Zizek: Miracle of Tahrir Square -- No Room for Compromise, Mubarak Must Go
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Is something similar going on in Egypt? For a couple of days at the beginning, it looked like Mubarak was already in the situation of the proverbial cat. Then we saw a well-planned operation to kidnap the revolution. The obscenity of this was breathtaking: the new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a former secret police chief responsible for mass tortures, presented himself as the "human face" of the regime, the person to oversee the transition to democracy.
Egypt's struggle of endurance is not a conflict of visions, it is the conflict between a vision of freedom and a blind clinging to power that uses all means possible – terror, lack of food, simple tiredness, bribery with raised salaries – to squash the will to freedom.
When President Obama welcomed the uprising as a legitimate expression of opinion that needs to be acknowledged by the government, the confusion was total: the crowds in Cairo and Alexandria did not want their demands to be acknowledged by the government, they denied the very legitimacy of the government. They didn't want the Mubarak regime as a partner in a dialogue, they wanted Mubarak to go. They didn't simply want a new government that would listen to their opinion, they wanted to reshape the entire state. They don't have an opinion, they are the truth of the situation in Egypt. Mubarak understands this much better than Obama: there is no room for compromise here, as there was none when the Communist regimes were challenged in the late 1980s. Either the entire Mubarak power edifice falls down, or the uprising is co-opted and betrayed.
And what about the fear that, after the fall of Mubarak, the new government will be hostile towards Israel? If the new government is genuinely the expression of a people that proudly enjoys its freedom, then there is nothing to fear: antisemitism can only grow in conditions of despair and oppression. (A CNN report from an Egyptian province showed how the government is spreading rumours there that the organisers of the protests and foreign journalists were sent by the Jews to weaken Egypt – so much for Mubarak as a friend of the Jews.)
One of the cruellest ironies of the current situation is the west's concern that the transition should proceed in a "lawful" way – as if Egypt had the rule of law until now. Are we already forgetting that, for many long years, Egypt was in a permanent state of emergency? Mubarak suspended the rule of law, keeping the entire country in a state of political immobility, stifling genuine political life. It makes sense that so many people on the streets of Cairo claim that they now feel alive for the first time in their lives. Whatever happens next, what is crucial is that this sense of "feeling alive" is not buried by cynical realpolitik.