The uprising in Egypt is escalating. Imperialists who have said that ‘stability’ is what makes for good democracy, racists who have said that Arabs do not want their freedom, patriarchs who have said that women do not attend, much less lead, protests, and the Western middle classes who have wanted to paint the Egyptian uprising as a Twitter and Facebook-happy ‘Cedar Revolution’ of doctors and lawyers, have all in the last two weeks seen their pseudo-sociological assumptions about the Egyptian people collapse.
On Tuesday, one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations yet went down in Cairo – this after days of the US media reporting, and the Mubarak regime requesting, a return to “normalcy” in Egypt – and perhaps even more significantly, new and militant strikes are now emerging throughout Egypt: six thousand Suez Canal workers have gone on strike in Suez, Port-Said, and Ismailia. They are being joined by railway technicians and oil workers, by government, sanitation, and court employees, and by factory workers both in Suez and historic, militant Mahalla. Independent trade unions are forming, and calls are being circulated for both single-day and more sustained General Strikes. The working class is moving in Egypt.
And while the Mubarak regime unleashes both direct and extra-parliamentary repression against the pro-democracy forces, while Torturer-in-Chief Omar Suleiman issues a mixture of pleas, threats, and mild economic ‘reforms’, and while both the Obama administration and the Egyptian opposition itself cannot coherently say whether they are for dictatorship or democracy, cannot unequivocally call for the Mubarak regime to be dismantled and for Mubarak and Suleiman to step down, the Egyptian people are showing no signs of giving up, and are continuing to call for the entire government’s dismissal. Continue reading The Egyptian Uprising→
Afro-Asian solidarity is the basic idea that people from these backgrounds have struggled together against white supremacy and colonialism. This can be expanded to how both have influenced each other culturally in terms of music, food, and clothes.
I have felt this takes on a particularly important dimension in the United States where race/class tensions have existed between Asians and Africans. This has been most notably recognized in popular media through the Asian shop owner pitted against the Black community. Hopefully these dynamics will be explored in the upcoming months on the blog, but to frame that discussion properly we need to start from a seemingly distant point.
Here are some notes on Aijaz Ahmad’s chapter on “Three Worlds Theory” from his book, In Theory. While Aijaz explores the relationship of literature, socialism, nationalism, and anti-colonialism, I will primarily focus on the latter three. I am specifically trying to explore the relationship of “Afro-Asian solidarity” to Three Worlds Theory (When people say “third world” the underpinnings go back to TWT.), the Bandung Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement. I am not saying they are the same thing, or that they originate from the same historical moment or people. I am trying to connect and separate concepts in the hopes of achieving some clarity. Fundamentally, I believe the question of Afro-Asian solidarity is about the class nature of such solidarity.
I believe this is important as in the last decade a host of works by Bill Mullen, Vijay Prashad, Robin Kelley and Fred Ho revive a legacy of African and Asian solidarity. I believe this attempt is vital, but has been underdeveloped theoretically and politically. Most notably it has taken on Stalinist and Maoist politics. I have taken Aijaz’s chapter as a key place to start thinking about the problems of any discussion on Afro-Asian solidarity. My interest is in thinking about Afro-Asian solidarity ‘from below’ from a class perspective. In this light Mullen’s connection of CLR James and Grace Lee Bogg’s collaborative efforts is vital. There is much more that can be explored from ‘from below’ recoveries in the context of national liberation and communist movements.
If my notes on Aijaz do not make 100% sense right now, my upcoming notes on the Darker Nations should clarify why Aijaz is so vital in the discussion of Afro-Asian solidarity. I believe that Vijay Prashad’s work is a long lament or tragic drama on why the national bourgeoisies did not have time or resources to develop the nation; or that they were not pushed to the left far enough; among other excuses justifying a history of national liberation and neo-colonialism rooted in the national bourgeoisies as the determining agents of social change.
Over the past three years the energy of Egyptian workers has created exciting possibilities for the working class across the Middle East. In December of 2006 over 24,000 workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving company in Ghazl el-Mahalla initiated a wave of strikes and industrial actions that has extended well beyond the Mahalla al-Kubra industrial center challenging the foundations of the Egyptian state. As this rank-and-file activity grew into a movement, it increasingly came into direct confrontation with the state, with well over 200 major strikes in 2007. When Mahalla workers again struck in April of 2008, the dictatorship looked to crush the movement. As soldiers and police tried to occupy the factory, clashes broke-out and spread, with live ammunition being fired on strikers and protesters.
The April 6 movement, as it became identified, was an important catalyst for grievances against the regime as striking workers were joined in the street by the mass outcries against the rising cost of bread. It is no accident that since 2008 there has been an attempt to crush the movement by arresting rank-and-file leadership, student activists, and opposition intellectuals, many of whom have been tortured, taking a place next to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood organizers sitting in jail. What has been striking about the movement are the political dimensions of the protest. In addition to fighting privatization and demanding back payment of bonuses, demanding for the raising of the minimum wage, people are singling out Mubarak and his American-backed dictatorship. Continue reading The Labor Movement in Egypt→