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Egypt’s unfinished revolution

The future of the Middle East is being fought out in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The Egyptian people’s determined struggle for economic and political freedom against a regime of dictators and torturers goes on.

Their 14-day struggle is fuelling the flames of revolt throughout the Arab world, from Gaza and the West Bank where Hamas and the Palestine Authority have banned protests, to Yemen and Jordan.

So, is the drama being played out in Egypt and reverberating throughout the Arab world, a true revolution? The answer must be an unequivocal Yes.

Not only in Cairo but throughout the country, millions have been involved in demonstrations and, equally crucial, in organising barricades to enforce security and stop provocations by Mubarak and his secret police.

Does the revolution need to go further to truly succeed in its aims of bringing political and economic freedom to the majority of Egyptians? The answer is also a decisive Yes.

The Egyptian ruling classes backed by an equivocating United States, want to preserve Egyptian capitalism. They are playing a war of attrition, hoping that the “silent majority” will tire of disruption and will remain neutral or even back the ruling elite with or without Mubarak at their head.

The keys to real power remain in the hands of the regime. It controls the rubber stamp parliament, the television and official media and the army. Those occupying Tahrir Square are only too aware that the army is the decisive factor in Egyptian politics.

They have climbed up on the tanks and greeted the soldiers as their allies. At present protesters are sleeping and camping under the tanks. They see the army as their protection against Mubarak’s thugs.

But the history of revolutions – and of Egypt itself – shows that this is a perilous path. In no way can the army, even though it consists mostly of conscripted workers, be relied upon to support those demanding the end of not only Mubarak but his entire state apparatus, including the hundreds of thousands of secret police, spies and torturers. The army has done very well under Mubarak. Last year the Egyptian armed forces received over $1.3 billion from his US backers.

Over the weekend, Vice President Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s intelligence chief, met with opposition leaders and is likely to announce that a new constitution is being drafted. Amongst the 50 people who took part in the discussions were members of the hitherto-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Many have suffered imprisonment and torture at the hands of Mubarak’s army of spies and torturers and had only just been freed last week. But the Brotherhood originally refused to support the anti-government demonstrations and is only now trying to regain its credibility.

Egypt’s uprising is indeed virtually leaderless. A new generation who have known nothing but Mubarak’s repressive regime broke unexpectedly onto the world stage. Initially inspired by the revolutionary events in Tunisia, young people have organised through Facebook, following the call of Asmaa Mahfouz and Ahmed Maher in the April 6 Youth Movement, which campaigned for the Million March on February 1. Many, including the newly-formed Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, are rightly demanding the dissolution of the current parliament, 97% of whose seats are controlled by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

The Egyptian revolution had to break free of its old leadership elites to challenge the dictatorship. The urgent need is for the spontaneous movements, including the community-run barricades, to develop a strategy for economic and political power through people’s assemblies.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
7 February 2011

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Zlatko says:

The recent appearance of JulianAssange in public coincided with the Tahrir Square events. The question is to what an extend this is a coincidence.

When it comes to freedom of information, Assange is a revolutionary. Even if his motives were merely egoistic, as one of Assange's less charismatic collaborators with whom he separated implicates loudly, Assange started something important. Something that may have this "frightening characteristic" of being unstoppable. We don't know yet what it is but - if his so powerful enemies rage against him with such a menace, it could be anything... it could be another... Tahrir Square, many Tahrir Squares...  it could be most improbable of the squares.

That's  why both, WikiLeaks's revolution and Egypt's facebook revolution, pose a serious treat to the confidence of those who are in control.

While waves of mass protests are taking place all over the world, Our Leaders seem to pretend that these events are separate occurrences. Only their right to exploit the vulnerable is universal. It is those vulnerable groups that will pay for recession brought upon us by the powerful and rich.

From the very beginning of the Egyptian revolution the US diplomats kept urging Mubarak to listen to the accords of the street. I must admit my first sinful thought while listening to the patronising tone with which Hilary Clinton addressed the Egypt crisis in its first days, taking people's side...

  ...Assange came to my mind as I thought that the time will come and Tahrir Square could or would trigger itself globally and an early (un)fotunate appeal of miss Clinton to the government in crisis - to listen to the street demands - could become a principle that will, at some point, soon, turn against everything Hilary represents... corporate powers.
Any time soon, even for some trivial reason such as the supposed (arrogant) sending of  Assange into the hands of the CIA - tired of lies and manipulations, people will step forward.

In a united move, for yet unknown cause, people will act like never before. Now we know - it's a most probable scenario, all the squares in this world will be revolutionary.

All the squares the very same day! 

Just few months ago I had doubts about the capacity of today's "free world'" working class to unite in a process of altering the archaic fundamentals of unjust societies in which their children live.

It is already happening. Unstoppably...

In Tahrir Square, on Internet, in your mind... there is a world to win!


Little Richardjohn says:

This is a conscript army. Many of the boys in tanks and troops carriers will have relatives and friends among the demonstrators. Many might well have mothers writing to them. 'Dear Ahmed, your cousin Abdul is in the square tomorrow, make sure you don't shoot him.'

Mubarak (and most of the western media) seem to have forgotten that conscript armies hardly ever attack their own people.


Robbie says:
This is dangerous nonsense - the army is now the main force holding back the revolution and is already starting to attack workers, strikers and revolutionaries. The revolutionaries will have to find a way of neutralising it, by winning over the young officers and soldiers.

For a much more informed view of the history and role of the Egyptian army see this video interview of Egyptian journalist and revolutionary Hossam El-Hamalawy

Bob says:

Are you serious? The urgent need now "is for the spontaneous movements, including the community-run barricades, to develop a strategy for economic and political power through people’s assemblies". ??? Wouldn't just a tad of organized and conscious leadership be needed to spark this mass movement towards ways to oust Mubarak and move towards new organs of revolutionary democratic rule? Is AWTW going anarcho-autonomist?? Say it ain't so, Corinna.


Corinna says:

Hi Bob - No, we are not relying on the spontaneous movement to come up with the goods – they won’t just acquire revolutionary ideas spontaneously. In fact, the main thrust of my blog was to counter-act the "spontaneous" idea that the army would be on the side of the people and stress the importance of a strategy for replacing the existing state structures.

The blog is linked to A World to Win's statement on People's Assemblies which makes it clear that there must be a struggle by revolutionaries within the Assemblies.

“We will work within the Assemblies to win people to the idea that they should not be talking shops, or just organise protests or social support, but start to see themselves as the legitimate representatives of the people, with the right to replace the existing undemocratic structures of both local and national government."

Today’s movement is not that of yesterday and involves new generations. The Tunisian and Egyptian movements have tried to go "beyond resistance" by organising independent movements of the people to protect the movement. Turning them into revolutionary organs of power is indeed the task of revolutionaries.


Jonathan says:

What is also needed is for other committees to organise with communities hold this square, and other centres in Egypt. Food, shifts, communications, what seems day-to-day issues are essential. All these and more are the natural basis for Assemblies, this and the discussions that are taking place on what these other groups are up to, what the U.S. and Britain manoeuvre for, how this has 'spilt over' to Yemen, Jordan and Palestine, and 'what next' to oppose these sectional and partial interests.

This is the kind of democracy that terrifies Washington and London as much as the MI5 papers and CIA papers falling into these hands. Today one is being honoured who was killed by a sniper yesterday. Those in the square are well aware that such sniping power is only possible with army rifles. Not only army intelligence but soldiers under orders have taken and held demonstrators blindfolded and handcuffed to Interrogation Centres.

Suleiman is at the head of the fancy dictator's table, a suitable heir of the Pharaohs throne which ultimately plays to Washington. However, so partisan is much of the coverage, even that inside knowledge of their assessment and their response is hard to judge. The army is so entrenched in the economy, that only in conjunction with the unions can their fire-power be countered.

Those organised, on the square and far beyond, to protect people from arrests shows a degree of awareness of the ramifications of what they have unleashed across the Middle East that must say as the above does: yes; yes and yes again. And importantly how this reaches us, and how, precisely how, we all support it. At each moment these in the vanguard have addressed these questions. The Egyptian workers' union demand that parliament should be dissolved means that since this stage of the world crisis in 2008 the Egyptian workers have been organising and preparing and learning lessons against global capital and its effects in and on Egypt.

From these unions to the record number of unemployed PhD's on to the dispossessed farmers, to the small businesses whose moral fibre was one of the triggers in Tunisia, right across to those that work in and protect the museums - this has already transcended the business carried out in a fixed term parliament of elected and then entrenched interests.

The unions call:
Saturday 12 February .. An Action Day .. An International Labor Solidarity Day with the Egyptian Revolution is a call that must go beyond solidarity to identity.


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