The Syrian Revolution Continues!
We should be clear that what has happened in Syria is a popular revolution, one which began in 2011 as a mass uprising against tyranny, oppression, and the neoliberal economic policies of the Assad regime. It is a continuation of the Arab revolutions which began in Tunisia and Egypt and which continue today to struggle against economic misery and political oppression, and the increasing impoverishment of the Syrian population, especially in the decade leading up to 2011, was a key factor in sparking the uprising. Although the democratic and revolutionary forces in Syria are today suffering greatly from the combined attacks of the regime and counter-revolutionary forces such as Daesh/Islamic State, they still exist, and they need our solidarity more than ever. When the revolution began, popular committees sprang up throughout the country, and especially in liberated areas where the regime’s forces had been expelled, and attempts were made, through the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) and other bodies, to unify the movement. The revolution had clear political and economic goals – an end to dictatorship and tyranny, and an end to the economic misery and neoliberal policies of the Assad regime. Popular committees and activists continue to mobilize in Syria and are engaged in a daily struggle to keep the democratic aims of the revolution alive.
Sectarianism is a Weapon to Destroy the Revolution!
The corporate media, and our own governments, want us to believe that the conflict in Syria is nothing more than a sectarian bloodbath, an ancient conflict that has resurfaced now that the dictatorship has been weakened. Certainly there are forces in Syria today, such as the regime itself and groups like Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Qaida) who are engaged in sectarian violence, and who want to divide the population against itself, Sunni versus Shia. But this is not how the revolution began, and it is not the true dividing line in Syria today: the real split is between the people of Syria, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, and those who oppress them and stand against their efforts to replace tyranny and injustice with freedom and equality. Sectarianism is not intrinsic to Syrian society, it is a weapon being used to try and divide and destroy the revolutionary movement. The sectarianism that is rearing its ugly head today in Syria was created by the policies of the Assad regime: firstly, the regime actively spread sectarian propaganda when the revolution began, claiming it was all the work of Sunni extremists; secondly, the regime specifically targeted activists who worked to build inter-sect solidarity, particularly in areas with large minority populations which had traditionally been regime strongholds such as Lattakia; thirdly, even as the regime was arresting and torturing civil activists, they deliberately released hundreds of extremist jihadis, who later began the cadre of groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. And it is the scorched earth policies of the regime, which have seen whole towns and cities destroyed and hundreds of thousands murdered by the regime’s forces that have created the space for sectarian groups to emerge and prosper. The sectarianization of the revolution is exactly what the regime wants, because it divides the revolution and encourages minorities to see the regime as their only salvation. But the democratic and revolutionary forces that still exist in Syria are fighting courageously to resist this process and to combat sectarianism, and we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in this critical struggle.
The Assad Regime is the Enemy of Syrians and Working People Everywhere!
Some on the left argue that the Assad regime is a progressive, anti-imperialist force, the last bulwark against complete Western domination of the Middle East. They say we should defend Assad and some even claim the revolution is nothing more than a CIA-inspired plot to weaken the anti-imperialist forces in the region. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Assad regime has long had a cosy relationship with the United States, and participated in the First Gulf War alongside US troops in 1990. Assad’s father also had a long record of trying to control and restrain the Palestinian resistance movement, and to suppress radical movements in both Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, in particular his brutal intervention in 1976 to crush the Lebanese revolution. Both Assad and his father had long-standing dealings with the Israelis as well, and top Israeli generals and politicians have made it clear they want Assad to stay. Far from being ‘anti-imperialist’ the Assad regime has long worked to strengthen the grip of imperialism in the region. Domestically, the Assad regime has held power since the late-1960s, increasingly through the use of terror and repression, and the current revolution is not the first time the regime has used brutal force to crush popular dissent, it has done so many times, especially in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when thousands were killed in savage crackdowns. So Assad is no enemy of imperialism, and he is certainly no friend of workers and the oppressed and his regime should be steadfastly opposed by progressive forces everywhere.
Daesh/Islamic State: Part of the Backlash Against the Revolution
Daesh (Islamic State) arose in the context of the revolutionary upheaval in Syria, and the weakening of the sectarian regime in Iraq, and is utterly hostile to the democratic and revolutionary aims of the Syrian people. Many of the senior leaders of Daesh were generals and officers in Saddam Hussein’s army who ended up joining violent Islamist groups after the collapse of Hussein’s regime. They became active in Syria after the revolution began, but they have no interest in seeing a democratic, free Syria emerge, and want to defeat the revolution. As such Daesh is a counter-revolutionary force, but one which is not allied with the regime, though they clearly have many of the same aims (to stop the democratic revolution) and fight each other only when they have to. Some make the mistake of seeing Daesh as an enemy of Assad and therefore a friend of the revolution, whilst others see Daesh as the only enemy of the revolution and say we must support Assad against them. The truth is that Daesh is part of the collection of forces, which include the regime, which oppose the revolution and there is no common ground between them and the progressive, democratic revolutionaries in Syria. In areas under its control, Daesh has kidnapped and killed many progressive activists, just as the regime does. At the same time, the Assad regime, which oppresses and butchers the Syrian people can never be a friend of the revolution. We must condemn both Daesh and Assad and see them both as enemies of Syria and the revolution.
Support for Kurdish Rights and Self-Determination!
The Assad regime, like other states in the region, has always oppressed and brutalized the Kurdish people, denying them basic rights and freedoms, including the right to speak their own language. The Kurdish people have fought against this state oppression for a long time, and now, following the rise of groups like Daesh have been fighting them as well. We must be clear in our unequivocal support for Kurdish self-determination and the rights of Kurdish people, and we join with the Syrian revolutionaries in opposing anti-Kurdish prejudices that only serve to strengthen the regime and reactionary forces. At the same time, only a democratic, mass movement which includes both Arabs and Kurds can take the revolution forward to victory: the Syrian revolution is the only route to self-determination for the Kurdish people.
Hands Off Syria! Foreign Intervention Only Strengthens Assad and Islamic State!
We unequivocally oppose intervention in Syria by both Western powers like the US, Britain and France, and by Russia, which much like the situation in Ukraine, is desperate to maintain the economic and political ties that long kept Syria within its sphere of influence. The bombing campaign in Syria is killing civilians while strengthening the enemies of the revolution by giving them a major propaganda victory and by killing revolutionaries. The intervention by foreign powers is wrong both because it will not help the revolution, but also because those foreign powers oppose the aims of the revolution and are not truly interested in helping it. Russia’s airstrikes have deliberately targeted democratic forces in Syria, and the US has refused to give weapons to groups who fight Assad, only to those who fight Daesh, while the bombs of both kill and maim the Syrian people. That is why we say, hands off Syria, end the bombing campaign now!
All Refugees Are Welcome Here!
Millions of Syrians have fled the conflict and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods, many taking refuge in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan, whilst others have made the dangerous journey to Europe. The wealthy countries of the European Union can easily afford to help these refugees and we demand that our governments end all restrictions and allow them in. At the same time, we resist the racist groups who seek to scapegoat refugees and create artificial tensions and divisions between the people of Europe and the refugees.
We stand with the Syrian revolution!
Down with Assad! Down with Daesh!
Let the refugees in!