Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?

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eating poultices
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Feb 2 2011 01:15
Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?

We can go back in time and look at people cheerleading the Iranian revolution or the Zimbabwean anti-colonial struggle or the ANC in South Africa or the Sandinistas or whatever political fight. In all cases there is an understandable urge to side with the underdog. But what was the outcome? Why are radicals so quick to patriotically cheer on the latest thing, when we should be saying: “Brothers and sisters in Yemen and Egypt and Algeria and Tunisia, watch out for the states in waiting, watch out for the ‘popular resistance hero’. Remember Mugabe. Remember Khomeini. The difference between a dictator and a democrat is only at the ballot box – the factory and the slum will not change. The ‘imprisoned opposition leaders’ of today will be the jailers of tomorrow. Stay strong. You will need miracles, and G-d is not watching. All the proposed solutions are lies!”

Perhaps it is too soon to say this (Mubarak may hold on), but the real enemy of those revolting in Northern Africa is the political opposition that is preparing to take power. And when I say ‘take power’, I mean that in the most general way.

If/when a revolt appears where ‘we’ are, ‘we’ cannot fall prey to the indecency of waving flags and banners in support of whatever is happening. Our task is to pee on the parade. To say “No! Push further! The old world is not behind you yet!” To point out the policeman with red and black flags. To maintain our principles and avoid urgency, even when the situation appears to be moving quickly.

Remember every international revolt you’ve been excited about in your life. Look at what happened after each of them. What happened May, 1969? What happened to your enthusiasm? All of the doors that appeared to be open lead nowhere or were, in retrospect, closed. The freedom fighters joined or became the government. The political situation was turned upside down, the old leaders jailed, the elections became free (at least for one election!), and yet… wage labor, value production, the unending circulation of commodities and money, the reproduction of classes, all of this carried on without pause. Why?

Does anyone believe the situation in North Africa is a revolt against capitalism? If you do, do you think this revolt could lead to communism (or ‘anarchy’ or whatever you want to say)? If you say no to either question, what exactly are you supporting?

redsdisease
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Feb 2 2011 03:43
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Why are radicals so quick to patriotically cheer on the latest thing, when we should be saying

Where have you been seeing people doing this on these forums? Personally, I've seen a lot of critical engagement with the proceedings of the revolt. Most of the excitement I've seen from people has been about the aspects that people see as genuinely anti-capitalist and revolutionary.

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Our task is to pee on the parade

Really? I thought our task was to critically interact with events that we view as having potential and try to move them in a more radical direction.

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Does anyone believe the situation in North Africa is a revolt against capitalism?

Of course not, does this mean that we're not allowed to be excited about anything that will not lead immediatly to the total downfall of capitalism? You must be very depressed and cynical, indeed.

However, the revolts that have been happening have been pretty diverse. Certainly a lot of the protestors have been advocating reformist, political goals (ousting dictators, rewriting the constitution, establishing liberal democracies), but both Tunisia and Egypt have seen great amounts of working class people self-organizing for their own economic interests. So yeah, when I see people taking over production in their factories, organizing to expropriate food and developing neighborhood commitees to run things and clamoring for a general strike I see those aspects as a revolt against capitalism.

It's also really difficult to determine the full extent of the working class nature of these protests. Most of the stories have been molded to fit the typical media narrative for these sorts of events. I remember some of the first mass media stories that I heard about the Tunisian revolts, which were started mostly by the unemployed as protests against unemployment and the high cost of living, were all about how the protests were apparently started by middle-class Tunisian facebook users who wanted greater freedoms.

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Hieronymous
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Feb 2 2011 18:17
eating poultices wrote:
What happened May, 1969? What happened to your enthusiasm?

As a grade school kid, my family got stranded in Florence, Italy for a whole week during a general strike on the railroads in May 1969. But things didn't pick up till the end of the summer there, as we all know so well. I left Italy at the beginning of the autumn as things really got hot. But there had been strikes and radical demos everywhere, every day from the spring all through the summer.

I don't get your question, eating poultices. In Italy, the strikes of 1968 carried over into 1969, but really sparked off again with wildcat strikes at the FIAT Mirafiori factory in May 1969, were rekindled with the strikes in response to the lock-out of 35,000 FIAT workers in the summer, and continued through the "Hot Autumn" of that year. This wave of rebellion continued to shake the entire country, with various levels of intensity, for the following 10 years. The Hot Autumn in 1969 ranks as one of the most intensive collective mobilizations in the history of class struggle. In 1969 over 303,000,000 "man-hours" of work time were lost due to strikes in Italy (compare to all-time record for the U.S., which lost 116,000,000 man-hours in 1946) -- which might be the most ever for any country.

Some Mouvement Communiste comrades who participated in Worker Action Committee in 1968 point out that the May-June events in France were "the biggest general strike (at its height, 9 million strikers for ten days) in history and also that in which the workers participated the least. This is the paradox of May-June 1968." But it was the lessons learned in that wave of strikes that played themselves out in the much more militant strikes in the early 1970s. And the collective memory of those struggles influence working class self-activity in France to this day. Which is not unlike the working class in the cycles of economic and political strikes in Poland and Russia in the 1896-1905 period that was so eloquently documented by Rosa Luxemburg in The Mass Strike. And the living memory and lessons from those struggles carried over to 1917.

The waves of strikes in Egypt, particularly in textiles, over the last several decades (Hossam el-Hamalawy called the early 2007 strike wave a "Winter of Discontent") set the tone for these actions on the streets of Egypt today.

Throwing this back at you, eating poultices, what do you think happened in 1969? Where my home was at the time, in southern California, many factories were hit by strikes and most of them were wildcats. Just down the road was a Ford aerospace plant that had a continuous stream of work stoppages. That global strike wave lasted in some places into the mid-1970s.

Boris Badenov
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Feb 2 2011 04:54
redsdisease wrote:
So yeah, when I see people taking over production in their factories, organizing to expropriate food and developing neighborhood commitees to run things and clamoring for a general strike I see those aspects as a revolt against capitalism.

Precisely. To measure all social movements against the absolute of timeless communism is a mistake. The point is not to hope there is something grand on the other side of the door, as Eating Poultices implies, it is to knock it open. Therein is the grassroots radicalism and yes even the "anarchy" you could argue, no matter how short lived. Libertarian Barcelona or Aragon or Kronstadt did not last very long, but it would be insane to claim they never existed because ultimately "the political situation was turned upside down."
Does it sound starry-eyed to pin your hopes up on a fleeting moment of emancipation? Perhaps, but I think it's better than "peeing on parades" and playing the melodramatic cynic.
Freedom is not an end to history that will set in once all the right conditions are met, it is that fleeting moment, and, I'm afraid nothing but (although a visceral idealism won't let me totally disown the dream of a "world revolution"). Take it or leave it.

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Feb 2 2011 07:47

I think it's important to point to some historical examples of what might happen. When the workers in Hungary in 1956 rose up and within 48 hours workers' councils were maintaining much of the country's production, the Western powers orchestrated the Suez Crisis to destabilize Egypt. Which was geopolitical maneuvering as the U.S., Britain and Israel attacked Egypt over the Suez Canal while at the same time Soviet tanks were crushing the Hungarian Revolution.

There might be some media-ready flare-up elsewhere to create a spectacle to divert attention from the rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps not. I guess I wanted to throw out that example out because my all-time favorite working class novel is Clancy Sigal's Going Away, which is kinda like a hybrid of Kerouac's On the Road and Brecher's Strike! and Henry Miller's The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. In the novel's account of a cross-country roadtrip, the protagonist revisits the sites of the some of the fiercest class war battles in U.S. history, while obsessively listening on his car's radio to news accounts of the '56 Hungarian Uprising, at the same time as having erotic encounters along the way.

I feel the same obsession as I've been glued to the internet to read Twitter accounts and blogs and to watch live video feeds from Al Jazeera. If the Egyptian workers can pull off a general strike, this really could inspire lots of struggles elsewhere. I can't remember where I read it, but the Chinese government has been censoring news accounts of protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian Territories. After last summer's strike wave there, the Chinese ruling class doesn't want more social unrest given their precarious ability to contain volatile class antagonisms.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 2 2011 08:35

Just a quibble

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Which was geopolitical maneuvering as the U.S., Britain and Israel attacked Egypt over the Suez Canal

-Hieronymous

Neither Britain nor France informed the Eisenhower administration of their military actions. On the evening the news of the attack was broadcast, United States UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. attempted to meet with the British UN ambassador but was rebuffed. The United States put financial pressure on Great Britain to end the invasion. Also Saudi Arabia started an oil embargo and the U.S. refused to fill the gap until Britain and France agreed to a rapid withdrawal. Nasser requested diplomatic assistance from the U.S., he was at first skeptical of the efficacy of US diplomatic efforts at the UN, but later gave full credit to Eisenhower's role in stopping the war.
Can't blame America all the time!

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Feb 2 2011 09:13

Ajjohnstone, I stand corrected; the U.S. wasn't part of the attack. But with the spectacle of the affair attention was diverted from the tanks crushing the Hungarian working class. For the first decade of the Cold War the U.S. had been bleating on and on about democracy on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but once they seemed to be getting what they wanted -- and then some -- they had to change the subject (since the Hungarian workers had obviously gone too far). The Suez Crisis did that. Literally.

RedHughs
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Feb 2 2011 09:19
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Does anyone believe the situation in North Africa is a revolt against capitalism? If you do, do you think this revolt could lead to communism (or ‘anarchy’ or whatever you want to say)? If you say no to either question, what exactly are you supporting?

I'm happy to see people revolting and I think it's highly unlikely this revolt will lead in the straight line to communism. But I haven't expected revolts to move in such a straight line for a while.

It seems like it comes down to how one imagines revolutions are going happen.

I happen to think the process of revolt itself is excellent teacher regardless of where you begin. We can see both neighborhood committees and a call for a general strike in the revolt in Egypt but that doesn't mean or "prove" any specifically anti-capitalist intentions; workers revolting don't necessarily guarantee that they will come to a communist position. But these activities can begin a process of both learning and organization.

Just as much, we should keep in mind that communism is not something that we have monopoly on. A good portion of the form of any communist revolution will be shaped by those revolting rather by their following a blue-print we offer. Only by acting will people discover their power. So being open to those processes which come out of revolts seems like a crucial approach for revolutionaries.

The various dictatorships in the mid-East seem to have guaranteed they'd end this way by destroying all "political discourse" (whether this is for good or ill we can debate about but we won't change configuration).

Further, this revolt has been fairly directly touched-off by current economic crisis - by the speculative rise in food prices in particular. Thus it seems reasonable to expect that revolts will continue in waves for a while as the crisis continues (and I'm sadly confident that it will continue).

The Iranian revolution indeed was a transition from one kind of capitalist dictatorship to another. It also had fairly powerful anti-capitalist elements that came out. It would be nice to hope that avoiding Islamism is high on people's agenda. But there really aren't guarantees here. History doesn't happen on the terrain that we chose.

Support/non-support is also kind of a mute question. No in Egypt needs our votes to do anything. The main question is what kind of analysis can we offer. It might indeed to useful to write a summary/critique discussing food price dynamics, capitalist democracy and nationalism.

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Feb 2 2011 19:06

pure postdupontist awesomeness

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The communist should not attend, never mind organise, public protest demonstrations. Nor should he participate in spontaneous popular decision making structures such as soviets or assemblies. Any and all such involvements will inevitably lead to the loss of the ideas which he must develop in isolation from events. The communist must relinquish bringing his ideas to the world because it is against the purest ideals of communism that popular revolt must measure itself. Pragmatism is the death of communist theory. Pro-communists must always stand apart from revolt and maintain their critical distance from enthusiasm. (...) In the midst of social upheaval, the communist should stay at home, drink tea, watch birds in the garden.

- the other half

Valeriano Orobó...
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Feb 2 2011 19:08

Or Miguel De Molinos' Quietism:

"Quietism states that man's highest perfection consists of a self-annihilation, and subsequent absorption, of the soul into the Divine, even during the present life. In this way, the mind is withdrawn from worldly interests to passively and constantly contemplate God. Quietists would say that the Bible describes the man of God as a man of the tent and the altar only, having no part or interest in the multitudinous affairs, pursuits, and pleasures of the world system.

Quietists were so called from a kind of absolute rest and inaction, which they supposed the soul to be in when arrived at that state of perfection which they called the unitive life; in which state, they imagined the soul wholly employed in contemplating its God, to Whose influence it was entirely submissive, so that He could turn and drive it where and how He would. In this state, the soul no longer needs prayers, hymns, etc. being laid, as it were, in the bosom, and between the arms of God, in Whom it is in a manner swallowed up."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quietism_%28Christian_philosophy%29

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Feb 2 2011 19:11
osobo wrote:
In the midst of social upheaval, the communist should stay at home, drink tea, watch birds in the garden.

Or perhaps go online and speculate in day-trading on food commodity futures. Make a killing and bury one's head in the sand and live in comfort. Nice.

Boris Badenov
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Feb 2 2011 19:12
Hieronymous wrote:
osobo wrote:
In the midst of social upheaval, the communist should stay at home, drink tea, watch birds in the garden.

Or perhaps go online and speculate in day-trading on food commodity futures. Make a killing and bury one's head in the sand and live in comfort. Nice.

Your uncritical enthusiasm is quite unbecoming, comrade. Go watch some birds.

MT
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Feb 2 2011 19:13
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However, the revolts that have been happening have been pretty diverse. Certainly a lot of the protestors have been advocating reformist, political goals (ousting dictators, rewriting the constitution, establishing liberal democracies), but both Tunisia and Egypt have seen great amounts of working class people self-organizing for their own economic interests. So yeah, when I see people taking over production in their factories, organizing to expropriate food and developing neighborhood commitees to run things and clamoring for a general strike I see those aspects as a revolt against capitalism.

well, are there really "great amounts"? and a political general strike is hardly a revolt against capitalism? and what do we really know about these factory takeovers anyway? and what things exactly are run by the neighborhood committees?

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Feb 2 2011 19:22
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Does anyone believe the situation in North Africa is a revolt against capitalism? If you do, do you think this revolt could lead to communism (or ‘anarchy’ or whatever you want to say)? If you say no to either question, what exactly are you supporting?

No. It' revolt against one elite which is on power.
It will lead to liberal democracy or some kind of "limited" democracy.
Same shit happened in Eastern Europe as I wrote in few similar topics on this subject.

Samotnaf
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Feb 2 2011 19:31

I don't think anyone should get out of bed in the morning, afternoon, evening or night until there's a full-blown perfect revolution just outside their front door with the whole of the working class, having read and understood Marx, Bakunin, Malatesta, Korsch, Debord and the whole history of the Workers Councils beforehand, seizing and transforming the means of production and distribution whilst suppressing all its commiodity form and content...As for watching birds - that might be fairly safe as long as you look at them out of the window from bed, but drinking tea - too risky - the boiling water could scold you, the cup may be cracked, tea leaves might tickle your throat....

MT
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Feb 2 2011 19:35

oh no, admin: flaming removed

Samotnaf
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Feb 2 2011 19:44

PS
Another quibble, Hieronymous - it was the Russians invading Hungary to crush the movement there whilst the world was distracted by the Suez crisis, not the other way round. UK and French bombing of Egypt started on 31st October, the Russians invaded 4th November.

(little aside: I was 6 at the time, and I clearly remember my dad getting furious about both the Russians and Sir Anthony Eden bombing Egypt. I somehow got the events of Suez and Hungary mixed up and wondered how long it'd be before Hungary started retaliating by bombing London).

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Feb 2 2011 22:37
Kontrrazvedka wrote:
Quote:
Does anyone believe the situation in North Africa is a revolt against capitalism? If you do, do you think this revolt could lead to communism (or ‘anarchy’ or whatever you want to say)? If you say no to either question, what exactly are you supporting?

No. It' revolt against one elite which is on power.
It will lead to liberal democracy or some kind of "limited" democracy.
Same shit happened in Eastern Europe as I wrote in few similar topics on this subject.

Of course, no one knows at this time what the revolt will lead to, and it is inadvisable to make claims such as these. The situation in Egypt today is not the same as it was in Eastern Europe 20 years ago. At most, if one feels strongly about what it will result in, one should be sure to qualify as what one believes it "will most likely lead to", i.e. to make a prediction based on probabilities. But how can any of us make such predictions when we don't know all of the (possible) factors involved?

I think the approach to a revolt or uprising such as this one in Egypt that Red Hughs has expressed here is (more or less) the one that communists should take.

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Red Marriott
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Feb 2 2011 23:05

MT & Kontrrazvedka - we understand your viewpoint, but if you don't have anything else to say, stop repeating yourselves by trolling the same old bullshit on various threads.

redsdisease
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Feb 3 2011 04:46

I just now got that this from Letters Journal. I can't believe I was baited into responding.

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Feb 3 2011 10:16

moved to lib community

Samotnaf
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Feb 3 2011 05:31
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We can go back in time and look at people cheerleading the Iranian revolution or the Zimbabwean anti-colonial struggle or the ANC in South Africa or the Sandinistas

Apart from the obvious fact that no-one on this site has supported the aspects of the movement in Egypt moving towards bourgeois democracy, it should be made clear that the South African revolution was far more than merely "the ANC": see this. Even the Iranian revolution, despite its far more obviously reactionary aspects, had its shoras.
These chronicly abstract mentalities coming from various people who aren't at all interested in details or in learning from the mistakes of the past, but assume some 'inevitable' outcome, are even more useless than saying we're all going to die. At least there's definitely an inevitability in that. Get off your cloud.

MT
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Feb 3 2011 08:47
Red Marriott wrote:
MT & Kontrrazvedka - we understand your viewpoint, but if you don't have anything else to say, stop repeating yourselves by trolling the same old bullshit on various threads.

this is another topic so if something is said again it makes sense as it is said to someone else. i wonder how you dare to say it is "same old bullshit". it lacks decency even more that the question asked above about the nature of the revolt remains unanswered. so next time rather argue than say real bullshit like you did...

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Hieronymous
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Feb 3 2011 10:19

Moved to lib community

MT
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Feb 3 2011 09:02

and this is not bullshit trolling, right?

MT
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Feb 3 2011 09:07

if you like strawman, then you are certainly right. otherwise, you'll need to quote me to back up this: "And your bullshit is the same old bullshit bosses, cops, politicians, the bourgeois media, and all defenders of the status quo tell us everyday. If you really believe your own defeatist dogma..."

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Hieronymous
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Feb 3 2011 10:20

Moved to lib community

MT
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Feb 3 2011 09:20

i explained myself several. i have asked questions which remain unanswered. you just call me a dick and saying bullshit without reading what i say and trying to understand it. you are just makeing up things and stances I never held. but yeah, fuck decency...

EDIT, oh, cool, now you ask me to answer questions I asked about current situation. unbelievable.

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Hieronymous
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Feb 3 2011 10:21

Moved to lib community

MT
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Feb 3 2011 09:40

omg, you have to be kidding me. asking questions is rhetorical trick? how can i answer them or even have an idea when i miss the facts? shit, i can't believe what i read here...

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Feb 3 2011 10:22

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