Friday, August 26, 2011

A tribute to the Noble Syrian Peasant

For all the rhetoric of Unity, Freedom and Socialism, the Syrian Baath party has delivered none of these three. With the overthrow of Salah Jadid's radically leftist branch of the Baath, Hafez Assad introduced a corporatist, corrupt and highly repressive state apparatus that excluded all those who did not share his vision for the country. Syria became "a Fatherland" with a cult of the leader, an ideology that tolerated no dissent, and a corrupted intelligentsia that reinforced the new status quo. Members of the old system: educated; cultured; or religious, were driven into exile. The old bourgeois families were completely marginalised as the village peasants took over the country's institutions. Of course, for all the talk of liberating the countryside (or Palestine for that matter) and implementing a truly socialist experience, the new rulers of Syria were eager to take on the trappings of a new bourgeois class.

Today we see their children in sensitive positions throughout the country. Clever, but unimaginative and predictable, this 'educated' class has never known the poverty of their fathers, and have grown up with an undeserved sense of entitlement in Syria which leads them to treat it as their personal estate. In an expression of Hegelian  dialectic history, they overthrew the landlords in order to themselves become landlords. Yet now they find that true power is not with them, but in the peasant class that they came from, and whom they have now alienated. When they hysterically denounce the protesters as 'salafists' who wish to destroy the country, what they are really terrified of is losing their privilege and returning back to the village. That is the root of their terror. So they pull together and utilise all the networks and contacts they have cultivated over the decades - in the hope of gaining some semblance of respectability rub off on them - to give their rule some measure of legitimacy. Like most people who lack vision, yet find themselves in positions of power, there is a qualitative difference they can never understand between a Syria firmly under their boots, and a Syria that is free from the rule of the peasant thug.

Ironically, and luckily, it is not the rotten Syrian bourgeois who are leading the revolt: after forty years of Assadist rule, Syria's "old guard" have come to a comfortable understanding with the Assad family. Instead the Syrian revolt began in Syria's rural areas, by the Syrian peasant himself, and not in the corrupt and cynical cities, where right and wrong can be viewed in so many shades of grey. In the countryside, where the corruptness of the regime's officials has a much more difficult effect to bear than in the cities, right and wrong are treated as matters of life and death. It is the noble and ignorant Syrian peasant who has risen now to overthrow the shackles of oppression and corruption and it is amongst his ranks that most of the three thousand martyrs in Syria's uprising can be found. Remarkably he sacrifices everything not in order to rule, but to live in dignity. After Deraa, all the uprisings we are seeing in Syria's cities today are just an echo of his first defiant cry.

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