Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi, Athens, Wisconsin

By Savas Michael-Matsas

The rhythms of History have been dramatically accelerated in early 2011: in January the dictator Ben Ali was swept out by the Tunisian revolution that ignited the flames of revolution in Egypt and in the entire Arab world, from Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria to Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

Even after the departure of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators, the masses do not stop the revolutionary struggle. It is clearly shown in the 100.000 strong mobilization in Tunis, the bloody clashes and the resignation of Ghanoussi, and in the powerful strike movement of the working class in Egypt defying the military orders.

The armed clashes in Libya and the massacres of the Libyan people by the   disintegrating regime of dictator Gaddafi, the friend of Tony Blair and Berlusconi, as well as the threat of an imperialist military “humanitarian” intervention in the region cannot be separated from the unfolding Arab Revolution, despite all the existing differences.


The revolutionary process anyway and always is uneven, non linear. Revolution never is uniform; it takes different forms in different social formations, including in those of a region sharing common historical background…

The post –Ottoman Arab world was deliberately fragmented by British, French and Italian imperialism and later by the local feudal-capitalist and military ruling elites. The historical task for an Arab political unity rose by the Nasserites and Baathists it could but fail to be fulfilled by them and by the belated Arab bourgeoisie linked with a thousand ties with world imperialist capitalism. What it is unfolding now is the rising of the Arab masses against not only monarchs and emirs but first of all, regimes that emerged in the anti-colonial awakening in the 1950s and 1960s and then capitulated to imperialism to serve their own greedy interests.

The brutal demise of Arab nationalism takes a particularly violent form in Libya because of the archaic structures of a tribal society preserved by the Gaddafi regime. The development of a local working class was deliberately prevented. The workforce was imported from abroad and now it is evacuating the country. On the contrary, in Tunisia the proletariat plays a decisive role from the beginning of the revolution and in Egypt it had prepared its soil and intervenes from early February. The brutality of the civil war in Libya, reminding tribal wars in Africa,  and the existence of  a strong Islamist element, crashed in the mid-1990s but never extinguished reflect the primitive conditions that the so-called “Third Universal Way” of Gaddafi  kept intact. The Libyan dictator, for an entire period, played the role of a Bonaparte balancing between the conflicting interests, at home between the different tribes and clans, abroad between imperialism, the Arab masses and other anti-imperialist forces, particularly during the Cold War period and the resurgence of the national struggles in the periphery.

The margins of this balancing act have been exhausted by capitalist globalization and its crisis, the demise of the USSR, the re-assertion of the aggressiveness and the war drive of imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East and Central Asia.  The Gaddafi regime, lacking a real social popular base, capitulated to imperialism in the most obscene manner, particularly the last decade. While in the first period the US base in Whilas was kicked out and the oilfields were nationalized, now, Gaddafi and his corrupt clique sold out the oil producing country to big companies of Britain and Italy at the first place. The old “demon” of the West was transformed into a darling of the rulers in London, Paris, and Rome.

It is a shame, an unequivocal symptom of political and moral bankruptcy the fact that Chavez and his “Socialism of the 21st century”, or, in Greece, the “libertarian” Takis Fotopoulos and his “Inclusive Democracy” give support, hardly “critical” or covered under the veil of “neutrality between the two  civil war camps” in the name of anti-imperialism. Radical “socialist” or “anarchist” anti-imperialism that does not challenge capitalism shares now the fate of radical bourgeois nationalism in its inglorious but bloody fall.

Gaddafi is the man of imperialism, even if now hypocritically it abandons him. There is no doubt that imperialism has its own supporters in the opposition camp( among ex-Gaddafi officials,  Islamists or bourgeois émigrés)  and prepares its intervention in this neuralgic strategic region against the Arab Revolution and in defense of the Zionist State in crisis. But to actually fight imperialism in the region we have to support the just struggle of the Libyan people to crash its tyrant. Already, rebels in Benghazi speaking to Al-Jazzeera (and shown also in Greek TV) denounced “the West that wants to intervene only for the sake to steal Libyan oil” and insisted to be let alone to deal with their own means their own enemy.

The working class, first of all in the NATO countries, has the duty  to stop any imperialist intervention and stand by the side of revolutionaries, opposing pro-imperialist forces and  calling for a program of Permanent Revolution in the country, in the region and internationally.

Revolution and Crisis

While millions of oppressed in the region and all over the world but also the ruling classes, recognize the revolutionary character of the events in the Maghreb and the Arab Peninsula, some professional pessimists in the Left (including the so-called far or radical left) try to deny that what is evolving in front of us is a revolution, either because it does not comply to their schema what a “real” (?)Revolution should be or because it is not led by a Communist Party.

The Stalinist KKE in Greece, taking out of context and distorting the well known quotation by Lenin that a revolution is characterized  by the “transfer of power from a class to another class”, omits innumerous texts of Lenin speaking about a protracted revolutionary process of deep social transformation, never “pure” in its composition, always  with a lot of political and ideological confusion,  leading either to victory- the transfer of power from one class to another( social revolution for ex. the October 1917 Revolution) or of one section of a class to another section of the same class( political revolution, for ex. February 1848 in France)- or to defeat ( for ex. the Greek Revolution of 1941-49). A defeated revolution, when the ruling class remains in power, remains, nevertheless a revolution (for ex. the Russian revolution of 1905)

Others (see article by Petros Papakonstantinou in NAR’s paper PRIN, on February 20) “deplores” that still in Egypt what we have is “ at the most” a revolt, not a revolution. The same author, in another article as correspondent of the bourgeois Kathimerini, correctly stressed that the first word that you learn arriving in the Middle East now is “thawra”, revolution…

Revolutionary Marxists have not any vacillation: as we have stressed in an article published in our paper NEA PROOPTIKI, on February 19, not solely we are confronted with an Arab Revolution; the revolution in the Arab world knocks the doors of Europe. The Greek 2008 Revolt was the prelude – the “first political explosion of the current world economic crisis” according to the famous words of the infamous Dominique Strauss-Kahn- announcing the coming revolutionary explosions. We have entered into a new phase of the world revolution fuelled by the deepening of the world capitalist crisis that erupted in 2007.

It is important and vital to recognize the revolutionary character of the upheavals in the Arab world; but it is not enough: we have as Marxists to establish the dialectical connection of these political events of first historical order and their material conditions of possibility in the current world crisis.

After the Lehman Brothers collapse and the immediate threat for a meltdown of the world financial system in autumn 2008, the attempts by the capitalist States and Central Banks to halt it by injection of enormous liquidity and “rescue packages”, a process exacerbated further by the so-called “Quantitative Easing 2” decided in November 2010 by Bernake’s Fed in the US, produced a gigantic speculative and inflationary tidal wave towards the so-called BRICS and the countries of the South. The result is a new leap in energy and food prices that put fire in the already accumulated social dynamite in the Arab countries with huge impoverished and very young populations suffering from chronic unemployment.

The same process of post 2008 expansion of deficits and debts produced the nightmare of the European sovereign debt crisis and the unsustainable US fiscal crisis.

The CRFI has closely followed, analyzed, and made the right prognosis step by step during this process.

General Strike in Greece

The new massive General Strike in Greece on February 23 was not a repetition of the previous ten that took place last year. Not only the number of the participants in the demonstration in Athens on the day of the Strike was bigger even from the enormous mobilization in the previous General Strike on December 15, 2010  but the state of social consciousness has changed. In 2010, there was the illusion that with an expression of combativity like that manifested previously in the General Strike of 2001 against the first attempt to introduce an anti-pension Law, could be sufficient to halt the catastrophe. Then, disappointment grew as these methods and their manipulation by the treacherous bureaucracies of GSEE proved to be totally ineffective. Now everybody lives in the catastrophe and see that it will continue ad infinitum according to the will of the PASOK government and the troika of the INMF/EU/ECB. The slogan for their overthrow was the central and universal slogan of the demonstration. But an alternative strategy and tactics how to proceed are still lacking for the majority of the people

The Stalinists of KKE with their separated,disciplined, but innocuous for the government, mobilizations present not an alternative. On February 23, the section of the mass march that gathered under the banners of the class struggle unions, social movements and the organizations of  far left was impressively bigger than the section of the separate march organized by the KKE in Omonia Square at 11.00 am and dispersed peacefully in Syntagma Square at noon, after an hour. On the contrary, very violent clashes between the riot police and the demonstrators took place all the day until night, particularly around Syntagma Square, which was transformed by the police into a gas chamber. The British BBC covered live the conflict under the headline “Athens like Cairo”.

Despite the clumsy use of the slogan “to transform Syntagma Square into our Tahrir Square” by the ex-chairman of SYRIZA Alavanos, the truth is that both the deep and explicit fear of the ruling class and the hopes of the most combative sections of the workers and youth was to see an extension of the Egyptian Revolution in Greece. Already, during the recent strike of the doctors  who occupied for 11 days the Ministry of Health against its privatization plan launched the slogan “ George (Papandreou) take the helicopter and go away together with Ben Ali”

The General Strike coincided also with the dramatic hunger strike of 300 immigrants of Arab origins fighting for their rights. A representative of the hunger strikers addressed the meetings of the Greek Strikers underlying objectively the unity of the struggle.

Our Party participated actively in the Strike and the march, fighting for the overthrow of the Government and the troika, the cancellation of the debt and for workers power, receiving as usual its own share from police brutality. This time our class enemies are worrying because our role in struggles like the recent occupation of the Ministry of Health by the doctors, the non stop strikes in Transport, and the social movement “not pay the tolls in the motorways” that was able for the first time to organize a 3000 strong public rally in Syntagma Square in front of parliament, on March the 1st.

From Athens to Wisconsin

It is not by accident that the Tea Party Republican governor Walker of Wisconsin condemned the hundreds of thousands of American workers that mobilized and occupied the local Capitol in defense of union bargaining rights, as repeating the actions “of the Greeks”. Rightly too the workers have called him “Hosni Walker”. Revolutionary Cairo and Athens in revolt is transferred into the American  Metropolis!

The world capitalist bankruptcy, the same driving force in different manifestations- US states bankruptcies and fiscal crisis, Euro-zone debt crisis, disastrous inflation on food prices and unemployment- affects now directly the class struggle and the consciousness of the masses.

In such revolutionary conditions we see the nationalist “socialists of the 21st century” and fake “anti-imperialists” exposing themselves as a fraud; the Stalinists to turn their back or to stab in the back the masses; the centrists paralyzed and shrinking crisis (see last Congress of the French NPA). It is true, as Trotsky had said, that the irruption of the masses in the scene of history refresh the air, and destroys all fictions.

We have to take initiatives and re-group by active interventions and debate all the most combative proletarian and revolutionary elements, coming from different traditions, under the banner of the Fourth International that has to complete the work that the 1917 October socialist revolution had started: the victory of the world socialist revolution!


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