On May 18th, Slavoj Žižek, Mamdouh Habashi, Samir Amin, David Harvey and Zygmunt Bauman participated in a roundtable entitled “Meaning of Maghreb?” during the Decolonization: New Emancipatory Struggles conference in Croatia. Largely focused on Egypt (the moderator explained the “unexpected” uprisings had caught them by surprise, necessitating its inclusion in the discussion), Samir Amin kicked off the conversation by asserting the origins of the Egyptian uprising as global and potentially anti-capitalist in nature. Slamming the international media’s claim that the Egyptian uprising (we cannot call it a revolution yet, he and Habashi caution) was solely about freedom, Amin is adamant the events since January 25th are part of the explicitly anti-imperialist movements long practiced by “the peoples of the South.” Furthermore, responding to the moderator (Srećko Horvat, a brave soul indeed), Amin notes that the revolt was far from unexpected by Egyptians themselves.
Mamdouh Habashi elaborates on Amin’s assertion by breaking down the five political blocks as he sees them: the old regime of Mubarak, the “Islamists,” the nationalists (or Nasserites), the liberals and the radical left. Habashi shares some details of the coalition-building attempts among the last three, which he deems the pro-revolutionaries. Both Amin and Habashi are agreed that the Muslim Brotherhood and other factions that fall under the “Islamist” block are in fact anti-revolution, as their power had largely been provided by the regime – and financing by Saudi Arabia – since approximately 1972.
Žižek attempted to intervene in Habashi and Amin’s claims that Egypt had the potential to embody an anti-capitalist movement by pointing out the uprisings in Syria and Libya did not demonstrate anti-capitalism as their primary goals. He also attempted to utilize China’s dealings with the ‘Global South’ as proof that many nations were searching for a ‘better’ or ‘different’ sort of capitalism. To this, Amin responded vehemently that regardless of China’s involvement in globalization, it is not an ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and therefore does not exact imperialist economic control over countries like Egypt in the same way the policies of the aforementioned powers do.
The video of the roundtable is long but well worth watching. David Harvey (after admitting, “I don’t know very much about North Africa”) explaining why “Autumn of Capital” should overtake the term “Arab Spring” is particularly noteworthy. The participants, despite their disagreements, are all interested in placing recent events in Egypt – political, economic, religious, military and otherwise – firmly within global anti-imperial and anti-capitalist contexts. It’s quite an interesting conversation, even if just to be charmed by these five old men reveling in the delight (or in Žižek’s case, skepticism) of a potentially renewed and revitalized Non-Aligned Movement-ish global movement.