Manuel Barrera, PhD, North Star

As I write, I am hearing the gunfire and shelling in Damascus as fighters in the Free Syrian Army take the fight to Assad, gaining ground, but more importantly, gaining ever more support from the people and within Assad’s crumbling, but likely still quite lethal, army.

As more soldiers and military officers begin to defect, what remains of the “armed body of men” becomes ever-more distilled into the forces of thuggery and murder that will stand with a despot and his hated regime. A civil war is rapidly becoming a revolution, a challenge for power.

As we debate here the merits of aiding the Syrian revolution — solidarity without U.S./NATO intervention, solidarity with different nuances of support for such military aid — the Syrian people are weighing in on our deliberations and their actions are speaking loudly and clearly: we will not stop until the murderer Assad is brought down!

Although the question of working class power has yet to be posed, the question of what side revolutionaries outside of Syria should take is posed (our comrades inside of Syria have already answered the call). Right now, in Damascus, on its streets, who do we support? Whose banners will we carry in any solidarity actions that may take place (and they already are)? If any guns and bullets, grenades, or food enter Syria—from whatever regime—where should they go?

The dictator is being challenged by the masses in all their points of view—religious, political, working class, or bourgeois — all are saying “no!” to this regime and they are now not just saying ”no”, they are shooting ”no,” bombing “no,” marching ”no,” making “no” a reality.

What will we say?

The Syrian “revolutionary” forces are making a real push and may soon topple Assad; I use quotes around the term “revolutionary” not as a pejorative, but to convey that the forces coalescing to topple the Syrian murderer — just like the Libyan people coalesced to topple their murderer — are truly variegated in their nature and we should be clear that some of these forces are not necessarily revolutionary in their true nature, but at this moment, when the line has been drawn, those forces against the dictator are engaged in a revolutionary process.
It also appears that the capitalist press cannot hide the nature of this revolution or recast it. The imperialists throughout the world, especially in the United States, are placed in a quandary just like when the Egyptian people put them in a quandry when they overthrew Mubarak. I believe a poignant moment was reached this week when President Barack Obama decided to forego — at least overt — direct support to the Syrian opposition signaling a degree, if only for public consumption, of abstention that I am sure they would prefer not to have taken. I cannot claim any real knowledge either of actual U.S. intentions covertly, except to believe they are doing “something” as they always try to do.
The Syrian masses, in their growing bravery and willingness to challenge the Assad regime, have: spurred ever larger elements of the Syrian military — especially soldiers — which, in turn, have spurred the inter-class conflicts within the Syrian military leadership and the Syrian bourgeois “elements”; I am not really sure if there is true split within the Syrian capitalist class, but certainly they have been either forced into opposition or neutralized in the face of Assad’s brutality and the mounting outrage and defiance of the Syrian masses themselves.

In truth, rather than “bullets” and no-fly zones publicly brought into the uprising by imperialism, the outrage and courage of the Syrian masses have

  1. caused the      imperialists to “pause” realizing that this revolution is a “tiger” that      can’t be well pulled by its tail
  2. caused      significant splits within the Syrian military apparatus as it becomes      clearer even to these thugs that Assad is intent on butchering his own      people, and
  3. spurred      the resistance of both revolutionary and broad “opposition” elements to      ever-more boldness.

If there is one important observation I have taken from Binh’s post, it is the reminder that one must take revolutions in their actual context.

I am reminded of my days as an actor and performer. Every play has its script and that script is written not by the actors, but by its authors. However, every actor knows that no matter how well he and his cast mates adhere to a script, every single performance is different and often quite fundamentally different from every other performance. So, too, is what we are seeing on this greatest of world stages: the struggle between oppressor and oppressed. The Egyptian masses — in some ways one of the best “authors” of the Arab Spring — have created a master script.

Indeed, it was such a powerful one that even one of the smallest offshoots, the occupation of Madison, Wisconsin, workers in the State Capitol carried placards and shouted slogans, we “walk like Egyptians”.

But even though this “script” is really just the latest iteration of the battle between worker and oppressor, every other such performance, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia (before Egypt), and, now, Syria, all of these revolutions have been different and will be successful (if not now, eventually) because those actors—the working masses of these countries—have taken that script, made it their own, and have performed with valor, honor, bravery, and magnificence worthy of the history they are writing.

It is incumbent upon each of us revolutionary fighters, rather than to mouth general platitudes whether they be to oppose imperialism at every juncture — true, and correct — or to argue that Lenin could not have made the 1917 revolution without first the German imperialists letting him ride a train — true, and correct enough in its intent. Either such arguments, “no to imperialism at every turn” and “yes, to revolution ‘by any means necessary,’ are platitudes if they are devoid of any true knowledge of facts “on the ground” or merely logical in their correctness absent the performance regardless how true one is to the script.

However, there is one “platitude”, in my view, that must stand and be spoken: our absolute confidence in the revolutionary uprising and organization of the masses, in struggle.

That confidence requires our solidarity. What that means to me is that insofar as it will take imperialist aid – in the hands of the revolutionary forces – to win the battle in Syria, we can support it should that become necessary. However, I submit that what we are seeing right now is that imperialism is simply ineffectual and is, let’s say, having difficulty showing willingness to provide such aid (at least publicly) precisely because of the veritable revolutionary will of the Syrian people. The mass movement has spurred the necessary breakdown of the oppressors and their tools. Imperialists are never interested in a revolution they cannot in some way control. Like in Libya, they will send their aid when it suits their interest and to the people — classes — that will support their designs.

In this moment, when the Syrian masses are on the stage, the imperialists can not edit the script. They will wait for the applause to die down, for the end of the performance, and then try to mold the actors, and the stage, to their will. The degree to which the Syrian revolutionary masses have accomplished a revolution in their own name and have won the majority of a country to their side, they will have learned the all too often difficult lesson that imperialist “friends” were only in it for themselves.

This reality has significant implications, the greatest of which is that the liberation of the Syrian people that can only become complete through a resulting socialist revolution in the context of the broad revolutionary uprising of the Arab Spring. If the Syrian people can overcome Assad (mostly) by their own design, the Arab East will have an example of winning liberation free of their local and international oppressors; an example that was afforded them in Egypt and even somewhat in Libya and now being realized in Syria.

Of secondary, but equal, importance is the example that such bravery and courage brings to the workers and oppressed of the imperialist world; how mass struggle wins, wins with honor, and wins by our unity. This implication must not be lost on any of us who purport to be Marxist and revolutionary: sex (i.e., seduction by imperialism) doesn’t “sell,” courage and unity do.

Third, of minor importance, but still worthy of consideration, are the implications this unfolding of the Syrian people’s resolve have for the so-called revolutionary left. I found the recent post by Syria Freedom Forever in response to Tariq Ali significant in this regard.

However, I also believe all the discussions that have occurred here on The North Star have been given a real gift by the Syrian masses. As much as some of you have railed against the abstractions of the left and how much the sectarian left have railed with equal abstractions, all of these discussions must now turn to the chronicling, and learning from, the prosecution of what was once an uprising, became a civil war, and now is becoming a veritable struggle for power against a despot in the midst of the Arab Spring.

Every revolutionary tendency, from us in The North Star to the Cuban Communist Party must stop, look, and, most importantly, listen to the sound and fury of those so long oppressed.

Finally, I am reminded in watching these events from Egypt-Tunisia-Bahrain through Libya and now Syria and concomitantly reading our posts in response to these events of a speech by Malcolm X. I think it apropos on this The North Star site to end this post with one of his brilliant observations. As I see the Syrian people — Free Syrian Army, the masses in the streets—as they are fighting, and dying, so valiantly, I can’t help but feel what they feel — we “slaves”, wage slaves, oppressed by color, by gender, by existing in countries that the oppressors deem their “plantations” — that it is time for the reckoning and the storm of revolutionary will to overcome tyranny, slavery, and the injustice of our work, sweat, blood, and lives used to provide wealth and power for the slave masters of this world. In talking about the differences between slaves — those “house negroes” and “field negroes” — Malcolm described that in those days:

“If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. … The field Negro was beaten, from morning till night. He lived in a shack, in a hut. He wore cast-off clothes. He hated his master . . .When the house caught on fire, he didn’t try to put it out, that field negro prayed for a wind; for a breeze. When the master got sick, the field negro prayed that he died. If someone come to the field Negro and said ‘Let’s separate, let’s run.’ He didn’t say ‘Where we going?,’ he said ‘Any place is better than here!’.”

I am sitting here watching the Syrian people fighting for freedom — fighting for me.

I am praying for a wind.