Syria's continuing civil war

Since 2011, the Syrian Arab Republic is in a state of civil war. What started as peaceful demonstrations against the authoritarian Ba'ath government, ended in shootings and killings. Dictator Bashar Al-Assad ordered his army to open fire on demonstrators who rejected his rule. Some soldiers in the Syrian Arab Army refused to murder their own people and defected. These soldiers created the Free Syrian Army, the first opposition army against Al-Assad. However the secular nationalist Free Syrian Army was soon rivalled by Islamic militias. The Syrian Islamists are armed with weapons paid by the reactionary monarchs of the Arab world. As the Syrian uprising turned into a civil war, the government used brutal methods of eliminating its opponents. This fuelled anger and hatred among the Syrian rebels, who started to use violence and sectarian hatred against the supporters of the Ba'ath Party, mainly members of the Alawite tribe!  

The Syrian civil war shows some similarity with the Libyan civil war. In Libya the people also rose up against dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled since 1969. However unlike Syria, the Libyan Islamists were never able to dominate the struggle against Gaddafi. Maybe this is because the Armed Forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya were very poorly armed and lacked fighting moral. Gaddafi had not upgraded his army and only gave modern tanks and guns to special units. Bashar Al-Assad's Syrian Armed Forces are better armed and have a good reason to defend the secular Syrian Arab Republic. They fear a Islamic victory and the creation of a theocracy in Syria, much like Afghanistan in 1992!

Gaddafi's Jamahiriya collapsed after the capture of Tripoli by rebels in August 2011. Because the Libyan Armed Forces were underpaid and underdeveloped, most soldiers defected to the rebels once the capital was taken. Only Gaddafi's tribe in Sirte stood behind the green banner of the Jamahiriya until the city of Sirte fell. However the Syrian situation is different. Although rebel soldiers took some towns and captured a few districts of major cities, the Syrian Armed Forces were able to fight back. Although reduced by at least 50.000 soldiers, the government of Bashar Al-Assad was able to rally many secularists, Arab nationalists and anti-imperialists to their side. They exploit the fear of Islamism and use this as a powerful weapon against the opposition!

Since the civil war began, many armed groups have been created. Unfortunate most rebel groups are Islamic and reject a secular democratic Syria. We have counted more then 24 Islamic armed groups, fighting in Syria against the government of Bashar Al-Assad. Four Islamic groups are linked to Al-Qaeda. The biggest of them is the Al-Nusra Front. Jabhat al-Nusra ( full name ) is made up of 15.000 to 20.000 militants. Only a year ago, their numbers were between 6.000 and 10.000 armed men. In only a few months the Al-Nusra Front has gained a lot of new recruits, many are young men who want to fight for a Islamic theocracy!

However the Islamic militias are not united. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL ) rejects the other Islamic forces and also the secular forces. With more then 15.000 armed men in both Syria and Iraq, the ISIL is among the most active Islamic fundamentalist groups in the Middle East, fighting for a theocracy. Like the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is Sunni-Muslim, they reject Shia-Islam and believe in the supremacy of Sunni-Islamism. Bashar Al-Assad and his Alawite tribe are Shia-Muslims. Because sectarianism is now part of the conflict, the Shia-Islamists of Hezbollah in Lebanon, have joined Bashar Al-Assad in their fight against the Sunni-Muslims and secular rebels. The Syrian civil war is no longer a pure political conflict. It has grown into a sectarian war between Sunni-Muslims ( Al-Nusra & ISIL ) and Shia-Muslims ( Alawites & Hezbollah )!

Other Shia-Islamic forces who support Bashar Al-Assad are the Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas Badr Organization, the Haidar al-Karar Brigade and the Promised Day Brigades. But not only Shia-Muslims support the president/dictator. Because the Sunni-Islamists are paid by reactionary Arab kingdoms, many anti-imperialist nationalists have rejected the opposition and joined up with Al-Assad. These secular nationalists claim that foreign imperialists try to take control of Syria. One nationalist political party that support the Ba'ath Party is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Unlike the Ba'ath Party and other Arab-nationalists, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is pure Syrian nationalist and not Pan-Arabic. They reject Pan-Arabism and fight for a Greater Syria ( Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine ). The SSNP has been called a fascist party for its extreme Syrian nationalism and antisemitism!

The National Progressive Front was the only allowed political umbrella of political parties supporting the Arab-Socialist Ba'ath Party - Syrian Region. The National Progressive Front was established by Hafez Al-Assad in 1972 and united all so called ''progressive'' and ''anti-imperialist'' parties. The Syrian Arab Republic under Hafez Al-Assad ( 1971-2000 ) modelled itself on the political system of the Stalinist; German Democratic Republic. The ruling Ba'ath Party allowed other parties to operate, but only under the umbrella of the NPF. Also they had to be either socialist or Arab-nationalist, right-wing political parties were banned. Hafez Al-Assad legalized the Syrian Communist Party on the condition it joined the NPF. Communists who refused to bow down to Al-Assad were arrested and jailed. In the end the communist party joined the National Progressive Front, only to split in 1986 between conservative stalinists and supporters of Soviet leader Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Today Syria has two communist parties, both are members of the NPF and loyal to Bashar Al-Assad!

Until the new Syrian Constitution of 2012, the National Progressive Front ( NPF ) was the only allowed political entity in Syria. Bashar Al-Assad changed the constitution from a single party state into a multi party state. Although this gives opposition parties more freedoms, the current situation in Syria is so unstable that elections cannot be free and fair. Presidential elections are to be held in June 2014, most likely the Ba'ath Party will win because the opposition is boycotting the elections. After opposition parties were allowed to operate outside the National Progressive Front, the Syrian nationalists of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party created the Popular Front for Change and Liberation. Although this political movement stands in opposition to the Ba'ath dominated NPF, it supports the government against the Free Syrian Army and Islamic rebels! 

There are four main groups who participate in the Syrian Civil War as of April 2014! 

- The ''Axis of Resistance'', Shia-Islamic and secular supporters of Bashar Al-Assad

- The ''Syrian Opposition'', anti-Ba'ath rebels dominated by Sunni-Islamic militia's
- The ''Kurdish Self Administration'', Kurdish forces who control more then 300 towns 
- The ''Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'', Sunni-Islamists who reject the other rebels

The ''Axis of Resistance'' is a reference to George W. Bush, who's diplomat John Robert Bolton added Syria to the American list of ''evil'' nations. Supporters of Bashar Al-Assad have called all groups who support the president of Syria, to be part of the ''Axis of Resistance''. With resistance they mean resistance to terrorism, because for them the Syrian opposition is made up of terrorists. In a way they are right about this, the Sunni-Islamic militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic Front and the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have committed acts of terrorism. But the same can be said about the Syrian government, who started this civil war when they opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in 2011!

Since the start of the civil war in 2011, more then 150.000 Syrians have been killed. Between four and five million civilians have fled their homes. Many have ended up in refugees-camps in Jordan, who has taken up 600.000 Syrian refugees. Yet more then 900.000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon, a tiny nation with a population of 4,8 million people. Now with almost 1 million Syrian refugees, the Lebanese Republic is facing a social dilemma. Lebanon is still very poor after their own civil war ended with the removal of Syrian troops in 2005. The Lebanese civil war turned the nation into a capitalist hell on earth. Good for big business and vulture capitalists, but bad for workers and poor people. Now with 900.000 Syrians entering Lebanon, old sectarian hatred is returning. Between 1990 and 2005, the Syrian Arab Republic occupied parts of Lebanon and oppressed those Lebanese who opposed them!

Like Syria, the Lebanese Republic has a mixture of religions. Shia Islamists are led by the Party of God or Hezbollah. This party wants to build a Shia-Islamic Republic of Lebanon on the model of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is also a Shia-Islamic nation. Christians make up 41% of the population, the highest percentage of any Arab nation. Islam is dived between Sunni-Islam and Shia-Islam in Lebanon with 27% Shia-Muslims and 27% Sunni-Muslims. Because Syria occupied large parts of Lebanon for more then 15 years, many Lebanese do not like the Syrian refugees. They flood the labour market which is good for capitalists, who have now 900.000 potential new workers. Because Lebanon lacks a genuine workers party, hatred of Syrian immigrants is growing!

Kurdish rebels were able to profit from the uprising in 2011. The Kurdish Self-Administration took over more then 300 ethnic Kurdish towns from Ba'ath rule. Kurds are led by the Democratic Unionist Party ( PYD ) a Kurdish nationalist and reformist socialist party. The PYD can be seen as the Syrian Kurdish PKK ( Kurdistan Workers Party ). PKK leader Abdullah Ă–calan is the ideological leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. Although the PYD calls itself democratic socialist, they do not use socialism in their propaganda. The PYD describes itself as believing in social equality, justice and the freedom of belief as well as pluralism and the freedom of political parties. It describes itself as striving for a democratic solution that includes the recognition of cultural, national and political rights and develops and enhances their peaceful struggle to be able to govern themselves in a multicultural, democratic society. But nothing is said about democratic planning of the economy, class struggle and socialism in general!

The Free Syrian Army ( FSA ) is now a minority in the struggle against Bashar Al-Assad. This is because they lack funding, ammunitions and recruits. Most of their soldiers came from the Syrian Arab Army in 2011. But few of these original troops are still fighting. Many have been wounded or killed in the three year struggle against the Syrian government. While the Islamic rebels are on the payrolls of Arab monarchs, the FSA lacks money to buy weapons and equipment. Turkey has been a limited supporter of the FSA, but most western nations have not aided the secular rebels with war materials. They fear that weapons would end up in the hands of radical Islamists, who's goal is to destroy the western world. NATO nations fear another Al-Qaeda situation. The terrorist network that is Al-Qaeda, was founded in 1988 with American money and weapons. Osama Bin Landen was a Saudi-Arabian who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Thanks to American weapons like the M16 assault rifle and billions of dollars, he created Al-Qaeda in 1988!

Because the Islamic rebels have outnumbered the secular rebels, the Syrian government has been able to portray the whole Syrian Opposition as ''terrorist''. This tactic has been very effective in Alawite circles, who fear the dogmatic Sunni-Muslims. But also Christians and Druzes are worried about the growing fundamentalist outlook of many rebels. Bashar Al-Assad and his government can now claim that they are the lesser evil in this civil war. Among western ( Stalinist ) anti-imperialists, Bashar Al-Assad is some kind of hero. Fighting against reactionary islamism and western imperialism. But he is not a working class hero as some would call him. Bashar Al-Assad worked very close with western imperialism. His father Hafez Al-Assad joined the American camp during the first Gulf War in 1991. After his death in 2000, Bashar Al-Assad carried out massive privatisations and deregulations, forcing Syrian workers into poverty as few benefited from the capitalist revolution!

The Al-Assad family share many similarities with the Gaddafi family. Both families took power during the hight of the Cold War. Muammar Gaddafi took power in 1969 and Hafez Al-Assad in 1971. Both started out as Pan-Arabists on the formula of Egypt's president Nasser. Gaddafi abandoned Arab-nationalism for his Jamahiriya in 1977. Hafez Al-Assad also never tried to reunite the Arab world after the failed Federation of Arab Republics. The only remnants of Pan-Arabism in Al-Assad's Syria was the nation's flag. This flag used to be the banner of the United Arab Republic. Syria readopted the colours of Nasser's state in 1980. Although the Syrian flag has been called a Ba'ath banner by the opposition, this is not true. The flag of Syria used by the Syrian government is the former banner of the United Arab Republic!

After Hafez Al-Assad died, his youngest son Bashar became president. Originally his older brother Bassel Al-Assad, should have become president after the death of Hafez. However the successor to the Syrian ''throne'' died in a car crash in 1994. Bashar Al-Assad became president in waiting for six years until Hafez Al-Assad died in 2000. Like the Gaddafi family, the Al-Assad family enjoy special privileges. They own luxurious houses, have access to expensive western products and use the state bureaucracy to get what they want!

Revolutionary socialists reject both the Syrian government and the opposition. Because both groups are committing acts of terrorism against the population. Government soldiers rape, murder and kill all who they call a ''terrorists''. Islamic rebels rape, murder and kill anybody who opposes their Islamic theocracy. Revolutionary socialists say that Syrian workers must act independent of the government and the armed opposition groups. The Kurdish People's Protection Units are a good example of popular defence groups. However the Kurdish forces are limited to the north of Syria. Also the Kurds fight for their own people and not for all workers of Syria!

We say:

No to imperialist intervention! Withdraw of all the foreign troops from Syria and the region!

Against all oppression, the people should democratically decide their own destiny!

For the building of united defence committees, to defend the workers and the poor against sectarian attacks from both sides.

For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly in Syria!

Implementation of democratic and nationality rights for all, acknowledging the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people.

For the building of independent trade unions

Build a worker’s party, with a programme that fights for land rights and socialist programme of public ownership and workers’ control of the key sectors of the economy

For a democratic and socialist confederation of the Middle East and North Africa.

Armed groups who participate in the Syrian Civil War
as of April 2014

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism