I agree with most of what Chris writes, but my perspective goes further.
To me, one of the things that is so striking about the current situation in Egypt is the contrast between the radicalism of the acts and methods of struggle of the protesters and the narrowness of their vision: aside from general calls for freedom, the protesters are mainly concerned to get rid of Mubarak and his family. As a result, a major part of what we, and other conscious anarchists, need to do is to broaden and deepen the people’s vision. My overall strategic conception is similar to Leon Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, except that whereas Marxism’s ultimate goal, the establishment of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (in fact, to be exercised by a Marxist party), represents a narrowing of democracy (explicitly, the exclusion of middle-class and other “non-proletarian” elements; implicitly, the exclusion of the workers themselves), my conception represents a continual broadening and deepening of democracy.
To put it differently, I would say that the mass movement in Egypt is anarchistic in its methods of organization and struggle, e.g., in its horizontal nature and lack of defined leaders and rigid organizational structures. But it needs to become anarchist in consciousness; it needs to see its ultimate goal as the overthrow of the entire political, social, and economic system in Egypt and its replacement by a truly open, democratic, cooperative, and egalitarian society controlled directly by the people.
As a result, we need to radicalize people’s vision. While the immediate goal is to get rid of Mubarak, his family and stooges, and to win democratic freedoms, we should stress that the movement should not limit itself to these goals. It needs to broaden and deepen itself, to reach out to the rural population and to other sectors not currently involved in the struggle. To the degree it can, the movement also needs to seize control of the means of communication (the “hard” apparatus of cellphone connections and the internet) and transportation, to occupy factories and other workplaces, to set up neighborhood committees and militias to protect their communities (this is already happening), to seize the headquarters of government agencies, particularly the apparatus of oppression and control, the Interior Ministry, the headquarters of the army and the police, and begin to dismantle these structures. The movement should also raise explicit demands that address the concrete needs of the people, for jobs, affordable housing, and education for all. Above all, it needs to start setting up a network of popular councils that can provide the means through the Egyptian people can control their revolution and whatever social conquests they manage to achieve. This broadening and deepening is definitely possible; the demonstrations have already eliminated the police as an effective force while going some way toward neutralizing the army, if not yet winning the soldiers over to actively opposing the regime. Protesters have already tried to storm the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior (in charge of the brutal and vicious police and the domestic surveillance apparatus), although I do not know the outcome of the attempt. The protesters have also begun to set up neighborhood militias to protect their communities.
We should also emphasize that the movement should see itself as the cutting edge of a multi-national, pan-Arab and pan-Middle East (including Iran and Turkey) revolution. Get rid of all the cynical, brutal, and corrupt governments—monarchies and so-called republics alike—that pretend to defend the people’s interests but actually sell them out to the goals and interests of US imperialism and their local stooges! The people need to recognize that the United States is not their friend or ally but their enemy, the chief prop of the regimes that have oppressed them for so long and the chief backer of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. While, at the moment, most of the protesters are demanding that the United States support them in getting rid of Mubarak and seem genuinely puzzled that President Obama has not come down on their side, there are elements of the population who are more politically astute. Today, I heard an Egyptian man being interviewed on CNN who stated that the United States and the European countries support Mubarak 100% because they are afraid of a revolution that will not stop until it has destroyed Israel and ended the imperialist occupation of Palestine. We should be in solidarity with and support people like him.
Finally, we should warn the protesters that this broadening and deepening will be necessary even to win and secure its more limited demands. The US ruling class does not trust the Egyptian people (and the Arab peoples, in general), and certainly not Arab people in the process of carrying out a revolution. It really believes that the only viable alternatives in North Africa and the Middle East are pro-US Mubarak-style regimes or radical anti-US Islamic theocracies. The US’s hegemony over the region, particularly its access to oil, its control over the Suez Canal and its support of Israel, as the major instrument of this hegemony, is more important to it than the democratic rights, or even the lives, of Egyptians. As a result, the United States will continue to support Mubarak until it is no longer politically feasible to do so. And if it turns out that Mubarak is ousted, the US government will do its utmost to ensure the eventual re-establishment of a Mubarak-style government (that is, a government ruled by a strongman and backed by the military—though slightly more formally democratic and less violent and corrupt than Mubarak’s—without Mubarak himself. The only way to prevent the return of that type of regime is to make the current Egyptian revolution as radical as possible; the people need to seize and hold on to as much direct popular power as they can.
Reprinted with permission from The Utopian website, http://www.utopianmag.com