Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 6, 2012

Report on September 2nd rally for Syrian revolution

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 11:38 pm


When Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz visited the U.S., she told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman why she came down to Zuccotti Park to offer solidarity with the protesters:

The U.S. were sending every day for Mubarak regime, and now the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces]. While they giving money and power and support to Mubarak regime, our people, Egyptian people, can success against all of this, against the U.S. power. So, the power to the people, not for the U.S. bullets or bombs or money or anything. The power to the people. So that I am here to be in solidarity and support the Wall Street Occupy protesters, to say them, “the power to the people,” and to keep it on and on, and they will success in the end.

The slogan “power to the people”, of course, comes from the Black Panther Party of the 1960s just as the slogan “revolution is the only solution” heard on the Syria protest in Washington on September 2nd also comes from the left. The young people who have put their bodies on the line in Syria, whether through peaceful protest or by going up against al-Assad’s military with nothing but an automatic rifle, are fighting for a just cause that everybody on the left should support whether or not they understand it or not.

In 1848 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels took part in a democratic revolution sweeping Germany and the rest of Europe even if “socialist” demands were not being raised by the masses. They understood that without democratic rights working people could not put forward their own class-based demands with maximum effectiveness. Syria and Libya were hostile to trade union rights even if their dictators mouthed “socialist” rhetoric. Without the right to publish a newspaper, to gather peacefully in public, to hand out leaflets, to set up a picket line, etc., it is impossible to push for full social emancipation. That is why the social democracy in Russia fought against Tsarism and that is why the best and the brightest in the Arab world are fighting for democracy.

Today I was dismayed to learn that Venezuela has been sending oil to Syria. The al-Assad dictatorship has the blood of 25,000 of its own citizens on its hands. If the country were the same size as the U.S., this figure would be 300,000. Can you imagine what it would be like if that number of people died in a little over a year? This is one of the most bloodthirsty regimes in recent history, going back to Pinochet in Chile.

Understanding the Syrian revolution as one of the deepest movements for human freedom in this period of human history is a challenge for the left. I offer the video below as a way of seeing the humanity that is fighting for a better world without bias. There is so much confusion on the part of the left about who to support in Syria that it would practically take a miracle to get some of the pro-Assad left to change its mind. Indeed, there is some question whether the term “left” applies at all. If you are sitting on the fence, I hope that these sounds and images will help you get off the fence and on the side of freedom.

Technical note

I am still getting the hang of video editing, not to speak of my JVC camcorder that has more buttons than can be found on a  Boeing 747 cockpit.

I tried to include some information on speakers at the rally but obviously the jpeg’s cannot be read unless you use a full-screen version of the video. The basic problem is that both jpeg’s and IMovie titles are not really suited for explanatory text. The jpeg is a particular problem because it is limited to a page frame rather than a full video frame. I am going to figure out how to do this if it kills me. I think the obvious solution is to use the camera to capture the words on a piece of paper in close-up but maybe there is another solution.

In any case, here is the information on the speakers:

Omar Offendum

Omar Offendum has had a diverse group of artists who have inspired his work which contributes to his diversity. Hip hop groups such as Public Enemy and even reggae artists like Bob Marley have inspired him in one way or another. American artists were not his only inspirations; he has several Arabic classical musicians such as Abdel Halim Ali Shabana, Oum Kalthoum and Fairouz. He is also inspired by poets such as Langston Hughes an American poet and a key individual that influenced some of his songs on the SyrianamericanA album was Nizar Qabbani, a Syrian poet.

Omar Offendum’s song #Jan25, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, became popular in 2011. It went viral via the internet, which Offendum sees as a key factor in the spread of international hip-hop. It was released in February 2011, shortly before the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Omar Offendum has often collaborated with Yassin Alsalman also known as The Narcicyst and Shadia Mansour, “the first lady of Arabic hip hop.

from Wikipedia

Hatem Bazian

At San Francisco State University in the late 1980s, Bazian became the first Palestinian to be elected president of SFSU Associated Students and the Student Union Governing Board. He was the first student to win a second term as president in the history of SFSU. The election came as a result of a united front formed under the Progressive Coalition that brought together all the students of color organizations on a common platform and a joint political strategy.

At the national conference United States Student Association (USSA) held at UC Berkeley in 1988, Bazian co-lead a major walk-out that culminated in the organization adopting a progressive board of directors structure granting by a 2/3 vote at least 50% of the Seats to Students of Color.

Bazian was elected as a Chair of the National People of Color Student Coalition (NPCSC) and an executive board member of the USSA. In both, he took the lead on affirmative action, access to education, anti-apartheid efforts on college campuses, and the Central American Solidarity Movement. He authored resolutions, which were adopted by the USSA national conference in 1991 calling for cutting US aid to Israel and imposing sanctions for its sales of military equipment to apartheid South Africa.

from Wikipedia

Zahid Shakir

Born in Berkeley, California, he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center formerly Masjid al-Huda.

After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid Al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale Universityand developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences.

from http://www.newislamicdirections.com

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Imam Hamza Yusuf, who runs an Islamic institute in California, is fast becoming a world figure as Islam’s most able theological critic of the suicide hijacking. This afternoon he will address British religious leaders at the House of Lords on the subject.

His speech will upset many Muslim radicals here. A charismatic and popular speaker, Yusuf openly declares his belief that Islam is in a mess. He wants Muslims to return to their “true faith”, stripped of violence, intolerance and hatred. Nor does he pay much deference to the states in which many Muslims live. When we meet, he declares: “Many people in the west do not realise how oppressive some Muslim states are – both for men and for women. This is a cultural issue, not an Islamic one. I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way. A lot of Muslim immigrants feel the same way, which is why they are here.”

His rise to prominence is even more extraordinary given his unusual background. Hamza Yusuf, 42, started life as Mark Hanson, son of two US academics, only converting at 17. Thirty years ago, he seemed destined not for Islamic scholarship, but for the Greek Orthodox priesthood. Then, a near-death experience in a car accident and reading the Koran diverted him towards Mecca.

from The Guardian, Sunday 7 October 2001


  1. Might be on my end but says: “Sorry. An error was encountered while loading this video?


    Comment by iskraagent — September 7, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  2. I think it is just a glitch but if anybody else has problems, please contact me at lnp3@panix.com.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 7, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  3. The man at 7:23 is absolutely right. Uncle Sam’s policy is to bleed the Syrian revolution. That’s why the CIA is blocking the FSA from getting heavy weapons that could take out Assad’s tanks and helicopters.

    Comment by Pham Binh — September 7, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

  4. Some idiot named Stalinsfield Smith who was booted from Marxmail and is banned here as well wrote a comment that went into the trash filter about how all the American flags on the demonstration proved that it was a CIA conspiracy, etc. Here’s another obvious conspiracy of Latinos protesting against draconian anti-immigration laws:


    Comment by louisproyect — September 7, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  5. @ Louis
    A natural mistake given all of the irrational suspicion of US motives in other countries that just so happen to possess strategic resources or are so located as to access them. It’s a pity that just because a group of ex-pats solicits the US to assist in the revolutionary transition of a country that this automatically suggests ulterior motives on their part. This stuff is so much more complicated than people are willing to give credit.

    Comment by Coldtype — September 8, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  6. If you think about it, tankies and left-imperialists make the same intellectual error, i.e. believing that certain forms of oppression are neutral political instruments. For the latter, despotisms such as those of Gaddafi or Assad are justified because they are “progressive” in certain particularities, like social services or nationalizations. For the former, imperialist wars such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq are justified as “progressive” in terms of “women’s rights or democracy”. The reactionary essence of bonapartism and imperialism is obstructed by certain “reforms” which these oppressive systems may have implemented.

    Comment by Cyryl — September 11, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  7. Ah… the irresistibly refreshing smell of freedom is in the air…

    Comment by Coldtype — September 11, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

  8. […] Some pundits are now attacking Obama for not having backed the “moderate” opposition in the FSA as if the USA ever had any interest in seeing a mass movement of Syrian “hicks” who had gotten pissed off at neo-liberalism running the government. Unlike most people content to write propaganda, I made a real effort to understand what the Syrian opposition thought. That included a trip to Washington in September 2012 to cover a major rally in support of the revolution. You would think from reading the WSWS.org crapola that Senator McCain would be the featured speaker. Instead the people who spoke had a lot more in common with those who protested the invasion of Iraq, including the keynote speaker Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian professor from the U. of California. As I wrote at the time: […]

    Pingback by An Obama-Al Qaeda axis against Syria and Iran? Really? | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — June 18, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

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