The Long Arab Revolution

Vijay Prasad in CounterPunch:

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 16 11.45 The Arab Revolt of 2011 is unabated. Protests continue in such unlikely places as Bahrain. On Valentine’s Day, a protest march in Manama had no love for the al-Khalifah royals. It wanted to deliver its message. “Our demand is a constitution written by the people,” the protestors chanted. Opposition leader Abdul Wahab Hussain told the press, “The number of riot police is huge, but we have shown using violence against us only makes us stronger.” The police fired rubber bullets and dispersed the as yet small crowd. “This is just the beginning,” Hussain said after he had been beaten off the streets.

Such protests appear unlikely only because the wave of struggle that broke out in the late 1950s and peaked in the 1970s was crushed by the early 1980s. Encouraged by the overthrow of the monarch in Egypt by the coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, ordinary people across the Arab world wanted their own revolts. Iraq and Lebanon followed. On the peninsula, the people wanted what Fred Halliday called “Arabia without Sultans.” The People’s Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf emerged out of the Dhofar (Oman) struggle. It wished to take its local campaign to the entire peninsula. In Bahrain, its more timid branch was the Popular Front. It did not last long. With Nasserism in decline by the 1970s, the new momentum came to this Arabian republicanism from the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Islamic Front of the Liberation of Bahrain attempted a coup in 1981. They had the inspiration, but not the organization. This Arab archipelago could not go the way of Yemen, where a revolution allowed a Marxist organization to seize power in 1967.

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