Fighting Assad in Syria Means Getting Off Your Ass outside Syria

5 min readDec 1, 2016

The uncompromising revolutionary and internationalist spirit animating “Marxism and the Struggle Against Counter-Revolution” is to be commended even though I disagree with almost every hypothetical proposal it offers as a way forward for the Syrian revolution. But what I object to most is this:

“Those of us who are not in Syria can only assist to the best of our capabilities. We can provide little if anything in the way of material assistance. We will not discover any shortcuts to overcome the limited influence of the revolutionary left and the weakness of the organized working class in the states where we reside. Nor will we compel our rulers to take back up the humanitarian mantle, which they could only ever be bothered with when it served to conceal their own bloody crimes. But those of us who live in countries where bombs are not yet falling, and where the cries of dying children are still far enough away that they can be heard only by those who choose to listen, do have enormous advantages. On account of the exploitation of the globalized working class and the suffering of millions in its ranks past and present, this system can still afford some of us with the leisure time, democratic rights, and, now, the unprecedented access to information and means of communication that are necessary for our class to achieve the clarity to change the whole course of history.

“Marxists have a duty to continuously strive for that clarity and explain as patiently as possible the way forward that is still open for the Syrian Revolution and the Arab Spring. We are not so presumptuous as to imagine that we can perfectly understand the situation from abroad or substitute for the revolutionary socialist leadership that is needed on the ground, nor are we so deluded as to exaggerate the chances of our analysis having any impact on the consciousness of people within Syria today — though we assume personal responsibility for our meager efforts which many will inevitably see these defects in. Only by doing our best to propose a way out of this crisis can we ever hope to be taken seriously when we say that, even in the likelihood of the Syrian Revolution’s defeat, Marxism remains relevant and a necessary tool for our class in the many struggles it faces ahead.”

To me, Marxism is nothing if it is not a guide to action. Just because we are not in Syria does not mean there is little or nothing we can do to help and the “weakness of the organized working class in the states where we reside” is no excuse for confining ourselves to inaction and abstract, hypothetical theorizing.

People who are about to be murdered en masse in besieged Aleppo are being told via leaflets by the regime that the whole world has abandoned them to their fate, that they are alone. Regardless of the balance of class power in whatever countries we reside in, we can do something about their feelings of isolation and loneliness! Every day in various countries, activists proving these wretched leaflets wrong.

In Ireland, people are protesting the pro-Assad Grand Mufti of Syria’s visit.

In Britain, people are going after Putin’s financial interests.

In Germany, people are going to travel the reverse path of so many and walk to Aleppo (or try to).

Are any of these acts going to put Bashar al-Assad before the Hague or a firing squad made up of farmers and dentists? No. Are they necessary, meaningful, and worthwhile acts nonetheless? Absolutely.

The Western left often bemoans its powerlessness and irrelevance and forsakes the difficult task of engaging and organizing the oppressed and exploited in their home countries into powerful liberation movements, but Syrians under siege are not looking for us to storm the Winter Palace tomorrow or declare capitalism’s end next week.

They are looking for something far short of that.

They are looking for just a little internationalism, for just a tiny sliver of empathy, for a sign that somebody somewhere out there gives a damn. When someone who isn’t Syrian (or Arab, or Sunni Muslim) shares photos of themselves on social media holding up signs in Paris or Chicago with #StandWithAleppo on them, that means more to them than the most learned and politically clear and theoretically flawless Marxist treatise. Raising people’s morale to keep fighting, organizing, and struggling under the worst conditions imaginable by proving to them that the world — that all of humanity — is on their side is not material support, but it is not immaterial to the ultimate outcome of the struggle either as whoever wrote this leaflet knows all too well.

Our task outside of Syria is to unite with masses of refugees who — thanks to the inaction of governments other than Iran and Russia — are now in our countries. Unite with Syrian exile lobbying and support organizations like the Syrian American Council, Syria UK, Syria Solidarity Campaign and mobilize as many people and allied organizations as we can to support their struggle.

How many of us know who to talk to in these organizations to get an idea or an initiative moving? How many of us have personal relationships with the cadre and personnel of these organizations? How many times have people in these groups come to us for help getting something done? If the answer is zero or anywhere close to zero, we are doing something wrong as Marxists. Remember, Marx didn’t sit around waiting and hoping the working class would some day get its shit together after reading Das Kapital; he was invited by organizers to the founding meeting of what became the First International because he was a Red 48er, someone who had gotten his hands dirty struggling in the revolutions of 1848.

Sometimes mobilizing for the Syrian revolution outside of Syria might mean fighting to pass legislation sanctioning the Assad regime (like the recently passed Caesar Act in the U.S.), or it might mean reversing a reactionary racist anti-immigrant policy, or making sure refugees are well-integrated into our local communities and not shunned (perhaps through social events like potluck dinners or teaching Syrians new languages), or any of number of concrete steps depending on the material conditions confronting people where ever it is they live and work.

There is so much undone work to aid the revolution and the Syrian people — millions of whom have fled their homes to the safety we take for granted in our countries — that it is humanly impossible to run out of things to do. There is always another demonstration or flash mob to plan, a politician to lobby, a community forum to organize, a church/mosque/synagogue to visit, a dire call to transmit, or a reactionary clown to take down whether his name is Donald Trump or Max Blumenthal.

In 2016, inaction in any form ought to be an unacceptable for anyone who supports the revolution, especially Marxists.