Praying for a Wind

by Manuel Barrera, PhD on July 20, 2012

As I write, I am hearing the gunfire and shelling in Damascus as fighters in the Free Syrian Army take the fight to Assad, gaining ground, but more importantly, gaining ever more support from the people and within Assad’s crumbling, but likely still quite lethal, army.

As more soldiers and military officers begin to defect, what remains of the “armed body of men” becomes ever-more distilled into the forces of thuggery and murder that will stand with a despot and his hated regime. A civil war is rapidly becoming a revolution, a challenge for power.

As we debate here the merits of aiding the Syrian revolution — solidarity without U.S./NATO intervention, solidarity with different nuances of support for such military aid — the Syrian people are weighing in on our deliberations and their actions are speaking loudly and clearly: we will not stop until the murderer Assad is brought down!

Although the question of working class power has yet to be posed, the question of what side revolutionaries outside of Syria should take is posed (our comrades inside of Syria have already answered the call). Right now, in Damascus, on its streets, who do we support? Whose banners will we carry in any solidarity actions that may take place (and they already are)? If any guns and bullets, grenades, or food enter Syria—from whatever regime—where should they go?

The dictator is being challenged by the masses in all their points of view—religious, political, working class, or bourgeois — all are saying “no!” to this regime and they are now not just saying ”no”, they are shooting ”no,” bombing “no,” marching ”no,” making “no” a reality.

What will we say?

The Syrian “revolutionary” forces are making a real push and may soon topple Assad; I use quotes around the term “revolutionary” not as a pejorative, but to convey that the forces coalescing to topple the Syrian murderer — just like the Libyan people coalesced to topple their murderer — are truly variegated in their nature and we should be clear that some of these forces are not necessarily revolutionary in their true nature, but at this moment, when the line has been drawn, those forces against the dictator are engaged in a revolutionary process.

It also appears that the capitalist press cannot hide the nature of this revolution or recast it. The imperialists throughout the world, especially in the United States, are placed in a quandary just like when the Egyptian people put them in a quandry when they overthrew Mubarak. I believe a poignant moment was reached this week when President Barack Obama decided to forego — at least overt — direct support to the Syrian opposition signaling a degree, if only for public consumption, of abstention that I am sure they would prefer not to have taken. I cannot claim any real knowledge either of actual U.S. intentions covertly, except to believe they are doing “something” as they always try to do.

Watch live streaming video from syrianfreedom at

 The Syrian masses, in their growing bravery and willingness to challenge the Assad regime, have: spurred ever larger elements of the Syrian military — especially soldiers — which, in turn, have spurred the inter-class conflicts within the Syrian military leadership and the Syrian bourgeois “elements”; I am not really sure if there is true split within the Syrian capitalist class, but certainly they have been either forced into opposition or neutralized in the face of Assad’s brutality and the mounting outrage and defiance of the Syrian masses themselves.

In truth, rather than “bullets” and no-fly zones publicly brought into the uprising by imperialism, the outrage and courage of the Syrian masses have

  1. caused the imperialists to “pause” realizing that this revolution is a “tiger” that can’t be well pulled by its tail
  2. caused significant splits within the Syrian military apparatus as it becomes clearer even to these thugs that Assad is intent on butchering his own people, and
  3. spurred the resistance of both revolutionary and broad “opposition” elements to ever-more boldness.

If there is one important observation I have taken from Binh’s post, it is the reminder that one must take revolutions in their actual context.

I am reminded of my days as an actor and performer. Every play has its script and that script is written not by the actors, but by its authors. However, every actor knows that no matter how well he and his cast mates adhere to a script, every single performance is different and often quite fundamentally different from every other performance. So, too, is what we are seeing on this greatest of world stages: the struggle between oppressor and oppressed. The Egyptian masses — in some ways one of the best “authors” of the Arab Spring — have created a master script.

Indeed, it was such a powerful one that even one of the smallest offshoots, the occupation of Madison, Wisconsin, workers in the State Capitol carried placards and shouted slogans, we “walk like Egyptians”.

But even though this “script” is really just the latest iteration of the battle between worker and oppressor, every other such performance, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia (before Egypt), and, now, Syria, all of these revolutions have been different and will be successful (if not now, eventually) because those actors—the working masses of these countries—have taken that script, made it their own, and have performed with valor, honor, bravery, and magnificence worthy of the history they are writing.

It is incumbent upon each of us revolutionary fighters, rather than to mouth general platitudes whether they be to oppose imperialism at every juncture — true, and correct — or to argue that Lenin could not have made the 1917 revolution without first the German imperialists letting him ride a train — true, and correct enough in its intent. Either such arguments, “no to imperialism at every turn” and “yes, to revolution ‘by any means necessary,’ are platitudes if they are devoid of any true knowledge of facts “on the ground” or merely logical in their correctness absent the performance regardless how true one is to the script.

However, there is one “platitude”, in my view, that must stand and be spoken: our absolute confidence in the revolutionary uprising and organization of the masses, in struggle.

That confidence requires our solidarity. What that means to me is that insofar as it will take imperialist aid – in the hands of the revolutionary forces – to win the battle in Syria, we can support it should that become necessary. However, I submit that what we are seeing right now is that imperialism is simply ineffectual and is, let’s say, having difficulty showing willingness to provide such aid (at least publicly) precisely because of the veritable revolutionary will of the Syrian people. The mass movement has spurred the necessary breakdown of the oppressors and their tools. Imperialists are never interested in a revolution they cannot in some way control. Like in Libya, they will send their aid when it suits their interest and to the people — classes — that will support their designs.

In this moment, when the Syrian masses are on the stage, the imperialists can not edit the script. They will wait for the applause to die down, for the end of the performance, and then try to mold the actors, and the stage, to their will. The degree to which the Syrian revolutionary masses have accomplished a revolution in their own name and have won the majority of a country to their side, they will have learned the all too often difficult lesson that imperialist “friends” were only in it for themselves.

This reality has significant implications, the greatest of which is that the liberation of the Syrian people that can only become complete through a resulting socialist revolution in the context of the broad revolutionary uprising of the Arab Spring. If the Syrian people can overcome Assad (mostly) by their own design, the Arab East will have an example of winning liberation free of their local and international oppressors; an example that was afforded them in Egypt and even somewhat in Libya and now being realized in Syria.

Mass opposition and the courage to fight in the face of brutality can bring liberation.

Of secondary, but equal, importance is the example that such bravery and courage brings to the workers and oppressed of the imperialist world; how mass struggle wins, wins with honor, and wins by our unity. This implication must not be lost on any of us who purport to be Marxist and revolutionary: sex (i.e., seduction by imperialism) doesn’t “sell,” courage and unity do.

Third, of minor importance, but still worthy of consideration, are the implications this unfolding of the Syrian people’s resolve have for the so-called revolutionary left. I found the recent post by Syria Freedom Forever in response to Tariq Ali significant in this regard.

However, I also believe all the discussions that have occurred here on The North Star have been given a real gift by the Syrian masses. As much as some of you have railed against the abstractions of the left and how much the sectarian left have railed with equal abstractions, all of these discussions must now turn to the chronicling, and learning from, the prosecution of what was once an uprising, became a civil war, and now is becoming a veritable struggle for power against a despot in the midst of the Arab Spring.

Every revolutionary tendency, from us in The North Star to the Cuban Communist Party must stop, look, and, most importantly, listen to the sound and fury of those so long oppressed.

Finally, I am reminded in watching these events from Egypt-Tunisia-Bahrain through Libya and now Syria and concomitantly reading our posts in response to these events of a speech by Malcolm X. I think it apropos on this The North Star site to end this post with one of his brilliant observations. As I see the Syrian people — Free Syrian Army, the masses in the streets—as they are fighting, and dying, so valiantly, I can’t help but feel what they feel — we “slaves”, wage slaves, oppressed by color, by gender, by existing in countries that the oppressors deem their “plantations” — that it is time for the reckoning and the storm of revolutionary will to overcome tyranny, slavery, and the injustice of our work, sweat, blood, and lives used to provide wealth and power for the slave masters of this world. In talking about the differences between slaves — those “house negroes” and “field negroes— Malcolm described that in those days:

“If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. … The field Negro was beaten, from morning till night. He lived in a shack, in a hut. He wore cast-off clothes. He hated his master . . .When the house caught on fire, he didn’t try to put it out, that field negro prayed for a wind; for a breeze. When the master got sick, the field negro prayed that he died. If someone come to the field Negro and said ‘Let’s separate, let’s run.’ He didn’t say ‘Where we going?,’ he said ‘Any place is better than here!’.”

I am sitting here watching the Syrian people fighting for freedom — fighting for me.

I am praying for a wind.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp July 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

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)


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for the links. Excellent statement by Michael Moore.
I gather that the Syrian Revolution General Commission has some presence in the US. Does anyone have any contacts with them?


Brian S. July 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Help: I’m feeling dizzy. I have just replied to a “Manuel Barrera” over on the “Blanket Thinkers thread” who I suggested was not following the logic of his own view. Now I find a Manuel Barrera here who, to me, seems to be following that logic quite well. What am I dealing with here:A Pauline conversion? Post-modern irony? Mistaken identity? I might have something to say on these issues, but I need the world to stop spinning first.


Manuel Barrera, PhD July 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Hello, Brian yes, this is me, one and the same. If you’re dizzy, I doubt I can help you. I was impressed by Binh’s later post (the “Fools” post) and his explanations (as well as Louis P.’s) about recognizing the specific context of Syrian revolution. Louis’ suggestion reminding me of Trotsky’s “Learn to Think” ( article I took to heart. My view as you can see is that the Syrian masses are moving beyond the calls for support from external sources (not ceasing to demand it, but have joined the battle with Assad despite it). There seems to me much sentiment among the rebel layers that they do not want intervention but support (see, yesterday’s “Democracy Now” coverage I believe these sentiments and the actions of the masses, including the FSA fighting, help us to understand how best we, from the outside, can support our comrades. UN resolutions engineered by Imperialism aren’t what is needed because it is unlikely that U.S/NATO will “share” their weapons with the true freedom fighters but will “help them out” by doing it for them, with significant consequences. However, just like in Libya, in the end, it will not be US/NATO who will win this battle, but the Syrian people. I have no difficulty with Syrian fighters getting arms and support from wherever it comes; so long as the mass movement continues to dictate the political situation forcing ever more fractures in Assad’s regime and galvanizing the masses into the streets with ever more intensity. The fight is to topple Assad, but as I am sure you are aware, that is only one step and, if the mass uprising continues and the Syrian people realize their strength, it is likely not the only step that will be taken. Just like in Egypt, once there is a taste of freedom, true freedom can’t be far behind. Our role must be to do whatever we can–cheer it on, picket embassies, win labor solidarity, whatever we can do–to build mass working people’s support in solidarity with the Syrian people. We can do that both by opposing US wars abroad (a victory against imperialism in Afghanistan weakens their effectiveness in arguing they can “save the world”) and by winning solidarity with the Arab Spring. There are Syrian ex-patriots in virtually every major city. They deserve to see us standing with them.
PS: Just to be clear, I am NOT writing from Damascus as the first few sentences of my post may seem to imply. The link referring to me “hearing” the battle noises was to the livestream feed ( I hope I didn’t lead anyone to think otherwise.


Brian S. July 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the reply and clarification. Nice to meet you on “the road to Damascus” (sorry, coudn’t resist it.) I’m glad you mention the question of Syrian expatriates – I’ve been looking at videos of their demonstrations and wondering what sort of dialogue/support they were getting from the left.
You’re also spot on about the importance of the civil mass movement inside Syria retaining its key role in the situation: but that’s something difficult to do in what is becoming and increasingly militarised situation.
Anwway lots to discuss here: I’m hope we can get our teeth into the key issues in a fruitful way over the next few days.


free syria July 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

hello dears
we will fall assad by our hands.and the history will witness.
ur prays dears to syria


Tony July 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm

There seems to be a real double standard in moderating here on North Star when commentators like Diana Barahona are allowed to be attacked nonstop in ad hominem manner, yet I am unable to post comments about having known Manuel Barrrera, author of this ‘praying for a wind’ nonsense here, as a high school football player from Brownsville Texas known by the nickname ‘Tank’, instead of his self describing himself as a PhD titled ‘poet’, who wants us all to think that NATO and the US have nothing to do with the current war against the Syrian government.


Tony August 6, 2012 at 2:40 am

Here is your ‘wind’, Manuel….

An Islamist militant group that claimed responsibility for the kidnap and killing of a Syrian television presenter has threatened more attacks on supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, the SITE monitoring group which tracks Jihadist websites said on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said that Syrian state television presenter Mohammed al-Saeed, who was kidnapped from his home in mid-July, had been executed. SITE said the al-Nusra Front stated in one of four communiques posted on Islamist forums on August 3 that it had kidnapped Saeed in Damascus province on July 19, and killed him after subjecting him to interrogation. It also threatened further attacks, including against Syrian journalists working for state media and those believed to be collaborating with the regime.

“The swords of the mujahideen will cut off their heads and purify the Levant from their obscenity,” the post said.

full report about Manuel’s ‘wind’ at

Hey, don’t you think it great that the Pentagon and Obama bin Laden types have become such good friends again in Libya and Syria? No way us commies combined with Occupiers shouldn’t be able to help make a REVOLUTION out of this, is there?


patrickm August 6, 2012 at 3:37 am

Tony ask yourself this question: if you were a Syrian revolutionary seeking nothing grander than a bourgeois democratic society, would you prefer the tyranny (That it’s now quite clear you must overthrow in order to get to your goal – nothing is optional about this) to have – air power or no air power? Naval forces, or no Naval forces? Capacity for mobile warfare, or no capacity for mobile warfare? The answer is as obvious as the dead that Syrian revolutionaries have been burying every day – courtesy of these capacities that still exist. One day they will not exist but they won’t disappear by magic. As Mao was fond of saying, ‘Where the broom does not reach the dust will not vanish of it’s own accord’. There has to be a broom capable of doing the sweeping away of the fascist armed forces. This war is not theory it is now. The side I want to win needs more forces joining the fight. There are such forces and they ought to fight now. They (These real forces that are around) swept away a smaller example of just such fascist dirt last year in Libya. This HAS enabled the Libyans to complete exactly the political task that had them shot down for wanting in the first place. The tyrant started the war not the people. Many years ago bourgeois forces united with communist forces, and swept away piles of fascist dust. Communists are entirely comfortable about the destruction of fascist armies, our forebears were famous for it!


Tony August 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I got laugh a lot here with all this stuff about US marxists helping Syrians fight for a ‘bourgeois democratic society’ coming out of the mouths of all you… what are you????…. neo-Stalinists? It is the rehash of all that old Joe Stalin crap about urging us all to abandon any fight for a SOCIALIST society today in favor of fighting for a supposed 2-staged rebellion. First we institute DEMOCRATIC capitalism (whatever that might be in this late day and age?), and then we LATER…MUCH LATER… like pie in the sky later fight for a socialist society where the proletariat then can call the shots and not the capitalists, thereby creating the perfect society yada blah blah blah.

Now Patrick and the others come along and add the call to use NATO and the Pentagon to supposedly help create these ‘democratic capitalist regimes like we have in Suadi Arabia… oh sorry…. I mean the drawing boards of the Pentagon and DC geniuses. And Patrick will tell us that this is all marxism at its best! …lol… All very sick and very sad theoretical insanity ….


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