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Syria’s Bloody Civil War: An Interview With Gilbert Achcar


Interview with Gilbert Achcar, academic, writer, and activist, Professor at the Development Studies Department at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London (SOAS).

 

Amandla!: What would you say to those who argue that the Syrian uprising may be an opening for imperialist interests in the region?

GA font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>: It's not a class uprising in the sense that it has any form of clear-cut class consciousness. But the uprising started with a peripheral movement in poor rural towns, and the poorest, most downtrodden sections of the population were the insurgency's initial force. The bourgeoisie as a whole is very afraid of the whole movement and the chaos that it creates. So there is no doubt that the uprising is a popular movement.

But because of the historical failure of the left in the region, we have a massive uprising without any capable left-wing leadership. It's a very decentralised type of uprising with all sorts of groups waging a common fight against the regime.

A!: Who are the different groups?

GA line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>

GA font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>: Recently Washington has intervened through Qatar to impose a new kind of body, the Syrian National Coalition, to supersede the National Council. The crucial point is that Washington wants a deal with the regime that would preserve the state, because it is afraid of chaos, especially in such a strategic location. But this strategy is doomed to fail in Syria. The degree of violence, the numbers of people killed, and the hatred that has accumulated, as well as the completely sectarian structure of the Syrian state, all make it illusory to believe that this kind of compromise is possible in Syria.

A!: To what extent has the monarchy in Saudi Arabia used the uprising to tip the balance towards fundamentalism?

GA font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>: The Muslim Brotherhood is actually a bourgeois reactionary force in the social field. They have opposed the regimes because they curtailed their freedom of action, so they were in a common front against the common enemy. But they don't share the same values and goals as other factions of the uprising, especially the young people, the workers' movement, or the women's movement. Their agenda is a reactionary one. Their economic programme is neo-liberal. After years of pretending to have a radical anti-Zionist or anti-Israel and anti-US policy, they have suddenly, since coming to power, become friends of Washington, even continuing Mubarak's policies toward Israel.

A!: What are the implications of what is happening in Syria for Israel and Palestine?

GA font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>: The main accomplishment is that the popular movement is boiling everywhere. This is something completely new in the region, which for decades has been under very despotic regimes, where any expression of mass protest was harshly repressed. And now there is a major explosion of popular struggles, which is not being stopped even by the elections. Many thought that after the elections in Egypt, it would be back to business as usual. But there are daily demonstrations and social struggles that are not reported by the media. So this is just the beginning of a long-term process which may take years to get to any new kind of stabilisation in the region. The left in Tunisia was very scattered and divided at the last elections, but they can now draw their own lessons. The trade unions are gaining more and more leverage, and people have been responding with mass outpours to the political assassination of Belaid.

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