Open Letter on the Arab Revolution
The Arab Revolution is a central touchstone for socialists!
Open Letter to All Revolutionary Organizations and Activists
Issued by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 4.10.2013, www.thecommunists.net
The Arab Revolution is the sharpest political expression of the deep social contradictions inherent to the new historic revolutionary period that began in 2008. The fundamental tendencies inherent to capitalism – decay and collapse – have accelerated. The world economy is infected by the highly instable temperature curve of financial bubbles, debt traps, crises of over-production whose fundamental cause are the crisis of capitalist over-accumulation and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Social crises, mass unemployment, and the destruction of the environment are consequently accelerating. Concomitant with these developments, are the end of the absolute hegemony of US imperialism and the emergence of new imperialist powers – in particular China – as well as the increasing inner-imperialist rivalry. Against this background, the sentiment of unrest and rebellion amongst the workers, poor, as well as the middle class is spreading throughout the world.
It is because of these fundamental historic tendencies that the RCIT has insisted from the beginning of this historic period that this era bears a fundamentally revolutionary character which embodies enormous potentials for revolutionary uprisings as well as of counter-revolutionary dangers.
The Arab Revolution is the first massive link which broke in the chain of the imperialist world order. A number of bourgeois dictatorships which were either direct vassals of US imperialism (Ben Ali, Mubarak, Saleh) or Russian imperialism (Syria) or which had a privileged position in the capitalist world economy (i.e. Gaddafi’s regime in Libya) faced spontaneous popular uprisings beginning in early 2011. Some of these have been toppled. The ends of others are in the balance.
The Arab Revolution remains the focal point of the world situation until today. It has weakened the position of the small imperialist power Israel and has thereby improved the conditions for the Palestinian liberation struggle. This struggle must be transformed into a permanent revolution to smash the Israeli state and to replace it with a democratic, Palestinian, multinational and socialist Workers and Fallahin Republic.
However, the heroic liberation struggles of the workers, peasants, and urban poor stand at a crossroads. In Egypt the counter-revolution gained an important victory when the army command under General Al-Sisi organized a military coup d’état on July 3 and slaughtered thousands of people protesting against the new dictatorship. The Syrian Revolution is also endangered by the conspiracy of the imperialist powers, the USA and Russia. The Great Powers seek to liquidate the Syrian Revolution as an important component of the Arab Revolution. Their aim is to impose a negotiated transition of power to another bourgeois reactionary regime – based on the same bloody Baathist state apparatus (probably without the Assad clan), plus some co-opted lackeys of the rebel leaderships, and the dissolution of the numerous popular committees and the disarmament of the militias.
To defeat these dangers, the organizations of the working class and the oppressed around the world must rally to support the Arab Revolution. However, the preconditions for the victorious seizure of power by the workers and peasant are a correct understanding of the tasks and dangers of the revolution and – most importantly – the formation of authentic revolutionary parties nationally and internationally.
The Arab Revolution, as the current key issue of the world situation, is the central touchstone for socialists. Where they stand on the Arab Revolution, which side of the barricades they choose, which tactics they apply – these show the true color of all forces who claim to be for the interests of the working class. Unfortunately, many so-called ”socialists” have either joined the camp of counter-revolution or prefer to take a neutral stand in these class struggles. And amongst those socialists who find themselves in the camp of the workers and oppressed, many either adapt opportunistically to bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces or sink into confusion and sectarianism.
It is of paramount importance that revolutionaries draw the correct lessons from the victories and defeats of the Arab Revolution and unite their forces on the basis of the necessary programmatic conclusions in order to advance their unity with the masses in struggle. The RCIT calls on all revolutionary organizations and activists in the Arab countries, as well as worldwide, to study the lessons of the Arab revolution, and to enter into a discussion about them with us, in order to examine the possibility of our joining forces and to advance the formation of a strong international revolutionary communist organization.
What are the main lessons of the Arab Revolution?
The RCIT and its sections have analyzed the Arab Revolution attentively from its beginning, have derived from these analyses programmatic conclusions, and have participated wherever possible in solidarity activities. We have documented this in numerous statements, studies, and articles (see the Appendix to this document). Here we want to elaborate what we consider as the most important lessons and to highlight which political positions constitute the main obstacles for the workers’ movement to play a progressive role in the class struggle.
A precondition for socialists to play a progressive role in the class struggle is the ability to recognize a revolution.
The Arab Revolution has demonstrated that most so-called socialists – who may like to talk a lot about “revolutions” – are incapable of recognizing one when it is actually taking place. We maintain that the events in the Arab world since early 2011 reflect a revolutionary process. After decades of capitalist dictatorships, the popular masses are rising up against their reactionary rulers and are struggling for freedom, bread, and justice. They have already overthrown several dictators (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen), or are still trying to achieve this (Syria, Bahrain, Sudan). Thus, the Arab Revolution is in the stage of an unfinished democratic revolution. It will inevitably be defeated if the working class does not build a revolutionary leadership in time, thereby completing the democratic revolution by transforming it into a socialist revolution, and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Those who deny the profoundly revolutionary character of this process because of the backward leaderships of the masses or because of the insufficient political consciousness of the masses, only demonstrate that they understand neither revolutions nor history. Revolutions in history have usually started with weak, backward leaderships and insufficient consciousness of the masses (e.g. France 1789, Europe 1848, Russia 1905 and 1917, China 1925-27 and 1949, Spain 1931-39, Algeria 1954-62, Iran and Nicaragua 1979). Many times – due to a lack of revolutionary leadership – the masses were unable to overcome these weaknesses and the revolutions were crushed. This, however, does not change the character of these historic events as revolutions. To develop a program and fight for the correct tactics, revolutionaries have first to recognize the character, potential, and corresponding tasks of the Arab Revolution. As long as they deny or downplay its potential, they are doomed to confuse the face of the revolution with its back.
A precondition for socialists to play a progressive role in the class struggle is the ability to distinguish between revolutions from counter-revolutions
An abstract praising of “Marxism” has no meaning if it does not correspond with a correct program examined in light of both historical precedents and the actual experience of the class struggle. It is, therefore, not surprising that huge segments of the Stalinists as well as of pseudo-Trotskyist and Maoist/Hoxahist centrism support the reactionary Assad dictatorship in Syria in the civil war against the uprising masses – either by openly praising the regime (as have done both Syrian CP’s, the Zionist CP in Israel, the Greek KKE, as well as many other CP’s, DHKP/C and other Maoist/Hoxaist groups in Turkey, the WWP and PSL in the USA, etc.) or by giving it “critical (or not so critical) support” (e.g. Socialist Action, RCG, Socialist Fight in Britain).
They justify their support for the counter-revolution by claiming that the Syrian rebels are “CIA-sponsored Al-Qaida terrorists.” They can only make such claims because they have closed their eyes to reality and have stopped thinking. In fact, these regime backers are supporting the camp which actually receives the preponderance of imperialist support – i.e. the Assad regime is strongly propped up by money and weapons supplied by Russian (and Chinese) imperialism. These Assad supporters praise the regime’s terror against the people and the rebels despite the fact that the latter hardly get any military aid from the West. With their blindness to reality, they manage to slander the Syrian Revolution because they ignore its concrete historic development as a peaceful mass uprising which was transformed – after numerous killings by Assad’s butchers – into an armed popular rebellion. They manage to spread such nonsense because they fantasize that US imperialism’s world-wide war against the Islamist rebels – in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra) – is simply a mysterious conspiracy, and that the Islamist rebels are in fact CIA agents. They rave that the rebels are “tools of US imperialism” despite the fact that the majority of rebels have publicly denounced the pro-US leadership of the SNC/FSA. In short they replace dialectical materialism with idealistic conspiracy-theory.
Similarly, a number of so-called “Marxist” parties have hailed the July 3 military coup of the Mubarakist army command as “the Second Revolution” or an “advance of the revolution” (this, for example, is the position of the CP of Egypt as well as of Israel, the ex-Stalinist social-democratized European Left Party, the Revolutionary Socialists Egypt and their British sister group SWP, as well as the other Cliffite groups like the ISO(US) or the IS-Network in Britain, the IMT of Alan Woods, the Morenoite LIT-CI, the LCC). Some of these “Marxist” pro-coup organizations, (for example, various Communist Parties and the IMT), even supported the mass killings by the army of Muslim Brotherhood supporters occupying squares, and denounced the Islamist as “fascists”, “terrorists” or “the counter-revolutionary Vendée”.
The European Left Party appeals to the imperialist powers USA, EU, and Russia to organize “Geneva-2” negotiations between the Assad regime and the rebels in order to disarm the rebels and to impose a transfer of power to another bourgeois regime.
Other leftist forces take a neutral “Third Camp” position in the struggles against the bourgeois dictatorship in Egypt and Syria. Doing so, they refuse to distinguish the progressive and the reactionary camp, the camp of the popular struggle for democracy and the camp of the ruling class’ reactionary dictatorship. Such a failure to recognize which camps’ victory improves the chances for an advance of the revolution and which camps’ victory means the physical smashing of the revolution – such an inability is nothing but a betrayal of the working class and peasants struggle. Examples for such a cowardly “Third Campist” position in Syria are the Hoxahist CIPOML (which includes the PCOT/PT in Tunisia), Woods’ IMT, the CWI or the CoReP. Most of them, as well as the Cliffite groups, also take – after the bloody massacres by the army command sobered their initial enthusiasm for the military coup – a similar “Third Campist” stand in Egypt today.
In defense of such a shameful refusal to support the democratic struggle against the reactionary dictatorships of Al-Sisi and Assad respectively, these groups usually point to the bourgeois and reactionary character of the leading forces of these struggles (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al-Nusra, pro-Western bourgeois liberals). Despite a rich history of class struggle, the leaderships of these groups have still failed to understand that Marxists don’t judge the character of a revolution primarily by the policy of its current leadership, but by its objective social character, the class forces involved, and consequently the potential of the revolution. This is why Marx and Engels defended the deeply religious-influenced struggles of the Irish and the Polish people against their colonial oppressors; why Lenin and the Bolsheviks defended the imperialist, “democratic” regime of Kerensky against General Kornilov’s coup d’état in 1917; why the Communist International defended numerous national liberation struggles despite their Islamist or tribal leadership as well as, for example, it called to side with the bourgeois regime of Stambuliski in Bulgaria against the coup d’état in 1923; or why Trotsky called revolutionaries to critically support the “decadent bourgeois democracy” of the anti-working class Popular Front regime in Spain against General Franco in 1936-39.
All these allegedly Marxist supporters of Assad and the Egyptian counter-revolutionary junta fail to understand that the necessary political struggle against the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois secular and religious leaderships can only be successful if revolutionaries join the camp of revolutionary mass struggle and civil war. They must proof themselves as the foremost fighters against the reactionary dictatorship and criticize the existing mis-leaderships for their failure to deploy a successful strategy for victory. Only by joining the camp of the revolution and fighting inside it against the wrong leaderships, can revolutionaries win the trust of the masses and win them for an alternative, socialist program for workers’ power.
Fighting Imperialism consistently or Siding with the Counterrevolution in the name of “Anti-Imperialism”?
Those who side with the Assad dictatorship justify this by referring to US imperialisms’ support for the Syrian rebels. They remain completely silent – and they must, due to lack of arguments – about the massive military support for Assad by Russian imperialism. Furthermore, they shut their eyes to the fact that, until now, Western imperialism has by-and-large only supported the rebels rhetorically. As a result, the rebels hardly have any modern weaponry. These “Marxist” supporters of Assad simply ignore the fact that the Western and Eastern imperialist powers are simply competing for influence in Syria and throughout the entire region, and at the same time that both imperialist camps have an overriding interest in containing and liquidating the Arab Revolution. (note how all imperialist powers cheered on the Egypt coup!)
To draw two historical analogies, based on the same criteria they use to support Assad, such “Marxists” would have had to drop their support for Republican Spain in 1936-39 against Franco fascism or for the Chinese nationalists against Japan 1939-45 just because Western imperialists gave limited support to the progressive forces in these conflicts. Such “Marxists” are obviously unable to cope with so many contradictions in real life politics, so they drop dialectical thinking and replace it with a simple black and white view of the world; worse still, they cannot even distinguish between black and white.
The RCIT considers it the duty of all socialists to oppose any military attack of US and EU imperialism on Syria. In the event of such a military attack, we will call for the defeat of the imperialist aggressors. We advocate that workers boycott any material support – mostly by Russia and Iran – for the Assad dictatorship. We call for building an international solidarity movement with rallies supporting and providing material assistance – medicine, clothing, arms etc. – to the Syrian Revolution whose success is central for shattering the imperialist order in the Middle East. This is the only possible line of authentic anti-imperialism!
To Break the Masses away from their (Petty-)Bourgeois Leadership, the Application of the United Front Tactic and the Critique of the Misleaderships are indispensable tools for revolutionaries. Equally Socialists must reject the Reformist Policy of the Popular-Front with (Petty-)Bourgeois Parties.
To advance the democratic revolution, the masses must build their independent organs of struggle – popular committees, armed militias under control of the workers and peasants, etc. This is the best way to form a leadership from within their own ranks and to lay the basis for a future break with their present-day leaderships – be it bourgeois or petty-bourgeois Islamists or pro-imperialist liberals. The task of a revolutionary party is to help the masses in the formation of such independent organs of struggle, and to advance their break with the treacherous leaderships.
However such a strategy cannot be implemented by simply calling the masses to break with the Islamists, Liberals, etc. Revolutionaries must start by joining the struggles of the masses as they take place today, despite the current backward consciousness of the masses and regardless of the non-revolutionary leadership they now follow. Revolutionaries must defend the masses against its direct enemies – like the bloody regimes of Assad or Al-Sisi – not only in abstract but by concretely defending and joining the struggles, even if they take place under a bourgeois or petty-bourgeois leadership. In short, revolutionaries have to apply the united front tactic. This means to call organizations of the workers and oppressed – even if they are reformist, Islamist, or liberal – for joint actions, practical coordination, popular committees, etc. without giving them any political support. Of course, revolutionaries should limit such a united front only to the practical struggle against the reactionary dictatorship and for the defense of democratic rights.
The central aim of adopting this united front tactic is to fight shoulder to shoulder with the workers who for now still follow the non-revolutionary leaderships. To this end, revolutionaries should direct the proposal to form a united front in particular to the rank and file of the non-revolutionary parties and organizations, but also to their official leadership. However, the common struggle must never lead revolutionaries to give up the necessary criticism of the insufficient policy of the petty bourgeois and bourgeois leaderships, and in particular to criticize them sharply when they betray a struggle.
However, it is precisely this combination of a concrete united front policy and the necessary critique of the existing non-revolutionary leaderships which is lacking amongst most so-called Marxists. In Egypt, many condemned the bloody massacre of the army command of thousands of demonstrators on August 14 and later. But they stubbornly refuse to draw the only possible consequence – to defend and, if possible, join the square occupations in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and in al-Nahda Square and the protest marches in Egypt against the dictatorship even when these demonstrations are led by the Muslim Brotherhood as the biggest mass organization in the country. Similarly, revolutionaries must side with the Syrian Revolution not in abstract, but also with its most concrete expression – the numerous rebel militias – which are fighting against the murderous Assad army, and which are overwhelmingly led by secular or religious (petty-)bourgeois forces.
Instead various “Marxists” pursue a popular front policy, i.e. political alliances with (petty-)bourgeois forces. For example, the Egypt Revolutionary Socialists – praised by all groups in the Cliffite tradition –called to vote for Morsi in 2012; then they supported the bourgeois National Salvation Front in late 2012; then they praised the military coup on July 3; and now they have formed yet another popular front (called "Revolution Path Front") with the petty-bourgeois 6th April Movement (which hailed the July 3 coup too) and the bourgeois Strong Egypt Party of the former Muslim Brotherhood leader and presidential candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. So, in effect, the continually blindfolded and confused Revolutionary Socialists today constitute a small Popular Front instead of defending in practical actions the mass demonstrations – led by the Muslim Brotherhood – against the military dictatorship.
Amongst those who correctly support the Syrian rebels against Assad’s army, many unfortunately don’t combine this support with the necessary denunciation of (petty-)bourgeois leaderships. To be more precise, while they light-heartedly condemn the Islamist rebels, they flinch from attacking the pro-Western, bourgeois leadership of the SNC and FSA. (See, for example, the joint statement from August 30, 2013 of the British groups Socialist Resistance (section to the Mandelite “Fourth International”), IS-Network, Anti-Capitalist Initiative and Workers Power/League for the Fifth International).
Authentic revolutionaries must combine the support for the liberation struggle of the workers and peasants – despite its non-revolutionary leadership – with the necessary criticism against these forces. This is the only path to promote the socialist perspective of class independence.
To Conclude the Democratic Revolution, the Working Class – in alliance with the Peasants and the Urban Poor – must Take Power and Build the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
The Arab Revolution is currently at the stage of an unfinished democratic revolution. (As such it bears some similarities with the Spanish Revolution between 1931-39) This means that, in the present situation, the struggle against the dictatorships, against the powerful repressive apparatuses, against the suppression of democratic rights, against imperialist interference and dependency, for a new constitution, against poverty, etc. are in the forefront. Equally, without exception, the masses are led by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois pro-capitalist forces.
But in order to win, i.e. in order to secure a consistently democratic solution, as Trotsky wrote, the “democratic revolution must grow over directly into the socialist revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution” This means that the democratic revolution can only succeed if it overthrows the ruling capitalist class and breaks with all imperialist powers (Western and Eastern). In other words, the working class – in alliance with the peasants and the urban poor – must take power, smash the capitalist state machinery, and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The counter-revolution of July 3 in Egypt is a powerful verification of this basic truth of Marxism: If the working class does not smash the capitalist state machinery in time, it will get smashed by this Leviathan. Of course, we don’t confuse the military dictatorship with fascism, and are fully aware that the class struggle continues. Sooner or later the workers and poor will regain their combative strength. Nevertheless, the successful coup d’état of General Al-Sisi was an important setback for the Egypt Revolution.
The RCIT renounces any program which suggests that the struggle for democracy can be won in a separate stage, without the concomitant conquering of power by the working class. Such reformist confusion can only result in an open or hidden popular front policy, i.e. the reactionary subordination of the working class under the bourgeoisie. (See, for example, the respective reactionary support of the Stalinists in Egypt and Syria for the Al-Sisi’s and Assad’s dictatorships in the name of “democracy,” or the popular-frontist coalitions of the Hoxahist PCOT/PT in Tunisia, or of the Cliffite RS in Egypt.) In fact, those who want to fight for democracy without linking it to working class power can easily drift into siding with the anti-democratic, pro-imperialist camp.
Another serious deviation is the sectarian renunciation of the democratic revolution by replacing – instead of combining – the program of the democratic revolution with the program of the socialist revolution. Arguments like “we don’t raise democratic demands like the Constituent Assembly because it is utopian to believe it can be implemented without workers’ government” (WIVP South Africa) or “the masses have already overcome their bourgeois-democratic illusions” (LCC) either betray an economist’s ignorance of the democratic part of the Transitional Program or are simply wishful thinking divorced from reality. As long as the masses prove with their deeds that they desire democracy and are far away from a socialist consciousness, authentic revolutionaries must actively advocate the democratic program (like freedom of assembly, press, Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, etc.) and combine it with the perspective for a workers and peasant government.
Understanding the Inner-Imperialist Rivalry between the Great Powers US, EU, Russia and China is Key to understand the current World Situation
The RCIT has explained in the last years that the emergence of China as a new imperialist power is a major factor in understanding the accelerated decline of the US and the increasing rivalry and conflicts in world politics. The growing influence of the Eastern imperialist powers, China and Russia, play an important role in shaping the political and economic conditions not only in Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America but also in the Middle East. Assad’s dictatorship would no longer exist if it did not receive huge economic and military support from Russia (and to a certain degree China).
However, hardly any of the socialist groups is able to recognize the imperialist character of China. Most Stalinists, as well as groups like Socialist Action (Britain) or the Spartacist family (ICL, IBT, IG), consider China to be a “socialist” country or as a “degenerated workers state.” Others, like the FLTI, insist that China is a “semi-colony” under the command of Obama. Such a misunderstanding of the class character of Chinese imperialism makes these groups incapable of understanding important turns in world politics such as the recent retreat of Obama on Syria. Equally, it offers a nonsensical justification for the pro-Assad left to not only oppose a US war in Syria – which is of course the duty for every socialist – but also to hail the Russian imperialist support (with China’s backing) for the Assad regime.
The RCIT is convinced that the inner-imperialist rivalry – in particular between the US and China – will substantially increase in the coming years. It is of decisive importance that the workers’ movement do not subordinate themselves to any of the imperialist camps, but instead follow a proletarian internationalist line. Otherwise it runs into danger of adapting to social-imperialism.
In the Period Ahead, Building a strong international Bolshevik Organization is the Key
The Arab Revolution is at a crossroads. The counterrevolution has raised its head and scored an important victory in Egypt. The imperialist Great Powers are conspiring to save the reactionary Baathist state apparatus in Syria (probably without Assad) so that they can disarm and smash the revolutionary masses.
The overriding challenge now is to learn the lessons of the victories and defeats of the Arab Revolution and to unite authentic revolutionaries on a program corresponding to the tasks of the present period. One might object that the revolutionaries today are weak and cannot decisively influence the fate of the Arab Revolution. True, we revolutionaries are weak and, in addition, the policy of betrayal of many so-called “Marxists” – in fact left-reformist and centrist renegades – discredits authentic Marxism in the eyes of the masses. But as Bolshevik-Communists, we don’t draw from this the cynical conclusion that revolutionaries should confine themselves to merely commenting on the class struggle. Passivity and demoralization will never advance the building of a revolutionary party. No, the task is to offer the vanguard of the workers and oppressed an analysis of the relation of forces and a perspective for the struggle, as well as to join and to support the vanguard in order to improve the preconditions to overcome the crisis of leadership.
Of course, this is neither a short-term nor an easy task. But revolutionaries must plan in the long view. As we have explained in past documents, the present historic revolutionary period will not be a short one, but rather a protracted period marked by sharp ebbs and flows of the class struggle. It will see some victories but – given the lack of the badly needed revolutionary leadership – mostly defeats and temporary semi-victories. But it is a known law of the revolutionary struggle that the road to victory is paved with defeats which, however, are the basis for the necessary experience for the working class and its vanguard to unite and start anew on a higher political foundation.
These struggles and these experiences of the workers vanguard and the masses are the ferment out of which the Bolshevik-Communists will build the revolutionary party as well as a World Party for Socialist Revolution (which, in our opinion, will be the Fifth International). This is the task the RCIT is fighting for. We call all fighters in solidarity with the Arab Revolution and the world-wide liberation struggle of the working class and the oppressed to join forces in the struggle to build new revolutionary parties and a new Fifth Workers’ International.
No future without socialism!
No socialism without a revolution!
No revolution without a revolutionary party!
For a more extensive overview of the RCIT’s analysis and programmatic conclusion of the Arab Revolution as well as of our documents on the world situation, on Islamism and strategies for the liberation struggles we refer those who are interested to our website www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east respectively www.thecommunists.net/theory.