February 24, 2011

The Green Movement and the class issue


Of the many remarkable things to witness during the recent revolution in Egypt, perhaps what tipped the scales in favor of the opposition was something not entirely visible in Tahrir Square. In addition to Egypt’s youth lashing out at Mubarak for stagnating the economy and stalling opportunities for young people, those with jobs were just as pissed off. Workers and trade unions all across Egypt walked off their jobs to protest the economic inequality prevalent in their society. A raw anger seethed from the workers and was directed at the kleptocrats sitting pretty on top. Indeed, even since Mubarak left, demonstrations among trade unions have continued to put pressure on the army to keep their promise to work toward democracy.

As Kaveh Ehsani, DePaul University Professor of International Studies and contributor to The People Reloaded, notes in the video below, one of the shortcomings of the Green Movement is that poor people have not seen the benefit of putting their lives on the line for the sake of democracy. Thus far, expanded economic opportunity has not been a major plank of their political platform. Ehsani believes that in order for the Green Movement to regain momentum–and perhaps mimic the success of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia–the leaders will need to address the issue of class in a way that it hasn’t thus far. If it does, the hopes of Iranian democrats might well be achieved.

A side note for MobyLives New York readers, there is a panel discussion on the Green Movement to be held at Columbia University this Friday, February 25th. The People Reloaded co-editors Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel will be there along with other contributors, including Hamid Dabashi (Iran, The Green Movement and the USA), Ervand Abrahamian (Iran Between Two Revolutions), and Goldbarg Bashi (Rutgers University). We hope to see you there.