Class politics needed to build the Occupy movement

The new Occupy Everywhere global movement is a magnificent example of the creativity and energy of the movement against capitalism. The slogan ‘We are the 99%’ captures the inclusive spirit of a movement that is drawing to itself all those who want to see a better world.

The success of this movement lies in its ability to ‘join the dots’ of struggle. Everyone feels their issue is addressed and has a space to be heard. We need to continue to attract people into the movement.

The unions and the movement

A crucial debate surrounds how to relate to the trade unions and whether union banners and flags should be excluded from protests.

The anger at the passivity and collaboration of the trade union leaders in implementing the EU-IMF deal is understandable but refusing to make links with trade unionists is a mistake. You have to distinguish between the trade union leaders – full time officials, and ordinary union members.

Many trade unionists are as angry and frustrated at the union leadership as the Occupy protestors. Banning union banners simply plays into the hands of the trade union leaders. They are happy to keep the union movement passive.

The way to force unions to act is to appeal to their membership to join the occupy protests. The union bureaucracy will hate nothing more than to see branch union banners on the protests.

We need the power of organised labour to defeat the government. The general strikes in Greece this month shows the power of organised workers. By withdrawing their labour workers can bring capitalism to its knees.

Many young protestors have never seen a large strike by workers, never mind a general strike. It is no surprise then that they do not automatically look to the power of workers organised in trade unions. It is up to other activists, and leftwing political parties, to bring the experience of previous class struggles and point to examples like the strikes in Greece to show where our power lies.

In the US the occupiers have made vibrant links with the trade union movement. Trade unions played a crucial role in stopping an effort to evict OWS. Unions called on workers to stop by Liberty Plaza on the way into work to show their support. Thousands answered the call, leaving the cops and city authorities powerless to remove the occupiers. Bloomberg had to lamely announce that “cleaning” the square would be “postponed”.

Noam Chomsky speaking at a Rebellious Media Conference held in London commented on the occupiers’ tactics. One source of inspiration were the US sit-down strikes of the 1930s, Chomsky said, “Take the sit-down strikes, they had a huge effect. They terrified owners and management, and there’s a very good reason for that. A sit-down strike is just one step before taking over the factory, kicking out the bosses and the managers and saying, ‘We’ll run it ourselves’.”

Chomsky said of the Arab Spring “The main successes are Tunisia and Egypt, where there have been major labour struggles for years which have finally broken through. It’s when the labour movement began to seriously participate that the gains of these movements really became noticeable. That ought to be known if the occupy movements, spectacular as they are, are going to have real success.”

Class politics brings clarity not division

Some fear attempts to co-opt the movement by political parties – like the Democrats in the US, who are trying to co-opt the Occupy movement like they did the anti-war movement. Others argue that raising politics at all divides the movement into ‘left’ and ‘right’ and that we should simply talk about a ‘peoples movement’.

Calling for ‘No politics’ is understandable in a country where all political parties implement the same EU-IMF policies no matter what they promise before they get elected. FG-Labour is the same as FF-Greens and Sinn Fein are implementing the same austerity policies in the North.

But ‘No politics’ glosses over the political differences that already exist in the movement – whether they are articulated openly or not. ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ simply means those who are for or against capitalism. The more ‘left’ you are the more anti-capitalist.

The 1% who own the wealth also own the main media outlets. They use this influence to shape the political debates in the country. This influence also extends into the protest movement.

This influence can be seen in the debates over whether to protest and use civil dis-obedience or simply wait for the next election, whether to support strikes by workers or whether to exclude the unions.

Banning leftwing political literature makes it easier for the capitalist press to win more influence. We need to counter their arguments and attempts to divide the movement. That means having our own media and having the freedom to debate all opinions about how to build the movement.

In a country with a history of banning political dissent – like the use of section 31 to silence republicans – the movement should be defending alternative media and politics not trying to repress them. We need more creativity, more ideas, more debate… not less.

To get rid of this horrible system once and for all we need a movement of ‘people power’ linking with workers’ power. We need to bring the occupy movement from the squares into the neighbourhoods and from there into every school, college and workplace.


Workers Strikes in King Abdulla Financial Centre in Riyadh

I went last Thursday to my workplace, and I found out that there were over 3000 workers demanding their rights before they called a general strike in the construction site in Saudi Binladin Group. The workers were very angry, there workplace is one of the largest construction project in the country, which worth SR.100 billion. However, they live in a terrible conditions, one of the workers was telling me how he was living: “I live in a room 4m x 3m with 8 people, and for every 10 people there is only one toilet”. Another Egyptian worker was telling me about the working conditions and the restriction of religious freedom: “those are Zionists, they don’t even allow me to pray on time!!”, and another worker was speaking about the water at the site, which is infected and full of filth and insects: “the managers wouldn’t even wash their hands with it, but for us we have to drink it because it is the only drinking water at the site”. The others talked about the delayed salaries and the unpaid overtime: “can you believe that some of the workers here are paid only 700 riyals a month, and I am paid 1000 riyal, how would we survive??”.

They couldn’t continue in the old way, they organized themselves and decided to do a demonstration at the site, to demand their rights immediately. It was the most interesting scene that I have witnessed in my life, when a group of coordinators and security guards tried to persuade them to go back to work the workers replied by smacking their hats on the walls and they shouted we demand “food, money , accommodation – we need to be respected!!”, all the managers, for the first time since the start of the project 4 years ago, took the workers seriously.

The police force which had an oppressive role in this socity couldn’t control the workers, when of the police officers told the workers that they need to return to their accommodation and their issue will be solved later, the worker replied by throwing stones at him, and they managed to frighten all the police officers around him. The stones missed the police officer, but unfortunately it did not miss his car! It was the first time in my life I saw a police car smashed in Saudi Arabia.

When several coordinators, sent by thy managers, tried to promise the workers for change, I and several socialist we were pushing for the occupation of the construction site, but that did not work. However, when one of coordinators said: “we will give you a new accommodation with a football pitch”, one of the workers replied: “how would we play football after 13 hours of work with an unpaid overtime?!” , then the coordinators promised that every worker will be paid after 5 days, someone replied: “what would we do with todays bread after 5 days, we need it now, we are sick of excuses, a billionaire cannot pay his workers today??!!”

In the end, the owner promised the workers that they will pay them on Saturday – which is after two days – the workers went back, and on Saturday they received an extra SR. 500 on top of their salary and the owners promised them that they will improve their accommodation and they will pay them 100 hour for their overtime each month. The workers started to organized with a sister company which belong to the same owners to start a new wave of strikes in different parts of the construction site. Through this week, there were several strike actions in King Fahad Library and in a construction sites in King Saud University.

Photos of the workers uprising in Saudi Arabia – 3000 workers in strike action

Egypt Revolution celebrations in Dublin, 13th February 2011

Chronic hunger to affect 1bn people

By Javier Blas, Commodities Editor

Published in FT: February 15 2011 18:39 | Last updated: February 15 2011 20:38

The number of chronically hungry people is approaching 1bn, the level last seen during the 2007-08 food crisis, in the clearest sign yet of the humanitarian impact of rising agricultural commodities prices in poor countries.

Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said on Tuesday that the rise in food prices had already pushed an additional 44m people into extreme poverty, which is closely associated with hunger.

The rate of the increase suggests the number of undernourished people, which the UN said last year was 925m, will now hit 1bn by the end of this year as the effect of spiralling prices filters through.

“The trends towards the 1bn are worrisome,” said Mr Zoellick. “Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels. The price hike is already pushing millions of people into poverty and putting stress on the most vulnerable, who spend more than half of their income on food.”

The rise comes as G20 finance ministers are due to meet in Paris on Friday to discuss ways to tackle soaring prices, which are driving inflationary pressures. France has put global food security at the centre of its G20 presidency.

Brazil adopted a tough stance on the issue on Tuesday.

“Brazil totally opposes the use of mechanisms to control or to regulate the price of commodities,” said Guido Mantega, the country’s finance minister. “Most of the prices of these commodities will fall naturally as the market re-establishes itself.”

However, France is stopping short of proposals to regulate prices directly, and is instead pushing for tighter controls on speculators, restrictions on the use of export bans and better information on grain stocks held by important exporting and importing countries.

The World Bank and the UN use different methodologies to estimate extreme poverty and chronic hunger, but analysts say they usually go hand in hand.

The number of chronically hungry people surpassed 1bn – about one in six people on the planet – for the first time two years ago. Before that crisis, there were some 850m chronically hungry people in the world, a level that has been about constant since the early 1980s.

Mr Zoellick said the rise in food prices, coming so soon after the 2007-08 crisis, suggested the world was not dealing with a “one-time event”. Rather, long-term demand was likely to keep upward pressures on prices for “years to come”.

The prices of wheat, corn and soyabeans have hit 30-month highs over the past few days after bad harvests, export restrictions, extremely low inventories and soaring demand in emerging countries and for bio-energy in the US and Europe. But officials are drawing comfort from relatively stable prices for rice, one of the two most important farm commodities for global food security and the staple for 3bn Asians.

In addition, good harvests in many African countries are keeping local prices stable, even as international wholesale prices skyrocket. Experts say both factors have mitigated the social effect of rising prices.

Additional reporting by Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Donal Mac Fhearraigh

United Left Alliance may top the poll in Tipperary South

FF may not win a seat after shift in support to FG and left-wing candidate

IT, Wed, Feb 16, 2011

CONSTITUENCY OPINION POLL: TIPPERARY SOUTH: Séamus Healy is expected to recover the seat he lost to Fianna Fáil in the 2007 general election, writes STEPHEN COLLINS , Political Editor

A MASSIVE swing from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael and former Independent TD Séamus Healy is revealed in today’s Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI poll for Tipperary South.

The poll indicates Fianna Fáil will be left without a Dáil seat in the constituency and there is no guarantee that former party TD Mattie McGrath will make it back to the Dáil as an Independent.

Mock ballot papers were used in the poll, which shows that Healy is almost certain to recover the seat he lost to Fianna Fáil in 2007.

Healy was first elected to the Dáil at a byelection in 2000 as an Independent representing the Unemployed Action Group in the constituency.

He was re-elected in the general election of 2002, but lost to Fianna Fáil last time out.

Healy is running under the banner of the United Left Alliance. He will be vying with Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes to head the poll on February 25th.

While Healy is marginally ahead in the opinion poll, a breakdown of the figures shows Hayes is stronger among middle-class voters who are more likely to cast their votes.

The Fine Gael vote is up significantly in the poll, but not by enough to win two seats. While Hayes has 25 per cent of the vote, his running mate Michael Murphy is on just 6 per cent.

A more even split in the Fine Gael vote could put the party in contention for two seats, but only if it gained significantly more support by the date of the election.

The poll shows a strong Fine Gael transfer to Labour senator Phil Prendergast might be enough to enable her to beat McGrath for the last seat.

Prendergast and McGrath are locked together on the first count and the outcome will depend on which candidate will be able to attract more transfers as the count progresses.

Prendergast will be relying on strong transfers from Fine Gael, but the poll shows the transfer rate from the second Fine Gael candidate, Michael Murphy, is just 50 per cent. It would need to be significantly stronger for the Labour candidate to be assured of taking the last seat.

However, McGrath’s capacity to attract transfers from Fianna Fáil is even more limited.

The opinion poll shows he is getting less than 50 per cent of Mansergh’s transfers with the rift between the party and its former TD clearly influencing Fianna Fáil voters.

Mansergh on just 10 per cent of the vote is far short of the quota of 25 per cent.

With no candidates coming behind him capable of delivering a significant transfer, his only chance of retaining his seat is to obtain a significant increase in his share of the first preference vote by election day.

Realistically, to have any chance of returning to the Dáil, Mansergh will have to overtake McGrath on the first count, and he does not have a lot of time left. One thing in his favour is that his support is strongest among the over-65s.

The elderly are the segment of the electorate most likely to vote, and successive polls have shown this group is the last bastion of Fianna Fáil support.

At this stage, though, it looks as if Mansergh is too far back to get into the race.

Sinn Féin is not making the inroads in Tipperary South it appears to be making in large urban areas, but the party’s vote is up. The Green Party got 1.5 per cent in the last election and, going on the poll, will be lucky to get that this time around.

© 2011 The Irish Times

Donal Mac Fhearraigh

Guardian – Hossam el-Hamalawy: Egypt protests continue in the factories

Egypt protests continue in the factories

Egypt’s striking workers won’t entrust the transition to democracy to the generals who were the backbone of the dictatorship

Hossam el-Hamalawy,, Monday 14 February 2011 16.00 GMT

Since Hosni Mubarak fled from Cairo, and even before then, some middle-class activists have been urging Egyptians, in the name of patriotism, to suspend their protests and return to work, singing some of the most ridiculous lullabies: “Let’s build a new Egypt”, “Let’s work harder than ever before”. They clearly do not know that Egyptians are already among the hardest working people in the world.

Those activists want us to trust Mubarak’s generals with the transition to democracy – the same junta that provided the backbone of his dictatorship over the past 30 years. And while I believe the supreme council of the armed forces, which received $1.3bn from the US in 2010, will eventually engineer the transition to a “civilian” government, I have no doubt it will be a government that guarantees the continuation of a system that never touches the army’s privileges, that keeps the armed forces as the institution that has the final say in politics, that guarantees Egypt continues to follow the much hated US foreign policy.

A civilian government should not be made up of cabinet members who have simply removed their military uniforms. A civilian government means one that fully represents the Egyptian people’s demands and desires without any intervention from the top brass. I think it will be very hard to accomplish this, if the junta allows it at all. The military has been the ruling institution in this country since 1952. Its leaders are part of the establishment. And while the young officers and soldiers are our allies, we cannot for one second lend our trust and confidence to the generals.

All classes in Egypt took part in the uprising. Mubarak managed to alienate all social classes in society. In Tahrir Square, you found sons and daughters of the Egyptian elite, together with the workers, middle-class citizens and the urban poor. But remember that it’s only when the mass strikes started on Wednesday that the regime started crumbling and the army had to force Mubarak to resign because the system was about to collapse.

Some have been surprised to see workers striking. This is naive. The workers have been staging the longest and most sustained strike wave in Egypt’s history since 1946, one that began in the textiles city of Mahalla. It’s not the workers’ fault if the world hasn’t been paying attention. Every single day over the past three years there has been a strike in some factory in Egypt, whether it’s in Cairo or the provinces. These strikes were both economic and political in nature.

From the first day of the January 25 uprising, the working class has been taking part in the protests. However, the workers were at first taking part as “demonstrators” and not necessarily as “workers” – meaning, they were not moving independently. The government had brought the economy to halt, not the protesters, with their curfews, and by shutting down the banks and businesses. It was a capitalist strike, aimed at terrorising the Egyptian people. Only when the government tried to bring the country back to “normal” on 8 February did the workers return to their factories, discuss the current situation and start to organise en masse, moving as an independent block.

In some locations the workers did not list the regime’s fall among their demands, but they used the same slogans as those protesting in Tahrir and, in many cases, the workers put forward a list of political demands in solidarity with the revolution.

These workers are not going home any time soon. They started striking because they couldn’t feed their families any more. They have been emboldened by Mubarak’s overthrowal, and cannot go back to their children and tell them that the army has promised to bring them food and their rights in I don’t know how many months. Many of the strikers have already started raising additional demands, including the right to establish free trade unions away from the corrupt, state-backed Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions.

On Saturday I started receiving news that thousands of public transport workers were staging protests in el-Gabal el-Ahmar. The temporary workers at Helwan Steel Mills are also protesting. The railway technicians continue to bring trains to a halt. Thousands of workers at the el-Hawamdiya sugar factory are protesting and oil workers announced a strike on Sunday over work conditions. Nearly every single sector in the Egyptian economy has witnessed either strikes or mass protests. Even sections of the police have joined in.

At this point, the Tahrir Square occupation is to be suspended. We have to take Tahrir to the factories now. As the revolution proceeds, an inevitable class polarisation will take place. We have to be vigilant. We hold the keys to the liberation of the entire region, not just Egypt. Onwards we must go, with a permanent revolution that will empower the people of this country with direct democracy from below.

Donal Mac Fhearraigh

International solidarity with the Egytian revolution

Statement from organisations present at the NPA congress (12 February 2011)

The overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak change the political situation not only in the Maghreb but on the international scale.

Popular revolutions which have put an end to dictatorships supported for decades by US and European imperialisms are giving back confidence to all the Arab peoples and strike a devastating blow to the imperialist and Zionist order in the region.

Jordanian, Yemenite, Iraqi, Algerian and Palestinian populations have already taken to the street to demand political changes.

These revolutions are the direct impact of the international economic crisis and of the diktats of the IMF and the World Bank which impose a radical social offensive and the impoverishment of populations already suffering from decades of policies of social injustice and corruption.

These two revolutions open the way not only to democratic demands to break with the dictatorships, but also to the questioning of capitalist economic systems which are the cause of so much injustice. Social issues were at the source of the popular insurrections.

Imperialism is going to do everything to safeguard its positions in the region and stop the anti-imperialist development of processes at work and their propagating in the region.

This means that the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, the forces which want to open a anti-imperialist and socialist road in those countries, need the solidarity and the active support of revolutionaries of anti-imperialist movements, of social and trade-union movements of the whole world. We are committing ourselves, each and everyone of us, in our countries, our regions, to developing this solidarity especially in order to fight against the attacks which international institutions and capitalist groups are already wreaking in order to stop any social and economic furthering of these emerging revolutions, and to using this magnificent example to stimulate the mobilisations against the debt and the demands of the IMF.

Long live the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions !

International solidarity !

Nota :Social Movements Assembly in Dakar’ WSF launched an appeal for a worldwide day of demonstrations on March 20th


Tunisia : Ligue de la Gauche Ouvrière Tunisienne
Iraq : Irak Freedom Congres
Union of communists-Irak
Britain : Socialist Workers Party
Belgium : LCR/SAP
Portugal : Bloco de Esquerda
Corsica : A Manca
Italy : Sinistra Crítica
Spain: Izquierda Anticapitalista,
En Lucha
Catalonia : En Lluita
Basque : Askapena
Ireland : Socialist Workers Party
Poland : P.P.P.
Greece : SEK,
France : NPA
Canada : Socialist caucus of the New Democratic Party
Mexico : P.R.T.
Martinique : G.R.S.
Venezuela : Marea Socialista
Brasil : PSOL
Argentina : MST
Péru : P.R.T.
Indonésia : KPRM-PRD
Working People Association
Sri Lanka : NSSP
South Korea : New Progressive Party
Institute of the 21th Century Korean Research
KDLP. Paris Comitee
Australia : Socialist Alliance
La Réunion : NPAR
Switzerland : MPS

Liberated Tahrir is Occupied Again

by Tahir protestor and photgrapher
Sunday, February 13

What began in Cairo on January 25 after Friday prayers – the liberation and subsequent occupation of Tahrir Square by anti-government protestors – looks like it’s about to end today. Symbolically at least. For the moment, I’m heartbroken with the same grief and frustration that was on the faces of the most determined and unwavering protestors. It’s 11:00am now and I just got home; there is still a core group of encircled protestors sitting and standing in the small space that has been left to them and the central garden remains untouched.

At about 7:30am a troop of army soldiers marched in, two to three hundred soldiers in all, and more military police. Many officers. All the street barricades had been taken down yesterday, and traffic was moving normally through the Square, as “normal” as is possible with tanks and armored vehicles still flanking several of Tahrir’s entrances. And shrines of images and garlands and wreaths to the martyred set up on the street in at least two different spots. In minutes, the soldiers circled the central garden and every other area where people had been sleeping in communities that would appear to be squatter camps to people in Europe and the US. Some protestors were still asleep, wrapped in a blanket, inside their makeshift tents. Protestors inside the main garden were urging me to photograph what was happening – their eviction. Soldiers stood facing the central garden while the protestors faced them. For ten minutes that I was at this spot, the soldiers avoided eye-contact with the protestors.

Most of the anti-government protestors had already left over the course of the day yesterday. Several hundred still remained, maybe a thousand at most, bunched into the central garden and two other main areas. The soldiers and military police also surrounded the stage (and people around it) that had been set up by the Muslim Brotherhood, the first to appear and last to be taken apart. The speakers on the PA system urged the protestors to remain calm and keep the peace: “No one is to antagonize any soldier.” “We are one people.” “Everyone is to remain calm,” the speaker exhorted, but only “Our brothers who were arrested yesterday have all been freed,” was acknowledged with cheers by the protesters.

I discovered that the Sadat metro station was open for business today, the first time in two weeks. Still, some of its exits remained unusable, full of the trash and debris from the previous weeks. One had the shell of a smashed and burned car waiting for you as you reached the top of the stairwell.

By around 8:30am the crowd consisted of as many onlookers as protestors: Mostly commuters on their way to work and journalists observing the last stage of this phase of the people’s revolution. The soldiers remained like a khaki frontier in between, and the distinction between these two groups of Egyptians could not be missed: Outside were sharply-dressed men and women on their way to work, their clothes ironed and flashing colors in the early morning sunlight, their faces clean and bright and well-slept. Many passed by nonchalantly; some stayed for a few minutes holding mobile telephones focused on the people inside the soldiers’ encirclement. The army’s eviction strategy was working well: the protestors were now the minority, if not in numbers then in spirit; they were preventing “normal” life from returning; they’d already won and should go home to their families. These snippets of conversations I heard marked a turning point that had begun yesterday.

Behind the stage, the mood was grim. Those urging calm did not seem especially convinced with their own statements, and their expressions were disconsolate and demoralized, in shock if not in mourning. Two young men were in a rage, flailing, crying, pleading with their comrades not to let it end like this. I’ve seen the same kind of grief at funerals.

These two men felt betrayed, and my mind imagined that some tacit agreement between the Muslim Brothers and the army had already taken place (and it wouldn’t be the first time that an arrangement like this is made between the Brotherhood and the government): Today would be the last day that protestors would camp out in Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members and supporters consisted of the majority who remained, were responsible for making sure their supporters left in an orderly fashion. Or else. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part.

The soldiers were working at the corners of the Square, on both sides of the central garden, which for the time being remained encircled but untouched. They were removing everything. The metal stakes that had been improvised as tent pegs were wrenched from the ground, tarps and plastic sheets detached and rolled, tents collapsed, blankets piled on a tent and hauled away. Protestors were trying to negotiate to no avail, but I saw an army officer kiss the forehead of a man, a gesture of appeal and an attempt not to use force and authority. The two officers I focused on were not pleased to carrying out this task. But in thirty minutes, this corner of the Square was cleared, and protestors were scrambling for their few possessions, or standing in disbelief, some still wrapped in a blanket.

The speakers blasted one of the nationalist songs of the 1960s that I’d heard so often in the last two weeks, and especially the evening of Mubarak’s resignation. Protestors near the stage began to dance and wave flags, but there were no more than fifty. I’d made portraits of some of them; many now inside had fought on the front lines during the siege of Tahrir. They had put their lives at risk to protect the Square and the revolution and the people inside; they had seen fellow fighters fall fatally or receive a debilitating blow; they had remained alert at the barricades when others were enjoying themselves; and they had slept on the asphalt next to or underneath the tanks when the army tried to close in.

These are the men I’d been photographing yesterday and the day before, and it had been a long and difficult discussion to gain a little of their trust. Ever since day one of the occupation/liberation of Tahrir, I wanted to make portraits inside the square. When the atmosphere and spirit were of total unity, when there was no distrust among the protestors, I could have started what, in my dreams, was portraits of a revolution. On that day, this incredible joy of being able to trust everyone in your world was overwhelming and brought the best out in people. But I missed the opportunity because Tahrir was quickly full of undercover agents and police – and mistrust. Just before and after the siege, when I took my camera more out of a sense of responsibility than a sense of artistic or documentary impulse, I had wished for it to disappear many times because I panicked that it would make me a target for some of the violence that took place.

Photographing events has never interested me, and there are hundreds of photojournalists who had flown in to Cairo to do just exactly that. Some of them are very good at what they do; they’re intrepid and undaunted, and I’d never put myself in the kinds of situations I saw them in during the siege. That kind of risk-taking doesn’t interest me. Still, when the internet came back, I looked at dozens of dramatic photos of the events around Cairo and other cities that I had not witnessed firsthand.

My major hang up with this profession as a whole is that these photographers feed a system I don’t have any faith in; the images we see published through the news agencies on the internet or in print are akin to the commercial photos that sell us the fashions and products we buy. In fact, these photos are one of those corporate products, the one with the shortest life span. These photos used to show us what the corporate world wants us to see, how it wants us to understand our environment, and it isn’t a view of the world that I believe in. On the other hand, I do not want to dismiss all photojournalism either, and there is a fine line I draw when looking at such images. What I noticed in the last three weeks was that the absolute worst tension and anxiety I experienced in front a TV screen, not on the streets, even during the worst of the fighting. This I will never forget: as ironic as it sounds, tear-gas is probably safer than TV.

I’ve digressed from this morning’s events, so I’ll continue even further: Names remain very important in Arabic. So before January 25, Tahrir Square’s name was full of irony for many of the Egyptians who passed through “Liberation” Square were made to feel that they were implicitly guilty of something since that was one of the pillars of the Mubarak’s regime: a policy of guilty until proven innocent. Especially in matters that challenged the status of the political and business elite, guilty-until-proven-innocent was enforced brutally. The Mugamma, a monumental, Soviet-style, Interior Ministry building that dominates one side of the Square, makes that insinuation absolutely explicit in both architecture and purpose. This building holds a record for every single living Egyptian, thus serving as the bureaucratic heart of the fallen regime. Its weight and mass is that of a faceless, many-eyed, crouching giant and always reminds me of absolute authority, however much that façade has been torn down by recent events. Early on Saturday, January 29, immediately after the second wave of mass demonstrations, I went to Tahrir and photographed the Mugamma; I did not make the photos because I thought they would be interesting but because photographing that building was forbidden.

1pm. As I write people are telling me that small demonstrations are heading for Tahrir to support the protestors. I’m also being told that smaller demonstrations are taking place in different parts of Cairo.

I’d like to end with some thoughts about Tahrir yesterday when I spent most of the time making portraits of the people I’d been speaking to for two weeks; another of the ironies of the revolution is that I’ve met and gotten to know people from every part of the country at Tahrir. By noon, it was full of activity: people sweeping, painting, mopping, making drawings, hauling away trash and debris, setting up a shrine to the martyrs. The weapon of choice was the broom, and hundreds of people were wielding them, working diligently in groups. But there was an obvious split in the crowd between the sweepers who were day visitors or tourists and those who were still camped out there, who until yesterday were on the alert. There were also people carrying signs that smelled like government to me, with slogans like “We have to change before our country changes”. A concert, more nationalist songs, and lots of dancing juiced up the festivities even further, but I was not comfortable the atmosphere. The revolution had become a commodity and people who did not own it, wanted to belong to it nevertheless.

In the middle of this celebration, the army managed to tear down the last remaining barricades that were erected to protect the revolution. At least eight men were arrested when the scuffle on one side of the Square turned into outright clash. At one point, thirty soldiers made a dramatic entrance, running in formation. The day-visitors cheered and raised a hand in the air, the gesture that has become a symbol of “The army and the people are one hand.” Their clapping and cheering (and the concert) drowned out the calls for help by the fighters.

In the previous weeks, whenever an area was under attack, whenever there was an emergency, whenever people needed support or reinforcement, dozens of people would bang on the iron fence (that surrounds the entire Square) with bricks and stones in that part of Tahrir. Indeed, during the siege, hundreds of people on every side of Tahrir banged all night long to boost our spirits. This fer forge fence was erected after March 21, 2003, the first day of the last Iraqi war, when a major demonstration that freaked out the government took place at Tahrir.

The call for help went unanswered yesterday; there is much that needs to be done to guarantee the freedoms and rights that the people of this and every other country so rightly deserve. Writing from Pakistan, my friend Ahmed wrote me that Egyptians stood up for universal values for all of us.

To our brothers and sisters in the independent trade union movement in Egypt

by Jim Barbour, Leader of Fire Brigade Union, Region 2 (Northern Ireland)

We wish to express our support and solidarity with the workers of Egypt in their magnificent struggle against the Mubarak regime.

We strongly support your demands for the immediate removal of the dictator Mubarak; for the repeal of the anti-democratic Emergency Laws; for the dismantling of the regime of torture, murder and corruption; and for full freedom of the press and democratic elections.

We especially send greetings to our brothers and sisters in the independent Tax Collectors Union. We remember your great strike of recent years and your struggle to establish an independent trade union, free from the interference of the regime. We were delighted to hear of the call by federation of independent trade unions from Tahrir Square for widespread workers action to support the peoples’ movement for democracy.

Your revolution is a beacon of hope for the whole Middle East and the wider world, for so long dominated by tyranny, injustice and war.

We are opposed to the support given by Western governments to the Mubarak regime for the last 30 years. We are aware that the bullets and tear gas used against the movement were supplied by the USA and will do all we can to protest Western governments’ ongoing interference in Egypt.

We salute the unity and bravery of the movement in resisting the violence of the regime and pay tribute to the martyrs of the revolution. We sincerely hope that the workers action is unstoppable and that their enduring legacy is the victory of the revolutionary movement. We are with you in your inspiring struggle.