Thursday, July 4, 2013

Where there is violence against one, there is violence against all

From the Guardian's live coverage of the developments in Egypt comes one rather unsettling number: 101. That is number of recorded sexual assaults against women in Tahrir Square from June 28 - July 3. The statement by Nazra for Feminist Studies is well-worth repeating:

The undersigned organizations and groups believe that the strategy of using sexual assault to "stigmatize" women demonstrators opposing Mohammed Morsi is irresponsible and will not contribute to eradicating rape and sexual assault. Sexual violence has become a stable feature of the streets of Egypt, and not necessarily associated with large crowded demonstrations. The approach adopted by the Egyptian authorities only contributes to the aggravation of the problem.

During the Morsi regime, the use of "virginity tests" as a means of torturing and humiliating women dissidents was apparently a mainstay. Given that this was done by the very military now taking what we hope is only temporary control of the country is equally unsettling, and I can find the suspicions and unease that might characterize the responses from secular leftists in Egypt to be quite rational. As a socialist, I would find that any revolutionary government or organization that perpetrates and excuses sexual assault to be fundamentally at odds with Marxian principles, and entirely unworthy of continued support. The struggle to eliminate all organizational and structural violence has merely begun.

Update: Please read Epidemic of Sexual Violence

In solidarity with Edward Snowden

As my pseudonymous reply to The Dream Cafe's request (h/t it's all one thing):
"I’ve been asked by David Walsh, arts editor of the World Socialist Web Site, to make a brief statement in support of Edward Snowden for publication on that site.  ...   I am now asking any writers, editors, artists, and academics reading this to do the same. If you want to join me in this, send your statement to walsh at wsws dot org.
I wish to state the following:

Although it is highly likely that Edward Snowden and I would not share much in common ideologically, we do share one thing in common. Namely, a disdain for the US government's (and its corporate sponsors') abuse of its considerable power in the name of squashing all manner of political discourse and activity that does not into its rather narrow neoliberal orthodoxy, and to do so against both American citizens and to vast swaths of humanity under a veil of secrecy, and in the name of allegedly defending "freedom." 

Snowden, like other whistle-blowers before him, will undoubtedly exact a terrible price for his actions - a price which he as only begun to experience. He has, however, provided a valuable service to all of us by cluing us in to what sort of spying the US government, and the private entities to which it subcontracts, conducts against all of us around the globe on a daily basis. The US government must answer for its actions. It won't of course unless coerced.

For those of us who lived in the shadow of the bad old days of COINTELPRO and the Cold War national insecurity apparatus, Snowden has sent a reminder that the situation has merely grown worse. I know the US is putting considerable pressure on the leaders of the international community to isolate Snowden for its own nefarious purposes. If left to the current administration, there is little doubt that Snowden would be black-bagged, tortured, and sent to the deepest, darkest hole in some for-profit super-max gulag to suffer for what remains of his life. My hope is that he will be provided asylum and afforded a space to share with the world what the world needs to know - now more than ever.

This seems pretty accurate

Morsi and his supporters have argued that his overthrow was a violation of the legitimacy of the ballot box. In his last speech as president, Morsi repeated the word legitimacy over and over again. What he did not realise, however, was that the legitimacy of a ruler springs from popular consent. Falling back on the legitimacy of the ballot box is not much different from the husband who rapes his wife but insists that she is compelled by the legality of the marriage contract to accept his abuse.

Morsi and his Brotherhood have been wrecking Egypt for a whole year, and are now screaming blue murder because they are not allowed to continue to do so with impunity.
-- Amira Nowaira

Say Hello To

Red Sociology

Be the change you want to see in the world?

For starters, be willing to combat pessimistic resignation to an endless capitalist future - as Jodi Dean notes, not all of the left is willing to let go of the negativity.

It also means avoiding the lure of prefigurative politics, which perhaps does indeed have an air of escapism to it.

Just a few thoughts that have periodically occurred to me that have been  expressed quite eloquently by others.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Change you can believe in, right?

From the eve of Morsi's ouster

Today, Sunday 30 June, comes as the third thunderous wave of the great January Revolution. Then millions of Egyptians came out demanding bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity in order to overthrow the regime of tyranny and exploitation.

Thousands of martyrs and wounded paid a price in blood for the victory of the revolution which threw down the head of the regime and his cronies.

After a year of rule by the Muslim Brotherhood, we find they have chosen to walk the same path: they are against the people and with the bosses.

They have substituted Muslim Brotherhood billionaire Khairat al-Shater for the old regime's business leader Ahmed Ezz and are seeking reconciliation with those who have pillaged Egypt for 30 years.

We have seen them go begging to the International Monetary Fund and the countries of the world. We have heard the lies of the Brotherhood's “Renaissance Project” electoral programme and seen them fall into the arms of the US and “our friend” Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Dozens of martyrs and injured have fallen at the hands of the Brotherhood. This is a failed regime, headed by a lying president who even breaks promises to his Salafist allies.

The people have decreed the downfall of this failed regime. They have withdrawn their confidence because it has betrayed the goals of the revolution, working instead for the benefit of the Brotherhood itself.

But we must learn the lessons of January.

The biggest mistake we made was to leave the streets with nothing more than promises from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which made a deal under American auspices to deliver the country to the Brotherhood in return for a safe exit for its leaders who would not be held to account.

Today we will not leave the streets until we have achieved our demands:

  • The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s failed regime and the withdrawal of confidence from its president Mohamed Mursi
  • The formation of a revolutionary government to manage the transitional period, the first of whose priorities will be the issue of social justice and security
  • The head of the revolutionary government shall be barred from candidacy in early presidential elections
After our great revolution, Egypt deserves revolutionary democracy, in order to achieve freedom, social justice and national dignity. Egyptians cannot remain forever trapped between two failed alternatives, the Brotherhood or the military whether of Mubarak or Field Marshall Tantawi.

The Revolutionary Socialists will come out with the masses and the revolutionaries in the third wave of the revolution, after the first two waves overthrew Mubarak and the Military Council, in order to get rid of this third version of the regime of tyranny and exploitation.

We call on all revolutionaries in Egypt to unite behind the goals of the January Revolution.

We call on all Egyptians who work for a wage to join a general strike in order to win the battle against the regime of tyranny and exploitation, just as strikes won our battle against Mubarak on 9 and 10 February 2011.

Glory to the martyrs – Victory to the Revolution – Shame on the murderers

All power and wealth to the people!

That was a statement by the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt at the start of the week. Tonight, they (along with their comrades in the international community) celebrate. Tomorrow, the struggle continues.

Speaking of liberation poetry

Bubba Muntzer reports about some good people fighting the good fight against white racists in places like Arizona and Texas:

I listened to an episode of Flashpoints last night, which airs of the Berkeley Pacifica station, KPFA, that consisted of poetry readings by young, radical Latinos involved in something called Librotraficante, which is fighting against states like Arizona and Texas that are trying to eliminate ethnic studies programs in public school and colleges. That's right. No Hispanic history, no Black history month, just "regular history." They are banning books right and left already, and Librotraficante has been been donating the banned books to school kids. (You can see a list of the banned books at their web site. There are books by New Mexican authors on it.)

Their poetry was some good stuff. Right out of these peoples' experience.

The Barbarians

The Barbarians

Barbarism can never triumph over civilisation: barbarians are inferior to civilised men and women. The conquerors cannot be barbarians, then, despite their high fires of books and the wire round the transit camps. We must be the barbarians.

It is true that we resemble civilised men and women, relaxing on the sidewalk of a potholed street, warming our spare hands on chipped cups of tea, enjoying our lunchbreak, enjoying the break in the rain, sharing our rations of cigarettes, our rations of gossip.

Each of us remembers the day the guns grew hoarse, the day the whole town had to stand to attention, the day Olaf forgot to close his shop, refused to stand outside, on the dirty kerb, while the conquerors called their roll, the day that Olaf got dragged out of his bakery, away from his half-kneaded sculptures – his half-finished masterpieces, the busts of loaves and croissants arranged on steel trays – the day Olaf’s knees hit the kerb together and the fists went into his mouth like bread.

Each of us remembers Olaf in a different way. One of us scribbles poems – witty satires, and tub-thumping polemics - and publishes them in his drawer.

One of us keeps his grandfather’s pistol in a shoebox, under the bed in the spare room upstairs. One of us turns tadpoles into frogs, in the bathtub he is forbidden to fill. One of us drafts orders for new consignments of boots. One of us supervises a thesis on Nietszche.

We lean forward in our chairs and watch a train push out of the barricaded station, past the emptied zoo, toward the city wall. We note the pine windows but wave anyway.

Perhaps Olaf is crouching in the third carriage, in the warm crowded dark, pushing his fat face against the wood. Perhaps he is a squinting through a crack in the pine, through a sliver his big fists made.

A poem meant as a show of solidarity with Snowden - to the extent that these things mean much in blogtopia.

More Observations on Egypt

I'll just highlight a few points made in this article:

1. The success of the "tamarrod" campaign has exceeded expectations, but without wanting to rain on anyone's parade, we knew already that the left/secular democrats could be very effective on the streets. The question since February 2011 has been whether they can be effective at the ballot box and in shaping the country's political and constitutional settlement post-Mubarak. That question remains unanswered. Whatever happens over the next few days, its meaning will be very limited if the opposition can't make itself effective away from the streets and public squares. This is not a criticism, by the way. Merely an observation. One has to be mindful of the huge obstacles the revolutionaries face. But whatever the reasons, the problem is real.


3. The suggestion has been made more than once that the Brotherhood's opponents are essentially little more than sore electoral losers. This was always a slightly fatuous argument, given the concrete and substantive criticisms made of Morsi's conduct as President, and it is surely discredited now. Millions have not flooded onto the streets due to political sour grapes. If Morsi had governed effectively, or at least in good faith, and as the President of Egypt rather than in the narrow interests of the Brothers, then none of this would be happening. Juan Cole has a goodbreakdown here of the fundamentally anti-democratic way in which the MB has conducted itself. As Ahdaf Soueif points out, winning an election does not give you the right to do what you please for four years. It obliges you to honour a covenant with the electorate. For many Egyptians, that covenant has been broken, delegitimising the Morsi regime.


4. Casual racists in the Western commentariat who told us that lifting the autocrat rock in the Arab world would reveal nothing but Islamist bugs underneath need to explain to us where all those people came from yesterday. It was clear to any informed observer, and is now undeniable, that Arab politics is diverse, contested space (which includes Muslims shocked and alienated by the behaviour of the Brotherhood). These societies are no more ideologically homogenous than any others around the world.

6. The multitudes on the streets are a big warning signal for the IMF and Egyptian policymakers of whatever stripe seeking to force the cost of decades of economic mismanagement onto the Egyptian population through structural adjustment and austere loan conditionality. Good luck getting the people to accept any of that, in the current climate.
Yes, the problems are real for the revolutionary secularists to translate their success on the streets to success in forming a government, and yes, attempts to impose neoliberal "shock therapy" are going to be non-starters for the workers in Egypt. As of this writing, it is very obvious that Morsi's hours are numbered. The military has rejected Morsi's "concessions", and I would expect him to either be ousted or at the least holed up in a compound by the time I can get back to this blog later tonight.

As Morsi's Possible Ouster is at Hand:

Here's a post from the end of last December that characterizes the views of those who correctly considered Morsi's regime a betrayal of their revolution:

Ever since Morsy came to power, the 100 days have passed, all promises were not fulfilled, and the people started rising again. Neoliberal economic policies such as the IMF loan and the World Bank are all signs that Morsy is Mubarak just with a beard, and prays a lot. Since the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes II and the streets have not been still. The loss of Jika, a young man who voted for Morsy, killed by Morsy’s men (police) only few months later, and nothing has been delivered in return; no prosecution, no investigation, nothing. Despite all this people are still revolting and persistent on continuing the revolution.


Despite all this, we, the people, are applying all the pressure in our hands to object, protest, and revolt against this dictatorship and continuing the revolution until all of our demands are met; bread freedom, social equality. The persistence of the Egyptian people to gain what they revolted for inspires the living hell out of anyone watching Egypt closely, and is feeding into it more strength and hope like never before. I believe that we can and we will achieve those goals, but the road is very steep and long. It reminds me when I used to run cross country, when you know that the coming hill will last for a while and you can no longer feel your legs, but you know that you have to climb it and pass it to reach the peek and then go into free falling limbs lingering downhill so effortlessly and beautifully knowing that, yes, you made it at last.

Morsy is fat in every way, fat in fortune, fat in lies, fat in body, fat in powers, fat in weaknesses, and he grabs his male parts on TV, on the other hand; the revolution is young and persistent, when the two face each other, you know who will win in the end. As dark as these days may seem with possible “bankruptcy,” dictatorial overrule in all ministries and branches of governments, soaring prices and Egyptian pound taking a nose dive, I am still hopeful because I have no doubt that the people will not stand still, we will not accept, we will fight, we will persist on revolting , and we will win because we have given so much to give up now.

Revolution continues with persistence!

My emphasis added. In the meantime, the sheer number of human beings who have been out on the streets to stand up against Morsi and MB has been nothing short of impressive (unprecedented in world history, as I understand). Let's hope the current revolutionary wave ultimately ushers in a system more in keeping with the revolution's original promise.