Imperialist hands off the Syrian revolution

05 Feb
Syrian Demonstration 30

Mass Protests in Syria

The veto by Russia and China of a chapter 6 resolution at the United Nations calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to stand down has produced a loud ghashing of teeth by Hillary Clinton, William Hague and all kinds of other luminaries of the West. Syria seems to be heading for civil war. In fact arguably the civil war has already started with the formation of a rebel army from defectors from the official army and its engaging in sporadic armed conflict with the regime’s forces.

The fact that parts of the capital, Damascus, are also in a state of rebellion and mass popular protest, as well as the provinces, means the regime, which once was one of the most secure in the Middle East, now looks very vulnerable. Though it is not clear in what way the Syrian revolution is likely to reach its conclusion, it is now inconcievable that the Assad regime will be able to get the lid back on the situation. If it did not have the internal strength to prevent this situation from emerging in the first place, it is difficult to imagine where it is going to get the strength to overcome this protest movement and now (partially) armed revolt, with splits in the army as well, now that the genie is out of the bottle.

Just like Qadaafi in Libya, in fact, thus far. And this is why above all socialists and supporter of democraric revolutionary change must oppose imperialist attempts to intervene in ‘support’ of the Syrian opposition. And indeed, why socialists should breathe a sign of relief that Clinton, Hague and co, with their friendly Arab dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have not got been able to get their resolution through the UN. Not that, in formal terms, the chapter 6 resolution that was on the table in itself could provide any kind of legal cover for military action under the UN flag. Only a Chapter 7 resolution can do that.

But because it is part of a campaign to build momentum for an imperialist intervention at the next stage. If the resolution had been passed, with the Russians and Chinese acquiescing in it or even supporting it, once it was ignored, as of course it would be, there would be pressure to back the ‘fine words’ in the resolution with a resolution to enforce its demands, etc. And having signed up to the demands, these powers would face more pressure if they then were seen to veto the enforcement of such demands through Chapter 7. A Libya-style war would then be on the cards.

So why should partisans of democracy and revolution in the Arab world welcome the veto of a United Nations resolution condemning Assad by Assad’s putative allies, Putin/Medvedev and the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing? Because the most dangerous enemies of the revolution in the Arab countries are not to be found in Moscow and Beijing, that is why. Their favoured regime is doomed in any case. The most dangerous enemies of genuine democratic and social change in the Arab world are to be found in Washington, London, Paris and not least Tel Aviv.

Their aim in intervening selectively in the turmoil in the Middle East over the past year has not been to help the Arab revolutions. It is no accident that the only two states that the imperialists have actively condemned throughout all these upheavals have been … the regimes in Libya and Syria. Which just happen to be the two Arab regimes that, for many years prior to the outbreak of the Arab revolutions, the Western powers had real antipathy towards and were in fact considered as enemies even in periods when for pragmatic reasons some sort of ‘detente’ was engaged in.

There was no comparable pressure against Ben Ali in Tunisia, for instance. Ok, you might say, this took them by surprise at the beginning of 2011. But then with Mubarak, Western pressure on him was non-existent, but there was much wringing of hands that his departure would allow the Muslim Brotherhood and other demonised forces who were believed to oppose Western and Israeli domination would gain the opportunity to get power through democratic means. Where was the Western outcry against the continued abuses of the Military Council in Cairo and its continued abuses of protesters and democrats, and its attempts to sow sectarianism, which continue to this day even though preliminary elections to a consitutional assembly have now happened in Egypt? Where were the demands for sanctions, and the threats then?

Where was the outcry, the threat of sanctions and military pressure against Yemen, or Bahrain, when repeated killings and torture were used against democracy protesters in those countries?  Where was the military pressure on Saudi Arabia, the West’s best friend in the Arab world – and the most barbaric regime by far, which far surpasses Assad and Qadaafi in its medieval barbarism? Where was the proposed UN resolution when Saudi troops intervened in Bahrain to prop up the corrupt royal family who were thus able to stay in power utterly contrary to the wishes of the majority of the population? Where was the Security Council resolution when medical staff who dared to treat wounded protesters in Bahrain were themselves tortured and then put on trial as traitors for daring to give medical treatment to opponents of the royal dictatorship?

Answer: of course there were not any. These are the regimes the Western powers support. They want the revolution to go away, they want to restore ‘stability’ to the Arab world, and in particular to restabilise those regimes that they see as defenders of Western interests. The most they would countenance is a bit more ‘democratic’ window-dressing, in order make corrupt, repressive pro-Western regimes a bit more palatable.

So why did they go after Qadaafi, and why are they now going after Assad? For a number of linked reasons. For a start, they wanted to use the opportunity of the upheaval to deal with regime they considered recalcitrant. Qadaafi, despite some recent moves towards detente, was top of the list. Assad is next, and indeed probably the only hard Arab regime that the West has traditionally considered an opponent remaining, now that Qadaafi is gone and of course Saddam Hussein was disposed of in different, pre-revolutionary circumstances in the early part of this decade.

The Western strategy is that if they can use the upheavals to get rid of the regimes they do not like, they can hopefully acquire a little bit of political credit that they can use with the population of the countries whose regimes they do fundamentally support to help give those regimes something of a facelift and thus help to re-stabilise pro-imperialist regimes there also.

Relatedly, because being seen to play a role in helping to overthrow these regimes, even if it does not give them a direct military hold over their successors, it means that they acquire some credit, a political debt, which can later be cashed in. Thus in that way, though the usual technique of patronage, bribery, flattery and all the other manifold imperialist techniques, they can once again build client regimes out of the insurgent movements and acquire the means to discipline the populations once again to acquiesce in imperialist strategy.

This is something that would be seriously disrupted by an outright, successful popular revolution in an Arab country. Particularly if it came about by means of an insurrection as looks increasingly on the cards in Syria. Such an event would push the Arab revolution to new heights, it would overshadow the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia in terms of the ‘hard’ nature of the regime it had overthrown.

It would endanger the stability of the neighbouring royal dictatorship in Jordan, and from there of the West’s most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The revolution would be creeping ever close to Saudi, which of course is the big daddy of all the oil sheikdoms the West relies on to exploit the natural resources – centrally oil – of Arabia and the Gulf while excluding the population from the enormous wealth that this generates.

The imperialist strategy to preserve the status quo involves a tactical gambit to get rid of Assad and thereby hijack the Syrian revolution (as they did, with partial success) in Libya, and thereby stymie the wider Arab revolution. Socialists in the West should be opposing this attempted heist, not echoing the deceptive propaganda of our own ruling class in seeking to promote their ‘democratic’ credentials. Hands off the Syrian Revolution, and the Arab revolution as a whole!


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82 responses to “Imperialist hands off the Syrian revolution

  1. David Ellis

    February 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

    By wielding their veto and yet offer no alternative Russian imperialism and Chinese Stalinism have proved themselves yet again to be the self-serving enemies of humanity that they are and have also somehow conspired to make the Western hypocrites look `decent’. Homs is under murderous attack and it looks like Assad is set to do to it what Gadaffi threatened to do to Benghazi. Where is Egypt? Why does it not come to the rescue of Homs? Oh yes, the US-sponsored Egyptian military ruling council is still in command and it sees Assad as an alli against the Arab Spring.

    On Stalinist Unity the new heroes of the international working class are the Chinese Stalinist Police State and Putin the Butcher of Chechnya and organiser of the Oligarchs. The Syrian masses must know that they have the support of the Arab people and oppressed people everywhere and must some how find a way to complete their democratic revolution against the vile Assad regime and smash it to a thousand pieces.

  2. David Ellis

    February 6, 2012 at 9:53 am

    P.C. the StWC have knocked the final nail into their own coffin with their reaction to the veto, their promotion of Russian imperialism and the Chinese Stalinist police state as the promoters of peace even as Assad obliterates Homs and their overall hostility displayed towards the Arab Spring since day one.

  3. David Ellis

    February 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    The Guardian Comments boxes and Stalinist Unity are filled with arseholes high fiving the revolting Putin and saying that this Russian imperialist scum will somehow give the West a bloody nose. They are literally celebrating the stepping up of the slaughter in Homs that this failed resolution has resulted in. We have the two sides of a dichotomised debate going at it on SU with the Stalinists with their idealised position arguing from one absurd extreme position and their opponents, the decents, taking the equally idealised and extreme but opposite position. It is the Stalinists that are creating the space for the pro-zionist, pro-imperialist `left’. Needless to say both side are the enemies of Marxism, socialism, the Arab Spring, the Syrian masses and the people of Homs. To be honest Red I’m not that impressed with your headline on this item. It looks like a way of trying to bridge the contradictory sides in a somewhat mealy-mouthed way.

  4. redscribe

    February 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I think while it is true that we have to be wary of appearing to give support to Putin and the Chinese position on this, we also have to be very clear in what we say that the main enemy that we have to oppose is our own government. I’m sure David agrees with this, but it is a complex situation and it is very easy to be misunderstood. Also, I think it is problematic to allow ourselves to appear that we are denouncing the Russian/Chinese veto and implying that we wish they had supported the resolution.

    Again, I am sure David does not want to say that, but it would be very easy to give that impression. It may be true that it is the Stalinists who are creating political space for the neocons, but the converse is also true, the neocons create the basis for the simplistic impulse to support the other side even when it is not justified by the situation. One wonders what George Galloway would have to say about this. Cannot find anything right now, as he appears to be away touring Indonesia. But I can guess.

    I’m not actually sure that everyone who supports either of these false alternatives is necessarily an conscious, outright enemy of the Arab spring. The cadre of the neocons are of course, but that is not true of everyone who mistakenly supported, for instance, the imperialist action against Qadaafi. Nor is it true of many of those who are suckered into taking the opposite position, of siding with Qadaafi then or Assad now because they fear otherwise the imperialists will walk all over the Middle East again. Both of these responses are comprehensible though of course wrong. We have to find ways to probe the contradictions in the consciousness of honest people who take both wrong positions.

    The real problem is that many people despair of a revolutionary solution to these problems and end up taking one side or another based on a subjective guess as to whether the regime or the imperialists are likely to massacre less people if they win. My headline, and even more the article itself, is aimed at probing that and intersecting the positive elements in the consciousness of honest people on both sides. Not the hardened political hacks of course, though it is impossible to completely separate the hacks from the honestly deluded because they share considerable common ideas (if not the cynicism of the hacks).

    And of course, there is a revolution going on in Syria. That is something to be positive about, and solidarise with, and my headline expresses that.

  5. David Ellis

    February 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Red: this is another we’ll have to agree to disagree on. I don’t think the headline signposts an attempt to examine contradictory reality in a thoroughgoing principled fashion as say you have done so successfully with the PSC witchhunt but is, rather, a somewhat clumsy attempt to unify two completely contradictory and idealised versions of reality and bestride the forces that spew them, to reconcile the irreconsilable. Two wrongs however do not make a right. The only imperialist hands that have been put on the Syrian revolution so far are those of the Russians and the most iminent danger to it is the Assad regime.

  6. redscribe

    February 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    But the point is that the Syrian revolution is not something in isolation. It is part of a wider regional wave of struggles, and actually, the main threat to that regional wave is certainly not Russia or China. Syria is an exception here, and it is no accident therefore that they (and previously Libya) are the regimes coming under attack from imperialism pretending to back ‘democracy’- but only in Syria and Libya. That is actually part of a two-pronged counter-revolutionary strategy of settling old scores and seizing back the political initiative through a pretend pro-democracy stance against some (‘enemy’) regimes to better undermine democratic change it in its own, much larger, sphere of influence.

    For us to counter that strategy by becoming knee-jerk defenders of Assad because he is at odds with our own ruling class would be crazy and suicidal, I agree on that.

    But we do have to point out what the imperialist strategy is on the regional level. This is not just about Syria, but about the entire pan-Arab revolution. In that, neither Russia or China are capable of intervention, but the US and NATO certainly are. On the region-wide level, the latter two are the main enemy

    That’s my view anyway.

    But if David wants to write something longer about this, if it is well written I could post it up under his byline for discussion. Email me through the contact form if you fancy that idea.

  7. David Ellis

    February 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Red: that is very big of you and very non-sectarian. I would definitely like to write something about this whole affair. Give me a bit of time and i’ll try and come up with something.

  8. David Ellis

    February 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Socialist Unity is now the go-to blog for `left’ opponents of the Arab Spring. Kevin Ovenden had a piece in the Guardian CiF yesterday vitrually justifying Assad’s butchery of the people of Homs on the grounds that the rebellion could result in Western intervention and SU itself is covered in Assad apologists, Gadaffi mourners, Putin Lovers and friends of the repulsive Chinese Stalinist police state.

  9. David Ellis

    February 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Red: Have you seen Richard `I come to bury Lenin not to praise him’ Seymour’s Guardian CIF piece? It is a model of sect self-serving confusion, lies and self-delusion.

    What exactly is the anti-war movement? I remember there being a movement against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and a coalition to stop those wars but I don’t remember a generic anti-war movement. In fact if by the anti-war movement you mean the StWC well even then you are being disingenuous as that has been colonised by a tiny bunch of professional Stalinists who are not so much anti-war as pro-tyranny. They’ll support a war against the population if it is conducted by one of their approved powers or their proxies (Russian imperialism, Chinese Stalinist police state).

    The anti Iraq/Afghan war movement did not stop the war or initially hinder its progress but it did eventually discredit and defeat Bush and Blair and their neo-con ideologies. It also forced NATO to go to the UN to seek approval for its Libyan intervention. (Seymour things this is a bad thing that imperialism was compelled to temper its activities to fit global public opinion and actually make a humanitarian intervention or face discreditinig). This is nothing to do with the professional usurpers of the StWC who had a completely separate and even opposed agenda. They moved in on the anti-Iraq war movement like locusts as soon as the three million left the streets and proceeded to turn those three million into 200 Gadaffi and now Assad cheer leaders and Putin place men. They are not anti-war they are anti Arab Spring. I don’t know why the HOPI people are remotely interested in getting affiliated to this utterly discredited bunch.

    Because it is a chemically pure example of centrist obscurantism a point by point refutation of Seymour’s piece should be undertaken so the lessons can be disseminated amongst Marxists.

  10. David Ellis

    February 28, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Meanwhile over at Stalinist Unity they are trying to justify Assad’s butchery of Homs by comparing it to the putting down of the military seizure of Kronstadt by the Bolsheviks. These people are craven. A struggle against tyranny and absolutism is identified with one for democracy and socialism. Lenin would have been on the side of the Arab Spring and not remotely with these Stalinist enemies of revolution.

  11. David Ellis

    February 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Here is a link to Seymour’s piece: `The anti-war movement’s dilemma – and how to solve it’ which doesn’t even outline the dilemma (of who and what) let alone solve it.

    It’s on his own site too.

  12. David Ellis

    February 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Here is a bried response to the article post on CiF but it really could do with a serious job doing on it not because Seymour is of any relevance but because it expresses so perfectly centrist confusions at this time:

    This is a hugely confused and confusing piece. The dilemma it seems to point to is how can we support tyrants without looking bad and it certainly doesn’t resolve that issue.

    To those who say the anti-Iraq/Afghan war movement was unsuccessful I’d say rubbish. Yes it failed to stop the war or its continued prosecution thereafter but it did eventually uncover the lies of Blair and Bush, discredit them and their neo-con idelogogy and give Western imperialists a bloody great fright. It was probably instrumental in bringing Obama to power in the US who was then obliged to try to find ways of disengaging. So big was the fright that they have felt constrained ever since to at least act legally through the UN and have only been able to rebuild their ability to intervene by taking on actual humanitarian issues. That is a victory as far as it goes.
    But the anti-Iraq/Afghan war movement is not a generic `anti-war movement’ whatever the hell that would be (the quakers perhaps) nor is it the Stop the War Coalition which is a bunch of about two hundred professional usurpers that moved in on the mass movement the moment the three million had left the streets to colonise its ad hoc committees and bend it to its strange will. All it does is organise tiny demonstrations in support of Gadaffi and Assad whilst the rest of us support the Arab Spring whilst retaining a healthy skepticism as to the real self-serving motives of NATO and Co.

    You would think from this article that there is no rebellion in Syria and that the West is already engaged in a war of conquest. But there has been no intervention, except by China and Russia, and there doesn’ t look like being one either and I don’t think NATO or the West is to unhappy about that. The StWC are simply opponents of the Arab Spring and very little to do with the massive global movement against the Iraq/Afghan wars or the huge global sentiment in support of the Arab Spring.

  13. redscribe

    February 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I think there are two different issues with Seymour’s piece. One is the question of the anti-war movment. You are right in one sense, that STWC as constituted is moribund and as a result its agenda is being set by the most conservative elements like Andrew Murray whose fear of revolutionary developments anywhere is simply a result of Stalinist politics. The SWP however no longer have much say about the STWC, not since the Counterfire split took away the leaders they shared with it.

    I’m not a great fan of Richard Seymour, for three reasons. One, the bureaucratic manner that he runs his blog, excluding left-wing critics of the SWP in a particularly cynical manner (on the other hand, he at least deals with Harry’s Place type trolls pretty robustly, which is a bit to his credit).
    I also think he is highly egotistical, and some of his published material is just a vehicle to showcase intellectual/academic writing for its own sake (“look how clever I am”). And (3) he was particularly bad over the Assange case, I think, very right-wing in effectively attacking Assange’s defenders as male chauvinists or something along those lines. The Atzmon issue is another example. This reflects the SWP’s drift to the right away from even the anti-imperialist stance they had in the days of the Iraq war.

    I do think that particular article is quite thoughtful though, and it does raise some important issues about ‘humanitarian intervention’. We really should be on our guard about this, and remember the lessons of history.

    On imperialism and the Arab spring

    “So big was the fright that they have felt constrained ever since to at least act legally through the UN and have only been able to rebuild their ability to intervene by taking on actual humanitarian issues. That is a victory as far as it goes.”

    There was a limited victory in that the political discredit and military problems they suffered in Iraq have caused them to be more cautious recently. They got caught with their pants down about WMD and Iraq, and that was a major political defeat for them. Its good that they are on the defensive and cannot brazenly shoot from the hip against who they like, but they are always seeking through propaganda to show that their aims are ‘humanitarian’.

    We must always remember the role the Democratic Party has played in American history as the party that engages in ‘moral rearmament’ of imperialism after a reverse, ready for the next wave of brazen aggression. After the US was defeated in Vietnam, the new Democratic President Carter launched a ‘human rights’ crusade that after a few years, turned into a renewed Cold War, He just laid the basis for Reagan’s militarism. Likewise, Clinton’s ‘humanitarian’ wars over Bosnia, Kosova and then Iraq (Desert Fox) laid the basis for Iraq and the Bush administration. It got the US population used to wars supposedly for ‘freedom’, and laid the basis for bigger, more brazen wars.

    Support for the uprisings in the Arab countries is extremely important, and our attitude when the imperialists intervene ostensibly to ‘support’ movements we also support should obviously not be to give up and switch our support to the regimes they are fighting. Not only is this wrong in principle, it is not even remotely intelligent! It gives the imperialists a sure fire way to sabotage the international support for any revolution anywhere in the world – pretend to support it, and hey, that’s the end of any international solidarity!

    And of course we need to be sharp in denouncing those regimes that give international support to the suppression of these movements, whether it be Russia and China in Syria, or Saudi Arabia (and, on the quiet, the US) in Bahrain and Yemen.

    But we really must be sharp in our denunciation of the ‘humanitarian’ imperialists also. We must not even appear to take anything they say about their ‘humanitarian’ objectives as good coin. We must demand, upfront, that they keep their noses out of all these situations, even if it becomes difficult to interact with people who support the revolution but have illusions in imperialist aid to it. This is not a matter of a lack of empathy for those fighting, but simply as a result of long experience of the treacherous role of the Western powers. They are most dangerous politically when they are talking about their ‘humanitarian’ actions.

    Seymour’s point about the Spanish-American war is correct. It is worth examining what happened historically when the US pretended to ‘support’ the revolutionary movements against Spanish colonialism in the 1890s, in Cuba and the Philippines for instance. It took rather a long time for those peoples to get the US imperialists off their backs, and some say they still have not completely managed it even today!

  14. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I cannot agree with you on this Red. The centrists have become anti-Arab Spring simply because imperialism has intervened as if our policy should be decided by what the imperialists do rather than the interests of the masses. They needed little excuse to show their counter-revolutionary colours and as ususal wrap it up in `left’ rhetoric. I have no illusions in imperialism and neither am I trying to plug any but I certainly wouldn’t have demonstrated against the UN backed resolution in support of Gadaffi and the truth is that in regards of Syria they are much more pro-Assad/Putin than anti-imperialism. The question for the Arab working and popular masses was to take advantage of the intervention whilst remaining sans illusions about the self-serving intentions of the imperialists who on this occassion were being compelled to conduct a `humanitarian’ operation or lose credibility.

  15. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

    To add: your criticisms of Seymour are correct. He is a highly trained sophist which is why when criticising the overall tenor of his pieces he will always be able to point to a paragraph or two that give the opposite `but ‘qualified view. Seymour’s piece is Stalinoid and cynical. It deserves demolition not understanding.

  16. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 9:59 am

    pps: Seymour is also a sworn enemy of the materialist dialectic which this piece shows better than any. With him it’s all `on the one hand but on the other hand’ which simply means he can point to having taken all opinions into account when he actually sneakily comes down on one side: in this case the anti-Arab Spring side even whilst he feigns sympathy for it. He is the kind of sophist thinker sects like the SWP deserve and attract trained in bourgeois institutions to be even handed in their partisanship of one side or the other but never the independent interests of the global working class.

  17. David Ellis

    March 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Just look at this pro-Assad resolution posted by Kevin Ovenden on Stalinist Unity which the StWC is planning to pass:

    `I post this both to indicate the unity of purpose in the Stop the War Coalition and in an effort to save the SWP from some its friends. It is the motion submitted by the SWP to the Stop the War Coalition conference this coming Saturday. It is entirely concordant with the motions submitted by the officers’ group as a whole:

    ’10 SWP
    Conference notes
    The US and other Western governments have established a coalition, Friends of Syria, to coordinate an intervention in Syria. Plans to intervene are being described as “humanitarian”.
    Conference believes:
    Those Western governments are not motivated by the interests of the Syrian people or those suffering in Homs but by their own interests in the region.
    That the experience of past wars shows that humanitarian aims cannot be delivered by western military intervention.
    Military intervention by the US and Britain threatens to make the situation worse.
    Conference recognises that many activists in the anti war movement have different views on the nature of the struggle in Syria, but believes it is vital that the Stop the War Coalition maintains its unity and unites around the demand on which we all agree – no Western military intervention.
    Conference resolves
    To campaign against Western intervention in Syria and for the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future.’

  18. David Ellis

    March 2, 2012 at 10:18 am

    John G made a fairly good comment on SU and has been rounded on by the Stalinist scum:

    `I am opposed to imperialist intervention. I am equally opposed to the idea that solidarity with those currently being slaughtered by the class enemy Assad, is in some sense ‘faux humanism’. Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood but there is nothing faux about the horror and solidarity of millions around the region and the world with those currently bearing the brunt of vicious counter-revolution and nothing pro-imperialist about hoping that this illegitmate mass murdering regime is overthrown by an actually existing revolution as soon as possible.’

    John G often says the right thing but rarely does the right thing. He should follow up this comment by opposing the SWP’s disgusting motion to tomorrows’ Stop the War Start the Stalinism Coalition meeting. The SWP are dipping their hands into the lake of blood Assad is creating in Homs with this resolution.

  19. redscribe

    March 2, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Just to say I do agree with John G on this.

    The real point about the SWP resolution is not that it opposes imperialist intervention. That aspect is correct. The real problem with it is the bit about ‘unity’, it does not actually take a position on the upheaval either way. This is not what a revolutionary organisation should be doing in the anti-war movement. It should be demanding both opposition to imperialist intervention and solidarity with those opposing Assad, and should fight politically to win the anti-war movement to that. It could even win the vote and bring in new forces on that basis.

    Of course others might split, the supporters of the regime, but that is their problem if they refuse to ally with people who oppose imperialist intervention but support the revolutionary movement. But the new forces it would likely attract would more than make up for that.

    But by equivocating on the upheaval itself, it hands a veto to the most conservative elements.

  20. David Ellis

    March 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    You’ve almost got it right red but you slip into the same error as the SWP and end up in the camp of Stalinists supporting the Assad bloodbath. The first and primary question is support for the revolt. This opposition to imperialist intervention is a total red herring. Even in Libya the uprising was correct to take advantage of the UN-backed NATO intervention and continue the prosecution of its revolt agains the disgusting Gadaffi tyranny. You are trying to be balanced and `even-handed’ as opposed to dialectical so you say with the SWP that the revolt is good but imperialist intervention would be worse so lets oppose imperialist intervention first and foremost and forget the revolt. That is the tenor and essense of the position. It is anti-Arab Spring. John G will rationalise the SWP resolution despite what he has said as quoted above but if he was at all concerned with the fate of the Arab Spring and indeed the fate of the SWP which is about to soak itself in the blood of the people of Homs then he’d urge the withdrawal of this resolution.

  21. redscribe

    March 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    “Even in Libya the uprising was correct to take advantage of the UN-backed NATO intervention and continue the prosecution of its revolt agains the disgusting Gadaffi tyranny.”

    I agree with this.

    And I also would broadly say the same thing about Syria even if an imperialist intervention happens. And it still might. You cannot expect a once-in-a-lifetime chance to overthrow these regimes (which is what is happening) to be free of illusions when the Western powers hypocritically claim to be trying to help the democratic movements (though in selected countries only!).

    But we also have a duty to try to combat illusions in imperialism. And there are many with no softness on Stalinism at all who are legitimately worried about what the imperialists are trying to do here.

    The Russians and Chinese, as I see it, do not have an overall counter-revolutionary strategy vis-a-vis the Arab spring. Backing Assad is a desperate tactic, but not a strategy, especially since Assad is doomed anyway I suspect (and they probably do also!)

    The imperialists do have a strategy though.. Whether it will work is problematic, but it is this: help the movements to overthrow the regimes who are traditionally ‘our’ enemies anyway, while trying to co-opt and blunt the equivalent movements where the regimes are pro-Western. The latter can be alternatively soft-soaped and repressed; the former can be given military support when possible, thus taking away from them some of the credit and authority that comes with victory.

    It also creates a sense of political/military debt, that can perhaps be used later as a weapon to divide and rule – those movements that ‘benefited’ from Western help from those who didn’t.

    What is even more useful if the regimes of ‘our friends’ can be seen to help to overthrow the regimes ‘we’ particularly dislike. Hence the curious phenomenon of Saudi and Qatari help to the Syrian opposition. This is not a sign, as our gullible Stalinist friends think, that the Syrian opposition are mercenaries working for the CIA and the House of Saud. It does, however, signify a more subtle and insidious form of meddling, and should be exposed on that basis.

    This is actually more dangerous to the pan-Arab revolution than oafish supporters of Assad and Qadaafi could ever manage. We do not combat it by tacitly accepting imperialist intervention (or dismissing it as irrelevant) because it ‘helps’ the side we support in some countries, while also potentially undermining the region-wide, pan-Arab potential of the movement as a whole.

    The imperialists have centuries of accumulated experience at manipulating and undermining progressive movements in underdeveloped countries. We can never appear neutral on this, that would be very short-sighted.

  22. voltairepaine

    March 3, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Fuck the SWP. It’s our revolution, not theirs. All this talk about opposing ‘Western Imperialism’ first and foremost only helps the Syrian criminal regime in its onslaught against the Syrian people. The rhetoric is counter-revolutionary and outdated. Western Imperialism no longer exists. The ‘West’ is a fragile and contradictory concept. The world today is dominated by multi-polar Imperialistic policies coming from all corners of the globe, and includes China, Russia, Iran, Saudi.

    Being someone from the Near EAst myself, I wholeheartedly advocate the arming of the Free Syrian Army; I support military intervention against the Assad regime; I advocate violent insurrection against the regime; I also advocate a campaign of working to undermine Russian, Chinese and Iranian imperialist policies in the region. Whilst the USA in its unwavering and unconditional support for Israeli policy has caused Arabic speaking populations in the Levant (most notably the Lebanese and Palestinians) to suffer, the Syrian regime has caused far worse damage and misery over the past 40 years, again most notably against LEbanon, Palestinian refugees, and the Syrian people. I am radical in my support of human rights and democracy, which are inseparable. And I believe fighting for these ideals to be a noble virtue. Anyone standing in their way is the enemy. Russia and China are the greater evils now. They want to maintain their empires at the expense of Syrian lives. If the US and Saudi want to arm us, then we gladly accept. We are right and justified to do so. British socialists would do well to listen to the Arab street rather than masturbating on their own outdated world view. No offence intended. I just want outsiders to think before they lecture.

  23. David Ellis

    March 3, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Here is my comment from Facebook made this am:

    `Today the bunch of Stalinist usurpers who moved in on the anti-Iraq/Afghanistan War movement and established the self-serving Stop the War Coalition through a process of splits, witch hunts and bureaucratic fiat will be passing a resolution in support of the Assad regime in Syria and its massacre of the people of Homs. The resolution will have been put by the Stalinist’s newest group of usefull i…diots the SWP. The public preparation for it has been carried out by ultra-cynical blogs like Stalinist Unity and other Stalinist media outlets like the Morning Star. Even with the Soviet Union gone, Stalinism still plays its counter-revolutionary role to the full and is of course an enemy of the Arab Spring.’

  24. David Ellis

    March 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

    My comment on facebook this morning:

    `Yesterday the Stalinist-hijacked Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution in support of Assad and his butchery of the people of Homs. The resolution was proposed by the SWP who managed to find a form of words that all assembled could agree on including the most vicious celebrator of the Syrian tyranny’s villainy. Funnily enough a lot of the StWC supporters of Russia and China’s veto of the UN… resolution in solidarity with Homs which gave Assad the green light to proceed with his murder also demand recognition by that same body for the rump PA in West Bank as the Palestinian State thereby disenfranchising the refugees and recognising the Zionist apartheid regime and are witch-hunting those who refuse to accept this treachery from the PSC. The SWP have teamed up with this scum and provided the cover they need for their treachery despite a few of their number being ruthlessly ridiculed on the Stalinist Unity web site by Andy Newman and his gang of thugs. Yesterday the StWC was exposed as a puppet of anti-working class forces, userpers and genuinely revolting people and the SWP as its most useful of idiots. It’s note exactly like there actually has been any intervention in Syrian by imperialists (apart from the Russian type of course).’

  25. David Ellis

    March 4, 2012 at 11:46 am

    A comment on Stalinist Unity on the `Perception and Reality’ thread that will not get past Tony Collins the censor in chief to Andy Newman’s Little Stalin:

    `So, despite all JohnG and Skidmarx’s often excellent fighting talk on this thread the SWP actually did find a way of maintaining the unity of the Stalinoid StWC by putting forward a resolution that makes the issue of a mythical imperialist intervention in Syria the main issue of the day as opposed to the defence of Homs, the Syrian Revolt and the wider Arab Spring from the Pig Assad and his Russian imperialist and Chinese Stalinist police state backers. Truly the SWP are the most useful of idiots.’

  26. David Ellis

    March 4, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Let us hope that HOPI ceases in its efforts to be included in the rotten rump Stalinoid StWC which is surely now discredited forever in the eyes of the popular masses as a tool of Putin, Assad and assorted other tyrants. They must organise independently for the struggle against imperialist or Zionist assault on Iran.

  27. redscribe

    March 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t know, I think Stop the War is effectively dead and probably has been for a few years. It was very important in the period of the Iraq war and led some of the greatest anti-war demonstrations in British history. But it never had real roots in the working class, and that was its undoing ultimately. It could not deliver anything more than that famous 2 million strong demonstration. And though the political impact of that resonated for a long time, and eventually helped to force out Blair earlier than he would have liked, in the end it could not deliver more than that. And when that huge demonstration was ignored and the war went ahead anyway, it had no tactical options beyond that.

    Only something with the mass base and the will to deliver anti-war strikes could have taken this to a higher phase. But at this point, we are a long way from that.

    I dont see HOPI as a potential replacement anti-war movement for this period, though. It is pretty narrow and will unfortunately be neutral in the event of an imperialist attack on Iran. Its whole polemic against STW is against it allegedly being soft on political Islam. No doubt they were treated bureaucratically – indeed one of the vices of the organisers of STW is that they treat any disagreement with them in a bureaucratic manner, wherever it comes from. But the moving forces of HOPI had a very hostile attitude to Respect, which of course had its problems, and its criticisms shaded over into a paler version of the kind of ‘left’ Islamophobia associated with the AWL.

    Indeed, it is not that surprising that they are a bit soft on the Syrian regime in this context given the Islamic politics of some of the Syrian opposition.

  28. redscribe

    March 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    regarding voltairespaine’s comment.

    All this talk about opposing ‘Western Imperialism’ first and foremost only helps the Syrian criminal regime in its onslaught against the Syrian people. The rhetoric is counter-revolutionary and outdated. Western Imperialism no longer exists. The ‘West’ is a fragile and contradictory concept. The world today is dominated by multi-polar Imperialistic policies coming from all corners of the globe, and includes China, Russia, Iran, Saudi.”

    I disagree with this. The world is not so multi-polar, at least not yet. There is only one force that is able to project force around the world and knock out regimes such as Iran, Afghanistan and in a different way, Libya. No-one else has done anything of the kind for a very long time, not since 1991 in any case.

    Saudi Arabia is not an imperialist power, it is a client of the West and is acting as such both in its intervention in Syria and in suppressing the democracy movement in Bahrain. Iran is not imperialist either, it allied with Syria for defensive reasons at the time when it was attacked by Saddam Hussein;’s regime in the 1980s, Hussein’s regime was then acting as a client of the West. And Iran is being targeted for attack by Israel – the regions overwhelming nuclear hegemon – using its nuclear programme as an excuse.

    The Middle East situation is complex and the outbreak of the pan Arab revolution offers major hope that the many despotisms in the region could all be overthrown in rapid succession, The overthrow of Assad in Syria would be an enormous step in this direction, and could well lead to the kind of renewed impetus that could threaten other regimes such as Saudi Arabia even.

    No one who supports the pan-Arab revolution could disagree that they are right to take advantage of whatever aid they can lay their hands on. That is obvious and right.

    But don’t think such aid is because the Western powers support the aims of democratising the Middle East. They are trying to keep control and stymie the pan-Arab aspect of the revolution. It is that pan-Arab character that is its strength, and has the potential to unite the Arabs in a general democratic revolution and Arab national unification. If they succeed in setting one movement in an existing Arab state against another, for instance by creating a political debt by one movement to another Arab state that supplied them with weapons to defeat ‘their’ dictator, they will have succeeded in fragmenting the most important attribute of the Arab revolution.

    History from the days of Nasserism, the previous time there was the potential, and indeed an actual attempt, to unite the Arabs across the boundaries of the balkanised Arab states, should tell us how dangerous this is. The imperialists never do things like this for altruistic reasons, there is always another agenda involved.

  29. voltairepaine

    March 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for your reply redscribe. But I cannot agree with your world view on imperialism. Very simply, a lot of Westerners simply don’t understand the extent of interference of countries such as China, Russia, Iran etc. The foreign policies of these governments are all imperialistic, as they all enforce, protect and maintain their regional interests and global expansion by propping up brutal puppet regimes and client states and powerful criminal organizations, all at the expense of the miserable existences, poverty, and brutal tragedies experienced by the populations of smaller nations in Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East etc. etc. As I said, a lot of British socialists have an outdated world view. They haven’t understood or perhaps have not yet come to awareness of the developing world today, and the selfish corrupted powers that are running it.

    Furthermore, the Arabic speaking people are not so naive to think that the United States has offered help out of the goodness of their hearts. I never said this and no one ever has. And regarding your mention of Nasserism, the Arab Spring is not about uniting the Arabic speaking countries under a united Nasserist style nation. It is simply about people wanting to live in dignity and freedom.

  30. redscribe

    March 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    You say that the Arab spring is not about uniting the Arabic peoples. I have come across other views on this. But in any case, even if that were true, then maybe it needs to take up this issue as a matter of priority.

    Because one key root cause of the lack of ‘dignity and freedom’ in the Arab world is the balkanisation of the Arab countries, the division into a whole lot of powerless states that engage in internecine conflict with each other and waste a tremendous amount of their people’s wealth on mutual despoliation and rivalries between different petty ruling class cliques. Indeed, it is these petty divisions that laid the basis for so many vile despotisms in the Arab world, and for the domination of the Arab world by imperialism. Look at the Persian gulf area, how many petty little oil sheikdoms are there, that are really just a means by which corrupt cliques form partnerships with imperialist oil monopolies to make huge fortunes which the people see hardly any of, instead they fund all kinds of opulence, parasitism and voracity.

    If there were a single united Arab commonwealth, then the resources of what are now Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Gulf states, Libya and others could be used to underpin an advanced society based on genuine equality and freedom, and the ownership of these resources by the people, not these competing cliques with their imperialist sinecures.

    Russia and China’s relationship with Assad and Qadaafi was actually at the fringes of this. Yes, these regimes need or needed to be overthrown along with all the rest. But that is the point – along with all the rest. Not instead of all the rest. These ‘radical’ regimes are or were certainly vile, but they were at the fringe of the system of Balkanisation. They were the pariahs, whose despotisms had broken some of the unwritten rules – usually about failing to capitulate to Israel – and had to seek other allies as a result of being frozen out by the West.

    The regional centre of this system of domination through fragmentation is Saudi Arabia, Worse in fact in its mediaevalism than the vilest of the ‘radical’ regimes and also its stooge nature as main custodian of the oil wealth for the Western powers. But the root of this fragmentation is with the Western powers, such as the Sikes-Picot creation of Syria and Iraq as separate British and French spheres of influence, or TE Lawrence’s role in creating Saudi Arabia.

    So yes, Assad needs to be overthrown. But so does the House Of Saud. The worst possible outcome of the Arab revolution would be if at the end of it the ‘radical’ regimes have gone, but Saudi Arabia is still there along with all the sheikdoms, the fragmentation continues as before and a new, Western-dominated bloc comes into being with some limited democratic gains in some places – restricted in part by being confined into the same narrow framework of the states that were created by the colonialists, and very little gains in others.

    I’m not saying that is what is going to happen, but that is what the imperialists want and what their strategy aims at bringing about. Its something people should consider and arm themselves politically against.

  31. David Ellis

    March 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    The Stalinist scum on Stalinist Unity are praising the SWP resolution at yesterday’s pro-Assad StWC conference and condemning those of its members who are trying to give it a more radical spin than is there. What a rotten carve up. The SWP should be sent to Homs to taste the blood for themselves.

  32. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Here is the authentic voice of Stalinism showing its gratitude to the SWP over on Scum Unity:

    `Thanks for your post at (105) Kevin – excellent to hear that the SWP motion to StWC was passed.

    Reassuring to receive confirmation that pro-imperialist lunatics like JohnG do not speak for the SWP.

    Let’s hope the successful passing of the resolution leads to some serious anti-intervention activity.

    JohnG – good luck in the AWL!;’

    Problem is JohnG actually supports the resolution but him and a small cohort on SU are attempting to spin it as meaning something other than what the STalinists voted for. That won’t wash. For Johng, Skidmarx and the rest to be taken seriously they need to renounce the resolution and the Stalinist impulse behind it.

  33. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 9:19 am

    One thing is for certain the assorted usurpers and Stalinists that make up StWC are completely finished. Stop the War? Friends of the tyrants in actual fact.

  34. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

    It is getting seriously amusing over at Stalinist Unity where the SWPers simply cannot understand how they have been defeated by the Stalinists in StWC and are now considered in the public eye as co-cheerleaders for the Homs massacre. Though we shouldn’t let them off the hook, they actually are co-cheerleaders and became a bureaucratic centrist Stalinoid sect quite some time ago. A guy called Aaron has made the latest attempt to rationalise the SWP resolution by saying that imperialism doesn’t care about the people of Syria anyway which begs the question as to why they made imperialist intervention the main question instead of the defence of the Syrian Uprising when Homs is being obliterated by Assad. Useful idiots or simply Stalinoid trash?

  35. redscribe

    March 5, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I don’t think the SWP are Stalinist, though they do have a bureaucratic regime internally. Their bureaucratism comes from Trotskyism, though, not Stalinism particularly. In fact, they are historically often Stalinophobic – their cadre have been known to come out with the most shrill denunciation of ‘Stalinism’ at times when it is not appropriate. Classically in the Cold War with their ‘neither Washington nor Moscow’ line which equated the Soviet bloc with the West.

    But they are capable of making unprincipled blocs with Stalinists as well, and I think on this occasion they are doing just that.

    I’m wary of using phrases like ‘centrist’ because they have been so often misused as to have become meaningless. There are many groups, some larger than others, many of whom pursue politics that are sometimes principled, sometimes grossly opportunist, and sometimes also insanely sectarian, but there is no clear revolutionary current at the moment to make such characterisations as ‘centrist’ meaningful.

    I think we are still quite a way from both creating such a revolutionary socialist current that has a coherent analysis and programme that corresponds with the world as it is and its tendencies of development, and we are still also quite a way from developing a model of organisation that can deal with the many political differences that the very complex world situation will inevitably give rise to.

    Until we do that, I don’t think the term ‘centrist’ is particularly useful or brings clarity. It is a form of political shorthand for currents that vacillate between reformism and a revolutionary pole, but what is missing right now is the revolutionary pole, which has to be a collective body of some weight I think, not just the views of individual activists.

  36. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Red: I didn’t realise you were a serious anti-trot. That’s a pity. I describe the SWP as Stalinoid as opposed to Stalinist.

    Centrism is an important part of the Marxist lexicon. You cannot function as a revolutionary Marxist without an understanding of this concept. In any case, this is the end of the SWP which will suffer as a result of its giving political cover to the butchery of Homs. Today’s youngsters have been hugely attracted to the Arab Spring and will not be going anywhere near its enemies. The leadership of TUSC would do well to explain where they stand on the question as many of them have a Stalinist/Stalinoid/Centrist background and history.

  37. redscribe

    March 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I would not say I was anti-Trot. Certainly not anti-Trotsky anyway, though I do think he was flawed in some ways, he was the only revolutionary figure worthy of the name around in the 1930s and he kept some important aspects of the revolutionary tradition from being lost.

    That does not mean that his legacy is unproblematic though. There are a lot of things that could be criticised about his legacy, from the theory of the Stalinist elite as akin to a labour bureaucracy, which I don’t it is or was. Also a party model that i think is sect-like, in which public criticism of the majority over questions of ideas is considered wrong, which I think has led to situations where those affiliated to one or another Trotskyist group are unable to discuss differences openly with each other. I think that public debate is strength, not a weakness, and will produce a stronger revolutionary movement in the long run.

    i don’t disagree with you on the definition of centrism; my point is more subtle, that it is a shorthand, umbrella expression that only has meaning when a clearly revolutionary collective exists. Otherwise, I as an individual, would be going around accusing various leftists of ‘centrism’ because they don’t agree with me. But if I am not part of a collective, then I am not subject to the corrective influence of others that would at least give my claim to be part of a revolutionary current some substance. I would in effect be claiming to be a one-person revolutionary current, which I don’t think is credible or works.

    I very much doubt that you would get agreement in TUSC on a position on Syria. This question is dividing everyone. Nothing to stop people writing about it for the ISN though. My guess is that any broad party would have a wide spectrum of views on something like that in any case.

  38. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    `Also a party model that i think is sect-like, in which public criticism of the majority over questions of ideas is considered wrong’

    I don’t think you’ll find that notion in any of Trotsky’s writings anywhere. Unfortunately the nascent Fourth international was unable to survive a combination of Trotsky’s death, the hardships of the second world war, the rise of global stalinism to un-dreamt of heights and the amazing post-War boom headed by an unleashed US imperialism keeping all the other imperialism subordinate under an anti-Communist brolly.

    Your position on centrism is, how can i put it, strange. The Marxist position can be arrived at and shown to be the marxist position. You don’t need a self-describing revolutionary collective to be able to judge what is centrism and what is marxism.

    As for TUSC I can almost guarantee that the leadership are pro-Assad and whilst a broad party might contain all views that just shows the pointlessness of broad parties. A proper party will have a worked out official position which doesn’t mean excluding those who disagree with that policy.

  39. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t get how you can correctly be so adamant on the question of the Gilad Atzmon witch hunt and yet take such a laissez faire attitude on what is the correct position on Syria and the slaughter at Homs.

  40. redscribe

    March 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    On the last point, there is no contradiction. I don’t think a revolutionary current can be built by curtailing discussion, and in my view despite their errors those around Atzmon have come up with useful insights that are in danger of being lost to the left through the witch-hunt. And also, I think many of them are decent people who are being unjustly maligned.

    I don’t have a laisser faire attitude to Syria, I argue for views that are in fact not that different to yours. But I don’t believe everyone who worries about imperialist intervention in Syria is a hardened Stalinist. Some are of course, but there are others who have genuine concerns and don’t like the Assad regime one bit. In my experience, people who are wrong on one thing may be right on something else a few months down the road, and making too definitive statements about them often proves to be unwise.

    Politics is complex, and people’s political evolution is often complex. I am in favour of broad parties because they offer a means to unite over some basic needs of the working class and provide a means in which more advanced debates can take place with a view to developing better Marxist insight and hopefully a better movement flowing from that.

  41. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    No red you are wrong. Those defending the butchery at Homs are hardened Stalinists with an agenda that is both openly anti-Arab Spring and entirely self-serving of their various alliances with anti-working class forces around the globe. They are preying on those who only worry about imperialist intervention. I see the most conscious of the Stalinists are using Kronstadt to justify the butchery at Homs and to allow themselves to step into the Lake of Blood without feeling guilty as if the military seizure of the fleet by military forces likely to hand it back to the White Russians can be compared to what is going on in Syria? Cynical not mistaken. I don’t know what you mean by broad parties but what use is a party that cannot unite in support of the Syrian democracy?

  42. David Ellis

    March 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    To add: the SWP’s cynical resolution is self-serving of their own organisations alliances and nothing to do with the interests of the international working class. They are even worse that the open cheer leaders of Assad and they have absolutely no excuse whatsoever.

  43. redscribe

    March 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    I am not particularly referring to the SU crew. Virtually everywhere you look on the left, the Palestine solidarity movement, etc, you will find divisions on Syria. On both sides of the recent PSC conflict you will find people on either side on Syria. Reflecting divisions about this in the Middle East. I doubt you will find anyone in the Palestine movement who sympathised with Mubarak or Ben Ali, but Assad is different to many.

    Read this, for instance, or this. Or how about this. Or this.

    None of this is to say that those who oppose the Syrian uprising are right. They are wrong. But not everyone who has concerns about it is reactionary. There are all kind of divisions about this, along a number of different ideological lines and sometimes people who have formally similar ideas disagree about this.

    What use is a broad party that cannot unite in support of the Syrian revolution, you say? Well, Respect had some of the features of a broad party, but I have no doubt that it would have divided over this were it still a viable thing with a real base. Its base itself would have been divided over it.

    We are a long way from having a party, broad or not so broad, that can unite over many international questions. A party exists to organise the advanced, militant sections of the working class and the oppressed, and divisions over things like this are bound to be reflected within it if it is really rooted. That will only be overcome when a renewed, coherent Marxist trend gains hegemony within the class. The party is still vital to unite the advanced elements of the class in something that can in an elementary way counterpose itself to the bosses, but questions like Syria will be very divisive.

    There will be plenty of very good militants who will fight very hard on a whole range of questions, but who will regard the Assad regime in a very different light from Mubarak. That is the reality, its not good but it is where the left is at right now.

  44. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

    `What use is a broad party that cannot unite in support of the Syrian revolution, you say? Well, Respect had some of the features of a broad party, but I have no doubt that it would have divided over this were it still a viable thing with a real base. Its base itself would have been divided over it.’

    Had the Arab Spring come along whilst Respect was still functioning it would have presented a major opportunity to politically drive out the Stalinists and turn it into a principled and very, very popular organisation. No wonder it was collapsed by the sects.

  45. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Talking of Respect, Neil Williams, another notorious supporter of Arab Tyrants and their blood baths just posted this on SU:

    `Galloway to make fresh bid to get back into Parliament

    Sorry to post it here buts it the only place i could link too. If George stands and this would be the right time and the right place then i hope all on the Left will support his campaign including TUSC and the Left Greens. a campaign at this time against cuts and against wars in the Middle East coud unite the proressive movement at a critical time so long as the campaign allowed room for all to be involved.

    “Former MP George Galloway is expected to launch a fresh bid to get back into Parliament today.

    Mr Galloway is due to make an announcement about whether he will stand in the Bradford West by-election.

    The former Glasgow Labour MP returned to the Commons in 2005 when he won the Bethnal Green seat for his Respect party.

    But he failed to get elected when he stood in Poplar and Limehouse in the 2010 general election.

    Mr Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 over comments he made about the war in Iraq.

    But his profile continued to grow as he appeared regularly on TV, famously making an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.

    He is expected to make an announcement about the Bradford West by-election in the West Yorkshire town later today.”

    The Guardian

    Posted by Neil Williams 6 March, 2012 at 11:52 am Neil Williams

    If GAlloway were to stand on a pro-Arab Spring platform then he should be supported. If he stands on a pro-Assad `anti’ – imperialist platform then he should be opposed and condemned. Fortunately he is not as dumb, far from it, as some of his followers but we will wait and see.

  46. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Plus Kevin Ovenden is playing a very dispicalbe role on SU reassuring the Stalinists that the SWP resolution to the StWC conference last Saturday is indeed pro-Assad, pro-the blood bath and that it was good that they were all able to agree that the blood bath is far less important than a mythical imperialist intervention.

  47. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Interesting. I would be very surprised if GG has different views from Kevin Ovenden on Syria, though. I do hear through the grapevine that he no longer works for George, but I doubt that their views are that different.

    Neil Williams is a case in point about divisions among those who are not Stalinists about Syria though. He is no Stalinist, his background is purely Labour Party as far as I know.

  48. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Williams has always been an `ultra-left’ anti-imperialist.

  49. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I just made a series of comments on Louis Proyect’s blog this a.m. You have a link to his blog. Have you asked him to link back? I think you should.

  50. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I would say that it is your job Red as a supporter of TUSC to fight to make sure that if Galloway stands on an unequivocally pro-Arab Spring without making his support for it dependent on prioritising non-intervention that TUSC supports him and that if he by contrast starts with the `anti-imperialist’ position that rationalises the Assad butchery or if he bewails the toppling of Gadaffi that TUSC puts major distance between his and their campaign.

  51. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    To be honest, I doubt he could expect much support from TUSC people anyway. But not for reasons related to Syria. He is not popular particularly because of his attacks on TUSC and its predecessors earlier. Though the SWP might take a different view.

  52. David Ellis

    March 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I think you are right but Neil Williams is a TUSC fan is he not? The SWP have provided the Stalinists with a form of words that allows them to support Assad’s mass murder without explicitly saying so so you might be right about that. If however Galloway did come out as an unequivocal supporter of the Arab Spring would it not be correct to try to persuade TUSC to support his candidacy? If he turns out to be an Assad and Gadaffi apologist banging on about imperialism and the main enemy being at home then obviously not.

  53. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I also believe that the main enemy is at home in a NATO imperialist country. Does not mean that I don’t support the Syrian uprising though. I don’t think someone’s position on Syria is the sole determining factor in deciding how to vote anyway. I will reserve judgement on this until i know what is happening and what the important issues in the election are.

  54. redscribe

    March 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Although actually his position on this previously was not too bad

  55. Binh

    March 7, 2012 at 5:17 am

    The issues involved go back to Libya and the rest of the Arab Spring, as I outlined earlier here:

    Instead of “total opposition to intervention,” the socialist left internationally should focus on “intervening” from below, marching on Syrian embassies, organizing food/aid/weapons/water to get into places like Homs. The left’s response today leads me to believe that if the Spanish Civil War happened today most of our comrades would be against arming the republic much less sending volunteers.

    The main enemy for revolutionary Syrians is in Damascus, not Washington, D.C. That may change in the future, but to win in the present we have to act against today’s enemy while preparing for tomorrow’s.

  56. redscribe

    March 7, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Here is a comment that I put on Louis Proyect’s blog, for people’s information:

    This is actually very worthwhile stuff: its good that people are grappling with how to relate to this situation without obviously falling into two great big elephant traps that loom in front of the left over this issue.

    Trap number one has already claimed those who are basically defending the Assad regime against its own people or even in some cases cheering for the regime in a particularly grotesque manner. The rationale for this in most cases is utter unbelief that any mass action such as this could have a progressive direction without being bureaucratically led by some formation that conforms to a particular kind of sterile, highly controlled paradigm. Such people don’t rule out support for an popular revolt such as this in theory, but when it is against this particular regime, the only (fading) remaining ‘anti-imperialist’ regime in the Arab world, then the sounds of knees jerking into line is deafening.

    Trap number two of course as mentioned above is to cheer for US missiles when they start to be fired, or demand military intervention. I think the non-Stalinist, anti-imperialist left is coming under enormous pressure to do this and it must be resisted at all costs even if it does result in anger and accusations of betrayal from supporters of the uprising who have no worked out approach to Western imperialism, or who don’t accept that whole concept.

    If we capitulate on that, we end up de-facto joining the so-called ‘decent left’, since if opposition to imperialist intervention ceases to be a principle it becomes purely a matter of pragmatism and what may be gained by supporting it. That is a slippery slope indeed and leads where Hitchens went.

    These are twin roads to different hells, and we have to avoid both. One way to avoid it, though I admit it is still a bit abstract, is spelled out in my article Imperialist Hands off the Syrian Revolution which has also had some level of discussion on some of these questions.This fleshes out the fact that the imperialists evidently have developed something of a counter-revolutionary strategy aimed at undermining the Arab revolution as a whole. In brief, their aim is to refurbish some authority in the Middle East by turning the pan-Arab revolution into a crusade to overthrow their traditional enemies, the ‘radical’ regimes such as Syria and Libya (maybe with some knock on further afield outside the Arab sphere proper, i.e. Iran) while using the whole exercise to refurbish their own friendly regimes and give them a ‘democratic’ facelift.

    But that the way to counter that is not what the various Stalinists are doing and criminally betraying the masses by backing Assad’s butchery, as have the denizens of that sad Stalinoid nest of vipers called ‘Socialist Unity’ in the UK.

    Rather it is by propagating the need for pan-Arab revolution, by pushing the regional dimension of this, against the Balkanisation that is a key part of the root cause of all these despotisms including the ‘radical’ ones, and trying to promote the need for that unifying idea and perspective as part of what solidarity work the left is able to do with Syria and elsewhere in the Arab spring.

  57. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 9:35 am

    `I also believe that the main enemy is at home in a NATO imperialist country.’

    Yes, the main enemy is always at home if you live in an imperialist centre but it is not the most immediate enemy in this case. That honour is reserved for Assad and we should not allow Stalinism to misue this slogan. Emphasising `anti-imperialism’ over support for Homs and the Syrian revolt at this time is anti-revolutionism and support for Assad’s bloodbath and the one proposed by Gadaffi for Benghazi.

  58. redscribe

    March 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

    But that’s exactly the point, to use it properly, not to misuse it. Misusing it is to use to justify supporting the suppression of the uprising. Using it properly is to use it to warn about the counter-revolutionary strategy of imperialism and to oppose that strategy being put into effect.

    if the genuine anti-imperialist, pro-uprising left do not use it properly, i.e. keep quiet about it, then the only people who will be able to claim to be putting that elementary principle into operation are those who are misusing it to support Assad. That is to hand them a political gift they do not deserve.

  59. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I start from the position of supporting the Arab Spring and have never handed any political gift to the pro-Assad scum so don’t pretend I’ve said things I haven’t. I’ve been very consistent. A bit of imperialist intervention requested or otherwise isn’t going to divert me from suport for the Arab Spring but I have warned from the beginning of the self-serving nature of imperialism and its congenital inability to act out of humanitarian impulse except when it suits and the dangers it could and will present to the revolution but the revolution if we support it has the right to seek assistance from wherever. If we feel that `support’ is so substantial as to have altered the nature of events then we take another look. As Trotsky asked would it have been appropriate for striking German dockers in imperial Nazi Germany not to lift their blockade to allow the shipping of arms to India to assist a national democratic struggle against British colonial rule because it suited the German Nazi imperialists.

  60. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I note that SU has yet to post anything about Galloway’s possible candidacy for Respect in Bradford so fingers crossed he has fallen out with the Stalinists and Swappies over their support for Gadaffi and Assad and their vile opposition to the Arab Spring. If that is the case will you be asking TUSC to support his candidacy or are you worried that there are too many pro-Assad Stalinists in TUSC who won’t like it if you do.

  61. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    `That is to hand them a political gift they do not deserve.’

    By far the biggest gifts being handed out at the momvent are by the pro-Assad ultra anti imperialists to the `decsents’. That is the major issue.

  62. redscribe

    March 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Of course that is true. But I am not talking about the nature of the uprising, I am talking about the need to take a clear position of opposing UN or imperialist intervention. If we don’t do that, then the only people doing that are the Assad supporters. My position has always been: yes to the uprising, no to imperialist intervention as the article above says. Same over Libya. Read my stuff on Libya earlier. Same position.

    As to George, I will wait to see what he says before I express any opinion. And Syria is not the only issue that matters in that anyway.

  63. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    `I am talking about the need to take a clear position of opposing UN or imperialist intervention.

    I’m sorry but this is where you tip over into the SWP position and become a Stalinist apologist. The clear need is to support the Syrian uprising and oppose the slaughter at Homs.

    `Yes to the uprising no to the intervention’ is not good enough. If there was any sort of intervention we would have to judge it concretely as we did in Libya where the imperialist intervention certainly did not turn me into an enemy of the Libyan revolt and the Arab Spring. The Libyan masses were entitled to take advantage of it.

  64. redscribe

    March 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Well, I simply think you are wrong on this. Read my stuff on Libya.

  65. David Ellis

    March 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Oh by the way we have already had imperialist intervention in Syria: the Russians who vetoed the UN resolution and gave Assad the green light.

    I think you are wrong Red and have capitulated to the Stalinists on this one. Nobody’s calling for imperialist intervention but if it happens it has to be judged concretely before we start saying `go on then Assad kill as many as you like because the main danger is far more important than the immediate danger’.

  66. sanculottist

    March 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    The evidence would appear to suggest that none of us knows very much about what is actually happening in Syria. Perhaps. because the Syrian government doesn’t want us to know, but most certainly because we are being fed daily drivel of the worst sort by our manufactures of consent, including, ‘Al Jazerra’.

    ‘Al Jazerra’ has in the past done some good work and they still do some good stuff, watch their documentary on Abdel al-Megrahi (, but they are most certainly pushing the GCC-Saudi Sunni boys’ agenda when it comes to the ‘Arab Spring’ in general, and to Libya and Syria in particular. Strange how Bahrain has almost disappeared from the mainstream news, isn’t it?
    My problem with Syria, and it is no doubt a problem that most of the people commenting here share, is that. while Assad’s regime is corrupt and vicious, who stands to gain most by destabilising the country? Remembering, of course, that it is Iran’s only ally – excepting the Hezbollah — in the region.

    Finally, having lived in China for five years and most likely going back to live there for at least another couple, I find the inference to “Chinese Stalinism” at best based on a premises that is seriously flawed. Unless, of course, your idea of “Stalinism” is to be found in the last lines of Orwell’s. ‘Animal Farm’:
    “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

    Deng Xiapeng’s “”Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which was ushered in by the third session of the Party’s eleventh Central Committee in 1979, could only culminate in Tiananmen Square” and Naomi Klein’s “Disaster Capitalism’. On the other hand, Stalin, mad bastard that he was, was never a “capitalist roader”.

    The Chinese are quite simply interested in Syria because it is geopoltically expedient to be so. Human rights, here, human rights there; concern them just about as much as they do Hillary and David, and Barack, and Benjiman, and the rest of the crazies …… the oil wars have started.

    Finally, apropos ‘Stalin vs Trotsky’, well, I prefer Camus to Sartre and, to be honest, “socialism in one country* on this small planet was an oxymoron from the outset. However, I am in my fifties and the problem with Trotskyists in my experience is a simple one ….. they tend to drink too much. I remember reading in Trotsky’s writings of a time when he was granted political asylum in Germany to have an operation there …. and how he praises that glass of good German beer he had, his “first beer in ten years, he says. My two best Trotskyist mates never went more than ten hours without alcohol, which is not to suggest, of course, that Trotskyists have a monopoly on alcoholism. …. and on having monopolies …… everyone should be working together on this one; the odds are shortening every day on them attacking Iran.

  67. sanculottist

    March 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Still, interesting to see that this blog supports Atzmon and Greenstein, and the CPGB and SWP.

  68. David Ellis

    March 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I see there is plenty in this week’s Weekly Worker about the StWC conference except, unfortunately, the juice. They don’t mention the wretched SWP motion that united them and the Stalinists behind the Assad bloodbath by qualifying their support for the people of Homs by insisting on prioritising and including the anti-imperialist crap. They also make their own similar qualification of their opposition to any war on Iran which mirrors the SWP’s own villainy. We must oppose any war but (qualifier) we must also call for the overthrow of the regime. There is no need for a qualifier in any instance. The SWP’s puts them on the side of the Assad butchery and the CPGB’ them on the side of imperialism. That is not to say that it isn’t actually a matter of extreme urgency that the Iranian working class rid themselves of the theocracy and that imperialist intervention in Syria would ultimately be self-serving however it is couched.

    The other error they make is the way they opposed the truly grotesque resolution saying that imperialism intervention to ostensibly prevent the slaughter of civilians should be opposed on the grounds of cost. They skirt around the issue without ever saying that it would be the most degenerate Stalinist disease to have opposed the prevention of Gadaffi’s proposed flattening of Benghazi and the murder of thousands and thousands on the grounds of cost. The Stalinist filth of StWC are now planning an entire conference dedicated to this theme. Truly these usurpers are the problem and not the solution.

  69. voltairepaine

    March 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

    ” Russia and China’s relationship with Assad and Qadaafi was actually at the fringes of this. Yes, these regimes need or needed to be overthrown along with all the rest. But that is the point – along with all the rest. Not instead of all the rest. These ‘radical’ regimes are or were certainly vile, but they were at the fringe of the system of Balkanisation. They were the pariahs, whose despotisms had broken some of the unwritten rules – usually about failing to capitulate to Israel – and had to seek other allies as a result of being frozen out by the West.”

    No. Completely wrong on every point.

    First of all, there is no system of Balkanisation. A ‘system’ implies a premeditated set of ideas and policies designed to govern or keep something flowing. There was never any ‘system’ of this so-called ‘Balkanisation’. Your analysis stems from a belief in the myth of a once untied Arab world. The Arabic speaking world was never united. The idea that the Sykes-Picot agreement somehow divided a united homogeneous Near East is a myth. It’s demagoguery at it’s filthiest. A nationalist myth propagated by corrupt criminal dictators as a way of justifying and maintaining their reign of terror over subjugated masses; to shift attention away from the miserable existence of oppressed peoples; to shift attention away from the fact that these regimes have brought about these miserable existences through state-sponsored genocides, routine death threats and institutionalized corruption.

    You speak of these regimes as being,

    ” pariahs, whose despotisms had broken some of the unwritten rules – usually about failing to capitulate to Israel – and had to seek other allies as a result of being frozen out by the West.”

    Far from it. Again, the Israel excuse is just another phony concern used by these criminal organizations/regimes designed to appeal to the Arab street and maintain their mafia states. The fact that you actually buy into their phony narrative is worrying.

    Finally, the sooner you accept reality of China and Russia being imperialistic powers, the clearer your thought process on the Syrian revolution and the Arab Spring will be.

    Something to keep in mind: Israeli political advisers have over the years expressed their preference towards the Assad regime next door, in contrast to the the unknown policies of a potentially democratic Syria. I’m not sure if you know this, but the Assad regime marched into Lebanon in 1976, with full backing from Washington, and crushed the PLO.
    Even over this past month, Israel has managed to soften American rhetoric against the Assad regime. As usual, Israel’s fear of an uncertain future with a new Syrian government has meant that they (Israeli policy makers) would rather have a dictatorship killing its own people next door, so long as this dictatorship poses no harm to Israel. And as usual, Mr. President uncle Sam has to tow Israel’s Middle East priorities.

  70. redscribe

    March 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    There are two main points in this. First, regarding Russia and China being ‘imperialist’ powers in their own right, and qualitatively the same as the US. Russia in fact is still considerably weaker in world terms than it was when it was the core of the USSR, and its international interests largely are simply an inheritance of old alliances from the Soviet period. There have, to my knowledge, been no instances of Russia acting as a counterposed world power to the Western Alliance and attempting to politically and financially annexe Western client states to themselves. Russian capitalism is far too weak for that.

    In fact in GDP it is below India, and considerably lower than that of Britain, which is the most decrepit of the imperialist powers and whose role is largely that of a lackey of the US in international relations, in return for protection of its former colonial economic interests, as Britain no longer has the strength for that,

    China is in a much stronger economic position than Russia, and there are some indications that it is at a very early stage of beginning to bring its military reach into line with its potential economic reach. China is certainly challenging the US for first place in the world economic order, and may at some point begin to project military power to reflect that. There have been stories of the Chinese navy seeking a base in the Seychelles, for instance, though this is disputed and not clear. But in terms of its role over Syria, that is not an indication of such a position, but rather in tandem with Russia simply a conservative position of seeking to maintain old alliances from the Cold War.

    I strongly disagree that there is not a system of Balkanisation. This phenomenon in fact exists in much of the world, throughout Africa and Asia, with basically unitary peoples fragmented into separate states on the one hand, and diverse peoples with different national aspirations forced together into unstable, artificial states on the other with the resultant oppression and permanent instability. Corrupt elites generally rule these states, and often engage in predatory blood feuds with each other while uniting when there is a threat to them from below. These phenomena, of unviable, ‘Balkanised’ states exist all over Africa, in Asia, and they are almost always creations of colonialism. Very rarely have any of these ruling class elites even been able to transcend the old colonial boundaries – and indeed very few have tried. One case where this was tried was the United Arab Republic in the late 1950s early 1960s, in fact the current Ba’athist dictatorship in Syria was built out of the defeat of that.

    A perfect example of how Balkanisation works was the 1991 Gulf war. Kuwait has no legitimacy as a state whatsoever, the majority of its population at the time of the Iraqi invasion were immigrant workers slaving for the benefit of a oil-rich hereditary ruling class that kept citizenship very exclusive indeed. To the point that there was a joke at the time that Kuwait was simply an oil-well pretending to be a state. Saddam had been the among US’ most favoured allies in the region, to the point that the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark in 1988 was overlooked by the US in a similar way to the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in the six-day war. But as soon as he laid a hand on Kuwait, in a conflict triggered off by the Kuwaiti ruling class blatantly stealing Iraqi oil by siphoning it off from Iraqi oilfields. the US put together a coalition of all the defenders of the balkanisation. Including the Syrian Ba’athists to cut Iraq down to size and maintain the balkanised order.

    Incidentally, why is it at all surprising that Israel is uneasy about revolution in Syria? Nothing about that contradicts anything I have written. They were not too keen on revolution in Egypt either. And a revolutionary movement that aimed not only to tear down individual rulers, but also to unify the Arab peoples in a much more thoroughgoing struggle for democracy and Arab unification, would give the Israeli rulers a good deal more to worry about.

    There is a cultural-linguistic unity of the Arab world,which makes a united, though most probably federal, Arab entity a real and viable possibility. It could be the basis of a real struggle for democracy and national unification against all the despotisms, and in the best period of Arab secular nationalism it briefly emerged as a goal to fight for before the regimes involved abandoned it.They abandoned it because they were afraid of where it might lead in terms of a real unification of the people and thus potentially a threat to corrupt despotism.

    The idea that this conception ‘justifies’ or ‘excuses’ dictators is belied by the fact that none of these dictators advocates anything of the sort. It could however, be a lever to sweep them away.

  71. voltairepaine

    March 14, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Everything you’ve mentioned about Russia and China is neither here nor there. The fact remains that their foreign policies are exploitative, perpetuate the misery of oppressed populations in the developing world, and use military force OR the direct sale of arms to despots in order to maintain and expand their selfish global empires. e.g Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC, more and more in Africa, Burma, Tibet etc etc etc And even small Iran has its little Shiaa empire with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the current Iraqi government. So, as a Levantine, who are my enemies? They are: The Syrian regime first and foremost, and then everyone else who supports it. Wasting time talking about ‘American Imperialism’ merely gets in the way of our revolution and is being continuously used to legitimize criminal organization regimes such as Assad’s and formerly Gaddafi’s.

    I mentioned the Israel detail to see what your genuine stance was on the Syrian regime. I am sure you are aware of this ludicrously naive BS that some of the reactionary segments of the British Left buy into. i.e that the Syrian revolution and the Arab Spring in general are an American-Israeli-Salafist conspiracy designed to pave the way for their domination of the Arab world. Being aware of Israel’s stance here certainly drills a few holes in this conspiracy theory.

  72. redscribe

    March 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Except that the Syrian revolution does not exist in isolation. What about the revolution in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan, etc etc? Your suggestion that American imperialism is irrelevant only works if you narrow the revolution down to the framework of the existing states. But without the successful uprisings in first Tunisia, and then Egypt, it is likely that the uprisings in Libya and Syria would either not have taken place at all or not found enough support before being crushed to destabilise those regimes. This is a region-wide revolutionary wave that threatens far more despotic regimes than that in Syria, most of which are allies of US imperialism, not Russia or China. The US imperialists and their allies such as Britain have a strategy to defeat that revolutionary wave, not by repression – which simply will not work – but by turning the revolutionary wave into a crusade against the ‘radical’ regimes that imperialism dislikes, and thereby refurbishing their own preferred regimes. To say that this is of no concern of pro-democracy protesters in Syria is simply the narrowest of petty nationalism, and counter-productive even from the point of view of the uprising in Syria. It accepts the framework of the state barriers that the imperialists created and from which the despotisms – all of them – derive what strength they have.

  73. voltairepaine

    March 15, 2012 at 2:57 am

    ”Except that the Syrian revolution does not exist in isolation.”

    It’s current manifestation doesn’t exist in isolation. It was inspired. But its source does. It’s been there for the past four decades.

    ”This is a region-wide revolutionary wave that threatens far more despotic regimes than that in Syria…”,

    Correct. This is precisely why the repressive authoritarian regimes of Putin and China are scared. They feel threatened by this popular revolutionary wave taking place in one segment of the globe that is rising up against brutal states.

    ”…most of which are allies of US imperialism, not Russia or China”

    No. You are wrong. First of all, Russia and China are also authoritarian regimes. Secondly, the Arab world dictatorships ally themselves with whoever backs them. Gaddafi, Assad junior and senior, Saddam Hussein had all enjoyed backing from the USA as well as backing from Russia and China at different times (which you persistently deny and ignore). Your dated world view is blinding you to the realities of the Arab world. You have trouble accepting that Russian and Chinese foreign policies are repulsively exploitative and imperialist. To say that ”most” are allies of US imperialism is simplistic at best. What about Omar Al Bashir in Sudan?

    ” The US imperialists and their allies such as Britain have a strategy to defeat that revolutionary wave… but by turning the revolutionary wave into a crusade against the ‘radical’ regimes that imperialism dislikes”.

    Again, you are showing an outdated world view that is persistently out of touch with reality. You seem to equate ‘imperialism’ as exclusively ‘American’. And equally as naïve, you seem to believe that these repulsive regimes are those that ‘imperialism dislikes’?? First of all, these regimes have no political or social ideology. They are merely a clique of corrupt army generals who succeeded in forming criminal organizations that hid behind ‘ideas’ and slogans as a form of demagogical décor. Believing that they are ‘anti-imperialist’ is incredibly naïve and dangerous. It is dangerous because it plays into the phoney narratives that these very regimes have fabricated and leads to their legitimization- a tactic they have been playing for years. But to go back to your first statement about Imperialism being exclusively American: This is the problem I have with your stance on the Arab Spring as a whole. All your energy is focused on resisting ‘American Imperialism’. Russia and China veto UN security council resolutions purely out of selfish concerns for maintaining their lucrative arms deals and attempting to suppress and slow down the revolutionary wave before it reaches them at home, and all you talk about is how WE of the Arab world are supposed to resist this so called ‘American Imperialism.’ I don’t see any American Imperialism selling arms to Assad’s regime. I don’t even see American arms in the hands of the Free Syria Army (although I wish they had some). What I see is a genocide taking place in Syria with Assad’s criminals using Russian guns. What I hear is the Free Syria Army on their knees desperately asking for arms and military backing from anyone willing to help, and the Syrian National Council requesting, ”Immediate military intervention”. Instead we have ageing self-righteous Leftist circles in the UK telling us Near Easterners how to think and how to act.

    I’m sorry, but you really need to show a bit of humility and at least try to understand the Near Eastern perspective on this before deciding to lecture indigenous Levantines on our own history and how we are supposed to act and feel. Governments are procrastinating, Western Leftist circles are preaching, Putin’s doing business as usual, and the Syrians are dying. I’m Lebanese-Palestinian. I don’t need you to tell me about the USA. If anyone here is being counterproductive, it’s you. Thanks for your support.

  74. David Ellis

    March 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Unlikely this will get past the Stalinist censors that run `Andy Newman is a Stalinist Shit’ Unity:

    `George, perhaps judiciously, does not mention the Arab Spring. I agree with his unconditional opposition to war on Iran and his call for the West to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq and of course his support for the Palestinians but I would need to know that he wasn’t going to go around apologising for Assad or mourning Gadaffi but giving unconditional support for the Arab Spring in all its seperate geographical manifestations without hiding his support for any of the dictators behind a pseudo anti-imperialism. If he does that then good luck to him. If not I think it will be difficult for progressive people to support his candidacy.’

  75. redscribe

    March 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm


    “No. You are wrong. First of all, Russia and China are also authoritarian regimes. Secondly, the Arab world dictatorships ally themselves with whoever backs them. Gaddafi, Assad junior and senior, Saddam Hussein had all enjoyed backing from the USA as well as backing from Russia and China at different times (which you persistently deny and ignore). Your dated world view is blinding you to the realities of the Arab world. You have trouble accepting that Russian and Chinese foreign policies are repulsively exploitative and imperialist. To say that ”most” are allies of US imperialism is simplistic at best. What about Omar Al Bashir in Sudan?”

    Not every kind of bad regime that ever existed is imperialist. If you take that view, you might as well say that all the despotic regimes anywhere in the world are ‘imperialist’. I’m fully aware that China and Russia have regimes that are appalling in many ways, but (1) they are not even fundamentally the same as each other, and (2) not the same, likewise in fundamental terms, as the regimes they support in the Middle East or anywhere.

    The idea that the only thing that matters is overthrowing every ‘despotic’ regime, and that differences between the various regimes and their varying sponsors and opponents or whatever really don’t matter very much, is naive. If all that is needed to get rid of despotism, then why do so many regimes that come about through the overthrow of ‘despotism’ end up being despotic themselves? If is all very well to cheer for what is happening in Syria, but passing references to Iran for instance should remind us that the Islamic Republic was created out of a revolutionary mass movement that was every bit as historically enormous as any of the upheavals that we have seen today. Possibly more so, if you remember that that mass movement did not have help from anywhere else at the time.

    Strategy, and that means understanding precisely what social forces are operating both locally and globally, what their real driving forces are, and the limits and otherwise of both their aspirations and capabilities, is essential for any revolutionary movement.

    This point about solidarity between despotisms is true, but if you confine yourself to that you don’t get very far. This ‘solidarity’ is essentially conservative and defensive – again a relic of the Cold War. Imperialism, on the other hand, is certainly not conservative and defensive, it is a force that aims to bend the world to its own objectives. There is an imperialist project to kill the Arab revolutions with kindness in effect, to redirect them against the West’s enemies in the region. It is true that Iraq, Syria and Libya had support from the West at times as well as its cold war adversaries,, when it suited them to use these regimes against someone else (Iran, Iraq and Al Qaeda respectively) but the real antipathy was always present even then.

    The way things are developing at the moment with the Arab revolutions and the imperialist intervention bring to mind the old saying that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Revolutionary events that shook up despotisms around the region are being diverted into a war of some despotisms, supposedly supporting ‘human rights’ (don’t laugh when you hear the Saudi king talk of that!) against others, the West’s traditional enemies.

    That does not mean that the left should support Assad as the idiot Stalinists do. Rather we should advocate, along with any like-minded democrats and socialists, a spreading of the revolutionary wave including if possible to Russia and China. But lets not close our eyes to the fact that the Western powers have come up with a strategy to tame this revolutionary wave, and for the moment it is showing signs that it may succeed.

  76. voltairepaine

    March 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Russia and China are imperialist. Your persistent denial of this- or perhaps genuine inability to see it- tells me that you are grossly out of touch with reality. Perhaps this is understandable given that you have no strong connection to anywhere in Asia, the Arab world or Arfica. This would also explain your ignorance of Iranian imperial ambition -given your disconnection from the Middle East- especially with regards to Lebanon and Iraq.

    ”Imperialism… is a force that aims to bend the world to its own objectives. There is an imperialist project to kill the Arab revolutions”

    You are right in this statement. But you’re wrong in the powers you are implying. Yes, there is an imperialist aim to kill the Arab Spring. It’s coming from Russia, China and Iran.

    ”with kindness in effect, to redirect them against the West’s enemies in the region.”

    This is in no way as scheming as you make it out to be. Actually, it’s not at all the situation. Popular Arab opposition to despots backed by Russia, China and Iran is not a consequence of American or any other ‘Western” policy, if this is what you’re implying. This ”re-direction” you speak of isn’t needed. Popular opposition to some of the ”West’s” enemies in the region is an indigenous and natural reaction to brutal regimes. It grew out of living under these regimes. No American or Western involvement instigated this popular sentiment. Furthermore, regimes which were considered as stable friends to the ”West’, such as Egypt’s and Tunisia’s, were met with opposition of which were largely made up of youthful activists. Many of these activists had received training from Washington-funded organization’s such as the National Endowment for Democracy. The work done by NED actually empowered the opposition movements against Mubarak and Ben Ali- two dictators with good relations to the USA. People will mistakenly claim that organizations such as NED are instruments of US imperialism. But the reality is that NED helped strengthen movements that went against US-friendly dictators. What all authoritarian regimes have in common is their fear of organizations that promote democracy. This is true for both US-friendly dictators as well as the Sino-Russian-Iranian-backed despots.

    Our debate stemmed out of my first post in which I argued that the world view of certain socialist circles in the UK had become outdated due to their mistaken belief that we still live in a world in which we are supposed to prioritize a struggle against ‘Western Imperialism’. I then stated that actually- in contrast to this outdated world view- we are actually living in a time of multi-polar imperialism, and that British socialists would do better ” to listen to the Arab street rather than masturbating on their own outdated world view,” because it is precisely this outdated world view that is getting in the way of our revolutions as it plays into the hands of despots and legitimizes their self-proclaimed right to rule.

    Masturbation is an appropriate term to use. Rather than choosing to understand the people, and the realities experienced by these people from further afield, a core of British socialists instead choose to self-gratify their own intellectual egos, taking pleasure in lecturing Middle Easterners on what their priorities ought to be and how to make sense of the world around them.

    You’ve never had to live through or experience the affects that Russian, Chinese, Iranian or Syrian policies have had/are having in the Near East and wider Arab world. The best thing you could do in the UK would be to listen more to Near Easterners and peoples who have escaped from these places, including people from Tibet, Chechnya, Ukraine etc. Listen more, and lecture less.

  77. redscribe

    March 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Voltairespaine definition of imperialism is simply the one used by Cold War politicians who used to denounce ‘Russian imperialism’. I’m quite sure its also the kind of rationale that will be given in the case of Iran to justify war against that country when the time is right for either Israel, or the US, or both, to attack.

    Actually, Hizbullah is not a produce of Iranian ‘imperialism’ at all, but of an Israeli blitzkreig in 1982 that radicalised a large section of Lebanese shia that were previously rather politically passive. That came in the aftermath of a massive popular revolution in Iran that really did see millions on the street tearing down a police state regime every bit as brutal as Assad’s without any help from outside. That revolution produced a rather less than democratic outcome, which should be enough to remind people that simply cheering for what the mass of the people want at a particular time is not always the wisest thing to do.

    As to Iraq, Iran’s gains there in terms of allies and influence were simply the result of the imperialists destroying the previous regime and the Shi’ite majority gaining some of the influence their status as the majority made logical, having being previously almost completely excluded from power and influence.

    “Popular Arab opposition to despots backed by Russia, China and Iran is not a consequence of American or any other ‘Western” policy, if this is what you’re implying.”

    Actually, its not what I was ‘implying’. If I thought that, I would not imply it, I would say it outright.

    “Many of these activists had received training from Washington-funded organization’s such as the National Endowment for Democracy. The work done by NED actually empowered the opposition movements against Mubarak and Ben Ali- two dictators with good relations to the USA. People will mistakenly claim that organizations such as NED are instruments of US imperialism. But the reality is that NED helped strengthen movements that went against US-friendly dictators. What all authoritarian regimes have in common is their fear of organizations that promote democracy. This is true for both US-friendly dictators as well as the Sino-Russian-Iranian-backed despots.”

    That is very interesting. It may be that the NED’s promotion of ‘democracy’ backfired in these instances against the West’s own favoured dictators, if that is accurate. Whether the NED had quite the influence stated here is not clear, though. All kinds of unforseen consquences can result from imperialist meddling, and they are not always to the liking of those who initiate them. But the NED is indeed a tool of Western imperialism, and many in the past who have benefitted from its ‘advice’ have had cause to regret it. When it promotes ‘democracy’, neo-liberal shock-treatments and the like are not usually far behind.

    I’ve heard talk of socialist ideas being ‘outdated’ over and over again since I’ve been involved in politics. They have never impressed me before, and they dont now, even if they are spiced up with crude metaphors about ‘masturbation’.

    voltairepaine evidently at some level has illusions in the West as a promoter of democracy. I’m sure that his views are shared by quite a few people involved in the Arab spring uprisings, but I very much doubt that they are universally held. It would be a mistake for the left to simply write off people who hold such views as reactionary or pro-imperialist per se, because no real revolutionary mass movement is ever going to be ‘pure’ and free from illusions of many different kinds.

    But revolutionary socialists have a job to do, and that is to analyse reality without going along with the illusions of the day. And if you try to do that, you cannot please everyone.

  78. David Ellis

    March 19, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Since the collpase of the Soviet Union Russia has reverted to a major imperial power in its neck of the woods. China is still a very backward economy and is in fact a deformed workers’ state. The Chinese chauvinist bureaucracy is a racist and patronising towards other nationalities as any imperialist would be but economically and politically China is no world power. In fact the last thing around which imperialism will unite before finally ripping itself to bits may well be the military dismembering of China.

  79. David Ellis

    March 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

    There is a huge rebellion growing in China against the greedy and usurping bureaucracy so it is important for socialists to know what kind of state this rebellion is up against or we may well end up tail ending sections of the bureaucracy and burgeoning middle class in a war against the workers as happened in Russia.

    As for Iran, it is no imperial power. The fascistic/feudal Theocracy head an ultra-conservative very inward looking semi-colonial state. More than anything it wants to be left alone which is not a feature of imperialism which constantly seeks to upset the staus quo.

  80. sanculottist

    March 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    “China is a deformed workers state”; where did you get that one from? The whole concept of the “Chinese way to socialism” was absurd from the very beginning. Nevertheless, to some degree, “Tiananmen Square” was a last attempt to hang onto the “iron rice bowl” before Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalists” won the day.

    The unfortunate thing is that if Bo Xilai’s removal and Wang Yang’s promotion might indicate the possibility of real change, after the 18th party congress in the autumn, any real transparency in the party and any real reform, will lead not only to the party itself being under serious attack – richard mcgregor’s “the party” is essential reading – , but also to social tensions which Washington, in particular, will wish to exploit.

    If Naomi Klein saw 1989 as the cementing of “disaster capitalism” in China, and you appear to agree with her at least in part, just watch when the disaster capitalists of the west move in. The last thing the west wants is a China where a sustainable economy and civil society can develop.

    We might await the 18th party congress and the coming decade with bated breath and by the time they make the ph 2.5 and ozon values available to the general public at the latest, we can expect real dissent on the streets of China’s megacities.

  81. voltairepaine

    March 22, 2012 at 3:24 am

    ”Voltairespaine definition of imperialism is simply the one used by Cold War politicians who used to denounce ‘Russian imperialism’.”

    My definition of what makes a power imperialist is based on awareness and understanding the world today. It’s about accepting reality. Your definition of imperialism is ‘the West’.

    ”Actually, Hizbullah is not a produce of Iranian ‘imperialism’ at all, but of an Israeli blitzkreig in 1982 that radicalised a large section of Lebanese shia that were previously rather politically passive.”

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.
    The Shiaa elite had both exploited and neglected their community for decades prior to the start of Lebanon’s civil war. The result of this manifested itself into a rapidly growing, impoverished and resentful rural Shiaa community. With the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini and the re-emergence of political Shiaa Islam as a regional power, it was only natural that Lebanese Shiaa saw in the Islamic Republic a nourishing mother that was ready to reach out to them. Before Hezbollah even existed, Lebanese Shiaa members of the AMAL movement, founded by Lebanese-Iranian cleric Mussa Sadr, took to slaughtering Palestinian civilian refugees inhabiting camps in southern Lebanon. Continued Shiaa resentment at the PLO and the Palestinian presence in Southern Lebanon led to numerous breakaway Shiaa militias joining the South Lebanon Army, which was allied to Israel during its war with the PLO. When the Israeli army occupied southern Lebanon on the ground in 1982, Khomeini’s advocates within the Shiaa community stepped up their dealings with Iran. Hezbollah was an Iranian project. Funds, arms and training from Iran’s revolutionary Guard corps filtered through to Lebanese Shiaa militants. It was a resistance to an extended Israeli occupation, yes, but equally, it was the empowerment of the Shiaa community and their status as a sect in Lebanon, backed by ‘Al Fakih’ (the Shiaa supreme leader and direct representative of God on earth). Hezbollah was a materialization of Ayatollah Khomeini’s dreams of exporting the Islamic Revolution. On a more grounded level, it was about expanding the re-born Shiaa empire. Lebanese Hezbollah members will tell you this themselves. They’re proud to be part of it. Khomeini’s war with Iraq was also about exporting the Islamic revolution. It failed back then, but Iran’s aims haven’t changed today. This spiritual concept of ‘exporting revolution’ in reality amounts to Iranian military expansion and the securing of a regional status-quo that is protecting the Assad regime. Hezbollah stand by their allies in the Assad regime in Syria. They have been responsible for the killing and intimidation of Lebanese democracy activists in opposition to the Syrian regime during its occupation of Lebanon throughout the 90s. Hezbollah militia men were even in Syria during the early stages of the Syrian revolution. If you don’t consider this to be imperialism, well, you may continue to live in la la land.

    ” But the NED is indeed a tool of Western imperialism, and many in the past who have benefitted from its ‘advice’ have had cause to regret it. When it promotes ‘democracy’, neo-liberal shock-treatments and the like are not usually far behind. ”

    Are you against democracy and human rights ? Why do you associate neo-liberalism with democracy ? Haven’t you heard of something called social democracy ? Again, part of my problem with the outdated segments of leftist groups in the UK, is their complete rubbishing of democracy and human rights.

    ”voltairepaine evidently at some level has illusions in the West as a promoter of democracy.”

    I don’t really believe in the term ‘West’ first of all. Again, this is from the vocabulary of your outdated world view.
    Democracy as an education and an upbringing is the most humane education we can have in a globalized world. To educate in democratic humanism is a virtue. If you concede that NED’s effects have been positive, this means we have something in common at least.


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