It is very likely, when the war in and around Syria ends, and it will end eventually, regardless of how things will end up, the first revolution spirit will be revived, and the Syrians organizing themselves, taking advantage of the experience gained from the revolution, and other experiences from the previous bitter and long years under the rule of tyranny. In short this means that the “new opposition”, which was born during the revolution, will be the Syrians hope in their aspiration towards the future, away from all of those titles falling under false headings and concepts of “internal opposition” and “external opposition” etc…
Upon examining the political opposition at this point of development in the Syrian situation, and the outcomes of the Syrian revolution of March 2011, which we are still living its successive repercussions; it is necessary to revisit the political atmosphere within which the opposition has been activated to stand in the face of a dictatorial regime and tyranny for more than four decades.
Ever since the Baath Party took over power in the early sixties of the last century, particularly after the “corrective movement”, the new regime restored order in the late 1970, with only one issue preoccupying its mind, and it could be summed up in one sentence: “taking over power is not very important, the most important is how to maintain this power.” This idea opened the door for the formulation of the new era approach, which in essence was to work on removing politics, and abolish it in the community, and restrict its use to those in power and include all those who obeyed.
This regime has practiced all types of repressive methods known to man, enabling it to achieve its goal of pushing people away from politics. Politics which as we know is supposed to be a community activity, has become something people had nothing to do with, and it was abandoned by society since it was surrounded by a climate of repression, oppression and death threats. In this way politics had become impossible for the public, it became exclusive, not everyone was entitled to weigh in or to interfere in its issues and matters, so that the cancellation of politics was practically an expression of the abolition of its normal scope of civil and political societies.
The regime has also managed to subdue the people, robbing them off their public and private freedoms, without paying any attention to their problems and concerns, which has imposed a fake “stability” based on feelings of frustration and injustice and supressed anger that was just waiting for the moment to explode.
Even the influential international powers have always tended to enhance the existing conditions, and the prevailing status quos in the face of any possibility for a political democratic change. This has always been justified under the pretext that our society was not mature enough to shift to a path of this kind, assessing the modern national state and democratic pluralistic society, because of the cultural and intellectual backwardness and sectarianism, tribal and clan divisions, without taking into account the fact that this situation experienced by our society, was a natural result of the tyrannous policies imposed on it by force.
This state has raised crucial questions on all political forces, especially those who did not join up with the power, to identify and draw their options and future directions. It is may be worth to mention here that the dialogue that the Syrian political life had witnessed in the second half of the seventies of the last century between the many national political parties, leftist and nationalist, resulted in an agreement on the formation of the well-known “National Democratic Assembly”, in the face of the governing power. This alliance affiliated five of the active political parties in the country then, who had proven their ability to uphold the dialogue to reach a consensus regarding future strategies, and interim options, embodied in the “political charter” which together they all came up with, and in the “internal regulations” governing the operation of the “assembly” of its Interior affairs. Perhaps the most important distinction of the “assembly Charter” was the one that manifested itself in the rehabilitation of the concept of “national” by cross-defining it in terms of the interior, in the face of demagogic power approach limited to “face” the external (which was sponsored by that regime), complimenting and in line with the removal of politics from the public domain, therefore, the rehabilitation of the individual citizen as a member of the desired national state; and perhaps the most important in its internal regulations, that article which stipulated the right to join the “assembly” without an affiliation requirement to one of its parties. This meant that the “assembly” was established to combine being a coalition of several parties and being a political current too. The revival of politics, through and in the context of addressing the public, was the aim behind all that, opening a window in the face of the devastating regime’s approach to politics. The announcement of this “assembly” in March 1980 came at a time when the country was experiencing important disturbances and popular movements, which prompted the regime to direct a damaging blow to this new born entity. Since then, prosecution and arrests operation against the assembly persisted throughout the years of the eighties, leaving the assembly in a state of deflation and stagnation up until the beginning of the nineties.
Another expertise that is worth to mention here if this historical reading would permit, is another practical experience dating back to the beginning of the nineties, which had important and direct implications in what we are facing in the present. The leadership of the “assembly” at that time tried to conduct a general review of the condition in the country and the political parties state, in light of major changes that were taking place in the world, following regime collapses in Eastern Europe, and in the Soviet Union afterword’s. “A new political program” was suggested to keep pace with these developments in line with reality and its variables, and “internal regulation project” based on the regulations that have been agreed upon previously when the assembly was founded. However, in the end this project did not receive the approval of the involved parties, who saw it as a threat to their existence, which meant, in our case as Syrians, that the parties were taking a turn, according to this vision, to a hypostasis who was no longer interested in politics.
The relentless and systematic work that has fallen into disarming the public of politics, in addition to the brutal and barbaric repression of the national forces, political parties and the democratic opposition took unusual forms, turning these parties into something like a coil closed on itself, isolated from the surrounding community, and making it objectivity closer to a state of political and cultural resignation, which meant in the end, to abandon a society that was burnt by the fire of tyranny, to the forces of extremism and intolerance, undemocratic and aggressive.
These parties did not do anything against the superstitious mentality, and did nothing about the decline in critical and rational intellect, and made no action to fight the prevailing traditional culture that worked to generate reluctance against the modern concept of national civil and constitutional state, and against civil society being considered by many a product of Western civilization – the hostile conspiring West- who only intended to penetrate and destroy the culture and civilization of Arab Islamic world, especially with the decline of the cultural and intellectual elites in this area.
Not only that, but reality suggests a paralysis in the work of these parties, and their inability to get out of this state that threatened to eliminate them and drive them towards extinction. It also indicates that this deficit could no longer be explained as a repercussion of the repression suffered by them only, but in the undertone of the remaining ideologies, and in the inherited undemocratic structures that controlled them, despite them claiming the contrary, and in spite of all their programs and bylaws approved at the conferences, after adopting a habit of tucking them away on the shelf after the adjournment of these conferences without blinking their eyes or batting their eyelash.
It is no doubt that these parties who have no appropriate work mechanism, could only reflect the will of their members, and therefore would never be able, to express the interests of their society which is bound to reject them and produce the appropriate forms who can represent its interests.
Of course, the remarkable struggle and enormous sacrifices made by these parties throughout the decades could never be denied.
Needless to say, we are not talking here about those “communist” and “socialist” that has consented to selling out to the regime, limiting their work in their field through the so-called “National Progressive Front”, giving up the struggle for the sake of the interests of its people and society, and the assumed revolutionary role, in spite of their insistence on describing themselves as “opposition”.
Third, revolution promises and the reality
The Syrian people’s revolution of March 2011, has opened the doors wide for the return of politics to society, dropping all the regime’s methods and programs to eliminate and destroy politic, this approach that has prevailed for more than four decades. No one will be able to close these doors anymore.
This revolution is the logical and practical alternative to the deficit, and the failure of the political opposition with all its parties. Failure and deficit have paralyzed the ability of these parties, even to catch up with the revolution, in spite of their attempts at the beginning of the revolution, disabling them from playing the role of political representative of it, and therefore they are to take a substantial part of the blame to what has become of the revolution, after the regime ensured to smash its heads and make its young men and women disappear. These parties, who are referred to by the political intellect as the “traditional opposition” at the time of the revolution, are trying to find a role on the side-lines. But in vain, because they stand in the face of reality and the logic of history, pushing it to vanish and decay. And most likely, it will not have a role or presence in shaping the future of Syria which will be made by the “new opposition” stemming out of the new reality.
The fundamental problem was manifested in the beginnings of the revolution, when the regime refused to recognize its existence, and not even the existence of a national crisis; and when it went to portray the uprising as one of the “Salafist groups” who were begging violence and terrorism as a way for change, which could only be met with force; as for dialogue, if ever existed with opposition members, the regime would chose the members and topic, the roof and the issues that could be addressed in dialogue with them.
For its part, the opposition has been unable to impose itself as a credible interlocutor, or to overcome its divisions and obtain an internal recognition of its ability to represent the Syrian revolutionaries, or to present themselves later as an alternative of the regime they were seeking to topple, without having to have a strategy to achieve that, and thus it remained captive to the past with all its traditions, practices and methods of thinking. On the eve of the revolution, they couldn’t even manage a dialogue to reach a consensus on a unified program where all opposition parties could walk under one banner; because in reality they were fragmented, and their relations were competitive, and suspicion and mistrust prevailed amongst them, preventing them from reaching such a consensus. In spite of the seriousness of the responsibility the opposition parties were holding, they seemed incapable of reaching this goal, if they were up to it, they would have been probably able to represent the revolution, and to influence its tracks, and to stand against those who sought to miscarriage it, whether in the government or outside, through redirecting its routes, which happened later.
This leads us to say that “the Syrian regime” was ready to deal with “an eventual revolution” in Syria, while the “Syrian opposition” were not prepared to deal with such an eventuality, which would make them turn into what could be called the “traditional opposition” who remained on the side-lines of the revolution.
The new opposition is represented by the thousands of young men and women who raised the banner of freedom and dignity all over the country, and offered unmatched sacrifices in order to reach their hopeful dream of a modern national-state and a democratic pluralistic society, a state that would give back the individuals their value as citizens of this state and guarantee them their rights and let them enjoy its benefits; those who have made remarkable innovations in mobility on the ground, and in their activity across social networking sites, and their media activism through the use of modern media outlets, and in their important documenting work, and cross-developing their own forms of appropriate regulations for the revolution after realizing that “traditional opposition” parties were no longer fit to carry the tasks required for the present time, especially after they proved to be unsuccessful in overcoming the old conditions and impotent structure, and their inability to change their inherited customs and practices which have captivated them.
The new opposition’s experience was formed in the short time that has been made available to them, through developing their own forms of organization, they saw as the most appropriate for the time of the revolution. These forms were embodied by the coordinating committees that have spread across the country, and came under many names such as “Local Coordination Committees” and “Union of the Revolution Coordinates” and “Syrian Revolution General Commission”, who supervised the organization of the revolution activities in its multiple facets, especially during the peaceful demonstrations and civil activities phases.
But, soon the regime realized the seriousness of this qualitative development which was prompted by the Revolution to meet its needs and to ensure its continuity. This regime who was aware, by virtue of its security nature, that its death lied precisely in the emergence and development of organized protest based on peaceful and civilian mobility. It worked, as it is widely known, based on its ready-made plans, to raise the level of violence in the face of peaceful civil protests, and began eliminating the first row of revolution leader, followed by the second and third. Afterwards it has focused its efforts on diverting the revolution away from its goals and tracks, and the peaceful and civil nature, and worked in a systematic and deliberate way on pushing it toward sectarianism and bearing of arms; and then, to call on terrorism, which was able to deal with in all is forms. The regime has succeeded in implementing its plan to a large extent, helped by the limited support the Syrian Revolution has received, the conservative international position towards it, and the terrible abandonment suffered by it later.
Here, it must be noted also that some of the updated opposition assemblys and political blocs have realised the importance of this “new opposition.” But, unfortunately that attitude stemmed from self-centred and self-perspective motives, when they tried to invest in some of these younger groups and use them sometimes, they did so in order to achieve selfish and circumstantial gains only, and not to support them to be a leader in the political revolutionary work, thereby contributing indirectly in what the regime was doing at this level.
At this point, the revolution turned into another path which had nothing to do with the one it was launched from, in its objectives and tools alike. Little by little, with the increasing regional and international interventions, it turned into a war in Syria and around it, and it does not benefit the Syrians, nor Syria, in anyway not so ever.
But, does this mean, despite of its severity, that the opposition produced by the revolution, and which we call the “new opposition” has ended in the Syrian reality, and could not be revived anymore? It is not so at all! It seems that the opposition, which was found at the beginning of the revolution, is now existent by force, expressing itself in various and endless forms wherever Syrians are, inside the country and abroad alike, but without having appropriate regulatory frameworks, by virtue of the nature of the circumstances and situations. Let us remember here how the Syrians, after the cessation of hostilities, which came into force last February and lasted only for few days, have returned to their demonstrations that emerged out of the rubble, and regained the spirit that prevailed at the beginning of the revolution, in the face everything standing! It was simple but of a very profound significance.
It is very likely, when the war in and around Syria ends, and it will end eventually, regardless of how things will turn up, the first revolution spirit will be revived with the Syrians organizing themselves, taking advantage of the experience gained from the revolution, and other experiences from previous bitter and long years. In short this means that the “new opposition”, which was born during the revolution, is the Syrians hope in their aspiration towards the future, away from all of those titles falling under false headings and concepts of “internal opposition” and “external opposition” etc…
It is not accurate to speak of “internal opposition” and “external opposition.” If it was intended by internal opposition, the “Coordinating Committee” and other formation snatching around it, and if by external opposition we meant the “Syrian National Council” and “National Coalition for the Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition” and the “Cairo meeting,” and the like, the concept of “opposition” would not apply. It is true that they include a number of Syrian dissidents who had some long history of opposition to the Assad regime for decades, and have made great sacrifices to this end, but this is not enough to fit these “entities” under or in the context of the concept of “opposition”. They are political entities made on the side-lines of the revolution, and formed hastily, without a clear and consensual program, without harmony between the components, and without taking into account their ability to continue, each of which claims to represent the revolution, or aspires to have a bit of representation. Regional and international powers played a memorable role in the founding and funding of these entities and in directing their agendas as well. All or some of them could have a regional or international function when solutions are being pulled out, but most likely, these “entities” would not have a role or presence in Syria’s future.
– In spite of all of what happened in Syria, and what befell the Syrians, culture and politics are still there, and did not decline very much under the influence of that devastating conflict we are witnessing, between the maximum tyranny in its criminal version, represented by the Assad regime, and the Islamic extremism that is still spreading on the Syrian territory, as a result of this tyranny and a requirement too.
– there is still in Syria a balanced current, representing a wide cross-section of Syrians who lie under the Syrian National Brigade, away from power and from all forms of extremism, spreading within Syria, and in all the other four directions in the world.
– For this, it is may be useful for the Syrians these days to work on establishing a collective political and cultural entity, to keep the Syrian national spirit alive in the face of the other trends that are jostling for Syria’s future. It shouldn’t be hard to achieve, especially because of its role in promoting the development of the “new opposition” in the future hopefully, bearing in mind that this issue was one of the revolution requirements from the moment of its inception, and still is.
– it is very beneficial for the Syrians, whether they worked on the establishment of such a cultural political entity or not, to always uphold the Syrian nationalism, being the universal tendency for the Syrians, in the face of all the other tendencies, whether religious, sectarian or ethnic, and confirm the humanitarian and universal propensity which contrasts along the line with private interests, and with the local and political tendencies, which are the options of tyranny in all its forms.