Just published on the Internationalist Perspective blog
The end of 2012 saw Tahrir Square to be, as it was a year ago, a theater of violent popular confrontations. Is it “back to square one”?
The “Arab Spring” that began in late 2011 constituted real movements of revolt against the existing governments, responding to the economic hardships of the working classes, living conditions in general, and the oppression of authoritarian regimes. These movements brought together in a heteroclite mix sections of the “middle” classes and parts of the proletarian class. The claims put forward by the movement reflected the inter-class character of these assemblages and ranged from a radical challenge to demands for democratic reforms. Of course, the ruling class, to block the deeper questioning of the roots of economic, social and political dysfunction preferred to give as sacrificial lambs to the protesters, the “corrupt leaders” and to propose the organization of “democratic” elections….
We know the results: in many countries, parties with religious affiliations have emerged as “less corrupt” factions of the ruling class, probably less subservient to the dominant economic powers – former European colonialists and the United States – or simply representing “alternative” policies. These are the reasons that should be taken into account so as to understand the breakthrough of these Islamist fractions.
As IP has already emphasized in its press, Islamist parties were far from winning unanimous support! On the other hand, actions continued within the proletarian class: strikes, sabotage, demonstrations…. For the proletariat of the North African countries, the electoral process was not a response to the conditions of exploitation and social misery; the coming to power of pro-Islamist factions, even less so!
It is in this context that we must situate the strikes and protests which continue in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and in the latter country, the violent clashes in recent weeks. The ruling class presented the elections as a solution called for by popular acclaim; “democracy” had led to the current policy choices, in short, everything seemed to happen for the best in a world order restored to calm and order.
The recent riots in Egypt have shown, on the one hand, the weakness of the electoral base of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, on the other hand, a process of disillusionment for those who expected better days from those elections; and finally, further dissatisfaction for those who were never satisfied with this charade of democracy. Today, it appears that from the military power to the power of religion, the population has gone from the yoke of the plague to that of cholera, i.e. that the solution to the economic crisis, to the degradation of living conditions, to the coercive pressures to keep the lid on the social cauldron, has not been found in the replacement of one faction of the ruling class by another.
The current period is one of confrontation, and raises this question: Is the future in reforms or a profound change that can only emerge as a questioning of the very foundations of this global capitalist society? This crucial question has been the one that has traversed all the movements of the years 2011-2012: from the “Arab Spring” to the movements of the “indignados” or “occupy”. Experiences around the electoral process, reformist proposals of all kinds, and the disillusionment that has now occurred are so many ways to put that question on the front burner.
We should not see the riots in Egypt as a peculiar phenomenon, as a result of the blunders of Mohamed Morsi. We must put them in the continuity of questioning that is inter-woven throughout the world, linking the “Arab Spring”, the “outraged” in Europe, the American “occupy” movement, Canadian students, Indian and Chinese workers …
A perspective for a new society can only emerge from these experiences of questioning and repeated disappointments. In this, we can only emphasize the positive side of the recent riots in Egypt: they reflect the movement of disillusionment and, hopefully, will open the resumption of questioning about “what is to be done.” Another positive element is the global circulation of experience. We have seen how the “Arab Spring,” “outraged,” “occupy” … had spread like wildfire to communicate the heat of protest from country to country. It is clear that the current Egyptian experience will leave traces in countries facing similar disillusionment after the electoral process.
The logic of the capitalist mode of production is being attacked everywhere: on the political front, as we have mentioned, on the economic front as the crisis shows that major structural flaws grip the system and demonstrates day after day the basic impasse in which it is mired. These elements fuel each other and heighten the questioning we see today. All of them feed the movements discussed in this article as well as the proletarian strikes and actions that continue around the world. The progressive unification of these challenges, of these experiences, of that questioning, is what fuels the process of the development of the political consciousness of the proletariat. Because, in the end, it is the proletariat, by its special position in the functioning of the capitalist mode of production, both essential to this functioning but intrinsically antagonistic to it, that contains the ability to block the continuity of production and therefore the maintenance of the present economic, political and social, system.