The Arab Spring is over.
The illusions in change have dissolved, and the proletariat and the proletarianized masses of the Arab countries are confronted with the reality of capitalist power – the iron heel of the capitalist states and imperialism. The only way out is through proletarian class struggle!
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 8; Spring 2012)
The sweeping arc of the crisis in the Arab countries has reached Syria, where the massacres are ongoing!
The revolt of the masses against the Assad regime, still entrapped in the illusions of a peaceful democracy, continues to run up against the ruthless repression with which the regime, defending its power and its privileges, has also continued to defend the interests of world imperialism.
This is not the first time a mass revolt has broken out in Syria, the city of Hama is the symbol, together with that of the ferocity of the Assad regime: in 1982, a revolt there was crushed by fierce repression that resulted in tens of thousands of victims; it was during the period of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the Palestinian resistance in Beirut that ended in the defeat and massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Today, attacked by the tanks of the Syrian army, Hama again is suffering harsh repression.
And as before it is not a question of religious revolts, but of revolts caused by a profound social crisis, that rocks the social peace maintained by a regime which since 1963 has militarized the whole country and which the Assad family has ruled in a hereditary manner since 1970. Martial law, in force for 43 years, has been justified by the conflict with Israel (which annexed the Syrian Golan Heights after the Six Days war in 1967) and the risk of “Islamic terrorism”. But the power of the local bourgeoisies in the Middle East cannot do without either the support of imperialist powers, or the support of existing religious authorities. Under Assad, power is held by the bourgeois from the minority Alawite Shia, while the majority of the population is Sunni. Religious differences, as always, are used for social control in regimes like Syria (as they were in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein) who, despite having written on their banner: “God protect you, O Syria,” call themselves “secular”. This “secularism” did not impede the Assad regime from having the support of the ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in its turn from supporting the politico-religious movement Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Since the Baath Party came to power in the mid-sixties, Syria has become the channel of Soviet influence in opposition to Western influence, which was based on Israel and Iran’s Shah Reza Pahlavi. For forty years the Syrian bourgeoisie has used the iron heel of the Assad regime to maintain an inner solidity to confront Israel and to support its own expansionist aims in Lebanon, but also to enable the country’s economic development through the exploitation of the peasants and workers while largely avoiding social conflict.
But repression cannot forever prevent the outbreak of these conflicts, as was the case during the 1982 revolts that spread throughout the country to culminate in the tragedy of Hama, and as is the case today after the real social earthquake that shook all the Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East with the wrath of huge masses in rebellion against intolerable living conditions.
According to what is reported (and to what goes unreported...) in the newspaper columns, there is no doubt that the deteriorating situation of the masses, hit by an unbearable increase in prices of basic commodities, is the root cause of their mobilization and of their tentative aspirations at a regime change. The crackdown has already claimed more than fifteen hundred dead, not counting the wounded and arrested, causing the flight of thousands of refugees into Turkey and Lebanon.
In recent days the French ambassador Chevallier and the new U.S. Ambassador Ford have gone separately to “honor” the demonstrators to the martyred city of Hama, where they denounced the brutality of the repression of the Bashir al-Assad government. The government responded by unleashing demonstrations against the French and U.S. embassies and accusing these countries of fomenting the revolt.
In fact, even if Washington and Paris, as well as Rome, London or Berlin, criticized the bloody suppression of protests, they still resumed their relations and their business with the Syrian regime, albeit with ups and downs. In any event, what the imperialist powers want to avoid is the social wave that swept over Tunisia and Egypt from spreading throughout the Middle East. They care little of the dead who have fallen in the repression of an Assad in Syria, a Saleh in Yemen, one Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, a Bouteflika in Algeria or a Gaddafi in Libya; if they multiply the declarations about “human rights” and “democratic rights” it is only for propaganda reasons, to make us forget that they have supported the regimes of these assassins to the bitter end! As experts in repression in their own countries and in their former colonies, they know perfectly well that to “maintain order” – their bourgeois order – there are times when one must be ruthless against those who revolt, especially if they revolt en masse.
The key for the imperialist powers, is that “social peace” is achieved in each country by its leaders, by brute force if necessary, so that economic relations and business can develop , and if the local leaders fail to control the situation satisfactorily, the armed forces of the “international community”, that is, the imperialist countries that dominate the world, may be involved, which happened in Somalia and Iraq and in the Balkans and Lebanon, as it is occurring now in Afghanistan and Libya and which has just occurred in Ivory Coast.
Has military intervention of the imperialist countries ever “solved” crises crisis and brought peace and tranquillity to the inhabitants?
Claiming to want to “pacify” these countries, instead they have always exacerbated tensions and clashes between bourgeois factions vying with each other like jackals to obtain or preserve local power.
Whatever information is received not only about Syria, but also about other Arab countries affected by the revolts is becoming increasingly partial and hard to find. And for good reason!
The imperialist powers of Europe and America want us to believe that their democracy is a universal value to which everyone should adhere: kings and subjects, capitalists and workers, peasants and students, intellectuals and peasants, refugees from war and the impoverished on the peripheries of the metropoles, and that the “right to life and death” with which they are in fact endowed – by means of ever more sophisticated and destructive weapons – is justified by the universal value that capitalist progress has given them so that they can spread it, like a divine breath, over the entire world.
The reality is completely different, as shown by the revolts in Arab countries.
In Tunisia, where the revolt began, in Syria in recent weeks which is now the focus of clashes, the socio-economic conditions of the masses continue to push them into an incessant seething discontent against the new as well as the old regimes. Without doubt the social movements of these countries are not all the same. In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, etc…, the proletarians and the proletarianized masses played the decisive role in a revolt that served as a veritable detonator for the whole Arab world; in Libya, the Gulf countries and Syria, also pushed to rebellion by the material conditions the masses were mobilized according to orientations to some extent predetermined by the opposition forces, becoming even unconsciously controlled by particular bourgeois interests allied to this or that regional or global imperialist pole.
This explains why the “protection of civilian populations” is used as a pretext to justify the current military intervention of NATO in Libya, whereas the Israeli embargo against Gaza which starves its million and-a-half inhabitants does not stir the emotions of any of the so-called democratic countries, any more than the massacres in Yemen or the repression against Shiites in Bahrain.
There is actually a complex network of capitalist interests and caste privileges deeply rooted for decades for which the only thing that matters is the defense of business and strategic positions against the consequences of social upheavals in the region, and which drives the most aggressive imperialist to brandish their claws and make the masses pay the price for daring to rebel against the “established order”.
In Tunisia, where the much-hoped-for “change” seemed to finally bring new opportunities for work and social life, the media are already talking of “counter-revolution”. In Egypt, the army has always had power firmly in hand, and has pushed back elections to the end of the year; it intervenes to repress demonstrations and has forbidden strikes; to maintain a semblance of popularity, it finally had to organize the trial of Mubarak, and arrest more than 700 police officers too “compromised with the old regime” ... as if the main pillar of this regime was not precisely the army itself!
Rebellion smolders in Algeria, but hasn’t yet exploded, as is shown by recent strikes like that at Air Algeria for a salary increase of over 100%, which was broken after 4 days with dozens of layoffs.
In Morocco, the king has up until now managed to calm the protests with promises of constitutional reform, which however, leave intact the autocratic features of the regime.
In Libya the imperialists who expected a rapid collapse of the regime, can no longer hide the impasse of their military intervention. Despite the continual bombardments (with their share of civilian deaths, carefully ignored by Western media), the tenacious resistance of Gaddafi and the tribes which support him, force them to reconsider the objectives of an operation which, despite all the propaganda about the protection of civilians and the UN mandate, has never been anything other than imperialist military intervention; to try to find a “way out”, Paris and Washington have activated more or less secret relations with emissaries of Tripoli.
In the Persian Gulf, the violent repression of demonstrations in Kuwait and Bahrain has put an end at least temporarily to the revolts that shook the regimes aligned with Saudi Arabia. Same thing with the Sultanate of Oman after the revolts and in the United Arab Emirates which acceded to the Saudi requests to suspend their economic relations with Iran.
In Yemen, where President Saleh is still being treated in Saudi Arabia after his injuries in the attack on the presidential residence, clashes between government and oppositional forces have resumed in the capital. You can count on the “freest” and the most deceitful television network in the Arab world, Al Jazeera, which has managed to multiply its audience and profits during the Arab revolt by multiplying the actual and invented facts, to transform future bloodshed into future global scoops...
The revolts in Arab countries and their consequences have relegated to the background what was happening on the Palestinian front: Fatah and Hamas, united in fear of possible movements inspired by unrest in the Arab world, undertook an agreement to form a “united government” in the prospect of UN recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital. Israel has always opposed such a Palestinian state as it has an agreement between Hamas and Fatah, despite the constant so-called “peace negotiations”, it continued its policy of annexation of Palestinian territories, of repression and apartheid, without hesitating to sometimes get in the face of its American sponsors who increasingly are looking for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians (naturally at the expense of the latter, ground down for decades).
If the situation in Palestine has not at all improved for the masses, in neighboring Jordan, King Abdullah appears to have managed to calm the discontent manifested every Friday after prayers since the beginning of the year by promising electoral reform, measures against corruption and a general amnesty for political prisoners. That did not stop the multitudes from attacking a school that the king was visiting last June in the town of Tafileh. Tafileh is a city in northern Jordan, near the border with Syria and to the city of Deraa which is one focus of the revolt in Syria.
Media attention is focused on Syria and Libya because they are the two countries of most concern to the imperialists today, but in reality the whole Arab world is experiencing a series of diplomatic, economic, political and military interventions striving for a “normalization” of the situation, but this will not be easy to achieve, not only because of conflicts between the bourgeoisies of the various countries implicated and between internal bourgeois factions which have inevitably increased, but also especially because the movement of the proletariat and the proletarianized masses, shows no signs – after seven months – of disappearing.
The material conditions which have provoked the revolts of the masses in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere, have not only not improved but have rather deteriorated despite the fall of tyrants and promises of reform, political freedom and democracy.
A huge obstacle to the movement of the proletariat and the masses is created by petit-bourgeois illusions in regard to electoral solutions and cosmetic changes in parliamentary and reformist terms spread in profusion by governments, opposition parties and the imperialist powers, but the revolts are demonstrating that the governments of past and present are willing to “change everything so that nothing changes”, that is to say that capitalist power and bourgeois privileges remain intact!
The repression is accompanied by promises of reform, the removal of leaders is accompanied by the maintenance of governments just as corrupt and oppressive as the preceding ones, concessions on freedoms of the press and assembly are coupled with the repression of strikes and demonstrations. For local as well as foreign capitalists, it is necessary to calm the revolts as fast as possible in order to best continue the exploitation and the accumulation of the profits, and too bad if in order to do so, it is necessary to sacrifice Ben Ali, Mubarak, Saleh and tomorrow Bashir El-Assad…
If the proletariat, in Syria and Tunisia, Egypt and everywhere, do not want to continue to be dominated and exploited by capitalism and by the bourgeois authorities who defend it, they must, after having separated their aspirations and their objectives from those of the reformers and democrats, direct their anger and revolt to the struggle for their own real class interests!
These interests will never be protected by other social classes and even less by the bourgeois, who on the contrary, repress and massacre the workers to “convince” them to sacrifice their interests in the name of support for the nation or for democracy.
To have taken the route of street demonstrations and of revolt is an indispensable reaction to decades of misery, of repression and increasingly bestial exploitation, but it is not enough. The proletariat has in its hands a great power that can become omnipotent on condition that it be organized on the basis of class, guided and directed towards class objectives using the methods and means of the class struggle, which are none other than those that are used solely to defend the immediate and future interests of the class.
The world’s media have defined the revolts in the Arab countries as “revolutions”.
But history teaches that revolution is something very different. Revolution is the opposite of democracy, of peaceful protests, of simple changes in government; it is the process by which a class organized around a program that expresses its interests and general goals, engages in armed confrontation with the existing state to win political power and build a new state apparatus capable of achieving the revolutionary objectives.
In bourgeois society, the only revolutionary class is the proletariat, the class of wage laborers, because it is the only class that has nothing to defend in this society where it is exploited to produce the profits necessary to the functioning of capitalism. To ensure that production, the minority which constitutes the bourgeoisie oppresses the majority of the population: the proletariat, poor peasants, etc.; in addition to the exploitation of labor power, the capitalist system produces poverty, unemployment, hunger, social degeneration, devastation of the environment, war!
This is not a just characteristic of poor countries, but the constant feature of capitalism in all countries. And that is why the workers in Tunisia are not only the class brothers of proletarians of the Arab States, Egypt or Syria, but the class brothers of proletarians around the world.
The emancipation of the proletariat from capitalist exploitation, wage slavery, will be neither easy nor the automatic result of the revolt of the masses against the atrocities of bourgeois power. History teaches that this is a war, a class war that must be carefully prepared because the bourgeoisie uses all means to defend its dominance: military force, political force, religious force, the power of propaganda, i.e. – lies, deception, blackmail. The economic dictatorship of Capital needs a correspondence on the political level and this is why in all the countries the bourgeoisie tends to militarize society, to continuously intensify social authoritarianism and the existing “despotism of the factory”.
The proletariat will be only able to be defend itself against this formidable pressure by having already organized itself to defend itself against the attacks by the dominant class, before then being able to pass to the attack against bourgeois political power in order to revolutionize society from top to bottom. It will have and be able to count on three basic elements: its class organizations for immediate defense, its internationalism and its political party which incarnates the historical consciousness of its general goals and which assumes the task of leading its revolutionary struggle.
The proletarians of Arab countries who have for months experienced a situation of great social unrest, have yet to reach a classist political maturity sufficient to indicate to the proletariat of capitalist countries the way forward to find the terrain of revolutionary class struggle . But the shocks that have rocked the Arab countries have also caused an increase in emigration, particularly to Europe, proletarians fleeing misery, repression, hunger and war, and they bring with them a load of social anger accumulated in their countries of origin which will eventually contaminate the slumbering European proletariat. These proletarians have a rich experience of revolutionary and class struggle, but decades of reformism and class collaboration have made them forget.
We do not know if a period of very serious economic and social crisis will break out soon in the big capitalist countries, pushing the workers on the path of rebellion, as was the case in the Arab countries in recent months; we do not know if the Welfare State, which is the material basis of political and trade union collaborationism, will need to be completely destroyed for the workers of the big capitalist countries to remember their old class traditions and their old class combat..
But what is certain, is that in the economic sub-stratum, including in the most powerful capitalist countries, there is an accumulation of contradictions and tensions which will inevitably explode the various mechanisms put in place by bourgeois democracy to control and contain outbreaks of struggle, in this or that factory, this or that industry, or this or that country.
Then the alternative will be: to die for the capitalists, of hunger, misery or in imperialist war, or to engage in the fight to the death against the established order, the real enemy of the proletarians of all countries, the bourgeois class and its State.
Only the class struggle of the proletariat can open a perspective that the bourgeoisie can never possibly offer, that of their emancipation!
July 20th 2011
International Communist Party