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The Absurdity of the "Assadists Dictionary" - Or, How Two Socialists With Different Foreign Policy Views Are More Similar To Each Other Than David Icke

Two days ago, a list of individuals who, in many cases have absolutely no other alleged connections to each other, was produced by an activist and student named Kester Ratcliff. The "International Assadists Reference Dictionary," comprised of 151 separate figures, is based on absurd premises and lumps together individuals across the left-wing political spectrum - from social democrats to anarchists to communists to ecologists - with alt-right trolls like Mike Cernovich and UKIP's Paul Joseph Watson.

While it has become increasingly common to identify a small sector of (largely American) leftists such as Caitlyn Johnstone as in cahoots with the far right on some issues, this list goes above and beyond that, identifying nearly all prominent figures who could reasonably be described as "left-wing," including Noam Chomsky, Owen Jones, Slavoj Zizek, Jill Stein, Vijay Prashad, Tariq Ali, Leila Khaled and countless others as Assadists before everything else.

In normal political discourse, identifying someone as an "(person)ist" means that they prescribe to the political worldview of a leader, and that their ideology is largely based around such. Taking Blairites as an example, one could reasonably call David Miliband, Alastair Campbell, and even fellow Third Way social democrats like Manuel Valls "Blairites."

However, happening to agree with Tony Blair on foreign policy matters - such as the invasion of Iraq - and believing in Coalition talking points, does not make somebody a "Blairite." Otherwise, a range of individuals with no ideological consistency including Ariel Sharon, US far right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, and indeed Blair's Tory opponent Michael Howard would be "Blairites."

It would have been folly to consider all those promoting "Viet Kong talking points" and "propaganda" Minhists, when even on the socialist left, Tariq Ali and, say, Irving Howe would disagree on most issues despite both attacking "American imperialism" (which even today is a notion seen as propaganda by some). 

Indeed, Ratcliff's list is so broad that it is practically guaranteed to include a person you admire or see as a comrade. Given the list's inclusion of American centrist liberals who happened to be anti-war, like Robert Parry and Dennis Kucinich, it could easily be remarked that the only people who shouldn't walk away upset by this list are neoconservatives. 

Adding to this already sloppy and broad-brush methodology, many individuals are included for reasons that are at best attempts to jump to conclusions.

Owen Jones and Tariq Ali, for instance, are cited for their "association with the Stop The War Coalition," the work of which revolves around more than Syria or even the Middle East.

Cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has drawn cartoons opposing both Assad and rebel groups, is taken to task for repeating both sides of the story instead of sticking exclusively to that of the rebels. Alexander Cockburn, included on the list as the editor of CounterPunch, died in 2012.

Abby Martin, Ray McGovern, Susan Sarandon, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza are listed simply due to their association with or employment with media outlets deemed unsavoury, including Consortium News and The Canary, or merely association with others on the blacklist (Jimmy Dore).

However, going through person-by-person is giving too much credit to a list that somehow links Diane Abbott with Richard Spencer. Anyone making such judgements clearly cannot distinguish between social democracy and Nazism.

Indeed, Ratcliff openly admits that, in his eyes, "The Left-Right Political Spectrum Is Bogus." The ideological outlook behind this narrative is worth considering. Ratcliff's essay is chock-full of references to "totalitarianism" and prominently quotes Cold War Liberal hero Hannah Arendt (who saw in communism merely a twin of fascism) as a moral authority. He bemoans how "Assadists" cultivat(e) distrust of the home society’s specialists and institutions" as part of "populism."

Also illuminating is his claim that many "Assadists" are "anti-Israel"(!) and her citing of James Bloodworth and multiple people associated with smears against Jeremy Corbyn.

Ratcliff thus seems to be coming from the worldview of NATO and the extreme centre, with their concern for moderation, the protection of institutions, and at least tacit support for Israel and opposition to communism, socialism, and anarchism.

None of this is intended to mean that being pro-Assad is good, or that opposing him is bad. In fact, the most damaging aspect of this list is its subsuming of politics into a "statist" foreign policy-oriented perspective that Ratcliff claims to see as a hallmark of her opponents.

One could easily create a list of those taking the perspective of US foreign policy makers in the region - call them Boltonists? - but such a list would be equally vulgar if it placed some Trotskyists, anarchists, and socialists alongside Henry Kissinger or Benjamin Netanyahu.

Those on the left who dislike Assad for his quite legitimate war crimes, at the end of the day, have 99 percent more in common with fellow leftists who oppose regime change that could lead to a furthered refugee crisis than they do with their pro-capitalist, anti-immigrant opponents on the right who happen to agree with them on the issue of Syria. And the same is, naturally, true in reverse.