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Geo-politics versus revolution

Part I of Syria, Turkey and the Arab revolt

30. December 2011
by Wilhelm Langthaler

Among some anti-imperialist trends, we are facing a mindset whose sole criteria are geo-political. This method is inherited essentially from the Stalinist Soviet Union, which in its turn took it from the pre-1919 global ruling elites. To this mindset, the masses are nothing, only the rulers count.


Additionally, given the continued overwhelming supremacy of imperialism there cannot be any doubt for our geo-politicians that whatever regime comes into conflict with the imperial centre must be supported – regardless of its relation to the popular masses. Tertium non datur!

During the last two decades this geo-political position did not differ much from the social revolutionary one. Imperial power has been at its highest, unfolding ruthlessly and attacking resisting regimes that represented old gains of long-gone popular struggles. Outstanding examples were Yugoslavia and Iraq, where the popular masses essentially remained passive while only politically advanced sections supported the regimes’ resistance against imperialism.

Popular resistance movements like those in Palestine, Afghanistan and later Iraq were directly facing imperialism or puppet regimes. As they quickly had to assume military forms under difficult conditions, they often also turned militarist and neglected popular mass struggle. The main conflict within the global anti-imperialist movement was, however, over the Islamophobic approach by many parts of the geo-political trend. These parts failed to support the Islamic resistance forces as they remained prisoners of the pre-1989/1991 narrative of political Islam as a tool of imperialism. Too often they were passive bystanders. Eventually most had to accept that, for example, Hamas had taken over the banner of the Palestinian resistance while the secularists had capitulated. Until now, however, they could not grasp the anti-imperialist symbolism of Islam.

Regarding the Eastern European coloured revolutions there had been a certain congruence as well. While there were indeed some popular mobilisations also by poorer classes, the movements explicitly called for capitalism and affiliation with imperialism. Our difference with many pro-Soviet geo-politicians was that we condemned neither the democratic demands nor the right to national self-determination, let alone did we support the repression. On the other hand, we could not support the movements, which were essentially politically reactionary regardless of their social composition.

More recently a special and difficult episode was provided by the Green movement in Iran, which cannot be included among the coloured revolutions. While many of its demands for political rights were legitimate, it essentially was a movement by the urban middle classes, with no support from the poor classes. Furthermore it allied with the liberal capitalist wing of the elites, which tended towards compromise with imperialism. Despite condemning the repression and calling for democratic reform, we had to conclude that the anti-imperialist momentum in the regime outweighed its repressive character. One should not forget that Iran has been the main state challenging the empire.

Up to this point the geo-political and the social revolutionary brand of anti-imperialism were more or less on the same side of history. (The differences on the role of the masses in the historical process have always been felt during these decades. One expression of it was the struggle over political Islam. The geo-political trend kept supporting an empty French-type secularism against a religious enemy, which reappeared as anti-imperialism resistance. It could also be felt when it came to the apologies the geo-politicians used to offer for the regimes they defended. Any criticism was immediately evaluated as treason.) Then came the Arab revolt.


December 27, 2011

Intro: Syria, Turkey and the Arab revolt

Part I: Geo-politics versus revolution

Part II: State of the Arab democratic revolt
The Arab ancien regime
Here come the Arab popular masses
New role for Islamism?
American embrace
The Libyan case

Part III: Syria – who is anti-imperialist?
First stage: peaceful and anti-interventionist
Western hesitation
Turkey as a model and main player
The Assad regime
Second stage: descent into civil war
The opposition and the Syrian National Council (SNC)
Kurdish question