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Solidarity with Syria’s revolution

 

By Marcus Halaby

3rd anniversary solidarity march in London

3rd anniversary solidarity march in London

Three years ago this month, 15 schoolchildren in Daraa – encouraged by events in Egypt and Tunisia – were arrested and tortured for painting anti-regime graffiti on the wall of their school. Their treatment would be the spark for demonstrations of at first a few hundred and then a few thousand people in their home town, which quickly spread to demonstrations of hundreds of thousands across the country.

Three years on, and Bashar al-Assad’s regime has plunged Syria into a war in which more than 200,000 have been killed, indiscriminately bombing and starving its own people and murdering the doctors who try to save the lives of its victims.

And yet, where democratic revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain have attracted expressions of sympathy and solidarity from the labour movement and the international left, Syria’s has provoked controversy and division.

The recent conference “Syria in the context of the Arab Spring”, held in London on 15 February, was therefore long overdue. Attracting upwards of 150 people, it demonstrates the potential to bring together those in the British labour movement and on the left committed to establishing a movement of political and material support for those fighting and suffering in Syria, along the lines of the existing movement for solidarity with the Palestinians.

 

15 March demo

The conference agreed to support a national demonstration in London on 15 March to commemorate the third anniversary of the Daraa uprising.

To build for the demo – and beyond that a movement – will mean tackling the arguments that have so far obstructed solidarity with the Syrian people, among them the idea that Syria’s Ba’athist regime is in some way “anti-imperialist”, “secular” or even “socialist”.

It will also require us to address the arguments of those who initially supported the revolution but have since abandoned its defence, on account of the involvement of Islamist forces and the regime’s exploitation of sectarianism.

As Joseph Daher of the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current explained, the Syrian revolution’s ultimate cause has been the spiralling social injustices that resulted from Assad’s neoliberal policies, which provided “socialism” only for the Assad family while inflicting poverty on the people.

The Assad regime’s longstanding exploitation of the Palestinian cause, described at the conference as “filthy emotional blackmail”, is likewise a myth that needs to be demolished.

 

Internationalism

International solidarity will be key to the survival or defeat of the Syrian revolution. In particular, it will be necessary to raise the demand for asylum rights for all Syrian refugees and for the right of Syria’s revolution to arm itself.

Only in this way will it be possible to present an alternative to the prospect of intervention with NATO bombs, by defending the legitimate struggle of the Syrian people against all its enemies – wherever they be and whatever disguise they adopt.

We fully support the call made at the conference to organise a campaign for solidarity with Syria – and we urge all principled socialists, every supporter of democracy and peace, and all those who sympathise with the revolutionary struggle of the Syrian people to join it.

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