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The Middle East Turmoil

3 February 2011

The last few weeks have seen spontaneous street demonstrations in several Middle Eastern countries, especially the well-publicised events in Tunisia that led to the fall of Ben Ali, and in Egypt. Others have occurred in Yemen and now in Jordan where the king fired his cabinet in response to the unrest. But isn't that the point of the protests, that autocratic rulers don't hire and fire the cabinet, the people should be doing that? There's obviously no hope for real change without a social and economic revolution. Now Mubarak has promised to go, in his own time, and promises, with no guarantees, that there will be changes. The usual police and army crackdowns have been invoked with the resulting loss of life in the hundreds and injuries in the thousands. In Egypt, the army is standing by ready to be used if things get out of hand, i.e. if anything should threaten the privileged position of the elite. The present government, no matter how corrupt or autocratic, is in a legal position to control the army and police and use them against the street demonstrators, who are acting illegally. In the case of a legislature where a majority of representatives are socialist, then the socialists, the peole, would legally control those forces.

It is clear that the demonstrations have, and will, achieve results. Even the autocratic governments of the region will be forced to bring in some reforms and, as mentioned above, some leaders will fall. To many, this represents a revolution and proves that taking to the streets is a successful strategy. However, at best, democratic reforms leading to a more Western type of democracy will result. How far these go will have to be seen. As we continually point out, reforms can be taken away as easily as they are given. Even if they attain Western style democracies, it should be noted that our democracies are flawed and easily manipulated with capital and media propaganda, but it would be a step forward if it brings the possibility of giving voters a socialist alternative.

So far, a socialist alternative, a revolutionary economic change, has not been mentioned by anyone, and when the dust settles, the class based, exploitive, system of capitalism will still be in tact, and the new leaders will continue to manage the system in the interests of the capitalist class. Business will go on as usual and little or no improvement in the economic situation of the working class will be evident. The end result, then, will be a small step forward but we will have to wait until a class-conscious majority acts politically, i.e. through their own party within the parliamentary system to bring about the real change to a socialist society.

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