"Looting" in Egypt - press lies and distortions

Below is an interesting article by Hamish Chitt's which exposes how the Egyptian Government is behind what limited looting has occurred in Egypt. Much of the press is busy smearing the people of Egypt, who are engaged in a heroic uprising for democracy with stories of looting. The Age headline today is one example Anger turns to anarchy". Rather than widespread looting in a country of close 80 million people where the police have retreated is in fact an incredibly disciplined and united response from the people. Property damage has almost been exclusively limited to Government buildings and the hated police. When the Museum was attacked, citizens quickly reacted to defend it, before the army even arrived. Community self-defence committees have started up which may have an elements of class anxiety from wealthier Egyptians but also are clearly designed as a political statement by the people of Egypt that they can do a better job defending themselves than the corrupt and violent police. It is a response to the implicit threat by the Egyptian Government that you must choose between chaos or the status quo. The Egyptian people are taking another option - saying we can look after ourselves. Quotes from the Guardian included this one from a protestor

"I'm here picking up the debris from Tahrir Square today because it is my duty. We've taken control of our streets from the police and whereas they threw bombs around, the people want to prove they can look after it better. This is our country; we're not thieves, not looters, we're just taking back what is ours from the forces of corruption. Trying to keep the square clean is a symbol of that."

In this quote from the The Guardian, this message is reinforced:

"We sleep at night in fear. We sleep without police at night. Do you know what that's like? To wake up one day and there's no police, no prisons, no safety? The police is over. We are scared. The curfew was for 6pm and the police were told to go home. There are two theories of what happened to the police a) the police were shocked by the people's reaction, got scared and took off b) the ministry of the interior is teaching us a lesson, so they withdrew the police to scare us.

But it backfired. We were out all night in the streets guarding our neighbourhood in Zamalek. Together, neighbour with neighbour. We worked together. Most of us hadn't even met before this. The ministry of the interior pulled all the police to scare us: it backfired. We are taking care of each other."

This shows the spirit in which the people of Egypt have responded to the withdrawal of state power.

The purpose of claiming that there is widespread looting and chaos, in the face of all evidence does more than smear the Egyptian revolution. It is also a message to the Western public to never consider rising up against our own corrupt governments. It is meant to sell us the lie that we need to be "protected" by the state and police. The same lies were brought out after Hurricane Katrina of widespread looting and violence and again after the Earthquake in Haiti. It spreads the lie that society descends into a "Hobbesian" nightmare without the protective violence of the state.

The Age headline however is unintentionally revealing because true "anarchy" is breaking out in Egypt - the people are self-organising to take on their government and look after their communities.

by Hamish Chitts on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 10:36pm

Reuters reported on January 29 that looters broke into the Cairo museum housing the world's greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures, smashing several statues and damaging two mummies, while police battled anti-government protesters on the streets.

The Reuters article goes on to imply that protesters calling for an end to the brutal Mubarak regime did this but this conclusion defies logic. Egypt’s history is of great pride to its people and the attack on the museum was more an act of wanton vandalism rather than robbery. With everything that’s been going on in Egypt it does not make sense that people would use this as an opportunity to smash up some national treasures unless you draw the conclusion that this attack was in fact carried out by Egypt’s hated police. Why would they do this?

1. By attacking something of global significance to discredit the protest movement internationally, which as far as the corporate media is concerned seems to have had limited success.
2. To threaten people within Egypt and to justify their own existence. “Look what happens when we’re not around,” is the message the police are trying to send.
3. To attempt to put a brake on the revolution. The police hope to shift people’s focus from protest to defending their homes.

The police have taken this policy to the homes and small businesses of Egypt. According to German based Egyptian journalist, Hebatallah Ismail, plain clothes police are behind on-going looting in major cities. Al Jazeera TV has been reporting that the police have not only been doing the looting themselves but have been organising criminal gangs to cover more areas. It is most likely that it has been the police themselves and their criminal allies who have raided their own police stations.

In response the people have organised in neighbourhood self defence committees to protect themselves from police looters. Some of these self defence committees have found police identification cards (corresponding photos) and police weapons on captured looters. Far from being dangerous vigilante groups, as some media outlets are reporting, these committees of neighbours looking out for each other are the best defence possible in a revolutionary situation.

The Egyptian police have shown the true nature and role of police under any capitalist government. Around the world they are the last line of defence protecting the super rich minority from the exploited masses. Day to day they conduct a low level war against workers targeting the poor and ethnic minorities to sow division amongst us. They seek to quell political dissent by harassing people’s right to protest making the odd arrest to try and keep people subdued. When workers rise up, the police show their contempt and hatred for their own class and the low level war becomes an all out assault.

Hamish Chitts is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party http://rsp.org.au/ and a writer for Direct Action http://directaction.org.au/ .

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