by John Reimann, Oakland/East Bay Socialist Group
“the land was vibrating. the building every thing. i thought it was space attack”
That is how an activist described the mass protests in Tahrir Square. And for world capitalism, it might as well have been an attack from “outer space”. After all, when do the masses get to really play a role in world history? At most times, they are just spectators, cheering on one team or another from the sidelines. It is only on the very rarest of occasions that the masses of ordinary workers actually get to play anything more than a bit part.
And here they were doing it.
World Capitalism Worried
World capitalism was beside itself with worry. They must have noticed that even the police were no longer completely reliable. If that was so for the police, it must have been a thousand times more so for the rank and file of the military – the ordinary soldier whose mother or sister, whose cousin or brother, was likely as not out there on the streets too.
And world capitalism was also worried that these earth shaking events do not come in isolation. In Bulgaria and Romania, governments have been forced to resign. Greek workers are still in revolt. The Erdogan regime in Turkey has been hit with the largest protest movement in its history, and recent mass protests in Brazil were clearly influenced by what the people of Egypt have done. The Chinese working class and the Chinese peasants have been staging one protest and one strike after another.
Protests in Bulgaria earlier this year and in Brazil last month
In the internet age, each new revolt inspires others around the world. Truly, a global revolt against capitalism is starting. No such revolt starts with the realization that we are fighting against the entire capitalist system itself. On the contrary, such revolts always start off against particular abuses – corruption, or price increases, or an overbearing regime. But as the revolt develops, it finds that these are just the symptoms.
No Straight Line
No mass revolt proceeds in a straight line upwards. There are always pauses, retreats and set backs. There are also always problems and weaknesses. Just as during the time of a retreat it is the task of revolutionaries to find and build on the strengths, in the times of great advances – like now – one task is to identify potential problems.
Violence Against Women
One issue that is being reported outside Egypt is that of violence, including rape, against women. According to some reports we have read, there were nearly 100 cases of mass sexual assaults against women in the first day or so of protests in Tahrir Square. Of course, this problem started some time ago, but it will definitely be used against the movement. In any case, how can we fight for a better, a more humane society, if we allow this sort of thing to happen?
Self Defense Groups
According to other reports, women have been organizing self defense groups, along with some men. This is a very hopeful sign and socialists the world over will be hoping that these groups develop further and take on an even wider role.
We have seen the reports of MB violence against people, including the video of their throwing a youth off of a roof. We have also seen the video of MB members threatening to launch a campaign of suicide bombings. Around the world, suicide bombing and terrorism has devastated the mass movement. As socialists, we would ask whether or not the women’s defense groups could be expanded to defend against such attacks.
But such attacks cannot be prevented entirely as long as there is a base of support for the MB. And as long as their supporters are attacked, either by arrests or by street attacks, this will only harden their attitudes. We read, for instance, on muftah.org about one such attack. We wonder whether there isn’t some possibility of somehow having a dialog with at least some of the MB supporters. We wonder if the movement were to develop a clear economic program – for jobs, better wages, an end to corruption, etc., possibly through Tamarod – whether this might not attract some of the workers and the poor who presently support the MB.
Comrades in Egypt: We put these ideas forward hoping that the world workers’ movement can learn from your experiences and that the experiences of the world workers’ movement may be of some help to you.