The Arab revolutions: A year after

Published on Pambazuka News, by Samir Amin, March 14, 2012.

Arab regimes achieved success within a short period but then ran out of steam as a result of their internal limits and contradictions. The ruling circles have given in to neo-liberal globalization, leading to rapid decline in social conditions. That is what caused the revolts.


The uprising of Arab peoples in 2011 (Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein and Yemen, later Syria) was not unexpected, at least by many Arab leftist activists, if not by the Western powers.

During the Bandung and Non-Alignment period (1955-1970) Arab countries were in the forefront of the struggles of the peoples, nations and states of the South for a better future and a less unequal global system. Algeria’s FLN and Boumedienne, Nasser’s Egypt, the Baas regimes in Iraq and Syria and the South Yemen Republic shared common characteristics. These were not ‘democratic’ regimes according to the Western criteria (they were ‘one-party’ systems), nor even according to our criteria, which implies positive empowerment of the peoples. But they were nevertheless legitimate in the eyes of their peoples, for their actual achievements: mass education, health and other public services, industrialisation and guarantees for employment and social upward mobility associated with independent initiatives and anti-imperialist postures. Therefore they were continuously fiercely fought by the Western powers, in particular through repeated Israeli aggressions.

These regimes achieved whatever they could in that frame within a short period, say 20 years, and then thereafter ran out of steam as a result of their internal limits and contradictions … //


The Syrian Baathist regime belonged in the past to the cluster of national popular experiences (though not democratic) in the style of Nasserism and other experiences in the era of Bandung. And when the limits of possible real achievements in this framework became apparent, Hafez el Assad turned to a project that sought to combine the preservation of nationalist patriotism that is oppositional to colonialism on the one hand, and on the other hand, to benefit from the right-conservative concessions reflected in the ‘openness’ (liberalisation) similar to the route taken by Nasser following the defeat of 1967.

The subsequent history of this project became apparent. In Egypt, it led immediately after the death of Nasser in 1970 to surrender without reservation to the demands of the reactionary axis consisting of the United States, the Gulf and Israel.

In Syria, this ‘opening’ led to the same results as it happened in other countries. That is, to serious rapid deterioration of social conditions for poorer classes and which eroded the legitimacy of the regime.

In the current developments, the Syrian regime has faced protests with repression and nothing else. The Brotherhood took advantage of the opportunity to appear as the ‘opposition’. Thus a coherent plan crystallised under the leadership of imperialism and its allies that sought not to ‘rid the Syrian people of a dictator,’ but to destroy the Syrian state, modeled on the United States work in Iraq and Libya.

Here also where the profound relationship of the tripartite interests is apparent as the goal:

  • 1) for the U.S. is the breaking of the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah alliance, which is an obstacle to U.S. entrenching of its control over the region,
  • 2) for Israel to have Syria fragmented into sectarian mini-states, and
  • 3) for the Gulf Arab states, it is the entrenching of a ‘Sunni’ dictatorship in the Wahabbi style, although this dictatorship will be established on the massacres and criminal elimination of Alawis, Druze and Christians.

In the face of danger of this possible fate, the Assad regime remains unable to respond with the only needed and effective method, which is supposed to exclude the use of violence and to engage in genuine reforms, as the only acceptable solution assumes the opening of the way to genuine negotiations, which is conditional for the strengthening of a democratic front whose components are present in the ground, despite the effort to mute its voice. Simply opposing State terrorism to the so called “ Islamic/Salafi” terrorism leads nowhere.



  • The strategy of contemporary imperialism for the region (the ‘great Middle East’) does not aim at all at establishing some form of ‘democracy’. It aims at destroying the countries and societies through the support of so-called Islamic regimes which guarantee the continuation of a lumpen development *  (to use the words of my late friend A G Frank), i.e. a process of continuous pauperisation. Eventual ‘high rates of growth’, praised by the World Bank, are meaningless, being based on the plunder of natural resources, associated with fast growing inequality in the distribution of income and pauperisation for the majorities.
  • Iraq provides the ‘model’ for the region. The dictatorship of Saddam Hussein has been replaced by three no less (even more) terror regimes, in the name of ‘religion’ (Sunna and Shia) and of ethnicity (the Kurds), associated with the systematic destruction of the infrastructures and industries, and the planned assassination of tens of thousands of the elite citizens, in particular engineers and scientists, as well as the destruction of the education system (which was not bad in the time of Saddam) to reduce it to the teaching of religion and business!

Those are also the targets for Syria.

Isn’t it a curiosity that we see now the Emir of Qatar and the King of Saudi Arabia among the most vocal advocates of ‘democracy’. A farce.


  • Turkey plays an active role, along with the US (never forget that Turkey is a Nato member) in the implementation of that plan. It has established in the Hatay province camps for the recruitment and training of killers (so called ‘Moslems’) who are infiltrated in Syria. Refer here to the book of Bahar Kimyongur ( Syriana, la conquète continue, Couleur Livre, Charleroi, 2011).


  • The US was ‘surprised’ by the Tunisian and Egyptian popular revolts. They now plan to ‘preempt’ possible similar movements by initiating armed revolts of small groups supported by them. This strategy was tested with success in Libya (now a disintegrated country), and now in Syria. The reader can refer here to my papers on Libya (Lybia could break up like Somalia, Pambazuka, 07/09/2011) and Somalia (Is there a solution to the problems of Somalia?, Pambazuka, 17/02/2011 ).
  • The following target is Iran, under the pretext of its nuclear development, using to that effect Israel, which is unable to do the job without the active implication of the US forces. Iran, whatever one may think of its regime (in fact associating ‘Islam’s rule’ and market economy!) does constitute an obstacle to the deployment of the US military control over the region. This country must therefore be destroyed.


  • The final real target of contemporary imperialism is ‘containment and then after rolling back’ by preemptive war the most dangerous emerging countries (China first). Add here Russia, which, if it succeeds in modernising its army, can put an end to the exclusive military power of the US.
  • That implies the total subordination of all other countries of the South with a view to ensuring exclusive access to the natural resources of the whole planet to the benefit of the societies of the triad (US, Europe and Japan), their plunder and waste. It implies therefore more of lumpen development, more of pauperisation and more of terrorist regimes. Contemporary capitalism has nothing else to offer.

(full long text).

* some links refering to lumpen:

Lumpenbourgeoisie on en.wikipedia;

Rise of the lumpen elite: is this really what we fought for, on open Democracy/Russia, by Maxim Kantor, 24 October 2011;

Lumpen United Front: Its Basis and Development, on Under Lock and Key, by cipactli of United Struggle from Within, November 2010;

Dependency theory on en.wikipedia;

Kleptocracy on en.wikipedia;

Book: Lumpen bourgeoisie, Lumpen development: dependence class and politics in Latin America, by Frank, Andre Gunder, Berdecio, Morion Davis (translated from Spanish), published by Monthly Review (New York), 151 pages, 1972;
… and same on amazon.

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