Skip to main content

About the series: Adalah ("justice" in Arabic) is a diary series about the Middle East, with special (but not exclusive) emphasis on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The authors of this series believe in the right of self-determination for all the people of the Middle East and that a just resolution respecting the rights and dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis is the only viable option for peace. Our diaries will consist of news roundup and analysis. We invite you to discuss them in the comments or contribute with stories from the region which deserve attention. We ask only that you be respectful and that the number of meta comments be kept to a minimum.

Read on for reports from and analysis of the ongoing revolution in Egypt by experts, eyewitness observers and participants.

This afternoon I went to a ‘teach-in’ in Cambridge about the revolutionary uprisings sweeping the Middle East, focusing on Egypt in particular. Speaking were Anne Alexander, Glen Rangwala, Maha Abdelrahman and Dina Makram-Ebeid, an Egyptian activist and research student at LSE. The talks, which came off the back of repeated vigils in solidarity with protestors in Egypt and Libya, were well attended. It is heartening that people in Britain are watching events in the Middle East and North Africa so with such interest, and moreover that they are, as I advocated here, looking to connect the struggles in Tahrir Square, Benghazi, Manama, and Tunis with their own.

For those who couldn’t make it to talks, I’ve reconstructed them from my notes below. I don’t know shorthand, so take any quotes etc. as paraphrases.

Anne Alexander was first up. She was in Egypt over the past few weeks, and she emphasised that while Egyptians spoke to were surprised at the scale of the uprising, they weren’t at all surprised that it happened. There had been plenty of signs that Egypt and Tunisia would erupt, in Egypt not least in the wave of activism – rooted in the labour movement and elsewhere – that had developed over the past decade.

She located the roots of the uprisings in the tensions between the neoliberal economic reforms enacted by both the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes and the local conditions on which they were imposed. These tensions created the space for popular protests to develop, and created the conditions for those protests to develop into a revolutionary crisis that ultimately forced the military to remove a significant element of the regime (Mubarak).

The 1952 coup came off the back of a popular movement, but once in power Nasser offered the population a kind of social contract, in which the people would forego a political role in exchange for welfarist economic measures. This contract trapped the population in mechanisms of political control, notably the Nasserist trade union federation. This had the function of containing any future popular dissent – workers could still take action to oppose specific injustices, but such actions were now framed as attempts to live up to or enforce the Nasserist social contract, rather than as attempts to fundamentally oppose or replace it.

In 2006 this social contract began to break down because of the impact of the neoliberal reforms undertaken in the 1990s (although their history goes back to Sadat’s ‘infitah’ in the 1970s). These reforms sent many jobs overseas and undermined the state welfare system. This gave workers less reason to identify with the state or with the official trade union federation. Alexander emphasised the importance of the state-controlled union as a central pillar of the regime’s control: as well as containing and channelling worker unrest, it was able to mobilise large numbers of people to turn out for rigged elections, which helped legitimise the regime. In other words, the Egyptian state’s neoliberal economic program undermined the basis of its own authority. (An aside: this recalls, superficially at least, Adam Smith’s thesis that feudal lords sowed the seeds of their own destruction when they opened themselves up to commerce, undercutting the basis for their own authority for the sake of “trinkets and baubles”).

The past decade saw a “flowering” of popular protest, under a wide variety of banners and causes. In 2000 there were protests over Palestine; in 2003 over Iraq; from 2004 the Kefaya movement coalesced around opposition to Mubarak transferring power to his son; in 2006 judges marched through the streets of Cairo protesting against electoral fraud – a sign, if there ever was one, of a growing crisis within the Egyptian state.

However these protests were largely discontinuous and fragmented. What changed this was the workers’ movement. Although workers’ protests tended, initially, to be over narrowly economic and local issues, they created the space for independent popular mobilisation. The key turning point was Mahalla – in 2008 workers there began to call for a national minimum wage, a demand that had a clear political dimension and thus represented a direct challenge to the regime. They formed an alliance with bloggers who set up a Facebook group that eventually developed into the ‘April 6’ movement, which played a significant role in the recent uprising. Activists, through the Facebook group, called for a general strike which didn’t materialise, but managed to organise very large protests. The key point to note though is the development of independent networks and political organisations, and the increasing cooperation between the various opposition movements that had developed since 2000. This is what laid the organisational foundations for the uprising in January.

The development of the uprising between 25 January and 11 February (when Mubarak resigned) mimicked these broader trends in a condensed form. The protests were initially called by bloggers, liberal activists, and so on. They managed to bring tens of thousands on to the streets – an impressive number, but not enough to challenge the regime. Events then took on a momentum of their own, with hundreds of thousands of people spontaneously joining the demonstrations. However, in this stage the protests still brought people onto the streets as individuals. The turning point was the wave of strikes – by 9 Feb some 300,000 workers were on strike across the country, some with explicitly political demands. This was fundamental in forcing the regime to “crack” at the top.

Above all the military leadership feared a split within their own rank and file. While signs of soldiers defecting were few, they were powerful, and army officials feared a fragmentation of the military perhaps more than anything else.

The Egyptian revolution is still, she concluded, a long way from realising its objectives. The state and military apparatus is largely intact. What has changed is the “spirit of Tahrir” – people now have a vastly expanded sense of the possible. They have been “transformed”.

Next up was Dina Makram-Ebeid, who has been involved in activism in Egypt for a long time, as well as in the movement against the cuts in Britain. She had also just got back from Egypt. She gave a personal account of the revolution, but also sought to draw links between the struggle over there and the struggle against the government’s economic programs in Britain. As she declared at the start of her talk, “the fight is not just in Egypt.”

She recalled speaking to her friend, a fellow activist, on 24 January. “Don’t worry”, he told her, “tomorrow is the revolution!” She was sceptical – prior to that the largest protest was around 19,000 people after the Church bombing. The fact that the 25 Jan protests developed into the mass movement they did took her and other activists – her prescient friend aside – completely by surprise.

When she flew into Cairo she wasn’t sure what to expect. She had never been in a revolutionary situation before. When she arrived she was disappointed – everything seemed so normal. Where was the revolution? Where were the grand changes? The spectacles? But gradually, she saw the revolution – it existed “in the cracks”. She saw a man regulating traffic because the police had been withdrawn. She stopped at a kiosk to buy crisps and found people talking about the Constitution. In her street she spotted a group of men sitting around chatting like old friends, having organised themselves into a neighbourhood watch group to defend the street from released prisoners and Mubarak’s gangs. A week ago they didn’t even know each others’ names. The revolution manifested itself, in other words, above all in new forms popular organisation and solidarity. It “changed completely the way we relate to each other”.

It was in this respect that Makram-Ebeid saw the parallels between the struggles in Egypt and the UK. In both cases they are struggles for “another world”, for alternatives to the existing set of choices. The Mubaraks and the Camerons of the world endlessly repeat the same mantra: ‘there is no alternative’. It was one that, on some level, she herself had internalised prior to leaving for Egypt. But what the revolution showed above all that people acting together can change their society on their own terms, and fashion their own alternatives.

Now, after the revolution, Egyptians are being told that they should move towards a Western-style liberal democracy, or that they face a choice between the ‘liberals’ or the Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly people struggling against the cuts are being told to advocate for a return to the welfarist contract of the post-war period. “Why should we?” These are false choices, “set” alternatives. Real alternatives “are not copies”. They develop out of new forms of organisation and collective action.

She ended by describing her experience camping in Tahrir Square. It was the first time that people ever really “saw” each other. Egypt, like Britain, was a “blind society” – people were segregated by ideologies, or by class, or by religion, and didn’t really see or understand others from different groups. In Tahrir Square people got the chance to really look at each other properly, and talk to each other, and work together.

Second, and relatedly, in Tahrir self-mangement was critical, because there was no longer a state to rely upon (on the contrary: measures had to be found to combat the state). The forms of self-organisation that developed were incredible. Protestors established their own hospital; a prison was constructed in the abandoned Metro station to hold captured ‘pro-Mubarak’ thugs; a military front was organised to defend the square from attack (interestingly, it was people from Suez – the province known for fighting the Israelis – who took the lead on this front, camping under the tanks). Some of the forms of self-organisation were even comical – in the queue for the toilets you had to say “poo” or “piss” depending on what you needed, and the guy organising would say, “right: four poos over here, three pisses over there”. People found ways to organise themselves, from the big things on down. And inside the toilets themselves, people were still talking about politics. “This was a crazy state!”

This spirit – the “Tahrir spirit” – is what needs to be sustained and developed in the months to come. Its key message is one that popular movements around the world, including those in Britain, should take heart from: there are alternatives.

Glen Rangwala sounded a more pessimistic note. While protests were escalating in Tunisia, he was travelling in the Gulf states – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. The sense among people there was of “complete disloyalty” to their autocratic political systems, and strong sympathy for the Tunisian demonstrators. But this was accompanied by a very strong sense of: “it could never happen here”.

A month on and things are very different. There is now a sense that change is not only possible but inevitable. But this newfound sense of political agency is not simply something that individuals feel; it is also something that the state sees.

The Gulf states have typically relied upon two strategies to pacify their populations when unrest threatened: “democracy of bread” – the dishing out of mild welfarist measures to buy protestors off; or “defensive democracy” – mild political reforms that undercut protests without fundamentally changing the balance of power (e.g. Algeria, 1988). Both these methods proved ineffective in Tunisia and Egypt. The remaining autocratic states in the region have therefore lost faith in their ability to control their populations. Thus, lesson of Egypt and Tunisia for the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bahrain, and elsewhere is: you don’t get anywhere by compromise. Offering mild economic or political concessions won’t fatally undermine the protests, and will simply be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

The fact that the uprisings are increasingly focused on the fundamental structures of rule also limits the room for compromise on the part of leaders. They essentially face a single choice: to depart, or to stay through brute force of arms. Rangwala therefore fears increased bloodshed and violence in the coming months.

In Libya now the eastern part of the country has effectively broken away from the ruler, but the state is using force – foreign mercenaries – against the population to sustain its rule. Along with the fact that much of the military is from abroad, a sixth of the population resides in Libya illegally. So the room for open opposition from these quarters is questionable. The possibility of a prolonged conflict and significant outflow of refugees is significant. Bahrain may also suffer a systematic breakdown of political order as the regime fights back.

In the face of all this uncertainty, planners in the US and Europe are finding it very difficult to predict where these societies are going. In late January President Obama was still calling for “dialogue” between the regime and Egyptian protestors. In these conditions, Western powers will be increasingly tempted to rely upon and promote the one institution in the region that they know well – the military. 80% of the Egyptian military’s budget comes from the U.S.; 86% of U.S. aid to Egypt goes to the military. The relationship between the U.S. and the Egyptian military is not built on narrow policy grounds but on broader inter-operability and familiarity – decades of working together on military drills, sharing intelligence, and so forth. So Rangwala’s advice to demonstrators in Egypt and elsewhere is to be vigilant against external attempts to hijack the as-yet-incomplete revolution through support for the military establishment.

Maha Abdelrahmanwas just back from Egypt, where she spent a week in Cairo and two days in Tahrir Square. (She gave a talk before setting off to Egypt ten days ago - I wrote it up here.) She was in the square when Mubarak resigned. This is “one of the most difficult times” in modern Egyptian politics. The popular uprisings succeeded in dissolving the old parliament and forcing elections in six months time. Right now everyone is trying to gain a purchase in the new political environment. New parties, groups and organisations are springing up every day – so many that it is impossible to keep track of them all. The Muslim Brotherhood has established the ‘Justice and Freedom’ party. A leftist democratic workers’ party has also been set up to give formal political expression to the workers’ movement, which is still very much ongoing. Semi-public figures who no-one has ever heard of before are setting up their own parties (“Egypt’s Social Party”, etc.). More importantly, lots of coalitions are being formed. Some of them are based on those who participated in the revolution, for instance the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which brings together members of the ‘April 6’ movement, the Muslim Brotherhood youth, and so on. A coalition of 15 rights groups has also been formed to create a party – until now these organisations were divided by ideology and disputes over funding.

The task ahead is difficult and it will be messy. Most of those now taking the lead have very little political training. What they do have is energy. Political meetings that are barely advertised and held in rooms designed to hold 40 people are filled with hundreds of people, full of energy and wanting to participate. The organisers of these meetings are typically very concerned – what to do with all these newcomers?

The new generation of youth activists come from two broad backgrounds. Many come from the youth wings of formal political parties. Modern political parties in Egypt were established in the 1930s. The period from the 1930s to 1952 is often recalled with nostalgia as the “liberal era”, because it had a parliament. But this is an overly rose-tinted view of the past. There was indeed a parliament, but the monarch dissolved it at will and worked closely with the British occupation to prevent it from having any real power. Genuinely popular parties had no real influence.

After the coup Nasser dissolved political parties, on the basis that his party would represent within it all the various political tendencies. But it excluded the only two that mattered: the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists.

In the 1970s Sadat permitted the creation of three parties, of which the NDP was one. This was a political move to curb the influence of Nasserists and enable him to enact neoliberal reforms. But while some political parties were legalised, the Emergency Law – which prohibited political gathering, made the parties reliant on the government for funding, prevented them from distributing literature, etc. – prevented the emergence of any opposition party with a genuine popular base.

Alternatively, many youth activists come from a background of protest outside official channels during the past decade of popular demonstrations. Some come from the Kefaya pro-democracy campaign, others from the labour movement. These protests tended to be characterised by a “complete absence of leadership” (in the sense of centralised hierarchy). They were also “cross-ideological” – Kefaya, for instance, included liberals, leftists, Nasserists and Muslim Brothers. This broad ideological base was reflected in Tahrir Sq.

So in their current attempts to stake out a place in the new political environment, these youth activists, whether they come from the formal political parties or from the past decade of loose, decentralised popular protest, will have to work against their backgrounds as well as within them.

Q&As

Someone asked about the role the Muslim Brotherhood had played in the uprising. Abdelrahman answered that they had not provided ideological or political leadership. However, at times Muslim Brotherhood activists had provided key organisational leadership. For instance when Mubarak sent thugs riding on camels to attack protestors in Tahrir Square, Muslim Brotherhood activists took the lead, along with football supporters (!), in organising the defence. They were the only ones with experience of dealing with violence by the state.

An audience member argued that it was a mistake to see the uprisings as motivated by demands for liberal democracy. They were above all motivated by economic concerns. Rangwala insisted that the uprising in Egypt was “cross-class”, and so couldn’t be explained simply in terms of economic deprivation. However, as the revolution develops, he suggested, class divisions within the demonstrators may become more pronounced. Abdelrahman agreed, pointing out that class-based splits can already be observed, with many middle-class protestors calling for a return to normalcy in the face of working class determination to continue the wave of strikes. “Class struggle is the name of the game in Egypt now”, she said, and people are well aware of it. The Muslim Brotherhood itself is riven with contradictions. As the only serious opposition party for many years its constituency expanded massively, encompassing Islamists, secularists, rising middle-class business owners, poor workers, and so on. How these contradictions will now play out will be very interesting.

How to have an Egyptian-style revolution here in Britain? Particularly when our unions are so ineffective and slow-moving? Anne Alexander replied by citing the role of the trade unions in the Tunisian uprising. The union leadership in Tunisia was deeply tied to the regime, but pressure from below broke those ties and forced the leadership to call for a general strike. This suggests, she argued, that even unions with conservative or timid leaderships can be transformed into effective vehicles for popular dissent.

What can citizens in Britain do to help? Dina fielded this one. “How do we help the ‘Arab Street’? Have a revolution here.”

Originally published at New Left Project

Originally posted to Heathlander on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 03:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Foreign Relations, Anti-Capitalist Chat, Eyes on Egypt and the Region, and Adalah — A Just Middle East.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  Fantastic diary, heathlander.. (5+ / 0-)

      ...great writing.

      I especially wanted to excerpt this in your reporting on the talk by Anne Alexander:

      The past decade saw a “flowering” of popular protest, under a wide variety of banners and causes. In 2000 there were protests over Palestine; in 2003 over Iraq; from 2004 the Kefaya movement coalesced around opposition to Mubarak transferring power to his son; in 2006 judges marched through the streets of Cairo protesting against electoral fraud – a sign, if there ever was one, of a growing crisis within the Egyptian state.

      However these protests were largely discontinuous and fragmented. What changed this was the workers’ movement. Although workers’ protests tended, initially, to be over narrowly economic and local issues, they created the space for independent popular mobilisation. The key turning point was Mahalla – in 2008 workers there began to call for a national minimum wage, a demand that had a clear political dimension and thus represented a direct challenge to the regime. They formed an alliance with bloggers who set up a Facebook group that eventually developed into the ‘April 6’ movement, which played a significant role in the recent uprising.  Activists, through the Facebook group, called for a general strike which didn’t materialise, but managed to organise very large protests. The key point to note though is the development of independent networks and political organisations, and the increasing cooperation between the various opposition movements that had developed since 2000. This is what laid the organisational foundations for the uprising in January.

      [..]

      The Egyptian revolution is still, she concluded, a long way from realising its objectives. The state and military apparatus is largely intact. What has changed is the “spirit of Tahrir” – people now have a vastly expanded sense of the possible. They have been “transformed”.

      which I think is especially informative re. the development of the revolution in Egypt and what it's changed, not only in the ME but as an inspiration to the West.    As well as hopefully facilitating a change in our foreign policy.

      (bolding mine)

      "It's not the end, It’s the beginning." ~ Nadia Magdy, protester in Tahrir, Feb 11th

      by sofia on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 05:34:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, would have loved to have been at the (6+ / 0-)

    symposium. Thanks for the info.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 03:57:16 PM PST

  •  great resource, heathlander (9+ / 0-)

    thanks for taking the time to share all of this.

    Brothers & sisters of #Egypt, you have given the world the most precious gift: the belief that ultimately right will prevail. -Desmond Tutu

    by conchita on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 04:12:17 PM PST

  •  I REALLY like hearing the view (10+ / 0-)

    that these revolts are among other things a reaction against neoliberal policies. My feeling is that that particular house of cards is well overdue for tumbling down. What completely escapes people in the west who are cheering the downfall of bad guys like Mubarak is that this is not the end of the movie. Prince charming has not whisked Cinderella off to the place to live happily ever after. Putting together workable societies where citizens have reasonable rights of self determination is going to be a long and difficult task.

     

  •  Please Rec this UP (7+ / 0-)

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." — Mahatma Gandhi "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not." — Dr. Seuss

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 04:30:01 PM PST

  •  U.S. military increasingly made up of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petral

    noncitizens.  I'd feel a lot more comfortable with a conscript army of draftees, which it would be much harder to use against us.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 04:32:51 PM PST

    •  I was thinking about that (4+ / 0-)

      most countries with conscription ensure that draftees train and serve in regions far away from their homes, in case the state has to use the military against their own citizens.  This kind of broke down in Egypt.  

      Libya has a whole different system, long history of imported muscle, goes back to the italians bringing in Berber and Somali forces for Internal Defense.  

      Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

      by Eiron on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 04:38:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You should perhaps add one of the Big Tags... (4+ / 0-)

    ..."International" to your tag chain. More visibility.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 04:45:16 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary, as usual. (6+ / 0-)

    Going back to read it again.

    That's all it takes, really...pressure and time.

    by Flyswatterbanjo on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 05:00:35 PM PST

  •  I really appreciate (4+ / 0-)

    these write-ups, heath. They're always excellent reads.

    Did you get a sense from the speakers of how organized that leftist workers' party is? The communists, as you say, have a history in the country. I wonder if there is anything left of that movement's infrastructure that can be utilized by secular leftists.

    If the people one day wish to live / destiny cannot but respond / And the night cannot but disappear / and the bonds cannot but break. -- Abu'l-Qasim al-Shabbi

    by unspeakable on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 05:30:24 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary as usual (7+ / 0-)

    Heathlander, really appreciate the sharing of such useful information and the eyewitness accounts and the discussion of class, labour movements and their role in the egyptian uprising. Thanks also for the discussion of the role of the neoliberal economic factors and also for placing it correctly as starting with Sadat.

    Diary tipped and rec, reposting to ACC.

    History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 05:33:17 PM PST

  •  Wow. (6+ / 0-)

    First, let me say, as someone who was deeply involved in the events of May, '68 in France, that I was very moved by the content of these analyses, in particular by 3 points brought up by Anne Alexander:

    1) The breakdown and self-constitution of civil society, which is very much like the process Michel de Certeau describes in 1968.

    2) The suggestion that a "facebook" or 'student' revolution falters until backed by a genuine worker's movement.

    3) The centrality of a Social Compact in the struggles leading up to the event. (The existence of this compact voids any argument that there are two separate revolutions going on, the one a reaction to Modernization and the other purely political one: both are reactions to the compact.)

    That being said, I do sense from the speakers an attempt to place whatever is going on in Egypt into a more traditional framework of union- or party-based organizing. Maybe just me.

    Thanks! And thanks again.

    Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

    by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 06:59:59 PM PST

  •  Very interesting diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Martha

    question for you regarding the last paragraph, where you ask what it would take to have an Egyptian-style revolution in Britain -- what would the goal of such a revolution be?  Would it be directed towards more income equality?  Would it be directed towards changing the form of government, and if so, to what?

    In loving memory: Sophie, June 1, 1993-January 17, 2005. My huckleberry friend.

    by Paul in Berkeley on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 07:26:20 PM PST

  •  I love the last Q&A (4+ / 0-)

    What we need in so many western democracies is to speak up so that the deafness that afflicts our leaders cannot be maintained. People in Wisconsin are doing that right now with Scott Walker and people in the UK are doing it with Cameron wanting to privatize forests. The problem with this is that we are always reacting to a set of possibilities given to us (and a narrow one at that) rather than setting the agenda ourselves. Perhaps part of the revolution that we need is to acknowledge that voting every few years is just not enough - we need to maintain the pressure on our elected officials and hold them to their word during their terms in office. So, on with the protests until our politicians realise that they have to listen to us and not just to the people who give them money.

  •  Oh, forgot to say thank you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sofia, heathlander, Aunt Martha

    for the excellent diary.

  •  When protest doesn't work (2+ / 0-)

    it's almost always because this is the case:

    these protests were largely discontinuous and fragmented.

    Every bit as true, or even moreso, in the US than in Egypt.  The absolute inability of the American left  and working class organizations to build strategically sustained movements and momentum has allowed our enemies to mock and marginalize our means of power, and even caused our allies and potential allies to lose faith in exactly the courses of action that we appeal to them to participate in.

    It's nice when the Scott Walkers of the world, like the bin Alis, hand us the opportunity to dominate the agenda, at least momentarily.  Strategic power is the ability not to have to surrender that central place.

    "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

    by ActivistGuy on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 10:27:33 PM PST

  •  Comparing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petral

    this from Dina Makram-Ebeid:

    Where was the revolution? Where were the grand changes? The spectacles? But gradually, she saw the revolution – it existed “in the cracks”. She saw a man regulating traffic because the police had been withdrawn. She stopped at a kiosk to buy crisps and found people talking about the Constitution. In her street she spotted a group of men sitting around chatting like old friends, having organised themselves into a neighbourhood watch group to defend the street from released prisoners and Mubarak’s gangs. A week ago they didn’t even know each others’ names. The revolution manifested itself, in other words, above all in new forms popular organisation and solidarity. It “changed completely the way we relate to each other”.

    with this from The Coming Insurrection:

    The principle of communes is not to counter the metropolis and its mobility with local slowness and rootedness. The expansive movement of commune formation should surreptitiously overtake the movement of the metropolis. We don’t have to reject the possibilities of travel and communication that the commercial infrastructure offers; we just have to know their limits. We just have to be prudent, innocuous. Visits in person are more secure, leave no trace, and forge much more consistent connections than any list of contacts on the internet. The privilege many of us enjoy of being able to “circulate freely” from one end of the continent to the other, and even across the world without too much trouble, is not a negligible asset when it comes to communication between pockets of conspiracy. One of the charms of the metropolis is that it allows Americans, Greeks, Mexicans, and Germans to meet furtively in Paris for the time it takes to discuss strategy.

    Constant movement between friendly communes is one of the things that keeps them from drying up and from the inevitability of abandonment. Welcoming comrades, keeping abreast of their initiatives, reflecting on their experiences and making use of new techniques they’ve developed does more good for a commune than sterile self-examinations behind closed doors. It would be a mistake to underestimate how much can be decisively worked out over the course of evenings spent comparing views on the war in progress.

    "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

    by ActivistGuy on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 10:37:08 PM PST

  •  Many people take the view (4+ / 0-)

    that protests against Israel and against the US in repressive countries like Egypt are just ways for the popoulation to let off steam without challenging their rulers. They're often dismissed on that basis.

    But while that surely is how the regimes view such demonstrations, the origins of the Egyptian protest movement in protests against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians and the US invasion of Iraq suggests that something more complex is going on. Yes, it is easier in states like Egypt to organise demonstrations about Palestine than about Mubarak. But through those demonstratons ties are developed, activists gain experience, and people gain confidence and political agency. All of which are weapons that, as Egypt shows, may one day be turned against targets closer to home.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site