[Marxism] Report on Syria Opposition

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Tue Sep 17 10:41:33 MDT 2013

Thank you Michael for your well developed comments in regards to an issue
which, as you point out, is a major concern not only for the imperialists
and the right (why it appeared in the Telegraph), but also for the far
left as a reason (or excuse?) for their hostility to the Syrian uprising
(when not actual defense of the "secular" Assad regime). Your frank
overview of the forces comprising "the rebels" is very useful (and much
more nuanced than what would have been obtained from my more cursory and
emotional response yesterday). I have only two points where I would
perhaps differ (or at least would have expressed myself differently):

On Tue, September 17, 2013 15:21, Michael Karadjis wrote:
> Perhaps from the point of view of imperialism, for whom all of those
> vaguely Islamist moderates would still be considered enemies of
> imperialist interests (would even "moderate Islamists" be as dedicated
> to protecting the Israeli annexation of Gaza as Assad has been?

Right, but you could have gone further and included not only the "moderate
Islamist" camp but the so-called "democratic-secular" forces in that
remark. To the best of my knowledge there is no one in Syria on EITHER
side of the conflict who expresses anything other than general hostility
to Israel. That hostility is based on not only their continued occupation
of Syrian territory but on solidarity with the Palestinian people (with
many Palestinian refugees residing in the country) and also hostility to
(take your pick:) Zionism/liberalism/colonialism/imperialism/the West. So
somewhat amusingly not only does Assad bait the "terrorist mercenaries" as
working for Israel (etc.) but rebel groups often turn that around. Not
only do they point out the (actual) gift of peace Assad has supplied
Israel with despite their occupation of Golan, but sometimes paint Assad
as a secret friend of Israel, criticize him for drawing Israeli fire and
not even responding to the Israeli bombings earlier this year (or
previously), for instance. As well as pointing out the de facto Israeli
satisfaction with Assad's role despite some hollow rhetoric. So if there
were (and I doubt it!) any rebels (or Assad supporters) actually friendly
to Israel, they would surely know not to acknowledge it!

Related to this, a tiny episode involving the Libyan revolution (where the
above remarks would also apply) that fascinated me was the role of the
liberal Zionist and influential French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy who
strongly lobbied (successfully) for French (and thus NATO) military
involvement in the Libyan uprising. During that period, he claimed to have
reached a deal with the Libyan revolutionaries that under the subsequent
regime the Libyan state would recognize Israel! Hearing that at the time I
was flabbergasted, but knew that there was no such possibility of it
coming to pass. The Libyans never admitted to making such a promise, and I
still wonder if this was just his wishful thinking, if it was a total
misunderstanding, or if they actually DID promise that to HIM (in return
for obtaining the no-fly zone) with absolutely no intention of doing any
such thing! :-))


> 4. The "Salafist/jihadis" who have a global agenda, meaning the two Al
> Qaida linked groups, Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
> The former is largely Syrian, despite its global agenda, the latter
> heavily Iraqi...... They represent a counterrevolution just
> as the regime does.

I really disagree with the last characterization, however this may well be
a matter of semantics. I know there are some on the left that are happy to
use the term "counterrevolutionary" merrily as an ephithet, but I wouldn't
have lumped Michael in with that crowd. Or you can see world events as
being solely defined by the "class struggle" and all forces being on "one
side or the other," in which case "counterrevolutionary" and "right-wing"
become synonymous. Again I don't think Michael subscribes to such a
simplistic view. The literal meaning of his last sentence would be that
the jihadists are performing the role of defeating the revolutionary
upsurge, which isn't their intention. Thus some might invoke the more
precise but also questionable term "objectively counterrevolutionary"; I
object to that because it can be used promiscuously to describe any thing,
position, or decision which doesn't properly advance the revolution even
when it's meant to.

If anything I would have described the role of Al-Qaida and ISIL as
"taking advantage" of the Syrian revolution for the purpose of advancing a
-- yes -- right-wing Islamic agenda which is not a legitimate part of the
Syrian revolution. And if they were actually standing in the way of a
revolutionary government from taking or consolidating power, then perhaps
the term "counterrevolutionary" would apply, but that could only be so
sometime well into the future. I know some Syrian revolutionaries have
accused them of accepting aid from (or even being created by) the regime,
in which case the term might be directly applicable. But those claims are
unclear, possibly no more than conspiracy theories.

Furthermore, even if their ideologies are indistinguishable, I'm not sure
I'd lump the Nusra front (mainly composed of Syrians) with ISIS, in
regards to their dynamics. Even if their ideologies are indistinguishable
(and this would apply, to a lesser degree, to forces such as the MB) their
origins in the uprising means that they inherit a dynamic due to the
underlying social forces and conflicts (aka class struggle) from which the
uprising began. Their composition means that their forces will tend to act
in accordance with those interests regardless of the regressive ideology
that defines them externally. And this is all the more true given that
many of their recruits simply chose to join a better funded and supplied
fighting group rather than waiting for an impoverished FSA unit to
scrounge up a rifle for them.

- Jeff

P.S. I'll now go read the related article that Michael has posted during
the time I was writing this......

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