Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 1, 2013

Have Islamists Hijacked Syria’s Democratic Revolution?

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 7:57 pm

by Pham Binh on April 1, 2013

As the Syrian revolution progresses, support for it abroad among Marxists recedes.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) is not alone in trading its support for the revolution for “a plague on both your houses” neutrality. The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made an almost identical shift, albeit theirs seems to be based on smears and falsehoods about the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rather than an all-sided assessment of the contradictions of the Syrian opposition. Although neither group is terribly influential, the essentials of the narrative both have adopted about Syria is the predominant one among progressives in the West thanks to outlets like The Nation, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, MRZine Online, MondoweissGlobal Research, Black Agenda Report, Jacobin, among many others.

From Self-Defense to Jihad?

The shift to the right among Marxists parallels the evolution of petty-bourgeois Arab intellectuals such as Jadiliya who supported Syria’s peaceful demonstrators but recoiled in fear when these same demonstrators grew tired of being cut down by machine gun fire and took up arms to defend themselves. If the revolution’s unavoidable militarization repelled these intellectuals, the militarized revolution’s “Islamization” repelled Marxists like AWL, CWI, and As’ad AbuKhalil, the Angry (but not intelligent) Arab.

Underlying these shifts is the question of method.

full article: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=8118


  1. This is a problematic article that in its zeal to support the legitimate aspirations of wide sectors of the Syrian population plays blind to many facts on the ground. Unlike what the author suggests, there is sectarianism on both sides, and both sides have committed atrocities, although the regime bears greater responsibility in having set the template for what followed. The FSA (and even more relevantly the Salafist groups) is not isolated or starved for monies and weapons but has been and is being massively supplied by several countries, Arab and non-Arab, under the aegis of the US. Special forces from Western and Arab countries are active in Syria, and numerous acts of assassinations and sabotage have hit the country (including assassinations of scientists and engineers) in a manner that cannot be attributed to acts of resistance by the opposition. There is more going on there than meets the eye, and it does not neatly fit into the construct built by the author.

    There is much that can be productively explored relevant to current revolt, including its rural origin among peasants pulverized by neoliberal policies of a kleptocratic regime, how the religious iconography of the revolt is underlied by some very real secular currents, and how revolts can veer rightward as much leftward in the course of a struggle (the Muslim Brotherhood leadership that has come to dominate the political opposition is not exactly rural or proletariat). Finally, dismissing informed contrarian voices as “Petite Bourgeoisie” or “not intelligent” does not help either. Some humility is in order…

    Comment by Altair — April 2, 2013 @ 12:52 am

  2. Stats don’t lie over time. The fact that with all the 3 years of news of Syrian Civil War violence being largely devoid of Jihadi suicide bombers proves conclusively that this struggle has gone out of its way to combat muslim extremism and therefore Pham’s insights are arguably as valuable today as Trotsky’s analysis of the rise of fascism in Europe in the late 30’s.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 2, 2013 @ 12:58 am

  3. I should only add that that to the extent that these stats deteriorate in the near future is certainly no secure indication that Pham’s analysis is necessarily incorrect but rather could just as easily be indicative of the Pentagon’s dirty tricks. After all Langely, VA has virtually a bottomless pit of money to throw at their problems garnered off the backs of the world’s toilers. That was always the decisive difference between Uncle Sam’s & the USSR’s so called “imperialism” — that is — Uncle Sam drew resources it exploited from 70% of humanity whereas the USSR traded crude oil to Cuba for LESS than the going world market rate for sugar cane products at MORE than the world market rate, which meant that the USSR could NEVER correspond to anybody’s definition of imperialism unless they were employed by the Western Commercial Press.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 2, 2013 @ 1:45 am

  4. The political revolution is not so much about kalashnikovs and passionate rhetoric. A democratic revolution should be seen as a new stage of humanity’s development, primarily a new way of thinking and innovation in a system of social relations and governance. If it fails to do that then it is merely yet another ‘palace coup’ bringing grist to someone else’s mill. In the absence of the revolutionary idea arab democratic revolutions (“Arab spring”) were doomed to failure even before they started. Replacing leaders doesn’t alters the system allowing arbitrariness.

    A multipolar democratic governance that uses revolutionary decision making system and comprising several independent parties with a movable centre of joint decisions, would put an end to discord and would bring society together. It would also open a new, evolutionary way of development without social turmoil and without social and economic cataclysms. A working multi-party system within the government guarantees multiculturalism, tolerance and social stability within community.

    This governance revolution do not gives preferences to any of the political ideologies; it is a self-balancing democratic governance system, a step to collective common sense and a new civilization.

    A new political system as a real Democratic Revolution.

    Comment by nicholaspopov — April 2, 2013 @ 6:17 am

  5. “…Pham’s insights are arguably as valuable today as Trotsky’s analysis of the rise of fascism in Europe in the late 30′s.”


    Take a deep breath, Karl.

    Comment by Robert — April 2, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

  6. Hey Bobby. I said “arguably” yet your critique, if you can call it that, notably fails to present a counter-argument?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 3, 2013 @ 12:15 am

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