Workers' Voice mailing list
December 4, 2016
RE: Aleppo, Castro, Seattle demonstration
Aleppo is bleeding to death. The liberated areas are being bombed into rubble by Russia and invaded mainly by foreign fundamentalist militiamen in alliance with the Assad dictatorship. One outside power after another has stuck its knife into the Syrian people, but the civil war is likely to continue. Its nature will change, as Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs are subjugated, but the countryside remains in rebellion. The Assad regime has broken into a thousands pieces, and the outside powers won't be able to put it back together again.
Robin Yassin-Kassab co-authored with Leila Al-Shami the book Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, which is one of the best accounts of what led to the uprising against Assad and what has happened to it. A few days ago he addressed a Joint Committee of the Irish parliament (Oireachtas) in Dublin about the situation in Syria. Yesterday Robin posted the text of his comments to the Committee on his blog Qunfuz yesterday, December 3rd. Below are some excerpts: the full remarks can be found at <https://qunfuz.com/2016/12/03/addressing-the-oireachtas-me-and-hassoun/>.
Addressing the Oireachtas (Me and Hassoun)
I was happy to have a chance to address the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Irish Parliament. I spoke about the crushing of the Syrian revolution and the Russian and Iranian occupation of Syria. You can read my address below.
Before me, the committee was addressed by a delegation of the Syrian regime, headed by the state Mufti, Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun. Hassoun has previously threatened Europe and America with an army of suicide bombers, and has specifically called for the civilians of liberated Aleppo to be bombed. It's incredible that such a man can get a visa to a European country (unlike millions of desperate Syrians who are not terrorists), let alone address a parliament. Hassoun was also invited to Trinity College, and (most ironic of all) to sign some declaration 'against extremism'. ...
Thanks to the work of the wonderful people in the Irish Syria Solidarity Movement, the Irish people were alerted to Hassoun's nature. This report was on the RTE news [RTE is Raidio Teilifís Eireann, the national public service broadcaster in Ireland]. In the Arab media, Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Quds al-Arabi and the New Arab have also covered Hassoun's visit. ... here is my address:
Liberated Aleppo is falling. The suburbs of Damascus are falling, or have already fallen, and been cleansed of their recalcitrant population. The families of foreign militiamen are moving in. Silence is returning to a devastated and demographically-changed Syria. This presentation is therefore more a lament for the defeated Syrian revolution, and for our failure to help it, than a policy recommendation.
From spring 2011, in the context of the Arab Spring, millions from all backgrounds protested peacefully against torture, crony capitalism, corruption and poverty, and for freedom, dignity, and social justice. They called for the unity of all sects and ethnicities.
The Assad regime responded with extreme repression, shooting protestors dead, torturing many, including children, to death, and prosecuting a mass rape campaign. By summer 2012 it had provoked an armed uprising of military defectors and civilian volunteers grouped under the umbrella term 'Free Syrian Army'.
The regime deliberately started a war because it knew a serious reform process would end in its demise. It calculated (correctly) that in a war situation it could count on strong foreign allies -- unlike its opponents. ...
Next, the regime deliberately sectarianised the war, for divide-and-rule purposes, and actively encouraged the rise of Sunni jihadism in order to present itself internationally as 'the lesser evil'.
In 2011, while the regime was detaining and torturing tens of thousands of non-violent protestors, it released 1500 Salafi-Jihadists from its prisons. These include Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra (now called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), Zahran Alloush, the founder of Jaish al-Islam, and Hassan Aboud, the founder of Ahrar al-Sham.
In 2012 the regime organised a string of sectarian massacres on the plain between Homs and Hama where Sunnis and Alawis live side by side. In each, the army shelled a rebellious Sunni village, then irregular Alawi young men moved in to cut the throats of women and children. The aim was to stir an anti-Alawi backlash amongst the Sunni majority, which in turn would scare Alawis into loyalty to the regime. (Assad and a large majority of his security chiefs are Alawis).
The regime practised a scorched earth policy on the areas it couldn't control, burning the civilian infrastructure and driving millions out. This provided the vacuum in which transnational jihadist groups could thrive. ...
The Assad regime has old links with Daesh (ISIS), having helped set up its previous incarnation the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). For over a year after it set up in Raqqa, Daesh and Assad didn't fight each other. Even today, when the Free Syrian Army is fighting Daesh, the regime bombs the Free Army. An arsonist dressed up as a fireman, Assad has used Daesh -- an enemy of the Syrian revolution -- to present himself as the 'lesser evil' (although he is responsible for far more killing). ...
Yet even in these conditions, the Syrian revolution survived. Still today half of rebel fighters fall under the loose Free Syrian Army umbrella. This means they are 'non-ideological' in the sense that they are fighting only to defend their communities, to bring down the regime, and to allow the people to decide what comes next.
But the revolution is represented by its civilians more than by its fighting men. In areas liberated of both Assad and Daesh, Syrians have set up hundreds of local and provincial councils, half of which are directly elected by the men and women of the area (the other half are quasi-democratic, practising various forms of internal and community voting and consensus). ...
This is what is being destroyed today. ...
Iran and Russia have intervened on a massive scale. 80% of the pro-Assad ground troops attacking liberated Aleppo are foreign Shia militiamen organised and commanded by Iran. Assad controlled less than a fifth of the national territory before Russia's savage imperialist assault. Assad's army hasn't won a battle by itself for years. By now its most effective units answer to local warlords rather than through a central hierarchy.
In the West, in general, we failed to understand the revolution. We failed to offer solidarity or even to see through propaganda. The right saw the revolution and counter-revolution in outmoded security terms, and so did much of the left, wasting time with conspiracy theories, orientalist myths, and inaccurate commentaries on proxy-war chess. ....
In the medium term, Ireland needs to work out how to deal with what is in effect a foreign occupation in Syria. The armed rebellion will continue as a long-term rural insurgency. This will often be framed as a national liberation struggle. ...
Ireland and others will have to be prepared for the jihadism and sectarian conflict unleashed by the tragedy. Jihadists will be immeasurably strengthened by the defeat of the revolution in the urban areas, to the same extent that democratic revolutionaries will be weakened. ... <>
From the FB page of Frank Arango, December 2:
Frank Arango: While I don't agree with everything Yenisleidi López says, e.g., I think the Cuban revolution died over 50 years ago, I do like this: ONE OF THE BIGGEST FAILURES OF CASTRO'S REVOLUTION IS THAT IT'S CAUSED CUBANS TO MISTAKE CAPITALISM FOR FREEDOM.
Lopez's full piece:
Ya'll are so worked up over Fidel Castro's death, but as someone who lived under his dictatorship, I'm over here mumbling, "Meh." I admire that he was able to oust and combat American imperialism, but he's still an example of what happens when a rich boy reads some Marx, builds a movement, and is so corrupted by power that he outlaws all dissent. Stop idolizing a dictator, and expect more from revolutionary leaders. In addition: It's possible to support Cuba's revolution (as I do), denounce Castro's reign (as I do), and recognize the role America has played in oppressing people domestically and worldwide (as I do). I've seen a lot of non-Cuban people prioritizing their ideologies and attempting to exonerate Castro by arguing that America is a greater evil. Despite that being true in many ways, it doesn't erase the suffering of a nation's population at his hands, or their despair to escape. And if your love for communism + hero worship clouds your ability to acknowledge oppression and human suffering, I don't see how you're really any better than capitalists. In fact, one of the biggest failures of Castro's revolution is that it's caused Cubans to mistake capitalism for freedom. Go ahead, try telling people that escaped abject poverty and totalitarianism that owning things isn't freedom -- you'll get the chancleta. Anyway, I'm bored of arguing with people that wouldn't actually volunteer to permanently live in Cuba. You know that WiFi and cell phones are rare and that everything is censored, right? That alone would have most of you getting locked up for trying to overthrow the government.
FA: More from Yenisleidi Lopez:
I'm honestly surprised by how some people whose politics I admire are uncritically mourning him. They seem to forget that: "The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment. Those who publish information considered critical of the government are subject to smear campaigns and arbitrary arrests, as are artists and academics who demand greater freedoms."
FA: Thanks for this, Yenisleidi. I pasted it on my time line
too. I happen to have lived through the time of Castro's support for
the fascist Ethiopian military junta (the Derg), which consolidated
power through murdering up to 30,000 people -- including the cream of
the Ethiopia's revolutionary left and youth -- in what was known as the
“red terror.” I also had several close friends with sisters and
brothers, mothers and fathers who were murdered by the Derg, as well as
a friend who walked 1000 miles to a Sudanese refugee camp in order to
escape it. So in the past two days I've been writing a lot about Cuba
sending 12,000-17,000 troops to fight and die for the Derg as it sought
to crush the anti-colonial struggle of the Eritrean people. But the
Castro regime also, at times, supported progressive movements or
governments. So why did it act this eclectic way in its foreign policy?
More, why has it resorted to domestic repression for more than 50
years? I think the answer lies in the reality that it represents a new
system of exploitation. In that regard, I would like to share these
links which deal with the Cuban system:
The Seattle Communist Study Group took part in the Seattle
Women's March Against Hate, and distributed many copies of the leaflet
"With Trump's election: Organize to Fight Back!"
(http://www.communistvoice.org/DWV-161118.html). Frank Arango reported
on FB that "I could never see the entire crowd, but thousands marched
against Trump's anti-women offensive today in Seattle. A lot of
positive spirit, with marches like this being part of building the
needed movement. Here are some photos:
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Posted on December 24, 2016