Though I had every intention of weighing in today on domestic politics, my attention is squarely on North Africa these days. Events in Tunisia and Egypt are profoundly important, not just to the millions of people who’ve been living under U.S.-backed dictatorships for decades, but to us here at home as well.
Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid—after Israel—and Mubarak’s repressive regime has played the role of Praetorian Guard for the American Empire. Billions are squandered each year to keep power in the hands of a dictator who presides over the most important economic power in the region with the largest and potentially most powerful working class.
When I traveled to Cairo less than 3 years ago with ISR editor, Egyptian-born Ahmed Shawki, and managing editor, Paul D’Amato, we participated in a political gathering of oppositionists, including workers from the militant Mahalla factory.
Each of the daily newspapers carries a photo of Hosni Mubarak above the fold, in the classic Stalinist dictator mold; main streets in Cairo are draped in banners with his face; and people talk everywhere in hushed tones of their outrage about the prospect that his son, Gamal, would be handed power, as if the presidency were a Mubarak family heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation.
The glaring poverty amidst wealth was brought into focus at a small shop that I stepped into with Paul. After a few minutes of chatter in which we expressed our solidarity with the food riots at that time, the salesman began to open up. He spoke for several minutes about the hardships and impossibility, even then, of continuing on as they were. But then this trinket seller explained that this was his second job and that later that evening, after a full shift, he would head off to work as an air traffic controller!
Imagine that. A man with education and skill, who puts in long hours at a stressful career ensuring planes don’t collide in midair needs to work a second job to support a family of 5 because each month air traffic controllers only earn $250. Insane.
It was the kind of story we heard over and over again by highly educated people who felt they not only had no political freedoms, but no economic future.
Stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in North Africa. They are showing the world how to build democratic and massive rebellions that can shake empires. Let’s learn from them.
Below I link to 3 excellent articles you can read to learn more. And this morning you can hear my dear friend and colleague, Egyptian socialist Mostafa Omar, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman (8am EST live or stream online anytime).
In many cities, solidarity actions are being planned for Friday or Saturday, make a sign, grab some friends and go. The one here in NYC is outside the UN, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Saturday. Jan. 29, 1PM, 47th St. and 1st Ave.
For excellent background: Egypt, Israel and the U.S.: From Nasserism to Collaboration
And don’t forget that tonight is the Never Again for Anyone event with Auschwitz survivor and Palestine activists at Barnard Hall, 7:30PM, 1 train to 116th Street.