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Video: Journalist Allan Nairn on Trump Administration’s Revolutionary Dismantling of U.S. Government
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From the Kronstadt Sailors, Soldiers, and Workers—To the Revolutionary People of Petrograd and All...
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Video: #1917LIVE: Relive Russian Revolution as it happened with interactive website & Twitter project
Video: British military intelligence hails Russia’s Armata tank as revolutionary – leaked internal paper
Video: ‘Revolution stuffed back into counter-revolutionary party’: Jill Stein on Sanders endorsing Clinton
Video: Commentary: Oaxaca Teachers Strike Is About Defending The Revolutionary Educational Tradition
Video: “One of the Great Revolutionaries”: Daniel Berrigan Remembered as Hundreds Gather for Funeral
Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – Professor Antony C. Sutton’s ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Professor Sutton taught at California State University, Los Angeles and was a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He wrote numerous books based on Wall Street corruption and their involvement in world wars including ‘Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler’ and ‘Wall Street and FDR’ both published in 1976. Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution is a historical classic based on Professor Sutton’s extensive research on whom and why Wall Street helped fund the Bolshevik Revolution. If you want to understand the conspiracy by the West who overthrew Czarist Russia and replaced it with one of the most dangerous political movements in the 20th century known as the “Bolsheviks”, then Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution is one history book you should add to your list. The Bolsheviks murdered millions of Russian people since the start of the Russian revolution in 1917 where it is estimated that between 20 and 66 million who were executed, starved and even tortured to death, many in the labor camps known as the gulags. Nobel Prize winner and author of ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn declared that more than 66 million Russian people were murdered. Solzhenitsyn’s book was based on his personal experience as a prisoner, but it was also a well-researched document of what actually happened in the gulags according to eyewitness accounts. The Western elites wanted total control of Russia’s economy and society with a communist regime in place and they succeeded with their plans as the Bolsheviks became their enforcers; the Czars were eventually removed from power.
Recently in a speech regarding Crimea, President Vladimir Putin had said “In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today.” There is truth to that statement; according to ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ it is a historical fact that the Wall Street elites had planned to undermine Russia’s sovereignty dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries. In the early 19th Century, Western Financiers created a revolution to overthrow Czarist Russia; Professor Sutton makes the connection between the United States and German interests in untapped Russian markets with prominent financiers such as J.P. Morgan, David Rockefeller and Leaders of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Sutton explains his methods on how he obtained information:
Since the early 1920s, numerous pamphlets and articles, even a few books, have sought to forge a link between “international bankers” and “Bolshevik revolutionaries.” Rarely have these attempts been supported by hard evidence, and never have such attempts been argued within the framework of a scientific methodology. Indeed, some of the “evidence” used in these efforts has been fraudulent, some has been irrelevant, much cannot be checked. Examination of the topic by academic writers has been studiously avoided; probably because the hypothesis offends the neat dichotomy of capitalists versus Communists (and everyone knows, of course, that these are bitter enemies). Moreover, because a great deal that has been written borders on the absurd, a sound academic reputation could easily be wrecked on the shoals of ridicule. Reason enough to avoid the topic.
Fortunately, the State Department Decimal File, particularly the 861.00 section, contains extensive documentation on the hypothesized link. When the evidence in these official papers is merged with nonofficial evidence from biographies, personal papers, and conventional histories, a truly fascinating story emerges.
We find there was a link between some New York international bankers and many revolutionaries, including Bolsheviks. These banking gentlemen — who are here identified — had a financial stake in, and were rooting for, the success of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Who, why — and for how much — is the story in this book
Professor Sutton asks:
“What motive explains this coalition of capitalists and Bolsheviks?”
He explains Wall Street’s intentions on creating the Bolshevik Revolution against Czarist Russia:
Russia was then — and is today — the largest untapped market in the world. Moreover, Russia, then and now, constituted the greatest potential competitive threat to American industrial and financial supremacy. (A glance at a world map is sufficient to spotlight the geographical difference between the vast land mass of Russia and the smaller United States.) Wall Street must have cold shivers when it visualizes Russia as a second super American industrial giant.
But why allow Russia to become a competitor and a challenge to U.S. supremacy? In the late nineteenth century, Morgan/Rockefeller, and Guggenheim had demonstrated their monopolistic proclivities. In Railroads and Regulation 1877-1916 Gabriel Kolko has demonstrated how the railroad owners, not the farmers, wanted state control of railroads in order to preserve their monopoly and abolish competition. So the simplest explanation of our evidence is that a syndicate of Wall Street financiers enlarged their monopoly ambitions and broadened horizons on a global scale. The gigantic Russian market was to be converted into a captive market and a technical colony to be exploited by a few high-powered American financiers and the corporations under their control. What the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Trade Commission under the thumb of American industry could achieve for that industry at home, a planned socialist government could achieve for it abroad — given suitable support and inducements from Wall Street and Washington, D.C.
In an interesting note, Sutton explains how British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that there was a “Jewish Conspiracy” to control the world. He believed that the Bolshevik Revolution was a first step towards that goal:
The argument and its variants can be found in the most surprising places and from quite surprising persons. In February 1920 Winston Churchill wrote an article — rarely cited today —for the London Illustrated Sunday Herald entitled “Zionism Versus Bolshevism.” In this’ article Churchill concluded that it was “particularly important… that the National Jews in every country who are loyal to the land of their adoption should come forward on every occasion . . .and take a prominent part in every measure for combatting the Bolshevik conspiracy.”
Churchill draws a line between “national Jews” and what he calls “international Jews.” He argues that the “international and for the most atheistical Jews” certainly had a “very great” role in the creation of Bolshevism and bringing about the Russian Revolution. He asserts (contrary to fact) that with the exception of Lenin, “the majority” of the leading figures in the revolution were Jewish, and adds (also contrary to fact) that in many cases Jewish interests and Jewish places of worship were excepted by the Bolsheviks from their policies of seizure. Churchill calls the international Jews a “sinister confederacy” emergent from the persecuted populations of countries where Jews have been persecuted on account of their race.
Winston Churchill traces this movement back to Spartacus-Weishaupt, throws his literary net around Trotsky, Bela Kun, Rosa Luxemburg, and Emma Goldman, and charges: “This world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing.”
Churchill then argues that this conspiratorial Spartacus-Weishaupt group has been the mainspring of every subversive movement in the nineteenth century. While pointing out that Zionism and Bolshevism are competing for the soul of the Jewish people, Churchill (in 1920) was preoccupied with the role of the Jew in the Bolshevik Revolution and the existence of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution is a must have for those who want to understand how far Wall Street will go to subjugate populations into perpetual slavery. They wanted total control of Russian society which resulted in the deaths of millions of people. The Russian people were victims of a conspiracy, one that Mr. Sutton’s brilliant research proves.
Many universities do not include ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ in their syllabus as “required” reading materials. Of course, it can be labeled as “conspiratorial” and not relevant to Russian history especially in the American university system. However, it is a must read for those who wish to understand how Wall Street bankers were involved in funding a revolution to remove the Czars from power.
Every university, public and private schools around the world should include “Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ as a requirement for their history classes. Sutton connects the Russian revolution to Wall Street elites who funded the operation. It is an essential chapter in world history that allows you to understand how financial elites manipulate the politics and society so they can control the economy for their advantage. Not only educational institutions should include Professor Sutton’s books as part of their lesson plans, but every man, woman, child, historian, political scientist, economist or those who are simply looking for the truth, ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ is one history book that should be in everyone’s library. It is a history lesson that should not be missed.
Prior to the recent national elections in
“Repression and displacement, often violent, of remaining rural populations, illness, falling local food production have all featured in this picture. Indigenous communities have been displaced and reduced to living on the capital's rubbish dumps. This is a crime that we can rightly call genocide - the extinguishment of entire Peoples, their culture, their way of life and their environment.” (19)
By Susan Duclos
Michael Cannon, Cato Institute’s Director of Health Policy Studies, testified before a congressional committee about the possible ramifications of Barack Obama "Ignoring laws," saying that Obama's disregard for implementing the Affordable Care Act as written, could result in some grave consequences.
"There is one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restrains that the constitution places on the government," Cannon said. "Abraham Lincoln talked about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it."
While the word was not used, I believe what he is implying is the possibility of a revolution over Obama's lawless behavior.
Cross posted at Before It's News
Congress Is Less Popular than Zombies, Witches, Dog Poop, Potholes, Toenail Fungus, Hemorrhoids, Cockroaches, Lice, Root Canals, Colonoscopies, Traffic Jams, Used Car Salesmen, Genghis Khan, Communism, North Korea, BP during the Gulf Oil Spill, Nixon During Watergate or King George … Continue reading →
Here’s a brand new video from Anonymous and Linkin Park: Anonymous is calling for non-violent revolution. For a rebuttal to those calling for violence, see this. To follow Anonymous’ non-violent campaign on social media: https://twitter.com/WaveOfAction/status/403596626742091777 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Worldwide-Wave-of-Action/176294759231015 https://evolvesociety.org/network/index.php?do=/worldwidewave/ Note: We have … Continue reading →
Anonymous – And Linkin Park – Say Reform Has Failed … Call for Non-Violent Revolution was originally published on Washington's Blog
Elizabeth Warren — The Quiet Revolutionary Who Could Challenge Hillary Clinton in Democrats’ 2016...
By Susan Duclos
On October 17, 2013 at the World War II memorials, lawyer and activist Larry Klayman gave an impassioned speech calling for a non-violent revolution. From that day he has built a coalition to Reclaim America and on November 19, 2013, at LaFayette Park, across from the White House, is where the Second American Revolution begins.
According to their agenda, they are calling upon upon all Tea Party, conservative, libertarian, and other groups and persons, indeed to all patriotic citizens, to converge on Washington D.C., en masse, on November 19, 2013, and demand the resignations of President Barack Hussein Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker John Boehner.
In the first video below, Alex Jones has Klayman on his show to discuss this movement. The second video is Klayman's original speech in October. Below those will be the press release in full and a list of the Reclaim America coalition members to date.
Press Release:See www.reclaimamericanow.net
Date: November 19, 2013
Time: 10:00 am – 6:30 pm
Place: Lafayette Park
(Washington D.C., November 11, 2013). As the Declaration of Independence requires of all Americans, it has now become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another. It is critical for us to rise up and confront the political establishment that has willfully and maliciously bound our hands and voices. We must invoke our unalienable right to liberty. Our government has become so destructive that, as our Founding Fathers expressed, it is our right and duty to alter or abolish it, while "instituting" a new government that truly represents We the People.
With the growing scandals of the Obama administration such as its utter indifference to the brutal murders in Benghazi, the willful targeting of conservative groups and others by the Internal Revenue Service, the unconstitutional, massive spying program instituted by Obama's National Security Agency, and its blatant lies to the America people regarding ObamaCare in its egregious and dangerous attempt to socialize the United States of America, Reclaim America Now Coalition seeks to, in effect, "call out" the administration for its unprecedented failure to represent We the People, to shine light upon what Barack Obama calls "phony scandals," and to allow people with legitimate grievances to finally be heard.
Reclaim America Now will host several prominent speakers such as Former U.S. Attorney and Congressman Bob Barr, Former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes and has the support of prominent coalition members such as the Tea Parties, Special Operations Speaks, Western Center for Journalism, Declaration Alliance, Gun Owners of America, Pat Boone, Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, Political Media Inc., Renew America, and other major individuals and groups.
Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor and an organizer of Reclaim America Now, said this: "The Second American Revolution begins November, 19, 2013. Our country is headed into a potentially fatal downward spiral, under the tyrannical control of a hostile government that no longer represents We the People. I call upon all patriots – Democrats, Republicans and others – to peacefully descend on Washington D.C. on the 19th en masse, and reclaim our freedoms promised to us in our Constitution, the same Constitution that the Obama administration so frequently violates. We the People do not know where this road will lead us precisely, but we know that it is necessary to begin the process of having Americans stand up for their rights and not look to our compromised and corrupted executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to do what is our God-given duty; to restore freedom to the United States of America."
All interested persons and media are welcome to contact Freedom Watch at [email protected] or (424) 274-2579. Seewww.reclaimamericanow.net for an updated list of speakers and coalition members.
Submitted by Elliot Brennan of The Diplomat,
As shale gas fever sweeps through Beijing, analysts are looking at the costs and benefits of extracting what is increasingly a controversial source of energy. But for China, with its growing middle class, the immediate and long-term demand for energy has the potential to spark a revolution in shale gas before sufficient and safe technological know-how and regulations are developed.
A very vocal debate continues to rage in the U.S. and Europe as to the environmental consequences of shale gas extraction. Meanwhile, China’s National Oil Companies (NOCs) continue to purchase and buy into North American oil and gas companies with specific expertise in shale gas extraction. For better or worse, China’s shale gas revolution looks set to be thrust into the public spotlight, both at home and abroad.
Extracting shale gas is tricky. Shale, a sedimentary rock that is typically highly porous and has low permeability, traps hydrocarbons as it is formed. To remove the gas, shale formations must be stimulated, most commonly using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The technique involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the shale formation, cracking the rock and allowing the gas to be released to the surface. The 1 to 3 million gallons of water that are pumped into the shale formation must then either be recycled or pumped into water disposal wells in subsurface rock formations.
In addition to these skill-intensive practices, the extraction process also demands three-dimensional seismic surveying, which evaluates potential subsurface resources, and horizontal drillingtechnology. Both demand expertise and experience, yet the capability of most companies outside of North America, including China’s National Oil Companies (NOCs), to safely and effectively perform such high-tech extraction is limited.
The emergence of shale gas is a game changer. Countries that have traditionally relied on hydrocarbon exports for political clout (the Persian Gulf, Russia, Venezuela) will inevitably lose some of their petro power. Europe could become less energy dependent on Russian supply by importing liquid natural gas (LNG) from North America and by exploiting the potentially significant shale gas deposits in Poland and other countries. Australia, which has significant deposits and much of the pre-existing infrastructure to begin extraction, could see its clout in the energy politics of the region increase– forcing a significant redraft of Canberra’s “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper.
In effect, the “shale revolution” signals the end of the peak oil debate. New technology means new resources, which in turn could mean a new geopolitical map. However the mere presence of the resources doesn’t mean that their extraction in the short-term is viable, a problem China knows all too well.
China’s oil fields are drying up. The International Energy Agency’s (IAE) World Energy Outlook for 2010predicts China will import 79% of its oil by 2030, a figure that demonstrates the pressing need for China to develop new energy sources. Enter shale gas and the “unconventionals.”
Estimates of China’s shale gas resources differ. China’s Ministry of Land and Resources estimates reserves of 886 trillion cubic feet (tcf), while the U.S. Energy Information Administration puts the country’s resources at 1,275 tcf. The upper estimates would mean China sits atop more shale gas than the U.S. and Canada combined. According to China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, by 2015 China should be extracting 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas per year, with a view of producing 100 billion cubic meters by 2020. China’s goal is to meet 10 percent of the country’s energy demands from shale gas the same year. To successfully meet the goal, China’s oil and gas industry needs to bridge its large knowledge deficit. Despite some progress, recent successes in domestic extraction technology have been modest.
Under the Shale Gas Development Plan for 2011-2015, shale gas has been labeled by the Ministry of Land and Resources as a separate mineral from conventional hydrocarbons. This move frees shale resources from the clutches of “the big three;” Chinese state-owned majors – China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) – allowing Beijing to redistribute exploration contracts. Importantly, the move encourages competition among state-owned majors, local enterprises and foreign companies.
China’s NOCs, while not state-run, benefit from state financing. Their capital flows during the global downturn in 2008 gave them the flexibility to expand globally. For China’s NOCs, establishing partnerships with other international oil companies allows them to diversify risks and gain technical know-how through the supply chain.
At home and abroad China is making waves. The opening of a recent tender to foreign companies demonstrates the extent to which the often go-it-alone Chinese Communist Party feels it needs to secure a rapid and successful energy boom. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and British Petroleum are alljointly surveying the key provinces of Sichuan and Guizhou with local companies. As part of the new tender, other joint ventures are expected to follow.
Flush with state financing, China’s NOCs have in recent years begun buying up stakes in North American energy companies and their subsidiaries. Some of their recent buy-ins have been the purchase of Nexen and a stake in Devon Energy Corp, one of the founders of shale gas extraction. Such purchases allow China’s NOCs to absorb expertise. While this in itself isn’t enough to meet their energy needs, it is a step toward building capacity for China’s NOCs in shale gas exploration and extraction.
China’s NOCs have been known to employ a “market-for-resources strategy,” whereby access to China’s market is granted to a resource holder in exchange for imports of resources from that country. This now looks to be morphing into a “market-for-know-how strategy.” In the early stages of coal bed methane exploration in China, foreign groups contributed 70 percent of the funding. With already significant foreign involvement, the shale gas industry looks set to emulate this model.
However, the all-important extraction process of shale gas, hydraulic fracturing, just as its name suggests, needs water – and large amounts of it. So while shale could provide energy, it will require large volumes of water that will be costly both to consume and to recycle. Water scarcity remains a key concern for the Chinese government, while water pollution is an increasing worry for the Chinese public. One recent report noted that already “up to 40 percent of China’s rivers were seriously polluted” and “20 percent were so polluted their water quality was rated too toxic even to come into contact with.”
Experts warn that China will face growing water shortages in coming years. Water-intensive industries such as mining are competing for increasingly scarce water sources. Low rainfall in the northwest of the country, where much of the shale is believed to be, means these areas will have to rely on limited and finite groundwater. In the face of these shortages, China established a special 25 million USD fund for a cloud seeding program in 2012 to operate in “areas prone to drought and haze.” Water can be transported into China’s northwest via pipeline but that would be costly and require significant new infrastructure, such as desalination plants and pipelines that would likely need to stretch across the country for thousands of kilometers – a similar feat to the 4,200 km Xijiang to Shanghai gas pipeline.
Shale gas has approximately half the carbon content of coal. For China, the replacement of coal for gas in power generation could reduce emissions and pollution. It would kill two birds with one big stone, as criticism grows over the country’s pollution levels both in air and water. However, some warn that shale gas may also reduce investment in renewable energy sources.
In the U.S., environmental concerns dominate the debate. Public concern over water contamination and the release of harmful gases during shale gas extraction are gaining increasing media attention. This has been exacerbated by claims that research commissioned by industry-friendly lobby groups in the U.S., such as the American Petroleum Institute and the American Natural Gas Alliance, have muddied the water on the environmental impact of shale gas extraction. However, according to an IAE report, Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, the environmental risks inherent in the process can be easily mitigated. The report outlines the “golden rules” required to address the environmental and social impact of developments in unconventional gas. It predicts that major risks can be decreased and safety improved if the cost of drilling and completing of a shale gas well is increased by 7 percent.
A dozen or more chemicals may be added to the water and sand pumped into a shale-gas well, including radioactive tracers that help assess the formation and relevant fractures. While these tracers are strictly monitored under guidelines handed down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S., in China the regulations may be less stringent. In addition, other radioactive material may be dislodged in the fracking process and may have to be disposed of from flowback water.
If strict regulations are not in place to seal the well from leaching, aquifers and ground water may become contaminated by run-off chemicals, methane or radioactive minerals displaced in the process. A 2011 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report suggests that fracking may have resulted in the contamination of ground water.
Recent and successful protests in China to stop the construction of a chemical plant in Ningbo demonstrate growing public concern about some government-backed developments. The October 2012 protests followed other victories to stop the construction of petrochemical plants in Xiamen and Dalian. In Dalian, some 10,000 protesters took to the streets. With a growing middle-class, increasing internet and social media access, and more public involvement and activism in key local concerns, the government and local authorities will likely have to be accommodating of public displeasure in order to maintain stability as China grows. A Tiananmen-style alternative appears unlikely as it could backfire, both at home and abroad.
If the current hype proves correct and gas prices remain strong, China’s shale gas could be just the energy boom that Beijing seeks. It could allow China to meet its ambitious growth targets. As many commentators have suggested, however, shale gas may prove less of a blessing and more of a “resource curse,” spelling environmental disaster and nationwide instability. Either way, as Sino-American partnerships are forged and shale gas extraction in China ventures into unchartered waters, one thing is certain: The world will be watching.
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A high-level inquiry into the deaths of nearly 900 demonstrators during Egypt’s 2011 uprising concluded that the police were responsible for most of the killings and used rooftop snipers to shoot into crowds in Cairo’s Tahir Square.
A fact-finding commission into the 2011 popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak's government initially concluded that 846 people were killed during the revolution.
Current Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ordered a report on the fact-finding commission's findings after he was elected. The report was then submitted to Morsi and to Egypt’s top prosecutor late last year.
The 16-member panel behind the report included human rights activists, lawyers, judges and a representative from the military prosecutor’s office.
It includes authoritative and in-depth accounts of the killings, and concludes that lethal force could only have been authorized by Mubarak's security chief and with the former president’s full knowledge.
Extensive details are cited, including police logs documenting the issuance of weapons and ammunition along with the officers who received them.
“The use of firearms can only be authorized by the interior minister, who must in turn inform the political leadership (Mubarak). And if the police continue to use firearms for more than one day, then the political leadership must be informed,” an author of the report who wished to remain anonymous told the National Post, a Canadian newspaper.
One of the report’s authors, lawyer and human rights activist Mohsen Bahnasy, said he was planning to submit parts of it to the prosecution in Mubarak’s trial, as well as to other courts trying policemen accused of killing protesters.
The report is sure to strike a nerve in Egypt, where only last week three demonstrators were killed and 65 more injured in a protest over the verdict in a case regarding a riot at the Port Said Stadium that saw more than 70 killed.
That verdict came after a week of anti-police brutality demonstrations in Port Said and across Egypt that led police themselves to take to the streets in a rare protest.
The death of Hugo Chávez is a great loss to the people of Venezuela who have been lifted out of poverty and have created a deep participatory democracy. Chavez was a leader who, in unity with the people, was able to free Venezuela from the grips of US Empire, bring dignity to the poor and working class, and was central to a Latin American revolt against US domination.
Chávez grew up a campesino, a peasant, raised in poverty. His parents were teachers, his grandmother an Indian whom he credits with teaching him solidarity with the people. During his military service, he learned about Simon Bolivar, who freed Latin America from Spanish Empire. This gradually led to the modern Bolivarian Revolution he led with the people. The Chávez transformation was built on many years of a mass political movement that continued after his election, indeed saved him when a 2002 coup briefly removed him from office. The reality is Venezuela’s 21st Century democracy is bigger than Chávez. This will become more evident now that he is gone.
The Lies They Tell Us
If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, they would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes:
The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it.
In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chávez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist.
We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chávez further than he wanted to go.
They call it the “revolution within the revolution.” Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chávez. Chávez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chávez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.
Challenging American Empire
The subject of Venezuela is taboo because it has been the most successful country to repel the neoliberal assault waged by the US on Latin America. This assault included Operation Condor, launched in 1976, in which the US provided resources and assistance to bring friendly dictators who supported neoliberal policies to power throughout Latin America. These policies involved privatizing national resources and selling them to foreign corporations, de-funding and privatizing public programs such as education and health care, deregulating and reducing trade barriers.
In addition to intense political repression under these dictators between the 1960s and 1980s, which resulted in imprisonment, murder and disappearances of tens of thousands throughout Latin America, neoliberal policies led to increased wealth inequality, greater hardship for the poor and working class, as well as a decline in economic growth.
Neoliberalism in Venezuela arrived through a different path, not through a dictator. Although most of its 20th century was spent under authoritarian rule, Venezuela has had a long history of pro-democracy activism. The last dictator, Marcos Jimenez Perez, was ousted from power in 1958. After that, Venezuelans gained the right to elect their government, but they existed in a state of pseudo-democracy, much like the US currently, in which the wealthy ruled through a managed democracy that ensured the wealthy benefited most from the economy.
As it did in other parts of the world, the US pushed its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These institutions required Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) as terms for development loans. As John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, great pressure was placed on governments to take out loans for development projects. The money was loaned by the US, but went directly to US corporations who were responsible for the projects, many of which failed, leaving nations in debt and not better off. Then the debt was used as leverage to control the government’s policies so they further favored US interests. Anun Shah explains the role of the IMF and World Bank in more detail in Structural Adjustment – a Major Cause of Poverty.
Neoliberalism Leads to the Rise of Chávez
A turning point in the Venezuelan struggle for real democracy occurred in 1989. President Carlos Andres Perez ran on a platform opposing neoliberalism and promised to reform the market during his second term. But following his re-election in 1988, he reversed himself and continued to implement the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberal policies – privatization and cuts to social services. The last straw came when he ended subsidies for oil. The price of gasoline doubled and public transportation prices rose steeply.
Protests erupted in the towns surrounding the capitol, Caracas, and quickly spread into the city itself. President Perez responded by revoking multiple constitutional rights to protest and sending in security forces who killed an estimated 3,000 people, most of them in the barrios. This became known as the “Caracazo” (“the Caracas smash”) and demonstrated that the president stood with the oligarchs, not with the people.
Under President Perez, conditions continued to deteriorate for all but the wealthy in Venezuela. So people organized in their communities and with Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez attempted a civilian-led coup in 1992. Chávez was jailed, and so the people organized for his release. Perez was impeached for embezzlement of 250 million bolivars and the next president, Rafael Caldera, promised to release Chávez when he was elected. Chávez was freed in 1994. He then traveled throughout the country to meet with people in their communities and organizers turned their attention to building a political movement.
Chávez ran for president in 1998 on a platform that promised to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution saying:
I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta befitting these new times.
Against the odds, Chávez won the election and became president in 1999.
While his first term was cautious and center-left, including a visit by Chávez to the NY Stock Exchange to show support for capitalism and encourage foreign investment, he kept his promise. Many groups participated in the formation of the new constitution, which was gender-neutral and included new rights for women and for the indigenous, and created a government with five branches adding a people’s and electoral branches. The new constitution was voted into place by a 70 percent majority within the year. Chávez also began to increase funding for the poor and expanded and transformed education.
Since then, Chávez has been re-elected twice. He was removed from power briefly in 2002, jailed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of what is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce. Fox commented that the media was complicit in the coup by blacking it out and putting out false information. Carmona quickly moved to revoke the constitution and disband the legislature. When the people became aware of what was happening, they rapidly mobilized and surrounded the capitol in Caracas. Chávez was reinstated in less than 48 hours.
One reason the Chávez election is called a Bolivarian Revolution is because Simon Bolivar was a military political leader who freed much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. The election of Chávez, the new constitution and the people overcoming the coup set Venezuela on the path to free itself from the US empire. These changes emboldened the transformation to sovereignty, economic democracy and participatory government.
In fact, Venezuela paid its debts to the IMF in full five years ahead of schedule and in 2007 separated from the IMF and World Bank, thus severing the tethers of the Washington Consensus. Instead, Venezuela led the way to create the Bank of the South to provide funds for projects throughout Latin America and allow other countries to free themselves from the chains of the IMF and World Bank too.
The Rise of Real Democracy
The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The pre- Chávez era is seen as a pseudo Democracy, managed for the benefit of the oligarchs. The people viewed Chávez as a door that was opened for them to create transformational change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chávez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002.
With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chávez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chávez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference.
Mark Weisbrot of CEPR points out that real GDP per capita in Venezuela expanded by 24 percent since 2004. In the 20 years prior to Chávez, real GDP per person actually fell. Venezuela has low foreign public debt, about 28 percent of GDP, and the interest on it is only 2 percent of GDP. Weisbrot writes:
From 2004-2011, extreme poverty was reduced by about two-thirds. Poverty was reduced by about one-half, and this measures only cash income. It does not count the access to health care that millions now have, or the doubling of college enrollment – with free tuition for many. Access to public pensions tripled. Unemployment is half of what it was when Chávez took office.
Venezuela has reduced unemployment from 20 percent to 7 percent.
As George Galloway wrote upon Chávez’s death:
Under Chávez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.
Venezuela is making rapid progress on other measures too. It has a high human development index and a low and shrinking index of inequality. Wealth inequality in Venezuela is half of what it is in the United States. It is rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup. And Pepe Escobar writes that:
No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform.
Venezuela has undertaken significant steps to build food security through land reform and government assistance. New homes are being built, health clinics are opening in under-served areas and cooperatives for agriculture and business are growing.
Venezuelans are very happy with their democracy. On average, they gave their own democracy a score of seven out of ten while the Latin American average was 5.8. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Venezuelans reported being happy with their democracy compared to an average for Latin American countries of 38 percent, according to a poll conducted by Latinobarometro. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the recent US election.
Chávez won that election handily as he has all of the elections he has run in since 1999. As Galloway describes him, Chávez was “the most elected leader in the modern era.” He won his last election with 55 percent of the vote but was never inaugurated due to his illness.
Beyond Voting: The Deepening of Democracy in Venezuela
This is not to say that the process has been easy or smooth. The new constitution and laws passed by Chávez have provided tools, but the government and media still contain those who are allied with the oligarchy and who resist change. People have had to struggle to see that what is written on paper is made into a reality. For example, Venezuelans now have the right to reclaim urban land that is fallow and use it for food and living. Many attempts have been made to occupy unused land and some have been met by hostility from the community or actual repression from the police. In other cases, attempts to build new universities have been held back by the bureaucratic process.
It takes time to build a new democratic structure from the bottom up. And it takes time to transition from a capitalist culture to one based on solidarity and participation. In “Venezuela Speaks,” one activist, Iraida Morocoima, says “Capitalism left us with so many vices that I think our greatest struggle is against these bad habits that have oppressed us.” She goes on to describe a necessary culture shift as, “We must understand that we are equal, while at the same time we are different, but with the same rights.”
Chávez passed a law in 2006 that united various committees in poor barrios into community councils that qualify for state funds for local projects. In the city, community councils are composed of 200 to 400 families. The councils elect spokespeople and other positions such as executive, financial and “social control” committees. The council members vote on proposals in a general assembly and work with facilitators in the government to carry through on decisions. In this way, priorities are set by the community and funds go directly to those who can carry out the project such as building a road or school. There are currently more than 20,000 community councils in Venezuela creating a grassroots base for participatory government.
A long-term goal is to form regional councils from the community councils and ultimately create a national council. Some community councils already have joined as communes, a group of several councils, which then have the capacity for greater research and to receive greater funds for large projects.
The movement to place greater decision-making capacity and control of local funds in the hands of communities is happening throughout Latin America and the world. It is called participatory budgeting and it began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has grown so that as many as 50,000 people now participate each year to decide as much as 20 percent of the city budget. There are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fox produced a documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which explains participatory budgeting in greater detail.
The Unfinished Work of Hugo Chávez Continues
The movements that brought him to power and kept him in power have been strengthened by Hugo Chávez. Now the “revolution within the revolution” will be tested. In 30 days there will be an election and former vice president, now interim president, Nicolas Maduro will likely challenge the conservative candidate Chávez defeated.
If the United States and the oligarchs think the death of Chávez means the end of the Bolivarian Revolution he led, they are in for a disappointment. This revolution, which is not limited to Venezuela, is likely to show to itself and the world that it is deep and strong. The people-powered transformation with which Chávez was in solidarity will continue.
On January 14, 2011, Tunisia’s 23-year long dictator Ben Ali fled the country he ruled over in the face of a popular uprising which began the previous month. Tunisia represented the spark of what became known as the ‘Arab Spring.’ Over two years later, Tunisians are back in the streets protesting against the new government, elected in October of 2011, now on the verge of collapse as ministers resign, protests increase, clashes erupt, violence flares, and the future remains unknown.
So the question lingers: what went wrong? What happened? Why are Tunisians back in the streets? Is this Tunisia’s “unfinished revolution”?
Tunisia had been ruled by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from 1987 until the revolution in 2011, a regime marred by corruption, despotism, and repression. While the revolution itself is generally traced to the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor in the city of Sidi Bouzid, on December 17, 2010, leading to protests and clashes which spread across the country, there was a longer timeline – and other profound changes – which led to the actual revolutionary potential.
Tunisia’s revolution was largely driven by economic reasons, though political and social issues should not be underestimated. Tunisia has a recent history of labour unrest in the country, with the General Union of Tunisian Workers – UGTT – having led protests which were violently repressed in 1978, bread riots in 1984, and more labour unrest in the mining region of Gafsa in 2008. There were also a number of political clashes from the 1990s onward, between the state and the Islamic movement an-Nahda (Ennahda). After the UGTT was repressed in 1978, it was permitted to exist in co-operation with the state, following along the lines of labour and union history within the West itself. While the state felt it had a firm control of Tunisian society, there were growing divides with the youth, who for years would lead their own protests against the state through human rights organizations, the General Union of Tunisian Students (UGET), or other associations.
Within Tunisia, a crisis had emerged among young graduates in higher education from the mid-1990s onward, with a serious lack of employment opportunities for an increasingly educated youth. From this period up until the revolution, most protests in Tunisia were organized by youth in university organizations and student unions, using tactics such as sit-ins, chaining themselves to buildings, or hunger strikes, which were often met with state violence. Suicide had become another tactic of protest, “a political manifesto to highlight a political demand and to underline the social fragility it implies,” in the words of Mehdi Mabrouk from the University of Tunis. This was understood as the “emergence of a culture of suicide,” identified in a study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as “a culture which disdained the value of life, finding death an easier alternative because of a lack of values and a sense of anomie,” which was “particularly true of unemployed and marginal youth, so that death was more attractive than life under such conditions.” It was within this context that Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide became the spark for the wider protests, first in Sidi Bouzid, and quickly spreading across the country, with youth leading the way.
With the help of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, the youth activists in Sidi Bouzid were able to share their revolt with the rest of the country and the world, encouraging the spread of the uprising across Tunisia and the Arab world at large. A relative of Bouazizi described the protesters as having “a rock in one hand, a cell phone in the other.” Thus, while Tunisian media ignored the protests in Sidi Bouzid, international media and social media became increasingly involved. Tunisia had 3.6 million internet users, roughly a third of the population, who had access to live news about what was taking place within their country, even though the official national news media did not mention the events until 29 December 2010, twelve days after the protests had begun. The government began to arrest bloggers and web activists in the hopes that the protests would fade or diminish in fear, yet it only motivated the protests further. From the first day, the Sidi Bouzid branch of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) was engaged in the protests, while the national leadership of the UGTT was considered to be too close to the regime and national ruling class to act independently. However, the regional branches of the UGTT had “a reputation for gutsy engagement,” wrote Yasmine Ryan in Al-Jazeera. The Sidi Bouzid branch of UGTT was one of the main organizing forces behind the protests, and when protesters were killed in neighbouring regions, it erupted nation-wide. Thus, students, teachers, lawyers, and the unemployed joined together in protest first in Sidi Bouzid, and then across the country.
Dictatorship or Democracy?
Tunisia happened to be a “model US client” in the words of Richard Falk: “a blend of neoliberalism that is open to foreign investment, cooperation with American anti-terrorism by way of extreme rendition of suspects, and strict secularism that translates into the repression of political expression.”
Just in line with the closest of American and Western allies – and ‘clients’ – in the region, the strategy for the West is one of unyielding support for the dictatorship, so long as “stability” and “prosperity” and ensured. The term “security” is a euphemism for control of the population, while “prosperity” is a euphemism for economic exploitation and profit for the rich few, domestically and globally.
American attitudes toward Tunisia were often reflected in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, in which as early as 2006 the U.S. Embassy in Tunis reported that the issue of succession from Ben Ali was important, but concluded that, “none of the options suggest Tunisia will become more democratic,” however, despite US rhetoric for support of democracy, the cable noted, “the US-Tunisian bilateral relationship is likely to remain unaffected by the departure of Ben Ali,” that is, assuming the departure does not include a transition to democratic government. If problems arose for Ben Ali, and he became “temporarily incapacitated,” reported the U.S. Embassy, “he could turn over a measure of presidential authority to Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi,” who had close ties to the West and Americans, in particular. Ghannounchi, incidentally, was implanted as the interim president following Ben Ali’s escape to Saudi Arabia in January 2011, though shortly thereafter had to resign due to popular opposition, since he was a high official in Ben Ali’s government.
In July of 2009, a diplomatic cable from the American Embassy in Tunis noted that Tunisia is “troubled,” and that, “many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities.” The Ambassador noted that while America seeks to enhance ties with Tunisia commercially and militarily, there are also major setbacks, as “we have been blocked, in part, by a Foreign Ministry that seeks to control all our contacts in the government and many other organizations.” America had successfully accomplished a number of goals, such as “increasing substantially US assistance to the military,” and “strengthening commercial ties,” yet, “we have also had too many failures.” The same cable noted: “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.” Ben Ali’s regime relies “on the police for control and focus[es] on preserving power,” while “corruption in the inner circle is growing.” The Embassy noted, however, that with “high unemployment and regional inequalities” in the country, “the risks to the regime’s long-term stability are increasing.”
So how did the United States seek to preserve “stability”? Imperial powers do what they do best: provide the means to continue repression and control. Between 1987, when Ben Ali came to power and 2009, the United States provided the government of Tunisia with a total of $349 million in military aid. In 2010, the United States provided Tunisia with $13.7 million in military aid alone.
Tunisia, which was a former French colony, also had strong relations with France. During the outbreak of the crisis in December of 2010, the French suggested they would help Ben Ali by sending security forces to Tunisia to “resolve the situation” in a show of “friendship” to the regime. The French foreign minister suggested that France could provide better training to Tunisian police to restore order since the French were adept in “security situations of this type.” Jacques Lanxade, a retired French admiral, former military chief of staff and former French ambassador to Tunis noted that the French had “continued public support of this regime because of economic interests,” and added: “We didn’t take account of Tunisian public opinion and thought Ben Ali would re-establish his position.”
This imperial logic has been given terms and justifications from establishment intellectuals and academics in the United States and other Western powers. Academics with the Brookings Institution, an influential U.S. think tank, suggested in 2009 that this was the logic of “authoritarian bargains,” in which dictatorships in the region were able to maintain power through a type of “bargain,” where “citizens relinquish political influence in exchange for public spending,” suggesting that: “non-democratic rulers secure regime support through the allocation of two substitutable ‘goods’ to the public: economic transfers and the ability to influence policy making.”
In 2011, those same academics wrote an article for the Brookings Institution in which they asked if the “Arab authoritarian bargain” was collapsing, noting that as economic conditions deteriorated and unemployment rose, with neoliberal reforms failing to provide economic opportunities for the majority of the populations, the bargain – or “contract” – between dictators and the populations was “now collapsing,” adding that, “the strategies used by Arab leaders to maintain power may have run their course,” noting: “Partial political liberalization may not be enough at this point to make up for the current inability to deliver economic security and prosperity, spelling the final demise of Arab authoritarian bargain.”
F. Gregory Gause III, writing in Foreign Affairs, the establishment journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, the most prominent foreign policy think tank in the United States, referred to this as “authoritarian stability” theory. Following the initial Arab Spring uprisings, he wrote about the “myth” of authoritarian stability, noting that many academics had focused on trying to understand “the persistence of undemocratic rulers” in the region, though implicitly without questioning the imperial relations between the local governments and the dominant Western powers. Gause himself acknowledged that he had written an article for Foreign Affairs in 2005 in which he argued that, “the United States should not encourage democracy in the Arab world because Washington’s authoritarian Arab allies represented stable bets for the future,” and that, “democratic Arab governments would prove much less likely to cooperate with U.S. foreign policy goals in the region.” Gause then reflected in 2011 that, “I was spectacularly wrong.”
Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, a prominent American think tank, and was previously foreign minister and deputy prime minister in the Jordanian dictatorship. Following events in Tunisia, Muasher wrote an article for the Carnegie Endowment in which he explained why the events were not foreseen, noting that: “The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” Thus, wrote Muasher, “entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground,” an argument which he noted, “has been fundamentally undermined by the unfolding events in Tunisia.” Because Tunisia had comparably low economic problems, a small opposition, and a “strong security establishment,” it was thought that “the risk of revolt was considered low.” Muasher wrote: “It wasn’t supposed to happen in Tunisia and the fact that it did proves that fundamental political reforms – widening the decision-making process and combating corruption – are needed around the entire Arab world.”
This concept of “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control,” has been referred to by Noam Chomsky as the “Muasher doctrine,” noting that this has been consistent U.S. policy in the region since at least 1958, when Eisenhower’s National Security Council acknowledged that the US supported dictators and opposed democracy, and that this was a rational policy to serve American interests in the region.
The National Security Council document stated that the Middle East was “of great strategic, political, and economic importance to the Free World,” meaning the West, and United States in particular, and this was largely due to the fact that the region “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world.” Thus, the National Security Council stated, “it is in the security interest of the United States to make every effort to insure that these resources will be available and will be used for strengthening the Free World.” The document further wrote that: “In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism,” and that the people in that part of the world “believe the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress,” which included US support for “reactionary” regimes and America’s “colonial” allies in Europe, notably France and Great Britain. These beliefs, the report noted, were indeed accurate, that “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led… to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries.”
Acknowledging this, the NSC document stated that instead of “attempting merely to preserve the status quo,” the United States should “seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” Though this would of course include providing “military aid to friendly countries to enhance their internal security and governmental stability,” which essentially amounted to maintaining the status quo. The same document also added that, “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area.”
And so then we come up to present day, where the United States maintains the same policy, as Chomsky suggested, “the Muasher doctrine” of “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” But everything is clearly no longer under control, and there are many things that clearly are wrong. Just as the 1958 National Security Council document suggested guiding “revolutionary and nationalistic pressures” into “orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West,” so too were US planners in recent years seeking to do the same.
Top US policy planners at the Council on Foreign Relations produced a report – and strategic blueprint – for the United States to follow in 2005, entitled, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How, co-chaired by former Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, and chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. The other co-chair of the Task Force report was Vin Weber, former Congressman and member of the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US-government-supported organization promoting state-capitalist “liberal” democracy around the world, so long as it aligns with U.S. strategic interests. Other members of the Task Force which produced the report held previous or present affiliations with First National Bank of Chicago, Occidental Petroleum, the Carnegie Endowment, the World Bank, Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution, the U.S. State Department, National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, the American Enterprise Institute, the IMF, AOL-Time Warner, and Goldman Sachs. In short, the report was produced by no less than a select group of America’s strategic and intellectual elite.
Published in 2005, the report suggested that “democracy and freedom have become a priority” for the United States in the Middle East, though there are conditions to Washington’s ability and interest in promoting these concepts: “First, does a policy of promoting democracy serve U.S. interests and foreign policy goals? Second, if so, how should the United States implement such a policy, taking into account the full range of its interests?” To the first question, the report suggested that it was in the U.S. interest to promote democracy in the Arab world, noting: “Although democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they will be less likely to turn to more extreme measures.” However, as the report noted: “the United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable.” Most importantly, the report suggested: “America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”
The United States was not interested in rapid change, since, the report argued, “if Washington pushes Arab leaders too hard on reform, contributing to the collapse of friendly Arab governments, this would likely have a deleterious effect on regional stability, peace, and counterterrorism operations.” The report itself concluded: “While transitions to democracy can lead to instability in the short term, the Task Force finds that a policy geared toward maintaining the authoritarian status quo in the Middle East poses greater risks to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals.”
Thus, when it comes to the issue of choosing between supporting a “dictatorship” or “democracy,” the issue is one of interest: which regime supports U.S. and Western interests better? In the short-term, dictatorships provide “authoritarian stability” and maintain control, however, in the long-term, a transition to a Western-style democratic system allows for less pressure built up against the system, and against the West itself. Dictatorships provide short-term “stability” (i.e., control), while top-down democracies provide long-term “stability.” The question, then, is merely of managing a transition from one to the other, no small task for an imperial power: how to maintain support for a dictator while encouraging the slow evolution of democratic governance.
The issue of “democracy” is further complicated by how it is defined or pursued. For the United States and its Western allies, “democracy” is not the goal, but rather a means to a goal. The goal is, always has been, and always will be, “stability and prosperity,” control and profit. When the dictatorships fail to bring about stability and prosperity, “democracy” – so long as it is constructed along Western liberal state-capitalist lines – will be the preferred option. The European Union, when reporting on its own efforts to promote democracy in the Mediterranean region, noted that, “we believe that democracy, good governance, rule of law, and gender equality are essential for stability and prosperity.” In other words, democracy is not the goal: control and profit is the goal. The means are merely incidental, whether they be through dictatorships, or top-down democratic structures.
The problem in the Arab world is deepened for the United States when one looks at public opinion polls from the region. Just prior to the outbreak of protests in Tunisia, a major Western poll on Arab public opinion was conducted by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, published in the summer of 2010. The results were very interesting, noting that only 5% and 6% of respondents in 2010 believed that “promoting democracy” and “spreading human rights” were the two factors (respectively) which were most important in America’s foreign policy in the region. At the top of the list of priorities, with 49% and 45% respectively, were “protecting Israel” and “controlling oil,” followed by 33% each for “weakening the Muslim world” and “preserving regional and global dominance.” Further, 92% of respondents felt that Iran has a right to its nuclear program if it is peaceful, and 70% feel that right remains even if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Roughly 57% of respondents felt that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, things would be “more positive” for the region, compared to 21% who thought it would be “more negative.” The poll asked which two countries posed the largest threat to the region, with Israel at 88% and the United States at 77%, while Iran was viewed as one of the two major threats to the region by only 10% of respondents, just above China and equal to Algeria.
In other words, if truly representative – or genuine – democracies emerged in the region, they would be completely counter to U.S. strategic interests in the region, and thus, real democracy in the Arab world is not in the American interest. This makes the American strategic interests in the transitions of the ‘Arab Spring’ all the more important to attempt to manage and control. Genuine democracy would bring an end to American and Western hegemony, yet, the “Muasher doctrine” of “everything is under control” has failed in the case of both Tunisia and Egypt. What then, is left for Western interests?
Tunisia’s Transition to “Democracy”
Immediately following Ben Ali’s departure from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia, the land of exiled dictators, a “caretaker” government was quickly established in order to “lead the transition to democracy.” Mohamed Ghannouchi, Ben Ali’s prime minister (and the American favourite to replace him), helped to form a “unity” government, but after one day of existence, four opposition members quit the government, including three ministers from the UGTT trade union, saying they had “no confidence” in a government full of members from Ben Ali’s regime. Hundreds of people, led by trade unionists, took to the streets in protest against the transitional government.
Six members from Ben Ali’s regime appeared in the “unity” government, presided over by the former Parliamentary Speaker Fouad Mebazaa. Ghannouchi stepped down in late February following popular opposition to his participation in the “unity” government, though he was replaced by Ben Ali’s former foreign minister. In February of 2011, the United States offered “military training” to Tunisia in the follow-up to the planned elections for later in the year, to make Tunisia a “model” revolution for the Arab world.
A public opinion poll conducted in Tunisia in May of 2011 revealed that there had been “a steep decline in confidence for the transition period,” noting that in March, a poll revealed that 79% of Tunisians believed the country was headed in the right direction, compared to only 46% who thought so in May. Roughly 73% of Tunisian’s felt that the economic situation was “somewhat bad or very bad,” and 93% of respondents said they were “very likely” to vote in coming elections.
In October of 2011, Tunisians went to the polls for their first democratic election, “the first vote of the Arab spring.” The election was designed to elect an assembly which would be tasked with one mission: to draft a constitution before parliamentary elections. The An-Nadha (Ennahda) party, an Islamist party which was banned under Ben Ali, was expected to receive most of the votes, though most Tunisians felt guarded in terms of seeking to protect their “unfinished revolution.” Lawyers lodged complaints that in the nine months since Ben Ali fled Tunisia, torture and police brutality continued, while human rights activists noted that cronies from Ben Ali’s regime continued to dominate the corrupt judicial system. One human rights activist noted, “We are overwhelmed with cases of human rights abuses. You wouldn’t believe there had been a revolution… Torture is the way things are done, it’s systematic. They have not changed their practices at all,” referring to the police.
On October 23, 2011, the Tunisian elections took place, with the Islamist party Ennahda winning 89 out of 217 seats, after which it joined with two secular parties to form a ruling coalition known as the ‘Troika.’ A year after the Troika had been in power, by October of 2012, Tunisians felt disheartened by the pace of the revolution. One young activist stated that, “They are failing on security, they are failing on the economy, and they are failing when it comes to liberties and rights… They have nothing to do with the revolution. They are completely disconnected.” Amnesty International even noted in October of 2012 that: “The authorities need to seize this historic opportunity and confront the painful legacy of abuse and violations of the pasty and enshrine in law and in practice universal human rights with the aim of making the rule of law a reality in the new Tunisia.”
Rachid Ghannouchi, the party’s chairman (no relation to Mohammed Ghannouchi), said that Ennahda “pledges to continue working with our national partners towards building a national consensus that takes Tunisians forward towards the protection of their revolution and achievement of its aims.” Over the previous year, the opposition within Tunisia had time to develop better than it did prior to the October 2011 elections, with new parties and organizations emerging. One, a decidedly non-mainstream party, the Tunisian Pirate Party, advocates direct democracy and freedom of expression, with its leader stating, “The classic political parties are trying to buy and sell people. The youth of Tunisia, we refuse this masquerade, this system… All they want is power, they don’t listen to us. They have betrayed the people.” On the other hand, the government was facing increasing pressure not only from the left opposition, but from the more conservative Salafists, ultra-conservative Islamists, who reject democracy and want Ennahda to take a firm grip on power.
At the time of Ben Ali’s overthrow, Tunisia had an unemployment rate of 13%, but by the end of 2011 it had risen to 18%, where it remains to this day, and was as high as 44% among young university graduates. Strikes, sit-ins, and protests had continued throughout 2012, and with 800,000 unemployed Tunisians, some were looking to new avenues for answers. The Salafists were providing poor young people with a different path. A former director at Tunisia’s UGTT trade union noted, “Salafism taps its social base into a pool of often deprived people inhabiting the so-called poverty belts surrounding inner cities… The rise of salafism is a socio-economic phenomenon before being a religious one.” Salafists call for a strict enforcement of religious law, and have taken part in protests which shout anti-Semitic and homophobic chants at times, leading many to fear the potential for women’s rights as well as those of various minority groups.
Salafists have also been linked to attacks on individuals and groups, opposition meetings and organizations. When complaints are made to the Ennahda government’s police forces, little is done to address the issues to persecute crimes. Human Rights Watch noted: “There is an unwillingness or an inability to arrest individuals… People have been attacked by people they identify as Salafis; they file a complaint to the judicial police, and in many cases the guy is never arrested.”
The Obama administration sought to contribute to the “stability” of the new regime in Tunisia by providing $32 million in military aid from January of 2011 to spring of 2012. An American General and head of the U.S. Africom (Africa Command) noted that on top of the military aid, the United States was continuing to train Tunisian soldiers, having already trained 4,000 in the previous decade. It would appear to be no less than the Muasher Doctrine with a difference face.
Clashes have increased between opposition parties and trade unionists with pro-government supporters as well as Salafists. In October of 2012, an opposition figure died after clashes between his supporters and pro-government forces calling themselves the League for the Protection of the Revolution. On December 17, 2012, at an event commemorating the two-year anniversary of the protests that began the revolution, angry protesters hurled rocks at the Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and the parliamentary speaker in Sidi Bouzid. As the president and speaker were hustled away by security forces, protesters chanted, “the people want the fall of the government.”
By December of 2012, it was clear that the frustration of Tunisians unsatisfied with the failure of the subsequent governments to meet their demands was “starting to overflow again.” In late November, the government had even sent troops to Siliana following four days of protests spurred on by demands for jobs and government investment. President Moncef Marzouki stated that, “Tunisia today is at a crossroads,” though admitted that the government had not “met the expectations of the people.” With unemployment remaining at 18%, a third of the unemployed being college graduates, one publishing company owner noted that, “Ben Ali ignored the blinking red lights on the economy, and that is what got him thrown out… The unemployed are an army in a country the size of Tunisia.” Since the revolution, the United States had provided Tunisia with $300 million, with the European Union providing $400 million, and the World Bank approving a $500 million loan, all in an attempt to prop up the new government, though it remained incapable of meeting the demands of its population.
A poll conducted by the International Republic Institute was published in October of 2012, revealing that for Tunisians, “employment, economic development, and living standards were chosen most often as top priorities for the current government,” though 67% of respondents felt the country was moving in the “wrong direction.” In another survey from late 2012, nearly half of Tunisians reported that they were “worse off” since prior to the revolution, with only 14% who felt their personal situation had improved. For Tunisians, the success of the revolution was defined more in terms of economic issues, with 32% stating that democracy “means the distribution of basic necessities – food, clothing, and shelter – to all citizens,” while 27% define democracy as the right to criticize leaders, compared to only 25% who defined it “as alteration of leaders through elections.”
The Second Spark?
On February 6, 2013, a secular party leader and opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, a major critic of the Ennahda government, was assassinated outside of his home, shot in the head and neck, marking the first political assassination in Tunisia since the colonial period. Belaid was a major critic of the government’s failure to prosecute the criminal activities of violent religious groups linked to Salafists and pro-government forces. His death triggered widespread protests, many of which turned violent as government forces dispersed them using tear gas, while Tunisia’s biggest union, the UGTT, called for a general strike. Many felt that Ennahda was responsible for his murder, if not directly then by failing to reign in the radical Islamists.
On February 8, a general strike brought tens of thousands of Tunisians into the streets in protest and in mourning of Chokri Belaid. Belaid was a respected opposition figure, but also a prominent trade unionist and lawyer, and was “one of the most outspoken critics of the post-revolution coalition government led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.” The day before his assassination he had appeared on television criticizing the increased political violence in the country. One barrister noted during the protest, “not since colonial times in the early 1950s has Tunisia seen a clear political assassination in the street.” Many spoke out against the shadowy Leagues of the Protection of the Revolution, made up of small groups of men “who are accused of using thugs to stir clashes at opposition rallies and trade union gatherings.” Belaid was a prominent critic of these groups, which he had publicly condemned as being linked to the ruling Ennahda party, a claim the party denies. The president of a Tunisian NGO, Jalila Hedhli-Peugnet, stated that Belaid “was not assassinated under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, now he is assassinated under the democracy of Ennahda.”
Coincidentally, on the day of Belaid’s assassination, Human Rights Watch released a report raising concerns about Tunisia for “the slow pace in reforming security operations and the judiciary, the failure to investigate and prosecute physical assaults by people apparently affiliated with violent groups, and the prosecution of nonviolent speech offenses.” The worry for the region over two years since the Arab Spring began, reported HRW, was whether the new governments would respect human rights, which “will determine whether the Arab uprisings give birth to genuine democracy or simply spawn authoritarianism in new clothes.” Throughout 2012, the courts in Tunisia applied already-existing repressive laws of the Ben Ali dictatorship to persecute nonviolent speech which the government considered harmful to “values, morality, or the public order, or to defame the army.” Artists have been charged for sculpting artwork deemed “harmful to public order and morals,” while two bloggers received prison terms of seven-and-a-half years for writing posts considered “offensive to Islam.” Over 2012, “assaults were carried out against intellectuals, artists, human rights activists, and journalists by individuals or groups who appear to be motivated by a religious agenda.” After reports had been filed on multiple occasions, “the police proved unwilling or unable to find or arrest the alleged attackers.”
In January of 2013, Amnesty International noted that after two years since Ben Ali fled Tunisia, the abuses of the police forces and judicial system had yet to be addressed, specifically in relation to the period of the uprising between 17 December 2010 and just after Ben Ali fled, when roughly 338 people were killed and over 2,000 injured in protests. While Ben Ali was tried in absentia for the killings, only a few members of the security forces had been convicted for killing protesters.
Following the assassination of Belaid, Amnesty International immediately called for an “independent and impartial investigation” into his murder, noting that attacks against political opposition groups had been increasing, and that a meeting which Chokri Belaid had attended the Saturday before his murder was violently attacked and that Belaid had been receiving death threats. The Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International noted: “Two years after the ousting of former President Ben Ali, there is an increasing mistrust in the institutions that are supposed to protect human rights and Tunisians will not be satisfied with a sham investigation.”
Following the assassination, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali suggested that the coalition government should dissolve and form a non-partisan, technocratic government, though this was immediately rejected by members of his Ennahda party itself. All across Tunisia, a general strike was observed while tens of thousands took to the streets in multiple cities to mark the funeral of Belaid and to protest the government, often clashing with security forces.
The Congress for the Republic (CPR), a secular party which was a member of the coalition government and whose leader, Moncef Marzouki, is president of Tunisia, said on Sunday February 10 that its party members would quit the government in protest against the handling of the political crisis, as tensions between the parties continued to accelerate. Meanwhile, pro-Ennadha government supporters also took to the streets, though in significantly less numbers than the opposition, to voice their support for the government.
Thus, with the Tunisian government on the verge of collapse, with the people seemingly on the verge of another uprising, and with increasing tensions between secular and Islamist groups, Tunisia continues its unfinished revolution. It is tempting to draw the comparison to Egypt, where the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party holds power, and where the population is again rising up against the government and in support of the revolutionary ideals which led them into the streets two years prior. As thousands again took to the streets in Egypt on February 8, they were met with riot police and tear gas. It would appear that the Western-sponsored attempts to prop up Islamist governments to establish control over their populations is backfiring. Where the revolution goes, only posterity can say, but one thing is clear: the unfinished revolution in Tunisia – as elsewhere – is only finished, and democracy is only achieved, when the people themselves have made it and declared it to be so.
For those of us in the West, we must acknowledge that there is a stark contrast between the rhetoric and reality of our nations, as in, the difference between what our governments say and do. For all the blather and trumpeting about democracy we hear, the actions of our nations go to arming, training, and supporting repressive regimes, whether they take the form of secular authoritarian dictatorships, or Islamist “democratic” coalitions.
As we continue our own struggle for democracy at home, whether it is students in the streets of Quebec, Indignados in Spain, anarchists in Greece, Occupy Wall Street activists in New York, or the indigenous movement of Idle No More, we must realize that the same tax dollars which are used to have the police assault and repress protesters at home, are also used to assault, repress, and kill our brothers and sisters abroad in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and beyond. Their revolution is our revolution. Their democracy is our democracy. Their freedom is our freedom. And their future… is our future.
 Mehdi Mabrouk, “A Revolution for Dignity and Freedom: Preliminary Observations on the Social and Cultural Background to the Tunisian Revolution,” The Journal of North African Studies (Vol. 16, No. 4, December 2011), pages 626-627.
 Yasmine Ryan, “How Tunisia’s revolution began,” Al-Jazeera, 26 January 2011.
 Richard Falk, “Ben Ali Tunisia was model US client,” Al-Jazeera, 25 January 2011.
 US Embassy Cables, “US embassy cables: Finding a successor to Ben Ali in Tunisia,” The Guardian, 17 January 2011.
 The US Embassy Cables, “US embassy cables: Tunisia – a US foreign policy conundrum,” The Guardian, 7 December 2010.
 Daya Gamage, “Massive U.S. Military Aid to Tunisia despite human rights abuses,” Asian Tribune, 18 January 2011.
 NYT, “Challenges Facing Countries Across North Africa and the Middle East,” The New York Times, 17 February 2011.
 Samer al-Atrush, “Tunisia: Why the Jasmine Revolution won’t bloom,” The Telegraph, 16 January 2011.
 Steven Erlanger, “France Seen Wary of Interfering in Tunisia Crisis,” The New York Times, 16 January 2011.
 Raj M. Desai, Anders Olofsgard and Tarik Yousef, “Is the Arab Authoritarian Bargain Collapsing?,” The Brookings Institution, 9 February 2011.
 Marwan Muasher, “Tunisia’s Crisis and the Arab World,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 24 January 2011.
 Noam Chomsky, “Is the world too big to fail?,” Al-Jazeera, 29 September 2011.
 Report, “2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010,” The Brookings Institution, 5 August 2010.
 Angelique Chrisafis, “Tunisia’s caretaker government in peril as four ministers quit,” The Guardian, 18 January 2011.
 “Tunisia: Key players,” BBC, 27 February 2011.
 Tarek Amara, “US offers Tunisia security aid for ‘model’ revolution,” Reuters, 21 February 2011.
 “IRI Releases Tunisia Poll,” International Republican Institute, 12 July 2011.
 Angelique Chrisafis, Katharine Viner, and Becky Gardiner, “Tunisians go to the polls still in the shadow of the old regime,” The Guardian, 22 October 2011.
 Yasmine Ryan, “Tunisian politicians struggle to deliver,” Al-Jazeera, 23 October 2012.
 Anne Wolf and Raphael Lefevre, “Tunisia: a revolution at risk,” The Guardian, 18 April 2012.
 Alice Fordham, “Tunisia’s revolution and the Salafi effect,” The National, 11 September 2012.
 “Obama administration doubles military aid to Islamist-led Tunisia,” World Tribune, 27 April 2012.
 AFP, “U.S. Gave Tunisia $32 million in Military Aid: General,” Defense News, 24 April 2012.
 “Tunisia clash leaves opposition official dead,” Al-Jazeera, 19 October 2012.
 Agencies, “Angry crowd hurls stones at Tunisian leaders,” Al-Jazeera, 17 December 2012.
 Neil MacFarquhar, “Economic Frustration Simmers Again in Tunisia,” The New York Times, 1 December 2012.
 “IRI Poll: Employment, Economy Most Important Priorities for Tunisians,” International Republican Institute, 3 October 2012.
 Lindsay J. Benstead, Ellen Lust, and Dhafer Malouche, “Tunisian Revolution Is Work in Progress,” The Epoch Times, 27 December 2012.
 Editorial, “An Assassination in Tunisia,” The New York Times, 8 February 2013.
 Eric Reguly, “Chaos in Tunisia tarnishes a revolution’s success story,” The Globe and Mail, 7 February 2013.
 Angelique Chrisafis, “Tunisia gripped by general strike as assassinated Chokri Belaïd is buried,” The Guardian, 8 February 2013.
 Rachel Shabi, “Tunisia is no longer a rev
Thousands of Bahrainis have rallied near the capital to mark the second anniversary of the revolution against the ruling Al Khalifa family.
The demonstration was held on the Budaiya highway, which links several villages with the capital, Manama, on Friday. It was organized by Bahrain’s main opposition bloc al-Wefaq.
Waving national flags, protesters chanted "Down with the dictatorship!" as they were led by Sheikh Ali Salman of al-Wefaq.
They also held funeral services for the latest victim of the regime’s crackdown on protest; the 16-year-old Hussein al-Jaziri who was shot dead on Thursday after security forces attacked anti-regime protesters in the village of Daih.
Witnesses said Saudi-backed Bahraini forces used tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the Friday protest. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Bahrainis held mass anti-regime rallies also on Thursday coinciding with the actual anniversary of the start of the revolution on February 14, 2011.
Bahrainis say they will continue holding demonstrations until their demands for the establishment of a democratically-elected government and an end to rights violations are met.
The capsule that was sent into space containing a live monkey in January is displayed during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Hundreds of thousands of people rallied through Tehran and other cities waving Iranian flags and chanting “Death to America!” on the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, when the US-backed leadership was overthrown.
The demonstrators also chanted “Death to Israel” as they were marching towards center of Tehran. Many were carrying portraits of the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the country`s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The government-sponsored rally gathered at the landmark Azadi [Freedom] Square, where the country`s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the crowds speaking about Iranian`s controversial nuclear program.
"Iran has become nuclear, and so Iran's enemies are unhappy," he said.
"Today the enemies are trying their utmost to put pressure on the Iranian nation to stop its progress, but they will not succeed," Ahmadinejad continued speaking about the range of sanctions imposed on Tehran by the West.
The US has been most active in sanctioning Iran to curb its nuclear program, which Washington suspect might be military-oriented. Tehran, however, insists that uranium enrichment in the country is done for peaceful purposes.
Similar rallies were held across the country in the large provincial capitals and smaller cities.
Foreign media in the country are only allowed to cover the event from officially proposed angle, Al Arabiya reported.
On February 11, 1979, US-backed Iranian leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlav was overthrown after the army declared solidarity with people who supported Khomeini becoming the country’s supreme leader.
In the November of the same year Islamist students calling themselves ‘Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line’ breached in the US embassy in Tehran taking 52 US diplomats hostage. The siege at the embassy continued for 444 days.
Iranians attend a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) greets supporters during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iranian boy scouts salute during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iranians carry their national flag during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
An Iranian women holding a portrait of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini attends a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Entering the third year of the revolt in Egypt, no amount of repression seems able to contain the swelling pressure exploding throughout the country the last several weeks. In fact, protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi seem to be gaining support. The truth is, the revolution in Egypt is deeper and more profound than any of the other valiant examples of the Arab Spring.
“We are not always coming together in protests,” 28-year old unemployed accountant, Saber, told me as he arrived for a demonstration in Tahrir Square last week. “Most workers have families which they must feed, so they go to work. Other youth, like myself, have nothing to lose. Our future is past.”
As Saber explains, political sympathy among the population cannot always be measured in the size of the recurring protests. But for sure, the rebellion remains alive.
When Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship fell on Feb. 11, 2011, the decayed state structures collapsed along with him. Social and political institutions running Mubarak’s regime were in complete shatters. His regime was exposed as a very thin layer of corrupt officials and family friends.
His political party was outlawed, his parliament dissolved, his cabinet disbanded, local municipal councils in disarray and his secret police dispersed. Significantly, Mubarak’s national labor federation, already thoroughly discredited, had its national leadership temporarily dismissed as well.
All these steps occurred under pressure of the mass revolt.
This sweeping disintegration was unique to Egypt and it had revolutionary consequences because the political and social void was filled by an energized people raising demands unrestrained by residual conservative institutions and parties.
The authentic voice of the Egyptian people was heard without filters and this form of direct action politics put unprecedented pressure on authorities to enact meaningful reforms.
The 500,000-strong army was the only Mubarak institution left standing. It was also quite unscathed because it had historically avoided conflicts with the population, leaving that abhorrent chore to the despised Ministry of Interior security force.
It was left to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), therefore, to fill the empty political space. There was no credible alternative representing the old order.
But, as it turned out, the prestige enjoyed by the army did not last out the year. Protests against military violence and arbitrary military trials grew increasingly larger until the Muslim Brotherhood government finally took over in 2012.
Now this government, after only six months in power, faces the same stiff resistance to its rule as did the military.
Direct Action Prevails over Parliamentary Debates
Yet, the struggle continues at a high level in Egypt because, as I argue, the unfiltered voice of the people is being heard through the organization of street protests.
By contrast, in Tunisia, a massive trade union confederation helped lead the revolt. It became a huge factor in initially stabilizing and giving credibility to the new post-revolutionary regime and Parliament. Currently, however, this government is undergoing severe criticism for failing to lead the country out of economic stagnation and for including many remnants from the regime of ousted dictator Ben Ali.
Nonetheless, despite its current problems, there was definitely a period of stabilization and broad acceptance of the initial transition in Tunisia that simply never emerged in Egypt.
In fact, the new Egyptian Parliamentary elections in 2011 were immediately met with controversial charges of Muslim Brotherhood manipulation. The reputation of the newly elected parliament was further eroded after legislators failed to enact even one meaningful reform.
Even an increase in the minimum wage was enacted in 2011 by a court, not by parliament. And there are credible charges that the government has since actually obstructed its implementation.
As a result, millions have no confidence in the governing institutions reconstructed since Mubarak.
Unsolved Economic Tasks of the Revolution
Democratic and justice concerns of Egyptians are compounded by growing concerns for the third demand of the Jan. 25, 2011 revolt – bread!
The economy has actually worsened since Mubarak fell. The Egyptian pound suffered seven percent inflation since December, tourism is down some 20 percent, petrol subsidies have been reduced and President Morsi very cautiously floated in December possible sales tax hikes, food and commodity subsidy reductions and cuts in the number of state employees as a result of International Monetary Fund loan stipulations.
Furthermore, according to Stanford University historian Prof. Joel Beinin, “the Muslim Brothers embrace the same neoliberal policies favored by the Mubarak regime and, if anything, envision an even more expansive program of privatization of public assets.”
When I cited World Bank statistics claiming 40 percent of Egyptians live on two dollars a day, Mohammed, a thirty-two old Cairo physical therapist with two children, immediately interrupted me to say that it is “below two dollars a day now! Doctors working in a hospital like me, we must work three jobs with four or five extra shifts and even then I have to postpone paying all my bills to the last minute.”
His friend, Mahmoud, is also a doctor and agreed. “It is worse now. The rich are still rich but the poor are more poor. And, when John Kerry came to Egypt, he met with Morsi and other top leaders. He did not meet with poor people like us. The U.S. likes to support those in charge.”
Asked if people are getting tired from all the protests, Mohammed matter of factly responded that “we will not get tired because nothing has changed.”
Saber, the unemployed accountant, explained further: “We chose Morsi. We thought his religion would make him more compassionate and he would listen to us. But now after six months, it is worse. So we come back to Tahrir to make another revolution.” And he very consciously added in response to my questions about the government, the military and the parliament that “we must do this ourselves.”
Thus, the voices heard in Tahrir and in protests throughout the country demanding genuine democracy, real social justice and significant economic improvements hold more credibility among the majority of Egyptians than any of the institutions of power and it is this reality that keeps the rebellion growing.
But history also teaches us the hard lesson that state institutions representing old elite powers, no matter how unresponsive, can recover by disguising their goals and by making compromises with sections of their opposition whose economic interests are not so very different from their own.
Of course, this would mean once again that the majority of Egyptians would be left out in the cold.
As an alternative, a new Egypt can arise when the youth, unemployed, women and working class, sharing similar economic objectives, unite nationally in a new, mass political force that combines electoral and direct action mobilizations challenging the power of the elite to finally establish a democratic, just and economically prosperous society benefiting the majority.
The future of this great country will be determined by which social force, the bottom or the top, actually succeeds in filling the political void that so far has made Egypt’s revolution so unique and so powerful.
Bahraini protesters stage an anti-regime rally in the village of Diraz, west of Manama, February 6, 2013.
Bahraini protesters have held fresh protest rallies as the nation marks the second anniversary of its uprising that began in mid-February 2011 against the Al Khalifa regime.
Anti-regime demonstrators on Thursday held a massive march in in the capital, Manama, while similar rallies were held in several other parts of the country, including the village of Karrana in the Northern Governorate.
Bahraini activists have been staging protests across the country over the past few days and plan to go on a general strike on February 14 to commemorate the revolution in the Persian Gulf nation.
The Bahraini public embarked on a revolt in a quest for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy. But the demands soon changed into a call for an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa family following the regime’s brutal crackdown on popular protests.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country upon Manama's request to help the Bahraini regime quell the peaceful protests.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others arrested in the brutal crackdown.
A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011, found that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown. It also blamed Al Khalifa regime forces for torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.
Physicians for Human Rights says many doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or have disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.