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On the Polemics Regarding Imperialism and Syria

On the Polemics Regarding Imperialism and Syria

Monday, 12 April, 2021 - 10:15

Between the 1970s and the end of the century, incidences that could have been called comedic if it weren’t for the suffering and the pain they caused, began to proliferate:

An Iraqi, who called himself an anti-imperialist, is detained by Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus and subjected to the most gruesome torture under the pretext that he is an agent of imperialism. However, the victim did not conceal his fear of the Syrian regime falling, as it is anti-imperialist.

A Syrian, who called himself anti-imperialist, is detained by Hafez al-Assad’s security apparatus and subjected to the most gruesome torture, under the pretext that he is an agent of imperialism. But the victim doesn’t hide his fear of the Iraqi regime falling, as it is anti-imperialist.

And of course, there is the anti-imperialist Lebanese, who suffers under the weight of the Syrian regime in his country, but nonetheless wishes nothing for this regime but its perpetuity in Syria and its resilience that is needed to confront imperialism.

The suffering and pain of victims often appear cost-free, and the reason for this gratuity can often be found in a common lingual and conceptual framework that bring the victim and jailer together.

The ruptures between them would emerge at major turning points, especially in the case of regimes being toppled or the rise of developments that threaten their survival. In this case, the victim discovers national politics and measures things accordingly, and he finds out that there is a country that needs to be run - instead of measuring against the sleazy concept of imperialism (embracing Zionism), which is not becoming any less sleazy. Here takes place the transition from words and the magical connotation they are imbued with to the urgency of a burning reality. Iraqis began to come to know this shift with Saddam’s wars, which ended in his downfall in 2003. The Lebanese began to see it with the assassinations of 2005 and the Syrians with their 2011 revolution.

The recent rejuvenation of the debate on anti-imperialism is what brought this up: one side sees only the American and European West should be opposed, justifying, on this basis, its alignment with Bashar al-Assad so long as he is against imperialism and it is against him. Another side expands this concept such that it comes to encompass the Russians, Chinese and Iranians as well, concluding, in accordance with a more comprehensive view of the matter, that to oppose Assad is to oppose those imperialisms.

The dispute is exemplary in its implications for the significance of the unity or the rupture within the concepts themselves: if we adopt Lenin’s criteria for defining imperialism (the development of the concentration of production and capital to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves; and the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed) we would conclude that putting Russia - to say nothing about Iran - in this category would be difficult.

However, if we were to divorce this concept, we would have to return to the classic conception of imperialism, which equates it with imperial or quasi-imperial geographic expansion, which is precisely what Russia and Iran are doing in Syria. It seems that this notion has many implications that diverge from those of the previous notion: exporting capital, for example, becomes one of the requisites for the weaker countries’ economies taking off, not a way to loot them.

In other words, the imperialism/anti-imperialism dichotomy covers only a segment of the contradictions of the Middle East and the world’s state of affairs, especially in light of the invigoration of all kinds of identities, nations and ethnicities, and an exasperating despotism for which it is difficult to always find an “imperialist” counterpart or an imperialist center from which it extends. On top of that, the failure to complete the rupture with the old consciousness makes the debate similar to those held within a party cell or in a university campus alien to the broader events going on around it. Moreover, obtaining the signature of a great magician from here and a greater magician from there becomes a requisite for any stance’s validity and legitimacy. Everyone familiar with non-democratic organizations and their splits knows the magnitude of disputes over the words and the interpretation of the phrases that had been uttered by the traditional authorities.

The fact is that those who defend the Assad regime today, and Iran and Russia behind it, don’t lure anyone to inherit their ideas or endeavor to snatch these ideas from them, unless inheriting bankruptcy is alluring. It is just a waste of effort.

As for Syria in particular, which is the subject of this recurring debate for years, everyone knows where the idea of the one party, the national front, and the idolized leader came from, who built the security, surveillance and torture apparatuses, who armed the military and security agencies and introduced the military doctrine, and who protected the regime in the Security Council time after time. There is a name for this that everyone knows. Those who don’t acknowledge this don’t mind the Iranian-Russian occupation of Syria. Their obsession with fighting imperialism consumes them. This is their right, as is others leaving them to enjoy their private intimacy with... imperialism.

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