Forward to permanent revolution in Egypt!
Down with the Morsi government! For workers’ power!
Two years ago, in the wake of the revolutionary uprising in Tunisia in December 2010- January 2011, on the 25th of January 2011, the Egyptian people rose in rage against the 30-year dictatorship that had been ruling the country under the iron fist of Hosni Mubarak. For 18 days they fought for bread, jobs, freedom, and dignity. They occupied Tahrir Square, that aptly named square, whose name, “Emancipation” in Arabic, later resounded throughout the world symbolising the struggle of the masses everywhere. They fought the “Battle of the Camel” against the hired thugs of the regime, the notorious “Baltadji”. From 7 February on the working class staged a strong strike movement in industry, in transportation, in the docks of the Suez Canal and elsewhere. The system now had to sacrifice the dictator. Mubarak came tumbling down. The Egyptian masses thus proved to the world that the will power and courage of ordinary people, if they come together in their millions, will overcome the mightiest dictatorship.
After Tunisia, which initiated the revolutionary Arab Spring, it was Egypt, because of its centrality in the entire Arab world, that gave an impetus to the revolutionary tide, which engulfed the Middle East and North Africa, from Morocco to Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen, and became a source of inspiration to movements struggling for bread, social justice and freedom around the world. The Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International (CRFI) salutes the dedication, courage and perseverance of the workers, youth and the impoverished but proud Egyptian masses that went into the mighty struggle that toppled Mubarak and changed History.
The Egyptian revolution is not confined to those 18 days: the entire year of 2011 was the scene of very strong mass movements and feverish working class activity. The mass movement had as its clear purpose the demise of the rule of the military. “Yaskut yaskut hukm ul askar!” , i.e. “Down with military rule!” was the major slogan of all demonstrations and Field Marshall Tantavi, head of the Supreme Military Council, had become the new target of the movement.
The emergence of the Popular Committees in workers’ and popular neighbourhoods following the departure of Mubarak is a clear sign of popular self-organization, the creation of grassroots organs of struggle, which, even though in an embryonic form, showed the possibility of being transformed into genuine organs of power of the masses themselves. The bourgeois state apparatus saw the danger, and it tried, in some cases successfully, either to co-opt the popular committees or to reduce them into NGOs, neutralizing their revolutionary potential. The revival and expansion of the popular committees depends on the central role that has to be occupied by the working class itself, and its demands for the rejection of neoliberalism and of the draconian IMF measures, for bread and jobs, for repudiation of the foreign debt, nationalizations without compensation and under workers control of all the enterprises privatized by the Mubarak regime’s kleptocracy.
The popular demand for a genuine Constituent Assembly was hijacked by the regime, in collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood. The card of bourgeois parliamentarianism was used against the revolution. Despite the energetic action displayed throughout the year 2011 by the masses, the second wave of the revolution in November 2011 was distinct from the rest not only in its dimensions, but also because it defied the norms of parliamentary democracy that both liberal and Islamic forces wish to impose against the Egyptian revolution. It will be remembered that the roar and thunder of the November days struck only a week before the first free parliamentary elections that the country was going to have in decades. The November days of 2011 showed once again in action that the dynamic of the Egyptian revolution is by no means confined to the straitjacket of parliamentary democracy, but stretches towards the taking of power by the masses themselves.
With parliamentary elections over and with the Islamists seemingly safely in power, the “international community” of capitalist thieves and the Egyptian bourgeoisie sighed with relief, imagining that the people had finally retired to their homes. Revolution was over. The only job to attend to was to harness the Muslim Brotherhood to the twin tasks of further deepening the insertion of Egyptian capitalism into the international division of labour and the preservation of the pro-imperialist order in the Middle East, to start with Egypt’s indispensable role since the Camp David accords of 1978 as the guarantor of Israel’s security. This Hillary Clinton tried to do by creating a historic peace between the military and the Brotherhood. The collaboration between US imperialism and the Muslim Brotherhood was demonstrated both in the civil war in Syria as well as in the role of Morsi to establish a ceasefire during the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people besieged in Gaza against the new Zionist aggression.
The presidential elections of May and June 2012, with Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood elected, seemed to confirm the relation of forces born of the parliamentary elections. However, disappointment waited in store for the imperialists. First, Morsi manoeuvred to win the heart of the masses by bowing to their central demand since the fall of Mubarak: he dismissed Field Marshall Tantavi and company. Then, through the notorious Constitutional Declaration of 22 November 2012, he turned around and appropriated the same kind of dictatorial powers amassed in the past by the presidents of the hated military regime. This unleashed the third wave of the Egyptian revolution and brought to an end all illusion that the revolution had ended and the masses had finally returned home.
The gigantic mass movement that the Constitutional Declaration put into motion led to four days of demonstrations in Tahrir Square, accompanied by action in other cities, the eviction of the local administrative ruler from the city of Mahalla, a workers’ stronghold, and culminated in something that had not been seen even in the heyday of the revolution in early 2011: the siege of the Presidential Palace, with thousands and tens of thousands demanding day in and day out nothing less than the demise of Morsi.
Morsi had to make an apparent provisional retreat in relation to the Constitutional Declaration of 22 November, and he was obliged to “freeze” temporarily the austerity plan agreed in return for a loan by the IMF, out of fear that these anti-popular measures, particularly the raising of food prices, would provoke uncontrollable social explosions, with the working class at the head of the popular rebellion.
To think that the constitutional referendum of mid-December has solved the problems of Egypt’s ruling classes would be folly. The new constitution totally lacks legitimacy, as it was approved by a “majority” of 20 per cent of the relevant population! Only one third of the electorate participated in the voting. Out of the 50 plus million eligible voters, the constitution was voted in by merely 10 million! 2013 takes over the unresolved problems of the earlier phases of the revolution in an environment in which the Egyptian economy is crumbling, with the Egyptian pound falling headlong and an IMF stand-by programme promising the working class and the masses of the poor and unemployed still more economic hardship.
And this working class has played an immensely important role in the revolution. The revolution was prepared by the actions of the different sections of the working class that staged strikes on an ever increasing scale from 2004 on. The industrial city of Mahalla became a symbol in its own right concerning workers’ struggle in Egypt before the revolution. The revolution itself was marked by a movement towards breaking the grip of the official unions, with scores of new unions being formed during the first wave of the revolution. This activity on the part of the working class continued after the heady days of the revolution subsided. Feverish activity on the part of workers of all sectors, from industrial workers to employees of urban transportation systems, from teachers to health workers have marked these two years, with 2012 even surpassing the level of 2011. Two independent labour confederations were formed in opposition to the official one that has had the monopoly of trade union organising in the country since 1957. These two confederations have organised up to three million workers in the space of two years alone, in opposition to the bloated 3.8 million membership of the official confederation. It is this working class that is going to have to suffer the austerity that the IMF and the new bourgeois government of Egypt in Islamic garb will try to push down its throat. The stage is set for a mighty clash, this time in clearer terms, between the new regime and the working class. The dynamics of permanent revolution of the Egyptian revolution will be based on the socio-economic struggle of the working class and the labouring masses.
The Islamist political forces, both the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the ultra-conservative Salafists who are financed by the Saudi pro-imperialist monarchy, advocate openly the “free market” economy no less than the capitalist liberals. Not a common “Salvation Front”, in the name of “democracy,” is possible, as the liberals in alliance with global capital, will try to impose, if it would be permitted to them, the same IMF-EU imposed programme of misery against the already impoverished masses. From the other side, no accommodation with the “free marketers” of the Brotherhood or the Salafists, in the name of the opposition to the ancien régime is possible or desirable. It will sign the death warrant for the revolution. The left Nasserists of Sabbahi, by trying an electoral bloc with the Islamists in the parliamentary elections of 2011 and then turning around and joining hands now with bourgeois liberals like El Baradei and former Mubarak henchmen like Amr Moussa in the so-called National Salvation Front, have demonstrated the limitations of the historically exhausted left nationalism itself.
Unfortunately , most of the dispersed groups of the Left turn to the traps of these kinds of political alliances and class collaboration , leaving the majority of the militant vanguard of the youth and of the working class trapped in isolation and marginality. But this vanguard is the vanguard of the revolution itself. On it, the future depends. Many left-wing parties exist, but most of them have remained aloof to the rank and file workers’ movement, pursued incorrect tactics, tail-ended the different wings of the bourgeois leadership, wavering between the Islamist camp and the forces of the ancien régime on different occasions. Most importantly, they have not followed a clear strategic line of creating a strong vanguard party that will provide for the independence of the working class from all bourgeois forces and make it possible to win other oppressed and exploited classes and strata to working class hegemony. What is urgently needed in Egypt is a working class party firmly rooted in the revolutionary Marxist tradition and progressively winning over the vanguard sections of the Egyptian working class through its policies responding to the needs of the revolution. The Egyptian revolution has suffered too long from the absence of such a party.
The Egyptian revolution has not yet achieved the tasks it has set itself. The ancien régime has been overturned in favour of a transitional regime that concedes to the masses limited political freedoms, although state repression, the detention of political prisoners and torture are still going on. Real freedom and dignity would be achieved together with the bread and the jobs, which are still out of reach! Not only that, but the Morsi government and Islamists in general are trying to hijack a revolution that is not their making, advancing their own Islamist agenda as proved by the constitution they promulgated and working hand in glove with elements of the former regime and the old state apparatus, still in place, in order to bring, in the name of the interests of the bourgeoisie, the impetus of the revolution to a halt.
It is the real masters of the Mubaraks and the Morsis that the working masses should now go after: the Egyptian capitalist class and, behind it and ruling over it as well, the bourgeois imperialist order. Only if it sheds its narrowly political forms and assumes a class-based revolutionary outlook, in other words only if it grows into a permanent revolution, will the Egyptian revolution triumph in the real sense of the term. The vanguard forces of the working class face the task of forming a revolutionary party, amassing the different classes and strata yearning for Tahrir, i.e. emancipation, around the working class and take power. Only then will the memory of the thousands of martyrs that have given their lives for the revolution be served.
The Egyptian revolution is at this point of history central to world revolution. Not only because the masses, from Athens and Madrid to Wall Street have been inspired by the revolutionary power of the days and nights of Tahrir, something that electrifies the imagination of all exploited and oppressed. But also because it is the vanguard column of a whole wave of revolutionary struggles in the Arab world and of class struggle to the death in the countries of Southern Europe, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal to begin with.
This new situation is one of the direct results of the greatest global capitalist crisis the world has witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Capitalism has once again shown that it cannot, in a historical sense, promise the working masses anything but unemployment, misery and war. Manifestations of this descent into barbarism are the imperialist war aggressions in Libya and now in Mali, as well as the continuing threats of military intervention by Turkey and other powers supported by imperialism in Syria and for a Zionist attack against Iran..