Universality of PPW: Neither Assad nor NATOPosted On 05 Oct 2014
This article first appeared on the Maosoleum Blog in June 2013. Some parts are a bit outdated, yet overall we think the article still offers a critical insight into the Civil War in Syria.
Much has been debated in the last few years around Syria’s civil war in the wider left, the socialist, and communist movements, including the various Marxist currents. Recently, however, there has been an upsurge of commentary and line struggle because of the recent declaration of open military support for the “Free Syria Army” (FSA) on the part of NATO and the USA. In particular, this has led to informal line struggles in my own circles both online and offline. Thus, a matter that is important but not urgent, has become one of urgency, specially because I identify certain confusions among Maoist forces, in particular an eclectic and sometimes opportunist tailing of revisionist and nationalist forces both in Syrian and out of Syria, but also an abandonment of the struggle to establish the central principle of Maoist Scientific Socialist struggle: the universality of Protracted People’s War.
As such this post is not a general post on Syria – a complex topic that cannot possibly be addressed in a single post, nor that I can address solely (I already have a significant backlog of drafts, as I mentioned), nor are we addressing the forces in the left who are pro-FSA, that is, the fun house mirror images of the pro-Assad leftists. This is intended to enter the line struggle within Maoism as a way to clarify and develop a particular line that I and others have come to understand as the correct, Maoist, line and line of march on the topic – as such, it has a limited scope and thus please have this narrow delimitation in mind when answering.
These confusions represent an abandonment of Maoism and an embrace of revisionism and of certain forms of Stalinism and of certain forms of Trotskyism, and represent a step backward if they are widely adopted, and represent also a step backward in the struggle to establish if not hegemony, at least a differentiated position with other trends and traditions, necessary in the political struggle for the masses.
These confusions in the Maoist camp in my view play out in three main ways:
1) Confusing the principle of struggle against imperialism with that of supporting a given regime based solely on its posture towards imperialism, principally US imperialism. Lets call this confusion a mistake of the nature of imperialism.
2) Confusing the principle of proletarian internationalism with that of the defense of national liberation; in general when dealing with the antagonism between a Nation-State of a semi-colonial/neo-colonial nature and imperialist countries, in the specific when dealing with a multi-national State that was arbitrarily created by British imperialism in the 1920s such as Syria. Lets call this confusion a mistake of nationalism.
3) Confusing the principle of the universality of Protracted People’s War with principle of the united front for national liberation. The task of communists everywhere is to make revolution, because we know it is right to rebel, but it is better to make revolution. One of the things that sets apart Maoism from other various Marxisms and from even Mao Zedong Thought is that we have come to understand the principle of Protracted People’s War as universal. This doesn’t mean that the military aspect is the primary aspect at all times (which would be ultra-leftism), but it does mean that when the military is the primary contradiction (such as is the case in Syria – I think there is little debate on this view), the perspective should be to develop the Protracted People’s War under the specific conditions of the given class conditions in a given revolutionary situation. The lines within Maoism that do not put this to the fore are putting aside the universality of Protracted People’s War and its substitution with various other perspectives, mostly of an eclectic and of an opportunist nature. Lets call this confusion a mistake of eclecticism and opportunism.
I will attempt to address these mistakes, but first let me address a secondary error of method that is present in these confusions.
The Error of Lack of Investigation
My initial position on the events was quite different than that of Libya (in which I advocated against imperialist intervention while taking a no-camp perspective): the specificity of the war in Libya and that in Syria – while sharing some similarities – are different enough that a simple copying of positions. This is a secondary confusion to the three main ones above: an error of science, lets call it an error of lack of investigation. Maoists should at all times oppose book worship. In fact, Mao addresses the phenomena at hand directly, in his title heading for section four in “Oppose Book Worship”:
Further in this section he states:
We must wipe out idealism and guard against all opportunist and putschist errors before we can succeed in winning over the masses and defeating the enemy. The only way to wipe out idealism is to make the effort and investigate the actual situation.
Lets unpack this:
1) Idealism here means the process of taking an idea and substituting this idea for the dialectical engagement with material reality. This includes the adoption of crude empiricism – for example, the privileging of certain material facts over other material facts when drawing up a particular line. In the case of Syria, for example, there is an idealism present in the description of the Assad regime as anti-imperialist, when in fact it is pro-imperialist: it serves the interests of Russian imperialism and is in itself engaged in the national oppression of non-Arab and Sunni Arab people’s within Syria, as well as other minority national groups. It also administers a semi-colonial/neo-colonial State whose borders are not the result of a process of national self-determination, but of the caprice first of Ottoman imperialism and then British imperialism. Since this is an example, we will not now get into other specificities, but this should clearly delineate that idealism is not just abstract thinking – as it is often used – but also means the purported empiricism and materialism that is incomplete and not subjected to broad and open ended investigation.
2) Opportunism here means the abandonment of political principles in order to advance a particular strategic or tactical perspective. In the case of Syria, the opportunism mostly tends to express itself within the communist movement in the form of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. While in general this is not always a bad perspective, in the particular case of Syria it is: since there are friends available with whom we can develop alliances and political support that are not only based on a common enemy, but also based on a common direction in the struggle against the enemy, there is no reason to set the bar so low. This has a long basis in Maoism – to seek out the alliances with the forces that walk the same path besides also having a common enemy, before seeking the alliance with force with which one only has in common the enemy. We have a common enemy with both Assad and the FSA, and it is each other as well as imperialism in general. The opportunists posit that the defense of Assad is anti-imperialism – but it is not: the Kurdistan question demolishes this contention.
3) Putschism here means the view that what matters is the central control of the State machinery, rather than the popular organization of the masses. In the example of Syria, this plays out in the belief that the Assad regime represents the only force capable of opposition to NATO-USA-Israeli interests and political positions. That is not the case – he has actually shown himself a paper tiger. Those who harbor putchist illusions discount – a priori – the popular basis of the uprising against Assad, and furthermore, do so by engaging in conspiranoia and claims that the uprising is orchestrated entirely by the intelligence agencies of the imperialist. Now, lets have no illusions – the intelligence services of imperialism are all over the place in the FSA and have penetrated all levels of the uprising. Yet, to assume this truth as central is to be anachronistic, to abandon historical materialism, and to describe the class struggle as simple conspiracies among elites, that robs all agency from the masses. Lets be clear also: the masses do make mistakes. But these are the mistakes of the masses, not of the conspirators that plot to utilize their righteous rebellion to their ends. And thus the putchist believes that the masses are idle pawns in a game played by larger forces – rather than active actors in their own destiny. In Syria, the uprising began as part of the wave of rebellion that began in Tunisia and is now entering its third year in the region with the rebellions in Turkey. The initials demands of the movement were reasonable and righteous: more democratic rights, resolution of the issues of oppressed nationalities including regional and local autonomy, and the demand for open elections. From the beginning , of course, there were liberal and pro-US imperialist forces present, as well as Islamists, but there were also communist, Kurdish nationalists, and other left and progressive forces involved. In fact, the initial reaction of the regime, while rather brutal, was not abnormal even by western standards: beatings, tear gas, mass incarceration etc. It even attempted to establish open dialog with the forces in the initial uprising which had a clear anti-NATO position, including the Kurds. The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) emerged as the solid left wing of these movement – led by an anarchist, containing many forces from a broad and lively left. Then suddenly and almost without warning, Assad decided on a military solution. The brutality of his crackdown was both unprecedented and unjustifiable. It pushed wide sections of the masses from a neutral position to the a position of complete opposition. It transformed what had been a political struggle into a military one. In this context, it was only natural that as the military gained primacy, the forces which initially had sought righteous redress of grievances, were to be pushed against a wall, and into the mistake and error of seeking support at any cost. The LCC collapsed as a left alternative, the FSA became populated by former regimes types flipped by foreign intelligence services, and the situation developed to the present state. Clearly, the lack of a communist revolutionary force capable of both engaging the Assad regime and retaining independence from NATO/US imperialism creates a situation in which both sides are unsupportable – yet, we must understand that this doesn’t mean the original demands from the masses suddenly become invalid. Not being able to objectively carry out correct political line is one thing, to give up on this lines to pick a side is another. The Putchists believe that the masses, lacking clarity, need to be abandoned, and thus side with what they see as the primary ally. This is an error, as Mao points out.
Now, this is an early work by Mao, and we do not want to makes the mistake we are advising against and engage in book worship ourselves – but there is no evidence in practice, nor is there any theoretical formulation proven in practice that has contradicted this position scientifically. As such, I think Mao provided an universal insight and political principle with these observations, and they remain essentially valid. After all, while Mao didn’t fully develop Maoism, he certainly was the starting point. A Maoist method is not about exegesis of what Mao said or meant, but rather, of establishing the principles openly, and subject them to scientific critique. By quoting Mao, we are not attempting an empty claim of authority, but rather, showing that this principle, more than 80 years old, still remains valid and applies to the current situation, and perfectly illustrates that this secondary error of lack of investigation.
In short those who support the bureaucratic capitalist, pro-Imperialist, Arab chauvinist regime of Assad unconditionally are not Maoists, but idealists, seeking to align with revisionism which is tailing bureaucrat capitalism. Those who claim to be Maoists and on the name of Maoism do this, are not applying Maoist study and scientific rigor, and thus are confusing the masses by claiming to represent Maoism, but actually representing something else. As an heterodox Maoist, I do not think that having a difference of position with the majority or orthodoxy is in itself problematic: Maoism is about line struggle, and for there to be line struggle there have to be difference of line. But the essence of the error of idealism is that rather of contending lines rooted in scientific debate, to be tested in practice, there is a method of eclectic embrace of unscientific assumptions and suppositions based not on careful study of concrete situations, of the concrete class analysis, but of a superficial and worked out dogma of revisionism (and the first cousins of Stalinism and Trotskyism).
The struggle between rigorous and scientific lines is part of the process of discovering truth and establishing a correct line of march. The struggle against the error of lack of investigation is the struggle against a position that hides the truth behind a thick smog of eclectically accessed dogma, that engages in opportunism or putschism.
That is not to say that Maoists cannot develop united fronts with other leftists, progressives, socialists, and communists. We can and should do so, as part of the class struggle – even with those with whom we have deep differences (of course, with their reciprocation and not as tailism). Yet, we are Maoists contending for the attention and support of the masses, and we must at times say: that is not Maoism, that is something else. Such is the case we present here – the difference between principled struggle of line within Maoism, and what is not Maoism but lies outside of it.
Mistake of the Nature of Imperialism
Imperialism is not a vague or simple description within Marxism-Leninism. It has a very specific meaning – it is a scientific term with a scientific basis that while having some commonalities and shared origin with non-Marxist Leninist definitions of the term, also have some major differences with them. The canonical text for this definition is Lenin’s “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism“, based on the work previously done by Karl Kautsky, and his own creative additions.
In brief, Imperialism represents the higher stage of Capitalism, higher in the sense of being a development from the previous epochs of Capitalism as it transitioned from being an European phenomenon to a global one. Imperialism as used in Marxism-Leninism does share the original perspective of the domination of one nation/country or group of nations/countries over another, but furthermore specifies how this domination happens, why this domination happens, and identifies the contradictions this generates within Capitalism as a system. It is in this specificity that often those who in good faith speak about anti-imperialism often fall short of a scientific understanding of imperialism, and often engage in dogmas from a previous era (the cold war) in order to establish political line over current events.
In particular, we tend to see a confusion between the fact that since World War II the dominant imperialism in the world has been US imperialism to then mean that this is a static fact and that it is the principal enemy. This might or might not have been correct under previous conditions (that is a matter for different discussion), but the reality today is that US imperialism doesn’t stand alone in the world. Not only are there other imperialisms allied to it, such as British and Canadian, and other imperialism have cordial but often contentious relationships to it, such European Union and in particular French and German imperialisms, but there are also emerging and existing challenges to its dominance, and in fact, a block of counter-hegemony that is in itself imperialist. The primary example being Russia, which partly inherited the social-imperialist empire of the USSR, but has since the dissolution of the USSR also developed its own empire, often carved out of the scraps that USA leaves behind as its power as an hegemon diminishes slowly. This confusion has a its root mistaken beliefs as to what constitutes imperialism as system.
Imperialism can be best seen as a system of systems: it is the result of the international, interdependent phase of Capitalism, and thus it exists as part of the competition between the different ruling classes for profits. It has nothing to do with cultural, religious, ethnic, or other forms of dominance and oppression – it is in essence about exploitation. Now, imperialism does make use of those cultural, religious, ethnic, and other forms of dominance and oppression as part of its functioning, but those so only insofar as it provides an effective way to develop profits. As such, imperialism answers to now one but profit, it has not loyalty but capital, and it has not camp but the bourgeois. Imperialism is not simply the dominance of one country over another, but the exploitation of one country over another – in fact, imperialism can be present even when there seems to be at the surface a cordial and egalitarian relationship between the imperialist and the subject.
Competition among the imperialists, however, provides openings for the revolutionary camp. The classic example of this was the handling of these contradictions on the part of the Bolsheviks, which led to their successful revolutionary capture of State power. They pitted German imperialism against Russian imperialism, while advancing their own line, and fighting a three way struggle versus both the Czarists and the Provisional Government.
Another classic example of this was the Chinese Revolution, where the Chinese Communist Party correctly utilized the contradictions between Japanese and Western imperialisms, as well as within the Chinese nation, to establish its hegemony in a three way struggle against Chinese Nationalists and Japanese Imperialism, later transformed into US/Western imperialism.
(And what we begin to see is that these struggles were not between two contending camps, principally, but three contending camps – this is extremely relevant for my point on the universality of the Protracted People’s War)
Historically – and this is a mistake than can be traced back to Lenin’s time – the Comintern assumed a mechanical position of there being, at all times, a class line expressed in the concrete political space, and that this class line manifested world wide, and thus the Comintern members had to have a position on everything, or they would be abstentionist. Nearly all traditions rooted on this Comintern perspective suffer from this – Maoism being no exception. This is a mistake because it opens the door to dogmatic and mechanical application of abstract principles, and as Mao (and this is somewhat ironic) explained, leads to idealism, which in turn leads to opportunism or putschism. And this indeed has been the history of the revolutionary movement post-Comintern, either opportunism or putschism. We need to break with this wrong thinking.
I argue this original sin, so to speak, must be rectified. The final disappearance of the USSR opened the opportunity for this – with the absence of the possibility of inner political struggle in Russia, the complete and absolute overthrow of even the pretense of proletarian control, the world situation clarifies itself: all there is now is imperialism (whereas, while scientifically correct, the line on social-imperialism made the situation less clear). And this clarification also forces us to retake the positions of careful class analysis, and careful investigation of the concrete, even if it tells us there is no supportable camp, because there is no need to defend the real or imagined gains of the so-called socialist block. To be Maoist and not grasp and grapple with this is to allow revisionism to creep back in, to abolish decades of struggle to come to naught, and to rob the masses of the world of the guidance and scientific perspective of Maoism – that is, to stop being a Maoist and start to be something else.
We are back to the beginning of the 20th century. The sooner we abandon the bad habits of the cold war, the sooner we can get back to the protracted struggle of building communist revolution, rather than the defensive position of simply opposing one segment of imperialism via alliance (more often than not unrequited) with another segment of imperialism, which is what the revisionists (and their first cousins) propose we do. It is right to rebel, it is better to make revolution.
Mistake of nationalism
Nationalism and imperialism go hand in hand. Nations as we know them today, didn’t exist as even a concept until the emergence of capitalism, and didn’t acquire their present form until imperialism emerged. As such, whenever imperialism is involved in a conflict, the national question arrives on the scene, and likewise, whenever the national question emerges, we need to take into consideration imperialism.
The case of Syria presents a very complex example of this. As we mentioned, it is an invented country, with a multinational State, that exists within an imperialist block (Russian imperialism and Iranian junior imperialism) – thus it is both subjected to imperialist oppression and exploitation and at the same time it participates in imperialism and on the oppression and exploitation of nationalities. An Alawite Arab elite rules over non-elite Alawites, Arab Sunnis, Shias, and Christians, a small number of Druzes, and a significant population of Kurds, as well as other smaller oppressed nationalities.
In this context, the revisionist claim that the Assad regime is a defender of Syrian national independence and thus “objectively” anti-imperialist is incorrect. The Assad regime is a continuation of the imperialist breakup of the Ottoman empire when this empire lost World War I. It rules over a country whose very existence is predicated upon and a result of, imperialism. Now, we do not discount the emergence of a right for national self-determination for Syria, and for this to be defended, but if we do so, we must be careful to not objectively support the continued oppression and exploitation of oppressed nationalities by settlerist maps and States which draw strength not from the national solidarity of the citizen, but the imposition of a minority by force. Syria has much more in similar with, say, South Africa under apartheid, than, say Lebanon today. Of course, conditions for the oppressed nationalities were better than in Apartheid South Africa and that other settler-colonial creature, Israel, until the recent crackdown that triggered the civil war, but lets have no illusions as to the oppressive and exploitative relationship of the Arab chauvinist regime towards its oppressed nationalities.
And this is the basis of the mistake of nationalism.
One of these people quite literally said:
“The Kurds are only 10% of the population. You want to sacrifice the Arab majority for the Kurds.”
The national chauvinism here is thick – and in fact very easily rebutted: we do not want the Arab nationalists to sacrifice the Kurds to retain their supremacy – we advocate proletarian internationalism against national chauvinism. The struggle is not zero sum – we can both have Kurdish national self-determination and we can have Arabs free from imperialist predation. I must admit the adoption of such Capitalist concepts as zero sum logic is frustrating and perplexing – in particular because Maoism advocates something entirely different: the correct handling of the contradictions among the people.
Here we have a perfect example of why Assad is a bankrupt force, and why supporting him is a bankrupt position. If the uprising against Assad was indeed – as claimed by the revisionists (and cousins) – originally an imperialist attack on Syrian national sovereignty, then the logical position would have been to develop a broad anti-imperialist front to fight against this attack. Instead, his solution was an all out sectarian attack on those forces he identified as dangerous to Alawite supremacism and in opposition to Arab chauvinism. Of all the forces subjected to this brutal attack, only the Kurds were able to mount an effective defense, and fight Assad to a strategic stalemate, and then go in an offensive that has effectively liberated most of Syrian Kurdistan. Yet, this very same forces remain stalwartly anti-NATO.
The existence of this Kurdish third way is clearly inconvenient to both the supporters of Assad and those who support the FSA/LCCs: it exposes both the lack of an actual anti-imperialist motive on the part of Assad, and the utter treason of accepting NATO help. The third way that the Kurds put forth is not without problems, including the need to fight for a proletarian internationalist perspective. Yet, since the Kurdish struggle is neither new, nor subjected only to Syria, we have their example from Turkey: the dominant forces of Kurdish national liberation have indeed harbored and protected, for decades, the base areas of a number of pan-Turkish organizations, including Maoists organizations, who respect and fight for Kurdish national liberation, as well as fight for communist revolution. The Kurds have shown themselves adept both in understanding Protracted People’s War, and in engaging in proletarian internationalism, even when they are lacking in other respects. This provides an opportunity for non-Kurdish Syrians, which we discuss next. Yet this opportunity is a lost one if one insists in revisionism.
Mistake of eclecticism and opportunism
Eclecticism, which we will discuss more in depth later, and opportunism (which we briefly discuss above) interlink in interesting ways regarding Syria and Maoism. We have seen some self-described Maoist put forth arguments and engage in politics identical to those of the revisionists (and cousins). While this entirely possible to happen without diverging from Maoist method, specially the more general one gets (ie Capitalism is bad), it does start to create problems the more specific one gets (ie the nature of the Assad regime).
One of the primary eclectic contentions I have seen is that the class relationship, the class line, and thus the class line, is to be determined by looking at Assad’s relationship towards imperialism, principally US imperialism. This is not Maoism, but Stalinist/Trotskyist defensism. While Maoists are entirely capable of defending a regime we dislike because it is under imperialist aggression, this is only done after investigating the concrete conditions of the internal regime – unless it is a proletarian State, of which there are none in the world today, there is no reason why to automatically assume that any State being attacked by imperialism is worthy of defense as a regime. To attack imperialism we do not need to defend its enemies, even if it can be a way to attack imperialism. This is the fundamental confusion: just because something can lead to another thing, it doesn’t mean it is the only way, or that it will always lead to it. A sledgehammer can kill a fly, but a fly swatter is better – try to hit a fly with a sledgehammer and you will most likely tear a muscle before you suceed: to support a regime in contradiction with imperialism can in fact lead to the opposite effect. There are plenty of examples in history of how defensism has blown in the face of the communists who advocated it – but in this case, it has led to the isolation of the Syrian masses from the international communist movement, and furthermore, the identification of communism not as a revolutionary force for overthrowing the existing, but a reformist force defending the existing.
That is not to say we do not automatically oppose imperialist aggression – we do. Yet the idea that we cannot do so without then defending politically and/or militarily the regime in question is not a Maoist idea, but a Marxist-Leninist idea, and one shared by both groups and people from both sides of the divide between Stalinists and Trotskyists. Maoists are perfectly capable of understanding that while opposition to imperialism might require unsavory alliances, it doesn’t simply require them. And this is the line struggle: there are some who want – in the name of Maoism – to adopt eclectically the positions on anti-imperialism of the revisionists, without even the semblance of study and investigation, and with facts drawn not from the concrete conditions and historical materialist contradictions, but from the dogmas of revisionism and Trotskyism.
They do so not out of principle, but out of idealism, in its opportunist form. They see the struggle against US imperialism as central and more important than anything else, ignoring that US imperialism is a paper tiger that has become wet. That is not to discount the dangers it poses – US imperialism is still a danger to the world. However, the positioning of the need for an alliance against US imperialism (As opposed to all of imperialism) in the context they operate is a way to tail nationalism – many nationalists (of First Nations/American Indians, of New Afrikans, of Puerto Ricans, but also exile Arabs, Filipinos etc) prioritize the struggle against US imperialism over all other considerations, because that is indeed the primary consideration in their national struggles. Establishing a dogmatic line on anti-imperialism generates the possibility of linkages to these forces without having to explain much, and tails the backward elements among these forces. This is the basis of the opportunism that is present.
However, as communists, we should be advocating proletarian internationalism, carefully explaining and advocating consciously communist line, utilizing the methods of the mass line to both avoid needless offense to the nationalists of oppressed nationalities, and to develop linkages not with the backward forces among them, but the advanced, communists forces to establish the hegemony of Maoist line. The mistake of nationalism then becomes part of opportunism.
The problem here is that since it is eclectic and opportunist, it represents a political straight jacket that doesn’t enable the emerging Maoist forces to engage the reality in the ground from a correct perspective. Such as the universality of the Protracted People’s War.
Protracted People’s War is universal, and to deny this is eclecticism
This question needs exploration in the context of Syria:
1) Historical materialism demonstrates that Protracted People’s War is universally applicable as a method for the achievement of State power. Some forces that are not Maoist have actually copied this successfully, the limitations being inherent to the eclecticism this implies in relation to how does the the politico-military struggle evolve. Yet Maoism is synonymous with the application of the universality of the Protracted People’s War to a given condition. As the article M-L-M Mayhem! we linked to above explains, this doesn’t mean that one prosecutes military operations primarily, but that all revolutionary agitation culminates with the military confrontation between revolutionary and reactionary forces. When the military conflict is not the primary political situation, even if we understand Protracted People’s War as universal, the engagement in it constitutes adventurism. However, when the political situation is such that the military conflict is the primary form of politics, there is no evading the military perspective. Such is the case in Syria.
2) Since Protracted People’s War is universal, this means it applies to Syria. So the primary question for Maoists when discussing Syria is how will Protracted People’s War will be prosecuted and when to elevate the struggle to a military one. There are no organized Maoist forces in Syria, which posses the question in an even more complex form: in a situation in which the military struggle has taken primacy, were do the communists should stand? The revisionists tell us that the defense of the Assad regime is primary, but the Syrian masses tell us this regime is bankrupt. So what to do? Kurdistan is the pivot. The Kurds have been able to reach a strategic stalemate with the regime, and have throw out the FSA from Kurdistan. No small feat. This impressive achievement of national liberation, however, has been done responsibly – there has been no attempt to formally break Syria apart, only to delimit zones of autonomous control. No doubt this follows a strategy of careful national construction on the part of the Kurds, who recognize both the need for an eventual Kurdistan, and the complexities needed to create it. In essence, they are pursuing a strategy similar to Protracted People’s War, without proletarian control or communist ideological supremacy. This however creates the strategic confluence and possibility of unity between Maoist forces and the Kurdish struggle.
3) The Syrian communists who want to struggle against imperialism should realized the Assad regime is deeply a comprador regime, that it does not have the Syrian national interest in mind, and that it is not in an equal relationship with Russia imperialism, but rather it has a neo-colonial relationship with it, as well as with the junior imperialism of Iran. Syria is not so much a puppet State as it is a semi-colony/neo-colony – it doesn’t simply do the bidding of the Russians, it is in fact given great latitude in this respect, but rather serves as an outpost and ally of Russian imperialism and of Iranian junior imperialism, advancing the interests of both even when it risks the Syrian national interests. As such, it is right to rebel against Assad, and it is better to build revolution against him. To defend him is to defend – as the revisionists once did – the Kuomintang over the Chinese Communist forces.
4) However, we must recognize that the FSA is dominated by a coalition of pro-US imperialism, pro-Saudi junior imperialism, Jihadists and wannabe compradores. Since they are the main military force against Assad in the ground, this poses the clear contradiction – there is no Syria-wide military opposition to both NATO and Assad, and it would be suicidal to attempt to build it in the present period.
5) It is thus time for the long march to Kurdistan – to break with the Assad regime, to develop and link up forces with the Kurdish movement, to oppose the FSA Saudo-American national liquidators, to rebuild a popular and mass base for a New Democratic Syria. The Kurds have in effect created a sanctuary and base area free from both imperialist/jihadist and Assad interference. They also have a long history of proletarian internationalism on the basis of the respect for Kurdish customs and autonomy. It provides the perfect, concrete and material, conditions to the development of a third way capable of taking the strategic offensive, even if the Kurds themselves are not willing or capable of engaging in it.
6) For those of us outside of Syria, it is critical we oppose imperialism, but it is also critical we seek out and connected with those in Syria that agree with us, to provide them support, to also link up and advocate for Protracted People’s War in alliance with the Kurdish national forces in Syria. We should seek to develop a united front with all forces willing to oppose imperialism in concrete terms within the imperialist countries, withouts regards to our differences on how the struggle on the ground develop. Only security considerations – for example, groups known to do pigwork for Syrian intelligence or for Western intelligence – should be discarded from such a united front. Our primary struggle thus is to agitate against imperialist intervention and meddling in Syria, including opposition to the FSA and its apologists and their denunciation as tools of US/Saudi imperialism. At the same time, outside of this united front, we must engage in clear criticism of the Assad regime, and a defense of the original demands for democracy, national liberation and self-determination, and real freedom from imperialism (not just US/Saudi imperialism) that the Syrian masses bought forth before NATO intervened. We must fight also for a correct reckoning with the facts on the ground, to combat the lies and distortions put out by both sides.
This is the Maoist position – devoid of illusions, deeply materialist, in opposition to revisionism and other trends which are seeking to sacrifice proletarian independence in the name of an empty anti-imperialism. Revolution is neither a picnic nor a pick up game, you do not simply pick a team. You struggle to be a partisan and build a team composed of the advanced layers of the proletariat. Assad is not in the proletarian camp. The Kurds are. That is the pivot. The sooner we realize this, the sooner our confusion will be over, the clearer the line of march becomes, and we can begin to advance our own tasks of building revolution were we live. By tapping into the possibilities opened by the Kurds, the International Communist Movement has an opportunity to gain valuable experience of a re-invigorated Maoist practice in a region than sorely needs it. By aligning ourselves with revisionism, we destroy the possibility of building trust in the masses, of engaging in a mass line perspective, and of ultimately struggle against revisionism for hegemony in the proletarian struggle.
These notes, while relatively extensive, are nowhere near as exhaustive as they should be, and it is my hope they generate a needed debate on the topic. The line struggle, however, should be clear: capitulation in front of revisionism (and cousins) or the fight for Maoism, for the universality of Protracted People’s War. Those are the stakes.