Hope and opportunity in the Egyptian uprising

posted 1 Feb 2011, 00:34 by Admin uk   [ updated 18 Feb 2011, 12:26 ]

First published on China.org.cn  

The Egyptian revolutionary movement opens an opportunity for a fundamental and positive change in world relations. Since the Second World War the United States has played the role of both king and devil maker in the Middle East and North Africa. Oil and strategic interests associated with control of this 'black gold', played a decisive role in determining the world balance of power. Meanwhile, the Arab masses were expendable pawns in battles for global economic and strategic dominance. How much suffering has been caused directly and indirectly by this curse?  

Here, where much of human civilisation finds its historical genesis, we see daily misery blood and sacrifice. All this is rooted in the incredible plunder of natural resources created by the death of organic matter, millions of years ago. There was long a common myth that fossil fuels derived from dinosaur bodies. Now there is a common myth that the Middle East and North Africa is plagued by intractable and insoluble problems, rooted in Islamic religion and culture.

The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt confirm Karl Marx's view of the wellsprings of societal transformation. The demand for bread, jobs and work combines into a revolutionary political movement to overthrow the rulers and their regimes. Barack Obama's speeches encapsulate the hypocrisy of the rulers of the West. He issues declarations of support for "our ally" President Mubarak, yet he simultaneously claims to support the people of Egypt, who are calling for the overthrow of Mubarak! This 'slip' in elementary logic might go unnoticed in normal times, but as Mubarak's police have killed at least a hundred protestors in recent days, it is grotesquely absurd. Where are the Western leaders' tears of remorse for their decades of unflinching support for Mubarak?

Scattered throughout the region we find barbaric, theocratic and medieval regimes, some for and some against the United States and Israel. We also find dictatorships held together by wealthy families, exploiting the misery and poverty of their own people. In recent days many of the wealthiest families of Egypt fled their country on a flotilla of private jets. They fear the revolution will not stop at the gates of President Mubarak's residence; and that the masses will demand a change in the socio-economic position of the majority, though the expropriation of the elite.

Over the last decades, the region's urban population swelled, the young became educated, and learnt to use modern communications technology. Mao Zedong said that a 'single spark can start a prairie fire'. History provides few more graphic illustrations of this truth than the impact of the suicide by self-immolation of the 26yr old Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death initiated the Tunisian uprising.

When Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956, it was an extremely popular move with the people. Europe's Imperialist powers wrongly accused him of being a communist. However, communists and socialists did have a strong base of support in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Today, the masses on the Arab streets appear to be unorganised and with no leadership. If the lower ranks of the Egyptian army split away from Mubarak and join the uprising, then trade unionists, socialists and communists will have an opportunity to construct a movement around a programme of radical social and political change. They can lead the process to create a Constituent Assembly, and demand it enshrine public ownership of the banks and major enterprises in the new constitution.

Latin America saw the downfall of dictators in the 1980s. New social movements gave birth to socialist, democratic and participatory constitutional change. This found expression in leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. The downfall of corrupt capitalist regimes in the Middle East and North Africa may encourage the emulation of the Latin American process.

The people of the region seek rapid economic growth to solve their problems, yet everywhere in the West economic and social crisis is the dominant paradigm. Due to the central role of public ownership in the commanding heights of the economy, China stands out as a beacon of success in a world of economic turmoil.

In the Middle East and North Africa communist and socialist ideas can experience a renaissance, as the key forces behind the revolutionary movement are trade unionists, workers and the poor. They are looking for new economic and social policies controlled by the people. Demands to expropriate the ruling elite and create democratic control of state power, may give rise to a new socialist movement throughout the region.