Thousands have taken to Cairo’s streets and about 40 have been killed as government forces use live ammunition and large concentrations of tear gas on demonstrators. Despite the attacks, the people are determined not to allow continued military rule, and are demanding a handover of all government power to civilians.
The Egyptian revolution was not completed in February when Hosni Mubarak stepped down and left power in the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. A cynic would describe this as a transfer of power from one wing of the armed forces to another. The SCAF is willing to share political power with politicians who are eager to share with them, but they appear unwilling to relinquish that power entirely.
But there is power in the street too. The government is unable to silence the people with deception or violence. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose leadership opposed renewed demonstrations in hopes of succeeding in upcoming parliamentary elections, has suffered from defections and internal opposition as some members have put the people before party loyalty and rejoined the revolution. It will be a hard struggle to take power from the hands of the military, and the people should not easily give up what they win.
The best result would be to keep power dispersed among the people: To develop the neighborhood and civil associations that people use to cooperatively fill each others’ needs, to topple the military leadership and put their arms under control of the people, to assemble revolutionary courts recognized by popular consensus and put those who have struck violently at revolutionaries on trial. While pursuing the necessary tearing down of the old regime, the crowd should not neglect building alternatives from the bottom up, or another authority will fill the gap left by their absence.
Fortunately, the process of organizing popular revolution provides foundations for institutions that can displace state control with consensual relations. Individual liberty can be best safeguarded, and material and social needs best realized, by voluntary organizations that operate for the benefit of participants and do not impose their will on peaceful people. Egypt does not have to be a centralized state, but can be a coalition of diverse popular networks peacefully cooperating on the basis of affinity.
Egyptians face the difficult decisions of how to proceed with a revolution that the current rulers and those who intend to share power with the current rulers are trying to hold back. This is a problem that might become more common globally as established powers continually fail to meet the expectations of people and make it clear that their power is based on acceptance of force. Whatever course is taken, liberty and the other needs of the people are best secured by building networks outside of the establishment power structures.