Egypt - St Pauli - Realism and art
Not over in Egypt
Phil Marfleet (Feature, Socialist Review June 2011) is right that the Egyptian revolution is continuing to deepen but that the counter revolution is also organising.
On a recent trip to Cairo, the pride of ordinary Egyptians in their revolution was obvious. Everywhere I went smiling people welcomed me and asked how I liked being in "free Egypt". I liked it a lot.
Deposing Mubarak is only the start of addressing the problems of the Egyptian poor.
Yet some are declaring the revolution "over". Egypt's ruling National Military Council (NMC) is deeply integrated within the bourgeois ruling order and is an economic player in its own right. It's doing its best to bring about a "soft landing"' for the revolution to preserve its own interests. The NMC has declared that there will be "no change" to the economy - a situation which suits the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood - and to this end has tried to reassert its weakened authority.
The conservatives' greatest victory over the revolution to date is getting overwhelming approval for the new constitutional framework in the referendum on 19 April. The elections in September will be carried out via a confusing system designed to exclude workers' organisations.
Conservative forces are hard at work undermining the mass movements that won the revolution in March. Strikes are attacked in the media as "bad for the economy". The mainstream are talking about the need to get Egypt "back to work" and workers are asked to work on rest days "for Egypt". There is also evidence that the state is deliberately stoking sectarian tensions between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority to undermine the mass unity of the streets.
These are all worrying signs.
Yet the Egyptian masses are a risen people and retain the confidence their victories have given them. Popular anger has forced the NMC to put Mubarak, his wife and his sons on trial for corruption. It has forced the NMC to open the Rafah border with Gaza. It has forced the NMC to stop the sale of cheap Egyptian gas to Israel formerly supplied at a cheaper price than Egyptians had to pay!
The workers of Egypt are using their new freedoms to create new unions and workers' organisations such as the Democratic Workers Party. The wave of strikes that heralded the last days of Mubarak persist. In addition the popular Committees for the Defence of the Revolution endure.
Recent times have seen the potential of great revolutions squandered under the leadership of social forces who have declared them finished as soon as superficial changes have been achieved, changes which fell far short of what could have been. The Philippine revolution of 1989 which deposed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos or the Serbian revolution of 2000 which toppled Slobodan Milosevic are examples of revolutions whose potential was dissipated. That is a danger that now faces the Egyptian revolution.
The Egyptian revolution can go forward to end mass poverty in the region. It can build a just society and reshape the Middle East, North Africa and far beyond. It can act as a beacon for millions who are looking for an alternative to the way we live now.
But to do that it must go through those forces who want to declare the revolution "over".
St Pauli relegated!
After reading Marin Smith's account of the left wing German football club St Pauli (Culture, Socialist Review June 2011)), I was eager to hear of a happy ending. Unfortunately none occurred. St Pauli finished bottom of the Bundesliga with the worst defensive record in the division. Their last home game ended in an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich.
A club with their level of commitment to the working class and oppressed deserves some good fortune.
Another serious contender for Europe's most left wing football club must surely be Barcelona. Barca is still a stronghold of left wing, anti-fascist and Catalan separatist sentiment, and they were long persecuted for this by the fascist Franco. Barcelona also has a degree of fan involvement in running the club - and they really can play football!
The wonderful picture of Ruby Loftus working on a lathe during the Second World War could not be described as being like Russian socialist realist art or Nazi art (Exhibition review, Socialist Review June 2011)). Although realistic - I can almost smell the cutting fluid - Ruby is presented as an independent person in control, not just of a machine, but increasingly of her life. She is not just an individual but is joined by the women in the background set almost like a film strip which celebrates all this dramatic change in women's lives.
She is not shown as a heroine producing for a manager's targets - or worse, producing children. Socialist realist art reflected the need of dictatorships to enforce total control.
Clearly the artist Laura Knight was strongly influenced by the strength of these women and this painting although totally realistic is a wonderful celebration of our class and the women within it who conquered this man's world.