World History Unfolding – What Next?

EDITORIAL, 14 Feb 2011

#151 | Johan Galtung, 14 Feb 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

And then it happened: Mubarak out.  Enormous cheers in Tahrir square; Egypt is Free! A historical deed, triggered by Tunisia, carried by a million heroes.  Leaderless of course, as a strategy; leaders can easily be targeted.  Everybody rallied around one idea, the ouster of Mubarak–like of Ben Ali in Tunisia.  End of Act I.

Enters the High Council of the Armed Forces; with or without a notorious vice-president.  Start of Act II; of many in this drama.

What has happened surprises nobody familiar with the enormous strength of nonviolence.  A nonviolent mass of citizens can remove a head of state if they are numerous enough and tenacious enough, persevering for days, weeks, months.  There may be an intermediate stage with the head of state, the symbol, even if only a figurehead, sacrificing some underlings, throwing them to the masses.  But they want the real thing; that symbol of evil, the head, not the body.  Whereupon some underlings, or the USA, sacrifice the head of state, a “goner”, hoping it will satisfy the appetites of the revolution.

What happens then, meaning now, may show the weakness of this type of nonviolence–as opposed to the gandhian original.  Gandhi did not argue the ouster of a viceroy, but the end of colonialism; swaraj, self-rule, and he got that.  But he also argued sarvodaya, the uplift of the poor and casteless, and was betrayed.  So was Nepal.  So were the huge masses in Western Europe demonstrating against nuclear arms; they are still there, deployed.  So were the heroic demonstrators in Leipzig in DDR October 1989; they wanted a democratic DDR, not absorption into capitalist Germany.  So did the protesters against Milosevic who, like Honecker, was ousted; they did not want an anti-Titoist chetnik take-over.  The nonviolent “color” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were so obviously made in USA that they turned out to be caricatures of popular revolts.

But even when genuine, states do not gladly share power with people revolting.  And states have a handful of tricks up their sleeves after some initial sharing, committees, even agreements.

If parliamentary, states can use legislative power to put the issue to a vote in a parliament based on national multi-party fair and free elections–easily manipulated by the media.  Only rarely will a majority in parliament yield to a majority in the streets.  If they are real democracies, not only parliamentary systems, states may even call a referendum, mobilizing the non-revolting masses.

But, if those demands from streets and squares do not obtain parliamentary, nor democratic, legitimacy, are they not dead?  Not if the nonviolent movement becomes better at conveying their message to the not converted, reaching far beyond streets and squares.

Then states can use the judicial power, placing the issues for the Supreme Court, having the demands declared unconstitutional.

And they can use the executive power, the whole state machinery to sabotage demands by simply not carrying them out.  And, in the darker recesses of the executive power, the covert police, the overt police, and the military, are lurking.  In Egypt the military are now holding all power.  A constitutional coup?  But military rule, not democratic, may also be with the people and for the people, if not of them.  Let us be frank: a dictatorship should also be judged by what it dictates; and a democracy by what the people decide, like voting for US parties with interventions, wars on their hands.  Know the tree by its fruits.  Give them a chance, the youth will watch.

But still deeper down two states want a final say. Israel, caring only for itself, not for the Egyptian people, does anything to keep the Camp David treason of the Palestinian people intact.  USA, helped by Obama rhetoric, may do anything against “islamism”. The military council has acquiesced, they will “honor treaties”.

To struggle against this five-headed troll is nothing easy.  Goals beyond the ouster of a symbol of evil must be formulated in non-controversial universal language. The Human Rights Covenants (16-12-66) provide that language as a platform; with examples like:

Civil-political rights Economic-social-cultural rights

1. rule of law                                       1. right to work

2. freedom of movement,             2. sufficient wages for a internally and externally decent living

3. right to own property               3. right to rest, leisure

4. freedom of thought                    4. guaranteed food, clothing, housing

5. freedom of expression              5. guaranteed health care

6. freedom of assembly                 6. guaranteed education at all levels

7. right to take part in                    7. right to take part in government culture

They were demonstrating for both, even if the rhetoric was more for freedom than for basic needs.  The movement should stay firmly on both, well knowing that immediate steps can ensure the civil-political rights (stop torture, lift censorship, free and fair elections) whereas slower processes are needed for economic and social rights (create employment).  But a stand for all human rights would be an unbeatable platform, enjoying worldwide at least verbal consensus and remove any suspicion that the revolt is by and for the educated middle classes only.  Both-And.

What remains are those two states pulling strings of threats and bribery.  Human rights stop at the borders.  What is the next goal, in non-controversial, universal language? Sovereignty, like end of colonialism. Are free elections in a puppet country Tahrir= Liberation?  For a country aspiring to reemerge as an Arab leader?

Sooner or later the Camp David accords and the joint blockade of Gaza–outcomes of autocracy and bribery–will be on the table.  Sooner or later the youth wave will hit more dominos; PLO, Syria, Iran, and the Big One–the Saudi Royal House.  Maybe even that other Big One–Israel–liberating it from narcissism, paranoia, and generalocracy, to positive judaism.  Maybe one day even the Biggest One–the USA–making it less corporate, more democratic.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Feb 2011.

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9 Responses to “World History Unfolding – What Next?”

  1. It was taught that I was not powerless for civic power.

  2. Dan Horgan says:

    Inspiration in the land of pharaohs…
    Across many oceans, throwing open doors, the people of Egypt, proclaiming their lands not to be forever moors…
    Like flashes of light strewn across the world, change is a coming, for Egyptian boys and girls…
    And then a voice said, “What will be next?”, are the leaders of Tunisia and Cairo the only perplexed?
    On high alert, and making Obama a mouse, also watching and scared: Jordan, Yemen, the PLO, and the almighty, Saudi Royal House…
    Victory of course is never too clear, but to some basic truths we must to adhere:
    After everything and all, a dictatorship will be judged by exactly ‘what it has dictated’, before its great fall.
    In the same light, and a lesson the people should know, ‘it is how and what they decide’, which might make embers of true freedom glow…
    But today is a day where popular forces have momentum, and it comes from the people that are colors of every spectrum!
    For we must also know, we as humanity are united, and only upon this realization can true victory be sited!

  3. Dan Horgan says:

    Thanks for the many articles Mr. Galtun. You were also my teacher at EPU.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joel Picard, RLA Foundation. RLA Foundation said: Tunisia, Egypt… read what peace scientist Johan Galtung (RLA 1987) thinks about revolution and the development… […]

  5. Akifumi Fujita says:

    I stayed in Cairo for three weeks in May 1979.Then Egypt was under Sadat regime.This was my first visit abroad and the impression I had from a kind of caos created by people in the streets is still vivid in my memory even today.Yes,world history unfolding in this region at present.But of course what is happening in islamic world now has something to do with the rest of the world to a certain extent according to the history of a particular area.What about East Asia? For example, what about Japan? People in Japan experienced emancipation from a kind of dictatorship in 2009. The government of the Liberal Democratic Party collapsed after 54 years of exclusive rule, and the government of the Democratic Party was established instead. It was in a way a revolution by a vote in a parliament based on “national multi-party fair and free elections.” And of course it was manipulated by the media.And recently it has become very clear that the vote was after all for more US intervention especially in militarism. What we in Japan are facing now is that internationally a democratic country is subjugated by another democratic country and domestically economic inequality is expanding. Yes, we need Sovereignty and Equity. Both-And! But will we have to wait the US empire to fall? I hope not.

  6. sharade says:

    we don’t have to wait for the Amreican Empire to fall
    Akifurmi,waht happened in Egypt is some thing to learn from,not only for the middeleast area, but to all people who is living under a corrupted leaderships where there loyalty is for a foreigner power, and not for the interest of it is own people and there own culture, may the wind of freedom arrive to your country and every country. the fall of the most savage impire in the history of mankind has already started to fall.

  7. Akifumi Fujita says:

    Thank you,sharade,for helping me acknowledge what is happening in the Middle East.The US Empire has started to fall! Not automatically of course, but by the people’s power pushing the process. I think the most important point is that it is just what the world history is unfolding as Professor Galtung precisely points out here.This is exactly what human experience is about in changing the present situation into the world more humane to live in.

  8. […] article was first published on Transcend Media Service. We are proud to enter into this partnership with Transcend and can promise our readers a wide […]