Under pressure from the mass struggle, officials and diplomats from President Saleh’s regime in Yemen - generals, parliamentarians, ambassadors, governors and tribal leaders - have increasingly gone over the side of the revolt. This Friday could be decisive.
The crisis deepened when a munitions factory exploded and 150 people were killed on Monday 28 March. Impoverished crowds went to a factory near the town of Jaar, in Abyan province, when the factory guards fled. Abyan is one of the provinces where the state forces are on retreat. There are many examples of mass desertions from the army, but on this occasion the opposition believe the guards fled to create ‘chaos’ and strengthen the president’s defence in the capital, Sanaa.
On Wednesday, 30 March, millions were out on the streets in cities in Yemen, again shouting for the president to depart, adding that he was responsible for the factory blast. The spread of the demonstrations was the biggest, so far, since the revolutionary protests began two months ago. The impetus came from the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, with similar demands against unemployment, poverty and against the corrupt dictatorial regime. The regime’s repression soon became a key issue for the protesters.
The regime is increasingly falling apart. Leading politicians and military personnel left the president’s side, alongside a leader of Yemen’s most powerful tribe, Hashid, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar. Several regions declared themselves ‘independent’, including Saada, Marib and parts of Abyan province. The army has, for example, left Abyan province’s capital Zinjibar.
President Saleh is one of US imperialism’s closest allies in the region, and Washington fears his downfall. Defense Secretary Robert Gates commented on ABC TV news: "So, if that government collapses, or is replaced by one who is dramatically more weak... there’s no question about it. It’s a real problem."
The US backing is seen by the protesters as a green light for continued brutal state repression. In total, nearly 100 people have been killed and many more wounded by the regime’s recent violence. In the worst outburst, 52 demonstrators were killed by snipers in the capital Sanaa on 18 March. Around 77 activists have been detained and ‘disappeared’.
President Saleh attempted to place the masses with some concessions, promising not to stand in the next elections in 2013 and later to resign by the end this year.
No trust in renegade generals
Over the last week, some of Saleh’s ministers attempted to convince him to stand down now, similar to when Mubarak had to go, to stop the movement from going further.
President Saleh said he is willing to leave his post, but demanded guarantees for continued "respect". He combined this statement with warnings of “civil war” and that Yemen would become a new Somalia. His party offered the official opposition a place in a ‘National Unity’ government.
The official opposition was prepared to negotiate with Saleh, but mass pressure prevented them. The recently departed General Ali Mohsen participated in talks with the president and US ambassador. Mohsen has unfortunately been widely applauded in mass protests and praised as a hero for his defection.
The masses cannot trust the renegade generals and the official opposition. They must build their own independent organisations and organs of power. The defectors were long part of the president’s brutal regime and only left to save their own skins.
Workers and youth in Yemen need a democratic socialist revolutionary party that can disarm and destroy the old regime, allocate the country’s resources and build a democratic socialist government.