|Written by Ronald León Núñez / LITCI|
|Monday, 25 June 2012 16:44|
In Syria the class struggle is fierce. On May 25th the world watched in horror; terrible scenes of women and children murdered in cold blood by the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad.
It happened in Houla, a town 25 km from Homs, already immortalized as the “capital of revolution.” That day, after intense bombardment of heavy artillery, there were clashes between the soldiers of the regular army and the militias who tried to defend Houla with what they had in their hands. The military superiority of the dictatorship enabled its partial victory and Houla was occupied. This is when ominous shabbihas groups – armed bands of thugs in the service of the regime – got into action. They set fire to hospitals and began to “hunt” the rebels, house by house. They burst out and started slitting throats, stabbing angrily and shooting in the head anyone found in their path. The result is already known: 116 civilians were killed, including 49 children under 10 years old and 39 women, among the bodies was found a baby of just eight months.
A commander of the Syrian air force, Yihad Raslan, witnessed this slaughter and then deserted. He told British newspaper The Guardian “[The shabbihas] entered the city in cars, trucks and motorcycles and went house to house murdering civilians, including children, in cold blood (…). They shouted ‘shabbiha always, from your eyes, Al Assad.’ It was obvious who they were.” Afterwards the Syrian commander explained why he defected,”They told us that armed groups murdered people and the Syrian Free Army burned houses. They lied to us. Now I have seen with my own eyes what they are doing.”
The day after the killing in Houla, 40 people died because of intense shelling in Homs. Among them there were eight children. Days later, before the astonished gaze of the world again, Houla was plagued with the cannons of Assad’s tanks.
The city of Houla is just one depiction, albeit terrifying, of what happens every day in Syria.
Every day the dictatorship bombs cities, kills civilians, imprisons or disappears opponents and systematically uses the rape of women and children as a weapon against the Syrian people.
We are watching a bloodbath
Since the start of popular mobilizations, about 15 months ago, more than 13,400 people have died, 230,000 others have fled their homes to move to other parts of the country and there are over 78,000 refugees at the borders of Lebanon and Turkey. Thousands of political prisoners are rotting in the dungeons of the regime and more than one million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. These are official figures from the UN and other human rights bodies. Without doubt, the reality is even worse.
But it is clear that Assad is determined to stay in power, even if he bloodies all Syrian territory. In a speech delivered on June 3, he cynically denied all responsibility from his government in the massacre in the town of Houla, repeating his usual speech: The blame was with “financed terrorist groups abroad.”
Later, he compared the massacre with a surgeon who performs an emergency operation to save the life of a patient and, therefore, has bloodied hands: “When a surgeon in the operating room … makes cuts, cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, does someone say that his hands are stained with blood? Or thanks him for saving the patient? “. He concluded his speech by saying: “Syria is facing a level of destruction (…) we have to fight terrorism for the country to heal (…). We will not be lenient “(El Pais).
The Civil war spreads and deepens
It is hard to dispute the fact that Syria is currently one of the epicenters of the revolutionary process that is shaking North Africa and the Middle East. Not only that: Syria is one of the highest points of the class struggle worldwide.
In this country, since the end of 2011, there has been an ongoing, bloody civil war. In the Syrian Cities and streets fierce, mortal battles are being waged between revolution and counterrevolution.
After the events in Houla, the command of Free Syrian Army (ESL) announced that it broke the agreed “ceasefire” driven by the UN so that they could “defend the people.” On June 5th, the rebels killed at least 22 soldiers loyal to the dictatorship of Damascus, while losing nine of their own men, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The main fighting took place in the coastal city of Latakia (birthplace of the Assad family). In these confrontations, the ESL destroyed at least five tanks and armored personnel carriers, and took control of several police stations in the town of Haffeh.
These combats reach almost all the cities of the country. The armed struggle reaches major cities like Homs (the third city in the country), which despite being systematically bombed, has not only not been taken by the forces of Assad, but that the rebels control twenty percent of the city. Guns cause stampedes in Idlib, Hama, Deraa (which is the city where the conflict began) and there was fighting, even in the Golan Heights, which was stolen by Israel in 1967. The fighting reached the outskirts of the capital, Damascus and Aleppo (the second city in the country), where the student movement took hold of universities and countless demonstrations, some of them at the funerals of martyrs, under the motto “A revolution for all Syrians.” Al-Rastan is another city taken by the rebels.
In recent weeks there have been several attacks on important government offices and Armed Forces located in Damascus and Hama. Furthermore, attacks on convoys of UN observers who are currently on Syrian soil. Some of these attacks were made by a group jihadista called Yebha Nasra al (Help Front).
The fight grows to such proportions that even the UN had to acknowledge that the rebels control a “significant portion” of the territory. And not only that. The Syrian conflict, to the great unease of imperialism and the Arab bourgeoisie, is spreading to Lebanon. In the neighboring country armed clashes have been occurring for weeks, especially in the city of Tripoli between supporters of the revolution and the defenders of the Assad’s regime, which to date is supported by Hezbollah.
What should be the position of Revolutionaries?
In the civil war, there are two military camps fighting.
On one side, in the military, is the bloody dictatorship and pro-imperialist Bashar Al Assad, in power for 12 years after succeeding his father Hafez, within the framework of a single party regime that has lasted more than 40 years.
On the other, the other military camp, the Syrian masses, who mobilize and fight with weapons in hand to topple Assad and win democratic freedoms and improve their standard of life, which has been ruined by the effects of the economic crisis and the politics of hunger that Assad applies to enrich and deliver the resources of the country to imperialism.
The struggle organized this way, revolutionaries should have a position. Using Lenin’s criteria, which according to Karl Von Clausewitz states that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, it is the duty of revolutionaries to make a class analysis of the process to identify where the revolution and counterrevolution are.
This question divides the left, such as in the case of Libya. Here we face two fundamental positions.
The first is the current position of the Castro-Chavists, who fully supports the Assad dictatorship, as before, when they supported the dictator Gaddafi. They make the same speech that Assad makes: all conflict and struggle of the Syrian people is the result of a Machiavellian “imperialist plot” that aims to overthrow the government, an “anti-imperialist” and “anti-Zionist” government. So, Syrian armed rebels (as before were the Libyans) would not be revolutionary fighters, but terrorists funded and sent by U.S. imperialism. In short, there is no revolution in Syria but counterrevolution. Consequently, Castro-Chavism is located in the military field of Assad against the masses.
This position has negative consequences because it undermines the international solidarity that is needed for the Syrian revolution, placing numerous sectors against the revolutionary vanguard of the masses.
The second position, defended by the LIT-QI, begins with the total support to the revolutionary struggle of the Syrian people. For us, in Syria, the counterrevolution is in the side of Assad’s military and revolution in militant side of the rebels.
Our policy develops from this central position. For us, in a struggle between revolution and counterrevolution the first thing that revolutionaries should do is find, without ever losing their political independence, where the revolution in the field is, in this case, the masses against the military dictatorship and imperialism, regardless its leadership.
Only from this position can we fight for class independence of the mass movement and fight against any kind of betrayal toward the process without wearing masks. In the case of Syria, a directly bourgeois and pro-imperialist leadership.
We do want to emphasize that there is a third position, which in matter of fact is a variant of the Castro-Chavez position, unfortunately from within a section of Trotskyism. This position is critical of Assad, but due to the pro-imperialist and bourgeois leadership of the rebels, argues that the masses also end up subordinated to this leadership and to imperialism, in which the case would also make them (the Syrian masses) reactionary.
This position is defended by the PTS Argentina, who has said about the Libyan conflict – due to the intervention of imperialism and traitors of the CNT direction – that the militias who fought with weapons in hand, who overthrew and lynched Gaddafi, were NATO “ground troops” or mere “soldiers of imperialism” who wanted to impose a regime “more pro-imperialist than that of Gaddafi.” What they do not dare to say, lacking any consistency, is that what existed in Libya was an imperialist attack by means of its “ground troops”, so we should have been fighting with Gaddafi, triggering the militias that were part of this imperialist aggression.
In Syria, they are repeating the same logic and even manage to make it worse. In their (PTS) last note on Syria, not at any time do they say clearly whether or not the masses should overthrow Assad, limited only in rejecting “the brutal repression by Assad”. We agree completely in rejecting it. But the question is: for the PTS-FT the main task at present is whether or not to overthrow the Assad dictatorship? To support or not the rebels’ struggle against the dictatorship? Or is the problem just the “brutal repression”? On which side would a militant PTS-FT shoot their rifle in Syria? Or would they just sit on the fence in the middle of a civil war?
What is the policy of imperialism?
Imperialism, which had been supporting all the Syrian dictatorships, now wants to take out Assad’s government. This is a fact. However, they do not want his removal because Assad is an “anti-imperialist” or something of the like. Much less for humanitarian reasons.
It is true that the regime of the Baath Party, in the sixties and seventies went through a period of confrontation with imperialism and Israel. The issue is that the Syrian Baath, which from the beginning planted a dictatorship against the mass movement, during this period adhered to bourgeois Arab nationalism, a ‘Nasserist’ movement with socialist rhetoric. It declared itself a supporter of the Palestinian cause and fought three wars against Israel in 1967, 1973 and 1978.
However, as no nationalist bourgeoisie can face imperialism to the end, because ultimately they have the same interests as the exploiters, the Baath Party, just as all the bourgeois nationalist Pan-Arabic (based mainly in Egypt and Libya), was increasingly making concessions to imperialism.
Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled the country from 1970 until 2000 and it was he who started to instrument the sell-out. In 1990 he was part of the imperialist invasion of Iraq, under the command of Bush. From 1976 to 2005, Syrian troops occupied Lebanon to defeat Palestinian insurgents, providing a huge service to Zionists and imperialism.
Bashar deepened this policy of total capitulation to imperialism. He opened the doors of the Syrian economy to imperialist investments and applied with rigor the main neo-liberal plans of the IMF.
The Syrian regime completely abandoned any struggle against imperialism and Zionism, to the point of becoming a fundamental supporter of Israel. In recent times, Zionist leaders recognized that Syria now has “safer” borders with Israel.
Considering these facts, it is clear that imperialism promotes the removal of Assad not because the Syrian dictator is an anti-imperialist, as the preaches from Castro-Chavez would lead to believe, but because he has become a destabilizing element in Syria and the Arabic region.
The fact is; Assad no longer fulfills his task of containing and defeating the struggle of the masses. This does not comply with the main interests of imperialism at this time: to defeat the revolutionary process in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
In this sense, Bashar Al Assad is a good ally turned into a disposable element. Assad is only throwing more gasoline on the fire that imperialism wants desperately to extinguish.
Imperialism wants to take out Assad’s government before the armed masses overthrow it with their revolutionary action (as in Libya), so that they can save the core of the Syrian regime and move forward in stabilizing the country and the region.
Due to these events, at this moment, it is less likely that there will be an armed imperialist intervention in Syria. Not because they don’t want to do it, but because they don’t have the political conditions (defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, economic crisis, U.S. elections, highly explosive geopolitical position of Syria, the opposition of Russia and China).
The facts seem to indicate that imperialism is applying different tactics from those used in Libya; it’s seeking for a negotiated political way out, betting strongly on the erosion of the Syrian regime through diplomatic and economic means. In recent days, for example, various imperialist countries, beginning with US, expelled Syrian ambassadors from their countries.
The main option for the imperialist powers would be Assad’s removal as happened in Yemen, that is, by taking him away from his throne and assuring him impunity for his crimes, to transfer power to another member of their clique and thus keep the essence of the regime in place.
This is the formula that the U.S. is trying to negotiate with Russia, so far a key ally of Assad. A change in the situation can’t be ruled out because Russia is beginning to show signs of wear on their stubbornness to support such a troublesome ally. In early June, the Russian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Guenadi Gatilov, even said: “I never said or put any conditions that Assad must necessarily remain in power after the political process finishes.”
It is a fact that many Syrian fighters and other activists across the world, faced with the massacre that Assad pushes, see the current UN and Arab League observers mission, headed by Kofi Annan, as a possible solution to the conflict.
However, the facts show that this mission is a huge farce. Assad continues to kill under the eyes of UN peacekeepers. More than 1,800 have been killed since the beginning of Annan’s “peace plan,” according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It is clear that the UN plan aims towards a negotiated solution to be able to maintain the regime and capitalism in Syria. Imperialism and the UN will not move because of “humanitarianism,” but by their need to defeat the revolution and get an “Assadism” without Assad. They care little about the killing of Syrian people.
The urgency for a revolutionary leadership
We have defended on several occasions that, for the IWL-FI, in Syria and in other countries of the region, the main problem for these revolutions to triumph and move on to the seizure of power by the working class and socialism is the lack of an internationalist revolutionary workers’ leadership.
The key contradiction in Syria and other countries is between the heroic actions of the masses and the role of their counterrevolutionary bourgeois and pro-imperialist leadership.
In the case of Syria, the main leadership of the opposition to Assad is the Syrian National Council (CNS), a body composed of bourgeois liberal businessmen, ex-members of the current regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. The leadership of the ESL is also bourgeois, filled with former officers of the Assad regime. Both are, moreover, pro-imperialist: They call for the armed intervention of imperialism.
We hold that the Syrian people should not and cannot rely on this leadership, which due to its own class character will inevitably end up betraying the legitimate aspirations of all people, not only economic but even for the most basic democratic freedoms.
You can’t place any confidence in the leaders of the CNS and ESL. Much less in imperialism, which while it may want Assad’s departure, it wants to maintain the same oppressive regime and, above all, to continue exploiting and looting the wealth that the Syrian workers produce. We cannot rely on these leaders, because they are all enemies of working people and their revolution.
In Syria, apparently the most progressive organized sector is called the Local Coordination Committees. It is these committees that decide and organize fights in the area, call demonstrations and grants cover and effective support to the ESL in towns and neighborhoods. It is no coincidence that these sectors, especially the LCC, are now denouncing the mistakes of the CNS and announcing their departure from this organization. Such is the crisis in the CNS that its chairman, Burhan Ghalioun, just resigned a few weeks ago.
In Homs and other cities, according to press reports, they have also developed “revolutionary committees” that, depending on the circumstances, are responsible to guarantee actions designed to a political administration, such as water, food and security. It is essential to expand the development of these committees to all Syrian cities and neighborhoods.
Without breaking the unity of action needed from all sections of the rebel camp, we consider it crucial that these local committees unite as an alternative direction for the entire fight against the regime.
What is the way out?
The IWL-FI reiterates its strong support for the Syrian revolution. Our main slogan is: Assad out! No to imperialist intervention!
We support the toppling of Assad at the hands of popular mobilizations and the armed struggle of the masses. This is a fundamental task of the revolution. In this sense, while maintaining class independence of the working class, we are for the military unity of action with all sectors that are honestly fighting against the Syrian dictatorship, including the pro-imperialist bourgeoisie, the CNS and the command of the ESL to achieve the overthrow of Assad and his counterrevolutionary regime.
It is this process of broad and unified struggle against the regime, putting ourselves on the rebel’s side, we must fight the treacherous leaders and build the necessary revolutionary and internationalist leadership that the process needs to move forward.
Thus, it is urgent to unify all the movements and armed actions that take place throughout the country to achieve the fall of the regime. This should deepen further the division within the Armed Forces of Assad. It is urgent to develop self-organized armed militias of the popular democratic councils. In this sense, the IWL-FI fully claims the right and necessity for the Syrian people to arm themselves to defend themselves and to continue their fight against Assad. In this moment there is no other way. The Syrian people, as the Libyan people, must advance in their organization and in their arsenal as the only guarantee of victory.
As revolutionary socialists, we should promote broader campaigns and unitary struggles for the support of the Syrian revolution, demanding the immediate break of ties from all governments with the murderer Assad and his regime.
Beyond this, the sending of arms and volunteers to fight with the rebels is urgently required. We must demand the actual military support to all governments, especially those in countries where there are ongoing revolutionary processes, as are the cases of Egypt and Libya.
It is the duty of all revolutionary organizations to work hard and build solidarity and support for the Syrian people and their struggle. Assad must fall. His system must be scrapped. The revolution must advance to the seize of power by workers’ and popular movements until the socialist revolution,not only in Syria but it conquers the Arab Federation of Socialist Republics. The victory of the Syrian people is a victory for all the exploited of the world.
 – Prussian general (1780-1831) considered a great military strategist and theorist of war. Author of ‘On War’.
 – On 06/01/2012, after the massacre of Houla, Hugo Chavez lead a statement of the components of the ALBA countries where it reads: “We appreciate the steps the government of Syria has given to legitimate the demands of those who have expressed peacefully (…) and the program of reforms carried out, besides their willingness to implement the peace plan of Kofi Annan.” Venezuela is a country which remains sending diesel to Damascus.
 – PTS – Party of Socialist Workers, rupture of the MAS in 1987.
 – We recommend the reader who is interested in the controversy with the PTS-FT on Syria, to read the article on the subject published in the Magazine Correio Internacional (International Courier) n. 07;
 – Cinatti, Claudia: Under the brutal repression of Assad. No to the imperialist intervention or interference. Published on the FT website at 31/05/2012.