The Syrian revolt enters a new phase

By Richard Seymour

, by LINKS

As Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad flees the capital, the armed segments of the revolution appear to be inflicting blows on sections of the security apparatus and taking over major cities: the revolution is turning a corner. Robert Fisk reports that a crucial dynamic now is the fracturing of an alliance between the Sunni middle class and the Alawite regime, signalled by the spread of the revolt to Aleppo. And defections from the state-capitalist power bloc continue. Indeed, Juan Cole has suggested that such divisions must run deep in the Syrian state for the opposition to be capable of planting a bomb that can kill a senior minister.

The course of this uprising, from the immolation of Hasan Ali Akleh in January 2011, redolent of Mohamed Bouazizi’s death in Tunisia, to the suicide attack on the defence minister, has been brutal. In the early stages, the Syrian government had a monopoly on violence. It was police violence and the decades-long rule by the Ba’athist dictatorship, undergirded by repressive "emergency law", which provoked the "days of rage"; it was the police beating of a shopkeeper that provoked a spontaneous protest on February 17, 2011, in the capital, which was duly suppressed; it was the imprisonment of Kurdish and other political prisoners that led to the spread of hunger strikes against the regime by March 2011. And it was the security forces who started to murder protesters in large numbers that same month. It was they also who repeatedly opened fire on large and growing demonstrations in April 2011. In the ensuing months until today, they have used used everything from tear gas to live bullets to tank shells.

And the main organisations of the Syrian opposition pointedly refused the strategy of armed uprising, noting what had happened in Libya, and arguing that the terrain of armed conflict was the ground on which Assad was strongest. Nonetheless, the scale of the repression eventually produced an armed wing of the revolt. The Free Syrian Army became the main vector for armed insurgency, expanded by defections from the army and the security apparatus. Now it is making serious advances.

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