the interests of a few, whether right or left, then we’ve gotten it wrong. Bashar al Assad has done some bad things, If I had the time I could make you a great long list of the criminality of successive British Governments over the last twenty years. Assad made mistakes, some for the right reasons, as he saw it, some for the wrong reasons as I would see it, but it pales compared to the crimes of so, so many other “Dictators” and States. Every country is a “regime” and every country is a dictatorship with evil and corrupt people running things, so why single Assad out?
The UK has more billionaires per capita than any other country in the world and that’s an official finding. We are only 60+ million. How the **** did we manage that except with our own complicity and willingness to bury our heads.
Your chap was right, Syria is not the only country that is a problem, it just happens to be the only one every person and his uncle wants to damn to hell, one way or another and what of the Syrian people? Oh they can just keep on dying. Where’s the solidarity in that, or should I ask the Western murderers? Extremists will always win because they will do what others will not and it really doesn’t matter what label we take or use.
How about a comparison with Saudi Arabia or Israel in Palestine?
I’ve been working out(as in gardening not pumping iron) in 80degrees all day and I’m tired and grumpy like you wouldn’t believe(well you might). I just want to read the socialists going after totally ruthless and evil countries and their dictators like the ME monarchies or Africa and South America, but noooo, I get assailed with the flavour of the month bad guy(of seven long years). According to Corbyn, Putin is “evil” – well we all have our off days and funnily enough he also had an 62% majority in the Russian General election. Shall we have a hate Putin day? Everybody else in Britain is.
Going to bed and I hope tonight I get more than four hours, otherwise I will be totally evil tomorrow(pity poor Gracie).
BTW. I won’t reblog anti Assad assassination pieces, the corrupt MSM is doing so well at it and I would prefer not to give the hideous Western regime changers any more ammunition – it’s not like they need it.
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Norman Pilon said:
Get some sleep, Susan. Be nice to Gracie.
As for myself, I need to get some air and exercise. And then maybe smoke something . . .
Norman Pilon said:
As I wrote to Dave,
For me, the issue comes down to this: was there or wasn’t there a ‘popular uprising’ in Syria in 2011, and if there was, does that ‘rebellion’ continue, and if it does, isn’t that what the ‘war’ in Syria is about, namely, to quash that rebellion?
This then raises questions about the nature of the Syrian establishment: what sort of government is it? Is it a neo-liberal capitalist regime? Or is it a ‘socialist state,’ as people like Tim Anderson would like us to believe, with ‘popular legitimacy?’
The ‘facts’ of the matter are:
a) the Syrian state is a neo-liberal state. How to explain, for example, Rami Makhlouf, the richest man in Syria, controlling roughly anywhere between 60 – 85% of the country’s economy, and the first cousin of the president himself, Mr. Assad. If that isn’t a privatized and overconcentrated capitalist economy, I don’t know what is. This simple fact, in of itself, gives the lie to the notion that Syria is a socialist country beleaguered by imperialist American aggression on account of being ‘socialist’ and resistant to incursions of Western private investments.
b) Hinnebusch (and Amin, to name another competent researcher, who actually lives in the Middle East, in Egypt, if that at all matters) clinches the ‘fact,’ on the basis of a thorough social, political, economic and historical analysis, that, yes, Syrians were indeed impelled by their increasingly intolerable circumstances, circumstances in which more than 60% of the population were living in abject poverty and under intolerable repression, to rebel en masse.
Therefore, on the basis of only those two factually grounded assumptions, the question for an activist then should become: do I side with a ruthlessly dictatorial neo-liberal regime, or do I side with ordinary Syrians, however misbegotten their rebellion might have been and continues to be?
Personally, as a matter between myself and my conscience, I’m with the people who are having to bear the brunt of an interminable assault raining down on them from all sides.
The truth about complicated and far away events is never given. It takes time for it to make its way to us, and then we have to struggle in ourselves, past all of our former assumptions and already established beliefs, to finally “grasp” it.
And then, of course, it may yet be that more information is to come that will have to be taken into account, and then the “truth” will transmute once again into something different, perhaps into a direct contradiction of what we now take it to be.
Unfortunately, we are human, and that is part of what it means to be human, to be condemned to one-sidedness and never in possession of a perspective that can be said to be both partial and complete. That’s just how it is. The world is bigger than we are. Our minds cannot encompass the whole. And yet, and yet, we somehow manage to “get” enough of it to make our way forward and make of our lives something eminently worthwhile.
We do not like to hear what we think goes against our sense of basic human decency and what we already think we know. I know I don’t.
But as someone who commented on Dave’s blog put it, the situation is so convoluted, that we can all be forgiven for not being able to discern things as they are in our estimations, whatever these estimations may happen to be. I may be wrong. But my intentions are far from being malign, as it is with everyone else.