Tendance Coatesy

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Arms and the Means: the Left and Arming the Syrian Opposition.

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Is this as clear as it seems?

Does part of the left back arming the Syrian opposition to the murderous Assad regime?

A few months ago the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste site carried an article making  this call by Jacques Babel.

the responsibility of the international workers’ and democratic movementto demand that our governments immediately provide weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which should be obliged to defend  the Syrian revolution.

Justified mistrust of any direct imperialist intervention should not lead to the abandonment of the Syrian people, but to the demand for the democratic control of supplies and aid, including a greatly increased level of humanitarian assistance.

Our responsibility is to immediately provide all possible assistance to the insurgents,  from our civil society to their civil society,  and to defend Syrian refugees who manage to get into ‘fortress’  Europe.

15th of June.

The NPA’s most recent statement condemns the projected Western intervention in Syria.

In fact it is titled,

Against any military intervention.

They add, Total support for the Syrian revolution.

What does this mean?

It adds,

…we reaffirm that the great Western powers, by refusing to deliver the weapons demanded for so many months by the collective structures of struggle set up by the people, also bear a heavy responsibility for the perpetuation of the murderous regime, while contributing to the development of religious obscurantist currents which constitute a second mortal enemy for the Syrian people.

On the Fourth International’s site, there is a statement from some small Arab left groups (Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) – Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) – Union of Communists (Iraq) – Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) – Socialist Forum (Lebanon) – League of the Workers’ Left (Tunisia) paints a sombre picture of the horrific events unfolding in Syria.

We Stand Behind the Syrian People’s Revolution – No to Foreign Intervention

Despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organization or major country – or a lesser one – felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.

The only exception was some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups were engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres against Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggressions inside areas under their control or under attack, such as the recent example of villages in the Latakia countryside.

A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people’s revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people’s uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.

Do they back arming anybody?

This declaration ends with a call, “Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.

A statement by the British Socialist Resistance (British section of the Fourth International) and the International Socialist Network (29th of August) further complicates the position,

For over two years, Britain, the USA and France have stood by, refusing to deliver defensive anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the progressive and democratic components of the opposition, for fear that the toppling of the Assad regime may extend and deepen the revolution which started in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011.

Gilbert Achcar from the Fourth International yesterday makes this extraordinary claim (displaying what can only be called a mind-reading ability through the complexities of US policy-making),

 Washington does not want the Syrian people to topple the dictatorship: it wants to force on the Syrian opposition a deal with the bulk of the regime, minus Assad. This is the so-called Yemen solution that President Barack Obama has been actively pursuing since last year, and that Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to promote by cozing up to his Russian counterpart.

He ends with this observation

…it is the duty of all those who claim to support the right of peoples to self-determination to help the Syrian people get the means of defending themselves.

Not surprisingly this call to arm the “Syrian people” (en bloc) has created a massive rumpus and splits in Left Unity (in which Socialist Resistance and the International Socialist Network Participate).

It may well be the case that (as these two groups say) that,

We reject the notion that this rebellion has been co-opted by imperialism. This remains a popular revolution by a people struggling to free itself from oppression. It is a key component of the Arab spring which has inspired the masses of the region and beyond.

We oppose both the “humanitarian intervention” of Britain, France and the USA, and the pro-Assad intervention by Iran and Russia. Instead, we choose to be on the side of the revolutionary masses struggling for their emancipation, and extend our solidarity in particular to the democratic and progressive components of the revolution.

But how exactly are they going to sift through the complex political forces at play, from traditional Islamists, nationalists, Sunni groups, democrats, nationalists, social democrats, socialists, to jihadists, to get arms to those the Fourth International (and the NPA) considers to be the authentic  “revolutionary masses”?



Egypt, Observations from the Left.

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Women March with Men Against Morsi.

Demonstrations continue against President Morsi’s  power-grab and constitutional plebiscite. Egypt’s political  conditions change daily.

The President’s Moslem Brotherhood (MB) has increasingly resorted to open violence against the opposition.

We can only wish the protesters success.

But what is the reaction of the left groups in the UK?

What do they think of the opposition to Morsi, in the streets and in political bodies?

Sameh from Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists comments (Socialist Worker)

also it is obvious that there are elements of the old regime—the “feloul”, or “remnants”—who are trying to use this mass movement. Some liberal leaders have unwisely made alliances with former Mubarak people—and this is used by the Muslim Brotherhood in their propaganda. The Brotherhood says, “Look—these people want the old regime back,” which isn’t true of course.

The latest protests are being portrayed as being controlled by the “non Islamist” parties. But this movement is out of their control. They didn’t want there to be a march on the presidential palace—but they couldn’t stop it.

“We say the constitution is pro-business and pro-army. People feel this is not what the revolution is all about. That’s why people are on the streets. The revolution is still on.”

Counterfire publishes a piece by Mohamed Atef, who appears to be of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), *arguing against a full  alliance with the democrats.

…there is a political problem with the forces that are now arrayed against Mubarak. They are not just the revolutionary forces of 25th January. They now include all who are disappointed by the Muslim Brotherhood, including the remnants of Mubarak regime! Amr Mussa, former-Mubarak Minster of Foreign Affairs, has joined Hamdeen Sabahy, the Nasserist ex-presidency candidate, and liberal Mohamed El Baradie along with heads of the liberal and socialist parties. This opportunist alliance has called for civil disobedience and mass marches to Tahrir square and the Presidential Palace.

The revolutionaries need to quickly accumulate forces if they are not to be drawn into a confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood before they are able to ensure a reasonable chance of success. If thye are not able to do this the conflict may end with the military leadership SCAF imposing a counter-revolutionary solution. Amr Mussa would be happy with this…which is why it is so dangerous to include him in any opposition front. Moreover, since there are popular forces in support of Morsi it can appear that January 25th would be knocked down by a military coup ‘supported by the masses’.

To avoid this scenario the Revolutionary Left in Egypt must build roots among the masses in a way that it has not done so far, despite having opportunities to do so. Yes, confrontation was unavoidable as it has been many times in the past. But the Left must build again among the working class (which was harassed by many laws were adopted during the past few days) and not blindly ally with its class enemies.

* I am open to correction on Atef’s allegiance.

In the past those form the International Socialists’ tradition stood for alliances with the Islamists ‘against the state’. The SWP published articles advocating voting for Morsi with a ‘heavy heart’. Counterfire  has even closer relations with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)in the UK, through the Stop the War Coalition, and internationally through its campaign against ‘Zionism’.

To add to this confused position the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt have wavered, from working with the Islamists on  pro-intifada and anti-war movements, to a section of them backing Morsi as a lesser evil, to their present opposition. Where the SPAP stands at present is, in the face of having to chose sides, is also unclear.

Now feel that the time has come again to raise the issue of class – not apparently worth mentioning in the past., Or rather, it was then asserted that in some vague way that the MB represented  the ‘oppressed’ and the ‘masses’.

Apparently this mess will all be resovlved in the ‘struggle’.

The pious bourgeoisie of the Moslem Brotherhood must be shaken at the SWP and Counterfire’s  less enthusiastic stand today.

By contrast  Alain Gresh  on le Monde Diplomatique’s site, offers an important analysis which illustrates what it at stake (December the 6th).

He argues that Morsi has increasingly relied on direct commands from his party, the Moslem Brotherhood. He takes advice, orders even, from the majlis el-irachad, the ‘political bureau’ of the organisation controlled by businessman Khayrat Al-Chater

“Ayant vécu l’essentiel de leur existence depuis les années 1950 dans la clandestinité ou dans une semi-légalité, ils ont développé une vision paranoïaque du monde politique et de leurs ennemis.”

Having lived for most of their political existence, since the 1950s, in semi-illegality or illegality, they have developed a paranoiac   vision of the political world and their enemies.”

Gresh states that they have great difficulty adapting to democratic political debate.

They see in “toute critique, dans toute contestation, un vaste complot pour les éliminer” – in every criticism, all opposition, a vast conspiracy to destroy them.

However Morsi is in far being an all-powerful Pharaoh.

Not only are the MB a minority in the government, but they do not ave full control over the police, the security services, and the army. In this Morsi is not in a position analogous to Mubarak. He cannot  use them to crush the opposition.At the same time the highest Moselle and Christian religious authorities, who backed Mubarak, are now independent.

Gresh warns however, of element son each side which could push the country to civil war

In the meantime who do we back?

Democratic  demands are not secondary.

They come first, bound up with workers’ rights under attack by the pro-Bosses Moslem Brothers.

Back the anti-Morsi fight without reservations!

Here are some compelling reasons:

On the Morsi Constitution, Human Rights Watch

Protection of Rights
Article 81 states that no law may limit the essence of the rights and freedoms set out in the constitution, but goes on to say that, “These rights and freedoms shall be exercised insofar as they do not contradict the principles set out in the Chapter on State and Society in this constitution.” The provisions in that chapter include article 10, which states that, “The state and society shall commit to preserving the true nature of the Egyptian family,” and article 11, which states that, “The state shall protect ethics and morals and public order.” The language in both these provisions is overly broad, open to interpretation, and available to justify wide-ranging limitations on key rights, Human Rights Watch said. It appears to place the “true nature of the family” and morals and public orders above fundamental rights. Read the rest of this entry »