An e-mail interview with Nidal Tahrir of the Black Flag Egyptian anarchist group about the uprising.
The international secretary of the U.S.-based Northeastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (NEFAC) managed to contact a member of an anarchist group, Black Flag, in Egypt. Below is an interview with him, following the resumption of email contact with Egypt on Wednesday 2 February.
1) Please tell me your name and what movement you are from.
I'm Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag, a small group of anarcho-communists in Egypt.
2) The world is watching Egypt, and even moving in solidarity. However, due to the internet being cut, information was difficult to find. Can you tell me about what has happened in Egypt in the past week? What did it look like from your perspective?
The situation in Egypt is so crucial right now. It began with an invitation to the day of rage against Mubarak regime on January 25th. No one expected an invitation to a day of rage from a loose group, a Facebook page, not really organized, called "we are all Khalid Said".
Khalid Said was an Egyptian youth who was killed by Mubarak police in Alexandria last summer. It was that Tuesday which started everything, it was the spark for the whole fire. On Tuesday big demonstrations were in streets in every Egyptian town, on Wednesday began the massacre. It began with trying to finish the sit-in in Tahrir square on Tuesday late night, and continued in the following days, especially in Suez town. Suez has special value in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre for resistance against Zionists in 1956 and 1967. In the same district that fought Sharon's troops back in Egyptian-Israeli wars, Mubarak police carried out a massacre, at least four people killed, 100 injured, gas bombs, rubber bullets, fire guns, a strange yellow substance thrown above people (maybe mustard gas). Friday was called the Jumu'ah of Rage. Jumu'ah is Arabic for Friday, it's the national weekend in Egypt, in many Islamic countries also, it's the sacred day in Islam, because there are the big prayers on this day, called Jumu'ah prayer. It was planned for demonstrators to go on a march after this prayer, at noon. The police tried to prevent the marchers, with all of their power and violence. There were many clashes in Cairo (downtown, in Mattareyah (east of Cairo)), and all over Egypt, especially in Suez, Alexandria, Mahalla (in the delta, one of the centres of the working class). From noon to sunset people marched in Cairo downtown, to a sit-in in Tahrir till the removal of the Mubarak regime, chanting one slogan, "The people demand the removal of the regime".
At sunset, 5pm CLT, Mubarak declared a curfew and brought the army into Egyptian towns. This curfew was followed by a planned escape by police, letting out the criminals and thugs which called Baltagayyah, and police planned a great escape of criminals in many Egyptian prisons to scare people in Egypt. With no police, many army troops couldn't control the street. It scared people, and it was followed by a news jam on Egyptian TV channels, radio and newspapers, about Luddites in many towns, about thieves firing at people. People organized "people committees" to secure every street. It was welcomed by the regime to make people more scared about instability in the country, but it was also a point we could start from to build workers' councils.
3) As of Wednesday, there have been clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak people. Is that the correct way to describe it? Who are the "Mubarak supporters"? How are these clashes affecting the attitudes of average working class Egyptians?
It's absolutely wrong to call it clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak. The pro-Mubarak demonstration consisted of many Baltagayyah and secret police to attack the protesters in Tahrir. It only began after Mubarak's speech yesterday, after Obama's speech too. Personally I think Mubarak feels like a slaughtered ox that tries to throw its blood over its slaughterers; he feels like Nero, who wants to burn Egypt before his removal, trying to make people believe he's a synonym for stability, safety and security. In this way he has really made some progress. The holy national alliance now has been formed against Tahrirites (Tahrir protesters) and Commune de Tahrir.
Many people are saying, especially middle class people, that the demonstrations must end because Egypt has been burned, famine has begun, and it's not true at all. It's only an exaggeration. Every revolution has its difficulties, and Mubarak is using fear and terror to stay longer. Personally I'm saying even if the protesters were responsible for this situation, even if this is so, Mubarak must leave, he must go out, because of his inability to deal with the situation right now.
4) What do you see happening in the next week? How much is the position taken by the US government affecting the situation there?
Nobody can figure out what will happen tomorrow or next week. Mubarak is a stubborn idiot, and the Egyptian media is making the biggest media campaign in its history to detain the protests on Friday, February 4th. There are calls for another million march to Tahrir, called "Jumu'ah of salvation", the position taken by the US government is affecting us more than the demonstration. Mubarak is such a traitor who could kill the whole people, but he can't say no to his masters.
5) What has the participation of class struggle anarchists been? Who are their allies? (obviously keep security in mind)
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 put some hope in this councils. The allies of anarchists in Egypt are the Marxists of course, we are not now in the moment of ideological debate. The whole of the left is calling for unity and argue about anything else later. Anarchists in Egypt are a part of the Egyptian left.
6) What forms of solidarity can be built between revolutionaries in Egypt and revolutionaries in the "West"? What can be done immediately and what should we do in the long term?
The most difficult obstacle Egyptian revolutionaries are confronted with is the cut-off of communication. Western revolutionaries must put pressure on their governments to prevent the Egyptian regime from doing this. That's for now, but no one can say what will happen in the long term. If the revolution wins, then western revolutionaries must build solidarity with their Egyptian comrades against expected aggression from USA, and Israel. If the revolution is defeated then there will be a massacre for all Egyptian revolutionaries.
7) What will the main tasks be once Mubarak leaves? Has there been much planning about this on the street level? What have anti-capitalist revolutionaries proposed?
The main task now, speaking about street demands, is new constitution and a provisional government, and then new elections. There's much planning about these issues from many political trends here, especially the Muslim brotherhood. Anti-capitalist revolutionaries are not very big in Cairo - the communists, the democratic left and Trotskyites are calling for the same demands about a constitution and new elections. But for us, as anarchists, we are anti-capital and anti-state too - we will try to strengthen the committees that have been formed to protect and secure the streets, and try to turn them into real councils.
8) What do you want to say to revolutionaries abroad?
Dear Comrades, all over the world, we need solidarity, a big solidarity campaign and the Egyptian revolution will win.
Interesting; and vital that
Interesting; and vital that contact is made with any people in Egypt who are in some way or another putting forward a class perspective. What Nidal says about the street committees and his group's advocacy of councils is particularly significant. But their politics also seem to reflect many of the illusions that weigh on the movement: the idea that it is already at the stage of a 'revolution', the notion of a united front with the Stalinists and Trotskyists, and perhaps most importantly, the ambiguity about supporting the left's demands for a new constitution and new elections. Many people on libcom would certainly disagree with a lot of that, but it's not a reason for not engaging in a dialogue with Nidal and his group, on the contrary.
Alf - are you aware of any
Alf - are you aware of any left communists etc in Egypt (or North Africa)? The interview with a Syrian anarchist mentions council communists in Egypt but I haven't seen any other reference to them.
I would love to say yes to
I would love to say yes to that but so far most of North Africa and the Middle East (unless you include Turkey of course, and to some extent Iran) has not shown the same trends as other areas in terms of growing interest in revolutionary ideas, although the quote there is intriguing. The Bordigists used to have some contacts in Algeria but I don't know whether they still exist; Devrim tells me that there were also some Bordigists in Lebanon but again I haven't heard anything recently. Devrim and Leo may know more.
I think that when you look at
I think that when you look at these sort of groups, you have to bear in mind that they might not understand the same thing from anarchism, or council communism for that matter, as many of the posters on these boards and the organisations that they belong to do.
I have heard about anarchists before in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon though I have no idea what they are like whatsoever. I would imagine that some of them are pretty good, and some of them are pretty awful.
From some of the remarks in this interview, I imagine that this group of anarchists at least has very different politics from many here:
To me this sounds like the sort of anarchism that is supporting its own state in its wars. I think that it is reflective of the weight that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has on the working class in the entire region.
I think that it would be worthwhile for anarchist organisations to try to contact and discuss with these people. I wouldn't expect too much though. Still if I was in an anarchist organisation, I think that it would be worth making the effort.
Of course in Iran there are a whole host of political groups.
Alf wrote: I would love to
Fair enough. I was wondering if there were some obvious groups and analysis that I was missing but it seems not. Some of the anarchists are quite elusive too. For example I've seen references to anarchists in Tunisia from the CGT and on the Angry Arab blog but nothing that says more than the fact that they exist.
That's possible and I'm sure the whole history of Israel/Palestine and western intervention has a deep and pervasive effect on people's thinking.
Agreed on this.
Is there any sort of contact
Is there any sort of contact info for the Kurdish Anarchist Forum in Germany, e-mail or otherwise?
punkmar77 wrote: Is there any
Anarkistan [AT] Activist.Com
yes. folks in nefac have been
yes. folks in nefac have been talking with egyptian anarchists. they tell us through out most of the middle east the class struggle anarchists there have a very strong council communist influence, and yes that there are also many council communists and other libertarians close to anarchism. they seem to unite with these other strands because genuine class struggle libertarians are few and far between.
Just to say that I have
Just to say that I have updated the article to correct it - the interview was not conducted by the Kurdish anarchist forum, but by the international secretary of NEFAC
@ Devrim : Thank You, that
@ Devrim : Thank You, that simple gesture might help to diffuse some recent unpleasantness among our German friends.
Devrim wrote: I think that
Better do not patronize anarchist organizations in the Arabic countries and individal anarchists in Palestine.... They may even be readers of Libcom.
The spectrum of the ones I heard from or was in contact with do not differ much from the general social struggle anarchist spectrum.
The war in Synai was not between the Israeli capitalists and the Egyptian capitalists on the markets and raw materials.
Workers are not indifferent what kind of class system exploit them.
Foreign British and France colonial and neo-colonial rule the 1957 war lead by Israel failed to reinstate was not in the interest of Egyptians, and so the one that succeeded in 1967.
The problem is not the lack of communication - it is just not open as the level of "democracy" in the region is low.
i dont heard about the black
i dont heard about the black flag movement