Political Economy

At the Weave we believe that politics and economics have always gone hand in hand. Political economy is about structures of power and how these structures shape the conditions within which all of us live our lives. This section of the Weave is devoted to analysis and discussion of current issues that reveal the dynamics of power, from the local to the global and everywhere in between.

Law v Politics

What are the constitutional conditions for change in Egypt? This was the question I was asked recently on Al-Jazeera English's Inside Story. My answers were evasive, and for a good reason: it's not about constitutional law (an ironic concern to have, given Mubarak's distaste for legality) but about the credibility of any compromise offered by the regime.

Egypt’s Politics of Fearlessness V

The Second January Uprising, Part 5

Islam Was Not the Solution

The third element which ought perhaps to have struck more analysts is that throughout the early days especially, the Muslim Brotherhood was not only wrong-footed by events, but continued to make singularly bad political choices, as it had done during the recent electoral campaign. For a start, the Brotherhood initially called itself out of even supporting the January 25th strike. In a statement in response to the Interior Ministry’s accusation that the Brotherhood was behind the protests, MB spokesman Essam El-Arian and leader of its more politicized wing said “the protest in Tahrir Square erupted spontaneously,” and that the Brotherhood “did not send anyone.” Indeed, on the streets, Brothers were notable for their absence. A small number of Islamists did take part, but despite the Ikhwan’s lighting volte-face once the scale of protests became clear, there was no evidence of either the leadership or the numbers which the Brotherhood is credited with.

Egypt’s Politics of Fearlessness IV

The Second January Uprising, Part 4

Roots of Rage

The dissatisfaction with the regime is nothing new. Within four years of the ‘successful’ October War, Sadat was seen not as the hero of his people’s freedom, but as the agent of their oppression: his liberalizing economic reforms lowered subsidies on essential goods precisely during the recession induced by the war. To make things worse, to counterbalance his enemies on the Left Sadat had freed Islamist political prisoners, believing he could pitch one against the other and dividing, rule. By January 1977 things had reached crisis point, and his announcement of the cut in subsidies combined with a pay freeze lead to massive demonstrations on the 18th and 19th, protests to which Sadat reacted brutally, with over 800 killed and wounded, but which ended once his government announced the cancellation of the measures.

Egypt’s Politics of Fearlessness III

The Second January Uprising, Part 3

Resistance Is Not Futile

It can be easy to forget that even the fiercest authoritarianism can be fragile. We saw this in 1989 when the Soviet resolve to prop up its clients disappeared causing them to mostly just melt away. People took to the streets, and these regimes faced exactly the same choice as Mubarak’s today: either shoot the protesters into leaving, or acknowledge their own political impotence. Faced with these options, only Ceaucescu seriously attempted repression – and paid the ultimate price. The rapid fall in quick succession of what appeared to be monolithic autocracies engendered considerable optimism that the 1990s would witness a world-wide ‘Third Wave’ of democratic transitions. The more sobering truth, however, was that often these new democracies slipped back into bad old authoritarian ways. With some of the ‘color revolutions’ of Eastern Europe losing ground, the hope – and historical memory – that non-violent revolution was possible seemed to fade quickly, and the Middle East in particular was often presented as ‘Exhibit A’ in the parade of contexts in which democracy appeared stubbornly not to want to emerge.

Egypt’s Politics of Fearlessness II

The Second January Uprising, Part 2

Politics Beyond Fear

At the time of writing, whether they will achieve this dream is still not clear. By day, ordinary Egyptians turn out in their hundreds of thousands, millions, and make the hopes for a non-violent democratic revolution soar. By night, the protesters endure waves upon waves of attacks both in Tahrir and outside it, aiming to break their will. Within the regime, matters remain murky. Mubarak’s son Gamal may or may not have fled, but Mubarak himself is still President. It is likely that he will have had to make considerable concessions to Omar Suleiman, head of Egypt’s intelligence and now Vice-President, and to Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, Commander in Chief and Defense Minister, as well as the new Deputy Prime Minister who were also Gamal’s two main contenders for the presidential ‘succession’.

Egypt’s Politics of Fearlessness

The extraordinary events which are unfolding in Egypt have lead me to reflect a bit on the roots and implications of these unprecedented protests. I'm reprinting here an article appearing in openDemocracy.

--------------

The Second January Uprising, Part 1

New Crossings, New Heroes

One image more than perhaps any other struck me as I watched transfixed the first days of the Egypt’s Second January Uprising: the struggle of protesters to cross bridges into Tahrir Square. What is already being called the ‘Battle of Kasr el-Nil’ was an epic effort on January 28th by virtually unarmed protesters to drive back the feared Egyptian security forces in their riot gear and armed with clubs, sticks, tear gas and water cannons. The protesters took beating upon beating, but they just kept coming. The security forces kept being driven back, slowly but surely. By the end of the afternoon, they just broke and ran, as the protesters symbolically entered Tahrir Liberation) Square in triumph.

Triage de la pobreza

Traducción del artículo de Steve Peraza:

http://students.stlawu.edu/theweave/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=Poverty-Triage.html&Itemid=32

Imagina que la pobreza en América es un incidente de una cantidad masa de víctimas y que se apuran los funcionarios electos a la escena para realizar el triage. Lo que es inherente es el proceso de catalogar a las víctimas. Algunas tendrán heridos menores, otras tendrán los de consideración, aunque en ambos casos el tratamiento no sería urgente. Otro grupo necesitará ayuda inmediatamente, mientras lucha para sobrevivir. Y un cuarto grupo recibirá una etiqueta negra, significando que el atender con estas personas sería fútil y desacertado.

Me pregunto cuáles personas pobres en América recibirán esa etiqueta.

In Memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

77 “The Drum Major Instinct"

April 4, 1967. New York, N.Y.

This morning I would like to use as a subject from which to preach: "The Drum Major Instinct." "The Drum Major Instinct." And our text for the morning is taken from a very familiar passage in the tenth chapter as recorded by Saint Mark. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of that chapter, we read these words: "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him saying, ‘Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And he said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ And they said unto him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’" And then Jesus goes on toward the end of that passage to say, "But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." 

Debating the Tucson Tragedy

76 As the nation mourns the mass killing in Tucson, the partisan political machines have shamelessly played the blame game. On the frontlines have been journalists, some of whom I admire, others I loathe. But this time around there’s nothing to applaud about what’s being said in the aftermath of the blood bath. It’s all finger-pointing, all platitude, all smoking mirrors. 

Huckleberry Finn and the N-Word

75 Remember when the NAACP issued a moratorium on the word "nigger?" Is it not ironic that their ally in this fray would be a white literary critic from the Deep South? Indeed the NAACP and Dr. Gribben come from two very different positions in this debate, but they reached a similar conclusion: popular culture would be better off without people saying "nigger." I think they're both wrong. Words cannot be buried, NAACP, and Huck Finn cannot be sanitized without undermining the main thrust of the work, Dr. Gribben. Besides, getting rid of the word "nigger" is not going to eradicate racism. It will only add another veil behind which racists will hide.