Egyptian Revolution – Harbinger of a revolutionary transformation in the Middle East
In developments of great magnitude, wrote Marx, “Twenty years are no more than a day – though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embodied” (‘Letter to Engels’, 9 April 1863).
The current revolutionary struggles in Tunisia and Egypt furnish yet more proof of the correctness of the above profound observation. Tunisia, as late as the beginning of December last year, and Egypt until only the 25th of January, presented an outward image of calm serenity. These dictatorial regimes felt secure, and the masses gave the appearance of having reconciled themselves to their fate under their suffocating dispensation.
The movement of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples for truly democratic revolutionary regimes, their resistance against the dictatorship of the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) of Ben Ali in Tunisia, and the National Democratic Party of Mubarak in Egypt, had a near-subterranean existence for 23 years in Tunisia and nearly 3 decades in Egypt.
These two regimes were notorious for the application of brutality and medieval torture in their attempts to crush all opposition and destroy physically, morally and intellectually all those who presented the slightest danger to them. Torture, beatings, show trials and imprisonment have been the lot of the opponents of these regimes. All political, trade-union, progressive thought or cultural manifestation have been repressed. Opponents of these regimes, from communists to the Islamists, have been subjected to harsh repression.
In the economic sphere, these regimes, while allowing imperialist corporations and the local agents of imperialism to grab the people’s wealth, imposed unbearable burdens on the working class and broad masses, thus arousing discontent and resentment among vast swathes of Egyptian and Tunisian society.
These two regimes have been notorious for cronyism and a byword for corruption, which has penetrated every corner of society at all levels, from the lowest state functionaries to the highest echelons of the state apparatus. Although nominally they maintained a democratic façade, with the trappings of elections, which were rigged affairs, in practice they were single-party states backed by thuggish police and paramilitary forces.
Just as the Ben Ali dictatorship was, so was the Mubarak dictatorship, an amalgam of internal suppression and imperialist support. For years, their imperialist backers armed them and gave them political support. They were portrayed as guarantors of ‘stability’, ‘fighters against Islamic fundamentalism’, and advertised as shining examples of ‘modernisation’. As a matter of fact, they were part of a string of states – from Israel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt – nurtured and supported by imperialism in the interests of its domination of the region and the extraction of maximum profit. In the case of Egypt, US imperialism funded its military to the tune of $1.3bn a year to keep it in the imperialist fold and act as a surrogate for US imperialism and Israeli Zionism, through the containment of the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation. By extension, this unholy alliance was aimed at the suppression of the wider struggle of the Arab peoples against imperialist brigandage and predatory wars in the region.
It was in these conditions, then, that all of a sudden, as it were, events unfolded with exceptional speed, as resistance to these thoroughly corrupt and brutally repressive regimes burst through to the surface. No one – neither these regimes nor their opponents, neither locals nor foreigners – had the faintest idea that these seemingly impregnable regimes, which had stifled and repressed the masses for so long and ruled over them with a rod of iron, were so brittle and vulnerable.
The regime in Tunisia began to unravel on Friday 17 December 2010 when Mohammed Bouazizi, a young man from a village in central Tunisia, set himself on fire following the police refusal to let him sell fruit and vegetables without a permit and their confiscation of his stall. The news of his self immolation spread to other towns and cities of Tunisia like wildfire. Mohammed’s suicide in protest against unemployment soon turned into a veritable revolt against exclusion, grinding poverty, as well as the Ben Ali regime’s shameless exploitation, corruption, injustice and tyranny.
Ben Ali’s regime attempted to crush the Tunisian people’s uprising through a mixture of disinformation and brutal repression, with the police firing on, and killing, demonstrators.
This attempt at crushing the revolt met with total failure. Its effect, on the contrary, was to give impetus to the rolling uprising and help it spread to all parts of the country, turning what had begun as a protest against poverty and unemployment into a political movement for freedom and power through the overthrow of the Ben Ali clique.
Faced with the determined resistance of the masses, Ben Ali, the threatening bully of the early days of the revolt, quickly became a pale, quivering old man, pleading with the masses in his televised addresses to be allowed to stay in his position a little longer – first for 3 years, then for just 6 months. Each time the Tunisian masses thundered in response: ‘Not a day longer’.
In the end Ben Ali and his wife Leila fled the country in the dead of night on 14 January 2011, carrying with them £35 million in gold, finding refuge in Saudi Arabia.
The reverberations of the Tunisian revolution have since then spread across the entire Arab world. A sense of euphoria pervades the masses at this first successful attempt in an Arab country at overthrow of a despotic ruler by the popular masses without foreign intervention or a coup d’état. While the Tunisian events have brought joy to the Arab street, they have stunned their reactionary rulers and brought them face to face with their worst nightmare. They are petrified at the thought of the Tunisian disease infecting their subjects.
This infection, however, cannot be stopped. Following the Tunisian events huge demonstrations broke out in Sanaa (Yemen), Jordan, Algeria and Mauritania. There have been copycat acts of self-immolation in Mauritania, Algeria and Egypt.
Eighteen days that shook Egypt
Most important of all, on Tuesday 25 January, inspired by the Tunisian revolution, tens of thousands of protesters seized control of parts of Cairo and mass protests broke out in Alexandria, Suez, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura and Tanta, the southern cities of Aswan and Assuit, and the rural Nile village of Mahalla, a centre of political and labour activism. The demonstrators defied tear gas, water cannon, batons and live ammunition used by hundreds of thousands of brutal and thuggish police officers employed by the regime to disperse the demonstrators. But, the protesters took control of Tahrir Square, close to parliament, threw stones at the police, chased them down the streets and, in one case, commandeered an armoured vehicle. In the continuing demonstrations, the police, numbering more than 350,000, were forced to withdraw from the cities.
The following day (26 January), the protests spread to many more cities and villages across Egypt. Alarmed by the speed of the spread of the revolt, on 27 January, the regime shut down internet access and blocked the social site Twitter, suffering from the delusion that but for the existence of the latest telecommunications technology there would have been no Egyptian revolt, forgetting that there are deep causes driving this unstoppable momentum of millions of people across the whole of Egypt against a thoroughly corrupt, repressive and exploitative system which, while providing fabulous wealth and luxury to a small coteries, left the vast masses languishing in misery, squalor, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and a life of extreme degradation.
Not just the Mubarak regime, many more people of all political persuasions, have a misplaced faith in the miraculous power of the internet and social networking sites to conjure up revolutions, or counter revolutionary in some cases, out of thin air. Undoubtedly, the net, Facebook and Twitter facilitate mobilisation through instant flow of information, but they cannot create the conditions, the deep and profound underlying causes, which force people to come out in millions to give vent to their anger and frustration, built and suppressed over decades.
In this regard, one cannot but agree with the following observation of Gideon Rachman: “… The commentary about the role of social media in Egypt has become so breathless that it is easy to forget that the French managed to storm the Bastille without the help of Twitter – and the Bolsheviks took the Winter Palace without pausing to post photos of each other on Facebook. The Egyptian revolution was driven, not just by the internet, but by the same forces that have sparked revolutions throughout the ages: hatred of a corrupt autocracy and its secret police; the frustrations of a rising middle class; the desperation of the poor. The Facebook class – the young, educated and articulate demonstrators who became the international face of the revolution – are just one social strand in Egypt” (‘Reflections on the Egypt’s ‘Facebook Revolution’’, Financial Times, 16 February 2011).
Closing access to the internet did not avail the Egyptian regime, for the following day (Friday, 28 January), dubbed the “day of rage”, witnessed massive demonstrations, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to Tahrir (liberation) Square. The regime’s police made indiscriminate use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other instruments of mass repression, all made in the US, to control the crowd, but failed miserably. Overwhelmed by the masses, the police melted away and the Square became the property of the revolutionary masses, who set fire to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and several police stations.
The regime responded to these massive protests with a dual policy of carrot and stick. On the one hand, Mubarak named his intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as his vice-president – the first such appointment since 1981 – and dismissed his cabinet, concessions which were too little, and too late, and which, far from pacifying, only provoked greater fury on the part of the masses. On the other hand, the authorities tried to frighten people away from the revolt by taking some unconventional steps. The regime presented the people of Cairo with a nasty surprise on 29 January, when they woke up that day to find not a single police officer in sight in a metropolis of 15 million people. At the same time, it emptied its jails of all criminals, who by the evening took to the streets. However, the tactic failed, for the people, instead of being frightened, took matters in their own hands, forming defence committees to patrol their community, armed with weapons ranging from kitchen knives, golf clubs, steel bars and sticks to guns.
On Monday 31st, while Mubarak announced the appointment of a new cabinet and the army pledged not to use force against the protesters, the youth in Tahrir Square were busy planning a “million man march” for the following day. The masses replied to this call enthusiastically, with gigantic crowds creating a human chain stretching many miles across bridges and streets, circumventing burnt-out police vehicles and squeezing past army tanks, they entered the Square. Young and old, including entire families with children, from all creeds and strata of society, they linked arms, flew flags and chanted “Go, Go” and “Down Mubarak”.
“I wanted to be one of the million”, said Hala Haddara, a middle-class mother joining the protests for the first time in her life.
The army simply watched, as the calls for Mubarak to quit reached a crescendo. His reply was to make a televised broadcast, saying he did not intend to run for the presidency coming September, while speaking in desperate tones of his love for Egypt and his decades of service. Again, his concession proved too little, too late. What is more, it was totally insincere, as the following day (Wednesday 2 February) he sent tens of thousands of paid thugs and police in civilian clothes who laid violently into the protestors. At one point a group of men on horses and camels charged into the Square brandishing whips. But the protesters persisted, with scores returning to the battle ground several times during the day after being treated for injuries by doctors in makeshift clinics.
The violent confrontation continued into Thursday, 3 February, with the regime unleashing a crackdown on journalists and human rights activists to the accompaniment of the accusations by the state media that foreigners were instigating and inciting protests. In the face of determined resistance by the people, by Thursday nightfall the pro-Mubarak thugs had disappeared.
After prayers on Friday (4 February), dubbed the “day of departure”, huge crowds gathered in Tahrir Square, giving not the slightest hint of letting up the pressure on the regime. Then followed a couple days of relative calm – the lull before the storm.
Over the weekend of 5-6 February, Suleiman held talks with the opposition, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, while the entire leadership of the NDP, including Gamal, the president’s son and presumptive successor, resigned.
By Monday, 7 February, people had lost all trust in the regime’s promises and settled down for a long haul in Tahrir Square, with one youth calling it “the independent republic of Tahrir Square”. While 8 February saw one of the biggest gatherings since that start of the revolution, by 9 February a wave of strikes and protests swept the country, putting paid to the delusions of the regime to cling on to power.
Strikes by workers played a crucial role in deposing the Mubarak regime. While the rest of the world was glued to television sets, riveted by the young “internet generation” protesting in massive numbers in Tahrir Square, two dozen labour leaders, including the veteran labour leader Hamdi Hassein, were using their mobile phones to plan a series of nationwide strikes and sit-ins. Sewage, electricity, pharmaceutical, social insurance, oil, coal, flour mill, transport and textile workers joined many others to oust Mubarak.
In the days preceding Mubarak’s deposition, workers had lost all fear of repression and struck in crucial sectors, including the Suez Canal operations. Just one day before Mubarak finally stepped down, about 3,000 workers at a support facility for ships navigating through the Suez Canal, made demands for better wages and changes in management. With tourism already brought to a halt because of the revolutionary developments, the Egyptian military was only too well aware that it could not afford to lose the operations of the Canal, the third largest source of the country’s income after tourism and remittances from abroad.
Strike action by the Egyptian proletariat proved to be the final proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, helping to concentrate the military’s mind and making it realise that there would be no end to protests as long as Mubarak remained in power.
On Thursday, 10 February, the army made a televised statement that it had met in support of the people’s “legitimate rights” – a euphemism for transfer of power. When the state media reported that Mubarak would address the nation the same evening, Tahrir Square was a buzz with anticipation. However, the excitement turned into fury when it became clear that Mubarak was determined to stay as President. His concession that he was transferring his power to his newly-appointed deputy, Omar Suleiman, was once again too little, too late.
The protesters, grieved by the deaths of several hundred of their comrades, and hardened by their collective struggle during more than two weeks of trying times, felt that they were being mocked, abused and insulted by the regime. They prepared for an even greater show of force the following day (11 February). “There is no more place in Tahrir Square”, joked Mohamed Khairy, explaining why he and thousands of others had gathered outside the headquarters of state television.
In view of the massive show of strength on the part of the revolutionary masses, the writing was clearly on the wall. Shortly after evening prayers, Suleiman made a brief statement that Mubarak was resigning and the army assuming control. Immediately following his statement, the crowds in Tahrir Square, as well as in several other towns and cities of Egypt, erupted with jubilation and ululations. Celebrations continued into the night, overflowing into surrounding streets. Army tanks became climbing frames for children, many of whom were warmly hugged by soldiers.
The morning after (Saturday 12 February), tens of thousands of overjoyed people continued to flock to Tahrir Square with a sense of real achievement and national pride – which had been absent from Egyptian life for over three decades. “Lift you head, you are Egyptian”, chanted the jubilant crowds of young people. They expressed their determination to return to the Square every Friday till all their demands are met, some wearing on their pullovers the sign: “Sorry for the disturbance”, “We are building Egypt”.
HMC takes over
As Mubarak’s resignation was announced, and he departed for his palace in Sharm-al-Sheikh, the Higher Military Council (HMC), with the defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and Chief of Staff, Lt. General Sami Hafez Enan, at its head, assumed the reins of power as the self-appointed midwife of change. On 13 February, the HMC suspended the old constitution and dissolved the rigged parliament, thus meeting two of the demands made by the protesters. The old constitution was simply a tool for keeping in power a tiny élite of corrupt oligarchs drawn from the higher ranks of the armed forces and thieves who passed for businessmen in Mubarak’s Egypt. A panel has been set up to amend this constitution, to be followed by a referendum on it and elections – parliamentary and presidential – coming September. The emergency laws, in operation since 1981, continue to be in place, political prisoners continue to languish behind bars, with the possibility that they are still being subjected to harsh treatment, if not torture. The demand of the protesters for a presidential council and a transitional government has been ignored, while the existing cabinet, hand-picked by Mubarak, has been maintained as a caretaker administration. This cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, held its first meeting on 13 February in the aftermath of Mubarak’s departure.
Thus, as things stand, it would appear that, while Mubarak is gone, the system he headed is very much in existence. Those who are the target of the Egyptian people’s revolutionary endeavours – the army high command, the corrupt plutocrats, as well as their imperialist masters, especially the US – will strain every sinew to keep the Mubarak regime without Mubarak in situ, thus defrauding the Egyptian people of their revolutionary gains. This is the danger that faces the masses – a danger of which they cannot but be fully cognisant.
We are confident that the Egyptian people will not allow such an outcome, for they are mobilised in their millions, and the army high command, as has been shown since 25 January, is not sure of its ability to use the common soldiery for the suppression of a popular revolutionary movement of the dimensions that has unfolded in Egypt following the revolutionary overthrow of the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia. Any attempt by the HMC to drown the Egyptian revolution in blood could well end up in splitting the army, and thus deliver a large ready-made and well-trained force of professional soldiers into the hands of the revolutionaries. This is not a scenario that the HMC can be expected to entertain with relish.
With Mubarak’s exit, while Tahrir Square has become quieter and the number of protesters declined, the labour movement has only been emboldened, with demonstrations, protests and strikes coming from the most unexpected of quarters, including police and tourism guides. On 12 February, Alexandria witnessed an unprecedented demonstration by scores of lower-ranking police officers and members of the plain-clothes secret police, hitherto the nervous system of the regime, against their commanders, demanding “real pay for police for real protection and real security”. In the following two days, the police protests had spread to Cairo.
Mohammed Fathy, a labour activist in El Mahalla, said that even if many workers temporarily heed government calls for restraint, after a brief interlude labour demands would accelerate. “As long as our grievances are not met”, he said “we will rise up again”.
Hamdi Hussein, the textile industry organiser, said that he had been approached by large numbers of pensioners seeking help in organising protests against abysmally low pensions. “We are trying to calm them down”, he said, “ … but if the government doesn’t find sources such as confiscating money of the corrupt symbols of the former regime or through disbanding the costly and now unneeded anti-riot police force, workers will be joined by pensioners.”
He continued: “This is a revolution. A revolution means change. Workers will continue to strike and act until change means that they have enough to feed themselves and feed their kids” (‘Labour activists’ newfound empowerment startles interim government’, Emad Mekay, International Herald Tribune, 16 February 2011).
Only time, and further developments, will tell how far the Egyptian people’s revolution succeeds in its aims. Several things, however, are already clear, indicating the tangible achievements of this great upheaval.
Recovery of national pride
First, by ousting Mubarak, the Egyptian people have said farewell to three decades of stagnation, political degradation, abject subservience to US imperialism, and humiliating and treacherous collaboration with Zionism in the latter’s continuing attempts to snuff out the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli occupation and for national liberation that were the hallmark of the Mubarak regime. During the three decades of his emergency rule, the country was handed over to a kleptocratic coterie, which enriched itself at the expense of the masses, flouted its wealth, built grandiose mansions in the desert outside Cairo and along the country’s coastline, drove brand-new Mercedes and other expensive cars through Cairo streets with police escorts, while the workers struggled to put food on the table doing two or more jobs. All political life was monopolised during these dark decades by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which was merely a small collection of individual, financial and military interests, masquerading as a political organisation. On Mubarak’s watch, Egypt registered a precipitate decline economically, diplomatically and culturally, with self-loathing and despondency gripping the nation. His regime laid waste to institutional and political life. While maintaining the façade of democracy and the trappings of periodically held elections, the rigged Egyptian parliament became a rubber stamp for the ruling society of thieves, while opposition parties groaned under the weight of restrictions and repression, with military trials, imprisonment and torture as instruments of rule.
Mubarak and his cronies stole big time and stashed their loot in foreign banks. Mubarak himself secreted away billions into difficult to trace secret accounts with foreign banks. Some of his loot is tied up in investments, bullion and properties in London, New York, Paris and Beverly Hills. This in a country 20 per cent of whose people live below the poverty line, 40 per cent live on less than $2 a day, and most of whose population has got poorer over the past thirty years.
By rising up, fighting with grim determination, defying the curfew, beating back the hired thugs of the Mubarak regime, and overthrowing Mubarak, the Egyptian people have regained their honour and self-respect. Right now Egypt is experiencing an explosion of national pride, not seen since the 1950s and 1960s. All sections of society, from lawyers and doctors to textile and other workers, rose against the hated Mubarak regime, as did all shades of political opinion, from leftists, socialists and liberals to Islamists and Christians.
In the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation, the sight of a veritable army of volunteers, cleaning Tahrir Square was truly spectacular, their brooms symbolising not just the sweeping of the debris in the Square but, more significantly, the sweeping away of the filth that was the Mubarak dictatorship, showing how a revolutionary people can assume civic responsibility and get on with their tasks without much fuss and without being ordered about by some petty despot.
The power of the masses was reflected even in the official media, which changed its tone quickly after Mubarak’s resignation. “The people overthrew the regime”, read the headline in the government’s mouthpiece, Al Ahram, borrowing the slogan of the protesters. Another article noted that Switzerland had frozen Mubarak’s assets, as well as those of his aids. One state television announcer referred to the “Youth Revolution”.
Corruption investigations have been initiated against several cabinet officials, including the former prime minister, former interior minister and former ministers of tourism, housing and trade and industry, all of whom have been banned from travelling abroad, according to state television news.
A blow to imperialist system of domination
Second, the ramifications of the Egyptian Revolution are far greater than those of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. If Tunisia blasted a gaping hole in the widely-held view that Arab autocracies, through a combination of military repression, security services and imperialist support, had somehow become impregnable and immune from revolutionary upheavals, the Egyptian Revolution has dropped a gigantic boulder into the stagnant waters of Arab despotism and medievalism. Its reinvigorating potential will doubtless keep the feudal relics of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf statelets awake at night. It has left them, as well as their imperialist masters, dumbstruck.
Arabs will no longer be spectators, no longer the objects of history. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have announced the tumultuous arrival of the Arab masses on the stage of world politics as makers of history. Neither bribes, nor batons and bullets, can any longer stand in the way of the forward march of the Arab people for democracy and social advance.
With its dignity restored and freedom within grasp, Egypt has emerged as an active, decisive player in the affairs of the Middle East. No longer will imperialism and its Zionist surrogates be able to count on corrupt, repressive, medieval rulers and army strongmen to put a lid on their people’s hatred of Zionism and its abominable treatment of the Palestinian people.
“This miraculous event has taken away the breath of two worlds: the west and the Islamic world”, said Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution – an event to which all the major protagonists are hastily trying to adjust.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the 1922 Middle East settlement, put together by Britain and France on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and against the backdrop of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, has at long last been brought to an end. An artificially created regional order for ensuring colonial and imperialist dominance over the Middle East has crumbled. The puppet élites and monarchies, conjured up by the leading imperialist powers from nowhere, never were representatives of their people and, with the passage of time and the vast transformation undergone by the region since, increasingly became anachronisms. It is now impossible to bridge the disconnect between these autocratic regimes and their people through the existing patchwork.
Although the revolutionary masses of Egypt have thus far discreetly avoided overt anti-Americanism, it can hardly be doubted that the groundswell of public sentiment in Egypt is arrayed against the country’s shameful alliance with the US and Israel. Egyptians are longing to escape from the shame of this suffocating alliance and occupy their rightful place in the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist front of the Arab peoples.
It is unthinkable that a democratically elected government of Egypt will be willing to continue the security alliance with Israel that Mubarak had instituted. That being the case, Egypt will no longer be able to continue its collaboration with Israel in maintaining the cruel blockade of Gaza; in the absence of such collaboration, all Zionist attempts to continue the imprisonment of the people of Gaza, to bring its people to heel through the rope of starvation, must collapse.
Nor will a democratically elected government be able to continue the Mubarak regime’s humiliating practice of sharing intelligence with Israel.
Although the Higher Military Council has declared that it will honour existing international treaties, in the absence of active Egyptian collaboration with Israel and US imperialism, the substance of the Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel would be rendered obsolete. Egypt under a new democratic government is only too likely to resume its role as the champion of the national rights of the Palestinian people. One of the fallouts of such developments would be a boost to the stature of all those Palestinian political organisations, including Hamas, which stand for continued resistance to Zionist colonialism, and a further undermining of Mahmoud Abbas and his coterie, already much weakened through their collaboration with Zionism and US imperialism, particularly following the recent WikiLeaks disclosures of their shameful surrender to the demands of Israel and the US over a decade (more on this elsewhere in this issue).
In short, the replacement of the Mubarak dictatorship by a democratic government, in tune with the Egyptian people, cannot but end up in the total isolation of the racist Zionist state of Israel in the region. As a result, the imperialist strategy of creating a string of puppet regimes to ensure its control and domination of the region is facing imminent destruction, as is the US-Israeli plan to create an alliance of reactionary states for the containment of Iran.
Iran’s rise, already under way since the beginning of the US-led imperialist predatory war against Iraq, and the crushing defeats suffered by imperialist armies in that country, as well as in Afghanistan, is now guaranteed by the success of the Egyptian Revolution, which has fired up the imagination of the Arab masses. There are increasingly no takers in the Arab world of the anti-Iranian US and Israeli narrative. US, Israel and the despicable Arab monarchies and autocracies are working overtime to manage and contain the aspirations of the Arab masses. That they will not succeed in this nefarious endeavour is the great lesson of the Tunisian and Egyptian tsunamis that have hit the reactionary camp led by US imperialism. No longer is it possible to keep down the Arab masses and subject them to a state of benighted existence. The masses have given living proof that they can defy state terror and win – a lesson that is bound to revolutionise the Arab world and beyond.
The US is scared out of its wits that the revolutionary wave may spread to its other client states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen, when it would rather have liked a ‘colour revolution’ in Iran. There is plenty of evidence that the US is orchestrating efforts to stoke up opposition to the regime in Iran, but without appreciable success so far. Far from succeeding, the US is becoming increasingly irrelevant as the masses of the region do not trust it. In fact the US is much hated in the entire Arab world – a fact which was revealed in Pew Global Attitudes survey last year. In Palestine, Hamas is on the rise; in Lebanon, the nationalist liberation movement headed by Hizbollah has just wrested control from the stooge Saad Hariri government, brought into power by the US-managed ‘Cedar revolution’ of 2005, which saw the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon; in Iraq, seven whole months after the election, the deadlock over the formation of the government could only be broken through the mediation of Iran.
Spread of the revolution
Finally, the revolutionary tide has spread to Yemen and Bahrain, is beginning to affect Jordan, and may engulf Saudi Arabia, sooner than most people realise. On Thursday, 17 February, Bahrain’s military launched a night raid on pro-democracy protesters occupying the Pearl roundabout in the centre of Manama, the capital, killing three people. This heavy-handed crackdown with teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition was aimed at forcing hundreds of people, including women and children, to vacate the Pearl roundabout, since dubbed “Martyrs Square”. By its brutal act of suppression, the ruling al-Khalifa family has transformed a several decades old movement for a constitutional monarchy into an insurrectionary forces determined to change the regime.
Bahrain, hosting as it does the US Fifth Fleet, provides a base for American deployment in the Gulf; 4,200 US servicemen are stationed in Manama. The ruling family rules through political repression, a parliament without power, corruption and discrimination against two-thirds of the population who are Shias. In addition to discrimination in jobs, housing, land, basic infrastructure and political representation, the Shias are subjected to a cynical attempt by the regime to tip the demographic balance in favour of the ruling Sunni minority through the import of foreign policemen to man the security services and fast-tracking them to citizenship. The al-Khalifa family are one of the most trusted stooges of the US; therefore, the loss of Bahrain will be yet another blow against US imperialist domination. This blow is about to be struck.
In Jordan, King Abdullah has sacked his entire cabinet and called for the formation of a new government, with the mandate to implement reforms. This act is unlikely to satisfy the Jordanian masses.
In Yemen, continuing protests have forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to promise that he won’t run for the 2013 presidential election, nor would his son Ahmed. The opposition, not satisfied with this concession, is continuing its protests to oblige him to step down immediately. Given the strength of the opposition, the three insurgencies in the country, and the bleak economic conditions prevailing, it is on the cards that Saleh’s days are numbered.
In the light of these developments, the US administration must be asking the question: what if Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, one of the biggest buyers of US and other imperialist countries’ armaments, and one of the pillars of US strategy in the area, were to fall? And fall it must. Out of a total population of 19 million, nearly two-thirds are between the age of 15 and 30; notwithstanding the country’s vast oil wealth, they have not been the beneficiaries of it.
Rising inflation and unemployment, which officially stands at 10 per cent of the workforce, are hurting large numbers of poor people. Vast layers of Saudi society are resentful of monumental corruption in high places, the gap between rich and poor, tyranny and lack of popular participation on top of all this, they feel humiliated by the Saudi feudal ruling clique’s collaboration with US imperialism and Israeli Zionism – a collaboration directed against the anti-imperialist national democratic struggle of the Arab people, especially the Palestinian people. It is this sense of resentment, anger and humiliation which explains why so many of the 9/11 bombers were Saudi nationals, many of them from well-connected backgrounds.
There are nine million expatriates working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who have absolutely no civil, political or democratic rights. They have been brought there as a matter of deliberate policy of the regime in an effort to prevent the development of an indigenous proletariat. This, however, cannot go on much longer, as capitalism is making serious inroads into Saudi society and undermining its feudal foundations. Besides, the increasing number of Saudi jobless is bound to compel the ruling family to provide greater opportunities for the young, with all its entailing consequences. It is only a question of when, not if, the Saudi regime implodes, removing the last of the Arab reactionary pillars supporting US imperialism.
The US leadership in the region has up to now rested on a close partnership with Israel and strong relations with the leaders of Egypt and the feudal rulers of Saudi Arabia. No wonder, then, that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pleaded so vehemently with US President Barrack Obama to back Mubarak in the days leading to his removal. The removal of Mubarak has brought down one of the pillars of this edifice; it is difficult to believe anything similar replacing it. This leaves Israel and Saudi Arabia, the two most counter-revolutionary regimes in the area, as being the staunchest US allies. Such a reactionary alliance cannot fail to become a target of the wrath of scores of millions of Arab peoples by removing as it surely will the figleaf of democratic rhetoric with which US imperialism and Israeli Zionism attempts to accomplish their counter-revolutionary aims.
Seeing the writing on the wall, imperialist statesmen and media have changed their tune, almost giving the impression of supporting the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, partly to hide imperialism’s dirty role in providing support to these two dictatorships while blabbering about human rights and democracy, and partly in the hope of influencing future Tunisian and Egyptian developments in a direction favourable to imperialist interests.
Every attempt is being made by imperialism and its Tunisian and Egyptian agents to steal the people’s revolutions. It is very much to be hoped that the masses of these countries, seeing through these schemes, will be successful in smashing these plots, and in installing revolutionary democratic and genuinely anti-imperialist regimes – regimes that are able to attend to the problems of their own people. We wish them well!