Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Not-So-Invisible Hands Guiding the Egyptian Protests

Despite fears of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated, Islamist state replacing President Mubarak, the Egyptian anti-Mubarak opposition is far more complicated (and economically-driven) than most observers realize.
In the case of the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s, the "bazaaris of Tehran" - the medium-sized merchants and shop owners - ended up serving as the crucial "swing vote", moving the Iranian Revolution from left to right, from a socialist uprising toward the founding of an Islamic republic. In the case of Egypt, the social and political force of women and youth micro-entrepreneurs will lead history in the opposite direction. These groups have a highly developed and complex view of the moral posturing of some Islamists - and they have a very clear socio-economic agenda, which appeals to the dynamic youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
The progressive groups have a linked network of enterprises, factories, identities and passions. They would go to any length to prevent the reemergence of police brutality and moral hypocrisy that have ruled them for the past generation. The women and youth behind theses micro-businesses, and the workers in the new Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, Gulf and Egyptian-financed factories seem to be united. And they grow more so each day. 
Micro-entrepreneurs, new workers' groups, and massive anti-police brutality organisations obviously do not share the same class position as Sawiris and Badrawi and the rich men in the "Council of the Wise". Nevertheless, there are significant overlaps and affinities between the interests and politics of nationalist development-oriented groups, the newly entrepreneurial military - and the vitally well-organised youth and women's social movements. This confluence of social, historical and economic dynamics will assure that this uprising does not get reduced to a photo opportunity for Suleiman and a few of his cronies.
It's hard to predict what will happen in the coming days and weeks, but if Mubarak has lost the support of Egypt's economic backbone, it's hard to see him lasting much longer.

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