Simon Assaf speaking at Marxism 2012, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party in London earlier this month: Syria has been under emergency law since 1963 — three months before I was born… But Syrian society before that was extraordinarily vibrant: politically — you talk about the development of Arab nationalism, communist ideas, all these kinds of things, you’re looking to Syria — this is where it came from [in the Arab world]. Understand that Syria was so important for that and you begin to see this re-develop.
So this idea that without Bashar al Assad or without the West or without someone else, Syria will simply degenerate into a sectarian war because really, at the end of the day, the ordinary people of Syria and Lebanon, all they think about — they wake up in the morning, they have their eggs, eat their hummus, and then they go kill their neighbor.
It doesn’t actually work that way. Sectarianism is something that comes from the outside to divide us, and you really see the way in which they are also using sectarianism inside the revolution itself.
At the moment we are in an extraordinarily difficult situation. So in places like Homs, in Idlib, in Hama, and Dara and all these places are under extraordinary levels of bombardment.
Yesterday[, July 4, the Syrian army] retook one of the suburbs in Damascus. The daily toll of deaths is really quite horrific. A hundred, a hundred and fifty people dying every day. They are talking of about 65,000 people who are missing, presumed dead — who knows. There’s 200,000 people who are being held hostage by the regime, rounded up and so on, and an unknown number of soldiers who have been executed for refusing to fire on the demonstrations.
And so we are, if you like, in a very difficult situation. You can see the dangers that are now inside of Syria. The dangers are this: If the revolution does not succeed relatively soon then you can see that point at which outside forces begin to have bigger influence.
But at the moment the revolution feels like it is moving forward. So you think about what’s happening around Idlib, around the north, around Homs and all these areas, there is a huge rebel offensive. Town after town is now falling in front of them.
The state is retreating more and more into the urban areas which they are finding extraordinarily difficult to control.
I got a message from a friend of a friend in Damascus which said: Damascus is full of the Free Syrian Army. That is, young demonstrators who have now joined the armed rebels. All we need is a few more weapons and it will be over.
You really get that sense, and their was a tweet this morning [July 5] from one of the few journalists who is embedded with the rebels who said they had just driven from Homs to Damascus and not seen one soldier along the route.
And you really feel that if the end is going to come, it’s going to come extraordinarily quickly. And that’s what we hope is going to happen.
However, if this fails. If it goes longer then you can see the dangers, the real dangers emerging inside of it. The West, the outside forces will take more control and that sectarian frustration starting to develop. There is always the danger there and its always a danger that we have to be weary of…
This is a real revolution. It’s not as simple as Egypt — I don’t think Egypt is that simple to be honest with you anyway. It’s not as simple as Egypt or Tunisia, but it is a real revolution.
We as revolutionaries have a duty to engage with those inside the revolution to talk about the dangers of foreign intervention — why we don’t call for it — and all these kinds of things. But also to talk about a strategy of how to win the revolution.
You begin to see the development of strikes, popular strikes, mass demonstrations, mutinies and so on and actually see, this is the way forward. To do this, we have to go much much further than simply see it as replacing one group at the top with another group at the top, and actually unleashing the full potential of the revolution means unleashing a struggle beyond simply the change of the people at the top — a fundamental change inside of Syrian society as well.