Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Counterfire's response to critics of the anti-war movement

Last week I posted my own response to those on the radical Left who under-estimate the role of external intervention in Syria (and the continuing relevance of imperialism to the Arab world more broadly). My piece was also published on Counterfire.

A major new Counterfire article, written by John Rees and posted today, develops these points in greater depth. See 'Empire and revolution: Syria and the critics of the anti-war movement'.

Two points in particular are worth stressing here.

Firstly, John's article makes it clear that differences over Syria are interconnected with deeper differences of analysis regarding imperialism and the Arab revolutions. It isn't just about Syria. The key thing is to examine accurately the impact of the Arab revolutions on the region - without exaggeration - and assess the influence of a counter-revolutionary response from the West and allied states in the Middle East.

Secondly, there are profound practical implications following the analysis. If you believe that the role of imperialism is only a secondary consideration in Syria - and that more broadly its role in the Arab world is greatly weakened - then you pay little attention to building an anti-war movement to resist foreign intervention. Instead you sit on the sidelines and merely cheerlead for the Arab revolutions, while taking rhetorical potshots at serious anti-imperialists who you think are exaggerating the problems of foreign intervention.

Alternatively, an accurate analysis of the situation demands that we mobilise to stop our own political leaders intervening in the Arab world. That is the only meaningful thing we can do, and must be our priority.

The new Counterfire article begins:

'Public debate has begun on whether imperial intervention has any significance in determining the course of the Syrian revolution and, by extension, the Arab revolutions as a whole.

Most informed commentators associated with the anti-war movement hold that while of course events in Syria have their own domestic dynamic there has developed a significant imperial dimension which is a threat to the continued progressive nature of the uprising. There are naturally differences of emphasis, some of them important, among this group but on this major issue the Marxist writer and activist Tariq Ali, Guardian columnist Seumus Milne, MP George Galloway, Iraqi exiles and analysts Sami Ramadani and Sabah Jawad, the Deputy President of the Stop the War Coalition Andrew Murray, the convenor of Stop the War Lindsey German and supporters of Counterfire are in broad agreement.

The opposite point of view has been expressed by Richard Seymour in a piece critical of Sami Ramadani (in the Guardian online), Simon Assaf in a debate with Sami Ramadani, and Alex Callinicos in an attack on Tariq Ali (the last two appeared in Socialist Worker).

This response to the debate does not of course claim to represent the views of those attacked: they are well able to respond to, or ignore, the articles as they see fit. This is simply an attempt to reassert the centrality of imperialism to developments in the Middle East and to provide a framework for understanding the dynamics of the Arab revolutions.'

Read it in full HERE.


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