Friday, July 19, 2013

The killing and trial of Trayvon Martin: Black humanity on trial in America, again


Published by Counterpunch, July 19, 20013


“Let us banish from our minds the thought that this is an unfortunate victim of injustice. The very concept of injustice rests upon the premise of equal claims.” – Richard Wright

The above quote from the author Richard Wright is a reminder that the consequences of enslavement are still very much a part of the cultural, social and political makeup of the United States of America. From time to time in the history of society there are incidents or series of incidents that brings together the central contradictions of the society. The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, was one such incident that brought out the history of racism, racial profiling, white vigilantism and the realities that black people and their allies have to organize to change the system. There is hardly a decent person inside the United States who was not moved by this verdict that was handed down on July 13, 2013. Throughout the trial, and following the verdict, it became clear that the US system put on trial the unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, who was murdered by an armed stalker.

The trial dehumanized Trayvon Martin, put his friend Rachel Jeantel up for ridicule and turned the killer George Zimmerman into a victim. George Zimmerman was portrayed as someone merely defending himself, and was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter. Juror B37 stated that she and others on the jury believed that Zimmerman had a right to stand his ground. In the common law, self-defense argument generally states that if you are threatened with imminent bodily harm or death, you have a right to defend yourself. Significantly, it had the requirement that if one has the opportunity to retreat from that threat, you must do so. Stand Your Ground law removes that requirement. In other words, don’t retreat; take the other person’s life. What kind of legal system justifies laws such as the Stand Your Ground law that was used as part of the deliberative guidelines by the jury that acquitted Zimmerman? The application of this law in the jury deliberation buys into the Zimmerman story in which he stated that he resorted to shooting unarmed Trayvon Martin by way of self-defense against his perceived fear of harm from the fight he had started with a teenager that was minding his own business.

There have been numerous commentaries on this case which now stands out as the most recent example of the fact that blacks have no claim to equality before the law in the United States. Throughout the world, people are asking: “what kind of society has a system where a George Zimmerman can walk free?”

In seeking to answer this question, one would discover that this social system of racial terror was never meant to serve the needs of persons such as Trayvon Martin. Florida is a state of the Old Confederacy that fought against the freedom of blacks. It was and remains one of the states where the ideas of white supremacy are stamped in almost every aspect of life and the citizens of that state carry the memories of the dehumanization and lynching of blacks in that society. In many ways, the killing of Trayvon and the verdict of not guilty was a reminder to many who may have been living in a dream that the United States is a post-racial society.

As a resident of this society, we immediately cast our minds back to the previous experiences of the killings of black persons such as Emmet Till, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant and the thousands of black lives that are uselessly snuffed out needlessly.

In this analysis we seek to draw on the current conjuncture and how the experience of Trayvon Martin was acting as a wakeup call to galvanize a new movement for human dignity.

Memory of Racism and Dehumanizing Justice System in US and Florida
The Zimmerman case invokes the memory of rabid racist history in the US, and Florida in particular. This history is characterized by the killing of blacks by whites with impunity, white vigilantism (in which any white man has the right to stop, interrogate, and violate the humanity of any black person), and a legal system that was built to protect whites and their property against black people.
When Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, it took mass mobilizations and protests to get the local authorities to arrest and prosecute this killer who had walked free for over one month after committing this crime. This kind of indifference by authorities to the wasting of black life is not new in Florida. In 1923, Rosewood, a black town in Florida, was terrorized, burned down and abandoned after white massacre of blacks. And yet no one was arrested or held accountable. A white woman in adjoining city of Sumner had accused a black man of assaulting her, following which white vigilantes lynched a black man from Rosewood. The defensive actions taken by Rosewood residents against further attacks led to a mass manhunt and massacre of blacks resulting in the abandonment of this black town. No arrest was made.

While the justice system ensured that there were no arrests and proper prosecution of crimes such as that committed in Rosewood against blacks, these same black people were almost immediately assumed guilty and terrorized by the slightest accusations from whites. In Groveland, Florida, the accusation by a white woman Norma Padgett, who claimed that she and her husband had been attacked by four black men in 1949, resulted in extrajudicial killings in the hands of Florida authorities – now notoriously known as the Groveland Shooting.

The same city of Sanford where Zimmerman killed Trayvon was one of the two Florida cities (the other being Jacksonville) that doubled down on racist segregation laws to mobilize against African American baseball icon Jackie Robinson in the 1940s. The action of the people of these cities ensured that Robinson’s team, the Dodgers, moved their spring training away to another location, the City Island Ball Park in 1947. Today, many young persons who haven’t read about this legacy of Sanford, Florida, can get an idea of its racist legacy from the movie, “42,” about the experience of Jackie Robinson in racist America.

The accosting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman reminded all citizens of the United States of the Fugitive Slave Laws that gave whites the right to stop free blacks to verify their status. From 1793, the US Congress had passed Fugitive Slave Acts which were codified on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850. It declared that all runaway slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters. Any white person could stop a black person. This was the white vigilante tradition that George Zimmerman was following.

The Humanity of Blacks and Rights in America
The argument that has been paraded by supporters of Zimmerman, including his defense team and one of the jurors (B37) is that he had killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense. They even claim that Trayvon Martin caused or contributed largely to his own death. It is not surprising to me that this argument disregards the right of unarmed Trayvon Martin to defend himself against an armed stranger that followed and accosted him in the dark. The larger question here is whether blacks are indeed considered equal to white under the law. This question of equality before the law has been at the core of the struggle for human dignity by blacks in America.

Many observers around the world should now grapple with the historical reality that in many parts of the United States, blacks are not really considered full citizens. From the time of enslavement, black people were considered sub human. This view of black people as sub species had been enshrined in the US constitution when blacks were designated as 3/5 of a person. It required a major war, the American Civil War (1861-1865), for black people in the United States to be considered as citizens. Before this major war, there had been legal and political struggles such as the Dredd Scott case where the Supreme Court of the United States declared that “no black, free or slave, could claim U.S. citizenship.”

Last month the Supreme Court of the United States rolled back the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In every sphere of life, black and oppressed people are finding out that they have to develop new forms of struggles to change the social system. After a Civil War, the civil rights movement and the election of a President of African descent, the progressives are finding out that the removal of racism will require system change. Since a black man became the president of the United States, conservative forces have been hard at work in many states of their stronghold, devising ways to chip away the voting rights from blacks and other oppressed such as Latinos.

After the major struggles against slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights rebellions, there had been complacency among sections of the two dominant political parties in the United States that the country was in a post-racial moment. In fact, the media specifically did not use the term racism but instead use the concept “race” to disguise and cover up the intensified racism and brutality against African Americans. This cover up did not hide the realities that in every sphere of life blacks were oppressed. The school-to-prison pipeline placed the black and brown population in a for-profit prison system where 70 per cent of those behind bars are black and brown. The killings of black people by racists and police have not abated. Whether it was the killing of Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant or Trayvon Martin, black people are routinely and arbitrarily killed in the United States.

The acquittal of George Zimmerman has opened the eyes of millions of people to the conditions of the black and brown citizens. In an effort to create divisions between oppressed blacks and oppressed Latinos, the media has been touting the fact that George Zimmerman is Latino. But this has not disguised his profiling and racist intent in the murder of Trayvon. All classes of blacks have now jumped in to demand that the Justice Department bring a civil suit against George Zimmerman.
Eric Holder, the first African American Attorney General of the United States, in his address to the annual convention of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on July 16 spoke about his own experiences of racial profiling reminding the audience that these practices were still at large. He said in part,

“Years ago, some of these same issues drove my father to sit down with me to have a conversation – which is no doubt familiar to many of you – about how as a young black man I should interact with the police, what to say, and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way I thought was unwarranted.  I’m sure my father felt certain – at the time – that my parents’ generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children.”

Eric Holder is now being pushed by the anger of a new energized and mobilized social justice community. The day before he spoke to the NAACP, Holder had made forceful statements about the case in his address to the influential African-American sorority Delta Sigma Theta. Holder was addressing the sorority’s national convention in its centennial celebration. This organization was founded one hundred years ago in the midst of segregation and lynching as a movement for civil rights. Founded by educated black women at Howard University, Delta Sigma Theta is the largest single organization of African-American women in the United States. Since the sixties, these women have moved into the middle and upper echelons of society and the members of Delta Sigma Theta represent a who’s who of African-American politicians, educators and activists. Many of these women consider themselves successful, but the acquittal of George Zimmerman reminded them that this system will never provide equality for black people. It is this reality that forces women of sororities such as Delta Sigma Theta to continue to be involved in the struggles for civil rights. Except that in this period of capitalist crisis, the struggles for civil rights are no longer simply about voting and equal access to housing, education and employment. Sixty years ago, the United States could have promoted the fiction that the legal struggles were separate from the struggles for a new social system, but the economic crisis since 2007 has clarified the bare realities of the class and racial polarizations so that even the “democratic” fa├žade of the United States now stands exposed.

Dividing the Oppressed
During the trial of George Zimmerman, it was Trayvon Martin who turned out to be on trial and Zimmerman was portrayed as a victim. Trayvon’s mode of dress, wearing a hoodie, was presented as a form of “deviance.” During the trial, the lawyer for Zimmerman made a lot of to do about Trayvon. His school record was brought up. While all sorts of drug tests were conducted on an unarmed dead victim of profiling, the vigilante who killed Trayvon was not tested for drugs or alcohol. It was revealed during the court proceedings that Trayvon had marijuana in his system and was thus characterized as a thug. In a strange twist of historical irony, one day after the verdict, the “Glee” TV star, Cory Monteith, died of an overdose of heroin and alcohol, but the media did not portray him as a drug addict but sympathized about “how his story was tragic.”

At the same time the media has been hard at work portraying Zimmerman as a Latino while conservatives have weighed in to argue that the passions evoked by this case has overshadowed the rampant crime inside the oppressed communities. The conservatives have labeled this oppression black-on-black crime. The term “black-on-black” crime has become popular in the playbook of those who want to deflect attention from the historical context of terror and dehumanization that undergird race crimes and brutality meted out on black and brown people by whites and law enforcement in America. They are quick to draw attention to crimes in some black communities. In my own home town, one of my colleagues in the Political Science Department of Syracuse University, Professor Laurence Thomas wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper on this theme of black-on-black crime.

Well, it is true that crime anywhere in the society is not desirable, and that more needs to be done to address them. But the term black-on-black crime is a misnomer that is not intended to tackle the root causes of these crimes, but concocted as an excuse to downplay the gravity of racist crimes. The same people who use this term would not use “white-on-white crime” to describe the killing sprees in schools, theatres, and malls in America, of which the perpetrators and majority of the victims are Caucasians. Instead, efforts such as gun control and the availability of resources meant to address these crimes – whether those prevalent in white or black communities – are frustrated by the merchants of the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex who benefit from the deformed system.

Black Oppression and the Capitalist Crisis
The capitalist crisis has been felt disproportionately by the black and brown peoples in the United States. The Wall Street moguls have used this crisis to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich and to disenfranchise the poor. The city of Detroit, a predominantly black city is the most recent high profile case of a city where black citizens are being disenfranchised; where a republican governor has placed the city under an emergency manager. In reality, the task of the emergency manager is to shift responsibility for capitalism’s crisis away from bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers and onto the backs of the most vulnerable. In the case of Detroit, that means poor and working-class African Americans who make up the vast majority of the city’s population.

Oppression was always severe for the African descendants in the US but since 2008, there has been an intensification of black subjugation and mass incarceration.  With unemployment in the black community way over 25 per cent, there have been increased racial attacks with a spiraling of violence and police brutality, emboldened dope dealers (destruction of public schools, governmental attacks on voting rights laws, etc.).

In New York City the establishment promote a stop-and-frisk policy by which a police officer who reasonably suspects a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a penal law misdemeanor, stops and questions that person, and, if the officer reasonably suspects he or she is in danger of physical injury, frisks the person stopped for weapons.  Of the more than 700,000 persons stopped every year, more than 90 per cent are blacks and browns.

System Change Necessary for Justice
When the verdict came out on Saturday evening, July 13, the establishment worked hard to pacify the rage among decent people by pointing out that the courts had spoken. As soon as the verdict was made known there were spontaneous demonstrations all over the country. Young and old, black, white and brown, men and women, gays and straights spoke out against this blatant dehumanization of Trayvon Martin. African American churches immediately became spaces for “prayer” vigils and other historical forms of meetings for mobilization. Significantly, despite the efforts to divide blacks from Latinos, in Washington Heights, a predominantly Dominican neighborhood of New York City, there was an organized protest. From San Francisco to Washington and from Los Angeles to Atlanta, the people came out to demonstrate while the conservatives used the media to pour invective on blacks. In every media, whether print, TV, social media or blogs there is an unprecedented outpouring of opinions.

Robin D. G. Kelley in an excellent article, “The U.S. v. Trayvon Martin,” summed up the views of many progressives when he wrote,

“The point is that justice was always going to elude Trayvon Martin, not because the system failed, but because it worked.  Martin died and Zimmerman walked because our entire political and legal foundations were built on an ideology of settler colonialism—an ideology in which the protection of white property rights was always sacrosanct; predators and threats to those privileges were almost always black, brown, and red; and where the very purpose of police power was to discipline, monitor, and contain populations rendered a threat to white property and privilege.  This has been the legal standard for African Americans and other racial groups in the U.S. long before ALEC or the NRA came into being.”

The killing of Trayvon Martin, the acquittal of the killer Zimmermann, and the vigorous defense of the verdict by sections of the US society who claim that “the jury has spoken” and that “the due process of the law/justice” was applied, underscore the fact that this case was not about Florida or Zimmerman. It was about the US justice system and the societal ideation system of liberalism built on the duality and contradictions of “human vs. sub-human,” “white supremacy vs. black/brown inferiority,” “full rights of citizenship vs. selective rights.”

Globally, people are asking what’s next. Some are pointing to legal avenues, calling on the Attorney General of the United States to take action. As of Wednesday July 17, one million people have signed an NAACP petition asking the Department of Justice to pursue federal and civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The strategy of the NAACP is to pressure the Attorney General to investigate whether Zimmerman’s actions constitute a hate crime under federal law. The Justice Department had closely monitored the case since March, and only put their investigation on hold to respect the state’s trial. Since the verdict and the overwhelming response, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to re-open his investigation. However, it would be a major error to focus on legal actions only.

A system change is what will be required to undo this contradiction of the dehumanization of black people inside this social system. Progressive forces and decent human beings must make this the focus of the next phase of the historical struggle to be human in America.

Celebrating 50 years of African Unity: The imperative for a new international relations paradigm



Published by e-International Relations on July 18, 2013


The Global Pan African family commemorated 50 years of African Unity in May 2013, with plans for year-long celebrations. These festivities represented a new phase of confidence in the Global Pan African struggles as the world woke up to the economic and political diplomacy of Africa. While the celebrations reflected on the successes of removing colonialism and apartheid, there was the recognition that there are still outstanding colonial outposts in Western Sahara, the Comoros and Diego Garcia. It was this recognition that ensured the clarity that the tasks of Pan African liberation are incomplete. At the end of apartheid in 1994, new ideas of liberation were placed on the agenda for Africa and these issues of social and economic transformation are at the top of the agenda of the African Union.

African Liberation day, May 25 2013, was marked with meetings and reflections in all parts of the Pan African world, from Kingston to Abuja and from Salvador de Bahia to Johannesburg.  It was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the current heads of state held their celebration. The two day event at the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa had been preceded by a week of meetings by many groups from across Africa and the Global Africa family. The reflections and discussions of these groups were very different from the communiques that came from the heads of State at the end of the celebration. While the Heads of State focused on a standby force, their equivocation over the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their vision of Africa 2063, the intellectuals, activists, artists and writers focused on the acceleration of the full unification of the peoples of Africa and the need for concrete steps towards a government that can defend Africans at home and abroad. The three terms of dignity, emancipation and unity were repeated and elaborated on by presenters who participated in a forum on “Framing a 21st Century Narrative on Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.”

In this commentary I will explore the successes of the African Liberation project and the present conjuncture where Africa is now seen as a space where the future of the world economy will be decided in the 21st century. The conclusion calls on scholars and students of IR to break from the traditional and worn out assumptions of International Relations theory and embrace the spirit of Ubuntu which is the new paradigm for politics emanating from Africa.

Origins of the Africa Union and the Implementation of Pan-African Project
Ghana had achieved its independence in 1957 and one year later President Kwame Nkrumah called a conference of African workers, freedom fighters and champions for justice. When Ghana achieved its independence in 1957,Kwame Nkrumah maintained that the independence of Ghana would be “incomplete without the independence of all of Africa.” Together with the principal freedom fighters within Ghana, Nkrumah established a Pan-African Secretariat within the Ghanaian government and appointed George Padmore to run the secretariat. The task of the secretariat was to act as the coordinating point for the establishment of links with freedom fighters on the African continent and for the secretariat to be a center for information to support those fighting for freedom.

At that historical moment, freedom was conceived of as freedom of the peoples and freedom of the states from colonial rule. This was the spirit that inspired the calling of the All-African Peoples’ Conferences in 1958. It was at this meeting where Patrice Lumumba from the Congo was introduced to the wider Pan African struggles. In tandem with this people-centered activity, the Pan African Project at that moment had taken the principle of the rights of peoples to self-determination as a core principle. The Spirit of Bandung had infused the Pan African project and together with the alliances from Asia and Latin America, Africans were able to establish a permanent decolonization committee at the United Nations.[i]

Meanwhile, Kwame Nkrumah had been influenced by the ideas of W.E.B DuBois, George Padmore and C.L.R James. To pursue the stated goals of the decolonization of Africa that had been articulated at the 5th Pan African Congress organized by these intellectuals in 1945 (in Manchester, UK), Nkrumah convened the Conferences of Independent African States to establish a diplomatic framework for the political union of Africa. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) emerged out of the Conferences of Independent States and out of conflict and cooperation, the peoples of Africa assigned themselves the tasks of ending colonialism and establishing the complete unification of Africa.

Although the OAU was divided (between the Casablanca and Monrovia groups), [ii] there was agreement on one question: a commitment to end colonialism and apartheid in Africa. Hence, despite the differing political orientations of the governments, the peoples supported the anti-apartheid struggles. After the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1961 the tasks of liberation were delayed significantly and Mobutu Sese Seko was propped up by the CIA and western interest for over 35 years. The literature on the role of the CIA and the support of Mobutism is too extensive to delay us here. Books such as The Assassination of Lumumba, The Congo Cables and America’s Tyrant have exposed the collusion between the US establishment and the networks of dictatorships in Africa, but mainstream IR scholars have sought to sideline this information. What is important for the current context is that healing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains constrained up to the present. The same external forces that orchestrated the assassination of Patrice Lumumba are still at work seeking to dismember the Congo. This information remains buried in the reports of the Security Council of the United Nations.

Pan Africanism as the driving force behind the idea of African Unity had been embraced within the academy for decades after the tragedies of depression, wars, invasions, genocide and the dropping of the atomic bomb on human beings 1935-1945. Because of the autonomy of Caribbean and North American Scholars of African descent, the study of Pan Africanism was linked organically to popular social movements for liberation. The popularity of the ideation basis for African Unity did, however, not escape the machinations of the foreign policy establishment in the United States and Europe. So in the USA the establishment worked very hard to redefine the meaning of Pan Africanism and to inscribe it within the ideological battles of the Cold War. When the “wind of change” started to sweep Africa and more than 20 countries became independent in 1960, leading American scholars of Political Science such as Joseph Nye and David Apter were involved in research and writing on Pan Africanism.[iii] The ideas and practices of Pan African integration were so strong that mainstream IR scholars had to tackle these ideas. However, in the heat of the Cold War and the militant destabilization of independent states, the scholarship and research on Pan Africanism switched when Nelson Mandela was determined to be a terrorist by the establishment. It was the tenacity of the global anti-apartheid struggles that finally ended apartheid and the end of the Mobutu regime in Zaire.

Launch of the African Union
On May 26, 2001, the Constitutive Act of the African Union entered into force. This dream of Uniting Africans had taken legal form and the Constitutive Act of the African Union had been drafted, circulated and completed for adoption at the thirty sixth summit of the Organization of African Unity on July 11, 2000. The first formal meeting of the African Union took place in Durban, South Africa (July 2002) and at that moment the Organization of African Unity (OAU) ceased to exist. The speed with which the African states adopted and signed the Constitutive Act of the African Union had emanated from the emergence of new momentum and social forces that had emerged in the aftermath of the end of apartheid.

While the OAU had been diminished by the stance of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, the AU moved from a position of non-interference to non-indifference. The genocide in Rwanda and the genocidal violence that had overtaken societies such as Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone had exposed the weaknesses of the past political leadership. The African Union is different from its predecessor, the OAU. The AU represents both the Africans in the geographical space called Africa as well as the millions of dispersed Africans in North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Arabia and Asia. This organization is to be the core of a number of institutions such as the Pan African Parliament, the Court of Justice, and the Central Bank. [iv] While legal experts have been toiling to give juridical meaning to the Constitutive Act, new social forces have been active in the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) seeking to formulate a clear and consistent position on peace and security.

In 2004 the African Union established the Peace and Security Council and since that moment, there has been an uphill battle for the member states to be more serious about supporting the Peace and Security Architecture of the African Union. Scholars from Africa and other parts of the world have remarked on the interlocking organs of the AU, and depending on their intellectual and ideological orientation, the discussion usually reflect varying degrees of Afro-pessimism because the focus has been entirely on the leaders of Africa. The same leaders who facilitate capital flight from Africa are the ones who turn to the European Union and the United States to finance the operations of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. With funding coming from the EU, the policy making agenda of the AU has been stagnant because of this relationship.

Whatever the limitations of this African Peace and Security Architecture, the African leadership was delivered a wakeup call when NATO intervened in Libya and executed the President, Muammar Gaddafi. Two hundred leading African Intellectuals wrote a strong letter denouncing NATO and there was an equally strong reaction from those states that wanted to strengthen the African Union. There was a vigorous campaign to remove the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Jean Ping. He had been considered too servile to defend Africa before the international community at the time of the NATO intervention. Dr Nkosasana Zuma of South Africa was then elected as Chairperson of the AU Commission.

Since the removal of Jean Ping the African Union has advanced its planning for the establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises. In Mali, the AU has worked closely with the Security Council of the United Nations for the establishment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Tanzania and South Africa are militarily intervening in Eastern Congo under the umbrella of the United Nations and President Obama has now acknowledged the political and intellectual leadership coming from these two societies.

Beyond the Failed States Narrative
The portrayal of Africa in the international system has been historically through the lens of backwardness, anarchy, and failure. In the past, the European merchants’ mission to “civilize backward Africans” was the dominant narrative about Africa on the global stage and was used as a defense for the colonization and dehumanization of Africans. In contemporary times, the term “failed sates” has been concocted by militarists and lobbyist for private military contractors to justify western realists’ appetite for intervention and militarization in Africa.[v]

As the dominant paradigm of IR, realism implied that Africa was outside the mainstream of IR theory. More than ten years ago Errol A. Henderson presented a paper at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism in International Relations Theory.” This paper did not receive real attention by realist scholars. More recently, John Hobson published from Cambridge University Press the book, The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics. From all corners of the world there are now books and articles on Decolonizing International Relations. These studies along with the intervention of feminist scholars of IR theories are slowly breaking the orthodoxy of the main stream theorists in North America and Western Europe.

On many fronts, the Pan African struggle for liberation and human dignity was and still is a struggle against the Eurocentric ideologies of racial hierarchies, biological determinism, survival of the fittest and domination. These ideologies are strongly rooted in the same European Enlightenment that defined the modern international system and girded it with the hierarchical, domineering, and deterministic narratives couched in such international relations theories as liberalism, constructivism and realism. When “the inalienable rights of man,” “social contract,” “freedom, liberty, and egalitarianism” were popularized in the Enlightenment ideation, Africans were never considered the kind of beings to whom these concepts applied. Thus, the historic resistance and self-determination struggles of peoples in the Pan African world against slavery, colonialism, and neo-imperialism are largely struggles against the Eurocentric ideation that emanated from the Enlightenment and ossified by the western intellectual traditions which IR theories are based on.

Since the new phase in world politics where Africa is forging new relations with emerging centers of power and there is an awareness that the fastest growing economies are in Africa, other mainstream IR scholars are now writing on the African Union and the place of Africa in International Relations theory. Sophie Harman and William Brown  authored an article titled, “In from the Margins? The Challenging Place of Africa in International Relations.”  Other European scholars are now seeking to catch up with the new brand of scholarship that is percolating in Africa.[vi] But in the main, the racist assumptions about the hierarchy of states and hierarchy of humans inspire mainstream IR scholars to write about Africa in the context of “failures.”  Even members of the so-called left in Europe represents the view that there is currently a scramble for Africa and that ’The African Union is up for grabs.”[vii]

This narrative about “failed states” has been used repeatedly by IR scholars such as Christopher Clapham, Robert Rotberg and Willliam Reno. Other commentators and scholars, such as Robert Kaplan (author of The Coming Anarchy), have made a reputation for themselves as foreign policy analysts with views about instability in Africa. [viii]This line of argument was then taken up by organizations such as the United States Institute for Peace that carried out research on “Collapsed States.” From these platforms there is then an international NGO constituency that bid for resources on the basis of the idea of “state failure” in Africa. It will require the more tenacious researcher to draw out the linkages between the lobbyists for the private military industry and the Failed States Index that puts a stamp of failure on African people that are tackling the challenges of societal reconstruction. More and more, it is being exposed how the complicity of U.S. military and the private military contractors are destabilizing Africa. [ix] The work of Jeremy Keenan and Abdi Samatar on North Africa and the Horn of Africa stand out in this regard. Contrary to the impression presented by western media outlets and academia that the whole of Africa is terror-swamped, of the 54 countries in Africa, violent extremists are active in less than five countries. In each of these five societies, Mali, the DRC, Somalia, Nigeria and the Sudan, there are advanced initiatives by the African Union to deploy resources to end violence and mini wars. African women both at the grassroots and feminist scholars in Africa have been intervening and the place of gender in IR theory is so pervasive that in all positions at the AU there has to be parity between males and females.

A New Paradigm For Africa
Since the onset of the global capitalist crisis in 2008, there has been new attention paid to the growth of Asia as the engine of the world economy, but the journalists who have studied Africa for decades now recognize that the ‘the next Asia is Africa.’[x]  In 2012, the International Monetary Fund forecast that seven of the 10 fastest growing countries in the world will be in Africa and states such as Morocco that had opted to seek membership in the European Union is now pleading to be re-admitted to the African Union. Such a re-admission will require Morocco to end its claims on the Western Sahara. The World Bank has projected that Africa will grow faster than the world average in coming years and economists are trying to catch up with books such as The fastest Billion: The Story behind Africa’s Economic Revolution.  The projected population strength of Africa in the next thirty years has not only gripped the attention of demographers but also of investment bankers. Wall Street is looking at the mega deals between Brazil, China and Africa and wants to find a way in. When President Barack Obama visited Africa in June 2013, he explicitly stated that the United States wanted to change its paradigm about Africa. For the first time the President of the United States met with the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Zuma.

It was the success of the anti–apartheid struggles that brought a new paradigm of IR to the world. This is the idea of Truth and Ubuntu. In Africa, Ubuntu literally means, love, reconciliation, forgiveness and sharing. Both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu sought to elevate this beyond theory to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Later, South Africa hosted the 3rd World Conference against Racism. These international initiatives on Reparations and Climate justice have marked a new turn in world politics.

Africa cannot continuously be put on the margin in a changed world situation in which the continent strives to feature prominently; Africa can no longer be ignored by those who want to remain relevant in world politics and global political economy. Events surrounding the recent visits to Africa, in quick succession, by China’s President Xi Jinping and the President of the United States Barack Obama attest to the shifting paradigm on Africa in international relations. I share the point of view of Professor Calestous Zuma of Harvard University, who commented that,

“Another important feature of the trip is that Obama was able to focus on critical infrastructure such as energy while acknowledging that China was focusing on transportation. This division of labor should open opportunities for trilateral cooperation between the US, China and Africa and usher in a new age of collaborative economic diplomacy. The new Africa offers fertile soil upon which the seeds of a new multi-polar world could take root. With consistent nurturing, Obama’s visit may have plowed new ground for a more peaceful and prosperous Africa.”[xi]

When Kwame Nkrumah wrote the book, Africa Must Unite, he had developed a clear vision of a reconstructed international system where Africa can prominently hold its own. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of African unity brought back the ideas of the full unification of Africa to the center of the agenda. The unveiling of the statue of Nkrumah at the headquarters of the African Union was a proper tribute to the ideas of Pan Africanism and unity. The challenge now is for scholars internationally to work in the spirit of international cooperation mentioned by Professor Juma.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Third phase of the Egyptian Revolution: Is this the path to war?




The contemporary Egyptian Revolution commenced after a popular uprising on January 25, 2011, whereby millions of protesters from diverse socio-economic, political and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian army's ousting of the democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in a military coup on July 3, 2013, marked a new phase of the revolution. This new phase has gripped the attention of humanity as the differing paths become clear. Will the popular progressive forces of workers, grassroots women, students, cultural workers, journalists and the secular elements of religious tolerance be able to build a new form of politics to break the power of the military and entrenched social and economic forces? Or, will the military along with their external allies and bankrollers in the United States and Saudi Arabia thrust the society into civil war? The crossroad of a protracted popular struggle for transformation and the alternative of civil war became more open after the massacre of over 51 protestors on Monday July 8, 2013, five days after the military removed the constitutionally elected President Mohammed Morsi. [i] Vigilance and clarity will be crucial to ensure that this military coup does not bring a repeat of the kind of warfare and violence that overtook Algeria after 1992. Up to this moment, twenty-one years later, Algeria has not recovered from the grip of military orchestrated violence and killings.

The period of June 30 to July 3, 2013 in Egypt was one of tremendous mobilization and organization by the people who opposed the Muslim Brotherhood government. The mass mobilization by the ‘Tamarod’ (Rebellion), to galvanize over 22 million signatures calling for the removal of Morsi and then bringing out over 34 million people on the streets on June 30, represented a new example of political mobilization and organization. Yet, the military are the ones who have come to the fore in this stage of the revolution. Noted author, Esam Al-Amin has summed up the return of the military to power in his article, ‘In Egypt the Military is Supreme: How to Thwart Democracy?’ [ii]

The Egyptian military is not monolithic and there are considerable class differences in this force of close to one million (over 470,000 active personnel and 480,000 active reserve personnel.) This military has a considerable stake in the economy, controlling between 25 to 40 per cent of the GDP. When one considers the cooperation between the US military and the Egyptian military, epitomized by the $1.3 billion disbursement every year, then there is clarity on what the people of Egypt are up against. [iii] This is a military that employs conscripted labour and seeks to provide the conditions for the accumulation of wealth by the top one per cent in Egypt and to provide the conditions for the export of capital to the western capitalist states from Egypt. For decades, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) had developed an alliance with the military and the ruling political class, dating back to the 14-year presidency of former President Gamal Nasser. It was this alliance that provided the conditions for Mohammed Morsi to emerge as President out of a convoluted electoral process. However, it became very apparent after a few months that the MB could not contain the widespread opposition of the people to joblessness, extreme poverty, homelessness, destitution along with fuel shortages. Thus, the alliance between the MB and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) cracked. From this crack came the coup and now this third phase of the revolution. In this analysis, we draw from the lessons of the previous two phases of the revolution and seek to learn the positive lessons for a protracted struggle for the development of a truly revolutionary consciousness to set in motion a process of structural transformation. Not only is vigilance and clarity needed inside Egypt but outside. Those who want world peace must oppose the machinations of the imperial forces that are supporting the unconstitutional removal of an elected President. This has set a dangerous precedent and the African Union correctly condemned the coup.

THE FIRST PHASE OF THE REVOLUTION

The first two phases of the revolution have received massive commentary from inside and outside Egypt. Phase one consisted of the 18-day mobilization that culminated in the removal of the Hosni Mubarak regime on February 11, 2011. The outpouring of popular opposition and the forms of organization had been documented extensively. Writers such as Esam Al Amin, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Wael Eskandar, Ahdaf Soueif, Samir Amin, Nawal El Saadawi and numerous bloggers can be distinguished in their account of this phase.

Esam Al Amin, in a series of articles compiled in a book, has outlined why the struggles in Egypt merited to be recognized as a revolutionary struggle. In one particular article, ‘Conditions and Consequences: Anatomy of Egypt’s Revolution,’ Al Amin underscored the popular basis of the revolution and the social forces that had set this revolutionary consciousness in motion. He later elaborated on these themes in the book, ‘The Arab Awakening Unveiled: Understanding Transformations and Revolutions in the Middle East’. [iv]

THE SECOND PHASE: CONSOLIDATING THE REVOLUTION

The second stage of the Revolution began after February 11, 2011. It was the struggle to organize a new mode of politics to meet the needs of the people. In the first phase, despite the massive outpourings on the streets, it was when the workers downed tools all over Egypt that the regime finally fell. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the removal of Hosni Mubarak, there was focus on the electoral forms of struggles. While the media focused on elections and constitutions, the workers took to massive strikes and reports by the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights (ECESR) in April 2013 detailed labour strikes that took place in Egypt in 2012. These struggles by the workers in Egypt involved railway workers, public transport workers, doctors and police officers. ‘According to the report, in 2012, Egypt witnessed 1,969 protests by workers – in the government, public and private sectors – marking a considerable increase compared to 2010, when only 530 protests were recorded. The 2012 protests listed in the report represented one of the highest levels of social struggle worldwide and include demonstrations, sit-ins, road blockages and strikes. For the first five months of 2013 the industrial activity by workers intensified with initial reporting that there were 5,544 strikes and other self-activity by workers in Egypt. These workers had broken the shackles of the trade union organization that had been imposed on Egyptian workers by the Egyptian Trade Union Federation; the industrial wing of Mr. Mubarak's now disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP). For three decades this NDP controlled trade union organization had restricted strike actions and trade union activities to defend the rights of workers and their communities. It was significant that on January 30, 2011, in the midst of the first phase of the revolution the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) was launched and immediately drew millions of new workers to its ranks.

Together with the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress (EDLC), EFITU has been fighting for a basic freedom, the freedom of association that should be the right of workers and the right to form their own organizations and associations. On November 25, 2012, President Morsi issued a decree on trade unions, Decree 97 of 2012, which had far reaching implications for the independent activity of workers. [v] According to one scholar who studied the implications of this decree, ‘The decree also authorized Minister of Manpower and Migration Khalid al-Azhari of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party to appoint replacements to vacant trade union offices if no second-place candidate exists. State security officials banned thousands of opposition trade unionists from running in 2006, so hundreds of candidates ran unopposed. Thus, as many as 150 Muslim Brothers could be appointed to posts in ETUF’s 24 national sector unions, while 14 of 24 executive board members will be sacked.’

As the Muslim Brotherhood moved to take control of all forms of independent organizations and local governments the mass of people, whether in the schools, media, arts or film began to see that the revolution to replace Mubarak had been replaced by an organization that simply wanted to step into the positions of the old Mubarak forces and hasten what commentators termed the ‘Brotherhoodization’ of Egypt and its unions. [vi] It was the response to this Brotherhoodization that ushered in the third phase of the revolution.

BROTHERHOOD AND NEO-LIBERALISM

The occurrence of these social struggles after Morsi’s presidential election in June 2012 highlights the reality that the core goals of the revolution were not being addressed. Amr Adly raised a fundamental question: ‘Perhaps the revolution has been aborted, leading to a transfer of power to a broad alliance consisting of the army, intelligence services, police, and a new political class dominated by the Brotherhood. This alliance is devoted to the same repressive policies of the old July regime—the denial of civil liberties, trade union rights, freedom of information and expression, the right to assemble, and the independence of civil society. Instead, this regime favours the rituals of procedural democracy where every few years citizens make a mass pilgrimage to the voting booth. Perhaps it is more accurate to call this an authoritarian electoral system rather than a democracy.’ [vii]

The Revolution was sparked by the massive oppression of the majority of the Egyptian people while the oligarchs managed their relationship with international finance capital mediated through the International Monetary Fund. No sooner had the people removed the repressive Mubarak regime than the MB announced that they were negotiating an austerity program in exchange for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. As the people mobilized against the ‘Brotherhoodization of Egypt,’ this second phase revealed the clarity that religion alone cannot change the conditions of life. The reality was that the MB and its political leadership solely offered religion and Sharia law as an antidote to the grinding exploitation of the people. Millions had come out in the elections looking for alternatives to the austerity measures of the military and the MB, but the fundamentalists (even with their differences) only offered more religious statements and the politics of exclusion. In order to change from the neo-liberal policies of Mubarak, more was needed than elections. Yet, the liberal orientation of the organizers of the National Salvation Front and their allies at home and abroad was to focus on elections as the evidence of democratic participation when all over Egypt the anti-democratic control of social organizations had been underway. Esam Al Amin summed up this electoral stage in this way,

‘Over the next two years, the political process that followed Mubarak’s overthrow allowed for the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed numerous times through free and fair elections and referenda. The people in Egypt went to the polls at least six times: to vote for a referendum to chart the political way forward (March 2011), to vote for the lower and upper house of parliament (November 2011-January 2012), to elect a civilian president over two rounds (May-June 2012), and to ratify the new constitution (December 2012). Each time the electorate voted for the choice of the Islamist parties to the frustration of the secular and liberal opposition.’

These votes demonstrated to the people that the electoral game was rigged and soon the younger citizens began to learn of the historic alliance between the Brotherhood and the military. Wael Eskandar has most recently written a quite lucid recapitulation of the close cooperation of the ‘Brothers and Officers: A History of Pacts.’ [viii]

Younger readers may not be aware that whatever the origins of the MB, this organization had been propped up by western forces as an anti-communist front during the Cold War. With the support of the US intelligence services and the conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia, this Muslim Brotherhood grew to be a major political force in North Africa and Arabia. Through periods of conflict and cooperation, the ruling elite and the Brotherhood mapped out a strategy to consume the energies of the youth in the direction of destructive intolerance and male chauvinism. [ix] Eskander outlined the constitutional initiatives undertaken by President Morsi and concluded that ‘the constitution, which was prepared by a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly, provides basis for military trials of civilians and sets the military’s budget and activities, including its revenue-generating economic enterprises, above the reach of conventional parliamentary oversight. In other words, the ‘new‘ political order in the country is one that seems to be governed by a partnership between the Muslim Brotherhood and long-standing bureaucratic centers of power entrenched inside the Egyptian state—a partnership that speaks to a long history of pacts between the Brothers and successive wielders of power in Egypt.’

From day one of the overthrow of Mubarak, the very organizations that toppled Mubarak determined to maintain their independent character and it was this character that unleashed the forms of organization to usher in the third phase of this ongoing revolution.

THE NEW ORGANIZATIONAL FORM FOR REVOLUTIONARY POLITICS AND REVOLUTIONARY CONSCIOUSNESS

The Egyptian revolutionary process after 2008 (date of the April 6 movement) had been initiated by a loose alliance of differing social forces. At the time of the first phase of the revolution, I had termed these forces as belonging to a revolution without self declared revolutionaries. Then I had noted that ‘The youths and women who have been organising day and night are the inheritors of organising traditions that had been undertaken by trade unionists, writers, journalists, farmers, artists, progressive intellectuals, women, religious forces and patriotic business-persons. The strength of these social forces is so remarkable that the ruling elements resorted to violence.’ However, the very looseness which was a source of strength was infiltrated by the differing social forces who wanted to oppose President Morsi without opposing neo-liberalism. Thus, in light of the opposition to the Brotherhoodization of the society, elements such as Mohamed El Baradei had joined the movement, crafted a National Salvation Front (NSF) and offered himself up as a leader of the popular revolt. Like the MB, El Baradei has no alternative to the austerity packages of the IMF and his appointment as vice president to the interim president, Adly Mansour, will sharpen the contradictions within the ‘Tamarod’ (Rebellion).

By the time of the anti-democratic decrees of President Morsi, the elements from the Mubarak regime (called the fulool) had calculated that the wave of rebellions and strikes would delegitimize the Morsi regime. These elements from the party of Mubarak, the National Democratic Party (NDP), therefore attached themselves to the growing rebellion hiding behind the youths, workers, students and women. Hence, the very loose organizational form that had been a source of strength in the first phase threatened to be a source of manipulation as the old bourgeois and liberal forces such as El Baradei joined in this rebellion. In this third stage there were differing social forces with contradictory agendas; the revolutionary youths, workers and women, elements from the Mubarak party (NDP), former security officers, liberals such as El Baradei, leaders of the Coptic Church, all united against the political rule of Morsi and the Brotherhood. With far more resources and organizational depth, the former officials of the Mubarak period plotted and waited. The integration of the El Baradei wing of the rebellion with western financial centers became evident from the interviews that were being given to the Anglo-American media.

Because the base of the rebellion had been in the independent actions of the poor and organized workers, the depth of the rebellion eclipsed the machinations of the fulool and the liberal elements. As the writer Adel Iskandar, summed up in his article titled ‘Tamarod: Egypt's Revolution Hones its Skills,’ the:

‘Tamarod stands to be one of the most successful ever, having garnered colossal engagement in a record time period. All this was done while inspiring a spontaneous eruption of popular dissent that promises to eclipse even the eighteen days in 2011. While this success deserves to be acknowledged, it should rightfully raise suspicions and concerns about what could be done with all this political capital and bring forth queries about whether Tamarod was facilitated, sponsored, or propped up by such authoritative institutions as the military or security services. As Egyptians descend into the streets in the hundreds of thousands if not millions to couple their petition signatures with corporeal representation, it remains too early to resolve these questions. For now, we can only stop and marvel at how agile, energetic, imaginative, and resilient Egypt’s revolutionary current has thus far proven to be.’ [x]

The organized and spontaneous activities of the Tamarod coalesced in a novel campaign to gather signatures to call for the removal of President Morsi. From April 2013, the forces of the rebellion organized a campaign to call for early Presidential elections by gathering 15 million signatures, a million more than Morsi had received during his presidential run. The Tamarod had called for a day of protest on June 30 for the people to show their collective opposition. The call was answered when millions, some say up to 34 million Egyptians, answered this call and took to the streets across Egypt to demand Mr. Morsi resign and allow fresh presidential elections to be held. The movement promised a campaign of civil disobedience if the president did not step down. Mr. Morsi rejected the calls, but on 1 July the military warned him to satisfy the public's demands or see the generals impose their own ‘road map’. We now know from the Western media that the US national security adviser to President Barack Obama gave the go ahead to the Egyptian military to proceed with the military coup after the millions of people came out on the streets on June 30. [xi] We also know that on June 8, 2013 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that Egypt would receive $1.3 billion in military assistance. [xii]

The military had been planning all along to ‘stabilize’ the situation in Egypt and when faced with the millions in the streets, the head of the military issued an ultimatum to President Morsi giving him 48 hours to reach an agreement with the opposition. Mr. Morsi rejected the ultimatum and stated clearly that he was the legitimate leader of the country. Morsi stated categorically that any effort to remove him by force could plunge Egypt into chaos. Based on the long history of double-dealing by both the MB and the military, Morsi had been confident that with superior organization, the MB could prevail, but the internal and external forces of capital could not tolerate the leadership of Morsi that galvanized the popular opposition. By July 3, the defense minister and head of the armed forces, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, announced that the constitution had been suspended and that Chief Justice Adly Mansour would oversee an interim period with a technocratic government until presidential and parliamentary elections are held. The government of the United States refused to call this a coup playing around with words to disguise its alliance with the military and the fulool. At a news conference on Monday July 8, Jay Carney, the press secretary for President Barack Obama, stated that, ‘We have not made a determination about what to call or label the events in Egypt that led to the change in government there.’ He said, ‘We will take the time necessary as we review our legal obligations and as we consult with Congress when it comes to this issue of designating and labeling the events that took place.’ [xiii] Under Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act it is unequivocally stated that there can be no aid ‘to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.’ However, the tripartite pact between Egypt, Israel, and the USA is so central to the military management of the international system by the USA that the political leaders in the USA cannot call the unconstitutional removal of a president a ‘coup.’

WHICH MILITARY ORCHESTRATED THE COUP?

The more perceptive sections of the people of Egypt understand clearly that maintaining the neo-liberal based external oriented economic system prevents processes of structural transformation to improve their economic conditions. Although this is now clear as the global capitalist crisis deepens, western capital considers Egypt too strategic for the people of Egypt to determine their own destiny. Western commentators (especially from the think tanks in Washington, D.C) will dwell on the fact that the US has provided over $60 billion over the past three decades and that every year the US delivers $1.3 to the military. However, as we stated from the outset, this military is not monolithic. The top officers of the military share the same social background as other capitalists in Egypt and the military benefited from the nationalizations that had taken place under Nasser. These senior officers are the ones who manage vast land holdings and businesses. It was over 40 years ago when in the book, ‘Egypt Military Society: the Army Regime, the Left, and Social Change Under Nasser’, we learned of the pivotal role of the military in Egyptian society. [xiv] These same officers dominate the boards of parastatals and have access to lucrative contracts after they retire from the military. Estimates vary as to the size of military-owned industries .The companies not only produce military hardware, but also products and services for the domestic consumer economy.

The senior officers ‘have access to a wide array of government posts after retirement, subsidized services and goods, the command of significant resources and opportunities within the civilian economy, and elevated social status. The officers’ republic additionally exercises exclusive control over the defense budget, U.S. military assistance, and military-owned businesses. Moreover, it is underpinned by a deep sense of institutional and personal entitlement. Rolling it back will be a delicate, protracted process that will take many years. It plays a social role, providing employment and a sense of national identity to many Egyptians.’

This officer corps has very little in common with the conscripted labour working in the state owned enterprises or the conscripted soldiers in the armed forces. Thanks to Wikileaks we know that US diplomats have been monitoring economic activities and the fact that they controlled ‘the network of commercial enterprises particularly active in the sectors of water, oil, cement, construction, hospitality, distribution of fuel and a large housing stock in the Nile delta and the Red Sea coast.’ As owners of large enterprises this military high command was taken aback by the wave of strikes and popular opposition to President Morsi. The contradictions that led to the break between the military and President Morsi are the same contradictions that will lead to a break in the military between the top officer corps and the rank and file. This phase of the revolution will require clarity from those who understand that the future of Egypt will depend on the conscious and organized action of the people of Egypt to avoid open warfare. The massacre of 51 protesters on July 8, 2013 opened new paths for crushing the popular outpourings under the guise of seeking stability. President Putin of Russia has stated that Egypt is headed towards civil war, but this is not an outcome which should be anticipated by those who want peace and social justice.

WAR AND REVOLUTION

The class warfare in Egypt that ushered in the peaceful revolution to overthrow the Mubarak regime is now threatened with violent confrontations. Nawal El Saadawi, the veteran feminist writer, has boldly stated that the people’s revolution in Egypt is neither a crisis nor a coup. [xv]

However, far more than bold statements are now required to strengthen the popular forces to withstand the repression of the military as they will seek to implement the austerity measures of the International Monetary Fund. The leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have now chipped in $8 billion to shore up the military coup. [xvi] But the crisis in Egypt is not one of an absence of resources; it is the absence of the organization of the resources for the 85 million Egyptians. There are powerful external forces that are arraigned against the people of Egypt and believe that the domestic needs of the society should be subordinated to external interests. The fuel crisis in Egypt is a prime example of the planners placing the needs of supplying gas to Israel over the interests of the poor. Additionally, the poor in Egypt have watched as the workers of Syria are caught between an oppressive Assad regime and an Islamist opposition that does not offer any real alternative to President Assad. These Egyptians have witnessed the recent history of Algeria where the Algerian military in alliance with the Western capitalist states waged a bloody war against the Islamists who had won the 1992 elections.

These experiences of Syria and Algeria weigh heavily on all popular forces as they ponder the paths of war and revolution. More than twenty years ago, the realist of International Relations theory in the USA, Stephen Walt, wrote an important book on ‘War and Revolution’. In this book Walt noted that, ‘revolutions are much more than critical events in the history of individual nations, they are usually watershed events in international politics. Revolutions cause sudden shifts in the balance of power, alter the pattern of international alignments, cast doubt on existing agreements and diplomatic norms, and provide inviting opportunities for other states to improve their positions. They also demonstrate that novel ways of organizing social and political life are possible and often sympathizers in other countries. 


Thus, although revolutions by definition occur within a single country, their impact is rarely confined to one state alone. Indeed, revolutions tend to disrupt the international system in important ways.’ [xvii] Though I do not agree with the realism of Walt, but in this instance the views of Stephen Walt coincide with the earlier observation that Egypt’s popular revolution will change the world. Already, the counter –revolution that arose in Libya after February 2011, exposed the duality of revolution and counter-revolution within one region. The coup in Egypt coming in the aftermath of the massive outpouring of 34 million on the streets on June 30, 2013 has also brought home this duality of revolution and counter-revolution inside Egypt. Vladimir Lenin had also discussed at great length the relationship between war and revolution and explored the major wars that swept Europe after the French Revolution. 

Though both Walt and Lenin dealt with the relationship between wars and revolution, Lenin asked different questions from Walt. Lenin had paid close attention to which class in society was benefitting from war and more importantly to the social forces that can overcome war. This same germ of hope is now expressed by progressive Egyptians who have written that ‘there is still hope for the Egyptian revolution.’ [xviii] However, recent experience of the youths who organized behind Barack Obama on the promise of hope has shown very quickly that ‘hope’ is insufficient to curb the power of the entrenched financial oligarchs. These experiences from Egypt in 2011 and the United States in 2007-2008 exposed the reality that the progressive forces must be very clear about their objectives and their strategies when they enter into alliances with other social forces. This is even more crucial when the kind of violence that was unleashed on Monday promises a new wave of repression. The progressive forces inside this phase of the revolution will need to ensure that when the violence stops, the military and the oligarchs will not be the ones to claim victory and to claim that Egypt has been stabilized.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, the young Egyptian journalist, noted that ‘the mass mobilization on June 30 eclipsed even the 2011 demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak; a few days later, on July 3, the army forced Morsi out of office, in what amounted to a military coup. His year-long tenure ended with a televised address by the head of SCAF.’ [xix] He concluded that, ‘If recent history is any indication, continued authoritarianism in Egypt will only be met with more mass mobilizations and revolutionary calls for change.’

Western imperial interests have made it crystal clear what kind of change they want in Egypt. The Wall Street Journal has called for a Pinochet to emerge from the officer corps while Tony Blair has called for the European financial elite to throw their weight behind the coup. The Wall Street Journal and Tony Blair are too far behind because they do not understand that whatever comes next, the Egyptian revolution has already deepened the disruption of the international system that had been established to maintain western interests in Africa and the middle East. The prolonged and protracted struggles for peace and social justice will call for responses inside and outside of Egypt. If and when outright war comes in this phase the progressive forces inside Egypt will have to have an answer on how to end the war.

In this third phase of the revolution, the progressive forces need to have a clear and concrete plan on how to counter the violence coming out of the Egyptian military because – from the lessons learned in Algeria and elsewhere – it’s the progressive voices that easily get silenced when agents of militarism use the excuse of violence and security to hijack the will of the people. Revolution is not an event but a process. The history of revolution and war should steel the women, progressive youth, and workers to be prepared for a protracted struggle.