All this stuff in the Middle East

42 posts / 0 new
Last post
Mark.
Offline
Joined: 11-02-07
Feb 20 2011 13:02
All this stuff in the Middle East
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
All this stuff in the Middle East is obviously just the Orange Revolution mk 2 (or 3 or whatever) it cannot and will not lead to anything even vaguely "socialist". It is not an example of working class self organisation either.

It may lead to some of the nations getting slightly nicer regimes for a bit, and that in itself is not a bad thing, but other than that it's pretty meaningless.

Discuss

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 20 2011 13:26

I think anyone who attempts to take the partisan and patchy information of Western news sources and use it to summarise the revolts of tens of millions of people across half a dozen different countries — and then make a serious prediction off the back of it — in three sentences is talking bollocks, frankly.

The only sure and certain thing to be said about all this is that there's nothing we can be sure and certain about.

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Feb 20 2011 14:06

Isn't this likely to become almost the same as this "Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?" thread ?

If this is worth discussing beyond the circular brick wall arguments of those entrenched in some superior notion of "class consciousness" who had virtually the same attitude in this aforementioned thread, firstly it seems clear that 1989 East Europe is not the same as 2011 Middle East. For one thing, poverty is far more of an issue than in East Europe, and takes place within a global crisis not present in 1989. What's more, it takes place within a global situation where proletarians in the UK and elsewhere are beginning to take significant forms of opposition to their miserable future. Plus class violence played, as far as I remember, a significant part only in Roumania in 1989, whereas, burning down of police stations and general attacks on the cops, self-organising of medical help and physical defence against the State's forces, the occasional looting of supermarkets and homes of the rich, the development of work take-overs and independantly organised strikes are becoming pretty significant aspects of the current movements. Don't want to optimistically exaggerate these tendencies, but sneeringly minimising them gets you nowhere but complacently comfortable looking at the world from an Ivory towerblock.

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
Offline
Joined: 16-12-06
Feb 20 2011 14:50

Adding to Samotnaf, I think what is happening right now is also very hopeful in a general contect. Middle east is the part of the world which is divided into most bloody secterianisms under the reign of most brutal states. The weakness of shia-sunni or christian-muslim secterianisms in the face of those rebellions is one of the most hopeful signs for the future struggles to come all over the world. If it could happen in middle east than it can happen everywhere else... This validates in practice the idea that the class struggle can very easily overcome those ideological divisions. And I take the combativity against those most brutal regimes as a sign of the potentials of future struggles.

Waiting for instant changes is pointless. The deep social changes will obviously not come right away. However, in middle east where history was full of wars, secterianisms, pogroms and barbarism, this is a very hopeful development showing that working class is willing to take radical steps in the face of the threat of massacre.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Feb 20 2011 15:56

I agree with Sam and Mik. I don't think that this thread should waste any time with the "superior" intellectualising about these events having no meaning. They are profound for the reasons cited in the two posts above: Their close relationship to the class struggle, to proletarian struggle and their rejection of the religious and tribal divisions imposed and played on by the ruling class everywhere. The sight of one religious or secular group in solidarity - or even protecting the other - is very positive (in Egypt, prior to "events", the state was undertaking a violent campaign of religious division).

Sam rightly emphasises the global and class nature of this struggle and it's important we also put it in the longer term. There are struggles coming up in the west that must take heart and learn something from these examples from the Maghreb and Middle East.

Another point I'd add is that, overall and specifically, this is a set-back for imperialism. For the USA first, but for every other imperialism in descending order of might. The left and leftism, following its bourgeoisie generally, has long since tried to fixate our attention on how the Palestinian "question" has been the most important area for the class struggle and worthy of solidarity. Now we see it in all its weakness and even though there's been real expressions of solidarity from the West Bank and from Gaza from the population, these elements have been overwhelmed by years of divisions imposed by all imperialist nations including their leftist contingents. But looking at events unfolding, nothing is impossible.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Feb 20 2011 16:40
Quote:
firstly it seems clear that 1989 East Europe is not the same as 2011 Middle East.

There was no internet and twitter or live-updating (which every major news outlet has adopted) then, nor an equivalent of aljazeera actively supporting protests, and also Wikileaks (whatever small role it played, mostly initial attention to Tunisia).
If I may do some newscoverage sociology for a sec, there are always some forms of 'class struggle' going on (like 40000 in China each year, or such similar high number, over 100 car burnings in France each night, etc.), if they were to get the same attention, it can also be hopeful for 'world class struggle'.
But meanwhile the bad news doesn't get mentioned (here, and among the left generally); there has been a war between Thailand and Cambodia, tension between Russia and Japan over Sakhalin, Wiki-revelations of China-US tension over satellite shootdowns, Iran sending war vessels to Suez, etc. Don't want to be over-pessimistic, but maybe world war three is about to start.

Auto's picture
Auto
Offline
Joined: 12-04-09
Feb 20 2011 16:51

Even putting aside the nature of the individual national movements for a moment, surely the sheer scale of what is happening makes it hugely relevant?

I'm too young to remember the collapse of the 'Communist' east. So in my lifetime I have never seen revolts and revolutions spreading so far and so fast across an entire region.

The collapse of the Soviet empire caused huge political impacts around the globe. What then, if the shockwaves in the Arab world turn out to be even bigger?

In short, of course you can't let yourself get too carried away, but I think anyone who describes the events taking place as 'just' a transition of power between ruling classes is ignoring the evidence of their eyes.

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Feb 20 2011 17:13

Noa Rodman:

Quote:
Don't want to be over-pessimistic, but maybe world war three is about to start.

That's definitely a possible choice for the world's rulers - WWl was partly a response to proletarian subversion (eg the Great Unrest in the UK).

baboon:

Quote:
The left and leftism, following its bourgeoisie generally, has long since tried to fixate our attention on how the Palestinian "question" has been the most important area for the class struggle and worthy of solidarity.

Though I wouldn't quite put it like he has, I was wondering if the US provocation of refusing to condemn the Israeli settlements, and using its UN veto, coupled with next Friday's day of rage in Gaza and the West Bank in response to this, was an attempt to get back to normal - ie focus on the horrors of the Palestinians and get the people of Egypt and other countries in the area back into anti-American/Israel mood. Don't know how conscious the US ruling class is of its strategy, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the reasonings behind this veto decision. And that too could eventually lead to WWlll...or at least another serious, and probably more devastating than ever, Middle East war. Certainly it's one of their options if class war becomes increasingly explosive.

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
Offline
Joined: 16-12-06
Feb 20 2011 17:19

Noa,

I think you are right about the escalation of tensions. But I don't share your pessimism. I think burgeouisie all over the world is getting forced to react to the direct and indirect results of these revolts. In the latest G 20 meeting -just a few days ago- of ministers of economy, the question of food have been rasen up and some sort of agreement is reported to be reached; I don't know what. But obviously the imperialism feeling a necessity to react.

If libyan regime falls and the oil export to Europe will stop -libya is the third exporter to Europe- this will also force more both the workers and capitalists to react and take positions against each other. This will definitely heaten up the class struggle in Europe - I assume.

Also in China, people are already internalizing the experience of middle eastern workers but morally and technically - in terms of usage of internet.

I think rather then being pessimistic there are more reasons to be optimistic. But I am not sure whether the political minorities of the working class -class struggle anarchists and left communists I mean- are ready for the coming period in terms of their international links and strength...

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Feb 20 2011 18:54

Sorry, that should be Kuril islands. And I can add Korean poll about rising nationalism, etc. But my comment is not about the possibility of war (which you can say is a fact already happening, which we don't follow updates on).
I generally disagree with all posts here, except OP.

[/sighs from ivory tower]

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Feb 20 2011 19:06

what's OP?

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Feb 20 2011 20:03
Quote:
nor an equivalent of aljazeera actively supporting protests

Al Jazeera is only supporting those countries that are not allied to Qatar. Get your facts straight.

Samotnaf: OP means Original Poster or Original Post.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Feb 20 2011 20:33

First of all, I don't think that's it's a question of optimism or pessimism but of an analysis of the balance of forces. Imperialism remains strong, the strongest force in the world at the moment, but it's taken a hit with events in the Mahgreb and the Middle East - areas up to now where it's had a relatively free hand to deal with for decades. Imperialist wars continue, and have continued with renewed barbarity, since the beginning of the millenium, deepening the tendency of capitalism's flight into barbarism. This is and will be an increasing tendency with the effects of the underlying economic crisis. Noa highlights some tensions, not least between China and the USA, which are dangerous, but there's a whole a whole list of wars, tensions, fault lines across the planet and these won't get any less.

With the masses on the streets at present I don't detect any willingness to fight in any war except in one against the system. No imperialism can fight a war if its people are organising themselves on the streets, the workers are on strike for better conditions and the army is mutinying. The only potential war in these conditions is the class war. The main danger to me at the moment is not the spread of imperialist war but the question of democracy and the reinforced nationalism that goes along with it.

Imperialist armies still hold sway of course. Even in the centre of revolt we see the Egyptian military apparatus not only intact but strengthend by getting rid of a rival faction. It will also act more like an imperialist army now and less like an American well-fed guard dog. I think it has sent a signal out already by letting two Iranian warships pass through the Suez Canal. But whatever its strength, and events have shown its weaknesses, imperialism now has to take into consideration the social question. That, in my opinion, is a small but significant step forward for the working class.

The major difference between these events and the collapse of the eastern bloc, is that the latter was a sudden economic implosion when the whole unstable structures collapsed, "celebrated" by the masses after the event; whereas these revolts are initiated by the masses with common slogans against repression, for dignity and a future, bread and jobs.

On Sam's point about the attempt of the bourgeoisie to refocus on Palestine: I know that one or two days after the Egyptian revolt started the British Foreign Office was issuing unambiguous warnings to Israel to "get serious" over the question.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 09:34
baboon wrote:
I agree with Sam and Mik. I don't think that this thread should waste any time with the "superior" intellectualising about these events having no meaning. They are profound for the reasons cited in the two posts above: Their close relationship to the class struggle, to proletarian struggle and their rejection of the religious and tribal divisions imposed and played on by the ruling class everywhere.

I'm deeply hesitant about this. I think that the first thing to understand is that there are a lot of different events going on. The whole thing about an 'Arab' revolt is as much a creation of the media as anything else. Of course when you look at a common language area there will be connections made and that is natural. Nevertheless there are very different events going on.

To give an example I think that the events in Libya seem to be mostly motivated by Islamicism and tribalism. In Egypt, tribalism is in no way anywhere near as important an ideology, and there have been significant workers strikes.

They should be put it perspective though. The strikes today in Egypt are not as big as those of a few years ago. For a country the size of Egypt relatively few workers seem to be involved, somewhere around 50,000. I read somewhere that there hasn't been a day without strikes in Egypt in the past three years.

To draw a direct comparison that people might relate to more easily, although the idea of not being a day without strikes for three years sounds very impressive, when I worked as a postman in London in the 1980s, we had two years when there wasn't a day without strikes in the Post Office. With regards to the numbers, the amount of strikers in all of Egypt is about the same as the London Post Office going on strike.

Of course there is class struggle, and the events in Tunisia also were deeply marked by this. However, it is also very clear that there is no workers' revolution going on. What we are seeing in my opinion is mostly likely merely another episode in the general slow rebuilding of class confidence.

Samotnaf wrote:
For one thing, poverty is far more of an issue than in East Europe, and takes place within a global crisis not present in 1989.

This is clearly true, and I would think that economic conditions certainly plat their role in all of the movements. It doesn't mean that the working class is able to respond as a class.

Devrim

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Feb 21 2011 10:08
Devrim wrote:
Of course there is class struggle, and the events in Tunisia also were deeply marked by this. However, it is also very clear that there is no workers' revolution going on. What we are seeing in my opinion is mostly likely merely another episode in the general slow rebuilding of class confidence.

Just quickly (coz I'm late for work and getting later every second!), is anyone saying anything different to this?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Feb 21 2011 11:25
Ed wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Of course there is class struggle, and the events in Tunisia also were deeply marked by this. However, it is also very clear that there is no workers' revolution going on. What we are seeing in my opinion is mostly likely merely another episode in the general slow rebuilding of class confidence.

Just quickly (coz I'm late for work and getting later every second!), is anyone saying anything different to this?

I don't think anyone is necessarily saying anything more than this, but I do think it's important we don't look like we are just cheerleading a bourgeois democratic movement (which I'm not saying anyone is particularly, just that it's important we should stress our concerns and point out the limitations of the movements).

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 21 2011 12:29

Problem is we don't know the limitations of the movements, we can only infer from imperfect information - hence not predicting the uprisings in the first place. Our direct contacts are very, very limited inside the region.

Alot of the discussion above is simply assertion, including the "well this is the limit" bits. These predictions might turn out to be true, but realistically it's no different to me saying my car's going to break down - if I'm right, it's not because I really know much about the mechanical issues but because I've looked at some rust round the wheels and gone "yeah clearly a dodgy motor."

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Feb 21 2011 12:58

Well, we do know some of the limitations of movements already, for example the strong tribal affiliations in Libyan society, the lack of a strong working class movement fighting for its own interests, etc, so some caution is advisable.

Of course, getting good information is difficult, but that means we should be doubly sure before throwing any support behind something or other, especially as workers are being killed in droves

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 21 2011 13:07

I doubt anyone would be so foolish as to wander around calling what's going on a proletarian revolution to be uncritically supported (well, no-one on here anyway) - but for the same reason I think it's foolish to write them off on the other end of the spectrum as inevitably not going anywhere fast or having reached their respective limits.

I'd include the assertion that "well it's all a bit tribal in Libya" in that btw, I've never travelled unhindered around Libya, neither has anyone else here, we're basing any analysis on the word of people who have - most famously a crazy wanker who's currently staring down the barrel of an uprising.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Feb 21 2011 14:13

I agree that no one on here is saying that there is a "workers revolution" going on anywhere in the region. I think that the main response on this thread is that there a movement going on, which includes class demands, against the idea that these events are "meaningless" and "doomed to defeat".

When Gaddafi Junior said last night that the uprising was the fault (among other things) of "plots", tribal questions and Islamism, then there is an element of truth to these factors being involved but that is by no means the whole story here. The unbelievable courage and aspirations of the youth taking on this regime is something beyond plots, tribal questions and Islamism and bodes well for the future. It is not a revolution, it is not even a clear proletarian movement but to say that it's "meaningless" and "doomed" is a position of the upmost contempt for the possibilities and sacrifices of the struggle. What is such a position waiting for - a pure, communist revolution, unencumbered by the reality of the class struggle, to fall out of the sky one fine day?

The example of World War I made by Sam earlier is interesting. My take on it was the working class and the masses were intoxicated with the defence of the Father/Motherland, the "glory" of war and marched off to defend the interests of capitalism. One of the reasons why the bourgeoisie was able to mobilise the workers - who had been struggling on their own ground more or less - so easily, was the role of the mass workers' parties, Social Democracy, the labour parties and the trade unions, that all came down on the side of the national, ie., the capitalist interest. Three years later, the working class went from being atomised, obedient soldiers to a cohesive social force whose struggle and solidarity stopped the world war in its tracks taking the form of a workers' revolution.

These recent events have further destabilised already increasingly chaotic imperialist relations. The ruling class of the major countries now have to try to rearrange the imperialist chess-board according to their conflicting needs now that their "strong men" and local gangsters are under threat. This situation is fraught with dangers for the working class getting caught up in this or that faction fight or the road to "democracy". I think that in this respect the example of the workers in Egypt has been positive: clearly taking part in the movement against repression, sticking to their own economic demands (which are also political in the circumstances) and withdrawing when real concessions have been made.

These movements are not the be all and end all of everything to be cheered mindlessly but a part of a global and longer term movement that is in play. They are certainly not meaningless but full of lessons for the working class on its difficult path.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 14:56
Rob Ray wrote:
I doubt anyone would be so foolish as to wander around calling what's going on a proletarian revolution to be uncritically supported (well, no-one on here anyway) - but for the same reason I think it's foolish to write them off on the other end of the spectrum as inevitably not going anywhere fast or having reached their respective limits.

I'd include the assertion that "well it's all a bit tribal in Libya" in that btw, I've never travelled unhindered around Libya, neither has anyone else here, we're basing any analysis on the word of people who have - most famously a crazy wanker who's currently staring down the barrel of an uprising.

Speak for yourself.

Devrim

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 15:00
baboon wrote:
When Gaddafi Junior said last night that the uprising was the fault (among other things) of "plots", tribal questions and Islamism, then there is an element of truth to these factors being involved but that is by no means the whole story here. The unbelievable courage and aspirations of the youth taking on this regime is something beyond plots, tribal questions and Islamism and bodes well for the future. It is not a revolution, it is not even a clear proletarian movement but to say that it's "meaningless" and "doomed" is a position of the upmost contempt for the possibilities and sacrifices of the struggle. What is such a position waiting for - a pure, communist revolution, unencumbered by the reality of the class struggle, to fall out of the sky one fine day?

Believe it or not Islamicists often show unbelievable courage, and also have aspirations for the future. Why is this in any way beyond Islamicism, or 'tribal questions' for that matter.

Devrim

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 15:02
Steven. wrote:
Ed wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Of course there is class struggle, and the events in Tunisia also were deeply marked by this. However, it is also very clear that there is no workers' revolution going on. What we are seeing in my opinion is mostly likely merely another episode in the general slow rebuilding of class confidence.

Just quickly (coz I'm late for work and getting later every second!), is anyone saying anything different to this?

I don't think anyone is necessarily saying anything more than this, but I do think it's important we don't look like we are just cheerleading a bourgeois democratic movement (which I'm not saying anyone is particularly, just that it's important we should stress our concerns and point out the limitations of the movements).

I think that the discussion should show us ED. I don't think its as clear as John says.

Devrim

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 21 2011 16:16
Quote:
Speak for yourself.

Oh yes? When did you do that?

(edit: Not meant in an aggro way, would be good to get any direct insights going for the very reason stated above)

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Feb 21 2011 16:18
Quote:
To give an example I think that the events in Libya seem to be mostly motivated by Islamicism and tribalism. In Egypt, tribalism is in no way anywhere near as important an ideology, and there have been significant workers strikes.

While this is certainly true, what has struck me from reading about events there is that the tribes seem to be relatively united against Qadaffy, which only his brutality has caused. Libya used to be three nations way back when and Qadafy did his best to divide and conquer along tribal lines. E.g. the East has always been under repression and has always been underprivileged compared to the West. It remains to be seen whether this will devolve into tribal infighting after Qadafy has gone, or if he doesn't go if he managed to cut a deal with a tribe. So in short, I disagree Devrim, events in Libya seems to be motivated by a common hatred for Qadafy and economic conditions (most Libyans are very poor, prices are really high, there is unemployment/overemployment etc.). Still the justifications for why people should revolt against him is often couched in tribal or Islamic terms.

Rob Ray wrote:
I've never travelled unhindered around Libya, neither has anyone else here

Perhaps not unhindered, but I have travelled to Libya a couple of times as well.

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
Feb 21 2011 16:43
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Middle east is the part of the world which is divided into most bloody secterianisms under the reign of most brutal states. The weakness of shia-sunni or christian-muslim secterianisms in the face of those rebellions is one of the most hopeful signs for the future struggles to come all over the world. If it could happen in middle east than it can happen everywhere else... This validates in practice the idea that the class struggle can very easily overcome those ideological divisions.

i second the mention of this, it's a timely reminder.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Feb 21 2011 16:54

Some stats about the economic conditions in Libya to back up my argument about the revolt also being about standard of living.

Juan Cole wrote:
Petroleum accounts for much of Libya’s $77 bn. a year gross domestic product, the 62nd in the world, which affords Libyans a per capita income on paper of over $12,000 a year, more than that of Brazilians, Chileans or Poles and the highest in Africa. In fact, the oil income is not equitably distributed, so that a third of Libyans live below the poverty line and 30% of workers are unemployed. The regime favors the west of the country with oil money largesse, neglecting the east.
Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 16:59
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
Speak for yourself.

Oh yes? When did you do that?

(edit: Not meant in an aggro way, would be good to get any direct insights going for the very reason stated above)

I have been to Libya on more than one occasion, but not for over fifteen years. I don't think it gives me any special insight into the situation, but the impression that I get from what you are saying is that you are sort of putting forward the idea that 'Nobody knows anything at all about these countries, so we should try to draw any critical analysis'. Its not somewhere over the rainbow. There are people who post on here who live/have lived in Arab countries, and obviously people have friends in them.

Devrim

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 21 2011 17:02
Khawaga wrote:
So in short, I disagree Devrim, events in Libya seems to be motivated by a common hatred for Qadafy and economic conditions (most Libyans are very poor, prices are really high, there is unemployment/overemployment etc.). Still the justifications for why people should revolt against him is often couched in tribal or Islamic terms.

I don't think that we are in that much disagreement. Of course poverty is an immense motivating factor behind much of the stuff going on at the moment.

Devrim

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Feb 21 2011 17:06

Well, you did say

Quote:
I think that the events in Libya seem to be mostly motivated by Islamicism and tribalism

and nothing else, which I found to be too simplistic. Hence my comment.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Feb 21 2011 17:49

Jim, I think that the world is a different place from 1916 - as it was in 1926, 1936, 46 and so on. But the one force that has held sway through all that period right up to now and the foreseeable future is imperialism which is nothing but the expression of global capital. I'd agree that US imperialism has been weakening but it is still - and intends to be - the sole world cop whatever it takes. It has been further weakened by recent events but that doesn't mean the weakening of imperialism overall.

Of course Devrim Islamists can be courageous, as are expressions of tribalism. Suicide bombers can be brave individuals and elements of the highest reaches of the bourgeoisie can excel in courage in battle. But that's not really the point is it? It's a non-argument against the positive lessons of these struggles of the masses.

What you said was, that events in Libya has "mostly been motivated by Islamism and tribalism", which is clearly absurd. This is because the basic issues are repression, poverty and no future and these are common themes that are ongoing and not confined to one particular country or continent.