Sunday, November 30, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 12: 1943 to 1946 Period

Although Syria was formally recognized as independent when it was occupied by UK troops during World War II, “the essential prerogatives of sovereignty—full legislative and administrative powers and control over the armed forces—had” still “to be wrested from the French,” according to Patrick Seale’s The Struggle for Syria. So after its Lebanese members were authorized to form a separate Lebanese Communist Party in Lebanon in 1943, the Syrian Communist Party-- which Khalid Bakdash led—participated in a 1943 election in Syria under European colonial rule and campaigned on a platform which called for: 1. Independence and Freedom for Syria; 2. Unity in the cause of national independence; and 3. The creation of truly representative institutions in Syria.

According to The Struggle for Syria, “…In Syria…France was reluctant to give up her…`special position’ there” after World War II, but because the UK had “guaranteed Syrian…independence” when it occupied Syria militarily in 1941, “decisive support for the Syrian nationalist leaders in the final tussle with the French” (after French troops had returned to Syria) was given by the UK government in 1945.

Yet before people in Syria finally won their political independence from French government rule on Apr. 17, 1946 (when the last contingent of French imperialist troops left Syria), large demonstrations of Syrians demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Syria had to be held in the last week of January 1945 and on May 29 and May 30, 1945; and, in response, French military authorities in Damascus had “bombed the city from the air and shelled the newer quarter in Damascus, killing many people and making thousands homeless,” according to Alan George’s Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom. As Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate recalled:

“…Large anti-French demonstrations in Damascus in the last week of January 1945 were countered by a visible display of French military strength in the Syrian capital…By May [1945] the French were reinforcing the garrisons, mainly with the much dreaded and hated Senegalese troops…

“Demonstrations broke out in Damascus…Anti-French activities quickly spread all over Syria…The French military command…shelled and bombed Damascus from the air between the evening of May 29 [1945] and noon on May 30 [1945]…The newer, modern quarters received the brunt of French punishment…The number of Syrian casualties and the amount of physical destruction was heavy. It included 400 dead, countless injured…Renewed anti-French protests in the towns of Syria…brought by spring [1946] a complete withdrawal of French troops and other military personnel from Syrian territory…”

As a political alternative to Syria’s secular nationalist and secular left anti-imperialist groups, during the middle of the 1930s, the anti-imperialist Muslim Brotherhood of Syria had been established in Aleppo “when Syrian students…returning from Egypt began forming branches in different cities under the title Shabab Mohammad (Young Men of Mohammed),” according to Dilip Hiro’s Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism; and Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood at this time also “had stood for an end” to French rule in Syria and “for social reform along Islamic lines” in Syria.

But in 1944 the headquarters of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood was moved to Damascus and a friend of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, named Mustafa al Sibai, was elected as General Supervisor of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood. Then, according to Holy Wars, “once the French departed” from Syria in 1946, Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood “concentrated on socio-economic issues, always stressing its opposition to secularism and Marxism;” and “it drew the bulk of its support from” Syria’s “urban petty traders and craftsmen” who, with their families “composed about one-sixth of the Syrian population.” 

(end of part 12)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 11: 1938 to 1943 Period

Discontent with continued French imperialist control of Syria continue to increase in 1938 after the French government agreed to allow the government of Turkey to annex the Sanjak region of Syria--whose population of 230,000 in 1936 included Syrians of ethnic Turkish background (39 percent), Syrians of Alawite religious background (28 percent), Syrians of Armenian ethnic background (11 percent), Syrians of Sunni religious background and non-ethnic Turkish background (8 percent), Syrians of Greek Orthodox religious background (8 percent) and Syrians of mixed background (6 percent).

But after Turkish troops took control of the Sanjak region of Syria on July 5, 1938 and Sanjak became a Turkish province, 22,000 Syrians of Armenian background, 10,000 Syrians of Alawite religious background, 10,000 Syrians of Sunni religious background and 5,000 Syrians of Greek Orthodox religious background “fled their homes even before French troops had pulled out,” according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate. Yet the same book also observed that as late as only a few months before World War II began, “in July 1939…no one in Syria seriously believed that Syrian independence was still on the French agenda.”

When the Popular Front coalition of anti-fascist parties controlled French imperialism’s government between 1936 and 1939, the Syrian Communist Party was no longer outlawed and “the party organ Sawt al-Shaab (Voice of the People) was allowed to appear legally” in Syria in 1937; and “these 3 brief years, 1936-39, gave” Syrian Communist Party activists their “first opportunity for sustained above-ground activity,” which enabled them to increase Syrian Communist Party membership “from 200 to about 2,000” between 1936 and 1939, according to Patrick Seale’s The Struggle For Syria. But after the Popular Front coalition lost control of the government in France and World War II began in Europe in 1939, French government authorities in Syria again outlawed the Syrian Communist Party in September 1939 and arrested this party’s leaders “soon afterward,” according to the same book. As Syria and The French Mandate noted:

“The Allied Declaration of War against Germany stiffened French control in Syria…Martial law was proclaimed…All radios in cafes and other public places were confiscated to prevent crowds from gathering to listen to the German-Arabic broadcasts…Meanwhile, the French cracked down on their list of political `subversives.’ They closed down the Syrian Communist Party…”

Then, after German imperialism’s Nazi Army occupied France in June 1940 and set up its puppet Vichy regime, the Vichy regime’s French colonial authorities in Syria apparently arranged for the assassination of the long-time leader of Syria’s anti-imperialist national party, Dr. Abdal-Rahman Shahbandar, at the end of June 1940; because the collaborationist pro-German Vichy regime apparently now saw Shahbandar’s Syrian nationalist party as being supportive of UK imperialism’s side during the 1939-1941 period of World War II.

But according to the same book, led by “an Arabized Kurd from Damascus” named Khalid Bakdash (who had been jailed by French colonial authorities during the early 1930s), the Syrian Communist Party organized underground resistance to the French Vichy government authorities in Syria in 1940 and 1941, before UK imperialist troops entered Syria on June 8, 1941 and established complete UK military control over Syrian territory on July 14, 1941.

The following year, however, widespread strikes of workers and students broke out in Syria; and, as Syria and The French Mandate observed, the Syrian Communist Party’s “role in the numerous bread strikes during the war enhanced its reputation both as a defender of the poor and as a bona fide nationalist organization” in Syria. So, by late 1943, the Syrian Communist Party now included high school students, liberal professionals, a small number of railway workshop and textile factory workers and members of both Syria’s ethnic and religious majorities and minorities; and it “claimed several thousand members,” according to the same book.

(end of part 11)

Friday, November 28, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 10: 1936 to 1937 Period

After the French government authorities crushed militarily the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925 to 1927 and forced into exile the surviving anti-imperialist nationalist Syrian leaders of the revolt, an elite Syrian group of large urban landowners who still resided in Syria had formed a National Bloc (al-Kutla al-Unitaniyya) in 1928 which adopted an accommodationist political approach in relation to the French rulers of Syria. Yet in early January 1936, French government authorities still closed down the National Bloc Office in al-Qannwat and arrested a Syrian nationalist leader named “Fakhri al-Barudi and the Nationalist youth leader Sayf al-Din al Naimun,” according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate; and, in response, “on Jan. 20, 1936, disturbances erupted in Damascus,” that were mostly led by the League of National Action group of Syrian nationalist youth. But on Jan. 21, 1936, “the French sent their much-loathed Moroccan Spahis” troops “and Senegalese troops into the old city of Damascus to break up a student rally at the Great Mosque;” and “in the melee, 4 persons were killed,” according to the same book.

So, not surprisingly, on Jan. 22, 1936, 20,000 Syrian demonstrators “marched in Damascus in the funeral of the four protesters who had fallen on the previous day,” according to Syria and The French Mandate; and “when the procession turned to violence French troops swept in, taking the lives of 2 more demonstrators and arresting 187 others.” The same book also observed that on that same day, “in Homs, where bazaars had been closed for 2 days, French troops” also “killed 3 demonstrators and wounded another 20.”

A call for a general strike in response to the killing in Damascus of anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist demonstrators by French troops was then made by Syrian National Bloc leaders and, according to Syria and The French Mandate, the following happened after a general strike in Damascus began on Jan. 27, 1936:

“…For the coming 36 days, Syria was almost completely paralyzed by a strike of proportions never witnessed before in the town, not even during the Great Revolt. Most shops were shut and commercial life came to a standstill…”

When the general strike began in Damascus, anti-imperialist nationalist Syrian students also met in the Great Mosque and, according to the same book, demanded the following from French colonial government authorities:

1. “a general amnesty for the hundreds who had been recently arrested;”

2. “the revocation of the decree expelling all students from school who demonstrated;” and

3. “the re-opening of the National Bloc Office.”

But “when the French rejected an amnesty, demonstrations broke out again” and “spread to other towns in Syria,” according to Syria and The French Mandate. As the same book noted:

“In Hama…anti-French disorder erupted on Feb. 4 [1936]. A crowd [on Feb. 6, 1936] attacked a cavalry troop, which opened fire, killing 7…and wounding another 40. Responding to the Hama incidents, nationalists in Homs renewed their agitation, leaving 3 more dead on Feb. 8 [1936]. By Feb. 10 [1936], violence had spread as far as Dayr al-Zur, where French troops killed 5 demonstrators…”

Syrian nationalist demonstrators who had been arrested--but had not yet appeared in court-- were released on Feb. 26, 1936 by French colonial government authorities; but after Feb. 26, 1936 the French authorities still detained “3,080 persons who had been sentenced by military and civil courts to terms of imprisonment in connection with the strike since January 20 [1936],” according to Syria and The French Mandate. And “on February 28 [1936]…protesters clashed with police who opened fire, killing 4 and wounding scores” of Syrian nationalist demonstrations, according to the same book.

But after the French imperialist government finally agreed to free all of its political prisoners in Syria and negotiated a treaty with the nationalist leaders of Syria’s National Bloc, the general strike in Damascus and elsewhere in Syria ended. Yet the treaty of 1936 that was later signed by both French government representatives and Syrian National Bloc leaders was, subsequently, not ratified by the French parliament in Paris; and “by the end of 1936, the cost of living in Syria had risen by not less than 30 percent and continued to climb through 1937,” according to Syria and The French Mandate.

(end of part 10)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 9: 1927 to 1935 Period

Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism indicated how the crushing of the anti-imperialist Great Revolt of Syrian nationalists by French occupation troops affected the post-Great Revolt political situation within French-ruled Syria after June 1927:

“With the effective elimination of the revolt’s militant leadership, the traditional elite were free to hammer out a working accommodation with the clear and now unchallenged rulers of Syria: the French government…Damascus’ leading politicians and the mandate power was able to ignore the exiled insurgents…for more than a decade…”

Inside French imperialist-controlled Syria and Lebanon, however, an underground Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon, whose “first provisional Central Committee consisted of Yusuf Yazbek, Fu’ad al-Shamali, Artin Madoyan, Hetazon Bayadjian and Elias Abut Nadir,” according to Patrick Seale’s The Struggle For Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics 1945-1958, had been founded in 1925. But “in 1926 the French mandatory authorities…arrested Yusuf Yazbek and Artin Madoyan” and “all party activity” had been “frozen until their release in 1928,” according to the same book.

Under the leadership of Fu’ad al-Shamali after 1928, however, the still legally-banned “party extended its activities to Damascus as well as to some country towns” in Syria, according to The Struggle For Syria. But by 1932, with the support of Artin Madoyan, “a…young…law student from Damascus called Khalid Bakdash,” who had been “expelled from the university for political activity,” replaced Fu’ad al-Shamali as the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon’s leader; and “for the next 25 years” Khalid Bakdash “was one of the leading Communists of the Arab world,” according to the same book.

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate, “the scale of Syrian industrialization by the Second World War was” still “not very large.”  But after 1928 “modern industries” had begun “to spring up in Damascus” and “by 1934, there were reportedly 63 modern factories in Damascus and 71 in Aleppo;” and as early as 1925 “the Union of Weavers, the first modern Syrian union,” had already been established, with a membership of 52 workers from 4 different Syrian factories, according to the same book.

So, not surprisingly, when colonized Syria’s economy began to feel the impact of the global economic depression in 1930 and the unemployment rate in Syria increased dramatically at the same time real wages for many Syrian workers fell, Syrian workers began to respond to their increased economic hardship by going out on strikes. As Syria and The French Mandate recalled:

“The Summer of 1930 was marked by strikes…In Hama…the town literally closed down on June 19 [1930] to protest a new bread tax. In Aleppo, workers in the traditional sector of the textile industry struck for higher wages at the very end of July [1930]. Later, in Homs where…wages in the textile industry had been cut 3 times in as many months, 600 recently organized textile workers struck on September 20 [1930]. Meanwhile, Damascus was in the midst of a strike that had begun in mid-July [1930] among thousands of textile workers led by the activist Union of Weavers…”

In a July 30, 1935 speech at the Comintern’s 7th congress, a leader of the underground Syrian Communist Party also reported:

“…During the general strike that broke out in January 1935 in Zahle, a major agricultural center, against the taxes and the despotism of the administrative authorities, more than 15,000 demonstrators were engaged in street battles for five days and disarmed the police and held the town and the town governor’s residence for an entire day…Among the thirty arrested there were seventeen Communists….

“…Just during the years 1933 and 1934, in the 45 strikes which involved 50,000 strikers, we were able entirely to lead the 15 most important strikes, while participating in all the others through our orators, our militants and our trade-union groups...

“In 1933 we organized and led the typographers’ strike for trade-union rights…For ten days the country was deprived of its largest daily newspapers, and in this way all public attention was concentrated on the strike. The destruction of the printing office of the newspaper L'Orient by the strikers, a newspaper which wanted to break the strike and which was, because of this, unable to operate for 15 days, set a shining example of the revolutionary manner in which the advanced proletariat defends its actions against strike-breakers. The sympathy strikes which broke out among the typographers of several places, the refusal of newspaper hawkers to distribute newspapers of companies that were able to operate because of police protection, the sending by the tobacco workers of cigarettes to the strikers, the telegrams of solidarity from several villages, all this showed popular support which had gathered around this strike…

“During the last strike of the 10,000 taxi drivers in April 1935, which lasted 13 days and took on such a violent character that the country was almost in a state of siege and in which the drivers burned and destroyed dozens of cabs belonging to strikebreakers, we participated very actively in the action…In the course of the struggle against the scabs, we had one death, a Communist taxi driver, to whose funeral drivers from distant places came on foot so as not to violate the strike. The funeral turned into a major demonstration and clashes with the police…The strike continued undiminished for two more days…and did not end until after the reopening of the taxi drivers’ trade-union, closed by the authorities during the strike, and the acceptance of a major part of their demands.”

Yet in 1933, with 150,000 Syrian workers unemployed under French imperialist rule, the official unemployment rate in Syria was still 15 percent. But in that same year, a new generation of anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist youth formed the League of National Action.

(end of part 9)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 8: 1926 to 1927 Period

According to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, by the end of 1925 the anti-imperialist Syrian “rebels had the committed support of vast numbers of the Syrian population, both in the countryside and in the capital” and “people that the French identified as bandits and criminals were identified by their compatriots as national heroes…” So in early 1926 “declarations, manifestos and signed petitions began to appear all over” the Syrian city of “Aleppo,” according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate. But then, according to the same book, the following happened in Aleppo on Jan. 10, 1926:

“…A crowd of 1,500 persons gathered at the Great Mosque in Aleppo and shops throughout the Muslim quarters closed to protest the arrests [of 43 leaders of opponents of continued French rule in Syria]. A procession…made its way to Serail [where the arrested leaders had been imprisoned]…When the crowd tried to help a number of prisoners to make an escape, a company of mounted troops with bared sabers charged the unarmed mob, which turned to flight only to face a burst of machine-gun fire from the nearby Citadel…French machine gunners killed 15 people and seriously wounded another 60…”

And in the Spring and Summer of 1926, a counter-offensive by the French troops succeeded in crushing the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist revolt. According to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, this mass-based Roaring Twenties revolt against French imperialist government rule in Syria ended in the following way:

“…It ended with the…reassertion of government control over the devastated countryside, district by district and village by village. Most of the hundreds of insurgents named and sentenced in abstentia by government courts fled into exile. The truly anonymous rebel masses melted back into their ruined village and urban quarters.”

As Syria and The French Mandate noted:

“… [French] General Andrea launched an assault on Sawnda’…]and] on Apr. 25, 1926, French forces recaptured the Druze capital…Six thousand armed Druzes led the resistance in Suwayda’. The assault took the French 6 hours to complete; approximately 1,000 Druzes were killed, while the French lost 89 men and another 310 were wounded.”

Then, in May 1926, according to the same book, the French army killed a lot of civilians while crushing the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist revolt in Damascus by using the following methods:

“…The third prong of the French Army’s spring offensive [in 1926] pointed at the Maydan quarter [of Damascus]…The attack finally came on May 7 [1926]…The number of houses and shops destroyed during the aerial bombardment…were estimated at well over 1,000. The death toll was equally staggering, between 600 and 1,000. The vast majority of casualties were unarmed civilians, including a large number of women and children; only 50 rebels were reported killed in the attack. Afterwards, the [French imperialist] troops indulged in pillaging and looting…The French assault made a formerly busy quarter of 30,000 people [in Damascus] a virtually deserted ruin…By May 17, 1926, calm had at long last been restored to Damascus.”

The June 2, 1926 issue of The London Times also estimated that the French army’s bombardment of Damascus in May 1926 destroyed 1,200 houses and 400 shops and killed 1,000 people.

A few months later, on July 18, 1926, according to Syria and The French Mandate, “the French launched their…offensive on the Ghuta” area of Syria “with 5,000 troops,” “encountered some resistance” by anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist rebels, and “inflicted heavy casualties.” The same book also noted that “an estimate of the number killed in the 3 days of heaviest fighting” between July 18 and July 21, 1926 in Ghuta “was 1,500, of which 400 were reportedly rebels,” while “reliable estimates put the figure at 200 French troops killed.”

Syria and The French Mandate summarized the results of the French government’s decision to use its military in Syria to crush the 1925-1927 “Great Syrian Revolt,” in the following way:

“The Great Revolt was a popular and wide-spread anti-imperialist uprising with a pronounced nationalist orientation…The number of Syrians killed, wounded, and uprooted was staggering. At least 6,000 rebels were killed, over 100,000 persons were left homeless, and one-fifth of the homeless flooded into Damascus from devastated rural areas around the Syrian capital. Sections of Damascus were burnt-out shells, the result of French air bombardments and artillery shelling. Hama had been similarly devastated…

“…The French government…had increased the number of French troops in Syria and Lebanon from 14,000 in the Summer of 1925 to 50,000 by early 1926…The Great Revolt took 2 years to crush…Some 2,000 French troops and auxiliaries were either killed or reported missing. The figure can be added to the 6,700 French troops who had been killed trying to pacify Syria between the {French military] occupation of 1920 and the revolt…”

(end of part 8)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 3: 1925 to 1926 Period

Although “the French bombardment of Damascus” in October 1925 “ended any organized mobilization” of anti-imperialist Syrian insurgents in Damascus, in response, the “insurgency expanded every day in the regions surrounding Damascus” and “thousands of Syrian men and women took part in the revolt” although, according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, French “mandatory forces continued to bomb and shell numerous villages, neighborhoods, and suburbs in the region of Damascus.” As the same book also observed:

“Resistance shifted back to the…surrounding countryside. The destruction of their city failed to pacify the population with fear and led to an outraged expansion of rebel activity…Guerrilla bands soon gained control of the countryside on all sides of the city…The southern region was completely under the control of the insurgents. It took more than a year and massive reinforcements of troops and equipment for the mandatory power to regain effective control of the countryside of Damascus…The aims of the insurgents were clear: the expulsion of France and the independence of Syria.”

In Damascus on Dec.15, 1925, Syrian nationalist politicians who were not involved directly in armed revolt against French troops in the countryside surrounding Damascus then also demanded the following from French imperialist government representatives in Syria: 1. a general amnesty; 2. reunification of the country so that it would again include all of Beirut, all of Lebanon and all of Greater Syria; 3. a native Syrian government in Syria with real authority, instead of just a figurehead Syrian government that mainly served French imperialist interests; 4. the election of a Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution for a new, independent Syrian state; and 5. the establishment of a limitation for how long French government rule in Syria would last.

The mandate authorities in Syria of the French government, however, rejected all of these demands and, according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, outside of Damascus the following happened:  

“…Towns and villages from Mount Lebanon east to the Anti-Lebanon range and south to the border with British-ruled Palestine experienced destruction from the air. The 1925 revolt was the first time in history that civilian populations were subjected to daily systematic aerial bombardment…By late December [1925] scores of villages in the area around Damascus had been bombed. Aerial bombardment was punishment for…suspicion of harboring rebels…”

(end of section 3 of part 7)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lawrence, Massachusetts `Not Seasonally Adjusted' Jobless Rate: 12.3 Percent In September 2014

Nine major Massachusetts cities had “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rates in September 2014 that exceeded the national “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for that month of 5.7 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data:

1. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lawrence, Massachusetts was 12.3 percent in September 2014;

2. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in New Bedford, Massachusetts was 10.6 percent in September 2014;

3. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Fall River, Massachusetts was 10.5 percent in September 2014;

4. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Springfield, Massachusetts was 10.2 percent in September 2014;

5. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Brockton, Massachusetts was 8.7 percent in September 2014;

6. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Worcester, Massachusetts was 7.9 percent in September 2014;

7. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lowell, Massachusetts was 7.8 percent in September 2014;

8. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Lynn, Massachusetts was 7.4 percent in September 2014; and

9. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Boston, Massachusetts was 6.4 percent in September 2014.

According to the Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s November 20, 2014 press release:

“The October total unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.0 percent…Trade, Transportation and Utilities lost 1,800 (-0.3%) jobs over the month….Leisure and Hospitality lost 1,500 (-0.4%) jobs over the month…Financial Activities lost 500 (-0.2%) jobs over the month…Manufacturing lost 400 (-0.2%) jobs over the month. Over the year, Manufacturing lost 700 (-0.3%) jobs…”

Friday, November 21, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 2: 1925 to 1926 Period

In response to the spread of the anti-imperialist revolt in Syria, the French imperialist government’s “Foreign Legion troops and [French General] Andrea’s Eighteenth Tirailleurs occupied al-Musayfra” on Sept. 15, 1925 and “expelled and killed the remaining inhabitants of the village,” according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Then, on Sept. 17, 1925, “French airplanes bombed” the Syrian “rebels 27 times in 3 hours” as the Syrian rebels “retreated;” and “300 to 400” anti-imperialist Syrian rebels were killed, according to the same book. In addition, after French General Andrea ordered the captured insurgents “to stack” the “bodies of their dead comrades and the dead of al-Musayfra,” he ordered the captured insurgent prisoners to be “executed.”

But on Oct. 4, 1925, a Syrian “insurgent force of hundreds occupied the central Syrian town of Hama,” which in 1925 “was mandate Syria’s third-largest town with 80,000 inhabitants;” and “by 11:30 that night the battle was over, and Hama was in” Syrian “rebel hands,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. On the morning of Oct. 5, 1925, however, “the French struck back” and subjected “the town to continuous aerial bombing” which “laid waste to most of the town bazaars,” according to the same book. And as a result of the Oct. 5, 1925 bombing of Hama by the French military, 344 mostly civilian Syrians were killed, including many Syrian women and children; and the French imperialist’s bombs and mandate troops destroyed 115 shops in Hama.

The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism also described how the French troops next attempted to end the revolt in the Ghuta area of Syria:

“The French…executed nearly 100 villagers in the Ghuta, many of them in their fields and orchards…Soldiers brought their corpses to Damascus as trophies, and they brought a number of prisoners as well. Some of the young male prisoners were publicly shot in Marja Square, the central square of Damascus. Mandate authorities left 16 mutilated corpses on display in a row for most of the day.”

On Sunday, Oct. 18, 1925, however, the French colonial authorities’ Syrian “police and gendarmes laid down their weapons and abandoned their posts in all the neighborhoods of Damascus,” enabling the anti-imperialist Syrian insurgents to occupy Damascus “without serious opposition,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. But the same book also described how the French military responded later on that same day to the liberation of Damascus by anti-imperialist Syrian rebels:

“The mandate authority…decided on its response…The bombardment of the city began at around 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. The authority gave no warning to anyone…The bombardment lasted 2 full days. Entire quarters of Damascus were flattened. Nearly 1,500 were killed…”

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate:

“Before dawn, on Oct. 18 [1925], a band of 40 [rebel] men…penetrated the Shaghar quarter [of Damascus] from the east…A little later in the day a second band of 200 Druze insurgents…invaded the Maydan [section of Damascus]…At midday, the French sent tanks through the city and its bazaar. Mobs erected barricades to slow their pace, making them easier targets for snipers…

“French reinforcements joined the Army stationed in the northern suburbs…By sunset, the bulk of the French Army was stationed along position north of the old city, covering the government buildings, the Hejaz Railway Station, and the Citadel. Then, at 6 p.m….the French used artillery and airplanes to shell the southern area of Damascus. The bombardment continued intermittently throughout the night…

“The next morning…all troops were withdrawn from the old city…to the northern line. From 10 o’clock until noon the following day, the bombing continued mercilessly…with huge explosive shells striking in all quarters from the central bazaars down to the middle of the Maydan [section of Damascus].

“The death toll after 2 days of shelling was high. The French…newspaper, L’Humanite’, circulated figures provided by the Damascus Municipality of 1,416 killed, including 336 women and children…French bombs and artillery ruined much of the area between the two great commercial arteries, Suq al-Hamidiyya and Suq Midhat Pasho…”

(end of section 2 of part 7)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 1: 1925 to 1926 Period

According to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, the 1925 revolt in Syria “began in the southern grain-producing region of Jabal Hawran and quickly spread to the Maydan quarter of Damascus;” and this “Great Syrian Revolt” of 1925 to 1927 “was a mass movement” using “tactics of armed revolt” that “were far more radical than much of the elite” nationalist “leadership of Damascus was prepared to embrace.” The Great Syrian Revolt against French control of Syria started on July 19, 1925 when—following the arrest of three Druze [Syrian religious minority group] chiefs by French authorities on July 11, 1925—“Druze farmers” in Syria “shot down a French surveillance airplane” and “Druze rebels attacked French troops in the Jabal” region of Syria, according to the same book.

In late August of 1925, “the most radical among the nationalists and the Druze leaders” in Syria then “resolved to bring the revolt to Damascus,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism; and on Aug. 23, 1925 the Commander of the Syrian Revolutionary Armies, Sultan al-Atrash, signed and distributed in Damascus a revolutionary manifesto which indicated the reasons and the goals of the 1925 uprising in Syria:

“…Let us arouse ourselves from our torpor and disperse the dark clouds of foreign oppression which weigh heavily on our land. For 10 years we have struggled for the cause of liberty and independence…

“The imperialists have stolen what is yours. They have laid hands on the very sources of your wealth and raised barriers and divided your invisible homeland. They have separated the nation into religious sects and states. They have strangled freedom of religion, thought, conscience, speech, and action. We are no longer even allowed to move about freely in our own country…

“To arms! Let us free our country from bondage…

“…These are our demands:

“1. The complete independence of Arab Syria, one and indivisible, sea-coast and interior;

“2. The institution of a Popular Government and the free election of a Constituent Assembly for the framing of an Organic Law;

“3. “The evacuation of the foreign army of occupation and the creation of a national army for the maintenance of security;

“4. The application of the principles of the French Revolution and the Rights of Man…

“Long live independent Syria!...”

Then on the following day—Aug. 24, 1925—the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist rebels attempted to attack French troops in Damascus; and “armed bands” of Syrian rebels began “to form in the neighborhoods of Damascus and in surrounding villages,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. But, according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate, French imperialist authorities in Damascus responded to the Aug. 24, 1925 attack of the anti-imperialist Syrian rebels in the following way:

“Sultan al-Atrash’s rebel army was stopped southeast of Damascus by three squadrons of Moroccan Spahis supported by the French air force. Afterwards, the French…initiated a house-to-house search for all suspected nationalist leaders. Many were apprehended and jailed without trial on Arwad Island, some for the second time since the French occupation. French troops also began to inhibit movement in the town with barbed wire…”

Although “the most important nationalist leaders, including Dr. Shahbandar…managed to escape the French dragnet,…French security dismantled what was left of the People’s Party” in Damascus, according to the same book.

Agitation and protests against French imperialist rule, however, continued in Syria in September 1925 and during that month “gradually spread to all the cities of mandate Syria,” in which 20 percent of Syria’s population then lived, according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. As Syria and The French Mandate observed, “…barred from Damascus, the People’s Party and the Druze leadership set up a nationalist provisional government in the Jabal Druze on Sept. 9 [1925];” and “uprisings first in Hama and then in Damascus in the following month ignited rebellion throughout Syrian territory” so that “by the end of October [1925] large areas of Syria were in revolt.”

(end of part 7/section 2)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 6: 1922 to 1925 Period

After being imprisoned in 1922 by French imperialist authorities in Syria for 17 months on Arwad Island, the now-defunct Iron Hand Society’s former leader, Dr. Abdal-Rahman Shahbandar, was then sent into exile by French General Weygand, who was in charge of the French occupation troops in Syria. But by the early Summer of 1924, French authorities apparently felt that Shahbandar no longer represented an anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist political threat to continued French rule in Syria, and so they allowed Shahbandar to return to Syria from exile at that time. As Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism observed, “by 1925 the occupation and pacification of Syria was presumed complete,” and “few imagined that nationalist resistance would emerge in the countryside and spread to the cities—yet this is precisely what happened.”

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate, after the French government reformed Syria’s judicial system so that “any foreign national involved in a commercial or civil dispute” in Syria could “have his case tried in a court presided over by a French judge” and not by a Syrian judge (and in which “the majority of judges were to be French”), Syrian nationalist lawyers of the Union of Lawyers in Damascus organized protests in 1925. In addition, by 1925, “the stark reality of life in a garrison state in which the French arrested and jailed or exiled scores of their political opponents, using specially constituted military tribunals headed by Frenchmen” also sparked protests in 1925, according to the same book.  The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism also noted that under French imperialist control of Syria during the first half of the Roaring Twenties, “inflation squeezed people’s income and savings” in Syria, “drought had gripped southern Syria for 3 or 4 years,” the “tax burden on cultivators had risen,” and “heavy-handed direct military rule nurtured nationalist and anti-imperialist feeling among the mandate population.” 

Syria and the French Mandate also observed that discontent with French colonial rule in Syria increased among Muslims in Syria after French authorities transferred “the Syrian section of the Muslim-owned Hejaz Railway to a French railroad company in 1924” because the Hejaz Railway had been “the only railway in Syria not built and owned by Europeans.” In addition, because “the French treated Syria as an imperialist possession to be exploited in the `old’ colonial manner” and “their economic policies” just “promoted French economic interests,” in 1924 “in Aleppo…a French group received the electricity and tramways concession” and were “guaranteed revenues of 8 percent of the invested capital” by French authorities, according to the same book.

So when the nationalist Syrian People’s Party--that the formerly jailed and exiled Iron-Hand Society leader Shahbandar now led--called for a protest in Damascus against the visit of Lord Balfour (the UK imperialist politician whose declaration during World War I had expressed UK government support for the Zionist movement’s establishment of settlements in UK imperialist-controlled Palestine during the 1920s) on Apr. 8, 1925, according to Syria and The French Mandate, the following happened:

“Huge demonstrations in the town were organized against him. Some 10,000 protesters, including hundreds of high school students, gathered at the Umayyad Mosque. While police and gendarmes tried to break up the crowd, Balfour made a hurried exodus to Beirut, escorted by French troops and airplanes. Twenty-six casualties were reported.”

By June 1925, “some 1,000 persons in Damascus” had joined the secular nationalist People’s Party that Dr. Shahbandar led; although, “in spite of its popular support” the urban-based People’s Party was still “essentially an elitist organization” controlled by absentee Syrian landowners, Syrian merchants and Syrian intellectuals, according to the same book. But even without the Damascus-based elitist People’s Party having any organized link to the mass of Syrians who lived in rural areas, French imperialist rule was so unpopular in Syria that in the Summer of 1925 another revolt of people in Syria against the military occupation of their country by French imperialist troops erupted.

(end of part 6) 

Monday, November 17, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 5: 1921 to 1922 Period

Ironically, most of the 70,000 troops that the French imperialist government utilized in the early 1920s to block Syrian national liberation and independence after World War I, were from other nations that the French imperialist government had previously formally colonized. As Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate noted:

“…French colonies supplied the bulk of men in French uniform [in occupying Syria]: North African, Madagascan, and Senegalese, commanded by French officers…While Frenchmen in uniform maintained a low profile in the town, Black Africans and Moroccan Arabs were called upon to maintain order.

“The size of the Armee du Levent was at first enormous. At the end of 1921 it stood at 70,000 men…” 

In addition, “the French established a Syrian Legion (Troupes Speciales) recruited almost exclusively from the local population, which became the embryo of a national army,” according to Syria and the French Mandate; and “by 1924, the Legion included some 6,500 men commanded by 137 French and 48 native officers.”

Since Syrian “minorities and rural Sunni Arabs were thought to be less susceptible to Arab nationalist influences,” the French imperialist military “promoted them in the military hierarchy” in Syria; and, eventually, “Alawites found the military an eminently suitable vehicle for reaching political power,” when formal French imperialist control over Syria finally ended after World War II, according to the same book.

After French imperialist troops occupied Damascus in late July 1920, “martial law was declared and resisters were quickly rounded up and jailed without trial,” according to Syria and the French Mandate, but “much of the Syrian nationalist leadership in Damascus had already fled across the borders to Transjordan and Palestine” and “from there, many moved on to Cairo and a life of political exile.” So “for the first 20 months of occupation, the general pattern of protest in Damascus included submitting petitions and occasionally closing the city’s great bazaars, but little else,” since “after the nationalist defeat in 1920 it took some time for the dispersed and exiled nationalist leadership to return to the political scene and to display its strength and popular support in Damascus and Aleppo;” and by the fall of 1921, the commander of the French occupation troops in Damascus, General Gouraud “felt confident enough to grant an amnesty to many nationalist exiles.”

But after returning to Damascus, however, Syrian nationalist activists, led by Dr. ‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar, formed an underground political group, the Iron-Hand Society, to organize political opposition to continued French military occupation of Syria. And after French imperialist authorities arrested Shahbandar and four other Syrian Iron-Hand Society leaders in early April 1922, 8,000 people gathered at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus for Friday prayers on Apr. 8, 1922 and, according to Syria and the French Mandate, the following happened:

“The decision to demonstrate was unanimous. On leaving the Mosque the crowd, which had swelled to over 10,000 marched…to the Citadel [in Damascus]…where the arrested were being held…The rank and file included students—demonstrating for the first time since the occupation…French security…deployed around the Citadel…some French troops, and several armored cars and tanks…On the first day of confrontation, 46 Damascenes were arrested and many were injured…

“…On Apr. 11 [1922] leaders…at the front of the long procession…placed 40 women, including the wives of Shahbandar and other imprisoned nationalists. Holding petitions and tearing their faces into their nails, the women ululated at an unbearably high pitch, bringing the thousands of men behind them to an explosive roar…As the demonstrators moved closer and the familiar chant of `we will buy our independence with our blood’ grew louder, the French decided to take the offensive…Three Syrians were left dead and many others including several women were injured. Another 35 persons were arrested and imprisoned alongside their comrades in the Citadel…”

In protest against the French troops’ Apr. 11, 1922 killing of Syrian nationalist demonstrators in Damascus, the shops and factories in Damascus were all closed down by their Syrian owners for the next 15 days. But a French military tribunal still sentenced Iron-Hand Society leader Shahbandar to 20 years and his arrested Iron-Hand Society nationalist colleagues to 5 to 15 years in prison; and they were then all imprisoned on Arwad Island by French colonial authorities.

So, not surprisingly, branches of the Iron-Hand Society in Homs, Hama and Aleppo organized more protests by nationalist Syrians against French rule during the rest of April and early May 1922; and “at the League of Nations, the unofficial but permanent delegation of the Syrian-Palestinian Congress registered a strong protest on behalf of the Syrian people,” according to Syria and the French Mandate.

But, according to the same book, “on May 9 [1922], French detectives, relying on information provided by local informants, raided the Iron-Hand’s secret headquarters in Damascus, arresting 17 members on the premises;” and after “five of the Iron-Hand `conspirators’ were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 1 to 15 years, while 15 other partisans were expelled” from Syria, the Iron-Hand Society, “as an organization” was “destroyed.”

(end of part 5)

Friday, November 14, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 4: 1920-1921 Period

Following World War I, “armed opposition to European occupation emerged immediately in Syria” according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. For example, “thousands of Syrian men and women, some armed with no more than sticks, went to stop” advancing French imperialist troops “at the pass of Khan Maysalun…25 kilometers west of Damascus…,” according to the same book; and “the Alawite territory” of Syria “was in open revolt against the French between 1919 and 1921,” according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate. As the same book also recalled:

“Yusaf al-‘Azma,…Emir Faisal’s Minister of War, led…a large group of irregulars from the popular quarter of Damascus against the French invasion…on July 24 [1920], at Khan Maysalun…On the following day the French Army occupied Damascus…Approximately 150 Arabs were killed and another 1,500 were wounded at Maysalun…The French claim to have lost 42 men, with another 152 wounded and 14 missing. The size of the Arab forces have been estimated at anywhere from 4,000 troops (including volunteers) to one division. The French invasionary force was composed mainly of Algerians and Senegalese…Among the dead at Maysalun lay [Syrian] General ‘Azma. Only 36 years old, he was henceforth immortalized by Syrians as the supreme national martyr…

“…French columns penetrating from the northwest, had occupied Aleppo two days before Damascus fell…French planes circled Aleppo, dropping leaflets carrying [French General] Gouraud’s proclamation that local residents must submit to French occupation…On July, 23 [1920], the French army occupied Aleppo and by the 25th as many as 18,000 French troops were stationed in and around the city. Meanwhile, 9,000 troops under the command of [French] General Goybet took control of Damascus and the vicinity…

“…Two regions provided sustained resistance to pacification: the Alawite [Syrian religious minority group] mountain and the northwestern districts…Following s series of unsuccessful raids on French posts in the winter and early spring of 1921, the French columns encircled the Alawite mountains…Engagements over the next two months gave France the military edge, although not without heavy casualties…The Alawite rebels surrendered…”

Syria and the French Mandate also described the economic and political motivation for the French imperialist government’s decision to militarily occupy Syria in 1920 and block political independence for people in Syria at that time, in the following way:

“…In 1920, France still had the largest financial interests in Syria, with the preponderance of her capital concentrated in the banking, public utilities and transportation sectors, and in silk and tobacco products…In addition to her consolidated prewar interests, France had additional motives for occupying Syria which surfaced after 1914. These included…new economic prospects in petroleum and cotton development…The development of several harbors on the Syrian coast as terminals for oil pipelines from northern Iraq, as commercial outlets for Aleppo and central Syria, and for overland trade from Iraq and Iran would round out her overall Mediterranean policy.

“…To French policy-makers, Arab nationalism…threatened not only French financial…investments along the Syrian coast and in…Lebanon, but, more importantly, French North Africa. To check the spread of nationalism, France had to establish hegemony over Damascus…There were French financial and commercial interests, both established and potential. Of Syrian raw materials, silk and cotton were of most interest to the French economy in 1920…French capitalists touted northern Syria as a potential French cotton plantation…”

According to the same book, “one of the new” French “colonial government’s first acts was to divide” Greater Syria “into a series of regional units, based on sectarian differences, and the perceived interests of France;” and “the coastal region of `Greater Syria,’ the area of greatest traditional French influence, became the state of Greater Lebanon, intended to maintain a…nominally Catholic majority.” As Syrian and the French Mandate recalled:

“…At the end of August 1920, the French decreed the new state of Lebanon…Most of Lebanon’s newly acquired `citizens’ did not want to be part of a Maronite [Catholic]-dominated Lebanon and agitated for union with the rest of Syria…The creation of Greater Lebanon did more than pass the reins of government to a minority ruling group; it also perpetuated Maronite dependency on French support to remain in power…France’s favoritism toward Greater Lebanon exacerbated the anti-French sentiments of the Syrian nationalist movement…”

(end of part 4)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 3: August 1914 to 1920 Period

After World War I broke out in August 1914, people in Syria then “suffered tremendously between 1914 and 1918,” “hundreds of thousands” of Greater Syrian men were drafted into the Turkish military and “hundreds of thousands” of Syrians “died in the famine that accompanied the war,” according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. As the same book recalled:

“…A crushing famine gripped most of Greater Syria…The most devastating element was effective British blockade of all Arab Mediterranean ports…The British kept any grain from entering the country…British policy led indirectly to the deaths by starvation of hundreds of thousands in the cities of Greater Syria…”

And, according to the Palestine Book Project’s 1977 book Our Roots Are Still Alive, “in Greater Syria, one-eighth of the population died of starvation,” during World War I.

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate, “France’s sphere of influence was recognized” during World War I “by the Anglo-French partition plan known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement” in which “Britain and France had agreed in 1916 to set up an Arab state in part of Syria,” but “British rather than French influence” had become “paramount” in Syria by 1918. So “when Arab nationalists called for an independent Syria” after Arab rebels entered Damascus with UK troops on Oct. 1, 1918 and the UK government initially supported the establishment of a nationalist regime in Syria headed by the Arab leader Emir Faisal, the French “accused Britain of trying to deprive them of Syria and their share of the Ottoman Empire,” according to the same book.

In response to the French imperialist government’s complaints and pressure, however, the UK imperialist government’s prime minister, Lloyd George, then “revealed a plan…whereby Britain would immediately hand over to France military command in Cilicia, followed by its garrison in western Syria,” according to Syria and the French Mandate. And although “the nationalist-dominated Syrian Congress in Damascus declared Syria an independent constitutional monarchy” and “Emir Faisal was crowned king of the state of Syria in March 1920,” the French imperialist government “was never really prepared to accept any nationalist government in Damascus” in 1920, according to the same book.

So, predictably, as Syria and the French Mandate noted:

“In the third week of July [1920], General Gouraud [of France] gave Faisal an `ultimatum’ that he must demobilize his army, recognize the French Mandate, and dismiss his `extremist’ supporters or else he would be removed from Damascus. Even though Faisal reluctantly accepted the ultimatum, the French Army was already advancing. By July [1920], Damascus had fallen into French hands and Faisal had to leave Syria for good…Although the vast majority of inhabitants of the region opposed the French coming, France had realized her claim to Syria…”

(end of part 3)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 2: 1896 to August 1914 Period

By the late 1890s, foreign investors from France were also gaining wealth from people in Syria and special influence in the economy of Greater Syria. As Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate observed:

“By 1900, French financial investments in Syria were firmly established…The bulk of European investments in Syrian industries were…French. Financiers were primarily concerned with providing home industries with processed raw materials…”

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, “the end of the 19th century” also “saw a considerable decline in the economic conditions” of the Syrians of Jewish religious background “in Damascus” because “local industries were ruined due to the growing importation of European goods and the opening of the Suez Canal, in particular, which dealt a severe blow to the trade with Persia through the Syrian Desert;” and, as a result, many people of Jewish religious background from Damascus either immigrated to the United States or moved to Beirut, “which became a large town and a commercial center.”

So by the 1890s some Syrian people began to express politically their dissatisfaction with the political and economic set-up in Greater Syria prior to World War I. According to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, for example, “there were two major uprisings against the Turkish Ottoman State by Syrians of Druse background between 1896 and 1910; and to suppress the 1910 uprising in Syria, 30 battalions of Ottoman troops were required.”

Yet despite these two major pre-World War I uprisings in Syria against Ottoman Turkish political control of Syria, France-based banks and investors continued to invest their money heavily in the economy of Syria, in other parts of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire and in Turkey itself right up to the beginning of World War I in 1914. As Syria and the French Mandate observed:

“Between 1890 and 1914 France was by far the largest investor in the Ottoman Empire. On the eve of World War I, her investments were more than double that of her nearest rival, Germany…In 1913, French capitalists controlled 63 percent of the Ottoman Public Debt; they, along with their British counterparts, owned and directed the Imperial Ottoman Bank which controlled the tobacco monopoly, several utilities, railway and industrial issues, and other business ramifications…

“…The Imperial Ottoman Bank, which issued the Ottoman currency…had active branches in Damascus…By 1914, French companies…owned all but one of the railroads that crisscrossed Syria…On the eve of World War I, France was the largest single investor in Syria…It is estimated that by 1914 the French had invested some 200 million francs in the region, mainly in public utilities, railroads, and silk and tobacco production…”

But nationalist Syrian activists who opposed continued Turkish government political control of Greater Syria organized a large demonstration in Damascus in early 1913 and then held an Arab Congress in Paris in June 1913. And, in response, the French government’s consul in Damascus apparently promised the Syrian nationalist activists that a large French government loan to their Turkish rulers would only be given if the Turkish government agreed to implement the democratic reform program for Syria that the nationalist Syrians were demanding.

Yet when the Turkish government signed a formal agreement in April 1914 to give French investors exclusive railroad concessions in Syria, in exchange for the large French government loan, “there was no mention of a Syrian reform program,” according to Syria and The French Mandate. So, not surprisingly, as the same book recalled:

“…In the four months before the war broke out, the sentiments of the Syrian reformers became…blatantly anti-French…France was accused of abandoning the Syrian-Arab reform movement for an exclusive sphere of economic influence.

“The French decision to withdraw support from the reform program was in line with France’s imperialist logic…”

(end of part 2)

Monday, November 10, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 1: Pre-1895 Period

In late September 2014 the Democratic Obama Administration began ordering U.S. military air strikes on ISIS/ISIL fighters in Syrian territory—without first asking the permission of either the United Nations Security Council or the government in Damascus that Syria’s secular Baath Party still controls. Yet most people in the United States know very little about the history of people who live in Syria.

Between 1516 and 1918, for example, Syria—along with Jordan, Palestine/Israel and Lebanon—was officially part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire’s “Greater Syria” administrative area; and, from its “imperial center” in Istanbul, the ruling dynasty of a Turkish Sultan and/or his Turkish military officers mostly ruled people in Syria undemocratically through local Syrian elites, according to University of California-San Diego Professor of History Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. As the same book also recalled:

“…The top political families of Damascus usually got their start in government service (either civil or, more likely, military) and later became tax brokers, government officials, and eventually landlords. These families provided generations of sons for high positions in local government…The political notables struck a bargain in which they enjoyed variable and qualified access to political power and tremendous economic power in return for minimizing the political aspirations of the great mass of the subject population.”

During this same historical period, most Syrians of Jewish religious background in Damascus “earned their livelihoods in various crafts,” except for “a small class of wealthy Jews engaged in the wholesale and international trade of Persian and local products,” according to the Encyclopedia Judaica.

By the late 19th century, “wheat, cotton, silk and other agricultural products” had become “the major exports from Greater Syria,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Yet when Greater Syria was officially part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, only a few families in Syria apparently derived much economic prosperity from the Greater Syrian economy. As the same book also observed:

“Local power was based on control of land and agricultural surpluses…Families from Damascus and Hama owned entire villages in the surrounding regions. Single extended families controlled scores or even hundreds of villages comprising thousands of individuals. The share of agricultural produce retained by peasants often barely met the level of subsistence. Leading families usually lived in Damascus in grand houses that included multiple courtyards…The houses dominated the urban quarters in which they were situated…The leading families also owned large areas of urban real estate, which they leased for commercial and residential purposes…”

MIT Professor of History Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate book also noted that “by the end of the 19th century there had emerged in Damascus and the other large cities, a more or less unified group of powerful families deriving wealth and social position from ownership of land, having access to the Ottoman government, and able to maintain a `delicate balance between central authority and provincial influence’;” and “the story of Arab nationalism in Syria…is also the story of conflict between bourgeois and radical nationalism.”

(end of part 1)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Obama Appoints Ex-Federal Reserve Bank of NY Director To Be U.S. Attorney General

A former member of Wall Street’s Federal Reserve Bank of New York and former Hogan & Hartson corporate law firm partner named Loretta Lynch was recently appointed to head the U.S. Justice Department as the Democratic Obama administration’s next Attorney General

Coincidentally, when Attorney General-Designate Lynch apparently worked in the “white collar criminal defense” practice division of Hogan & Hartson,  she apparently also sat on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York board of directors next to Citigroup Inc. Chairman Sanford Weill, The Depository Trust Company Chairman and CEO Jill Considine, The Adirondack Trust Company President, CEO and Chairman Charles Wait, Tishman Speyer Properties President and CEO Jerry Speyer, The Blackstone Group Chairman Peter Peterson and New York University President John Sexton.

So don't expect many Wall Street bankers or U.S. power elite members to be sent to jail for any of the white-collar crimes they may have committed prior to the 2008 financial collapse of the U.S. banking system--that helped trigger the global economic recession of the last 6 years-- by Attorney General-Designate Lynch.  

Black Youth `Seasonally Adjusted' Unemployment Rate Increases To 32.6 Percent In October 2014

The official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Black youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age in the United States increased from 30.5 to 32.6 percent between September and October 2014; while the total number of unemployed Black youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age increased by 18,000 (from 218,000 to 236,000) during the same period, according to the “seasonally adjusted” Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In addition, the “seasonally adjusted” number of Black youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age who still had jobs decreased by 11,000 (from 498,000 to 487,000) between September and October 2014.

The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 20.2 percent in October 2014; while the official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 16.3 percent during that same month. In addition, the official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age in the United States was still 18.6 percent in October 2014.

In October 2014, the official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all Black workers (youth, male and female) was still 10.9 percent, according to the “seasonally adjusted” data; while the official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Black male workers over 20 years-of-age was still 10.7 percent during the same month. In addition, between September and October 2014, the “seasonally adjusted” number of Black male workers over 20 years-of-age who still had jobs decreased by 57,000 (from 7,810,000 to 7,753,000); while the “seasonally adjusted” number of Black male workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force decreased by 97,000 (from 8,774,000 to 8,677,000) during the same period.

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Black female workers over 20 years-of-age was still 9.4 percent in October 2014; while the total “seasonally adjusted” number of Black workers (youth, male and female) who still had jobs decreased by 41,000 (from 16,981,000 to 16,940,000) between September and October 2014. In addition, the total “seasonally adjusted” number of Black workers not in the U.S. labor force increased by 114,000 (from 11,850,000 to 11,964,000) between September and October 2014.

Between September and October 2014, the “not seasonally adjusted” number of unemployed Latino male workers over 20 years-of-age increased by 55,000 (from 673,000 to 728,000); while the “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino male workers over 20 years-of-age increased from 4.8 to 5.1 percent during the same period. In addition, the official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for all Latino workers (male, female and youth) in the United States was still 6.8 percent in October 2014; while the official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Latina female workers over 20 years-of-age was still 7 percent during that same month.

The “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Asian-American workers in the United States increased from 4.3 to 5 percent between September and October 2014; while the “not seasonally adjusted” number of unemployed Asian-American workers increased by 54,000 (from 379,000 to 433,000) during the same period. In addition, between September and October 2014, the “not seasonally adjusted” number of Asian-American workers who still had jobs decreased by 44,000 (from 8,339,000 to 8,295,000) during the same period.

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for white male workers over 20 years-of-age was still 4.2 percent in October 2014; while the “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for white female workers over 20 years-of-age was still 4.6 percent during that same month. In addition, the number of white male workers workers in the U.S. labor force decreased by 95,000 (from 64,259,000 to 64,164,000) during the same period, according to the “seasonally adjusted” data..

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all female workers over 16 years-of-age was still 5.9 percent in October 2014; while the official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all male workers over 16 years-of-age was still 5.8 percent during that same month. In addition, the total “seasonally adjusted” number of all male workers over 16 years-of-age not in the U.S. labor force increased by 122,000 (from 37,031,000 to 37,153,000) between September and October 2014.

In October 2014, the official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all U.S. workers (male, female and youth) was still 5.8 percent; while 8,995,000 workers were still officially unemployed in the United States during that same month, according to the “seasonally adjusted” data.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ November 7, 2014 press release:

“The rates for adult men (5.1 percent), adult women (5.4 percent), teenagers (18.6 percent), blacks (10.9 percent), and Hispanics (6.8 percent) changed little over the month…In October, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 2.9 million. These individuals accounted for 32.0 percent of the unemployed...

“The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was about unchanged in October at 7.0 million. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job....

“In October, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier...These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

“Among the marginally attached, there were 770,000 discouraged workers in October, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them…

“Employment in…mining and logging, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month…” 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Australian Anti-War Activist Joan Coxsedge's November 3, 2014 Letter

(The following letter from Australian anti-war and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge—who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--originally appeared in an Australian-Cuban solidarity group’s newsletter)

"Dear Comrades, 

"Goughs gone and left a hole in many Old Labor hearts.  Not without flaws - think of East Timor and his embrace of State Aid which has led to a criminal imbalance between rich private schools and the public variety - but he made up for them with vision and courage in pushing ahead with a range of strong progressive policies after decades of Menzies-style stagnation. It became a matter of pride to be an Australian, unlike now.

"Media dills scoff at conspiracy theories regarding Whitlams untimely dismissal, when there is an abundance of evidence to prove that the CIA was up its filthy neck in killing off his government.

"Do these idiots seriously believe that an outfit that since its inception has rampaged around the world to create profitable investment climates for multinationals, organised coup detats in more than 30 countries and unknown numbers of secret wars, subverted democratic processes with massive illegal funding of political parties and trade unions in cahoots with leading Mafias, established murder squads and torture centres and plotted to assassinate Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo and other heads of state and ran the murderous Phoenix Programme in Vietnam, would ignore a new reforming Labor prime minister?

"Especially one which briefly transformed Australia into an independent state, reversed its foreign policy status towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported Zones of Peace and demanded to know whether the CIA was running Pine Gap, who sacked ASIO head Barbour and ASIS head Robertson, and then poured petrol on the fire by stating that the CIA had funded Australian political parties would not have been targeted by the CIA?

"Of course not.

"The Nixon White House loathed Whitlam and sent `coup master' Marshall Green and other CIA heavies to destroy his government. Whitlam knew this. The question is whether any duly elected reformist government will be allowed to govern in the future. What is at stake is whether the people who seek change and reform are ever again to have confidence that it can be achieved through the normal parliamentary process, he said on 29 October 1975, at the ANU, just days before he got the chop, a question thats never been acknowledged, let alone resolved. Governor-General Kerr played a vital role in the dismissal, shattering our dreams for a more independent Australia.

So why against all advice did Gough appoint this drunken buffoon?  Kerr was known to be anti-union with long-standing ties to British and American intelligence which started in WW2 when he worked in the hush-hush Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. A prominent member of the invitation-only Australian Association of Cultural Freedom, founded, funded and run by the CIA, Kerr also served two terms as president of LawAsia, another CIA front. The CIA paid for his travels, coughed up whenever he asked for money and `told him what to do,' according to a CIA Deputy-Director.

"Kerr made a complete galah of himself whenever he appeared in public with his striped trousers, tails and top hat. His chief mentor was another charmer, Sir Garfield Barwick, who promoted tax avoidance, advocated against Labors Banking Act, defended Menzies Communist Party Dissolution Bill before the High Court and handled ASIOs case before the Petrov Commission. 

"Whitlam fell and democracy fell with him, but another future PM was sinking in the boot. Hawke made regular trips to the US Consulate in Melbourne calling Whitlam politically crazy with the message that the ALP was always happy to keep Washington in the loop. Since then? A downthill run, with both parties in thrall to US imperialism.

"We live in a democracy were told, but genuine democracy means peoples power so how did we bugger up such a noble concept and turn it into a global system run by corrupt oligarchs and plutocrats, puppet masters for our rulers. Everywhere, from east to west, north to south, these crooks have transformed democracy into a toxic form of governance threatening the survival of our planet.

"Way back, Mark Twain wrote: If voting made any difference, they wouldnt let us do it,' a quote that could have been written for today. A vote implies real choice and we have none. It used to be a sacrosanct civic duty, but now it's a fake system to give the illusion that voting matters when the real power lies with unelected bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Oranization, the World Economic Forum and other powerful non-government outfits and think-tanks.

"These mobsters dictate global policies and draft secret treaties like theTransatlantic and Transpacific Trade and Investment Partnerships affecting billions of people. These agreements, conducted in unprecedented secrecy, give US corporations more rights than theyve ever had in history, allowing them to flout the laws of sovereign countries in which they do business.

"If a `sovereign' nation attempts to enforce its laws against an American corporation, it can be sued for `restraint of trade.' Those agreeing to these partnerships are fully paid-up agents of US corporations.  If youre not outraged then you bloody well should be!

"Always a relief to turn to Cuba. While most of the world tightens its borders and runs away from the problem, Cuba has opened a new chapter of solidarity by sending 255 doctors and nurses to West Africa to deal with the Ebola outbreak, once again giving the world a lesson in internationalism. The latest group of Cuban medicos will not receive the privileged medical evacuation that other doctors have received, but will be treated in situ like the local population.

"Compare Cuba with the US which sent soldiers and Australia which sent no-one, but the root problem for Sub-Saharan Africa is that its medical systems were weakened by the imposition of draconian policies by agencies like the IMF. These inspiring words from a Cuban-Argentinian doctor to his children about how a revolutionary should always be capable of feeling, in his deepest self, any injustice anywhere in the world.    Viva Cuba!

"Joan Coxsedge."