Military Resistance




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Military Resistance:

thomasfbarton@earthlink.net

2.13.11

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Military Resistance 9B11

[Thanks to Mark Shapiro, Military Resistance Organization, who sent this in.]



Egypt: The Clock Is Running

[Comment: T]
The Egyptian February revolution has brought down the dictator.
The Egyptian people, long oppressed, have won a world-amazing political victory, and opened the way to wonderful possibilities.
But as yet there are only possibilities.
The material reality of the lives of the overwhelming majority of Egyptians who daily struggle to get enough to eat has not changed with the going of Mubarak.
One particularly murderous exploiter and a handful of his class allies have given up power, but the rest remain in their previous places, taking for themselves the wealth of Egyptian society.
They sacrifice a few of their associates to the revolution in a play for time to regroup and reorganize their forces.
The question opened now is which class will rule in Egypt, and that question will be decided in class warfare.
Preparation for a showdown in that war is beginning, hopefully on both sides.
Certainly those who consider the wealth of the society their private property are already preparing to insure their continued domination by armed force. This includes the members of the military general staff.
They are not all stupid, and some understand that if this revolution isn’t put down, as soon as practicable, they risk losing everything.
The soldiers will decide the outcome.
The soldiers’ choice will be whether to follow the orders of the generals, who will be defending their own personal wealth and privilege as well as that of their class allies, or to choose to defy their generals and go over to the Egyptian working class, and their allies.
Winning the soldiers from below requires careful organization within their ranks.
This is not work that can be postponed.
This work is best organized now, before an offensive against the Egyptian revolution is set in motion by its enemies.
MORE:
Portugal 1975 -- A Revolution Destroyed:

The Far Left Had A Major Fault”

The Revolutionary Left Had Neither The Will Nor The Influence To Move Rank-And-File Soldiers”

This Is A Tragedy From Which We Must All Learn”


December 1985 By Chris Harman, Socialist Worker [UK] reprinted in February 11, 2011 Socialist Worker
*********************************************************************
Portugal was ruled by a full-fledged fascist regime for half a century, longer than anywhere else in Europe.
Opposition parties were banned. The only unions permitted were small, state-run craft associations. Armed police were used to break any strike. Working-class leaders were consigned to the jails of the PIDE secret police for 10 or 20 years.
The fascist state ruled not only over Portugal, but also over an immense empire in Africa. The colonies of Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique provided abundant profits for Portugal’s giant monopolies and jobs for its middle class.
On the morning of April 25, 1974, the citizens of Lisbon arose from their beds to find tanks patrolling the streets and normal radio broadcasts replaced by military music. Was the coup from the left or the right? The answer came when the radio broadcast a popular anti-fascist song.
People rushed out into the streets to fraternize with the soldiers, handing them red carnations.
Together, they tore down the emblems of the fascist regime, opened the prisons to free political prisoners and arrested known police informers.
The new government was headed by Gen. António de Spinola, an old reactionary who had fought as a volunteer in Hitler’s armies during the Second World War. But his government members were made up from all the underground anti-fascist parties, including the Communists.
And it soon became clear that power in the armed forces lay not with him, but with 400 junior officers who had actually organized the coup--known as the Armed Forces Movement, or MFA.
The army had turned against fascism for one simple reason--it was losing the colonial war in Africa. But there were big differences on how to react to this.
Spinola put forward the line of the big Portuguese monopolies. Their aim was to replace direct Portuguese rule by indirect rule based upon "moderate," CIA-financed movements in the colonies, even if this meant continuing the war for the time being.
The junior officers wanted to end the war at all costs, and knew only one way to do so--to hand over power to the real liberation movements, like the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) in Angola and Frelimo in Mozambique.
The divisions were soon increased by something else. Portugal had undergone considerable industrialization in the last decade of fascism. It was because big business wanted to prevent action by workers that Spinola took the Communists, by far the largest underground party, into his government.
They told workers to trust Spinola, and the Communists minister of labor framed a new anti-strike law.
But the workers were not to be held back in this way.
There Was A Growing Tendency For Rank-And-File Soldiers To Organize Politically For Themselves, Joining Left-Wing Demonstrations And Siding With Workers To Industrial Disputes”
THE GIANT Lisnave shipyard began a wage of strikes that swept the country in the early summer of 1974. These workers faced opposition from all the government parties. Yet the workers succeeded in forcing massive improvements in pay and conditions and a general "cleaning out" of reactionary managers in industry and the media.
All this was too much for Spinola, big business and the Portuguese right. He tried to stop the revolution in its tracks in September with a fascist-style rally. But a mass mobilization of workers stopped it from taking place, and he was forced to resign.
In March 1975, he tried again, this time with a military coup.
But workers argued with soldiers who had been sent to seize the approaches to Lisbon and persuaded them to turn against their reactionary officers.
Instead of stopping the revolution, the actions of the right spurred it forward.
The banking unions closed down the banks until the government agreed to nationalize them--and with them some 60 percent of Portuguese industry. Workers occupied more than 300 factories.
The old generals lost their control over the armed forces to the junior officers of the MFA.
And there was a growing tendency for rank-and-file soldiers to organize politically for themselves, joining left-wing demonstrations and siding with workers to industrial disputes.
Foreign socialists who visited Lisbon in the summer of 1975 underwent an experience that they would not forget. Here was a city where the majority of the working class wanted socialism and where the old obstacles, in terms of the police, the army and even a well-organized capitalist class, seemed in complete disarray.
Yet other obstacles, just as dangerous, continued to exist.
Within the working-class movement, the two main parties were the recently reformed Socialist Party of Mário Soares and the Communist Party.

Within The Armed Forces, They Began To Plot With The Old Right-Wing General To Oust The Junior Officers Who Had Overthrown Fascism”


The Socialist Party had gone along with he first popular mobilizations against the right. But its leaders took fright at the further development of the revolution. They were soon trying to whip up a lynch-mob atmosphere against the left.
In northern Portugal, they encouraged right-wing rioters who burned down the offices of unions and left-wing parties.
Within the armed forces, they began to plot with the old right-wing general to oust the junior officers who had overthrown fascism.
But the Socialist Party alone could not have saved Portuguese capitalism. It only had support from a minority of workers in the key Lisbon industrial belt, and in the unions.
The majority party of the workers at the time of the overthrow of fascism was the Communist Party.
If it had fought for socialist revolution by leading the wave of strikes and occupations that began in the early summer of 1974, it would have been unstoppable.
But it followed a different tack.
It denounced the strike wave, while attempting to get control of the existing state by secret plots with opportunist politicians and army officers. Its leaders believed this would enable them to establish an Eastern European-type society.
The high point of their success was the summer of 1975, when an officer thought too sympathetic to the party, Vasco Goncalves, formed a government. But this soon proved incapable of effectively ruling the country. It refused to unleash the revolutionary energy of the workers and it could not deal with a wave of sabotage and unrest in the rural areas of the north. Goncalves soon quietly abandoned power to those to the right of him.
A quite considerable minority of workers turned to genuinely revolutionary ideas. The small revolutionary parties mushroomed in size until they exercised considerable influence.

The Army Officers Became More And More Impotent”


Yet the far left had a major fault.
Although they talked about the working class, they all acted as if some other social force could substitute itself for the class.
They devoted as much attention to courting left-wing army officers as to trying to win factory workers away from the Communist Party.
Time was running out for the left-wing officers.
They could dominate Portuguese politics while the old ruling class was demoralized and divided.
But once it began to get its act together--with a lot of help from Western governments and from the Socialist Party--the army officers became more and more impotent.
By November 1975, there were only two choices: either the working class took things into its own hands, or the old ruling class would stage a comeback.
The right struck on November 25.
The pretext was the occupation of TV stations by a group of left-wing soldiers.
Right-wing officers moved their troops quickly to disarm all the left-wing soldiers in the Lisbon area and to restore the power of the old generals.
They met very little resistance. It required only a couple thousand troops to disarm the much larger left-influenced forces in Lisbon.
The reason lay in the way the left had put its faith in maneuvering by army officers, rather than in mass workers’ action.
The Communist Party, which only the day before had organized a successful two-hour general strike, refused to take action against the advance of the right. It seemed to think it would be able to plot its way to power regardless.
The left-wing officers were not ready to wage what might well be an armed confrontation against their fellow officers, and made no move.
The revolutionary left had neither the will nor the influence to move rank-and-file workers in the face of the Communist Party’s opposition, or rank-and-file soldiers in the face of opposition from the left-wing officers.
The right wing was careful not to use its newfound control of the army and police to attack workers’ conditions immediately. It knew that to do so might rekindle the fire of the revolution.
But the more the revolutionary years of 1974 and 1975 receded into the past, the more such gains were taken back by the employing classes. The fact that most of the time the Socialist Party was in the government did not make any difference,
A decade later, average wages were 10 percent lower than they were in 1973, the last year of fascism. Hundreds of thousands of workers have to wait six months or more for wages owing to them. Lisbon is once again a city noted for the large number of people begging in the streets.
Portugal showed the promise of a very different sort of future in 1974 and 1975. That did not materialize because there was not a powerful revolutionary socialist party to challenge the hold of the Communist and Socialist Parties.
This is a tragedy from which we must all learn.
MORE:
You Could See In His Eyes And On The Face Of The Soldiers The Tremendous Amount Of Relief They Felt That They Did Not Have To Fire On The Protesters”

For Two Weeks, They Faced The Possibility Of Having To Fire On Their Brothers And Sisters--Something They Did Not Want To Do”

There Was Also More Fraternization With Army Officers And Soldiers Who Came Out Of Their Tanks”

At The Presidential Palace, The Tanks Turned Their Barrels Away From The People”


When the army didn’t fire on people, protesters were further emboldened.
By 4 or 5 p.m., with large numbers of protesters also outside the state television building, the army was in no position to fire on people.
Before Mubarak stepped down, we talked to a young man in Tahrir Square and asked him who he wanted to replace Mubarak.
He said, "I want someone who is as poor as I am, who has eaten beans all his life"--the staple of the poor in Egypt--"so he will be able to understand the anger of the people."
February 11, 2011 By Mostafa Omar from Cairo, Socialist Worker
WHEN THE announcement came that Hosni Mubarak was no longer president, I was in midtown Cairo.
Suddenly, tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands--probably, around Cairo as a whole, millions--of people poured into the streets to join those who were already demonstrating.
Around Tahrir Square, I estimate around 2 million people were celebrating the downfall of Mubarak. It was so crowded that it took an hour to walk about 50 or 75 feet.
The atmosphere was indescribable. There are fireworks everywhere in Tahrir Square. It looked like an Egyptian wedding--except multiplied by a million.
It’s not just young people involved in this movement, as the media have claimed. It’s all of Egypt--people of all ages dancing and singing, coming up with chants.
My companions and I talked to a number of people.
I asked many if they ever had thought such a thing could happen. Some said no--at least not in their lifetime. Others said they knew it would happen, such was the hatred for the Mubarak dictatorship.
While people are celebrating Mubarak’s ouster, they are also watching the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has taken power. One man, a lawyer, said that perhaps people will go home tonight from Tahrir Square feeling victorious. But they will closely monitor what kind of steps the army will take in terms of constitutional and legislative change, he said.
When we asked what will happen if the army doesn’t fulfill its promises, he said, "Tahrir Square is not going anywhere--we have already won once. It will be easier for us to regroup and remobilize. We can take it back at any minute."
Many others we spoke with also made it clear that the struggle won’t end with Mubarak’s ouster. There was a group of two accountants, two teachers and some university students from the Qalyubia governorate north of Cairo.
They had been camping in Tahrir Square for a week. They all said this was the happiest day of their life. One of the accountants said, "We will not leave until the dictator goes on trial."
There was also more fraternization with army officers and soldiers who came out of their tanks.
At first, the officers didn’t want to let people on the tanks, but eventually they did.
One tank commander I saw, a first lieutenant, is a young man in his 20s. You could see in his eyes and on the face of the soldiers the tremendous amount of relief they felt that they did not have to fire on the protesters.
For two weeks, they faced the possibility of having to fire on their brothers and sisters--something they did not want to do.
This commander picked up the Egyptian flag and kissed it. I think he was showing that he was glad that he was serving the whole nation, and not one person or the regime.

The Vast Majority Knows That It Isn’t About Bringing Down One Person--That Mubarak Represented The Whole Social And Economic System”


THE CHANTS in Tahrir Square following news of Mubarak’s ouster were amazing to hear. They reflected both a sense of accomplishment and also the anticipation of more struggle to come.
Instead of "The people want to bring down the regime," the chant became "The people brought down the regime."
Instead of "The people want to bring down the president," it became "The people want the president’s money."
There were a lot of chants for the martyrs: "Martyrs, rest in peace, your blood was not spilled in vain." The big chant that many took up was "Freedom!"
There were also women’s contingents leading chants--reminding the ex-president’s wife how miserable and poor they were, and how much they struggled just to put food on the table.
They also chanted, "We want Egypt based on freedom and social justice."
So you can tell that people are not just concerned about free elections--there are wider and deeper questions on everyone’s mind that they see as linked to the democratic demands.
There is an internationalist feeling reflected in the chants as well. One of them went: "Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria." In other words, people know the importance of the January revolution in Tunisia in inspiring further action in Egypt, and they are keeping a close eye on developments in Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and other countries. On February 12, there is a national day of protest in Algiers in solidarity with the revolution in Egypt and Tunisia.
Many people spoke about the need to prosecute Mubarak and his family. One young woman, an administrative clerk, told us that the rest of the regime should be on trial.
Many believe that to obtain justice, a continued mass movement is necessary.
That’s the perspective of pharmacist Mohamed Rashin, the father of five college-educated children. "I feel I have been in limbo between earth and sky," he said of the 18 days of struggle to oust the dictator. "I believe that we have the support of god, but I also believe in the power of the Egyptian people."
We talked to a middle-aged man who said, "The Egyptian people are giants."
He added: "I love the American people, but I hate the American government. We are against any U.S. or foreign intervention. We will stay in Tahrir Square, because this is not about Mubarak. We have other demands--for political freedom, the end of the emergency laws. Demands that have to be met."
From the victory chants, you can tell that in the back of their minds, people are still thinking about what happens next.
They say, "We brought down the regime," but what a lot of people really mean by that is: "We have broken part of the regime, so it’s possible to go after the rest."
The vast majority knows that it isn’t about bringing down one person--that Mubarak represented the whole social and economic system.
And while there’s a massive celebration, many people are concerned about reports that the U.S. Sixth Fleet is on its way to Suez Canal. The sentiment is that we won’t stay silent if there is any foreign intervention in Egyptian affairs.

At The Presidential Palace, The Tanks Turned Their Barrels Away From The People”


IF THERE is widespread agreement in the revolutionary movement that the struggle must continue, there are differences on how far to go.
On the left, for example, the April 6 Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists play a key role in leading chants. The chants aren’t just propaganda--they are agitational, with obvious organizational consequences. Thousands of young people are rallying around the April 6 Youth Movement and the Youth Coalition for the Revolution of Anger.
Before the vice president’s speech, we met Mohammad Abdel Aziz, one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement and a leader of the January 25 Youth Movement--the groups that helped to organize much of the activity in Tahrir Square, and one of the most radical.
As he said:
“It is very important that if we bring down Mubarak today, it will not be the end, but the beginning of the revolution. The regime is not just one person, but an entire ruling elite around Mubarak. Our revolution started as a youth revolution, but now it has developed into a people’s revolution.”
One key focus of the next few days will be on working-class struggles.
The strikes were one of the two decisive factors in forcing Mubarak out.
In the previous 48 hours before Mubarak’s resignation, a growing number of workers had gone on strike. By Friday, there was the expectation that the strikes would spread the next day, Saturday--a workday in Egypt. The country was becoming ungovernable--not just politically, but also economically.
The second crucial development was that on Friday, there were masses of people surrounding the presidential palace in Alexandria, and more and more people were pouring toward the presidential palace in Cairo, which was a no-go zone as far as the army was concerned.
When the army didn’t fire on people, protesters were further emboldened.
By 4 or 5 p.m., with large numbers of protesters also outside the state television building, the army was in no position to fire on people.
And at the presidential palace, the tanks turned their barrels away from the people.
At this point, people want a role for the armed forces in ensuring that the remnants of the old regime will be dismantled and figuring out a transition. But they don’t want a military dictatorship.
And the army is issuing statements that it will protect the freedoms of the people and the wealth of the country, a hint that the army will pursue those who are trying to smuggle money out of the country and pursue those who are corrupt--that was an announcement on state TV.
There will be mass pressure on the army to live up to those promises.
Before Mubarak stepped down, we talked to a young man in Tahrir Square and asked him who he wanted to replace Mubarak.
He said, "I want someone who is as poor as I am, who has eaten beans all his life"--the staple of the poor in Egypt--"so he will be able to understand the anger of the people."
You get the feeling from experiences like talking to him that this isn’t just a movement for democracy.
It’s a movement for social justice and the redistribution of wealth.
MORE:
In A Typical Egyptian Family Of Five, You’re Just Above The Poverty Line ($2 A Day Per Person)”

Above: Ghazl Shibin workers strike against foreign investors, March 10, 2009. Photo: Sarah Carr, The Solidarity Center via The Human Experience


February 10, 2011 Joel Beinin interviewed in The Human Experience [Excerpt]
Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan professor of history and professor of Middle Eastern history at Stanford University. His research and writing focuses on workers, peasants, and minorities in the modern Middle East and on Israel, Palestine, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Between 2004 and 2009 Professor Beinin made multiple trips to Cairo, including two periods when he lived in Egypt. While there, he interviewed Egyptian workers and explored both the history and the current state of the labor movement.
*******************************************************************************
Could you describe what life is like for the typical middle-class, urban worker in Cairo?
First of all, in Egypt, the word working class is not taboo.
Workers are called workers, and not middle class.
And working class is a term that everybody understands.
The typical monthly base salary for a textile worker is 400 Egyptian pounds a month. That’s about $70. You also get incentive pay, bonuses of various sorts and so on.
But if you put two salaries together in a typical Egyptian family of five, you’re just above the poverty line ($2 a day per person). According to the World Bank, 44 percent of the Egyptian people live under or just near the poverty line.
Most urban workers are barely able to feed their families and to provide education for their children because the Egyptian public school system simply does not work. Everybody has to hire tutors for their children. People are constantly over their eyeballs in debt.
The price of food has skyrocketed in the last five years, especially in the last several months.
And people just cannot make it.
Underlying all the political grievances that have come to light in the last week in a very sharp way are these economic problems, which have been going on for the last 20 years roughly.
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