Egypt at the Crossroads

aerial-shot-of-tahrir-squ-007.jpg Current events in Egypt speak for themselves. The conscious will of the Egyptian masses refuses to be broken. In their hundreds of thousands the people are asserting their determination to break the power of a military caste which has grievously miscalculated the temper of a revolutionary movement that will not be denied. Historical parallels should never be used lightly, but nonetheless comparisons with Russia in 1917 are irresistable. The Egyptian people have had their February and are now approaching their October.

And just as with Russia in 1917, Egypt in 2011 stands at a crossroads. For the first time in decades, and perhaps longer, the masses are in control of their own destiny. The attempt by the military to appease the nation with piecemeal concessions to a new draft constitution that was and is designed to cement the power of the military at the apex of Egyptian society has been answered with an outpouring of people onto the streets to demonstrate their anger and defiance. Once again Cairo’s Tahrir Square is the epicentre of revolutionary struggle in a country whose importance to the region cannot be overstated. What happens in Egypt will have profound consequences for the region as a whole and by extension the entire world.

Unlike Libya or as is increasingly the case, with Syria, the West finds itself powerless to intervene when it comes to Egypt. Instead, reflecting its comparative impotence, Western governments are reduced to calling for ‘restraint’ on both sides.

The last thing the Egyptian people need now is restraint. In fact they should rip the word from their vocabulary as they enter the most important period in their history since the struggle over Suez in 1956. Now is the time to break the power of the generals and end decades of shame in which the largest and most important country in the Arab world was reduced to the status and role of Western satrap, its military bribed to turn the other way as the Palestinians suffered alone at the hands of Israel, and its allies in the West exerted dominion over the region’s vast resources.

In fact the only Western intervention since Mubarak was toppled back in February came in the shape of British Prime Minister David Cameron, when he arrived in Egypt trailing behind him a delegation of British arms dealers and visited Tahrir Square before the blood of those who’d given and risked their lives to topple the British backed Egyptian dictator had dried. His presence there was an insult to the memories of those men and women, though a timely reminder of the fact that where the likes of Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama are concerned, the only thing that matters is business as usual.

On the ground the Muslim Brotherhood, socialists, nationalists, trade unionists, democrats and forces of every political stripe have united to demand an end to military rule and free elections to create a national unity government with full powers. After an earlier attempt by the hated police to clear the protesters from Tahrir Square by violence was defeated at a cost of 30 people killed and dozens more injured, the generals find themselves ruling a nation that refuses to be ruled by military writ any longer. The perception of the Egyptian military as being on the side of the people is history. No longer politically infantilised, armed with confidence in their own strength and sense of history, the masses have lost their fear. In Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, all across the country, they have poured onto the streets as never before.

Now anything is possible – including victory.

Egypt Declares End to Gaza Blockade

Fast on the heels of the Egyptian brokered unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah has come the announcement by the interim Egyptian government that it is to permanently open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

To describe this announcement as significant is to be guilty of understatement. Egypt’s participation in Israel’s illegal blockade will go down as one of the most shameful periods in Egyptian history, contributing to the collective punishment, suffering and despair of 1.5 million Palestinians whose only crime was to assert their democratic right to vote for a government of their choice. For this they have endured a siege medieval in scope and barbaric in its intent at the hands of the Israeli government.

Egypt’s interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, described the previous regime’s support for the blockade a disgrace, and with the interim government also talking about repairing relations with Iran and seeking closer ties with its African neighbours, clearly the Egyptian revolution is already bearing fruit.

This sharp turn in Egyptian foreign policy places the right wing coaliton government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu under severe pressure by decimating Israel’s policy of divide and rule when it comes to the Palestinians. It also places the Obama administration under pressure to shift its stance from one of obeisance to the intractablility of the Israeli government to a more even handed approach and justice for the Palestinians.

In bringing Hamas in from the cold, the post revolution regime in Cairo also signals a change in the status of the Muslim Brotherhood within Egypt itself.

Long regarded as a fifth column by the Mubarak dictatorship, the Brotherhood existed in a state of illegality; its members harassed, arrested and molested on a regular basis. During the revolution the Brotherhood played only a supporting role, despite all the propaganda to the contrary that was spread by the Mubarak regime and its supporters both within and without the country. From the outset the MB declared that it supported the democratic aims of the revolution and eschewed the use of violence. In so doing it won the trust of the masses and there is no doubt that the new found harmony between the Islamic movement and wider Egyptian society has contributed to the radical change in direction taken by the interim government.

Those millions of Egyptians who took to the streets across Egypt and remained there however long it took, who braved in Tahrir Square an attempt by regime thugs to forcibly remove them, have ushered in a new day for the Arab world.

For the Palestinians what this means in the short term is that their long, agonising struggle for justice has just been joined by 80 million new adherents. In the long term hopefully it will mean the complete restoration of their right to dignity, security, and self determination. Most important of all it presages the restoration of their right to exist, a right denied them by every Israeli government over the past 60 years.

Finally, it is also to be hoped that the reverberations of the radical shift in Egyptian policy penetrates Israeli society, producing support for the small but growing Israeli peace movement and its calls for an end to the occupation and settlement expansion. 

With no justice there can be no peace, and justice for the Palestinians is long overdue.



T-shirt to Raise Funds for Pro-democracy Groups in Egypt

You are the generation that will overcome defeat”: Arab poet Nizar Qabbani. 



order it here

from Philosophy Football, who write:

For eighteen days many of us were glued to the TV screens as a revolt unfolded that shook the Arab world , and beyond. When Murbarak finally resigned we were inspired by an article Tariq Ali wrote in the Guardian. You can read it here.

The article quotes one of the great Arab poets of the modern era, Nizar Qabbani. Writing in the aftermath of the 1967 six-day war and the coming to power in Egypt of the US-backed dictators, first Saddat, then Murbarak, the poem’s prophecy was finaly fulfilled in 2011 ” You are the Generation that will overcome defeat.”

Our shirt is produced in association with the publishers Verso. It will raise funds for Egypt’s pro-democracy campaign groups. We will raise as much as we can, with the help of you buying this shirt We are asking groups already active in solidarity with Egypt, Stop the War and others, as well as Verso authors who know the protest movement very well, including Tariq Ali, to nominate recipients who will make the most effective use of the resources. PLUS! REWARD YOUR SOLIDARITY. ORDER THE SHIRT AND GET THE VERSO BOOK OF DISSENT ANTHOLOGY HALF-PRICE AND POSTAGE-FREE! Usual price £12.99, see details of this superb book here

Mubarak Resigns. Incredible Scenes of Celebration

The significance of Mubarak stepping down as President today cannot be overstated. It marks the arrival onto the stage of history the Arab masses as an actor rather than the passive and infantilised observers they had been for generations. The stranglehold of dictatorship has been broken from below.

The Arab world shall never be the same. The remaining dictatorships and kleptocracies throughout the region have just moved closer to their end. In Washington, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv frantic efforts to adapt to a new reality will be taking place. The day of Arab liberation moves closer. And all as a result of the Egyptian masses and their courageous and indomitable stand.

People make their own history but not in circumstances of their choosing.

In the words of Eduardo Galeano [for the Arab peoples] ‘the dictatorship of fear is over’.

Update: The Swiss government has just announced it has frozen all the assets held in Swiss banks belonging to Mubarak and members of his family. This invites the question as to whether the British government will do likewise. 

Egypt: Revolution Sweeps Away Mubarak

The announcement:
The people rejoice:

and from Al Jazeera

The top figure in Egypt’s new regime is now Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the country’s defence minister. After the announcement, he drove past Mubarak’s former palace, where crowds cheered him. He stopped briefly to thank and hail the crowds before driving in.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted “We have brought down the regime”, while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being “a dream come true” while speaking to Al Jazeera.

“I can’t tell you how every Egyptian feels today,” he said. “We have been able to restore our humanity … to be free and independent”.

Mubarak Declares War on Egypt

In what history will record as one of the most chilling and wicked speeches ever made by a political leader, President Hosni Mubarak, thirty year dictator of Egypt, last night declared war against the people not only of his own country but the entire Arab world. Secluded in his palace surrounded by sycophants, drunk with opulence, this degenerate and delusional potentate appeared on state television and effectively announced that Egypt, a nation of 80 millions, belongs to him and not to its people.

The likelihood as a result is that a tsunami of rage will be unleashed throughout the country that will be talked about for generations to come. The key question now is what the army will do. If as Mubarak and Suleiman have clearly calculated the regime retains the support of the military high command, the stage is set for a massacre. As a consequence all of a sudden history hinges on the junior officers and soldiers of the Egyptian army. It calls on them to do their duty and refuse orders to fire on their own people. More, it calls on them to join the people and help sweep this rotten regime from power once and for all.

Seventeen days have now passed since the uprising began in Egypt. In that time the regime has tried everything from organising counter demonstrations and physical attacks on the protestors, resulting at time of writing in 300 deaths, to waiting the movement out in the hope and expectation it would dissipate as a result of lethargy, to then attempting to placate it by talking to various opposition figures and groups and assuring the country that Mubarak will go in September. It has even tried bribing 6 million government employees with 15 percent pay rise.

None of it has worked.

Instead, in a wonderful and beautiful example of a risen people, the Egyptians have come out into the streets in even greater numbers in the past couple of days, determined to maintain the pressure on the regime and the military high command. In this latest stage of the uprising the movement has been joined by thousands of workers who’ve gone on strike throughout the country, helping to exacerbate an already desperate economic situation for a regime which continues to try and do what it can to cling on to its power and privileges.

Failing to learn the lessons of history has been the currency of dictators since time began. Mubarak has not only plundered his nation’s wealth during his time in power, he is now attempting to plunder its future. This is one crime among the many he’s committed against his people that will never be forgiven.

Friend of the US government, friend of the Israeli government, friend of imperialists, colonialists and plutocrats – friend of everyone except the Arab people – Hosni Mubarak with the speech he delivered to the Egyptian people on the evening of 10 February 2011 declared himself an outlaw.

Mubarak is yesterday. The people are today. And today the ground benath Mubarak will shake.