The Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak, after having ruled for thirty years under the emergency laws called into effect after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, has been confronted with the largest demonstrations against his regime since the ‘bread riots’ in the 1970s. His infantile tinpot tyranny has given the Egyptian people nothing whatsoever in thirty years of rule: one-third of the population is illiterate, a quarter lives on less than $2 a day, there are virtually no political institutions that can represent the popular will and needs, and the Third World ‘population trap’ is present in one of its worst forms in that country. Mubarak has now declared around midnight local time in Cairo that he has fired his government, many of whose ministers had been ‘serving’ for more than ten years; although this is a blatant attempt at sacrificing those around him in order to buy himself time and legitimacy, this seems if anything rather a sign of weakness. The inspiration from the people of Tunisia in their overthrow of the useless kleptocracy of Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali will certainly have played a major role, but so has the persistent economic failure of the government, the lack of development, and the worsening of poverty under the current crisis and the attendant rise in food prices.
The US government has been the major sponsor of Mubarak, giving him $1.5 billion a year in military financing since the Camp David agreement essentially to bribe him not to attack Israel. Mubarak has maintained his position by operating as a conduit for American and Israeli power in the Middle East and acting as a vassal in his foreign policy, in exchange having US support for indefinite degrees of oppression and torture in his domestic policy. Now, however, the US has fallen into a trap; on the one hand it will want to support its vassal Mubarak, but it will also have difficulty maintaining its seriousness in the aim of ‘promoting democracy’ in the Middle East if it allows the Egyptian leader to continue to oppress his people. This puts it in a difficult position, and already suggestions have come from American politicians to ‘review’ the annual military bonus for the Egyptian elite – which on its own is already a revolutionary step in Middle Eastern politics. We should not under any circumstances let ourselves be deceived by fearmongering about supposed Islamist takeovers or the power of Iran, which are purely phantom phenomena compared to the importance of creating political room for maneouvre in the greater Middle East.
There are no guarantees about what kind of governments would succeed the current ones, but for any progressive it should be clear that a democratic revolution in these countries will be infinitely better for the potential of socialism and class consciousness in the region than the continued rule of the same geriatric cliques. The mere possibility of revolution in the Middle East will have a powerful reverberating effect across the region, affecting other weak tyrannies such as possibly those in Jordan, Yemen, Syria, or even Libya. It will also constitute an immediate existential threat to the absolute monarchies in the Gulf area, as shown by the decision on the part of the monarch of Kuweit to directly offer $3500 per month for the next fourteen months for each Kuweiti citizen – a clear Louis Napoleon quality attempt to buy off popular resistance if ever there was one. Anything that causes the arch-tyranny, the House of Saud, and its lesser brethren to fear for their position is by that alone prima facie progressive.