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Arab spring

Revolutionary Homework

Gabriel Carlyle explores the lessons to be learnt from the long back-story to the Egyptian uprising.

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Revolutionary Homework

“On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx … alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011; we are doubtful of this claim” – secret cable from the US Embassy in Cairo to Washington [1]

“Nonviolent action is not just about non-violence, but also about joy and happiness … [People] saw in Tahrir what Egypt could possibly be in the future and they wanted to be part of this new Egypt” – Wael Adel, Academy for Change [2]

In the popular imagination, mass nonviolent action (“people power”) is often portrayed as a largely improvised and unplanned affair. The reality is usually very different.

Thus, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott are respectively (mis)remembered as the action of an ordinary woman who was simply “too tired to move”, and a spontaneous public reaction to her subsequent arrest and prosecution.

In reality, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and had recently attended the legendary Highlander Folk School – a crucial training center for civil rights and labour activists. Moreover the local Women’s Political Council had decided to call a boycott at least nine months before Parks’ refusal, and were just waiting for the right person to get arrested. [3]

Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns (eds), Tweets from Tahrir: Egypt’s revolution as it unfolded, in the words of the people who made it

OR Books, 2011; 234pp; available for £8 + p&p only from www.orbooks.com

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Free Maikel!

“We got rid of the dictator, but not of the dictatorship”.

Egypt: the army and the people were never “one hand”

The report that led to its author, a young Egyptian peace activist, being imprisoned on 12 April for three years. Its title refers to the demonstrators’chant in Tahrir Square: “the army and the people are one hand!”

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