Sunday, January 30, 2011
Egypt Cries Freedom
It has long been axiomatic that revolutions occur when the ruling class cannot continue to rule in the old way and the masses refuse to live in the old way. Events currently taking place throughout the Arab world bear this out. At time of writing Hosni Mubarak’s regime is teetering on the brink, but no one should make the mistake of believing that this has come out of the blue.
On the contrary, what we are witnessing in Egypt is a process which began when Sadat first turned his back on the Arab masses and sold himself and Egypt to US imperialism back in 1977. This ushered in an era of autocracy and autocracy, as history tells us, is the sine qua non of US imperialism, its favoured method of government when it comes to its many satellite states. Indeed it is the only way in which those states are able to maintain themselves in power at the expense of their own people, creating contradictions which eventually and inevitably reach the point of combustion.
What we are seeing taking place in Egypt, what we have already seen take place in Tunisia, and what threatens to consume the entire Arab world, is exactly that. In other words, a part of the world whose destiny has for too long been controlled by Washington is experiencing the birth pangs of a new era.
The alacrity with which the US administration has sought to distance itself publicly from Mubarak is an insult to those who’ve so far lost their lives and those who continue to risk their lives daily in an attempt to dislodge him from power. A pro-US stooge, who over a thirty-year reign has ruled in the interests of his US paymasters, Mubarak’s long reign is testament to the bankruptcy of US rhetoric about championing freedom and democracy around the world. In fact, presently unfolding in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, all over Egypt, is democracy – the type which the Arab masses have lacked for so long. To the political and business elites in the West who equate democracy with stability, the kind of stability which allows for the theft and exploitation of human and natural resources in the name of profit, the scenes unfolding across Egypt won’t be pretty; in fact they will be downright terrifying. Suddenly the US and its satellite regimes throughout the Arab world are no longer in control. The people are and it is a beautiful sight to behold for all who understand the United States and the domination it wields over the region utilising war, sanctions, subversion of human rights and the funding of state terrorism, as the major stumbling block to progress and freedom.
The picture emerging from Egypt is still very much a confused one. This is entirely understandable, as revolutionary processes are never straightforward, certainly not in their initial stages. Speculation abounds as to where and in which direction these events are headed. Will Mubarak manage to hold out long enough to remain in power? Will he be able to assuage the masses with piecemeal political and economic reforms, following the advice, or should that be instructions, from Washington? Will the army remain loyal or will it force him to step down? And if so who or what will take his place? Will it be a Nasser ready to break with US imperialism? Will it be another pro-US autocrat such as recently installed vice president Omar Suleiman? Or will there be democratic elections? And if so what form will they take? Will they be restricted to the participation of those parties committed to the status quo in different garb? What are the political forces involved on the streets? Is any coherent leadership beginning to emerge? And what about the Muslim Brotherhood, who’ve long constituted the largest and most organised opposition to Mubarak’s rule? What is their role?
As with any such process, the subjective factor assumes increasing importance as things move forward. And move forward they must, otherwise the momentum is lost and the initial upsurge of energy, confidence and belief which supplants the fear of failure is lost with it.
On another level it would be a mistake when analysing what is taking place in Tunisia, Egypt and throughout the region to reduce it to a phenomenon exclusive to the Arab world. Yes, there are unique contradictions and geopolitical fault lines that exist in the region that don’t exist elsewhere, due to its strategic importance as the world’s filling station. But the context in which this revolt has erupted now is the current crisis in global capitalism. The economic foundations of US satraps in the Middle East, reliant as they are on US largesse, which in the time honoured fashion is squandered on securing their own power base with a bloated security and military apparatus, are inherently weak. Unable to compete in a shrinking global export market as global aggregate demand plunges, already weak economies such as Egypt’s are vulnerable to social convulsion regardless of the geopolitical issues involved. In a country of 80 million, where 20 percent of the population are officially mired in poverty, in which inflation currently hovers close to 13 percent, and which imported almost twice what it exported in 2010 - $46.52 billion compared to $25.34 billion – the writing is on the wall.
Egypt carries greater strategic importance to the US and the West than any other Arab country in the region. Its size and with it potential power renders a pro-US regime indispensable in quelling the aspirations of a people whose intelligentsia retains strong emotional ties to the precepts of Arab nationalism. Egypt’s stewardship of the Suez Canal, so vital to the West, is also crucial, as is its role as a buffer protecting Israel’s ongoing project of ethnic cleansing and expropriation of Palestinian land.
However, though the fall of Mubarak would undoubtedly make Egypt’s role in maintaining the siege of Gaza less secure, and though Tel Aviv will be watching and waiting nervously hoping that Mubarak survives, it would be a mistake to conflate events taking place on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt with an overt pro-Palestinian agenda. The overwhelming majority involved thus far, at least according to credible reports, are focused on issues such as rising prices, falling wages, unemployment, and other economic and social factors. This is fuelled by the understanding that Mubarak and his regime, with its inability to resolve the economic chaos that has crippled the country, must go.
At this juncture the objective of the people on the streets is to win over the army. Crucially, since being deployed the troops on the ground have refrained from taking repressive measures to quell the revolt or enforce the nightly curfew. Is this the result of orders received or is it a spontaneous decision on the part of the troops themselves? It is hard to know at this point. There is little doubt that high ranking officers will be considering their options though. It also wouldn’t be stretch to assume there are back channel talks taking place between some of those officers and representatives of the US administration over how to proceed by way of installing an alternative to Mubarak if and when the time comes.
As of now the deciding factor in how the army responds remains the people and how events in the streets develop over the coming days. Think about that for a moment. When it comes to the Arab world how long has it been since anyone has been able to write that “the deciding factor remains the people?”
Whatever happens now the Arab world will never be the same.