An “Anti-War” Movement in the West in Relation to Syria Is An Oxymoron
Thank you for this thoughtful article (“Socialists and Wars in the 21st Century — The Case of Syria.”)
One of the problems we face in a discussion around how to be anti-war in practice, is that the discussion is crippled by the one-dimensional framework of pro-war versus anti-war.
For all the anti-war movements I have supported or participated in, the actual content is never really limited to “opposing war.” While the existence of war is a sad commentary on the backwardness of the human race, the solution to that backwardness is in removing the causes of war.
Only strict pacifists always advise both sides in a war to simply put down their guns and stop fighting. In practice, one side following this advice only allows victory for the other power.
Thus in Vietnam “anti-war” meant that the U.S. and its allies should stop their war-making, NOT that the Vietnamese should stop their war of liberation. Opposition to the Contra war in Nicaragua, again, was in reference to the U.S. which created and supplied those forces, not a call for the Sandanistas to stop the defense of their country (anymore than we would have opposed the revolutionary war they had conducted against the Somoza dictatorship).
When we had “anti-war” demonstrations against the impending Iraq war, we never meant that the Iraqis should abandon their military defenses. In all such examples, “anti-war” really meant opposing the war-making of one side, but in effect justifying the military efforts of the oppressed nation under attack. It was only because the main enemy in each case were our own imperialist ruling classes that the term “anti-war” was a convenient and popularly formulated slogan expressing that content, in which we were actually (and unashamedly!) taking sides.
That is why an “anti-war” movement in the West in relation to Syria is an oxymoron. Obviously the revolution and civil war in Syria was not a result of any war-making on the part of Western imperialism (despite various fictions to the contrary). We should take the side of the oppressed in Syria every bit as much as we did in the above examples. But — unless you live in Russia or Iran — using the term “anti-war” doesn’t really specify which side you are on. And using that term robotically can only increase confusion and promote the myth that their revolution is a Western imperialist plot.
In other words, the discussion that Richard Fidler encroached upon was already distorted by the starting point: how to build an “anti-war” movement in the West. Rather, we need to start with the concept of building a solidarity movement with the oppressed. Only from that starting point can we formulate popular slogans and demands and determine if and how terms such as “anti-war” can be applied to those efforts.