Coming to Italy you get some historic perspective. Roma is a proud city. Its best days were some two thousand years ago, when its legions were strolling all over Europe and around the Mediterranean. Our hearts are, of course, with the poor slaves that were brought in from all over the Empire, and especially with the heroic rebellious few led by Spartacus. But looking at Rome’s many imperial monuments you must admit that they are also part of Humanity’s proud cultural heritage. So when the Italians speak about Anti Imperialism they should know something about it.
Assisi, two hours by train into the mountains North East off Rome, also has its proud history, documented in stone as well as paper, mostly about the Christian Church, its Monasteries and the Franciscan Order. This may be a good reminder of the big steering wheel of history, where a movement starts up as popular rebellion for liberty and justice, pays with the blood of the martyrs to save the masses and bring a better world; At a later stage, as results of its success, it becomes the establishment and oppresses others that fail to share its vision.
Assisi 2012 Anti Imperialist camp’s main Motto is “Tahrir – popular uprising at the gates”. Tahrir, as you all know, means “liberation” (in Arabic), and it is the name of the famous square in Cairo, which is the beating heart of the Egyptian revolution.
With the big Arab Democratic Revolution still making headlines more than a year and a half after it suddenly erupted in Tunisia, and attractive speakers from different movements of the Arab spring coming to give first hand report to the progressive European audience, you would expect that the mountain camping ground looking over Assisi would be full of freedom loving and progressive types. In fact some scores of the really serious Anti Imperialists are lost among the ordinary camping masses, and there is plenty of time for discussion in the meetings tent.
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The first lecture, hosting the quietly spoken sympathetic Ajmi Lourimi from A-Nahda in Tunis is clearly the easy part. It is so easy to love the Tunisian revolution. Ajmi himself is saying all the right things. He speaks about the democratic and social character of the revolution; about the need for pluralist democracy; about the hardship of building a new just order.
The second session was set to deal with Libya. Here comes the real test. Will the opposition to the NATO intervention overshadow the basic support to the revolution and convert into de facto defense of Qaddafi? It is not an historic issue of analyzing the Libyan events post-mortem, but it bears heavily on the position on Syria and other revolutions to come.
In fact Moreno Pasquinelli, the spirit behind the Anti Imperialist Camp in Italy, gave a very good opening, stressing the main issues: The character of the Libyan regime that was fast deteriorating over the last 15 years into a corrupt family business and was tightly integrated in the imperialist system. He explained the legitimacy of the popular democratic revolution against the tyranny. He was even brave enough to remind the audience that the fact that imperialism supports one side in the struggle doesn’t necessarily imply that this side is reactionary or serving imperialism. To make it crystal clear he cited the example of the Italian Anti Fascist Resistance that was helped by US imperialism during the Second World War.
After the official presentations ended, the stage was opened for the participants. One after the other, many of the participants, from different Arab movements and from the European left, utilized the opportunity to express their faith in the Arab Spring as a just and necessary popular movement for democracy – that will put the Arab masses at the center of the political stage and will be a big step in the struggle for Social Justice as well as Human Rights and Freedom.
The last session was dedicated to Syria, and there was only one speaker, Haitham Manna. An internationally known figure at the heart of the most important and burning stage of the Arab Spring, he stunned the public with details of the regime’s cruelty and inability to respond to any attempt at reconciliation and reform, as well as with internal criticism of the opposition. Hearing him speaking of is martyr brother and many other friends killed or imprisoned, you can’t avoid admiring him. He is extremely informed, like telling us that he just talked with the son of Syria’s vice president, Farouk A-Shera, which verified that his father is still in Syria.
But with the over detailed narrative of the daily suffering and the futile attempts to stop the bloodletting, you lose the focus and forget that basically there is a revolution out there and that this revolution is fighting to win the freedom of the Syrian people. After all, I wished that the Anti Imperialist camp would have also bring us some simple minded ordinary revolutionaries that we can not only sympathize with but also get the spirit of the popular struggle and the strive for victory.
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Discussing Syria, one point was repeatedly mentioned that I would like to comment about. In addition to the common justified concerns about imperialist intervention, some Anti Imperialists express concerns about young enthusiastic volunteers that come to fight it in Syria, bearing romantic Islamist dreams. Some commentators even go as far as calling this influx of volunteers “an external intervention”.
From historic perspective, romantic brave youth are an integral part of any revolution. As long as the revolution requires people to risk their lives, nobody that wants the revolution to win (and do it as fast as possible to save blood, suffering and destruction) will give up this vital help. The enthusiastic Islamist youth in the Arab Spring are not different from the Communist, Anarchists and Trotskyites that poured to Spain in 1936 to stop fascism.
The problem is not with the wild dreams of the youth. Even in our daily struggle in Haifa the main work is done by (local) youth that many times didn’t have time to think about all the consequences of the struggle. Palestine is swamped with idealistic youth of all beliefs from all over the world. If there is a problem, it is with the leaderships that tend to lose connection with aspirations of the masses.
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The first day of the of Assisi 2012 was August 23. Due to problems with the internet connection the publication of this post was somewhat delayed. Please accept my apology. Farther reports on the camp may come later.