[Marxism] Assad's backers on the left are ignoring reality

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Tue May 14 14:35:30 MDT 2013

At 11:54 14/05/2013 -0700, Lester Schonbrun wrote:
>I've learned from these exchanges that some countries (e.g. Cuba, Iran),
>and factions close to the action (e.g. Lebanese Hezbollah, Syrian Marxists)
>see the events in Syria as US-led destabilization, rather than repression
>of a popular revolution.  These countries and factions have had
>considerable experience with US-led destabilization efforts, and it's not
>clear why they would side with Assad, if the opposition is truly more

Well of course the implication of this question amounts to yet another
appeal to authority rather than independent analysis (exactly what I had
identified as a fundamental error!). One could just as well ask the
opposite question: why do many others such as the list moderator who also
have had considerable experience with US-led destabilization efforts side
with the revolution? Or do you then answer the question by simply finding
out which side has the greater numbers (admittedly the anti-revolutionary
side currently has greater numbers among the left)? Does counting the
number of supporters of either side convey any new wisdom? If so, then why
even bother thinking for yourself?

But since you mentioned a few specific entities, I will answer the question
with regard to them:

1) Hezbollah. Yes, Hezbollah, which has a long and distinguished history in
repelling Israeli interference in Southern Lebanon, has sided with the
Syrian government even while all of the Palestinian factions (with the
unsurprising exception of the PFLP-GC) have distanced themselves from the
Syrian regime. This is unfortunate but didn't surprise me given that
Hezbollah has always relied on its relationship with the Syrian government
which in the past has had an important presence/influence inside Lebanon. I
don't think Hezbollah's success against Israel can be primarily attributed
to Syrian support, but Syria was certainly a key factor in the power
balance inside Lebanon, whose internal politics are reliant on such
alliances and overlapping interests.

I think Hezbollah was in error to continue supporting Assad in the face of
a grass-roots uprising, but I didn't expect their 30 year alliance to
crumble so fast. Now this is admittedly speculation, but I wonder if
Syria's (reported) (attempted?) transfer of long-range missiles to
Hezbollah was a quid pro quo in relation to their military support for
Assad against the FSA. After all, such weapons could have been supplied to
Hezbollah any time during the last decades by Syria, and probably under
less scrutiny. I fear that Hezbollah might suffer greatly from their
misplaced alliance with Assad, which would be very unfortunate.

2) Cuba. Well Cuba has also long had diplomatic relations with Syria, which
is entirely proper (as a state that has to navigate tactically within the
international arena), as they did with Libya. Their unfortunate opposition
to popular revolutions in both cases, I believe, amounted to putting their
diplomatic interests ahead of those of world revolution, which again is
very unfortunate but not without precedent. While I've been writing this, I
see that Louis has expanded in this regard. Using Lester's methodology one
could as well oppose the Mexican student revolt of 1968, asking "why else
would the Cubans have acted that way?"

3) Iran. Please!

4) Syrian Marxists. Well.... I'd say that the revolutionary Marxists of
Syria are supporting revolution in Syria, just as one would expect! But do
you mean the official Syrian communist parties (I believe there are 2,
following a split years ago)? Those parties have long given up any
semblance of revolutionary politics, and in order to run in elections --
which they must have seen as their most important strategy! -- they had to
accept the leading role of the Baath party and declare themselves as a
loyal opposition (with the emphasis clearly on loyal rather than opposition).

Meanwhile there are many other Syrian Marxists who are an integral part of
the uprising and have been so from the beginning. In particular I have
mentioned before the long time communist leader Riad al-Turk and also
George Sabra who is (or at least recently was) the chairman of the Syrian
National Council (SNC, not to be confused with the Syrian National
Coalition, aka the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and
Opposition Forces) formed sometime after the revolution started in 2011
(but which has been criticized for lacking direct involvement on the ground
while operating mainly from exile). So among Syrians who have called
themselves Marxists, there is also quite a division. We won't answer the
crucial questions simply by taking a poll among them, any more than they
should decide their orientation by taking a poll among Western Marxists. If
you had asked during the Cuban revolution (except toward the end) one could
also have pointed to the non-support by the existing Communist party, and
concluded.... what?

Now can we start addressing the uprising in Syria rather than what
positions various other parties in various places are taking?

- Jeff

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