Volatility

February 9, 2011

“We Are the Government Now”

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russ @ 3:48 am

 

Tuesday saw the biggest demonstrations yet as Egypt’s democracy swelled and marched and surged and struck in dozens of cities.
 
Eyewitnesses called the convocation at Liberation Square the biggest yet. Another large demonstration came together at the Parliament building. Even as Mubarak continues his intransigence, a group of lawyers presented a petition demanding he be put on trial. This is more evidence that, far from feeling the energy dispersing, the people on the ground feel their strength gathering.
 
A new development, big news especially for the Leader-seeking Western media, was the release from secretive custody and appearance at the Square of Google executive Wael Ghonim, whose “We Are All Khalid Said” Facebook page is getting credit for having played a significant role in organizing the original uprising. (The media keeps saying that; it’s unclear how much credit the people on the street give to these websites.)
 
He’s been making statements and giving speeches correctly crediting the people for the uprising. It’s unclear who he is or what he wants, although there’s already a move to “authorize” him to speak for the democracy. A new Facebook page to that effect exists. Since such hysteria is alien to the spirit of the democracy thus far, we should classify this as an astroturf until we get better information. Many within the Square said they never heard of him. And those who expressed admiration for him were still insisting “We don’t need Leaders. We are the government now.”
 
They’re right to be skeptical of all would-be Leaders who didn’t arise from their own ranks. While I don’t know who Ghonim himself is, on its face we have to be suspicious of an IT sector cadre. And it’s clear that he has connections with telecom racketeers, one of whom is purported to have secured his release through a conversation with Suleiman. (I’ll be happy to be proven wrong about him.)
 
Meanwhile we have the self-appointed “wise men” who represent no one among the people but are clearly the voice of a new gang of bourgeoisie who want to become part of the power structure. The Muslim Brotherhood’s intent – democratic or just wanting a piece, or most likely some combination – is also unclear. Elbaradei may have sidelined himself by sounding too shrill (from the system point of view) in repeating the protestors’ demands. According to him he wasn’t invited to the sham meeting Suleiman held a few days ago. Maybe they’re looking for a more pliable figurehead for a pseudo-democratic “opposition faction”. Maybe Ghonim is earmarked to play that role.
 
Suleiman himself is doing nothing but looking for ways to preserve the regime. He says Egypt is “not ready for democracy”, thereby admitting that the meeting he held was a sham. He’s merely promised that two “committees” will meet sooner or later to talk about some of the things the regime has vaguely promised to maybe pretend to do someday.
 
Meanwhile he refuses to do the one clearcut thing the regime could do right now (besides Mubarak leaving) – repeal the emergency law. That proves that everything he says is a lie, since the only things he’ll promise are things which are usually vague and always regarding the future. A future, of course, that’ll come only after the democracy disperses. But anything which can be clearly done right now, the regime refuses to do. (Even the administration, in the four demands it made public on Tuesday, included alongside three pieces of boilerplate this clear demand to repeal the emergency law.)
 
So there’s how much faith ought to be placed in Suleiman and in anyone who wants to “negotiate” with him. Fortunately, the democracy seems to understand this, and will continue to reject the idea of striking a bargain with these criminals who are clearly dealing in bad faith.
 
So there’s the politics of the moment. Elsewhere, there’s been a surge of more directly economic protest.
 
6000 workers at several Suez Canal service companies declared an open-ended sit-in strike. They’re demanding higher wages (in line with those of the Canal Authority) and better working conditions. Workers at Telecom Egypt protested outside the Ramses office, threatening their own open-ended sit-in. They’re demanding a 10% raise and that the managing director be fired.
 
Surveying several other actions:
 
Suez: Textile workers staged their third day of a sit-in strike. They cite a workers’ salary law which guarantees them raises which management refuses to obey. 2000 unemployed also demonstrated, demanding their right to work*.
 
[*Several times I’ve wanted to use that term but refrained because in America it seems to have been irretrievably Orwellized. Does anyone think it’s worth trying to reclaim it? Liberalism, which also denies that people have a right to work (since it too believes in coercive corporatism and concentrated property), played a major role putting us in such a state.]
 
Luxor: Thousands lined up to file for compensation on account of the suspension of tourism. (Which is the government’s fault. Only its own intransigence and defiance toward the people is keeping things in this state of limbo.)
 
Mahalla: 1500 workers of the Abu El-Subaa company demonstrated, demanding back pay owed them. They’ve been intermittently striking for two years now.
 
Quesna: 2000 Sigma workers are on strike, demanding that suspended wage and benefit increases be honored.
 
Aswan: 5000 unemployed demonstrated and tried to storm a government building. They demanded the governor be sacked.
 
Cairo: 1500 sanitation workers demonstrated, demanding a raise and lunch as a benefit. They want permanent contracts and that the Authority’s president be sacked.
 
It looks like the demand that the worthless thug tyrant be sacked is scalable to many levels below Mubarak himself. They’re distilling the principle: Everyone must go.
 
So we can see how it’s a lie that the protestors are just some socioeconomically isolated (read, a bunch of spoiled students, and tools of foreigners as well) bunch of malcontents who don’t represent the pulse of the country.
 
Just that brief survey of a few examples of labor unrest shows how the democratic uprising grew out of the long-festering economic conflict, and how the political uprising has in turn encouraged a non-linear escalation of worker actions. Economic and political action are dialectically gathering strength from one another, as happens in every true revolution. The next step would be if the workers started forming political councils of their own.
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29 Comments

  1. So much good news this morning.Thank you Russ -its a breath of fresh air.

    And about this:
    Meanwhile he [Suleiman] refuses to do the one clearcut thing the regime could do right now (besides Mubarak leaving) – repeal the emergency law.

    Maybe we’ll get rid of our emergency law:

    Bill Swadley, 2011.02.09
    BEYOND LEFT AND RIGHT: House Defeats Patriot Act Extension HuffPo

    Also, at dinner several nights ago, a young IT man at Bloomberg who has his own team on a personal project and lives on the Internet casually mentioned that Google had made the Internet available in Egypt.

    I called it propaganda. I really didn’t know that for sure, but something made me react sharply. (the devil made me do it) I had read about Twitter becoming available and thought it was a dial up and voice mail system that could relay Twitter messages.

    Its possible that Google got a meme going among techies to the affect that they had ‘restored’ Internet access for Egyptians; not a minor point if their man is trying to make a power move in Egypt. Its kinda creepy.

    But the story is here in glorious detail (and I applaud that) of how Google teamed with Twitter to create a relay system Internet workaround for Tweets here at CBS

    Some data points from the article:

    • Speak2Tweet was born a service that lets people call a phone number and leave a message, then posts a link to the message to Twitter.

    • It allowed Egyptians to communicate even as the regime of President Hosni Mubarak cut Internet and cell phone services for days …

    • Ujjwal Singh, 38, helped start an online service that lets fans share voice messages with the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Google bought the startup Jan. 25

    • Almost 2,900 spoken tweets had been posted as of Friday afternoon on the Twitter account (at)speak2tweet.

    • The alternative method of tweeting has turned into a forum for longer-form expression because the voice recordings aren’t confined to Twitter’s 140-character limit.

    • Another Twitter account, (at)AliveInEgypt, has been set up to transcribe the messages, which are mostly in Arabic, into text. An Internet radio station also is playing the voice recordings at http://egypt.periszkopradio.hu

    • There is no way to verify that every tweet came from the site of the protests, or even from Egypt. When the service can trace the country code of the call, it adds a note, or hashtag, specifying the location.

    • The service’s use was limited by the very problem that created it: Without Internet access, most Egyptians didn’t know Speak2Tweet existed, says Jillian York, a project coordinator for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society in Harvard University.

    • only about one-fourth of Egypt’s population has Internet access.

    • Cooperating with Google on the project was a no-brainer for Twitter.

    • It would work whether the person was calling on a rotary telephone or a smart phone.

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 9, 2011 @ 5:57 am

    • That’s fascinating if accurate. However dubious the motives might be, that sounds like it might be serving as a great tactical boon.

      And as always, when I read something like that I think immediately of the prospect of the kill switch in America, and other possibly looming obstacles to our free Internet. We need to start practicing with alternatives.

      The “patriot act” vote sounds encouraging. I didn’t read about the details yet.

      Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 6:34 am

      • from the New York Times editorial on Egypt I spy a line straight from our dear leaders:

        “Mr. Suleiman is not going to do what’s needed on his own. So the United States and its allies will have to lay down a clear list of steps that are the minimum for holding a credible vote this year and building a democracy. “

        Comment by LeeAnne — February 9, 2011 @ 8:26 am

      • I agree with you. More than that, such an extreme move as turning off the whole country could go a long way toward dampening enthusiasm for a ‘kill switch’ here once the corporations wake up to the threat of Internet power in the wrong hands; the wrong hands being any concentration on that scale. And that includes the power corporations have acquired. Power over the lives of people all over the planet.

        Power corrupts -absolute power corrupts absolutely -almost too simple.

        I meant that I thought that Google may have planted the sound bite that they had made the Internet available which they did not. Its certainly an easier soundbite then what they actually did accomplish.

        Other than that, I agree that it was great to get the Twitter workaround up and running.

        Comment by LeeAnne — February 9, 2011 @ 8:41 am

      • It’s long seemed true in theory that many, perhaps most, business sectors ought to sometimes side with the people against the government, and always against the banks.

        But in practice they alomost always fall into line according to the theory that the worker is always the real enemy, even more than the bankster.

        Not to mention an individual executive not wanting to lose his cushy even if servile personal position among the elites.

        I don’t know what Google did or didn’t do. I haven’t read anything in detail about it.

        Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  2. Dont’ look now, but at a time when Egypt is has erupted, the Pakistani cabinet has just resigned. And, as the geniuses in Washington rattle sabers at Iran (a country that may get nuclear weapons someday), they are also sending billions of dollars to a corrupt and hated Pakistani government that rules a country that is a already a serious nuclear menace. The country’s president, Zardari, was described by Saudi King Abdullah (pot calling the kettle black?) in these words, “when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body”. Well, now that the “body” is gone, what will become of the head?

    In 2008, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Makhdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, who had served a six year sentence in prison for corruption, escaped an assassination attempt by the Taliban. A former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who was, herself, accused of corruption, was less fortunate in 2007. How long before this country becomes a nuclear monster without a head?

    “Opinion polls taken recently show that Americans are widely disliked and distrusted by Pakistanis. … a recent poll showed that 80 percent of Pakistanis believe their country should not cooperate with the United States in the war on terror. Only 2 percent believe the U.S. has “good relations with Pakistan.” In another poll, only 9 percent support U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and most Pakistanis believe “the U.S. is the greatest threat to their country.”

    Unlike Vegas, what happens in Egypt, doesn’t necessarily stay in Egypt.

    Comment by black swan — February 9, 2011 @ 7:50 am

    • The non-Western peoples have had such a long time to learn that the West will never, for as long as it has any global presence at all, do anything but exploit and terrorize them.

      Maybe this is finally the resumption of the great anti-colonial revolution which was so evilly resisted and hijacked in the mid-20th century.

      Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    • The civilian government is not and has never been even nominally in control of the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan. Unless the Pakistani military somehow crumbles (it won’t, being the strongest institution in Pakistan), the nuclear status quo in Pak will continue.

      Comment by paper mac — February 9, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

      • Paper mac, not all are as assured as you are of the ability of Pakistan’s military to control the country’s nuclear weapons or its nuclear technology:

        “In this May 2007 CFR meeting on nuclear black markets, Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for nonproliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, pointed out that A.Q. Khan’s network may not be dismantled, as Pakistani officials claimed. “The assessment we heard was that it is not airtight, that there is still some leakage,” he said. Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says “There’s basically a whole series of checks and balances in the system, but it’s also inevitably true that checks and balances can be bypassed,” he says.

        In January 2008, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, expressed his fears about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But Pakistan dismissed his concerns and reiterated that its nuclear arsenal was secure. Pervez Hoodbhoy, chairman of the department of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, writes in an International Herald Tribune op-ed that Pakistanis live in a state of denial. He says safety procedures and their associated technologies are only as safe as the men who use them and “the deliberate nurturing of jihadism by the state has, over 30 years, produced extremism inside parts of the military and intelligence.”

        Comment by black swan — February 9, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

      • Who is going to take operational control of the Pakistani military stockpiles away from them? The handful of groups which have been able to mount halfway-effective resistance against the military and ISI are mostly Baluchi nationalists with no access to major Pakistani military facilities and small groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Toiba. There are a few other Sindh nationalist groups which might be candidates, but the reality is that the Pakistani military receives billions in aid from the US and China, neither of which want to see nuclear weapons disappearing from Pak. I’d be much more worried about instability causing the Pak military to accept substantial Chinese military aid, in excess of what’s already been given for the flood recovery operations, which would cause the Indian security establishment to freak out. The prospect of the TTP or someone else backing a truck into a Pakistani military nuke facility and driving off with a missile, not so much.

        Comment by paper mac — February 9, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  3. The protests surge again today, and so do the strikes.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112913546831171.html#

    Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  4. Russ,

    There’s a very good article at zcommunications called “First Impressions from the Field”
    By Mohammed Bamyeh, which gives the impression of a completely spontaneous revolution coming from the people, and transforming the people themselves as the revolution gathers momentum. The article is long, so for anyone who prefers not to read it, these excerpts give you the general idea:

    “Never has a revolution that seemed so lacking in prospects gathered momentum so quickly and so unexpectedly.”

    “…over the days I saw an increasing demographic mix in demonstrations, where people from all age groups, social classes, men and women, Muslims and Christians, urban people and peasants—virtually all sectors of society, acting in large numbers and with a determination rarely seen before.”

    “…in every sense the revolution maintained throughout a character of spontaneity, in the sense that it had no permanent organization…. Rather, organizational needs—for example governing how to communicate, what to do the next day, what to call that day, how to evacuate the injured, how to repulse baltagiyya assaults, and even how to formulate demands—emerged in the field directly and continued to develop in response to new situations.

    Further, the revolution lacked recognized leadership from beginning to end, a fact that seemed to matter most to observers but not to participants. I saw several debates in which participants strongly resisted being represented by any existing group or leader, just as they resisted demands that they produce “representatives” that someone, such as al-Azhar or the government, could talk to.

    Spontaneity was a key element also because it made the Revolution hard to predict or control; and because it provided for an unusual level of dynamism and lightness—so long as many millions remained completely committed to a collective priority of bringing down the regime…

    http://www.zcommunications.org/the-egyptian-revolution-by-mohammed-bamyeh

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — February 9, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    • Thanks, Frank. I look forward to reading it. Bamyeh wrote a good piece on Tunisia:

      http://libcom.org/library/tunisian-revolution-initial-reflections-mohammed-bamyeh

      which I linked in the first post I wrote on the wave of uprisings:

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/one-fruit-cart-tunisia/

      That seems like so long ago now.

      Looking over those excerpts, I’d only differ where he says the leaderless nature of the revolution doesn’t matter to the participants. It seems to me that they’ve taken great pride in it, and have been vigilant in defending that self-organized condition.

      Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    • Reminds of organized parties in New York (maybe elsewhere I don’t know) where participants were notified of the location only within a few hours of the party.

      Its not something I follows; so I’m not up on it. But if a culture is accustomed to anything like it’s certainly adaptable for the REVOLUTION !!

      Comment by LeeAnne — February 9, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

      • You mean flash mobs? There’s been lots of speculation regarding what political uses that could be put to. I think a real uprising needs more planning than that, as the Egyptians carried out in this case.

        But on the other hand, once they were in the streets they had to improvise almost everything they did.

        Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

      • Yes Russ. Thanks for the ‘flash party’ name. I looked it up on Wiki.

        The version I remember had as its purpose to keep things exclusive and the location secretly in use for the duration of the party only.

        For a celebrity party, it presumably cut down on expensive security to prevent people from crashing. And it was a method also for using space for the night that wasn’t zoned for that use.

        But, we’re seeing only the beginning of uses for the new technology, and governments are going through hoops trying to figure out how to contain it.

        Egypt’s was particularly clumsy IMHO. The brutality of it has a correlation in the way that government runs everything and everyone.

        The same strategy -cutting off all Internet usage access, inconveniencing the middle class whose commerce was interrupted that would have put pressure on them to passively accept a crackdown on demonstrators, are the same middle class who could turn on the government for the same kind of inconvenience should the technology interruption be more creatively targeted -as is bound to happen.

        Comment by LeeAnne — February 10, 2011 @ 7:32 am

      • It seems like all such attempts have backfired in Egypt. While media propaganda has tried to claim the Egyptian “silent majority” wants the protests to end, that doesn’t fit the facts of how they’re continuing to expand.

        Comment by Russ — February 10, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  5. This looks great!

    http://www.arabawy.org/2011/02/09/jan25-public-transportation-workers-call-for-overthrowing-mubarak/

    The Cairo Public Transportation Workers have launched a strike including a strong list of concrete demands which merely starts with Mubarak Out.

    They say they’ll form a new union tomorrow.

    Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

  6. Russ- what does “right to work” mean in a right-side-up world? Does it include the right to chose what work to perform? If so, how do we deal with issues of competition, where a lone craftsperson gets outcompeted by a neighboring collective? It seems to me that food sovereignty is a less problematic basic principle to proceed from, but I’m not sure what the implications of a “right to work” actually are.

    Comment by paper mac — February 9, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    • I agree, I wasn’t proposing anything to compete with Food Sovereignty, but as a complementary, corollary principle.

      I suppose it’s not so much an affirmative right to work, but rather the fact that no one has any right to monopolize more land/resources/infrastructure than he actually uses. So it follows that under a usufruct/stewardship dispensation, everyone who was willing to work would be able to do so, since there would at least be land available to cultivate.

      You’re right that it can get conceptually more difficult where it comes to manufacturing. In theory the lone craftsman doesn’t compete with a collective, but they each supply the production of their labor and each individual receives the same share of the social goods. Whether one wants to work cooperatively or as an individual (in such trades where that choice is possible) is a personal choice, but wouldn’t affect one’s economic position.

      I know there’s lots of potential glitches in such a plan, but certainly nowhere near as many as with capitalism.

      I’m not hankering for this term “right to work”, though. I was just tossing it out there. Maybe you’re right and it’s better to keep it focused on: We have the right to work the land for ourselves.

      Comment by Russ — February 9, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

  7. Russ, I’m afraid that when it comes to terrorizing hoi polloi, elites from both East and West band together.

    I submit the following as documentation of that, as well as, of course, the robust existence of an eastern despotic brotherhood as well as some other nauseating realities.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/

    And the following is OT, but (as I expected) within hours of defeating legislation to extend the sordid (Un)Patriot(ic) Act, we had this transpire. Hardly a coincidence wouldn’t you say?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/janet-napolitano-warns-terror-threat-heightened-sept-11/story?id=12874207

    And of course, The House has decided to apply something other than a 2/3 majority to pass Homeland Security legislation against the will of the people. Why do they even bother pretending that we have a representative democracy.

    The next time someone chides you about not voting, try to restrain yourself if, like me, you feel like slapping them. Have a lovely day.

    Comment by Edwardo — February 9, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    • Yup, gangsters are the same all over. And these kinds of government maneuvers are perfect examples of why I argue that representative government is a sham in principle, because it was bound to end up this way.

      Thanks for the pep talk on not hitting such fools. I think I need it most for the kind of cretin who condemned exactly this kind of terror propaganda when Bush did it but seems to sincerely think it’s different when Obama does it.

      Comment by Russ — February 10, 2011 @ 2:19 am

  8. “Jordan tribes break taboo by targeting queen” Breitbart
    Breitbart

    This story about Jordanians criticizing their Queen for her profligate ways and demanding return of the property stolen from them is fascinating.

    The people have broken from the psychological constraints that have kept them in check and confronting their oppressors.

    This is one revolution! There’s no putting this genie back in the bottle.

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 9, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

    • I don’t know much about Jordan, but that psychological breakthrough (attacking the King himself) was a long time coming during the American Revolution. More advanced patriots like the Adamses had to chomp at the bit for a long time waiting for critical mass on that one.

      But once it finally comes, that’s often a sign of a sea change.

      I’m not sure what today’s American equivalent is. Maybe faith in capitalism, or in concentrated property.

      Comment by Russ — February 10, 2011 @ 2:23 am

  9. Russ- this is off-topic, but I thought you might be interested in it. This:

    http://www.mediafire.com/?5yybt8pc5rayt4h

    article (Sustainability, capitalism, and evolution) was published yesterday in EMBO Reports, a Nature Publishing Group (corporatists through and through) molecular biology journal. I was a little surprised to see it there, as it seems to be an synthesis of a bunch of recent research in environmental economics and evolution, and explicitly acknowledges the political and philosophical implications of those studies. Not sure if this is a bellwether or just an inattentive NPG editor, but it’s interesting to see.

    Comment by paper mac — February 10, 2011 @ 12:44 am

    • Thanks, I’ll tell you what I think after I read it (might take me a few days to get to it).

      I’ll reciprocate by asking if you saw this, the idea for a General Public License for Plant Germplasm.

      http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/a-general-public-license-for-seeds/2010/11/23

      http://www.ukabc.org/seeds&sovereignty.pdf

      It looks like a possible mid-range tool. Of course, the eventual goal is to abolish all seed and plant proprietarianism, so the need for this would become moot.

      The author’s from the U. of Saskatchewan.

      It looks like the kind of thing you might be interested in, a confluence of food politics and law.

      Comment by Russ — February 10, 2011 @ 2:32 am

      • I’ll have to take some time to go over the seeds & sovereignty paper more carefully, but my initial reaction is cautiously positive. I think creating a legally protected space which protects agricultural biodiversity as the common property of the people making use of it is an unambiguous good. At the same time, I don’t have a good sense of how the traditional methods of breeding and dissemination of seeds were undermined so completely in the first place, so it’s a little unclear to me how the creation of this space would facilitate a return to that traditional model. It seems like something worth exploring, though. If it were to be established, the license should also be applied to all university-generated transgenic plants, so that the salt- and drought-tolerant strains, which may be made an inevitable necessity in some areas by climate change, cannot be enclosed by Monsanto et al. If we’re going to be using genetically engineered crops, we need to make sure that the people using them are 100% in control of and responsible for all aspects of their use.

        Comment by paper mac — February 10, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

      • The basic idea is to start, however small, with varieties whose descendents are all legally locked into the commons. Anyone is free to innovate and sell, but by using the GPLPG material has consented in turn for anyone to do further work on his innovation and sell it.

        So this alternative commons market would hopefully be attractive to many kinds of people (the paper goes into detail as to who it thinks the target market for this is), and as they join it would become ever larger and ever more valuable to be a part of, feeding on itself in a positive feedback loop.

        In the best case scenario, it could reach critical mass and then chase proprietarianism out completely. (Who would pay a rent markup if you could pay less for a GPL seed which is as good or better, and which you could innovate and sell on your own if you wanted?)

        I intend to write a post reviewing this idea, when I get around to it.

        Comment by Russ — February 10, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

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