Friday, February 4, 2011

The Imperialism and Egypt Narrative

One reason the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia attract lots of attention is because they fit into various simple global narratives.

The United States has poured aid into Egypt - "$28.6 billion since 1975" - and Egypt's government has been depicted as a stooge of American imperialism. Meanwhile some Western observers have warned that "the alternative to Mubarak is the Muslim Brotherhood". So Egypt has consequences for how people think about Islam, democracy and American foreign policy.

Considering that, I was surprised to discover that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's party, the National Democratic Party, has been a member of the Socialist International since 1989. They were removed only on 31st January 2011 on the following grounds:

The current massive calls being made today by the citizens of Egypt for freedoms and rights point to the dramatic failure of the Egyptian government to deliver to its people and to the failings of the NDP to live up to its promises. The use of violence, with scores dead and injured, is totally incompatible with the policies and principles of any social democratic party anywhere in the world.

This follows decades of alleged human rights abuses in Egypt. From the Amnesty International 2008 Report:

Around 18,000 administrative detainees – people held by order of the Interior Ministry – remained in prison in degrading and inhumane conditions. Some had been held for more than a decade, including many whose release had been repeatedly ordered by courts....

Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be widespread and systematic, and reportedly led or contributed to at least 20 deaths in 2007.... Journalists and bloggers faced harassment, prosecution and, in some cases, jail for the peaceful expression of their views or for carrying out their work as journalists.

The Socialist International, who waited until this January to finally abandon Mubarak's rule, includes many mainstream social democratic parties around the world, including Ireland's Labour Party, Northern Ireland's SDLP, Britain's Labour Party, Australia's Labor Party and Germany's Social Democratic Party. So stooge of American imperialism or not, it was the centre-left who stood alongside Mubarak during decades of oppression. And Tunisia? Yep, Tunisia's ruling party the Constitutional Democratic Assembly was also a member of the Socialist International for decades, until they were finally booted out... on the 17th January.


  1. Interesting! The current ruling parties in both Norway and Iceland are also part of the SI. Human rights aren't always an issue if it's not highly publicised...

  2. Strange indeed, isn't it? I don't know how strong the ties are between different SI member parties. But it seems bizarre that well-respected and mainstream social democratic parties would be willing for decades to share the community with violent dictatorships. The abandonment of these autocratic parties once the hit the news also seems opportunistic and insincere.


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