The Arab revolution keeps expanding. Even in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where dictatorial regimes have been abolished the processes keep developing. Its roots are in the 30 or 50 year-old struggle against dictatorships; the tremendous social contradictions between the wealth of the natural resources that contrasts to the poverty of most of the population; and the corruption of the regimes and governments. The effects of the international economic crisis triggered rising unemployment especially among the youth, and an increase in prices of basic products. In the Arab world there is not a single country that remained immune to revolutionary processes: Tunisia was the first, there was an ascent with Egypt, and then it expanded to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and the entire region of North Africa and Middle East, including Syria. But today, all these processes face counterattack by the counterrevolution that is characterised by a great virulence even if its shape and main characters differ.
Syria is part of the Arab revolution
The Arab revolution as a whole expresses the struggle against imperialist looting and Israel. Libya and Syria are no exception to this rule. The explanation coming from their governments (who say that the popular struggle is a “conspiracy” against the regimes that “oppose imperialism”) is an absolute lie. In spite of all his speeches the president of Syria is the guardian of regional order and stability: the border between that country and Israel is the most peaceful in the entire region. Gaddafi, on the other hand, did not even try to maintain his anti-imperialist posture when the Libyan revolution broke out.
The struggle of the Syrian people has continued for 50 days and a growing number of cities and sectors joined the process of revolutionary struggle against the dictatorship of Assad (which is a dynasty, Bashar inherited power from Hafez) which has responded with increasing violence against the struggle of the people. There have already been 500 fatal casualties in demonstrations repressed by tanks against the unarmed civilian population. The death toll gorws. But in spite of the repression, the struggle continues to spread. And news is beginning to emerge of splits in the ruling party and in the army. In the year 2000, the administration of Bashar el-Assad (whose family has been ruling for the past four decades) began by promising “some democratic reforms”, but faced with the current struggles, they unleashed increasingly ruthless repression that apart from the hundreds of dead people has resulted in thousands of prisoners.
The USA does not wish the Syrian regime to fall, like Israel they prefer to stick to the old proven tool in the face of the Syrian revolution. Even in Syria, whose government dons an anti-Israel mask against the Israel aggression, sees destabilisation, that is to say the headway of the revolution, as the greatest menace. That is why in spite of the different postures, in spite of having been regarded up to a few years ago as the “axis of evil”, imperialism repeats what they said in the face of the Egyptian revolution and continue to say now in Yemen; they advise “reforms” and they press for “opening”, but they do not risk toppling the regime.
In the Arab world there is a crossroad where imperialism and the national bourgeoisies start a counterrevolutionary counteroffensive against the revolutionary process. In Libya it rests on the military intervention with the support from the UN; in Bahrain it is the invasion of soldiers from Saudi Arabia; in Yemen, it is vicious repression from the regime. The same can be said for Syria even if this regime is regarded as being opposed to Zionism and imperialism.
So what is the imperialist policy in the face of the Arab revolution? To try and keep control and stability in the region with whichever regime can guarantee “order”. The Arab revolution jeopardises the root of this imperialist “order” and “stability” for it is a struggle against the regimes that constitute the explicit part of this development as well as against those that – regardless their discourse – actually help maintain order for imperialism.
At present, the greatest peril for imperialism is the possibility that the process might spread into Saudi Arabia, the world’s greatest oil producer and the guarantee of supplies on an international level. Together with this, the imperialist military enclave, Israel, is in danger, for there is instability along all its frontiers: with Egypt, with Syria and due also to the revival of the Palestinian struggle in spite of the collaboration of the PNA (Palestinian National Authority).
That is why, ever since the beginning of the Arab revolution, there is great fear with imperialism and Zionism that the process may annihilate the dictatorships, which like Saudi Arabia, guarantee the production of oil or, in the case of Egypt help with Israel’s “security”. If preventing a regime from falling is not possible, then it should be replaced by another – one that will also ensure these central aims.
Aiming to preserve order and to prevent total regional destabilisation, imperialism applies different tactics and policies depending on the countries. So far it supports Assad in Syria. In Libya they had overcome the past with Gaddafi and they supported his regime, that is until the popular insurrection and the civil war initiated by Gaddafi destabilised the country completely and jeopardised the flow of oil towards Europe. In Bahrain, they supported the invasion by the Saudi Arabian troops, letting them begin a fierce repression and temporarily stop the revolution.
Down with the Imperialist Intervention in Libya
Imperialist military intervention in Libya takes place precisely because, when Gaddafi lost control of the country and the civil war began, armed popular committees were organised and they drove the army out of Bengazi and other cities. They caused a division in the armed forces and this made re-stabilising the country with Gaddafi in power impossible. Today there is an impasse as the rebels, due to their military weakness, could not topple Gaddafi; nor could the latter – in spite of all the weaponry in the past provided by imperialism – defeat the rebels. It has been weeks now that the military front is all but stuck.
Imperialism took advantage of this situation and intervened in the name of “saving lives” and “peace”. Why then, in spite of the imperialist intervention, does this military impasse remains unchanged? A central aspect here is the characteristic of this intervention. Imperialism did not send land troops but mounted a NATO bombardment by the air force and through missile attacks from nearby ships. Not even France or Great Britain has so far dared to send troops to Libyan territory.
Why? The background lies with the defeat of the Bush project. There is a deep discussion inside American imperialism as to what the “vital interests” of the USA are and are not in the area. Within this context, the proposal of the powerful sectors was to leave the “burden” of the intervention in Libya in the hands of their European partners and it has even been suggested that the Afghanistan war should be “passed on” to the new “partners” (Such as Russia, China, India or even Iran).
This is the “Iraq syndrome” (which produced a very bad military result for the invasion in that country and the weakening it caused to the Bush administration) that has spawned a new policy of avoiding land military intervention. Like the statements of Obama’s Defence secretary, Robert Gates, who said that a new intervention with land troops is “unthinkable” and that if a Defence minister proposed it he should be hospitalised in a “madhouse.” That is why they use missiles, air force and drones so much.
Libyan National Council
On the other hand, the main weakness of the rebel camp is its leadership, the so-called Libyan National Council located in Bengazi. It is necessary to expose their position of playing along with imperialism: they request further intervention, negotiate with imperialist governments and so allow Gaddafi to use his posture of victim of imperialist invasion. Furthermore, the impasse and the ensuing constant suffering of the population in the Libyan cities gives space for the imperialist proposals to come in with the hypocritical alibi of “saving lives” by seeking a “political solution”. A great many of the members of this Council are former figures of the Gaddafi government, such as Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former minister of Justice, who resigned to join the protests, and General Omar al Hairiri, who has taken some distance from Gaddafi since 1975. The lack of real leadership in the rebel camp allowed these former Gaddafists to occupy the space. Imperialism is making good use of the request by the National Council and their collaboration to justify the bombing and massacring ever greater numbers of civilians, including those who are for the Libyan revolution.
At the same time NATO refuses to provide the rebels with adequate and modern weaponry, because they do not trust them to control their grassroots. Among them – according to the Al Jazeera agency, there is an important number of militants who had been outstanding in previous combats against USA in Iraq during the imperialist invasion of that country.
The “solution” of dividing the country
Imperialism has submitted a motion for discussion, which is a replica of what was done in the Balkans (Yugoslavia) in the 1990s. At that time, faced with civil war, it was NATO first and then the UN who intervened in the name of the ‘peace’ and transformed Kosovo into a UN protectorate.
Taking advantage of the paralysis along the military front, the UN and NATO propose a ceasefire and impose a division of the country: on the one side, Tripolitania, and on the other hand the Cirenaica (eastern region, with Bengazi as capital) and use UN troops to keep watch over the new frontier. If this happens, it would be a serious defeat for Libyan revolution and even for the entire Arab revolution, which would influence all the revolutions in the Arab world negatively.
If imperialism enters as the “guarantor of order” with an agreement of both sides, this will set a serious precedent. Just as in Egypt and in Tunisia, the toiling masses have proven that they can topple the loathed governments supported by imperialism, in this case Libya would be the warning that imperialism finally won ground by intervening in a revolutionary process and so gain a political base on a strategic territory, based on the acceptation of both sides.
Arab revolution divides waters
Faced with the Arab revolution, Castro-Chavism proved to be against the most important revolution in the last 20 years. This trend has supported Gaddafi from the very beginning, but after the NATO intervention, they tried to justify their support for the dictator, saying that the main target was only the struggle against the intervention.
In Syria, several weeks after Syrian people went peacefully but resolutely out into the streets and were massacred for it, the Castro-Chavist governments and those tendencies that are with them still support Assad. There is no imperialist intervention in Syria. Without this alibi it is now quite clear that they are for those dictatorships and justify this policy in the name of the alleged resistance that could oppose to imperialism and Israel. But we have already seen that it is a lie in the case of Gaddafi as well as in that of the Syrian administration.
Hezbollah supports the massacre by the Syrian government
Resistance movements headed by Islamic sectors are also being tested. In 2006, in the Lebanon, where Hezbollah gained great prestige having defeated Israel politically and militarily, they arrived late with their support for Libya and now they came out in support of Assad.
Why? Because of their commitment to the Syrian, Iranian and Lebanese bourgeoisies. They quote the same argument that the Chavists use, that is to say: the Syrian revolution actually is just a plot of the Lebanese Sunni politicians supported by imperialism. They polarise the position in the Lebanon by saying either for or against Assad. In this way, they use the political authority they gained in the resistance against Israel in order to support a dictatorship that had sold out the Palestinian struggle several times over and even that of Lebanon and they create confusion in the heads of thousands of activists who look up to these popular revolutions in the quest for a new reference in the struggle.
In the opposite camp, we have figures on the “left” that support and defend the military imperialist intervention in Libya. Such is the case of Ignace Ramonet, director of Le Monde Diplomatique (one of the sponsors of the World Social Forum and its policy of “another world is possible” without defeating capitalism) and Gilbert Achcar, a main figure of the so-called United Secretariat (USec) on Middle East issues. Ramonet wrote, “At present the UN is the only source of international legality” and Achcar said that “it would be morally and politically wrong for the left to stand against the No Fly Zone.”
This is a criminal policy that lends support “from the left” to the imperialist position that the intervention “defends democracy”. With such a position, those trends and figures actually endorse the bombing raids, help imperialism drive their troops into the territory and create illusions among the Libyan and Arab masses and activists making them believe that this military intervention is for their sake and to support their struggle.
There is no such thing as a “bad” imperialism in Bahrain and a “good” one in Libya. Whatever imperialism may do in the region is counterrevolutionary, it is only that they are compelled – let us insist – to act according to different tactics.
The Arab world is in the camp of the revolution, that is to say of revolutionary struggles of the masses who try to topple these regimes and the camp of the counterrevolution which is made up of imperialism, associated national bourgeoisies, dictatorial regimes with all their repression as well as all the manoeuvres they practise in order to try to halt and deviate revolutions.
We stand on the side of the Arab masses and for the victory of the revolution. That is why, in the face of these two symmetric positions, one calling the masses to capitulate to the dictatorships or to allegedly “democratic” imperialism, the IWL-FI is for:
- No to imperialist military intervention whether by NATO or the UN!
- No to the division of Libya!
- No to peace plans mediated by the UN!
- Down with Gaddafi in Libya, Down with Assad in Syria and Dpwn with Saleh in Yemen!
Down with all the dictatorships in the Arab world!
- Long live the Arab revolution! Long live the revolution in Libya and Syria!
Sao Paulo 12 May 2011
International Workers’ League – Fourth International (IWL-FI)