Egypt: The Times Are Changing

Paulo Morel

The Egyptian upheaval, along with a smaller one in Mexico, signals the dawn of a new era of revolution, after decades of neoliberal hegemony – Editors.

In Egypt the people took to the streets. They refused to continue to play a game in which a corrupt and oppressive minority always wins by all kinds of sordid means.  They refused to be intimidated by violence; they refused to be silenced by fear. The people took to the streets and there was nothing, short of a bloodbath at daylight that could only guarantee more resistance, a prelude to civil war; there was nothing, I repeat, that the corrupt and oppressive regime could do about it.

At the same time in which the massive mobilizations in Cairo and around Egypt were defying the authoritarian rule of Mubarak, in Mexico the progressive newspaper La Jornada (January 31) reported a march of more than three thousand organized workers and peasants in downtown Mexico City in a protest against “la carestia,” the rising cost of living. The present economic difficulties of Mexico are the result of decades of irresponsible and predatory economic practices of the dominant neoliberal elites and business groups, together with their political servants, and with the decisive help of an extended ideological apparatus that includes the support of the commercial media, professional ideologues, etc.

What do these two events in Mexico and in Egypt, separated in space, distinct by national contexts, and disproportionate in numbers, have in common? They signalize a common knowledge on the part of the global masses, the common experiences of the people of the 21st century.

Within the context of the global economic crisis and the related process of disintegration of the hegemony of the centers of Western capitalist dominance, these two very different and coincident events signal, each in its own way, that the point of reversal of the long night of neoliberal hegemony, of the global dictatorship of unrestrained capitalism, is in sight. Indeed, that we are entering the point in which history turns, and this time the turn is being produced by the mass actions of common people.

When a people discovers its own collective power of refusal and disobedience, its power to oppose and destroy the quotidian chains of oppression, that, my friends, is Revolution! For the Revolution is a pedagogical process: a process of learning by doing that starts with a big NO and NO MORE! And it is followed by the realization that, indeed, society is sustained not by the power of business elites, cartels and monopolies, the power of governments and armies, but by the collective actions, big and small, of those who perform the daily tasks of work, education, care of self and of others, etc.

Revolution is a process of discovery and self-discovery of the collective power that sustains society and that, under class structures, is robbed of its autonomous capacities and goals and used in the service of the social classes that monopolize wealth and their servants: rulers, bureaucrats, policemen, venal journalists and ideologues of all kinds, etc, etc.

What we witness in Egypt today is indeed a revolutionary process. Must we remind ourselves once more that a revolution is never simply an episode, but a process, a long and at times contradictory process? There are of course many obstacles to a radical outcome of the present crisis in Egypt, starting with the general disorganization of radical thinking in our times, and the difficult coordination and development of radical movements at different regional and at international levels, difficulties increased by many decades of the dominance of global neoliberalism as a social practice and as an ideology. But the current mobilization of the Egyptian masses is undoubtedly a first step into the future, an unprecedented step in the present historical context in a region marked by the heritage of endogenous and exogenous structures of oppression and alienation.

Whatever the immediate results of the protests, the stability of the existing power structures and relations has been deeply affected in Egypt and in the region. The mobilization of the Egyptian people, given the context of the modern history of Egypt, the size and geopolitical circumstances of the country, offers a strong example and signalizes that the times indeed are changing, that they have changed. It indicates that we are finally leaving the 20th century behind, and entering the 21st century.

In a new time there are new opportunities and also new dangers. The task of those who want to contribute to the radical solution of the deep rooted and global crisis of today is to discover and disseminate the knowledge of the new obstacles and the new possibilities for the transformation of social relations and social structures.

One thing is certain: the Revolution of the 21st century will be unique in its form and processes. As in the past, the Revolution, a pedagogical process, reinvents itself. As with all great revolutions of the past, the Revolution of the 21st century will be unprecedented.

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Paulo Morel is a Latin American writer based in the Middle East.


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