Revolution and counter-revolution take world stage
Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2011-2012
Publisher: News & Letters
Date Written: 01/05/2011
Year Published: 2011
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX16220
Revolution and counter-revolution have forced their way back to the center stage of history. First in Tunisia, then in Egypt, revolutions have opened up tremendous new possibilities and spread the fire of their passion from Libya and across the Arab world to Iran, Europe, the U.S. and China. Counter-revolution has reared its head in many forms as well.
From neighborhood defense committees to cleanup committees, from medical clinics in Tahrir Square to the form of decision-making practiced there, people discovered through their own self-organization new ways of acting together, before which bourgeois democracy pales.
What must be faced squarely is the counter-revolution coming from within the revolution, as women experienced in their demonstrations on March 8, International Women's Day. As one demonstrator, Jumanah Younis, described it: "The women chanted slogans that had been used in the revolution itself, calling for freedom, justice and equality." But the women's chants "were drowned out by retaliations [yelled by the mob of men] such as 'No to freedom!'...The men charged the female protestors...and shouted 'Get out of here.'
"Many women were dragged away by small groups of men who attacked them. I remained on the platform with five other women. A small circle of sympathetic men held hands around us to protect us from the crowd, which swelled on all sides....
"As I struggled to stay upright, a hand grabbed my behind and others pulled at my clothes."
Like the women in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, what the Egyptian women demonstrators wanted was a continuation and deepening of the new human relations established in Tahrir Square, where women lived for the first time in their lives, those 18 days, without fear of the streets, without harassment, rape, or degradation. They participated equally in the revolutionary events and were treated as comrades.
Labor struggles continued too, and the strikes of the last several years greatly increased its political dimension while demanding better pay and conditions and opposing the neoliberal program of privatization. Nagaa Hamady Aluminum Factory workers held a sit-in demanding the replacement of corrupt managers linked to the Mubarak regime. Workers occupied the Shebin El-Kom Textiles factory to roll back layoffs and increase wages and job security. Employees of Al Azhar University and Cairo University protested working conditions and called for the institutions' independence from the state. Power station employees struck to oust corrupt managers. Thousands of Suez Canal workers began striking and occupying headquarters. Teachers in Alexandria protested to demand permanent contracts.
The Army's claims to be the champion of revolution and democracy could not hide their efforts to seize the historical initiative from the masses. They managed to end the occupation of Tahrir Square, and, with support from the Muslim Brotherhood, to force through a referendum on limited constitutional changes opposed by the revolutionary forces. But their February slogan of "The army and the people are one hand" has been turned into "The army and the people are not one hand....The revolution has so far managed to get rid of the dictator (Mubarak), but the dictatorship still exists."