THE ISRAEL-EGYPT PEACE TREATY AND THE NEW IMPERIALIST ORDER IN THE MIDDLE EAST
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The Israel-Egypt peace treaty and the new imperialist order in the Middle East
From the British lion to the American eagle
The Camp David accords and the new alignment of forces
The expanded role of the Israel-Egypt alliance after the fall of the Shah
Politico-military commotion on a social powder-keg
The Israel-Egypt peace treaty and the new imperialist order in the Middle East
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The following article was published, as was the preceding article, in our theoretical review «Programme Communiste», no. 80, in July 1979. More than one and a half years have passed since then, and though some facts to which we refer are quite outdated, the events that have shaken the Middle East in this period, such as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the military coup d'état in Turkey, and the Iran-Iraq war, have reinforced and not diminished the general trend of US policy in this area. Moreover, the picture we gave of the social situation has not changed. Thus, we deem it possible to reproduce this article without any modification.
In the course of the last few years and in particular with the recent signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the predominant role of the U.S.A. in the Middle East has become obvious. Yet in its quest to dislodge England and emerge as the world bastion of capitalism, the U.S.A. became interested in this region of the globe quite late and only after it had become apparent that the exponential growth of its energy needs would make it dependent upon Arab oil.
In the classical era of colonialism the industrial use of petroleum was unknown and Great Britain did not have too much difficulty eliminating Portugal and Holland, then France and Germany from the Persian Gulf area. Through a policy of balkanisation of the region and a veiled colonial attitude towards Egypt and Sudan, it was able to stabilise its political and economic presence without having to deploy a large military apparatus.
It was not until the beginning of the present century that the U.S.A. penetrated this zone, at first by means of limited economic agreements with England. And it was only after the Second World War that these two powers entered into competition, began to mark off and then dispute their respective zones of interest.
From the British lion to the American eagle
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In the 1950's two events showed clearly that American imperialism was henceforth master in this area: the 1953 coup d'état in Iran and the halting of the Anglo-French intervention during the Suez crisis in 1956. Whereas the Shah could only be placed back on the throne thanks to the passivity of the U.S.S.R. and the Tudeh party, the U.S.A. was actively supported by Russia in the Suez crisis. Nonetheless, by occupying two key positions in the region - notwithstanding the temporary concessions to a Russia all too delighted to see the last of Britain - U.S. imperialism inherited the tendencies of its predecessor, tendencies which it would develop in subsequent years.
In American strategy, Iran has continued to play the triple role that England had already assigned to it, In the first place it has shielded the Near East and Africa from the repercussions of the social movement which shook Asia from its epicentre in China. In the second place it has served as a bastion against the attempts by competing Russian imperialism to penetrate Asia and break through to the warm water oceans. And finally, it has protected the oil fields of the Persian Gulf, a role which increased with the massive import of petroleum by the United States.
Israel's double role has remained unchanged. On the one hand it has protected the oil routes to the West, the Suez Canal, and the pipelines of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand it has maintained imperialist order thanks to its central position in the Mashreq. Its strategic position has enabled it to effectively block the unification tendencies of the wave of anti-imperialist emancipation in the Arab world. The natural vanguard of this movement is the Palestinian revolt which collides head on with capitalist expropriation and the barbaric terrorism of the colonist state of Israel.
Yet it is quite obvious that Egypt has played a decisive strategic role in the world policies of all the imperialisms. Formerly it controlled the route to the East Indies on behalf of Britain, which earned Napoleon Bonaparte's intervention. Today, through the Red Sea and Bab-el-Mandeb it commands the access to the Indian Ocean, which interests Russia for more than one reason: it would enable Russia to protect itself from the missiles which the Americans have been pointing at it for more than fifteen years from submarines cruising there; it would assure Russia the most rapid sea-link between European Russia and Vladivostock, which is necessary in the event of a war with China; it would give Russia control over Japan's naval supply routes for oil and raw materials as well as control over the sources of oil that now supply not only Europe but the United States as well. On an even broader scale this region occupies the place in Russian strategy held by the Constantinople area until the first imperialist war.
It is therefore obvious that the U.S.A. with its global objectives cannot be content with having expelled England from Egypt and thereby terminating its predominance in Asia. It must also necessarily strive to prevent any Russian control in that region. This is an objective that the U.S.A. has pursued secretly and indirectly, even when the game of diplomatic seesaw caused Cairo to lean toward Moscow while the U.S.A. allowed Israel to wage its wars against Egypt. The Israeli puppet-state which lacks any indigenous productive base and has to sell itself to the highest bidder, could well imagine that it had crushed its hereditary enemy. It has never had any power over Egypt except to the extent that the United States allowed it and the U.S. has only delegated Israel the task of preventing the Egyptian bourgeoisie (for the Egyptian bourgeoisie is at least theoretically most capable of attempting the unification of the Mashreq, if not of the «Arab fatherland») from becoming a real power in a position to challenge the American will. The United States has needed an Egypt ruined to the point that, with Russian financial imperialism still lacking any significant weight, it would be obliged to yield itself bound hand and foot to Wall Street, just as Israel has done.
Until now Israel has been crucial to the American vice which has held the Arabic world in its grip at three points. In fact after the Suez crisis, American strategy called for close links between Israel and the non-Arab states of the region. Thus discreet but real relations with Turkey (a secret treaty between Ben Gurion and Menderes at the end of the 1950's), Ethiopia and Iran were established. The treaty with Turkey died a natural death when the American missile bases were dismantled in connection with the Cuban crisis, although Kennedy had already decided on this course following the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Relations with Ethiopia collapsed with the fall of the Negus. After a tenuous survival until 1977, they were cut off definitively by the Ethiopian DERG. The break with Iran, Israel's source of oil, was much more painful. In January 1979, articles in the Israeli press urged the Shah's army to open fire on the masses and exhorted the police to shoot strike organisers, holding Carter's weakness responsible for the social instability.
Meanwhile the state of Israel gradually lost the privileged place and the considerable importance it enjoyed in the Fertile Crescent-Egypt-Red Sea zone from the moment it fell under American protection. This is due to the notable decrease in the oil flow through the pipelines of the Levant, and above all to the growing capacity of the Arab states themselves to play the role of social policemen in this region - Jordan to a lesser extent than revolutionary intervention of Syrian troops in Lebanon in the spring of 1976. Under the pretext of safeguarding the «unity» and the «sovereignty» of the Lebanese puppet-state, the various sections of the PLO took it upon themselves to restrain the movement of the masses and to compromise with the established order, to the point where they ended up by capitulating to the Syrian demands to repudiate all the «uncontrollable» Palestinian forces.
No sooner had Egypt fallen under American influence than U.S. imperialism unveiled the essence of its policy: «the peace», the Israel-Egypt peace - whether the Zionist colonists and the Egyptian bourgeoisie liked it or not - meant the division of strategic and counterrevolutionary military tasks between these two states.
The Camp David accords and the new alignment of forces
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Il follows that the Camp David accords do not mark a sudden turn in the policy of American imperialism, but rather the culmination of a long pursued policy and, in a certain sense, the opening of a new period in which the U.S. has freed itself completely of the constraints of the British heritage, and the revolutionary impulses stirred in the local bourgeoisies by the anti-colonial revolution in its eruptive phase have been stilled forever. The Camp David accords accomplish exactly the opposite of a free union based on mutual attraction. It is a disgusting marriage of convenience to which, moreover, each of the partners consents only because the common patron promises them that they will march in opposite though complementary directions. This is proved by the fact that neither of the two parties has done what it wanted to, but rather what it had to.
The conditions of Israel's birth and its natural tendency compel that country to reach not only to the East but to the South to colonise the Sinai and control the Suez. Now it is required to give up the territories it conquered from Egypt. In return, to be sure, the gates of Egypt are open to Israel. In order to satisfy its colossal appetite for expansion it must be content with discharging its products on the Egyptian market and with importing labour power from the banks of the Nile until such time when the profits thus realised can be reinvested in the Egyptian economy.
For its part, Egypt imagined it was capable of unifying the Arab world even if the historical cowardice of the Egyptian bourgeoisie only enabled it to envision this union in the form of an impossible entente between states, so as to avoid the revolutionary explosion of the popular masses and a direct confrontation with imperialism. To date Egypt has only succeeded in forging a front of its Arab neighbours which is directed not so much against the United States as against Egypt itself. In any case the promise of economic assistance has spared it, for the moment, from the horror of a popular revolt.
Everyone in the realm of business is anxious for the creation of a «normal» situation, which is obvious from the smaller articles pushed off the front pages of the newspapers by the extravagant publicity surrounding the great puppet show, The day after the treaty was signed in Washington, all the Israeli financial papers gave the official exchange rate for the Egyptian pound (= 24 Israeli pounds). Even before the signing there were negotiations for tourist travel and studies were devoted to the application of Israeli agricultural technology in desert regions. As for real estate, there were promises of lucrative deals in the development of Egyptian «tourist facilities». With good reason article 3 of the treaty provides for the normalisation of «diplomatic, economic and cultural» relations and guarantees «the free movement of persons and goods». Thus Israel has access to the Arab market through the front door. Dayan, with his fondness for historical parallels, will certainly be reminded of the idyllic relations between the Egyptians and Canaanites in Palestine after the battle of Megiddo in 1480 B.C. when Thutmosis III defeated the Syrian invaders, ancestors of the same Syrians who now stand opposed to Israel without the Egyptian umbrella of protection.
So much for the trivial wedding gifts. We repeat, however, that the important point is the sharing of military, strategic and counterrevolutionary tasks dictated by American imperialism. Even if a war between Egypt and Israel cannot be absolutely excluded until such time as the two governments have adapted their policies to the new material conditions (and until the populations have adapted their mentalities) such a war seems highly unlikely, since it would benefit neither party.
Israel's military aggressiveness will be directed toward the North-east and East now that the southern flank has become a sanctuary of peace. In other words, this means that the «Palestinian question» will be exclusively in Israel's hands. Behind the smoke screen of Palestinian «administrative autonomy» Egypt has even renounced ever using the Palestinians as a bargaining chip against Israel and the United States. The surest proof of this is that during the peace talks the Knesset was debating a project that called for the creation of 84 new settlements on the West Bank in the next five years, at a cost of 54 billion Israeli pounds (approximately 2.5 billion US dollars).
In practice the «administrative autonomy» means that the Palestinians will have the right to elect their own mayors, and may enjoy a few other «advantages»). Even thought he denies it, Sadat signed this clause, and this should come as no surprise.
Moreover, Hussein's own conduct must conceal some purpose. Why would this petty monarch, graduate of an American college and until recently still a ward of the Yankees, turn on the United States and consort with his former enemies? Perhaps he has an imminent role to play in regard to the Palestinians, and today with the understanding of Egypt, Israel and the United States, he is trying to make himself «presentable»? It is not out of the question that the «solution of the Palestinian issue» being concocted by this unsavoury cabal will rely on a military pressure upon Jordan and Lebanon in order to force them to accept an Israeli-Egyptian condominium over an eventual «homeland» straddling the Jordan River, where Israel may impose and develop its concept of «administrative autonomy». A military action in the East, or even the mere threat of one, on the one hand would increase Israel's weight as regional policeman, particularly in opposition to Iraq and Syria, the only powers now in a position to confront Israel, even just on the level of their national interests. But this could never be considered a revolutionary confrontation, Syria and Iraq share the job of maintaining order (e.g. in Lebanon). And Iraq is even making advances toward Washington presenting itself as policeman in the Persian Gulf. As for Syria, it has 30,000 soldiers in Lebanon, and in keeping with its historical tendency, this «peace-keeping force» could turn into an occupation force under favourable circumstances.
Turkey has regained all its former importance, especially in light of the uncertainty surrounding Iran. After Pakistan and then Iran, Turkey withdrew from CENTO (which consisted of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Great Britain and the USA) last March, dealing that pact a mortal blow. But it is certainly no coincidence that the USA, in the context of the realignment of forces, has terminated the embargo on military equipment imposed after the Cyprus conflict and has resumed arms deliveries to Turkey. Nor is it any coincidence that the European and American bourgeoisies feel the need to express their solidarity with that country and to make that expression «concrete» with a loan from the IMF for 1.75 billion dollars.
But the largest zone falls to Egypt. Even before the overthrow of the Shah, Egypt had begun to assume the function of policeman by sending first an expeditionary corps to Sudan in order to «aid» Neimeiri against «Libyan conspiracies», then a logistical detachment to Zaire and a commando unit to Cyprus in an Entebbe-style anti-terrorist operation, and support to Somalia at the time of the Ogaden war. This is the meaning of Carter's words of relief at the conclusion of the peace: «The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel will allow Egypt to free five divisions. These will be able to become a stabilising force». Now is this really a peace, or a new alignment in preparation for new conflicts?
In addition to the reasons just indicated, the growing role of Egypt in American military policy is undoubtedly due to two causes: first, the increasing importance of the Arabian peninsula in the oil supplies of the USA itself; second, the fact that East-West antagonisms are undergoing a considerable sharpening in the entire Middle East-Africa-Indian Ocean region, while as early as the end of the 1960's, at the time of the definitive decline of British imperialism, the United States switched from its land based strategy to air-sea control of the oceans of the whole world, a strategy in which Egypt resumes its role as a nerve-centre.
The expanded role of the Israel-Egypt alliance after the fall of the Shah
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Iran had played an enormous role in this strategy. In December 1973, 3,000 Iranian marines disembarked on the shores of Dhofar during the joint air-sea manoeuvres of CENTO and the Seventh Fleet. This was not just an operation in support of Sultan Qabus of Oman against the Popular Liberation Front of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, but a step up the ladder toward larger engagements in the framework of the general military and counterrevolutionary plan of the USA. Only the perspective of such engagements can account for the quantity and especially the quality of the arms furnished to Iran, in particular in the fields of naval-aviation and electronic surveillance. Only within such a general scheme is it possible to explain the installation of coastal facilities such as the naval base at Bandar Abbas, and above all the gigantic air-sea complex at Shahbar, specially equipped for long-distance reconnaissance as a complement to the base at Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. To this should be added the transfer of the CIA general headquarters for the Middle East from Nicosia to Teheran in 1973, the appointment of the former director of that infamous agency, Richard Helms, as ambassador to Iran, and the invasion of American experts, estimated to total 65,000. However important Iran's place in American strategy may have been, Egypt, as we have seen, began to acquire a new significance. The fall of the Pahlavi regime, an important key in this strategy, accelerated this tendency and caused the US to rely more on the Israeli-Egypt pillar.
Israel has been able to slow its decline and strengthen its bargaining position vis-à-vis the United States. As an immediate consequence of the Iranian developments Syria was compelled to conclude an alliance with its traditional enemy, Iraq. The latter, disturbed by the creation of the Shiite regime, liquidated the anti-Syrian opposition it had supported within the Palestinian resistance, to the chagrin of the left Fatah and the organisations of the Refusal which had flirted with it. Moreover, the internal difficulties of Syria paralysed its policeman activity in Lebanon and encouraged Israel's aggressiveness. Israel literally cleaned out southern Lebanon, emptying it of its population, and has propped up Haddad's buffer-state, using it to control all the zone south of the Litani River without encountering any opposition, even enabling Israel to carry out raids in northern Lebanon.
But Egypt has become much more important relative to Israel. Even before it assumed its new role, Egypt had already begun to itch with impatience, pressed by its own enormous problems. During the meetings with the American Secretary of Defence Brown, Egypt declared its readiness to intervene for the preservation of the various countries of the region, in the first place to defend Sudan and Somalia, but also Saudi Arabia if necessary (given its tensions with Iran), Kuwait and the Emirates, or the Sultanate of Oman, where Egyptian troops have already replaced the Iranians. In Washington, Hassan Ali proclaimed: «It is up to Egypt to guarantee the defence of this critical area». On March 29, 1979, Egypt placed its troops along the Libyan border on alert, above all in order to prove that it was capable of intervening here, too. But the friction with Libya shows that Egypt is in a hurry. In fact, Egypt could not bear a clash with a well-armed country and for several years to come it will have difficulty confronting Libya, because it is terribly lacking in weaponry, particularly planes and modern armour.
Thus the United States has no time to lose, and Carter insists that all interested parties become «rapidly aware» of this. He has held meetings with them; he has established a direct line between himself, Begin and Sadat; he has sent his couriers, Brown and the Middle East expert Atherton; he has hurried off to Cairo and Jerusalem himself, and has turned loose Brzezinski, Vance and even his own son. He has created yet another American fleet on the spur of the moment; he has started work on an enlargement of the port and landing strips on the island of Diego Garcia, from which the aircraft carrier Constellation, brought in from the Philippines, will keep the zone under surveillance.
If the Americans have pulled out their «big guns» in the diplomatic game, what of armaments? They have promised planes and arms to Saudi Arabia in addition to a squadron of ultramodern F-15 fighters with American pilots in order to enable it to intervene in Yemen. They are studying carefully the gigantic «list of wedding gifts» demanded by Egypt; 300 F-16 fighters, 600 armoured personnel carriers, 4,500 TT tanks, 500 artillery pieces, 80 warships including torpedo boat destroyers and submarines, not to mention an undisclosed number of missiles. And when Israel protested and the Minister of Defense Weismann reminded Brown that it was his country, and not Egypt, that destroyed 400 Russian tanks and 1,000 Russian planes, the United States immediately came up with an arms promise to Israel as well.
In spite of this, the fall of the Shah increases the likelihood of a direct US military intervention in the region, which undoubtedly would not fail to provoke extremely dangerous reactions. This is why the Iraqis, drawing the lessons of the Iranian intervention in Dhofar, proclaimed loudly that «the security of the Gulf and the region as a whole can only be assured by the Arabs themselves». But the Americans believe that they can best take care of their own interests, since upon returning from his first mission to the Middle East, the Defence Secretary declared: «the protection of the oil flow from the Middle East is clearly part of our vital interests, and for the protection of such interests we will take any action that proves necessary, including the use of military force». For his part, the Energy Secretary Schlesinger announced that «the problem of a United States military presence through the use of armed forces personnel is under study».
These were not empty words. The newspapers report that alongside the official negotiations, the creation of a large American base in the Sinai was discussed, at Etzion, which Brown visited in February 1979, and that a secret agreement will permit the installation of two other bases, one in Egypt on the Red Sea, the other in Israel on the Mediterranean. Moreover, during the war between the two Yemens, the United States studied the creation of a «Joint Military Consultative Command» with Saudi Arabia, which would form part of a defence system for the whole Middle East. This had already been discussed with Sadat in connection with a sort of Marshall plan. The total plan was to cost no less than 15 billion dollars, 5 billion of which would be spent on arms. And, pointing to the presence in Aden of 3,000 Cubans staffed by 100 Russian officers and 700 Russian military «advisors» assisted by 100 technicians from East Germany, the US supplemented its original 70 «advisors» in North Yemen with another 300. It goes without saying that in the space of a few weeks the American administration was quite active. And yet there are people who reproach it for an excessive timidity bordering on resignation!
In this general framework the «peace» between Egypt and Israel is obviously not a real peace, which moreover in the imperialist era could not be guaranteed by any accord or treaty. Furthermore, it is not even, according to Lenin's expression, a «truce that paves the way for further wars», but fits right into the American war strategy of the last few years; from the arguments on principle of Camp David to the spectacular visit by Carter to Cairo and Jerusalem, all parties have only worked toward the logical development of this strategy.
Politico-military commotion on a social powder-keg
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This whole politico-military commotion nonetheless takes place against the background of a social powder-keg such has seldom been seen in history.
The developments in Iran have shown that the accumulation of capital accomplished under these local conditions can only result in a violent explosion of the social contradictions it produces. This conflagration took place in spite of the power of the clergy, which serves as a vehicle for the protests of the exploited masses and the traditional classes ruined by the chaotic disintegration of the old society, only in order to channel them into Islamic fundamentalism, and the absence of an autonomous proletariat, which general historical conditions have prevented from outgrowing the leadership of the commercial petty-bourgeoisie and the religious tradition of Shiite Islam. Now these same contradictions are present throughout the Middle East, with peculiarities which, by comparison to Iran, sometimes attenuate them, and sometimes exacerbate them. Three factors draw the region into a dizzying capitalist maelstrom and make the archaic social and political conditions as well as the direct political pressure of imperialism increasingly intolerable.
The first is the imperialist puppet Israel, which has imported lock, stock and barrel, a capitalist agriculture and industry and the classes associated with these, a European bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeoisie and labour aristocracy - the ashkenazim Jews. These categories enjoy exorbitant privileges in comparison to the Arab population, now totally expropriated and hunted off the land in the territories conquered before 1967 and subject to a rapid expropriation in Gaza and the West Bank. But at the same time they enjoy a social and political superiority over the oriental Jewish petty-bourgeoisie and working masses, the sephardim Jews, not to mention the immigrant workers now coming in considerable numbers from the Transjordan and soon from Egypt.
Until now the contradictions which undermine Israel have been contained thanks to the terror exercised against the Arab population and the permanent war, buttressed by interclassist «Jewish solidarity». The expansionism of the state of Israel gives it the hope of creating its own productive basis resting on a broad market, but at the same time it swells considerably the masses of proletarians deprived of all rights, who are the object of a double exploitation based on Jewish privilege and the permanent state of siege. In this way Israel increases not only the subjugated people's potential for revolt, but alive all the strength of the exploited transformed into proletarians. And the continuation of the state of permanent war, the galloping inflation and the sacrifices demanded of the Jewish working class indicate that the front of Jewish solidarity may be broken one day, that the sephardim working masses and even significant sectors of the ashkenazim workers may take a position of struggle against Jewish privilege - and thus for the destruction of the Jewish state - a struggle which is indispensable for the unification of the Middle East working class in its struggle against capitalism.
The second factor is the lightning-like development of oil wealth, and the third derives mainly from this, i.e., the proliferation of arms, linked to the efforts of imperialism to control the oil fields. These two factors have led to the creation of modern productive sectors which were stimulated and enlarged by the wars, and give rise to transactions as enormous as they are lucrative, which require considerable quantities of finance capital. This results in an abnormal (but under these conditions, natural) swelling of credit and the banking sector, which in turn engenders a large movement of general speculation, and in particular speculation in rent and especially urban real estate.
One can observe the landslide development of immense cities where the worst characteristics of western «civilization» are to be found, where the blackest misery combined with the most ostentatious luxury form a flammable mixture. Capitalism is implanted here with all its defects, but it has no time to fulfil its revolutionary tasks, namely the extension to the whole of society of associated labour and the discipline of social production, which instead are confined to a small number of large industrial complexes, while atomised individual production and to an even greater degree the small distribution entrenched in the heart of the bazaars and suks remain untouched. And if the countries of the West produce phenomena such as the exploitation of children or illegal labour, these are carried to their extreme in the societies newly conquered by capitalism where to old social forms driven to their destruction are not replaced by anything at all. In the immense bazaar of Teheran or in the endless labyrinth of alleys in Cairo, who controls the traffic in children, the double labour of workers who have to pay 60 % - 70 % of their wages for a room, or the labour of tanners and dyers who work with the deadly wastes of the chemical industry?
In Egypt these contradictions are particularly acute. In that country alone there are almost as many inhabitants as in the entire Fertile Crescent and the Arabian peninsula. Moreover it possesses an old industrial tradition and a productive network built on the exploitation of a strong and concentrated, but also combative working class. The fighting tradition of the Egyptian proletariat surpasses by far that of the other countries of the Middle East, and its organisational capacity manifested itself during the unrest of January 1977. After very heavy street fighting which left hundreds dead and at least 4 000 wounded, the worker's revolt, supported by the oppressed strata of the population and the students, forced the government to retract the price increases on essential consumer goods required by the IMF and to promise wage increases instead.
Imperialism absolutely has to «save» Egypt from economic catastrophe, under penalty of seeing its effects spread well beyond the Egyptian borders. The catch is that this rescue will itself prepare even more violent explosions in the future. And besides, it isn't easy. For example, nobody knows how many inhabitants there are in Cairo today. The 1966 census set the figure at 4.5 million, which, according to the national coefficient of population growth (2.2 %), should have risen to approximately 6 million. But with the peasant expropriations and massive urbanisation, the rate of growth of the capital is at least four times greater than the national average, which would result in a figure of more than 10 million. This phenomenon of massive and chaotic urbanisation, which afflicts not only Cairo and Egypt but also the other cities and countries of the Middle East evolving toward full capitalism, is a direct result of the fact that capital destroys the old structures too rapidly to allow anyone living in their shadow to be absorbed by the islands of advanced production. In these countries, modern capital acts immediately in a concentrated manner, without passing through the historical phases of capital accumulation as in Europe, and thus «frees» from the framework of archaic production millions of persons who are useless to a productive apparatus which comes into being all at once with a colossal productivity and an extremely high organic composition of capital (ratio of physical plant, raw materials, energy, etc. to labour power).
This has been followed by a large emigration in particular toward the Arabian peninsula. Officially 1.4 million Egyptians have left their country, but their real numbers must be at least double that, because the statistics only record those who leave for countries of the Arab League with an official work contract. In the summer of 1978 Saudi Arabia expelled thousands of Egyptians who had entered illegally, and Egyptair was obliged to organise an airlift of 20 flights weekly in order to repatriate them. The proportion of specialised personnel among the emigrants is negligible (1.8 % in 1976), which reveals the backwardness of the Egyptian productive network. But the great majority is composed of fellahin who abandon the overpopulated countryside for the mirage of foreign wages, and in the event of an enforced return these may become an explosive substance. Now if the immigration to countries such as Saudi Arabia or the Emirates obviously has objective foundations, the expulsion of several hundred thousand proletarians is not impossible in view of economic difficulties or measures of political retaliation. One can imagine the social consequences of such a mass reflux into Egypt. In Egypt alone deposits in foreign currency by emigrants officially amounted to 189 million dollars in 1974, 367 million in 1975, 358 million in 1976, and 700 million dollars in 1977. This influx of foreign currency was greater than that produced by the Suez canal, cotton, oil and tourism combined, and these are the principal sources of such revenue. With more than 40 million inhabitants on 35,000 square kilometres of habitable territory (1,143 inhabitants per square kilometre, including cultivated lands) Egypt has a vital need for expansion. There is not enough land and it is constantly being diminished because of urbanisation and the extension of infrastructures, The balance of payments suffers from a chronic deficit; the foreign debt has reached staggering figures and the only solution is to go further into debt in order to avoid a collapse. Wages scarcely reach 20 to 30 Egyptian pounds, the monthly rent for two rooms in the suburbs of Cairo, and inflation erodes them constantly. There is a superabundance of labour power, which means cheap cannon fodder. Is it any surprise that Egypt has impatiently awaited the new alignment of forces in the hope of employing its impoverished masses in the conquest of new territory? But it is by no means certain that Egypt will last as long as Iran did in the role of policeman. Undoubtedly Sadat had every reason for holding long talks with the fleeing Shah. Like Hassan, he wanted to understand the errors committed by the Pahlavic regime in order to try to avoid them. However Egypt does not have Iran's means for corruption.
But emigration doesn't affect Egypt alone. Throughout the Middle East, Zionist expropriation in Palestine, the militarization imposed by the pressure of imperialism and by the United States - Russian antagonism, the concentration of oil rent in a few countries and the impossibility of distributing the wealth over the whole region by generalising capitalist production, the impossibility of resolving the agrarian question and taking advantage of the fertile lands which exist in abundance but remain arid, and the uprooting of populations with millennial traditions - all these factors have produced the migration of millions of persons torn away from the land or the bazaar, and condemned them to a veritable wage nomadism.
This is especially the plight of the Palestinians, now almost entirely driven from their lands. This people, despoiled as a result of the requirements of imperialism and massacred, on its orders, not only by its declared enemies but also by its supposed friends, dispersed at first by the calculation of the imperialist powers and the infamous logic of the assistance of the UNRWA, responsible for distributing American «aid», and then by successive waves of massacres and by hunger, this people presents new and original class conditions. Prevented by war from owning land and exercising trades or commercial professions, the Palestinians have become guerrillas, sometimes organised in support detachments of the Arab armies, sometimes smugglers, but most often pure proletarians. And how many of them are there? Nobody knows. If we accept 3.5 million as the total number of Palestinians, of which about 2 million are forced into the Diaspora, to emigration, there could be as many as 1.5 million proletarians. Naturally their dispersion is a source of suffering, but in the long run this weakness may be transformed into a strength. These proletarians are the product of the final rupture of their links with peasant life and their attachment to the land. They have fought; they have organized themselves; they have gone on strike; they have faced death; they have received an international education which can be transmitted to their comrades at work, particularly when these are migrants, too.
Egypt, North and South Yemen and Palestine are the biggest suppliers of labour power to the oil magnates. Before it adopted severe measures to restrict illegal immigration, Saudi Arabia employed Egyptian, Palestinian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Sudanese, Yemeni, Syrian, Somali, Erythrian, South Korean, Taiwanese, Indian, and Pakistani workers in addition, naturally, to technicians and specialists from western countries. Combined with the Palestinians, Egyptians and Yemenis scattered throughout the Middle East, this adds up to more than 5 million proletarians. If we consider the fact that in general only technicians are allowed to bring their families with them, this figure represents a formidable mass of proletarians. Although divided, dispersed to the four winds and for the moment diverted from the class struggle by the few crumbs it receives, it is the real product of the revolution engendered by the oil wells in societies that had been mired in the past until yesterday.
These are the millions of proletarians. who, added to the proletariat of each country, constitute a potentially explosive mass much more pregnant with historical consequences than a treaty which sanctions new alignments of states.
This proletarian version of the Arab migrations of over 13 centuries ago is not as epic and certainly doesn't contemplate conquests as glorious as its predecessor. It develops in silence without making pretentious claims. In the sickening stench of the oil fields. in the searing shantytowns of the deserts, on the construction sites where they die like slaves, capitalism extends its grip on a new part of the world, and it is highly significant that it assembles a cosmopolitan cross-section of the international working class, its gravedigger - there, in that region of unstable governments, containing installations vital for imperialism, bristling with arms depots, teeming with proletarians and oppressed masses brought up in the school of war and violence.
This is how, from Cairo to Bassorah, and from there to Abadan and Teheran, from Alexandria to Tripoli and to the Maghreb, from Qatar to Beirut via Damascus, from Aden to Haifa via Amman and Jerusalem, from Mossul to Alep, and thence to Adana and Ankara, throughout this immense region are growing and maturing the conditions for the war of the working class masses drawing in their wake the impoverished masses of the cities and countryside. This is a war which can no longer be a war of races and nations except very marginally, because it is becoming a class war. This is the only war which, in union with the proletarians of the large imperialist centres finally compelled to find the road of open struggle again, under the leadership of the reconstructed world communist party, will be able to put an end to imperialist barbarism and give birth to a human, fraternal society, a communist society.
May the faucets of the oil fields be closed!
May the weapons be turned against the common enemy!
Source: «Communist Programm», nr.7, september 1981, translated from «Programme Communiste», no. 80, in July 1979
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