The revolutions that have taken place during the past few months in the Arab world are the last nail in the coffin of any claim that the fall of the Soviet block signaled the final victory of capitalism. The capitalist apologists and ideologues, whose role during the past two decades has been to convince the masses that they have no choice but to come to terms with capitalism, can now only bite their tongues. But, during these same twenty years, many on the left and even the radical left have also cynically rejected the possibility that the working class might once again rise up in revolt. The events of late clearly demonstrate that the ones who were right all along were precisely those who continued to believe in Socialist Revolution.
The revolutions in the Arab world began in conjunction with the most recent worldwide capitalist crisis. This timing is not at all coincidental. These revolutions are an additional stage of this crisis, having started as one of leadership of the ruling class, and from there having moved on to attempts by the masses to find alternative leadership for themselves. Regrettably, they have still not found such leadership; instead, the new rulers swept into power in the wake of the revolutions quickly set about suppressing the masses of demonstrators who had expected to see true change after they toppled the dictators.
In Egypt, the working class fought against Mubarak’s generation-long, pro-Western regime. At Mahala, the textile workers conducted a lengthy struggle against privatization and other economic decrees initiated by their employers. But their struggle did not deal only with economic issues: quite quickly the workers understood that in order to fight their employers, they must also fight against the capitalist system that stands behind them. The workers battled in the streets against the police and demonstrated against the regime’s collaboration with the oppression of the Palestinians in Gaza.
The big push that triggered mass struggle in Egypt came from Tunisia, when the workers there succeeded in toppling the corrupt dictator Ben-Ali, good friend of the U.S. and Israel. This event led to the formation of the mass movement that we see today in Egypt, which in turn ignited the entire Middle East. It appears that there’s no country in the region that this movement has passed over: similar events have taken place in Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. Indeed, it seems that the only country in which no mass revolt has broken out is Israel.
The reason for this is clear. Israel is not only a capitalist country in which the workers are exploited in order to enrich the bourgeoisie, but also an imperialist state filling a key role in the oppression of the Middle Eastern masses, in particular those of Palestine. But, in contrast to the other capitalist countries in the region and other imperialistic states in the West, Israel is a society of colonial settlers in which the all Jews, including the Jewish working class, are granted privileges by the regime. These privileges lead most Jewish workers to identify with the state, instead of identifying with their working class sisters and brothers struggling today against both imperialism and capitalism.
But even in Israel the capitalists won’t be able to bury the Socialist Revolution. The hysteria gripping Israel’s ruling class in light of the accelerating revolutionary movements in the Arab world shows that this class is truly afraid of the loss of control in the region in general and in Israel in particular. This state of hysteria expincreasing oppressive measures being taken in Israel by the passing of numerous racist and reactionary laws, designed to silence any voice that opposes the imperialist-Zionist oppression.
The task of revolutionaries in the Middle East at this time is to participate in revolutionary movements and to explain to the workers the importance of creating their own leadership, leadership that will replace old dictators and new oppressors. In Israel, the role of revolutionaries is to mobilize the Palestinian working class for the revolution, but also to attempt to mobilize as many Jewish workers as possible. To do so, revolutionaries must explain to the latter that, for them too, Israel is a death trap, and that their own future lies in a revolutionary, socialist Palestinian state, in which both Jews and Arabs can live together in equality.