United States should take notes on Egyptian revolt
Blessed be the Egyptian masses, for they will inherit the earth! Egypt rediscovered its most awesome asset—its youth, with their passion, resiliency, and courageousness. Millions of Egyptians of all ages lost their fear of a ruthlessly cruel regime and reclaimed their dignity and honor. They realized that they have the power to create democratic and egalitarian structures through their direct actions. These political lessons will long be remembered.
For 18 days, from January 25 – February 11, 2011, the people in the streets remained united and steadfast against the government's barrage of repressive actions designed to divide them.
This revolt was unprecedented in Egyptian history. It involved millions of Egyptians from all social classes, all age groups, women, people from all over the country, from urban and rural areas, people from both the Christian and Muslim communities, and people with diverse political beliefs. The revolt included not only those who demonstrated daily, but also the people in many neighborhoods who tacitly supported the demonstrators.
Economic issues drove all the demands. The people rose up primarily to transform their wretched living conditions: massive poverty, high unemployment, low wages, and high food prices, all of which the people have endured for decades. This is an expression of class struggle. The people also protested against governmental corruption and brutal police repression, demanding that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resign immediately. This demand, however, is a consequence of the people's understanding that the Mubarak regime has been upholding the economic order that has caused their desperate economic situation. Removing Mubarak is only the first step in transforming this inhuman economic order.
The overall logic of these protests was inextricably tied to broader issues of capitalism in the Middle East: (1) the current global economic recession and the effects of neoliberalism in Egypt; and (2) Egypt's role in sustaining U.S. domination in the Middle East. These issues are neither solely economic nor political. Mubarak's rule cannot be separated from these issues, which is why the struggle against his political despotism is intertwined with the struggle against economic deprivation.
On February 11th, the protestors forced Mubarak to resign and the military took power. Has power really changed hands? For decades, the military has received annually $1.4 billion in military aid from our tax dollars for which it has had to give something in return to those holding power in the U.S. Will the Egyptian military initiate deeply-needed qualitative political and economic changes that would bite the U.S hand that has been feeding it all these years? It is dangerous to believe that the Egyptian military is "part of the people" or "neutral and above politics." Whichever way the military does go, it will be a valuable lesson for future popular struggles.
This struggle of the Egyptian people ultimately challenges the foreign-imposed neoliberal policies initiated by Mubarak, policies that made Egypt more dependent on foreign capital, created a massive national debt and inflation, increased the rates of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, and widened the income and wealth gap between a small number of local, rich capitalists and the rest of the Egyptian people. Today, more than 40% of Egyptians barely exist on less than $2 per day. These great structural inequities must be addressed by a new Egyptian government.
The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt also exposed the long-standing U.S. support for, control over, and reliance on, these violent, despotic regimes.
This massive revolt of the Egyptian people is a world historic event in another sense—it sent a reminder to authoritarian kleptocrats—do not underestimate the power of the oppressed. This revolt, inspired by the successful people's revolt in Tunisia in December, has already impressed oppressed peoples and reignited their hope for change—seen in the current popular, anti-government demonstrations across North Africa and the Middle East.
The actions of the Egyptians not only offer hope, but will provide valuable lessons—positive and negative—for oppressed peoples who will be confronting their oppressive ruling classes. It should teach them that, ultimately, they must do more than just remove the autocrats and their cronies. In the end, the people will have to seize power over the whole machinery of the state so that they can create the political and economic structures that will end social injustices and that will address the fundamental needs of all the people.
Egypt's future is at a crossroads. Three factors are significant: 1) The people understand that it is their actions alone that will drive progressive change. 2) No identifiable leadership has yet emerged from the people. And 3) labor militancy in all economic sectors has been growing steadily over the last 10 years.
The events in Egypt are important for us because they are inextricably connected to the requirements of U.S. capitalism. The struggle of the Egyptian people is our struggle here in the U.S.—(a) to remove the state apparatus that hurls death, destruction, and destitution to millions of people abroad, and that generates massive poverty at home; and (b) to transform our own destructive economic system into one that works to end poverty and unemployment and to institute free comprehensive health care for all, from birth to death.