February 11, 2011

New Critical State in Egypt

Filed under: American Revolution, Civil Disobedience, Freedom, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russ @ 3:12 am


I’m sure everyone’s seen the news. Excellent recaps here and here. For hours the indications were piling up that Mubarak would resign. The army engaged in ostentatious coup-like behavior, convening a public meeting without Mubarak or his goons in attendance, declaring it will sit in permanent session to assess the situation. In communiques and in person at the Square, generals told the people, “All your demands will be met.” NDP leaders issued statements implying Mubarak would go. The MSM and the adminstration all gave similar indications based on their sources and knowledge. It was a done deal, Mubarak would resign and try to hand off power to Suleiman. In the Square, at the Parliament, and amid the thousands of striking workers and demonstrating civilians at countless other protests all over Cairo and the rest of Egypt, there was jubilation. The only question, perhaps likely to become a critical one in the days ahead, was whether Mubarak’s resignation would be sufficient or whether the democracy, true to its name, would demand the entire regime Get Out. Although it’s not clear how the vast new cohort of protestors feels about that question, there’s no doubt about the demands issued by many of the strikers, and there’s no doubt about the resolution of Liberation Square: Mubarak’s resignation is necessary, and a precondition for any negotiation whatsoever, but not remotely sufficient. The people know that it’s not just Mubarak the person, but the regime as a whole, whose existence is an affront to the revolution and democracy, and an ongoing physical threat to the people, for as long as it exists.
Instead, the bloated thug went on TV and promised the status quo. He’s not going anywhere, although he might share power with Suleiman. (With some variation, my early assessments of each actor in this saga have proven to be accurate. The people are assertive and resolute; the army leadership, whatever its personal opinion, won’t run the risk of ordering aggressive action against the protestors, not for the likes of Mubarak and probably not for Suleiman; Mubarak may or may not be delusional, but he’s morbidly stubborn and intransigent; the administration is malicious but confused and incompetent. All four patterns of action have largely held true to these descriptions.)
The people responded with dismay and then rage and then resolve. Again the calls resounded for a march on the palace. 
Thursday was shaping up to be a momentous day, and so it was, although again the stakes have been raised. We’re again at the point of revolutionary brinksmanship, but the democracy is in a much stronger position than it was several days ago. Then, the idea of a march on the presidential palace looked more like an act of desperation more likely to be set upon by thugs while it was strung out along the road than to reach the palace in one piece.
Today there seems to be no chance of the thugs reappearing. It’s full state violence or nothing. But there’s been little word in recent days of the police reassembling and taking back the streets. For days that rumor kept being floated, but never materialized. The fact that the police never did reappear has probably encouraged the democracy to believe it’s impossible for them to reappear. I suppose most of the police have shed their uniforms and gone home. Many, the conscripts, may have joined the demonstrators. It seems likely the police threats were just more empty emanations from a regime which is nothing but one big stuffed shirt by now. Even the sinister Suleiman looks smaller and more hapless all the time. He keeps threatening the democracy: But if he could have tried to disperse it Tianenmen-style, he would probably have already made the attempt.
On Sunday, it seemed like the revolution was in a doldrum. It looked isolated in the Square, while “normalcy” was being restored elsewhere. I and many others pondered the palace march, however tactically dubious, as a way to resume the initiative. “They can’t stay in the Square forever.”
We were soon proven wrong about that. Even as millions of protestors took to the streets anew, and the Square’s population again surged, its revolutionary city took on a more permanent aspect. At the same time the entire movement took on a new character in the form of a wave of strikes, economic demands coordinated with the overarching political demands. The regime’s pandering gesture, giving government employees a raise, only encouraged all other workers to put forward their own demands. Like every other concession from the regime, it backfired. It was too little, too late, and too obviously meant to set people against one another.
Why have these concessions backfired? Because the Egyptian people are asserting themselves with rising political self-confidence and self-respect. Their sense of democracy and freedom is in the ascent. Under such conditions, this regime’s characteristic mix of half-assed concessions, arrogant threats, and inflammatory but ultimately ineffectual violence will only encourage the people to demand ever more of their birthright and refuse to settle for a demeaning crumb which will likely be fictitious in the end anyway.
(Is the spectacular difference between these vibrant democratic citizens and the contemptible cowardice and pettiness of America’s political “progressives” another symptom of America’s late imperial decadence? Within the framework of normal politics or street protest, it seems clear that Americans are incapable of taking any action whatsoever, or standing up for themselves at all. I find it hard to believe the vast majority of those who still support the Democrats are so stupid that they don’t intellectually understand the Democratic party’s treason against the people. So the fact that they still obey it must be a matter of temperament. They’re simply too weak, psychologically, spiritually, to break with the pattern of meek, despicable collapse and surrender.
As for breaking with the obsolete faith in representative government itself, here there’s still some intellectual education to be done. There’s more and more people who have (mostly) lost faith in the Democrats, but are still in the thought box of “representation”, that the most important thing is to build an alternative party for national-level action. “We don’t need better Democrats, we know that doesn’t work. But we do need better elites!” But this is equally delusional, for the same reason. Perhaps here a truly democratic ideology can do worthwhile persuasive work. But we shouldn’t waste time on those who are simply incapable by temperament of having the courage of this conviction.)
What backfired most of all was this latest debacle. I can’t imagine what could have been better calculated to tremendously escalate the unity and radical resolve of the demonstrators than this revolutionary coitus interruptus. I bet there’ll no longer be debate in the Square about whether a Suleiman caretaker regime is acceptable. If there was anyone to whom it wasn’t already clear, every citizen on the street today must understand that this regime is absolutely incorrigible and must be torn out to the deepest roots.
(What was Mubarak thinking? Does he really prefer a shabby personal calvary to leaving with what little pseudo-grace was still possible, and most of what he looted no doubt intact? As we’ve learned by now, we must never underestimate the capacity of these kleptocrats to see themselves as the victims. It’s just another typical repulsive element of their gutter nature; they don’t even have the character traits of ancient nobility, who at least tried to pretend they were comporting themselves with dignity. Today’s “elites” are deep down just spoiled, snivelling brats. Although I’ll admit Mubarak seems more willing to run a physical risk than most of them are. Most are pure physical cowards as well. All this is also part of modern decadence.)
So what’s the difference in the streets today, compared to several days ago? Then, we were looking at the prospect of a smaller number of marchers having to file out of the Square and traverse a long, uncertain road to the palace. Today a much larger surge would flow from the Square, and everywhere it would be joined by springs, rivulets, streams, flows, torrents, as all of Cairo is now aroused and unified in the great resolve to be rid of this putrid regime once and for all. There are now demonstrations all over. The Square isn’t just the Square, but the city itself. The streets are extensions of the Square. It’s now the palace which is isolated. It’s the palace which is now an island in the midst of a new normalcy which is being built in real time.
After Thursday, I can’t imagine things reverting to the status quo pre-Thursday. The people know that enough is enough. There will be no accommodation with this regime. There can be none. As always, the bad faith of the counter-revolution forces the revolution to move on. Each instance only births the revolution anew, innocent, while the dying regime strips itself further of what few shreds of credibility it had left. After Thursday’s disgraceful performance, I wonder how many people still think “Mubarak served his country.”
And yet, in so definitively disgracing himself, all he stands for, and all who still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, Mubarak did in the end serve the day’s purpose. He provided new clarity, and so shone a spotlight on the road to his own final destruction. It all works out in the end, and history reaches its goal.
Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is Good
    steadily hastening towards immortality,
And the vast all that is call’d Evil I saw hastening to merge itself
    and become lost and dead.
Walt Whitman, “Roaming in Thought (After Reading Hegel)”  


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/02/11/world/middleeast/AP-ML-Egypt.html?_r=1&ref=world

    As of 3:30 EST, 10:30 Cairo, protests swelling but no big new movements as yet.

    It’s striking how both Elbaradei and the MB are now openly calling for a military coup. IOW, they either fear the democracy can’t topple the regime on its own (with the army merely standing aside), or else they fear that it can and don’t want that outcome.

    Meanwhile Ghonim, for all his excellent poses, seems unable or unwilling to articulate an actual position.

    Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 3:57 am

  2. Mubarak’s mindset is that because he has more billions than any 83 year old can ever spend, he is all powerful, and that the people of Egypt have nothing, and are, therefore, all powerless. Mubarak, the superior, believes that he can wait out and starve out the inferiors. He is counting heavily on the support of the Egyptian military.

    Comment by black swan — February 11, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  3. According to Al Jazeera:

    “Multiple sources talk about the departure of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to UAE.”

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/al-jazeera-mubarak-has-left-egypt-for-the-uae-2011-2#ixzz1DezSYOiY

    Comment by black swan — February 11, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  4. Cheers! to Russ and all on this historic moment you have so brilliantly anticipated.

    Listen to this on al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

    Comment by LeeAnne — February 11, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    • What a great accomplishment. Every day this movement shows what the democratic will can accomplish where it’s relentless and unflinching.

      But, as another imperialist once said, this isn’t the end, or the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning.

      Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 11:45 am

      • Yes, and what you do also. And more will be revealed. You Russ have to take credit for your faith in the human spirit at this moment.

        Your knowledge of history, the principles the signers aspired to, and your feeling for political tactics with your ability to articulate all of this without condescension toward those who are not always up to your standards is so appreciated.

        Next, who gets to sit at the table? Obama offered his very own military to help their military with ‘orderly transition.’ – and presumably elections -fair and honest? Really?

        Again, CHEERS!!! with the Egyptian people.

        Comment by LeeAnne — February 11, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

      • Thanks, LeeAnne. You give me too much credit. I’m still trying to figure it all out, same as anyone.

        It sure is a great day for Egypt and humanity.

        I guess the next step is for the army to convene with opposition leaders, to be delegated who knows how, to plan an election amd perhaps a constitution. That’s assuming the most sincerity on the part of the army and its pledges thus far. I don’t assume that, though I don’t assume the opposite either. We’ll see, but I’d expect that the army will want these representatives to be more conservative than the real spirit of the streets. Maybe those “wise men” would fit the bill.

        Meanwhile the best demands from activist leaders have called for a transitional government with representatives of the democracy (again, I don’t know how they’re to be elected or delegated), allegedly independent jurists, and the military. They wanted a new Constitution.

        Meanwhile, the last I heard the military was still stonewalling on repealing the state of emergency. That was before Mubarak resigned, and I haven’t seen yet if anything’s changed there.

        But if the democracy wants to remain assertive, that sounds like the next demand. (Along with Suleiman and other NDP thugs now being persona non grata, I assume; Mubarak handed over power to the military, not Suleiman, if I read correctly. But I’ll have to confirm that, and find out what if anything the generals are saying about him.)

        Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  5. Cheers to Russ/All,

    The pig is gone. After the announcement, Al Jazeera did something I can’t imagine any US cable network ever doing: the commenters remained silent for a very long time, and let us listen to the cheering crowd. Truly awesome and inspiring.

    Of course it’s far from over, this is only the beginning, but at least it’s one strike against the fascist bastards!!

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — February 11, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    • Great stuff. Strike One!

      Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  6. Moments like these make me glad I’m alive in this most interesting of times. May the Egyptian people be genuinely free and remain evermore so.

    I’m particularly interested in this point:
    “Within the framework of normal politics or street protest, it seems clear that Americans are incapable of taking any action whatsoever, or standing up for themselves at all… They’re simply too weak, psychologically, spiritually, to break with the pattern of meek, despicable collapse and surrender.”

    Perhaps it’s too early, but at some point I’d like to see a more extensive comparison of the socio-political economic context in Egypt vs. the West at large. I don’t have any particular insight at this point, other than a general feeling that the middle classes in the West still think, on whatever level, they can buy into the gated communities of the ultra-rich and avoid the fate of their poorer fellow citizens, or that “things will change” for the better somehow (in the absence, of course, of any particular action on their part).

    Comment by paper mac — February 11, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

    • A young woman journalist interviewed on Al Jazeera frequently said similar traits had been attributed to Egyptians; that they were too whatever (I don’t remember) to protest against the injustices they’d suffered over the decades.

      I felt, feeling the excitement of the jubilation about how tepid our Fourth of July celebration is; fireworks and barbecues. Not bad, but other than the Stars Spangled Banner, a 3-day holiday and the beginning of summer rents. the meaning is kinda lost. July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

      We can use some independence from Great Britain finance and bankers now.

      Max Kaiser and Stacy did a terrific banter on the monetary system from that point of view of the royalty still in charge and their history of resistance to giving up power until their heads are offed.

      But while I was looking for the video for you’all I came across this:

      MORE CHEERS!!!!!!!!

      How about that?

      Comment by LeeAnne — February 11, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

    • Hopefully I was too expansive in that language: I don’t think all Americans are that terminally enervated. (If I did, I wouldn’t be doing this.)

      I think you can count on reading a flood of such comparisons. I’ll probably take a stab at it myself.

      I do think the critical question is the pace at which this perishing middle class will become disillusioned, and how successful the attempts are to misdirect them away from taking action to save themselves.

      One of the factors which will decide those answers is how successful we pioneers and early adopters are at getting a movement going.

      Thanks for the link, LeeAnne. It looks like Mumbles held on too long for his own financial good. (Not that I have much confidence in Swiss integrity.)

      Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

  7. Some great pictures of Liberation Square here.


    Comment by Russ — February 11, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: