No More Heroes?

24 Feb

Guest writer Bob Hopkins reflects on the Syrian tragedy…

Forty years after The Stranglers * posed the question, maybe it is time to come up with some answers. There are anti-heroes around today by the bucket full; tyrants, authoritarian demagogues and populist hate-mongers by the dozen, all busy polluting and poisoning the body politic. And that is not to forget the run-of-the-mill administrators of the current order of things.ozymandias1

So where can we look to find today’s heroes and heroines? Do such people really exist?

Let us for a start imagine a country ruled by a capitalist despot, where there is vast inequality and where any dissent is ruthlessly repressed, but also a country which is struck by two massive shocks.

Firstly, there is a prolonged drought, forcing a huge influx of people to the cities from the barren countryside. Secondly, taking their cue from the citizens in many other countries of the region, the citizens rise up in a quest for democracy and social justice.

These citizens are fully aware of the response they will get from their ruler and his regime, but they go ahead anyway; the prospect of stopping the rebellion and facing the consequences is more terrifying than actually carrying on.

The anti-hero strikes back

The leader of our imaginary country then faces his own terror. His leadership and regime face the prospect of being brought down by people power. That fear is shared by other rulers spread around the region, if not the world. What could this lead to? Wherever next?

The rebellious people have to be stopped. But how?

Stage one; well, why not release from gaol the most reactionary enemies of the regime; let there be an opposition that is easier to demonise, one that can be used to discredit the popular opposition.

Stage two; why not use the full military resources of the state to slaughter the rebelling citizens, in their tens and hundreds of thousands.

Yet if the resistance remains, despite the slaughter, despite the population displacements and despite the mass refugee exodus, what could be done next? If the regime begins to shake, those liberated areas with their pesky popular self-governments would have to go.

Stage three. Don’t complain too much about other hyper-reactionary states in the area arming and boosting the most reactionary forces in the country (being aware that the world’s most powerful states would probably refuse effective military support to the progressive rebels, such as basic equipment under their own control that would prevent such barbarisms as barrel bombs.)

If that still does not work, then try stage four; invite foreign fundamentalist fighters into the country to tackle the insurgency.

But if that still does not put the genie back into bottle, if the regime still wobbles, why not opt for stage five?

Stage five is to invite one of the biggest powers in the world to intervene on the side of the regime, with troops and massive air power to pound the defenceless citizens.

After the storm

When at long last, the progressive forces have been marginalised, the reactionary forces have been greatly strengthened, and the people have been dispersed and slaughtered, the regime can utter a sigh of relief. There is to be no February revolution.

The nightmare continues

Unfortunately, our imaginary country is all too real. And to rub salt into the wounds, the people who have fled their homeland to escape the savagery are treated as pariahs, demonised and denied proper assistance by the very regimes that helped cause their plight in the first place, or by those who stood by and refused to help them defend themselves.

The real heroes and heroines

So, if we are looking for modern heroes and heroines, it must be the Syrian (and Kurdish) people. They are still facing massive attacks at home or are strung out in desperate refugee camps across two continents. They know what it is like to start a revolution. They are the ones that have fought the unequal war against the various forces of counter-revolution. They are the ones with the stories to tell. They are the ones to be welcomed, cared for and listened to.

Another time, another place

In passing, let us also recall another uprising, this time one hundred years ago. In that instance the tyrant WAS brought down, and eight months later his regime and system followed him down the plug-hole.

And here is the other connection with The Stranglers’ song. The first two people mentioned in it are Bronstein and Ulyanov.

Just as the heroic struggle and tragic fate of the Syrian people will be remembered for decades, it would be a good idea to remember the heroic struggle of the Russian people and the historic positive example of October.

Following subsequent developments, one should be careful not to promote a cult of faultless heroes, but it should also be recalled that the two main Russian leaders of the day did actually do the business. To this day, their pseudonyms strike fear into the hearts of capitalist rulers. They showed it could be done.

(And what a contrast they make with the current leader of Russia!)

Today and tomorrow

On being forced out of Aleppo, the rebels apparently wrote on a wall “We shall be back”. That is a sentiment that all of us fighting the modern despots and demagogues can take inspiration from.

* No More Heroes. The Stranglers.  United Artists Label.  1977

Bob Hopkins


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