Five years ago, a poor street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest the injustice of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. He was the spark that lightens the fire of anger that millions in the Arab world felt towards their dictators. Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya and Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. The ruling classes were in shock as millions to to the streets to demonstrate. Like always, the dictators ordered their police forces to open fire. However this only strengthen the resistance and soon the ruling class feared for their own neck. Dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak were removed from power by their own inner circles. But in Libya and Syria, the call for freedom would end in blood and civil wars!
The western world did not start the ”Arab Spring”. Many regimes in the Middle East were supportive of western imperialism and European governments feared that Arab democracies, would bring anti-western governments into power. The Muslim Brotherhood was feared the most, this Egyptian organisation was legalized after the Mubarak regime collapsed. It formed the Freedom and Justice Party to participate in the first democratic presidential elections. In Tunisia, the Ennahda Movement won the first elections. This Islamic party was able to profit from the years of secular dictatorship!
Millions of workers and poor wanted a brake with the old rotten capitalist system. Although two dictators were removed from power, the corrupt elite stayed. This is why the so called ”Arab Spring” failed to bring any genuine changes. In Egypt, counter-revolutionary forces led by the military staged a coup and reintroduced the Mubarak limits on free speech. The western world was not so critical that the first democratic president was removed by force. They never liked president Mohamed Morsi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi ruled for only one year before the Egyptian military removed him. Many far-right conservatives in the USA hailed the undemocratic militarist coup and gave full support to the suppression of democratic rights, in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism!
Although the ruling classes saved their own skin in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan elite was unable to dump their dictator. Muammar Gaddafi was a dictator unlike Ben Ali and Mubarak. Gaddafi was not the man who was installed by the ruling class, he made the Libyan ruling class. Had Gaddafi not started with capitalist reforms after 2003, there would not have been a group of rich Libyans owning means of production. They owned all their wealth to the Gaddafi clan and could not dump him. When the popular demonstrations started against the ”Dear Leader”, the ruling class had no choice but to stay loyal. Like Ben Ali and Mubarak, Gaddafi ordered his police to open fire. After this failed he wanted to army to be used. But the demonstrations grew larger and soon the second city of Libya was overrun by protesters, police and loyalists were forced to flee!
Bashar Al-Assad in Syria faced the same dilemma. Syrians demanded his resignation and like in Tunisia and Egypt, police forces started to shoot at people. Many innocents were murdered as Syrian police and army troops were told to kill anybody who rejected the rule of Bashar Al-Assad. Some police officers and soldiers could not shoot at unarmed civilians. They disobeyed orders and defected forming the Free Syrian Army to protect the Syrian people from government attacks. However the FSA is not the only rebel group fighting. Radical Islamic forces also profited from the chaos. With money and guns from reactionary Arab forces and Turkey, the Al-Nusra Front was created. This sunni-islamic group soon allied itself to Al-Qaeda!
Although the revolts against Gaddafi and Al-Assad started as popular uprisings, they soon degenerate into religious sectarianism. Because Libya and Syria lack a trade union movement and independent working class action, the revolutionary struggle was hijacked by reactionary leaders. In Libya these leaders called themselves the National Transitional Council. This council was made up of western backed people, some were former supporters of Muammar Gaddafi. After the ”Dear Leader” was killed in October 2011, the council took control of Libya!
Since Libya never had a period of democratic rule or administrative systems, the country soon collapsed into sectarian rebel groups fighting for personal power. In May 2014, a second civil war started between the supporters of the New General National Congress, the Council of Deputies, the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and the Islamic State in Libya. These four groups now try to take control over this oil rich nation. The Shura Council and the Islamic State are religious extremist and wish to build a Islamic theocracy in Libya. The New General National Congress is led by moderate islamists and the Council of Deputies belongs to secular nationalists. Militia’s loyal to the IS have taken control over Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, while the New General National Congress holds Tripoli in control. Because of this the official government was forced to relocate to the east towards the port of Tobruk!
Libyan workers have nothing to win from either of these groups. They must reject the tribal and sectarian way of life, this is difficult as Libya is a deeply tribal nation. Although the former Libyan Arab Jamahiriya claimed to have eliminated tribalism, in reality Muammar Gaddafi used to tribes to keep himself in power. His propaganda claimed that Libyans were united as a people, while in reality they were very divided. After the tyrant was killed the tribes returned to old feuds and with guns freely available, the chaos was complete. Although a national army was build, it lacked the loyalty of many militia’s who lacked any loyalty to Libya as a nation!
The political left in Tunisia and Egypt made many mistakes and this has strengthen the ruling classes. Although some workers have joined radical leftist groups, many leaders choose to join pro-capitalist formation at various times. This weakened the workers movement as these capitalist formations do not wish to change the system. Workers need a political force of their own with a leadership that fights for genuine socialism. However by joining formations led by pro-capitalist people, the radical left discredit itself. Tunisian and Egyptian workers can change their societies for the better. But only if they brake from the mindset of capitalism!
Today there is huge income inequality and massive unemployment among young workers. The ruling classes of the Middle East are unable and unwilling to bring progressive changes. Workers need to build their own force, their own political party. Because the time is right, despite the setbacks there is no better time in history for workers to take power. A socialist revolution in either Tunisia or Egypt, could show the working classes of the region what true socialism is about!
Capitalist forces will try to prevent a socialist revolution. Western imperialism or Russian imperialism, all will try to stop the working class from taking power. Russia is protecting Bashar Al-Assad and the United States has no problems with the current dictator of Egypt. Workers cannot think that the bombing of Syria by NATO and Russia serve their interests. Meanwhile many Syrians have fled towards Europe. They flee poverty, war, famine and disaster. However European leaders do not wish to care for them. Right-wing populists see potential terrorists in Muslim male refugees, they spread ethnic hatred and fear among Europeans. Because of insecurity and austerity cuts by their own governments, many workers in the EU are poisoned with lies about Syrian refugees!
The Republic of Iraq is split between the Kurds, the Sunni-Arabs and the Shia led government. Supporters of the Islamic State, still control the western parts of Iraq. Kurdish forces hold the north and Shia groups control the capital and south east. After the 2003 invasion by American imperialism, Iraq has entered a period of chaos and ineffective government. Out of the extremist opposition to the Americans, came the Islamic State in Iraq. This group is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who used the Syrian civil war to move his operations into the Levant. After securing 1/3 of Syria, the Islamic State in Iraq became a caliphate with al-Baghdadi as supreme caliph. Today the group calls itself Islamic State, although most western media outlets keep calling them ISIS or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria!
Western nations do not understand that the rise of the IS is a direct result of their intervention in the Arab world. Western nations played the way for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after they destroyed the Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein. Iraq was under Ba’ath control since the 1960’s and with Saddam as absolute leader since 1979, Iraq was a totalitarian state. Americans and their British allies banned the Ba’ath Party and dissolved the Iraqi Army. This proofed to be a huge mistake, many army officers lost their only source of income and found themselves living in poverty. Angered by the lose of their status and jobs, many officers joined the armed resistance!
13 years after the collapse of the Ba’ath in Iraq, the nation is not free or save. American imperialism did manage to privatize the Iraqi oil fields. Now western oil companies can profit from Iraqi oil, while the people get nothing. Many sunni Arabs are nostalgic about the past under Saddam Hussein. Shia Arabs are less supportive of this nostalgia as they suffered prosecution under Hussein and his sectarian Ba’ath Party. But for the majority of workers did not profit from the downfall of the previous regime!
Iraqi workers have nothing to gain by voting on right-wing islamists or corrupt politicians. It would not matter since elections are not free and massive fraud by the government is common. Iraq cannot be counted as a free nation, government support for Shia militia groups proof this. With the total defeat of Iraqi forces during the Fall of Mosul, the Bagdad regime relies on Shia-Islamic militia’s to fight the Islamic State. These militia’s are religious sectarian and share a deep hatred of sunni islam and secularism.
Sectarian division also happen between the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Saudi regime had murdered a number of people including a famous Shia Muslim. Iran was very angry and many Iranians choose to attack the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Arabia and Iran closed diplomatic relationship and removed their ambassadors. Western imperialism will not harm Iran as with the removal of sanctions, billions of profits can be made by trading. Many European and American enterprises already signed deals with the Iranian theocracy. However a third force is also trying to compete with the west. The state-capitalists of the People’s Republic of China also try to enter the Iranian market. Chinese capitalists hope to take a big part of the cake!
With the removal of the sanctions, capitalist nations will no longer see Iran as that ”evil” nation. Today the theocracy in Tehran is a business partner of western corporations. This is why Iranian workers must not hold on to their illusions that the western world care about their needs. Workers in Iran need to fight for their own rights, they cannot trust in western nations and their propaganda. Human rights do not matter as corporations love Iranian money. This is why Iranian workers will have to fight for themselves against the theocracy and western capitalists, who will try to exploit them for their own greed!
The future is not bright for workers and young people. Capitalism offers them no way out of poverty and misery. This is why revolutionary socialists call for the formation of new workers party on a socialist program. Such program could win the mind and vote of working class people. Win out a workers party, the working class cannot develop a class consciousness. We already see what this means in nations in Egypt and Tunisia. Class consciousness is needed for workers to build a party on a socialist program. Also leaders of a new workers party need to fight for socialism and not trying to form alliances with capitalist forces!
Socialism is the only alternative for the people of the middle east. Some bourgeois leftists think that social democracy can work, but the limits of this system are known to all. Social democracy may look good, but will not work in the long run. Capitalists need to be expropriated and their wealth taken into democratic ownership. Billions of dollars and euros are still save on bankaccounts owned by corrupt politicians and business leaders. Workers must overthrow the whole system created by corrupt people and build a new socialist society. Under socialism there would be no poverty and no austerity. No corruption and no exploitation. This is why the only struggle of the future is the struggle for socialism!