[This post appeared here at Militant Student]
For a blogger to suggest that what is happening in Egypt right now was not caused by Facebook or Twitter is perhaps slightly heretical – but when 40% of people in a population of 80 million live on less than $2 a day, it is clear many are struggling to afford food, never mind a laptop or internet connection, as George Galloway made clear in his Stop the War Coalition speech just a couple of days ago.
This is a revolution which has grown from solidarity with Tunisia but has now surpassed the scale of that revolt, and today, Friday, we watch as what is expected to be the largest demonstration in Egypt’s recent history takes place. The Day of Departure. Whether it will result in a popular overthrow of the government, or bloodshed is a frightening question. But whatever happens, Egypt has inspired the world to fight back against the forces of oppression and capital. Mubarak’s membership of the Socialist International means nothing – his has been a regime propped up by Western powers to protect private interests, and only under the sheer scale of the mass revolt is the US and UK admitting Mubarak must step down.
Students take note. 90% of those unemployed are under 30. The movement in Egypt is one against an economy that lets millions of young people be condemned to an existence without a future or any hope. And while the IMF and WTO have been pushing for decades to end food subsidies in Egypt (despite the massive malnutrition rates) , world food prices are at the highest recorded since records began.
We must not underplay the role of organised labour in these revolutions. The general workers union in Tunisia, the UGTT, was instrumental in organising general strikes and keeping the movement going – in fact, organising it altogether – until Ben Ali stepped down. The unions in Egypt should and are doing the same.
Revolutions are contagious. And there are no blueprints. What has happened in other countries may happen elsewhere, but never in exactly the same manner – democracy, after all, is about the people choosing how to run things. And my mind is almost changing – if millions do take to the streets and demand something, I would say their demands against poverty, against tyranny, against the brutal fist of capitalism should be met. “One unstoppable mass of humanity” was how one observer describes the current events in Egypt. Humanity as a whole must now embrace the historical inevitability that is an irreversible shift in power from the rich to the workers, the unemployed and the downtrodden.