Interview-introduction: Lina Theodorou, Antonis Faras
The Syrian Civil War continues for 7th year, but it is still not clear when it will end. During the war, over half a million people died and about 10 million people, about half of the Syrian population, was displaced. On the occasion of the bombing of Syria, targeting the military bases of the Damascus regime, by US forces, the UK and France, the debate was renewed; anti-war strikes were organized and demonstrators even attempted to throw the statue of Harry S. Truman in Athens, Greece.
However, in the anti-war movement against the Syrian war, the hegemonic narrative within the Left has an approach to anti-imperialism, which, more or less, limits the position of imperialist exclusively to the United States. This view, which is an important analytical tool for interpreting the world outside of the West, takes one geopolitical character that neglects the social element as a factor of change, and on the other hand it implies a structural orientation in the way the Left treats politics, when talking about “others”.
Trying to shed more light on the debate, which is obscured rather than clarified by ad hoc confrontations, we asked Joseph Daher to answer a series of more comprehensive questions about the Syrian civil war. Daher is a Swiss-Syrian Marxist and scholar, whose books have been published in English, such as “Hezbollah: Political Economy of the Party of God“ (2016, Pluto Press).
We want to take a closer look at what have happened these seven years. Briefly: What led to the uprising specifically in Syria? What were Assad’s relations with the Syrian left and anarchist space before the uprising? What was his relationship with sectarian extremism? Can you describe how the rebels organized during the first years of the uprising and what went wrong? How islamists prevailed, If they have, in the rebel’s groups?
Syria is a despotic regime, ruled for the past 40 years by one family, and it is also a bourgeois patrimonial regime that went through a process of neoliberalization and privatization, accelerated considerably with Bashar al-Assad’s arrival to power. Sixty percent of the population was living under or just above the poverty line in 2011. Syria was subjected to the same form of crony capitalism that is prevalent in the region. For example, in Egypt it was the Mubarak family that benefitted mostly from the privatization and neoliberalization; in Tunis it was the Trabelsi family, of the wife of the dictator Ben Ali; and in Syria it is Makhlouf, the cousin of Assad. In the end what we have are neoliberal and authoritarian systems, and Syria is no different in this regard. Continue reading