Egypt: The Bread and Freedom Revolution
The events in Egypt are not thunder from a blue sky; revolutions never are. If the events in Tunisia – another North African country burning with ongoing revolutionary sentiment – could be called the trigger, Egyptian society has long been a time bomb ready to go off at any moment. This explosion was inevitable, and if the outer humane world has been ignorant of the unbearable sufferings of the Egyptian people over the past decades; if the world has intentionally been kept in the dark so as not to see the unimaginable poverty, famine, unemployment, barbaric exploitation of masses, corruption, and degradation; and if the world has been made unaware of inevitable consequences – i.e., the suppression; the police state; constant crackdowns; thousands upon thousands imprisoned, tortured, and murdered; the daily humiliation and corruption eating the whole society from within; and the rage accumulating over the years – the world should have seen and witnessed the rising and spreading wave of radical protests of the Egyptian working class, the majority of Egyptian population.
In today’s Egypt, where 80 percent of the population of 80 million is living under the poverty line, and 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, one does not need to be a socioeconomic analyst to gather that this status is not sustainable. But as it is with other dictatorial entities and their so-called democratic allies, policies are not shaped by logic, but rather by pragmatic short term political gains; not based on humane sentiments and solidarity, but on transient economic and political interests.
That incredibly inhumane status was sustained for 30 years. This status ironically was called, and still is referred to by the US administration, “stability.” These 30 years of “stability” were paid for by millions of Egyptians: murdered, imprisoned, tortured, degraded and humiliated on a daily basis. And the financial costs of creating and supporting an institution necessary for such systematic oppression has been paid for by hardworking American taxpayers.
The severe hunger-driven protests in 2005 by the poor, and the uprising which was named after its cause, “bread,” in a society which is the highest consumer of bread in the world is with little doubt the seed of the current revolution. Since the bread uprising, the dissent has only grown larger, and over recent years, labour protests – with millions of Egyptian workers participating in demonstrations, sit-ins, and strikes – have reached their historical height. The Egyptian labour movement has gained enormous energy by – despite brutal crackdowns – forcing the government into retreat, and attaining parts of their demands.
Yet the revolution in Tunisia certainly triggered the Egyptian revolution, as the Egyptian revolution has already encouraged others like Sudan and Yemen, and robbed a good night’s sleep from all the dictators of the region. And no matter which direction the Egyptian revolution takes, Egypt, and the whole region if not the whole world, has passed a point of no return. After the expulsion of Ben Ali, and now the deep and fundamental rejection of Hosni Mubarak, world politics enters a new era.
Today, on the one hand, financing and supporting dictators on the broken backs of the taxpayers, who have no interest in political domination and exploitation of their brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe, is becoming ever more problematic if not yet totally impossible. We are with certainty passing the era in which governments could bank on the people’s ignorance; could feed, arm, and protect dictators and shamelessly call them stable allies. On the contrary, we are witnessing indications that the thunder that smashed the very “stable” Ben Ali and Hosni will be soon felt as far as Washington DC, and people are going to ask questions and demand answers and accountability.
On the other hand, ironically, the much appreciated “stability” – established by eliminating and persecuting all political challenges, actual or potential –has inevitably left Western powers with very few “suitable” alternatives, if any, as substitutes to serve their political goals. This is the dilemma that the West, the United States and its allies are facing in Tunisia, Egypt and other dictatorships of the region.
However, what on the surface seems to be the strength of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, i.e., “One nation, one demand: Mubarak must go,” is at the same time and at least in the short run their Achilles’ heel. The crackdowns, suppression, and physical elimination of advocates of radical change, labour and human rights activists; the total absence of the slightest political and social rights and activities; combined with unimaginable hatred for the dictator among an absolute majority of the people; has deprived the revolution of its revolutionary leadership and organization. The revolution has not managed yet to clarify its immediate demands. We know that women of Egypt are burning for their equal rights; we know the workers want wages that guarantee that 80 percent of the population its share of a humanly acceptable life; we know the people in the street barricades want unconditional freedom of thought and speech, health care and education for all, we know that Egyptians want social and economic justice, and a standard of living equal to that in Western Europe. But what we know, and what the people in Tahrir Square clearly demand and condition any change in the system and form of governance on, are two different realities.
The Egyptian revolution is a revolution without a head, and the body, although simmering with revolutionary spirit, is without a leading revolutionary organization to crystallize the immediate demands of the revolution in the minds of the body of the revolution. The revolution has only declared one objective: “Mubarak must go” – which, although a precondition to any change, including a radical social and economical change, is by no means the only objective. This revolution is about Mubarak and what he politically, economically and socially represents. As long as the revolution has not pulled itself together, organized itself, and introduced its demands, the counter-revolution has free hands to suppress the revolutionary masses, from above and on the shoulders of the revolution – at least in this round of confrontations between the revolution and the enemies of the poor and the disadvantaged.
The revolution of Egypt is unmistakably a revolution of freedom, dignity and bread. There is no doubt that Mubarak’s dictatorship has reached its end. The nature of tomorrow’s government is highly dependent on the clarity of the immediate goals and objectives of the revolution, and the organized efforts to achieve them and the power behind them.
Revolutions are won by heroism and sacrifice but they are not judged by that. Revolutions are judged by their achievements. The status of Egyptian women, wages and bread on the table of Egyptian workers, health and education and freedom – these are the factors that determine the defeat or the victory derived from the sacrifices we witness today.
Long Live Revolution.
5 February 2011
- Live From the Egyptian Revolution (boingboing.net)
- “Revolution in Egypt – Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire” and related posts (newzeal.blogspot.com)
- Explaining the Egyptian Revolution with Indiana Jones (osocio.org)
- Inside the Egyptian revolution (scissorskick.wordpress.com)
- Egypt: Book Banned by Mubarak Predicted Egyptian Revolution (prweb.com)