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Springtime for the Arab Left?


  Yemen? To what extent is left politics possible there?
Each of these countries is of course very different. In Yemen a transition was imposed by the Saudis and their friends. That created a lot of frustration. The separatist movement in the south is growing. As you know, until 1994 there were two countries, and the south was the only anti-capitalist experience in the Arab world. But the agreement has the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which hopes the new president will collaborate with them. The whole situation is affected by tribal divisions, and these tribal structures create a social base for the regime. In Yemen we've seen the only genuine mass mobilizations in favour of the government. The pro-government rallies in Libya were to a large extent fake, and you can discuss the character of the pro-Assad rallies in Syria. But the uprising in Yemen unleashed a potential that is still there, and the social question won't go away. Two thirds of the people in Yemen fall below the poverty line!
Libya is the country undergoing the most radical changes in the region. It is the only country where the state was actually smashed. There is no state in Libya, it has not been replaced; there is a chaotic situation. Local militias have replaced the state as the holders of power. There are attempts to construct a new state, but this is difficult and there is no single political authority. The Transitional National Council (TNC) is being violently attacked by demonstrations in Benghazi, Tripoli etc. The attacks come not from people who supported Gaddafi but from people who were involved in the struggle against him from the beginning. There is a spirit of revolt and discontent. After four decades of oppression, the lid has blown off. But after four decades of a totalitarian regime, there is very little political education in the country. That is why it is very difficult to predict the political landscape even a few months ahead, in the run-up to the elections.
Of course the Islamic current is present in Libya; the Muslim Brotherhood are there; there are liberals. But women are also organizing. There has been a struggle around the draft electoral law, which said the parliament should have at least ten per cent female members — there was a big outcry when this became known, and the quorum was doubled to 20 per cent. The Western media only reported about statements from the TNC leadership on introducing sharia law and legalizing polygamy, but on the ground there are real struggles and victories for women's groups. A union federation has also been formed that is linked to the Egyptian one. So yes, there are possibilities in Libya as well.



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