For revolutionaries, freedom fighters and justice loving people all over the world, the popular struggles being waged by the Arab masses against their autocratic rulers over the past ten weeks, beginning in Tunisia and rapidly breaking out and spreading throughout the entire Middle east, have been a tremendous source of inspiration. Quite dramatic has been the popular uprising and workers’ strike wave, spreading across to the European side of the Mediterranean- to Italy, Greece, and Albania, shaking these reactionary regimes, and even spreading across the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the USA, where U.S. workers have consciously taken a more militant stance against the reactionary state governments of Wisconsin, Indiana and other states in the Midwest.
As the moth of March 2011 begins, U.S. imperialist President Barack Obama has ordered Moumar Gadhafi, the forty-two year leader of the country of Libya to leave his country so as to allow a regime acceptable to U.S. imperlialism to take control of this oil rich sparsely populated land. On Friday, February 25
On saturday, February 26
Simultaneously, U.S. imperialism began moving warships toward Libya and secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that "all options are on the table." This includes a U.S. enforced "no fly zone" over Libya which, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates explained, would require the USA to unilaterally attack Libya and destroy its defence capabilities.
U.S. imperialism has taken these drastic actions on the basis of the filmsiest of pretexts. It is using media "reports" from Libya, Egypt and elsewhere packaged by the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), established in 1981 and trained and financed by the U.S. CIA ever since. The NSFL and other such organizations are being used to "document" that the Gadhafi government is killing Libyan protesters, allegedly in greater number than the U.S. client governments all over the rest of the Middle East are doing.
The U.S. imperialist government is responsible for virtually all of the secular military dictatorships and Muslim monarchies in the Middle East that have kept their people repressed with the most barbaric police state methods and are currently in danger of being overthrown by the aroused Arab masses. The U.S. imperialist-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in over one million civilian deaths. Yet this same shameless U.S. imperiaist state apparatus now claims to be "concerned" about the killing of people in Libya by the Gadhafi government only. And the Libyan military situation is marked by the fact that a number of military units weapons of war against the Gadhafi regime in what has become a civil war based on tribal loyalties and U.S. imperialist machinations.
The first reported street protests in Libya occured on February 14th, a few days after Mubarak’s ouster, not a month earlier when other neighbors of Tunisia (Egypth ad Algeria with their oppressed and downtrodden masses) experienced their first street protests following the ouster of Ben Ali. Also, from the first day of Libyan protest, alleged representative of the Libyan "protesters" (NFSL, the Libyan Revolutionary Council et al.) unlike protesters in any of the other Arab countries, called on the "international community" to intervene against Gadhafi.
In fact, there are sincere Libyan protesters who have ligitimate grievances against the Gadhafi Regime. And these real protesters are opposed to open military intervention by U.S. imperialism and the other imperialist powers, especially after seeing the fate of Iraq, still occupied by the U.S. military. These protesters are currently providing a political problem for the Obama Regime interventionists.
As Filipino revolutionary leader Jose Maria Sison points out: "To stave off attacks against Libya similar to those against Iraq, he (Gadhafi) has made compromises with the imperialist powers and allowed them increased investment privileges in Libya. He opened the door to foreign banks and corporations. He submitted to IMF demands for ‘structural adjustment’. He privatized state-owned enterprises and cut stae subsidies on necessities like food and fuel." ("ILPS Condemns US and NATO Preparations for Military Intervention against Libya," 3/4/11)
Why is the Obama Regime mobilizing and organizing for an unprovoked attack on Libya, for an expansion of its imperialist war in the Middle East?! In brief, the once unchallenged hegemonic imperialist power is now the biggest debtor country in the world. Its ecomonic clout has been diminished at a rapid rate under the impetus of the U.S. economy initiated world capitalist economic crisis of the past several years. So it has to keep China and its other creditors at bay. For now it still has the most powerful military machine on earth, with more annual military spending thant the rest of the worl combined, as well as its long standing global diplimatic, political and intelligence operations.
And it continues to control the vast majority of the world oil supply and reserves, still the very lifeblood of the global capitalist economy. But the Arab masses are threatening to liberate their countries and seize control of the oil in their own national territory. This is turn would render U.S. imperialism a second or third rate power. Thus the need for U.S. imperialism to establish a military beachhead in Libya and a smokescreen behind which to incrase its military protection for U.S. possession of the Middle East’s vast oil wealth. And U.S. imperialism, having bullied Gadhafi into cooperation with international capital with its "shock and awe" campaign against Iraq in 2003 thought Liby would be "easy pickings;" all the more so after seven years of Gadhafi’s compromised stand in relation to international imperialism, including his repression of the Libyan people at the insistence of the International Monetary Fund.
As comrade Fiden asserts: "the fundamental concern of the United States and NATO is not Libya, but the revolutionary wave unleashed in the Arab world, which they wish to prevent at all costs." (ibid)
The Arab people are making history
Beginning on December 18, 2010, with the tragic self immolation of a twenty-six year old unemployed youth, the Tunisian masses, experiencing rising food prices and shortages and massive joblesseness (deepended by the world wode capitalist economic crisis), and clearly recognizing the corrupt character of the Ben Ali regime, quickly built up a strong protest movement.
Under the strong pressure from his U.S. imperialist sponsors, President Zine EI Abidine Ben Ali tried frist to attack then to compromise with the protesters. But neither "the carrot nor the stick" slowed down their growing demonstrations adamantly demanding his ouster. The General Union of Tunisian Workers, a key organizer of the protests, led a workers general strike on January 14, 2011. On that day Ben Ali hastily departed for neighboring Saudi Arabia, ending his twenty-three year kleptocratic reign. The toppling of such a wealthy, corrupt and long standing dictator as Ben Ali, immediately inspired the Arab masses int he neighboring countries of Egypt, Algeria, Jordan and Yemen to swing into street action. The Egyptian people, in particular, suffering under the thirty year repressive U.S. sponsored military dictartorship of Hosni Mubarak, consciously emulated their Tunisian brothers and sisters.
Mubarak’s final act of desperatio, lifting the curfew and allowing the economy to get back to work, an attempt to get things back to "normal," was met by a massive and growing working class strike wave. Unlike the Tunisian workers, the Egyptian working class had to strike against the opposition of the "legal" Egyptian Trade Union Federation,as an arm of Mubarak’s repressive state, as well as against the national police, the army, etc. It was this Egyptian independent union and wildcat strike wave that convinced U.S. imperialism and Mubarak’s military colleagues to push him out on February 11th.
In this situation, Obama/Clinton and U.S. imperialism were really worried. They had already tried and failed to keep Ben Ali and especially Mubarak at the helm by paying lip service to sympathy for the protestors, while counseling the despots to keep their repressive apparatus from spilling too much blood and offering their peoples some limited sops. Nevertheless, both Ben Ali and Mubarak were now gone.
As well Wall Street Journal reported on February 14th, Mubarak’s fall boosted the momentum of the mass movements in countries where their rulers had already tried to defuse the protests by granting some concessions. "Yemen, Algeria, Bahrian and Jordan all were sites of new protests and clashes. The Palestinian Authority leadership in the west Bank ordered the dismissal of its cabinet.. [and announced].. they would hold long-stalled parliamentary and presidential elections by Septomber, after the resignation of Mr. Mubarak, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s strongest regional supporter." (Note: Mubarak was also the strongest supporter of the settler state of Israel!)
In Yemen, the poorest country in the region, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a close U.S. imperialist ally in the so-called "war on terror", had already canceled a trip to the USA and promised not to run again in 2013. But massive economic impoverishment has kept the mass movement of the Yemeni people at a high pitch. In Iran, long-quiet opposition leaders stated their support for protests that already had the backing of labor unions and student activist groups. In Jordan, whose long-serving late king, Hussein, had been exposed decades ago as a paid CIA agent, mass protests emerged as King Abdullah II met with U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiran Mike Mullen.
Meanwhile, in Algeria, the goernment of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika deployed thousands of security forces to disperse crowds mobilized by a coalition of opposition leaders, trade unionists and human rights activists. Similar to the Tunisian and Egyptian demands, the Algerian protesters shouted "Power Qut" and $155 billion and we’re still poor," the latter a reference to the major oil producing country’s estimated foreign exchange reserve.
The protests also spread to the city-state of Djibouti, across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. Djibouti hosts the only U.S. base on the African continent and the client U.S. President Ismail Oman Guelleh whose second term expires in April is part of the family that has been in pwer for more than three decades.
Even more important, is the emergence of a widespread protest movement in U.S-occupied Iraq. Influehnced by the strong role of the working class in Egypt and Tunisia, more workers in Iraq are engaging in political activism. There have been strikes in a large textile factory, oil companies, the leather industry, electric utility and others. (At the textile factory in Kut, U.S. occupation troops came directly to the factory and surrounded it!) Umemployed workers and students have demonstrated in Kut, Baghdad, Basra, and Nasiriyah demanding jobs, and for freedom of expression and and end to repression.
The Arab peoples’ mass motion has been penetrated the rich principalities in the Persian Gulf region. The first place the protest movement hit there was in the tiny kingdom of Bahrain, separated from Saudi Arabia by a causeway. Not surprisingly, the Gulf Cooperation Council, made up of the six Arab States circling the Gulf (the Sunni Muslim sheiks, king and royals heading up the oil-laden states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, etc.) strongly supported the initial repressive policies of the Khalifa royal family. However, this tactic backfired as the repression only strengthened he resolve of the Bahraini masses. They hae become more steadfast in the insistence that the Khalifa reign be ended. Since then, under U.S. imperialist guidance, Bahrain’s ruling family has ordered the army off the streets, trying to "wait out" or exhaust for protesters. On February 28th", US President Obama again called for dialogue in Bahrain. But so far, the mostly Shiite protesters have insisted, they will participate in no dialogue until the 200 year old Sunni dynasty of the Khalifa family is gone.
Impressively, after Kig Hamad bin Isa Khalifa had pledged to ease media restrictions, had released 250 political prisoners, and promised each Bahraini family a special grant of about $2650, the Shite majority-led protests against the minority Sunni Muslim rulers intensified. The protests in Bahrain are extremely significant for several reasons: Bahrain sits in a strategic position in the Persian Gulf, through which a fifth of the world’s oil supply passes. Accordingly, the U.S. 5th Fleet is based there, standing guard for U.S. imperialism over the largest concentration of the world’s oil. It includes a base that is home to 3,000 military personnell who oversee the 30 naval ships and some 30,000 sailors that patrol the Persian Gulf and Arabian and Red seas. Bahrain is also the banking and commercial center for the vast oil business in the Persian Gulf.
Indeed, protests against the Persian Gulf rulers have widened in recent days. Oman shares with Iran the strategic oil tanker route through the Strait of Hormouz, through which about 40% of the world’s tanker traffic passes. Sultan Qaboos bin Said has already tried to quell the unrest in Oman by replacing six Cabinet members, providing higher student grants and boosting the minimum wage by more than 40 percent! The Sulthan has also ordered the government to create 50,000 new jobs. But even with the concessions, opposition forces continue to show great resolve in challenging the absolute rule of the Sultan of Oman.
Meanwhile, demonstrations where scheduled for March 8th in Kuwait, a rare Gulf state kingdom with an elected parliament and organized political opposition.
Finally, in Saudi Arabia, the most important oil producing country in the world, King Abdullah has ordered an action plan to "help" lower and middle-income people among the 18 million Saudi nationalists. The $36 billion plan of concessionary measures includes: pay raises to offset unflation, unemployment benefits, affordable housing and interest free loans for marriage expenses, starting a business or buying furniture. On February 27th, King Abdullah ordered that government sector workers employed under temporary contracts be offered permanent jobs with benefits. But the king announced no political reforms, and Saudi Arabia continues to have no elected parliament or parties and allows little public dissent. A key test for the Saudi ruling family will come on March 11 when protest rallies have been called for there.
Road ahead for Tunisian People
The hated Ben Ali government was supported by the United States for his maintaining ‘political stability’ and as an ‘ally and partner’ in the fight against terrorism. The Obama government’s words of ‘support’ for the ‘new’ Tunisian coalition government are an effort to co-opt and stop the movement in its tracks, limiting it to a change of government faces and players and minor reforms.
"However there are a number of positive developments that give hope that this initial peoples’ rebellion has the potential to lead to deeper and more fundamental changes in Tunisia and beyond:
"The General Union of Tunisian Workers was a key organizer of the anti-regime protests, so the organized working class played a leading role in the general people’s revolt. The day Ben Ali fled the country the union had led a successful general strike! Yet, even after the leadership of the union (and other opposition parties) supported the ‘new’ interim coalition (which still contained many leaders of Ben Alis party, the RCD), protests continued in the streets demandeing a thorough ousting of the RCD government. The people wanted no part of a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing.’
"The union leadership had to reverse its decision and withdraw its support for the ‘new’ coalition government when, at a meeting of union workers, the members voted to overturn their leader’s political decision! The workers are more politically advanced and determined than their union officers!" ("Tunisian Masses Rising Up," Statement of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA, 1-23-11)
On January 14th, as former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali hastily departed for neighboring Saudi Arabia, the Tunisian working class was engaged in their General Strike.
Since then, the Tunisian parliament has provided government emergency powers to interim President Fouad Mebazaa. In response, there is great popular pressure from the Tunsian people, protesting in the streets for the dissolution of the Tunisian Parliament, currently dominated by Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) Party, The Tunisian people are demanding an early presidential and legislative election, at a minimum. As February has given way to March, Tunisian Prime Minister Gannochi, a Ben Ali appointee, has just been ousted and the Tunisian people are still in the streets.
The Egypian Working Class Rises Up
During the protest, the Mubarak Regime attempted to restore normalcy by eliminating the night curfew and having businesses reopen. The result was a powerful strike wave of the Egyptian working class all across the country. The New York Times reported: Labor strikes and worker protests that flared across Egypt affected post officers, textile factories and even the government’s flagship newspaper, as protesters recaptured the initiative in their battle for the resignation of President Hisni Mubarak. While workers had individually participated in the protests during the first two weeks, later it was the collective power of the working class sealed Mubarak’s fate.
A 2/10/11 Democracy Now Interview with Joel Beinin, Professor of Middle East history at Stanford and former director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, focused on the topic, "Striking Egyptian Workers Fuel the Uprising After 10 years of Labor Organizing"
Beinin pointed out: "This is huge, because there has been for the last 10 years an enormous wave of labor protests in Egypt that’s includd over two million people participating in perhaps 3,300 strikes, sit-ins and other forms of protest. So that has been the background to this whole revolutionary upsurge of the last several weeks.... But in the last few day what you’ve seen is tens of thousands of workers linking their economic demands to the political demand that the Mubarak regime step aside."
Beinin continued: "The workers in Suez, and the city of Suez in partiular, have probably been the most militant in confronting the Mubarak regime since this revolutionary upsurge began on January 25th. On January 25th there were two deaths in Suez. The protests were extremely militant there, attacking the local headquarters of the National Democratic Party, attacking the police station.... The fact the Suez Canal workers are going on strike means that one of the most important economic institutions of the country is being idled.. but there are also Suez steelworkers at Suez Canal who have gone on strike and ship repair workers and textile workers around the city of Suez, because there is a speacial industrial zone there. So Suez, in particular, has emerged as one of the militant sites of confrontation in this last period."
Beinin explains that, "The Egyptian Trade Union Federation was established in 1957 under the Nasser regime, and since then it has been essentially an arm of the state. And it has not participated at all in the labor upsurge of the last decade. In fact, most often it’s acted in opposition to it. So, over the last 10 years or more, workers have- when they have gone on strike or otherwise taken collective action, they have either elected strike committees.. or local committees have split and some members of them have supported insurgent workers... But in no case strikes or sit-ins or any other kind of collective action over the last decade been led by the official trade union structures."
The Post-Mubarak Situatio in Egypt
Since Mubarak’s ouster, a military council, selected by Vice President Suleiman (and U.S. imperialism), has been in power. It is composed of virtually all the top officials of the Mubarak regime except Mubarak and is led by Field Marshall Tantawi, the minister of defense and military production. This military clique has closed down the pariament and dispersed the National Democratic Party, Mubarak’s political party, in partial response to the demands of the protesters. The Military Council has promised to restructure the country’s constitution, including the laws governing elections. The Council has also promised "fair" election within the next six months.
But protesters want the army to dissolve the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, which was appointed by Mubarak in his final weeks and contains many of his stalwarts. They also want the lifting of emergency laws that give police nearly unlimited powers of arrest and they are demanding the release of thousands of political prisoners. The military government has acceded to none of these demands. Under the aegis of U.S. imperialism. Tantawi and the military council are attempitng to concede to the minimum extent possible that will allow them to persuade the protest movement to disperse and allow them to remain in power.
Toward this aim, the Obama regime has tried to keep the Egyptian masses focused on "national celebration" of their ouster of Mubarak, rather than on finishing the rebellion that they have begun. But the Egyptian working class, in particular, has thus far kept its eye on the prize.
On February 19th, the Egyptian independent trade unionists’ declaration was presented under the title, "Revolution-Freedom-Social Justice." Among the excellent just and democratic demands of the Egyptian workers are: raising the national minimum wage, narrowing the gap between the poorest and richest wage, decent unemployment compensation, freedom to organize trade unions and protection for the union and their leaders, making the huge number of temporary contract workers in factory, field, office and professional jobs, permanent and abolishing temporary contracts, stopping the privatization program and undertaking renatioaliszation of all privatized enterprises, removal of corrupt managers, establishing price controls on necessities so as not to burden the poor and the right of Egyptian workers to strike, organize sit-ins, other provisions that will lead toward "the fair distribution of wealth," decent health care, and for the dissolution and seizure of financial assets and documents and seizure of the assets of the corrupt and repressive Egyptian Trade Union Federation.
These are excellent demands for the independent mass working class organization to have as its platform; and together they constitute a large part os a national democratic revolutionary program under current Egyptian conditions. These demands will not, indeed cannot, be met by the U.S. imperialist-dominated military council government ow in power in Egypt. For the Egyptian military elite represents its own comprador interests, including its vast corporate holdings of close to half the Egyptian economy, as well as those of its sponsor, U.S. imperialism.For these working class demands to be met, at a minimum, the Egyptian national democratic revolution against the Egyptian comprador bourgeoisie and imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, must be won through a working class-led national liberation front that unites all the toiling masses of the urban and rural areas and all the patriotic classes of Egypt. th, Obama signed an executive order calling for the seizure of all assets controlled by coloneal Gadhafi and four of his children. According to U.S. Treasury officials, some of these assets belong to Libya’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority. The U.S. government justified its freezing of these assets on the basis that they were directly controlled by the Gadhafi family and insisting that the assets would be turned over to a new Libyan government.th, the day after Obama’s executive order, the United Nations (UN) Security Council followed suit, passing its own sanctions resolution on Libya. And on Monday, February 28th, the European Union (EU) voted to impose its own sanctions regime against the Gadhafi family and its coterie of senior Libyan officials.