Facebook discussion response re Egypt and “Dual Power”

It is true that what has happened is very far from a complete process. All that has been accomplished in terms of the Egyptian state is the resignation of Mubarak and the suspension of the constitution which was more or less written with the intent to retain Mubarak’s control. The military has been the real seat of power in Egypt since the early 1950s and so far that has not changed.
It is typical during historically significant world events for armchair leftists of many varieties and species to feel disappointed that ‘the revolution’ has not lived up to whatever preconceived expectations or followed a prescribed formulaic path.
What exists in Egypt now is a situation of dual power between masses of participants who forced the regime from power and the military which is promising to supervise a transition to democratic rule but for the present retains administrative power over the state.
It is already clear from the massive size, pluralistic participation, geographic scope and from the involvement of large sectors of the working class in strikes and street demonstrations and from the fact of the strategic importance of the nation of Egypt, that this is one of the great mass revolutionary movements in human history. It is the first great such movement of the 21st century and it is a cause for optimism and celebration.

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News and political commentary from the point of view of the social interests of the international working class.
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3 Responses to Facebook discussion response re Egypt and “Dual Power”

  1. Max M. says:

    The most important thing to keep in mind with this is that the entire situation is in flux. There are no clear directions right now, but there’s no sign that anyone’s going home.

    There is another point here as well, and that is the shift in the relationship of forces. While it is true that the military has been the primary operating force since independence, it has never been put in the position of being compelled to act because of the exercise of mass power. It will scramble to try to preserve the current order in some configuration. I do think that it will even allow an opening in parliamentary democracy, patterning its role on that of the Turkish military to its civil society. There, the military always hangs off to the side, preparing to take over and reset civilian institutions if they do not support the power structure of that country. However, it is clear at the moment that any actions it takes will have to be balanced against the very real power being exercised by a civil society that is in the process of reconfiguring itself, in many areas independently of the official regime.

    Perhaps even more important, though, is the renewed rise of Pan-Arabism. I’ve gone back and forth over the years about the value of regionalist identity, but the resurgence of any movement that seeks to unite people in struggle across national boundaries can’t be anything but positive. While not a perfect internationalist perspective, it does have in it a path of consciousness in that direction.

    Do you think that the two-stage framework of revolution is on the agenda here? Personally, I don’t think I have enough information to really be able to judge what is posed at the moment. There is at least one socialist I know who has gotten off his arm chair and made his way over there. I’m looking forward to reading his latest dispatch, when it arrives.

    If you haven’t already, I’d suggest taking a look at the discussions over on the Kasama website. For the most part, the crowd over there has a fairly good read on the situation, though there are varying degrees of caution and enthusiasm: whatever comes in the next steps, this initial uprising is absolutely necessary to push the struggle of working people there forward, regardless of whether it fits in a tidy framework of anyone’s imagination.

  2. rawlinsview says:

    It seems that Libya will be the first revolution to smash their state apparatus in full. I would not have predicted that even two weeks ago. As for the Kasama website it seems to be to represent some sort of pluralist neo-maoism. I am not on the fence about Mao. I don’t include him in the pantheon of revolutionary leaders, not at all. I do not believe that there is any connection between that political tendency and a way forward for the working class or humanity for that matter in the 21st century.

    I would not pretend to have the evidence to know at what stage the Egyptian Revolution is, but much of what I read seems to be primarily missing the difference between what is happening today and the formulas by which many of us operated in yesteryear.

    The quote on my facebook page is from What is to Be Done. I am not ready to trim Lenin’s beard, but there has been over a century since the publication of that very fundamental work. There has been a long time in general since a revolution has been made at the scale of Egypt. The last one was in Iran. The failure to develop a revolutionary leadership in Iran was not for lack of “marxist-leninists” wishing to do so but from a lack of strength and development of the Iranian working class, an immature condition as regards the national question in the sense that the Kurdish national movment remains unsuccessful, the still preponderant power of Stalinism in the region at that time, and the relative isolation and effective political void in which revolutionary workers in Iran found themselves.
    The conditions in Egypt are much more positive despite the fact that the state apparatus and military force of Egypt remain in the hands of the Oppressors.
    Today there is no more censorship, and what has been shown in Bahrain and now spectacularly in Libya is that the use of violent force is perhaps a greater liability than asset in the present world when the conditions are such as these.
    There can be no more hidden dirty wars. Everything is publicized.
    Knowlege and information can be distributed with great speed to great numbers of people
    In this sense there already exists a dual power in Egypt because the mobilized masses are capable of acting in the way that the Petrograd and Moscow soviets did in 1917 without requiring the same level of formal organization. The democracy in Egypt exists as a defacto result of the massive mobilization of broad layers of the working class and their extraordinary ability to communicate with each other and react with force rapidly. We saw this as the protesters in Tahrir relatively easily repelled the violent attack of provcateurs and outmaneuvered the military’s attempt to block the expansion of their occupation of Cairo.
    As it was before the October Revolution the question of power in egypt is unresolved. Its resolution will require the emergence of a very capable leadership who’s ear, and twittter feed, is well tuned to the street.
    Pardon the poor editing I am worn out.

    • Max M. says:

      On violence and the current uprisings: it’s important to view this in a strategic framework. There is a general myth that violent insurrection is a feature of revolutionary takeovers. The experience in much of the colonial world has involved the use of armed force, but the decisive factor has been the paralysis of the economic and military structures as they collapse under the weight of mass disobedience, including within the military. This is what we see at work in the Middle East now. The place of communications and networking technologies is an interesting facet of this to examine (not only for its implications in the spontaneous mass organization of these uprisings, but also because it’s partly how I make my living), and will bear further examination and analysis.

      However, I think an even bigger lesson out of this is the place of yesterday’s revolutionary theoretical frameworks. At this conjuncture, all labels and schemas from past eras and struggles are of little use as whole cloth, either in analyzing what’s happening or in charting what’s next. Just as we can’t look at these things in terms of what we wish they were, we can’t ignore the development of the revolutionary situation or situations because they aren’t what we expect to see. Many reports indicated that when the security apparatus fell apart in Cairo, that communities began to organize themselves spontaneously. In the space that opened, independent mass organizations began to coalesce and make themselves known. Of course, this is not to say that the core of these never existed, as many sectarians, like The Militant, imply or state outright. What will remain to be seen, though, is how these formations will evolve as the situation progresses.

      To come to grips with this, it will be important to engage various others who also look to this, in a constructive and critical manner. I wouldn’t so quickly dismiss the perspectives of those whose historical frameworks I don’t share. For instance, I have an appreciation of Mao that is closer to yours than that of most of Kasama’s writers and readers. However, set aside the label and examine what it is specifically that is being discussed, and we find some very important areas of convergence and counterpoint to evaluate our own understanding. I’ve been following developments in Nepal, for example, and find that regardless of the Maoist label of those spearheading the revolution there, there is much in their program I have to accept as truly progressive. Besides, as badly as those of the various Stalinist lines in the Middle East have fared, I can’t say any other revolutionary tendency has done much better. This is, as you say, a result of the nature of the working classes of those parts of the world. However, this does mean that we have to evaluate the programs that arise in those areas based on the conditions that do exist, instead of what we wish would arise there.

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