Egypt’s Crossroads: Victory or Death
By Liam Fox
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, occupied Tahrir Square, and marched on the Parliamentary buildings. Countless individuals have stood toe to toe with the state police and been arrested, tortured and bludgeoned for their convictions and hundreds have offered their bodies as human shields against tanks and military personnel carriers. Many have demonstrated the admirable courage to boldly stand and speak out publicly against the brutal and repressive regime that has held their country captive for more than thirty years. But what next?
A wave of righteous anger swept the people of Egypt into the streets demanding change. Over two hundred have been killed and over a thousand injured thus far in clashes with police, state sponsored thugs, and prisoners released, armed, and paid by the Mubarak regime to wreak havoc against the peaceful demonstrators. Despite this, the indefatigable will of the demonstrators has galvanized their resolve to press on and demand change. But what change? For Mubarak to be gone, or for the entire structure of the regime he built and constitution he molded to his will to be gone?
The community of international governments has offered words of encouragement and support to the protesters while simultaneously standing behind the current dictatorial regime as a legitimate governmental structure that must be maintained throughout any transition. Their economic and geopolitical interests trump the needs of the Egyptian people. Global media has given little voice to the non-sectarian democratic demands of the Egyptian people while doing their best to continue Mubarak’s legacy of fear-mongering about the Muslim Brotherhood and religious extremism, something the Egyptian people have clearly denounced. The massive population of educated and sophisticated Egyptian Youth have been all but eclipsed by the spectre of potential religious extremism promoted by politicians, pundits, and corporate media spokespersons.
Not only is Mubarak not leaving government, but he continues to control the narrative. ‘Without him there will be chaos.’ ‘Without him something even worse, for America and Israel, will come along.’ ‘Egyptians are not ready for democracy.’ The only change that can be effectively managed is change that will be directed and controlled by his regime.
The changes he has instituted in his government have already proved themselves to be a complete farce. Vice President Souleiman has offered nothing different. He is still under the complete direction of Hosni Mubarak. Change under this regime is impossible. The only alternative is the complete dissolution of the current government, its self-serving constitution, and its strange-hold on power.
The alternative to a complete and successful revolution will be the imprisonment and/or death of every organizer and participant in this uprising. Early on in this struggle the demonstrators recognized this fact. It has now become an undeniable reality. Mubarak is not leaving. His regime is not willing to relinquish control. Egyptians must either die, succeed, or die trying. There are no other alternatives. There is no life ‘back to normal.’ Not under this regime, and certainly not for those who have dared to stand up for their rights and their liberty.
Mubarak and his regime are trying to starve the revolution. After the early days of bloody clashes they pulled back and allowed the protesters to occupy Tahrir square. They’ve re-opened the banks and many businesses. The hope was to draw those less committed away from the stress and discomfort of Tahrir square, away from the threat, back to the comfort of their homes, and weaken the strength of the revolutionaries. They have been unsuccessful. The protests have grown and the revolutionaries have ventured out of the square. The regime will not remain patient.
The protesters have built up a great deal of political capital. While governments are speaking out of both sides of their mouths, the people of the world stand firmly behind the movement. Egypt is providing inspiration for hundreds of millions around the globe, not just in their own region. Every person who feels economically enslaved by predatory capitalism, and an economy that benefits a very few at the expense of the many that are thrust into austerity measures, is looking to Egypt for proof of an alternative. Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Syria are not the only ones effected by the spark of revolution. A global movement is awakening, looking, learning, and hoping.
But what next? What is the strategy? There must be a strategy. The initial emotional spark of righteous anger, of rage, was enough to launch an action, and propel it this far…. but what next?
The Egyptian government will only talk and negotiate within its current structure, institutions, and rules. It will only allow a revolution to proceed under its authority. This has already been made clear. The protesters have organized to the degree that representatives have emerged but they have been rendered impotent by the system that they are being forced to function within; Mubarak’s system. The system he created that is propped up by the military. They have reached a dead end. What next?
The only alternative is to take control of the infrastructure of the country. A strategy must be established to accomplish this. Communications, utilities, finance and transportation must be taken out of the regimes control if not completely put under the control of a revolutionary transitional government. The military is the wild card. Will they support the revolution or slaughter their own countrymen? The revolutionaries must make overtures and form alliances. They must sell their alternative to the military commanders and co-opt their support. They cannot simply hope for the best at the end of a gun.
Control of the country’s infrastructure can ideally be achieved by peaceful occupation of the stock market, major banks, telecommunications facilities, utilities, broadcasting stations, fuel supplies, railways and roads. A mass strike and sit-in that will occupy the heart of the country’s infrastructure rather than Tahrir square. The square has become a symbol, but it has also become a trap. All that can be achieved from the square has been. It is now time for the revolutionaries to exact a comprehensive strategy.
Remaining in the square will eventually result in military intervention and bloodshed, and nothing substantive will have been achieved. Giving up and going home will definitely result in imprisonment and bloodshed for all those involved and even less change will have been affected. In fact, if the regime feels victorious, quite the opposite is more likely. Attempting a peaceful take-over of the country’s infrastructure will also result in bloodshed, unfortunately, but it is the only possibility for real and meaningful change. Peace may be the preferred choice of the protesters but thirty years of experience has proved that it is not the preferred choice of this regime.
Unless the protesters in Egypt achieve a complete victory, they are as good as dead. As long as any of Mubarak’s people remain in power their lives will be in certain jeopardy. They have no other choice but to press on.
They must establish a strategy for action. They must create planning groups and action groups with established objectives and goals. Communication, supplies, and logistics must be prepared, directed and maintained. They must equip themselves and prepare for direct and effective action. They must leave the square and take their country back from the regime.
Bloodshed and violence, in some form, is imminent. Success is precarious. Strategies must be developed, protesters must become proactive, and actions must be planned and executed. Action or not, violence and bloodshed will be visited on those who have come this far. But, unless they take their country back, remove the regime, and establish a government of the people, there will be no gains worthy of the sacrifice. They’ve come too far. It’s victory or death.