The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt constitute a historic turning point in the international situation. These revolutions change the rules of the game. There will be a before and after the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt. It is too early to appreciate the depth and all the implications of this change, but we are confronted with historical upheavals. They are the first revolutions of this 21st century, more exactly - because there were also revolutions in Bolivia in 2003 and 2005 - the first revolutions in the Arab world but also the first revolutions resulting from the crisis of the world capitalist system.
They have exploded in the weak links of capitalist globalisation. They concern a double process, a political process of rejection of the dictatorships but also a social process, where millions of people can no longer stand the consequences of the food crises with the explosion of prices of basic food products or more generally a system which gives only unemployment and misery as a prospect to millions of young people. These revolutions - because they are revolutions in the sense that there has been an eruption of the mass movement on the social and political scene and an open crisis of the regime - combine democratic questions, national questions - of national sovereignty against imperialism - and social questions.
It is a major turning point in the Arab world with a shock wave, in Libya, in Bahrain, in Algeria, in Yemen, in Jordan, in Palestine, but it is also revealing of the social instability and upheavals to come. These are the first stages of a gigantic battle between dictatorships and popular mobilisations, a confrontation between forces, which under all forms, seeks to ensure the continuity of the power of the dominant classes and that of the rupture which aspires to democracy and the satisfaction of the basic social needs of the popular classes.
The massacres in Lybia also show that repression is unleashed against these revolutionary movements. This wave is felt as far as China. It will, in specific ways , have repercussions across the whole world.
In this sense, and even though we must to take into account the specific dimensions of these movements - mobilisation against dictatorships, the type of class contradictions, the fractures within these States – these movements fall under a new historical period marked by the crisis of the capitalist system.
The crisis today and its tipping point
The world crisis continues. It has entered its fourth year. Its unfolding takes the form of financial crises, crises on the food product or raw material markets and crises of the public debt, notably in Europe. Its combined character –economic, financial, social and climatic- is confirmed. The notion of “crisis of civilisation” reflects aptly the depth of this crisis. At the level of the world economy, some, like Paul Krugman (an economist identified with the left of the US Democratic Party) suggest that this Third Depression resembles both the stagnation that began in Europe and the United States in the 1870s - he calls it the Long Depression – and the stagnation of the 1930s, which he calls the Great Depression.
Current growth rates and those predicted for the long term are weak: 3% in 2011 and 3.5 % in 2012. This breaks down as follows in the various zones: 1 to 2 % in Europe, 2 to 3 % in the USA; and 6 to 7% in the so-called emergent countries. Unemployment rates in the main capitalist countries remain high, around official figures 10%, in fact much higher. Poverty is increasing, hitting in particular women, youth and immigrants.
The model of accumulation established in the late 1970s is in crisis. The generalised indebtedness which has dominated economic policy in the USA and Europe in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s can no longer compensate for the saturation of production in the key sectors of the economy and can no longer compensate for the limits of acquisitive capacities in terms of the purchasing power of the economies of the imperialist centres. On the other hand, there is no revival of production and mass consumption. All the talk of emergence from crisis or claims that the “the worst of the crisis is behind us” does not hide the slide into crisis and the absence of upturn of the world economy, notably in the USA and Europe. Crisis is establishing itself in the imperialist centres but it is also sharpenting the tipping point of the world.
While the crisis hits the countries of the centre, China has for the past five years maintained growth rates of 10%. India and Brazil, to a lesser extent are undergoing similar processes of development. We could say that the crisis is above all that of the Western world and that China, India, and a series of countries in Asia and Latin America have avoided crisis or developed despite the crisis. China is already the second biggest world power. It has even conquered first place in such key sectors as computers. Its military strength and arms expenditure have increased considerably, seeking to make it a power of the first order in the coming years.
The presence of China in the world is undergoing a real expansion: big work projects in Africa and Latin America, large scale exploitation of lands for the production of raw materials and food products, purchase of the debt of countries “in difficulty” in Europe - Greece, Portugal, Spain.
Certainsly, there is no “decoupling” of the emergent countries in the course of the crisis. China and the emergent countries are not in a position to relaunch the world economy. The structure of insertion of these countries in the world economy is fragile. Don’t forget that 42% of China’s GDP originates from its exports, and that in the medium term the solidity of Chinese growth will depend on its capacities to construct an internal market, with new infrastructures, wage increases and social security.
The economic dynamism of these countries poses the question of whether the world economy today is not a single locomotive with the USA but several, with China, India and other emergent countries. China’s dynamism is such that it can draw other exporting economies, whether in raw materials like Brazil and Argentina, or capital goods like Germany. It is one question but it is key to understanding this tipping point of the world.
The US is in decline but maintains a position of strength thanks to the breadth and unified nature of its economic and financial market, due to the power of the Dollar, but above all due to its political-military hegemony, still felt despite the contradictions in the processes underway in Tunisia or Egypt. But it is no longer the US imperialism of the Bush years. It must make arrangements with others - in the area of arms with the Russians and tomorrow China or other states - Brazil in Latin America or with the pressure of the peoples.
In this new world equilibrium, the US declines but keeps its political-military power, its huge market and “its dollar”, it is Europe which is falling back. Some even speak of the crisis of the Eurocentrism that has dominated the world since 1492- the date of the discovery of America. One of the striking elements of the current historic period and the crisis is the structural weakening of Europe.
A new capitalist neoliberal offensive
In this crisis, there are weak links of capitalist globalisation. We see it today with the contradictions which explode in the Arab countries but also in Europe where, for the dominant classes, in the battle between capital and labour, the crisis is a lever for the dominant classes who use it to destroy a series of social rights and gains. Since profit rates cannot be restored by production and mass consumption, world competition demands further lowering of the cost of labour in Europe and the USA. It is necessary to attack, deregulate, privatise. This capitalist offensive settles the debates and questions on the choice of a Keynesian turn for the dominant classes.
It is about attack, frontal attack, not social compromise. Little reflation, little reconstruction, no “demand” policies, no social and public redeployment of the state, loss of speed also of all the projects of “green capitalism”. These Keynesian limits reduce still further the margins of manoeuvre of social democracy. After some weeks of panic, the financialisation of the economy and the power of the financial markets have been restored.
One can even speak of a second wave of the neoliberal offensive after that of the 1980s. In any case, the social destruction waged by the employers and the governments are as indeed stronger than in those days. This new offensive has a global character. Nothing escapes capitalist globalisation, its unequal exchanges, its remodelling of the labour force, the challenge to a whole series of social rights.
This has also brought pressure on the progressive experiences of recent years in Latin America. The measures by the Morales government seeking to increase oil prices being, to a certain extent, one of the conséquences of the growing pressure of the world market. It even strikes at the heart of the Cuban economy. What would be the consequences of the “privatisation” of a whole sector of the Cuban work force – nearly 10% of employees - on the relation of socio-political forces in Cuba and in Latin America? But there is no fatality. The attitude of the progressive governments of Latin America and the Cuban leadership in relation to the crisis constitute a key test of the development of these currents.
The crisis in Europe
Despite its technological, social, economic power and its accumulated wealth, Europe is the weak link in capitalist globalisation, in the sense where it is caught in the pincers between the USA and the rise of the emergent countries. The purchase of a part of the Greek, Portuguese and Spanish public debt by China is, effectively, more than symbolic. From the conjunctural point of view, the crisis manifests itself in the form of a crisis of the “debt”. It has passed from the banks to the states with a public debt crisis which results from decades of inegalitarian tax policies and the public intervention into the financial and banking crisis.
The public deficit went from 2 to 6.5% in the Euro zone and from 2.8 to 11% in the USA. The public debts between 2008 and 2009 went from 69.4 to 78.7% of GDP in the Euro zone and from 62 to 83%, from 2007 to 2009 in the USA. The states are now in the front line of the crisis and even if there are differences between the European Union and the USA – the latter having had much more significant reflationary economic policies – the dominant classes and government of the two units deploy austerity policies which in particular asphyxiate public policies.
The specificity of crisis in Europe results from the type of construction of the European Union: an entity dominated by the markets, of unfinished political content, without democracy, without popular participation, without political and economic unity. This neoliberal construction far from coordinating economic policies encourages the “divergent dynamics" of the European economy, divergences between the industrial (Germany) and financial (British) dynamics, highly developed economies – former common market – and averagely developed – south and east of Europe.
The Euro effectively covers countries at different levels of development and productivity. And far from constituting an instrument for an economic coordination of the so-called “Euro zone”, it now functions as an instrument to discipline economies and peoples in the service of the strongest. Which leads to tensions between Germany or similar countries and the other, with a pressure that has become unbearable for Spain, Portugal and Greece. At this stage, the governments of the Euro zone have created mechanisms of assistance in return for radical neoliberal structural reforms, notably with the creation of a “European stabilisation fund" in 2013 for the countries in difficulties, a fund of 750 billion Euros. There is already debate on whether that will suffice. A debate which stimulates speculation.
But beyond this question of the debt, there is another central issue: in current world compétition, the dominant classes in Europe are convinced that the “European social model" is a major handicap in the competition with the USA and China. It is necessary to destroy the social gains and conquests won in recent decades. There is a real “social war” in Europe today: freezing – indeed nominal lowering – of wages of public employees, drastic reduction of social and public budgets, destruction of whole layers of the social state, extension of the working day – pension reforms, challenges to the 35 hour week, destr of millions of public sector jobs, attacks and privatisations on social security, health, schools ( the explosion of student fees in Britain).
The most recent example of these attacks is the referendum at the FIAT Mirafiori plant in Turin, where the results of approval of the management proposals open the road to the liquidation of collective bargaining, not only in engineering but also in all the professional branches and sectors. National collective agreements of branches or sectors are totally undermined. They collapse before the employment contract “negotiated” between the employee and the boss. The policy of the FIAT directorate also imposes a worsening of work conditions: team work, night work, crackdowns on absenteeism, wage freezes and so on.
Attacks of this type are tending to generalise across Europe. Combined with the policy of cutting deficits,they not only worsen the working and living conditions of millions of people but increasingly limits final demand, with the consequence of stifling growth and bringing about new recessions. The deficit cutting policies limit final demand and can only have consequences which will restrain growth indeed provoke new recessions. This is not yet another austerity plan, the objective is to reduce in the coming years the purchasing power of employees, by 15 to 20%. The dismantling of the welfare state or what remains of it will receive an unprecedented boost.
The right and the neoliberal offensive
The difference between this offensive, linked to the historic and systemic crisis capitalism is undergoing, and that of the 1980s, lies in the destabilising consequences for the whole of the system, its dominant classes, its parties, its institutions. All the dominant parties but also the others are destabilised by decades of neoliberal counter reforms and the crisis of the system. The crises of political representation, the historic crisis of socialism, the phenomena of popular abstention, the feeling of corruption of the political elites: all this feeds the general crisis of politics.
On the right, the neoliberal social counter reforms undermine the social bases of the traditional parties, so the latter seek this base by deploying authoritarian, racist, populist, police, attacking immigrants, Roma and Muslims. They accentuate their reactionary course like the Republican Party in the USA. Tendencies to “populist bonapartism” with Sarkozy or Berlusconi reflect a certain instability. Populist or neo fascist movements gain ground, notably in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, or Hungary. In all the recent elections in Europe, the right and far right have increased their vote.
Social Democracy and the crisis
On the left, the crisis has not led to any "Keynesian turn”. The presence of a socialist president at the head of the IMF expresses the degree of integration of social democracy in the institutions of capitalist globalisation. Unlike in the 1930s, there is no turn to the left from social democracy. The social liberal choice is confirmed. The policies of Papandreou, Zapatero and Socrates show that. The broad direction of the Party of European Socialists at the European level comfort them and show that beyond the tactical positioning of each Socialist Party in the opposition against the right, social democracy has turned into social liberalism.
Even if there are differences between left and right, differences of social base, of history, of political relations with the workers’, trade union, associative movement – the summits of social democracy, relayed by the trade union apparatuses, have deliberately chosen the adaptation to dominant modes of management of the crisis. We should also note the evolution of the big Green formations on orientations increasingly marked by the centre left.
The dynamic of social resistance
It is too soon to analyse and predict the consequences of the Arab revolutions on social resistance at the international scale. But these revolutions should be put in perspective with the resistance linked not only to the crisis but also the upheavals in the Arab world with the emergence of struggles and new organisations among workers and peoples, in China, Asia and Africa, but also in this configuration in Europe.
The most notable element of recent months has been the struggles of résistance to the austerity plans. Days of general strikes have taken place in Greece, Portugal, Spain, and France. In France, nearly 3 million people demonstrated and participated in strike movements eight times in two months… the Spanish and Portuguese strikes had a historic breadth. One of our tasks is to analyse the forms, content and dynamic of these conflicts. In Britain and Italy, the student demonstrations show the degree of explosiveness of the social struggles. In Germany there have been impressive anti-nuclear mobilisations. The crisis will continue. The attacks will redouble.
If there is a new social situation in Europe where people’s resistance is being heard, we should note two major political facts:
a) the struggles, even the biggest ones, do not lead at this stage to partial defeats for the dominant classes or victories for the workers and their organisation. We have not blocked the capitalist offensive and still less sent it into reverse. What we can note is that, if the neoliberal counter-reform continues to advance, the workers who have gone on strike and demonstrated in Greece, France, Portugal, or Spain, and the students who have demonstrated in Britain, do not have the feeling of having experienced major defeats. They feel in a confused way that there will be further battles.
b) the second political fact to highlight is that in the countries where there is social struggle of a certain breadth, a gap exists between social combativeness and its political reflection. We should consider the specificities of the situation in each country. In some countries the level of social struggle is weak. But even in the countries where there is a social mobilisation, there is no equivalent at the trade union or political level: there is no organic growth of the trade unions, parties, or left currents in the social movements. How many members or supporters? There may be here and there a movement of members into trade unions and parties but there is, for example a difference between the 1930s and the current situation. In the 1930s the crisis and social resistance led, for example, to the growth by hundreds of thousands in membership of unions, socialist and communist parties, left movements within social democracy. The social liberal evolution renders these parties increasingly “impermeable” to the rises in the class struggle. `
But nor have we seen any massive qualitative growth of the trade unions. We might then have expected the development of currents or parties outside the traditional left organisations. At this stage we note no notable progress. Today in France, after an exceptional social mobilisation, we could have expected that the PS candidate for the presidential election of 2012 could be one with a more “social-democratic” profile. Well no, the SP candidate for the 2012 presidential elections is likely to be IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, one of the most right-wing representatives of international social-democracy!!!
The effects of the historical crisis of the workers’ movement of the last century are still felt. The building of a revolutionary socialist consciousness needs new experiences to take shape. We have to note that the level of current struggles even if it is rising in reactions to the attacks of the ruling classes and government has not got a sufficient political dynamic to turn back the decades of neoliberal counter-reforms and lay the basis of an overall counter-offensive an a new revolutionary socialist project. The processes of building radical left or anticapitalist parties, in Europe, thus meet a series of difficulties.
First consquences of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions
The conséquences are first and foremost for the Arab world. These are the first revolutions for half a century: after Nasserism, the rise of Arab nationalism and the Algerian revolution. It is a démocratic and social shcokwave across the Arab world, with mobilisations in Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, and growing tensions in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.
These are movements or mobilisations which are democratic, radical democratic and social. A knowledgeable historian of the Arab world characterises them as “post-Islamist revolutions”. The reference is no longer Iran. These are new generations, of youths and now workers with their organisations and strikes who want to find their way to self-determination. There will be, on the basis of these revolutions, a redistribution and reorganisation of forces: the émergence of new organisations linked to the radicalisation of the youth- radical social and demomratic movements, differentiations inside the Islamist movements – as in Egypt now among the Muslim Brotherhood, revival and reorganisation of the workers’ movement and the trade unions. We should stress the role of the UGTT, and in particular of its combative sectors - in Tunisia and the importance of the movement seeking to replace the unions linked to the Mubarak regime by independent unions.
In the revolutions underway, democratic, national and social demands should be combined with self-organisation. In Libya or Bahrain we demand an end to the massacres and all repression. In Tunisia and in Egypt we support democratic demands, the liberation of all political prisoners, the dismantling of the dictatorship and all its institutions, the dissolution of the RCD and PND and all repressive apparatuses, the formation of a provisional government without any représentative of the régime, representing the popular uprising and the convening of a constituent assembly.
In this context the Tunisian comrades are discussing the proposal against all “ continuist” formulas, of a government of the UGTT applying a radical democratic programme and satisfying popular social needs. The key problem is to move from “getting rid of Ben Ali and Mubarak” to the rupture with the dictatorship. At the same time, the anti-capitalists should support all strikes, all democratic movements of youth and women, the embryos of self-organisation underway in the struggle against high prices and for the protection of the population.
This revolutionary upsurge in the Arab will also have medium and long term repercussions on the crisis in the Middle East, the political situation in Palestine, and relations with Israel. Beyond the manœuvres of US imperialism, the general dynamic of this popular mobilisation weakens the imperialist grip on the region. It weakens the Zionist leadership which can no longer count on one of its main allies Mubarak. But this leadership is above all totally destabilised by the Arab democratic wave. Its representation of the Arab world as an undemocratice whole – autoritarain or islamist regimes- has been throughly challenged by the dynamic of these revolutions. Finally the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan revolutions can encourage the emergence of radical or radical nationalist democratic currents opposed to the Palestinian Authoirty of Mahmoud Abbas and to Hamas.
For the peoples of the world, these revolutions will constitute examples. Of course, without mechanical effects, but they will stimulate reflection on the rejection of dictatorships, democratic aspirations, forms of struggle. The shock wave spreads as far as Beijing, even if for the moment only in symbolic form. It is necessary to see the fear of the Chinese authorities of the propagatory effects of these revolutions. In the rest of the world, these revolutions break the infernal circle which confined Arab societies-dictatorship or Islamic state-. They break the wall of all theories of the “clash of civilisations”. They create the conditions for the democratic and social alliance of the workers’ movement with the young Arab generations, in particular in the countries with large Arab immigrant populations. They are a point of support to strengthen all anti-racist mobilisations.
Elements of discussion on the tasks of revolutionaries
In these conditions what are our tasks? Does the reply depend on the diagnosis made of the crisis that broke out in 2007? Is it a financial episode analogous to all those that capitalism has known in the past, followed by temporary recessions? Or is it a systemic crisis at two levels: because the regime of financial accumulation developed over more than thirty years is exhausted, and because world capitalism has reached a limit linked to the finite nature of the planet and its natural resources. If we take the second hypothesis we cannot be content with policies of reflation through demand and more regulation in the financial system, what is needed is a radical reorganisation of the economy turned to social needs, an ecological reconversion of industry and agriculture, quality non-commodified public services, in short a rupture with capitalist logic, the private ownership of capital and the current system of distribution of wealth.
We need then a plan combining immediate demands with anti-capitalist counter-crisis demands. It is not the workers who should pay for the crisis but the capitalists: defence of social gains, demands, rights, taxation of financial transactions, and cancellation of the public debt. This plan can be financed from the banking and financial profits and those of the big capitalist groups. This programme should be accompanied by the nationalisation or public socialisation of the entire banking system, posing the question of inroads into the ownership of capital. This question of ownership should also be posed through the struggle against privatisation and the creation of big public sectors under workers’ and users’ control in the key sectors of the economy.
It is also posed through the ecological question and the necessary reorganisation and ecological planning in the medium and long term. The ecological dimension has an increasingly significant place, given the natural disasters taking place around the planet, and with the increasing frequency of floods, climatic chaos, landslides, and should take an increasing place in our activity. All proposals of social and organisational reorganisation of production, reorganisation of urban space, transport, energy serving the needs of workers and peoples should be stressed in our agitation.
In Europe, this plan should have a continental dimension. In Europe, the response to the crisis is not nationalist protectionism and exit from the Euro. That would lead to an exacerbated competition between European countries and new attacks against the peoples so that the countries in most difficulties take the blows; not to mention the development of chauvinistic and xenophobic movements. A response is needed that which is European, social, democratic, and ecologist, but which breaks with the European policies and institutions. In this sense, saving the Euro or the European Union cannot serve as an alibi to redouble the attacks and austerity plans against the peoples.
Our response should start from the defence of the rights and demands of the workers and peoples in each country and at the European level. That means the rejection of any policy of austerity, even if there is the blackmail of expulsion from the EU. So what is needed is a coordination of the policies and struggles of the peoples in Europe to build a European, internationalist response which prioritises harmonisation upwards, coordination and cooperation to help the peoples hit hardest by the crisis, a policy which makes the capitalists and the bankers pay through a fiscal and social policy benefiting the people and European large scale public services, particularly banking.
In an anti-capitalist action plan, the question of democratic rights and demands takes on an important character, notably in the defence of democratic liberties and the defence of immigrants and the undocumented.
These objectives can only be attained by the social and political mobilisation of millions of workers and citizens and a confrontation with the dominant classes and governments.
More generally, our orientation should stimulate and orient this mobilisation which should combine, social, trade union and ecological struggles, unity of social, trade union and political action of all left forces, calls for and leadership of experiences of social self-organisation. Proposals for a European campaign for the cancellation of the debt or on employment through the coordination of associations and trade unions. It is necessary to relay the initiatives of the Dakar WSF.
At the political level, unitary struggles should go togther with the systematic search for independence in relation to social democracy, notably through electoral policies in the big cities, regions, parliament and government. The crisis confirms the indispensable character of a global political alternative to social liberalism and the parties of the traditional left. Finally, we should encourage unity and anti-capitalist alliances encouraging all initiatives of anti-capitalist coordination at the level of sectors, struggles or parties, European or Mediterranean anti-capitalist conferences.
February 22, 2011
François Sabado is a member of the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International and an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. He was a long-time member of the National Leadership of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR).
The shock waves of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions continue to spread throughout the Arab world and beyond. For several days, it has been Libya which is at the centre of the revolutionary upheaval. Events are evolving from day to day, from hour to hour, but everything depends today on the extraordinary mobilization of the Libyan people. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have risen up to attack the dictatorship of Gaddafi, often with their bare hands. Whole cities and regions have fallen into to the hands of the insurgent people. The answer of the dictatorship has been ruthless: pitiless repression, massacres, bombardment of populations with heavy arms and air strikes.
Today, it is a fight to the death between the people and the dictatorship. One of the characteristics of the Libyan revolution, compared to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, is the splintering of the police and military apparatuses. There are confrontations within the army itself, a territorial division, with confrontation between regions and cities controlled by the insurgents and the area of Tripoli based on the military force of the dictatorship. The Libyan dictatorship represents too many social and democratic injustices and, too much repression, too many attacks on elementary liberties and rights. It must be driven out.
The Libyan revolution is part of a whole process which covers the whole Arab world, and beyond, in Iran and China. The revolutionary processes in Tunisia and Egypt are radicalizing. In Tunisia, governments fall one after the other. Youth and the workers’ movement are pushing their movement still further. All the forms of continuity with the old regime are called into question. The demand for a constituent assembly, opposed to all the rescue operations of the regime, is becoming increasingly strong.
In both countries, Tunisia and Egypt, the workers’ movement is reorganizing itself in the fire of a wave of strikes for the satisfaction of vital social demands. This revolutionary rise takes forms that are particular and unequal, according to the countries: violent confrontations in Yemen and Bahrain, demonstrations in Jordan, Morocco and Algeria. Iran is also once again affected by an outbreak of struggles and demonstrations against the regime of Ahmadinejad and for democracy.
It is in this context that the situation in Libya takes on strategic importance. This new rise already carries within it historical changes, but its development may depend on the battle of Libya. If Gaddafi takes control of the situation again, with thousands of deaths, the process will be slowed down, contained or even blocked. If Gaddafi is overthrown, the whole movement will as a result be stimulated and amplified. For this reason, all the ruling classes, all the governments, all the reactionary regimes of the Arab world are more or less supporting the Libyan dictatorship.
It is also in this context that US imperialism, the European Union and NATO are multiplying operations to try to control the process that is underway. The revolutions that are in progress weaken, over and above what the imperialists say in their speeches, the positions of the Western imperialist powers. So, as is often the case, imperialism uses the pretext of a “situation of chaos”, as it calls it, or of “humanitarian catastrophe” to prepare an intervention and to take control of the situation again.
No one should be fooled about the aims of the NATO powers: they want to confiscate the revolutions in progress from the peoples of the region, and even to take advantage of the situation to occupy new positions, in particular concerning control of the oil regions. It is for this fundamental reason that it is necessary to reject any military intervention by American imperialism. It is up to the Libyan people, who have begun the job, to finish it, with the support of the peoples of the region, and all progressive forces on the international level must contribute to that by their solidarity and their support.
From this point of view, we are in total disagreement with the positions adopted by Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortéga, and Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro has denounced the risk of an intervention by American imperialism instead of supporting the struggle of the Libyan people. As for Hugo Chavez, he has reiterated his support for the dictator Gaddafi. These positions are unacceptable for the revolutionary, progressive and anti-imperialist forces of the whole world. You do not oppose imperialism by supporting dictators who massacre their people who are making a revolution. That can only reinforce imperialism. The fundamental task of the revolutionary movement on an international level is to defend these revolutions and to oppose imperialism by supporting these revolutions, not the dictators.
We are on the side of the Libyan people and the Arab revolutions that are in progress. We must express our unconditional solidarity, for the civil, democratic and social rights which are emerging in this revolution. One of the priorities consists of supporting all aid to the Libyan people - medical aid coming from Egypt or Tunisia, the food aid which is needed -, demanding the cancellation of all commercial contracts with Libya and the suspension of all delivery of arms. We have to prevent the massacre of the Libyan people.
Solidarity with the Arab revolutions!
Support the Libyan people!
No imperialist intervention in Libya!
Hands off Libya!
In Europe, governments are trying to prevent contagion and solidarity between European workers and the Arab masses in revolt by brandishing the scarecrow of Islamism. In Latin America, it is the Venezuelan and Cuban progressive leaders themselves who are trying to isolate these rising revolutions by affirming the supposedly “anti-imperialist” character of the despotic Libyan, Syrian and Iranian regimes, which are also being destabilized by the rising wave of peoples in struggle.
The Arab revolution constitutes a litmus test for imperialism, but also for the Cuban and Chavist leaderships. However, if the latter were also were completely taken by surprise by the upsurge of the Arab masses, they seem at present to be still unable to grasp the nature, the depth and the unity of the revolutionary process that is underway in the entire region. They do not seem to understand at all the powerful thirst for real democracy, for social justice, for independence and sovereignty which motivate the Arab masses and the formidable opportunity that their struggles offer to profoundly modify the relationships of forces between capital and labour on a world scale, and with imperialism.
The attitude of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez concerning the events in Libya is particularly shocking. In a manner that is less pronounced in the case of the first and pretty consistent in the case of the second, they imply that the revolt of the Libyan people is the result of manipulation, of an imperialist plot aimed at overthrowing an enemy regime. Curiously, this “thesis” does not take up the official version of the Libyan regime itself, according to which it is on the contrary Al-Qaeda which is behind the “riots”! However, far from all these delirious conspiracy theories, there is nothing “singular” or “particular” about the revolution in Libya, no foreign plot directed by the CIA or Bin Laden; on the contrary, it is an integral part of the process of the Arab revolution which is breaking out throughout the region. Furthermore, this is not happening by chance, since the dictatorial Libyan regime is precisely geographically wedged between the Tunisian revolution and the Egyptian revolution.
In spite of everything, Fidel Castro has declared that it “will be necessary to wait as long as we have to in order to really know what is truth and what is lies or half-truths in what we are being told about the chaotic situation (sic) in Libya”. However, he draws an immediate conclusion from it: “The worst thing now would be to be silent about the crime that NATO is on the point of committing against the Libyan people. For the leaders of this warmongering organization, it is urgent. It must be denounced.” The difficulty is that, as Santiago Alba Rico and Alma Allende point out, it is not the planes of NATO which are today machine-gunning the Libyan people, it is the planes of the Gaddafi regime! Thus, according to Fidel, it is not urgent to denounce the carnage committed by Gaddafi against his people and to choose the camp of the popular uprising, it is urgent to demonstrate against the future and hypothetical intervention of NATO. So in the name of the threat of a crime that remains a vague possibility, we should “be silent” about a real crime that is actually taking place.
Still according to this purely “campist” conception (“the enemies of my enemies are my friends”), on February 25 President Hugo Chavez has just, like Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, given his “support to the Libyan government”, at the moment when it is massacring its people with heavy weapons. Admittedly, there is no doubt that imperialism is lying in wait and hopes to take advantage of the slightest opportunity. Admittedly, we have to denounce the double morality of imperialism, which condemns civilian victims in Libya, but not in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine. But that does not at all justify support for a bloody tyrant, who is precisely giving imperialism a wonderful opportunity to regain its balance and who, in spite of his verbal outpourings about the so-called “green revolution", is at the head of a system of exploitation and a corrupt regime which is part and parcel of the imperialist network for plundering of the area and its resources.
In Venezuela, revolutionary organizations such as Marea Socialista have taken a clear decision in favour of the Libyan people and against the dictator Gaddafi. We can only hope that the Venezuelan and Cuban workers will be more capable of understanding what is at stake than their leaders are. But, even if he comes to his senses and corrects his position, there is no doubt that the catastrophic declarations of Chavez will immediately and lastingly ruin the immense prestige which he has up to now enjoyed among the Arab masses. This popularity came from his declared opposition to the war and the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, as well as Israel’s aggression against Lebanon in 2006. It reached its culminating point in January 2009, when he decided to expel the Israeli ambassador part of the embassy staff to protest against the massacre perpetrated by the Zionist state against the population of Gaza, thus marking his “unqualified solidarity with the heroic Palestinian people”. What is most serious is that, in the person of Chavez, it is the prestige of an alternative that is identified as progressive and seeking to build the “socialism of the twenty-first century” which is in danger of being deeply discredited in the Arab world.
This attitude constitutes a godsend for the reactionary and imperialist forces who, at present disorientated by the scale of what is happening, are trying at all costs to take the situation in hand, to control or to stop the Arab revolution. Moreover, by lining up shamefully alongside the Libyan tyrant, the Chavist leadership is shooting itself in the foot by offering ammunition to its own adversaries and detractors, who constantly make unfounded accusations about its “dictatorial” nature.
In Europe, in Latin America, in the United States and in Asia, the Arab people – who are today in the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle - must receive the unreserved support of the progressive forces of the world. This is the only way to effectively contest the hypocritical claim of imperialism to represent the democratic interests of peoples and to counter effectively any threat, real or intentionally brandished, of a military intervention.
This article was first published in French on the website of the LCR_SAP, belgian section of the Fourth International : www.lcr-lagauche.be
Reproduced from International Viewpoint http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1999
“Massacre – it’s a massacre,” the doctors were shouting. Three dead. Four dead. One man was carried past me on a stretcher in the emergency room, blood spurting on to the floor from a massive bullet wound in his thigh.
A few feet away, six nurses were fighting for the life of a pale-faced, bearded man with blood oozing out of his chest. “I have to take him to theatre now,” a doctor screamed. “There is no time – he’s dying!”
Others were closer to death. One poor youth – 18, 19 years old, perhaps – had a terrible head wound, a bullet hole in the leg and a bloody mess on his chest. The doctor beside him turned to me weeping, tears splashing on to his blood-stained gown. “He has a fragmented bullet in his brain and I can’t get the bits out, and the bones on the left side of his head are completely smashed. His arteries are all broken. I just can’t help him.” Blood was cascading on to the floor. It was pitiful, outrageous, shameful. These were not armed men but mourners returning from a funeral, Shia Muslims of course, shot down by their own Bahraini army yesterday afternoon.
A medical orderly was returning with thousands of other men and women from the funeral at Daih of one of the demonstrators killed at Pearl Square in the early hours of Thursday.
“We decided to walk to the hospital because we knew there was a demonstration. Some of us were carrying tree branches as a token of peace which we wanted to give to the soldiers near the square, and we were shouting ’peace, peace. There was no provocation – nothing against the government. Then suddenly the soldiers started shooting. One was firing a machine gun from the top of a personnel carrier. There were police but they just left as the soldiers shot at us. But you know, the people in Bahrain have changed. They didn’t want to run away. They faced the bullets with their bodies.”
The demonstration at the hospital had already drawn thousands of Shia protesters – including hundreds of doctors and nurses from all over Manama, still in their white gowns – to demand the resignation of the Bahraini Minister of Health, Faisal Mohamed al-Homor, for refusing to allow ambulances to fetch the dead and injured from Thursday morning’s police attack on the Pearl Square demonstrators.
But their fury turned to near-hysteria when the first wounded were brought in yesterday. Up to 100 doctors crowded into the emergency rooms, shouting and cursing their King and their government as paramedics fought to push trolleys loaded with the latest victims through screaming crowds. One man had a thick wad of bandages stuffed into his chest but blood was already staining his torso, dripping off the trolley. “He has a live round in his chest – and now there is air and blood in his lungs,” the nurse beside him told me. “I think he is going.” Thus did the anger of Bahrain’s army – and, I suppose, the anger of the al-Khalifa family, the King included – reach the Sulmaniya medical centre.
The staff felt that they too were victims. And they were right. Five ambulances sent to the street – yesterday’s victims were shot down opposite a fire station close to Pearl Square – were stopped by the army. Moments later, the hospital discovered that all their mobile phones had been switched off. Inside the hospital was a doctor, Sadeq al-Aberi, who was himself badly hurt by the police when he went to help the wounded on Thursday morning.
Rumours burned like petrol in Bahrain yesterday and many medical staff were insisting that up to 60 corpses had been taken from Pearl Square on Thursday morning and that police were seen by crowds loading bodies into three refrigerated trucks. One man showed me a mobile phone snapshot in which the three trucks could be seen clearly, parked behind several army armoured personnel carriers. According to other demonstrators, the vehicles, which bore Saudi registration plates, were later seen on the highway to Saudi Arabia. It is easy to dismiss such ghoulish stories, but I found one man – another male nurse at the hospital who works under the umbrella of the United Nations – who told me that an American colleague, he gave his name as “Jarrod”, had videotaped the bodies being put into the trucks but was then arrested by the police and had not been seen since.
Why has the royal family of Bahrain allowed its soldiers to open fire at peaceful demonstrators? To turn on Bahraini civilians with live fire within 24 hours of the earlier killings seems like an act of lunacy.
But the heavy hand of Saudi Arabia may not be far away. The Saudis are fearful that the demonstrations in Manama and the towns of Bahrain will light equally provocative fires in the east of their kingdom, where a substantial Shia minority lives around Dhahran and other towns close to the Kuwaiti border. Their desire to see the Shia of Bahrain crushed as quickly as possible was made very clear at Thursday’s Gulf summit here, with all the sheikhs and princes agreeing that there would be no Egyptian-style revolution in a kingdom which has a Shia majority of perhaps 70 per cent and a small Sunni minority which includes the royal family.
Yet Egypt’s revolution is on everyone’s lips in Bahrain. Outside the hospital, they were shouting: “The people want to topple the minister,” a slight variation of the chant of the Egyptians who got rid of Mubarak, “The people want to topple the government.”
And many in the crowd said – as the Egyptians said – that they had lost their fear of the authorities, of the police and army.
The policemen and soldiers for whom they now express such disgust were all too evident on the streets of Manama yesterday, watching sullenly from midnight-blue armoured vehicles or perched on American-made tanks. There appeared to be no British weaponry in evidence – although these are early days and there was Russian-made armour alongside the M-60 tanks. In the past, small Shia uprisings were ruthlessly crushed in Bahrain with the help of a Jordanian torturer and a senior intelligence factotum who just happened to be a former British Special Branch officer.
And the stakes here are high. This is the first serious insurrection in the wealthy Gulf states – more dangerous to the Saudis than the Islamists who took over the centre of Mecca more than 30 years ago – and Bahrain’s al-Khalifa family realise just how fraught the coming days will be for them. A source which has always proved reliable over many years told me that late on Wednesday night, a member of the al-Khalifa family – said to be the Crown Prince – held a series of telephone conversations with a prominent Shia cleric, the Wifaq Shia party leader, Ali Salman, who was camping in Pearl Square. The Prince apparently offered a series of reforms and government changes which he thought the cleric had approved. But the demonstrators stayed in the square. They demanded the dissolution of parliament. Then came the police.
In the early afternoon yesterday, around 3,000 people held a rally in support of the al-Khalifas and there was much waving of the national flag from the windows of cars. This may make the front pages of the Bahraini press today – but it won’t end the Shia uprising. And last night’s chaos at Manama’s greatest hospital – the blood slopping off the wounded, the shouts for help from those on the stretchers, the doctors who had never before seen such gunshot wounds; one of them simply shook his head in disbelief when a woman went into a fit next to a man who was sheathed in blood – has only further embittered the Shia of this nation.
A doctor who gave his name as Hussein stopped me leaving the emergency room because he wanted to explain his anger. “The Israelis do this sort of thing to the Palestinians – but these are Arabs shooting at Arabs,” he bellowed above the din of screams and shouts of fury. “This is the Bahraini government doing this to their own people. I was in Egypt two weeks ago, working at the Qasr el-Aini hospital – but things are much more fucked up here.”
Robert Fisk in Bahrain