By Ayesha T Villalobos
Egypt’s mass outbreak was inspired by the earlier mass demonstrations, strikes and rebellions in Tunisia “In December, a young man, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself ablaze in the town of Sidi Bouzid after Tunisian police barred him from selling fruit without a permit. The dramatic death resulted to weeks of unrest”that finally resulted to the abdication of onelong-time autocratic client of the United States, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to ask for refuge in Saudi Arabia, another imperialist supporter in the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, significant mass actions have protested the governments in Yemen and Jordan, Algeria ,Libya and Bahrain where U.S. imperialism has dominated the regimes as a key component of their so-called democracy (imperialistic by design ) against political Islam and against the masses of the region.
The present crisis is the classic example of “History repeating itself “. The Middle East of 1940’s and 1950’s we also witnessed a long wave of protests, which engulfed the Middle East after the end of the Second World War. From Egypt to Iran, from Syria to Algeria, the mass movement swept the region. .
The movements of the 1940s and 1950s hold significant lessons for activists today. This is the actual tradition of anti-imperialism and democracy in the Middle East against the bogus radicalism of the dictators and the artificial freedoms of US 'liberation'. The responsibility of the organised working class in shattering apart the old colonial order has long been concealed from history, but it should encourage a new generation of freedom fighters. These movements involved masses of workers and peasants–the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalised–in reshaping the world. Ordinary people struggle against the police and army, and defied the might of empire all in the name of freedom. Despite the disappointment and failures of their leaders, the history of the national liberation movements show that change does come from under, emanating from the desire for freedom of a common man.
The years following the Second World War were characterized by mayhem and confusion across the Middle East. As the old colonial powers recoiled, the social structures they had supported since the 1920s began to collapse. Across the Middle East the 1940s and 1950s were a period of deep revolutionary crisis. The disintegration of the colonial-sponsored regimes was not just the effort of a handful of army officers. It was the railway workers of Baghdad and the textile workers of the Egyptian Delta, students in Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus, and peasant activists in the valley of the Nile and the hills of Kurdistan, who dealt the fatal blow to the old order.
A revolutionary trade union movement surfaced which started to dispute not only foreign capitalists in the name of the nation, but also local capitalists in the name of the working class. The industrial struggle fed back into the nationalist movement, where street protests were accompanied by massive waves of strikes. Turmoil in the cities was outlined by a continuing crash of social order in the countryside. Peasant movements in Syria and Egypt began to come into view towards the end of the 1940s to challenge the pashas for control of the land.
The upheaval of Palestine played a critical role in deterioration of the old order. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the ejection of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes had the effect of increasing the radicalization of the mass movement. The entire incapability of the old regimes to protect the Palestinians, despite sending troops to fight the Zionists, was the final nail in the coffin.
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the deep crisis and ultimate collapse of the old order, it was not the working class that gained from the struggle. Toppling autocrats for dummies tied the fate of the working class movement to nationalist goals. Having politically disarmed the workers' movement, the freedom fighters were then incapable to resist repression by the new regimes.
A combination of oppression and corruption eventually sealed autocrats place on the throne.
By 2011. The price of essential goods sky-rocketed burying the citizen deeply in to the mud of poverty, and although wages increase as the global economy expanded, they could not maintain pace with the cost of living and people have grown to be even more isolated, as new social forces, such as the rising working class, the urban poor and the new middle class, combined in protest at its unrelenting domination. The government's typical response was increased oppression
A growing sense of Anti-imperialist sentiments added to the tension. With the success of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolution? .The arrogance of the rich and the adamant Western oriented Government sharpened the anger of Algerians, Bahrainis, Libyans and Yemenis. What was new about this movement was not its frantic courage, but its central part of working class militants. People who are desperate to bring about change. In the coming days we will witness huge protests and major strikes in the Arab world ,even bloodshed , to press their demand of anti-colonialism, democratic and economic struggles: the end of the US imperialistic relationship with Arab rulers, and calling of new elections, democratic freedoms, freedom of political parties to organise, and an urgent improvement in food and basic commodities.
A fracture had finally emerged in the walls of the masses, and the mass movement rush forward through the gap once more. Youth and Student calling for strikes over local issues rapidly turned into mass demonstrations calling for direct and free elections. Workers united with the protesters, which solidify a firm anti-imperialist stance.
The rest of the countryside and the world witnessed a period of escalating pressure from below combined with transformation from above. This wave of Revolutionary movement is contagious while majority considered this as an Omen for the downfall of US imperialistic era in the Middle East.
The influence of Egypt was also felt in a profound manner. Although the workers' movement in Tunisia and Egypt was unable to take political advantage of the crisis by seizing control of the state, the hpw organised working class was instrumental in the destruction of the old regime. The fall of the Tunisian despot on January 14, 2011 and Egyptian autocrat on February 11, 2011 owed as much to the factory workers, the peasants, mothers, fathers to all Tunis, and Egyptian from all walks of life, hand in hand, united in one ideology of freedom. They are the key assets who played such an important role in destabilising the old regime that had its roots in the class struggle in Tunisia.
A victory for the Tunisian and Egyptian working class provided an opportunity and the potential to heighten up confidence to people/working class struggles right across the Middle East, Asia (Pakistan?) and the United States (The Wisconsin protests and the re-emergence of the American working class.)
Presently, Washington also supported a strong-arm ruler of a Muslim country who is confronting strong insurgent tensions within his populace. He is not Hosni Mubarak but Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan.“Zardari, the husband of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was at one time jailed on corruption charges. He now presides over a precipitous downward economic spiral, marked by extreme civil unrest and widening fundamentalist influence”
The recent event, known as “The Raymond Davis case”, had resulted to public ire;Adding to existing outrage is news that the widow of one of Davis’s victims recently committed suicide. The diplomatic chasm that has opened between Islamabad and Washington might grow even larger. A senior delegation of U.S. lawmakers flew to Pakistan demanding the release of Davis, threatening that $1.5 billion of annual assistance for Pakistan may be at risk as well as a $7.5 billion, five-year civilian aid package.The outcome of this case (the last straw?) will determine the inevitable outbreak of a Revolution against the Western oriented Government and against American foreign policy, one that will offer important lessons for how the U.S. should have handled the situation in Egypt and its outcome.
In Pakistan, firm support from the U.S. and an open-aid spigot rewarded Zardari assistance in apprehending? Terrorists and amassing more wealth than ever before leaving the pitiable masses with unbearable uncertainties, the gambit spawned a countrywide campaign for vigilance and gearing up the citizen for possible downturn of events. To be willing to wage a revolution, to be willing to take it all without remorse, without fear, resolute, until victory until the end. A populace deprived of the basic rights are tantamount to disregarding the right of existence, a deliberate disregard of human life. United States of America and the curse and the threat of imperialist intervention was a powerful factor in pushing the outcome of Davis case in their favour. The wind of revolution permeates the air and it will broaden the struggle beyond limits and will strengthen and deepened the mass movement.
Furthermore it should be noted that while the revolution remained an effective tool in overthrowing an autocratic regimes it could neither preserve its democratic character, nor offer eternal effective resistance to imperialism. Once the mass movement receded away, Once the government were transformed ,history tells us that, tragically, revolts against repressive regimes often lead to even greater tyranny, that have become far more attentive to the interests of imperialism than its predecessors, despite its rhetoric about “'Arab unity”. A revolutions objective should be clear to everyone involved i.e. economic, political, and social framework, failure to do so will create more confusion and chaos. The vulnerability of it being hijacked by the ruling elite is conceivable; else this struggle will only be relegated to the dustbin of history.
“But just as in the Middle East past history of revolution, it was nationalist army officers and intellectuals who captured the state at the moment of revolutionary crisis, not organised workers. And having taken power, the nationalist leaders of the 1950s succumbed to the pressures of imperialism. The great powers quickly found new means of maintaining their domination of the Middle East.”
Examining the events of the revival of Arab nationalism is not an exercise in nostalgia. All of the questions thrown up by some segment of the society if indeed these revolutions are “authentic revolutions per se” signifying a revolutionary crisis, are still being asked in the Middle East and the rest of the world today. What is the key force in the struggle against imperialism? How is the fight for national liberation related to the struggle against capitalism? How can the ordinary people of the region defeat both their own repressive rulers and the imperialist powers? The mass protests in solidarity with the Tunisian and Egyptian in the past weeks and the wave of demonstrations against imperialism, corruption and tyranny show that a new generation and the Rebirth of Middle East Renaissance is finding its voice in the streets. The lesson of the 1940s and 1950s must be that both workers' organisation and revolutionary leadership should directly be engage in recreating the crucial role in turning nationalist and democratic demands into a movement which can challenge the imperial order in its entirety.
A strong and united opposition to imperialism and intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere, combined with a campaign against racism and injustice, is the best assurance and guarantee for a better and secure world that there is no more immediate duty than for the masses to unite, based on a basic platform against racism and injustice in order that nations of the world will be free from the shackles of Western Imperialistic power.
Ayesha (Sylvia) Villalobos is a scholar and a political activist from Phillipines. She is a student of InternationalRelations with extensive research in Muslim world. She has her heart vibrating for Muslim unity and creation of a Muslim Common Market that she refers to as ‘Ummah.’ For the past sometime, she has been writing for Opinion Maker.