Wednesday, 13 June 2012

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The Young Turks

Leon Trotsky

"In its real significance, a revolution is a fight for control of the State. That rests directly on the Army. This is why all revolutions in history sharply raised the question: on whose side is the army?..The restoration of the Sultan and his despotism would mean the end of Turkey, leaving the Turkish State to the mercy of those who want to carve it up. The victory of Turkish democracy, on the contrary, would mean peace."

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The protestant working class

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 Eamonn McCann

"The fact that, from the Protestant workers’ point of view, the privilege is pretty small, matters not at all. When tuppence-halfpenny is looking down on tuppence, the halfpenny difference can assume an importance out of all proportion to its actual size."
I think I've read that despite the preponderance of Alawis in the state apparatus, most of those in their traditional homeland in Northwest Syria are poor farmers. So perhaps they are more comparable to the Protestants of Northern Ireland than the Israeli Jews, who as a people-class are all privileged by the dispossession of the Palestinians.


"The great mass of the people continue, for historical reasons, to see religion, not class, as the basic divide in our society. This sectarian consciousness is reinforced, week in, week out, by local Tory newspapers. The machinations of Catholic and Protestant Tories such as McAteer, Glover, Anderson, and Hegarty are carefully calculated to maintain the status quo. The end result is a working class which is unresponsive to socialist ideas...
One of the basic difficulties arises out of the present division of the working class along religious lines. Many Protestant workers in Derry feel that they are members of a vaguely privileged section of the population (as, in one sense, they are). As a result, despite the economic situation of the area, they are resistant to change. Many of the Catholic workers interpret the bulk of Governmental activity as being to some extent directed against them as Catholics. Thus, they are ‘easy meat’ for the adroit demagogy of the McAteers and Hegartys."

Frederick Engels’ Speech at the Grave of Karl Marx

Marx's gravestone in Highgate cemetry

 "A disproportionate number of Alawis owe their livelihood to the regime. To fight for a post-regime future means to fight for a future in which their community will be, at best, less favoured than at present."

 Most of the debate about Syria is about what people should do, very little is about why they do what they do. At least the above is a start. A hundred and thirty years ago at his friend's funeral, Frederick Engels said he thought his friend had discerned the primary cause:

 "Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case."
 Do the Syrian bourgeoisie and state officials support the regime because they are wrong-headed, or because they benefit from it? Will the lower-level state functionaries be won away from it by being told they'll get a smaller slice of the same cake, or that the cake will be bigger once the parasites stop creaming off the top? If the latter are there irreconcilable interests of those who wish to profit from Syria in the future and those who would have to labour to produce those profits?

 How to overthrow the regime is another question. The working class has the power (in Russia in 1917 it was 2% of the population, I'm sure in Syria it is much higher), but for understandable reasons socialist politics there have been corrupted by Stalinist backers of the status quo. But still the question arises of who else will control any force capable of knocking the regime over; if that is foreign intervention they will impose their own idea of what is good for Syrians, replicating as far as they can the system of exploitation in their own country, whether that is Turkey, Saudi Arabia or the US. And if it is the FSA uncontrolled by the grassroots, then the best that can be hoped for is some sort of military Bonapartism.

 Similar questions arise as to how a post-Assad Syria is to be constructed. Is it simply to be a similar scheme of exploitation, with the Assad family removed and perhaps the facade of a Western-approved democracy, in which those with power and influence compete in elections to show the limited amount they are prepared to share with their own constituencies, while sharing the rest with their corporate friends at home and abroad, à la Iraq?
 These are the sort of questions that should have been asked by John Rees in this dreadful article,…/15821-syria-the-left-and-a-rev…. But this supposed dialectician instead sets up a false pro/anti -intervention dialectic, in which the Syrians who don't support intervention supposedly see those who do as a bigger enemy than the regime. To which any anti-regime Syrian will reasonably tell him that he knows nothing and understands less, if they were to be more polite than he deserves.