Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
Millions of Egyptian people from all walks of life, drawing inspiration from the people of Tunisia, have heroically risen up, defied the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak and forced Mubarak to resign. This has shattered the notion that "things can never change." It is a powerful demonstration that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions under which the great majority of humanity suffer so terribly. Oppressed people and people who hunger for an end to oppression, in every country all over the world, have deeply shared in the joy and hope of these massive uprisings. And the stirrings of revolt continue to spread.
At the same time, while Mubarak has stepped down, the same basic forces that have so cruelly ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remain in power. And, despite their honeyed words of praise for the masses of youth and others who have risen up, despite their promises of "freedom" and "democracy," in reality they are determined to bring about a "transition" that will ensure that there is no fundamental change—that whatever new arrangements are engineered in the political process will still keep the masses of people in Egypt, in Palestine, and other countries of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism, in unbearable conditions. After all, the armed forces in Egypt—which are now supposed to carry out this "transition"—are the same armed forces which for decades faithfully and brutally enforced the rule of the Mubarak regime, while the heads of this military enriched themselves through becoming major exploiters of the Egyptian people; and the imperialists of the U.S.—who fully backed Mubarak and his cronies and kept them in power for 30 years, without any regard for the suffering of the people—are the very same imperialists who are now seeking yet again to call the shots and give the ultimate orders in terms of what the "transition" in Egypt will be.
The plans and designs of these oppressors and exploiters are NOT what the masses of people desperately want and need. Theirs is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress."
It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.
In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.
In my writings and talks, in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and in other major documents of our Party, we have striven to draw as deeply and fully as possible the critical lessons from the historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the very real and great achievements, and the serious errors and setbacks—and to learn from the broader experience of human society and its historical development, in order to contribute all we can to the advance of the revolutionary struggle and the emancipation of oppressed people throughout the world. As the Constitution of our Party states:
"The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has taken the responsibility to lead revolution in the U.S., the belly of the imperialist beast, as its principal share of the world revolution and the ultimate aim of communism....
"The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives."
It is in this spirit, and with this orientation and goal in mind, that I extend heartfelt support and encouragement to the millions who have risen up. To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses.
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA
[Editor's note: These observations date from early February of this year (before Mubarak's fall) but remain quite relevant.]
** Among other things, what is happening with Hosni Mubarak calls to mind Mao's pungent observation that it is no fun being a lackey of imperialism! Mubarak has, for decades, been kept in power and backed to the hilt by U.S. imperialism, whose interests he has faithfully served and enforced, while collaborating as a junior partner with Israel, in oppressing and suppressing the Palestinian people as well as the people of Egypt.
These imperialists cannot be allowed to get away with keeping in power brutal oppressors of the people, in one country after another...and then, dumping and denouncing them when they prove to no longer be a benefit but a liability to these imperialists.
** Along with all the other outrages—and something which gets at only a part of the towering crimes U.S. imperialism has used these regimes (like Mubarak's) to commit, and the utter hypocrisy of Obama and other U.S. ruling class figures in now condemning the thuggishly repressive nature of these regimes—the questions must be raised: How many of these countries, where hated regimes are now the target of mass upsurges, has the U.S. government "rendered" people to, in order for them to be tortured as part of the so-called "war on terror"? To how many of these countries was the U.S. government, under Obama, continuing to "render" people to be tortured, right up to the time that these mass upsurges against these regimes erupted?
** Amidst the palaver once again, from Obama and other representatives of imperialism, about "free and fair elections" in Egypt and other countries, it is important to point out that what they mean by "free and fair elections" is that things must not be dominated by just one bourgeois, pro-imperialist party, but at least two parties must be allowed to compete, within a framework in which upholding the interests of imperialism is the standard and measure of what is legitimate and acceptable. Look at the U.S. itself as a "model" in this regard: Every election, what do you have? The Democrats and Republicans compete. Two bourgeois, imperialist parties.
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
The uprising in Egypt has created one of those important moments described in the newly released statement "ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION" from the RCP,USA: a jolt "in the 'normal functioning' of things," which creates a situation "in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the 'normal routine' there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances."
Bob Avakian's statement on this uprising—"EGYPT 2011: MILLIONS HAVE HEROICALLY STOOD UP... THE FUTURE REMAINS TO BE WRITTEN, A Statement By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA"—is an excellent tool to do just that. This statement needs to reach far and wide, to wherever people have been compelled to "question and resist what they usually accept." In this article we want to suggest a few ideas.
1) Go to wherever people are gathering about this—public forums, demonstrations, campus cafeterias, wherever—and get this statement out there. Form up with a crew if you can, go alone if you must, but get this out.
2) Form up teams of 2-4 people to saturate key neighborhoods, campuses, high schools, youth areas, etc. with this statement. Saturation means getting this out to everybody, without pausing to argue or go deeply into explanations. (If possible, put a sticker on the statement giving people who are interested a way to learn more and get involved.) If you have three people, have one person focus on raising money and offering other literature (especially the Manifesto from the RCP,USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage..., as well as issues of Revolution newspaper and copies of the statement "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have"...and don't forget the CONSTITUTION for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA either)...and if you have four people, why not have one person hold a sign saying "Tell Me What You Are Thinking About Egypt," and find out what people are thinking...and what they think of this statement.
3) Leave stacks of statements in buses and trains, laundromats and other shops, community centers and classrooms and student hangouts, doing this as you go about your business. Or stake out a corner on your own for a while, on your lunch hour or between work and school. Keep it simple—just get it around.
4) Get with comrades and friends. Make a list of everyone you know who should get this—including people who at one time were interested or involved in the movement, but for whatever reasons have dropped away. More than one person has re-contacted revolutionaries to say that "wow, you were right about people coming into motion and movements seeming to spring up all at once." Make sure that they get this statement and have a way to get back in touch with you.
5) If there is a bookstore in your area—either a Revolution Books or a friendly bookstore, or else a friendly coffee shop or some other kind of hangout—set times where people can come to talk about the situation. Yes, let people know what the movement is doing and how they can help—including by donating money—but create an atmosphere where people know that if for right now they just want to dig into what's going on and why and where it all could go, that's really good too. Create space and give space, while making sure that there are "on-ramps" for people to get involved.
6) In key neighborhoods and campuses—especially where the revcoms are known—call impromptu speak-outs where people can come and check out what the revcoms think about this, and get out their own thinking and questions as well. In areas where the revcoms are not known—and this may include areas with a high population of Egyptian or other Arab peoples—go to where the people are and ask if you can talk with them about what they are thinking of the situation and how they are viewing it.
7) Find every way for people to contribute. Are there people who want to donate money to get out the truth about what is going on, and this unique perspective on what is needed now? That should be constant and basic. But also: are there professors and graduate students, or exiles and immigrants, who would want to help translate, or review translations? Are there people who would want to leave statements or newspapers around in shops and restaurants and community centers? High school or junior high teachers who would want someone to speak in their class? Friendly printers who would donate services? Business owners, community center directors, or clergy who would store literature?
8) Write Revolution. Let us know what you are learning. Forward your ideas and your experience.
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
The whole situation in Egypt—the uprising 18 days ago, and the lightning speed of developments since then—have awakened many people to political life and debate.
In the midst of this ferment, the statement from Bob Avakian, EGYPT 2011: MILLIONS HAVE HEROICALLY STOOD UP... THE FUTURE REMAINS TO BE WRITTEN, needs to get out very broadly.
Duplicate it, post it in universities and bookstores and everywhere people gather, find ways to appropriately get it to others on the internet and to other sites, take it to wherever people are demonstrating, celebrating or debating and discussing. Let the whole world know about this.
And then write us about what you have done, and what you have learned.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
Revolution is not...merely a change in certain relations within a society which remains fundamentally the same. Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures, whose basis has been laid through the whole process of building the movement for revolution, and then carrying out the seizure of power, when the conditions for that have been brought into being....
The seizure of power and radical change in the dominant institutions of society, when the conditions for this have been brought into being, makes possible further radical change throughout society—in the economy and economic relations, the social relations, and the politics, ideology and culture prevailing in society.
From Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon—Part 2: "Building the Movement for Revolution"
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
A Statement from the
Revolutionary Communist Party
Under this system of capitalism, so many in this society and so much of humanity are forced to endure great hardship and suffering, exploitation, injustice and brutality, while wars and the ongoing destruction of the natural environment threaten the very future of humanity. In the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) our Party has set forth an inspiring vision, and concrete measures, for the building of a new society, a socialist society, aiming for the final goal of a communist world, where human beings everywhere would be free of relations of exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonistic conflicts, and could be fit caretakers of the earth. But to make this a reality, we need revolution.
Many people insist, "there could never be a revolution in this country: the powers-that-be are too powerful, the people are too messed up and too caught up in going along with the way things are, the revolutionary forces are too small." This is wrong—revolution is possible.
Of course revolution cannot happen with conditions and people the way they are now. But revolution can come about as conditions and people are moved to change, because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries...as people come to see that things do not have to be this way...as they come to understand why things are the way they are and how things could be radically different...and as they are inspired and organized to join the revolutionary movement and build up its forces.
Revolution will not be made by acting all crazy—trying to bring down this powerful system when there is not yet a basis for that—or by just waiting for "one fine day" when revolution will somehow magically become possible. Revolution requires consistent work building for revolution, based on a serious, scientific understanding of what it takes to actually get to the point of revolution, and how to have a real chance of winning.
In order for revolution to be real there must be: a revolutionary crisis, and a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and led by a far-seeing, highly organized and disciplined revolutionary party. Clearly, this is not the reality now. So, how can this come about? And what is the strategic plan?
The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself—with its repeated economic convulsions, its unemployment and poverty, its profound inequalities, its discrimination and degradation, its brutality, torture and wars, its wanton destruction. All this causes great suffering. And at times it leads to crisis on one level or another—sudden jolts and breakdowns in the "normal functioning" of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does. But two points are very important:
1) Such "jolts" in the "normal functioning" of things, even if they do not develop all the way to a fundamental crisis for the system as a whole, do create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the "normal routine" there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.
2) In certain situations, major events or big changes can happen in society and the world and can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the "legitimacy" of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.
More needs to be learned, and will be learned, about how the revolutionary struggle can win when these conditions have been brought into being, but the basic strategic conception and approach has been developed for actually defeating and dismantling the oppressive forces and institutions of this system—and bringing into being new institutions of a new, revolutionary system—when there is a revolutionary crisis and a revolutionary people. (This basic conception and approach is set forth in "On the Possibility of Revolution"—and this is also included in the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation—published by our Party.)
But the possibility of revolution will never really ripen unless those who recognize the need for revolution are preparing the ground for this politically and ideologically even now: working to influence the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction, organizing them into the struggle against this system, and winning growing numbers to become actively involved in building the movement for revolution. This is what our Party is all about, and what we mean when we say we are "hastening while awaiting" the changes that make revolution possible. This is the key to breaking through the situation where there are not yet the necessary conditions and forces to make revolution, but those conditions and forces will never be brought into being by just waiting for them to appear.
All along the way, both in more "normal times" and especially in times of sharp breaks with the "normal routine," it is necessary to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution, among all those who can be rallied to the revolutionary cause. Among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system. But also among many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system's oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.
What is the way to carry out this work? Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. This is a big part of the answer. People need to fight back, and people do fight back, against the many ways human beings, and the environment, are exploited, degraded, ravaged and even destroyed by this system. But to make that fight more powerful—and, more, to carry it through to put an end to all this—people need to learn that the fundamental problem is this capitalist system, and the solution is getting rid of this system and bringing into being a new system, socialism, aiming for the final goal of a communist world. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a key part of our strategic approach, which provides a way for the Party to unite with and give leadership to people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world...to lift their heads and broaden their vision, to recognize what kind of world is possible, what their real interests are, and who their real friends and real enemies are, as they rise up against this system...to take up a revolutionary viewpoint and revolutionary values and morals as they join with others to resist this system's crimes and build up the basis for the ultimate all-out revolutionary struggle to sweep this system away and bring in a whole new way of organizing society, a whole new way of being...to become emancipators of humanity.
For all this to happen, and for the revolution to have a real chance of winning, leadership is essential. And there is such leadership. But there is also much work to do.
To support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution. The more our Party's revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party's "reach" extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning.
To learn from the Chairman of our Party, Bob Avakian, spread the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership, and defend and protect this rare and precious leader. Bob Avakian has dedicated his life since the 1960s to the cause of revolution and communism. While providing practical leadership to the Party and the revolutionary movement, he has deeply studied and summed up the world historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the great achievements and the serious problems and errors—and has studied many other fields of human experience and knowledge. He has advanced the science of communism and made decisive breakthroughs in the theory, method, and strategy of revolution and the final goal of communism throughout the world. It is crucial for growing numbers of people to know about and study his talks and writings...to defend and protect him...to take up the leadership he is providing, which opens new pathways for revolution.
To much more fully wield our Party's newspaper, Revolution. This plays a pivotal role in carrying out our strategy. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand and act to radically change the world....It gives people a living picture and scientific analysis of what is going on in the world, and why....It exposes the true nature of this system, and shows how major events in society and the world are concentrations of the basic contradictions of this oppressive and putrid system....It brings alive the need and possibility for revolution and a whole new society and world....It heightens the ability of growing numbers of people, in all parts of this country, to act politically in a unified way, and to wrestle with and help find solutions to the problems of our movement, on the basis of a growing revolutionary consciousness....It is the key instrument in developing an organized political network, among the most oppressed and other sections of the people, which can have a growing impact on the political scene and the society (and the world) as a whole, building up the forces of revolution and influencing ever broader numbers of people....It provides a foundation and a means for extending the "reach" of the revolutionary movement and building up bases for this movement—in neighborhoods, where people work and go to school, and wherever people come together—and especially where they resist and rebel against this system.
All this can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the "normal routine"...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.
For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
Interview with Raymond Lotta About Events in Egypt
Revolution: We want to ask you about the uprising in Egypt and its larger implications regionally and internationally. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, and the eyes of the world are focused on what is going on there. How would you assess the significance of what has been going on?
Raymond Lotta: There are important issues to get into. The events of the last few weeks mark a major and possibly historic turning point in the imperial status quo in the Middle East.
On the one hand, a new generation of Arab youth has announced that the "normal" workings of society are unacceptable. They have announced that they are ready to die to make a change in how society is governed. They have stood up to the brutal, stifling, and decrepit ruling order headed by Mubarak. This has inspired not only the people in the region but people all over the world.
Now, no one can say with any certainty where all this will go...but already the uprising in Egypt is changing the political landscape and political equation in the Middle East. It is emboldening masses in the Arab world. You hear imperialist ideologues and policy experts talking their talk about the "danger of contagion."
On the other hand, this upsurge is creating new necessity and new difficulties for imperialism, the U.S. in particular. The imperialists have to cope with the possibility that the upsurge will continue to draw support and lead to more massive confrontation with the Egyptian state, and the loss or severe weakening of this regime. There's the potential for rebellion to spread and erupt on a similar scale in other countries in the region—to places like Yemen, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia. All this is putting tremendous strain on the structures of imperial control in the Middle East, especially America's alliances with local Arab regimes.
This uprising is a big blow to Israel, America's watchdog and most trusted ally in the Middle East. The Israeli political-military leadership is openly concerned that things could rapidly go in a direction where Israel can no longer count on a pliant Egypt to advance its regional agenda. The Israeli-Egypt relationship began with the Camp David agreement engineered by the U.S. in 1979.
So there is this potential unraveling of a certain imperialist status quo in the region.
Revolution: The U.S. has over the years staked a lot on the Mubarak regime and the Egyptian military.
Lotta: Hosni Mubarak has presided over—he's been the extreme personification of—a client regime that serves U.S. interests. The centralization of Mubarak's presidential authority...the intertwining of the Egyptian armed forces with the executive arm of the Egyptian state...the close links between these armed forces and U.S. military and intelligence services...and the way that the Egyptian economy has been structured—all of this serves the needs of U.S. imperialism.
For the last 30 years, Egypt has been a keystone of U.S. imperial dominance in the Middle East. Egypt has opened its air space to U.S. warplanes. It has given Western imperialism unimpeded access to the Suez Canal for commercial and military purposes. It has worked to cajole and pressure governments and political forces in the Arab world to go along with U.S. plans for the region. The Mubarak regime has been used by the U.S. to hold in check Islamic fundamentalist forces that, coming from their own reactionary agendas, are posing obstacles to U.S. imperialism.
As a "peace partner" to Israel, Egypt has enabled the Israeli military to focus its attentions away from the Egypt-Israel border. As a "peace partner," Egypt has been an active accomplice to Israel's violent subjugation of the Palestinian people, as well as enabling Israel to pour hundreds of thousands of Israelis into settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The regime has helped enforce Israel's blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza, preventing basic supplies from reaching people. And speaking of supplies, Egypt provides nearly half of Israel's natural gas—gas that fuels Israel's military and its apartheid-like economy.
Part of the strategic calculus of U.S. imperialism has been to solidify client states that can keep a lid on the masses. People need to understand that the U.S. has propped up and legitimized one of the world's most repressive regimes. I saw an estimate that there is 1 police officer per 35 people in Egypt. There's the Emergency Law in effect since 1981 that allows security forces to declare any congregation of four young people an illegal gathering.
You hear Obama now calling for a less repressive and more open regime. It's sickening and it's the height of hypocrisy. Mubarak has been a loyal servant of the U.S. in that part of the world, carrying out its dirty work, and kept in power by American dollars and the American guns.
Revolution: Egypt has been a society of lockdown.
Lotta: Yes, and part of what has made this uprising so electrifying is that this was "not supposed to happen in Egypt." You know The Economist did this special survey last year on Egypt. They made the point that this was the place that Western leaders could go to give a speech and push new policy initiatives when developments in the region dictated...and Mubarak would convene some regional summit. The operating assumption was that Egypt was a stable platform from which the U.S. could project its power and influence, and that Mubarak had effectively fortified the political and social order against any serious resistance.
Now it's not as though there was no opposition and resistance. Over the last decade there have been major strikes and sit-ins by workers, and scattered social protest. But the fact is...an oppressive pall had gripped Egyptian society. Then suddenly, and the rebellion of youth in Tunisia was the spark and inspiration, pent-up anger and frustration burst forth.
It's interesting, I heard this neoconservative pundit on Fox TV. He was saying, Okay, there are a million or two million taking part in this protest, but Egypt, after all, is a country of 80 million. Well, here we have an unintended exposition that "there are masses...and there are masses."
At the very early stages of this uprising, before it was actually an uprising, those determined youth and students who called for and organized for a day and act of protest... they were the advanced masses. And then this took on a whole new dimension and momentum. Then tens and hundreds of thousands were involved—they were the masses stepping forward. They were setting new terms in society...that the status quo as concentrated by and enforced by the Mubarak regime is completely unacceptable...that society as it has functioned has to change...and can change.
The youth in Egypt galvanized the population. And the "unthinkable" happened: the legitimacy of the regime's ruling authority was challenged and the security apparatus defied. One scholar said that the "barrier of fear had been breached"...he meant this on a societal level. It cut across a wide swath of Egyptian society. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals have joined the youth in the streets. People from the arts and intellectual life are speaking out. One of the things I've heard about—and I've been reading about this on blogs from Cairo—was that during lulls in the showdowns with police and vigilantes in Tahrir Square, the central plaza in Cairo, there have been organized poetry readings. And some of those reciting their verses were wearing head bandages.
Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has emphasized how the belief that there is "permanent necessity to existing conditions" is a tremendous ideological weight on the masses. It is a belief that keeps people within the confines of what is. The uprising in Egypt is a powerful demonstration that "things do not have to be this way"...this is part of its profound significance.
Revolution: People want to know why this broke out in Egypt with the fury that it did. You've talked about the repressiveness of the regime and the awakening of the youth. But how do you see the role of economic and social factors in what has happened?
Lotta: It's important to understand that this rebellion is also an expression of a deep structural crisis in Egyptian society. You see, there have been vast economic, social, and demographic changes over the last three decades.
Egypt's population grew from 42 million in 1980 to 80 million today...and close to two-thirds of the population is under 30 years of age.
In terms of the economy: Beginning in the late 1970s and taking a big leap in the mid-1990s, the Egyptian ruling class has carried out the "neoliberal" growth model pushed by the U.S. and the IMF and World Bank. This set of policies and priorities revolves around opening the door wider to foreign investment...privatizing and selling off government assets to rich investors...and greatly cutting back government support for housing and social services and education relative to the growth of the population.
Revolution: So what have been the consequences of this?
Lotta: Much of the globalized foreign capital entering Egypt, and Great Britain and the U.S. are the largest foreign investors...much of this capital has gone into finance and natural gas, sectors that generate few jobs. The work force is growing rapidly, but the majority of workers now have to rely on low-paying and irregular jobs with no protections or benefits. This growth model has also given rise to rampant and rapacious land speculation and to bloated investment in tourism. In the last few years, Russian and Chinese investment capital has opened sweatshop factory production.
The Egyptian military is up to its eyeballs in this. I'm talking about retired army and security officials holding lucrative posts in state-owned textile companies and the petroleum industry, the military being heavily invested in hotels and construction.
This whole trajectory of development has diverted resources from agriculture. The peasantry has been pressed harder and is losing land to government-favored developers and landholding elites. Egypt depends on the world market to supply half of its food needs. People probably don't know that Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat. Meanwhile, globalization has made Egypt more vulnerable to jolts in the world economy, like the unprecedented rise in world food prices.
A tiny stratum of Egypt's wealthy has benefited, while poverty and squalor have spread. 40 percent of Egypt's population lives near or below the poverty level...I'm talking about families subsisting on $2 a day. The unemployment rate for young people is 75 percent. With wealth becoming more concentrated...with foreign capital becoming more dominant...and with the economy more skewed to financial services—you have a situation where traditional opportunities for advance have been closed off. Much of the middle class has been disintegrating. And it says a lot that 30 percent of Egypt's university graduates are unemployed.
Revolution: So that's the economic side of Egypt's dependent and client state relationship to imperialism.
Lotta: Well, it's a major part of the story. And the social impacts have been enormous.
There's chaotic urbanization. There's unsustainable geographic concentration of population...unsustainable economically and ecologically. Greater Cairo is now a city of some 18 million people. Half of Cairo's population lives in shantytowns and self-built neighborhoods, and lacks basic social services. Diseases that had basically been wiped out, like smallpox and tuberculosis, have become epidemic again.
The region's ecosystems are severely stressed. The water level of the Nile River is declining. The cities are thick with air pollution. Soil fertility has declined and agricultural land has been lost to urbanization and desert winds. Infrastructure is lacking and there is a sewage crisis...
You know, an Arab literary critic wrote an essay last year in New Left Review that starts with an account of the transformations of urban space in Egypt. He then talks about how a new wave of Egyptian fiction has been narrating the fragmentation and desperation of social life...the widening chasm between popular sentiment and the collusion of the Egyptian ruling class with the crimes of the U.S. and Israel...and how everything seems to conspire against change. The essay ends with this incredibly suggestive phrase that the "the novel of the closed horizon is the genre of an intolerable condition."
This brings me back to the upsurge. You see, these convulsive economic, social, and demographic changes have been straining against the existing institutional framework of social order and governance. And now this uprising has seriously ruptured that framework—punctured its ideological legitimacy and undercut its political efficacy. This is part of the political and social combustibility of things. It's another expression of the fact there is "no permanent necessity to existing conditions."
Revolution: So here we are, more than two weeks out from the initial protests, and the crisis continues. It would be helpful to get some of your thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the upheaval.
Lotta: This uprising has shaken the foundations of Egyptian society, throwing it into a profound legitimacy crisis. Almost overnight, diverse sections of the population have come into political life. You see these new energies and new mixes...highly educated youth rubbing shoulders with the urban poor along the barricades.
As communists, we support this rebellion. It is of great moment in the Arab world and for the world as a whole. At the same time we have the responsibility to examine and analyze this upheaval in a deepgoing way.
A complex array of social and political forces is in motion. The youth at the heart of the uprising are setting an example for others, and changing the whole discourse in Egyptian society and the Middle East. But there are also real limitations of understanding and outlook. And as this struggle takes new turns and faces new challenges, these limitations stand out the more.
There is great confusion about the Egyptian military. Many people in the mass movement have been influenced by the official mythology that the military is an independent force standing above society and would not turn on the people. But the military is the institution that enforces the dominant economic and social relations of exploitation and subordination to imperialism. In its organization and training and hierarchy, the military reflects these relations. The paramount mission of the military is to maintain the existing social order—at the point of the gun.
The U.S. plays a major role in the Egyptian military. It equips it with advanced weaponry, like F-16 fighters and Abrams tanks. It also helps train Egypt's military leadership. For three decades, high-ranking members in the Egyptian officer corps have studied at U.S. military schools.
The article in last week's issue of Revolution ["The 'Grand'—and Deadly—Illusion"] is very important. It talks about the lessons of history, when people have not understood or wished away the class nature of the military and its role as the pillar of existing state power. Lessons paid in blood in Chile, Indonesia, and other places.
Right now, the Egyptian military is U.S. imperialism's most vital asset in its plans to engineer and push through some kind of transition that keeps the client state and its regional role intact—whether Mubarak stays or goes.
Revolution: The U.S. is extolling the Egyptian military, and also calling for elections.
Lotta: Yeah, the bullet and the ballot. With the old systems of control in Egypt being challenged, Obama and other representatives of imperialism peddle this notion of "free and fair elections."
But let's look beneath the surface. The U.S. imperialists, Israel, and the Egyptian ruling class are maneuvering to defuse and crush the rebellion. You have reactionary social forces, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and various liberal-bourgeois forces, like those grouped around Mohamed El-Baradei, associating with the upsurge...but seeking to ride it to their advantage. In the name of this upsurge, they want to negotiate new arrangements and accommodations with the dominant fractions of the Egyptian ruling class. The U.S. imperialists have encouraged their participation in a "transition process" that suits U.S. interests. Without a real revolution, without a real transformation of the underlying economic and social relations in society, any elections—if they should happen—would be for the purpose of legitimizing a new arrangement of social forces which would be as beholden to imperialism as Mubarak.
Revolution: This interplay of different social and class forces is part of the dynamic of a crisis situation, where a critical mass of the population has rebelled and stood up to the regime.
Lotta: Absolutely. The youth don't want a return to the old order. Both El-Baradei and the Muslim Brotherhood are advocates of the capitalist market system. Neither has a program or the intention of breaking with dependency on the world market.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood, well, its medieval view of social relations, its stand towards women...that says a lot in itself. And, though it is not now openly calling for an Islamic Republic, regressive Sharia law is foundational to its view of how society should be organized. Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood has had on-again-off-again relations with the ruling regimes. In the 1970s, it was used by then president Anwar Sadat as a battering ram in the universities against left and socialist forces.
These bourgeois liberal and Islamic forces cannot speak to the depth of people's outrage or the loftiest sentiments people have for change. This is the reality of the situation. But another part of reality is this: without a communist movement and pole in society, people will not be able, in their thinking or in their actions, to get beyond the economic, political, and ideological horizons of the bourgeois world.
We communists stand for a revolution that can put an end to the horrors of the world. A revolution that empowers people to construct a society where human beings are no longer exploited, no longer competing with each other, no longer brutally oppressed. A revolution that can put a stop to the plunder and destruction of the planet and that can unleash the creativity, the critical thinking, and highest aspirations of masses everywhere. A revolution that makes it possible for people to join together to transform the world and themselves in the most liberating ways.
The first decisive step is to defeat and dismantle the oppressive structures and military force of the old order—and on that basis to establish a radically new and different state power and socialist economy that serve the struggle to achieve a communist world without classes and social divisions.
Bob Avakian has developed a vision of socialist society that speaks to people's desire for truly fundamental change. He has built on but gone beyond the experience of socialist revolution in the 20th century. He has developed the path for humanity to get to a whole other place. This is a factor of enormous potential in today's world, especially in relation to the kind of awakening taking place in the Arab world and the need to "bring forward another way" that can enable people to break out of the ideological vice-grip of Western imperialist ideology, on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism, on the other.
Revolution: This is a very dynamic and fluid situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian state and its U.S. backers moving to take control of things...and with the masses of people showing continuing determination.
Lotta: I've stressed how the upsurge and crisis of rule in Egypt reveal that there is "no permanent necessity to existing conditions." But this situation also brings into acute relief the importance of political and ideological and organizational preparation by revolutionary communists, influencing the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction. This is the strategic work of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, work that has to be going on all along and before the emergence of a crisis like this.
Now in the absence of genuine communist forces, even in a crisis this severe, there won't, at least in the short run, be fundamental and radical change. But that's not the whole, or the end, of the story. Where communist forces do not exist, there is a special responsibility to spread analysis and understanding that can help nurture the development of such forces in this part of the world. It is very exciting to hear that efforts are underway to translate into Arabic Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Look, the upheaval in Egypt has brought forward all kinds of positive elements: in people's courage and determination...in the ways that diverse sections of the population have joined together in common action...in how people have taken collective responsibility to solve problems of security and provisioning of supplies. Coming on the heels of the uprising in Tunisia, a certain quiescence in the Arab world has been shattered.
The ground is shaking in Egypt. This upsurge and showdown with the government is posing incredible challenges. The masses need communist leadership to maximize advances towards revolution at all times, and especially in a situation like this where the right and ability of the ruling powers is being called into question. But this is also ground on which a new generation of communists can be forged. It is ground on which people can make great leaps in understanding and organization, as they confront the government and in the swirl of contending currents and programs. This can be a major impetus towards catalyzing revolutionary sentiments and revolutionary organization.
My point is that a non-revolutionary and reactionary resolution of this crisis is not the only possible outcome.
Revolution: Earlier you touched on some of the geopolitical implications of this crisis. Maybe we can get into this some more.
Lotta: We have to pull the lens back. The Middle East is a region of immense geostrategic importance for imperialism. I mean this in terms of energy supplies and trade routes crucial to the functioning of the world capitalist economy. I mean this in the historical sense...the Middle East has been a fulcrum of rivalry among the imperial powers. Since the end of World War 2, U.S. dominance in the region has been critical to its global dominance.
U.S. imperialism has launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's built a network of alliances with client states, it has forged tighter economic linkages and tried to build up new social bases of support among the middle classes. It's done these things to maintain and tighten its grip on the region. As I've emphasized, Egypt has been critical to U.S. dominance in the region. It has allowed for the continuous flow of oil. It has had a de facto alliance with Israel. It has served as a counterweight to Iran or any other country that the U.S. sees as gaining too much power and influence in the region.
Events are unfolding rapidly in this crisis, and in unexpected ways. The U.S. is seeking to salvage the Egyptian client state...seeking to limit the spillover effects of this uprising in other parts of the Middle East...seeking to shore up its flanks in other countries while not appearing to "meddle."
But this is a tall order. The crisis in Egypt could go towards civil war, and introduce a whole new level of instability in the region. In Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, pro-U.S. regimes are sitting atop populations that are angry with government repression, corruption, and collusion with the U.S. If the masses in Egypt push Mubarak out, this could set off firestorms elsewhere. Some of these lackey regimes are also worried that the U.S. might decide to carry out its own preemptive regime shifts.
How the Israeli settler-colonial state reads these developments will also be a major factor in the developing situation. If events get more out of hand in Egypt, if a new regime appears to jeopardize Israel's access to the Suez Canal...Israel may decide to redeploy military forces to its southern border with Egypt. If regional developments tilt things towards Iran's regional advantage, whether or not Iran acts to press any such advantage directly...Israel might decide to assert its regional military dominance and launch a strike against Iran.
There are other elements in the larger picture. For instance, Western Europe has significant Arab populations and the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East could light a spark there.
Revolution: Avakian analyzed what he called a "cauldron of contradictions." This was at the time of 9/11 and as the U.S. was making its war moves. These things seem to be an expression of that cauldron.
Lotta: Yes, and there are significant developments, regionally and globally, that are interpenetrating with this political crisis in Egypt. To begin with, the U.S. has encountered major difficulties in waging its wars for greater empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. The weakening of the Mubarak regime in these circumstances adds to its mounting difficulties in the region. And then there is the global economic crisis that broke out in 2008-09. The crisis has introduced new instabilities into the world imperialist system. It has accentuated economic rivalry among the great powers. It has heightened the suffering of the masses of the world.
In the Middle East, country growth rates have declined. The earnings of migrant workers, and these earnings are important sources of family incomes, have fallen greatly. Investment capital has been flowing into and out of countries of the region with greater volatility. The employment crisis I mentioned earlier with regard to Egypt has grown more dire throughout the region with the onset of the global crisis. The problem of food—the run-up in food prices, the growing inability of governments to subsidize food purchases, and food shortages—is very defining of social-economic distress in the region.
Revolution: You are arguing that these are politically volatile elements of the current situation.
Lotta: Yes, and they are part of why I believe that what is happening in Egypt right now, and possible convergences of contradictions, can have enormous effects on regional and international relations.
The upheaval in Egypt is bringing the masses onto the stage in a geostrategic part of the world. It is a fresh wind for all who yearn for liberation, for radical change, it is a summoning to all who are dissatisfied with the way things are. At the same time, this is a highly fraught situation. Already, 300 people have been murdered by the security forces, and thousands have been detained throughout the country. A vicious military crackdown is clearly part of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime's immediate contingency planning.
The recent article in Revolution puts it well. A challenge has been issued by the courageous youth of Egypt, and everyone who wants to see another way brought forward in this world of oppression is called upon to support them politically.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
From Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian
The following is from Bringing Forward Another Way, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The full talk is available at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
For people living in the U.S., there is a particularity that needs to be continually gone back to, in relation to the "war on terror." I have made the point that this is not entirely fabrication on the part of the Bush regime (and the imperialist ruling class generally). There are real aspects to this—or, better said, there is a reality to which these imperialists are speaking, even while they fundamentally distort reality. But, in essential terms, this "war on terror" is an imperialist program which, among other things, is aimed at blotting out and turning the attention of people, even people who should know better, away from reckoning with the profound inequalities and oppressive relations that exist within different societies but especially on a world scale, under the domination of the imperialist system and in particular U.S. imperialism, which boasts of being "the world's only superpower" and is determined to maintain all this. If you accept the terms of "war on terror"—and especially if, as part of this, you do not look more deeply at the more fundamental relations in the world, the effects and consequences of that and the ways in which it is at the root of developments in the world now—you will get increasingly caught within the logic that what is most important is that "we" (meaning the people in the U.S.—and "I" above all!) "have to be protected." You get caught up thinking and arguing about what should be "the real war on terror." This has happened even to a lot of progressive people—including those who frame their opposition to the Iraq war in terms of considering it a "diversion from the war on terror"—they become trapped within the wrong logic. If you are carried along by this logic, you can end up in a very bad place.
You cannot get to a correct understanding of things, and you cannot move toward the only possible resolution of all this that is in the interests of humanity, by proceeding from within the terms of the "war on terror." Even while "the war on terror" is not entirely a fabrication, even while there are important aspects of reality that it is reflecting—from the point of view of the imperialists—it is a fabrication in the form in which it is presented to people. That contradiction is important to understand: There are important aspects of reality that this formulation of "war on terror" (or "war against terrorism") is reflecting; but, as it is presented, it is a fabrication. Its essence is not "a war on terror." It is essentially a war for empire. And the confrontation with Islamic fundamentalist, and other, forces (even those which actually do employ tactics and methods which can legitimately be called "terrorist") takes place within, and is essentially framed by, that context and that content of war for empire.
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
From Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian
The following excerpt from Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian (published in 2007) sheds a great deal of light on current events in Egypt. The entire talk is available at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
I have heard that some people don't like my statement: "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel." But this does capture something very important, and there is something very important to understand about the "special role" of Israel—not only in relation to U.S. imperialism in general, but also particularly in relation to the neo-con/Bush regime strategy.
Why is this Bush regime the most unrelenting and unqualified in its backing of Israel? Now, a lot of people—even some well-intentioned but confused people, as well as some people whose intentions and objectives are not good—argue that the reason the U.S. government is generally so one-sided, and the Bush regime in particular is so absolutist, in its support of Israel, is because of the Israeli lobby, or because of Zionist influence, in the U.S. Now there might, superficially, seem to be some support for that theory by looking at the neo-cons. It is true that in a significant sense this is a phenomenon of Jewish intellectuals who were once sort of Cold War liberals and have become hard-core right-wing ideologues. That, however, is not the essence of the matter. I do not know how different individuals among the neo-cons actually view the interests of Israel vis-à-vis the larger interests of U.S. imperialism. Whatever the case is with individuals in that regard, the fact is that, as a general phenomenon, these neo-cons are ardent advocates of both Israel and of the particular strategy for U.S. imperial domination in the Middle East (and on a world scale) with which the neo-cons are identified. And more fundamentally, this position, which the neo-cons urge, of unqualified hard-core support for Israel fits into and serves the larger imperialist strategy for the Middle East and ultimately for the world—and that is why this neo-con position has such influence. If their position did not serve the larger interests of U.S. imperialism, or if it ran counter to how those now at the core of the ruling class perceive those interests, then whatever the motivations and inclinations of particular individual neo-cons, they wouldn't have the influence they do.
To put it in basic terms, Israel is a colonial-settler state which was imposed on the region of the Middle East, at the cost of great suffering for the Palestinian people (and the people of the region more broadly). Israel could not have come into being without the backing of imperialism, and it acts not only in its own interests but as an armed garrison and instrument of enforcement for U.S. imperialism, which supplies the Israeli state with aid, and in particular military aid, to the tune of billions of dollars every year. But, along with this general nature and role of Israel and its relation to U.S. imperialism, if we take into account the strategic orientation that has guided the Bush regime—based on an assessment that for U.S. imperialism there is now not only a certain freedom but very urgent necessity to recast the whole nature of the regimes and of the societies across a wide arc centered in the Middle East—then you can see even more clearly how absolute support for Israel is crucial in all this. There can't be any wavering or even the appearance, or suggestion, of more "even-handedness" in dealing with Israel, on the one hand, and the Palestinians (and others in the region) on the other hand. You have to have your ducks in a row. You have to have your priorities very clear. You have to have a regime there, at the center of your policy for that region, which is completely reliable for U.S. imperialism.
If you look at any other regimes in the region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are big allies of the U.S. But in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt, the situation is very unstable and potentially very volatile: there are serious tremors beneath the throne, so to speak—there is the growing danger of "social earthquakes" that could threaten to topple, or actually topple, those regimes. You don't have that in Israel. Hopefully, as things develop overall, there will not be just a "loyal opposition peace movement" among Israelis but the development of a much more powerful progressive movement with a much more radical view in Israel—and this is something that progressive people in Israel, or with ties to people in Israel, should work to foster and develop. But right now a positive and truly radical movement of that kind does not exist in Israel, and the dynamics with regard to Israel are not now such that the more that the regime in Israel is hard-core, the more it is going to run into antagonism with the bulk of its population. In the short term, the dynamic is essentially the opposite, unfortunately.
You can look at the recent Lebanon war—and in particular the massive Israeli assault on Lebanon—as an illustration of what the dynamic actually is now: the more massive and murderous the Israeli attacks were on Lebanon, the more that the people of Israel, in their great majority, rallied to the government of Israel. In part this was influenced by the fact that Hezbollah was launching missile attacks which caused some destruction and death in parts of Israel; but this was really on a very minor scale relative to the widespread death and devastation that Israel, with its arsenal of powerful and precision weapons, very deliberately and as a matter of policy, brought down on the civilian population of Lebanon, devastating whole sections of the country, killing many, many times the number who died in Israel, and forcing huge parts of the Lebanese population to flee out of the country. Where was any real outpouring of opposition to this among the Israeli population?
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
Today, millions of Egyptians are rising with rage and courage against the hated rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981.
As Egyptians protesting in the streets were being killed, beaten, or rounded up in the streets of Cairo and other cities before the eyes of the whole world, Vice President Joe Biden defended Mubarak, saying, "Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel. I would not refer to him as a dictator." (PBS Newshour, Newsmaker Interview, January 27, 2011)
The U.S. government has long considered Mubarak one of its closest and most important allies in the world, and has provided his regime with billions of dollars in aid. As WikiLeaks revelations have made clear, the U.S. rulers have long been fully aware of the Mubarak regime's savage repression and robbery of the Egyptian people.
What role has Mubarak's Egypt played for the U.S.? Why has the U.S. considered it so crucial? And what impact has this alliance had on Egypt and the region?
There are many dimensions to the Mubarak regime's service as a client state for U.S. imperialism, and many ways this has caused enormous suffering and death—in Egypt and across the region. But here we focus on two: Egypt's enforcement of Israel's quarantine of Gaza and its torture of Egyptians and those "rendered" to Egypt by the U.S.
In 1978, the U.S.-brokered Camp David Accords were signed between Israel and Egypt, establishing diplomatic relations and ending the state of hostility between them. This treaty signaled a major strategic shift for Egypt: allying with (in reality becoming subordinated to) the U.S. and Israel. Since taking power in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat (who signed the accords with Israel), Mubarak has continued and deepened this orientation.
The U.S. political establishment and media universally hail the Camp David Accords as a big step toward peace in the region, but what has it meant for the people in the region—and most dramatically the Palestinian people of Gaza?
Israel's peace with Egypt has meant it has much greater freedom to deploy its military forces across the region, and much greater freedom to carry out this role, which includes its ethnic cleansing of Palestine (under cover of the "peace process"), and repeated acts of aggression across the region, such as the 1982 and 2006 attacks on Lebanon (with over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians killed during the 1982 invasion).
Egypt's support for Israel has also had a horrendous and criminal impact on the Palestinian people of Gaza. In 2007, Israel began a blockade of Gaza, a blockade which continues to this day. Many human rights organizations have denounced this as collective punishment against the 1.5 million people living in Gaza and a crime against humanity. The following from A World To Win News Service detailing the items Israel blocks from entering Gaza paints a picture of the extreme and deliberate cruelty of Israel's embargo of even the most basic stuff of everyday life:
"The list at first seems arbitrary, but its goals become apparent on careful study—as of course they are obvious to people in Gaza. The point is to keep people in Gaza on the verge of hunger, to kill them slowly, and to deny them sources of pleasure and information.
"A calibrated cruelty is evident even in the smallest details, like the prohibited condiments and spices. Some basic items such as tahini (sesame paste), garlic, zaatar (dried herbs) and cinnamon are allowed, but experience shows that sage, cardamom, coriander, cumin and ginger are not. No dried fruit, jam, halva, chocolate, biscuits or other sweets. Dried foodstuffs such as lentils, beans and rice and frozen meat and vegetables are permitted, as are canned goods, but fresh meat is banned. People are also denied toys, musical instruments, paper and newspapers.
"Some of the rules governing food are clearly designed to crush Gaza's local economy and force it to become more dependent on Israeli imports. For instance, the importation of tin cans is forbidden, so that farmers are unable to preserve and sell produce such as tomatoes, but Israeli tomato paste is allowed in. Anything to do with fishing—poles, nets and ropes—is banned. So are basic farming inputs, such as fertilizer, and crucial farm equipment and greenhouse items. Chicken farming seems to be a particular Israeli target, along with livestock in general. Industrial salt, margarine and other products used in food processing are barred.
"The blockade of all construction materials, including wood, concrete and pipes, brings extreme hardship to people whose homes, schools and other buildings were destroyed by the Israeli air strikes and invasion of December 2008-January 2009."
("An extraordinary admission of guilt: Obama, Israel and war crimes in Gaza," Revolution #203, June 13, 2010, www.revcom.us/a/203/AWTWNS_Gaza-en.html; see also "Details of Gaza blockade revealed," BBC.co.uk, May 3, 2010)
This list was revealed during a court case in May 2010, and only adjusted after massive protests around the world including the Gaza Freedom March, George Galloway's convoys to Gaza, and repeated Freedom Flotilla efforts, including the flotilla led by the ship Mavi Marmara, which was attacked by Israeli commandos murdering nine people. And Israel's new, slightly expanded list of permitted items remains barbaric.
Egypt has a 25-mile border with Gaza. So Israel's blockade would be impossible without Egyptian enforcement of this blockade by closing its 25-mile border with Gaza and refusing to allow necessary humanitarian aid to come into Gaza, and violently suppressing political protests within Egypt by Egyptian and international activists opposed to the siege of Gaza.
More broadly, Israel's U.S.-brokered and directed alliance with Egypt means it can do whatever it wants to the people of Gaza (including repeated military assaults), without having to worry about the reaction of a neighboring country.
The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a vocal supporter of U.S. global supremacy and Israel is telling the truth when he writes, "The peace treaty with a stable Egypt was the unspoken foundation for every geopolitical and economic policy in Israel for the last 35 years." (New York Times, February 1, 2011)
The Mubarak regime's complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians has been one key reason why the U.S. has backed him and his viciously repressive regime. (For an in-depth history and analysis of the U.S. and Israel, see "Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel," Revolution #213, October 10, 2010, www.revcom.us/israel/israel.html)
In addition to the role the Mubarak regime has played in collaborating with Israel, Egypt under Mubarak has played an important role in other U.S. strategic objectives in the Middle East, including participating in the first U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 1990.
The 1990 invasion was the first time the U.S. directly and massively invaded an Arab country, and Mubarak's Egypt was crucial in a number of ways. First, having Arab participation in the war coalition was essential to trying to spread confusion in terms of its actual imperialist character. Second, Egypt contributed some 30,000 troops. Most important, Egyptian military and logistical support was central in enabling the U.S.-led coalition to deploy such massive military forces (including over 500,000 U.S. troops). After the Gulf War, the U.S. rewarded Egypt with $7 billion in debt relief and pressed its allies to forgive half of Egypt's $20 billion debt to various Western governments.
Overall, Egypt's military has been a key weapon for U.S. regional dominance (including by suppressing the Egyptian people and keeping Egypt's pro-U.S. regime in power). Since 1979, the U.S. has given Egypt $35 billion in military aid and built its armed forces into one of the ten largest militaries in the world, with nearly 500,000 personnel. The tear gas being fired on demonstrators today by Egypt's military and police is "Made in the U.S.A."
"The officer corps of Egypt's powerful military has been educated at defense colleges in the United States for 30 years," the New York Times reports. "The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil. Egypt permits the American military to stage major operations from its bases, and has always guaranteed the Americans passage through the Suez Canal." ("Calling for Restraint, Pentagon Faces Test of Influence With Ally," New York Times, January 29, 2011) Mubarak is a product of the Egyptian military, a career Air Force officer and chief of the Air Force before he was named vice president in 1975.
One retired Egyptian major general writes, "Military cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt is probably the strongest aspect of their strategic partnership. General Anthony Zinni the former Commandant of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) once said Egypt is the most important country in my area of responsibility because of the access it gives me to the region. Egypt was also described during the Clinton Administration as the most prominent player in the Arab world and a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. U.S. military assistance to Egypt was considered part of the administration's strategy to maintaining continued availability of Persian Gulf energy resources and to secure the Suez Canal, which serves both as an important international oil route and as critical route for US warships transiting to the Gulf." (Mohamed Kadry Said, PhD, "Assessing the United States-Egyptian Military and Security Relations," Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, February 9, 2004)
A secret 2009 State Department cable discussing the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. gives Egypt each year which was published by WikiLeaks, stated, "The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace." ("WikiLeaks Cables Show Close US Relationship With Egyptian President," Guardian/UK, January 28, 2011)
Today, the Obama administration claims to support the Egyptian people and their just demands, and acts as if it's now shocked to find out about the horrors faced by the Egyptian people at the hands of the Mubarak regime.
In reality, there's abundant evidence that the U.S. and Egypt's rulers have been very well aware of this, and deliberately turned Egypt into a torture state where even the most basic rights are nonexistent and opposition to the regime is violently suppressed, in order to maintain their grip on power and U.S.-imperial dominance of the region.
Egypt has been ruled under a "State of Emergency" since 1967 (except for an 18-month respite in 1980-81) under which the police have virtually unlimited powers, constitutional rights are suspended, and censorship is legal. An estimated 30,000 people are being held as political prisoners. Arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and torture are routine.
In 2005, the UN Committee Against Torture found that "Egypt resorted to consistent and widespread use of torture against detainees" and "the risk of such treatment was particularly high in the case of detainees held for political and security reasons." (United Nations, "Report of the Committee Against Torture," p. 227) Human Rights Watch's latest report on the Mubarak regime is titled: "'Work on Him Until He Confesses': Impunity for Torture in Egypt." (Online at: www.hrw.org/en/reports/2011/01/30/work-him-until-he-confesses-0)
All of this—and probably much more—has been very well known by the U.S. government for many, many years. In 2002, the U.S. State Department's own report on Egypt stated that detainees were "stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electrical shocks; and doused with cold water [and] sexually assaulted." (Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, p. 112)
On January 15, 2009, the U.S. Ambassador in Egypt wrote the following in a secret cable published by WikiLeaks:
"Police brutality in Egypt against common criminals is routine and pervasive. Contacts describe the police using force to extract confessions from criminals as a daily event, resulting from poor training and understaffing. Brutality against Islamist detainees has reportedly decreased overall, but security forces still resort to torturing Muslim Brotherhood activists who are deemed to pose a political threat. Over the past five years, the government has stopped denying that torture exists, and since late 2007 courts have sentenced approximately 15 police officers to prison terms for torture and killings...NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone." ("US embassy cables: Police brutality in Egypt," Guardian/UK, January 28, 2011.)
On January 28, President Barack Obama spoke as if he and the U.S. had always upheld the political rights of the Egyptian people, stating, "I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere." ("Obama delivers a statement to the press on Egypt," Washington Post, January 28, 2011)
In fact, this statement was made only after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians rose up against Mubarak and his regime. Before that, the U.S., including the Obama administration was silent about the treatment of Egyptian bloggers and political activists, even though they knew full well that the Mubarak regime's savage repression was directed at those expressing opposition to his regime. The U.S. Ambassador's January 15, 2009 cable reported that one activist, part of "the April 6 Facebook strike," had been arrested in November 2008 and that the Egyptian government was "probably torturing him to scare other 'April 6' members into abandoning their political activities." The cable reported the "sexual molestation of a female 'April 6' activist." ("US embassy cables: Police brutality in Egypt," Guardian/UK, January 28, 2011) One blogger told the U.S. Embassy that "following his arrest he was tortured severely with electric shocks and needed to be hospitalized..." ("U.S. reported 'routine' police brutality in Egypt, WikiLeaks cables show," Guardian/UK, January 28, 2011; www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/28/egypt-police-brutality-torture-wikileaks)
Such brutality is essential to the role Egypt plays as a client state of U.S. imperialism—and it is why the U.S. has given the Mubarak regime $1.3 billion per year in military aid and has politically supported Mubarak.
The U.S. has not only fully supported the brutal torture carried out by Mubarak's regime—it has actively and directly utilized it. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. CIA has illegally "rendered" more prisoners to Egypt for torture and interrogation than any other country.
In fact, the point man for coordinating this rendition program with the U.S. was Omar Suleiman, the man the Obama administration is now pushing as the new "transitional" leader in Egypt. His role was underscored in one State Department cable published by WikiLeaks:
"In the context of the close and sustained cooperation between the USG and GOE on counterterrorism, Post believes that the written GOE assurances regarding the return of three Egyptians detained at Guantanamo (reftel) represent the firm commitment of the GOE to adhere to the requested principles. These assurances were passed directly from Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) Chief Soliman through liaison channels—the most effective communication path on this issue. General Soliman's word is the GOE's guarantee, and the GOE's track record of cooperation on CT issues lends further support to this assessment." (Cited by Stephen Soldz, "The Torture Career of Egypt's New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program," Commondreams.org, January 30, 2011)
A former CIA agent observed, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt." ("Fact Sheet: Extraordinary Rendition," ACLU, December 6, 2005)
The United States knew about the torture, abuse, indefinite detention, political suppression, rape and sexual assault that had been taking place over years under the Mubarak regime that it fully backed. Did the U.S. ever threaten to cut off aid to Egypt's military and security apparatus? Never. Did it ever make a public issue of Egypt's treatment of dissidents? Never. Did the U.S., which claims to champion human rights as universal for all people, ever mount an effort in the United Nations to sanction or embargo Egypt, or even pass a resolution condemning Egypt's actions which flagrantly violate international laws on torture? Never.
In fact, just the opposite. Mubarak has been in power for 30 years—30 years of horrors for Egyptians and Palestinians, and 30 years of loyal service to U.S. imperialism. For this service, Mubarak has consistently been praised, supported, worked closely with, and given billions and billions in aid. Only now, when Mubarak has become the focus of massive and courageous demonstrations in the street, demanding he step down—only now when Mubarak threatens to be a liability to U.S. imperialism and its control of Egypt and the Middle East—only now is the U.S. trying to figure out how to carefully orchestrate a "transition" in which Mubarak eventually steps down but the Egyptian government remains subordinate to the needs of U.S. imperialism.
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
The New York Times on February 5 reported that "The United States and leading European nations on Saturday threw their weight behind Egypt's vice president, Omar Suleiman, backing his attempt to defuse a popular uprising without immediately removing President Hosni Mubarak from power."
Who is Omar Suleiman? An Egyptian army general, in the 1980s he trained at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. Suleiman became the director of Egyptian military intelligence in 1991. In 1993 he was appointed chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, the infamous Mukhabarat, a vast network that carries out internal repression of dissent and protest, using disappearances, torture and indefinite detention without trial, all under the state of emergency that Mubarak has imposed since 1981. Suleiman has been the principal liaison between the Egyptian military dictatorship and the U.S. ruling class for decades, regardless of which administration has occupied the White House.
On top of supervising Egypt's police-state functions, Suleiman has conducted vital service in the U.S. "war on terror" and in safeguarding the security of the most reliable instrument of U.S. domination in the Middle East—the state of Israel. Suleiman's duties have been:
"West Backs Gradual Egyptian Transition" The New York Times, February 5, 2011 www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/world/middleeast/06egypt.html
"Who is Omar Suleiman?" by Jane Meyer, The New Yorker, January 29, 2011 www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/01/who-is-omar-suleiman.html
"Mubarak's Top Spy Rejected by Cairo Streets as Masses March" by Gregory Viscusi and Thomas Penny, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 1, 2011 www.businessweek.com/news/2011-02-01/mubarak-s-top-spy-rejected-by-cairo-streets-as-masses-march.html
"Cleric's story of abduction, torture" by John Crewdson, Chicago Tribune, January 7, 2007 www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-070107abuomar-main-story,0,121063.story
"WikiLeaks Informationthread 49: Omar Suleiman And Etc." by Cedar Park, Daily Kos, January 29, 2011 www.dailykos.com/story/2011/1/29/191120/853
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
At a February 4 press conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said about the Mubarak government's response to the protests, "Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work." Obama and other U.S. officials are now condemning the thuggish nature of the Mubarak regime—but the indisputable fact is that the U.S. has long relied on Mubarak and other oppressive regimes in the region to commit numerous savage crimes. One example is the torture that they have carried out in relation to rendition by the U.S.—the CIA practice of kidnapping people outside the U.S. (without any charges and often without the knowledge of the authorities where the kidnapping takes place) and shipping them off to a third country, where they are handed over to the torturers in secret prisons. These renditions began in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton and then were expanded to a whole other level under George W. Bush after 9/11. Aside from Egypt, other places where it is known the U.S. "rendered" prisoners to include Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and Syria.
One man named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who was kidnapped from Italy in 2003 and "rendered" by the CIA to Egypt, told Human Rights Watch that he was "hung up like a slaughtered sheep and given electrical shocks." He said, "I was brutally tortured and I could hear the screams of others who were tortured too." A former CIA agent said, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt."
How many of these countries—starting with Egypt—has the U.S. continued to render prisoners to for torture, right up to the recent upsurges which have rocked many of these regimes?
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Revolution #224 Online, February 11, 2011
The following is a slightly edited transcript of an interview with Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman on The Michael Slate Show on radio station KPFK, 1/31/11.
Michael Slate: We're going to be talking about what's going on in Egypt. The world is rockin' and it's centered in Egypt right now with the youth at the forefront. And it's shaking up the whole reactionary world order, giving people a lot of air to breathe. Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan Goodman: Thank you, Michael. And it's especially exciting to be able to talk about something good going on.
Slate: Exactly. Let's talk about that. I talked to a Palestinian friend the other day and he was just overjoyed. He couldn't wait to talk about what was going on in the region and especially what was going on in Egypt. And talking about the impact of that in the entire region, saying that, look, the wall of fear has kind of collapsed and that Arabs are realizing that they actually can stand up. Arab youth, all kinds of people are recognizing that they can stand up against this. It's really an incredible shift in mood and climate in the world. Your take on all that?
Goodman: Right. I think we have to be sober and have our eyes open about developments. Just as I was on hold, I was doing my best to follow what was going on in Egypt. According to what I'm seeing right now, online, hundreds of thousands of people are marching. But last night, on late night news, there were some very ominous signs. The mainstream media has been driven off the streets by Mubarak's thugs. And Internet, if it's functioning, it's still not functioning much. And Christiane Amanpour on ABC had an interview with Mubarak and his new vice president where they seemed to be laying the basis for a possible massacre and blaming that on just responsible, hard-working, patriotic silent majority Egyptians who are fed up with the chaos. So there's a lot to be concerned about. But even with all those dangers lurking and even with people here and around the world having our eyes open in terms of those dangers and our own government's role behind those dangers, which I hope we get a chance to talk about a bit, even with all that, I just think we need to step back and really smile and appreciate what has been accomplished. We've got a line in our coverage that says, "This uprising already has been, and even more could be, an important element in shaking up the whole reactionary world order, giving oxygen to all those who hunger for liberation or are even dissatisfied with the way things are." And certainly for all of us this is a very important moment.
Slate: It's a very important moment. And it's also something that, seemingly, came out of nowhere. I mean, two or three weeks ago, who would've thought that something like Egypt...damn, and Egypt that has been, you know, the empire of torture, has been the rock-steady right arm of the U.S. imperialists in the region, and all this kind of thing that's been going on. And suddenly, everything bursts open. And I think a lot of people just were really taken by surprise, myself included. What happened with this was, just "where did it come from?"
Goodman: Well, you know, with these kind of events, on one hand they come seemingly out of nowhere and on the other hand, one can say, "should've seen that coming." You mentioned that I was part of the Gaza Freedom March, and we were detained in Cairo for a couple of weeks—at the end of 2009. Just watching these protests is a very emotional, visceral experience for me. I know it is for everybody, but we were protesting right there at Tahrir Square and in front of the Egyptian Museum. A couple of hundred of us penned in by the Egyptian security forces. There are a couple of very vivid images that that'll never leave my memory. One was an Egyptian off the street joined our protest. And a phalanx of plain-clothes thugs just pushed their way into our protest, grabbed him, and threw him in the back of an unmarked car and whisked him away. Our understanding at the time was, this routinely meant six weeks on the average of isolation, being disappeared from your family, and tortured, if not worse. Just this all-pervasive atmosphere of repression.
And then the looks in the eyes of Egyptian people, just a wrenching feeling—I mean, so many people came up to us on the street and said, "we're just disgusted with our government, we're ashamed of our government, we're disgusted with our government's collaboration with Israel and the cordoning off of Gaza and everything happening there." You just felt something beneath the surface, just waiting for a crack in the dam to erupt. And that's what happened.
As you pointed out, it's just been about a couple of weeks since, going all the way back to December 17 of last year when a 26-year-old Tunisian street merchant set himself on fire. And then just a chain of events took place. One of the things that's kind of interesting, there's an article...and here we've got 25 minutes and there's so much to go into. I really want to plug revcom.us for your listeners to get background on all this, including the article I'm referencing now about Tunisia. But there's an article on revcom from A World to Win News Service that notes, for example, that the U.S. apparently kind of intervened in Tunisia and orchestrated the quick departure of Tunisia's brutal dictator, Ben Ali. That, unexpectedly, sent a message to people in North Africa and the Arab world that these pro-American fascist dictators are not so all-powerful and then it spread all over the Arab world. So exactly what you're saying, both seemingly out of nowhere and on the other hand, completely expected.
Slate: I'm talking with Alan Goodman, a writer for Revolution newspaper, and we're talking about what's going on in Egypt and in the Middle East, both the dangers and the potential there. Let's talk about this. You talked about the maneuvering of the regime. It's interesting because there's all these things that's been going on, and even bringing in Suleiman as his vice president. There was a thing there, an element of let's continue along those lines or at least backing stuff up. And there's a point you're making now about the idea that they could be preparing for some kind of massacre of the Egyptian people, the unleashing of various thugs around the city, the role of the police in all this. Let's talk about, also in relation to that, there were also reports last night in the New York Times that the U.S. was thinking of developing or designing a plan that would call for Mubarak to step down immediately. There's a lot of maneuvering going on. What's the U.S. role in maneuvering?
Goodman: Someone emailed an article, a reader of Revolution sent in an article from the Wall Street Journal yesterday entitled, interestingly, "White House Charts a New Plan." Now you might wonder, what is the United States White House doing charting a plan for a country half way around the world!? But the article includes a couple of interesting things. One is, and I'm just going to read this line from the Journal's coverage: "In Washington preliminary talks include whether candidates in the next presidential election would have to...abide by existing agreements, including Egypt's peace treaty with Israel." So here you have an article in the Wall Street Journal saying that in Washington, the terms of any possible government that will emerge out of all this are being defined. And the parameters of what would be an acceptable regime to follow up on Mubarak's, if in fact a call has been made that he should go.
The other thing that a lot of people are asking me about, and very related to this, is how to understand the role of the army, which up to now has not played the same kind of openly overtly thuggish role attacking protesters. And that question in turn is very much related to U.S. strategic interests and the enormous role, which I think you alluded to in your conversation with Richard Falk [UN Special Rapporteur for human rights who preceded Alan Goodman on the show], the enormous negative role of having the world's most populous Arab country just completely aligned with the U.S. and Israel and collaborating in the subjugation of the Palestinians as well as other strategic interests of the U.S. in the region.
Slate: U.S. has had this huge relationship with Egypt. I think what you're hitting at is very very important. It is kind of audacious to hear Hillary Clinton talking about, "We can't really call the shots in Egypt."
Goodman: Yeah, right.
Slate: The maneuvering that the U.S. is playing is, yes, they're drawing up plans and doing all this stuff and they actually do call the shots. But at the same time they sort of are between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out how to press ahead, wouldn't you say?
Goodman: Absolutely. And this is a very deep contradiction. I was just reviewing the call for the original demonstration in Egypt on January 25th, that was circulated on Facebook, and a hundred thousand people on Facebook signed up for "a day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment." Well the "orderly transition" that the U.S. envisions won't address any of that. If you look at what's defined as the U.S. criteria for an acceptable regime, as reported in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, with basically the alliance with the U.S. and Israel intact, this is not addressing the deeply felt feelings and demands, articulated and unarticulated, of the Egyptian people. And you have the fact that the U.S.—and it's no secret in Egypt—has been behind the Mubarak regime. All of a sudden, you know, [U.S. spokespeople are saying] "Oh we've known all along that this is a brutal police state regime, that there was an epidemic of torture." And there's Wikileaks cables that reveal that U.S. diplomats were sending this information back to the U.S. But you've known that for 30 years, and everybody in Egypt knows you knew this, too. So yes, absolutely—this is part of the tension. This is part of the driving dynamic, that on one hand, I think the U.S. is calling the shots very directly, with the Egyptian military, and the between the rock and hard place contradiction that you're identifying explains the way that the U.S. is orchestrating the role of the Egyptian military right now, where they are, again, they've apparently formulated this "orderly transition" as their way to try to maneuver their way through the situation. But the U.S.'s version of an orderly transition does not address the deeply felt needs of the people of the Arab world.
Slate: Alan, tell me this. You alluded to the role of the army. And this has been something that's been put out in every major press around the world, that somehow the army is presented as, it's at least by appearance friendly to the people, they keep pushing the idea, maybe there's a certain element of this in Egypt, people thinking that somehow the army stands above Mubarak and everybody else. Can you talk about the role of the army in this?
Goodman: First of all, I think, there's all kinds of evidence that the army is very directly linked to the, not just the interests of U.S. imperialism, but the close orchestration of [the army by the U.S.]. Your listeners may be aware that over the past decades, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. "aid"—tens of billions of dollars, almost all to the Egyptian military or at least overwhelmingly to the military. There's very close coordination. There have been articles in the press about Egyptian military leaders meeting with U.S. officials even as the protests erupted, in DC.
And also I think the apparent distinction in the role between on one hand the security forces who are just overtly beating people, shooting them, and have been responsible for the day-in-day-out reign of terror against the Egyptian people, and somewhat distanced from—that role the Egyptian military has played. I'm not sure bad cop/good cop exactly captures it, but this relationship together serves the interests of the U.S.
And we have to look at the lessons of history. There was the CIA-orchestrated massacre of hundreds of thousands, up to a million communists and other radicals in Indonesia in 1965. There was the CIA-backed coup in Chile. And in both cases, the U.S. operated through the army. And in a number of cases, that army until its role in actually carrying out a massacre, had been perceived as somewhat above or distinct from the sort of day-to-day death squad activity of repression. These are historical lessons. In our coverage at revcom.us, we go more deeply into a scientific communist understanding of the actual nature and role of armies and the role they play in society. On the one hand one can certainly understand the appeal of the slogan "the army is with us." The Egyptian people, and any people in a situation that the Egyptian people are in, face a very daunting challenge. And yet you do have to confront the actual role that that army plays. And I'll just point finally to the fact that the Egyptian army is a solid element of the suppression of the Palestinian people—enforcing the blockade of Gaza and so on.
Slate: Now one of the things that makes what's going on in Egypt and the region in general so refreshing and exciting is, it is happening in a way that is, again, unexpected, at least to a certain extent, hoped for but unexpected. The idea that neither major reactionary power, whether it's U.S. imperialism, imperialism in general and U.S. in particular, or the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists, neither one of them seems to be behind or involved in this uprising. And that's something very refreshing for people, to see and look at this and say, this is something completely different than what we've been taught to expect. And what's been the main things that's been going on in the world up to now.
Goodman: Yeah, there's a lot to that. And again, the future's unwritten. But one can certainly see the terms of things bursting out of the, like you say, what have been the terms, as framed by both sides in this McWorld vs. Jihad conflict of pick one or the other, and the two being mutually reinforcing. There is a moment here for all of us on various levels and with different understandings of what this means, of Bringing Forward Another Way. That actually is the title of a work by Bob Avakian that in a very substantial way speaks to the necessity to bring forward something completely different than either Western "democracy" or Islamic fundamentalism forward in the world. We're going to be providing easy access to that talk at revcom.us. So I recommend reading it for people who want to get into this dimension of things more deeply. And certainly there is a moment for everyone who finds both the current world order, and the framework of discourse in terms of what are the possible options, to jump into.
Slate: Do you have any closing comments or any thoughts on the potentials or challenges that you started to pose at the beginning of this. Any final thoughts on that?
Goodman: You alluded to this, the responsibility for all of us in this country, to unite with people and be part of and encourage resistance to any U.S.-Israeli attempts to prop up Mubarak or in other ways to sidetrack or suppress or crush the struggle. And there's a moment for all of us to really be engaging with what will it take. Oxygen has been let into the room now. And the question of what comes next is out there for all of us to be wrestling with. Again I'll point your listeners to recom.us for in-depth coverage of all the dimensions of this.
The Michael Slate Show is where you'll hear some of the most radical, provocative and farseeing analysis in the country today, including the voice and analysis of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It provides an in-depth look at the critical and cutting-edge issues of the times. And it's the one spot on the dial where revolutionaries, scholars, journalists, artists and everyday people who care about finding the truth and changing the world have a platform for their voices and their ideas. This is revolutionary radio. It's radio that digs into the world as it is and how it should be and could be. Don't miss it!
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