In As-Suwayda ... Initial Signs of a New Wave of the Popular Movement
As-Suwayda governorate witnessed during the past week several demonstrations whose slogans and chants ranged between demand-oriented and political, and included old slogans, including those used during the years 2011-2014, with some new ones.
Although the volume of participation in these demonstrations remained limited (so far anyway) to hundreds of people, and despite the extreme divergence of opinions about them, this should not lead anyone to think less of their implications. One also should certainly not drift towards those who intruded thereon by screaming, exaggerating, and amplifying, in particular the extremists on both sides, whose political slogans are now clearly defeated.
The Conspiracy, Again!
Before getting into a preliminary discussion of the nature of the movement, its diversity, its complexities, and its multiple slogans, it must be reemphasized that the logic of handling things that prevailed during the first years of the popular movement’s takeoff in 2011 – whether from the regime’s side (the conspiracy, the refusal of dialogue, and the security-military solution) or from the group among the opposition that pleaded foreign interference, encouraged armaments, and refused dialogue and a political solution – was a destructive logic that was detached from reality, and today that detachment is beyond measure.
Talking about “conspiracy” and “infiltration” in the manner that official and semi-official media have frequently used is nothing more than circumventing the following fact: the anger and engorgement accumulated within the people did not stop accumulating and growing. This anger and engorgement are the result of the brutal economic policies that are biased towards the no more than 10% of Syrians against the interests of the rest, as well as the oppressive and exclusionary security policies that have always and forever been in the interest of the plunderers and against the plundered, and more than that the catastrophic failure of all these types of policies and their inability to reach the supposed stated goals. Although many factors, including domestic repression, foreign interference, terrorism, armament, and others had temporarily gotten people away from the streets, to be replaced by armed conflicts of all kinds, this does not mean definitively that the popular movement had ceased to be or disappeared, but rather temporarily retreated, changing its forms and waiting for the appropriate moment to return in shapes that are more powerful and organized.
High Political Activity by the People
In essence, the popular movement is a high political activity by the people, which takes on very diverse and rich forms. This movement is close to being “objective destiny”, that is, it is governed by historical laws, and cannot be generated by “superior conspiracy” or the diligence of a group of “elites”. The emergence of this movement in essence is a spontaneous matter, resulting from a progressive but long-term increase in the level of social dissatisfaction. This does not in any way negate that every popular movement faces numerous attempts to infiltrate its ranks and to conspire against it from within and from outside, by the targeted regime and foreign parties.
However, what should also be emphasized is that the popular movement that we are witnessing (not only in As-Suwayda or Syria, but also in the whole world all the way to the United States), is not a temporary or transitory movement, but a movement that will extend for several decades to come. This movement will not be silenced until it achieves its historical mission of changing the face of the world. This is what we learn from reading the history of the past three centuries, starting from the French Revolution until today. This is proven by facts from all over the world.
A New Wave
In this sense, the demonstrations that we witnessed recently in As-Suwayda, as well as the ongoing demonstrations in some areas in Daraa (on which not enough light has been shed) and other forms of movement in different parts of Syria, is a first indication of a new wave of the same popular movement that took off in 2011. If we say that it is a wave of the same movement, this does not mean at all that it is an exact copy of the first wave that took place nine years ago. Even if some slogans and symbols tried to highjack the movement to the past, this is nothing more than an attempt by the dead to stick to the liveliness of the alive, and soon the new slogans and symbols and new forms of organization will rise, which will show the size of the experience gained by the movement, the price of which was paid for by great amounts of sacrifice and pain. Therefore, the first task on the national agenda with regards to the popular movement is to intensify previous experiences and turn them into a platform for the takeoff of the upcoming popular wave that will extend to all parts of Syria, and that will happen before not too long.
In this particular context, we are trying to make an initial contribution to this intensification process, by interacting with some basic ideas that are being discussed among the protesters themselves and in their near surroundings and beyond. These are ideas and concerns that all Syrians discuss inside Syria, in the diaspora, in exile, and in countries of asylum.
Dignity and Hunger
Several months before the start of the recent demonstrations in As-Suwayda, there were demonstrations and activities that were characterized primarily by livelihood demands under the slogan “We want to live”. Since that time, the hotel (in reference to some external) “revolutionaries” have been cursing and denigrating this movement, as a movement of “hungry people whose utmost ambition is to fill their stomachs, while our revolution is a revolution of dignity!”
This Rhetoric is not new. Going back in memory to 2011 shows that the same “revolutionaries” insisted on the same slogan and the same words, that is, the movement is only a movement of “democratic freedoms” and has nothing to do with the livelihood economic dimension. This is something that is intentional, whether in the past or today, and the clear objective thereof is to exclude, ridicule, and misprize the socioeconomic issue, for a very clear reason, that the economic programs of the same “revolutionaries” are not different at all from the existing regime’s programs, both of which are fond of economically-dependent relations with the West and the economy of the free market, brokerage, real estate, services, and being very far from real production. It is not in their interest to push those taking to the street towards organizing based on economic issues, because that would expose these “revolutionaries” to the people as being in one category with the corruptors and the big dominating forces in the regime.
For those whom we usually call extremists on both sides, the issue is a struggle for power and plundering, and not a struggle to change the existing criminal wealth distribution pattern. Therefore, it is normal that those focus on slogans such as “toppling the regime” (not to mention the slogans that attempt to drag the movement back to specific international and regional alignments with the aim of isolating it and intimidating people by it), and it is also normal that those (i.e., extremists) disdain and misprize the livelihood, demand-oriented, and economic aspects. Perhaps the common sense in our society still believes in its solid humanitarian nature that poverty is not a defect in the poor, the defect is in the plundering and in those who causes people’s poverty, and even more that poverty in a society like ours and in light of an extremely corrupt political structure is the best evidence of a person’s integrity.
To those who rise above people’s hunger and justify that it is not related to “dignity”: is it not an injury to one’s dignity beyond imagination to be unable to feed, shelter, or get medical care for their children? Is there an oppression and humiliation more severe than the oppression a Syrian mother suffers on a daily basis when she goes to the market where she looks over the various goods and sighs only to return home empty-handed or with amounts that are too little to stop hunger? Is there a hardship greater than a patient’s inability to secure the price of his medications, that is if it is available at all?
It is not surprising, then, that those behind this delusional distinction between dignity and hunger, advocate Western sanctions against Syria and support the Caesar Act, and complicate the various activities and events to celebrate people’s hunger through the Caesar Act, while they ignore the astronomical profits that the big corruptors and dominating forces within the regime make from the same sanctions, the profits which are also made by those who are “punished” by the sanctions. The names and positions are known, clear, and explicit, and any false sympathy those pretend to have, is a repugnant attempt to invest in people’s hunger, pain, and poverty.
Does all this diminish the importance of the democratic struggle against repression and against the expired political structure in the historical sense? Absolutely not. Rather, these two things are titles that cannot be separated from one another, or from the national issue, and whoever separates them only does so to circumvent the people and exploit their movement.
The affirmation of the socioeconomic issue in parallel and in association with the political, democratic, and patriotic slogans not only results from the humanitarian aspect of the issue, but also has other significant dimensions and meanings. People in Syria are effectively divided between a plundering and repressive economic minority, and a plundered and oppressed majority. Neither the minority belongs to a particular sect, nationality, or tribe, but rather it is crosscutting of all those; nor does the majority. However, if we overlook the socioeconomic aspect, it becomes possible to divide the plundered (i.e. more than 90% of the Syrians) on the basis of denominations, minorities, majorities, nationalities, the secular, the religious, tribes, regime loyalists, opposition, etc.
Emphasizing the socioeconomic issue is the basic way to sorting people on the basis of their real interests, and not on the basis of the interests of political groups from one side or the other. Therefore, it is not surprising that the extremists on both sides insist on setting aside the socioeconomic issue and even ridiculing it, because this allows for turning the divided Syrian public into a tool in the hands of plunderers from both sides.
A Word about the Slogans
Although a large number of Syrians intuitively look at specific slogans and symbols like “toppling the regime” and the three-star Syrian flag, a large number of Syrians also look at the same slogans and symbols with mistrust, fear, suspicion, and even hatred in many cases. This and that is a natural result of everything that happened on the path of pain, warring, and destruction during the last few catastrophic years.
However, since the primary task is to gather those with interest in a comprehensive, fundamental change, that is, 90% of Syrians and more, the search for slogans that are more radical and revolutionary than all of the above, and more capable of uniting the plundered, is a current task that cannot be skipped, and on top of those slogans is comprehensive fundamental change, and in its various political, economic, social, and democratic expressions.
Our proposal within this same framework is the necessity of emphasizing the political solution through the comprehensive and full implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254, an entryway to the necessary and deserved change process, and an entryway to end foreign interventions, and to secure the atmosphere that opens the door for Syrians to raise their free voices against injustice and to turn those voices into concrete realities within the state’s political structure. The indicators that we hear directly from some young people within the current movement, confirm their awareness of this issue and their eagerness to achieve it.
A Word about the Symbols
After all that has taken place, the debate over which of the two flags is most “legitimate” seems to some extent superfluous, at least from the point of view of many. However, what cannot be completely neglected is that the form in which the movement was highjacked in its peaceful phase has undoubtedly included a set of tools, including that in Syria there should be “two flags” and “two armies” and “two governments” (or more), etc. This means a grinding and continuous war that does not end except with an overwhelming defeat for one of the “two sides”. Since the balance of international powers does not allow this, then it means the continuation of the war leading to the massive destruction that we have reached, and even trying to preserve and consecrate it to become a long-term quagmire.
Within the same logic, the extremists on both sides have taken positions such as rejecting dialogue, rejecting the Arab League initiative, rejecting the Geneva Communiqué, rejecting UNSC Resolution 2254, rejecting Sochi, rejecting Astana, rejecting the Constitutional Committee, etc. These same people had to later, under pressure of reality, to agree to all those things. These same people today are formally divided into two parts, one claiming to support and sympathize with the new movement in As-Suwayda in an attempt to use it within their own failed political streak, and another part that accuses the movement of being a conspiracy.
The Beginning, but at a Higher Level!
Some may think that prolonged talk about “a few small demonstrations” in As-Suwayda is an exaggeration and amplification of a “small” matter. We believe that a few of these “small” demonstrations (which did not only take place in As-Suwayda, but similar ones went out sporadically in other parts of Syria), are nothing more than the first signs of what is about to come. The deep foundations that led people to protest and demonstrate in 2011 not only still exist, but also have become more established and deeper. In the forefront of all this, injustice in its various forms – economic, political, and social, which have served the interest of a small minority of both sides that benefit from the plundering and the continuation of the war and the crisis, and also serve the interest of the Western camp working towards international chaos.
The nature of the development of the international balances that we are living today, which the extremists in the opposition are trying to portray as a defeat for the Syrian people, and which the extremists in the regime are trying to portray as a victory for them and consequently a defeat for the demands of fundamental change, these balances in fact do not serve the interests of these two sides. The culmination of the previous international balances is also the termination of the old political space – with both its parts: the regime and opposition – and which arose, grew, and rot within the previous balances.
Two Critical Tools
The most important weapon in the hands of the new wave of the popular movement are:
1- More and more and more organization of the masses.
2- Making the most of previous experiences and mistakes and avoiding repetition thereof.
The next popular movement, at a higher, more mature, and more organized level than the previous wave, will this time, supported by a comprehensive political solution, play its historical role in crystallizing the new political space that really expresses what the people want and represents their interests, not the old political space that represents its narrow interests, and deceive the people.