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Some Observations on the Social Roots of Syria’s Ruling, Military Group and the Causes for Its Dominance

19 Feb

Author: Hanna Batatu.
Source: Middle East Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3. This essay is a revised version of a talk given at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, on April 11, 1979.


At the heart of Syria’s regime stands a cluster of military officers. They hold in their hands the crucial threads of power. This much is obvious. Their common military profession, however, does not explain why they cling together and act in concert. Far more significant in this connection is the fact that the ruling element consists at its core of a close kinship group which draws strength simultaneously, but in decreasing intensity, from a tribe, a sect-class, and an ecologic-cultural division of the people.

Rifat and Hafez al-Assad.

Rifat and Hafez al-Assad.

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Not Real Revolutions? Achcar and Co. on the Arab Spring

8 Apr

wantIn reviewing Trotskyist academic Gilbert Achcar’s book on the Arab Spring The People Want, Louis Proyect asserts that “classical Marxism” retains both its analytical and strategic validity and yet what is offered up seems to indicate the opposite. Proyect contrasts Achcar’s method in evaluating the Arab Spring’s revolutions with the method of renegade Tariq Ali who baldly claimed that there were no revolutions, not in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, nor Yemen in the 2010-2014 period.

But just because Ali was wrong does not make Achcar right.

The Proyect-Achcar response to Ali’s lie that political power in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria never changed hands in class terms was not to examine the class shifts in these countries but to concede that none of these revolutions was “real” because they were not socialist revolutions. In surrendering to rather than challenging Ali’s glib idiocy, Proyect declares that Vietnam never experienced a “real” revolution: “Vietnam had no revolution when it drove out the American imperialists. Just look at the millionaires in Vietnam today, profiting off of sweatshops.” According to this view, the expulsion of the Americans and the overthrow of the landlord-capitalist clique in Saigon by the national revolution in 1975 changed nothing in terms of which class ruled. Continue reading

Islamists, Salafists, and Jihadists: Friends or Foes of the Revolution?

7 Jan

ISISAlien

How should supporters of the democratic revolution understand the Islamist trends that have emerged as part and parcel of the Arab Spring upheavals?

Are they friends of the revolution or enemies of the people?

What class trends do they represent? Continue reading

How Islamists Beat the Western-‘Backed’ Opposition for Leadership

13 Dec

support

Washington suspended its paltry non-lethal aid to the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Supreme Military Council (SMC) led by General Salim Idris after falsely accusing the newly-formed Islamic Front of seizing FSA warehouses at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border right before making yet another inelegant about face on Syria policy. Now, Washington says it is open to working with the Islamic Front but insists, “we want our stuff back.”

“To the victors go the spoils”  is evidently not something Washington is familiar with. Continue reading

Mandela, Democratic Transition, and Neoliberalism: Lessons for Syria

6 Dec

The above interview with South African socialist Patrick Bond is a good counterpoint to some of the facile criticism of Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid economic policies coming from a few of my socialist Facebook friends and it illustrates points about the Marxist understanding of democratic revolution that (believe it or not) are relevant to Syria.

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Class and Revolution: Syria and 1848 Compared

27 Nov
marx

Not everyone sporting a beard is a salafi.

Although the Syrian revolution is a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it does not conform to the 1848 pattern that Marx and Engels were most familiar with and experienced first-hand: bourgeois liberals, fearing the nascent but still immature proletarian movement, become irresolute and half-hearted in the struggle against counter-revolution and pave the way for the revolution’s defeat. Continue reading