As we write these lines hundreds of thousands of protesters are already on the move in Egypt with one clear goal in their minds: to remove Morsi from office. The language now is that of insurrection. Jorge Martin reports on the latest developments in this renewed wave of the Egyptian revolution.
As we write these lines (on 2nd July) hundreds of thousands of protesters are already on the move in Egypt with one clear goal in their minds: to remove Morsi from office. The Tamarod movement which organised the huge rallies on Sunday 30th June has called for the Ittihadiya and Qubba presidential palaces and the regional governorates to be surrounded by the people by 5 pm and announced that they will issue a statement from the Qubba palace at 7.30 pm. This is the language of insurrection.
The four gates of the Qubba presidential palace have now been locked with chains and padlocks by the protesters and a huge banner announces: “The palace is closed by order of the revolutionaries until a new president comes.” Tamarod has declared that Morsi is no longer the president. Several governorates have been taken or besieged by the masses. Regional and national headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, its political wing the FJP and other right wing Islamist parties have been attacked.
The masses are fighting on the streets to remove Morsi through direct revolutionary action as they see this as the only way to achieve the betrayed aspirations of the January 25 movement in 2011: bread, jobs and democracy. At the same time there is another struggle going on between different sections of the ruling class and the state apparatus in order to take advantage of the revolutionary movement of the masses to advance their own interests.
Cairo is alive with all sorts of rumours, denials and misinformation which reveal the panic amongst the ruling class and the behind the doors manoeuvres and intrigues taking place. The number of ministers who have resigned from the government is increasing by the hour, but it seems that the current tally is six after the resignation of foreign minister Kamel Amr. He follows the ministers for tourism, environment, communications and legal affairs and water utilities.
Presidential spokespersons Omar Amer and Ehab Fahmy have also resigned. At one point there were contradictory reports that the whole government had resigned and then that the Prime Minister Qandil had also tendered his resignation, but these were later denied. There were also unconfirmed reports that security forces had instructed airport security to prevent leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party from leaving the country. On Monday there were reports, again unconfirmed, that security forces had arrested 15 armed body guards of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat El-Shater. Over 100 diplomats signed a statement in solidarity with the people’s demands, like rats abandoning the sinking ship.
The Army generals, which made a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the time of the presidential elections one year ago, have now decided that Morsi is no longer able to control the masses and should be removed. The Army ultimatum against Morsi is full of nice words about the great people of Egypt, and their voices being heard. What it says though, is very clear: the Army generals will not allow chaos and anarchy, Morsi must go and the leaders of the opposition should be brought into power in some sort of national unity government. The Minister of the Interior declared that they were “in solidarity with the Army statement,” underlying the lack of control of the President over the state apparatus.
The Army generals have no concern whatsoever for the will of the people and they will certainly not help carry it out. But they realise that this is a huge movement which cannot be stopped by repression. In the same way that they removed Mubarak during the 2011 revolution in order to save the regime, they now want Morsi to go, for the same reason.
Many commentators have said that the Army ultimatum amounts to a coup. In reality the last things the Army generals want is to attempt to impose a military coup over a revolutionary people which is on the move. It would be impossible in the present circumstances. This is what they mean when they say that: “the Armed Forces will not be a party in the circles of politics or governance and are not willing to step out of the role defined for them by the basic ideals of democracy based on the will of the people.”
The Army generals are only interested in defending their own power and privileges and more generally the capitalist system on which these depend. They realise that if Morsi hangs on to power, the risk is that he will be overthrown in a revolutionary uprising, one which might threaten the whole edifice of the capitalist state and the free market economy.
Further to this, there are of course sections of the old regime which were never reconciled with abandoning power, and even less sharing it or ceding parcels of it to the Islamists. A struggle between different sections of the ruling class is going on.
However, this was not the reason for this mighty revolutionary explosion of the mass movement. The real reason lies elsewhere; in the realisation that two and a half years after the revolution nothing has been achieved. In fact, 63% of the population think that their conditions have worsened. Unemployment has gone up, the economy is collapsing, there is a breakdown of public order with an increase in criminality, there has been no justice for the martyrs of the revolution … This is not what the people fought for!
And this is precisely the mood which was captured by the Tamarod (Rebel!) campaign. The campaign, which claims to stand for “dignity, justice and freedom”, listed 7 reasons for demanding the removal of the president: lack of security, the continued marginalisation of the poor and the deprived, lack of justice for the martyrs, lack of dignity for the people and the country, begging for loans from foreign powers, following the dictates of the US.
As the campaign grew stronger and its appeal became wider, all sorts of opportunists jumped on the bandwagon. “Liberal” bourgeois politicians who had already been rejected by the masses during the revolution, like ElBaradei; discredited last-minute defectors from the Mubarak regime, like Amr Moussa; all jostling for positions at the head of the movement in a disgustingly repulsive spectacle.
The problem is that the leadership of this movement does not really have a programme capable of addressing the fundamental problems that have brought about the mobilisation of the masses. They have stated openly that their programme is the replacement of Morsi by the president of the Supreme Court, the formation of a Salvation government and new elections in 6 months. This is hopeless. The Egyptian revolution has already had elections and presidents and this has solved precisely nothing. The problem is not that Morsi was an incompetent president. His policies were dictated by the severe crisis of Egyptian capitalism, aggravated by the world crisis of the system. There is no room for manoeuvre. His incompetence was the result of the economic crisis, not the other way round.
The main problem is that the Egyptian revolution began, but it was never completed. Power and wealth are still in the hands of the same ruling class and they still firmly control the state apparatus which has not even undergone a mild democratic purge (not even a bourgeois democratic purge). The struggle for genuine democracy and for social justice cannot be resolved within the limits of capitalism. Any attempt to find a constitutional solution to this revolutionary crisis will only prepare new disappointments for the masses and eventually new revolutionary crises.
So far Morsi is talking a tough talk and has rejected the Army statement. At a rally in Cairo, Mohamed ElBeltagi, a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party, made a fiery speech calling on Morsi’s supporters to be ready to sacrifice themselves in defence of the president: “Say goodbye to your mother, father, and wife, because you will sacrifice your soul to defend Mohamed Morsy’s legitimacy.”
But while putting on a tough face in front of his own supporters, Morsi is desperately trying to negotiate a solution which allows him to keep at least some power. His suggestion of a referendum on the continuation of the president, a sign of weakness, has already been rejected by Tamarod. On Monday he met, together with prime minister Qandil, with the head of the Army Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the three men are scheduled to meet again today. There are also talks of negotiations between ElBaradei, as a representative of the opposition, and Qandil, for the government.
The United States is clearly very worried about these developments and is trying to use its clout to prevent the conflict from escalating into a full blown revolution. On Monday, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the head of the Egyptian Army, al-Sisi. On the same day Obama talked to Morsi to instruct him to do something to defuse the situation. An official Whitehouse statement reported that “President Obama encouraged President Morsy to take steps to show that he is responsive to their concerns” for which you should read “for goodness sake, make some substantial concessions before it is too late”, and that he “underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process,” meaning that a revolutionary overthrow must be averted at all costs.
These are the stakes. While the different sections of the ruling class and the state apparatus are frantically negotiating a constitutional way out, the masses are growing more confident in their own strength and the space for independent working class policies to come the fore becomes larger. What can decisively untangle the stalemate and tip the balance of forces towards the revolutionary masses would be the calling of a national general strike, something which (in the form of calls for mass civil disobedience) is already being discussed.
Only if the working class puts itself firmly at the head of the movement, can the revolutionary crisis be resolved in favour of the masses.
The revolutionary people have already had their victory snatched from them twice in the last two years. There should be no confidence in the Army generals and representatives of the old regime, nor in those who have ruled for the last year in an alliance with them. The revolutionary workers and youth can only trust their own forces.
Revolutionary action committees should be set up at all levels, in every workplace, working class neighbourhood, in every educational institution and they should be coordinated at all levels; local, regional and national. The working people must create their own revolutionary institutions so that once and for all they can do away with the old capitalist state apparatus and expropriate the wealth of the ruling class, starting with the ill-gotten gains of the Mubarak era capitalists and generals.
All power to the workers! Expropriation of the ruling class!
Revolutionary Committees everywhere!