North Africa: Rebellion, Surprise & Strategy

“It remains of course for the peoples of the societies of the Maghrib to determine the course of their revolutions.

“But what emerges from the tenacious facts of their struggles is the importance of making a strategic analysis of friends and enemies with the perspective of complete social emancipation. Global capital has brought the forces of social emancipation together in the urban cores of these countries and it will only be through the course of their struggle –- to gather together all potential allies to root out the source of their oppression — that they will be able to enunciate an emancipatory program.”

Rebellion across the Maghrib and the specificity of events
by Eddy Laing

What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this? A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit, when they fine him and take his goods? In Sidi Bouzid (Tunisia), those with no connections and nomoney for bribes are humiliated and insulted and not allowed to live. — Leila Bouazizi, younger sister of Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire as a act of political protest. [1]

The rebellions sweeping the Maghrib, from Mauritania to Egypt, and across the Arabian peninsula have inspired hundreds of millions of people around the world. They have also raised important questions about revolution and liberation, coming as they do at a time when revolution has been declared ‘over’ by capitalist ideologues for many years now.

As Mao Tsetung put it, ‘it is right to rebel against reactionaries!’ and none of the despots being targeted by the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Iraq, Jordan, et al. are or have ever been anything other than clients of the neo-liberal order of capital in the world. They deserve to be overthrown. But what should come in their place? That is the hard question being posed to each of these rebellions.

Tens of thousands have braved bullets, gas, helicopters and tanks in pitched battles. Hundreds have died heroically and thousands have been wounded. But as difficult and important for each uprising is the struggle around the deliberation of strategy – determining what the strategic objectives of the uprising need to be, who are allies, who are targets, and how to unite everyone who can be united to move forward.

I now know how Ben Ali had been stealing from the country. How the relations of Leila Trabelsi have been stealing. We do not want them back. But the situation is not just bad in Tunisia. I remember my husband used to talk about Libya, poor people there suffered as well. I have a lot of people who come up to me now to say it is not just me who has lost a son, but the whole village that has lost a son. I am proud of what he did. I would like to go up to Tunis and take a look at these demonstrations. It is good to know that my son had played a part in changing things. — Mannoubia Bouazizi [2]

As Mannoubia Bouazizi’s neighbors confirmed, Mohamed Bouazizi is emblematic of an entire population who have been subjected for decades to the multiple forms of ‘new imperialism’ and neo-liberal regimes across North Africa. Tunisia has been upheld as an example of neo-liberal, secular success in North Africa, for its extensive trade with France and Italy, for its attractiveness to foreign investment ($33.5 billion in an economy with a GDP of $44 billion), and for its suppression of orthodox Islam. Unemployment is officially at 14% and per capita income is officially $2200/year.

Tunisian society has become increasingly compacted so that one-time and prospective ‘middle classes’ have been impoverished and driven into the ranks of the urban poor. Accordingly to his sister Basma, Mohamed Bouazizi dreamed of helping his younger sisters attend university, just as he had studied computer science. But unable to find work in that field, his turned to the grey market of street vending vegetables without a permit, for which he was subjected to harassment by the police regularly. It was one final seizure of his produce and cart that proved to be the ultimate insult.

The most amazing thing is that nobody expected this. Just two weeks ago someone asked me whether Egypt could experience a revolution like in Tunisia, and I said no, Tunisia may be followed by Yemen, but there won’t be a revolution in Egypt. I couldn’t have been more wrong. M. says that he, too, didn’t believe in it.

On Tuesday, he didn’t even want to join the demonstrations, thinking there was no point. But he soon changed his mind. We walk to Giza with a young man from old Giza who is very excited about the new situation. He tells he also didn’t believe in the demonstrations of Tuesday – he went there not believing that others would go. He describes the feeling: Until few days ago I felt that I live in a nightmare, and suddenly I could dream freely. M.: “Things became possible that I couldn’t have imagined. Suddenly we can make a difference. — Samuli Schielke, 31 Jan 2011 [3]

It is extreme understatement to note that the rebellions cascading across North Africa and through the Arabian peninsula have taken their immediate targets and the forces of global imperialism by surprise with their energy and tenacity. When the first demonstrations formed in Sidi Bouzid, the expectation was that the people would vent their anger, the police would beat and perhaps shoot them, and then order would be restored. The arrogance of ignorance — imperious hubris — prevented the Ben Ali regime and its imperial sponsors in Washington, Paris, Rome and Brussels from anticipating what came next.

In the sphere of public discussion, this can be partly explained by more than two centuries of colonial and neo-colonial objectification — the projection of ‘otherness’ — that has been performed upon the Arab speaking world by the Euro-American capitals. As they have demonstrated repeatedly, the lords of capital and their acolytes cannot comprehend the consciousness of the oppressed. They construct elaborate racial, gendered and ethnic ‘theories’ to explain why such consciousness could not exist. But even their ‘Africa experts’ and ‘Arab experts’ were surprised and are now scrambling to devise geopolitical strategies that respond to the tumult.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, as rebellion in Tunisia continued to grow, and inspired by it, a coalition of Egyptian organizations called for anti-government protests on January 25. The main demands of that demonstration were the end of the emergency law, the resignation of the interior minister, the dissolution of parliament, and raising the minimum wage. January 25 is a national holiday that marks a battle by the Ismaila police force against the British. Dissident police and army officers announced their intentions to participate in the marches, which were set to begin from 100 meeting points in Cairo and Giza and 20 meeting points in Alexandria.

Mainstream political parties including Al-Walfd and Al-Lagammu — as well as the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood — distanced themselves from the demonstrations — leaving that field open to the oppositional organizations Kefaya Movement for Change, the April 6 Youth Movement, Youth for Justice and Freedom, the National Association for Change, the Public Front for Peaceful Change and the political parties El-Ghad and the Democratic Front. A political analyst from the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies sagely told the Daily News Egypt that the protests ‘would not be the beginning of a reenactment of what happened in Tunis.’

Particularly noteworthy in Egypt has been the existence of a dissident movement within the military, including at the rank of mid-level command officers who opposed the government and were willing to act independently of the general command. Those officers and the rank and file soldiers continue to play an important role, as manifested in soldier’s general sympathy for the demands of the protests and fraternization between soldiers and protesters. There are many social connections between the rank and file army and the people demonstrating in the streets and reaching out to the soldiers has been an important feature of the Egyptian protests.
At 4 p.m., one hour after curfew, I hail a taxi at Mahatta Street to take me to the newspaper where M works. The driver is at first hesitant because there is a military roadblock at Cairo University. But the roadblock turns out very fine. They check papers and look into the trunks but let people pass. Most importantly, they speak to the citizens with a friendly and polite tone that is completely different from that of the police force who routinely insult and abuse the citizens. Also later, when we return from the demonstration on foot, we are twice controlled by soldiers who say: “Excuse me, sirs” and politely check that we are not armed. Some contrast to the “son of a bitch” that Egyptians are used to hearing from their police force. No wonder the military is extremely popular and has been very successful in imposing peace and order wherever they are. There is army all over the city. At every major corner, place or junction, there is at least a tank or an armored vehicle, sometimes two or three. The soldiers – conscripted young men who might have otherwise been demonstrating – appear very relaxed, and the people treat them in a very friendly and respectful way. Many are getting themselves photographed in front of the tanks, and in Tahrir square the tanks are covered with anti-Mubarak graffiti. — Samuli Schielke, 31 Jan 2011.
In mid-January, Arab League secretary general Amr Musa warned his governmental peers that “the Tunisian revolution is not far from us … the Arab citizen (has) entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration.” [4]
The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have in turn inspired oppressed peoples in Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain and beyond to also rise up against their oppressors. But it is a mistake to see only similarity in these rebellions and not their specificities.

For example, Bahrain’s population (780,000) is comprised of a significant minority of guest workers and the state security forces have shown no hesitancy to attack the people with bullets as well as clubs. It is also the home port of the US 5th Fleet. In the week before protests erupted in Manama, the King proposed several preemptive bribes, including a BHD1000 pay-out (about US$2,650) to every family, to no avail. [5] Iraq is a tenuous ‘state’ by any definition and completely occupied by a large imperialist army and perhaps larger gangs of mercenaries. [†] Sudan, Libya and Yemen are each confederations of regional social forces and related political tensions. There are many specificities to the political discourse within each country, the stratification and class divisions within their respective populations, economic structures, political superstructures, and each country’s connection to larger capital centers: the US, the EU countries, Russia, China and India.

In January, Egypt’s now ex-foreign minister absurdly claimed that an important mark of his country’s success was its 60 million cell phone users. Meanwhile, 16 million Egyptians live below the (nominal $2/day) poverty line, and most estimates put that number closer to 32 million (out of a population of 80 million). Eighty percent of Tunisia’s industrial and agricultural product is sent overseas, mainly to EU countries. If these are examples of efficient neo-liberalism, consider some of their nearby alternatives.

In Algeria, the unemployment rate is officially 10% and 23% of the population lives below the poverty line. In Mauritania, unemployment stands at 30% and 40% live below the poverty line. Officially 15% of Bahrainis are unemployed and 31% of the 738,000 population is comprised of guest workers (foreign nationals). Forty-five percent of all Yemenis live below the poverty line and 35% are unemployed, within an economy that has an inflation rate of 12%. Libya’s official unemployment rate is 30% and an estimated 33% of the population is at or below the poverty line.

Amr Musa’s ‘Arab citizens’ have also differentiated themselves according to their political and class interests through the course of these upsurges, as evidenced in oppositional demands and especially through the course of the actual struggle.

In Tunisia and in Egypt, the workers have played important roles in the uprisings as social forces exerting coherent socio-political strength and a lateral type of leadership to the movement as a whole. The mass movement has been given strength and invigorated by the central trade unions (i.e. UGTT in Tunisia) and general strikes. One of the Egyptian youth oppositional groups, the April 6 Movement, was formed in support of major workers’ struggles in 2008.

In Bahrain, youth and university students — independent of the parliamentary opposition — took to the streets and occupied Pearl Square in the heart of Manama the second week of February, demanding the removal of the ruling monarchy. Their protests were met with bullets by the government — killing at least 6 and wounding more than 230 — but they tenaciously fought to remain in Pearl Square. On the 19th, after the government pulled its troops back, 40,000 demonstrators returned in force, bearing posters with the crossed-out faces of Saddam Hussein, ex-Egyptian president Mubarak and former Tunisian president Bin Ali, alongside pictures of King Hamad and the words “Down, Down Hamad,” chants of “go away Khalifas!” and “The people want the regime to fall!” for a new constitution, and the trial of police and soldiers who had fired on them earlier. Embedded in the constitutional demand is the democratic demand to end institutional discrimination against the majority Shi’a population of the country by the ruling monarchist government, which (including the army and police) is largely comprised of Sunni Muslims. There was also vocal anger with America based on evidence of dozens of tear gas and baton rounds imported from the United States.

(The UK is also a supplier of military equipment to Bahrain, including CS grenades, tear gas grenades and thunderflash grenades. It supplies equivalent ordnance along with military vehicles and helicopters to Libya, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.)

On the 22nd, after ten consecutive days of protests, at least 50,000 people demonstrated against the government in central Manama. Led by seven opposition parties including al-Wefaq and al-Waad, the protest raised demands for a constitutional monarchy, that the king dissolve the government, dismiss the prime minister and appoint an interim ‘unity’ government that includes opposition representatives. A group of Bahraini army officers joined the ranks of protesters, condemning those soldiers who shot at protesters the Friday before, “what we did to the people was not heroic,” said Yeussif Najri, an army officer, “we ask the people to forgive us, we ask the people for forgiveness.” [6]
In Yemen, sustained protests have been going on in the cities of Taiz, where 10,000 have reportedly established a camp, in Ibb, Al-Hudaydah, and at the university in Sana’a, where there is an encampment of 5,000 — not only of students but possibly including visits from rank and file soldiers. [7]

In reports from Taiz and Sanaa, violent battles with casualties have ensued between opposed groups of thousands of demonstrators. [8]
In Libya, where hundreds of thousands of people are also inspired by the events in Egypt and Tunisia, the incident that ignited open rebellion was the police arrest of representatives of the League of the Families of the Victims of Abu Salim Prison 1996 massacre on February 16. This prompted an immediate protest at the Internal Security offices in Benghazi, which managed to force the release of those detained representatives. As the victorious protesters then moved through the city with the freed League representatives, their ranks grew by many hundreds and into a much broader demonstration against the government. This march was further attacked and repelled attacks by still more state security forces, and news of it all quickly spread across Libya.

The next day, more protests took place in Benghazi, joined with protests in al-Baida’, Darna, and al-Qubba in Eastern Libya, and az-Zantan and ar-Rajban in Western Libya. A few days later, the protests spread to Misratah and Ghiryan. [9] As in Bahrain, significant sections of the police and military are comprised of foreign nationals, which is divisive in itself as well as for its utility in promoting racialist ideologies among the Libyan masses, since the recruits are typically from Sudan and other more southernly African countries.
One Aljazeera commentator has described the upsurge as a ‘revolution against neo-liberalism,’ and while ‘objectively’ international capital is a key target of these uprisings, that is not the same as making the ‘end of neo-liberalism’ a strategic demand in any of the protests so far. As one possible outcome, however, the result poses tangible fear on the part of global capital. [††]
At their 20 January meeting, the Arab League governments suddenly remembered their 2009 pledge to implement a $2 billion economic reinvestment scheme that was imagined to remediate some of the worst economic inequities in their societies. (e.g. the Palestinian National Authority has so far received $37 million of a promised $500 million.) [10]
The G20 arrogantly proclaimed on 20 February that “we stand ready to support Egypt and Tunisia, with responses at the appropriate time well coordinated with the international institutions and the regional development banks to accompany reforms designed to the benefit of the whole population and the stabilization of their economies,” as if they were shocked, absolutely shocked that they had been sucking the economies of Egypt and Tunisia dry all these decades. [11]
Since the uprisings began, a major thread of discussion in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and Rome has been about how to turn the uprisings toward acceptable ends. Last summer, the British news magazine Economist predicted that Mubarak’s regime was in its final days and raised the question of whether it would ‘go the way of Russia … go the way of Iran … or go the way of Turkey’ with the preferred option — to them — being the third, meaning a solid party to the Euro-American capital sphere. [12] Since the dawn of the rebellions, the ‘Turkey option’ has been raised in regard to Egypt many times by opinion ‘leaders’ in the US and in Europe. We’ve also seen visible efforts by the US State Department and UK Foreign Office, as well as the EU, to steer their clients in North Africa. By the end of February, the British prime minister and the EU vice president for external relations had both come to Cairo to meet with the generals, while the US had sent along an undersecretary of state (apparently not wanting to confer too much prestige upon the generals with the presence of the secretary herself).
The same troika (US, UK, EU) have been stern in their reprimands of the governments of Libya and Iran, as has UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who issued a memorandum at the end of February calling for the ‘non-use of force’ especially in Libya. [13] Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stirred herself to declare that “too many peaceful protesters have recently been killed across the Middle East and North Africa,” raising the question: how many is the right number? [14] US secretary of state Clinton did not miss a beat, declaring with a straight face that “[Iranian protesters] deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright… [The US government] very clearly and directly supports the aspirations of the people who are in the streets.” [15]
In the case of Libya, the US has assembled a small armada off its coast, ostensibly to threaten military action if Kadhafi does not follow US imperialism’s edict to resign. But the US armada should also be read as the military support that would be needed to install a new Euro-American client if that option becomes viable, on the assumption that the Libyan masses may not want to carry a new client regime to power on their own shoulders.
Concurrently, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, admiral Mike Mullen, toured the region at the end of February, meeting in Riyadh with the Saudi leadership in order to ‘reassure, discuss and understand what is going on.’ [16]
In Palestine, it was trenchantly noted that while “American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out strongly against government violence in Iran, accusing the Ahmedinejad regime of “hypocrisy” for praising the victory of anti-government protesters in Egypt, American support for ousted Arab dictators Zine Abdine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt did not feature in her comments.”[17]
The vanguards of these rebellions are younger men and women centered in the cities. For the most part, these rebellions did not emerge from oppositional organizations but from diverse and widespread sentiments of outrage and that ‘enough is enough.’

These are not revolutions based in rural areas but they are drawing in rural populations, too. At their inception, most of these uprisings did not emerge through religious networks, but they have been shown to involve religious people from many faiths, such as in Tehrir Square where Muslims and Christians also mingled and prayed, and as the rebellions grow they are attracting support from organized religious forces as in Yemen and Bahrain. Also noteworthy, not only are many of the movements separate from the main political parties, some have included those parties as ancillary targets of their protest.
At the 3 March demonstration in Sana’a against the Yemen government, a prominent banner read “Revolution, revolution, until victory, or march towards the palace!” and one of the demonstrators told a reporter that he and his comrades would “have nothing to do with the agreements reached in closed rooms.

The revolution is that of the youth and not a revolt for parties, whether opposition or ruling … we will continue until the downfall of the regime.” [18]
During a March 1 protest against the government, students from several boys and girls schools in Manama clashed over conflicting slogans, ultimately issuing a manifesto asking for ‘a constitutional monarchy, a government elected by the people and an electoral system that guarantees the fair representation of all sectors of society.’ [19]
The main labor union in Bahrain is playing a role opposite to that of the central unions in Egypt and Tunisia, aborting the general strike it called in mid-February almost immediately, stating “in the light of the army’s withdrawal and respect of the right to demonstrate peacefully, the general union for labour syndicates has decided to suspend the general strike and return to work” on the day just before the massive demonstrations February 22. [20]
Individual and organizational political positions are continually shifting and developing.
Tomorrow is the next big demonstration, named the March of Millions. As M and I leave the demonstration and walk all the way to Giza [Egypt] for the lack of taxis or mini-busses, we join a group of people coming our way, lead by a woman wearing a colorful variant of niqab, accompanied by another woman in jeans and open hair, and shouting in very loud voice: “The people – want – the removal of the president!” We join, and M. starts chanting (I never knew he has such a loud voice): Tomorrow at nine! Million tomorrow! Million tomorrow at nine! Peaceful demonstration tomorrow! — Samuli Schielke, 31 Jan 2011
Not everybody is sharing equal enthusiasm. I also meet people who are either more modest in their demands, or more skeptical about the possibility of getting rid of Mubarak and the system. The guy at the mobile phone shop where I got my phone card said: Isn’t this what we wanted – we got a new government. A customer says no, we want more, he must go. Tomorrow we all go to the March of the Millions! And at night as we stand for a while at Giza square, I talk with a man who gives the government full blame for the whole looting and chaos and hates the system, but still believes that Mubarak won’t go, he will stick no matter what we do. “It’s now worse than ever. Now we are forced to fight Egyptian against Egyptian, check each others on roadblocks, what way of living together is this? — Samuli Schielke, 31 Jan 2011
As I reached 26th of July Street, one of central Cairo’s major streets, I encountered more pro-Mubarak demonstrations, consisting of people driving on top of trucks and chanting “mish ha yimshi!”(“He won’t go”, in contrast to the pro-democracy slogan “We won’t go until he goes!”)

At first these were small groups, but bit by bit they succeed gathering spontaneous participants as well, and in the course of an hour, they developed into huge mass marches through the streets. Many cars and busses were honking their horns and people are waving Egyptian flags.

Quite suddenly, an air of enthusiasm and relief overcame the people in the street. Some were there to show their support to Mubarak, but many others are more differentiated: They were happy that Mubarak has promised not to run for presidency and confident that there is going to be democracy and new parliamentary elections. They thought that Mubarak has heard the voice of the people, and that he shouldn’t go immediately but there should a period of well-ordered transition, and people should stop demonstrating and everybody should go back to work. — Samuli Schielke, 2 Feb 2011
As we were making a quick walk around the square, suddenly I was enthusiastically greeted by an old friend of mine whom I wouldn’t have expected to see here. Sheikh N. is an Islamic mystic (Sufi) who spends most of the year setting up his tent and offering free food and lodging to the pilgrims at Muslim festivals around Egypt. But I never thought that he would have anything to do with politics. But here he was in Tahrir Square, having changed his plain white robe and turban for jeans and jacket and demonstrating against oppression since a week by now. He has built his tent in one of the green isles in the square, with some of his supporters along with him. I am delighted to see him. It gives me so much hope. — Samuli Schielke, 3 Feb 2011
Contrary to the news reported in the US, none of these protests have been peaceful and nonviolent. Hundreds and probably many more have been killed by state security forces and other reactionaries but the rebellions continue, fired by the examples of the fallen, beginning with Mohamed Bouazizi.
It is now well-known that the state security and armed forces of the Mubarak regime have attacked protesters in Cairo and Alexandria and killed hundreds. In Bahrain, where the core of the army is comprised of hired guns from Pakistan, they have shown little reservation about shooting and gassing protesters. This has now added new demands to the protests — the trial of the police and army who have shot at demonstrators and the presence of the United States, as amid the debris of the protesters’ camp destroyed by the police early on 17 February were dozens of tear-gas and baton rounds imported from the United States. [21]
The violent reactions by the states have served to draw more sections of the societies into the uprisings and to draw dividing lines more sharply. This in turn has prompted more than a few who yesterday were part of or allied with one or another government to now claim allegiance with protesters.
In Yemen, even as demonstrations were growing in intensity across his country, tribal leader and capitalist Sheikh Al-Humaiqani told the press that “if (they) were like the Egyptian protests – well-organized, controlled, protective of peoples’ souls and property, and without chaos or assault – I would be honored to go with them. But our problem is that we are still looking for protests that have this level of sophistication.” [22]

Amplifying that sentiment as the rebellion grew, the chairman of the opposition RAY party announced the following week, “we shouldn’t underestimate the demonstrators. There is a chance things may get out of hand. Neither the ruling party nor the opposition has control of it. The people are the real weapon of change but this weapon should be under a reasonable authority or political power. If people just go out in the streets with no guidance, then it will be a dangerous thing.” [23]
In Egypt, since the beginning of the upsurge, some sections of the middle classes and the bourgeoisie have argued for a return to ‘normalcy’ and calm and looked to the army’s general command to restore order. In fact, the generals have tried to order a return to ‘normalcy’ a few times since the protests began and these have succeeded in part, specifically in regard to al-Tahrir Square, but only for a day or two. At least some Egyptian capitalists thought the strikes may have been ‘tolerated in the light of the protests that brought down the former president, Hosni Mubarak,’ a statement that in itself is revealing for its arrogance toward the workers’ actions and its assumption that the neo-liberal state ought to be ‘in charge’ and everyone else in society should know to follow along.

The Guardian quoted one such bourgeois, a board member of the Nile Company, complaining that “The army should have given a firm statement for all kinds of sit-ins to stop immediately after Mubarak stepped down.” Another capitalist, in the power industry, offered his analysis that “though this statement (by the general command to halt all strikes) should have come way earlier, I think the army was just allowing people to take their chance to voice their demands and enjoy the spirit of freedom.” [24]
Right, perhaps something like a dinner party, after which the people would all go home and leave the social relationships of political and economic power completely intact, with one or two new faces in front. Anything but ‘a revolution, an insurrection, an act of violence, by which one class overthrows another.’
Certainly these revolutions and rebellions demonstrate a pace and a complexity that challenges established assumptions about political power and social relationships. In scores of cities and towns, traditional notions of strata, class, gender, ideology and ‘realistic politics’ are being seriously challenged. And after every question asked, several more raised in their wake. The rebellions across the Maghrib will leave an indelible mark, not just in the Arab speaking world.
It remains of course for the peoples of the societies of the Maghrib to determine the course of their revolutions.
But what emerges from the tenacious facts of their struggles is the importance of making a strategic analysis of friends and enemies with the perspective of complete social emancipation. The determination and tenacity of these uprisings has truly resided among the youth, students and workers who stand at the base of these societies and have the least stake in them. Global capital has brought the forces of social emancipation together in the urban cores of these countries and it will only be through the course of their struggle –- to gather together all potential allies to root out the source of their oppression — that they will be able to enunciate an emancipatory program.
* * * *
1 August 1966
Red Guard comrades of Tsinghua University Middle School:
I have received both the big-character posters which you sent on 28 July as well as the letter which you sent to me, asking for an answer. The two big-character posters which you wrote on 24 June and 4 July express your anger at, and denunciation of, all landlords, bourgeois, imperialists, revisionists, and their running dogs who exploit and oppress the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionary parties and groupings. You say it is right to rebel against reactionaries; I enthusiastically support you.

I also give enthusiastic support to the big-character poster of the Red Flag Combat Group of Peking University Middle School which said that it is right to rebel against the reactionaries; and to the very good revolutionary speech given by comrade P’eng Hsiao-meng representing their Red Flag Combat Group at the big meeting attended by all the teachers, students, administration and workers of Peking University on 25 July. Here I want to say that I myself as well as my revolutionary comrades-in-arms all take the same attitude.

No matter where they are, in Peking or anywhere in China, I will give enthusiastic support to all who take an attitude similar to yours in the Cultural Revolution movement. Another thing, while supporting you, at the same time we ask you to pay attention to uniting with all who can be united with.

As for those who have committed serious mistakes, after their mistakes have been pointed out you should offer them a way out of their difficulties by giving them work to do, and enabling them to correct their mistakes and become new men.

Marx said: the proletariat must emancipate not only itself but all mankind. If it cannot emancipate all mankind, then the proletariat itself will not be able to achieve final emancipation. Will comrades please pay attention to this truth too?
– Mao Tsetung
†. Mercenaries are now euphemistically referred to as ‘contractors’ in US defense and state department documentation. According to testimony read into the Report ‘Contracting in a Counterinsurgency’ of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, (hearing 111-571, 24 February 2010) there are estimated to be a third more contractors (150,000) in Afghanistan than uniformed troops. According to the Congressional Research Service report of 2 July 2010, the DoD had 19% more contractor personnel (207,600) than uniform personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Among the most notorious contractors is Xe Services LLC, which is an umbrella company that operates through at least 30 other paramilitary outfits (e.g. Paravant, Greystone, XPG) and was formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide. The founding partner of Xe is Eric Prince who recently relocated his operations to Abu Dhabi and has set up a new company operating in Africa under the name Saracen. He was quoted in the NY Times [20 Jan 2011] that he thought relocating to the Gulf would make it ‘harder for the jackals to get my money.’

††. Over the last few hundred years, the peoples along the Maghrib have borne the burdens of successive neo-colonial and colonial relationships, especially with French, Italian, British and US imperialism. The neo-liberal variant, imposed through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, especially since the 1970s, is perhaps only the most ‘quick and dirty’ example of how global capital can restructure a society with little consideration of the people who comprise it.

For two examples: Bahrain, which for decades was maintained as a naval outpost for the British and then United States is now refitting itself as a financial services center. Its large guest worker population is engaged in construction and in hospitality services, among other occupations.

The World Bank named Egypt the ‘top reformer in the Middle East’ in 2006. Egypt maintains 20 Qualifying Industrial Zones; ‘free trade’ industrial areas where goods manufactured with a designated percentage of Israeli materials can enter the U.S. without tariff or quota restrictions. Its commerce ministry boasts that Egypt is ‘call center to the world’ based on that service sector which grew up in recent years, alongside pharmaceuticals (Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer), automotive production (GM Egypt is the largest GM unit in Africa), information systems (Microsoft, Xerox). All of which exists alongside petroleum extractives (Apache, Exxon-Mobile), and the plantation agricultural system (Egypt’s two most important export crops are rice and cotton).

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