This article was originally published in Greek on September 15 2015. By P. Pap. for avantgarde
All of a sudden, the Western media are filled with images of suffering refugees from Syria. We begin to hear the personal stories of people who have a name, unlike the thousands of anonymous people who are being drowned in the Mediterranean. We even learn that these people are not necessarily mad jihadists who have come to conquer “our” Europe. The photograph of the drowned child in Turkey’s coast spreads everywhere and shocks. Officials of the European Union become aware of the situation and begin to look for other methods to resolve the issue, apart from the one they have been favoring so far, namely the sinking of the vessels and the drowning of the immigrants and refugees. Merkel poses as a loving mother. What is going on? Have the imperialists suddenly developed a consciousness, have they been touched by the plight of the oppressed?
(Shortly before the publication of this article, Merkel decided to shut the borders of Germany inhibiting the Schengen Agreement, while at the same time the countries of the former Eastern Europe were giving a recital in racism, denying any participation in the quotas. The humanism of the imperialists lasted only for a few days. From now on, they will be showing us their true face again. Fences, deportations, concentration camps, racism and so on.)
…issuing call to arms
Well, the imperialists have been touched in the exact same way that they had been touched back in 1991, with the cormorant that was supposedly drowned in the oil that the “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein threw in the Persian Gulf. At that time, the drums of war were beating for Iraq, so the Western public opinion had to be manipulated accordingly; now the drums are beating for Syria. After the «defense of human rights» that Assad is supposedly trampling, and after the «war on terror» and the jihadists of the Islamic State, Western imperialism has found a new excuse to invade Syria and fulfill its fervent desire – the update of its hegemony in the Middle East and the entire world – by overthrowing Assad, installing a government of its own in Syria and intensifying the pressure towards Hizbullah and Iran (with Russia and China being next in line). And the excuse for this invasion is… to help the Syrian people stay at their homes and not become refugees.
How can this task be achieved? But of course by dropping some more bombs on the heads of the Syrian people, answer the representatives of “our” imperialism, while at the same time the majority of them (with the notable exception of Germany that seems to take a different position) reject any peace process scenario that includes Assad and his party, a solution favored by Russia.
This front page does not simply express the view of a tabloid. This is exactly the story told by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well, who is such a humanist that he even visits refugee camps in Lebanon: «We can do all we can as the moral, humanitarian nation at taking people and spending money on aid and helping in refugee camps. But we have to be part of the international alliance that says we need an approach in Syria which will mean we have a government that can look after its people. Assad has to go, Isil has to go and some of that will require not just spending money, not just aid, not just diplomacy, but it will on occasion require hard military force.«
On the same wavelength, the (socialist) French President, François Hollande, announced the launch of reconnaissance flights over Syria that would allow France to “consider air strikes against the Islamic State”. Beyond this pretext, however, he added that his government would “continue to work for a political transition that sidelined Syria’s president”.
Along the same lines, the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, declared: “we think that the Assad regime should go. I famously or notoriously — depending upon your perspective — once described it as ‘baddies versus baddies’ in Syria, and look, the Assad regime is a dreadful regime. It’s been absolutely monstrous to its own people. On the other hand, the ISIL or Daesh death cult is just about as diabolic a group as you could imagine. The decision that we have made is to target airstrikes against Daesh in Syria … We haven’t made any new decision in respect of Assad but, in common with the vast majority of countries, we think the regime should go.”
The war-drive is led by the US, which have begun a fierce and provocative confrontation with Russia over the military assistance that Russia provides to the government of Syria. The State Department declared: “The Secretary called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning to discuss Syria, including U.S. concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there. The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.» Their lapdog in Ukraine, Porosenko, was quick to align himself with this line, declaring that the party responsible for the waves of refugees from Syria is… Russia.
We present a short selection of articles from the US bourgeois press, that openly call for military intervention:
- Roger Cohen, New York Times, “The Syrian nightmare of Obama”: this article argues that the tragic situation in Syria was caused by «inaction» and «non-interventionism» of the West. It continues by criticizing Obama for not having enough will and faith in the American power: “At multiple stages, if Obama could have mustered the will, the belief in American power, there were options. The Syrian aircraft dropping those barrel bombs could have been taken out. A safe area for refugees might have been created. Arming the rebels early and massively might have changed the course of the war.” Of course, the author turns a blind eye to the fact that the US did indeed arm massively the rebels through their regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, under the guidance of the CIA. The fact that he “forgets” this “detail” is understandable, as it would undermine the version of the story that he is trying to present. (We note that this particular columnist had celebrated the murder of Gaddafi in Libya, talking about a great success of interventionism; he had also argued with fervor in favor of the war in Iraq, considering the devastating effects that it brought as a ‘small price’ compared to the ‘freedom’ that Iraq supposedly won.)
- Thomas Friedman, New York Times, “Walls, borders, a dome and refugees”: After he explains how terribly the heart of a person seeing the waves of refugees aches, the columnist cuts to the chase: “If we’re honest, we have only two ways to halt this refugee flood, and we don’t want to choose either: build a wall and isolate these regions of disorder, or occupy them with boots on the ground, crush the bad guys and build a new order based on real citizenship, a vast project that would take two generations. We fool ourselves that there is a sustainable, easy third way: just keep taking more refugees or create “no-fly zones” here or there.”
- Editorial of the Washington Post: “ Putin makes moves in Syria, exploiting America’s inaction”: Once more, the columnist is blunt: “By preparing to deploy Russian ground and air forces to Syria, Mr. Putin is acknowledging a truth that Mr. Obama has refused to accept: Any political agenda for Syria’s future is meaningless unless it is backed by power on the ground. Mr. Assad will depart, as Mr. Obama has been predicting and urging him to do for four years, only if the balance of military force makes an opposition victory inevitable and imminent. […] If Mr. Obama wishes to see the U.S. vision for Syria prevail over Russia’s, it will take more than phone calls.”
- Benjamin Weinthal, NY Daily News, “Europe should take Syria’s Assad to war”. We imagine that such a title renders any comment superfluous.
The imperialists claim that they want to do all the above in order to protect the refugees. We will not even waste one line commenting on their hypocrisy; it would be preaching to the converted.
Russia is indeed involved in the Syrian issue – actively. And this is only logical, since the fall of Assad, its ally, would put Russia in an even more difficult position. By calling for the formation of a front against the Islamic State and terrorism, Russia is acting in an intelligent manner, trying to expose that, despite their claims, the US are not interested in combating ISIS, but in overthrowing the government of Syria.
All this hype put forward by Western imperialism about the “Russian intervention” that is supposedly taking place during these days may certainly have a basis. But one would do well to be extremely reserved when it comes to such sources of information. Why should we believe that the claims of the imperialists and their media have any more value than their hype about the “thousands of Russian interventions” that have supposedly taken place in Ukraine? It is well-known that every time the reactionary regime of Kiev is preparing to launch a new offensive against the Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Western media begin to spread massive “reports” about a new invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine. If we are to believe these reports, then Russia must have invaded Ukraine several hundred times until today. Here is an article by Eric Draitser that presents the chronicle of the revelations of the “Russian intervention” in Syria and argues that it is a communication strategy devised by the US.
All this hype has probably only one purpose: to obscure the true intervention that has been going on over these years in Syria – the intervention of the West aimed at regime change – and to justify the planned escalation of this intervention. We categorically reject the position that the conflict in Syria (like the one in Ukraine) is an inter-imperialist conflict. Russia is not an imperialist country and we have argued about this position in detail here, here and here. The character of the war from the perspective of Syria is a just national liberation war – regardless of the fact that it is being waged under the leadership of a non-progressive bourgeois politician like Assad. We recognize the right of Syria to get weapons and help from any place it can.
No more neutrality
In the debate of last Monday (note: a debate on the Greek elections of September 20th), Lafazanis (note: leader of Popular Unity, Laiki Enotita, a party that emerged from the split of SYRIZA) said a very simple thing: that the refugee flows from Syria have been caused by imperialism in its effort to overthrow Assad, and that the Syrian opposition is much worse than the Syrian government. This was hardly a revolutionary statement, but again, who would expect one from Lafazanis? The interesting thing to note, however, is that this statement was met with harsh criticism in the social media from a lot of people from our class camp, who are even organized in the revolutionary Left; and their criticism was to the right of the statement. “Lafazanis supports the dictator.” Certainly, a few posts in facebook and twitter may not have any great value in themselves, but they are indicative of the level of education of the people in the Left when it comes to such issues.
Everyone would do well to understand that the level of democratism of a social formation largely reflects – and depends on – the economic basis. The bourgeoisie of a flourishing capitalism with a growing economy is able to allow the existence of a broad middle class and petty bourgeoisie, a workers’ aristocracy, a working class that enjoys an at least tolerable standard of living. On this basis, the bourgeoisie is able to establish a generally stable social contract with the subordinate classes, ensuring their consent by means of class collaboration. If that capitalism also gets a good share of the imperialist plunder of the periphery, the contract may contain more favorable terms for the subordinate classes. Such a capitalism can certainly be quite “democratic” and almost not at all “dictatorial”. In the semi-colonies and in the countries of the periphery, however, the situation is different. The economic basis in these countries is much less robust, since among their other problems they are also being plundered by imperialism – or at least do not get a share of the imperialist spoils. In such an environment, the ruling class can only exert its power on the subordinate classes with the whip (rather than the carrot). Only authoritarian regimes can thrive in such countries. The defense of these countries when they are attacked by imperialism, despite the fact that their leaderships may be reactionary and “not very democratic” by Western standards, has always been the duty of communists. Especially for the communists who happened to be born in the West, the defense of these countries is first and foremost a struggle against “their” imperialism and “their” bourgeoisie. Any kind of social liberation process in these countries can only pass through the defeat of imperialism – and the same applies to the imperialist countries. Unless one thinks that Obama and Hollande are better than Assad and Gaddafi, and that a planet teeming with NATO military bases will be beneficial for the global revolution.
To various groups, which identify themselves as Trotskyites and proclaim that «in the epoch of imperialism there is no just war waged by the bourgeoisie», thus trying to ideologically dress up their subordination to their imperialism, we suggest that they take a look at the following interview by Trotsky (let us not even mention Lenin, it is more than clear that have thrown his ‘Imperialism’ in the trash). Asked by Mateo Fossa about the struggles of the peoples of Latin America, Trotsky says the following:
[…] In the countries of Latin America the agents of “democratic” imperialism are especially dangerous, since they are more capable of fooling the masses than the open agents of fascist bandits.
I will take the most simple and obvious example. In Brazil there now reigns a semifascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat.
“Workers of all countries and oppressed peoples, unite!”, declared the Communist International in 1920. Although this declaration was distorted by stagism and the uncritical conciliationism with bourgeois nationalist forces, it still completely retains its revolutionary content today.
For the destruction of the International of the bourgeois counterrevolution
On a global scale, the number-one enemy of the proletariat, the number-one threat to mankind and, at the same time, the guarantor of the global capitalist class is Western imperialism and its lackeys, not the various authoritarian regimes of the periphery. This recognition is the key to the prioritization of the various dangers that the conscious proletariat is faced with, the key to defining its stance in the field of “foreign policy”. Without such a compass, the only thing that the Left can do is sit paralyzed and lament that everyone is an enemy – at the same time when the imperialists are installing governments and military bases of their own in until recently (more or less) independent countries, imposing double oppression on the peoples of these countries after they have massacred them, and strengthening the global front of imperialist reaction, the deadliest enemy of any revolutionary or even progressive change.
There is no room for convenient neutrality in the Syrian issue. No further intervention must be allowed to the imperialists. Should the intervention take place, the anti-war declarations will not be enough. Struggle for the defeat of the intervention, the military crushing of the imperialists and their lackeys. Victory to the Syrian army, unconditional defense of Syria from imperialism. At the same time, however, we do not give any political support to Assad against the Syrian proletariat. We do not hide the crimes of his government, nor do we forget his cooperation with Israel and the US against Palestine. We intend to present this regime with the whole historical reckoning, but this can only be done after we have dealt with the greater – greatest – evil: imperialism. To the Syrian communists who have clearly chosen a side and are fighting against the obscurantist forces and imperialism, we extend our solidarity. If we had more connections with them, we would tell them about the strategy of the Permanent Revolution and we would advise them to become the most consistent defencists and fight to seize the leadership of the national liberation movement from the hands of the bourgeois forces.
The task for the proletariat in the West is the active mobilization for the defeat of “its” imperialism, the overthrow of “its” bourgeois class from power and the smashing of its state. The struggle to achieve these aims is the highest form of solidarity towards the refugees – without underestimating the other tasks of welcoming the refugees, fighting so that they have equal rights and defending them from the police and the fascists. It is also the minimum tribute we can pay to those who were killed by “our” “civilized” bombs, drowned in the borders of “our” Fortress Europe and to the victims of imperialist savagery all around the world.