The Cairo Commune

Reflections On the Cairo Commune by the Fanon scholar Nigel Gibson.

by Nigel Gibson

Quite remarkable (but not surprising) that after less than two weeks Tahrir square has developed a system of participatory. While constantly worrying about the reaction (along the lines Marx describes
in the 18th Brumaire) people are making history and coming up with working forms of decision making. My source is no lefty paper but the Guardian:

‘In Tahrir, the square that has become the focal point for the nationwide struggle against Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship, groups of protesters have been debating what their precise goals should be in the face of their president’s continuing refusal to stand down.

The Guardian has learned that delegates from these mini-gatherings then come together to discuss the prevailing mood, before potential demands are read out over the square’s makeshift speaker system. The adoption of each proposal is based on the proportion of cheers or boos it receives from the crowd at large.

Delegates have arrived in Tahrir from other parts of the country that have declared themselves liberated from Mubarak’s rule, including the major cities of Alexandria and Suez, and are also providing input into the decisions.

“When the government shut down the web, politics moved on to the street, and that’s where it has stayed,” said one youth involved in the process. “It’s impossible to construct a perfect decision-making mechanism in such a fast-moving environment, but this is as democratic as we can possibly be.”

“Genuine opposition politics in this country has always relied on people taking the initiative, and that’s what we’re seeing here – on a truly astounding level,” said Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian author who has been closely monitoring the spontaneous political activity on the ground. “There is more transparency and equality here in Tahrir than anything we’ve ever seen under the Mubarak regime; anyone and everyone can have their say, and that makes the demands that come out of the process even more powerful.”‘

One example of the flowering of “groups”, discussions, statements, reminiscent of revolutions is below from the brilliantly named ‘coalition of youths of the wrath revolution’,

Press Conference in El-Shorook Newspaper Headquarters

Fellow great Egyptian citizens … We are your your daughters, your brothers and sisters who are protesting in Tahrir square and other squares of Egypt, promise you not to go back to our homes until the demands of your great revolution are realized.

Millions have gone out to overthrow the regime, and so the matter goes beyond figures in particular to the whole administration of the Egyptian State, which was transformed from a servant of the people to a master of the them.

We have heard the president’s disappointing speech. And really someone who has killed more than 300 youths, kidnapped and injured thousands more is not entitled to brag about past glories. Nor are his followers entitled to talk about the President’s dignity, because the dignity life and security of the Egyptian people is far more valuable than any single person’s dignity no matter how high a position he holds.

Our people live though tragedy for a week now, since Mubarak’s regime practiced a siege against us, releasing criminals and outlaws to terrorize us, imposing a curfew, stopping public transportation,
closing banks, cutting off communications and shutting down the internet .. But if it was not for the courage of Egyptian youths who stayed up nights in the People’s Committees it would have been a
terrible tragedy.

We want this crisis to end as soon as possible and for our lives and our families’ lives to get back to normal, but we do not trust Hosni Mubarak in leading the transitional period. He is the same person, who refused over the past 30 years any real political and economic reforms, and he hired criminals to attack Tahrir square and the peaceful demonstrators there, killing dozens and enjuring thousands –
including women, elderly, and children.

Also, we will not allow the corrupt to remain in charge of the state institutions; therefore, we will continue our sit-in until the following demands are realized:

  1. The resignation of the President and by the way this does not contradict the peaceful transition of power nor the current constitution which allows and organizes this process.
  2. the immediate lifting of the state of emergency and releasing all freedoms and putting an immediate stop to the humiliation and torture that takes place in police stations
  3. the immediate dissolve of both the Parliament and Shura Council
  4. forming a national unity government that political forces agree upon which manages the processes of constitutional and political reform
  5. forming a judicial committee with the participation of some figures from local human rights organizations to investigate the perpetrators of the collapse of state of security this past week and the murder and injury of thousands of our people.
  6. Military in charge of protecting peaceful protestors from thugs and criminal affiliated with the corrupt regime and ensuring the safety of medical and nutritional convoys to civilians
  7. the immediate release of all political detainees and in their forefront our colleague Wael Ghoneim

Last a quite moving youtube video of a (young) girl leading the chants at the square:

Posted By

red jack
Feb 7 2011 06:22


Attached files


Feb 7 2011 23:56

Impromptu: the Cairo Commune

Sinan Antoon wrote:

In addition to the new political space it has created, what distinguishes this revolution is the wonderful and sublime example it sets in terms of solidarity among protesters and citizens at large. The spontaneity and cooperation in managing their daily affairs without a hierarchy is what the state didn’t expect as it deprived the people of basic services and tried to spread fear and chaos to terrorize the citizenry.

The sight of barricades around al-Tahrir and the moving stories about steadfastness and solidarity among those who volunteered, guarded, protected, fed, detained the thugs, and tended to the wounds of comrades defending al-Tahrir reminded me of the Paris Commune (1871). I know the historical context and the dynamics are quite different (but I have poetic license). The Paris Commune lasted for 71 days and didn’t end in victory, but it became a potent symbol and produced a new political form. Al-Tahrir, too, was "working, thinking, fighting, bleeding -- almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the cannibals at its gates -- radiant in the enthusiasm of its historical initiative.” Those heros in Cairo “were ready to storm the heavens.” The earth they shook will suffice for now as they stand at the heart of (l)iberation, surrounded by millions...