WikiLeaks Party : R U Syrias?

John Shipton, CEO of the WikiLeaks Party (and Assange’s old man), recently sat down for a nice cup of tea with that nice man Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria and General Secretary of the Ba’ath Party (Bashar was of course preceded as President by his old man, Hafez). Accompanied by other senior Party members and Sydney academic Tim Anderson, the trip was ostensibly a “fact-finding mission”. Not unexpectedly, it raised a number of eyebrows.

Asked in an interview with ABC radio what his discussion with Bashar consisted of, Shipton stated that he posed Bashar two questions: one, was Bashar going to declare war on Saudi Arabia? and two (sic), the status of several imprisoned Internet activists. Shipton doesn’t state what the answer to his first question was but claims that the Party has entered into negotiations with the government regarding the release of imprisoned bloggers. While they’re not named, this group would presumably include folks like Bassel Khartabil, among others.

In any event, the occasion got me thinking: what’s the position of the Australian left on Syria? For the Marxists, it’s mostly opposition to war (ie, US/NATO military intervention) accompanied by varying degrees of antipathy towards Assad. Thus SA and SAlt reckon Assad is Bad (Assad’s backers on the left are ignoring reality, Michael Karadjis, May 5, 2013; Syria: support the revolution, oppose US bombing, Vashti Kenway, September 8, 2013/Stop the US-led war on Syria!, August 28, 2013), while the CPA/CPA(ML) is neutral (People of the world demand HANDS OFF SYRIA!, September 4, 2013/Hands off Syria!, January 27, 2013), the Spartacists (ICLFI) hold the line in Imperialists’ Hands Off Syria! (Australasian Spartacist, No.221, Spring 2013), while the most detailed statement by the Northites (ICFI) is that by David North/(Green): US imperialism and the proxy war in Syria (September 9, 2013).

Curiously, North refers to the SSNP, noting that “On April 22, 1955, [senior Syrian military figure] Malki was assassinated while attending a soccer match by a member of the pro-US and right-wing Syrian Social National Party. An official investigation into the assassination found that the US was a major supporter and financier of the SSNP. It was well known that the SSNP had close ties with the CIA.” Committed to the (re-)construction of a Great(er) Syria, I last read reference to the SSNP via its participation in the Sydney Forum, the Australia First Party’s annual conference. And AF, of course, gained some inadvertent publicity when, somehow or other, it managed to sneak ahead of various other worthies on the WLP preference list in NSW …

Funny Olde Worlde.

See also : Razan Ghazzawi.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2014 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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9 Responses to WikiLeaks Party : R U Syrias?

  1. Abas Abas says:

    Plus the fact that the Australian socialist group members writing these articles generally salivate over war (which kills civilian men women and kids after all!) as it provides a vehicle to e.g. denounce US imperialism their group’s way, as a point of continuing useless agreements on theory these groups use to differentiate their group from the other socialist micro-parties. SAlt, SAll etc are in fact very pro war – e.g. SAlt crave a (by default violent) revolution in Australia, get a SP tanked on beer and pretend you agree and they’ll outline who needs to be shot etc. Creepy to see the shiny eyed glee too. SAll are a bit gentler, but by no means a pacifist group. And then you have the ZOG conspiracy nutters’ love for Assad. How can any of this even be termed ‘left’ even.

  2. Athenry says:

    Personally I support the Assad government for a number of reasons;

    I don’t like Wahhabi terrorists
    I don’t like foreign mercenaries
    I don’t like imperialism
    I like the Kurds (who have been more aligned with Assad recently)
    I like secular governments
    I like all opposition toward the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel

    A UN thing (cbf finding it) stated that the majority (if not all) of chemical attacks in Syria were instigated by the opposition. I think (see:know) that Assad has been demonized by Western media and politicians and that he is nowhere near the kind of demon that they paint him as.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that he’s a man to be admired but I believe he holds a moral high-ground over President Obama, Usurper Netanyahu and Abdullah Al Saud. His moral compass is probably on the same level as our own Prime Minister’s.

    So I don’t really support him or his government but in choosing between the two main forces in the conflict I will back the government to the ends of the earth. Because the world does not need another Western controlled, Wahhabi state like Saudi Arabia or the bloodshed that will come with it.

    In saying all of this I wonder which of the groups mentioned in this post I would find myself more aligned to. I’ve pretty much dropped all of the small contact I had with socialist groups because of this. I attended a marriage equality rally but decided to leave early because I had members of Socialist Alliance telling me that they support bloodthirsty, Christian and Jew-killing Salafi terrorists and murderers and that just didn’t sit well with me.

    Oh what a time to be alive.

  3. @ndy says:

    @Abas Abas:

    Whether or not local self-described socialists salivate over the prospect of foreign wars I’m not so sure, but in any case it’s possible to examine their claims and perspectives independently of any such notion. Of course, the corrupting nature of state power is another stinky kettle of fish …

    @Athenry:

    Leaving aside the fact that support, in this context, is almost always rhetorical, I see no reason to lend support to either the Syrian or US state. That said:

    Portrayals of foreign leaders, states and their actions are typically ideological in the sense that they are driven by domestic political concerns. Some years ago Herman & Chomsky classified atrocities in this manner: http://www.chomsky.info/books/counter-revolutionary-violence.htm

    Most everything else flows from my commitment to anarchists politics, including a general contempt for heads of state, states, politicians, parties, and so on. Most relevant in this context is the view of anarchists from Syria …

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/18617-syrian-anarchist-challenges-the-rebel-regime-binary-view-of-resistance
    http://tahriricn.wordpress.com/tag/syrian-anarchists/
    http://razanghazzawi.org/

  4. Abas Abas says:

    Yeah nah they do salivate, they love it. War gets your average mid to upper echelon socialist micro-party member busting out some kind of pro violence view. Violence is ok with these fukkkaz – as long as they support the perpetrators of the violence. And by violence I mean bombing kids. Show me any eg SAlt article saying war is totally fucked and I’ll eat my worker’s cap with all the cute activist badges attached. This pro civil war but anti us and anti imperialist shinola ain’t left at all.

  5. John venerosa says:

    This sums up the the whole situation having been to Syria just before the shit hit the fan.

    Athenry says:
    January 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm
    Personally I support the Assad government for a number of reasons …

  6. @ndy says:

    Antony Lowenstein in The Guardian (January 14, 2014):

    The sight of Australian citizens associated with the WikiLeaks party sitting and chatting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad during their recent “solidarity mission”, along with their comments about the regime, is a damning indictment on a party that ran a dismal election campaign in 2013 and has never bothered to explain its subsequent collapse.

    For WikiLeaks supporters such as myself (I have been backing the group since 2006), this latest PR exercise is nothing more than an act of stunning political bastardry. It does nothing to push for true peace in Syria, and essentially amounts to a propaganda coup for a brutal dictatorship. It’s also a slap in the face to the WikiLeaks backers who are still expecting answers about why the party imploded without public review or reflection.

    The problem isn’t meeting Assad himself. He’s the (unelected) leader of Syria and an essential part of any resolution of the conflict, still supported by many Syrians who fear Islamic fundamentalism. Saudi Arabian-backed extremism across the Middle East, implicitly supported by the Western powers now focused on Assad’s butchery, is spreading sectarian carnage by pitting Sunni against Shia, leading to the death of thousands. Syrian civilians are suffering the full brunt of this madness. Saudi funding for Syrian “rebels” – in essence backing Al-Qaida terrorism – is repeating the playbook used against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, enriching militants in a battle that will inevitably come back to bite the Saudis and their Western allies.

    A third way is, for the time being, out of sight. And in this context, it’s hard to see how the WikiLeaks party can judiciously show solidarity to Syria’s besieged people.

    When the WikiLeaks party delegation returned to Australia, various members expressed their views about the trip. Activist Jamal Daoud, who wrote in 2012 that he supported Assad, blogged that he had heard while in Syria that “the alternative to the regime is total chaos.” Although acknowledging that meetings were held with both regime and rebel representatives, Daoud clearly believes that the regime remaining in place is the ideal outcome.

    John Shipton, chief executive of the party and the father of Julian Assange, spoke to ABC Radio in Melbourne to defend the mission. He mouthed the talking points of the regime itself – that they’re fighting terrorism in cities and towns across the country – and claimed that the WikiLeaks party is planning to set up an office in Damascus in 2014. “We’ll continue to expose the truth to the Australian people and to our international audience”, he said. Shipton added that as the delegation walked around Damascus, they found “a lot of support for the government” – which is undoubtedly true, but likely to be similar to journalists being taken around by minders from Saddam Hussein in Iraq and finding nearly universal backing for the dictator.

    Sydney University academic Tim Anderson – who wrote in 2007 that Cuba is a democracy and the US is not, ignoring the lack of an open press and the Castro brothers’ authoritarian ruling in the process – also defended his participation in the mission after The Australian newspaper attacked him. He went on to state: “forget the absurd myth of a single man [Assad] ‘killing his own people’. That line is designed to pull the wool over our eyes. This is a ‘regime change’ exercise that went wrong, because Syria resisted.”

    It is deeply problematic that Anderson and other side players downplay or brush aside the gross abuses committed by the regime, which have occurred both during the war and during Bashar and his father Hafez’s decades-long rule.

    Considering how the mainstream media will spin such a trip must be a major consideration when talking about “truth” in a modern, complex war. How support for a peaceful resolution practically occurs when facts on the ground are notoriously difficult to assess should be the heart of the matter. Instead, it appears that the WikiLeaks party was caught up in an inevitable maelstrom of their own naive making. If you visit Syria and are pictured meeting Assad, you should make be [sic] damn sure you’re on the front foot to rebut the likely criticisms and provide a cogent and detailed rebuttal to what you saw, and why a few WikiLeaks party members from Australia can make any difference to the war. You should also know that any “solidarity mission” to Syria will be used by either side as a way to bolster their claims and defend their own crimes, of which there have been plenty by all sides.

    Moral and political clarity is vital – which is why, for example, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was rightly condemned in my view after he voiced support for Iran and Syria in the process of opposing “US imperialism”, and refused to oppose human rights abuses in both nations. Equally, being a supporter of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination shouldn’t automatically lead to backing Fatah or Hamas, two groups with a documented record of abusing their own citizens.

    The situation in Syria is dire, with dirty hands on all sides. As it stands, the solution is not with the Baath party, nor the Al-Qaida-aligned rebels – but this is a decision for the Syrian people to decide. Encouraging a peaceful settlement and negotiations must be the goal. The WikiLeaks organisation remains an essential tool in holding governments to account, but its Australian-based party’s visit to Syria exposes the dangers of believing that the “enemy’s enemy is my friend”. It is not.

  7. Walter says:

    @abas abas: you sound a little upset and ur claims are cray. Are you alright? Do you need a cyber hug or something?

  8. Pingback: The WikiLeaks Party’s administrative error [Crikey] | slackbastard

  9. ablokeimet says:

    OK. My reading on Syria is that a popular uprising started in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. The people of Syria wanted to be rid of a vicious & violent tyrant who was pursuing neo-liberal policies that had savagely cut living standards for the working class.

    Bashar Assad, however, is no dill. He decided that, if he turned the struggle into a sectarian war, with fundamentalist Salafists as the opposition, he would prevail. To do that, he has accused the opposition of being Salafists from the very beginning, when they were no such thing. His strategy has been to suppress all civil opposition and turn the struggle into a purely military one. He was banking on the Salafists coming to dominate the military opposition.

    Assad has calculated correctly. The opposition resisted the militarisation of the struggle, because of lessons they learnt from the Palestinians’ Second Intifada, but they were eventually faced with the reality that, if they didn’t take up arms in self defence, they would be slaughtered. Thus the Free Syrian Army was formed.

    The formation of the Free Syrian Army had exactly the effects that the civil opposition feared it would have – the civilian struggle was sidelined and military considerations became dominant on the rebels’ side. It should be noted that this development tilted the gender balance of the struggle quite severely. Women’s participation, secondary even in the civilian struggle stage, became negligible once the struggle was militarised.

    What occurred next was a corollary of the old saying that “Who pays the piper, calls the tune”. When a military struggle occurs, access to arms and ammunition becomes crucial. Qatar & the House of Saud started supplying arms to elements in Syria which were willing to see things their way (i.e. the Salafist way). The FSA resisted the attempts of Qatar & the House of Saud to control the struggle and tried to survive by getting arms from regime defectors and what they could capture. The longer the struggle went on, however, the more tempting that the supplies from outside became. Salafist forces have grown at the expense of the FSA, precisely because their superior access to arms leads them to be more militarily effective.

    Finally, no description of the scene can be complete without mention of the foreign jihadis who have been flocking to Syria as the latest battleground in the struggle to establish their ideal Islamic State. These cut-throats have been so fanatical that they have caused a civil uprising in Aleppo, where they were deservedly kicked out of town. Nevertheless, their military effectiveness has led to them developing a degree of support. I would like to see an investigation of where they are getting their guns and ammunition. If it is from Qatar &/or the House of Saud, this should be publicised widely.

    So where does this leave us? In 2011, Assad was definitely the worse of two evils. Today, precisely because of the success of his vicious and violent strategy of religious polarisation, he is the lesser of two evils. So he deserves an award for that, perhaps a Machiavelli prize as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize. Neither side in the civil war that is being fought is worthy of support – Assad runs a brutal regime, which has become sectarian and has not, to my knowledge, reversed its neo-liberal economic policies of recent years. Facing his regime is the Free Syrian Army, which has basically been forced to resort to begging Western imperialism for intervention, and an assortment of Islamist groups of varying degrees of fanaticism. There are genuine Leftists in the opposition, but their influence in the armed struggle is negligible to my knowledge. Certainly if a way to support genuine Leftists in Syria is discovered, support should be provided, but I can’t see this being in any way decisive in the current circumstances. The mainstream Left in Syria is Stalinist and is in coalition with the regime. They have signed their own death warrants.

    Anarchists in Syria need to be opposing both Assad’s regime and the Salafists. How to do that without being shot in short order is a question that only a local could answer. People out in Australia, therefore, need to concentrate on opposing foreign intervention in the conflict (whether from Western imperialism, Russia, Iran, Qatar or the House of Saud) and supporting the development of an independent, genuine labour movement throughout West Asia and North Africa. The stronger the labour movement, the more difficult it will be for popular struggles to be de-railed the way the one in Syria has been.

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