Socialist Worker

'Arab Revolutions' melt all that was solid into air

by John Rose
Issue No. 2256

An official banner celebrating Egypt’s Revolution at Cairo Airport tells of “Egyptians making history again… what else is new?”

Allegedly the author of this insight is Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. His portrait, and that of US president Barack Obama, serve as a warning that the revolution’s fate is far from settled.

Western politicians are falling over each other to support the “Arab Revolution”. But for them “support” means “control”.

This explains the cynical Nato intervention in Libya, the weasel words of sympathy for the heroic demonstrators in Syria, and the £1.8 billion International Monetary Fund aid package just agreed with the interim military government in Egypt.

But their control is by no means assured. They are puffing to keep up with events which, as a worried US secretary of state Hillary Clinton noted, are being “decided on the ground.”

In fact, Western leaders’ behaviour may help deepen the revolution. “Moderate” Arab leaders were dismayed by Obama’s failure to confront Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month over settlement expansion in the West Bank. The “moderates” are desperate to prevent Palestine becoming engulfed in the Revolution.

It was probably too late anyway. The liberation of Palestine and the Arab Revolution are intertwined. The connection has been boosted by the new Egyptian government’s refusal to guarantee gas supplies to Israel, and the opening of the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border. Their promotion of the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement has ratcheted up Palestinian self-confidence.


The significance of the agreement doesn’t lie in a common negotiating front, but in a sense of unity on the ground. Hence the threat of further mass mobilisations of refugees—as on Nakba day—alongside mass demonstrations by Palestinians in the occupied territories and even inside Israel.

But the same Egyptian government ordered troops to fire on demonstrators at the Israeli embassy on Nakba Day—a sign that the revolution must remain in the hands of the people making it if it is to succeed.

The cynicism and hypocrisy of Western leaders claiming affinity with Arab demonstrators beggars belief. They conveniently forget that the reason for this late flowering of Arab democracy results directly from Western domination and humiliation of the Arab world throughout the last century.

They deliberately fragmented the region, drawing artificial borders and imposing puppet monarchies and dictators, often literally around oil wells, for the West’s convenience. Then they added insult to injury by imposing a European Jewish colony in British occupied Palestine, at the heart of the Arab world, guaranteed to inflame religious sensitivities and deliberately tied to Western interests.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that the Arab democratic revolution has also to be about this simply doesn’t understand it all. But the Arab Revolution has a further feature set to terrify Western leaders even more. The struggle for democracy may be the first demand of the revolution, but don’t lose sight of the emerging demand for equality.

There is revulsion and fury throughout the Arab world at the enormous gulf between rich and poor, the large scale looting of the peoples’ wealth by Arab dictators, their families and pals, with Western banks and governments as their accomplices.

Here it is Egypt’s workers who are in the lead. It is not just that Egypt’s workers have already made a breakthrough by beginning to establish free and independent trade unions. It is also that their demands have potentially dangerous revolutionary implications for capitalist classes everywhere.

From the demand to evict the little Mubarak foremen and manager bullies from workplaces and establish some degree of rank and file control to the call for a maximum as well as a minimum wage, it is already clear that there can be a further revolution within the revolution.

For the moment it is nameless. But providing the masses of ordinary people maintain the momentum, creating those “facts on the ground”, in time they will discover its name.

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Tue 14 Jun 2011, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2256
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