I've suggested elsewhere that a discussion is posed on the question of "popular revolts" so with a concern to open a discussion on this issue here is an attempt at a position.
First of all, I want to insist on the centrality of the working class, the only revolutionary class, the only force capable of leading a revolution and bringing humanity closer to the perspective of communism. If my position, such as it is, contradicts or questions this assertion, then I hope it will be demonstrated without any equivocation.
The position of the ICC on recent revolts can be summed up in the first words on the front page of the latest Revolution Internationale, number 420: "What happened in Tunisia and Egypt these last weeks and what is happening in Libya today? A massive uprising against regimes of terror, or terrifying conditions of life, unemployment and an intolerable misery arising from the pressure of the world economic crisis."
A similar position was put forward in the statement of the ICC and the previous issue of WR and I've seen the phrase used with words to the effect that no matter what flags are flying this is an anti-capitalist revolt. These are general political statements that do not change from day to day.
Now again, if I make any concession to any faction of the bourgeoisie, I would like to be criticised because there are obvious dangers here that could lead one into support of any emerging or existing force of the ruling class. But whatever these dangers, I support the above ICC positions which should not be subject to the vicissitudes of day to day events (though there's nothing to prevent this in the longer term as evidence mounts) and see these as statements of principles, ie, that anti-capitalist struggles of non-proletarian strata can exist and that these are part of the present movement expressed in the Maghreb and the Middle East that also include the more or less stronger stamp of the proletariat.
As Marx demonstrated,it can be very useful for the purpose of a profound economic analysis, to have a model of the world where there exists only proletarians and bourgeois. But Marx knew very well that this wasn't the real world and marxism developed on this further with Luxemburg's economic analysis applying more clearly outside of the strict proletarian/bourgeois model. This analysis is also one that the ICC has developed in recognising the reality of the existence of the peasantry, non-proletarian exploited layers, the oppressed, and so on. These layers can be with the proletariat or against it but their existence can't be denied by a schema of the world entirely and only populated by proletarians and their bourgeois masters. These non-proletarian strata can, in my opinion, be an anti-capitalist expression, an expression which gains more longer term strength when it aligns itself firmly with or behind the proletariat. It is in the interests of the latter, it is in the interests of the communist perspective, that the former does just this.
From what I've seen of Devrim's position on Libcom it has been consistent, consistently dismissive of these struggles. When, possibly, many hundreds of thousands of all sorts, including many young and older women wearing hijabs, were protesting, discussing, debating and taking positions against the state in Tahrir Square, Devrim didn't seem to think that much was afoot (he of course can clarify his position - I'm just giving my view of it). When workers in Egypt started to join the movement with economic demands and strikes, he totted up the numbers in a dismissive fashion - only 20, 50 thousand. This to me underestimates the whole movement. On Libya, he dismissed the movement in a short phrase: "tribal and Islamicist". Tribalism exists but is obviously a weak, secondary factor both in relation to the movement overall and the wider machinations of imperialism. "Islamicism" seems to me to be a pejorative dismissal encompassing any expression of the muslim faith - I don't know, there's not a great deal of explanation.
Ernie in the discussion on events in Libya, while pointing out the specifics of the country and the real dangers involved, very clearly contradicting the position of the ICT, saw this movement degenerate very quickly into a fight between gangsters, a sort of equivalance; either support for Gaddafi or support for the Libyan National Council. There's an inference in Ernie's position in that there's a gangster/Islamicist element. To me, this is a bit like saying that the Warsaw Ghetto was a fight between gangsters, a sort of "six of one, half-a-dozen of the other". I don't want to give any credibility to a defence behind the National Council (which hasn't actually put up much of a defence so far, but that's secondary), but to fight for your life against a regime that is going to kill you and your family (whether you took up arms or not if you live in the wrong town), is not something that should be denounced by communists as gangsterism. To me there are subtleties in the situation that, whatever the eventual dangers of being dragooned by one faction of the bourgeoisie or the other, demand to be taken into account.
As well as this, the fact that there is the existence of muslims and other beliefs over large swathes of the globe can't be denied by a politicised Dawkins-like schema that would wish them away with scientific rationality. This reality has to be taken into account by communists.
So, in my opinion, this has wider ramifications for revolutionaries. The positions that I've referred to, criticised, above, are positions clearly made from the proletarian camp, putting forward the interests of the working class first and foremost. I can't emphasise this enough.
But the bourgeoisie has a point of view, a sinister agenda here. It knows the weight of Islamiscism, it knows that there are millions and millions of workers across all the centres of capital that are also of the muslim faith. And this is a perfect opportunity for them to sow divisions amongst "their" workers. For two decades now - since the collapse of the eastern bloc, it's no coincidence - there has been a concerted campaign to demonise muslims in Britain, the USA, France and Germany as Islamicists. All the major imperialisms have used it as a potent weapon with the UK and US leading the campaign and the other two not far behind. In Britain it's been used by the left, with a division of labour within that: the Labour Government leading the campaign and virtually setting up the racist English Defence League on one hand, and the leftists complementing it with the other side of the coin position with the likes of "We are all Hamas", ie, Islamicist thugs.
So I hope that this rather scrappy effort is taken in the spirit of clarification that is intended:
1. Other strata than the proletariat can be part of the struggle against capitalism despite the centrality of the latter.
2. Revolutionaries have to denounce the demonisation of muslims and any other religiously held beliefs while putting forward the unity of the class struggle which can easily incorporate such beliefs (with the perspective of going beyond them).