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Death and Destruction in Aleppo

Death and Destruction in Aleppo

Throughout August of this year Channel 4 News transmitted images of death and destruction of rebel held areas of Aleppo in Syria by Russian and Syrian jets largely against hospitals and civilian targets. The images were visceral as bodies were pulled out of the rubble and bloodstained children taken to hospitals where doctors tried to save their lives under primitive medical conditions.

The UN special envoy for Syria has estimated that 400,000 people have been killed throughout the past five years of civil war. Russia, according to one source, has killed more civilians than Isis (TIMES 21st august 2016). Millions of people have been displaced with Syrian refugees located in adjoining countries and in throughout Europe where conditions are either often squalid or unremittingly hard and bleak.

As tragic and distressing the images are from Aleppo, the death and destruction is caused by the intense rivalries within the international capitalist system and between the different factions fighting in the Syrian Civil War. War under capitalism takes place because of the necessity for nation states to plunder or protect raw resources like oil and gas, to defend trade routes or to prevent other countries from using them and to secure strategic positions like ports and airfields for military assets and personnel. Within countries one ruling class sometimes fights another for more parochial interests contained within the contours of the nation state.

It is noticeable how left wing organisations like the Stop the War Coalition, led by seasoned Trotskyists, are relatively quiet when it comes to Russian and Iranian adventurism in Syria yet take every opportunity to become outraged at US, NATO or British military attacks in Syria against Isis. To censure US or Western Imperialism is politically more important for the capitalist Left than criticisms of the military actions of Russia and Iran since it fits in with their narrow-minded Trotskyist world-view. Very little is said, too, of the terrorist Islamist group, Hezbollah, also fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad’s regime.

The barbarism and cruelty of Russian military involvement in Syria’s civil war should be recorded. The death and destruction is nothing less than state terrorism. The aim is to demoralise and subjugates the civilian population in Aleppo by fear. If it had been US jets that had been indiscriminately killing the elderly, women and children then there would have been marches and meetings held by the capitalist left to denounce “US Imperialism”. What about any criticism from the Stop the War Coalition of Russian imperialism and expansionism under Putin in the Mediterranean of equal severity to their criticism of the US?

Iran shares with Russia a common interest in maintaining the Assad regime in Syria since it is a strategic ally for both countries. Syria provides Iran access to the Mediterranean while, for Russia, Syria is the only country on the Medeterranian that provides a port for a Russian naval base and several air bases. The issue for Russian and Iranian intervention in Syria then is strategic, one of the principal reasons for war in capitalism.

The alliance between Russia and Syria dates back to the 1940’s and gives Russia access to important Middle East bases. Syria has been of strategic importance to Russia (then the Soviet Union) since 1971 when they leased a naval base at Tartus, on Syria’s Medeterranian coat. Tartus holds the Russian fleet of ten warships and other naval vessels in the area. The strategic importance of the Russian fleet at Tartus is largely the distance between Russia, the Mediterranean and Russia’s military and economic interests in the region. Tartus is also close to Suez an, three Gulf States friendly to Western Capitalism and of course near Israel.

Russia also has a lucrative arms deal with Syria and accounts for over three quarters of Syria’s arm purchases, including in August 2015, fighter jets and other weapons. Similarly the US (and British and French) arm sales to Saudi Arabia have resulted in the various Middle eastern conflicts, including that in the Yemen, becoming a proxy for a resurgent Cold War, with ever louder sabre-rattling on both sides.

And the use of Iran’s airfield to facilitate more intense military attacks in Eastern Syria is also explained by Russia’s strategic interests. An article in UPI (August 16th 2016) stated:

The appearance of Russian pilots at Iran's Hamadan airbase is no accident and is not related only to the liberation of Aleppo. It was preceded by an entire chain of events bearing witness to the formation of a completely new context in the eastern part of the Middle East.

This concerns the meeting of the "Caspian Troika" in Baku on Aug. 8, which set a new level of economic cooperation between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, as well as the Aug. 9 visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to St. Petersburg, which significantly reduced the tensions in bilateral relations between Moscow and Ankara, and the rapid launch of Russian-Iranian economic interactivity, primarily in the fields of transportation and energy.


Socialists take no sides in capitalism’s wars. The socialist case against war is part and parcel of our case against capitalism. Socialists are opposed to war not just because of the killing and destruction, the waste of resources, and all that goes with war.

The real interests at stake in the Syrian conflict, as with all capitalism’s wars, are not the workers’ interests. We urge workers to look at the real causes of war: conflicts over raw resources, trade routes, market and spheres of strategic importance. When governments blame other governments it is always a false propaganda. Governments do not give out the reasons why they spend billions on fighting wars because the know that to tell the working class the truth about war in capitalism would not give its support.

Socialists also oppose wars because with war comes nationalist propaganda, which is used: “to confuse the minds of the workers and turn their attention from the class struggle” (SPGB Statement, August 1914).

What is needed for the working class prevent wars happening is for workers to understand why wars happen – that they are caused by commercial rivalry between competing sections of the capitalist class. And understanding this fact about capitalism, workers should then organise democratically to gain political power in order to end the class system and establish socialism.

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