Socialist Worker

Syria's uprising strenghtens anti-imperialism

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2292

the Palestinian resistance organisation Hamas publically renounced the Syrian regime on Friday of last week. Its public break with its one time ally president Bashar al Assad sent an important message.

Any illusions that the Syrian regime represents a force against imperialism should surely now be shattered.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke to thousands in the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. He declared, “I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy, and reform.”

Yet the history of the regime being perceived as a friend of the Palestinians and of Lebanon’s Hizbollah movement has disorientated some on the left and in the anti-war movement in Britain.

So although open defence of the Assad regime is rare, arguments have come up about the nature of the Syrian regime and of the struggle against it.

When Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak fell, things were simpler. No one had illusions in these brutal allies of the West who used a massive security apparatus to control their populations.

But when the regimes being challenged from below had at times opposed the West and had more contradictory alliances, the arguments became more complicated.


The Western powers are now fully engaged in backing sections of the Syrian opposition as some call for international help to stop the horrific bombardment of the city of Homs.

For some this gives credence to the view that the Syrian revolt is a tool of imperialism or even a counter‑revolution.

It is certainly sickening to see Hillary Clinton sitting alongside a crown prince of Saudi Arabia at a “Friends of Syria” summit in Tunis to discuss supporting the revolt.

This is the same Saudi Arabia that, with US backing, has helped crush the democracy protests in Bahrain.

The US wants to regain a foothold in the region.

But this does not mean that the Syrian revolution can just be reduced to being the imperialists’ puppet.

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets over the past 11 months and many thousands have lost their lives.

That some now call for help from sworn enemies in the West is a reflection of their desperate situation—not a desire for foreign domination.

Of course the opposition is not a single political organisation. Some parts, particularly the Syrian National Council, are keen to do deals with Western powers.

But those targeted in Homs and other areas of opposition are fighting a life and death struggle for freedom from dictatorship.

The first demonstrators had hopes of peaceful change. Initial slogans called for reforms, not the downfall of the regime. But these hopes were thwarted and the regime dug in.

Instead of reforms the protestors suffered violent repression. The movement grew more militant and the calls for the downfall of the regime became dominant.

This struggle was inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. It has to be seen as part of the great wave of struggle that continues to transform the region.

Regimes that dominated for decades have fallen. Ben Ali fled, Mubarak is in prison and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi is dead. Yemen’s dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, presumably concerned at the fate that might await him, has left the country, supposedly for medical treatment.

The impact on the world political map of imperialist alliances is still unfolding.

The West’s intervention in Libya, and now Syria, shows that Western rulers are worried about their ability to shape future events in the region.

These bombers of Iraq and Afghanistan are not motivated by any concern for those dying under a rain of artillery in Homs or anywhere else.

But the only way they can succeed in intervening is to portray it as a humanitarian mission. This is how they won the political argument to enable them to intervene in Libya.


Socialist Worker argued then that, far from this being a humanitarian mission, the West wanted to hijack a genuine revolt in Libya that could lead to a regime resistant to the West’s demands.

Now they want to do the same in Syria.

Libya was never essential to their strategy. But it was the best opportunity to get back in the game.

The West’s most important allies are the Saudis, and they are collaborating to use the genuine fear of a massacre in Syria to hijack another popular revolt.

This is why Socialist Worker argues that the opposition to imperialist intervention must always be linked to the slogan “victory to the Arab revolutions”.

The revolutions are the real anti-imperialist force across the region. Millions of ordinary people have shown their courage and determination to grasp the first real opportunity to shape their own futures for decades.

These struggles from below offer the potential to open a new era where people in the region can live free from both the domination of Western powers and homegrown dictators.

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Tue 28 Feb 2012, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2292
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