The insurrections of the Arab Spring still live. The revolutionary shock waves that have brought new life to ancient lands, terrifying the powers-that-be, are not spent.
Bloodthirsty reaction from dictators and jihadists and foreign masters continues to cause grim suffering and death. Gazan children killed by Israeli missiles while playing on a beach; “infidel” men and women in Mosul in Iraq beheaded and raped by ISIS; hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing carnage in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine; U.S. bombs diving: these are the barbaric visions from the merciless summer of 2014.
But the afflicted have had enough. Courage and resistance persevere, producing remarkable fighting skills, grass-roots organizing, and political development.
What is the U.S. relationship to permanent revolution in the Middle East? And what can be done to reinforce these historic uprisings?
History of ignoble U.S. deeds. Peoples of the Middle East have been at the mercy of Western imperialists for nearly a century. The machinations of the United States, which emerged from the two world wars as the richest and best-armed imperialist, have been central in provoking the Arab Spring.
• For example, Washington supported the creation of Israel to help Western powers control the region’s resources. It has plotted to install and fund numerous dictators, including the Shah of Iran, Karzai of Afghanistan, Maliki and Hussein of Iraq, Assad of Syria, several Egyptian rulers, Saudi Arabian royalty, Gadhafi of Libya — among others.
• As the dominant force in the International Monetary Fund, it has imposed neoliberal economics in the area, delivering privatization, drastic social service cutbacks and joblessness — all to benefit big banks and despots. Neoliberalism has robbed young people, the majority in each country, of their futures.
• The crisis-ridden U.S. economy depends on the huge profits from arms sales, especially to the Middle East, the most militarized region in the world.
• Religious violence never plagued the Middle East until the U.S. nourished and armed Islamic jihadists like Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. These religious far-rightists were rabid anti-communists and therefore useful allies against the Soviet Union. Then, during its 2003-2008 occupation of Iraq, Washington promoted murderous sectarianism to help engineer Hussein’s replacement with a Shiite puppet government.
In sum: U.S. policy in the Middle East policy is, and always has been, thoroughly predatory, opportunistic, and committed to repressing popular uproar.
Uneven course of revolution. The Middle East today is not the hopeless shambles portrayed by corporate media. But the fight for radical change is inevitably arduous where dictators have ruled for decades, smashing left resistance and workers’ organizations that in some cases must be rebuilt almost from scratch.
Tunisians and Egyptians were first to dump their tyrants. They continue to struggle: protesting corrupt elections and, in Egypt, an execution-mad military; organizing independent unions; and challenging the sectarianism, misogyny, and general repressiveness of right-wing Islam.
Libyans also toppled a despot, but are beleaguered by the products of the six-month U.S.-led NATO bombardment in 2011: militia wars and a destroyed land. They are striving to shape their country without a Gadhafi or a Grand Ayatollah or Egypt or the USA standing over them with a club.
Syrian revolutionaries persist in taking on both Assad’s military and the ISIS jihadists in a civil war that has created two million refugees, mass homelessness and starvation, and nearly 200,000 dead.
As in any revolutionary course, agonizing lessons are being learned; organizers seasoned; class consciousness heightened. Insurrectionists communicate with each other across borders. Socialist understanding deepens. No matter the obstacles and setbacks, such political advances cannot be underestimated in the long view of revolution-building. They justify hope and solidarity for a secular, socialist, egalitarian Middle East.
A perspective for progress. As a Marxist feminist organization, the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) has always emphasized that women must be recognized as indispensable leaders in the fight to overthrow capitalism. This is true because of their universal oppression, which generates rebellion on their own behalf and solidarity with others who are abused and exploited.
If revolt in the Middle East is to succeed, revolutionary parties are desperately needed (see special supplement). How can they be built if those who most need change are not integrally involved in defining the goals and leading the struggle?
The women garment workers who sparked the Russian Revolution are examples of this necessary leadership. Their descendants include female textile workers in Egypt, who were crucial in the insurrections and formation of independent unions there; women in Syria who helped found the Local Coordinating Committees; and Kurdish women militia fighters.
In the capitalist era, the battle for women’s leadership is always the revolution within the revolution. To win this fight is to guarantee the strengthening of the fight for the freedom, human rights, and democracy that only socialism can bring.
Send feedback to author Monica Hill at FSnews@socialism.com.
To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.