Tuesday, February 01, 2011

the arab uprising

World socialists applaud those workers around the world who fight at massive risk to themselves­ for basic civil liberties and trade union rights, for the freedom to hold meetings and participate in free elections. No socialist can withhold sympathy from the struggle of the Arab peoples for political liberty.

There is an old adage that “a hungry man is an angry man” and we can see some of the result in the streets of Cairo. We have seen that once millions of workers take to the streets and begin to demand change, no force can effectively resist them. Faced with the hostility of a majority of workers (including, of course, government workers and members of the armed forces, ), Mubarak will be unable, in the long run, to enforce his control since the workers have dislocated production and transport. In such circumstances the Egyptian capitalists find themselves divided. Not all of them would be disposed to provoke chaotic conditions in an heroic last-ditch struggle. No dictator can manage to maintain hold of the machinery of government for any length of time in face of the organised and united opposition of a majority of the population. Revolution, though, isn’t just about street power.

The fight for a measure of democracy world-wide is an essential part of the struggle for world socialism. If workers are not able to fight for something as basic as the vote, they are unlikely to be able to work for the transformation of society from one based on production for profit to one based on production for human need. That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that such a transformation would be restricted to parliament. Far from it – the transformation to socialism will obviously resonate across all parts of society, and in many different ways. But we in the Socialist Party challenge the notion that revolution cannot at the same time be democratic and planned, cannot be participative and structured. Where it is available to workers we take the viewpoint that capitalist democracy can and should be used. But not in order to chase the ever diminishing returns of reforming capitalism. Instead we see democracy as a critically-important instrument available to class-conscious workers for making a genuine and democratic revolution. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, refusing to be tricked and bluffed by promises, is an urgent necessity. The movement which begs a crumb when it has power to take its fill is ultimately lost.

Workers across the world experience poverty and violence to some extent on a daily basis – it is the common bond that transcends national boundaries. This feature of our class-based society, an inevitable result of the social relation of worker to capital, has never been abolished by "good" government. The workers in Egypt desire for real democracy is commendable, however, this should not be limited to defence of perceived or actual gains within capitalist society but for the abolition of capitalism and establishment of world socialism.

For the workers and peasants of Egypt and Tunisia, they will rapidly find that they have just changed one set of rulers for another. The biggest danger that confronts them – the biggest mistake they can make – is to place power in the hands of “leaders” under any pretext whatever. It is at once putting those “leaders” in a position to bargain with the master class for the purpose of selling out the workers. It allows the master class to retain control of the political machinery which is the essential instrument for governing society. All the other blunders and mistakes the workers may make will be as dust in the balance compared with this one, and not until they realise this fact will they be on the road to socialism.

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