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“The Arab Spring” - Revolution, reform & Counter-Revolution.

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Presentation on theme: "“The Arab Spring” - Revolution, reform & Counter-Revolution."— Presentation transcript:

1 “The Arab Spring” - Revolution, reform & Counter-Revolution

2 Introductory Discussion 1. What is the relevance of the Arab Uprisings to us? 2. The World is increasingly characterised by crises – worsening poverty, economic crisis and stagnation and environmental crisis. What is the solution? Reform or revolution? 3. What is a revolution? What are the conditions required for a revolution? 4. The “Arab Spring” - Revolution, reform or counter-revolution?

3 Background to Egyptian Uprisings Eisenhower “Middle East is the most strategic region of the World” Revolutionary VS Counter-revolutionary forces (dominant) Repressive regimes back up by the USA and in alliance with Israel. Pressure of global economic crisis on US and therefore limits to its response (Iraq and Afghanistan)

4 Background to Egyptian Uprisings Also cannot be sold to US and European public as “War on Terror”. Establishments of Egypt, Tunisia and several other repressive Middle Eastern regimes intertwined with US interests – especially its military wing, the Pentagon. In Egypt the military has been in power for 59 years – since the army officers led coup by Abdul Gamal Nasser – Arab nationalist in 1952.

5 Background to Egyptian Uprisings The US was caught by surprise by the “Arab Spring” and it frustrated them. Their main strategy has been to curb the enradicalisation of the movement and therefore opted for sacrificing the dictators & curbing the military from an all-out assault on the movement but still controlling political developments.

6 Background to Egyptian Uprisings Right-wing neo-liberal reforms since 1990 with massive privatization of state companies - sold off for US$10bil although worth US$100bil. 1980’s the public sector constituted more than half of Egypt’s industrial production and 90 percent of its banking and insurance industries. At least 20 per cent of the workforce was in the public sector.

7 Background to Egyptian Uprisings After financial crisis in Egypt in the late 1980’s bankers/lenders were no longer willing to float an economy so heavily dominated by the public sector. In exchange for bailouts, Egypt made the neo-liberal structural reforms. Huge job-losses and increasing costs of public services such as water, electricity, education, public transport etc. & severe impact on masses Also made ruling class vulnerable to a responding mass movement.

8 Background to Egyptian Uprisings Tahrir Square movement in Cairo and similar mass movements in other major centres is part of a legacy of working class militancy and organization that provided a foundation for it, e.g. since 2006 workers’ strikes and protests and call for alternative independent trade unions.

9 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? Global economic crisis since 2008 and impact on Egypt’s economy and the tourism industry. By the time the Arab Spring arrives, the economy is extremely vulnerable and within two weeks the tourism industry grinds to a halt with its 2 million workers without wages or severely reduced income. The tourism industry attracts a million visitors per month and accounts for at least 5% of the Egyptian economy. The initial losses to the economy were concentrated in the hotel and travel sectors of the economy - dominated by multinational corporations and Egyptian business groups.

10 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? The neo-liberal onslaught 20 years ensured that most previously state-owned enterprises were integrated into domestic and international business networks. With tourism at its core and due to the nature of globalized tourism, the Egyptian economy is extremely vulnerable to the kinds of disruptions created by the Tahrir Square movement. Sudden cancellations leading to huge losses. Very quickly the demonstrations undermined the financial standing of major capitalist interests inside and outside of Egypt.

11 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? The most politically influential within Egypt are the captains of Egyptian business, who were recently nurtured by the privatization process which gave them control over various domestic industries. The Balance of Class Forces in Egypt A resilient mobilized mass movement of millions that had just shed its 30 years of paralysis and A bloody suppression would have harmed the economy for several years, especially the 2012 tourist season.

12 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? The Egyptian military had a unique set of interests that helped account for its reluctance to undertake a massive repression. Unlike any other military in the world, the Egyptian army's peculiar development had made it a central institution in the neoliberal expansion underway since 1990. By 2008, it had become, as a U.S. diplomatic cable put it, a "quasi-commercial enterprise" at the hub of a "large network" of "military-owned companies often run by retired generals particularly active in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel, and gasoline industries.”

13 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? The military as an institution was itself integrated into the globalized Egyptian economy, including the ultra-vulnerable hotel industry. A few examples of its far-reaching interests: Major hotel holdings & vast Mediterranean beachfront properties under development Key construction companies involved in tourist-oriented road building and other projects.

14 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? A fleet of Gulfstream Jets, also originally part of U.S. military aid, had morphed into a charter airline, capturing a substantial share of travel by executives of Middle Eastern and European corporations. A U.S.-funded military hospital had developed into a regional tertiary-care center, accessible to prosperous patients who flew in from North African and other Middle Eastern countries..

15 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? Like the business elite, the military had little to gain and much to lose from forceful repression. The reluctance for repression was also rooted in the pre-history of the Tahrir Square protests, especially the growth working-class institutions through resistance over a dozen years. As neoliberalism spread across the Egyptian economy, workers' material conditions deteriorated, while their resistance & organisations grew.

16 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? During 2007, the working-class movement widened its reach and appeal, taking up broader political demands while continuing trade union actions. Mass protests, multi-site strikes, petition campaigns, and the full range of public demonstrations marked the Egyptian political landscape for the first time in decades.

17 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? On April 6, 2008, when Mahalla workers - always at the center of ferment - initiated a nationwide campaign to demand that the national government establish a minimum wage that would quadruple the pay of a large proportion of workers, their initial demonstration attracted tens of thousands of Mahalla residents.

18 Why not crush the Egyptian uprisings? When the Mahalla textile workers faced the police, they triggered an epidemic of civil disobedience. Their ability to do this was rooted in the structure of the industry. Once the textile factories were integrated into the larger networks of global capital, employers could not endure a long shutdown.

19 Egypt’s Political Economy Egypt's recent history produced a legacy of working-class militancy and organization that provided a tangible foundation for the Tahrir Square movement. Rosa Luxemburg characterizes the most productive instances of the mass strike as those that combine broad-based political reforms with concrete economic demands AND STRUCTURALLY THIS WAS PROVIDED

20 The Suez Canal Factor Since the Suez Canal is second only to tourism as a source of income for the country, a sit-in there - involving up to six thousand workers - was particularly ominous. A shutdown of the canal would have been both an Egyptian and a world calamity - a significant proportion of the globe's oil flows through Suez An escalating political class struggle could therefore have been an international disaster

21 The Current Ruling Class Strategy This combination of political-economic vulnerability and a savvy mass movement created a strategic bind for Egyptian and global capitalism in which abandoning Mubarak was the least dangerous exit from an intractable crisis. Weaken the mass movement by promises of reform and delays as well as repression

22 Results & Prospects Counter-revolutionary forces and few concessions from military rulers – none of their promises fulfilled yet (housing, political reform, women’s rights, revision of labour laws etc.) US supports the counter-revolutionary movement and wants to stabile the region in the interest of Western imperialism and international finance capital. Muslim brotherhood increasingly siding with the military out of concerns for order and harm to the economy. Masses are back in action & onto Tahrir Square

23 Results & Prospects How does the struggle in Egypt measure up in terms of the necessary precondition for a revolution? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What needs to be done? What can we learn from the struggle in Egypt and how can these lessons be applied to struggles in our own countries?


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