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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 10, No. 4, 16 February 2011

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Tunisia and Egypt: The deepening crisis of US imperialism and neo-liberalism

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

In a column by George Galloway analyzing the Tunisian and Egyptian developments in the British ‘Morning Star’ – the daily newspaper of our sister party, the Communist Party of Britain – reference is made to Lenin’s apt observations about revolutions:

“There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen”.

This basically captures a number of things about capitalism and its manifold crises today. Firstly, a political lull (or even accelerated growth and consolidation of capitalism) may actually be a prelude to sharp revolutionary outbursts that within a short space of time can radically change the history of a country or the world as a a whole. Secondly, the Tunisian and Egyptian political developments can be seen as an expression of a moment in the deepening crisis of capitalism and its contemporary neo-liberal ideology, whose outcome marks a significant shift not only for the peoples of North Africa and the Arab world, but whose significance is global.

Whilst we must not lose sight of the specificities of the political economy of Tunisia or Egypt or that part of the Arab world, these developments must not be separated from the current global capitalist crises. In addition, the recent developments in these two countries have the potential of significant political implications for the Middle East and the African continent.

On the global scale, the mass uprisings and removal of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt respectively mark a very radical (ideological) break from the paradigm preceding, but consolidated during, the era of George W Bush in the US, that democracy has to be brought from outside by ‘benevolent’ imperialist forces to the rest of the world. The paradigm in crisis is that inaugurated by the invasion and breaking up of the former Yugoslavia, the invasion of Somalia and the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

As Comrade Fidel Castro wont to say, in his weekly reflections, the current global capitalist crisis is not only a financial crisis. But it is a multiplicity of capitalist crises, mutually reinforcing each other, but whose foundation is the unsustainability of a system that is based on the exploitation of the global (impoverished) majority to sustain the greedy interests of a small globalised (and increasingly globalizing) capitalist class.

The world today is facing a multiplicity of capitalist crises: the crisis of the global financial sector, an energy crisis, an oil crisis, a food crisis, and the crisis of climate change and global warming. Whilst it would be foolhardy to predict an imminent demise of the global capitalist system, nevertheless there are important qualitative shifts that are taking place marking the possible beginnings of a new global era. It is a global era that may for a while be characterized by uncertainties and instabilities in many parts of the world, not least economic instability in pockets of the advanced capitalist countries. This is likely to be accompanied by a wave of successive crises whose outcome will in the end be determined by the organizational capacity of the workers and poor of the world to seize the political initiative.

One thing is however certain: the current global capitalist crises, coupled with the emergence of alternative economic blocs from the developing world, as well as the energy of the mass of the people in places like Egypt and Tunisia, are all indications of the beginnings of the decline of the US as a global economic power!

The political crisis in Tunisia and Egypt is an outcome of a combination of some of the elements of the current global capitalist crisis. These have been immediately sparked by the impact of the global financial crisis in the world, coupled with the rising food prices and the cost of other basic necessities for the majority of the people in these countries. It is a further crisis of the imposition of neo-liberal ideas and programmes, with the collusion of domestic elites, as these countries were simultaneously hailed as examples of the successes of some of the neo-liberal economic policies. In these countries this has been accompanied by their complicity with US imperialism.

The Egyptian revolution in particular has a huge potential to impact positively on the struggle of the Palestinian people against apartheid Israel’s tyranny and oppression. There is a real opportunity for the emergence of a progressive Egyptian state, freed from the yoke of US imperialism. Such a state has the potential to wage a principled struggle and solidarity with the Palestinian people. In many ways, progressive solidarity with the Egyptian revolution is necessary to deepen the struggle for an independent Palestinian state.

The SACP is hopeful that these revolutions in themselves with further galvanise the oppressed Palestinian people to intensify their struggle against apartheid Zionism and put the Israeli regime on the back-foot. The Egyptian revolution may possibly provide the much needed impetus to the Palestinian struggles by further exposing the ‘on and off’ US-Egyptian sponsored peace negotiations as nothing more than a façade to delay genuine Palestinian liberation, whilst the further dismembering and colonisation of the Palestinian territories continues unabated. These developments, with the collusion of the Mubarak regime, are making it almost impossible to achieve an independent Palestinian state in the near future. The Mubarak government all along has been a perfect imperialist cover to delay if not frustrate the liberation of the Palestinian people.

The SACP is also hopeful that the Egyptian working class is learning appropriate lessons from the ‘week that has become decades’. The turning point in the recent Egyptian revolution has been the entry of the organised working class into the domestic struggles, thus forcing Mubarak to resign. It is a lesson that is important about the power of the organised Egyptian working class to change the course of history. Without the entry of the organised working class into this battle we might not have witnessed the advances made thus far by the ordinary Egyptian people.

As the SACP has correctly observed in its statement on the current developments in North Africa, these important victories of the ordinary people are liable to counter-revolutionary reversals. The fact that the leadership fate of the Egyptian people at the moment lies with the pro-Mubarak army is an illustration of the vulnerability of the people’s advances to counter-revolutionary reversals. We therefore better take the warning, and possibilities, by Galloway in the ‘Morning Star’ very seriously:

“The sands of time have run out for the pharaoh. He may yet unleash rivers of blood in a bid to hold on. But this wind of change that blew sweetly firth through Tunis and now Cairo will not stop there”

What the above means is that it is incumbent on all progressive forces of the world to express concrete solidarity with these revolutions. It is also our fervent hope that this opening may create conditions for the long illegalized Communist Party of Egypt to strengthen and root itself in the current struggles of the Egyptian working class, as the only route to the radicalisaton of current struggles of the workers and poor in Egypt.

The SACP pledges its full support and solidarity to the Communist Party of Egypt, the broader Egyptian working class and the mass of the people of that country. These developments must indeed be seen as the blowing of the ideological and political cover of imperialism; and that the capitalist crises and their impact are not yet over, and perhaps their full impact are yet to be fully felt.

It is also important that we learn appropriate lessons from these North African revolutions. President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, informed and made possible by our own Polokwane breakthrough in 2007, calls upon all the genuinely left Congress movement forces to deepen unity in order to ensure that we do indeed mobilize the working class and our people as a whole to intensify the struggle for a new growth path.

President Zuma’s SONA also builds upon the unity achieved at the ANC NGC that further exposed the bankruptcy of the new tendency in our movement as a particular expression of ‘Mubarakism’ – selfish capitalist, imperialist-backed greed – that has no solution to the developmental challenges facing our country.

It is only by deepening mass mobilization of the workers and the poor of our country that a new growth path will be realized. It is this new growth path that will ultimately break with the economic trajectory of ‘colonialism of a special type’, and will constitute our most direct route to a transition to socialism. It is only a mobilized working class and people, under the leadership of the ANC-led Alliance, that is best placed to consolidate and deepen our national democratic revolution!