After Saleh’s exit: Yemen revolution must do away with the regime

Dramatic events are taking place in Yemen. The rule of Saleh is clearly finished, and the combined powers of Saudi Arabia, the US, the EU and all that is reactionary is manoeuvring in order to crush the revolution. This, however, will not be an easy task. Now is the time to finish the regime! All that is lacking is a bold leadership that is up to the task.

The Saleh regime is crumbling under the heavy blows of the mass movement. The Yemeni state apparatus is splitting and disintegrating by the hour. This fact has even penetrated the thick heads in Washington. They have realized that it is impossible to go back to the status quo ante – i.e. to the days where the Saleh regime could ensure the imperialist domination of Yemen and its strategic position for the transport of Oil from the Gulf.On Monday, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said that, “We think an immediate transition is in the best interests of the Yemeni people”. These words from the smiling face of imperialist aggression stink of hypocrisy.

After president Saleh was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia – following an attack on his palace last Friday – the imperialists openly called for a transition of power in Yemen. For decades, they have supported this bloody regime against the poverty-ridden masses of Yemen. But now, he is no more of use to them. The reason is clear: he has not been able to crush the Yemeni revolution. On the contrary, his tactics have only made matters worse, unleashing forces that threaten to throw Yemen into an uncontrollable civil war, of which the outcome is not at all certain.

Since the killing of 72 innocent people in the Change Square in Sanaa, just outside Sanaa University on March 18, Yemen has been in a state of revolution. The events have pushed Saudi Arabia and the US imperialists to prepare for a change at the top in Yemen in order to stave off the revolution from below. The Saudi regime even arranged a ceremony in which president Ali Abdullah Saleh was supposed to announce his exit from power. But when it was his turn to sign the document, he simply refused and made a fiery speech of defiance instead, in which he threatened the opposition with all-out civil war. This was clearly not part of the plan!

Saleh is a very stubborn man – too stubborn to reason. He has survived many plots and intrigues during his rule since 1978, and he has shown that he bears no intentions of stepping down without a ferocious fight. In the early stages of the revolution, the Saudi rulers clearly backed him and advised him to stay, no matter the costs.But the hard reality eventually tends to get through to even the toughest of reactionary minds. Even the minds of the arch-reactionary rulers in Riyadh are not immune to events. Their tactics have changed, and they are desperately trying to negotiate some sort of “orderly” transition in order to defeat the revolution, maintain their influence and stop the revolutionary wave from spreading into Saudi Arabia itself.

The exit of Saleh

President Saleh fled Yemen, suffering from injuries sustained in an explosion at his official compound. Saleh, aged 69, reportedly suffered 40 percent burns and serious head injuries. Several senior government officials and bodyguards were also killed or injured in the attack.Saleh is receiving medical care in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. It is believed that over 30 members of his family have fled the country with him. Saleh has still not formally resigned his office, however, and has temporarily handed power to his long-term vice president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi.

When the news of his exit came out, tens of thousands of revolutionary youth flocked to Change Square and other places in the country, to celebrate his departure and demand the end of his regime.

“It's impossible for us to let [Saleh] come back. And those of his people who are still here had better follow him to Saudi,” said one of those attending a Sanaa rally, according to Al Jazeera. “Who is next?” asked one banner held up by protesters in a sea of red, white and black Yemeni flags, referring to the revolutionary wave in the Arab world.

The circumstances surrounding Saleh’s removal from Yemen are murky and open to different interpretations. The official Yemeni government account is that tribal militia forces controlled by the family of Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashed tribe, the country’s largest, fired rockets into the presidential compound during prayers on Friday, killing eleven of Saleh’s bodyguards and wounding most of the top government officials, including Saleh, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, a deputy prime minister, the governor of Sanaa, and the top leaders of the country’s stooge parliament.

Such a carefully coordinated assassination attempt in the heart of the government’s headquarters points to the involvement of one or more intelligence or military agencies, either Yemeni or foreign.

Clinton’s comments raise the obvious question of whether the US had a hand in the attack. It would be quite within the means and modus operandi of the Pentagon or the CIA to either directly plant such a bomb or sponsor a section of the Yemeni state to do so.

It is also likely that Saudi Arabia had its hands in the coup against Saleh. The Saudi regime has turned against their former ally after his blatant refusal to abide by the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council agreements and hand over his powers.

Whatever the provenance of Friday’s attack on the presidential compound, Saleh’s departure did not end the violence in Yemen. A Saudi-brokered ceasefire between pro-Saleh forces and the al-Ahmars lasted for only a few hours Saturday, before gunfire and artillery exchanges resumed in the northern part of the capital city.

Robert Powell, Yemen analyst for The Economist, commented that the president’s departure from Yemen was “probably permanent”. “The Saudis, as well as the US and European Union, are pushing hard for him to stay in Saudi Arabia, as they view the prospect of his return as a catastrophe,” Powell stated.

Saudi rulers in panic

Saleh’s exit, however, has not brought the situation in the country under control. The danger of a full-scale civil war is imminent. The remnants of Saleh’s government, including some of his family members, maintain control of key buildings in the central Sanaa, and it also seems that they maintain the loyalty of the Republican guard, the secret police and other important parts of the state security apparatus.

On Tuesday, 30 people were killed in heavy fighting in the southern city of Zinjibar. The regime in Sanaa has blamed the violence there on Al Qaeda. But Zinjibar and the nearby city of Aden have been centres of opposition to Saleh’s rule for many years, and there is a popular secessionist movement in the south of the country.

Yemen’s second largest city, Taiz, has also seen heavy fighting between pro- and anti-government forces. The AFP news agency reported Tuesday that tribal groups opposed to the government are now in control of the city. One tribal leader, Sheikh Hammoud Saeed al-Mikhlafi, told AFP that his militiamen held major buildings in Taiz.

The Yemeni government’s loss of control over much of the country is of profound concern to the United States, as it threatens the imperialist domination in the region. The mass protests in Yemen, which have seen hundreds of thousands, mainly young workers and students, take to the streets to demand jobs and social rights, as well as an end to Saleh’s autocratic rule, have a big effect inside Saudi Arabia. This is why the Saudi rulers are so frightened. And unlike Bahrain – where they gunned down the revolutionaries without too many problems – a Saudi/US intervention in Yemen would prove to be a very risky operation, and it would without doubt lead to upheavals inside Saudi Arabia itself. Thus, the Saudi rulers are faced with a very difficult dilemma.

The despotic Saudi monarchy rules over a social powder keg, monopolizing the vast oil wealth of the country while millions of young people are faced with a lack of jobs, housing, and a complete absence of elementary democratic rights. The monarchy is hanging by a thread, and they are very much afraid that the Yemeni revolution can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – the camel being the Saudi monarchy. This, in turn, would have an enormous effect, not only in the Middle East, but on a world scale.

Away with the regime!

As we have reported before, the Saudis and the US imperialists are desperately manoeuvring to maintain a “Yemen that looks a lot like Yemen”. On the other hand, we have the marvellous mass movement, which draws its revolutionary energy from the youth and the poor masses. This mass movement has provoked a crisis inside the regime, which is now disintegrating in a most pitiful fashion.

On the other hand, the most crucial shortcoming of the mass movement is the lack of a genuine revolutionary leadership. The “official opposition” is made up of liberals, Islamists and ex-Stalinists, and all of them have in effect defected from the revolution. The Joint Meeting Parties coalition (an umbrella for Islamist, Socialist, Nasserist and other smaller parties) lost all credibility after agreeing to a GCC-backed deal that Saleh in the end refused to sign. The revolutionaries in the streets clearly felt that this deal – which aimed at an “orderly transition” – would betray the principles of the revolution.

The official leadership of the revolutionary youth – the so-called Youth Revolution for Change – have maintained that the regime must be removed. This is absolutely correct. No negotiations with the regime! It must be overthrown by the revolutionary people!

Unfortunately, the official leadership has displayed some serious shortcomings. One is the line of “no violence” and that demonstrators should not have arms (when arms are abundantly available in Yemen). But faced with the brutal repression on the part of the regime – more than 450 people have been killed since January – it is not only morally justified for the revolutionaries to defend themselves, it is immoral to refuse them their right to do so. The best way to secure the greatest degree of peacefulness in the revolution is by a mass arming of the revolution against counter-revolutionary provocations, massacres and sectarian pogroms.

Another shortcoming, which is even more serious, is the lack of an organised campaign for action committees. The revolution can only rely on the workers, the youth and the poor masses themselves. They must seize the initiative; create committees for the defence of the revolution in all neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces. Also, the revolutionaries must connect with the ordinary soldiers and honest lower-ranking officers in the army. Revolutionary committees must be set up in the barracks in order to keep the counter-revolutionary generals from using the army against the people. The experience from Egypt and Tunisia clearly shows that no victory has been won without this sort of organisation from the masses. Therefore, a campaign for such committees is an urgent task.

Also, revolutionary action committees are the only way to combat tribalism and the attempts by some tribal leaders to strengthen their own position at the cost of the people. The threat of sectarian civil war can only be effectively combated by revolutionary means – by the unity of workers, students and poor across the country against the national and foreign gangsters: the sultans and landlords, the reactionary generals, the corrupt state bureaucrats and the foreign imperialists.

The revolutionary movement needs to organize revolutionary committees, but it also needs to pose a clear revolutionary programme: all assets of the regime must be confiscated and be put under the control of the people! All land belonging to the sultans and landlords must be confiscated and distributed to the peasants! The state must be purged and all remnants of the regime must go! All officials must be elected and subject to recall by the revolutionary people! The revolution must be armed through revolutionary militias of workers, students and soldiers!

Above all, the fate of the revolution is linked to the all-Arab revolution. In the last analysis, the Yemeni revolution will only succeed through successful revolution in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. The enormous sacrifices made by the people will find its highest degree of revenge through a complete abolition of landlordism and capitalism on the Arabian Peninsula and the establishment of a planned, socialist society on the basis of the people’s will.