We are devoting much of this issue of Socialist Resistance to the great revolutionary movement which has only just begun in the Arab world. The events in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia and across the region mark an important turning point in the international situation. They are proof that the idea of revolution is as alive and necessary in the twenty first century as it was in the twentieth.
The revolutions in the Arab world are the first revolutions resulting from the crisis of the world capitalist system. Tens of millions of people have rejected lives which leave them unable to properly feed their families and which offers the youth a future of unemployment, despair and poverty. Ordinary people, including organised workers, have provoked multiple crises of the regional klepocratic regimes. They are posing democratic questions, national questions – of national sovereignty against imperialism – and social questions.
These revolutions are not just threatening the local tyrants and kings. For decades they have been armed and feted by France, Britain and the United States, the same imperialist powers that are now drivelling about “humanitarian” intervention. We oppose all imperialist plans to become active in the region. Their only interest is to keep a firm grip on the oil supply and make sure that the new governments that emerge are as well disposed to the Israeli state as their predecessors. It was no accident that the Israeli state, which calls itself the only democracy in the region, was every bit as terrified by the Egyptian people taking to the streets as Mubarak. It is up to the peoples of the region, with the support of progressive forces on every continent, to finish what they have started.
They have been called the “post-Islamist revolutions”. Neither the murderous Iranian theocracy nor the jihadists have any purchase with the youth, workers and urban poor who have taken to the streets. A new generation of workers’ and young mass leaders will emerge from this process. The stifling state controlled union bureaucracies are being swept aside and new workers’ organisations and radical political parties will emerge in countries that have lacked independent workers’ organisations for more than fifty years in some cases.
We are still some way from the working class taking power. As Gilbert Achcar says in his interview in this issue “we don’t even have a thorough democratic revolution yet, so we’re quite far from a social revolution.” However across the region the workers and the youth have seen a glimpse of their power. We can be certain that they have gained the confidence to challenge any new despot who tries to carry on business as usual.
The political landscape transformed by revolutionary activity in the Middle East and North Africa. And the one thing we can say for certain about revolutions is that they are contagious.