Nothing has happened on the Critically Chatting site for a year now, but we have not gone away. Given our limited resources, our energy has gone into the In Defence of Youth Work Campaign, which was inspired by our Open Letter of early 2009. Three years on the Campaign has become at the very least a questioning irritant to the status quo. Visit the In Defence site to get a feel of where the Campaign is up to and the criticisms we continue to raise.
Roy Ratcliffe casts his thoughts wider as the turbulence continues across the Middle East and North Africa.
Ben Ali and Mubarak have been ousted and Gaddafi, after unleashing more savage dogs of war against his own people, looks set to suffer the same fate. Yemen and Bahrain are just a little further down the queue of hitherto patient sufferers of western supported dictators. The coalition of popular forces, in the Arab world which mobilised themselves to oust these nepotistic despots, now seriously face the question of what they want next. To a large extent the issue they united upon – to be rid of their political elites – was agreement on what they didn’t want. Millions clearly didn’t want authoritarian regimes backed by sufficient western supplied and trained military and police forces to ensure their stranglehold on wealth and power was permanent. However, when these (and other) regimes have departed the question arises as to what socio-economic system is to be put in its place. A core of the aspirations which the youth initiators of the original rebellions and uprisings, were for well-paid jobs, decent housing, reasonable food costs, satisfactory welfare provision, universally available, and uncorrupted public services. These are aspirations which strike a chord with more than just the poorly paid and unemployed and resonates with many sectors of the population. To get rid of the dictators, a united and resilient uprising was necessary, but will huge street demonstrations be sufficient to deliver the core aspirations of all citizens? I doubt it. Under the present system, two huge problems are likely to stand full square in their way. First; the uncertainty which follows from a popular uprising or from a radical change to any political regime. Second; the present global economic and financial crisis of capitalism.
Continue reading When the Dictators Go?
Roy Ratcliffe continues his observations and analysis of the fluid and remarkable situation in Egypt.
Mubarak resigns! Let us hope he is truly out and not just on vacation awaiting an opportunity to return. The Swiss Government has frozen his assets, so the signs so far are good. One down! But there are, of course, a few more regime stalwarts to go. His removal has not been as a result of formal politics, but of people power. The courage and determination of the Egyptian people to persist in peaceful protest, despite provocations and apparent intransigence, has finally achieved a notable victory. Over the eighteen days, since January 25th, the anti-Mubarak protesters have demonstrated their ability to organise civil society, and resist reactionary forces, without any substantive positive support from the tax-funded organs of the state, such as the Army, Police and State Broadcasting. Indeed, the only incidents of social break-down during the whole time were the occasions when Mubarak’s supporters tried to de-stabilise the peaceful organisation of protest. In contrast to the regime, the protesters have organised, peaceful checkpoints, street protection, neighbourhood vandal watch, traffic flow, field hospitals, food, water and clothing distribution, communication networks and cultural events. Yet Mubarak and his advisers, tried repeatedly to insinuate to the world that Egyptian people would descend into chaos if he was not at the helm to ensure an orderly transition to democracy. Yet to anyone not blinded by their own refusal to see, the Egyptian uprising, from its commencement, has demonstrated in the clearest possible terms, that the ordinary people of Egypt are fully capable of organising and creating social harmony. The only impediments to this peaceful process continuing is the remaining section of the ruling elite, (originally around Mubarak) with their insidious links to the elites in Israel, the US and Europe. For it is these combined and colluding international political actors who may still stand in its way.
Mubarak’s second speech on Thursday (10 February 2011) was a patronising, ego-centric mish-mash of a sermon which insulted the intelligence of the Egyptian people. And it really was all about me, me, me! From his patronising start; ‘I speak as a father to his children’; through, ’I will not be dictated to by those from outside‘, and ; ’I have laid down a vision’ ; to ‘I will oversee the transition’ and, ‘I will deliver Egypt and its people to safety‘; it was all about a self-absorbed plutocrat who was also revealed as an autocrat. We can speculate that Mubarak had arrived at this obstinate position because of US and Israeli behind the scenes communication. It could be that Washington had originally given him mixed messages because prior to the uprising they were completely and utterly happy with him. Hence their ambiguous public statements and lack of clear calls for him to resign or threats to withhold their massive 1.5 billion dollar yearly financial support. It could also be that Israel had pressured him and his crony Suleiman to remain in power so as to ensure a return to power of the pro-US/Israel ’regime’ via a protracted transition. Such a prospect would have suited Washington and Tel Aviv, despite what Obama said for public consumption. Now in the new circumstances, US and Israeli hopes must be tied to the military. The announcement that the ’Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ will be the agents and guarantors of the transition to democracy, must cause a moments caution amid the welcome celebrations. For this means control is now with the ‘heads’ of the military who have been part of the oppressive regime.
It is a fact that Mubarak’s intransigence was threatening to push the peaceful protestors in the direction of increasing and augmenting their peaceful struggle toward paralysing the normal functioning of any part of society. This realisation may well have been the trigger which motivated the army elite to step in and take over control before any further developments could take place. The new situation now introduces the immediate requirement of the peace activists to win sections of the army over to their side. Fraternising with the rank and file army ranks and attention to the soldiers now becomes necessary for the army elites position is unlikely to reflect what the ordinary citizens of Egypt would want. The present and future thoughts of the rank and file in the army along with the junior officers, as citizens and armed representatives, needs to be explored. The question arises; ‘Does the bulk of the army wish to side with the people and become their defenders or become part of a future possible reactionary transition and become pariah’s in their own country? In the event of a successful transition to fully democratic forms, those in the armed forces who side with the people, will become the future officers and hero’s of the army and people, whilst those who side with reaction will be demoted and possibly tried as traitors.
The stakes have indeed been high for the people of Egypt, but they also high for the pro-capitalist political regimes in the US and Europe. If they do not completely win this battle against the entire Mubarak regime, the Egyptian people will sooner or later face a massive reaction directed against the whole of civil society. That is the nature of the reactionary beast. The public and secret machinations of the US, Israel and Europe elite will be ranged against them to prevent the achievement of the full range of their demands. These machinations will extend across political, military, economic and financial sectors, for there are powerful actors interested in ensuring the security of investments, markets and sources of raw materials. The whole delicate balance of global politics and economics is set to de-stabilise if Egypt produces a government which is in line with the values and aspirations of the populace. The threat of a ‘good example’ has long haunted the minds of the economic and political elites in the west and Europe, for it will undoubtedly trigger many other downfalls and consequently a severe limitation on their ability to extract what they want on the terms they prefer. A successful, fully democratic Egypt, will also negatively effect the Zionist colonial enterprise of achieving a ’Greater Israel’ in former Palestine. If a pro-US/Israel political regime is not returned in Egypt when the now unfolding events reach a final conclusion, then Mubarak’s recognition of the Zionist entity, together with its violent land acquisition since 1948, will be radically modified or even reversed. If the example spreads and the people in the countries around the Mediterranean ‘crescent’ from Tunisia to Turkey, who have a great deal of sympathy, for the plight of the Palestinians, are allowed a real say in the foreign policy of their respective governments, then the unsavoury Zionist project will start to unravel at its already fragile seams.
For this reason it is more than likely that the Israeli, US and European, black ops operators will have already prepared to intervene by agent provocateurs, and other nefarious means at their disposal. They will undoubtedly try to link up with pro-regime supporters and the Egyptian military elite and some units are likely to promote, and if possible even carry out, sectarian atrocities and assassinations. There is every possibility that these, behind-the-scenes agents, will do everything in their power to disrupt and dislocate any forms of progress they see as detrimental to the long-term interests of their paymasters. For these reasons the citizens involved in the uprising needs to be careful and vigilant. Through no fault of their own, except by the demand to be treated with dignity, respect and equality, their radical uprising has become transformed into a potentially successful revolution. They should ensure that what they wish to achieve is actually realised, and it will only be realised by the power of their own continuing determination and organisation. Elite politics, national or international, did not achieve the removal of Mubarak and elite politics will not deliver what the people want now that he has gone. It should be recognised, in the context of Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, that people only become revolutionary when they see no other way out of the situation they have been placed in and the people of Egypt had been placed in such a situation. It has been popular to discredit the insights of the revolutionary-humanist Karl Marx, due to the appropriation and distortion of his ideas by the Stalinist so-called ‘Marxists’ and the vilification of his historical analyses by pro-capitalist historians. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most insightful commentators on the recurring revolutionary upsurges, under the present system of capital-dominated economic anarchy and political autocracy. In his study of revolutions he noted;
“Bourgeois revolutions, such as those of the eighteenth century, storm quickly from success to success. They outdo each other in dramatic effects; men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds and each day’s spirit is ecstatic. But they are short-lived; they soon reach their apogee and society has to undergo a long period of regret until it has learned to assimilate soberly the achievements of its period of storm and stress. Proletarian revolutions, however, such as those of the nineteenth century, constantly engage in self-criticism and in repeated interruptions of their own course. They return to what has apparently been accomplished in order to begin the task again; with merciless thoroughness they mock the inadequate, weak and wretched aspects of their first attempts; they seem to throw their opponent to the ground only to see him draw new strength from the earth and rise again before them, more colossal than ever; they shrink back again and again before the indeterminate immensity of their own goals, until the situation is created in which any retreat is impossible..” (Marx. Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In, ‘Surveys from Exile’. Pub. Pelican. page 150)
In Egypt a situation has indeed been created in which retreat now seems impossible. We can only hope that the ordinary people of Egypt succeed and we can offer our help and support in whatever form they may subsequently request.