The Modern Revolution

When the historians write thehistory of the late twentieth century, they will address the advent of the ideaof a modern popular uprising, such as has felled the long lasting communistdictatorships in the late nineties and is now confronting the slew of Islamic autocraciesthat have held power for half a century. They all thought that they were forever.

The cause is easy todetermine.  For two generations theeconomies have been taxed by command and control governments whose idea of governanceconsisted of exchanging absolute power for front end skimming of theeconomy.  The natural result of all thisis and was anemic growth if it existed at all.

That led to a simple lack ofmeaningful jobs for the young and educated in economies that just modernizing produceseight percent growth as Chinaand Indiaand everywhere else is now demonstrating.   Everyone has woken up to the trivial fact that it does not require theinvention of special tool to produce a countries basic needs and even modernneeds and that everyone is happy to sell them to you.

Yet if a company happened toarrive in Egypt,it was presented with a sea of open hands asking for juice in order to conduct anybusiness from the top down.  I think thatthe Arab world will be astounded just how fast a modern economy will get builtout once it is freed up.

For the Arab world, this isthe real revolution.  It is the assertionof control by the middle class who will have no truck with religious fanatics whoare on the way to complete marginalization. It will be bumpy but it will be successful. We need only look to theoutcomes in the former world of communism were only two to three  holdouts are not functioning democracies withsteadily improving economies. 

All the other regimes arepresently under assault and all the regimes that hope to survive are nowbeginning the Chinese foot race in which the command structure keeps generatingeight percent growth to keep the people happy. After all, everyone in Chinaknows true democracy will be fairer, but will also naturally slow development.  So the trade off is simple.  Maximize growth through use of war timecommand until everyone has entered the modern world willy nilly.  Then accept lower growth for proper politicalcontrol by the people.

It is all now exciting andactually turning out to be a surprisingly safe transition.  Both Egyptand Tunisiaare on the way to a real democratic form. The people feel their power and will not be denied.  Such a democratic form will swiftly quell thefanatics and this means that Egyptwill soon defuse what is left of the Israeli Arab conflict.  No one is going to believe what I have justsaid, but the quick fix for Egyptis simply to allow the Gaza population tointegrate with Egypt andconvert Gaza into the Sunshine Coast.

Fanatics do grow old and youmake sure that they have little chance to pass their hatreds on.  All this takes time, but a liberal democracyalways has time.  Recall that the oldestintact government in existence today is the first modern democracy.  Thus we learn again that the weight ofhistory is with the liberal democracy. It is able to use time to massage out differences and repair cracks insociety and generally allow its people to improve their lives.

Bahrain: The Social Roots of RevoltAgainst Another US Ally

By Finian Cunningham

Global Research,February 18, 2011

Bahrain, February 18. 2011. “Haveyou ever seen an island with no beaches?” The question posed by the youngBahraini taxi man standing among thousands of chanting anti-governmentprotesters seemed at first to be a bit off the wall. But his explanation soongot to the heart of the grievances that have brought tens of thousands ofBahrainis on to the streets over the past week – protests which have seen atleast seven civilians killed amid scenes of excessive violence by statesecurity forces.  Unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher.

Many Bahrainis, like the young taxi man, havewitnessed huge wealth sloshing around their diminutive country of less than600,000 indigenous people (perhaps another 300,000 are expatriates, officialfigures are vague). But so little of that wealth – especially in the last sevenyears of high oil prices when Bahrain’s national revenue tripled –has found its way into creating jobs and decent accommodation.  Morethan 50,000 Bahraini families are estimated to be on waiting lists for homes.Some families have been waiting for over 20 years to be housed, with severalgenerations sharing the one roof, in cramp conditions with poor sanitation.

All the while, these people have come to feel likestrangers in their own land, with their squalid conditions in inner-city areasand villages being in sharp contrast to the mega shopping malls andmulti-storey buildings that have sprung up to attract US and Europeaninvestors, financiers, companies and rich tourists.

The Gulf island’s oil wealth has been channeledinto diversifying the economy away from dependence on oil and gas revenues into other sectors suchas property development and international banking. The self-styled kingdom, which is sandwiched less than 30 kilometerson either side between the oil and gas giants of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has leveraged its hydrocarbon wealth to earn areputation as a finance and trade hub in the Middle East on a par with Dubai located further southalong the Arabian Peninsula in the United Arab Emirates.

But that reputation for being a cutting-edgecapitalist hub – Bahrain isthe only country in the Gulf region to have signed a free trade agreement withthe US– comes at a heavy social and ecological cost. And it’s a cost that seems tohave pushed a large section of the population too far, to the point where theyare emulating the protests in TunisiaEgypt and other parts of the Arab world to demandlong-overdue democratic rights.

In the early hours of Thursday, up to fivethousand Bahraini protesters were forced from the main demonstration site atthe Pearl Roundabout, a landmark intersection in the capital, Manama. The Bahraini authorities deployed helicopters,dozens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, with army and police firingteargas and live rounds. Among the protesters were hundreds of women andchildren.
At the centre of the site is the Pearl Monument,which alludes to the country’s traditional pearl diving and fishing industries– industries that were the mainstay of communities.

Within view of the monument are the iconicskyscrapers of Bahrain’snewfound wealth, including the FinancialHarbour and the World Trade Center. Only a few years ago, thisentire area of the capital was sea, the land having been reclaimed anddeveloped. Up to 20 per cent of Bahrain’stotal land area has been reclaimed from the sea over the past three decades.

However, this vast reclamation and developmentdrive has, according to local environmental groups, devastated the island’smarine ecology and fish stocks in particular. The rampant development – whichhas made fortunes for the country’s elite – has had an equally devastatingeffect on local communities who have depended on the sea for their livelihoods.While these communities have suffered the blight of unemployment and poverty,they also have witnessed roaring property development, land prices and profitsbenefiting the ruling elite.

These communities have watched their country’s oilwealth being directed to serve elite interests with development plans that aregeared to lure international capital. This has led to swathes of coastal areasbeing confiscated by members of the extended Al Khalifa royal family, to beearmarked for future reclamation and skyscraper development. That is how Bahrain hasbecome something of a paradox – an island without any beaches. And it is thislopsided, elite-orientated development that is fuelling deep social grievancesamong the masses, grievances that are now being directed at those elites.Further state repression against such protests can only amplify thesegrievances.

Bahrain’s unstable social formationis underpinned by unwavering USdiplomatic and military support. The island serves as the base for the US Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. The latest wave of staterepression has tellingly elicited only a subdued, ambivalent comment from Washington, urging “all sides to refrain from violence” –Washington-speak that translates into support for the government. Last year, Bahrain received $19.5 million in US military aid, which, on a per capita basis, equates togreater than that delivered to Egypt.

Once again, another uprising against anotherUS-designated “important ally” seems to be underway in the Arab world. And onceagain, the contradiction of elite rule and widespread poverty – all the moreglaring in oil-rich countries – is ultimately undermining Washington’s imperial designs.

Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician: 

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