Syria and the Left

July 21, 2012

World in View

by Gerry Emmett

“None of us believe that peace is so sweet or life so dear that we are willing to sell our freedom at the price of chains and slavery.”

These words of a young Syrian woman express the passion that animates the Syrian Revolution now facing the most brutal, determined opposition from Assad’s genocidal regime. Its fate—the fate of the people of Syria—will likely determine the next chapter in world history.

There are moments when history turns upon what happens in one seemingly small country. This was true of Spain in the 1930s and Bosnia in the 1990s. These moments became tests of world politics, and the response to them measured one’s attitude to revolution.

Some call themselves “revolutionaries,” but will not act in support of the Syrian people. They aren’t revolutionaries, they are bystanders.


The impact of the Syrian Revolution is being felt in Israel and Iran. The Iranian government’s current attacks on labor point to its fear of revolution spreading to the Iranian masses. According to the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, over 60 independent labor activists were arrested at gunpoint June 15 in Karaj. As the government cuts subsidies, Iran’s reactionary rulers are worried that the flame of revolution which broke out in 2009 might return, sparked by the Syrian Revolution and intensified by the greater immiseration of the working class.

Israel’s reactionary rulers have likewise intensified their drive to define society in their own image, as seen in the May 23 pogroms against Africans in Tel Aviv. People were assaulted and shops looted. Right-wing politicians encouraged these attacks, following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim that African immigrants “threaten the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.” Detention camps are being built as prelude to the expulsion of the African refugees, who came mainly from Eritrea and Sudan.

Partly expressions of racism, these claims are also meant to instill the idea in the Israeli populace that the country can detach itself from the world, through fences in the West Bank and Sinai, through missile technology and pre-emptive attacks. The threat of expulsion of Palestinians is implicit. The knowledge that a free Syria would support the Palestinian struggle terrifies Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, and their like.


Unfortunately, at the very moment when it could have greatest impact, a large section of the “revolutionary” movement is disgracing itself by supporting Assad, even, grotesquely, in the guise of an “anti-war” movement by drugging themselves heavily with conspiracy theories. They send endless emails detailing the “truth” about the Houla massacre, for example, claiming that it wasn’t Assad’s supporters who murdered 108 villagers, including 49 children. No, they claim—against all evidence, against all observers, against the confessions of defectors—it was done by Syrian rebels. Or al-Qaeda, or the CIA… As the massacres repeat, the lies repeat.


Their chosen fantasies reveal the poverty of their vision, gnawing at its bone of first negativity.

In the words of Syrian poet Mohja Kahf: “Those who see the Syrian revolution as being initiated by a US-NATO-led conspiracy imply that the Syrian grassroots are nothings, ineffectual, incapable of having ideas, movements, experiences, and vision of their own.”

It is the Syrian masses fighting for freedom who are the true anti-war movement. Those Leftists who call for a peace that cannot exist, merely do their part to set the stage for future wars and genocides, as did those who failed to rise to the challenges of Bosnia and Spain.

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