Thursday, February 3, 2011

Layer 435 . . . The Power of the State, Britain, Egypt, Beyond Mubarak, Democracy, Policing and CS Gas


My son made the point some days ago that the British State is far too powerful to allow a people's movement or uprising to topple the government. Leaving aside questions of the legitimacy of a government that's attempting a rapid, radical and irreversible (shock doctrine) change in the health service and the education service without ANY warning in a manifesto that they intended to do such things - it's easy to see what he means when you consider the situation in Egypt.

It's one thing to try to topple a prime minister, or a particular government, or even a head of state, but the dominant groups whose will and whose power prevail in any society can normally expect to retain power, whatever people on the street demand by way of change in the leadership.

The Guardian's editorial on Egypt yesterday makes this point with reference to the particular situation in Cairo.

Egypt: Beyond Mubarak

The country's most important issue is not when the leader goes, but whether the regime will go with him

President Mubarak's announcement, under American pressure, that he will not seek re-election in September marks an end to one phase of the Egyptian crisis. But it does not resolve it.

First, it is far from clear that Egyptians will accept him remaining in even nominal control.

Secondly, the real struggle in Egypt is not between Mr Mubarak and the bulk of the Egyptian people. It is between the entrenched political, military and economic elites who have come to dominate Egyptian society in the years since independence and the classes they have increasingly excluded, coerced and manipulated.

These elites have worked for Mr Mubarak, fought for his favour, and been controlled by him while at the same time using him to defend their collective interests. A dictator never stands alone. "Irhal!" ("Go!") the protesters cry, but the most important issue is not when Mr Mubarak goes but what goes with him.

Mr Mubarak's main personal concern may well be to withdraw from the scene in what he deems to be an honourable way.

But those who have constituted the pillars of his regime are interested in survival, not withdrawal.

The officer corps wants to preserve its power and privileges. Yet the Egyptian army is oversized and over-armed, and ought, in any sensible reordering of Egypt's political system, to be reduced and depoliticised.

The older leaders of the ruling National Democratic party, where some remnants of the original Free Officers' idealism may still just be discerned, also want a place in any new order, and may have a sort of constituency in Egypt's enormous bureaucracy. Yet that, too, should be reduced.

The Egyptian business class, particularly that section of it which gravitated toward Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, will plead that its capital, competence and contacts are vital if Egypt's economy is to be restored, and threaten dire consequences if the deals and depredations of the past are unearthed. Yet that class is properly seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The police, lowest of the low on the regime totem pole, will be calculating that sooner or later their brutal skills will once again be needed. Yet they must be curbed if Egypt is to make a genuine new start.

The demonstrators in the square say they have only one demand, that Mr Mubarak step down. In the euphoria of the moment some of them see his departure as the answer to everything that is wrong in the land of Egypt. But whether that departure comes sooner or later, it will not be that.


An amusing side-effect of this delightful sight of people standing up for themselves - images that will hopefully rub off on people everywhere in the troubled times to come - is that it really forces the bigoted, racist and anti-democratic right out into the open and forces them to show their true colours.

I hear on the radio that Mubarak's fortune is estimated at $56bn. What's the salary of an Egyptian president, I wonder?

This looks like robbery on an industrial scale. Time to freeze his assets worldwide.

Evidently Mr. Cameron has advised President Mubarak to ,"..... listen to the aspirations of the people".

It is indeed a prudent ruler who listens to the aspirations of the people. Thus enabling him to evaluate the potential for conflict arising from aspirational dissonance. He can then anticipate any contingencies which may arise.

But the prudent and wise ruler not only listens to the aspirations of the people but distills their essence and subtly blends it with his own. Such a ruler finds favour with the people so that they willingly bear the burdens placed upon them by the ruler, believing them to represent their own best interests.

Innit, David!?

The Telegraph yesterday described the movement for democracy in Egypt as a "contagion" which might spread across the Arab world,

No surprise there, then. I visit their website from time to time and it's a bit of a freakshow, to be frank - frightful and entertaining in equal measure.


If he goes, what then? A popular uprising in Romania got rid of Ceaucescu, but when the dust settled, the same bunch were in power with a different figurehead, and then the persecution of the protesters started.

There is no such thing as democracy. Power is held by the big landowners, industrialists and money men. Elections everywhere are a sham.


Clearly, not just Mubarak but also his repressive cronies in his stooge cabinet such as the Top Secret Policeman and Torturer Omar Suleiman and his army of spies, agents provocateurs, finger-nail pullers, eye-gougers and penis slicers. But it's not these US stooges which must go, but also the repressive constitution and the whole rotten, corrupt system.

From this morning's news, it appears that Mubarak is trying to wear down and mollify the protesters so that he can then set his usual thugs and torturers loose to weed out the prominent protesters. Committed Muslims will then be tortured in the rendition chambers. He's even started his own anti-protest movement. He can then use his American tanks and planes to further initimidate the Egyptians, because he certainly will not use them against his pal Netanyahu.

If Mubarak is able to tough this out, then it will be more of the same. He's no intention of listening to Egyptians - it's what the Zio-Cons of Washington instruct him which is important.

Elections afford the Iranians a path to interference in Egypt's internal affairs through the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas connection

Oh, we better not have any then, those filthy foreigners aren't to be trusted.

Egypt and the credibility of the Middle East peace process

America's credibility problem has become acute. It claims to support democracy in the Middle East, but at any time in the last 30 years it could have used pressure to guide Mubarak's regime towards at least minimal reforms. On the other hand, it slapped crippling sanctions on the Palestinians when they voted, in free and fair elections, for a party the US and Israel disliked.

Hilary Wise



Call for an inquiry into use of CS spray

At a time when public service cuts are starting to bite, campaigners from UK Uncut were on Sunday once again taking direct action on our high streets (Police use CS spray on tax protesters, 31 January).

They were targeting Boots, which has moved to Switzerland, allowing the company to avoid paying millions in tax. Outside the Oxford Street branch of Boots, a police officer, without warning, used CS spray against demonstrators, three of whom were taken to hospital. When tax injustice enjoyed by the rich is combined so starkly with cuts in vital public services for the poor, and the government refuses to listen or act, people have the moral and legal right to protest.

The state is the collective democratic vehicle to serve the interests of all people of this country. And when acting through the police force, it has to be incredibly careful about not being perceived to be acting politically – to serve the interests of the rich against the poor.

We deplore the use of such aggressive policing techniques and call for a public inquiry to investigate and report on the use of CS spray against protesters on Sunday. They should also provide guidance on how they plan to police the many, widespread and popular protests that are bound to feature across society in the months and years to come.

Neal Lawson Compass

Mark Serwotka PCS

John Christensen Tax Justice Network

Deborah Doane World Development Movement

Ruth Tanner War on Want

Lisa Nandy MP Labour, Wigan

Caroline Lucas MP Green, Brighton Pavilion

Peter Tatchell campaigner

The current formulation [of CS gas] was the subject of an investigation in 2004 by the medical toxicology unit at Guy's hospital in London and it reported that "it [CS] is more harmful that [sic] has been previously assumed".

Anyone who believes they were affected by this chemical (and these complaints may relate to the skin, eyes, upper respiratory tract or heart) should contact us as we are setting up a monitoring group.

Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has commented: "Police could adopt more extreme tactics to counter the growing wave of protests."

Let's take note and act.

Elizabeth Sigmund

Callington, Cornwall

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