|Syrian militia with outdated anti-aircraft gun Aleppo August 4th (AFP via Getty)|
Driving this confrontation is the worsening global crisis of capitalism. The imperialist powers are undergoing a severe recession brought about by falling profits and overproduction of capital. This is not a ‘financial’ crisis but a deep structural crisis of capitalism. To restore profits the imperialist economies have to destroy $trillions of capital value which is why the world economy is still in a long depression. Made to pay for the crisis are the weaker capitalist powers and the world’s workers and peasants and that means further austerity. Between 2008 and 2010 massive attacks on workers and peasants living standards were launched. By 2010 resistance to these attacks were reaching explosive potential. When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Tunisia the masses of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) were ready to rise up. The Arab Revolution that had been frozen and driven back by dictatorships since the 1950s rose up and brought down one regime after another in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, while in Syria the regime is approaching its downfall.
The awakening Arab Revolution destabilised the rule of terror of the Zionist regime. Israel had reached a stalemate with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Then came the wave of uprisings from Tunisia to Syria which strengthened the mass support for the isolated Palestinian Revolution. The Egyptian Revolution put the freedom of Palestine at the top of its program, thereby declaring its anti-imperialism and internationalism. The army deposed Mubarak and conceded the election victory of his successor Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to put the lid on the revolution calling for an end to Mubarak’s treaty with Israel. The Libyan armed revolt exploded and threatened to spread across the whole Arab Revolution. It was contained by NATO intervention and bourgeois parliamentary elections.
The Syrian people began to resist al Assad’s dictatorship and without imperialist support are today pushing to overthrow the regime. Under pressure from the Palestinian masses, Hamas broke with Iran to back the Syrian revolution against al Assad. This leaves Hezbollah as a proxy for Iran on the side of al Assad, weakened and isolated from the rest of the ‘Arab Spring’. The weakening of Iran’s influence in MENA reduces the pressure for direct US intervention beyond a CIA watching brief on 'Jihadists' in the Syrian opposition. The US is confident that it can find a pro-imperialist coalition government to impose a ‘democratic counter-revolution’. Israel is not so confident. A revolution without imperialist strings attached could develop into a mortal threat to the Zionist state and to the Arab bourgeois factions who rule over the Arab masses. Israel has lost the support of al Assad as a counterweight to the Palestinian revolution. The Palestinian Diaspora in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan became embroiled in the Syrian war as under pressure from the masses in the camps the PLO and Hamas came out in support of the revolution against the Stalinist PFLF-GC who supported al Assad. Thus it is no surprise that the Arab Revolution threatened to break out of the ‘democratic’ counter-revolution at the major fault line, Gaza, where the Israeli and the Palestinian bourgeois factions staged another missile war to test the new balance of forces in MENA.
The Gaza attack has allowed the Arab and Israeli ruling classes to test their relative power and re-affirm their class alliance against the Arab masses. The result is that Israel re-affirms its military gendarme role against the armed Arab revolution, by doing a deal with the Palestine bourgeois factions, Fatah and Hamas, taking the pressure off al Assad, and reinforcing the MB rule in Egypt. The ceasefire signals that Israel has tested its defences and reached agreements with the ‘moderate’ Islamic regional powers Turkey and Egypt. Israel has fine-tuned its gendarme role to play tough cop to the soft cop of US/NATO ‘democratic’ counter revolution. Imperialism has incorporated Israel into its ‘solution’ to the Arab Spring, the flowering of moderate Islamic regimes in a bloc with Israel against radical Islamic nationalism and against popular mass revolutions that are capable of breaking with imperialism.
Obama’s foreign policy setting is to stabilise MENA as a secure base to pursue its vital hegemonic interests in the ‘pivot’ towards the Asia-Pacific. This requires a firm alliance between the Zionist and moderate Islamic nationalist regimes against the masses. The US will enlist the ‘global community’ to pressure Israel to re-open negotiations with Palestine for a ‘two state’ solution. Recognising Palestine as an UN ‘observer’ state is a move in that direction despite US official opposition. To the extent that Iran’s allies on its borders weaken, Israel has less reason to threaten war with Iran. Thus Iran’s significance will be less as a destabilising factor in MENA and more a focal point in the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China for control over the Asia-Pacific.
This imperialist policy setting for MENA - that of ‘democratic counter-revolution’ - is inherently unstable not only because behind the fig leaf of parliamentary elections there are the naked austerity attacks on the working masses. Fundamentally ‘democracy’ in MENA is incompatible with the existence of Zionist Israel. The borders imposed by imperialism after WW1 created artificial states, dividing and trapping nations such as the Kurds and other minorities. In the case of Israel however, imperialism allowed a new settler colony to drive the Palestinians off their land creating the Zionist ‘nation’ at the expense of the Palestine nation. Any claims by the Zionist state to ‘democracy’ are a lie since its very existence is at the expense of Palestinian national rights. Therefore, imperialism cannot impose stability on MENA by pretending to resolve the Palestine question, i.e. recognising Palestine and imposing a ‘two state solution’, as long as Israel continues to exist. Just as Palestine can only be freed by the destruction of the colonial settler state of Israel, the Arab masses cannot be freed without overthrowing the rule of imperialism and the national bourgeoisies that serve imperialism in the MENA. This means the Arab revolution must fight to complete the national bourgeois revolution by means of socialist revolution in the whole MENA region.
We can see what progress is being made in transforming the national into the socialist revolution. The most advanced front is in Syria where a popular ‘peaceful’ resistance movement was transformed by defections from the military into an armed insurrection. Here imperialism has not intervened directly to subordinate the popular rebellion to a ‘government in waiting’. The militias are not controlled by the SNC or by any attempt by the US to set up a ‘reliable’ alternative to al Assad. Despite the imperialist legacy of splitting up nationalities and the deliberate sectarian incitement by the regime to weaken the opposition, the militias are broadly committed to an inclusive, tolerant bourgeois democracy. Any attempt by imperialism to prevent or hijack the victory will turn the insurrection against imperialism. The Syrian revolution has already reactivated the Palestinian revolution so the two cannot be isolated. The question of whether a victorious Syrian revolution and the Palestinian revolution can be contained by a ‘democratic’ counter-revolution will depend on wider developments in the Arab Revolution.
While the revolution has been driven back by force in Kuwait, and so far contained by an Islamic regime in Tunisia, the resistance in Jordan where the majority are Palestinians has taken to the streets protesting against fuel price rises and calling for the downfall of the regime. This shows that while the revolution may be stalled or pushed back in some countries, in others is it moving ahead. Those who are being driven back or are just beginning their struggle need to look to the most advanced struggles to learn the lessons of how to fight for permanent revolution. If we look at Syria, Libya and Egypt we can see that some of the conditions for permanent revolution exist, while others have yet to be created.
Libya is the only other front of the Arab Revolution where the armed struggle succeeded in overthrowing a national dictatorship. It must be remembered that strength of the rebel army resulted from defections from Gaddafi’s armed forces. This is a key development that allowed the rebel army to win without becoming subordinated to NATO. NATO intervened to prevent the war of liberation from dragging on like in Syria and sparking a wider Arab war. It succeeded in installing a parliamentary regime but has not been able to disarm the militias or form a stable government. The recent attack on the Benghazi US Consulate shows that the US has some way to go to create a ‘reliable’ client state in Libya. While the elections have been widely supported the masses have yet to see any relief from the austerity of the Gaddafi dictatorship. The militias remain armed and the potential to overturn any austerity regime exists. This fact shows that it is vital for the Syrian revolution to build and maintain a popular militia independent of imperialism and of any pro-imperialist national regime.
In Egypt the popular revolution did not arm itself or take power. The military regime replaced Mubarak with Morsi of the MB as a ‘democratic’ facade, but this has already proven unstable. Morsi has assumed total power to rush a new constitution through that will guarantee a MB majority in a new parliament. The MB knows that its middle class support base will not survive mass resistance to the austerity measures that the IMF demands. It wants to create a constitutional front that allows an Islamic bloc backed by the military to restore a dictatorship. This has revived the revolution on the streets but the masses do not have the power to bring down the Government. Demands that Morsi retracts his assumption of total power or resign cannot be enforced as it could be in Libya by the armed militias. What is lacking in Egypt is any popular power based on industrial action or more importantly winning over the base of the army. Both of these essential conditions were never seriously fought for by the revolution of the streets. To realise them now requires a fight for a revolutionary constituent assembly to unite the masses and the base of the army to bring down Morsi and his middle class MB dictatorship.
Permanent revolution means that to win the most basic democratic rights, such as Palestine liberation, such as a constitution that reflects the popular working masses and not just the middle class in Egypt, such as a popular victory over the al Assad regime in Syria, it is necessary to arm the popular struggle. In Palestine the resistance to Israeli occupation has always come from the masses not the Fatah or Hamas bourgeois leaderships. In Libya and Syria, the masses were armed when militants and defectors from the army joined forces. In Egypt, the fight to bring down Morsi will mean winning over the base of the military and uniting it with armed militias based on the organised workers. This will open the road to popular democracy and to bourgeois democratic republics. Yet, in semi-colonies dominated and super-exploited by imperialism, the national bourgeoisies serve as agents of imperialism to rule over the super-exploited masses. The bourgeois democratic republic must always revert to an open bourgeois dictatorship unless it is overthrown and turned into a proletarian dictatorship. For the working masses to survive they must insist on retaining their armed independence from the bourgeois regimes and take the fight to imperialism. We can see that this is necessary in the whole of MENA just as the liberation of Palestine necessitates the destruction of the Zionist imperialist enclave.
A new revolutionary international
The Arab masses are fighting to complete their national revolution against imperialism in crisis and the national bourgeoisies that act as its agents. Their spontaneous demands are to reform the state so that they are not victims of exploitation and oppression. The default ideology of capitalism is that individual citizens are equal and that once a majority mobilise for equal rights this can be won. In Libya, Gaddafi was seen as the problem. In Egypt, Mubarak was seen as the problem. In Syria al Assad was seen as the problem. The revolutions against these dictatorships aim to create egalitarian bourgeois democracies. The problem is that in the epoch of imperialism bourgeois democracy is incompatible with the survival of global capitalism. Once dictatorships are overthrown, new dictatorships must arise in their place. This is particularly true of semi-colonies where imperialism must use the national regimes to repress mass resistance to super-exploitation.
This means that to win the most fundamental bourgeois democratic rights the bourgeois ruling class must be overthrown and replaced with a socialist republic – the dictatorship of the working majority over the exploiting minority. But for this to happen, the most advanced workers must have a program to lead all working and oppressed people to socialist revolution. But in the Arab states socialism has been repeatedly betrayed. First, by the Western social imperialists of the rotten Second International who turned their backs on national struggles; second by the Stalinists of the rotten Third International who aligned themselves with the national bourgeoisies during the national struggles; and third the fake ‘Trotskyists’ who made friends with Gaddafi and al Assad and co, and today give critical support to the national bourgeoisies. Those who pass themselves off as revolutionaries like the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt vote for bourgeois governments. There is no revolutionary party embedded in the working class in any of these countries that fights for a clear transitional program that lays out the road forward from the struggle for immediate and democratic demands and shows how these can only be won by an armed insurrection – the Permanent Revolution. Building such a party as part of a new socialist international party is the most important and urgent task facing revolutionaries.
SMASH THE ZIONIST STATE OF ISRAEL! FOR A SECULAR, SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF PALESTINE!
DOWN WITH BOURGEOIS REGIMES—THEY SERVE THE IMPERIALIST MASTER!
US/NATO/CHINA HANDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA!
DOWN WITH THE REACTIONARY BOURGEOIS CONSTITUTIONS OF TUNISIA, LIBYA AND EGYPT!
FOR REVOLUTIONARY CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLIES FOR ALL FROM 16YRS OF AGE!
FOR WORKERS COUNCILS, WORKERS MILITIAS, POOR FARMERS COUNCILS, COUNCILS OF THE MILITARY RANKS! FOR GOVERNMENTS OF WORKERS COUNCILS!
FOR A FEDERATION OF SOCIALIST REPUBLICS OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA!
Statement of Liaison Committee of Communists
Communist Workers' Group (USA)
Revolutionary Workers' Group (Zimbabwe)
30 November 2012