The fall of governments in Egypt and Tunisia and the widespread peoples rebellions for freedom and revolution in the Middle East have become the historic hallmark of the 21st century. Although the explicit reason for these rebellions was the brutal rule of dictators, two underlying factors caused this Arab democratic revolt.
One was the decades-old robbery of the regions rich resources by foreign powers and the other was the neoliberal policies pursued by the dictators in collaboration with the Western powers, that caused adverse effects on the poor.
The current wave of protests is a continuation of a centuries-old struggle for national self-determination against domination and economic plundering by Western powers. The upsurges are a warning signal to the ruling elites across the world that the peoples longing for freedom and social justice could no longer be repressed. If the rulers do not respect the voices on the streets, they would fall in the dustbin of history.
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters are still camping out in the streets of the capitals of many Arab countries. The ongoing uprisings and mass protests and demonstrations in Libya, Bahrain, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq with cries for freedom and reform have been transforming the political consciousness of the people in the entire Arab world. And that was the reason for their clear proclamation that they could decide their destiny relying on their own judgment.
However, the remarks by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering Libyan protesters any kind of assistance was a clear indication that the US sought the orderly transition in accordance with its interests in the region. For this offer of assistance, the demonstrators crisp reply was this: We dont need foreign help as we moved on our own, on orders from no one outside. The newly formed Libyan National Transitional Council categorically said that the opposition could do without American intervention in its affairs.
Under the pretext of curbing Islamic terrorist violence, the US has been preoccupied with the Muslim world for many decades, although its real intention was the corporate plunder of the regions oil and gas resources. Now, the people in the Arab world who are fighting for democracy do not approve of violent religious fanaticism or interested in building a Islamic fundamentalist state in their countries.
Also, they dont have any faith in al Qaedas ideology. So, the continued interference in the internal affairs of these countries by the West and the US is to protect their own corporate interests and it is against the wishes of the people.
The people hated their dictators for collaborating with the West in exploiting the countries wealth. For three weeks the US and the Western powers dithered before asking for the exit of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, since they didnt want to lose their strategic ally. He was a US protégé and he built a mighty military-industrial complex, subsidized by the annual $2 billion in US aid.
With such collaboration in exploitation and oppression continuing for many decades, the people have longed for democracy. Instead of democracy what they got was the imposition of a neoliberal paradigm. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a speech in Singapore, noted that rampant unemployment, poverty and a growing income gap was a strong undercurrent of the political turmoil in Tunisia and of rising social strains in other countries.
He also said that the rising food prices had potentially devastating consequences for developing countries. All rulers have introduced corporate-oriented globalization and privatization. As a result of these policies, people were deprived of their basic livelihood needs. In Egypt, unemployment raged on and over 20% of the labor force was without jobs and it was as high as 50% among the youth. Absolute poverty had increased to around one-fifth of the population. Tunisia and Egypt have been devastated by unbridled neoliberalism under the diktats of the IMF. So,the people are wishing to throw away the neoliberal regime along with their dictators.
They need corruption-free good governance that ensures human-rights protection, political and social rights for the people and economic policies that seek the welfare of common people instead of serving corporatists who amassed huge wealth in collaboration with the old guards. They want a complete change, not the old decadent undemocratic structures. They dont want oppressive and exploitative regimes back, even in a new guise.
Now the process is undergoing the stress and strain of giving birth to a new society. There may be recurring uncertainties and chaos, but the people wouldnt like direct or indirect foreign intervention. Because the people would never forget that the old dictatorial order under the hated leaders like Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt was established with the blessings of the Western powers and the US. So the Middle East policy of the US and other Western powers must be radically changed, respecting the sentiments of the people.
The heroic people who made these revolutions with exceptional courage and determination do have every right to decide their future. They are the people who made enormous sacrifices to achieve victory. Nobody has any legitimate or moral right to interfere in their historic journey in building new democratic structures in their own countries.
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.
From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2011
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