[Marxism] Socialist Action on Libya and Syria
jgreen at communistvoice.org
Fri Oct 21 01:41:04 MDT 2016
Ken Hiebert noted that Socialist Action hadn't always opposed the anti-Assad
struggle in Syria, but had originally been favorable to it. In regard to
this, he gave a link to an interesting criticism he had of their stand on
Libya. He wrote:
> In September of 2011 I was taken aback by the SA statement on Libya and I
> wrote this comment.
The last two paragraphs of Hiebert's comment in International Viewpoint were
"The statement of September 2nd has only one course of action to propose.
'The liberation struggle in these countries also rests in the development of
mass revolutionary socialist parties there,...'
"This advice is not very timely. Supporters of Socialist Action know through
their own experience that it takes years, even decades, to build a
revolutionary party. In any case, this will not be done separate and apart
from participation in the struggles of today. If there are people in Libya
who wish to follow the advice of SA, how should they be relating to the
struggle today? Should they be putting forward a course of action for Libyan
working people? What should that be?"
Now, how could Socialist Action make this sort of mistake? Well, it follows
from their political program. As expressed "in a nutshell" (see
https://socialistaction.org/program/ ), the following describes the only type
of uprising they will support:
"Permanent Revolution: This famous theory by Leon Trotsky holds that
revolution in modern times, even in under-developed countries, has to be led
by the working class and has to be a fully fledged socialist revolution -
revolution cannot go through stages and cannot be made in alliance with any
wing of the capitalist class. To be ultimately successful it also needs to be
an international revolution. We believe that a successful socialist
revolution will result in a workers´ government that is based on elected
At the beginning of the struggle in Syria, Socialist Action could convince
themselves that the struggle was an anti-capitalist one, and hence presumably
it would develop according to the precepts of "permanent revolution". But as
the situation developed, this would become impossible for anyone who hadn't
been binge drinking on dogma to the point of unconsciousness. This left four
alternatives for those who maintained a Trotskyist standpoint.
One could renege on support for the Syria struggle; this would give rise to
changes in position such as that by "Socialist Action". It wasn't simply an
accident that "Socialist Action" fell backwards.
A second possibility is diehard unconsciousness, as show by the Communist
Workers' Group of Aotearoa/New Zealand. It is convinced that the Syrian
struggle will continue along the path of permanent revolution. Its website
"redrave" declared recently that the local committes are "institutions... of
workers' democracy. They are the result of proto workers communes that if
joined up would be the basis for an embryonic workers' state. ... That is why
our program in Syria is ... armed workers soviets everywhere!"
A third possibility is to repudiate permanent revolution, but try to keep
most of Trotskyism, as put forth in the important article by Assad an-Nar,
"Socialism and the Democratic Wager" (see the book "Khiyana: Dasesh, the Left
& the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution").
But a fourth possibility, almost universal among Trotskyist supporters of the
Syrian struggle, is to fall silent on the relationship of permanent
revolution to the anti-Assad struggle or the Arab Spring altogether. This
allowed some activists to produce a lot of good material in support of the
Syrian democratic struggle, but at the price of avoiding a very important
theoretical issue and thus leaving open the possibility of future errors in
judging democratic struggle. This position might be supplemented by shouting
"Menshevik" at the top of one's voice against any non-Trotskyist who pointed
out the incompatibility of "permanent revolution" with support for the Syrian
To return to Hiebert's critique of the 2011 article by Socialist Action, he
asked how long it would take to build a revolutionary party in Libya, and
said it might be decades. Now, from the point of view of "permanent
revolution", the only thing lacking anywhere is "revolutionary leadership".
But once emancipated from this standpoint, one can examine social, political,
and economic factors that underlie why it might take decades to finally have
the envisioned revolutionary party and its firm backing by the masses. And
especially one might consider the nature of those struggles and uprisings
that exist during the years of preparation for the "fully fledged socialist
revolution" as Socialist Action would put it, and thus have a better basis
for understanding what revolutionaries should do in regard to those
-- Joseph Green
mail at communistvoice.org
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