National Sections of the L5I:

Resolution on Syria

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The relentless bombardment and starvation of the civilian population of eastern Aleppo by the forces of Bashar al Assad, Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, rightly aroused public revulsion, especially in Europe and North America. Western governments, following the lead of Obama, focused their blame on Russia and renewed threats of intervention or intensification of the sanctions regime. Syria, more than any other world trouble spot, opened the perspective of what is widely called a New Cold War between Nato and Russia and, to a lesser degree, China. To this could be added the element of proxy war being waged by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states against the Syrian regime, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

For a period in 2016, there was even speculation that the cold war could become hot if there were a clash between US and Russian air forces operating in Syria. The rapprochement between Turkey and Russia in the last months of 2016 and the election of Donald Trump have, for the time being at least, altered this perspective. Whether the negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, based on prior talks in Ankara as an expression of the Turkey's new alliance with Russia, can reach any lasting agreement depends largely on some sort of deal between the main regional and world players.

Neither Assad nor his Iranian allies are mere puppets of the Kremlin, just as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are not easily biddable US agents. Add to this the multiple non-state or semi-state combatants; ISIS/ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) the Kurdish YPG and many small jihadist groups and the situation could still prove explosive, despite any Great Power deals. Indeed, many of these non-state actors will do all they can to upset any such deal, creating facts on the ground that could drag their patrons in Moscow and Washington, Ankara and Tehran, into further conflict.

The massive outflow of refugees into the EU, the terrorist outrages in Paris, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul and Ankara, show that the Syrian crisis has created a “blowback” which includes far reaching disturbances in the internal politics of Europe and even the USA. These include the shock of Brexit, Trump’s “surprise” victory and the boost to racist populist parties, using Islamophobia and hatred of refugees as the road to victory.

The Syrian civil war, in particular, divided those that regard themselves as on the left. The complexity of the forces involved, their shifting enmities and alliances, created confusion amongst both reformist and revolutionary currents, driving many towards one imperialist camp or another. Philosopher, and admirer of dictatorships, Slavoj Žižek, denounced the Syrian uprising as a “pseudo struggle” in which “there are no clear political stakes, no signs of a broad emancipatory-democratic coalition, just a complex network of religious and ethnic alliances over-determined by the influence of superpowers”. Tariq Ali, a former Trotskyist journalist, claimed that all that was happening in Syria was “a new form of re-colonisation by the West, like we have already seen in Iraq and in Libya”. And former Respect MP, George Galloway, who memorably fawned on Saddam Hussein, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”, more recently called Assad “quite a man” because “he opposes Israel, Britain, America and Qatar”. Others, like Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, have retreated into a generalised pacifism, appealing for peace negotiations; avoiding any level of criticism of Putin’s and Assad’s atrocities, whilst appealing to the plainly impotent United Nations.

Others on the left, many still influenced by the Stalinist two camps theory, seeing their own governments as the only threat and believing that “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend”, side with, or excuse, Putin and even Assad. Counterpunch in the USA is particularly virulent in traducing all the Syrian revolutionaries and so, on occasion, are UK radical journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger and Seumas Milne. The British Stalinists’ Morning Star even hailed “the liberation of Aleppo”. In a period when the rival imperialist camps may become real war camps, the role of “socialist” camp follower for either is a wretched and dishonourable one. Identification with either imperialist camp, or their brutal allies, condemns the workers' and anti-war movements to total impotence, faced with a rising war threat. This is especially true in a period of increasing turmoil in international relations where, overnight, enemies become allies and vice versa. Trump's America First policies, his threats of protectionism and unilateral attacks on states he believes threaten US interests, add to this extreme uncertainty.

Interventions by imperialist and regional powers have also led to immense political confusion among fighters for democracy in Syria and the wider Arab and Muslim world. Naturally, they expected help from the “great democracies”; the US and EU but, although those powers did supply some weaponry via their far from democratic regional allies, and even threatened to punish Assad for atrocities themselves, they proved broken reeds for the secular and democratic forces. Over the last year, Russia and its allies have been far more effective in their support for Assad. Moreover, parallel to this, Islamist forces, with support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, became hegemonic, destroying the more democratic rebel sectors except in a few isolated areas and in the Syrian Kurdish region of Rojava.

Now, even if the brutal civil war in Syria resumes, with Idlib and other remaining liberated areas coming under renewed attacks, we have to recognise that the Syrian revolution, which began six years ago, has suffered a strategic defeat. Indeed, we can apply this judgement to the entire Arab Spring, given the reactionary nature of the civil wars in Libya and Yemen. It was defeated by a range of counterrevolutionary forces; military bonapartists, such as el-Sisi or Assad, monarchist, as in Bahrain, or salafist-jihadists who emerged out of the resistance. The task of revolutionaries in the Middle East and internationally is to face the truth, no matter how bitter, that they now face a counterrevolutionary period, whose duration cannot be known, before there will be a re-emergence of mass struggles.

However, beyond their extensive repressive apparatus, the regimes that have triumphed, with either Russian or American backing, are very far from being stable, so a new revolutionary outbreak has to be prepared for and the lessons of the past period have to be learned. Above all, those lessons are that a democratic revolution must also be a working class-led revolution with social goals that address the needs of the proletariat, the lower middle class and the urban and rural poor and that it must place no reliance on either imperialist camp and resolutely refuse to act as a supporter of either.

From revolution to civil war

To find one's way through the Syrian labyrinth means to start from the revolutionary upsurge which began it all, the Spring, which has now turned into such a cruel Winter. Obviously, its pre-history, that is, the preparation for mass spontaneity, was the work of small groups of online activists who spread news of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The spark for the Syrian Spring, was a street demonstration in Damascus on 15 March 2011, when news spread of the arrest and torture of 15 school students in Daraa, accused of painting anti-regime graffiti. The revolutionary movement that this act of repression provoked took a similar form to the “Arab Spring” protests that toppled Western-backed regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and were suppressed in Bahrain by the US ally Saudi Arabia. In Syria, networks of left-wing students, very small compared with more open groups in Egypt, spread news of the other Arab Springs. From March to July, 2011, a mass, democratic, youth-dominated movement protested against the regime. It pursued a strategy of peaceful demonstrations, demanding greater democratic rights and economic reforms to counter the consequences of the regime’s kleptocratic neoliberalisation of the economy, and called for the western “democratic” imperialist powers to intervene as leverage on the regime.

At its heart, were bodies that have been called the motor of the revolution; the local coordination committees, LCCs. Starting from organising demonstrations and spreading news of government repression, they developed a rudimentary but effective means of communication and soon spread to all the areas affected by the revolution. As the hard-pressed regime forces withdrew from widespread areas, or as units of regime troops rebelled in certain parts of town and cities, liberated areas developed and LCCs took over the running of essential services such as food supplies and medical facilities. They flourished in the south, in Daraa, when the regime forces pulled out of that southern province. They existed in the liberated suburbs of Damascus, like Darayya, where they resisted siege for four years until August 2016. They also existed in places like Douma, Harasta, Idlib province and parts of Hama and Homs provinces. They existed, too, in large areas of Aleppo province and in eastern Aleppo city until its fall and evacuation. Had these bodies developed fully into the political power that commanded all the armed forces in their areas, had they formulated the political goals of the revolution, free of the Islamist forces backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, then the fate of the revolution might have been different. The winning over of regime forces, appeals to secularised civilians hitherto supporting the regime for fear of persecution, might have continued as in the first years of the revolution.

However, the strategy of entirely peaceful protests, which achieved success in Tunisia, and succeeded in removing Mubarak, if not in breaking the military command’s control of the repressive forces, faced a much more difficult task in Syria. Why? Firstly, the Syrian dictatorship itself started from a stronger position. Conditions in Syria were far more totalitarian than in either Tunisia or Egypt. There were few, if any, institutions with a mass social basis free of tight control by the regime. A severe emergency law, in force since 1963, made all unapproved meetings and demonstrations illegal. After the bloody crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood's revolt in the 1980s by Bashar’s father, Hafez, the regime did not face a powerful counter-power such as the Brotherhood in Egypt or the trade unions in Tunisia.

The official labour movement was dominated by the Baathists and Stalinists, with both Syrian Communist Parties inside Assad’s National Patriotic Front. In addition, the official pan-Arab nationalist ideology of the regime belied its real sectarian basis, and its willingness to sow the seeds of sectarian division and conflict to maintain its rule. Syria’s religious and national demography, for all the lack of spontaneous tensions between them, presented an opportunity for political manipulation. Sunni Arabs make up around 60 per cent of the population, the Alawites about 12 per cent and the Christians 10-13 per cent. Then there are national minorities like the Kurds and Turkmen.

The regime has been able to mobilise the fears of the minorities and the more secular urban middle class and workers, encouraging them to regard it as a lesser evil than any Sunni Islamist threat. The Assads, father and son, always used the “after me, the deluge” argument, though in Bashar’s case it was he who unleashed the deluge that has wrecked the rich historic culture of all of Syria’s communities. The regime was able to patronise, buy off and control the leaderships of all the religious bodies, mosques and churches, though it had relaxed control over some radical preachers and political Islamists, even releasing some from jail, during Bashar’s first years in power. Given such a social base, and the proven willingness of the regime to use the most brutal repression as a first resort, a sudden collapse of the Baathist regime in 2011 was unlikely. Assad had witnessed and drawn the lessons of Ben Ali and Mubarak’s fall. Not for one minute would he allow a Tahrir Square to emerge in Damascus or other major cities, where patently peaceful demonstrations could grow to massive proportions and where, as a result, his troops would be exposed to the pressure of politicised crowds and refuse to fire on them.
In addition, because the port of Tartus is Russia's only naval facility in the whole Mediterranean, the Syrian regime, unlike the other countries of the Arab Spring, could count on Moscow's backing. This was especially true after Nato's intervention in Libya; Russia would not allow its asset to be overthrown and replaced by forces more sympathetic to, or actually proxies of, western imperialism.

Thus, the Syrian regime, unlike the others, could be confident that its imperialist sponsor, would act to preserve its influence and oppose any western interference. This calculation, based on its relative importance in the brewing inter-imperialist conflict, rather than its undeniably brutal and dictatorial character, was the prime factor in the regime’s decision to put an end to the protests through bloody repression.

This demonstrates not only Russia’s fundamental responsibility for the ensuing carnage, but also that the whole future course of the Syrian revolutionary civil war would be dominated by the rivalries of regional powers, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and, behind them, an inter-imperialist conflict. These forces shaped the political and military development of the factions involved. The Syrian revolutionaries, at first unarmed and peaceful in their tactics, were obliged to create defensive militias, aided by small scale defections from the regime forces. The revolutionary forces found themselves quickly besieged by a powerful army and air force led by regime loyalists and backed up by sectarian militias from Iran and Lebanon. Within a year, they were catapulted into a bloody civil war in which they found themselves at the mercy of a wider conflict, which inexorably drew in almost every neighbouring power.

The lack of leadership and the unfavourable terrain they were fighting on, compounded by the internal and external assets of the Assad regime, meant that, despite their courage, the weaknesses of the new generation of democratic activists were exposed and their numbers decimated during the early months and years of the civil war. The state had built its power base very firmly on sectarian divisions. Since 2003, the Assad regime’s secret services had funded and allowed jihadist rebels to operate from Syrian territory against the US-British military occupation of Iraq.

With the outbreak of a democratic revolution, Assad was able to call on huge reserves of support from Russia and its regional allies, exploit the sectarian divisions his regime had implanted, decapitate the secular leadership of the revolution and unleash the reactionary jihadist Islamist forces to carry out their own war against the progressive activists and ideals of the revolution. Assad’s prisons were emptied of the Islamists who had been trying to export al-Qaeda’s reaction to Syria and filled with the progressives, democrats, feminists and secularists who embodied the conscience of the revolution's mass base.

The rebel units of the army that defected to the revolutionaries were unable to seize the heavy weapons or to deny the regime access to the airfields, which were used to pound rebel cities into submission. The lack of leadership, combined with a need to fight a mixed conventional military and guerrilla war against the state, necessarily led the rebels to seek support from any willing supplier and, inevitably, given their weakness, to accept the conditions that came with that support.

External Interventions

Thus, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as principal arms suppliers and promoters of various jihadist or salafist forces, gained more and more influence, working to replace the democratic local militias with “reliable” agents, though their mutual rivalries made even this difficult. For all that, the destruction wreaked by the regime, including the massive flight of population and the exhaustion of its reserves, brought the regime near to collapse in 2014-15.

Then, on 30 September 2015, when Russian warplanes intervened massively to prop up the retreating and shaken Assad forces, direct US involvement could have turned into a clash between the two nuclear powers. Faced with that, Obama became ever more determined not to arm the rebels with the anti-aircraft missiles that could bring down Putin’s warplanes, especially as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former Nusra Front, had become an integral part of the rebel forces. US attempts to create a “moderate” or secular force also failed miserably.

The endgame of the Syrian civil war demonstrates that imperialist aggrandisement lay behind the policies of all the great powers since 2011 and renders utterly fraudulent the proclaimed concern for “national sovereignty” (Russia) or democracy and human rights (the USA, plus Britain, France and Germany). The eventual intervention of US and British forces in Syria, both the arming of the Rojava Kurds and the anti-ISIS campaign, was motivated not by concern for the Kurds or Christian minorities in Syria but by the panic engendered by the collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of ISIS and Sunni ex-Baathist uprisings across northern Iraq. ISIS advance was possible because, for a considerable period, Turkey had allowed its fighters and logistics free passage through its border zones and benevolent neutrality when it launched its attack on Kobane. Likewise, Assad had allowed ISIS a free hand as long as it was the enemy of his enemies like the progressive local forces in Raqqa which became the “caliphate’s” Syrian capital.

The Obama administration’s unwillingness to confront Russia or give substantial aid to the forces fighting to drive Assad out, combined with its priority of achieving détente and a nuclear deal with Iran, alarmed its regional allies. In response, Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council stepped up their longstanding clandestine support for Sunni salafist groups intending to offset the growing influence of Iran and its Shia proxies like Hezbollah. The fact that these countries have huge oil wealth to squander and access to advanced weaponry, courtesy of western arms salesmen, meant they were able to use networks built up in the years of George Bush’s “war on terror” in Iraq to supply arms and funding to militia groups in Syria, many of which were allied to, or extensions of, those in Iraq.

Turkey, and the Gulf states aided and abetted the radical Islamist currents within the anti-Assad movement hoping, in Turkey’s case, to destroy the PKK’s allies in Rojava through ISIS and, in the Gulf states’ case, to extend their influence in the region at the expense of Iran. As a result, the democratic and secular revolutionary forces were either forced into a series of bloody conflicts with the jihadist groups or obliged to accept Saudi tutelage and profess a degree of support for its reactionary sectarian ideology in return for arms supplies. All of this was made worse by the European Union’s arms embargo against both sides in Syria. This exposed the entirely fraudulent claims of support for the progressive rebels, since France and Britain viciously compete with each other to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, many of which found their way into jihadist hands, while Assad was more than adequately provided for by the Russians.

Rojava

The Syrian revolution allowed the three Kurdish cantons along the country’s northern border, which form Rojava, to effectively establish their autonomy. 
Run by the sister party of the Turkish PKK, the PYD, they advocated a so-called “Third Way” strategy between the Assad regime and the forces of the Syrian Revolution. This was doubtless influenced by the fact that the leadership of the Syrian opposition, like Assad, opposed the self-determination of the Kurdish people. For a long time, the Kurdish areas tried to stay out of the fighting and to keep their distance from both the regime’s forces and the “Free Syrian Army” and the revolutionaries' self-organised local units. On both sides, these positions were, from the start, shortsighted, narrow-minded and far from revolutionary. First, they meant that the leadership of the self-governing territories offered no political perspective and orientation to the Kurdish population, especially for the working class, in other parts of Syria, in particular, the big cities like Aleppo. Second, the Kurds were “safe” only for as long as there was a balance of feuding forces in the Civil War.

A victory for Assad, it was always clear, would mean the end of any Kurdish self-government and a new, brutal, national oppression. Also it was clear that the Turkish regime, once it renewed its offensive against the PKK, would do all in its power to undermine the latter’s equivalents in northern Syria. Hence its tolerance of the foreign fighters, weapons and oil sales supporting ISIS after it became a major force and erupted into Syria after its victories in Iraq. The fact that it was necessary in 2014-2015 to defend Kobanê unconditionally against the reactionary onslaught of ISIS does not alter the fact that Marxists must critically examine the exaggerated claims made by nationalists and anarchists about the so-called the “Rojava Commune” and the policy of the PYD. It is claimed that Rojava is building a social model “beyond capitalism”. However, this would mean more than the reforms that have taken place so far in Rojava. What has been achieved is a more democratic local government, the freeing of women from patriarchal restrictions and an expropriation of some large estates, all key elements of a bourgeois, but not a socialist, revolution. Of course, no one could expect socialism to be built in such a small and economically backward area in the middle of a war but, there is no need to claim that a stateless or classless society has been built or is being built.

No radical attack on bourgeois property relations has occurred, not least because this is not part of the programme of the PYD and PKK. What that programme does express is an attempt to find a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, in which all forms of property (including the private ownership of means of production) should be subordinated to the common good. However, this is, at best, a utopia or, at worst, a deceit for the unwary. This petty-bourgeois utopia reflects the class basis of PYD and PKK. They are petty-bourgeois nationalist movements that certainly use revolutionary tactics, rather than legalistic or parliamentary means, to achieve a democratic revolution. Socially, they are based on the social classes appropriate to this revolution, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the small business class.

Of course, there are also workers in these movements but they are not the leading force. Ideologically, this is reflected in a mixture of both Stalinist and libertarian-anarchist elements, which are codified in the so-called “democratic confederalism” of the PKK’s Abdullah Öcalan. Such a strategy cannot ultimately lead to the liberation of the Kurdish people from national and social oppression. Why? Firstly, because it does not set democratic demands in the context of a transformation of property relations, namely, the establishment of a democratic planned economy. Secondly, because it does not understand the Kurdish revolution as part of the permanent revolution in the Middle East, the need for the establishment of workers' and peasants' governments and a federation of Socialist states. These two points are the crucial, strategic cornerstones of a revolutionary working-class politics in Kurdistan, as in the whole region. A revolutionary workers' party must base itself on them in order to advance the revolution, or else it will itself be tossed around in the maelstrom.

Another problem was that the very heroism and prowess of the Kurdish YPG fighters against ISIS in the siege of Kobane, in sharp contrast to the Iraqi or Syrian regular armies, from September 2014 to January 2015, plus the problems that the Turkish government was presenting to its American allies by refusing them the use of the airbase at Incerlik, attracted the attention of the Obama administration and led to a de facto alliance. Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD, even invited the USA to build an airbase there. At the time, the Assad regime countered the US initiative by declaring itself “ready to negotiate” with the Kurds, since the fall of east Aleppo and the election of Trump, however, it has reasserted its position that Kurdish autonomy “has no future”.

The Rival Imperialist Camps

Despite the fact that the revolutionary democratic aspirations of the Syrian people live on in their war against Assad, they have become ever more subordinated to a wider imperialist conflict between Russia, the west and their regional proxies. Neither the Russians, who massacred thousands of Chechen civilians in Grozny in 1999-2000, nor the US and British who did the same to Iraqi civilians in Fallujah in 2004, can be called upon to play a humanitarian role in Syria. The self-determination of the people of Syria can be exercised only by Syrians themselves, free of their outside “friends”. That is why it was correct for the anti-war movement in Britain and the USA to oppose Cameron and Obama's threats to bomb Syria in December 2015. The only forces that could have helped the Syrian revolution without ulterior motives were the workers of other countries. If the labour movement worldwide had campaigned in support of the revolution from earliest days, organising aid, opposing the arms blockade to the rebels and building a movement of solidarity with Russian anti-war activists, in short, if the working class movement had developed an independent line, it could have positively influenced the outcome of the struggle.

In fact, due to the confusion and divisions in the left and the anti-war movement, we tragically and repeatedly let that opportunity slip and it seems now that the fate of the Syrian people will be determined in the imperialist thieves’ kitchen by Putin and Trump, with the participation of Turkey’s Erdoğan and Iran’s Khamenei-Ruhani and with the Saudi King and Qatari Emir demanding their cut, too. Neither Trump nor Putin can afford to appear the loser or to suffer humiliation in any deal. Those most likely to be betrayed by their US allies are the Kurds of Rojava. The remaining areas, where the democratic forces; communal councils and local militias, survive, will at the very best be under foreign military supervision, if not handed back to the brutal retribution of the Assad regime.

In Conclusion

From 2011 onwards, we were dealing with a mass movement against the regime, with a revolutionary escalation that quickly assumed the form of an armed struggle, that is, a civil war. The FSA groups in Syria, as well as the LCCs and defence militias were organs of defence against the regime; their formation was a necessary goal from the outset. Anything else would have meant capitulation. Those on the left who, like the International Socialist Tendency, have argued that it was the very development into civil war that ended the revolution and its progressive character, show thereby that they are no revolutionaries. ALL revolutions will tend to turn into a full blown territorial civil war. Witness the relatively bloodless October Revolution which, thanks to the revolt of brutal White counterrevolutionaries and allied intervention, became the four year Russian Civil War in which at least 1.5 million perished

It is true that, from the start, genuinely democratic and socialist forces were very weak. In part this was because the regime kept control of the largest cities and the more urbanised industrial working class sectors. There was, in short, a leadership vacuum. Moreover, the political forces that did exist were uncertain about the revolution’s social objectives, was it bourgeois democratic or socialist, and even what its “democratic” political aims were beyond the overthrow of Assad. Hence, the growing influence of reactionary forces within the resistance. Due to shortage of funds and weapons, due to the absence of international solidarity, the Syrian movement fragmented into forces that were forced to look for allies from regional or imperialist powers; the influence of reactionary forces grew.

The young revolutionaries and officers who came over to the revolution were quite ambivalent in their attitude to the foreign powers, especially the USA, Britain and France. They wanted aid and arms and a “no fly zone”. In turn, the Western imperialists themselves had a deeply ambivalent attitude to the Syrian revolution; on the one hand, Assad was to be weakened but, on the other, his state apparatus had to be retained, to prevent a second Iraq.

After Obama’s red line was crossed by Assad with his gas attack in late 2012, it was never likely the USA would directly attack the Syrian regime. By 2014, it was clear that the US would not give the rebels surface to air missiles which could bring down the regime's planes. The Russian intervention and the huge outflow of refugees in 2015, forced Nato, the EU and the regional allies of the West to come to terms with a victorious Putin and Assad.

The role that the main political force of the Kurds, the PYD, played in Syria was deeply ambivalent from the start. Equally, the Syrian rebels like the FSA, did not defend Kurdish rights including that of self-determination up to and including the right substantive autonomy, let alone the right to secede. Without a Syrian revolution, the autonomous zone of Rojava, in which the PYD ruled, could not have existed and without its revival it will not survive except as a pensioner of a regional or imperialist power. The PYD’s policy of the “Third Way” will not solve this dilemma since it has no strategy with which to find allies among the Arab masses.

In the second half of 2016, the regional and global situation changed. Even before the US elections, US and European imperialism had resigned themselves to Assad continuing in power. Therefore, despite all the media outcries, he and the Russians were given a free hand in Aleppo. The cautious Turkish intervention in the north was aimed at the PYD, not at Russian interests, and the reconciliation with the latter changed the whole game. “Peace negotiations” point to a Syria effectively controlled by Russia but with Turkey’s anti-Kurdish interests safeguarded, and the Western imperialists mollified by some sort of “reconciliation process”.

What are the tasks and duties of revolutionaries?

• There is a need to recognise that the Syrian revolution has been defeated, and the lessons of this have to be drawn for its revival in the future. Certainly, more dark years are ahead for the people of Syria, but we must not underestimate the de-stabilising effects of the capitalist crisis, of the contradictions and competition between the regional and the imperialist powers.

• A reactionary peace of the victors threatens the surviving democratic / socialist forces and the achievements of Kurdish autonomy and democratic rights, as well as the huge numbers of refugees inside Syria, in the Middle East and in Europe. The international workers' movement needs to expose this reactionary peace and defend and aid its victims to fight back against it.

• Socialists and democrats in the imperialist countries must demand that external powers that have pulverised the cities and wrecked the infrastructure of Syria must pay for their full reconstruction. The European powers and the USA must also pay to provide decent living conditions, education and healthcare for the refugees in the Middle East and open their borders unconditionally to all those seeking asylum.

• We have to continue to demand the withdrawal of all imperialist and regional powers from Syria and for weapons to be supplied to Syrian and Kurdish democratic and secular forces without conditions.

• We need to help revolutionaries in Syria and in exile to lay the programmatic and organisational foundations of a multi-national, secular, revolutionary workers' party, a party that will have to face illegal conditions in most areas where it works and continues the struggle against the Assad regime under rapidly changing conditions.