North Africa and the Middle East: Support the revolts and prepare for revolution

A statement from the General Secretary of Revolutionary Initiative (Canada)
February 14, 2011.

When the young Tunisian produce merchat Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze after having his livelihood taken from him by Tunisian authorities, he sparked a rebellion amongst a stratum of youth, students, the urban unemployed, and petty-bourgeois, first in Tunisia and then all across the Arab world. But Bouazizi was himself merely a rallying point, the final trickle of indignation sufficient to allow the fears of Tunisians to be overcome by their yearning for liberation. The Tunisian revolt, followed by the flight of Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, emboldened the Arab masses to emulate Tunisia’s example, igniting all of North Africa and the Middle East in rebellion.

The domestic and international situations that have conditioned these revolts are the depressed economic conditions in most of the Arab world, subordinated as it is to the geopolitical interests and economic dictates of imperialist globalization, which includes the defense of Zionist aggression and expansionism. The protests and rebellions throughout the Middle East – from Tunisia, to Algeria, to Egypt, to Jordan, to Yemen, to Gaza, and beyond – have been triggered by decades of pro-imperialist, feudal, dictatorial, pro-Israel, and bankrupt antipeople policies. As the Arab revolts unfolded, the news outlet al-Jazeera began to release the leaked “Palestine Papers”, thousands of diplomatic documents from the past decade of the Israel-Palestine conflict. A brief glance at only a few of the thousands of documents reveal unequivocally how treachourous and pro-Israeli is the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and the entire Palestinian Authority. These documents have offered the Arab masses and the whole world yet another opportunity to observe how U.S. imperialism, Israel, and comprador ruling classes like Mahmoud Abbas and Co., conspire against the interests of the masses in the geopolitical and economic interests of imperialism.

The sentiments driving the Arab rebellions are shared by hundreds of millions the world over who are just as equally frustrated by the economic policies of imperialist globalization and the corrupt and fascistic regimes necessary to maintain these policies. The significance of these revolts should be neither underestimated, nor overestimated.

First of all, the broad-based urban masses that have revolted all across the Middle East in the opening months of 2011 reveal the profound insurrectionary power of the masses. The Arab revolts have revealed that once a people have overcome their fear, their enthusiasm for revolution is inexhaustible – so long as the way forward remains clear. If the Egyptian masses refused to be bullied and assaulted, repelling every attack and outmaneuvering every attempt by the ruling class and imperialism to retain Mubarak, it is because the immediate way forward was perfectly clear to them: Mubarak had to go. And in time, in the face of the irrepressible will of the Egyptian masses masses, he did.

If the popular classes in the Arab world, as in Egypt, succeed in carving out for themselves greater bourgeois-democratic liberties to prepare for future revolts and revolutionary movements, then they will have forced very important concessions from the domestic ruling classes. But to thoroughly break with the pro-imperialist, pro-Israel policies of semi-colonial regimes of the Arab countries, revolutionary and popular organizations united by a clear program for anti-imperialist new democracy and socialism will be required. These revolts are merely the opening chapters of the protracted revolutionary struggles to follow.

In an interview with Bloomberg.com news program ‘Political Capital’ on February 4, 2011 [before Mubarak’s departure], Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of U.S. imperialism’s shrewdest geopolitical analysts, responded to the question of what Egypt would look like in a year from now (if the U.S. has its way):

“It will look like…Turkey…. But haste makes waste… Mubarak, who was not a bad guy, who has not been a bad president for most of the years, has been there too long… The fact of the matter is that in the region, the attitude of the government and of the elites, towards the United States and towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is more favourable than the attidude of the masses.”

Tell it like it is, Zbigniew: Imperialism, its Zionist allies, and their Arab clients, fear the masses more than anything else. Any democracy controlled by the masses would be completely antagonistic to the “democracy” aspired to by imperialism and all its running dogs. The praise and admiration expressed by Obama on February 11, 2011 after Mubarak stepped down was a thorourghly hollow and disingenuous attempt to shore up some good will from the Arab masses, while assuring the world that the task of the revolution was complete, even though the Army took control. As Obama told the world:

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free … Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change

Yet, the essential confrontations and the most essential ruptures, in Egypt and all across the Middle East, have yet to occur. None of the Arab comprador ruling classes have yet been broken. Everywherem the pseudo-“opposition” forces are maneuvering to reconfigure their regimes to make them sufficiently palatable to the masses, while in essence they remain just as reactionary, comprador, pro-imperialist as they were before the revolts. The imperialists have come to accept that some of these figureheads have to go and they can now be found singing the tunes of “change”, lest these mass rebellions develop into far more menacing developments.

The imperialists’ belated withdrawal of support from their quisling Mubarak is not a sign of support to democracy, but a last-ditch effort to come to terms with his downfall, save face in the eyes of the Egyptian masses, and pacify their resistance. The imperialists and all their running dogs in Egypt recognize the dangers in allowing the masses to experiment with their own versions of democracy. From the perspective of the imperialists, the rebellious experiences that the masses have accumulated in the last few weeks pose serious dangers to the future reconstitution of their control.

Meanwhile, Canadian imperialism has been singing an duplicitous tune for the past few weeks: cautioning the Tunisian and Egyptian masses against violence, later ensuring its support for “democratic transitions”, and finally, warning of the “radical elements” that will take over if Mubarak is toppled too early. On February 6, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon stated that “We expect that any government that will emerge will uphold Egypt’s commitment to…past peace accords and agreements, including with Israel.” And on Friday, February 11, after Mubarak’s departure, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – Israel’s most shameless defender in the whole world – begrudgingly remarked that the Egyptian people were not “going to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one.”

In the West, the corporate press has been consistently invoking the spectre of Islam to scare the masses in the imperialist countries from supporting the Egyptian people. We were told to fear the “power vacuum” that would result from a “disordely” exit of Mubarak, especially with the Muslim Brotherhood set to emerge stronger from the rebellion. But the imperialists have little to fear in the Muslim Brotherhood. On February 6, Mubarak struck a deal with all “opposition” forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to implement reforms that would eventually bring them into the regime. The conspicous absence from the Muslim Brotherhood in the early days of the protests speaks volumes about their political orientation.

As the exiled Egyptian political economist Samir Amin has written:

In case of ‘success’ and ‘elections’, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) will become the major parliamentary force. The US welcomes this and has qualified the MB as ‘moderate’, that is, docile and accepting the submission to the US strategy, leaving Israel free to continue its occupation of Palestine. The MB is also fully in favour of the ongoing ‘market’ system, totally externally dependent. They are also, in fact, partners in the ‘compradore’ ruling class. They took a position against the working-class strikes and the peasants’ struggles to keep their ownership of land.

The US plan for Egypt is very similar to the Pakistani model, a combination of ‘political Islam’ and army intelligence. The MB could compensate their alignment on such a policy by precisely being ‘not moderate’ in their behaviour towards the Copts. Can such a system be delivered a certificate of ‘democracy’?

The movement is that of urban youth, particularly holders of diplomas with no jobs, and supported by segments of the educated middle classes and democrats. The new regime could perhaps make some concessions – enlarge the recruitment in the state apparatus, for example – but hardly more.

Of course things could change if the working-class and peasants’ movement moves in. But this does not seem to be on the agenda.

Indeed, the role of the working-class and the peasantry, at the forefront of the masses, will decide the future course of the rebellions throughout the Middle East. The popular revolts in the Arab world have thoroughly shaken up oppressive regimes, driving ruling cliques into an utter panic. But nowhere as of yet have these rebellions done away with the comprador, pro-imperialist ruling classes that stand behind these regimes. Everywhere popular power is flowering, but nowhere has it overturned social relations and consolidated itself.

The tasks of complete social liberation from imperialism are the tasks of anti-imperialist, new democratic and socialist revolutions, which have as their immediate and long-term goals: (1) The seizure of power from and dispossession of all pro-imperialist forces (compradors, clients, bureucrat capitalists, feudal forces – all the powers that make up these bankrupt social formations); and (2) the maintenance of this power in the face of imperialist aggression and onwards to the transition to socialism. Anything less than this will maintain the position of the most parasitic strata of ruling classes, which by virtue of their class standing have nothing to offer the masses but new forms of capitulation to imperialism and Israel’s regional domination.

All those forces of the Canadian “left” that have rushed to stamp the developments in the Middle East as “Revolution” are at best delusional, if not opportunistic and deceptive. Some of these forces indeed believe that revolutions can be made in such spontaneous ways, underestimating the monumental tasks necessary to defeat imperialism and the social formations that support imperialism in the semi-colonial countries. A tried-and-tested revolutionary leadership, a disciplined people’s army, and a revolutionary united front with a revolutionary proletarian-peasant alliance at its centre – all these are necessary prerequisites for driving forward and consolidating popular revolution in countries similar to those of North Africa and the Middle East. All those forces that are quick to celebrate the ‘Revolution’ when mere cosmetic changes have been made delude themselves more than the masses. The people who continue to fight in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, San’a, Algiers, Gaza, and all throughout the Middle East know full well that they are far from vanquishing their enemies, let alone beating back the crushing economic measures that are their immediate concern. To proclaim as revolutionary the current developments is not only pre-mature, but it also serves only to legitimize the comprador regimes that remain in the wake of the Ben Alis and Mubaraks.

The movements of the people in the Arab world are indeed historic. We salute the masses for their victories and for showing us all the way in popular rebellion. But the masses in the Middle East know better than those outside their countries that there is much to be done in their countries to break from imperialist-imposed neoliberal globalization, and to completely cut links with Israel and throw their full support to the Palestinian cause. But as Lenin remarked when referring to the enthusiasm for the bourgeois democratic movements developing in the colonial countries of his own day, let us in the imperialist countries not dress up these movements in “communist colours”.

For our part, as revolutionaries in Canada we must continue to expose and oppose the pretensions and designs of Canadian imperialism by building up the anti-imperialist movement in Canada, and more importantly, uniting a proletarian revolutionary leadership to lead the masses in the revolutionary struggle here. This task, like the anti-imperialist and revolutionary struggles in the Arab world, will not sweep away all reactionaries in one fine night. But as we build the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries, and as the oppressed countries struggle to wrest themselves from the clutches of imperialism, further aggravating the crisis of imperialism on a world scale and in Canada, the developing revolutionary situations will continue to mature in the imperialist centres. Let’s resolve ourselves for the tasks ahead!

Advance the revolutions of the Arab masses,
Confront and defeat imperialism in the Middle East, including Israeli expansionism, and
Build the revolutionary movements in the imperialist centres!

“The future is bright, but the road is tortuous” – Mao Tse-Tung

General Secretary,
Revolutionary Initiative (Canada)
February 14, 2011.

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