Sunday, November 22, 2009

Venezuelan Experiments in Workers' Self-Management

This clip reminds of Naomi Klein's The Take about factory take-overs & workers' self-management in Argentina (2004 release.)

These practical examples of workers' self-management - whether in Argentina, Venezuela, or Egypt - are truly inspiring.


Venezuela Sanitarios Maracay Workers Assembly
21st Century Socialism in Action
Posted 2007

Sanitarios Maracay, a factory in Venezuela under workers control holds a workers assembly, to discuss and vote on issues surrounding their campaign for 100percent nationalisation. Topics covered include the previous boss's acts of sabotage, logistics of workers control, and socialism of the 21st century. These workers are at the forefront of the revolution and have gained international support.

Sanitarios Maracay
Wikipedia entry

Sanitarios Maracay is a ceramic bathroom products factory, located in Aragua, Venezuela. It currently is operating under worker's control, meaning all workers receive equal compensation and have equal control over the workings of the company, without any higher level of management. The previous owner, after years of conflict with workers regarding salary and conditions, had attempted to close the factory. It was occupied and re-opened by workers on November 16, 2006, and put back into production, nevertheless its website is not working yet.

This example of a small company in Venezuela has garnered considerable attention worldwide, as it is a practical application of full worker's control (where in a truly democratic fashion all decisions are made, and the running of the company is fully in the control of employees), which is seen as a fundamental requirement of true socialism, as opposed to state socialism, where the state runs industry on behalf of the population.

Sanitarios Maracay is currently petitioning for nationalisation of the company and full recognition of their desired state as a company under worker's control, but they have not get any answer by Venezuelas's national government so far.

*Workers Control at Venezuela’s Sanitarios Maracay under Attack

*Sanitarios Maracay, a first balance-sheet of an heroic struggle

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Egyptian court upholds comic book ban, fines creator & publisher

Court upholds comic book ban, fines creator and publisher
Sat, 2009-11-21

Jano Charbel

After more than four months of legal deliberations, the Qasr el-Nil Court of Misdemeanors issued its verdict today regarding the confiscation of the Metro comic book - Egypt's first graphic novel for adults. This court upheld the confiscation order issued by the South Cairo Civil Court on 23 June, 2009. Moreover, the Qasr el-Nil Court's verdict dictated fines of LE 5,000 each against Metro's creator, Magdy el-Shafei, and its publisher, Mohamed el-Sharkawy, the managing director of El-Malamih Publishing House.

Metro was pulled off of Cairo’s bookshelves in April 2008 upon police orders, which perceived its contents were indecent. The verdicts of both the South Cairo Civil Court and the Qasr el-Nil Court of Misdemeanors were issued in light of Articles 178 and 198 of the Egyptian Penal Code - which prohibit the printing or distribution of publications which contravene public decency, and authorize the confiscation of publications which contain offenses to public morals.

Outside the courtroom Defense Lawyer Hamdy el-Assiuty, of the independent Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told Al-Masry Al-Youm's English Edition "this verdict represents a blow to Egypt's creative and artistic freedoms and to the freedom of expression in general. There are numerous Arabic and foreign novels on Egypt's bookshelves which contain far more explicit language and imagery than that found in Metro. In addition to this the label on the front cover reads 'For Adults Only', thus the caveat is made clear to all."

Metro's story line revolves around a fictitious young Cairene software engineer named Shihab who lives in a society afflicted with the vices of poverty, political corruption, and socioeconomic injustice, all of which are touchy topics in Egypt. In this graphic novel Shihab and his friends decide to rob a bank in order to pay off debts incurred from an illicit loan-shark. The two most controversial drawings in this comic book depict a couple making love in bed (while concealed beneath the sheets,) and a half-naked woman. There are also a few curse words which are sparingly scattered in the pages, specifically “fag, whore, and pimp/bastard."

El-Assiuty went on to say "we will appeal against this verdict before the South Cairo Misdemeanors Appellate Court within the next ten days. We hope that they will accept our appeal."

Metro's creator, Magdy el-Shafei, told Al-Masry Al-Youm EE "this verdict is disappointing, but I was expecting to be disappointed. Nonetheless, I am pleased with the solidarity that we have received from human rights organizations, civil society associations, independent journalists and bloggers. This sort of solidarity gives me hope."

He added "this verdict is detrimental to Egyptian society's right to freedom of expression. Egypt's artists, writers, creators and publishers, along with its viewers and readers, have been hoping for more concrete steps towards freedom of expression; yet it is clear today that we have taken a major step backwards." El-Shafei concluded "the authorities claim that Metro is immoral, however, what is truly immoral are their attempts to force people into submission and censorship. It is immoral to ban other people's artistic works and to prevent them from freely expressing themselves."

Friday, November 13, 2009

UK Trade Unions for Israel Boycott; Gov't Against

UK remains opposed to isolating Israel

The British government remains opposed to attempts, led by trade unions and pro-Palestinian organisations, to isolate the Israeli regime.

London, Nov 12, (IRNA) -- “I reiterate that the United Kingdom believes that disinvestment, sanctions and boycotts directed at Israel would be counter productive,” said Foreign Office Minister Baroness Kinnock.

“Isolation of Israel would advance neither Britain’s influence nor, most important, the prospects of peace in the Middle East,” Kinnock insisted during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

The debate comes as two of the UK’s largest food-store chains are facing a week of protests for marketing Israeli goods, especially those produced by illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Kinnock said that the UK was working with the European Union “to ensure that goods from settlements do not benefit from the EU trading agreements with Israel” but did not support a ban.

“We believe that this is an issue of individual choice and that all retailers and consumers should have the information that they need to decide what produce they wish to buy,” she said.

Food and goods from illegal settlements have been persistently falsely labelled as being produced in Israel for many years, but the minister said the government was still “exploring the possibility of improving the labelling of produce from the West Bank.”

At their annual congress in September, British trade unions voted overwhelmingly to support the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel, the first motion of its kind since the boycott campaign helped to end apartheid in South Africa.

Former head of Britain’s diplomatic service Lord Wright questioned whether the government accepted that calls for an Israeli boycott reflected “genuine and justifiable concern about the constant erosion of Palestinian rights in the Occupied Territories.”

This, the independent peer said, was based not least on “the continuing expansion of illegal settlements in both the West Bank and Jerusalem in spite of President Obama’s demands that there should be an immediate and total freezing of all settlement activity.”

Kinnock said that the government agreed that Israel’s settlements are is “illegal” and consistently take the issue up with the Zionist regime to freeze all such activity. #

Egypt: Tortured for Demanding Est. of Trade Union

Around 1,000 workers went on a sit-in demonstration at Al-Masriya Cement Company in Suez on Thursday, November 12 in protest against the torture of their co-worker, Ibrahim Abdel Latif, at the hands of the infamous State Security apparatus. Abdel Latif had been vocal amongst his co-workers in terms of their demands for the establishment of a trade union at the company.

He was abducted from his home on Tuesday, arrested and tortured by State Security agents. Abdel Latif's co-workers demonstrated at their workplaces, two days after his disappearance, when he was released and news spread regarding his torture.

The cement company's administrative council has washed its hands of this incident under the pretext that the crime was committed outside their factory gates; company officials claim that they will, however, resort to "the necessary legal mechanisms."

*Rough summarized translation of article below by Mustafa Mohie and Mustafa Bassiouny - Center for Socialist Studies


عتصام عمال المصرية للأسمنت بعد تعذيب أحد زملائهم
مصطفى محيي
مصطفى البسيوني

12 نوفمبر 2009

اعتصم ظهر اليوم عمال شركة المصرية للأسمنت بالسويس - والبالغ عددهم ألف عامل - التابعة لشركة لافارش الفرنسية كبري شركات الأسمنت العالمية، احتجاجا على إلقاء أمن الدولة القبض على أحد زملائهم من منزله بحلوان ويدعي ابراهيم عبد اللطيف.

وكان عمال الشركة قد طالبوا بتكوين لجنة نقابية وشرعوا في ذلك ولكن الشركة شكلت لجنة لتلقي الشكاوي والطلبات منهم كبديل للنقابة، واختارت الادارة عدد من العمال كممثلين لهذه اللجنة، وكان من المقرر أن تنعقد اللجنة أمس الاربعاء لتلقي رد من الادارة حول مصير نسبة الـ 10% المملوكة للعمال في الشركة بعد بيعها لشركة لافارش الفرنسية، وفوجئ العمال باختفاء زميلهم يوم الثلاثاء، ولم يعرفوا انه قد تم اعتقاله إلا بعد خروجه يوم الخميس، وقد تعرض للتعذيب طوال فترة اعتقاله، بالاضافة لحلق شعره.

وفور خروج ابراهيم عبد اللطيف توجه له مسؤلين من الشركة في منزله بحلوان واصطحبوه للقاء مسئول كبير من الشركة وحاولوا التاكيد له على ان الشركة غير مسئولة عما حدث له، وانهم سيتخذوا اللازم من الاجراءات القانونية، إلا ان العمال رفضوا مزاعم الشركة واستمروا في إعتصامهم مصرين على مطالبهم السابقة وعلى رد الاعتبار لزميلهم.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Propagandhi - Fuck Religion

Fuck Zionism, fuck militarism, fuck Americanism, fuck nationalism, FUCK RELIGION!

This is one of my all time favorite songs.

*Note: this YouTube video is not by Propagandhi, only the song

Propagandhi Website

Twitter Anarchist Elliot Madison Speaks

THE VILLAGE VOICE - New York News Blog
An Interview with the Tweeting Anarchist, Elliot Madison
Tuesday, Nov. 10 2009

By Steven Thrasher

When Jackson Heights resident Elliot Madison learned last week that charges against him had been dropped by the Allegheny County District Attorney in Pennsylvania, he had little reason to celebrate. The 41-year-old Queens social worker was arrested during the G-20 in Pittsburgh, while he was using Twitter to alert other protesters about the movements of police. The formal charges were "hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime."

Madison, a self-described anarchist, is very open about listening to a public police scanner and then tweeting police locations. (His tweet channel was open and advertised on posters.) On September 24, police stormed the room at the Carefree Inn where he was staying with Michael Wallschlaege shortly after the duo had relayed an order to disperse.

Madison doesn't deny his involvement, but he says "it wasn't a crime. It was protected free speech." He tells the Voice he was merely using new technology to pass on publicly accessible information, describing it as being "the same as if you and I were walking down the street, and I said to you, 'Hey, the police are on 42nd street, and they've said anyone who goes there will be arrested, so don't go there.'"

After Madison made bail, he returned to New York City. But just a few days later, his home was raided by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. For sixteen hours, agents went through Madison's home, and removed items that belonged to him, his wife, and their roommates, including computers, cell phones, and "a needlepoint picture of Lenin." Madison is a member of the Curious George Brigade, an anarchist writers collective which spoofs the Curious George series. The FBI agents seized every copy of their books, along with Curious George plush dolls and refrigerator magnets.

Madison's attorney, Martin Stolar, says "as a lawyer, I'm not concerned at all" that the government seized stuffed animals. "It helps my show how absurd it is." However, "as a citizen, and as a representative of someone, I am very concerned that they take someone's property which has nothing to do with a violation of federal law." Stolar has seen the FBI use "Facebook or MySpace as investigative tools for evidence capturing" to link someone to alleged crime. But to his knowledge, this is the first time the FBI has said the posting of information itself is the crime. "Elliot put something up there that is from the public domain, from a police scanner. If you pass on information that is public domain, how is that a crime?"

Stolar says the raid in Queens was "allegedly an independent investigation. Theoretically, it has nothing to do with the arrest in Pittsburgh." Sarcastically he adds, "just because the federal search warrant comes one week after is just a coincidence." And now, as the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it, the Pittsburgh "district attorney is stepping aside so that a federal prosecutor in New York can proceed unencumbered in a federal case."

Though the government seized his property almost a month ago, Madison has not been charged with any crime. The day after the seizure, Stolar filed a Temporary Restraining Order to keep the government from looking at his client's belongings. That held until last week, when Judge Dora Izzary lifted it. They have attempted to appeal the judge's decision, which did not include a written opinion, but the motion was denied. According to Madison, the judge "said it was premature [to appeal], because we haven't read her written opinion yet"... which she hasn't released, so he can't appeal. Meanwhile, his possessions are free to be examined.

Madison describes his limbo as "being like something out of Kafka" and seems most frustrated because he doesn't know what he is being investigated for. "If you have evidence against me, and want to charge me, let's see what it is." For now, he can't. Both search warrants -- in Pittsburgh, and in New York -- are sealed. The charges against him in Pennsylvania were dropped before anything had to be revealed in a public hearing.

Madison finds it ironic that all of this happened as the State Department has been applauding political protest usage of Twitter in Iran. The Alliance Youth Movement -- which hosted a summit at Columbia University and featured speakers from the State Department and the Obama campaign -- encourages grassroots activists to do exactly what Madison did, just in other countries. He notes that unpopular speech is under assault via new technology in the United States, while illegal actions, like speeding, are tolerated.

"This is at the same time that you and I can go into the Apple store and buy Trapster, which lets us know where there are speed traps on the Henry Hudson Parkway," says Madison. The iPhone app helps users circumvent the police, yet the Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizes is quoted on the Trapster site in a tacit endorsement.

"It's very disappointing for a lot of people who thought this would change with Obama. They expected it under George Bush," says Madison, "but it's more of the same. They're using secrecy, instead of public scrutiny."

Palestinians Break Israel's Apartheid Wall

Palestinians break Israel's wall
Monday, November 09, 2009

Palestinians and foreign activists have torn down segments of Israel's separation wall in a demonstration marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the town of Qalandiya in the occupied West Bank, a group of masked activists using a lorry pulled down a two-metre cement block before Israeli security forces confronted them with tear gas grenades.

Several of the estimated 50 demonstrators passed through the hole they had made, hoisting a Palestinian flag and setting ablaze tyres on the other side.

Protesters were wearing shirts with the text "Jerusalem we are coming", which was the slogan for the protest.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, leader of the People's Campaign to Fight the Wall, said: "Today we commemorate 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"This is the beginning of the activities, which we do, to express our hold on our land, and our refusal to this wall - the wall of torture, the wall of humiliation."

Activists have vowed to hold a week of protests in the Palestinian territories and around the world, including a campaign calling for the release of all anti-wall activists currently imprisoned.

Last Friday, Palestinian youths almost toppled a segment of wall using a hydraulic car-jack in the West Bank village of Nilin.

Regular protests

Protests against the wall have become a regular event in Nilin and in the nearby village of Bilin, where Palestinian, international and Israeli activists are commonly confronted by tear gas and rubber bullets fired by Israeli troops.

Israel began building its barrier, consisting of fences and walls, in 2002, citing security reasons.

The wall is up to 8m high in places, twice the height of the former Berlin wall. Palestinian sources anticipate that it may be more than 750km-long when construction is finished, more than four times the length of the Berlin wall.

Palestinians say the route of the wall has been set in such a way that it grabs land that could have been included in a future Palestinian state.

The International Court of Justice, in a non-binding decision in 2004, said the Israeli-built barrier was illegal and should be taken down because it crossed into occupied territory.

A report by Stop the Wall, a Palestinian coalition of NGOs opposed to the wall, said that in 2007 alone, Israel demolished more than 160 houses and appropriated more than 3sq km of land in the Palestinian West Bank in its construction of the wall.

*Source: Al Jazeera & Agencies

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anarchists Confront Neo-Nazis in Phoenix, Arizona

The Anarchists Own the Nazis, and the Nazis Cause a Car Wreck as They Amscray
Sun., Nov. 8 2009

By Stephen Lemons in Feathered Bastard

Some 150 anarchists and other counter-demonstrators showed their mettle yesterday afternoon against a troop of around 60 neo-Nazis, mostly from out-of-state, who marched from 12th Avenue and Adams down to the Arizona state Capitol, flipping sieg heils and crying, "White power" all the way. The anarchists, who made up the majority of the counter-protesters, met the swastika-flag-wielding National Socialist Movement members at 15th Avenue and Washington, and followed them down to the state Senate lawn at 17th Avenue and Jefferson.

About 100 Phoenix Police officers, some of them on horseback, kept the peace by enforcing a distance between the two groups. Although a couple of plastic bottles were thrown at one point, the only casualty for the NSMers came as a result of their own error, when they caused an accident at 7th Avenue and Van Buren in one of the rental cars they left in after the demo. An unidentified Nazi was rushed away in an ambulance for an injury to his leg. Phoenix Police Sgt. Brian Murray confirmed at the scene that the accident was the fault of the Nazis, whose small white car collided with a large red truck.

None of the Nazis were taken into custody, though the truck's driver was arrested for not having I.D. and proof of insurance. Murray said the arrested driver would be ticketed and released as long as he had no outstanding warrants. The driver of the Nazi car was ticketed as well, but according to NSM spokesman Charles Wilson, the Nazi wheel man refused to sign the citation. Wilson later blamed the accident on the police, saying the cops were supposed to have kept the street clear for the Nazis' exit.

Hey, at least Wilson didn't blame it on the Jews.

Other than this accident, the day's events were full of noise and posturing and not much else. Three armies dressed in black did their kabuki dance: the cops,the stormtroopers, and the anarchists. Some of the Nazis bore red shields with the NSM logo and the swastika. Others carried Nazi flags, Confederate flags, or American flags perversely altered to represent the National Socialist Movement. The Nazis had a drummer keeping time as they marched and chanted slogans such as "Whose streets? Our streets," and "No reds, no Jews, the Mexicans must go, too."

The Nazis goose-stepped down the south side of Washington, while the anarchists took the north sidewalk, with a platoon of Phoenix's finest marching down the street's middle. The anarchists taunted the Nazis with chants such as "Nazis go home," and "No racists, no classes, no motherfucking fascists." They held signs and placards that read "Fuck you, Nazis," "Nazis stay out of Phoenix," or just swastikas with red lines marked through them. Many wore bandannas to hide their identities, and many waved black flags, beat drums or shook handmade rattlers.

I spotted local neo-Nazis Harry Hughes and Scott Hume in the mix, as well as J.T. Ready, comically wearing some furry Tyrolean hat. I asked NSM "commander" Jeff Schoep why he was only able to produce less than half of the promised 200 Nazis he'd bragged to authorities he was bringing. He sputtered something about the police "protecting" the anarchists, whom he referred to as "your friends." (Schoep is no great communicator.) In reality, there was little doubt about who the cops were protecting. If I even got close to the wannabe shutzstaffels they whined to the police that I was provoking them. What babies.

On the lawn of the Capitol, with a cordon of cops ringing them, the Nazis acted like, well, Nazis. Some ripped up Mexican flags, spat on them, and wiped their rears with the remnants. I heard one tatted-up skinhead yell to a man in the crowd, "You'd make a nice lampshade." Many dared the anarchists to cross the police line, calling them "faggots," though these steel-toed boot boys seemed in no rush to do so themselves.

As for the counter-protesters, they kept up a constant volume of noise to drown out the blackshirts' speeches. At one point, they chanted, "Hey, neo-Nazi, you're an immigrant, too." At another, they cried, "Follow your leader and kill yourself." There were also plenty of plain ol' "Fuck you, Nazis" and "Get the fuck out," punctuated by middle fingers.

About a half-dozen Nazi leaders addressed the enraged counter-demonstrators, beginning with Schoep, who was easily the least inspiring of the bunch. How this nudnik got to be the head of NSM, I don't know, but it was not because of his speaking skills. That's for sure. Skinny and pale, he doesn't look like he'd be able to last very long in any sort of street brawl. Hardly an exemplar of the master race.

"We will not be shouted down," Schoep declared, as he was being shouted down.

Later, harping on the day's anti-immigrant "America First" theme he spouted this unoriginal malarkey, "An illegal is an illegal. You break the laws of this country, you go home. We stand here for truth, justice and the American way, and to give our children, our people, a chance in this nation."

This from a guy who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, had four kids in a car with him while his daughter's mom ripped off $4,000 in computer equipment.

Outfitted in a period S.A. costume, former NSM fuhrer Clifford Herrington briefly praised National Socialism in Spanish, then continued, "The Mexican government is the enemy of all working class people everywhere. Ninety percent of the real value of owned by Jewish [capitalists]. They want you here causing problems with us because America is so much better, because our wages are so much better. And they use you to break up the working class in this United States."

In other words, it's all because of the Joos. These nimrods deny the Holocaust, yet continue to scapegoat its victims. If these lumpen boobs had their way, they'd kill another six million, and then some.

The biggest freak to spit at the mic -- and I mean, literally spit at it -- was Texas swastika-sniffer Victor Jeffcoat. Raving, with twisted features, Jeffcoat denounced the "decadence" of those heckling him, declaring that he had served in the armed forces, and they hadn't.

"You're nothing more than the puppets of foreign bankers," screamed Jeffcoat, saliva oozing from the sides of his mouth.

He added, "You do not deserve to speak. You never served. You never suffered. Your suffering is without drugs. Your suffering is without sex. Your debaucherous behaviors...your sick create your porn, you create your sickness, you spread it like a cancer..."

Wacky. Remedial education and heavy psychotropic drugs might actually help Jeffcoat form coherent thoughts one of these days. Otherwise, a rubber room and a shirt with wraparound sleeves could do wonders.

Though J.T. Ready hogged the news cameras, giving TV crews an impromptu press conference as his comrades spoke, I had the impression that the NSMers were not happy with the twice court-martialed Ernst Roehm of the East Valley. He was given little time to speak, and his remarks were perfunctory, and hardly as rabble-rousing as his speech back in 2007 before a group of nativists on the Capitol lawn, with his pal state Senator Russell Pearce applauding him from the sidelines.

J.T. was present later at the accident, where I asked him if he supported Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"Absolutely," he replied.

Indeed, Arpaio knows who J.T. is, and greeted him by name at the May 2 counter-demonstration to the Walk for Respect to Joe's jails. That's the same counter-demo where Arpaio stopped to give the Nazis a photo op, and passed on intelligence as to the location of the anti-Arpaio protesters.

Following the demo, the police and the anarchists escorted the Nazis east, and on to the spot where they'd parked their cars. The Nazis wouldn't tell me where their swastika-burning after-party was going to be, though I heard later that it was taking place somewhere in Maricopa city, perhaps at the home of neo-Nazi Harry Hughes. I was not able to confirm this, but I was able to confirm J.T.'s personalized license plate: "NSM USA." That's odd, as he continues to deny he's a member of NSM.

NSM spokesman Charles Wilson played coy with me about the after-party location as we talked later on the phone. He asked me why I wanted to know. I explained that I'd like to tell the anarchists where it was going to be. He laughed. Wilson might seem deranged in his public persona, but on the phone, he was quite civil, and we engaged in a brief debate over the lunacy of marching through the streets in 2009 AD with a swastika flag as your banner. At least, it seems pretty dang cuckoo to me.

Overall, it was a good day for the anarchists. None of them were arrested, injured or cited. They outnumbered the Nazis over two-to-one, and they showed that some Phoenicians are willing to physically oppose crazed Hitler-worshipers traipsing through town with symbols of hatred. Whatever bad rep the anarchists had before Saturday -- deserved or undeserved -- has now been absolved.

Socialist Days IV

The fourth annual "Socialist Days" Conference was held at the Journalists' Syndicate this year from November 5-7. Organized by the Center for Socialist Studies this conference gathered hundreds of leftists from different currents to discuss socialist prospects in Egypt, and worldwide, under the banner "Their Crisis & Our Alternative."

Lectures, panel presentations and group discussions focused on modern-day imperialism, the Palestinian cause, Egypt & global climate change, cinema & poverty, the Egyptian youth movement - past & present, mechanisms of coordination & solidarity with the Egyptian labor movement, and international socialism, amongst other topics.

The conference was overshadowed by the death of the English revolutionary socialist leader, Chris Harman, on the morning of November 7th. The 67 year-old Harman, a central committee member in the Socialist Workers' Party (UK) died of a massive heart attack in Cairo. He was a genuine internationalist who had spoken at previous "Socialist Days" in Egypt.

In memory of Chris Harman

Kamal Abu Eita - President of the Real Estate Tax Authority (RETA) Employees' Union, the first independent trade union in Egypt since 1957

In an unrelated event on the night of the November 7, a group of ten individuals demonstrated outside the Journalists' Syndicate in protest against the illegal confiscation of their land in the Munifiya Governorate.

Safaa' Shaaban said "the Munifiya Governorate has stolen my plot of land, a whole feddan (just over one acre) and has constructed a large building upon it. I received no compensation whatsoever. This is the only plot of land we owned." In protest these demonstrators slept-in on the stairs outside the syndicate until the evening of November 8 - when police threatened and forced them to depart.

Movie Star/Revolutionary Socialist, Khaled El-Sawy

Left-leaning Movie Director, Khaled Youssef

3arabawy speaks

Center for Socialist Studies - مركز الدراسات الاشتراكية

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gamal Mubarak: Egypt’s Next Unelected President

Gamal Mubarak: Egypt’s Next Unelected President

In Egypt, the 28-year rule of US-backed president Hosni Mubarak has been most notable for political intimidation of opponents, suppression of dissent, and silencing any and all who dare challenge his authority, notes Rannie Amiri.

It is always amusing to see how authoritarian regimes endow themselves with the trappings of democracy – a party, parliament, “elections” – as if they somehow confer legitimacy to otherwise undemocratic governance. In Egypt, the 28-year rule of US-backed president Hosni Mubarak is a good illustration. Although Mubarak claimed election victory in 2005 and his “National Democratic Party” (NDP) holds a majority in parliament, since assuming power in 1981, his government has been most notable for political intimidation of opponents, suppression of dissent, and silencing any and all who dare challenge his authority.

Egypt indeed has become the epitome of a police state. Mubarak has never ruled a day without the powers bequeathed to him by Emergency Law. Instituted immediately after Anwar Sadat’s assassination, these wide-sweeping measures allow his State Security forces to arrest any person without warrant; indefinitely detain any citizen without charge; try civilians in military court; censor the media; restrict political organizations’ freedom of assembly; and tightly curb what the media is permitted to broadcast or publish – all powers of which Mubarak has taken full advantage. Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is officially banned and its members routinely arrested, jailed and tortured under its mandates.

Questions about Mubarak’s potential successor – a subject normally off-limits to public or media speculation – came to a head this week when the NDP held its annual party conference (in direct violation of Egypt’s constitution, Mubarak has never appointed a vice president). Would he announce his intention to seek re-election in 2011 or would his 46-year-old son Gamal, widely believed to be his political heir apparent, declare his own candidacy?

Before answering, it is prudent to recall how Hosni Mubarak behaved during the country’s first direct, multi-candidate presidential election in 2005.

Amidst charges of vote-rigging (the government predictably prohibited outside election monitors), Mubarak won 88 percent of the vote, while his main challenger, Ayman Nour and his Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party came in a distant second, garnering a mere seven percent.

Recognizing, however, that Nour had the potential of posing a significant challenge to Gamal in a future election, he was thrown in jail on trumped-up forgery charges shortly thereafter. After being tortured for four years, Nour was finally released in rapidly declining health this February (only to be attacked a few months later when a man on a motorcycle ignited a flammable substance near his face, burning his head. Nour blamed regime elements for the incident).

Gamal Mubarak currently heads the powerful policy committee of the NDP, and his hour long address to party members could have doubled as a stump speech. But in the end, neither he nor his father would state their intentions for 2011.

It should be understood that simply positing that Hosni Mubarak may be paving the way for his son to succeed him comes with its perils. In 2001, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, one of Egypt’s prominent political dissidents, was sentenced to seven years in prison 2001 for alleging Mubarak with doing just that (he was later acquitted in 2003). Ibrahim wrote in 2007:

“Like other autocrats with declining legitimacy, Mubarak is trying to tighten his grip on power. His family is grooming 44-year-old Gamal to succeed his father. Any real or potential competitors, especially ones with charisma and name recognition, are to be defamed, jailed, driven from the country or otherwise eliminated.”

Since his release, Nour has organized a coalition of opposition groups comprised of leftists, liberals and Islamists, calling itself The Egyptian Campaign Against Presidential Succession; all are united in opposing Gamal’s apparent ascension to the presidency.

It only took a week after the announcement of this coalition’s formation before State Security forces raided Nour’s offices and assaulted party members gathered there.

Other names for the 2011 presidency beside Gamal being floated include Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammad ElBaradei, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, and current director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Omar Suleiman.

But in Egypt, where the political infrastructure is so intertwined with the state security apparatus, there will never be open and fair elections, despite the senior Mubarak’s proclamation they would be “clean and free.” The only realistic possibilities outside himself are Suleiman, or most likely, Gamal.

Just as with King Abdullah of Jordan, Bashar Assad of Syria, and the current grooming of Libya’s Saif Ghaddafi, it will be a dictator’s son who assumes power; a “candidacy” endorsed by Washington, and one in which the Egyptian people, regrettably, will have very little say.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Graffiti Artist "Banksy"

The English graffiti artist known as "Banksy" is truly a master of this art.

Below are some of his fine works found on the streets of England...

...and on the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank.


Two Egyptian Journalists Sentenced to Prison

Journalists get jail time for defamation
28/ 10/ 2009

By Muhammad Abdel Khaleq Mussahil and Shaimaa el-Qarnashawi

A Cairo court sentenced prominent journalist Salama Ahmed Salama, chief editor of independent daily Al-Shorouq, along with another reporter from the same newspaper, to one year each in prison on Tuesday. Both men were tried in absentia.

The lawsuit was initially filed by Ali el-Naggar, an architect working for Sabbour Consultants, who accused Salama of defamation for claiming in a 30 March article that he had been bribed by businessman Ahmed Omar for a lucrative construction contract.

Press Syndicate President Makram Ahmed offered to mediate between the two men in an effort to amicably resolve the difference. Ahmed, however, noted that responsibility generally lies with the reporter in such cases and not with a newspaper's chief editor.

*Translated from the Arabic Edition.