[Marxism] For Syria, what is "left"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 31 07:32:42 MDT 2011


Syria, What is "Left?" (Part 1)
Aug 30 2011 by Bassam Haddad

It is a concrete rationale that fuels opposition to Israel’s 
apartheid regime and the United States’ duplicitous and violent 
policies in the Middle East. It is a concrete rationale that 
imbues the condemnation of and struggle against authoritarian rule 
in the Arab world. It is a concrete rationale that inspires and 
necessitates the support of resistance to all the above. This 
rationale is an expression of the most basic forms of moral and 
political principles. It is this reasoning that must apply to the 
brutal suppression of the Syrian uprising.

But part of the leftist camp in the region, specifically in 
Lebanon, faces the unfolding bloodiness of the Syrian scene with a 
striking measure of ambiguity. Should “good” leftists support the 
opposition, condemn the regime’s unbridled brutality, or remain 
“neutral” (the latter decidedly a position in and of itself)?

This “dilemma” is a false one. It emanates from the arguably 
legitimate reverence for the Syrian regime’s support of the 
resistance - principally through Hezbollah - to US and Israeli 
imperialism. Few leftists disagree with this basic position, even 
if they were critical of, or condemned, Syria’s own domestic 
policies prior to the eruption of mass protests.

However, the five-month-long protests against the regime in Syria, 
and the brutal response that left more than 2,000 Syrians dead and 
many thousands more injured or imprisoned, should leave no 
ambiguity. One wonders how these brutal policies by the Syrian 
regime will bring about salvation/freedom/liberation from Israel’s 
own racist and brutal policies; how they will stop home 
demolitions, population transfer schemes, and illegal Jewish-only 
racist settlements? How will these policies roll back the 
hypocritical policies of the United States in the region, its 
devastation of Iraq, and its support of Israel’s apartheid 
policies and of the remaining Arab dictatorships that partake in 
this anti-resistance camp?

If one’s opposition to imperialism were based on a political 
position and not on principle, it might be more understandable, 
even if patently unprincipled, to stand by the Syrian regime. But 
this would be akin to Israelis or Israel supporters who personally 
object to the racist policies of Israel, but somehow justify their 
support for Israel as it stands. The irony is that these Israeli 
leftists are chastised by the aformentioned part of the 
pro-resistance left precisely for abandoning anything smacking of 

Where is the principle in all this? While this question may indeed 
be naïve, it is directed here to those who claim to take positions 
on principle, and on principle alone. The Syrian regime has long 
passed the threshold when those who prioritise resistance must 
return again to principle. As with hyper-nationalism - i.e., “my 
country right or wrong” -unfettered exhibitions of loyalty to the 
Syrian regime have no place. If one opposes imperialism on 
principle, then one must oppose the Syrian regime’s crushing of 
the protesters on principle. Whatever resistance credentials the 
Syrian regime possessed withered when it started killing its own 
people at a rate of approximately one hundred per week (for the 
last five months).

The question is not whether the left - an increasingly amorphous 
category that now includes liberals, reactionaries, and even those 
with fascist politics - should support or oppose the Syrian 
regime. It is a decision that real people need to make in the real 
world: do we support a political position or a principle? Do we 
support country or principle? Does patriotism or nationalism trump 
principle? If so, why have we been criticising the Americans’ 
support for the United States’ war on Iraq? Why do we reject 
trickle-down economics that smash lives as we wait for the mirage 
of sustained growth? Why do we critique Israelis when they support 
their state’s racist policies?

To condemn oppression on principle means to condemn it whomever is 
exercising it. Otherwise, we cannot invoke principle. For then, we 
risk reenacting that which so many of us have loudly and rightly 
condemned. Have we not indicted the US war on terrorism as being 
arrogant and hypocritical in part because it violates the very 
principles it is purporting to uphold?

Certainly there are gray areas, and that is precisely why it was 
imaginable to support Syria’s support of resistance while 
condemning its internal policies prior to the protests. However, 
the last five months in Syria cannot be excused because of Syria’s 
resistance credentials. Without principles, there can be no Left.

[This article appeared first on Al-Jazeera English website]

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