Praveen A on Sat, 26 Feb 2011 10:45:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Arabs are democracy's new pioneers

I would like to highlight this part:

"The prevalence in the revolts of social network tools, such as
Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are symptoms, not causes, of this
structure. These are the modes of expression of an intelligent
population capable of organising autonomously."

The Arabs are democracy's new pioneers

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

The leaderless Middle East uprisings can inspire freedom movements as
Latin America did before.

One challenge facing observers of the uprisings spreading across north
Africa and the Middle East is to read them as not so many repetitions
of the past but as original experiments that open new political
possibilities, relevant well beyond the region, for freedom and

Indeed, our hope is that through this cycle of struggles the Arab
world becomes for the next decade what Latin America was for the last
â that is, a laboratory of political experimentation between powerful
social movements and progressive governments from Argentina to
Venezuela, and from Brazil to Bolivia.

Sparked by unemployment

These revolts have immediately performed a kind of ideological
houseâcleaning, sweeping away the racist conceptions of a clash of
civilisations that consign Arab politics to the past. The multitudes
in Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi shatter the political stereotypes that
Arabs are constrained to the choice between secular dictatorships and
fanatical theocracies, or that Muslims are somehow incapable of
freedom and democracy. Even calling these struggles ârevolutionsâ
seems to mislead commentators who assume the progression of events
must obey the logic of 1789 or 1917, or some other past European

These Arab revolts ignited around the issue of unemployment, and at
their centre have been highly educated youth with frustrated ambitions
â a population that has much in common with protesting students in
London and Rome. Although the primary demand throughout the Arab world
focusses on the end to tyranny and authoritarian governments, behind
this single cry stands a series of social demands not only to end
dependency and poverty but to give power and autonomy to an
intelligent, highly capable population. That Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
and Hosni Mubarak or Muammar Qadhafi leave power is only the first

The organisation of the revolts resembles what we have seen for more
than a decade from Seattle to Buenos Aires and Genoa and Cochabamba,
Bolivia: a horizontal network that has no single, central leader.

Traditional opposition bodies can participate in this network but
cannot direct it. Outside observers have tried to designate a leader
for the Egyptian revolts since their inception: maybe it's Mohamed
ElBaradei, maybe Google's head of marketing, Wael Ghonim. They fear
that the Muslim Brotherhood or some other body will take control of
events. What they don't understand is that the multitude is able to
organise itself without a centre â that the imposition of a leader or
being co-opted by a traditional organisation would undermine its

The prevalence in the revolts of social network tools, such as
Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, are symptoms, not causes, of this
structure. These are the modes of expression of an intelligent
population capable of organising autonomously.

Although these movements refuse central leadership, they must
nonetheless consolidate their demands to link the most active segments
of the rebellion to the needs of the population at large. The
insurrections of Arab youth are certainly not aimed at a traditional
liberal constitution that merely guarantees a regular electoral
dynamic, but rather at a form of democracy adequate to the new forms
of expression and needs of the multitude. This must include, firstly,
constitutional recognition of the freedom of expression.

The hope

And given that these uprisings were sparked by not only unemployment
and poverty but also by frustrated productive and expressive
capacities, especially among young people, a radical constitutional
response must invent a common plan to manage natural resources and
social production. This is a threshold through which neo-liberalism
cannot pass and capitalism is put to question. And Islamic rule is
completely inadequate to meet these needs. Here insurrection touches
on not only the equilibriums of north Africa and the Middle East but
also the global system of economic governance.

Hence our hope for the Arab world to become like Latin America, to
inspire political movements and raise aspirations for freedom and
democracy beyond the region.

Each revolt, of course, may fail: tyrants may unleash bloody
repression; military juntas may try to remain in power; traditional
opposition groups may attempt to hijack movements; and religious
hierarchies may jockey to take control. But what will not die are the
political demands and desires that have been unleashed, the
expressions of an intelligent young generation for a different life in
which they can put their capacities to use.

As long as those demands and desires live, the cycle of struggles will
continue. The question is what these new experiments in freedom and
democracy will teach the world over the next decade. ( Michael Hardt
and Antonio Negri are co-authors of the trilogy Empire, Multitude and

â Â Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

àààààààâ ààààààààààààààààààâ
You have to keep reminding your government that you don't get your
rights from them; you give them permission to rule, only so long as
they follow the rules: laws and constitution.

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