By Michael Schwartz, New Labor Forum
As the Arab Spring became an Arab Summer, the failure of other uprisings to replicate the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt has raised important questions about these increasingly impressive successes.
With this in mind, I want to scrutinize Egypt carefully, looking for the points of leverage that allowed and impelled the movement to oust Hosni Mubarak in only 18 days of protest with low mortality counts, particularly in light of the much longer and far more lethal and less successful uprisings in other countries.
The outcome in Egypt was in large part a conjunction of several visible, but rarely scrutinized, aspects of the Egyptian political economy:
- Egypt is the poster child of neo-liberal reform in the Middle East Its rapid integration into globalized capitalism since 1990 has made it vulnerable to a savvy mass movement that can exploit the pressure points in current world system.
- Egypt’s recent history produced a legacy of working class militance and organization that provided a tangible foundation for the Tahrir Square movement.
- This combination of political-economic vulnerability and a savvy mass movement created a strategic bind for Egyptian and global capitalism in which abandoning Hosni Mubarak was the least dangerous exit from an intractable crisis.
What is notably absent from this list of key factors is the most visible feature of Egypt’s almost-peaceful regime change. The Egyptian armed forces, unlike their Libyan and Syrian counterparts, decided not to attempt to crush the rebellion; this forbearance may have been a key factor in enabling the protest to succeed.