Syria: a revolt from below

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Ghayath Naisse argues that the local committees, councils and Free Syrian Army brigades that emerged out of the revolt are a testament to the popular nature of the revolution.

The Co-ordinating Committees (tansiqiyat) are an organisational form for directing the daily struggle of the masses. They are active across Syria, even in areas still controlled by the regime. In every neighbourhood, or every workplace, or small towns and villages, there are a network of committees. These committees work together, and when they cooperate at a neighbourhood, or village level, then they are called a Local Committee. When a number of committees work together, or form a network together, they are called Co-ordinating Committees.

At a national level, the Co-ordinating Committees are organised into the Union of Co-ordinating Committees of the Revolution, or sometimes they are called the Local Co-ordinating Committees (LCCs). Other names include The Free People of the Dignity Revolution. There are a number of national networks of co-ordinating committees. This explains two things: the difficulty which the regime faces in crushing the mass struggle from below; but it is a sign of the revolution's weakness, with the absence of a genuine national focus for the struggle at a national level.

Part of their work in the media such as filming and uploading to YouTube, sending reports to news agencies, reporting on the day's actions, organising a demonstration, preparing banners, making sure that demonstrators can get out safely, securing the area in general from bombing or attacks by security forces in areas under regime control.

In liberated areas, if there is a demonstration, it may be necessary to protest against some of the practices of the Islamist or Jihadi organisations. The tansiqiyat are a militant form of organisation of the masses' daily struggle. No one political force can say that it has overall control over them. This is an organisational form which is forged from below - a form of self-organisation.

Local councils
In liberated areas there are local councils known as majalis mahaliyya which are also created from below, rather than by political parties. In some places they are called Civil Councils, others Local Councils.

In any case they are popular forms of organisation. They are present in the small and villages and towns, and are in most cases elected by the local population. That is to say they are elected to the degree which circumstances permit, and we are learning from this experience as well. The goal of the majalis is to secure daily needs for the population - health services, schools, bread - everything connected to daily lives.

Political parties may be present, but not openly or directly. People are not elected, for example, on the basis that they represent this or that political organisation. Instead people are elected more for their record in the struggle. Sometimes there are protests against the majalis by the local people, if they feel that they has failed them, for example in Saraqib and Aleppo.

Radical Islamist groups have created their own organisations. In small isolated village, they may throw out the majalis, for example. The organisations they create are called the Legitimate Institutions. These are made up of a group of so-called "elders" and they claim that these people are the legitimate authorities. In many areas people have rejected it, going out with banners calling for the overthrow of these bodies.

Free Syrian Army (FSA)
The Free Syrian Army is a generic term, which describes the armed popular struggle. All the fighters, for example, in a neighbourhood or municipality, all the population bearing arms, may take this name. For example in the Damascus countryside you have the Abd-al-Rahman al-Shahbandar FSA Battalion, there many others. These fighters may call themselves the Free Syrian Army, which just means that they are fighters who are not the same as the dictator's army. The official "FSA" outside the country is different to these local organisations.

Most of the majalis will include a representative of the popular resistance, the Free Syrian Army, in a military bureau, so that they co-ordinate with the armed resistance. With the exception of some municipalities and area where the Jihadists are attempting to seize control, the fighters are the same people who were demonstrating and who today are bearing arms. There are however, a small number of soldiers among them. Some 30 percent of the fighters deserted from the regime.

Ghayath Naisse is a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current. Translated by Anne Alexander