The Arab Spring: revolution and counter-revolution
- Written by Sandra Bloodworth
No words can describe my feelings honestly as I watched, together with millions of Egyptians, our former dictator, with his two corrupt sons including the man he was grooming for succession, his torturers-in-chief Adly and co, in a court cage today, as accused criminals in a live-aired trial…
“Fair trials” for the regime officials? The real trials have already taken place in
Tahrir Squareand other public squares in Egypt. The evidence for Mubarak and co’s crimes are everywhere, from the scars we hold on our backs, to those we buried in the cemeteries, to those who burned to death in trains, to those drowned in ferries.
Mubarak, you are guilty. And you deserve no less than a public execution in
Hossam al-Hamalaway, a journalist and blogger at 3arabawy.org, summed up the emotions felt by millions who had been waiting for this moment ever since Mubarak was toppled in February. Since he wrote these words in early August, hundreds of thousands of workers and students in
Their courage and determination echoed the extraordinary defiance by millions across the Arab world facing jail, tanks, bullets and torture – for daring to demand democracy and freedom. The Arab spring had not withered to autumn as some commentators lamented. It has continued to develop along new lines, taking on new challenges, as the protests in
As we prepare for publication, Gaddafi has fallen, although his whereabouts are unknown and fighting continues in Gaddafi’s home town of
Socialist Alternative opposed NATO’s intervention in
NATO’s intervention creates a somewhat different – and dangerous – situation from that in
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the NTC, was Gaddafi’s justice minister until February when, like a rat, he deserted what was likely to be a sinking ship. The US find him a “cooperative” figure because they’re used to dealing with him as part of the regime, brought into the Western fold since 2003. By 2007 Business Week reported that at least one Harvard University guru and the Boston Consultancy Business Group had begun a project “to create a new business elite” in Libya. As the files the rebels found when they entered
The very depth of Western engagement even with the Arab dictatorship with the longest history of past confrontation with the US and his allies may help to explain the vehemence with which Barack Obama and David Cameron denounced Gaddafi once the revolt against him began – and also perhaps the speed with which Cameron was willing to run up the flag of “liberal interventionism” that had been so discredited by association with George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s military adventure in Iraq. By helping to deliver the coup de grace to Gaddafi, the Western powers might gain some leverage in an important oil producer, but also belatedly win some credit for supporting the struggle for democracy in the Arab world.
We can add that they were able to take advantage of a tactical mistake by the Libyan rebels. While the armed struggle has been heroic, it has a serious negative side. As Sami Ramadani has argued:
These self-appointed leaders [i.e. the NTC] succeeded in focusing attention on seeking Western military intervention at an early stage of the popular uprising. They encouraged the people on the streets of
Benghazito prematurely resort to arms even before the Gaddafi dictatorship unleashed its savagery on the people. In addition to the brutality of the regime, the early rush to arms was one of the main factors preventing the uprising from gathering momentum across Libya, particularly in the capital Tripoli where more than a quarter of the population lives.
The very nature of armed struggle, with the need for centralised discipline and the limits it places on mass involvement, made this revolution easier for the West to feel they can control compared with those in Egypt, Tunisia or Syria, where the involvement of such wide layers of the population in regular mobilisations makes them more volatile and potentially more radical. Obama and Cameron, along with the rest of NATO, saw an opportunity to maintain their influence and they seized it.
All of this puts the movement in
International assistance, probably including an international force, is likely to be needed for some time to help restore and maintain order. The size and composition of the force will depend on what is requested and welcomed by the Libyan National Transitional Council and what is required by the situation on the ground.
It is too soon to categorically declare how the situation will now develop. It’s clear that the Western imperialist powers think they will control the NTC and
And how is this new world to be built? The model is that of
Eastern Europeand the colour revolutions; American soft power and public diplomacy is to be used to reshape the socio-political scene in the region. The aim is to transform the people’s revolutions into America’s revolutions by engineering a new set of docile, domesticated and US-friendly elites. This involves not only co-opting old friends from the pre-revolutionary era, but also seeking to contain the new forces produced by the revolution, long marginalised by the US.
The program in
It will be necessary in
The rush to arms reflected the absence of an organised working class movement such as exists in
I think all the Libyan thwar [revolutionary fighters] will not obey his orders. Not just those from Misrata. Shkal is with Gaddafi. Not long ago he was using troops to shell people in Misrata, Mahmoud Jibril cannot do it just by himself: it is against the people.
He wasn’t the only one prepared to speak out, as The Guardian article went on to report. Hassan al-Amin, returned after 28 years in exile, echoed Zuwawi. He insisted rebel forces “are not going to follow orders from a war criminal”, and one of the fighters, Walid Tenasil, returning to garrison duty in Tripoli said: “Our message to the NTC is: just remember the blood. That is it.”
So as we go to press it is too soon to assume that NATO and the NTC will get everything their own way. While the prospects of a continuing social revolution are less promising than in
Apart from how events unfold in Libya itself, the sight of yet another brutal dictator brought down after decades may embolden those fighting back elsewhere – especially against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Sameh Naguib, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists in
Many of the signs are ominous. In most revolutions it seems at the beginning that almost the whole nation can unite against a tiny number of oppressors. However, that unity cannot last indefinitely.
As Toufic Haddad argued:
[T]he West took a gamble in its actions with
Libyaand may one day come to regret its support for the Libyan revolution. Where is Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi huckster who was America’s horse for the post-invasion period of Iraq? The man once dubbed “George Washington of Iraq” is not only not running Iraq, but is under investigation by the USfor all the money he stole, and the lies he told.
The point is, the dislodging of Qaddafi, if finally successful, will be an important first stage in the success of the Libyan revolution. But it is not the end of the struggle, as
Tunisiaand Egyptare proving as well. The battle for the orientation of Libyaand its political and social make-up, will fall to its people.
Egypt: the need for social revolution
The founding conference of the Federation was held at the headquarters of the journalists’ union. Entitled “What the workers want from the revolution”, the meeting brought together several hundred trade unionists from different towns and sectors of activity. The pillars of the project were the autonomous unions that had recently emerged: the unions of land tax collectors and of health technicians, the pensioners’ union and the independent teachers’ union. Among those participating were representatives of telecommunications workers, textile workers, the iron and steel industry, the Workers’
Around the world the heroic struggle of the Arab masses is a warning to the ruling class that once aroused, masses of people cannot easily be persuaded, even by brute force, to retreat into the passivity which preceded these upheavals. And they are an inspiration to anyone who wants to see a free society. They are blazing a path along which millions need to tread if we are to turn the growing crisis in the system into a rebellion capable of winning that world. However if millions are to follow, if they are to find the way to revolutions which can truly win freedom, we have to do more than celebrate their courage, determination and inspiration. We need to draw the lessons which can be learned from the suffering and sacrifices of those who have given their lives, of those who mourn their loved ones, and who confront the forces which are prepared to drown whole populations in blood in order to defend their exploitative and oppressive system. The Arab revolution poses many questions of general relevance for all those standing up for justice and freedom.
As we argued in the last issue of this journal, the struggle for democracy could unite the vast mass of the population. But this unity could only be temporary because the broad layers involved represent very different class interests. Anne Alexander explained who the millions involved in the revolution are:
Some are from
Egypt’s middle classes, to be sure: students, professionals, English-speaking executives employed by Google, liberal politicians. Their quarrel with the old regime lay primarily in their political marginalisation: the common experience of police-state brutality which united so many sections of Egyptian society. But for the vast majority who joined the uprising, political exclusion and poverty are two sides of the same coin. They are the workers, small business people, artisans, the unemployed and underemployed whose families can’t support them, those who toil in the shadow economy of petty street-trading and hustling.
The conflict between these agendas was always going to raise challenges for the masses. It meant the unity of the first phase of the revolution could not last – something that only experience would make clear to wide layers of the population. After the fall of Mubarak, many of the protesters accepted as sincere the claims of the SCAF to represent the revolution. Workers, many of whom have not been paid in months, the poor and the marginalised, need and expected economic gains from their revolution. Food prices in April 2011 were 20 per cent higher than a year earlier, and these increases came on top of reduced subsidies and rising prices over the last few years. However the SCAF regime was never going to satisfy these demands and desires. As well as a commitment to Mubarak’s international treaties, the SCAF regime has made it clear from the first that they are determined to continue the neoliberal economic policies of the last three decades.
At first, people protested, but in a friendly way, expecting a hearing from the military government. But as a wave of strikes which had begun days before Mubarak’s overthrow and mass rallies in Tahrir Square continued, it was not long before the military dictatorship outlawed strikes, attacked peaceful protests and even conducted virginity tests on women protesters. The perseverance of hundreds of thousands met with the force of military rule in the interests of “business as usual”. And this created a process in which those masses could begin to clarify the political issues which confront the movement. The protesters want justice for their martyrs, but what have they seen? In early August Asmaa Mahfouz was brought before a military court charged with inciting violence against the military and insulting the armed forces simply because she spoke out about the army’s refusal to oversee the freedoms people had fought for. Ten thousand have been convicted in military courts while the perpetrators of murder against protesters, Mubarak and the backers of his former dictatorship, are dealt with in civilian courts. As a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists has argued:
As in any revolution, those who lose power are prepared to do anything to regain it. The remnants of the NDP, the security police, and billionaire businessmen connected to the old regime continued to make attempts at rolling back the revolution.
And so deep divisions have opened up between an increasingly coherent counter-revolution and those who want at least the basic right to trade union organisation, a minimum wage, decent working conditions, and genuine democratic reform. By late July the slogans raised in protests had taken on a tone of explicit hostility towards the SCAF regime. This is a critical step forward because the regime does not just depend on repression in order to limit the gains of the revolution. The counter-revolutionary forces are conducting an ideological battle to demoralise those who see the need to continue the revolution and to bolster the confidence of those who are determined to limit it. Hesham Sellam has documented how a language of counter-revolution has developed and is used against those who continue to fight to take the revolution forward:
Shortly after the resignation of Husni Mubarak on February 11,
Egyptwitnessed the rise of what Egyptian authorities and media outlets began describing as ihtijajat fi’awiyya or small-group protests. The Arabic term fi’a simply means “group,” but has acquired negative connotations and might be compared with how the term “special interest” is used to disparage American labour. In post-Mubarak Egypt, officials have used its adjectival form fi’awi in reference to any demonstration, strike or sit-in advancing demands related to distribution of wealth, whether the protesters are blue- or white-collar employees, and whether they are calling for higher wages, greater benefits, improved working conditions or replacement of corrupt management personnel.
The image conjured up of the military and the people as one hand has been increasingly discredited, in spite of the military regime’s best efforts to maintain a rhetorical pretence of support for the ongoing revolution. The army command was the first to invoke the use of the term fi’awi – to justify outlawing strikes and the right to protest. In July the spokesperson for the Military Council, General Fangari, appealed to the memory of the days of unity and saluted the martyrs. Then he backed up calls by middle class former protesters for a return to “normal” and “business as usual”, invoking the same rhetoric with the threat to
take all necessary measures to confront the threats which encircle the homeland unless this questioning of the ongoing process ceases…as do the rumours and misconceptions which lead to the discord and rebellion and the promotion of the interests of a narrow minority over those of the country as a whole.
Army spokespeople shake and poke their fingers at their audience as they try to intimidate workers from pursuing their own agenda. But they are backed up by an array of
[T]he Muslim Brothers’ spokesman Essam El-Erian accused fi’awi protests of undermining national consensus and expressed “understanding” for the army’s point of view. Usama Haykal, editor-in-chief of the liberal Wafd Party’s daily, warned that the demonstrations could “destroy” the gains of the revolution. In March, a group of correspondents in al-Fayyoum announced that they would not cover fi’awi demonstrations because “while legal, they are poorly timed.” In April,
Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gum’a, went so far as to say that “instigators of fi’awi demonstrations violate the teachings of God”.
Bread and butter issues such as a living wage are denigrated as a threat to
We are not “questioning the ongoing process”, rather we are announcing that the process is slow and compromised in order to protect the killer police officers from justice. We are telling the world that ten thousand of the children of this country are locked up in military prisons after suffering the worst tortures. We know that the system is making the maximum effort to stop the people from regaining the wealth which was looted from them over the decades…
We are not “spreading rumours” but spreading the truth that you are trying to hide the truth that poverty and repression, torture and detention, are still everywhere… The people’s interests are not “narrow”. The demands for a loaf of bread, for health care, education, housing fit for human beings, freedom of expression, the right to work and the achievement of justice are at the heart of the demands of the revolution. They do not compare to the narrow self-interest of businessmen and their associates, who, not content with plundering the people’s wealth…[only] care about their bank accounts [which] are still swelling and that they continue to drain the blood and sweat of the workers for as little pay as possible.
As Joshua Stacher, a political scientist at
There is total class warfare going on in
Egypt… If middle upper class, urban people in Cairoand Alexandriaget some of their demands met, they could [sic] care less about minimum wage, or the fact that the healthcare system is complete crap… The dominant discourse that’s coming out on TV is that it’s not the right time to protest for these things. Like “You shouldn’t have a living wage right now, you’re being greedy.”
Facing the challenge of counter-revolution
This class war is not a reason to despair. It is the inevitable outcome of a serious fight by the masses for a decent life. Its challenges have to be met. Hundreds of thousands continue to demonstrate that they have the courage and determination to make that challenge. But it also means clarifying political questions raised by this class war if the masses are to triumph. How the left responds to complex questions could make the difference between victory in the future and serious defeats. One such complexity is how to respond to the political advance of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. The Islamists’ successful mobilisation of a huge rally in
There is something of a state of hysteria in the discussions on the left and among the liberals about the Islamist movement in Egypt at present, fuelled by the fact that while we are in the first stages of the biggest popular revolution in Egypt’s history, the forces of the left are small and divided, but the Muslim Brotherhood is the biggest organisation on the Egyptian political scene.
As Naguib points out, support for the military regime and opposition to the continuing workers’ struggles is not limited to the Brotherhood. Amr Hamzawy, a popular liberal, has “even called for the formation of groups of young people and public personalities in order to spread propaganda against strikes among the workers. A wide range of intellectuals and revolutionaries of yesterday are inciting for smashing strikes with the cooperation of the army…” The Salafists – ultra-religious conservative Muslims who foster extreme hostility towards Christians, even burning down a Coptic church – are being encouraged by the army to compete with the Brotherhood as the religious face of the counter-revolution. While the Brotherhood vacillated, they did in the end support most of the the mobilisations in
Parallel to its work in the universities and professional syndicates, the Brotherhood expanded its mass base in poor neighbourhoods. Private mosques, Islamic charities and NGOs were utilised as “mobilising structures” to activate a growing network of cadres and to win new influence…the Islamists were able to fill the vacuum [created by the state’s retreat from providing social services], creating a mass base of supporters that included not only disaffected students and graduates but also workers and sections of the urban poor.
They appeal to this wide range of different social groups and classes with the vague promise that Islam is the solution to their woes, whether it be the lack of decent jobs for graduates, or the abject poverty of the marginalised poor or lack of decent wages and conditions for workers. Naguib argues that the left’s obsession with the abstract notion of secularism plays into the Islamists’ hands by making it seem that the people’s religious beliefs are under threat. “Secularism…as an abstract principle with no connection to the interests of the working class and poor, is meaningless, and in fact defence of secularism on such a basis only serves the Islamists.” The central task for the left is to continue to build the struggles and independent organisations of the working class, to develop organisations among the masses which can deepen the social revolution. Then the counter-revolutionary intentions of the Islamists will be exposed. This is the only basis on which to defeat not just the Islamists, but the counter-revolution as a whole. The Muslim Brotherhood’s mass base could well fracture as the revolutionary process develops, as Naguib explained:
Permanent vacillation between opposition and compromise, between escalation and calm, is a result of the nature of the Brotherhood as a popular religious group which comprises sections of the urban bourgeoisie side by side with sections of the traditional and modern petty bourgeoisie (students and university graduates), the unemployed and large sections of the poor. This structure remains stable at times of political and social calm, but turns into a time bomb at moments of great transformation, when it becomes almost impossible to reconcile the various contradictory social interests under a broad and vague religious message.
This is a question not of religion versus secularism, but of revolutionary class politics versus bourgeois politics which opposes attempts to go beyond a political revolution to social revolution. And it is not a question unique to
Adunis’s stance on this point suggests just how detached he is from the lived reality of his own country. Not only have many of the protests in
Syriaerupted first on university campuses, but the choice of mosques as gathering places cannot be said to express a particular religious ideology, since few other equivalent institutions exist…and Syrian citizens do not have the luxury of picking and choosing between many sites for staging their protests. Indeed, there have been moving reports of Christians and atheists who went to mosques on Fridays in order to take part in what was sweeping the country.
Ghadi Francis is a former member of the Syrian Socialist National Party (based in
Here, secular sectarianism consciously or unconsciously inflates a minority sensibility which is horrified by cries of Allahu akbar [Allah is great], and salutes a sick elite that does not see a sufficient “revolutionary consciousness” among the Syrian masses. The communist comrades boast that they do possess it [i.e. revolutionary consciousness] just as those who claim to possess the keys to paradise. This might also reflect a class disdain expressed by a small bourgeois leadership towards workers and peasants who are being killed.
In every revolution there are competing political programs and aims, reflecting different class and social interests. These will inevitably include Islamists in many countries. The left has to come to terms with how to defeat them by showing the strength of the argument for class struggle without counterposing this to religious beliefs held by millions. The Islamists will only be undermined by having their political program exposed as at best inadequate for the task of satisfying the masses’ aspirations for a better world, and at worst, counter-revolutionary. This is a crucial and recurring question confronting the left, reflecting the continuing legacy of Stalinism. Stalin outlawed religious observance in the
Syria: which side are you on?
By late August at least 2,500, possibly many more, people were dead but the protests continued to grow against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in
Some fundamental issues are raised by the debates about what attitude to take to the Syrian rebellion. In
You cannot wear a revolutionary garb one day and then a pathetically apologetic disguise another… Nasrallah is now outmanoeuvred, checkmated, made redundant by history, by, of all things, a magnificent Arab Spring, in which he has no role, no say, and no decision. Nothing… He has failed the test of history – of knowing when to abandon tyrants benevolent to him for their own reasons but abusive and criminal to their own people.
It is not accidental that
Iran’s Ahmadinejad is on the same page with Hassan Nasrallah in defending the Syrian regime – for they are all made of the same cloth.…
[Nasrallah has been] voluminously loquacious in siding with tyranny [in both
Iranand Syria], exposing his utter and pervasive hypocrisy.
There have been reports of protesters in
The traditions of Stalinism weigh heavily on the left, especially in the
Even some on the far left have accepted dictators as socialist leaders, for decades supporting figures like Gaddafi and Assad, who maintained their rhetorical hostility towards the US and Israel. But their posturing was never the same as genuinely anti-imperialist politics. They are nationalist leaders who desire a strong state which can carve out a place in the world system. Ending the system of imperialism was never on their agenda. Until the 1990s this was often a way to play off the Eastern and Western blocs against each other, hoping to win increased aid from one or the other. But being a client and supporter of
This mistaken support for such odious figures, held by small numbers in most countries, may be of little consequence. But in
At the start of the Lebanese civil war when the Lebanese right asked the Syrian regime to interfere…the regime responded and intervened militarily because it was worried that a democratic and liberal leftist regime would develop and take root. We were still young and determined then and we acted against the Syrian intervention by protests that were suppressed, and we were put in prison… The fear then is not different from the fear today.
Abir Saksouk, a Lebanese activist who is “pro-resistance” replied in the same forum to the constant refrain warning that
A fear of what’s going to happen [exists] in every context. I’m fearful of people in
Egypthijacking the revolution…and I’m totally scared of what’s happening in Bahrain. But we have to be hopeful and we can’t ask people not to revolt because we’re scared about the future. This is exactly what these regimes want us to think.
Precisely – but not only the Arab regimes. The West want us to fear the change that can only come through revolution. The outcome of any revolution is uncertain. The masses have to learn how to defeat their enemies, even to recognise who is a genuine ally and who is part of the counter-revolution. The left can only hope to help shape the struggle to the advantage of the masses if they stand with them when they rise up. Ignoring these features of all revolutions, there is a constant refrain from some leftists that the Syrian (and Libyan) resistance is fractured into competing social groups as if there is something sinister about this. It is telling that many on the the left do not raise the disparate array of organisations and political currents involved in the Egyptian revolution as a reason to withhold support. Even the more brazen assertion of their program by the Muslim Brotherhood and their role in the counter-revolution has not led to the same degree of hand-wringing and doubt about the Egyptian revolution.
In any case, in the marches of the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Syria’s cities, banners are regularly held on high bearing the symbols of the cross and the crescent, representing the efforts being made to emphasise Muslim-Christian unity. Druze areas have been part of the uprising, declaring their solidarity, and there is no evidence that Sunni-Shia rivalry fractures the movement. The need for solidarity against Assad’s murderous crackdown can help solidify the unity between different communities. The role of the left must be to put forward arguments for this solidarity, not keep raising the threat of sectarianism as if it’s inevitable.
Tragically, it’s not clear that there is a left of any size in
Activists who previously have cooperated to fight sectarianism and to support the Palestinians are now seriously divided over their response to the Syrian rebellion. The Sunflower Theatre in southern
But despite Assad’s occasional anti-US rhetoric, in recent years he had begun a process of accommodation which led to the
[T]here remains a coalition of nations that appear to be acting under the belief that the Assad regime is better than what might come next. It’s an odd group in the rather strange new world of the Middle East:
Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey. For the Israelis, already reeling from the loss of a regional strategic asset – Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt– the predictability of Assad’s Syriawas some consolation. Israeland Syriamay be in a technical state of war, but the Syrians have scrupulously kept the armistice on the Golan Heights and it has been a long time since Syria’s military posed any significant security threat to Israel.
If an Arab revolt doesn’t address the issue of
The truism that the Middle East will not be completely free until the expansionist, apartheid state of
Echoing arguments by bourgeois commentators about the need for stability, raising the danger of sectarian civil war, these arguments, aimed at causing doubt and undermining confidence in the Syrian revolution, have been given a hearing even by some socialists in the West. Camille Otrakji, the initiator of One Mideast.org, a site devoted to discussing why
All of it [the statement] is garbage but this is particularly offensive: “President Hugo Chavez received from President Bashar al-Assad a complete picture of the real situation in this brother Arab nation, where a fascist conspiracy is seeking to sow chaos and disorder, with the goal of subjecting the nation to the dictates of the Western power.”
Counterpunch, another left wing
Lee seriously expects us to believe that the whole resistance to Assad is being manipulated and orchestrated by a “joint operation headquarters in the Saudi Embassy in
In spite of the vacillations of some on the left, a revolution which deserves our support is unfolding in
Politics, spontaneity and revolution
Any political vacuum created by the left apologising for the oppressors creates an opportunity for those forces in the resistance who are prepared to deal with the
a horizontal network that has no single, central leader. Traditional opposition bodies can participate in the network but cannot direct it… [T]he multitude is able to organise itself without a centre…the imposition of a leader or being co-opted by a traditional organisation would undermine its power.
But this is to misrepresent the revolutions. All revolutions involve an element of spontaneity, or an elemental change in what people are prepared to do. But, as Gramsci said, “In the ‘most spontaneous’ movement it is simply the case that the elements of ‘conscious leadership’ cannot be checked, have left no reliable record.” While the Arab revolutions have their own unique features, there are similarities in all revolutions which enable us to formulate ideas about the strategies and tactics which are most likely to ensure victory. And one of the recurring themes of revolutions is the “spontaneous” nature of their beginnings. The February revolution of 1917 in
At least some women were preparing for months before, weighing up the odds, assessing their actions and options. Since 1915 there had been “bread riots” or “food pogroms” by working class women… This time they sent a circular to the soldiers asking them for protection rather than bullets.
A few days before IWD, women trolley-car workers had visited the soldiers’ barracks to ask if the soldiers would shoot at them. The soldiers’ assurance that they would not do so ensured that the trolley-car workers joined the demonstration. And on the day, the women textile workers went from one factory to the next, calling everyone out, including the more powerful and better organised metal workers. The revolution had an element of spontaneity, in that hundreds of thousands overcame their fear of the state and responded to the call to come out. The Arab revolutions clearly involve both these elements. In fact political leadership played a key role in both
And now that the first phase of the revolution has passed, those activists have to face the issue of how to defeat the counter-revolution. They have to find ways to cohere the most determined, the most class conscious, in order to win wider layers away from the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, they have to be able to explain why some of those who joined in the
The dynamics of the Egyptian upheaval reveal, not the lyrical insurgency of the centre-less multitude, but rather what Gramsci called “a dialectical process, in which the spontaneous movement of the revolutionary masses and the organised and directing will of the centre converge”.
When you consider the threat to the revolution looming in both Tunisia and Egypt if the masses cannot find a way to continue to resist and develop the social revolution, and the extremely serious dangers confronting the Libyan revolution, then glorification of a lack of a centre, of a lack of a political program is useless at best, irresponsible at worst. It does not serve the interests of the mass of workers and the poor. If revolutionaries ignore their responsibility to offer a way forward, other political forces will fill the resulting vacuum.
Hala Abdullah’s concluding remarks to the Sunflower Theatre forum are a clarion call to all those who support the masses’ fight for democracy and a better world. And it is a rebuke to those who hesitate to give their support to a resistance movement that has shown itself capable of incredible courage and persistence in the face of a merciless assault from the Baathist regime:
Whoever says that the shaking of the Syrian regime will result in the shaking of the whole region and that any change will be dangerous for the whole region is right. A change in
Syriawill change the region, the decomposed, corrupted and oppressive region.
A change in
Syriawill allow freedom to go on a promenade like a beautiful young woman. On a promenade, naked, and with no fear on the shore of the Mediterranean sea.
Genuine revolutionaries look forward to that day. However there is still the need for ongoing struggle, not just in
These developments are of immense importance for world capitalism. The world’s ruling classes will find it difficult to ever go back to how things were before. And it is not just the Arab Spring which causes nightmares for the capitalist parasites.
The world crisis continues to unfold. Austerity measures in Europe,
 “Egypt: new wave of strikes greets start of Ramadan”, Mena Solidarity Network, 2 August 2011; for a broader picture of working class struggle since the start of the revolution see Anne Alexander, “The growing social soul of Egypt’s democratic revolution”, International Socialism Journal, 131, Summer 2011.
 Robert Fisk, “
 Anand Gopal, “The Tripoli uprising”, Foreign Policy, 1 September 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/09/01/the_tripoli_uprising.
 Alex Callinicos, “The return of the Arab revolution”, International Socialism Journal 130, Spring 2011, pp.15-16.
 Callinicos, “The return of the Arab revolution”.
 Sami Ramadani, “After the Spring”, Socialist Alternative 168, June 2011, p.11.
 Soumaya Ghannoushi, “Obama, hands off our spring”, The Guardian, 26 May 2011.
 Editorial, Socialist Worker, 25 May 2011, socialistworker.org.
 “NATO to help Arab revolts ‘blossom’, says Rasmussen”, Naharnet Newsdesk, 17 June 2011, http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/8455-nato-to-help-arab-revolts-blossom-says-rasmussen (emphasis added).
 Judith Orr, “Is Libya on the road to freedom?”, 27 August 2011, Socialist Worker. http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=25805.
 Patrick Cockburn, quoted in “Who really won in
 Chris Stephen, “Misrata rebels defy
 Gopal, “The Tripoli uprising”; Juan Cole, “The great
 SBS TV World News, 31 August 2011.
 Sameh Naguib, “A voice from
 “After Gaddafi fell, more defections in Syrian army reported”, Reuters report on English Ahram, 27 August 2011, http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/ 19957/World/Region/After-Gaddafi-fell,-more-defections-in-Syrian-army.aspx; ABC’s World Today, 31 August 2011, reported increasing defections but did not link them to Libyan events.
 Juan Cole, “Fall of Tripoli echoes loudly in
 Toufic Haddad, “The winner in
 Alexander, “The growing social soul of
 Alexander, “The growing social soul of
 Leila Fadel, “
 Sameh Naguib, “Unfinished revolution”, International Socialist Review, September-October 2011, p.25.
 Hesham Sallam, “Striking back against Egyptian workers”, MER 259, http://www.merip.org/mer/mer259/striking-back-egyptian-workers.
 See Naguib, “Unfinished revolution”, pp.24-25 for details of army attacks on the rights of workers, students and protesters.
 Statement by the Revolutionary Socialists, “The mask has slipped: instead of military salutes we now hear the generals’ threats”, 12 July 2011, www.e-socialists.net/node7123.
 Sallam, “Striking back against Egyptian workers”.
 Naguib, “Unfinished revolution”, p.24.
 “The mask has slipped”, e-socialists.
 Sameh Naguib, “The Islamists and the Egyptian revolution”, Socialist Review (
 Naguib, “The Islamists and the Egyptian revolution”.
 Sameh Naguib, “Islamism(s) old and new”, in Rabab El-Mahdi and Philip Marfleet,
 Quoted in Alexander, “The growing social soul of
 Khalil Issa, “The Lebanese left fails in
 “Sinan Antoon, “The Arab spring and Adunis’s autumn”, 11 July 2011, Uruknet.info, http://www.uruknet.info/?new=79485; and see “Statement of Syrian Christians in Support of the Revolution”, 19 July 2011, http://www.jadaliyya.com/ pages/index/2181/statement-of-syrian-christians-in-support-of-the-r.
 Matthew Cassel, “
 For a discussion of the problems on the Western left see Mick Armstrong, “Islamophobia, secularism and the left”, Marxist Left Review issue 2, Autumn 2011.
 Issa, “The Lebanese left fails in
 Hamid Dabashi, “Arab spring exposes Nasrallah’s hypocrisy”, Al Jazeera, 22 June 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/ 2011618103354910596.html.
 “Hizbullah on edge in face of
 Lenin, “Theses of the Second Congress of the Comintern”, June 1920, www.marxists.org.
 For a critique of the left’s attitude to Gaddafi see Corey Oakley, “Confronting the Stalinist legacy”, Marxist Left Review 2, Autumn 2011.
 Cassel, “
 Quoted in Cassel, “
 Issa, “The Lebanese left fails in
 Cassel, “
 Steven A. Cook, “Unholy alliance: how
 George Friedman, “Re-examining the Arab Spring”, Stratfor, 15 August 2011, www.stratfor.com.
 Ibtisam Azem, “The Syrian people will determine the fate of
 Cassel, “
 Elias Muhanna, “No revolution in
 Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, “Hugo Chavez, Monthly Review and the Syrian torture state”, 26 May 2011, http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/ 2011/05/26/hugo-chavez-monthly-review-and-the-syrian-torture-state/.
 Cassel, “
 Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, “Arabs are democracy’s new pioneers”, The Guardian, 24 February 2011.
 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Lawrence and Wishart, 1971, p.196.
 Sandra Bloodworth, How Workers Took Power: The 1917 Russian Revolution, Socialist Alternative,
 Bloodworth, How Workers Took Power, pp.11-18.
 Callinicos, “The return of the Arab revolution”, p.20.
 Cassel, “