Louis Proyect, the imperious and garrulous Trotskyite blogger, is a big fan of Syria’s Salafi rebels — and of attacking socialists. Proyect has viciously smeared me and other leftists who do not support US imperialism, and the hyper-reactionary agendas of the Western-allied Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish regimes, in Syria. The myriad posts on Louis Proyect’s blog, The Unrepentant Marxist, are rife with baseless insinuations and outright lies.
Proyect’s favorite tactic is to smear those who oppose US imperialism in Syria as “fascists” who support the Baathist regime.
This is ironic, because Proyect has himself expressed support for the actual fascists in Syria: Jabhat al-Nusra, or Syria’s official al-Qaeda affiliate.
On Twitter in September 2015, journalist David Kenner pointed out that US-trained Syrian rebels gave weapons to al-Nusra, in return for safe passage in territory that Proyect would say was “liberated” by al-Qaeda.
Proyect responded by cheering on al-Nusra. “Good. I hope they use it to blast the Syrian military to hell,” he wrote of Salafi fascists.
As of the writing of this article, months after he posted the tweet, Proyect has not deleted it.
In a follow-up blog post, Proyect admitted, “I never found the presence of al-Nusra in Syria to be a game changer. If the FSA was willing to work with them, more power to them.”
This is fascinating, considering al-Nusra has become the leading rebel force in Syria. It is the most powerful anti-government group, aside from ISIS. And al-Nusra may oppose and fight ISIS, but they share a virtually identical fascist ideology.
Proyect then proceeded in his blog post to systematically downplay the extremism of al-Nusra, writing, “If my taking a closer look at the group condemns me as a jihadist sympathizer, so be it. I have been called worse things over the years.”
He subsequently cited an article by neocon Hassan Hassan titled “A jihadist blueprint for hearts and minds is gaining traction in Syria,” which systematically whitewashes al-Nusra. Reflecting on the piece, Proyect said it shows al-Qaeda in Syria “is anything but fanatical.”
In the real world, “Baathist propagandists” like, well, leading human rights organization Amnesty International have documented extreme crimes committed by al-Nusra, including summary executions and “execution-style killings in front of crowds,” torture, harsh repression of minority groups, arbitrary arrests, and more.
Human Rights Watch, which has also been intensely critical of the Syrian government, released another report, citing the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which acknowledges that al-Nusra rebels put Syrian Alawite (Shia) Muslims in cages to be used as human shields.
These are the fascists Proyect implied are “anything but fanatical.”
It is true that al-Nusra has somewhat downplayed its fascist ideology during the war, but only out of convenience.
Al-Nusra is playing a long game. Once it defeats the government, it hopes to impose its ISIS-style fascist theocracy on the country — while ethnically cleansing Shia, Christian, Druze, and Kurdish Syrians.
In his book The ISIS Apocalypse, Brookings Institution senior fellow William McCants quotes an al-Nusra commander, who told a reporter that draconian, ISIS-esque Sharia law “will be introduced gradually. We will advise people at first.”
These are Proyect’s politics: Side with actual fascists and US imperialism against an authoritarian Arab nationalist government that is being attacked by the most reactionary theocratic dictatorships on the planet.
To be clear, Bashar al-Assad’s government certainly is brutally repressive, and is not left-wing. But that is not the point. Very few leftists actually support Assad, despite the mud-slinging strategy that is prevalent among “leftist” supporters of Syrian rebels backed by the CIA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.
Instead, socialists oppose US imperialism — and, most importantly, oppose the Gulf’s attempt to impose Wahhabism on one of the only remaining secular governments in the region. It is not about Assad; it is about the Syrian state. Assad’s dictatorship is ghastly, there is no question, but it is not the actual fascist, theocratic, ultra-sectarian, hyper-patriarchal Wahhabi regime that Saudi Arabia and Qatar hope to turn it into.
Proyect, however, is rather supportive of these actually fascist Gulf absolute monarchies. He constantly downplays the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks, and the links of Gulf regimes to extremist Islamist militias in Syria.
You see, Proyect is stuck in the halcyon days of Cold War Trotkyism™, in which siding with US imperialism is okay when you are fighting the bogeyman of “Stalinism” — which is anything on the Left that Trots don’t like, and, come to think of it, nearly every actually existing socialist government in history.
Proyect, who is objectively on the side of al-Qaeda in Syria, frequently reduces opponents of Wahhabism and Salafism to crude caricatures of racist, imperialist “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
The irony is Proyect surround himself with and cites the work of Hitchens-esque neocons, such as Idrees Ahmad and Sam Charles Hamad, so-called “leftists” who pen daft red-baiting attacks on actual leftists in neocon rags like The Daily Beast.
Let’s not forget, Hitchens was a Trotkyite before he became a neocon — just like many of his former “comrades,” who, like Proyect, now actively cheer on US imperialism in the Middle East.