Has the revolution begun? – Have your say on Saturday’s socialist speak out
As I write the brave people of Egypt are beginning Friday lunchtime prayers before the next confrontation with the US backed Mubarak dictatorship.
This is an important juncture in world history, as important as the revolutions which sent Stalinism in Eastern Europe to the dust bin of history. The Arab masses – overwhelmingly workers and peasants – have awakened.
In Tunisia they have expelled the dictator but not his regime. Across the region demonstrations and strikes over the same issues – freedom, food and jobs – have broken out. Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Libya.. The spark of freedom has become a fire. Success in Egypt will condemn all the US backed dictatorships to long holidays in Saudi Arabia.
With 80 million people, a large workforce and $2 billion a year from the US for its ‘peace’ treaty with Israel, Egypt is the key Arab country and the demonstrators, drawing on the magnificent inspiration of Tunisia, will not budge. They are afraid no more.
Will they move forward?
Over the last few years there have been massive strikes in Egypt over wage demands. If those strikes turn political Mubarak is gone.
US control of the region is under threat from the revolutions. But even more than that, as Corey Oakley wrote in his article The Arab world is being turned upside down in Socialist Alternative:
The revolt in Egypt poses point blank the need for a struggle for socialism.
The demands that are driving the revolt – for an end to imperialist domination of the region, for democracy, for a decent life for the millions of Arab workers who cannot afford the basics of life in spite of living in a part of the world that has created more riches than almost any other in history – cannot be met without a fundamental reorganisation of power in the Middle East.
US imperialism has to be driven out. So too do the ruling class elites who are both craven servants of the US, and exploitative ruling classes in their own right. The only way to do this is to turn the current uprisings into a genuinely social revolution, one that expropriates the riches of the powerful and creates new organs of power based on the democratic organisation of workers, students and the poor.
In Tunisia we are starting to see the beginnings of such organisation, as people organise in their workplaces and communities to try and defend the radical spirit of the revolution against attempts to impose a government that is simply the Ben Ali regime without Ben Ali.
In Egypt the immediate task is still the overthrow of the dictatorship. Because of the strength of the regime, and the intransigent backing that the Egyptian ruling class receives from the US state, working class organisation and struggle is crucial not just to determining the nature of a future regime, but to getting rid of the current one.
This means that in the coming days and weeks in Egypt, the extent to which the working class imposes itself on the movement and gives it direction and organisation will be crucial to determining whether the regime can be overthrown.
The huge strike movement of the last few years opens up the possibility that the working class movement can play a decisive role. But until now the political opposition to Mubarak has been occupied by forces – like the Muslim Brotherhood – who have no fundamental opposition to the prevailing social order in Egypt.
The difficulties that those rebelling in Egypt face are not minor concerns. For decades oppositional politics have been dominated by, variously, bourgeois Arab nationalism, Stalinism, and Islamism. It will not be easy for a genuinely revolutionary working class socialist current to build now, even given the extraordinary events taking place. But insofar as mass upheavals inspire hope on an undreamt of scale, they also open up possibilities that yesterday seemed mere fantasy.
To paraphrase Marx all that is solid is melting into air. What a great time to be alive. Victory to the Arab working class.
To have your say hit the comments button.
Readers might like to read my more recent artcle on this: Egypt: the revolution has begun.