|Written by Ronald Leon Nuñez|
|Tuesday, 08 January 2013 04:31|
The Ways of Syrian Revolution
For the past year and a half, the class struggle in Syria is translated into the language of gun, the roars of cannons, and the fierce house after house combat in forceful headway against enemy positions. This is the overt and complete civil war. We are witnessing the greatest worldwide confrontation between revolution and counterrevolution ever seen in our days and the result of this struggle will have deep influence on the international situation, particularly on the way the revolutions taking place in the Middle East and North Africa.
As months go by, the situation tends to become more dramatic and gory. The dictatorial Bashar Al Assad regime that had promised to “live and die in Syria” is committing genocide against Syrian people, who had risen in arms to defeat him. Day in day out we can witness atrocious methods of massive extermination against the armed rebels and the population in general; they are methods of clearly Nazi-fascist character, ranging from air raids and the use of heavy gunfire, tearing cities to rubble, to selective air raids against bakeries or petrol stations, just in time to smash desperate customers, and systematic use of bands of thugs armed and paid by the dictatorship, known as Shabiha, who tear into neighbourhoods under dispute or controlled by rebels, to torture, murder and rape women and children.
The numbers of crimes committed by Al Assad are bloodcurdling. According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), more than 38 000 people have died (3220 of them are children) since 15th March 2011, when the revolution began until late October 2012. Between August and October this year alone, 15 152 people died and the average of daily casualties rose to 165. In the midst of this bloodbath, more than 360 thousand fled to seek refuge in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq where they are still to be found living in infrahuman conditions. According to the Centre for the Documentation of Violation in Syria, there are 32 478 political prisoners rotting in Al Assad’s jails, 806 of whom are children. Even according to a recent UN report the situation of these boys and girls is dramatic for “there are cases of boys and girls who are refused admission to hospitals, boys and girls killed in bombing raids against their neighbourhoods, suffering torture including sexual violence.”
Syrian economy has been devastated
Before analysing the course of the civil war and its dynamics, it is important to point out the current economic situation in Syria, 20 months after the beginning of the revolution.
On the 4th of last August, the Lebanese periodical, The Daily Star, reported that, according to the International Finances Institute, Syria’s GDP would fall 14% in 2012 after a 6% contraction in 2011.They also warned that this fall might become as bad as 20% by the end of 2012 if the civil war continued – something highly probable.
The main economic indicators are falling. Revenues from tourism have diminished from 11% of GDP in 2010 to 4% in 2011; by 2012 they will represent not more than 0.6% of Syrian economy. Direct foreign investment will drop from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $100 million in 2012. The total drainage of capitals between March 2011 and July 2012 represents 21% of GDP. Due to the quasi paralysis of economy, international sanctions and a drastic fall of farming production they are running out of every kind of food and consumers’ goods. The average inflation in 2012 is 17% compared to 5.3% in 2011.
Fiscal deficit is 14% of the GDP, nearly double what it was in 2011, when it was in the neighbourhood of 8%. Because of the civil war, the government expenditure ran out of control and the revenues all but disappeared. Such is, for example, the case of the income proceeding from oil exports that used to represent up to 30% of the government’s revenue. Exports of oil are expected to fall130 000 barrels a day in 2011 to 100 000 in 2012. Exports of commodities in general diminished 12% in 2011 and are expected to fall further 20%. Imports also dwindled 21.5% in 2012 after shrinking 14.2% the previous year.
Foreign exchange reserve of the Al Assad dictatorship was reduced from $19.5 billion (equivalent to 7.6 months of imports of goods and services) in 2010 to $10.8 billion in 2011 (equivalent to 4.4 months of imports). It has been calculated that by the end of 2012 these reserves would be of $1.1 billion dollars, an amount equivalent to 18 days of imports.
The newspaper Syria Today reports that, according to data provided by the government, unemployment has reached 25%. Other sources mention 30% as more accurate, without taking underemployment into account. The official rate of poverty is at 13% and there is no doubt that the real figure is much higher. Syrian industry, which represented 23.7% of the GDP, is destroyed or paralyzed. Entrepreneurs themselves assert that the capacity of industrial production has been reduced by 60%. In Aleppo, economic capital of the country, more than half the textile factories have been closed because the European markets are as good as closed due to international bans.
This is the economic framework in which the war is set. On the one hand, the armed conflict fuels social contradictions and the penuries of the toiling masses fighting to topple Al Assad and conquer democratic liberties in view of future better living conditions, increasingly deteriorated by the social tragedy that accrues with the civil war. On the other hand, it is clear that the dictatorship is losing the economic oxygen to keep on with their warring campaign against Syrian masses. What with production plunging, with most of the markets closed, with fiscal revenue reaching rock bottom and with practically no financial reserves, Al Assad’s situation is dramatic for it weakens him and makes his political and social base sway so much that there are sectors of bourgeoisie who are now beginning to abandon his ship. So much so that were it not for the economic and military aid given to him by his few allies: Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba – the Syrian regime would not be able to stay and keep on with the genocidal attacks.
The course of the civil war
A military triumph of the rebel camp is clearly up against the problem of armaments and political and military leadership. In spite of all the headway achieved by the rebel militias and the Free Syrian Army, Al Assad has still a greater fire power. Al Assad has an army that is riddled with desertions, but their chain of command is still there let alone the heavy artillery and respectable air force. It is important to know that the Syrian army has always been one of the strongest in the Middle East and was armed directly by Iran and Russia.
In order to make desertions more difficult, Al Assad uses elite units – such as the terrible IV Mechanised Division commanded by his younger brother Maher Al Assad and, of course, the mercenary and criminalShabishas. Furthermore, his military actions have lately been strongly supported by air raids. This has caused a high rate of casualties among civilians and makes the rebels’ headway more difficult and even has forced the rebels to abandon certain position for lack of anti aircraft or anti tanks guns.
As in every civil war, the armament issue is an extremely important political issue. The numbers of rebel accrue but they lack weapons. The numbers of rebels grow but they do not have enough weapons to hold their positions and make decisive headway. “We do not need more men. We need more weapons,” says commanding officer Ahmed Abu Ali, leading a katiba (battalion) on a hundred militiamen fighting in the neighbourhood of Saladino, Aleppo. And he continues, “The most difficult thing we have to cope with is the T-82 armoured fighting vehicles against which our RPG are of little use.” And he adds“… as well as the fighter planes.” Furthermore, Abu Ali regrets, “we have snipers but no precision rifles” and declares, “We cannot control Aleppo unless we can have heavy weapons. (…) Without more weapons we cannot even imagine our future.” (El País 11.8.2012)
So far no government has decided to send heavy weapon to the rebels. All the imperialist powers and governments such as that of Egypt or Libya have been adverse to this alternative. Barak Obama expressed the motives very clearly, “It would be very risky to use American military means in Syria. We cannot put weapons into the hands of people who may then use them against us” (El País). Imperialism is very much aware of the fact that by arming the rebels would mean arming those who are carrying out the revolution underway. The best “material support” for the FSA received from imperialist powers so far consists of light weapon or giving intelligence service for some rebel operations. This normally happens through Qatar or Turkey. Weapons, however, reach the rebels by dribs and drabs and only for groups or sectors more yielding to the interests of imperialism or those who may, in the opinion of the USA, divert the revolution from inside, such as the yihadists. In the meantime, the Al Assad regime keeps on receiving shipments of weapons from Russia and Iran. In 2011 alone, Russia, who has a naval base in Syria and important commercial interests, sold US$ 1000 million worth of weapon to the Syrian government. Russian Foreign Affairs minister, Sergei Lavrov admitted this overtly when he cynically said that this happens “Within the framework of technical and military cooperation between Russia and Syria in order to support the defensive capacity of Syria against foreign political menace who do not support Bashat Al Assad” (Reuter, 5/11)
Another favourable element for the Syrian regime is the political and military support from Hezbollah, which is an important part of the government of Lebanon, a country where the Syrian civil war has started exerting influence and caused serious confrontations between the sympathisers and detractors of Al Assad. We must bear in mind that Hezbollah controls entire regions of the Syrian-Lebanese frontier and that it is the best trained armed organisation with great political prestige and military power in the Middle East, especially since they defeated Israel in 2006.
Furthermore, there is another serious problem: the activity of Islamist Salafist groups or yihadists groups (fundamentalist groups of Islam) such as the militia known as Al Nushra, which is not part of the FSA and take up a number of isolated actions in order to give the civil war a sectarian, religious character. They preach that the conflict is between the Sunni and Alawite-Chii (the branch of Islam to which the Assad family belongs). That is why they dedicate their efforts to terrorist actions without any connection with the military activity of the FSA and often aimed against the civilian population o against other religions. In spite of the fact that the activity of such groups contributes towards the military effort to topple the Syrian dictatorship, it boosts divisions and weakens the rebel camp for such sectarian activities only help to keep whole sectors of the population (Alawites, Christians, etc) away from the struggle for the defeat of the regime and headway of the revolution.
On top of it all there are problems inside the very rebel camp, beginning by the bourgeois and pro-imperialist political and military leadership of the Syrian National Council and the top headquarters of the FSA who repeated over and over again that they would support an imperialist military intervention, and some sector have declared their willingness to discuss a “transitional administration” without Al Assad where – however – his vice president or some other character of his regime might be accepted.
However, in spite of the fact that the Al Assad regime still controls greater ilitary power, since mid-June it is possible to define that there is an offensive of the armed rebels and important military headway is being achieved. This happens against the background of deepening civil war and is expressed in the fact that for about three months, combats have been taking place very powerfully in two of the main cities: Damascus and Aleppo.
In Damascus, the millennial capital of the country, battles are fought mainly in the peripheral neighbourhoods even if brief but intense battles were fought also downtown. The regime has so far failed at the target to annihilate the rebel harassment in Damascus to the point that they had to use air raids in several neighbourhoods of the capital city.
In Aleppo the combat is for every inch of the territory. The FSA assert that they control 60% of the city even if they have not yet been able to seize downtown. In the midst of the rubble of a city all but turned into ruins by endless bombardments, rebels defend their positions. Conquest of Aleppo is of strategic importance because of its geopolitical and economic weight for it would open a path for supplies directly connected to the Turkish frontier.
In early November, rebels conquered two other strategic positions: Maaret al Numan and Saraqeb – both cities in the province of Idlib, where the government lost all their control posts, except three of them. Both towns are of vital importance for both bands due to the control of the road that goes from Damascus to Aleppo and connects the latter to the coastal town of Latakia in the north. This is the road that the regime uses to transport troops to attack Aleppo.
Attacks have also broken out again at the military base of Taftanaz, where the regime launches attacks against the entire province of Idlib. In Deir Ezzor, eastern zone of the country, rebels have announced that they had seized the Al Ward oilfield. On last November 5, in Hama, 50 soldiers and politicians linked to Al Assad were killed in an attack by car filled with explosives. Other attacks and indiscriminate bombardments by the regime are taking place in Daraa, Homs and Latakia.
FSA militias deliver important blows against the Syrian regime but they still lack sufficient power to carry out a sweeping and decisive offensive. However, the depth of the revolution is such that a clear situation of dual power has been established in the country most clearly expressed on the territories liberated by the militias.
Two powers in Syria
There are two powers in Syria. On one side, the government and the Al Assad regime still control the state apparatus and the armed forces. On the other hand, against the background of a rebel military offensive, there are entire territories that are no longer controlled by the dictator.
Among the first liberated territories is an important part of Homs, the city where the “revolutionary military council” established head quarters and took up specific tasks of a political power, such as food supplies, sanitation, health care, security and meting out of justice. Deir Ezzor, with its strong industries and oilfields is another city that is almost completely controlled by the rebel militias. In Hama there are also liberated zones controlled by militia councils that have taken over at least supplies and security of bakeries, evacuation of the population, etc. In these small towns, such as Taftanaz, the local Tansiqiyyat issues periodicals and other materials. (See the map)
Map 1: Zones controlled by rebel forces
In Saraqeb, a kind of council of revolutionary security forces has been established. Its president, Abu Haya, commented on the way this organism functions and its first tasks, “(…) we opened a list of voluntaries to enrol revolutionary security forces and we worked to create groups of civilians to organise traffic and control security apart from coordinating services such as municipal works that engulf keeping the streets clean or throw rubbish away”. Similar systems of administration exist also in such rural zones as Kajarjanaz, Binnish, Atma and Tal´ada. There is information about uneven budding of “networks” of these militia councils.
Even if embryonic and precarious, the existence of liberated zones and of countless Tansiqiyyat in Syria, which seem to have some degree of coordination between them, is a highly progressive fact. They are the clearest expression of the power of Syrian revolution. That is why the regime takes all the necessary pains to bomb them and to destroy these zones. This has been, for example, the case of Kafarnubol, liberated on 1 April 2011 and cruelly bombed by Al Azad aircrafts on 5 November 2012.
The fatal role of Castro-Chavism
Ever since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, most of the world left, above all Castro-Chavism, took their place against the insurrection of the masses and in defense of the bloodthirsty dictator Al Assad in the same way they had supported politically and militarily Gadafi in Libya. In the opinion of these sectors, what exists in Syria is not a revolution but a counterrevolution, where “mercenaries” or “troops of imperialism” are said to be trying to topple Al Assad, alleged anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist leader.
Hugo Chavez, recently re-elected President of Venezuela, asserted a short time after the elections, “How can anyone do anything but to support the Bashat Al Saad administration if this is the legitimate government of Syria. Whom shall we support? The terrorists?” Then he ratified his “100% support” for the Syrian dictator and said, “Wish to God we could do something! But what can a country like Venezuela do?” he wondered. Actually, Chavez not only supports the genocide Assad in his speeches but he also represents one of those countries that supply him with fuel that is then used in the tanks and aeroplanes that murder Syrian people.
It is time to call a knife a knife: Castro-Chavism is the accomplice of the genocidal activities of Al Assad. He uses his weight and his prestige in the social movement and among the left to push them against a revolution and at the side of a bloodthirsty pro-imperialist dictatorship. Apart from that, he overtly capitulates to imperialism which he claims to confront, for he gives away to them the struggle for democratic liberties and in this way he makes it easier for Obama, the European Union and the Arab League – with Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the lead – to be cynically introduced as the greatest defenders of “democracy”.
Imperialist policy and the CNS
Imperialism lacks political conditions for military intervention so they manoeuvre in every possible way in order to control and crush Syrian revolution. It has been some time ago now since Al Assad, whom they had so far supported for as long a possible, proved to be unable to accomplish this task and this is the reason for which he lost the blessing from Washington.
Imperialist call for Al Assad to resign was made in the service of relocating forces in this way so as to control, defeat and abort the revolution. Imperialism was clever enough to abandon a ship that was sinking and now their main concern is how and with whom to cope with the course of the civil war and a possible fall of Al Assad in such a way as to leave their interests in a safe place.
It is with this in mind that USA and the entire concert of European imperialisms and Arab national bourgeoisies are trying to force a policy that would include Al Assad exit from power and yet maintain the essential bases of the regime. That is why on different occasions different formulae have been proposed for a “transitional government” including the opposition and members of the current dictatorship.
However, the political divisions inside Syrian opposition, beginning with the enormous gulf that separates the CNS – that consists mainly of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberals exiled abroad – and the militias fighting on the spot make the imperialist target of controlling the process more difficult to reach.
It is now necessary to understand that the CNS is losing weight and political authority because their main leaders are abroad and in their statements they accept to conciliate with the spokesmen of the regime. The opposite thing happens to FSA: they bask in full confidence because they are the articulation that leads military actions inside Syria. But even inside FSA the HQ, which consists of former top officers of the regime, led by colonel Ryad Musa Al Assad from Turkey cannot claim uncontested confidence over hundreds of militias and popular councils that are spread all over Syria. The FSA is not a totally centralized army with a united chain of command but a kind of united and ample front that engulfs all the militias that claim to be part of the FSA but do not necessarily obey the orders of their HQ.
Against this background, imperialism must have all the guarantees in relation to the authority and policy of CNS. That is why Hilary Clinton has recently posed several pieces of criticism of CNS, saying, “CNS can no longer be regarded as the visible leader of the opposition,” and she demanded that it should be amplified so as to try to engulf most of the different opposition groups, from the local coordinating committees to militias and even zone administrations. The aim is clear: to spawn better conditions to co-opt the whole rebel leadership and so abort the revolution.
No sooner said than done. Complying with the directives from Washington, the CNS summoned for a meeting in Doha (Qatar) where the number of its members was doubled and they anointed a new President, George Sabra, a former leader of the Communist Party, at present of the Syrian Popular Democratic Party. During the same event, in order to constitute a transitional government that could enjoy full trust from imperialism, just as the Libyan Transitional National Council, they constituted a new cohesive space called National Coalition of Forces of Opposition and Rebels that is larger than CNS.
The Muslim religious activist, Moaz al Jatib was elected president of the new coalition that integrated more Kurdish sectors, Christians and Alawites into the political front. His first statements were to seek political backing from imperialism, and France has already backed them. The CNS still keeps important weight inside the CNFORS: they have 14 seats.
The positive aspect is that the network of activists on the grounds, the Committees of Local Coordination (CLC) announced that they are leaving the CNS saying that at the Qatar meeting, CNS has “failed at adopting a plan of global reform to develop a decent political representation of the revolution of the Syrian people” (EFE, 9/11).
A revolutionary policy for Syria
Our standpoint and our policy for Syrian revolution stems out of unconditional support for the uprising of the masses against the dictatorship of Al Assad.
Consequently, in this civil war, we find ourselves in the military camp of the armed rebels (the camp of the revolution) against the troops of the Syrian regime (the camp of the counterrevolution), regardless of whether the political leadership of this military camp is bourgeois or pro-imperialist.
It is only as from this definition as to where the revolution and the counterrevolution are and hence fighting consistently on the side of the Syrian people against the tyrant Al Assad while maintaining constantly absolute political independencethat it will be possible to contest for the leadership of this military camp against bourgeois and pro-imperialist leaders.
In this military struggle we are not neutral, for any kind of neutrality – overt or concealed – is directly equivalent to denying the revolution and giving objective support to the permanence of Al Assad. Such is the position of PTS-FT and other organisations that claim to be Trotskyists but they defend a “neither-nor position” (neither Al Assad nor the rebels) with the arguments that the rebel leadership is bourgeois and pro-imperialist and that is why the “rebellion” (they do not ever regard the events in Syria as a revolution) has been kidnapped beforehand”. In the midst of brutal genocide and a powerful revolution, these “revolutionaries” please themselves making comments that take their hopeful thinking with reality and demanding “guarantees” from the process itself, without which they would not support it and they confine themselves to criticising their limitations, leaving the road clear for betraying leaders and imperialism. In spite of all the leftist discourse, this position, which they make efforts to present as “class independence”, is criminal if posed in the middle of a civil war, for applied to reality it only favours the permanence of Al Assad. Along a different path, they wind up in the same position as Castro-Chavism.
In order to support this revolution, some of these sectors demand that it should be led by the proletariat and a revolutionary party. But posing such conditions means failing to understand that the existence of the dictatorship is precisely the greatest objective obstacle hindering the proletariat to thrive and build a revolutionary party. This position also stands for singing in the choir of Stalinism’s uphold of Al Assad in the name of the “peril” that would befall after him.
The combat for the construction of a revolutionary political leadership is fundamental for the rebels’ military camp, but it can only be fought if we are part of the struggle to topple the murderous Al Assad dictatorship.
Our policy is for the immediate annihilation of the Al Assad regime and for the instauration of a government by Syrian exploited classes. We can formulate this position in slogans: Down with Assad, No to imperialist intervention!
Today, working for the policy of Syrian exploited classes concretely stands for fighting for the strengthening and centralisation of all the local coordination committees and of the popular councils or Tansiqiyyat that control the liberated zones. We are for amplifying, strengthening and creating Tansiqiyyat in all the zones that the armed militias may conquer and set free from the power of the dictatorship! We are for the election of representative delegates democratically elected by neighbourhoods, provinces, factories and regiments so as to build up popular councils that can administer liberated zones. These are the embryos of proletarian and popular power! We are all for holding regional and national Popular Congresses of these Popular Councils to coordinate military struggle in the field and bring solution to the problems of administration in the liberated zones! The struggle ought to be for the creation of further liberated zones and controlled by the Tansiqiyyatuntil the defeat of Al Assad and the seizure of power by the proletarian and socialist government. All these are activities of the same work: socialist revolution.
This war can change its political and military leadership only by fighting for the strengthening and centralization of the Tansiqiyyat, regarding them as veritable embryos of proletarian and popular power. But this, we insist, can only be achieved as from military union with all the sectors that are willing and actually do hold weapon to defeat Al Assad. Any “neutral” position would only turn us into abstract and sterile propagandists or even into reactionary defeatists rendering priceless service to Al Assad from within the “left”.
Part of this combat to get the revolution to topple Al Assad and make headway towards a government of workers, peasants and popular sectors in Syria consist of permanent exposure of the bourgeois leaders – intrinsically pro-imperialist and irreconcilable enemies of popular interests and of socialism, such as the leadership of CNS, the HQ of Free Syria Army, Muslim Brotherhood and all the Islamic yihadist groups. But this exposure cannot be abstract: we pose it as from the revolutionary struggle to topple the Al Assad regime.
The left is facing a test of fire. In this civil war it is necessary to pick sides and any organisation that claims to be revolutionary must wonder: are we for the military victory of the masses to defeat the genocidal and pro-imperialist al Assad dictatorship? Are we or are we not? Are we in the same military camp as the masses who are shooting at Al Assad, regardless of who is leading them, always staying politically independent to contest for the leadership against the bourgeois from the CNS and the summits of FSA and imperialism? Are we or are we not? This is essential to define if we are to know if a left-winger organisation stands for headway of the revolution, or, to the contrary, of the counterrevolution.
Our answer to all these questions is affirmative. That is why we insist with all the activists of trade union, social and of human rights as well as of revolutionary left to rally round unconditional support for Syrian revolution, carrying out all kinds of solidarity actions with Syrian people in arms, form rallies to raise funds in order to obtain any type of material aid. It is also fundamental to demand from the governments immediate breach of diplomatic and commercial relations with the dictator Al Assad and shipment of heavy weapons, food and medicines to be controlled by the rebel militias. Obviously, that any action of solidarity with the armed struggle with Syrian people will have to be carried out against Castro-Chavism and their “leftist” repeaters, but it is necessary to make Syrian fighters in exile know that there is a revolutionary and socialist left that supports the Syrian revolution.