Anti-war demonstrations against British airstrikes in Syria took place across the country on Saturday (12/12/2015), with a march in London, attended by thousands, taking place from BBC Broadcasting House to a rally outside Downing St. The anger was palpable, and rightly so. After a brief stall when Cameron’s previous attempts to openly bomb Syria were frustrated by intense opposition to constant war, a lynchpin of British imperialism, the recent terrorist atrocities in Paris were cynically used to get the green light for airstrikes in the region.
“It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion it is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.”
David Cameron, July 2015
With recent reports of coalition airstrikes hitting a Syrian Arab Army position in Deir ez-Zor, the real motives are as clear as ever. Despite Western heads of state openly admitting they have no hope of defeating terrorists in the region unless they work with Assad, they refuse to do so. Western airstrikes are still not being coordinated with the Syrian government and they seem to have little effect. The Russian strikes however, which are seriously pushing back ISIL/Daesh, are coordinated fully with the Syrian Arab Army.
The ‘moderate rebels’ touted by Cameron and co as their allies in the region and the best hope of fighting ISIL/Daesh on the ground, but despite tens of millions of dollars of US and UK money being spent on arming, supplying, and supporting them, they have made no progress, and they are facing further defections, capture, and defeat.
In reality there is no coherent ‘moderate rebel’ force: the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a loose coalition within a loose coalition, fighting alongside the Saudi-backed Islamic Front as well as the outright terrorist al-Nusra Front. Membership of these groupings is volatile, all their ideologies are suspect or extreme yet imperialism is willing to support them, despite their ineffectiveness against ISIL/Daesh provided they remain anti-Assad.
The defeat of ISIL/Daesh is something every sane person supports – no-one wants to see a barbaric theocracy in the 21st century. However defeating ISIL/Daesh logically necessitates supporting Assad and the Syrian state, but the western world cannot accept that reality as it goes contrary to their long-held imperialist foreign policy of seeking to control the Middle East and North Africa against the interests and wishes of the peoples of the area. So, in a quandary, imperialism resorts to prolonging the war in the vain hope that it will turn its way.
As the experience of Libya demonstrates, imperialism prefers the horrors of a failed state to one that opposes it’s hegemony.
On the demonstration, comrades from Red Youth and the CPGB-ML met up with a group of secular Syrians, and the Revolutionary Communist Group, who shared our understanding of the importance of supporting the Syrian Arab Army and Bashar Al-Assad, i.e. supporting the majority of the Syrian people. In contrast, Stop the War and their Troto-Labour associates supported the British government’s line that Assad should be deposed, a position which makes their anti-war work confused and counter-productive.
Stop the War National Officer Chris Nineham came up to comrades during the demonstration telling them to remove the pictures of Assad because, “the media could use them against the anti-war cause.” Nineham apparently failed to see that the media will use anything against the anti-war cause, even one as ineffectual as Stop the War. The Assad pictures remained as denying in any way the importance of supporting the popular president of the Syrian would be to deny the only force fighting for a secular, progressive state and would be playing right into the hands of the imperialist propaganda machine.
Stop the War’s anti-Assad myopia became even more apparent when a number of FSA supporters ganged up to abuse the Syrians carrying the Syrian flag, who the FSA supporters took to be pro-Assad, although they said the flag merely demonstrated their support for a free, secular Syria. The FSA supporters shouted them down and then threatened to kill them, before going off chanting their support for Abu Mohammad Al-Julani, the leader of Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria).
Stop the War needs to not just oppose imperialist wars, but the aims of imperialist wars as well.
The only war to counter imperialism is to support the anti-imperialist forces.
Victory to Assad!
Victory to the Syrian people!
Stop imperialism in Syria!