Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria
April 13, 2014 § 10 Comments
The responses of most leftists to the Syrian uprising and subsequent war (it’s often forgotten that it started as an uprising — indeed a nonviolent and nonsectarian one) have been deeply disappointing. Disappointing to many Syrian activists, and to many of us on the Left who support the Syrian struggle for dignity and justice, which is now a struggle against both Assad’s killing machine and the jihadi counter-revolutionary forces.
The Left’s responses fall into three main categories:
- explicit support for the Assad regime
- monochrome opposition to Western intervention, end of discussion (with either implicit or explicit neutrality on the conflict itself)
- general silence caused by deep confusion
The first camp, while relatively small, represents a truly hideous, morally obscene and, I would argue, deeply reactionary position – siding with a mass murderer and war criminal who presides over a quasi-fascist police state.
The second camp, which encompasses a majority of peace activists and soi-disant anti-imperialists in the West, represents an (ironically) Eurocentric/US-centric stance (it’s all about the West, not the Syrian people) — a total abandonment of internationalism.
The third camp is at least understandable, given the complexity of the Syrian conflict. The book I co-edited on the subject is titled The Syria Dilemma for a reason. Yet this stance remains disconcerting: silence in the face of what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world” is a cop-out. Complexity is not a gag order.
There is a fourth camp, however: a small but growing group of progressives who embrace the goals of the Syrian revolution. There are several shades within this camp – it includes Marxists, pacifists, feminists, Third Worldists and leftists of various sorts. Some support the armed struggle in Syria, others do not, standing instead with the nonviolence activists in Syria. But what unites this camp is its solidarity with the Syrian struggle for dignity, justice and self-determination.
The body of writings and arguments this camp has produced directly challenge the dominant narratives on the Left about Syria and offer a critical alternative to it. Here, collected in one place, are some of the key texts of this dissident left camp. Emphasis on some of the key texts – this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s limited to English-language sources. We offer it here as a living resource, one that is expanding on a daily basis. (If you have suggestions for other texts, please post them here.) Here ’tis (in no particular order):
Mohammed Al Attar
What Kind of Support Do Syrians Want?
A tale of two Syria conferences
Streams of Light: The Heroic Struggle of the Syrian People
Anxiously Anticipating a New Dawn: Voices of Syrian Activists, in The Syria Dilemma (not available online, alas — but get the book)
Then and Now: The Syrian Revolution to Date — A young nonviolent resistance and the ensuing armed struggle
Syria: It’s Still a Revolution, My Friends
Lack of U.S. Peace Movement Solidarity with Syrian Uprising and the “No Good Guys” Excuse
Syria, savagery, and self-determination
Danny Postel & Nader Hashemi
Break Syria’s Starvation Sieges—By Any Means Necessary
Yassin Al Haj Saleh & Rime Allaf
Syria dispatches: Robert Fisk’s independence
No Stability in Syria Without Political Change
Clay Claiborne’s Syria diaries on his Linux Beach blog