About a year ago, with the beginnings of the ‘Arab Spring’ and, especially with the Western intervention in Libya, I made a couple of posts regarding these. With a year passing, it is only natural to reflect on those initial posts and the development of the Arab Spring since.
I think what we’ve seen is the complete hijacking of an initially organic (that is, generally spontaneous action arising from the various conditions in the countries involved, albeit seeking inspiration from each other) movements by various class and imperialist interests. Hence my use of the word ‘cyborg’ to define these ‘revolutions’.
The Arab Spring was not confined to just Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. The success of the Tunisian movement inspired similar uprisings throughout the Arab world, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Mauritania. It also helped inspire movements throughout Europe, Russia, the Anglo world (coalescing around the ‘Occupy’ movement) and, most recently, Nigeria. No doubt it also inspired similar activities elsewhere, likely elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, of which I am not aware of.
In this – the emergence of protest movements throughout the world – I think we see the organic wave of revolution, as revolutionary ripples spread out from epicenters, mingle with local conditions and inspire movements; which themselves then send out new ripples. For various reasons these movements had varied impact in their individual countries. Some countries were generally insulated from these ripples through either already providing escape valves for discontent (liberal democracy), heading them off with concessions (Morocco and Algeria for example), censorship or misrepresentation of the movements (Bahrain and Saudi for example) or various legalistic approaches combined with mild repression (USA and the UK for example).
Despite this organic spread of the movements, this has been, in my opinion, hijacked. Various class powers, interests and imperialist powers seized on these movements for their own geopolitical and economic reasons. The Libyan case is perhaps the most obvious here, where the imperialist powers now proudly discuss how they actively facilitated, organised, armed and trained, as well as actively participated on the ground, the anti-Gaddafi forces. Syria seems to be following a similar course today.
Where it has been in the interests of the imperialist powers to see change – or when they realised that change was coming regardless, as in Egypt – they have intervened to amplify the call for change, to facilitate this change, or otherwise manage the change so as to either reduce their losses or snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as we see now in Egypt (where the Western puppet regime of Mubarak was allowed to fall, but Western interests have now been both protected and potentially expanded). They have done this for both geopolitical reasons (Libya, albeit less a threat than previously, still posed problems, and Syria is problematic both in terms of Israel-Palestine and Iran) and economic interests (Libya’s oil, the various extensive State services in Egypt, Libya and Syria which the West are eager to ‘help’ privatise). Often both factors have played a role.
And where the success of these movements threatened imperialist interests, the West has either turned a blind eye to these movements brutal repression, or took an active role in their crushing. The bloody suppression of movements in Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have thus gone on with either direct or indirect support from the West.
I wonder if the hypocrisy of the West has ever been so obvious, and yet so obscured through the control of international media.
What does this mean for the future of these ‘revolutions’, and what lessons can the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements learn from this?