Is history repeating itself? The wave of popular revolutions sweeping across the Arab world is reminiscent of events in Europe over twenty years ago. A series of mass street protests and strikes across Poland ended the fifty-four year authoritarian rule of the Communist Party when the regime was forced to hold democratic elections in 1989. Like a game of dominoes, the success of Polish ‘people power’ caused a knock-on effect of uprisings across all of the one-party Stalinist countries of eastern Europe. The seemingly indestructible edifice of militaristic Soviet puppet governments imploded within a matter of months.
Violence though was lessened by the ground-breaking decision of the Soviet Union under a reformist Mikhail Gorbachev government not to intervene in its satellite states as it had done so often in the past.
But the struggle for liberty and democracy knows no boundaries. Within a few years the USSR itself, then the world’s second superpower, disintegrated as its own peoples finally unshackled their chains of bondage.
In 2011 the majority of the Arab states, reeling from mass popular protests, are mainly one party regimes kept in power this time by the economic and military support of the USA, the world’s number one superpower.
Egypt for instance has long being the second largest (after Israel) recipient of American aid. Yet these funds, totalling c$2bn annually, are not used to improve the quality of life of the poverty stricken Egyptian people but primarily to buy arsenals of sophisticated weaponry from American arms manufacturers to keep a hated elite in power and to help Israel maintain its illegal siege of Gaza.
Thankfully it is Barack Obama in the White House and not George Bush leading to the hope that the Arabs will be able to eject their rulers from Yemen, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Of course the struggle for freedom and justice cannot be contained and inevitably it will be the turn of the Israeli colonists in the West Bank to face the wrath of both the enslaved and the exiled Palestinian peoples supported by the freed Arab populace of neighbouring countries. Peace in a war -ravaged Middle East will possibly then have a chance to blossom in a more fertile soil.