The Committee’s statement at the Conference on Civil Society and Arab Revolutions..Lebanon / Beirut March 11-13, 2012

This meeting is held under the designation of ‘organizations of civil society in the countries of the Arab revolutions and the available opportunities for influence on the democratization processes’. And in the name of the Peasant Solidarity Committee – Egypt, we greet and commend the participants and the conference organizers hoping that it starts its work from a single point of agreement; the definition of civil society and the democratization process in the countries of Arab revolutions.

In this context we care to emphasise the following points coming from the Egyptian situation:

That the uprisings that broke out in some Arab countries (Tunisia- Egypt-Libya-Yemen) took place essentially in the cities, particularly the larger cities, and so they were urban uprisings whilst the rural areas remained in the position of observer.

They led to political revolutions and did not reach the boundaries of social revolutions, meaning that they took place on the same bases and foundations of the system that they revolted against.

And in addition to the fact that youths broke them out, the uprisings’ harvest that cannot be debated is represented in:

The collapse of the wall of fear that the people suffered from for long decades.

The rooting in people’s consciences and minds that change is possible without an intermediary if the people wanted it.

Therefore, the process of democratization is possible under existing conditions if people use this harvest well. As well as avoiding the drawbacks and shortcomings and mistakes that surrounded the uprisings, for which there is no room to go into details now; comprising those experienced by people’s organizations of various kinds – including civil society organizations – from distortions and lapses.

Because civil society includes various trade union organizations and associations, unions and networks, except for political parties, because these are not unrelated to the political situation in the community before the uprisings and after; and where the community has in the past suffered from the suppression of political and civil liberties and the restrictions on political parties and formations of associations they  must fall victim and are suffering from a debilitating and disfiguring process, for this there are two proofs:
•     The first is the explosion of youth uprisings of sectors                                                                    mostly from outside political parties and civil society organizations.
•     The second is the reluctance of many so-called     traditional opposition forces from participating in the detonation of the revolution’s demands; and this is supported by their jump upon the process, which is aimed to stop the path of uprisings towards its stated objectives and ideals and crafts to derail the processes to conservative side lines.

In Egyptian society civil society organizations are characterized by practices of the following features:

-The Establishment by the state before the revolution of January 25 of civil societies in most provinces. This has led them to remain far from the activities (of civil society) or they have been active in the opposite current and against the objectives of civil society.

– It is not possible to discuss seriously civil society organizations except only in Cairo and Alexandria and a few individual organizations in a limited number of provinces.

-Meanwhile the elites formed union structures in the ranks of the peasants that were no more than superficial lists that practice no real activity. They focused the main activity on celebratory practices that discuss only the history or their heritage of military-rule traditions over 60 years without discussing a real influence, even if limited, in the awareness of the peasants. There were for some of the activities transforming and misinforming effects for peasant awareness. Peasant trade unions and organizations that appeared after January 25, 2011 are beset by substantial intakes:

The Ministry of Agriculture formed the ‘Peasants Association’ and put its leadership elements of the tycoons of agriculture and from its agents nothing was presented since its announcement except a trite celebration of Peasants’ Day (9 September) in Cairo Stadium.

Some members of the Tagamuu’ ‘leftist’ Party  formed a new Peasants Union with the same name , leadership , logic and old policies that participated in the collapse of their late union that disappeared in a dramatic way after 14 years of activity in 1997 by the actions of their conciliatory manner to the official state policies.

There also appeared another union in the Western Delta with the name ‘Small Farmers Union’. It played an essential role in a human rights center.

The Muslim Brotherhood announced its project on reforming the Peasants Union.

•   But some of these organizations worked hard to build grassroots Peasant Union (in Minia Governorate) active within the framework of cultural and social aims to raise the awareness of the peasants. But these unions do not operate since the dye has not taken to the process.

In fact, all previous forms of association, except the last one, were built in the old way (the construction from high up and more centralized structures) rather than from the grassroots and in the local villages and ranches. This is the method which prevailed over the rule of the military.

• In addition to what was claimed by another section of civil society about the creation of a peasants ‘unions that do not exist on the ground for no other reason but that actual activity is absent from the countryside before and after January 25, 2011.
• Even our Committee (the Committee for Peasant Solidarity – Egypt), which was called (the Committee for Solidarity with the Peasants of Agrarian Reform – Egypt), and included at the beginning of its founding group of activists and political radicals and symbols and leaders of farming – some lost due to age, illness and death – is not active only in a few dozens of villages (35 villages in seven provinces). While thousands of villages in dozens of provinces in the valley remain; and this explains why the participation of the farmers of Egypt in the events of January 25, 2011 was limited to watching satellite TV, and why we were a revolution of major cities only. And why it stopped where results rest on current limits.

– Despite the different situation in the community of workers and the involvement of significant numbers of new independent trade unions after the revolution of January 25, there have been some worrying indicators which raise concerns about the future behavior of some leaders of these new formations who ran in the recent parliamentary elections on lists of the Muslim Brotherhood. The strange thing is that most of these bodies are Nasserist, which raises the suspicion that the more bodies the more resentment, and this will definitely will be reflected on the trade unionists and their trade unions.

– Because we cannot assess each manifestation of the activities of Egyptian civil society organizations, we limit ourselves to clarify that many of them lie outside the service of civil society – and a few are committed to the goals announced by the public or to one’s conscience – in addition to having a lot of existing and potential threats posed by some activities on the paths of revolution and civil society.

– And on this occasion we point out that the campaign launched recently by the military junta in Egypt with the support and complicity of political Islamic groups and the National Democratic Party remnants and which carried various charges against a number of these organizations. The campaign will not stop at the current limit, which was reached recently, but will continue in different shapes and with new mechanisms. The inclusion of a number of foreign organizations in this campaign was to win public opinion and incite against them and trim their nails and cease their affectivity.

– And because the Arab uprisings reflect directly and clearly on the extent of oppression imposed on the masses and the breadth of the injustices to which they are exposed and the depth of poverty and destitution and unemployment which has befallen them; and the possibilities inherent in such rising masses, it discloses also that the balance of class and political forces based in those communities is what led to the limited gains compared with the enormous potential available.

– So a return to the axioms and the foundations of political action and trade unions in Arab societies is one of the most important factors that put civil society at stake. The purpose of sorting bodies from the other and creating a an affective torrent in the community re-drafting and creating the appropriate conditions and fostering them and investing in the public situation and relevant events for effective influence on policies in the current state of affairs and the  encouragement of the various social groups to capture their own capacities.

– The exchange of experience between the institutions of civil society in the region and the world is of effective value, and contributes to the accurate identification of the most important events and methods of intervention to reduce the size of the missed opportunities and increase the investors amongst them, including for the purpose of a new formulation for people’s solidarity and on the humanitarian, regional and global levels.

Beirut / March 2012
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