The following was an e-mail response by the author of Toilers’ Struggle to some comrades’ question: “What is the solution in Syria?”
The question of NATO intervention in Syria and the Syrian Civil War is a fundamental question of crucial importance to the Marxist-Leninist theory, strategy, and tactics of anti-imperialist struggle in today’s world. It involves a number of important recognitions of the conditions of anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle in the epoch of imperialism, such as the balance and arrangement of class forces in a given time and space, the nature of and possible alliances between certain classes oppressed by imperialism, and the objective realities of struggle in a world in which the main enemy in many circumstances is imperialism, not necessarily capital itself.
The current civil war in Syria, in which the US-NATO imperialist gang is preparing to intervene in order to bolster the losing rebels, is a brutal, merciless, and destructive war waged, not by the popular masses against the Syrian state, but by and on the initiative of the “rebels”, a motley assortment of Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Al-Qaeda who are only “united” as the (make-believe) “Free Syrian Army” by the fact that they are all provably on the US payroll. There are no evident progressive or democratic tendencies or groups among the rebels, much less a significant Syrian proletarian presence, as a large amount of the rebels have actually crossed Syrian borders from foreign countries solely for the purpose of bringing down the secular Assad government. The only formulated demand of the Free Syrian Army thus far has been “down with Assad.” No program or alternative vision has been placed on the agenda, mainly owing to the motley composition of the rebels who are divided over commitments to their own sectarian visions of a future theocracy. The “political representative” of the Free Syrian Army, i.e., the Syrian National Council, is based in Istanbul, Turkey (!) and is a cabinet of stooges selected by the West whose only platform, unsurprisingly, has been that the new Syria cooperate with the West, and “respect human rights, freedom of the press, political pluralism, and democracy.”
The original protests of 2011 which did comprise the working classes of Syria, i.e., the working class and the peasantry, put up legitimate demands over legitimate grievances held by the working people of Syria. Syrian communists have affirmed this, pointing to the neo-liberal concessions in the economy of Syria following the collapse of the socialist bloc with which it was previously aligned as the problem. Assad’s government agreed to all of the demands: (1) the abridgment of civil liberties under martial law due to the technical state of war with Israel was lifted, and (2) a new constitution was drafted which annulled the Syrian Ba’ath Socialist Party’s original privilege of state power and changed eligibility requirements for running for president accordingly, and mandated presidential elections every 7 years under universal, secret ballot. Further, (3) the constitution promised that all commanding heights and crucial sectors of the Syrian economy would be public owned, (4) free and universal healthcare and education would be guaranteed by law, (5) progressive taxation would be instituted, and, most significantly and most irritating to the rebels and the West, (6) a minimum of half of all members of the People’s Assembly must be of working class or peasant origin. The constitution, positively, has also enshrined the anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist, and popular nature of the Syrian state as both an ideal and a reality. The new constitution was put to a popular referendum, was approved, and the next presidential elections are slated for 2014. The CIA, worryingly, has speculated that Assad will receive over 75% of the vote.
So where and with whom do we stand in the Syrian Civil War? Based on an empirical analysis, the answer is obviously with the Syrian government, and the masses of Syrian people by extension, because the rebels do not constitute a progressive force, but instead are counter revolutionary in substance and nature. However, Marxists do not believe in empirical analysis as the basis for formulating strategy, tactics, and enriching and developing theory. Marxists believe in dialectical, materialist analysis which analyzes the historical origins of the current arrangement of class forces in the aim of assessing the progressive weight of certain class struggles and their trajectory in order to determine the future course of development of the balance of class forces. In the case of Syria, this requires a brief recapitulation of some necessary facts and class analyses.
The Syrian Arab Republic was born out of the 1963 8th of March Revolution, which was an anti-imperialist and bourgeois-democratic revolution in essence and nature. It smashed the old pro-imperialist, monarchical regime and brought to power the progressive national bourgeoisie, along with representatives of the Syrian working class and peasantry. All reforms and socio-economic shake ups associated with a bourgeois revolution, such as land reform, were decisively effected. From the very outset, the Syrian state was progressive. Why? Mao, in his On New Democracy, pointed to the fact that in the modern epoch and conditions of imperialism, any anti-imperialist and bourgeois-democratic revolution (the two often run hand in hand) necessarily becomes something unlike any other of its predecessors in history. Because of the class forces and necessary steps involved under the conditions of the imperialist epoch, such a revolution is necessarily compelled by the logic of struggling against imperialism to become a “people’s democratic revolution.” This essentially means that any bourgeois-democratic revolution of today necessarily aligns itself against imperialism, has a large proletarian contingent, and becomes an ally of the world socialist revolution, and is therefore a people’s democratic revolution. Just like China, Syria was a case in point in proving this to be a reality.
Of course, it is not the working class but the national bourgeoisie that is the current ruling class in Syria. The national bourgeoisie, as a rule, is not consistently anti-imperialist, and it is by nature a capitalist class. However, under the circumstances of being directly pitted against imperialism for sake of preserving its very existence, it may play a progressive role akin to its progressive role in the democratic, anti-imperialist revolution to start with. This is not to say that the the rule of the national bourgeoisie should not be replaced by the rule of the working class through socialist transformation, i.e., revolution, but the point is that the national bourgeoisie is a temporary, conditional, and beneficial ally of the proletariat and the socialist revolution under certain circumstances. The national bourgeoisie, whenever it is not in such circumstances or it has a chance to escape them, often reverts to its distinct class interests and turns to every means of profiteering and power, even if it means national degradation and the exploitation of the working class. Such was demonstrated by the Syrian bourgeoisie when, following the collapse of the socialist bloc, it made some noteworthy concessions and reconciliations with the West and its own class interests such as implementing neo-liberal measures of market deregulation, privatization, and opening up to investments from Turkey, Qatar, and the West.
Being pitted against imperialism for the sake of its very existence today, the Syrian national bourgeoise is in a situation in which it is compelled to play a truly revolutionary and progressive role. The working people of Syria have realized this, and have rallied around Assad and the Syrian government. The very existence of Syria as an independent nation is in question, and the Assadist national bourgeoisie has remained faithfully patriotic and has resolved to mercilessly fight back against the West’s possible invasion. The Syrian Arab Army, increasingly enlarged by working class-origin volunteers, is victoriously effecting a counter-offensive against the counterrevolutionary rebels, and Assad has pledged that Syria will not kneel down to the West or its paid agents within Syria.
Revolutionaries are thus presented with the concrete situation: the US-NATO gang and its tenderly cared for Islamic fundamentalist rebels are waging a war to overthrow the Assad government and install a regime which, whatever sectarian Islamist theocracy follows, will nonetheless sell out Syria’s resources, people, and independence for exploitation by the West. The Syrian state and the Syrian Rebel Army, rallied around by the working class and peasantry of Syria, are not giving up, and, much to the chagrin of the West, are increasingly successful in their struggle against the rebels. Where must revolutionary communists stand? Firstly, any sort of passive, idealist position like clamoring for peace negotiations, or, what’s worse, sitting back and resting content with calling the situation a tragedy is obviously, undeniably a wrong, objectively harmful position because it does nothing but mislead the anti-imperialist struggle and refuse aid and solidarity to the real progressive forces. Secondly, genuine communists obviously don’t stand by the US-NATO gang or the rebels, for such is a position worthy of only the unpardonably blindness and r-r-revolutionary garbage of Trotskyists.
Revolutionary communists in particular, and progressives in general, stand not with the forces of reaction, nor with some invisible “working class revolution” which is idealistically fantasized and dreamed up. We stand with the concretely existing and objectively progressive forces which will aid the struggle for socialism in Syria and the world revolution at large. In the present circumstances of the Syrian Civil War, this means that we stand by the popular, patriotic, progressive united front of the Assad government, the Syrian Arab Army, and the working class and peasantry of Syria against the rebel counter revolution and imperialist invasion, the Assad government and the Syrian Arab Army (i.e., the sum total of the national bourgeoisie) obviously playing the leading role. These are the actually existing forces which are progressive in their role and trajectory, which are aiding the cause of national liberation, anti-imperialism, and, objectively, thus socialism.
In the long run, a socialist Syria can only exist if a free, independent Syria does as a prerequisite. The working class can only but increase its political power by seizing the opportunities which are given to it in the heat of the Syrian Civil War by participating in the popular front and supporting the government which is granting it crucially needed reforms, political leeway, and which is defending the fatherland. Syrian communists have themselves maintained that the popular front with the Assad government not only forms an effective front against the rebellion and imperialist intervention but also increases the power, prestige, and strategic forces of the proletariat. Distracting and misleading the Syrian proletariat from the crucial anti-imperialist, anti-rebel struggle towards attempting to form some sort of independent government or organization at the present time would be adventurous, suicidal, and, quite frankly, impossible as long as bombs and bullets from the rebels and neighboring imperialist stooge countries continue to destroy neighborhoods and lives.
If, let us imagine, the Syrian government is defeated, the working class and peasantry would suffer a devastating onslaught of super exploitation by foreign corporations, the looting of the country’s resources, and yet another obstacle in the way of imperialism’s targeting of Iran and China would be obliterated.
Thus, unlike the CPUSA’s position expressed in its recent People’s World article on intervention in Syria, we must stand with Assad and the Syrian government, the progressive forces supported by and aiding the interests of the working class of Syria. This is the unavoidable demand of a scientific analysis of the conditions at hand and the necessities of the anti-imperialist struggle. This is “the solution in Syria.”
In his first published writing, An Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society, Mao Tsetung said that the fundamental question of every revolutionary struggle is “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” He said: “The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray.”
Syria is a paradigm of the necessity of communists’ analysis of the balance of class forces, or “friends” and “enemies”, when it comes to the anti-imperialist struggle which involves multiple classes, but really is only the consistent and unflinching interest of one: the proletariat. We in the West and our comrades in Syria must make every effort to make a proper analysis and refrain from leading the Syrian masses astray.
Thus, the ideal slogans of revolutionary communists on this matter must be:
Victory to Assad and the Syrian people!
For a unified bloc against the aggressors!
No to another Libya!
No US-NATO intervention!
Death to the counter revolutionary rebel bandits!