The revolutions continue
From revolutions to demonstrations and protests, countries across North Africa and the Middle East are aflame. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon have all seen protestors taking to the streets and in some cases revolutions have overthrown decades long dictatorships.
The demonstrations are spreading beyond the region. There have been protests in Djibouti, Sudan, Cameroon, Iran and Mauritania. Even the Chinese dictatorship cracked down to prevent possible coordinated demonstrations.
One of the gems of the West is Wisconsin. Workers there have learnt the lessons of Tahrir Square. They have demonstrated and occupied the Capitol in Madison against government attacks on their union rights and their health insurance and other benefits. Protests are beginning in other cities across the country on a range of issues – environmental, health and labour being the main ones.
In Greece, during a 24 hour general strike, police attacked 30,000 workers protesting against the savage attacks of the ’socialist’ government on jobs, wages and conditions, pensions and public services.
As the European bourgeoisie and their politicians try to force the costs of the global financial crisis onto their working classes, all across the continent there are angry workers, students and young people. The Arab masses fighting back sends a powerful message and example to them.
The American model of friendly dictatorships – what imperialism euphemistically calls autocracies – is dead. The masses of Tunisia and Egypt killed it on the streets and in their workplaces. Imperialism is scrambling to find a replacement model that entrenches its control and pays lip service to democracy and decency.
The Arab masses will not be so easily fooled. Platitudes today about democracy do not obscure decades of the US and rest of the West supporting friendly dictators and apartheid Israel.
In Bahrain, the US policeman in the Persian Gulf, demonstrators are occupying Pearl Square, demanding democracy and the overthrow of the monarchy. They drove the state thugs out. The dictator is giving concessions, fueling the confidence of the protesters.
There are reports that youth in Saudi Arabia are calling for demonstrations in March. Certainly the King is worried. He has announced a social spending program of $35 billion to buy off discontent. It might embolden the Opposition forces. Give the people an inch and they could take a mile.
The US backed dictators in the region have for years repressed their people and have used that power to impose brutal neoliberal policies on their people.
Unemployment, especially among young people, is very high in many of these countries. Poverty is endemic and growing, even in super rich countries like Saudi Arabia. All are low wage countries, with some pockets of high pay like key oil workers.
The relentless pressures of the market, especially speculation and extreme weather events, have forced basic food prices up. When you are living at or below the poverty line – as up to half the populations in some countries in the region are – any food price increase condemns you to malnutrition or starvation.
In Tunisia and Egypt it was the working class striking for economic and political demands that finally forced the dictators out. The other revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa are not yet at this stage.
To be free you need food and liberty. These are revolutions for freedom and food, for jobs and justice.
This intertwining of the political and economic across the region means that the working class entering onto the stage of history in countries like Libya, Bahrain, Algiers, Saudi Arabia and deepening the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia may not be far away.
These revolutions challenge US dominance in the region. Some have argued that we need Western or United Nations intervention to stop the bloodshed in Libya.
Iraq shows that ‘humanitarian’ intervention is never what it seems. With more than a million civilians dead to help impose a US puppet, the lesson should be clear. Imperialist intervention does not save a country – it imprisons it.
Haiti too is another example. The US occupation there has further mired the country in poverty. It wants to impose its favoured candidate on the people in the forthcoming elections. A year after the earthquake and thanks to US intervention the Haitian people are worse off. Poverty and a puppet regime.
If it does, and the risks are very high, the US will intervene in Libya for its own purposes – to protect its interests in the country from the Libyan people and to prevent the revolution getting out of control, by for example deepening and spreading. There is nothing humanitarian about replacing one US friendly dictator like Gaddafi with another one, which is the case at the moment with the pro-US anti-worker military government in Egypt.
It is up to the Libyan people to overthrow their dictator. That is real liberation.
At the time of writing Gaddafi is hanging on. The internal politics and largesse he has given to various groups means that he had some support. However the incredible bravery and determination of the masses and the overwhelming numbers involved has split the ruling elite, with large sections of the armed forces crossing over to the protestors. It appears all the tribes and religious leaders have abandoned him. So too have most of his international functionaries, and some of his Ministers.
Libya’s second city, Benghazi, has been liberated. Ordinary people run large sections of the country.
The fighting has spread to Tripoli. Gaddafi has responded by bombing the city, not only military sites going over to the revolution but demonstrators on the streets.
The guns of the Libyan armed forces, won to the side of the revolution through strikes and resistance on the streets, can stop the old order’s indiscriminate killing.
The real intervention that can win is of Libyan workers as workers taking over their workplaces and running society democratically and winning the lower ranks of the armed forces to the side of the revolution.
Let’s hope that the Libyan tyrant is approaching his lamp post.
We don’t have a crystal ball. But one thing is clear. The revolutions are just beginning. If they remain within the framework of capitalism they cannot solve the economic and political problems integral to the system.
The immediate task for all the revolutions is to drive the tyrants out and destroy their regimes.
But that will not feed the masses’ children and will not give them jobs.
Capitalism cannot address the economic demands of the poor and working class in the region. The system is built on poverty and poorly paid jobs.
The massive working class in places like Egypt and the powerful working class in countries like Saudi Arabia has the ability to solve those economic and political problems and as the revolution spreads the solution becomes regional and international.
The dream of a society where production is organised democratically to satisfy human need has come to life. It is the answer to the question the Arab masses have yet to pose but which may come more and more to their lips as the exploitative system that is capitalism fails to satisfy their basic economic and political demands.
Victory to the Arab working class.