Gilbert Achcar reports on the most recent developments across the Arab world
While voices were being raised from the right, and part of the left, declaring the “Arab Spring” over and advising the rebellious masses to go back home, recent days have made it abundantly clear that the revolutionary process which was sparked in Tunisia late last year remains alive and well. Indeed, it has reinvigorated itself and is experiencing a fresh upsurge – to be followed by others undoubtedly over the course of the years to come.
The revolution continues everywhere, defying attempts to abort it or divert it from its progressive and liberating course. These efforts are sponsored by the United States – protector of most of the afflicted regimes – and supervised by the bastions of Arab reaction in the Gulf oil states. They are engaged in a vain attempt to extinguish the flames of revolution by dousing them with petrodollars. And they are being aided and abetted – in exchange for a promised slice of the cake – by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood backed by the emirate of Qatar and by Salafi groups backed by the Saudi kingdom.
Yet the revolution continues everywhere, as in Yemen, where “Our Revolution Continues” was the name given to last Friday’s rallies rejecting the “compromise” agreement to which [President] Saleh, grinning broadly, put his signature. The Saudi kingdom is trying to impose the deal on the Yemenis in order to perpetuate Saleh’s regime, like Mubarak’s in Egypt, while Saleh himself continues running the show from behind the scenes in Yemen itself or from the Saudi kingdom – the sanctuary for corrupt despots, which welcomed Ben Ali, offered to host Mubarak, and treated Saleh after his injury.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Egypt, where the masses have taken to the streets in a new uprising against military rule. They have realised that the army command, which for a while they took to be loyal to the people, is an inseparable part – indeed a mainstay – of the regime whose downfall the people had demanded. The greatest of the Arab revolutions in scale and importance has regained its vitality. The vision and resolve of those who carried on the struggle undeterred by temporary isolation have been vindicated. They were confident that the massive energy unleashed on January 25 had not been exhausted, and that it must continue to be harnessed in the democratic and social struggles. These twin struggles can only succeed when welded together. It happened when the tyrant was brought down, and will need to happen again on a wider scale once the workers’ movement has consolidated its new organization.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Tunisia, where in recent days the masses have risen in the Gafsa mining basin, whose 2008 uprising set the stage for the revolution that broke out two years later in Sidi Bouzid. They have revived the original demand of the Tunisian revolution: the right to employment. They have not been taken in by the “orderly transition” arranged by the dominant social “elite” to preserve its status, after ousting Ben Ali as a sacrificial lamb. This “elite” is trying today to co-opt yesterday’s oppositionists.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Syria, where the popular struggle keeps intensifying, in defiance of the regime’s brutality and atrocious repression. Growing numbers of soldiers are daring to defect from the ranks of the army in order to truly carry out their duty of defending the people. Calls for foreign military intervention made by the right wing of the opposition are meanwhile being foiled. The right hopes that foreign intervention will hand them power on a steel platter, fearing that the popular uprising may succeed in toppling the regime on its own.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Libya, where voices denouncing attempts to subject the country to foreign tutelage are growing louder. The Amazigh revolutionaries, who played a big part in liberating the country from the tyrant’s rule, have refused to recognise the new government, because it did not acknowledge their rights. Social demands are increasingly being raised, both in the regions that were most deprived under the former regime, and in the heart of the capital. All this in the absence of an apparatus holding a monopoly of arms and capable of protecting those who accumulated wealth and privilege during Gaddafi’s protracted rule.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Morocco, where a majority of people boycotted the elections by means of which the monarchy tried to contain popular protests, in the hope that its aides in the “loyal opposition” would be able to quiet the volcano. But it continues to rumble, in the form of demonstrations staged by the genuine opposition. And intolerable living conditions make a major eruption inevitable.
The revolution continues everywhere, as in Bahrain, where the rebellious masses were not duped by the “fact-finding” pantomime which the US imposed on the kingdom to ease through its planned arms-supply deal. They are continuing to demonstrate and protest, day after day, convinced that victory will ultimately be theirs, and cannot be denied them forever by the Al Khalifa dynasty and its patron the House of Saud. Instead, the latter’s day of reckoning will unavoidably come.
The revolution continues everywhere, including in the Saudi kingdom, where the people of Qatif rose up some days ago, undeterred by the regime’s deadly repression. They will continue their struggle until its “contagion” spreads to every part of the Arabian Peninsula and to its entire people, despite the malicious sectarian incitement which has become the last ideological weapon of the House of Saud’s tyranny and the obscurantist Wahhabi establishment which, along with their US protectors, props them up.
When the House of Saud’s throne in the Arabian Peninsula falls, so will the principal bastion of Arab reaction, and the oldest ally and intermediary of US hegemony in our region (older even than the Zionist ally). On that day the whole autocratic and exploitative Arab order will have collapsed.
But until that day comes, the revolution must continue. It will definitely experience failures, setbacks, backlashes, tragedies, traps and conspiracies. As the main leader of the Chinese Revolution once put it: “Revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, gradually…” The revolution must thus march tirelessly on, keeping in mind another famous maxim from one of the leaders of the French Revolution: “Those who make revolutions half way only dig their own graves. What constitutes a republic is the destruction of all that stands in its way.”
Gilbert Achcar is a professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.