November 12, Defend the Revolution: A letter from Cairo to Occupy / Decolonize movements

From Egypt’s Campaign to End Military Trials of Civilians, this is worth reproducing in full:

Call-Out for Solidarity with Egypt: Defend the Revolution

© Adam Dot 2011

A letter from Cairo to the Occupy/Decolonize movements & other solidarity movements.

After three decades of living under a dictatorship, Egyptians started a revolution demanding bread, freedom and social justice. After a nearly utopian occupation of Tahrir Square lasting 18 days, we rid ourselves of Mubarak and began the second, harder, task of removing his apparatuses of power. Mubarak is gone, but the military regime lives on. So the revolution continues – building pressure, taking to the streets and claiming the right to control our lives and livelihoods against systems of repression that abused us for years. But now, seemingly so soon after its beginnings, the revolution is under attack. We write this letter to tell you about what we are seeing, how we mean to stand against this crackdown, and to call for your solidarity with us.

  • The 25th and 28th of January, the 11th of February: you saw these days, lived these days with us on television. But we have battled through the 25th of February, the 9th of March, the 9th of April, the 15th of May, the 28th of June, the 23rd of July, the 1st of August, the 9th of September, the 9th of October. Again and again the army and the police have attacked us, beaten us, arrested us, killed us. And we have resisted, we have continued; some of these days we lost, others we won, but never without cost. Over a thousand gave their lives to remove Mubarak. Many more have joined them in death since. We go on so that their deaths will not be in vain. Names like Ali Maher (a 15 year old demonstrator killed by the army in Tahrir, 9th of April), Atef Yehia (shot in the head by security forces in a protest in solidarity with Palestine, 15th of May), Mina Danial (shot by the Army in a protest in front of Masepro, 9th of October). Mina Daniel, in death, suffers the perverse indignity of being on the military prosecutor’s list of the accused.
  • Moreover, since the military junta took power, at least 12,000 of us have been tried by military courts, unable to call witnesses and with limited access to lawyers. Minors are serving in adult prisons, death sentences have been handed down, torture runs rampant. Women demonstrators have been subjected to sexual assault in the form of “virginity tests” by the Army.
  • On October 9th, the Army massacred 28 of us at Maspero; they ran us over with tanks andshot us down in the street while manipulating state media to try and incite sectarian violence. The story has been censored. The military is investigating itself. They are systematically targeting those of us who speak out. This Sunday, our comrade and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was imprisoned on trumped-up charges. He spends another night in an unlit cell tonight.
  • All this from the military that supposedly will ensure a transition to democracy, that claimed to defend the revolution, and seemingly convinced many within Egypt and internationally that it was doing so. The official line has been one of ensuring “stability”, with empty assurances that the Army is only creating a proper environment for the upcoming elections. But even once a new parliament is elected, we will still live under a junta that holds legislative, executive, and judicial authority, with no guarantee that this will end. Those who challenge this scheme are harassed, arrested, and tortured; military trials of civilians are the primary tool of this repression. The prisons are full of casualties of this “transition”.
We now refuse to co-operate with military trials and prosecutions. We will not hand ourselves in, we will not submit ourselves to questioning. If they want us, they can take us from our homes and workplaces.

Nine months into our new military repression, we are still fighting for our revolution. We are marching, occupying, striking, shutting things down. And you, too, are marching, occupying, striking, shutting things down. We know from the outpouring of support we received in January that the world was watching us closely and even inspired by our revolution. We felt closer to you than ever before. And now, it’s your turn to inspire us as we watch the struggles of your movements. We marched to the US Embassy in Cairo to protest the violent eviction of the occupation in Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland. Our strength is in our shared struggle. If they stifle our resistance, the 1% will win – in Cairo, New York, London, Rome – everywhere. But while the revolution lives our imaginations knows no bounds. We can still create a world worth living.
You can help us defend our revolution.
The G8, IMF and Gulf states are promising the regime loans of $35 billion. The US gives the Egyptian military $1.3 billion in aid every year. Governments the world over continue their long-term support and alliance with the military rulers of Egypt. The bullets they kill us with are made in America. The tear gas that burns from Oakland to Palestine is made in Wyoming. David Cameron’s first visit to post-revolutionary Egypt was to close a weapons deal. These are only a few examples. People’s lives, freedoms and futures must stop being trafficked for strategic assets. We must unite against governments who do not share their people’s interests.
We are calling on you to undertake solidarity actions to help us oppose this crackdown. We are suggesting an International Day to Defend the Egyptian Revolution on Nov 12th under the slogan “Defend the Egyptian Revolution – End Military Trials for Civilians.” Events could include:
  • Actions targeting Egyptian Embassies or Consulates demanding the release of civilians sentenced in military tribunals. If Alaa is released, demand the release of the thousands of others.
  • Actions targeting your government to end support for the Egyptian junta.
  • Demand the release of civilians sentenced to military tribunals. If Alaa is released, the thousands of others must follow.
  • Project videos about the repression we face (military trials, Maspero massacre) and our continued resistance. Email us for links.
  • Videoconferencing with activists in Egypt
  • Any creative way to show your support, and to show the Egyptian people that they have allies abroad.
If you’re organising anything or wish to, email us at  defendtherevolution@gmail.com.  We would also love to see photos and videos from any events you organize.
The Campaign to End Military Trials of Civilians
The Free Alaa Campaign
Mosireen
Comrades from Cairo

Wall Street under occupation: anarchism and the alternatives to power

I like anarchists. I always have. Victor Serge is one of my heroes.  (Go read his memoirs, one of the great books of the last century.) And almost everywhere I’ve seen a struggle for human rights — in Budapest, Moscow, Cairo — the anarchists are the ones who keep the faith, who are willing to go on the streets and march for the causes that are unpopular and despised. They’ll stand up, sit in, and get arrested for the issues none of the respectable human rights activists would want to be associated with.   I might trust the fellow with the business card and the Hugo Boss suit to argue for me in court. But it’s the guy in the ragged black T-shirt with the swirling tattoos, clutching his copy of Alexander Berkman, I’d want standing with me when the riot police charge.

My doubts — and this has to do both with Occupy Wall Street, and with the huge but evanescent victories of Midan Tahrir — are about where the project leads. We are seeing an era of what some pundits call “postmodern” revolutions, which don’t aim to seize the levers of state power but to create alternative spaces where a different kind of politics can be generated or imagined.  Changing the government was so 1789, or 1989. This is the age of Lennon, not Lenin. (OK, of Radiohead, but you get the idea.) That was what almost everybody who was in Tahrir seems to remember ecstatically about the experience: the sense they had created a model society radically unlike the one outside, a different kind of community, an embodied challenge to the divide-and-conquer hierarchies of the old state. (Of course, the revolution overthrew the dictator. But the protesters in Tahrir, refraining from violence, also refrained from claiming power for themselves. The result was that when the apparatus of rule slipped from Mubarak’s hands, not the popular movement but the military stepped in to claim it.  The history of the coming years will show whether this was a beautiful affirmation of the revolution’s purity of spirit, or a missed opportunity and an abnegation.) The ensuing months have not depleted that dream, but they’ve shown that only a few rubber bullets are needed to sweep the alternative space away.

The aspiration not to capture power, but to find another way of living altogether beyond its insidious dominion, is not particularly postmodern at all. Its roots are in the old anarchist tradition and its deep skepticism of all authority, its awareness of how dissent can mimic the domination it opposes.  But without power, how can you change anything — instead of just cultivating a private garden that will get bulldozed whenever the powers-that-be assert their eminent domain?  Without power, how can you even hope to safeguard and preserve the changes you’ve accomplished in your own life and self?

The NY Times recently published an article on young activists who reject the idea that voting changes things. As always, the Times is palpably unnerved by people whose demands would be difficult to fit in an editorial.

[F]rom South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

The vague, anarchism-inflected ideas of participatory democracy that drive the spreading protests of 2011 seem to give the Times the willies. Voting behind drawn curtains is quieter and doesn’t break things.

I don’t agree. Making democracy more participatory, against its current colonization by mass media and corporate money, is vital.  And participation starts with the local and immediate, with needs and not abstractions, neighbors and not anonymous citizens. But it’s still the state that has final deciding power over who profits and who loses, who gets ahead and who gets screwed; in some cases, who belongs or who doesn’t, or who lives and who dies.   Really to change things surely means wresting that power away from the amoral entities controlling it now.

A participatory democracy in Midan Tahrir or Dewey Square may be an ideal or model, but it will take more than mere mimesis to make the rest of the world resemble it.  It’s very possible that, out of these inchoate protests, a new kind of politics is being born. But these are the hard questions it needs to ask itself if it’s going to grow, and succeed.