Why It Takes Organized Resistance To Bring in the Sweeping Change That the Public Wants

July 5, 2013

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Organized Resistance Brings Sweeping Change: Lessons for the US

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

It has been an incredible week of protest leading to change.  The power of the people has been on display and there are lots of lessons we can learn from how the people have wielded that power.

The big story of the week was Egypt.  Protests organized by Tamarod (Rebel) that have been building for months, resulted in the biggest protest in Egypt’s history, four days of mass protest beginning on June 30 that ended the rule of President Mohamed Morsi.  More than a week ago, Tamarod recommended that the head of the Egyptian Constitutional Court become the interim president and that is what was announced by the Egyptian military.  The military made the announcement after lengthy meetings with religious groups, including minority religions; opposing political parties, including a Muslim party; and civil society including Tamarod.  All of these groups spoke at the press conference announcing the transition. The theme that threaded itself through the comments was that all factions in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, should be included, and that the revolution which began in January 2011 was beginning anew.

While people cheered the military facilitating the transition, they are well aware of the risk of military rule and already are opposing it.  Signs could be seen that opposed the military being in charge along with protesting the rule of Morsi. People remember the harsh military rule that occurred after the fall of Mubarak, but also remember — and remind the military — that the people went into the streets and forced the military to hold elections.  Already, there is a site with a countdown and checklist from the transition government to an elected government.  A lot remains to unfold but so far the military does not seem to be dominating the transition. The whole world is watching — especially the tens of millions of Egyptians who helped to end the rule of Morsi.  Many commentators are making the point that if the military is going to have any legitimacy it needs the support of the people.

An interesting note from Egypt is that in the January 2011 revolt, Egypt followed Tunisia into the Arab Spring.  This time, we may see Tunisia follow Egypt in challenging religious rule as Tamarod has now been organized in Tunisia and is following a similar tactical path as was followed in Egypt.

It was not only in Egypt where the organized resistance of the people won, in Brazil they are winning as well.  After three weeks of protest in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff conceded many of the demonstrators’ demands, and called for a national compromise to improve public services, by investing 100% of Brazil Oil revenues in education and health care (the legislature agreed to 75%). In addition, there is support for more participatory democracy so the people have more say in the direction of the country. People continue to be in the street demanding that change continue, changes be increased and that they occur quickly.

In Turkey, the spark that lit the fire of nationwide protests against neoliberalism has been put out. The Gezi Park remodeling has been stopped by a court saying it did not serve a public purpose.  It seems unlikely, now that the people’s consciousness has been raised, that resolving the Gezi Park dispute will end the dissatisfaction of the people with the economy and government.

An open letter from “Comrades in Cairo” described how the revolts around the world were connected.  There are a variety of common denominators, but in essence the people of the world are suffering from the grip of neoliberal economics.  This is the economics of transnational corporate capitalism.  Whether people are living under a dictatorship, religious government or in a managed democracy, they are suffering from economic policies that call for cuts to public services, privatization of government functions, as well as tax and other policies that funnel money to the wealthiest. As a result countries like Brazil and Turkey looked like success stories with rising GDPs, but in reality, the money went to very few and most people are suffering; both countries were tinderboxes waiting for mass protest to be ignited.

Republished with permission from: AlterNet