As events as such write the modern world history, all revolutionary movements need to process the information available, discuss and come to conclusions and eventually choose sides and fight without failing to take the context of this historical reality into account.
The text on hand does not set out to provide an exhaustive historical narrative. Yet, it does set out to open a discussion that will look into all the critical issues raised. Also, our aim is to turn our ideas into action, thus we choose to go against the widespread inertia that surrounds the subject matter.
A historical period as such requires much more than a mere theoretical analysis. As the hotbed of war keeps spreading and is now reaching Europe, it is urgent that we create an anti-war movement which will fight for and demand an end to the international military interventions, put forward ideas on horizontal self-organization, empower the oppressed and ultimately stand up against the rise of totalitarianism.
We know well that we can achieve nothing and nothing will be spared for us unless we fight at all levels and to all directions in order to intensify and expand our horizontal, grass-roots self- organization.
For the war against state and capitalism.
Korudallos prison, November 2016
The uprising in Syria, following that in Bahrain (which was drowned in blood by Saudi Arabia), was the last link in a chain of uprisings in the area of Maghreb between ’11-’13. The western mainstream media called this series of uprisings ‘’The Arab Spring’’, implying that the demand of the revolting populations was the replacement of their political systems with a regime of representative republic, namely a western-type democracy.
However, there are further decisive contributory factors underlying these uprisings. Firstly, it’s the international neoliberal agenda promoted by state governments which serve the corporate interests of chiefly the western, Russian, Chinese and Arabic economic elites. Actually, the privatizations launched by the states triggered an escalating popular dissatisfaction as large parts of the population were turning poorer and poorer. Secondly, it’s the violence that even the most peaceful demonstrations were treated with. Well before the spark (set by Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation) spread from Tunisia to Syria, demonstrations had come with death tolls on protestors. Moreover, the structural similarities of these regimes, the similar social stratification of their populations as well as the shared characteristics of the human geography in the wider region constitute altogether yet another factor that played a major role in
the spread of the uprisings from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. Finally, it’s worth noting that the fast speed in which these regimes were overthrown solidified the protestors’ conviction that dictators were, in reality, not at all untouchable.
Although all these factors co-existed in Syria, the situation evolved differently. For the moment, the geopolitical situation in Syria is a global puzzle without solution. All the imperialist rulers -global or regional- are caught in a vicious circle of conflicts, opportunistic alliances and unclear strategic goals as part of their presence in the area. The situation seems to have reached a dead end, but meanwhile the blood keeps flowing.
What has been going on for roughly four years now in Syria – meaning since the early spontaneous uprising began to weaken and gave its place to hostilities among various competing parties- indicates that the interference and direct intervention of the global powers and their agents have expanded the battlefield and, with it, the market and economy of war.
The rifts in the society are too deep and nobody can lead the situation out of this chaos. The so-called ‘’negotiations’’ and ‘’peace agreements’’ are nothing but plans on paper as long as they can’t generate binding solutions. It’s now impossible for Syria to go back to its pre-war/uprising state. While the negotiators (government, unsolicited opposition representatives, the USA, Turkey, Russia) insist on drawing transitional plans that let Assad remain in power, a great number of opponents is by no means willing to conform.
A closer look at the course of events will allow us to understand how the situation evolved to this stalemate as we know it. The initial protests in March 2011, which demanded reforms rather than a change of regime, flared up in all big cities and Assad’s security forces responded with excessive violence, killing dozens of protestors, torturing and orchestrating the “disappearance” of hundreds. As a result, lots of people took a more radical stance and demanded the fall of the regime.
Governmental authorities abandoned several cities and self- organization emerged as the prime coordinator of everyday-life organization: health-care, water supply infrastructure etc. were created in villages and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the same thing did not happen in the field of self-defense and this was a detriment to the preservation of the initial character of the uprising. Part of the army, including generals and commanders with their forces, joined the anti-regime side and shortly later formed the FSA (Free Syrian Army). At that moment, the involvement of the international powers became apparent. The western powers (the USA, the EU, NATO etc.) armed the anti-regime nuclei while the Russian state armed Assad’s allies. At the same period, the Kurdish areas of north Syria were the poorest in the whole country and predominately controlled by PYD (a party affiliated with PKK). At the same time, PYD followed a model of communal management in the economy and social life in the areas under its control.
Under social pressure, Assad gave amnesty to many political prisoners and this event complicated the situation even further. Lots of the released political prisoners were Kurdish and Muslim fundamentalists(3). The latter broke away from Iraq-based Al-Qaeda and eventually formed ISIS, which proclaimed a territorial establishment for Salafism. The totalitarian monarchies in the Gulf (especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar) supported the fundamentalists with lots of money and equipment in order to increase their manipulative influence in the region. This support strengthened ISIS as well as Al-Nusra, which is yet another Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, that took a dominant role inside the opposition, compared to the (undermined and poorly equipped by the western block) FSA.
The expansion of ISIS to the west throughout 2014 found no obstacles. Neither the western powers nor Russia considered the presence of ISIS a threat to their interests. Only after the heroic and determinate fight of the Kurds and the international fighters against ISIS in Kobani did the American and Russian states understand that the empowerment of the Kurds could possibly serve their interests in that area. This development did not satisfy the Turkish state, which has long had its own reasons to oppose to the Kurdish self- determination mainly because of the attitude of their US allies. Using
the war against terrorism as a pretext, the Turkish state first attacked the Kurdish-populated areas of southeast Turkey and later the Kurdish cantons in Syria. By mid-2015, Assad’s regime had lost control of many territories and was chiefly established in the capital and few adjacent areas in the west. Russia’s decisive air-force intervention prevented a further contraction of the regime and enabled it to reoccupy some regions.
Today, –long after the initial uprising and a revolution that turned into a bloodbath – we stand in the middle of a chaotic war. It’s obvious that any geo-strategic guesstimate is risky. On the one hand, sociopolitical stability seems to be of importance to the international economic trades. On the other hand, instability and destruction of infrastructure appears to facilitate the economic interests of certain blocks of power. Such rearrangements intensified the conflicts orchestrated by the transnational alliances and their agents. The “war economy” is integral to global capitalism that these power blocks promote. Initially, the USA armed the FSA amply enough to merely defend but not curb the governmental troops(4). Similarly, the Russian state overtly intervened on behalf of Assad’s allies. This intervention, though, was not timely enough to help him prevail. Instead, it reached him when he had nearly collapsed. Weapons, telecommunications, food and fuel markets are large markets that can maximize their profit margins during wartime. Trade- legitimate or not- (mainly of petrol) between the opposing sides may seem contradictory at first sight but this is how war works in the era of advanced capitalism. Another major hindrance to the stability is the fact that a large part of the belligerents do not respect the agreements of the dominant powers and continue a war in conditions of full extremity. Evidently, the war could have ended in the absence of all these intricacies.