On his visit to Warsaw at the end of May, President Obama cited Poland as a ‘living example” for Arab nations that are currently in revolt. The U.S. sees Poland as the most successful case of an Eastern European country in which capitalism has been restored.
Poland was the only EU country that did not fall into recession during the recent period, though unemployment is still officially close to 13 percent and wages remain low. Many Polish workers are forced to emigrate to Germany, Britain, and other countries to find jobs. Two days before Obama visited the country, on May 25, thousands of trade unionists rallied in 16 Polish cities to demand wage increases and a cut in the fuel tax.
Obama promised to further step up economic and military relations with Poland, including supplying technology to expand nuclear power and to exploit the country’s shale gas reserves. Several U.S. oil companies—including Exxon, Chevron, and ConocoPhilips — have already gained licenses to drill in Poland. The United States will also place a U.S. Air Force detachment in Poland in 2013.
Poland has gained investment from the West because of its geographical position at the heart of Europe, rich resources, large industrial base, and skilled working class. None of the semi-colonial Arab countries have such immediate advantages, nor can they expect U.S. capitalism to shower them with investments—at least without their paying a steep price in political and economic independence.
Obama said the U.S. would forgive up to $1 billion of Egypt’s debt. This would be an insultingly small amount in itself, given that Egypt pays $350 million annually in interest on a debt of $3.6 billion. But on top of that, The New York Times noted that this is mostly reshuffling of money already promised.
In any case, this pledge is part of a broader plan to try to subvert the Arab Revolution through a familiar program of loans, imposition of “free trade” policies, and political cooptation. This was effectively exposed in “The U.S. wants to turn the Arab revolutions into eastern Europe part 2. It is destined to fail,” a column in the British Guardian by Professor Soumaya Ghannoushi of the School of Oriental and African Studies: “The model is that of Eastern Europe and the color revolutions; American soft power and public diplomacy. … The aim is to transform the people’s revolutions into America’s revolutions by engineering a new set of docile, domesticated and U.S.-friendly elites.
“Obama has doubled the budget for ‘protecting civil society groups’ from $1.5 million to $3.4 million. The recipients are not only the usual neoliberal elements, but also activists who spearheaded the protest movements, and mainstream Islamists.…
“Meetings between high-ranking U.S. officials—such as the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer—and the Muslim Brotherhood took place in Cairo last month, while the deputy chairman of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party has recently returned from a visit to Washington to ‘discuss democratic transition.’
“Containment and integration are not only political, but economic, to be pursued through free markets and trade partnerships in the name of economic reform. Plans ‘to stabilize and modernize’ the Tunisian and Egyptian economies—already being drafted by the World Bank, IMF and European Development Bank at Washington’s behest—are due to be presented at this week’s G8 summit. A $2 billion facility to support private investment has been announced, one of many initiatives ‘modeled on funds that supported the transitions in eastern Europe.’
“As usual, investment and aid are conditional on adoption of the U.S. model in the name of liberalization and reform, and on binding the region’s economies further to U.S. and European markets under the banner of ‘trade integration.’ One wonders what would be left of the Arab revolutions in such infiltrated civil societies, domesticated political parties, and dependent economies.”
Fortunately, the continuing Arab Revolution—especially as re-energized by the Palestinian Intifada of Return—has the potential to derail all such plans.
> The article above was written by Stehpen Sanders and first appeared in the June 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.