Révolution égyptienne - 11 février

Publié le par la Rédaction

Le palais présidentiel encerclé

 

Le Caire, 11 février 2011. Hier, au cours d'une allocution télévisée, le président Hosni Moubarak annonce qu'il a l'intention de rester au pouvoir jusqu'à la fin de son mandat. Depuis 17 jours, ce sont des millions d'Égyptiens qui réclament son départ et, de plus en plus, les chefs d'États du monde entier qui se joignent à leur appel.

 

 

 

Dans la nuit du 2 ou 3, la colère des manifestants monte d'un cran et leur nombre est suffisant pour que des dizaines de milliers gardent la place Tahrir tandis que d'autres marchent sur le palais présidentiel de El Orouba, dans le quartier d'Heliopolis. Le quartier est entièrement bouclé et sous la protection des chars et des troupes de l'armée.

 

En marchant sur le palais d'El Orouba, les égyptiens obtiennent la confirmation qu'ils cherchent à obtenir depuis hier. Que fera l'armée en pareil cas ? Réponse : l'armée laisse faire et les manifestants par centaines prennent place dans la nuit et sont rejoints, ce matin, par des milliers de manifestants supplémentaires. L'armée s'adresse aux manifestants dans des termes polis. Elle recommande aux manifestants de retourner place Tahrir et met à leur disposition des bus de l'armée. Les manifestants qui veulent rester n'en sont pas empêchés, mais l'armée prévient que, pour leur sécurité, il plus sûr qu'ils retournent place Tahrir.

 

 

 

Il ne faut pas pour autant s'empresser de conclure que l'armée menace la population de représailles. D'autres menaces semblent plus plausibles. Tout d'abord, l'envoi possible de forces de police ; l'envoi d'hommes de mains armés ; et enfin une intervention agressive de la garde présidentielle.

 

La situation est intéressante à observer car il est probable que le Conseil Supérieur des Forces Armées (CSFA) soit en train de laisser faire dans le but de s'appuyer sur l'intensification et le «rapprochement» de la colère des manifestants pour presser Hosni Moubarak de quitter le pouvoir.

 

Le bâtiment de la Radio Télévision du Caire, également sous la protection de l'armée est, ce matin (et depuis hier soir aussi), encerclé par une dizaine de milliers de manifestants.

 

 

 

Mais ce n'est pas qu'au Caire que la pression sur l'armée est forte. La crise de Suez et la grève de 6000 ouvriers responsables de la gestion quotidienne du canal est de nature à justifier un durcissement du ton du CSFA à l'égard de Moubarak et de son entourage.

 

Le CSFA annonce ce matin qu'il fera déclaration importante ce matin.

 

 

Des millions d'égyptiens sont attendus aujourd'hui dans les rues de l'Égypte, pour un troisième vendredi de la colère.

 

Cris d’Égypte, 11 février 2011 - 8h29.

 

 

 

 

Selon El Jazeera et El Arabia : le Caire vers 2h du matin 11-02-2011

 

Deux à trois mille manifestants sont à 500 m du palais présidentiel.

 

Plusieurs milliers de manifestants encerclent la Radio nationale et comptent y passer la nuit.

 

Obama demande des changements rapides.

 

L'armée prépare une deuxième déclaration.

 

Thala solidaire, 11 février.

 

 

 

 

Moubarak le maladroit

 

Le Caire, 11 février 2011. Il y a quelques minutes, nous étions encore le 10 février. Au théâtre hier soir, une tragicomédie en un acte interprétée par Hosni Moubarak, l'auto-proclamé papa de la nation.

 

Le monde entier, à travers les photos et les retransmissions satellites, aura pu apprécier en direct la réponse du peuple : place Tahrir, les hommes brandissent une chaussure. Insulte suprême et élégante, parce qu'elle est silencieuse.

 

 

Le discours du président fut un robinet d'eau tiède paternaliste, une menace par-ci, des promesses par là et, tout du long, une imagerie fasciste des plus classiques: la terre, le sang, la jeunesse, ma jeunesse, mes victoires, la fierté de la nation, les injonctions étrangères inacceptables…

 

Celui qui s'exprime est un président décalé, déconnecté de la réalité et de plus en plus isolé sur le plan international. La séquence semble être pré-engistrée et montée. On note une coupure. On note aussi que, tantôt il suit un prompteur, tantôt il lit ses fiches.

 

Devant le bâtiment de la radio-télévision à Maspero

 

Si, à chaud, la rue est déçue de ne pas avoir entendu l'annonce d'une démission immédiate, à froid on peut se réjouir de trois choses :

1. Le Conseil Supérieur des Forces Armées semble se positionner du côté du peuple : le porte parole du Conseil Supérieur des Forces Armées fait deux annonces publiques avant le discours de Moubarak. Celles-ci sont favorables au peuple et lui assure sa protection et la réalisation de ses demandes considérées légitimes. Moubarak, lui, dans le déni le plus absolu, propose un remaniement insatisfaisant de la constitution et annonce qu'il restera jusqu'à la fin de son mandat.
2. Omar Soliman est grillé. Ce discours présente Omar Soliman comme un élément clé du régime, de la «stabilité» et du système Moubarak. L'illusion maintenue pendant quelques jours d'un Omar Soliman «neutre», articulation providentielle entre le régime et l'armée, vient de tomber. Pour le peuple : Moubarak, Soliman, même combat. Le peuple demande, depuis 15 jours, le départ de l'un comme de l'autre. Rappelons que la première demande du peuple n'est autre que le départ immédiat de Moubarak.
3. Un président de plus en plus isolé sur le plan international. En un discours de trop, Moubarak aura sans doute réussi à perdre les derniers soutiens démocratiques qui lui restaient. Il s'indigne de «l'ingérence étrangère», des «injonctions qui viennent de l'étranger», expliquant que ce qui se passe en Égypte est une affaire domestique qui ne concerne personne. Mon papa président ne semble pas se rendre compte qu'il est nu, et que son entêtement affecte désormais les intérêts du monde entier qui sauront, demain et les jours suivants, se faire entendre.

 

Il est 1h30 du matin. J'entends qu'on marche sur Héliopolis, quartier du palais présidentiel de El Orouba. Le palais lui-même est gardé par la garde présidentielle, pas l'armée. On marche également sur le bâtiment de la Radio-Télévision. Cette nuit sera longue et peut-être dangereuse. Tout dépend de ce que l'armée a vraiment dans le ventre et les égyptiens sont maintenant impatients de le savoir.

 

Avant le discours, qui a dit qu'il restait ?

 

Anas Feki, ministre de l'information.

 

Avant le discours, qui a dit qu'il partait ?

 

La CIA. Ahmed Shafik, nouveau premier ministre de Moubarak. Hossam Badrawy, nouveau secrétaire général du Parti National Démocratique, parti du président.

 

Amusant, non ?

 

Cris d’Égypte, 11 février.

 

 

«J’ai découvert une Égypte magnifique ici»

 

Quelque chose a basculé, mardi, en Égypte. C’est devenu évident la nuit dernière, devant le bâtiment de l’Assemblée du peuple, où plusieurs centaines de manifestants s’étaient installés pour dormir là, sur des nattes, enroulés dans des couvertures. C’est une rue assez courte, à 200 mètres de la place Tahrir, mais s’y trouvent l’équivalent de l’Assemblée nationale et du Sénat, ainsi que le siège du Premier ministre. Elle est désormais fermée par une barricade improvisée, avec des barrières métalliques et de la tôle ondulée.

 

À une cinquantaine de mètres, l’armée a posté des blindés légers. Les bidasses s’excusent presque de contrôler l’identité de ceux qui viennent là et semblent avoir pour consigne de laisser passer tout le monde. Ils échangent des cigarettes et des blagues avec les manifestants, dont certains grimpent de temps à autre sur un char ou s’allongent dans le creux des chenilles. Un régime qui ne protège plus ses institutions, même fantoches, a perdu la partie…

 

Tout est stupéfiant dans cette révolution, à commencer par son calme, son civisme, le respect qui règne entre chaque individu. Wafaa, une jolie médecin légèrement voilée de 32 ans, passe la nuit là, sur le trottoir, emmitouflée dans une parka. Elle est venue avec sa soeur depuis Zagazig, dans le delta du Nil. Les deux jeunes femmes dorment à tour de rôle, au milieu de dizaines d’hommes qu’elles ne connaissent pas. C’est impensable en Égypte : «On n’a pas réfléchi, rigole la pédiatre, comme si elle venait de réaliser son audace. On peut pas rester comme ça devant la télé. Nos parents nous ont dit : “allez-y pour nous !” On a pris le bus et on est arrivées dans la journée. Des gens nous amènent du pain et du fromage, des commerçants viennent prêter des couvertures. Je ne me suis jamais sentie autant en sécurité de ma vie.»

 

 

 

«Je m’en fiche si je finis ruiné, au moins on sera libres»

 

Tout est nimbé dans le doux halo des réverbères. Ce qui frappe aussi, c’est le besoin insatiable de chacun de s’exprimer et d’être traité comme un individu à part entière, «pas comme une masse ou un troupeau, mais comme des êtres dignes de respect. C’est ça qu’on demande, le respect, la dignité.» Mohamed est plombier, il est venu d’Alexandrie : «Je paye de ma poche, c’est mon argent mais je m’en fiche si je finis ruiné, au moins on sera libres.» Il partage une natte avec Ahmed et Mohamed, qu’il vient de rencontrer le jour même.

 

Ils plaisantent : «Moubarak, démissionne, ma femme me manque et je veux rentrer à la maison», chantonne Amr. Mais entre deux blagues et trois cigarettes, il racontent une vie foulée aux pieds. Mohamed par exemple : «Je n’ai pas vu mon père avant l’âge de cinq ans. Il était emprisonné pour islamisme, c’est tout. Il n’a jamais été jugé, un jour ils l’ont relâché, c’est tout. On vit à dix dans trois pièces.»

 

Mohamed, 22 ans, se fiche de la religion, il pratique à peine. «Tout ce que je veux, c’est trouver un travail comme comptable, je suis diplômé depuis deux ans mais il n’y a rien. Rien. Le système ne marche pas, il faut tout changer. Ce régime nous a tous transformés en mendiants. On n’aurait pas besoin de l’aide américaine s’il n’y avait pas autant de corruption.» Il a vu circuler les chiffres faramineux — et non vérifiés — sur la fortune supposée des Moubarak : 40 à 79 milliards de dollars. Ça l’a révolté.

 

Ahmed, lui, ne veut plus quitter les manifs : «J’ai découvert une Égypte magnifique ici. Les gens s’aiment, se respectent, ils s’écoutent. On s’étonne nous-mêmes, on se découvre. Regardez comment ça se passe quand la police n’est pas là. On était traités comme des serfs dans ce pays. Mais depuis le vendredi 28 janvier, quand la police nous a tiré dessus alors qu’on voulait se rendre, je ne leur pardonnerai jamais. J’ai le sang du type mort à côté de moi sur le cœur.»

 

Mardi, les manifestations ont peut-être connu leur plus grosse affluence depuis le début de la révolte, le 25 janvier. Beaucoup de nouveaux venus, émus par le témoignage du cyberactiviste Wael Ghoneim, tout juste sorti de douze jours au secret, émus aussi par la publication des photos des «martyrs» dans la presse : des jeunes gens aux visages sympathiques, fauchés en pleine grâce. Beaucoup de fonctionnaires, qui ont repris le travail, viennent sur la place Tahrir après leurs heures de bureau. À partir d’aujourd’hui, ceux qui sont solidaires des manifestations, mais ne peuvent s’y rendre, sont invités à porter un vêtement ou un brassard rouge.

 

 

La présence de Wael Ghoneim a galvanisé la foule, place Tahrir, mardi. Ce cadre de Google a créé une page Facebook en hommage à Khaled Said, torturé à mort par la police égyptienne, en juin 2010. Il pose ici avec la mère du jeune homme.

 

Autre changement notable depuis hier : désormais l’on voit sur la place Tahrir d’anciens partisans de Moubarak, voire certains de ses propagandistes. C’est l’heure des opportunistes et des retournements de vestes. Le journaliste de télévision nationale, Amr Adib, s’est même vu refuser l’accès de la place : «Faut pas exagérer quand même», plaisante Ahmed. Le rédacteur en chef d’Al-Ahram, le principal quotidien gouvernemental, une quasi-institution d’État, a appelé à la démission de Moubarak lors d’une interview sur la BBC en arabe. Les ouvriers du goupe de presse pro-gouvernement Rose al-Youssef menacent de cesser le travail si la ligne éditoriale ne changeait pas.

 

Les manifestants évoquent l’idée d’aller investir la radio-télévision d’État, qui passe son temps à manipuler l’opinion, allant jusqu’à dire que cette contestation était fomentée et payée par des puissances étrangères. Mais là aussi, le ton commence à changer : le régime, qui a désespérément besoin de légitimité, cherche à récupérer l’élan du «25 janvier» et rend hommage aux jeunes…

 

Tout le pays ressemble à un glacier qui craque doucement avant l’avalanche. Avec une partie de la bourgeoisie, les corps constitués de l’État basculent aussi dans la contestation. Hier donc, le président de la Cour constitutionnelle, en grande tenue de magistrat suprême, a proclamé devant la foule que la seule souveraineté qui vaille était celle du peuple. Il répondait aux arguties du pouvoir sur la nécessité de maintenir Moubarak pour procéder aux nécessaires réformes de la Constitution d’ici à la présidentielle de septembre prochain, à laquelle le raïs chancelant a promis de ne pas se représenter.

 

Plus inquiétant encore que ce désaveu du plus haut juge du pays, des grèves commencent à gagner différents secteurs. On parle désormais d’un début de grève des employés du canal de Suez, ce qui porterait un coup fatal à l’économie du pays, déjà affectée par le crash de la saison touristique (1 million de touristes sont rentrés ces trois dernières semaines). «Vendredi, jure Mohamed, nous marcherons sur le palais présidentiel Ce sera le “jour de l’offensive”. Il n’en a plus pour longtemps.» En fait, ce n’est plus seulement de Moubarak dont il est question maintenant, mais de tout le régime égyptien.

 

Leur presse (Christophe Ayad,
Libération), 9 février.

 

 

The Cairo Commune

Reflections On the Cairo Commune by the Fanon scholar 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:

 

 

Libcom, 7 février.

 

 

Mubarak is Out

 

The “March of Millions” in Cairo marks the spectacular emergence of a new political society in Egypt. This uprising brings together a new coalition of forces, uniting reconfigured elements of the security state with prominent business people, internationalist leaders, and relatively new (or newly reconfigured) mass movements of youth, labor, women’s and religious groups. President Hosni Mubarak lost his political power on Friday, 28 January. On that night the Egyptian military let Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters burn down and ordered the police brigades attacking protesters to return to their barracks. When the evening call to prayer rang out and no one heeded Mubarak’s curfew order, it was clear that the old president been reduced to a phantom authority. In order to understand where Egypt is going, and what shape democracy might take there, we need to set the extraordinarily successful popular mobilizations into their military, economic and social context. What other forces were behind this sudden fall of Mubarak from power? And how will this transitional military-centered government get along with this millions-strong protest movement?

 

 

Many international media commentators — and some academic and political analysts — are having a hard time understanding the complexity of forces driving and responding to these momentous events. This confusion is driven by the binary “good guys versus bad guys” lenses most use to view this uprising. Such perspectives obscure more than they illuminate. There are three prominent binary models out there and each one carries its own baggage:

(1) People versus Dictatorship: This perspective leads to liberal naïveté and confusion about the active role of military and elites in this uprising. 
(2) Seculars versus Islamists: This model leads to a 1980s-style call for “stability” and Islamophobic fears about the containment of the supposedly extremist “Arab street.” 
Or, (3) Old Guard versus Frustrated Youth: This lens imposes a 1960s-style romance on the protests but cannot begin to explain the structural and institutional dynamics driving the uprising, nor account for the key roles played by many 70-year-old Nasser-era figures.

 

To map out a more comprehensive view, it may be helpful to identify the moving parts within the military and police institutions of the security state and how clashes within and between these coercive institutions relate to shifting class hierarchies and capital formations. I will also weigh these factors in relation to the breadth of new non-religious social movements and the internationalist or humanitarian identity of certain figures emerging at the center of the new opposition coalition.

 

 

Western commentators, whether liberal, left or conservative, tend to see all forces of coercion in non-democratic states as the hammers of “dictatorship” or as expressions of the will of an authoritarian leader. But each police, military and security institution has its own history, culture, class-allegiances, and, often its own autonomous sources of revenue and support as well. It would take many books to lay this all out in detail; but let me make a brief attempt here. In Egypt the police forces (al-shurta) are run by the Interior Ministry which was very close to Mubarak and the Presidency and had become politically co-dependent on him. But police stations gained relative autonomy during the past decades. In certain police stations this autonomy took the form of the adoption of a militant ideology or moral mission; or some Vice Police stations have taken up drug running; or some ran protection rackets that squeezed local small businesses. The political dependability of the police, from a bottom-up perspective, is not high. Police grew to be quite self-interested and entrepreneurial on a station-by-station level. In the 1980s, the police faced the growth of “gangs,” referred to in Egyptian Arabic as baltagiya. These street organizations had asserted self-rule over Cairo’s many informal settlements and slums. Foreigners and the Egyptian bourgeoisie assumed the baltagiya to be Islamists but they were mostly utterly unideological. In the early 1990s the Interior Ministry decided “if you can’t beat them, hire them.” So the Interior Ministry and the Central Security Services started outsourcing coercion to these baltagiya, paying them well and training them to use sexualized brutality (from groping to rape) in order to punish and deter female protesters and male detainees, alike. During this period the Interior Ministry also turned the State Security Investigations (SSI) (mabahith amn al-dawla) into a monstrous threat, detaining and torturing masses of domestic political dissidents.

 

Autonomous from the Interior Ministry we have the Central Security Services (Amn al-Markazi). These are the black uniformed, helmeted men that the media refer to as “the police.” Central Security was supposed to act as the private army of Mubarak. These are not revolutionary guards or morality brigades like the basiji who repressed the Green Movement protesters in Iran. By contrast, the Amn al-Markazi are low paid and non-ideological. Moreover, at crucial times, these Central Security brigades have risen up en masse against Mubarak, himself, to demand better wages and working conditions. Perhaps if it weren’t for the sinister assistance of the brutal baltagiya, they would not be a very intimidating force. The look of unenthusiastic resignation in the eyes of Amn al-Markazi soldiers as they were kissed and lovingly disarmed by protesters has become one of the most iconic images, so far, of this revolution. The dispelling of Mubarak’s authority could be marked to precisely that moment when protesters kissed the cheeks of Markazi officers who promptly vanished into puffs of tear gas, never to return.

 

The Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt are quite unrelated to the Markazi or police and see themselves as a distinct kind of state altogether. One could say that Egypt is still a “military dictatorship” (if one must use that term) since this is still the same regime that the Free Officers’ Revolution installed in the 1950s. But the military has been marginalized since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel and the United States. Since 1977, the military has not been allowed to fight anyone. Instead, the generals have been given huge aid payoffs by the US. They have been granted concessions to run shopping malls in Egypt, develop gated cities in the desert and beach resorts on the coasts. And they are encouraged to sit around in cheap social clubs.

 

These buy-offs have shaped them into an incredibly organized interest group of nationalist businessmen. They are attracted to foreign investment; but their loyalties are economically and symbolically embedded in national territory. As we can see when examining any other case in the region (Pakistan, Iraq, the Gulf), US military-aid money does not buy loyalty to America; it just buys resentment. In recent years, the Egyptian military has felt collectively a growing sense of national duty, and has developed a sense of embittered shame for what it considers its “neutered masculinity:” its sense that it was not standing up for the nation’s people. The nationalistic Armed Forces want to restore their honor and they are disgusted by police corruption and baltagiya brutality. And it seems that the military, now as “national capitalists,” have seen themselves as the blood rivals of the neoliberal “crony capitalists” associated with Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal who have privatized anything they can get their hands on and sold the country’s assets off to China, the US, and Persian Gulf capital.

 

 

Thus we can see why in the first stage of this revolution, on Friday 28 January, we saw a very quick “coup” of the military against the police and Central Security, and disappearance of Gamal Mubarak (the son) and of the detested Interior Minister Habib el-Adly. However the military is also split by some internal contradictions. Within the Armed Forces there are two elite sub-branches, the Presidential Guard and the Air Force. These remained closer to Mubarak while the broader military turned against him. This explains why you can had the contradictory display of the General Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Tantawi, wading in among the protesters to show support on 30 January, while at the same time the chief of the Air Force was named Mubarak’s new Prime Minister and sent planes to strafe the same protesters. This also explains why the Presidential Guard protected the Radio/Television Building and fought against protesters on 28 January rather than siding with them.

 

The Vice President, Omar Soleiman, named on 29 January, was formerly the head of the Intelligence Services (al-mukhabarat). This is also a branch of the military (and not of the police). Intelligence is in charge of externally oriented secret operations, detentions and interrogations (and, thus, torture and renditions of non-Egyptians). Although since Soleiman’s mukhabarat did not detain and torture as many Egyptian dissidents in the domestic context, they are less hated than the mubahith. The Intelligence Services (mukhabarat) are in a particularly decisive position as a “swing vote.” As I understand it, the Intelligence Services loathed Gamal Mubarak and the “crony capitalist” faction, but are obsessed with stability and have long, intimate relationships with the CIA and the American military. The rise of the military, and within it, the Intelligence Services, explains why all of Gamal Mubarak’s business cronies were thrown out of the cabinet on Friday 28 January, and why Soleiman was made interim VP (and functions in fact as Acting President). This revolution or regime change would be complete at the moment when anti-Mubarak tendencies in the military consolidate their position and reassure the Intelligence Services and the Air Force that they can confidently open up to the new popular movements and those parties coalesced around opposition leader Elbaradei. This is what an optimistic reader might judge to be what Obama and Clinton describe as an “orderly transition.”

 

On Monday, 31 January, we saw Naguib Sawiris, perhaps Egypt’s richest businessman and the iconic leader of the developmentalist “nationalist capital” faction in Egypt, joining the protesters and demanding the exit of Mubarak. During the past decade, Sawiris and his allies had become threatened by Mubarak-and-son’s extreme neoliberalism and their favoring of Western, European and Chinese investors over national businessmen. Because their investments overlap with those of the military, these prominent Egyptian businessmen have interests literally embedded in the land, resources and development projects of the nation. They have become exasperated by the corruption of Mubarak’s inner circle.

 

 

Paralleling the return of organized national(ist) capital associated with the military and ranged against the police (a process that also occurred during the struggle with British colonialism in the 1930s-50s) there has been a return of very powerful and vastly organized labor movements, principally among youth. 2009 and 2010 were marked by mass national strikes, nation-wide sit-ins, and visible labor protests often in the same locations that spawned this 2011 uprising. And the rural areas have been rising up against the government’s efforts to evict small farmers from their lands, opposing the regime’s attempts to re-create the vast landowner fiefdoms that defined the countryside during the Ottoman and British Colonial periods. In 2008 we saw the 100,000 strong April 6 Youth Movement emerge, leading a national general strike. And in 2008 and just in December 2010 we saw the first independent public sector unions emerge. Then just on 30 January 2011 clusters of unions from most major industrial towns gathered to form an Independent Trade Union Federation. These movements are organized by new leftist political parties that have no relation to the Muslim Brotherhood, nor are they connected to the past generation of Nasserism. They do not identify against Islam, of course, and do not make an issue of policing the secular-religious divide. Their interest in protecting national manufacturing and agricultural smallholdings, and in demanding public investment in national economic development dovetails with some of the interests of the new nationalist capital alliance.

 

Thus behind the scenes of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Facebook-driven protest waves, there are huge structural and economic forces and institutional realignments at work. Egypt’s population is officially recorded at 81 million; but in reality goes well beyond 100 million since some parents do not register all their children to shield them from serving in the Amn Al-Markazi or army. With the burgeoning youth population now becoming well organized, these social and internet-coordinated movements are becoming very important. They can be grouped into three trends:

— One group of new movements are organized by and around international norms and organizations, and so may tend toward a secular, globalizing set of perspectives and discourses.
— A second group is organized through the very active and assertive legal culture and independent judicial institutions in Egypt. This strong legal culture is certainly not a “Western human rights” import. Lawyers, judges and millions of litigants — men and women, working-class, farmers, and elite — have kept alive the judicial system and have a long unbroken history of resisting authoritarianism and staking rights claims of all sorts.
— A third group of new social movements represents the intersection of internationalist NGOs, judicial-rights groups and the new leftist, feminist, rural and worker social movements. The latter group critiques the universalism of UN and NGO secular discourses, and draws upon the power of Egypt’s legal and labor activism, but also has its own innovative strategies and solutions — many of which have been on prominent display on the streets this week.

 

One final element to examine here is the critical, and often overlooked role that Egypt has played in United Nations and humanitarian organizations, and how this history is coming back to enliven domestic politics and offer legitimacy and leadership at this time. Muhammad ElBaradei, the former director of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency has emerged as the consensus choice of the United Democratic Front in Egypt, which is asking him to serve as interim president, and to preside over a national process of consensus building and constitution drafting. In the 2000s, ElBaradei bravely led the IAEA and was credited with confirming that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Iran was not developing a nuclear weapons program. He won the Nobel Prize for upholding international law against a new wave of wars of aggression and for essentially stopping the momentum for war against Iran. He is no radical and not Egypt’s Gandhi; but he is no pushover or puppet of the US, either. For much of the week, standing at his side at the protests has been Egyptian actor Khaled Abou Naga who has appeared in several Egyptian and US films and who serves as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. This may be much more a UN-humanitarian led revolution than a Muslim Brotherhood uprising. This is a very twenty-first century regime change — utterly local and international simultaneously.

 

It is a good time to remind ourselves that the first-ever United Nations military-humanitarian peacekeeping intervention, the UN Emergency Force, was created with the joint support of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (both military men, of course) in 1960 to keep the peace in Gaza and to stop the former colonial powers and Israel from invading Egypt in order to retake the Suez Canal and resubordinate Egypt. Then in the 1990s, Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Boutros-Ghali articulated new UN doctrines of state-building and militarized humanitarian intervention. But he got fired for making the mistake of insisting that international human rights and humanitarian law needed to be applied neutrally and universally, rather than only at the convenience of the Security Council powers. Yet Egypt’s relationship to the UN continues. Notably, ‘Aida Seif Ad-Dawla, one of the most articulate, brave and creative leaders of the new generation of Egyptian social movements and feminist NGOs, is a candidate for the high office of UN Rapporteur on Torture. Egyptians have a long history for investing in and supporting international law, humanitarian norms and human rights. Egyptian internationalism insists on the equal application of human rights principles and humanitarian laws of war even in the face of superpower pressure. In this context, ElBaradei’s emergence as a leader makes perfect sense. Although this internationalist dimension of Egypt’s “local” uprising is utterly ignored by most self-conscious liberal commentators who assume that international means “the West” and that Egypt’s protesters are driven by the politics of the belly rather than matters of principle.

 

Mubarak is already out of power. The new cabinet is composed of chiefs of Intelligence, Air Force and the prison authority, as well as one International Labor Organization official. This group embodies a hard-core “stability coalition” that will work to bring together the interests of new military, national capital and labor, all the while reassuring the United States. Yes, this is a reshuffling of the cabinet, but one which reflects a very significant change in political direction. But none of it will count as a democratic transition until the vast new coalition of local social movements and internationalist Egyptians break into this circle and insist on setting the terms and agenda for transition.

 

I would bet that even the hard-line leaders of the new cabinet will be unable to resist plugging into the willpower of these popular uprisings, one-hundred million Egyptians strong.

 

Paul Amar - Jadaliyya, 1er février.

 


Publié dans Internationalisme

Commenter cet article