On the Recent Events in the Arab World

The streets are once again full. There have been clashes with the police, and an American ambassador and his colleagues has been killed in Benghazi. There have also been deaths amongst the demonstrators and the forces of law and order. And all, so they say, over a blasphemous film against Mohammed.

The Arab world is still at the forefront of world attention. The streets of Tunis, Cairo, Khartoum and Sana’a are violently full once again. In these cases the revolts are ideologically guided by the extremist fringe of Salafism against the supposed offence against the Prophet Mohammed, against Western “blasphemy”, against the US presence, its embassies, and against its role as energy predator in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is how the picture of the revolt appears and it is how the Salafist movement itself tends to present it to local and international public opinion. But there is something more. One of the factors which unleashed the movement onto the streets has been put down to the profound disappointment with the “revolution of the Arab Spring”. Only the naïve or the malevolently politically motivated could think that the Tunisian, Libyan or Egyptian experiences could give birth to a new political period which would lead to the a process of improvement in their economies. In the political scenario which arose in those countries only bourgeois solutions were on offer and there was not even a trace of a sufficiently powerful “democratic secularism” to definitively break with the past of the “great dictators”. The parties of this tradition, or rather the political representatives of that fraction of a weak and minority bourgeoisie, outside the state mechanism of economic and political power, did not have the strength to settle accounts with the old regimes. Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Ghadaffi were removed from office as sacrificial victims just like the collapsing façade of an old building, but the foundations have remained intact.

Those who were expecting that the “revolution” would be the start of economic improvement for the population have been left empty-handed. The economy has got worse, unemployment has reached hitherto unseen levels. 25-30% is the national average with figures of more than 50% for the young, even with qualifications if not with degrees. Pauperisation is even hitting the middle classes in a way which equals the devastating poverty of the peasants and workers.

Another element which has to be pointed out is represented by the attempt to gain ground back from Salafist fundamentalists of the hard, pure type, which resulted in their defeat in the post-Spring elections. In Tunisia the moderate Islamists won, and in Egypt the less radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is true however that the Salafists of Al Nour won 25% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament but it is equally true that they have not received an equivalent number of ministerial posts nor a slice of real power. In Libya all the ex-elements of the old regime who knew how to reinvent themselves, “have won”. The most substantial representatives of the old tribal system, the oil bureaucrats who did not see it was time to cut off the supply to the Colonel, all, including the fundamentalist fraction, have literally remained empty-handed.

The Salafists held back from showing their cards, attempting to exploit the continuing social ills which the Arab peoples are still forced to live through in the aftermath of the “Spring”. The opportunity to revolt has been furnished by a film on the life of Mohammed which inflamed the masses against blasphemy, against the West and the USA but also against the new regimes which Salafism wants to sweep away in the name of traditional religion, of sharia and the conquest of power to enjoy it for their own use. Its no accident that no-one has ever seen this film, withdrawn after a few days in circulation. It reappeared suddenly on a Salafist website to be shown and distributed in the four corners of the Middle East and forced itself on Islamic public opinion. The whole thing would have passed off unnoticed if it had not been for the mobilisation by fundamentalist cells who cultivated, along with the anniversary of 9/11, this unmissable opportunity to relaunch themselves.

In reality, three days before in Tunisia, there were clashes in the streets, attacks on barracks, and on trade union offices of the Tunisian Salafists, signs that social tensions were already high and that the film was only the final drop in an already full jar.

An older Salafism, that which has been in power in Saudi Arabia for years, Wahabbism, thought to put its oar in, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, by supplying its own petrodollars to these local formations. The guardians of tradition, otherwise known as the faithful of prayer and combat, largely represented by professions and intellectuals, but not only by them, always on the fringe of the places which count, they have the ambition to gain power through the strength of their faith and the Kalashnikov.

Faith in Mohammed, in oil revenue, in the economic and political management of a cowboy capitalism along Western lines, but accepted and pursued through the fundamentalist religious transfiguration which justifies everything, and reshapes it in the name of God, including the wage labour-capital relation, the Salafist revival will have some serious problems in bringing its own plan to completion. Still more reactionary and conservative than the regimes coming out of the previous period, it will in the meantime receive the rabid support of the most backward elements in Arab society.

Young dispossessed, sub-proletarians of the periphery, workers frustrated in the expectations which they had naively reposed in the first phase of the revolt provide its assault force amongst the masses. And her lies the nth tragedy of the class which is wearing itself out in those latitudes. The spiral of proletarian disorientation seems to have no limits. Without a revolutionary political programme, without an organisation capable of putting itself forward to meet the desperation of the masses then any useless stirring in the frying pan of proletarian aspirations will just end up in the fire of capitalist preservation, hidden behind the untrimmed beards of Salafism.

FD

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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Testi di autori che, pur non appartenendo alla nostra corrente e mostrando rispetto ad essa divergenze politiche anche marcate, tuttavia riteniamo abbiano dato un contributo significativo alla critica classista di questa società.