The Arab world is on fire: dialogue with a Syrian anarchist

Anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo

The great revolts shaking the Arab world in Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia and now Egypt have caught everyone by surprise. They are, without a doubt, one of the most significant events of our time sending clearly out there the message that no place on this world is doomed to be some imperialist-backed-dictator's playground. Extraordinarily authoritarian regimes like that of Ben Ali were shown completely powerless in the face of a united and determined people on struggle.

The people carrying these rebellions are youth, workers, unemployed, the poor, who are right now shaping the face of the region, sending cold shivers to the cliques sitting in Washington and Tel Aviv. Not all the weapons amassed by the Mubarak regime, not all the US military aid have had the power to stop the protest from growing. They are showing the might of the people and the working class when they come together, they are showing the political capacity of ordinary people to build organisms of dual power with a clear libertarian instinct and they are proving the world that we are in an era of revolutionary change. have had a quick dialogue with Mazen Kamalmaz in Syria, editor of the Arabic anarchist blog who talks about the importance of this splendid political development.

It seems that all of a sudden massive waves of protests are shaking the foundations of long standing oppressive regimes in the Arab world... were there any signs that these protests could happen?

That is one of the interesting things about this revolutionary wave spreading in the Arab world, it struck exactly when almost no one was expecting it. Few days only before the mass demonstrations in Egypt, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared the Egyptian government to be stable, and now nothing is stable in the area: the masses are on revolt and everywhere the repressive regimes are expecting the worst. There are things in common to these big incidents, which went unnoticed to the regimes, the statesmen and even the intellectuals, such as the anger which was there, hidden, silenced by the repression of the States, the poverty and unemployment that were on the rise everywhere… but the governments, local and western alike, thought that this anger could be kept under control... we now know how wrong they were.

What's the significance of the flight of Ben Ali in Tunisia?

It is only the first step of the cascade to follow. It meant that people, revolting people, can defy the repression and win. It is very early to talk about the final solution yet, it is still all too complex now, but the people got to know their real power and are still in the streets, so the struggle is still open to many possibilities.

Where is the revolt spreading to? What countries are now facing massive rebellions?

Now we can say with confidence that anywhere could be next. Maybe Algeria, Yemen and Jordan are hot spots for revolt, but we have to keep in mind that an Egyptian revolution would have a great impact everywhere, beyond the worst expectations of all the dictators and their supporters anywhere.

What's the actual implication of a revolution in Egypt, the second largest recipient of US military aid in the world?

Egypt is the biggest country in the Middle East and its strategic role is very important. It is one of the main pillars of the US Middle East policy. Even if the old regime could survive for some time or even if the new regime would be pro-American, the pressure of the masses will be always there from now on. In a word, the US, the main supporter of the current regime, will suffer badly due to the revolt of the Egyptian masses.

What's been the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in these protests? What's been the role of the old guard of the left?

One thing that is very important about these demonstrations and rebellions is that they were totally spontaneous and initiated by the masses. It is true that different political parties joined later, but the whole struggle was to a great extent a manifestation of the autonomous action of the masses. That is true also for the Islamist political groups. Maybe these groups think now that any election could bring them to power, but with revolting masses in the streets this is difficult, I think that the masses will actively refuse to submit again to any repressive power, but even if this could happen, people will not accept this time to be just subjects, most of all with fresh euphoric memories of the peak of freedom they won by their own struggle. No power could that easily force them to submit again to any kind of repressive regime.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that with revolutions people will be more open to libertarian and anarchist ideas, and liberty will be the hegemonic idea of the time, not authoritarianism. Some of the Stalinist groups just represent the ugly face of authoritarian socialism… for example, the ex-Tunisian Communist Party participated alongside the ruling party of Ben Ali in the government that was formed after the overthrow of Ben Ali himself! Another authoritarian group, the Tunisian Workers Communist Party, participated actively in the demonstrations, but could only expose its contradictions: it called at the very moment of Ben Ali’s escape to form local councils or committees to defend the revolt, just to retract very soon and call for a new assembly and government. In Egypt it is almost the same happening, there are reformist left groups, such as the National Progressive Unionist Party (or Tagammu), and some other groups of revolutionary authoritarian leftists.

I cannot tell exactly about the role of anarchists and other libertarians - there is a growing council communist tendency beside our anarchist one - due to lack of communication with our comrades there, but I have to stress what I’ve said before: that these revolutions were made mainly by the masses themselves. In Tunisia, the strong local trade unions played a big role in the late stages of the revolt.

I want to talk in more detail about the local committees formed by the masses, which are one of the most interesting manifestations of its revolutionary action. In the face of the looting started mostly by the ex-secret police, people formed these committees as really democratic institutions, a real competition to the power of the ruling elite and its authoritarian institutions... in Egypt now there are two governments; the local committees and the Mubarak government that is hidden behind the tanks and the rifles of its soldiers. This is happening in a region that is used to dictatorships and authoritarianism… that is the great thing about revolutions, that they transform the world so fast. That doesn't mean that the struggle has been won; on the contrary, this means that the real struggle has just started.

To summarise, what's your view on the current events? what do you think they symbolise?

This is the start of a new era, the masses are rising, and their freedom is at stake, the tyrannies are shaken, it is for sure the start of a new world.

Interview taken from

Posted By

Feb 1 2011 23:29


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Feb 2 2011 10:10

really pathetic...

Feb 2 2011 11:14

really pathetic comment, MT.

Whilst this interview is OTT optimistic, probably exaggerating the most radical things going on (though the fact that they're happening after just 8 days is in itself very interesting) and not looking at the obstacles, your contribution to all these debates, MT, is to just put a useless detached pessimistic fatalism on the whole thing- "it's all going to end in some equally nasty bourgoeois democracy" when nothing is pre-determined once people start to try to determine their own destinies. Your point of view is like some God looking down on the world complaining that the struggles don't measure up to His Perfection. What will probably happen is the enemy of what can possibly happen, with all its messy mistakes and complexities. Khawaga, just over a week ago, thought the January 25th demos would probably be

like yet another rich kid internet fantasist's version of politics.

He was happy to eat his words. Possibly you might have to eat yours', though your rigid responses imply you won't at all be happy to do so. Their complacent abstraction do fuck-all to contribute to changing the probable into the possible.

Feb 2 2011 12:05

MT - I take it you're a member of an IWA group. Out of interest, do you consider that your reaction to this interview and to events in North Africa represents a wider current of opinion in the IWA?

Feb 2 2011 12:26

Syrian revolution facebook page

Starts Fri. 4th of Feb. inside Syria & in front of the Syrian embassy in Canada, USA, London, Sweden and Denmark. Spread the word.

I've no idea who's behind this or what it amounts to. Then again Egypt began with a facebook call out.

Feb 2 2011 13:07

do i really need to answer such questions? as for samotnaf, the reaction is so stupid, i really don't need to answer some strawman-loving freak who twists my ideas. as for IWA, how can IWA have a stance on some ridiculous syrian guy's statements?grin i mean come one, are you serious?

Feb 2 2011 23:23


Tahrir square became the symbol of the Egyptian masses revolution. Now Mubarak regime sent his secret police in civilian clothes to attack the revolting youth, and they are perpetuating a real massacre against the revolting masses. As an anarchist, libertarian and freedom – supporter, I appeal to all anarchists, libertarians, and freedom – loving people of the world to show full support for the revolting masses in Egypt.

Stop the massacre against the masses.

Stop the killers.

I appeal to each of you to show your support and your protest against the massacre that Mubarak regime started against the revolting masses in Tahrir Square

Mazen Kamalmaz

Syrian Anarchist

Joseph Kay
Feb 3 2011 01:40

I've just deleted a load of posts. MT and Kontrrazvedka in particular, by all means be critical but respect the posting guidelines. Everyone else, if you use the 'report post' button it flags things for admin attention, which is better than getting involved in off-topic arguments.