The Anti-Imperialism of Fools and the Syrian Spring

by Pham Binh on July 18, 2012

Leave no tyrant behind, from Tripoli to Tehran.

Fresh off of arguing that North Korea is a live issue for American socialist organizing in the context of Occupy, Paul D’amato takes issue with my argument that the Western left puts itself at odds with revolutionary Syrians by opposing U.S. intervention full stop – no ifs, ands, or buts. Siding with revolutionary Syrians and Libyans regardless of their calls for foreign airstrikes since they do not have an air forces of their own to protect themselves hardly adds up to cheering the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” the United States military.

I side with the Arab Spring, no matter what country it spreads to, no matter what dictatorship comes under threat, and no matter what side the U.S. government eventually decides to back. As Clay Claiborne said elsewhere, I did not side with U.S. imperialism on the Libyan revolution, U.S. imperialism sided with me.

The International Socialist Organization (ISO), by contrast, quietly abandoned its support for the Libyan revolution once the going got tough and NATO’s F-16s got going and even went so far to argue that Ghadafi’s overthrow was a “blow to the Arab Spring.” Yes, you read that right! National elections, workers organizing and going on strike (in the oil industry, no less), people launching political parties and organizing protests in Libya are a huge, tremendous, staggering blow to the Arab Spring. Why? Because NATO did not follow the Western left’s example by standing meekly on the sidelines, twiddling its thumbs, while the conflict between revolution and counter-revolution raged.

Libya’s first free and fair elections a “blow to the Arab Spring”?

If only the anti-imperialist left in the West had been strong enough to stop NATO’s planes from bombing Ghadafi’s tanks as they headed towards Benghazi in March of 2011 to do what the Assad regime is doing now to Syrians, if only comrade D’amato had gotten his way, then the Libyan Spring would be in good shape, buried under a pile of bloody corpses no doubt, but with its anti-imperialist credentials safely intact, which, of course, is the important thing in all this.

D’amato is at least perceptive enough to note that my pro-revolution position on Libya has shifted. I opposed NATO’s airstrikes from the outset because I feared that NATO would use the Libyan revolution’s military dependence on NATO to co-opt and destroy the revolution. They certainly tried; Britain demanded the extradition of Libyans while the bullets were still flying but the Libyan National Transitional Council rebuffed the British repeatedly and consistently (after arresting and deporting their SAS goon squad). My fears proved to be unfounded and instead of trying to re-write reality and cherry-pick facts to fit my position, I learned from my mistake and shifted my stance.

If only the ISO and its three-letter counterparts would do the same.

Because nothing positive has ever come from imperialist intervention even by accident, D’amato decides that the notion that there are “widespread freedoms in post-Qaddafi Libya also needs to be challenged” and points to human rights abuses by revolutionary forces. It makes me wonder if he is remotely familiar with the human rights record of the Bolsehvik-led Cheka, the Stalinist-led National Liberation Front in Viet Nam, or that of our very own Founding Fathers who, when they were not lynching rebellious black slaves and exterminating Native Americans, led a revolution against British colonialism and then shot the very debt-ridden farmer-veterans who paid for that victory with their blood, sweat, and tears.

I will concede that D’amato’s judgment on military affairs in foreign countries is superior to mine since he wrote the wonderful book The Meaning of Marxism and is the managing editor of International Socialist Review while I am merely, in his words, a “leftist internet gadfly.” Let us assume he is right to give NATO the credit for the Libyan revolution’s victory because it played a “decisive” role. NATO gets the credit for the final Berber offensive from Western Libya. NATO gets the credit for organizing underground cells (penetrating the ranks of Ghadafi’s secret police) that carefully planned the victorious Tripoli uprising. NATO gets the credit for finding ingenious ways to get around Ghadafi’s internet blackout to livestream the revolution.

The basic problem remains: D’amato’s vitriolic response (aside from the glaring misrepresentations, misquotations, and internal inconsistencies [claiming “there are no accurate figures of total casualties” in Libya and then citing a figure of 20,000 deaths]) is thoroughly NATO-centric and Western-centric. D’amato looks at the question of imperialist intervention into the civil wars sprung by the Arab Spring not from the stand point of the concrete, tactical realities facing first Libyans and now Syrians but from the standpoint of general principles.

The closest he comes to acknowledging this problem with his own position when he writes:

“It is entirely understandable that in the face of the barbarity of the Assad government, there are people in Syria who hope for foreign intervention. But understanding the reasons for such a position is not the same as endorsing it.”

Again, the problem is that D’amato never spells out what precisely it is we are supposed to oppose beyond imperialism (general) and intervention (abstract). He did not mention anything about Russian and Chinese imperialism, both of which are aiding Assad by intervening not only with words but with weapons shipments and diplomatic muscle at the United Nations Security Council.

FSA guns: made in the USA, delivered by the CIA. So what?

If we are opposed to U.S. intervention in all cases and forms without exception, then we must say “no” to American small arms shipments to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) because that is the form that U.S. intervention is actually taking in Syria today (perhaps D’amato would be happy to learn that the U.S. is refusing to provide logistical aid and heavy weapons to the FSA for now). If we are opposed to U.S. intervention in all cases and forms without exception, then we should try to block those small arms shipments and let the FSA fight tanks with slingshots as the Palestinians have been forced to do because no imperialist power will supply them with arms.

Such an effort on our part would no doubt be greeted warmly by the Assad regime and with total hostility by those who are fighting and dying to put an end to that regime. I never thought I would live to see the day when the ISO in the pages of Socialist Worker embrace such a position alongside the Party for Socialism and Liberation (who says left unity is a pipe dream?).

Then again, tens of millions of people in the Arab world never imagined that they would rid themselves of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar Ghadafi, and yet, here we are.

D’amato claims, “Pham bases this argument on seeing some protesters in Syria holding up signs demanding intervention.” Some protestors? To protest today in Syria is risk your life, but setting that dismissive tone aside, D’amato seems to have missed the concrete development of the Syrian revolution where street protestors:

… named July 29, 2011 “Friday of Your Silence Is Killing Us” and held massive demonstrations across Syria that directed that slogan not only at other Syrians that had yet to join the struggle but to the people of the world as well. The Syria wide mass protests of September 9, 2011 were named the “Friday of International Protection.” That was the first time the movement as a whole put forward an explicit demand for foreign intervention. As Assad’s violence continued unabated on March 16, 2012 the opposition called the protests the “Friday of Immediate Foreign Intervention.”

So while it is true that “[not] everyone who opposes Assad in Syria is demanding U.S. intervention” as D’amato says, the question for him is this: where are all the mass protests in Syria rejecting U.S. airstrikes on Assad’s forces? Where is the “Friday to No CIA Weapons for the FSA”? Where is the “Friday of Please Don’t Bomb Assad’s Compound”? Where is the “Friday of Our Revolution Rejects Foreign Airstrikes on Assad’s Tanks, Artillery, and Helicopters”?

These rhetorical questions make it clear that nobody is “cheering imperialism,” an idiotic claim if there ever was one.

The situation in Syria, as it was in Libya, is one of absolute desperation because both revolutions (for subjective and historical reasons) were not able to triumph exclusively through their own efforts over merciless military machines and systems of patronage that ensured enduring minority support for Ghadafi and Assad right up until the bitter, bloody end. We should not be surprised that the Arab left is weak to nonexistent in country after country when their counterparts in the West try to stop airstrikes on counter-revolutionary forces in the name of anti-imperialism.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the Western left slammed the Bush administration for allowing Saddam Hussein to violate the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq to smash rebellious Kurds and Shia with helicopter gunship attacks. Based on the reaction to my article it seems that most Western anti-imperialists today would cheer the Bush administration’s “hands off” policy, Kurds and Shia be damned.

If this what “principled anti-imperialism” means concretely in the real world then it is the anti-imperialism of fools. Applying abstract principles mechanically and without any common sense is the worst thing we can do when lives are on the line, especially the lives of people other than ourselves.

German imperialism was decisive in getting Lenin home in time for the revolution. So what?

Few revolutions historically have triumphed with zero outside assistance. The Vietnamese got huge amounts of arms and economic aid from the Russians and Chinese in their fight against French and American occupations. The Americans beat the British with arms provided by the French monarchy. Lenin was only able to get back to Russia in 1917 because the German high command approved his transport through Germany; they figured his return would hasten the end of Russia’s participation in World War One, and they figured right. Exclusively by their own efforts the Vietnamese would not have beaten first France and later America, the struggle that gave birth to America might have been aborted, and the Russian Bolsheviks that the ISO idolizes may not have triumphed since Lenin’s return was impossible without the approval of German imperialism. Outside powers in each of these cases played a decisive role in the final progressive outcome.

Revolutionaries have to be prepared to fight for our ends by any means necessary, which includes accepting aid from one set of enemies to fight another and exploiting conflicts between enemies no matter how transient. Surely that is how Lenin saw things when he decided to accept help from the German high command to get home, overturn Russia, and spread revolution to Germany.

John Reed was absolutely right when he wrote:

“Uncle Sam never gives something for nothing. He comes along with a sack stuffed with hay in one hand and a whip in the other. Anyone who accepts Uncle Sam’s promises at face value will find that they must be paid for in sweat and blood.”

Uncle Sam never gives something for nothing but take what he gives and use it against him before he has a chance to stab you in the back. If Uncle Sam hands the Syrians a whip to use against Assad, we should not stop Sam; the Syrians can use that whip against Sam once they finish Assad. If Uncle Sam whips Assad in conjunction with Syrian action from below, we should not stop Sam then either because doing so would hurt the Syrians, literally and physically.

Sometimes standing firm with revolutionary movements and peoples means setting aside abstractions, ideologies, and so-called principles because they get in the way of victory. Now is one of those times.

My other writings on the Arab Spring:

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony July 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Gag us, Pham. We’re going to throw up now after listening to yet more of this baloney

‘As Clay Claiborne said elsewhere, I did not side with U.S. imperialism on the Libyan revolution, U.S. imperialism sided with me.’

Gag us,Unrepentant Dittohead Louis, too. Yes, the both of you, Louis and Pham, are siding with US imperialism now, no matter how many times you all try to plead otherwise. Your so-called marxist propaganda would make Marx and Engels turn over in their graves if they could actually listen to these stupid stupid pro-imperialist remarks you are constantly making these days.

‘Sometimes standing firm with revolutionary movements and peoples means setting aside abstractions, ideologies, and so-called principles because they get in the way of victory. Now is one of those times.’

Gag us again, Pham and Lou. You simply just make us real anti capitalists and anti imperialists want to throw up. I don’t believe even people like David Horowitz can outdo you folk with this sort of pro Empire crap? ‘Victory’ you speak of here? This sort of stuff YES is the ideological ilk that a Horowitz or a Rush Limbaugh would be saying at this time in support of Pentagon goals. But you guys, too? It simply is just totally nauseating.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm

No one is forcing you to read a word of this. The North Star is not Ghadafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, or Stalin’s gulag.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

It’s funny you say that, Pham. I’m sure you saw the new law that passed in Libya OUTLAWING even discussing anything in Gaddafi’s Green Book (i.e., resource nationalism, Pan-Africanism, socialism, etc.). What a great new free democratic society where even speaking nationalist or leftist ideas are illegal!!


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I don’t mind people pontificating, but they might at least keep up with things: the Libyan Supreme court overturned this legislation 6 weeks after it was adopted. Imagine that happening under Gaddafi.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Actually I’d like to hear about the law you are talking about. As far as I know the Libyan supreme court nixed it. Am I wrong?


Bob July 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I’m really glad you’re writing these articles. It will be important for history’s sake, to look back on the politically bankrupt tendencies that were a left guise supporting imperialism.

Just as we look back in disgust at the phenomenon of social-imperialism, and the historic betrayals of privileged academics who could not stand up in the face of imperialist propaganda resulting in mass death and suffering for millions, future generations will look back with the same disgust at writings like this.

Keep ’em comin, seal that legacy as an outright cheerleader for imperialism!


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Are you trying out for a self-importance contest? I’d certainly award you a runners up prize. There are important issues to be discussed here, but they just keep getting buried by these nonsensical bouts of ego-flexing.


Ken Morgan July 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Anyone who claims to have opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and now supports US military intervention in Syria, is guilty of hypocrisy. If we follow Pham Binh’s logic, then we would have to reassess our opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and agree that this was a positive outcome. Never mind that the US killed more Iraqis than did Saddam Hussein.

Consistency would demand that we all support the murderous sanctions against the Iraqi people, the first Gulf War, and the invasion of Grenada. For someone who espouses leftist unity, Pham Binh has proven to be one of the most divisive people on the US left.

If the new broad based socialist party called for by Binh and Louis Proyect, supports cruise missle liberalism, count me out. Why even organize a “multi tendency” socialist party, when support for US military “humanitarian intervention” already exists in the Democratic Party.,


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Can you not see the difference between “regime change” from above and from below? A broken clock is consistently wrong with the exception of twice a day, so to make consistency some sort of litmus test for a political method would be a major mistake.

And being for left unity doesn’t mean you drop a dissenting opinion just because it’s unpopular among comrades. The inability to deal with dissenting opinions is a major reason why the left is in the shape that it’s in.


ish July 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Look I support regime change “from below.” Just like in the US I want people in Syria to have a free, egalitarian, cooperative society: that is clearly not the rule of the Syrian Baath Party. But don’t you think regime change delivered by NATO and the US is quite literally “from above”? This is not about writing off Syrian revolutionaries. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a Marcyite, Binh. But I strongly believe that Syrians, as well as the residents of the next country on the imperialists’ regime change list — empowered by imperialist success in Libya — will eventually regret reliance on the poison pills of imperialist military support.


Binh July 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm

And what happens in cases where it comes from below and above at the same time?

I say, take the pill, give half to Assad, and save the other half for Uncle Sam. What’s wrong with that?

To be clear, I don’t think the ISO nor everyone else who does not agree is a “Marcyite”.


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Accepting assistance from a foreign power weakens the autonomy of a popular revolt, but it doesn’t eliminate it at a stroke. I would have thought it an elementary proposition of materialism(dialectical or otherwise) that before you can consider regretting something you must be alive.


Tony July 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I and many others on the Left believe that the US government did far more than just offer assistance to the Libyan opposition to Gaddafi leading to the ‘accepting assistance’ you refer to, but in fact were instrumental and key to financing, actively organizing, and coalescing this counter-revolutionary and totally unprincipled movement together, Brian. I call it unprincipled because we had Far Right Islamists fighting side by side with forces more aligned with the US stooge, Mahmoud Jibril. It had strict regionalists aligned with those who aren’t. It was a patch work of reactionaries, liberal types, Islamists and rif raf of all types pasted together by international imperialism, who you would like us to believe had only tertiary influence, when the influence in the organizing of the military forces was actually PRIMARY.

‘German imperialism was decisive in getting Lenin home in time for the revolution. So what?’

The so what? here is that the US government and military did far more than just getting the opposition ‘home for the revolution’ as it was put beside the picture of Lenin published online with this Pham commentary. This analogy is so fatally flawed and such a political chestnut it is incredible that it keeps getting used by your co-thinkers here, Brian! To put the likes of Pittsburgh and most likely CIA educated Mahmoud Jibril alongside of Lenin is simply preposterous. Give it up PLEASE, because there simply is no comparison in these two events here. Jibril is a reactionary putz while Lenin was not.


derek July 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

This is absolute crap. Supporting any “regime change from below”? What if it’s a fascist movement, bringing in a fascist regime “from below”?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I didn’t say “any” — you did.


ish July 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Binh I’m so disappointed that you can’t see the difference between Lenin accepting a German train ride and a leftist in the United States cheering on an assault by the American war machine. And sorry, but that is exactly what you are doing.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I never argued the two were identical. Sorry.


Tom July 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm

You kind of did man. You used Lenin’s train ride as a historic example of how siding with imperialism brings about great outcomes!


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Wait, you’re saying Lenin sided with German imperialism?


John July 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Did you forget writing this—–> “German imperialism was decisive in getting Lenin home in time for the revolution. So what?”


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

How does that add up to “Lenin sides with imperialism”? Please explain.


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Actually your argument mirrors that of th Russian chauvinists who said: “Look, the Germans helped the Bolshevik leaders return to Russia. That proves they are Russian agents.” People here who make parallel claime about the Libyan rebels are applying exactly the same methodology.


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Its clear that the Germans had a quite deliberate strategic intention of using the Bolsheviks when they facilitated their return to Russia. And Lenin was too smart not to be aware of it. But imperialist intentions can be very different from actual outcomes. Too bad that more people don’t follow Lenin’s insight here.


Tony July 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

And what do you mean by the supposed ‘Lenin’s insight’ here? How does that have anything to do with Mahmoud Jibril getting back to Libya? Did the Pentagon bomb Tsarist Russia for Lenin, Brian? Did they provide the military hardware into St Petersburg to help make the October Revolution? Did they set up all those conferences that Lenin and the Bolsheviks never had in foreign countries like they actually did for the Libyan counter-revolutionary anti Gaddafi political forces around Europe.

The Germans left Lenin alone in Germany but the US and its multiple allied countries did far more to help organize the antiGaddafi Movement, which they had plotted to accomplish for years upon years far before any thing such as an “Arab Spring’ was ever in anybody’s mind.

Your belief that the Pentagon and Nato had little to nothing to do with the organizing and implementation of the Gaddafi overthrow is touching stupidity based on ideological stupidity, one must add. There has been no revolution in Libya, Brian. How long will it take you folk to figure that out?


JC July 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Tony you really hit the nail on the head here. Throughout these discussions over the last many months it has been disappointing to see such sloppy analogies drawn–between the October Revolution and what is happening in today’s North Africa. It is a welcome correction you offer re: the distinction between using erstwhile or future political enemies for short-term tactical or strategic ends, and inviting a disproportionately stronger imperial power into one’s own sovereign territory, handing over airspace wholesale to it and allowing it to position intelligence and logistical infrastructure amidst one’s own revolutionary milieu. Very good insight there. Thank you.


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm

As I keep trying to tell you Tony, aggressive bluster and loud assertions do not substitute for empirical evidence and logic lareasoning. In my book, the louder you shout the hollower your argument.


Aaron Aarons July 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

The problem with Binh, et al., is that they can’t distinguish between a world in which there are two rival imperialist camps at war and a world in which one imperialist camp is overwhelmingly dominant and is the main threat to planetary survival.

In World War I, it was right for people in a conflict with one imperialist power to take aid from the rival camp. That applied not only to the limited aid that Lenin and the Bolsheviks got from Germany, but also the aid that Irish revolutionaries may have gotten, or almost got, from Germany.

In World War II, we not only had Ho Chi Minh, Tito and others getting aid from the U.S., et al., to fight the Japanese and Germans, but the Indian National Army getting help from the Japanese to fight the British. There was nothing wrong in principle in either case, although in some cases those helped by one imperialist bloc may have (wrongly) helped that bloc more directly than by just weakening the side they had a conflict with.

In the present world situation, taking aid and direct military support from the main imperialist bloc to fight against the local oppressor is entirely another matter. And, especially when those taking the aid or support have no revolutionary credentials, calling what they are doing a “revolution” in order to have an excuse to support it is absurd.


JC July 19, 2012 at 3:00 am

Absolutely. All superb points.


John July 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hey, just curious, how do you explain the fact that 1 MILLION Libyans rallied in support of the government during the NATO bombing, dwarfing opposition protests? Or the fact that all polls show the majority of Syrians supporting the government, meaning the opposition is the minority? Is this really about “democracy” or just some fantasy of “the people vs. the dictator” and anything that doesn’t fit into that mold just gets omitted or distorted?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Polls by whom? Source? Hello?


John July 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

So you’re saying if its true that the opposition asking for intervention is a minority in Syria, you’ll change your argument?

And I KNOW you’ve seen the videos of the mass demonstrations in Libya against NATO and their rebel stooges. Want to explain that? Or just conveniently ignore it because it shreds your argument?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I would just like to know what mysterious polls and rallies you are referring to. It’s only fair if you’re going to ask me questions that I know what you’re referencing, no?


John July 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm

And here’s video evidence of the mass demonstration in Libya AGAINST NATO and its rebels.

In a country of only 6 million, a demonstration of 1 million is pretty damn significant, especially since no opposition protests were close to that. Basically, you took side. One side, the majority of Libyans, wanted their independence. The other side, the minority who carried out mass racist lynchings, who from day one welcomes Western Imperialism to come ravage Libya’s resources and bomb its cities, who are implementing Islamic law, received your loyal, uncritical support.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm
Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Hilarious. A grand total of 98 Syrians in Syria participated in that poll:

Check your sources brother.


Aaron Aarons July 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm

If you take genuine unbiased samples of 100 each (to simplify) from a large population on a yes-or-no question where the population is about evenly divided, the standard deviation of the number of ‘yes’ results in a sample is about 5. This means that about 95% of the time, a sample of that size taken from the population will be within 10 of the average of the population. While it’s a bit more complicated in detail, it’s reasonable to say that the result, 55%, is highly probably within +/- 10% of the actual ratio one would find if one could question the entire population in the same way. In other words, if sample size is the only problem, the true percentage of people in the Syrian population who would give that answer is highly probably between 45% and 65%.


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 6:41 am

@ Aaron Aarons: You’re right technically – although samples in a population of this size are usually much larger But there were a string of other methodolgical issues with this poll:
1. it wasn’t a survey of Syrian opinion but of opinion across the middle east, which was then broken down by region
2. it wasn’t an unbiased sample – it was drawn from a panel of 220 000 respondents who regularily participate in such polls; the sampling method isn’t clear (it looks as if it was largely self- selected);
3. The pollsters report the findings in graphs, only broken down to sub-region level (the Levant in this case) – suggesting that they don’t regard country level data as statistically meaningful. But in this case, because the question referred to a specific country, they did verbally indicate the Syrian results.
4. As a result there are no demographics or locational data on the Syrian respondents (e.g. could all have been from Damascus)
5. It was a telephone poll – with massive attendant biases: respondents had to have a working telephone connection in the midst of a civil conflict (and take into account the possibility of their line being tapped).
If only one of these problems were present,the poll might be taken as a very rough guide to Syrian opinion (and , as you suggest, indicate a country split down the middle). But with so many flaws it is totally worthless, and as Pham and I have said proves nothing more than that there are at least 53 people in Syria who support Assad. supporters in Syrian


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Wrong on both counts. Clay Claiborne has done a good forensic analysis of Green Square to show that the “million Libyans” is a myth (but I concede that it was a big demo – I just want to know how come the regime could only pull this off once during a lengthy conflict); the Syrian poll is also an urban myth – all it proves is that at least 97 Syrians support Assad.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

If I’m not mistaken 97 Syrians was the pool of participants. 55% of 97 Syrians is a rather small number indeed.


Brian S. July 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Your right: I should have said “at least 53 Syrians support Assad”.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Anyone can get a million-person rally going if they run a police state that routinely “disappears” and tortures its citizens. Where are all these supposed Ghadafi supporters now? Why didn’t their protests continue? Why haven’t they organized a political party? Or better yet, fought the new government in an armed insurrection?

Without the threat of coercion and violence hanging over their heads, it turns out nobody really liked Ghadafi’s regime that much. Most of the soldiers died fighting to defend the regime were conscripts, not exactly a sign of popularity.


Tony July 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Pham, Louis, Clay, and the rest of your gang clearly are unable to decipher that the Pentagon attack on Assad in Syria is the introduction and opening act of the Pentagon/ Israeli assault on Iran. This war is now spreading region wide and is exactly the war the Pentagon has planned for and wanted to win for over several decades now.

So which side are you unrepentant Pentagon stooges on? Why you are on the Pentagon’s side and not the side of any so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Even if in the name of your backward interpretations of socialism and marxism you fools have tried to convince us that you are standing up for Freedom, you actually have only shown the true nature of the reactionary mindset you now carry. You are the political equivalent of any moron that would have walked away from the Russian side in the Battle of Stalingrad, complaining that Stalin was a dictator back then who had murdered millions and that the Germans represented Liberation from that.

Go ahead, get a slight jump on the Pentagon in its anti-Iranian war propaganda which they are getting ready to spring on us US public nonstop. Start talking bad nonstop about how you hate the Mullahs of Iran, Louis, Pham, and Clay Clay. Go ahead. We know it is your desire to do so. You are simply a total disgrace to the idea of what marxism should represent. A total disgrace to our political anti-capitalist tendency.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

They cannot call themselves anti-capitalist is they advocate for capitalism’s expansion and conquest of the last remaining independent nations in the formerly colonized world.


Ben July 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

How dogmatic. One can disagree with Binh and Louis without implying that it is the duty of every “anti-capitalist” to support whatever “independent nation”, no matter what the character of that nation. There is absolutely nothing contradictory about recognizing that the self-interest of capitalists can be used for anti-capitalist means – in fact this is basis of Marx’s thought.

I am staying out of this debate over Syria because of a lack of empirical evidence about the nature of the Syrian opposition. But I must say, it has been disappointing how much there has been the hurling of ridiculous allegations, and how little focus there has been on the substantive disagreements.


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 7:07 am

I totally agree Ben.” the self-interest of capitalists can be used for anti-capitalist means – in fact this is basis of Marx’s thought.” Spot on: and not just Marx, but virtually every revolutionary who has been serious about strategic issues. And it is a pity that these sectarian shouting matches have overriden serious discussion of the issues. But I live in hope that we may eventually be able to move on to that.


Tony July 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I agree with you, John. Supporting giving US imperialist control over other nations a free ride while pretending you are supporting anti-dictatorial revolutions is a poor foundation for calling oneself ‘anti-capitalist’ in believable manner.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I guess the people in the streets of Damascus ( celebrating the death of the Defense and Deputy Defense minister are all acting on Pentagon orders right? Are these folks “Pentagon stooges”?


Tony July 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Pham, this idea of yours that anytime a group of some people get together and demonstrate somehow means that the demonstration is always progressive and revolutionary is true nonsense. Leave aside the people of Syria for a second, Pham. Do you believe that the people anywhere who might be demonstrating for something or other means that you, Pham, have no other option than to just leap in there and support them? Are you one of those who cheered when the statue of Hussein got toppled and shouted, ‘Hurray for the Iraqi Revolution!’….????

Do you go out and cheer every time a reactionary group of US workers is cheering for a parade of uniformed US soldiers, too, Pham? I mean, I am sincerely beginning to wonder about you, Comrade? …The they demonstrated for a cause any cause and I was there too, Comrade Pham.


Louis Proyect July 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Ha-ha! That’s really funny, citing a January poll about Syrians supporting Assad.

In the past couple of months, there have been almost daily reports about high-level defections including a top general, a top diplomat–not to speak of rank-and-file soldiers. The one thing that continues to amaze me about Qaddafi and Assad apologists is their tendency to cherry-pick. They dredge up anything bad that can be said on behalf of their position and ignore anything that contradicts it. This gives propaganda a bad name.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Key point you’re missing, the defectors from Libya and Syria were from the pro-neoliberal factions within the government. Meaning it was a RIGHT WING split. This is what is lacking from your ridiculous arguments, the inability to characterize the political leadership of the opposition factions.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm

And you’re conveniently quiet about the 1 MILLION Libyans rallying against the rebels.


John July 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I’d rather be an apologist for those standing against the advance of world imperialism, than an apologist for imperialist mass murder and conquest.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

So Assad and Ghadafi were “standing against the advance of world imperialism” when they were torturing people for Bush Jr.? Why would you defend Bush’s junior partners in torture in the name of “anti-imperialism”?


Louis Proyect July 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

If the new broad based socialist party called for by Binh and Louis Proyect, supports cruise missle liberalism, count me out.

Ken, I was under the impression that you had no use for such a petite-bourgeois swamp to begin with.


Louis Proyect July 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Key point you’re missing, the defectors from Libya and Syria were from the pro-neoliberal factions within the government.

That’s fine. But the defecting rank-and-file Sunni soldiers were not running cell phone companies on the side, as far as I know.


John July 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Dude you are completely missing the point. You’re trying to characterize the opposition as “revolutionary”, then you admit that the leaders of the opposition are to the RIGHT of the Assad government. So you’re for a right-wing revolution.


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

@ John: You’re doing the same thing that was done over Libya: you take a complex movement with all sorts of social and political strands, ignore the genuine popular, grassroots component (because it doesn’t fit in with your argument) and then focus on high-profile elements (in this case the exile movement) who, unsuprsiingly, you find are being wooed by the western governments.


Ken Morgan July 18, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Louis: Ken, I was under the impression that you had no use for such a petite-bourgeois swamp to begin with

I wasn’t as opposed to the concept as you might think. My problem was how do we get from here to there? My own road map, was unity in action, then a unified electoral campaign, then talk about a multi tendency socialist organization.

Not any more. As a result of this debate over Syria, I don’t see any possibility of this happening.On the plus side, it’s good to have these differences out in the open.



JC July 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm

It’s a bit misleading to talk about NATO interventions in support of the Libyan opposition exclusively in terms of the immediate military strategies and requirements of the latter.

We need to consider the broad goals of a global left, of national liberation movements around the world today and in the future as well.

The effect of the Libyan intervention was not simply military; it was legal and psychological as well. Legal, because it set the precedent for a sitting US President to begin a military campaign without even briefing Congress, and without even making a case to the polity (recall Obama’s first speech on Libya was almost a month after the bombing began). Psychological, because the operation was very much cast as a means for overcoming the reluctance for US intervention that had built up in the war-weary chattering classes; it was also used to demonstrate the new efficacy of the drone technology.

Ultimately, these factors lower the threshold for future intervention. They also, it should of course be mentioned, require massive transfers of wealth from the working classes of the NATO countries towards more warfare.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Imagine the psychological impact on the Syrians. As soon as Ghadafi fell they began to chant that Assad was next and they’ve held out for almost 16 months now at the cost of more than 15,000 killed. Surely that positive development is worth something?

Successful NATO intervention in Libya made similar intervention in Syria more, not less, difficult as I explained previously:


JC July 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

There hasn’t been NATO intervention in Syria, so what is your point there exactly? If the Syrian uprising is successful–Saudi support for it notwithstanding–it would be an uprising much more along the Egyptian and Tunisian lines vis-à-vis outside support.

Now, I think the psychological aspect is in many ways too nebulous to measure precisely, though it is important nonetheless and deserves consideration.

You did not respond to the question of the legal precedent set by the Libya intervention, the long-term effects of a lowered legal threshold for future NATO intervention (which may very well be less ambiguously destructive to the long-term goals of the international Left), and the sacrifices by the working classes of the NATO countries that are implicitly necessary in any form of high-tech NATO war.

Surely these considerations require a response; those in disagreement with you on these counts are hardly “fools” as you claim.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

I don’t base my political positions on what is and is not illegal. If I did, I would never have set foot in Zuccotti Park which the police declared an unlawful gathering.


JC July 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

You’ve completely distorted my point. I’m not advocating making political decisions based on what is legal/illegal. I am making an historical claim, and a political analysis of what prevails today. It is simply a fact that the legal atmosphere has a material effect. What I am saying is that the Libyan bombing campaign set a legal precedent that will be used by future Presidents; it also set a kind of cultural precedent and signals a shift within the institutions of the ruling class, now emboldened to make war and less beset by the formal legal constraints that required it, even as recently as 2003, to make some argument based on the so-called “national interest” to go to war.

It makes a difference if the prevailing climate has changed: now the President does not need to find Congressional authorization and may go to war without even making the argument to the public. That represents a profound shift in the institutional customs.


John July 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I think it’s important when listing casualty numbers to recognize that deaths are about half-anf-half on both sides. So “15,000 killed” is disingenuous unless you admit that half of those killed are pro-government forces killed in terrorist attacks.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Do you have any evidence that half of those killed were killed by “terrorists”? I suppose you think of the over 1 million killed as a result of the 2003 Iraq war “half” were killed by “terrorists” too yes?


Ben July 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Good points JC. However, I do think the legal point is somewhat separate from the main debate – hypothetically one could support intervention while opposing the US executive usurping the power to conduct it unilaterally.


JC July 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Ben- Yes, I do not think it is wise to fetishize the legal requirements for law. I bring up the legal point only because the legal constraints on warmaking, however diluted they are, do have material effects. Obama’s position on the NATO intervention in Libya was, to my knowledge, unprecedented: it was not a secret war, it was an open, publicly-known and waged war made without Congressional authorization even (never mind actual declaration); and without even the briefest speech to the polity until a month after the operations had been underway. That is remarkable. It signals, in my view, a profound shift in the institutional and intellectual climate of the US State and the disposition of the ruling class towards war-making.


JC July 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm

*legal requirements for war, rather


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 10:23 am

Nothing new on that front. Check out William Blum’s book “Killing Hope”. The U.S. has not declared war since World War Two. The 1999 air war in Kosovo was also open, publicly known, and had no Congressional authorization. You think Libya is some sort of qualitative shift in this regard but it’s not.


John July 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

How’s this for “democracy” in Libya?

Pro-U.S. Candidate Slated to Win Sham Elections in Libya


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm

So did he win or not? You are behind the times and out of date. Here’s a good analysis of the results of the election:

If you’re going to claim the elections were a sham you’d better have some decent evidence to prove it.


John July 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm

You obviously did not read that article. Plenty of explanation there why the election was a sham.

And what kind of democracy is it when it’s literally now against the law to even speak the words “nationalized resources” or “Pan-Africanism”?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:02 am

Actually I did read it. Not one word explaining how the election was a sham. No discussion of disenfranchisement, rigging, or anything improper. Perhaps you should read the article yourself.


John July 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm

…not to mention the flagrant human rights abuses by the rebels, who have kept thousands of people in prison without charge (you know, the ones they decided not to lynch and leave in ditches).


Todd July 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm

As you’re so concerned with human rights abuses (no doubt as concerned Western powers were with them when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan), what was your opinion about pre-revolutionary abuses of power by Gaddafi? He locked up plenty of people and had them tortured to boot. Did you talk of flagrant human rights abuses back then?


Ron j July 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Do you really believe that US imperialism sided with you? That is self deception of the highest order. Your call for US intervention is a conscious denial of history.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:03 am

Where did I “call for US intervention”? Provide a quote and a source, if you can.


KPRP July 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I find it funny how all these “anti imperialists” think Gadaffi and Al Assad are great anti capitalist leaders when for the past 20 or so years they were behind the implementation of neoliberal policy in their respective nations. Add to that the fact that they were being groomed by western power blocs whether it was the Bush-Blair regime or Russia’s neoliberal bonapartism. Based on the funding and support these two powers gave the Arab dictators, one can argue that the attacks on rebels are as much an imperialist intervention as a no fly zone.


Louis Proyect July 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Dude you are completely missing the point. You’re trying to characterize the opposition as “revolutionary”, then you admit that the leaders of the opposition are to the RIGHT of the Assad government. So you’re for a right-wing revolution.


On May 9, 1916, there appeared, in Berner Tagwacht, the organ of the Zimmerwald group, including some of the Leftists, an article on the Irish rebellion entitled “Their Song is Over” and signed with the initials K.R. [Karl Radek]. It described the Irish rebellion as being nothing more nor less than a “putsch”, for, as the author argued, “the Irish question was an agrarian one”, the peasants had been pacified by reforms, and the nationalist movement remained only a “purely urban, petty-bourgeois movement, which, notwithstanding the sensation it caused, had not much social backing…”

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie WITHOUT ALL ITS PREJUDICES [italics in original], without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.–to imagine all this is to REPUDIATE SOCIAL REVOLUTION. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view would vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.


Mhammad Mahmoud July 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Even though Paul’s analysis is not 100%, he’s more in the right, and you’re really off. I wish I had time to dissect and explain, but your analysis is not only bad its destructive. I’ll try to take a moment, but I hope someone has taken the time to find the words that will strike you where it matters and show how wrong you are on this.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

D’amato was unable to even represent my argument correctly, so whatever “analysis” (if you can even call it that) he builds on the basis of falsehoods and strawmen will inevitably be wrong. He mangled what I said worse than Tony Cliff mangled Lenin and the Bolsheviks:


Rossana July 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm

A managing editor from the ISR, making a personal attack on you. I don’t feel surprised, yet feel impressed you manage to get such a rise out of those who work so hard to maintain a controlled appearance and paper.


Dave July 18, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Some of the discussants arguing against Binh are falsely fixated on an anti-imperialism/pro-imperialism politics, and they conclude that imperialist military intervention shouldn’t happen.

I say falsely fixated because for those who love humanity, those who are philanthropists – as all communists are – the political focus should be on how to promote human flourishing at the expense of suffering.

That means undermining the structures of rule that either restrict human flourishing or make people suffer, and replacing them with structures that do the opposite. It is in this context that class rule has its salience, that any talk of imperialism has its relevance.

The struggle against a dictatorship creates a political opportunity for the masses to create organisations and institutions to defend themselves and promote what they see as their interests. In Syria today that self-organisation is not around socialist demands but to get rid of the Baathists, and the most visible display at demonstrations is the Islamist ‘greening’ of the national flag. That may not be our politics but that’s Syria today, that’s what the rupture of rule is generating.

So what should socialists say to Syrians being shelled or being murdered house-to-house? Perhaps, we support you, but take your chances, and don’t you dare defend yourself with anything that might have come from Saudi Arabia, Qatar or NATO? And we wonder why socialists have so little support around the world?

People being murdered by their government have the right to defend themselves with any means they wish – be it from the man in the moon (or their god), a modern-day International Brigade, or weapons from imperialist governments. Life is risky, especially when being shelled, and each way of defending oneself might carry its own political disadvantages. The history of the struggle for a Kurdish state, relying on one government after another, makes this plain. But it is really rich of those in the comfort of the imperialist heartlands to tell Syrians, in effect, that it’s better to die than take weapons from the ‘wrong’ guy. Rational people take the guns on offer and worry about any political consequences later. That’s what happened in Benghazi, and it’s happening now in Syria. They’re choosing their own way of taking their chances.

Akiva Orr, a revolutionary socialist militant for over 60 years, expressed himself a few years ago in his typically pointed way: he is neither pro-Palestinian nor anti-Israeli: he is against oppression. His enemy is the oppressors. Assad and his goons are today’s oppressors of what is decent in Syria. Tomorrow the oppressors may be neo-liberal Islamists. But that’s tomorrow. Today the Assad regime is the enemy of philanthropists throughout the world, so it is the enemy of all who consider themselves communists, including Marxists.

At moments like this it is worth pausing and asking oneself what the arguments of socialists look like through the eyes of corpses. Because Binh’s critics are standing around, with the gaze of the coffin-maker, with only the heaps of the awkward dead for company.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

Malcolm X expressed himself in much the same way as Akiva Orr did. The enemy is oppression, tyranny, and exploitation. The Marxist left is so worried about the enemy of tomorrow and next week they are doing nothing to help the Syrians fight the enemy that is killing them in droves, every day, for 16 months. It’s a disgrace really.


JC July 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Do you really think that the concerns about a lowered legal threshold for NATO warmaking, that I’ve outlined above in multiple places, plus the cultural effects of a war made without any even brief notice to the polity until after a month of bombing really is all just a petty concern?

The war in Libya set a new standard for how the NATO powers go to war: they do not even minimally regard the prior legal constraints on war-making powers and do not even pretend to consult the general will of the people.


dave July 19, 2012 at 1:52 am

I just want to say that I appreciate Binh’s unrelenting honesty even when I find that my own position differs from his. I think that many if not most of his criticisms hit their mark and they have forced me to re-evaluate a number of things. I think that the ferocity of the attacks on Binh show that he and North Star must be doing something right. North Star seems like a promising project. Count me as a supporter for whatever that is worth. If we are ever to build a living revolutionary movement again we must both learn from the past and free ourselves from its nightmarish weight. Their is no royal road nor silver bullet that will accomplish this, but it seems to me that this is a reasonable place one could start.


admin July 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Email [email protected] if you’d like to help, support, participate, and/or link up in some way.


Ismael July 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The very presence of a discussion board on the North Star where we can all argue is itself a unique virtue on the socialist left. As far as I can tell, *none* of the three-letter propaganda groups, as Pham calls them, feature this on their publications’ websites. It’s just pathetic. And cowardly.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Party-line echo chambers have not served us well. We need something profoundly different if we hope to win.


Ben July 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Yes, the outdated (if it was ever useful) idea of “private debate”, “united public face” is clearly an anachronism in the age of the internet.

Because the American Left has no vibrant online community for debate, many left-leaning people who might potentially be “socialists” are drawn back into the Democratic party machine by ostensibly “progressive” websites like Daily Kos.


Ismael July 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

More signs of butt hurt from the ISO: Today the Socialist Worker’s Facebook page reposted D’Amato’s essay on Leninism from 11 years ago. “The critics of Leninism often characterize his conception of a revolutionary party as some sort of isolated sect,” reads the Facebook post. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Who knows, but it’s hard not to think that this is somehow in response to Pham’s well-articulated critiques of actually existing Leninism and the misreadings of Bolshevik history that have given rise to it. And I say that as someone who’s generally sympathetic to the ISO’s politics but is turned off by their version of vanguardism, which is basically identical to that of every other three-letter outfit out there.


S. Artesian July 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

Ah, yes the death agony of “anti-imperialism” isn’t a pretty thing, is it? Watch the creature twist and turn, writhe and wriggle, as it chokes on its own tongue.

Anyone notice the lack of class analysis in this so-called “discussion”? Any notice that this Arab Spring really can’t be separated from the current predicament of capital, on the problems of accumulation? Maybe we should ask ourselves what class interests are at work here…. maybe?

Ummh…..not to put too fine a point on it…. but ask yourselves this: Suppose you happen to get elected to a parliament as a socialist revolutionist, a champion of the workers’ class interest for the abolition of capitalism, while capitalism still rules [which of course is redundant, since the very fact that there’s still a parliament means that capitalism still rules].

And suppose some clown in the parliament introduces legislation authorizing the transfer of money and weapons, by the sitting bourgeois government, to the rebels in Syria. Now what do you do? Do you vote for that measure? Do you authorized the bourgeois government to expend those monies?

Marx argued “not a farthing for this government.” He wasn’t kidding. Marx supported the refusal of certain social-democrats to vote funds to Bismarck in the Franco-Prussian war, a war which Engels, wrongly, pressed the IMWA to support Bismarck, and of which Marx, rightly, was much more circumspect…. but not circumspect enough.

You think, somehow, the bourgeoisie of the major capitalist powers aren’t doing what they are doing because of their class interests? You think somehow, Assad isn’t doing what he’s doing out of his class interests? You don’t think all those interests are opposed to the interests of the workers and the poor? You think, somehow, you can “triangulate” that square and gain some advantage for the working class? How? Because the rebels are advocates of “democracy”? Do us a favor, right? Since when has “democracy” ever proven viable absent and apart from organs of dual power?

What you, and you on both of these “sides” are doing is nothing other than exercising another iteration of that repetition compulsion called the popular front. You are all right in line with Kautsky… and Lenin…. and the Comintern…..and the late 4th International….and Chavez’s even later 5th International.

So, you voting the money or what, you bunch of geezers? It all comes down to the readies, no?

As a reckless Eric said, “It’s the sweetness of the readies that makes the bell ring on the till….”


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Of course exactly this issue arose in Denmark.
Your historical reference to “not a farthing for this government.” is confused: this phrase is from a letter (looks like its by Engels) written in 1879. However you are right about Engels views in 1870 (indeed he formulated similar ones in 1890). Trotsky defended them later on: “He defended the national interests of Germany against the Empire of Bonaparte, because the interests of the unification of the German nation under the concrete historical relations of the time signifies a progressive, potentially revolutionary force.”
Ah, those were the days, when Marxists saw the importance of basing decisions on concrete ciircumstances. (Even if they did get this one wrong.)


S. Artesian July 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Well, back in the day, when I first read that letter, I recall it being attributed to Marx. No matter, the point is the point.

Engels was wrong in 1870 and Trotsky repeating the error doesn’t it make it any better.

The death agony of anti-imperialism, nevertheless, is what we are witnessing here, with all this nonsense about polls and demonstrations and who supports what.


jp July 19, 2012 at 11:42 am
Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

The report you linked says that 20 people have been beaten to death (by militias, not the government) in the 11 months since the revolution. How is that “worse” than under Ghadafi?


S. Artesian July 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Oh……now that’s a revolutionary perspective… only “20” have been beaten to death by “militias”– not the “government” in 11 months. Well obviously that’s way better than Ghadafi. Thank god for the NATO airstrikes.

Yeah, that’s what we want– during a revolutionary upheaval, we want a better Ghadafi.

Is that an example of Binh’s “unrelenting honesty.”

Comrades, we’re supposed to be about getting on with the work of the emancipation of labor, the proletarian revolution, aren’t we? Rather making a choice between cancer and polio, no?

Wait, I get it. The whole basis for this “discussion,” for both “sides” is…. that there is no basis for a proletarian revolution. Consequently, we’re supposed to do our best with what we don’t have.


S. Artesian July 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm

And regarding Lenin’s quote. Indeed, except Lenin forgets 1) the rebellion failed 2) what the result of this “anti-imperialist” cheerleading for the petit-bourgeois was then, has been historically, and is now– defeat of the working class.


Tony July 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Who is Bassma Kodmani, the spokesperson of the Syrian ‘Revolution’, as all our Louis Proyects, Phams, and Clays will tell us the US terrorist force is supposedly all about? Bassma has her face posted, Hilllary Clinton like, all over the Pentagon propaganda-news today in the corporate press, so just who is she and what is her background as ‘revolutionary’ public relations leader? One would think that the humanitarian imperialist Lefties would tell us all about her credentialing as grand revolutionary spokeswoman, but they haven’t! I wonder why not? She is the MOUTH of the Syrian National Council right now, Comrade pro-imperialists. Tell us some about here, why don’t you?

Here is an excerpt from wikipedia about our Syrian ‘Tanya’ (a Cuban heroine of their revolution)…

The Arab Reform Initiative
In 2005, Bassma Kodmani established the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), a consortium of independent Arab research and policy institutes, with partners from the United States and Europe. The Arab Reform Initiative had been established by the Council on Foreign Relations, a highly influential think tank and lobbying group in the United States, that promotes market liberalization and global governance.

Through policy recommendations and research, the ARI has the stated aim of promoting reform and democratization in the Arab world. It hopes to initiate a dialogue between policy institutes in the Arab world in order to “advance the understanding of western different groups on issues of reform in the Arab world.”

In addition, the Arab Reform Initiative “aims to raise awareness in the Arab world about successful transitions to democracy in other parts of the world, and of the mechanisms and compromises which made such successful transitions possible.”[10]

The initiative is based on three main principles:
“1- The Arab world needs to develop its own conception of reform, based on its present realities and rooted in its history. While there are basic universal criteria that apply to a process of democratic reform in any given society, the initiative seeks to generate knowledge by those who are the prime targets of reform.
2- Reform is a comprehensive process which can only succeed if the interaction between the political, economic, societal and cultural spheres is fully recognized. In the quest to build free, just and democratic societies, the initiative privileges issues of democratization and good governance, socio-economic and cultural transformations, and social justice.
3- The network’s conception of reform fully recognizes that Arab countries present very diverse situations and that this diversity is likely to become more salient as societies engage in a path of liberalization. Thanks to its composition, with member institutes and scholars from all countries of the region, the initiative is well positioned to produce analyses and recommend diverse solutions relevant to the specificities of each society.” [10]

The ARI network includes the following members: the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), the European Institute for Research on Euro-Arab Cooperation (MEDEA), the European Institute for Security Studies, the Center for Strategic Studies, the Fundacion Para Las Relaciones Internacionales y El Dialogo Exterior, the Sudanese Studies Center, the The Arab Reform Forum, the US/Middle East Project, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), the Centre for European Reform, the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, the Gulf Research Center and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

More can be read about Bassma, the Syrian National Councils’ very own Hillary Clinton at

Let’s see now, the US has only been planning these regime changes for about 2+ decades now, yet Louis Proyect, ClayClay, and Pham Binh want us all to think that this is all a Syrian spontaneous homegrown party and bbq of only big bad Dictator Bashar al-Assad? I think that that’s not it at all, My Marxie Homeboys. I think that this war is PENTAGON PENTAGON PENTAGON made, and only your own absence from the US antiwar movement would have made you so ignorant as to believe anything otherwise.


admin July 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This is not a response to anything contained in the post.


Tony July 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm

That is ridiculous what you just said, Admin! My comment that you respond to is completely on topic totally in response to the title even of this thread… ‘The Anti-Imperialism of Fools and the Syrian Spring’. Are we to be called ‘fools’ because we are not backing people ‘US Council on Foreign Relations’ has armed to terrorize Syria? That is the background of Bassma Kodmani, which my post discusses about her background in detail. Can you really be telling people that the background of the spokeswoman for the Syrian National Council is off limits and not dealing with the topic at hand which is Syria? Bizarre.

Might I just say also, that it is a slippery slope down into overt censorship when ‘Admin’ begins to tell readers what is supposedly relevant to discuss and what is not? It rings of Proyect’s own style of censorship on HIS OWN website, where he just threw off a poster who linked to the Marine Corps and told comrades that supported regime change that they should sign up now for the regime changes they are promoting. Proyect thought that was ‘not a response’ to anything being discussed evidently, so he just made it impossible for this person to even continue to participate in discussing Syrian events BY CENSORING HIM.


jp July 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

on kodmani, who is certainly relevant, and other syrian opposition:

“…Back a few years, in 2005, Kodmani was working for the Ford Foundation in Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation programme. The Ford Foundation is a vast organisation, headquartered in New York, and Kodmani was already fairly senior. But she was about to jump up a league…”

“In September 2005, Kodmani was made the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) – a research programme initiated by the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)…”



admin July 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Your post was not off topic. That was never the issue.


Tony July 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Then if there is another issue involved with my post, such as my alleging a basic absence from the antiwar movement of certain people calling themselves socialists and marxists through the many years, then we should clearly state that that is what is bothering admin here?

To me, having been recruited through the antiwar movement way back in 1968 to the socialist movement BECAUSE certain socialists once did build an antiwar movement way back long ago, I have seen a pretty much complete surrender on any and all efforts by socialists since about 1973 to actually try to rebuild what we let fall totally fall apart because we were once so busy ‘turning’ and other such pseudo marxist nonsense. So evidently so many socialists TURNed themselves so far around and away from everything real in our very real geopolitical world, that they no longer seem to understand any basic war and peace issues at all, though they endlessly can discuss minutiae that they think is the essence of being an anti-capitalist, instead of actually opposing the capitalist military in the Empire in any meaningful manner. As a result, in the US all we have are a few sad sack pacifists WITNESSING in Christ and Gandhi’s names for World Peas.

So the sad state of socialist and anti capitalist activities/ inactivism in bringing any organization to recreating an antiwar movement in the US, CERTAINLY is relevant to the discussion around Libya, Syria, Sudan, Iran, and on and on…. I certainly have it be relevant in the local Occupy Movement in my own personal involvement in that. It is a sad state indeed, when the antiwar forces can actually be ‘led’ more from Right Winger Ron Paul forces, than led by any and all these think-themselves-great-marxist experts like Pham Binh with all his talk about ‘revolution’ occurring in Libya and Syria alongside NATO US bombing.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

For those who actually want to do something to help our Syrian brothers and sisters, please consider donating time, money or both to:

Live coverage of the revolution: (Anti-imperialists be advised the text above the streams reads: “We fully support and demand an NFZ in Syria!!”)

Footage of the revolution: (2012) (2011)


Richard Estes July 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am late to this, and lack the time to go through all the responses here. But, from what I have seen, it appears that the question of conflicting US motivations has not been adequately examined. Syria, under both father and son, was a staunch ally in the war on terror, as explained by Sy Hersh. And, yet now, the US and Europe seem bent upon the dismantling of the Assad governing apparatus. Why is this? There is no readily understandable answer to this question although we can speculate. Pham speaks of the resistance taking advantage of US assistance and then turning it on the US later, if necessary. While those arguing against him seem to implicitly believe that this is implausible, it may be less so if addressed in the context of conflicting US, European and Israeli motivations for their support of the resistance. Even more peculiar is Saudi support for the resistance, given that the removal of Assad may well serve as an example to those increasingly discontented people in the kingdom. From my distanced perch, it is hard for me to see the removal of Assad as favorable to the US and the Saudis, and the Israelis seem to understand this, they have been the most hesitant in support of the rebellion, and appear to prefer a stalemate that results in a weakened Syria for the indefinite future, and even here, they remain anxious that a less autocratic government could provide space for anti-Zionist groups.


jp July 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

the us distaste for assad is based on their [syria’s] relationship with hezbollah, the most potent opponent of israel in the middle east.


Richard Estes July 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I know, but the Israelis recognize that the cure is worse than the disease. My impression is that the US is mindlessly implementing the Project for a New American Century blueprint from the late 1990s without any consideration that over 10 years have passed.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

The U.S. is refusing to provide the F.S.A. with heavy weapons because they are not sure what to do. Once a new government comes to power in Syria it will not have good relationships with Hezbollah (which is sending fighters to crush the rebellion) but it will have a good relationship with the Palestinians. Assad has killed more Palestinians in the last year than Israel has and Palestinians in Syria are now fighting alongside the F.S.A. to get rid of the regime.

The last thing Israel wants is a popular, democratic government that is for the Palestinians. They prefer the stability of strongmen who talk tough and do nothing to back it up.


Tony July 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Good try, Pham. …lol… No way though that Israel is behind Assad all the way because ‘they prefer the stability of strongmen who talk tough and do nothing to back it up’, and the Syrian National Council is ‘the last thing Israel wants’ to have to deal with. You want us to see it that way though? …lol again… It is a ridiculously wrong and idiotic pov , Pham.

The Syrian National Council is a creature of the US government and Israel and the US government are good buddies, Pham. Assad and Israel are not the tag team partners here like you would have us believe. What a trip you humanitarian Lefty imperialist folk are! Absurd even! It is like we are engaging in a debate with circus clowns at North Star.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Assad has killed more Palestinians in the last 16 months than Israel has:

The Palestinians in turn rallied against Assad:

And here you are defending him.

And I thought I had an idiotic point of view?


Tony July 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Pham you’re at it again, aren’t you? It seems that you simply forget items like that Israel most recently attacked Lebanon and occupied part of it leaving land mines scattered all over the place, and that Assad did not. The Pentagon is ally with Israel, and not allied with Assad and Iran. The Pentagon and the US government are no friends of the Palestinians and are not friends with Assad. Pham, it is not Assad that has attacked Gaza, it is Israel, Dude! Get a grip, will yuh?

Pham, try not to get so confused again any more….


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm

You’re living in 2006. It’s now 2012. The Palestinians themselves are turning against Assad. Time to catch up with the masses you claim to care so much about.


Tony July 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

From Granma…comes the Cuban pov on this, Pham. It is nothing like your opinions at all. And btw, Pham. Aren’t you part of that ‘media war machine’ mentioned by Granma?

‘The media war machine immediately was immediately activated against Syria, as was the case with Libya. In Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin America countries we have become experts on how this operates, having suffered it for many years, and we also know how to combat it, despite disadvantageous material conditions given the enormous propaganda resources possessed by the enemy. Even with the above mentioned defects, the Syrian government was practicing a non-sectarian policy in the religious context and one of relative social justice, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist. It has been an ally of progressive causes in the South and an obstacle to U.S. and Israeli plans in the region. Allegations intended to discredit it, to the effect that its policy of peace serves Israeli interests, have no serious foundation.

Installing a pro-Western government in Damascus would propitiate a change of government in Lebanon and possibly another war there to eliminate the power of Hezbollah, an ally of Iran together with Syria, and viewed as enemies by the Sunni Gulf monarchies, who submit to Western policy in return for protection from an alleged Iranian threat, even though no war has been initiated by that country for centuries.

If the plan concerning Syria is consummated, the Western powers would move against Tehran and, along the way, crush the resistance of Palestine, obliging it to accept crumbs of territory and the minimum rights which Israeli Zionists would be disposed to concede to the people. The U.S. “Grand Middle East” would be completed with its extension to Central Asia, and the siege of Russia and China would be laid.

However, Syria is not Libya. Although its leaders have made undeniable errors and have acted slowly in response to the conspiracy and plans of its powerful enemies, thus losing a lot of time and ground, it would seem to have sufficient internal support and resources to stand up to its enemies and defeat them, albeit at a heavy price in terms of death and destruction.

Apparently, a clear perception of this reality prompted Russian and Chinese representatives to use their veto in the February 4 Security Council vote on a resolution which – regardless of its text – as was the case with Libya – would open the gates to foreign intervention in order to destroy the country and impose a regime change. The highest authorities in both countries have clearly declared a red line and they are not prepared to allow a military intervention in Syria.’


Tony July 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

So we who oppose this US aggression against Syria are to be called fools by Pham Binh? Here is the opposite thought though… It is that Pham and his pro-imperialist Lefty colleagues are the really really ignorant fools here. See ‘The US government created Syrian National Council continues its war against Syria’ @ about why that is so…

And also go to the Syrian National Council’s home spot of their spokeswoman, Bassma Kodmani, which is the ‘Arab Reform Initiative’ set up by her on behalf of the US Council on Foreign Relations. This is PENTAGON territory indeed! Here is the link to th Bassma Kodmai and hte Syrian National Council’s home turf… Notice the pic of the spokeswoman of the Syrian National Council on that page. Yeah, there she is.


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm

This is silly nonsense. I’m not in favour of censorship of opinions, and am even prepared to tolerate a certain amount of sectarian abuse (especially when its not directed against me). But I think there has to be some test of suitability – e.g. does it by any stretch of a rational imagination contribute anything to this discussion (or even to this world). The answer in this case is a resounding NO, and I think Admin should act accordingly.


Todd July 20, 2012 at 10:21 am

Excellent point.


Todd July 20, 2012 at 10:23 am

(That is, excellent point of Brian S. when he wrote this:

“I think there has to be some test of suitability – e.g. does it by any stretch of a rational imagination contribute anything to this discussion (or even to this world).”)


S. Artesian July 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

Well, we could apply that equally to Binh’s “for those who really want to help our brothers and sisters….” nonsense, too couldn’t we?

And speaking of measuring contributions, let’s apply it to the situation in Libya, or Syria– does endorsing a NATO/US intervention by any stretch of a rational imagination contribute anything to the prospects for social revolution, to class struggle, to the possibilities for the emancipation of labor?

Nope, no, and no way. Same thing can be said for Ghadafi, Assad, Hezbollah, etc etc of course… which is in the first and last analysis what needs to be said to distinguish a Marxist, and material analysis, from an ideological one.

Oppose NATO/US intervention? Absolutely positively. Dispense with the baloney about “national self-determination” being an “intermediate” of proletarian revolution? Long overdue.

Get rid of the allegiance to Trotsky’s statement that if Britain invaded the “fascist Brazil” of Vargas, “we” would call on workers to defend Vargas. Such a statement only shows how ignorant Trotsky was of Brazil’s real history, of its real role in the world markets, and the fact Brazil itself was hardly a colony in the 18th 19th and 20th centuries.

Not to mention that such an invasion would only occur under specific conditions, and problems, of accumulation, which problems couldn’t be remedied by “defending” Vargas.

We’d all be better off looking to Zapata, refusing the offer of an “alliance” with Carranza to “repel the Yankee invaders.”


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

You raise issues worthy of discussion here, but if you dismiss those of us who have a different reading to you as having “nothing to contribute” then why should be bother?


S. Artesian July 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Sorry for double-posting. Somehow I screwed up and placed the original where it doesn’t belong.

I never said that. I think everyone…er… almost everyone has something to contribute. I am saying you can’t simply dismiss Ken’s sarcastic suggestion to join the US Army as being a detraction from the major issue, while at the same time embracing Binh’s “for those of you who REALLY want to HELP” as if class struggle were a charity, or a relief fund.

I actually do think this is the “death agony of anti-imperialism,” the moment it is revealed to be not only inadequate, but an obstacle, and an obstacle from the getgo; this whole notion of a “national revolution” or “national self-determination” as an intermediation, a half-way house on the road to proletarian revolution has performed yeoman service in stabilizing this or that would be Obregon; this or that Zuma; this or that bagman for capital.


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

This is getting more nonsensical: Pham’s post may have been a bit cheeky (given that some posters regard anything to do with the Syrian opposition as counterrevolutionary) but it was not ironic nor was it devoid of content (I found the links extremely interesting at various levels); and it certainly did not insult anyone


Brian S. July 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm

This is unworthy of you Tony, to welcome this sort of insulting, silly nonsense. How can you possibly think this contributes anything to debate (even of the uncomradely sort). I’m disappointed in you.


Tony July 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm

People don’t like for their very legitimate political Left opinions to be censored by Left Supreme Leader moderators, Brian. Ken is simply pissed off about that happening to him first on Marxism list and now here on North Star.

He now has simply put back his original posted comment multiple plural times which was what was removed when he posted it the first time singular. Being referred to go to a US government military recruitment center perhaps is insulting but then again being removed off Left lists for expressing ones opinions is extremely insulting, too.

Besides, Brian, you are on a thread where Pham has called a whole group of other comrades, ‘FOOLS’. If the administrator thinks that proper, then certainly referring folk like you and Pham to the Marine Corps recruitment center is no more insulting than that really. That should be tolerated if calling other people FOOLS is and even putting that in the tile of the thread.. People don’t like having others call them FOOLS, Comrade Brian. I’m sorry you did not know that.


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 4:53 am

Tony, there is a difference between using overly-personalised language in referring to people (and those responding to Pham have been equally personal) and posting an infantile piece of nonsense like Ken’s. It is doubly flawed: its grossly insulting and it adds nothing at all to the discussion. Its one thing to suggest that people’s views may be objectively serving imperialism (right on the border of acceptability in my view) and saying that their they should be actively serving the US military machine. If you can’t see the difference, then the atmosphere on this site has clearly destroyed your judgement.
I come to this site for grown-up discussion about important political issues – not to read childish displays of overwrought male egos.
You make it clear that you share Ken’s views, so there is clearly no point in my continuing to interact with you. You wll he hearing nothing more from me.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

I said it’s the anti-imperialism of fools. I never called anyone individually or collectively a fool. Sorry to disappoint you.


purple July 20, 2012 at 1:45 am

I’m not sure why we should be stirred by the prospect of one group of right swingers overthrowing another. There is nothing in Syria that is remotely Leftist. The grasping at straws here is embarrassing.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 10:11 am

That’s the same attitude some German communists took to the Kapp Putsch and later Hitler’s rise to power. It was mistaken then and it’s mistaken now to look at things like that. What’s embarrassing is when people who should know better decide that there is no difference between revolution and counter-revolution.


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm

And how do you know that?


Josh O. July 20, 2012 at 2:13 am

There were some on the left, who after 9/11 decided that it would be right for the US to conduct a police action in Afghanistan – to take out those who were most likely responsible for the attacks in New York. 11 years later as the US continues to expand its drone assassinations in the region under the pretext of the War on Terror, it leaves us wondering what they might be doing a decade from now in the name of the Arab Spring. Consider too – those who backed the attacks on Afghanistan in the name of women’s rights. We are not in control of the US military, nor NATO, cheer-leading for what may seem like coincident interests in the short term can only distract us from opposing their actual interests – economic and political dominance in the region.

No amount of semantics can get around the fact that while “Uncle Sam” (too cute a term for an imperialist power) is considering another “humanitarian” intervention, it supports the counter-revolution in Egypt. Your picking and choosing of which imperialist policies to endorse misses the point that they are all imperialist polices. If they decide that they have to use cluster bombs in Syria like they did in Yugoslavia then the subtleties of your position will be lost. Remember NATO left Milosevic in power, it was up to the miners to take him out.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

Afghanistan and Iraq is not Libya or Syria. Try looking at a map sometime instead of lumping every Third World country together as part of “foreignstan” where you can apply one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter political lines.

Cluster bombs are already being used in Syria. By Assad.

Before you look at any maps, I also suggest you read a newspaper because you obviously don’t know what the hell is going on in Syria.


Matt July 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Imperialism is not a great, all-powerful and all knowing Oz pushing color-coded buttons in a back room behind a curtain somewhere. Imperialism is actually quite the bumbling fool driven fundamentally by capitalist crises, albeit on a murderous scale as the case of Iraq shows. An assault on Iran would take this neocon induced foolishness to new heights. As Iraq also shows, imperialist interventions do not simply automatically produce pro-imperialist results, even in a mono-polar imperialist system.

Imperialism is replacing, out of necessity rather than “desire”, the old, rotted out bourgeois nationalist regimes of Ghadaffi and Assad with whatever it can scrape together from regime splitters. This is in essence no different from the process of replacing a hated client like Mubarak, or a discredited and much ridiculed President (and neo-con inspired “global strategy”) like GW Bush. Imperialism today exists to preserve bourgeois rule in every country; that was the great innovation of the US hegemony over the imperialist states system as a whole.

For any anti-imperialist policy the criterion is whether what replaces it leaves imperialism in a stronger or weaker position both in that country and in terms of interstate relations, *and* whether or not this created more or less freedom of maneuver for any mass movements in those countries – obviously these 2 criteria are closely bound up with one another, but they are not at all identical and must be analyzed independently.

In Libya, Egypt and in a post-Assad Syria the *net* result has been (or will be) a net weakening of the imperialist position both within those countries as well as with the interstate relations with imperialism’s key regional clients, Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly due to the greater freedom of action created for mass movements (not all of them progressive in themselves). Unless of course one believes the masses secretly love Zionism and the Saudi Royals – somehow that is doubtful. The advantage for the working class socialist movement worldwide – the only real moral element of passionate concern here in what must otherwise be treated with cold calculation – in greater mass freedom of movement in any country is that we can better discern who our real mass allies are in those countries so we can concretely link up with them internationally.

Note that this analysis has no requirement to “support” the imperialism that produces its own net negative result; One can consistently oppose imperialist intervention *and* view the result in a country as a net favorable. In the final analysis this is because the so-called “Arab Spring” was not the product of some button-pushing Grand Imperialist Wizard; it was a genuine surprise and they had to scramble in response.

It is instructive to contrast this with the results of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Despite having full freedom of maneuver and action, the US did not obtain its optimum result: a total US puppet regime providing a convenient launching pad for an assault on Iran. That was the original intent. So instead a Plan B was cobbled together on an ad hoc basis: maneuver the various mass fractions and their leaderships into an enormously bloody sectarian civil war. This was really a continuation of the pre-invasion sanctions policy: exhaust the mass resources of Iraqi society so that no mass movement against imperialism and the capitalist plunder of Iraq can arise to take power. So while the US didn’t attain what it wanted in the post Saddam bourgeois regime – not the 4 massive “permanent” bases, and even the huge spy “embassy” has had to be scaled back by half, since as the US State Dept noted, its sheer hugeness made it a key flashpoint for anti-imperialist sentiment in Iraq – it did exhaust the capacity for movement, while hemming in its freedom of action via sectarian divisions. So the net was a wash for the time being, with the longer term prospect of the revival of mass movements that socialists could align themselves with, given the relatively greater freedom of movement compared to what was possible under the Hussein regime.


Tony July 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Matt, this is a doubtful conclusion you have reached for yourself here, …’In Libya, Egypt and in a post-Assad Syria the *net* result has been (or will be) a net weakening of the imperialist position both within those countries as well as with the interstate relations with imperialism’s key regional clients, Israel and Saudi Arabia.’

And what’s all this talk about a ‘Plan B’? It sounds like you got that from a sci-fi movie or such….

‘It is instructive to contrast this with the results of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Despite having full freedom of maneuver and action, the US did not obtain its optimum result: a total US puppet regime providing a convenient launching pad for an assault on Iran.’

Well, THE PENTAGON PLAN A has always been regime changes made by the Pentagon and NATO all over the place, and most certainly in Iran. Nothing has changed really. They’re still working using PLAN A now for the ME. The US Empire has not been weakened at all by all its military war making in the world. It still is a monster though many of our North Star posting socialist geniuses seem unable to see it? Marx mode thinking seems to make some people even go blind.

‘So the net was a wash for the time being, with the longer term prospect of the revival of mass movements that socialists could align themselves with, given the relatively greater freedom of movement compared to what was possible under the Hussein regime.’

So the Pentagon crashes around killing a few million people and you call that ‘a wash’, Matt? My God! I call it a defeat for the common folk of the ME myself, Matt. But I’m not using those special vision glasses that seem to have been delivered all around in US Marxlandia.


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Some good points, Matt. Imperialist governments spend as much time (possibly more) responding to events as orchestrating them. Looking at the history of colonialism/ imperialism, the thing that has always struck me is how ramshackled and short-sighted it and its various agencies are, scrabbling around to make the best of a situation that they didn’t forsee and can’t control. That doesn’t make them any less objectionable or dangerous, but its does create space for exploiting their contradictions.


Tony July 21, 2012 at 12:04 am

Since the other threads (especially the Barrera comments that asks us to sappily ‘pray for a wind’) that have to do with Syria seem to be undergoing some sort of stop and go censorship here on North Star (go figure?), I guess I can try to comment here and link to the best news discussing the Syrian situation around, that of Press TV. Check out their excellent discussion of the current situation post the most recent UN vote and the bombing of the top military people of the Syrian government by US- Qatar-Turkey-Saudi government created ‘humanitarian imperialist’ forces.

Sorry, but I think that the discussion undertaken by the 3 guests on this program, are far more sane and intelligent and knowledgeable about the real issues than I have find here from most of the humanitarian imperialist ‘marxists’. Just saying, Comrades….


Christian July 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Pham lays it out. The article makes sense. Never mind the trolls who stalk this site.

In other news, I consider Pham B my friend and my political collaborator, and I also consider Paul D my friend and political collaborator. We are all on the same side of this, and I urge everyone who is on the side of revolutions and the Arab spring to try and figure things out together from a collaborative standpoint. As socialists we get too critical of everything that isn’t exactly what ought to be, and we get too critical of other people who see things a little bit differently than us. Our criticism and witty, side remarks are tools for tearing down, and not building up. Building up is what we need.

In other news, I will no longer be working in fancy restaurants at ski resorts this winter, as I have realized I am accepting imperialist aid in the form of large tips that I can then use to feed myself, insulate myself from the cold, and even donate to revolutionary socialist organizations. I have decided to no longer accept the assistance of capitalists who are offering me employment and instead I will choose to starve and freeze to death in the snow somewhere, with my revolutionary principles intact.

Peace, my bros


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 23, 2012 at 11:49 am

I feel the same way about D’amato, although I suspect the feeling isn’t mutual. I remember that during my time in the ISO the word “comrades” was reserved for fellow dues-payers and did not apply to those from “competing” organizations and tendencies. I suspect this has not changed but I hope I’m wrong.


Arthur July 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

I’m struck by two things:

1. “I opposed NATO’s airstrikes from the outset because I feared that … My fears proved to be unfounded and instead of trying to re-write reality and cherry-pick facts to fit my position, I learned from my mistake and shifted my stance.”

2. Debate is actively encouraged here (even though that also means having to wade through a lot of really peurile comments).

Being willing to admit error and welcoming debate are absolutely critical. So I’ll be back to checkout the rest of this site and further discussions when I have more time.

I’ll apologize in advance for probably not being able to discuss seriously at the moment but I’ll toss in something that would probably be a distraction to discuss in detail at the moment but will inevitably keep coming up and will have to be dealt with thoroughly eventually.

I think Pham Binh is obviously right about Syria and his opponents are obviously right that this goes completely against the grain of the way that “anti-imperialists” look at the world.

I don’t think there’s much in common between the way “anti-imperialists” look at the world and any sort of marxism, leftism or even simple common sense.

Pham Binh doesn’t seem to have reached that conclusion yet, and seems both surprised and indignant at the hostility.

It strikes me as completely consistent for the “anti-imperialists” to have joined with the overwhelming majority of the US foreign policy establishment in opposing BOTH the US invasion of Iraq and the subsequent “Arab Spring” as running directly counter to traditional US policy favouring tyranny in the name of “stability”.

It is, as they point out, inconsistent for Pham Binh to agree with them about Iraq while welcoming the natural and inevitable consequence of the invasion of Iraq which was vehemently pointed out by the US foreign policy establishment at the time – namely the destabilization of the whole region.

I believe Pham Binh is genuine in that inconsistency. He really does believe a lot of the same stuff about Iraq that his opponents do. But if he started to think that the Arab Spring would not have been possible without the defeat of the US foreign policy establishment over Iraq it would be awkward to admit that mistake.

The result of doing so could simply be to confirm to all his opponents that he had deserted to the enemy camp and shut down the discussion.

That is certainly what happened over Iraq at the time.

Could one argue a case for supporting the invasion of Iraq here?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

So you think George W. Bush was using leftist, Marxist, “common sense” when he decided the United States should invade, occupy, and take over Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people?


Arthur July 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm

No, and neither do you think that Obama or Sarkozy were using leftist Marxist “common sense” when they bombed Libya.

As we are both aware, imperialists can sometimes take military action that marxists and leftists should support without imagining that the imperialists have become leftist or marxist.

As for “taking over Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people” I think that was exactly the same sort of fantasy from “anti-imperialists” that you have seen through in regard to both Libya and Syria. They do say exactly that and it is, as you have noticed pure dogmatic assertion.

After the US defeat in Vietnam it would have been simply absurd and literally insane for any US administration to imagine it could take over Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people. So the “anti-imperialists” joined with the US foreign policy establishment in proclaiming that the Bush and neocons were actually insane instead of figuring out that they might have had some other idea in mind.

When it became blindingly obvious that they had NOT taken over Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people were repeatedly electing governments of their own choice both the “anti-imperialists” and the US foreign policy establishment concluded that the Bush administration had FAILED to impose a puppet regime (and its biggest “mistake” had been to suppress the Baath party and its army instead of using them to “stabilize”).

They even both spin stories that overthrowing Sadaam’s resulted in a pro-Iranian regime which is against US interests (except that the “anti-imperialists” have to simultaneously call for solidarity with the Iranian dictatorship against both its own people and the US while the foreign policy establishment are spared from this obligation).

We obviously disagree about Iraq, No problem. Would you be interested in debating it?

My view is that a very small group in the US administration reached the conclusion that previous US policy supporting the dictatorships had resulted in a stagnant swamp breeding terrorist mosquitos resulting in 9/11. They switched goals to destabilizing the tyrannies instead of propping them up. That was not marxist or leftist but it struck me as a “common sense” admission by US imperialists of what pretty well everyone else had known for decades – that US policy in the region had been utterly disasterous not only for the region but also for US interests and had even got to the point of funding Al Qaeda (“the base”) in Afghanistan, which blew up in their faces in a way that only complete idiots (like most of the US foreign policy establishment) could ignore.

Would you agree that traditional US policy in the region for most of the last century has been for “stability” (in the interests of cheap oil, anti-communism, contention with the Soviets and the Israeli interest in being surrounded by tinpit backward dictatorships rather than modern Arab democracies)?

If so would you agree that there has been a remarkable shift towards actively supporting (some) destabilizing revolutions even though it is still contradictory and half-hearted (no support in Bahrain, very hesitatant support in Syria).?

If so would you argue that it is a coincidence that these policies (and the Arab spring itself) became possible after the Iraq invasion and not before?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Let me know when you find some evidence of Iraqis begging for the U.S. to invade and occupy their country. Also, if you can find evidence that there was an Iraqi revolution in 2003 that no one was aware of I’d like to hear it. Without either, your comparisons have no factual basis.


Arthur July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Both the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk were liberated by Iraqi Kurdisk peshmerga troops in coordination with the invasion. Both major Kurdish parties were direct participants and organizers of the invasion.

Other Iraqi opposition parties at the London conference of the opposition in December before the invasion refused to support a US occupation and demanded that representatives of the Iraqi opposition be established as a replacement government with US backing. Some of them, including the Iraqi Communist Party and both the major Shia islamist parties (SCIRI and Daawa) also held demonstrations against the invasion.

This was mainly because:

1. The betrayal of the Shia rebellion by the Bush senior administration following the Kuwait war made it impossible for the Shia islamists to trust that they would not be betrayed again.

2. The US was running an active disinformation campaign pretending that it would merely “disarm Sadaam” while preserving the Sunni dominated autocracy without Sadaam. This was aimed (successfully) at disorienting Sadaam’s supporters and helped ensure rapid surrender with minimal resistance, but naturally led to suspicion among Iraqi revolutionary democrats.

However as soon as the regime collapsed the US immediately made it obvious they weren’t attempting to establish any kind of puppet regime by appointing a US occupation administrator (who could not even speak Arabic so nobody could imagine it would be long term) whose first orders were dissolution of the Baath party and its army (to the horror of the US foreign policy establishment).

All the parties that had nominally rejected invasion and occupation promptly joined the Iraqi Governing Council under US occupation, which was the broadest united front of anti-US forces ever established in the middle-east (ranging from Iraqi Communist Party to Muslim Brotherhood).

The revolution had been thoroughly crushed by decades of fascism and the betrayals following the Kuwait war. What happened in 2003 was an invasion, not an internal revolution. It led to revolutionary change, contrary to ALL the predictions of “anti-imperialists” who insisted that the US would establish another military dictator as puppet, that the Turks would suppress the Kurds etc etc.

It set the scene for further revolutionary change which is now sweeping through the region, long after US occupation troops withdrew from an Iraq now governed by the Iraqi people, as they had promised to do.


mio July 25, 2012 at 12:59 am

Funny how the cartoonist conveniently leaves out the the gulf monarchies, whom we are know are not tyrants, and whom defiantly are not the main financier behind political parties in countries like libya, just like wall street does not finance parties is US.


Al Jonestown August 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Any support for either side in the Syrian conflict aids what will become just another stepping stone towards a very conventional Third World War. US foreign policy is based on crushing all challengers and rivals, sooner or later this will run into opposition from those imperialists who don’t want to be crushed, or lose their naval bases, as in the case of Russia.

Those who want to support the Free Syrian Army should shut up and go fight for them if they think anyone will be liberated as the result of this imperialist proxy war.


Zulu August 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

“FSA guns: made in the USA”

They should have picked another picture for this caption. The fighter on this one holds a Soviet SVD rifle.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for the correction.

I added the caption to make a political point. It was “not intended to be a factual statement” (see:


Aaron Aarons September 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

Pham Binh writes:

It makes me wonder if he is remotely familiar with the human rights record of the Bolsehvik-led Cheka, the Stalinist-led National Liberation Front in Viet Nam, or that of our very own Founding Fathers who, when they were not lynching rebellious black slaves and exterminating Native Americans, led a revolution against British colonialism and then shot the very debt-ridden farmer-veterans who paid for that victory with their blood, sweat, and tears.

Lumping together those three violators of abstract “human rights” completely ignores the fact that the first two revolutions (Bolshevik and Vietnamese) had, whatever their flaws, an egalitarian, liberatory social content, while the third, the insurrection that led to the formation of the United States, had no such content and was, in fact and despite some liberatory sideshows, an elite rebellion in defense of the privileges of white European settlers against both indigenous people and enslaved Africans. (The later suppression of the less privileged straa of that settler population by the more privileged strata is significant but doesn’t make the initial “revolution” any more real as a social revolution.

The “American Revolution” is a textbook example of why not every “revolution” or armed insurrection is supportable by those fighting for liberation.


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