On Friday, April 15 more than fifty people turned up to a panel discussion on the Arab revolution, organised by the Der Funke Marxist tendency. The meeting was also the launch of the German translation of the Manifesto of the International Marxist Tendency on the Arab Revolution.
Speakers on the panel were Fritz Edlinger, general secretary of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations, and a member of the Social Democracy, editor of a journal on International Politics and author of a book on Libya, Imed Garbaya, a former activist at the University of Gafsa in Tunisia, now living in Austria, and Jorge Martín of the International Marxist Tendency.
Jorge Martin drew a number of general conclusions about the Arab revolution, which he said serve to demonstrate the validity of the Marxist theory of revolution. Amongst these he highlighted the crucial role played by the working class, the emergence of revolutionary committees (embryos of soviets in effect) and the development of elements of dual power, and the fact that the state apparatus (the Army and the police) break down on class lines when faced with a revolutionary movement, etc. He explained how these revolutions can be compared to the February 1917 stage of the Russian Revolution: the masses have overthrown the hated dictators, but power has been transferred not to the revolutionary masses but to recycled elements from the old regime and reformist oppositionists whose main aim is to prevent genuine revolutionary change. What is missing is a revolutionary leadership, like that of the Bolsheviks in Russia, which can patiently explain that the only way to achieve the national, democratic and social demands of these revolutions is through the coming to power of the working class and the abolition of the capitalist system, not just the removal of its most hated figurehead. The Manifesto on the Arab revolution, Jorge explained, is the IMT’s contribution to the debate about the way forward for these movements.
Imed Garbaya vividly explained the background to the Tunisian revolution which overthrew Ben Ali, going back to the independence of Tunisia from colonial rule in 1956. He explained how the coming to power of Ben Ali opened up the road for the looting of the country’s state property by his own family and by imperialism. These policies created the conditions for the revolutionary uprising. Imed gave a lively account of the revolutionary committees which had emerged during the revolution and how they had organised everyday life. The revolution had already achieved much, but it was far from over, he said, while explaining that a national congress of the revolutionary committees was the way forward.
In relation to Libya, comrade Garbaya said that he was against NATO intervention and that the intervention of imperialism was not only to get control over the situation in Libya, but that it was also aimed against the developing Arab revolution.
Fritz Edlinger stressed that what we were witnessing were not isolated national movements, but a genuine Arab movement encompassing the whole of the region, spearheaded by the youth and feeding on the consequences of neo-liberal economic policies. He also warned about the very real danger of counter-revolution and centred his speech in denouncing the imperialist intervention in Libya, which he said, the left is not really opposing as strongly as should be the case.
The speakers were followed by a lively discussion on the floor, touching on different aspects including Libya and whether there had been a genuine uprising or not, the role of women, the role of Facebook and social networks, etc. A few of those present had found out about the meeting through flyers we gave out at the university. They were positively surprised by the meeting and are interested in attending our regular Marxist discussion group on the Arab revolution.