In the last month, the Arab revolution has spread to virtually every country in the region. In Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Djibouti, and even Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, repeated rallies ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands have occurred, met sometimes with murderous repression, sometimes with grudging and pathetic reforms. In several cases murders by the ruling regime have led protesters to drop their demands for constitutional monarchies and instead demand republics. Often there have been workers’ strikes; these are countries, let us not forget, with heroic histories of labor and radical organizing (see Fred Halliday’s “Arabia Without Sultans” for more on this).
The strategic importance of the revolts in the Gulf States is heightened by the presence in Bahrain, next to the Gulf’s strongest power, Saudi Arabia, of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, a base that has been the launching pad for U.S. wars in the region. In many of these countries the same steps in self-organization taken by the masses in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have appeared.
Repeated mass protests have occurred even in U.S.-occupied Iraq, demanding services such as water and electricity. The murder by the regime of dozens, and the detention and torture of hundreds, during these protests was met with silence by an Obama administration too busy threatening war against Libya.
In Lebanon there were two days of protest for non-confessional government (the country’s election system guarantees wealthier Sunnis’ domination by allotting seats in parliament by religion, based on a census out of proportion to actual population figures).
The victories in Egypt and Tunisia have inspired Palestinians to step up their struggle. Rallies in solidarity with the Arab revolt and against the quisling Palestinian Authority have taken place in the face of vicious repression by the PA. In the United States, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network has launched a campaign, building on the rising Arab revolt, calling for the abolition of the PA and the erection of genuinely representative institutions embracing Palestinians around the globe to lead the struggle. Palestinians are urging their Egyptian sisters and brothers to act now to demand the regime end its collaboration with Israel in the genocidal blockade of Gaza.
We can expect even more concrete solidarity and even coordination of protests across the Arab nation in coming weeks. But it is the task of revolutionaries to forge parties that can make sure this process occurs quickly and broadly enough to prevent the cooptation or crushing of these proliferating upsurges.
These revolutions will be completed when they find working-class leadership, and when they link up across the Arab nation as a whole. No one revolutionary success in any of the existing Arab countries can hold out for long against imperialist military might and economic and political subversion. But the linking of struggles under the leadership of the working class can secure victory—and inspire ongoing solidarity, and emulation, by workers in the imperialist heartlands.
The article above first appeared in the March 2011 edition of Socialist Action newspaper.