by Tim Horras
One reason revolutionaries create or join revolutionary organizations is because organizations function as repositories of collective knowledge gained during previous times of struggle. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, we can learn from the successes and failures of revolutionaries all over the world and creatively apply lessons of the past to our own unique political situation.
With that in mind, I’d like to relate a cautionary tale:
Many of you may remember the glorious upheavals of the Arab Spring, in particular the focal point of Tahrir Square in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands converged to drive out a dictator.
However, following an election in which conservative and right-wing forces in Egypt were significantly better organized than the moderate and left-wing forces opposing them, an arch-conservative was elected president.
Sure enough, the new president began to immediately crack down on protesters, implementing unpopular new executive measures, and generally governing without concern for the Egyptian population outside of his conservative base.
The election revealed, just as the revolution preceding it had exacerbated, tensions within the ruling elite, and elite opinion began to move against the new president, in alliance with the older forces from the dictatorship who were angered at having had their power removed.
The revolutionaries, mobilizing the masses into the streets to drive out the president, made a de facto alliance with the military leadership, wherein the left tacitly provided political support for a military coup against the president.
After the coup, the military placed one of its own into the office of president. Unsurprisingly, the new government immediately continued its crackdown on the left. Today, the Egyptian left is fractured and disoriented, and life has gotten worse for the Egyptian masses.
Why did this happen? It’s because the revolutionary left in Egypt failed to create resolutely independent political organization; they didn’t build a party.
Right now, here in the USA, there are increasing fissures developing within our government: federal vs state, state vs local, local vs federal, etc. various departments within the government maneuvering one against the other. Elements of the deep state—the permanent bureaucracy ensconced in the security apparatus—sniping at their rival agencies, etc. When we cheer one or another of these factions, we are making a dangerous mistake. We cannot afford to place our faith in the courts, the lawyers, the politicians, or the security state. We can trust only in the power of the people.
Our movement cannot afford to tie its long-term fortunes to one of these ruling class factions. Without independent initiative and our own organizational wellspring of people power—a party—we will snap back from fascism to an even more toxic form of neoliberalism than we had before. Let’s not forget, it was Obama who singled out the seven countries that make up Trump’s ban list, and the original Visa Waiver Program into law in 2015 with broad bipartisan support, and nary a peep of protest was heard from the left.
Here’s the takeaway: it is crucial to get out there, protest, and raise our voices. But if we’re not at the same time working to build a socialist party to advocate for the interests of the oppressed, of poor and working class people, we are going to find ourselves driving the wolf out the front door while the fox sneaks in the back door.
The problem is that, seen analytically, (neo)liberalism and fascism are not really two different things, one of which is good and the other bad, but two deeply interconnected faces of the capitalist world system.