UPDATE: This piece was posted on Socialist Worker.
It’s so outrageous, and yet so familiar.
Our friends and comrades in Egypt have taken a heroic stand in the past week demanding that the Egyptian military dictatorship (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or SCAF) step down and make way for a new civilian government to take power. In the course of this new stage in the Egyptian revolution, 32 have already been murdered and 1,750 have been injured by the US-backed dictatorship.
In a statement issued yesterday by the hacks at the US State Department, the Obama administration urged the Egyptian military dictatorship “to exercise maximum restraint” and “remain committed to nonviolence” in order to “protect the universal rights of all Egyptians.” Meanwhile, not only does the Obama administration stand by silently while police departments across the US brutalize peaceful demonstrators, but perhaps even more ludicrously, the US military just awarded $395 million to a weapons manufacturer to build 125 new tanks for the Egyptian military dictatorship. Talk about a classic example of saying one thing and doing another!
This particular contract is a part of an estimated $1.3 billion tank-package for the Egyptian military, that began being discussed last July. The US military has long been the primary military ally of the Egyptian military, and recently announced that they still view the Egyptian military dictatorship as “an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.”
This massive contract was awarded to a division of General Dynamics, the fifth largest military contractor in the world, that is based just 11 miles outside the city of Detroit. $789,000,000 has been awarded to just this division of General Dynamics alone by the US military since 2007.
Detroit is the most impoverished major city in the United States, with a 36% poverty level and an almost 50% real unemployment rate. Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing just announced the other day that he was laying off 1000 public workers and making deep cuts to city services in an attempt to balance out the city’s budget on the backs of workers and the poor.
While Detroit’s relentless crisis deepens, seeming almost hopeless to resolve, the potential for a solution lays just outside its borders. Instead of spending $395 million on tanks to prop up a brutal military dictatorship violently repressing its own population, it could be used instead to give almost 22,000 Detroiters a full-time job with a living wage (perhaps jobs building the clean energy infrastructure that Detroit needs to get rid of the toxic industry that plagues the city). Instead of privatizing Detroit Public Schools and laying off hundreds of qualified, capable teachers, the money could be used to rebuild Detroit’s imploding school district. Or it could be used to weatherize and secure people’s homes for the winter, preventing the unnecessary deaths of dozens in the city.
This is just one stark and relevant example of the waste that capitalism and imperialism produces. While millions live in poverty across the country, scrounging for work, often working two or three jobs at 60-hours a week just to scrape by, or finding alternatives in an often dangerous underground economy, our system privileges the interests of corporate profit and imperial dominance.
If the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring have taught us anything it is that the power in collective struggle has enormous potential. For decades media pundits and “experts” said that Egypt would forever remain in a dictatorship and that a revolution was impossible. “Experts” here in the US said the same thing. Thomas Friedman called young people in the US today the “Quiet Generation” or “Generation Q.”
Egypt, Occupy and the global revolt spanning from Athens, to Bogota, to London and beyond have shown that, despite what the “experts” may say, repression and inequality breed resistance. We have the power to force a massive change in the way this society is organized and what it prioritizes. We have the power to change our society from one that is more concerned with military dominance and private profits, to one that plans democratically how we utilize the enormous resources we produce as a society, and serves and benefits everyone equitably. Harnessing that power lies in escalating and deepening our collective action and militancy, and building solidarity between the emerging global struggles.