Thursday, 27 January 2011

North African popular revolt spreads to Egypt

Writing of the uprising in Tunisia, I noted that it could lead to nothing or "be the spark of something big" across North Africa and the Arab world. It now appears that the spirit of revolt has taken hold. Egypt is the latest country to see people rise up against dictatorship, and they deserve our solidarity.

Protests began on Tuesday, and were the biggest the country has seen since the 1977 bread riots. As in Tunisia, the response from authorities has been harsh. Protesters have been arrested. Social networking sites Twitter and Facebook have been blocked. The police have been accused of brutality. And still, people are taking to the streets to voice their opposition to corruption, torture, poerty, and unemployment.

As with any unrest, opposition groups are a mixed bag. The BBC provides a reasonable guide - ranging from the April 6th Youth Movement who are primarily responsible for organising protests and utilising social networking to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. However, thus far it does look as though the workerist tendencies of the April 6th movement remain the most prominent, and if that remains the case then we can hope that the uprising will maintain a positive character.

And when I say positive, I don't only mean in terms of political outlook. Of course, it is vital that movements against dictatorship are not overtaken by nationalistic and other reactionary sentiments. But it is also important that they retain a vibrancy and power that makes the state tremble, rather than surrendering to reformism and the parliamentary "process."

At present, there seems little chance of such a surrender. The protesters have had the riot police on the run, and popular anger has the state on the run. As Ahmed Moor writes for Al Jazeera, "the Arabs are alive. And the Arabs are hungry." There is revolution in the air.