Insurrection thundering out of North Africa and the Middle East has quickened the hearts of rebels everywhere.
It’s not possible to predict whether the fearless protesters in 20 or more countries can transform revolt into revolution. It depends on whether radical workers parties can chart the course to socialist democracy in the coming months. If so, the outraged masses will have tools to defeat reaction.
Right now, every victory, leap of consciousness, new leader and anti-capitalist organization is a giant stride forward.
Conditions defy settling for reform. The gap between the haves and have-nots throughout North Africa and the Middle East is far too wide for mere reform. A tiny few control the wealth — be they kings, colonels, ayatollahs or “elected” businessmen — while masses strain against relentless poverty, corruption and callous governments. Hardest hit? The youth, who are a majority of the populations and heavily unemployed. And the women, Muslim and Christian, who toil in vast “informal” economies to feed their children, while combating feudalistic barbarities against themselves. Police-state repression is pervasive and well armed with costly weaponry purchased from the USA.
Imperialism has played no small part in causing and sustaining these putrid conditions. Since the discovery of oil in Iran before World War I, Western colonial powers made certain they controlled oil production and transport in the region. Through military invasions and genocidal occupations, looting natural resources, forcing treaties, re-drawing borders, and installing arbitrary new states and puppet monarchies, Europe created territorial colonies that fueled the affluence and power of its industrial ruling class.
After World War II, the United States became top-dog imperialist over an evolved economic colonialism, now administered by the U.S. and European bankers through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Neoliberal economic policies over the last three decades — supplemented by outright wars — have reduced resource-rich developing countries such as Iraq and Egypt to debt-laden dependency. The global economic meltdown in 2008 further enriched big business and deepened misery for employed and unemployed workers in the Arab world, as everywhere.
The Middle East and North Africa, with their immense oil reserves and strategic position between Europe, Asia and Africa, have been pivotal to the continued reign of the USA. For decades, it has allied with dictatorships in the region to keep a lid on popular rebellion. Now those lids are exploding.
When Tunisians roared “Enough!” last December, they ignited widespread rebellion. They revived the defiance of Iranians who took to the streets over a year ago against tyranny. They fired up Palestinians whose West Bank and Gaza rulers tried to clamp down on protest.
Heading for socialism. The waves of protesters in country after country know that ejecting tyrants is not enough. “The regime’s head has been cut off,” said a Tunisian trade unionist and history teacher, “but the beast is still breathing.” Many Egyptians know their military cannot be trusted. Libya’s rebel civilian army is wary of supposed deserters from Gadhafi‘s army, whom they only take weapons and training from.
Many protesters are young, jobless men and women with nothing to lose, enraged at police brutality, political corruption and lack of personal freedom, eager to spread the insurgency. Young Tunisian demonstrators in the impoverished town of Kasserine contacted Algerian youths — via Internet — on how to stage their own revolt in Algiers.
Many of the street militants are experienced rank-and-file labor activists, often also conducting strikes. Others have lived through nationalist revolutions that settled for capitalist “democracy,” which then turned into police states in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Palestine, Iran, and Iraq.
Today’s monumental upsurge verifies the concept of permanent revolution, a key Marxist theory that comes from studying earlier revolutions — successful and failed. It teaches that today, even democratic rights are not possible without a socialist revolution. Why? Capitalism, which requires profit above all else, is incapable of providing the basic rights and needs of working people because they’re not profitable. Decent jobs, ethnic and religious equality, secular government, women’s emancipation, freedom from imperialist and police brutality, universal education and voting rights, free speech and the right to unionize — these democratic demands require a whole new kind of society.
Revolutionary parties a must. Protesters on streets and rooftops in the last months are in fact competing for state power against forces determined to go backward.
Material conditions and history vary widely from country to country. But everywhere, revolutionary workers parties are necessary to seize power. They teach the lessons of history, train and provide professional organizers and labor leaders, popularize political goals, and take a lead in planning campaigns.
The Egyptian Left is already forming new parties and coalitions. The same is surely taking place in other countries, though little information is available. This process must continue in order to complete what’s begun. Demonstrators are targeting army and police stained with blood and crimes against the people. In Tunisia they have dismantled the regime’s despised secret police. In Egypt, they’re raiding state security police offices for torture files. Notorious police stations are being burned down in several countries.
In Libya a volunteer civilian army battles Gadhafi’s soldiers and mercenaries. In Egypt rank-and-file workers build unions and federations independent of the regime, and conduct strikes. Volunteers everywhere fight, care for wounded, stoke protests, and debate what to do next. In many towns and cities, protesters are setting up committees to run workplaces, neighborhoods, schools.
Women workers and demonstrators are demanding that their issues and leadership not be sold out as in earlier revolts. Equal rights for immigrant workers will be needed, as well as agrarian reform in countries with a landless peasantry. Nationalizing banks under workers’ control and canceling debts to imperialist bankers is no doubt on agendas.
These great strides need a democratic, accountable revolutionary party to carry through such historic fundamental changes.
Role of U.S. radicals. The corporate media and its handlers are desperately trying to figure out how to stop the revolutions, feigning “concern” while they do it. Here in the U.S., revolutionaries have a special responsibility to expose our government’s hypocrisy.
We should call on the international labor movement and anti-imperialist countries to provide humanitarian aid and arms to the embattled pro-worker forces resisting tyrants and mercenaries. We must explain why supporting intervention from empires is like asking the Tea Party to help public workers in Wisconsin.
U.S. and other imperialists — Hands off North Africa and the Middle East!
No U.S. military intervention or aid to Arab dictators!
All power to North Africa and the Mid East workers!
Free political prisoners!
Contact Monica Hill at FSnews@socialism.com.