Public Comment

Protest to Resistance, and Rebellion to Revolution?

By R.G. Davis, Ph. D.
Wednesday February 09, 2011 - 03:56:00 PM

To hear descriptions of yet another demonstration, especially in foreign Arab countries, why, who cares? Tunisia's 500,000 or Egypt’s million, all over the country if not in the main square, so what? What has that to do with anything in the U.S.? The U.S. had a million-man march organized by the Black Muslims and others. The U.S. had a million people on the streets protesting the Republican and Democratic Party's invasion Iraq. (Everyone voted for it except one other person. Or was that the Patriot act?) A million person protest on the street in the U.S.: so what? 

Bush said “See democracy in action.” Obama has said the same thing in more intellectualized terms: so what? And, if one relies upon the New York Times for news, it is usually within the mind of Israelis, both in Zionist positions in Israel and Zionist positions in the U.S. government (along with AIPAC): so what? 

It is easy for excited newscasters, journalists and even scholars to call the uprising in Egypt a “revolution.” It sounds more fascinating than a protest movement—a demonstration—against the barbarians of U.S-backed dictatorship for 28 years. 

After all, a one-liner attracts immediate attention, claims: “This is serious! This is it. A big thing!” Such headline exaggeration sells newspapers and turns heads to listen. 

The minimally accurate description of events, at least of the economic/political substantive details are to be found in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Military budgets 1.3 to 2 billion for Egypt, are at stake, and U.S. corporations have enormous investments in Egypt. This is the big time for the Murdoch-run WSJ, so the paper has to report about the safety of investments and not whether the protestors are peaceful or without rocks, or non-Islamist or secular.  

All that is secondary and only important to the extent that the U.S. investments and the U.S. military are safe, plus that smaller item, the Egyptian treaty with Israel. The Pentagon pays for, trains and consults with the Egyptian leadership and military. 

In the first hours of the eruption the Egyptian Generals were at the Pentagon discussing???? The report in the WSJ stated they “didn’t discuss Egypt – except in the hallway conversations.” Now really, how cute. 

There are three elements in this protest-to-rebellion movement that are barely encountered in the current discussion/discourse, yet affect one’s understanding as to what may happen next: 

  • 1. Description of what is going on, what to call it?
  • 2. The influence of the Egyptian Youth Movements and
  • 3. The conscripts in the Egyptian Army.
If this is not called a revolution, rather a protest movement, it might become more radical through the pressure from Mubarak’s plainclothes security forces (“thugs” or “goons”). Pushed against the wall the younger people (6 April Youth, plus 3 other Youth groups) will fight back and the protest will turn into resistance, or else the peaceful protestors will be beaten to the ground. Few people enjoy such an event.  

The older people will of course get out of the way, become first aid supporters and window watchers, while the younger folks able to throw back what is thrown at them will organize and guerrilla-ize to beat out the Mubarak-hired plainclothes forces. If not, the change at the top will be superficial 

The single demand that is most essential, mouthed by all protestors, not for the U.S. but for the Egyptian people, youth and old, is to get Mubarak out now. Even though Obama used the term “now”– much like U.S. demonstrators who chant, “What do we want?” “No war!“, “When do we want it? “Now!” –I always thought that such a chant was defeated before its echo died. Who would do anything “now” except ask where is the water and do the toilets require small change? If the majority of protestors stick with “Mubarak Out Now” then some structural changes could take place. 

The so-called revolution , labeled by liberal U.S. journalists, is a misnomer, and so if the protestors were defeated it would be a depressing let down. Rather it is a protest movement, soon to turn into a resistance or rebellious one, while if it continues and stops the entire country with a general (Trotsky) strike, then it becomes a rebellion. However, it’s not yet a revolution until the Mubarak forces try to squelch, invade, brutalize the people’s resistance, when everyone without a weapon in his hand is likely to be beaten, wounded and killed by U.S. backed military and security forces in Egypt. 

However the government ointment is not without flies. The military’s soldiers are conscripts, although its leadership is in direct contact with and paid for by the U.S, Pentagon, That means they are ordinary people required to serve in the Army for one to three years – against their will, or because they need a job. 

Such conscripts are notoriously unstable they don’t need to kill their own people or other people like them. The reason the U.S. has a volunteer “professional” army is that conscripts are unruly and don’t like to take orders to kill people they don’t know and who might have the same problems as they do.  

In the U.S. Vietnam invasion, the conscripts turned against the war and the U.S. government. Therefore there is a class difference and a survival difference between the grunts and the generals. The conscripts after service have to live with the people; they speak the same language and perhaps listen to the same music, and are about the same age. 

Imagine the conversations between the 6th April Youth group and the soldiers as different from the Mubarak's security undercover agents and the soldiers. Which has the tone, the language, the connection? 

The second item of interest appearing in the WSJ (Feb. 3, 2011: A11) is a list of the proposed “Egypt’s Opposition Steering Committee” composed of 11 groups: El Baradei, and also Abdel Galil Mustafa of National Association for Change (El Baradei’s group). Secular groups: Karama Party, Kefaya protest movement, Tegammu secular leftist party, and Liberal secular Ghad party. Pro Islamist Labor Party. Three to five members from 6 April Youth, Al Ghad Youth, Muslim Brotherhood Youth, NDP Youth.  

The 11 to 12 members are called “Opposition Steering Committee”-- perhaps in Arabic they are called “Transitional Opposition Steering committee.” Certainly anyone who has been around such events and reads them deeply knows there will be shuffling where by the liberals will drop out as the demands by the radicals increase, or as is the case at the moment (3 Feb, Thursday) the Government forces become violent and force the radicalization of the movement in order to survive. 

This may be exactly what Obama and his side of the Administration (not Biden, not Hillary or the U.S. military) worries about. The protest movement could have been managed when it was peaceful, but when the violence starts there are fewer games and gains the U.S. CIA, U.S. Military, U.S. Embassy, U.S. business operatives can play. Their role can become even more reactionary since they lose connections to the street fighting and begin to think of military actions. 

What other tools can they use? Send the Martin Luther King people to demand “non violent tactics” but for which side the protestors or the government? Since the Mubarak Government owns most of the big weapons ,but not all the small ones, who is supposed to become peaceful when the protestors are being attacked by organized government forces, plain cloths men, with their ID cards in their pockets? 

What is happening only Tariq Ally would say: “ The more oppression the more it increases resistance.” And Mubarak, the one time instrument of U.S. and neo-liberal oppression of Egypt, is like many hired CIA operatives (Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama) who often don’t want to leave and give up power. They have their own agenda, that is to continue exploiting and brutalizing. For many such people, their habit is to rule, oppress, and follow the neo-liberal economic program. So pity the long time U.S. quislings and lackeys: They can’t give in, move out, take a plane ride without a fight. 

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