Friday, February 10, 2012

February 11: The Day Egypt's Revolution Kicks Out The Jams

The last year the revolution in Egypt has been a source of inspiration to people around the world. It has spawned movement across the region and, indeed across the world. In the minds of the ruling class it has inspired fear from China where mention of the Egyptian revolution was (and probably still is) banned on the heavily censored internet - to here in the west where our rulers have tried to contain the damage wrought by the Arab Spring - crushing a similar revolt in Bahrain, trying to co-opt and defang the revolution in Yemen, deflecting the revolution in Libya into a military competition with minimal political content, etc.

And yet the Egyptian revolution continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. It has broken the deadlock that tried to suggest only quiet, polite, legal channels - negotiations between our betters, or wars between them (fought by us) when those negotiations broke down - were legitimate routes to change. Change from below - by the 99% is the new vogue because of Egypt and that's a fashion statement I can get behind.

It has challenged the neo-liberal belief in the supremacy of the market and the inevitable decline in union and worker power with an explosion of independent unionism, spontaneous strike waves and campaigns for the renationalization of privatized industries. It has smashed through the image of Arabs as backward, bigoted and sexist, and has led to a flowering of culture and even science that is historic. I believe that it will be at least a decade before we come to truly understand the impact of the Egyptian revolution on world history.

Keep that in mind this Saturday, February 11 - the anniversary of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator. Workers, students, peasants, revolutionaries - millions of people - look set to take part in a national general strike. They will be celebrating getting rid of one dictator by stepping up to finish the job. It may not go as planned and it may be a dud in the end. Every establishment figure from the military council that are running the country - the SCAF - to the Muslim Brotherhood, leading Islamic scholars and the Pope of the Coptic Church are all denouncing the planned strike and civil disobedience campaign.

There is an incredible pressure on workers to call off this show of force. But if it does take place it will have forced a further cleavage into Egypt, demonstrating who is with the revolution until victory and who were only along for the ride as far as it benefited them and their circles. The question on the table is: will the revolution free ALL of Egypt, or just a privileged layer. This Saturday could be the beginning of the answer to that question. It's a hell of a lot more exciting than the Superbowl - and rather more important, don't you think?

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