Tag Archives: Workers

AUC Internal Student Politics – Camps

3 Oct

I think it is a good time to talk about “Camps” at AUC, and unravel their so-called “mystery.” The details are not important because simply it is a lot of hearsay and nothing to prove (until further notice). I can only speak about my experience at AUC and what i encountered with Camps. Camps are the AUC student government equivalent of parties; AUCians have a government of legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Camps are an “invite-only” groups, where the goals and interests are set by seniority, which may, but mostly do not have a political ideology. The idea of Camps is EXACTLY why I am against them, because a true student movement should never be based upon “Camps” that don’t have a known and identifiable goals, principles, or ideology to people at the university, they are rather based upon friendships, patronism, and lifestyle; shelalia. This is not what progressive student movements are based upon because a progressive student movement unites people based upon CAUSE/DEMANDS, which are known, identifiable, and inclusive rather than exclusive ones. What does that leave students who are “not invited” to be in camps? Almost nothing since the student political life within campus have been monopolized by “Camps.” Sometimes students attend AUC and graduate and never even know or hear that there are Camps, who are monopolizing student politics and governance. I believe this is counter productive to student politics and mobilization in general.

My so-called “attacks” on the Black Camp or ANY Camp, who insist in monopolizing student politics in the university as a Camp not as individuals or students is because THIS is exactly what will prevent and/or weaken any student movement that is based upon principles or cause like that of the organic workers Fall 2010 strike. The idea of Camps makes individual students, who don’t belong to a camp, almost have no chance in engaging in student politics (including movements) unless he or she joins a Camp. Almost all of the individuals, who took part in the 2010 fall strike, who were mostly individuals not in Camps, were either prevented, attacked, and/or excluded from giving input in this year’s “Occupy AUC,” unless he or she belonged to a Camp. This is very dangerous because it enforces the monopoly of student activism to exclusive groups that are not even known to the whole community. The presence and idea of Camps, in my opinion, is the highest undemocratic form of a student movement, which sometimes praises itself on being “revolutionary.” This is both highly problematic and dangerous to what a progressive student movement means and the ideas a revolutionary student movement represent, which this year’s “Occupy AUC” did not, and you can read why in my previous report.

This is why I support AUC Front because AUC Front is uniting people based on sectors (workers, students (from all camps or no camps at all), staff, faculty, alumni)  with common interests based on known and identifiable principles and goals. In this year’s crisis, the Front’s goals were transparency, accountability, and investigating corruption, they were willing to tackle those problems from the roots rather than from the angel of Camps and student politics, which already by default exclude many other people on campus, who care about the cause/demand and willing to mobilize. I don’t want the idea of Camps to monopolize student politics period, and this time the Black Camp was the monopolizer even if they “allowed” other Camps to play a role like the red camp or others. Thus, it becomes a Camp struggle and NOT a student struggle nor a student movement, and who has a strong Camp would basically rule with an unknown, unidentified, and exclusive ideology.

Because AUC is different in its dynamics and free space from other universities in Egypt, AUC is capable of pushing all boundaries in student mobilization, and lead the whole student movement to an entire new level. This won’t happen unless Camps are either dissolved or become more open and inclusive. If anything we learned from the revolution so far is that the dictatorship of the minority is as bad as the dictatorship of a tyrant. The Camps usually revolve around a few group of friends leading that Camp to where ever these individuals see fit. The idea could be used for good, but so far it has divided people, isolated them, and used substitutionism as an elitist method of struggle. A strong student movement at AUC must be open to others, it must be public with its principles and goals known and identified to all, and it must be inclusive to all members of the community who are willing to fight for the cause.

We MUST all put hidden interests and personal glories aside in any real attempt of fixing the core problems at the AUC. These problems are categorized in severe corruption and unjust practices by the administration towards many sectors of the AUC community and affect all of them, not only students. We have to expose those Camps so they are known to the rest of the community and I invite all of the Camps to reveal their identity and make their principles and goals public, if there are any, to unravel this AUC worst-kept “mysteries” once and for all. I say this with every caring concern about what is happening at AUC, not just for the sake of AUC, but for the sake of the student movement as a whole and the revolution.

Power of the people is greater than people in power.
Long live the student movement!

American University in Cairo Crisis 2012 – “Occupy AUC”

29 Sep

In Front of HUSS Bldg

[From custodial workers strike in fall 2010, increased wages 100% & established the AUC Independent Syndicate]

In the past few days, AUC has witnessed a crisis that was faced with mixed reactions from the AUC community as well as the student movement as a whole, and this is simply due to the complexity of the nature of AUC student politics and what led to these current events. Since the move to New Cairo Campus from the Tahrir campus, AUC has witnessed several student actions including protests against the lack of and the quality of facility services in 2008, sit-ins and strikes by workers together with students regarding wage and contracts in fall 2010, and most recently in 2011 a student movement sit-in together with different sectors of workers within the university regarding wages, contracts, impeaching some corrupt officials, tuition caps, limit to the increase of tuition fees, and investigating the overall corruption. In all of the last three recent cases of students and/or workers actions, there were always a good number of faculty, staff, students, workers, and alumni actively taking part each time and an overall support and solidarity from the entire AUC community in finding solutions to the matters of concern.

This year’s students action has started in the beginning of the fall 2012 semester on 2 September with a campaign called “mosh dafe3,” which means “we won’t pay” during the drop-and-add week when the administration broke the agreement made in last year’s sit-in, which promised no more tuition increase on returning students. However, according to a student leader in these recent student action of closing all New Cairo campus gates with chains, Mohamed Hassan known as Antak said, “only 4 % didn’t pay, while the rest of the students paid tuition in fear of the university dropping their classes.” The second week of classes some students also mobilized in form of protests and marches within campus wearing vendetta masks calling for the removal of the 7% fee increase, but the administration failed to adhere to the demands of the students.

AUC students march campus against increased fees with Vendetta masks beginning of semester

As a result, a group of students felt that it was appropriate to escalate the pressure on the administration by shutting down the gates to return the 7% increase already paid, locking out students, faculty, staff, and all members of the AUC community from entering the New Cairo campus starting on 16 September 2012 as shown in these videos:

The group, who took control of chaining down the gates locking out all community members were no more than maximum 50 people according to the various eyewitnesses who were present.As a result the university suspended at least 5 students one of which was the Student Union Vice President Nazar El Zanaty, and after the first hearing held on Tues 18 Sep, the 5 students were allowed to enter campus and attend classes while the investigation was ongoing. When many opposed this method not necessarily the valid demands, the group controlling the gates calling themselves “Yes We Can Occupy AUC” started an online petition on 18 September 2012, which reached 2,838 signatories by 26 September 2012, in support to close the gates. On Saturday 22 Sep 2012, in attempt to lift the siege on campus after already suspending 5 students on Thursday 20 Sep 2012, the administration removed at least two of the gates to the AUC campus by the evening, which made students supporting gate closure furious. In return, the students built and put on back the gates to ensure the lock down of the university until all the demands are met.

On Sunday 23 Sep 2012 a group of students protested in front of AUC gates with a banner against closing the gates in addition to some faculty, who denounce the gate closure mechanism as it is: a) an infringement on others’ rights, b) not a collective decision by all or at least most members of the AUC community, and c) was not preceded by other legitimate escalating protesting methods such a strike or a sit-in.. Some of these professors include faculty such as Dr. Hani Sayed, Dr. Hanan Sabea, and Dr. Rabab El Mahdi, who have been actively involved and in support of every student mobilization in the recent years, also who fully support the valid demands put forth by the students. At some point in the day, a clash broke out at gate two between few of those professors previously mentioned and few students, who refused to open the gates, thus a staff member, Tarek Maghrabi, head of the AUC independent syndicate founded in 2011 following the successful workers strike in fall 2010, intervened to open the gates with a key he had, later student Ahmed El Demerdash filed a police report against Tarek Maghrabi accusing him of possessing a knife, which Maghrabi denied. A testimony by the AUC Independent Syndicate was published which states most of the details. Hisham Shafiq, in person, confirmed El Demerdash assault on Maghrabi out side the prosecutor and actually defended El Demerdash’s claims and “rights.”

The administration’s reaction was to suspend classes at first each day the gates were closed by the students since 16 Sep and then later the whole operation was suspended on 23 Sep. Several negotiation meetings between the administration and AUC community representatives have been conducted in order to find a solution to meet the demands. However, the stance of the “Occupy AUC” students that they will not negotiate nor open the gates until their two demands met, which are: 1) 7% fee increase to be returned to the students in form of deposits in each student’s account. 2) Tuition cap models to be effective immediately. President of the university Lisa Anderson has rejected the first demand saying that “it is impossible since budget is already in effect.”

Regarding the tuition caps she said that “3 models will be presented on November 15th to the students from which they may choose.” On the other hand, a preliminary agreement was reached between some students, who don’t represent “Occupy AUC” nor the official Student Union, and the administration with the presence of some alumni and Parent Association representatives in an attempt to defuse the deadlock. This preliminary agreement is represented in a form of list of updated demands the administration have confirmed its commitment, at least verbally, to work on implementing it. The highlight of these demands accepted are: The reopening of financial aid to all student as of now, 3 tuition cap models to be presented to students on November 15th, corruption committee to be formed to investigate the budget including expenses without signing a nondisclosure agreement, deferred payments to be paid in installments with no interest rate, and more student representation in committees that take financial and educational quality decisions.

As of Friday 28 September 2012, the Student Union and the “Occupy AUC” group have rejected or at least not signed this agreement, which leaves the situation at a standstill. However, groups of students started to organize and call for alternatives such as the AUC Front and For The Cause, Not The Method group in addition to efforts made by the-under-establishment AUC Alumni Association all in order to solve the core problem of financial transparency and end the siege by the few on the New Cairo campus. There are also attempts to call for opening of the gates while negotiations are finalized by an online petition against closure of gates signed by total of 880+ members of AUC as well as a conjoined statement to the AUC community adopted by the AUC Front.

“Occupy AUC” is NOTt a strike or a mass movement or a civil disobedience act  by any loose definitions of these terms. A group of 100 students assumed that simply by collecting 2,000+ signatures on an online petition to impose actions on thousands of other students, staff, faculty and workers by locking down campus gates with chains while verbally and physically assaulting other members of the AUC community at times, is a “revolutionary” act when in fact, it is exactly the opposite and unjustifiable under these circumstance. This act is completely unacceptable by the standard of any legitimate act of protest in demanding rights. The students’ demands are and have been acknowledged from all sides to be valid and legitimate, if not revolutionary in the history of AUC student movement; however, the tactic used, in this particular case, can never be justified nor defended. Substitutionism can never replace the power of mass action. Students could have expanded their movement and mobilized others to make the decision to put the campus on standstill by a collective force instead of making it by the few with the help of chains, locks, cars, and intimidation. The exercise of power delivered by the few number of students controlling the gates raises one important question: why would a small group of students insist on closing the AUC gates by force despite that a preliminary agreement has been reached, and endorsed by different community members? Should infringing on other people’s rights ever be considered as a “revolutionary” or even a legitimate act when in the context of substitutionism? The answer lies in Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.

The American University in Cairo has been going through a crisis that led to severe fractures within our community and has damaged many of the values upon which the AUC student movement was founded upon when workers, staff, alumni, students, and faculty stood in solidarity with one another in any member’s struggle until all rights were achieved. I urge the students at the gates to accept the preliminary agreement, but not to stop in demanding more and persisting that all demands are implemented. This can only be achieved by opening the gates, accepting the preliminary agreement, but, and this is the crucial part for the movement to become legitimate, is to continue in uniting the different sectors of the university on the demands and not the actions, mobilizing others through debates, awareness, and forums, inviting others who are dedicated to the cause and pressurizing the administration with this unbreakable united front of all members of the AUC community through the various collective legitimate means and escalations. The power of the masses is greater than any chains holding our freedom to education.

Playlist of collected VIDEOS from 16 Sep – 23 Sep 2012

AUC Crisis collected testimonies from past week’s events

Arabic version of report available
«احتلال الجامعة الأمريكية»
مطالب مشروعة ولكن…

Elections under play

17 Jun

Elections Under SCAF

When I would get ready to attend a protest before the revolution, my father would tell me, “nothing will ever change, Mubarak and his regime will stay the same forever, you are just wasting your energy and risking your life for nothing.” I would respond, “every little demonstration is a stepping stone in a long-term process called a revolution that will end this regime.” I still believe that every mobilization is an essential piece of the puzzle to topple the regime.  The revolution started and without one single group leading it, we managed to kick it off. What will take to achieve the revolution’s goals is another important question that we must start answering. We, revolutionaries, spent a year and half boiling our energy in reaction, in mobilizing to achieve the goals we set out on 25 January 201, yet only few things have been achieved. One sure gain is that Mubarak is out, put on trial, and now in Tora prison facing a life sentence. Even though nothing less than death to the dictator would have satisfied my anger, I can’t say that I am not happy to see him suffer his last days in a prison hospital.  As for the rest of the murderers who are free, their day shall come when they will suffer just like they tortured many Egyptians.

Elections are finally finishing up with major expected disappointments and setbacks on the political road to “democracy.” I never expected any elections under military rule to achieve any results satisfying the revolution. Elections engineered and constructed by SCAF (Supreme Council for Armed Forces) can never produce revolutionary or even reformist accomplishments, only will result outcomes that would suit counter-revolution and its allies. History tells us too soon of elections are always used to bury revolutions. We are not the first by any means. Whether Romania, Chile, Portugal, or Bolivia, we can draw parallel where military junta institutionalized militarization and strengthened counter-revolution. We can go back and assess where “we went wrong” or where we could have done better, but one thing is clear, elections were inevitable since the regime is still in place since 1952.  Sooner or later elections would have happened, conducted by the same old regime, benefiting the organized groups sufficient enough to run and win elections. In the case of Egypt; the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party (the regime’s political arm).

The truth is the revolution has no machine, no organized group, no political party sufficient enough to adopt the revolution’s goals and capable of fighting the two most organized and biggest threatening machines to the revolution, the NDP & MB and SCAF. This is partially our fault yet partially out of our control for the many decades we were politically silenced under Mubarak. Many of the revolutionaries got politicized with the revolution or slightly prior to the revolution giving a major lead to the organized groups already existing under the repressive regime.  This explains the great success of Islamists in parliamentary elections and in the first round of presidential elections despite their decreasing popularity on Egyptian streets due to their reactionary and opportunistic agenda that clearly contradicts with revolutionary goals.

What is to be done? We organize. Aside from fighting for civil liberties, constitution that reflects revolution principles, and for ending military authority in daily life, we must build our alternative power, our machine that will and can topple this regime once and for all.  As a revolutionary socialist, I believe that the only group of society that has the power to topple this dictatorship is the workers.  We must organize the working class. For this revolution, it is a matter of success or defeat. When I am talking about the working class, I am not only referring to the traditional blue collar worker at a factory, but I am referencing anyone who sells his or her hours to earn a wage. This includes doctors, teachers, public and private employees, those who have the power to put the country at a halt like the last 3 days of the 18 days in the revolution. The workers were the final bullet in Mubarak’s chest, and are the only ones who can finish off SCAF.

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