- April 16, 2008
Victory for the April 6 haphazard battle
Haphazardness continues to define the increasing protest action in Egypt nowadays; in the same way government policies continue to fail to solve pressing problems which trigger the anger that leads to protests in the first place.
This haphazardness reached its climax on April 6 on the day of general protest against the regime’s policies. In spite of that, the move had an unexpected effect, setting in motion an unprecedented state of confusion throughout society and caused fear in the government and its security arms that had a reverse reaction of actually supporting the strike.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the April 6 “battle” – which is not dangerous in itself – was that it exposed the weakness of the official situation. This begs the question: If this haphazard move which lacked organization, coordination, knowledge or vision has had that immense effect, what would it have been like if the protest action was more organized, well-coordinated and with a deeper vision?
To prove the fragility and haphazardness of the foundations on which the April 6 movement was based, one merely needs to pay attention to the complete lack of focus manifested in the inability to specify or organize the type of protest they intended. Some called for strikes, while others wanted demonstrations, boycotts or civil disobedience. If anything, this indicates the lack of awareness of what distinguishes each one from the others.
But while resorting to protests is admissible at all times, one cannot speak of general strikes or rampant acts of civil disobedience except at a much later phase. A general strike is enacted in the last 15 minutes of a confrontation between organized sides supported by vast swathes of public opinion and is hence is the result of many accumulations. This in turn becomes a prelude to one of two possibilities: first, the acquiescence of the regime to hold serious negotiations; and second civil disobedience which is akin to the final civilian “bullet” before the advent of a deep transformation.
Thus the call for civil disobedience in this context expresses a lack of awareness of its historical role as the most extreme type of polarizing protest. In short civil disobedience means obstructing the authority of the state through a refusal to obey any of its orders as well as refusing to deal with it or even acknowledge anything it does and hence paralyzing it completely.
This confusion over the definition of civil disobedience has led to chaos in specifying an objective for April 6. The choice of day has also exposed the lack of awareness of those calling for the protest about what is happening on the political scene with the protest taking place only two days before the local council elections.
They did not approach political parties to invite them to join the protest but even if they had, the parties would have been too busy preparing for the municipal elections to heed their calls for a protest.
If those calling for the protest do not acknowledge the role and importance of opposition parties, this means that they will have to wait a while before the emergence of new political powers that would lead the process of change and move it along from a preliminary to a more advanced phase.
It is easy to organize a strike at a company or factory without the presence of organized leadership with a clear vision since the leadership is usually spontaneous. However it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to orchestrate a general strike without having clear political leadership that is recognized by the people.
A “private” strike restricted to a specific place is economic in essence, while a general strike is political – in fact it’s the climax of political action because is rests on mass public mobilization and hence reflects a much higher lever of public awareness.
Dr Waheed Abdel Meguid is an expert at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.