I am not the first one to have coined the following phrase: In some decades, nothing substantial happens, but in a matter of weeks, it is as if decades have lapsed...For the first time in almost half a century, the world is witnessing a sustained increase in progressive activism, moreover mostly of class nature, having started with mass demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt and followed by the "Occupy Wall Street" (OWS), or "We're the 99%" Movement, and having continued with a change of government in Libya and further leading to growıng clashes in Syria. The uprisings spearheaded the downfall of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Mouammar Qaddafi, and activated some groups in Yemen and Bahrain. In some cases, however, the former ruling circles, with foreign support, with covert rather than overt interventions, don't seem willing to give up their long-held privileges. The Syrian theater may be described as more of a labyrinthine than the others. The Arab world from Tunisia to Yemen and more than 1,300 cities in the United States have been experiencing events of global historical significance. A series of demonstrations, occupations, revolts, and even revolutions are challenging not only oppressive dictatorship, but in essence the dismal failures of capitalism and its near-at-hand ally, imperialism. A minuscule minority, perhaps 1%, or even less in almost every nation, will fight tooth and nail to save the system, and force the rest to pay the price.
The unprivileged, the outcast, the underpaid, the unemployed, and the poor, that is, the majority also has to fight tooth and nail to save the revolution that they had started initially.The same policies that had been responsible for the impoverishment of the majority cannot be repeated because those were exactly the failed courses against which the multitudes had revolted in the first place. Thus, new clashes seem to be within view in the future. The 1% minority, applying double standards, will suppress just protests, will seek to maintain archaic but client allies in power, and will exert itself to bring down, by all extralegal means, those that are not its dependents.
A Tunisian Spark
After less than a month of demonstrations (17 Dec 2010-14 Jan 2011) in almost every city in Tunisia, the twenty-three years old corrupt and repressive rule of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali came to an end, and he was forced to flee the country. Ben Ali entered a plane after some hesitancy following his wife's (Leila Trabelsi) reportedly well-timed warning: "Get in that plane fast, you stupid!" That uprising in Tunisia forthwith gave confidence to similar protests in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and finally in Syria. The original catalyst was, however, a certain Mohammed Bouazizi, who had committed suicide by setting himself on fire. On 17 December 2010, he took to the streets in Sidi Bouzid to sell fruits and vegetables, unable to find work as an university graduate. Bouazizi killed himself in protest when the police confiscated his produce. His action triggered a series of mass protests, not only in Tunisia, but as far as Syria and the Persian (Arab) Gulf.
Although Ben Ali attempted to save his family's fortunes as well as his regime by promises of hallow reforms and further repressions, the verbal concessions of this autocrat and mafia boss fell on deaf ears of the public. The members of his family had assembled in their hands monopolistic economic spheres of sovereignty during his ill-famed misrule. Ben Ali's foremost responsibility as the chief executive of his country had been to suppress the legitimate opposition that every society is entitled to have.
Both France, the former colonial power, and the United States, the protector of friendly autocratic allies, had supported the Ben Ali regime in glowing terms. The former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had recklessly described Ben Ali's rule as a "democracy." Neither Barack Obama, nor Hillary Clinton uttered a word of criticism when Ben Ali's police was spreading live ammunition into unarmed crowds. Likewise, the French government of Nicholas Sarkozy praised Ben Ali's economic program even when food prices burned hands, and unemployment ran wild. Israel, too, which fears democracy in Arab lands, was alarmed by Ben Ali's collapse.
Ben Ali's surviving accomplices tried to continue the former theft via a new government made up mainly by the remnants of the old regime, but the protestors refused to have their revolution highjacked. The workers of the Tunisian insurance company (STAR), the national agricultural bank (BNA), and Tunusie Telecom went on strike and got their CEOs expelled. Under the weight of recurrent demonstrations, some members of Ben Ali's family, former cabinet members, as well as the heads of police and security forces were arrested. The majority of common people, who displayed ability to self-organize, wanted more than electoral freedoms.
As a consequence of the Tunisian spark, Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of the al-Nadha, the main Islamic party, returned from exile. In spite of the Western, principally American, consternation about Islam, a fundamentalist alternate is not what most Tunisian people want. The struggle is still unfolding, and the popular demands at the root of the Tunisian revolt, which played the role of a spark, requires much deeper structural changes and a conscious public that will insist on them and democratically control their operation.
Egypt's Unfinished Revolution
The mass demonstrations in Egypt in three short weeks (15 Jan-11 Feb 2011) forced Hosni Mubarak's thirty dictatorial years to end. That country has a central role in North Africa and the Arab Middle East. It has the largest population, a big industrial economy, and the largest working class among all the Arab states. It moved from representing the center of radical pan-Arabist movement to its opposite as a key ally of the US and Israel as well as a failed model of IMF-directed neoliberal policies.
The massive privatization, which had started in 1996, produced unprecedented wealth for a tiny minority, but caused such poverty that the age of those living on less than one dollar a day reached close to one-fifth of the entire population. It may be noted that about a decade before the "Tunisian spark", Egypt experienced recurring protests, demonstrations, and strikes, mostly ending in further repressions. Government intent, through its police, was one of the explanations even for the death of 74 spectators and about 1,000 injured ones towards the end of a football match.
But during the demonstrations in 2011 that led to Mubarak's resignation more than 15 million Egyptians out of a population of close to 80 million rushed to the Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Mediterranean Boulevard in Alexandria and in some other cities. Not only the Tahrir Square was full of people, but also the bridges leading into it, the marches at times being three or four kilometers long. This figure was more than those who had gathered in all the Eastern European cities during the fall of the Berlin Wall. This time, the Egyptian revolt was a national uprising. Although it seemed to the rulers that the masses had gone mad, it had been actually the regime, which had taken vows with down-the-drain neoliberal policies that had gone mad. Mubarak was finally forced out when 6,000 Suez workers shut down the canal, and tens of thousands of others joined in a general strike.
The masses wanted, this time on the other hand, the negation of the economic system and the redistribution of the country's wealth. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had to bow to the demands for Mubarak's exit in order to save the disgraced system. They would even agree, although reluctantly, to punish a few 'little Caesars'. For instance, Mubarak's chief of staff (Zakariya Azmi), his last prime minister (Ahmed Nazif), the general secretary of his National Democratic Party (Safwat el-Sherif), the speaker of the parliament (Fathi Sorour), and the ex-president's two hated sons (Gamal and Alaa) were arrested. The ordinary people would not be satisfied, however, unless the whole regime was changed. Mubarak's ouster and trial were the beginning, not the end.
Understandably, when 1,200 government printing workers, whose average monthly salary was only $100, forced the resignation of the establishment's CEO, who received $60,000 per month. The rank-and-file journalists drove out the pro-Mubarak editors, and fans boycotted some actors and singers who had cowardly absented themselves from the Tahrir Square meetings. Further, the protestors marched to the headquarters of the security police in Alexandria and shut it down, an act almost instantly repeated in every major city. Under the circumstances, there was an obvious solidarity, long forgotten, between the Muslim Egyptians and the Coptic Christians.
The ruling class lost no time to oppose the protestors, whose deeds were now turning to a revolution. It's attendants attacked the protestors with camels, tried to arrest the strikers, and pursued divide-and-conquer techniques by burning a church and pinning the guilt on the rebels. More importantly, they relied on the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalists to polarize the country on religious lines, to underline instead the Islamic identity of the society, and thereby neglect the revolutionary demands.
The armed forces, at the top of which the generals call the shots, are in fact an 'empire' that control at least one-fourth of the country's economy through ownership of real estate, touristic companies, and factories that produce furniture and household machinery. The fortunes of some individuals have resultantly reached astronomical sizes. Such a client army, as anticipated, would certainly participate in joint military exercises with the US forces.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which had initially got into the act of uprising against Mubarak and his party (NDP), may presently be defined as the political arm of the generals’ Supreme Council. That is why some spokespersons call their Freedom and Justice Party "the NDP with long beards." The Muslim Brotherhood is certainly the most influential civilian force in Egypt. Not all of its members or supporters, however, can be dumped together into a single box as if they are all a homogenous group. It is nevertheless conservative politically, but at the same time different from the jihadist Jamaat-e Islamiya. While culturally opposed to Westernization, it welcomes free market economic structures and is not necessarily anti-imperialistic. Some Egyptian protestors believe that the Islamists, as good Muslims, may sincerely wish to redistribute wealth. Consequently, not every vote for the Muslim Brotherhood is a reactionary aye ballot.
Imperialism cannot have its hands off the Egyptian Revolution. A group of foreign intellectuals, in solidarity with the men and women in the street, issued a petition condemning the actions of some governments, principally those of the United States and Britain that support the masses in words, but supply the military decision-makers with arms to crush the protestors. It is well-known that Washington cherished, fortified and stood behind the Mubarak regime until the very end. Even when the protestors were beaten, arrested and killed by the thousands, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the recklessness to announce that the regime was "stable." In full view of mass arrests and torture, Mubarak was then suggesting that his elder son was to succeed him as president.
The battles of the Egyptian Revolution are not yet over. In such a process, there will be advances on account of persistent demands, demonstrations and mass strikes, but also reactionary attacks followed by retreats, supported internationally by the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and locally by the Egyptian ruling class, the generals and the survivors of the hated security forces. Again in the process, alliances change, and some groups, formerly among the protestors, may get behind the existing order. But the majority, if persistent, will remain as part of a solidarity movement searching a radical alternative. In the meantime, while strict sharia laws lie at the very heart of a number of fundamentalists, workers, who have already scored victories over the employers, are continuing to create new independent unions, and women now play a role in them, in the left parties and in the popular committees.
Libya - Dictatorship and Intervention
Refusing to follow in Ben Ali's and Mubarak's footsteps, Mouammar Qaddafi ordered his troops to fire on the protestors, and eventually on crowds. Not much was left of his regime worth defending, and consequently, the uprising, which originated in the oil-rich eastern cities of Benghazi and Tobruk, grew into a civil war between the Libyan army units and mercenaries on the one hand, and rebels, defectors and foreign support on the other.
France, or rather its Islamophobe president Sarkozy, whose primary concern seemed to be his hanging-by-a-thread fate in the approaching election, was head of the line to recognize the rebels with whom he was eager to make an underhand oil deal. Qaddafi's regime having begun taking neoliberal measures since the 1980s, the initial US attitude was to rebuke the dictatorial regime if the established order won the day, but also noiselessly thank him for preventing popular dissent to overflow to American clients in the Gulf. While Britain and Italy, two other former colonizers in North Africa, too started roaring for intervention, the United States decided to support the UN-sanctioned "no-fly zone" over Libya. While the US Department of State backed up and enforced the Saudis to crush the pro-democracy stirrings in Bahrain and Yemen, the Arab League extended an affirmative vote for a no-fly zone over the sister Arab country. Further, the French planes destroyed Qaddafi's tanks, ostensibly to protect Benghazi, but when these rolling heavy firearms had already been driven out of the city by the rebels. Behind the misleading rhetoric of 'humanitarian' intervention, the Western interest was not to create a democracy in Tripoli, but to guarantee a profitable share in the country's oil wealth, as Panama had been severed from Colombia under slightly different circumstances. Similar interests would settle or even justify a pro-Western client regime only in the eastern oil area.
The US interest was covert but recognizable. American intervention, no matter how underhanded, was illegal in terms of domestic and international law. That kind of intervention cannot be justified on the basis of the 1973 War Powers Act because this was not a national emergency created by an attack on the United States. The White House has no constitutional right to make the country a party in a war without the approval of the US Congress. Such unauthorized actions may even cause a vote for impeachment of the US president. Foreign intervention violated international law as well. The UN Security Council decision authorized only the protection of civilians but did not permit a foreign military force on any part of the Libyan territory. Moreover, according Article 33, the UN Charter cannot order any sanctions without prior exhaustion of all peaceful means to solve the conflict, and Article 24 mandates the Security Council to "act in accordance with the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations." Although the Libyan leader was reportedly looking for an agreement to step down, the leading Western decision-makers were not considering a peaceful solution of the conflict. Qaddafi, who had been cruel towards his own challengers, rivals and enemies, was killed with the help of Western weapons and technology, and his alternative now seems to be a more Islamic-oriented group among his former opponents.
Syria - an Anti-US Alawite Rule
The so-called "Arab Spring" reached Syria rather late. The Ba'ath regime in Damascus, like much the same one formerly in neighboring Baghdad, was close to the lower classes.The protests in Syria were not only delayed, the interval also showed that the masses were not as desperate as the Egyptian poor, and moreover, the early peaceful protests were seen not in the big cities like Damascus, Aleppo or Hums, but in small towns, besides in those hamlets very close to Syria's neighbors - Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. However, the initial peaceful demonstrators tend increasingly to armed resistance in response to the harsh repression by President Bashshar al-Assad's government and the flow of weapons from outside. Some neoconservatives called for the United States to extend logistical support to the Syrian forces against al-Assad's Ba'ath regime. Growing armed supplies also come to the resistance from some neighbors and Islamist states.
To search for ways and means to stop government repression is understandable, but to arm the opposition is a dangerous and an unethical game. Syria, which has deep sectarian divisions, may be pushed into a civil war and suffocate in the process the non-violent democratic opposition. It has even set the stage for a wider conflict with the United States backing the rebels against an anti-Western regime, which is supported by Russia and China.
If the fall of the al-Assad government also means the exit of the Alawites (Alevis) from the administration, a possible bloody consequence of such a by-product may be attempts to massacre some members of that minority. The mainstream Sunni Muslims had for centuries suppressed the Alawites in Syria and elsewhere. It was French colonialism that had selected this minority, along with other non-Muslim groups, for support and divide-and-rule. While the Sunnis traditionally went into profitable business, the Alawites were directed to join the hitherto neglected armed forces. Thus, Hafiz al-Assad, the father of today's Bashshar, joined the Syrian Air Force, and promoted to the rank of a general, eventually becoming president. Some of his stock seized the opportunity and managed to become well-to-do, but still a minority numerically. The jealousy and enmity accumulated against them since independence (1944) now threatens a religion-based civil war and massacre. A prolonged war, no matter in what form, may also destabilize the neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. Although several states repeatedly advised Syria's president to allow a transition, perhaps only Russia possesses the leverage with the regime in Damascus to hold down state violence.
Torment by the Gulf Sultans
The Arab Gulf States are capitalist, not only because their monarchs sit on oil wealth. Although the individual states may have some separate interests, the oil economy is dominated by large regional conglomerates. As oil revenues grew, so did imports from the West for the developing market as well as the activities of the Arab Gulf banks. Such buildup will only sharpen the class divisions all the way from Kuwait in the north to Yemen in the south.
It was in Bahrain and Yemen that the United States rushed to the aid of the existing corrupt orders. The US Fifth Fleet was calmly anchored in Bahrain waters, and Washington had a subservient disciple in Yemen. The protests in Bahrain started on 14 February 2011, and were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights. The protests were largely peaceful until a pre-dawn raid by police three days later led to a bloody affair and consequently a demand for the end of the monarchy. Subsequent days saw large demonstrations, the marchers reaching over 150,000 persons. The Saudi-led and US-supported GCC forces entered the country which the opposition called an "occupation." Sultan Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a long state of emergency that provoked several large rallies and clashes. The police response was brutal crackdown on peaceful and unarmed protestors.
Ali Abdullah Saleh was the unpopular president of Yemen who milked the threat of Al-Qaeda to absorb and redirect counterterrorism funding and weapons from the United States and Saudi Arabia towards his grasp of power and overcoming his opponents. It was in southern Yemen that the USS Cole was bombed in late 2000, killing seventeen American sailors. Several Saleh supporters defected to the growing opposition movement, and the despot increasingly faced calls for his resignation. The autocrat resorted to various games to prolong his slave driving reign. For instance, he ordered his forces, commanded by none other than his son, to evacuate the city of Zanzibar, thirty miles north-east of Aden, and turn it over to the Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Sharia) militants, in order to be able to tell the world that Yemen would fall into the hands of the terrorists without him. While the public increasingly described him as a US puppet, the militants exploited the power vacuum in the country. The American administration threw its lot for the oppositions in Libya and Syria, but targeted the Yemeni insurgents, including more than forty Bedouins in Abyan, the tribal chief and deputy governor of Marib (Jabir Shahwani), and even US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki plus his 16-year-old son (Abdurrahman). And what do the militants do in the meantime? They repair roads, fix the electricity, distribute food and manage security patrols. Some contradiction! But lacking a progressive approach in crime and punishment, the latter have also resorted to limp amputations of thieves.
Putting aside the Jewish state of Israel and the Christian minorities in a number of Arab countries, Islam is the dominant religion all the way from the Magreb in North Africa to the Persian (Arab) Gulf in the East. Political Islam has been playing a role there in the past, and especially presently. Depending on each particular case in terms of time and circumstances, Islam may be a forward-moving or a retarding stimulus. In any case it is difficult to sympathize with the cliches of Islamophobia and the so-called clash of civilizations that have appeared in recent Western literature. There is certainly a rise in political Islam, on the other hand, to a degree similar to the upward slope of the New Right and Christian fundamentalism in the United States. As the adoption of Christianity by Rome as its official religion, the Crusades launched in God's name, and the rise of Jewish and Protestant fundamentalism in our age confirm, the religions of the West too have been political.
It was the United States that played, during the latter part of the Cold War era, an engaged role using politicized Islam as an alternative to secular nationalism and the left. On account of repeated imperial interventions and the decline of the secular and leftist forces, the Islamists, operating with their traditional charitable networks in the neoliberal era, occupied for themselves a significant place in the ideological vacuum.
What political Islam connotes is largely up to the interpretations of various groups which may well have different political goals. Moreover, some Muslim societies or with substantial Muslim minorities opted for secular principles. Eminently, the Republic of Turkey was the first overwhelmingly Muslim country in the modern Middle East to have ousted the Caliphate, the world seat of Islam, and made laicism, including the separation of religion from politics, a constitutional principle. Some Muslim circles, on the other hand, chose to return to the fundamentals of Islam as a response to the onslaught of colonialism and imperialism. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Ritha laid the basis of the "Salafiyas", or the traditionalists inspired by their closeness to Prophet Muhammad. While Ritha's disciple Hasan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, Maulana Maududi, inspired by al-Banna, created the Jamaat-e-Islami in India. While the interest of the United States, Britain and France ran counter to the secular nationalism of Nasser's Egypt, Saudi Arabia, a staunch American ally and the base of Wahhabi Islam, helped religious groups in the Middle East to counter national aspirations and socialist views. The United States and Saudi Arabia used these groups of imams against Nasser in Egypt, Mosaddegh in Iran, the Ba'ath regimes in Iraq and Syria, and the leftist government in Afghanistan but in support of General Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan.
While Saudi Arabia and the Gulf shaikhdoms continued to stick to their religion's sharia law, the political leaders of the Muslim countries after the Second World War were generally secular-minded individuals all the way from Algeria to Indonesia. Especially Nasser's nationalism destroyed the old system, nationalized the Suez Canal, and experimented with 'Arab socialism', which was in fact state capitalism. The Ba'ath regimes in Syria and Iraq also considered themselves both nationalist and socialist Arabs. When Nasserism and the Ba'ath failed to achieve Arab unity and solve the Palestine problem, the Islamist alternative, never totally abandoned, became a leading actor in the mainstream, starting the race by offering "Islamic solutions" of aid initially to students, but gradually favoring young females with veils or head scarfs, but eventually leading to gender segregation. I have personally lectured in some Gulf universities, allowed to address only to male students and teaching staff. Presently, there is an official attempt in Saudi Arabia to create a model-town only for Sunni Muslim women. As the IMF-supported neoliberal policies cut down state social programs, it was the Islamists that offered some services. Political Islam inevitably made headway in countries that were shocked and suffering from the consequences of capitalism.
Sections of the educated youth in big cities were the cadre base of the emerging movement of political Islam. The religious strata of the middle class also supported this burgeoning movement. These youngsters were mainly the sons and daughters of the bazaar merchants with money. They had received religious education at home since childhood. Wealthy professionals soon joined them. These people were not typical medieval clergy rejecting modernity. Supported by conservative landowners, some received university education, and the international banking system promoted this middle class base. The very poor, who shared Islamic way of life and no other place to turn to, needed whatever the assistance the Islamists could give. The Hamas could challenge the PLO, and the Hizbullah took the upper hand on the basis of support from the changing alliances. Their backers were mainly from the refugee camps or the belt of misery, but the leaders had some education.
The Western banks, principally those in the United States, assisted Islamic banking system while Milton Friedman's neoliberalism entered every corner of the globe. It was the United States that recruited Osama bin Laden and furnished his group with advanced weapons technology and funding. It was again the United States that helped the Shah of Iran to suppress all opposition, save the Shia Islamists. Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda later established a training network for a new generation of jihadists, who have now grown into a regional, or even a global phenomenon. The madrassas in and around Afghanistan presently brainwash youngsters and teach them how to handle guns. Eager to establish and dominate the oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea area, the United States created an ideological opening for the Islamists. While the Saudis use their oil wealth to spread the Wahhabi brand of Islamism, some other groups look to Iran as another role-model. This vigorous activity, coupled with almost unconditional US support for Israel, offers the Islamists the chance to profit from this series of indignation.
The Islamists in Algeria (FIS) won the general elections, but were prevented from coming to power. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey initially had a similar experience but has been in power since 2002, and Hamas won a similar victory in 2006. Whatever the origins may be, the political Islamic groups are now one of the main actors in all the protest movements in North Africa and the Middle East. The mass protests have at their core democratic aspiration and secular tones. With the exception of Libya and Syria, they displayed peaceful methods of struggle. After all, the Islamists, better organized than the others, were one of the several groups among the rebels. Muslim Brotherhood may be the oldest of them all, but Hamas and Hizbullah are new phenomena.
The World Empire of Capitalism
North Africa motivated some die-hard critics of the disorder in the United States. After all, the mass demonstrations even in far away places like Egypt possessed the ingredients of an over-all revolution. And the United States, as the hub of finances, hard cash, consumer spending and global communications, was the epicenter of capitalism's world empire. The United States has the largest economy in the world and a gigantic military machine. but it mistakes military might for actual power. Having resorted to military force against a number of countries since the attacks on 9/11 (2001), and thereby described by some authors as "the United States of Fear", a gallon of gas used in an American military vehicle in Afghanistan costs $400, and the global government needs $20 billion annually to provide air-conditioning to troops abroad, an amount that equals the budget of the Department of Education. The mass demonstrations, which are collectively called the "Occupy Wall Street” Movement (OWS) with the striking slogan of "We're the 99%", started right in the footsteps of corporate America and at a time when the Republic was lost to Empire. Engulfing more than 1,300 American cities within a short time, it exhibited a courage to leave the 1% tyranny and the history of US empire behind.
Let us bring the essentials of the present circumstances to the fore, just as the pioneers of the OWS Movement have done for the first time in US history. The challenge was not a new candidate for the presidency, a matter of next elections, renewal of pressure groups, higher wages for workers, abortion rights for women, cleaner cities, some concessions in health and education or better environment. It was all of these, but much more. The pioneering protesters, this time, aimed at a regime change and hit hard at the root cause of the basic mess of difficulties.
The circumstances of the global environment may well be the first scene one should define within this framework. One should assert categorically that there is no possibility for an environmentally sustainable form of capitalism. The corporate destruction of the world's climate is financed by the same 1%. The devastation of the environment is an integral part of global neoliberal order. The same corporations, banks and financial organizations that destroy the economy are destroying the environment. Celebrated every "April 22" for close to half a century, the "Earth Day" is becoming in the United States an empty ritual that both polluters and politicians now ignore.
Blinded by the belief that prosperity was inherent in the ideology of free-market fundamentalism, the captains of neoliberalism had dismissed the warning signals in 2008 that markets were always self-correcting. But privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, and sharp reductions in social spending brought in the crisis which began in the Fall of that year. Immediately after the huge housing bubble, the George W. Bush administration had to step in with $200 billion to bail the biggest mortgage lenders in the United States (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). The Treasury Department stepped in again to save AIG, the world's biggest insurance company. In spite of massive government intervention, economic recovery has been ineffective, small, and spineless. Growth was less than 1%, and official unemployment figure stood a little below 10%.
The Obama administration climbed fast to the Republican life-buoy that cuts in government spending is the only answer. In the meantime, there is no change in the unplanned nature of capitalism, and hence the oversupply of capital and consumer goods cannot be substantially lessened. This over-capacity being in full view, the 99% with falling wages and curtailed purchasing ability fail to increase consumer demand.
When labour mobilized in mass in early 2011 against anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, the American working class brought to view a fighting capacity unobserved in past decades. Labour lost the first battle because the union leaders refused to utilize the strike weapon when most needed. Even so, the Wisconsin uprising enabled the workers, whom the Republicans had used as a punching bag and the Democrats as a compliant cash cow, to pass the test of radicalism. Wisconsin Governor (Scott Walker) pushed through a bill that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for public sector workers. Michigan Governor (Rick Snyder) signed a bill allowing emergency financial managers to supervise local government bodies and declare union contracts null and void. Detroit Mayor (Davy Bing) was after new concessions from city employees.
Such assaults on public sector works will continue until labour stops them with strike action. The misery index, which in the meantime is rising, will force the jobless and the low-paid to search for local, state and federal aid. The US government extends a helping hand to the busting banks, but keeps retreating from relief constraints. No local support can be sufficient to meet the crisis. Some states face difficulties even in paying the salaries of their own employees. The federal authorities fail to comply with the responsibilities to the homeless and the disillusioned veterans from Vietnam and Iraq.
It is appropriate to remember at this point that the rallying cry in the 2008 presidential election was "hope". The Democratic campaign turned that word into a marketing catchword. It appealed to the receptivity of those tired of war and economic ebb. Almost all of that hope was lost during Obama's first year of office. That is why the Democrats are sometimes defined as the graveyard of social movements. It was replaced by fear for the future, especially if Massachusetts' former governor Mitt Romney happens to be the next occupier of the White House. Although the majority had voted for Obama hoping for a radical shift, he continued with the unpopular wars, tax cuts for the rich, and Wall Street bail-outs, all of which had been the abhorred policies of the Republican Bush administration.
The Obama administration has been an utter failure to reform the Wall Street in any way. Obama and his Democrats were elected to restore "confidence", but the meaning of this word may be poles apart for different people. The White House is not committed only to the preservation of the status quo. President Obama's position has been to help things go the way they have been going, with minor retouching if unavoidable. Obama, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize after his election to the White House, ordered troop escalations in Afghanistan and also doubled the annual cost of the war in less than one year of his presidency. The war has not been going well, however, for the United States since then. As Obama's speeches sound similar to Bush's war rhetoric, public support for the war keeps dropping. Nevertheless, the choice for the next election should be for the lesser of the two evils. Republican Romney, who is wealthier than all the former presidents since Lyndon B. Johnson combined, choses to run on the basis of free market policies that caused the current economic dire straits.
A deep economic slump, stepping up of class divisions, burgeoning public anxiety over further damage to the ecosystem, and rampant results of such turn of events created the necessary conditions for a level of mobilization that brought forth the OWS Movement. Whatever the origins, primary motivations, alliances, and stages, the movement will be different from national forerunners or distant prototypes. In terms of anticipations for the future, the United States has a record of a revolution and a struggle for women's rights as well as the forward-looking role of the new immigrants, all of whom may at least hypothetically leave no stone unturned. However, they should be expected, if ever, to find new forms. There will be no resemblances to the Solidarnost in Poland, or the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Party of the Workers) of Brazil.
The ‘Other America’
Michael Harrington’s The Other America had brought out, some fifty years ago, the invisible poor and displayed the impoverishment then in some parts of the country. He had estimated, five decades ago, that one-quarter of the population was living in poverty. Today as well, a similar America exists. Moreover, inequality has grown.
The laboring masses have to constitute an integral part of the movement. In fact, working-class radicalism in the United States should be considered a "subterranean fire." One side of the fact is that capitalism developed in North America more shamelessly than in any other country. The obverse of the same coin is that the unions there never fully defended the aspirations of the militant members. The AFL-CIO, the two umbrella federations of the working people, are linked with world-wide US hegemony and the intelligence community that serves this hegemony. The unions, throughout their history, gave priority to pro-business globalization. The leaders of many trade unions, such as those of the United Auto Workers, have distanced themselves from a television program even on a Labour Day.
On the other hand, actual working conditions are worsening when judged in terms of ever-weakening power of wages, rising unemployment rates, lack of health guarantees, and actual labour conditions. A huge chunk of the American citizens barely survives on starvation wages. Especially low-wage workers face harsh circumstances. According to a paper by Ruth Milkman (professor of sociology at the CUNY center of the Murphy Institute) and others, based on a study in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 26% of the low-wage workers are paid less than the legally required minimum wage. They are not paid for work outside the regular shifts, denied meal breaks and subjected to further illegal deductions for the use of tools, transportation and the like. When they complain or try to form a union, they are threatened by pay cuts, suspended or fired. The vast majority of women, people of color and undocumented immigrants don't even make minimum wage. Although most employers know what the laws demand, they feel free to break them because there is no enforcement. Consequently, self-assertiveness generally comes from outside the labour mainstream. Hence, an entirely different kind of labour dynamism is necessary for the spreading out of the "We're the 99%” Movement. The sine qua non of a substantial change demands that the present labour leadership be pushed aside.
Statistics tell the growing divide between the wealthiest and the poorest in the United States. The poor are deeply alone, because the system is ignoring poverty. They indeed constitute the "other America", about which the speculators of the 'American dream' know very little. Although minorities face it more heavily, close to 47 million Americans continue to live at or below the poverty line. The residents of Mississippi, New Mexico and Louisiana are among the worst in poverty and inequality. But once-booming real estate cities in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada have also turned into ghost towns. There are communities in these states with no emergency vehicles or school buses for lack of proper roads; many homes are not tied to a sewage or natural gas systems. Some communities borrow trucks to go out for some water. Even in pre-Katrina New Orleans, half of the Afro-American children under the age of five were living below the poverty line. Some parts of the city were later totally abandoned to natural disaster.
The interpretation of the wealthy for poverty was of course not unemployment, or low wages but faulty lifestyles and wrong disposition. According to those loaded with money, the poor, who were ostensibly disposed to crime and addiction, needed character correction. Poverty is certainly not a matter of integrity, but simply a shortage of money. The whole story is that as poverty fans out, more and more people struggle to exist from one pay or unemployment check to another. But the social security, if any, may be $600, and the rent $500. Many skip mostly breakfasts, and sometimes lunches too. Jobs, especially in agriculture, done by machines, there is always an oversupply of labour.
The wealthiest nation on earth, on the other hand, should be able to meet at least some of the bare minimum guarantees of the very poor. But initially the widening scale of poverty has to be acknowledged and then devise a new strategy to put the freeze on the epidemics of impoverishment.
The United States is notorious for unfriendliness towards women, especially mothers. The rights of women, who constitute half of the human race, are, first of all, a matter of human rights. It is also a matter of economic rights. A group of accumulated prerogatives cannot be limited to birth control or abortion, as it has been the case in the presidential election debates. With no paid parental leave, no child care within financial means, long workdays and short vacations, the American mother is more like a human kangaroo. Those with a child who stay at home are either very rich or very poor. Unplanned early childbearing interferes with the mother's education. Birth control, rarely covered by insurance plans, is expensive. Annual cost of some pills (for instance, Loestrin) may reach astronomical figures. Some effective methods are not covered. Abortion is generally high-priced, and late abortions causing medical complications will run into several thousand dollars. Both childbirth and childcare are also costly. Domestic violence, rape and the fear of rape cannot be underestimated.
On the other hand, feminists have been observing a 'sex war', reflected in books and films, since the 1848 Seneca Falls convention that had declared the Rights of Man to mean women's rights as well. There is some reason to be more hopeful for the future in terms of that one-half of the human race.
The activists of the 99% movement can count on some support of the Afro-American community, which constitutes about 12% of the total population. The Harlem Renaissance had turned that neighborhood in Manhattan (NYC) into a world-center of black consciousness. The four members of the dark-skinned Obama family managed to enter the White House, but close to half of the Afro-Americans lost ground in the socio-economic pyramid of the society. The prison system is the new 'Jim Crow'. Afro-Americans know that the prison system in their country is built on power, not justice. Those who discuss the death penalty, which falls on the blacks disproportionally, may together, sharing their experiences, build their forces and strategies for the next steps of their movement. As evident in the contradictory examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Condoleezza Rice, black response may assume different forms, but some freethinkers among them are still open to progressive ideas and sweeping deeds.
The recent Latin American, Caribbean and Asian peoples offer a dynamic source of support for a different US public order. In fact, every American, save the original inhabitants of the New World, is an immigrant or the son/daughter of an immigrant. The successive waves of the immigrants, mainly from the working class, formed the backbone of the left organizations since the 1870s. Among the later ones, the children of the Cuban and VIetnamese refugees, now faced with a new economic downturn, may put on attitudes different from those of their forefathers.
Later protests, for instance in 2006, of the Latinos showed that there was now a new force in the country. More people having poured into the streets in more cities than had ever been witnessed in that country, Latino demonstrations were the largest in 2006, until the OWS-inspired peace-marches and sit-ins. Until then, such movements had centered in big cities such as Washington, New York and San Francisco. Tens of thousands of Latinos, organized at the grassroots, showed up instead in Dallas, Denver and Nashville. Although some groups in the capital, a number of conservative trade unions, and many Catholic Churches tried to adulterate the movement by political deals, the grassroots organization that wanted the rank-and-file to be treated as human beings led the May Day celebrations instead and actually brought it back as a day for workers to express their demands.
Not surprisingly, two million more Hispanics cast their votes for the Democratic candidate in 2008 than the previous election, and it was that support, together with the Afro-American support and Asian-American backing, that sent Obama to the White House. There has been a huge disappointment, however, between what Obama promised and what he did. On account of massive raids by the forces of reaction, Latinos are living In fear in their homes. The baby generation after the Second World War having been already aged, the United States will need young workers, mainly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Just as the Maghrebi Arabs chose to go France and Pakistanis to move to the neighboring Gulf shaikhdoms, Latin America is the source of migration to the United States in the immediate north. One may assert that they have already become a part of the American economy. Moreover, the Service Employees International Union, where many of them congregate, is the fastest-growing union in the United States. The Latin Americans have also brought to that country their own experience in workers' struggle, so different from that of the fossilized US unions. Joe Arpaio, a county sheriff in Phoenix (Arizona) has an air force and armed supporters to help him terrorize the Latino community. But tens of thousands of young people planned to go to Arizona in the Summer of 2012 to sit down in Arpaio's streets and force him to arrest everybody.
The Afro-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian communities oppose the central ownership and control of the media and support a decentralized system so that their concerns and demands may also be heard.
The student debt is part of the larger issue. The loan crisis related to the young in education has had two consequences. First, the United States, once a leader in the count of college graduates, has now dropped to sixteenth among thirty-six developed countries. Further, more and more young people are dropping out because it is very difficult to keep up with the rising costs. Secondly, the average debt of indebted American students is $25,000, and the total student debt is more than $1trillion. Tuitions have exploded, and the cost of living doubled since the 1980s. More than half of the graduates now cannot find full-time work. Delinquencies are also on the rise.
Although Democrat and Republican leaders realize how risky angering young voters may be, the politicians in Washington are too removed from the people to try anything bold. The uprising in early 2011 had made a single word "Wisconsin" a reference point for the mass protest of young Americans that eventually extended from one end to the other across the country. Even if the interest rates are lowered, college education or graduate studies are still too expensive. This particular problem may be solved only if the students, their parents, and those who realize that student debt weighs down the economy as well act together for a sustainable answer.
Latin America – Its ‘Veins Still Open’
South of the United States was also affected by the storm in the north of the same hemisphere. Benjamin Dangl, whose new book focuses on seven Latin American counties, writes not from the presidential palaces but from the streets where the region's dynamic movements originated. While the movements in Argentina were dispersed and lacking in unity, Venezuela pours oil wealth into public health, education and subsidized food. As S. Sandor John brings out, Bolivia's historical radicalism is distinctive among the South American nations. A new left is growing in Chile, a relatively rich country and a model for development in Global South. It is a member of that gathering of privileged societies, namely the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but it has the highest rate of poverty (18.9%) in that circle. The richest one-fifth gets more than half of the nation's income while only 4% is left for the bottom one-fifth. Consequently, a student rebellion had joined hands with workers, bringing to the agenda new forces, new causes and new demands. It was against a common enemy, ultimately the neoliberal state via a series of dictatorships. President Sebastián Piñera's approval rating, which had been 63 % after the rescue of thirty-three miners trapped underground, plunged down to 22%, the lowest in the country's history. During the Summer of 2011, 500,000 Chileans marched through Santiago, and four days later, 400,000 demonstrated again for free education. They also want free and high-quality access to public health care, a new labour code, and (echoing the Venezuelan and Bolivian experiences) a participatory Constituent Assembly that will stress the rights of the poor majority. Student demonstrations were followed by miners' strike at Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, and protests by bus drivers, postal workers, and dock employees.
The "Weak Links" in Europe
Although there still exist large social democratic parties in many European countries, their guidelines in theory and course in government do not deviate much from their right-wing opponents that guard and fortify the status quo. For instance, the so-called 'socialist' governments in Greece and Spain, which have imposed uneven austerity programs on their peoples, have protected the interests of the wealthy and the big banks. The uneven austerity programs threw Greece and Spain into full-scale depressions, creating doubts about the future of the European common currency. In fact, presently, there are five "weak links" in the capitalist chain of the European Union. The international press refers to them as the PIIGS, or Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. The crisis is particularly acute in Greece, which has annual budget deficit four times the 3% limit allowed by the EU's Maastricht Treaty, and the Greek public debt stands double the EU border. These are the net results of the neoliberal policies of the Greek governments, including those of the social democrats. That country had the lowest corporate taxes and the highest tax on wages among the EU countries. Greece carried out a huge bailout for big corporations and was forced to borrow massively, thus depriving its own people from their sources but serving the interests of the banks and the international sharks. Unemployment was estimated at 16%, and there were severe cuts in social spending causing the collapse of public health and the education system. The case of Greece proves that one cannot defend the rights of the 99% without confronting the EU policies that further marginalize the common people.
Whether in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or elsewhere, the understanding ought to be to stop satisfying the greed of the banks and the very rich and turn to the needs of the overwhelming majority and youth. Some other European states may face the same dilemmas sooner or later. But those governments that face bankruptcy should realistically interpret the cause of the economic collapse and especially avoid misguiding their own peoples towards fruitless chauvinistic goals.
1. We are faced with mass-supported movements in a number of countries, critical in terms of location, strategy or resources and hopeful for radical changes in the interest of the overwhelming majority of their populations. The rising of these agitations was the inspiring dawn of waves of protests that ultimately questioned the righteousness of the global status quo. With an initial spark in Tunisia, mass struggles bubbled up elsewhere. There were demonstrations throughout North Africa, followed by the unexpected fall of dictators who had ruled tyrannically, enriching themselves and their supporters in the process. These upheavals triggered an Occupy Wall Street dynamism, the pioneers describing their activity, for the first time in the history of the United States, as the legitimate demands of the "99%." There were also demonstrations from Spain to Yemen, student protests from Britain to Pakistan, and popular movements from Kirgizistan to Thailand. The series of enduring events all the way from Tunisia to Yemen as well in more than 1,300 cities in the United States and in half a dozen European countries reveal that a revolutionary process is underway for the first time in all the four continents. There is, then, a mass revolt in a dozen nation-states raising the specter of radical upheavals internationally.
2. The eruptions are not exceptions, most participants are persistent in their demands, and their diffusion is wide enough. The conditions, at least those on the preliminary stages, in each may be different. After all, some brought out the rising food prices or cuts in wages, and others aimed at throwing out corrupt autocrats. But in most of them, political mistrust and economic distress intertwined. For instance, in Egypt the people wanted, not only to remove Mubarak, but also to end inequality and poverty. In the United States, the peaceful agitators chose the target correctly, namely the Wall Street that symbolizes corporate misrule of the nation and the world.
3. It may be asserted that underlying these developments was the economic crisis in the Fall of 2008. The rulers, then, everywhere tried to shift the burden on the shoulders of the poor through lowering wages, pensions, and government social programs. The response was impulsively opposition on the part of the mass groups of people in many corners of the globe. Their open preference is not to end the revolt with the removal of a single dictator or his former associates. In some cases, the state bureaucracy, the corrupt politicians, the army as the bastion of the established order, and the courts with notorious bias ending in cruel verdicts remain. But the protests really mean much more than the right to vote for another president in free and fair elections or to cancel the long emergency laws. In short, the phenomena in some countries have the attributes of a revolution, or a mass desire to alter the existing political and economic order radically.
4. No matter what happens in these turbulent nation-states in the coming months or years, nothing can be exactly the same in the future as it was in the recent past. The revolt laid bare that the masses, or ordinary-looking people, can bring down seemingly strong dictators and ask for more. The unemployed university graduate Bouazizi's spark from his burning remains drove Ben Ali from power in less than a month's time. When the revolt jumped to Egypt, five million security personnel could not protect Mubarak, and he had to leave in less than three weeks. Algeria's Bouteflika promised to lift the nineteen-year old emergency, and announced subsidies for basic necessities. In Jordan, King Abdullah fired the prime minister and dismissed his cabinet. Even Syria's al-Assad could not be immune from protests, soon evolving into some sort of a civil war. An important conclusion is that the specter of revolution is haunting the conservative and the reactionary regimes and their American and European supporters.
5. The fall of seemingly unshakable despots lifted the self-esteem of common men and women. The last-mentioned that make up the overwhelming majority on all societies have to act collectively now to achieve common and far-reaching goals. The events that started in Tunisia blew up the balloon that American arms can bring democracy to the oil-rich areas of the world. The revolts displayed the contrast between the protestors' demands and the foreign friends of the undemocratic regimes. The US executive and the EU leaders continued to uphold the tyrannies until the very last moments when their fall was assured. In the weeks before Mubarak's resignation, the White House announced that the Egyptian regime was as stable as ever, refused to stop military aid to Cairo, and supported Vice-President Omar Suleiman who had threatened a coup against the protestors. The US and the EU had promoted neoliberal economic policies and helped enrich a few while ruining the many. It was the same many who later collectively opened the doors to democracy.
6.The lessons to be deduced from the behaviour of the United States, some European allies and other regional clients need to be to close the doors to particular foreign interventions, including those ıunder debatable ‘humanitarian’ pretense. The world center of neoliberalism understandably has its own interests, which are at variance, in the short or in the long run, with the welfare of the nations in the Global South that happen to be directly concerned. The history of imperialism offers adequate information to induce one to conclude that world capitalism will go all out to deny local populations their due share in the use of their own strategic, natural and human resources. There also exist numerous examples of local leadership in foreign lands sticking together with external interests at the expense of their own citizens. The present-day turn of events in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere confirm the contentions above as revealing a host of facts.
7. Political movements led by middle classes, religious or secular, cannot adequately solve the problems of the majority. The Islamists, for instance, will continue to be one of the key players in the political life of the North African and the Middle Eastern countries, but remedies may be expected from the rejuvenated left. Today's Hamas is not the same as it was in the late 1980s, but it still believes in gender segregation, and the Taliban is, literally as well as metaphorically, 'archaic' and is mostly an ethnic Pathan movement. Moreover, the Islamists are not principled anti-imperialists. Generally speaking, the bulk of the middle classes and even the petit-bourgeois are not bent towards radical solutions that will benefit the vast majority below their own middle-of-the-road status.
8. How far these developments can reach a point of no return depends on the ability of the workers, poor, unemployed, youth, women, minorities, and other impoverished citizens. It is appropriate to remember that it was the strikes of the Egyptian workers that dealt the final blows to the fall of the unscrupulous dictator. The challenge is to divert the Tahrir Square protestors to the factories, to support the further ascend of the leftist coalitions in Greece and elsewhere, and to widen the impact of the “We’re the 99%” Movement globally as well as in the United States.
9. The social classes or the groups referred to above may or may not be able to bring together enough alliances and accumulate the right amount of strength to offer an alternative to the root problem, which is neoliberal expansion at home and on global scale. The developments so far provide promising initial steps. The elimination from active political scene of the present-day US labour leadership, almost traditionally an ally of the employers, should be among the steps to be followed.
10. Acts of civil disobedience by activists are useful as catalysts opening the gates to broader protests, but by themselves are inadequate to educate and organize masses of people. One can be neither optimistic nor pessimistic for the future, not even for the United States. As far as the world center of capitalism is concerned, repeated performances by committed individuals have proven to be too little. But even then, the United States has concealed a rich tradition of radical struggle. For instance, Eugene Debs had won nearly a million votes as Socialist Party's candidate for president during the 1912 and 1920 elections, and the 1930s had witnessed stormy rise of unionism. The civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s had created a generation of rebellious free-thinkers. Objective circumstances may again produce the longed-for potential.
11. Although it would be an unnecessary exaggeration to draw parallels between the revolts in Egypt and in Wisconsin, one may assume that the sleeping giants of US unions, namely the rank-and-file laborers, have probably woken up. In any case, a sign of a Cairo activist read: "Egypt supports Wisconsin workers - One World, One Pain." After over thirty years of one-sided class war directed from the upper tip of the economic pyramid in the United States, there started now some responses from the below. The one-sided class war seems to be over. The struggle had started in early 2011 and matured the consciousness of the American workers. The pioneers of the OWS movement and many workers realize that replacing the Republicans with Democrats locally or federally is not enough for employment, higher wages, better housing, health care and education. A number of top decision-makers, for instance the Detroit mayor, who is after more concessions from city employees, was a Democrat. The next decade may not be like the last decade when the class war directed from above met little to nothing response from below. The American labour may now feel that it has the potential to succeed.
12. One should immediately add that global capitalism, spearheaded by the United States, is uniting to suffocate the revolts in Egypt, Greece, Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere. The top 1% will leave no stone unturned to repress revolutionary upbringing. More power to the masses means less control of monopoly capital. With military might as a means of its subordination, manipulation, and discipline, imperialism hopes to manage world affairs via its network of bases in or near the resource-rich areas and through its client dictatorships. Consequently, the Washington administration strengthens regimes like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Yemen, and opposes its critics in Iran and Syria. Hence, it is surprising that the United States realized, in October 2010, its largest arms sale, worth $60 billion, in history. Rebellion in Bahrain, which houses the Fifth US Fleet, was suppressed with American aid. US-armed paramilitaries, assisted by US-made tanks, gunned down the students of Sanaa University and other unarmed demonstrators. The Obama administration is the chief endorser of Israeli strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza.
13. Western imperialism lately resorted to the myth of humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia and Libya. Such intention, in 'humanitarian' or in any other guise, in any part of the world in fact amounts to a counter-revolution. The NATO no-fly zone over the Bosnian city of Srebenica had not prevented the massacre of Muslims by the Serbian military and fascist gangs. Similarly, the reason for NATO's war in Kosovo was Yugoslavia's resistance to new neoliberal reforms, not the difficulties of the Muslim Kosovo Albanians. It soon led to the privatization of the formerly state-owned firms and their transfer to Western businessmen. As the so-called humanitarian intention was taking place in Libya, the United States was helping to brutally suppress peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain and Yemen. Present-day imperialism's resort to interventions aims to safeguard its main objective, that is, to make sure that the regime in strategical places stay attached to the monopolies over global capitalism. The practice is to pursue the actual policy of control over the vital resource-rich regions hiding, in the meantime, it's real intentions behind the camouflage of supposedly altruistic aims.
14. Certainly, there will be new pressures on the 1% as well as the 99% of our populations. There will also be changing social contexts reshaping movements, even those coming from below. But one should bear in mind that the class-based initiatives, inspired by the demands of the majority, have the potential to change the existing orders radically. It is up to the pioneers of the movement to mobilize timely and correct alliances with all or most of the disadvantaged groups and avoid missing opportunities and reject trifling compromises. Especially the American unions have been facing for some time of being a thing of the past, unless the working class reemerges as a more or less unified fighting force. The signs beginning with the Wisconsin episode and now engulfing more than 1,300 cities are particularly promising. Let us read, once more, P. B. Shelley's following lines, which define the masses in opposition to the wealthy elites: "We are many, they are few." As Michael Moore expressed it movingly, millions know that they have no choice, "there is more of them than the men on Wall Street who currently occupy America. They have no choice but to win." For North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United States, the solution is with the Left.