Pre-amble: I started writing this before events in Libya escalated, but it illustrates why it is imperative that we understand what exactly is going on in the Middle East and North Africa, especially when it comes to distinguishing between our wishes and reality. This is especially true of what is happening in Libya, where fact and invention have become blurred in the press coverage.
Socialism or barbarism?
I know, it's a cry in the wilderness, but events—which are unfolding at a pace too fast to keep up with—is a cry for a new way of living but as yet a formless cry, without direction and extremely vulnerable to all kinds of forces. In Egypt, as ever, the military are still in power. The same goes for all the countries involved. Yet the reality is that unless underlying causes both economic and political, are addressed, nothing will change except perhaps some minor concessions.
Thus failing any kind of viable economic, let alone political alternative, and without any real change at the top in any of the countries concerned, things look grim. And the more time passes before real change is set in motion, the more chance the Empire has to retaliate.
And I think it's clear that events in Libya are the start of a counter-offensive by the Empire to try and regain control of the situation (see Fidel on this 'Reflections of Fidel: The Plan is to Occupy Libya' and Glen Ford's excellent (as usual) piece, 'Khadafi On the Outs'.
Let's be clear, this is not about Khadafi whatever you think of the 'Green Revolution', it's about the attempt by the US/EU to intercede directly and militarily into the situation in the Middle East / North Africa, most probably through the use of NATO. (Ironically the US has an enormous military presence in Bahrain, Quatar, Kuwait and of course, Iraq but it's powerless to use them unilaterally, thus the need for a Libya.)
And conveniently one of the stories to hit the headlines is the allegation that Khadafi directly ordered the Lockerbie bombing, an allegation made by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Khadafi's (former I assume) justice minister.
Virtually all of the news reports coming out of Libya reveal very little about what is actually going on, most are reports of events but lacking any kind of verification (see 'Fear stalks Tripoli, celebrations in Libya’s east'). Thus it's difficult to know who is doing what to whom so we get reports of 'African mercenaries' but Libya is an African country with, would you believe, African people in it.
[S]ome analysts urged against jumping to conclusions in Libya, noting that the country has a significant black population who may simply be serving in the regular army and could be mistaken for mercenaries. These include Chadians who sided with Gaddafi in his past conflicts with Chad and were rewarded with houses, jobs and Libyan citizenship.— 'Has Gaddafi unleashed a mercenary force on Libya?', The Guardian, 22 February, 2011
In the Western media there has been a veritable blizzard of propaganda about Khadafi, some calling him 'deranged' and of course, the predictable 'unpredictable behaviour' of the man, and it's true, the guy is somewhat eccentric, at least in his personal behaviour. But cast your mind back to the opening days of the Egyptian insurrection when over 300 people were killed by the military regime and I don't recall any of the mainstream news reports talking about 'deranged' and 'unpredictable' generals being in charge. Instead we read about how 'responsible' they were, not that they ran a military-business dictatorship. It's a classic imperial setup for a fall.
We should also remember that that following 9/11 Khadafi did a complete volte-face and did some kind of deal with the pirates, jettisoning his anti-imperialist rhetoric (not that it seems to have done him the slightest bit of good) and joined the phony 'war on terror', proving once again that the Empire has no friends. All are dispensible.
2011, year of revolutions?
Earlier in February I alluded to 1848 Year of Revolutions, asking if 2011 was an '1848 moment'. 1848 was (I assume coincidentally) the year the Communist Manifesto was published. It was also the year Marx moved to Paris, the epicentre of the European insurrections, just as Egypt is the catalyst for the current round of insurrections. But what are chances of the insurrections morphing into revolution?
This is, in part, what Marx wrote about the events of 1848:
The country, however, which transforms whole nations into proletarians; which with its gigantic arms encompasses the whole globe; which has already once defrayed the cost of the European counter-revolution; and in which class antagonism has reached a high degree of development – [the United States] appears to be the rock on which the revolutionary waves split and disperse and which starves the coming society even in the womb. [The United States] dominates the world markets. A revolution of the economic conditions of any country of the European Continent or even of the whole Continent, is but a storm in a glass of water, unless [the United States] actively participates in it. The condition of trade and commerce of any nation depends upon its intercourse with other nations, depends upon its relations with the world markets. [The United States] controls the world markets, and the bourgeoisie controls [the United States].— Cologne, December 31, 1848. marxists.org
Of course, in the original it was England not the United States that was the major imperial power and it was Europe not the Middle East that was in the eye of the storm. But there are major differences with 1848, direct parallels can be misleading. In 1848 England was an imperial power yet to reach its apogee, the USA by contrast appears to be on a downward trajectory in spite of its overwhelming military and (diminishing) economic power.
But as Marx pointed out in 1848, there is no revolutionary movement either in the US or the EU let alone in the insurrectionary countries, thus expecting pressure from the current citizens of Empire is highly unlikely. The left, such as it is, is still euphoric from events in Egypt and has joined the chorus in focusing on Khadafi, not the Empire (with a few notable exceptions).
Follow the money
But just as the economic situation was in part the trigger in 1848, so too today it's the neoliberal policies of the IMF and World Bank that is central to our understanding of how and why the Middle East / North Africa is in revolt. The neoliberal policies forced on the people by the various and sundry dictatorships installed/propped up by the Empire, was simply the straw that broke the camel's back when added to the political repression.
So, are true revolutions really possible in the Middle East / North Africa without a revolution in the USA? Indeed, are socialist revolutions possible anywhere without a revolution in the 'belly of the beast'?
All things are finite and no empire lasts forever. Rome’s empire fell and eventually somewhere down the road so will the global empire of the United States. Washington and its cohorts are now beginning to sink in the sands of the Middle East. The U.S. government has put the United States on the wrong side of history. If Mubarak was the modern pharaoh of Egypt, then on the world-stage the U.S. is the pharaoh. Washington too will eventually see disgrace if it does not listen to the growing chorus.— 'The Popular Uprising in Egypt: The Military Machine Remains Intact, The Political Status Quo Prevails' By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Noble words indeed but who is to write the history that Nazemroaya speaks of? With the idea of socialism totally discredited in the eyes of many and the ever-present anti-communism still pervading our consciousness, will the insurrections of 2011 be no more than a memory of what might have been?