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Live from Cairo

[Live updates continue at the bottom. Nothing from Mub yet, but a statement from the E speaker of the parliament is expected shortly, according to AJ and Guardian live blogs. More: Mub orders govt to step down, will name new govt tomorrow. Alrighty, then. --lambert]

"You can expect a lot of criticism of the Minister of the Interior." As the flames rise from the national party headquarters in the background. I love the dry, BBC-like delivery from Al Jazeera in English. See also the Agonist, and Ian Welsh.


11:54AM Police fire tear gas at protestors at prayer [#20]. Protesters, prayers over, toss the canisters back at them. Shots.

11:56AM Loud rumblings. Gunfire. No signs that the police are present. "Fear has fallen. But there is no political leader or group driving this." Fear of a vacuum. [Or, heaven forfend, a general in sunglasses. And what Atrios said. --lambert]

11:58AM Curfew ignored [#141]. Military vehicles on fire "near the Antiquities Museum." "This in Egypt is quite something."

12:02PM NDP party compound and personnel carrier are the only things we see on fire. Tourists on the balconies looking down on the street between the radio and television buildings.

12:04PM Definitely seeing right now [gets camera to pan] "in between us, a tight street, a police car that carries troops, protesters have overwhelmed it, what you are hearing is the stoning of that vehicle. Setting that vehicle ablaze in front of our building. Police seem to have escaped."

12:04PM Ari Gibbs weighed in.

12:05PM No police presence. Only gunfire in direction of radio and television building. [Smart. Capture the media. --lambert]

12:07PM Hillary Clinton statement: Call on E govt to restrain security protesters. Protesters should be peaceful. Support "universal human rights of the Egyptian people." [Thanks Jimmy --lambert] E govt must reverse "unprecedented steps" to cut off communication. E govt needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away. Want to partner with E govt and people live in society respect human rights. Recently in E met wide range civil society heard ideas that would improve their countries. "People of the middle east seek a chance to contribute and have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. Leaders need to respond to those aspirations. They need to view civil society as a partner not a threat." [No shit. How about this country? --lambert]

12:14PM Hearing automatic weapons, however. Can't confirm if live ammo. Military moved into Suez and Alexandria and were greeted favorably by the people [#33].

12:15PM Clinton statement decoded by analyst: Imperative of reform, support human rights of E, statement is an escalation of the US position, O walking fine line between US second strategic ally after Israel, shows anxiety that situation spiral out of control. Second, miltary moving in shows a defeat of the security apparatus, another concession by the Mubarak regime. Strategic decisions now in the hands of the military and the situation is now fluid.

12:18PM Thumbs up from the people on the army. Seen as sign of weakness, that the regime had to go that far, "capitulating." [Some capitulation.... --lambert]

12:19PM O statement seen as a shift in tone. Main US interest is stability, and O administration is radically changing its policy. "The conclusion of the Eqyptian people different from the American admin. People hoped for support from US. But US must balance strategic interests." All parties in wait and see mode.

12:25PM Yahoo News (not always as bad as other feeds). Administration "principals" meeting to come, rare on a Saturday. Dear Lord, I remember that phrase, the "principals," from back in the day with Condi Rice. Plus ca change... Oh, and Narus/Boeing.

12:28PM Numbers are big everywhere, not just in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez.

12:30PM From Suez: People are happy the army has come in, but there is "no clarity" about what the Army will do. People are now sitting down in the street [#138].

12:31PM "Amazing pictures in Cairo." Protesters torched a police van. [The Red Shirts did that, too, and to no avail, thanks to the general in sunglasses. --lambert] "This city will not sleep tonight. The curfew is completely ineffective."

Number of protesters have dispersed, now concentrated "outside our office," radio, TV, Ministry of Information [#47].

12:35PM Still do not know what the role of the military will be. People "celebratory" to military as opposed to the police.

12:35PM Funny, split screen shows state media feed focused on Cairo Opera house and nothing else, just 100 metres away from Al Jazeera, whose feed shows a torched personnel carrier. Move along, move along, nothing to see here.

12:37PM State TV announces country wide curfew.

12:39PM Alexandria: Soldiers come out of tanks waving E flags, shaking hands with protesters [#33].

12:42PM Cairo: Military moving to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information, and [a third critical building]. Military "definitively" moving in. Waving E flags. Have not seen a single fire truck! As of the entire govt apparatus has melted away into the city. The curfew has not been imposed.

12:48PM Taxi driver interview! Even "normal, apolitical" people committed to going out to protest.

12:48PM Interviewee: Ruthlessness of the crackdown on protesters parallel to ruthlessness of media crackdown. "Sinister and draconian" tactics to avoid showing what's going on, on the ground. "Desperate attempt."

12:51PM Interviewee from London: A week ago, the problem as seen as "apathy"... Lack of control in Cairo is "alarming." The fire is next to the Museum! Reminds me of the Baghdad invasion. 1952 E revolution took place after Cairo was burned. The introduction of the military in 1952 brought about the revolution in 1952 which is why Mubarak introducing the military now means a new era in politics. E is a "dramatically different today. If E goes, the entire Middle East goes. Clinton's statement reflects anxiety." Hopefully tomorrow when the dust settles a new face....

Pictures; timeline; map.

12:57PM "Coming up to the top of the hour" [LOL --lambert] Waiting for Mubarak speech, no sign yet. "Iconic moment."

8:00PM in Cairo, now.

1:01PM Crawler: Unconfirmed reports of army and police clashes in Cairo.


CNN blog.


Sean Paul.


Al Jazeera

Live photo feed.

1:06PM Suez, now seeing larger number of military vehicles, people welcome, but on the screen, police vehicles trying to run down the protesters.

1:10PM Guardian on Clinton statement:

Brian Whittaker, a Middle East expert at the Guardian, has provided this snap analysis of Clinton's words:

It looks to me as if Clinton is angling for a negotiated departure by Mubarak, accompanied by an increase in political freedom. I think the US is aiming to structure the solution in a way that would protect its key interests: the peace treaty with Israel, the Suez canal, and co-operation against terrorism.

Another quote from Clinton:

We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protestors. We call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain security forces. At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully."

Clinton also called Egypt an "important partner" in the region. But she added:

As a partner we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing political, social and economic reforms.

It won't be strong enough for everyone but in diplomatic terms that was pretty strong stuff from Clinton.

1:10PM US Ambassador: Long strong relationship with E. "We also have our principles." Want a political way out of this situation. AJ: "Clinton wants to be on the side of both the govt and the people, but that's impossible because they are opposed to each other." Amb: "We don't agree." AJ: Does the US back Mub? "Our position is very clear [blah blah]" AJ: How can you take both positions? Amb: Want to retain relationship and dialog with the govt. AJ: "And you still stand behind Mub?" Amb: "You put those words in my mouth." [Did the Amb just threw Mub under the bus. --lambert] "We would like to see an orderly progress to this crisis and a resumption of stability. That doesn't mean you want to see the leadership take flight." [a la Baby Doc Duvalier. Da plane! Da plane!]

1:23PM Helicopters. Reports of clashes between military and police not confirmed. We saw protesters jump on top of the tanks and personnel carriers waving E flags [#18; [#29]. Still dark clouds from fires but now there is free moving traffic (!!) and streets have eased up. A very rapid change of developments. Expected Mub address on state TV, but no announcement yet.

1:31PM Interviewee: In Tunisia, the army protected the people from the police. Army becomes a "savior." AJ: Will the army protect the people or the President? Int: "Now is the time for striking deals." I don't think Army would present itself as an introduction to dictatorship. I think the Army is thinking of itself along the Turkish model.

1:33PM Witness in Northern Sinai: 1400 demonstrators. Many segments of society. An exchange of fire. More than 7 RVG shells fired by armored vehicles. Electricity cut off from from city. Curfew not observed [#141]. There is no Army in Sinai (Camp David means no military deployment).

1:43PM O's speech at Cairo University back in June 2009.

1:48PM Looting the National Democratic Party HQ. [Why do that instead of taking over the Ministry of Information? -- lambert] Not clear from reporting [lambert here] whether people are trying to take over the military vehicles or not].

1:51PM Presidential convoy moving now. Presidential Guard to protect the Presidential palace and the radio and television stations, which are not protected by the military (!!). [Perhaps this is connected to the report that Mub will tape his speech or not make it at all. --lambert]

2:00PM Top of the hour: Over 700 870 wounded; 5 sec forces dead; Mub lying low. Army on streets. Curfew defied by thousands. Alexandria: Thousands march. Suez: Vehicles torched. Cairo: Chaos and fires.

Cairo report: "No definitive leader of this protest movement so far [#174]. The people are speaking with a loud and unified voice." [This is very different from Thailand and FWIW I think tactically superior. --lambert]

Alexandria: Normal traffic, military not heavy-handed at all, and has not attempted to impose the curfew. People welcome military. [Crawler: Military ordered to support police in crackdown on demonstrators.] Asked people on military v. police: "We love the army, long live the army, we have been waiting for the army to come and save us from the police." [And again --lambert]

2:11PM Cairo Three floors of NDP building are now ablaze.

2:12PM "The manual" [#9]. Unclear provenance. Interesting, but I'm not sure how it fits in. Kudos to the Atlantic for the coverage, however. See also the Guardian on "anonymous flyers."

Signed "long live Egypt", the slickly produced 26-page document calls on demonstrators to begin with peaceful protests, carrying roses but no banners, and march on official buildings while persuading policemen and soldiers to join their ranks.

The leaflet ask recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopy, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which are being monitored by the security forces.

Protesters in Cairo are advised to gather in large numbers in their own neighborhoods away from police and troops and then move towards key installations such the state broadcasting HQ on the Nile-side Corniche and try to take control "in the name of the people". Other priority targets are the presidential palace and police stations in several parts of central Cairo. [2011-02-15 Evidently, this advice was not followed, making the provenance issue all the greater. Disinformation, and if so by whom?--lambert]

The leaflet includes aerial photographs with approach routes marked and diagrams on crowd formations. Suggested "positive" slogans include "long live Egypt" and "down with the corrupt regime" [2011-02-15 Again, not followed]. There are no signs of slogans reflecting the agenda of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood. It advises demonstrators to wear clothing such as hooded jackets, running shoes, goggles and scarves to protect against teargas, and to carry dustbin lids – to ward off baton blows and rubber bullets – first aid kits, and roses to symbolize their peaceful intentions. [2011-02-15 Not followed.]

Diagrams show how to defend against riot police and push in waves to break through their ranks. "The most important thing is to protect each other," the leaflet says.

It is important to prevent policemen penetrating the ranks of demonstrators, it adds. If they do, they should be persuaded to change sides and reminded that their own families could be among the people.

Banners and posters should be hung from balconies and windows, it advises, and it provides handy models for posters – one showing a visor-helmeted riot policeman flanked by an elderly woman in traditional peasant dress and a younger one in modern clothes over the slogan "Police and people together against the regime".

"Slickly produced" and, apparently, completely under the radar, both from our famously free press, the Egypitian security services, US intelligence, and Al Jazeera's coverage today. So, interesting.

2:42PM Crawler: Protesters in command, dictating flow of movement. Protecting the Museum from flames with barrier [#174]. Military tank now parked "outside our front door" (AJ is near Ministry of Information.

2:44PM Military vehicles not welcomed in heart of city, not received with same celebrations as other parts of country.

2:45PM Protestors protect museum from looting by forming human chain.

2:46PM Tantawi name floated as successor.

Classic quote from Israel official:

"Having said that, I'm not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process."

2:46PM Interview with former US amb to E Veliotes: "When it happens, you are surprised." "The O admin has been just as interested, but they did it in a smarter." "If the only policy we had was to promote human rights, that would be easy." [anchor cuts off the interview for an eyewitness interview. I love the lack of deference. --lambert]

2:52PM Amb kicked off for this statement: "Egypt needs Egyptians." I call for all Es to secure the streets." [Have the feeling that was an important statement for which I lack context --lambert]

2:54PM interview prof: "Destruction of the ancien regime." Too early to judge what role the army will play. "Cannot rebuild the country unless you have a pillar of power." There were more police than the army. Army can present itself as a protector. AJ: Tatawi? Int: We need to have some continuity between old and new. Hope new is democratic. The clock cannot be set back. Army most present its own view. Today we have been chasing events. SJ: Is this a revolution? Int: Social revolution, without any specific leadership, people went spontaneously into the streets. Not like 1952, which was a coup d'etat. AJ: What about Mub? Int: Secrets to unfold in the coming hours. Scenario of succession by Mub son put to rest.

3:01PM Top of the hour: Hospitals overwhelmed with wounded. Pres Guard heading toward state run TV. Crawler: Reuters, E miltary head in flight back from US.

3:04PM Reporter from street: Smell of smoke, gas. People hand her bits of ordnance, tear gas canisters with "Made in US" [#11].

3:04PM Admin "reviewing" aid to US. Cameras set up in White House briefing room.

3:05PM Anchor: EgyptAir has suspended all flights into E. Unrest at the airport? Reporter: Rings "serious alarm bells" for foreign countries. Hilton Hotel is safe (though near AJ HQ and therefore in center of city).

3:06PM I know this Drupal error! ;-)

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3:10PM [I can't believe I'm watching a WH news conference on AJ. --lambert]

FROM WH Gibbs: Monitoring a "fluid and dynamic situation"
Q Has O spoken to Mub?

G Pres PDB about 40 mins all on E... Convened deputies comm in situation room heard from amb Scobie from E, State Dept, relayed to Pres. Have been in touch with E gov.
O has not spoken to Mub. "This is not about picking a person." [Yep. Mub under the bus. --lambert]

G Space has to be created for "legitimate grievances" to be addressed

G Will be reviewing our assistance posture. "This will be solved by the E people. Opportunity for E govt to address grievances.

Q A crisis for the ME?

G "Monitoring in a number of places."

Q Clashes mil vs police?

G "Monitoring"

Q Aid?

A "Reviewing our assistance posture"

Q O working phones?

G Lotta meetings. No calls. Principals meeting

Q Why O not commenting on the phone instead of SoS?

G In continual contact with all levels of E govt. [Anchor: Danced around that]

3:18PM Anchor on presser: No Mub support. [Anchor didn't say "conspicuous by its absence," but that was indeed the sense. O hates to be anywhere near a loser, so this dog not barking is very significant. I don't think O has any interest in outcomes here other than not looking bad, but clearly getting near Mub would make him look bad. --lambert]

US warns against blocking social media. Yeah, we need the intelligence; Facebook; twitter. But apparently we need it more than Mub does, which is interesting.

3:32PM E military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Anan cuts short DC visit, flies home.

3:35PM Nobody knows where Mub is. He's expected to speak at the Cairo Book Fair on Saturday [!!]. Reporter: People showed me bullets, i.e., live fire, and cannisters with "Made in US," people think half the problem is the US supporting "what they call a dictatorship."

3:48PM Anchor: Why hasn't this happened until now? Interviewer: Tunisia. Entire Arab world will follow E (a moderate message).

3:48PM 11 die Suez 20 inj. Police stations set on fire. Youth protecting national museum, human chain [#198]. [yay]

3:50PM Reporter: 12 or so tanks in motion toward bridge and Nile. Protesters calm. Just saw a protester jaywalk across the street between two tanks ;-) Tanks moving, don't know what has provoked. Spoke to soldiers, who said were given "no instructions" other than protect people and country.

3:54PM Reporter (Jane Dutton): In morning, lot of optimism, mood changed after Friday prayer, then the tear gas canisters, and sped out of control, Molotov cocktails. As police pushed protesters back, more came on street. Communications clampdown "made people mad."

3:59PM Anchor: Tanks are off to protect foreign embassies. Protesters climb on top for a ride. Hospital said to be overwhelmed. What we know: Army is in charge of the streets. NDP has been "razed to the ground"; Mub was supposed to address the nation but nothing yet.

Crawler: Army has joined protesters to protect the national museum.

4:04PM Anchor: Tanks moving to sensitive and important locations. Rep: US and UK embassies. Anch: The police are nicknamed "the thugs" in E.

Crawler: Report E top businessmen and influential figures have left E

4:05PM Report from DC: We really don't know behind the scenes phone calls. If I were to parse, O first behind govt, then today HC behind people, just reading tea leaves. For now they're sitting on the fence, which is what the protesters are saying.

4:10PM Int: Is this the Arab world's 1989 a la Eastern Europe? Unclear what will happen after? Jobs and aspirations will be difficult and "bleak" even after regime change. Anchor: Not find the job easy

[I can't believe how good the AJ anchoring is. Just astonishing. From the pure media junkie standpoint this is amazing. --lambert]

4:13PM Rep: Where the tanks went: Created a "fortress of steel" around the party headquarters and Cairo Museum." A couple of fire engines there now, looks like trying to protect them to bring the blaze under control. Two engines won't be enough? NDP HQ is now only a shell. Eight to ten stories high. May already have gutted entire building.

4:16PM Anch: Knock-on effects? Int: Possibly Libya, Syria. Helps to be rich, a la the Gulf. Kuwait ruler just said he'd donate $3500 a month to the Kuwaitis, plus food, for some years (missed).

4:25PM Anch: If the internet is blocked, why am I still getting tweets? Int: Proxies. People using their nous [#180]. [I love the Brits!] People know how to circumvent censorship. Govt taken such a radical step because internet an existential threat. Dangerous call it facebook or twitter revolution, but people have risen up all through history. Yes it would have happened, but perhaps not with such ease and speed. The jury is still out on utopians and pessimists. And being online is a dangerous act ("digital droppings").

Anch: Tweet, can take too much at face value. Some reporters I've known for years. Int: Yes, authentication is important. Still we now have millions of people with phones, and look at that constellation of views, not just one voice.

[It's fascinating to see the little blue sparks of cell phone screens in the streets; the AJ camera points down from an upper floor, so the sparks are obvious. --lambert]

4:38PM Al-Jazeera is reporting that the speaker of Egypt's parliament says an "important announcement due soon"..

4:45PM Rep: E stock market lost $40 billion. Yesterday Al Ahram had to deny business leaders left the country, and that made international investors a little nervous. We don't know how many have left.

5:00PM Midnight in Cairo now, streets still full. "Extraordinary scenes."

5:02PM Anch Speaker would have "a high level of responsbility" should Mub become incapacitated.

5:05PM Int: "Fear factor" broken on Jan25. On the streets, a sense of "vacuum."

5:07PM National TV, fire on NDP only a few meters from the Cairo Museum. Tragedy if museum catches on fire. Thousands of people stopped on bridges and get out of cars to see.

5:08PM Rep: Why the heck the speaker?! WTF?!

5:08PM Nothing on official TV on statement.

Crawler: Reuters E Parliament says matters "in safe hands" with Pres Mub. Yikes!

Rep, interpreting: That means country is in the hands of the military.

[AJ going a bit fluky here with different feeds, cut outs]

5:11PM Nile TV -- and no state TV?! -- expected to have Mub announcement shortly.

5:13PM US Stock market drops on E news. "The market hates uncertainty." Well, the elite should stop sucking, then.

5:15PM Mub speaks:

Instructed govt to allow expression of demands by the masses: I regret victimss and casualties on both sides. These demonstrations and what we witnessed of rallies over the last few years would not have taken place without space for freedom granted to E people by reforms E is embracing and joining of forces of society. I always stressed and reiterate that sov is to the people. Fine line between freedom and chaos. I adhere to defending E stability and security. Not to steer into any threats to public safety or order. E is the biggest country in the region, pop, geo location, gov by constitution, rule of law, we should be cautious. My fellow citizens, these demonstrations lawful aspirations for democracy, speed actions for unemployment, fight pov, fully aware of "lawful aspirations"...

[Who's writing this, the White House? "legitimate grievances" is the HRC/Gibbs talking point; "lawful aspirations" is an I/P talking point: "lawful aspirations of the Palestinian people." --lambert]

However, the problems facing us cannot be achieved through violence or chaos. Only through natl dialog.

Have always taken the side of the poor. Have always been keen on directing govt policies to reforms to lift suffering. Plans for health care etc depend on keeping E secure and the homeland of a civilized future. We will go above the looting, which may indicate further plots to shake stability. Call on all including youth to work for country not by setting ablaze. My fellow citizens I address you today not only as Pres but as an E citizen. We have weathered hard times as one nation. The goals to reform which we have embraced have no point of return. New steps toward more democracy and freedoms. New steps to decrease unemployment, better services. We have no alternative to achieve them but to embrace blah blah

Incidents have left maj of E people feeling cautious of further mayhem, chaos, and destruction. I shouldering my first resp to maintain the homeland security cannot allow this fear to grip our future.

Will designate a new govt as of tomorrow to shoulder new duties for the upcoming era. I will take all the steps to maintain sec of all E. It is the duty and resp oath. May peace be on you all.

[Well, that was a steaming pile of crap. If he believed all that, why didn't he do it before? --lambert]

5:27PM Street silent until midway through the speech, then the chants [#7] for Mub to go started up again. Rep: Talk to any E, and they will tell you the Pres has all the power; and so the change in govt is meaningless.

5:35PM Rep in DC: The line from the WH is that the grievances are legitimate and that violence against them is not acceptable. Perhaps a turning in American policy, but "really incremental."

5:36PM UN Ban Ki-Moon: Listen to your own people! Anch: Which is exactly what Mub says he's doing.

5:38PM Rep: Nobody in Davos will say a thing!

5:45PM Rep: Key change to watch is the Ministry of the Interior. Anch: People know this is a ploy because the Pres has all the power and the Cabinet rubberstamps everything. Not the first time Mub has changed cabinet. Last time, brought in Western economic technocrats and... Surprise! No trickledown.

5:57PM Sean Paul points out that the essential issue, the role of the Army, remains unresolved. FWIW, and I don't know Egyptian politics at all -- how I wish we had somebody who knew the ground, as we did in Thailand! -- it looks to me like the Obama administration bludgeoned Mub into making the speech they wanted him to make, by sending him the message both through the ambassador and through Gibbs, that he was expendable, and they would also cut off supplies ("our assistance posture"). We have a tendency to use Moslem territories as proving grounds for our own policies: Privatization in Iraq, Drones in Afghanistan. And now, "visionary minimalism" in Egypt as a response to insurrection. Of course, the speech was completely out of touch with the views of the normal Egyptian. But Versailles, being completely out of touch themselves, would not be capable of recognizing that. So it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.

6:00PM Rep: The Muslim Brotherhood says Mub must step down and the military must step in [#3].

6:08PM In coverage of Mub's speech, the word "ploy" recurs.

6:18PM Anch: Why did Mub wait so long? Int, NDP official: Wanted the situation to clarify [summarizing. Alrighty then]. Anch: Cabinet a ploy? Int: Don't know if satisfactory. Anch: And? The demonstrators want Mub to step down. Int: [Hilariously walks back his NDP membership]. Don't know if tomorrow will be the end of it.

6:20PM Looked at TPM's coverage. Useless. I'm shocked.

6:21PM Crawler: 1030 wounded. This number keeps increasing.

* * *

All for tonight!

FINAL UPDATE According to Pravda in mail, O finally called Mub:

Saying he had just spoken with President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama urged Egyptian authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters and to grant greater freedoms for the Egyptian people. "People in Egypt have rights that are universal," Obama said.


No votes yet


john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

From Homage to Catalonia

It is probable that the emotion that brought people into the streets was [that] the issue seemed dear enough: On one side the CNT, on the other, the police. I have no particular love for the idealized 'worker,' but when I see an actual flesh-and blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask which side I am on.

Submitted by lambert on

... as I'm sure you understand.

UPDATE To clarify, I think you're confusing pom-pom waving with support. In fact, "It's never clear what will emerge on the other side" is, well, true. Embarassingly enough. The events in Thailand offer a perfect example, both of unknown outcomes and the dangers of projecting our own situations onto countries and cultures of which we know very little.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

the central question is how to direct events in such a way that a favorable outcome results, or at least is more likely. That's what's been in the back of my mind the past year or so as I studied the populist movement in the U.S. late 1800s and, now, starting to look at the democracy movements in Eastern Europe in the 1950s through 1980s.

To no small extent, the spontaneous outbreak of populist outrage cannot be foreseen or pre-planned. It can certainly be anticipated, and provoked -- provoked by the authorities covertly in order to flush out and destroy whatever leadership exists before social tensions are so great they can no longer be controlled. Given this consideration, it seems to me that the Polish Solidarity movement, and the covert actions of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, looms particularly consequential in laying the groundwork for what eventually occurred in 1989. They were organizing and educating and preparing for over a decade before the moment came to strike the decisive blows.

Paul Kecskemeti has an interesting analysis of the 1956 Hungarian uprising (an analysis, be it noted, which was done under the auspices of the RAND Corp.):

In the crowds, tension built up gradually during the afternoon and evening of October 23. What attracted them to begin with was the sight of marching students; this was something entirely new and exhilarating. But at first the street crowds were mere onlookers, curious to see what would happen. As time went by, however, the people's mood gradually changed. When the crowds grew denser and showed no inclination to disperse, it dawned upon those in them that a historic moment was at hand. We find in the interviews such statements as: "We simply felt that it was impossible to leave without having done something decisive"; and "Something big was bound to happen." The crowds now sought outlets for this accumulated tension. The statue of Stalin offered itself as a target. Vast numbers converged upon the parliament building, clamoring for Imre Nagy, whom the street had designated premier, and upon the radio building, where they took up the students' demand that their manifesto be put on the air. When the police attacked, nobody thought of dispersing. The provocation drove the crowd to frenzy, and the possession of arms, obtained from sympathizers among the military, gave it a feeling of unlimited power. The crowd's ruling impulse was to destroy the symbols of Communist and Soviet domination and to get even with the terror and publicity apparatus of the regime. The offices of the Party newspaper (by then under the control of Communist dissidents) were wrecked; bonfires were built of Communist literature; the hated red star emblem was torn down everywhere. Above all, the crowd stormed the strongholds of the political police and overpowered the units manning them. There were many lynchings.

This phase of the revolution exhibited many of the well-known features of mob violence: rage, a passionate desire for revenge, cruelty. Yet one of the classic symptoms of mass action, the breakdown of cultural restraints and inhibitions, was lacking. Mass aggression was extremely selective, pinpointed upon the political police.

-- From Eastern Europe: Transformation and Revolution 1945-1991, edited by Lyman H. Letgers

We are long, long, way from even understanding how to prepare in the U.S., let alone actually preparing.

Submitted by lambert on

... just as what Atrios said was true. Nothing to do with "I know which side I'm on."

Personally, I think it's more than likely that the Powers That Be would be more than happy to deke a very immature left into violence here -- violence on the right is always OK -- a la Seattle or Quebec City, because they are comfortable with inflicting more violence in return, and moreover all their interests will get more funding if it happens. See "the plan" link above...

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

Especially about "very immature left ." And I have grim forebodings of what the future holds: I don't see the elites easing off their looting. And continued looting means economic suffering that eventually becomes intolerable.

And then there's the looming resource wars for waters, oil, and rare earth minerals.

We probably need ten to twenty years to create a viable progressive left movement in the U.S. I don't think we have that long.

Submitted by lambert on

... I'm not positioning myself as "mature"; very far from it.

I keep meditating a big master post on this, but I think one key idea comes from Bridge columns, which I still read, even though I haven't played in decades: If you can only win the hand if the cards are distributed in a certain way, then play the cards as if they were distributed that way. So, in a way, it doesn't matter whether one believes that one has ten or twenty years (either personally, or politically; haw). If twenty years is the only way forward to success, assume twenty years and act accordingly. Sort of a Pascal's wager, I guess.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Trotsky says:

In a society that is seized by revolution classes are in conflict. It is perfectly clear, however, that the changes introduced between the beginning and the end of a revolution in the economic bases of the society and its social substratum of classes, are not sufficient to explain the course of the revolution itself, which can overthrow in a short interval age-old institutions, create new ones, and again overthrow them. The dynamic of revolutionary events is directly determined by swift, intense and passionate changes in the psychology of classes which have already formed themselves before the revolution.

The point is that society does not change its institutions as need arises, the way a mechanic changes his instruments. On the contrary, society actually takes the institutions which hang upon it as given once for all.... Entirely exceptional conditions, independent of the will of persons and parties, are necessary in order to tear off from discontent the fetters of conservatism, and bring the masses to insurrection.

The swift changes of mass views and moods in an epoch of revolution thus derive, not from the flexibility and mobility of man’s mind, but just the opposite, from its deep conservatism. The chronic lag of ideas and relations behind new objective conditions, right up to the moment when the latter crash over people in the form of a catastrophe, is what creates in a period of revolution that leaping movement of ideas and passions which seems to the police mind a mere result of the activities of “demagogues.”

...The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old régime....

The different stages of a revolutionary process, certified by a change of parties in which the more extreme always supersedes the less, express the growing pressure to the left of the masses – so long as the swing of the movement does not run into objective obstacles. When it does, there begins a reaction: disappointments of the different layers of the revolutionary class, growth of indifferentism, and therewith a strengthening of the position of the counter-revolutionary forces. Such, at least, is the general outline of the old revolutions.

Only on the basis of a study of political processes in the masses themselves, can we understand the rôle of parties and leaders, whom we least of all are inclined to ignore. They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.

Submitted by lambert on

The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old régime.

would explain the generals in sunglasses. Knowing which side you're on isn't enough.

Eureka Springs's picture
Submitted by Eureka Springs on

on/ streaming all morning... fantastic coverage. I'm inspired.

Viva La Egypt!

Submitted by Lex on

As i read the background, the Egyptian military is generally more well received than the security forces by many (most?) Egyptians. I get the impression that it is somewhat separated from Mubarak's regime...especially its security forces.

Perhaps more importantly, it does signal that the protests have pushed the regime well outside its comfort zone. And it brings a new level of instability. Mubarak is throwing everything he has at the situation, but at this level the variables go off the charts. Security forces are trained to beat civilians senseless. The military is trained to fight wars. Telling the military to wage war on its own people is a dangerous order to give, and has been known to produce the opposite result.

Think Russia during the coup attempt against Gorbachev when the tanks were stopped by babushkas waving their fingers.

I'm cautiously optimistic, except that revolutions have a tendency to go awry. What is clear is that it's a new world in N. Africa and parts of Arabia. Tunisia already fell, Egypt looks like it might, protests are growing in Yemen. What it means is anyone's guess at this point, but one clear take away is the severe blow to US foreign policy and its love of "stability dictators".

Would that we had a statesman in the Oval Office or a stateswoman at Foggy Bottom who could choose between helpful dictators and all the things this country is supposed to represent.

It's also worth pointing out how DoS and the WH were all for the Twitter revolution in Iran but have a much different tone now. Granted, that never looked like a real, popular uprising but more like one of our color revolution tricks.

Submitted by Fran on

I found this to be an interesting report from Cairo, within the last few hours.

Submitted by davidswanson on Fri, 2011-01-28 20:12

"I just phoned Tighe Barry, a great US activist with Code Pink, who has been in Cairo, Egypt, all week. Here is the audio. Tighe describes a different situation from what we get through the US media."

Cell Phones are out. The call was made to a hotel, where Tighe was recouping after being taken away and later released by the police.