Opinion: The possibilities of a People’s Democracy from the Egyptian revolution
Egypt has the potential to create the first free society in the middle-east: a true, "Peoples Democracy". The Egyptian revolution has captured the imaginations of billions of people; however, the paranoid imperial U.S. policy establishment didn’t predict that those that would come to power would be Field Marshals, not Mullah’s or Ayatollah’s. Before he resigned the Vice President of Egypt announced that he would renounce his ascendancy and all powers thereafter will be transferred to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The revolution is far from finished, and “Mubarak’s Poodle” (a nickname for the leader of the S.C.A.F., Mohammed H. Tantawi) is currently controlling Egypt. The military’s promises of future elections ring hollow when communiqué no. 5 from the S.C.A.F. they urged “workers to end a wave of strikes and play their role in reviving the economy” (Al-Jazeera, 2/14/11) under the un-repealed ‘emergency laws’, they may arrest anyone at will.
Egypt is still in a period of unrest- labor unrest. The usual agents of repression, the police, are demonstrating alongside medics, civil service, transportation, and bank workers for better pay; dignity on the job; and better conditions. Labor has been involved in the past thirty years as our friendly neighborhood torturer (he was complicit in U.S. illegal extra-ordinary rendition) repressed Egyptian human rights and labor activists, so in a post-dictatorship Egypt.
Why wouldn’t these interests be at the bargaining & reform table? According to Democracy Now, Human Rights activist, Mohammed El-Baradei, criticized the junta for not having opposition activists on the legal or political council that will shape Egypt’s new pluralistic society. This is not representative of a people taking back their land and creating any meaningful democracy.
The U.S. foreign policy establishment from our country’s indifference to the first real democracy being created in the West (i.e. Haiti), to the present has always used “orderly transition” as code for: stop your insolence serfs! Indifference or actual invasion and occupation have been our M.O.; on our end, in this case it is indifference but, in Egypt the key to this deficit in democracy is autocracy. Despite Dr. Henderson’s intelligent and thoughtful analysis (“Is Egypt the New Iran”, Artvoice- 2/10/11), her question of “how can a country under dictatorship for so long develop a democracy overnight?” is misleading. Democracy is never developed overnight and usually the most meaningful democracies are developed from the bottom up; in fact for the U.S.A., only recently in our history have we had any “democracy” of any kind.
To understand what Egypt could / should be, we should all consider Karl Marx’s words on the Paris Commune in address to the General Council of the International Workingmen’s Association (from his work “Civil War in France”):
“The Direct Antithesis to the empire was the commune. The cry of “social republic”, with which the Revolution of February was ushered in by the Paris Proletariat, ……The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage…The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.”
The conditions of Paris in 1871 and Cairo in 2011 are different yet poverty, corruption, and autocratic dictatorships are all looming parallels. Furthermore, it was a working body established to create a better society after the Franco-Prussian war that was ironically crushed by a combination of French and Prussian forces. Let the workers, or rather, the people decide Egypt's fate.
The aforementioned commune is democracy from the bottom-up. We shouldn’t continue to be a repressive force, such as, with our treatment of social democratic and peasant/ workers movements in Bolivia and Venezuela; which swept elections and ushered in governments that are making reforms for the poorest of each countries citizenry. Democracy is a radical thing, and instead of Mubarak-light, we should respect the self-determination of the Egyptian people. Furthermore, we should levy our million dollar aid packages to Egypt (only second to Israel) to see that the revolution of democratic opposition, labor, and everyday people continues. Vive la revolution!