Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?

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Dec 14 2011 18:09
lettersjournal wrote:
As far as sacrificing and altars, surely the altar of bourgeois revolution is more crowded with skulls than the altar of principles of obscure communists. Nobody in Egypt is aware of my existence or ideas, but the handful of Egyptian 'radical' groups mentioned here (like the anarchist group interviewed) have been promoting the state ideology of anti-semitism (er, anti-Zionism). Silence is preferable to that.

Didn't Khwaga discuss this? Selective reading, it'll getcha when your not looking [sic] ! wink

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 18:21

It's curious. Earlier (post #90), Khawaga replied very angrily when someone suggested the Egyptian protests had an anti-Israeli aspect to them (he cursed at the person and said a lot of insults). Later, he admits that irrational anti-Israel attitudes are hegemonic even amongst communists. The riot in front of the Israeli embassy makes the attitude in post #90 impossible, I suppose.

Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag:

Quote:
Anarchism in Egypt is not a big trend. You can find some anarchists, but it's not a big trend yet. Anarchists in Egypt joined both protests and popular committees to defend the streets from thugs. Anarchists in Egypt have put some hope in these councils. The allies of anarchists in Egypt are....the Marxists! We are not now in a moment of ideological debate. The whole of the left is calling for unity and will argue the rest later. Anarchists in Egypt are a part of the Egyptian left.

This is the response of the Egyptian anarcho-communist to the question of their participation. There is nothing about the working class in the answer. Nothing about factory struggles. It is all about the struggle in the streets, ie. the democratic/bourgeois uprising. It even defends a united front of the Left...

Nidal also used the phrase 'Egyptian revolution' and proposed the possibility of it 'winning'. I imagine s/he did not mean that the victory of the 'Egyptian revolution' would be communism in Egypt, so it begs the question what would it mean if the 'Egyptian revolution' won? I say bourgeois democracy is not worth fighting for. Nidal disagrees.

As communists we have to be clear about our ideas. The Left is not just the left wing of capital in the US or Britain. The Left is the left wing of capital in Egypt and everywhere else. Leftists do not become good guys when they happen to be fighting the police or 'in the thick of things'. If there is ever an uprising or civil war in the US or Britain (unlikely as that seems), the Leftists who today sell newspapers or act as protest police may very well become fighters. I contend that communists should not fight alongside them. I say - no popular fronts, no common cause. If that means obscurity and bird watching (and it does!), so be it.

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Dec 14 2011 18:20
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Yeah guys, just remind yourselves that the OP is a self-styled "nihilist" who believes his mission is to undermine the radical movement.

In short, don't feed the troll.

I concur with Caiman: don't feed the troll!

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Dec 14 2011 18:55
letters wrote:
It's curious. Earlier (post #90), Khawaga replied very angrily when someone suggested the Egyptian protests had an anti-Israeli aspect to them (he cursed at the person and said a lot of insults). Later, he admits that irrational anti-Israel attitudes are hegemonic even amongst communists. The riot in front of the Israeli embassy makes the attitude in post #90 impossible, I suppose.

First of all, in that post I said that almost every Arab is anti-Israel, though not the genocidal kind. And at that point in time, the overt anti-Israeli aspect had yet to be manifested. If you had bothered to follow events closely when it was happening, the crowd started its anti-Israeli stuff after the government accused them of being "foreign" agents. It was a great diversion by the Egyptian state. The riot against the Israeli embassy happened way after I wrote that post.

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 19:11

This is what you wrote:

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Fucking hell. Probably every Arab is against Israel and pro-Palestinianm but it's not an "element" to the protests. These are not folks that want to drive the jews into the sea but folks that are fed up with the Egyptian govt's complicity in the occupation of Gaza. And where the fuck do you think all of this started? Protests were allowed briefly right after the start of the second Intifada and during those protests people started shouting anti-Mubarak slogans. Seriously, MT you are getting fucking annoying as you seem to be continually talking out of your arse and don't bother to actually read up on anything.

I am confused. On the one hand you say that the protests began/started during demonstrations in support of the second intifada (with anti-Mubarak slogans), that is anti-Israel demonstrations. Now you say the crowd didn't start the anti-Israeli stuff until after the government accused them of being foreigners (heaven forbid foreigners be involved!).

In any case, you ought to apologize for your invectives against MT, who was posing pretty basic questions about the nature of the revolt, since you end up admitting he was right.

...

Another problem that was not seriously posed in these discussions is the role of women in the protests and the gender question in general. The gang rape of the American journalist woman (an incident horrifically repeated at Glasgow Occupy) posed the question in stark terms.

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 19:14

This discussion can be applied to the current events in Russia as well.

Should communists participate in nationalist demonstrations like those in Tahrir Square or in Moscow? I say - never, except to burn flags (but this would probably result in being beaten up, not advisable). I am waiting for someone to argue forcefully the opposite answer.

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Dec 14 2011 19:15

Yoshomon/lettersjournal/whatisinevidence is trolling in bad faith. Why are you engaging?

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Dec 14 2011 19:40

lettersjournal/whatisinevidence/Yoshomon: there's been numerous posts of yours reported and what looks like trolling across several threads (including this one). You also appear to be using multiple accounts to bump threads you've already participated in under another name. This is sock-puppeting and is not allowed. Please familiarise yourself with the posting guidelines, as continued breaches are likely to result in moderation.

Edit: lettersjournal has indicated by PM they wish their other accounts to be blocked.

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Dec 14 2011 19:53

I hadn't read several previous posts when I posted that, but may I ask: what is the evidence that lettersjournal is in bad faith? His position strikes me as coherent and I cannot see any evidence for his bad faith. His position also is coherent with all that the duponts have generally argued over the years. If he is using multiple accounts that is a fair criticism, but he has already asked that the yoshomon account be blocked as he no longer uses it.

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Dec 14 2011 19:50

Jonglier: play the ball and not the person. Any subsequent ad hominems (or trolling) are likely to be removed.

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Dec 14 2011 20:00

OK, sorry, my post was ad hominem as I admitted, but as I also wrote this was only so because it struck me that Caiman was being ad hominem himself. Caiman: may I note that I honestly meant no personal disrespect, but wrote what I did because I felt that what you argued was misplaced and I wanted to demonstrate that your approach of arguing ad hominem could equally well be turned back onto yourself.

May I repeat the question: why is he accused of trolling and being of bad faith? Even if you all disagree with him do you find his position incoherent, or is it impossible to believe that someone would argue such things in good faith?

It really isn't clear to me, and at this stage it strikes me that simply labelling him a "troll" is far more of a trollish action than the reasoned responses he has spent time constructing.

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 20:00
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May I remind readers that Caiman is a self-styled anarchist militant agitator who has invested much time and energy into various forms of protest, militancy, and perceived resistance to capitalism, and therefore prefers not to discuss these matters, in order that his chosen lifestyle is not brought into question and can be pursued enjoyably at his leisure.

Respectfully, jonglier, I am not concerned with the lifestyle of Caiman or others. There were several anarchist militants from Eastern Europe earlier in the thread who argued against support for the Egyptian uprising, so I do not think this is an issue of militants vs. critics of militancy.

Libcom admin:

Quote:
You're right, this Egypt stuff won't lead to libertarian communism. There are also nationalist and liberal ideas flying around the movement. But the memory of the struggle won't just die off once there's liberal democracy or free trade unions.. the communist movement is inherent in these struggles and any 'victories' which fall short of the final victory are lessons for future struggles, no?

This is what I am interested in discussing. Is the communist movement inherent in bourgeois/democratic revolution? Was it inherent in the bourgeois/democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe? I am skeptical of the idea of a historical movement towards communism per se, but even if I accept that such a thing exists, I do not understand how it exists within bourgeois/democratic revolutions.

If it does not, should communists participate in (risk their lives etc) revolutions which do not pose the possibility of communism? This idea of 'not quite communist but worth supporting because of the memories' could be used to defend almost anything... what would it mean when applied to the Russian (counter)revolution, for example?

Or to put it another way - if the struggle is not for communism (or even for better wages), what good is the memory of it?

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Dec 14 2011 20:13
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Respectfully, jonglier, I am not concerned with the lifestyle of Caiman or others. There were several anarchist militants from Eastern Europe earlier in the thread who argued against support for the Egyptian uprising, so I do not think this is an issue of militants vs. critics of militancy.

Ok, but is it not possible that the logic of your critique might also be validly applied to various actions that those Eastern European anarchists engage in? Simply because they are militants, and they agree with you on Egypt, does not imply that the logic of your position is entirely compatible with all aspects of militancy. Is that incorrect?

You are arguing that anarchists should not concern themselves with struggles such as the one in Egypt. Therefore, that if anarchists are in some ways militant, this militancy should not be concerned with the struggle in Egypt. If militancy is part of their lifestyle, ergo, you are concerned with their lifestyles. Please indicate the flaw in this thinking.

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 20:45

Yes, I am critical of political militancy and undoubtedly disagree with MT and the other Eastern European anarchists on this thread about a lot of things. I have no idea what actions they engage in, but I think it is good that they acted as communists (ie. they made unpopular arguments against political revolt before it was 'safe' to do so [by this I mean that it will be okay to reject the Egyptian uprising in a few years, once it's no longer exciting]).

Perhaps you are right about my concern with their lifestyles, but I'm actually more concerned with those with this militant lifestyle giving an honest account of themselves. I have a naive belief in the power of mirrors.

On the other hand, one of the Duponts formulated the following:

Quote:
Maybe it is time we attempted a redefinition of the term militant and the concept militancy?

Those who would call themselves 'clear as glass and hard as steel' never are, except in the imperative to retain the organisation. By organization I mean, The Organisation. It is here that the surging forward of possibility is closed down by the road block of a patriotism to things that are more dead than alive.

We always said that the militants never did what they said they would on the tin of their packaging. Tin men: their branding and their armour. They called for freedom and free thinking but never allowed it. They called for change but always discouraged it. They lied about their personal circumstances. They lied to themselves. If it was too hard to think about and no answer could be arrived at, then the problem was discarded, along with those who raised the problem. They were never about questions, they were always about answers. It is the question that matters. Answers are the province of charlatans, merchants and quacks.

The entirety of the anti-political communist project that must be put into practice without delay: attune senses; register the world; respond to difference; materially record subjective states; reset perceptual faculties; endure. This is the new militancy.

I agree with this roughly (but would probably say honor or virtue rather than militancy). I think it's funny that it decries answers and then offers an answer. Charlatans, merchants, and quacks sounds about right for us.

But okay, enough stalling. jonglier, thank you for drawing me out. The call for bird watching in Egypt is really about bird watching everywhere. Every discussion is the same discussion. None of us can do anything except say what it is our fate to say. It is my fate to be the anti-militant, anti-organizational mentalist. The situation in Egypt - and more importantly the initial euphoria expressed by pro-revolutionaries in response to it - is a good topic to do the old debate once again. This came up again in the discussions about the Occupy protest. Or in a different way, about the unionist political demonstrations on N30. What ought communists to do with politics? What ought communists to do with democracy? For a long time I did not have these discussions because I was tired or angry about them. Now, I am not tired or angry, so let's talk about it.

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Dec 14 2011 20:46
letters wrote:
I am confused. On the one hand you say that the protests began/started during demonstrations in support of the second intifada (with anti-Mubarak slogans), that is anti-Israel demonstrations. Now you say the crowd didn't start the anti-Israeli stuff until after the government accused them of being foreigners (heaven forbid foreigners be involved!).

Again you are not aware of the sequence of events. The first relates to protests that started in 2001. They were in support of the al-Aqsa intifada, but right away transformed into anti-Mubarak/regime protests. The issue of Palestine/israel, was almost an excuse for protesters to critique the regime (and gave birth to the Kifaye movement). The regime were reluctant to crack down hard on these protesters because they did not want to be seen as being pro-Israel. Fast forward 10 years for my other point. What started out as anti-regime, transformed in part into anti-Israel protests. Really, it's not a very difficult to place these events considering they are a decade apart.

Do you know anything about the development of social dissent in Egypt at all? It seems like you have an extremely superficial view only taking the present into account. Do you need a refresher in the Egyptian strike wave from roughly 2004-2008 (or 2002-2010 to get the start and end proper)? That the strikes took over as the main source of protests after Kifaye petered out, and how the February intifada is the outcome of both economic and political struggles? Nothing, ffs, happens in a vacuum, but it seems like you believe that that can be the case.

Btw, I don't think anyone really believed that all Egyptians were fighting for communism. But then again, very few people are anywhere. So should we just sit on our arses and wait for the ideologically pure communist movement, or should we try to create it? We might fail, but surely that is much better than trolling websites and writing gibberish on your blog.

lettersjournal
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Dec 14 2011 21:06

Admin: discussion split to here.

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Dec 14 2011 21:13
lettersjournal wrote:
Every discussion is the same discussion. None of us can do anything except say what it is our fate to say. It is my fate to be the anti-militant, anti-organizational mentalist. The situation in Egypt - and more importantly the initial euphoria expressed by pro-revolutionaries in response to it - is a good topic to do the old debate once again. This came up again in the discussions about the Occupy protest. Or in a different way, about the unionist political demonstrations on N30. What ought communists to do with politics? What ought communists to do with democracy? For a long time I did not have these discussions because I was tired or angry about them. Now, I am not tired or angry, so let's talk about it.

Turning every discussion into the same discussion is called derailing. The meta-discussion has been split here and further derails will be removed.

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Dec 15 2011 06:26

Khawaga, the point I was making was that it was rude to heap insults on someone for posing the question of the anti-Israeli content of the protests.

..

I was thinking about this discussion tonight, and I realized that there is a very simple and cogent argument against my ideas that has not been presented. At the risk of being ridiculous, I'm going to 'argue the other side' as best I can. Okay, so the rest of this post is my attempt at developing a programme for communist militants in a place where a bourgeois/democratic revolution is taking place.

1) In communications directed at and distributed to workers, argue against democratic demands ("the dictator must go","legalize strikes", "legalize unions") and for the widening of struggles at the point of production. Affirm wage demands and strikes. The struggle is never for democracy or new leaders or freedoms, the struggle is always for immediate interests. Attack the unions.

2) Mention the unmentionables. In Egypt this would mean making declarations about anti-semitism, gender, Islam, and nationalism. Stay away from Tahrir Square unless going there to burn the Egyptian flag and the Qu'ran.

3) Refuse common cause or unity with the Left or religious organizations, even when they claim to be fraternal. If/when any of those groups take power, they will throw you in jail and break the strikes. Above all else, this principle must be maintained.

4) Proclaim again and again - 'Remember Iran, Remember Krondstadt', etc.

5) Point out that the democratic regimes imprison, torture, break strikes, etc just as much as dictatorial regimes. The amount of democracy is irrelevant. Democracy is not worth fighting for.

6) Against military conflict with the state. (An important thing to say now in Greece.)

To do this would put those doing it at great risk and make them very unpopular, but to put forward unpopular, critical ideas (to pee on parades) is the role of the communist.

..

What I just wrote is a powerful response to my exhortation to bird watching. My bird watching response is: why did this sort of thing not emerge here or from the anarcho-communists in Egypt? Why do critical ideas and principles melt away in the euphoria of action (even if this action is only read about on the internet)?

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 15 2011 13:01
Quote:
May I remind readers that Caiman is a self-styled anarchist militant agitator who has invested much time and energy into various forms of protest, militancy, and perceived resistance to capitalism, and therefore prefers not to discuss these matters, in order that his chosen lifestyle is not brought into question and can be pursued enjoyably at his leisure.

LOL if only!

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Dec 15 2011 13:03

My opinion of Yoshomon is informed by his longterm presence here and a 'fanzine' he published online which had exactly that as its stated aim.

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Dec 15 2011 15:32

All tat list is pretty reasonable letters (if not a bit un-original for such a self styled mentioner of the unmentionable [sic] wink). The one I have big qualms with is avoiding Tahrir Square. I don't think it is the case that everyone just gathered there with pre-conceived ideas that they then actualized in unison. It was also a space of discussion, debate and spontaneity right? Without sounding like a leftist paper seller, wouldn't that be a great place to disseminate your ideas (and maybe have some of your own challenged? wink).

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Dec 15 2011 18:50

Apart from 2 and 3, I know that commies in Egypt (and I have raised almost all of the points with the Egyptians I know) has raised exactly those issues though with a local variant (e.g. they won't mention Krohnstadt, might mention Iran, but will most certainly mention the Free Offiers' action in Kafr el-Dawwar). With 2, gender has certainly been raised and so has nationalism and anti-semitism. Good luck on finding an atheist communist organization (and how very Eurocentric of you I might add. Do you suffer from the commie equivalent of white man's burden?).

lettersjournal
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Dec 15 2011 19:07

Can you post links to communist groups who are raising the questions of anti-semitism and nationalism? Earlier you wrote that all the radicals you know there are anti-semites (or as you called them, anti-Zionists who lose all reason when discussing Israel).

I don't think it's Eurocentric to insist on communist groups/individuals everywhere in the world to refuse common cause with Leftist or religious organizations. I am not an atheist and do not affirm atheism. That's a different question altogether.

Quote:
Do you suffer from the commie equivalent of white man's burden?

I'm not sure what you mean. Should I patronize to communists in Egypt and say 'well, I'm opposed to this everywhere else, but it's okay if you do it because you're Egyptian'? I don't think non-Europeans are stupid or irrational, so it would be ridiculous for me to treat them as if they are.

Finding common cause with nationalists and religionists is intolerable in the US or Ireland or Egypt or Cambodia. Do you disagree?

lettersjournal
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Dec 15 2011 19:11

Remember, the Egyptian anarchist-communist interviewed and celebrated here made explicitly nationalist comments:

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Suez has a special resonance in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre of resistance against Zionists in 1956 and 1967. In the same district that fought Sharon's troops back in Egyptian-Israeli wars, Mubarak's police carried out a massacre - at least four people killed, 100 injured, gas bombs, rubber bullets, live gunfire, a strange yellow substance thrown over the crowd (maybe mustard gas).

This is a celebration of war! It would be patronizing not to be critical of it. Imagine the response if a Russian "communist" made a similar comment about the city that was called Stalingrad.

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Dec 15 2011 19:16

I can't post links because not everyone I know bother to write blogs and some people do it in a personal capacity. As you might've noticed, I said commies, not communist groups. I know of individuals who have done this (and not all radicals I know are braindead on Israel, though certainly the far far majority); they could probably do it because they don't have to parrot a party line.

And btw, they're not anti-Semites. Nowhere have I said that, that's your words. What I said was that there is a fine line between anti-zionism and anti-semitism. Sometimes people cross the line, sometimes they don't. In any case, when I've had the opportunity I've always tried to expose the shallowness of their arguments.

Quote:
I don't think it's Eurocentric to insist on communist groups/individuals everywhere in the world to refuse common cause with Leftist or religious organizations.

No it's not, but then again that's not what I was referring to as eurocentrism.

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Dec 15 2011 19:53
Khawaga wrote:
Good luck on finding an atheist communist organization (and how very Eurocentric of you I might add. Do you suffer from the commie equivalent of white man's burden?).
lettersjournal wrote:
I don't think it's Eurocentric to insist on communist groups/individuals everywhere in the world to refuse common cause with Leftist or religious organizations. I am not an atheist and do not affirm atheism. That's a different question altogether.

I am an athiest, and I think that a communist organisation is by definition. You can't have a materialist view of the world which accepts the possibility of divine intervention. I also don't think that to say this is the !the commie equivalent of white man's burden', and ı think that plenty of communists in the ıslamic world would agree with it.

Devrim

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Dec 15 2011 20:14
lettersjournal wrote:
2) There were/are certainly workers in Egypt striking for better wages or whatever, and the political demonstrations against Mubarak or the military junta or Israel or Islam are at best distractions from those strikes.
Khawaga wrote:
Don't know where that is all coming from Letters; most people "supportive" of the uprising/intifada (few here referred to it as a revolution because it simply wasn't) did so out of solidarity and a hope that it would translate into actions in the workplaces (which it did the week Mubarak had to step down, likely why SCAF told him to step down). And what's happening in Egypt is in any case not "finished"; what we saw in November will happen again and again and again. Most likely another food riot because of the insane inflation.

That is one way to look at it. Another would be that the working class took advantage of the situation to press its own economic demands. Certainly the movement around Tahir square was not a working class movement, and at best was a cross class one. People I know who went there said that the working class was conspicuous by it absence.

lettersjournal wrote:
Why put "supportive" in quotation marks? There were threads hundreds of posts long that were almost entirely links to news articles, and people who dared to criticize the uprising as bourgeois/democratic were denounced as racist and other things (in addition to libcommunity threads mocking them). The critical voices were in a small minority. I can link to posts if you'd like.

This is certainly true. There were some on here who lost any sense of political perspective at the time, some even going as far as to support the movement in Libya in its early days.

posi wrote:
lettersjournal's post is an excellent example of the very worst tendency of ultra-left ideology: obsessed, above all else, with not supporting (or "supporting") things which are less than totally clean. It's a view in which the world is full of dangerous bourgeois traps, and the very essence of communist practice is staying clean by staying as far away from them as possible. Even at the expense of total dissociation from real class movements.

I don't think it is about' not supporting' something, nor is it about supporting it. Surely though we should try to understand what is going on.

posi wrote:
Quote:
The Egyptian uprising, like all political uprisings, has nothing to do with communism or even the struggles of workers for better conditions or wages.

Sorry, that is total nonsense.

Why?

Arbeiten wrote:
All tat list is pretty reasonable letters (if not a bit un-original for such a self styled mentioner of the unmentionable [sic] wink). The one I have big qualms with is avoiding Tahrir Square. I don't think it is the case that everyone just gathered there with pre-conceived ideas that they then actualized in unison. It was also a space of discussion, debate and spontaneity right? Without sounding like a leftist paper seller, wouldn't that be a great place to disseminate your ideas (and maybe have some of your own challenged? wink).

I am not sure about Tahir square. From what I understand of the situation, I would have said yes, send a few people down there to sell the paper, but I would think it would have been the main priority for a communist organisation.

I think the question that was raised by LJ is relevant though:

lettersjournal wrote:
Should communists participate in nationalist demonstrations like those in Tahrir Square or in Moscow? I say - never, except to burn flags (but this would probably result in being beaten up, not advisable). I am waiting for someone to argue forcefully the opposite answer.

I think that it depends on the demonstration. Is it a nationalist demonstration as such, or a demonstration which is expressing nationalist sentiments? About five years ago it Turkey we decided that the massive 'secular' demonstrations were of a nationalist character, and communists couldn't participate. I certainly would have advised burning a flag there. It would have got you killed. This isn't an exaggeration. People have been killed for burning flags. I am not sure that the Tahir Square demonstrations had the same nationalist character.

Devrim