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MILITARY COUP OF JANUARY 15, 1966: WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT
IMPLICATIONS FOR NIGERIA.

THE ASABA PUBLIC FORUM (APF) PUBLIC LECTURES SERIES, 1 ST EDITION.
JAN. 28, 2021

LECTURE PRESENTED BY CHIEF CHRIS O. O. BIOSE

ON THE TOPIC

MILITARY COUP OF JANUARY 15, 1966: WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT
IMPLICATIONS FOR NIGERIA.

SUMMARY OF THE LECTURE BY BONNEY AKAEZE

INTRODUCTION
Chief Chris O. O. Biose in his presentation on the above topic, provided a brief analysis of
Nigeria’s British colonial background, and shed some light on the prevailing political situation in
Nigeria before the military coup took place on January 15, 1966. He then proceeded to answer
the questions; What Happened? What Implications for Nigeria. His thoughts are presented here
in summary.
IMPERIALIST FOUNDATION OF NIGERIA
According to our guest lecturer, British adventurers came to Africa in pursuit of the economic
interest of their home country. They started with trading in slaves from which they moved on to
trade in palm produce and other raw materials, and then to colonialism. According to him, in all,
the primary objective was the same. It was never for the purpose of building a black nation but
the exploitation of the people for the benefit of the British,
He explained that the territory which Britain captured for her economic interest and which she
later christened Nigeria, is a conglomeration of diverse ethnic stock spread over geographical
areas from the fringes of the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean who found themselves brought
into a union not of their choice, but by an external power that conditioned the union on factors
over which the natives have no control. He reiterated that the territory was hitherto administered
as separate political entities until 1914 when the colonial masters decided to merge them purely
for her administrative convenience. The scholar went further to reveal that the merger popularly
referred to as the ‘Amalgamation of 1914’ was based on the economic logic of balancing the
fiscal insolvency of the Northern Protectorate with the fiscal surplus from the Southern
Protectorate. The logic was explained with the analogy of an indigent bachelor being matched in
a marital union with a lady of means.
He went further to emphasize that pursuant to the above design, the colonial masters had to
fashion out a combination of jurisdictional pressure, military and political power mechanisms to
actualize their end. He stressed that a clear example of this fact could be seen in 1945, when the
British delineated the country into three regions and allocated 75% in terms of land mass to the
Northern Region., and that the region was also allocated 50% of the total population of the
country without any census conducted. He also posited that from the Federal Elections of 1953,

1959 till date, the central issue in Nigerian politics has remained the bogey of ethnic domination
pre-arranged by the British colonial masters and traceable to the colonial design to sustain the
economic logic of the amalgamation of 1914.
He further lectured that in all her colonial territories, the British was indifferent to the ethnic
contiguity of nations they lumped together in administrative units such as Divisions, Provinces or
Regions. He stated that the British design was a divide and rule strategy and that the contestation
induced by it was the premise for the 31 st March 1953 Motion for Self-Government move by
Anthony Enahoro at the Federal Parliament in Lagos as well as Sir. Ahamadu Bello’s reference
to ‘the mistake of 1914’ and his subsequent threat to take ‘his North away from Nigeria’ in the
aftermath of the Independence Election of 1959.
He stressed that the fact stated above was very evident in the colonial masters’ response to the
revelations of agitations and unequivocal demands for separate administrative units mostly for
the minority ethnic nationalities during the public hearings organized by the Minorities
Commission set up on the recommendation of the London Constitutional Conference of 1957
and chaired by Sir. Henry Willink (Q.C).
He concluded that senior political leaders as well as traditional rulers (Emirs) from the North
clearly understood the British design and have always taken bold steps to defend the privileges it
conferred on their Region while most of their southern counterparts seem to be oblivious of that
reality.
BACKGROUND TO THE COUP
In his opening remarks to this part of his presentation, Chief Biose emphasized that every major
social upheaval has a gestation period or warning signals and that the social condition in every
society is usually a product of that society. In his view, the tone for the future of Nigeria after
Independence was set by the policies and actions of those Nigerians who inherited power from
the colonial masters, and what has persisted since then is absence of consensus among significant
leaders of Nigeria on what the country should be. He added that neither were those who inherited
power from the British colonial masters able to improve on the political structure handed over to
them nor were they able to weld the component units of the country into one nation-state.
Firstly; he noted that the first major crisis the country witness shortly after Independence was the
‘Nande-Nunde; meaning burn-burn and later Atem-Tyo; meaning ‘Crush Head’ all being violent
protest by the Tiv of the Middle-Belt over persistent attempts pursued by the government of the
Northern Region even before Independence to compel the people to accept the imposition of a
paramount tradition ruler; a concept that is alien to them. The violent protests resulted in mass
killings, arson and internal displacement of large populations. The Tiv had resisted this initiative
of the leadership and government of the Northern Region since 1952, but the conflict escalated in
1964 with further pressure from the Northern People Congress led government of the Northern
Region and a better resistance from the Tiv coordinated by the United Middle Belt Congress

(UMBC). The crisis even though met with maximum force by the Prime Minister Tafawa
Balewa’s regime, persisted till the end of 1965.
Second in his view, was the National Population Census conducted in 1962 and repeated in

  1. According to him, the population figures released especially from the Northern Region
    were highly disputed and remained hotly contested till the coup occurred in 1966.
    Thirdly; is what the presenter described as the unwarranted declaration of ‘State of Emergency’
    in the Western Region on May 29, 1962 in the wake of the conflict in Action Group; the ruling
    Party in the Region and the subsequent takeover of the Legislature of the Region by the Federal
    Government. According to our Guest Lecturer, this act and the highhandedness with which it
    was implemented was described by Justice Adewale Thompson as the first coup in Nigeria. Also
    noted as one of the factors that constituted a worrisome situation in the country at that time was
    the crisis that rocked the Western Region Election of 1965 and the inability of the Federal
    Government to be impartial in dealing with the crisis.
    Other factors revealed by the presenter were; brazen rigging of the December 30, 1964 Federal
    Election as well as general economic discontent in the country which precipitated a number
    labour disputes and strikes especially the Dock Workers Strike of February 1963 which was
    quickly followed by the General Strike involving all Trade Unions as well as the nationwide
    Teachers’ Strike of October 1964. Also included in these factors was the official corruption in
    the civil service which was at a frightful dimension.
    He concluded his background to the topic of the lecture by opining that in the three years prior to
    the coup of January 15, 1966, an atmosphere of confusion pervaded the political scene of
    Nigeria, that the political storm generated by the incidents highlighted above and which occurred
    between 1962 and 1965 crushed whatever spirit of patriotism and nationality with which the
    country’s independence was received and replaced it with gloom, distrust and anger. According
    to him, by December 1965, revolutionary pamphlets were already circulating in several parts of
    the country. In summing up the factors that engendered the scenario precedent to the coup
    episode under review, Chief Biose quoted Professor Ben Nwabueze (1986) wherein the eminent
    constitutional lawyer posited, “The series of crisis that rocked the Federal Republic-the 1962/63
    census controversy, the 1964 Federal Election and the 1965 western Regional Election Crisis
    may be traced to the desire of the NPC to perpetuate its control of the Federal Government.”
    WHAT HAPPENED?
    The Guest Lecturer in providing answer to the first question posed in the topic of the Public
    Lecture, attempted an account of how the coup under reference was staged. His account as
    answer to that question is summarized as follows.
    In the early hours of January 15, 1966, mutinous soldiers attempted to overthrow the
    Governments of the Federation and the Regions by force but the plot failed. He identified the
    five officers who were all of the rank of Major in the Army who are generally referenced to as

the brains behind the coup d’etat These Majors according to him were Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu, Wale Ademoyega, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Christian Anuforo and Donatus Okafor. He
however; identified other officers who were part of the plot but who are not popularly mentioned
to include; Majors Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Humphery Chukwuka, John Obienu, Oguchi and
Col. Emmanuel Nwobosi. He went further to quote Major Wale Ademoyega (1981, p 59), one of
the brains behind plot who explained that there was consensus among the coup plotters that
something had to be done quickly to save Nigeria from anarchy and disintegration and to restore
peace and unity in the country. According to the same account, the officers agreed that heads of
Governments in the Federation, their prominent aides and military collaborators should be
arrested and that where they resisted, maximum force should be applied.
Furthermore; the lecture presenter revealed that though the operation was successful in the
Northern Region, a number of factors combined to defeat it in Lagos the Federal Capital,
Eastern, Mid-Western and the Western Regions and that the actual fatal blow that bungle the
mutiny was dealt in Lagos by Col. Arthur Unegbe; the then Quarter-Master General, Army
Headquarters, Lagos who refused to surrender the key of the armoury as demanded by the
mutinous soldiers, and Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi; the then General Officer Commanding
(GOC) of the Nigerian Army who escaped being arrested by Major Donatus Okafor. He further
revealed that though at the Ikeja Cantonment, Col. Unegbe was killed by the rebelling officers
for refusal to handover the key to the armoury, they were not able to gain access into the
armoury, and shortly after they left, Aguiyi-Ironsi arrived at the cantonment and was able to rally
royal troops with whom he foiled the Lagos operation but the coup had already recorded
casualties among whom were the then Prime Minister of Nigeria; Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
and Sir. Ahmadu Bello; the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Region. Others were
the Premier of the Western Region; Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Chief Samuel Okotie-Eboh;
Federal Minister for Finance at the time, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Col. Kur Mohammed,
Lt. Col. Yakubu Pam, Lt. Col. Abogo Largemah, Mallam Ahmed Ben Musa, Brigadier Samuel
Admulegun and his wife, as well as Col. Tunji Sodeinde.
After the insurrection was successfully foiled in Lagos; the Federal seat of power, the Army at
2.30 pm on the following day; January 16, the Army announced on Radio Nigeria, Lagos that
majority of members of the Nigerian Army including its Commander; Major General Aguiyi-
Ironsi remained loyal. This was contrary to the broadcast being made from Radio Kaduna by
Major Nzeogwu. Since the coup had eliminated the Prime Minister, the remaining Ministers met
under the chairmanship of Alhaji Zana Bukar Dipchirima; then Minister for Transport and
resolved as a temporary measure, to handover the Government of the country to the Army until
normalcy was restored and it was on that note Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi assumed leadership
of the country from January 16, 1966 chief Biose added.

MISUNDERSTANDING, MIISINTERPRETATION AND FALSE NARRATIVES
Furtherance to the question; What Happened? Chief Biose who shares the view that the episode
should not be viewed in the same light of the self-serving motives underpinning other military
coups witnessed in the country, dedicated a section of his answer to that question to what he
described as misunderstanding, misinterpretations and false narratives hoarded from some
quarters on the coup and its masterminds.
According to him, those who weaved and propagated the misunderstanding, and the false
interpretations and narratives merely blew out of proportion and imputed ethnic coloration to the
heavy concentration of officers of Igbo extraction in the planning and execution of the coup. He
further observed that the fact that more northern leaders including very prominent ones were
casualties of the coup plotters while no notable Igbo leader was killed in the coup provided a
fitting icing on the cake of the pro ethnic coloration argument. He however; posited that the
above arguments are pulverized by overt, empirical and incontrovertible facts about the coup. He
provided some of such evidence to include;
i. Col. Arthor Unegbe was an Igbo. He was killed because he denied the rebels access
to the military armoury at the Ikeja cantonment and by his patriotic act, greatly
hampered the coup in Lagos because even after he was shot, the young officers could
not gain access to the arms they desperately needed in furtherance of their Lagos
operation
ii. Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi escaped being arrested by the coup plotters, he rallied
loyal officers and got the coup foiled early enough in Lagos; the Federal Capital such
that the coup operations in other centres were thrown into confusion.
iii. When Major Nzeokwu mobilized his forces in Kaduna ready for an attack on Lagos,
another officer of Igbo extraction; Lt. Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu who
was commanding the 5 th Battalion of Nigerian Army stationed in Kano bluntly
refused to co-operate with him. Ojukwu’s refusal checkmated Nzeogwu and isolated
him in Kaduna.
iv. Major Ademoyega; one of the principal planners of the coup was quoted to have said
in his book; Why We Struck, “contrary to the load of wicked propaganda that had
since been heaped on us, there was no plan at our Meeting to single out any particular
ethnic group for elimination or destruction. Our intentions were honourable, our
views were national and our goals were idealistic.”
v. President Olusegun Obasanjo a very close friend of Major Nzeogwu was also quoted
to have expressed the view that “the January 1966 coup was not conceived to divide
the country or as an Igbo coup even though the execution of their plan in the South

were susceptible to such interpretation.” President Obasanjo further debunked the
claim that the coup was tribalistic in its conception when he declared copiously,
“Chukwuma had a dream of a great Nigeria that is a force to reckon with in the world,
not through ineffective political rhetoric but through purposeful and effective action.
He dreamt of a nation where social justice and economic interest of its citizens will
not be subjected to foreign control and manipulation. He believed in the ability of the
Blackman…….
“(He)……was a well-read man. He was familiar with Marx, Giap and Mustafa
Kemal—the Ataturk. He probably saw himself in the same mould as the later; a kind
of Nigerian military hero on horseback, a modernist, a nationalist and a Nigerian bent
on carving a niche for the Blackman in world history, an idealist who wanted to put
the Blackman on the same pedestal as all other races. He saw Nigeria as pivotal to his
dreams. In order for Nigeria to realize what seemed to him, a divine if not self-
evident mission, he had to clear the Augean stable.”

Chief Chris O. O. Biose; a renowned Sociology scholar concluded this section with the
submission that the masterminds of the January 1966 Coup were revolutionaries motivated by
nationalistic fervor even though their tactics were unquestionably unconstitutional, illegal and
morally wrong.
WHAT IMPLICATIONS FOR NIGERIA
The second question the Lecture Topic raised to be answered is the implications of the coup for
Nigeria and the scholar’s attempt at the answer is summarized hereunder.
Firstly; he reckoned that the coup destroyed the constitutional foundation; federalism (both
political and fiscal) upon which the Nigerian State was founded at Independence. The
Constitution of Nigeria (1960) which was a product of mutual resolutions adopted at the several
Conferences held at home and in London was suspended.
Secondly; he asserted that the misinterpretation and false narrative foisted on the episode by
prominent persons from the Northern Region led to the revenge coup of July 29, 1966 by
military officers from the Northern Region. According to him, the revenging army officers killed
Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi; the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
and the Governor of Western Region, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. They also went ahead to kill several
scores of other army officers of Igbo extraction at different military formations in Lagos, the
Western and Northern Regions. The revenge did not end with mass killing of the Igbo army
officers. Under the watch of the Federal Military Government now led By General Yakubu
Gowon, who had on assumption of office, declared to the world in his first broadcast that the
basis of the unity of Nigeria no longer existed, army officers from the north, joined by civilian
indigenes of the Region carried out unrestrained massacre of any person rightly or wrongly
identified as Igbo.

Thirdly; the revenge coup and the mass killing of people identified to be of Igbo ethnic
nationalities which went unabated till it led to the secession move and declaration of Biafra by
the leadership of Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu who was at the time, the Governor of
the Eastern Region. The secession attempt in 1967, led to the Nigerian Civil war in which the
General Gowon led Federal Military Government found a suitable cannon fodder to continue its
heinous cover of placing at the disposal of the aggrieved ruling class of the north, the military
apparatus of the Nigerian State to complete their revenge mission against the Igbo people.
Fourthly; he posited that the January 15, 1966 Coup opened the way for military incursion into
the politics of the country, therefore latently laid the foundation for the incalculable damage done
to the country by successive military juntas. He highlighted some of such damage to include;
i. Replacement of the very high level of esprit de corps that hitherto existed in the
country’s military with nepotism, favoritisms, bigotry and other primordial
sentiments that are inimical to a truly professional, nationalistic and detribalized
military.
ii. The decades of military rule herald by the coup politicized the military and
entrenched grand corruption among officers of the Armed Forces. Those who
succeeded in staging coups conferred on themselves sole authority of appropriation
over the economic resources of the country. For instance; against the spirit of one of
the fundamental fiscal pivot on which the co-existence of the diverse component units
of the country was hinged, General Gowon led Federal Military Government
promulgated the Petroleum Decree No 51 (1969) and the Offshore Oil Revenue
Decree No. 9 (1971) by which the Federal Government claimed absolute ownership
and control of all petroleum resources in the Niger Delta. By the Offshore Oil
Revenue Decree, the waterways and continental shelf of which the Independence
Constitution vested in the States/Regions were transferred to the Federal Government
iii. The military nurtured and entrenched the culture of impunity in Nigeria with
consistent oppression, repression and perversion of the time honoured tenets of rule
of law. They combined both Executive and Legislative powers and even assume the
functions of appellate courts. Their tyrannical exercise of powers of Government
grossly fertilized the anti-democratic culture which is prevalent in our society till
date. They also promoted the macho and might is right mentality which rewards
violence as marks of sagacity and audacity. This is the root of the widespread cultism
and other violent behaviors among the youth in the country today.
iv. The Organization of Islamic Co-Operation formerly known as Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC) is a grouping of 56 Islamic States which was formed as an
Organization whose membership is opened to only countries with Muslim majority

population and with the objectives to pursue and defend Islamic interests. Nigeria was
invited to the Inaugural Meeting of the Organization held in September 1969, General
Yakubu Gowon; the Head of State sent a delegation led by the late Islamic scholar,
preacher and former Grand Khadi of the Northern Region, Sheik Abubaka Mahmud
Gumi (1922-1992) to represent the Nigerian Muslim community. The General
Gowon regime politely rebuffed all the pressure mounted on it to enrolled Nigeria in
the Organization.
After the Gowon regime was toppled, the new Head of State; General Murtala
Mohammed enrolled Nigeria into the OIC) on an observer status. The General
Babangida regime later moved the observer status to that of a full membership and
made the country a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). On June 15,
1997, Nigeria under the Late General Sani Abacha, joined other Muslim States;
Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh to establish the D-
8 (Eight Islamic Developing Nations). The sociology scholar provided the facts
highlighted above to support his view that military regimes in Nigeria politicized
religion in the country by covertly pursuing Islamization agenda, and their action
emboldened those who declared some States in Northern Nigeria as Islamic States as
well as those who nurse the belief of possible islamization of the entire country.
v. From the revenge coup of July, 1966, a section of the Nigerian army with the support
of the Federal Military Government led by General Gowon masterminded widespread
brutality against both military officers and civilians of Igbo extraction. The unbridled
brutality was elevated to genocide in the name of curbing the Biafran secession led by
Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu. The massacre of civilian population
especially, women and children in the heart of eastern Nigeria as well as the massacre
in Asaba and other communities west of River Niger are good examples. After the
civil war, many soldiers were demobilized. The ill-trained and highly biased soldiers
recruited due to the exigencies of the civil war were never debriefed and demilitarized
before they were let loose to mingle with conventional society. These demobilized
soldiers and other criminal elements in the Army were responsible for the surge in
violent crimes after the civil war. In addition; the summary execution of failed coup
plotters and the use of excessive force against civilians in the country by military
officers promoted the culture of violence in the country. A whole generation of
Nigerian children who were born and nurtured in the contest of military dictatorship
were socialized to accept that “force makes right.’’
vi. The military in politics, emasculated the Nigerian Police Force (NPF); the principal
agency for internal security in the country. The successive military regimes craved for
monopoly of armed state apparatus, to this end, they deliberately reduced the Police


TEXT OF A TALK ON NATIONAL ORIENTATION AND THE 2019 GENERAL
ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA PRESENTED AT THE 2018 FAMILY UNIT DAY OF THE
KINSWAY INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CENTRE (KICC), ASABA

It must be made clear that my assignment here today is to present a talk and not a
lecture. I am also convinced that the choice to keep the assignment within the frame of
just a talk is very appropriate for the audience and occasion as we have here today. I
am therefore going to do just what I have been assigned to do and to the best of my
knowledge.
Before going properly into the focus of our talk, permit me to express my appreciation to
the KICC as a global Church/Christian Organization for the vision to create a generation
of Christians equipped with the proper knowledge and application of the teachings of
the Bible, and as such become champions dominating their societies. KICC to me is not
just a Church; it is an institution of learning for Christians who bear in their soul, the
longing to live out the true meaning of the truth that shall set humans free, and how not
to perish for the want of knowledge. It is therefore on this score; I wish to thank God for
the KICC vision and all those He is using in turning that vision into mighty
manifestations.
Now back to our topic; National Orientation and the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria. It
is an interesting topic to discuss for so many reasons. This is most especially because
of our different views about elections into public office in our country, and secondly;
because of the level of divisive tendencies that now experience.
Orientation simply means sustained attitude, and attitudes are developed over time
through learning, norms, traditions and other processes of socialization. The people of
every society or nation are often identified with certain attitudes which are common
among them and peculiar to them as a people. Their societies are shaped by these
attitudes with which they are identified. The Americans are identified with their attitude
of patriotism to the American nation; they put their country’s interest above any other
interest. They are also very business minded as they are known to be interested only in

things that ensures benefits to them and they can go to any length to seek and enforce
their basic rights and liberties.


Democracy day in Nigeria

Democracy as a political concept in the management and regulation of exercise of power and
authority within the framework of a polity is readily traced to the Greek city-state of Athens. The
concept is a derivative from two words; demos meaning the people/citizens and kratus meaning
rule. It simply means rule by the people as against rule by an oligarchy or aristocracy. It remains
the greatest legacy of the Greeks and Romans to the modern world.
In the contemporary world, democracy has its root in the 1215 Charter ‘the Magna Carter’ in
England. This was the Charter that subordinated the English monarch to the English Parliament
and the rule of law. At its declaration of independence, the USA penned down in her constitution
the framework of what is today referred to as republican democracy; a system that has no room
for aristocrats and kings but which is not oblivious of the fact that unchecked rule by the
majority could become mob rule and devoid of the wisdom and proper safeguards required for
the stability and efficiency of governments. The American republican democracy is therefore a
model that seeks the rule of citizens with the manifest capacity to form the government of their
country and govern through their representatives. It is government by the rule of law, separation
of powers, and decentralization of economic and political authority as well as pluralism;
contestations and tolerance.
It is therefore clearly discernable that the fundamental threshold of any democracy is that the
sovereign authority of State power rest with the citizens. In exercising this sovereignty, the
citizens elect some of its members and give them consent to create and maintain institutions for
the sustenance of law and order as well as manage certain material resources for the benefit of
the citizens. This is also called the social contract.
Democracy is therefore only possible where there is a community; micro or macro in which the
people share common interests and consensus towards an egalitarian life. It must be a
community of mutual interdependence not that of groups of co-existing parties with
contradicting and irreconcilable aspirations. It must be a polity in which the people have the
capacity to make and unmake government through free, fair and credible periodic elections. The
government must not just dominate the citizens, but accept structural differentiation and cultural
secularization such that there must be functional autonomous existence of other groups in
decentralization of political and economic powers as well in religious and cultural life.
It is in the light of the above that we must ask ourselves whether Nigeria in the first place could
be called a democratic nation as to make a day set outside as Democracy Day relevant to her
citizens.
To us; June 20 not June 12, 1993 will forever remain a significant day in the history of Nigeria.
Yes; the ill-fated Presidential Election took place on June 12 but the annulment of its result was
on June 20. This day the annulment was announced has the same significance with January 16,
1966 and July 29, 1966 these three days in the political history of Nigeria are of greater
importance than January 1, 1914 and October 1, 1960.

While January 1, 1914 and October 1, 1960 represent the fallacy called Nigeria, January 16,
1966, July 29, 1966 and June 20, 1993 represent its reality. This reality is the demonstrated fact
on the three occasions that Nigeria is at best a group of micro nations co-existing in mutual
suspicion, and that its military apparatus is not in the service of the nation. These historical
events are nothing but eloquent testimonies that Nigeria is grossly lacking in the first cardinal
pillar of a democratic nation. A nation in which the military could be partisan in politics, be used
to prosecute a sectional mission within the country, willfully subvert the will of the people
cannot refer to itself as a democracy.
We pride ourselves with the cross ethnic and cross religious nature of the result of that June 12,
1993 Presidential Election, but what can we say about the response that greeted its annulment.
Did the agitations reflect the fact that what was being trepanned upon is a consensus of the
Nigerian people? If Nigerians across the country poured out to the streets as witnessed in the
South West of the country, would the annulment have been sustained? Can democracy thrive
without the common will of the citizens to act together? After the will of God, the next most
potent power on earth is the power of a people acting in a common resolve and towards a
common end.
Furthermore; looking at the structural aberrations and the deep rooted contradictions of our
country, and judging by how the country is being administered, there can be no contradicting the
fact that the country as constituted and managed can neither be stable nor democratic.


A History of Oppression and Resistance
Part 1: From Slavery to Civil War

A History of Oppression and Resistance
Part 1: From Slavery to Civil War

Black people did not “come to this country seeking a better life.” They were kidnapped from their homes in
Africa, dragged in chains and loaded onto slave ships–treated not like human beings but like things, commodities
to be traded and used to enrich others. Tens of millions of enslaved Africans died before even reaching America,
so terrible were the conditions on the slave ships. Those who survived the trip and were then sold to plantation
owners were treated like pieces of machinery. Slave owners commonly referred to the slaves as “talking tools.”
That is how Black people were treated for the first 250 years of their experience in America.


The “founding fathers” of the USA defended slavery and upheld the interests of the slave owners against the
slaves. This is true of “the father of his country,” George Washington, who was himself a slave owner, and it is
true of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States –men like
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.


African peoples, and the native peoples in North America, were treated as something less than human–as though
they were “beasts” or “savages” who never had reached and never could reach the “high level of civilization” of
the Europeans. The fact that, both in Africa and in North America, there were highly developed societies and
cultures long before Europeans came to dominate these places–this basic truth was denied and “written out of
history” by the European conquerors and enslavers.


Black people’s own major and heroic role in fighting against slavery is denied or downgraded by the “official
histories.” The facts are that there were over 200 slave revolts, including the more famous ones led by Nat Turner
in Virginia and Denmark Vesey in South Carolina, as well as other revolts that were covered up and written out
of history by the slave masters.


What about the Civil War that finally ended slavery? Once they were allowed to, masses of Black people flooded
into the northern (Union) army in that war and fought courageously and with great sacrifice on the front lines–
even though they were still subjected to segregation and discrimination, even down to the level where their pay as
soldiers was only about half that of the white soldiers! Nearly 200,000 Blacks fought in the Union army and one
out of every five (almost 40,000) gave their lives in this fight.


The Civil War came about because of the clash between two different economic and social systems–slavery,
based on plantation farming in the South; and capitalism, based on factory and other wage-labor centered in the
North. Things had gotten to the point where these two systems could no longer peacefully coexist within the
same country.


The slave owners and the capitalists were battling each other for control of the country, they were battling each
other as the USA expanded westward. This expansion was carried out by slaughtering the native peoples and
grabbing their lands and waging a war to steal a huge chunk of land from Mexico.


Anyone who is serious and honest knows that the enslavement and exploitation of Black people has been a big
part of building up the wealth and power that the rulers of this country have in their hands–wealth and power that
these suckers use to further exploit and oppress people here and all over the world. And anyone who is honest
and serious knows that for revolution to have a chance in this country–a revolution to do away with all this
oppression and exploitation and to change society from bottom to top–Black people must play and will play a big
part in this revolution.
        
The text in this centerfold is from “Cold Truth, Liberating Truth: How This System Has Always Oppressed Black
People, and How All Oppression Can Finally Be Ended,” which can be found online at revcom.us/coldtruth/.

The oppression of black people in the USA today
Thu, 02/10/2008 – 11:03
The systematic oppression of black Americans is deeply embedded in the fabric of US society. In a nation made
up of immigrants, blacks were the ones brought there forcibly and kept as slaves for 150 years. Although racism
afflicts many ethnic groups, racism against black people is “justified” by a racist ideology derived from slavery
and the hundred year old apartheid system of Jim Crow, which insists on their inferiority to whites. Though
officially hidden today, it underpins the horrific inequality in education, employment, housing, healthcare, and
levels of poverty dividing black and white Americans. A 2008 report by the National Urban League (Annual
Report on Socio-economic Conditions in Black America), which investigates the realities faced by black citizens,
has uncovered some brutal facts. It finds that there is still indisputable evidence that the criminal justice system is
pitted against young black men, and systematically criminalises them.
For example, blacks who are arrested are seven times more likely to be imprisoned than whites; they are
sentenced to death four times more often than whites, and the average prison sentence is 10 months longer for
black men than for white men. In addition 98 per cent of District Attorneys, those responsible for initiating
prosecutions, are white and black jurors are challenged far more than whites.
Black Americans make up 12.2 per cent of the American population, but black men under 25 years of age are 15
times more likely to die by murder than white men. Black men make up 48 per cent of those on death row. Of the
two million people imprisoned in the US, one million are black. Yet blacks are still 20 times more likely than
whites to be a victim of hate crime.The US legal system uses systematic racist techniques to convict and sentence
blacks. The death penalty is racist. An in-depth study by researchers, ‘Prison Nation: the Warehousing of
America’s Poor’, found that whether someone is given the death penalty is down to the quality of legal defence,
not the facts of the crime. Most of those on death row could not afford their own lawyer. So the death penalty is
also a class issue – there are no rich people on death row.The National Urban League also finds:
• More than 80,000 Black Americans die every year due to lack of health insurance
• Black people are less likely to own their own home than any other ethnic group
• Black women are five to six times more likely to receive sub prime mortgages than white males
• Blacks people are three times more likely to receive higher rate mortgage loans (54.7 per cent of blacks
compared to 17.2 per cent of whites)
• 25 percent of the black population live below the poverty line, and of those under the ages of 18, 33.5 per cent
live in poverty.
These are just some examples of the horrific inequality black people face in the USA, not to mention the racism
that also works on unconscious levels, racism which exists in the workplace, in social relations, and in the
education system.

As the whole world saw in 2006, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, in the richest country on earth the
black and poor inhabitants were left to save themselves or drown. Hungry survivors were shot at when they took
food from abandoned shops.
And two whole years after Katrina, tens of thousands of its victims are still awaiting permanent housing (UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination). New housing projects which were promised by the
government simply are not being built. Public housing for low-income families is being demolished to make way
for new private housing, and rents on existing homes are being raised.On average Black male fulltime workers
earn only 72 per cent of the earnings of their white class brothers. For women, the comparable ratio is 85 percent.
In boom and recession alike, black unemployment is double the white rate. In the 40 years since Martin Luther
King was assassinated, the income disparity between blacks and whites has narrowed by only three cents in the
dollar. In a country with very little public housing, black homeownership is only 47 per cent compared with 75
per cent for whites. In 2005 the median per capita income was $16,629 for blacks and $28,946 for whites. At this
rate it would take another 537 years to reach income equality. But if Democrats and Republicans keep on
demolishing welfare programmes, this snail’s pace improvement will go into reverse. (All figures from: Race and
Extreme Inequality by Dedrick Muhammad in The Nation, June 11, 2008)
It’s not surprising that Barack Obama declared in March this year that “race is an issue that I believe this nation
cannot afford to ignore” and spoke of the racial divide between black and white which he hoped to overcome. But
what is he actually promising to do for African-Americans?
Obama’s manifesto, Blueprint for Change, contains some positive measures such as providing support for ex-
offenders including mental health counselling, job training, and re-integration. Non-violent offenders on drugs
charges will be sent to rehabilitation centres instead of to prisons. However these measures are really only
sticking plasters on the gaping wounds of racism. There is in Obama’s programme nothing like a strategy to lift
black people out of poverty, find equally paid jobs for the unemployed and stop police and legal harassment.It
will take more than the election of a black president to do this. Indeed the candidate of a capitalist and imperialist
party like the Democrats is bound to fail to meet the hopes of African Americans.Socialists want to address this
burning question. We must overcome the divisions between white, Latino and black workers and weld them into
an organised force, a party which puts to the forefront of its struggle the ending of black oppression and
exploitation. In general white Americans of all classes are privileged in relation to black people. Nevertheless
white workers, especially the poorer majority, are much less privileged than the middle class. Poor whites are
also sidelined and exploited, patronised and abused, which can lead to a clear need for solidarity between poorer
black and white workers. Especially in the present period, when the failure of capitalism is being brought home
painfully to the great majority of Americans, a revolutionary socialist party can unite the fragmented working
class and raise once more the banner of a socialist America, free from poverty, oppression, inequality and racism.

Theses on the Middle East and North Africa
International Executive Committee Tue, 19/08/2014 – 10:25
Middle East and North Africa Theses: revolution and counter-revolution in the Arab Spring. Adopted by
International Executive Committee, June 29th, 2014
A. Revolution and counter-revolution in the Arab world

  1. The third anniversary of the outbreak of the Arab Revolutions provided little cause for celebrations. Events in
    Egypt, Syria and Libya indicated the advance in various forms of a counterrevolution that has crushed most of the
    hopes and achievements of 2011
  2. In Egypt, after the coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi, led by army commander Abdel Fattah el-
    Sisi on July 3, 2013, a campaign of bloody reprisals was launched against the Muslim Brotherhood. In August,
    hundreds were killed by the army in clearing the protest camps in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares.
  3. On the third anniversary of the revolution, the police and the military killed over 50 MB supporters. Supporters
    of the youth organisations that sparked the revolution were beaten and pepper sprayed off the streets to prevent
    them reaching Tahrir Square. This potent symbol of popular power was reserved for those calling for el-Sisi to
    stand for President. The activists who led the January 25 Revolution, like Ahmed Maher Ahmed Douma and
    Mohamed Adel of the 6 April, have been arrested and jailed for organising demonstrations without police
    permission.
  4. Thousands have been detained and there are reports of widespread torture and illegal killings. A court has
    sentenced 528 Morsi supporters to death; with over 700 similar trials in the pipeline. Even where these sentences
    are commuted, they mark an intensity of repression that former dictator Hosni Mubarak did not dare attempt. The
    fact of el-Sisi’s election as President only emphasises the profoundly counterrevolutionary character of the events
    since the July coup. That coup was due, in no small measure, to the support not only of bourgeois liberals like
    Mohamed El Baradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi, but also from many of the confused revolutionaries of 2011.
  5. In Syria, the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and its Russian, Iranian and Lebanese backers have transformed
    revolution into a bloody civil war. Estimates of the dead range from 100,000 to 150,000. Two million refugees
    have fled the country, two thirds of them women and children. In addition, 4 million people are internally
    displaced. In a country of 22.5 million people, one quarter have been driven from their homes.
  6. Russian imperialism’s veto in the Security Council and its supply of weapons and other logistical support to
    Assad, plus the intervention of battle hardened Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Revolutionary Guards from
    Iran, have been crucial to the successes of this counterrevolution. To date, this remains the primary imperialist
    intervention in Syria, not the verbal posturing of Obama, Cameron or Hollande.
  7. They have rendered the anti-Assad rebellion very little material support. Indeed, their fear of inadvertently
    arming “Al Qaeda”, that is, any radical Islamist fighters, has prevented them arming anybody. What support there
    has been has come from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey who, in this respect, are far from being mere puppets of
    the White House as testified to by the fact that their aid has gone to the various strands of Islamists that stand
    closest to them and which the US fear more than they fear the Assad regime.
  8. However, the large numbers of Sunni jihadis, indigenous and foreign, such as the Al-Nusra Front and the even
    more vicious Sunni-sectarian ISIS, whether or not they are fighting Assad, act as a “counterrevolution within the
    revolution”, committing communalist atrocities and attacking the Free Syrian Army and the local revolutionary
    committees. They, too, indicate the powerful reactionary reflux afflicting the revolutions of the Arab Spring. The
    present ISIS offensive in Iraq has no progressive content whatsoever. Rather, it has the character of an all out
    sectarian civil war, although revolutionaries must condemn and oppose any intervention by the US and its allies,
    or by Iran, to prop up the no less reactionary Maliki regime.
  9. In Bahrain, the activists of 2011 still languish in jail, most famously the Bahrain Thirteen. In Libya, Islamist
    and tribal forces fight over the spoils of the revolution and in the other Arab countries a deadly silence reigns.
  10. Only in Tunisia are the forces of the trade unions, the youth and the left, successfully fighting off the attacks
    both of the Feloul (remnants of the old regime) and Islamist counterrevolutionaries. Even here, however, they
    have run an enormous political danger by supporting an interim government that is pledged to carry out IMF
    “reforms”. Without political class independence and anti-capitalism, the strength of the Tunisian workers could
    also be sapped by the Islamist demagogy of more radical salafist movements like Ansar al-Sharia, active amongst
    the unemployed and the poor.
  11. In the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, recently observed, “The terrible
    setbacks in both of these important Arab nations have largely dimmed the excitement over the revolution and
    undermined the promise of change, when change has brought even more instability, violence and despair.” Many
    prominent activists, especially those in Egypt who have been imprisoned for protesting against the repression that
    has followed el-Sisis’s July 3 coup, have voiced their desperation at events that seem to have overturned their
    hopes.
  12. Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement has written that “Everything collapsed”. Addressing a future
    generation of youth activists, he wrote, “And instead of your generation reaping the fruits of January 25, it is now
    up to you to start anew after January 25 was exterminated.”
  13. Indeed, there is no use closing one’s eyes to the advance of the forces of counterrevolution. Aided by the
    errors or crimes of both the Liberal and Islamist forces that were able briefly to usurp the revolutions, regimes
    very similar to those of pre-2011 are re-forming. What happens in Egypt in the first year or so of el-Sisi’s
    presidency will be crucial.
  14. The economic problems of the country could rapidly alienate sections of his mass base but that does not
    guarantee the development of an effective opposition to his rule. The opportunist and erratic policies of the
    independent trade unions and the left mean that there is an acute absence of any principled leadership able to
    elaborate a strategy of resistance to el-Sisi. Such a strategy would have to include a political direction for trade

unionists, a united front with the Islamists in defence of democratic rights and against repression whilst
maintaining complete political independence of them.

  1. The confusion of the far left and the workers’ movement is enormous. For example, the Revolutionary
    Socialists, having supported Morsi in 2012 to stop Ahmed Shafiq, “the candidate of the feloul”, supported el
    Sisi’s ousting of Morsi a year later. Then, in the presidential elections of 2014, after they became victims of his
    brutal repression themselves, they gave support to Hamdeen Sabahi, the tame oppositionist candidate who
    supported el-Sissi’s repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise, the independent union leader, Kamal Abu-
    Eita, supported el-Sisi’s coup and even entered his first administration as minister of labour.
  2. In the other principal states of the Arab Spring, various degrees of stalemate, retreat or defeat of the genuinely
    revolutionary forces are equally undeniable. The democratic youth and the workers who initiated the
    revolutionary movements have been thrust into the background, or suffered martyrdom on a shocking scale.
  3. The idea that access to the internet and satellite TV, or the use of social media, could provide the key to an
    irreversible democratic transformation has received a cruel refutation. Likewise, the illusion that spontaneous
    peaceful revolutions, without programmes or the leadership of political parties, could transform these countries,
    has also been refuted by events. Old bureaucratic institutions, the army, the Islamist parties, even murderous
    communalist terrorist groups, have been able to usurp the great mass upheavals prepared and initiated by the
    young.
  4. It is equally wide of the mark to blame all these defeats solely on a conspiracy by US imperialism and its
    allies. In fact, the actions of the western powers, while totally counterrevolutionary in their goals, have proved
    singularly inept and ineffective. Those leftists who think that imperialism exists only in the singular can hardly
    understand what is going on.
  5. The forces of counterrevolution have powerful support from Russian and Chinese imperialisms and their
    Iranian and, to some extent, Iraqi, clients. Moreover, the old allies of the US; Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Gulf
    states like Qatar, plus Israel, are often pursuing policies which run counter to the wishes of the US. Though often
    supporting opposed sides, all of these forces are seeking to impose a counterrevolution that will advance their
    own interests while putting an end to the Arab revolutions.
  6. Yet, despite bloody reverses and political confusion and paralysis, the motive forces that began the
    revolutions in 2010-11 are not yet completely exhausted and the forces of counter-revolution are neither
    omnipotent nor firmly in control. In the year ahead, they will face the same problems as the previous regimes
    experienced; the difficulty of meeting the urgent economic and social needs of the broad masses. In Syria, the
    very reliance of Assad on Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and his resort to fomenting sectarian
    massacres, indicate that his forces remain at full stretch.
  7. In Egypt, Abdel Fattah el Sisi has only established himself thanks to an unholy and unstable alliance of the
    feloul and the Liberals who, unable to generate a social base of their own, went “for a ride on the tiger” of the
    military high command. As the masses become undeceived by the actions of the government, its attacks on the
    trade unions and strikes and its continued repression of the left, larger and larger numbers will realise that they
    have installed not a new Nasser but a new Mubarak.
  8. Even if counterrevolution triumphs in Syria and Egypt, or in Tunisia, and a fraudulent capitalist “democracy”
    is institutionalised in a form far from the dreams of the young revolutionaries of three ago, these great “people’s
    revolutions” (Lenin’s term) will leave an indelible imprint on the region and prepare the way for greater events to
    come. Just as the Russian Revolution of 1905 proved, albeit twelve years later, the dress rehearsal for a far
    greater revolution.
  9. The task of revolutionary socialists in the Middle East and North Africa and worldwide is to analyse the rich
    experience and learn the lessons of the past three years. Key issues include; the relationship of the youth to the
    working class and the other oppressed and exploited layers of the population; their capacity to help build
    revolutionary organisations; the role of trade unions, old and new, in a revolution; the role of the general strike;
    the attitude to the army and the contradiction between its high command and officer caste and the rank and file
    soldiers; Islamist political parties and their liberal pro-capitalist enemies and how not to be used/abused by either;
    the role of potential bonapartes from the diplomatic and even entertainment worlds; above all, the need for a mass
    revolutionary working class party that can pose, and answer, the questions of government, of power for the youth
    and the working class in order to achieve social justice and political freedom.
  10. It is also necessary to examine the decisions made by the revolutionary forces at critical conjunctures; both
    those that were correct and courageous, and the serious mistakes, such as the support for Morsi and el-Sisi cited
    above. Different, even conflicting, forces of counterrevolution, foreign and domestic, have taken advantage of
    such errors. The task is to fight for fidelity to fundamental principles and the strategic and tactical answers that
    are still possible and could turn the counter-revolutionary tide if the masses adopted them. Even if the events of
    2013-2014 prove to have brought an end to the revolutionary period, opening up a period of counter-
    revolutionary reaction, the need to learn the lessons of the Arab Spring will be critical for the inevitable next
    wave of revolution in the region.
    B. The revolutionary character of the Arab Spring
  11. Lenin’s well-known analysis of the conditions that give rise to revolutions applies fully to the Arab
    Revolutions of 2011. They occur, he said, when the exploited and oppressed classes “do not want to live in the
    old way”, and when, in addition to this, the upper classes are unable “to rule and govern in the old way”; when “it
    is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change”, leading to “a crisis in the policy of
    the ruling class”, which creates “a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes
    burst forth”.
  12. This applies with full force to the situation in the Arab countries in the years, indeed the decade, immediately
    preceding the explosion of the winter/spring of 2010-11. In many Arab countries, especially in Egypt, whose
    regime’s complicity with Israel and the USA was all too obvious, there were student and unemployed youth
    demonstrations in solidarity with the young fighters of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000-2002.
  13. The high period of globalisation placed many Arab states in crippling financial dependence on the imperialist
    centres through private FDI and IMF/WB and US-EU loans. The conditions for these loans obliged them to open
    up their economies even further, privatise industries and services and run down the very limited welfare systems,
    price controls, food and fuel subsidies etc. that had been introduced by the nationalist regimes between the 1950s
    and 1970s.
  14. Then, the feverish boom of 2005-07 that ended this phase, generated enormous food and fuel costs inflation,
    with no corresponding increase in wages or job opportunities for the young. This led to riots and strikes over
    rising prices, especially in Egypt. As Adam Hanieh states (Lineages of Revolt) “Often working a twelve hour day
    and having to do two jobs, Egyptian workers earn 81 percent less than workers in Turkey, 65 percent less than
    workers in Tunisia, 40 percent less than in India and even 15 per cent less than in Pakistan.” Between 2004 and
    2009, more than 1,900 protests involved 1.7 million workers in strike action.
  15. The dry tinder for revolt existed in plenty as did an activist vanguard of young students and workers, steeled by
    the repression of the regimes but still able to work semi-legally and semi-clandestinely, in countries like Egypt
    and Tunisia.
  16. A profound lesson can be learnt from Lenin’s State and Revolution. Here he refers to “Marx’s extremely
    profound remark that the destruction of the bureaucratic-military state machine is ‘the precondition for every real
    people’s revolution’.” Lenin observes that Marx’s reference to a people’s revolution seemed strange (perhaps a slip
    of the pen) to those Marxists brought up on the Mensheviks’ lifeless “antithesis between bourgeois revolution and
    proletarian revolution”. He defines a people’s revolution as one in which (a) “the mass of the people, their
    majority, the very lowest social groups, crushed by oppression and exploitation, rose independently and stamped
    on the entire course of the revolution the imprint of their own demands, their attempt to build in their own way a
    new society in place of the old society that was being destroyed.”
  17. To this he adds (b) a “people’s” revolution, one actually sweeping the majority into its stream, could be such
    only if it embraced both the proletariat and the peasants. These two classes then constituted the “people”. Such a
    people’s revolution, providing it smashed the bureaucratic-military state machine, could be the basis of “a free
    alliance of the poor peasants and the proletarians, whereas without such an alliance, democracy is unstable and
    socialist transformation is impossible.”
  18. Lenin adds that not all bourgeois revolutions are people’s revolutions, he cites the Young Turk officers’
    revolution in the Ottoman Empire, and not all people’s revolutions succeed in this “smashing” and therefore fail,
    here he cites the 1905 revolution in Russia. It should also be underlined that Lenin emphasises that without the
    breaking up of the old apparatus of repression not only is an advance to socialism impossible but also the
    attainment of what he calls a stable democracy, that is, one ensured against counter-revolutionary overthrow.
  19. The social causes of the masses’ discontent were exacerbated by the global economic crisis. The years
    following 2008 opened the region to the blast of a world crisis unprecedented since 1945, pushing up already
    high real levels of unemployment especially amongst the young. This set the objective conditions for a regional
    revolutionary earthquake. The initial protesters raised demands attacking hunger, unemployment and inflation,
    but were quickly joined by trade unionists, students, teachers and lawyers, raising political demands around
    corruption, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and police brutality.
  20. The Tunisian demand for “dignity”, a word that would later be repeated in the slogans of protesters in Syria,
    Egypt and elsewhere, expressed the decades-long, pent-up frustration of “ordinary” citizens with their daily
    humiliation by officials who routinely demanded bribes and police officers who harassed, arrested, beat up, and
    sometimes murdered, young people without cause and with impunity.
  21. Most visible of all was the alienation of a generation of youth that had received a university education from a
    society in which there was no prospect of their ever being able to make use of it. Thanks to an increased access to
    media outside the control of their own regimes, these young people were aware of a world where people like
    themselves were not humiliated in this way.
  22. The demands that brought “the whole people”, or at least a substantial proportion of it, into the streets, were
    demands classically associated with the establishment of modern bourgeois democratic systems: for genuine
    political pluralism, the accountability of the state to its citizens in free elections, freedom from arbitrary arrest
    and harassment by the state’s repressive organs, that is, the “rule of law”.
  23. Even so, and crucially, it was the action of the urban working class that proved decisive in provoking
    divisions within the state apparatus and in forcing Ben Ali’s flight from Tunisia. In Egypt, too, it was the threat
    that the square occupations and the bloody clashes in Alexandria and Suez would be joined by a tidal wave of
    workers’ strikes that finally convinced the military to abandon Mubarak.
  24. The Arab revolutions of 2011 directly involved at least five “republican” dictatorships (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya,
    Syria and Yemen) and one semi-absolutist monarchy (Bahrain). The countries where outbreaks were rapidly
    subdued, or remained minority affairs, were often those where invasions, occupations and civil wars had already
    exhausted the combustible material for rebellion; Algeria, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, etc.
    Nevertheless, the Arab Spring proved to be the greatest wave of revolutions since the collapse of the Soviet
    Union and the “actually existing socialisms” of Eastern Europe in 1989-91.
  25. The particular course of each revolution or uprising was the result of certain common features combining
    with nationally specific features. These included not just the differing political regimes, such as traditional
    dynastic monarchies or military bonapartist republics, but also the different socio-economic factors underpinning
    oil-rentier states like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Libya or the more industrialised and trading economies like
    Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, with Iraq having features of both.
    C. False revolutions but genuine counter-revolutions
  26. Gene Sharp, often seen as the world’s leading proponent of the concept of peaceful non-ideological
    revolutions, argues that it is possible to replace governments by mass mobilisations of “people power” without
    any revolution, in the accepted sense of the word, at all. Such “revolutions”, even when they are not just
    conspiracies of the US and EU secret services and western “democratic and human rights” foundations” and
    laughably misnamed Non-Governmental Organisations, are easily co-opted by the “democratic imperialisms”.
    The colour/flower nomenclature helps to avoid any political precision as to their objectives.
  27. This strategic model, supposedly confirmed by whole series of changes of government such as the “Rose
    Revolution” in Georgia, “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine, “Tulip (or Pink) Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan,
    “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon, and “Green Revolution” in Iran, met its match with the reality of Tunis and
    Cairo where the attempts to dub them the “Jasmine Revolution” and the “Lotus Revolution” signally failed. The
    Egyptian Revolution, in which over 800 died, was in no sense a Gene Sharp “revolution”. Undaunted, the
    imperialist strategists set out to mimic the Occupy movement and Tahrir Square with their bogus “Maidan
    Revolution” which US governments financed to the tune of $5bn.
  28. In Egypt, an amorphous movement, with the simple and negative slogan “the people demand the downfall of
    the regime”, was indeed able to “bring down” two presidents in succession, but it did not destroy the military
    regime behind the political facade of the presidency, the parliament, the Supreme Court etc. The army has three
    times shown that it knows how to transfer political office in order to avoid power falling into the hands of the
    people.
  29. First it transferred power from Mubarak to Field Marshall Tantawi; then (grudgingly and deceitfully) it
    transferred power from Tantawi to Morsi. This “power” turned out to be a deadly trap for the Brotherhood.
    Taking advantage of a partly genuine, partly fomented, mass uprising against Morsi, once again it transferred
    power, this time from Morsi to Al-Sisi. Moreover, with the aid of the liberals, a section of the revolutionary youth
    (in Tamerod) and a media induced cult of the personality around Al Sisi, it succeeded in installing a new military
    bonapartist dictatorship, which was subsequently legitimised in a plebiscitary election.
  30. Thus, the counter-revolutionary character of the Liberal bourgeoisie, confirmed in every revolution for a
    century and a half, is currently being demonstrated in Egypt. It shows that it falls to the proletariat, as the only
    consistently revolutionary class created by capitalism itself, to assume the role, played in the “classical”
    bourgeois revolutions by the bourgeoisie or its agents, of leading and completing the democratic revolution and
    of making its achievements permanent. This, in turn, requires it to achieve for itself political independence as a
    class.
  31. While the proletariat is, therefore, called upon by historic conditions to lead all the various other oppressed
    classes behind it, it cannot take on this leading role without satisfying its own demands, which will necessitate
    “despotic inroads on the rights of property” (Communist Manifesto) and, inevitably, the overthrow of capitalism
    itself. To achieve this, however, requires that it become the subjective, that is, conscious, agent of social
    revolution.
  32. In order to avoid its own ultimate defeat, the democratic revolution has to advance from the completion of
    democratic tasks to addressing socialist tasks. This is impossible without the smashing of the old apparatus of
    repression; the paramilitary police, the secret police, the spying and surveillance machinery. This “smashing”
    requires, above all, the liberation of the rank and file of the armed forces from the control of their high command
    and officer corps. Then, and only then, can “the army and the people (be) one hand.”
  33. At the same time, the basis of a new democratic and proletarian order requires the democratisation of the army
    by soldiers’ committees or councils and, parallel to this, the creation of a popular militia recruited from workers,
    peasants and urban poor. These must be under under the control of soldiers’ and workers’ committees, with the
    regular election of officers etc. Only thus will it be possible to prevent militias falling under the sway of tribal,
    Islamist, or plain criminal, elements, as we have seen in the civil wars in Libya and Syria.
  34. This transformation cannot be left to a spontaneous or inevitable “process”. It must be fought for consciously,
    first of all by a minority within the proletariat’s own ranks who, in the words of the Communist Manifesto,
    understand clearly “the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian
    movement”, in short, a revolutionary workers’ party.
    D. The semi-colonial army-state: the product of a weak bourgeoisie
  35. Colonial occupation and economic exploitation of the most populous Arab countries followed, post-1945, by
    semi-colonial exploitation by the US imperialist superpower, prevented the growth of a “national bourgeoisie” in
    Egypt, Syria or Iraq. Although military-bonapartist regimes were able to promote some state capitalist
    development between the 1950s and the 1980s, they failed utterly to complete the fundamental task of achieving
    national independence. There has been no Arab equivalent of Italy’s Piedmont or Germany’s Prussia, able to
    expel the foreign intruders or unite the Arab world.
  36. One of the most striking features of the weakness of the national bourgeoisie in the Arab states is its own
    abject prostration in front of a dictatorial state machine that consumes such a large part of the national income,
    and that defends its privileges and its political power partly at the expense of the bourgeoisie itself. This is the
    problem of Bonapartism, from which few, if any, Arab states (perhaps only Lebanon) have escaped.
  37. Even when the “Bonapartes” who headed these regimes were sincere Arab nationalists, like Nasser or the
    young Gaddafi, strong on anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist rhetoric and wildly popular with the masses, the core
    of their regimes has always been the military caste, with democratic liberties (especially for independent unions
    or the parties of the left) virtually non-existent. Moreover, they all rapidly outgrew their radical “revolutionary”
    origins, turning into corrupt, parasitic and stiflingly repressive regimes, often effecting a transition from an anti-
    US to pro-US stance in the process. Civil society, even its bourgeois élite, has remained weak and incapable of
    ousting these egregious “praetorian guards”.
  38. In Mubarak’s or el-Sisi’s Egypt, neither of the two major wings of the bourgeoisie, the Islamists and the
    “secular liberals”, have proved capable of standing up to the power of the military. The army, boosted by US
    military and economic aid as its reward for maintaining a reactionary peace treaty with Israel, is an economic
    power in its own right, controlling a vast empire of enterprises that are estimated to represent up to 40 per cent of
    the country’s economy.
  39. Similarly, in Assad’s Syria, a bloated military and security apparatus, ostensibly there to defend the country
    against Israel, and recruited partly on the basis of kinship and sectarian affiliation, stands violently and
    menacingly “above” society as a whole. The difference is that it relied on funds and arms initially from the Soviet
    Union and, later, from a newly imperialist Russia under Putin.
  40. In both cases, the upper ranks of the state apparatus are partly incorporated into the bourgeoisie, either
    “legally” or through various forms of corruption. They use the state apparatus as a network for distributing
    patronage to a wider base of support located in the more plebeian classes. This gives this “army-state
    bourgeoisie” the ability to dominate the bourgeoisie as a whole, unproductively extracting rents from it while
    blackmailing it with the threat of social chaos in the event that the “private” bourgeoisie tries to clip its wings or
    curb its excesses.
    E. The semi-colonial system and the role of imperialist powers
  41. Such regimes are not just the product of internal dynamics, but of these countries’ positions within the global
    system. The world markets are dominated by the bourgeoisies of the imperialist countries who use international
    institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to manipulate
    these markets in their favour. This ensures that the “private” bourgeoisie cannot simply “trade its way out” of its

semi-colonial subordination to them, even when, as in the case of the oil-rich Arab Gulf states, it is in possession
of a strategic global commodity.

  1. Unable to develop strong national markets for themselves, the bourgeoisies are obliged to concede this part of
    their historic role to the state apparatus, which fulfils it by the creation of national monopolies. This then forms
    the material basis for an ideology, promoted through such channels as the mass media and the education system,
    in which the army itself is the “representative of the people”, and therefore a source of political legitimacy in its
    own right. A bellicose but empty “nationalism” forms a key part of this ideology, even though the army’s actual
    record in defending the country’s national independence often contains very little to boast about.
  2. Moreover, the pre-2011 Arab dictatorships collectively formed part of a regional system that was shaped by its
    place in the global imperialist order. Within this, Israel played the role of US imperialism’s watchdog and
    enforcer, using its military power to punish any Arab regime that transgressed its permitted boundaries, and
    cutting down to size any state that threatened to break Israel’s monopoly as the dominant regional power.
  3. Turkey, as a NATO member and as an Israeli military ally, helped to contain “nationalist” Arab regimes like
    Syria and Iraq, while Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth was used to fund reactionary movements, not all of them
    “Islamic”, across the Arab world, and to prop up dictatorships like those of Mubarak and Ben Ali.
  4. The oil-rich Arab Gulf states as a whole acted as a regional social “safety valve”, taking in migrant workers
    and otherwise under-employed professionals from the poorer and more populous Arab states, and beyond. This
    “safety valve” could be turned on and off, rewarding friendly regimes and punishing others, as with Saudi
    Arabia’s expulsion of Yemeni nationals in response to their country’s support for Saddam’s Iraq in the 1991 Gulf
    War over Kuwait.
    This regional system came into existence during the Cold War, and included a role for Soviet-backed
    “nationalist” regimes in Egypt (until Sadat’s turn to the US) Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Algeria. Although
    Egypt’s military subsequently received billions in military aid annually to maintain the 1978 Camp David
    Accords that marked the official end of Egypt’s 30-year state of war with Israel, a series of events weakened and
    undermined this entire system.
    First, the 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah, US imperialism’s other great pillar of regional stability.
    This prompted the US to encourage Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the hope that Iran and Iraq would
    exhaust each other in the destructive eight years of war that followed. Then, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq
    disrupted it even further, unintentionally strengthening Iran’s position as a regional power by making the US
    dependent on pro-Iranian Shia politicians to ensure Iraq’s pacification. In addition, since the election of Turkey’s
    Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in November 2002, Turkey has moved away from Israel and
    developed regional ambitions of its own, clashing publicly with Israel over the attack on the “Gaza Freedom
    Flotilla” in May 2010.
    F. The Arab Spring’s strategic weakness – failing to smash the military bonapartist state
  5. The failure of the initial uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia to decisively break up the state apparatus by winning
    over the rank and file soldiers to the people and breaking the hold of the High Command and the officer corps,
    necessarily allowed the core of the old regimes, to remain in existence. The “feloul” took the opportunity to
    regroup, ensuring their own preservation partly by assuming the legitimacy of the revolutions that overthrew the
    tyrants that they themselves had previously served.
  6. Most importantly, this enabled the military regimes to survive intact with all their economic assets and quasi-
    judicial and prison systems. Their only cost was the purging of the geriatric old guard in favour of a slightly
    young layer. As a result, large numbers of militants were held and even tortured in military prisons, and then tried
    and sentenced by military courts. This can be seen most clearly in Egypt where first Tantawi and then el Sisi have
    been able to preserve the army’s immense power and riches without the slightest inroads being made into them,
    directing all the opprobrium onto the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    One reason for this was that the revolutionary movement limited itself to the “peaceful” tactic of square
    occupations, and the agitation around the slogan “the army and the people are one hand”. The youthful
    revolutionaries picked up this combination of pacifism, illusions in the Army, lack of a clear strategy for power,
    and a paucity of concrete demands, from their liberal, and libertarian, mentors in the US and Europe.
    Of course, a rapidly escalating revolution with a mass character cannot adopt complicated and detailed
    programmes, but a revolutionary leadership can, and should, focus the movement around key demands and
    slogans that not only express the needs of the masses but are also aimed at the regime’s weak points. That was the
    importance of the Bolsheviks’ tireless agitation around “Bread, Peace, Land!”, “All Power to the Soviets!”,
    “Convene the Constituent Assembly Now!”, “Workers’ Control of Production!”.
  7. A slogan like “the army and the people are one hand” might have been a basis for fraternising with rank and
    file soldiers but, as long as they remained under the control of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, it
    expressed a huge self-deception and one that became critical in the days following July 30, 2013, when it was
    consciously used by the High Command to camouflage a counter-revolutionary coup.
  8. The older revolutionary models, especially Bolshevism, which are ignored or scorned by the likes of Gene
    Sharpe, give far better advice: if the rank and file of the soldiers cannot be broken from the control of the officer
    caste and the High Command, then the “regime” whose downfall the people wished would survive the retirement
    of its ruling figurehead and his family. Events in Egypt and, to some extent in Tunisia and Yemen, have
    confirmed this.
  9. In Syria, by contrast, the totalitarian state’s repressive apparatus did not eject its figurehead in the interests of
    its own self-preservation. Instead, it merely haemorrhaged, as a flood of individual defectors from the country’s
    conscript army began to form the core of an amorphous and poorly-equipped “armed opposition” to the Ba’athist
    regime, loosely grouped together in the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  10. The domestic bourgeoisie, itself partly dependent for its wealth on its maintenance of a corrupt relationship
    with the state, remained solidly behind the Assad regime, thereby reinforcing its own subjection to it. Its
    “oppositional” cousins in exile have tried to compensate for their own weakness and inability to influence events
    on the ground by appealing to the Western imperialist powers for support, vainly pleading with them to intervene
    militarily on their behalf.
  11. They were cowed not just by the Assad regime’s almost unlimited capacity for violence against its own people,
    but also by the fear that the masses, having armed themselves in self-defence, would prove unwilling to return to
    “normal” conditions in the event that they overthrew the Assad regime by their own efforts.
    G. Nationalism and Internationalism
  12. Against the background of a common cultural inheritance and language, the rise of nationalism in the 20th
    century naturally generated an aspiration towards a single Arab nation, pan-Arab nationalism. This strategic goal
    was also adopted by the early Communist parties and maintained through the period of their Stalinisation. Pan-
    Arab nationalism was also utilised by the imperialist powers, most particularly Britain and France, in their
    manoeuvres against the collapsing Ottoman Empire. However, as soon as victory was achieved, these powers
    immediately betrayed their Arab allies and divided up the region under the guise of League of Nations Mandates.
  13. The reality of the Balkanisation of the region ensured the crystallisation of ruling classes and military elites in
    the “artificial” states whose borders, drawn up by bureaucrats in Europe, ignored the cultural and ethnic identities
    of the populations of the entire region. Nonetheless, pan-Arab nationalism survived as an aspiration amongst the
    popular classes, giving rise, even today, to a spontaneous identification with, and sympathy for, the struggles of
    the oppressed across the region.
  14. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the region became a key interface between the western imperialist
    powers, led by the USA, and the “Soviet Bloc”. Although both sides had their sphere of influence and key allies
    among the ruling classes, the lynchpin of the system was the creation of Israel and its principal victims were the
    Palestinians. Inevitably, as the balance of power in the world changed over the decades, so this “system”
    underwent sometimes radical re-alignments, as with Egypt’s re-orientation away from the Soviet Union towards
    the USA. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, presaged a more fundamental shift.
  15. The Arab revolutions have thrown up new challenges to this regional system. Oil-rich Qatar, the most
    apparently “stable” Gulf autocracy, allowed its pet television station Al Jazeera to act as the “voice” of the Arab
    revolutions, loudly cheering the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, and playing a key role in agitating for NATO’s
    intervention into the civil war that took place in Libya between the February 2011 Benghazi uprising and
    Gaddafi’s overthrow six months later.
  16. Qatar is now effectively competing with Saudi Arabia for the role of chief political and financial sponsor of the
    pro-Western Arab regimes. In place of Saudi Arabia’s preference for preserving apparently strong, but now
    visibly brittle, dictatorships, Qatar hopes to become godfather to somewhat more flexible and durable pro-
    Western pseudo-democracies. This Saudi-Qatari rivalry is at its most visible in Egypt, where the Saudis
    supported the overthrow of Morsi and el-Sisi’s dictatorship closed down Al Jazeera’s local affiliates.
  17. All the same, Qatar did not oppose, and indeed took part in, the March 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
    intervention in support of Bahrain’s monarchy, as its quid pro quo for NATO’s intervention in Libya.
    The rapid spread of the Arab uprisings and the mutual sympathy between the various countries where they took
    place has to be understood against this background. It also highlights a fundamentally important issue; the need
    for the revolutionaries of the region to learn from one another’s struggles, their mistakes and disasters as well as
    their victories.
    They will only maximise the advantages to be gained from this if they can create a powerful organisational unity
    among themselves and, indeed, with revolutionaries around the world. This would allow the creation of national
    parties and programmes independent of local developments. Periods of repression and exile could be used as
    fruitfully as they were by the Russian revolutionary exiles before 1917. In other words, the workers and socialists
    of the Middle East need not just politically independent working class revolutionary parties but a new
    revolutionary International.

H. Inter-imperialist rivalries sow confusion

  1. The restoration of capitalism in both Russia and China, and their emergence as “Great Powers”, that is,
    imperialist powers, has produced widespread confusion on the international Left. Not recognising the
    significance of the transformation of the class character of these states has meant that many continue to view
    international confrontations and conflicts through the prism of the Cold War, with a “socialist camp” on one side
    and the imperialist “West”, primarily the USA, on the other.
  2. When applied to the convulsions of the “Arab Spring”, this template led many to derive their attitudes towards
    the different forces involved from those forces’ relationship to the Cold War camps, rather than from their class
    content and programme.
  3. In Libya, for example, when the revolutionary movement against Gaddafi’s regime proved unable to remove
    him, the USA, despite the fact that Gaddafi had long ago made his peace with the West and abandoned even the
    rhetoric of anti-imperialism, decide to intervene to ensure his overthrow. In this, Washington was learning from
    its mistakes in Egypt and Tunisia where it initially backed Mubarak and Ben Ali against unstoppable
    revolutionary movements.
  4. That error had severely restricted the US ability to influence the outcome of the revolutions. In Libya, the very
    clear intention was to back those elements of the anti-Gaddafi movement who could be expected to become
    compliant “allies” and thus thwart any further radicalisation. In response to this, some on the Left concluded that
    Gaddafi continued to represent “anti-imperialism” because, in their world view, there was only one imperialism,
    the USA and its allies. This then led them to characterise the whole of the anti-Gaddafi movement as “pro-
    imperialist”.
    Others, seduced by the idea that, in the 21st century, revolutions consisted of mass mobilisations that could
    peacefully overthrow tyrants, concluded that the revolutionary potential of the anti-Gaddafi movement had been
    exhausted when it developed into revolutionary civil war. They, therefore, characterised that war as some kind of
    “tribal war” in which sides could not be taken.
  5. To complete this picture of international confusion, yet others, recognising the continued democratic impulse
    of the revolution, opted to drop their principled opposition to NATO. Echoing the “social imperialism” of a
    century earlier, they believed that intervention by the “democratic imperialisms” was the only way to ensure the
    victory of the anti-Gaddafi forces.
  6. The same errors would be repeated on an even bigger scale in Syria, this time without even the excuse of any
    direct Western intervention, and it was in Syria that the decline of US power, and the counter-revolutionary role
    of the rising Russian and Chinese imperialisms, became visible. Putin’s humiliation of Obama at the UN, when he
    blocked the Security Council from sanctioning US intervention in Syria, was a very clear indicator of the erosion
    of the unchallenged hegemony that Washington had enjoyed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  7. Leaving aside the heightened inter-imperialist rivalry expressed in the Ukrainian conflict and mounting
    tensions between China and its neighbours in the Far East, in the Middle East, the unravelling of US strategy
    continues in the aftermath of its effective defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the latter, the desperate attempt to
    secure control through the installation of a Shia communalist regime under Nouri al-Maliki has produced the
    ISIS-led Sunni uprising which threatens to tear the country apart altogether in a vicious sectarian civil war. This

prospect has even obliged the Americans to look to their erstwhile Enemy Number One, Iran, for “boots on the
ground”. Could anything more clearly illustrate the decline of US power?

  1. “Declining power” should not, however, be read as “loss of all power”. The USA remains by far the most
    powerful state both economically and militarily and, as the advance of NATO across Eastern and Central Europe
    to the very borders of the Russian Federation shows, it is guaranteed that every effort will be made to restore
    absolute supremacy.It is equally guaranteed that Russia and China, whether in concert or singly, will have to
    challenge the US on every front, fighting, in effect, to redivide the world, which, as Lenin explained nearly 100
    years ago, is in the nature of the imperialist epoch.
  2. For all imperialists, one tactic to advance that redivision is to support their rivals’ “internal” enemies, whether
    in the imperialist heartlands themselves or, more easily, in the semi-colonial countries through which they control
    the globe. It is therefore inevitable that each will attempt to suborn revolutionary movements in various countries
    all over the world. Revolutionaries in those countries will have to take advantage of these contradictions amongst
    the imperialist powers, just as the Bolsheviks did in 1917-18. After all, there is no revolutionary workers’ state
    extant to hand over weapons “without strings” to democratic and socialist revolutionaries.
  3. The point is to cut the strings the imperialists attach and to avoid at all costs subordinating themselves to them
    and their strategy. With the development of new imperialisms, it is vital not to entertain illusions that one is better
    than another; the USA or EU because they are “democratic”, Russia or China because they are “anti-imperialist”
    (let alone “socialist” or “communist”). Absolute political class independence is the only guarantee of not being
    used and then discarded by any of these world robbers. Given the unavoidable national pressures on all
    revolutionary movements, the creation of a new revolutionary international party, a Fifth International, is the
    essential pre-requisite for the development and maintenance of the independent worldview of the international
    proletariat.
    J. Defending, resuming and completing the revolutions
  4. The serious advance of the counterrevolution in the Middle East and North Africa in 2013-14 is a result of the
    failure of the genuine revolutionary forces to complete the revolutions in 2011 and 2012; “A revolution which
    stops halfway digs its own grave.”
  5. Today, revolutionaries have to defend their gains against a ferocious counter-attack by the resurgent forces of
    the old regimes. They have the right to expect the solidarity, material and moral, of revolutionaries from outside
    the region. This includes aid to the ongoing struggles, like Syria, the fight for the right of asylum for those fleeing
    brutal repression and aid to create organising, publishing and communications centres abroad from which to
    organise underground work where this is needed. It means exposure of the crimes of the counterrevolution and
    also international political debate and discussion of the issues of the struggle.
  6. Learning the lessons of defeats as well as victories is critical to turn the former into the latter. Without
    smashing the apparatus of repression, above all by spreading democracy to the barracks and taking the armed
    forces out of the hands of the reactionary high command inherited from the old regimes, counter-coups were, and
    are, inevitable.
  7. The ordinary conscript soldiers must have full democratic rights including the right to gather and discuss in
    mass assemblies in the barracks, to submit their officers to election and to elect rank and file soldiers’ committees
    or councils. Only this could ensure that the armed forces will never again be used as blind tools to make coups
    and defend dictatorships.
  8. In the next resurgence of the revolution, the surviving or restored military dictatorships and the absolute and
    “constitutional” monarchies must be dissolved and their plunder, accumulated over decades, must be confiscated
    and used to meet the needs of the people. All the top officials of the regimes must be publicly brought to trial for
    their exploitation and repression of the people. All political prisoners must be released and all exiles given the
    right to return; the crimes against them must be publicised and the perpetrators brought to justice.
  9. The police chiefs and torturers responsible for repression must be arrested and their crimes exposed. The
    Mukhabarat/military intelligence (secret police) and all the regimes’ paramilitary squads, plus the gangs of
    baltageya (hatchet men) must be disarmed, disbanded and punished for their crimes.
  10. Instead of the corrupted police forces that prey on the people, a militia of workers, youth and women,
    including people from the ethnic and religious minorities must be built. They will keep order on the streets and in
    the local communities, combating assaults, theft, rape etc, as well as counter-revolutionary and fascistic forces.
    They must, however, act under the democratic supervision of local delegate councils, not under the influence of
    tribal, religious or criminal gangs.
  11. There must be complete freedom to form political parties, to demonstrate, to meet, to have unfettered access to
    the broadcast media and to publish newspapers. Above all, there must be access to the media by the workers and
    youth who took the lead in the uprisings.
  12. There must be an immediate rise in wages, a minimum wage that can support a family and a sliding scale of
    wages and income for the unemployed, to combat inflation. There must be an immediate mass distribution of
    food, fuel for cooking and heating, clothes and other life essentials to the poor.
  13. The rights of women must be established; full equality before the law, equal entry into all educational
    professions, an end to compulsory dress codes, and separation of the sexes in public places and institutions,
    severe punishment of harassment, assault and rape. The provision of childcare (nurseries, crèches, including in
    factories offices etc.) is essential to remove all barriers to entry into the workforce. Vital, too, is the legal and
    actual implementation of equal pay. The abolition of patriarchal control over women is an especially
    revolutionary task. The right to access free and safe contraception and abortion is vital to enable women to have
    control over whether and when to have children. Women must control this, not husbands, fathers or the clergy.
  14. The unemployed, especially the huge numbers of educated but under utilised youth of both sexes, must be
    enrolled in programmes of socially valuable public works to replace the slums with decent housing, schools,
    clinics, etc.
    Elections must take place, under the control and protection of workers’ and popular committees and their militias,
    to a sovereign and revolutionary Constituent Assembly. Vital as it is, a fundamental law which protects the
    democratic rights of all citizens is not the central task of such an assembly. Rather, it must debate before the
    whole nation (via TV, radio, live internet streaming, social media etc) exactly what should be the social
    foundation, the property relations, of the new republic.
  15. Concretely, the masses must be directly engaged in a debate, via mass assemblies, over what should happen
    to the lands of the rich landowners, the vast property of the army chiefs, the factories and retail outlets. In short,
    this debate should focus on the issue of whether the revolution should establish not just democracy but also
    socialism.
  16. As Trotsky foretold, and as the social counterrevolutions in Eastern Europe, Russia and China have
    demonstrated, socialism cannot be built in a single country. The revolution must become permanent, not only in
    the sense that it must advance resolutely from democratic rights to socialist tasks, but that it must spread to other
    countries in a regional and world revolution.
  17. For this reason, even before the triumph of the revolution, there must be active support for popular uprisings
    and revolutions against the ruling tyrants in all the countries of North Africa and the Middle East; practical aid
    and solidarity with the Palestinians and against the blockade of Gaza.
  18. To really complete the Arab revolutions, it is necessary for the working class and the unions to launch all out
    general strikes to force out any and every capitalist government, whether monarchy or republic, dissolving any
    fake do-nothing parliaments, replacing the feloul judges and electing new ones democratically, under the
    protection of the workers and revolutionary youth.
  19. Revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ governments are the essential outcome of such a revolution. Their
    priority must be to address the burning material needs of the people with programmes of public works on urgent,
    socially necessary projects, funded by taxing or expropriating the rich as well as European and US big business
    interests.
  20. The Arab revolutions, which began as democratic revolutions in January-February 2011, must be completed
    by uprooting all the repressive machinery of the dictatorships and monarchies and fulfilling all the democratic
    aspirations of workers, women and youth. To meet the burning needs of the people for jobs, food, land, health
    and education services and women’s rights, a social revolution against capital is completely unavoidable. Without
    it, the democratic and anti-imperialist revolution will retreat and fail.
  21. Only a socialist revolution, which overthrows the capitalist class, foreign and native, and builds a system
    based on workers’ councils can solve the problems of the underpaid workers, the unemployed youth and the
    poverty stricken population of the towns and the countryside and unite the whole Middle East and North African
    region.
  22. The spreading of the revolution must lead to the creation of a socialist federation of the entire Middle East
    and North Africa, to unite the forces of all against imperialism, to organise the maximum sharing of natural
    resources, the optimum development of the forces of production including, crucially, human labour, and to plan
    the elimination of poverty.

Political turmoil in Pakistan and the crisis of bourgeois rule
Hassan Raza Tue, 26/08/2014 – 18:06
Pakistan has reached another political impasse. On August 15, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Islamabad
as two massive mobilisations and marches from Lahore reached the city with high hopes of “change” and even
“revolution”. Since their arrival, the demonstrators have been occupying central sites in the capital city.
Although they are coordinating their actions, the two marches are politically and organisationally separate. One is
the Azaadi March (Independence March), led by Imran Khan, a former captain of the national cricket team and
winner of the World Cup, and the founder of the bourgeois populist Pakistan Justice Party, PTI (Pakistan
Tehreek-i-Insaf). The other is the Inqlabi March (Revolutionary March), led by the sufist cleric Tahirul Qadri,
himself the leader of the Pakistan People’s Movement PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehrik).
The Azaadi March focuses on fighting against the rigged elections in 2013 and for democratic demands. Its social
base is the middle class, including some of its upper layers. While the Sharif family has done very well from the
premiership of Nawaz Sharif and has 82 of its members in federal or provincial government posts, many
capitalists feel they have been denied the influence on government to which they think they are entitled.
Whilst rigged elections are common in Pakistan, Khan’s critique focuses on the fact that the election commission
itself has effectively been under the control of the Pakistan Muslim League, PML-N, the party of the prime
minister, Nawaz Sharif.
On the other hand, the Inqlabi March is fighting for a series of social and political reforms. Its social base is the
lower middle class and the deprived sections of society. It has put forward demands, such as greater autonomy for
local governments, that would give these layers a bigger role in the current political system. Although the content
of his programme is petit-bourgeois reformism, Qadri and his supporters have given it a more radical edge by
references to revolution and pointing to the experience of the Russian, French and Chinese revolutions.
Imran Khan has tried to dramatise the situation by threatening to storm Prime Minister House, the seat of
government, if Nawaz Sharif does not resign. Qadri has publicly accused both the prime minister and his brother,
Shabaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab province, of responsibility for the killing of 14 PAT supporters by
police in Lahore’s “Model Town” area on June 17. He has not only called for their resignations but demanded the
death penalty for both of them. On the other hand, he has also denied that the protestors have any intention of
storming parliament or Prime Minister House.
Government in crisis
The Government is desperate to bring the situation under control. At first, it tried to establish order by banning
the marches and blocking all entrances to Lahore and Islamabad with shipping containers, backed up by a huge
police deployment. The PML-N also tried to organise counter mobilisations, and even physical attacks on the

Azaadi March in Gujranwara, but failed miserably to deter the marchers. On their way to Islamabad, they were
greeted by thousands of people in every city on their route. There have also been solidarity sit-ins in other cities,
including Lahore and Karachi.
Just 15 months after its victory in the May 2013 election, the government of Nawaz Sharif is facing its worst
crisis and struggling to remain in power. Its credibility has collapsed as it failed to make good any of its
promises. There has been no progress in overcoming the shortage of energy. Power cuts remain as long, and as
frequent, as ever.
Poverty and unemployment are still high. The government has even stepped up attacks on the working class and
poor at the same time as prices of electricity, gas and petrol have risen. In addition, Nawaz is also planning
another massive privatisation programme on the orders of the IMF and World Bank.
The crisis in the ruling class is a reflection of these social and economic conditions. Pakistan is once again in
deep instability and turmoil and the situation is set to get worse. The semi-colonial position of Pakistan and its
domination by imperialism have meant the imposition of neo-liberal policies since the early 80’s and these have
devastated its economy.
Wholesale privatisations, deregulation, job cuts and the cutting of social services have increased the gulf between
the haves and the have nots to really dangerous proportions. Coupled with the aftermath of the 2008 global
financial crisis, the frustration of the different sections of the middle class, workers and poor have reached a
critical point, just as they did in 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Greece.
This is the background to the rapid growth of the PTI and PAT. They are filling a vacuum created by the failure
of the current government and the reformist politics of the mainstream left, who have sided with the established
system on all the important questions of the class struggle.
Government summoning its forces
The government and all the main bourgeois parties have opposed the protest movement by presenting it as an
attack on democracy. They published a statement supported by 11 of the 12 parties in parliament, condemning
the “undemocratic character” of the protest movement. The leaders of the PTI and PAT have been summoned by
the Supreme Court, which may outlaw their blockade of “Constitution Avenue”, the main road of the
parliamentary and government district in Islamabad.
Unsurprisingly, the US embassy had already given its backing to Nawaz Sharif and his “democracy”. The
government is, therefore, assured of support from its main imperialist masters.
After the entry of the march into the “red zone” around parliament, there were rumours that the military might
take advantage of a situation that was getting out of hand for the government. A number of negotiations had been
held, with the High Command in Rawalpindi demanding a greater say in foreign policy, including relations with
India and in the “war on terror”, which it is waging on behalf of the US not only in Afghanistan, but also in
Waziristan in Pakistan. No doubt Nawaz Sharif had to give some concessions to the military, which, on the other
hand, then assured the prime minister of its loyalty.

Whilst a violent clash between the protestors and the authorities could always be used by the military to present
itself as a force “above” the contending parties, it is much more likely that it will now back the current
government after the latest concessions and because of the backing of the US. In addition, Imran Khan, certainly
a rather “adventurist” bourgeois politician, is seen as an unreliable figure not only by the other bourgeois parties,
but also by the military leaders.
The accusation by the government, the judiciary and the lawyers’ organisations that are linked to the main
bourgeois parties, the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party, PPP, that Khan and Qadri are agents of the
military, should be seen as attempts to win the bourgeois public and the media to their side. The current
government itself has a shameful record of “ordinary” rigging of elections, widespread corruption and repression
of national minorities and war, not to mention its repeated attacks on working class attempts to defend jobs and
living standards.
Therefore, it is rather bizarre that it now presents itself as “defending democracy” against a mass protest and sit-
in of up to 200,000 people, amongst them many women and children. As if blocking “Constitution Avenue” was
the greatest threat to “democracy” in Pakistan. True to form, the government’s way of “defending democracy” is
to order not only even more police into Islamabad, but also the 111 Brigade of the Pakistani army in order to
“assist” the police and, if need be, clear the streets of the protestors.
Whilst it is no surprise that the government wants to present itself as “defending” democracy, it is shameful that
most of the left have also sided with it, against the protestors, in the name of democracy. They may argue that the
whole movement is a conspiracy by the army, but what really concerns them is that, within the established
system, they can find a role for themselves.
In reality, the fact that the “oppositional” bourgeois and petit-bourgeois populist forces have been able to take the
initiative in mobilising the widespread anger of the middle strata and poor in society is a condemnation of the
left. Their backing for the government has allowed Khan and Qadri to present themselves as the “popular”
alternative to the current government, the military and even their imperialist masters. That is why the masses,
particularly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, placed such hopes in the current movement. Sadly, as we can
see from the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it has essentially continued the previous
government’s policies and accepted loans, with strings, from the IMF and World Bank, this hope itself is illusory
and false.
By contrast, the left has failed to mobilise the working class independently against the current government. It has
not been in the forefront of the struggles for democratic rights, the fight against inflation, the cutting of subsidies
or the privatisation projects. Neither has it opposed the military operations in Baluchistan and North Waziristan.
The left, including the Awami Workers’ Party, urgently needs to make a radical political turn towards
mobilisation and taking up all the key issues with vigour. It has to clearly oppose all attacks by the government
and police on the protestors and their right to demonstrate in Islamabad, just as it would have to mobilise all its
forces against any attempt by the military to increase their power.
Most importantly, it has to become the force taking up all social, economic and political issues and to be in the
forefront of the struggle, based on a revolutionary, socialist programme. Only in such a way can it become a
rallying point for the working class, all impoverished and oppressed sections of society and even sections of the

petit-bourgeoisie. Only in such a way, can it make use of the growing crisis and divisions within the bourgeois
camp.