Progressive Labor Party on Race & Racism



Progressive Labor Party (PLP) fights to destroy capitalism and the dictatorship of the capitalist class. We organize workers, soldiers and youth into a revolutionary movement for communism.

Only the dictatorship of the working class — communism — can provide a lasting solution to the disaster that is today’s world for billions of people. This cannot be done through electoral politics, but requires a revolutionary movement and a mass Red Army led by PLP.

Worldwide capitalism, in its relentless drive for profit, inevitably leads to war, fascism, poverty, disease, starvation and environmental destruction. The capitalist class, through its state power — governments, armies, police, schools and culture —  maintains a dictatorship over the world’s workers. The capitalist dictatorship supports, and is supported by, the anti-working-class ideologies of racism, sexism, nationalism, individualism and religion.

While the bosses and their mouthpieces claim “communism is dead,” capitalism is the real failure for billions worldwide. Capitalism returned to Russia and China because socialism retained many aspects of the profit system, like wages and privileges. Russia and China did not establish communism.

Communism means working collectively to build a worker-run society. We will abolish work for wages, money and profits. Everyone will share in society’s benefits and burdens. 

Communism means abolishing racism and the concept of “race.” Capitalism uses racism to super-exploit black, Latino, Asian and indigenous workers, and to divide the entire working class.

Communism means abolishing the special oppression of women — sexism — and divisive gender roles created by the class society.

Communism means abolishing nations and nationalism. One international working class, one world, one Party.

Communism means that the minds of millions of workers must become free from religion’s false promises, unscientific thinking and poisonous ideology. Communism will triumph when the masses of workers can use the science of dialectical materialism to understand, analyze and change the world to meet their needs and aspirations.

  Communism means the Party leads every aspect of society. For this to work, millions of workers — eventually everyone — must become communist organizers. Join Us!


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Syria: Centuries of Repression, Division and Exploitation

Syrian workers have suffered from tyrannical oppression long before the current war between opposing capitalist, nationalist forces. For centuries they have been exploited by colonial and imperialist masters, or by homegrown dictators controlled by external powers. But like other workers in the Middle East, working class in Syria has yet to build a revolutionary movement that could lead them to a better life. Time and again, it has been manipulated by local and international rulers — from Turkey and France to Russia, Iran, and China today. As a result, the history of Syria is one of religious and ethnic divisions, with workers fighting workers against their own best interests.
For four centuries, from 1516–1918, Syria was
a province of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. During World War I (1914-18), the British and French were anxious to wrest control of the Middle East from Turkey as a counter to Russian influence and also to protect newly discovered oil reserves. They encouraged Arab nationalism, on the rise since the late 1800s, and enlisted Arab armies by promising them independence after the war. In October 1918, Arab troops within the British Army were the first to reach Damascus. They declared a Syrian Arab state to be ruled by Emir Faisal. The new state’s territory was to include Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine.
British, French Imperialists Divide Spoils
The victorious troops were unaware, however, that the British and French had already signed a secret agreement, the Sykes-Picot treaty, to divide the Arab world between them after the war. In the Balfour Agreement, ratified by the League of Nations in 1920, Britain also promised the Zionist movement a Jewish state in Palestine. Syria and Lebanon were declared under French control, with the British taking Palestine, Jordan and Iraq. This effectively ended the Arab nationalists’ dream of incorporating Palestine into Greater Syria. It also created substantial anti-Zionist sentiment.
The Arab leader King Faisal, who had signed off on the Balfour Agreement in the hope that a Jewish state would dilute French control of the region, was removed by the French from Damascus after a series of small failed rebellions. The following year, in 1921, he was installed by the British as ruler of the newly created country of Iraq. Meanwhile, Syria and Lebanon were administratively separated by the French, with separate nationalist movements growing in each territory.
The French were harsh colonial masters in Syria. Political activity, civil rights, and news media were suppressed. The urban elites were favored and harsh treatment meted out in the rural areas. In 1925, the Great Syrian Revolt became the largest and longest-lasting anti-colonial insurgency in the inter-war Arab East. Mobilizing peasants, workers, and army veterans, rather than urban elites and intellectuals, it was the first mass movement against colonial rule in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it was based on nationalist rather than class ideology. The French maintained military and economic dominance of Syria until 1946, when they left the country under pressure from the United Nations, a body controlled by the U.S. and the Soviet Union (USSR).
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two strongest competitors for power and influence around the globe. The Middle East, a vital source of oil, was of strategic importance to both camps. In 1948, in an attempt to reduce British influence in the area, the USSR supported the creation of the state of Israel. Arms from Czechoslovakia, a Soviet ally, were instrumental in the Israeli victory in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.  But as Israel became a firm Western ally, the USSR switched sides and condemned Zionism. Seeking a stronger foothold in the energy-rich region, the Soviets allied with nationalist regimes in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iraq.
In 1955, Moscow invited Syria and Egypt to join a pro-Soviet pact. Turkey, a U.S. ally, attempted to dissuade Syria by mobilizing troops along their common border. When the USSR threatened to respond with military force, however, Turkey backed down. Over the next five years, the USSR provided Syria with more than $200 million in military aid to cement the alliance and counter U.S. influence. The Soviet bloc was countered by a U.S. bloc of pro-Western governments: Israel, Iran (prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution), Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
In 1958, Syria joined Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR), a pan-Arab union dominated by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser. It withdrew three years later because of Egyptian domination. After another period of instability, the secular and nationalist Baath Party took power in Syria just one month after doing the same in Iraq.
In 1967, when Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt were defeated in war with Israel, Syria lost the Golan Heights to the Zionists. Although Moscow didn’t back its allies militarily, the Soviets pledged $2.5 billion in aid to Syria and severed diplomatic ties with Israel. In 1971, the Soviets established a naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. One year later, Syria and the USSR signed a peace and security pact that paved the way for more than $135 million in Soviet arms deliveries to Damascus. By then, a Baathist minister of defense named Hafez al-Assad had seized power in a bloodless coup.
Threaten Nuclear War?
In October 1973, Syria and Egypt launched another war against Israel. Initially taken by surprise, the Israelis battled back and even crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt. When Israel gained the upper hand, the Soviets panicked. Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev threatened to send Soviet troops into the theater of war. A Soviet naval vessel allegedly bearing nuclear arms awaited his instructions in the Egyptian port of Alexandria. In response, U.S. President Richard Nixon reportedly increased the national security warning to DEFCON 3 and placed the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet on high alert in the Mediterranean Sea. With U.S. assistance, Israel emerged victorious. To maintain leverage in the region, Moscow agreed to compensate the defeated Arab states with new long-range missiles and high-tech aircraft. In return, Syria pledged not to turn to the U.S. for assistance.
The 1975 civil war in Lebanon strained the Soviet-Syrian relationship. With Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Druze and Palestinians all fighting one another, Assad sent troops to protect the Christians. Fearing a victory by anti-Baathist Muslim fundamentalists, the Syrian leadership made a temporary alliance with Israel. The Soviets supported the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and other Muslim groups, hoping their victory would transform Lebanon into a friendly state. A ceasefire imposed by the Arab League in 1976 left the Syrian Army as a large “peacekeeping” (read: occupying) force in Lebanon. When Israel invaded its northern neighbor, Lebanon, in 1982, hoping to drive out the PLO and gain more territory, Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters were the main force that eventually defeated Israel. Although Iran depended on Syria to cross fighters and weapons into Lebanon, the superior military prowess of Iran’s proxy forces essentially left Iran in control there.
Soviet opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon grew with the ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. He wished for a diplomatic resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict and opposed Syria’s desire to become a military equal with Israel. Soviet arms shipments and advisors to Syria were cut in half by 1989. As Russian influence in Syria waned, the U.S. made peace overtures to Assad. But he rejected the offers and continued to support Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance, Iran and the Iraqi insurgency.
With Vladimir Putin and Assad’s son, Bashar al-Assad, both coming to power in 2000, Russia and Syria grew close once again. By 2012, Russia accounted for 78 percent of Syrian arms purchases. Putin’s commitment to increasing Russian naval power has heightened the significance of its only naval base outside its own territory — in Tartus, Syria. Within the China-Russia-Iran axis fighting for control over Middle Eastern resources, Russia faces significant competition from China, now Syria’s third-largest importer.
‘Communist’ Party Not Too Communist
A communist party was founded in Syria in the 1920s. Like other communist parties in the region, it was closely tied to Moscow. The “socialist” Baath Party, representing Syria’s national ruling class, fell in line with the Soviets’ goal to promote local anti-Western nationalism; the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) was ordered to ally with the Baathists in the 1950s.
Today the SCP supports Assad in his fight against Western imperialist interests. These phony communists offer little criticism of Assad’s anti-worker, neoliberal economic policies, or of the corruption and cruelty of a regime that has impoverished millions of Syrians. But as CHALLENGE has pointed out, the “rebel” forces are no better. Some of them represent Islamic fundamentalism tied to Sunni Muslim states like Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Others are aligned with Al Qaeda or with secular nationalists aligned with Western interests. None of the leading rebel forces represent the working class in Syria.
For centuries, religious and nationalist hatreds in the Middle East have served successive sets of rulers in their effort to weaken potential opposition to their grab for power and resources. Workers in Syria — like workers in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Palestine, Jorda
n and Lebanon — can flourish only when they overcome the divisions built by religion and nationalism. They will thrive only when a new communist movement based on class solidarity is built without capitalist borders. Our Progressive Labor Party group in Israel/Palestine, which unites Jewish, Arab, and migrant workers, is a small but vital step in this direction.

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