Egyptian revolution: watch this space

2:08 pm - February 2nd 2011

by Dave Osler    

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Just as Vietnam was widely characterised as history’s first ‘television war’, so Egypt will surely be remembered as the first television revolution.

Yes, there were cameras recording what happened in eastern Europe in 1989, but that was in the long gone days before rolling news.

The scenes from Midan Tahrir are live on CNN and Al Jazeera and BBC World, and watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Even for old lefties who have read dozens of books on 1789, 1848, 1917 and 1968, the immediacy and impact of actually seeing it happen is a new and inspiring experience. I don’t doubt that it will turn out to be as formative for the generation below me as les événements were for the generation above me.

I was, I have to admit, initially pessimistic about the prospects for the uprising in Tunisia spreading to other parts of the Arab world, and I wouldn’t like to make the opposite but equal error of flipping over into super-optimism mode.

After all, Mubarak is clinging on to power. Even so, repercussions from the two uprisings are already visible in Jordan, Algeria, Yemen and Sudan. What is more, the events now unfolding clearly do carry within them the possibility of putting revolution on the agenda for many countries, and not just in the Middle East.

Developments in Tunisia and Egypt have caught many commentators on the hop, precisely because they seemed to emerge out of nowhere. But all of us should have been less surprised than we were

 On every indicator from generalised poverty and income inequality to shortage of food and mass unemployment, all exacerbated by the world economic crisis, the raw material for social upheaval has been accumulating for years and indeed decades. That is true not just in Tunisia and Egypt, but in dozens of countries around the planet. They all have lots of tellies. Watch this space.

The question now is how far the revolutionary process will develop. While the overthrow of autocracies is always something to welcome, the real prize would be the overthrow of exploitation and oppression itself.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

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Reader comments

1. wotsit thingy

You do of course know that Mubarak’s National Dermocratic Party are affiliated to the Labour Party through the Socialist International… good innit?

1 wotsit

Ah, right…so this must all be the Labour Party’s fault as well huh? Sheeeesh….

Aren’t the Tories associated with some deeply unpleasant far right parties in the European Parliament? Does that mean we are allowed to hold them responsible for the rise of the far right then….?

Think people should be a little careful for what they wish for….middle eastern revolutions have a bad track record when it comes to replacing one dictator with an even worse regime. For sure democracy isn’t the default revolution outcome in that part of the world.

I think you’ll find that the Socialist International has kicked out the NDP. Whilst not perfect, isn’t that more of a condemnation of Mubarak than our government has provided?

Labour are are affiliated to the Socialist International?

6. wotsit thingy

That’s right Galen. The Tories are affiliated to parties that have held on to power by rigging elections for the last 35 years. They’re also affiliated to parties that have a really vicious secret police units who dissapear people. Let’s have a little perspective shall we… I mean, a look at some of the parties on the socialist international list would make any person who entertains any concept of freedom shudder – big time.

6 wotsit

You mean like the perspective that since the Labour Party was (presumably indirectly as I’m not sure how the Socialist International works…) associated with the NDP, we should look less favourably on them, but it was OK for the Tories to associate themselves with the far right in the European Parliament because …uh huh.

8. wotsit thingy

As I said Galen, no one in the European Parliament has been dissapearing people for the last 30 odd years, having them kidnapped off the street, taking them to secret places where they do things like mutilate their penises with razors, insert glass rods into their urethra’s, then break the rods, etc. No one in the European Parliament has been systematically rigging elections for the last 30 odd years, jailing opposition politicians, exiling them etc.

If you don’t know how socialist international works, then find out – you’re a lefty after all. Find out what it is that you actually support. Find out who your friends really are. Oh, btw, the president of socialist international should be well known to you – he’s one Neil Kinnock.

8. wotsit

What makes you think I support the socialist international?

Ah just assumed it huh…?

Bit like you assumed I was a lefty….. the lazy assumption kinda figures given your cheap shot about Labour being associated with the NDP, because of course that’d be a stick to beat them with rather than concentrate on the issues in the OP, or indeed concede that Labour aren’t the only ones who keep some pretty bad company….

10. Cynical/Realist?

@8 – refer yourself to the above post @4.

All governments/political parties to a degree most of us aren’t proud of (left or right) are aligned, even if temporarily, to regimes that aren’t savoury.

Doesn’t make it right, but it makes pointing out just one example is a bit rich – especially when that isn’t even the case anymore.

I take it that most of the above bitter diatribes ( which incidentally have little to do with the article) are to divert our attention from our own (UK) imperial involvement in Egypt over the years – and the Suez debacle particularly. The best we can do is keep out of it and let the Egyptians determine their own fate – I don’t think we covered ourselves in glory when we were running the old red, white and blue bazaar in Cairo. On the other hand perhaps I shall be confounded and Egypt will approach the UK to oversee a benign protectorate again. Who the hell do we think we still are?

12. Just Visiting


You feel it necessary for us castigate ourselves over what happened 60 years ago (Suez).

But (rightly) no one castigates the government of Germany today for what it did in North Africa/ Middle East back then, under a different (initially elected) leader called Hitler.

I never can understand this self-loathing of the West by western liberals.

13. Just Visiting


> The best we can do is keep out of it and let the Egyptians determine their own fate

Is that really in the best interests of the people there?

What if they are asking for help from the West?
What if they’d actually like some input and help to transform some of the institutions?
Eg sending British police over to try and change the culture of their police: that would be a major step in the right direction. Or advicing on setting up local government. Or ombudsman. Or Police Complaint commissions….

And when international influences of all sorts are there (from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and across the spectrum), plus local corruption + nepotism in high places… it is actually _ensuring_ a negative outcome, if all Western countries were to say ‘we’ll keep out’.

Maybe they will ask the British to take them over again like some African leaders used to write to the British government in the 19th century asking for a takeover.

All joking aside maybe not large states like Egypt but I can see in the future some smaller states reversing decolonization and effectively becoming parts of larger states. In the Caribbean, the Turks and Caicos government want to become a territory of Canada. Although, the population want to remain a British crown dependency. China appears to have the same idea as they buy up huge tracts of Africa.

I am kind of astonished that what is happening in Egypt has such a low profile here.

Just saying that there have been only 14 comments on this thread and lots more elsewhere about a frigging CS attack. People have died here trying to improve their lot, and yet you remain silent? Who the heck are you, writers and commentators on this site? There is a revolution in front of your eyes and you don’t know what to say?

Seems to me that until it resolves to a political arguement you can’t, or won’t, comment.


@Tyler 3: Of course one wonders what the countries that champion Democracy will do if (when?) the newly free and democratic Egypt choose to elect the ‘wrong’ leaders.

Today is the day of departure. Let us hope so and that Egypst will soon be free of the Mubarak curse.

In the heat of battle the organs of the revolution are continuing to form, to engorge; they are becoming more independent, more mature.

Mubarak’s blockheaded intransigence and his determination to unleash hell daily reduces the credibility of any placating actions available to the Egyptian ruling elite and their US backers that can head off the revolution and impose a re-staffed thuggery. No `provisional’ or `transitional’ scam will be tolerated by the masses. It is increasingly clear that the revolution will need to put forward its own government and by-pass the institutions of the dictatorship which could only ever be a trap. It must win whole sections of the army over to its side on the basis of a stubborn and determined pursuit of this objective. It must have the generals, the financial backers and the political front men of the dictatorship arrested and tried, the airforce subordinated to a people’s army and the police and the secret police disbanded. The worst of them must be imprisoned for their unspeakable crimes.

If the courage displayed by the youth on the streets is anything to go by the revolution certainly does not lack determination and these actions have forced conciliators who might once have been thought of as `radical’ to decline to discuss further how the bunkered regime might be saved. All the revolution needs now is political clarity and partisanship.

Only the revolution will do, accept no substitutes.

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