Syria: Engaged Intellectual,

 Coming Challenges and Post-Geneva

By Adel Samara

The destruction of several Arab countries (Iraq, Libya and, especially now Syria) is a bitter experience for the Arab nation, which makes it urgent to develop theory, intellectualism and culture to restore their dignity. The aim of such theory is to rid Arabs of two epidemics:


A) The pathology which was injected in the consciousness of popular classes and is manifested in the following false pretends that:  “we are saturated of theories and had enough of them”, (especially grand narrations, i.e. nationalism and socialism).


This false image has expanded to the extent that theories and intellectualism became surplus and marginal that even the intellectual himself does not need it. While in fact, we are badly in need for those theories and in need for the intellectual as a value, as long as he/she is not a traitor.


B) Belittling theory, its development and intellectualism that were kept in the shallow boundaries of politics led to intellectual’s dependency upon politician. In this case, we witnessed two negative groups of intellectuals:


1 – If the regime is a nationalist, progressive and patriotic, the intellectual turned to a eulogist encomiast and lament to the extent that he fails to maintain his ability for creativity. Accordingly, this group of intellectuals deteriorated to the position of casuistry Fatwa which justifies the ruler’s oppression, especially regarding political and economic democracy. The most frank examples are the collusion of a many Arab nationalist and communist intellectuals with Arab nationalist progressive regimes in the last decades. When those regimes were defeated following 1967 war, the same intellectuals closed their minds, mouths and eyes towards the expansion of the role and ideas of regimes and forces of  Politicized Islamic Religion to the extent that Wahhabi andIkhwani (Muslim Brotherhood)  ideologies wiped out the progressive and secular culture. Those intellectuals fell into the case of Internalization of Defeat.


2 – In the case of the intellectuals of the non-patriotic anti-nationalism and reactionary ruling regimes, they were degraded to constitute an “Intellectual Sixth Brigade” [1].


3 – In both situations, the intellectual falls into the case of “castrated” consciousness to the extent that intellectualism lost its purity and glory and became an exchange value where the intellectual transfers his intellectualism to Arab reactionary ruler, imperialism and Zionism.


This was the case before the crisis and war against Syria which divided Arab intellectuals into two camps:


A) Intellectuals of counter-revolution who strengthen market culture. In parallel to the capitalist greed to achieve unlimited profit, those intellectuals went too far towards commoditization of intellectualism, information and analysis using accumulation of knowledge to achieve accumulation of money [2]. The intellectuals themselves and their intellectualism deteriorated to a mere exchange values.


B) Intellectuals of resistance in general who stand firmly challenging counter-revolution even without confidence that Syria might l lose or come  out of war victorious. In fact most of these intellectuals confident that Syria will be defeated, as was the fate of previous cases of Iraq and Libya, but they choose the position and attitude that intellectualism and consciousness shouldn’t deteriorate to commodity.  This group of engaged intellectuals is pan-Arab, i.e. not limited into supporting Syria.

In the lower level there are remnants of intellectuals, especially in the academic circles, who in one way or another declare that: We are patriotic, we will not engage, and people should be grateful as long as we are not traitors!


Since this short article deals with the war against Syria, the engaged intellectual stands in defense with Syria, fighting with Syria, but never became a tail for the Syrian regime. The best test was the position of intellectuals who criticized the collusion of Syrian Ministry of Sports when it decided last October to participate in games in the occupied West Bank which is considered a fall into normalization with the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime. Following that, the Syrian regime decided to withdraw its participation in those games.


It is a historical experience that an intellectual should maintain a distance between himself and the regime, the ruler. But, to avoid some vagueness, I meant here that organic [3], critical and engaged intellectual is an intellectual for the class, the popular classes, not for the regime even if the regime represents the same class considering the fact that there is alliance/contradiction between the political elite and the class. Intellectual must be always in the side of the class, his chosen class.


In the case of Syria, Arab intellectual must be in defense of Syria, but must as well, at the same time, be concerned with and be critical to the regime’s attitudes one by one especially as long as the country is heading towards Geneva 2 conference and post- Geneva.


Questioning Syria’s position and role after Geneva is based on facts and developments on the ground which tells that Syria will gain victory. This means the following:


1)  The war will intensify in the coming decisive months;

2) But, finally Syrian enemies (the counter-revolution) will be defeated in battlefield,

3) Accordingly, Geneva 2 must be a diplomatic conference where enemies meet to declare end of war, each regime will decide /design his relationship with the other, especially Syria, which faces the challenge of  how to design its relationship with its enemies: The “bosses” and their “tails”, the great powers and their clients.

4) Based on the battlefield, Syria’s identity and internal relationship shouldn’t be designed in or by Geneva 2. Neither Syria’s friends nor Syria’s enemies are entitled to design Syria’s identity.


These huge and difficult issues oblige intellectuals to a concrete and cautious reading of the situation, in close relationship with people and conscious relationship with the regime. I mean here that the regime is the partner who must follow and consult the intellectual to be enlightened, and not the opposite. In this form of relationship, the intellectual remains people’s intellectual not a servant for the ruler, any form of ruler.


I might end here by reminding the reader that peace is a wide space not like war. In peace the chance for intellectual collusion is so big. This is the space which paves the way for the crystallization of the “Intellectual Sixth Brigade” in the Arab Homeland especially those who stand in the camp of counter-revolution with the imperialists, the Gulf rules, Zionism and their armed gangs like WahhabiIkhwani groups who were gathered from 83 different countries.


If there is a positive lesson deduced from the war against Syria, it is that it has uncovered the “Intellectual Sixth Brigade” on both Syrian and Arab scales.

[1] Figures in this group are Sadiq al-Azm (Syria), and Azmi Bhshara (Palestine)  Mohamad Ja’far (Iraq).

 [2]  The rentier Gulf rulers, especially those of Qatar, Saudi Arabia  and United Arab Emirates, paid huge amounts of US dollars bribing those intellectuals.

[3] I think that class and national struggles made it necessary to upgrade Gramsci’s organic intellectual not only to be critical , as many argues, but to become an engaged polemic intellectual. To be part of the direct struggle.