“Someone has to be the bloodhound.”
Social Democrat Gustav Noske uttered these words in 1919 before organizing the right-wing death squads that killed Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht, two revolutionary former leaders of the very same German Social Democratic Party Noske belonged to.
Almost a century later, some on the left have once again taken it upon themselves to be the bloodhounds, not on behalf of the capitalist system but of one of its henchmen, Bashar Al-Assad, hereditary dictator of Syria. Despite the many differences between the Arab Spring and the era of wars and revolutions that rocked Europe from 1914-1921, one thing is remarkably similar – both divided the left internationally into three trends: pro-revolution, anti-revolution, and centrists in the middle who align with one camp and then the other depending on the issues and circumstances.
As far as anyone can tell, there is no wing of the Syrian opposition that seeks to physically liquidate the revolution the way Noske did. Instead, we find Assad’s biggest bloodhounds abroad, outside of Syria’s borders, on the so-called anti-imperialist left in the West. They never tire of airbrushing the records of bloody, collaborationist “left” tyrants like Muammar Ghadafi and Assad while smearing revolutionary movements against their rule as terrorist, racist, pro-imperialist, pro-capitalist, and neoliberal in character.
For these bloodhounds, every revolution against “left” dictators is a fresh chance to run over the man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, an opportunity to mow down the protestors who brought down the Berlin Wall with machine gun fire and re-open Stalin’s beloved gulags under new management.
One of the worst offenders on the Marxist left is the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) with Workers World Party not far behind. PSL refused to support Libya’s revolutionaries in February of 2011 before they begged the imperialist West to use its military superiority over Ghadafi to counter his military superiority over them (at which point the Western left’s centrists joined PSL in falsely claiming that there was no Libyan revolutionary movement worthy of the name and agitated in conjunction with the bloodhounds against NATO’s attacks on Ghadafi’s forces).
PSL seized on the popularity of the pre-Ghadafi Libyan flag among protestors as “proof” that the rebellion was monarchist in character, nevermind that it was a revolution directed against a man who proclaimed himself the “King of Kings,” nevermind Libya’s first free and fair elections for a national legislature that now rules in his place. Today PSL loyally parrots the Syrian state media as it makes victims out to be criminals and criminals out to be victims by talking about foreign-backed “terrorist” rebels while studiously ignoring Iran’s and Hezbollah’s boots on the ground, playing up sectarian elements within the Syrian opposition while pretending Shia support for the revolution does not exist, and raising a hue and cry over interference with Assad’s counter-revolution from the imperialist West while “forgetting” about the arms, fuel, and economic subsidies provided to the regime by the imperialist East.
This is what passes for Marxist analysis these days!
Thankfully, we will never see the Ghadafi masoleum that PSL plans to erect in Washington, D.C.’s Red Square after a PSL-led revolution here because they (like their three-letter “competitors”) are incapable of accomplishing anything so audacious or liberating. Bloodhounds are dangerous not because of their rigorous arguments, convincing analysis, or ability to inspire and lead successful mass movements but because of their ability to track, attack, and kill. If that is all they can do, they should at least bark in support of the right side: the bourgeois-democratic revolution, not the bourgeois counter-revolution!
Once upon a time, Marxists were the biggest, staunchest champions of bourgeois-democratic revolutions not in spite of their socialist convictions but because of them. “[B]oth the direct interests of the proletariat and the interests of its struggle for the final aims of socialism require the fullest possible measure of political liberty and, consequently, the replacement of the autocratic form of government by a democratic republic” is how a party resolution Lenin quoted approvingly put it.
Political freedom is the best and indeed the only road to a sustainable post-capitalist order (whether that end point is labeled socialism, anarchism, communism, or horizontalism is not as important as actually getting there; we are long overdue). Lenin was prescient when he wrote along these lines in 1905 that “whoever wants to reach socialism by a different road, other than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and the political sense.” The history of the 20th century is littered with reactionary absurdities of this type. All of them failed without exception. Hitching the wagon of the socialist movement to the governments of the USSR, China, Albania, Cambodia, and now (for the bloodhounds) Ghadafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria helped drag the international socialist movement back to the fringes where it was before the days of even the First International.
Working and oppressed peoples will never flock to the banner of Marxism again unless and until we prove in practice to be the biggest and most ardent champions of not just their social and economic freedom but their political freedom as well. Freedom from want is just as important as freedom of thought, expression, and assembly. Lenin, following Marx, understood that we will never get to the former unless and until we win and utilize the latter.
To “win the battle of democracy” we must first win the battle for democracy.
This battle for democracy rages in every country affected by the bourgeois-democratic revolutions known as the Arab Spring. Claims that the Egyptian, Tunisian, and Yemeni bourgeois-democratic revolutions were genuine mass revolts while their Libyan and Syrian counterparts were foreign-engineered or foreign-backed-and-therefore-hijacked – advanced by bloodhounds and centrists alike – are laughable fairy tales unworthy of self-proclaimed Marxists. This is not the reality on the ground anddoes not correspond in the slightest with the experience of the Arab and North African masses who are toppling autocrats “left” and right alike using all available means, including imperialist airstrikes on their enemies when unavoidable. They simply do not care about the Western left’s attachment to “socialist” policies such as Ghadafi’s free housing or “principled” opposition to Western intervention which, in the case of Libya, they exploited for their own ends: ousting Ghadafi and completing the first stage of their revolution.
The Libyans dared to win and the centrists and bloodhounds dared to castigate them for it.
The comrades who lined up with the bloodhounds over NATO’s Libya operation under the slogan “hands off Libya” are doing so again over Syria under the slogan “hands off Syria.” In doing so, they provide a perfect example of why the “revolution yes, intervention no” and “no to dictatorship, no to intervention” trend on the Western left is centrist: when imperialist powers intervene against counter-revolutionaries, the centrists join hands with the bloodhounds while claiming they are still for revolution, their alliance with the revolution’s enemies to act against the revolution’s interests notwithstanding.
Think twice before joining hands with the bloodhounds. The Syrian revolution has enough enemies. It does not need frenemies.