Monday, December 31, 2012

Revolution’s Cost

He told me to get off at the last kiosk on the highway that connects East with West Cairo. After the driver dropped me off, there was no one to be seen in the area. I walked down the concrete stairs by the side of the road. The stairs led me into the pit of this neighborhood named after a village that never was. There was Mahmoud, sitting in a coffee shop only meters away. He told me he had stood by the road for some time waiting for me but then had gotten cold and came down below. We walked together to his home, but slowly, because Mahmoud limped, and I wondered if he had ever made it up those makeshift steps or if he had merely said so out of politeness.

By the time we were finished with our interview I saw pain in his eyes. Earlier in the evening he had told me that he took painkillers, the effect of which lasted for two days, making it bearable for him to walk and work. Mahmoud works as a day laborer, a construction worker. Living meters away from the highway that leads past old Cairo and into the vast frontiers of the constant construction of "New" Cairo places him in the perfect location as a builder. But that is where his stroke of luck ends. His son Ahmed disappeared one year ago on the very day of my visit. During the course of the interview, Mahmoud told me that Ahmed limped the same way that he does.

I can only imagine the day Ahmed joined the battle against Central Security Forces and army soldiers who killed him that day outside the cabinet office on 17 December 2011. Ahmed had just returned to Cairo after losing his job in Alexandria two days earlier, like so many others. Egypt's economy, increasingly dependent on foreign pleasure seekers, had taken a hard hit as the number of travelers dropped greatly. The people who oiled the tourism machine stayed home penniless. Ahmed went to the front lines near Tahrir Square in demand of a future. I imagine that his lack of familiarity with the space and the conditions of the battle lines put him at a disadvantage in the face of his armed, trained attackers. Ahmed tried to escape the unannounced onslaught, struggling with his cursed leg. The boy was not fast enough, and was shot, captured, beaten, tortured, and finally murdered. His captors threw his lifeless body into the Nile. Ahmed carried no form of identification that day and was added to the list of disappeared—those eaten by the revolution. But his parents sought after him until—through the maze of paperwork, lies, and legal dead ends—they found him. The clothes he was wearing that day in a plastic bag allowed them to identify his bloated, charred body.

Ahmed is one of the many martyrs who remain unnamed—Ahmed Mahmoud Mohamed Bekheit. The opposition of such a frail person against a mighty state apparatus is at the soul of this revolution—people against a system that is meant to represent us, decide the best for us, provide for our welfare, and yet does the exact opposite wherever possible.

Ahmed's motives and desires like so many fighters remain unspoken—this one will forever hold his silence. With all the honesty I can muster, I write these feeble words, which he may have uttered but was never given a chance to.

A Paper that Buries a Murder

When Ahmed's bereaved parents finally found their son's body they were shocked. Mahmoud went to the deputy public prosecutor and lost all sense of control. “I cannot burry my son like this,” he said. He had just seen Ahmed's body after thirty-six days of searching. This was not the body of a person who had drowned, as the officials at the morgue had told him. Mahmoud's son was murdered. The bureaucrat told him to just burry his son because for seventeen days he had been "tortured." He did not imply that for the past seventeen days he had been tortured under police custody, but rather used the Arabic expression evoking the idea that his son's soul would remain tormented until receiving religious burial. The pretext of religious ritual would pave the way to clearing the members of the state apparatus of the crimes they had committed. The bureaucrat told Mahmoud to put his son at ease by burying his scorched and broken body and place his trust in the document that would prove the cause of his son's death: the forensics report. One year later that document has still not appeared and the records of Ahmed's body arriving at the police station on 22 December 2011 have disappeared, much like Ahmed did for those three weeks—criminally hidden from those who deserve to know.

Ahmed's eleven-year-old brother Islam is the last member of his family to have seen him alive. On the morning of his murder Ahmed had said he was leaving to run an errand. He was well dressed, and told his little brother he would go alone. Islam looked into the lens and told the world, "no matter what, I will not rest until those who did this to my brother and to all the other martyrs are brought to justice. Until I am older, bear this in mind." This revolution has shown a tendency to create new revolutionaries in the place of every fallen martyr.

These reflections on a video I filmed are only but an excerpt of the many details that are lost among the startling images captured and the breaking news written for immediate public consumption. These thoughts are an attempt to raise a matter of no triviality and that escapes the meta-narratives of revolution: the cost. Today the Muslim Brothers are attempting to build their hegemony of control. As this new political elite tries to erect its own empire of financial gain—justified by the "economic crisis" in a period of "instability”—this priceless cost that people pay is washed over in the process.

It is the risk of martyrdom that is at the heart of revolution. And it is the risk of martyrdom that is entailed in opposing a system of control. The names of Mina Danial, Sheikh Emad Effat and Jika may carry this revolution's loudest echo, but there are thousands others, recorded and unrecorded, who have borne this same cost.

It is the most powerful gift one can give—in Ahmed's case, as so often, without articulated intent. This is yet again, the cost of fighting for a freedom from the suppression performed today by the very men claiming to act in the name of the revolution, yet another set of criminals killing in the name of the state.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Excerpt from Egypt's "New" Constitution

This is the government's presentation on how Egypt's proposed constitution will affect the rights of workers: This sounds great, but here is how it is full of lies and deception: featuring:
Fatma Ramadan, the Vice President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions 
Ahmad Sayed Al-Naggar, economist at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies

In response to a government-sponsored campaign to promote the draft constitution currently under consideration in a national referendum, Fatma Ramadan, the Vice President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Ahmad Sayed Al-Naggar, economist at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, talk about what this document could mean for Egyptian workers.

Al-Naggar and Ramadan argue that the government campaign’s assertion that the draft constitution, if passed, would protect the social and economic rights of Egyptian workers is misleading. The new constitution does not set a minimum wage, but rather ties wages to productivity, which means that wages would be sensitive to shifts in market prices of production goods.

In reality, this means that if production were brought to a halt for any reason, workers would bear the costs in the form of diminished wages. For example, under this constitution, if trains were to stop working, owners of a factory could leave their workers without pay. While the draft constitutions stipulates a “maximum wage” per long-standing, widespread demands in Egypt, it only does so in the public sector, and provides a clause that allows the state to issue exemptions. This means that a maximum wage will be effectively nonexistent.

 While the document guarantees healthcare for “the poor,” it grants the state the discretion to define who constitutes “the poor,” which could deprive vast portions of low-income households from the right to healthcare. The wording of the draft constitution, they argue, force members of underprivileged communities to obtain a humiliating “certificate of poverty” from the state in order to receive treatment. The draft constitution stipulates that unions can be dissolved if they break the law. In practice, this means the state could criminalize entire unions for violations committed by individual members.

 To watch more videos in this series click here

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Images & Video from the Brotherhood's attack on the anti-Morsy sit-in by presidential palace

To clarify: I was not at the presidential palace while this happened, I followed this online, gathered images and links primarily from friends and people i know there and now am on my way to join the re-grouping at Roxy square near the presidential palace. Join us. Egyptian Vice President makes an announcement on air that gives Brotherhood members the green light to violently disperse peaceful sit-in at the presidential palace. One approaching Brotherhood march:
Some people trying to calm the situation as verbal attack begins:
After an initial small attack from the side of the Brotherhood, the situation calms:
Shortly thereafter the situation This is a man on the side of the protests hit by a rock by Muslim Brotherhood ranks:
In this video the Brotherhood attackers are doing exactly what we have become accustomed to soldiers doing when they attack Tahrir square sit-ins: destroying everything in site and then removing it from the scene, as if nothing had ever happened: The Brotherhood celebrate after destroying the anti-Morsy sit-in, lighting tents on fire, beating up protesters, stealing and breaking cameras:
Muslim Brotherhood march steal the sit-ins stock of food:
This sign on a Brotherhood truck reads: "Our strength is in our unity, Yes to the constitution of stability."
Is this the stability they are talking about? Forcefully attacking a peaceful sit-in with stones and sticks, burning tents and targetting especially journalists and cameras? The new occupiers outside the presidential palace walls then started wiping away the graffiti of the opposition:
The Brotherhood have one clear message: there is only room for the Brotherhood and not for anyone else and their opinions. While all this is taking place the Egyptian Vice President on Television speaks of engaging in "dialogue" regarding aspects of the constitution that opposition forces are in disagreement about. In such an environment of dictatorship "dialogue" is not a possibility. A peaceful march and sit-in entail "dialogue", its attack and destruction do not. We marched yesterday on the presidential palace because a new dictatorship is in the making, Morsy and the party he represents are repeating the very logic of governance that have ruled this country under the presidency of Sadat and Mubarak. We marched to put an end to that. We demand that this country be for all its residence, not just those in power no matter whether they are religious or military generals or whoever they may be. Join us.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A View of North Africa from South America

A View of North Africa from South America: a conversation with Raúl Zibechi via the Johannesburg Workshop on Theory and Criticism Cairo, 2011, murals Flickr: Mejuan Cristina Cielo (Sawyer Seminar Series, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) Popular uprisings in the Middle East over the last months have transformed the political landscapes and possibilities of the region's diverse nations. The hope engendered by the successful mobilizations against the Tunisian and Egyptian governments has darkened as reports emerge of the repression and violence that meet continuing protests in other parts of the region. Uruguayan intellectual and journalist Raúl Zibechi gives us a South American perspective of the momentous changes taking place in North Africa. Raúl Zibechi is one of the foremost political theorists writing on and working with social movements in Latin America. His work combines acute, generative and ethical analyses of socio-political developments in Latin America with collaborative efforts to support grassroots transformation in the region. He is international section editor of the acclaimed Uruguayan weekly Brecha, a lecturer and researcher with the Multiversidad Fransiscana de América Latina and a regular contributor to the Americas Policy Program and to La Jornada in Mexico. His recent books include Dispersing Power (2006, English translation 2010) and Territorios en Resistencia (2008). In order to contextualize the following interview with Zibechi in his wider body of work, our conversation begins, pauses midway and ends with selected translations from some of his essays previously available only in Spanish. The interview was conducted in July 2011 in Spanish. As we seek to stimulate dialogue between analysts in Africa and in Latin America, we also offer a Spanish version of this article. Comments are most welcome and selected comments will be translated between languages. From "The Revolutions of Ordinary People" (First published in La Jornada on 3 June 2011. Translation of the entire article available here.) The inherited and still hegemonic conception of revolution must be revised, and in fact is being revised by current events. Revolution as exclusively focused on the capture of state power is being replaced by another concept of revolution, more complex and integral, which does not exclude a state-centered strategy but supersedes and goes beyond it. In any case, the conquest of state power is a bend in a far longer trajectory, one which seeks something that cannot be achieved from within state institutions: to create a new world. Traditional politics - anchored in forms of representation that replace collective subjects with managerial professionals, professionals of deception - are of little use in the creation of a new world. Instead, a new world that is different from the current one implies rehearsing and experimenting with horizontal social relations, in sovereign, self-controlled and autonomous spaces, in which no one imposes on or directs the collective. a new world that is different from the current one ... in which no one imposes on or directs the collective [To understand that spaces are] "spontaneous in a profound sense" ... we must acknowledge that there is not one single instrumental and state-centered rationality. Rather, each subject has his or her own rationality, and we can all be subjects when we say "Enough already!" It is a matter, then, of understanding alternative rationalities, a process that can only take place from within and in movement, starting from the immanent logic emerging from the collective acts of subjects from below. It is thus not a matter of interpreting, but of participating. Beyond their diverse circumstances, the Tahrir Square and Puerta del Sol movements in Cairo and in Madrid, form part of the genealogy of "All of them must go!" declared in the 2001 Argentinian revolt, the 2000 Cochabamba Water War, the 2003 and 2005 Bolivian Gas Wars and the 2006 Oaxaca commune, to mention only the urban cases. These movements all share two characteristics: the curbing of those in power and the opening of spaces for direct democracy and collective participation without representatives. These movements all share two characteristics: the curbing of those in power and the opening of spaces for direct democracy and collective participation without representatives. Cristina Cielo: Is such a concept of revolution based on horizontal relations similar to Hardt and Negri's concept of the multitude? What is the difference between their multitude and your idea of dispersed power? Raúl Zibechi: Hardt and Negri's multitude is linked to post-Fordism and to non-material work in cognitive capitalism. This mode of production is still in the minority in Latin America and I believe in the Arab world as well. So while it is interesting, their idea of multitude cannot be employed to understand what is happening here. My take on the collective is quite different. We live in societies that are "variegated", an interesting concept developed by the Bolivian René Zavaleta Mercado to describe social relations in his country. These are societies in which many different types of traditional and modern social relations co-exist, as do formal and informal modes of work, ways of life, and a long etcetera, all of which assumes a superpositioning of links defined by competition, cooperation, reciprocity, solidarity. The best example of this is the Andean market, or the urban market in the peripheries of cities like Buenos Aires. These are spaces in which many families live together in a small area, with various businesses that combine production and sales in different fields, with diverse modes of employment - familial, salaried, in kind, commissioned - that is, a "variegated" mode that implies diverse and complex social relations that are interwoven and combined. In this way, if one of these relationships is modified, the rest are as well .... My proposal of "dispersing power" is rooted in communities in movement, non-formal communities, which, once set into motion, can disperse state power. How? Simply because they are composed of mobile powers, rotational, as in the Andean Aymaran and Quechuan communities, found also in Mayan and many other communities as well .... There are, then, two issues. One is the internal power of communities, that in some cases may be more vertical; the other is how communities confront the State. They cannot confront it frontally, because they are annihilated. They surround it, embrace it, paralyze it, penetrate it subtly. That is what we saw in Tahrir when protesters slept under tanks, when women approached soldiers. Translator's note: Positions of authority in traditional Andean communities (as well as in peri urban areas with migrants from these communities) are assigned to community members on a rotational basis. Cristina Cielo: The press has emphasized the role of women and of youth in the Arab mobilizations. Is this also a characteristic of Latin American mobilizations? Raúl Zibechi: There has been a brutal destructuring of the family in Latin America. Families have broken up, mothers are left with children without fathers, because adult men are the hardest hit by neoliberal structural adjustments. In working-class neighborhoods, there are two generations of children without parents, children almost alone .... Sometimes mothers can barely cope with caring for their children, finding support only in the grandmothers. It is very common to see families where the mother has five or six children, each by different and now absent fathers. These mothers and their children are among the first to turn to urban mobilizations of the unemployed, because there they find a space of social safeguards, of support that is both material and affective. The youth also turn to mobilizations because they find in them a sense of belonging, they fit in, they are respected. The same reasons that families turn to the pentecostal churches are often the same exact reasons that they might join popular mobilizations. What I mean is that there is a need .... The alternatives seem to be the church or the movements. I've read that in some Arab countries the mosque may play this role. The point is that among the poor and vulnerable, many are women and youth. Cristina Cielo: Reports on Tunisia and Egypt's uprisings emphasized the use of Facebook, Twitter and the internet as media for the horizontal organization of the protests. Your own work has focused on the territorial character of Latin American social movements. What are the implications of the differences between the virtual spaces of Arab mobilizations and the physical territories of the Latin American movements? Raúl Zibechi: I don't believe in virtual spaces, spaces are always material as well as symbolic. It's another matter to speak of virtual media of communication among people in movement. Not knowing the reality in the Middle East, I can tell you what I see in Latin America, and from that point perhaps some points of comparison can be established. The territories of movements are those spaces that were created by collectives, particularly in cities, but of course also in rural areas. Over the last 50 years, urban popular sectors have appropriated peripheral lands, they have collectively occupied it and built homes, schools and social and health centers. The main actors have been peasants emigrating to cities and the unemployed who lived in formal urban areas but left these areas once they lost their jobs and were unable to continue paying rent. It's something like the urban "landless," who have sometimes occupied urban land individually and other times have carried out collective settlements that involved violent conflicts with the police. At this point, I would like to differentiate between spaces and territories. Spaces are, for example, the premises used by a union or a cultural association. Movements can meet in these spaces for long periods, and sometimes quite often, as do counter-cultural youth groups. These are spaces that are occupied for limited amounts of time, even though some call these territories as well. For me, territories are those places in which life is lived in an integral sense, they are settlements, as we say in Latin America. These have existed for a long time in rural areas: indigenous communities or settlements of Brazil's Landless Movement, ancestral lands or lands recuperated in the struggle. What was new in the 1970s onward was the proliferation of urban land occupations. In some cities, more that 70% of urban land, and therefore of households, are illegal yet legitimate occupations. In some cases, this marks the beginning of another type of social organization, in which semi-craftwork production - including urban gardens - is combined with popular markets and informal modes of distribution. In the decisive moments of struggles against the State or at times of profound crisis, these territories become "resistor territories," that is, spaces that are in some senses liberated from state power and from which challenges to the system may be launched. Cristina Cielo: What is the importance of urban spaces in popular mobilizations in both regions? Raúl Zibechi: There is a double use of spaces. One is the daily spaces of the neighborhoods, the markets, all the spaces of daily socialization. The other is the space of protest, the mega-space such as Tahrir Square in Cairo or the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. These spaces are occupied for a time, sometimes for longer periods such as the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, but they are not permanent spaces in which people live their daily lives, because they have to go to work, go home to sleep, etc. It seems to me necessary to make this distinction and at the same time to establish links between both kinds of urban spaces. I agree with James Scott's point that people tend to "rehearse" their public actions in spaces that are distant from power, spaces that they can control and in which they feel secure. In contemporary cities, those spaces are the markets, the churches or mosques, social or cultural clubs, youth gangs. Sometimes universities or high schools can play those roles. It seems to me important to understand what is happening in those spaces, because it is from there that people come out to take Tahrir Square. It is in those spaces that powerful rebellions are spun, that is why they are so important. And, of course, the family. The changes in family, the role of women, of children, the number of children, all of these are indications of what is to come. I don't believe that great popular uprisings can take place without some shift in the role of patriarchy in the home. From "This is No Time to be Given to Distraction" (First published in La Jornada, 25 February 2011. Translation of the entire article available here.) With the Arab revolts, the global systemic crisis enters a new phase, more unpredictable and increasingly beyond control. Until now, the main actors have been the financial oligarchs, the powerful multinationals and the leading governments, particularly the United States and China, followed at some distance by institutions such as the G-20. Now, as popular sectors around the world - particularly the mobilized populace of the Middle East - enter the scene, a momentous shift has taken place. It implies a deepening and speeding up of the global transformations taking place .... Sousse, Hősök / Heroes 2 Flickr: Deanka The activation of popular sectors modifies our analytic axes, and above all, imposes ethical choices. The scenarios of inter-state relations will increasingly collide with the scenarios of emancipatory struggles. Concretely: popular struggles for freedom may bring down governments and regimes that seemed poised against imperialism and the unipolar world headed by the United States and Western multinationals. When popular revolts threaten governments that are friendly to the West, as in the case of Egypt, wide fronts against tyranny are formed by the most diverse lefts. But when those same revolts take aim at tyrannies that are more or less anti-US, that front is fractured and calculations of convenience emerge. Such is the case with Libya .... We are entering into a period of systemic chaos that at some moment will shed light on a new order, perhaps better, perhaps worse than the capitalist order. That system was born with the demographic catastrophe of the Black Plague, which killed a third of the European population over the span of a few years. It will not surrender on tiptoes and with fine manners, but rather in the midst of chaos and barbarity, as with Gaddafi's regime. From "The Arab Revolts and Strategic Thinking" (First published in America Latina en movimiento, 4 February 2011. Translation of the entire article available here.) It is a matter of understanding the lines of force, the relations of power, the strong and weak points in international relations understood as a system. It is like understanding that the bricks in a wall are what sustains the structure; if these bricks are removed or affected, the whole building - despite its appearance of stability - may tumble .... To say we are traversing a systemic crisis, however, is not to say that the capitalist system is in a terminal crisis. The point, rather, is that the international system will not continue to function as it has since its last great re-structuring, which took place more or less in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. While systemic analyses do not pretend to specify exact dates for such profound changes, they do indicate stages characterized by important tendencies. For example: the crisis of U.S. hegemony. [Some of these systemic shifts include] not only the decline of U.S. power, but also the growth of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China, to which South Africa has now been added). Turkey's geopolitical shifts have also been noted, as it has slowly abandoned Washington's sphere of influence. But the Arab revolts constitute a pronounced turn of the screw. Cristina Cielo: Why does the coverage and analyses of events in the Middle East portray these as ‘revolts', ‘rebellions' or ‘uprisings' rather than as social movements, as popular mobilizations in Latin America tend to be portrayed? Raúl Zibechi: Social movement is a Eurocentric concept that has been useful in describing what happens in homogeneous societies that revolve around the capitalist market, in which there is one basic form of social relations. In Latin America, the concept has and is used by academic intellectuals whose perspective is external to popular sector organization. If they were on the inside, they would see that in fact there are two societies: the official one, of the upper and middle-upper classes, and the other society, the informal one, of use values and of the popular sectors. When I say that there are two societies, I mean to say that each of these is shaped by different types of social relations, and as such, by diverse relationships of power. That is why when the alternative, popular society sets itself into action, it makes more sense to speak of societies in movement, or alternative societies in movement, rather than of social movements. The difference is critical. In any case, I suspect that in the Arab case the international media has not spoken of social movements because of issues of racism, of colonialism, as if it takes some level of modernity - which they don't consider the Middle Eastern people to have achieved - to have a so-called civil society, which is also a Eurocentric construction. I prefer to speak, along with Partha Chaterjee, of political society, because it is only by doing politics that it can exist. Cristina Cielo: If socio-political transformations in both regions point to a global systemic crisis, how do particular events in one region influence the processes or possibilities in other regions? That is, are there ways in which such diverse and disperse forces can transform each other, or transform into something else? Raúl Zibechi: Fundamental processes and situational junctures respond to different logics and views. There is no mechanical relation between the two, rather we must focus our attention on the longer processes, and insert events into those, as Braudel taught us. The fundamental tendency is: a crisis of the center-periphery relationship, a crisis of U.S. domination and of the unipolar world, and now, also, a crisis in Western hegemony. In this transition, which has been taking place over the last four decades, we must insert current processes. What I mean to say is that the Arab and Latin American revolts disrupt previous equilibriums, or better said, they accelerate the processes of the crises of older structures. And when there are cracks in the imperial Occidental construction, emergent tendencies are strengthened: for example, China, India, Brazil. At the same time, we can register changes in micro structures such as the family, school, health system, the city itself, that is, in spaces of discipline that are undergoing very powerful transformations. Macro and micro transformations must be jointly examined, included within the same description. If we do that, we see a world in movement, one that enters into situations of systemic chaos at particular moments, such as the present one. We do not know what will come, but we are sure that it will be very different. All the cards say: Asia, multipolarity, emergent nations. I hope that some of the cards also say emancipation, but nothing is certain. the Arab and Latin American revolts disrupt previous equilibriums ... they accelerate the processes of the crises of older structures From "Everything Solid Melts into the Street" (First published in America Latina en movimiento, 15 February 2011. Translation of the entire article available here.) The people in the street are a spanner in the works in the accumulation of capital, which is why one of the first "measures" taken by the military after Mubarak left was to demand that citizens abandon the street and return to work. But if those in power cannot co-exist with the streets and occupied squares, those below - who have learned to topple Pharaohs - have not yet learned how to jam the flows and movements of capital. Something much more complex is needed than blocking tanks or dispersing anti-riot police. In contrast to state apparatuses, capital flows without territory, so it is impossible to pin down and confront. Still further: it traverses us, it models our bodies and behaviors, it is part of our everyday lives and, as Foucault pointed out, it shares our beds and our dreams. Although there is an outside to the State and its institutions, it is difficult to imagine an outside to capital. Neither barricades nor revolts will suffice to fight it. Despite these limitations, the hunger revolts that became anti-authoritarian revolts are a depth charge to the most important equilibriums of the world system. These will not remain unscathed by the destabilization in the Middle East. The progressive Israeli press was right in noting that what is least needed in the region is some kind of stability. In Gideon Levy's words, reported in Haaretz on 10 February 2011, "stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies .... Maintaining Middle East stability means perpetuating the intolerable situation by which some 2.5 million Palestinians exist without any rights under the heel of Israeli rule".... the hunger revolts that became anti-authoritarian revolts are a depth charge to the most important equilibriums of the world system We are entering into a period of uncertainty and increasing disorder. In South America, the emergent power of Brazil has assembled a regional architecture as an alternative to the one that has begun to collapse. The Union of South American Nations is a good indicator of this. Everything suggests, however, that things will be far more complicated in the Middle East, given the enormous political and social polarization in the region, the ferocious interstate competition and because both the United States and Israel believe that their future depends on sustaining realities that can in fact no longer be propped up. The Middle East brings together some of the most brutal contradictions of the contemporary world. Firstly, there are determined efforts to sustain an outdated unilateralism. Secondly, it is the region where the principal tendency of the contemporary world is most visible: the brutal concentration of power and wealth. Never before in the history of humanity has just one nation, the United States, expended as much in military spending as the rest of the world combined. And it is in the Middle East where that armed power exercises all supreme force to buttress the world-system. What's more: a small state of some seven million inhabitants has twice as many nuclear weapons as China, the second world power. It is possible that the Arab revolts may open a fissure in the colossal concentration of power that has been manifest in the region since the Second World War. Only time will tell if what is brewing is a tsunami so powerful that not even the Pentagon will be able to surf its waves. But we mustn't forget that tsunamis make no distinctions: they sweep up rights and lefts, the just and the sinners, the rebels and the conservatives. Nevertheless, they are in many ways similar to revolutions: they leave nothing in their place and they provoke enormous suffering before things return to some kind of normalcy, better perhaps than before, or maybe just less bad. For the complete texts in English of Raúl Zibechi's essays that are extracted above, click here For more perspectives from Africa on African uprising in 2011 click here. You can search for each of the articles collected in this book on the pambazuka site individually.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pre-election Egypt and Greece

Today and tomorrow Egypt holds its presidential elections, tomorrow the Greeks will begin their parliamentary elections. The conditions in the public facilities in the Nile Delta and Athens portrayed here are unlikely to change in either location. Political representatives are not for people.

This is a video of a friend of mine Aris from Athens about the condition of the health care system in a large public hospital in Athens:   

This is a video Jasmina Metwaly and I filmed in March during a sit-in of the water company in Mansoura in the Egyptian Delta.

These situations are not that different.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The EBRD is a bank that has nothing to do with development and everything to do with colonialism

Here some important words about the work of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development: While structural adjustment and market liberalisation were hugely beneficial for foreign corporations and wealthy Egyptians (in 2008 Egypt was named the top reformer in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey), it devastated Egypt's economy and induced outrageous social symptoms. The phenomenon of street children, for instance, began during the Mubarak era - children living on the streets, working at shining shoes, collecting garbage, begging, cleaning, parking cars, selling food, and highly vulnerable to being forced into a string of illicit activities. Western development banks are now lining up to re-enter Egypt or in the case of the EBRD, to enter Egypt and other north African countries in a highly ambitious extension of its founding mandate that saw it focusing purely on the central and eastern European states since its founding in 1991. An EBRD Technical Assessment, made public earlier this year, identifies the following operational themes to 'guide a potential engagement by the bank in Egypt': ... It's certainly easier to claim, as the bank's president Thomas Mirow regularly does, that parallels between post '89 central and eastern Europe and the Arab Spring leave the EBRD very well placed to intervene now in a different continent. Yet are there so many close parallels? ... the post-revolution mass privatisation drive that took place in eastern Europe has recently been strongly criticised by sociologists from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University. Their study - “Mass Privatization, State Capacity, and Economic Growth in Post-Communist Countries” - published in April this year claims to be the first to trace a “direct link” between the mass privatisation programs of the early 1990s and the “economic failure and corruption that followed.” ... Lawrence King, one of the study authors, commented on its release: “Rapid and extensive privatization is being promoted by some economists to resolve the current debt crisis in the West and to achieve reform in Middle Eastern and North African economies. This paper shows the most radical privatization in history failed the countries it was meant to help.” This text by Laila Iskander goes on here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

State crime and street crime: Two sides of one coin

The revolutionary process that erupted in this country on January 25, 2011, is an uprising against crime. This crime was structural and legalised - made legal by the political leadership of Egypt and their friends and business partners that practice it. Various criminal forces - the police, the secret police, the state security - exist in large part to protect these criminals' interests, with authority to enforce the ruling classes' "law" without judicial liability. Read the rest of my most recent article on Aljazeera

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sealing the gates- Another massacre of the Egyptian people

I am always afraid to travel outside of Cairo these days because I don't want to be gone. I left for five days to screen two films at the Rotterdam film festival and once again the military junta organized a massacre in Egypt. This time in revenge against the Ultras football movement- clearly for the vital role they have and continue to play in the protests since January 25.

Leading up to the game the security did not search entering fans, eventually they stopped checking for tickets. After the match someone turned off the lights, someone sealed the gates to the ahly ultras in the stadium and a massacre followed. Security forces stood by far from the stadium and did nothing.

Here the marks:

no translation needed

In this interview two of the players of Al-Masry team- whose fans are said to have carried out the attack- confirm the massacre was organized by Egyptian security forces.

Here another video with the citizens of Port Said:

Here a detailed explanation of how the massacre was pre meditated (no subtitles yet):

We fight on.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In Egypt "Democratic" Elections are undermining protests for change

here an excerpt from my most recent article


There is more at stake than just these violations or the extent to which these elections have been free and fair. Permeating the 2011-2012 elections is a much broader and more significant matter that is not unique to Egypt, namely how these elections and the discourse of democracy that they have generated are being used to undermine the struggle for revolutionary change.


read on