Interview with an Egyptian Anarchist

Interview with an anarcho-communist activist in Freedom Square in Cairo

Please tell me your name and what movement you are from.

I’m Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag, A small group of Anarcho-Communists in Egypt.

The world is watching Egypt, and even moving in solidarity. However, due to the internet being cut, information was difficult to find. Can you tell me about what has happened in Egypt in the past week? What did it look like from your perspective? (You can write a lot in this part.)

The situation in Egypt is So crucial right now, it begins with an invitation to the day of rage against Mubarak Regime in January 25th., no one has expected that an invitation to a day of rage from a loose group, Facebook page, not really organized called ” we are all Khalid Said”, Khalid Said is Egyptian Youth who has been killed by Mubarak police in Alexandria last summer, it was that Tuesday who begin everything, it was the spark for the whole fire, on Tuesday big demonstrations were in streets in every Egyptian town, on Wednesday begins the massacre, it begins with trying to finish the sit-in in Tahrir square on Tuesday late night, and continue in the following days, especially in Suez town, Suez has special value in every Egyptian heart, it was the centre for resistance against Zionist in 1956 and 1967, in the same district, which fought Sharon’s troops back in Egyptian-Israeli wars, Mubarak police has made a massacre, at least 4 people killed, 100 injured, Gas Bombs, rubber bullets, Fire Guns, strange yellow substance thrown above people, may be mustard gas, Friday was called the Jumu’ah of Rage, Jumu’ah is Arabic for Friday, it’s the national weekend in Egypt, in many Islamic countries also, it’s sacred day in Islam, because the big prayers in this day, called Jumu’ah prayer, it was planned for demonstrations to go on march after this pray, in the noon, the police tried to prevent the marches with all of his power and violence, there was many clashes in Cairo,(in downtown, in Mattareyah (east of Cairo)), all over Egypt, especially in Suez, Alexandria, Mahalla (in delta, one of the centers of working class), from noon to sunset people marched in Cairo to Downtown, to sit-in in Tahrir till Removal of Mubarak regime, Chanting one slogan ” People demand removal of the regime”, at sun set, 5p.m CLT, Mubarak has declared curfew and bringing army into Egyptian towns, this curfew followed by planned escape of police, letting out the criminals and thugs which called Baltagayyah, and police plan great escape of criminals in many Egyptian prisons to scare people in Egypt, no police, many army troops couldn’t control the street, scared people, it followed by news jam in Egyptian TV channels, radios, newspaper about luddites in many towns, about thieves firing at people, people organized ” people committees to secure every street, it was welcomed by the regime to make people more scared about instability in the country, but it also a point we could start from it to build workers councils.

As of Wednesday, there are clashes between pro and anti Mubarak people. Is that the correct way to describe it? Who are the “Mubarak supporters?” How are these clashes affecting the attitudes of average working class Egyptians?

It’s absolutely wrong to call it clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak, pro-Mubarak demonstration was consisted of many of Baltagayyah and secret police to attack the protesters in Tahrir, it has only began after Mubarak speech yesterday, after Obama speech too, personally I think Mubarak feels like slaughtered ox who try to throw his blood over his slaughters, feels like Nero, who want to burn Egypt before his removal, trying to make people believe he’s a synonym for stability, safety and security, in this way he’s really made some progress, the holy national alliance now has been formed against Tahrirites (Tahrir protesters) and Commune de Tahrir, many people are saying, especially middle-class, demonstrations must end because Egypt has been burned, Famine has begun, and it’s not true at all, it’s only an exaggeration, every revolution has its difficulties, and Mubarak using fear and terror to stay more, personally I’m saying even if the protesters were the responsible of this situation, Even If, Mubarak must leave, must go out, because of his disability to deal with the situation right now.

What do you see happening in the next week? How much is the position taken by the US government affecting the situation there?

Nobody can figure out what would happen tomorrow or next week, Mubarak is an idiot stubborn, and Egyptian media making the biggest media campaign in its history to detain the protests, next Friday, February 4th. There calls for another million march to Tahrir Called “Jumu’ah of salvation”, the position taken by US government affecting us more than demonstration, Mubarak is such a traitor who could kill the whole people, but couldn’t say no to his masters.

What has the participation of class struggle anarchists been? Who are their allies? (obviously keep security in mind)

Anarchism in Egypt is not big trend, you could find some anarchists but not a big trend yet, anarchists in Egypt joined both protests and popular committees to defend streets from thugs, anarchists in Egypt put some hope on this councils, the allies of anarchists in Egypt are the Marxists of course, we are not now in the moment of ideololigical debate, the whole left calls for unity and then argue about anything, anarchists in Egypt are a part of the Egyptian left.

What forms of solidarity can be built between revolutionaries in Egypt and revolutionaries in the “West?” What can be done immediately and what should we do in the long term?

The most difficult obstacle Egyptian revolutionary can front is that the cut of communication, western revolutionaries must put pressure to their government to prevent Egyptian regime from doing this, that’s for now but no one could say what happened in the long term, if the revolution win then the western revolutionaries must build solidarity with their Egyptian comrades against expected aggression from USA, and Israel, if the revolution had been defeated then it would be massacre for all Egyptian revolutionaries.

What will the main tasks be once Mubarak leaves? Has their been much planning about this on the street level? What have anti-capitalist revolutionaries proposed?

the main task now, speaking about street demands is new constitution and provisional government and then new elections, there’s much planning about this issue from many political trends here especially Muslim brotherhood, the anti-capitalist Revolutionaries is not very big in Cairo, the communists, democratic left, Trotskyites calling for the same demands about constitution and new elections, but for us as anarchists, Anti-capital, Anti-state too, we will try to make the committees which has been formed to protect and secure the streets more strong, trying to turn it into real councils.

What do you want to say to revolutionaries abroad?

Dear Comrades all over the world we need solidarity, Big solidarity Campaign and Egyptian Revolution will win.

“We Pledge not to riot.”Riot

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Excellent article on the London Student Protests against the coalition, examining the bounds of  “lawfull” protest:

http://littlerichardjohn.blogspot.com/2010/12/we-pledge-not-to-riot.html

London Student Protest and the storming of Millbank Tower

Wednesday 10th of November saw over 50,000 students march through the centre of London in opposition to the proposed raising of tuition fees to £9,000. The demo had been called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College lecturer’s Union.  (UCU) The organisers were said to have been expecting around 12,000 people to take part but they under estimated the scale of opposition to this clearly classist policies which would make higher education only available to the richest in society.  The 50,000+ crowd snaked its way through London stopping at 10 Downing Street to chant some abuse, then stopping by the parliament building and then proceeding past Millbank tower which houses the Conservative Party’s campaigning office. Once the march was passing the Millbank tower a bloc of anti-capitalist students splintered from the main march towards the reception area of the tower and forced their way in and opened the doors to the rest of the protestor many of whom looked sheepishly at each other for a minute but eventually began to flood in with ever increasing confidence.  Once the example had been set thousands began to enter and spread until the whole courtyard was occupied and people began to enter and smash the offices, occupying the building and the roof tops.

The corporate media, the government and even the National Union of student’s president were quick to blame the actions on a “small rogue minority” of “socialists and anarchists who led the nice middle class kids astray, despite the participation of an estimated 5000+. (Around 10% of the march) The “despicable ,“ “mindless,” “hardcore” mob “hell bent on destruction and chaos” was mostly made of school, college and university students many of whom professed to this being their first political protest.  This action was bigger than just the issue of tuition fees; it was a manifestation of years of years of undemocratic rule, unequal opportunity and frankly a refusal to accept a system that most people clearly see as rotten and working against them.

The analysis by Last hours is an excellent summary of the issues raised:

During yesterday’s protest against cuts to education crowds stormed Tory headquaters. Windows where smashed and offices destroyed. As a result we can witness the capitalist system bend and buckle in its attempts to dismiss these acts of anger as illegitimate.

Amongst the 1,000s that played some role in the invasion of Millbank Tower, where workers and students from all areas of society. We condemn both the media claim that a small group of anarchist antagonists where responsible (juxtaposed by their own images showing thousands rallying around the building) as well as the notion that the students involved are part of a privileged class. The idea that working class youth are some how exempt from the desire for education is both naive and patronising.

In fact, on the day anarchist attempts to form a visible block failed in comparison to other  recent protests. Instead symbols of an anarchist presence could be seen peppered throughout the crowds, mingling with the masses. A sign that anarchist theory has embedded itself well amongst current student communities and individual anarchists would rather march within the safety of friendship groups  than along obscure political allegiances.

There was a common feeling that this protest represented more than just anger towards a rise in tuition fees. Many non-aligned individuals seemed furious at finding themselves with a political system that does not represent them. Indeed those that have profited for so long off of the broken backs of the poor are growing concerned.

Though some claimed the success of the demonstration was down to students listening to ‘impassioned speeches’ on the day most quickly grew tired of so called leaders talking for them and moved back to Millbank Tower to either watch or take part in the invasion. The NUS’ attempts to control the protest, and later their condemnation of the days actions, can only be seen as an attempt to fulfill their own political agenda. This agenda aims to channel anger back into a broken, hierarchical political system and as a result such organisations should be considered part of the problem.

In reaction to arrests and the following media hysteria, a campaign has been launched to support those involved. It is important at this point, to send a message that those willing to fight will be supported. Building networks and communities of solidarity are as an important part of the struggle as any other.

Scottish Trade Union Council anti-cuts protest

Saturday 23rd of October saw the Scottish Trade Union Council call an anti-cuts march which was attended by upwards of 20,000 people. This was one of the biggest protests Edinburgh has seen for a long time and saw a respectable Anarchist Bloc. Most encouraging of all it was not just made up of the “usual suspects” but saw thousands of people from very varying walks of life. As Edinburgh Anarchists put it :

” We even ended up chatting to the Prison Officers’ Association and Tayside Police Admin(!) How’s that for getting out of the anarchist ghetto?”

This is exactly what is needed to succesfully fight pubic spending cuts and find constructive ways to build our own alteratives. The ability of the Trade Union Council to attract this many people to come out onto the street was impressive and heartening for what often may seem like the decline in strength of trade union movement. lets hope this new found momentum translates into action and grass roots organisation. Whe banded together in defence of one another we are strong enough to resist this coup by the rich. We must fight for every job, every public amenity, every school, every park and anything else they will try to take from the people. It has been a long time since the working class have had a victory in this country, but remember that local community organisations and flat out refusal to co-oprate is what made the poll tax unworkable and eventually brought down Thatcher. By organising as unions, neighbourhood/community groups and anti-cuts networks we can win this . As put in the leaflets we handed out:

We need collective, grassroots responses to our hardships. As anarchists we want better lives for ourselves, our neighbours, our friends and our colleagues. There are alternatives to to a society forced on us by the rich, Let’s build them.”


The March of Menie.

Saturday 9th of October saw 250-300 people march from the Balmedie Visitor Centre across the dunes to the farm of Michael Forbes via land that “belongs” to Donald Trump. The march was in support of and attended by the families threatened with eviciton by Trump’s proposed luxury housing development and Golf course. The march went across the beautiful dune landscape which made an interesting change from the usual urban marches and felt more like going for a  relaxed walk than a confrontational protest which Tripping up Trump were keen to avoid.

This is due to the “security” guards who regularly go around intimidating walkers and other people enjoying the country despite Trump’s assurances that the right to roam would be mantained under the Scottish Land Reform laws. Various altercations with the security gaurds have been reported to the police due to the heavy handed nature. A journalist was recently forcibly detained by Trump’s heavies. This is not an isolated incident as a horse rider was almost seriously injured as the guards raced up to her at high speed almost dismounting her from the panicking horse. The woman in question was also forcibly detained and seeks to press charges.

The march ended at the plot of land on Mr Forbes’s land called “The Bunker.” The bunker was donated to Trippig Up Trump and is collectively owned by hundreds of people, seriosuly complicating the prospect of compulsory purchase orders being used to forcibly remove the Forbes family.

After the march a small group went to investigate area of dunes that had been demolished and shaped into Trump’s Vision of leaving the ancient dune system “better than he found it.” A pick up truck came hurtling down the dirt road and two plain clothed “security” guards promptly telling us to leave for our own good as they would tell the police we were on a construction site without a high visibility jacket or helmet by standing on……a sand dune. They followed us all the way back, watching from a distance, not responding to requests for a lift despite the fact that we happened to be going in the same direction for some reason…. This was a very small taste of what the families living around the area have to put up with from some greedy corporate scumbag’s bought lackeys on a regular basis.

The police did turn up about 2 hours later to question people about some supposed vandalism (apparently grass had been damaged) and we did of course promptly inform the police that there was a rich american man completely destroying a Site of Special Scientific interest and vandalising the country side with some machines just up the road. But apparently they already knew……

The local corporate media has mantained its self imposed ban on any coverage of anti-Trump sentiment and stuck to printing Trump press releases almost wholesale.  (all credit to Jon Pullman for this excellent video)

We would encourage people to check out the alternatives to the P&J group and their ridiculous views in the form of the local citizen run paper: The Aberdeen Voice.

Suffragette City

On 29th of September we attended and ran a stall the Suffragette City event at the tunnels. The event saw an interesting mix of activists and artists from in and around Aberdeen ranging from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign to Tripping up Trump. Even the Communist party of Great Britain turned up….

We had a lot of interest in our stall and gave away a lot of literature, for which we accepted donations. The night was very well organised and enjoyable. Importantly it also helped to build links between activists involved in often diverse causes.

Evening Excess No.1 – Union Terrace Gardens

UNION TERRACE GARDENS DESTRUCTION

Well you voted and you were promptly ignored. 55% of you voted against the City Square Project (Scotland’s widest ever public consultation) yet our Council not-ables have now opted to proceed with the project, completely ignoring the wishes of the public. If voting actually made a difference they would make it illegal. It is apparent that the public consultation was nothing more than a charade (a very expensive one costing the taxpayer some £300,000) where the answer was already known. The ‘Aberdeen business mafia’ or their official title ASCEF (Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future) now have what they wanted/engineered. What is even more amazing, is not that 20 councillors said yes, but that 12 abstained; do they not have a opinion! Ian Wood has said that the councillors have been “visionary and far sighted”, but one mans vision is another mans folly.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GARDENS

The neglected state of UTG and its apparent lack of use has clearly become an issue for some councillors. The gardens are not cared for like the other parks; Johnstone Gardens and Duthie Park etc. The toilets have been closed, there is poor access for prams or disabled people and there are massive potholes in the pavements. Change is needed, but not by the destruction of a historic public park. All that is required is that the Council actually does its job and maintain the gardens and improve the access points. Can you imagine Edinburgh destroying Princes Street Gardens? – NO! – so why should Aberdeen?

UTG is a more important park than the others in the city because it is the green lung in a city centre of concrete and granite. It is set in the natural amphitheatre of the Denburn and creates a city landscape that does not just exist at street level but benefits from different viewpoints and variation. Erasing the natural slope of the topography is erasing part of Aberdeen’s heritage.

The destruction of Aberdeen’s heritage is nothing new to the actions of the Council. There are countless examples where private vanity projects, shopping centres or road widening have swept away great buildings and areas in our city. You only have to go to Aberdeen parks to see bits of buildings (a whole building in one case) that have been removed from their original location to make way for some ‘progress’ or other. The ‘visions’ like Ian Wood speaks of are not far sighted. We have seen them before and know the damage they have caused. It is no use allowing the City Square Project to go ahead and regret it later on.

FIGHT FOR PUBLIC SPACES AND SERVICES

I can see why Ian Wood and ASCEF don’t like green spaces: they don’t have shops that make money. They want to see all public spaces with private retail and advertising opportunities (that no doubt they can invest in themselves) and if people spend time sitting in parks they are not spending money. In business eyes everything has a value derived from the profit it makes. Parks and other services for the public like the National Health Service are constantly under threat from business interests because there is no understanding of how public services should not just be valued in monetary terms, but in the benefits they provide to people. Public spaces are where people can freely go, mingle, spend time alone, where children can play around nature and where there is reprieve from the traffic, shops, bustle and noise of the city. People go to UTG because it is a refuge and they understand that as a public park they ‘own’ that space with the other citizens of Aberdeen.

Public services have been under attack for many years. The closure of the UTG public toilets are just one example where the assumption is that private business will now provide that service, not the city Council. As shop toilets are private property, only providing these services for paying customers, the public have no ownership or rights and are mere customers.

The new City Square will not be a ‘public space’ as ASCEF has plans for cafes and restaurants meaning there will be strong private interests represented. UTG is important because this is the time when the public say NO MORE to the removal of their public spaces and services.

CITY SQUARE AND TRUMPLAND – 2 SIDES OF 1 COIN

Ian Wood and Donald Trump are inseparable. Both projects at UTG and at the Menie estate have been initiated by very rich men who have ridden roughshod over local opinion. Both men have waved their money at local Councils and have got what they wanted. If Ian Wood really wanted to do something with his money why doesn’t he pay for the public services cut by the Council in the last few years or give money directly to support the poorer communities of Aberdeen. There is a kind of twisted philanthropy special to people who started as a ‘lad o’ pairts’, who are proud to claim at every opportunity that they came from nothing, worked up the system and are now top of the pile. It is impressive yes, but there is an unbelievable arrogance where they think that they know what is best for their cities and that no-one should stand in their way.

DIRECT ACTION

Although the Council has reversed the wishes of the public vote, the battle is not yet lost. Protests will continue to force the Council to change their position. The Council must listen to the people they serve – not the small business cabal of Aberdeen but the Aberdeen public. Shy of concreting over Ian Wood’s garden to see how he likes it, there are things you can do –

Every Saturday in UTG from 12-5, picnic in the park

12th June, a day of protest