On February 3, New York Times writers, Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, headlined, “White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit,” saying:
His administration is “discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for (Mubarak) to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military,” including Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, armed forces chief, and Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, defense minister.
The alleged plan includes constitutional reform, a transitional government with opposition groups like the Muslim brotherhood, and “free and fair elections in September.”
Testifying during a February 3 Senate hearing, senior CIA official, Stephanie O’Sullivan, said earlier tracking of Cairo instability showed conditions were “untenable,” but “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be.”
On February 4, Times writer, David Kirkpatrick, headlined, “Egyptian Government Figures Join Protesters,” saying:
During Friday protests, “(c)racks in the Egyptian establishment’s support for (Mubarak)” emerged with Amr Moussa, Arab League head, and other notable figures appearing on Cairo streets, including defense minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the first member of Egypt’s ruling elite to do so.
Non-Negotiable People Demands
Obama’s proposal is absurd, an insult to courageous people risking their lives for real change, not replacing one despot with another with the same regime in place. They demand ouster of all Mubarak officials, followed by free and fair elections for new ones they choose. Getting it is another matter, and Obama losing faith in Murabark masks his uncompromising support for continuity.
The New York Times as well in its disingenuous February 3 editorial headlined, “Egypt’s Agonies,” saying:
Attacking protesters and targeting journalists are “familiar tactics of dictators who want to brutalize their citizens without witnesses.” Mubarak telling “ABC News that the government is not responsible – is patently absurd. (He’s) chosen survival over his people. He told ABC that he had to stay in office to avoid chaos. In fact, his presence ensures only more chaos and instability.”
Then, cutting to the chase, The Times said, “The cost of the turmoil is being felt. Tourists are fleeing. The economy is paralyzed. Egypt and its people need a quick transition….”
In other words, profits, not social democracy matter. It’s been uncompromising Times policy for decades, including support for legions of US-allied despots, Mubarak a longtime favorite before falling from grace.
Workers suffer painfully from neoliberal harshness, often hardened by IMF diktats, including mass privatizations, layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, and public debt service over people needs, causing massive impoverishment and human suffering. Replacing one regime with another with this agenda leaves deep-rooted misery unaddressed. Examples are numerous, including Corazon Aquino replacing Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in February 1986.
Despite two decades of loyalty, Marcos turned liability and had to go. Aquino was ideal to replace him. Wife of assassinated political opponent, Benigno Aquino, and endorsed by conservative Cardinal Jaime Sin, she represented elitist interests with generous National Endowment for Democracy funding.
Her legacy includes subservience to Washington, human rights violations, corruption, and the worst of neoliberal harshness – business-friendly policies at the expense of popular needs she ignored, as did her successors to this day, including a decade under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from January 2001 – June 2010.
She ran a death squad regime, targeting unionists, human rights activists, peasants, and anyone against state policies. Yet Washington strongly supported her like Mubarak, practicing the same agenda for three decades until falling out of favor.
South Africa Under Nelson Mandela
In 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) gained power under Mandela after generations of brutality and decades of apartheid harshness, the worst form of racism. From 1948 – 1993, pass laws segregated blacks from whites, restricted their movements, required pass books be carried at all times, and produced on demand or face arrest and prosecution. Evolving from the 18th and 19th century until their 1986 repeal, they restricted entry to cities, forcibly relocated blacks, denied them most public services, many forms of employment, and became apartheid’s most hated symbol.
An anti-apartheid activist, Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for life, served 27 years until released on February 11,1990, days after President FW de Klerk ended the official ban against anti-apartheid organizations, including the ANC.
Addressing the nation, Mandela said:
I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am therefore in full agreement with all of its (social justice) objectives, strategies and tactics.
There must be an end to white monopoly political power and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratized.
He quoted his own 1964 words saying he was prepared to die for “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” As president, he reneged, surrendering totally to finance capital, though not at first rhetorically.
On May 10, 1994, two weeks after taking office, he addressed parliament, endorsing ANC Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) socioeconomic issues, including, democracy, growth, development, reconstruction, redistribution and reconciliation. Specific concerns were housing, health care, land reform, jobs, education, public works, clean water, and electrification.
He called the RDP the “centerpiece of what this Government will seek to achieve, the focal point on which our attention be be continuously focused.”
Five years later in his last parliamentary speech, he ignored RDP mandates after abandoning them in principle.
During his tenure, he shifted from RDP to GEAR – Growth Employment and Redistribution Program – based on neoliberal free market diktats. It reflected IMF harshness, serving capital not popular needs.
State assets were privatized. Mass layoffs followed. Services were commodified, harmfully raising prices for millions. Markets were opened for trade. Taxes for corporations and the rich were cut, and social spending reduced. Bottom-line priorities trumped other issues. Record profits followed. Accessing health care, education and other essential services required “user fees.” Few could afford them.
Wealth distribution benefitted rich whites at the expense of poor Blacks, worse off than ever, their average income declining 19% from 1995 – 2000, while whites rose 15%.
ANC-run South Africa empowered elite Blacks, enriched white capital more than ever, and created far greater inequality, poverty and depravation than under apartheid, reflecting neoliberal betrayal, exploiting the poor for the rich.
Free market shock therapy devastated them, lowering, not raising, living standards, Poland one of its victims. In the 1980s, Solidarnosc (Solidarity) unionized 10 million members, gaining the right to bargain and aspire to transform state-controlled companies into worker-run cooperatives. Instead, mines, shipyards and factories were privatized, subsidies slashed, and price controls lifted, skyrocketing unemployment, poverty, depression, and overall worse times than before.
On January 18, Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers headlined their article, “The Spectre Haunting Europe: Debt Defaults, Austerity, and Death of the ‘Social Europe’ Model,” saying:
(D)ecades of neoliberalism….crashed the US and several European economies. Years of deregulation, speculation and lack of investment in the real economy left them with rising inequality and little consumer demand, except for what was financed by running up debt.
In an earlier April 2010 interview, Hudson explained that suffering economies “from Greece to the Baltics and Iceland (were) directed to pay the financial sector first – international bankers, creditor-nation governments (like America, Britain, France and others), the IMF, World Bank, and financial institutions – before (spending) on sustaining their own employment and economic growth.”
In other words, depriving their people for finance capital as well as balancing their budgets on their backs. IMF diktats shrink economies. As a result, enormous hardships throughout Eastern Europe were created, targeted nations having no choice but go along.
It’s a “financial war against industry, against labor, against the post-Soviet economies, against the Third World….(It’s) a war against government, against public spending. Its solution to unpayable debts is to demand that governments sell off whatever assets remain in the public domain. (It’s) the most naked property grab since the Viking invasions.”
It’s opposite of what responsible governments should do, putting popular interests ahead of predatory foreign lenders. It’s redistributing wealth equitably and fulfilling a social contract. It’s growing their economies, not shrinking them.
Forced to go along under threat of economic and political reprisals, no wonder people yearn for the “good old Soviet days” with jobs and basic needs met. Today they’re cursed with neoliberal hardships, proving commissars were friendlier than bankers.
Economic Hit Men Enforcers
In his book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” John Perkins discussed his own work with the IMF, World Bank and other global financial institutions, saying his job was to convince countries to accept unaffordable loans for infrastructure development, contracted to US corporations.
He defined economic hit men as:
highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, (USAID, the IMF), and other foreign ‘aid organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.
His mandate was to impoverish and bankrupt countries, trapping them in debt bondage, those refusing facing economic, political or other reprisals.
Starving Third World Economies
In her February 3 article titled, “The Egyptian Tinderbox: How Banks and Investors Are Starving the Third World,” Ellen Brown explained:
that roughly 40 percent of Egyptians struggle (with incomes) of under $2 per day,” facing unsustainable annual 17% annual food price inflation. As a result, “as much as 60 to 80 percent of (their) incomes go for food, compared to just 10 to 20 percent in industrial countries.
Credit, not Fed policy, is at fault, hiking prices “by too much money chasing too few goods, but the money is chasing only certain selected goods” like food and fuel.
Speculation and market manipulation also hammer economies unwilling to deregulate and allow free capital flows. Methods include hot money created real estate, stock and other asset bubbles as well as currency attacks, causing destructive devaluations, debt bondage and impoverishment.
A Final Comment
Independent new leaders face enormous challenges, including destructive reprisals for defying Western diktats. As a result, most accede, accepting neoliberal harshness over public needs, no matter their popular mandate or desire. That’s Egypt’s dilemma whatever new regime emerges. If Mandela failed South Africans, how will new Egyptian leadership fulfill campaign pledges if doing so means economic disaster, political isolation or worse.
As a result, expect new faces continuing old policies, letting everything look changed but be the same, including deep-rooted needs. That spark ignited Tunisia and spread regionally, assuring Mubarak’s regime ends, leaving his policies in place unless heroic new figures defy risks, no matter potential consequences.