Socialist Worker

Class politics can unite the Middle East

by Bassem Chit in Beirut
Issue No. 2257

It is six months since the wave of revolts started sweeping through the Middle East and north Africa. And the wave is far from over.

New political formations are taking shape across the region.

In Egypt, the growth of broad socialist groupings, and the formation of the Democratic Workers Party, clearly shows the shift to the left and class politics.

In Tunisia we witnessed the birth of the 14 January coalition between radical left forces, trade unions and others.

In Yemen, Syria and Libya the movement still has momentum, and it is getting increasingly organised.

Last week Syrian president Bashar Al‑Assad promised reforms to tackle corruption and an amnesty for protesters.

This is a desperate attempt to demobilise the movement against his regime—Assad’s “reforms” would only take place if the protests stop. But it has had little impact on those taking to the streets.

In Lebanon, discussions on how to bring down the sectarian regime have spread across the country for the first time in decades.

The widening political rift between the Arab masses and the ruling elite is now spreading widely across the region. New battle lines are taking shape.

Now the Arab masses are taking up the question of opposition to religious sectarianism.

The ruling elite have increasingly used sectarianism in attempts to discredit and crush the movement. We can see this in Bahrain, Syria and Egypt.

Armed sectarian clashes also broke out last week between different groups in north Lebanon.

Religious sectarianism poses a real threat to the movement.

It can transform revolutionary struggles into bloody wars that crush working class unity and reinforce a new state of fear.

Leverage

Sectarianism is an attempt to create the illusion that the welfare of one religious group lies in its ability to wage war and have economic and political leverage over another.

Yet these benefits are restricted to the ruling classes, while the working class and the unemployed become fuel for such wars.

It tries to create unity between rulers and workers from the same sect. This can only be challenged through class unity.

The Iraq war played an important part in preparing the ground for heightened sectarian politics in the region.

Sectarianism became the scarecrow used by regimes to scare off the popular movements.

This was obvious with Gaddafi, Assad, Mubarak and others. The equation for them was “either me or civil war”, using the example of Iraq to illustrate the horrors of sectarian warfare.

Imperialism has tried to use this to its benefit. The US government’s position on democracy has been completely discredited by recent events.

It is desperately trying to ally itself with the forces most ready to preserve US interests in the region, under the guise of wanting stability and reforms.

Meanwhile, the masses call for the regimes to be brought down.

Moreover, the US and Israel know that the real threat from these movements is wider democracy in the region.

They know that the Arab masses resent Zionism. The Israeli state is panicking as the regimes it has supported with the Americans come under threat.

The Arab revolutionary left has a historic opportunity to build. Revolutionary movements have achieved in days what reformists have promised for decades, but never delivered.

The Arab Revolution has only just started.

The region, which was for decades described as a political desert, is now a buzzing arena of debate and struggle for economic and political rights, democracy, equality, freedom and national dignity.

It showed what the Arab masses are really made of. Claims that Arabs are inherently sectarian, oppressive towards women and unable to live under democracy are quickly fading.

The real obstacles to change are shown up as the Arab dictatorships and imperialism.

This reminds us of a slogan used against the war on Iraq and Arab collaboration with imperialism: No war, no dictatorships!


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.