The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
This collection by online contributors to the Arab Studies Institute magazine in the US provides sharp insights into the Middle East uprisings.
While the tone is that something has changed for good there are many reservations.
One such is the difficulties faced by democratic regimes, once established, in resisting domination by strong vested interests or in bringing about social justice and the economic growth necessary for good education, jobs and housing.
Another writer reduces the Arab revolutions to "refo-lutions" - revolutions that seek to advance reforms in and through the existing state institutions, with all the dangers of counter-revolution that might entail.
The US, described as the "main sponsor of Mubarak's brutal and corrupt regime" and which has advanced the usual prescriptions of neoliberalism and privatisation which have already impoverished 90 per cent of the people, is challenged to state whether it supports dictatorship or the people.
The unlocking of billions of dollars in loans for the ruling elites from the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union is at stake.
The bloody struggle in Syria is summed up as no longer a straightforward clash between a dictatorship and a pro-democracy movement. The opposition is viewed as suspect because of some of its methods and allies, yet Assad's support for Hamas and Hezbollah have given him some credibility, despite his regime's dictatorship, torture and corruption.
International power struggles are also at the centre in Syria, where the conflicting positions of Washington, Moscow and Beijing are seen as undermining the Annan peace plan.
These impressions have the ring of truth - the mass mobilisations of the "Arab spring" are the greatest in the history of the violent struggles of the peoples in the region since the first world war against the exploiters of the world's richest oil reserves.
The imperialists have ruled under a cover of formal independence, with presidents and kings relying on oil royalties, and with a corrupt upper class sharing in the spoils.
The outcome of the uprising to date is not a clean break with the past. All kinds of private and sectarian interests are being pursued and new oil contracts, including joint ventures, are being signed - including most recently those with a BP led consortium in Iraq.
The book also reports on the trade unions and professional bodies which played a big part in the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the suggestion is that this is only the end of the beginning in the Middle East fightback against imperialism. Recommended.