The following resolution on Syria was passed by the AWL's National Committee on 31 August.
Assad's regime is the main problem, but we oppose the planned US bombing of Syria.
We will not mourn damage and destruction of Assad's military bases. However, informed military opinion is that there is no chance of a one-off operation, such as planned, seriously incapacitating Assad's regime; and in any case we do not want the victory of the opposition military forces, whose dominant character is reactionary and sectarian.
Rather we want and work to support the emergence of a Third Camp of democratic and working-class forces between Assad and the main opposition militias. In the meantime, even a rotten peace deal (which socialists could not support) would be better than outright victory for either force.
US air strikes are more likely than not to speed up the disintegration of the country and worsen even further the chances for peace and democracy in Syria.
This is not fundamentally a case like Libya (2011) or Kosova (1999), where we want one side to win, that side is about to be crushed in a humanitarian disaster and foreign intervention seems like the only realistic possibility of this being stopped.
We will attend so-called "anti-war" protests of the Stop the War type to publicise our arguments, argue and talk to people, but not promote these protests, which apologise for the Assad regime and its foreign backers.
The biggest problem in Syria is Assad's policy, not US intervention. We demand Iranian and Hezbollah forces get out of Syria, and condemn Russia's arming of the regime.
I congratulate comrades of the AWL's National Committee for passing this resolution. I believe that the "third camp" is the only correct line to be put forward under these circumstances. That is the workers and oppressed camp against the Assad regime and attack of Imperialism. This can pave the way for unity of the workers of the region against dictatorial regimes towards a a socialist federation.
* US Imperialist Hands off Syria! Stop Bombing Syria!
* Down with Assad regime!
* For the Third camp of workers and oppressed masses!
Iranian Revolutionary Marxists' Tendency (IRMT)
Thanks for your comments. It sounds like we have agreement on a lot of the fundamentals.
There are two points I'm not sure about in your statement
i) The slogan "US hands off Syria". Isn't it a bit out of place when Russia, Iran, Hezbollah etc have far more fingers wrapped about Syria - in support of Assad! - than the US does?
ii) The slogan "Down with the Assad regime". Isn't that the wrong way of putting it when the immediate alternative, the Islamist/Sunni sectarian militias, are equally reactionary and likely to lead to the disintegration of Syria?
It would be good to hear your views on these slogans.
Thanks again, comrade.
Thank you for your two comments. I shall try to respond briefly here, and if need be we can have a more detailed discussion.
!- You say the slogan "US hands off Syria" is "a bit out of place when Russia, Iran, Hezbollah etc have far more fingers wrapped about Syria - in ".
True all those states have "far more fingers" in Syria, than USA. But the question here is not which reactionary state is closer or what state is further to Syria economically or politically. The question, now, is which force is about to launch military attack on Syria. That is obviously USA! So we have to say: "US hands of Syria"! The reason we, as Revolutionary Marxists, should call for this slogan, is the followings:
a) We do not wish the regime of Assad to be toppled by US imperialism. We wish and prepare the works and all oppressed masses in Syria to topple the Syrian capitalist state.
b) We do not believe the US imperialism wishes to bring "democracy" and prosperity to Syrian people (as it did not bring in Afghanistan, Iraq. Libya etc).
c) We do not think that US imperialism intends to get rid of bourgeois state of Assad and replace it with a bourgeois democracy. At most will do a regime change with keeping bourgeois state intact.
d) we believe the military attack will be more harmful to the oppressed masses than the Assad regime.
2- You say: the slogan "Down with the Assad regime". Isn't that the wrong way of putting it when the immediate alternative, the Islamist/Sunni sectarian militias, are equally reactionary and likely to lead to the disintegration of Syria?"
Yes! there are many reactionary forces in Syria. Some even more reactionary than Assad regime. But the question we have to ask is, who has the sate power in its hands? Assad has the state power not other reactionary forces. So our main slogan has to be directed towards Assad regime. while we can also condemn other reactionary forces. As Revolutionary Marxist, our main trust and aim always is for preparation of toppling the bourgeois state power by the self organised workers and oppressed masses (soviets). Of course this is still far fetched at the moment, in the present situation of Syria, Nevertheless, we have to give the relevant main slogans. But at the side of main slogans, of course, we can put other secondary demands (transitional demands) to start from the present level of consciousness of the oppressed masses in Syria. For example one the other slogans can be the support of oppressed masses of the neighbouring countries with Syrian oppressed masses. We can discuss other issues as well.
I welcome any other comments, observations and criticism by yourself any other comrades.
We are printing this statement for information. We obviously have some differences with it, but it is important and worth thinking about.
We Stand Behind the Syrian People's Revolution - No to Foreign Intervention
Statement by Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt), Revolutionary Left Current (Syria), Union of Communists (Iraq), Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco), Socialist Forum (Lebanon)
More than 150,000 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands injured and disabled, millions displaced inside and outside Syria. Cities, villages, and neighbourhoods have been fully or partially destroyed using all sorts of weapons, including warplanes, scud missiles, bombs, and tanks—all paid for by the sweat and blood of the Syrian people. All this was done under the pretext of defending the homeland and achieving military balance with Israel—whose occupation of Syrian land is, in fact, being protected by the Syrian regime, which has failed to reply to its continuing aggression.
Yet, despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organisation or major country—or even a lesser one—felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.
The only exceptions were some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups have engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres of Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggression inside areas under their control or under attack. Look at the recent example of villages in the countryside of Latakia province.
A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people's revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people’s uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.
However, this did not only provoke local brutal dictatorships, but also most of the imperialist forces seeking to perpetuate the theft of the wealth of our people, in addition to the various reactionary classes and forces throughout those areas and in surrounding countries.
As for Syria, the alliance fighting against the people’s revolution comprises a host of reactionary sectarian forces, spearheaded by Iran and confessional militias in Iraq, and, regrettably, Hizbollah’s strike force, which is drowning in the quagmire of defending a profoundly corrupt and criminal dictatorial regime.
This unfortunate situation has also struck a major section of the traditional Arab left with Stalinist roots, whether in Syria itself or in Lebanon, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab region—and worldwide—which is clearly biased towards the wretched alliance surrounding the Assad regime. The justification is that some see it as a “resilient” or even a “resistance” regime. They say this despite its long history—throughout its existence in power—of protecting the Zionist occupation of the Golan Heights, its constant bloody repression of various groups resisting Israel, be it Palestinian or Lebanese (or Syrian), and remaining idle and subservient, since the October 1973 war, concerning Israel’s aggressions on Syrian territories. This bias will have serious ramifications on ordinary Syrians' position regarding the left in general.
The United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, was unable to condemn the crimes of a regime, which the Syrian people rejected continuously and peacefully for more than seven months, while the bullets of the snipers and shabbiha [armed militia’s supporting the ruling Ba’ath party] took demonstrators one by one and day after day and while the most influential activists were being detained and subjected to the worst kinds of torture and elimination in the prisons and detention centres. All the while, the world remained completely silent and in a state of total negativity.
The situation persisted with little difference after the people in revolution decided to take up arms and the emergence of what became known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—whose command and soldiers came, to a large extent, from the regular army. This led to the horrific escalation of crimes by the regime.
Russian imperialism, the most important ally of the Ba’athist regime in Damascus, which provides it with all sorts of support, remains on the lookout to block any attempt to condemn those crimes in the Security Council. The United States, on the other hand, does not find a real problem in the continuation of the status quo, with all the apparent repercussions and destruction of the country. This is despite the threats and intimidation utilised by the US president, every time someone in the opposition raises the question of the use of chemical weapons by the regime, up until the latest escalation, when it was considered crossing a “red line”.
It is clear that Obama, who gives the impression that he will go ahead with his threats, would have felt great embarrassment if he did not do so, since it will not only impact negatively on the president, but also on the image of the mighty and arrogant state that he leads in the eyes of subservient Arab countries and the entire world.
The imminent strike against the Syrian armed forces is led by the US in essence. However, it occurs with the understanding and cooperation of allied imperialist countries, even without rationalising it through the usual farce, known as international legitimacy (namely the decisions of the UN, which was and remains representative of the interests of major powers, whether in conflict or in alliance, depending on the circumstances, differences, and balances among them). In other words, the strike will not wait for the Security Council due to the anticipated Russian-Chinese veto.
Unfortunately, many in the Syrian opposition are gambling on this strike and the US position in general. They believe this would create an opportunity for them to seize power, skipping over the movement and of the masses and their independent decision. It should not be a surprise, then, that the representatives of this opposition and the FSA had no reservations on providing information to the US about proposed targets for the strike.
In all cases, we agree on the following:
The western imperialist alliance will strike several positions and vital parts of the military and civilian infrastructure in Syria (with several casualties, as usual). However, as it was keen to announce, the strikes will not be meant to topple the regime. They are merely intended to punish, in Obama’s words, the current Syrian leadership and save face for the US administration, after all the threats concerning the use of chemical weapons.
The US president’s intentions to punish the Syrian leadership does not stem, in any way or form, from Washington’s solidarity with the suffering of children who fell in the Ghouta massacres, but from its commitment to what Obama calls the vital interests of the US and its homeland security, in addition to Israel's interests and security.
The Syrian army and its regional allies, led by the Iranian regime, will not have enough courage, most probably, to fulfil what seemed to be threats by their senior officials that any western attack on Syria will ignite the entire region. But this option remains on the table, as a final option with catastrophic results.
The imminent western imperialist assault does not intend to support the Syrian revolution in any way. It will aim to push Damascus into the bargaining table and allow Bashar al-Assad to retreat from the foreground, but keeping the regime in place, while greatly improving conditions to strengthen the position of US imperialism in the future Syria against Russian imperialism.
The more those participating in the continuing popular mobilisation—who are more aware, principled, and dedicated to the future of Syria and its people—realise these facts, their consequences, results, and act accordingly, the more this will contribute to aiding the Syrian people to successfully pick a true revolutionary leadership. In the process of a committed struggle based on the current and future interests of their people, this would produce a radical program consistent with those interests, which could be promoted and put into practice on the road to victory.
* No to all forms of imperialist intervention, whether by the US or Russia.
* No to all forms of reactionary sectarian interventions, whether by Iran or the Gulf countries.
* No to the intervention of Hizbollah, which warrants the maximum of condemnation.
* Down with all illusions about the imminent US military strike.
* Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.
* Victory to a free democratic Syria and down with the Assad dictatorship and all dictatorships forever.
* Long live the Syrian people’s revolution.
In reply to Statement from Middle Eastern and North African socialists by AWL
Thank you comrade Sacha for posting the "Statement from Middle East and North African Socialists". In principle I have no objection to this statement. But, once again we have to highlight the central slogans in the present situation (and also mention other slogans as secondary slogans). This way of mixing and putting all demands in one basket creates confusion for the readers and does not give them a direction to act upon central issues. The reason we write statement is not only to announce our general positions, but also to direct the readers (who should be the workers of these countries), towards a direct action, and give them instrument to build a campaign practically. In my opinion, the main central issues at this moment is nothing but to" Stop military attack by USA!" and to call for the "downfall of Assad bourgeoisie state"!
Sorry for taking so long to reply.
I agree with you that the statement I posted is very long and a bit convoluted. I also have some disagreements with its emphasis and particular bits of it. But leave that for another time.
I don't think our differences are necessarily very big, but let's explore what they are.
On "Hands off Syria": yes, when we first wrote, a US attack was imminent. But Russian, Iranian, Saudi etc intervention was not just imminent - it was already happening! So I think you would have to have a particular assessment of the threatened US attack - ie see it as particularly disastrous or oppressive compared to the other factors involved - in order to give it such prominence. When so many leftists in Britain only talked about the US and not about the other imperialist interventions going on, that is why we argued/stressed that the possibility of US bombing was bad, but not the main problem.
I think I agree with your points a-c. But point d? "We believe the military attack will be more harmful to the oppressed masses than the Assad regime". How so?
And there is a deeper problem about the slogan "Hands off". Wouldn't we use this if we thought there was some genuine democratic/anti-imperialist issue involved, eg a national liberation struggle? Isn't that how Marxists have historically used it? Doesn't "Hands off Syria" imply that in some ways the Assad regime, despite our opposition to it, is fighting a legitimate and progressive struggle against imperialism? Ie that we are not exactly saying "third camp" - except in the sense that the workers must always be a third camp - but rather siding critically with Syria, even under Assad, against imperialism?
I think that would be wrong. So isn't it better and clearer and less confusing just to say "No to the US bombing Syria" or something like that?
Hi comrade Sacha.
Thanks for your response. A belated response is better than no response! So do not worry about late answer.
As for "Hands Off" or "No bombing Syria" I have no dispute. Either will be fine.
As for military attack will be more harmful to Syrian masses than Assad regime, I mean to say that the masses are more exposed and without any protection and many more would have been harmed during US bombardment.
However I would like to draw your attention and other readers attention to our analysis of the "third camp". I believe if the basic analysis is agreed upon then other above issues will be secondary. For our analysis you can see the following link.
I have no objection to "aiming our fire" mainly at the Assad regime - for the reasons you say and also because it is the force originally responsible for and driving the sectarian polarisation, quite deliberately. But that seems to me different from saying "Down with Assad", which implies that we want the currently dominant opposition militias to overwhelm the regime (which is what is on the agenda - soviets are not on the agenda right now, unfortunately, indeed there is not really a labour movement at all).
Remember that in mid-1917 Lenin, while arguing for militant opposition to the Provisional Government (April Theses etc) also opposed the slogan "Down with the Provisional Government" on the grounds that the only forces capable of immediately overthrowing it were the bourgeois counter-revolution. This changed later in 1917 when the soviets began in their majority to support the Bolsheviks and Left SRs and thus became capable of seizing power.
I am not comparing Assad to the Provisional Government, of course, but making the point that the immediate violent overthrow of his regime by the only forces currently capable of doing it would not be a step forward for the Syrian workers and masses.
At the moment - unlike two years ago - the only forces conceivably capable of forcibly overthrowing Assad are the reactionary Sunni-sectarian militias. We should not want that any more than we should want Assad to win outright. Instead we should aim to help workers, leftists, democratic organisations etc construct a "third front" against both sides. But a victory for either side would hinder, not help, that goal. Hence we should not say "Down with..."
So this is a disagreement about slogans, but there may be some disagreements of analysis underneath. Look forward to more discussion.