What has happened surprises nobody familiar with the enormous strength of nonviolence. A nonviolent mass of citizens can remove a head of state if they are numerous enough and tenacious enough, persevering for days, weeks, months. There may be an intermediate stage with the head of state, the symbol, even if only a figurehead, sacrificing some underlings, throwing them to the masses. But they want the real thing; that symbol of evil, the head, not the body. Whereupon some underlings, or the USA, sacrifice the head of state, a “goner”, hoping that will satisfy the appetites of the revolution.
What happens then, meaning now, may show the weakness of this type of nonviolence ― as opposed to the gandhian original. Gandhi did not argue the ouster of a viceroy, but the end of colonialism; swaraj, self-rule, and he got that. But he also argued sarvodaya, the uplift of the poor and casteless, and was betrayed. So was Nepal. So were the huge masses in Western Europe demonstrating against nuclear arms; they are still there, deployed. So were the heroic demonstrators in Leipzig in DDR October 1989; they wanted a democratic DDR, not absorption into capitalist Germany. So did the protesters against Milosevic who, like Honecker, was ousted; they did not want an anti-Titoist chetnik take-over. The nonviolent “color” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were so obviously made in USA that they turned out to be caricatures of popular revolts.
But even when genuine, states do not gladly share power with people revolting. And states have a handful of tricks up their sleeves after some initial sharing, committees, even agreements.
If parliamentary, states can use legislative power to put the issue to a vote in a parliament based on national multi-party fair and free elections ― easily manipulated by the media. Only rarely will a majority in parliament yield to a majority in the streets. If they are real democracies, not only parliamentary systems, states may even call a referendum, mobilizing the non-revolting masses.
But, if those demands from streets and squares do not obtain parliamentary, nor democratic, legitimacy, are they not dead? Not if the nonviolent movement becomes better at conveying their message to the not converted, reaching far beyond streets and squares.
Then states can use the judicial power, placing the issues for the Supreme Court, having the demands declared unconstitutional.
And they can use the executive power, the whole state machinery to sabotage demands by simply not carrying them out. And, in the darker recesses of the executive power the covert police, the overt police, and the military, are lurking. In Egypt the military are now holding all power. A constitutional coup? But military rule, not democratic, may also be with the people and for the people, if not of them. Let us be frank: a dictatorship should also be judged by what it dictates; and a democracy by what the people decide, like voting for US parties with interventions, wars on their hands. Know the trees by its fruits. Give them a chance, the youth will watch.
But still deeper down two states want a final say. Israel, caring only for itself, not for the Egyptian people, does anything to keep the Camp David treason of the Palestinian people intact. USA, helped by Obama rhetoric, may do anything against “Islamism”. The military council has acquiesced, they will “honor treaties”.
To struggle against this five-headed troll is nothing easy. Goals beyond the ouster of a symbol of evil must be formulated in non-controversial universal language. The Human Rights Conventions (6-12-66) provide that language as a platform; with examples like:
1. rule of law
2. freedom of movement internally and externally
3. right to own property
4. freedom of thought
5. freedom of expression
6. freedom of assembly
7. right to take part in government
1. right to work
2. sufficient wages for a decent living
3. right to rest, leisure
4. guaranteed food, clothing, housing
5. guaranteed health care
6. guaranteed education at all levels
7. right to take part in culture
They were demonstrating for both, even if the rhetoric was more for freedom than for basic needs. The movement should stay firmly on both, well knowing that immediate steps can ensure the civil-political rights (stop torture, lift censorship, free and fair elections) whereas slower processes are needed for economic and social rights (create employment). But a stand for all human rights would be an unbeatable platform, enjoying worldwide at least verbal consensus and remove any suspicion that the revolt is by and for the educated middle classes only. Both-And.
What remains are those two states pulling strings of threats and bribery. Human rights stop at the borders. What is the next goal, in non-controversial, universal language? Sovereignty, like end of colonialism. Are free elections in a puppet country “Tahrir = Liberation”? For a country aspiring to reemerge as an Arab leader?
Sooner or later the Camp David accords and the joint blockade of Gaza ― outcomes of autocracy and bribery ― will be on the table. Sooner or later the youth wave will hit more dominos; PLO, Syria, Iran, and the Big One ― the Saudi Royal House. Maybe even that other Big One ― Israel ― liberating it from narcissism, paranoia, and generalocracy, to positive judaism. Maybe one day even the Biggest One ― the USA ― making it less corporate, more democrat.
14 February 2011