[Marxism] Fwd: GLW & the August 6 pro-Assad rally in Sydney

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 21 07:50:20 MDT 2012

(From Tony Iltis)


To Louis Proyect


I'm not a Marxmail subscriber so cannot respond on list but I feel the 
need to set the record straight. You can post this or not, as you see fit.

You were wondering what GLW said about the August 6 pro-Assad rally in 
Syria. The answer is nothing: we ignored it. The three main Socialist 
groups here, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity 
all support the Syrian uprising but oppose Western interference. We 
would agree with the slogan "[Western] Hands off Syria", but, contrary 
to Pham Binh's assertion, would not be found at any of the pro-Assad 
rallies that have happened in Sydney.

For the record the rally was predominantly from the Syrian community in 
Sydney (who are extremely divided over curent events in their homeland). 
I suspect sections of the Lebanese comunity were also there. Only one 
left group that supported it as far as I know, the Trotskyist Platform, 
a recent break-away from the Sparts with 4 or 5 members. A small number 
of pro-Assad "anti-imperialist" liberal and leftist anti-war movement 
activists were there. This includes people who I have worked with in the 
Sydney Stop the War group (StW) and held in some esteem but in recent 
months they have been taking delight in denouncing the Socialists and 
other "Arab Spring" supporters in StW as stooges of NATO, in much the 
same way that Binh would have us as stooges of Assad. The target of 
Binh's article was explicity not pro-Assad socialist groups like the PSL 
in your country. It was those "in the middle" as he put it, naming Tariq 
Ali, John Ress among others. Most of the socialist left in Australia are 
"in the middle". But using the August 6 rally in Sydney as an example 
actually does not support his case. We weren't there.

What I find depressingly telling in the frustrating debate between 
pro-Assad leftists and the leftists who believe, to use one of Binh's 
formulations, that Syrians and Libyans are "co-opting imperialism for 
revolutionary ends", is that both see the conflict in Syria as two 
sided, not multi-sided.

It's almost impossibe from the outside to know anything for certain 
about what is happening inside Syria, but if one thing is clear: there 
is not a single Syrian opposition. There are armed groups, unarmed 
groups that support armed struggle and groups that believe armed 
struggle is a tactical error. The Free Syrian Army is not the only armed 
group and more importantly the FSA itself is not a unified force but 
more of a brand name. There are secular FSA units and there are Salafist 
FSA units. And this is the thing about imperialist support. Military 
material aid, not directly from the West but from its Gulf proxies, is 
not surprisingly going to violent, anti-democratic Salafists and not to 
the more democratic groups. The uprising, as with all the "Arab Spring" 
(to use a Western term), was as much against neoliberal economic 
realities as it was against political tyranny, after all.

Non-Western supported FSA groups are lightly armed (Klashnikovs and the 
odd RPG). For some reason almost everyone on all sides has been playing 
up the role of military defectors and playing down the role of local 
young men: both are involved in these non-Western armed FSA groups but 
the latter predominate. Some are influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, 
some are fiercely secular.

In the recent fighting in Aleppo, Gulf arms clearly gave groups like the 
Tawheed Brigade (responsible for most of the YouTube vids being hawked 
by the pro-Assad side) an edge over other FSA groups in confronting 
Assad's artillary, armour and air power. These groups seem to have 
alienated civilians (who weren't pro-Assad) not just through war crimes 
but through provoking a government response then departing to leave the 
civillian population to suffer the punishment. This stands in contrast 
to the non-Western armed groups whose entire raison d'etre has been 
protecting unarmed protests from armed government assault.

The Western interference has prolonged Assad's rule, particularly as 
religious minorities' fear of Sunni sectarianism was always his ace 
card. But Assad's days seem clearly numbered. In my articles in GLW I do 
not say to what extent the Western-backed anti-democratic groups have 
overshadowed the democratic opposition because I don't have a clue. It 
seems clear that this has been happening but equally clear the 
democratic opposition still exists.

It's also clear that the forces that the West backs politically — the 
regime defectors and exiled politicians in the fractious SNC — are very 
different from the Salafists loons that have been benefitting from the 
Qatari and Saudi arms. This partly reflects the ideological tastes of 
the Gulf intermediaries but also reflects a not unprecedented 
willingness of imperialism to use such not entirely controlable groups 
as muscle against a common enemy. However, the increasing reporting in 
the West of rebel warcrimes reflects a fair level of anxiety over this 
alliance in imperialist ruling circles.

In Libya, it is clear that many of the militias who actually control the 
country dislike the West as much as they dislike each other and dislike 
the Gadaffi defectors who are the West's preferred rulers most of all. 
Its also clear that the West doesn't care too much if they can't control 
Libya as long as no-one else can. THe recent imprisonment of those 
International Criminal Court lawyers was remarkable in the contempt that 
the militias showed to their recent benefactors in the self-styled 
"international community" but even more remarkable was the latter's laid 
back and endulgent response. One wonders what would have happened if 
accredited ICC lawyers with full diplomatic immunity were treated that 
way in, say, Sudan!

Lying between Tunisia and Egypt, an unstable and destabilising Libya is 
not the worst thing the imperialists could imagine. Syria, bordering 
Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and partially occupied by Israel is a different 

This, I think, is why there was no imperialist military intervention in 
Syria. I think the West's initial intent in facilitating the Gulf arming 
groups in Syria was to politically derail/coopt the opposition and put 
pressure on the regime, either for the military to ditch Assad or Assad 
to reach some comprimise. Ending Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas 
no doubt would have been the sort of thing they wanted, not to mention 
strengthening Western corporate interests vis-a-vis Russia and China. I 
think the closeness of ties between Syria and Russia was a complicating 
factor. On the one hand, Russia wasn't going to let its influence, 
economic interests and Mediterranean naval base go just like that, on 
the other hand while, contrary to conventional wisdom, I don't think the 
West's aim was to detach Syria from Russian influence, once things were 
underway the temptation obviously arose.

By blocking any settlement that would have left Russia with its naval 
base and much of its influence, the WEst also sabotaged its own 
preferred model of regime change — which is causing Israeli politicians 
severe stress!

Finally, really intresting things have happened in Syrian Kurdistan in 
the last few weeks, potentially the most positive development in this 
whole not very positive situation.

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