As 15,000 took to the streets in Cairo, Egypt, today, they joined protesters in Lebanon, Tunisia and across the Arab world. Whether this is a class-conscious revolution or not, the protests in the Middle East are sending shock waves throughout the globe.
The 30 years of oppression that Egypt has seen under Mabarak and the 23 years in Tunisia under Ben Ali’s tyrannical regime are leading to the biggest outbreak of legitimate dissent for decades. Is this part of a world-wide revolt? We’ve seen in 2010 3 million take to the streets in France, students shutting down the capital in Italy and the largest student demonstrations in the UK since the 1960s – certainly the austerity measures are the driving force behind this emerging radicalism, but it is a radicalism nonetheless that will stay with these people for their lives. Egypt has had 30 years of dictatorship – the UK has had 30 years of monetarism. In both countries it is the interests of capital which prevail.
There are many more questions than answers at the moment. Will the revolution in Tunisia launch a domino effect? The protests in Egypt today suggest so, but under the immense police and state oppression, there is a worrying possibility that the demonstrations will fizzle out, or even more frighteningly, that if they succeed, the power vacuum created will be exploited by Western powers for their own interests, as the US did throughout much of the 20th century.
Perhaps the a barometer for the rise of revolutionary politics in the UK will be seen in the NUS elections in just a few months. It seems Aaron Porter will suffer certain defeat after his utter failure to significantly support the student movement. Student Broad Left are again putting forward a strong platform, and since they are looking for an FE candidate…well I’ll think about that when the time comes.
Without being dramatic, students and people in general are becoming sick of global neo-liberalism. The election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader saw the end of New Labour, and his move to pick Ed Balls as shadow chancellor marks a move away from cuts dogma. And now the government are losing the argument about spending cuts with rising unemployment, inflation and economic contraction. It was unemployment that sparked the revolution in Tunisia. Could it be the same here?
There is no hint of revolution in the candidates for the Young Labour leadership this year, who are shamefully centrist. Only Callum Munro offering anything left of centre, saying he’s proud to ‘march with my fellow students against the rise in tuition fees and cuts to higher education.’ It can only be hoped that whoever wins goes with the tide of progressivism that is spreading nationally, a tide reflected in the decline of the centre-left Labour think-tank Compass, and the socialist LRC.
Last words: solidarity with the movement against dictatorship in the Middle East, and against austerity in Europe. Closer to home, there’s a lot more resistance to come.