Unless the revolution moves swiftly towards a decisive victory,i.e, the takeover of the Egyptian state by the working classes and the people, there will remain serious doubts the future of the Arab revolution.
By Amjad Ayub Mirza.
The events that began in Tunisia and then quickly spread across the region from Egypt to Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen and to Libya have taken the political pundits by awe and surprise. The spectacular demonstrations have brought new life to the struggle against tyrants and authoritarian regimes throughout the Arab world.
The news of the rebellious population of Cairo taking control of traffic management and the disappearance of police from the streets and the formation of people’s militias in Benghazi and other towns in Libya are indicative of the nascence of a very basic administrative and military structure which reminds one of the formation of the Bolshevik-style 1917 soviets during the first successful workers’ revolution in the world. Perhaps, ultimately, such a process could lead to the birth of the first genuine workers’ state in the Middle East.
Although the protestors in Tahrir Square have managed to get rid of Mubarak, the thugs in uniform have taken over and have imposed a military government. This is suggestive of the beginning of a counter-revolution that could lead to the defeat of the revolution and to the replacement of the 30-year long permanent state of emergency by a brutal martial law.
Flailing with the events, which have unfolded with lightning speed, the US president and the British prime minister were begging first Mubarak and now Qaddafi to step down and make the transition as peaceful as possible. The British foreign minister had spoken to top Egyptian government officials during the uprising and voices that warn of dangers to ‘British interests’ in the region have echoed in the House of Commons. Similarly, talks are being held to find a way to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace and to send in troops to ‘help’ the rebels fighting the Libyan ruler who has been in power for 42 years and is perhaps fighting a life-and-death battle with his own people.
Israel’s prime minister has expressed the hope that whatever happens in Egypt, the new rulers of the country would respect the peace and other treaties between the two countries. On February 1, the Jordanian king dissolved his cabinet and thus nervously fulfilled a demand made by the Jordanian demonstrators. The 86-year-old ruler of the house of Saud, on his return from abroad after a long health holiday announced a $ 37 billion development and social uplift package for the nationals of his country. One has yet to see what becomes of the ‘Day of Anger’ that has been planned by those infected by the desire to be free.
The earth is moving from under the feet of the once all-powerful and arrogant rulers of the region as they try to use all means to cling on to power for as long as possible. But there is a dilemma. Unless the revolution moves swiftly towards a decisive victory, i.e. the takeover of the Egyptian state by the working classes and the people, there will remain serious doubts about the future of the Arab revolution. So far, Egypt has been the only country where the working class has played a significant role by calling strikes and taking over industrial complexes. No wonder the first decree of the military government in Egypt was to implement a ban on strikes with immediate effect. This decree has the echo of another similar decree imposed by another counter-revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who, in February 1980, ordered all strikes in Iran illegal. It was then that the striking workers who refused were gunned down and control of the oil refineries was transferred to Khomeini’s militia.
Faced with a life-and-death situation, the state always quickly abandons its support for the serving head of state and forces in a new one to save the interests of the army and big business plus the regional interests of the multinationals for whom the American, British et al act as godfathers. The Egyptian Army, like other armies of the region, has been receiving their salaries from the US. A total of $ 1.5 billion a year has been paid to Egypt to feed an anti-people army and to barter a ‘peace of subservience’ with Israel.
Today, the awakening of the people of Middle East has left these once-feared armies appear incapacitated by the sheer speed and intensity with which the events have unfolded. For the first time in history from the times of the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the British and the Americans, the Egyptian nation has overthrown the colonial and neo-colonial yoke. The Middle East will never be the same again provided they learn from their own history and remember that unless they are vigilant and armed, their revolution might meet the same fate as that of Nasser in the 20th century and Muhammad Ali Pasha in the 19th century who for a time was de facto ruler. The Egyptians have thrown off the yoke before, only to have it re-imposed.
One must not overlook the dangers that the incomplete revolution faces. The most worrying sign is the lack of a revolutionary party and leadership. This should not come as a surprise, since the western democracies were not concerned with the human rights of the people of Middle East. Their main concerns were to protect the neocolonial settler police state of Israel and to maintain the hegemony of their multinationals over the production and supply of oil, and to place and sustain puppet rulers in Muslim countries to facilitate both of these strategic goals. The only oppositional organisation that is available in Egypt is the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood which was also caught by surprise by the revolutionary uprising but which is now mobilising to take control of the situation.
The army has very cleverly taken up the role of the protector of the state and nation but let us not forget that the role of the army is to protect capital and the state. Once the threat of a people’s revolution becomes a matter of life and death for the old order, it will not take a big effort for the state to turn the barrels of the guns the other way. The masses must arm themselves to complete the revolution.
Today, the painful lack of a revolutionary party and leadership is manifest in the fact that the Egyptian state has fallen like a ripe fruit into the lap of the masses, but the masses do not know what to do with it. Unless the Egyptian people smash the state with the power of an armed insurrection and replace it with a democratic socialist government that guarantees to protect national assets from being privatised, the Egyptian revolution will be lost, with the contingent fear that an extremely brutal counter-revolution might be unleashed.
Let us hope that out of this revolutionary chaos, a true revolutionary leadership will emerge that will quickly form a revolutionary party, which could lead the people to their ultimate destiny. Now it is for the working classes and the people of the region and beyond to step up to the plate and offer their support for the Arab revolution.
The writer is a freelancer based in London. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org