The Stalinist and centrist accomplices of Assad and Islamism
In 1981, “Trotskyists” (the SL of Robertson, the IBT of Logan & Riley) called on the bureaucracy of the Kremlin to crush the working class in Poland, to forbid strikes and to dissolve a trade union of several millions of wage workers; in 1989, other “Trotskyists” (the PCI of Lambert & Gluckstein, the SWP of Cliff & Callinicos) expressed satisfaction at the absorption of the GDR with a State-controlled economy by the capitalist FRG.
Today, “Trotskyists” support in Syria, in the name of anti-imperialism, either Assad, or the Islamists. However, one and all appeal to Bolshevism. Now, the proletariat is victorious in 1917 in Russia and puts an end to war in Europe in 1918 thanks to a party, the Bolshevik Party, whose strategy has always been independence towards the bourgeoisie. In 1919, the Communist International is proclaimed to pursue world socialist revolution. At its 2nd and its 4th congresses, the CI envisages temporary blocs of communists, where the working class was appearing, with the bourgeoisie of the countries of Asia on the condition that it really fights colonialism. The communist party had to stay independent of bourgeois nationalism, all the more so of clericalist reaction.
We need to combat Pan-Islamism. (Vladimir Lenin, “Preliminary Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions for the Second Congress of the Communist International”, July 1920)
But, because of its isolation in a backward country, the workers’ State deforms itself then degenerates: the bureaucracy of the state becomes autonomous of all control by the working class and takes over the party. The Stalinization of the Communist International that proceeds from it leads to the regression into Menshevism: the bourgeoisie could be able to lead revolutions in the 20th century.
Stalinism reactivates revolution by stages (only the democratic revolution would be on the order of the day, socialist revolution being pushed back to a remote future), systematizes the united anti-imperialist front (the proletariat must ally itself, to lead the democratic revolution, with the “anti-imperialist” bourgeoisie of oppressed countries) and invents the workers’ and farmers’ party (the proletariat does not pretend to lead the “democratic” revolution, it acts as a minor partner of the party that is entrusted with it: Guomindang, ANC, etc.).
With his “workers and peasants party”, with his “anti-imperialist united front”, with his “bloc of the four classes” … Stalin played the reactionary part in China which Tseretelli and Chernov sought unsuccessfully to fill in the Russian revolution of 1917. (Max Shachtman, The History and Principles of the Left Opposition, 1933, New Park, p. 39)
Sometimes, to disguise its erring ways, the leadership of the CI passed into the hands of the bureaucracy of the USSR invents revolutions and entrusts it to reformist bureaucracies (leadership of the British TUC example) or to bourgeois cliques (among others, the Chinese Guomindang).
The bureaucracy, intent upon maintaining its own prestige, bolstered up its now discredited predictions by inventing revolutionary phenomena. In a word, the ultra-radical phrase mongering of the 5th Congress led the officialdom directly to opportunism, to painting in revolutionary colours those movements and men who had little or nothing in common with the revolution. (Max Shachtman, The History and Principles of the Left Opposition, 1933, New Park, p. 28)
The Russian Left Opposition and the International Left Opposition of the Communist International fight to straighten out the CI, more especially as Neo-Menshevism is refuted by experience in Turkey in 1920-1921 and in China in 1926-1927 … In 1928, the ILO generalizes to the international scale the strategy of permanent revolution that proved itself in Russia.
In 1933, the policy of the IC and of the KPD leads to the defeat in front of Nazism of the most important proletariat of Europe and the most organized one in the whole world. Starting from 1934, Stalinist parties orient themselves towards social-chauvinism; starting from 1935, they adopt the alliance with the bourgeoisie, including imperialist countries (“popular front”).
In 1933, internationalist communists prepare with all currents that draw the lessons from it a new international, of which no programmatic document (program of 1938, manifesto of 1940, etc.) defends the united anti-imperialist front. Explicitly, the 4th International condemns the popular front, the alliance with the bourgeoisie, including in dominated countries.
During the 2nd World War, workers’ parties of Latin America, Africa and Asia are subordinated by the bureaucracy of the USSR to the imperialist bourgeoisies that are its temporary allies, which opens a wide square in colonies and semi-colonies to bourgeois nationalism. After the war, the proletariat is submitted by Stalinism to the national bourgeoisie of its own country, unsparing at the time of socialist phrases, and which often rests on the USSR to pressure American imperialism. So, in Syria and in Iraq, communist parties have both capitulated in front of the two wings of Baas, a bourgeois pan-Arabist party whose axis is the caste of officers of the bourgeois Syrian and Iraqi armies.
The alternative to the betrayals of the State bureaucracy and the international apparatus of Stalinism was embodied by the Bolshevism-Leninism of the 4th International (FI). But, in 1949-51, the leadership of the FI (Pablo and Mandel), at the same time that it entrusts Stalinism to lead world revolution, adopts also its strategy of alliance with the bourgeoisie in dominated countries. The International Secretariat presents this revision of the program, to look “Marxist”, as the united anti-imperialist front of the 2nd and 4th congresses of the CI.
The permanent revolution itself is distorted into a simple diagnostic, it describes an objective process of such a strength that it can triumph whatever the leadership of the masses. It is no more necessary, for revisionists, to persist in equipping the world working class with a new international, which imposes contending the leadership of the masses with reformists, Stalinists, nationalists. It would suffice to exert a pressure on the existing leadership, to advise it.
Certainly, a fraction (the International Committee of the FI) resists adaptation to Stalinism, but it reveals itself unable to reject the united anti-imperialist front of Pablo & Mandel, that is, the popular front in dominated countries. So, all its components adapt themselves to stageism and subordinate themselves to fractions of the bourgeoisie: in the years 1950, the PCI in France led by Lambert with the Algerian bourgeois nationalism of the MNA of Messali, the GOR in Argentina led by Moreno with justicialism of colonel Perón, the POR in Bolivia led by Lora with the bourgeois nationalism of the MNR of Estenssoro and Lechin; in the years 1970, the WRP in Great Britain led by Healy with the bourgeois regimes with pan-Arabist pretenses of Hussein and Gadhafi, the SWP in the United States led by Hansen with the black bourgeois movement NAACP and the wing of the Democratic Party opposed to pursuing the Vietnam war …
In 1970, Hafez Al-Assad (Assad Senior) takes power in Syria. The Syrian Communist Party (SCP) joins the le Progressive National Front (PNF) that supports Baas and the Assad government. This betrayal leads to a split of those who refuse to disappear and who found the Syrian Communist Party – Political Bureau. But this fraction led by Riad Al-Turk and George Sabra remains on the terrain of nationalism, of the capitulation in front of the bourgeoisie. Only changes the bourgeois clique to which they rally. The maintained SCP splits in 1986, both fractions (the one led by Bakdash, the one led by Fayçal) continuing to participate to the PNF. Le SCP-PB participates, with various opposition bourgeois parties, to a popular front, the National Democratic Assembly (NDA).
In Iran, a genuine revolution starts in 1978: workers are on strike, part of the army rebels, population arms itself, freedoms are conquered, the working class organizes itself in full force. But the Stalinist party linked to the bureaucracy of the USSR (Tudeh) grovels before Ayatollah Khomeini and collaborates, until its ban, with the Islamist power. The guerilla organizations that lead the insurrection but had not broken with the revolution by stages and the united anti-imperialist front (Fedayeen, Peykar, Rahe Kargar …) could not confront the counter-revolution led by the clergy. Among opportunists who rally to Islamism in the name of “anti-imperialism”, one finds also self-styled Trotskyists such as the HKE (a split of the HKS fomented by the American SWP). Internationally, the Cliffite IST, the Healyite “4th International” support also the clergy while Islamist shock troops destroy the labor movement (including the Tudeh). In general, the revisionist currents of “Trotskyism” which have regressed into the united anti-imperialist front have been unable to draw the lessons of this event, harbinger of what will come about in Afghanistan, in Gaza, in Syria and in Iraq. On the other hand, the HKS in exile draws the lessons and breaks from the Pabloite 4th International.
In Syria, at the moment of the popular rising of 2011, the NDA (with in its midst the SCP-PB) transforms itself into a National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, pleading for negotiations with the regime of Assad Junior with a view to “democratic reforms” and a “Constituent Assembly”, the same tricks used in Tunisia and in Egypt to save the bourgeois State.
In 2012, in Egypt, the RS support the Islamist candidate in the second round of the presidential election.
The victory of Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, is a great achievement in pushing back the counterrevolution and pushing back this coup d’état. For now, this is a real victory for the Egyptian masses and a real victory for the Egyptian revolution. (Sameh Naguib, Message to the ISO conference, June 28th–July 1st, 2012)
For the opportunists of the labor movement, the bourgeoisie would still be able, at the beginning of the 21st century, to accomplish a revolution. But what they call “revolution”, in Syria, is at best the powerless petty-bourgeois democracy, at worst totalitarianism, while only the working class can lead a revolution in our epoch and that it needs, for that, democratic freedoms.
For instance, the LBI in Brazil and all the Healyite tendency (WRP in Great Britain, SEP in the United States, SF in Great Britain …) support Assad and Putin in the name of the united anti-imperialist front.
United front with Assad-Putin in response to the Yankee military provocation! (Luta Operaria, September 2016)
The truth about Syria: the Imperialist-sponsored “rebels” are losing the war … All serious revolutionaries seek the defeat of US imperialism. (Socialist Fight, October 2015)
Always in the name of the united anti-imperialist front, the CWG of New-Zealand and the United States and all the Morenoite tendency takes the reverse position, to support the opposition to Assad, even when Islamism becomes the majority.
We the UIT-CI support the fighters and militias without supporting their political leaderships. Down with Al-Assad ! End bombings by Russia and imperialism! Down with the Islamic State! Turkey and Iran, out of Syria! Unity of Syrian and Kurdish rebels! That governments break their relations with Bashar Al-Assad! (UIT-CI, 5 años de revolución en Siria, March 11th, 2016)
The Syrian revolutionary war is the advanced guard of the Arab Revolution … The resistance has become strengthened by Islamic currents such as al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) designated by Russia and the U.S. as ‘terrorists’ because they want an ‘Islamic State’. Yet this is a state defined by Fateh al-Sham as a non-sectarian Islamic republic. (LCC, Hands off Aleppo: Victory to the Syrian Revolution!, September 13th, 2016)
For Morenoites, revolution is limited to dominated countries and to ethnical minorities in imperialist countries. It is a question of an objective process that does not need any revolutionary workers’ party. Besides, even Mafiosi and clericalists can lead a revolution.
The caricature of that opportunism is a sect in Argentina, the LOI-CI. The latter sends in 2012 a “brigada León Sedov” (BLS) in Syria. Against any likelihood, Munzer pretends that the LOI struggles, thus, directly against the United States.
At this moment we understand the enormous magnitude of this repugnant pact, carried by the Pentagon under the command of Wall Street where it has been established. The revolution in the Middle East must be completely eliminated. (BLS, October 24th, 2015)
We are plunged since 5 years in a revolution that started by demanding bread and freedom. Since more than 5 years, we resist in the trenches to the attacks of Yankee and European imperialism, and to the bombs of Bashar Al-Assad, to the executioner Putin, and to the mercenaries of the Iranian guard and of the Hezbollah. (BLS, June 17th, 2016)
Only ignorant and naïve people can believe such a stupidity. In fact, the American secret services and the regional allies of the United States help the self-styled “anti-imperialist revolution”.
Yet, the so-called BLS obtained the bail of the Austrian RKOB, and of the CWG of New Zealand and the United States.
The RCIT is fighting in support of the Syrian Revolution and joined the International Committee in Defense of the Syrian Masses which has been initiated by the FLTI comrades. While we have several political differences with the comrades of the FLTI, we see sufficient agreement for fraternal collaboration with the comrades. We will discuss with the comrades about our differences and hope to overcome them. (RCIT, November 2012)
The FLTI’s organized Leon Sedov Brigade, who have performed an heroic internationalist duty, are still manning the barricades. (LCC, To the 3rd Conference of the GMI, March 26th, 2016)
Pröbsting, Brown and company forget that the representatives of the LOI do not fight the American army, but Syrian and Iranian soldiers. In practice, this tiny troop is necessarily fastened to more important armies. Which ones? The LOI does not say it. Munzer and his stooges disguise to the world labor movement—and to their own militants—that the self-styled BLS is under the command of Islamists. It suffices to see the raised forefingers, the beards and the black headbands of its members. This explains that the BLS is silent on class struggle, on the necessity of soviets and the expropriation of Arab big landowners and capitalists, and even on national rights of Kurds, democratic freedoms, secularism, women’s emancipation …
To dare calling this operation by the name of Sedov, son of Trotsky, atheist, anticlericalist, communist, leader of the 4th International, is a filth, an infamy.
Instead of the international revolution—the League of Nations, the bloc with the bourgeoisie … Long live the Poland of Pilsudski! Without hesitation Stalin would make a pact even with Hitler at the expense of the German and international working class. It only depends on Hitler! All these international policies of Stalinism move and will move the working class further and further away from the parties which for some reason still call themselves communist. (Lev Sedov, The Red Book On the Moscow Trials, 1936)
Bourgeois demagogues often disguise their counter-revolutionary policies into revolution
The bourgeois opposition to Assad constitutes in 2012, with the help of Western imperialisms and Islamist regimes of the Gulf and Turkey, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to which the FSA and local coordination committees rally. The SNC renames itself National Coalition of the Forces of Opposition and Revolution, to deceive workers. There is the Syrian revolution of social-democrats, Stalinists and centrists.
Nothing new. Bourgeois nationalist charlatans of dominated countries outrageously christen “revolution” the conquest (howbeit progressive) of formal independence: “justicialist revolution”, “triple Indian revolution”, “Arab revolution”, “revolution of the great State of the masses, Arab, Libyan popular and socialist”, “Bolivarian revolution”. While the bourgeois regimes that Bonapartist leaders of dominated countries put in place block and prevent the only revolution possible during the imperialist period, the socialist revolution. Finally, these regimes capitulate in front of imperialism.
In particular, pan-Arabist nationalists of the years 1950-1970 with a socialist discourse did not hesitate to speak of “revolution” to deceive workers’ and farmers’ masses, to confiscate their anti-imperialist struggle, to establish with the help of the army and police ferociously exploitative and despotic regimes within the framework of borders drawn by British and French colonial powers.
So long as the liberating movement is controlled by the exploiting class it is incapable of getting out of a blind alley. (Manifesto of the 4th International, May 1940)
At this epoch, the nationalist deceit of the “Arab revolution” has been accepted by bureaucracies in power in the USSR and China, by Stalinist parties of the whole world, by centrists of the epoch (of which the “4th International” of Pablo, Mandel, Hansen and Moreno).
More than one military dictatorship christened itself with demagogy “revolution”. Only in Argentina, the junta of the 1955 coup calls itself “liberating revolution” and the one of 1965 “Argentinian revolution”. In 1965, in Greece, the regime of the colonels disguises itself into “Council of revolution” … In Poland, General Pilsudski proclaims in 1925 a “revolution without revolutionary consequences”. Trotsky considers then Poland as a fascist regime, which proves that, if he analyzed fascism as a product of the epoch of imperialism (and deduced that one must overthrow the imperialist system in order to eradicate fascism), he does not reserve it for all that to imperialist powers.
For the petty bourgeoisie … now and then, in fits of desperation rises for the conquest of power, even with arms in hand, as has happened in Italy, in Poland and other countries. But the Fascist insurrections only end in this result: the new power becomes the instrument of finance capital … (Lev Trotsky, “The Fundamental Principle Errors of Syndicalism”, January 1930, Against fascism)
Fascism frequently disguises itself into “revolution”, “revolutionary” while it is the most accomplished form of reaction, of counter-revolution. Besides, when it accedes to power, it converts itself into a servant of capital. In Italy, Mussolini founded in 1915 under the name of “Fasces of revolutionary action”, the ancestor of the National Fascist Party, and he calls “fascist revolution” his taking of power.
The leaders of the National-Socialist Party of German Workers readily had recourse to the words “socialism” and “revolution”. In 1937, Franco and Suner create and unify fascist organizations into a Phalange whose motto is “for God, Spain and its national-syndicalist revolution”. In France in 1940, Marshall Pétain christened his defeated and colonized fascist regime “national revolution”.
Thus, the leaders of the PNF Corradini and Mussolini proclaimed that Italy was a “proletarian nation” struggling against “plutocratic nations” and the founders of the NSDAP Drexler, van den Bruck, Strasser and Goebbels described Germany after the 1st World War as a “colony of the Entente”.
Fascism necessarily takes an anti-imperialist tinge in dominated countries, without what it could not find a mass base. It develops for that a theme already sketched by first fascisms.
All the art of fascism consists in calling itself anti-capitalist without seriously attacking capitalism. It exerts itself first of all on transmuting the anti-capitalism of the masses into nationalism … In Italy and in Germany, particularly, the masses are predisposed to believe that the enemy is less their own capitalism as foreign capitalism. Thus, fascism is not at pains to preserve its financial backers from the popular rage: it diverts the anti-capitalism of the masses towards the “international plutocracy”. (Daniel Guérin, Fascism and great capital, 1936)
Bonapartism, military dictatorship and fascism all appeared in Europe, but these non-parliamentary forms of bourgeois State are not reserved to it. Their current multiplication is at the same time a product of the delay in world socialist revolution and an instrument to prevent it. The relationship of Islamist fascism with that of before the 2nd World War is plain:
- Leaders trained outside of bourgeois politicians;
- movements that get the support of the great bourgeoisie only facing the danger of social revolution;
- shock troops from the military, declassed people, shopkeepers, students ;
- undisputed submission to the leader;
- hatred of democracy and recourse to a reactionary ideology (religion, nationalism, racism) to fanatize the base, paralyze the proletariat, crush any labor organization, whatever it is;
- designation of scapegoats for the woes of the country …
The precedent of the Islamist counter-revolution of 1979 in Iran
In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini calls “Islamic revolution” the bloody crushing of the social revolution that had started in 1978. Needless to say that the world bourgeoisie adopts this term of “Islamic revolution” to designate a phenomenon that rather comes under an “archaic fascism” (Maxime Rodinson, 1978) or an “Islam with a fascist face” (Fred Halliday, 1979).
The Shia clergy had opposed the beginning of a democratic revolution in 1905-1909.
The clergy was well organised and active during the entire period of the break-up of the Asiatic mode of production and the gradual transition towards capitalism … In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a powerful faction within the clerical hierarchy began to openly engage in politics to oppose bourgeois reforms of the state. (Torab Saleth, “Class nature of the Iranian state”, Critique, December 2007)
Islamist gangs had served as auxiliary force to the army staff in 1953 during the coup against the bourgeois nationalist leader who had dared to attack British and American oil companies. The emperor (Shah) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi took back power, with the support of the clergy and imperialism. However, the clergy reestablished its popularity among the trading bourgeoisie (bazar), landowners, declassed people from shantytown and part of students by opposing then Pahlavi. Indeed, the latter, by willing to prevent any risk of a social revolution, to modernize the country and to consolidate Iranian capitalism with his so-called “White Revolution”, offended mullahs and ayatollahs.
Because the whole Shi’ite hierarchy had betrayed Mosaddegh and supported the CIA coup, the fundamentalists were shamed into silence… The White Revolution gave them a chance to return into politics… The clergy as a whole came out in opposition to the reforms. Among other things, they opposed the Shah’s land reforms, as they were themselves among the biggest landowners in Iran; they opposed the local government reforms, as this would have seriously undermined their local power base in the provinces; and they were against giving the vote to the women, because it would undermine their ideological authority … (Torab Saleth, “Class nature of the Iranian state”, Critique, December 2007)
The trading and usurer bourgeoisie found itself in concurrence with foreign capitalist groups and new industrial capitalists propelled by the regime.
Opposition to the regime is strongly felt here, especially since the social and economic displacement of the bazaar from its position of dominance has continued; the bazaar has retained a political influence because of its links with the mosque and thereby with the urban poor, in particular the migrants who have flocked into the cities over the past two decades. (Fred Halliday, Iran, Dictatorship and Development, 1979, Penguin, p. 217)
In 1978, while the clergy holds an important position in the mass demonstrations, it is a guerilla organization (Fedayeen) that plays the decisive role in the insurrection. It is indeed a social revolution for the people armed itself, freedoms are conquered, organs of workers’ power (shoras) appear in enterprises, poor farmers occupy land, national minorities rise for their rights.
The proletariat had played a significant role in the 1978 protests. Parties of every sort flourished after the Shah’s fall and there was a remarkable freedom of expression. The first few months after the revolution saw sustained activity on the part of the shoras (workers’ committees) throughout Iranian industry … Yet even before the Shah had fallen, leftists were being harasses and terrorized by Hezbollah gangs. (David Greason, “Embracing death: the Western left and the Iranian revolution”, Economy and Society, February 2005)
But the guerilla organizations (Fedayeen, Peykar, etc.) had turned their back, under the influence of Maoism and Castroism, to the working class for years. Most workers’ organizations (Tudeh, Fedayeen-majority, Peykar, HKE, etc.) remain prisoners of the legacy of Stalinism (revolution by stages, united anti-imperialist front) and they come into line behind Khomeini instead of defending democratic freedoms, women, Kurds …
Mullahs succeed in leading the traditional petty-bourgeoisie, declassed people and part of youth against the working class, which is socially in minority and deprived of a party of the Bolshevik type. The leader of clericalist reaction asks in 1979 to the American government to neutralize the Iranian army staff in order that it does not prevent the taking of power by mullahs, as is confirmed by documents recently declassified by the CIA.
It was previously known that Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic leader of the Iranian revolution, had exchanged some messages with the US through an intermediary while living in exile in Paris. But new documents seen by the BBC’s Persian service show he went to a great lengths to ensure the Americans would not jeopardise his plans to return to Iran – and even personally wrote to US officials. In contrast to his later tirades against the “Great Satan”, Khomeini’s messages to US officials just weeks before his return to Tehran appear to have been strikingly conciliatory. “It is advisable that you recommend to the army not to follow [Shah’s Prime Minister Shapur] Bakhtiar,” Khomeini said in one message, according to the BBC. “You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans”. (“US had extensive contact with Ayatollah Khomeini before Iran revolution”, The Guardian, June 10th, 2016)
Islamist fascism mobilizes and arms lumpen against women and against workers’ organizations, one by one, without their opposing him by a united workers’ front. The Islamic Republic is set up in May 1979, it instantaneously recovers the army and the political police of the Shah and little by little it seizes upon shoras.
To mystify masses mobilized against the Shah and crush both the labor movement and national minorities, Khomeini plays the card of nationalism. He affects to rise against “the great Satan” (the United States), a posture whose apogee is the occupation in November 1979 of the United States embassy by “Islamist students”. This episode fascinates all morons who take petty-bourgeois phrases and gesticulations for anti-imperialism, not only petty-bourgeois intellectuals such as Foucault and international Stalinism used to all abjections, but also epigones of Trotskyism, in particular the leaders of the American SWP, then member of the Pabloite 4th International, and those of the British SWP, leading organization of the Cliffite IST.
In fact, Khomeini disguises thus his social and political counter-revolution and his search for a compromise with the most powerful bourgeoisie. In 1985, Israel and the United States secretly supply Iran with weapons for its war against Iraq. In 1988, the Islamist regime executes thousands of revolutionary militants. In 2015, Iran signs an agreement with the six main imperialist powers.
By its class nature, pan-Islamism is unable to challenge private property and to appeal to the proletariat of imperialist countries. This dooms it, in the last analysis, to the same powerlessness as the pan-Arabism of the years 1950-1970. Equally bourgeois and even more reactionary, it reveals itself equally unable to defeat great powers and Israel, to develop national economy and to root out world imperialism. The regime of the ayatollahs, arising from the fascist counter-revolution of 1979 in Iran, ended in the same bankruptcy as Nasser, Bourguiba, the FLN, the Fatah, both Baas, Gadhafi …: poverty for the greater number, enrichment of a small capitalist layer linked to the bourgeois State, incapacity to create a modern national industry, oppression of national minorities, fictive democracy, frantic defense of the bloody tyrant Assad, concessions to the “great Satan” (the United States), etc.
Unlike the epigones of the late 4th International (Morenoites, Cliffites, Pabloites, Healyites, Lambertists …), the Permanent Revolution Collective has drawn the balance-sheet of the proletarian revolution of 1978 and of its crushing starting from 1979 by clericalist fascism (Theses on Iran, December 2010), which led the PRS of Argentina (now PCO), which had for one time got closer to internationalist communists, to go away.
2012-2013: the Syrian revolution is crushed by Assad and Islamism
Under the influence of the risings in Iran (2009), in Tunisia (2010) and in Egypt (2011), Syria experienced a spontaneous, massive et heroic riot of youth and the people in 2011 against the regime of Baas and of the tyrant Assad. In Iraq, the same year, Arab demonstrators protested in Bagdad against the corrupted and sectarian Shia government of Al-Maliki; Kurdish demonstrators targeted the PDK regime of Barzani.
What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the « upper classes », a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for « the lower classes not to want » to live in the old way; it is also necessary that « the upper classes should be unable » to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in « peace time », but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the « upper classes » themselves into independent historical action. (Vladimir Lenin, “The Collapse of the Second International”, June 1915, Works, Progress)
The opposition is divided, without a workers’ party struggling for hegemony within the revolted masses:
- Bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democrats. The NCDC is founded in June 2011 by a dozen political parties tolerated by the regime. It includes a fraction of the Communist Party, two others supporting the reign of Baas. The NCDC accepts to discuss with Assad, contrarily to the SNC-NCFOR, Al-Nusra and ISIS. Young intellectuals constitute Local Coordination Committees (LCC) in the chain of demonstrations. These committees play a role of information of the movement, then of management, while being pacifists and democrats. Despite the violence of repression, the petty-bourgeois democrats initially want to negotiate with Assad and denounce the first calls to arms. It is not a matter of soviets since never the population joins them. Moreover, the LCC join the SNC (they will part from it only in 2015).
- Nationalists of national minorities. Facing the uprising of his population, Assad abandons the Kurdish zones to the PYD-PKK, the sworn enemy of Turkey (which has been for a long time indulgent with the IS-Daesh and still remains with Fatah Al-Sham). On the other hand, Turkey supports the guerilla of Turkmens of the BNST, a minority less numerous than Kurds.
- Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood type, beside the BNST. In September 2011, the “Friends of Syria” (the Islamist government of Turkey, the Islamist monarchies of the Gulf, the Western imperialist powers …) help setting up a Syrian National Council (SNC) in Istanbul, which is under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. The NCDC keeps out of the SNC. Officially, the SNC leads the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that struggles militarily in Syria. It is officially rechristened National Coalition of the Forces of Opposition and Revolution (sic) in November 2012.
- Jihadists: Assad frees in June 2011 more than 200 Islamist prisoners to prevent any proletarian revolution. Until 2015, the Turkish border lets Islamists, weapons, goods, money go through. At the end of 2011, supporters of Al-Qaeda found the Al-Nusra Front (later Front Fatah Al-Sham). Al-Nusra is financed by Turkish, Kuwaiti, Qatari networks … This branch of jihadism combines military fight and the administration of the zones that it controls, as ISIS (later IS-Daesh) with which it clashes starting 2014. Unlike the IS-Daesh, Fatah Al-Sham is mainly composed of Syrians and does not intervene in Iraq.
A political crisis is not eternal. The situation can rapidly evolve in one way or another. If the revolutionary occasion is lost, counter-revolution seizes its chance.
In the past, we have observed (Italy, Germany) a sharp strengthening of fascism, victorious, or at least threatening, as the result of a spent or missed revolutionary situation, at the conclusion of a revolutionary crisis in which the proletarian vanguard revealed its inability to put itself at the head of the nation and change the fate of all its classes, the petty bourgeoisie included. (Lev Trotsky, The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany, September 1930)
The Syrian revolt could have transformed itself into a revolution led by the proletariat, if a revolutionary workers’ party of the Bolshevik type had intervened or, at least, if the regional and world environment had been favorable.
But the social revolution that sketches itself in 2011 in Tunisia and in Egypt, the two countries where the working class plays a proper role, is contained by the liberal (“democratic”) bourgeoisie and the clericalist bourgeois parties, of the Muslim Brotherhood type and salafists. Both fractions of the bourgeoisie agree to use a constituent assembly to contain revolution. Libya falls to pieces at the hands of various factions, all Islamists. Israel crushes again the Palestinian population in Gaza and continues to colonize the West Bank. Saudi Arabia represses the rising in Bahrain and intervenes in Yemen. The Egyptian army staff takes again power in a bloody way. Erdogan and the government of the Islamist AKP repress the movement of Gezi, limit democratic freedoms in Turkey, attempt to crush Kurds, deliver schools to religious obscurantists, purge media and education, persecute trade unionists, intervene in Syria against Kurds.
The Syrian government industrializes torture against all opponents and bombs its own population. It gets the support of Iran, of China and of Russia.
The grievances that shook Syrians to the streets in 2011 were much more like those motivating other Arab revolts. Most protestors did not initially call for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down but demanded that his increasingly sclerotic end repressive government reform, open politics and improve economic management. Over eighteen months, peaceful protests morphed into has become, at least in parts of the north, a jihadist dominated insurgency for different reasons. The most important was the regime’s response; deliberate radicalisation of the crisis through cruel, publicised violence; divisive sectarian discourse, pitting the ruling Alawite and other minorities against the Sunni majority; escalating collective punishment that destroyed cities and helped displace millions; and its release of jailed radicalised and targeting of more pragmatic opposition factions… (“The war within”, The Economist, March 14th, 2016).
Assad undertakes in 2012 an ethnic cleansing, in line with various nationalist cliques of the former Yugoslavia.
Perpetrated while the confrontation turns to the advantage of rebels, the massacres of the regime answer several objectives: to terrorize and to force to exodus Sunni populations considered as hostile; to provoke, on the part of mostly Sunni rebels, violent reactions … (Ignace Dalle & Vladimir Glasman, Le Cauchemar syrien, 2016, Fayard, p. 105)
Facing it, the leadership passes in majority, starting from 2012, to Sunni Islamists (MB, Al-Nusra, ISIS), supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, etc., themselves allied to the United States.
The Syrian war has been prolonged and intensified by outside meddling. To besiege the regime, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies bankrolled untold rebel battalions, most of which professed Sunni Islamist views. Turkey allowed several commanders to set up camp on its soil, and looked the other way as travellers slipped across its southern border to reinforce the various jihadi groups in the opposition. (“On ISIS”, Middle East Report, Spring 2016)
Syria and Iraq become a bloody battlefield where intervene the armies of official governments (Assad and Al-Abadi), Shia militias (Iraqi MP, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian Pasdarans), pan-Islamist gangs (Daesh, Al Nusra-Al Qaeda …), armed factions of the Turkmen or Kurdish nationalist movement (PKK-PYD, UPK and PDK), special and air forces of several imperialist powers (United States, Russia, France, Great-Britain …). Jihadists are financed and armed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait …: the IS until 2015, the Fatah Al-Sham (ex-Al-Nusra Front) still is.
Systematically, jihadists stoke themselves religious disputes.
In many instances, opposition armed groups have sought to justify indiscriminate car bombings or artillery attacks on populated areas… In some cases, the armed groups said attacks were in reprisal for government attacks against civilians elsewhere in the country. The justifications presented reflect the view among some armed groups that all means are legitimate to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad, that those living in areas under government control may be attacked in retaliation for attacks on civilians in opposition held areas, and that populations perceived as associated with or supporting the government are subject to attack. (HWR, Indiscriminate Attacks by Opposition Groups in Syria, March 2015)
The Syrian war’s al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, has called for terror attacks in Russia, while also urging strikes on Alawite villages … The threats from the group’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, were made on Tuesday in a taped call to arms that condemned the Russian intervention in the conflict, which began a fortnight ago. Jolani’s comments signal another escalation in the four-year war, in which his forces have become increasingly prominent. “There is no choice but to escalate the battle and to target Alawite towns and villages in Latakia,” he said. “And I call on all factions to hit their villages daily with hundreds of missiles as they do to Sunni towns and villages”. (The Guardian, October 13th, 2015)
The totalitarian Caliphate of Bakr Al-Baghdadi establishes itself over part of Syria and Iraq. The IS is led by adventurers. It is structured by former members of the repressive apparatus of the Iraqi Baas. It mobilizes declassed Muslims of Mashriq but also of Maghreb and Europe, fanaticized against democracy, communism and religious, ethnic and sexual minorities.
Loose ties between Baathists and homegrown Iraqi salafis date back to the 1990s, when Saddam, reeling from military defeat and international economic sanctions after the ill-starred invasion of Kuwait, authorized a “faith campaign” to portray himself and his regime as protectors of (Sunni) Muslim piety. Two of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s uncles, according to William McCants, author of a solid book on ISIS, worked in the Iraqi security services during this period. In 1996 Baghdadi enrolled in a graduate program in Qur’anic recitation at the new Saddam University for Islamic Studies… The Baathist-jihadi relationship was consummated after the US invaded Iraq in 2003, particularly in Camp Bucca, Abu Ghraib and other jails of the occupiers. An illustrative, and perhaps integral, figure is a colonel named Samir al-Khlifawi, who served in intelligence agencies under Saddam and found himself abruptly unemployed and ostracized in 2003. Like other officers, he had expected his turn in command and was embittered to discover that he had no place in the post-Saddam order. As reported first in “Der Spiegel” on April 18, al-Khlifawi rose in the ranks of the insurgency, taking the nom de guerre Hajji Bakr… Though not especially religious himself, according to the German magazine, “he did believe the faith of others could be exploited.” McCants writes that Hajji Bakr engineered Baghdadi’s appointment as emir of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2010… (“On ISIS”, Middle East Report, Spring 2016)
In 2012, the stranglehold of jihadist counter-revolution (Ahrar Al-Sham, Al-Nusra, ISIS) and of the counter-revolution of the official regime saved by Iranian and Lebanese Shia militias as well as by the Russian imperialist intervention triumphs over the beginning of revolution in Syria.
The US was a weaker power in the Middle East in 2011 than it had been in 2003, because its armies had failed to achieve their aims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Come the uprisings of 2011, it was the jihadi and Sunni-sectarian, militarized wing of the rebel movements that received massive injections of money from the kings and emirs of the Gulf. The secular, non-sectarian opponents was soon marginalized, reduced to silence, or killed. (Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of the Islamic State, 2014-2015, Verso, p. 7-8)
Under the blows of civil wars and foreign interventions, production is dropping in Libya, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria …
The conflict has significantly damaged the country’s public and private assets including health, education, energy, water and sanitation, agriculture, transportation, housing and other infrastructure … The GDP is estimated to have contracted by an annual average of 19% in 2015 and is projected to continue to contract in 2016, by 8%. After rising by nearly 90% in 2013, inflation is estimated to have increased by 30% in 2015 and is estimated to grow by 25% in 2016 because of continued trade disruption, shortages and sharp depreciation of the Syrian pound. (World Bank, Syria’s Economic Outlook, Spring 2016)
Civil wars and foreign meddling in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in Yemen weaken national capitalism, contrarily to what happened within imperialist powers during world wars. There the war made armament, textile, food and chemistry factories, as well as shipyards, mines and means of transport, work at full speed … On the other hand, weapons are essentially not produced in the States that collapsed. The war economy is not articulated to a national armament industry, but on world capitalism. Locally, conflicts only destroy productive forces, including the proletariat.
A Paris Commune in Aleppo, soviets in Syria?
Precision of thought is necessary in everything, and in questions of revolutionary strategy more than anywhere else. But since revolutions do not occur so very often, revolutionary concepts and ideas become encrusted with fat, become vague in outline … (Leon Trotsky, “Can a Counter-Revolution or a Revolution be made on Schedule?”, September 1923, The First Five Years of the Communist International, New Park, vol. 2, p. 347)
Everywhere in the world, internationalist communists fight for democratic freedoms, for they are the best framework to prepare the contemporary revolution, the social revolution led by the working class.
The political freedoms, the right of assembly and association, and the freedom of the press — those are our weapons. (Friedrich Engels, “Apropos Of Working-Class Political Action”, September 21st, 1871)
The workers will very shortly gain freedom of the press, the right of association and assembly and whatever else is requisite for organisation and struggle … They are in a position to discover where they stand theoretically, as is most necessary, and at last, when the opportunity presents itself, to enter the revolution as a tightly knit party and with a definite programme. (Friedrich Engels, “Letter to Johann Philipp Becker”, January 11th, 1878)
However, in case of a confrontation between an imperialist State and a dominated country, the world working class must support the latter even if its regime is tyrannical or if its political representation is reactionary, but to the extent that they effectively confront imperialist domination. For instance, when the Iraqi Baas regime of Hussein faced invasions by Western imperialisms in 1991 and 2003; when Iraqi insurgents led by Islamists of the Islamic Army in Iraq and of Unicity and Jihad (future Al-Qaeda in Iraq) confronted American occupation troops in 2004 and in 2005; when the Palestinian resistance at the hands of the Hamas a confronted the Israeli invasion in 2008, in 2012, in 2014.
Even in this case, rather rare, the working class does not grant the least confidence to local despots and, in general, to exploiting classes of its country. It even less endorses the imposture to call “revolution” the taking of power by this or that clique of bourgeois nationalists, while capitalism is preserved, the bourgeois State maintained, foremost if freedoms of the working class are denied, the labor movement is forbidden and persecuted. The vanguard could not confuse revolution with its opposite, counter-revolution.
As early as the beginning of April, 1848, the revolutionary torrent had found itself stemmed all over the Continent of Europe by the league which those classes of society that had profited by the first victory immediately formed with the vanquished … The decisive action drew near. It could be fought in France only … the bloody struggle began in Paris … then it became evident to everyone that this was the great decisive battle which would, if the insurrection were victorious, deluge the whole continent with renewed revolutions, or, if it was suppressed, bring about an at least momentary restoration of counter-revolutionary rule … The proletarians of Paris were defeated, decimated, crushed with such an effect that even now they have not yet recovered from the blow. And immediately, all over Europe, the new and old Conservatives and Counter-Revolutionists raised their heads with an effrontery that showed how well they understood the importance of the event. (Friedrich Engels, Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany, 1851-1852)
A counter-revolution saves the old mode of production that had been put into danger; a revolution overthrows it, it establishes a new form of society.
Every revolution dissolves the old society; in this sense, it is social. Every revolution overthrows the old power; in this sense, it is political. (Karl Marx, “Critical Glosses”, August 1844)
The secret of historic change through the utilisation of political power resides precisely in the transformation of simple quantitative modification into a new quality, or to speak more concretely, in the passage of an historic period from one given form of society to another. (Rosa Luxemburg, “Reform or Revolution”, September 1898)
The distinction between a simple revolt and a genuine revolution presents a practical importance because it leads the workers’ party to different tasks and watchwords. When the riot becomes a revolution, when the masses make the power retreat, temporarily paralyze the bodies of repression, take arms and challenge property, the perspective of the vanguard becomes: break from the new bourgeois government, expansion and centralization of people’s councils, refusal to be disarmed by the new authorities, democratic freedoms for conscripts, workers’ control, power to the councils, insurrection as soon as the party has conquered the majority in the working class …
Revolutions are rare. When it is the case, they start in confusion, because the working class is not yet up to its historical tasks; but it succeeds to it by the experience of an exceptional class struggle. However, every social revolution, starting with the beginning of the 20th century, is led by the working class, even in backward countries; otherwise, it aborts.
That is why it is dubious that there could currently be soviet organs in Syria, despite the hazardous claims of the CWGs.
Already the revolution has built new institutions based on popular democracy to administer the territory it occupies. In other words here is the Permanent Revolution in the flesh. To defend the immediate bourgeois rights to live and of freedom of expression, workers, poor farmers, street vendors etc., have created workers rights through their armed struggle against “democratic” imperialism and their Syrian dictator Assad! … Aleppo is our Paris Commune. (LCC, Hands off Aleppo: Victory to the Syrian revolution! September 13th, 2016)
In the broadcasted reports on Aleppo, one sees only boys and men, one hears rather the watchword “God is the greatest!” than “All power to soviets!”
The main purpose of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham tactic of distancing itself from al-Qaeda was to reassure other less extreme outfits that it shares their patriotic ambitions and does not have some wider jihadist agenda. It is apparently working. In Aleppo, the sense of abandonment by the West has driven more moderate groups into the arms of JFS. (“The agony of Aleppo”, The Economist, October 1st, 2016)
The appearance and survival of soviet organs require that the working class organizes itself with the other exploited and oppressed, that their organizations confront their points of view, that workers debate and vote, that they exercise power through these soviet organs.
Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. (Friedrich Engels, “Introduction to the German edition”, March 1891, The Civil War in France)
The Commune, therefore, appears to have replaced the smashed state machine « only » by fuller democracy: abolition of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact this « only » signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different type. This is exactly a case of « quantity being transformed into quality »: democracy, introduced as fully and consistently as is at all conceivable, is transformed from bourgeois into proletarian democracy; from the state (a special force for the suppression of a particular class) into something which is no longer the state proper. (Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution, August-September 1917)
Weapons are not in the hands of workers but, in the air as in the streets, in those of their enemies. Women are confined to the household. Judges are not elected, but designated by obscurantists. The unceasing bombings over Aleppo by the Syrian air force and by the Russian imperialist army and the terror adopted by Islamist gangsters prevent any democracy.
The briefing features abuses committed by five armed groups which have exercised control over parts of the governorates of Aleppo and Idleb since 2012. They include the Nour al-Dine Zinki Movement, al-Shamia Front and Division 16, which joined the Aleppo Conquest coalition of armed groups (also known as Fatah Halab) in 2015. They also include Jabhat al-Nusra and the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement in Idleb, which both joined the Army of Conquest coalition, similarly in 2015 … This briefing exposes the distressing reality for civilians living under the control of some of the armed opposition groups in Aleppo, Idleb and surrounding areas. Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed … Some non-state armed groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Shamia Front and the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement have established their own Shari’a (Islamic law) “justice systems” in areas they control, as well setting up unofficial prosecution offices, police forces and detention centres … The briefing documents 24 cases of abduction by armed groups in Aleppo and Idleb governorates between 2012 and 2016. Victims included peaceful activists and even some children, as well as minorities targeted solely because of their religion … Members of the Kurdish minority in Sheikh Maqsoud, a predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood in Aleppo city, were also among those abducted as well as Christian priests targeted on account of their religion … Several of the journalists and media activists working to report on abuses told Amnesty International they were abducted because they had criticized the conduct of armed groups in power. (Amnesty International, “Syria: Abductions, torture and summary killings at the hands of armed groups”, July 5th, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/syria-abductions-torture-and-summary-killings-at-the-hands-of-armed-groups/)
The task of the world labor movement is to oppose bombings of Aleppo by Russian imperialism, but as much of Mosul by Western imperialisms. The task of internationalist communists is not to disguise the bearded counter-revolutionaries into communards, it is to help the working class to defeat the bourgeoisie, all cliques of the bourgeoisie.
It is the splitting up of the bourgeoisie in many sectors, fractions and factions which so frequently cheated on people. In overthrowing a section we believe we overthrew the whole bourgeoisie but we just brought another sector to power. (Friedrich Engels, “Letter to Laura Lafargue”, October 8th, 1889, Marx & Engels, Collected Works, Progress, Vol. 48, p. 386)
No socialism without a struggle against Assad and against jihadism
There is no more a revolution in Syria in 2016 than in Yugoslavia in 1992 or in Ukraine in 2014. It is over with “a considerable increase in the activity of the masses”, with their “independent historical action” necessary according to Lenin to define a revolutionary situation.
The victims of the double counter-revolution are first of all wage workers, poor farmers, Palestinians, national and religious minorities, women, youth, homosexuals … The Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese revolutions gladly welcomed the international press. On the other hand, foreign journalists are victims of military operations of the Syrian regime and those who fall into the hands of the Caliphate are jailed and beheaded. Mass torture of opponents is the rule on the part of the Syrian Baath regime and any communist or even democrat is murdered by the gangsters of the Islamic State (Daesh).
Four millions of people had to leave Syria, up to a million had to abandon their housings and flee the bombings by the official regime or the exactions by multiple warlords. Refugees already expelled from Palestine have suffered the offensive of the double counter-revolution.
The conflict has caused repeated displacement in most Palestinian Refugees Camps and communities, and hit the social fabric of the Palestinian refugees in the country, many of whom fled outside Syria. According to UNRWA estimates, around 270 thousand Palestinians have been displaced inside Syria, and over 100 thousand to other countries. Some RCs in Syria have since become battle zones, while others came under tight siege by the regular army and loyalist Palestinian factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), and Fatah al-Intifadah… On the other hand, many residents in Yarmouk were made to suffer at the hands of opposition factions and the Free Syrian Army. Hundreds of homes were looted, occupied, damaged, or burned down based on allegations regarding the pro-regime affiliation of their owners. Many threats were made against them, causing resentment and frustration among the population … This did not happen only in Yarmouk, but also in RCs like Khan al-Sheikh, and al-Nairab and Handarat in the governorates of Damascus and Aleppo respectively at various points of time. The most prominent development took place in 2015, when the Islamic State group invaded the Yarmouk RC. (Al-Zaytouna Centre, The Future of the Palestinians in Syria, August 2015)
There is no more mixed district between Sunnis and Shias in Bagdad. Iraqi Sunnis flee by hundreds of thousands the towns of the Caliphate, as much for fear of abuses by Shia militias as for hostility to Sunni fanatics. Islamist monarchies of the Gulf turn back refugees as does the European Union and, henceforth, the Islamist government of Turkey.
There has been no revolution in Iraq since 1958 and there is no more revolution going on in Syria (no soviets, no armament of the proletariat, no workers’ control, no expropriation). There does not even seem to be strikes unfolding, nor trade unions remaining. In the whole of Syria, the national State collapsed, not to leave room for workers’ and farmers’ councils, but to a crumbling of the territory between warlords and armed militias that have nothing to do with the Red Guard of 1917 or the militias of the CNT-FAI and POUM in 1936. On the side of rebels, the territory is notoriously split between PYD-PKK, the various factions of the FSA, Fatah Al-Sham Front (formerly Al-Nusra), IS-Daesh, etc.
Today, the Syrian territory is dislocated in a series of enclaves held by groups of fighters belonging to various and fluctuating obediences and denominations. In fact, the civil war does not any more oppose the regime to a moderate opposition: it atomized itself into a multitude of variable-geometry confrontations: loyalist troops against rebel groups; groups within the FSA against jihadist groups; jihadist groups between themselves; Kurds against Daesh. (Denis Bauchard, « Un Croissant fertile éclaté », Afrique du Nord, Moyen-Orient 2015-2016, La Documentation française, p. 33)
Even the part of the Syrian territory officially under the control of the regime is split between the official army, local militias, elite Iranian troops, Hezbollah, mercenaries, Iraqi militias, Chechen mercenaries, etc.
Since 2013-2014, one observes on the side of the regime a territorial pulverization. One swings from a State system towards a set of checkpoint networks, more or less autonomous, with men who supply themselves on the territory itself, which allows prolonging the war at a lesser cost and to carry out an efficient control of the territory … This is accompanied by a swinging from a production economy to an exchange economy … (Ignace Dalle & Wladimir Glasman, Le Cauchemar syrien, 2016, Fayard, p. 137)
With the multiplication of borders, the parasitism of multiple levies, the destruction of many production enterprises, the strength and power of the working class necessarily decreases; what remains of it can hardly have its own activity.
The proletariat cannot require that the bourgeoisie should cease to be a bourgeoisie, but it certainly can require that it practices its own principles consistently. But the proletariat will thereby also acquire all the weapons it needs for its ultimate victory. With freedom of the press and the right of assembly and association it will win universal suffrage, and with universal, direct suffrage, in conjunction with the above tools of agitation, it will win everything else. (Friedrich Engels, The Prussian Military Question and the German Workers’ Party, 1865)
Be it under Assad or under jihadists, workers cannot debate, struggle, organize themselves. At best, freedom of expression conquered in 2011-12 remains only in some pockets with Arab settlement still held by some components of the FSA (but not all) or with Kurdish settlement governed by the PYD.
Syria is engulfed in barbarity, precisely for a lack of proletarian revolution on the spot, in the region and in imperialist countries. To persist in inventing a Syrian revolution has no relation with the reality of 2016. How could there be a socialist revolution without a proletariat and without a workers’ party? How could there be a democratic revolution led by rabid enemies of any democracy, by a variant of fascism?
Within the labor movement, such a phantasmagoria cannot be attributed only to an incapacity to analyze the concrete situation, to blindness caused by a naive optimism, to a delirium of a sect cut off from reality. It reveals opportunism, capitulation in front of the ruling class. Reformist and centrist organizations that invent a “Syrian revolution” persisting independently of reactions of ruling classes, without specifying its social and political nature, without designating its leadership, are deliberately confusing and contribute to moving away the possibility of the only revolution possible in the 21st century, the conscious revolution of the working class.
Without an alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry the tasks of the democratic revolution cannot be solved, nor even seriously posed. But the alliance of these two classes can be realized in no other way than through an irreconcilable struggle against the influence of the national-liberal bourgeoisie. (Lev Trotsky, “What is the Permanent Revolution?”, Permanent Revolution, Gupta, Rahman and Gupta, p. 166-167)
In reality, in the name of a revolution by stages and of a united anti-imperialist front obsolete since a century, those currents capitulate in front of the bourgeoisie in general and, in this precise case, in front of its clericalist fractions.
The SWP of the United States, the SWP of Great-Britain, the PT of Algeria, the LOI of Argentina, the RS of Egypt, the CWG of New Zealand and of the United States, etc. have invented pro-Islamist “Trotskyism”. In doing so, the epigones of the late 4th International have sullied its flag and trampled on the communist program by becoming the auxiliaries of political Islamism that defends private property, imposes Sharia, oppresses women, forbids strikes, executes communists …
The proletarian revolution is the most conscious of all social revolutions, it requires a party and soviet organs. One must renew the red thread of the Communist League, of the Zimmerwald Left, of the Communist International, of the Left Opposition of the CI, of the 4th International. On that score, the rejection of the united anti-imperialist front and the struggle against clericalist fascism are as much part of the issues that define proletarian revolutionaries today as the denunciation of the UNO and the struggle against any imperialist intervention (including Russian imperialism).
Internationalists must come together on the basis of the communist program to equip the working class with a world party of socialist revolution so that the working class confronts the bourgeoisie, overthrows it, takes power, establishes world socialism.
The Bolshevik way, however, consists of an unconditional political and organizational demarcation from the bourgeoisie, of a relentless exposure of the bourgeoisie from the very first steps of the revolution, of a destruction of all petty-bourgeois illusions about the united front with the bourgeoisie, of tireless struggle with the bourgeoisie for the leadership of the masses, of the merciless expulsion from the Communist Party of all those elements who sow vain hopes in the bourgeoisie. (Leon Trotsky, “The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin”, 17th May 1927, On China, Monad, p. 168-169)
Bureau of the Permanent Revolution Collective