|Written by IWL – September 2012|
As from last 11th September, in the midst of the revolutionary process underway in the North Africa and the Middle East, an impressive wave of radicalised protests broke out engulfing the entire Arab world.
This popular explosion is aimed embassies and other symbols of imperialist power in the region. It was the circulation of a USA-made video ridiculing Mahomet and even the very Muslim religion showing its followers as “immoral” and unnecessarily violent that triggered it all. This evident provocation was followed by other cases, such as publishing of offensive caricatures of the Muslim prophet in a French paper and in another German publication.
Popular wrath accrued out of control and caused a real international crisis. All but simultaneously, protests spread to nearly 30 countries with Muslim predomination: From Tunisia to Kuala Lumpur; from Egypt to Yemen. Hundreds of wounded and arrested and more than 50 mortal casualties has so far been the outcome of the confrontations between the demonstrators and the forces of repression.
In the middle of Obama’s electoral campaign, this situation places his administration and the new Arab governments surfacing after the overthrow of the former dictatorships in a tight spot.
The pinnacle of these demonstrations was to be found in Libya where, against the background of mobilised crowds, armed militias attacked the American consulate and opened the path for a furious crowd to get in and set fire to the building. Christopher Stevens, American ambassador in Libya and four other officials died.
This is not a minor event for the previous case where an American ambassador was murdered while on duty took place 33 years ago. Furthermore, Stevens was an outstanding diplomat, regarded as a specialist in Middle East affairs and, when the civil war broke out in Libya, he had been directly involved in the negotiations with the National Transition Council (NTC) and the NATO.
While this was happening in Libya, in Egypt, hundreds of demonstrators climbed the walls of the American Embassy in El Cairo and ripped off the American flag, burned it and replaced it by another one with Islamic mottoes on it. In the clashes with Mohamed Morsi’s (president, member of Muslim Brotherhood) police that followed a man was killed and 250 were injured. At the same time, on the Sinai Peninsula, where since early August Morsi has bee carrying out a joint repressive operation with Israel against alleged “terrorist groups”, an armed commando attacked UN quarters and killed eight Egyptian soldiers. In Tunisia the toll of similar protests was of four mortal casualties and hundreds of injured.
There were multitudinous in Yemen and the American Legation was also besieged in the capital, Sana, with an outcome of four people killed and 15 injured after all-out confrontations with the local police.
In Pakistan columns of over 15 000 people tried to reach the American Consulate and while they were about it, they set 20 vehicles on fire, 3 foreign banks and 5 cinemas. Pakistani police fired metal bullets at the crowd an killed 19 people. Over a hundred were wounded.
Protests took place also in Iran, Baghdad, India, Morocco, Gaza, Indonesia, Bangladesh and even in Sri Lanka. In many case the war cry was “Death to America and to Israel!”
But what began as an expression of repudiation against USA spread on to the political and commercial representation of other imperialist countries. In Sudan a crowd attacked the embassies of France and Germany. In Iran, hundreds protested against the embassy that responds to France.
The ultra right adds fuel to the fire
The world ultra right, especially the one linked to the Catholic fundamentalism , took advantage of the situation to stir up the fire because of their deeply reactionary convictions as well as to show the difference between them and other bourgeois expressions.
In the USA, where President Obama is compelled to move cautiously, his only electoral competitor, the Republican Mitt Romney, launched all kinds of criticism on the day of the death of the American ambassador in Libya, accusing Obama of being more concerned about not offending Islam than about defending “American values” such as freedom of expression.
Actually, it is under the shield of “freedom of expression” that the main provocations and offences of Arab peoples are propelled, all of them with clearly xenophobic style and evidently meant to criminalize them. Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right French National Front, he claimed for a prohibition of public use of the veil and the kipa and “all the religious signs”, of course without mentioning Catholic symbols, a religion accepted and boosted by imperialism.
Another scandalous case took place. A judge authorised that ten notices that ten notices, on which Moslem are compared to savages, should be exhibited on Underground stations. The notice, promoted by activists of the group states, “Stop Islamising America” and “Defence of American Liberty” says, “In any war between a civilised man and a savage, support the civilised man. Support Israel. Defeat Yihad.”
What is the character of the protests?
Obviously, this impressive wave of radicalised and simultaneous demonstrations, aimed at a common target: the embassies and symbols of the USA, cannot be explained solely by the understandable indignation that such coarse film could have caused among the Muslim masses.
There is no doubt that this series of provocations could only spawn tremendous ire of the followers of Koran, whose theologians consider that a mere act of painting or in some way represent Allah and Mahomet is a mortal sacrilege. Similar feelings could surely be spurred in the Christian world by similar provocations against Jesus Christ or the Pope.
However, without minimising the importance of the religious aspect, we assert that this is not the essential motive.
These radicalised demonstrations and protests are not based on the religious element alone; the fundamental explanation of all this explosion of popular wrath is to be found in the exploitation and oppression that imperialism has historically imposed on the entire region and particularly in the rejection of the ideological offensive boosted by imperialism after 11 September 2001 that pretends to establish the idea that “all Arabs are terrorists”.
The Arab masses regarded these provocations not only as an insult to their religious beliefs but also an offence to their people and culture.
The exploited classes in this region are acutely aware of the systematic looting on their wealth by the multinationals and the banks of the imperialist countries, beginning with the American ones and going on with the European ones. This pillaging is part of a colonialist political history of the main powers that, in these latest years, became deeper by means of invasions and military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq in order to burgle their oil reserves together will all the catastrophic effects caused by the world crisis on the economies of the region.
It is not mere coincidence then and the anti-imperialist hatred expressed by the Arab toiling masses is legitimate. This feeling of repulsion has engulfed the Nazi-Zionist State of Israel due to the fact that it is a military-political enclave of imperialism for the entire region, a genocide state, with a long history of military aggressions and usurpation of territories of the peoples of the region, fundamentally of the Palestinian people.
Imperialist reaction and policy
The Obama administration stood at a distance from the polemic video. They did so by jeans of various statements and they even went so far as to pay for advertising spaces on seven Pakistani TV chains.
However, he simultaneously warned that “no act of terrorism will remain unpunished”. He went on to reassert, “We shall come across many challenges, but we shall continue defending our values here and abroad. This is what our troops, our diplomats and our citizens are doing.”
Obama had two warships and a contingent of 200 elite marines sent to Libya. Washington also sent marines to reinforce the protection of their diplomats in Yemen.
Evacuating all the “non-essential” personnel from the embassies in Tunisia and Sudan was another urgency measure adopted by the American government. Similar measures were taken by the Hollande administration who, after prohibiting any Islamite demonstration in France, decided to close his embassies, schools and cultural centres in 20 Muslim countries. Germany and other countries followed suit.
Within the political scope, USA made efforts to keep reasserting their cynical pose of “ally” of the current Arab revolutions. Obama is trying to find support in what he could capitalize from his policy of shifting positions in the face of revolutionary processes such as the one in Egypt or in Libya or in Syria, where from iron support for the dictators he swerved to promoting their removal when maintaining them was more of a destabilising factor than stabilizing of the political situation. But all this realignment and these tactical shifts could not wipe away from the awareness of the masses all the oppression and all the crimes – historic and current – committed by imperialism in the region.
It was from this political posture that Hilary Clinton, American State Secretary, urged the Arab peoples not to swap “the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of the mobs”. Clinton has been perfectly clear in expressing the imperialists’ interest in halting these revolutions at the overthrow of the dictators and so prevent any headway towards anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist measures.
That is why Clinton began to press on the current governments surfaced from the revolutions in the region and insisted, “Responsible leaders of these countries must do everything in their power to restore security and bring justice to those who are behind the violent deeds.” Faced with such pressure on behalf of imperialism, all the bourgeois governments and leaderships- beginning by Egypt, Libya and Tunisia responded taking servile positions in the service of “pacification” of the revolts.
What the protests evidence
The first thing that this wave of anti-imperialist explosions makes clear is that the revolutionary process in North Africa and the Middle East is still on and is goring through ups and downs as far as its depth and military-political paces are concerned. Countering those who pretend to separate the processes, analysing them in a fragmentary way and not as particularities of a whole, this reality confirms the international character of the process once again.
Considering some significant cases, we can see that in some countries such as Tunisia or Yemen, where imperialism and bourgeois leaderships of the revolutionary process have made important headway towards political stabilisation, reality still seems to be far from achieving this aim.
Libya case is clearly another proof that neither imperialism nor Arab bourgeoisie can now take it easy. Even though it is true that in this country, where the Gadafi regime was toppled and destroyed by the toiling masses nearly a year ago – the former CNT as well as imperialism have managed to incorporate sectors of the popular militia into their project of reconstructing the bourgeois army and State and, on the other hand, they managed to direct part of the process through June legislative elections and the taking over by the new parliament and the Prime Minister, the fact remains that there are still hundreds of armed popular militias in the country.
It was one of these militias who staged the attack on the American Embassy and murdered ambassador Stevens.
The shock wave of the attacks on American embassies has also revealed the intrinsically counterrevolutionary character of the bourgeois and pro-imperialist leaderships that, due to the crisis of the leadership of the proletariat, have been so far leading the revolutionary processes against the dictatorships in the region. All of these leaderships, beginning by the Muslim Brotherhood and including the governments of Libya, Yemen and Tunisia, rushed to apologise to their imperialist masters for the attacks and the demonstrators and elbowed their way through the throngs of their peers to be the first ones to “guarantee security” of the premises of the diplomatic representations of the USA in their countries, which means obvious nothing but demobilising or repressing popular demonstrations. From this point of view, it is necessary to take advantage of these and other struggles to build a revolutionary and internationalist leadership fit to lead each confrontation within the framework of a consequently anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist programme, that is to say a socialist programme.
The case of the Muslim Brotherhood depicts this situation. After an initial expression of disapproval for the video and the summons by the Brotherhood to demonstrate against the “offence to Islam” Morsi recoiled after Obama issued his warning against any kind of ambiguous attitude. Later on, when Morsi did his job, Obama sent him a letter expressing his “gratitude” for having protected the American Embassy from the activity of the masses.
The truth is that while Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are doing their best not to lose their mostly Muslim grassroots (they were who defeated Mubarak and still seethe wrath at imperialism), they will do practically anything to gain the confidence of imperialism and such organisms as the IMF and the World Bank who have already promised loans.
These popular explosions are highly progressive, for they challenge institutions and symbols of colonialist oppression and exploitation that in our days is championed by the USA. They are the produce of the revolutionary process and at the same time they stimulate it as a whole for they stand against the entire policy of American imperialism and of their military enclave, Israel. The entire current policy of imperialism for the bourgeois political leaderships in the Arab world aims at maintaining what is the essence of historic looting. We can see this in – for example: Egypt – in the supreme interest of keeping up the Peace Treaty with Israel and the financial aid for the army of that country. Since these struggles challenge the political representations of imperialism, they counter – even if quite unawares – the whole establishment.
But that is not all; they also create better conditions for the need and the possibility for the Arab masses to make their own political experience they need in order to supersede these bourgeois political leaders, whether religious or not – that act as brakes on the revolutionary process underway, such as the Brotherhood, the Libyan government or Syrian National Council and the Headquarters of the Free Army of Syria.
The truth is that any spark may cause a larger or smaller fire. That is so because the structural problems that triggered the revolutionary wave in the region are still far from being solved.
But it is necessary to go beyond the spontaneous protests until dictatorships are defeated, a fundamental if partial step. It is necessary to defend a programme and a policy that will demand from the new governments or leaderships a total breach from all the treaties that bind all these countries to imperialism and expropriation of all their corporations. Because there can be no solution to the structural problems unless imperialism is banished from the region and national bourgeoisies are expropriated so as to begin the construction of socialism in the entire Arab world.
Right from the very beginning the revolutionary process posed the central challenge of deepening the struggle of the masses until the seizure of power by the working and exploited classes, building governments of workers’ and popular governments, without any employers in them and without imperialism and its agents.