30 May, 2011

Egypt, the Left and International Solidarity

Note: As I was about to publish the post below, I read the news on twitter that Egyptian journalist and blogger Hossam al-Hamalawy has been summoned to a military prosecutor for questioning tomorrow, after talking about military tribunals against civilians and violations by the military police against peaceful protestors on a TV-show broadcast last thursday (the clip above). This futile - I'm sure - attempt to silence one of Egypt's most well-known radical voices, and one who has played a vital role in spreading news about Egypt's nascent labour movement and the wave of strikes and protests that lead to the revolution has to be condemned. More than anything it underlines the need for international solidarity with the democratic and progressive forces in Egypt as they struggle to create a just and democratic society. Protests in solidarity with Hossam and the other summoned journalists will be held tomorrow in Cairo and Alexandria.

Here it goes - another attempt to revive the blog which consumed so much of my time back in they days, when strikes and protests occured almost every day but a revolution stilled seemed like a distant possibility (a funny thing I learned about revolutions is that they always do, even as more and more people tell you it has become inevitable). I switched to blogging in Swedish after I was kicked out of Egypt back in 2009 and have been blogging intensely the past few months, as well as giving talks about Egypt around Sweden. However, there are very few resources in English about the Egyptian left and labour movement (Hossam al-Hamalawy’s blog remains one of the best place to go to find such news), which is one of the reasons I have decided to go back to writing in English - at least now and then. Being barred still from entering Egypt this is at least something I can do. Don't expect daily updates however - expect irregular postings, far-from-perfect-translations of news or articles, and an occasional commentary or rant.

Besides the labour movement and left in Egypt, another theme that I will try and highlight in this blog is that of international solidarity. Last week the Egyptian doctor and leftist Alaa Shukrallah and the women’s rights activist and author Azza Kamel visited Sweden to meet political activists, feminists and unionists, and to speak at a seminar at the Worker’s Educational Association (ABF) in Stockholm (watch part of Alaa's speech here). The subject was international solidarity, and
if the importance of this wasn’t already apparent it became so the next day, when news reached us that Azza Kamel’s daughter had been arrested by military police while putting up posters ahead of the May 27 protest in Cairo (she was released later that same day).

While there is a great need for
immediate solidarity work and campaigns against human rights abuses in post-Mubarak Egypt, both Alaa and Azza stressed the importance of another task for the left in Europe today: to raise awareness about the link between democracy and social justice in Egypt and the region. This involves exposing and resisting the failed neoliberal economic policies that caused increasing poverty and inequality and ultimately led to the revolution - but are still being promoted by the international financial institutions and European and US governments. An international campaign for debt cancellation would be very helpful, as the regime now uses the external debt and the threat of “bankruptcy” as a propaganda weapon against any demands for social reforms.

The international left should also work to expose the regional counter-revolutionary alliance with Saudiarabia as the driving force, and the hypocrisy of Western governments that still ally themselves with authoritarian regimes while claiming to “support democracy” in Egypt and Tunisia. (Another suggestion that came up during the meeting was for international activists to put together lists of companies from their countries that collaborated with Mubaraks regime, especially within the security field, or benefited from or contributed to corruption in Egypt.)

Both Alaa and Azza pointed out that the Egyptian people need support in hard times as well as good times. While some in the west (as well as within Egypt) may have had unrealistic expectations of what the revolution would achieve in the short term it is necessary to realize that the people of Egypt are only in the beginning of a long and difficult struggle – the outcome of which will not only decide the future of Egypt for decades to come but will influence the whole region and the world. Alaa stressed again and again that the left in Egypt doesn’t need or ask for financial support (something which foreign embassies and NGO:s has been all to eager to throw on Egyptian youth activists and bloggers) but practical solidarity and cooperation based on the notion that “our struggle is one”: “A democratic and just Egypt can only survive in a democratic and just region, which in turn can only be built in a democratic and just world”.

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