by Ramin Mazaheri
Russia’s economic output in 1921 – following World War One and then four years of (International) Civil War – was slashed by a mind-boggling 80% as compared to 1913.
The Russian Civil War was truly international because there were 14 foreign armies operating on Russian soil after 1917: The Germans occupied 25% of Russia’s former territory, the British took oil fields around Baku and furnished 1 million guns to help supply the anti-socialist counter-revolution, the Japanese settled in Siberia, the Americans, Canadians and Australians were all there, etc.
This combination of appalling destruction and foreign meddling should sound familiar to those following Syria.
And yet it took the new Soviet nation only until 1928 – just 7 years – to reach the economic output of 1913.
What is interesting here is not is how they achieved that – the pros or cons of socialism, Lenin, Trotsky, the Russian character, whatever – but the simple fact that not only is war profitable but the rebuilding is also.
Syrians can take heart in this reality, amid the ongoing effort to expel terrorists from their borders: Things will get better quickly when peace is restored and meddling, belligerent foreigners are ejected.
It’s a pleasant, and important, idea to contemplate: What will a rebuilding and rebuilt Syria will look like? What form of society will the Syrian people choose in order to move forward?
Experiencing war, as 20th century history proves, politically radicalizes the populace in the direction towards socialism and away from feudalism/capitalism.
Therefore, we can assume that the Syrian people – when sovereignty is restored – will intensely demand modern Muslim democracy. It seems very unlikely that the Assad government will stop this “radicalization” towards more democracy as they will no longer be concerned about losing their power.
Did you may find that statement surprising? The reasoning is simple: Assad and his colleagues have made their bones, and won over 2-3 generations (at least) by beating off the horrid invaders. If they give the Syrian people a postwar program they believe in and accept, they will be supported for decades despite any Western efforts to discredit and topple them. This is exactly how it played out in Iran, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.
Assad won’t be the obstacle, so let’s be clear on the only way the Syrian people are NOT allowed to choose their own postwar model: If the Syrian state loses its sovereignty and is dismembered.
Obviously, this is what Israel wants (Golan Heights), but the entire West as well as Israel doesn’t want a unified Syria; they are obviously content to see Libya dismembered and Iraq on the way to dismemberment via an independent Kurdistan and the instigation of a hitherto-unknown “modern Sunni-Shia divide”.
However, let’s put aside all those possibilities which indicate failure and discuss the future of a peaceful, sovereign Syria.
Surely, Syrians will reject the Western model
It’s not as if Syria is going to join the European Union…nor would they want to, after seeing the EU does to its weaker countries like Greece.
It seems insane for Syria to install what France imposed on Lebanon after stripping it from Syria: the so-called “confessional model”, where ethnicity and religion informally and formally prohibit everything from intermarriage to holding certain government posts. It is no exaggeration to call this both racial- and religion-based model “Confessional Apartheid”. This historically-unnatural, imperialist, outdated model is also allegedly secular.
However, even if this lie has been institutionalized as much as possible, it is as big a lie as the “separate but equal” facilities for Whites and Blacks in the post-Civil War United States.
This Confessional Apartheid has led to such disunity that Lebanon has not been able to prevent longtime Israeli occupation, achieve social unity, nor prevent rapacious billionaire capitalists like the Hariri clan from selling their country off to Western corporations.
That is not going to be the Syrian way. LOL, we are envisioning them winning, after all!
What form of government should Syria have?
Firstly, it is certainly not for me – being not your typical Western journalist – to decide for the Syrian people if Syria’s future leader should be Assad or not. Regardless of leadership, Syria does have a chance to start anew so I suggest they look at history for examples.
Many who know Iran say that the French Revolution’s genius was political, the Russian Revolution’s genius was economic, and that the Iran Revolution’s genius was moral. The specific genius of the Iranian Revolution appears to be that it allows religion to play an active role in government.
This is a radical concept, but it certainly has worked for Iran despite all efforts to sabotage this model. Whether or not it reaches the impact of the former two revolutions remains to be seen, but Syria could be the first to adopt many of its tenets and thus be a springboard for many others to follow.
Certainly, the utter lack of morality in the pro-capitalist Western governments is apparent to all, non-Muslims included. Aping Western democracy in 2017 is a recipe for a legal spy state which works to protect its bankers and shareholders.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that having a Catholic priest being Italy’s Trade Minister, for example, would necessarily be a negative thing. In fact, were he a good priest, I would assume it would be a positive development. This is not the common view in the West, but the only question should be: would the average Syrian voter choose such an arrangement?
I’d say: very likely. At the very least, modern Muslim democracy seems to necessarily mean that voters should have the right to choose.
But that is another question which I cannot answer for Syria, and which they have to answer for themselves: How much influence will religion have in the actual governing of Syria?
Mullahs, I remind the reader, have no official status in Iran: they gain power because they are elected or because they achieve cultural status. In 2013, for example, our current president Hassan Rouhani was elected for his first term despite being the only cleric among the eight first-round candidates!
Religion – and this is indeed a revolutionary notion – was obviously not viewed by the Iranian people as a hindrance to democracy, modernity or prosperity.
A modern, victorious Syrian state will necessarily resemble Iran
Many will accuse me of cultural chauvinism with that claim, but I am aware of my possible bias: please listen to the case and you will see I am imagining what the Syrian people want, not what I want.
Perhaps Syrians will choose to remain with the current Ba’athist Party – it is the “Arab Socialist Ba’ath party” (although never billed as such in Western media), so at least they reject ethnic/state divisions and capitalism.
But the Western-based, secular, Ba’athist model clearly did not work superbly in Syria, most notably in fighting imperialism. A revival of Ba’athism seems like a step backwards, which does not mean it cannot work, but it may not be enough to the post-war Syrian people, who are emboldened by their war struggle.
If Ba’athism is out, what model should they choose? Well, Syria is 90% Muslim – Islam is important to the locals.
The idea that Islamic traditions in law – which began with Prophet Muhammed and have been regularly altered and updated until the present day – should be excluded is anathema to the average Muslim, and quite fairly. If Syrians vote willingly for English Shariah (Common Law), Roman Shariah (Civil Law), Hindu Shariah (Dharma Law) or some other foreign set of traditions…I would be quite surprised.
By putting it in these quite accurate linguistic terms, let’s just assume Shariah (Islamic Law) is the basis of modern Syria’s government and we can move on with our lives, hmmmm? The hardcore Atheists excluded, of course.
Putting Shariah into modern democratic form is not unique to Iran, of course, but Iran does have currently the best working model: Voter participation rates, growth in human development, number of foreign army bases they host – Iran is near the top or at the top in all of these desirable categories, globally.
Therefore, having a non-secular government based on existing religious and historical traditions, and combined with modern democracy…would essentially be a repeat of what Iran has done. It is not at all unrealistic to predict that Syrians may, like Iran, want to see religion become a major motivating political force…while still retaining inter-ethnic unity, socialism and anti-capitalism as fundamental tenets, of course.
How else would Syria resemble Iran?
Culturally, it seems impossible for a modern, rebuilt Syria to not impose some controls on the press, but far more than Iran does. Syria has millions of refugees, and the hard-core anti-Assad/pro-Western of them will be effective 5th columnists. This is not an indictment of Syrian refugees whatsoever – it is a simple fact that some of them would work to undermine the victorious government just as they did prior to 2011.
Of course, the foreign press, who suffered no privation during the Syrian War and heartlessly egged it on, will rabble-rouse constantly against any restrictions, which would mainly target their media billionaires/corporations as well as their lack of monopolies in the lucrative reconstruction effort.
The new Syria will certainly be anti-imperialist – this is another similarity with Iran. Both will continue to oppose the Zionist project. And by opposing foreign occupation and oppression that leads to…
The new Syria will certainly be anti-capitalist. Yet another similarity it would have with the Iranian model.
One may call a Muslim nation capitalist, but they are certainly less capitalist than the Western variant. Perhaps this is because Islam is appears far more inherently anti-capitalist than Christianity, or maybe it’s due to the modern Muslim’s world experience with imperialism?
What’s certain is that only by a loss – only by turning Syria into a “modern” Western plaything like Lebanon – will Syria become more capitalist than its previous socialist Ba’athist state.
Syria will be subjected to a Western blockade even if it does win – like all independent nations – therefore it will need a model to operate as a siege economy. Iran’s “resistance economy” fits that bill as well.
Iran’s assistance may be the only way a peaceful Syria remains that way
Victorious-but-weakened Syria will need allies to avoid closed-border bloodshed, but who else is there in the region but Iran?
Turkey, given their assistance to Daesh forces, will be despised for a decade or more, and certainly as long as Erdogan is in power. The Persian Gulf monarchies are opposed to modern Muslim democracy. An alliance with Israel would prove that democracy has lost in Syria. The Egypt-Syria alliance of the bygone United Arab Republic of 1958-61 is absolutely impossible given the anti-democratic ousting of Morsi.
The EU will never openly ally with any pro-Assad government except for in business deals, as that’s capitalism. Russia will obviously be an ally, but on a regional level it seems only Iran can have Syria’s back.
Just as the walking-dead Soviet Revolution in 1920 was permanently impaired by the German failure to provide revolutionary material assistance, Syria risks enormous challenges by relying totally on itself. Yes, Iran has succeeded despite this, but Iran benefits from far greater distance from imperialist powers and far greater oil wealth.
Besides proving an ideological framework – not a mere carbon copy – for Syria’s future, Iran is seemingly the only regional ally possible for newly-peaceful Syria.
The wealth and capabilities of Iranian industry would work wonders to revive Syrian economic output to prewar levels. If Iran remains revolutionary in character – which it does – Iran will not be trying to plunder and dominate but to simply share the wealth of reconstruction in a mutually-beneficial fashion.
Syria following the Iranian model – like Iraq, Afghanistan and others – could be unstoppable
Syria may be, for all the reasons I’ve listed, the first convert to what we can refer to as Islamic Socialism.
I have already decisively proven the socialist character of Iran, which is “revolutionary socialism + Islam”.
If the US were not massively present in Iraq and Afghanistan both of these nations would have probably already been won over to Iranian Islamic Socialism. The cultural ties and interchanges between the three countries are enormous, and the other two would likely follow and resemble the one that is functioning at a high level.
So, in many ways it would be historically fitting for Syria to be won over to Iranian Islamic Socialism first: Aiding Syria would prove Iran’s bonafides as being truly revolutionary in character, i.e. not putting its national interests first, as Syria is not a neighbor.
A rebuilt Syria could be the first major step in a true shift in the Muslim world, one that goes beyond just independence from imperial meddling, though that remains the necessary first step for all regional nations except Iran and Turkey (and Syria). The two of Syria and Iran could, one hopes, inspire locals to kick the Americans out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Two becomes three, three becomes four, and in this way the Middle East could be reborn – seems like the path of a true “Arab Spring”.
The notion that “two cannot become three” because of a Sunni-Shia divide is something only non-Muslims would seriously consider. I cannot stress enough what imperialist claptrap that is.
Revolutionary socialism + religion has global appeal
Syria being the first adopter would start to prove that the Iranian Revolution must be on par with the French and Russian Revolutions.
Is morality in government such a scary notion? Were the Indian silver miners of 16th century Peru hurt more by Christianity or capitalism? Which was the real scourge should be obvious – capitalism.
Religion and government have been intertwined in human history for…always, after all: the idea of secularity could easily be an aberration; something which was tried but failed. Isn’t that exactly what we say about communism?
Is there any doubt that such a formula already has an appeal in Latin America? Chinese Confucianism – ancestor worship with a genuine metaphysical cosmology – is only classified as not a religion out of ignorance and misunderstanding.
Syria adopting the Iranian model would mean they have joined a revolution, but that decision is obviously between their leadership and their people.
However, it is not a starry-eyed dream to say that the exportation of the Iranian Revolution – retrofit to local democratic desires, of course – could lead to independence and prosperity on a scale not seen in the Muslim world for more than two centuries.
And this is exactly why the Arab monarchies, Israel and the West fear Iran so much: it works, it’s logical and it’s increased democracy.
The alternatives to the Iranian model in the Muslim world – certainly, none are currently working as well. But with Russian and Iranian assistance against the international invaders, such a revolution is tantalizingly possible.
What’s clear from 1917 Russia and elsewhere is that achieving peace with foreign invaders is never enough – Syria needs a modern framework to prevent endless civil strife.
A Syria which uses Iranian Islamic Socialism as its framework means working with a proven winner. It would be a sure step towards guaranteeing national sovereignty and an exciting step towards creating a new, better modernity for the Syrian people.
And isn’t that what The People around the world want for Syria?
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.