Wednesday, February 02, 2011

On Egypt... may be too simplistic and seditious too... But I think this way

For a generation that has grown up in the last couple of decades, the kind of protest happening in Cairo is indeed unprecedented. The last time that such crowds thronged the streets seeking an end to the regime was in the late 1980s. Beginning with the Solidarity movement in Poland, there were such massive mobilisation of the people on the streets across Eastern Europe and regimes established by the Soviet Union in those countries began collapsing one after another. The world order changed when that wave of protest culminated in the peoples’ movement putting an end to the Communist rule in Moscow.
The US seemed the only leader since then and those who wished another pole looked forward to China emerging into one. The non-aligned block, of which Egypt along with India had been the original leaders was now only a theoritical proposition. Egypt had turned a US stooge since Hosni Mubarak ascended the throne in Cairo (after Anwar Sadat was assasinated while reviewing an army parade). The US designs in Egypt had more to do with its agenda in West Asia and Mubarak danced to the designs pretty well.
For the US, Egypt was a necessary annexation particularly after Iran slipped out of its embrace. The 1979 anti-Shah revolution in Iran, indeed, began on an anti-US and a fairly radical premise but was taken over by the Islamic Fundamentalists. Under Ayyotollah Khomeini and his successors, Iran has remained an anti-US force in the region and after Iraq too was lost to the US (Iraq was a base from where the US threatened Iran in the early Eighties), Egypt had been far too important for Washington.
This background, in as brief a manner as it is, will help see the uprising in Egypt during the past week in perspective. And now some more facts leading to the present uprising will be in order.
The US regime also pushed the Mubarak regime, ever willing to listen to the master, into an economic regime that is not too different from what successive regimes in India too have been following. The principle of free market, as it is called, visited Egypt almost a decade before it was formally adopted in India. The idea was that the state withdrew itself from bothering about industrial and such projects and allowed the private investor, domestic and foreign, play the way they wanted. The shift, in a way, from the spirit of the Bandung Conference (from where the NAM was born) was not only in terms of foreign policy but in the area of domestic policy as well. Socialism, in any case, did not have any takers in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern block.
The kind of capitalism, as it developed in Egypt, however was marked by a certain cronyism. Nationalism, which was seen historically as a force behind capitalism, hence, did not determine the development in Egypt. This is where the shift away from the spirit of Bandung was pronounced but many did not see that a problem in the larger context of prosperity of a kind. In a sense, the system depended upon props from outside and the US was ever willing to provide that given Egypt’s strategic location in the West Asian region. That Egypt happens to be the only nation in the Arab region to have a no war pact with Israel is a relevant fact in this context.
But then, there is something structurally deficient about capitalism and this is more pronounced in the context of crony capitalism. It is incapable of ensuring prosperity across the spectrum. Unlike socialism, where the primary needs of the entire population is taken care, there is no such structural guarantee in a capitalist order. And in the era of a technology revolution and the exponential growth of consumerism, which is what sustains the capitalist system, the society was beginning to get divided across two poles: The haves and the have nots. And the gap simply kept widening and life for those on the wrong side of the growth turned miserable. More so when the welfare state principle too was given a go bye.
Such developments took place in France in 1789. In Russia in 1905. And in both those instances as in Egypt now, those at the helm were not responsible people. They did not care about the people. Hosni Mubarak, for instance, thought that he was accountable only to the US regime. An amoral leader, of such a kind, will also breed amorality in the establishment. It is indeed a rule. This meant that the various levels of the administration consisted of people who were corrupt and self serving.
Recall the episode, just a couple of weeks ago, involving the ruler of Tunisia. He was another stooge of the US regime and it is possible to argue that the Tunisians set the path that the people of Egypt are now treading. Recall that the Tunisians also managed to get a lot of money that their erstwhile leader had stashed away in Swiss Banks! One shall wait if Hosni Mubarak too had done that and the revolution in Cairo and Alexandria and elsewhere in that land of ancient civilization succeeds in getting it back from the Swiss.
Yes. It is a peoples’ revolution against an irresponsible regime that was a crony of the US. Our own history has such glorious records. The students in Gujarat had rised in protest to get rid of what then was the most corrupt regime. Chimanbhai Patel’s scale of corruption was just peanuts when compared with our own times. Our own leaders now, apart from building the same system that Hosni Mubarak had done in his country, are as corrupt and insensitive to the gnawing gap that is between the haves and the have nots.
Rising food prices, falling standards of living, unemployment and corruption are the immediate causes to the revolution in Egypt. These were caused by the economic programme that the Mubarak regime adopted and implemented for three decades. Well. Those dreaming of a change for the better in India need not feel frustrated. Like Bob Dylan sang in the 1960s, the times are changing…!


Blogger ronniesandip said...

loved the last line...

10:49 AM  
OpenID anu said...

I might sound a bit pessimistic here. But isn’t that the bitter reality?
For generations, the norm that an individual follows in our society is “naan nalla irukkanum; en kudumbum nallaa irukkanum”
When ppl keep turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the harshest of atrocities that happen in the society and prefer to stay that way…I cant think of a day when they will get together for a common cause and declare ‘enough is enough’

5:24 PM  

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