Pictures of a red flag with communist symbols of a sickle crossed with a hammer flying over a building in the Syrian city of al-Raqqah, the city that used to be an ISIS stronghold for a long period time, has been circulating in the Arab media sources all through the month of January. This flag was raised by the fighters of the “freedom brigade” formed by natives of various Middle Eastern and European states those who sympathize with left-wing ideals. They would associate their struggle against ISIS with the amazing feat of Russian soldiers that raised a red flag over the Reichstag – the Nazi stronghold during the WWII.
This colorful references takes its roots in the history of the region that was influenced by the October Revolution of 1917. The hundredth anniversary of this historic event brought those who believe in left-wing ideals together across the Middle East, with various forums being held in different countries of the region
According to the Iraqi Al-Sakaf Al-Jadid, the October Revolution presented the world with an alternative to the existing capitalist hegemony. It would promote the ideas of equality, justice, social and national liberation, reflected in the first documents adopted by the USSR immediately after the revolution. Among those one can remember the “Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia” and an appeal “To All Working Muslims of Russia and the East.” The Bolsheviks were bold enough to declassifie the Sykes-Pico agreement, which was learn in Beirut in December 1917. It was prepared secretly by the governments of the Entente (England and France), behind the backs of the people, with the aim of dividing the spheres of influence across the Middle East and plundering its natural resources.
The voice of revolutionary Russia was well heard and understood in the region, since until that point in history local players were presented with a choice of surrendering themselves to the equally oppresive rule the Ottomans or the European powers. In December 1920, the Syrian Arab Unity Committee expressed its solidarity with the Soviet Russia who made a breakthrough “in the liberation of the East from the grip of European tyrants.”
After the Second World War, the respect that the USSR enjoyed in the region reached unprecedented highs, as it did all the hard work in the fight against fascism. Arabs turned their gaze to the new pole of power which was bold enough to challenge the once monopolistic camp of imperialist powers.
For decades Moscow would be providing support of the young states that were struggling to obtain sovereignty and close all of the foreign military bases that were located in their territories. Among such states one can name Libya, Egypt and Iraq that were used as a circle of containment against the USSR and its allies.
Newly founded political ties would be reinforced by a broad Soviet-Arab economic cooperation and military assistance. In total, with the assistance of Moscow in the region, a total of 350 major industrial facilities were built across the region, with 97 facilities built in Egypt and 80 facilities in Syria.
Arab political scientists note that the USSR proved itself to be a faithful partner of Egypt by providing it with massive supplies of weapons and equipment after the devastating 1967 war, thus restoring the undermined potential of its army.
Due to this support a number of largest countries of the Middle East laid the foundation of the modern economy they’re enjoying these days, along with developing their defence industries that keep them secure. Contacts with Moscow allowed those states to strengthen their positions on the international stage, thus forcing the West to make concessions.
Today, a number of regional players faces turbulent events provoked by the so-called “Arab spring” movement. What is clear for everyone at this stage that when a state is weakened it’s facing an abrupt aggravation of internal ethnic and sectarian contradictions.
The geopolitical configuration of the Middle East makes it inherently unstable. The lines of force of various coalitions, often opportunistic, collide here with the people of Islam being manipulated to conflict each other in order to advance someone else’s agenda.
A striking example of this is Syria, where in a bid to bring down the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad, Western countries, Persian Gulf monarchical regimes of radical Islamists acting together in a pursuit of their own goals.
Speaking about the legacy of the October Revolution through the prism of the modern world, a number of Arab experts ask the question: were the left-wind ideals worth it even the light of following violations of the juridical norms, and do they remain adequate after the collapse of the USSR?
Obviously, if they were not so attractive to a great many people across the world, they would have been dismissed a long time ago. These ideals, too advanced for the times their were voiced in have nevertheless prepared the ground for social changes that across the world, leading them towards a better future.
According to the modern Palestinian thinkers, the October Revolution challenged metropolitan countries that were forced to abandoned their colonial possessions. In the course of the confrontation and competition between the two systems, workers in capitalist countries were able to obtain major concessions and introduce regulations that would guarantee them their social rights
Those who dismissed the October Revoulution as a minor historic even could never accept its legacy. For example, the most ardent hater of the USSR and its values, Zbigniew Brzezinski, that used to be a statesman and political scientist in the United States, would boldly announce in one of his speeches made almost two decades ago: “We have studied and learned Marx better than many socialists …. and therefore were able to derail the advancement of his ideas for almost a century, is this not enough?”
Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.