By Kumar David–
There has been news, mostly good but not yet conclusive, about two tottering dictatorships in the Middle East. First, Hillary Clinton threw America’s weight in support of democracy in Egypt and told the military to get back to the barracks. How sincere the Americans are depends on whether deeds follow declarations; so optimism should be tempered with caution. Since the Egyptian military leans on the US for hand-outs and because rapprochement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Americans will be a global game-changer, there is hope.
Is it in the interests of imperialism, or what’s left of it in Washington, to reach deals with democratic alternatives to rotten old dictatorships? Is it in the interests of the global bourgeoisie to compromise with moderate Muslim political manifestations such as the Brotherhood? The answer is sometimes “Yes,” if the outcome benefits Washington (vide Burma, Libya, Egypt and in the future Syria and Lanka), and sometimes “No,” as in countless past examples. It varies case by case and fortunately, at this point in time, it is in the interests of the people of the countries of the Arab Spring, of Burma and of Lanka, and to the benefit of Washington (and London, Berlin, Canberra and Ottawa) to punish dictators and putative dictators, and to bolster bourgeois democratic alternatives. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt therefore is wise to promote an understanding with America, albeit an uneasy one, with Washington’s support for Egypt’s military dictatorship all these years notwithstanding helps to weaken the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (the core of the dictatorship).
I have been saying for over a year in this column that the Syrian monster Assad will be overthrown; sometimes, as now, the process seems to be accelerating; sometimes the road ahead seems hard and strewn with corpses of the Syrian people. Events in July have been encouraging; high-level rats are deserting the sinking ship, the fight has been taken right to the citadel of the Syrian defence establishment and the defence minister, and a top team blown to pieces during a high level meeting, and an uprising is in progress on the very streets of Damascus. The revolution is fighting to take control of several border crossing posts into neighbouring countries. The clandestine assistance that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Western countries are channelling to the freedom fighters is far from adequate but Syria is a peculiar case in which foreign assistance to freedom fighters must be injected with great care.
The problem is not Russia and China; they are but a diplomatic nuisance at the Security Council. Nor can Iran call the shots if a free flow of foreign support for the Syrian revolution is authorized. The grave danger is that the Arab people of the region must not feel that forces inimical to the liberation of the Palestinian people and supportive of the Israeli cancer are pulling the strings. But as the ‘noose’ tightens around Assad and the firebombing encircles his presidential palace there is reason to hope that the Syrian people can finish the job by themselves with a reduced level of foreign military and diplomatic assistance. The fall of the Assad military dictatorship is a certainty but the timing is another matter; I guess the same can be said of authoritarianism nearer home.
The strange case of Russia and China
It was only a generation-plus ago, when I was still a student, that the Stalinist regime in the old Soviet Union, and on occasion the Chinese Maoists, extended support to people’s liberation movements in many post-colonial lands. The iconic examples of course were Vietnam and Cuba. But the world has now gone a complete circle; the most strident supporters of military dictators and authoritarian regimes everywhere and anywhere in the world today are Moscow and Beijing – vide Burma, Zimbabwe, Libya, Syria, North Korea and Sudan to name a few. Though the Rajapaksas are not true-blue dictators cast in the same mould, or at least not as yet, the Chinese and Russian governments can be relied upon to obstruct moves against investigation of human rights crimes or efforts to ameliorate on-going crimes against democracy by the Colombo regime.
We need to ask the question: Why is it that, at least in some cases, it is in the interests of global capitalism to assist revolutions, while however, the leading non-capitalist-non-socialist and still amorphous state forms in China and Russia, consistently oppose all popular movements against dictatorship without exception? The dichotomy is so glaring that the answer has to be stark. The answer is that global capitalism, now in decline and in free fall, sometimes needs to lean on an alliance with liberal, democratic and leftist movements in developing countries to resist the rapid spread of the global power of the non-capitalist power block. The converse accounts for the near criminal support extended by Moscow and Beijing for the world’s most ruthless dictators.
The Chinese state bureaucrats, and to a lesser degree Russia’s Putinist oligopoly, need to stabilize their cross-class state power base at home. There exists a monopoly of state power in the hands of the ruling party in both countries and no democratic outlet exists to vent public sentiments. Therefore these neo-Stalinist regimes must sustain a steady improvement in mass standards of living if the state-form is to survive. There is nothing that terrifies the Chinese leaders and keeps them awake at night more than the prospect of political instability. Alliances with the most brutal political dictators is perfectly acceptable to Beijing and Moscow since there is no such thing as public opinion within the countries to question the ethics of the regimes (China much more so than Russia). The regimes must ensure that the flow of energy (inwards for China, outwards for Russia), minerals and ores, and trading benefits remain secure. ‘You scratch my back I scratch yours’ diplomatic support and the sale of are armaments are additional benefits of collaboration with Third World dictators.
The game is the same, but the actors have crossed over as at half-time in a soccer match; that’s all that has happened. America was the champion of brutal dictators and the friend of the foulest banana republics for two generations after the end of the Second World War. The world has changed dramatically with the global collapse of capitalism, the beginning of the New Depression and the dramatic new economic rise of Chinese neo-Stalinism. As I said, the explanation is very simple, it the game is the same as before; it’s only that the players have crossed over on the playing field. QED!