Long time in the making! Long time suffering poverty, inequality, official murder-torture-imprisonment, despotism, fundamentalism, and governments lackeyed to US/Western powers.
I am no expert on Arabic/Middle East history or politics, other than knowing that US/Israel-led imperialism has had a grip on the entire area for decades, and before that there were other foreign oppressors. I know that in part of the Arab world—so far not involved in this uproar—the US-led “humanitarian” operation has cost over one million Iraqi lives, created millions of refugees, tortured tens of thousands and destroyed incalculable cultural wealth and history. European allies assisted in this butchery. Something similar is occurring in Afghanistan, and extending into Pakistan.
Wikileaks’ disclosure of US Embassy cables from Tunisia—posted in the British Guardian, December 7, 2010 and January 28, 2011—show how duplicitous and corrupt all US governments have been in their relations with the Ben Ali family government over the past two decades.
The US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, wrote in one leaked memo dated July 17, 2009, that the Ben Ali regime is: “sclerotic;” and that “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.”
Yet at the same time, Godec expressed the need to continue supporting this regime because, “The government is like-minded on Iran, is an ally in the fight against terrorism…the US Mission has, for the past three years, [responded] by offering greater cooperation…notably in the commercial and military assistance areas.”
The US government similarly supports Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, making the country second only to Israel in US military aid.
Most shamefully, a number of Arabic governments have aided and abetted the US in its “war against terrorism.” Egypt, and Tunisia—where the courageous uproar began a month ago—have been among them. Now, in some of those countries—Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon—many thousands of people are supporting the Tunisian people, and are making their own similar demands.
Will this lead to revolution, to socialism, as a rejection of misery under capitalism? Marxist analysis of what it takes before a socialist revolution can break out and grow entails two aspects. First, objective conditions must be present: too much poverty, exploitation and oppression to ignore; plus a sufficiently high level of technology or industrial development, and acutely antagonistic productive relations.
The second condition is subjective: a significant number, perhaps a majority, of the most productive and exploited industrial workers (perhaps also a significant number of tenant farmers, farm laborers and small peasants), must be conscious of their position as exploited, and must be angry enough to take up the call for revolt. The revolt against oppressors that appears to be occurring now in some Arabic nations is a good indication that a huge percentage of these populations are ready subjectively. Many have been murdered, thousands more arrested, yet they persist, especially in Tunisia and Egypt.
(Iraq, also an Arab nation, has not thus far joined in the rebellion. Most of its people have been too brutalized by the US invasion and occupation, and by their complicit string of puppet governments, supported by the Persian neighbor, Iran, to come into the streets. But, I suggest that many, in their hearts, stand beside their Arab brothers and sisters in struggle. Time may yet see them rise up too. Less likely, is an uprising in Saudi Arabia, where the US-backed multi-billionaire government leaders rule with an iron fist.)
The objective material factors for Tunisia and Egypt are, in large part, present as well. Is there an advanced working class? I do not know. Are the workers antagonistic enough towards their bosses and do they know that? I’d say yes.
I do not claim to be an oracle. I wish merely to rid us of illusions. It will take more than what is occurring now to defeat not only the national oligarchies and their armies and police forces well-equipped with US-French-British armaments, but also the very Empire that waits in nearby skies and waters for the signal to move in if all else fails. The people are not well enough armed for that.
Nevertheless, I am encouraged by a sense of pan-Arabic unity, a sense that they are all one, regardless of the state. I do not see, however, in many of these areas, that the people are well organized, that they have their own parties or unions prepared to lead with sagacity, or to lead at all. There is great spontaneity and determination. All to the good! But people never win over the oppressors unless they have organizations that can formulate policy and provide direction.
In Tunisia, however, I see a positive development, with the January 14th Front forces involved in the revolt. The eight organizations and political parties forming that front, several illegal and operating underground, gathered into a united front on the day that the dictator fled the country. They propose 14 points to move forward, to form a people’s government and change the economic foundations of the state.
Among the key points are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist demands, coupled with democratic and social demands to raise the people out of poverty and exploitation. These include:
- Eliminate all temporary governments that have any relations with the Ben Ali government and party (the RCD).
- Dissolve the existing state apparatus and create an assembly of peoples’ organizations for a new constitutional foundation.
- Eliminate the secret service and the political police.
- Provide jobs, health care, civil and social rights for all.
- Solidarity with all forces for liberation, especially with Palestinians in opposition to Zionism.
Most of you who read this commentary are not in the Arab region. To you I say: we are all brothers and sisters in our common struggle! Take what supportive actions you can and back these people today, and hope that, one day, we will all support one another to build a universe where we are all one free people living with our essential needs met!
Ron Ridenour, who was a co-founder and editor with Dave Lindorff in 1976 of the Los Angeles Vanguard, lives in Denmark. A veteran journalist who has reported in the US and from Venezuela, Cuba and Central America, he has written, Cuba at the Crossroads, Backfire: The CIA's Biggest Burn, and Yankee Sandinistas.