Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 25, 2016

Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 3:28 pm

Ashley Smith explains what’s at stake in a critical test for the international left.

Destruction caused during the siege of AleppoDestruction caused during the siege of Aleppo

THE SYRIAN Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?

Tragically, too many have failed this test.

read full article

8 Comments »

  1. The end of the article says this:

    “The task of the international left today is to oppose intervention by any of the imperialist and regional powers, reject the tyranny of the Assad regime itself, demand the opening of the borders to those fleeing the violence and chaos, collaborate with Syrian revolutionaries–and win people away from campism to the politics of international solidarity from below”

    Perfectly sums up my point of view. But outside certain corners of the left, there seem to be few people who are anti-Assad/anti-Russia AND anti-Pentagon at the same time. On the domestic front, I’m worried that the pro-Pentagon types who run our foreign policy will use mainstream anti-Assad/anti-Russia sentiment to justify interventions in the Middle East that do nothing to help the Syrian people or the Syrian revolution.

    Comment by Michael Nau — August 25, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

  2. I agree with the summation quoted by Nau above, but this paragraph makes me pause:

    “The U.S. does remain the world’s dominant imperialist power, but as a result of its failed war in Iraq and other factors, it has suffered a relative decline in strength. Washington is now challenged internationally by imperialist rivals like China and Russia, as well as regional powers. In this new imperial order, the U.S. is less capable of controlling world events–it fears popular revolt all the more.”

    I don’t agree that the US has experienced “a relative decline in strength” as the world’s dominant imperialist power. If anything, the US is now stronger as a consequence of the invasion of Iraq, especially in the Middle East, where a US/UK/Israel/Saudi Arabia alliance is ascendant to a degree unimaginable before the 2003 invasion. Even within Iraq itself, the US has much more influence than it did before the invasion, so it is a significant error to describe the US invasion and occupation as a “failed war”.

    Furthermore, Smith again errs by describing the US, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Republic solely in terms of an imperialist rivalry. In fact, all three collaborate on many things to the detriment of people all around the world, from acceptance of the global neoliberal order to, specifically in relation to Syria, a refusal to depose Assad. While they engage in capitalist competition and argue over the ground rules for this competition, they are, so to speak, all on the same side. Hence, the People’s Republic and the Russian Republic fear popular revolt more than the US, as they, unlike the US, fear that such revolts may have serious domestic consequences. For the US, popular revolts are something to be supported if beneficial to its interests (Ukraine, Libya) and suppressed if contrary to them (Greece, Honduras, Bahrain). Beyond this, as you have noted, there are trillions upon trillions of dollars of direct investment linking all three countries.

    If leftists believe that the US has suffered a decline in strength, they will find themselves befuddled by what is to come.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 25, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

  3. It’s unfortunate that the ISO is unable to refrain from inserting its particular sectarian view of matters at best tangentially related to the ostensible subject of the article. The author asks “How could opponents of U.S. imperialism end up supporting a dictator”, breezes through Stalin, Mao, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and winds up with this stunning observation — “Even today, when all the world’s states are obviously capitalist, these leftists support oppressive regimes as “anti-imperialist” so long as they oppose the U.S. in some form.”

    Are Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “obviously” capitalist. And what does that have to do with Syria?

    Comment by Alan Ginsberg — August 25, 2016 @ 9:43 pm

  4. Richard @ #2 argues: “I don’t agree that the US has experienced “a relative decline in strength” as the world’s dominant imperialist power. If anything, the US is now stronger as a consequence of the invasion of Iraq, especially in the Middle East, where a US/UK/Israel/Saudi Arabia alliance is ascendant to a degree unimaginable before the 2003 invasion. Even within Iraq itself, the US has much more influence than it did before the invasion, so it is a significant error to describe the US invasion and occupation as a “failed war”.

    With all due respect I’d argue quite the contrary, that the Pentagon is actually way weaker in the MidEast owing largely to the vastly counterproductive, almost bankrupting fortune spent for so little return, the return being not only a very hostile Mid-Eastern public but also a very hostile domestic public both left and right for any further adventurism and a very public sense that these adventures have unleashed another Frankenstein monster of terror, and worse, future terrorism, that is, willy nilly the American Intelligentsia and its punditry are slowly but surely coming to Glen Greenwald’s conclusion that American foreign policy breeds terrorism.

    I mean every prognosis of Bush & Cheney proved dead wrong and it’s taken heroic JAG attorney’s (and others outside officialdom) to get all but 48 or so (out of 1200 or more) Gitmo prisoners released with no fucking charges! — so how can one argue that the greatest foreign policy blunders ever have strengthened the Pentagon’s hand?

    Fact is Putin’s shameful rise in popularity wouldn’t have a pot to piss in if Bush/Cheney & their 3rd term — Obama — didn’t perpetually prosecute this atrocious blunder that propped up oil prices by speculators and enriched the 1% through sheer perfidy.

    Wars ultimately weaken and, if they go on long enough, level all regimes. The US is no exception.

    I’d wager a large sum that 9 out of 10 regular contributors here would agree with me that the 2nd Gulf War, as it’s now known since 9-11, has weakened rather than strengthened US Imperialism.

    If it’s indeed weaker then the time to organize is now.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 26, 2016 @ 1:50 am

  5. “With all due respect I’d argue quite the contrary, that the Pentagon is actually way weaker in the MidEast owing largely to the vastly counterproductive, almost bankrupting fortune spent for so little return, the return being not only a very hostile Mid-Eastern public but also a very hostile domestic public both left and right for any further adventurism and a very public sense that these adventures have unleashed another Frankenstein monster of terror, and worse, future terrorism, that is, willy nilly the American Intelligentsia and its punditry are slowly but surely coming to Glen Greenwald’s conclusion that American foreign policy breeds terrorism.”

    I understand, but I don’t believe that the Pentagon is weaker because of the war, in fact, I don’t believe that it is weaker than before the war at all. It has the resources available to go to war whenever it wants. The constraints against launching a war are the terms by which intra-capitalist competition takes place between the US, the EU, China, the Russian Republic and the BRICs. War is too great a risk to the participants, given the interwoven network of investment among them, so it is therefore conducted under controlled conditions, as in Syria and Yemen.

    Furthermore, this is not the entire measure. US elites did not spend a “fortune . . for so little return.” They got a huge one as it facilitated an enormous transfer of wealth from US taxpayers to private military contractors involved the provision of services to US troops and the so-called “reconstruction of Iraq” during the occupation. The war was part of an intensified process of capital accumulation during the period. The residue of this capital accumulation is the debt by which the 1% require the middle and lower classes to pay them for it, thus pushing the process of accumulation into the future. Marxists, as opposed to geopolitical liberals and leftists who have abandoned class analysis, should be able to engage this subject.

    As an aside, I neglected to mention it earlier, but the US is also growing more powerful in South America, with the emergence of the right in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. It is not an exaggeration to say that the US is moving towards recovering the dominance that it possessed when the Soviet Union dissolved itself in 1991.

    Finally, as for terrorism, many Americans may believe that US foreign policy breeds terrorism, but it doesn’t matter. The US will continue to try to manipulate terrorism, as the US has done since the early days of the Cold War, to its advantage, facilitating terrorism when it considers terrorism to be to beneficial, suppressing terrorism when it is not. Such an approach is an acceptable substitute for war among capitalist competitors. It also creates additional opportunities for capital accumulation as demonstrated by the proliferation of firms involved in the design, manufacture and installation of surveillance devices of all kinds, in both the real and virtual worlds, as well as the growth of firms that provide security services, such as G4S. For a prescient cinematic presentation of these themes, I recommend Fassbinder’s brilliant 1979 film, “The Third Generation”.

    Certainly, there are dangers associated with such cynical practices, but such dangers are an inherent part of any rigorous process of capital accumulation. For now, US elites believe that they can always fall back upon the demonization of enemies, such as Putin currently, to justify the perpetuation of them.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 26, 2016 @ 4:18 am

  6. Smith also era by attributing the entire Syrian death toll to Assad. This is common in MSM slanted narrative.

    Comment by Morgan weisser — August 27, 2016 @ 3:49 pm

  7. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of civilian deaths but we can be sure of one thing. When you are dropping barrel bombs and firing missiles from the air into apartment buildings and public spaces unprotected by advanced anti-aircraft weapons, the civilian casualties will be far greater. Smith might have erred but the general thrust of the article is correct, namely that Assad is a filthy butcher.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 27, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

  8. I’m not sure if the widespread support for Assad by the American left is the final nail in it’s coffin, but it hardly matters. To majorly mix metaphors, as Lou Reed said, “Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they’re done.”

    Comment by danyoungnews — September 1, 2016 @ 5:23 am


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