19 July 2013
Nick Griffin might be the most controversial politician in Britain, and one of the most in all of Europe. This lawyer—who is in his fifties—is the leader of the British National Party and the proud godfather of its extreme right-wing ideology. Wherever Nick goes—to the European Parliament, any British national occasion, the BBC, or Cambridge University (where he studied)—he is faced with a protest against his presence or an attempt to avoid meeting him. His extreme racist beliefs, which are quite violent towards immigrants, especially those who are not “white Caucasians,” his aggressive verbal attacks against Islam and Muslims, his statements in denial of the Holocaust as well as his nostalgia to the apartheid era in South Africa and his aggressive remarks against Nelson Mandela; all make him an embracing, unwelcomed guest on any stage that seeks to maintain the minimal standards of political decency. However the latest UK election results revealed a worrying rise in his party’s popularity, as his reasoning of blaming migrants for the declining economy has found widespread acceptance amongst the British classes most affected by the current economic situation.
Nick Griffin visited Damascus last week in response to an invitation extended to a group of European Parliamentarians by the Syrian regime. He met a number of officials and toured the streets of Damascus, describing the city as a “modern, crowded city, with heightened security measures as if it were Belfast during riots.” In his statements he condemned his government’s position against the Syrian regime and warned against arming the opposition, which “is dominated by extremist Jihadist groups similar to the killers of Lee Rugby (the British soldier killed by radical Islamists near London several weeks ago).” Griffin’s position was welcomed by the regime’s media and enjoyed, due to the strange combination of personality and location, widespread attention in British and European media.
The position of Griffin and his extremist party concurs with a like-minded position on the other side of the English Channel. The extreme right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen—the historical leader of the French Front National and one of the pioneers of the European racist rhetoric against African and Muslim immigrants—has expressed in more than one interview for the press his support for the right of the “Syrian State” to exert “its sovereignty”, and condoned the role played by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in fighting against “Islamic fundamentalists”.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, it can be noted that the great majority of the world’s leftist movements and communist parties have endorsed the regime’s claim of a “conspiracy” against it. The positions of these movements range from a hypocritical rhetoric condemning foreign intervention—assuming that it is solely Western and in favour of the opposition, without any condemnation of the regime’s behaviour or the intervention or even direct participation of its allies in the fighting—to complete and open support for the regime appropriating an anti-imperial and anti-Zionism language, as it is the case of most communist parties in southern Europe and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) countries. The leftist movements supporting the Syrian Revolution have indeed become schismatic facing sometimes verbal or even physical abuse from the currents of the traditional left, as what happened in Tunisia more than two months ago during the Social World Forum 2013, when organizers of an activity supporting the Syrian Revolution were attacked.
The opportunistic appropriation by Nick Griffin of the terrible murder of Lee Rugby to attack the Syrian Revolution is identical to what George Galloway, the British ex-parliamentarian, tweeted on his twitter account only a few hours after this crime. Galloway is supposedly Griffin’s arch enemy in British politics; however the rivals on both ends of the political spectrum have agreed on the same reasoning defending the Syrian regime.
When it comes to public opinion in the Arab world, especially in those countries which have witnessed revolutionary movements, the unequivocal support for the Syrian revolutionary struggle is almost exclusive to Islamic movements. Most of the remaining political spectra are divided. Some define what is happening in Syria as a sectarian conflict where all sides are equally evil—with or without holding Bashar al-Assad responsible for reaching this stage. Others describe the Syrian Revolution as an Islamic movement that needs to be opposed in the same aggressive manner the Islamic governments that have emerged following the first elections of the revolutionary era are being opposed. Thus, it has become familiar to hear slogans against the Syrian Revolution, or see the regime’s flags and Bashar al-Assad’s photos in many of the protests against the Nahda government in Tunisia, and to a lesser extent against the Freedom and Justice party in Egypt. Other than the Islamists, Arab unequivocal support for the Syrian Revolution is no longer extensive.
The image of the Syrian Revolution abroad, whether on the level of the Arab world or internationally, is currently not positive. Given this reality it is not enough to denounce the “alliance of the wrecked” against us or cry foul over the world abandoning our struggle. The problem is twofold: the persistent political and media work by the Syrian regime and its allies, which we did not pay serious attention to, merely mocking the obvious neurosis of the regime’s discourse and its relentless repetition of the rhetoric of the “universal conspiracy”, especially when it addressed its support base. We did not, however, pay attention to the regime’s skillful play on keywords that resonate with ideological currents around the world in general, and in the West in particular; that is, on the one hand, fighting “Islamists”, breaking their might, and defending minorities–especially Christians–and, on the other hand, fighting imperialism, foiling its plots, and standing firm against Israel. In terms of political movements which are not based on ideology, the language of interests was effective, either directly or via the Russia intermediate: continual offers to maintain security and intelligence cooperation with Europe and the United States, which was a valuable assert for the West during the era of the “War on Terror” last decade, in return for reducing pressure. Or warning the Europeans about the risks of the continuation of the Syrian crisis on their economy, which would open a new door for “illegal” immigration to their countries—one of the biggest nightmares of Europe during its current financial crisis.
We were busy talking to ourselves relying on the certainty of an obligatory humanitarian response to an oppressive despotic regime using all kinds of weapons against its own people. Maybe this certainty was true in the first few months of the Revolution. However, with the armament of the Revolution, it has become unclear for others. Where we see legitimate self-defense, others see “two armed sides” locked in a “civil war”. This uncritical belief in certainties has produced a political and media shortcoming when introducing the Syrian cause to the world. It is a shortcoming that is accompanied by the total obsolete functioning of the political opposition, for which the Syrian media and intelligentsia classes are responsible as well.
Today the Syrian Revolution stands before critical political junctures, and it needs a sympathetic international public opinion so it can move forward politically beyond a settlement which the world would like to impose on us. This requires immediate action now!