The Tunisia effect: where next?

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Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 21 2011 17:15

Jadaliyya: Preliminary historical observations on the Arab revolutions of 2011

Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 22 2011 00:47

Egyptian Chronicles: The Syrian revolution, day four

Joined: 28-10-09
Mar 22 2011 14:44


Joined: 9-06-09
Mar 24 2011 05:53

Algeria again. (housing riots)

Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 24 2011 11:27

Syria - the situation in Deraa

Egyptian Chronicles

Syria Comment


Joined: 28-10-09
Mar 24 2011 14:47

I think it would be wise to open a new forum thread for Syria. Tomorrow appears to become a big day, after the at least 25, but may be more than 100, demonstrators killed yesterday, and the 20.000 mourners/ demonstrators today, on the streets of Daraa, one fifth of the population of this city with 100.000 inhabitants. This is not a copycat protest, or a small beginning, to be dropped in a list together with Armenia and Swaziland and so on. This is, in my impression, becoming the sixth big one, after Tunesia, Egypt, Bahrein, Yemen and Libya.

Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 25 2011 10:08

I've started a thread for Syria here

Joined: 9-06-09
Mar 26 2011 04:04


Joined: 28-10-09
Mar 27 2011 01:23

@Mark: thanks, seen it: -)

Joined: 9-06-09
Mar 27 2011 08:47

Iraqi Kurdistan - Sulaimaniyah. This seems like a significant attack on the Kurdish parties: for example, 2 peshmergas, operating nowadays as official security forces, have been killed. For a critique of the Kurdish parties up to 1991 see this.

Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 29 2011 22:16


On March 22nd, 5 Iraqi grassroots organizations announced an initiative that will target “the occupier and its agents”, that’s to say: US military bases and Iraq’s Maliki-led government. Riding the recent wave of sizable Iraqi demonstrations against, among other things: government corruption, lack of social services, Iraq’s prison industrial complex and a broken sectarian political system, the sit-ins planned for on April 9th are the first to call out the US occupation as a central cause, and sustainer of the shattered social reality that millions of Iraqis face every day. A new zeal and organizational drive inspired by the recent Arab uprisings has allowed the grievances laid out during the past month of weekly protests to coalesce. Two communiques co-signed by “The Popular Movement to Save Iraq”, “The Popular Front to Save Kirkuk”, “The Student and Youth Organization of a Free Iraq”, “The Movement in Steadfast Basra to Liberate the South” and “The Iraqi Association of the Tribes of Southern and Central Iraq”outline their demands and the means by which they hope to achieve them.

The communique continues by announcing  “the launch of a long-term sit-in in all Iraqi provinces to mark the eighth anniversary of the brutal American occupation of our precious Iraq on Saturday, 4/9/2011 [. . .] This sit-in will not last hours or days, but will continue night and day until the protesters demands are met [ . . . ] For our sit-ins we will set up tents in front of US military bases, which are located in every Iraqi province. We ask all patriotic individuals and forces that oppose the occupation to participate in this demonstration.”...

Joined: 11-02-07
Mar 30 2011 10:19


Thousands of disgruntled teachers are expected to descend on Rabat, Morocco's capital, on Wednesday to protest the outcome of an earlier demonstration -- in which they claim 65 colleagues were seriously injured in a battle with police.

The teachers union of Morocco claims that one injured protester died on Monday after "arriving in hospital on Saturday in a coma."

They also claim that at least five suffered very serious injuries, including broken limbs.

Video from Saturday's demo - warning: graphic footage

Report from CGT North Africa (in Spanish)

Joined: 9-06-09
Apr 14 2011 04:24

Just found this about Malawi (which students in Europe could study and learn a thing or two about), from 2 weeks ago:

Blantyre, Malawi - There was tension at the Polytechnic, the Blantyre-based constituent college of the University of Malawi, when irate students ran amok after their lecturers voted to end their two-week old class boycott. Polytechnic lecturers had joined their colleagues at Chancellor College, the Zomba-based constituent college, who have been boycotting classes for six weeks now protesting Inspector-General of Police Peter Mukhito's summoning of a political science lecturer over a classroom example he gave. Dr. Blessings Chinsinga had reportedly said crises like Malawi's persistent fuel crisis could lead to insurrections that had toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt. One or some of the students reported him to the police chief thereby angering the lecturers who are demanding an apology and assurances of academic freedom. Mukhito has since put his foot down saying academic freedom must be balanced with state security.
President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is Chancellor of the University of Malawi, has since thrown his weight behind his police chief urging him not to apologise to 'people who are teaching revolutions'.
The Polytechnic lecturers, after failing to reach a consensus whether to continue boycotting classes or not, voted 34 to 29 in favour of the resumption of classes. Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (PASCOW) chairman Griffin Salima, however, said the decision had been taken under protest.
But this angered the student community who said their lecturers had betrayed their trust.
'We have all along been behind you but you choose to be cowards!' shouted one student as the lecturers tried to explain their case. 'How can you end the battle prematurely?' he asked.
Things quickly got out of hand as the students started burning tyres and pelting the lecturers with stones. The lecturers rushed to their cars and fled the campus in a huff.
The students then held an impromptu meeting where they resolved not to go back to class until Mukhito apologises and assures the university community of academic freedom.
'How can we go to a classroom where our lecturers will be gagged?' asked one student who did not want to be named for fear of being singled out as ring leader. 'We want quality education and quality education demands unfettered academic freedom.'
To further vent their anger the students broke into the Senior Common Room where the lecturers congregate to relax. They broke doors and window panes and raided the bar.
'We have looted all the whiskies and beers to console ourselves for our lecturers' betrayal,'
said one of the students.
The students have warned the lecturers not to return to the campus unless and until they assure them they will not be cowed into submission.
'We have lost confidence in our Chancellor, we have lost confidence in the Inspector General of Police, we have lost confidence in the University Council and now the lecturers want to lose our confidence as well?' said another student.
Meanwhile, students from both the Polytechnic and Chancellor College have planned a joint street demonstration in Blantyre this week. Police sources, however, said Mukhito has issued instructions to erect roadblocks between Zomba and Blantyre to prevent Chancellor College students from joining their Blantyre colleagues.

(my emphases)

Joined: 9-06-09
Apr 14 2011 11:18

Jordanian ruling class moan about the effects on investments of demonstrations and sit-ins.

Joined: 30-11-09
Apr 15 2011 17:31

Ahwazi people in Iransave 3 political oponents from being hanged.

Joined: 9-06-09
Apr 16 2011 08:51

Burkina Faso:

Soldiers have shot into the air, stolen cars and looted shops in the western part of Burkina Faso's capital as protests by military guards against unpaid housing allowances spread, witnesses said.
The presidential compound in Ouagadougou was calm on Friday after gunfire erupted there overnight. President Blaise Compaoré was apparently not in the presidential compound at the time, a source there said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
Unrest that started from two presidential guard barracks spread to camp Lamizana in western Ouagadougou.
Scattered looting had begun overnight in the capital of one of the world's poorest countries and soldiers looted and burned the homes of Compaoré aides.
A presidential security source, who spoke on condition on anonymity for security reasons, told the Associated Press that the soldiers were expressing their discontent after promises to pay their housing allowances were not kept....
Burkina Faso has been hit by unrest recently. On 8 April people took to the streets of Ouagadougou to protest against the soaring prices of basic foods.
In March, students torched government buildings in several cities to protest against a young man's death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment have fuelled protests, resulting in the deaths of at least six others....

from here

Joined: 11-02-07
Apr 16 2011 11:07
bootsy wrote:
Ahwazi people in Iran save 3 political oponents from being hanged.

More from Ahwaz yesterday

The Ahwazi Arab 'Day of Rage' proceeded under a complete media black-out and brutal state repression, leaving at least nine dead, scores injured and hundreds detained by security services...

Also here and here

Joined: 11-02-07
Apr 16 2011 23:53

Swaziland uprising

Joined: 9-06-09
Apr 25 2011 05:39

Not sure if this goes here or not, but:

On April 18, the stage from which daily speeches at the demonstration were made was burnt to the ground. Over 1000 demonstrators and many pedestrians caught up in the square trying to flee the tear gas were shot at with live ammunition and rubber bullets, tear gassed, beaten, arrested, and threatened....
Since Tuesday, April 19, 2011 the city of Suleimaniya has been occupied by well over 10,000 armed soldiers. Azadi Square and the surrounding streets and alleys are filled with soldiers and rings of soldiers are spread out throughout much of the city. The markets close to Azadi Square are open to citizens but people must keep walking and if anyone appears to group together and approach the square, they are immediately subject to beating by clubs and arrest.
During the day of April 21, thousands more soldiers were called in and a ring of military bases and some tanks formed around the outskirts of Suleimaniya city. Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq and head of the PUK party appealed to Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister for 3000 more Iraqi troops to be sent to the Suleimaniya province...
There have been hundreds of arrests in Suleimaniya city these past four days and most people have been released quickly but only after having been beaten and threatened by the security police. Many women have been arrested in this sweep. Journalists have been targeted for arrest and torture and one of the opposition party's TV channel KNN has been tampered with causing it to shut down for periods of time.
According to a reliable source, the teachers of Suleimaniya city submitted a demand for the forces to leave the city within 48 hours or they would strike beginning midnight Saturday, April 23.

- from here: Military Occupation in Suleimaniya Iraq. Should say that the characterisation of this movement as just "non-violent" by this site ("Common Dreams") is an ideological distortion of the facts: a few weeks ago 2 peshmergas (now acting as cops for the Kurdish nationalist State) were killed. Don't know much about it, but it could be that what seems to be the more non-violent development of the movement has given the State the green light for military occupation.
The following, however, claims that recent rock-throwing is mostly State-provoked, but then liberal/Left critics of State brutality tend to always say that and it's always hard to sort the truth from the ideology:

A new song was playing on Iraqi Kurdistan radio today, 18 April, 2011.
Two lines stick out: "Don't kill this generation" and "don't kill the
future". While the song played, guns were blasting and tear gas filled
the streets in both Suleimaniya and the KRG capital city, Hawler.
Day 61 of Suleimaniya's daily demonstrations against corruption and
tribal rule in Iraqi Kurdistan started early this morning. The CPT
team arrived at 11AM. Music was playing from the stage and small
groups of people were gathering. Two CPTers decided to use the quiet
time to grab a cup of coffee and juice in a cafe next to the square. A
few of the demonstration organizers were doing the same.
Meanwhile, the armed soldiers, anti-terrorism unit and police were
positioning themselves around the square. They actually formed a ring
about 500 meters back from the square. They were waiting, armed with
guns, tear gas, water cannons and riot gear.
When the two CPTers and organizers left the cafe, a group of about 20
young men were talking about confronting the soldiers and police. Some
were talking about throwing rocks. Others told us the soldiers would
throw the first round of rocks to provoke a fight. Still others told
us that the government pays some of these young men to throw the first
stones in order to provoke an escalation of violence. The organizers
and CPTers gave an impromptu workshop on nonviolence. Some of the
young men decided to stay in the square. Others were having no part of
it and were ready to confront the soldiers. One young man said he
needed the money.
By now, the demonstration was beggining to grow. The speakers gathered
around the stage. An announcement was made that Hawler's first large
public demonstration took off like wildfire. Maybe a thousand took to
the streets. The Suleimaniya crowd cheered. They have been carrying
these demonstrations for 2 months because the repression in Hawler has
been so much worse.
Next, news came to the square that the Suleimaniya University students
were sitting in the street. For the second day, they were stopped by a
ring of soldiers. Today, they were not able to enter into the square.
A crowd gathered on one of the streets exiting the northeast corner of
the square. And then the mayhem began. It started with tear gas. The
people who were closest to it came running back towards the square
with swollen eyes and faces. Some couldn't breath. Ambulances were
nearby and ready to treat them. News came that the soldiers were
moving closer to the square. The stench of the tear gas permeated the
streets. The demonstrators set up barricades on the street and began
burning tires in order to keep the soldiers from breaking into the
The sound of gunfire was prolonged and getting closer to the square.
Shops along the street began to close down. Pedestrians ran towards
the square to get away from the worst of the tear gas and the
shooting. The team made contact with the US Consulate by phone and
stayed in contact throughout the day.
The organizers appealed to the people to stay in the square and to
remain nonviolent. Most of the people listened. Then the shooting
began on the other side of the square and soldiers were set up in
sniper positions on rooftops. Nobody knew where to go as the shooting
was coming from all sides. People crouched down behind stone walls.
Others began breaking up huge blocks of cement to make baseball-sized
rocks. The organizers appealed to the people to sit down. Many did and
all the while shooting was going on from all sides. Again, the team
kept in constant contact with the US Consulate. The representative
could hear the shooting over the phone and said they were in contact
with the highest level of KRG authority. Nobody seemed to know who was
giving the orders to shoot.
There was a call for the demonstration to end. Many people, including
the CPT team left although it was difficult to find a safe exit. At
6PM, the team received a report that approximately 500 to 700 people
were still in the square. The soldiers and police came in with guns,
batons and tear gas. 81 people were injured and taken to the hospital.
The armed forces set the stage on fire and also burned down all the
art displays set up on the wall in the back of the square.
At 9PM, 200 young people went back to the square and were immediately
surrounded by armed forces. The young people chanted, "you broke the
square, but you can't break us".

- from National Catholic Worker.

Joined: 11-02-07
Apr 25 2011 10:22
The following is a dialogue held on April 3rd with comrade Sinan Çiftyürek, spokesman of MESOP (Mesopotamian Socialist Party), a revolutionary Kurdish organisation, in relation to the deep significance of the Arab Spring but also on its impact on the Kurdish people. We discussed the roots of the mass movement but also, its prospects in the medium term.

Joined: 9-06-09
Apr 25 2011 17:17

More on the movement in Iraqi Kurdistan (there seem to be a few errors in the English, but it's mostly very clear):

Sulaimaniya, April 24 - A spokesman said over 50 schools in Sulaimaniya province have declared strike “against military deployment” in the province. Officials also demand the campaigners keep educational establishments out of the political disputes.
Xopeshandan , Dargai SaraRebwar Ali, a spokesman for the so-called campaign of “Defending Teachers Rights” said the campaign organizers have been informed that since Sunday morning in Sulaimaniya city 21 schools and in its suburbs 32 schools have staged strike.
The teachers and students of the morning rotation of these schools have walked out of the classes, chanting national songs in the school yards to signal their protest and strike.
The two months public anti-government protests in Sulaimaniya (one of the three provinces of the Kurdistan Region) were intercepted by a decision from the security committee of the province on Monday when in one day 100 protesters and security forces were wounded in clashes between the two sides. The major squares across the province are swarming with military and security forces that are ordered to quench any unauthorized public rally.
The deployment is receiving rising discontent from the residents of the province from various walks of life.
The strike follows a 48-hour respite the campaign organizers declared for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region authority (in northern Iraq) to clear the heavy military presence in the city.
Last night the deadline ended and the campaigners called on the students and teachers declare strike.
Citing to AKnews, Ali said critically that as opposition and independent lists the campaigners run for Teachers Union elections recently and won the majority in Sulaimaniya, whereas teachers affiliated with the ruling parties and also Sulaimaniya Education Directorate have put the teachers under pressure not to join the strike of a “minority.”
Jabbar Mohammed, education director general in Sulaimaniya, called on all the political parties and teachers to keep educational institutions away from the political disputes.
This is a disservice only to students, especially now that the final exams are approaching, he warned.
Ata Abdul-Jabbar, a teacher, also believed staging the strike now will be a disadvantage for the students. “It should have been staged before,” he told AKnews.
“Attendance will be regally in our university and any student or teacher declining to attend the classes will face up with legal consequences,” Ali Said, the president for Sulaimaniya University said in a press conference Saturday night.
Students formed a vital faction in the recent demonstrations in the province. Reports suggest some were arrested, abused and tortured.
Said the president said the university council underlines its impartiality and independence as a scientific and educational institution and will not allow for “any transgression against university’s sanctuary”.
The university in the past week was besieged by the security forces who forced the students into buses, leading them to unpopulated areas around the city. Inside the bus, where the students were held for hours, they were forced to say in front of cameras that the opposition parties asked them to protest against their own will, an opposition TV channel, KNN said.
Since Feb.17, the outset of confrontations between security and anti-government protesters, 10 people have been killed, over 700 wounded, and tens arrested.
The crisis is mounting as the protesters are banned from public rallies by the military and security while the opposition forces are pushing for replacing the government with a transitional one.

Joined: 9-06-09
May 7 2011 01:04


Demonstrations in three Omani cities
Muscat: Activists in Oman have pledged not to relax till reforms are implemented in the country.
After Friday prayers, people staging sit-ins in three cities took out marches in Muscat, Salalah and Sur. "Like in the past weeks, the peaceful march in Salalah was very strong in presence of people," an activist, who preferred anonymity, told Gulf News on Friday....
The protests have generally been peaceful and security agencies have avoided interference right from the start.
However, the protests in Sohar did turn violent on more than two occasions, forcing army to use force, including firing. Two people have so far died in action by the security agencies to quell violent protests in Sohar.
Since the last violent protest on April 1, Sohar has been peaceful as the army took charge of the Industrial Port town and forced out all activists from staging sit-ins and blocking roads.
Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed has taken several decisions that satisfied the demands raised by the activists but they are demanding more reforms, including freedom of speech and freedom of the media.
The Omani monarch raised minimum wages for Omani citizens in private sector, raised pension for retired civil service employees, ordered creation of 50,000 jobs for the Omani nationals and also sanctioned 150 Omani riyals as the unemployment allowance besides making series of changes......
For the last three weeks, rallies after Friday prayers has become regular in Salalah and this week people in Sur and Muscat also took out similar rallies.

Joined: 11-02-07
May 7 2011 12:21


Joined: 11-02-07
May 7 2011 13:56

Libertarian and autonomous bloc, Madrid, 15 May

Spanish ----- machine translation

Edited to add:

alasbarricadas thread ----- machine translation

Interesting to see the reactions of anarchists to an internet call out that sounds similar to the ones in North Africa and Portugal.

Joined: 11-02-07
May 7 2011 18:46

Molly's Blog on the arab revolutions

All that being said how do I view the 'Arab Revolutions' ? Unlike some I don't expect any great "libertarian upsurge" from them though I am sure that anarchist groups will be formed in the countries where the revolution has been "successful". The independent actions of the working class will be suppressed as they are today in Egypt.

The Arab revolutions have, however, shaken the forces of international imperialism. As such I personally support them even if I am sure that the resulting polity will be not even close to what I might want. THAT is the message that I would like to leave with people. Support what you can, but don't expect miracles. Revolutions are only possible in the modern world when certain conditions are met. These conditions simultaneously both make the revolution possible and also limit the amount of change that one can expect from such events. In the end I am just as firmly convinced that a libertarian society can only come about gradually, but I also feel that anarchists/libertarian socialists cannot divorce themselves from revolutionary events if they occur as some outcomes are infinitely better than others for a "slow march" to a free society to take place.

In previous posts on this blog I have mentioned how revolutions, being as they are essentially unpredictable movements of large segments of the population, cannot be "planned" or called into being by "revolutionary conspiracy". The efforts of Leninist groupuscles or so-called "insurrectionists" are nothing but magical thinking. The forces behind revolutionary moments are as far outside of the farcical plotting of such groups as is the movement of the planets. Even the "Model-T of Revolutions", the Russian Revolution was not produced by the Bolsheviks. What that party actually did was take advantage of a revolution already in process to achieve a coup-d'etat, and later they created their own managerial rule as the original revolution was defeated.

While revolutions cannot be conjured out of the ground there are, however, certain conditions that are necessary before any such event can occur. First of all there has to be mass disbelief in a given sociopolitical economic system. This doesn't necessarily mean that the majority of people suddenly join the revolutionaries, merely that the majority are more than content to at least "stand aside" in the conflict between the old order and the revolution, having no overwhelming loyalty to the regime. As a matter of fact it is quite rare (though not non-existent) that an actual majority join the revolution from day 1, except perhaps in restricted locales. The fact that revolutions rarely have the participation of a majority, only their passive acquiescence, is already a "snake in Eden" for the Revolution as the active minority must of necessity act boldly in order to avoid defeat, and they thereby act in a relationship of power vis-a-vis the inactive majority. Great dictatorships from many such little acts grow.

As unfavourable as such necessities may be for actually resulting in a truly more equal and free society the problem is not insurmountable. What is insurmountable is the fact that revolutions are inevitably pluralistic. All sorts of people come to oppose the dying regime because of all sorts of different reasons. This has sometimes included those such as Leninist groupuscles or Islamist ideologues in the Arab world who think this pluralism is a Very Bad Thing. Those to whom the whole idea of pluralism is anathema. Whether these people will be "compromisers" as the Egyptian Islamists appear to be or those who hope to advance their own cause by pushing the revolution as far ahead of the majority as possible depends upon circumstance. A lot depends upon the exact level of another condition for revolution...the ruling class must be divided. At least a large segment of this class must be willing to see the old order crumble and either stand passively by or actively help to tear it down. Lacking this the inevitable military realities that led me to first discount the possibility of revolution still hold true.

Revolutions are carried out, at least initially, by minorities. Military necessity requires this minority to carry out actions without any sanction from the majority. Revolutions are inevitably pluralistic and inevitably are open to the influence both of parts of the old ruling class and to would be ruling classes whose rule is often far worse than the old order. Where does this leave those who style themselves anarchists or libertarian socialists ? Many (almost all ?) of those who want to retain what I call the "romance of revolution" respond by imagining a non-pluralistic revolution, one more purely "anarchist". This is maintained by having, against all historical evidence, what may be unbounded faith in the "libertarian instincts of the masses". No doubt revolutions, by their very nature, develop instances of self-management. This is necessary if the revolution is to survive and grow. Or at least if the population is to fed. Yet even in the most fertile historical ground, Spain of the 1930s, the anarchists attracted the participation or approval of only 1/3rd of the population. The Spanish Revolution was inevitably pluralistic, and all appeals to greater militancy simply ignore this inevitable fact of both then and even more now.

This almost inevitable fact of pluralism sets natural limits as to what can be accomplished by a revolution. What this means in actuality is being demonstrated these days in both Tunisia and Egypt. Also in both cases what is usually a military necessity of a successful revolution ie the desertion of at least sizable chunks of the military and police hamstrings that revolution in terms of how far it can go. In other words all these factors together could be summed up as, "the conditions necessary for a revolution to succeed inevitably lead to restricting what it can achieve". Thermidor is the Siamese twin of revolutions, sharing the same vital organs.

Any thoughts on this?

Joined: 11-02-07
May 7 2011 21:52

From The Free Association

What follows are some random (and rambling) thoughts on the power of events or acts to inspire whole movements – in part provoked by Paul Mason’s Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere

The events in north Africa sparked Paul Mason’s comments but obviously the question is a lot wider. How do isolated acts of resistance gel to become mass rebellions? And what conditions make them more likely to succeed (even if only for a short time)? …

which has a link to this article

So, I want to look at the materials that are available to us to flesh out a 'new model commune', and it seems to me that the best starting point is to look at the tendencies immanent in recent struggles in the Middle East. Here, for example, are some of the features of the revolutionary movement that overthrew Mubarak, and even now is still fermenting in Egypt. First of all, they took over a nominally public space which the state wished to exclude them from access to, Tahrir Square. Having taken it over, and affirmed that they wouldn't simply go home at the end of the day - something we might want to think about - they saw off wave after wave of assault on the protests, from police and plain clothes thugs. They set up committees to keep watch for government men. They set up barricades, and routine ID checks for everyone attempting to enter the square. They set up a network of tents for people to sleep in - it's freezing overnight, so some of them jog round the square to get their temperature up. There are toilet arrangements - no small logistical matter when there are routinely hundreds of thousands of people occupying the capital's main intersection. They rig up street lamps to provide electricity. They set up garbage collection, medical stops - they occupy a well-known fast food outlet and turn it into somewhere that people shot at or beaten by police can get treated.

They set up a city within a city, and collectively coped with many more challenges than the average city would have to face in an average day. There was of course commerce, people hawking food and cigarettes, confident that the whole system of exchange wasn't being overthrown. Yet, far more of their actions were driven by solidarity, collective decision-making, and democratic delegation, than is ever usual for a city. Tahrir Square was the beginnings of a commune. Beyond that spectacular exercise in the capital, the labour movement that had been kicking since the 2006 strikes in Mahalla, was doing something that labour movement's usually don't do. It was starting to strike to demand a change in management. It was striking over the exercise of authority. This had happened in Tunisia, and usually it was because the CEO was some ruling party stooge. But it was the people who normally have no say in the running of the company - and Egypt's private sector economy is overwhelmingly informal, and insecure - seeking to exercise a sort of limited franchise. They did not seek to replace the management of the company with themselves, which would have been the ultimate statement of their confidence in their ability to rule themselves. But they were trying to have a say, and usually succeeded in that. And when the government withdrew the police from local communities and encouraged looting and thuggish behaviour, the people - instead of panicking, and deciding that we can't do without the police after all, please send the uniformed thugs back in Mr Mubarak - organised self-defence committees. Just as in Tahrir, they set up checkpoints, ID checks, and they made decisions about how their community would be run.

Now, this isn't socialism. Socialists were a current in the revolution, but not a big one. The major currents were Nasserists, Islamists, and liberals. And there are all sorts of political struggles that still have to continue - the horrible attacks on women in Tahrir Square on international womens' day shows that this fight has to occur within the revolution. And there's now the prospect that the army leadership will seek to consolidate a conservative ruling bloc with the assistance of the Muslim Brothers, who were an invaluable part of the revolutionary coalition but always the most right-wing element of it. While many Brothers will have been shaken up, radicalised and blasted with ecstasy by this revolution, their core base of small businessmen are probably anxious to get back to making money, and leave the commune behind. Still, the utopian moment of Tahrir Square and beyond showed us some of the lineaments of what a commune might look like. It demonstrated that with opportunity comes competence: that we can, if given the chance, quickly learn and apply the techniques of cooperation, solidarity and self-government.

Again any thoughts?


Edit: To pick up on a passage from the article above:

Beyond that spectacular exercise in the capital, the labour movement that had been kicking since the 2006 strikes in Mahalla, was doing something that labour movement's usually don't do. It was starting to strike to demand a change in management. It was striking over the exercise of authority. This had happened in Tunisia, and usually it was because the CEO was some ruling party stooge. But it was the people who normally have no say in the running of the company - and Egypt's private sector economy is overwhelmingly informal, and insecure - seeking to exercise a sort of limited franchise. They did not seek to replace the management of the company with themselves, which would have been the ultimate statement of their confidence in their ability to rule themselves.

This sounds accurate and I haven't heard of any attempts or calls for workers to take over their workplaces, in Egypt, Tunisia or elsewhere. To me this is one of the things that calls out for explanation. Why were workplaces taken over in Portugal in 1974, for example, but not in North Africa in 2011?

Joined: 9-06-09
May 9 2011 19:45

Sorry - don't have any answers to your interesting questions, Mark - partly because I'm too tired, but there's this news from Uganda:

Riots have swept across Uganda's capital, Kampala, in the biggest anti-government protest in sub-Saharan Africa this year.
Security forces have launched a brutal crackdown, firing at unarmed civilians with live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. Two people have been killed, more than 120 wounded and about 360 arrested. Women and girls have been among those beaten, according to witnesses.
The growing unrest -- triggered by rising food and fuel prices -- has gained fresh impetus after the violent arrest of the opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, last week. ...
Some point to the political earthquakes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and wonder if the aftershocks could reach south of the Sahara. Already there are pockets of unrest from Burkina Faso to Senegal to Swaziland. Even South Africa, reputed anchor of the continent, is tormented by deadly protests over poor public services.
In Uganda there is an inchoate revolution struggling to be born. Protests have spread to several towns, leaving seven people dead and hundreds in jail. The riots, in which roads have been barricaded with burning tyres, mark a new level of defiance. Facebook and Twitter, which the government unsuccessfully tried to block, are reverberating with dissent. Museveni's heavy-handed attempts to put out the fire appear only to be fanning its flames.
The subversion here began on April 11 with a defeated politician and half a dozen allies walking down a street. The "walk to work" campaign is intended to highlight the soaring food and fuel prices, which leave many unable to afford public transport.
If Besigye, who has lost three elections to Museveni, had been ignored the protest might have fizzled out. But instead riot police blocked the group, used tear gas and arrested him. At a stroke this waning figure was reborn as a hero of resistance.
Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, an MP-elect for Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change, said: "We never intended to have a Tahrir Square to remove Museveni. We just wanted a reawakening of the people. We started walking, the simplest thing on Earth, and Museveni said, 'You can't.'"
At the third protest Besigye was hit in the hand by a rubber bullet. Images of him with his hand bandaged and in a sling gave the opposition a publicity coup. With each walk he has attracted more followers.
Nganda, who was jailed for five days for taking part in a walk, said: "When you start a campaign, you never know what the response will be. Museveni's brutal reaction is what raised its profile beyond our expectations. It's dominating the media, the opposition, even Museveni himself."
The 37-year-old said Ugandans would prove as determined as their North African counterparts. "I don't think when the Tunisians started they knew it would be the end of Ben Ali, or when the Egyptians started they knew they would get rid of Mubarak. Nobody can be sure what shape it will take in Uganda, but we are going to continue until Museveni leaves."
Besigye (54), who was Museveni's doctor during the bush war against former president Milton Obote, was detained again in Kampala last week after police smashed their way into his vehicle and shot pepper spray into his eyes.
An hour earlier he had admitted that he was hesitant to draw comparisons with Egypt and Tunisia. "The only parallel goes to the extent that people are discontented with what is going on and their governments are non-responsive. How this popular discontent is channelled is always governed by the unique qualities of governments."
Asked if he was prepared to die for the cause, Besigye said: "I am not setting out to become a martyr of anything. I am simply asserting my citizen's rights, which are inherent, which are not offered by the state and which I am determined to defend at all costs."
Commodity prices could be the spark in a Ugandan tinderbox of resentment over corruption and neglected public services. Museveni has refused to copy neighbouring Kenya by cutting fuel taxes, while his re-election campaign is estimated to have cost $350-million, with a further $1,3-million allotted to his inauguration ceremony.
Public anger was burning on a street where no car was safe from flying stones. Robert Mayanja, a self-described activist, said: "What they are doing now shows that Museveni rigged the last election. If you look at Uganda, why should we vote for him after 25 years? We have high prices; we have hospitals without medicine."
Mayanja (31) said a repeat of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia was "definitely" possible. "People are ready. We know they are going to arrest many people and put them in torture chambers. We know this regime has expired. These are the signs."
In Ntinda district youths shouted and hurled stones and chunks of concrete at passing cars. On one corner a man ran up to a passing council vehicle and smashed the driver's window with a rock.
A teacher, who gave his name only as Nixon (32), said he could not imagine an Egypt-like revolt in the short term. "But in the long term I believe it can happen," he said. "The military is still strong and many of the soldiers are unwilling to turn to the side of the people. But in time they might get tired of beating the people."
A young population, often seen as politically apathetic, has reached unexpected levels of activism. People who used to bolt at the first whiff of tear gas are losing their fear. But there are serious doubts about whether a critical mass of Ugandans has the will or the means to drive out the president, who retains a vice-like hold on the military and police.
Rosebell Kagumire, a journalist who is blogging and tweeting about the political crisis, said: "It's hard to get people to believe going to the streets will change anything, especially when they know the government is prepared to kill half of them. Ugandans have not reached that level yet."
Museveni, whose election victory has been denounced as fraudulent, is confident he can avoid the fate of Arab leaders. "Nobody can take over power through an uprising," he said recently. "Whoever thinks like that, I pity such a person."
His spokesperson, Tamale Mirundi, said: "In Tunisia and Egypt democracy was lacking; in Uganda we elect our leaders at every level. Besigye cannot say he was cheated and that is why he is jumping on oil prices."
Mirundi played down the power of the internet. "Go to the villages. How many people can access Facebook? Very few." Yet every day in Uganda new people are connecting and interacting for the first time. "Uganda is sitting on a time bomb," tweeted Richo Nuwagaba. "It's just a matter of time. I am scared."

Joined: 11-02-07
May 9 2011 21:04

More on the situation in Uganda on Rosebell's Blog

Joined: 11-02-07
May 11 2011 21:38

The Moor Next Door: Vague thoughts on Arab uprisings (II)

Joined: 28-10-09
May 22 2011 22:03

Demonstrations and police repression in Morocco