The Middle East - a hint of what the international working class could do

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
21 February 2011

Since the Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was made to \"resign\" by his own gen erals, the wave of protests which began in Tunisia, has spread to more Middle-Eastern and Northern African countries.

In Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and, now, Libya, demonstrators have been flooding the streets against dictatorial regimes, which have often been in power for decades.

More than just a snowball effect, what is taking place is a chain reaction in the powder-kegs put in place across the whole region by the power games of the rich capitalist classes - mainly American, but also its junior European partners, including Britain.

A spider web of imperialist oppression

Ever since the 1950s, the western powers strove to tighten their control over this oil-rich region. Hence their propping up of bloody dictators, as wardens against their own people. Hence, also, the US military bases scattered all over the area.

Obama\'s and Cameron\'s newly-found concern for the Egyptian protesters\' democratic aspirations cannot conceal their past silence about Mubarak\'s viciously repressive and corrupt regime. But then, wasn\'t Mubarak their best \"asset\", in keeping the lid on the explosive potential of the Palestinian question? Would they have managed, without his help, to keep over 1.7 million Palestinians parked in abject deprivation, on the Gaza Strip - to all intents and purposes, a concentration camp?

The tiny state of Bahrain, facing Iran off the coast of Saudi Arabia, may be the most extreme illustration of Western power games. First and foremost, it is a gigantic aircraft carrier - for the US Vth fleet - against Iran. Second, it is the region\'s main financial hub, used by big western banks to get their cut from the billions of oil profits. And third, it is a dictatorial monarchy in which the majority of its permanent population has no rights whatsoever, not for religious reasons, as the media claim, but because it is formed of foreign workers who have no citizen status. Would such a segregationist regime have survived without the full endorsement of its Western backers?

Then, of course, there is Gadafi\'s regime in Libya, for a long time on the US list of \"terrorist states\". But this did not mean that the Libyan dictator was not, in his own way, a valued \"asset\" for the West. Wasn\'t his iron grip a guarantee that there would be no instability under his watch? What more did the rich powers need? Besides, didn\'t Western countries, including the US, finally decide in 2006 that they could do business with this unsavoury character - so much so that a number of oil majors, including BP, have resumed their profitable activity in the country?

The specific role of the working class

Whether in Tunisia or in Egypt, the dictators were forced out by their generals, under instruction from the US. In Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen, the rulers bowed to Western pressure, by offering concessions - although whether they will defuse the anger in the streets is another question.

In either case, the only result is, at best, a few changes at the top, while the regime\'s generals, its leading functionaries and, above all, its parasitic capitalists - will carry on looting the country jointly with western multinationals and driving its population into poverty.

There may still be more to come, however. The tide of strikes which has been spreading in Egypt may indicate that there is at least a sizeable section of the Egyptian working class which is not taken in by the promises of the new \"army council\" which has replaced Mubarak. Likewise, if Benghazi, Libya 2nd largest town, has fallen into the hands of the protesters, this may well be because, unlike the capital Tripoli, it is the country\'s largest industrial centre and working class town.

Indeed, unlike so many protesters who are under the illusion that parliamentary \"democracy\" is the solution to all ills, the working class knows who the real enemy is - the ruling class which exploits its labour, and its state which enforces its rule. Of course, the working class aspires to \"democracy\", but a democracy it can control collectively - not one controlled by the bosses and their uniformed thugs.

Above all, all the working classes of the region have the same interests to fight for - against capitalist exploitation and for a society which they would control collectively, together with the poor majority of the population. By uniting behind this banner, the working classes of the Middle East would have the means to prevent the West from colluding with the local privileged with sham \"reforms\", and to generate real change out of the present protests.