This article was originally published in Greek on December 20 2016. By P. Pap. for avantgarde
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
This phrase is very fitting in the light of the latest propaganda outburst about – how original – Aleppo. Some days ago, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies drove the imperial-‘jihadists’ out of the eastern part of the city and fully liberated (yes, this is the correct word) the city from their barbaric yoke.
The dominant ideology is that of the ruling class, and it is perfectly normal for an everyday person to believe to some extent that the news he/she is being presented by his/her ruling class are the truth. It is only human for someone to feel moved when watching news about ‘massacres’ and ‘genocide’ in Aleppo; that is, it is normal if one does not know what is going on in Syria, what “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) means or what happens every time the CNN and the BBC develop a conscience and, along with it, ‘humanitarian’ concerns.
Malcolm X did not live enough to witness the evolution of the propaganda mechanisms of the oppressors. Without doubt, he would have been impressed by their current efficiency – an efficiency that would make Goebbels himself feel inadequate. Malcolm X would have been more impressed – in a negative way – if he saw the effect that these mechanisms have, not only on everyday people, but also on many of those who consciously pursue the overthrow of capitalism, on people who have made a decision to fight against ‘their own’ bourgeoisie. One would expect from such people to consider it as their duty to undermine the level of trust that the proletariat feels toward its bourgeois class. The fact that the conscious proletariat keeps falling for the lies of its ruling class is one of the factors that explain why, after 5.5 years of imperialist rape of Syria, not even one rally has taken place in support of the right camp in Greece (and not only there). What possibility is there to build an anti-war / anti-imperialist movement if the forces that are supposed to form its backbone cannot confront their bourgeoisie even at the level of propaganda?
We will not go into a dissection of the propaganda here, relevant articles will follow soon. We will only note that there were no journalists in eastern Aleppo while the city was under the control of the ‘rebels’. The major Western media did not send reporters there – not only because it was a war zone, but mainly because they feared what the imperial-‘jihadists’ might do to their people. They preferred instead to simply parrot the reports of the latter. The ‘evidence’ for the mass killings and other ‘horrific crimes’ that filled the news came from various supporters of al-Nusra and other Takfiri death squads. Patrick Cockburn, who can hardly be characterized as an agent of Assad or Putin, writes: “The foreign media has allowed – through naivety or self-interest – people who could only operate with the permission of al-Qaeda-type groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to dominate the news agenda..” 
To expect to learn what is happening in Aleppo from such people is the equivalent of expecting to learn about the ‘criminality of immigrants’ from the Nazi scum of the Golden Dawn.
A major defeat for the Empire
The liberation of Halab is a major defeat for the international counter-revolution. The barrage of inarticulate – and increasingly paranoid – anti-Russian and anti-Syrian screams that echo all around Washington, accompanied by a high-intensity behind-the-scenes dogfight within the American elite, is indicative of the magnitude of the defeat that the imperialists have suffered. The expulsion of their ‘rebels’ from the last big city they had under their control practically means the defeat of their plans to overthrow the Syrian government. The American ruling elite are not the only ones who are crying their hearts out over their lost investments, which included billions of dollars for arming and funding the reactionary Takfiri organizations as well as for PR propagandists. King al-Saud and his entire House are also weeping, as is Erdogan, Netanyahu, King Abdullah II of Jordan and the emir of Qatar. Alongside them are also Theresa May, Merkel and Hollande – the latter even put out the lights of the Eiffel tower to underline his bitterness and grief. The fact that the agreement about the withdrawal of the imperial-’jihadists’ from eastern Aleppo was brokered by Russia and Turkey, without Washington having a substantial role in it, demonstrates even more clearly the crisis of the US strategy in the region.
Despite their major defeat, the US and their client-states do not seem willing to give up their war. “Even if it is the end of the siege in Aleppo, it is not the end of the war in Syria. It will go on. The opposition will continue to fight”, the State Department spokesman John Kirby declared ominously. “If Aleppo falls into the government, into the regime’s hands, this will be the end of the war? I don’t think so. We believe that the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition are willing to resist, and to continue their efforts. This will not end the war.”, the Foreign Minister of Qatar added.
These statements were made in the wake of a decision by the US government to lift some restrictions in its arms export policy, in order to be able to equip the opposition in a more massive manner. Even this decision, however, will hardly be enough to reverse the course of the war.
A few highlights of the imperialist aggression against Syria
It is physically painful for someone to have to write the following extract 5.5 years after the start of the Syrian war, but a number of analyses coming from the Left that circulated recently – and in many cases were treated as serious by a number of people – are doing everything they can to whitewash the role of imperialism in the issue. We even got to read that… Assad and the US are allied against the ‘revolution’! One has to pinch him-/herself to make sure that this is not simply a bad dream… Oh well.
Syria has been at the crosshairs of imperialism for quite some time. This did not start in 2011, when the ambassadors of the US and France were rushing to Hama in order to declare their support for the ‘rebels’ , or when the main NATO countries were stating that «Assad must go»  and massively arming the opposition. One needs to keep in mind that Syria was an ally of the Soviet Union, a regime that had emerged through a process of national liberation and – despite the degeneration that it has suffered – was not controlled by imperialism. Let us mention just a handful of highlights of the imperialist aggression against the country over the last 15 years.
In 2002, George Bush Jr. defines the «Axis of Evil», which consists of Iran, Iraq and the Peoples’ Republic of Korea. A few months later, the Undersecretary of State Bolton defines a wider axis that also includes Cuba, Libya and Syria.
In 2003 the US signed into law something called the “Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act”. Harsh sanctions were imposed on Syria, and American analysts spoke of a decision that may act as a precursor to military intervention against the country .
According to US Congress documents, the US have been funding the Syrian opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood since at least 2005. These documents also prove that regime change in Syria has been on the US agenda since at least 2005.
There are also the revelations of Wikileaks about the schemes of the American embassy in Damascus since 2006 . A secret report prepared by the head of the embassy lists a number of vulnerabilities of the Syrian government that Washington could exploit. On the top of the list there is the “playing on Sunni fears of Iranian influence” to cause religious conflicts and exploit the “increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists”.
The list could go on, but we think the point has been made.
The situation today
One really needs a strong stomach to deal with the amount of lies that circulated once more in regard to the Syrian issue these days. We got to read articles, supposedly written from a left perspective, which were indistinguishable from the ones that appear in the pages of the Economist. Reporters of the BBC and al-Jazeera may have quit their jobs declaring that they simply cannot bear to spread any more lies on the Syrian issue, but the pro-imperialist left has no such problems.
The situation today is the following. The opposition is absolutely dominated by the most reactionary wings of political Islam and openly supported by imperialism. The Syrian people massively support their government, as shown in the result of the latest elections in 2014  and a series of publications in various Western media (that have every interest to demonize the Syrian government) [8, 9]. The reason why the majority of the population supports the government is simply because they understand only too well what the opposition wants to replace it with.
The war in Syria is a massive regime-change operation orchestrated by US-NATO imperialism and executed by its client states in the region, which utilized the most backwards and reactionary wings of political Islam. Within Syria, the intervention was based on the bloody, decade-long conflict between the Ba’ath and the Muslim Brotherhood, which reached its peak with the 1982 uprising in Hama, which was suppressed by the Syrian army.
The war in Syria reflects the wider war that is taking place in the Middle East, which has not yet reached its peak. The camps are now separated quite clearly. The separation is not along sectarian or ethnic lines, but in terms of anti-imperialist struggle – intermediated, of course, by religion and the historic legacy of the peoples of the region. The one camp is the Axis of Resistance (Muqawama), consisting of the Syrian government, Iran, Hizbullah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a number of Palestinian and Iraqi militias and the Houthis (Ansarullah) in Yemen. This camp is supported by Russia, a regional capitalist country.
The other camp consists of the greatest murderers and oppressors of the planet, namely the NATO imperialists, their regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Zionist state, Gulf petro-monarchies) and the various salafist-‘jihadist’ organizations (ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Yemen etc.). Between these camps there are various oscillating forces, among which the Kurds of Syria, which will have to clearly pick a side soon.
What kind of war are the two sides waging?
Marxists agree with Clausewitz that war is a continuation of politics by other means. But what are the actual policies of the two warring camps?
At the global level, the Western Empire continues to pursue the update of its hegemony in the oil-rich region of the Middle East and in the planet. Any regime that is not completely subordinated to the Empire must either conform or be replaced by one that does. The Ba’athists, a remnant of a long-gone global relation of forces, do not fit in today’s world map. The Houthis in Yemen must be crushed under the bombs of the al-Saud gang of aggressors and their mercenaries who have come from every corner of the Earth. Hizbullah and the Bloc of March 8 threaten Israel and must therefore be erased from the face of the Earth. Iran, which has been a major headache in the region since 1979, must be further surrounded, dismembered and recolonized, with Russia being next in line. The Palestinian Resistance as well as Palestine itself must cease to exist. This war is the continuation of a policy of plunder and subjugation under the imperialist heel, it is an unjust imperialist war.
The Muqawama – now with the help of Russia – is waging a war to prevent its countries and the Middle East as a whole from recolonization and chaos. None of the countries that constitute it is imperialist, and neither is Russia. This is a just, anti-imperialist war.
Those who take a closer look in the Middle East and listen to the slogans of the two warring sides, will hear the Wahhabi sects – among which the Syrian ‘rebels’ – chanting “death to the Persians, the Zoroastrians, the Nousairi and the infidels” and “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave”. They will see these scum decapitating children  and using them as suicide bombers . They will see them removing the Zionist state from their sights and directing their anger towards the «infidels» – which happen to coincide with the enemies of imperialism in the region. They will see the source of Wahhabism and stronghold of reaction, Saudi Arabia, trying in every way to turn the war into a religious war. On the other hand, they will hear the Muqawama chant «death to Israel, death to America». They will see them reject divisions along sectarian and ethnic lines and call for unity of the Muslims while swearing to defend Palestine, «the most sacred purpose» according to its leaders.
Victory to the arms of the Muqawama
The communists are supposed to have an international perspective. We ask: will a Middle East rampaged by a war along ethnic and sectarian lines help us advance our agenda? Because this is exactly what the political program of the Syrian opposition and its friends is. Where would we prefer to do communist work, in Syria or in Saudi Arabia number 2 (which is exactly what the ‘rebels’ are trying to build)? If one finds it difficult to answer these questions, we would urge him/her to go and ask the Communist Party and the left organizations of Saudi Arabia. Only there are no such things in Saudi Arabia, where any kind of opposition to the arch-reactionary House of Saud is considered terrorism, often punished by beheading.
Let us imagine a Middle East where imperialism and its proxy armies have crushed the forces of the resistance. Will such an outcome help us advance our agenda? Should we or should we not be interested whether the map is filled with protectorates, failed states and NATO bases? If the conscious proletariat of some country manages to overthrow its bourgeois class, who is going to rush to the repression of the revolution if not the global guarantor of the perpetuation and reproduction of rotten capitalism, which is called NATO?
For all these reasons, we support the defeat and the expulsion of our own, NATO imperialists from the Middle East, the smashing of their client-states (Saudi Arabia, Zionist state, oil-monarchies of the Gulf) and their Takfiri children (ISIS, al-Nusra etc.). The only existing subject that can undertake this task is the Muqawama (Axis of Resistance). A possible defeat of this camp – by the forces of international counter-revolution, not by the forces of communism! – will set the basis for the reconfirmation of the Pax Americana in the region and the planet for the next many years, and put a tombstone on any kind of progressive evolution. We wish and support the military victory of the Muqawama without, of course, giving political support to its political forces. At the same time, we oppose any imperialist aspirations that Russia may have in the region; any honest analysis, however, cannot but acknowledge that without Russia’s help, Syria would probably not exist today.
“You are supporters of the dictator”
The fact that such phrases are used by people who refer to Trotsky is sad yet indicative of the degradation of certain parts of what used to be the Trotskyite current. Yes, gentlemen, that’s right: we “support” Assad – in exactly the same way that Trotsky had “supported” Chiang Kai-shek against Japanese imperialism . We “support” Assad in the same way that Trotsky had “supported” Vargas in Brazil and Haile Selassie in Ethiopia against British and Italian imperialism, respectively [13, 14].
Without forgetting the issues we have to resolve with the Syrian regime – as we do with every bourgeois regime on the planet – and without giving it any political support, we unconditionally defend the self-determination of Syria against imperialism and its drive to partition and subjugate the country, imposing double and triple chains on what has remained of the Syrian people. The unconditional support to the right of self-determination of oppressed nations is a non-negotiable core principle for communists, and it is independent from the values and the class content of the governments of these countries.
“It is so complicated…”
No, it is not. On the one side you have ‘your own’ imperialism and its proxy armies, that consist of Wahhabi cannibals whose political program consists of ethnic cleansing, and on the other side a country which is not controlled by imperialism that is trying to defend itself against partition and recolonization. Those who fail to understand this struggle as class struggle would do well to restrain themselves to their trade-union activities. That’s all they can do. And let them wonder whether the participation of “their own” country and “their own” bourgeois class in the imperialist feast – the menu of which consists of the flesh of our class brothers and sisters who have happened to be born in the oppressed countries – have turned them into shy social-chauvinists, who fail to oppose this reality because they occasionally get to eat some of the crumbles that fall from the table of their bourgeois class.
What would these people do if a male worker who oppresses his wife at home were to go on a just strike against his boss? Would that also be “complicated”? What if the leaders of the striking workers were reformists? Would we be obliged to keep a stance of neutrality? Very few leftists would answer these questions incorrectly. In the above arguments, most leftists would immediately recognize the excuses of a scab. It is about time they made the respective reductions when it comes to the international class struggle, opening up their perspective and understanding what the phrase ‘just war’ means.
For the umpteenth time: not every movement is necessarily progressive
Class struggle does not stop, and the governments of the countries that form the Muqawama are no friends of the proletariat. They are governments of bourgeois states, that is dictatorships of the bourgeois class on the proletariat – in the same manner that the most ‘democratic’ bourgeois state is a dictatorship of the bourgeois class on the proletariat. We support every progressive movement within the Muqawama countries, but it has to comply by a few preconditions: it needs to have just demands and it cannot call NATO for help. Movements that call NATO for help do not deserve the slightest amount of solidarity. If the international reality of 1914 allowed the revolutionary movements space to exploit the inter-imperialist rivalries in order to advance their own agenda (i.e. by receiving arms from Germany while waging a national-liberation struggle in a colony of Great Britain), the international reality in 2016, which can summed up by the phrase ‘Empire under the US hegemony’, does not allow such possibilities – at least in the condition it is today. Freedom can only be obtained through relentless opposition to NATO.
Let the Syrian issue mark the end of all these fairytales about “people” who rise up against “dictators” in an unmediated manner demanding “democracy”. Even today, when we ask enthusiasts of some “Syrian Revolution” or those who insist on repeating the “Assad must go” mantra about the revolutionary forces that they support, the answer we get is that they support the “Syrian people”! There is no such thing as a “people” as a subject, nor is there any such thing as a movement without a political program. The content of each movement is crystallized in its leadership. Narratives that attempt to describe the character of a movement by choosing to ignore the forces that lead it, arguing instead that “an activist (whose name we usually never get to learn) has this or that very progressive idea in his mind, so this is what the movement is all about” lack even the slightest amount of seriousness. It is with such narratives that most of the supporters of some “Syrian revolution” try to justify their stance. Most of them did the same back in Ukraine and Libya.
There is no struggle against capitalism without the struggle against NATO
Before becoming enemies of wage slavery, communists are enemies of oppression – of every form. They do turn a blind eye to the oppression inflicted upon the oppressed nations, where the proletariat is bound in double chains and sees the surplus that it produces being sucked not only by the local bourgeoisie, but also Wall Street or the City. The above becomes more important if these communists have happened to be born in a country of the imperialist West. These communists understand that the lovely bourgeois democracy that they get to enjoy in their country is nothing more than a polished dictatorship of their bourgeois class, and that the material basis of this democracy is the imperialist plunder of the oppressed nations. They understand that the pillaged countries balance in more authoritarian systems of governance, simply because they do not have the luxury to buy the consent of the subordinate classes using the carrot. Communists should therefore be very careful when characterizing these political regimes – because there is the risk of ending up cheerleading bourgeois democracy, like those who refer to all the leaders of the ‘rogue states’ as ‘dictators’. Of course, the latter would never use the designation ‘dictator’ for i.e. Hollande, who has been governing France under a state of emergency since last November.
Communists also need to try to recognize and understand the political tools that the oppressed peoples have developed in their struggle against oppression, even though these might not look exactly like those familiar to us in the West. Especially when it comes to the Middle East, one needs to be able to see behind the veil of religion – which is merely an epiphenomenon – and recognize the political content of the various political forces. One cannot equate Hizbullah with ISIS or Ahrar al-Sham simply because they are all Islamist organizations. One cannot act as a colonial overlord who will somehow come and bring his/her prefabricated, Western-centered ‘solution’, while ignoring the history and the political traditions of the peoples there. For those in the West who are too caught up in the colonial mindset, maybe it would help if they sat back and reflected upon their own anti-imperialist achievements against ‘their own’ – oppressor – bourgeois class, before declaring themselves or their party as the only true anti-imperialists. Maybe a comparison of these achievements with the ones of the peoples of the region – such as the 2006 victory of Hizbullah against the Zionist state – would prove helpful in that regard.
Those who happened to be born in the imperialist West who actually want to overthrow this rotten system can smile for the defeat of their imperialist bloc abroad and get ready to welcome the results of this defeat at home. There will be such results; a look at the vicious dogfight between the CIA, the FBI and the presidential candidates is enough to confirm it. The rest can take a big box of tissues and go weep outside the Russian embassy for their Wahhabi friends. And after that they can go to the US embassy and demand the further arming of the ‘rebels’ and the imposition of a no-fly zone to save the revolutionaries or the civilians or the cormorants. Their beloved Hillary might not be president, but all is not lost; Trump mentioned something equivalent, talking about ‘safe zones’ (aka no-fly zones). 
PS. It is impossible not to comment briefly on the rivers of tears shed by several supporters of some ‘revolution’ over liberated Halab. One of the best samples, as well as excellent material for a case-study in NATO propaganda “from below”, is a recent article entitled “The counter-revolution crushes Aleppo” by Ashley Smith from the ISO, sister organization of the Greek ΔΕΑ (Internationalist Workers’ Left) in the US. To characterize this kind of Left as the left wing of NATO would be an understatement; Ashley Smith rightly deserves a position as Chief of Staff in the US Army. He has written a number of masterpieces about the Syrian issue. In one of them, he argues that the correct way to uphold Trotsky’s teachings is to support the right of the Syrian revolutionaries to receive arms and aid from US imperialism. 
When the ISO is not busy criticizing its bourgeois class for failing to arm the ‘revolutionaries’ enough so that they could overthrow the Syrian government, they criticize the part of the American Left that takes a principled stance against ‘its own’ imperialism and demands that the US get out of Syria . One could write books about the social-imperialist stance of these people. The best thing they have written so far is that eastern ‘free Aleppo is the 21st century Paris Commune’.  We kid you not, they actually wrote that.
The above make clear that the ISO strongly supports the interventions of its bourgeois class. In general, they make an effort to conceal this support using left-sounding pseudo-arguments (although one might argue, and rightly so, that they are not doing a very good job in that regard). There are times, however, when they do not bother to do even that. In October 11th, these social-democrats published an interview they took from Anand Gopal about Mosul.  Presenting him as a journalist and author who has written extensively on US wars, they went on to cite his interview without any comment of their own, obviously agreeing with its content. What they failed to tell their readers was that this gentleman is a fellow in the New America think tank. Regarding the political positions of this think tank, suffice it to say that its CEO is Anne-Marie Slaughter, former high ranking officer of the US State Department and currently close associate of Hillary Clinton.
It is no secret that this political current has a long history of supporting the imperial crusades of its bourgeois class. This situation goes back to the ‘50s, when it submitted to the Cold-War pressure of its bourgeois class, refusing to defend the USSR against imperialism – which was a non-negotiable position of Trotskyism. In an effort to ideologically dress up its submission to its bourgeois class, it invented the theory of ‘state capitalism’. The USSR had to be labeled not only ‘state capitalist’, but also… ‘imperialist’, and in any case more reactionary than Western imperialism. This deep bow to Western bourgeois democracy is evident today, when this current characterizes every enemy of the Empire as a ‘dictator’, contributing to their further demonization. This current celebrated enthusiastically the fall of the ‘90s; and why shouldn’t it? This was its political program, after all. Until today, they have not uttered one word of self-criticism.
Even with such a record, one would expect that they would at least retain some sense of shame. Alas, this is hardly the case. “House Negros”; this is what Malcolm X used to refer to these people.
1. The Independent, ‘There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week’, 16.12.2016
2. France24, ‘French and US ambassador visits bolster Hama protests’, 09.07.2011
3. CNN, ‘U.S., Europe call for Syrian leader al-Assad to step down’, 19.09.2011
4. Stephen Zunes, Middle East Policy magazine, spring 2004
5. Washington Post, ‘U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show’, 17.04.2011
6. WikiLeaks, ‘Influencing the SARG in the end of 2006’, 13.12.2006
7. Fox News, ‘Syrian election shows depth of popular support for Assad, even among Sunni majority’, 04.06.2014.
8. Telegraph, ‘Syria: As the bombs fall, the people of Damascus rally round Bashar al-Assad’, 17.04.2014.
9. Guardian, ‘Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media’, 17.01.2012.
10. Al-Masdar, ‘Warning: +18 Video. Aleppo rebels behead a child’, 19.07.2016
11. SANA, ‘Terrorist bombing in al-Midan Police Station in Damascus’, 16.12.2016
12. Trotsky, ‘On the Sino-Japanese War’, 23.09.1937
13. Trotsky, ‘Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation’, 23.09.1938
14. Trotsky, ‘On Dictators and the Heights of Oslo’, 22.04.1936
15. NY Times, ‘It’s So Sad,’ Donald Trump Says of Syria, Promising ‘Safe Zones’, 15.12.2016
16. Socialist Worker, ‘The counterrevolution crushes Aleppo’, 13.12.2016
17. Socialist Worker, ‘Learning to think today’, 02.11.2016
18. Socialist Worker, ‘Will the left hear the cries from Aleppo?’, 19.10.2016
19. Socialist Worker, ‘Aleppo is burning’, 10.05.2016
20. Socialist Worker. ‘A nightmare in the making for Mosul’, 11.10.2016