Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb makes an uninformed and odd interpretation — especially in light of the very recent overthrow of Libya by Western imperialist forces — of the internal struggle in Syria, and ends up backing “without conditions or prevarication” the regime overthrow effort that is very likely effectively controlled by the West and its Gulf dictatorship allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And then he can’t stand the heat he gets for his take. He writes:
The struggle in Syria is … an open war of movement between, for the most part, the most advanced sections of the popular classes and a narrow state capitalist oligopoly which has always dealt with the surplus of political opposition by jailing it or killing it. In that struggle … I situate myself on the side of the popular opposition. Not in an undifferentiated manner, and not without confronting the political problems (of eg sectarianism, pro-imperialism etc) that will tend to recur amid sections of the opposition to any of these regimes. But without conditions or prevarication.
Not that I blame Seymour for being uninformed, since that’s what we all are in reference to Syria. Some of us react with caution when we’re in that state, but Seymour has apparently decided to guess an authentic popular revolution has a reasonable chance of prevailing inside Syria — despite the strong similarities, including their identical outside money and support, between this rebellion and the one last year (that we now know so much more about) in Libya — and throws his support behind those he thinks, maybe, are the ‘real’ revolutionaries.
I reacted to his possibly unwitting foolishness and was quickly banned from the site. Regarding the blockquote above I commented:
Isn’t “tend to recur” a bit weak in the present context, only months after the overthrow of Libya by the West? Screw “tend to recur,” we can be sure what is recurring and will recur is close to the Libyan story. Who will have the guns and money? The U.S./Saudi/Qatari backed forces. Who will have logistics, mobility and immediate control over state media? The U.S./Saudi/Qatari backed forces. On the periphery looking in — pissed as hell — will be the honest and populist revolutionists. Yet you support the revolution “without conditions or prevarication” but if you think just a little you know that the winners will be the U.S./Saudi/Qatar. Why?
[UPDATE: The preceding has been deleted by Seymour, perhaps because his imperial highness couldn't handle the four recommendations it received.] To the preceding Seymour responded confidently and with name-calling:
This isn’t analysis on your part, it’s bar stool ranting. These are not the trends that have been dominant. The only situation in which they will become dominant is if the popular forces collapse under a regime onslaught.
How Seymour knows which “trends have been dominant” in a situation of near-complete news blackout, I don’t know. I myself am just making educated guesses based on the Libyan nightmare and Syria reports such as the following:
According to former Central Intelligence Agency officer Philip Giraldi, writing in the current issue of The American Conservative magazine:
“Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and US Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.”
Giraldi adds that the CIA analysts themselves are “skeptical regarding the approach to war”, as they know that the frequently cited United Nations account of civilians killed is based largely on rebel sources and uncorroborated. The CIA has “refused to sign off on the claims” of mass defections from the Syrian Army. Likewise, accounts of pitched battles between deserters and loyal soldiers “appear to be a fabrication, with few defections being confirmed independently.”
I admit to placing more trust in Philip Giraldi than I do in Libyan warmonger propaganda outlets like CNN or the BBC. Maybe that is the basis for my disagreement with Lenin’s Tomb on our educated guesses about the basic facts inside Syria.
A minute earlier I had commented at the Tomb:
What Seymour welcomes will involve many thousands of civilians dying. And for what?
Seymour missed the reference to the Frederick Varley World War One painting and responded:
And for what?, you ask. This sort of question, posed this way, displays a complete lack of imagination.
Name-calling continued, I was charged with being a ‘neo-Stalinist’, whatever that is … and then I responded to Seymour again:
The ‘radical social change’ if this effort succeeds will be a regime installed by the U.S./Saudi/Qatar. The forces in their command have an overwhelming military/logistical/money advantage compared to the independent popular anti-regime Syrian forces. We just saw the same movie in Libya 6-9 months ago, so it’s extraordinary that you can’t see that.
I admit to over-confidence in my prediction, but does anyone here want to bet against me? We saw this movie just a handful of months ago … Anyway, that was just about enough and my further comments were banned, so I was not allowed to respond to this Shawn Whitney silliness:
Absolutely right. We ought to shout from the rooftops that the Syrian people are foolish to fight for democracy when clearly the price of that struggle will be high and its success is uncertain.
Come to think of it, I hereby renounce my support for all movements for social change for exactly the same reason.
Do these kinds of comments remind you of some U.S. right-wing TV shoutfest? My response:
You seem to know so much about what is going on inside Syria, even what the revolutionaries’ unspoken motives are, even when those motives conflict with what they have said. My guess though is that you’re wrong, and this is just what it looks like, the U.S. and reactionary subordinate regimes doing some empire expansion at the expense of Syrian civilians and those few revolutionaries who are not clued into what’s really going on. Those who are naive must be very few because this is so similar to what the imperial center did to Libya. …
I also added another comment that was banned, in which I asked for a de-coarsening of the rhetoric at the site, or at least a reduction in the lies and ad hominem attacks, in what could’ve been a discussion about an ‘information-poor’ topic over which honest progressives and leftists can disagree.
My experience reading and commenting at that Lenin’s Tomb diary reminds me of what someone said recently about how pro-war propagandists deal with the left. They’re not interested in turning leftists and progressives en masse into imperial war supporters, but simply in sewing enough confusion, especially among our commanding heights, to debilitate a mass antiwar effort. It worked very well last year regarding Libya (read Alex Cockburn’s The “Left” and Libya), and if ‘Seymour duped’ is an important sign then it is working well in the Syrian context.