There are situations in which mass
demonstrations are sufficient to bring about the fall of a regime. But
Egypt is not one of them. All the efforts of the masses to bring about
the overthrow of Mubarak through demonstrations and street protests have
so far failed to achieve their principal objective.
There are situations in which mass
demonstrations are sufficient to bring about the fall of a regime. But
Egypt is not one of them. All the efforts of the masses to bring about
the overthrow of Mubarak through demonstrations and street protests have
so far failed to achieve their principal objective.
protests have left three hundred people dead and thousands more
injured. They have forced the cabinet to resign, brought the army onto
the streets and paralyzed Egypt’s economy. But it had not yet succeeded
in overthrowing the government. On the other hand, the latter had not
succeeded in re-establishing control. By Monday the situation in Egypt
appeared to have reached a kind of stalemate.
But every time the regime thinks it has succeeded in regaining the
initiative, their hopes are dashed by the masses on the streets.
Contrary to all expectations, the movement is continuing to advance and
is reaching a new high point. Far from subsiding, the fury against
Mubarak is increasing. Egyptian society is becoming sharply polarised.
All the commentators were predicting that the movement was in
decline. But the dramatic entry of the Egyptian proletariat on the stage
of history marks a turning point in the destinies of the Revolution.
Egypt is now being shaken to its very foundations by a mighty movement
of the working class. In one city after another there are strikes and
occupations. The revolution is moving onto a higher level.
Yesterday Ahram Onlin reported:
“Labour protests escalated in Suez with textile workers joining in
and demonstrating with 2000 others demanding their right to work. Ali
Fuad, a worker at the station, said: ‘We are having a sit-in today to
demand our rights, which are in the text of the workers’ law, our right
to obtain the annual increase in salary which the management refuses to
give us so we strike with all the laws that uphold the right of
“Mohamed Abdel-Hakam factory, head of the factory syndicate, confirmed workers have continued their sit-in for a third day.
“In the city of Suez itself, around 2000 youths demonstrated to
demand the chance to work. Amid expectations of growing labour protests
in Suez, officials from the local council have attempted to meet the
protesters and end the crisis.
“In Mahalla, more than 1500 workers of the Abu El-Subaa company in
Mahalla demonstrated this morning, cutting the road, demanding their
salaries and stating that it is not the first time. The workers have
staged repeated sit-ins for two years as they demand their rights and
mediation between the workers and the company’s owner, Ismail Abu
“More than 2000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the
city of Quesna have gone on strike demanding higher wages and benefits
that have been suspended for years. The workers are also calling for the
dismissal of managers who have ill-treated workers.”
New layers are being drawn into the struggle not just by the day but by the hour. The same report says:
“Around 5000 unemployed youths demonstrated this morning in front of
Aswan governorate building, which they tried to storm. The protesters
chanted their demand that the governor be dismissed.
“In Kom Ombo, around 1000 protesters called for the president, Hosni Mubarak, as security remained absent.
“Dozens of liver patients gathered in the governorate of Menoufeya at
noon today over the lateness of their vaccinations. They were due to
receive their treatment from the Hilal hospital three days ago. Dr.
Murhaf El-Mougy, Menoufeya’s general director of medical insurance,
stated that the governorate was late in receiving the vaccination from
its manufacturer. He attributed the delay to the curfew imposed during
the demonstrations in Egypt.
“In Cairo, more than 1500 public authority for cleaning and beauty
workers demonstrated in front of the authority’s headquarters in Dokki.
According to a statement by the head of the authority on Egyptian
television, their demands include an increase in their monthly wages, to
LE1200, and a daily lunch meal. The workers are also demanding for
permanent contracts and the dismissal of the authority’s president.
“And in Menya, thousands demanded the removal of the ruling regime in
Egypt and Mubarak’s resignation. Amid heavy security, the demonstrators
marched towards the governorate building.
“In recent days, Menya has witnessed several demonstrations, most of
them opposed to the regime. However, demonstrations in favour of Mubarak
have been staged. Violence as a result of these protests has lead to 72
people being injured, demonstrators and security personnel, according
to Dr Adel Abu Ziad, deputy of the ministry of health in Menya.”
The regime hangs on
Up to this point the state was attempting to regroup its forces as
the regime tried to capitalise on fears of insecurity. But the new
upsurge in the movement has changed everything. Within sections of the
army the belief was already growing that only Mubarak’s departure can
calm Egypt’s streets. The latest developments will have strengthened
The ruling clique would be prepared to ditch Mubarak, but so far has
not dared do so. They are under conflicting pressures. On the one hand,
the Saudis and Israelis are demanding that Mubarak must stay. This is
also the position of the CIA, which works in cahoots with the Saudis and
Israelis. On the other hand, Obama and the State Department are
pressing him to leave.
At the centre of this complex parallelogram of forces is Mubarak
himself. He has lost power, yet he retains power. The balance of forces
cancels itself out, leaving him where he was before. The proposed
“compromise”, basically that he should stay in power while in practice
relinquishing, is an expression of the impasse at the top, which in turn
is a reflection of the impasse of the Revolution itself.
In Tunisia, a popular uprising forced Ben Ali into exile and
overthrew the ruling party, although here also the fight is not
finished. The Tunisian events convinced many Egyptians that their regime
might prove equally fragile. The speed of Ben Ali’s flight to exile in
Saudi Arabia persuaded Egypt’s dissidents that the correct demand was
that Mubarak must go. The problem is that Mubarak refuses to go.
Mubarak has shown that he is made of sterner stuff than Ben Ali. He
is still hanging on, although with two black eyes. He has also shown a
certain amount of low animal cunning. Mubarak eventually said he would
go—but only at the end of his term in September. He is resigned to his
fate but wishes to leave office with dignity. This promise – which is
rejected indignantly by the people on the streets, was accompanied by a
subtle threat: accept my offer or prepare for the worst.
Hosni Mubarak reminds one of other figures in history: Charles I of
England, Louis XVI of France and Tsar Nicholas of Russia. The poet Blok
described the Tsar during the last months of the monarchy as follows:
“Stubborn, but without will; nervous, but insensitive to everything;
distrustful of people, taut and cautious in speech, he was no longer
master of himself. He had ceased to understand the situation, and did
not take one clearly conscious step, but gave himself over completely
into the hands of those whom he himself had placed in power.” These
lines could be applied precisely to Mubarak in the hour of his final
For a man with not many cards in his hand, Mubarak has played his
hand well. His calculations are quite astute. All the “concessions”
offered by the regime have a fraudulent character. The “new” cabinet
contained half the ministers of the previous government. Suleiman, the
former head of Egyptian Intelligence, is his right hand man. As the
French say: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
By offering a bare minimum of concessions, Mubarak hoped to drive a
wedge between the revolutionaries and the more inert layers of the
population who fear chaos and want a return to “normality”. On February 2
the two sides were fighting for possession of Tahrir Square. Mubarak
was hoping the revolutionaries would clear the square, but they failed.
The revolutionaries held their ground and grew in confidence.
Hosni Mubarak is fighting for his survival. Suleiman is fighting for
the survival of the regime. But the imperialists are fighting for the
survival of capitalism and their puppet regimes in the Arab world. The
latter are worried about where Egypt’s revolt will go, and how far it
will spread. These are the big questions, and they are still unanswered.
In the end the old man may announce an early retirement on health
grounds. But so far Mubarak has shown himself to be extremely stubborn.
He is placing his interests and those of the clique around, above those
of the imperialists. Exactly thirty years ago Anwar Sadat was
assassinated by his own guards. This could happen again. It would not be
impossible to arrange for Mubarak to go in the same way. But the clique
that controls the army and the state is afraid to resort to such
measures. The removal of Mubarak would open the floodgates and they fear
that the raging waters would sweep them all away.
The ruling class has many strategies for defeating a Revolution. If
it cannot do so by force, it will resort to cunning. The old regime
attempted to crush the uprising with force on Wednesday, 2 February, but
it failed. The defeat in Tahrir Square unnerved the ruling clique
completely. Mubarak has disappeared from the scene. Behind locked doors
the rulers of Egypt argued about what was to be done. And all the time
the phone was ringing. Washington is demanding action in increasingly
imperious tones. And Washington pays the bills.
After Wednesday the regime was staring defeat in the face, and when
the ruling class faces the prospect of losing everything they will
always offer concessions. Belatedly, the ruling clique realized that it
would be necessary to do a deal with the leaders of the opposition.
Another face must be presented to the people. Mubarak was quietly pushed
into a side room. Without a word, Suleiman took the reins of power.
Facing the danger of losing everything, Suleiman and all his generals
and ministers, are now for a compromise. But it must be a compromise
that will maintain their power and privileges.
Suddenly the regime is willing to talk. Suleiman offered to negotiate
with the opposition. Last week they were only prepared to talk the
language of concrete slabs, clubs and Molotov cocktails, now it is all
smiles, handshakes and conference tables. Following advice from
Washington and London, they have not renewed the attempt to take the
Square by force. Suleiman says: “We will not disperse them by force.”
The tanks do not move. Nor do the pro-Mubarak mobs make an appearance.
Their masters have ordered them to keep out of sight, as the owner of a
dog calls it to come to heel.
Since they have been defeated on the streets they are trying to
strike a bargain, that is, try to fool the leaders of the opposition, so
that they in turn can fool the masses. The idea is that once the
initiative is in the hands of the “negotiators”, the masses will become
mere passive onlookers. The real decisions will be made elsewhere,
behind locked doors, behind the backs of the people. And what can the
people do? Remain on the Square shouting slogans? But the regime has
already taken this into account.
Obama and the Europeans say to Suleiman: “Why go to the bother of
using force? That has already failed and only creates public sympathy
for the troublemakers. It can split the army down the middle and then
you will be in serious trouble. Better leave them alone. Close off the
Square and box the protesters in there. Then you only have to wait until
they get tired. The movement will collapse like a balloon that runs out
of air. After a while there will only be a handful left. Then you can
do what you like with them.” The problem is that the movement is not
prepared to give up the fight. What the regime is now counting on is
that the so-called “leadership” of the protest movement may be able to
rein in the masses for them.
What does the Muslim Brotherhood stand for?
The leadership of the protest movement, like the movement itself,
contains diverse elements and different ideological tendencies. At this
stage there is a lot of emphasis on unity. One of the leaders of the
youth told Al Jazeera that the demands of the youth were not "classist,"
and that corruption and repression weigh on all layers of society. This
is typical of the early stages of the Revolution.
Initially every revolution appears to be a great carnival of national
unity, where the illusion is created that all classes are united in a
common struggle for change. However, as the struggle proceeds, there
will be changes. As the movement becomes more radicalized, some of the
elements who played a leading role in the early stages will fall behind.
Some will abandon it; others will go over to the enemy. This
corresponds to different class interests.
The poor people, the unemployed, the workers, the “men of no
property” have no interest in maintaining the old order. They want to
sweep away not only Mubarak but the entire regime of oppression,
exploitation and inequality. But the bourgeois Liberals see the struggle
for democracy as the path to a comfortable career in parliament. They
have no interest in carrying through the Revolution to the end or of
disturbing existing property relations.
This process of inner differentiation has already begun. By offering
to negotiate, Suleiman wished to win over the moderate (i.e. bourgeois)
elements in the opposition. He even offered to negotiate with the Muslim
Brotherhood, which is a banned organization. The purpose of this is to
gain time, to confuse and disorient the movement and to trick the
opposition into making a deal with the oligarchy and preserve the
system. There is an old saying: if you sup with the Devil, use a long
spoon. But these gentlemen, in their indecent haste, fell right into the
A serious revolutionary leadership would understand that this was a
confession of extreme weakness. It would continue to attack until the
regime fell. It would give it no time to recover its nerves and rally
its forces. But a section of these leaders is neither revolutionary nor
serious. For them the mass movement is only a convenient bargaining
chip, something with which they can threaten the government to give them
a few more crumbs.
The Muslim Brotherhood had declared that it would not negotiate with
the government until Mubarak steps down. ElBaradei has described
pro-Mubarak demonstrations as criminal acts by a criminal regime. But
the moment the regime beckoned with its little finger the leaders of the
“opposition” fell over themselves to accept Suleiman’s offer,
forgetting all their brave words about “not negotiating until Mubarak
Significantly, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, after initially
refusing to negotiate, changed their minds and joined this pleasant
little party. One of their leaders went onto Tahrir Square, where the
protestors were standing firm and preventing the tanks from occupying
the Square with their bodies, appealing to them not to clash with the
army. Clearly, the “hard line” Islamists are as frightened of the
revolutionary masses as the regime itself.
The poor people who support the Brotherhood are one thing. The
leaders are another thing altogether. In the 1980s leaders of the
Brotherhood were key beneficiaries of economic liberalization—the
programme of infitah or “opening”—under which Sadat and then
Mubarak dismantled the state sector, favouring private capital. One
study of Brotherhood businessmen suggests that at this point they
controlled 40 percent of all private economic ventures. They are part of
the capitalist system and have every interest in defending it. Their
conduct is not determined by the Holy Qur’an but by class interest.
Sitting next to the Muslim Brothers on the negotiating table are
certain individuals who call themselves the “representatives of the
youth on Tahrir Square”. Since nobody ever elected them, it is hard to
see who they really represent, other than themselves. But their presence
around the table is important for the regime, which can present itself
before the television cameras as eminently reasonable and willing to
listen to “all points of view”. In this way the people who remain on the
Square can be presented to public opinion as “extremists”, people who
are not willing to engage in dialogue to solve the nation’s problems.
The laws of revolution
The laws that govern revolution have many features in common with
those that govern wars between nations. War is not a continuous battle.
There are a series of battles, which are won or lost, or end
inconclusively. But between battles there are long periods of inactivity
when nothing seems to happen. But there is a constant ebb and flow.
Certain layers get tired and drop out of activity. But they are
constantly replenished with new, fresh layers moving into struggle. The
Revolution still has considerable reserves. These reserves are now
mobilizing for action.
say that a revolution has begun is not to say that it has been
completed, or even that victory is assured. It goes without saying that
revolution is a struggle of living forces. The counterrevolutionaries
have a lot to lose and they are acting intelligently and with decision.
But the leadership of the revolutionaries is divided and does not speak
with one voice. That is the main problem. The enemy noticed this
hesitation and began to recover its nerve. They began to feel more
confident and redouble their manoeuvres and intrigues, basing themselves
on the more moderate sections of the opposition.
This was a dangerous situation. If the movement had been allowed to
stagnate the confidence of the streets would have begun to ebb and the
initiative would have passed into the hands of the regime. That was the
aim of Suleiman when he offered to negotiate with the opposition. These
“negotiations” were only a trick of the regime to gain time and to
deprive the demonstrators of the initiative. That could have been fatal
to the Revolution.
On Monday, 7 February the banks were opened for the first time since
the protests began but the stock exchange remained closed for fear that
it would lead to a rush to sell. This pessimistic perspective was
confirmed the very next day. Unwittingly, by ordering a resumption of
business, the regime miscalculated. This has allowed workers and
students to come together, hold mass meetings, discuss the situation and
take collective action. As a result, students are agitating on the
campuses. Workers are staging strikes and factory occupations, driving
out hated managers and corrupt trade union leaders.
The sudden entry of the workers onto the scene as an independent
revolutionary force has changed everything. On Tuesday, the protesters
mounted their biggest demonstrations so far. Thousands again took to the
streets and squares of Egyptian towns – from the Western desert on the
Libyan border up to the northern Sinai town of El Arish in the east. In
Cairo, Alexandria, the Delta Cities, the industrial belt around
Mahalla-el-Kebir and the steel city of Heluan, the masses came onto the
streets shouting "Death to Mubarak!" and "Hang Mubarak!"
The Revolution cannot stand still
A Revolution cannot stand still. It must constantly advance, striking
blows against the enemy, capturing one position after another until the
old order is utterly overthrown. If it hesitates, it is lost. Marx
pointed out that the Paris Commune failed because it did not march on
Versailles. This gave time for the counterrevolutionary forces to
regroup and prepare a decisive counteroffensive against revolutionary
At several moments during the past two weeks power was in the
streets. But having won power in the streets, the leaders of the
movement did not know what to do with it. The idea that all that is
necessary is to gather a large number of people in Tahrir Square was
fatally flawed. Firstly, it leaves the question of state power out of
account. But this is the central question that decides all other
questions. Secondly, it is a passive strategy, whereas what is required
is an active and offensive strategy.
It is true that in war defence can be transformed into offense. A
decisive moment was on Thursday and Friday. After the revolutionaries
had defeated the attacks of the counterrevolutionaries and regained the
initiative, they should have gone onto the offensive. By confining the
action on Friday to a mass demonstration in Tahrir Square, they allowed
the initiative to slip from their hands and into those of the enemy.
Suleiman is playing for time because time is not necessarily on the
side of the Revolution. Society cannot continue indefinitely in a
chaotic situation. People must live. The economy is losing 300 million
Euros a day in lost tourist revenues alone. Bread becomes scarce in the
shops as time goes on, people cannot get to work. Wages are not paid.
People can start to blame the protesters for provoking chaos. The call
for order can get an echo in these conditions. There are certain
indications that this process was beginning.
An Al Jazeera report summed up the situation thus:
“It was clear the government was attempting to return a sense of
normalcy to the city; businesses and banks were set to open on Sunday,
and the army was intent on clearing away all signs of discord but for
the crowd in the square. Men in fluorescent vests even went about
clearing debris and trash from the streets where protesters had died
just nights before.”
Fortunately, the most revolutionary wing of the opposition realized
the danger. The same report from Al Jazeera quoted one of the youth
leaders as follows:
“But as high-ranking opposition figures negotiate a transition with
Mubarak’s right-hand man, former intelligence chief and newly appointed
Vice-president Omar Suleiman, Mohammed Sohail and the men on the
rooftops remain dug in, hoping for a complete overhaul. After the thugs’
attack on Wednesday, they will not accept negotiation with Mubarak.
He’s hiding a dagger behind his back.”
These words express the real situation very well.
The problem of leadership
The Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt came from below. It was not
organized by any of the existing political parties or leaders. All of
them were left far behind by a movement they had not foreseen and for
which they were completely unprepared. The “spontaneous” character of
the Revolution has inclined some observers to believe that it in some
way represents a confirmation of the theories of anarchism. But the
opposite is rather the case.
The argument that “we do not need leaders” does not bear the
slightest scrutiny. Even in a strike of half an hour in a factory there
is always leadership. The workers will elect people from their number to
represent them and to organize the strike. Those who are elected are
not arbitrary or accidental elements, but generally the most courageous,
experienced and intelligent workers. They are selected on that basis.
Leadership is a very important element in war. This is not to say
that it is the only element. Even the most brilliant leaders cannot
guarantee success if the objective conditions are unfavourable. In the
American Civil War the South had far more capable generals than the
North, and this was an important factor in its initial victory. The
Northern generals were mostly very bad, but the North had a far bigger
population and was more able to sustain heavy losses. Above all it had a
powerful industrial base, which the agricultural slave states of the
South lacked, and it had a lot of money. The combination of financial
wealth, industry and manpower ultimately guaranteed success, in spite of
In the end it is the most determined revolutionary elements that will
remain standing: those who are not prepared to compromise and are
willing to go to the end. And in this it is the youth who play a key
role. In 1917 the Mensheviks accused the Bolsheviks of being just a
“bunch of kids”, and they were not entirely wrong. The average age of
the Bolshevik activists was very low. The first section to move is
always the youth, who are free from the prejudices, fear and scepticism
of the older generation.
In Egypt we again see the same thing. The protestors who have poured
onto the streets all over Egypt are mainly young Egyptians, unemployed
and without any future. One young Egyptian told the BBC: “We are poor.
We have no work, no future. What should we do? Should we burn
ourselves?” The only hope these young people have is to fight for a
fundamental change in society. They have cast aside all fear and are
prepared to risk their lives in the fight for freedom and justice.
The youth and the most revolutionary elements do not want the
movement to be hijacked by the “moderates” who are bargaining with the
regime like merchants haggling in a bazaar. But the question remains:
how to carry the Revolution forward? What needs to be done? The
demonstrators have done everything possible. They have shown great
courage and determination. But the limitation of the tactics pursued up
till now are becoming clear by the hour.
In order to carry the Revolution to a higher level, another force is
necessary. This can only be provided by the working class. An all-out
general strike would transform the entire situation. It would
demonstrate clearly who the real master of the house is.
The role of the proletariat
The economic growth of Egypt in the last years was a very positive
development from the standpoint of the Marxists because it strengthened
the working class. However, it did not solve any of the fundamental
contradictions of Egyptian society. The last few years have seen a sharp
upswing in strike activity in Egypt, notably the heroic struggle of
textile workers of Mahalla. This reawakening of the proletariat was one
of the main factors that prepared the present situation. It is also the
key to the situation.
reports speak of large groups of workers, mainly in Cairo, rebelling
against state-appointed managements and setting up "Revolutionary
Committees" to run factories and other work places, including Egyptian
state TV and Egypt’s biggest weekly "Ros el-Yusuf."
There is a wave of strikes, many of them involving different forms of
sit-ins and factory occupations. The telecom workers in Cairo are on
strike, and the strike seems to be spreading to other cities: Maadi,
Opera, MisrElgedida, Ramsis, and Alexandria. The workers are protesting
against corruption and low salaries.
In the key city of Suez, the workers have occupied the Suez Trust
Textile plant. Around 1000 workers in the Lafarge cement factory in Suez
are also on strike. Among their demands: the forming of a union and
support for the revolution. The Tora cement workers have started a sit
in to protest against their intolerable working conditions.
At the same time there is a movement to get rid of the old corrupt
leaders of the unions (syndicates) who are agents of the ruling party
and the bosses.
The employees at the Workers’ University in Nasr City are staging a
sit in, and according to one report, there has been the kidnapping of
the vice president of the official ETUF union, Mustapha Mungy, by
employees of the Workers’ University, which is affiliated to the General
Trade Union Federation "ETUF". In the course of a sit-in the workers
detained him and demanded his removal and the opening of investigations
into widespread corruption in the Workers’ University.
The official Al-Ahram news agency carried a report entitled:
"Employees detain vice president of Egyptian workers union”, which
reported: “The vice president of the Egyptian Workers Union, Mostafa
Mongy, has been detained since Monday morning by employees demanding his
immediate resignation.” (Ahram Online , Monday 7 Feb 2011)
The Center for Trade Union & Workers’ Services (CTUWS) presented a
Communication to the Public Prosecutor demanding the issue of an order
against Hussein Megawer, president of the ETUF, preventing him from
travelling abroad and investigating the sources of his wealth.
On Tuesday 8th university professors staged a march in
support of the revolution, joining the protesters in Tahrir. Also at 12
noon, journalists will gather at their union HQ, in an emergency meeting
to lobby for the impeachment of their state-backed union chief, Makram
The journalists are also on the move. They have attacked the state
backed head of the syndicate shouting: “murderer, murderer!” Journalists
marched from their union HQ to Tahrir Square, denouncing the
government. Journalists have started collecting signatures to impeach
the state backed press syndicate head. In all the state run newspapers
journalists are in revolt against their pro-government editors.
The movement is spreading like a forest fire. The railway technicians
in Bani Suweif are on strike. At least two military production
factories in Welwyn are on strike. Public transport workers in three
garages are on strike. Thousands of oil workers are protesting in front
of the oil ministry. Tomorrow more oil workers from the provinces will
descend on Nasr City to join protests in front of the oil ministry, and
the Ghazl Mahalla workers will also start a strike
Many of the strikes are economic, but others are political in
character. An interview with Hossam El-Hamalawy on Sunday 6 stated:
"It’s been two days since the workers said that they wouldn’t return
to work until the fall of the regime. There are four hotbeds of economic
struggle: a [steel] mill in Suez, a fertilizer factory in Suez, a
textile factory near Mansoura in Daqahlia (the Mansoura-España garment
factory in the Nile Delta region) on strike they have fired their CEO
and are self-managing their enterprise. There is also a print shop in
southern Cairo called Dar al-Matabi: there, too, they fired their CEO
and are self-managing the enterprise. But, while workers are
participating in the demonstrations, they are not developing their own
independent action as workers. We still have not seen workers
independently organize themselves en masse. If that comes, all the
equation of the struggle will change."(http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/hamalawy080211.html)
On Wednesday the three independent unions that exist in Egypt
(Property Tax Collectors, Health Technicians and Pensioners’ Federation)
demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the state backed Egyptian
Federation of Trade Unions, in Galaa Street, calling for the prosecution
of the federation chief on corruption charges, and demanding the
lifting of all restrictions on establishing free unions. The civil
servants then marched to Tahrir Square in support of the revolution.
They are not the only ones. Delegation after delegation of workers is
arriving on the Square to express their solidarity with the
demonstrators and discuss the future of the Revolution.
These reports are of tremendous importance. They mean that the Revolution is entering the factories and workplaces.
They signify that the workers of Egypt are proceeding from the struggle
for democracy in society to the struggle for economic democracy in the
workplace. It means that the Egyptian working class is beginning to
participate in the Revolution under its own banner, fighting for its own
class demands. This is a decisive factor for the future of the
The idea of a general strike is in the air. The demands of the
workers have a clear revolutionary and class character. The workers of
Egypt are drawing the most advanced conclusions. This is strikingly
revealed in the statement of the Iron and steel workers in Helwan, who
are calling for a major workers’ rally next Friday to Tahrir Square.
They are advancing the following demands:
- the immediate stepping down of Mubarak and all the figures of the regime and its symbols
- the confiscation of wealth and property of all the regime’s symbols
and all those to be proven to be corrupt, on behalf of the interest of
- the immediate resignation of all workers from the trade unions
controlled by or affiliated to the regime and declaring their
independent unions now preparing their general conference to elect and
form their syndicate
- the acquisition of public sector companies that have been sold or
closed and the declaration of nationalizing them on behalf of the people
and the formation of a new administration to run it, involving workers
- the formation of committees to supervise workers in all work sites
and monitor the production and distribution of prices and wages
- call for a constituent assembly of all classes of people and trends
for the drafting of a new constitution and the election of people’s
councils without waiting for the negotiations with the former regime.
These demands are absolutely correct. They show a very high level of
revolutionary consciousness and coincide completely with the programme
that has been advanced by the Marxists. This programme provides the
Egyptian Revolution with all it needs to succeed.
The immediate demands are naturally democratic in character. But the
fight for democratic demands, if it is pursued consistently, must lead
directly to the demand for economic democracy. The poor people of Egypt
do not fight for democracy in order to provide ministerial positions for
careerists but as a means of solving their most pressing problems: the
lack of jobs and houses, the high cost of living. These economic and
social problems are too deep to be solved by any bourgeois government. The Economist writes:
“Some 40% of Egyptians still live on less than $2 a day. In recent
years, even as Egypt’s overall economy has grown apace and more consumer
goods have filled even lower-income households, the poor have won
little relief from relentlessly rising food prices and sharper
competition for secure jobs. Such anxieties have found expression in a
growing number of strikes and local protests across the country. Yet in a
sense, persistent poverty has helped prop up the regime. “People
survive on a day-to-day basis,” says a young Cairo lawyer. ‘They can’t
go for long without a daily wage and daily bread, so they can’t afford
to make trouble’.”
The present movement cannot succeed unless it is taken to a new and
higher level. This can only be done by the working class. Mass
demonstrations are important because they are a way of bringing the
formerly inert masses to their feet, giving them a sense of their own
power. A new and higher level involves the calling of a general strike.
In such a situation Mubarak and Suleiman may have the formal titles.
They may sit in the presidential palace. They may stand at the head of
the army and the police. But they will have no telephones, no
electricity, no transport, no fuel, no food and no water. Under these
conditions, a general strike accompanied by massive demonstrations would
pose the question of power.
An all-Egyptian general strike would deal a mortal blow to the
regime, which is already in crisis. The old state power is breaking up.
It must be replaced with a new power. The workers of Egypt have a
tremendous power in their hands but it must be organized. That can only
be done through revolutionary committees. Under these conditions, a
general strike accompanied by massive demonstrations would pose the
question of power.
This poses the central question, that of the state. The general chaos
and disorder and the persistent reports of security agents engaging in
arson and thievery convinced people that the chaos was planned. This has
now led to the organisation of citizens’ militias in many parts of the
Hossam el-Hamalawy, in the same interview quoted above, describes how
they were formed: "Following the collapse of the police force on
January 28th, people stepped in to protect their
neighbourhoods. They have set up checkpoints, armed with knives, swords,
machetes and sticks and they are inspecting cars that are coming in and
out. In some areas, such as the province of Sharqiya, the popular
committees are more or less completely running the town, and organizing
the traffic.” Here we have the embryo of a people’s militia – of an
alternative state power.
The latest reports indicate that, in desperation, Suleiman is even
considering a coup. The problem he faces is that the army is already
split. In these conditions an open confrontation with the working class
and the revolutionary masses would strain its internal cohesion to
breaking point. If the Egyptian regime attempts to use the army, it can
break in pieces in its hands. Suleiman, the new “strongman” may stand at
the head of the army and the police. But if he went down the road of
organising a coup he could find himself with no telephones, no
electricity, no transport, no fuel, no food and no water.
The old state power is breaking up. It must be given a final push and
replaced with a new power. Only the proletariat can show a way out by
placing itself at the head of the Nation. The workers of Egypt have a
tremendous power in their hands but it must be organized. That can only
be done through the establishment of revolutionary committees. In some
areas committees exist, but they must be extended to every workplace,
neighbourhood, school and college, and they must be coordinated on a
Faced with a revolution that continues to march forward, all the
plans of the imperialists are now in ruins. The situation that they
hoped was under control is out of control. Ahram Online yesterday
reported that the Suez Canal Company workers from the cities of Suez,
Port Said, and Ismailia had begun an open-ended sit in. This threatens
to disrupt shipping movements if the strike continues. Over 6000
protesters have agreed that they will continue their protest in front of
the company’s headquarters until their demands are met. They are
protesting against poor wages and deteriorating health and working
In desperation, Washington has sent U.S. naval, marine and air forces
to the Suez Canal’s Greater Bitter Lake. This is the mailed fist that
is concealed within the velvet glove of Obama’s “democracy”. The
imperialists are worried about the effects of the Egyptian revolution on
the Suez Canal through which about 40 percent of the world’s marine
freight passes. Should it be disrupted for any length of time it could
have repercussions far beyond Egypt itself, directly affecting oil
transportation and subsequently the price of oil.
In reality this is an empty gesture on the part of Washington. The
U.S. burned its fingers in Iraq. A new military adventure in Egypt is
highly unlikely. It would provoke a storm in the USA and on a world
scale. There would not be a single U.S. embassy left standing in the
Middle East and all the other pro-US Arab regimes would be faced with
overthrow. However, it does represent an attempt to intimidate the
people of Egypt. This attempt at imperialist bullying must receive a
powerful rebuff by the international labour movement.
Let us raise our voice in support of our class brothers and sisters in Egypt:
- Hands off Egypt!
- Down with imperialism!
- Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution!
Every class conscious worker in the world will rejoice at this
marvellous movement of the Egyptian workers and youth. Whatever happens
in the next days and weeks Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world
will never be the same again.