On the “alleged” crimes of the Assad regime and the antiwar movement
Below we reproduce a statement from UNAC CC member Mark Stahl in opposition to the UNAC statement on Syria. The UNAC statement is posted below. While we agree with the UNAC statement’s opposition to imperialist intervention, we are alarmed by the reference to the crimes of the Assad regime as “alleged.” As Mark Stahl says, “Referring to the crimes of the Assad regime as “alleged” is an insult and a disgrace to the many thousands of Syrians who have been slaughtered by the Assad regime during the last several decades.”
The United National Antiwar Coalition is a broad front of leftist organizations and individuals. Our former organization, Socialist Action (SA), refers to UNAC as a “united front” but this description stretches the definition of the united front almost beyond recognition. With its 26 point multi program, UNAC has become a classic case of the left “capturing itself.”
on the united front
The “classical” united front was conceived by the Communist International as a way to address the fact that in many countries the majority of workers supported mass centrist or social democratic parties. The united front was intended to put workers into motion from all parties around a specific set of demands. Through struggle communists would win workers to revolutionary socialism.
During the Vietnam War, the US Socialist Workers Party worked to build a mass antiwar movement. Since the US lacks mass working class parties, the “classical” united front isn’t possible. Using the method of the united front, the SWP built what they called a united front “type” coalition, mobilizing the broadest possible forces around the slogan of “Out Now!”
While the current SA leadership claims that UNAC is a genuine united front, we argue the opposite. The 26 point program of UNAC, similar in some ways to the program of a left social democratic party, is an inhospitable environment to forces who are not already radicalized and therefore will be incapable of becoming the vehicle for a mass antiwar movement when it emerges. “The task devolving on Communists is to convince the backward elements, to work among them, and not to fence themselves off from them with artificial and childishly “Left” slogans.” Lenin- Left Wing Communism, an infantile disorder.
The role played by SA in UNAC is as the intermediary between the campist/apologist politics of the Stalinoid Workers World Party and the third camp politics of the International Socialist Organization. This was true in the discussion of NATO intervention in Libya; where the ISO was critical of the Gadaffi regime and Workers World was supportive of the dictator they saw as an anti-imperialist opponent of the US. SA mediated this dispute and in the process submerged their politics. Trotsky wrote that communists operating in a united front must maintain “an absolutely independent organization with a clear program and strict internal discipline.”
By signing on to this statement, SA has, once again, surrendered its independence and made itself a tail to apologists for repression. What a disgrace.
(Note: We understand that the UNAC CC may decide to rewrite this statement under pressure from constituent groups. While a rewrite is a positive step, the original muddled statement was issued in the first place shows how out-of-touch the UNAC leadership is. FOR NEW STATEMENT CLICK HERE)
- We unconditionally support the right of the Syrian people to self-determination and oppose any foreign imperialist intervention, including the imposition of sanctions.
- We also support the right of the Syrian people to protest against, and to overthrow, a repressive regime. It’s an error for any opposition group to accept arms or aid from imperialist countries, but no antiwar forces should use this as an excuse to apologize for, or downplay, the crimes of Assad.
- US and NATO Hands Off Syria!
- No War! No Sanctions! No Intervention!
Statement by Mark Stahl
To the members of the UNAC CC: I am shocked and disappointed by the latest UNAC statement on Syria that was issued today (see below). Referring to the crimes of the Assad regime as “alleged” is an insult and a disgrace to the many thousands of Syrians who have been slaughtered by the Assad regime during the last several decades. To claim that we can’t know anything about the recent events in Syria despite widespread reporting by eye witnesses, and then proceed to list all the UNAC talking points as “facts”, is the most opportunistic form of political propaganda. Certainly it is true that the risk of foreign intervention, which we all oppose, has increased in recent weeks. But this is due not only to the designs of western imperialism, and their desire to isolate Iran by removing its closest ally, but also to the reckless actions of the Assad regime, its militias and its armed forces, which are providing increasing impetus to the efforts by western powers to depose the Assad regime.
The latest statement goes well beyond the “non-intervention” position that was adopted at the recent UNAC conference. It’s one thing to say that UNAC is a coalition that is united in opposition to foreign intervention while remaining silent about the liberation struggle within Syria. It is quite another to refer to the crimes of the Syrian government as “alleged”, downplaying recent events as “unknowable”, and referring to the Syrian opposition as a conspiracy engineered by the west.
The UNAC statement on Syria is not credible to any serious student of either history or politics, and I am forwarding my comments to all the organizations and listservs I am affiliated with. I certainly hope that UNAC will reconsider this ill-advised and one-sided statement on Syria.
Mark Stahl Coordinating committee member, RI Mobilization Committee *
Regional committee member, New England United Antiwar Network *
Member, Socialist Party USA *
Member, Fellowship of Reconciliation *
* All groups listed for identification purposes only
* Disclaimer: These are my own views, I am not speaking for any organization
UNITED NATIONAL ANTIWAR COALITION (UNAC)
STATEMENT ON SYRIA
Hands off Syria and Iran! End the Drone Wars!
We Need Jobs, Education and Healthcare, Not Endless War!
The ominous signs of impending war with Syria escalate. NATO holds a special meeting to respond to the downing of a Turkish fighter plane and issues threats of future action. The U.S. media bombards us with alleged crimes of the Assad government, while the Syrian government claims all the unrest stems from an opposition armed, financed, and directed by the CIA, NATO, and neighboring Arab states to take over Syria. The ‘facts’ we get are mainly unsubstantiated, sometimes proven to be fabrications and/or overblown. It is hard to sort out the truth about what is happening on the ground in and around Syria today. There are ‘facts’ we do know, however:
- Sanctions harm the people of Syria causing food shortages, power outages, and block the distribution of goods.
- The U.S. is directly involved in arming and training Syrian militias. Supplying arms to opposition militias in Syria contributes to the escalation of violence, the possibility of civil war and/or direct foreign military intervention, and total destabilization. The people who always suffer the most are the citizens not engaged in the armed struggle.
- The U.S. has no interest in democracy or the humanitarian well-being of any citizenry anywhere in the world, especially in areas where the U.S. has economic or strategic interests. We see the results of ‘humanitarian’ U.S. wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan today, where the people, especially women and children, are worse off than before, with millions dead, injured, and/or displaced, an infrastructure and economy in shambles, and there is no peace.
- The U.S. government’s goals in Syria are to gain dominance in a part of the world that holds the vast majority of the known oil reserves and to gain strategic advantage as it seeks to isolate and contain competitors like Russia and China.
While activists may hold different views of Syria’s internal political system, we must all agree that the U.S. government has no right to impose its will on other countries, especially those formerly colonized and exploited by the West. In all cases, we must support the right of nations to self-determination – that is to be able to decide on and resolve internal conflicts free from any foreign intervention. The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) demands:
No U.S. or NATO intervention in the internal affairs of Syria!
No War! No Sanctions! No Intervention!