Post-Ideology in Egypt or “What Happened to the General Strike?”
Abdelrahman Amr Zaki, 15, rejected what he said were claims the protests are just about economic conditions.
“They are not. My father drives a BMW and I have a very good home. There is no democracy, no freedom. We just want Mubarak to go.”
The U.S. media and some progressives and a substantial number of demonstrators will apparently be satisfied with an Egyptian revolution that devolves into just ‘Mubarak out’. As we see in the quote at the top and the blockquotes below:
But a coalition of activists … said they would not talk with [Prime Minister] Shafiq.
Amr Salah, a coalition representative, told AFP that those who had launched the call to protest last week “will not accept any dialogue with the regime until our principal demand is met, and that is for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.”
“Our principal demand”? The subtitle and then a couple paragraphs from Code Pink Medea Benjamin‘s article on alternet:
Despite violence and intimidation, thousands of people are still camped out in the square — absolutely determined to stay there until Mubarak goes
Despite the danger on the streets, we went to the square carrying with two big banners. One said “World Says Time To Go, Mubarak!” and the other said “Solidarity With Egyptian People” in both English and Arabic. When the people in the square saw us and discovered we were Americans, they erupted into cheers. …
I couldn’t believe that after today’s attacks, there were still women in the square who planned to spend the night. A group of young women ran up to us and started hugging and kissing us. “You don’t know what your presence means to us,” one of the students said. ” Please tell Obama that we need him to do more to push Mubarak to go NOW, before more of us get killed.”
This attitude is not good, in fact it’s suspiciously post-ideological. In other words, if Egypt’s revolution goes the way of the “color-coded” revolutions sponsored by Western governments and foundations, it will be just as unsuccessful as those revolutions in transferring political power and economic wealth to the bottom 80% of Egypt’s population. Which is why the West sponsors these post-ideological revolutions.
So, no, I’m sorry otherwise honorable but congenitally too optimistic David North, the following does not seem to be happening:
The Egyptian revolution is dealing a devastating blow to the pro-capitalist triumphalism that followed the Soviet bureaucracy’s liquidation of the USSR in 1991. The class struggle, socialism and Marxism were declared irrelevant in the modern world. “History”—as in “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)—had ended. Henceforth, the only revolutions conceivable to the media were those that were “color-coded” in advance, politically scripted by the US State Department, and then implemented by the affluent pro-capitalist sections of society.
This complacent and reactionary scenario has been exploded in Tunisia and Egypt. History has returned with a vengeance. What is presently unfolding in Cairo and throughout Egypt is revolution, the real thing.
Wish it were, but no. The best clue I have to the non-class nature of the revolution is summed up in the following question “What happened to the General Strike?” We read here and here on Monday that it was supposed to have begun on Tuesday. At myfiredoglake, Jeff Kaye wrote:
… Barely reported in the West, among the crowds at Tahrir Square last Sunday, a new trade union confederation was announced, the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions (FETU), which immediately issued a call for a general-strike. The call has been widely taken up, and many reports now link the uprising to unity with the workers, particularly in Suez, where the battle has been fought most intensely with state police.
But we’ve heard nothing about it, from any source, since then. Do a google search and see for yourself. Now, I realize the mainstream media is always reluctant to focus attention on expressions of worker power, but a successful general strike would _force_ attention on itself. That just has not happened, so I have to assume the general strike has not, uh, become ‘general’. And, since the effective way to demonstrate the working class is playing a primary role in a revolution is through it carrying out an effective general strike, my conclusion is the Egyptian working class and lower-middle-class are not going all out participating in this revolution, at least not yet.
Another worrying sign is the apparent fact that less than 300,000 protestors participated in Tuesday’s “million-man march.” Again, the regime attempted to discourage participation, but such attempts would’ve been overwhelmed by an entire working class enthusiastically participating in this revolution. So, I wonder.
If there is only a peripheral class aspect to this revolution and in fact its commanding center is post-ideological, that makes it understandable that workers would be reluctant to put their lives on the line for it. What would be the point? To get a “new boss, same as the old boss”? I wrote “It’s the U.S. vs. the Egyptian people (Mubarak’s just our dictator)” optimistically last week, but if this revolution is simply about replacing Mubarak with a friendlier face of what is essentially U.S.-sponsored military rule, what’s the point of dying for that?
Anyway, I hope I’m wrong, and that this is not just another of those manipulated “naive young people” revolutions that U.S. ‘pro-democracy’ foundations specialize in. However, it concerns me how long the U.S. has been planning for the post-Mubarak era, and, frankly, that Mohammed ElBaradei is a board member of George Soros’s International Crisis Group. (I wonder if that’s a secret, because Soros didn’t mention it in his op-ed boosting ElBaradei, published today in the Washington Post.)
Why is the revolution’s command-and-control post-ideological, if that is the case? Michael Barker writes well on capitalism’s foundations, how they fund progressive change but also place firm limits on it:
… if “we are serious about collectively working to building workable alternatives to capitalism then we must learn to subject our most influential theorists to ruthless criticism.” As I pointed out, a fundamental aspect of such endeavours required “critiquing the very organizations that have sustained (and constrained) much progressive activism, liberal foundations.” Unfortunately, in the year 2009, bar a few noteworthy exceptions, progressive writers have failed to respond to this challenge. On the contrary, many activist commentators have rallied to undermine support for a political agenda that raises legitimate debate about the multitude of problems associated with capitalist funding for progressive activism.
Another Michael Barker quote:
Counter to popular misunderstandings of their work, rather than promoting progressive and more participatory forms of democracy, liberal philanthropy actually serves the opposite purpose by helping preserve gross inequalities, thereby legitimising the status quo. It should not be surprising that Robert Arnove and Nadine Pinede note that although the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations’ “claim to attack the root causes of the ills of humanity, they essentially engage in ameliorative practices to maintain social and economic systems that generate the very inequalities and injustices they wish to correct.”
Finally, Ideology 1A might begin with an understanding of imperialism and the necessity for its success of co-opted host country capitalists. Juan Cole writes:
It should be remembered that Egypt’s elite of multi-millionaires has benefited enormously from its set of corrupt bargains with the US and Israel and from the maintenance of a martial law regime that deflects labor demands and pesky human rights critiques. It is no wonder that to defend his billions and those of his cronies, Hosni Mubarak was perfectly willing to order thousands of his security thugs into the Tahrir Square to beat up and expel the demonstrators, leaving 7 dead and over 800 wounded, 200 of them just on Thursday morning. …
More recently the cover story has been the supposed threat of radical Islam, which is a tiny fringe phenomenon in most of the Middle East that in some large part was sowed by US support for the extremists in the Cold War as a foil to the phantom of International Communism. And then there is the set of myths around Israel, that it is necessary for the well-being of the world’s Jews, that it is an asset to US security, that it is a great ethical enterprise– all of which are patently false.On such altars are the labor activists, youthful idealists, human rights workers, and democracy proponents in Egypt being sacrificed with the silver dagger of filthy lucre. …
For removing all pressure on Israel by the biggest Arab nation with the best Arab military, Egypt has been rewarded with roughly $2 billion in US aid every year, not to mention favorable terms for importation of sophisticated weaponry and other perquisites. This move allowed the Israelis to invade and occupy part of Lebanon in 1982-2000, and then to launch massively destructive wars on virtually defenseless Lebanese and Gaza Palestinians more recently. Cairo under Mubarak is as opposed to Shiite Hizbullah in Lebanon and fundamentalist Hamas in Gaza as is Tel Aviv. The regime of Hosni Mubarak appears to have taken some sort of bribe to send substantial natural gas supplies to Israel at a deep discount. It has joined in the blockade against the civilians of Gaza. It acts as Israel’s handmaid in oppressing the Palestinians, and is bribed to do so by the US.
P.S. Two things I wrote at pffugeecamp that inspired this post:
Soros Foundation prudently sponsors this deadheaded stupidity. And dumbed-down college-educated kids swallow it.
I very very much wish that instead this were true:
But unfortunately Jeff Kaye is likely wrong, and the backed by millions of dollars ‘post-ideology’ will win again. Like it has done in various colored revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East in recent years. All of those revolutions spectacular failures in relation to their peoples’ actual hopes. Like Obama has been for his 2008 youngish, naive ‘post-ideological’ hopesters.
No, folks, there’s no easy way, ya can’t win with the learning you get from MTV and video games. Ya’ gotta crack the fuckin’ real books and learn something, get some ideology in ya. Leftism, Marxism, social democracy, modified by a lot of history reading and common sense.
Again, though, I assume the next U.S.-sponsored and military-dominated government will throw the people some bones in the form of subsidized bread prices and such. So, good on the Egyptian people.
by: fairleft @ Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 15:54:59 PM EST
Or, as I wrote briefly Wednesday, on the incoherence of ‘post-ideology’:
Anti-ideology is just for people too lazy and/or economically comfortable to stress working out a coherent ideology for themselves. And of course the rich who aren’t sociopaths don’t want to know what their real-life ideology is.