Democratic Anti-Colonialism

Sunday, February 27, 2022 7:42:57 PM

Democratic Anti-Colonialism



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Apartheid Explained

The idea that brutal dictatorships in the Middle East are legitimate governments held by a certain kind of US leftist, and the willingness of the US government to lend strategic support to those dictatorships, for instance the longstanding support of Saddam Hussein that ended in the 90s, were both challenged by the Arab Spring. It turns out that Middle Eastern people are not satisfied living under authoritarian governments, and that those governments deployed an anti-semitic rhetoric without really doing much to help the Palestinians. Memmi was particularly well positioned to understand this patronizing version of allyship according to which the anti-colonialist is not subject to any kind of ethical constraint, because Memmi had supported independence and then suffered oppression at the hands of the Tunisian government he helped to establish.

In power there are only tradeoffs between values, and the people who have to make those tradeoffs based on limited information. Memmi was able to support an anti-colonial independence movement and at the same time criticize it, and that is a good example to the rest of us. And because this new divinely ordained political hierarchy is founded on generalizations, I want to attack it by investigating the specific situation in Syria. Governments should fear their people. The message captured the moment as hundreds of thousands of democracy activists descended on central Cairo… One day in March, a group of rebellious youths painted slogans from the Arab revolutions of on a wall in Deraa Syria.

The people want the fall of the regime, they proclaimed. I wanted to put these voices first, voices from the Egyptian and Syrian revolutions. I was born in in Memphis TN. In the Navy I learned Arabic, and when my enlistment was over in I lived in Egypt for four months. When the revolution happened there in it was happening down the street from where I used to live, happening to people who were my friends. It was from that moment I began engaging with politics in a different way. Among other things, this podcast is another attempt to come to terms with that engagement, to make an accounting for it.

I was able to translate various articles and statements into and out of Arabic for various revolutionary groups. At the time I felt guilt for having contributed to US wars overseas, and I felt like I was giving something back. Still today, if anyone listening in the revolutionary movement in the Middle East needs translations done please me. This engagement with the Middle East is why I am a socialist. I want to talk about the history of Syria and the Arab Spring in chronological order with attention paid to certain places and their particular history over time.

Hopefully, the material is accessible to all, but interesting to those who know the history well. In the passages that follow I have focused somewhat on historical turning points. This is deeply unfortunate. The history shows long periods of stability and peace punctuated by occasionally violent moments of change. It seems clear now that without the crusades the western enlightenment would have been impossible since the west had long since forgotten and lost Greek philosophy, including our patron saint Epicurus. The idea that what happens in the world is not fore-ordained seems coupled permanently with the ability of people to hope for change. Far from being foreign to a Syrian context, it is literally from the Syrians that it comes to Europe.

It is deeply ironic that many perceive, inside and outside the Middle East, that cultural modernity, the enlightenment, political rights, are considered alien to the Middle East when that is precisely the land that preserved those ideas for nearly a thousand years. Syria is as much the birthplace of democracy as Greece, for without the former no European would have known the latter. Sitting where it does in the fertile crescent, Syria is the birthplace of civilization and the exact place where the plurality of human cultures has always be forced into encounter.

People familiar with the Syrian revolution will find the roots of the oppositions cosmopolitanism in the international trade system which made the Ghoutta, a green suburb of Damascus, fertile territory for a merchants guild under the Ottomans. That guild system, and the relative political and economic independence it developed over centuries from whatever tyrant ruled locally, became the social basis for resistance to French colonialism and later to the Assad dynasty Battatu, p. Syria is the hinge of world history, and if at this moment Syrian reality seems as grim as the worst moments in that history, we should heed what possibilities it heralds.

This is a land of ancient and distinctive civilization, overlaid in the western half by those of Greece and Rome, and in the eastern by that of Iran; it was here, rather than in the peninsula, that the specific society and culture of Islam had developed. Behind a coastal strip of plain there is a range of highlands, rising in the centre to the mountains of Lebanon and sinking in the south to the hills of Palestine. Beyond this again is another region of highlands, the great plain or plateau of the interior which changes gradually into the steppe and desert of the Hamad. In some places, ancient systems of irrigation used the water of the Orontes and smaller rivers to maintain fertile oases, in particular that lying around the ancient city of Damascus.

The change was so sudden and unexpected that it needs explanation. Evidence uncovered by archaeologists indicates that the prosperity and strength of the Mediterranean world were in decline because of barbarian invasions, failure to maintain terraces and other agricultural works, and the shrinking of the urban market. Both Byzantine and Sasanian Empires had been weakened by epidemics of plague and long wars; the hold of the Byzantines over Syria had been restored only after the defeat of the Sasanians in , and was still tenuous. The change was more than one of rulers. The capital of the empire moved to Damascus, a city lying in a countryside able to provide the surplus needed to maintain a court, government and army, and a region from which the eastern Mediterranean coastlands and the land to the east of them could be controlled more easily than from Madina.

But in Syria in the eleventh century, jihad was no more than a slogan brandished by princes in distress. But then an extraordinary event brought about a decision…. Sensing that he [Atabeg Karbuqa] was losing control of his troops…[he] asked the Franj for a truce. This merely demolished the last of his prestige in the eyes of his own army and emboldened the enemy. It was 11 December [], a pitch-dark night, and the Franj did not yet dare to penetrate the town. The Frankish commander promised to spare the lives of the inhabitants if they would stop fighting and withdraw from certain buildings.

Desperately placing their trust in his word, the families gathered in the houses and cellars of the city and waited all night in fear. The Franj arrived at dawn. It was carnage. The exiles still trembled when they spoke of the fall of the city.. Two days later, when the killing stopped, not a single Muslim was left alive within the city walls. Some had taken advantage of the chaos to slip away, escaping through gates battered down by the attackers. Thousands of others lay in pools of blood on the doorsteps of their homes or alongside the mosques The sack of Jerusalem, starting point of a millenial hostility between Islam and the West, aroused no immediate sensation.

Not only were the Frankish states of the Middle East uprooted after two centuries of colonization, but the Muslims had so completely gained the upper hand that before long, under the banner of the Ottoman Turks, they would seek to conquer Europe itself. In they took Constantinople. Afterwards, the centre of world history shifted decisively to the West. Is there a cause-and-effect relationship here? Can we go so far as to claim that the Crusades marked the beginning of the rise of Western Europe -- which would gradually come to dominate the world -- and sounded the death knell of Arab civilization? Although not completely false, such an assessment requires some modification.

The people of the Prophet had lost control of their own destiny as early as the ninth century. Their leaders were practically all foreigners The Franj succeeded in creating genuine state structures as soon as they arrived in the Middle East. In Jerusalem rulers generally succeeded one another without serious clashes; a council of the kingdom exercised effective control over the policy of the monarch, and the clergy had a recognized role in the workings of power.

Nothing of the sort existed in the Muslim states. Every monarchy was threatened by the death of its monarch, and every transmission of power provoked civil war… , In all domains the Franj learned much in the Arab school, in Syria as in Spain and Sicily. What they learned from the Arabs was indispensable in their subsequent expansion. The heritage of Greek civilization was transmitted to Western Eruope through Arab intermediaries, both translators and continuators. In medicine, astronomy, chemistry, geography, mathematics, and architecture, the Franj drew their knowledge from Arabic books, which they assimilated, imitated, and then surpassed.

Many words bear testimony to this even today: zenith, nadir, azimuth, algebra, algorithm, [almanac] and more simply, cipher. In the realm of industry, the Europeans first learned and then later improved upon the processes used by the Arabs in paper-making, leather-working, textiles, and the distillation of alcohol and sugar -- two more words borrowed from the Arabic language Although the epoch of the Crusades ignited a genuine economic and cultural revolution in Western Europe, in the Orient these holy wars led to long centuries of decadence and obscurantism.

Assaulted from all quarters, the Muslim world turned in on itself. It became over-sensitive, defensive, intolerant, sterile -- attitudes that grew steadily worse as the world-wide evolution, a process from which the Muslim world felt excluded, continued. Modernism became alien. Should cultural and religious identity be affirmed by rejecting this modernism, which the West symbolized? Or, on the contrary, should the road of modernization be embarked upon with resolution, thus risking loss of identity? Neither Iran, nor Turkey, nor the Arab world has ever succeeded in resolving this dilemma. Even today we can observe a lurching alternation between phases of forced Westernization and phases of extremist, strongly xenophobic traditionalism Today, on the eve of the third millenium, the political and religious leaders of the Arab world constantly refer to Saladin, to the fall of Jerusalem and its recapture.

In the popular mind, and in some official discourse too, Israel is regarded as a new Crusader state… It seems clear that the Arab East still sees the West as a natural enemy. Against that enemy, any hostile action -- be it political, military, or based on oil -- is considered no more than legitimate vengeance. On the disputed and shifting frontier with the byzantine Empire there grew up a number of such principalities, nominally accepting the suzerainty of the Saljuqs but in fact autonomous… By the end of the fourteenth century its forces had crossed the straits into eastern Eruope and expanded rapidly there.

Its eastern European empire added to its strength in more than one way. It came into contact and diplomatic relations with the state of Europe, and acquired new sources of manpower: former ruling groups were incorporated into its system of government, and conscripts from Balkan villages were taken into its army In it absorbed what was left of the Byzantine Empire and took Constantinople as its new capital, Istanbul.

In the east, however, its power was challenged by the Safavids, another rising dynasty of uncertain origin, around whom Turkish tribesmen had gathered. There was a long struggle for control of the frontier regions lying between their main centres of power, eastern Anatolia and Iraq: Baghdad was conquered by the Ottomans in , lost to the Safavids in , and not taken by the Ottomans again until It was partly as a consequence of the struggle with the Safavids that the Ottomans moved south into the lands of the Mamluk sultanate.

Largely because of their superior firepower and military organization, they were able to occupy Syria, Egypt and wester Arabia in The Ottoman Empire was now the principal military and naval power in the eastern Mediterranean, and also in the Red Sea, and this brought it into potential conflict with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean and the Spaniards in the western Mediterranean. In the Red Sea area its policy was one of defence, to prevent the Portuguese from advancing, but in the Mediterranean it used its naval power to check Spanish expansion and establish a chain of strong points at Algiers itin the s , Tripoli in the s and in Tunis , but not further west in Morocco. Maritime warfare continued for some time between Ottomans and Spaniards, but by now Spanish energies were mainly directed towards the new world of America.

A more or less stable division of naval power in the Mediterranean grew up, and from onwards Spain and the Ottomans had peaceful relations. In the mountains and desert, control was more difficult because of the terrain, and less important because the land produced less revenue. A policy of manipulation, of setting one family or ane member of a family against another, awas usually sufficient to preserve the balance between imperial and local interests, but sometimes it could be threatened. Fakhr al-Din was finally captured and executed, and after that the Ottomans established a fourth province with its capital at Sayda, to keep a watch over the lords of Lebanon. Today when we talk about imperialism it usually involves a discussion of bad faith.

We call it imperialism assuming that the reasons given are lies or bad faith beliefs maybe W. Bush really believed what he was saying. Things were otherwise in 19th century Europe. There were large pro-Imperialist parties, usually liberal in the sense they affirmed limited or even broken democratic systems. Colonies were how they hoped to ease poverty and unemployment, and where the middling classes could get rich. These are just a couple of examples. These were blatantly racist ideologies whose adherents put forth a straightforward good faith case for imperialism. Throughout that century the British were busy invading, occupying and getting kicked out of Mesopotamia and the Levant greater Syria.

Syria remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until the British out of desperation during WW1 enlisted the aid of Arabic speaking princes who had ambitions to finally set up their own independent states, something they had lost under nearly four centuries of Turkish rule. The postwar settlement of Sikes-Picot gave France status in Lebanon and Syria, to manage them and nominally to help them transition into independence. In as Abd al-Krim was devastating the Spanish army in Morocco and opening a second front against the French there, nationalists in Syria reckoned the time was right. The French had been administering Syria as a loose confederation.

This meant that the Alawites and the Druze in particular had autonomy relative to the peoples all around them. This is typical divide and conquer: as we shall see this will be exactly how the Assad dynasty would later rule. One veteran of an early desperate attempt to fight back French rule in at Maysalun was Fawzi al-Qawuqji. He was from Hama. Because the French had tried to replace the Druze leader Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, the Druze were already by Spring of waging guerilla war against the French. In return they promised to lead an expansion of the insurrection in Damascus and Hama. With French troops tied down in Morocco fighting Abd al-Krim, so they reasoned, they had a good chance of pushing the French out of Syria. The nation rallied to their cause, with mass demonstrations and with popular support for the guerillas.

The French put down the revolt with a disgusting display of extreme violence against civilian populations, shelling civilian areas and massacring noncombatants in insurgent territory. Notably, one of the communities that took heavy casualties was the Ghouta, a fertile valley just to the east of Damascus. The Ghouta was the neighborhood that hosted a year old merchants guild. Projecting ahead some, it was in the Ghouta that Bashar al-Assad killed people with Sarin nerve agent in It is estimated that in three days in October people were massacred by the French. You have to suspect that locals then told stories about the Franj crusaders who cannibalized the people of Antioch so long ago.

Nevertheless they managed to quell the rebellion in and stuck around until after WW2. The socialist government under Leon Blum tried to give Syria real independence, but was blocked from debating the matter by the colonial lobby in Paris. Even in the colonies, France must have periodic revolutions. The conservatives and colonialists there come directly out of the tradition of rural resistance to the Jacobins, and the decision to nationalize the Catholic Church there just keeps coming back to cause chaos. After WW2 protests erupt anew across Syria, and just as in the French responded with extreme brutality. And then something remarkable happened. The indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas did not sit well with the new English Prime Minister.

After nearly half a century of patient organizing and being a minor party in coalitions with other political parties, British labor had come into its own. Labour made health care a fundamental right for all citizens, nationalized one-fifth of the economy, significantly increased the incomes of wage earners, sustained the full employment economy that the war created, instituted progressive income tax and a pension system, abolished antiunion laws, abolished restrictions on the rights of women to own property, established a minimum wage for agricultural workers, and got colonial Britain out of India, Pakistan, Burma Myanmar , Ceylon Sri Lanka , and Palestine.

We can add to this list of victories convincing France to grant Syrian independence. Labour could do all of these things because it had helped the reactionary Churchill beat Hitler. Attlee was his defence minister. Earning the trust and goodwill of the people by honest debate and wise cooperation has served us better than constantly declaring war on all parties who are not ours. In the Labour party proved as much by transforming a large part of the world for the better. Invoking the guarantee of Syrian independence, he formally requested the British to intercede with the French to stop the bombardment of Damascus. By the time French guns fell silent, more than four hundred Syrians had been killed, hundreds of private homes had been destroyed, and the building that housed the Syrian parliament had been reduced to rubble by the ferocity of the attack.

The French finally admitted defeat in July and agreed to transfer control of the military and security forces to the independent governments of Syria and Lebanon. President Eisenhower had some racist ideas about Arabs not being able to understand democracy. Naunihal Singh has done us a very great service in this regard. In Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups, Singh studied in depth seven of the ten military coups that occured in Ghana after it was granted independence from Great Britain, from to It also had a variety of potentially relevant background conditions, with, for example, coup attempts from the top, middle, and bottom of the military hierarchy.

However, Singh has gotten remarkably close to finding such a data set, where the same thing is attempted with some perhaps minor changes. A military coup, Singh tells us, is not like an election and not like a military battle. In an election people campaign in the open and then on a given day everyone votes, hopefully anonymously, and everyone agrees to respect the outcome, chosen by some kind of a majority. In a battle there are two camps who have decided ahead of time to fight it out. In a military coup, the outcome is decided by who can convince the majority of the armed forces, not that their platform is preferable, but that the outcome is decided in their favor.

Coups succeed when they can make a compelling case that they cannot be helpfully resisted. Coups are more likely to succeed from the top because the upper chain of command can hold meetings where they announce the coup to key players. By forcing key players to pick a side in a public forum before any of them have had a chance to discuss matters in private generates a social pressure to support the coup. If the coup conspirators can seize the media early and control the message, then they can easily convince the nation that the coup has succeeded and that resistance is futile.

The general public can influence the outcome of a military coup, if members of the military are given the chance to discuss things with them. We cite the example of the Russian revolution, where long discussion and many votes by popularly organized bodies such as the soviets came before and then blessed after the fact of the Bolsheviks leading parts of the Russian army to seize the Winter Palace. Another example is the failed coup against Charles De Gaulle in Several retired French generals tried to take over the government to stop the French from withdrawing from their colony in Algeria.

The coup attempt had broad support throughout the officer corp. Decisively, De Gaulle was able to go on television to publicly repudiate the generals citing a referendum a few months earlier where the French people had voted to give up the French colony. It was a military coup that was dominated and defeated by a democratic coalition Singh, p. Usually, coups succeed or fail based on whether they can create the fact of their success before too much public discussion has occurred.

A military coup, Singh tells us, is a coordination game, a contest of who can shape common knowledge the quickest and most convincingly. The first thing to notice, but not the last, about the coup in Syria is that the US supported the victor Adib Shishakly both financially, militarily and diplomatically Weiner, p. In the case of Syria, the military was always deeply involved in governance, both from its time under French and Ottoman rule, and as far back as the first Jihad of Abu Baker immediately after the death of the prophet.

The French gave Syria its independence in by handing over control of the army and the intelligence corps. The Shishakli coup was the final of three coups that occured in Syria in Shishakli was a Syrian Kurd and a Syrian nationalist who had volunteered to fight Israel in To him and his supporters the coup was necessary to get rid of the government of Husni al-Zaim who had failed in to get rid of the colonialist state of Israel. Any group aspiring to take power, whether that group is democratic or not, would probably be helping itself if it got the backing of some external power.

The CIA put their hand on the scale in Syria to oppose Stalinist totalitarian communism, and in so doing they put a Syrian nationalist authoritarian in power, someone opposed to Israel but also opposed to Syria combining with Iraq. Long term success of a coup installed government still seems to depend largely on whether society will tolerate that government. In the US tried to promote a coup again, but local Syrian military officers knew the tune already, set up a sting and expelled the plotters. The US then expelled the Syrian ambassador, probably a mistake in hindsight.

The resulting decline in American prestige in the region, among other factors, led to local governments welcoming Soviet Russian aid and influence. Back in Syria, the new economy was lifting up a class of traditionally lower to middle positioned peasant farmers. This peasant class would struggle through the chaos of these years to take power in Syria, first by a fairly generous redistribution of wealth and later by an intensification of poverty, exploitation, and violent collective punishment. The regime that coalesced around Hafez al-Assad achieved enduring stability by Only three or In other words, the majority does not come from families at the lower end of the rural income or status ladder. Batatu exhaustively documents how throughout this period the landholdings of these middling class peasant strata increased tenfold p.

Like most liberation movements in the late 19th and early 20th century the Syrian movement was dominated by socialism and nationalism. They had a vision of a nationally united Syria, forged in the furnace of European colonialism. The population all around, the peasants and day-laborers of Syria, were embracing socialism in the context of an Ottoman style system that had been balkanized by the French administration. In these two parties joined forces. This is yet another way the priorities of Moscow undermined the interests of various Communist Party locals around the world. There were always two kinds of nationalism in Syria. In the army, the various Sunni ethnic groups competed with each other for influence. These were not official policies or perhaps even particularly intentional, but in context people clearly had identifications that were important enough for them to embrace corruption of the national institutions to the benefit of their extended family from Latakia for instance.

What the socialist party politics achieved in this union was aggressive and far reaching land redistribution. This land redistribution was slow at first, and then through sped up precipitously as Salah Jadid took leadership in coordination with Cairo. Close beneath him in the hierarchy was a young up and comer Hafez al-Assad. Hafez al-Assad was the first peasant to become the ruler of Syria. Hafez al-Assad was likewise described by many who know him personally as secretive and inscrutable. His family were agricultural laborers, part of an important clan local to Qirdahah, a village in Latakia. Having excelled in memorization of the Quran, Hafez was sent away to primary school in Latakia.

It was a natural choice for poor, scrappy young men from the provinces like Hafez and Mustafa who were ambitious and politically minded. A ninth-grade education and an entrance exam were all it took to be admitted. The Baath was first and foremost an ideology -- a curious fusion of European philosophies, socialism, Arab nationalism, and Islamic thought, whose theorists were Syrian graduates of the Sorbonne.

Its core doctrine was that Arabs must undergo transformation and unification beyond just geographic and political lines; they must shed imperial-era influences and return to their pure essence and virtues. This demanded a rebirth and resurgence, or baath in Arabic. These concepts, along with social equality and redistribution of wealth, appealed to those sidelined by their economic circumstances, like Mustafa, or by belonging to religious minorities, like Hafez.

Arab identity was supposed to transcend all cleavages. In Hafez al-Assad and several of his fellow cadets from the military academy, with backing from some of the top brass, posed as an opposition to secession from Egypt and staged a coup. Tanks rolled into Damascus. Hafez secured the nearby airport. The purge that followed lifted more Baathists into power. When the pro-Nasser group realized they had been lied to and betrayed, they led their own coup, which failed. In the new regime put down revolts in Homs and Hama led by Marwan Hadid, who afterwards was given a death sentence. The sentence was reversed, despite the protestations of Hafez and Mustafa. What followed was deadly court intrigue, with the result that Salah Jadid took power, who as we discussed previously implemented aggressive land redistribution.

In June of Israel invaded the Golan Heights. Hafez al-Assad, despite his experience in military coups, was still inexperienced in combat. On June 10th he issued Communique 66 declaring that Israeli forces had taken the village of Qunaytrah. But Israeli forces were not anywhere near Qunaytrah. When they saw the Syrian tanks retreating, they easily entered and took over the Golan. Hafez al-Assad had led the retreat without having put up a fight. It is possible to explain this action as cowardice or as incompetence. There were unverified reports of Israeli tanks in and around Qunaytrah.

In Hafez al-Assad distinguished himself by taking back part of the Golan from Israel in a war that saw Egypt retake the Sinai peninsula. The Arab Socialist Party had begun in , and had its largest base of support in and around Hama. It was incredibly popular, attracting 40, people to its congress in The bonds of solidarity it forged, as well as the culture of resistance, lived on in the Syrian countryside. With the world recession of the 70s added in, this older political movement was bound to butt heads with the authoritarian and corrupt Assad regime.

In Egypt concluded a peace treaty with Israel, one which has held to this day, and thereby was removed the potential for a repeat of when Egypt and Syria joined forces to attack Israel. We have seen how the Baath party was transformed by its merger with the ASP from a party of army officers and urban intellectuals into a mass peasant party. Populations within which individuals and groups may have aspired to socialism, to the democratic control of the means of production, found the path open to them for advancement in the nationalist wing of the Baath.

In the early 70s Hafez al-Assad began holding mass rallies where people were coerced into attending and engaging there in worship of Hafez himself. Simultaneously, a campaign of terror was waged by the regime. Thousands were sent to prisons to be tortured. Sam Dagher recounts the events of the late 70s and early 80s through the memories of Hama native and artist Khaled al-Khani:. He was barely four years old in when Hafez al-Assad stepped up the pressure on his hometown. It was common that year to see troops in jeeps and pickup trucks with machine guns racing down Corniche al-Asi -- the riverside promenade with lush parks and giant wooden waterwheels, or norias, used for millennia to scoop water from the deeply carved Orontes river up into aqueducts for irrigation.

There was no telling when the heavy footsteps of soldiers would echo through the narrow cobblestone alleyways on their way to arrest people from their homes, shops, and schools. The dragnets in Hama often provoked angry protests and general strikes, which then led to more repression by regime forces. While fear and violent confrontation gripped Hama that year, Khaled and his siblings were somewhat shielded from it despite the political activism of their father Hikmat al-Khani, an eye doctor and community leader. Soldiers at checkpoints demanding IDs and searching vehicles were often smiley and playful with little Khaled, a cute and chubby boy with blond hair and blue eyes Hafez was already enmeshed in the civil war in neighboring Lebanon, and he faced challenges on two fronts at home -- attacks by Islamist unsrugents backed by his rival Baathist regime in Iraq and rising discontent by a large cross section of the population over economic mismanagement, corruption, and an increangly authoritarian rule.

But it was precisely such nonviolent collaboration that Hafez felt jeopardized his authority. There were mass arrests, summary executions, and unspeakable torture in prisons of anyone suspected of having even the remotest link to the Brotherhood; this guilt by association extended to family members, friends and acquantiances. All too often, many people met a tragic demise due to their name, birthplace, or look, or simply because of mistaken identity. In the early months of the stream of events came to a head, and a wave of strikes and protests begun in Hama soon spread to Aleppo, Baniyas, Homs and Latakia.

Al-Shishakli was tortured and murdered. Several other leaders of the peaceful protest movement of were likewise murdered. Having decapitated the peaceful protest movement, Assad could carry on with the collective punishment of rebellious communities in the name of fighting terrorism. That year he subdued Aleppo, killing 2, and arresting another 8, In the cold days of early February , Hafez al-Assad encircled Hama. The captains on the ground were mainly Alawite. They rampaged the city in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Estimates of the number of dead range from 10, to 25, Dozens of neighborhoods were completely razed to the ground. Those who survived often lived under the shadow of the knowledge that their loved ones had been taken to some jail to be tortured indefinitely. Sometimes people came back. Khaled al-Khani survived, and like many Hama natives he tried to join the Baath party in the hopes of getting into college. A Baath committee came to his high school to interview the potential new recruits. He said that his father had been killed by the army. He was knocked to the floor and screamed as he was kicked. The principal rescued him. Khaled was supposed to say that Islamist terrorists had killed his father. He was supposed to forget those who witnessed his father being captured by regime forces and taken with thousands of other men to the porcelain factory where he was tortured and gruesomely executed.

The spirit of solidarity shown in the spreading protest movement is all the best of what democratic socialism should be: people fighting to have a say in what happens in their lives. Syria is a place where the whole world comes together, where Ancient Greek philosophy and algebra were rediscovered by Europe through the crusades. And for 30 years it would seem he had. The dual compulsion to rally to worship the cult of Assad and to remain silent about any and all abuses and shortcomings of the regime was the norm for 30 years. It was a time when society was completely dominated by the state.

As we will see, no such arrangement is total, and through the harshest such winter one can still sow the seeds for a new spring. The colonized would give birth to the citizen, master of his political, economic, and cultural destiny. After decades of imposed ignorance, his country, now free, would affirm its sovereignty. Opulent or indigent, it would reap the rewards of its labor, of its soil and subsoil. Once its native genius was given free reign, the use of its recovered language would allow native culture to flourish. Unfortunately, in most cases, the long anticipated period of freedom, won at the cost of terrible suffering, brought with it poverty and corruption, violence, and sometimes chaos.

As we saw in the discussions regarding Capital, the Civil War, the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War and all the rest of it: when we discuss a historical epoch, event or conflict in terms of ideological character types, as chess pieces moving around a board with well defined rules, we rob real people of their humanity and agency. Memmi does all of that for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Decolonization, not blaming either side for their own victimization but also not letting anyone off the hook for their disastrous mistakes.

Consequently he is able to do something few who write about the Middle East, especially leftists, have attempted: to consider the actions of the various governments in the Middle East and North Africa as equally worthy of criticism, on an equal moral standing with any western government. He is therefore able to discuss the failures of these governments in terms of what the peoples of the Middle East are responsible for, and in terms therefore of what they can do to improve matters. His book Decolonization foretold the Arab Spring, identifying its causes: systemic inequality and corruption. I highly recommend reading Memmi.

But first we want to discuss a form of left nationalism that in some parts of the left leads the way in understanding anti-colonial struggle. Anderson, Eric A. The role of the military in Syria: the Shishakli years Batatu, Hanna. Syria's peasantry, the descendants of its lesser rural notables, and their politics. Princeton University Press, Hennion, Cecile. Le fil de nos vies brisees. Editions Anne Carriere. Paris, The Syrian Enlightenment July 21st, 43 mins 4 secs albert memmi, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, arab spring, assad, averroes, cia, colonialism, decolonization, enlightenment, faisal darraj, israel, occidentalism, orientalism, palestine, riad saif, saadallah wannous, solidarity, syria, taha hussein, the coup, the middle east The Syrian revolution, any revolution, should not serve as a confirmation of received political ideas, but rather as a challenge to all that has heretofore been thought.

A widespread expression captured what this historic moment meant for those who discovered themselves and their nation in its unfolding: Syrians broke the barrier of fear… [Shadi an accountant from rural Hama] My first demonstration was better than my wedding day. And when my wife heard me say that, she refused to talk to me for a month… [Sana, graphic designer from Damascus] I was very scared on my way to the demonstration. Works Abouzeid, Rania. Pearlman, Wendy R. We crossed a bridge and it trembled: Voices from Syria.

Custom House, Yale University Press, Sirees, Nihad. The Silence and the Roar. Pushkin Press, Yazbek, Samar. The Crossing: My journey to the shattered heart of Syria. Rider Books, Music: Reynard Seidel, Uprising, else Harry. Joseph Daher July 16th, 1 hr 8 mins anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, arabs, assad, cia, colonialism, decolonization, hezbollah, israel, joseph daher, kurdish, kurds, occidentalism, orientalism, palestine, pkk, pyd, solidarity, syria, the ceasar act, the coup, the middle east Joseph Daher is an internationalist, a Socialist, a Swiss-Syrian revolutionary and academic working in Switzerland. A Short History of Syria July 7th, 1 hr 4 mins albert memmi, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, arabs, assad, cia, colonialism, decolonization, israel, occidentalism, orientalism, palestine, solidarity, syria, the coup, the middle east Albert Memmi was a Tunisian Jew born in , a philosopher and political thinker educated at the Sorbonne.

Imperialism Today when we talk about imperialism it usually involves a discussion of bad faith. Hourani, Albert. The project hosts monthly workshops for affiliated faculty and graduate students at which they can present and comment on works-in-progress. Together with several NSSR departments, the project also co-hosts a lecture series featuring guest speakers and an annual distinguished lecture followed by a one- or two-day intensive seminar. September 23, p. For information about events, please email criticalperspectives newschool. Graduate courses connected to the project build on the three core themes and help students develop the theoretical, empirical, and methodological skills needed for rethinking established structures of political power and control, including state sovereignty, empire, nationalism, racialized and patriarchal capitalism, the North-South divide and the global color line, and the transnational commons and its political ecologies.

New School graduate students can engage with issues and concerns shaping the project in these fall courses:. For more information, please contact Carlos Forment, Associate Professor of Sociology, at formentc newschool. To apply to any of our undergraduate programs except the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs complete and submit the Common App online. Events News Giving Apply. Events The project hosts monthly workshops for affiliated faculty and graduate students at which they can present and comment on works-in-progress. Upcoming events include: September 23, p.

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