Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Future of Arab Revolts By Samir Amin and Hassane Zerrouky

The way Egyptian scholar and researcher Samir Amin sees it, nothing
will be the same as before in the Arab world: protest movements will
challenge both the internal social order of Arab countries and their
places in the regional and global political chessboard.

Hassane Zerrouky: How do you see what's happening in the Arab world
six months after the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and that of Hosni
Mubarak in Egypt?

Samir Amin: Nothing will be the same as before -- that is certain.
That is because the uprising isn't only about toppling the reigning
dictators, but it is an enduring protest movement challenging, at the
same time, both various dimensions of the internal social order,
especially glaring inequalities in income distribution, and the
international order, the place of Arab countries in the global
economic order -- in other words seeking an end to their submission to
neoliberalism and the US and NATO diktats in the global political
order. This movement, whose ambition is also to democratize society,
demanding social justice and a new national and (I'd say) anti-
imperialist social and economic policy, will therefore last for years
-- though to be sure it will have its ups and downs, advances and
retreats -- for it won't be able to find its own solution in a matter
of weeks or even months.

Are you surprised that the uprisings have been carried out, nay
driven, by new players, particularly young people?

No. It's very positive. New generations have been really politicized
again. In Egypt, for example, the youth are very politicized. The
youth have their own way, outside the traditional opposition parties
which, in Egypt, are the parties belonging to the Marxist tradition.
But their political awakening is not against those parties. I can tell
you that, right now, there is deep, spontaneous sympathy between young
people and the parties of the radical Marxist Left, that is to say the
parties that come from the socialist and communist tradition.

You say that this is an enduring movement, but, if we take Egypt for
example, isn't there a risk that the revolution will be hijacked by
conservative forces?

There are certainly many risks, including, in the short to medium
term, the risk that a reactionary, Islamist alternative may prevail.
That, by the way, is the US plan, unfortunately backed by Europe as
well, at least as far as Egypt is concerned. The plan is to establish
an alliance between the reactionary Egyptian forces and the Muslim
Brotherhood; that is moreover an alliance supported by Washington's
allies in the region, led by Saudi Arabia -- supported by even Israel.
So, will it succeed? It is possible that it will work in the medium
term, but it won't provide any solution to the Egyptian people's
problems. So, the protest movement, the struggle, will continue and
magnify. In addition, it should be noted that the Muslim Brothers
themselves are in crisis. . . .

This question is related to what you just said: what do you think of
what's happening in Syria, first of all, where the regime of Bashar al-
Assad has just authorized a multi-party system, hoping to restore

The Syrian situation is extremely complex. The Ba'ath regime, which
enjoyed legitimacy for a long time, is no longer what it was at all:
it has become more and more autocratic, increasingly a police state,
and, at the same time, in substance, it has made a gigantic concession
to economic liberalism. I don't believe that this regime can transform
itself into a democratic regime. Today, it is being forced to make
concessions, which is a good thing, since a foreign intervention like
what is done in Libya -- fortunately that is not possible in the case
of Syria -- would be yet another catastrophe. Moreover, compared with
Egypt and Tunisia, the weakness in Syria is that protest movements are
very much a mixed bag. Many -- though I don't want to generalize --
don't even have any political program other than protest, making no
link between the regime's political dictatorship and its liberal
economic policy choices.

Do you not fear an implosion in Syria given the risk of sectarian
conflict between Sunnis on one hand and Alawis, Druzes, and Christians
on the other hand?

There is that risk. Causing the states in the Middle East to implode
is a US and Israeli plan. But that won't be easy because the national
sentiment is a powerful factor in Syria, which exists in all the
movements challenging the regime today, despite ongoing disagreements
among them.

What about Yemen, a US ally?

The United States supports the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The
reason is its fear of the Yemini people, especially people in southern
Yemen. Southern Yemen once had a progressive Marxist regime, enjoying
legitimacy and powerful popular support, forces for which are now
actively involved in the social protest movement. Washington and its
allies therefore fear a breakup of the country leading to the
reestablishment of a progressive regime in South Yemen. That is why
the Yemeni regime, with the American approval, is letting Al Qaeda --
which is a tool extensively manipulated by the United States -- occupy
cities in the south, wishing to strike fear in the hearts of the
progressive social strata, in order to make them accept Saleh's hold
on power.

Regarding the situation in Libya, where lies the risk of implosion?

The situation is tragic, very different from those of Egypt and
Tunisia. Neither side in Libya is better than the other. The president
of the Transitional National Council (TNC) -- Mustafa Abdel-Jalil --
is a very curious democrat: he was the judge who sentenced Bulgarian
nurses to death before being promoted to the Minister of Justice by
Gaddafi. The TNC is a bloc of ultra-reactionary forces. As for the
United States, it's not oil that they are after -- they already have
that. Their goal is to put Libya under their tutelage in order to
establish Africom (US military command for Africa) -- which is now
based in Stuttgart in Germany, since the African countries, no matter
what you think about them, have rejected their establishment in Africa
-- in the country. Concerning the risk of partition of Libya into two
or three states, Washington may very well opt for the Iraqi formula,
that is to say, the maintenance of formal unity under the Western
military protection.

The original interview "Samir Amin «C'est un mouvement qui va durer
des mois et des années»" was published in L'Humanité on 1 August 2011.
Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Source: Mr ZineMonday, August 15, 201

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