On Friday February 5th, the Italian left-wing journal Il Manifesto published a report on a meeting of Egyptian independent trade unionists posthumously credited to one of its contributors in Cairo. Giulio Regeni was a 28-year-old Italian student of the University of Cambridge writing his doctoral thesis in Egypt. His body had been found on a roadside two days earlier, covered head-to-toe in bruises, knife wounds and cigarette burns. His finger and toenails had been yanked out – clear signs that he was tortured before his death.

Even before they started, the so-called peace talks about the future of Syria have collapsed. UN special envoy to Syria, Steffan de Mistura, has called for a “pause” in the talks and a resumption on 25 February. Meanwhile the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have dealt a crushing blow to western-supported Jihadists in northern Aleppo. As the balance of forces shifts in the war, none of the parties on the ground have any reason to take serious steps in the talks.

Five years ago, without any organisation, programme, plan or preparation the Arab masses, in the words of Marx, stormed heaven.  They brought down in a matter of weeks, what had seemingly not moved an inch in decades of petitioning by NGO’s and academic do-gooders. The colossal state-apparatus, employing hundreds of thousands of spies, police officers and army personnel, could only watch as the masses took over the streets.

The recent execution of Al-Nimr, a Shia cleric leader who was arrested on 8 July 2012 during protests, along with 46 other men, mostly Sunnis, highlights the crisis facing the regime. Increased repression indicate a fear of the rulers at the top of an impending movement from below.

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