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The Egyptian Revolution is being co-opted


The Egyptian Revolution is being co-opted. From the moment the international media began labelling protesters as "pro-democracy" fighters to the moment when liberal politicians like El-Baradei appointed themselves – and were regarded as such by the "international community" and not emphatically opposed by the local youth activists of the January 25th movement – as representatives of the "people" and from the moment that the United States began to articulate its fall-back policy towards Egypt – and the whole Middle East, except Israel – as a policy of "co-ordinated transition to democracy", the revolution was lost.

Let's be clear about this. The model of "co-ordinated transition to democracy", the idea that what Egypt needs is a system of "fair and free elections" at regular intervals and with a real chance for the "opposition" to access power in the political institutions of the status quo, is in fact the regulation and co-optation of radical grassroots dissent for the preservetion of imperial rule in the Middle East, for the preservation of the balance of power with Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, and for the preservation of certain ruling elites within Egypt to the exclusion of the spectres that these elites, and the United States/Israel fear the most: the radical left and Muslim fundamentalism.

But Egyptian dissent as expressed in the January uprising is informed only to some extent by the sentiments of oppressed and radicalized Muslims or by those of "pro-democracy" activists. Although not altogether absent – how could it be? – Muslim fundamentalism does not appear to be the decisive force behind the process. Likewise, although some Egyptians do speak the language of liberal democracy as a solution to some of their problems, few see this model of poliical community as the route to real emancipation from the shackles of imperial domination, vernacular military hegemony, and traditional party elites and machineries. The language of western democracy is here as suspect as the language of Al-Qaida. The force that appears to be driving the process more directly is the force of hunger, unemployment, exclusion, marginalization, repression, and fear. The language that one hears coming from the streets of Egypt is the language of liberation. Thus, the struggle to break free from the shackles of marginalization, impoverishment, exclusion, repression, and hopelessness by young Egyptians, some groups of women, and certain segments of the middle class, this is the driving force behind the process.

Although largely devoid of a centralized, political party-like, leadership, this movement is nonetheless not devoid of a central project of change: it is about the satisfaction of human needs, it is about the meeting of youthful expectations, it is about a fair social and economic compact, it is about the political empowerment of people left out by 30 years of bureaucratic, militaristic and despotic authoritarianism, Mubarak style, and it is about – as far as it's possible to tell – delinking from corporate-driven globalization and its trickle down effects on Egypt felt there by the implementation of Mubarak style neo-liberalism (comprehensive and institutionalized corruption and personal enrichment willfully tolerated by the West mixed with high expenditures for the benefit of the military elite and their clienteles mixed with fiscal austerity and discipline for the rest of the people). Keeping this whole institutional arrangement and adding controlled elections is what imperial foreign policy in the Middle East, those who are setting themselves up as the architects of the "transition", and the global corporate media call "democracy".

Absolutely none of the widespread grassroots demands, from effective socio-economic inclusion and justice to delinking from corporate-driven globalization and neoliberalism to an emphatic break with the past of bankrupt political parties, the indirect rule of the army, and the ruling NDP elites can be accomplished within the model of a US-imposed and Suleiman-controlled "co-ordinated transition to democracy". Thus, to the extent that this model advances and succeeds, so too will deepen the loss of the revolution that Egypt could sill have and that originates from youthful revolutionary spirit that today haunts the streets of its dusty and old cities and towns.

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