Obviously, the ongoing Egyptian revolt’s pretty much the biggest story happening at the moment, but I really don’t have enough background knowledge of the situation to offer any kind of informed, original analysis of it, so if I tried to write anything about it I’d pretty much just be copying and pasting news reports. Instead, here’s a few more thoughts about yesterday’s demos:
There didn’t seem to be that much new (this article argues that they were a complete return to normality, which seems a bit too negative in my opinion), although they were definitely a lot better than the protests the day EMA was scrapped. The dream scenario would have been thousands of pissed-off public sector workers who couldn’t make previous weekday demos coming out onto the streets, but that didn’t really seem to happen. On the positive, there doesn’t seem to have been much of a kettle and the demo in London was able to stay mobile and militant. The blocking of police vans is one sign that the spirit of Millbank hasn’t died out just yet.
The most exciting development was definitely Aaron Porter being no-platformed – he’s been facing widespread criticism for months, but this is the first time he’s been confronted so dramatically. The next step is to make the argument that what we need instead of Porter is leaderless, decentralised, democratic resistance, and not just an alternative, leftier union bureaucrat or set of bureaucrats. I do think that we are genuinely lucky to have Aaron Porter – if the NUS were led by a political operator with the talent of a young Blair or Obama, they might well still be able to portray themselves as the figureheads of the movement and so channel our anger into shit, futile social democratic channels, so a bureaucrat with Porter’s utter lack of skill or charm is something to be grateful for.
Other than that, the only noticeably new feature was the trip to the Egyptian embassy in solidarity with the Egyptian revolt. I have really mixed feelings about that one – on one hand, it seems like a move away from direct confrontation with our own state into the realms of a conflict that we can’t have any real impact on. It would also seem to involve watering down the politics somewhat – any politician can heartily endorse a democratic revolt against a far-away authoritarian regime, so solidarity with the Egyptian uprising is considerably less radical than challenging the interests of capital at home. On the other hand, single-issue movements are easy to buy off with a few specific concessions, while a generalised revolt against the entire international political and economic system would be much harder to contain. Obviously we’re a long way off from seeing that at the moment, but growing international solidarity among anti-cuts and other social movements would be a step in that direction, and so I can see how it’d be worthwhile on those grounds. However, it’s worth bearing the timing of all this in mind: in Egypt, as in Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and elsewhere, people have taken inspiration and courage from the example of Tunisia. If we really want to cheer up those engaged in struggles against their rulers across the world, the best way to do it isn’t to protest outside an ever-growing checklist of embassies, it’s to give them a practical demonstration of what’s possible by completely fucking things up for our own ruling class.