The NCB supports the peace plan by Kofi Annan, as for the time being there is no other solution in sight. “The main obstacle for democratic progress is the violence which has already pushed the country on the brink of civil war. We need to stop it. Only then the popular movement can develop enough power.”
Haitham Manna reproached the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the armed groups and said that they wanted to foil the Annan plan in order to further militarize the situation and to provoke a foreign military intervention – something which is categorically refused by his own organisation, the SCB. Some people close to the SNC at the meeting in Vienna replied that the SBC in this way saves the regime which has proved to be unable and unwilling to execute democratic reforms. The SNC followers said there was no other option than toppling the regime by military means.
For Haitham Manna, the armed struggle cannot be won. It plays in the hands of the extremist groups who are supported by the Gulf states. Today the struggle should be led on the political field. In the method proposed by Haitham Manna one can recognise the idea of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci to strive for hegemony, to bring those sections of the people who so far remained passive, as well as the frightened minorities, on the side of the revolution. The armed Islamists supported by the Gulf will push them straight in the hands of the regime while a democratic and inclusive street movement might win them over.
Regarding the Annan plan, Haitham Manna reported that the possibilities and freedom for political movements have slightly improved but the main demands are far from having being met: there are still countless political prisoners and the repression in fact continues. “This is first of all the regime’s responsibility. But the armed groups are a welcome pretext to suppress the democratic movement.”
Haitham Manna said that negotiations with the regime are necessary to break the cycle of violence. Dialogue has nothing to do with compromise or to give up legitimate rights of the people, but would be a means to push for gradual democratic change. Haitham Manna affirmed that there is indeed Russian pressure for cautious reform which could take the form of the withdrawal of Bashar al-Assad and the takeover by the vice president or an uncompromised army general. This could open the doors for further reforms which at the same time would weaken the foreign-backed extremist forces. At the end there would be free elections and a constituent assembly.
“We are not against the state but against the regime – which is not the same thing.” In Tunisia and Egypt, many state officials kept their jobs, why should different criteria be applied for Syria, Haitham Manna asked. He spoke of many signs from within the state apparatus and the army, but as long as violence prevailed, these voices will remain silent.
The meeting demonstrated that the SNC narrative, which is dominant in the west, is countered by a completely different one put forward by a vibrant left opposition with strong links to the popular movement. It is obvious that the western corporate media has no interest to cover that opposition. It is our task as anti-imperialists to give them a voice and to support them as they are the key for a progressive solution in Syria.