We live in times so poverty stricken, turbulent, repressive and violent that the majority of people can hardly breathe. That’s why they’re rising up in every corner of the world. Syria’s insurrection, a proud part of the Arab Spring in 2011, is a breathtaking example.
A people who had lived four decades under a deadly dictatorship — first the father’s, then the son’s — dared to demand the son release his many political prisoners. President Bashar Assad’s murderous military response transformed peaceful demonstrations into slaughter houses and later, schools of armed self-defense. Tyranny revolutionized the protesters who demanded, not just political prisoners, but genuine democracy and the end of the Assad terror machine.
In essence, an anti-capitalist revolution had begun. And that triggered a no-holds-barred counterrevolutionary campaign by Assad who welcomed help from other capitalist powers, near and far.
Nearly six years later, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed. Five million people have been forced out of their country into refugee camps and rootless futures. Six million have been run out of their homes within Syria. What’s left of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is now under a ravaging bombing and Syria is in ruins.
The root of this disintegration is the profit system. It’s based on capital, which is material wealth (money or property) used exclusively to accumulate more material wealth, through trade and imperialist wars.
Every state involved in Syria’s counterrevolutionary onslaught is capitalist, including the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Iran, Qatar and Turkey. None want revolution in their own back yard or even down the block. But war is beneficial for them. Tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to the Middle East, especially by U.S. and British industrialists, continue to generate ever greater profits.
The war is even good for the jihadists like ISIS who use Syria to hone their fighting skills, advance weapon technology, rob the people and outlaw secularism.
What to do? Leftists and antiwar activists in the rest of the world cannot rescue Syria. But we can demand massive, unconditional humanitarian aid and open borders to Syrian and other refugees. As Syria’s revolutionaries continue to struggle for emancipation, the rest of us must build our own anti-capitalist organs and platforms, especially in the United States, world capital of counterrevolution.
In the wake of Trump’s election, many militants are already organizing and marching for radical change. This is good, but the next step is consciously dumping the idea that capitalism can work. Social justice groups need to collaborate with each other for shared goals. And the U.S. Left can no longer refuse to work together on issues we agree on.
We are all a critical part of the global struggle to breathe again.
To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.