Philip Rizk is a filmmaker and writer. He lives in Cairo. The interview was made by some friends of the classless society in autumn 2014 in Berlin.
On January 25, 2011, in the context of the "Arab Spring", the first of a series of waves of unrest broke out in Cairo. In the course of this unrest, the dictatorial president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was deposed und replaced by a military regime. The latter then ceded power to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the President Mohammed Mursi after they won elections. They, too, were unable to hold on to power for very long: a second wave of unrest led the military to oust him as well. Last Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the beginning of this chain of events with Egypt once again ruled by generals.
In the Spring of 2011 several Friends of the Classless society conducted an interview with Jano Charbel, an Egyptian anarcho-syndicalist who spoke about class composition, Islamists, unions, gender relations and feminism and the prospects of the struggle in Egypt.
Then, in November the Friends of the Classless Society published their own analysis of the events surrounding the "Arab Spring" titled "The Arab Spring in the Autumn of capital". In 2012, a postscript describing what had happened in the meantime was added to this text.
On the occasion of this anniversary, we now publish another interview. This discussion with Philip Rizk, a filmmaker and writer from Cairo, took place in the Fall of last year. In it, he discusses recent developments.
Whereas for a long time western observers mainly viewed Arabs as savages to be reined in, an incredible euphoria has spread ever since Mubarak was toppled: the young student, fighting for freedom and democracy, replaced the image of the hate-filled Islamist. But just for a while; a justifiable fear of chaos has taken over since.
‘The Arab Spring in the autumn of capital’ (from Kosmoprolet #3) was written at the end of November 2011 by ‘Friends of the Classless Society’, based in Berlin. Originally in German and translated into English, the text was then updated at Aufheben’s request with the addition of a postscript that was written at the end of June 2012. This is Aufheben's introduction to that text.
"Considering the fact that there were as many youths in Greece and Spain facing the problem of being condemned to wage labour but not being able to find any as in Tunisia and Egypt, this can hardly be the result of state corruption and ossification, but rather appears to be caused by the historical dynamic of the existing mode of production itself. It appears that the Arab Spring is taking place in the autumn of capital making its outcome all the more unpredictable."
Translation from Article «Schranken proletarischer Emanzipation – Zur Kritik der Gewerkschaften» of Kosmoprolet #3
Everybody who is involved in one of the current labour struggles – who watches them or tries to intervene in them – has to deal with the issue of unions. Whether acting as mediators or supporters, drivers or procrastinators, you meet them almost every time on the scenes of struggles. In workers' consciousness they are still important institutions, whether they are seen as leading the fight or playing some other role. And for those advocating class struggle, the unions have their fixed place: mostly as institutions in which the workers learn how to struggle, and as organisations that may indeed have corrupt leaders, but stand up for worker’s interests. Less frequently one encounters the opinion that unions are agents of capital that inhibit the working class and enchain it again and again.
The Egyptian radical left is facing repeated attacks by an emerging alliance between the country's military rulers and the Islamists seeking power. This is a text by the Egyptian Libertarian Socialist Movement dealing with this situation.
It's about time! For weeks, several internet sites, and facebook pages that belong to the Muslims Brotherhood, either officially or administered by its members, launched an attack against Anarchists and Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt trying to single them out as inciters of violence and propagandists of State demolition. Today a member of the Brotherhood filed a lawsuit against three socialists one of them is comrade Yaser Abdel Kawy a well known anarchist and a member of the Egyptian Libertarian Socialists Movement. The general attorney forwarded the lawsuit to the State Security GA, an exceptional apparatus of the legal system that works only under the state of emergency.
Translation of the editorial of Kosmoprolet #3
All over the world, events are keeping up with the pace of a crisis, the end of which was just recently cheerfully proclaimed by people who thought ludicrous amounts of sovereign debt to be the recipe for an economic miracle. By racking up debt to their ears, governments worldwide were able to contain the so-called financial crisis; but then, the rating agencies presented them a bill that they promptly passed on to wage workers. The whole maneuver did not lead to recovery but to an even more menacing state budget crisis, the handling of which through uncompromising austerity measures has aroused anger. Resistance is mounting. We are at the threshold of a social crisis. Those who feel the effects of the governments’ austerity programs in their everyday life are starting to realize ever more clearly that these are not temporarily painful, yet necessary sacrifices. They are becoming aware of the fact that the drastic cuts will not only last for years or even decades, but that their own future is becoming ever bleaker. We are probably at the start of a new era: Ever since society was brought back down to the earth of cold hard economic facts, the culturalist carnival of differences has come to an end. Society’s colorful superstructure has scaled off to reveal, in Orthodox Marxist terms, the drab, universal base. And the crisis has achieved what activists striving to link struggles have been incapable of for decades: millions have taken to the streets simultaneously with the same purpose. All they're left with is an ever more precarious survival under the reigning conditions. For them, it's all or nothing.
Interview with Jano Charbel, a labor journalist and anarcho-syndicalist from Cairo about class composition, Islamists, unions, gender relations and feminism and the prospects of the struggle in Egypt. The interview was conducted by two friends of the classless society in Cairo in Spring 2011.
The following theses, written by a circle in Berlin, Friends of the Classless Society, were originally published in German in the journal Kosmoprolet (No. 1, 2007). In the editorial, the authors write: “In the ’28 Theses on Class Society’, we outline the historical changes that the concepts of proletariat, class struggle, and revolution have undergone, while still retaining their validity. Just as we borrow the notion of the “classless class society” from Adorno, one finds in the theses a few things that, without attribution in every single case, have been plundered without fanfare from the texts of the critical communist tradition. One serious deficiency surely consists in the fact that we tiptoe around the concept of crisis, a problem particularly noticeable in our attempt to summarize the contemporary changes in class relations. The theses merely constitute the provisional state of our discussion process. We publish them in the hope of entering into debate with others who are struggling with similar problems.”