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comparative analysis

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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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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

Internationalism.

Once upon a time, it was ubiquitous among progressive-minded people in the West. Once upon a time, Western progressives practiced automatic solidarity with people battling their oppression and exploitation. Borders didn’t matter. Skin colors didn’t matter. Religions didn’t matter. Jenny Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, used to wear a Crucifix not because she was Roman Catholic but to demonstrate her solidarity with the Polish uprising against Russian oppression in the 1860s.

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