Crisis of the Anti-War Left

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Why isn’t mobilizing against the bloody farce of the War on Terror seen as a priority for anti-war activists?

For those busy apologizing for Assad’s crimes against humanity in Syria, the answer is obvious: Assad is a junior partner in the War on Terror. Reactionary anti-war leaderships like ANSWER, UNAC, and the U.S. Peace Council support the bombing of densely populated urban areas and starvation sieges. Objectively, they support the War on Terror and therefore cannot lead an opposition.

Within and around the solidarity movement with the Syrian democratic revolution, however, there is little discussion of the War on Terror and how Assad’s strategy for massive repression is designed to fit together with the U.S. strategy for militarily defeating Al Qaeda and Daesh.

For Syrians directly or indirectly involved in the heroic and now life and death struggle against Assad’s regime, Hizbullah, Russia, and Iran, and against Al Qaeda and Daesh, the urgent demands of the conflict, of attending to comrades in need, and to the casualties of repression and those seeking to escape the brutality, there is no time for taking on additional priorities. No one can ask more of the Syrian revolution and the dedicated international support networks that have developed to bring aid to millions of Syrians driven from their homes by relentless bombing and repression.

Remarkably, not even revolutionary left parties and organizations whose press run articles in support for the Syrian struggle against Assad seem concerned by the fact that a reactionary leadership is firmly in control of anti-war coalitions. The principled revolutionary left has thus far limited its efforts to propaganda. No organizational demands that might offer an alternative to the grave crisis of leadership have been raised. The impression given is that leaderships of these parties believe building their own parties is the solution. We can and should ask more of such a “vanguard.”

This largely leaves the task of opposing the War on Terror to a small, dispersed handful of principled anti-war activist and the task has so far simply been too great for our limited forces. With no support from the revolutionary left parties, with our Syrian allies in an existential struggle, and with our own energies and limited resources constantly committed to respond to the barrage of lies and slander coming from the apologists for Assad, we simply have not been able to muster the strength to take on building a new anti-war coalition.

We are fighting fires but we are unable to get to the source of combustion.

The response by some activists, perhaps out of frustration, is simply to dismiss the reactionary “anti-war” leaderships as being irrelevant.

This is a strategic error. The role played by the apologists cannot be ignored.

The Syrian democratic revolution was isolated by the anti-war left in the U.S. While Assad seeks to physically exterminate all democratic opposition, the reactionary “anti-war” leaderships slander the democratic struggle and try to hide or legitimize the regime’s repression.

The apologists are astute, and are now attempting to position themselves as the leaders in the fight against Trump’s racist, misogynist and Islamophobic policies. They are covering their tracks, and still attempting to cover for Assad. They wish to bury the history of the democratic struggle alongside the martyrs who died for freedom.

It is difficult to see how we will overcome this crisis, and matters are going to get worse before they get better.

Eventually, Trump’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants, all presented by the administration as necessary for national security, will impose unity across opposition to the attacks on democratic rights at home and opposition to military interventions abroad. But waiting for this outcome, when it is foreseeable, is something like waiting for the flood to repair the retaining walls.

Moreover, the danger is not just that we will be responding late to a deepening crisis; there is also the danger that the same leaderships who betrayed the Syrian struggle for freedom keep hold of their mantle as the “anti-war” leadership. We cannot trust such fools to lead us in our own existential fight against the wars Trump is preparing and we can be certain they will never acknowledge their betrayal.

The only alternative to sectarian violence, genocide, and dictatorships, and the bloody farce of the War on Terror is solidarity with the democratic struggles for self-determination.

David Turpin Jr. is a lifelong anti-war and human rights activist. He is currently engaged in a community organizing effort, Unite the Region for Justice, in Northwest Indiana. He is a member of Syria Solidarity International and Anti-war Committees in Solidarity with the Struggle for Self-Determination.