Socialist Worker

Syrians can bring down this regime

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2289

The barrage of bombs on the Syrian city of Homs is a desperate attempt by Bashar al-Assad’s regime to crush a ten-month long uprising against him.

Assad is presenting this uprising as part of a plot sponsored by “foreign powers” to destroy a country that has resisted imperialism.

Meanwhile Western forces and their Arab allies see an opportunity to hijack the revolution.

The United Nations (UN) has tried to ratchet up the threat of foreign intervention and sanctions, although Russia and China vetoed this move.

This is not because the UN sympathises with the suffering of ordinary people in Syria. It ignored repression in Western-friendly Bahrain.

It is because Western leaders are following a strategy to isolate Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbollah.

Syria has always played a contradictory role in relation to imperialism.

The Assad regime hosted the Palestinian Hamas organisation (which has since abandoned the regime) and helped to arm Hizbollah’s resistance to Israel in southern Lebanon.

But it has failed to challenge Israel’s occuptation of the Golan Heights, and supported US imperialism in its war on Iraq.

Syria worked with the West to crush the Lebanese National Movement and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in the 1970s and 1980s.

For decades many Syrians thought that any internal dissent could fatally weaken resistance to imperialism in the region.

But the fall of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak has removed this burden from their shoulders.

It is difficult to gauge the extent of the crisis facing Assad’s rule through the cloud of secrecy surrounding it.

But the regime is certainly weakened. Tensions within the army are growing, as are the numbers of defectors.

Soldiers on home leave are refusing to return to their posts. Others have been executed for refusing to fire on civilians.


Some have formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has pledged to protect neighbourhoods.

Many in the opposition Syrian National Council argue that the revolution has failed to break the hold of the security forces and must be “rescued”. They advocate military intervention by Qatar or the US.

But the future of the revolution lies with Syria’s working class.

Some had hoped that the merchant families of Aleppo and Damascus would come over to the revolution. But this class was doing well under Assad’s neoliberal reforms, and has too much to lose.

The illusions in this class evaporated as the nature of the uprising began to change.

The Local Coordination Committees sought to win over Aleppo and Damascus, both vitally important cities.

Their working class neighbourhoods had been quiet during the early months of the rebellion.


The suburbs of Damascus have now slipped out of regime control. Assad now faces armed rebels just a kilometre from his presidential palace.

In Aleppo the revolution that grew out of the universities has now caught hold of the city’s vast working class neighbourhoods.

The regime strategy for such areas has been to invade, make mass arrests and terrorise the population, before moving on.

This repression has not broken the back of the uprising. It has become an endless task of moving fewer and fewer loyal troops around the country. No sooner have security forces departed, the areas rise again.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia was widely seen as a guarantor of Syria’s resistance to Western imperialism. Little has changed in that relationship, but Russia’s interests are no longer seen as “promoting socialism”.

Now Russia is seen as a rival power, fighting with the US, Turkey, Britain and France for influence in the region.

The disagreements in the UN are the expression of this struggle between competing global powers.

The interests of the people of Syria lie in neither camp, but with the revolutionaries of Egypt, Tunisia and across the Arab world.

On the anniversary of the 25 January revolution in Egypt, the Syrian revolution flag was carried through Tahrir Square.

For those who made Egypt’s revolution, support for Syria’s uprising remains unquestioned.

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