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Horizons for the Syrian revolution

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | community struggles | opinion / analysis author Monday May 23, 2011 05:11author by Mazen Kalmamaz Report this post to the editors

The main features of the Syrian revolution are its youthful, spontaneous aspect, and the fact that it was created on the streets and is linked directly to the people. It is a revolution without centralized control, led by insurgent individuals. Consequently, no-one can claim to govern it or lead and the reason is simple: the young insurgents rose up spontaneously and there are no signs of participation by religious elements, whose ideas are extremely reactionary, or indeed by any other tendency. [العربية ]


Horizons for the Syrian revolution

Since the advent of the revolution, Syrian intellectuals and political analysts have been divided into two main opposing groups and one hesitant position which in practice and by force of things tends to veer towards one or other of the opposing groups. The first view sees the regime as a ray of light and that once the people are free of the totalitarian regime, they will sink into a civil war with ethnic and factional discord; only reprisals can prevent this outcome. The second view believes that the Syrian people are capable of living in freedom, that they merit it, and the only justification for reprisals by the regime is its determination to loot the country and appropriate power. Certainly it is this latter vision that is encouraging the young revolutionaries to take to the streets; these young rebels are convinced of their right to freedom, their ability to exercise it, and that freedom is the only way to a better life.

That alone explains the willingness of the young revolutionaries to make sacrifices and face reprisals from the regime, reprisals of unimaginable barbarism. Indeed, every day the security apparatus - essentially mercenaries of the regime - are behaving like thugs (Alcbihp) [1] starting with the humiliation of ordinary Syrians and ending with killing, when necessary. In addition the system is using tanks to suppress the citizens of Daraa and is trying to stifle their will by starving them. In other epicentres of the revolution, like Duma, Homs and Damascus, the repression takes on other, more mitigated aspects, with the regime contenting itself with the use of force. Elsewhere, the mercenaries are seeking to cover up the massacres carried out by the regime against the rebels and to deform the revolution of young Syrians with the aim of spreading the idea that the slogan of freedom is not the most important thing.

It is certain that the Syrian revolution was spontaneous and juvenile and continues to be so. It is true that it includes various factions representing the diversity of the street and young Syrians, but mostly the initiators are young and not influenced by ideology They have no dogmatic concept of freedom but rather a realistic view which implies that the totalitarianism of the regime is the only obstacle to freedom.

The main features of the Syrian revolution are its youthful, spontaneous aspect, and the fact that it was created on the streets and is linked directly to the people. It is a revolution without centralized control, led by insurgent individuals. Consequently, no-one can claim to govern it or lead and the reason is simple: the young insurgents rose up spontaneously and there are no signs of participation by religious elements, whose ideas are extremely reactionary, or indeed by any other tendency.

Between these opposing opinions there lie several intermediate ones, at times claiming neutrality (as was stated, for example, at the beginning of the uprising by the writer Nabil Saleh, founder of the ALJAMAL website), at other times raising the danger of ethnic conflict and religious extremism (nearly all those who prefer to stand halfway between the two main opposing opinions or between the regime and the people). Lastly, I can refer to what some have called "the danger of external intervention". Somewhat exaggerated, this is not a serious danger and is not based in reality. Thus the criticisms of imperialism on the regime's crackdown are empty of any meaning and avoid the fact that the imperialists' interests are related to the existence of the current regime and its totalitarian nature: the regime will simply be required to reform certain political positions and redress some of the more serious complaints that are jeopardizing it. The imperialists do not want freedom for the Syrian people as this goes against their interests. However, the day after an eventual triumph of the revolution, they can claim that they supported the rebellion against totalitarianism (this exterior action has been mentioned in several manifestos and statements, amongst which the manifesto of the central organ of Tim and some analysis by the Qasyon current [2]). These stances taken by the two main poles of the conflict have been accompanied by a call for national dialogue and even an attempt to create drafts of this dialogue.

It is quite obvious that the only way out of any crisis is national dialogue, but what sort of dialogue? Society is an amalgam of layers and very diverse social categories, especially the disadvantaged class, and of political and intellectual currents claiming to represent them all. More specifically in the case of Arab and Syrian uprisings, the majority of insurgents are young people who have stood up to demand freedom without being influenced by any ideology, system of thought or clear and definitive concept of the freedom that they chant for. This means that we do need a national dialogue between us, a dialogue that has been banned by the regime which has instead substituted its own unilateral institutions, a dialogue that will allow us to start a new life, to found a new Syria inspired by freedom, as the majority Syrian people today desire. As part of this vision of national dialogue, the regime's attempts to interfere seem incomprehensible, unless one takes into account the fact that it has a huge security apparatus and hired thugs (Alcbihp) that it is ready to use at any time to wipe out the uprising.

Socially, the regime is a rotten governing bureaucracy and any change (if we assuming that reform within the system is feasible) needs to take away its authority and the ownership of the means of production and put them into the hands of the whole of society; outside this view, any change is seen as a reform that is empty of any meaning and does not deserve to be called reform, even as a term of abusive. The regime seems unwilling to sacrifice or allow anyone to touch Rami Makhlouf [3] - or any of the various other masters of corruption - or the integrity of the repressive apparatus. It is even prepared to destroy the whole of Syria in order to maintain its authority and ownership of the means of production. This is diametrically inconsistent with real change or even symbolic reform. The regime does not represent any political or intellectual current: the level of the Ba'ath Party has declined to the point of no longer deserving the name party, in the serious sense of the word.

Even those who practice antagonistic, fundamentalist Sunni sectarianism, cannot consider the government as being representative of the Alawi ethnic group alone; in fact, this is a regime of individuals. These individuals must assume full responsibility for the looting and repression that Syria has suffered in recent decades, and certainly since 2000. The victims among Syria's citizens who have died since 18 March are also their responsibility - this is not a way to exclude one party but rather this is the core of the revolution. What is a revolution if it does not end the domination by the ruling class and the removal of the means of production from its hands? Al-Assad has grasped the truth when he said in his first speech since the uprising began that the conflict was open and he would not be blackmailed. Bashar's remarks were perfectly correct in saying that neutrality, which is another way of saying the search for intermediate solutions, was impossible in this conflict. Any serious way out of ending the repression and looting by the regime will necessarily lead to the fall of the regime; and any other solution will simply mean the defeat of the revolution and failure for the cause of freedom of the Syrian people.

This defeat would inevitably lead to the birth of a dark era of repression and excessive and unprecedented looting against any Syrian who is not part of the power, who participated in the revolution or took a neutral position. It would mean Syria sliding back into the Middle Ages. What the regime wants us to fear is exactly what it intends to do once it has destroyed the revolution; both the revolutionaries and the government are well aware that armistice is prohibited in this conflict, because it would mean a resumption of the initiative by the opposing party. Certain defeat lies in wait for any side that withdraws from the battle. No-one can direct the pulse of the revolution, because it is closely linked to that of the street. To instinctively be aware of this reality is to understand that the extinction of the revolution can be achieved only through barbaric repression, with massacres which will lead Syria into dangerous consequences for which the regime would have sole and total responsibility. Thus the role and importance of the media campaign that follows: it will support the perseverance of young or criticise their morals.

Getting back to the subject of dialogue, it is enough to recall here that it was an initiative of the leaders of the secret service and had begun between the pacifist Samira [4], Faiz Sara and Michel Kilo [5]; the day after this action, Samira was fired from her job because she dared to deviate from the official version of the uprising and Kilo was arrested - such was the fate of the first people who "began the national dialogue". The regime has met with a reluctance that is close to outrage every call for dialogue initiatives that also included conditions, related mainly to the regime. In most cases these calls are comparable to the ceasefire between both sides in a war.

Curiously these agreements are completely ignored by the side that is shooting, which is also the only side that has weapons and is aiming them at the others. I believe that the regime has conducted the dialogue it wanted and its results are clearly visible: we can see them well in Daraa, in Duma and in Homs; we can also see them in the savage repression and the decision taken by the regime to send its tanks into the epicentres of the uprising. The regime had pulled the plug on the voice of democratic leftists, internal opposition forces that had previously been counterbalanced the fundamentalists, Salafis and liberals to some extent on satellite channels; it had stopped Faiza Sara, Mahmoud Issa and some leaders of the Syrian Democratic People's Party, because of their interventions on satellite channels; this may play a negative role, although limited. Thus, the easiest prey for the regime is the democratic leftist opposition; and as in the era of absolute repression, only the fundamentalists and the religious establishment primarily, which has remained relatively free of any exclusion and has even persevered as the only institution that can coexist with the security order and bureaucratic system of the regime. Finally, if it is true - as we have heard - that comrade Fawwaz al-Haraki, a member of the Qasioun faction, was assassinated, this will have to be solemnly declared by the leaders of the Qasioun faction, so they will not deprive the communists this honour - that of the first Syrian communist to be martyred in the revolution of 2011.

The an-Nour and Qasioun currents are the largest that currently exist among the communists at present. The followers of the former are forced to accept their leaders' alliances with the regime, while the latter are relatively free from the results of this coalition. Qasioun denies any involvement of its members in the uprising, but this denial is only an attempt by its leaders not to disrupt the regime, and it is still possible to rejoin the train of the revolution if triumph seems imminent.

The position described above is shared by most communist leaders and Syrian leftists. It has its advantages and disadvantages: firstly it deprives the uprising of the joy of a heavy left presence, and it gives the regime - which is otherwise engaged in repressing the revolution - a certain softness in terms of its relationship with the Syrian left (we are talking with the revolutionary language of today - the front of the regime with the Syrian left). But this does not imply that the government, after crushing the revolution, will not later clamp down on all those who stepped outside the red lines set out for the factions of the left and the politicized elite. On the other hand, the cringing behaviour of leftist leaders will enable the broad masses of young people to engage in debate with fundamentalist leaders but only regarding the cause of freedom - no longer about fundamentalist, religious taboos, but the freedom of Syrians and of society. Moreover, the failure of the left's leaders to direct and participate effectively in the revolution, will enable the communist core and all those who believe in radical social change in the form of social revolution, to rebuild truly socialist relations based on the appropriation of the means of production by producers and of self-management through popular councils.

It is therefore not a case of reproducing Baathist "socialism", which was a model of bureaucratic state capitalism. As in the concept of the martyr comrade Fawwaz Al-Haraki, socialism must be understood as the initiator of participation in the revolution on the one hand, while on the other it must establish a dialogue with the young revolutionaries and must be a way out of the classic dogmatism of the Syrian left towards freedom, revolution and communist and socialist thinking. Normally, communist and leftist leaders, through their ideological discourses and their actions, are supposed to study the bases of revolution and identify ways to prepare for social revolution, cause it to break out and triumph over the ruling class. Alas, on the contrary we can see how these leaders do quite the opposite of this: they justify totalitarianism and maintain the dominance of the exploiting class.

Mazen Kalmamaz,
Syrian anarchist

01 May 2011

Translation by nmcn

1. Armed gangs employed and protected by the regime in order to break the opposition. See and
2. Syrian marxist currents.
3. A dignitary of the Syrian regime, cousin of president Bashar al-Assad and exclusive intermediary between the regime and the multinationals.
4. Samira al-Massalma, former editor-in-chief of Syrian State TV, fired after responding to an interview on an Arabic satellite channel.
5. Intellectuals who defend the idea of a "civil society" in Syria, imprisoned in 2008.

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