Confusion on the Left over Syria

by John Reimann, North Star editorial board member on March 17, 2017

A child victim of Assad. This was in 2011. It’s gotten worse since then. See:

“Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are fighting in solidarity with Syria in defending Syria’s soverienty and this is a great act of international solidarity.  The liberation of Aleppo was a victory for the people against imperialism.  The US role has been to support and enable ISIS with tremendous military aid from the US along  with  Turkey.  They support ISIS, Nusra, El Quaeda and the so-called democratic opposition forces  in Syria, which are just as terroristic and violent as ISIS.  They all attack and commit genocide against the people of Syria.  It is foremost a war against the people and the entire infrastructure of the country.  ISIS is a neo-colonialist force for the imperialists.”

So wrote somebody on a left e mail list, expressing a view that is all too common on the left. Let’s dissect this statement:

“Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are… defending Syria’s sovereignty and this is a great act of international solidarity.” 

Really? Here we have the right wing, chauvinist Putin regime, the regime which bases itself on chauvinism at home and allies itself with far right bigots and racists and neofascists throughout Europe such as Jobbik in Hungary and the National Front in France, the regime that bombed Grozny (in Chechnya) to smithereens, and the right wing, religious fundamentalist Iranian regime, and Hezbollah – the representative of Shia capitalists. If anybody thinks they are sending troops into Syria, or bombing Syria (in the case of Putin’s forces) as an act of solidarity or to help the Syrian masses, or not acting in the interests of their own respective capitalists, they are living in an alternate universe. (For more information on these forces, see this article.)

The liberation of Aleppo…”

Here are the results of the bombing by the air forces of Putin and Assad. This is liberation?

See photo. This is what “liberation” means?

The US role has been to support and enable ISIS…”

This is the myth that so many on the left spread. It shows a complete ignorance of history. Where is the evidence? Some claim that US support for al Qaeda when it was fighting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan is proof. Can’t these people think straight? Don’t they realize that that was a completely different period and a completely different war? One left I talked with claimed that the fact that the (US backed) Iraqi troops cut and ran, leaving their weapons for the IS when the IS was approaching them in Mosul is proof. According to him, this was part of a US-inspired conspiracy to arm the Islamic State. According to this line of thinking, the Viet Cong were also supported by the US government, since the South Vietnamese army (backed by the US) was notorious for refusing to fight. Has this person never heard of troop morale?

In fact, if anybody has encouraged the growth of the Islamic State (or “Daesh”), it is Assad. As documented here among a host of other sources, Assad released some 1500 violent Salafists from prison shortly after the 2011 uprising. His purpose was to disrupt the forces against him as well as to win international backing. He succeeded.

They (Nusra, islamic State, and other anti-Assad forces) all attack and commit genocide against the people of Syria.”

Who is committing what approaches genocide? All independent observers (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc.) estimate that something like 80% of the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Syrian war are due to the Russian and Assad forces. Of course that would be true; the number one cause of death in any war is from aerial bombardment, and it’s only the Putin and Assad regimes who have an air force.

“It is foremost a war against the people and the entire infrastructure of the country.”

Again, look at the pictures, the photos of the results of the bombings. Read the accounts of the groups cited above as well as of Doctors Without Borders. Who is bombing the schools and hospitals? Who? As Mego Terzian, the president of Doctors Without Borders commented: “Since the beginning of the war in Syria, the regime has adopted the policy of terror against the population. There has been indiscriminate bombing of civilians, including the hospitals. The hospitals are part of the general plan of terror adopted by the regime since the beginning of the conflict.”

ISIS is a neo-colonialist force for the imperialists.”

Again, the myth about the origins of ISIS. The least cursory review of their history shows that they originated from prisoners in Camp Bucca in Iraq, and that part of their origin was reaction against the US government’s invasion of Iraq as well as the brutal conditions at Camp Bucca. Then there is their call to end the Sykes-Picot national borders that have been the basis for capitalism throughout the entire region. Even the reactionary Saudi regime does not support that.

Allying with Fascists
The view that everything is a result of a conspiracy by US imperialism leads to some very strange bedfellows indeed. Take the Workers World Party and their wholly owned subsidiaries: the International Action Center (IAC) and United National Anti-war Coalition (UNAC). In 2014 they participated in a conference in Moscow organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR). This is a group that has links with fascist groups, if it is not fascist itself. According to this report (well worth reading on its own), along with these two US groups there were in attendance “Russian and Italian fascists and U.S. white nationalists from the neo-Confederate group League of the South.” None of this was mentioned by the IAC and UNAC, who seem to have no problem working with these fascists and racists.

This is what happens when the left sees only the hand of US imperialism in everything, when it fails to see the laws of motion of history, when it fails to see the working class as having its own interests, distinct from and opposed to every capitalist force in the world.

Jill Stein of Green Party happily seated with two utter reactionaries – Putin and Michael Flynn. Stein has added to the confusion with her courting these reactionaries and her calls for “the US” and “Russia” to get along, meaning they should peacefully divide up the rest of the world to loot, plunder and destroy.

Stein has added to the confusion with her courting these reactionaries and her calls for “the US” and “Russia” to get along, meaning they should peacefully divide up the rest of the world to loot, plunder and destroy.

Opposition to US Imperialist Intervention
None of this is an argument for the intervention of the US government into Syria. As this article explains, no capitalist power, including the US regime, is capable of intervening in Syria (or anywhere else in the world) to the benefit of the working class majority. But there’s a simple matter of logic: If US capitalism is incapable of such intervention, what makes anybody think that Russian or Iranian capitalism is capable of it? On the other hand, if the reactionary Putin regime can be defended for intervening in Syria to fight the Islamic State, then how can these lefts oppose US intervention to also fight the Islamic State?

Historic Role of Working Class
What lies behind this sort of “thinking” is not only a refusal to take a serious look at history; it’s also a failure to consider the working class as a potential subject of history; it sees the most powerful capitalist country in the world – US capitalism – as having unlimited power to manipulate and control everything. It refuses to see that there are not only laws of motion of the capitalist economy; there are also laws of motion of political development.

If foreign policy is just an extension of domestic policy, then the reverse is true also, and this is the problem. Much of the same left that doesn’t see international struggles in clear class terms also doesn’t see the struggle here like that. The same light-minded, ahistorical approach, the same refusal to look beneath the surface, the same failure to see the class forces at work apply at home too.

Hopefully, this will change as a more open class struggle opens up in the US. How that develops and what relation it will possibly have with the class struggle around the world is another question.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Blank March 19, 2017 at 1:43 am

This article is 100% complete nonsense. It’s basically repackaged Gulf monarchy propaganda. What’s going on in Syria may have been difficult to understand at first with the Arab Spring and all, but now it should be entirely clear. The US, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey have backed absolute sectarian nutters who have torn that poor country up completely. Whoever you quote (this “somebody on a left e mail list”) is a straw man. Read Patrick Cockburn or some other reporter who is objective and has knowledge of the region.


Louis Proyect March 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: