A grassroots mobilization in Syria

By ANDREW POLLACK
As the armed conflict heats up in Syria, there are indications that organizing of the rebellion is proceeding at the rank-and-file level.
The Revolutionary Left, for instance, cites the continued role of workers and peasants in the revolt, as well as students: “Today, not a week goes by without the voices and songs of the students of the University of Damascus being heard at the presidential palace, close to a hundred meters, while almost daily demonstrations take place at the universities of Deraa and Deir al-Zur. Aleppo University has suspended its course for fear of an uprising even more important for young people, while the bullets are more numerous than the books at the University of Homs.

“The bulk of the protesters of the Syrian revolutionary movement actually include the economically disenfranchised rural and urban working and middle classes who have suffered from the accelerated imposition of neoliberal policies by Bashar Al Assad since his arrival to power.”
The RL said the grassroots opposition is united around demands for the overthrow of Assad and his close associates, “a transition government, the establishment of all civil liberties, the end of the repression, the liberation of political prisoners and the return of opponents in exile.”
The group noted that the regime that has enriched a handful of families with its neoliberal economic policies is the same one, whether under Assad fils or pere, that has over the decades worked with imperialism to repress Palestinian and Lebanese liberation fighters, and has aided the U.S. in its war against Iraq and its “war on terror.”
The RL also warned of “the dangers of an external intervention on the revolution, while arguing for a radical opposition. We thus refuse any military role or action in the future, on Syrian territory, by NATO or other reactionary forces from the Arab States or other Middle Eastern ones.”
They also called for building “an organized revolutionary left in Syria,” noting that the absence of such a force “has been among the causes in the confusion inside the leadership of the current six-months-long revolutionary movement. On one hand, this is the outcome of the historical participation of the traditional communist movement in the existing regime and its brutal repression. Another reason is the crushing by the regime of the revolutionary left and to a large extent all other political forces since 1980s.”
They emphasized: “Despite the success of the Syrian masses to continue the struggle against this oppressive regime, the latter will nevertheless not be toppled overnight. The battle of the masses to achieve their demands mentioned above will need time. This is why the revolutionary work is not limited to Syria, but also includes other Arab countries, and may include later all the Arab countries in order to build a revolutionary left capable of mobilizing the masses for freedom, dignity and social justice on the basis of a progressive and radical program that can stand out amid programs of other political and social forces.”
Answering allegations of “Islamist” domination of the revolution, they put down the adoption by some armed groups of names from Islamic history to their being composed of very religious, mostly rural members, i.e., the names were products of their social milieu, not of a sectarian impulse. Still, there have been reports by progressive activists of sectarian statements and actions. But this is not surprising given the social and political atomization imposed by the regime for decades, and the sectarianism it has encouraged since the revolt broke out.
(See various articles by the RL at http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/.)
Evidence of the potential in the Revolutionary Left’s call for regional organizing and solidarity was provided in an article by Amro Ali, “Egypt’s stake in the Syrian revolution” (The Egypt Monocle, June 24). Ali described a variety of solidarity activities organized on behalf of the revolt by Egyptian revolutionaries, and noted historic examples of pan-Arab sentiment and struggles.
The same potential was testified to by Suzanne Adely at a New York forum on Syria organized in July by the Coalition to Defend the Egyptian Revolution. Adely described a meeting being held in Cairo for a leading Syrian oppositionist.
She said that the meeting was interrupted by news of the attack by Egyptian security forces on a protest, and meeting participants rushed off to help defend protesters. However, Adely noted, participants made clear that they did not see this as having put aside the Syrian issue to deal with their “own” issues, but rather as a natural shift from one front to another in a shared, regional fight for liberation.