[Marxism] George Galloway on Syria

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 15 07:01:34 MDT 2011


The news this morning that the Syrian navy were shelling the 
water-front of Latakia - including the Palestinian refugee camp 
there - shook me to the core.

Not just because I lived in that camp last year, on that 
water-front, when the then dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak was 
stalling about letting the Viva Palestina 5 convoy sail for Gaza 
(after more than a fortnight of Syrian hospitality the convoy 
sailed though I was banned). The people of Latakia, a beautiful 
seaside holiday resort, were good to me. I cannot be silent about 
their suffering now.

More importantly the news was shocking insofar as it calibrated 
how close we now are to a full-scale civil war in “the last Arab 
country” as I described Syria in a speech in the Assad library 
five years ago, just after the Israeli attack on Lebanon was 
repulsed by the Syrian backed resistance led by Hezbollah.

Historically, I was never close to the Syrian regime, I’m writing 
this from my house which I called Tal-al-Zattar after the 
Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon which suffered a massacre 
facilitated by another Assad more than thirty years ago and 
carried out by his then Phalangist allies.

I was with Yasser Arafat in his long struggle to keep the PLO free 
from the dead hand of the Syrian Ba’ath Party. I stood with Iraq 
when 29 countries tried to destroy it in the first Iraq war in 
1991. One of those countries was Assad’s Syria.

But in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and by 2006 
Bashar al Assad was the last Arab leader standing. Syria was hated 
I said that night in the library not because of the bad things it 
has done but because of the good. I adumbrated them thus. Syria 
has refused to sign a surrender peace with Israel, refused to 
abandon its territory on the Golan to the illegal occupiers. Syria 
has refused to abandon the Palestinian resistance, continuing to 
give safe haven for the leaders, and fighters, of virtually the 
whole gamut of resistance organisations. Syria has insisted on 
supporting the Lebanese resistance, has refused to allow its 
territory to be used as a base against the resistance in Iraq and 
so forth. It was all true of course but it was not the whole truth.

The dark side of the Syrian regime, its authoritarian character, 
its police state mentality above all its deep-seated corruption 
fantastically exacerbated by the regimes neo-liberal turn with its 
attendant privatisations, substituting state property for private 
ownership by the regime’s comprador, by and large. This was 
another part of the truth though partly concealed by the Arab 
nationalist anti-Imperialist character of the Syrian people and 
their government. This has been the lived experience of most 
Syrians for over forty years. That’s a lot of darkness.

It was possible to judge Syria by the nature of its enemies - 
Israel, US, British and French imperialism, the Arab 
reactionaries, the Salafist sectarian fanatics - for as long as 
the Syrian people remained either supported or were largely 
quiescent behind the regime even if only for fear of something 
worse. And as long as the President, Bashar al -Assad, held out 
hope for real reform towards democracy open government and an end 
to rampant corruption, much of it concentrated around his own 
family and close cronies. That hope now dangles by a thread.

To describe the mass uprising in Syria, day after day for months 
and undaunted by the steadily rising price in blood being paid by 
the protestors, as the actions of “terrorists” and “gunmen” is a 
gross distortion. In fact the regime itself looks more and more 
like the terrorist, certainly the gunmen, in this picture. This is 
a genuine popular uprising taking place in Syria even if it is 
heavily infiltrated by all of Syria’s enemies - the enemies of all 
the Arabs in my view.

The biggest problem is that the longer fighting on this scale 
continues on the greater the scope for these enemies to engineer 
an outcome favourable to them. An outcome which takes Syria out of 
the traditional national camp and into the camp of collapse, 
surrender, sectarianism and indignity.

That’s why I must say it looks like five minutes to midnight in 
Syria for me. For years the President has talked of reform. But 
the more he talked the faster his relatives counted their 
ill-gotten gains.

He has talked about the lifting of states of emergency whilst 
presiding (one assumes he’s still presiding) over the mother of 
all emergencies in his country. He has talked about ending the 
Ba’ath’s constitutional monopoly as the “leading force” in the 
country but it still exists, at least on paper if not on the 
streets. He has talked about elections but of those there is no 
sign and how could there be amidst the carnage?

The risk of open imperialist intervention in this situation 
increases almost by the hour. The enemies of the Palestinians and 
all the Arabs are rattling their sabres. The Syrian people, always 
the heart of Arab nationalism cry out in their slogans even as 
they are shot down against any such foreign interventions, but the 
vultures circle nonetheless. Such a fate for the great Syria, must 
be avoided at all costs. At all costs.

Unless the Syrian regime can conclude an urgent agreement to 
proceed to elections, a free media, legal political opposition and 
an end to what has now become a massacre, the state is going to be 
invaded or is going to collapse under the weight of the bloodshed. 
And amidst the ruins of that, the rats of reaction, sectarian 
hatred and treason will certainly run free.

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