In a keynote I presented to the international cultural studies association Crossroads (#XR2016) yesterday, i used the Syrian predicament as an example of the analytical importance of thinking in terms of multiple realities, and particularly the productivity of thinking politics as a struggle between realities not just a struggle over a single reality.
The world of international relations and geo-politics is an order of life where states or sub-state groups are agents interacting with other states. In such a world human actors whether foreign affairs, or diplomatic corps, or military, officials do play a variety of roles. but these are channelled in the final analysis towards giving shape to what is the action of a nation-state assemblage, unless such national assemblage is too weak to act.
This geopolitical world of nation states is different from the world of individuals and citizens facing their state apparatus in so far as it is a governmental apparatus. The two worlds are clearly interrelated but they are nonetheless different worlds, different realities or different orders of life, each having what Aristotle would call their own particular 'individuality'. This is slightly similar to the classic Durkheimian differentiation between the order of social facts and the order of individual facts.
Left politics occurs and has a separate dynamic in each of these worlds and realities. In the geopolitical domain left politics is defined by degrees of opposition to the imperialist design of the colonialists.
In national space it is defined by struggles against inequality, exploitation, injustice, despotism, etc... and for better public health and schooling.
Ideally, a leftist politics should succeed in making the struggles occurring within each of these domains complement each other if not even fuse with each other. Practically this has rarely been the case.
Because of its ontological autonomy geopolitical anti imperialism has been used by an assortment of national bourgeoisies and petit-bourgeoisies, bureaucratic, military and police personnel as a governmental as a mode of carving for themselves a space of capitalist accumulation, which is opposed to western imperialism, but has little time for popular aspirations for freedom, justice etc...
Likewise it facilitates movements expressing a desire for freedom, justice, etc. devoid of any internationalist anti-imperialist dimension and easily récupérable by alternative reactionary formations.
The Syrian state today deploys geo-political reality against the reality where popular demands for justice are being formulated. It deploys it as a way of making its petit-bourgeois 'anti-imperialist' problematics drown the problematic of popular liberation. That some radical Marxists in the west fall for this cheap trick that basically institutes a tyranny of geopolitical reason at the expense of popular aspirations is beyond me.
But one must recognise that the difficulty also lies in the absence of a political/ military force that represents that dimension of the popular revolution that is both liberationist and anti imperialist in its ethos. This dimension exists among the population but on the whole its only means of *public* expression is among some of the intelligentsia of the Syrian diaspora.