Monday, February 27, 2012

On Syria: Where the Left is right and the Right is wrong

Both the Left and the Right in Syria are "statists" - power hungry, reaching to gain control of the state apparatus.


By Hamid Dabashi

"....The centre cannot hold

There can be little doubt that US, European, Israeli, Saudi and other Gulf states' special forces and financing are at work in covert operations in Syria, pulling and pushing the uprising in their own directions and for their own advantages. The gloves are now in fact completely off and the Saudis have come out clean that they must arm (meaning they have been arming) the Syrian rebels.

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," the colloquial American saying goes in the realm of economics - and in politics too, there ain’t no such thing as a free Uzi. The hand that giveth the Uzi today, taketh back a share of post-Assad politics tomorrow....

The Left contends that what started as genuine protests has now been hijacked by "extremist Sunni groups" inside Syria and by outside forces that extend from the US to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and by extension, the Gulf states - all lining up against Iran and Hezbollah, which, for them, is evidently the forefront of resistance against imperialism. Some on the Left who approve of the Arab Spring even suggest that the Arab revolutionaries ought to develop a strategic alliance with the ruling regime in the Islamic Republic. Yes, they say, the regime in Iran might be murderous towards its own citizens, but it is standing up to imperialism. Again: the moral depravity of the position is informed by its political illiteracy....

Beyond the clichés

The problem with both these positions - Left and Right - is that they speak from a position of power or counter-power - from a statist position, a 100-metre spree to grab hold of the state apparatus and replace it as it falls. The Right speaks from behind the US-Israeli guns and from behind the Saudi bank accounts, and the Left speaks from a position of resisting that power and wishing to support an existing, evolving or emerging state apparatus that can ensure that resistance. The Assad regime is falling, and now we have a rush to get hold of the state apparatus, the military in particular. What the Left and the Right share is their identical statism, because, for them, these entire Arab revolutions are about taking control of the state apparatus, of state power, of steering (or more accurately trying to steer) the falling regimes of power to their own direction.

Categorically absent from the calculations of both the Left and the Right are the people, the real people, ordinary people, those who occupy the public space, people it, own it. For the Left and the Right, these people are mere puppets that are either used, abused for facilitating the US-Saudi machinations, or else duped into revolutionary uprising that has been hijacked from them. Neither the Left nor the Right has the slightest trust, confidence, or even a politically potent conception of the public space that ordinary people physically and normatively occupy.....

Open-ended revolutions are what we are witnessing in the Arab world - and open-ended revolutions mean people matter, mean the Egyptians are still out in Tahrir Square, and they mean that these states, however they turn out and are manufactured by external machinations, need a populace to rule - and that populace will never be subject to one or another sort of tyranny or treachery.

The Saudis and the Islamic Republic, as with the US and the Russians/Chinese, can perform all their machinations - but resistant and defiant will remain the Syrian people - and their open-ended revolution, which is integral to the Arab Spring.

They say you can conquer a land on horse, but you must descend in order to rule it - the same is true about Syria: From the US and Israel to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and then from Russia and China to the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah, there certainly are many machinations at work to conquer Syria. But when all the dust is settled and these mighty machinations end, the new conquerors must come down to rule it - and when they do, they will find themselves facing the indomitable spirit of the people that have left their inner dungeons of fear - and who will never ever again be subject of either domestic tyranny or external treachery. Syrians have already won their revolution - for the next tyrants now wishing to conquer Syria will come down from their horses, facing a nation refusing to be frightened or fooled into obedience.

The Arab Spring has unleashed the power of ordinary people and staged the public space they occupy and the civic associations they will eventually and inevitably form on that space. The Arab Spring has already given birth to a robust revolutionary gemeinschaft that will stay with these societies no matter who and what is in power. Unbeknown to the political machinations that have divided the Left and the Right, people of Syria - as indeed people from across the Arab and Muslim world - are dispelling their agoraphobia and realising the power of their communal gatherings."

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